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Fanning the Flame

olympic torchLike most of you, I’m sleep deprived (which might explain my techno-glitch on Monday’s post – which will come your way as soon as I can find it!) and swollen-eyed (from all the crying) thanks to the Olympics! So, I thought I’d share a little Olympic inspiration today. When things in this world seem to be overwhelming and full of evil intent…let’s not let it steal the wind from our sails. What man often intends for evil, God sure uses for good.

Last week millions watched an act that originated in evil, yet has certainly been used for good. The Olympic torch relay originated in 1936… by none other than Adolf Hitler. Enamored by show and keen to promote his propaganda on the world stage, Hitler embraced the idea of lighting a torch and transporting it from Athens to Berlin. Not only would it prolong world attention on Germany, the connection implied legitimacy to his regime and in his own mind, self-actualization of god-like stature.

Thankfully, the world rejected and defeated the maniacal leader. Yet how bizarre that a tradition he started still continues, and continues with such celebration. We don’t have to look far to see the beauty behind what the tradition has become.

Of the 8,000 people who carried the torch 8,000 miles, some were famous like Actor Patrick Stewart, Captain Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,”. Some were national heroes and athletes, like Andy Murray. But most were regular folks nominated by their neighbors, families, friends, even strangers.

In Aylesbury, Rebekah Wagnell (16) carried the torch. Born with chronic renal failure, she battled poor health throughout her childhood. A kidney donation from her father gave her a lease on life and has allowed her to compete in the World Transplant Games where she is a highly decorated athlete.Tom Mules (16) nominated by Weymouth and Portland Council for his commitment to competing in biathlons, triathlons and his work with disabled children carried the torch in Weymouth.

In Essex, Sandra Watts who was abused as a child by her older brother was nominated for her community service. Committed to helping others, she has raised tens of thousands of pounds for the South Essex Rape & Incest Crisis Centre, an organization that helped her overcome her past. “I never even thought I would get anywhere, you just never think anyone will choose you.

And some Yankees have even crossed the ocean to participate. Peyton Medick, a 14-year-old from Wisconsin carried the torch in Aylesbury. Why was Peyton nominated? Well, when she was 8 years old, Petyon saw a news story about hunger issues and decided to hold a food drive at her elementary school. The event that reaped 300 bags of food inspired Peyton’s Promise. Peyton’s Promise has, since its inception, collected more than 70 tons of food to fill food pantries across the U.S.

Sussex torch bearer Mark Hill sums it up, “For me, the torch run reflects the unsung ‘big society’, not of the political sound bite, but of all the volunteers who make society function – the youth group volunteers, PTA members, sports club helpers and a myriad of others, all of whom give freely their time to make our society what it is. They are the really worthy torchbearers for whom I ran.

An act that Hitler intended to draw attention to his ethnic and nationalist message now focuses a watching world’s eyes on the unlikely. How beautiful to celebrate the crippled, the abused, the infirmed, and the countless quiet servants – everything Hitler aimed to exterminate in his quest for self-promotion.

What his nominator said of teenager torchbearer Tom Glenn sums it all up: “he’s a real giver, always putting others before himself.” This celebration of putting others ahead of oneself offers quite a contrast to the one who started the tradition for just the opposite.

The Olympic torch, a modern day example of what Joseph said so many years ago, “ You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Gen. 50::20

Serving others claims the common thread for nominated torchbearers. That’s one to sink our teeth into. Training exercises abound in our house. In fact, I’ve got loads (loads! – we’ve already done four this morning :) of opportunities to help my kids learn to anchor their eyes on serving others. Because how else can you describe folding and putting away your sister’s underwear, and cooking dinner, cleaning bathrooms and…? With this much others-first action going on, maybe they might get their hands on the torch someday. I, for one, love that so many teens were involved on this relay!

Who knew the Olympic torch relay could put wind in a mom’s sails? So thankful we worship a God who takes ashes and makes beauty.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-K

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