I Have Been Redeemed!

What could be sweeter than suffering defeat, exiting graciously, then returning to the same battlefield, only this time, to emerge victorious? Redemption, right?

Redemption was the theme of this past week’s Chopped episode on the Food Network (http://www.foodnetwork.com/chopped/index.html). Four previously chopped chefs, back to duke it out again? And who should be in the lineup but our favorite Christian chef, Lance Nitahara!

In case you don’t know or remember, chef Lance is one of the executive chefs at a Christian resort called, Camp of the Woods (www.camp-of-the-woods.org), tucked back in the Adirondacks of Speculator, NY.

But I don’t know if this turned out exactly like the Food Network execs thought it would. There was no grandstanding. No gloating. No Rocky-style rabbit punches or condescending or cocky attitudes. No backstabbing or heated debates in the kitchen. None of the high drama that we’ve all become so accustomed to seeing in our reality shows.

Actually, it was exactly the opposite.

Friendly competition. Graceful interaction. Cool, controlled, talented cooking. And a big twist at the end that I don’t think anyone saw coming.

I have to say, it was so cool, seeing Lance back in the ring, tackling his mystery baskets, whipping up amazing dishes. Seriously, he really is amazing to watch. But even moreso (and what captured our attention in the beginning), his openness and candor about his faith. He was the same dude this time too…talking about God, faith, being blessed, showing compassion and interest in his fellow competitors.

You know, stuff that you NEVER see in reality competitions.

I’m ashamed to say that I don’t know if I’ve grown very much as a Christian since Lance’s last appearance on Chopped (back in Sept 2010), when he surprised me at his declaration of faith and his surprising, consistent humility and graceful attitude. Then, I was half expecting him to blow it and say a four letter word or go for the jugular in his competitiveness. That’s partly why I watched…to see the train wreck.

But he didn’t.

And then, even when chopped, he exited with grace and thankfulness. What? Totally unexpected. And totally humbling for me, as a Christian.

(My blog about that episode is here: http://www.rickyfitzpatrick.com/blog.html/youve_been_chopped/)

Last night, I found myself now saying “So I wonder if he’s still as staunch a Christian as he was a year ago. I wonder if this time, he’s going to be some kind of jerk, or have an attitude.”

I’m ashamed. What a pitiful view for me to have. It’s embarrassing, but I admit that yes, I was (at least subconsciously) thinking it. So I watched again, expecting to be able to smugly say “I knew it”.

But as before, I was thankfully proven wrong. And never was I so glad to have egg on my face.

Not only was Chef Lance’s demeanor as humble and gracious as always…and not only did he actually win this time…but even in winning, he used part of his prize to give something to his opponent and help her fly home to see her grandmother (I think it was her grandmother).

And then he said something to the effect of “It was a pleasure to be able to be here and use this experience to serve people”.

Come on! Seriously? Are you kidding me? Lance, what are you doing, man? Are you TRYING to make me feel like a loser, bro? :)

It had an effect on me. I’m watching this unfold and I’m feeling like, super-heavy convicted to go pray for forgiveness for my selfishness and insensitivity to the people around me.

I have no doubt that God used Lance Nitahara and is Chopped experience as a platform to speak to me, and probably a lot of other lukewarm Christians out there, just like me. Who would’ve thought that God was in the business of exercising conviction in His people, through a Food Network show!?

So today, I wanted to re-blog about Lance and say to him “Congratulations on your win!” and “Thank you for allowing God to use you as an example of His grace in action”.

And here’s a link to the Food Network Promo, in case anyone wants to give it a look: http://www.foodnetwork.com/chopped/sweet-second-chance/index.html

OK, now what’s next…Lance Nitahara on Extreme Chef or Iron Chef America…?

-        Ricky

By the way, I think it behooves us to acknowledge chef Lance for…well, for being who he is. I’ve already emailed the folks at Camp Of the Woods and told them what a gift I think Lance is to their organization and what an inspiration he is to me. I would encourage you to do the same, and to bring honor to a Christian guy who has not tried to honor himself, but to use his time in the public eye to honor God. And example for all of us.

Shoot an email to Steve Tann, VP of Operations and Marketing at COTW at stevet@camp-of-the-woods.org and let him know. You might want to even cc Lance on it (lancen@camp-of-the-woods.org).  

*** This blog post is also over at the Beside Me All Along blog at: http://besidemeallalong.blogspot.com/2011/07/i-have-been-redeemed.html if you have a preference.***