Friday, February 26, 2010

Impressing God

There's nothing in the world that quite compares to impressing your father. And there's nothing the world, that quite compares to disappointing him. Before Dad left, it seemed to be vital to my existance that I impressed him. If I didn't, I felt like I didn't have his love.
So, I buried my head in my textbooks, determaned to make straight As. All in hope - that when I announced "100%!!!" on my exam, he would love me.
I worked hard on my speeches, so that when he took me to debate club, he could be proud to say, "that's my daughter."
I joined the Inland Valley Orchestra at the young age of 13, so that when he saw me up there with all the other adult musicians, he would be impressed.
I did Ballet at the studio 6 days a week for hours each day, year after year, desperately attempting to earn his affection. But it never worked . . . and I didn't understand. I worked so hard for him, and yet I still felt the pain of disapproval whenever I failed. He just . . . Didn't love me. Although I understand now, in hindsight, that he is a lost man who cannot love until he finds redemption in Christ - my young spirit couldn't comprehend it. I suffered, deeply.

How relieving it now is, that I have a Father who doesn't need to be impressed, to love me. In fact, I can't impress him! Even if I try! No matter my good works, or worldly accomplishments, I do nothing that compares to the greatness of God. He knows it, too - and He accepts me as I am.

"Alright. This is downright weird. Look at you. You're chubby, and bald. You've barely opened those blue eyes, and you're already crying and screaming. You can't do anything - you're just a little ball of blubber. You haven't even spoken yet. But yet - I'd give my life, for you! I'd sacrifice anything, for you! You're . . . You're my son!" The youth pastor spoke those words to his newly born son . . . Looking at the round, innocent face, gurggling and sputtering up at him.

"Babies are useless," Mr. Simons told us kids during one sermon. "But for some reason, I still love my son, even though he hasn't done anything for me. If I feel this way about my him, how much more, does God feel for us?!"

Love is such a strange phenomenon! And yet, love is something God has in abundance.

Isaiah 64:6 says, "... all our righteousness is as filthy rags." No matter what I do, my righteousness is nothing without Christ. It is all counted as loss for the love of our Savior, as Paul says in Phillipians 3:7-8:

"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ."

I no longer feel compelled to serve out of fear that I will be rejected - instead, I am now free to serve with a heart of joy! Even when I fail - He loves me. Even when I mess up - he loves me. Even if I don't get 100 on that exam, he still loves me!

This is a truly awesome thing about our God. Salvation is based on grace alone - not by what I do, to earn my way. His love isn't conditioned upon my success . . . Because success is impossible when compared with the His holy standard. He is a truly loving Father! :)

~Lauren Lee

An Idea For Mr. Simons:
Perhaps if he bought the "Baby Mop", his son wouldn't be so "useless" as he says . . . haha!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hide and Sneak

"My name will be Angela!" Declared my 10 year old friend, Taryn.
"I'll be Rose!" Shouted her sister, Ryan.
"I think I shall be Charlotte." Said Taylor.
"Call me Patricia!" I chimed in.

The four of us girls marched into an expensive designer store Valentines Day evening armed with new identities and english accents - prepared to make the world believe that we were in fact, sophisticated young ladies with enough money to purchase the sparkling pink designer purse in the display box.

Loud enough for the sales clerk to hear, Charlotte (Taylor) shouted out to Patricia (me): "Dear, how much for that delightful little handbag to your right?"
"Only 5k, Char."

We did such a marvelous job living up to our alter egos that I believe the employees were quite fooled until Angela shouted, "I have a better idea. Lets just call Daddy and have him BUY this whole place. So much more convieniant!"

Exposed. I must say, it was exciting while it lasted. Upon exiting the store, all of us returned to our normal, bubbly, American selves once more. It had been a fun game.

Imagine, for a moment . . . That it wasn't a game. Imagine it being . . . a way of life. Although putting on a face for the sake of lighthearted amusement can be a humorous way to spend time with friends . . . imagine living in a constant world of pretend. The popular game of Hide and Sneak.

But it happens.

Walking into church several sundays ago, I was a mess. Just the night before, I had gotten in a tussle with a friend of mine, combined with the fact that my Dad was saying some pretty hurtful stuff. I was down in the dumps. The combined burden weighed so heavily on me, all throughout church, that I didn't try to keep my feelings hidden. Quite frankly, I couldn't. As Mom, Tay and I left the building - Mrs. Montoya (my Mom's "Wing Man" as we like to call her), walked up, gave me a hug, and said, "There's no sparkle in those eyes, Lauren! What is going on?" My friends all said, "you look tired, girl . . . " and even Tay poked me in the side during the sermon, and whispered "Laur, just TRY to act like everything is ok."
My depression was visible.
People react, when they see you upset. Some people look down their nose, because they think you need to be happy all the time. Others pull away. But in general, everyone places some standard on you that you don't quite live up to, when you appear less than joyous.
That's why we hide.
That's why we do everything, actually. Why don't we wear our pajamas when we go out? Well, because it's (generally) not accepted. Why don't we slurp our soup at a fancy resturant? Because it's not accepted. Why don't we show our true feelings, and be depressed in front of other people? Because . . . it's not accepted.
I have to say - usually I'm quite good at Hide and Sneak. Lauren Lee can walk into any room with a smile, and you'd never know she was dying inside. I don't wear my heart on my sleeve . . . so if I'm having a hard day, you will never know about it.

Except for that Sunday, of course. The whole congregation seemed to know! There comes a time when a smile can't cover the truth.

What do we do, when we can't hold it in any longer? When it all comes to the surface, people see the real us, and we're judged?
We're welcomed into the arms of God, to be sheltered under His wings.

"Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings." (Psalm 61:1-4)

God takes me as I am. He doesn't just take the happy, cheery side . . . He takes the bruised, battered, and beaten side of me, too. He's not just there for me when things are going well, but promises to be a "strong tower against the foe." When problems are brought to God, the pressure is off . . . He doesn't look down his nose at you, if you're hurting! It is a safe place to drop the smile.

I don't need to put on a smile for God - because he sees right past it. It was fun to wear a facade during our shopping expedition, but . . . There's no need for me to put on an english accent and pretend to be sophisticated, when it comes to God. He sees the real me. No playing Hide and Sneak with Him! He knows the heart, and comforts His children. :)

~Lauren Lee

Fun fact: Fake Smiles Damage Your Health!
New research by Dr. Dieter Zapf of Frankfurt University suggests that workers who constantly have to pretend to be friendly to customers suffer from higher rates of depression and illness. The Advertiser reports:

Flight attendants, sales personnel and call centre operators are most at risk, say psychologists at Frankfurt University. People in these jobs are more likely to suffer from depression, according to the study released yesterday ahead of publication in consumer magazine Good Advice. "Every time a person is forced to repress his true feelings, there are negative consequences for his health," said Professor Dieter Zapf, a researcher into human emotions.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Be Still, Oh Restless Soul . . .

Today has been a rollercoaster for me. I have experienced two very different emotional extremes, and I am confused, confused, confused. It seems just as something start to get better . . . it falls into a dark abyss once more and I am powerless to stop it’s descent. My soul is restless, my mind is overworked, and all reason seems to have been drained from my noggin.

It’s a terrible feeling.

I attempt to write this at 12:00 midnight, with brains scattered and emotion higher than Kilimanjaro. I write not so that I make any sense (I think all hope for that is long gone), but that there might be some irony demonstrated from this post. The irony being: When all is lost, you’ve still won. When you are experiencing your greatest sorrow, there is greatest capacity for peace.

Lauren has gone crazy!!!

Don’t give up on me yet. ;)

Luke 17:33 says, “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” God often speaks to us through the ironies of life. And tonight (or rather, this morning), I feel like all is lost . . . and I am experiencing my greatest sorrow. How can I be able to hold my head up? How can I discover peace?

I can’t.

(Lauren’s really lost it! She’s gone! :P )

I can’t!!!

Only God can.

One of my favorite verses, 1 Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Sometimes I get so caught up in the little battles of life, that I don’t remember the big picture. In 100 years when I’m with Christ . . . it won’t matter if everything worked out perfectly on earth. What will matter is that Jesus won salvation for us on the cross, and conquered death. Even when I’ve lost here on earth, Christ has still won the battle for me.

Isaiah 26:3 says: You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

A mind stayed on Christ is a peaceful mind. . . a restful mind:

Matthew 11:28 - "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

How burdened I feel right now . . . and yet, Christ sustains me through it all. In my weakness, He is my strength. Thus, one might find the ironies proven true . . . Even when I feel as though all is lost . . . I still have victory in Christ. Even in my greatest sorrow, He gives my soul more peace than ever I could’ve found on my own.

How great is our God!

I think I shall now attempt sleep once more.

~Lauren Lee

Sunday, February 14, 2010

True Love

Happy Valentines, everyone! This is a day that reflects the spirit of God in such a deep way . . . Often times, we don't stop to ponder his love as we should. Today is the perfect opportunity to do it.

This past winter camp at my church, the youth band sang a song titled, "To Know Your Name." I posted the music video from the original band below. It so accurately describes His love! "He took my place, knowing He'd be crucified . . . he loved a people undeserving."
God's love is . . . too deep for my finite mind to grasp. Why would he love me?
I am so undeserving.

Human nature is always telling us to look for what we can get out of things. Unless we get some satisfaction out of it, our flesh tells us, "you could be doing more pleasurable things . . . skip it." Lauren Lee is inconsequential to God! And yet He loves her. I can do nothing for Him. I bring nothing to the table. But the thing that just blows my mind is that He loves me because He can. He wants to be my Father . . . and He does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3). He doesn't love me because He can "get" something from me. In a culture that has been brainwashed with the "do what feels good" montra, we've become accustomed to a selfish type of love. A love that only gives when there's a guarentee of something in return. God, on the other hand, shows us true love.

1 John 3:1 says: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him." We are children of God! It is an overused term that I think we have become far too accustomed to . . . Ponder it for a moment and it truly will amaze you.

My pastor gave an analogy once of a father who's son was brutally killed. The young man convicted of the murder was wretched, lost, and dangerous . . . But when the father of the victim met the murderer face to face, he takes the hand of the boy . . . and says "I forgive you. Your sins are washed away." He took the young man into his home, and treated him as a family member. He gave him clothes to wear, food to eat, and loved him like his own child.
Take a moment and imagine this happening in real life. If someone dear to you were killed, would you be willing to love the person who killed them? Why would anyone do something like that, for a murderer who has broken all standards of morality?
Lamentations 3:22 says: "Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed for his compassions never fail." Though we are the guilty ones, He loves us. He clothes us and feeds us. He has made us one of His children. And He died for us. Even though our sins murdered His son. Wow. Does this not blow your mind?? I cannot comprehend it.

Please, take some time today to meditate on this true love that we are so undeserving of. As you listen to this song, let His love overwhelm your soul. Close your eyes and remember what torture He went through, for us. And even though we killed His son, He is willing to call us his children - His adopted sons. What a loving Father!

~Lauren Lee

"Dear Father . . . I cannot understand your love. Nor your grace. I am undeserving of your mercy, and can give you nothing. Although I don't know why you chose me, I am forever grateful . . . I am overwhelmed, Lord. Never let me forget what I did to your Son - and what You did for me. Amen."

The precious blood of Jesus Christ redeems,
forgiven I’m alive, restored set free.
Your majesty resides inside of me,
forever I believe. forever I believe.
arrested by your truth and righteousness
your grace has overwhelmed my brokenness
convicted by your spirit, led by your word
your love will never fail
your love will never fail
‘Cause I know you gave, the world your only son for us to
know your name, to live within the saviours love and he took my place,
knowing he’d be crucified and you loved.. you loved, a people undeserving!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Drops of Blood: The Issue of Fear

Around 2000 years ago a man wept in a garden not far from the place he would soon be murdered. Knowing of his impending torture and death, he sat on his knees in utter agony, crying out to God to preserve him. Human emotions, such as fear, panic, and anxiety swirled around in his mind. Worst of all . . . He knew he didn’t deserve it. Sitting in the garden, the man was afraid. He was fearful. He was trembling. He was terrified.

He even sweated blood.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” ~Luke 22:42-44

Yes, Jesus Christ himself, was fearful. He was in utter agony, knowing that the time of his death was near. But he also knew the glory awaiting him in heaven. He was God himself, incarnated! And yet, he was experiencing fear and agony.

Was Christ in sin? Was he not “trusting in God” enough? Why was he anxious, since he was the Son of God and Creator of the Universe?

Imagine being a damsel in distress from one of those 1960’s cowboy movies. You’ve been bound hand and foot, and thrown onto the train tracks by the bad guys. As the train comes rushing toward you – what is going through your mind?

“YAY! I am about to die! Yippee!”

I doubt that.

As for myself, I would be extremely fearful. If I had the presence of mind to pray, I would be thinking, “Lord, please . . . Get me out of this!” Would I be wrong to plead with God, in fear? Would I not be trusting Him, like I should?

Lets go back to Christ . . . Matthew 26:10 (MSG version) says:

“Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

God has given us human emotions such as anxiety and fear. In and of themselves, they are not bad things. Without fear, there would be no reason to trust in God. He doesn’t want us skipping along in life, saying “I have Jesus in my heart, rainbows in the sky, and I NEVER have any fear or anger or timidity! Aren’t things jolly??” Fearing earthly dangers draws us closer to our Father because we have no choice but to trust in Him.

Now, there is an unhealthy fear. This fear is one that is stubbornly held on to, and not given to God. It’s an unwillingness to trust in Him. When does fear become a bad thing? When it begins to consume you. As long as fear is felt with the knowledge of God’s sovereignty, it is actually something God approves of, because it draws your heart closer to his. He doesn’t condemn the fearful!

Christ goes on to pray, “not what I want, but what YOU want, Father!” Even in the midst of his despair, as drops of blood were falling from his forehead, he deferred to his Fathers will. Similarly, we should do the same. Even in our fear, we must trust in Him.

As I have had to face my Dad, I have been fearful. The train has been coming at me, and I’ve felt bound on the tracks. But my Heavenly Father is always the cowboy coming to the rescue, just in time. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God doesn’t allow us to suffer temptation more than we can bear. He always shows a way out! God won’t let us wallow in an unhealthy fear . . . He provides himself as an escape. So although that train is coming faster and faster, I have the knowledge that the Christ will save me, and not allow me to be hit by it. I am convinced that the fear I have of my Dad has been given to me by God and is a tool he uses to draw me ever closer to Himself.

~Lauren Lee

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps 27.1)

Thanks to Emmery Grotberg for the idea behind this post.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Invisible Hugs

Recently I was reading a paper by 17 year old Amanda Lynn Geesey. She was describing her feelings as the effects of not having a father took it’s toll:

Lord, the pain is too much to bear! I can't take this anymore; I have to get out. I tried to get his attention once before with the anorexia but he did not care then, so why would he care if I was alive or dead. Well, at least the pain will be gone. My heart hurts, there is no one to care, no one to love me. He left without a word, without a tear. He did not call on my birthday. He even misspelled my name on the first Christmas present he ever sent, and there was only one of those. His checks are supposed to buy his love, yet he never even sends them! He probably does not even remember my name, I know he does not know my hair color, eye color, whether or not I am tall or short, fat or skinny. God, I just pray I don't look or act anything like him.

People don't get it! They just make things worse! They criticize me and say "I am not right with God," because I miss my dad, yet in the same sense I hate him. Their lives are not perfect so why do they pick on me? I did not choose my life, but I can choose to end it. They say let God be my "Dad" well, I would like to see them try it. God cannot reach down and give me the hug I so desperately need and tell me that I am loved. My dad never told me that; he never said I was pretty or smart. He always wants to blame me for any "bad" thing that happens in his life though.

… When I try to reach out all I receive is rejection, so let's get it over with! I don't care about them or my dad, I hate him! Where is God now? Even God has rejected me and forgotten even about my existence.

Wow. Although I cannot relate in full to the extent of her situation, being fatherless myself I understand where she’s coming from. This was exactly what I was going through during the first couple months after he moved out. All of my friends were telling me, “I’m praying for you . . . Lauren just trust in God!” Like it was SO easy! My feelings echoed hers exactly . . . God can’t physically sit beside me and wrap his arms around me. He can’t comfort me!

I was right. He couldn’t comfort me in the way I felt like I needed to be comforted. But He eventually showed me that He could do it so much better than that. Amanda went on to say:

Until recently this is exactly how I felt. I still struggle with feelings of abandonment, hurt and distrust of men. God has proven Himself faithful though and has showed me that He is loving, forgiving, caring and that not only am I in the palm of His hand but my name is willingly engraved on the palm of His hand that I will never be forgotten.

Her testimony, going from thinking that God abandon her to coming to the point of trusting Him and putting her life in the palm of His hand, truly ministered to me. It is such a beautiful encouragement.

One day, I will be able to sit in the physical presence of my heavenly Father. What a day that will be! For now, I can only look forward to that time. It is that hope which sustains me. One of my favorite movies of all time is “a Walk to Remember.” In it, Jamie, a modest, Christian girl, defines faith in one of the best ways I’ve heard it put. “It’s like the wind. I can’t see it, but I can feel it.” Until that day when I enter into the Lords court, I won’t be able to see Him. But nothing hinders the feeling of his love.

Psalm 147:3 says: "He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds". Young ladies, please be comforted by this. No matter what your situation might be; an absent father, being hurt by a friend, the death of a loved one, an argumentative home environment . . . God surpasses it all, and is able to comfort even though He does not physically manifest Himself to us. The knowledge of His comfort should make us content, and develop our yearning expectation for the day we will one day see Him face to face. Lets embrace Him back when He offers those invisible hugs.

~Lauren Lee

"The Lord is near to those that have a broken heart, and he saves those who have a contrite spirit" (Psalm 34:18)

Amanda Geesey's Paper "The Importance of Fathers in the Home"

Or. Of course. If you STILL think you need to FEEL a hug (to lighten the mood a little).

Thanks To Carlotta's blog for this! :D VERY funny. Made me laugh.

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