Broken-down Poetry: 2009


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Friday, December 25, 2009

on Redemption

I love this city, but I've set and numbered its days
I love this city, enough that I'll set it ablaze

Lots of things have died this year. I mean this figuratively, of course, but the pain is no less real.

I've lost good friends. I've attended the funeral of my RELEVANT dreams. I've mourned the loss of crushes. My ambitions were murdered; my pride suffocated.

I was the one who pulled the plug on most of those. I made the decision to take them off life-support, to say my final goodbyes, and lay them in the earth. It was me. It was my decision.

And I say I've seen a lot die this year, but I've seen more die in previous years. Ever since I read that passage in Ezekiel - Son of man, I'm about to take from you the delight of your life—a real blow, I know. But, please, no tears. - I've routinely killed my dreams.

I am the knife-wielding Abraham on Mt. Moriah, but with no angel to stop me.
I am the farmer on the seventh year, letting my fields dry up.

It feels like I spend so much of my life giving things up. Is there anything I can keep?


I pray for redemption.

I sat in the Williams' prayer chapel a month ago, asking God to redeem something in my life. And oh, He redeemed it - by setting it on fire.

That is redemption after all, is it not? It's the refinement of gold in fire. It's transforming what's unholy into something holy.
Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love's kind, must be destroyed. And our God is a consuming fire.
I keep asking for redemption: "Oh Lord, that I may live according to your will." Or, "Make this job/relationship/hobby yours."

And so God does what is asked of Him. He redeems. He puts my love (my ambitions, my crushes, my relationships) into the fire and sees what happens.

Whatever is not in His will - burns up. It falls apart.

I don't mean this is a BEHOLD THE WRATH OF GOD! sense, really. I don't think God sets things on fire for fun. But when I ask him to redeem something, he does it, and it hurts.

I suppose we let God redeem things because we expect something new or polished in return. We "give God our relationships," assuming he'll point us to the love our life. We "give God our finances," assuming big bucks will come our way.

It doesn't always work like that. Sometimes the fire kills. Sometimes our dreams don't play possum, but stay dead on the side of the road.


The worship band played "The Old Rugged Cross" in church this morning. I think I sang along sarcastically:

I will cling to the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down

Like I've said, I've seen a lot die this year. I've had to give up a lot. It's not about laying my trophies down "at last." (My bitterness is speaking, mind you.) It's more like: God, I've laid down every last one of them. I cling to the cross in fear that you'll take that away too! That's what I picture, anyway. I'm clinging to something for dear life, not because I believe my sacrifices will make my life any better, but because if I don't have anything else to cling to.

Is this the Christian life? Sacrifice after sacrifice, death after death?

God promised me a resurrected life. He promised me that every seed will die before it grows. Where is this growth?

We're in the dead of winter. (Read that again for its irony.)

Bradley Hathaway wrote, "Grace grows in winter, I'm told."

Grace grows in winter when everything else dies. Ugh.

I yearn for Grace. I want God to show His face in these crummy circumstances.

I'm sick of making sacrifices.
I'm sick of seeing my friends make sacrifices.
I'm sick of hope with no follow-through.

More questions than answers - I know. This may be the nature of blogging. Or at least the nature of my blogging.

With love and squalor,

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

on Forgiveness

This is the worst one.


Yesterday the newspaper staff had a meeting about some of the problems we've been having this year so far. I brought up a long list of clerical issues - stuff we couldn't have anticipated earlier on - hoping to diffuse any catty fighting before it began. Our staff has turned against each other; I call it "the War." I thought talking about productive issues like how to get people to turn assignments in on time would keep any emotional stuff from surfacing.

Yeah right.

The song kept popping into my head: "If we're adding to the noise, turn off this song."

I've added to the noise.

I pretended to be Switzerland; I've become Benedict Arnold, a backstabber. The traitor on both sides. I'm not a revolutionary; I'm not a Tory.

I gossip. I can't stop doing it! I slander. I don't obey the post-it note on my desk: "God wants me to love [coworker's name]."

I don't hate bigotry; I hate bigots. I don't hate war; I hate warmongers.

It's as if every lesson I've learned about love has been erased: I've edited them into nonentity. It turns out being bitter/angry/wrathful is way easier than forgiving.


This is the hardest one: I don't know how to forgive. I know how to say it: "I forgive you," but I don't really know how to forgive.

I wrote an essay on forgiveness for Sentence Strategies about my stepmom, about how I haven't forgiven her for her alcoholism and the effects thereof. I told her that I forgave her, and it's not that I've been mulling over her past mistakes or anything. But I still don't think I've forgiven her.

I think forgiveness takes reconciliation.

I hate that word. It's a tough, tough word. It implies action. It implies humility. It involves me asking for forgiveness for my unwillingness to forgive.


The thing is, I know that this newspaper stuff isn't all that I need to ask forgiveness for. There's another publication that I've stirred drama over: dear RELEVANT. I feel burdened to ask Cameron for forgiveness.


It's ironic that what I thought I hated about RELEVANT is the very thing I'm engaging in. I am not being very Christ-like. Huh.


At the beginning of this school year, I found myself hating people on campus for no good reason. This happened frequently:

Lauren: Arrg. There's [insert name of NECC intern]. He hasn't even acknowledged me all school year.
Abby: Well, why don't you say hi to him.
Lauren: But he's a leader. And it was my church he interned at.
Lindsey: Oh geez.
Those people don't need to be forgiven - isn't this interesting? - but I feel like they need to apologize to me. Huh. I think people owe me something. They owe me a "hello" or a nod or something. But they don't.

No one owes me anything ...
... but I'm in debt to them.

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another. ..."

They don't owe me Grace, but I owe them Grace. It's not their attitudes or behaviors that I need to change, but my own attitude toward them.


Before our meeting ended, Dr. Huckins closed with a prayer. He mentioned a verse in his prayer, and it stuck with me:
"Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. ..." Romans 12:10
I like that: "giving 'preference' to one another." Not only am I going to forgive you or ask you to forgive me, I'm going to prefer you over myself. I'm going to prefer being around you than being away from you. I'm going to prefer you to be my boss and no one else.

What a radical ("rooty") picture of forgiveness. And Grace.

It's not just a way to take care of the immediate issue ("I'm mad at you about this and this") but a way to get to the root of it, to reconcile, and keep bitterness from brewing.

Monday, December 7, 2009

on Faith

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come and will not delay.
-Habakkuk 2:3-


"Do you think if you ignore my revelation that makes it untrue?" - God


I know very little about faith. I know it has to do with belief ("faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see"). I know it has to do with taking God seriously, and not calling yourself a god like Shirley MacLaine in that movie.

I know that "the principal part of faith is patience" and that God doesn't work in my time frame, but His own.

But that's about all I know.


Note the question I have at the beginning of the blog: "Do you think if you ignore my revelation that makes it untrue?" This is what started my thoughts on faith.

God and I were hashing it out the other day. We got on the topic of faith, specifically this promise we made back when I was 16 or so. This was my prayer:

"Dear God, I pray that you don't tell me who I'm supposed to marry until it's time for me to get married. Okay, thanks."

I've always been pretty cool with this prayer. Sometimes I regret prayers I've made (i.e.: "dear God I pray that I don't date anyone until I date my husband"), but this one I liked. I have this irrational fear that the moms of the boys that like me - and I don't like in return - tell their sons that I'll come around, that God wants us to get married or something. That kind of disgusts me. Hence why I don't regret this prayer: I refuse to be like one of those moms.

But it came up again, when Jesus and I were hashing it out, and He humbled me. Because what if God wants to tell me who I'm going to marry? (He hasn't yet - THANK GOODNESS - and I hope this is an object lesson, not something He'll actually do.)

But sometimes I think God tells me things that I don't think I should know. Some of those revelations are "lingering," some have been proven true.

But what if I decide not to listen? What if God tells me who I'm going to marry, but I plug my ears with my fingers? Does that make His revelation less-true?

Or, what if God lies to me? What if I ask God if I'm going to work for Zondervan and I hear Him say yes and I'm so sure that's what He wants for me, but I don't get the job.

But what if planning for the Zondervan job gets me a job at Tyndale? What if that lie got me where I needed to be?

Is this a matter of the end justifying the means? I don't know - maybe. Does God work like that? Or can he?


I can come to no conclusion. Of the topics I'm planning on discussing (Faith, Forgiveness, Grace and Redemption), this is the vaguest.

But I suppose you can have faith without knowing what it means, right? (Ha, I hope so.)

with love and squalor,

Saturday, December 5, 2009

An Introduction

I don't know how to start this blog - I don't have a witty anecdote. I guess I could say this: the other day Molly and I were having "WTF, Jesus?" moments around the same time. I went to the Williams' prayer chapel and scrawled broken arguments to God. (I'm not sure what Molly did.)

I'm fine, really, I am. I am.

I started taking control of my life instead of letting God, and whenever I do that trouble follows. This isn't to say God is punishing me; I just don't know how to run my life as well as God. Amen, amen.


I want this to be a series, a four-parter: Grace, Faith, Redemption and Forgiveness. I can't do blog series because I get so bored and distracted. I write what I wanna write when I wanna write it. But this I need to do for myself, and for God. This blog series is my spiritual act of worship.


Why these four topics? Well. That's a good question.

In World Civ. we're learning about the 7 Deadly Sins. After discussing Greed, I began thinking about which of these sins would be friends, had they the ability to form relationships. I came to the conclusion that Greed, Lust and Gluttony would be BFF.

I figured it like this: Gluttony has to do with hungry, about getting your fill. Greed is about desiring money and possessions and stuff. Lust is about hungering for another person, for them making you feel a certain way. They're all about hunger - eros and what not.

If four virtues (are they virtues?) could be friends, it would obviously be Faith, Redemption, Forgiveness and Grace. And Love. Love would be in there somewhere. Maybe Hope too.

Anyway, Faith is about belief and loyalty - no matter what. And it takes Forgiveness to keep faith in someone or something that isn't faithful back. And Redemption is like that never-ending process that underlies it all: you the faithful are redeemed while the unfaithful is redeemed, becoming the faithful, etc.

And Grace is the hug that brings us all together.

That doesn't make much sense, I'm sure. I'm just finding correlations - it must be the economics student in me.


I'm processing life right now. Piece by piece by piece by piece. I know who I am. I am Lauren Deidra Sawyer. I am classy. A little quirky (no, Linds, not awkward). A writer. An avid reader. A music snob. A little sister.

But what do I do about you? I know who I am, but what do I do with you, Life? What do I do with you, Religion?

Thus: this series.

with love and squalor,

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Title Track: Christmas Story

My dad’s favorite Christmas movie is “A Christmas Story,” the one about the dorky kid Ralphie who wants a B.B. gun, but everyone keeps telling him that he’ll shoot his eye out. My sister and I think our dad was like Ralphie when he was a boy; he had the blond hair and glasses to prove it. And I’m sure my dad asked for a gun, but never got one.

Every December I start feeling really mushy and sentimental and I watch a million cheesy Christmas movies on Fa-La-La-La Lifetime. I think I’m looking for a favorite Christmas movie, because I still haven’t found one.

Instead of watching movies, my favorite thing to do around the holidays is retelling the Christmas story – the one about Christ’s birth, not a Red Ryder B.B. gun. I try to retell it differently every year on my blog, but I don’t know how successful I am. A story that pertinent is often told best in its original text. (Maybe I should leave it to St. Luke.)

But I liked how I retold it one year, and I want to recreate that. (Read between the lines.)

Christmas is not just a time for evergreen trees, Wal-mart sales, holiday feasts, decking the halls or watching the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” It’s a time for, well. …

Around the time of Elizabeth’s amazing pregnancy and John’s birth, the emperor in Rome, Caesar Augustus, required everyone in the Roman Empire to participate in a massive census – the first census since Quirinius had become governor of Syria. Each person had to go to his or her ancestral city to be counted.

Christmas is a time to mend broken relationships – even when it’s your best friend’s roommate’s sister who stole your boyfriend away. Forgive. Even when you really don’t want to do it, forgive.

Mary’s fiancĂ© Joseph, from Nazareth in Galilee, had to participate in the census the same way everyone else did. Because he was a descendant of King David, his ancestral city was Bethlehem, David’s birthplace. Mary, who was now late in her pregnancy which the messenger Gabriel had predicted, accompanied Joseph.

Christmas is a time to reclaim family. If you’re like me you’ve spent most of the year complaining about them (or to them). During the Christmas season, pretend you’re the Cleavers. Try to get along with your siblings, even when they drive you mad.

While in Bethlehem, she went into labor and gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped the baby in a blanket and laid Him in a feeding trough because the inn had no room for them.

Christmas is a time to forsake selfishness. Most of us receive 26 paychecks a year. Use one of them (or part of one) to buy a present for the Salvation Army Christmas Angel Tree or donate the money to a charity.

Nearby, in the fields outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds were guarding their flocks from predators in the darkness of night. Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light – the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!

Christmas is a time to be a kid again. Play in the snow. Wake up early on Christmas day. You have plenty of time to worry about grown-up responsibilities after Christmas.

Messenger: “Do not be afraid! Listen! I bring good news, news of great joy, news that will affect all people everywhere. Today, in the city of David, a Liberator has been born for you! He is the promised Liberating King, the Supreme Authority! You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough.”

Christmas is a time to reprioritize. As important as school is, are you spending more time improving your grades or with the people you love?

At that moment, the first heavenly messenger was joined by thousand of other messengers – a vast heavenly choir. They praise God. … “To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God! And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God!” …

Christmas is a time to remember your Savior; it’s a time to relish in his Grace. It’s easy to get into the zone of the holidays, forgetting its true meaning under all of the shopping sprees and cheesy holiday specials on TV.

Don’t forget that this is a holiday that shook the world.

Everyone who heard their story couldn’t stop thinking about its meaning. Mary, too, pondered all these events, treasuring each memory in her heart.

Merry Christmas, IWU.

The blog was originally published in Indiana Wesleyan's the Sojourn newspaper.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Child, I don't remember.

Saturday I felt more human than I had in a really long time.

Dr. Smith in World Civ. talks about the importance of having a big view of sin in order to have an even bigger view of Grace. Saturday my view of sin grew big. And I felt small.

Jacqueline and I watched Lars and the Real Girl (in Elder Hall on the big screen - heehee) and it reminded me of my humanity, my sinfulness, my inadequacies.

The movie is about Lars, a socially awkward guy who lives alone and hates being touched. One day he decides to order an anatomically correct doll/manikin and makes her his girlfriend. He's having a delusion - he thinks she's real - and everyone eventually goes along with it. The whole movie is about their relationship.

Lars believes this manikin, Bianca, is real. He talks to her. He loves her. He buys her things. If someone told him that he was going crazy, he denied it.


Richard Dawkins wrote a book a few years back, heading the New Atheism movement. The book is called, "The God Delusion." Hmm. There's that word again.

And I'm not denying God's existence. But I thought about it a lot while watching this movie. I thought a lot about Pascal too. He said that it's reasonable to believe in God, because if he is real, you'll get to heaven, but if he isn't, you'll be unaware of your delusion after death. Win-win.

Then I thought of Peter Abelard, Medieval philosopher. He believed in the importance of doubting and questioning one's beliefs. It's how you learn faith.

Then I thought a lot about love. How Lars treated Bianca so well and how I wanted a boy to treat me that well.

Then I thought about how imperfect I am. How I am just a girl, not a god. I am so in love with myself sometimes that I forget about other people.

And I thought about how I have lost all ambition, have been caught up in my silly little stories, and have no idea what I want to do with my life. I don't know if I want to change the world anymore.

Part of me wants that picket fence and 2.5 children. And a hot husband. A nice home. Lots of money.

Then the other part of me, not really standing for social justice, still hates American consumerism. Then I go and buy stuff for myself. And dream about being comfortable.

I know I'm under Grace, but I'm suddenly aware of all the rotten shit I do. (Like cussing. When did I pick that up? A few weeks ago, I think. Around the time Lindsey started calling Medieval kings stupid bastards. lol)

I guess that is what Grace is about.

We don't get excited about Grace until we realize how selfish, arrogant, dirty and self-righteous we are. Big view of sin, bigger view of Grace.

Then Jesus looks at me and says that he doesn't remember any of those things I just listed off. He forgets. He sees me as 100% righteous. Amen and amen.

And he likes it when I ask questions and doubt a little bit. He knows that this is a season. That this dry, lazy, disillusioned valley I'm in won't last forever.


Everybody's waving hands in the air
They're singing songs of Grace
But it feels so dead to me
Could it be that I just don't believe?

I can't let go what's holding on to me
This is just for show
'Cause you don't want to see who I am

Sure as hell not the better man
Sure as hell not the better man

I am naked, and I'm trying, but I can't make it
Oh Jesus, I'm doing all I can
I'm just a man ...

"Child, I don't remember
What you've done
Child, I don't remember
The things you're dying from"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Title Track: Musical Pride

Be thankful that I was not A&E editor last year.

I say that for many reasons, I suppose. I think Jocelyn did an amazing job with the section, and I’m proud to be her successor. Not to mention that last year at this time I hardly knew what AP style was – the journalist’s version of MLA or APA – despite my year on staff at my high school newspaper.

But last year the A&E section, had I been the editor, would have been filled with a lack of variety and integrity. Because last year, folks, I was a music snob.

I would have said that with pride because the bands I’ve been listening to for years are the same ones loved by professional music enthusiasts. Bands like Franz Ferdinand, Kings of Leon and Manchester Orchestra became my most played on iTunes. I learned that rap music can be cool and ironic like Gnarls Barkley and Jaydiohead. And most importantly, I shunned all “Christian” music, except for Jars of Clay.

Back in May, my friend Adam and I would sit in this little locally-owned coffeehouse in Fort Wayne, sipping tea and talking about what real music is. We’d rattle off names of musicians no one else knows about (Great Lake Swimmers, M83, Eef Barzelay). And Adam would tell me about the time he played secular music through the church loudspeakers when he ran the soundboard, and I would say something snotty about the lack of musical variety my own church offers (Chris Tomlin or Matt Redman, take your pick).

Last summer I remember flipping through my friend Jacque’s CD collection during our road trip, seeing only Switchfoot and Sanctus Real, wondering how I was going to survive the next 300 miles.

So, I never knew that the sin of pride could infiltrate my music like this.

Because that’s really what this is: a pride issue. I think that because I listen to cool music and you don’t, I am somehow better than you or more tasteful or more cultured.

It works the other way around too. This is the same reason why I get so offended when my roommate Lindsey makes fun of my music. It’s not that you’re dissing what flows through my ear buds; you’re dissing me for choosing to press play.

My friend Abby loves Coldplay. Whenever we drive together, she switches what I am currently playing (the Decemberists, fun., Andrew Bird) to Coldplay’s song “Lost.”

I hate that song. I hate that album. I hate how much everyone loves Coldplay so much.

“Then why do you have them on your iPod?” Abby has asked me more than once. And honestly, the answer is kind of pitiful: I have songs by Coldplay to make my musical tastes seem cooler. Because, apparently, Coldplay is the epitome of “good music.” (Really?)

You know that phrase, “Keeping up with the Jones’?” Some people like getting fancy electronics to show off to their friends. Some people dress in only brand names. I fill my iPod with catchy music – whether I like the songs or not, apparently.

I shouldn’t find my identity in the type of music I listen to, but I do. I know I’m not going to be shunned for liking or hating a certain band. I’m still friends with Matt who listens to Creed, so he can still be my friend when I blast Miley Cyrus.

Even writing this column has been a struggle for me. You can’t imagine how hard it was admitting I listen to Miley Cyrus. I’ve tried to make up for it by placing other cooler musicians in parentheses throughout this column. (Like this: M. Ward, Animal Collective, Kings of Convenience.)

I want to know what you think. I know taste in music is subjective, but do you find yourself acting like me, letting your favorite music define you? Do you do it with other forms of media?

And if so, what should we do? Humble ourselves and listen to lame music, or suck it up and try to not let music define us?

Continue the conversation online at my blog:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Inspired by Buddy Glass

I'm finishing up Salinger's last novella about the Glass family, "Seymour - an Introduction," written in the point of view of Buddy Glass.

Seymour, whom Buddy writes about, is a poet; Buddy writes in prose. It's brilliant, really, how they're contrasted. Anyway, Buddy has a lot to say about prose ... and since I am a fan of prose (as broken-down poetry), I thought I'd post some of my favorite quotes.

Thanks, Buddy.

"And while I think an economically happy prose writer can do many good things on the printed page - the best things, I'm frankly hoping - it's also true, and infinitely more self-evident, I suspect, that he can't be moderate or temperate or brief; he loses very nearly all his short paragraphs. ...

Worse of all, I think, he's no longer in a position to look after the reader's most immediate want; namely, to see the author get the hell on with his story." -- "Seymour," pp. 98-99

"It is, then, as if this clerical error were to revolt against the author, out of hatred for him, were to forbid him to correct it, and were to say, 'No, I will not be erased, I will stand as a witness against thee, that thou art a very poor writer.'" -- Soren Kierkegaard, epigraph to "Seymour"

Other well-written passages by Buddy Glass:

"Her voice sounded strangely levelled off, stripped of even the ghost of italics." -- "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters," p. 85

"I said I didn't give a good God damn what Mrs. Fedder had to say on the subject of Seymour. Or, for that matter, what any professional dilettante or amateur bitch had to say. I said that from the time Seymour was ten years old, every summa-cum-laude Thinker and intellectual men's-room attendant in the country had been having a go at him. ...

I said that no one Goddamn person, of all the patronizing, fourth-rate critics and column writers, had ever seen him for what he really was. A poet, for God's sake. And I mean a poet." -- "Raise High," pp 59-60

with Love and Squalor,

Friday, November 13, 2009

Title Track: A Backstage Christian

Whenever I read a book, I always assume the writer and I would make good friends. F. Scott Fitzgerald and I would share a (nonalcoholic) cocktail, J.D. Salinger and I would probably ride a carousel together in a park – and Don Miller and I would, of course, get married.

But knowing my luck on things like this, I bet that most authors are jerks.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet a few published authors. My mom is a writer and she’s made friends with a lot of other writers in the romantic inspirational genre (yes, there is such a thing). I wouldn’t call her friends jerks, but they are definitely their own breed.

But author Jason Boyett is not a jerk or weird like my mom’s friends – at least not weird in a stop-eating-the-paste way. He’s a nice guy, and he definitely knows how to write.

Jason is the master of taking fact-loaded information, bringing it to our level, and explaining it with humor and irreverence. He even took four weighty issues like the Bible, the afterlife, the apocalypse and sainthood and made Pocket Guide books out of them. And you know what? I could tell you more about the patron saint of beekeeping than you’d ever want to know. (Thanks, Jason.) His blog,, which helped inspire the theme of my blog, is hilarious and reading it is an integral part of my day.

I only say all that to build Jason’s credibility. Anyone could tell you that Jason’s a good writer, but not everyone knows that Jason’s a good guy too. And I don’t know about you, but I would really like to read a book by a guy I could drink a nonalcoholic beverage with.

But unfortunately, this isn’t always realistic.

A few months back I uncovered a bunch of dirt about a publication I loved, a company that boasted of a Christ-focus. It turns out calling yourself Christian doesn’t mean you maintain a level of integrity or view profit gain differently – it’s just a matter of appealing to a certain demographic. I am still a little bitter.

I’m not saying that you should only read books by Christian authors or listen to music by Christian bands. Because honestly, I have a healthy mix of Christian and secular entertainment. Rather, I’m trying to argue that bands who claim a faith shouldn’t act like jerks behind stage.

Maybe that’s too much to ask.

I recently had a phone conversation with a guy who used to work for a Christian magazine and a Christian record label. He told me how he met a lot of recognizable Christian figures who were doing pretty slimy things.

He met vain musicians and money-hungry businessmen. He refused to give me any names – but ooh James Dobson, I’m suspicious of you! Though he did assure me that Toby Mac is not the (insert derogatory noun here) that you’d think he’d be.

I’m not saying we should boycott all books, magazines, CDs and movies by superficial Christians – I’m not saying that at all. I just know that I don’t want to have the same fate as these guys. I want my actions to line up with my professed devotion.

We talk a lot about becoming world changers here at Indiana Wesleyan, but I wonder if there’s more to world changing than just building a Christian company or calling yourself a Christian doctor or a Christian writer or a Christian football coach.

I wonder if world changing has more to do with being a pleasant person to work with, to have patience with coworkers, to live as though you recognized God’s blessings.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I ... am ... blogging in the middle of a crowded hallway. That kind of sounds like a joke or the introduction to an anecdote - but it's not. It's just true.

I was talking to my friend Molly last night, hashing out everything that I've been thinking about for the past week or so. Nothing is organized. My dear thoughts are all over the place.


I keep forgetting to breathe.

Madelaine L'Engle in her book "Walking on Water" talks about creating cosmos from the chaos. I think I want that. But how?

I've been really good at compartmentalizing everything. I reserve thoughts about school to the afternoon hours, thoughts about boys to the night. But I can't seem to do that anymore.

I want to detox.

I told Molly last night how I wish I could write poetry to get these feelings out, to express them in an appropriate way ... but all my poetry comes out as prose.

This is my poetry.
The closest thing to it.
Words that don't mean much.
It looks a lot like
but it's not.

When Jesus was on a boat during a windstorm, he slept. His apostles poked him and woke him. Sleepy-eyed Jesus told the storms to stop and they do. Then I bet Jesus went back to sleep.

God, teach me how to rest during this storm!

I was reading an old Xanga blog post of mine which talked about this topic. Even in my naivety, I understood the benefits of storms - to go through them, not to avoid them. Not to organize them. But to let them change me.

Dear God, I hate this chaos.
But let it transform me.

Get out your measuring cups and we'll play a new game
Come to the front of the class and we'll measure your brain
We'll give you a complex, and we'll give it a name

Saturday, November 7, 2009

10 Things New With Me

This post is for those of you who I haven't talked to in a while. I feel bad that you're not up to date with my life.

1. I added a major. Despite what Dr. Huckins thinks, our journalism program lacks good writing courses ... so I added a writing double major. It's only 30 hours, so it's not much extra work. Because of this I changed my minor from writing to media comm.

2. I am obsessed with Christmas. I always loved Christmas - don't get me wrong - but usually I celebrate the holiday for only one month. Not this year. Lindsey and I have been playing Christmas music pretty much all semester. Our room is already decorated.

3. I lost weight. Thanks, Wii Fit!

4. I like a boy. And he acts like he likes me. He has a beard.

5. I stopped going to church - at school anyway. I get my fair share of preaching, worship and fellowship on campus, so what's the point of attending church I don't like anyway? I feel so rebellious; I'm not trying to be rebellious. I just like doing devotions at Starbucks more.

6. My mom had surgery on Thursday. BUT SHE'S OKAY! For those of you who knew this, thanks for praying!

7. The Sojourn's going to 8 pages! Right now it's 6 which means my section is only in the paper every other week. Now it'll be in every issue. And designer-willing, in color as well.

8. I've been really busy, which is why you haven't heard from me much. School + work + social life = BUSYNESS! But I love it. ;-)

9. I miss my sister so much! She's in Italy right now, studying abroad. I've had the urge to text her so many times, she has no idea.

10. Anyone can read the work I've done on the Sojourn at (Ha, shameless plug.)

with love and squalor,
Lauren Deidra

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

To tell a better story

I finished Don Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" a few days ago; it made me want to marry him even more.

The book was very moody. It had the structure of "Blue Like Jazz" (more like a memoir than SFGKW or TPD), but had the tone of "Through Painted Deserts" - thought-provoking, contemplative. It made me moody too.

Don talks about Story, about how he didn't find his story worthy of the big screen, and how he tries to change that. So Don rides a bike across America. He hikes in Peru. He starts a non-profit.

Don talks about living a better story, which made me consider my current story. I go to class. I drink a lot of coffee. I have interesting conversations ... sometimes.

I know I'm in college and that limits my freedom to live a bigger story, but it doesn't stop me either. Gosh, all this talk of being World Changers here at IWU has gotten to me. I really do want to change the world. I was made for greatness, as Pastor DeNeff would say. I'm not designed to sit on my hands, drag myself from class to class and settle for banality.

I like what these guys at TellABetterStory.ning are doing. They're just a couple of college kids (like me!) trying to shake things up.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Grace (revisited)

I wonder if this is our view of Christianity.

Some questions:
1. Does God punish us for our sins if we're under Grace?
2. Does God ever take his protection from us?
3. Does physical unhealthiness reflect God's wrath or our healthiness reflect his approval?

(Side note: This comic [via JesusNeedsNewPR] is hilarious. Jesus spanking a little girl? I mean, those anti-corporal punishment guys are probably having a hay-day right now.)

But really, that's beside the point.

Prof. Perry and I were talking about this yesterday, in regard to Dan Merchant's "Lord, Save Us from Your Followers" screening Wednesday night. Christians have an easy time pointing the finger, telling you what's wrong with you, warning you of consequences, but not showing any bit of love.

I got to sit down with Dan on Wednesday for a one-on-one chat about his book (and my Don Miller marriage plans). We got on the topic of homosexuality. I mentioned my column from last week's issue of the Sojourn and the conversation that arose at Starbucks a week or so it was published.

I let Lindsey read my column, to make sure it didn't sound like a rant or that anything I said could be mistaken for heresy. As we discussed it between the two of us, the rest of our group overheard and started their own dialogue. Soon six of us were engaging in this debate (should this even be a debate?) about homosexuality and the church.

Lindsey and I came to the conclusion that, despite what the Bible says about homosexuality or any so-called "lifestyle" sin, Christians shouldn't tell people what they're doing wrong. We should just love them.

No strings attached.

No I-love-you-ifs.

Just ... I love you. We're all human. We are all depraved. We are all the image of God. We are, as I love to say, glorious ruins.

Dan and I talked about this for a while. We mulled over Jesus' words, how he never, ever, ever, ever condemned a sinner. He stood up for them; he risked his life for them.

In John 8, when the Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman caught in idolatry, despite the law he stops the men from stoning her, dusts her off and tells her to go leave her life of sin. No "you're a dirty whore, you deserve hell" or the less extreme - "I disapprove of your lifestyle choice."

Dan also used the example of the thief on the cross. What good deeds did that man do to deserve paradise? Absolutely nothing.

So why in the world do we keep condemning people to hell?

Really, though. Why?

When we read the Gospels, and we call ourselves Christians ("little Christ"), then we flippantly blame the divorce rate on gay marriage or our addiction to pornography on the liberal media ... there's something disconnected. There's something not right.

If we could spend a little more time on the first two commandments - love God, love others - maybe people would stop hating us Christians so much.

I believe in Grace. I believe that God forgets my sins before I commit them. ("Forgiveness precedes repentance.") I believe that God cares more about people than he cares about their sins.

There's a story in Brennan Manning's "The Ragamuffin Gospel" that exemplifies this. A woman claimed that she was having visions of Jesus, so the archbishop of the area decided to test the validity of this. He told her to ask Jesus to tell her what the last thing he confessed was (in her next vision). And she did. Jesus' response? "I don't remember."

He doesn't remember.

God is the god of Present Tense.

I believe that acting righteously comes as a response - a response to God's love and grace. But if you've never experienced that love and grace from his followers, why the hell would you want to live morally?

We talk about "speaking the Truth in love," but what we're saying isn't with love. And love, real honest-to-God love is Truth.


I want you all to converse about this. I know half of you disagree with this. Half of you are going to say things like "but God hates sin!" and claim my doctrine is flimsy. But is it? I urge you all to challenge me, but please back it up with the words of Christ.

with love and squalor,

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Do we really even want to know what's going down?

I can see the forest for the trees - at least, now I can.

Let me try to sum up this past month in a series of random words sandwiched between a linking verb and object, as if they were all true adjectives. Get what I'm saying? You'll see:

I hate fields-dying-RELEVANT-boys-cancer-distances-viruses-overwhelming-deadlines-midterms-crying-breakdowns-failures-unskilled-dry-unfocused-hate/love-Bminus-Huckins-emailharassment-dramatic Octobers.

This was my October. How was yours?

I don't say this to complain; I say this in reflection.

A few weeks ago I had my "breakdown," the day after Lindsey and Autumn had their own. But since then it's almost been worse. My poor emotions have been strangled with rope, shoved into a cage, thrown into the ocean and anchored to the bottom. I guess I can only afford one breakdown a semester?

Long story short: boys suck, I have no idea where I want to work when I grow up, my mom has some health complications and boys suck.

Not all boys suck, sorry.

It's been healthy to get away from campus. I feel like I can see what I'm going through for what it is. A valley. That's all it is. It's another valley. I've been through tons.

And what I've learned through previous valleys is that you can either grow closer to God through them or let them push you away from him. It's your choice.

I want to kick and scream. I want to tell people what I think of them.

But ... gosh. I can't. I have to keep chugging along. I gotta keep praying and reading and talking and singing and whatever else.

But sometimes it's hard.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Title Track: Confession

Over the summer, I bought Derek Webb’s new album, “Stockholm Syndrome,” with its controversial song, “What Matters More,” which gave the CD an explicit label for the use of two swear words. The song stirred and convicted me, but not because of his cusswords – I’ve heard worse – but because of Webb’s criticism of the Christian culture and our reaction to homosexuality.

I blogged about the song back in August; I had never received so much feedback on a post. Most of the responses were positive (though some were negative), but either way I was glad that a dialogue was forming.

This is an issue we Christians have a hard time discussing with grace, except in our own churches with our own doctrine-abiding, non-gay brothers and sisters. And grace is the key here: we may talk about how liberal our culture is getting or about gay marriage or Ellen DeGeneres’s sexual orientation with an attitude of disdain, but can we learn to speak the truth in love?

The first two lines of “What Matters More” read: “You say you always treat people like you’d like to be / I guess you love being hated for your sexuality.” Webb sings this to Christians, those who condemn homosexuals to hell. (Not just those who hold picket signs at a gay pride festival, but those of us who turn our noses up to our gay brothers and sisters.)

According to the Barna Institute, Christians are known for being anti-homosexual more than loving or being gracious givers. We are not known for our love, but for our lack of it. They will know we are Christians by our love?

In “What Matters More,” Webb says that if Christians speak only what’s in their hearts, then it’s clear that being straight is top priority. Who cares about the poverty pandemic or genocide, about martyrdom in China or war in the Middle East, as long as boys like girls and girls like boys?

The big question of the song (“what matters more to you?”) comes from a quote by Pastor Tony Campolo that says, “I have three things I’d like to say today: First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a sh--. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said sh-- than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

Not only are we forgetting to speak to our brothers and sisters with love, we are making the LGBT community our enemy. And we are making a huge deal out of it.

I worry that some of us have the same attitude as a fictitious opinion writer from “The Onion”: “I know that if it were part of God’s plan for me to stop viciously condemning others based solely on their sexual preference, He would have seen fit … to have given me the tiniest bit of human empathy necessary to do so.”
It’s farcical, and I’m sure none of us really think that way, but it sure looks like do. And I’m included in the guilty party. I admit that I laugh at the jokes, and say something’s “gay,” or feel awkward or dirty talking about homosexuality. But this doesn’t make it okay.
God says that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors, even our neighbors who sin and have different lifestyles than us. Not begrudgingly love them, but with sincerity.

The greatest command is to love God, and I think that implies taking him seriously and taking his commands seriously too.

Globefest chapel speaker Dan Merchant, in his book “Lord, Save Us from Your Followers,” talks about the reverse confession booth he made at Pride NW, a Gay Pride festival. His goal was not to receive confessions from the men and women at the festival, but to confess his own sins and the sins of the Church toward homosexuals.

Merchant begins his confession: first for the Church’s mistreatment of homosexuals, then for ignoring the AIDS epidemic and finally for his own disrespect.

I want to end with a passage from his book, something that has challenged me, and I hope challenges you.

“I feel like we can go on all day about the whole ‘gay issue,’ but what I’m talking about is a people issue, a ‘we’re all God’s children issue,’ and since I’m a believer, a ‘what would Jesus do’ issue,” said Merchant. “This is about obedience and humility – and I’m not talking about the gay people, I’m taking about Christians.”

The post was originally printed in Indiana Wesleyan University's The Sojourn newspaper.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

That was his total reaction.

I've felt very odd this week.

I've had a lot of frustrations, most of which came from a single person, one who I vow to hate as to avoid any feelings of sadness or loneliness. Perhaps this is why I am in this mood.

I'm not as happy as I was last week, but I'm not as down as I was two weeks ago.

I feel ambivalent, apathetic, like I'm floating from my room to class to McConn to class to McConn. I'm lukewarm. Not strikingly successful, but not a failure. I've had wins and losses this week: nothing has upset me, but nothing has excited me.

What's up with you, self? Why are you acting this way?

God's been teaching me about Grace, and how it doesn't rely on any merit system. It's free for everyone. I wonder if Love isn't the only thing that lacks a price tag. Maybe Grace is the same way.

Last year I was so far from God. I pushed him out, I reluctantly prayed and begrudgingly read the Word. I didn't care one way or another. I sought after my own desires, and honestly, my life reflected it. I wasn't happy. I had hope, but I wasn't happy.

This year I am again having a hard time seeking God. I try, but I don't try very hard. I read my Bible when I feel like it, pray when it comes natural. But my life is awesome. I love my friends, I love what I'm learning and I love my job. My self-esteem has skyrocketed.

I would have found irony here. I would have. I would have said that's the devil out to trick me, that he's just making it seem like my life is good, but it's really not because it's not full of the fire of God.

But that's not the point. I cannot earn good days. God is no subject to karma.

Grace says that my good days are gifts from God and my bad days are too. They're gifts, not punishments or illusions.

This is rough, but I got to keep chugging - not as a way to earn more good days, but to remember who those days came from.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


"Lauren, how do you sign all of your blogs?" Jacque asked me between the sobs on my end of the phone line.



It's been a rough week. Low grades. Short deadlines. Bad news. And to top it off, I've forgotten my calling. I've forgotten why I do what I do: why I blog, why I write, why I testify publicly about what God is up to.

I've forgotten that I am Ezekiel.

Very few have heard this story. In fact, I think only Ashley, Amanda and Tom have heard it in its entirety. I don't like telling it because it makes me sound conceited and holier-than-thou. But I think if I tell it now, it may make sense of everything I've been talking about the past four years.


When I was a sophomore in high school, I read every book John Eldredge has ever written - mostly. I had read Wild at Heart, Captivating, Waking the Dead (4 times that year) and the Sacred Romance (3 times that year). One of those books, and I do not remember which, talked about that verse in Revelation about God giving us a white stone with a new name written on it (Revelation 2:17).

Eldredge wrote that if you prayed and asked God to tell you that new name, He will. And I believed him. (I believed everything Eldredge wrote.) And so I prayed.

During this particular time, I was getting over a crush, one that had lasted the entire summer before. This boy was moving away, so I was a little heartbroken (ah, to say the least). One night I was praying and reading my Bible and I came across this passage:
God's Message came to me: "Son of man, I'm about to take from you the delight of your life—a real blow, I know. But, please, no tears. Keep your grief to yourself. No public mourning. Get dressed as usual and go about your work—none of the usual funeral rituals." (Ezekiel 24:15)
No tears. I thought that was the greatest advice I could be given. I felt a kinship with Ezekiel - as bizarre as that sounds - because we were both losing someone important to us.

That was in August.

By February of Sophomore year, around the time Tom let me preach on a Sunday morning (I was proudly the first girl to preach in front of my church, holla!), I began praying even more for this white stone. I remember sitting outside in the cold during Sunday school - Tom's idea, not mine - and feeling a slight nudge that maybe my name was "Ezekiel." Maybe that's what my white stone said.

In July, during the camp-from-hell, I wrote in my journal that I was pretty sure I was Ezekiel because - and please pay attention to this - why would I WANT to be named a prophet?


It totally does.

Isaiah had to run around naked. Jeremiah got thrown in jail and had to wear a yoke like an ox. Daniel was kidnapped from his home, plotted against, and thrown into a den of lions. Ezekiel had to lie on his side for a couple months while eating food baked over his own poo.

This isn't a fool-proof method, but typically I know God is the one behind something if it's 1.) awesome, but I 2.) don't want to do it.

Somehow God confirmed all this on our mission trip that summer. I don't quite remember how, but I remember pulling Tom aside to tell him.

Since then there's been more progression and specifics to what this calling means exactly. Just note that I am a journalism major for a reason.


So this is why I sign my blogs "Ezekiel." (Or "Ezek." which is ol' Ezekiel's nickname. It's pronounced EE-ZEEK, for those who don't know any better.)

But, this is also why I don't censor my blogs.

I didn't notice this until Jacque and I were talking to other day about how I think I've made RELEVANT magazine mad at me for blogging about them, ahem, too honestly. Because even though I want to intern with them (and I do), I'm not about to throw my convictions away either.

In hindsight, I should have kept my mouth shut about the more recent RELEactivity, but I wrote about the fields dying back when the fields were dead. I wrote about Kevin's thesis and the plowshare and everything in between when I thought God was calling me elsewhere.

As a prophet, as God's mouthpiece, I can't pick in choose what I want to tell the exiles. That's not really in my job description. I write about what God is teaching me: this is why I have labeled more blogs "Christianity" than anything else.

There's certainly some discretion on my part. My blog called "Dear Sex" has been on and off my blog several times only because I'm not sure if it's profound or just ... sad.

I guess all this is to say that I have forgotten what my calling really is. And that's bad. But I'm back. I'm ready to be Lauren "Ezekiel" Deidra Sawyer.

And no one else. ;-)

with Love and Squalor,

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Title Track: Antihero

Last summer I created one of those obnoxious “How Well Do You Know Lauren Deidra Sawyer?” Facebook quizzes – the kind that notifies you every single time someone takes it. “Samantha answered 60 percent correctly.” And my response: “Wow, my own sister should know me better that that.”

But I put a lot of thought into this quiz because I wanted to stump my test-takers. I mimicked that one college professor who makes impossibly hard quizzes that stresses out his students to the point of crying. Or dropping the class.

I threw in a few easy questions like, “What color is my hair?” (orange), and “Where do I want to live when I grow up?” (Portland). But the majority of the questions were tough like, “What’s my favorite McConn beverage?” (Cuban latte with a shot of hazelnut), and the question that led me to write this column: “Who is my favorite character on the show ‘How I Met Your Mother’?” (Barney).

Barney Stinson is legen – wait for it – dary.

Barney, played by Neil Patrick Harris (from the just-as-legendary “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”), is the comedic drive of the show. He has the best lines. He is the best dressed.

But he is also the very antithesis of everything I believe in as a woman.

Barney treats women like meat. He prides himself of having sex 200 times with 200 different women and celebrates “Not a Father Day” with his other proud-to-be-promiscuous buddies.

But … I love him.

Despite our opposite values – even if he is a fictitious character – I watch “How I Met Your Mother” for Barney.

But why? I want to believe that there’s a bigger answer than “he makes me laugh.” Because though Barney is a hilarious character, this doesn’t explain my gravitation toward the “bad guys” in movies and TV shows. Barney isn’t my only “bad guy” favorite; he’s one on a list of many.

So let’s think this through:

1. We love the “bad guys” because of their dramatic and mysterious nature. You’ve heard that people “fear the unknown,” but sometimes I think we like the unknown – a lot. It keeps us stirred and on our toes. Why do high school students love drama so much? It’s because nothing exciting is actually going on in their lives. When it comes to characters on TV or in the movies, we tend to like to those who aren’t like the everyday people we know.

2. We love the “bad guys” because Hollywood casts hot actors to play them – to be blunt. My favorite character on NBC’s “Heroes” is Sylar, played by the oh-so-good-looking Zachary Quinto. Minus those caterpillar eyebrows, I know that part of my fascination with this villain is because of his looks. This is shallow, I know. But honestly, I think most of us would agree.

3. We love the “bad guys” because we believe in redemption. I found this true after watching “Blood Diamond” for Globe Fest last year. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Danny Archer, was throughout the entire movie nothing less than a jerk. He used people; he lied to get his way. But in the end, when he’s dying on that mountain (spoiler alert!), I can’t help but bawl. Finally he learned that people have value. There’s nothing more satisfying than a bad guy turning good.

I’m not trying to over-spiritualize this, but I did promise in my first column to seek the truth in the media. In this case, I would say as humans it’s not that hard to sympathize with the “bad guys.” Sometimes, we act just like them. Maybe we mistreat the opposite sex like Barney Stinson, or stir drama like Regina George.

I also think that for most of us, we desire to see the Hollywood thieves, whores, murderers and drug dealers redeemed, for the same reason we want to see our non-Christian neighbors redeemed. I hope this doesn’t seem like too hyperbolic, because I don’t think it is. I believe it is engrained in us as Christians to want to see lives transformed. Even in fictional characters. Even in Hollywood.

The post was originally printed in Indiana Wesleyan University's The Sojourn newspaper.

Monday, October 5, 2009

2 + 2 = <3

I am analytical. I like to take complex issues and break them down into parts.

I'm like my step-dad, who after taking a personality quiz, laid awake at night analyzing whether or not he is, in fact, analytical.

This is true when it comes to boys. Observe:

In high school I only had about 3-4 real crushes. What is a "real" crush, you ask?

A real crush is defined by the following:
1. It lasts longer than two weeks. This immediately eliminates those cute boys you meet once at a concert and never see again -- unless you're their friend on Facebook.
2. The boy stars in nearly all daydreams. Sometimes he'll star or guest star in a real dream as well. (This means you think about him way too much.)
3. You attribute something strange to him (via observation, nickname, etc.). For example, if his initials were ATP, you'd call him Andenosine Triphosphate. Or you notice how many times he wears primary colors versus secondary.
4. You hate his girlfriend. The crush is fading or never really began if you start befriending his girlfriend.

So, with that being said, in high school I had a few crushes, but in college I've had many more.

This is a matter of simple arithmetic. Since, for me, a crush typically begins with attraction, then becomes, uh, less shallow by being based on similar beliefs, that narrows down my crush-candidates.

Say there are 10 boys at my church in my 6-year range (6 years older is my max, my minimum is one year younger). Only 5 are cute. Only 3 believe in predestination (for example). That means I have a maximum crush value of 3.

But at school, there are 1,000 boys in my 6-year range. Assuming that I will not have the chance to meet all of them, we'll compare both groups proportionally. There are 100 times as many boys at IWU than at my church. This means there are probably close to 500 cute boys at IWU and only 300 with the same predestination viewpoint.

I now have a maximum crush value of 300.

This is my problem. No wonder I had so many crushes last year!

But this is not what's so bizarre. That is simple math. Though it may not be 100 percent accurate, the fact that I like more boys at school than at home makes sense.

What's weird is the type of boy I'm attracted to.

Last weekend I tried to explain to my friend Heather why I liked this particular boy. Nothing sensible came out of my mouth. I don't know why I like him; I especially don't know why I've liked him for so long.

I have come to the conclusion that I can have one of three crushes:
a. One based on reason - it makes sense to like him, but there's little attraction.
b. One based on attraction - it makes no sense to like him, but there's lots of attraction.
c. Both a & b
This crush of mine falls into the category of "b." I am attracted to him, but I have no real reason to. We don't have similar interests. We have different values.

Again, while thinking about this crush, I came to the conclusion that I would rather have a "b" crush over an "a" crush, if "c" wasn't available. I would rather marry a "b" guy than an "a" guy.

Because I can reason anything into existence.

I can convince myself of anything; I can comprehend nearly any equation, if I think really, really hard about it. I can lie to myself. I can read between the lines.

But I cannot make myself attracted to anyone.

This sounds a little cynical, but I believe it to be true for myself. I able to understand complex math and receive an A in a class I hate, but I can't convince myself to stop crushing over some guy.

Signed, a hopeless romantic.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I like to think of myself as having a calm, type-B personality. But this wouldn't be true. I am one of the most type-A, high-maintenance, OCD, frazzled person you know - shy I may be.

A couple of observations:

1. When my roommates were out of town for the weekend, I cleaned. Everything. We have two rooms and a bathroom between us, and I spent Saturday morning scrubbing, vacuuming and reorganizing. When they got home Sunday, the messes returned. Ugh.

2. I got a B on a paper. Not just one B, no, this has been my third B in this class this semester. I once even received a C. And it's a writing class - I'm supposed to be good at writing. I am working so hard at not being cliche in my writing that I am as a result very confusing and ineffective. Fail. Here's your 82%.

3. I will sell my soul to a project. I can't let things go. I will be the infamous workaholic parent if I'm not careful.

4. I lie awake at night making plans. I focus on my projects (see #3). I think about my grades (see #2). I think about how messy the room is around me (see #1).

My poor soul has forgotten how to rest.

This ... isn't an ideal way to live. Shocking, I know.

Part of this is my personality - I am a driven and goal-oriented person. But I am also giving into worldly demands. I don't have to be the best. I don't have to have things my way.

I need a Sabbath - from everything.

"Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel,
for I myself will help you," declares the LORD,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

Friday, September 25, 2009

oh mediocre

My Facebook status the other day was: "You know your life is uneventful when your dreams involve finishing homework (on time) and attending class (again, on time and fully clothed)."

And it's true.

The past few weeks I've been dreaming about school: about waking up, going to class, interacting with my professors, winking at a cute boy, then starting my homework. How lame is that? I'd take the dream where Ashley viciously murders me over a strand of boring, uneventful dreams.

When I'm awake it's not much better. All I can think about is school or the research I've been doing on RELEVANT magazine (which is going exceptionally well, mind you).

I want a cause; I've been praying for a cause.

I've got to be spending my time thinking about someone other than myself and about things more important than Radio Production homework. Honestly.

So far I've just been praying for RELEVANT. I don't mean "just" as in it isn't important - because it is. I'm starting to worry that I'll get so consumed in the magazine again that I'll fall back to where I was a year ago. Worthy or not, I can still make RELEVANT a god. So I need to be careful.

Without giving too much away, because I know this will pop up on RELEVANT's Google alerts, Tuesday I'm talking to former RELEVANT employee Dylan Peterson on the phone. I'm in kind of one of those celebrity-dazes. I mean, he was a pretty important part of the RELEVANT team. Well, he did make me fall in love with Andrew Bird and Anathallo.

Anyway, that's Tuesday. More research to come. More prayer to come.

I'm hoping, honestly, that I find something to devote my thoughtlife to - something God will appreciate. I've made this observation before, but it's really, really hard to pray when you have nothing to pray about. Dear God thank you for rain. Thank you for helping me wake up on time. For fresh brew. For ... class? For, ... okay, I'm out.

Thus: I need a cause.

And I need to spend less time on Facebook.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Title Track: Celebrity Treatment

I hate celebrity news. I hate it with a passion. I flip the channel when Entertainment Tonight comes on. I changed my Internet homepage when CNN covered Michael Jackson’s death too long.

But I love celebrities – Christian celebrities.

I’m not referring to those B- and D-list actors like Stephen Baldwin, or American Idols who came out of the Christian closet after they won. (Four words: Jesus Take the Wheel.) No, I’m in love with Christian writers, particularly Donald Miller.

Or maybe only Donald Miller.

Don Miller is the author of the New York Times Best Seller, “Blue Like Jazz.” He’s written four other books, “Through Painted Deserts,” “Searching for God Knows What,” “To Own a Dragon” and, his most recent, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.”

I used to joke around with my Bible study leader, Ruthanne, who is Don’s age, saying that she should marry him. She said she won’t because he’s too liberal and he lives too far away.

I stopped teasing her about this because I am the one who’s going to marry Don.

I talked to my friend Jacque about this a few weeks ago, and she made me calculate how many years older Don is than me. Nineteen. I told her that he was in my 20-year limit. She told me that was gross.

Prior to this moment – the moment I realized I wanted to marry Don Miller – I thought I had a healthy fascination with this man and his writing. I read his books (only less than five times each), I read his blog, I’m his fan on Facebook, I follow him on Twitter, I want to move to his hometown. …

But one day I tweeted about his new book I preordered, how Amazon says that it won’t release for three more weeks. And Don Miller direct messaged me.

Don Miller direct messaged me.

For those who don’t use Twitter, that’s as good as an email. Don Miller thought about me for a whole five seconds of his busy life. He might as well have proposed.

Going to bed that night, with an ungodly amount of excitement, I realized that I might have a problem.

My celebrity crush phase did not end in middle school with David Duchovny (I was a big “X-Files” fan). I am in college and I am crushing over someone that is completely unattainable.

I do not know what to make of this. I want to reprimand myself for spending so much energy concerned with someone I may never meet. What’s the point of buying his book before it comes out? Does he know I did that? And who cares how I display the book or how I smell the pages and hug it like a friend?

Who am I trying to impress?

I think about when I make new friends and how anxious I am for them to like me. I choose my words carefully, I butter them up, I do favors I might otherwise do begrudgingly. When my friend Austin and I first became friends, I always offered to meet at a coffee shop closer to his house, and I would pay for my own drink.

Now Austin knows me as the biggest moocher ever. When we eat at Buffalo Wild Wings, my favorite restaurant, two-thirds of the time he or our friend Matt pays my bill.

I pride myself, not for the generosity I once brought to our friendship, but for my ability to persuade my guy friend to serve me.

What if I always treated people like celebrities? I don’t mean that I want to fawn over them like I do Don Miller, but to honor them and put them above myself.

In Romans 12:10, Paul says that we should “be willing to associate with people of a low position.” The Message paraphrase says to “practice playing second fiddle.”

Don Miller, in an interview with RELEVANT magazine, said that as a writer, he never wants to write a book that he isn’t proud of, to write something that is second-rate in his mind. But as a Christian, he says, he hopes he has the humility to do so.

I get excited – and dare I say, obsessive – when it comes to certain celebrities, or to people I feel the need to impress. But I want to be someone who honors others just because I can, just because I love them.

I want to learn to set my own desires and interests aside to serve my brothers and sisters. I want to start treating them and treating my neighbors and my enemies like celebrities.

The post was originally printed in Indiana Wesleyan University's The Sojourn newspaper.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Okay, new plan.

It turns out the blogosphere is a lot smaller than I thought. Remember that scene in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog when Dr. Horrible comes back after an attempt to use his freeze ray on the mayor during a statue dedication? He's twitching because Captain Hammer threw a car at him before he had a chance to carry out his plan.

Dr. Horrible says (paraphrase), "I guess I underestimated how many people look at this blog."


I removed my previous blog because from an outsider, it sounds rather arrogant. I imagine Ezekiel talking to his friends, saying, "Oh yeah, God told me that I'm supposed to warn you and the rest of the exiles of their sins and whatnot."

They'd probably reply, "Shut up, Ezekiel. It's not like you're perfect."

So I deleted the blog because I now know how far my blogs have reached. I hope I'm not on any RELEVANT blacklist. Though, I wouldn't be surprised.

New plan: If you want to talk to me about my call to RELEVANT, email me. Or call me. Or take me out to coffee or something.

As for the rest of my RELEVANT blogs? I think I'll keep them up. Again, again, again I say: despite all the wrestling, despite all the frustrations, I love RELEVANT. It's been my friend for too long to abandon.

With love and squalor,

Monday, September 14, 2009

Letting the Fields Die [revisited]

Talk about beating a dead horse.

Earlier in the summer I wrote a lot about "letting the fields die" on my dreams, a reference to the Old Testament command to let the fields have a Sabbath rest every 7 years. My "fields dying" referred to my dream of working for RELEVANT magazine.

The dream has been dead since June. I don't want to work for RELEVANT anymore - not because I stopped believing in the magazine's cause (because I still do), but because of internal issues of which I was informed through several sources.

But today I received an interesting email. Kevin from Seattle wrote me, saying that he had done research on RELEVANT in college and discovered the roots to all the questions and issues I have with the magazine. He said he found my blog through Google (no doubt he just googled "RELEVANT" and "blog" and my dear RELE-saturated blog came up), and was intrigued by what I had to say about - all this.

He offered to share his research with me.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Here are some questions that have been running through my head all day:

1. Who knew someone in Seattle has read my blog? Blogging, not knowledge, must equal power. This makes me a little wary of what I put in my blogs now. I know that bosses Facebook-stalk future employees, they no doubt blog-stalk too. Will this hurt my chance of getting an internship at RELEVANT?

2. Should I even pursue an internship with RELEVANT? I thought that God was keeping me from a job there, but does he want me to forget about an internship as well? Are my chances already shot? (Hey, I'm not always the most RELE-friendly in these blogs.)

3. Is God just beating a dead horse? This dream is already dead, so why does God keep insisting on bringing the issue up? LORD, it's done; I don't want to work there; I've forgotten about it; stop making me deal with it.


Editor's note: I love RELEVANT. I still do. I love its mission, I love its podcast and its staff (meh, former staff). I understand that its not a perfect organization, or that it has called itself a ministry. But it's still an effective medium - that I refuse to deny.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Title Track: Everything is Spiritual

I never cry at songs. Sure, I sometimes cry during worship music, but I don’t think it is the lyrics or the melody that makes me cry. Jesus makes me cry – as a means of humbling me (not sadistically).

But while I first listened to Thrice’s song, “Beggars,” off of their album of the same name, my tear ducts began to fill and was just a stanza away from weeping.

This song – about how we have no claims in the world (not our name, not our possessions, not our job titles or careers) but must rely on the grace of God to give us purpose – knits the rest of Thrice’s album together. Grace. The world may be mad, as another song on the record screams, but there’s grace.

This got me thinking.

The title track of a CD is, by definition, the song that shares the same name as the album itself. Though I like to believe, and maybe you’ll agree with me, there’s more to it than that.

Some of my favorite albums of this year have title tracks like, “The Hazards of Love,” “Mean Everything to Nothing” and, as mentioned earlier, “Beggars." To say that the band decided to name the album off of the song, or vise versa, just for its name’s sake seems thoughtless. It’s a little lazy.

There must be more to it than that.

There’s a connectivity involved here. The band is saying, look (or listen, rather), there’s something I want you to get out of this album. I want you to catch a theme.


It took all summer to decide what I wanted this column to stand for. Because on the one hand, I want to entertain you, and even more, if I were to be honest with myself, I hope this column will convince you I’m cool, or at least entertainment savvy.

But on the other hand, I want to grow. I want to become a better writer and a better Christian and a better media-consumer through writing this. So after some prayer, and God’s humbling, I decided upon a theme for my column, a “title track,” if you will: everything is spiritual. I admit I stole the name from Rob Bell, but I really like the concept.

This is the belief that everything – what we do, what we say, what we watch, what we read, what we hear and what we think – has spiritual implications.

Spirituality is God’s title track. It’s his common denominator. He says that we must do everything to the glory of God and that every good and perfect gift is from him and that he is the creator of everything.

I invite you all to journey with me the rest of this school year as I grapple with the media and its messages – the good and the bad. I ask you to challenge my theories, and to give feedback. Yes, this is a learning process for me, but I want it to be the same for you.

This is a column about the media – about movies and about music and books and art – but more than that, it’s about how God is speaking to his people through the media. It’s about how even secular entertainment can teach us about our fallenness. I want you and me to learn how to look at the media with a knowledge of the Truth, discerning what media is “safe” to consume, and what to stay away from.

Maybe this is a lot to ask of a weekly column, maybe it isn’t. One thing I promise you, my dear audience, is that I will do my best to implement the 1 Corinthians 10 command to do everything to the glory of God, and to hold to the standard that everything – even the entertainment industry – has spiritual undertones.

The post was originally printed in Indiana Wesleyan University's The Sojourn newspaper.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

on love and hate

As promised, here's another blog about Grace.

I was watching the Today Show this morning and more than one segment was dedicated to the 1989 Jaycee Dugard kidnapping. For those not on top of the news, Philip Garrido had kidnapped and locked Dugard inside a shed for 18 years. The big debate now is whether or not Garrido's wife Nancy is also guilty.

Everyone can agree -- and everybody does agree -- that this was a heinous crime, worthy of some sort of sentence. The world wants justice [mishpat] served; we want things "made right" for Dugard and her family.

But I fear that in the meantime, we forget that the Garridos are human; that God has called us to love them, even.

Jacque and I were talking about Grace (of course) a little bit on Sunday after church. We want so bad for our Christian brothers and sisters to love and to show Grace to people whose lifestyles differ from theirs.

We want Republicans to love Democrats.
We want patriots to love immigrants.
We want Christians to love non-believers.

But when it comes to loving the rapists, the murderers, the drug lords, the hatemongers, the slave traffickers, we limit Grace.

Love can only be given to these people.
Grace can only be shown to the well-deserved.

While watching the Today Show this morning, I made myself look at Philip Garrido without smirking or glaring or damning him with my thoughts. I tried to look at him the way Jesus might -- with overwhelming compassion, forgiveness and with a realization that the world is fallen.

But then I found it not so difficult.
Because really, I don't have a hard time not loving criminals.

But there are people I find hard to love,
people I find hard to show Grace to.


I find it easy to justify hatred when I hate people who hate people. It makes sense though, right? If you hate someone, shouldn't I have the right to hate you back?

I hate racists, but that's okay, isn't it? I mean, racism is a sin, so hating people who discriminate on the basis of skin color and nationality is justified. I hate homophobes because they refuse to see gay people as human. I can justify that.

But I shouldn't.

To allude back to Pastor Tony once again, Jesus' mission was global -- it was for everyone -- which means we are bound, we are called, to love one another. We don't get to pick and choose.

And though we may love the people most find hard to love, that doesn't exempt us from loving those we don't.

Author Anne Lamott said that you know you've successfully created God in your own image when he hates the same people you hate.

So are we loving people the way we are called to? Or are we hating people because found a way to justify it?

Friday, August 21, 2009

To all the purple states.

I wrote this blog back in November, after Obama was elected. I don't know why I never published it -- it's very clever. ;-)

But with all this health care hoo-hah I decided to go ahead and publish it with the same message. Obama is not God, but nor is he Satan.

Ha, enjoy.


God willing, I will do this in an unbiased manner. But I am human and I clearly have certain opinions that you may not agree with. That being said, I hope you all take what I say to heart.

Last night Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. Some of you are cheering, some of you are booing. That's fine. If all Christians were to vote the same way, I think we'd have a problem. There are certain issues I stand for that most of you might not. And vice versa. That's okay.

But please, now that our president has been elected, I ask that we put a few things into perspective:

One: Obama is not our Savior.

Two: Obama is not the Devil.

Maybe that's obvious to you, maybe it's not. But based off of some very dramatic Facebook statuses, I'm not too sure you all get the picture. (And maybe even I can put myself into the first category.) I'm trying to do this with the gentleness and respect that I can, but bear with me because my passion can get the best of me.

There's a problem when we think that we have elected a Savior as president. There is. If we are to say that we worship a Savior of the world, then bow our knee to a savior of our country, what does that say to the world? That we're idolaters maybe? That sounds a little extreme, but when Christ calls us to follow Him, He kind of make it exclusive.

And yes, we are supposed to obey our authorities, I'm not telling you to do otherwise. But don't say that Obama is the Hope for the world or anything like that because he is just a man.

Let's flip the coin.

So if we AREN'T going to worship Obama, does that give you permission to hate him, rally against him, hate those who support him, call him rude names, etc.? Since you are a follower of Christ, you answer right away should be "no." But I'll assume you need more proof than that.

Paul writes this to the Romans:

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." Romans 13:1f

Some interesting tidbits: Paul wrote this during Nero's rule in Rome. Now, Nero was notorious for killing Christians. Early Christians (and some modern historians) were convinced that he was the anti-Christ.

But Paul still urges the Romans to obey? And that Nero's reign was "established by God"?

Now, that verse has been thrown at Dems and Repubs a lot through the years, I know. And it never makes me feel too hot either way. Especially when you take that verse and apply it to jerky bosses or profs. Submission sucks.

So let me give you another story ...

Zedekiah was king of Judah just years before Babylonian captivity. Fifty-some years of captivity awaited them. And they all knew it. Jeremiah told them all.

So a lot of the people got mad. They hated Nebuchednezzar, king of Babylon, because he was going to take their freedom away. (Or maybe they called him a socialist!) Nevertheless, Jeremiah has a message for the people of Judah.

He tells them if they don't obey Nebuchadnezzar, they will be punished via plague, sword, famine, etc. Why? Because God CHOSE Neb to rule. Chose him. God even calls him His "servant" (Jer. 25:8). That's a pretty powerful title for a jerk of a king.

And think of ol' David who had an opportunity to kill King Saul several times, but didn't. He was the "Lord's anointed."

Perhaps I am being a little dramatic. None of you threatened to kill our president or anything, but I want you to understand the implications. God has a control in the election process just as much as you do. (Actually, with this electoral college thing, he has MORE of a hand than you. lol)

For all of those I ticked off, I'm sorry if I did. I just know that what's on God's heart right now is NOT lower property taxes or socialism-esque policies.

His heart is for the poor.

The mistreated.

The voiceless.

The dying.

The sick.

The abandoned.

Our passion and rage should be devoted to causes God cares about. Not just about who will work in the Oval Office for the next 4 years.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

it is by Grace you have been saved, through faith

O Grace.

I feel like I have a new secret crush or something, and now I'm here to reveal it. Grace! I'm in love!

Okay, so last blog got a lot of responses - a lot, lot, lot, lot - via Facebook, and just one via Wordpress. I've had several urges to comment as well, clarifying what exactly I meant to say or to agree with someone's response, but I decided not to. Instead, I'm going to write this blog.

For over a year now God's been teaching me about Grace. It started in April '08 with Paul's sermon series based off of his favorite book, "What's So Amazing About Grace?" And since then, through books I've been reading, songs I've been listening to, friends I've been chatting to and through the Word of God, I'm finally starting to understand a thing or two about it.


I was talking to Jacque about this at Warren Dunes a few weeks ago, half thinking it was blasphemy.

Grace says that you can be forgiven before you even ask for it -- before you even want to ask for it.

This phrase (and it is true, by the way) kind of woke me up.

See, I've been a Christian since I was about 12 years old, and I kind of always understood the faith thing. I got that you needed to have a relationship with God, that Christianity is more than just a moral code.

But I didn't get Grace.

I thought that Grace was God's way of tolerating me.

I may not be saved through my actions,
but I better pull myself together
or God won't like me much anymore.

I ascribed myself to legalism. I never really got why I loved rules so much and why I loved when people got what they deserved. I thought it was because I was a moral person -- and I know for many of you reading this, you'll nod profusely, recalling a time when I just said no to one thing or another.

But I don't think it was because I'm a moral person. I think it's because I never understood Grace.

Grace says that I'm forgiven before I repent. I'm forgiven before I realize what I am doing.

But I was mistaking Grace with mercy. Mercy, is (and excuse my extremely secular and kind of heretical description here) ... mercy is Grace without balls. It says that I gueeessss I'll forgive you because you asked politely.

Mercy says, "You've gone through enough punishment so I won't add anymore. (But you're not off the hook yet!)"

Mercy says, "You deserve my pity."

Oh, but Grace says to the prodigal son, "Let me throw you a party!"

Grace says, "Whatever you did yesterday, whatever sin you have committed will be forgotten. Come and rest."

There will be more on Grace in blogs to come, I assure you. But for now, like any new secret crush (or, not so secret), I'm going to relish in what I do know about Grace. I'm going to take joy in the fact that I am forgiven. Already. I don't have to do anything to earn God's favor. :-)