Broken-down Poetry: October 2009


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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.