Broken-down Poetry: December 2009


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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.