Broken-down Poetry: January 2010


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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Title Track: The Unlikely Disciple

The end of last year, my sister Sam visited Indiana Wesleyan from Purdue. After she spent my last points at Wildcat and we settled down in the back corner of McConn, I began tutoring her in Photoshop. (Sam is not computer-savvy; comparatively, I am Steve Jobs in tech skills.)

We spent a few hours working, and by the time Sam left, full on Firehouse Grill chicken tenders, she told me how cute our school is – her words, not mine.

Sam, who is agnostic, told me she liked IWU and would attend there, if it weren’t for all the rules.
I laughed to myself because I knew my sister would have to adjust to more than just the rules. Sam has never been submerged into the Christian subculture.

She doesn’t understand our evangelical lingo: “I am saved!” “God spoke to me!” “Jesus lives inside of me!”

She doesn’t understand why we listen to worship music on our iPods, or why we sign a contract, promising not to drink, watch R-rated movies or dance.

She especially doesn’t understand why we go to school with kids who have the same beliefs as us, learning from professors who have the same beliefs as us, in order to have careers among people with different beliefs than us.

I try to explain it to her, but I haven’t been successful. (Especially since I don’t know the answers to all of those questions myself.) Some things must be experienced firsthand.

Over the summer I read “The Unlikely Disciple” by Kevin Roose, a memoir by a secular college student who decides to attend a semester at Liberty University, the largest Christian school in the country. Having never gone to an evangelical church – let alone had any born-again friends – Roose observed the culture of the Christian university as a complete outsider.

What I liked most about the book was Roose’s attitude toward Christianity. Though he never converted to the faith, Roose never stooped to mock the faith or put anything in a false light. Even though there were moments of frustration, Roose acted respectfully (even Christ-like) toward those with beliefs foreign to his.

And I think that as IWU students, we can learn from his experience. I know we don’t go to Liberty and that our rules aren’t as strict as theirs, but reading “The Unlikely Disciple” as if Roose had attended our school instead of LU forced me to put things into perspective:

1. Not all IWU students are Christians. It’s easy to assume that since you chose to go to a Christian university, that everyone else has and for the same reasons. Roose discovered that at LU, he wasn’t the only non-Christian. In my year-and-a-half at IWU I’ve met non-Christians who played the game well.

I’m not suggesting that we go around demanding people prove their faith in God in one way or another. (Spontaneous testimony sharing?) But I am suggesting we take interest in others’ faith with God and respect where they are: not condemning them for being less holier-than-thou or nagging them to conversion.

2. Not all IWU students are straight. What frustrated me about the Christians in Roose’s book is their homophobia. I know as Bible-believing Christians we can’t ignore that homosexuality is a sin. I get that. But can we please stop treating gay people like untouchables? Can we stop using “gay” as synonymous with “stupid”? (I know I talked a lot about this a few columns ago, but it still drives me crazy.)

3. Not all IWU students are Republicans. Granted, Liberty was founded by the late Jerry Falwell, father of the Moral Majority – IWU doesn’t boast of those beginnings. But still, I’ve engaged in several angry conversations with people who just assumed I was a fellow conservative. That is, they think that until they see the Obama Health Care bumper sticker on my desk. Then they shut up. (And start praying for my soul.)

Hint: you don’t have to be a Republican to be a Christian. Hint, hint: just because you hate everything about President Obama and his politics, don’t assume everybody agrees.

“The Unlikely Disciple” also reminded me of how lucky we are at IWU. We go to a university that holds fast to Christian doctrine, but doesn’t speak harshly of those with different beliefs. I can’t imagine President Smith inviting a famous atheist on campus to debate the origins of life. And, unlike Falwell, I know our president would never call people names on national television.

I can’t end this column without a shameless plug: please read this book. Learning about a conservative evangelical college in the point-of-view of a typical, non-religious student puts so much into perspective. At the very least, if you’re frustrated with IWU’s policies, at least recognize that our rules are hardly strict compared to schools like Liberty, Bob Jones and Cedarville.

But I hope that you’ll read this book in order to see that our attitudes need to always reflect Christ, even within the bubble. You never know who’s paying attention.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

There will be snacks

College makes me cynical.

I used to be so optimistic and hopeful and daydreamy, but ever since I started mingling with so many like-minded people with their stupid morals and stupid agendas* ... ugh ... I've grown exhausted. Optimism used to come so naturally. Now I have to work at it.

* When I'm cynical, I stereotype.

But I think this might be changing - slowly.

A few posts ago I described Grace as a hug. I can't get over that. It's not a perfect analogy by any means, but I can't stop thinking about it.

Grace hugged me a lot last week.

The weather is beautiful. The sky might still be grey and dull, but it's warm. *Hugs*
Two of my favorite Salinger books came in the mail. *Hugs*
I bought the Avett Brothers' album "I and Love and You," which is beautiful. *Hugs*

Believing that we don't live according to a merit system is wonderful. When I do something wrong, God doesn't punish me. God doesn't just bless me when I do something right. Everything in life is a gift.

I don't have to earn anything.
How freeing.

These Grace hugs are making me more generous. I find myself wanting to give my money away. I tell people I'm praying for them - and I actually do pray. (I don't usually tell people I'll pray for them because I know I'll forget.)

I know this isn't coming from me. It has to be God. I'm just not a very nice person.

You know how in elementary school we had to list three adjectives to describe ourselves, and "nice" is always the default description? Lauren is QUIET, CREATIVE and NICE. False. I'm not nice. (Side note: what if we were honest about those three adjectives? Lauren is SELFISH, INSECURE and AWKWARD. Thank God for Grace.)

I think of the Kingdom of Heaven, of Zion, of the New Jerusalem. The Bible talks about a redeemed world established by Jesus, but not complete until he returns again.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny mustard seed.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman kneads into dough.

I think of Christianity as a grassroots movement. I think of the early church meeting in attics and sharing money and food. I think of everyone having enough.

In the midst of my cynicism, I'm realizing how desperately I yearn for Zion. I want to be part of that underground movement, not like the Christians on their megaphones who turn our faith into a Political Party, a Crusade or a Religion.

I want to be part of the Kingdom. I don't want to pretend that going to church or talking Christianese means more than it does. I want to serve like Jesus served. I want to be the last in order to be first. I want to live open-handedly and give to the poor. I want to lose my life to save it.

Andrew Bird sings about a post-Apocalyptic world. His description is so elementary, but I think it's what I want the Kingdom of heaven to be about:

I know we're going to meet some day
In the crumbled financial institutions of this land
There will be tables and chairs
There'll be pony rides and dancing bears
There'll even be a band
'Cause listen, after the fall there will be no more countries
No currencies at all, we're gonna live on our wits
We're gonna throw away survival kits,
Trade butterfly-knives for adderall
And that's not all
Ooh-ooh, there will be snacks there will
There will be snacks, there will be snacks.
As Christians we talk so much about the Kingdom to be established, but what about the one on earth? What about the one we have a hand in creating?

Maybe this is why I have been so cynical. I don't think we're establishing the Kingdom, just adding to the noise of the culture.

I want to be Kingdom-minded.
I want to focus on things that matter.
I want to delight in the Hugs God gives me. (Oh, I'm aware how cheesy that sounds.)

Living for God looks less like a formula, and more like a story.
But like all stories, there's conflict.

Establishing the Kingdom of God means overcoming fears. It means getting over our human desire for comfort, and believing that there are thing worth living and dying for. It means taking risks. It means acting irrationally by the world's standards, for God and for Love.

And not everything will go as planned.

But it's okay.
Because there will be snacks.

Everything in life is a gift, a snack table at the funeral of our life-as-we-know-it.

Cling to Grace.

"To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy - to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen." Jude 24f

with love and squalor,

Friday, January 22, 2010

A cynic's take on Summit Week

Life has been going well. My work load has lessened; my classes still interest me. Ironically enough, I feel it's as good of time as any to write about cynicism. Maybe I won't have to label this blog with "rant" or "disillusioned," but maybe that's wishful thinking.

This week was Spiritual Emphasis Week, or "Summit," where IWU invites outside pastors to speak and worship is (usually) obnoxiously loud and fun. Of the three Summits I've been to, not including this semester's, two have turned my beliefs upside down.

And I expected God to do it again. I figured, hey, since I'm trying to figure out what to do about this PLC internship, I bet I'll find out during Summit. God speaks so clearly then; of course I'll magically know what to do.

Maybe just because I thought that God would make this easy for me he decided not to. I didn't really learn anything during Summit this semester.

Okay, that was an exaggeration. I learned some stuff. I learned how our society is rotting and it's our divorced parents' fault. (Ha, that's another exaggeration.)

Let me back up.

I finished re-reading "The Unlikely Disciple" by Kevin Roose, a memoir about his semester at Liberty University. But here's the kicker: he's not a right-wing evangelical Christian. I know there are a few non-Christians at IWU and even more democrats, but that's not a line you tread at Liberty U. This is Jerry Falwell's school. The guy is the Pat Robertson of the 80s and 90s (really up until his death in 2007). I'm just trying to make connections here. Most of you know who Falwell is anyway. Hint: he blamed gay people and the ACLU for 9/11.

The first time I read this book, over July 4th, I became almost disgusted by how similar IWU is to LU. I mean, I don't think our biology professors teach strictly young-age creationism and I know bringing Sean Hannity onto IWU's campus would not bring as much mirth to the Wildcats. But IWU is pretty conservative. And a tad fundamental. And we can get so caught up in trivial things.

(In one chapter, Kevin has to go to an accountability group to help with his masturbation. The guys in the group talk about the week's "falls" and give each other advice about how to stop touching themselves. Kevin realizes how backwards this is: Liberty is so focused on combating a "victimless crime" like masturbation and homosexuality instead of caring for the poor and marginalized. Are we the same way?)

But even more than our concern on seemingly trivial issues - because there is a time and place for that - we're good at provoking graceless guilt.

Back to Summit Week. This semester's theme was "You Asked for It." Students got to post questions on a blog about sex and dating, and our chapel speakers answered them on stage.

In theory, this is a cool idea. How often do you hear a pastor say, "masturbation!" or "orgasm!" in chapel? But really, it got pretty ridiculous. Not that these pastors said much I disagreed with - though a few things were a bit too conservative to my liking - but sometimes it gets really old being told and retold not to have sex before marriage and to not look at porn.

But what was so frustrating is how guilty it made me feel. I am a pure as any star IWU student, but I still felt guilty. Maybe I should feel guilty about going to a boy's apartment alone. Maybe I should feel guilty about thinking Tom-Cruise-Hair (this kid on campus who has really, really, REALLY nice hair) is cute. Maybe I'm lusting.

Or the one that really started getting to me: maybe I should be mad at my parents for divorcing.

Uh, no. This is where I put my foot down.

I don't think this was the Summit speakers' intent, but on the Wednesday morning message about how divorce became socially acceptable in the 70s screwed us over, a part of me started getting upset. My parents have been divorced since I was six and I'm getting mad now?

I shouldn't be mad: I love my step-family. And my mom and stepdad model a healthy marriage for me. I don't think growing up with my mom and dad fighting all the time would teach me what a marriage is supposed to look like. Even if I saw their commitment as refreshing, the fighting would get old.

Not to mention there's also a pretty good chance I wouldn't be at IWU without going to Northeast Christian, which we started going to when my dad was dating Kelli.

So chapel speakers: I'm okay that my parents got a divorce. I'm sorry that you didn't get over your parents' divorce, but don't spark anger in me for no reason.

Can you see? It's guilt.

I skipped the last session of Summit on Wednesday night. This morning I asked Lindsey if they mentioned Grace at all. Nope. Six do-this, don't-do-this sermons and no mention of Grace.

So I guess it's up to me. ...

Guys, it's okay. Really, it's okay. We're humans. We make mistakes. God loves us now - even if we haven't overcome sexual sins (or otherwise). I know we hear how much this or that will screw our future marriages over, but know that nothing can screw up your relationship with God.

You're forgiven before you repent.

Can we please stop talking about how much wrong people are doing and (to use Miles's illustration from last spring semester) "turn on the lights of nobility"? You know: encourage. Show Grace.

Maybe there is a place to address sexual issues in a corporate setting, but why at Summit? Perhaps this goes back to my original frustration of God not catering to my big internship dilemma. Maybe Summit was really good for you. I guess I need to step out of the way and let you appreciate it - even if it drove me mad.

I just want us to focus on things that matter. I don't want to be known as the girl who cares more about keeping her purity than helping the poor.

With love and squalor,

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I've been extremely cynical these past few days (thanks a bunch, Summit!), so I thought I'd channel that angst into ... uh ... stereotyping people.

Okay, I explained that poorly. I just think in charts. (Remember that episode of How I Met Your Mother when Marshall finds out that the print shop at work can make charts for him, so he makes really random charts all the time, driving everyone crazy and eventually leading them to do an intervention?) It's like that.

Elizabeth and I were waiting outside of our classroom for Dr. Allison to unlock the door. While the rest of our class socialized, we sat on a bench observing. Rather, I observed. I don't know what Elizabeth was doing.

Anyway, I came up with a theory based off my class. It's pretty true, with only a few exceptions. Observe:

Of course if I were to put myself onto this chart - not officially a writing major yet or an English major - I'd put myself with the Girl English Majors, like Elizabeth. (I know that's pretty unfair. I'm calling myself quiet and cool. Most of the time neither of those are true.)

But really, start plugging people into this baby. It's amazing how true it is. I mean, if we're going to generalize people into harsh categories like this.

I have another theory about comm. majors too. It's also filled with lots of rude stereotypes.

THEORY: Comm. majors have more fun than any other major.

PROOF: Communication is the department you turn to when you don't have any other academic interests. You're not a huge fan of school anyway, so you might as well do something enjoyable. 'Cause really, who DOESN'T like being on the radio or filming basketball games or acting?

MORE PROOF: Since you aren't as academically-minded you don't spend your Saturday nights doing homework. You actually have fun, unlike those crazy nursing and pre-med/bio majors. (More stereotypes!)

EXCEPTIONS: Me. I'm a nerdy comm. major and I have plenty of academic interests.

I have more theories, like how elementary education majors get to relive childhood. And how CM majors are arrogant. Haha. That's not really true. I only know one CM major, Santos, and he isn't arrogant. I like ruffling feathers.


Back to that cynicism: there will be a blog to come. I want to wait a little while till I've cooled off and heard everyone's side of the story. No use ranting.

So enjoy this not-always-correct, yet pretty-much-correct chart and the other theories that followed. And have a lovely day.

See you on the cynic-side.

With love and squalor,
Lauren Deidra

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A character who wants something ...


PROLOGUE: Late last year RELEVANT Magazine died to me. On vintage episodes of their podcast, the crew joked that washed up actors belonged on a "You're Dead to Me Wall." Now they're on mine.

Around that time I read Don Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life about Don's journey editing his memoir into a film script. In the process he learned what it means to live life as a story -- a story big enough for the big screen.

As this story of mine was dying - my dream of working for RELEVANT Magazine - I started seeing how very small that story was. My dream was to work for a small entertainment magazine. Huh. Not that there's anything wrong with writing for RELEVANT - I still respect its mission, after all - but it's not something worth living for. But that's what I did ... until it died.

It was a long, slow, painful death, starting in January and ending in October. So when the time came for me to put the coffin in the ground, so to speak, I hadn't really planned for life after RELEVANT. What did I want to do with my life? What kind of story did I want to live?

In late October I prayed for a dream to take RELEVANT's place. If the fields must die, something must spring up in its place. This is about that dream.

A CHARACTER: I always play it safe. I don't take risks if I think I'll fail. I've only been rejected by two boys, and both times were done with subtle hints because "Do You Like Me?" is not in my vocabulary.

A typical conversation:
LAUREN: I hate my job! I never want to go back.
JACQUE: Do you just hate your job because you aren't very good at it, and you're used to being good at everything?
LAUREN: Indeed.

A CHARACTER WHO WANTS SOMETHING: That verse in the Bible that says, "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart" comes with stipulations. For one, God isn't going to give you everything you want. I want Leonardo DiCaprio. I'm not going to get Leonardo DiCaprio.

But God wants us to want.

I mean, he wants us to be content with what we have - that's not the point. He doesn't want us to be greedy or covetous or envious - those are two of the seven deadly sins, after all - but he wants us to desire stuff. Mostly he wants us to desire good stuff.

He wants us to desire things like peace and justice for the people in Darfur. He wants us to desire things like health and comfort for the people in Haiti. He wants us to desire bigger, better stories that change us, that take us on journeys and out of our comfort zones.

And so I prayed. RELEVANT was dead and buried, and finally I was okay. There's something more important than writing about pop culture to a Christian audience.

Perusing Jason Boyett's blog, I came across an organization called Preemptive Love that sells handmade shoes to pay for Iraqi children's heart surgeries (through their for-profit company Buy Shoes. Save Lives.).

About Preemptive Love Coalition There are some things laser-guided missiles cannot solve. There are some things our soldiers cannot solve. And there are some things diplomacy cannot solve. Some things can only be solved by hands-on charity, commerce and creativity. …like thousands of Iraqi children suffering the crippling effects of rampant heart disease. How can munitions or foreign attaches alone secure the essential medical care they need outside Iraq? The Preemptive Love Coalition seeks to eradicate the backlog of Iraqi children waiting in line for life-saving heart surgery. Every Preemptive Love Coalition activity means to say, I was in Radio Production at the time, not paying attention to Prof. Perry, exploring the PLC site. When I read their mission statement I was so, so close to leaving class, running back to the dorm to tell Lindsey about my discovery. Because, ready for this? Best mission statement ever. (See left side of your screen. Or for Facebook readers, look up. Or down. It's hard to say.)

I don't know what I believe about a lot of things, honestly. I don't know if I really believe in once-saved-always-saved theology or what to do about the environment or how involved in politics Christians should be. ... But I know I hate war. I know that Christians are called to love people and not kill them. I know that instead of DESTROYING we should be CREATING. I fell in love with PLC.

After reading more and more about what they do and who they are, I knew that I wanted to intern with them.


Don learned that every story has an "inciting incident" that moves the character from just wanting something passively, to fighting to get it. It's where the conflict is introduced. Jack thinks Rose is pretty, but it takes her dangling off the edge of a ship for him to pursue her.


A CHARACTER WHO WANTS SOMETHING AND OVERCOMES CONFLICT: My mom does not want me in Iraq. Well, duh. I don't think anyone close to me wants me in Iraq.

Every good story has conflict - this is mine. My friends and mentors tell me one of two things: 1.) If I'm supposed to go to Iraq, Mom will magically be okay with it. 2.) I should probably not go to Iraq unless I know God wants me there.

I believe God is big enough to make Mom change her mind. I also believe God is big enough to tell me in plain language that I'm supposed to go to Iraq (or not).

And that's been my prayer - for either of those. But honestly, nothing's that clear. I will say that I feel peace about the internship, which is odd. I'm never at peace about dishonoring my mom. (Mainly because I've never dishonored my mom before.) I'm never at peace about doing something big and scary.


This is where my story pauses. I'm emailing my application in tonight.

God's will is still vague. A feeling of peace is not something to base a huge decision off of, right? Lindsey suggested I fast, so I am. One meal a week. Maybe a little discipline will help me hear him a new way. Maybe. I hope.

Dear friends, I need your prayers. I don't need your advice, though. Ha, I mean this in a respectful way. I've heard all sides of this; I know my options. It's listening time. It's decision-making time.

with love and squalor,

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Though it linger, wait for it.

A conversation:

At dinner.
LAUREN: (Stares down at her food, not talking.)
MOLLY: So how are things?
LAUREN: Uhm. Stressful.
MOLLY: Don't you have anything to be excited about?
LAUREN: Uhm. Not really.

That conversation depresses me. In fact, you might think that I might be depressed because of that conversation. That may be an overstatement. I'm not depressed, not sad even. Somber is a better word.

In A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, which I finished reading for the second time this week, Don Miller writes about how after a tragedy God gives us a season of numbness, Grace for a broken heart.

No tragedy has overcome me or anything. Life is, in most cases, pretty decent. I like my classes; I love my job. But whatever happened last fall - a series of semi-tragic events - has come to haunt me. My numbness period is over. Pain awakens from hibernation.

But when pain delays like this, it's difficult to deal with. I feel like it should be behind me, and it's not. Is it worth crying over now?

I wrote a blog post a few months ago about all the fall drama. Everything I was faced with then I'm feeling the pain of now. I don't want to deal with this anymore. Bleh.

But maybe this means the band aid's off.
The wound is exposed.
It's time for healing.

I hope.

with love and squalor,

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I've been back at Indiana Wesleyan for a few days now, and I'm ready to make a few observations before I go into school-mode. (Right now I'm in lazy-mode. Am I going to start my Prose homework for Thursday? Nope. That's what tomorrow's for!)

1. Let's start here with you, Mr. Blog. The most obvious (okay, subtlest) observation is that I have a tendency to write in my blog with nearly perfect grammar, but rarely do I capitalize the title of my blog post. I capitalized this one only because I noticed it. I should try to be more consistent, you know? It was cute back in middle school to use lowercase letters all the time. It's kind of lame now, don't you think?

(I watched nearly all four and a half seasons of How I Met Your Mother over break. This will give context to my next observation.)

2. I think when I'm at IWU I have "revertigo," a state of being Marshall named on HIMYM. When I'm here I start acting like I acted all of last year. I tried to stop myself last semester, but I fell into the pattern. When I'm at IWU, I am an IWU student. It's kind of awful.

I'm not a bad kid here - that's not really the issue. I just don't take my spirituality as seriously. (Probably because "everyone else is doing it.") I read my Bible more at home. I pray more at home. I spend more time contemplating spiritual matters at home.

Here I get really angry at Christianity and act all elitist and snobby. Which isn't good. Stupid revertigo.

3. For the past few weeks I have been paying attention to my eating habits and the way my body reacts to things. It's fascinating, really.

I noticed first that when I am anxious I lose my appetite. So when I am anticipating an interview with a celeb (ha, which happens rarely enough), I can't eat. When I like a boy, and I know I'll see him soon or if I just saw him, I lose my appetite. When I'm awaiting an important phone call or email, I lose it as well.

But when I'm stressed out I eat more than usual. When I'm angry or depressed I eat more than usual.

Over break I paid special attention to my eating habits in relation to how I felt physically, how much I weighed and how well my pants fit. I should have graphed this out, honestly, because it taught me a lot about the effects of food on my body.

For the first week of break, I was anxious so I didn't eat much. I was down ten pounds from my "normal" weight. (The weight I've maintained since senior year.) After Christmas parties, I started drinking soda. I hadn't had pop since the summer, save for a glass or two at a restaurant or Baldwin when I craved it. By the end of the holidays I was back to my "normal" weight and I felt like crap and my pants were tight.

So I drank water. Lots of water. I craved pop, gave in every once in a while, then drank water when I started feeling sick again.

By the end of break my pants felt nice again, I felt nice again, and though I didn't weigh myself again, I think I'm a few pounds below my "normal," or just there.

So I paid attention to my body. I think it's important, honestly. It's kind of an act of worship - not of my body, but as a way to make sure my (overused Christian metaphor) "temple" is, you know, in tact. I don't want to risk using more Christianese by saying "it's suitable for Jesus to dwell within it." Ha!

4. I read a lot of blogs. During my music appreciation night class tonight, I read about 20 of the 35 blogs I inconsistently follow. (I have three that I read as they're updated and about three more I read when I have free time.) Rarely do I have time to read those lower down on my blogroll. Today I had time. And it was glorious.

One of my favorite blogs is by a guy named Daniel Florien, an evangelical-turned-atheist. Rarely do you hear of people like this. I hear about the atheists-turned-evangelical, like Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell, but never those who (God forbid) abandon the faith. That was slightly irreverent. It's that revertigo again.

I don't mean to take this leaving-the-faith thing lightly. But I wonder if we're (Christians) the reason a lot of people abandon faith in God or never figure out who Jesus is for themselves. If we are the body (oh my Casting Crowns ...), and we are full of hate and ungrace, then I bet it looks like God's the same way. Or that we Christians are full of it when we say that God is Good though we are Pompous and Rude.

[I want to note that Daniel Florien didn't stop believing in God because of other Christians. His conversion (or anti-conversion, if you will) was entirely intelligence-based. I also learned that from reading his blog.]

5. I overuse parentheses. I usually don't, honestly.

I also overuse those dangling guys too: "comma honestly," "comma really," "I mean comma."

So like Buddy Glass in Seymour - An Introduction, I will offer you condolances in the form of a parentheses bouquet: (((((()))))). Enjoy.

Today I sat through Prose with Dr. Allison, and I fell in love with writing. It's funny: I wasn't writing, but I was falling in love just listening to Dr. Allison talk about writing. It's a good feeling.

He talked about how writers must write as though they believe in absolute truth. When I blog, I present my ideas as if they were true - or at least I believe they're true, or pretend that I do for my audience's sake.

That blew me away.

I will blog about this shortly, fear not.

Dr. Allison also talked about how it's not as important to find my voice as a writer but to find a voice. When you establish your own voice you can limit yourself. I've seen that. I am so comfortable writing in my quirky-yet-professional bloggy voice, that I forget that I need to stretch myself.

Anyway, that's pretty profound ... or at least mildly interesting. To me. Ah, fragments.

Mmm enough for now.
Comment if you wish.
Sorry this was long and not so deep.
But that's okay.

Of course.

With love and squalor,
Lauren Deidra

Thursday, January 7, 2010

on Grace

The final installment of my four-part blog series. Enjoy. ;-)


"Whether you believe that God created you for a purpose, or that the world is governed by blind chance, everything in life is a gift at its core; we are beggars all."


I'm not sure, would you say a foot of snow? Six inches at least. My boots only go up mid-calf, but I managed to stay dry as I stopped through those six-to-twelve inches of snow covering my neighborhood, its sidewalks, its lawns. I cut through the golf course. I imagine it's not very safe. Ponds disguise themselves in masks of white; I have to follow a path of twiggy trees to ensure right footing. (Cliche-and-a-half. Keep reading.)

God and I have at it again. This time we're spewing Bible verses like profanities. I'm not sure who's winning - I think it's me.

"What about this one: 'Get behind me, Satan!'"
"Oh, that's good. But what about, 'So my works be made manifest.'"
"Huh. Or, a little historical allusion: Martin Luther disobeyed his father by becoming a monk."
"Uh, so?"
"Well, wasn't it your will that he became a monk and started the Reformation?"
"[pause.] I'm not really sure. ..."
"Come on, Jesus, really."

(Some of that may have been fabricated.)



From my first understanding of Grace (which took place, sadly, not too long ago) until now, I think I see Grace as something more tangible. It's what God did then. And it's what he keeps doing now when I keep living selfishly, sure.

But Grace is also something else.

I think this is Grace:

-When I have the urge to call a certain gentleman I'm upset with, I get a text or an email from a friend who's asking me how I'm doing. (Something like an intervention.)
-When I start worrying about affording gas the rest of the week, I get snowed in and get to preserve my gas.

-When I am groggy (and a little ditzy) with my InAsMuch clients this morning, they smile politely and ask me how I am doing.

-When I meet Jes at Old Crown and there aren't any seats, right as a get my coffee a table opens up.

A few posts ago I called Grace a hug. I think it is.

Grace is like when you spend the evening with a friend you might never see again, and after saying goodbye, he hugs you, a physical reminder of your time together.

Grace says, "You've had it tough. And frankly, girl, it might not get better right away, but it'll be okay." [hugs.]


"We're all bastards, but God loves us anyway."


I'm on the final few chapters of "What's So Amazing About Grace?" by Philip Yancey, who just may be my hero. It's helping me see the different facets of Grace.

The picture of Grace I've always clung to has been that of the beggar.

Thrice put out an album in late summer called "Beggars," and its title track has the most profound lyrics about how we're all beggars in this world, that everything is a gift, bestowed by Grace.

The first three verses ask a series of questions. To the "great men of power": do you have power over when you die? To the scientists and "rulers of men": can you control the spin of the earth? To the "big shots": did you choose where or when you'd be born?

And the song concludes:

Tell me what can you claim not a thing, not your name
Tell me if you can recall just one thing, not a gift, in this life

Can you hear what's been said?
Can you see now that everything's Grace, after all

If there's one thing I know in this life, we are beggars all

I suppose the aroma of this metaphor isn't the greatest for most people. We don't want to be needy or appear needy. And frankly, we don't trust the needy.

We give into the illusion that we have control over our circumstances. Ha, no really. (I like where I'm going with this.) We like believing that our lives are in our own hands. Sometimes they are. But mostly, they aren't.

We are given very little guarantees in life. We can't choose the culture we're born into. We can't choose our parents. And until we graduate and become "adults," we don't even get to make decisions for ourselves. People make decisions for us. (Most of the time for our benefit, even.)

And so we get out into the real world and start taking control of our own lives, right? We choose our jobs ... or do they choose us? Not everyone who wants to work at the New York Times gets to.

This makes the whole "free will" argument so flimsy. Yeah, okay, God (or evolution) gives us the ability to choose the "right" or "wrong" path, but even so, does that really mean you get your way?

Too many variables. You're just a mist that appears for a little while. You're a grain of sand. You're just one out of six billion.

All this is to say Grace. Everything in life is a gift. The LORD gives and the LORD takes away. Ebb and flow. Tide in, tide out.

We are beggars all.


"In this world you will have trouble, but Lauren, I have overcome the world."


A conclusion.

This whole series has been built on a series of questions:

If I ignore God's revelation, does that nullify it?
What does it take to forgive the way Christ wants us to?
Does everything have to (metaphorically) die?
Do we have any claims in the world?

My great theory of this season has been: it's better to fight with God than to push him out. It's okay to doubt and have questions and to be angry - as long as you take it to God. He can handle your frustrations. (And he'd be delighted to address them.)

So keep asking questions.

And keep teaching me as well, friends.

with love and squalor,

Monday, January 4, 2010

Interlude II: writing goals

I warned you about five blog posts ago that I cannot do series because I have commitment issues. I believe I said: I write what I want to write when I want to write it. I have tons to say about Grace, which is my last topic in my four-part series, but have no desire to write anything serious. So here's a list of goals.

Lauren's Writing Goals for 2010

1. Write more fiction. I noted this in my previous post, but I don't use my blog for fiction writing. Truthfully, I do very little fiction writing. Even when I do, it's all based off of reality one way or another. (Hint: Caitlyn and Jared are fictitious representations of reality.)

I want to write more fiction pieces, mainly to practice my literary skills. I've spent so much time worrying about what I'm saying and ignoring how I'm saying it. Writing fiction will make me focus on the how as well as the what.

Also, it's a lot of fun. I love Story.

2. Write more frequently. I average about 2-3 blogs a month. That's a little lame. Granted, I write a lot in my classes and with the Sojourn, but that shouldn't stop me from at least writing once a week, or four times a month (some weeks are really busy).

I don't want to be like my fellow blogger Matthew Paul Turner who blogs about 3 times a day, but I should at least stay consistent.

3. Connect with other bloggers. Last year I've made some really awesome contacts. I've interviewed the aforementioned Matthew Paul Turner, who has written numerous books. I'm email-friends with Jason Boyett, who I got on 94.3 The Fortress and was interviewed by him for a magazine article. I've talked to Dylan Peterson on the phone (former RELEVANT audio guy who has incredible taste in music). I've sat down and chatted with Dan Merchant, the guy behind the "Lord Save us from Your Followers" documentary.

(I love name-dropping.)

But I want to stay in contact with those bloggers (and other bloggers) to learn from them, to network with them, and hopefully one day be part of their cool Christian media club. (I know that club exists; I follow all of you on Twitter and it's so obvious you have a secret club.)

4. Take risks! The one that makes my writing unique is my voice. It's always been this way. As I told my friend at Old Crown today, I always try to balance quirkiness with professionalism - even in my writing. But in doing so, I don't go far outside my comfort zone. As noted before, I don't write a lot of fiction, mainly because I'm not very good at it. I want to start experimenting with my writing, even if I fail miserable. (Hint: If I write something that really, really sucks, please tell me. In a nice way. Don't use any expletives, please.)

5. Learn big words. I'm pretty sure this has always been a goal of mine. I like looking up my Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level - what grade level I write in - and the only time it's above fourth or fifth grade is when I use really complicated syntax (sentences). My diction (wordage) isn't very convoluted (complex). I have a tiny vocabulary.

I think these are pretty decent goals. Very doable.

with love and squalor,

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Interlude: fiction

So, I never write fiction on my blog. I wish I did; I know I should. I've decided to take a break from my series (Faith, Forgiveness, Redemption, Grace) to give you a work of fiction, inspired by a story I read in Zoetrope: All Story. Enjoy!

The conversation … if Caitlyn had the guts to call him.
By Lauren Sawyer

Hey I think we should talk.


Yeah. About us.

Us? You mean … us?

Yes. Is that hard for you to understand?

No, I know what that usually means. But there is no us.

Well, there’s something. There’s me and there’s you and all the drama binds us together.

O … kay? Was that supposed to be poetry or something?

Jared, take me seriously.

Okay. Us. Tell me about us.

Well. See. I am mad at you.

You’re mad at me?

Yes, Jared, I’m mad at you.

For what?

I told you that I liked you.


And … you didn’t say anything.

I did too say something.

You’re right.

I’m right?

You said “thanks.”

I did.

You are thankful that I like you?

Why, yes I am.

That’s a jerky thing to say.

Why? I was flattered.

Well, I’m glad I made you feel good about yourself.


Is there anything else about us you think I should know about?



Get what? And why are you yelling?

I like you. Or, I liked you. And you didn’t say anything. I mean, errrr, all you said was “thank you.” That’s not enough.

What did you want me to say?

I wanted you to tell me you like me.

But what if I don’t?

Then tell me you hate me!

Fine. I hate you.


You told me to say that!

I want you to like me.

This isn’t helping, Caitlyn.


So you really don’t like me?


Not even a little bit?

Let’s just be friends.

Like … a tiny, eensy-weensy bit?

It’s not you, it’s me.

What if I was the only woman left in the entire world …

Then I’d bang you.

You’re disgusting.

You want honesty.

Can’t we just try dating?

I’m moving to Mexico.

So that’s why you don’t like me?



Well. I guess that’s what I wanted to hear.

Really? That’s what you wanted to hear … that I don’t like you?



I love you, Caitlyn.


I love you. I can’t live without you.

You can’t?

You’re all I think about when I wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night. I want you to have my baby.

You’re mocking me.

I want us to grow old together in the suburbs. I could work in accounting, and you could stay home to raise our children.


We’d live this pristine little life. I’d work my way up in the company; you’d keep yourself busy with your housewife hobbies. Knitting. Sewing. PTO.


We wouldn’t be happy, but we’d be content. It’s the American dream, after all. At least we’d die together.

Stop it! You think that’s what I want, Jared?

That’s what all women want.

Then you don’t really know me.

I never claimed I did.

I want to travel the world. I want to live in Paris and Moscow and London.

No, you don’t. You want your white picket fence, two-point-five children and stability.

I don’t! I want adventure! Intrigue! Chaos!

You want to get married to a stiff-shirted churchgoer who brings home the big bucks. You want a faithful husband who treats you like a princess.

No, I don’t. I want to live on the edge – never settle down.

Caitlyn, please.

That’s what you want too – I know it. You want to travel. You want adventure. I can share that with you.

That’s not what you want.

How do you know?

Because all women are the same.


I like to think of myself as realistic, thank you. I see the world as it is. You are just like all the other girls, and I can't afford to settle down.

Then you’re missing out.

On what?



So are you satisfied?

With what, Jared?

With me. Do I need to tell you I love you again?

Not if you don’t mean it.

I don’t.


You really don’t love me?


What? I think you should love me. Is that so crazy?

Kind of.

Why kind of?

Because we hardly know each other. And you’re so much young—

Oh, don’t say it!

But you are, Caitlyn. Six years.


You’ll find someone.

Easy for you to say.


When I’m old like you.

Yes. When you’re old like me.

Jared, please, you might regret this.

Why would I?


I guess I should hang up.


You sure you don’t love me?


Okay. Well, goodbye, Jared.


Wait –