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The Duck Butt Mentality

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As my favorite old broad, Jane Austen, penned in Pride and Prejudice, "A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a minute." Oh, Janey, how I need you to go grocery shopping with me. Or jog together around the university campus. Or ride in the car anywhere in the vicinity of attractive men. Because lordy, I'm caught up in the fog of whatever those 18th century single babes were smokin.

Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. It's not like I fall in love with every man I see, but I would be very interested to see how many "amens" I can get from girls who have experienced this instant connection with the cashier and immediately envisioned his elaborate, half-time show proposal and beneath-the-oak-tree wedding and weirdly specific T Swift first dance song choice and first family picture and 10 year anniversary vacation to San Francisco. I think it's like when dudes fantasize about girls, except that everyone has their clothes on and are playing catch in the front yard with my blue-eyed twins. Not that that's any more normal - in fact I think the naked version makes more sense and is eons less creepy.

But let's move a step beyond creepy fantasies about strangers. I am the prom queen of reading too far into things that don't exist... or might have the potential to exist if I would resist the urge to suffocate it with my hyper flirting and pauseless giggles. I mean, one time this drunk lawyer spent the evening flirting with me and begging me to come stay with him and some friends in Houston for a week because he couldn't bear the thought of parting with me. And I actually went. And obviously it was the worst couple of days I have ever endured. Because ladies, drunk lawyers aren't in a state of mind to offer lifelong and romantic promises. Thanks, now you tell me. (oh wait, my best friends did.)

One time, my friend challenged me to make a list of all the boys I'd ever had a crush on, because I was always updating her on my new Romeo. She probably thought she could spend the next few hours poking fun at my list of 3 or 4 dozen names... not realizing that my actual list would top 100. And that's just counting the ones I've liked for at least three days. Hello, my name is Laura, and I'm addicted to the Duck Butt game.

What's the Duck Butt game? I've always known that my imagination caused major problems for my romantic heart and constantly-unfulfilled expectations, but didn't know what to do. And then I went to an amusement park and saw the Duck Butt game. You know the one I'm talking about? There are a bunch of yellow duckies swimming in a pail of water, and you get three tries to choose the ducky with the winning number on its butt, or four tries for an extra $2.50. And it dawned on me that that's the way I've always thought of finding "the One."

Larry Crabb wrote this excellent book called Connecting. I found it so excellent that it took me 6 months to finish, which is saying something because I speed read and can blaze through The Return of the King in one three-day weekend. I felt like I needed to stop and process every three or four pages. When I was reading it, I had forgotten about my Duck Butt Revelation until I came across this paragraph:

The flesh, the enemy within, dons a friendly uniform, one that a Christian
might wear, and suggests reasonable directions.
We welcome him into our ranks. When he causes trouble,
we try to whip him into shape, get him to coordinate with the program,
and stop interfering with our efforts to do right. Or we work hard to figure him out.
What makes him tick? Why does he demand gratification that way? Maybe a
journey into the past will uncover the source of these crazy tendencies
and enable us to reason more effectively with him. (author's emphasis)

At that moment, Connecting made the connection for me. I'd/ I've been blending good desires with lies - lies that rationalize the "natural desire for marriage and love" and my "gift" for self-awareness with the bad habit of frantically (and theoretically) checking every guy's butt to see if he has the winning number. And I very quickly realized that the DB Mentality has permeated every area of life - from which show will I get cast in to what if the check doesn't cash before that transaction clears to what will their reaction be when I give them detention to is this going to be my cleaning routine? Or this? Or this? Or this? My drive to seek out solutions and problem solve awards me scholarship money and a very clean bathroom but an exhausted, anxious, unhappy, unsatisfied heart. 

Thankfully, the wise old Larry Crabb also offered some hope to the sin he'd exposed. Apparently his own sinful exposure had to do with the rebellion of one his sons. He writes,

Then I received word that Kep had been expelled from college. 
Something became clear. There were no formulas.
There were no right strategies with guaranteed outcomes. There was only God.
Would I trust him and rely on his name (not as a new plan to get what I wanted)?
Would I simply hold his hand, trust his heart, and move into the darkness
with no purpose other than to reflect something of Christ?
Only deep darkness helped me to fear God more than confusion. (author's emphasis)

That picture of walking with God in the darkness made a deep impression on me. It suddenly became clear that my prayers and questions needed to change. I now echo Crabb's conclusion, believing, "No longer do we ask, 'Am I right?' We realize we can't be right enough to make things happen as we want.  Instead we ask, 'Whom do I trust?'" 

Elisabeth Elliot wrote the same sentiment in her journal (Passion and Purity) when she was in love with Jim with no hope for fulfillment. She, like Crabb, finally realized that it wasn't the choice between this or that that needed answering, but the prayer that needed to change. She remembers, "My heart was saying, 'Lord, take away this longing, or give me that for which I long.' The Lord was answering, 'I must teach you to long for something better.'"

And that's what he's been teaching me. I'm switching from wondering if a guy is "him" to committing to hold God's metaphorical hand in a darkness that I don't resent. And I can truly report that the last 6 weeks of following this new mentality has yielded itself to greater gifts and miracles than I have ever experienced. It's almost like God is saying, "Finally, I can surprise and delight you with these good things now that you're not begging for the next ten year's worth of details." And he does this because he really wants to give me good, wonderful, delightful gifts. And I really believe that. Obviously there have still been painful and heart-wrenching occurrences since then, but when you start to trust God, you begin to accept - not resent - the hard stuff as part of the darkness package. 

I feel a delicious freedom to rest in his time line. Hello, my name is Laura, and I've been Duck Butt sober for 6 weeks. Here's to a million more. 

Being Right vs. Being Christ

For the past week I've been following the Chick-fil-a hubbub by reading headlines and response blogs. I've never considered myself politically educated or particularly desirous of involving myself in current events... mostly because I feel uneducated and uninformed: politically, literarily, scripturally, headline-y. Usually to "get involved" I'll find an article I like, repost it, and quote part of it to show that I read it. That way when someone gets upset about what the article says, I can hide behind the author and the Internet and avoid taking a stand. Today I was jerked out of my cowardice.

Tonight I shared some glazed donuts and chocolate milk with a dear friend of mine. Amidst the dirty tables and the flickering flourescents he shared with me his exhaustion and brokenness. The national goings-on of the past week have been a blow to his heart, but the Chick-fil-a situation is merely the tip on the scales. He's been receiving hatred for months-- ever since he came out a year or so ago. As I sat there, licking the sugar off of my fingers and listening to his stories of being a victim to bullying--verbal and physical-- my stomach churned. Not only because he's my friend and I cannot fathom why anyone would abuse my friend, but because of the overwhelming measure of hypocrisy I feel.

The GLBT community is 100% open with who they are. They think they're right in their beliefs and actions--what community doesn't?-- but that's not what I'm concerned about. They're honest about who they are. There isn't any lying about their desires or hiding their faces. I may not agree with all of their choices, but I am awed by their transparency. I am usually the opposite of transparent. I grew up thinking that being a Christian meant being an example of how life should be lived, of light in the darkness, of truth amidst the lies. This got very confusing when I started having real problems as a young adolescent. How can I "live the exemplary life" when I secretly binge in the middle of the night then punish myself by not eating for three days? How do I "shine light into the darkness" when my depression becomes so overwhelming that I do anything I can think of to stay alive? How do I "separate the truth from the lies" when I knowingly do my body harm by smoking because it's the only thing I can find that will quell my anxiety and panic attacks? By staying silent and smiling over the surface of a rapid undertow of sin and misery I have shown hatred to my brothers and sisters-- gay and straight. You know why?

How many times in the last paragraph did I mention Jesus' name? How many times in the last week have you seen a post that mentioned Jesus' strongest and most powerful words: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and you shall love your neighbor as yourself"? Brothers and sisters, we have made the right to be right  and the right to be heard far more important than the hearts and bodies of our own kind. I'm not talking about sexual orientation, I'm talking about species. When we pour hatred and judgment upon our fellow man, we attack ourselves as well. As I marvel at the grace that God has given me in forgiving my secret and embarrassing sins, I am sickened by my own sloth in sharing the same gift with my gay friends. Who cares if you disagree with their lifestyle? Since when is your interpretation of Scripture-- even if, for argument's sake, it's the "correct" interpretation-- more important than the value of another person? Instead of eating your waffle fries on Appreciation Day or quoting verse after verse on the "condemnation that shall befall the homosexuals," why not engage a gay person in transparent conversation that seeks to understand, love, and share with them your own heart? If grace has been lavished upon you by Jesus, why not share it with the hungry?

Christian family, we have a right to our beliefs. We live in a country where freedom of speech is allowed and practiced. I do not want us to abandon our beliefs for the sake of lukewarm postmodernism and wishy-washy theology. But I will not stand by silently and watch as Christians label judgment as "right theology" and hatred as "integrity." Rather than enlarging the gorge between the GLBT community and the Church (which, in my opinion, is precisely what Chick-fil-a has done), bridge it with the love and patience of Christ. Let rightness take the back seat to the possibility of being wrong-ness. Christ was judged by His choice of lewd company, yet He Himself said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice'. For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:12-13). I, a sinner, exhort myself and others to take this to heart.

If we love not people, we love not God, and are therefore not Christians; this is no fallacy.

I Asked the Lord

I asked the Lord that I might grow In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know And seek more earnestly His face

Twas He who taught me thus to pray And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way As almost drove me to despair

I hoped that in some favored hour At once He'd answer my request
And by His love's constraining power Subdue my sins and give me rest

Instead of this He made me feel The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell Assault my soul in every part

Yea more with His own hand He seemed Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed, Cast out my feelings, laid me low

Lord why is this, I trembling cried Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied “I answer prayer for grace and faith”

“These inward trials I employ From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

--Anne Steele

Affable Alliterations referring to the Wicked Ways that technology has made me a Social Sham

By the time I first got a cell phone, I was 17. It was a pretty lame flip phone, and I didn't have any text messaging capabilities. After a year or so, I was allowed 500/month, which was eventually upgraded to 1500/month after many tears and lamentations. Any number of texts over that number cost 10 cents each, and my parents made me pay them for every single extra message (incoming AND outgoing- so unfair!). Now we have a family plan with unlimited texts, but no fancy-shmancy data plan or anything like that. All this to say, I've never been addicted to texting or attached to my phone. In fact, I really kind of hate texting. It is one of the many contributors to my failed attempts at witty conversation. The following is a list of all the ways that texting--and just technology in general-- has made me a real social retard.

1. Misunderstood Memes. For me, a real self-appraised Connoisseur of Analytical huMan PsychologY (C.A.M.P.Y.), a text message that reads "ya," "maybe idk wut im doing tonite," "mhm," or "haha" can send me into an absolute frenzy. Does the lack of punctuation insinuate anger and/or annoyance? Does the tepid "haha" sans emoticon actually imply the opposite of amusement? Did you spell the words incorrectly because you're lazy or bored or embarrassed that you didn't pass 2nd grade? And then, don't even get me started on my array of awkward text responses. 98% of the time my texts are meant to be funny, but I'm afraid that I may have overdone it when I quip, "Hey roly poly, if you're not home in 5 minutes I will chop you up and cook you in a stew" or "I had a dream last night that you gave me a hot dog that made me puke and I've been upset all day." ... "hehe," right?

2. Lolcat Lingo. I am ashamed to admit that I still, without thinking, exclaim "LOLZ!" to many, many things. Yes, out loud. Yes, with a z. It's so ingrained in my middle-school mind. It's faster to type "obvs," "totes," "perf," "idk," & "k," so why not speak that way too (hey look, I just saved 0.0000000000983 seconds!)?!

3. Festering Fakeness. Finally, after centuries of causing awkwardness, there's a way for passive-agressivity to become socially-acceptable? Enter Xanga. Oh yes, in high school I was an avid xanga-er, rapidly maturing two-fold by both posting weekly (daily) posts about my awesome, interesting, eclectic, inspiring, pedal-to-the-medal, tantalizing, adventurous (lame) lifestyle AND leaving sweet-faced comments like "OMG this post is the besssssst! I <3 you!" to girls that I truly hated. It's only gotten worse. Now, with my swanky Facebook timeline profile, I can include/exclude any "awesome, interesting, eclectic, etc" info about myself and people believe it. I can delete unflattering pictures, "like" things that I may or may not care about, and post really deep, spiritual links from unknown hipster Christian blogs or high-brow Wall Street Journal articles, implying that my own intelligence/spirituality is equally as deep.
Since we spend countless hours perusing and stalking people on Facebook, you want to tell me that that attitude doesn't seep into everyday interactions? Holla at me, girlfriend.

4. Failed Flirtaciousness. This needs little explanation, as the aforementioned points clearly indicate that my social encounters are quite awkwardly and sometimes negatively affected by my ravenous use of technology. You might say, "Well if your witty responses are so misunderstood via text, shouldn't you be a pro at face-to-face banter?" Oh, thank you for your faith in my seasoned, interactive skillz. Alas, quite the opposite. The tendency to over-analyze technological interactions has most certainly stained my in-person interactions. Try to picture the following scenario:
A young girl, early to mid-twenties, sits at her workplace desk, wilting under the florescent lights but secretly cheering her co-workers with her mindless humming and floral-patterned sun dress. Enter a young man, early to mid-god-lik--twenties, perfectly proportioned and amiably attired. Both countenances brighten at the sight of the other. They begin to converse.
Boy: "Can you make me a color copy of something?"
Girl: "Of course! I just want to let you know, however, that color copies are very expensive-- $1 per page." Her face falls.
The boy beams, revealing a set of naturally white teeth. "That's alright! This is an important document, so I'll pay whatever."
The girl begins the color copying process, which embarrassingly takes much longer than any color copy should take. She apologizes profusely. "I hope you're not in any hurry... the printer is still warming up."
"Just take your time," he says kindly.
The girl continues working on the color copy job. After a few minutes of silence, she decides to strike up a conversation.
Girl: "So what are your summer plans?"
Boy: "I'm interning in Tulsa this summer with an oil company."
Girl: "Cool! You'll really love it there. I grew up in Tulsa--it's a great place to spend your summer."
The two begin chatting about the lovely city, eagerly responding to the others' comments. The excitement is growing. After a solid 5 minutes, the boy nonchalantly muses, "So, maybe I'll see you in Tulsa this summer."
Suddenly, the most incredible phenomenon occurs. Up to this point, the birds have been tweeting and Aphrodite has stuffing her face with Russell Stovers.
In the flash of an eye, everything changes. The spirit of an orangutan inhabits the girl's voice box, and she blurts, "Yeah, maybe, but NOT BECAUSE I'M GOING BACK TO HIGH SCHOOL. I'M IN COLLEGE. HAHAHAHAHAH."
...In the corner, a small gnome cuts the thick air with a Cutco knife and chuckles to himself. He's the only one laughing, though. The boy and girl stare at each other, the boy pays for his color copy, the girl mumbles something incoherently, and the boy exits the office.

If you're wondering about the factual to facsimile ratio of that scenario, holla at me. I'll probably ignore you.

5. Un-diagnosed but Utterly Apparent A.D.D. When I'm surfin' the Web I usually have 5 or 6 tabs open at once. If I'm bored with Facebook after 25 seconds, I switch to Twitter, browse 50-60 tweets, yawn, check various news sites, click back to Facebook, randomly choose someone's profile and click through 400-500 pictures, WebMD the twinge I have under my right eye, open Amazon and add 5 things to my wish list, tweet about it, yawn... etc. You understand because I bet your Internet browsing looks very similar. Needless to say, my attention span has decreased ten fold since I got out of elementary school. Seriously kids. Even in high school I could sit and read for 8 hours, only breaking for the bathroom and a Quik Trip run. Now it's all I can do to stay on the same Internet tab for more than 15 minutes. That's just my personal time; socially, our generation's general diagnosis with social A.D.D. is infuriating (kind of like that sentence, right?). If another person I'm having lunch with checks her phone while I'm in the middle of a sentence, I will slap that iPhone right outta her hand. As I walk around our beautiful campus, all I see is the top of people's heads as they stay glued to their phones--on the bus, on their bikes, in their cars, at restaurant booths, at work. I suffer from it too: if conversation drifts off, I have a hard time maintaining eye contact and urgently wishing I could walk away to avoid 5 seconds of awkwardness. The art of conversation is suffering badly--but that's a subject for another time.

I don't want to delete my Facebook or throw my phone in a river, but I see the need for some behavior modification. Technology is affecting us in a profoundly psychological way-- have you ever considered how it's affecting your own spirit?

Jersey Shore and Rick Santorum

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A few days ago my Dad emailed me this article that was published in the Wall Street Journal.
Read it here. I would like to clarify that I include myself in all references to the "Christian community," and believe that I have fallen into many/most of the traps of which I reprimand them. Here are my thoughts about some of the main points:

"How do you explain a country that makes an unabashed Catholic social conservative a leading presidential candidate while devouring a reality show about the smuttiest bumping and grinding ever to hit prime time?"
How indeed? I think that tracing the conundrum back to the Sexual Revolution is probably pretty logical, and I also think it applies to Christians as well as everyone else. If I were to list the people I know/have known to have pre-marital sex, I could give you a pretty equal list of Christians and non-Christians, girls and boys. In fact, when a representative from the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Tulsa talked to us in high school, she reported that the majority of the abortion cases she dealt with were "Christian girls"--white and middle or upper class--that were trying to keep their promiscuity a secret. The next largest number of abortions were middle or upper class white women--married-- who just didn't want more children. I think that the Christian community as a whole has not done a good job of 1) educating children about sex (before they become teenagers and are tempted to do it), and 2) allowing teenagers to be open with their sexual struggles, which causes them to a) think it's cooler than it really is, b) want to do it just to spite their parents/God/the church, c) keep it a secret. I think there is a lot of sexual repression among Christians--and probably Catholics, too, according to this author-- meaning that while they outwardly dress in "vests" and preach anti-contraceptives and anti-abortion, they are secretly watching 'Jersey Shore' and getting secret abortions and having affairs because they're struggling with things that they *think* they can't talk about or deal with openly. This is something I see all the time here in Norman. A lot of people have sex, but the Christians just keep it a secret. I certainly don't trumpet my private screenings of Gossip Girl or the Vampire Diaries.
It's been really interesting to read Tim Keller's book The Meaning of Marriage; he addresses sex throughout the book, and then specifically in the final chapter. He talks about the realities of sex, its purpose, and how emotionally vulnerable it makes a person. He breaks down a lot of fantasies that virgins have about sex, which is great, and I wish I could publish it and give it to everyone. 'Jersey Shore' and similar shows make sex with strangers out to be this mysterious adventure that you want to do hundreds of times. I think that even though many Christians turn their nose up at such shows, they secretly believe the lies those shows/novels/songs/movies perpetuate, myself included. They (we) want mysterious, adventurous sex, too, and believe that that only happens before marriage or with someone other than their spouse. It's what happens when you have two powerful but equally opposing messages in our culture: 1) sex is the absolute best thing that can happen to a person, and 2) marriage is restricting and cramps your sexual style.

This is why I agree that the Sexual Revolution really did change the way our culture operated-- it not only created a spike in "unwanted" pregnancies, but Christians who felt they needed to (or really did) disagree with it secretly wanted a sexual revolution for themselves, and simply resorted to hiding their own spike in sexual promiscuity.

And more simply:
"The optimist's answer to all of this has always been—and remains—'more education and more access to contraception.' But the problem for lower-income women isn't so much a lack of birth control or knowledge of it; they just have a tepid interest in family planning."
I think this is SO true. By now, everyone is educated about sex and has easy access to contraceptives. The problem isn't the education, it's the sex. Because sex creates families.

Jersey Shore isn't the only show of its kind. However, I'd love to see Santorum meet Snooki.
The good news--something that Kay S. Hymowitz does not include in her article-- is that, in my opinion, sex within a covenant marriage actually is glorious. Keller articulates it better than I in the final paragraph of his book:
Sex is glorious not only because it reflects the joy of the Trinity
but also because it points to the eternal delight of soul that we will
have in heaven, in our loving relationships with God
and one another. Romans 1:7 tells us that the best marriages
are pointers to the deep, infinitely fulfilling, and final union
we will have with Christ in love.
No wonder, as some have said, that sex between a man and a woman
can be a sort of embodied out-of-body experience.
It's the most ecstatic, breathtaking, daring,
scarcely-to-be-imagined look at the glory that is our future. (236)

A twentysomeone* prayer

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my plumbing to keep
And if I'm thirty before I marry
I pray the Lord no longer tarry.

*Title (inspired) by Doug Serven. Buy his book here (!!)

The pros of giving a recital while infected with a virus

1. You look great in your dress because you haven't eaten anything but soup for the previous 48 hours.

2. You are prescribed steroids, which create feelings of euphoria and super human strength right before you walk on stage.

3. Everyone's, including your own, expectations are lowered.

4. You don't care if anyone shows up, but are then extra appreciative of the people that actually do.

5. You have a legitimate reason to stay in bed all day before and after.

6. You burst into tears when it's over, which makes everyone sentimental. You don't feel the need to tell them that it's due to the mood fluctuations caused by the 'roids and not the overwhelming feeling of gratitude and relief everyone thinks is the cause.

7. Most importantly, you know that the only way you'll be able to make it through the evening is completely by the grace and sustenance of God. Therefore, the success of the evening is due wholly to His mercy, love, and care.


In all seriousness, this past week (and really, this entire semester) has been a time of great deepening. I've been experiencing pretty serious anxiety about the event for several weeks, mostly in the form of dreams. [My most interesting one (that I may or may not send into the International Association for the Study of Dreams) involved performing in an empty shark tank and sharing the stage with a large komodo dragon.] Anxiety is a common struggle in my family; we are no strangers to tension headaches, stomachaches, and dreams due to over-indulged anxiety. For years I've battled ungodly anxiety, seeking psychological, medical, and spiritual aid. As I grow in my understanding of the body and nutrition, my mind and its tendencies, and patterns of behavior I can usually cut the spells short. However, the most helpful "remedies" I've discovered are prayer and Scripture memory and quotation. Really, these things are best if started before the anxiety sets in. If my mind is equipped to face the enemy, I'll deal with the fight better than grasping for aid in the midst of battle (and that, folks, is as far as my war/sports/male-type analogies reach).
When I was reaching the height of anxiety earlier this week--Monday or Tuesday--I jumped into Scripture in desperate need of comfort and reassurance. I had a bookmark in Isaiah 45, so I started reading there. Eventually, my eyes (and soul) rested in chapter 46, verses 3 and 4. They are:
Listen to Me, you descendants of Jacob,
all the remnant of the people of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
and have carried since you were born.
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am He, I am He Who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

I found such encouragement in these verses. I don't want to (and probably couldn't) begin a discussion on "name it, claim it" theology; regardless, the Lord reminded me of His creation and care of me, one of His remnant. It quickly became unattractive to worry about my recital. I still wanted to, but I was both convicted and simultaneously reminded of hope. A 45-minute ordeal begins to shrink in importance when reminded of a lifetime.

And, as a small aside, the recital couldn't have gone better.
God is good, and good to me.