Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays of the year. Each year I am reminded that the crowd that praises Christ on Sunday will want him dead on Friday. I am a member of that same crowd. It is always a sobering and necessary reminder of why I need Easter, and it is a perfect beginning to Holy Week.

This Holy Week, I get to preach a homily during one of our evening services at Redeemer, which has me thinking about the last sermon I preached on Palm Sunday 2009. I prefaced the sermon by saying I was preaching a sermon I needed for myself. All these years later, I still need it. I hope it can be a blessing to you as you begin your Holy Week.

Ben Reed - Palm Sunday 2009, Church of the Cross (Hopkins, MN)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Little Christmas Spirit

Mark Oestreicher displays 27 of the worst nativity sets he could find. It made me a little misty eyed thinking about my old gig at the Christian Bookstore. (Or as some might call it, the time when this blog was funny.) Thankfully, we never had anything as bad as these.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Help Me To Be

I’ve spent the last two weeks in Minneapolis as part of the intensive portion for two of my classes in Bethel Seminary’s InMinistry Program. It’s been hard; it’s been challenging; it’s been amazing.

This past week has been dominated by my Intro to Pastoral Care class. I had low expectations going in, but the class has been transformative. I’m still trying to process everything, and I wrote this prayer as part of trying to make sense of all my emotions from the week.

I resonated deeply with the role of the chaplain and their ministry of presence. While I’m not sure what that means vocationally, I think the ideals of their ministry are things I want to cultivate in my own life. This prayer is about asking God to be that presence – though it is a quiet presence, it is still revolutionary.

Help Me To Be
When the chaos of the world swirls around me
Help me to stand
When the arrows of spite and rage pierce my flesh
Help me to stand
When the stars are dark and the night is long
Help me to stand
When death captures the day and life is in retreat
Help me to stand

When you bring form to the mist over the deep
Help me to move
When your love heals my mortal wounds
Help me to move
When you shine forth as the bright morning star
Help me to move
When you rise victorious over eternal death
Help me to move

You are the sculptor
You are the healer
You are the morning
You are life itself

In the midst of your quiet revolution
Help me to be your presence in this world

Lord, in your mercy
Hear my prayer

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday Soundtrack

I feel like no one can provide the soundtrack to Ash Wednesday quite like Ralph Stanley.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Thinking about death and regret tonight. Bill Mallonee has been kind enough to provide the soundtrack.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

We Are Not Born Too Late - Advent and Dorothy Day

A little Advent perspective from Dorothy Day.

“In Christ’s human life, there were always a few who made up for the neglect of the crowd. The shepherds did it; their hurrying to the crib atoned for the people who would flee from Christ. The wise men did it; their journey across the world made up for those who refused to stir one hand’s breadth from the routine of their lives to go to Christ. Even the gifts the wise men brought have in themselves an obscure recompense and atonement for what would follow later in this Child’s life. For they brought gold, the king’s emblem, to make up for the crown of thorns that he would wear; they offered incense, the symbol of praise, to make up for the mockery and the spitting; they gave him myrrh, to heal and soothe, and he was wounded from head to foot and no one bathed his wounds. The women at the foot of the Cross did it too, making up for the crowd who stood by and sneered.

We can do it too, exactly as they did. We are not born too late. We do it by seeing Christ and serving Christ in friends and strangers, in everyone we come in contact with.”

—Dorothy Day

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Daddy's Little Girl

My baby girl turns one today. Two years ago, this never seemed like a possibility. We’d been trying for a year to get pregnant with no luck. In contrast, we soon learned that most of our friends were extremely fertile. Hooray for them.

It is hard to see people you love succeed in areas you fail. You feel guilty because you are unable to enter into their joy completely. I learned that one man’s joy often shines a harsh light on another man’s pain.

I could not imagine in 2008 the joy and love I would feel today because I am a father. But I still remember the pain I felt back then, and I’m ok with that. Experiencing the pain makes the joy so much sweeter. It also reminds me that my beautiful daughter might be a bittersweet sight for friends who are dealing with infertility, failed adoptions or the death of a child. That dichotomy is real, it is tangible, and it must be wrestled with.

I want so many things for my daughter. I want her to be stronger than I am. I want her to succeed where I have failed. But I also want her to understand that some people look at the world and see beauty, while others only see pain. I want her to see both. And I want her to help those who cannot imagine anything but pain to see the beauty of God’s love flooding into a broken world.

Every night when I lay her down to sleep, I pray some version of this prayer:
Lord, we thank you for Vivian Mae
And all the joy she brings
We pray that you keep her safe
We pray that she grows up big and strong
And we pray that she will show the world your beauty
Vivian Mae, on October 13, 2009, you came into my life. You helped me see beauty where I had only seen pain. You pointed me back to another child, born without fanfare, when God’s love broke through the depravity of this world. I pray that you spend the rest of your life doing the same thing for everyone you meet.

Happy Birthday. Daddy loves you.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

O Death Where Is Thy Sting?

Death seems to be circling my life a lot. First it was the sudden passing of a friend and former coworker. More recently it has been friends dealing with the death of a child. And there are still a few friends whose battles with cancer and other such things are always on the brink of death.

In light of that, I found myself humming “Down To The River To Pray” a lot. I know it’s traditionally sung at baptisms and it isn’t really about death. But I think Alison Kraus’s version is haunting and would be a fitting soundtrack to a scene in a movie where a casket is being taken from a church.

When she sings it, I’m flooded with all of the feelings I get during a baptism. At baptism we remember what we take on faith – that Christ conquered death. And at a funeral we hold onto that hope. We’re not sure we can believe amidst our grief, but we hold onto it. We remember our baptismal vows and the faith they represent – that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Prayer For Those Searching For Truth

Cardiphonia has some nice prayers for non-Christians to reflect on during the Lord's Supper. My favorite is the "Prayer for Those Searching for the Truth" [emphasis mine]:

Lord Jesus, you claim to be the way, the truth, and the life. Grant that I might be undaunted by the cost of following you as I consider the reasons for doing so. If what you claim is true, please guide me, teach me, and open to me the reality of who you are. Give me an understanding of you that is coherent, convincing, and that leads to the life that you promise. Amen.

Friday, August 13, 2010


If my soul could sing, it would sound Johnny Cash - a true American bad-ass and the original voice of downtrodden and road weary travelers clinging to an ancient hope. I miss you, Mr. Cash. This world needs more people like you.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

God Only Knows That I Mean Well

It’s been a rough couple of weeks at the Reed homestead. It’s the busy time of year at my job, and a series of new student orientations has kept me at work later than I would like. There have been a few days this week where I never saw my daughter awake, because she was always asleep when I was home.

Add to that my recent decision to indefinitely postpone returning to seminary and instead [probably] pursue a part-time MBA, a decision I’ll try to expound upon in the future. All of that adds up to feeling pulled in a million directions. You’ve got to hustle in this life to try to pay the bills and to keep your relationships from going bankrupt. It too often feels like a doomed effort.

I heard Joe Henry’s song, “God Only Knows,” this morning, and it struck me as a great expression of my current sentiments. The last verse gets me every time”
God only knows that we can do
No more or less than he'll allow
God only knows that we mean well
God knows that we just don't know how
But I'll try to be your light in love
And pray that is enough for now
I'll try to be your light in love
And pray that is enough for now
I'll pray that is enough for now
I'll pray that is enough for now
I'll pray that is enough for now
I'll pray that is enough for now
God only knows that I mean well, and I pray that is enough for now.

Friday, July 16, 2010

On Sincerity

Cleveland has had a rough week. Lebron James left for the glitter of Miami and famed cartoonist Harvey Pekar died. Anthony Bourdain has a great obituary for Pekar, in which he talks about how Cleveland will end up missing Pekar more than James. Harvey Pekar was in love with Cleveland, and he helped people see how beautiful it was. As Bourdain writes,
“...Harvey captured and chronicled every day what was--and will always be--beautiful about Cleveland: the still majestic gorgeousness of what once was--the uniquely quirky charm of what remains, the delightfully offbeat attitude of those who struggle to go on in a city they love and would never dream of leaving. What a two minute overview might depict as a dying, post-industrial town, Harvey celebrated as a living, breathing, richly textured society.”
Jim Russell and Aaron M. Renn both use Bourdain’s thoughts as a jumping off point to talk about urban development, the brain drain and the brand of a city. The moral of the story - not everyone wants Miami, and Cleveland shouldn't try to give it to them. Cities in the Midwest (like my own Indianapolis) will never be able to compete with a place like South Beach or L.A. When we do try to compete, it comes off as insincere and fake. It’s not who we are. Sincerity always wins, and we should strive to embrace it.

If you ask me why I love Indianapolis, I won’t list any of the sexy building projects like Lucas Oil Stadium or the new JW Marriott hotel being built for the 2012 Super Bowl. I’ll tell you about some of my favorite local restaurants like Jockamo and Papa Roux. I’ll tell you about the house I love and can actually afford located in a great neighborhood surrounded by great people (and I love the people because these are my people). And I’ll tell you how being in the Midwest gives me some weird sense of being grounded, and how that grounding helps me survive the day-to-day rhythms of life.

Like I said, not sexy. But I hope you would see my genuine love for this place - a place that can be hard to love because it requires a little work to find beauty. That’s a true statement about so many things I love in this world, including my faith. I want there to be a sexy reason to love Christianity in a post-Christian world, but all I have are deeply personal stories of God invading my world and filling the dullness with beauty. These things are not sexy, but they are sincere.

And maybe that’s better after all.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Give to the Wind Thy Fears

Don't you love it when a work of art invades your life at the exact moment you need it? That's how I feel about Nathan Partain's recording of his rearranged version of "Give to the Wind Thy Fears." I have never heard the hymn before, but I instantly love it. I don't think it gets much better than Nathan's music paired with a hymn that's older than our country.

It is worth taking the time to explore the rest of his music.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lord Have Mercy. Christ Have Mercy. Lord Have Mercy.

You should read Andy Whitman's beautiful "Good Letters" entry about his sister's impending death.

I love liturgy, written prayers, and other related things. My dad is fond of cautioning that these items can become "rote." He views this as a negative, that memorization and recitation lead to a monotonous faith. That's the opposite of what it does.

I hope those words become rote. Because when I am faced with those inevitable moments when there are no answers, I will throw myself on the mercy of God. And the only words I will be able to utter will be those words written onto my heart over time and with repetition.

I have never met Andy Whitman, but I pray for God's mercy and strength. And I offer him this prayer from The Book of Common Prayer, because I do not have words to say it better:

"O merciful Father, who has taught us in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of your servant for whom our prayers are offered. Remember him, O Lord, in mercy, nourish his soul with patience, comfort him with a sense of your goodness, lift up your countenance upon him, and give him peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."