Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ripping Up The Pavement - Streetcars And Orthodoxy

Last week I tweeted, "There are so many pot holes on Washington, it's like God's saying, 'Just rip up the street and put in the light rail now.'" One of my friends commented, "I love it when you can actually see the buried street car rails. And then after loving it, it makes me sad..."

People may not realize that Indianapolis used to have a great street car system. We gave it up to embrace the automobile and paved over the rails. Nearly 60 years later, Indianapolis (like many cities) is talking about installing light rail. We want to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a system that is eerily similar to a system we used to have - a system we ripped out. It's like a giant civic do-over.

People are divided over the idea, with valid arguments on either side. But you have to admit, it's kind of odd that we essentially want to embrace an old technology - a technology we previously rejected. Maybe grandpa wasn't as dumb as we thought.

In my life, orthodox theology is like a streetcar. Sure it served a purpose at one time, but I grew to view it as quaint and outdated. Cars (liberal theology1 in this metaphor) seemed like a sexy upgrade (and as someone with an unhealthy love for Mr. Rogers cardigans, I need a sexy upgrade.) No more only taking paths predetermined by someone else. With the car, all roads lead - well, they lead wherever I want them to lead. And isn't my destination the only one that matters?

The failings of moving to cars as the nearly exclusive form of transportation are well known. We're fatter. We're more detached as a society. And I would add that the car (and the suburbs) made it easier for us to give up on the city instead of working through the difficult issues that naturally arise when diverse groups of people live in close proximity to each other.

I think the failings of liberal theology are similar. I can only speak for myself, but in my desire to "evolve beyond orthodoxy," I was hoping to find a nicer, friendly, less weird form of Christianity. Like many people, I assumed that by becoming more inclusive - by making Christianity more palatable to the world - that I would make Christianity more hopeful and more fulfilling for myself.

It fell apart. I'd never been so depressed in my life. I was amazed at the pompous attitudes of liberal Christians. (I suppose that happens when you believe you have saved Christianity from itself.) In fact, what I believe to be one of the most racist, most offensive sermons I have ever heard was given by a liberal Episcopalian priest in Oregon, but that's a story for another time.

It was a long road trip through the liberal wasteland, but ultimately, I became convinced of the beauty of orthodoxy. I realized that when you try to stand for everything, you end up standing for nothing. Liberal theology pushes the source of hope from Christ onto ourselves, and we will ultimately fail ourselves.

The beauty of orthodoxy is what I always thought was its worst aspect - how it remains unchanged. It provides a framework within which I can question and push and try to work through the issues that naturally arise when diverse groups of people try to live out the Gospel together. It reminds us that we are naive to believe that humanity can develop new problems that old wisdom cannot address. It reminds us that the God who defeated death is larger than all of this.

Maybe light rail won't save the city. Maybe it won't reverse the negative impact of the car and urban sprawl. Maybe it won't force people in the suburbs to care about what happens in the city. But I do believe that orthodox theology can save us from the failings of liberal theology. I do believe that ancient truths are relevant to contemporary problems. And I do believe that taking a leap of faith to believe in a God who conquered death is the only way to achieve true hope.

A Prayer For The Second Sunday Of Lent
Lord, we have spent great time and energy trying to bury the truth with which we were raised. We have sold out our hope in you in exchange for some watered down, Hallmark branded version of inclusion. We hate salvation that is not easy and does not play by the rules we have created in our own wisdom. We are a stupid people.

But you love us in our stubbornness and our stupidity. You did not let us linger in our sin, but you sent your son to save us. Send your Holy Spirit to compel us to accept your son as our savior. Humble us in our pride. Show us the way back to orthodoxy.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

-Ben Reed, February 28, 2010

1When I say liberal theology, I mean the branch of Christianity that tends to assume the Bible and/or church tradition is no longer a valid basis for Christian theology. They tend to want to make Christianity more inclusive and thus de-emphasize some of the more "exclusive" aspects, such as salvation being only through Christ. This is a broad definition and is meant more as a guideline, not a definitive statement about those who would call themselves liberal Christians.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Prayer For The Tenth Day Of Lent

Lord, we try to do what is right. We try to live out the Gospel, even when we are not sure we believe it. Give us the strength to continue to live as we should. Bless our devotion, and allow faith to follow action. Help our hearts to accept the path that our feet know to travel. Light the way and fill us with the faith that only your Holy Spirit can give.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

-Ben Reed, February 27, 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Prayer For The Ninth Day Of Lent

Lord, we pray for silence in our lives. Quiet the noise in the world around us, and allow us to rest. Quiet the noise in our minds, and allow us clarity of thought. Quiet the noise in our hearts, and open us up to receive your Holy Spirit. Give us the patience to make sense of the chaos in which we live.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

-Ben Reed, February 26, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

If I ever saw you do anything that wasn't ninety percent selfish, I'd die of shock.

Lent is designed to prepare us for Easter, when we will celebrate the risen Christ. But before we get to Easter, we must deal with Good Friday - the night when Christ is crucified. And that crucifixion in all of its gore shines a harsh light on my selfishness. On that night, God the Father chose to turn his back on his own son. He chose to let him suffer and die as payment for our sins.

I have a daughter, and if you ever tried to hurt her, you would have to kill me first. And I'm not an easy out. I would use every last bit of my strength to keep you from hurting my child. Even knowing that, I cannot begin to imagine the sacrifice that God made for me. It was the most selfless act ever.

I think helping a friend move on a Saturday is a sacrifice. I don't know the first thing about sacrifice, or about love. "Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:12b-13) By that definition, I don't know that I love that many people. Isn't it sad that after so much has been sacrificed for me, that I find it so hard to truly sacrifice for others? Isn't sad that I find it so hard to love?

A Prayer For The Eighth Day Of Lent

Lord, we are a selfish people. We care more about our own comfort than we do about those in need. We mistake discomfort for sacrifice. We dare question your love and your goodness, even though you sacrificed your son for us. We do not want to turn from our selfish ambitions, so we declare you imaginary, irrelevant or dead in order to avoid the sacrifice that following you demands. Give us opportunities to truly sacrifice in your name, and send your Holy Spirit to empower us to sacrifice when you ask us to.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

-Ben Reed, February 25, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Prayer For The Seventh Day Of Lent

Lord, this winter seems to have no end. We only need to walk outside our door to feel a sense of despair. Winter is your way of reminding us that we are horrible people who deserve nothing more than death. Please do not leave us here. Give us a glimpse of spring - give us a glimpse of the empty tomb - during the long winter of Lent so that we can have the strength to continue forward.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

-Ben Reed, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Of Course It's Weird - Some Dude Rose From The Dead

"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd."
-Flannery O'Connor
As I've been trying to create space during Lent in which to encounter God, I've been convicted of some wrong attitudes I've had over the last few years. One of the biggest is my unwillingness to live as someone truly transformed by the Gospel. I don't want to live that way because it would be weird.

It's weird because Christianity is weird. We believe that God humbled himself and became man. We believe that he was crucified, took on the weight of our sin, died and was buried. We believe that he rose from the dead. That's just weird.

And it should inspire weird lives. If we're honest, we're not that weird. (And "witty" t-shirts are not divine weirdness; they're just bad art.) How are our priorities, our actions or even our expectations about life, any different than those who don't believe in Christianity?

But I don't want to be weird; I want to be liked. I'm afraid that people will be turned off by the weirdness of a life truly transformed by the Gospel. Some might be turned off, but what I don't realize is that the weirdness is what's beautiful.

Whenever I feel like I need to be reminded of the beauty of being weird in the name of God, I pull out a little Danielson. While they've taken various forms over the years, the driving creative force has always been Daniel Smith. His lyrics are Christian (and a little weird), and his music tends to fall toward the less accessible end of the spectrum.

The beautiful thing is that his faith leads him to make challenging art that people are forced to wrestle with. There is a documentary out about the band called Danielson: a Family Movie. I haven't seen it, but the trailer (embedded below) gives you a taste for how so many fans are almost disgusted (or at least annoyed) by the band's overt faith. But the beauty of the art keeps drawing them in.

I know I have trouble being comfortable in my own skin. I care too much what others think. I need to embrace the weirdness of the Gospel and the way it changed my life. And I need to live it out in all of it's beautiful, awe inspiring weirdness.

As Daniel Smith [I believe it's Daniel] says in the trailer, "It's not for us, by us, to us, or about us. So, we just keep pointing to the creator of music - the maker." May we all strive to do just that.

A Prayer For The Sixth Day Of Lent
Lord we thank you for the truth you have revealed to us in your son, Jesus Christ. And we praise you for the beautiful, awe-inspiring weirdness that is the Gospel. Send us your Holy Spirit so that we can embody this weirdness for the world to see. Let it permeate our lives. Let it inspire beauty. Let it force us to redefine the expectations of the world. Let it shine so bright that the world must wrestle with it's beauty, it's intricacy and it's revolution. Lord, make us weird.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

"Did I Step On Your Trumpet"
Lyrics and Music by Daniel Smith
Copyright 2006

Did I step on your trumpet
Or did I lump
Lump them in with you

I put your name on the ballot
'Cause you should run
Though you don't want to

I've been called the wet blanket
By cranks who I out rank with no thanks
Who do not have a

Yes I know how to be quiet just one more thing
I made you something

I wrote for you a lovely sonnet
'Bout two great friends
Your truly and you

We'll grant just one social skill
Share a gesture of goodwill

I try
To relate
With my shipmates

Then I just start blurting out the first thing on my mind

How am I looking in your frilly bonnet
With the diamond on it
I guess I better go

I'm a people magnet
When I wear your jacket
Good luck getting this

Pleasing people
Is so predictable
We love you now
Then stab you how many

Time I obsess
And am making a mess
Failing to impress you
In all that I can't do

Would you take care of my pet parrot
And feed him these
He speaks less than me

You speak so much about my casket
My body basket
Did I do something wrong

We'll grant one more social clue
The landfill shall be home to you

All my ships
Sailing relatons
Have finally found

Who I am made out to be
Me and free of

Pleasing people
Is so predictable
We love you now
Then stab you how many
Time I obsess
And am making a mess
Failing to impress you
In all that I can't

Be just who you're made to be
Pappa is so mighty pleased with thee

Did I Step On Your Trumpet? from Sounds Familyre on Vimeo.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Making Space

Pádraig Ó Tuama has a great guest post about Lent over at the Observed Blog from Speaking of Faith. This section has been haunting me since Ash Wednesday:
Lent is less for giving up, and more for making space. We make space to contemplate what it is that we will celebrate in 40 days’ time. We make space to recognise our faults. We pray a little more. We allow our emptier stomachs to remind us of the pithiness of our observations in comparison with real hunger. We give more money. We confess. We reconcile. We listen to emptiness for a while. We do not say Alleluia.
I have trouble with space. Because with space comes quiet, and the quiet makes me nervous. If you've known me for any length of time, you know I tend to ramble once I start talking about anything of length. This is either because I mistake your courtesy laughs for genuine enjoyment, or I'm afraid of the inevitable awkward silence that will follow my babbling.

I especially hate making space and quiet for God. If you make space for God and take the time to try and listen, there's always the potential for him to show up. When he shows up, he brings conviction with him. Of course, he also brings grace and hope, but we cannot appreciate this until we have peered into the emptiness and realized we are nothing.

Of course, there is also the risk of him leaving us alone for awhile in the awkward silence and empty space. Either option - being met immediately or being left to wait - forces me to recognize the the fact that he is in control, and I am nothing but a sinner who cannot save himself.

Like I said, I have trouble with space.

A Prayer For The Fifth Day Of Lent
Lord, create a space for us to reflect on our fallen nature and our need for a savior. We pray for courage to peer into the dark corners of the awkward silences, and we pray that you will meet us there. We are quiet before you.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

-Ben Reed, February 22, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The New Jerusalem - A City of Immigrants/A City of Grace

(Author's note: Today's post and prayer were inspired by Jason Dorsey's sermon today at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. Be sure to read Jason's notes on the sermon.)

My wife and I just bought a house in the same city neighborhood where we rent. The current owners are moving to the suburbs because their oldest child will be starting kindergarten in the fall, and they don't want to send her to Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). It's a common story.

In many ways, you can't blame them. Indianapolis has a broken past filled with racism and segregation. It's gritty. The schools aren't great. There are abandoned properties everywhere. Frankly, it's kind of a mess.

And I love it.

I didn't always love it. It took my pastor, Jason Dorsey, a Seattle transplant, to show me the beauty of the place I'd spent most of my life. Jason's love of Indianapolis is infectious. He showed me that not only was this a beautiful place, but also that God loves this city and all cities. He loves the city so much, that the vision of heaven we have to look forward to is a city - the new Jerusalem.

The city is an in-your-face illustration of the brokenness of this world. Not only does God redeem our souls, but he redeems this image of brokenness and transforms it into an image of grace. So spend some time thinking about the city. Think about it in all of its grit, its pain, and its turmoil. Think about the grace of God washing over the city and redeeming it.

A Prayer For The First Sunday Of Lent
Lord, we are all immigrants. We come to this city with our own baggage, our own hopes, and our own expectations of what life in this place will entail. In your goodness, you meet each of us, and you push. You push us so that we might see how unclean we are. You show us how we have constructed idols out of our families, our politics, our nationality and everything else we have chosen as our identity. You push us to step out of our old identity and into an identity of grace - an identity given by you.

We ask for your patience and your strength as we learn to live with others in this city. Help us to see them as you see them. Give us strength to not turn and run when life is not what we imagined it to be. Help us to embody your saving grace as we live in this broken world. And help us to see the beauty in the grit, the decay and the brokenness that so often overwhelms our vision in this place.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

-Ben Reed, February 21, 2010

"City Of Immigrants"
Steve Earle

Livin in a city of immigrants
I don't need to go travelin
Open my door and the world walks in
Livin in a city of immigrants
Livin in a city that never sleeps
My heart keepin time to a thousand beats
Singin in languages I don't speak
Livin in a city of immigrants

City of black
City of white
City of light
City of innocents
City of sweat
City of tears
City of prayers
City of immigrants

Livin in a city where the dreams of men
Reach up to touch the sky and then
Tumble back down to earth again
Livin in a city that never quits
Livin in a city where the streets are paved
With good intentions and a people's faith
In the sacred promise a statue made
Livin in a city of immigrants

City of stone
City of steel
City of wheels
Constantly spinnin
City of bone
City of skin
City of pain
City of immigrants

All of us are immigrants
Every daughter, every son
Everyone is everyone
All of us are immigrants - everyone
Livin in a city of immigrants
River flows out and the sea rolls in
Washin away nearly all of my sins
Livin in a city of immigrants

City of black
City of white
City of light
Livin in a city of immigrants
City of sweat
City of tears
City of prayers
Livin in a city of immigrants

City of stone
City of steel
City of wheels
Livin in a city of immigrants

City of bone
City of skin
City of pain
City of immigrants
All of us are immigrants

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Prayer For The Fourth Day Of Lent

Lord we thank you for the friends you have given us, and the community which they provide. You love community and even embody it in your very being, triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We pray that our earthly community might better reflect your nature. Help us to love each other as you first loved us. And make our community serve as a beacon to draw the world to you.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

-Ben Reed, February 20, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Third Day Of Lent

Earlier this evening I had the privilege of visiting some friends in the hospital to meet their new daughter, born earlier this morning. Holding a newborn is always an amazing thing. An hours old baby is the epitome of innocence.

As I held her, I was amazed at how fragile she felt. As someone who struggled [with my wife] to have a baby, I understand that this moment - this holding of a new baby - is never a guarantee. It is a wonderful thing to behold, and I always feel so much joy for my friends who get to experience it.

We need moments like this during Lent. In this season surrounded by the weight of sin, we need to be reminded of the joy of new life. We live in a violent, fallen world marked by death, and newborns give us a much needed respite from that world.

But the world is violent, and just as God is with us in the joys of new birth, he is also with us in the midst of violence, tragedy and death. Maryann Philbrook discussed violence against women in a recent Lenten reflection. Concerning the tragedies of the world, she said:
Lent is the time that the Church sets aside for us to remember and focus on these tragedies. We do this, not because God is absent in all of this, but because these tragedies are precisely where God is. God’s love for people extends beyond the worst that can possibly happen. Jesus came into the world to give people the ability to live in hope despite our tragic circumstances. Despite all the facts that I listed above, God is here with us. God is giving us hope to face the terrible situations and make something better out of them.

If we lived in a rosy, perfect world we wouldn’t need Lent. If the only problems in our lives are who will organize the Parish Pot luck next week or where we’ll go on vacation next summer we would not need Lent. Lent is a time for us to look around us and look around the world at the serious problems. A time for us to understand the problems. A time for us to immerse ourselves in the problems. We have Lent to be depressed about the world.
As I walked out into the cold Indiana night, I thought of a baby born to a scared teenage girl over 2,000 years ago. God incarnate smuggled into this world as a small helpless child. This violent world would try to have its way with him, but the gates of hell would not prevail. In a few weeks I would erupt with joy at that thought, but tonight there is only sadness.

I live in a world broken by sin – my sin. Soon I would rejoice that I was saved from a tomb of my own making, but tonight I must consider my plight. Tonight I must confess my sin. Tonight I must pray for my soul. Tonight I must pray for the world.

A Prayer For the Third Day of Lent
Lord, we thank you for the gift of life. And we confess that we care little for lives other than our own. We claim to live and let live, because it insulates us from the troubles of this world. We confuse tabloid gossip for news of strife. We give money to others “better positioned” to help those in need, but really we pay to suppress the guilt we feel for our inaction.

We hate those in need, because they remind us that our problems are trivial.

But you are a good God. You do not forget the fatherless or the widow. You care for the orphans. You are present with those who suffer. Correct us when we charge you with apathy for the downtrodden. Remind us that we merely talk; we never act to end injustice.

Send your Holy Spirit to destroy our comfort, to remove the scales from our eyes, and to give us the strength to act as your agents of change in this world.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

-Ben Reed, February 19, 2010

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
James 1:27 (NIV)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Let Your Mercy Spill

It’s the second day of Lent, and I’m already struggling. I have committed to pray for those in my life, and I’m already wishing certain people were no longer in my life. I’ve had no problems praying for those in my inner circle – people in my community group, friends, family, coworkers, etc. It’s easy to pray for people who give something back in the relationship.

We all have those people who seem to only bring grief, struggle or at least major annoyance. Heck, I might be that person in your life. I found myself refusing to pray for those types of people in my life. I couldn’t even muster a simple, “Lord, please bless, John Doe.”

If I’m honest, it’s because I know that prayer will change me (to steal a line from C.S. Lewis). I am afraid that by praying for these people, I will gain either empathy or conviction. Either result forces me to reevaluate my relationship to them, and to admit that I have failed as someone who is supposed to live out the grace of Christ.

I hate being reminded of how pathetic I am when left to my own devices.

A Prayer For The Second Day Of Lent
Lord, we confess that we are imperfect servants who cannot be trusted.

When you ask us to stand for what is right, we run because we do not have faith that you will be there to fight with us.

When you ask us to extend grace to those we disagree with, we destroy friendships in order to prove our doctrinal integrity concerning trivial things.

When you ask us to love our neighbors as ourselves, we long for the day when our neighbors will be more like ourselves and thus easier to love.

And when you ask us to give everything we own to the poor and follow you, we remind you that the poor are in need of rehabilitation not charity.

We confess our pride, our sin, and our bullheaded stupidity. Please transform the desires of our heart to be the desires of your heart. Fill us with your spirit so that we might be a strong fighter, a gentle friend, a loving neighbor, and a charitable person. Show us your will and strengthen us to follow it.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

-Ben Reed, February 18, 2010

“If It Be Your Will”
Leonard Cohen

If it be Your will
That I speak no more
Let my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I will abide until
I am spoken for
If it be Your will

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All Your praises they will sing
If it be Your will
To let me sing

If it be Your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning heats in hell
If it be Your will
To make us well
And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be Your will
If it be Your will

(C)1984 by Leonard Cohen Stranger Music, Inc. (BMI)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

I remember having a conversation a few years ago about whether or not you should wash the ashes off your forehead immediately following the Ash Wednesday service or wear them the rest of the day. A friend told me that you should wear your ashes with pride. This always struck me as odd. I see no pride in the ashes on my forehead; I see only shame.

The ashes are made by burning the palms from last year’s Palm Sunday service. On Palm Sunday we remember that the same crowd that joyously welcomed Jesus into the city, would yell “Crucify him!” less than a week later. The palms are a reminder that too often, when God “fails” to meet our expectation of who we believe he should be, we deny him and call for his head.

The ashes are a shameful reminder of our fallen nature. And they are a necessary somber note to begin the season of Lent.

A Prayer For Ash Wednesday 2010
Lord, as the ashes are pressed to our forehead, we are reminded that from dust we have come and to dust we shall return. And as we leave this sanctuary, marked for all to see, we are overcome with shame. Shame for the fact that we are sinners in need of a savior; shame that we have attempted to reduce you to figurehead; and shame because we can no longer hide our allegiance from the world.

Like St. Peter we have denied you, but now all will see that we are your children. You have marked us with the ashes of our misplaced expectations, our sinful desires and our unbelief. We are sinners saved by grace, and we can no longer deny it.

As we go out into this cold night, we simply pray, “I believe; help thou my unbelief.”

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

-Ben Reed, Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday
Marjorie Maddox

Fingernails scrubbed clean as latrines
in the army, this symbol
of a man dirties his thumb
with our skin, the powdery ash riding high
on his pores, not sinking in
before he sketches the gray
of our dirt-birth across a brow
we were born to furrow.

Listen to the sound of forgiveness:
the crossing of skin, the cult-
like queuing up to explode
in ripped whispers, "Lord,
have mercy, Lord, have
mercy, Lord, have mercy."

And we want it. And we take it
home with us to stare back
from a lover's forehead,
to come off in a smear on the sheets
as we roll onto each other's skin,
or to wear like a bindhi this medal of our not winning
each day we wake to the worlds
we are and are not.

And when we wake too early
before the light of just-becoming-day
sneaks in on us, and we stand lonely, deceived
into piety, scrubbing away the grime of our humanness
like fierce fierce toothbrushes on latrines
in the army, there it is still,
raw with our washings:
the human beneath.

Originally published February 1996 in First Things

Take That And Rewind It Back

I think it’s time to get the band back together. Not that anyone cares, except for the half dozen or so people who are too lazy to delete this blog from their RSS feed after nearly 4 years of silence. But for the first time since June 2006, I think I can finally say, “I’m going to start blogging again.” (I know. Blogging is about as cutting edge as a cassette tape, but then again, I dare to think that a two thousand year old religion is still relevant. Cutting edge isn’t exactly something I care about.)

While I’ll keep the title “They Will Know Us By Our T-Shirts” and the address for now, I will spend precious little time mocking the kitsch of the American Christian subculture. Much like my own faith journey, I think I am ready to move past mocking where I’m from and journey into a place where I begin to ask serious questions about how my faith impacts my life.

A Little History
I started this blog to document my job at a Christian bookstore. It was funny because I was the cynical kid who hated the kitschy t-shirts and Jesus action figures, but found himself selling the very things he hated. Hilarity ensued.

Like anything founded on the idea of being against something, this blog eventually collapsed under the weight of its own hubris. Or to put it more simply, it’s not very fulfilling to only mock something. This blog reflected my faith at the time. I didn’t know what I stood for, but I knew what I didn’t want to be (the guy who made fun of t-shirts). I didn’t think anyone wanted to watch me figure it out, so I just stopped.

A lot has happened since then. I’ve found my way back home to Indianapolis. I’ve become a father. And I’ve finally embraced orthodoxy. (Well, I should say that I am continually struggling by the grace of God to embrace orthodoxy. It’s not always easy.) I’ve seen God’s grace reform my life, and I think it might be time to try and reform this blog.

That’s Great, But What Are You Doing?
While I’m sure discussions of the Christian subculture will still figure into this space, I think I’m going to focus more on the intersection of my faith with my life. Essentially trying to answer the question, “How should we then live?” I’m sure I’ll deal mostly with issues relevant to my life – fatherhood, living in the city, education (I work in higher ed), and food. There will be plenty of food.

I thought I'd start with Lent, traditionally a time when those who have left the church ready themselves through prayer and fasting to be welcomed back at Easter. I thought that had a certain poetic parallel to my desire to reenter the discussions I started on this blog with new eyes and a new heart.

My pastor in Minneapolis, Christian Ruch, often encouraged me to take on something during Lent (like a spiritual discipline) in addition to or instead of fasting. I'm taking on prayer. In addition to spending more time praying for those in my life, I am going to write a prayer for each day of Lent and post it here. 40 straight days of blogging after four years of silence. We'll see how this goes.

A Note About Prayer
The prayers will be written as if they were to be read aloud to a congregation. The Anglican church has a section of their service called Prayers of the People. When it was my turn to lead the prayers, I would often write my own opening prayer during the service. Whatever I was experiencing - the pain of infertility, mind numbing depression, or sheer joy from the realization of God's saving grace - these things always came through and lent a sense of urgency to the prayer. I hope the same thing will happen over these next 40 days.

Maybe I'll even work in a Chris Rice song, for old times sake.