Friday, April 30, 2010

And I Will Hold On Hope

I've spent most of my life trying to figure out what I'm going to do with my life. I want to pursue the passions of my heart, but I never want to commit to what those passions are. I want to live dangerously, but I want to mitigate risk. I want to take the right steps without ever tripping. [Yeah, I want to live in a dream world.]

In her biography, it's mentioned that St. Teresa of Avila "was always afraid that no matter what she did she was going to do everything wrong." That pretty much sums up my life, which is why I found this prayer by her to be so beautiful:
Govern everything by your wisdom, O Lord,
so that my soul may always be serving you
in the way you will
and not as I choose.
Let me die to myself so that I may serve you;
let me live to you who are life itself.

I find that prayer to have a calming effect. Everything in the first paragraph of this post is focused on me and my desires. And when I focus on how I am going to live my life and how I am going to plan out the near future, I get paralyzed by indecision and wind up sitting in a corner listening to Whitney Houston albums. It isn't pretty.

Instead of focusing on my desires, [wait for it] I should focus on God's desires for my life. When you can hand over your dreams and passions to God, he transforms those passions into his passions. Instead of paralyzing indecision, you can grab onto hope. It's empowering.

I found myself thinking of that while listening to Mumford & Sons this week. Their song "The Cave" has so many good lines [full lyrics here]. Some of my favorites:
"And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again"

"Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be"

"So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears"
[Author's aside: That last part about orphans and knowing my call is especially poignant as my wife and I continue to talk about the idea of adoption. But that's a post for another time.]

We are called out of a life focused on ourselves and called into a life focused on God. Only then will we find the clarity to live as God's people in this world, a people marked by grace [and everything that means].

Nothing I've said is new. I've heard it a million times. But I suppose when a 16th century Spanish saint and a folk band from London conspire across the space-time continuum to persuade you to refocus your heart, you should probably shut-up and do it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Home Is Wherever I'm With You

I turn 30 this Friday. As a middle-class white American, I have the luxury of reflecting back on my life and trying to draw truth out of the existential mess – a luxury I partake in a lot. (If I can get my act together – and get through my Stats homework – I’ll post some thoughts on 3 decades of life later this week.)

I’ve had my ups and downs and roundabout paths. I never applied to film school (old regret that fades a little each year) and I started an MDiv, swore it off, and am now very close to starting it again. I’ve had more careers and more identity crisis than I care to remember.

But through the years I met a girl, we made a baby, and we’ve lived a good life. Everything else is just noise.

I have had trouble putting down roots over the last few years. There were the moves from Indianapolis to Minneapolis to Portland back to Minneapolis and finally back to Indianapolis. (That’s not even counting the failed and/or stalled attempts to move to Austin, Orlando, L.A., D.C., and South Korea.) And that girl – my wonderful wife, Nikki – was always along for the ride, no matter how crazy (or melodramatic) it/I was.

I wouldn’t be who I am today without her. And in the rush of celebrations with friends and family, I don’t want to forget to mention that I wouldn’t be here (or be who I am) without her. We do a poor job relishing life, and we do an even worse job of appreciating and celebrating the very people who make this life so great.

So, as I close up the third decade of my life, I just want to thank the woman I love. She’s still that girl I fell in love with in the J-Lab at Taylor, but she’s so much more than that. And whether we die in this house in Irvington sixty years from now or move again in five years, I know that home is wherever I’m with her.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Just A Rude Boy With A New Toy

As you can tell, I got a little "blogged out" during Lent and haven't posted in over a week. I've been trying to craft a thoughtful reflection on my little Lenten experiment, because the world totally needs more people reflecting on the effectiveness of their own navel gazing. I have yet to deliver this magnum opus because of a combination of exhaustion (a.k.a. laziness) and being pulled in too many directions (a grown-up way of saying I have poor time management skills and an inability to say no).

When I get tired, I tend to veer headfirst into melodrama. I think we'd all like to avoid that. So instead of giving you what I was working on (a reflection on being a father that felt like it should air at 2 a.m. on Lifetime), I will give you a music video.

I've been going through some old CDs. It's probably just nostalgia, but I've softened on some of my old music. It's not that bad. So I think it's time to go back to a simpler time (1997) and rock out to a little O.C. Supertones. Everybody dance. You know you want to.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Good Man Died Yesterday

Michael Spencer died yesterday. You can find plenty of thoughts on Michael’s life and death, but I found Andy Whitman’s to be especially poignant.

Michael’s blog The Internet Monk provided a great amount of inspiration and strength for me, especially when I was living in Portland and struggling with my faith. If my life (and my blog for that matter) could have one tenth of the intelligence, compassion and bravery that Michael exhibited, then I could die a happy man.

May he rest in peace.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday - Our Empire Of Dirt

Good Friday is always a somber day for me. It's the day we remember Christ's conviction, torture and death. It was probably quite a sight. The crowd that loved him on Sunday is now jeering at him as he dies a torturous death.

Everything was going great for the crowd until the sun stopped shining for three hours, the temple curtain was torn in two, the earth shook, and people rose from the dead. At that point, I'm guessing they all thought something like, "Oh shit."

Or as the Roman centurion who witnessed the events said, "Surely this man was the Son of God."

It must have been suffocating to suddenly realize that you were wrong - to realize that you had just killed the Son of God. And all you could do was remember all the sins in your life that nailed him to that cross.

Our sin is never private - we never hurt just ourselves. No matter how hard we try to wash it away, there is still blood on our hands.

A Prayer For Good Friday
Lord, your love incarnate in your son has shown us the ugliness of our sin. Our crimes are so heinous that they require the ultimate sacrifice - the blood of your son. Even as we gaze on the cross, we are so arrogant that we claim to think you are evil for demanding such a sacrifice. Break us of our pride and rescue us in our sin.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

-Ben Reed, April 2, 2010

Johnny Cash - Hurt from kakofoni on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Maundy Thursday - Our Lord Was Afraid

One of my favorite songs in recent memory is "Up On A Mountain" by The Welcome Wagon. It's a nice portrait of Christ's last night in Gethsemane when he goes to pray before he is betrayed by Judas Iscariot. He asks his most trusted apostles to come pray with him, and they can't stay awake. You can read the full account here.

Not long ago we were listening to it, and my wife pointed out the line, "Up on a mountain our LORD is afraid." She thought it odd to think of Jesus as being afraid, but he was. He begged God to find another way, and yet he ultimately submitted to the will of the Father.

It's a beautiful, tragic image of Jesus that I find comforting and inspiring in so many ways. But I think what strikes me the most is the image of Jesus Christ begging and pleading with God late at night for things to be different. He begs for comfort in the midst of fear. Anyone who has struggled with depression knows what that is like. [I should note that in Luke's version of the story, God sent an angel from heaven to strengthen him. He was not alone, even if he felt like it.]

It is Christ at his most human - he is vulnerable. The creator of the universe, the savior of the world, became man - and he was afraid. And I can relate to him. I can connect to him. And he can empathize with me because he has been afraid. He has faced the darkness. He has felt alone.

I think it's a sobering [and hopeful] image to reflect on this Maundy Thursday evening.

A Prayer For Maundy Thursday
Lord, we are afraid. We strive to find light, but all we see is darkness. We feel as if hope is dead. Send us your spirit to strengthen us. You are God who has known fear, and we pray for your empathy and your strength.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

"Up On A Mountain"
Words and Music: Vito Aiuto
© New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP

Up on a mountain our LORD is alone
Without a family, friends, or a home
He cries – ohhh, ohhh, ohhh –
Will you stay with me?
He cries – ohhh, ohhh, ohhh –
Will you wait with me?

Up on a mountain our LORD is afraid
Carrying all the mistakes we have made
And he knew – ohh, ohh, ohh – it’s a long way down
Do you know – ohh, ohhh – he came all the way down

Up in the heavens our LORD prays for you
He sent his Spirit to carry us through
So its true – ohhh, ohhh – that you’re not alone.