Dave Matthews Band  

Posted by Ben in

I got into Dave Matthews Band just about a year ago. I am very grateful that i have as they have become my favorite band. I had an opportunity to possibly go to a show and didn't, i believe because of lack of money. Kinda wish i would have! Anyways i made it a MUST to go to a show this year. I was going to go both nights they played in Indy but couldnt find the money or anyone to go with, so i settled for friday night. It was a superb time, I met a bunch of cool people, had a blast, got phone numbers and we all plan to meet up for next year's show, pretty cool if you ask me, don't know if it will happen or not. I just like that we made such a good connection.

Seek Up
One Sweet World
Grey Street
Old Dirt Hill
Pantala Naga Pampa >>
What Would You Say?
Rhyme And Reason
Out of My Hands
Crash Into Me
Lie In Our Graves
Money - [Pink Floyd Cover]
Money (That's What I Want) - [Beatles Cover]
Anyone Seen The Bridge? >>
Too Much (Intro)>>
Ants Marching

Encore Break

Thank You (For Lettin Me Be Myself Again) - [Sly & The Family Stone Cover]

Played for 3 hours straight, absolutely incredible. I was a little sad that they did not play #41 but it is alright. Tim Reynolds is touring with them this summer so it was super exciting to see/hear him. His presence really was incredible.

Leroi Moore is injured, he suffered an ATV accident in which he broke many ribs and punctured a lung. He was readmitted to the hospital a couple of days ago. Jeff Coffin of Bela Fleck & The Flecktones played in his stead and he was a worthy substitute. I am praying for a good recovery for him.

All in all it was absolutely great show and the amazing part was that it was without Butch Taylor and Leroi Moore. This will definitely be AT LEAST an annual event in my life.

Life is Beautiful  

Posted by Ben in

Life truly is beautiful. It's also full of a lot of junk, and sometimes life plain sucks. This morning I had to go to the funeral of a 20 year old young man who is the older brother of a student in our youth group, named Ben. The deceased was named Tim. The pastor nailed the sermon, just nailed it. He said...

I am not going to tell you that "God planned this" or that somehow this is "part of God's great plan or design." I will not tell you that because i simply do not believe it. God does not plan for a 20 year old who is so bright, so loved, and so loving to die at 20 years old. God doesn't plan for grandparents and parents to have to bury their children and grandchildren. I am going to try and put this in the vernacular of Timmy and his friends, I think if I were twenty i would say it this way.

"This Sucks!"

It sucks that a 20 year old died and that we have to be here today. And you know what? I am sure many of you have said that and will continue to say that in the days coming. I am sure many of you have wept over this. I assure you God has wept too, and does so with you. You know how i know that? Because he did when his friend Lazarus died.

He went on to explain that Jesus knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, so why did he cry? The preacher proposed what I believe, Jesus wept with Mary and Martha in their pain. He wept over their pain. He wept at the state of His creation, that man should have to deal with the pain of death. He wept because it was not part of his plan. He probably said in Aramaic...

"This sucks!"

That's a powerful message, we serve a God that weeps with us and weeps over the fact that we face the pains of life.

Oldie Goldies  

Posted by Ben in ,

I have been doing sunday school with the old folk for about two months now. I absolutely love it. I have decided that is certainly a theme which i believe would be a part of a communal or organic church. I think that part of our work would be visiting the shut-ins and the folks in nursing homes who do not get visitors. I think giving them a community to be a part of is an important part of the gospel.

Today i finally got a lot of my kids/teenagers to come with me. You should have seen the excitement on Patsy and MarryLou's faces! There was a new woman there today and for the life of me i cannot remember her name. Anyways she had the most beautiful voice. She did not talk to me other than that, no matter how hard i tried. I did a hard thing, i let a couple of our boys take Patsy to her room to get a "sodey" without me. Nathaniel smiled so large when he arrived back in the main room with Patsy. I think he is beginning to see the "small things."

As we were leaving I told marrylou we would be back next week and "we love you all."

She responded and said "oh we love you too!" I am sure she didn't just mean me, but meant all of our group of teens. But what an amazing honor. I love you are three very special words and they meant the world to me today.

New Look, New Series?  

Posted by Ben in , ,

I have a new look, I LOVE IT. Only one problem, date stamps don't seem to be working currently, I'm working on that. We shall see if i can fix it, if not i may just go with a different template.

So Chicken & Cigarettes is done for now, probably for good. I will be returning to St. Vincent's park in Baltimore hopefully on August 4th with Galen though if i do blog on that trip, I am sure it will be a new series, new name.

As for now, I do intend to keep an honest and somewhat consistent blog. It will mostly be my thoughts, things that happen each day, what i'm learning each new day. Currently i have a post directing people to The Jesus Creed for a discussion on the concept of "heaven" as it appears in scripture. I would like to bounce back and forth on meaningful discussion i see over there, coupled with my own insight when i get into reading Surprised By Hope which most likely will not start until September. I do not know how much i will do on that.

My real current passion is praxis, the application of our theology in the Christian Life. I don't like the idea of "application of our theology in ministry" because their is no ministry which exists outside the life of the Christian. All ministry is meant to be done within the context of relationship, flowing out of the heart of the individual as it is formed and transformed in relationship with the Redeemer. I will be taking a class on Praxis this coming semester. I also currenly read a book on the subject of doing ministry in the 21st century and beyond called The New Conspirators by Tom Sine (which i have yet to review but is a MUST READ for those going into "full time ministry"), and am currently reading two books on the subject entitled New Kind of Youth Ministry by Chris Folmsbee and Organic Church by Neil Cole. I am turning over the idea in my head of starting an organic church plant after i graduate.

So I intend to blog on my ideas as I pray through this and walk through this in the days coming up. The questions I will be seeking to answer are this:

What would Church look like over the next 20 years if Jesus started it?
When and where would it meet?
What would it spend it's money on?

The answer to these questions begins with "Community."

I'd love input! So please chime in and tell me what you are thinking as i go along!

Chicken & Cigarettes - Pt. 10 - Frank & Emily  

Posted by Ben in

To those of you who have been reading these, thank you for enjoying as i have shared my experiences. This post concludes my series journaling my trip to Baltimore. I have been working in a Chronological order of events, but this post will break that. This story touched my heart beyond measure, I hope it does the same to you. I pray you will press into finding Christ in the unlikely places, the lowly things, the foolish things. I hope you will be open to the Spirit's humbling and teaching. Enjoy...

...I had left for a few minutes to go take a call while Galen and D'Andre passed out the pizza to those in the park. As I came back from around the side of the church, a man said "thank you so much for the pizza, are you going to have some?" I responded by saying "no, thank you. I am actually fasting today." The man replied by saying "God Bless you!" I walked around the park soaking in the sights and sounds, the joy. I was smiling uncontrollably when i looked over and saw Galen sitting down at a park bench at the far end of the park. He had handed a couple slices of pizza to the woman who was laying on the park bench. Another man had taken the pizza from him and proceeded to finish handing it out, since Galen was at this point engaged in conversation. I made my way over to him, analyzing the sight. He was not only sitting on the dirty ground, talking to this older lady who was sitting on a park bench, he was positioned at her feet. Why is this significant you ask? In Scot McKnight's book, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others,
he identifies the position of Mary while Martha was running around the house preparing dinner. He shows that Mary was in the presence of Jesus, sitting at his feet. Scot points out that Disciples of any teacher are usually spoken of as having "studied under" the teacher or "studied at the feet" of a certain teacher. He shows us that in the Jewish culture at this time, the disciples would literally sit around a room on the floor while the teacher (in this case Jesus) would sit in a chair and teach. This positioned the disciple to look up at the teacher, and in a posture of ready to receive. He explains that in our walk as a disciple of Christ, a disciple is one who sits at the feet of Jesus. Galen had this position to this woman.

I came up and joined Galen on the dirty ground and listened as this woman thanked us for the pizza and asked us what we were doing in the park. She told us her name, Emily Dodd. She told us her story.

She did not have much education. She had lived decently most of her life, her husband was a Marine, James Dodd I believe was his name. He sailed on an American ship and would be gone from time to time. They never had a lot of money, but never needed for anything either. Well, James had passed away about 5 years ago, leaving Emily, who'd not had a job and was physically unable to have one at this point, without much. She said she "bounced around from place to place, and eventually found herself there, in the park."

She was still collecting a small sum of money from the government for her husband's pension, though this was not much to speak of. She was now 72 and had many physical ailments. As one can imagine, the outside is not a nice place for a 72 year old woman, and a park bench does not do well on already old and aching bones and joints. She was actively looking around for a place in the city that would suit her income, but hadn't had any luck so far. It was amazing listening to her talk about her husband, you could tell it was so nice to have someone listen to her, listen about this wonderful man whom had meant the world to her. Everything became real when he had a name, had an occupation. He was not simply some woman's husband. He was James Dobb, he was a mariner on a U.S. Marine ship. He was a real person. She too was more than a woman on a park bench. She had a real story, a real past, real pain.
We prayed with her. We thanked God for having met her, and we prayed that she would be able to find a place which would suit her income. We prayed that he would touch her aching joints, especially her very bad knee. She prayed and thanked God for having met us, and for our kindness. Such an undeserved, humbling prayer.

As we finished praying, we talked some more and shared life together. As we were there talking, a man came up and dropped a bag in her lap. The man was somewhat taller and had not shaved in a very long time. You could tell he was most likely homeless as well. She said "Oh thank you! What is this?" In the bag was a piece of fried chicken and a sandwich.

He immediately responded by saying "don't thank me, thank God. He provided for me, so i'm providing for you!" My stomach twisted as tears began to form in my eyes. My heart began to beat fast as I looked over to Galen who was smiling at me with the same look in his eyes.

She asked the man why she had earned such favor and what his name was. He did not oblige her with the knowledge of his name, for he said his name did not matter, it was God who deserved thanks, not him. He proceeded to tell her that while they were downtown sometime the other day, he had seen her and asked her for a cigarette.

"When i was in need, you helped me and God has put it on my heart that as long as i trust him to provide for me, that i am to provide for you. If i do so, God will be faithful to provide for me. God does not bless us for our own good, but so that we can bless others. I came across a bit of fried Chicken and a sandwich. I could have eaten it all, but i didn't need it all, and God commanded the Israelites not to take more manah than they needed, but to trust God to provide the next day. If i am faithful to bless you and not keep it all for myself and trust God to provide, He surely will"

Such is the hope of the Gospel! Israel was a blessed nation so that they might bless the world with the knowledge of HaShem, El-Shaddai, the Living God, YHWH, their deliverer and the deliverer of all mankind.

We who are blessed with the knowledge of Christ and with the love of Christ are to be a blessing to others with the knowledge of Christ and the love of Christ. As Scot McKnight states in one of his blogs, "...ties together the Bible around the theme of God’s redemptive work — anyone who reads the Bible and doesn’t talk about “salvation” is wiping out the big idea."

This redemptive work of salvation does not speak of "going to heaven." It speaks of the redemption of all of creation, especially mankind, from the fall and affects of sin, through the power, knowledge, and love of the redeemer God, ultimately ending in an eternity spent with Him in a world where creation has been completely restored. The Gospel is the realization of God's work in human history. The death and Resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit restored man's relationship with God and gave man access to God. This gives us power over sin through the Holy Spirit, the power to defeat sin in our lives, the power to share the love and knowledge of Christ, and the power to be the hands and feet of Christ to work to defeat the affects of sin on God's world in our lives, present in such places as AIDS/HIV, pornography, addictions, poverty, abuse, violence, and pollution which all destroy the world, and personal sin which destroys the individual as well as the community. When we are blessed, it is so that we might bless others and be a part of this redemptive work.

We like to talk about this in classrooms, in church sanctuaries, in youth groups, over coffee, and over communion. These are great places, and I hope God meets us there. But here it was, the Gospel alive, working and moving in front of me in the form of chicken and cigarettes.

We had gone to Baltimore to be love, to love others, to share Christ with others, to be Christ to others. We did not expect to meet Christ on the streets of Baltimore. When was the last time we invited someone to the dirty street to meet Christ? When was the last time we met Christ in Chicken and Cigarettes? Christ and His Gospel span all demographics, all lines of age, wealth, social class, denomination, race, sex, vocation. It is available to all peoples, in all places. You don't have to go to a church to find Him. You can meet Him where you are. He is alive in the work of the hands and hearts of His people. He is at work through a couple loaves of bread and a few fish, and through chicken and cigarettes.

Chicken & Cigarettes - Pt. 9 - Raining In Baltimore  

Posted by Ben in

He demonstrated to a visitor how he sleeps in the rain, under a purple comforter and a brown tarp."This is how people sleep," Anthony said, snuggling up in his comforter while tucking the tarp under his wooden bench. Still, he said that when it rains hard, there's no staying dry. "That's when it's really terrible," he said.- Quote taken from the article in the Baltimore Sun.

Sleeping on a park bench is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Again, i cannot imagine doing it every night. It had gotten very cold that night, about 45-50 degrees. Not exactly optimal sleeping temperature, even for those who like it cold. It was quite astonishing just how cold it really was. I was wearing three pair of underwear, a pair of gym shorts, and jeans. On my torso i had two t-shirts, a sweatshirt, and a wool coat. I wore wool gloves and a wool hat. I had the thin but oh-so-helpful blanket Anthony had given me, and a rubber blanket we'd brought from Galen's. One would have thought all of this would suffice. It did not.

I woke up several times throughout the night. I wasn't too cold as i closed my eyes and fell asleep. But when i awoke the first time, to the sound of an ambulance driving by on President's St getting onto I-83, I felt frozen to the core. I woke up again to the sound of a man yelling, telling a story of two guys who had really upset him and that he was really going to give it to. Galen and I both awoke to this sound, and were quite worried for some time. We knew from the story those two guys couldn't be us, but this was just a situation which brought pure anxiety. The temperature was nearly unbearable as you shook and shivered, making it all the harder to get back to sleep.

I finally got to sleep about a half hour to an hour later. I would say I got another hour and a half of sleep before I awoke to the worst imaginable thing at that time.

Drip. (no way, that's gotta be dew falling from the tree)

Drip. Drip. (just go back to sleep, it will go away)

Drip. (see, it's just dew)

Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip, Drip. (Oh crap, here it comes)

We had known there was a chance it would rain about 10pm-midnight. It had made it until 2am with clear skies, we had thought we had surely gotten lucky. Not so much.

I made my way back to sleep and hoped it would all be gone when i woke up in the morning, believing somehow that i would get another 4 or 5 hours of sleep if i got back to sleep. About an hour and a half later i woke up again to the sounds of morning traffic coming into the city for work twenty feet away. The rain had not subsided or even subdued, instead it had swelled to a point of downpour and the whole world around me was a swamp. I was small enough that i fit on the park bench alright and under the rubber blanket ok but, as Anthony stated, there was no staying dry. In fact i have scarcely felt more wet in my life. There was this hole in the middle of the rubber blanket so as to allow you to wear it as a poncho, and i had not properly placed it to where this hole would not be a factor. I had one section of my arm and torso which was drenched from rain making it's way through. I sat there in misery for an entire hour, feeling as though i was in a bad dream, wanting to be anywhere but where i was. I have never felt so rich and privileged.

I couldn't take it any more so i got up and began to walk around, trying to shake off the cold. It simply would not go away. I saw that the residents of the park had much more advanced tarps to keep the rain out. Oh how i longed for one of them. I got in my car and hit the road to attempt to get a little warmth and to find the bank. I had to have my car moved from the Church's parking lot by 8am so they could use the space for parishioners of morning mass. I got myself lost going in the wrong direction on I-83 with no map and no exits to be found. I got myself even farther lost after taking an exit, and that's when Galen called.

"Where are you?"
"I don't know, I'm lost. REALLY lost. I don't know if i'll ever make it back. I have tried three gas stations and no one speaks English, and if they do, somehow they've just moved into the city and can't help me."
"I would love to be lost in a car with you right now. Anywhere but here."

I eventually found my own way back, understand i mean no offense to those who could not speak english, it was simply the fact of the situation i was in. As i arrived at the park, Galen was now nowhere to be found. I called him.

"Where are you?"
"Outside McDonald's trying to get money for a hash brown. No one will spare even 50 cents so i can get a hash brown. They don't even ignore me or walk past, they just simply say 'no'."

I found him later and he looked the part; we both did. Our stomaches were growling as we had fasted the previous day. We walked to the bank so i could deposit checks and we could have some money for breakfast. It was still raining, still cold and we were still not dry, still not warm. We had to walk to the bank once which was about a fifteen minute walk. As we arrived, wet and cold, it was closed. We walked back to the park to find my car and deposit quarters into the parking meter. Another fifteen minute walk. We began the trek back to the bank. Another fifteen minutes.

By this point the cold and wet was almost unbearable. We got the checks deposited. We started walking back to the park. This would make an hour of walking back and forth in the cold rain just for depositing a couple checks. Needless to say we are frustrated. We had not gotten a good night's sleep, maybe 4 to 5 hours of total sleep, broken up ever hour or so. As we would attempt to cross the street while the little lit man said "walk" we were almost run over by the numbers of commuters who could not care about anything except making it to their destination. Apparently left turns take priority over a pedestrian who has a "walk" light. This was a recurring theme and eventually you just had to force your way out there and someone would be smart enough to hit their brakes. One street we crossed was particularly harder than others, with more stubborn drivers. Finally i pushed my way out into the street. A man almost hit me, slammed on his brakes, honked, and looked upset. As he drove passed i threw my arms up in disbelief and the police officer in the middle of the street who was supposed to be directing traffic began yelling at me because I was crossing while i had an orange hand warning me not to. There was no room for me to discuss the fact that she had not been doing her job, that i had been trying while i had a walk signal, and they had not allowed me to do so, and i was stuck in the middle of the road while it turned to a stop. I also had no patience to deal with this stupidity. I was very frustrated and in disbelief. But such is the cycle. I appeared homeless, they are a drain on society who collect welfare checks from people who work hard and that particular man was going to work to pay for my welfare check, so his need to get to work was more important than my need to cross the street. End of story.

And I get no answers
And I dont get no change
Its raining in baltimore, baby
But everything else is the same
-Raining In Baltimore by Counting Crows

"I long for the suburbs of Chicago to meet the slums of Calcutta. When the poor come face to face with the rich, riches will mean nothing and when the rich meet the poor we will see an end to poverty."

Chicken & Cigarettes - Pt. 8 - Prayers for Prostitutes  

Posted by Ben in

"Jesus never talked to a prostitute because he never saw a prostitute. He only saw a child of God he was madly in love with." - The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne

For anyone who has not read The Kingdom of God is a Party by Tony Campolo, I think it's a good idea to do so, but I wouldn't make it on the top of your "to read" list. Instead, listen to a sermon he gave at a Christian Community Development Association conference here. Whatever you do, don't write this off just because of reservations you may have about Dr. Campolo. It is powerful and moving. He tells a story of a time he was in Hawaii and ran into a bunch of prostitutes. Long story short, he threw a birthday party for a prostitute at 3 a.m. and gave her a glimpse of the Kingdom here. For a moment, she felt the love God has been pursuing her with. This sermon, or address, moved me greatly and inspired my following interaction.

As we sat down on my park bench, for a quick recap and prayer before going to bed for the night, a woman came by and said hey. She sat on the park bench across from us, where Galen would be sleeping for the night. Her name was Laura. She had the look of a woman who had once been beautiful, but years of hard living had taken their toll on her and it almost looked like something had stolen that beauty from her. She said she'd heard about us, and wanted to know "So you all just trying to get the experience? Just doin it for kicks to see what it's like?" Apparently this is something that people will do from time to time, sounds like a somewhat fruitless endeavor to me.

We explained to her that we indeed were not interested in simply "finding out what it's like." We were far more interested in the people, and attempting to love, be love, be Christ, and hopefully help someone spiritually. At the very least, we wanted to see, and be seen. To give others the chance to know, and be known. It just seems that being known, and being heard, are two things lacking for those on the margins of society. She said something to the extent of "oh, wow." She then began to talk to us about herself and what she does/why she does it. A lot of it turned into rambling about her interactions with the folks who stay in the park. Some of it was interesting, some of it was downright pointless, until i realized that she was seeking to be heard. That is all, just to be heard. Something i take for granted every day.

She was kind enough to warn us to make sure we locked up our wallets in the car and that i hid my keys somewhere no one could take them from me while i slept. She assured us that as much as people had appreciated us, there would still be those who would seek to get ahead at our expense. She told us that she doesn't particularly like what she does, i can't imagine she would. She said sometimes you have to do what you have to do to put food on the table. She doesn't have kids, so i struggle with that, but i am not her and have not gone through what she's gone through. We simply let her be heard, talked to her about ourselves, and told her of our hope in Christ. She seemed content with the fact that she was a good person, and this was just something that she had to do. We didn't attempt to change her mind, what can you do but offer the hope of Christ? She certainly didn't reject the idea of Christ and His love, she seemed interested in how it had manifested itself in our lives, but she only had so much interest for the subject. We entertained her for a short while, heeded her advice, thanked her for it, and told her we'd be praying for her.

That night i prayed a prayer that God would deliver her from the horrible things men had done to her. "That is how these things start, some slob messes a girl over when they're really young and we blame her when we should be blaming him." Such a powerful line that shook my core when Tony Campolo said it. I can't imagine feeling that's the only way to make it, i can't imagine how she got there, she didn't quite inform us and it wasn't a question i dared ask. My heart went out for her and i prayed that God would help her feel HIS love, and that God would send someone her way in the future who could change her position in life. Give her hope. We still intend on going back, maybe we can be that at a later date. The only thing we could do that night was pray.

Galen told me the next morning that when we woke up around 2am to the sound of an ambulance and man yelling, that he had seen Laura out on the corner.

Lord, deliver her.

Deliver us.

Chicken & Cigarettes- Pt. 7 - Angels Named Anthony  

Posted by Ben in

We walked around the harbor for about two or three hours before it became too tiresome to carry our belongings much more and our feet began barking at us. It was only May, so the night air brought with it cooler temperatures. In fact, it hadn't been all too hot since about three in the afternoon. Galen and I took a seat outside of the National Aquarium's Dinosaur Exhibit. We spoke of our day, of the joy and the great things. We talked of the pains we'd met in people throughout the day. We dreamed together of a day when people will no longer need or want for anything, because everyone will love each other enough to provide. A world where Capitalism doesn't work and Communism is not necessary. A world based on God's economy, a world I believe is here for us to participate in. We talked about how we'd experienced God's presence with us through the day and we told each other of how blessed we were to have so much. We dreamed for our individual futures, where God would lead us with girls, what family might look like. We did life together sitting on a chain lining the sidewalk, looking up at a Tyrannosaurus Rex. We finished with a smile and decided we should be on our way back.

We got within a couple blocks and could see the old boiler tower which was just across the road; this was the sign we were close. Close to home. As we came into the park we were greeted by a man who was holding a newspaper.

"Hey, did you guys see this?" he exclaimed, pointing at the cover story of the Baltimore Sun. There was a sorrow in his voice which was unmistakably clear.

We hadn't any time to figure out what he was pointing at or why before he grabs our shoulders and goes "hey, i heard about what you all did today with the pizza and all and how you have been here spending time with us in our park. People have been talking a lot about you all. You are angels." I have never wanted to laugh so hard, but i knew what he meant, and it meant a lot to me. I am certainly no angel, just a pitiful man trying to follow Jesus but it touched my heart to know that we had done such a small thing and it had meant so much to people.

Anthony proceeded to show us that his photo accompanied the cover story of the newspaper under the headline "City makes agreement with local church to help homeless." I felt it was hopeful, and my first reaction was excitement. My eyes were quickly opened to the reality of the situation, one I'd never thought of before. He told us of how he had once been a successful student in school, as well as a hard worker with a good job. He told us he graduated high in his class in high school and went on to receive a degree from college. For his picture to appear on the front page labeling him as homeless was, to say the least, embarrassing. He said "I have friends, what are they going to think when they see me like that? Oh, how it hurts."

His words pierced my heart as i realized the problem is bigger than we think. I always knew they were "human" and needed to be "loved" and treated like "human" more often than we do as a society. However, i realized that there is a greater picture to God's redemptive work and story. You see, God's kingdom is not only one where riches pass and poverty ends, where brotherhood is found, and everlasting joy and love are the characteristics. God's Kingdom does not only yearn in this world that all "have homes," in fact i believe that to believe it in these terms is to be completely un-biblical. Jesus' ministry shows us that God's dream is not for "homes," but for dignity. God's Kingdom is one of restoration, where those on the margins of society are restored to their proper place at the center of society as loved and honored members of the blessed community. It does not simply give them a home, or sight, or stop their bleeding, or make them speak, or cast out their demons, or make them get up and walk, it is a Kingdom where their dignity is restored.

When Jesus healed the woman of her bleeding, she was no longer unclean. When Jesus healed the leper, he touched him, he felt him as human, and the leper could now go back into the walls of the city and join his people. When Jesus healed the Demon Possessed Naked Guy (DPNG) of his "legion" of demons, that man was able to enter the city once again, in fact he preached the GOOD NEWS to TEN DIFFERENT CITIES! When the crippled man's friends lowered him through the roof of the house, Jesus did not make him able to walk first, no, he said "you're sins are forgiven," restoring to him his dignity and ability to be a member of society.

This is God's dream that we are to work for here, not a simple, worldly idea of everyone "having a house."

We prayed with Anthony that God would heal his disabilities which had been the cause of his inability to work over the past years, and that God would heal his heart and hurt. We prayed that God would restore his dignity, and we thanked God for the city's intents to help those in need. We prayed that God's reconciliation would be at work in Anthony's heart so that he might see the good intentions of the reporter, and forgive her for using his photo and bringing shame to him. We prayed that the reporter would catch God's vision of restoration and her heart would become aware of the affects of using such a photo in such a way without permission. We thanked Anthony for teaching us, and for his kind words.

It was cold that night but we had many layers on and we thought we'd be alright. Anthony asked us if we had blankets. We responded with a no, but assured him that we had enough layers. He in turn assured us that we did not and gave us each one of his. It was only about 45 degrees that night and i don't know what i would have done without that blanket.

And he said we were the angels...

Chicken & Cigarettes- Pt. 6 - Jesus' Neighborhood  

Posted by Ben in

poverty is so hard to see
when it’s only on your tv
and twenty miles across town

where we’re all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
from going through our trash
he says, more than just your cash and coin
i want your time, i want your voice
i want the things you just can’t give me
- Rich Young Ruler by Derek Webb

The prospect of sleeping on a park bench is not nearly as inviting as one might think, though you may not even think it to be inviting. To think of doing so from our warm beds is hard enough, but to stare a park bench in the face and realize that's the best you are going to get for the night, and it is truly going to happen, is downright depressing. I can't imagine doing it every night.

So, with the sun making it's way towards the horizon and the cooler air setting in, Galen and I decided to do some walking around the city. We hoped this would tire our legs, feet, and joints out enough that we could get to sleep rather quickly. We headed into the Harbor and went sight-seeing.

For those of you who are not as familiar with the East Coast, Baltimore is a port city which sits directly on the Chesapeake Bay. It is similar to Chicago in that as you move into the harbor (such as towards Lake Michigan) the city continually gets more exciting. So we took a walk into the harbor and it didn't take long to see what I was not looking for. A divide. I know this blog seems like a simple point to make that doesn't need to be made, but i was just in awe.

We walked downtown and saw person after person wearing the newest fashions, walking into and out of fine restaurants, and laughing while enjoying each others' company. I don't propose that these things are bad, in any way, i was just blown away by walking into a different world. We walked through a beautiful city on an early summer night, saw beautiful buildings, beautiful people, and just realized that we were not at home. We saw a few beggars, and met a man who was homeless and spoke with us for quite a while on our way back to the park. All we really understood from his was "you have three and then one goes down the hole and you have two." We weren't sure what he was talking about or what you had three of, but we did learn that there was a strip club we should go to just down the road. I wouldn't call this a fruitful conversation, but we tried. Everyone else seemed to walk by him as though he was invisible. You saw how out of place these needy people were in a world of affluence, and there were so many in need just a few blocks down the street.

I don't mean to say our economic well-being is bad, in fact quite the opposite, i wish that for those in the park. What i am saying is I long to see a day and a world where the world of the rich seems conscious of the sufferings of those without. As Shane Claiborne says in his book The Irresistible Revolution, "I long for the suburbs of Chicago to meet the slums of Calcutta. For I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will mean nothing, and when the rich truly meet the poor, we will see an end to poverty."

What if every time we passed someone begging us for money, it was Jesus in disguise?


Posted by Ben in ,

The neat part about having my own blog is that i get to speak where i want to speak, and put friends in the direction of smarter people where their knowledge is better than mine. There is an awesome discussion of "Heaven" going on over at Scot McKnight's Blog, Jesus Creed. Check it out, it's in light Bishop N.T. Wright's book "Surprised By Hope" which is on top of my "To Read" list. Check it out, lots of insight from a brilliant New Testament scholar, and lots of insightful discussion from readers in the comments.


Best Coffee in the World  

Posted by Ben in

So it would be impossible for me to write coffee suggestions without providing the most important suggestion.

In December I was looking at Christmas gifts and my sister was asking me what i wanted. I had done some research and found the "world's best coffee." I did some research and found it had received the highest rating ever by Coffee Review. Upon doing some more research, i found that it had sold for $130/lb. green at an internet auction which broke all records for any coffee (other than that silly one that cats eat). This is a single origin farm coffee that can be reproduced. I found no way to get my hands on the actual coffee that had sold at the auction, but MANY roasters had bought up the coffee from the same farm. The only difference was that these beans had not been sold at the auction record-breaking coffee had come, though they come from the same field These coffees received high scores, and PT's Coffee Roasters in Topeka Kansas received a score of a record 97 on Coffee Review, depending upon the quality of the roaster. Anyways, i had my sister buy me 12oz. of this coffee and might i say that it was well worth the experience and my joy should make her money well-spent.

It is a little pricey, so i suggest that if you are the type of person who is into this, put some money aside for coffee and use a couple months worth of coffee funds to acquire a whole pound of this, or see if anyone is willing to help you buy 12oz. It was by far the best coffee i've ever tasted. It had strong notes of cherry and other berries. It had some strong red fruit notes and ended with a sweet hint of sugar cane. Absolutely phenomenal. I could not believe it. Every sip was astounding and i swear fireworks went off in my mouth. You can acquire a bit here. This is the roaster i got my 12oz from and it received the record score of 97 from Coffee Review.

Check it out, and i suggest you buy some if you can justify spending $35 on coffee.

Brew method i used: French Press

Coffee Suggestions  

Posted by Ben in

So it was my intent when i began this blog to write on Coffee, hints the first name "Christ & Coffee." Anyone who knows me knows that next to my love of God and love of people, Coffee is pretty close. I absolutely love it. They also know I am rather particular about my coffees, and that i won't drink bad coffee. So lately i've been doing some looking and there are a few coffees i am in desperate want of trying. I plan to order the first here in a week or so, just a matter of deciding which one to try first. I suggest anyone else try these coffees as well. I am always up for giving advice on good coffees to try.

El Salvador - El Retiro Estate (Direct Trade): from 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters

Bolivia - Chicaloma (Organic) - Cup of Excellence Winner #12 : from 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters
(This one broke all records for highest selling price of green beans from Bolivia)

Ethiopian Aricha Nine: from Coffee Klatch

Any other coffee lovers out there, I suggest you make one of these three on the top of your list for next coffee to buy!

Chicken & Cigarettes - Pt. 5 - Pizza Parties in the Park  

Posted by Ben in

Remember being in elementary school? (Heck, for that matter, even middle school or high school if we're honest with ourselves). There were a few things which brought more joy than anything else. The first few days of school were GREAT because you finally got to see all of your friends, the few days before Christmas break were awesome (and the next few after it was over SUCKED). The best of course had to be the end of the school year, the last week, and certainly the last day. So much joy! There was another day that was always the best, Pizza Parties. It didn't matter if it was for a class, for homeroom, or some kid's parents brought it in for their birthday or for no reason, they were great. I think if we are really honest we will admit that a big group of people and 15 pizzas is a scene which still incites much joy to us as adults.

So on our way down we came up with a great idea, we would buy a bunch of pizza and have a party in the park. When was the last time these people had someone do something like that for them? It could have been somewhat recently, after all there are workers at the mission nearby who are very friendly, but chances are it had been a while.

There was a gentleman who'd been bothering us for money the whole time though we had already told them we really couldn't hand out much money, it just wasn't what we were there for. He told us at one point he wanted to get some food for another guy who was intoxicated on many different substances and was at a point in the hot day where he needed some food.

So we asked the gentlement, D'Andre if there was a specific pizza place he knew of that everyone there enjoyed. He told us there was one and we asked him where it was. He looked down Fayette St. and said "down there a few blocks, and make a left... eh here, I'll take you there." So we followed.

On the way there, D'Andre told us that he had been homeless until this year. He had spent about a year living with those folks in the park. He told us that he'd come back from time to time to spend it with the good people he'd lived with for a year. He told us he'd never forget where he'd come from. He told us about the past there with that community of people. He said there used to be a lot more and that they'd live in tents just up the road some until the city of Baltimore made a legislation which made it illegal for them to do so. He told us that after that they started to live anywhere they could find until the Church began to allow them to stay in the park right there. We asked him about the Mission George had told us he was going to stay at tonight. D'andre told us that the mission helps a lot of people out but there are certain "standards" that they make you adhere to which are not "conducive to the way some of us live." This blew me away and broke my heart that somehow people in this condition would not give up their alcohol or their drugs in order to be helped, it just made me wonder how you help someone with that type of mentality?

So we got about 7 blocks down the road and into this greasy, hole-in-the-wall, mom and pop pizza shop. We had them box up two hole pizzas to go and got cheese and pepperoni. We walked back up to the park with D'andre, handed him a box and said "hand it out, make sure everyone gets a piece." Galen handed out the other pizza as I left to receive an important phone conversation. As I returned, people were smiling ear to ear as they received their pizza.

There was so much joy in the park that day. People smiled and laughed and thanked us and those handing the pizza out for the pizza. It's amazing what small things can do! Joy filled the air as i walked around and took it all in. I thanked God for such an opportunity to bring joy into someone else's life. It reminded me of a quote from Tony Campolo.

"The Kingdom of God is meant to bring joy and excitement! If all you have to give them is a bowl of soup and a blanket, it's not enough. You have to be able to offer joy. The Kingdom of God exists to bring celebrations into the lives of those who have no reason to celebrate and to throw parties for those who have no parties."

We partied that day.