care more than some think is wise; risk more than some think is safe;
dream more than some think is practical; expect more than some think is possible


Black Coffee

Coffee is a agricultural good that has changed the history of man kind, no doubt. It dates back to the 13th century, originating in Ethiopia. Coffee has changed societies, and introduced community revolving around the wonderful concept of the coffee house, the first of which was in Instabul. Initially coffee took over the modern day middle eastern region of the world. As its popularity grew, the "bean" became coveted and protected. As the bean "escaped" the middle east, it was smuggled to Europe. In Venice, Italy the popularity of coffee made it a Mecca, of sorts, becoming responsible for the coffee culture we now know. And so on, it spread to all of Europe, including England, which may be surprising since we consider England a tea oriented culture. But for a while, they were coffee drinkers. From England the bean made its way to the Americas. Once on this side of the Atlantic, coffee plantations exploded in growth, especially in Brazil. Due to slave access, managing a plantation's worth of coffee was readily achievable. I am not sure, but I would think that this slavery, was the beginning of the problems with coffee we see today, the black side of coffee.

Today, we face the issue of having coffee farmers being drastically underpaid. They are underpaid to a degree that makes it impossible for them to support their families. That is to say, when I buy coffee, more than likely I am basically stealing from someone who works their tail off to support their families but cannot, because I don't pay a fair price. So, belonging to a more socially aware generation, many people are calling for "fair-trade" to dominate to the market, that is to be sure that those working the coffee farms are actually receiving a fair price for their work, for their good, and in this case for their coffee. Now, I know the definition of "fair trade" is much more grandiose than this, seeking to discern social, economic, and environmental benefits, but for simplicity sake I will leave it at this for now.

So, being aware of the predicament, dare I down play the seriousness of the problems underpaid workers face, I am attempting to align my lifestyle to fit my convictions, albeit little by little. I figured coffee was a good starting place.

So, in Birmingham, AL where am I going to purchase fair trade coffee from? To my surprise, fair trade coffee is more readily available than I imagined. I want to give some acknowledgement to a few companies who are making strides in the right direction.

First is, Springhill Coffee Roasters in Mobile AL (right). Further, to their credit, they roast their beans the old-fashioned way, manually using a Probat roaster. Springhill Roasters do sell a variety of organic, fair trade coffees. But, they buy their beans from a middle man buyer, Royal Coffee, Green Coffee Importers. Royal Coffee buys and imports a lot of coffee, tons of different types and flavors from all over the world. They have an extensive list of coffee, and many that are organic, fair trade coffees, or both. Further, they are actively involved in the communities that they buy coffee from, seeking to improve overall community health and wellbeing. Some projects include, Friends of Harrar and the Grounds for Health Coffee Auction.

Another is O'Henry's Coffee Roasting Company (Red Mountain Coffee Roasters, left), in Birmingham AL, which is the roasting side of O'Henry's Coffee that you may be familiar with in Homewood and at Brookwood. They like to the company above sell fair trade coffees, but stress relationship coffee. They deemed their transactions with the farmers they buy from "relationship coffee" because often time, the coffee they buy demands a higher price than "fair trade" imply because the product the grower provides is a high quality bean. This is model I like.

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Company, based in Roswell, GA (right)  is another involved in the fair trade coffee industry. The basis of their story goes like this ...
"The moment you drink our coffee, you will notice something excellent has come together. 100% Arabica beans from small farming cooperatives. Naturally Grown. Directly Traded: Purchases directly from the farmers. Fairly Traded: A just living wage. Community Traded: Investment in the community. Artisan roasted in Roswell, GA. Shipped to your door."
Their beans come from Rwanda, from two farming co-ops, Buf Café Cooperative (founded 20006, employing 2000 farmers) and Coadeka-Bukonya Cooperative (founded 2007, employing 110 farmers).  Their presence in war-torn and genocide ravaged Rwanda is bringing to life a real transformation within the communities, by uniting formerly hostile farmers for the cause of betterment, for forgiveness, and relationship restoration. Further details state,
"Land of a Thousand Hills participates in Community Trade, a term we coined to mean Directly Traded, paid for with higher-than-Fair Trade wages, and where investment in the farming community is our top priority. We believe that by paying our coffee growers just, Living Wages and supporting economic and community development in the region, not only does the region thrive with higher quality coffee, justice is pursued."
This is the power of compassion. This is the power of respect. Now, I must ask why are Christians not at the very center of this movement?! Because isn't the power of Christ greater than any human emotion?  But I have a small inkling that Land of a Thousand Hills is Christian led, don't know for sure, but I think. I hope.

Another is Mama's Mocha's Coffee Roastery at The Gnu's Room, in Auburn, AL. This one I highly recommend! Their site does not give any details about how they purchase their coffee. But knowing some of the employees personally, I know they are a totally legit roaster and café. If you visit Auburn, which you should, you should also be sure to stop by The Gnu's Room and get a cup of Sarah's coffee. Its good. Plus, as a used book store, you can find some awesome books! I have.



Therefore there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus! 
(Rom 8:1) 

A sinner's greatest hope! The best news there ever was!!! ... Why? 

Because [God] made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him!(II Cor 5:21) Because, though [Christ Jesus] was rich, yet for [our] sake He became poor, so that [we] through His poverty might become rich! (II Cor 8:9) ...

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, GOD DID: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who did not walk according to the Spirit!!! (Rom 8:3-4)

What then? 

We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes. ... What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? ... God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom 8:28, 31, 33-35)

So, the result is this...

... In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, not things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!!!! (Rom 8:37-39)

I must say when my heart is dull, empty, & my ways have been focused primarily on me, or as Paul would say, when I am living according to the flesh, the one thing ... the only thing ... that can redirect my eyes, my heart, my mind, my motivations, my desires, my passions, & my life is hands down the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus my Lord!!! Sometimes, it can take a while & other times it happens fast, but it is, each and every time, as if a flood of joy & contentment rips through my heart, rejuvenating the "self" stricken motivations in me, to re-orient them toward God. For, we know that those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit (Rom 8:5), for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set [us] free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2). But because the mind set of the flesh is death, hostile toward God, is not and cannot be subjected to the law of God, and cannot please God, the person who has set their motives toward self, or the flesh, is dull, empty, and DEAD!

That is how I have recently been.

But the Lord is gracious, & I hope to continually ask the Lord, Be gracious to me, O Lord, be gracious to me! (Ps 123), & when He pours out grace upon grace things happen - mindsets change, hearts are renewed, and motives purified. That is why the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, and the life lived by the power of the Spirit is putting to death the deeds of the body (Rom 8:7, 13).

Sandra McCracken's song, Grace Upon Grace rings so true, especially now!

In every station, new trials and new troubles
Call for more grace than I can afford
Where can I go but to my dear Savior
For mercy that pours from boundless stores.

Grace upon grace, every sin repaired
Every void restored, you will find Him there
In every turning He will prepare you
With grace upon grace

He made a way for the fallen to rise
Perfect in glory and sacrifice
In sweet communion my need He supplies
He saves and keeps and guards my life

Grace upon grace, every sin repaired
Every void restored, you will find Him there
In every turning He will prepare you
With grace upon grace

To Thee I run now with great expectation
To honor You with trust like a child
My hopes and desires seek a new destination
and all that You ask Your grace will provide.

That last line in amazing, for the highest calling, the one that is most unattainable for me is "Be holy as I am holy." But all that He asks, is provided for in His grace. All expectation upon me from God is fulfilled in Christ! Therefore I am free - BY NO MEANS to sin ... but rather free to ENJOY LOVING GOD as He loves me! It is the joy of His love by which my soul is freed, and He poured that infinite love out upon His son who hung & died upon that old rugged cross, bearing the full wrath of a God zealous for His holiness and glory to be upheld and exalted, for the sake that in the salvation of man - in the salvation of me - God may receive the utmost glory.

Oh to live and to love God at all times ... I have no higher calling!



I wrote previously of The Cambridge Seven (I believe), they are C.T. Studd, M. Beauchamp, S.P. Smith, A.T. Polhill-Turner, D.E. Hoste, C.H. Polhill-Turner, & W.W. Cassels, who all graduated from Cambridge to become missionaries to China right about 1885. I suggest the book to you. If not, visit a report on the book HERE

In the report, it is written in reference to Smith and Beauchamp, "... the two of them had not yielded their lives to Christ and soon, rowing became more important to Smith than any relationship with God, even a nominal one." Later, in a prayer meeting, it is reported by the work of the Holy Spirit, "Smith confessed his own sin, that he no longer had any joy from his salvation and was hardly a Christian at all. Waldegrave (leading the prayer meeting) showed Smith that making small, token pledges to God were useless and that he had to give himself fully to God, even as God in Christ had wholly given himself for us. Only then can we know the joys and unsearchable riches of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit." Further on, it is reported of Beauchamp, "In early October of 1881, Montague Beauchamp 'yielded all to Christ' and the three friends rejoiced together."

All that, to share some of my own thoughts. After reading this book, I have been struggling to answer the question, "What is a consecrated life?" I ask this question, because in the book it speaks of the Cambridge Seven as "fully consecrating" their lives to God. I believe what I pasted above, where it says "yielded all to Christ" is referring to the same thing. So, I am left with questions, lots of them. They go like this ... How is that person (the person fully consecrated to Christ)? How does he act, live, react, etc...? How is a life consecrated unto the Lord characterized, & how is a life consecrated fully to God?

These are the questions I am on the road to answering. This is important, because this is where I am currently, being called to something different, or something much more grand with Christ, and I think the Lord is using this book and these questions to lead me to a more consecrated life. But, I don't know the answers, and a consecrated life is not for me to grasp or choose ... but that the Lord work in me to that end, for His sake. Man, I want to know the answers to these questions! To live a fully consecrated & unwavering life to & for the Lord, this is my prayer!

So, what is a consecrated life? - By definition it is to "set apart as sacred" or "revered," it is also to be "thoroughly holy." So, its to be set apart as scared unto the Lord & no other, to grow thoroughly holy in Him. Its to be dedicated and devoted only to Him. But what does these words mean ... set apart, sacred, revered, dedicated, & devoted ... what do they mean practically??? I think, it has to do with edifying, sanctifying, hallowing, keeping holy in one's life for God, for His honor, it is to be heavenly-minded!

To be fully consecrated, it has to have practical outworking, evidencing itself in works, but I think it is a natural outworking. I don't know, thats why I have questions.

But, several conclusions:
1) I will only ever be able to be fully consecrated to God by His unending grace in love & in being made like Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father in Christ Jesus.
2) By diligent, strict, & continual self-discipline 
...of mind, to choose to think high thoughts of God throughout the day, in all activities (Phil4:8-9)
...of my attitudes & motivations, to remember, whether eating or drinking or in whatever I do, to do it all to the glory of the Lord (1 Cor 10:31)! That is to glorify Him in the mundane of my life in my heart, having a right attitude - whether I feel it or not.
3) It is to do all things in the love of God, for the love of God.

This is a high and hard calling, thus my first point - it will all be by the grace of God poured out!

The Cambridge Seven report goes on to write, "When these seven young men yielded their lives to Jesus, they didn't runaway to a cave and become monks. They didn't shut their mouths and become quietly self-righteous. Instead, they continued to struggle and grow in love for Jesus and for others. They made the most of their situations for the sake of telling others about their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, even though their individual positions meant nothing to them because of the joy and meaning they had in Jesus."

I want to be made ready and fully dedicated to continue to struggle & grow in love for Jesus and for others.

So, what is it to be consecrated? .... IDK. Yet.