Tag: coffee

The coffee ship

While I was in seminary, I worked on a ship at the convergence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. It was a different kind of ship than you might be thinking, though. You probably have in mind that I was on a tug boat. Or a transport/cargo ship. Or maybe even a swashbuckling pirate ship.

But it was something different entirely.

It was a coffee ship.

We’d serve lattes to the most hardened, time-weathered ship captains around. As they boarded our ship after a long trip down the mighty Mississippi, we afforded them luxuries most ships didn’t.

A warm toffee nut latte on a cold February morning.

A shot of our strongest espresso on a lonely, nap-inducing, rainy Sunday afternoon.

An iced caramel mocha on one of those oppressingly hot summer evenings.

A steaming hot cup of the blackest, foulest, most bitter cup of black coffee money could buy.

Midshipmen would gather around the bar and sing the songs of the sea, sloshing their caffeinated beverages to the rhythm of their off-key voices.

Others would wearily wander to the front of the ship, taking in the city scape as the caffeine coursed through their tired veins, giving them energy they hadn’t felt in days. Warming them deep inside their souls. Preparing their hearts and their legs to continue their trek onwards to the next port more than 400 miles further downstream.

It was the stories that made the job interesting. Hearing men tell tales of late-night storms that nearly wrecked their ship. Of having to make up time before their next destination. Of having to force men to walk the plank after stealing from the captain himself.

Or it was just a mis-type that was overlooked by the publishers in my “final” manuscript (here’s a little info on the bonus section). A mis-type that was in the first paragraph of chapter 1.

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 3.33.59 PM

Good thing we read over it one more time.



If this video doesn’t make you want a steaming cup of coffee, I don’t know what will.

Ever had coffee brewed in a Chemex? It may just be the best way to drink coffee. Some might even say that’s how God intended it. ūüôā




10 Things I Guarantee You’ll Never Say

I have said a lot of stupid things in my life. Many of which I’ve said right here on this blog. Things that have gotten me in hot water, cold water, and dry with no water.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the trajectory of my life, how I’m spending my time, and where I want to point. As I’ve thought back over the years, there are things I realize I’ve¬†never said that have significantly shaped who I am. God’s changed me through generosity, community, laughter, my son, my church(es), and my own leadership journey.

Sometimes what’s not said is more important than what is said. And there are things you’ll never say, either.

I’m not a gambling man, but I’d put good money on the line that you’ll never say any of these things. And if you find yourself saying them, stop it.

10 things you’ll never say

I wish I hadn’t been so generous.

Nobody regrets being generous. Even when your generosity isn’t well received, isn’t thanked, or isn’t noticed, the act of generosity changes you as much as it changes others.

Truth: You’ll never regret generosity.

Life would’ve been better if I hadn’t joined that small group.

You will have less “free” time in your life, more heartache, more burdens to bear, more mess to wade through, and more people to pray for. Life will be tougher. But you won’t regret joining a small group, because you’ll have people to journey through life with.

Truth: You’ll never regret investing in people’s lives.

My best friends? They’re the ones I never laugh with.

Get off the boring train, and start recognizing that laughter is a gift from God. You’ll grow more spiritually with a group of people that you enjoy being around than ones you dread meeting with.

Truth: If you don’t enjoy being around you, neither will others.

I wish I had spent less time with my kids.

And your kids will never say they wish that you’d spent less time with them, either.

Truth: Time with your kids is not time wasted.

I love to drink mediocre coffee.

No you don’t. Nobody does. Which is why when I have people over to my house, I serve the best stuff that I’ve got. Or I go get my hands on the best stuff I can find. All coffee is not created equal.

Truth: 1 cup of my coffee just might change your life. ūüôā

I wish I had been less regular at church.

Your church isn’t perfect. Neither is mine. But being where God’s people gather to worship and celebrate the work of God is healing and life-giving.

Truth: Getting plugged into a local church will change the trajectory of your life.

“Leadership” doesn’t really have any relevance in my life.

No matter where you find yourself, leadership is playing a significant role. Sometimes it’s affecting you positively. Other times, negatively. Sometimes by its presence. Other times by its absence.

Truth: Focusing on your own leadership development isn’t a waste of time.

My life is much more lovely because of my cat.

Nope. It’s not.

Truth: I hate cats. So do you.

I wish I had not gone on that mission trip.

I wrote about it here, but my life was shifted when I traveled to Costa Rica. Others’ lives were shifted because I was sick for part of the week, too. Whether you go on a trip out of your country or across state lines, you won’t regret the time away from work or the money it cost you to get there.

Truth: Going on a mission trip will mess you up in the best way possible.

Children’s ministry? That’s a waste of time.

If you say this, expect to not be a pastor very long. Or expect your church numbers to dwindle quickly.

Truth: When you invest in children, you are investing in the life of the Church. For today and tomorrow.

Anything you’d add?¬†


The con panna

When I was in graduate school, I worked at a coffee shop.

There, I developed a great love for coffee. ¬†Good coffee. ¬†Coffee that’s handpicked, handcrafted, and consumed at just the right temperature. ¬†Coffee that’s paired with the right pastry, in the right season, at the right…heck, who am I kidding? ¬†I’ll drink coffee anytime.

My all-time favorite hand-crafted masterpiece was the con panna.

photo via Justin Mcintosh

Con Panna means “with cream,” and it’s a simple drink to make. ¬†Grab a canister of whip cream. ¬†Then pull 2 (or, if you’re feeling extra frisky, make it 3) shots of espresso. ¬†As soon as the shots are done brewing, transfer the shots to your demitasse cup, then top with whip cream. ¬†It’s heaven. In a cup.

Most coffee shops, though, won’t have this drink listed on the menu. ¬†They’ll have the traditional¬†cappuccinos, lattes, and cafe mochas. ¬†But no con panna. ¬†And it’s not that they don’t know how to make it. ¬†It’s just not a huge seller in America. ¬†Most people in America want something with a little less kick…a little smoother and creamier. ¬†They’re not looking for something with so much punch.

But if you want to be super cool, just order a con panna next time you’re at your local coffee shop. The barista will look at you with eyes that say, (*read the following with an Italian gangster accent)

How do you know about the con panna?

Then you’ll look back with eyes that say,

Hey! I know my stuff!

To which his eyes will respond,

A’right. A’right. I didn’t know. I’ll give ya a little respect.

To which your eyes will respond,

Don’t mess it up. I might mess you up.

I’ve shared the beauty of this drink with a lot of folks who frequent coffee shops. ¬†You know what every one of them tells me? ¬†“I am going to order that drink next time I go!” ¬†Why?

Because everyone wants to feel like an insider.

There’s something about us that wants to feel like we have a leg-up on others. ¬†That we’re a step ahead. ¬†We know a bit more. ¬†We are in a bit deeper. ¬†We’re just a little bit more awesome than the rest of the people in this coffee shop.

You might spin that thought and think that it’s related to pride. ¬†But I don’t think it is. ¬†I think it’s a reflection of our desire to learn, grow, change, and improve. ¬†And when it comes to leading people, this is an invaluable quality to overlook.

In leading people, help them feel like they’re insiders.

  • Let them know what’s coming next…before it comes.
  • Run an idea by them before it’s announced publicly.
  • Ask for their input in prep for your next event.
  • Tell them an idea you’ve been sitting on but haven’t fleshed out.
  • Ask them to lead in an area that you haven’t yet explored as an organization.
  • Encourage them to bring their ideas to the table…and then act on some of them.

The more knowledge you give people, the more valued they feel.

The more knowledge you give people, the more they feel like a vital part of the organization.

The more knowledge you give people, the more they will give of themselves.

The more knowledge you give people, the better results your entire team will experience.

Try it.


Have you ever had a con panna?  Do you even like coffee?


The quest for the perfect cup of coffee

If you’re in the business of leading people, you must also be in the business of building relationships.

If you’re not, you can forget about having any significant level of influence.

Yesterday, I had a cup of coffee from a Chemex.  You know how long it took between the time I ordered it and the time I took my first sip?

Nearly 12 minutes.

Was I frustrated?

Not a bit.

It was a perfect cup of coffee. ¬†Perfect. ¬†It was clean, smooth, and a bit chocolatey. ¬†Its roasty-ness wasn’t overwhelming, but its flavors deep and rich.

With the Chemex, you don’t just hit a button and watch the magic happen. ¬†You have to stand beside it the whole time it’s brewing, continuing to add more water at just the right time. ¬†Then wait for the percolation to happen. ¬†Then add more water (with a very specific type of kettle) to the areas that are dry, starting with the center and moving out towards the edge. ¬†Until finally, after all of the water has percolated through and the brewing process is complete, you get a decanter full of perfection. ¬†The cup of coffee that comes from the Chemex is truly a work of art.

And relationships are no different.

We’d like to think that relationships are microwavable. ¬†Quick, easy, and cheap. ¬†But they’re far from it.

Truths about Significant Relationships

Relationships take time, effort, and expense.

They take constant care and attention. ¬†Don’t walk away, or you’ll miss that key opportunity, that key moment that the next step forward is contingent upon.

Each relationship is different.

Building relationships is not a one-size-fits-all model.  Just as each Chemex cup takes a slightly different amount of time to brew, depending on the grind of the coffee, the speed at which you pour the water, and the temperature of the water, so each relationship takes a different amount of effort, time, and care.

You can’t have significant relationships with a vast number of people.

There’s just too much expense involved. ¬†It’s not possible to give of yourself enough to have deep, significant relationships with significant numbers of people.

Relational investments take cultivation to grow.

Don’t expect to hit a button, wave your magic wand, and voila! ¬†Cultivating important relationships is hard work. ¬†You’ll have to let other things slide. ¬†Other commitments, responsibilities, emails, phone calls, and things less important.

It is worth the wait.

If you’ll give a relationship the time and effort it needs, you’ll be surprised the mutual benefits that will follow.

If you lose sight of the end goal, you’ll get frustrated.

You’ll get burned, feel like it’s too big an investment, and feel the tension to just move on. ¬†Like this is a hopeless cause that’s benefiting nobody. ¬†Offering grace, mercy, love, and hope isn’t something you do because you are looking for immediate results.

“Love is patient…Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7)



Coffee that changes the world

Does the coffee that you drink help change the world?

Mine does.

We’ve just recently started serving Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee (you can follow them on Twitter HERE)on Sunday morning at Grace. ¬†Every pound of coffee we purchase from them helps to fuel their ministry. ¬†I love what they’re doing to impact Rwanda. For starters, they’ve adopted a coffee farm, and guarantee the farmers a premium price on their coffee. ¬† Continue reading


Encouraging Criticism

Hate Twitter all you want, but, like I’ve said HERE, I find great value in it.¬† I recently said this after a visit to Lasaters Coffee, a local shop here in Clarksville:

Disappointed that the @lasaterscoffee workers couldn’t serve me a press pot of coffee bc they didn’t know what it was 3:37 PM Dec 2nd

I received this reply from them…directly to me:

@benreed We will be serving coffee via French Press before you know it!! Keep an eye on the website and in the stores:) 10:04 AM Dec 4th from TweetDeck in reply to benreed

Knowing how, and when, to respond to critics is very important.¬† I applaud Lasaters for their timely and effective response.¬† Because of that response, they’ll get more business from me.

A critique of the system you’re leading can often feel like a personal attack.

But in the end, critiques can help to improve the overall effectiveness of the ministry.

Maybe a person’s critique is off-base.¬† Out of line.¬† Out of touch.¬† Off-color.¬† Off-putting.¬† Off-handed.¬† Offensive.¬† Biting.¬† Reactionary.¬† Untruthful.¬† Unholy.¬† Discouraging.¬† Poorly timed.¬† Poorly executed.¬† Or all of the above combined.

But most critiques have at least a shred of truth.

May we, as leaders in our respective organizations, be humble enough to continually evaluate our system.

How do you encourage open, honest evaluation of your system?


Don’t let it expire

Some (including my wife) call me a coffee snob.  I just say that I like my coffee.
Hey, if I’m going to buy my own coffee, I’m going to get the good stuff!¬† Bad coffee isn’t worth the bag it’s packaged in.
Regardless whether you get your coffee from a local microbrewery, a national chain, Wal-Mart, or the fields of Africa, you need to know that coffee has an expiration date.¬† The countdown to coffee’s “death” starts when the coffee is roasted.¬† Why, might very, very few of you ask?

When coffee is roasted in its green bean form, the natural oils from inside of the bean make their way to the surface.¬† These oils are the flavor of the coffee (nutty, winey, citrus-y, etc…not flavors often added later, such as hazelnut, French Vanilla, etc.).¬† So if you were to pick up a freshly roasted coffee bean, you’d notice that it is quite glossy.¬† In fact, that oil transfers to your cup of coffee, too…next time you get a cup from a reputable coffee shop, look at the top layer of coffee, and make sure you see a bit of oil there.¬† That’s a mark of a good cup of coffee!

That all to say: even the best coffee has an expiration date.¬† The oils on the surface of the bean evaporate.¬† Or go rancid.¬† (I was going to say that you’ll never notice oil on grocery-store coffee beans because by the time they make it to the shelves, the oil’s gone…but I won’t say that).¬† And the coffee loses its flavor.

And isn’t it the same with our faith?¬† Left in the bag, it loses its flavor.¬† The freshness dries up.¬† The passion we once had for pursuing Christ evaporates, leaving us dry and weary.

The oils can’t be added back to the coffee bean.¬† But they can be added back to your faith.¬† You just need to ask.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51:12)


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