Jul 22, 2014

Guest Post: Care Cups, with Billy Landahl (Oak City Roasters)

I met Billy Landahl last year when I solicited him for coffee to support Club Horizon at our annual Tastes and Treasures silent auction fundraiser. Billy did not just throw some bags at me; he invited me to his business and talked with me for two hours while some of the most delicious coffee I have ever had crackled in the roaster and filled the room with the aroma of that perfect bean. We talked about helping those in need, about using business as a means to unlocking opportunities for those with disabilities, about building a better community. He is a great guy and a fellow believer. I am glad to have him post to tell you more about his Care Cups Kickstarter (which I have supported!) and, more importantly, about God's call on his heart.
- Ben


--

Isaiah 58:10
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.


We're about to do something that's kind of original and risky- but it looks to me like a little bit of
heaven. I mean, like heaven's answer to an unaddressed and troubling question. We're launching a product to be entirely made by adults with autism and other developmental challenges. The product is the single serve coffee pod commonly known as K-cups, only ours will be called Care Cups.



Care Cups are like K-cups, only better. Making something with the intention of expressing the Love of God is like making anything, only better.

The idea with Care Cups is that in asking what to do with adults with autism, we found the answer is simply that God loves them. Dearly. Really. And they are perfect. He has a gift for them- a really fun job they'll enjoy and be good at. This answer is full of joy and love and full of abundance. In fact, I think all of your hopes are about to be fulfilled, and God is going to care for you. It's time to cast all your cares on Him.

With Care Cups we want to prove that it's possible to provide real meaningful work for adults with autism, and in so doing, provide them with a place in the world. We're doing this by making a real product that has value in the marketplace.

This is a business solution for a social need that is being left un-addressed. Why is it un-addressed? I believe it is simply because we haven't thought of a solution. I think the Care Cups model provides a solution.



In seeking to provide meaningful work for adults with autism, we've found that they are, in fact, capable of meaningful work- adding real value. "Real value" means they can do work that has value in our society, in commerce, in business, in the marketplace. And that means it is worth paying for. And that means they are earning a paycheck, just like you and me. With a little creative energy, love and patience, we can create a great work environment, and tasks that each team member enjoys. The outcome is a real product, and enriched lives.

Huh! That's not the way we've been thinking of this special group of people. Could it be we've been asking the wrong question? We wonder what to do with people who aren't self sufficient. The thought is that if they are not self sufficient, they are not capable. But they ARE capable. What if we discovered their capabilities and built businesses around them? And what if thosebusinesses became profitable?

In Care Cups, we wonder if it could be a real possibility to have profit sharing with the Care Cups team members. Our team members will be making a product that sells in the marketplace and generates a profit. That's real business.

Does this challenge current thinking?

Can the current laws in place support this possibility? They cannot.

What if there were more solutions like this?

What if, in place of our despair over what to do with those with autism, we discovered the way to integrate them into our society?

What if that solution actually caused our society to change to be more compassionate, resulting in the creation of businesses around their capabilities?

What if every town had a local economy of products and services provided by adults with special needs?

What kind of communities would we have then?

Pretty good ones, I'd say.

____________________________________________________

Postscript: 7/20/2014

So my thought today is that the more you dwell in Heaven's atmosphere, breathe in God's limitless Love and mercy, abundance of understanding and wisdom, and you incubate your ideas there, the more they come out looking like the Love of God. This is truly a great principle to live on. Come out with ideas that are born in a moment, incubated in heaven, and birthed into reality on earth looking like God.

The time we've had waiting for Care Cups to actually happen has been incubation time. The idea for its implementation has been growing in the fertile environment and under the sheltered nurturing of the Spirit of God. What comes out will have the mark of Heaven on it.

Father, grow this idea in your time, with your Love and wisdom, and give it your fingerprints! Give me your fingerprints! And give me capacity to host your Spirit's wise and loving demeanor. Flow from me with your great ideas and super smart implementation.


Jul 18, 2014

things.

I am a great lover of things, a truth most revealed when I lose them: my blood pressure spikes and a tear through every nook and alcove of my home in search of the lost thing.

I love the thought of things I do not have. This is called window shopping: peering endlessly at row upon row of things I do not have and most likely cannot afford but desire nonetheless.


I window shopped this hard today.


The things I have were chosen with great care for their price/value correlation and for their expected impact on my life and my family's life.

Am I no so thoroughly American in this endeavor? Ours is a nation sourced in two main cultural identities: the tradesmen of Jamestown and the saints of Plymouth. I am oversimplifying American cultural values, of course, but the fundamental thrusts are there: religion and commerce. God and gold. Every American life is framed by these two loci of action, either in their absence (a-theism, for example, which is a cultural force that comes across as a religion more than its adherents would ever prefer to admit) or in their overwhelming presence (being the richest nation on earth, we do rich quite ostentatiously.) Interestingly, we are one of the few nations where rich people feel guilt about being too rich and where folks in the lower classes rail against wealth not because wealth itself is evil but because American values find overwhelming wealth to be distasteful and in bad form, the product of some latent American religious values. "Bad form," we might say.

But I digress.

I gyrate on two orbits, that of religion and money, and find myself drawn further from one and too deeply into the other for my own good. I sin, sin, sin as my heart longs for things and then I feel guilt and struggle to respond. Do I reject things? Do I sell things? Do I avoid ever buying things again? Do I take no pleasure in things?

Let's look at a few verses:

Revelation and the Temple


The Bible seems to muddy the waters a bit by recognizing man's basic desire for things, especially shiny things, and calling attention to them as rewards for good deeds or even, in the case of Revelation, as descriptors of God's perfect home. Consider the tension:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:10 ESV)

and


The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. (Revelation 21:18-21 ESV)

Now, if we are not to love money, why would the gilded design of the New Earth matter to us? Why would the author of Revelation describe these valuable stones in such detail? Why, for that matter, would the Old Testament authors recount in such great detail the value of Gold being brought into David's Kingdom or Solomon's Kingdom? Why describe the innards of the Temple, with all its gold and jewels?

Milk and Honey

Consider the refrain of the Lord in the Old Testament, that he would lead his people to a land flowing with milk and honey. This is God's phrase, not man's, and it indicates an abundance of material blessings given by God to the Israelites as a result of their being his chosen people. Why not be a land of meat and grain? Here's a Jewish perspective.

Fruit trees grow in many different terrains, but their produce overflow with nectar only when the land is especially fertile, when the trees are particularly well-nourished. Similarly, livestock survives in many habitats, but only overflow with milk when they are in particularly fertile pastures.

The traditional interpretation is that the land of Israel is one of rest and opulence, a place to be desired by man.

The British would correct: a land flowing with milk, honey, and Yorkshire Gold.

Backtracking a bit, I realize that God not only made me, he made gold, silver, and the like. He then employed my innate desire for sparkly and nice objects to attract my attention to a place of ultimate finery and and perfection. In other words, the desire for finery is not in and of itself wrong, for God Himself uses it as imagery of Heaven and as imagery of his own Promised Land. 

But there is a balance, is there not? "The love of money is the root..." goes the verse. Can I desire something and not love it unduly? Can I value something and not let it rule over me?


The Problem of Two Coins

I think myself further into a box when I consider the parable of the Widow's Mite.

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Note two things: first, Jesus does not disparage the offerings of the rich people but instead elevates the humble offering of the poor woman. In other words, the very ideas of having, giving, and using money pass without comment. This passage does not say "it is bad to be rich" or anything of that nature. In fact, the whole passage is about money being given, meaning that Christ does, in a very passive way, allow for the implicit value of money.

Second, though, Jesus admires the self-sacrifice of the woman who gave even to the point of having nothing. Note that she gave "all she had to live on." The point of this passage is not that she gave a little or a lot, but that she gave all. Intent matters above all (a point I've made numerous times before, but seems pressing here).

The Eye of the Needle

This is the text most often referenced when discussing money and possessions

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 

Notes:

1) Jesus does not condemn the rich man for being rich; he tests the rich man on how much he loves his riches

2) Jesus again affirms the implicit value of money by suggesting that the many give the money to the poor; in other words, Jesus says that there is value in the man's possessions, but that the man loves his money too much. The poor could use his money, so he does not just tell the man to burn his money or trash it.

3) Jesus implicitly praises his own disciples, because they had, in fact, left everything behind to follow Jesus. 

4) Jesus clearly shows that any love of money will only be overcome by God's work in the heart of man (verse 26)


Concluding Thoughts

This was a rather discombobulated post, but my intent was this: to look at some of the most-often referenced verses in Scripture regarding money and possessions to check my own attitude and, where necessary, seek repentance and forgiveness for my sins. Some conclusions I've come to, based on these verses and many others in Scripture:

1) Money has value and is not wrong in itself.

2) Things have value and are not wrong to own or use, provided they are owned and used in faith.

3) Jewels, gold, silver, and desirable objects can be righteously admired for they are, in fact, created beautiful and lovely; moreover, they can reflect certain attributes of God's character and nature.

4) All possessions should be held lightly, as though they will be gone tomorrow, for we know that they are God's and not ours.

5) All possessions should be used for the worship of God according to our faith, for anything not done in faith is sin. 

6) Our joy and peace ought not be dependent on our things; these are the fruit of the Spirit.

7) Nevertheless, God has given us good gifts for pleasure, so we ought to rightly be happy when we receive good gifts or enjoy something man (bearing God's image) has made using his creativity and skill, and we ought rightly be sadden by the loss of an object of beauty.

8) Our desire for objects of beauty ought to turn our attention upward and to the future when we will inherit an imperishable kingdom of beauty and perfection. I ought to desire gold because I ought to desire the streets of gold upon which I will trod for eternity. 

9) Finally, I am likely so in love with things that I have transgressed the line between valuing objects for what they are and enviously desiring them. I must repent of my want of too many things, believing that while they do have value, they pale in comparison to the infinite gifts I have received in Christ.