Crips & Bloods: Made in America

30 10 2010

Crips & Bloods: Made in America

Most Americans have some kind of opinion about the impact that crack cocaine and gang members had on the late eighties and early nineties. It’s impossible to know what another person’s life was like.

Hearing someone’s life story is a great way to learn. This video production gives you a rare look into what it’s like inside the war between Crips and Bloods in LA. A war on US soil that has claimed over 15,000 lives. Generations of lives torn apart by conflict that can and must stop.

Here you find a real description of what the life is like. The initial groundwork of facts provides a helpful context for how this sort of tragedy builds. The interviews give you a real sense of just how trapped most gang members feel. You can feel the pain.

Growing up with one parent, working for a living, would be difficult for any child. Add to that living in a neighborhood without a support system to help… No child should have to see their parents, friends, and siblings buried.

I can’t imagine raising our kids without my wife. Let alone trying to do it while earning a living. We have helped people through this challenge before. Think about adding to that the pressure of not being able to find a decent job, as a parolee, and dealing with the cost of past mistakes.

Life without family, support system, and positive role models is a reality for millions around the world. When we live with the ability to help children in this situation – we live with the ability to improve our world.

Don’t look away when you see the faces of those who have lost so much, in the murder of a loved one. If we are going to change our country we must know just how much we are losing.

Our reality is that no major US city has enough help for our children to overcome the challenge of their real life. When a child’s life is ripped apart by drugs, prison, murder, violence, prostitution, and abuse… there should be help available.

Don’t you think?

Thankfully there’s real hope seen here. You’ll see great interviews with some of the men, including ex-gang members who are now working to change their communities. Having spent time in LA with people doing gang outreach, I’ve seen what this is really like.

There are many examples of people working on a few of the core problems addressed in this film. Probably too many for me to mention. One friend of mine, John Gray, is involved in just such an effort. Firebird The Movie will give you a glimpse of this work.

In LA, The Dream Center changes lives every day. I have visited their outreach center on a couple of occasions and it will cause you to question the validity of your own personal daily activities. Pastor Matthew Barnett and his team rescue teens and adults from the streets. There are many ways that they are positively changing LA. They have also served as a great pattern for other outreaches.

Bringing real change can be a daunting challenge.

It takes grace.

It takes hard work.

It takes love that lives a sacrifice.

It can be done.

I am a zombie believer!

29 10 2010

You’re probably getting ready for Halloween and thinking, WAIT, BEN, WHAT?!?!…that is to say that I believe in the resurrection from the dead!

Wikipedia (the source of all useful info, right?) says that a zombie is “a creature that appears in books, films and popular culture. It is typically a reanimated corpse, or a human being who is being controlled by someone else by use of magic. More recent stories have used a pandemic illness to explain them. Stories of zombies originated in the West African spiritual belief system of voodoo, which told of the people being controlled as laborers by a powerful wizard. Zombies became a popular device in modern horror fiction, largely because of the success of George A. Romero‘s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead.[1] ”

I am a zombie believer, but THAT’S NOT WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.

True, zombie stuff is getting more popular all the time.

You see as a believer in Jesus Christ I believe in the resurrection from the dead! That’s one of the things that makes me different. I think it’s something that a whole lot of good church going Christians haven’t given much thought to.

Consider a couple of stories that cannot be refuted historically.

Luke 7:11-15

11 Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. 12 A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. 14 Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” 15 Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

John 11:38-44

38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance.

39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

John 20:11-16

11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying.

13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him.

15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

16 “Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

Acts 9:36-42

36 There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcast). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor. 37 About this time she became ill and died. Her body was washed for burial and laid in an upstairs room. 38 But the believers had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!”

39 So Peter returned with them; and as soon as he arrived, they took him to the upstairs room. The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other clothes Dorcas had made for them. 40 But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! 41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the widows and all the believers, and he presented her to them alive.

42 The news spread through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord.

Ok Ben, what’s the point?

Resurrection from the dead is real. I believe that Jesus is alive today after three days in a tomb.

That means that Jesus is more powerful than death!

Think about that today. I mean really chew on it. What does that mean to you? What does that say about any challenge you face today? Who is your source of life? Who should you talk to everyday?

If you want to learn more about Resurrection you should check out 1 Corinthians 15 before you read anything else…and definitely before you go watching another scary movie!

It’s Halloween Friday – Here’s my favorite tweets of the week:

29 10 2010

@g8wayaustin XXX Series starts this weekend –

@Mark_McAlister Ok, so wendy made stay in the car bc I a sedated from getting a tooth pulled. She didn’t say I couldn’t tweet, I am a jedi! And I am flying!

@RELEVANTmag Zach Galifianakis may be in the new Muppets film. Let’s be real, is there a Muppet he couldn’t play?

@brianbecker Please @PeteCarroll –> RT @Hasselbeck: “Can we wear the old Silver & Blue uni’s this week? That would be awesome!” #oldAFCwestRIVALRY

@SteveMartinToGo Wife swears she put tinfoil hat with copper propeller and ESP properties on kitchen table. GONE MISSING. FILLED WITH ANXIETY.

@CenteredinBmore Upcoming event: Dundalk Family Fun Festival (BGG Production for Little Kids Rock) – 10/30/2010 #baltimore

@Charm_CityCakes Great Scott!

@MrMichael_Smith Noticed that 2. RT @_jcruiz_: was it me or when the heat 3 were 2gether they played horrible but when it was just one of them they excelled

@1WinningDrive Rookie TEs May See More Time – The #Ravens want to keep Todd Heap fresh through a balanced number of snaps.

@Mondari The #BostonCeltics look like they are still in the #2010playoffs… They are playing with the same intensity.

@GeoffSurratt Las Vegas is REALLY quiet in the morning. Hmmm, I wonder why?

@cafehon Just one example of one of the Pumpkins Carved Last night at our carving contest… Come in an vote until October…

@CPFehrenbach Trusting means waiting which means patience must be present which means hope’s gotta be around & hope doesn’t disappoint #ps62 #rom5 #rom15

@pourmecoffee If you can vote early, you probably should on account of all the stomping and whatnot.

@UrbanBabyRunway Check us out in the November issue of Baltimore magazine on page 122! Thanks to the editor Janelle and Baltimore Magazine.

@Adam_Schefter DMN scribe Rick Gosselin: “Never thought I’d see the day that the Texas Rangers were more relevant in any October than the Cowboys.”

@MikeServello I highly recommend a small book by CJ Mahaney called “the Cross Centered Life.” it has really impacted me!

@rvagibbons Runnin off #espresso today.

@craigdyson Are you being encountered by God today? Take a moment to stop and look around you.

@ChipKawalsingh Take a moment, pause and read!

@GilbertehTan If you are looking for resources for Children’s Ministry, @samluce has got loads of resources. Check him out at

@bbjonline Baltimore Grand Prix inks sponsorship deals with five downtown hotels

@jskoepke “The Songs We Sing Make A Difference” // encouragement for all worship leaders & songwriters #fb

@talkhoops: I’m really loving this Blazers team. When Oden and Pryz come back, this is going to be a great team to watch every night.

@HuffingtonPost Kimmel Reveals How Charlie Sheen’s Publicist Copes (VIDEO)

It was great to see the Portland Trailblazers get a good start!

29 10 2010

It was great to see the Blazers get a good start!

What a miracle they pulled out last year finishing with a great record considering all the injuries.

It’s going to be really interesting this year to see what they can do. After the draft day madness pulled by ownership in the off season…can the coach and players pull out of the off season funk and put together a good string of games.

Don’t kid yourself – they have a shot to not only be in the playoffs this year, but also make a run….at their first playoff series victory in way way too long.

Let’s go Blazers!

My wife and I love watching The Food Network’s The Best Things I Ever Ate!

23 10 2010

My wife and I love watching The Food Network’s The Best Things I Ever Ate!

Food that is made with passion is such an amazing experience. Compared to the much less interesting processed foods that are eaten most often, by most of us. Great food that is made from real natural ingredients makes such amazing difference in flavor!

Every time I make coffee, with fresh beans, from my french press…people who have only had drip coffee LOSE THEIR HEADS! You can’t knock it until you try it!

Get yourself some Stumptown, or another coffee bean locally roasted, take care of the bean and then grind it while your water is boiling. Don’t make your coffee when the water is at boiling temp. WAIT. Then get your grinds in the press, add a bit of hot water, WAIT, add the rest of the water, WAIT, stir, WAIT, press, WAIT, and enjoy. The waiting is possibly the most important part of the process. You can’t rush something that good!

What’s good with coffee? A dish like Huevos Montelenos – Golden West Cafe (just a couple of blocks from our house) picked out by Duff Goldman – The Ace of Cakes of Charm City Cakes (which is also just a short jaunt from our house).

They do cakes in shapes you would never expect.

I love to eat. I love people who are passionate about what they do and how they live. It’s great to meet someone for the first time, who has an opinion.

This series gets an uninhibited honesty out of these hosts…just by getting them to talk about their favorite foods. It’s so enjoyable to hear a fun conversation about the good stuff in life.

Food has the potential to be so very passionate. Fast food has just wrecked our taking pleasure in eating. Sitting down to enjoy a great meal with friends and family should be one of the highlights of our week! If that’s the case, putting a little thought into what kind of food you want to enjoy has a whole new motivation.

There’s medical and psychological proof as to the benefits of laughter and food. I think that there really is something to this. We should all laugh more and enjoy what we eat more!

You should check out this show it’s a ton of fun! For the most part, you will love hearing these people who are so passionate about food describe their favorite dishes. It’s a great laugh and a good time to get the imagination going…instead of the usual novacane for the brain of typical TV.

Of course there are a few dishes that are really weird.

At the top of this post I included the link to the page about the show. Check it out!

Enjoy great food with your family and friends this week!

It’s Friday October 22 and here’s my favorite tweets of the week:

22 10 2010

@mashable Want to Control a Car With an iPad? There’s an App for That [VIDEO] –

@jeffmears: Just got my hardcopy of  @ToshaZwanziger’s new album “Pages.” you can get it online here:

@leadershipfreak Negative emotions may prompt instant action, but they don’t inspire people in the long term. #quote #leadership @tonyschwartz

@TonyMcCollum “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” – Gregory of Nyssa

@RevRunWisdom “God is kinder than you think” -Mother Teresa

@leadershipfreak Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful. #quote #humor Ann Landers

@fastcompany New York Whitewashes a Million Square Feet of Rooftop

@MikeSimsWalker: Jus got some great news from the doctor!!! Man prayer is amazing!!

@RWToolbox Knowing how big God is drove a small church to take on a global giant and make a huge difference

@MarcosWitt We made it to the Grand Canyon! //¡Llegamos al Gran Canyon!

@matkearney Lyrics and architecture.

@stevenfurtick My friend @andystanley ‘s new book The Grace of God is out today. Nobody says it like Andy:

@judahsmith: The best tweeter in the business…@wendyperez and in other news the Seahawks beat @carllentznyc  team!

@PBSPressRoom: On 10/26 @novaPBS explores the human drama of #chileanminers and the science that saved them.

@congressorg When is a campaign contribution a bribe? We answer your questions about Congress:

@jeffmears: “@Ritaspringer: Friends dad thought LOL meant Lots of Love.  So his message to friends were like “praying for your cancer to be gone,LOL!”.”

@UrbaniteMD The Urban Black Swan: Can we really predict the best cities for the next decade?

@StevetheGreat 27 stunning free psds from

If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise – Spike Lee

20 10 2010

If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise – an HBO documentary from Spike Lee

Around a year after Katrina I spent a week serving in New Orleans. What I saw and heard changed me. But how quickly we forget!

Recently I watched the HBO/Spike Lee documentary “If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise”. You may want to do the same. It’s rough. If you can wade through this entire production it will rock you. I had to watch it in four sittings. This is reality. Don’t look away. …see below…

Spike Lee returns to New Orleans five years after Katrina to follow reconstruction efforts. This four hour documentary, from HBO, walks through the local impact, initial response, long term plans, real estate changes, and the struggles for hospitals and schools to move forward. It also visits Haiti after its tragedy bringing light to the connections with New Orleans. Before wrapping up, this experience also details the Deep Water Horizon explosion where BP’s well had a catastrophic leak into the Gulf for at least 86 days. This will likely affect the Gulf Coast for more than 20 years.

Did this stuff really happen? These three separate incidents will certainly mark history. I knew that I did not know much about each of these events, but I was not aware of how little I knew. Sure I had read about what was happening at the time. Yet, it’s a good time to learn more. By no means is this documentary comprehensive. Taking in the human experience is, well…learning…as much as listening to the facts that were represented.

Immediately I remembered driving through the Ninth Ward. There and elsewhere we had seen houses destroyed with still, at a year later, with no work being done. Taking pictures in one neighborhood, one resident asked me if I was the insurance guy. I met a family whose house was completely lifted off the foundation. It landed on a street. During the evacuation a hole was cut into their house so that cars could drive through. They lived in a tent on the foundation for five weeks. The church I served in New Orleans was near a water treatment facility. This meant that a week after the storm they still had more than a foot of sewer sludge in their facility. They pulled together, at first just the pastor and his wife in boots with shovels, and cleaned having their first worship meeting within two weeks of the storm. A year later and other large churches in the area were still not resuming services. Several stories like this ran through me during the chapters of this presentation.

The still and video images chosen will keep you involved in the story line. Many of the major players in these events are interviewed here. You will see a very balanced measure of perspectives juxtaposed.

Schools and hospitals serve all of us. Yet there is enough to learn about their normal function to write a series of text books. The conversations about how the storm impacted both schools and hospitals give you a real sense of what real life must be like. It’s not pretty. Life there is hard. If you’re reading this the chances are that you have it easy in comparison.

The interviews of everyday people and those making top level decisions provide so much perspective. You learn about what has impacted New Orleans. You learn about who is trying to shape New Orleans.

Spike Lee stays true to his form. Thankfully the choice of music does not follow the mellow dramatic or glam rock flavors you might expect from a current network video production.

I came away from this with a sense of shared experience. There is so much tragedy in the world. New Orleans, Haiti, and the Gulf of Mexico have certainly seen their share over the past decade. Having recently spent time talking with friends about how quickly we forget about the experience of 9/11 and its affect on NYC…being reminded of suffering in New Orleans rocked me. I don’t think that the average American has a sense of how much these events affect our present and will impact our future.

Beyond that, I came away with a fresh urgency to learn more about our new city Baltimore. Maybe we have more to learn about what questions we should be asking.

Why is it, corruption in power has become such a taboo topic? Have news outlets become more obsessed with competition than with the truth?

Responsible governance can work best in the way of servant leadership. This means working for the best of the people as a whole. When individuals serve a purpose that is greater than themselves, they are at their best! Why does this seem to be such a secret to leaders and media outlets?

US cities have much in the way of untapped resources. We have millions of people with something to offer. Is it possible that we lack connectedness? The US would be greatly improved by more of our personal energy given to causes that release our potential.

We are now asking ourselves how we can serve our neighborhood and the communities of our city. It’s possible that through serving we can learn how decisions are made. Maybe through service we can impact things for the better.

God help me not become distracted by my own life to the point of ignorance.

God help me learn about other people.

God help me ask the right questions.

God help me be creative in how I can help.

God help me make a positive difference in Baltimore, New Orleans, and our great country.

If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise.

A word of warning: there are a few sections of the documentary that are graphic in nature.