In this new work with New Canaan Society, I’m landing on parched ground. With each new town and each new step, dust kicks up as my foot lands on the ground. This is sandy, dry, dessert tundra that hasn’t seen rain for years.
It’s men, the land of the American male. They are dying to be together in a place where vulnerability is shared, their calling is confirmed, and gifts are used. They are thirsty for Jesus and each other.
The result is that in each market I visit, there are two or three potential or recently established chapters.
In a recent trip to Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, there was interest in Downtown Detroit, Indianapolis, Auburn, IL; and Toledo. Amazing. Two of these cities weren’t on my list when I got off the plane in the Midwest.
Previously, it was Williamsburg, Richmond, and Greensboro. One of these wasn’t on my radar when I arrived.
The week before it was Miami/Brickell and Broward County, neither on my list when I arrived.
The week before that it was Nashville/Green Hills and Nashville/Music Row.
God is out ahead of us. He is showing me the “dry landscape” and allowing me to talk about “living water” with marketplace men that are interested in leading a chapter. It’s amazing. Praise the Lord.
Here’s the problem (read opportunity), it’s too much. I can’t do it. I can barely keep us with our current chapters, let alone thinking about these 11 neophytes…which has grown to three dozen communities that want New Canaan Society.
I drove away from a recent lunch, a promising meeting in Toledo, and, I thought, “I can’t do this. It’s too much.” Quickly God redirected me, “Remember, I got you.” It’s not “me” that is going to do the work, but rather “we” (not just Jesus and me, but all of us and Jesus).
When I dragged onboard the plane that night, I took time to read the Bible and pray. God directed me to Romans 8. It was perfect for where I was at and helped answer this question of who is going to do it.
8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit…
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose.
God’ Living Word is living water. I know some of these are pulled out of contest, but they sure can hydrate hope in me as I work in this parched environment. Men are in tremendous need…and we are there…or soon will be.
I had warned him at least once or twice during my Poppy duty. The call of an open toilet bowl is challenging for a 20-month old little boy.
This time, I heard splashing. He was all in. I came up behind him and said, “Kingston!”
He immediately turned, standing as much at attention as a toddler can.
Fairly stern (though I had more in the tank), I said, “You know that you are not to…”
Before I could finish, his cheeks blushed, his pout shaped down and the eyes were filling. Before I could finish, he said, “Yeeeeeaaaaah,” and started sobbing.
I didn’t finish my “teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”
I swept him up. Held his body against my chest and joined him in the sob. Standing their hugging each other, I’m not sure who needed it more. His toilet water wet hands soaking my shirt. We probably hugged for ten minutes and I think both of us would have been fine with forever.
He was crying because he’s a good kid. He wants to make his Poppy proud (and he does). After our morning run, he had taken my stinky socks back to the bedroom for me. That was so kind. When I got to the room, I found that the socks were not only in the room but were stored where they belong in my running shoes. He did as I do, without instruction. That less-than-two-year-old is a compliant kid who got caught and that caused a cry.
I was crying because I saw sin.
“That’s a little hard, Poppy. He was just playing in the toilet.” It is strong, but not untrue. That independence is early evidence of the seed that is in all of us. That independence apart from our Creator. Kingston is a child of Adam. He and I (and you) have this seed of sin in us. It is a separation from the perfect God that we cannot solve, in and of ourselves.
While I may have known that truth, that is not how I responded. I didn’t respond to his tears with “Hey sinner.” I can’t even imagine. Rather, my love compelled me to sweep him up into my arms immediately. I held him close. I identified with his feeling, because I’ve been there. He need my love and assurance.
In that moment, I wanted him to know that I love him unconditionally. I will be there for him. I will never let him go. Nothing will ever separate him from my love for him. And, I will work to protect him from the threats of open toilet bowls.
This isn’t some parenting seminar or the latest trend in toddler teaching. It is the Gospel.
The Good Father
The preeminent example for me is the Good Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I’ve written about it and spoke about it many times. That young son met with the end of his toilet play. The Bible says, “He came to his senses” (Luke 15:17). He realized he was wrong and turned around. He started back to his Good Father and along the way developed on an argument for His return to the household operations. He was willing to admit himself as one who plays in the toilet and he should be no better then the servants in the house of the Good Father. As he practiced his speech as he walked home, I’m sure that his cheeks blushed, his pout shaped down and the eyes were filling.
The Good Father waited and watched. As soon as he saw his son’s return, he ran to him, the son tried to launch his argument, but the Good Father swept him up. Held his body against his chest and joined him in a sob. Standing their hugging each other, I wonder who needed it more? The young son’s sinful hands laying upon the Good Father. They probably hugged for ten minutes, but I bet they would have been fine with forever.
On the Wet Floor
It was toilet play. It was so much more. It was my opportunity to raise the expectation for this young man, and let him know that he is deeply loved by Poppy.
They say that you don’t understand the depth of the love of God until you have a baby of your own. Maybe, I don’t know. This grandbaby stuff is a whole new level and it is so good to come to understand our Good Father from a soaked bathroom.
It was my sister, but come on, it’s been over a week.
Today, I gave my wife, Brenda, permission to give a me a Cher-like slap to the face saying, “Snap out of it.”
I have buried two parents. My wife lost a brother. We’ve been down the road before, so why has this loss hit me so significantly.
It’s a grand slam. First, it’s my little sister. Second, I’m the last one standing in the family. Third, she didn’t have a husband or local family, other than me. And fourth, sliding into home (literally), is the the PTSD around alcohol and my family that has existed my whole life.
First Base. As a big brother, you have this birthright responsibility to protect your younger siblings. I wasn’t able to do so here. What did I know? Should I have seen warning signs? How could I have helped? Was I enough of an advocate? For the most part, I feel like the “Yes’s” and the “No’s” align to the appropriate question, but those queries still bounce around in my head.
Rachelle’s health had been a struggle for years, according to her bedside doctors. The few signs I saw this spring, would not have made a difference. We had seen Rachelle monthly for haircuts, but during the pandemic, she was not comfortable coming over. That loss of regular connection resulted in not seeing any signs. Intermittent visits left intermittent excuses.
Second Base. From my family dinner table, I’m the last one standing. That just feels odd. We didn’t have a close extended family. I have an aunt and a couple cousins in California but most family have passed. Fortunately, I have married into a very large and well-connected family. All the while, I have felt “orphanish” since my last parent passed in 2004 and that feeling is only heightened in this season.
Third Base. Rachelle lived with a man for many years, but was not married. Her one daughter is young and lives out of state. I’ve been the arbiter between boyfriend and family, everyone and hospital, and am now figuring out how to wrap everything up and honor Rachelle well. I have received the emotional texts and phone calls, absorbed the tears, figured out the finances and tried to lift it all up to the Lord.
And sadly, Home. Everyone from my childhood dinner table had issues with addiction. I have co-journeyed through those addictions. My dad was the temper-filled drinker of my childhood. My poor mother, could never shake the demon that was alcoholism. I remember her drinking as a toddler and I certainly remember the upheaval of her drinking in my early adult years. These are not happy memories.
With our family journey, certainly neither me or my sister would have issues with alcohol. It’s too obvious. It’s full of negative energy. Co-dependency is a bear.
Who am I to complain? Life is hard. Death is real. Thank God for the health in me and my family. Thank God for the opportunity to experience Jesus in new ways. Thank God for the journey that I am on.
Dad passed in 1997 at 63. Mom passed in 2004 at 62. And my sister just died at 54. Bam, bam and boom.
Rounding the bases this time has been hard. There is no celebrating this grand slam.
I was explaining to a long-time accomplice that in my sister’s passing, I was trusting God to be the God of Grace.
Rachelle could describe herself as the “prodigal daughter.” IYKYK. Let’s just say, she squeezed a lot of life into that tiny, 54-year old body. Shoot, there was a TV show made about parts of it.
While she had received salvation and confirmed it on her death bed, she had not spent much time “measuring up” to our American church-going standard. The stuff of sanctification was slight.
Earlier this week, before her passing, I prayed for the God of Grace to meet Rachelle. That she would be welcomed by a God FULL of grace. That just this once, He may not check the tapes. There’d be no medical exam. That the God of Grace would welcome my lil’ sis.
My friend answer my statement with a two-word text:
God ran. Two words with so much power. The most powerful sentence maybe ever constructed. The Pronoun and a verb, of which there may not be more life, smile, power, or energy. God ran.
I shared these two words with a number of friends. One of them said, slyly, “We’ll, you can take that two ways, right?”
The words barely touched my ears, responding, “God’s character demands only one way.” (I probably said it more “preachy” then you are reading it).
God never runs away. If you turn toward Him, He always runs toward you. God is always and entirely The God of Grace.
We can try to get our arguments together like the young lost son of Luke 15, but God waits and watches. When you break the horizon, He runs, hugs, kisses, does not check the records or listen to your case. He throws a party.
That is what happened an Thursday afternoon at 3:15 p.m. A failing-kidney, racked-liver, hard-living blonde bombshell turned from this world to the next and she made no other move.
This spring I planted four baby boxwoods to build up the backyard bed blown out by our dog.
Through the heat of this year’s summer, I have been devoted to watering this impending hedge. I’m working the dirt, ensuring that these beginning bushes blossom. Fledgling, I protect them by investing in them.
Extreme heat is not good for a boxwood. For example, you should not trim them on an extremely hot day. It is damaging.
While this season has been very hot, I’m not focusing on the risk, but rather the right input.
In a market full of fear, we work to eliminate the risks, rather than increase the inputs. We focus on the challenges, the threats. We worry over the wayward world. Circling the wagons, the thought is, “How do I protect?”
Joy is planted in us. It is there. God has put it in our soul. There is a stableness.
That joy can certainly die on the vine. It certainly be squelched by society. It is not assured that it will blossom. The is a risk and it has died in many.
Yet, we are assured that the joy God has given you can not be nullified, if it is being nurtured. The key is not risk reduction but rather consistent investment.
Certainly don’t give into the threats, but don’t focus on them. Nurture the joy given by God and you can be most confident that it will thrive, growing strong, taking over every bit of your life, forming a hedge.
Get out of your head. Step out of fear. Yield to Him. This investment is an exercise of trust.
My fledgling hedge is going to thrive. I’m doing the right work.
How much more should you be assured of God’s provision of joy as we do the right work.
I can blame a lack of execution on time, “I just don’t have it.” I can place blame on technology, “I just don’t understand it.” Maybe on a lack of know-how, “I just don’t get it.”
There certainly can be a lack of time, technology, or talent, but I believe there is an un-named, undercover pull on all that God has for me… and maybe you. It is that most offensive four-letter, F-word – Fear!
Jesus Christ tells a parable of a ruler that entrusted wealth to three servants. He granted them money while he was gone and instructed them to “Put it to work.”
One servant received 10 minas, the other five minas and the third just one mina. A mina was three month’s wages. This was no small amount of money or task.
In this Luke 19 telling of the story, the servant who received 10 minas returned and said, “Your one mina has returned 10 more.” He brought back almost three year’s wages to his master. The one who received five minas returned with 50 minas. It was 5x on his investments. Because these servants were trustworthy in managing three months’ wagers, they were rewarded with cities.
The last servant received one mina and he returned with the one mina. The One Mina Man knew that his master was a hard-driving successful leader who valued each mina. He’d expect his mina back. So, he cautious and carefully covered that mina, hiding it. He was going to ensure that those dollars were not misdirected.
The wrapping of the mina was more than an insurance policy. It was a personal protection policy because the One Mina Man feared the master. The master was a driven, hard, successful leader. The One Mina Man knew how the master operated, “taking out what you did not put in and reaping what you did not sow.” The One Mina Man didn’t want any part of the risk, the threat, the unknown, so he handed back that same one mina.
The master responded, harshly, “You could have at least put it in the bank for interest.” He takes the one mina from the One Mina Man and gives it to his servant with the highest return.
Maybe the One Mina Man justified his lack of investment on time, “I can’t closely manage this investment.” He may have blamed the market, “I just don’t understand it.” Or a lack of know-how, “I just don’t know how to do it.”
That could be what the One Mina Man could says to others or even to himself. The truth is revealed in his first four words… “I was afraid of you.” It is fear that keeps him from investing. That one mina is wrapped in a weave of worry. Anxiety rules the actions of our One Mina Man. It is fear that paralyzes the plainest of plans… just put it in a bank account. No such movement. The One Mina Man is frozen in fear.
While the One Mina Man said that he “feared the master,” a more modern translation may have said he suffered from anxiety. You see, fear produces action, but anxiety stops everything, like not investing the money. When you are afraid, you run. When you are anxious, you just wrap up your investment and hide.
Sadly, anxiety has become a crippling mechanism for many. It is an apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness, usually about future uncertainties. Anxiety is the most common mental disorder in the United States.
Of course, during the pandemic, fear and anxiety has ruled. According to the National Centers of Health and the U.S. Census Bureau, anxiety hit it’s high in mid-November of 2020, when almost 40% of the U.S. population experienced anxiety. Just last month, over 25% of adults expressed feeling anxious in a one-week period.
Studies show and honest conversations around tables, like a C3 Forum, reveal, that most of us have our One Mina Moments… and sadly, some of us are consistently living in like the One Mina Man.
The response to someone having a One Mina Moment to “Change your environment,” “Find a new job,” or “Maybe you aren’t called,” stops short of getting to the root cause. Luke 19 gives us room to give those responses as the total loss for the One Mina Man is three months wages and some reputation. He can recover. It isn’t the end of the world, so just “Move on,” “Find a new job.”
The problem is that Luke 19 isn’t Jesus only telling of his parable. He also tells an aligned parable in Matthew 25. In the Matthew parable the One Mina Man not only loses the mina but he is thrown “’outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” He is sent to Hell.
This now makes the One Mina Moment a serious matter. It’s not enough to tell someone to find a new job or that this may not be their calling. There is more at risk here than just three-month’s wages or a reputation.
We need to deal with our fear. That is the base cause in both passages. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 25 that not dealing with our fear will lead to separation, being thrown out. This separation is not just an eternal position, it is also the station from which we may live our everyday life in this world, removed from the Master.
The work here is to identify the primary issue. The effort to get past the fear or anxiety is significant, but it is work that will never be accomplished if it is not named. The first step is to understand the true problem.
I don’t feel like I have the time, nor the resources or even the knowledge to bring a 10x return. Yet, I am confident that the Lord has entrusted me with amazing blessings. I also know that many times, it is fear that causes me to keep those “riches” wrapped up and believe I can’t bring 5 times or 10 times return on those blessing.
Together let’s start unwrapping some of those riches. The world needs the return of your blessing.
The man-to-man medical chit-chat about vasectomies is light-hearted and common place. We “bust each others balls,” so to speak, about the snip-snip and being a eunuch.
Then yesterday, I read that, actually, female sterilization is twice as common as male sterilization. Twice.
What? So what was the chit-chat of the snip-snip?
Then more shocking news. According to this New York Times’ article, the reason that women are twice as likely as men to be sterilized is “cultural expectations about what truly defines a man.”
What? What? Defining a man? Is that what my buddies think define them?
It is times like these that I wonder if I live in an alternate universe. The guys I know (if they are being honest), have vasectomies and, though we do not specifically talk about it, don’t define themselves by the content of their ejaculate (this just become an adult post).
The article did go on to say that men who have vasectomies are “typically white, non-Hispanic,” live in the “Western regions of the country” and have “private insurance.” Sounds like me.
When I went and saw Dr. Biggers (yes, that was his name) for my vasectomy, I thought I was doing what everyone else did. I had no idea that it was twice as likely for Brenda to have a procedure than me. I would have missed out on those post-op days with frozen vegetables on my lap.
The lesson here isn’t about who gets snipped or why (although I do have some serious questions about that). The lesson is that we all see the world through our personal lens. That lens is developed by our culture, those that are around us, our region of the country and, even, if we have private insurance (which actually speaks to many things).
Let’s not “bust our balls” but actually better understand our varied experiences…as uncomfortable as they may be. Just put some frozen veggies on ’em.
From Life on the Rutledge monthly enewsletter, which gives short blurbs about the ministries with which Mason is involved. Subscribe. You can do so by clicking here.
Just last week, the Best Christian Workplace Institute (BCWI) released a feature on processes at CRISTA Ministries. The article outlines CRISTA’s implementation of the FLOURISH Model built by BCWI.
The FLOURISH Model identifies where a workplace culture is healthy, strong or poised to improve. It influences how an organization can do even more to measurably improve the health of its workplace culture.
CRISTA had used the BCWI Staff Engagement Survey for eight years. That gave us a running start to continue to improve the health of the culture. “The survey results were affirming, because we’re an organization that works on relationships to fulfill our mission,” said Mike Cole, CRISTA’s Chief People Officer.
Read about CRISTA’s culture and BCWI’s FLOURISH Model by clicking here.
This comes from the Life on the Rutledge monthly enewsletter that gives short blurbs about the ministries with which Mason is involved. Subscribe. You can do so by clicking here.
January was a monumental month in the long history of CRISTA Ministries. It isn’t often that we transition between CEOs. CRISTA Ministries has only had six CEOs in its 69-year history. History was also made because we now have our first female CEO of CRISTA Ministries. On January 15, Jacinta Tegman took over the helm.
Vice Chair of the CRISTA Board, Jill Going, introduced Jacinta to the CRISTA employees the morning of her first day. It was a tremendous celebration and opportunity for Jacinta to share her vision. You can watch the entire CEO introduction and Jacinta’s speech by clicking here.
Jacinta outlined “God’s plan for CRISTA.” She talked about her long history on the campus. How as a young teenager she worked in the laundry for just a few spending dollars. She shared the history of the campus, going back to the pre-CRISTA years, when the campus was a tuberculosis sanatorium. She talked about how this property became a place of hope in a difficult time for people being challenged and outcast by society.
Jacinta reminder the employees that while we are an organization that operates with professionalism and excellence, we are more than just an organization. “We are CRISTA Ministries,” she said, “not CRISTA Industries.”
And what does it mean to be CRISTA Ministries in this new era? Jacinta outlined four points to our common calling:
Serve and Love God – “Our first ministry is to Him and to be transformed by His love, mercy and grace.”
Serve in Mission – “We are called to serve needs. It’s as relevant in 2019 as it was 70-years ago…Ministry means service.”
Service to Each Other – “We must trust the potential in each of us.”
Service to Community and World – “Let us step into the world’s pain and make a lasting difference in Jesus name.”
It was a powerful first day on the job. In the campus’ long history – before titles, organizations or jobs – it was evident that God has been active in this place. “We don’t do the work of God,” Jacinta said. “We join in the work of God. This is a ministry to serve the needs of people with the love of God.”
“We are in the business of hope and the world is starving for it,” Jacinta concluded. “Let us be brokers of hope.”
This article from the Life on the Rutledge monthly enewsletter that gives short blurbs about the ministries with which Mason is involved. Subscribe. You can do so by clicking here.
This week is the annual Prayer Week on the CRISTA Campus and in CRISTA’s ministries around the world. Above, you can see the banner on the front of Martin Center. This week is set aside in the CRISTA calendar for designated times of prayer.
New CRISTA CEO Jacinta Tegman wrote, “As we prepare our hearts to come together in our week of prayer, it is my prayer that the Lord will open our eyes to understand His mighty protective heavenly army surrounding us… And, I pray that the Lord will grow our faith to do whatever He asks us to do knowing we are not alone in the battles we face. God is indeed with us.”
The theme for the week of prayer is “Draw Near to God.” Each day this week, the staff will gather for an hour of designated prayer for a specific ministry. This time includes prayer walks around the campus and specific prayer requests from the field. The time is rich and much needed in the challenging world of helping ministries in a hurting world.
Friday afternoon, students go home, offices close and only the most necessary of staff continue in their physical work efforts. The rest of us will gather in the auditorium for a few hours in the spiritual work of guided prayer.
We greatly value prayer in our personal lives, in our vocational work and in our organization. It is a thread through all that we do. This is simply our week to remind us of this central focus.
We want you to join us for any of our corporate times of prayer. The best time to join us would be for the Concert of Prayer on Friday afternoon in Schirmer Auditorium from 1 to 4 p.m. There are also daily prayer times. There are various times to pray for the different ministries. Shoot me an email for more information or to RSVP for any of the prayer times… email@example.com.
Please prayer for us as we focus corporately together on prayer. Thank you.