Eye-Opening Vasectomy

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.Balls

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.





“Enough Leftover for Pizza”

We have a God that wants to bless us.  He is not afraid to hear our large prayers.  He is ready for our specific requests.  His only expectation is that we are attentive to the small details.  If we do so, he is ready to bless us with the big stuff.  You can read more on this topic from my recent post by clicking here.

As a follow up to that blog post, I wanted to share the following story.  It points to God’s provision and our work to be and pray specific.

I ran a training conference for a few hundred young leaders from around the world.  It was a residential conference, so the students lived in the dormitories on this beautiful, urban college campus.

Students came with a lot of luggage and large bags because this was a three-week training conference.  Coming from around the world, we were moving in students all day.  To make for an easy move-in, students propped open the exterior doors.  Once in their rooms, they opened windows to get fresh air in the rooms that had been vacated by the college students a few weeks earlier.

The hallways were full of laughter, smiles and conversations as these young leaders left their dorms for the general session across campus.  They left with so much excitment and expectation that they didn’t think about closing doors or windows on this beautiful college campus.

When the students returned to the dorms after the orientation, many found that their luggage and bags had been ransacked.  Opportunistic thieves came through propped open doors and open windows and had helped themselves to wallets.  The police said that they had probably been watching us move in all afternoon and when we left the doors open, they took advantage.

We worked through dinner gathering a list of what was stolen.  We were lucky that it was only wallets.  Clothing and computers had gone untouched.  The problem is that these young folks were planning on three weeks of spending money so they had a lot of cash.  At the end of dinner we announced that we would be taking an offering that night at chapel to help the students recover.

The speaker that night asked the students to give.  This was a newly forming community, so we didn’t know what to expect.  We had come up with a figure for how much we needed.  The speaker said, “We need $4,536.”  He could have said, “We need about forty-five hundred” or “We think we need about $4,536.”  Instead, he spoke boldly to the amount, boldly to the work of the investigators in aggregating the total and boldly to the need.  “Let’s pray for $4,536” and then he prayed and passed the baskets.

After chapel the leadership team gathered to count the cash.  These were young leaders in ministry.  They didn’t have much, so most of the giving was in ones, fives, tens and even coins.

We carefully added everything up.  First, groups of dollars, then groups of tens, groups of hundreds and thousands.  We worked to pull it all together like children having busted open piggy banks.

As we looked at the running total and the pile of money remaining, we all thought, through wry smiles, “We are going to land on exactly $4,536.”  Could that be?  Could this be some kind of amazing miracle?

Well, we didn’t land exact.  Our final total was $4,548.  We were $12 over.

The speaker didn’t let the possible miracle go unnoticed, he said to our team, “That is how God works.  He gives you exactly what you need and then enough for a pizza.”

Cards and wallets were found by police a few days later in the bushes near a casino.  There wasn’t any cash remaining.

We distributed the funds from the offering to the victims.  The story of the tally became lore during the three weeks.  It changed the way those students prayed, praying specifically.  It also changed our mindset when we all ate pizza.


Seattle-King County Prayer Breakfast: Intergenerational Leadership

One of the primary ways God is moving in Western Washington is in the integration of faith in the workplace.  The human construct of “ministry” as pastor or parish has been replaced by ministry reflected in your place and profession.

The movement has grown through the careful curating of business leaders, genuinely responsive church leadership (way to go, First Presbyterian Bellevue) and a handful of organizations, like KIROS or C3 Forum.

Prayer BreakfastThe Christmas or Easter event of this movement is the annual Seattle-King County Prayer Breakfast.  These attendees may be on the fringe of a C3 group or occasionally attend a KIROS breakfast, but the Seattle-King County Prayer Breakfast they attend regularly.

This year’s Prayer Breakfast was held this morning at the Seattle Sheraton.

The targeted purpose of this year’s event was intergenerational friendship.  It was stated that the average age of Seattle is 35-years old.  Young professionals are streaming into the region for new jobs and the Northwest lifestyle.  They are moving into the neighborhoods of a long-term population made up of experienced leaders steeped in generosity and innovation.  It is in this unique mix that the Prayer Breakfast invited us to engage.  There is a grand opportunity for generation-to-generation impact.

The keynote was from long-time Seattle attorney, Skip Li.  Here are a few of my notes from his talk…

Intergenerational Friendships

  • I found in these (intergenerational) friendships, like a love relationship, that there is a discovery process.
  • The deeper I get into (intergenerational) friendships, the more I learn about myself…I learn what I need to act on in my life.
  • Investment is the wrong word for a friendship with a young person…Friendship works in the exact opposite actions of exchange, agenda.
  • Skip offered his “Four Rules” here.  He did them so fast that I will have to post them after I am able to find them elsewhere…like maybe the bathroom of the Ave. House where he said they were posted.

Need for Development of Moral Intelligence

  • Moral compasses are so skewed today that they no longer function in the world.
  • We live in a bewildering moral wilderness…church or family can only take you so far…So, how do you do it?
  • Moral intelligence is the ability to live life doing the right thing regardless of the current environment.
  • Moral intelligence finds a way of out of confusion…It uses these roads:
    • The Road of Humility,
    • The Road of Sacrifice and
    • The Road of Faith… Roads that our culture long ago abandoned.


  • Remember the poor.
  • Pray for the poor.
  • Psalm 71.17-18

It was a powerful message and echoed in the introduction offered by Senior Associate of Centered, Jeff Vancil, “Don’t underestimate the power of simple friendship – it is the strategy of God.”

Taking Pictures Across Cultures

img_9153-e1507674799894.jpgGathering folks from around the world for a photograph is a social experiment.  There is personal space, smiling vs. no smiling, touching, etc. that doesn’t always translate.  You can see it in this photo of me with World Concern staff from around the world during our Transform Gala last month.  The photo ended up looking more professional than personal.  I love these people…and I think they kind of like me…

How do you cross this cultural divide?

IMG_9167Simply hold out your arm and phone and exclaim, “Selfie!”  Everyone from around the world will naturally gather around you with broad smiles and the joy of the common experience.  Like this photo from the Transform Gala…that even had World Concern President Jacinta Tegman jump in with out photo bomb.  Not that is love

It is a small…selfie…world after all.

This article is from the October edition of Life on the Rutledge enewsletter.  To subscribe to the monthly enewsletter, click here.

Healthy Conversations, Right?

A new phrase has entered our world to guide small talk conversations and in seeking acknowledgement or even agreement.

Sentences, in the past, have been tied together with a dangling “so” (aka Grandma…”Well she died, so…how are you?”) or drawn out “yeah” (aka Lumberg in Office Space, “Yeeeaah, the TPS reports need a cover sheet”).Lumbergh

We also had phrases to indicate one’s agreement with a thought or to acknowledge the statement.  They included, “Okay?” “Know what I mean?” “Understand?” “Hear what I’m saying?” or “Ja feel?”  Even if you may not have meant it, by using these phrases, they did ask a question.  They were seeking a common understanding.

The phrase of the new generation for guiding conversation, acknowledgement and agreement is, “Right.”  I’ve intentionally not put a question mark, because while it may look like an interrogative this is much more statement than question.  The full translation to this one word would be, “Whatever I just said is correct.”  “Right.”

Here is a simple example.  “Are we going to the store today?” verses “We are going to the store today, right.”  The second is much more of a statement.  Just a few years ago that may have been asked as, “We are going to the store, okay?”  It is seeking agreement verses making a decision.

That is a fairly simple example.  It gets complicated when making a statement of opinion.  “Trump is crazy, right” or “This weather, right” or “She just goes on and on, right.”

The “right” is not offered with a pause.  It is a expressway bridge.  There isn’t even time for a head nod in these situations.  When the word is used, it’s not to draw you into the conversation but just to make a statement.  This really isn’t a conversation, right.

This is more than just a single word addition in standard sentence vocabulary.  This is a statement to a widespread and strong movement that says everybody is entitled to their opinion and that opinion isn’t up for discussion or reason.  By the way, I’m not making a statement about whether that is right or wrong (ironic).  Shoot, the very polite and accepting Canadians have been doing this for years with, “Eh.”

In a conversation if you ask, “Understand?” or “Okay?” or “You know what I mean?” you run the risk of getting the response, “No” or “No, that is not okay” or “Help me understand.”  Most of us do not have the time, desire or actual undergirding to actually have that conversation.  We aren’t interested.

So listen for it.  You’ll hear it and it will make you ask about the person, opinion, community, common discourse, our society and world…right.

Potlatch Part II

This is part two of a two-part series on the uniqueness of life in the Pacific Northwest.  Check out part one by clicking here.

The independent, innovative, entrepreneurial nature of those living in the Pacific Northwest stacked on top of the abundance of this region is what has caused this region to explode.

CompaniesThere are $800 billion in goods and services developed and sold annually in the Pacific Northwest.  Think of the innovative companies that have started here:  Boeing, UPS, Nordstrom, Starbucks, Microsoft, the Hutch, Amazon and there are hundreds of spin offs that are changing the world and we have not even heard of them.

Our informal nature allows us to color outside the lines.  It’s more than wearing flannel, shorts, beard and hat to work.  We work differently.  We work with a mindset that has the confidence of abundance.  We don’t have anything to fear.  If we fail there is another six-figure salary around the corner.  We’ve never experienced a real estate pull back (take a moment and knock on wood).  And if we fail, we all know someone who needs help with their early-stage tech start up or a buddie to train for the Seattle-to-Portland Bike Ride.

This independent, information nature is part of the reasons Seattle is widely known as the “most unchurched city in the U.S.”  This independent, non-conformity is found in our spiritual lives.  It is true that most of us don’t go to church, but many people in the Pacific Northwest have faith.

Dr. James Wellman, Chair of the Comparative Religion Program at the University of Washington, has opposed the “Nones” tag given to the spiritual life of those in the Pacific Northwest.  Dr. Wellman instead reflects the historical bounty of the potlatch and spirit of abundance.  He would argue that we actually have a very open and engaged spiritual environment.

You may not find us in a pew on Sunday morning but those does not mean we are not engaged.  It may be that our “church” is Taco Tuesday with our like-minded, same age, neighborhood friends at someone’s house.  Of anything discussed in this blog post about life in the Pacific Northwest, this is the most alarming, but that is another article.

Feats of strength by the Power Team use to be ripping a phone book in half.  Today they could try and do the same with a voter pamphlet from Washington state.  We love the voter-led referendum.  I don’t know if it is an insecurity about government officials or an independent electorate, ie. “they” do not decided for us.  You want to be an politician in the Pacific Northwest because you don’t have to make a tough decision.  It will be made through an energetic, signature-collecting referendum fan base.

Underlying in this discussion about the Pacific Northwest is that we are really talking about two distinct communities.  There are the folks around Seattle/Bellevue (which is the vast majority) and then there is the rest of the region.  These two groups have been tagged liberal and conservative, but they really are progressive and libertarian.  Each of these groups live out the principles of this post, they are just lived out in different ways.

This first in the list may be the most interesting.  People in the Pacific Northwest love their animals.  There are more pets in the city of Seattle then kids.  Some laws are strong against abuse to animals that abuse to people.  Animals allow us to be indepent.  They love us in our idicynries.  And even if we give them the Seattle Freeze they love us.

Here is the list again.  What would you add?  Do you agree?  How have you seen these lived out?  I know you are probably outside, working independently and don’t want to give your opinion as maybe better than someone else’s, but share.

  • Outdoor
  • Self-Reliant
  • Tolerant – Live and Let Live
  • Informal
  • Love for animals
  • Environment
  • Non-Conformity is cool
  • Two worlds in one.
  • Spiritual
  • Diversity is highly valued
  • Innovation
  • Seattle Freeze

Pacific Northwest Potlatch of Particulars

PotlatchThe longest running tradition in the Pacific Northwest is that of people coming together to share their resources at a potlatch.  The abundance of the region called us to share generously.  Everyone had enough and everyone had something to share.  The potlatch grew out of this soil from the initial immigrants by ice.

The Pacific Northwest is an abundant region and we should generously share.  This is a place where everyone can be assured of enough.  We live in a land of plenty.

Subsequent immigrants by wagon crossed the Rockies and Psalm 65.11 echoed, “Your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.”  Legend says that the salmon flows in the Pacific Northwest were “so thick you could walk across the rivers on their backs.”  This is certainly a geography where the paths, and rivers, “drip with fatness.”

I was recently part of a potlatch. This was a potlatch of the mind, not the stomach.  Leaders in the work of global reconciliation, aid and relief met for a day to share from our abundance.  We had our Starbucks, but beyond that we came to share in this off-the-record, energizing conversation summarized as an “innovation lab.”

During this time, I lead the group in a morning discussion on the Unique Idiosyncrasies of the Pacific Northwest.  Here are a few of the distinctives that filled the white board…

  • Outdoor
  • Self-Reliant
  • Tolerant – Live and Let Live
  • Informal
  • Love for animals
  • Environment
  • Non-Conformity is cool
  • Two worlds in one.
  • Spiritual
  • Diversity is highly valued
  • Innovation
  • Seattle Freeze

The last one stings.  This is not who we truly are as a region.  The Seattle Freeze, where people are very kind but really don’t allow you into their life, has developed recently.  Almost everyone in Washington comes from someplace else.  The population has exploded and 80% of the people live along a very narrow passageway called I-5.  Most of us have landed in this small space as are a part of a series of immigrations:

  • 2010s: Tech/Job/Innovation Migration
  • 1990s: California Real Estate Migration
  • 1960s: Lutheran Migration (Montana, Dakotas, Minnesota)

With each of these migrations we have become more removed from the potlatch nature of this place.  We don’t know each other.  Our families are elsewhere.  We don’t have roots.  We aren’t truly tied to the place.  We’re nice.  We are welcoming.  We freeze.  “Lets grab coffee sometime.”

This is partially a part of our self-reliant nature.  Shoot, we provide power, planes, shopping, software, timber and tech for much of the world.  Even our famous Top Pot Donuts are “hand-forged.”  We aren’t going to leave them up to just bounce around in some oil.

Part two of this blog post will be posted on Monday, April 3, 2017.  Look for “Potlatch Part II.” 

Not a Political Post

first-presWalking to church on Sunday, my wife and I discussed the issues of the day.  Knowing I’m a prolific poster, she warned, “If you post anything political, I’m going to be very, very angry.”  She didn’t say she’d be “mad,” but “angry.”  I got my sermon early that morning.

So this is not a political post.  You see, Brenda is my check and balance.  She is the one that saves my sanity in my swirling head and heart of designs and dreams.  She knows the questions to ask.  She knows when to ask them.  She asks them appropriately.  She’s earned my utmost respect by both position, as my spouse, and performance, as a 25-year proven partner in life.

So this is not a political post.  You see, this morning I am thankful for checks and balances.  This is especially true in our world where thoughts, ideas and opinions can shoot off unchecked.  Therefore our society has appropriately developed checks and balances.  These systems not only have positional authority, but have also proven themselves through decades of performance.

As a citizen of the West Coast of the United States and having earned a minor in Political Science from the Washington State University (impressive, I know), I have certainly known of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  I’ve known of them, but I have not supported them.

This week that changed.  I have prayed for the 9th Circuit Court more this week than I ever have in my life.  The bar wasn’t real high to start.  I don’t know if I’ve ever decidedly prayed for any court.  This week I prayed.

My prayer was very simple.  I prayed for wisdom.  These are wise people that were selected by wise people.  I prayed that their wisdom would shine bright.

I’m thankful for the checks and balances in my life and our world.  In writing this post today, this could look like I’m making a statement about the issue.  That is not the case.  I could have just as easily written this post yesterday morning or early this week.  The thankfulness of checks and balances holds true…and that is why this is not a political post.

Whew.  Glad no one is angry.

Taking Notes… at Funerals

Yes, funerals are a time to stand with friends who are going through this most significant of separations.  Of course, it’s also a time to honor the deceased.  I have also found that funerals are a time to reflect, review, receive and reorientate.  It’s therapeutic.

taking-notesI take notes at funerals. Nicknames, stories, Bible verses, quotes, themes.  I write it all down.  The notes help me ingrain the lessons in my own brain.

This last weekend I attended two memorials.  The first was a 56-year old man who died of brain cancer after a fairly short battle.  The other was a 77-year old man who suffered a heart attack. Two men who lived a whole-lot-of life and were taken far too soon from their grace-filled work on this Earth.

The 57-year old, Kelly, lived with a welcoming style that I’d like to emulate.  The style was literally style.  I’d seen him at home, work and in volunteering and he always looked sharp.  His style wasn’t hauty. It was honoring.  It spoke to the excellence he brought to the world.  The well-dressed can be anything but welcoming.  That was not the case here.  Anyone who knew Kelly talked about he changed a room with his presence, referenced at the memorial, “the Woo.”  His nephew even called him, “Up-man,” because Uncle Kelly helped him up the stairs as a toddler.  Kelly helped every man and woman “up.”

Seventy-seven years is a good, long run, but I am still amazed by the amount of life lived by Don.  He impacted lives in Alaska, Croatia, Bainbridge Island, Seattle, North Korea, Chile, Skagit Valley and where he died in Palm Springs.  He really didn’t have a plan for any of these places.  He was present and available to people and his strategy was simply “Jesus.”  As shared at the memorial, Don would say, “Jesus is the plan.” It’s incredibly kooky and it’s incredibly keen.  “God’s way is upside down.” Speakers at Don’s funeral talked about how his work would continue in North Korea and Croatia.  His simple plan worked.

My notes taken on two funeral bulletins about two brothers have been breathed in…as have the lives of two incredible men.  I learned from their in life…and with my pen while sitting in the pew.

Got to Catch Them All


For years you have seen people looking face down at their cell phone as they walk.  Well this last week you may have seen individuals, couples and groups with each person looking at their phone…laughing…smiling…and make claims about gyms, battles, eggs, lures and finds.

Next time you see someone acting like this while walking in your neighborhood, ask them, “Are you playing Pokémon Go?”  Their eyes will light up and they will exclaim, “Yes!”

This week Pokémon Go was uncovered and it’s lit.  In fact, I heard of twice this weekend where the entire app was shut down because of server overload and of a person who literally stopped on the freeway to catch a Pokémon.

Once you starting looking for the Pokémon Go players, you will see them all over the place.  The pictures above are just five of the eight groups in my neighborhood playing Pokémon Go during my 30-minute jog this afternoon.

“What’s amazing is the age group.” said one Pokémon Go player this afternoon.  “This game involves all ages.  It’s not just kids, but people in their 20s and 30s” (I was hoping he was sharing this with me because he was including me in that demographic).  I just watched a family – aged children, teenager and Mom – drive by slowly in a four-door with each member (minus Dad the Driver) on their phones.  They were playing Pokémon Go.

We see many players from our house, because across the street is a park where there are eight “Pokéstops” and a Gym.  That’s a lot.  We get a lot of Pokémon Go action on our street.  These geographically placed “Pokéstops,” found as park benches, signs, buildings or other landmarks, are the key to the app.  That is what all of these players are looking for in this GPS-enabled map search game.

The only issue, was that, as of last night, I didn’t know all of these details.  Up until about 1 a.m., I noticed an significant number of people walking into the dark park.  Groups of teenagers and young adults slowly moving, holding their brightly lit phones close.  I noticed cars driving slow and turning around to pass the park numerous times.  Something was up.  This isn’t 2007, this age group is no long geocaching. Concerned about the number of people in the park, I called the police to let them know.  I hadn’t put together and/or localized the Pokémon Go phenome.

Too many people in the park on a Saturday night is a small issue in today’s world.  Pokémon Go is helping to address a couple of today’s big issues.  First, most of us need more exercise.  This is an app and a game that gets you moving.  It’s not static, you must move and, at this point, the best way to play the game is on foot.  In fact, if you get an “egg” in the game you must go two kilometers to have it become a Pokémon.

Second, this is a game that creates community.  You can play it in a group and it’s even more fun to play with others.  It is not a completion.  Multiple people can catch the same Pokémon and that is why it can be played and enjoyed with friends.

Yes, this app, like many others, is going to be a time waster.  Our waitress today at brunch shared about how her life “has been consumed by two hours a day of Pokémon Go.”  It’s also going to have more people with faces down on their phone walking into poles, the street and/or each other.

I’ll take a little time wasting and wayward walking for people moving about in my neighborhood with a smile and a group of friends.

In this battle for fitness and community, I choose you, Pokémon Go!