Dry Land of Man

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.

  • Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. 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.


Temptation of the Toilet

“Don’t play in the water.”

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.

Two-Word Text

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.”

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.

God ran.

Boxwood Investments

By Mason Rutledge, from the C3 Leaders’ Blog

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.

Joy beats fear everyday.

One Mina Man

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.

CRISTA Processes Featured by BCWI

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.

FLOURISHJust 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.

Important Israeli Issue: Indigestion

Israeli ChefsThere are deeper pieces written about Israel.  They dive into the critical geo-political discussions of history, borders, ethnicity and religion.  This post is about food.  Yes, Israeli food.  While it may not be on the front page, it is a highlight that should not be lost in a discussion of this wonderful country.

Of course if you are traveling to Italy or Latin America, expectations will certainly focus on  the cuisine.  That is not the case in Israel.  Yet, it is at the large, full and colorful Israeli table that life is worked out over warm breads, complicated spreads, charred meats and deep Golan Heights’ wines.

So why the title, “Indigestion.”  The indigestion doesn’t come from the significant topics and the intense Israeli mannerisms, it simply comes from the amount of food.  There is a deep love for people and community in this culture and it shows at the meal table.  The tables are filled with enough that no one will be left out and that all will leave full.

Each meal was served family style.  I don’t do well with family style or at a tapas place.  I’m simply too competitive.  There was no competition at this table.  This was family…others were first, everyone looked out for everyone else and most incredibly, you couldn’t out eat what they provided.

There was only one time that a plate did not return full.  We were eating a catered picnic at a park just a mile or so from the Syrian border.  Our table devoured a delicious burrata covered in balsamic and tomatoes.  We were so taken by the flavor that our compulsion was to ask for a second.  We forgot that this was a picnic in the middle of nowhere.  Needless to say, we did not get seconds…for the first time.

Israeli DessertWe usually didn’t need to ask for seconds at a meal simply because there was so much.  Each meal started with a broad spread of salads and dips.  Dinner would include two main dishes served individually, first a fish and then a beef.  Following the meal there was always a broad selection of a half dozen or so desserts, fruits, chocolates and a mash of sesame seeds called Halvah.

The last dinner of the week, a few folks returned their steaks.  The steaks looked great, my traveling companions were just full and didn’t want to waste the food.  A confused chef came out to see what was going on.  It was a bit of an awkward cross-cultural moment.  The lesson is to take the steak and eat a bite or two if at all possible.

I found this bounty not only in restaurants and hotels but in individual houses.  We stopped at the home of a family of Aramaic Christian near the Lebanon border.  While we only had a moment at their house, they set an entire table for 14 of us.  They had a number of desserts and coffee, tea and drinks.  They were ready for an event, unfortunately we were Americans on a schedule.

I had a similar experience on a street corner of Nazareth.  There was a group of Muslim men drinking Turkish coffee.  Sitting around a hookah with their coffee, they invited me to join them.  The coffee was strong and had the smell and taste of delicious cardamom.  For them the moment was for coffee and conversation.  Unfortunately for the American, the moment was the next moment.  It was a miss.

There are many cups and plates to be enjoyed in community, but you wont find a serving spoon.  Again, being American, I would request a serving spoon for the dishes and servers would comply.  I then sat next to Senior Fellow on Israeli Affairs and she told me, “They don’t have serving spoons because they see everyone as family.  You don’t need a serving spoon when you are with family.”  I discovered that “double dipping” is deemed just fine in Israel.

Isreal MealThe real blessing of a meal in Israel isn’t found in the delicious food, the copious amounts or the community culture, it is found in the length of meal and depth of discussion.  Not unlike an Italian dinner, though not as late, dinner in Israel takes a couple hours.  It’s not just about the courses, it’s about the real conversations about varied lives lived together.

If you needed one more reason to go to Israel, here it is.  Go for the food.  The deepest experiences of Israel are not a meal, but your deepest experiences will be enhanced, remembered, noted and savored around a delicious, broad menu shared in community with others, who are also experiencing the beauty and depth of Israel.  Take it in!

Allies and Associates

We pick them up on the way.  As we move through each day we find allies and associates.  It’s the job we have, work we do, what we do, places we shop, where we drink, friendships we make, neighborhoods we live.Childhood Associates

Most of these associations are done without intentionality or purpose.  We just end up at that place, with those folks or doing that stuff.

In our early years those places, folks and stuff were narrowed by limited travel and a simplified focus.  With each year, these associations grow.  They not only grow in number but in complexity.  “I have a portfolio of work” or “I live bi-coastal.”  And even if we have only one job and one home, we have childhood friends and “new” friends, old activities and new activities, much to which we have said, “Yes” and very little to which we have said, “No more.”

The Old Testament tribe of Israel came into their promised “Yes” through the domination of the Promised Land.  They were instructed to eliminate everyone in the land as they progressed into possession.  They did not.  This means that there were people living among the Israelites for which God did not intend them to live.  Joshua 23 encourages us, in this retelling, to be careful with our allies and associates.

As we pick up our broad variety of allies and associations each day they impact us.  Joshua warns that, if we don’t pick carefully, “they will become snares and traps.”  If you are not properly aligned, it will actually wreck your life.  Joshua said, “you will perish from this good land.”

God fights for His people.  He works on our behalf.  God makes great promises to each of us.  He fulfills His promises (“Not one has failed”).  We are to hold fast to Him.  As we ally and associate, we are to hold fast to his direction.

Have I collected “snares”?  Am I heading into “traps”?  Are there situations to which I am blind because I have “thorns in my eyes?”  Is my back being whipped by what I’ve asked myself to do?  If this is true, let them go.  Let them go, now.  Have no fear.  These snares, traps, thorns or whips are more than just pain.  They will lead to death in life.  Release.

Remember that you are picking them up today.  New allies and associates.  Commit your day to God and ask Him to bring the right people, places and opportunities into your life.





Proofreed My News Letter.

“How can I get more people involved in our vital work?”  This was the question a colleague asked me.  “Our work around the world is so important and there are so few that are even aware of the issues, let alone involved.  What are some creative ways beyond newsletters and blog posts (ugh) to educate potential volunteers, donors and advocates?”

I worked up an answer and I thought I’d share it with you.  We all have causes for which we care and would like to see more people involved.  If you don’t have time to work on a causes, these ideas would work to educate possible customers, employees or even investors.


Great question, Julie.  Here are a few thoughts collected from years of failed experiences and training notes taken on hotel napkins.  None of these events are fundraisers.  These are all “friend-raisers.”

I’ve done umpteen events.  My favorite event is the house party.  This is where a key volunteer or Board member invites friends, neighbors and/or ncolleagues to their house for an evening.  They provide food and drink (although I always offer to pay).  I bring in a mission expert who speaks briefly about the work.  There is a time of questions and answers.  It’s a wonderful little night.

transformation-discSpitball.  Give a sharp crowd information about an issue you are dealing with in your field work.  Outline your current solutions, aka programs.  Ask them to brainstorm ideas for how it could be improved.  Ask them to critique.  What would they do?  What would they like to see us do?

Disappearing Task Force.  Rally a group of potential donors to meet together four times to answer a specific question.  You can start by doing it on the question you are asking me, “What can we do to educate possible volunteers, donors and advocates about our work?  Help me think about how to best do that work.”  Maybe it’s even a long working lunch but if you can get them over three or four sessions they are in.  Ask for their advice.  People love to give it.

Salon Event.  Variation of a house party.  Invite people over to a hosted event at a home or a luncheon.  Give them a provocative question to discuss.  “How does the Gospel invite our participation in the lives of the poor and oppressed of the world?”  You may even give them the question in advance.  Then let people talk.  This is not moderated.  There is no correct answer.  This is just pure joy.

Jeffersonian Dinner.  If the Salon Event is a variation of the House Party, the Jeffersonian Dinner is a variation of the Salon Event.  Again, invite people to a home or meal.  The people do not need to know each other.  Bring in an expert (could even be yourself) to moderate a discussion around a topic.  You can look these up Jeffersonian Dinners on the internet.

Book Group.  Read a book with a small group of donors like “How Helping Hurts” “Whole in our Gospel” or even “Memorize This” (that’s mine).  It’s a short-term commitment.  Just the book during weekly meetings for two months.  Simple.

Conference call with Leadership.  Put together and have the President, Vice President of Programs or even a Country Director share about their work.  Allow people to ask questions.  Make sure that the leader offers some juicy insider knowledge.  People love that almost as much as giving their opinion.

Authentic Experiences of Mission.  One Saturday morning do a simple walk where people carry water the average distance a momma in Kenya walks with water.  Do it as a group.  End at some hipster coffee shop where you can discuss…and drink some water.  ‘nother idea…have someone build a shelter to the size and specifications of an average shelter in South Sudan.  Do a dinner party in it.  Struggle.  Be uncomfortable, people.

Thank You Note Work Party.  Gather people at another hipster coffee shop, share some stories and have them write Thank You notes to your donors…or mine.  Have the hipster coffee shop provide the coffee.

Have peopole proof red your news letter or blog posts.  It’s not only work that needs to be done, but it informs them too.  It’s “workucation” – proven to get the job done and expand peoples’transformation hearts.


That was my email.  Hopefully it gives you some good ideas.  What are some things you have tried?  You can share below.

CRISTA: 4-Star Rating

Charity Navigator VerticalCRISTA Ministries, for the third year in a row, was just rated a Four-Star Charity by Charity Navigator.  Charity Navigator is an independent organization that serves as a  watchdog by evaluating charitable organizations.  Their website, http://www.charitynavigator.com, sees 10 million visits from potential donors per year.

CRISTA scored a 92.22 out of 100 on the Charity Navigator scale.  Scores of 90 or higher deem a Four-Star rating.  Only 10% of the organizations graded by Charity Navigator receive a Four-Star status.

As a part of their rating process, Charity Navigator gave CRISTA perfect scores in Accountability and Transparency, Program Expense ration, Administrate Expense ration and Fundraising Expense ration.  CRISTA’s Program Expense Ratio of 90% is 5% above the 85% threshold for a 10-point score.  The Administrative Expense ratio of 4.2% is well below the 15% threshold for a 10-point score.  The Fundraising Expense ratio of 5.6% is also well below the 10% threshold for a 10-point score.

With such a limited number of organizations receiving a Four-Star status by Charity Navigator, CRISTA is honored by the rating.  We are an organization that believes in the Biblical model that says if we are faithful with the small details, all those reviewed by Charity Navigator, God will entrust us with His significant work.