Denver Rescue Mission Posts

Finding joy in the Father

My son and daughter, Roman and Abigail, were born in June two years ago, and spent the next 2 months in the intensive care unit at Saint Joe’s; that’s where I spent Father’s Day 2014. They gave me a bottle of root beer in a foam coozie that said “Happy Father’s Day” and I remember thinking how surreal it was to see those words apply to me. God had given me two new things that belonged to Him that He expected me to take care of.

Roman is an introvert (like his daddy) and Abigail is an extrovert (like her mommy). Most mornings I’m up around 5:30 because Roman starts crying. He and I sit on the couch for the next hour. We don’t actually interact a whole lot during that time, but that time is meaningful to him. When he doesn’t get that time, he’s off.

Abigail on the other hand is a force; everything she does she does with her whole heart. She is usually the instigator of the arguments with her brother. She also gives me her full attention during story time. She pays so much attention to detail; I think she’s going to be one of those people who edits Wikipedia.

Chris Rutledge Family

My wife and I constantly see God’s perspective when we raise our kids. One day we were taking our kids to the park and Roman didn’t want to leave the house. He was having a blast playing with a toy he’d played with a million times before. I picked him up to put him in the stroller and he threw a temper tantrum and thrashed in my arms. I said to him, “Dude, you’re going to have so much more fun playing at the park than with that toy. Trust me and let me put you in the stroller!” I probably got more upset with him than I should have. I don’t blame him, really; he had a good thing going with that toy. What more could I possibly have to offer him that would be better? I realized later how often my Creator says the same thing to me. I resist change when I’m comfortable, even when I know it’s God’s will that I change. I empathize with God; it must be so frustrating parenting me.

In his book “The Weight of Glory” C.S. Lewis said, “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I get chills every time I read that. I imagine that’s how the disciples felt when Jesus told them, “Follow me and I’ll teach you how to fish for people.” God designed us to do something specific, and until we do that thing, we feel unfulfilled. Things just don’t feel right. God tries to take me somewhere he’s so excited for me to go. He knows I’ll enjoy it immensely. But I tend to kick and scream and reach for the toy that I’m so consumed with. I reject His plan for my life.

Chris and New Life Program GraduateThe largest part of my job as a Chaplain here at Denver Rescue Mission is talking with men in our New Life Program about what it looks like to live a life free from addiction. After seven years of working with them, I’ve realized how similar we are. A lot of us are dads and still working on what it means to be a father. Food, shopping, relationships, money, power; when boiled down, the desire for these things comes from the same place as a desire for heroin, alcohol, marijuana, and crack. There are a myriad of ways I can make myself happy without God’s help. Those ways of course lead to nothing but death, but in the impulsive moment they feel pretty good.

Jesus knows the desires of my heart. Many of those are desires I can’t identify with words. I stumble upon them after I’ve sinned, then submit myself to God’s will. Weeks after that, in my quiet time alone with God, I’ll realize how happy that submission to His will has made me.

In Luke 11:11-13 Jesus said, “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

 

A New Home for 50,000 Honeybees

On April 30th, I drove back from Berthoud in the cold afternoon, parked our little company car in the mud and snow at Harvest Farm, and popped the trunk to unload about 50,000 honeybees into their new homes. In five months, we hope to have honey from these hives. One year I harvested 20 gallons. The year of the High Park fires, with most of the flowers dried up and withering in the heat, I harvested only two gallons. So, only time will tell what the season will bring.

Welcoming new bees to our farm is a practice of hope. Bees are incredible creatures, I can talk for hours about all the fascinating aspects of their lives. They’re democratic in their decision-making even though they have a queen. Their alarm pheromone smells like banana runts. (It’s true, look it up). Honey found in King Tut’s tomb is still edible. But, my favorite aspect of the honeybee’s life is its abundance. Like very few other creatures, bees work so hard producing their unique product that they provide an abundance to be harvested. It is the abundance built into the community of bees that gives me hope on the bitter cold day I introduce them to Harvest Farm, another community of abundance and hope.

 

Harvest Farm is a refuge for men struggling to make sense of life and recover from a time of self-destruction and disappointment. A vast majority need substance abuse counseling, some need to connect with fulfilling employment, some simply need a place to heal and re-orient after being homeless. We are also a working farm which provides us with lots of space and some incredible examples for describing the work our men do during their year-long stay, like the honeybee hive.

It takes as much of a community approach to work on staff at Harvest Farm as it does to succeed in its program. As individuals, we can’t help our men do what they have to do on our own. It often feels a bit like a beehive to be honest. There can be four or five staff in a room with one program participant where we are confronting, supporting, guiding and talking through all the messiness and complexity of their life. Because we need to rely on the community approach so much, it can be unpredictable. Humans are fallible, inconsistent, forgetful and have a whole host of unique weaknesses. At our best, we all are pulling in the same direction and the energy hums through our work. Other times, we struggle to understand one another, we disagree, withdraw, blame and get discouraged.

Yet, this is why the icon of the beehive is so important. A single honeybee is amazing and complex, but the abundance of the beehive is the accumulation of tens of thousands of bees at work. There will be dark times of fragmentation and isolation in all our lives. The beehive is an icon of the promise of abundance. If we can redouble our efforts to engage in community, we invite others to see that God has created abundance, not out of the work of one spectacular person, but out of the faithful and dogged work of many fallible individuals striving together.

The harvest is worth it.

Finding Light in a Town Ravaged by Alcoholism: The Whiteclay Mission Trip

Every year, our staff and New Life Program participants at Harvest Farm make a short trip to Whiteclay, Nebraska to work with Lakota Hope and Hands of Faith, two ministries that are trying to help people when they need it most.

If you’re like me, many of you have probably never heard of Whiteclay, let alone the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Whiteclay is located two miles south of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where alcohol consumption and possession is prohibited, but just because it’s prohibited doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. A significant part of Whiteclay’s economy is based on alcohol sales to Pine Ridge residents. According to a recent article by the University of Nebraska, alcoholism rates on the Reservation are estimated at upward of 80%; and other alcohol-related problems such as fetal alcohol syndrome and domestic abuse are rampant.

As you can imagine, this causes issues, not only with the Pine Ridge residents, but with state and local government as well. You can go on YouTube right now and find 50 different news programs and documentaries showing the deterioration of Whiteclay and the number of people who have gotten caught up in alcohol addiction.

Image Credit: Hilary Stohs-Krause, NET News

Image Credit: Hilary Stohs-Krause, NET News

Denver Rescue Mission encourages trips to Whiteclay to motivate the men in our New Life Program to get out of their comfort zone and find out how much of a difference they can make on other people’s lives. At the Reservation, Mission staff and program participants work on projects ranging from gathering wood, so people can keep their families warm, to constructing new buildings from the foundation up.

 

These experiences instill in our men the idea that helping others is often the best way to help yourself. Not to mention that it gives them a glaring example and realization of how substance abuse can lead to the destruction of families, communities, and even entire cultures.

One of our New Life Program participants, Steven Leasa, had this to say about his recent trip to Whiteclay:

“As a participant in Harvest Farm’s New Life Program I went on the Whiteclay mission trip in 2015. I had been in the program for 2 months at the time and was excited to connect with Native Americans. However small that help may have been, it was worth every second I spent with each individual on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The amount of emotional distress on those peoples was more intense than I ever could have imagined. It was harrowing to empathize with them but it was necessary for me to perceive a greater picture of what is going on in the world.

I learned how creativity, innovation,  and compromise are all necessary parts of life in places where the struggle to figure out who you are is so intense–it extends beyond the individual and throughout the community as a whole, eventually revealing the fact that unity is the most important aspect of healthily overcoming adversity. Although there seemed to be no light in Whiteclay, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation will live on, and hope will maintain the strength that their ancestors embodied so well. Whether or not they return to their traditional ways, and rediscover their spirituality, or take on the modern world as the only resort they know of, people will relate, establish community, move on, and life will continue.”

The annual mission trip to Whiteclay means so much to me as a Denver Rescue Mission staff member, but also for all our guys in the program. I get to see Christ’s love pouring out of them each time they empathize with a Pine Ridge resident or the pride that they feel when they build a new home for the community.

It’s a trip I look forward to going on year after year.