New Life Family Services – Investing in Life

On Friday, October 28, 2016, I had the privilege of emceeing the 2016 New Life Family Services Silent Auction and Fundraising Gala. New Life and Oakdale Wesleyan have been partners investing in the lives of people for more than twenty years. Personally, I appreciate New Life’s commitment to care for a person’s whole life: physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. An excerpt of what I shared follows.

I’ve been given the opportunity to share just a little bit about my own experience with New Life. Part of my story is written in tonight’s program, and you can read that on your own, so instead. I would like to tell you about the birth of my daughter.  At 11 pm at night, my wife told me her water broke. We went to the hospital and the OBGYN told me the projected order of events, which ended with him saying “after the baby is delivered, you cut the cord.” I quickly replied, “You are the doctor. You will cut the cord.” The doctor asked, “Are you sure?” and I said, “Yes.” I didn’t want to do anything that might hurt or kill my daughter, so I would let the trained medical professional take care of all the medical procedures, no matter how minor.

Twenty-six hours of labor later, my strong wife finally delivered our daughter, Sophia. The doctor held my daughter, clamped the umbilical cord, and prepared to cut. At that moment I stopped him and said, “I want to cut the cord.” He again asked me, “Are you sure?” and I said, “Yes.” In that moment I realized that after 1 ½ years of trying to get pregnant, 9 months of pregnancy, and now 26 hours of labor, I didn’t merely want to keep my daughter from dying; I was invested in her living, so I cut the cord.14612621_1292001560831738_343105203826678056_o

John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Expected Savior, or do we look for someone else?” Jesus didn’t answer, “Tell John, I haven’t killed anyone,” even though he hadn’t. Neither did Jesus answer, “Tell John, I let children come to me,” even though Jesus did that. Jesus said to them, “Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the poor have good news preached to them, and the dead are raised.” Jesus invests in life.

When I check in a woman for her appointment at First Care, I’m investing in her life. When I meet with a young man who thinks his girlfriend might be pregnant, I’m investing in his life. When I meet with a father who has come in to see the ultra sound, I’m investing in life. When I teach a parenting class to couples, whether we are talking potty training or sharing the gospel, I am investing in life. When my congregation individually or corporately partners with New Life, we are investing in life. Every time a client allows me to pray with them, I walk as Christ walked, not merely preventing death, but investing in life. That’s my story; you individually and as churches have one also.

The Library and The Church

fb_booksI’ve been cataloging my daughter’s books in Libib. By the time I’m finished I estimate she will have about 500 books. At her age, I read just as much, but had nowhere near that number of books. I may have owned 25 books in elementary school, but we went to the public library. I wondered: have I become too elitist for the public library? Has the public library failed? and  . . . Are there any lessons for The Church?

The Libraries I Grew Up With

I happened to grow up in places with great public libraries. They had many books on the shelves, and networked with other libraries to provide access to even more books.  I didn’t have to own a whole set of Dr. Seuss, just a few to peak my interest. I owned a few, a friend or cousin had a few, and the library had them all. I could obtain them pretty much anytime I wanted because, if not the one in my town, a library somewhere nearby was usually open.

8495349404_2ec8b18b7b_oMy perception now is that public libraries have less books and less open hours, but more community events (such as children’s reading times) and more computers. (I remember the days of the card catalog.) With these changes, whether real or just perceived, I asked myself if the public system is failing or just changing. To answer that we need to know what is the purpose of the public library.

The Library’s Purpose

My thought on the purpose of the public library is: to enable literacy and access to information and the arts to the public, but I’m not a librarian, so what do the libraries say for themselves?

  • The Saint Paul Public Library mission statement: We connect people in Saint Paul with the imperative and the joy of learning through a lifetime.
  • The Oak Park Public Library enhances the quality of life in our diverse community by providing opportunities for lifelong learning, by creating spaces and opportunities to connect and engage, and by fostering a love of reading and commitment to literacy.
  • The American Library Association wants to enable libraries  to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

Methods Change, Mission Does Not

I don’t think my thoughts on the purpose of libraries was too far off, and I think libraries are doing a pretty good job at fulfilling their mission even though they have changed. If part of their purpose is to provide access to 8233217300_4fa801cd35_oinformation, internet connected computers are a necessity. The Saint Paul library system provides reading times in multiple languages, not to enable people to avoid learning English, but to enable people of all ages to learn.

I haven’t independently confirmed this, but I’ve been told that the U.S. Postal Service was initially against the use of fax machines. That would make sense because using the phone lines for print communication cut into their financial bottom line. But what if the USPS decided that it was not merely in the letter and package business, but that its mission was public communication? Places like Kinkos made part of their business charging people for fax services. If the USPS had embraced email, we might have internet as a public utility. We could certainly debate as to whether or not that would be better than what we have now, but government run internet could certainly provide stiff competition to the monopolies we have now.

16430798391_435610ddfa_bWe must ensure we have the correct mission, and methods have to adapt over time in order to continually fulfill the mission, even though that may mean for me a father that I have to buy my daughter her own books.  Thus, the old ways are not necessarily thrown out, but they may be moved. The mission of The Church is to: love God, love others, make disciples, and heal (Matthew 22:36-40; 28:16-2, Luke 10:8-9, 2 Corinthians 5:18). I think we can all agree on that, so the question we have to face is not: What is my favorite way of accomplishing this mission?, but What is the best way?

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Father’s Day Meditation

In our current culture, there is sometimes a call to not use the fatherhood of God as a metaphor because not everyone is a father, nor has a father that is a worthy example. But even in Jesus’ time, and even further back into the Hebrew Scriptures, there were lousy or absent fathers. Isaac and Jacob showed favoritism among their sons. Moses didn’t bring his sons under the covenant of circumcision. High priests Aaron, Eli, and Samuel all failed to train their sons to honor God. King David was often an absent father. Throughout scripture God’s people are called to care for the orphan because many had no father. But that is not God Our Father.

27384456692_f88fc2f1f7_oLift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, Whose name is the LORD, a father of the fatherless. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity. Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Psalm 68:4-6, Matthew 6:26; 7:11)

*Pause for silent meditation on God our Father*


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).

To Our Father we pray, Amen.

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Discernment Retreat – Oblate Formation

6722697543_9a0f26a795_oThe oblate candidates spend 24 hours at the monastery for a final discernment retreat. We spent much of our time either in silence or prayer, even taking our meals separately from the monastic community, but still participating in all the chapel prayer times.

Discernment combines figuring something out with supernatural revelation. Discernment does not happen without both the person searching and the Holy Spirit showing. Continue reading Discernment Retreat – Oblate Formation

Spirituality of Work – Oblate Formation

6728845957_fbe5054772_oAccording to Genesis 2:15, God offered work to humanity as part of the good creation. Work becomes more difficult in Genesis chapter 3, but the curse on the earth does not make work on the earth any less a holy task. So while in Religious Studies I learned to delineate The Sacred and The Profane (Mircea Eliade), this night, with regard to work, we learned we need not have that division. Continue reading Spirituality of Work – Oblate Formation

5 Formation Lessons from Oblation

Nearing one year of Benedictine oblate candidate formation, here are five formation points I experienced which are useful to any spiritual formation, especially small groups.

24700974346_4a15b9e179_bSet Goals

In order to enter oblate candidate formation, I completed an extensive application, which included goals to work on during my time in formation. Also, at the end of each class, each candidate added new goals or honed existing goals to greater specificity. Having goals provides a target and a way to check progress (2 Corinthians 5:9). As oblate candidates we each have individual goals, but as a group we choose to pursue our goals together at the Benedictine monastery.

20763232908_d75fed275b_bHave Community

Oblation candidates form a small group, and that small group is part of the greater monastic (Benedictine in my case) community, which is also in turn part of the greater Church. Small groups need the larger communities for worship and accountability. The larger communities need small groups because that is were personal accountability and encouragement grows. The Church is our connection  to Christ. Small groups are our connection to each other (Romans 16:23, Colossians 1:18).

19363723741_e05a5491a4_bForm Relationships

Small groups can have several purposes. Study, service, and fellowship come quickly to mind. However, growth comes through the relationships. How can I encourage the growth of a person I do not know? Our oblate group only met, formally, once a month, but in those 2 1/2 hours each month we pray together, listen to each other, and eat together, in addition to learning together (Acts 2:42). As many small groups meet weekly, it seems to me that the regularity and quality of the relationships may be more important than frequency.

25333971474_1ba8da63e8_bLimit Time

We candidates committed to one year of formation, with the caveat that if we discerned at any time this process was not for us (whether at this time or forever), we could drop out. The structure we follow is a year (technically 9 months) of formation which ends in a discernment retreat to determine if we would like to continue. Being relational, small groups may go on for years, but people do need points to freely enter and exit, and to know the length of commitment (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). A time limit also pushes one to accomplish goals.

24500990423_0bea18ec79_bUse Symbols

In every class the sisters gave us some symbol. We sit in a circle with a lit pillar candle in the middle. Sometimes we took home small physical objects: a scallop shell, a lapel pin, an acrylic diamond, word art. Other times we gained a useful item: a book, bookmark, book bag, soap. We heard sounds: sacred music, tolling of bells. We touch: the water in the baptismal font, each other by the laying on of hands or hugs. Symbols create reminders, engage different senses, and support varied learning styles (1 Samuel 7:12).

Other posts in this series:
8 Attributes in Effective Spiritual Formation: Lessons Learned from Saint Ignatius

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The Pulse of the Day

Recently, I had to reflect on the question: What is the pulse of my day? This question pushed me beyond the Christ is the center of my life answer to determine what person or activity marks off the hours of my day. In other words, what activity or person causes me routinely to change my activity?

pulseThe answer for my Benedictine teachers is prayer, while for me the answer is currently fatherhood/my daughter. While I work on the personal ramifications of that realization of my life, I also began to wonder: What is the pulse of my church? I think small groups, local congregations, and denominations/Christian movements all have pulses. Continue reading The Pulse of the Day

Benedictine Prayer – Liturgy of the House and lectio divina – Oblate Formation

This month’s class had two distinct sections: liturgy of the hours in the monastic tradition (taught by Sister Mary Lou) and lectio divina (taught by Jacquelyn (a completed oblate)).

As always, our meeting began with evening prayer with the sisters. Since it was St. Patrick’s Day, we sang a version of St. Patrick’s Breastplate to the tune of a traditional Gaelic melody that many of us would know as “Morning has Broken.” We all had Cat Stevens in our minds as we when to class.
Continue reading Benedictine Prayer – Liturgy of the House and lectio divina – Oblate Formation

Benedictine Prayer: Work of God

I did not find this month’s homework particularly challenging in terms of difficulty, but certainly challenging in finding focused time for its completion. Realizing that I needed to make space for something important aligned well with the lessons on prayer, something for which we often do not make time for. This month I found myself preparing for Holy week worship, the Fall 2016 All-15376755283_f441d92d9a_oChurch Spiritual Formation, a new sermon series on emotional health, medical appointments, Girl Scout cookie sales, a book manuscript, and many other good activities. Taking the time to meditate on prayer, an activity with God that we are to do without ceasing, I had to evaluate whether or not I actually made prioritized time for communication with God in my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly activities. Continue reading Benedictine Prayer: Work of God

Benedictine Spirituality for Today – Oblate Formation

The cross specially placed at the entrance to the chapel for the prayer vigil.

The Prioress, Sister Paula, taught the class “Benedictine Spirituality for Today.” Following the homework: prayer, community, and hospitality were the topics of the evening, yet, as with the tri-unity of God, the three were one.

Our evening prayer consisted of a vigil, as one of the sisters had gone to be with the Lord, after residing with us here for 97 years. That prayer time caused me to change my pre-written answer for how I had experienced prayer in the community. Continue reading Benedictine Spirituality for Today – Oblate Formation

Thoughts on Personal and Corporate Spiritual Formation

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