“I am the Good Shepherd.”

I love children. I love them for their innocence, love for life and unconditional acceptance of God! Last  Sunday at church was  Good Shepherd Sunday with the passage from the Gospel of John 10:11 where Jesus says “I am the Good Shepherd.” The church where I preached had a children’s sermon. I searched high and low through Crawfordsville for something, anything, sheep related to show the children. There are no sheep figurines, there are no sheep toys or books and the only thing that came close were animal crackers. I couldn’t use them because the little boxes they come in use zoo animals.

I finally found a sheep-like beanie baby at a thrift store and made up a story for all the children who came forward last Sunday. I told them I couldn’t find any sheep at any store and talked about how sometimes we might feel lost but God always knows where we are and always loves us. Then I showed them my beanie baby and one little boy said “That’s not a sheep, that’s a bear!” So it turns out I don’t know what sheep look like after all.

The Bible does talk about us as sheep and the shepherd imagery is used in various places in Scripture. “We like sheep have gone astray…” (Isaiah 53:6) points to the fact that we always want our own way and we are stubborn, just like sheep! There is a pastor who is also a shepherd named Phillip Keller and he has a book out called “A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23.” He points out that sheep are very stubborn and cannot rest until they are free from pests, free from fear and fighting among the ranks, and they have to be free from hunger.  The most important thing, says the author, is that before they can rest and lay down sheep have to see their shepherd. The whole quality of the life of sheep is based on their shepherd. Seeing their leader helps them feel cared for and safe.

So we are like sheep, aren’t we? We rest in the saving knowledge that Jesus died for us and rose again and is now our Good Shepherd! We do see Jesus in each other, in church, in the Bible, in baptismal waters, bread and wine and the world around us. We are cared for and eternally safe in Jesus. And every day God shepherds us out into the world to notice the beauty, the wonder and the joy of life. And we, then, are to add other sheep to the fold! We are to share the Good News with those we meet, inviting someone to church with us, loving our neighbor and lending a helping hand. It may be that life really is having a child like faith, and knowing the difference between a beanie baby sheep and bear!

Invite someone to make a weekend! Ask now before fall schedule cloud up, and make your plans to come and join the National Gathering this July! It’s not too late, come on and renew your child-like faith in the Lord with fellow sheep from all over the country! 

Check out www.viadecristo.org and join us!

 As I type I also request our most fervent prayers for world and national events on TV and the news. May the people of Baltimore find peace, and those suffering in Nepal know the Lord. Amen!

Pastor Doug Givan

Staff Chaplain

Clay, Brazil

Seton, Indy

dgivan@stvincent.org

“The Lord is with us, we have no cause to fear. The eye of the Lord is upon us while arms cover us in love. The ear of the Lord is open to our prayers and the grace of God sufficient, His promises unchangeable.”

-Andrew Murray

It’s the little things.

It is really irritating and makes me so mad! I can’t do anything about it, I did not cause it but every time I get in my car I have to look at the small, spider-sized crack in my windshield. My best guess is a rock flipped up from the highway and hit my front windshield right at eye level(drivers side). I was there when it happened. I was just driving along, I was not behind a big dump truck or anything, and I heard the loud “bang” on my windshield and there it was….it is so frustrating.

I bought one of those repair kits at the store for $10. You have to apply this gel just right and use a 4-pronged adhesive frame to cover the repair. And, of course, I couldn’t make that work.

I called an auto glass repair place and the lady said it would be $69 if I bring it in for them to work on, and $99 if they come to me. In addition, she said repair would not remove the crack itself, I would still see it. But, it would be the kind of repair that would keep the crack from getting bigger. It is exhausting just thinking about it and what to do. If I file under my car insurance I have a monster deductible so either way I pay.

And, lo and behold, I got another one on the passenger side just the other day. The exact same scenario, I was there driving along minding my own business when I heard a “CRACK”  and the exact same thing happened. On the passenger side, just below eye level, another “spider-sized” crack. Now I’m thinking I will need a new windshield all together and just when I’m interested to see about a trade in! I have almost 130,000 miles on my car so I guess I’ll just keep driving and chalk it up to my commuter lifestyle!

It’s funny though, because the first windshield crack happened a couple months ago. I’ve gotten used to it and my eyes have adjusted and it hardly bothers me anymore, but I know it’s there. And when I look at it, like when I’m parked, I just wonder “is it getting a little bigger?” And now I’ve got two to check and see.

This is also true of the spiritual life. We have lots of little things that want to get in the way of our time with God, our serving the Lord, or maybe in our giving. We just have to look beyond the obstacles and drive on knowing that we really are only in the passenger seat in the car of life. Sin (cracks/bangs) will always happen. We can thank God that in Christ all our broken places are covered in layers of layers of grace and love. Accidents will happen. We will purposefully make mistakes ourselves. We will hurt others in thought, word and deed. The Good News of the Gospel (Jesus living, dying, and rising anew) is Jesus died for all of our brokenness past, present and future! And the Easter defeat of death is for us as a free gift to renew our hearts for another day, another week, another chance! No matter how often we “crack up” (sorry, no more puns) God is with us!.

Pastor Doug Givan

Staff Chaplain

Clay, Brazil

Seton, Indy

dgivan@stvincent.org

“The Lord is with us, we have no cause to fear. The eye of the Lord is upon us while arms cover us in love. The ear of the Lord is open to our prayers and the grace of God sufficient, His promises unchangeable.”

-Andrew Murray

Spring Break

Greetings Friends:

It is great to be back after a week off in beautiful Phoenix. One of the many things I noticed out there was how fast everybody drives! It is like New York or Chicago where they pass you and then cut into your lane. We end up side by side or me behind them at the stop light. All that hurry and (semi) dangerous driving for nothing! Since I was a tourist I was taking in the sights around me like the beautiful flowering trees, the palm trees and cacti. Gorgeous blue sky and rich sunshine all around.

I saw all that rushing around at the airport as well. The airport I think is the epitome of “hurry up and wait”. We left my home at 3 a.m. to get to the airport for the 6 a.m. flight. We were at the gate before 5 with time to spare. I personally would rather have it that way than to be late, especially at the airport. And, as the plane came to the gate on arrival, everyone gets up and grabs their baggage and stand there while we wait. It’s always 10-15 minutes or more before they get the ramp hooked up and we can leave the plane. There is a kind of unspoken hurry around the airport and on the airplane. I get that. We don’t want to be late, we don’t want to be held up, we don’t want to stand in line. Sometimes we have no choice.

How is your waiting, spiritually? Having a hard time? Inpatient? In a rush and you don’t know why? It’s part of our culture these days, part of life. Our work is to push that aside and slow down. And you know there are lots of ways to do that. We just need to give ourselves permission to let go of doing and remember we are human “beings!” I once heard Diane Purcell, who serves the Lord as an advisor on the Board, say it is called “46:10-ing” before. From the Bible in Psalm 46:10 come words to live by. These words can slow us down. They give us permission to notice, look around, smell the flowers, and let God be God.

No matter where you are in this post-Easter season Jesus has still defeated death. He still rose again and he rises up anew in our lives every day. Allow that “new-ness” to flow in to your heart. Be refreshed like a spring rain knowing that God is in charge, God has this under control and it is not up to you and it is not up to me! Slow down today and this week and notice. Intentionally say to yourself over and over “slow down”, and slow yourself. Take some pictures of flowers and blooming trees around us. Walk with a friend of family member. Do something for someone else and just relax and be yourself! That’s what I did over vacation as I read books, rested and let go.

And that verse? “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10, and all God’s people say “AMEN!”

Come and “Be Still” with your brothers and sisters for the July National Gathering! Visit www.viadecristo.org for details.

Pastor Doug Givan

Staff Chaplain

Clay, Brazil

Seton, Indy

dgivan@stvincent.org

God really does love us!

Grace, peace, mercy, and love from God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit

Every Good Friday, every Easter, and every Easter season, I am reminded, awe-struck actually, by what God has done for all creation! I know Lent is a time to reflect and discover the things in our own lives that aren’t just “right.” But, with the Good Friday service and reflecting on what God did for me…for all people…for all of creation…WOW! God really does love us, oh so much! It is simultaneously really more than just about me – and – it includes me!

Every time I gather with brothers for a conversation about God, every time I gather with brothers and sisters to encourage one another on this Christian-life journey, every time I gather with brothers and sisters to prepare for a weekend or a National Gathering, I am awe-struck at how God encourages us (others and me) on this journey called life…WOW! God really does love us, oh so much!

In the liturgical calendar, the time between Easter and Pentecost is referred to as the season of Easter. In the church, it is a time of joy and celebrating the grace and peace all creation has in God…WOW! God really does love us, oh so much!

I encourage each person reading this to just stop…maybe for five minutes…maybe everyday…to thank the God that created us, that redeemed us, that sanctifies us every minute of every day of every month of every year of our lives! What an amazing God! One who always listens…who always cares…who is always there…WOW! God really does love us, oh so much!

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

In Christ –

Ed

PS: The peace referred to is not the removal of difficulties in our lives…it is God’s shalom: the certain knowledge that God loves us, oh so much!

Our “Sin List”

When I entered the hospital room she was crumpled up off to the edge of her bed.  She was a very small, gray haired older woman.  As I checked to see if she was awake she opened her eyes and smiled and said “hello” and greeted me warmly with a smile.  And then she asked me how I was doing.  That always amazes me that a person dealing with their own health concerns and issues would inquire about me!

We had a very nice visit together and then she sat up in her bed and began to look for paper she had written on.  She said “Oh, I’ve got it here somewhere…I wrote down everything I’ve ever done wrong.”  I was quieted by that and could only say “How did you come to make such a list?”  She told me someone had asked her to do that (she couldn’t remember who) and then she was to give that list to a pastor.  She insisted I take it and I held two notebook pieces of paper written on both sides in my hands right next to her bed.

I said to her “Would you like me to take this list of things you have done wrong and treat it how God would treat it?”  “Oh, yes”, she said, excitedly.  And I began to tear the sheets in half and then in half again until I held almost nothing.  And I threw the paper away in the trash can.  Her eyes got real big and turned a brighter blue than they were before.

I told her that this is what God does to our list of the things we’ve done wrong.  God tears it up…throws it out, because Jesus has paid the price already for those things and more!  The Gospel Good News is that all of our lists, no matter how long or on how many sheets, have been torn up and thrown away.  The free gift is Jesus came to tear up our “sin list” and throw them out into the largest trash can you can imagine!  Gone forever and ever and as the Psalmist puts this in our Bible “as far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our sins from us…”  Ps. 103:12.

This is the Easter story in a nutshell. All our sin, the list of things we’ve done wrong, take on the Cross and there they bled and died. And on Easter Sunday morning, Jesus rose again to new life and now completes that new life in us. With Risen hope we go about our daily task all to the glory of God!

So I asked my lady friend patient where her list was of everything she had ever done right. She thought a moment and said “Pass me my notebook, I’m over 80 you know this will take awhile!”