Advent It’s about waiting!

It was a big mistake. I won’t do this one again! I don’t know what I was thinking stopping into my local Wal-Mart Thanksgiving late afternoon. I had returned from a wonderful day with my family in Indianapolis and just wanted to run in for a few things. I should have known something was up when I realized the local grocery stores were closed, or, in one case, closed at4 p.m.

There were lines, and lines of people all through the store blocking the grocery aisles! Shoppers were allowed to get through “gate agents” in yellow vests. I saw people near boxes of electrical gear with their hands on two or three of those boxes. It was a kind of quiet chaos getting ready to begin! The people in line looked at me like I was from another planet. “BlackFriday” was starting Thanksgiving night at 6 p.m. I was in trouble and wondered how I was going to get out. As it turns out, if you weren’t waiting in line you were allowed to go through, albeit cautiously and watchfully. People were just standing around waiting. Some sitting on the floor looking at their phones. Some people were talking amongst themselves or with others in line. People waiting for the 6 o’clock bell.

It occurred to me that they knew something I did not. They had made a plan, they had a reason to be there and there was a goal of some product/s they were ready to buy. Because of the specific lines people were in it was obvious they were there for a certain specific item or items. There was a plan.

Advent is about waiting. Advent began Sunday and marks the 4 week period before Christmas. Advent requires a “plan”….can this be the year we don’t run full steam toward Christmas totally exhausted when we go back to work and life in January? Couldn’t we get an Advent wreath (it’s never too late) and light the candles each week? Isn’t there a devotional book nearby unused we can crack open and read? Can we give God some of the best moments of our day, rather than the last few waning moments? The answer is “Yes, we can.” Don’t make it a huge production, but simply light one candle this week, and two next week and so on. Read a few Bible passages, maybe go to the middle of the Bible and read a Psalm. Just take a small step today toward this goal, and have a plan!

Advent is a word that means “coming” and is designed to point us toward Jesus birth in Bethlehem. Not the stores, the deals, the shopping and the before-Christmas chaos. No, this season is designed to slow us up. We are to prepare our hearts to receive the grace, love and forgiveness the Christ child will bring. It’s a free gift, one that you open daily, not waiting for it to be on sale, not Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but now, today. Open and receive and share your gifts with others!

Doug Givan

Staff Chaplain

St. Vincent Clay (Brazil)

St. Vincent Seton Specialty (Indianapolis)

 

dgivan@stvincent.org (email)

 

To Love and Server our Neighbors…

“Betty” called me all in a tizzy. She is my neighbor and is in ever failing health, as a widow she lives alone. She seemed all upset and urgency in her voice and I quickly asked if she was okay. She said she was fine, but wanted me to come over and change her garage light bulb! She needs that to be able to see in her garage, she reminded me (she has no car it’s a living area, laundry, etc.). In fact, she said I would need to go to Dollar General and buy her a certain type of bulb which she went on to describe as a three-way bulb. And I would need to bring my ladder. When I asked if she had a three-way switch she said “No!”. So I talked her into a high wattage bulb I had and went over.

While over in her garage I asked about her health which I always do. She deflected that saying she was okay but she was worried about a friend of hers who was losing her eyesight with a husband dying of Parkinson’s. It just hit me that here is my neighbor with her own health issues worried about somebody else. “Betty” went on to say that her grandson was going to take her over to see her friend and they were going to take some food so the friend could have Thanksgiving. Since the friend couldn’t see “Betty” was going to help cook and prepare.

I am convinced that God’s call on our lives is to love and serve our neighbor. In what we call the Great Commandment Jesus says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30). This week as we make our plans, join family and friends, remember in prayer; and perhaps in deed/donation, those who are without. It’s a dark and lonely world for many, and perhaps our call is to shine like a “high wattage” bulb into that darkness. I know the dark always gives way to light, just flip the switch!

A Blessed Thanksgiving to all of you! “May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord look upon you with favor, may the Lord shine upon you and be gracious to you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24)

Are you Ready?

Every year at this time of year I can hear his voice. No, I am not talking about the Lord necessarily, but about Woody. He was a buddy during my college days at IU. Every year, at this time of year, he would start and not stop. Over and over again he said it, over and over again he got other people to say it. Over and over all through the month of November, Woody would say “Happy Thanks-Givan” using my last name rather than the standard Thanksgiving. Sigh, it got old really fast.

So thanks to Woody I have this on my mind every year. I have two brothers (2 and 3 years younger) who have picked up on it and we say it to each other “Happy Thanks-Givan” and I get to relive it over again. Of course this season has nothing to do with me or my family name. Now that I am older I laugh at it and it doesn’t bother me. But I prefer “Happy Thanksgiving”.

I was checking out of the grocery store over the weekend and the clerk said “Are you ready for Thanksgiving?” and I kind of panicked. No, I’m not, I said to her. I said something like “It’s a ways away, isn’t it?”. “No,” she said, “It’s next week!”  And she’s right, it’s coming up rather quickly. And I have family plans to gather but I’m not really ready for it. Because I know Christmas is now running over the top of Thanksgiving and we are only so many days away until the end of the year!

But, not to jump ahead, I’d like to recommend something to you. Oprah did a show once on having a more thankful life. The guest suggested we take a few moments every night and write down 5 things we are thankful for. Oprah said it changed her life and she has now a “Thanksgiving journal” where she writes 5 things every day. And it needs to be a different set of 5 every night, we are invited to try and not repeat. You will be surprised by how many things you write. It would be easy to make a longer list, but just do 5.  I do this along with 5 prayers or people/situations I want to pray about.

Ultimately we know we are thankful to God for Jesus and for the love of God and the grace and hope for all people. We have so many blessings and so much to be thankful for:

Here are my five things I am thankful for today:

  1.  Safe driving- I commute every day and drove back and forth to Toledo, Ohio over the weekend
  2.  Family-for the love of my mother, dearly departed
  3.  All of you who read this, especially the NLS board of directors who I spent time with this past weekend!
  4. Goodwill stores-I dropped off two crates and then went in and found a couple shirts at half price!
  5. Movie theaters: I saw the new “Specter” movie this past weekend, I love this pastime…

Prayers:

  1. For world leaders and decisions that have to be made as well as police and security personnel all over the world
  2. For the Via de Cristo movement also all over the world, that we continue to make Christ known and to know Him
  3. For all the family and friends of those who died in Paris last weekend
  4. For the sick and hospitalized
  5. For grand-niece Harper who will have her first Thanksgiving and Christmas this year!

And I would add a thanks and a prayer for the great people of Good News Via de Cristo in the Toledo, Ohio area (Sylvania, Ohio, Lourdes University) who will be our hosts next July 21-24! Let’s have a great turnout and I am pushing SD’s to come as I set a goal of 25 pastors to come and be blessed and bless others!!

 God Bless,

Pr. Doug

NLS Spiritual Director


Doug Givan

Staff Chaplain

St. Vincent Clay (Brazil)

St. Vincent Seton Specialty (Indianapolis)

dgivan@stvincent.org (email)

www.stvincent.org

 

Chaos

Chaos! Defined in the dictionary as “state of confusion or disorder,” seems to describe life, doesn’t it? Our calendars are full, we are busy, and stress is part of our lives. The Holidays are upon us as my satellite radio station begin offering Christmas music on one of the channels! For my birthday last week my daughter got me a bottle of that aromatherapy called “stress relief.” It is one of those pleasant odors that you “mist” on your pillow before you go to bed. It actually increased my stress; trying to go to sleep on a wet pillow is hard! Then I read the small print “allow fabric to dry prior to contact!”  When we do settle down and attempt to rest we think of all that we should be doing. I have often thought of life like “Pig Pen,” the Peanuts character who had the “dust cloud” following him. He seemed to take that cloud everywhere and we may be feeling it today. Stress and chaos are all around us.

The top stress events have been ranked: new home, job change, new baby, marriage and death! One of the top ways to counter chaos, this survey showed, is to pray and to have a sense of God in your life. Also important to counter stress/chaos is exercise, diet and REST!! It’s funny how we operate, because I know even when we rest we long for more chaos. When is the last time you simply sat down for any length of time? if we don’t have enough chaos in our lives, we try to create more!! We push ourselves and push to the point of exhaustion. And all the while, God pulls, God calls, and God is the still, small voice saying “Come on to me and I will give you rest..” (Matthew 11:28). Allow God to embrace you today, and hold you close in the chaos. Every storm passes eventually, every dark night gives way to morning light, God has done great work in taking the chaos and stress, and making something good out of it. Slow down today, smell the fresh air of winter settling in, and look to the Lord for peace in the pieces of a busy life!

Over the last two weeks associates at the two hospitals where I work have died suddenly. One brain aneurysm and one cardiac arrest. Many of us are reflecting on how we live our lives. We do not know when our last day will be, and if we wake up tomorrow we will be given one more day. It calls forth our best efforts at slowing down and really living. It’s slowing down and really loving. Yesterday at the funeral service for one of these associates her brother talked about how he had a close relationship with his sister. They used to talk one, sometimes twice a day. I have two brothers I don’t talk to once a month! I can’t go backward, but I think tonight I’ll give them a call and see how they are doing. Why don’t you join me? Call a long, lost sibling or family member today. Today, not tomorrow or this weekend. Slow down, rest and take the time to make the call. You may not get tomorrow!

Doug Givan

Staff Chaplain

St. Vincent Clay (Brazil)

St. Vincent Seton Specialty (Indianapolis)

 

dgivan@stvincent.org (email)

“boys of summer”

The World Series just ended and no offense to baseball fans, but thank God. The “boys of summer” playing through Halloween doesn’t seem right somehow. I was thinking of the all the positions on a team and how important they are to work together. The coaches direct the players often using signals from the dugout. The catcher and pitcher coordinate the kind of pitch to the batter is going to get. And, depending on that batter, the outfield places themselves in certain places based on the way they hit the ball. The second baseman has to have a good arm to make the double play in time and the first baseman has to stretch while keeping on foot on the bag! The outfielders have to talk to each other during a fly ball and also know where the home run wall is so they don’t go crashing while trying to catch the baseball. Everybody works together on the team.

I’ve been told that I am often coming from “left field.” I’ve come to embrace that quality in my personality these days. I used to continue my old ways of hating myself for being in left field, or speaking from left field. I’ve thought a thousand times on the things I said and wished I hadn’t. I think an extrovert with a bit of an anxiety disorder can just speak without thinking…..which has been pointed out to me! So, I’m in left field.

Where are you on the team? Hiding in the dugout? Coaching? Or trying to coach when that is not your role? Are you the pitcher who makes everything happen, who is center to the team layout on the field. Are you the catcher, with your face covered cowering “down” in fear (I’m making a personality analogy, not trying to offend catchers). Are you the umpire “large and in charge?” I suppose we all have different options maybe at different times in our lives.

Maybe it’s like the team on a VdC weekend? The chapel or kitchen cha has the same place on the team as the Rector or Rectora, we are all equal all on the team and God is the coach. I remember my first time being called on team after Seminary and telling my wife that I better do a rollo because I’m studying to be a pastor. And she said “You’ll do what God calls you to do” and I learned a valuable lesson. This morning taking my high school son to school I usually share some word of encouragement to build him up and I said something spontaneous like “You take the most good looking, athletic, rich kid in your school and know that he is no better, or worse, than you. We are all children of God, we are all equal. We all take off our pants one leg at a time!” ( I think that’s how that goes….). Anyway, we are one in the Lord, we are all one in the Spirit, we are one in God!

I’m in left field and that’s okay. Left field is still on the team!

God Loves you and so do I!

Pr. Doug

NLS SD