In the end, love wins!

I have often wondered what it might be like to take someone from a faraway world and explain to them what happens in our country as a new year dawns. Yes, we put on silly party hats and drink and dance the night away (some do, while some just try to stay awake!) while we watch a large crystal ball drop in New York. We celebrate the ending of one year and the beginning of a new one. Many of us will make resolutions to change aspects of our lives or our behavior. There will be much laziness and hangover cures for January 1 as a new year unfolds.

We make a big deal out of this idea of a new year and yet we have the same thing available to us all the time in daily living! Our God loves us and forgives the past. No, wait, better than that. Our God “forgets” the past, but we are the ones who remember. Our past is forgiven and our future secure. God promises to be with us to the end of the age, and so we don’t need to be anxious or worried about the future because God is already there. We are constantly being made new! In 2 Cor. 5:17 the Bible says “If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation; everything old has passed away; everything has become new.”

On January 2nd, today and every day we can thank God for this constant new-ness made available to us because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. How do you know if you are “in Christ?” You need not worry, you are included, your are “in”. We are all “in” because of the overwhelming love and grace of God. There isn’t anything you can do to make God love you anymore nor any less. God is love and you and I are included, and grace abounds!

In the end, love wins! While life may be hard, while the old stuff of our lives may nag and weigh us down, God is love. God still forgives, maybe our only new year’s resolution is to get off our own backs, to stop being so hard on ourselves and bask in the newness of God all the time! Happy New You!

May the renewing love and grace of God fall upon all of our Secretariats and all of us on our 4th day. We pray for Via de Cristo around the world, and in our own local community. May we continue to strengthen one another and share the Lord with others on weekends in 2016,

Pr. Doug

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! That creates some pressure, does it not? I mean we say “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” and “Joy to the World” but the reality is life isn’t always merry, happy and joyful. Do not get me wrong, I’m not a pessimist and I don’t mean to bring anyone down. As I minister to and with patients over these last four years as a chaplain in four different hospital settings, I see it all the time. The push to be positive, happy and joyful when deep down there isn’t anything but pain, misery and difficulty. We all worry about our health, our lives, our children, grandchildren and families.

You may be dealing with family and financial problems this year. Maybe you have lost a loved one who will not be gathering with you this year. Perhaps you have received a difficult medical diagnosis or know someone who has lost a job. There are pressures. Life is hard. And much of it is out of our control. And then we come steamrolling into Christmas and try and be “merry” and bright and it’s not there. The culture wants us to feel that way. The commercials and the retail stores are all built around happiness to be discovered in the latest purchase.

What I share with patients when I meet with them is that we have a “God with us” in the midst of the mess of life. Immanuel, a name given to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (1:23) means exactly that: God with us. Not a God, in my opinion, that “sends” stuff to us or is at some giant computer sending health issues here, and family problems there. We have a God with us in the midst of our lives, no matter what we have done, are doing or will do. It’s a free gift we can open any day, but especially at Christmas. Lower the bar of expectation for a grand Holiday experience. Love of God and the love we have for whomever we gather with is all we need. The rest is tinsel!

Things will get better. If you are not feeling merry, happy or joyful it’s okay. Things will get better….nothing lasts forever; this too shall pass. After every dark night, light comes afresh in the morning. After every winter there is a spring, a thawing. After every storm, a calm.

Because on a cold, dark night in a manger where animals were kept, a baby was born. The stink of a manger, the mess, the cold, the straw, the loneliness Joseph and Mary must have felt. It was not a merry, happy or joyful birth, I’m sure. No epidural, no nurse, no real help. Baby Jesus is born…..and they look up. When we don’t feel merry, happy or joyful we can always look up. And see, off in the distance, the star of wonder, star of light, burning bright. And Hope is born anew.

God bless you and yours for this Christmas season and New Year!

God bless,

Pr. Doug

Chaplain

 

 

Star Wars, the movie

Star Wars, the movie, will be released this weekend! The only way you might not know that is if you do not have a TV, computer/phone/internet, or read a newspaper. It is the most anticipated movie in decades, said the Today show, and will likely gross several billion dollars. And that isn’t counting the merchandise that is already hot off the shelves because Star Wars has millions of rabid followers, and collectors of memorabilia. I’m a fan as well, although I would never camp out in front of the theater for a week as some people are! (Do these people not have jobs or school?). It is amazing and the movie theaters will be packed this weekend. Of course, it is being released at this week before Christmas on purpose. Next week all the schools will be out for break and the sales of tickets will go through the roof.
In our world today, I just kind of shake my head sadly at how out of balance we’ve become. It’s a movie. Ok, a great movie, super special effects, incredible characters and plot. It will be a great distraction from life for a couple hours. But it is a movie. In the same way, million dollar lottery tickets and super sports stars making hundreds of millions of dollars is hard to take in sometimes. If you take any superstar athlete, actor or entertainer and just peel off a million dollars from their trust fund (which they would never notice) just think what a difference we could make in this world for the poor and the lost.
In the chaos of this world today, with all that is going on in our personal and professional lives, we look toward the manger. The most anticipated birth happened and it was a block buster. Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25) were “camped out” in the temple waiting on the Messiah. The Wise Men saw the star and followed. And we are still in Advent, the season of waiting. We need not get caught up in the anxiety and worry and fuss of this season. Let is unfold as it will. Slow down. Anticipate. It happened once and it will happen again, be born anew in us O Lord, and bring us the release we really need. The freedom from sin, the forgiveness, the love, hope, joy and peace. Man, I’m anticipating that more than a movie, aren’t you?
Doug Givan
Staff Chaplain
St. Vincent Clay (Brazil)
St. Vincent Seton Specialty (Indianapolis)

Join the Parade

Two parades in one week! Friday evening last I attended the evening Christmas parade in one city where I work and had a wonderful time. A local funeral home had set up tents with warmers and we served hot cocoa and cookies to the crowd on behalf of the hospital. There were many volunteers who made it all possible!

Yesterday Crawfordsville held their annual Christmas parade in the afternoon. We were blessed with a gorgeous day for a parade, although the high sun and warmish temperatures didn’t really capture the Christmas “mood!” There were over 60 floats in that parade, one including a church’s live band playing as they went along. At both parades there were the standard local businesses and community groups advertising their programs and products. And in both places candy was tossed out to the children. One highlight float for me was the church with the huge manger on a trailer! It must have been ten-20 feet high off the trailer bed! It was great symbolism and a reminder.

A parade is just a joyful experience. It’s easy entertainment, there is excitement in the air as the band plays and the clowns wave. At both places crowds were along the route on both sides enjoying the experience. For just a few moments we could leave our chaotic world, our work, our problems and watch all that is going on.

It’s a great example, I think, of what this pre-Christmas season of Advent is all about. We are for four weeks invited to leave our chaotic world, our work, our problems and watch what is going on. NOT the latest sale prices, not the long list of things to do, the decorating, the shopping, the mailing of cards. No, we just watch as God again enters into human history as a Babe born in a manger. Not the grandest entrance and by no means entertaining.

Mary and Joseph; young, far from home. In a cold, dark manger. And the Baby is born. The Savior of the world had been born! This One who would grow and become human and die for our sins. And on the third day rise again to defeat death. And now you and I join the parade of people who pass through this life but once. Don’t just stand on the sidelines and watch, live!

On this Pearl Harbor Day we remember those who died and think of their families. God bless you and yours

Pastor Doug Givan