April musings from the president

Good Friday 2013

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

“There is so much to tell yet my heart is heavy!” I am convinced that’s how Jesus’ disciples felt in the time between his crucifixion and his resurrection. It is difficult for us, on this side of that first Easter, to imagine the emotions the disciples must have felt: sadness, certainly; regret, undoubtedly; fear, absolutely! The more I read and reflect on the last 24 hours of Jesus’ earthly life, the more I am convinced that John, the only male at the foot of the cross, was not yet at the age of accountability. The other disciples were more than likely in hiding because they undoubtedly thought they were next! They, like so many other “revolutionaries,” would experience the same fate as their leader: crucifixion!

Yet, we who are on this side of that first Easter, look past the sadness, probably cannot relate to the regret, and, living in the United States, cannot imagine the fear. We look to the hope and the excitement of the resurrection. God’s love for all creation demonstrated in a very powerful way! What an incredible gift! Thank you Lord!

Isn’t that what a Via de Cristo weekend experience allows? A time to reflect. A time of joy. A time to rekindle hope. A Via de Crusto weekend is a time to once again experience the joy and excitement of the resurrection. A joy that stems from God’s love, tangibly demonstrated, and  a renewed confidence that we serve a risen Lord.

A question for us to ponder – a topic for reflection: What emotions do I (we) experience when I wake in the morning? What emotions do I (we) experience when I (we) leave my (our) Reunion Group? What emotions do I (we) experience when I (we) leave an Ultreya?

I find my journey oscillates between hope / joy / peace and sadness / regret / fear. Thank you Lord for the brothers and sisters you place in my life to encourage me on the journey. Thank you Lord for being there with me…for experiencing events and feelings with me. Thank you Lord for loving me no matter where I am!

May God continue to give us much to tell and a hopeful presence.

In Christ –



Musings for February 2013

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

So much has happened in the last month, I trust this finds you in the midst of God’s loving presence and not too overcome by the things of this world that you are not able to see God in places and faces.

A good friend is a Personal Trainer who is very passionate about her work. She is relentless in her interaction with clients: Are you eating the right things? What was your calorie, fat, carb, protein intake each day since our last session? [There is even an app for that!] Are you exercising as prescribed? How are you sleeping? Are you drinking enough water? The questions seem endless. Why is she so passionate about this? Because we are the temple of God as Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 3:16 & 6:19)? I think not…it is probably because she wants her clients to get the most out of sessions and their work together.

Let me now harken back to Pastor Joe Neilsen’s keynote at our Annual Meeting last July (It is the journey, not the experience) and draw a parallel with my Personal Trainer friend. Let’s suppose you engaged my friend for a three-day exercise program. It is a great time reinforcing many things you knew and you are given pointers on how to improve. Since it is a group activity, friends (old and new) coach you! Then, upon returning home, no one encourages you to go to the gym. There is no one to monitor your calorie, fat, carb, protein intake. There is no one to coach you in your exercise routine (in fact it becomes routine – and – because it is routine, muscle memory kicks in and the exercises you do aren’t as effective as it could be)!

Sound familiar? It does for me too. How I appreciate the encouraging words of my friend as she continues to encourage me…every time I am at the gym: relationship, relationship, relationship. My weekly discussions with brothers and sisters in our walk with the Lord are so encouraging and life giving. Their questions are: How are you doing physically, emotionally, and spiritually? How have you lived a life of piety, study, and apostolic action? What is your plan for piety, study, and apostolic action in the coming week? Where have you seen God?

Gracious…there are people that care! Thank you God!! May I encourage you to encourage people wherever you find yourself…trusting God has placed you there.

In Christ –


January Musing From The President – January 17, 2013

Part One:
Grace, peace, and mercy from God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
What makes the bible so special? Why is it that every time I feel just a little out of sorts, I open God’s word and it speaks directly to me? Why is it that when things are not making sense and confusion is rampant, I step back, take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and ask God for some help, help comes – not always exactly when I want it, but, as I am patient, it does arrive. I believe the answer to all these and many more questions is that the God we serve is an incredible encourager!
To help think through this, I began recalling many of the biblical stories from God’s walking with Adam to the words given to John in Revelation. God encourages his people through his word; through answered prayer (I don’t always like to hear “no” – but – that is an answer); through other people both godly and ungodly; and through whatever method God knows will get our attention! God is the quintessential encourager!
So what makes our ministry together so different, dynamic, and life giving? Encouragement! Think about the encouragement we give those we invite to attend a weekend. Think about the encouragement people receive during the weekend: People I barely knew were demonstrating God’s love to me within minutes of arriving at the retreat location. Think about the encouragement we receive during our weekly or biweekly small group gatherings. Think abut our regular gatherings as a larger group, the things we call Ultreya’s – where the meaning of the word is: “Onward.” How rich is our encouragement to one another? How rich is God’s encouragement to us through his creation, his word, and his coming to this earth to reestablish relationship with not only us but all of creation!
To God be the glory! May you continue to be encouraged by the living God – and – may his name continually be a blessing to all that read this musing and God’s word!
In Christ –
Part Two:
I respectfully request your prayers and those of your Secretariat as the NLS Executive Committee meets in two weeks (January 27 – 29) to finalize plans the 2013 NLS Annual Meeting and the various aspects regarding the integration of an Executive Director. With respect to the latter, our goal is for the necessary draft documents to be in your hands as quickly as possible after our meeting to provide your and your Secretariat an opportunity for input and questions. We will vote on the final documents during our Annual Meeting, July 25 – 28, 2013, in Florida. Please make plans for your Secretariat to be represented at this meeting.
I also respectfully request your prayers for God to guide us in electing our leaders at our 2013 NLS Annual Meeting. As you may know, we elect half of the NLS officers each year: President, Vice President – Outreach, and Secretary in the odd numbered years with Vice President – Administration, Spiritual Director, and Treasurer in the even numbered years. Steve Gielda, our current VP – Outreach is term limited and a replacement is needed. Magdala Ray our current Secretary is not term limited but has requested her name not be entered into nomination. I am the current President and am willing to continue in that position for another term. If there are people in your Secretariat who would like to serve, please have them contact Carolyn Hawkins, our VP – Administration. If you know someone within the Via de Cristo community that you believe could serve in any of these roles, please begin the conversation with them and Carolyn. I can tell you without any reservation serving this community as an Officer is both humbling and rewarding.
Part Three:
At the beginning of a new year, many people look back at what they accomplished, what opportunities did they miss and what their plans are going forward. Many people evaluate where they are in their lives and begin to establish New Year resolutions. I think New Year resolutions are good as long as you develop a plan to stick with the resolution and make the change. Stepping back and looking at ourselves from many different perspectives is a good thing. At the beginning of a new year many people establish goals of wanting improve themselves by losing weight, quitting smoking, reading the bible, spending more time with family, being more discipline with finances, etc… Not many will argue that these are not good ideas. We know what is healthy for us and what’s not, yet we still fall into our sinful self and avoid focusing on the fundamentals of what God has called us to do.
As many of you know, one of my goals for this year is to help each Via de Cristo Secretariat and their communities to get back to the fundamentals and essentials we know are good for us. Many of us have strayed away from our core mission of building and strengthening our Fourth Day communities and put too much focus on just hosting weekends. Therefore, with the help of our Regional Coordinators we have developed a ½ day workshop titled; Rediscover & Recommit. This half-day workshop will be rolled out in each Region in the spring of 2013. We will encourage multiple communities within a Region to come together and participate in this workshop sharing ideas from across Secretariats.  We have a talented group of Regional Coordinators that have a vast amount of experience in Via de Cristo. To help cross-pollinate ideas we will most likely have a Regional Coordinator from another Region come facilitate your Regions workshop.
Your Regional Coordinator will contact you to identify a set of dates that will work best for the multiple communities in your Region. We encourage you to get your ENTIRE community together, NOT just your Secretariat leaders. We are hoping to have hundreds of people from across your Region come to the ½ day workshop to share ideas and Rediscover & Recommit themselves personally to what was shared with each of us on Sunday afternoon of our weekend…The Christ is Counting on YOU…and whom or what are you counting on?
God loves you and so do I,
Steve Gielda


Good day faithful Jesus followers of the National Lutheran Secretariat Board.

 I’ve been thinking of that word – “Hallelujah” a lot since I was in New Orleans with 34,000 Lutheran youth from all over the country. Rachel Kurtz sang the song “Hallelujah” as the closing piece at The Super Dome on Friday night and I wanted to share the video of that with you. You can’t get the “real” experience of being in the Dome that night, but I think it will give you a sense of what we experienced in just one six minute song.

As I was watching this video the other day for the thousandth time since New Orleans, I was preparing a devotion based on Philippians 1:21, which says… “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” And I thought, “Hallelujah!” Jesus is my life!

What does that mean? Well, for me if means that everything that happens in life—all the pain and agony, all the joy and happiness, all the loss and gain, all the good and bad—everything is for a purpose. Hallelujah! It all has a rhyme and reason. Sometimes we are able to see it clearly, other times we catch but a glimpse from the periphery, and still there are times where we don’t see it all. Hallelujah!

Yet it’s there, that one singular reason, that one great hope beyond hope: we are nothing and he is everything. Through it all, Jesus is my life. Hallelujah!

St. Paul’s words echo in my mind and heart. Yes, to die is gain, but to live is Christ. This should be the cry of our hearts as we live each day. One moment our family brings us happiness, the next stress…but I press on. Hallelujah! One moment our jobs are secure, the next we’re laid off…Christ Jesus has made me his own. Hallelujah! One moment our health is great, the next the doctor has bad news…straining forward for what’s ahead. Hallelujah! One moment we’re surrounded by friends, the next we’re left alone…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call. Hallelujah!

Every moment. Every day. No matter what. Jesus is my life. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

OK, here’s the video – enjoy!


 The Rev. John C. Bradford
Pastor, Christ the King Lutheran Church 

10550 Georgetown Pike                                                 

Great Falls, VA 22066                               


Love God, love people – nothing else matters.

A Morning Prayer

“O, God, for another day, for another morning, for another hour, for another minute, for another chance to live and serve you, I am truly grateful.
Do this day free me
from all fear of the future,
from all anxiety about tomorrow,
from all bitterness toward any one,
from all cowardice in face of danger,
from all laziness in the face of work,
from all failure before opportunity,
from all weakness when Your power is at hand.
But fill me
with Love that knows no barrier,
with Sympathy that reaches to all,
with Courage that cannot be shaken,
with Faith strong enough for the darkness,
with Strength sufficient for my tasks,
with Loyalty to Your Kingdom’s goal,
with Wisdom to meet life’s complexities,
with Power to lift me to You.
Be with me for another day, and use me as you will.
For Christ’s sake, I pray. Amen.”

Pastor Bradford


He walks down the street every morning as I leave.  He has a way that he walks that I can notice from far away.  He is an older man, always in an orange t-shirt and white ball cap, perhaps to be seen from afar.  He walks his dog on the leash and every time I pass by he gives a big wave…even though his back is to me!!

Today I was leaving a bit later than normal and he was walking facing me.  I almost felt I was late because he was on the return trip.  Again, with his whole arm he gives a friendly wave not caring if I wave back or not.  A wave is such a beautiful thing and we have sorely lost that in our culture.  Wave at a stranger-maybe in your neighborhood- today and see what happens!!!

The second marker I have is the guy in the black corvette!  He always has his parking lights on so I see him coming down the street.  He looks like a cool star wars type machine!  We live in a wooded area so it’s still dawn and a bit dark as I leave.  Seeing his car as I come out of the neighborhood is the second marker I need in the morning to know I am on schedule.

The third marker I need as I leave in the morning is to pass by my former church, Christ Lutheran, and to see Jesus in the window!  Sometime ago someone etched into the large glass pane above the doors a larger than life size image of Jesus!  They have set lights at the base of it so it looks really “real” as you drive by.  I need to see Jesus as a marker in my life, don’t you??

We do see Jesus as we crack open the Gospel of John(I am inviting all of us to read 7 chapters a week until the meeting together!!) and see another HUGE marker.  “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God….and in him was life!”

The Word.  What “Word” might you ask?  How about a word of grace?  Love?  Hope?  Jesus as the Word of God is all of that….we might tighten it up and call it Gospel.  The Good News of Jesus….is the Word of life for us all.

In the Greek the word for “good news” is (roughly) “euangelion” from which we today get our word evangelical.  We are a church of the “good news” evangelical…and we are the VDC also part of the “good news” as we evangelize our environments!

May Jesus be your mark of ashes on your forehead and the water of life in baptism that washes those ashes clean.  The marker of grace is all we need in life…sins forgiven, a future promised.  Yesterday a dying woman said to me about all of this “Are you sure?”  and I said Yes, Ma’m, I’m sure.  Jesus loves me this I know because the Bible tells me so!

For you and me today we can mark that as the truth!

Have a good weekend,

Peace be with you,

Pr. Doug

Father’s Day

I’m not quite sure what makes a good Dad. I’ve tried different things, like trying to be tougher, tighten up the bed times or mandate the vegetables. I try and do and say the right things, to love my son’s mother, and try to set a good example in all things. Most of all, I am pretty quick to say I’m sorry, or forgive me.

There is a man from my former congregation who I invited to speak one Father’s Day. He said his kids always knew that his “no meant no”. I think my strong-willed-guy thinks my ‘No” is where negotiations begin. But this guy has his youngest of 3 graduating high school and getting scholarships and honors just like the older two. Maybe I’m jealous of that, or wonder how does he do that while another guy molests or beats up their mother? It’s a mad, mad world somebody said.

In Seminary there was a push to have more inclusive language for God. I’m all for the maternal nature of God and the idea that God can’t be “boxed in” as such. I don’t mind the Father language for God. I kind of like the Abba Father, which as you know is a tender term meaning something more like “Daddy”.

Of all the memories of my original weekend the song “Abba, Father” is close to my heart. Such a powerful lyric despite the hand motions (I don’t like hand motions, btw). But I pray for all of us in VDC national and local that we would always be open to allow God to mold us and fashion us. I think we all should pray that we would be One in Christ Jesus. And that in the end, all glory and praise goes to God, who gave His son to die for us, so we could live forever.

Jesus paid a debt he did not owe, so that we would not have to owe a debt we could not pay.

So whether you think you are a great Daddy or not, and whether you had a good Daddy or not, join me tonight in giving thanks for our Father God!

“Your Father in heaven knows what you need before you ask. Pray this way “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day or daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors, and do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from evil.” Matthew 6:8

Happy Father’s day (every day isn’t it??)
Pastor Doug


The hospital has a term for when a patient has died. It is “RHC” meaning respiration has ceased. We use those initials so no visitors or other patients might hear the words death, died, passed away, etc. We speak in secret code so that as the nurses make notifications from the nurses station they can say RHC and not “so and so died”.

Tonight I’m paged to be with a family for a woman near death. As I arrive on the scene the family is in tears gathered around the bed. Because the patient has some type of infection we wear gowns and plastic gloves. I come in to be with them and the daughter asked for prayer. We join hands with the gloves on and I pray.

Words come hard at times like these. I make a few words, bring some comfort where I can and hug where and when appropriate and just wait silently. The grandson says something about her favorite TV station that she left on all the time at her home. We switch to that station, the daughter next to her tells her it’s on (she is basically not conscious). A few minutes later she gently stops breathing, and she RHC’s!

I don’t know if you’ve ever been with someone at the time of death. It’s a powerful thing. She falls asleep here and wakes up there. She was so quiet and so peaceful. The difficulty in breathing stopped and she relaxed her body.

This Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday and we celebrate God the creator, Jesus the redeemer, and the Spirit the sustain-er! The family is sustained by the Spirit, thankful for Jesus redeeming their loved one from sin to eternal life.

The love and hug one another and, as death often does, draws them in closer.

Blessings for a good weekend and continue to pray for our team in Denver and for all who will come, not for RHC obviously but for VDC!!!

Pastor Doug

My Friend Carl

My friend Carl died last week. His wife, Mary, left the news on my voice mail. Terrible way to get the information but then when is it ever a good time to hear of a friend’s death? Carl and I have known each other for probably 7-8 years. He was a member of my congregation I first served from 2000-2005. After I left there he stayed in touch with me and came over (40 minutes one way roughly) to my current town to worship at our services or to meet me for lunch.

We’d talk about his health, which was failing him rather quickly. Carl was hugely overweight and had trouble with his knees and back. But we’d go over that, issues in our personal lives or I’d share about some problem within the congregation. He’d encourage me forward like a good friend should. The food would arrive and he would say “Do your thing” and I”d pray.

Carl was a fallen away Catholic and was pretty angry with the church. He was angry, generally. Estranged relations with his son, a marriage that was just hanging in there, and a part time job at a local helping agency.

During this last couple of months he spent about 2 weeks here in the hospital I serve. I visited with him as often as I could. Several times I went to his room and he was sound asleep. I knew he didn’t sleep well so I left him alone and when we did visit he would have a few caustic words about the lack of care he was getting and how he never seemed to know what was going on.

So his services will be this week and I’ll make it a point to be at the visitation so I can see him one last time. I’ll greet some friends we have in common, a pastor friend of mine will do the service. Then, I’ll get in my car and drive wherever. And as I do I’ll do what I’ve been doing alot since he died.

I’m thinking about friendships. I am thinking about how I was thinking about visiting Carl at his rehab facility where he’d been sent to get physically better. I’ll wonder why I didn’t go see him that week when I wanted to. I’ll wonder why, before he came to the hospital, the lunch we were supposed to have got put off.

Then I’ll look to my other friendships and renew my pledge to reach out. I’ll now initiate connection more often and renew those relationships that have gone stale. I’ll set up lunches and invite people over to my home. Join me in not putting off those friends who, when they die, we will miss.

And, ultimately, for Carl, me and for you we can point to the One friend we all have, forever and ever. We can point to the One friend who already died. But, for Carl and all of us, death was not the end of the story. Jesus defeated death and rose again. Wow, that will lift my spirits this week. That Gospel will be the center point of the funeral sermon. And along with other thoughts as I drive away, I’ll give thanks for what a friend we have in Jesus!

God Bless You

Pastor Doug


Today I visited my allergy doctor for my annual checkup.  I’ll bet you’ve done something similar…the annual follow up to see how things are going.  I was tempted to ask how much weight I might have gained over the year but didn’t!!!

I was tested for allergies about two years ago and I have allergy to pet dander and various outside pollen, weeds, grasses, etc.  I forget exactly how many things were found when I got the test of 100’s of needles in my back!!

Everything went fine today and new prescriptions were written for the two nose sprays I take.  I also take a Claritin tablet as well among all the other meds.

The weird thing was when I went to check out we made my next appointment for May 9, 2013.  The receptionist asked me what time of day was better for me.  I thought it was almost funny to try and imagine what will be going on for me in a year.  I have no idea!  I don’t know what will be going on in my life next year at this time.  I think it is interesting to “assume” that we will even be here at all.  I could die tomorrow, or step in front of a bus as the saying goes.

We may not know what next May will bring, or even what tomorrow will bring.  We don’t know what the national meeting will be like in late July; we don’t know anything about anything more than this moment!  God did not say “I will be” or that “I was”.  God did say “I AM” which as weird as that sounds to us today, it just speaks to me of a present moment God.  Yesterday is forgiven, tomorrow isn’t here yet so we need not be anxious or worried!  Enjoy the present, a real gift!

“There is a time for everything under the sun” says Ecclesiastes!  And I would add there is a time for everything under the SON!!!  There is a time for God to lead us, to walk beside us to encourage us, and a time for God to be behind us as the Lord catches us when we fall.  God Bless you today, tomorrow and always!!!

 Pastor Doug