Chronic pain

Chronic pain is no fun! I see it all the time in caring for patients but it is one thing altogether to deal with chronic pain myself. For about a year now I have had bulging discs in my neck, along with some arthritis. This is causing a real to life “pain in the neck” and in the Levator Scapulae going down from the neck to the shoulder blade. I have written about this before! I have learned that when we have some pain, other muscles begin to compensate and shield the pain area and away we go. When one is in pain, life takes a different look. You can’t or don’t want to do some basic things or basic things hurt and cause pain.

I’ve have some medicine which is another set of challenges in and of itself. The pain medicine and muscle relaxer make me tired/sleepy and so naps come easily (when I’m home, not on the road). I am receiving physical therapy and working now to get stronger. Much of my particular pain is caused by long time poor posture.

Do you ever think about your posture? I mean we who work at computers and drive a lot tend to slump forward. That pulls on various muscles and tendons and causes some of the things I am experiencing. I am doing certain specific exercise and making changes in lifestyle and positioning at work so that I can pull back the shoulders and stretch everything out.

Of course nothing you and I will ever deal with compares with the pain our Lord went through. The gruesome way Jesus died this past Good Friday led to the beautiful, and perfect way Jesus came from the tomb on Easter morning. Now what do we do with this Easter Good News? Will in change our lives, will it influence how we act toward one another? Easter needs to make a difference in our lives. Perhaps a change in lifestyle, posture (standing up tall in Christ, for example), being more positive, caring and compassionate are all ways this news can change our lives.

In my Easter sermon I offered three words to help build and deepen relationships. When someone is telling you a story, or talking to you about anything say “Then what happened?” I use these three words in my patient care as a way to draw them out and get them talking about their lives. You can try it today with someone… they tell you a story say “Then what happened?” and watch how much further your conversation goes.

Three more words for us “He is Risen!” Jesus defeated death! Easter is Good News! Chronic pain will come and go. Life will come and go. Our problems and challenges will come and go. But God stays forever. And the Risen Lord is Good News! Then what happened???

Pr. Doug Givan, MDiv

It’s a lovely time of year!

t’s a lovely time of year! Today is the first day of Spring and new life is all around us! The weather is turning for most of us and warmer temperatures are here. I have noticed the robins singing in the morning and bobbing along my yard looking for worms. The other day on a walk I saw the most gorgeous flowers newly blooming and the trees are getting their leaves. In some communities this is spring break week and many are gone on vacation

This is also a significant week of another kind. We are in Holy Week, the week before Easter. Many churches have services over thiscoming ThursdaySaturday prior to Easter Sunday. Maundy Thursday (meaning “commandment”) is a service where on the night Jesus was betrayed, the night before He was to die, He washed the feet of the disciples in a striking example of servanthood. Jesus commands us to love our neighbor and serve others.

Good Friday is really anything but good! Oh, it will be a lovely day off for many of us but this day used to be called “God’s Friday” because it marked the day Jesus died. Sometime during that busy day take a few moments to remember what has been done for you.Saturday many churches will host an Easter Vigil, a service later in the evening after dark with Bible readings and prayers moving us toward Easter.

The seasons of the church calendar help us to live through the life of Jesus while all along knowing the end of the story! Saturdayevening I had a wedding to perform and was not able to watch the IU playoff  basketball game! I graduated from IU and have always been a big fan of the basketball program. I listened to the game on the way home as they won against Kentucky. I had recorded the game on TV and watching back through it, all the while knowing the ending, was wonderful! I wasn’t nearly as anxious or worried knowing they won the game.

Isn’t this the Christian life? We know the end of the story! Jesus has defeated death, and we are made new! Easter is perfectly timed to be around spring time. Jesus raised from the dead gives us new hope and joy, the old is gone, the Lord makes everything new! As God renews the earth, know also that God longs to renew you and me! Our old “stuff” has been forgiven! We are free from the past, and made new. Let go, let God. Rise to newness in your own life….”spring” into action where action is needed, and move through this week with the hope and joy of what is to come at Easter! New Life!!!

We will also defeat death one day, God is in control so  just maybe we can be less anxious and worried?? After all, it is a lovely life, isn’t it?


A blessed Holy Week and Easter for you and yours,

Pr. Doug

“I will and I ask God to help and guide me”

Every year in Lent the Bishop for the ELCA (Lutheran) in Indiana offers a special worship service for all the local pastors. I always try and get the day off so I can attend. I love seeing old friends, worshipping together and getting a chance to talk with my Bishop. In this service oil is blessed for our use in ministry (thus the word “chrism”) and we renew our vows. I always appreciate this as a reminder of who I am in Christ and who Christ is in me! I like standing with colleagues, before our God, and saying yes to my ordination vows taken so long ago.

In the service his sermon was about Jesus in the desperate dark times of our lives. And if you watch the national news, it sure seems like we are in those times today. Uplifting to hear that God is with us no matter where we are or what we are going through. God comes to do a new thing in our lives (Isaiah 43) and that new thing is Jesus! Even though this is a story over 2000 years old, Jesus is still the new thing God is doing in our lives. We are healed, forgiven, and strengthened for the journey ahead. In our renewal of vows, there are 2-3 statements read that we agree to by saying “I will, and I ask God to help and guide me.”

We are fast approaching Easter! This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday in the church, a day set aside to remember Jesus and His entry into Jerusalem for the last week of His life. Seems like a good time for all of us to renew our “vows” as we continue our journey toward Easter. The Great Commandment is Jesus asking very simply for us to love God, love our neighbor and love ourselves! Hard to do sometimes, but let’s today renew our vows to love God more than anything else. This is a God who loved us first, who is with us always, loving back is the least we can do.

We can renew our vows to love our neighbor! Who around us, not just in our homes, but in our wider circle of life needs our love and support? And let us also renew our vows to love ourselves. Isn’t that fascinating? Tucked away at the end of the verse is a pledge/vow to love ourselves! That means you forgive yourself, that means you wrap yourself up in the present moment and don’t worry about tomorrow. We love ourselves so much we don’t care what others think of us or what they say or do!

We just stand before our God and say “I will and I ask God to help and guide me!”

Pr. Doug Givan, MDiv
Board Certified Staff Chaplain
St. Vincent Health, Clay/Indpls

Spring is in the air!

Spring is in the air! Warmer temperatures this week and it’s time for the time change! Unless you happen to live in Alaska or Hawaii we have to change time this coming Sunday morning the 13th/14th! We “spring ahead” and most of our electronic clocks do this automatically, but we will go from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. and get one less hour of sleep. When I was Pastor at my church I always got a chuckle out of the people who forgot or didn’t know and showed up when the service ended!

I remember working overnight shifts several years ago in my chaplaincy training. I just so happened to get both the Saturday nights when the time changed in the fall and in the spring. It is so weird to stand at the clock and watch the time go backward to 1 a.m. or forward to 3 a.m. It always seemed strange to me we could just reach up and grab our clocks and change the time.

Sometimes in my life I’d love to go back and change certain decisions! Other times I want to go forward and control how things turn out in my life and those around me! I know we can’t do that but I still want to! Like you I wouldn’t mind if time stood still or maybe I could have more control over things?? This industry of healthcare is always changing, our personal lives are changing as our children grow up and we realize we are getting older. People pass away or move away and life seems to always hold some change.

The Good News of our God who loves us is that God never changes. Life may change, healthcare work may change, but God never does. The Bible says in Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” God isn’t just stuck with us at 2 a.m.! God longs to “move us” forward! God longs to renew and refresh us daily! We are forgiven! We are loved! We can have peace, hope, joy and all that God offers.

I pray for that renewal in our VDC movement across the globe, literally. God is doing a mighty work in our midst and we must follow Paul’s mandate in Philippians and “press on” rather than always look backward. Change can and should happen, and it’s good, its’ God! May that renewing, refreshing grace of God bless each Secretariat and all that have attended a weekend, especially those who think they need it the least.

The time change cues us that spring is in the air! I love springtime with flowers budding, trees getting their leaves back, and sunshine and warmer temperatures. As God renews the earth this season how much more God longs to renew and refresh you and me! May we be renewed today in hope, in peace, in the joy of Jesus in our midst and that all things are new.

Pr. Doug
VDC National Spiritual Director

Family Birthday Gathering

A family birthday gathering took place over the weekend. We do what we always do, which is me driving over an hour one way to the east side of town where I grew up. My two brothers, their families, and my Dad still live over that way. Because I am the “odd man” out and live so far away I am the one to do the driving for such events. We talk together some, chips and dip comes out and then we play Domino’s! I love that goofy game of placing your tiles in a selective way in an attempt to be the one to win. My sister-in-law is the “prompter” because for some reason we get to talking or get distracted and she likes to keep the game moving along. “Your turn, Doug” I hear over and over again!

Pizza gets ordered, the cost divvied up between us and we eat. This time my younger brother had some home movie video clips from back in 2004. Isn’t it odd to watch old video of you or your family? I think it’s weird to see myself anytime but certainly so long ago was different. In the video my son is 5 or so years old (16 today) and he and his cousins are collecting Easter eggs from the yard. There is video of my Mom, who passed in 2014, which was very touching to see. My brother has recorded video of his family for ever and he has quite a collection of tapes from over the years.

I left wishing I had invested more time in making video recordings along the way. I have a few but not as many as my brother does. I would like to watch back over those and see my family in younger years. I play back the tape in my head all the time but it’s not quite the same as having something to watch on your TV. So many great memories I play back in my head but I lament not having video tapes to play and enjoy with the family.

There is an image regarding the spiritual life I once heard about. We are standing with God watching the video tape of our life! I don’t know about you, but that is a tough image to think about. Why do we try and hide things from God anyway? Isn’t our God all knowing? Isn’t God the great producer and director of our lives and knows everything past, present and future? (Oscar nomination, anyone?). Of course, God does and yet God loves us all the more. The video of the past is erased in the gift of Jesus in our lives, and the video of the future has not yet been made. Our job is to anchor ourselves into today, the day God has made (Psalm 118:24). The scene is not set yet for future of our lives. That’s why today is all we have, that’s why it’s called the present…’s a gift!

On this Leap Day, let’s give God thanks for creating, producing, and directing our lives, for the joy and great memories of the past, for quirky families, for old home movies, and for the confidence of what comes next. Seems to me I can relax and let go and listen for the Director to say “Action!”

Pr. Doug

Lawn Chair Time

The funeral for my neighbor was yesterday (Sunday). While I didn’t know her all that well, I wanted to pay my respects and attend the visitation and service. She was a lovely lady and always very kind to me. Just before she became ill and hospice care began she called me in a “tizzy” because her garage light had gone out. She wanted me to go to the Dollar Store and by a specific type of bulb and then bring my ladder over and change it. I did that (although I had a bulb handy) and it was not problem.

My memory is of all the times she would sit out on her front porch. She loved watching the world go by, and talking to her friends or family on the phone she always kept near. As I entered the church yesterday I was thinking of all of this and the times I missed not sitting with her. I don’t get enough “lawn chair” time in my life. She would invite me over, as she was often joined by extended family and friends. I’d usually decline saying I wasn’t feeling well or had a commitment. I could have gone over and relaxed with them and I wish I had done that more often.

I can’t go back and change any of that, I can only go forward. I can learn from the past and use that to make a difference in the way I spend my evenings, in getting outside in the lawn chair and continuing to love and serve my neighbor. I have another neighbor who is in poor health and I think tonight I’ll take over a meal and some flowers. Just to let her know I’m praying for her.

It’s the same thing in our spiritual journeys. We can’t go back, we can only learn from the present and use that learning to move us forward. We are always moving….and I prefer to think of myself as moving forward rather than backward. Isn’t that why our front wind shields are so large compared to the rear-view mirror? I hope and pray today you look forward with joy and hope in the Lord, my neighbor did and she’s moved forward to her ultimate Home!!


Pr. Doug



Flat Tires

Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

My beautiful daughter, Emily, will be 25 years of age Wednesday! I can’t hardly believe it and like all of you with your children and grandchildren isn’t it a blessing what God has given us in our children? What a joy to be a part of their lives, to guide and direct, and to love forever and ever. I think our job as parents is to love our kids unconditionally and to encourage them in every way! When life “flattens” Emily’s tire I think of myself, as her Dad, as the air pump! Not those goofy ones in the back of the car wash that cost too much, but by prayer and in conversation I uplift her and try to refill and encourage her. I listen to her needs, realize I can’t fix everything and I’m not the answer-man, but I am her prayer warrior! I can pray and I can talk to the Lord about her!

She graduated Ball State and is currently a pre-school teacher while working to pass the State Teaching exams! They are hard and I welcome your prayers with mine for Emily on her birthday week!!! She isn’t a good test taker, she knows the material but it is hard for her to get that down on paper. The intimidation factor is huge as she has to go inside a large building, in a cubicle, with no one and nothing around her. But we have our goals and know that, with God, all things are possible!

Can you see  God’s refrigerator from where you are? Your picture front and center! You can know today that no matter what you have done, said, or thought God still loves you! God is active in your life, to guide, direct and to love you forever and ever. God is there to “inflate” you with God’s Holy Spirit and to encourage you in your calling for the Lord! That is the Lord’s great gift to us to encourage us. The air is “on” and will never turn off….hook up today and keep yourself refilled for the daily battle!

God bless you this President’s Day and Second week of Lent!

Pr. Doug

National Lutheran Secretariat

Spiritual Director

Pastor Doug and Daughter

The Eye Doctor

Going to the eye doctor is always tough for me. I can never tell which of the two options looks clearer as they test my eyes. I am not sure I can see the bottom letters on the chart and I’d prefer not to have my eyes dilated. But my insurance will cover it so yesterday on my day off I got the full eye care work up.

I thank God they no longer use the “puff” picture to check your eyes for glaucoma. In my experience, I looked into this device and looked at the red barn straight ahead. And then when you least expect it, I got hit with an “eye bee-bee” of air! Thankfully, they don’t do that any longer and now do it with drops and special lights.  I never saw so many lights as I went through my test. Yellow, gold, blue and I really felt like I was still seeing those lights when the appointment was over.

But I’m in pretty good shape except for an astigmatism and the fact I still need contacts/glasses. It’s always good to get good results I thought walking out. Then I immediately thought of all our patients who do not, or did not, get a good diagnosis. It’s always so, so hard when health issues hit at an unexpected time.

We now enter into Lent, the season of “seeing” our sins, our bad habits, our ways in which we fall short. We see all of it and are reminded of that by the ashen shaped cross on our foreheads for Ash Wednesday. But that’s not the end of the story. We can dwell all day on our sin. We can fill our little hearts and minds on all the ways in which we fall short but a Light still shines. Look straight ahead, a light still shines.

This light bursts out from behind the sealed up tomb on Easter morning. A bright light of many colors reminding us of God’s promise that=despite our sinful condition=God still loves. And that love was sent forth in Jesus. Don’t’ worry so much this Lenten season about giving up candy, soft drinks or cussing, just take on some light. Take on the healing light of forgiveness that only God offers and light up somebody else. Take on the light of hope, peace and joy and share it with others. That’s the full work up of Lent today and every day, just shine on!

Pr. Doug

NLS Spiritual Director

A New Month

It’s the beginning of a new month! Turn those calendar pages and prepare for Groundhog Day, Ash Wednesday (2/10), Valentine’s Day, and President’s Day! The days are getting ever so longer and this “weird-weather-winter” will soon move into Spring. Easter comes early this year, it is on March 27, one week after Spring officially begins. My daughter, Emily, turns 25 on the 17th and I also have a niece and nephew with birthdays this month.

This month is big in politics as at least 4 States will have their caucuses and this will likely affect the number of Presidential candidates on both sides by months end. For that, I give thanks and praise! I can’t wait until it’s narrowed down to 1-2 on both sides and we get on with it! The amount of news coverage of the Presidential election is incredible, and hits us on all sides. I think I’ll wait until early November, evaluate my options, and go vote. I can do without the hype, the millions of dollars being spent on advertising and running campaigns.

February is upon us and it is a new month. The newness you and I feel today, and really every morning, pales in comparison to the newness that God gives us!! Do you really, really understand that your past sins are forgiven? Do you get this? Understanding personal forgiveness (and being able to forgive ourselves)is key to living the spiritual life. How refreshing to know that God loves, God forgives and God loves all over again. Why, then, are we the ones to remember our past mistakes when God has forgotten them? Seems like it would be pretty easy to let it go, let’s start today!!

It’s the same way with the future. Why do anxiety and worry cloud our daily living? Well, it’s normal and it’s human! The Bible is clear that you and I will sin, we will worry (even though the Bible says not to see Matthew 6:24 for example) and we will be anxious. It’s part of our human nature and it is okay. You and I worry and we are anxious and we can feel guilty over the past. Rather than fight this fact, perhaps our spiritual best move is to accept this child inside of us who is raging to be heard. Calm him/her by repeating something like “Jesus Christ is my non-anxious presence” or some other prayerful mantra that will help. There are 100’s of Bible verses that might apply and if you want to write me back I’ll be glad to help.

The bottom line is we travel into a new day, a new week and a new month with God! We are not alone! The love, forgiveness and grace of God in Christ are simply all aspects of God’s wonder-filled personality. And you are included! Enjoy the new day, the new month and be refreshed in your spirit…God is with you, loves you and will walk with you through all the ups and downs of life! In fact, it’s part of one of our mantra’s in VDC is it not? Often I will type GLYASDI as I know others have. But, here it is for your new month: God Loves You and So Do I!!!


Pr. Doug

National Lutheran Spiritual Director

The scariest place in the world!

I think it’s the scariest place in the world to be! There is no control and everything seems out of order. You cannot control others and you cannot control where you are, it’s frightening! I, personally, would rather not be there, but I have to be. I would give anything to speed ahead a few years and then be in that place. I could look back and see that everything worked out okay!

And now I may be freed from that place but I will think about it a lot. I do not want others in that place and the guidelines are that he can’t for 180 days! I’m talking about the passenger seat of the car as my 16 year old son, Joel, gets his drivers license! The passenger seat is a very scary place to be, yet I have to do it. I logged in the practice hours for him and have done a lot of “training” from that spot. And last Saturday we went to get his drivers license. It is a “probationary” license, thank God, and has restrictions placed on him until he is 21. I know many of you have been there and done that!

The BMV local license branch was packed as usual and we drew our number. When called up to the desk, we had everything in order and we went through everything in pretty good order. I’ve written about the BMV before and how some of the employees can have certain behavior characteristics that come with their job! But when I noticed the clerks fingernails had IU designs on it, I knew we were in! As an IU graduate I complimented her fingernail polish and she smiled and was so excited because the basketball team is playing so well right now. We chatted about all of that as she processed our forms and we were in and out in no time.

Life is full of scary moments and I’m pretty sure fear holds us back from a lot of life. I finally figured I have to let him go and I have to let him experience this on his own. I entrust my son, Joel, to God. Every parent fears these moments of letting go but we have to. I think it’s a really good analogy of all of life! What would it be like to let go of some fears today? What would it be like to trust God that in a few years looking back everything will have worked out?? To fully live as God intended we really have no choice. We have to let go, we have to trust, and we have to know that everything will work out okay! God bless you this week and always,

Pr. Doug
NLS Spiritual Director