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.

Peace,
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…..it’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!”

GLYASDI,
Pr. Doug
NLS SD

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!!

Peace,

Pr. Doug

NLS SD

 

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!!!

Peace,

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,

Peace,
Pr. Doug
NLS Spiritual Director

I have a question for you.

I have a question for you today: Are you hard on yourself? More specifically, are you hard on yourself spiritually? I would imagine you answered yes, because I feel like we are all too hard on ourselves spiritually. The “bar of expectation” is set really high and often we feel we never measure up. I’ve been in ministry over 20 years now, served in four congregational settings and 4 different hospitals. I see it all the time in members of my church and in patient care. We never feel we are enough. Probably 80% of the patients I see do not attend church. They used to, but do not now and they feel bad about that. I’ve had members of my churches come up and talk about how they don’t pray enough, or very well, and how they don’t give/donate like they should, etc., etc. The “guilt-ometer” is really high. I find my work to remind them that God has come to us in Jesus, with unconditional love we call grace. And the key to releasing this monster inside us is to simply accept the grace, and to give ourselves grace. Meaning, lighten up on ourselves. We are okay. We are enough. Church attendance, Bible reading, prayer and on down the list does not add to nor take away from God’s love for us. There isn’t anything we can do to cause God to love us any less, nor any more! And if you don’t think you pray correctly or pray enough, God still loves you! The Bible is clear “God is love.” (1 John 4:7).

I had a counselor once work with me on “clobbering myself!” I have worked long and hard on this issue for me and with others. I have grown in understanding that you and I are children of God and all we can do is to do the best we can, where we are, with whatever is on hand! For example, near my easy chair at home lay 4-5 books that need to be read. A journal that needs filled out and endless things to do. I let the self-defeat go, and read and journal when I can. And I know, and remind myself, the books and journal can wait on me. So, I’ve set a new year resolution to “lighten up” on myself and I invite you in also!

I am sure that if we look back at our family of origin, or elsewhere in life, we can find the source of the critical voice that says we aren’t enough. For me, it was an emotionally absent father, and I never knew where I stood. I know where I stand with God and that makes all the difference and it is the same for you! We stand with God who loves and does not criticize and can find absolutely nothing wrong with us!

I used this theme in a speech I gave over the weekend with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Columbus, Ohio. It was a reminder that God loves us despite how hard we are on ourselves! The theological concept is to put “law” on ourselves over God’s “grace.” In Biblical times it was all about the law and there were plenty of people to go around and remind you of your failure to live up to the over 600 laws listed in the Old Testament alone. Who can do that? Who could possibly meet all of those laws? No one and that’s why Jesus came to break through the laws and remind us of God’s grace and love.

This is why our Via de Cristo is so important….we need to invite and bring others into this grace of God and let the love of Christ pour over them on a weekend. Or, we need it again as we serve on team! And we need it beyond that and that is the reason to attend the National Gathering this July!

Jesus took on all of our sin and died for it all on the Cross. And then the Lord rose again and life has been changed forever. Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew 11:28 “Come on to me all you are weary and need rest, for my burden is light…”

Feeling down on yourself today? A little blue with the weather and post-Holiday “blah’s?” Come to Jesus….Come back to God…..who forgives, and loves. And be renewed!

GLYASDI,

Pr. Doug Givan

NLS SD

I took a chance

I had heard enough. I took a chance, I went for it. By the time Saturday night rolled around I had heard so, so much on TV and the news about Powerball and the chance to win some or all of 900 million dollars. So I bought a ticket. There, I’ve confessed. There was no winner last week as everybody knows and now over a billion dollars is up for grabs. And by the time some of you read this there will likely be a winner from this past Wednesday.

I mean, honestly, wouldn’t we all like to be rich? Just think what it would be like to buy a big home, pay off debt, drive a super car, quit your job, etc., etc.! The TV stations were routinely interviewing people standing in the store lines and would ask them what they would do with all that money. I heard many things from various folks, and I was thankful to one woman who said she would give a lot of her winnings away. That’s honestly what I thought going over to the gas station. If I win I will give most of it away! I thought of all the world charities who could so greatly benefit from that money. I often wonder what is wrong with our culture with so much poverty and need right here at home and yet we give away hundreds of millions of dollars.

I do know the rather tragic stories of people who have won a lottery. Many go on to bankruptcy, divorce and many other problems. But I may never know. I suppose the question is about what makes a person rich. Money, and the “things” of this world will all pass away including us. As the old saying goes “you can’t take it with you.” So we remember again that we are rich….rich in the spiritual life given to us by God! Rich in our Via de Cristo ministry and rich in the experience we had when we made our weekend! Palanca is better than money!!

If you were to do a topical search on the Bible you would find that money is the number one topic talked about by Jesus. There are many verses within the Bible about wealth and money and where our hearts might be. One I like is “Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have, for God has promised to never leave us!” Now that is a richness we can count on. Just think, you don’t have to buy tickets and wait to see if your name or number gets called! God has already given you the trillion dollar lottery in the gift of eternal life through Jesus….we really are rich!! The “things” of this world do not make us rich. Money does not, really (I mean look at the superstars who commit suicide, divorce routinely or go to drug rehab). We are all so desperately searching for something else to make us happy, to fulfill our lives and we think money will do it.

Nope. Count your blessings. Turn around and look at your life, those who are in your life, and all that you have. And be content.

Pastor Doug Givan, MDiv

Board Certified Staff Chaplain

St. Vincent Hospital Clay

St. Vincent Seton Specialty

 

dgivan@stvincent.org (email)

www.stvincent.org

Rest high on that mountain

My neighbor is receiving hospice care at home and is very near death. Her family has been in and out all weekend, caring for her and each other. She is such a sweet lady, always very friendly to me and easy to talk to. Whenever I would see her sitting outside her home she would always have her phone close by. Her phone was her link to the outside world. As her vision slowly faded and heart became less and less able to function her phone was her connection to family.

On Saturday morning the granddaughter (around 10-11 years of age) came to get me. She said one of the family members asked her to come, that her grandmother was “getting very tired and we need prayer.” I went and greeted my neighbor, who was barely conscious, and the family gathered around the hospice bed. We had a prayer and my neighbor held my hand tightly. I’ve been in this position many times before, standing at a bedside as death comes close. It really is Holy Ground; no words are really necessary, quiet comes easily.

A little later I hear a guitar playing. At first I thought a stereo was up to loud, and then I realized that a grandson was playing. And then he began to sing Vince Gill’s song I hear a lot at funerals “Go rest high on that mountain”. It was an incredible moment. My neighbor opened her eyes, the young man came to the foot of her bed and sang this song to her. Several of the family joined in and a peace and a calm came over the home. Young children, who had been running around confused as to what was going on, got settled with their mom and listened.

When I stopped by Sunday night, my neighbor was sitting up more alert than the day before! She was able to have pizza earlier that day because all she wanted was to have a pizza party with her family. And she got her wish! Her heart condition won’t be getting any better but God gave her some very special moments with her family. Death had been slightly moved to the shadows for at least a day or so while my neighbor continued to say she was ready to meet Jesus!

As we launch into a busy day, a busy new year may we do so comforted by the fact that our God is with us and has placed us next to other people in our lives. Our neighbors are not just those we live next to, they are everywhere and certainly in our Via de Cristo! This year join me in praying for greater love and care for neighbor! Jesus taught “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30). Are there ways you can love your VDC neighbor (s) today??

From the Vince Gill song “Go rest high on that mountain, your work on earth is done. Go to heaven a shoutin’ love for the Father and the Son!”

Pastor Doug
NLS SD

NOW THAT THE NEW YEAR IS HERE IT IS TIME TO PLAN TO JOIN YOUR “NEIGHBORS” IN THE NATIONAL GATHERING HELD THIS JULY 21-24! SAVE THE DATE, REGISTRATION MATERIALS ARE COMING!