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




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


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) (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…


  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) (email)



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) (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


The colorful “show”

The colorful “show” of beautiful trees is ending, so says the weather man. Here in central Indiana we will be getting wind and rain the next couple days and the leaves will come down. It makes me sad because I have loved the “show” and have enjoyed the bright colors of the trees, bushes and even some shrubs. Sometimes it just takes my breath away, they are so beautiful.

Yesterday I went walking around the wooded campus of Wabash College and took lots of pictures. When the sun shines through a tree or behind it the richest colors of gold and yellow can be seen. But, alas, the time changes this coming weekend and we are headed into the month of November….as I write this it’s 60 days to Christmas!

But the colorful “show” has been wonderful and I think there is great spiritual insight with those colors! I have often thought that:

Green is the color of growth, as God grows us in faith, hope and love

Red to me stands for the passion of our hearts to love God and one another ….following our hearts to God’s call within!

Orange for the fire that burns within us, to discovering that “one thing” God would have us do in the world….perhaps we are doing it already

Yellow (doesn’t show up on the screen well) for the light of Christ within us shining out

Enjoy what is left of the colors of God’s rainbow outside! If you are feeling more gray and dark today, may these colors and the “color” of God’s love be with you to encourage you for today. Just for today, know you are enough, you are loved, and you are okay! DECOLORES’!

COlorful Rooster

Pr. Doug




Good Day!

Yesterday Darilicous ice cream store closed for the winter! It’s a sad day in my neighborhood (Crawfordsville, IN). They are a local store located conveniently near me with a park next door for kids to play. Many times as I walk the neighborhood, I would listen to the children play, notice the soccer or baseball team crowded around the store and smile. I think relaxing at a park and having ice cream is a God-given delightful experience! I recommend it heartily!

Darilicious has been in the Crawfordsville community since the 1960’s and they are very well known. They also have soft drinks, some sandwiches and a variety of ice cream treats. I am very pleased that they are successful when there are many other options and places to get ice cream.

Their sign suggested that customers order to stock up our freezers since they were closing. So, doing my duty, I went over Sunday and ordered 6 of their chocolate chip “Mooshies”! I’m not sure who named them, but the “Mooshie” is the equivalent of the DQ blizzard and quite delicious. I will try to enjoy those somehow over the next couple months, but I do not think 6 will last until February when they reopen.

Ice cream is traditionally associated with summer, I know this. I have very fond memories of growing up during the summer and listening for the ice cream truck to come into our street. In those days it was “Mr. Softie” and their ice cream was really good. I guess I’ve never really had any “bad” ice cream if I think about it. But summer has come and gone, fall is under way and soon the time changes and the Holidays are upon us. Time is flying by it seems like.

I once had a friend of mine say that “if you aren’t careful Monday becomes Friday”! And I think that’s true. We need to take heart and give thanks that God is always “in season” and that God is always and forever with us. There is no “closing” as it relates to God and the spiritual life. As these days change, and time goes on and life is sometimes a struggle God is with us. When we lose a loved one or a friend it is hard. Grief and the related feelings of sadness and anger and whatever else are difficult. But we hold onto the God who is with us in the midst of all these things we go through and we give thanks. God in Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever”! (Hebrews 13:8).

Pretty soon the Darilicious owner will change his large outdoor sign to read “Jesus is the reason for the season” and he leaves that up through December and into the New Year. And I agree, and I’ll toast that thought with what might be my last “Mooshie” for a while…at least until spring which will be right around the corner!

Pr. Doug