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