Evil is a choice. — Spiritual Director thought for the week

I came home after church yesterday and just wanted to relax a bit before taking on the afternoon chores, yard work, etc. I turned on the national news and learned of the incredible devastation in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub. Lest we doubt that evil is alive and well, this is proof evil is. This is a very hard concept for people to understand, including myself.

Evil is a choice. We have been granted free will and we have choices we can make and we do that every day. We can choose our attitude, our personality to some degree, we choose what we say and how we act. This week especially talk with those close to you about these events. Talking helps us process. Guard how much of the news you watch/read because you can easily become overwhelmed.

In times of high stress like this it is important to stay on your normal routine, to rest, to pray to God and rest in God’s loving embrace. That is the same Embrace being given to Orlando today and those affected. This is the same Embrace that holds us close when we are scared, and cannot make sense out of life. But we must move forward.

Give blood, donate, pray, and reach out in any way that you can. Hug your family, tell them you love them, and continue to live. After all, the opposite of “evil” is “live”. Please talk with your Pastor or Spiritual Director if you feel “stuck” or need help processing this event.

Peace be with our country, leaders, and those responding to this crisis and the families and loved ones,

Pastor Doug


Happy Father’s Day ! Remember, Dad, our job is to follow Paul’s advice in Thessalonians 5:11 “Let us encourage one another”. Encourage your children and grandchildren no matter their age!!


A Little Privacy Please

I just want to drop off my recycled items by myself, just once! This may sound weird, but the recycling facility in my town is the busiest place ever. I have dropped by at all hours of the day, evening, weekends and evenholidays, and there is always, always someone else there! Now I realize it’s  not my private domain but the area where the bins are located is relatively small. Once back into your car you cannot see on the other side what the driver next to you is doing!

Yesterday around 5:30 I ran a few errands in town and everything was quiet. On my way home I stop at the recycling place to drop off my items. The car in front of me also pulls in, and there is someone next to the bin already dropping off her stuff! I start to unload my trunk when an older woman pulls up next to me, hops out and tosses her bag into the bin. For her to do that she steps in front of my car and takes her time dumping out her bag, in the same spot in the bin where I was tossing in! I had to wait a second for her to finish before I could continue! I just want, one time, one time is all I’m asking, to drop by and not have anyone else around!!

Well, we all recycle and thank God we have a place we can drop off things in town. But don’t you feel “crowded” sometimes? I mean I know we have to share space with 6+ billion other people on the planet, but I like a little bit of privacy. Last evening I stepped out on my porch to refill bird feeders. Again, maybe it was my mood, but I just wanted to be left alone a minute. My neighbor pops out for a smoke on the porch and wants to chat. I know, I know, love thy neighbor.

So I couldn’t find any private space yesterday except of course in my home. I know God is the God of crowded places as well as in private. I am thankful that my best “God moments” are mine, and mine alone mostly enjoyed in privacy and quiet. Take some time out today, this week, to find your quiet, private space and enjoy your time with God! There is nothing to “recycle” with the Lord, as God makes all things new!


Pastor Doug



Road Rage

Road rage is a growing epidemic. The CBS show “Sunday morning” had a special on it this past Sunday and there is another road rage incident caught on camera in today’s national news! I once had a “road rage” incident several years ago. The driver in front of me thought that I had obviously followed too closely. When we arrived at the stoplight he hopped out and came back to speak in some “unkind” language! I had no idea and really don’t think I was tailgating but it was scary.

What is it with us? Are we really always angry? What is our hurry? I mean with technology today we can always call ahead and alert someone we will be late. The response of “road rage” seems out of order because the offense is usually not worthy of that type of anger. But I think a lot of people drive with their stress, frustrations of life, and problems pushing the pedal! Whenever I’m cut off, or someone angers me in driving, I try and think what they must be going through. Maybe they are on their way to the hospital for a dying spouse, or parent or something like that. Perhaps they just got devastating news from a spouse who no longer wants to be married….there are countless possibilities.

Because I commute so much I know the feeling of frustration when other drivers don’t drive like me!!  We cannot move cars out of our way, we can’t influence the other driver really, we have to focus on the control of our own car. And that’s a great analogy for life. We can’t control others, we cannot make people act like we want them to act. Ultimately, we have no control.

Father Tim, from the Mitford Series by Jan Karon, says the prayer that never fails is “thy will be done!” Really that’s all we want, isn’t it? Thy will be done, O Lord, in my personal and professional life, and for those I love and care about. Thy will be done! And slow me down while driving and, in fact, slow me down in my life, Lord! Amen!


  1. DOUG



Memorial Day


Eleanor was the first shut-in I ever called on some 20 years ago as I began my ministry. She had recently become widowed and was facing a number of health issues as well. Like many in her situation in our culture today the children and grandchildren had moved away, were busy with their own lives, and barely called or wrote. Now that I have worked in the hospital setting five years I see it all the time. Many families abandon their older parents and grandparents.

As I talked with Eleanor about the love of God, as I read Scripture about the presence of Jesus with us always, she said something that always stuck with me. She said, “I forget to remember.” It has happened often to me and probably for you as well. We often “forget to remember” to pray, to be in God’s Word, to attend our church of choice and to love and serve one another. It’s easy, so much clutter occupies our minds and thoughts these days, it’s so hard and yet so easy to forget.

I believe that God also “forgets to remember.” Oh, God remembers us as persons, as souls, individuals to love, but God forgets to remember our sins. That is what forgiveness and grace are all about. Forgiveness is ours; I wonder why we remember so easily our mistakes, sins and decisions we wish we would not have made? When the God we love and serve, who gave us Jesus to die and rise again for those sins, has forgotten/forgiven. “I forgive their sins and remember them no more…” (Hebrews 8:12).

This weekend, Memorial Day will be filled with lots of activities for many of us. Over the course of a three-day weekend (for many) remember those who served our country and have paid the ultimate price. And then, as you remember to pray, bring to mind all those men and women who currently serve around the world. They need us to remember them, always.

Peace be with you, blessed Memorial Day week,

Pastor Doug


Pr. Doug Givan, MDiv

Board Certified Staff Chaplain

St. Vincent Health, Clay/Indpls



“New York Minute”

Have you ever heard the term “in a New York minute?” I heard it from a colleague over lunch this weekend as he referenced how quickly he would do something. I’ve heard the term before but have never given it much thought. I mean I generally understand things go “faster” in New York and I know the city itself never sleeps, etc.

So a visit to Wikipedia sheds light on this term “a New York minute.” It has been used for years and there are stories, a short film, and even a song by that title. But the upshot of the definition of the term is “the time between when a light turns green and the driver behind you honks!” That’s a New York minute…..it seems like in New York cars honk at each other much easier than my experience here in Indiana. If you honk at someone here, or get honked at, it seems to be taken personal. People get mad and fly the international sign of disapproval!

Since I commute, I’d say I use my horn a couple times a week. Usually I honk at the driver ahead who has pulled out in front of me, or taken their time to make a very wide and sloppy turn. In Crawfordsville, where I live, we have a very popular stop light that does not have a left turn arrow and for the driver to turn left they have to block the left hand lane altogether. And what makes me mad is that just a block ahead is a light with the arrow to turn left that would make it so much easier for everyone.

What is our hurry in life? Speaking from my own experience, I find myself often “rushing” to slow down. A consistent mantra I say often to myself is to slow down. Saturday I visited a person in a nursing home and near the parking lot they have a lovely little pond occupied by a geese family: mother, father and 4 goslings! I loved stopping to watch the baby geese fall in line with mother out on the water, while the Dad geese (goose?) stayed near the edge watching me. It was a God-given “Doug minute!” I gave myself some minutes to slow down and notice the beauty around me.

We all rush, we all put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to rush and hurry and the reality is we have all the time in the world. I thank God that God always has time for us and is never in a hurry. God will always listen, always available and sometimes God speaks to us in the middle of the night because that’s when God can finally get us to slow down and listen.

So consider how fast you are going. Try saying to yourself over and over today “slow down, God has this” or something similar. Take your time, we only have so many minutes in our lives to live! I think this week I’ll honk less and give the driver ahead of me some space. I’m never in the hurry I think I am. Take time for some “______” (insert your name) minutes to slow down and enjoy! Trust me, it’s more enjoyable to listen to the geese honk than the car behind me!

Peace be with you!

Pr. Doug,

NLS Spiritual Director

*P.S. I would, however, appreciate your registering for National Gathering in Ohio this July…..wait for it…..”in a New York Minute!” Visit the web site at www.viadecristo.org


Remembering your original weekend.

I want to go back and visit Epworth Forest camp in North Webster, Indiana. It’s the camp where I made my weekend, and where I have served a number of teams. The memories are countless, the images still very moving, the experience the most incredible in my life. I hope you can also remember your original weekend, and the sight, sounds, and smells of the Spirit of our Lord.

A favorite memory is the chapel where we held worship, and the times I’ve kneeled at the Altar rail. The great food in the dining room surrounded by a warm fire and the fellowship of many. The view of the lake and having Sunday morning worship lake side all great memories. I remember commandeering the golf cart and chasing the geese only to get in “trouble” by the Rector…

On the Friday morning of my weekend I asked one of the Pastor’s to come and pray with me. The two of us, in the chapel, birds chirping, the smell of wine and candle wax from the just-held worship service, and prayer. Tears, pain, struggle all left at the feet of Jesus. A part of our Fourth day our Service Sheets invite us to have an Altar visit from time to time. Some evening after a meeting or service go back into your sanctuary and go the altar area. Just pause. Just quiet your mind. Listen to God.

The Altar visit always alters our way of thinking and it happens every time we partake in Holy Communion and/or prayer.  As you reflect back on your weekend with me there is something hard we must do. We have to let that wonderful, inspiring memory go. We have to thank God for all the experiences, for all the prayers, for all the memories, and then go and make new ones.

Plan to come in July to our National Gathering in northern Ohio and make new memories. Come and participate in “new” worship, prayer, and visiting the altar. Come, the table is being prepared and all our invited and welcomed!

May our God of the Day of Pentecost (this Sunday) move us to make new memories, new friends, and to serve in new ways in our local and national Via de Cristo. I’ll leave the golf cart alone if you’ll come with me to the altar…..


Pr. Doug Givan

NLS Spiritual Director

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 8th! We’ve been honoring Mom’s officially as the second Sunday in May since 1914. I think May is a wonderful time of year as the weather turns, and the flowers bloom we honor our mothers. My own mom passed in 2014 and for the last two years this holiday has made me realize what a gift I had in a loving, caring mother. I know that’s not the case for some.

I try not to feel guilty over time lost in her later years, especially the last year of her life. As she became ill and it was hard for her to get around I would always find her by the aviary of the nursing home where she lived. She loved to watch the birds and would rock on a rocking chair and partially sleep some of the day away. In her last year or so of living, whenever I greeted her with “I love you” she would say back to me “I loved you first!” I treasure those words still today!

It’s true, our mothers loved us first, but before that our God loved. Our God knew us and loved us “before we were created in our mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5). And that love of God exists still today. All that we are- mind, body, soul was created, known and loved by God before we were born. Mother’s Day is the second Sunday of the month of May, not the second Tuesday, or Thursday. Why is that?

When we gather for worship we honor the God we love. Can’t we say that God’s love is like a mother’s love? Unconditional, unending, and unyielding, it is a life-giving love and the two can be celebrated together. And so now we get to love God back, because each day we are alive we celebrate as “God’s day!”

God bless all mom’s everywhere,

Pr. Doug
NLS Spiritual Director

Spring Cleaning Outside

Spring cleaning outside was how I spent this past gorgeous Sunday afternoon! I hope you and yours were able to get out and enjoy the weekend. I love this time of year as the weather turns, the trees and flowers are getting in bloom, the birds sing and all seems right with the world. It was time to fire up the lawn mower, get out the garden hose, reset up the bird feeders and bird bath, and fly my colorful “Welcome” flag out front. In addition, I got one of those hanging flower baskets for the porch and enjoyed an afternoon of outdoor work.

I am not really a fan of mowing the yard. My house is near a big intersection in town and the traffic seems to never stop. I picture people at the stop sign with nothing better to do than watch me haul that mower around the yard! I’m sure the neighbors do as well. In my weird mind I sense a couple at the picture window having pulled up chairs to watch their neighbor struggle to get his yard mowed!

I fill the lawn mower with gas, check the oil and proceed to get it started. It did not want to start. So there’s that lovely scene, me tugging, pulling, the starter and nothing happening. I guess no neighbor or anyone else was watching as the blue smoke began to pour out of the mower! No one came to my rescue, one neighbor I have said it was burning up unused oil! (This has happened before…)

Spring clean your faith this day, this week! Throw out the problems and mistakes of the past and embrace the new. God is our God of active, life giving love and grace. As the old saying goes “there is nothing you or I can do to cause God to love us any more or any less!” This morning I heard a worship song entitled “We belong to God”. I thought of the verse in Revelation about Jesus “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end..” (21:6). The Alpha is the first word of the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last. God is the beginning of our lives, the end of our lives and everything in between! We belong to God and that’s a reason to know that any problems or difficulties we have God is with us. Every time we suffer, every time there are issues in the family, or the finances, or at work we have a God who is with us, and we belong to God!

Think of that spiritual good news as a sunny, spring day with the sun shining, the breeze blowing, the birds singing in the trees. They all belong to God as well,


Pr. Doug

NLS Spiritual Director


Good News

Stephen Ministry has been around in congregations, hospitals and other places for over 40 years. The message is simply about equipping God’s people to care for another person. The leadership training I attended last week promoted the idea that people will always need someone to care for them whether they realize it or not. Visit www.stephensministry.org to learn more. I will be having a class in Stephen Ministry at the hospital coming up in May and if you are interested please let me know. No qualifications another than a desire to care for others and willingness to invest some time to learn and grow in that ability.

While I deeply respect the program and all it means, couldn’t we say we are all called to care for one another? Today on the news it was horrible: the tragic earthquake in Ecuador, murders in Indianapolis including a body found in the White River. There is news like this available every day, just turn on your TV! But what about “good news?” Where is the Good News of life?

Good News is what the word “Gospel” means and is the story of Jesus Christ and the lifesaving ministry of our Lord. The four Gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all give us their versions of the stories of Jesus in Scripture. Good news is not found anywhere but the Bible. Jesus lived. Jesus died. Jesus rose. He defeated death and now lives in us to encourage us to love and serve one another! Couldn’t we all be like a Stephen Minister and whether or now we take the training, couldn’t we all care for each other? Isn’t there someone in your life who needs you? Now, today, right now…make a call, send an email, or write someone you know needs some love and reach out and care! You will make a difference,


Pr. Doug

NLS Spiritual Director


Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C

This year, the 4th Sunday of Easter is April 17th.  But “Year C”, what’s that all about?  Have you ever talked about Sunday’s sermon with a friend from another denomination, or even Catholic, and he or she heard the same Scripture and a similar sermon?  Here’s why.

The church year is broken up into Seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and the Season after Pentecost.  The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) is a three-year cycle of weekly lections used to varying degrees by the vast majority of mainline Protestant churches in Canada and the United States.  The RCL is built around the seasons of the Church Year, and includes four lections for each Sunday, as well as additional readings for major feast days.  During most of the year, the lections are a reading from the Hebrew Bible, a Psalm, a reading from the Epistles, and a Gospel reading.  During the season of Easter, the Hebrew Bible lection is usually replaced with one from the Acts of the Apostles.  The lections from the Hebrew Bible are sometimes chosen from the Apocrypha.

For example, this coming Sunday’s readings will be Acts 9:36-43Psalm 23Revelation 7:9-17 and John 10:22-30.  Look for some or all of these scripture readings on Sunday.  Some congregations make “Christ in Our Home” (Augsburg Fortress ISSN 0412-2968) available to members; individual subscriptions are also available.  This devotional booklet follows the Lectionary.

The gospel readings for each year come from one of the synoptic gospels according to the following pattern:

  • Year A – Matthew
  • Year B – Mark
  • Year C – Luke

Readings from the Gospel of John can be found throughout the RCL.

Jesus prays for all believers in John 17:20-21 (NIV): “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, [emphasis added] Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

The things that divide us into denominations are of man and not of God.  There is so much more that we have in common than things that divide us.  The RCL was produced by The Consultation on Common Texts (CCT).  Current members if the CCT are American Baptist Churches/USA, The Anglican Church of Canada, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Reformed Church in North America, Church of the Brethren, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Free Methodist Church in Canada, Liturgy and Life: American Baptist Fellowship of Liturgical Renewal, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Mennonite Church, National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, North American Lutheran Church, Polish National Catholic Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Church in Canada, Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship, United Church of Canada, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.


For more information about the Lectionary, see the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.


In His service together with you,
Dave Lambert

NLS Database Coordinator


p.s. Chaplain Doug Givan is still away at a training conference so I have again brought you today’s message in his stead.