“I am the Good Shepherd.”

I love children. I love them for their innocence, love for life and unconditional acceptance of God! Last  Sunday at church was  Good Shepherd Sunday with the passage from the Gospel of John 10:11 where Jesus says “I am the Good Shepherd.” The church where I preached had a children’s sermon. I searched high and low through Crawfordsville for something, anything, sheep related to show the children. There are no sheep figurines, there are no sheep toys or books and the only thing that came close were animal crackers. I couldn’t use them because the little boxes they come in use zoo animals.

I finally found a sheep-like beanie baby at a thrift store and made up a story for all the children who came forward last Sunday. I told them I couldn’t find any sheep at any store and talked about how sometimes we might feel lost but God always knows where we are and always loves us. Then I showed them my beanie baby and one little boy said “That’s not a sheep, that’s a bear!” So it turns out I don’t know what sheep look like after all.

The Bible does talk about us as sheep and the shepherd imagery is used in various places in Scripture. “We like sheep have gone astray…” (Isaiah 53:6) points to the fact that we always want our own way and we are stubborn, just like sheep! There is a pastor who is also a shepherd named Phillip Keller and he has a book out called “A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23.” He points out that sheep are very stubborn and cannot rest until they are free from pests, free from fear and fighting among the ranks, and they have to be free from hunger.  The most important thing, says the author, is that before they can rest and lay down sheep have to see their shepherd. The whole quality of the life of sheep is based on their shepherd. Seeing their leader helps them feel cared for and safe.

So we are like sheep, aren’t we? We rest in the saving knowledge that Jesus died for us and rose again and is now our Good Shepherd! We do see Jesus in each other, in church, in the Bible, in baptismal waters, bread and wine and the world around us. We are cared for and eternally safe in Jesus. And every day God shepherds us out into the world to notice the beauty, the wonder and the joy of life. And we, then, are to add other sheep to the fold! We are to share the Good News with those we meet, inviting someone to church with us, loving our neighbor and lending a helping hand. It may be that life really is having a child like faith, and knowing the difference between a beanie baby sheep and bear!

Invite someone to make a weekend! Ask now before fall schedule cloud up, and make your plans to come and join the National Gathering this July! It’s not too late, come on and renew your child-like faith in the Lord with fellow sheep from all over the country! 

Check out www.viadecristo.org and join us!

 As I type I also request our most fervent prayers for world and national events on TV and the news. May the people of Baltimore find peace, and those suffering in Nepal know the Lord. Amen!

Pastor Doug Givan

Staff Chaplain

Clay, Brazil

Seton, Indy

dgivan@stvincent.org

“The Lord is with us, we have no cause to fear. The eye of the Lord is upon us while arms cover us in love. The ear of the Lord is open to our prayers and the grace of God sufficient, His promises unchangeable.”

-Andrew Murray

It’s the little things.

It is really irritating and makes me so mad! I can’t do anything about it, I did not cause it but every time I get in my car I have to look at the small, spider-sized crack in my windshield. My best guess is a rock flipped up from the highway and hit my front windshield right at eye level(drivers side). I was there when it happened. I was just driving along, I was not behind a big dump truck or anything, and I heard the loud “bang” on my windshield and there it was….it is so frustrating.

I bought one of those repair kits at the store for $10. You have to apply this gel just right and use a 4-pronged adhesive frame to cover the repair. And, of course, I couldn’t make that work.

I called an auto glass repair place and the lady said it would be $69 if I bring it in for them to work on, and $99 if they come to me. In addition, she said repair would not remove the crack itself, I would still see it. But, it would be the kind of repair that would keep the crack from getting bigger. It is exhausting just thinking about it and what to do. If I file under my car insurance I have a monster deductible so either way I pay.

And, lo and behold, I got another one on the passenger side just the other day. The exact same scenario, I was there driving along minding my own business when I heard a “CRACK”  and the exact same thing happened. On the passenger side, just below eye level, another “spider-sized” crack. Now I’m thinking I will need a new windshield all together and just when I’m interested to see about a trade in! I have almost 130,000 miles on my car so I guess I’ll just keep driving and chalk it up to my commuter lifestyle!

It’s funny though, because the first windshield crack happened a couple months ago. I’ve gotten used to it and my eyes have adjusted and it hardly bothers me anymore, but I know it’s there. And when I look at it, like when I’m parked, I just wonder “is it getting a little bigger?” And now I’ve got two to check and see.

This is also true of the spiritual life. We have lots of little things that want to get in the way of our time with God, our serving the Lord, or maybe in our giving. We just have to look beyond the obstacles and drive on knowing that we really are only in the passenger seat in the car of life. Sin (cracks/bangs) will always happen. We can thank God that in Christ all our broken places are covered in layers of layers of grace and love. Accidents will happen. We will purposefully make mistakes ourselves. We will hurt others in thought, word and deed. The Good News of the Gospel (Jesus living, dying, and rising anew) is Jesus died for all of our brokenness past, present and future! And the Easter defeat of death is for us as a free gift to renew our hearts for another day, another week, another chance! No matter how often we “crack up” (sorry, no more puns) God is with us!.

Pastor Doug Givan

Staff Chaplain

Clay, Brazil

Seton, Indy

dgivan@stvincent.org

“The Lord is with us, we have no cause to fear. The eye of the Lord is upon us while arms cover us in love. The ear of the Lord is open to our prayers and the grace of God sufficient, His promises unchangeable.”

-Andrew Murray

Spring Break

Greetings Friends:

It is great to be back after a week off in beautiful Phoenix. One of the many things I noticed out there was how fast everybody drives! It is like New York or Chicago where they pass you and then cut into your lane. We end up side by side or me behind them at the stop light. All that hurry and (semi) dangerous driving for nothing! Since I was a tourist I was taking in the sights around me like the beautiful flowering trees, the palm trees and cacti. Gorgeous blue sky and rich sunshine all around.

I saw all that rushing around at the airport as well. The airport I think is the epitome of “hurry up and wait”. We left my home at 3 a.m. to get to the airport for the 6 a.m. flight. We were at the gate before 5 with time to spare. I personally would rather have it that way than to be late, especially at the airport. And, as the plane came to the gate on arrival, everyone gets up and grabs their baggage and stand there while we wait. It’s always 10-15 minutes or more before they get the ramp hooked up and we can leave the plane. There is a kind of unspoken hurry around the airport and on the airplane. I get that. We don’t want to be late, we don’t want to be held up, we don’t want to stand in line. Sometimes we have no choice.

How is your waiting, spiritually? Having a hard time? Inpatient? In a rush and you don’t know why? It’s part of our culture these days, part of life. Our work is to push that aside and slow down. And you know there are lots of ways to do that. We just need to give ourselves permission to let go of doing and remember we are human “beings!” I once heard Diane Purcell, who serves the Lord as an advisor on the Board, say it is called “46:10-ing” before. From the Bible in Psalm 46:10 come words to live by. These words can slow us down. They give us permission to notice, look around, smell the flowers, and let God be God.

No matter where you are in this post-Easter season Jesus has still defeated death. He still rose again and he rises up anew in our lives every day. Allow that “new-ness” to flow in to your heart. Be refreshed like a spring rain knowing that God is in charge, God has this under control and it is not up to you and it is not up to me! Slow down today and this week and notice. Intentionally say to yourself over and over “slow down”, and slow yourself. Take some pictures of flowers and blooming trees around us. Walk with a friend of family member. Do something for someone else and just relax and be yourself! That’s what I did over vacation as I read books, rested and let go.

And that verse? “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10, and all God’s people say “AMEN!”

Come and “Be Still” with your brothers and sisters for the July National Gathering! Visit www.viadecristo.org for details.

Pastor Doug Givan

Staff Chaplain

Clay, Brazil

Seton, Indy

dgivan@stvincent.org

God really does love us!

Grace, peace, mercy, and love from God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit

Every Good Friday, every Easter, and every Easter season, I am reminded, awe-struck actually, by what God has done for all creation! I know Lent is a time to reflect and discover the things in our own lives that aren’t just “right.” But, with the Good Friday service and reflecting on what God did for me…for all people…for all of creation…WOW! God really does love us, oh so much! It is simultaneously really more than just about me – and – it includes me!

Every time I gather with brothers for a conversation about God, every time I gather with brothers and sisters to encourage one another on this Christian-life journey, every time I gather with brothers and sisters to prepare for a weekend or a National Gathering, I am awe-struck at how God encourages us (others and me) on this journey called life…WOW! God really does love us, oh so much!

In the liturgical calendar, the time between Easter and Pentecost is referred to as the season of Easter. In the church, it is a time of joy and celebrating the grace and peace all creation has in God…WOW! God really does love us, oh so much!

I encourage each person reading this to just stop…maybe for five minutes…maybe everyday…to thank the God that created us, that redeemed us, that sanctifies us every minute of every day of every month of every year of our lives! What an amazing God! One who always listens…who always cares…who is always there…WOW! God really does love us, oh so much!

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

In Christ –

Ed

PS: The peace referred to is not the removal of difficulties in our lives…it is God’s shalom: the certain knowledge that God loves us, oh so much!

Our “Sin List”

When I entered the hospital room she was crumpled up off to the edge of her bed.  She was a very small, gray haired older woman.  As I checked to see if she was awake she opened her eyes and smiled and said “hello” and greeted me warmly with a smile.  And then she asked me how I was doing.  That always amazes me that a person dealing with their own health concerns and issues would inquire about me!

We had a very nice visit together and then she sat up in her bed and began to look for paper she had written on.  She said “Oh, I’ve got it here somewhere…I wrote down everything I’ve ever done wrong.”  I was quieted by that and could only say “How did you come to make such a list?”  She told me someone had asked her to do that (she couldn’t remember who) and then she was to give that list to a pastor.  She insisted I take it and I held two notebook pieces of paper written on both sides in my hands right next to her bed.

I said to her “Would you like me to take this list of things you have done wrong and treat it how God would treat it?”  “Oh, yes”, she said, excitedly.  And I began to tear the sheets in half and then in half again until I held almost nothing.  And I threw the paper away in the trash can.  Her eyes got real big and turned a brighter blue than they were before.

I told her that this is what God does to our list of the things we’ve done wrong.  God tears it up…throws it out, because Jesus has paid the price already for those things and more!  The Gospel Good News is that all of our lists, no matter how long or on how many sheets, have been torn up and thrown away.  The free gift is Jesus came to tear up our “sin list” and throw them out into the largest trash can you can imagine!  Gone forever and ever and as the Psalmist puts this in our Bible “as far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our sins from us…”  Ps. 103:12.

This is the Easter story in a nutshell. All our sin, the list of things we’ve done wrong, take on the Cross and there they bled and died. And on Easter Sunday morning, Jesus rose again to new life and now completes that new life in us. With Risen hope we go about our daily task all to the glory of God!

So I asked my lady friend patient where her list was of everything she had ever done right. She thought a moment and said “Pass me my notebook, I’m over 80 you know this will take awhile!”

The Easter Connection

He was a friendly, older guy and struck up a conversation while washing hands in the restroom of a Cracker Barrel restaurant. I didn’t really feel like chatting and thought maybe I could get out ahead of him but to no avail. As we stood there he looked at me and said “It’s a bit chilly out there..” and I agreed and commented on the weather. Then he began with what was probably a 3-4 minute talk about his recent weather experience. “Yeah, we was down toward Missouri and my wife’s sister was sick. It was kinda warm there but not here. We went down to see her sister, she’s very sick. We thought she was gonna die and we should hurry down there to see her before she goes. It was warm up until we got close here and it’s cool out there.” And we conversed for a few more minutes on that trip, his sister in law, and the weather.

He said “Yeah, that ol’ Boston they got over 100 inches of snow this winter.” “Yes, they did”, I say and he goes on to tell me about what it will be like when all that snow melts. There were a number of people moving around us at this point as we stand near the restrooms in the gift shop. I took a step toward the door and offered my standard “take care”. He then said “Ok, Buddy, talk to ya later. Happy Easter!” As I left the restaurant I was thinking “talk to me later”? I mean probably not. I didn’t find out where he lived but the chances of another connection….and remembering each other seemed kind of slim to me. I felt later like I cut him a little short and we could have talked more. And “Happy Easter?” Did he mean the Easter of jelly beans, eggs, and the Easter Bunny? Or did he mean Easter the gift of the resurrection of Jesus? I don’t know. As I watched him disappear into the restaurant itself I thought I didn’t even offer a return “Happy Easter”. He was just a nice guy looking for a “warm” connection on a “cool” day.

We all linger for relationships and connections in life. Studies I’ve heard of say we need that to sustain our lives. What about the spiritual connection? How is your spiritual life, by whatever that means to you? This is the week for dying to the old ways of being and believe in God’s new way through Jesus! We are in Holy Week now according to the church calendar and many church’s will offer services for Maundy Thursday (the night  before the Lord’s death commemorating the Last Supper and foot washing). Maundy is Latin for “commandment” and Jesus urges us to love one another. Good Friday is probably anything but good to Christians, but it used to be called “God’s Friday”. The death of Jesus makes Good Friday solemn, quiet, and dark.

Then a little light peaks out on Easter Saturday evening as many offer an Easter Vigil service. And, of course, there’s Easter this Sunday! HAPPY EASTER!!  I hate to pop any bubbles or spill any baskets but Easter is not about candy, gifts, bonnets or bunnies. Easter is a celebration of God’s defeat of death. Jesus was raised. We have proof in and out of the Bible. “He is Risen” we say and celebrate and sing about. Jesus defeats death and that is what I mean by making things new. It’s a new life for you and me! There is a relationship and a connection with God that can’t be missed! YOU ARE INCLUDED!

It’s a new beginning for you and me and all of us! Jesus gives the fresh start we all crave in the grace, love, and hope Jesus poured out in his death and resurrection. As we trot into this week, be still, reflect and think about what happened to Jesus. There are short readings in the Bible that can give you more perspective. There are services to attend. In fact, Easter may be the ultimate time to invite someone else to church and build a relationship. Look for those chance encounters where you can say to someone “Come with me” and visit my church this Easter. Come with me and worship our loving, caring, God! Come with me and attend a Via de Cristo weekend ! If you have already attended come with me to Illinois this July for our National gathering! Visit www.viadecristo.org!

And this week look for people you think could use the warm embrace of God where you can say “Happy Easter”!

God loves you and so do I,

Pr. Doug

NLS Spiritual Director

 “Forgiveness is the only way to permanently change the world.”  -Desmund Tutu

 

Life’s Frustrations

There is a certain “branch” of government we all have to work with if we want to drive our vehicles, get licenses, registrations, etc. I have never had a good experience with said agency until we could register license plates by mail. So now I’m trying to get my 15 year old son, Joel, a learner’s permit! As we went in Saturday morning I was quickly angered by the lack of privacy. It is a fairly small waiting room and a few feet away sit about 6-7 women behind long desks calling out for the next number. You can sit in the waiting area and listen to every single conversation. People are turned away left and right for not having the right paperwork and I feel better. Tuesday (because they are closed today, Monday) will be our third time going in because each time we go we are missing documents or have the wrong paperwork.

The last sticking point is confirming his address. I said to the woman that he is 15 years old and does not get any mail. She didn’t seem fazed by that. “Aren’t college’s sending stuff?” she says. Why would a college, to me at least, waste time and money recruiting a freshman in high school? “Does he have a bank account?” “No” I say in desperation. I don’t say this out loud but the boy can’t hardly manage allowance and gift cards are spent as soon as possible. So now we have to bring in two pieces of mail from our home sent to either adult and then they need our birth certificate. I feel a little panicked at this. Not only do I put my life on the line while he practices driving (he backed over a curb yesterday) but now my birth certificate? I’m in too far and want out.

So pray for round three (I think I have it all together now. The passive aggressive side of me wants to get one of those transport dolly’s and roll in with my file cabinet from home! That way all the files we have would be right there ready for whatever it is I don’t have). It is frustrating but we have to do it, no choice.

That speaks to our life doesn’t it? Lots of things happen in life we do not like, we do not agree with, or frustrate the heck  out of us but we still have to carry on. I call it “for the good of the order” we have to do it. It happens in health care just as much as anywhere else. Despite whatever goes in the hallways or in our personal lives the patients still need us. Frustration exists just like the spring cleaning I’ve begun that quickly frustrated me with all the clutter I have. Just like my car headlights “winking” at me this morning. Tonight I’ll  have to go to the auto parts store, figure out the bulb, and then probably go on YouTube to see how to change the bulb. I’m tired already.

As we end the Lenten season this week and turn toward Holy Week and Easter my frustration pales in comparison to getting beaten, whipped, nailed to a Cross. I remember what Jesus did for me and for you so that we may be made free! “Cheer up,” says the Lord, “I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). I remember Easter and the resurrection and the hope that we have in Christ. And now feel like I can take on a light bulb, the clutter, and getting a learner’s permit. And if things are frustrating you within your Secretariat get to work in a positive way and you will feel better! With God all things are possible!

Pastor Doug Givan

Staff Chaplain

Clay, Brazil

Seton, Indy

dgivan@stvincent.org

“Forgiveness is the only way to permanently change the world.”  -Desmund Tutu

“Back in the Day”

“Back in the day” I sold homes for a construction company. I was the sales representative, or new home consultant as we were called, placed in the model home. I helped families as they came in to build their new home in the community. I worked in several different geographical areas of Indianapolis, and what was consistent among families was the importance of the back yard. Everyone wanted privacy and/or to look at a lake, wooded area, tall fences, large decks or patios. As they selected a home-site to build on, it was all about the back yard and privacy. What happened to the front yard? Even more so today we just don’t know our neighbors. What happened? Why do we hide? (I realize the world we live in and the need for safety and caution). My then manager said it was because of the automatic garage door opener! We could now pull into the garage, and shut the door behind us. No longer do we come out and talk to each other like it was when I was growing up.

Fast forward to church last Sunday morning and a woman was requesting prayers for a good friend who had hip surgery. As she went on to talk about this friend she said “we’ve been neighbors since 1969, we know everything about each other!” Wow, I thought, that’s 46 years give or take, that is just remarkable. With the mobile world we live in today having a neighbor that long just doesn’t happen.

So we have our Biblical mandate to “love our neighbors.” It is called the Great Commandment because Jesus commands us to do it. “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, mind and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30). Jesus doesn’t mean just the ones who might live next door. It is anyone we come into contact with, work with, live near, go to school with and so on. We are really to love each other even when it’s hard to do! (Cue Mr. Rogers to sing his song “Won’t you be my neighbor?”).

How would this play out in our lives if we loved our physical neighbor or someone in your office, school, or church? How about neighboring Secretariats? Is there a movement trying to organize near you? Let’s go! Time is short and the good news of the Good News is even if we fail or forget we get to come back to Grace and try again. God gives all of us free “do overs” so that we can try, try again to love God, love our neighbor and love ourselves. And I think tonight I’ll take some cookies or something over to the elderly lady next door to our home!

GLYASDI

Pr. Doug Givan
NLS/SD

P.S. Honored to announce I was approved this morning for Board Certification by the Association of Professional Chaplains! I now are one!!!  Thanks be to God.

Rest and Renewal

I spent the weekend at a Catholic retreat center in Indianapolis to be part of a program that had “Rest and Renewal” in the title! It was good to get away and be still before God. During the program we looked at some Bible passages and how they can apply to our lives. It was like a mini Via de Cristo with small group sharing, fellowship, and talks on the Christian life. During Saturday’s free time it was nice outside and great to walk the grounds. It’s a good idea, I think, to have scheduled time away to renew and rest.

Since this was a Catholic event and retreat house they held Mass once each day. Non Catholics are invited and welcomed, I just could not have Communion with them. Much of the Mass is familiar, however, because of the “liturgy” used in our Lutheran form of worship. Defined as “the work of the people” liturgy is the order to a given worship service. I like a little order in my life, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen! It is exactly when “disorder comes” we need to get away and renew ourselves. That can happen in a multitude of ways even just stopping for a breath, saying quiet prayers, reading a good book, talking out some problem within a reunion group, or calling a brother or sister we served with. All of us in the VDC are lucky and blessed to have one another. Our common experience is not exclusive, but rather we are “inclusive!” And don’t forget our Pilgrims Guide is designed to be a daily devotional book to renew the soul. The songs can be sung or read, there are Bible passages and liturgy and prayers all packed into that little book we often tuck away after our weekend.

At the retreat, the Priest and the others in attendance made me feel welcomed and included, it was hard to “feel” that included since I am not Catholic. Denominations aside, we can rejoice today because we have a God who includes us all! It doesn’t matter where we have come from, what our religious background is or isn’t, the color of our skin, the amount of hair on our head, or our past sins, present sins nor future sins. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God…” (Romans 8:31-39). This is Good News for those of us who sometimes feel left out or lost and alone. God includes us, God welcomes us, God loves us and God is forever filling our empty places with rest and renewal that only God can provide! Isn’t that why we made our weekend in the first place? Want to feel the magic of your weekend all over again on a grand level? Check out the website and come to the national meeting in July. You won’t be sorry you took time out for “rest and renewal!” Visit www.viadecristo.org!

We just changed our clocks and the weather should be better this week here in Indiana. We are rushing toward Spring. As God renews the earth for this season, may God also renew your heart and life as well!  Happy Almost Spring…rest in the love and grace of Jesus!

 

Peace,

Pastor Doug Givan

Staff Chaplain

Clay, Brazil

Seton, Indy

dgivan@stvincent.org

“A kind word warms three winter months” Japanese proverb

Plan B

Last Sunday the weather was really bad and we got a great deal of snow.  I was scheduled to substitute as a pastor for a small church about an hour away. As I prepared to get ready I received a text from the church that they were cancelling due to the weather. I was relieved not to have to deal with the snow and driving! So I went from my “church clothes” to sweats and adjusted from Plan A to Plan B! Nothing on the schedule, ease and comfort ahead (except for shoveling!) and relaxation! I like that open time frame in a day when nothing is scheduled. I love the freedom to go and do and be without regard to an appointment or heavy schedule. It makes me wonder why I load up that schedule or overbook myself sometimes.

Are you that way? Is Plan A to be busy all the time, and if you are not busy do you wonder what you should be doing? Yesterday I looked at my house, my to-do list, the many books I wanted to read and laundry that needed done. So, I found a movie on TV that I had recorded and decided the list could wait. Plan B full steam ahead! I think that’s a good example of self-care and we all need more of that. I’ve met many people that give me that glossed-over look when I mention taking care of yourself. You are the only self you are going to have and I pray you in the busy-ness of life will put self-care high up on the list. Please do, you are worth it, you are special, you are loved, and you and I have Divine Favor upon us. We are forgiven, free, and we can follow Ps. 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God”.

What about when Plan B describes our lives? Marriages fail, wayward children or grandchildren, more month that money. We have our expectations and know that Plan A is the right one and the right way to do something. I know that lifetime Plan A’s don’t always work. Around the hospital environment we see health issues all the time and people who are sick living into Plan “B”. Could we say that life is a constant adjustment to life itself? What about Plan “C” or even Plan “Z”?

Sometimes we feel there is no option, no Plan A and feel adrift and alone. Then we remember, God is with us and everything is OK and we can take care of ourselves. It’s OK. We are OK. God is enough in Jesus for any and every plan. Amen.

Pastor Doug Givan

Chaplain

St. Vincent Clay (Brazil)

St. Vincent Seton Specialty (Indianapolis)

It is such a comfort to drop the tangles of life into God’s hands and leave them there.”  

-L.B. Cowman