Bird Watching

I find great comfort and joy in watching birds. Whether on the telephone wire or scrounging around for food, I love them especially the ones of rich colorful feathers! I’ve recently put in a bird feeder and a bird bath in my yard in eyesight of my easy chair. Last week I finished yard work and refilled the feeder(s) and got fresh water for the bird bath. And within minutes of my getting out of the way they came. I would like very much to get birds of color to my yard but I fear I don’t quite have the set up. I live on a busy intersection in town and neighbors all around. I don’t offer the quietude they seek, as I understand it, so I enjoy the occasional bright red cardinal that comes but mostly have the “regular” looking birds of brown and black combinations. I also just hung a hummingbird feeder in hopes of drawing them as well.

I could hear the birds singing from the nearby trees when I finished recently doing yard work recently: “Oh Doooouuuggg??  Can you please refill the birdfeed for us with rich, exotic and tasty seeds? And then, if it wouldn’t be too much to ask, get out of the way? If you stay nearby you make us nervous.” As I watch them feed I notice two things: there is a hierarchy of who gets to eat first and who has to wait, and they are extremely nervous. I constantly see the birds looking for predators and  getting scared and taking off. They all flutter as a group to the nearby tree as I go out for the newspaper or mail. If something outside spooks them they take off the same way. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “relaxed” bird just chilling at the feeder, or eating the fallen seeds on the ground.

We are like that, you and me. We are anxious, worried, and while we may not physically look around a lot, we are looking for something. And God knows. And only God can fill the desires of our hearts. God gives us such a great encouragement about this from Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 6:25 and following. Just paraphrasing, but God invites us to notice the flowers in the field and the birds of the air and how much God takes care of them. Then, Jesus says, we are of so much more value than the flowers and the birds, we can know that God will take care of us all the more. The Lord invites us not to be anxious or worried about tomorrow, but to live into today because God will take care of us. God will take care of our every need.

Since the Bible is clear, “we have all sinned and fallen short” (Romans 3:23) we will be anxious anyway. In fact, we might read that wonderful passage in Matthew and be anxious because we read it. We do not stop there! In the death and resurrection of Jesus we have hope in the Gospel Good News that we are saved (could we say, made non-anxious?). So with every anxiety that comes, we send it on to God, give thanks and pray and know this pattern is a part of life. As the birds fly to nearby trees for cover and safety, we can “fly” to Jesus for comfort, peace, and a calm for daily living.

Jesus says “I am Living Bread, whoever comes to me will never be hungry, whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6). We just keep flying back and forth…..from the world we know and back to Jesus for comfort, peace and hope. Then back out into the world again to feed others, and let our colors shine!

GOD BLESS YOU ALWAYS,

Pr. Doug

Chaplain

St. Vincent Clay (Brazil)

St. Vincent Seton Specialty (Indianapolis)

dgivan@stvincent.org (email)

Where does the time go?

I can’t believe we are in mid-August already! Where does the time go? At one of the Dollar stores I saw that Halloween candy and supplies are out and ready for purchase. A clerk says Christmas merchandise is on the way! It won’t be long and they will have their Valentine’s Day products out I am sure. Labor Day, the official end of summer, is 3 weeks from the time I am writing this and that means fall is on its way. Here in Indiana I love the seasons as they change and can’t wait for cooler air and the trees turning bright colors! I could do without Daylight Savings time, but no one is asking my opinion. It always strikes me as odd that we can grab our clocks and turn them one way or the other to adjust for the lighting outside. I don’t get it.

I think often of what it would be like to turn the clock way, way back! I long for the days of my youth and especially think often and give God thanks for my childhood cul-de-sac where neighbors knew each other and kids could play outside safely. Working in the hospital environment forces me sometimes to push my clock ahead a few years and wonder when I will be admitted, or what illness I will have someday. I like to worry about my health and then not necessarily make any changes.

I keep a calendar but a lot of my upcoming schedule I already know. Appointments, activities, meetings are generally in my head. Maybe that’s why some nights it’s hard to sleep. A new storage facility is opening up in my town and I was thinking I should go and store some things to give me more room . Then I thought maybe I should just take stuff to donate instead. Why hoard at this point? I counted 18 shirts in my closet half of those I don’t like or don’t wear! (Some shrink while hanging there, I don’t know if it’s humidity or what… J). So I feel God nudging me to give stuff away, to kind of “thin out!”

A friend recommended a book for the second half of life from Fr. Richard Rohr called “Falling upward”. It’s about spirituality for the second half of life and he is going to suggest it’s the best time of life, and the time to get close to God. Often we think of growing old as a time of loss, grief, medical issues and health concerns. I think I’d like that….to think more about “falling up” toward the Lord as we live out our days. I know I can’t go back and change the many things I would change. I know I cannot go forward and yet anxiety often pushes me to look into the future of what I cannot see. I think it gives more meaning to the Bible verse “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad…” (Psalm 118:24). Not every day will we feel like rejoicing and being glad, but when we dare to take in what God has planned for us here in this life and in the next we can at least smile! The problems, challenges and difficulties will still come, and God will still hold all time in God’s hands. I think I’ll let it all go….and live for what I have in front of me, no matter how fast it seems to go by.

GLYASDI, PEACE BE WITH YOU ,

Pr. Doug

 

where does the time go?

I can’t believe we are in mid-August already! Where does the time go? At one of the Dollar stores I saw that Halloween candy and supplies are out and ready for purchase. A clerk says Christmas merchandise is on the way! It won’t be long and they will have their Valentine’s Day products out I am sure. Labor Day, the official end of summer, is 3 weeks from the time I am writing this and that means fall is on its way. Here in Indiana I love the seasons as they change and can’t wait for cooler air and the trees turning bright colors! I could do without Daylight Savings time, but no one is asking my opinion. It always strikes me as odd that we can grab our clocks and turn them one way or the other to adjust for the lighting outside. I don’t get it.

I think often of what it would be like to turn the clock way, way back! I long for the days of my youth and especially think often and give God thanks for my childhood cul-de-sac where neighbors knew each other and kids could play outside safely. Working in the hospital environment forces me sometimes to push my clock ahead a few years and wonder when I will be admitted, or what illness I will have someday. I like to worry about my health and then not necessarily make any changes.

I keep a calendar but a lot of my upcoming schedule I already know. Appointments, activities, meetings are generally in my head. Maybe that’s why some nights it’s hard to sleep. A new storage facility is opening up in my town and I was thinking I should go and store some things to give me more room . Then I thought maybe I should just take stuff to donate instead. Why hoard at this point? I counted 18 shirts in my closet half of those I don’t like or don’t wear! (Some shrink while hanging there, I don’t know if it’s humidity or what… J). So I feel God nudging me to give stuff away, to kind of “thin out!”

A friend recommended a book for the second half of life from Fr. Richard Rohr called “Falling upward”. It’s about spirituality for the second half of life and he is going to suggest it’s the best time of life, and the time to get close to God. Often we think of growing old as a time of loss, grief, medical issues and health concerns. I think I’d like that….to think more about “falling up” toward the Lord as we live out our days. I know I can’t go back and change the many things I would change. I know I cannot go forward and yet anxiety often pushes me to look into the future of what I cannot see. I think it gives more meaning to the Bible verse “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad…” (Psalm 118:24). Not every day will we feel like rejoicing and being glad, but when we dare to take in what God has planned for us here in this life and in the next we can at least smile! The problems, challenges and difficulties will still come, and God will still hold all time in God’s hands. I think I’ll let it all go….and live for what I have in front of me, no matter how fast it seems to go by.

GLYASDI, PEACE BE WITH YOU ,

Pr. Doug

 

Misery and pain

I now know misery like I never have before. I know physical pain, bruising, swelling and the joy of pain medication! I know what it’s like to have 3 people in your mouth! I had a tooth pulled Friday after losing a partial bridge Thursday! I get dental work done at the IUPUI dental clinic where senior students work with you (overseen by dentists) and it’s cheaper. So, anyway, there I was Friday afternoon getting a tooth pulled experiencing the above.

After the two students couldn’t jar the tooth loose, they went to get the dentist. This process of the dentist coming in and out, multiple tools being requested from the tray, the sound of that lovely drill (won’t mention the smell) went on for two hours. At one point when they stepped out I was in tears, literally. I was so miserable, in pain, it was hot in the room and the feeling of plastic against my face was all I could take. And none of them noticed.

The dentist said something to me now and then. The third student kept announcing “Pressure, pressure, you’re going to feel pressure.” I just wanted her to feel some “pressure” at one point. They missed my upset, they missed “patient care” in the truest sense. It was another great reminder to notice our patients and family members in our work together. Tears should stop us in our tracks while we listen, care, or just hold the hand.

I take my share of the responsibility for poor dental care leading to these problems. I once saw a bulletin board that said “Ignore your teeth and they will go away.” I can tell you this is true. Please keep up your regular checkups and cleanings so you don’t have to go thru what I went thru. What kept me going that afternoon was a pocket cross I carry that I put in my hand. I kept that cross and turned it in my hand and prayed like a mad man! I felt the comfort of God, and, of course, the ice cream on the way home helped!

We will have pain on this earth: physical, spiritual, and emotional. Count on it happening. Maybe it is right now in your life. Hold closely the Cross of Jesus, who died a horrific death and experienced pain like we will never, ever know. Only to rise again three days later defeating death. All for you, all of that for me. We are so richly blessed. As we meet others along the path of life in varying degrees of pain, reach out and be a comfort. Hold a hand, listen without a lot of words, and bring comfort. That’s what God does for us, it’s the least we can do for each other and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ!

Let us pray for full fall weekends, many team members and many pilgrim/candidates! We love you Lord and all God’s people said “Amen!”

Pastor Doug Givan
Staff Chaplain
Clay, Brazil
Seton, Indy
dgivan@stvincent.org
“Through the cross, you are flawless….” Song lyric by Mercy Me

Down from the Mountaintop

I felt it right as I left the parking lot. It stayed with me all the way home and still does today. I faced traffic on the way home and fought to stay awake. When I got out of the car at the gas station they looked at me kind of funny. I looked down at my cross and nametag and wished I was back on the mountaintop. The “it” I’m talking about is what I face after every national VDC gathering, and every weekend when I serve.

It is the Sunday night blues. The return to the real world of grass that needs cut, bills to pay, laundry to do and work to return to. I always have a hard time coming down, so to speak. We that gathered in Illinois had a tremendous experience I believe. The worship, the fellowship, the learning and prayers that were shared have us all inspired to go back and get to work. One of my personal highlights was the presentation of the “Cotton Patch Gospel”. This incredible one man performance was funny, inspirational and very moving. He acted out the Gospels with a southern “vernacular twist.” When he did the final scene of the resurrection he got up on a table and said “It Worked!” Yes, it worked, and yes the Gospel works. (You can find him on line or Google his name Phil Kaufmann.)

As one or more people said to me there is great momentum leading to Sylvania, Ohio next July. Mark your calendars now July 21-24, 2016. One person joked (not me) that it will truly be “Holy Toledo!” Our new president, Steve Gielda, will be a driving force as we go to the next level. We all must do our part as we pray for Steve and the National Secretariat, for our local Secretariats, and as we serve on teams, reach out and sponsor a pilgrim and so on. Our movement is alive and well. We received lots of positive feedback on the weekend and there is new energy generated! The same God on the mountaintop goes with us now. (I know that, I just had a really great time though.)

When Jesus was on the mountaintop (The Transfiguration Matthew 17:1-9 and other places) He was touched by God and became radiant. So do we in the encounter with Christ in VDC, in the written Word, in the Waters of our baptism, at the Table of Wafer and Wine, as we drive in traffic, do laundry and cut the grass.

And then the Scripture teaches that as they all came down from the mountain a great crowd was waiting on them. Look around, friend, a great crowd is waiting on us to go with Good News! Whether you were with us over the weekend or not, there is work to be done. And we can do it. God can and will do it through us…..we are ready.

Oh, I almost forgot! You are enough! You are enough, be “light” on yourself this week and it will feel like a mountaintop all over again!!

God Bless you all,

Pr. Doug

NLS SD

 

(Thank you to the many readers who spoke with me over the weekend in thanksgiving for this little devotional thought for your week!)

2015 Annual Gathering

The National Gathering for our beloved VDC begins this week at Augustana College in Illinois! To me attending a national weekend is like an extension of my own weekend when I went through. Fellowship, Worship, listening to talks on the Christian life and the VDC life…it’s awesome.

Do you remember your weekend? Remember the feelings, the fear and trepidation melting in to incredible joy at the end of the weekend?  I remember my table, I remember outdoor worship by a lake, I remember the surprises of Palanca and I remember the incredible service. I mean there were guys outside with flashlights, holding doors open and bringing drinks to the table. The food was incredible. On the Saturday of my weekend, at lunch time, one guy ate 7 sloppy joe sandwiches! (we had a little impromptu contest…and he survived the rest of the weekend).

In preparing to go to the National gathering I ran across my team roster and photo. Tears of great joy because I don’t think I’ve ever felt as close to the Lord as I did that weekend. A few of the guys have gone onto their 5th day and I grieve their loss. Others have dropped off the radar and I’ve never seen them since to serve together on a team. I wonder why I’ve not contacted them and I know life gets in the way, time goes by.

Coming to a National VDC event is as close to my original weekend as I will ever get! I feel it sometimes when I serve on a team, but when you gather with brothers and sisters from all over the country it’s pretty incredible.  If you are reading this and are coming I look forward to being with you. If you are reading this and not coming I invite your prayers for us, that all might be renewed and inspired to serve the Lord in our Via de Cristo ministry. And you can know that we who gather will be praying for you!

GLYASDI,

Pr. Doug

National SD

Relax, Refuel

I only had a little gas left in the lawn mower so I hoped and prayed it would be enough to finish the yard. I didn’t feel like taking the container and refilling it. I wasn’t feeling 100%, tired, and really didn’t want to cut grass at all yesterday in this humidity. But grass waits for no one and away I went. I am down to the end of the yard and the lawnmower starts to stutter. I try to hurry as much as one can while cutting the grass! And sure enough the mower stops with just a little of the grass left to cut.

The story of my life it feels like. I figured I’d wait and finish that part tomorrow after getting gas for the container. Running out of gas for the lawn mower is not nearly as  bad as running out in a car! I’ve never had that happen, knock on wood, because I usually fill up before I get that low. I belong to triple AAA and am pretty sure they can bring gas, if I should run out. I have been close a couple times, when the light comes on and there are no gas stations in sight!

Outside of cutting the grass and going to church yesterday was a day of low energy and not much “gas” to do anything. I relaxed and rested. I watched a couple movies and just stopped the busy-ness. I fought hard against the voices telling me how much there was to do, to organize and to try and get done. And I think we all need to take time out to rest from time to time. Low on energy today? Out of “fuel”? It’s okay, our God allows for rest and gives us time off if we will only take it.

Jesus took time in the Bible to go away (Mark 6:46, for example) and pray and to rest. It is this kind of rest that, ironically, refuels us and gives energy for the tasks at hand. It’s what a day off is for, or a vacation. Time away is needed to “recreate” ourselves and re-energize. Wal-mart has their back to school stuff out and they will want us to rush the end of summer. Don’t worry, no one can take the well-deserved time out from you. Just give it to yourself today, this week, this month. Do you have lots of time off available? Useone or two days just for you. Nothing on the calendar tonight? Good, leave it that way and allow yourself to rest. The dust, the “to-do’s”, the laundry and dishes can wait. You are re-fueling!

 COME AND BE REFUELED AT THE NATIONAL GATHERING! STILL TIME TO GET ON BOARD! VISIT OUR WEB SITEWWW.VIADECRISTO.ORG FOR ALL THE INFORMATION! Feel like you are being called to rest and worship and fellowship?  Come to Illinois, and be refreshed in God’s grace,

 

Peace,

Pr. Doug

NLS SD

 

Go Bless America

Every time I plugged in the green electrical cord into my garage outlet a fuse would blow. It didn’t seem right that there were a few sparks coming from the plug-in nor did it seem right to have the fuse go out every time. I even tried different outlets outside the house because I desperately needed to trim my yard and home with my electric trimmer! So my handyman brother suggested there may be a difference in the green electrical cords and the orange ones I am used to. After all, it was his green electrical cord he gave me along with a “holder” that mounted up on the garage wall.

So I visited my local hardware store and was shocked at how much extension cords can cost, and the variety. I’m not spending nearly $100 just so my extension cord can light up and show me it’s working. I’m not buying a yellow one for $89 so I kept shopping up and down the aisle. Then amidst all the varieties I found one for $19 that was for outdoors and was 100 feet long! I plugged that in and everything worked perfectly, no sparks and no fuses blown! I guess the “amps” or something inside the cords can be different amounts and be too strong for the outlet.

I also have noticed a difference when I “plug in” to my God and when I am “unplugged!” (Pun intended! ) Last Sunday at church singing some of the national hymns like “God Bless America” was so inspiring. Yes, we know that God has blessed the whole world in Jesus our Lord and Savior! What a difference having God in our lives and hearts and souls. We have a friend in Jesus who longs to carry the heavy burdens we face in life (Matthew 11:28) all we have to do is “plug in” and let go.  God Bless America seems too big for me to handle. I need it simpler and easier to apply to my life. When I shrink it down the “America” around us is our family, work, neighborhood and every place we go. Because God has blessed me/us we can go and bless the “America” where we live and work and play. How do you bless someone else? I’d say love them, care for them, listen to them, encourage them, show interest in them and their lives. There are countless possibilities.

Church signs and retail store signs all seemed to have the words “God Bless America” on them for this past weekend. One such sign was missing the letter “D” and I thought that really does sum up the plugged-in existence we have in the Lord today! Friends, let’s “Go Bless America!”

 COME AND BE BLESSED AT NATIONAL GATHERING! STILL TIME TO REGISTER AND GET ON BOARD! COME BE BLESSED AND REFILLED SO YOU CAN COME BACK AND REFILL OTHERS…..

 Pastor Doug Givan

Staff Chaplain

Clay, Brazil

Seton, Indy

dgivan@stvincent.org

“Have faith there is a reason you go through certain things. I can’t say I am glad to go through pain, but in a way one must in order to gain courage and really feel joy.”   -Carol Burnett

 

Grace

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

Let’s focus on the first word of this greeting as an encouragement in our walk with God and our work in this ministry: Grace. What a marvelous word! Volumes have, and will be, written on the subject. The second talk of a Via de Cristo weekend is titled “Grace” and energizes the process of renewing our relationship with the creator, redeemer, and sanctifier of the universe. As you know what’s awe-inspiring about grace is God freely gives it. I once heard grace described as “God loves you no matter what – deal with it!” Grace and unconditional love is not very common in today’s world. A few questions inside a question for your reflection: “How do you deal with God’s amazing grace? Put it on a pedestal and worship it? Put it in the closet and bring it out only when it “seems” right? Exercise it daily in your dealings with others created in the image of God? Possibly something else?”

God’s grace and love for us, and all creation, is boundless. I suppose that discovery, coupled with the understanding that as believers in Jesus (God: Son), God: Holy Spirit is always with us, is what propels us, energizes us to do what we do in our daily lives and in this ministry. If you heard me say this before, it’s worth repeating: When you come face-to-face with God’s love, you realize that nothing, absolutely nothing you do or say will cause God to love you more. With that, everything is done in response to God’s love rather than to gain God’s love.

I love the priestly blessing recorded in Numbers 6:24. However, I modify the last word to reflect God’s grace and love for us. “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you shalom.” Shalom is more than the absence of worry and conflict – it is the certain knowledge that God is with us: loving, guiding, comforting, and keeping us, now and forever.

In Christ –

Ed

The “Great Commandment”

Self-loathing. It’s a term that I recently heard that describes how we feel about ourselves. If my 20 years of experience in ministry tells me anything at all, I know that at one time or another we have all done some self-loathing. We generally don’t like ourselves very well, the bar of self-expectation is very high. Most of the time, we loathe (hate) our outer appearances be it hair, weight, or something else about our looks. It can also come from something that happened to us in the past that makes us feel that way about ourselves.

I had a friend once who hated her shoulders. I know of some who wish for a different hair color (or just to have some hair!), size, or weight. I don’t know what it is, but it seems to me that self-loathing, or self-hatred is very easy to do. It could be a “voice” from our past like a critical parent who always made us feel less than. It can come from many sources and/or many people in our lives and I have wrestled with this demon myself throughout my life. I especially see this in regard to the spiritual life. No one I’ve met prays, reads their Bible, or worships like they think they should. The guilt and shame are very high. The bottom line is that we have a choice on how we are going to look at ourselves, and self-loathing should be the last thing we do or think about.

In several places in the Holy Bible we have what is called the “Great Commandment”. We are “commanded” by God this way : “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind and with all your strength. Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF.” (Mark 12:30, caps mine).
We are commanded my friends to love ourselves, love our neighbor and love God fully. That God given commandment takes precedence over anything we say or feel about ourselves. Love yourself. Lower the bar of expectation with grace over law.

It will take forgiveness and it will take a shift in the way we look at ourselves. If God loves me despite all that I think is wrong with me, maybe I should change and begin to be easier on myself and to really, really love myself. We all are so, so hard on ourselves. What would it mean to be “easy” on ourselves? Try it, you will like it! It will not always be easy, but we can do it. I’m the only one I have! I cannot change (much) about ourselves so I will begin to look through the eyes of love remembering Jesus died on the cross so that all our “self-loathing” and sin could be taken down to die with the Lord, only to rise again clean and fresh and new. Every day, every moment “die” to that self-loathing, and rise to self-love. Seems to me I should think of myself as God does and that lightens up the heaviest burden.

Peace,
Pr. Doug

dgivan@stvincent.org (email)

“I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something hopeful.”

-Bob Hope

“May the Lord continually bless us with Heaven’s blessings as well as with human joys..” Ps. 128:5