Thursday, May 24, 2018


Sacrifice is at the heart of Christian faith. The people of God in Old Testament times offered animals for their sins--lambs, goats, bulls, and pigeons. Jesus offered himself as a perfect, final sacrifice so that the animal sacrifices would not have to be repeated.

Sacrifice, surrender, and suffering are not popular topics nowadays. Our culture makes us believe that we can have it all, that we should demand our rights, that with the right technology all pain and problems can be overcome. This is not my attitude toward sacrifice. I know that it is impossible to relieve the world's suffering unless God's people are willing to surrender to God, to make sacrifices, and to suffer along with the poor.

From the beginning of time the human heart has felt the need to offer God a sacrifice. What is an acceptable sacrifice? One that is good for the people of God. One that is made on behalf of the world.

The words of Jesus, "Love one another as I have loved you," must be not only a light for us but a flame that consumes the self in us. Love, in order to survive, must be nourished by sacrifices, especially the sacrifice of self.

Suffering is nothing by itself. But suffering shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift, the most beautiful gift, a token of love.

I must be willing to give whatever it takes to do good to others. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.

                                                                     -Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World

Saturday, May 12, 2018


"When you see something, say something. And you say it with the facts and the reporting to back it up. You make the choice everyday to exemplify honest because the truth exonerates and it convicts, it disinfects and it galvanizes. The truth has always been, and will always be, our shield against corruption, greed and despair -- the truth is our saving grace"
                                                                         -Oprah Winfrey 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Higher Power

When I read the Bible, I want to stop at Isaiah 11:6: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” What wonderful and comforting and hopeful words are these! They reach across the thousands of years since they were penned to give to us something of truth and value that we cherish today.

But I would rather not continue on to Isaiah 13:9: “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.”

If there must be a judgement, why can’t it be more finely focused? God, can you not remove the bits of me and them and the world that are cancerous with sin and leave the rest to grow and recover? Haven’t you heard of targeted immunotherapy? Why does the whole country suffer in Isaiah 13? I ask with Abraham: why destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? can’t you spare them for the sake of the righteous few? I want to keep Isaiah 11 and discard chapter 13. 

The concept of Hell is repugnant. It must be a failure of God as much as a failure of anyone. And what about the business of making crazy moral standards? What is the homosexual to do with his desires? Where the mercy in campaigns against abortion and euthanasia?

But what does taking a cookie cutter to the messages from God do? What does the book of Isaiah look like with half of it cut out? Full of holes where I take out what I don’t agree with. Much more palatable. Perhaps it was written for a rougher day: those cut-out parts are the first stage rocket that we can now discard in our journey through the celestial, left to burn up on reentry to a world we left behind.

No, I cannot accept this. God is not God with his personality cut in half. Shredded scriptures may be ready for recycle but not for reading. It is a valiant attempt to save something that you no longer want as a whole, but it is dishonest.

What about this approach is dishonest? What is it that we are unwilling to face in our search to bend God and the scriptures to something more acceptable to the modern mind?

It seems to me that the alcoholics have already answered this question in two simple words: Higher Power. Making sure to gather as many as they could on their journey towards sobriety, Alcoholics Anonymous purposely forsook even the word “God” in their terminology back in the 1930’s. While theologians wrestled with what part of God to keep, AA profoundly said: there is someone or something bigger than we are. While the rest of the world made God according to its wishes, the alcoholics admitted they were incapable and needed someone greater than their wishes.

I am dishonest when I say that I want a God but I really do not. I don’t want someone bigger than I am. I don’t want someone to tell me what to think and what to do. I want all the comfort of having a loving celestial being. I want the good feelings and the support of religion. I want a historical connection. I find great things in the Bible and other religious books. But ultimately, I want to be in charge. I will choose what belongs and does not belong in my religion. It is ultimately about me, my friends, and my world.

The question really is not about hell, about homosexuality, about gender, about names, about rich and poor, about scriptures. The question is: is there a God in the universe that demands my respect, my love, my honor, my obedience, my worship? It is the same question that opened the Bible’s account of reality, where the snake asked Eve: did God really say not to eat that apple? It is the question of our lives, and the question that will determine how we think about everything else. Is there a Higher Power?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

There is but one question of the hour: how to bring the truth of God's Word into vital contact with the minds and hearts of all classes of people.      

                                                                             -William E Gladstone

Sunday, April 29, 2018


It is not that people are necessarily so opposed to the truth; it is that they are so incredibly invested in the lie.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What will it take for you to volunteer overseas?

As doctor or a medical student wondering about medical volunteering overseas, have you ever asked yourself: “How can I do that? How could I really find the time and money needed in order to help out somewhere in the world where the need is great?”

First of all, volunteering overseas is not for everyone. Some doctors cannot adapt well to the unfamiliar practices and mindset of other cultures. It is unnerving when tools and support are lacking, and where it may seem like life is worth so little. Yet doctors are generally a pretty smart bunch, able to deal with a wide variety of personalities and perspectives, and many will do just fine.
But first you have to get there, which brings us back to the original question; however, the question must be rephrased. You cannot “find” the time or the money, as if they are sitting discarded by the side of the road, waiting for you to pick them up. The question that should be asked is: “Where is your time and money going, that you have nothing left to give?” What habits do you need to develop to change this situation?

Almost all American doctors are in the top 5% group of wage earners. So you are targeted deliberately and desperately by credit companies, stores, medical supply gurus, but also by your medical friends, culture, and surroundings to spend, spend, spend. Unless you decide early on and repeatedly to combat this onslaught, you will find yourself like most doctors: moaning over your debts and with no time off even years into your career, all the while making 4 times the national median income.

The strategy is simple, it only needs to be implemented. Cut the club membership and go to 24-hour fitness. Buy the Kia instead of the BMW; they are both have 4 wheels to get you here and there. You don’t have to buy the cheapest thing all the time, but you certainly don’t need the most expensive either. Do you really need the most recent i-phone, i-watch, or laptop? A flat screen in every room? Do you need to shop at Tiffani’s every week? If you are serious about helping those in this world with nothing, then you need to live with a little less. Perhaps most importantly: where do you live? Does it have to be the gated, golf course, sea-side neighborhood with a pool, or can you have a normal but decent house instead? 

As for time: you must guard it. Medical training takes nearly every second of your day, but you still have small bits here and there, albeit annoyingly unpredictable. Do not go golfing or skiing or out drinking every moment that you are off. Put some time into volunteering locally, going to church, or just taking a walk. Get used to saying no to non-priority duties. If you understand that the poor of this world need medical attention, you will be less drawn to more and more work and play here.

When you are interviewing, tell your prospective employer that you want to volunteer overseas. Most bosses are very sympathetic to this and will go out of their way to help you, but don’t take their sacrifice for granted. Let them know in advance if you are going to be out of town and need someone to cover for you. If you join a group, the same thing applies: tell everyone up front, during the interview, that you want to have some time off for volunteering regularly. Make it clear that you are looking for time in addition to the usual vacation. You can’t take all of your time meant for family and rest and expect to be working twice as hard overseas with no break. You may not need all the time off that some jobs may offer, but you need at least 2 weeks off per year that is actually vacation. Be ready to be paid a little less in exchange for volunteer time, and don’t expect everyone to appreciate you, though many will admire you if you stick with it.

Lastly, make connections that will help you get overseas. It is easier to walk this path with others who know the way. If you are a medical student, do not spend every elective month of your fourth year on an interview rotation; instead, find a program or position overseas for part of it. Many schools have international programs now, making it easy to get involved. You may not come back to something like this for many years due to residency requirements, but getting your feet wet early is very helpful.
If you have finished your training, find out who is doing what overseas and have coffee with them. Often these people are busy, so be persistent. See if you can tag along. Find out what your hospital or group is already doing, or what the churches in town are doing overseas. Contact one of the many groups that organize medical mission trips, choosing one that is reputable and allows newcomers. Your first trip does not need to be medical; but it needs to be service, not just vacation. Treat it like you are on a medical student rotation, even if you are a seasoned practitioner. If you go overseas like you know everything already, you are not going to be useful. There is more to say about how to prepare yourself culturally and otherwise, but that is another topic.

Every year, many doctors serve overseas and find it extremely rewarding. You can be one of them, if you develop the habits needed: protect your time, do not overspend your money, and make the right connections.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Shards of me are chopping
Bites of me are eating
Drops of me are squeezing out the last bits from the grapefruit

That I have been done to
Doesn’t make that doing
The only path
For me to take forward
Though it certainly comes naturally

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Jesus and the Church
In a climate of religious pluralism and syncretism it is incumbent on the church to emphasize the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ. He is not one truth among many, but the truth—about God, the world and ourselves. Yet this truth is not our property to be handed over to those who seek it, but it is the speech of the living God that can be heard and received only through the power of God’s Spirit. The apostolic mission of the church is to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation, but we must always bear in mind that our words are only approximations of his Word, that we can point to the truth but cannot dispense the truth. For people really to hear the gospel, God himself must speak, and he does this with our words and through our words, sometimes over and against our words.

                                                                          -Donald Bloesch, The Church

Friday, June 9, 2017

Specialists' Insist on More Care and Higher Prices

I agree with much of what this ENT doctor says. It is very brave and honest of him to own up to the responsibility we as physicians have for skyrocketing healthcare costs.  His solution, however, is overly simplistic and relies on more government funding and government regulation. An excess of these we can also see feeding healthcare cost spikes.

Click here or on picture for NYT article

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I had to light a candle

I had to light a candle
And clink a coin
It was to remember
And to do something

Doing nothing didn't seem right
Like nothing meant something
But doing something wasn't right either
As if doing something in church
Makes God bigger or smaller

So easy to be paralyzed by theology
And pretty soon walk on out
Too much trouble, this church thing

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Creation Thoughts

A Quote from Andy Crouch

It is hard to reconcile the definiteness of the Genesis creation stories, where the first human beings are birthed with the same suddenness as a human baby, with the story told by archaeologists and anthropologists, Genesis 1 certainly doesn't require us to think in terms of twenty-four-hour “days,” since the first two “days” are completed before the sun or earth are even created. But its hard to read Genesis 2, where the Creator bends down one day and forms a man in his own image from the clay, without feeling some dissonance with the archaeological record, in which human history seems to fade in, ever so gradually, from the shadows of time. When and whereas there an Adam and an Eve? Isn't the history of human culture both more complicated and less sudden than Genesis would have us believe?

I am not personally persuaded by the valiant efforts Bible-believing Christians have made to fit every detail of the Genesis creation stories into the story told by modern cosmology and archaeology. Yet I am not sure the biblical writers would have been terribly troubled by the failings of Genesis 1-11 as literal cosmological history. The Garden of Eden, after all, is described as being at an intersection of four rivers that ancient people knew had no interaction. Genesis's “primordial story”--the arc from Garden to Babel—needs to be read not in the context of modern judgments of archaeological evidence that the biblical writers knew nothing of, but in the context of ancient creation myths that the biblical writers were keen to counter with their own version of the story.

Even so, the stories in Genesis 1-11 strike me and many well-informed readers as much more compatible with our modern understandings of cosmic and human beginnings than most of the creation myths that were circulating in the ancient Near East at the same time. There are rough parallels between the sequence of days in Genesis 1 and our best guess at the gradual evolution in the universe of light, planets, plants and more complex creatures, with humanity coming very late in the game. Genesis 2 does no claim, like some other ancient religions, that humanity is a separate kind of being from the rest of creation, the offspring of the gods. Instead, we are made from dust—made of the same stuff as the world around us. This too turns out to be surprisingly and, for many ancient people, counterintuitively true…

There is something in us that cannot be reduced to dust—a creative spirit that has the capacity for speech and meaning, in short, for culture. Genesis suggests that this cultural creativity, by which we recognize human beings wherever in time or space we find their traces, is rooted in something just as real as our material being. From Genesis 1 we learn that the world is the work of a Creator, already part of a creative society (“Let us make humankind in our image”) that seeks to bring into being a beautiful, ordered, meaningful world. From Genesis 2 we learn that our creative spirit did not simply emerge from the dust but was breathed into us by the same Spirit that originally hovered over the dark, informationless chaos, speaking a sudden and decisive word that set creation in motion.

To be sure, we don't “learn” these things from Genesis 1 or 2 in the same way that we can “learn” about the big bang from studying data produced by radio telescopes. Then again, there are many things we cannot “learn” in that way. The most important things in our life are learned by trust, not by deduction from experiment.

With their primordial story, the chapters of Genesis 1-11 already stand apart from what follows in Genesis 12 and beyond in their form, style and content. They are less a finely documented history than a story that invites our trust. In this way they are very much like the other bookend of the Bible, the book of Revelation—also a story that stands outside recorded human history, offering us a possible vision of the cosmos's ultimate destination, something we will never be able to attain through investigation alone. Are these two bookend stories about beginnings and endings to be trusted? I believe they are. If there is some way, in the new heaven and new earth, to have access to the whole story of this wonderful broken universe, I will not be surprised if I find that the biblical authors missed some of the details about how God created the universe and the human race. But I am confident I will not feel in any way deceived by them—indeed, I believe I will be unspeakably grateful that, prompted by the Holy Spirit, they told stories that made the best possible sense of the world.

And my reason for extending this level of trust has much to do with the books between the bookends—the much more historically accessible and verifiable story of the people of Israel, their exodus from bondage from Egypt and the eventual arrival of a man who claimed to fulfill all of Israel's original promise. This story, which makes a central claim to history especially at its most radical point, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, can be tested; it has proven it can be thrusted; and it gives me confidence that the bookends, no less than the book, say something uniquely true about our beginnings, and our ending.

From: Culture Making, by Andy Crouch
(This chapter is somewhat of a detour in his discussion of culture in scripture. He titles the chapter “Interlude—The Primordial Story”)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Not Enough Doctors in America?
Click on the above photo or title for the CBS story.

Here comes the annual apocalyptic prophesy from the Association of Medical Colleges, outlining how the country will come to rack and ruin over an extreme dearth of doctors unless they are given more money and allowed to train more physicians. In a case of the fox guarding the hen house, these reports and testimonies from the association goad lawmakers and universities into opening the door to more and more subsidies for medical schools and of course more students. As for the students paying upwards of two hundred grand for the privilege of attending one of the association's schools, this expensive annual report is not helping them with tuition by any means. With pattern similar to the rest of the medical industry, the schools' windfall of increased income with larger class sizes and a more and more singular and technical curriculum has not trickled down to those students they are supposedly serving, nor to the patients they are to see. In the non-economy of American medicine, more supply means more money, especially for the barons at the top. The CEO of the Association of Medical Colleges, Dr Darrell G. Kirch, brings in over a cool million in salary according to the journal "Modern Healthcare."

Some References: 
For a detailed summary of the AAMC report as a pdf, click here 
Evans, Melanie. More healthcare association execs earn $1 million or more. Modern Healthcare. June 7, 2014
Data on medical school tuition from US News and World Report, compiled by Delece Smith-Barrow, 2016