Posts by Al Weir, MD

The Scattering Job

“He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how’” (Mark 4:26-27, NIV 1984).

Jerry is a follower of Christ who was recently recovering in a rehab facility that also housed a nursing home. At dinner he was regularly seated next to two men who had difficulty with cognition. One was 103 years old and had a “fetish for sweets.” The other ate grilled cheese sandwiches for every meal. Speaking of his life as a Christian witness in that venue, Jerry told me, “How in the world could I hope that my witness would be of any value when these men were suffering from such dementia? It was impossible!”

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The Dream

Our view of Tirana was magnificent from the 25th floor of the Plaza. The international scientific speakers had completed their presentations and the Albanian doctors were discussing among themselves. These bright physicians were as knowledgeable as those who had presented this fantastic new science but had no way to use that science due to their diminished resources. They have been my friends for many years and one of them spoke, “This is great to hear, but for us it is just a dream.” Then another took the microphone and chastened his discouraged colleagues, “Yes, but we insist on the dream.”

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Believing God

“He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” (Mark 4:40, NIV 1984).

I settled into a chair in the hotel lounge away from the crowd so that I might catch up on my email, with some real anxiety over the news that email was bringing me. Earlier in our mission I had prayed that each of us might be ready for God’s work of interruption. Just so, an Albanian medical student saw me sitting there alone and asked, “Are you busy?” As he sat down, he reflected on an earlier talk I had given and asked, “Which level of happiness are you experiencing?” As we talked, I asked him about his own faith experience. He described, “I am a Christian. My mother is a Christian who believes. My father is a Christian who does not believe. I am more like my father.”

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Calling 911

“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you’” (John 17:1, ESV).

William carries the diagnosis of autism. He is a handsome and strong young man whose family loves the Lord. I have been praying daily for William, but my prayers may not have been correct. A few years ago, when William was much younger, his family was gathered with all eight of William’s siblings and cousins. As usual, there was vigorous activity throughout the house. Then someone noticed that William was missing.

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“The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself’” (Luke 23:36, NIV 1984).

Each of us should have a few very special friends in our lives. Dr. Mark Johnston is one of those for me. I love this man, and God has done amazing things through his life, none of which I will mention here. He and I have been serving together in an Albanian mission for Christ over the last 25 years. Mark has been feeling the call of God into an even deeper walk with Him. Not long ago, Mark’s pastor asked his church members to place on the altar a sacrifice, to give to God something that God would truly desire. As Mark was praying earnestly what sacrificial offering might please his Lord, he clearly heard the inaudible message, “How about significance?”

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Getting It

“Whoever closes his ears to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13, ESV).

Last week my son-in law-called me with a new problem. He had sneezed vigorously, and, after that sneeze, had developed periorbital pain, swelling around his eye and a minor change in vision. My daughter sent me a text picture of his eyes with one pupil smaller than the other. I had no idea what was going on, but, as an oncologist, I had seen nasopharyngeal cancers looking just so.

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Two by Two

“And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits…So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent…” (Mark 6:7-13, ESV).

Beni Baboçi often assists us with our medical evangelism work in the Balkans. He came to my home the other night and shared with me his early days of ministry. In those days he was part of a team that trudged from village to village in the rural mountains of Albania sharing the Jesus Film, accepted by some and rejected by others. As he spoke, I envisioned the disciples’ experience when Jesus first sent them out from village to village, two by two, preaching that people should repent.

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Our Demons

“For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet” (Mark 5:4, NIV 1984).

I am trying again to memorize the book of Mark for no other reason than God asked me to do it. The beginning of chapter 5 drove my memory back to one Sunday afternoon, walking through the streets of the small Nigerian village of Sanubi, after we had attended church services. As we approached a concrete block house set off from the others, we came upon a young man, clearly mentally ill, sitting in the dirt with his feet locked by chains. He was talking delusionally, and it was not clear to me whether his chains were there to protect others or to protect him from himself.

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A Deeper Faith

“…For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8-11, ESV).

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“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7, NIV 1984).

I was visiting Ron today. I had been on the periphery of his medical care, but mostly he was my friend, stuck in his home with a stroke and a broken leg. After we had chatted awhile, I noticed a college diploma from Tusculum University and asked him where Tusculum was located.

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Silent Listening

“And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (Mark 2:14a, ESV).

Arnie was retired from his orthopedic practice and helping lead the retreat for Christian doctors. He did not know it would be he who would be changed. Based on Dallas Willard’s book Hearing God, the retreat speaker challenged his audience, “I want you each to take the next five minutes and just listen to the Lord in silence.” After three minutes of silent listening, Arnie heard God ask him in the silence, “How are you spending your time?” From that moment, Arnie’s life was rearranged.

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“I Chose to Believe”

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer…” (Philippians 4:6, NASB).

Paul married a girl I grew up with. They worked in Christian ministry together, and then he developed cancer and died. While he was living with cancer, Paul sent out an update to friends and supporters. Within that update he wrote, “A few weeks after finishing my radiation treatments a friend asked me what I had come to know about God through my ordeal. I had been wrestling with many thoughts that very day, and I realized that everything came down to one thing: I had to either believe God’s Word, the Bible, or not.  I chose to believe. As a result, I understood in a new way that God is really sovereign and in control of my life and I am not.”

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Saving Dogs

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned’” (Mark 16:15-16, NIV 1984).

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I Still Need the Cross

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life”  (1 Timothy 1:15-16, NIV 1984).

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Underwater Breathing

“The Lord God…breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…” (Genesis 2:7, NIV 1984).

I did not read Dr. David Stevens’ email until late that evening when I finished rounds. The morning email had asked for prayer for his grandson’s near drowning and critical condition.

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Plain Talk

Sometimes God “talks plain”—usually when our ears are stuffed with the wax of the world. In my own life, these plain-speaking times have not been pleasant. When God has had to “talk plain” in my life, it has been because I was headed in the wrong direction. His words were indeed clear, but they sounded like a two-by-four striking my skull.

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Witness by Proxy

“As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus would not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’” (Mark 5:18-19, NIV 1984).

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The Ptarmigan Trail

“‘What is truth?’ Pilate asked…” (John 18:38, NIV 1984).

I spoke again to my friend in the mountains, the one who follows Buddha rather than Christ, the one who suffered multiple surgeries from a skateboard accident. We met up again in Colorado when I was there recently for a medical conference. We climbed together to the Ptarmigan Lakes at 12,500 feet, wrapped in the grandeur of God’s creation. I shared the gospel and he shared his faith in Buddhism.

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Mountain Wonder

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3, NIV 1984).

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Blue Heeler Love

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34, NIV 1984).

He was there to check his iron levels, a bit younger than I with a black, bushy beard. I asked him about the deep scratches on his arms.
“That’s from my dog,” he said.
“What kind of dog do you have?”
“A pit bull,” he said.
“I’d get another kind of dog,” I said, touching the scars on his arms.
“I had two dogs,” he continued.  “One of them gave his life for me. I was walking through the woods and nearly stepped on a copperhead. He would’ve struck me, but my blue heeler jumped out and took the bite right in his neck. My pit bull then attacked the snake, took a strike in the face, but killed the snake.”
“What happened to your heeler?”
“He disappeared in the woods for two days. I found him, but he died five days later. That dog died for me.”

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Wanting the Healer

“…for I am the Lord, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26b, NIV 1984).

He was a bit short of breath as he sat on the side of his bed, trying to regain his strength after a therapy complication had placed him on dialysis.
“I think we will hold your cancer treatment for a few weeks,” I told him.
“That will be good,” he said. “It makes me weak.”
“We need you to get your strength back and then we can deal with all your other stuff,” I continued.
He nodded, and then, after a pause for reflection, added, “You know, Cathy and I have decided that we are going to start seeking the Healer more than the healing.”

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The Grace of Healing

“Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured” (Mark 1:41-42, NIV 1984).

Thus far he had beaten two cancers, along with chronic hepatitis and severe peripheral vascular disease.
I told him, “You have had more bad happen to you than most anybody I know. You are really an overcomer. Why do you think God has been so good to you?”
“Grace,” he said. “God has just treated me special. I know lots of other folks who had what I got and they didn’t make it.”
“Why are you special?” I asked.
“No reason. I don’t deserve it.”

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A Bad Dream

On the first day of my week away from work at the CMDA National Convention, my wife told me, “I had this horrible dream last night.” Now, I’m used to my wife occasionally sharing bad dreams with me, none of which have ever come true; so, I asked her for the details. “I was on this spiral stairway, leading to who knows where. Nora Jane (our 3-year-old granddaughter) was on the bottom step, but the bottom step dropped off into a long fall. A big man was coming down the stairs above me and Nora Jane is afraid of big men. I was scared to death when she looked up in fright and backed off the step into nothingness. I cried out to you and you just stood there looking into your phone.”

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The Band Director

Thad Williams underwent the first bone marrow transplant in Memphis when we treated him for his Burkitt’s lymphoma years ago. He and his wife Cathy became dear friends, bound together by their struggle and by our mutual love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Thad survived the transplant and lived more than 15 additional years before God called him home. Today, my wife and I attended Cathy’s last concert as band director in her city’s high school, a school system she served for 37 years. It was a celebration of Cathy’s life. Many speakers described her accomplishments and lauded her with words like: kindness, competence, mentor, passion and determination—words that well describe our Lord when He walked the earth. With such praise surrounding her, Cathy conducted her final concert as band director, ending with a magnificent arrangement of “God of Our Fathers.”

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Goals for the Day

Dr. Dave Hafer is a retired maxillofacial surgeon in Montana. He and his wife Bobbie took up painting to fill the Montana winters. They are both incredibly talented and love their new avocation. They love it so much that Dave took it to the Lord and asked Him, “Don’t let this be just for us. Show us how to use it for your glory.” And they have, repeatedly auctioning their work to raise funds for Christian ministries. Last year when they attended a conference for Christian women physicians, an attendee asked him, “Would you consider letting me commission you to do a painting?” Dave replied, “I guess I can do that. What did you have in mind?” The physician answered, “I want a picture of heaven. I want to place it on my office wall so that every morning when I arrive for work, I am reminded of my goal for the day.”

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Five Questions

This week Ron was in his wheelchair, at the end of his journey with cancer. I asked him if he had any fears.

“No, I am all right. I know where I am going.”

“That’s great,” I said. “We were reading John 11 in Bible study this week and I have been reassured about my own death.”

“I love John 14:2,” he said. “In my Father’s house are many rooms…” (NIV 1984).

“You are right on,” I said. “You should also check out John 11:25.”

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Right of Conscience

He spoke softly but confidently, without bitterness, as he described how he had been removed as chief of psychiatry at his medical university because he had voiced concern over the psychological effects of transgender transformation. It was he who had built the department from four psychiatrists to 17, and the 17 had voted him out. As I left the auditorium, another physician’s husband stopped me, “Do you know my wife may soon be incarcerated?” He then described a new bill moving through their state’s legislature that will make it a crime for physicians not to refer their pregnant patients for abortions when they ask.

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The Jones Dictum

We met for two hours and worked for the Lord—an important ministry in Christian healthcare. Our future work was time sensitive, so we scheduled a telephone conference for the nine of us. The time chosen by the committee was a night when I was on vacation with my family. As an overworking doctor, I gather all of my kids and grandkids once a year to enjoy life together. The committee’s telephone time would land during dinner on one of those vacation nights…and I have spent too many years choosing work and ministry over family. As trivial as it may seem to many who serve the Lord sacrificially, and as atypical as it has been for me in the past, I told the committee, “I won’t miss dinner with my family. I’ll join you once our fellowship is finished.”

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As Best I Can

He sat across me with a swelling on his arm, one-fifth the size it had been before. “You know you are a miracle, don’t you?” I asked. “Most people with your cancer would be in heaven now.”

“He doesn’t want to talk about heaven,” his wife answered for him.

“My brother is a preacher,” he said. “I don’t talk to him much. I’ve been good as best I can.”

“That won’t get you there,” his wife responded.

“If you love Jesus, that will get you there,” I suggested.

He changed the subject, and we finished our medical business. He really was miraculously improved.

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He had a Santa Claus beard but little hair on top. I told him, “You know, you are one of the few over 60 who has been cured of their acute leukemia.”

“Yes, I know,” he said.

“I hope you are telling folks how God has blessed you. “

“I am,” he said. “One thing I tell folks a lot is about the day my wife came in one early morning and saw the sunrise coming into the hospital. I had been having an uncontrolled fever for 10 days. She looked at the sun and prayed to God, ‘Dear God, burn it out.’ That morning after she left, I felt a deep burning inside. I fell off to sleep, harder than I had been sleeping in a long time. About 10:30 I woke up, and I was hungry, and my fever was gone and never returned.”

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“I’ve Got This.”

You know how it is, or, if you don’t, someday you will. Sleepless nights, where you fall asleep dead tired and awaken at 3 a.m., either to get up and read or toss until morning, begging your mind to shut off. Usually these nights are related to a financial worry, a hurting in one you love or the cumulative effect of a highly stressful week. Well, I’ve had four straight nights of this, trusting God fully in the daylight but not in my dreams. Last night, it was 3 a.m. again, wide awake, focused on the unsolvable issue, dreading my fatigue for the next day. But this time, after praying once again for God to take my burden, I fell asleep. I was running this morning when I heard God speak, in His clear, inaudible voice, “I’ve got this.”

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I was surprised to see his name on the schedule, as he had completed his therapy a few years ago. However, in spite of chemotherapy and radiation, his cancer had recently returned and required a laryngectomy. I was seeing him for the first time after this surgery—complicated by a stroke and a pulmonary embolus. He was not the same proud man I remembered. My first words to him were, “I am so sorry you have had such suffering with your stroke and with your voice gone. Can you overcome all of this?” He looked me in the eyes, then looked to my lapel, touched the gold cross pinned there and nodded with assurance.

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Bull’s Eye Living

I had the opportunity today to visit my friend, imprisoned outside of San Diego. As this is a government institution, it worked like the government often does, and the computerized visitation scheduling had not functioned well the week before. I arrived at 7:30 and watched other visitors line up by time slots painted in the pavement. I asked what I should do without a time assigned and they told me that they may or may not be able to get me in if I hung around until 11 or 11:30. I was due back at my conference at noon and stood there wondering if I should stay and take the chance. I remained and saw my friend.

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Assigning Motives

I have recently begun managing a patient who had originally been cared for in a distant city. Unfortunately, his cancer has returned. He now needs multiple doctors to attempt to save his arm and his life. One doctor he is seeing now was furious that the prior doctor had treated him inadequately. He actually told my patient, “You need to sue the doctor who did this.”

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Chipping Away the Sin

I hurt a Christian friend this week. We work with shared responsibilities, and my frustration over his part in this had grown to the point that I just boiled over and listed all of his delinquencies. I was not cruel or untruthful in my delivery, but I was not kind either, and I hurt him deeply. The Lord pounded me for three days, the last one ending in a sleepless night. And then, I went to ask forgiveness.

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Rushing Waters

I awoke Monday morning planning within the week to teach a Bible study on our personal testimony for Christ. As I stood in front of the mirror, shaving, I realized what a poor witness for Christ I have been, at least in words. So, for the entire week, when I was with my patients, I intentionally listened for the Holy Spirit, asking Him that I might bring up the name of Jesus at least once. Though God has used me for personal witness in the past, He did not this week in words that I could recognize, or else, I chose not to hear Him.

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Where’s the Oil?

My friend was stuck at home with a history of strokes that had left him with fair cognition but difficulty ambulating. I ran by today to check on him and had a mostly cogent time of catching up. As we looked back on the mistakes of our youth, we voiced our mutual gratitude that Jesus has forgiven us. My friend, who may be closer to heaven than I, began to talk about Jesus returning. “One day Jesus will come, and he will be sitting across this table from us. I can hear him saying, ‘Didn’t I tell you so?’” Then he added, “That’ll be the day we should have got it right the day before.”

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Born Again Christian

My fellow saw the patient first and showed me the medical records that came with her, written by the doctor to whom she was first referred. “Patient desires to see a doctor who is a born-again Christian. I believe it is not best for me to manage her case. I will refer her to Dr. ____.” When I sat down in the room with the patient, as my fellow looked on, the husband spoke first, “Before we get started, I need to ask you a question, because it is important to us, ‘Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?’” It was easy to answer, “I certainly have.”

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Scared to Life

I was seeing him for his third melanoma. Each one before had been cured by surgery and this one was also likely to turn out well. He looked at me and remarked, “It was the first one that really frightened me.” His wife added, “But, it brought him to the Lord.” “That’s wonderful,” I said. “Yep, it scared the hell out of him.”

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Wearing the Cross

I am not an overtly religious person. I prefer to enter quiet conversations that lead to discussions of our Savior. I don’t like wearing my faith on a lapel…until recently. We were attending a CMDA event in Raleigh-Durham when Dr. Craig Fowler handed out gold crosses. I looked to see if he was wearing one and he was. He challenged us to put them on our own lapels. It now rests each day on the left lapel of my white coat and I am impressed that it has more likely changed me than affected the folks around me.

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Death’s Sting

He called me after a conference on the West Coast where I had shared the time I was 33 years old, headed for the mission field, and experienced nights with a cold-sweating-fear-of-death. He asked for advice. He too is a follower of Christ who now fears death.

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“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:9a, NIV 1984).

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Missions: Three-Legged Stool

“That evening after sunset, the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases…” (Mark 1:32-34, NIV 1984).

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Oil Bubbles

Charles called me last night and asked me to stop by his apartment on my way home from the hospital. I had helped him through a difficult health issue, and he is also a friend who has taught me much about Christian prayer and service. More than anyone I have known, he has an ear for God’s whisper coupled with the inclination to follow. He has brought the presence and gospel of Jesus to hundreds of lives through unknown and unremembered acts of kindness and grace.

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The Only Way

We were seated in a closed circle, mostly Albanian students, a few followers of Christ and many who were not. We had been discussing healing and the nature of healing by God. The conversation was sporadic. And then a red headed medical student turned to my daughter, a nurse, and said to her, “You Americans don’t understand. You grew up with Christianity and became Christians because your families were Christian. We in Albania had no religion; it was illegal for over 50 years. Now, everywhere we look, we have someone telling us that theirs is the only way to God. Who are we to believe? I would rather just believe in God and not divide everyone by different labels of religion.”

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Inward Thinking

I may have hurt a man a few months ago. Due to my inadequate supervision of a resident, we delayed following up on a positive CT scan. I saw him this week and told him of the mistake and sent his chart out for peer review. Since I discovered the error, I have been worried, mostly for myself, my reputation, my job, etc. This morning, as I was stretching out my morning stiffness and despairing over the possible harm to my career, I realized my concerns were misplaced. Here was a man whom I might have injured and I am only concerned with the way my mistake affects my own life. I refocused my prayers on my patient, for whom Jesus died.

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Flying Loaves

Dr. Clydette Powell is a wonderful physician in Christ who has been recently overwhelmed with responsibilities, in part due to her loving care of her 90-year-old mother who has been very ill. Clydette sent the following incident out to friends by email and gave me permission to share.

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Good Witness

Photo credit: uniondocs on / CC BY-NC-SA

My wife’s sister had a severe bout of pneumonia recently, and she is living with us for a few weeks while she recuperates. God bless my wife. The two of them are as different as rice and coal. They drive each other crazy, and my wife often is heavily weighed down by her sister’s actions and lack of appreciation. She was crying with me about this one morning recently. I came home that evening and she said she and her sister had talked. “The first thing I said to her was, ‘Do you know that you will have eternal life when you die?’” What seems an abrupt and unnatural question to me, given the circumstances, led to a wonderful time of renewal both of personal faith and of sisterly love.

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Stairway Love

We were in their country, not ours. The hotel was bustling with students, local Christian doctors, American physicians, dentists and nurses—rapid movement in all directions, a controlled chaos shepherding hundreds toward a life with Jesus. Randy, an American dentist, was moving through the crowds when he noticed one of the students seemed distressed. She was one who had been most outspoken against the gospel. Randy spoke to her and discovered her grandfather was very ill. He placed his arm around the girl and asked if he might pray for her. There on the stairs of the busy hotel, Randy sat with his arm around the student and prayed.

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It is my determined habit to give to beggars. The first time I walked past the beggar at the entrance to Mother Theresa Hospital, I placed a $5 bill in his hand, though it was not the local currency. When I completed my hospital work and walked back to the hotel, I watched the beggar’s handler as he held the bill up to the light to be certain it was legitimate. The next day I walked the same route and a new beggar was there. I leaned over and placed some money into her hand. Two Albanian women were walking by, headed to visit their family members in the hospital. As I left the beggar with the money, I heard both women exclaim, “Zot e mire.”

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Useful Prayer

I know God heals, and I often pray with those who are severely ill. But I rarely pray for the impossible in fully sincere ways, with my personal experience that God is very selective with His miracles. With Daryl I did pray sincerely, in full faith. He was at the end of our possible therapies and still worsening in his illness. I placed my hands upon his shoulder and called upon God to heal him. I did not use the escape clause, “If it is your will.” I left the room expecting the impossible. That was two weeks ago. Today, while in Albania on a mission trip, I received word of Daryl’s death.

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Heart Pathways

We were in the hospital, dedicating a conference center to Dr. Bill Johnson, the founder of Albanian Health Fund (AHF), a partner ministry with CMDA’s Medical Education International. AHF had contributed money to refurbish the center. The rector, the dean, our AHF president and Bill Johnson’s daughter were seated at the podium. The dean detailed all the services and doctors AHF had brought to Albania over the last 25 years. The rector then spoke briefly and from his heart, “I remember 1997, when there was so much trouble in Albania. Albanians were leaving. The airport was lined with guns and tanks for protection. The plane landed and Bill Johnson stepped off the plane with his team. When everyone else was deserting us, Bill Johnson was coming to help.”

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Emptiness Inside

Dr. Ron Yee was seated next to Monica as she led the small group discussion in another language. He understood very little, but occasionally Monica would lean over and describe the conversation. One girl was particularly vocal in defense of scientific humanism, denying the possibility of God. As we were leaving her country, Monica came to Ron and told him the same girl approached her at the end of the conference and told her, “I have an emptiness inside. Do you?” to which Monica answered, “No, I have Jesus inside.”

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Ramazan was sitting on a sea side chair when I returned from my early morning jog on the beach at Durres, Albania. I had offered to wait for him, but he had been up late the night before and missed our appointment. I asked him if he would still like to run a couple of miles and we did so slowly. The run gave me the chance to ask him, “Are you any closer to following Christ?” He said he was not quite there. As we were walking into the hotel I asked him, “If you could have one thing in life, what would that be?” He answered, “I guess it would be happiness.” “What does happiness mean to you?” “You know, more good things happen to me than bad.” “Do you know what joy is?” I asked.

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Bouncing Thoughts

I have a good friend who is a phenomenal personality. He is an excellent, hard-working doctor with a beautiful and talented wife. Together they serve the Lord faithfully. Not only is he better looking and more fun than I am, he has the gift of evangelism. People listen to him when he presents the gospel, and God touches those listeners in a special way with His Spirit. It’s an honor and blessing to be his friend and to watch God work through him. On a recent mission together, a moment of envy tried to enter the cracks in my spiritual amour. Thanks to my friend’s wife, I bounced away that thought of envy and moved forward as God’s team in His service with His transformative power, less hindered by my sinful nature.

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Hard Work

I received a letter this week with no return address: “Dear Dr. ___, You saved my life 25 years ago. I would love to see you again. I live in Miami and sometimes visit Memphis. Lost my husband in 2001 and moved away. Love and blessings.” I had forgotten, but now I remember her well.

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Jason was doing well. His exam was fine and he had no new symptoms. I asked him if he needed any prescriptions. When he said he was good with those, I told him “I’m glad you are doing so well. See you in two months.” He replied, “Am I not going to get my treatment today?” I had totally forgotten his two-month maintenance dose of immunotherapy.

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I sat across from my lifetime friend. I now see him about once a year when he flies in from Colorado to visit his mother. He had experienced an especially difficult year and was having anxiety problems, possibly related to a concussion he sustained when he crashed his skateboard into a car last November. I had been praying for God to show me the words to share Christ with him. Yesterday those words never came. Today as we discussed his anxiety, I offered, “I don’t think you will ever be whole again without Jesus Christ.” His reply was rapid, “I know that is your truth and my mother’s truth, but it is not my truth. My truth is different; I’m on a different pathway.”

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The Risen Shepherd

I prayed this morning for a pastor friend of mine who now leads a church in Western Tennessee. He called me tonight and told me his father came to his Easter service today. When he saw his father walk into the sanctuary, my friend was so overwhelmed that he had to leave the stage for the bathroom where he cried his heart out. As he preached, he watched the tears flow from his father’s eyes. After 15 years as a pastor, this was the first time his father had ever come to hear him preach. I prayed earlier this week for a young man who lives in the Balkans, a medical student to whom we have been witnessing for three years through friendship and heartfelt conversations. I received word tonight that this young man came to accept Christ as his Savior today. This was a good Easter.

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She is 80 years old but fit and spry. We had stopped her leukemia medicines and she had no evidence of recurrence. “It’s great you are doing so well,” I told her. My fellow in training was standing beside me; she had been the one to actually examine Mrs. Stovall. “I owe it all to God,” she said. “And, of course, to you, as well,” she added politely. “I agree,” I answered. “This is God’s business. I just work for Him.” So,” she said. “Are you a follower of Christ?” “Yes, I am.”

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Catching Character

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice…” (Philippians 4:9, NIV 2011).

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Are You Gifted?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8, NIV 2011).

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Test Run

“‘…Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty…” (Malachi 3:10, NIV 2011). I was writing clinical notes at my computer when I overheard my administrative assistant talking to someone, probably a family member.

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It was raining and we could not see the mountains, but we could feel their glory in the freshness of the air. I was sitting in a Christian medical retreat in the mountains of central Asia. A young doctor-in-training was speaking about his life within a radical environment that does not allow the gospel to be preached.

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Money Thoughts

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve” (1 Peter 5:2, NIV 1984).

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You Don’t Have to Come Back

In his book The Insanity of God, Nik Ripken (pseudonym) shares the story of a Russian pastor sent to a Siberian prison because of his faith. His wife and children followed him there to support him in his suffering, and they too suffered.

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Nik Ripken (pseudonym) is a Christian aid worker who has served in the most dangerous regions of the world. In his book The Insanity of God, he tells the story of his time in Somalia during the “Black Hawk Down” days. Christianity was extremely dangerous to promote and deadly for Somalians to accept as truth.

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I’ve got a new chief at the office. And he doesn’t know how great I am. He doesn’t know I work harder and longer than most; that I care for my patients more than most. He mainly complains about the petty stuff. I was dwelling heavily on this on the way home this evening: This is not fair; how am I going to prove to him that I am worthy of his appreciation?

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God Knows

I received a text from Janice today. “They did not have approval for my medicine.” Janice requires long-term immune globulin for an immunodeficiency and my office had forgotten to update her insurance approval. I apologized for the mistake and her wasted time.

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Struggling Well

We were seated in a large circle, each with our spouse, sharing family war stories so that we might hold them up to the Lord-physicians, dentists, physician assistant, medical student, resident in obstetrics. Linda shared her story and then concluded before we prayed, “We have our struggles-but we are struggling well.”

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Expenditure or Investment?

Yesterday I attended a retreat for Christian medical students at a beautiful spot on a small lake in Arkansas. Tim is a third year medical student who led a session on discipleship for his fellow students there. I was struck by his speaking ability, his maturity in Christ and by one particular statement he made.

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It’s been 30 years, but I can still recall his look of disappointment. James was a medical student who had looked up to me when I had surrendered my life to God’s call for international healthcare missions. It hadn’t worked out. We hadn’t lasted. Back after two years in Nigeria, seeking a career like other doctors who had never heard the call, I had let him down.

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Body Bag Living

We were seeing him in the hospital because his blood counts had dropped, probably nothing serious. As we talked, I learned he was a Korean War veteran and asked him if he was at the Chosin Reservoir, in that “Coldest Winter” where more than 100,000 Chinese poured over the Korean border and drove U.S. soldiers south though cross-fire and frostbite.

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