“‘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.Read More
“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.”
“…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.”
“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.”
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.”Read More
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.”Read More
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.”Read More
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.”Read More
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.Read More
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.”Read More
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.Read More
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.”Read More
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.”Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.”Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.”Read More
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.”Read More
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.”Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
“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).Read More
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.Read More
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.”Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.”Read More
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.Read More
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.”Read More
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.”Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.”Read More
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.Read More
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.”Read More
“‘…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.Read More
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.Read More
“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).Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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?Read More
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.Read More
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.”Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More