“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’ …From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:60-66, NIV 1984).Read More
“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:14-15, ESV).
It is always nice to see God’s successes when you’re an oncologist. On his recent evaluation, Rob Fortner demonstrated no trace of myeloma. We had treated him with standard chemotherapy followed by an autologous stem cell transplant. After completing his exam, I asked him, “How long has it been since your transplant, two years?” He smiled, “No, it was 2013 (seven years).” I sat there stunned that time and life had passed so quickly. Nine years with all of the intense moments, all the life stories, all the joy, all the tears. Gone in a blink.Read More
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV 1984).
He walked into the room with a smell that preceded him. Short, thin, with a scraggly gray beard, he looked like a homeless addict who had neglected his health until it was almost too late. But he was not intimidated by the large tumor on his forehead. He spoke clearly and intelligently as I recorded his medical history. When I began to discuss therapy for his cancer, he said, “I’ll try the treatment, but I’m not afraid of this. I’m a Christian.” I told him I was as well. As he left, I placed my hand on his shoulder and prayed for him. He then said, “Let me pray for you.” He placed his hand on my shoulder and lifted me to the Lord. My nurse sprayed the room for the odor after he had gone.Read More
“The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” (John 4:9, NIV 1984).
This was not the first time I’d felt the anger of racial injustice, but it was the most surprising. Lorenzo had been my patient for 20 years. He was doing better and living longer with his myeloma than anyone I had ever treated. He and I are friends.Read More
“Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them…” (Mark 2:3, NIV 1984).
I was over working at my computer when my clinical secretary called, “Guess who’s here?” No idea. “Mrs. Kushman. You took care of her husband.” I drug myself away from sterile technology and went to greet her. It had been four years, and now she was in our oncology clinic with her father. She told me her mother had cancer as well. I greeted her with an elbow bump and lowered my mask where she could see me. “How are you doing?” I asked. “Okay,” she said with her words, but not her eyes. “Do you have anyone to support you while you are going through this? Do you have a church?” She stood solidly on her faith in Christ and told me her pastor and church members were standing with her through the struggle.Read More
“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there… even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast…even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Psalm 139:8-12, NIV 1984).Read More
“…There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24, NIV 1984).Read More
“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10, ESV).
Amanda has been a dear friend for many years. She’s been a Christian all the years I have known her, but she had drifted from her devotion to God. Her sister-in-law is a Catholic Christian dedicated to Christ. Not long ago, Amanda watched her sister-in-law carry the staggering weight of her husband’s death with an unwavering trust in God. Amanda has now returned to a close walk with God and has found Him best within the Catholic Church. It is beautiful to see. What is more, Amanda’s son, a recalcitrant drug user, has followed her to faith in Christ, and he has been drug free for four years. Last weekend, we met Amanda and her husband in New Orleans for a short escape and attended the 9 a.m. mass at St. Louis Cathedral. The priest’s prayer for the suffering that morning included, “May they join their suffering with the suffering of Christ.”Read More
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, NIV 1984).Read More
Many thoughts flashed through my brain and heart with this surprise email from 20 years ago: beautiful memories of a patient I loved, the awesome value of my wife’s act of stuffed-dog love, the tragedy of life, the hope of Christ.Read More
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15a, NIV 1984).
I was blessed to sit with them in their home to discuss a new medical problem. They did not need another problem. Early in their lives their 10-year-old son had died of cancer. More recently another son, suffering from schizophrenia, had blinded his father in a fit of rage. They were now planning the memorial service for a third son. They sat there with great peace, trusting God that His plan was good and that His love was constant. The husband spoke honestly as I commented on their amazing peace, “Of course, we certainly don’t like this.”Read More
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV 1984).
Saturday morning I visited one of my favorite patients in her home. She is now under hospice care, and we discussed the difficult path ahead for her and her husband. They are facing the struggle well as followers of Christ. That evening I was on my way to a happy dinner out with friends. As I passed my patient’s house, I marveled that I could drive by so freely with happiness, cut loose from the deep emotions within a house where I had been immersed in the same emotions that very same morning.Read More
I’ve got nothing against money, and often in my life I’ve enjoyed more than I needed, but I have never made a major directional decision in my life based on income outcomes. As followers of Christ, more money should be the goal of our decisions only if Christ says, “Make more money for my kingdom.”Read More
“…‘After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit’” (Mark 1:7-8, NIV 1984).Read More
His name was classically Hispanic, and he spoke only a few words of English. He came to be with his daughter as his cancer progressed. We could not speak the words of Christ to him, but we did show him the love of Christ. His daughter is a believer. The day he died, my daughter, his oncology nurse, went to comfort his daughter while awaiting the police. She heard the story of this man’s last days. He had not been a follower of Christ, but three weeks before he died, he saw a vision of Christ, fell on his knees and committed his life to our Lord. He then said, “I am ready to be with Jesus.” On his last day, as his son-in-law was praying with him, he slipped into the arms of the Savior.Read More
I was visiting a large church in a state other than my own after fellowshipping with other Christian healthcare professionals. The pastor preached a wonderful message and then opened things up, asking folks to go to one of two microphones and tell the church for what they thanked God or for what they praised God. Many men and women and children voiced beautiful words of thanksgiving and praise, covering family and health and salvation and God’s work in their lives. Then one young boy of 12 or so stepped to the microphone and shared, ” I thank God my mother died, for otherwise I would never have known Him.”Read More
He died today after a short bout with cancer. I stopped by to share my sorrow with the family. They were gathered in the den, actually fairly cheerful, sharing stories of their dad and husband, glad to be together as a normally scattered family. The wife said, “You know, we have been talking about whether it would be better to die suddenly, being hit by a bus, than the way he died.” One daughter piped in, “I’ll take the bus.” “But really,” the wife continued, “We had time to be together, time we would not have shared, scattered around like we are. We did things that were important.”Read More
I received an email this week from one I had not communicated with in 24 years. He asked me to call him and I did. His name is Kole Akinboboye, and 24 years ago he was a family medicine resident training at our mission hospital in Eku, Nigeria. I reviewed my diary of those mission years and discovered the very last entry: “I misdiagnosed a man with minimal symptoms and a rigid, non-tender belly. He went into shock the next day and in surgery was found to have infarcted his entire small bowel. There was no way he could live. When the patient awoke from his anesthesia, Dr. Akinboboye sat with him and told him about Christ. Before he died, the man accepted Jesus as his Savior.” This young doctor I had trained so long ago is now practicing in Nigeria in his own hospital and sharing Christ through his ministry.Read More
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, NIV 1984).Read More
We were all tired from the over-work, telehealth, glasses-foggy-from-breathing-through-masks, legitimate-fear and frantic-colleague life. I passed by my partner’s office, concerned for his emotional well-being. I knew he and his wife were having to alternate staying home with their kids because daycare was cancelled. He never showed his fatigue, but I was concerned.Read More
Our lead caregiver is Mohammed, a compassionate, wonderful Afghan man who has been serving the poor and sick in the most difficult areas of Afghanistan for more than 20 years. Mohammed is a devout Muslim.Read More
Our lead caregiver is Mohammed, a compassionate, wonderful Afghan man who has been serving the poor and sick in the most difficult areas of Afghanistan for more than 20 years. Mohammed is a devout Muslim.Read More
Are we aware of God’s Spirit when He nudges? He nudges us when He wants to act through us for His purposes. When I responded on this occasion, my sweet patient was able to open up his grief and connect it with his faith.Read More
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Revelation 21:1, ESV).
I sat in a chair and watched her daughters and granddaughters lying around her on a king-sized bed as my mom wavered between earth and heaven. They stroked her in love and sang verse after verse of solid Christian songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Precious Lord Take My Hand.” I sat in wonder at the moment and place, like we were on a bridge between this life of touchable-being and the untouchable eternity that now I could reach over and grab. There was not so much the presence of one reality and a wish for the other, but an absolute truth of both, not so much like we were telling Mom goodbye and watching her cross the bridge—but more like we were walking across it with her, kissing her on the other side and handing her off to Jesus.Read More
I had come to believe that praying for God to guide me in my witness and waiting on Him to tell me when to speak was God’s best path for Christian witness. I followed these principles intentionally with my friend, and he never heard the gospel from my lips.Read More
Now, I don’t know if this kind stranger was Jesus in a different form, or an angel, or just a man working in Jesus’ name, but Jesus was certainly present in Spirit on that driveway, lifting Jerry to his feet.Read More
Most of us seek joy and peace in our lives. Many of us seek Jesus so that we might find these sometimes-illusive treasures. Sometimes we might even make Jesus a means to an end, using Him for the good He can bring to our lives: good such as eternal life, peace, joy, delivery from troubles, etc. Certainly, Jesus is the way to such treasures.Read More
We know depression is a true biological illness, related both to environmental stressors and chemical reactions within our brains. Most of us have been through periods of depression; some suffer a great deal from prolonged episodes of such illness and require medications and counseling to allow us to function well within our professions.Read More
I’ve been pretty good in all the big things, much better than most. People who watch me would agree, most of the time. I’m kind to patients, usually pleasant with co-workers, rarely curse, faithful in marriage and donate generously to those in need.Read More
George is a friend and a patient who now sees Jesus face to face. The other day from his hospital bed, his wife and daughters noticed a big smile, after which they saw George lick his lips. They asked George if he was okay, and he answered with a grin of joy, “I just got a mouthful of Jesus.Read More
This was the first time I had met his son-in-law. He came to the clinic along with his two young children to support his father-in-law in his severe illness. He was tall, with a red beard, a New England accent and a California tee shirt. The first thing he did was reach out his hand and say, “Let me first say to you, thank you for wearing your faith on your collar.”Read More
Today I told two people that it would be futile to continue the fight against their malignancies and that their lives would likely be measured in weeks. The first man told me, “It’s all good. I’m going home.” The second young woman said, “I’m at real peace.” Her husband then clarified, “She’s like a child on the edge of the pool, jumping with arms outstretched for her Daddy.”Read More
My friend, Carl, stopped me after Bible study to share a recent encounter. Carl had recently endured a multivessel CABG with significant complications that almost took his life. “I was in a rehab group—you know, the psychology part where they discuss stress. The man next to me wore a hat that labeled him a Christian. He described his anxiety to the group, ‘My greatest cause of stress is this scar on my chest.’Read More
I just arrived home after attending a Muslim prayer service for the wife and child of a friend. His wife died tragically one week before birthing their first son. The service was simple with a few additional prayers in Arabic after the third prayers of the day at 5 p.m.Read More
I belong to an accountability group for personal witness. For some reason this week I was asked to speak to medical students for a series called Inspire, meant to encourage first and second year students to seek joy in their future careers. God overwhelmed me with the understanding that I should share my faith in Christ with them, even in this fully secular setting.Read More
They called me from the church today. One of the homeless women staying there had developed a painful rash. I drove over, documented an acute H. Zoster infection and wrote the prescription for acyclovir, prednisone and a few hydrocodone. Later today I had fallen asleep on the floor at home and awakened to spot a text from my friend who was helping the homeless that weekend.Read More
The following email was sent to me as a matter of prayer: “In April, my wife was found to have a large frontal lobe GBM. Her last MRI showed diffuse recurrence despite radiation and Temodar. She has decided to enter hospice care. She is incredibly at peace. She tells everyone that very soon she will be healed when she is in Glory. I’m not near as strong as she is, and have been ‘frustrated’ at my inability to help her. I think we, as physicians, feel that we have to ‘do something’ about everything. Saturday morning, I had a sitter for her, so I could do some errands.Read More
My mother suffers from severe dementia. She often seems to understand what we say and who we are but can never speak coherently. Her life is difficult, and our goal as children is to visit often and give her moments of joy. Yesterday my sister was visiting Mom and told her about one of her friends who was seriously ill. Mom bowed her head and began, “Oh Lord, you are the one we come to in our need.”Read More
My nurse practitioner is a Catholic Christian who has expanded her options by embracing Buddhism after multiple vacations to Thailand, where she fell in love with elephants. When the church at Notre Dame burned, she was heartbroken, as was I. Today I asked her if she had ever been to Notre Dame and seen the Crown of Thorns that was kept there. She had not, but then showed me a picture of St. Anthony she carried with her, and then drifted to her admiration of St. Francis. She said. “I’ve always wanted to walk where St. Francis walked.”Read More
This was a weekend off-duty, so I had time to visit a few patients as a friend, not a professional. I had just prayed with two for healing in very difficult situations and was traveling between hospitals. My thoughts drifted to personal needs. A child of mine desperately needs a work of great power. “Dear Father, everything else is okay in my life. Just give me this one thing, and I can manage the rest.”Read More
He sat there for a moment after I had finished his exam. I wondered what was keeping him in his chair. He then asked softly, “Are you a Christian?” I was a little bit stunned, as this was out of the blue, but answered, “I certainly am; are you?”Read More
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged…” (Matthew 7:1-2, NIV 1984).
I have a wonderful daughter-in-law, who is a fantastic cook with a culinary degree and is very health conscious for her family when it comes to food. A few years ago, she decided to remove gluten from her diet. I thought it was a fad and teased her for her decision. And then, the next time I underwent my annual health exam, my physician discovered I was both iron and B12 deficient. As an oncologist, I was convinced I had a GI cancer. I was relieved to discover I was simply gluten sensitive, secondary to celiac disease.Read More
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8b, NIV 1984).
He was big, a John Wayne kind of a guy, still well-nourished, but tired after the treatment I had put him through. While examining him, I admired the leather jacket he was wearing. “There’s an interesting story about this coat,” he said. “It wasn’t long after I bought it that I was at a pawn shop I frequent. The clerk noted that someone was breaking into my car.” My patient paused. “I was carrying. I ran out to the car with my little pearl-handled pistol and caught the guy holding this jacket I’m wearing.Read More
“…But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8, NIV 1984).
I had just heard that his son was in the intensive care unit and wondered why he had not called me. When I got him on the phone, he explained his son’s illness. All the while I was thinking of his wife, who had just come through difficult treatment for cancer, and his daughter, who had recently died after delivering her first child. He and I are close, and he explained his lack of communication. “I was just so worn out,” he said. “I told God this time, ‘I’m not going to let go of you, God. I know you’ve got this.’ But all the time in the back of my mind I was saying, ‘What the heck?’”Read More
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory…” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV 1984).
He pulled me aside after I had spoken to a group in the Midwest. He was short, stocky, 70 and built like a brick, a hard man who seemed pleasant, soft-spoken and at peace with life. “May I tell you something?” He asked. “I know this is not your business and I have been going to another doctor with this, but you speak like someone I can talk to.” He continued. “You know all those stories about the priests and young boys? I was one of those boys. Some bad things happened to me when I was young. And I grew up and did some bad things. Now I’m trying to live well and relate to my wife in a good way, but it’s hard.”Read More
“…There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4, NIV 1984).
I try to visit her twice a week, but sometimes only make it once. My mom is suffering from severe dementia and requires round-the-clock attendants. She can barely carry on a conversation and, when she does, it is often like, “I haven’t seen Mother in a while. How is she doing?” … with her own mother gone for 30 years; or, “Where is Bud?” … about our dad, who has been with the Lord for four years. My goal when I visit is to bring a moment of joy into her mental chaos, to produce a smile or a bit of laughter, even if she doesn’t understand.Read More
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…” (Isaiah 30:15, NIV 1984).
A resident I know who loves the Lord and is dedicated to following God’s will for life told me his story at a conference recently: “In order to complete the mission God has for my life, he showed me I needed to travel far away to a city where I know no one. I learned recently that the period of time required there would cost me $5,000, money I do not have. I prayed, exasperated, for God to help me with the cost and help me get there. The next day, I was visiting a house church where people prayed for me and for God’s will in my life.Read More
“However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16, NIV 1984).
I love my brother’s wife. Tonight, I sat in their home surrounded by their children and told her she had an aggressive cancer. When I returned to my home, my son called and told me his infant daughter has suffered head trauma and had a bleed in her brain. This was a bad day for those I love.Read More
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power…” (Revelation 4:11, NIV 1984).
We had a terrible time getting his myelodysplasia under control. With the first cycle of decitabine he developed bleeding and sepsis. Now, he was seated before me, doing much better. “You know, those days in the hospital were good for me,” he said. “I just spent my time focused on the Lord. I never even turned on the television.” He then added, “I want all of this I’m going through to glorify God.”Read More
“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them…He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me…’” (Mark 10:13-14, NIV 1984).
It was 1984 and the occasion was our daughter‘s sixth birthday. My father had become very concerned I was working so hard. Up to 60 to 80 hours a week. It was good work. Comprehensive patient care including spiritual care. Teaching residents, students and fellows in our teaching practice. Performing nationally recognized peer-reviewed, community-based studies. Faculty appointments at 10 medical schools. All was good.Read More
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24, ESV).
It was difficult to recruit a surgeon who would work with her, given her eccentricities and wavering decision-making. Finally, she was forced to proceed; her abdominal pain predicted an impending disaster. I visited her the day before the planned procedure and asked her how she liked her surgeon. At 80 she could get away with her reply, “If you bought him for what he was worth and sold him for what he thought he was worth, you would make a fortune.”Read More
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, ESV).
Janice died last week. I had visited her daily in the hospital until her discharge but was unaware of her death at home. During her stay, in spite of her suffering, her chief concern was for her son and daughter who were not walking with the Lord. I promised to pray faithfully for them, and I do. Today, when I discovered her death and called her husband, he reminded me how their two kids came to be. Many years ago, when radiation was needed to cure her malignancy, I had advised Janice to consider having her ovaries moved out of the field of radiation, so that someday she might conceive. She agreed; her malignancy was cured; the children are now grown and beautiful and wandering away from Jesus.Read More
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:10-11, ESV).
There was an open mike and I was compelled by His Spirit to speak. “As a rule, I don’t attend the funerals of my patients, and I have never spoken at one. But I have been so blessed to walk with Mark and his family through their struggle. I hope that all of you have watched them. This is the way that followers of Christ do this.”Read More
“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10, NIV 1984).
I went by the rehab facility to deliver his Christmas present. Since he was confined to a wheelchair with poor vision, I thought a CD with audiobooks might improve his sanity. He was eating lunch at the time. After we had talked a few minutes, he said, “Oh, I forgot.” He then bowed his head and prayed, “Dear God, thank you for this cup of mercy.” Since his thoughts are sometimes slightly jumbled, I assumed this was his way of saying grace over lunch. And then he raised his head, looked me in the eyes, and asked, “Did you get your cup this morning?”Read More
“‘…Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6, NIV 1984).
I walked into the room and saw a young woman I had never met sitting next to my patient. “This is my daughter,” he said. I remembered something about his daughter from our previous conversations and greeted her. “67 days,” he said, softly at first so that I did not understand. Within my silence he spoke more clearly, “67 days.” Our past conversations came back clearly. On our last visit, his greatest anguish was not for his illness, but for his daughter addicted to drugs. She was now 67 days free from them. “I certainly prayed for you,” I told her. “It’s all because of Jesus,” her father said.Read More
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).
We all have different methods in our daily intercessory prayers. I pray geographically for those I know around the country. Some folk stay on my geographic list a long time and I hear nothing from them. I was praying for Ken yesterday morning as I have been for many years. Not hearing from him for months and receiving only an answering machine message when I called, I asked the Lord, “Please let Ken call me today since I cannot reach him.” Sure enough, Ken called this evening, and the reconnection was made—and God told me, “Continue.”Read More
“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!”Read More
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.”Read More
“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.”Read More
“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.Read More
“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?”Read More
“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.Read More
“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.Read More
“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.Read More
“…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).Read More
“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.Read More
“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.Read More
“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.”Read More
“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).Read More
“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).Read More
“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.Read More
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.Read More
“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).Read More
“‘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