Uber Questions

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“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).

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Breath into Bones

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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.

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Irrational Peace…

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“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.”

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Fickleness

“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.

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TV Dinner Counsel

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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.”

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He’s Mine

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“…‘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).

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In Jesus’ Name

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“But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’” (Acts 3:6, ESV).

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The Possible

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“I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NIV 1984).

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His Fault

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Certainly, the cause of self-inflicted harm is God’s business and the business of the one who harms himself. And we have no business judging the one who causes that harm.

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Father’s Day

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18, NIV 1984).

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The Song

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“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, NIV 1984).

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Seed Sprouting

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.

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A Son’s Devotion

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.”

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Purpose in the Pain

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.”

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Kole

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.

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Mary/Martha/Mission/Me

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“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).

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A Foolish Hope

He called me on my cell and asked if he could come to see me today. My clinic was light due to the virus and he was welcomed. I’ve known him for a few years as a patient and as a brother in Christ. He had a few symptoms to discuss but mostly wanted to talk. After settling into the chair beside my desk, he placed his cap in his lap and asked how long he might live, given the status of his illness. “I’m not afraid of my own death,” he said. “But I want to be sure to spend my last days well. I have people I need to see. I want to give them hope.”

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Better than Good

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.

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A Good Samaritan

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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.

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A Healthy Fear

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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.

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Gentle Nudges

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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.

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The Moment

“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.

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The Watchman

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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.

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Blocking Our Prayers

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When you cry out to God in prayer, do you invest your life in that prayer and put legs on your plea, or do your actions interfere with God’s answer to that prayer?

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Emmaus Driveway

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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.

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Pursuing Joy

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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.

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Anxious Thoughts

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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.

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Hell, I Guess

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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.

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A Mouthful of Jesus

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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.

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Authenticity

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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.”

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Death?

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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.”

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Scars and Chains

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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.’

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Catching Character

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?

Are You Gifted? October 17, 2017

“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

Test Run September 29, 2017

“‘…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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Dreams

Dreams September 15, 2017

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

Money Thoughts September 1, 2017

“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

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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Pee-Wees

Pee-Wees

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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Under-appreciated

Under-appreciated

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

God Knows June 16, 2017

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

Whole-hearted or Hole-hearted?

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?

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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Ziklag

Ziklag

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

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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