Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What to Pursue




Always be faithful in little things, for in them our strength lies. To God nothing is little. He cannot make anything small; they are infinite. Practice fidelity in the least things, not for their own sake, but for the sake of the great thing that is the will of God, and which I respect greatly.

Do not pursue spectacular deeds. We must deliberately renounce all desires to see the fruit of our labor, doing all we can as best we can, leaving the rest in the hands of God. What matters is the gift of your self, the degree of love that you put into each one of your actions.

Do not allow yourself to be disheartened by any failure as long as you have done your best. Neither glory in your success, but refer all to God in deepest thankfulness.

If you are discouraged, it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own powers. Never bother about people’s opinions. Be humble and you will never be disturbed. The Lord has willed me here where I am. He will offer a solution.

                                                                                       -Teresa of Calcutta (No Greater Love)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Be A Service Dog


"Jesus knew that poverty and disease in themselves are not the hardest things for people to bear; the hardest to bear are the loneliness and the hopelessness that come with being sick or being poor."
                                                                              -Shusaku Endo, A Life of Jesus

We doctors often poke fun of the visiting dog. We see the dog-lovers, obsessed with their dogs, bring them around the hospital to visit the sick.  What can they do, really?  Get in the way, pee on the floor.  

In America, various programs offer a safety net, a help, a support, to the poor, the elderly, the sick.  As I walk into the hospital every day, I am thankful that the patients can be cared with a high standard with relatively minimal restrictions due to the cost of care.  More so since the Accountable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.  

Yet Endo reminds me of what else I see daily:  chemicals and surgeries leave a large gap in care, and perhaps inadvertently contribute to it.  When the care came out of love and sacrifice in the face of need in the form of a family member, a volunteer caregiver, or a nun, that love and spiritual connection was obvious.  When the care comes with a paycheck as a carrot and the threat of liability as a stick, the love is not so obvious, and may be missing altogether. 
 
Thank God for the opportunities to serve those who are suffering.  For God still calls His people to love.  We should learn from the service dog.  Never tempted to suspend presence with the patient to mix a medication or do another x-ray, the service dog is unpretentious to the core. Perhaps if Jesus were here today, he would say: "if any would enter the kingdom of heaven, let him be like one of these service dogs."  Sit with the patient.  Do not try to cure them, leave that to someone else for a moment. Listen.  Empathize.  Lay hands on them in prayer and communion, not only to cut them open. They may not live longer because of this.  But perhaps they, and us, will become more human.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Connecting to God

 

If you want a deeper, more intimate connection with God you must learn to honestly share your feelings with him, trust him when he asks you do do something, learn to care about what he cares about, and desire his friendship more than anything else.

                                                                                      -Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life

Friday, October 20, 2017

Optimism

The core of the Christian faith is pessimism about life and optimism about God.

                                                                                 -Jaroslav Pelikan

Monday, October 9, 2017

Short Circuit


Focusing on ourselves and our problems short-circuits God’s purposes for our lives. We are two wires of an electrical circuit. Put them together and we burn up in a flash. Nonetheless, our entire lives are spent finding ways to bring the wires together while avoiding damage. We try various filters, machines, and resistors so that we can finally find our “fulfillment.” All the while we ignore the directions clearly given us: “one end to God, the other to serve our brothers and sisters.”

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Prayer




It seems to me that one should not endeavor to undertake ministry as a Christian worker, Christian doctor, or life itself as a Christian, without entering into the presence of God on a daily basis for serious and concentrated prayer. I find that the more I work with people, the more I must both bring to, and receive from God. It is a matter of emotional and spiritual survival to bring to the alter the people and things of the day. For if I am really ministering to people, if I am truly taking them seriously and trying to share in their joys and sorrows, they inevitably bring to me worrisome burdens, unsolvable problems, and deep and prolonged heart aches of every sort, which I then very naturally mull over and worry about. Not to mention the great landscape of bad choices that one finds people in, their houses built long ago firmly in the center of a hopeless flood plane with such little insight much less desire to move to higher ground. When I bring these people one by one to the Lord in prayer, the unbearable burden is found by an unseen assisting hand and somehow I am able to step out into the day.

Besides the people themselves, there is the very setting of ministry. Great consuming and dehumanizing political and cultural systems, deep and defining histories, overwhelming bureaucracies, endless noisy advertising, and all the world itself clamoring for the attention of anyone who will dare open his eyes for even a moment. Along this path of snakes we are called to walk as Jesus did, as his hands and feet for the world. In prayer, I find I must close my eyes to the world in order to receive that message of guidance, peace, and assignment that comes from God. If I do not daily, deeply, with structure and persistence, seek the Lord in this way, my attentions are hopelessly subject to the first minor demand made upon them in the wrong direction. Even with prayer, I daily fall to one way or another. Yet our Lord calls us sinners to go out into the invisible fields, work with tools we cannot touch or feel, and bring in a harvest of which we cannot truly taste in this world. To even attempt to do so we must daily receive redirection by blocking out what we can see, and hear the message from above. 

In our struggle, God gives us His word. That which we cannot see, we are gifted to hear described. That which we cannot touch, we are told to trust Him to hold for us. And when we cannot taste those first bites from our gatherings, He gives us glimpses of His very glory in times of prayer.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Poor and Spiritual Growth


 

Dependence, humility, simplicity, cooperation, and a sense of abandon are qualities greatly prized in the spiritual life, but extremely elusive for people who live in comfort. There may be other ways to God, but oh, they are hard—as hard as a camel squeezing through the eye of a needle. In the Great Reversal of God’s kingdom, prosperous saints are very rare.

I do not believe the poor to be more virtuous than anyone else (though I have found them more compassionate and often more generous), but they are less likely to pretend to be virtuous. They have not the arrogance of the middle class, who can skillfully disguise their problems under a facade of self-righteousness. They are more naturally dependent, because they have no choice; they must depend on others simply to survive.

-Phillip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Law of Life II: We Need One Another

It is not good for man to be alone.


This ancient declaration written at the dawn of human history reflects our deepest longing and fundamental requirement for survival. We need one another. We were created to be in relationships. The great ecology of the person is community. The fundamental unit of humanity is family. We were never meant to be an island, a rugged individual. We are not to be autonomous or anonymous beings.  


In our fallen and broken state, there stands a great paradox. Though we need one another, we have a heck of a time getting along with one another. I can’t live with you. I can’t live without you. Poison and wine. Taken for granted. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  In the cataclysm of sin, we form relationships that melt under the fire of our brokenness.  

Yet, we need one another. In fact, the great training ground for our character – molding and refining us from our self-centered and prideful state into persons of compassion, patience and forgiveness – are human relationships. When we commit to another – a friend, a husband, a wife, a son or daughter, a father or mother – and stay in relationship with that other come hell or high water, we are transformed into the likeness of God. For God is fundamentally relationship. God is love. That love has no meaning except in relationship to another. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is in relationship. In our human relationships, through the spiritual virtues of humility and faithfulness we forge that love.

I’m reminded of the nautical term – hold fast. We need to cling to those given to us by God. As the Master said, what God has brought together, man should not tear apart. In the divine mystery, those relationships we find ourselves in were not simply of our own doing or choosing. Through providential good will, that Other you are in relationship with was ordained by the Conductor of the Universe. Hold fast to that other, no matter what. Never ever let go. There will be strains, storms, fights, conflict, and a litany of dark emotions that will inevitably rise up between you and the other person. But do not let go. That storm is the crucible for your becoming a beautiful human being. If you forsake that Other, you forfeit your soul. Hold fast.


Hold fast to your spouse, your friend, your mother, your father, your son or your daughter. You need one another. We need one another.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Beauty and Love





Beauty.
Beauty is easy to love
Beauty adorns and is adorned
Beauty is sought and seeking makes beauty
Beauty sustains and beauty needs sustaining
Beauty calls and is called
Beauty is called to being in love

Love
Love calls to action
Love observes beauty and selects it
Love colors the world
Love is the real
Love is life to those who love
Love brings meaning to things and things bring meaning to love
Love orders things. Loves brings them new meaning, and new color. Love gives things a place in the world they did not have before.

Beauty and love go together
Love Makes beauty, and beauty makes love

There is a searching to define and describe the lover, the man. Words outside the menial, the mechanical, the functional. Is it merely a way to make the topic more polite for mixed company? Or is it a reaching beyond because love and beauty reach beyond us? And because they point beyond us, outside of us. Because they tell us that there is something more than the menial, the mechanical.

The whole of life is used to describe love. Food and work and landscapes and smells and places and spices. All are incorporated into this great story of love. The description points outward as well as inward. Inward toward the heart in love. And outward towards all of reality.

(thoughts from reading the Song of Solomon)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Add Up Your IQ






Some have estimated Einstein's IQ to have been around 170. Average IQ is 100. But of course no one should logically conclude that two normal individuals, with their cumulative IQ of 200, together could have come up with the theory of relativity. Nor could 3 regular people, their IQs together being 300, deduce e=mc2.

There are risks of measuring things. In this case, it is the measuring of intelligence. But the measuring of anything has risks. Once something is measured, one tends to develop a false sense of mastery over it. The use of data can make nonsense believable. When untempered by common sense and a healthy dose of humility, the measuring of things becomes its own false religion and can become unstoppable in its production of unhelpful thoughts, theories, and actions.

The measuring of people in medicine is subject to the same risks. As physicians, we have a tendency to reduce our patients to fragments with a PHQ9 depression score, a hemoglobin level, an A1C, or blood pressure. In reality, we are faced with an immortal. A person made in the image of God. With integrated body, mind, and spirit. Much greater than the extrapolations of biomedical medicine.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Good Marriage



It seems to me that the Church puts a lot of effort into helping families have “good marriages.” I think this kind of ministry can be very helpful. Better communication, better functioning, less fighting, more getting along, more closeness, better intimacy. However, sometimes I think the message can be interpreted as follows: “a Christian marriage is a good marriage, a great marriage. From this Christian marriage, you can take away happiness, support, love, and emotional energy that can sustain you in your everyday life and your Christian walk.” The reality is that in many ways and at many times, marriage (Christian or not) is more like a cross to carry than an endless source of happiness and strength. Two sinners living life together, what do we expect? 

Scripture says much about carrying our cross—mostly that we need to. But when we in the church define marriage without the image of the cross, we may create more hopelessness for those who are struggling. People say to themselves things like: “what is wrong with me and my marriage?” and “to get the sustaining Christian marriage, will I have to marry someone else.”

Of course our goal should not be misery in marriage. And there are times we simply cannot carry our cross (Jesus himself could no longer carry his cross, had to get help from Simone of Cyrene – Mark 15:21). When we cannot or will not, God loves us and is still our Father. But this is clearly where God calls us: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.’” – Mk 8:34

The paradox is that when we love and serve the other, when we carry each other’s burdens, when we give ourselves to the other selflessly, that is when we may find what we have been hoping for all along. For that is the path Jesus walked. When he said “come follow me” to his disciples, there was nothing special about the road he was on. Except that he was on it. When you give in your marriage, someone else becomes involved, for Jesus the lover of your soul is there with you. The one who says that he will give you the very water of life. Is there a cross on Jesus’ path? Of course. But Jesus is on that path.  And that is what matters.