Less is More, Loss is Gain

whatsyourstory“Losing my leg was the best thing to ever happen to me.” 

I was going about my usual fast-paced day at the clinic recently and trying to keep up with the schedule. Like many people, the routine gave way to a full face confrontation with reality. It was one of those encounters that makes you slow down, think deeply, and then remember it is not always that you are teaching someone else. Those kind of encounters teach you, if you take the time to listen.

Upon entering the exam room, it was not a scene too uncommon at all. A man was sitting in his wheelchair, but not the usual more advanced age person. This forty-something year old sat there as we talked about his medical conditions. He looked a little tired, but had a smile on his face throughout the discussion and examination. As we talked, he then tossed me this surprising statement: “Losing my leg was the best thing to ever happen to me.”  I sat there for a few seconds as I contemplated what he had just said and was trying to decide what would be the best way to respond to this heart moment.

Many times people who have been through traumatic circumstances find it hard to find anyone who understands their life’s journey. Their plight has been one in which they have been in such a bind they either get bound up or get freed from the chains that tried to lock them up for good. It makes you think of when Peter was in prison (Acts 12) and then his chains fell off and he was released by an angel. The very people who were praying for Peter did not believe that he was released when he showed up at their home. How many times are we the same way when the very thing we have been praying for is right there in front of us? Do we do as these early Christians did and not open the door to someone knocking who wants to share with us that very thing we prayed for earnestly? When we hear that heart moment in front of us, do we leave the door still yet unopened while the knocking continues trying to get us to listen?

When there is an inclination detected that a listening ear is near that might understand, a nugget of truth slips out to test the environment and see if their heart can be safely shared. If that knock on the door results in it being opened, then real truth can be heard that can do both the speaker and listener some good. It also does the person a lot of good who is sharing to feel and know that their condition is not without some benefit to someone else. As all of us are walking, or sometimes running, done the road of lives that may be shorter than we think, it pays to take some time to sit on a bench with a friend and share.

This man shared about his journey of working hard and going about the routines that many of us take for granted when one day tragedy struck.  He was left with one good leg and an amputated one. The loss put him in a wheelchair as prostheses were not tolerated well by him. He shared about how this sudden slow down of his routines had changed his life not in a harmful way, but had resulted in him having a deeper walk with God than he had ever had before. He had a demeanor that reflected what he said with a worn, but settled and peaceful look about him. His time of being thrown in a jail did not last long as he had been set free through the experience and then came to knock on my door that day in the clinic. I’m glad I opened the door.  Many times, less can be more and loss can be gain.

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Go Ahead, Make My Day

20151121_005336The catchy phrase, “Go ahead, make my day”, usually conjures up images of Clint Eastwood in a shoot-out scene, or maybe even the same actor during a recent political speech he made. Someone else actually first came up with that phrase, but it was popularized by Eastwood. However, as we know that, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), we can look further backward to realize our Father has shown us that He has in a way told His children the same concept. Too often, we don’t take Him at His Word in this, but we most assuredly should because we really are His children.

“What?”, you may be thinking, “Are you trying to say that God wants to make my day?” Well, “Yes!” First of all, you have to accept the life-changing, (no, scratch that – change it to eternity-changing) fact that if you have accepted in faith Jesus Christ of Nazareth as your Savior, then you are, without a doubt, adopted as God’s child. Has that sunk in yet? You are a child of the King and you have  access to the great throne room above. It is where you don’t cower down, groveling on the floor, in front of someone who you fear will sentence you to death if you say the wrong thing, such as it is in front of some earthly kings. This King invites you to come and sit in His lap. He invites you to come and have a chat with Him, to be held in His arms, to receive His love for you, to lean on His chest while He holds you as you cry, to watch His smile as you tell Him the successes you have had, to see His loving concern when you tell Him your failures. You see, this King is not like any other earthly King, this King of Kings is also our Father. He wants to make your day! He wants to make your eternity!

While speaking with someone recently in my medical practice, he told me that when he prays he doesn’t ask God for anything, but is just thankful for what he has. That sounds very humble and it is certainly a great and Godly thing to learn to be content with what one has. However, I asked the young man, who is a father, does he expect his own children to be content with what they have to the point of never coming to him to ask for anything? He just looked at me for a second and then admitted that he certainly did not expect them to think that way. He wanted them to come to him if they wanted something. He took joy in hearing their heart’s desires and in being able to then decide what would be best for them at that point. He wanted to see them with joy in their heart and growing up to be mature one day. He wanted to see them not being him, but like him one day. This young father then realized that he needed to expand his concept of who God is to him.

To some right now, you may be thinking, “Well, this sounds like prosperity preaching.” To those who would think that based upon just what is written thus far, I want to remind you again to think of the relationship with your own children or grandchildren. I would imagine you don’t grant every request that is brought to you by them because if you did, you would spoil them, but you surely do want to hear what is on their heart. Sometimes you can just look at them and you already know what they are thinking without them even telling you, but you still would like for them to speak it to you anyway as you listen with understanding and love them in a way that you want to always help them in any way that a good father would want to do. That is not prosperity preaching, it is just fatherly love. No child who is raised properly and with good character is going to come to his earthly parents with greedy intentions, but surely should feel welcome to come to them with whatever is on their mind. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:7-11).

The phrase, “Go ahead, make my day” is actually credited not to Clint Eastwood first, but to Charles B. Pierce, an independent filmmaker who wrote this in the 1983 film Sudden Impact. While Eastwood was the actor in the film who spoke it, it was Pierce who wrote it and Pierce’s father, Mack, gave him the idea based on what he had said to him when he was a child. Prior to Mr. Pierce although, I think we can see that our Creator came up with this idea first and not so someone could be shot, but because a Father wants to bless His children. It is just a matter of whether we want to believe it or not. It is written, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15). Also, we can read in other scriptures, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,” (Ephesians 1:5) and further that “To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:5). He wants us to come to Him.

We should not buy a trick of the enemy to think that we need to sheepishly hide in the corner of our little space and timidly poke out our head to receive our rations like we are in jail. We are free! We should act like it. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16). He is patiently waiting. Go ahead, make His day.

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Mississippi and North Carolina Democracy versus Liberal Totalitarianism

Mississippi and North Carolina Democracy versus Liberal Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism is defined as “a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible. Totalitarian regimes stay in political power through an all-encompassing propaganda campaign, which is disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, a single party that is often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, regulation and restriction of speech, mass surveillance, and widespread use of terror” (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totalitarianism). This definition actually describes the type of actions desired by those who want to punish Mississippi and North Carolina for wanting to let their citizens be able to decide for themselves what they want to think and do with their own lives. These liberals want a totalitarian government, not a republic, and not a democracy. They seek to force their viewpoint upon everyone any way they can.

Most of these companies who are voicing public objections to the laws passed by states, which want to allow religious freedom, are solely acting to protect their bottom line financially as they see it and will shift their actions to whichever way they think the wind blows if it will make them money. The same activists who threaten Mississippi and North Carolina also threaten these large corporations if they don’t comply with their demands. If it is okay with people to demand adherence in such a totalitarian fashion, then some other questions should also be asked.

Should Teva Pharmaceutical Industries be boycotted and people be asked to do no business with this company because they refuse to allow propofol to be sold for executions? They are discriminating against what their product is used for on the basis of their belief system even though the death penalty and executions are legal. If Christians should be forced to participate in matters that conflict with their belief system and violates their conscience, then how can one argue that these companies should also not be forced to sell their products without “discriminating”? If it is okay to sue Christians who solely don’t want to perform a service out of moral objections based on their faith, then should not the states who cannot get the medications sold to them for legal executions be able to bring lawsuits against these companies and force them to do what the law states is okay?

Should physicians who have moral objections to participating in abortions be forced to perform them since abortion is legal and physicians who refuse are “discriminating”? How about pharmacists who won’t fill a prescription for an abortifacient drug and are “discriminating”? Should all of these physicians and pharmacists be labeled as promoting “hate”, and boycotted for their “discriminatory” practices?

What about the pastors who refuse to participate in a homosexual “wedding”? Should they also be labeled and treated in the same way? Are these pastors to be listed on a “hate group” registry and hounded for just not wanting to participate?

What about Muslims who will not sell pork, or prepare it for sale, to others based upon their religious beliefs? Should all the pork-loving people all get together and bring boycotts and lawsuits to force the discriminatory Muslims to participate in what they deem objectionable based upon their faith practices?

Should Jewish owned businesses who choose to close their doors on Saturday be forced to stay open and not “discriminate” against those who want to shop on Saturday? Is it offensive to those who don’t hold those beliefs and places undue burdens on those who only can shop on Saturdays since it is possibly their only day off from work?

It is not people of faith who are bringing lawsuits and attempting to ruin others through tactics of fear and intimidation. These are the actions of the liberal, totalitarian activists who people of faith need to be protected from. Should peaceful non-participation be now made illegal also? That is also what totalitarian governments do. No dissent is allowed without retribution.

People of all faiths should be allowed to follow their conscience and faith practices as their traditions commonly dictate and not have their belief systems trampled by totalitarian demands. The pharmaceutical companies should be allowed to followed their conscience while the states are free to pursue other options without forcing adherence. Physicians and pharmacists should be free to practice in ways that do not violate their faith while those who want something different are always free to seek to have services they legally want elsewhere. Pastors should continue to be free to choose whom they will agree to marry as they always have. Jewish people should be free to practice all aspects of their faith as there are other options for those who live under different practices. Muslims should be free to practice portions of their faith practice as they desire to do so and people who want something different can do business with others. Those who want to label these laws as hateful only reveal their own heart toward those whom they disagree. For people of faith, it is about protecting their own conscience by not participating and it is not about doing anything to hurt anyone else. It is about having respect for other people’s faith choices in their lives and giving them the freedom to live their lives with having a conscience intact, unlike those within totalitarian regimes who historically could be argued to have lost any conscience they might have had.

Why is God Allowing Beheading?

beheadingWith the recent news of Christians, including children, being beheaded by Islamic jihadists, there comes to mind questions of why the God we serve is allowing this to occur. To acknowledge that God is allowing children to be beheaded in front of their Christian parents in Iraq brings a certain level of discomfort dependent upon our worldview. To those who have not acknowledged God, the horrific actions of these people are explained only as being cruel actions by cruel people. However, for those of us who do recognize that we have a Creator who is the God of the Bible, thinking about these actions in the context of the God we know from His Word brings more to mind than these being plainly cruel actions. We must acknowledge that God had foreknowledge of this happening to His children and did not choose to intervene. Our questions inevitably lead to us wondering why and the answers are not easy to find, if they can be found.

Scriptures that relate to God rescuing us are the first that come to mind when we are in trouble. “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” (Psalm 22:8). Psalm 144 speaks of God prospering and preserving His people, “Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners, whose mouth speaks lying words, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood– That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth;That our daughters may be as pillars, Sculptured in palace style; That our barns may be full, Supplying all kinds of produce; That our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; That our oxen may be well laden; That there be no breaking in or going out; That there be no outcry in our streets. Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!” (verses 11-15). That sounds great! We all want to serve a God like that. Think of Exodus 14:13-14, “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” That is another great one that we love to remember and quote. If that is all there were to it, it would be easy to decide to follow Christ.

However, we may tend to suppress other scriptures which are equally relevant and point us toward walking down a road that none of us who are sane want to travel—the path of suffering. Paul certainly learned this; “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). In Second Timothy 2:12, we find that “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” Obviously, there is more to God than just wanting to rescue us from everything so that it all goes our way all the time. “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God” (1 Peter 2:20). God wants us to learn from suffering and He wants to strengthen us through it. “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;” (1 Peter 3:14). Our attitude is supposed to change from one of fear and avoidance to that of embracing the suffering before us.

As Christians, God does not promise to preserve our physical bodies during our earthly lives unless it serves His purposes and allows us to accomplish His will for us. The suffering in our paths can only hurt us so much. We may die physically, but only God has charge over our soul and He has promised to preserve our souls. Therefore, when suffering is in front of us, we naturally are going to look for a way out of it, but if we learn that there is no way out, we are actually to run toward it and accept it as part of His plan for us. That is where it is hard to understand again –to accept that God allows us to be killed, beheaded even. However, Christ went down that road, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:” (1 Peter 3:18). We are good at proclaiming that we want to be Christ-like, but most of the time that means only in ways we agree with or want.

Christ made it clear although that if we want to be like Him, we will have suffering, not possibly, but will. That just goes against the grain of what many Christian churches in America teach nowadays. Jesus Christ explained to those who said they were following Him that He was their food and they did not understand because they did not want to understand. “When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?” (John 6:61-67). It is easy to follow Him when the miracles are performed which sustain us physically in some way or make life comfortable for us, but it becomes hard when it is learned that this is not really what Christ is ultimately after in dying for us. We also are called to the same in our lives here. “For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know” (1 Thessalonians 3:4). “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). It is not easy, but it is part of the Christian walk. Christ was in anguish so much that He sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane and sought another way if it would be God’s will for Him, but in the end accepted what He had to do for us.

Sometimes God chooses to use us in ways we will not like either and we will be in anguish, too, during those times, but we can know that it is to work a greater purpose than what we can understand. God rewards those who suffer for Him and those parents who lost their children, or whomever is missing someone due to such cruelty, can know that those who died are now comforted and will never die again after they physically die in Christ. In America, it usually does not come to that. We should seek God’s face to know if that came to us, would we seek to continue with Him, or would we turn and go another way. May God help us to know Him and His way fully in these perilous days in which we are now living.

Who Will Want Your Chair?

ImageAs I sat listening to my pastor’s Sunday morning message, he spoke of an old recliner that he used for many years and had seen its days of burping babies, kids piling up in it, and all of the usual relaxing moments that most people have in their recliner that becomes a reflection and somewhat of a commentary about its main occupant.  Pondering that example, I could not help remembering special chairs in my own life.   My own father’s chair is one that I remember climbing into with Dad and my brothers.  I do not have that chair, but I wish I did.  I have the first recliner I ever bought when I was just starting medical school and I spent untold hours in that chair reading and studying; it is now in my office at work.

Another chair that came to my mind is this old greenish colored La-Z-Boy that sits in my library at home.  The arms have been reupholstered to match the original color as much as possible.  This particular chair was the first recliner that a very special pastor in my life many years ago had given to him by a church he pastored.  He had kept that old chair for many years until the arms had been worn thin and there were holes in the arms from what was undoubtedly many years of time spent with studying, family, and even counseling his flock.  The times witnessed by that chair were innumerable and special.  Since that old chair had gotten into such bad shape, it was about to be discarded because a new chair was about to be bought.  When I saw that old worn out chair, I hated to see something like that not be repaired and then used again.  After getting agreement with the pastor’s wife to let me have it, I took that chair to get it fixed and have had it ever since then.  What was valued and special to this pastor was even more valued and special to me because of who owned it, used it, and even wore it out so much it has a mild tilt to it.

I’ve got a chair that is conforming itself to me over time and gets a lot of use.  As I started thinking about my own chair in my living room, I could not help wondering if anyone would ever think of a chair I used as being something they would want.  Am I making enough of a positive difference in the lives of others that what I might see as just a chair would be cherished and thought of as being inspiring, like I think of that previous pastor’s chair every time I sit in it?  I know this humble man thought no one would want his old chair, but I did.  Do I inspire others enough that there might be a similar thought in someone else’s mind one day?

Another direction in this vein is to think about the chair itself.  The chair which conforms itself to my form, my image if you will, could be thought of as the life of each individual whom God Himself wants to use.  If I allow myself to be used by Him, I am then transformed into His image.  In the process of being used, I’ll get to squeaking as time passes, my arms will get thin and worn out, and I just will not move as quickly as I used to move.  However, just as an old chair that is made well, it will keep fulfilling its initial purpose.  Each chair is made with a specific function in mind just as each human is also.  We all will eventually reflect our owner and whom we choose to be owned by is really only between two choices.

Saying Hello

helloIf you have lived very long, you have had those whom you have loved to depart from life as we know it.  Many times, when there is the blessing of having time to do so, we struggle with trying to say goodbye, while sometimes it is instead like saying hello.  We typically say hello when greeting someone and especially if it is someone whom we have just met.  A lot of things that should have been said much earlier sometimes remain unspoken until the last moments of life.  It is wonderful when people do have the time to make clear what was muddy.

This last week a patient came in for a visit and took some time after we had addressed his medical concerns to talk about a discussion he had with his ill father recently.  The two had a history of disagreeing about many things over the years and their relationship had been strained continually.  The father had gotten older and the inevitable problems of aging had taken its toll on his health.  The son knew his father was ill and went to visit with him.  As they sat and talked, the son recounted the major areas of strife over the years with his father with what previously had been relationship shattering issues then becoming seemingly ever so minor.  An apology was offered from the son to the father.  The son was then surprised somewhat when his father slowly looked over at him and motioned with one of his arms an aw-don’t-worry-it gesture much like Bill Cosby used to do a lot on his program when brushing aside something that just was not important.  The father was telling his son that those issues didn’t matter anymore and that it was okay.  That wave of the arm and hand was signification of forgiveness and it touched the son’s heart so much that he had a small tear in his eye when relating the story. The son finally left after giving his father a hug and started heading back toward home.  An hour later, the call came that his father had passed away.  What had been a visit to say goodbye had become a visit to say hello, for what was old was gone and there was a newness that was granted by that father to his son.  There was no better way for them to depart from one another – although that is only temporary anyway for those who know Christ.

There are many health benefits seen in those who make forgiving others a way of life.  There are hundreds of studies which have linked forgiveness to improved physical and emotional well-being with researcher Robert Enright of the University of Wisconsin Madison stating, “Forgiveness works.”  Among those who practice forgiveness, there are fewer cardiovascular problems and stress-related conditions along with a general feeling of greater happiness.  In 2008, the journal Mental Health, Religion and Culture reported that people who forgave had decreased risk of depression.  A study involving 213 Vietnam veterans found that those who had trouble with forgiveness also had more problems with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Mayo Clinic reported in 2008 that holding grudges caused people to have increased blood pressure and heart rates.  A study of more than two thousand twins in Virginia showed that forgiveness was related to less nicotine dependence and drug abuse. That chip on the shoulder might sound like it is small, but it is one of the heaviest things you can carry.  For better health, it makes a lot of sense to say goodbye to those things of the past and say hello to what can be the new you that is found when you practice forgiveness.

Being an Abram, or a Lot?

Just as Abram and Lot had to decide where they would live and bring up their families, so it goes with all the families who will have to decide where they will raise their children.  In the years ahead, it will become more and more of a contrast between the states of the United States where homosexual “marriage” is legal or not.  Those states in which it is illegal and not accepted provide a more family friendly environment that honors God through recognition of Biblical marriage.  The states where homosexuals can now “marry” have become places in which marriage has lost its meaning in relation to the Bible. 

God will not bless decisions to dwell where there is an allowance for homosexual “marriage” any more than He did the decision of Lot to dwell in Sodom.  When Lot saw the land of Sodom, he saw a land that is described in Genesis as “well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar” (Genesis 13:10).  The description of the land Lot saw could be used to describe California and many other areas of our beautiful country.  Lot looked only at what he thought would provide him and his family with material abundance and did not consider how living in that land would affect his family spiritually.  Abram walked by faith, while Lot walked by sight.  Lot’s choice revealed his heart was already astray and then he willfully allowed his family to be led astray in a land that refused to honor God.  Now that California is full of many who are celebrating men having sexual relations with men, and women having sexual relations with women, maybe they should change the state’s name to Sodofornia.

In the years ahead, I believe that there will be an exodus of God-honoring families who do not want to raise their families in the lands of Sodom of our day.  The states that choose to honor God’s definition of a family will benefit, while those lands of Sodom will become more wicked as places where one’s family will be more easily led astray into behavior that dishonors God.  Through his faith in God, Abram had enough sense to stay away from the land of Sodom and he was blessed.  The leaders of the families of today have some decisions to make and, hopefully, there will be increasing numbers of people who decide that they will walk by faith and not by sight.