Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Prayer Request

Hey, this is just a prayer request. So, not a major blog post.

A couple years ago, I felt the father calling me to serve in certain nations less open to what I believe. In the last year, however, I've allowed myself to become okay with the idea of serving here in the US, in undeserved parts of the country.

Today, those same three countries came to the forefront of my mind in the context of service.

My request is twofold:

1. That the father's will would be revealed to me, whether at home or abroad.
2. That the father's will would be confirmed to my wife separately.

Friday, September 25, 2015

James' Adventures in Medicalland

"I'm late. I'm late. No time. Must study. I'm late!"

The rabbit shoved the pocket watch into its lab coat as it sped off down the hallway, disappearing around the corner.

I took off after the rabbit, trying to case it down as my limbs grew leaden with fatigue. Exhausted, I sat on a bench to catch breather. All around me, the various benches and chairs began to twist themselves into various shapes - rings, prongs, and sticks - and began running around in circles, first slowly, but gaining in speed. With a whump, I fell on my behind as my bench contorted itself to join them.
"Everybody take your place
Before we start Kreb's cycle's race
With your rings and Cs and Ns
Soon the cycle begins..."
I found myself dragged up and carried into the circle, running about and around, over and over again until my limbs were filled with energy again. 

Energy? From running in circles? This place was getting more and more peculiar by the minute. I shook my head in disbelief, before continuing down the hallway. I didn't get far before the air began to fill with the smell of hand sanitizer. 

I looked up.

In front of me was a large, white caterpillar, wringing its hands in a washing motion.

"And what brings you in today?" it began, with an imperious tone. "What is your name? When did all this start? What are you allergic to?"

"That's not the proper order," I interjected.

"Oh? Well, please, recite it for me."

"Well, first, you have the onset, then provocation and palliation..."

With a great Harrumph the caterpillar interrupted me and proceeded is a rhythmic baritone:
"Symptoms, Onset, Characteristics
Radiation, can't you see
Associations, course of Time
Exaggeration, Severity"
It made sense, but yet, everything was just all wrong. Where am I, in this topsy-turvy place? 

Just then, from the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of fur and white coat. The Rabbit! I sped off after him, trying to catch him and ask him what was the rush before, once again, I found myself all turned about in the hallways. Left took me right and going forward took me behind. I sat down in a pile of frustration.

Off in the distance, I heard various noises and clatterings. I drew closer. In another room were a man in a white coat and top hat with a card saying 121/76 mmHg sticking out from the brim of the hat. In his hands was cradled the head of  rabbit. No, not a rabbit, but a hare. With a swift movement, the hatter twisted his hands, eliciting an audible crack from the hare's neck as he melted to the floor before hopping back up. Curious, I came closer. They were hopping from bed to bed, testing and articulating joints. Without realising it, they swept me up and dropped me on a table, walked up my spine, and, with an audible pop, I felt half my tensions melt away.

Astonished, I turned to the man in the hat, who looked at me and asked, "Why is a rotation like a sidebending?"

I sat there, puzzled, before giving up: "I have no idea. Why is a rotation like a sidebending?"

The hatter looked at me quizzically before answering: "I haven't the foggiest."

As the hatter and hare ran off, hopping from bed to bed, rotating and cracking joints. I stood for a second, pondering my sanity and whatever this place was or seemed to be. Simultaneously, the lights began to dim and the ground underneath my feet began to change, as I found myself standing on a white little pathway, surrounded by pink, fleshy walls. At the edge of the pathway was a signpost.

"Cephalad, caudad," I read. Before my eyes, the words began to change: "Medial, lateral," "Proximal, distal." The words continued to cycle about. Confused, I sat down on the pathway and crossed my arms.

A ways off, I heard a hum-singing noise drawing closer as a long lab coat began to materialise, out from the bottom of which poke a striped tail. A cat's head appeared above the coat. He flicked out a claw like a scalpel and began to move first one way, then another, along the path, the pink walls parting before him as he passed, rummaging along the pink wall,before finding a blue and red pathway over to the side. "Oh, vertebral artery. Excellent."

I sat, staring in disbelief, holding my head in my hands, thinking aloud.

"Have I gone mad?"

The cat's ears perked up as it turned to me and smiled: "I'm afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are."

With a laugh and a smile, it began to fade from view, hum-bumbling as it went.

Without much ado, I stood up and began to walk in some direction, following the path as best as I could, as it faded into the darkness.

~     ~     ~

Bleary-eyed I looked around. In front of me was my notebook and computer - still paused on the last slide I had been studying. My pen was fallen from my hand and the cup of tea grown cold on the floor. I looked at my watch, rolled my eyes and groaned.

"I'm late. I'm late. No time. Must study. I'm late!"

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Oh Jerusalem

"Disaster comes upon disaster; rumor follows rumor. They seek a vision from the prophet, while the law perishes from the priest and counsel from the elders." - Ezekiel 7:26

This verse, talking about Jerusalem during its fall due to sin, just really rang true to me.

We see disasters all around us - earthquakes, wars, genocides, tsunamis, and pandemics, to name a few.
We hear rumours abounding, about celebrities, politicians and pastors.
We seek spiritual solace from prominent bloggers, speakers, YouTubers, or writers.
Churches and pastors compromise on the uncomfortable parts of the gospel.
The older generations, though they may still desire to do so, no longer give counsel to the newer generation - they are neither valued nor heard.

Jerusalem was a city who felt the hand of God in many ways for many years. She was a city who flourished under the presence of God during the reigns of godly rulers, like David, Hezekiah, and Josiah, and yet, at this point in her history, she had completely forgotten about God and was instead pandering to the idols of the nations and peoples around her.

Foreign gods
Political power
Social status

I want you to re-read that list. Scroll through your Facebook or Twitter feed for the last few months. 

The church is fast becoming the last place people look for spiritual help.
Our society has become increasingly focused on either the earning, receiving, or spreading of money.
How many individuals are currently running for the Republican presidential bid?
How often do we try for the greatest Instagram post, the house with the most curb appeal, the fastest car?
How often does society scream for valuation, whether it's of ideology, lifestyle, or person?

Oh Jerusalem, 
Who saw you in your infancy and had pity on you? 
Who raised you into the full flower of womanhood?
Who entered into covenant with you in full flush of love and affection?
Who provided your every need and adorned you with beautiful stones?
Who fed you with the finest of foods and clothed you with the smoothest of silks?

Oh Jerusalem,
When will you see.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Children of the World pt II (Or, how to love others even when you disagree with a third party)

The Children of the World choir was at my church today.

Those of you who've read my blog for over a year know that I'm not the world's biggest fan because of the image of the third world that's portrayed, but, at the same time, I cannot deny that these children are coming from areas in deep poverty and need and World Help is one organisation in particular that is reaching into these communities to share the Gospel and bring clean water and education.

So, it caught me off-guard when I found myself wishing I had either cash or my chequebook on me to be able to give, but, in light of what I was reading yesterday, in Luke 6 and what many of you saw on my blog posts on Love and the church's response to the mentality of today, I see that, whether or not I agree with an organisation's methods of presentation, I can agree with their goals of reaching out to those in need and I can stand in solidarity with them on that.

I may not have my chequebook or cash with me to give, but I've left with a valuable lesson.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tomorrowland, Society, and Christians

This past weekend, my wife and I had the opportunity to go on a date to a movie theatre that was closing (it was where we had our first date, so we absolutely had to have one more before it closed. We chose to watch Tomorrowland, which is an excellent film, though a little intense for younger viewers, but I digress.

The main theme of the movie was that it was discovered, in the 40s, when the earth was going to die, well, the probability was discovered. When Earth was warned, the probability began to escalate as society latched onto this idea. (Disney did their history - this correlates with dystopianism and a rise in a fear of science and its capabilities, and general Malthusianism). Spoiler alert, highlight to read: The plot twist and solution to the issue was optimism, refusal to accept the end, and a willingness to act and change it.

My wife and I sat and chatted over this for a while afterwards, talking about the general distrust of science and progressing towards the prevailing "Doom & Gloom" mentality that society has about the future, how the wealthy, with their ability to choose, limit the poor (see the GMO debate), and how there's plenty present today that would help contribute to a more optimistic outlook, from science, to sociology, to religion, should society actually take the time to educate itself.

You see, as far as the dystopian future goes, advances in agriculture and a realistic concept of the amount of space present on the earth actually detract from malthusian arguments. Of course, this means stepping outside of our immediate bubbles and allowing GMOs to continue. Added to that, we have the whole fear of science, which often isn't really a fear of science, but of what science could do in the hands of someone else, but the answer to both is a better persective of the various redundant safety checks and conventions present in may ground-breaking science technologies, think, for exmple, nuclear power - it's safer than ever before, yet we still only ever think of Chernobyl.

The answer for society, though, comes from deeper issues. You see, as I've said before, Western society is becoming increasingly more insular, with the very divisive belief prevailing that

  1. Only you, as the individual, can determine what is right for you
  2. You cannot know what others have determined in themselves to be right
These posits are detrimental to society, breeding fear and retaliation based upon fear into every aspect of  modern society.

So, we see all these ills in society, which feed into the continual dystopic outlook, but where does the church fit in?

The church fits in, truly, in three key areas:
  1. Faith
  2. Hope
  3. Love
We have the belief that truth is universal. We hold to the idea (in theory) of corporate worship, where the body of believers comes together in community, as one, in support of one another. The church is a powerful vector for a revolutionary social philosophy that works for the building of community - one body of believers, united under the headship of Christ.

The church has long held to a twofold hope. The first aspect is that, despite what wrongs may assail us, that God will work all things ultimately for our betterment as a whole. That doesn't mean we will all be rich and well-fed eventually, but that we will have what we need and will be stronger in our faith compared to where we began. The second is the hope of the resurrection, that Christ himself overcame death when he took our punishment and was raised from death three days later. From Christ, we have the hope, based upon faith, that we, too, will take part in the resurrection, being united in fellowship with Christ in heaven.

So far, Faith and Hope have been largely individualised, which is great, for the individual believer, but that doesn't impact society. From just these two alone, we see no effect on the greater perspective of dystopia and ruin that is so prevalent in society today. Ironically, this is where many Christians stop, possibly because it's comfortable, it's easy. Faith and Hope by themselves demand very little of us to step outside of ourselves. Thankfully, we're not quite finished.

Love is difficult. Love is radical. To truly love another is uncomfortable, irrational, and unwise, but that is exactly what society needs. You see, to love the Lord with all of one's heart, soul, mind, and strength is already uncomfortable - it demands superseding God above oneself. It necessitates the surrender of one's life is every aspect - physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. The second half of Christ's summary of the law, though, is what has the capacity to drastically change the way society lives. 

To love one's neighbour as oneself sounds all nice and catchphrase-y, but, truly, it asks more of us than we imagine. How do we love ourselves? We make sure we have not just enough food to nourish us, but enough to satisfy and fortify us. We make sure we have enough not just for our needs, but our wants. We make sure we have shelter, and luxury shelter at that. We have excellent healthcare, well-paying jobs, top-quality education, and the list goes on. These are things we want for ourselves, things we give ourselves, because, frankly, we want them and we love ourselves in these manners. 

Would we want to live in a dirt-floored, scrap-walled shack, with unseasoned rice and beans whenever what little money we get comes in, no healthcare, no profitable job, and little, if any education? 

Of course not, but that is exactly how the majority of this world's population lives. If we are to love our neighbour as ourselves, then shouldn't we do something about this? A man even asked Jesus what he meant by our neighbours, because, you know, we tend to choose pretty well-off individuals to live near, if we can help it. Christ answered the man with the parable of the good samaritan. Our neighbour is our fellow man. What are we doing, then, sitting in our luxury, not looking after those in need? We should be, as verse 37 implies, doing likewise and helping those in need. Even earlier in Luke, in chapter 6, verses 20-38, we see Christ laying down even further how a Christian should be living. Do you see a common thread? Love is selfless. I was reading this passage this morning and verse 30 stood out to me:
"Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back."
I remember seeing beggars outside every shopping center and on almost every street corner. I nearly cried as I read that, recalling how many times I, with money in my pocket, lied and said I had nothing.

True Love is radical. It is self-sacrificial. We see in some of Christ's last words to his disciples what Love truly entails:

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:12-13
Christ considered as friends all who followed him, but the emphasis here is not on friends, but on the laying down of one's life. We see in Romans how Paul  talks about Christ having laid down his life for not just his friends, but his enemies, those who did not believe in him. If Christ loved us enough to lay down his life for us, friend or enemy, we, who are commanded to love as he did, should be doing the same, should we not?

Love is the answer to our issue today. Church, while we have Faith and Hope, if we do not have Love, how could we ever communicate the difference that Christ makes in us? How else could we even begin to combat the dystopianism and fear so prevalent in society today? We have the answer, but why do we not broadcast that? What do we try and assimilate ourselves into the very same culture from which we should stand apart? Has anyone ever changed the path of a river by flowing along with the current? No, we must stand up and live out what Christ commanded. We must come together and Love those around us - the early church had the right idea, pooling their resources and giving to those who were in need. If we want to make a change in the world today, we need to begin to love radically and lavishly. 

Who cares if the world mocks and derides us? We were already told that would be the case from the beginning. We have an opportunity to speak hope into this society, to avert the cycles of fear and fearmongering in society today, we just need to act now, to lean on God, and to Love.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Moving Blues

So, my wife and I are moving this weekend. Nowhere drastic, just to another place in town that's a bit more to our liking. The preparation process, however, has been a comedy of errors. In light of that, I thought I'd share some of the wisdom of hindsight.

  1. Always assume the power is off. Don't wait until two nights before to find this out - especially when you're moving at the end of summer.
  2. Always give time for the power company to turn the electricity on. Calling the day before might work if you're moving on a weekday, but be prepared to wait if you call on a Friday, especially before a long weekend.
  3. Always give yourself time to pack and move. This time, we're excused; it was simply the best time to move - it's not an exam weekend and we have Monday off to unpack/arrange everything. She does, however have two jobs and I have med school. Try and imagine how much we still have to pack
  4. Enlist help. Well, I can't complain here. We've got some excellent friends who've volunteered to help us tomorrow - S/O to all of you.
  5. Be prepared for lack of sleep, crankiness, and general lack of energy. I mean, I'm totally the nice guy who can run on a little bit of sleep five nights in a row. (You should see how many spelling mistakes I made on the first draft)
Not much more I can think of. Still, I'm excited for more floorspace, more storage, and hardwood floors. Who cares if the power isn't on, the food will have to stay at our old place, and we may have to shower there, too...

...I'm thankful we still have a good bit of time left on the old lease