Promises of a Future Doctor

(1) Not refer to myself as “Doctor” or insist everyone calls me this

(2) Let my patients talk, uninterrupted, before starting to pile on questions

(3) Pray for and with patients

(4) Lay hands on patients (don’t you hate when you want to show a bump you are concerned about and your doctor never asks you to reveal the area to examine it?)

(5) Remind myself that it’s a privilege to care for someone made in the image of God


Running Up Hills

bobby posting:

I’ve been running a lot lately.  So much so, that I’m even beginning to enjoy it.  I know…it sounds crazy.  It’s actually getting to the point, though, where I have that little itch if I don’t get out each day and hit the road.  It was hard to pinpoint at first.  I thought I was just getting sleepy or irritable or restless…maybe even anemic.  Turns out my body just wanted the exercise, because once I got outside and got moving, I came fully awake and alive.

I’ve written about running here on the blog before, my love/hate relationship with the daily grind.  But I’m not sure I’ve ever told you about one of my running rules.  So here goes, get ready to get educated:

Running Rule #454 – Never stop at the top.  

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When I run, I open up my front door and just go.  I don’t have a path or routine that I follow.  I never really know how long or far I’m going.  I just figure it out along the way.  Wherever I go, though, I try to find a hill.  A good one.  At least once along my route, I want to encounter something difficult that will me push me to fight and grind.  And when I get there, I do my best to follow my rule every time:  never stop at the top.

When you’re incredibly tired and worn and beat, everything in your body wants to rest at the top of that hill.  Your mind begins to beg, your legs begin to give.  All of you just wants to lie down.  Fetal position.  In some stranger’s lawn.  Passed out like a frat boy on a Sunday morning.  Okay…so you also may be tempted to just walk.  Slowly.  Very, very slowly.  That’s what’s wanted.  But not what’s needed.  What’s best is another thing altogether.

After a big climb like that, your body needs to wind back down at a more continual rate.  It needs a light jog and a steady heartbeat.  Pushing on, when everything in you urges you not to, is great for the body and the soul.  It has to be.  It’s science or something.  I think.  At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Your body loosens back up and finds its stride again.  Your soul finds strength, the desire to keep going wins over.  And so you keep on, looking for another hill to climb.  Searching for the next challenge to bring the most out of you.  Always pursuing.  Never settling.  Never stopping.  At least not at the top of a hill.

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One of our pastors here at church told me once that he never makes any major decisions on a Monday.  The mental and emotional and physical and spiritual toll of teaching and preaching leaves him worn and weary the next day.  He allows himself that day to regroup and renew.  But as far as I can tell, he doesn’t just stay in bed, pull the sheets over his head, and call it a day.  He recognizes the importance of moving forward.  Even if this part of the process — the leveling back out on a Monday morning — is different than that earlier part — the long, hard climb to Sunday morning.  Monday gets him to Sunday…and Sunday leads him to Monday.  But all of it leads him to where he ultimately wants to be.

That’s a man who knows where he wants to be.  And he does something to get there.  But what about us?  Do we know where we want to be?  All this talk of “not stopping at the top” dismisses an important question:  are you even running in the first place?  And if you are running, are you challenging yourself in the process as well?  Are you running up hills?

If you want to be stronger, you have to fight to get there.  Faithfully.  Regularly.  Daily.  Maybe you need some more prodding.  Here’s a few more questions to get you going…

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Where are you facing hills that make you want to stop climbing? 

What’s creating in you a desire to give up and give in? 

When are you stuck at your lowest when all of you could be climbing to its highest?

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I have my list.  I could even write them out, right here, right now.  I’m even tempted to.  But instead, I’m going to keep running.  Not from heartache and hardship, but thru heartache and hardship.  Not fleeing or flying but pursuing and persevering.  Friends, if there’s one quality I’d love to be known for, it’s that I’ve been faithful.  Full of faith.  Faith is believing without seeing.  But it’s also a rugged commitment to keep on going.  Grinding out instead of giving in.

When you climb your hill today or tomorrow or next week or next month, and you will climb your hill, don’t stop at the top.  Keep running.  Keep your blood pumping.  Keep your heart alive and well.  Fully engaged and full of life.

Monday taking you to Sunday.  Sunday taking you to Monday.

One Big Question/Seeking God/ Zach’s Take

Zach Writing (Finally):

First, I must apologize for being so late here. The question of the week turned into the question of the summer. Writing a blog post is deeply cathartic for me because it forces me to engage in some inner reflection. When you are not in constant communication with God, however, that inner reflection is never easy. Then again, what better way to draw close to God again than to return to my favorite spot and write about my favorite activity to seek God.

Here is a picture of a dock by my house. During the day this dock is a yuppie beach that makes me cringe. At night, however, it closes down and turns into a paradise of peace. I have always been one that connected to God by seeing the might of his creation, by being completely overwhelmed by his power in a way that shows me how truly insignificant I really am. I first met God at a summer camp on Lake Sammammish surrounded by a huge bonfire underneath the stars. I devoted my life to God during a weeklong backpacking trip through the Cascade Mountains. Ever since, every major life decision has been made through prayer at either the top of a mountain or at some perch overlooking a lake or Ocean. Somehow nature seems to be the only way to break me away from my own selfishness.

Now back to the dock. I used to come here at night whenever I needed to draw close to God. I would sit for hours watching the moonlight shine over the blackness of the water. A constant reminder and symbol of God’s influence on my own heart. It was the one place where I could quite my overactive brain for long enough to hear god’s voice. It was peace. It was security. It was direction. It was home.

I remember dropping to my knees in the sand and asking for forgiveness. I remember sitting on the fishing stools and simply listening for his voice. I remember climbing down the ladder steps so that my feet rested at the top of the water, wondering whether I had the faith to be able to step out and walk on water, yet never having the courage just to try and risk coming home soaking wet. Coming back, I realize how much I miss these moments. Now I need to find a new spot. One that I don’t only visit once a year.

Summer Camp

bobby posting:

So I spent last week taking 50 of our middle and high school students to this camp in Missouri called Kids Across America.  The whole experience is what led me to write both of those earlier posts this week.  But our creative guru at church wanted me to write a little more on the subject, to make it all a little more accessible for anyone that wanted to hear about camp in general.  So if you’re interested, head on over to the Fellowship North church blog and read all about it.  If you’ve been with me so far this week, this will bring it home a little more.  I wouldn’t lead you astray.  Well, at least not today.

…And Now I Know What to Change

bobby posting:

I spent all of last week as a Kaleo (leader) at a Christian sports camp called Kids Across America.  I’d been told that as a leader, the whole week would be a “bubble bath in Jesus.”  Sure enough, when I got to camp, there was a notecard on my bunk that said just that.  This week was about relaxation and rejuvenation and restoration.  But for me, it became about so much more.  I found myself growing significantly spiritually in all sorts of ways.  The  most profound though, was during our Men’s Bible study time.  The camp director took a room full of pastors and youth leaders and volunteers and walked us through a Biblical view of conflict.  I’m hoping that time changed the course of the rest of my life.  I know that’s a big statement, but I’m good at making those.  And I earnestly want it to be true.  Perhaps you can even join me in the change.

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During our first session, our teacher asked us to play word association with the word “conflict”.  Men all across the room began throwing out words:  misunderstanding, hurt, shame, loss, pain.  I chimed in with “tension.”  I could even feel my body clench as I said it out loud.  Conflict has always created that reaction in me.  Maybe it’s the peacemaker in me, that whole middle child thing, intervening and settling down and hoping for everyone to just get along.

We would’ve gone around the room again with more negative words and sour faces if it weren’t for Taido, my friend and mentor.  There was a lull, a quiet hush, and then Taido spoke up.

“Opportunity,” he said.

“What was that?” our teacher asked.

“Conflict creates opportunity.”

Opportunity?  Taido’s good at stuff like this.  He has a knack for always flipping the coin to the other side.  And usually, the other side of the coin looks pretty good.  If not always shinier, at least more interesting.

A light bulb clicked all around the room.  Conflict creates opportunity…for good.  Sure it wouldn’t be easy, but looking at conflict through the eyes of Christ changed things.  Immediately.  It was as if a veil had been removed from our eyes.  I know I began to see clearly.

You know all that pain and frustration I wrote about yesterday…the kind that came from seeing my friends always hugging and laughing after those “serious conversations”?  Well all that rose to the surface because I couldn’t possibly believe that conflict could create anything good, much less anything better than before.  I thought of conflict as a necessary evil, not a potential blessing.  Certainly not as an opportunity for God to have great victory in our lives.

But isn’t that the story of our God over and over and over again?  Isn’t this the God I know and love and follow?  Isn’t our God the one who came in the face of conflict and conquered it?  On the other side of that conflict, did the Apostles become bitter and broken?  Or did they come to life in ways they’d never dreamed of before?  Look at the Disciples in the Gospels.  Then look at them in the book of Acts.  They’re hardly recognizable.  So what happened?

Conflict.  At its worse.  Opportunity.  At its best.

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You ever set yourself up for failure?  I’m pretty bad about it.  Big, giant sweeping statements.  Writing blog posts about change that’s gonna come.  That kinda stuff.  I can already tell you where I’ll be weakest.  How do I know?  Because in the few days since I’ve been back from camp, I’ve already taken note of where I’m still missing the mark.

The little things.  Yep, those same little things that I’ve written about before.  Love is in the little things, right?  And in all the little things, where the conflict usually starts, that’s where I’m forgetting that “opportunity” is still sitting right there, waiting to be discovered and put into action.  I find myself waiting to pull out “opportunity” when the BIG conflict comes.  When a relationship is falling apart or a friend is let down terribly by a job or bad situation.

But opportunity’s knocking at spilled milk as well.  It’s tapping on your shoulder when you and your spouse are communicating terribly that day.  It’s whispering in your ear as you’re confronted over something you forgot to do.  It’s there beside you as you get tired late in the day and become selfish and lazy.  It’s everywhere.  In the BIG and little.

Conflict creates opportunity.  Do you see it?  I’ll keep trying to show you.  I’ll keep trying to see it myself.  Seeing is believing.  Believing in something good out of something bad?  That’s everything.

A Change is Gonna Come

bobby posting:

A few months ago, I came across a statement that went something like this:  if you can’t remember the last time you changed your mind about anything significant, than perhaps you’re not willing to grow.  About a month after I read that little nugget, a group of guys posed this question to me:  how will the way you live your life look different five years from now?  Needless to say, the idea of change has been cycling through me like Lance on a climb.  I had no desire to become some old, crusty curmudgeon, stuck in my ways to the bitter end.  I wanted to grow.  And if you know anything about our God, if you admit to being willing to be stretched, well he answers that kind of prayer.  Gladly.  Certainly.  2011 has since, certainly been a year of growth.  Here’s just one of the changes I believe is coming out of me.  At least, I sure hope it is.

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In 2004, I made what I considered to be one of the wisest decisions of my young life.  I decided to move in with three of my best friends into a nice little, apartment right off campus.  The ViaChicago boys all living under the same roof for the first…and last…time.  Four solid Christian men together, constantly pushing each other further down the road to love and servanthood.  Well, that’s what we all desired going into the experiment.  But that year was tough.  We were all going through difficult things in our personal lives and collectively had a hard time managing expectations for this unit living together…as one unit.

The hardest part, though, was managing conflict.  Because we were all “solid Christian men”, we felt the need to constantly correct each other.  We’d sit down and have “serious conversations” and poke and prod for the deeper err beneath the error.  Frankly, I hated it.  And I let it show.  All.  The.  Time.

On a scale of 1-10, my ability at dealing with conflict was somewhere between zero and zero point one.  I hate to admit failure, but I sucked at conflict management.  Terribly.  I’d shut down and roll my eyes and respond with sarcasm.  And that’s when I would actually respond.  Most of the times I’d do my best to avoid the conversations altogether.  I’d dart from conflict like a deer after a rifle shot.  There’s a certain story that about me and a 2-on-2 basketball game and a shove and an f-bomb and me sprinting off into the night…but we don’t need to get into that.

As much as I hated being in the conflict itself, though, I hated even more the aftermath of the moment.  It just ate me alive.  The other three guys would come through the muck and mire with smiles on their muddy, ruddy faces.  They were somehow closer than they’d been before.  There’d be boyish laughter and manly hugs.  Hope would conquer heartache and new life would spring forth like a good rain.  For everyone.  Except me.

I’d sit there with my head tilted and eyes squinted, looking back and forth at these guys with a strange mixture of confusion and disgust.  How could these men enjoy each other’s company right now?  How could things magically be all good again?  How could anyone be for the better after conflict?

Conflict for me simply created more conflict.  It did not create anything of value.  And I couldn’t imagine a world in which anything was different.  I looked at my friends as inauthentic and insincere.  The thought that conflict had crafted them into something stronger, had chipped away and fashioned a faithfulness and fidelity among them was beyond my thought process.  Like a toddler with times tables, the concept was not only foreign, it seemed utterly useless.  Out of my reach.  Until recently.  Really recently, actually.  Like maybe a week ago recently.  A light bulb finally clicked.  Better late than never…

And that’s where we’ll go tomorrow.

Little Big Words

bobby posting:

To make it in the punditry business, you have to draw lines in the stand and hold your ground.  There’s no middle space in between for moderates.  From sports to politics to religion, people want someone shouting out extremes.  At least some people do, certainly not a “moderate” like myself, though.  Which lets you know that I would never have made it as a pundit.

I find myself thinking these thoughts after reading brave, bold declarations by two great theologians.  A couple of which I’d love to share with you today.

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I remember being struck by Richard J. Foster’s thoughts on prayer in “Celebration of Discipline” the first time I read them years ago.  It was one of those moments that caused me to stop and consider and reconsider and begin the whole considering process all over again.  And again.  Like a dog with a bad itch, I just had to keep searching and scratching and…

Foster writes, “Of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father.”  I immediately wrote in the margins of my copy of the book, “Do I believe this?”  Certainly if you looked at my life, if you studied the hours (or lack thereof) of my prayer time, the answer would come clear to you.  Or maybe not so clear, actually.  Because I really do think that I believe prayer is the most central, it’s just that my desire for “perpetual communion” isn’t exactly regularly focused on centering in on anything close to God.  I am all too selfish, all too regularly.  Which I’ve already written about before, so we’ll keep going.

Foster wrote with clarity and belief a big, bellowing statement.  Not meditation or fasting or study or service or worship…but prayer.  Prayer is the most central.  Maybe it’s middle child syndrome, that whole peace-maker mentality, but I feel like I can sit here and argue for anything at any time.  The ultimate defense lawyer.  My Mother hates this about me.  Most of the time, she just wants to complain about something that sucks in her life.  She doesn’t want me to try to bring clarity and weight to the other side.  She just wants me to agree with her and join her in the muck and mire.  She wants some company.  I wish someone would have explained that to me years ago about women.

So instead of defending any of the other spiritual disciplines, I find myself agreeing with Foster.  Prayer must be the most central.  Not just because he says so, not just because he defiantly throws it out there and leaves no room for argument.  But because prayer is us boldly and bravely communicating with God.  Face to face.  In a way that is contrary to any and every other religion or thought out there.  Relational interaction with the maker of the universe.  Pretty big stuff going on there.

But the point of this post was not intended to be what Foster said, but how he said it.  Which brings me now to Oswald Chambers.

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There have been a few fruitful seasons in my life in which Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest” has played a daily role.  The past month has been one of those times.  We recently gave this book out to our graduating high school Seniors, so I’ve had a copy on my desk for a while.  Today, Oswald’s words cut through like a knife.  The Holy Spirit was alive and prodding.  Through another great declaration.

Chambers begins, “Drudgery is the test of genuine character.”  And then he continues with this nugget, “The greatest hindrance in our spiritual life is that we will only look for big things to do.  Yet, ‘Jesus…took a towel and…began to wash the disciples’ feet…’.”

The most, the greatest…these are large words.  Written with conviction and certainty.  The only thing I’ve ever been certain of in my life with great conviction is my great affinity towards and weakness for dark chocolate.  Sorry wife.  Sorry Jesus.  Crap, that probably should’ve been in a different order.  Oh well, at least you know where my real heart is on a regular basis.

But seriously, Chambers can write with honesty and truth that he knows the greatest hindrance in our spiritual life.  And I can’t sit here and argue.  I tried to play the part of the defense lawyer this morning, but I couldn’t even get there.  Maybe it’s because I really, earnestly believe love and life is in the little things, maybe it’s because I’d been wrestling with putting a VIA post together for a month now but hadn’t felt the BIG inspiration for it, maybe it’s because I was stuck in the drudgery and was ready to get out.  Whatever it was, I appreciated it.  Greatly.

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I can promise you something right here, right now, with all the punch and lack of panache only a pundit can provide, I’ll never be great at dropping loud, piercing, matter-of-fact, earth shattering, declarative bombs.  And while the ones on TV that yap their mouths off louder than a baby crying in church will never actually speak in a volume that I can rightfully hear, I’m grateful for the force and forthright manner in which the Holy Spirit uses certain writers to speak certain truths into my heart.

I can hear them.  And I can respond.  Even if the response is something little.  Like a blog post.