Tag Archives: Beginnings

What I Wish The World Knew About Christians

I was raised in a Christian home, and have grown up involved in Christian churches and ministries. I am intimately familiar with the church, both the good it does and the shortcomings it possesses. Despite my familiarity with the culture of American Christianity, I have always tried to see my life and decisions as they would appear to an outsider looking in. It just so happens that the Christian church today has lots of misconceptions and stereotypes, and I want to talk about them. Here’s five things I wish the world understood about Christians.

1) We Don’t Have All of the Answers

Most often, people will turn to the church in times of trouble. This leads them to ask the hardest questions they will ever face. “Why did _____ have to die?” “Will God heal my mother?” “Why do bad things have to happen?”. These are huge problems that have faced humanity for generations. They call in to question the nature of God, the quality of man, and the course of each persons individual life. Does that sound like the kind of question that will have a succinct answer? These are the kinds of questions that may not ever have a complete answer, and even the most intelligent minds of our generation will continue to wrestle with them. Small wonder people often feel unsatisfied by the answers they receive, once they have troubled to ask. But that’s okay.

Honestly, that’s the way it should be. I only trust in a God I can’t comprehend. While Christians believed that God reveals Himself through the Bible, directly through his appearance on earth, and even through the world He created, that does not translate to a comprehensive knowledge of his ways and thoughts. Thank goodness. Our desire to ask hard questions and to understand our God may be related to our information-age mindset, with answers to everything just a click or two away. If I believe in a thing that I completely comprehend, that “thing” is a really lousy God. If I believe in a God who is all knowing and all powerful, I should expect to be a little bit puzzled every now and then. Being a Christian does NOT mean that you have everything sorted out nicely.

2 ) Christians are People Too

Have you ever been to a church, maybe around Christmas time, and someone there was rude to you? Ever known a Christian that was hypocritical? How about some Christian who lies regularly? Join the club….because that’s everyone. We believe that Christ’s death on the cross has saved us from the punishment of our sins, but that doesn’t preclude us from continuing to sin. Christians are ultimately human, and humans make mistakes. That’s all there is to it. Some people have it in their heads (or get the impression from other Christians) that Christians are “holier than thou”, somehow better people for their faith. I know many Christians that are devout, loving people who live such good lives that I do feel somewhat unworthy, but they are the exception. Truthfully, most Christians struggle with the same issues as the rest of America. The church, at its best, is like a hospital…don’t expect to find a bunch of healthy people there. In fact, if you walk in to a church that actively cares for people in its community, you will find people who fight and struggle against drug addiction, alcoholism, marital troubles, domestic abuse, abusive relationships, and every other vice known to man. Why? Because as people, that’s what we do. Christians and non-Christians alike have the exact same issues.

This applies to Christian ministries as well. When reaching out to others, there are going to be problems. People help others out of the goodness of their hearts and their love for God, but they often offend others out of their own weaknesses and insecurity. Christians have those, too. It doesn’t matter if they are home with their families or volunteering at a shelter for the homeless.

3) We Argue About Retarded Issues

There are so many denominations in the church. How many can you name off the top of your head? Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Christian, Wesleyan…..the list goes on. What are the differences that caused these splits in the church? I have no idea. Why are there six Baptist churches in your town? No clue. All of these denominations of churches, though they might seem to be miles apart in theology, probably agree on 95% or more of their beliefs. Actually, I’ll raise that to 98%. Without diving in to specific comparisons, most of the splits are caused by differences in interpretation of just a few verses or issues. Is baptism required for salvation, or is it an act of devotion? That’s the kind of question that causes a split in churches. Admittedly, all of the different denominations can be a little disorienting.

But wait, it’s worse than that. Churches can split for even more terrible reasons. I know of a church that split because they couldn’t agree on a carpet color for the new worship auditorium they were building. Churches develop factions that follow a specific pastor or worship leader, rather than committing to the church. It’s ridiculous. Why does it happen? See #2 above. Christians are still just people, and people mess up a lot. Leaders in a church are no less immune to the problem than the people they lead. Surely you’ve heard the gossip that goes around when a pastor suddenly quits his job for personal reasons. We think it’s shocking because he was a pastor, but doctors get sick just as often as regular people do.

4) The Bible is Rated “R”

There are lots of misconceptions about the Bible, far more than I could cover in a single post, but I want to point this out for now. The Bible is not  just a rulebook, a series of do’s and don’ts for life. The Bible is not just a book of judgement and damnation. The Bible is also not just a poetic book of prayers and praise. It’s actually a little bit of everything, and you would need an adult or a fake ID to see it’s movie if you were a kid. I could throw out a list of references that would make you blush, or at least double check to make sure you were still reading your Bible. Incest, prostitution, murder, slavery, and explicit sex are all in the Bible. Frequently. I personally have read the Bible cover to cover six times, and done additional reading in it as well. I am still amazed at the things I find in the Bible. I’ve also read big chunks from other religious texts, and still can’t believe what I read in the Bible. If you think the Bible is irrelevant, outdated, or unreliable, I would encourage you to step back and read it, cover to cover. That leads to my final point

5) Christians Have the Best Story

How appropriate that I get to write this a few short weeks from Christmas. I wrote yesterday about stories and how they develop, and I want to look at the beginnings of Christianity as if I were telling you a story. I love beginnings and origins, because I think there is much to be learned by looking at how something came to be. The birth of Christ was prophesied and came to pass. Jesus himself ministered for just three years before being crucified and rising from the dead. Shortly thereafter, he rose into heaven and his apostles founded the Christian church. That’s crazy! A popular preacher has said that for Jesus to have the impact he did, there are only three options. Either He was a Liar, a Lunatic, or Lord. Since he claimed to be God, often and loudly for all to hear, he could have been a fraud, crazy, or telling the truth. A liar would not likely go through the horrific process of crucifixion and death. A lunatic might, but would not have gathered such a following or risen from the dead. He must have been God, the reasoning goes.

While I like that line of thinking, I have another for your consideration. Let’s pretend you wanted to start a religion. If your name is Bob, you want to found Bobism. You would have to go through certain stages in order to get people to believe that your religion was legit, and thus would demonstrate certain signs to history. You would likely need longer than three years. You would need to recruit followers and weaken your enemies (preferably recruiting prominent, skilled, influential people to be your followers). You would need incentives for your followers and recruits, and a way to organize them and grow more powerful. As Bob, you of course, would need to control all of this, so that Bobism stayed pure to your beliefs as Bob.

By this thinking, I begin to see problems with religions that demonstrate these signs as they grew. Islam, for example, spread by the sword. Killing enemies is a good recruiting tool. I am also dubious of religions that establish one man in a position of prominence, power, or comfort. Mohammed did this while establishing Islam, as did Joesph Smith when he received his revelations and founded the Mormon church.

The beginnings of Christianity look nothing like this. A central leader who claims to be God Himself, rather than his prophet or assistant, is killed only three years after beginning his ministry. His followers, who were by no means impressive people with status, don’t run for cover and ask for their old jobs back(actually they do hide for a few days). Instead, even in the face of oppression by the government, they spread themselves all over the known world, many of them jailed repeatedly and killed violently. That’s quite a story. What did the first apostles have to gain by sharing the story of Jesus? What did they see that drove them to jail and torture? That’s what makes the beginnings of Christianity a story worth telling.

Feel free to leave a comment below, or send it directly to my face at sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

Thanks for reading

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The Anatomy of a Story

I  love stories. Ultimately, life is best expressed as a story. As long as people have gathered together, we have related to each other by telling stories. Our stories make us unique and form part of our personality and worldview.

But have you ever tried to create a story? I mean a real story, like a book or movie, even a short story written for a composition class in school. Have you ever created individual characters and let them live out their own little stories inside of your fictional world?

That’s one of the things I have been trying to do lately, specifically hoping to one day finish a novel of my own. I missed out completely on NaNoWriMo, thanks to medical school anatomy during November. I still wrote and brainstormed and thought about my book, even if only a little bit of it got written down.

So how is a story made? In my mind, I want to frame the whole story from beginning to end, then go in and fill in the details as a write. I want to “construct” the story, and then build it methodically. NaNoWriMo gave me a different idea, however. If I had completed NaNoWriMo, my story would be nurtured. I would start writing with a vague outline and ideas, then watch the story grow as I wrote it. To stick with the growth analogy, the story could then be trimmed and revised after it was fully grown in order to reach its final shape.

However it’s written, I have gained a lot of respect for great storytellers over the last few months as I labor on my silly little book. It took Tolkien something like two decades to finish The Lord of the Rings and have it completely published, but in that time he created a complete universe (including languages and cultures for multiple races) and set his story in his world. I have always enjoyed reading Tom Clancy’s thrillers, which were well known for being meticulously researched and technical, which made the stories more believable and enjoyable. I am slowly reading my way through the Game of Thrones books right now, and I can’t imagine how long it would take to create a sound plot that involves a huge cast of characters and multiple kingdoms (even though his main plot twist is to kill main characters every other chapter).

We each get to write our own story for our life, as well. I had a unique opportunity when I moved halfway across the country in the middle of high school. Because I had gone to school with the same people since kindergarten, I feel like I had acquired enough “labels” in my early high school years. You know how high school students can be. Halfway through high school I moved 1500 miles away and started at a completely different school. It was during that summer I realized that I could be whoever I wanted to be, as no one in this new city knew me at all. While I could have been anybody, I did some growing and maturing and just became myself (which is an entirely different story).

This brings me to my last point about stories, specifically our own stories about our pasts. I’m not convinced it’s the contents of our stories that matter, but the way we see and interpret them. I had a psychology professor tell me once that after every disaster, there are victims and there are survivors. After a hurricane (I’m pretty sure it was a hurricane), some people will have their lives shattered and never be the same. Others treat it like a setback and press on. I’m not sure what her point was after that, but I’m using that story to illustrate my point. There are people who are products of their environment, and there are people who overcome their circumstances and rise to greatness. I think the difference is in the way they told the story of their life.

Thanks for reading.

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Decision Time (Eventually)

I have thoroughly enjoyed this last weekend. My wife is here full time now, sort of, and after taking the exam on Friday there wasn’t much to study over the weekend. We did tackle a disgusting project, however. My office/study area had blue wallpaper that was poorly applied, and so it was peeling all over the place. We peeled it off, only to find more wallpaper underneath. And so we kept scraping and peeling wallpaper, and kept finding more disgusting layers underneath. The last layer was an especially ugly floral print that was probably put up when the house was built 60 years ago. Here’s a picture to demonstrate some of the ridiculous patterns we discovered.

Photo: Five layers and six decades of style later, we have finally reached the last layer of wallpaper.

Over the weekend and during the aforementioned wallpaper scraping, I was giving some thought to the future. Who will win in the first week of the NFL? When, as my sister asked me, will my wife and I go back home to visit? Have I forgotten to do anything before class next week? When can I eat at Chick-fil-a again? (Monday, actually. They are giving away free breakfast all week next week. True story)

One of the more serious things I have been thinking about is choosing a specialty. Asking someone’s potential specialty in medical school is like asking about someone’s major in college. It’s an easy question to ask because it’s a task we share in common. Also, while everyone thinks they know what they want to do as a freshman, most people inevitably change their minds, sometimes several times. Also, we don’t exactly get to pick and choose due to Step 1 and the match. Regardless, it’s something that’s been on my mind. I have jokingly seen this graphic several places now:

And so I am writing this initial post as a baseline. I want to look back in four years, as I start residency (that should frighten you, knowing that I will treat actual patients and prescribe things in just four years). I want to be able to look back at my past self, read what I thought my plans were, and then laugh at my past self. For tagging purposes and organization, I have invented a scoring system for each specialty, which I shall call the HLAITDTFTROMLH score (How Likely Am I To Do This For The Rest Of My Life?) The scale is either 1-10, with 1 being never ever, and 10 being pretty sure. Ready? Here we go.

Radiology: 1ish. Despite being afraid of the dark (see chart above), I can be reasonably certain that I would go insane as a radiologist. My reasons for getting into medicine had a lot to do with patients and not so much to do with imaging. While the hours, pay, and lifestyle seem fairly nice, I would probably slowly trade in my sanity until someone invents a robot to read images and I get fired.

Pathology: 1ish. I draw on four years of bouncing my legs and tapping my toes, impatiently waiting to get out of ______ lab during undergrad for this rating. I do not enjoy bench work, and probably never will. This specialty is so unappealing to me I almost forgot to include it on the list.

Pediatrics: 2ish. While I can’t rule this out completely, it’s not high on the list right now. It’s not that I don’t dislike kids (SO many negatives in that sentence), it’s the parents I couldn’t handle. Just kidding!! Anyways, I have a very hard time seeing myself in any pediatrics field, even when I try really hard to imagine myself wearing a bow tie (just kidding again…sort of)

Internal Medicine/ General Surgery: 3ish. This is more of a practical decision. I would go do IM if I decided to go into primary care. I would not do general surgery, simply because it seems terrible in every way. Realistically, I think I have a good enough chance at getting into a sub-specialty, which is more appealing in many ways that IM/Surg. We’ll see.

Emergency Medicine: 5-6 or so. I trained as an EMT during undergrad, spending significant time on the ambulance and in the ER, and it was definitely a rush. I see definite benefits in shift work, pay, and salary (lifestyle stuff, I suppose), but there are serious downsides in the high burnout rate, night shift work, and no real patient follow up.

Sports Medicine 6.5. I have attended two sports medicine meetings so far, and have found them very helpful. I would enjoy working with high school/college athletes, professionals, and weekend warriors. There are lots of opportunities for operative/non-operative practices, as well as academic/private practices. Very interesting.

Ortho/Surgical Subspecialty: 8. This is a broad field, but there are tons of options here. The idea of surgical care is appealing to me because it gives me the chance to fix a tangible problem. I’m a problem solver by nature, and the idea of direct intervention is VERY appealing to me. I like the idea of “fixing” something. One downside I see to IM is treating patients with chronic conditions, adjusting medications, etc.

Orthopedics is high on the list due to a doctor I shadowed during undergrad. He worked hard, but had fun and had a better lifestyle than other surgeons I shadowed. This would also give me the ability to treat some of that athlete/adolescent population from sports med (as well as geriatrics). This is a specialty that seems worth a 5-6 year residency.

There are some other fields I will be learning more about in the coming weeks. For example, I became interested in plastic surgery after reading a book about Harold Gillies, one of the pioneers of plastic surgery. Oncology is a double edged sword. On one hand, if I went in to oncology I would likely be part of a revolution in cancer treatment and care. On the other hand, it would be a difficult field, and one where my patients would frequently lose their battles against cancer.

That’s where I am at right now. The decision will partially make itself. At the end of my second year, I will take Step 1. If my score isn’t high enough, I can go ahead and rule out the really competitive specialties. Should I match into ortho, for example, I will probably find some niche that I particularly enjoy and pursue that. I can’t know that now. For the next two years my best course of action is to get good grades on my tests and go to free lunches to learn as much as I can, so that when the time comes to make a decision I’m not limited by poor scores or by a lack of knowledge about my options. Plus….free lunch 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Ignorance is Bliss

As I sit at my desk on this last final beautiful day before med school really gets started, I think it appropriate to make a list of all the things that make me excited or nervous going in to my first full day of lecture. This could very well be my last day of freedom, as one of the MS2’s mentioned in an email to the class today, so I intend to enjoy every last second of it.

– I am excited that I have made so many friends already. Through the last few days of orientation I have met lots of guys that I like and whom (who? whom? I don’t know) I believe will make great friends through school. It’s easy to overlook how much better my day seems knowing that I have people to sit with through lecture and during lunch break, instead of wandering around by myself all day.

-I am excited to begin with material that is somewhat familiar to me. After reworking the curriculum, all MS1’s now begin their first year with Cell Biology and Metabolism. Since I majored in this for four years, I ought to know a thing or two about it. At least that’s the plan, I’ll get back with you in a few weeks and let you know how that went.

-I’m nervous about the volume of material. I think everyone is nervous about this as well, but I’m more nervous about not knowing what is expected. Hand me a big thick book of stuff to learn, and I won’t be as nervous, just because I know what is expected.

– I’m excited to know that I belong in this group of people. There has been some discreet MCAT and GPA sharing among certain people, and I am happy to say that my “stats”, as they are, place me squarely in the middle of pack of people I have talked to about such things. As one of the Deans mentioned last week, “Half of you will fall below the median on the first exam. For most of you, this will be the first time in your life that has happened. Most of you grew up as the smartest kid in your classroom, and that will change here.” I figure that if, in a room of smarties, I fall right about at the average, that’s probably all right. If I beat the average on the first exam, I’m getting lunch at Chick-fil-a that day. (any excuse for CFA)

– I’m excited to learn. I’ve always been kind of a dork, in that I enjoy learning things just for the sake of learning them, and so I have always been excited for each school year to start. This year, however, there are no grades. We either pass or fail. The emphasis now seems set on learning the material together, so hopefully we won’t have as many gunners and tools in the class as some friends of mine report having at their medical schools on a graded curriculum.

-In general, this feels pretty similar to the day before the Ironman. In both instances, I had a huge challenge sitting before me, and all I wanted to do was start. Before the Ironman, I had spent so much time being nervous that I just wanted to start checking things off of my list. Swim? Check. First lap of the bike? Check. In the same way, I have a lot of medical school in front of me. I’m ready to start checking things off that list, so long as I don’t disregard the journey for the destination. One of my least favorite quotes is “Wherever you’re going, that’s where you are” (most typically seen on advertisements and such). If you are going someplace, you are, by definition, not there yet. Be present wherever you are, and you’ll enjoy your destination more when you arrive.

Also before the Ironman I had a hefty dose of ignorance regarding all of the pain I was about to experience, and that ignorance (also the fact that I paid a lot of money to be there) was the reason I waded into the water in the first place. (This analogy kind of falls apart here, because even now that I know exactly how hard an Ironman is, I still fully intend to do another one. Triathletes don’t make any sense…I know). And so I have no clue how many hours of studying and lecture lay ahead (about, 8,250 according to the Deans), or how many exams there will be (45 in two years) or the difficulty of the exams, or any of the stressful things to come, but I’m excited to get started, and I know the journey is going to be worth it. That’s why I’m excited to dive in.

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