Defining Moments of Leadership

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We began our evening discussing what we might mean by a person’s ‘defining moment’ in their life. We came up with a time in which we experienced an event that in some way altered the path we were on and resulted in affecting our life’s path from there on. We then shared what we perceived were the defining moments of our lives. Events that are often mentioned are meeting or marrying our spouse, experiencing the birth of our children, or some event that determined our career path and certainly when we accepted the Lord as our savior. Whatever that event was it often leads us to a position of leadership in one realm or another – whether that be as a leader in a family unit, being called into a ministry that we did not expect to serve in, a leadership role in some organization or in a group at work. As Physicians we almost can not help but be placed in some role of leadership in our lives. We then discussed in what ways and in what roles we have been placed in leadership.

This then lead into our scripture for the evening as we looked at an instance of leadership being thrust upon a character of the Old Testament and what we can learn from how the Lord guided him. We then read Joshua 1:1-9. In this passage we see that Moses has died and Joshua is appointed by the Lord to assume the mantel of leader over the Israelites as they are about to cross over the River Jordon into the promised land. We discussed the difficulties he might face as the new leader, chief among these are how to gain the trust of the entire nation and how to deal with the opposing armies that occupy the promised land. We then looked at the primary guidance the Lord gave him – that he be strong and courageous. We then discussed how it was important in our roles as leaders to also be strong and courageous. It was mentioned that to lead a family we often must be willing to be courageous in saying and guiding our families. At work it is important to be willing to take on the difficult clinical situations that some patients present with.

We then concentrated on the Vs 7-8 in which God emphasizes the main guidance to success as a leader – that being the importance of continuing to obey God’s law through his leadership. We talked about instances in which we sometimes felt challenged to lead within the context of God’s law. We mentioned instances in which we sometimes are tempted to “bend the rules” as it might make things easier.

Lastly we spoke again about VS 9 and the third time in this passage the Lord encourages Joshua to be strong and courageous. We then discussed what types of things we are presently facing in our lives that we need to heed the Lord’s guidance and maintain a strong and courageous posture.

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Miraculous Healings: Do They Still Occur?

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Each month when we gather together we exchange prayer needs and often these involve someone dear to us who is unwell and we desire to lift them up in prayer. In addition, just about every week we each get requests from friends and family to pray for a health situation. We began our evening raising the question, why do we do this? What is our expectations? It was discussed that as physicians we are men and women of science. We are clearly reared in the need to seek out the best treatments for our patients based on scientific evidence. We expect that the medicines we give and the procedures we do lead to a patient healing. So it may be more difficult for people in our profession to believe in or expect a miraculous healing. Some were willing to express real skepticism about healings. Some of the members of the group shared that when asked to pray in these situations they pray more for spiritual and emotional healing and that God will use the sickness for a greater good rather than to pray or expect a real physical healing. One member of the group has real difficulty praying for healing in that he is so aware of so many people with so many more terrible sufferings and situations that he often wonders why God would take his comparatively minuscule problem and heal it. It was voiced that the reason God would intervene in even small problems is that God Loves Each of Us that much. He is not bound by time or place and can intervene in all things that is in his will to do so. Others in the group expressed real belief in supernatural healings but admit that they are very rare. It was also brought up that spiritual or emotional healing is as big a miracle as physical healing. Stories were shared how patients or their family member came to faith in Jesus through the experience of a loved one’s illness. The question remains, if we all believe God can heal us spiritually and emotionally, is there really that much more faith involved in receiving a physical healing?

We all agreed that God heals patients from our illnesses using the wisdom and gifts that have been bestowed on us as physicians. In that way we are doing his work that we have been called to do. But there is still this element of rare healings that do not seem to be explainable by our present science. We then read James 5:13-16 in which James instructs those who are sick to call the elders of the church so that they can pray for him and thereby be healed. This, of course, was written in the first century when there basically was no proven remedies for illnesses. Clearly the expectation of James is that this prayer would cure the sick individual. Why else would he tell them to do it? This brought up the fact that more miraculous healings are reported in third world counties where the access to medical care is much less. Perhaps our tendency to rely on our won abilities and knowledge in some ways lessens the instances of healing in our society. We then discussed the characteristics of a miraculous healing and the things that were mentioned were: 1) They are rare. 2) They are connected to faith but not necessarily the level of faith of the healed one but rather the faith of those who pray for them. 3) Some action – primarily praying is needed. It was pointed out that even when Jesus healed during his ministry he did something to elicit the healing, whether that was praying, putting mud on the blind man’s eyes or touching the cripple. We are clearly called to pray for one another in these situations. 4) They are healed by the Spirit of God and not by the person who is praying for them.

We then shared whether we had ever witnessed or had a patient who had a miraculous healing. In our groups there were just three that were shared. One of a woman with two shoulder joints that were going to need surgery but was prayed for and was completely healed. One of a teenager with a broken wrist that would not heal and was facing surgery but was prayed for and at the next visit to the orthopedist not only was the bone healed but the MRI showed no evidence of the previous fracture at all. Lastly, there was a young man who had been declared brain dead by his neurologist but his mother refused to stop his life support. He was transferred to a long term facility and shortly thereafter he woke up and was restored to full function. We then briefly discussed how we might react if a patient of ours came to us and claimed they had been healed of their affliction. It was generally agreed we would be open to believing that but would want to verify it with our worldly tests and scans.

The final portion of our discussion concerned that if God can do these healings why doesn’t He do them more often and for everyone. We read 2Cor 12:7-10 in which Paul relates that he had a “thorn in his flesh” that he had prayed repeatedly to be healed of but was not. We can say from this that its not just the degree of faith a person has that determines whether they will be healed. Who had more faith in Jesus than Paul? It was stated that all things are in keeping with God’s plan for us. We are not meant to live forever, we are meant to die and join Christ in the heavenly realms. Also, the suffering and pain we endure are ways in which we are forced to rely more heavily on God. As Paul says in Vs 9&10 God’s grace is sufficient for him and therefore he can rejoice in his weakness for when he is weak, then he is strong (through Christ).

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Competitiveness in Medicine, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Competitiveness seems to be a part of human nature. We started the evening’s study by telling a story about one of my granddaughters. We were on a family vacation at the seashore last month and had a wonderful time. The evening before we left I found my granddaughter busily writing out on paper plates elaborate awards for each member of the family. Everything from who gathered the most seashells to who made the best sandcastle to who jumped the most waves. It struck me that even at her young age she wanted to point out who had done the best in every category she could think of. This made me think about competitiveness and how it is hard wired into each of us. Read More

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Which Road Are We On?

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We are concluding our study of the passages of the Sermon on the Mount with a discussion Matthew 7:13-27. We started out with a discussion as to what most people base their security on. The answers are fairly obvious – money, family, their job, their power, themselves. The problem with all of those is that they are all limited and if those worldly things fall away for whatever oadeason their life will come crashing down on them. Read More

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Judging Others in Medicine

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Tonight we used a passage from Matthew chapter 7 to continue our discussion on topics from the Sermon on the Mount. We started by asking how often do the members of the group find themselves judging other people. Most of the participates agreed that this is something that we find ourselves doing daily in some form or other. We talked about what type of judgements are we making. As physicians we are often called on to make judgements as we diagnose and put people into certain categories that may make then more susceptible to certain illnesses and this is simply part of our jobs. Read More

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Worrying – What, Why and How to stop

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This evening we continued our discussions based on the lessons from the Sermon on the Mount. We started by asking each member of the group to write out five things that they worry about. Most of the worries expressed involved concerns about our families, their health and well being. Some expressed concerns about particular aspects of their jobs as physicians. I was personally surprised that not many voiced worries about their patients and the care we are rendering them. I for one find this a particularly heavy burden and worry frequently. Though many people in our society often worry about their financial well being, we, as physicians of comfortable means for the most part, did not raise that as a particular issue. Read More

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Trying to be Perfect

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We began by discussion on how performance driven we each are. There was a consensus that as physicians this drive is sort of hard wired into just about all of us. It starts with the performance demands on us that we feel must be met to achieve acceptance to medical school, ramp up during residency where every failing can mean a black mark on your chances of success and continue on through our practice of medicine. In Matt 5:48 Jesus tells us to “be perfect”!!! Like that’s what we need – more pressure to achieve. This evening we talked about what Jesus meant by this and how that true meaning can affect our practice of medicine. Read More

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Being Salt and Light in Medicine

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Tonight we start a five month study of the Sermon on the Mount and its implications for our lives and our practice of medicine. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) Jesus teaches a ton about the Kingdom of God and how God intended us to live in it. Jesus makes three over-riding points about the kingdom that we will emphasize throughout this study:

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Dealing with Clinical Errors in Practice

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We have all made some mistakes in caring for patients. We started our evening by speaking in general terms about what type of errors we have made along the way in our careers.  Some of these are rather simple mistakes in choosing a medication or not knowing a drug interaction. Some are errors of clinical judgment that we only come to realize when the patient suffers a complication.  In reality there are innumerable ways each of us can and have screwed up over the years.  We then discussed in general terms the root causes of errors that can be made. These can include lack of knowledge, technical expertise, inattentiveness, and judgment.  Rarely, we see medical mistakes made due to willful neglect.

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Opioid Addiction and The Practice of Medicine

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We began our discussion by reading the opening versus of Psalm 88. This is a psalm in which the afflicted cry out to the Lord. We discussed what emotions verses 1-8 relate. Words like despair, hopelessness and anguish were used. We discussed personnel instances in which we have experienced such emotions. It was then suggested that these type of emotions can often be those of someone trapped in opioid addiction.

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