Wrench in the Plans – Big announcement!

Since one year has passed since the book was published, I decided to read through the book again to see what my impression would be a little more removed from the initial writing.  Thankfully I still stand by what I have written.

Actually I was pleasantly surprised. Not to be prideful, but the book is pretty good! I’m surprised I wrote some of that, thank you Holy Spirit. Not that I thought what I wrote was trash before, but it’s hard not to be insecure about something that is out there for the world to read (albeit the size of that world that has actually read it is pretty small).

I came across this quote and I had to chuckle a bit.

“I am not sure what the future will look like, especially if little Jacks and Priscillas come into the picture. At the rate I’m taking classes, it will take me six years to finish this two-year seminary MA program. Maybe I’ll only be able to take one or two years of classes and have to call it quits. Perhaps I’ll love it so much I’ll take ten years and get the full Master of Divinity degree. Maybe God will grow our church and I’ll end up in full-time ministry. Or maybe the ministry will fizzle out and I’ll focus mostly on patient care, who knows. I’m not very used to living with such uncertainty, but there has been such an intimacy with God that I haven’t experienced in a long while” (Pg 14).

Well, it’s been about two years since I first wrote that, and the uncertainty continues! I just started the third year of my six year plan at seminary, but looks like a little wrench has been thrown into my plans. A cute one I’m sure and hopefully she looks more like Priscilla than me. Introducing the next big uncertainty!

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photo and design by Tanya Liu. Thanks!

If you pray, please keep us in your prayers! And if you have any good tips on raising girls, send those my way too.

My Baby is 1 Year Old!

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Ok not a real baby, but it’s been 1 year since the book release! Gosh they grow up so fast.

It really has been an incredible year. I’m so thankful to God for the people who encouraged me to write the book, and those that have encouraged me since its publishing. I’m still insecure about my writing so I am grateful for the affirmation.

I want to do a special shout-out to Dr. Dina Brent, a pediatrician who works for the Los Angeles Christian Health Centers. Next to my dad, she has purchased the most books and has been my biggest promoter even though we have never met! It was great to finally meet you and your husband recently. Thank you so much for your support! By the way, if any of you are interested in underserved care in a Christian context, LACHC has great shadowing opportunities.

My prayer for this book is that it can just be helpful for those on the medical path. Please pray that God can continue to use this the way He wants, and that I can still be open and willing to go through doors that He opens, even if the path isn’t what I envisioned.

Thanks again to all who have bought a book. Please continue to share the word to others you think might benefit. Check out the Facebook page for a chance to win a free book for a friend!

Speaking of babies, stayed tuned for some updates…

 

 

Beat my Swing Coptors score?

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Ok it’s not that high but I am pretty darn proud of it. It took many bathroom sessions to accomplish this.

Sorry I haven’t posted for quite a while. It is kind of sad that the first post on return is about an app game, but I think I just need something to get the creative juices flowing again.

From the maker of Flappy Birds comes another instrument of torture, Swing Coptors! I must say that this is quite the infuriating game. I haven’t gotten this worked up over losing since Mario Kart and Street Fighter 2 Turbo on the SNES. I usually don’t get into these app crazes, but this game is strangely addictive.

If you haven’t played, you control this little guy wearing a beanie coptor hat, and with each tap he switches directions. It sounds and looks easy, but it gets tricky because the further he goes in one direction, his momemtum makes it harder to get him to straighten out. Those swinging hammer things don’t help either. The game was so hard that an update was created to make it easier.

Given how much time I have already wasted on this game, I should try to redeem that by drawing out some spiritual insights. The most frustrating part of the game is trying to get the guy to go the direction you want. Once he gets going towards one direction, if you are too slow, then it’s almost impossible to get him to switch back without crashing into the wall.

Trying to fly this guy through these little openings brought to my mind Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:13: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

This verse is a reminder that the Christian walk isn’t easy, that yes salvation is found through faith and grace alone, but after one enters into faith, there’s a lifestyle of godliness that accompanies genuine faith that we are to grow into as the Holy Spirit gradually sanctifies us.

Even with a regenerate heart, our sinful tendencies still pull us to one side and the other, and to make things worse, Satan throws in those swinging hammers from time to time to knock us down. But praise be to God that we don’t have to do life on our own power, that there is the Holy Spirit that lives in us to call us back to the straight and narrow.

Just as it got easier to control the little guy the more I played, the more we practice walking in step with the Spirit, the easier it will be to turn quickly from sin and remain on the right path. And for those who stray and get knocked down, my prayer is that you (and me) will get back up and start again, each and every time.

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whateveryou want… Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:16-25

By the way, I think the maker got the idea for this game from me. I’ve been drawing “Beanie Man” since Junior High.

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Happy Father’s Day!

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I’m really glad to be able celebrate this Father’s Day with my dad in Hawaii on family vacation. He’s been wanting the whole family to visit Hawaii again because the last time we were here, it was right before my dad started his post-doc program at Harbor-UCLA two-plus decades ago. He brought all of us there to vacation there before he left for California.

While in Hawaii, we actually made a last-minute decision for me to go with him while my mom and brother went back to Taiwan. That would start the process of us eventually moving to America. How different life could have been had that never happened.

It’s amazing what my dad has accomplished since that first Hawaii trip. He completed his post-doc, and because of his notable work, he secured green cards for all of us to move to America. To practice medicine here, he would have to re-do a lot of his training, so he made the sacrifice of moving back to Taiwan to work so that my brother and I could grow up here.

Because of his perseverance and hard-work, we moved from apartment to condo, and eventually to our own home. My brother and I had everything we needed (and even what we didn’t need), and had all the opportunities to pursue our academic and personal goals.

Dad, even though you are not a believer, you have had the most influence in shaping my understanding of God. One of the first verses that spoke deeply to me was 1 John 3:1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” Because of your sacrifice all these years, putting our well-being above your own, I connected to that, having had a tangible example of that kind of self-less love.

Dad, thank you. I love you.

 

Revival

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Our church started Exodus, a mentorship program, years ago where we would take some of the youth on a camping/backpacking trip. The program consisted of an overnight backpacking hike and a shorter day hike, with a sharing at night from the Word followed by some one-on-one time with each youth paired with a leader. We just got back from I think the fourth trip, this time spending four nights at Yosemite national park.

This actually was my first trip since I was busy with either medical school or residency. What an amazing time we had these past couple of days. We went on the backpacking trip first, making our way up to the top of Yosemite Falls. The hike was only about 3.5 mi one way, but it utterly destroyed my quads. We basically climbed stairs for about 5 hours carrying 40 lb packs.

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We spent the night there and explored the river feeding the falls the next day before hiking back down. Going down was easier, but again quads-destroying going down those steps. We made it in about three hours.

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For our day hike, we made our way to Vernal Falls. The original plan was to continue on to the next waterfall, but we cut short the hike since most of us were out of commission. I was pretty happy about that.

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I prayed for this trip that God would work tangibly in our group and that we would come away with an unmistakable experience of His presence. I wanted to see revival happen in our church, starting with these guys and in myself. God certainly answered.

When we think revival, the picture we conjure up often is fire coming down from heaven Acts 2 style and miracles starting to be performed. That didn’t happen, but there were some close fire encounters back at camp with the lighter fluid…

I read something by Tim Keller recently that I really liked. He writes that revival is not necessarily seeing crazy miracles, but “is an intensification of the normal operations of the Spirit (conviction of sin, regeneration, sanctification, assurance of grace) through the ordinary means of grace (preaching the Word, prayer, and the sacraments)” (Center Church, loc 1253). Through the conversations on the hike, interacting with the messages shared, and one-on-one times, we saw hearts soften, sins confessed, relational issues confronted, and a deepening dependence on what Christ has done for us.

For myself, the Spirit convicted me again of my pride (and of course that would be the case since the topic I shared on was pride), from my silly pride in my thighs to again bringing to mind my strong tendency to depend on myself. Being in such close fellowship with the brothers made me realize again how independently I was living in all aspects of my life.

As a church leader I think the temptation is to always be in serving mode and it is difficult to open yourself up to be ministered to. There is a pressure to live a certain way, to have an image that I have everything figured out spiritually, and to have to keep that up is not just exhausting, but so stifling to my spiritual growth and what I can offer to others. We see this kind of dynamic in medicine as well, with doctors always having to do the caring while neglecting their self-care.

One brother made the comment that if he had to do the hike up to Yosemite Falls by himself wearing the pack, he wouldn’t have made it. I have to agree; I was already having second thoughts after the third switch-back five minutes in. We need one another, but it is so easy to isolate ourselves because of either shame or condescension, thinking ourselves better. The cross takes care of both of those, reminding us that we are all sinners on equal standing before God, but that in Christ we can be fully accepted through forgiveness of sins.

To all the guys that made it to the trip, I’m so thankful for the experiences shared. I pray that God would continue what He started, and that we will continue to grow as a church in dependence on God, and interdependence on one another.

Check out my Facebook page for more pictures! And if you are bored, there’s a silly game for a chance to win this!

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The Hardest Thing About Medicine

     If you ever wonder about a patient’s prognosis, you can make use of the “Niceness” test. Is your patient a really sweet lady with a breast lump who has young kids and volunteers in her free time? It probably is a malignant cancer. Is your patient a selfish jerk who has made poor decisions resulting in a decline of his health? He’ll probably be fine for awhile. It seems like more often than not, the nicer your patient is, the poorer his or her outcome will be.
     Obviously I’m being facetious, but there’s an element of truth in that jest that hits a little too close to home. You don’t have to go to medical school to be hit with the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” You’ll just get it a lot during your training. Sure residency is physically challenging with the ungodly work hours, but I actually think the hardest thing about being a doctor is the emotional toll of seeing suffering firsthand day after day.
     And if you believe in God, nothing shakes your faith more than struggling personally with suffering. Sadly, many have walked away from their faith because they are not able to reconcile the idea of a loving God with the existence of evil. It’s hard to tell someone that God loves them when they just found out they had cancer, or when their loved one passed away. But God does love us, and His existence actually gives meaning to suffering. If God doesn’t exist, the reality is that suffering still does, and hardships that come would then just be a matter of bad luck. [1]
     I don’t know why some people get better, but some people die from their illness. I don’t know why kids are born with disabilities, or why some don’t make it at all. But I do know that if God did not exist, that all the suffering I see from day to day is the result of random chance, then I wouldn’t want to be a doctor.
     The promise of the resurrection is that there is more to this life than random chance and bad luck. There is a God who is sovereign over all evil and even uses it ultimately for the good of those who love Him. There is a God who entered into our suffering in order to restore our relationship with Him so that one day we can enjoy life as it was intended, without tears, pain, shame, sin, and death. Happy Easter everyone!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5


[1] For a great treatment of the problem of evil, see this article by Stand to Reason.

 

Why God is Not Against Vaccines

I’ve been seeing a lot of news about vaccines lately in the social media headlines so I figured I would throw in my however much these thoughts are worth. A frustrating situation is when patients refuse medical treatment because they believe in God. But wait, I believe in God too, and I don’t remember the Bible ever saying we shouldn’t use medicine. The reasoning, I think, goes something like this: God is the all-powerful healer who holds our lives in His hands, and so if it’s His will that I get sick, then I’ll just get sick because if it’s His will to heal me, He can, and He will if I have enough faith in Him (and if I take medications, this would mean I don’t have enough faith).

While I do agree that God is the all-powerful healer who hold our lives in His hands who allows sickness in this world as a result of sin, and that if He wanted to, He could miraculously heal anyone of any disease, I do believe that medicine and faith are not mutually exclusive. God can do miracles, but usually God works through natural processes and the creative abilities and intellect that He has given to human beings, His image bearers. Those who would trust exclusively on God for medical needs probably would have no problem going down to the local store to buy food, or the mall to buy clothes. Even though God is fully capable of supernaturally providing food and clothing (manna for the Israelites and coverings for Adam and Even), He has chosen to meet those needs through people who He has given the knowledge and ability to harvest food and make clothing.

In the same way, God has given people the capacity to understand the workings of the human body, and the ability to do research to come up with ways in which to combat sickness. Yes, Jesus came and healed a lot of people of disease. But there were tons more who were not healed, because healing wasn’t the main purpose of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus came not to simply relieve physical suffering, but to usher in the kingdom of God. Jesus’ miraculous healings not only authenticated His claims to be the Messiah sent by God, but also pointed to the future reality of God’s kingdom that is without sickness, sin, or death. And so medicine is a means in which to bring creation back closer to how it was intended before sin entered the world.

In the Bible you don’t read anywhere a prohibition to use medicine. Paul even tells his fellow laborer in Christ Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23), and not just pray for healing. The Gospel writer Luke, a traveling companion of Paul, was a doctor, and we don’t see Paul telling Luke to quit his job. Are there misuses of medicine? Of course, as there are misuses of everything else that is good because we live in a world of sin. We certainly can trust in what our hands can provide rather than God, but that can happen not just with healing, but with anything else (e.g., provision of food and future security). It’s a daily discipline to come before God in dependence even as we are active in using our gifts that God has given us for our provision.

All this is to say, the development of vaccines is an example of the grace of God given to us to combat the corruption of the natural order due to sin. Vaccines and antibiotics are probably two of the greatest medical discoveries in terms of lives saved and illness prevented. Are there side effects to vaccines? Sure. Is autism one of them? I can’t imagine the fear a parent would have hearing about the reports of children manifesting autism after routine vaccinations. I want to acknowledge those fears, but the vast bulk of scientific evidence would say no. 

Christ came to deal with sin in this world. And that means not just taking away the penalty of our sins against God by dying on the cross, but also ushering in a kingdom (that will come in full when He returns) that is how things were intended to be: no more tears, no more sickness, and no more death. In the meantime, let us use everything that God has given us to stay healthy so that we are best equipped to carry out the kingdom work.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He willdwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5

 

Match Day!

The results of the match, the process in which medical students get hooked up with a residency program for the next x number of years, came out today. My congratulations go out to you all, whether or not you got into the top residency of your choice. And regardless of whether or not you matched your dream residency, or had to scramble, or even didn’t match this time around, surviving medical school is no minor accomplishment.

I never really understood how the match worked. This article was pretty helpful, and pretty amazing that the guys who came up with it won the Nobel Prize. I’m sure the algorithm is super sophisticated, but from our standpoint, it seems like we rank the top choices, the residency programs do like-wise, and we just sit back and wait…and pray… that we get matched into one of the programs we ranked. The hardest part of it I think is just how out of our hands this part of the process is. We can do all that we can to buff up our resume and maximize our chances, but still results can turn out that don’t quite make sense.

As Christians, it’s a great time to remember that while we may not be in control, God certainly is. Somehow God’s sovereignty is still at work despite what we do (and don’t do), and His hand is still over not just our successes, but our setbacks (at least setbacks from our perspective) as well. Reading through the book of Acts recently, I saw how God used even the not so good things to further His kingdom. Jesus in Acts 1:8 commissioned His disciples to bring the Gospel to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the world. They did a great job bringing it to Judea, with thousands of people being added to the church.

Then the persecution came, Christians were jailed, beaten, and even put to death. Why would God allow such badness to happen? Well, as a result the believers were scattered throughout the Roman Empire, fortunately bringing the Gospel with them. Perhaps the disciples would have been perfectly happy worshipping and fellowshipping in Jerusalem, and so God allowed the persecution to prompt them along.

Some of you are undoubtedly excited right now, praise the Lord! Others, though, not too excited about where they ended up. While it’s absolutely fine to be disappointed, the encouragement is to praise the Lord also. Perhaps God has prepared a good work for you to do that you may not have chosen on your own. Whatever happens, we know that we have a good God who gives good gifts to His children. While sometimes those gifts don’t come in the way we would like, we can trust that God will take care of those who call on His name.

So again, a hearty congrats to all. Enjoy your last break before residency!

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Sushi and Service: Combating the Monday Work Blues

A bunch of us had some fun over this weekend playing sushi chef. The result?

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For those who haven’t seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, it’s a great documentary about Jiro, a sushi chef who has dedicated his life to his craft. Even if you aren’t interested in sushi, it’s a worthwhile watch and has a lot of lessons on dedication, handwork, and the pursuit of excellence. At one point Jiro says, “Once you decide on your occupation… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success.”

I think many of us are envious of someone who is able to view his or her job in that way. Oftentimes, even if we are in fields that we enjoy, work can become tedious and mundane. I just read a great book, Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller, about how sin has affected not just our view of work, but our experience of work as well. As God’s image bearers, we are created for purpose, to do work that matters, but sin has brought frustration both in the results of work, and also our motivations to work. Instead of working to fulfill our role to image God throughout creation, we are tempted to find our significance in our accomplishments, making work another idol that replaces God in our lives.

I’ll probably write another post about the book when I have processed it more, but for now, I was just encouraged to remember that yes we should strive for excellence in our work, but not simply as an end goal. We strive for excellence because of the God that we do our work for. As one retreat speaker used to say, we should pursue excellence for His Excellency. This goes out to all who are feeling the Monday work blues.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24