Breast Engorgement and the Love of God

It’s a little weird writing about breasts in a Christian-themed blog, but I am a doctor so I can get away with it. Plus you can’t see me giggle and blush.

Throughout pregnancy, a woman’s breast can increase 1-2 cup sizes as the tissue changes in anticipation for milk production and breastfeeding. It’s quite remarkable really what the body is capable of to care for the new life on the way. Sometimes though, if breastfeeding does not go well, they can become painfully engorged.

While my breast tissue has remained the same (thank goodness), I feel like my heart has undergone an engorgement of sorts. I’m not talking about a cardiomyopathy of pregnancy (which could happen to moms), but it seems like in emotional capacity, and even ability, my heart has grown. It’s a change both in quantity and quality.

Quantitatively, there has been just a huge surge of emotions, especially after the delivery, but even in the months leading to the big day. A couple weeks ago I was reading a children’s book to Priscilla’s belly, and right in the middle I started to cry. And not a burning-behind-my-eyes manly cry, but tears actually broke free, sliding ever so tenderly down my cheeks. Where in the world did that come from? I can’t even remember the last time I had real tears. Just looking at Ansley doing nothing but sleep, I am sometimes overwhelmed by how much I love this little thing.

And this love is different. Qualitatively, it’s a different form– a purer form — of love than I have experienced. The love I have for my parents and for Priscilla comes close, but even that love has been influenced by their actions towards me. Of course I love my wife, but I didn’t love Priscilla the first time I laid my eyes on her. If I did, it would have been quite creepy since she was just a junior higher. For sure I love my parents, but much of that I think has to do with the care and love they have shown me. That’s conditional love.

But Ansley has existed for less than a week and has done nothing but eat, sleep, poop, and cry all night. Yet I know I love her and will love her no matter what (check back with me in her teenage years and I hope this is still true). It’s the closest thing I have come to experiencing pure, unconditional love.

They say that the love of a parent for his or her child is the closest thing we can get to understanding the unconditional love that God has for us. It’s no surprise, then, that one of the major pictures of God in the Bible is that of God the Father, and we as His children. Unfortunately, because of our fallenness, there are many broken families. As a consequence, there are many broken pictures of God.

Christian parents, we have the task of redeeming the picture of God’s unconditional love for us through our love for our children. A professor said in class once, “Our role as parents is to give our kids the most appropriate picture of God so that when ‘God comes around,’ they will recognize Him.”

By the way we love our kids, our kids will be introduced to their heavenly Father, and those around will catch a glimpse too. When they read about the amazing love of God, that love will seem familiar, inviting, because they have already felt it from you. John 3:16 would not just be a cliche, but an experience based in reality. Parenthood really is a high calling, your prayers are much appreciated.

To all my recently married Christian friends, do take some time to enjoy marriage and build up your relationship before the babies come. But don’t wait too long though. The world needs more examples of God’s unconditional love.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

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A Different Christmas Experience

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It is long overdue for a post, sorry. Life has been pretty crazy getting ready for the new year, and for the new addition to the family! Thanksgiving felt like just last week, how is it Christmas already??

This year, Priscilla and I wanted to do something different for Christmas. Since we already have so much, we decided not to give each other gifts. Not that we are against gifts, but we wanted to try to recapture at least a little bit of what Christmas is about by not making it all about us. After all, we are celebrating the birth of our Savior Jesus, who, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil 2:6-7).

For Jesus, Christmas is about emptying Himself for the sake of others, ultimately dying for our sins. Obviously there is nothing we can do that can come even remotely close to that, but we wanted to take the time to bless someone else as Christ has blessed us. There’s a homeless man that I drive by almost daily on my way to work that God had been prompting me on more than one occasion to talk to, but I never mustered up the courage to obey. We decided to make a simple care package and share breakfast with him.

It was a really cool time just chatting with him and learning a part of his story as we ate some Jack-in-the-Box breakfast. He has been on the streets for three years ever since the factory he was working at shut down. We didn’t spend a long time together, but enough for me to realize that it is much easier to ignore someone in need when you don’t know anything about him.

I write this not to say we did some amazing thing; it really wasn’t much. It took a major Christian holiday to get me to do something Christians really should be doing on a regular basis. But I write this as a reminder to myself of how much more I still need to grow to love others as Christ loves.

Charles Spurgeon writes, “Immanuel-God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our daily work, in our punishment, in our death, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor” (Morning and Evening). Just as Christ left all the comforts of heaven and entered into our world to give us hope, we are called to step out of our comfort zones and enter into the lives of those around us to be God’s hands and feet to point to the living hope.

Merry Christ to all, and I pray this new year can challenge us and grow us to love as God loves.

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.

 

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

I Love Choco Pies!

Yes I love those little chocoloate covered, marshmellowy delights. Apparently they are a huge hit in North Korea, and according to this article, they are selling for up to ten bucks each on the black markets of North Korea. It is crazy to me that I can just pick up as many boxes of these as my car can hold on my way back from work while there are people who are searching these out on the black markets.

Also, in Taiwan, I came across this crazy scene of people lining up for a newly open store:

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This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but here were people lining up as far as the eyes can see, and it actually wraps around the building more at the end. It’s about a two hour wait, can you guess for what? Krispy Kreme! Yeah, right? Who eats Krispy Kreme nowadays? Not that I have anything against them, but that was so 1990s.

These are reminders for me of the ridiculus excess we enjoy here in America, to a point where things highly coveted by others are simply afterthoughts for us. And unfortunately this carries over to our faith as well. How do we view our Bibles? Most homes probably have at least one, and most of us have more than one. I can think of eight that I own right now, and not to mention those we can pull up on our phones and computers.

We have access to so much, but sadly appreciate it so little. It’s a sobering thought that there are believers who are willing to be arrested or even killed for owning a Bible while I have several simply collecting dust. This is not meant to illicit guilt, although we can get there pretty quick if we extend this line of thinking to so many other things that we freely enjoy.

We do have a God who gives good gifts, so I am not saying we need to give all our things away. But I hope at the very least I can engender some appreciation of the things that really are of worth, and perhaps get us to pick up that Bible that’s been just lying around. Not because we feel guilty, but because we see it as the invaluable treasure that it is: the very words of God.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas!!!

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Merry Christmas from Taiwan!

How is it that Christmas is on the same day every year and every time it comes around I still get surprised. One day it’s turkey dinner and black Friday shopping, and all of a sudden it’s Christmas lights, caroling, and nativity scenes (although seems like there are less of those around these days). It’s such a great time: the air is festive, people are nicer, and we look forward to vacation and presents.

As I read through the account of the birth and early life of Jesus this morning, I was struck by how Matthew paints such a different picture than what we see all around us. Or rather, a more complete picture. I’m sure there were cute animals around and Jesus must have been an adorable cherub of a baby, but missing from the peaceful and happy scenes we see on Christmas cards and church displays is the every real and immediate evil that sought to kill the Savior of the world.

Matthew tells us that the ruler of the region, King Herod, “was disturbed” (Matthew 2:3) when he heard that the Magi were looking for a king. Herod sends them on their way and asks that they report to him when they find Jesus, pretending to want to worship as well. But, in reality Herod  intended to eliminate anyone who would be a threat to his reign.

In 2:13, an angel appears to Joseph with this warning: “Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” And sure enough, when Herod realizes that the Magi tricked hm, he orders the execution of all the boys in and near Bethlehem two years and younger (v16). This reminds me of those old Chinese movies where assassins are sent to kill the baby emperor, and he has to be protected until he is old enough to rule.

The Bible is unapologetic in its description of human evil, even that seen in the heroes of the faith. And of course, that is why Jesus entered into this world, to overcome evil and open the way to salvation. Why God didn’t just surround Jesus with a host of angels at all times, or just do away with all evil in one instance, I don’t think we will ever understand fully in this life. But we do have the hope that our God entered into the sufferings of this world, not as one immune and untouched, but as a helpless and utterly dependent baby who was fully affected by the darkness of this world.

Yes, Christmas is a time of joy. But not (simply) because of presents, days off, and potlucks. It is a time of joy because we have hope in what God has done for us, which was foretold long ago. Genesis 3:15 says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” The birth of Jesus happened as God had said. We can trust that His return and ultimate victory over evil will unfold according to the Scriptures as well.

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21