Saturday, January 31, 2009


Justin preached on community this past Sunday. That topic is dear to my heart, and I think it was a very important sermon for our community. I have the outline and just a few of my notes below. If you would like, the entire sermon is available on iTunes. Just search Christ Church Brenham from the iTunes store.

The sermon is part 3 of a three week series on the core values of our church, which are proclamation, service, and community.

We believe that the Christian faith is a call to Community.

Therefore we embody the Gospel by living a shared life of intimacy, hospitality, and generosity as we establish a family of pilgrims on a journey of faith together. (This is something beyond "hanging out." Intimacy requires honesty and vulnerability, and our example is the Trinity. Hospitality is "love of stranger.")

GOD exists in COMMUNITY. The Trinity has existed eternally together in perfect harmony, with perfect unity and perfect individuality.

GOD created us to live in COMMUNITY. After God made the earth, seas, sun, moon, plants and animals, "it was good." But what was not good? "For man to live alone." Part of what it means to be made in the image of God is to be made for community.

GOD’S gifts are realized in COMMUNITY. You may have been made as a finger, shoulder, or pinky toe. To fully realize your created purpose, you need the body. If you feel isolated and purposeless, this may be why. And the body suffers without its members. Your church needs you.

GOD’S blessings are enjoyed in COMMUNITY. I was with Betty in the nursery for this point. Sorry; no notes.

GOD’S mission is completed through COMMUNITY. See Jesus' High Priestly prayer, John 17. 20"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." We are to be one LIKE the Trinity, SO THAT we may be in God, SO THAT the world may believe. More here.


COMMUNITY is not an excuse. (to avoid solitude, to speak without discretion)
COMMUNITY is not a country club. (not for ourselves only, we can be in community with people who are very different from us, it is used as an outreach)
COMMUNITY is not a substitute. (time with friends complements but does not substitute for community with God Himself)

I encourage you to listen to this full sermon. And if you don't have it, go get yourself some community. Blessings.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

look at these kids

Jonas and Betty are staying the night with Mamaw today. Justin asked Jonas to "clean your room and pack." These are the results:

Not too bad, and he didn't even need prodding.

He packed two clean shirts, a pair of pants, pajamas, socks, underwear, a toothbrush (in the outside pocket), and his Bible. We were pretty impressed.

Can you believe he still fits in the sink?

This is how I found her the other day. Alone in her bedroom, door closed, lights out, and a pint of Haagen Dazs.

That's my kind of girl.

Hib infection: what you need to know

I haven't seen a lot of haemophilus type b infection. That's one of those diseases that the old-timers (and not even that old; this was around like 15 years ago) talk about, and tell the young docs they should be relieved not to have to worry about. When you suspect a child has epiglottis, which I've never seen, you don't even touch their mouth or throat until you are in the operating room. If you so much as put a popsicle stick on their tongue, their throat could spasm and they will choke to death right in front of you.

Like I said, horror stories.

Well, guess what? Five children have Hib infections in Minnesota, one has died. There is a shortage of vaccine right now, and young babies are given priority.

From CNN:

Three of the children had not received any vaccination because of their parents' decisions, not because of a vaccine shortage, officials said.

One of the infected children, a 5-month old, had not completed the three-dose series of the vaccination, and a 15-month old child had received all doses but had an immune deficiency.

The cases are not related and were in different counties, said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, Minnesota state epidemiologist.

But the shortage may be having an effect in the community.

"When there are high immunization rates, there is herd immunity," Lynfield said. "It may be that because of the shortage, that herd immunity has dropped. That first manifests in unimmunized children."

One in 20 children infected with Hib dies, according to the CDC. And survivors of the disease can become deaf; 10 to 30 percent have permanent brain damage.

"Parents may not realize the importance of this vaccine," Schuchat said. "The disease is still around."

People tend to "think it's gone because it has not been seen for a while. Clearly, the bacteria is in the community in Minnesota, and babies that haven't gotten their vaccines are at risk," she said.

From the CDC:

Hib disease is caused by bacteria called Haemophilus influenzae type b. Hib bacteria are spread through contact with mucus or droplets from the nose and throat of an infected person when they cough or sneeze. Hib can be spread by people who are ill with the disease. More commonly, however, Hib is spread by people who have the bacteria in their noses and throats but who are not ill.

Before Hib vaccines, there were about 20,000 cases of invasive Hib each year in the U.S. Invasive disease means that germs invade parts of the body that are normally free from germs. When this happens, disease is usually very severe, causing hospitalization or even death. Before a Hib vaccine was available, Hib was the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the U.S. About 12,000 children each year—most of them younger than 5 years of age—got Hib meningitis. Meningitis is just one of the invasive diseases that can be caused by Hib. Hib can also cause life-threatening infections that make it difficult to breathe, including epiglottitis (infection in the throat) and pneumonia (infection in the lungs). Other forms of invasive Hib disease include blood, bone, or joint infections.

Despite the success of Hib vaccine, parents need to remember the disease is still out there. Hib can be carried in the noses and throats of people who are not sick from the disease. These people can spread Hib bacteria to infants and children who are not protected by Hib vaccine. Vaccinating infants protects them at a time when they are most vulnerable to disease. If vaccination levels get too low in the U.S., Hib disease could make a comeback.

I respect the right of parents to make their own decisions about vaccines. I understand the concerns. But it's easy to decide against vaccines when you've never seen or heard of the diseases they protect against. A lot of people depend on herd immunity to protect their unimmunized children, and that layer of protection is bound to wear thin as more people take that option. In this case a temporary vaccine shortage was sufficient to completely remove the herd immunity effect. Parents must decide for themselves, and there is a lot of confusing information out there. Part of an informed decision about vaccines must involve information about these outbreaks, and their consequences.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Stirring the pot, again

"Every man has reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone but only his friends. He has other matters in his mind which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But there are other things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind." Fyodor Dostoyevsky

"For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate....For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is not longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me." Romans 7:15 & 19-20.

Let me start this by asking for your grace, gentle reader. This is something to be approached with fear and trembling, and that is what I will attempt to do. Please bear with me.

I have always been blunt. That is good and bad. I was this way forever, and then medical school beat a little bit more tact out of me. It is surprising how few doctors are able to look someone in the eye and say "the cancer is back." Or "I'm sorry; your son is dead." Or "Yes, you should call your family now. It's time." We prefer to look down at the chart and mumble some doctor-speak while backing out the door.

So I pride myself on my ability to speak truthfully and directly and plainly.

Except when it gets me into trouble. Sometimes a little beating around the bush is not such a bad thing.

Hold your nose; here goes the cold water.

I took a test called the Implicit Association Test. You can find it here. I would very much appreciate it if you would take the "race" test and report back with your thoughts. (In brief, the test shows you pictures of faces, and asks you to quickly categorize them as "European American" or "African American." Then you are shown words such as pain, failure, joy, or laughter, and asked to categorize them as good or bad. Then the words and faces are mixed together, and you sort good words with the white folks and bad words with the black folks, and vice versa. If you find it more difficult to associate good words with black people, that's described as an implicit preference for whites.)

The test is not designed to detect hidden racism that the poor test taker did not know they harbored. No one is saying that if you score "Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for European American compared to African American" (my score report) that you are a closet member of the KKK.

But the test measures something, yes? The results are not random; and surely I can learn something from this experience.

I am not a racist. I have never been taught racism. I do not condone it. In any way.

It makes me so sad that I scored the way that I did. I wish I could change it.

At some level, for some reason, it is easier for me to associate positive traits with white people than with black people. And easier to attribute negative traits to black folks.

In any given situation, if I stop and think, even for a second, I will hopefully catch that fallacy and realize the irrationality. I don't really believe that white people are better or different or smarter or nicer or anything of the sort. But some aspect of my personality still tends to make those assumptions, at the level of gut instinct, when I don't stop and think. Or even for those few milliseconds before I stop and think.

So I guess my point is, I need to stop and think more often. And more quickly.

Or maybe the point is, I'm fallen and sinful, and I keep discovering more and more evidence of that fact in my own heart. (Why does this continue to surprise me???) Stopping and thinking is important, but only as a component of God's ongoing redemption at work in me. I need deliverance here. May He show grace. Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3) I am aware that willpower is insufficient to the task.

I'm glad I know this about myself. I wish it weren't there, but like a cancer, you have to know about it to take steps to get rid of it. The test served as a tutor, if you will. Or a CT scan, to keep with the medical metaphor. A Cat scan of the soul.

I'll copy over just a few of the most helpful tidbits from the FAQ section on the test website. Quotes are in blue. If you take a test, please, by all means, peruse that section to think about your results.
  • Familiarity: There is a known relation between familiarity and liking - people tend to like things that are familiar more than things that are unfamiliar. In this way, familiarity might be importantly related to implicit attitudes. So, there may be a role for familiarity in liking of the categories – people tend to like things that they are familiar with compared to things that they are not. What might emerge as an implicit prejudice may have its basis in unfamiliarity. I think this definitely applies to me. The simple fact is that most of my friends are white. I grew up in a town that was mostly white. Went to a college that is mostly white. My medical school was more diverse and that was a great experience; I could definitely use more diversity in my life. For me, that helps the "other" to become the "familiar."

  • Prejudice: So does this mean I am prejudiced? Social psychologists use the word 'prejudiced' to describe people who endorse or approve of negative attitudes and discriminatory behavior toward various out-groups. Many people who show automatic White preference on the Black-White attitude IAT are not prejudiced by this definition. It is possible to show biases on the IAT that are not consciously endorsed, or are even contradictory to intentional attitudes and beliefs. People who hold egalitarian conscious attitudes in the face of automatic White preferences may able to function in non-prejudiced fashion partly by making active efforts to prevent their automatic White preference from producing discriminatory behavior. However, when they relax these active efforts, these non-prejudiced people may be likely to show discrimination in thought or behavior. So I may be one of those people who may need to "make active efforts" to keep from behaving in a discriminatory manner.
I welcome feedback. I want to know what you think about this. Especially if you are uncomfortable or offended.

I'm putting myself out there, not because this is easy, but because I think it's important. This may not be politically correct, but I'm trying to be honest. I know I have much to learn. Much sin remains to be crucified. Much life to be regenerated.

Here's to redemption.

"So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:21-25.


Monday, January 12, 2009

The man, the legend

Here's a bit about Dr. Ralph Feigin. (scroll down in the link, but also read about Dr. DeBakey.) He was President of my medical school and Chair of Pediatrics and Physician in Chief at Texas Childrens Hospital. I was blessed to be taught by him.

I lifted this one from Meena Julapalli on Facebook; hope she doesn't mind:

Several years ago, Dr. Feigin was flown to Washington, D.C. to meet with President George W. Bush at the White House. In the Oval Office, the President told him that he wanted him to be the next Surgeon General, an offer Dr. Feigin politely declined saying that he loved the job he had at TCH and Baylor and couldn't imagine himself doing anything else. Bush remarked "You can't say 'no' to the President," to which Dr. Feigin responded, "I said no to one [meaning George Bush, Sr.], I can certainly say 'no' to another."

Near the end of the meeting, Dr. Feigin excused himself to go to the restroom (yes, the Oval Office restroom) and when he returned, George Bush asked him if he had washed his hands.
Dr. Feigin said, "of course, I washed my hands -- I'm an infectious disease doctor."
POTUS: "Well, what did you think of the hand towels?"
Dr. Feigin: "Uh, they're nice, I guess."
POTUS: "You should take one as a souvenir."
Dr. Feigin: "No, thank you, that's alright."
POTUS: "No, really, I insist."
Dr. Feigin: "Uh, okay."

Dr. Feigin left hurriedly to catch his plane and stuffed the hand towel in the side pocket of his carry-on luggage. As he stood in the security line, he started to become slightly nervous that the security officers would search his bags and find a hand towel with the official Presidential seal on it. How was he going to explain that he didn't steal a hand towel from the President of the United States?

This story is from my friend Sujit Iyer, and typifies Dr. Feigin:

For those who remember hurricane Rita... it happened about 3 weeks after katrina, and in the midst of it all Houston had a city wide evacuation. TCH was in disaster preparedness mode and there was a meeting of heads of the hospital every 8 hours for the 48 hours before landfall....

So I'm at these meetings as chief to represent the residents, and there are people there from Nursing, Faculty, Maintenance, Food Services, etc.. in this huge conference room. As everyone is walking through their part of the disaster plan the maintenance guys get into an argument about where the main power breaker for the flood doors in the tunnel beneath the Feigin Center is (something I never knew even existed until that weekend).... they couldn't figure it out... then out of nowhere....

Dr. Feigin:, "Just walk down the hall on the way to the main flood doors, 20 yards before the door on the right there is a large box, either the third or fourth breaker down on the left will close the doors if the power goes out."

Engineers, ruffling through some papers.. "Mmmm, yeah, you're right Dr. Feigin."

Some people don't need blueprints.

May he rest in peace.


Personhood and the Trinity

Because God is triune, he has eternally been personal and relational in his own being, in full independence from his creation. God has never had any unmet needs, "nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything" (Acts 17:25). Personhood becomes real only within realized relationships, and the reality of relationship can only exist where one has something or someone that is not oneself to relate to; if, then, God had not been plural in himself he could not have been a personal, relational God till he had begun creating, and thus would have been dependent on creation for his own personhood, which is a notion as nonsensical as it is unscriptural. Between the persons of the Trinity, there has always existed total relational harmony and expression; God is, from this standpoint, a perfect society in himself. Apart from the plurality in the Trinity, either God's eternal independence of the created order or his eternally relational personal existence would have to be denied.

From my ESV Study Bible.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Race, etc.

So, there was a post here attempting to discuss race. Apparently it didn't come across the way I intended so it's gone. If it was the opposite of helpful then I apologize. That was not my intention.

Update: it seems I can't just leave well enough alone. I'm trying again. See the new post titled "Stirring the Pot, Again." I think I've expressed myself more clearly this time around.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like....


How does one decorate for this time of year? My house looks absolutely spartan with the Christmas stuff gone. But I don't want to put out spring-y things yet. What to do?

I suppose in other climates you could have snowflakes and that sort of thing. But that feels silly here; it was 70 degrees today. I've got pine cones out, but that's just not cutting it. They've been out since October, and they're not exactly bursting with color.

I'm feeling like purple could work; it sort of bridges that gap between winter and spring. And birds maybe? Something with birds?

So help. What feels right for January? It must be distinctly non-Christmas-y, but not daffodils and tulips yet. And no snowmen.

If anyone suggests putting out pink hearts for Valentines Day I will have to shoot you.

Update: this is worth considering.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Up to Speed

Whew, hi everyone! It's been awhile, right?

I'll just catch you up to speed quickly; the idea of a really thorough post about Christmas and New York is just too overwhelming.

Christmas was great. We drove all over Oklahoma to celebrate with family. Then we left the kids with my mom and Justin and I went to New York City for a few days. We had a great time; I feel like I could visit that city once a year and always discover something new things. I look forward to taking the a few years. I didn't care for midtown at all; the crowds make me crazy. I loved just exploring lower Manhattan, especially Greenwich Village. Little boutiques, bistros, and bakeries. So perfect. We saw a concert, had tea at the Plaza, toured the MOMA, took in a play, a stand-up act, and some amazing restaurants. We skipped the statue and Empire State Building; the lines were way too long. I love the urban life, but just in small doses. I was glad to come home to open spaces and green things.

So, yesterday Jonas drank a V8. A V8! Like with actual vegetables! He called it pah-sghetti juice. How cute is that?

He had been eating lentil soup, which I was excited about anyway. But he said that the part he liked best was "this red stuff," which was broth with lots of tomato juice. So I got a V8 out and gave it to him. (I can't stand the stuff, but I use it in pasta sauce. That's why it was in the pantry.) He liked it! He asked for another one later. So I'm thinking....I have a new way to get real food in my kids. I'm gonna have to invest in the big boy.

I'm realizing that lunch is the way to go to get the kids to try something new. Because I don't usually cook lunch, it's always something they like, like a PB&J or grilled cheese or pasta. We've done the "you'll eat what we eat" thing for dinner, but they just stopped eating dinner. They are content to live on two meals a day and skip dinner. That was a move in the wrong direction. So I'm going to have to suck it up and make real food for lunch. Leftovers, at least.

This Sunday will be the first service in the new building. Morning services! I'm so excited. The building is still in need of TLC. But it's come a long, long way. Just to see it clean, with no mold on the walls, is a huge step. The kids area is being painted today, the bathroom is almost done, and the guys made huge purchases at IKEA to furnish the nursery and foyer. Next stop: red shag carpet on the pews. It just has to go.