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The Biopsy

When I look at the man in the mirror, I’m not sure who he is. It’s not the image I have of myself in my head. I’m still that slim, athletic twenty something guy that was running 6 miles a day and had a 28 inch waist. Now, I’m lucky if my thigh is under 28 inches in diameter!

Getting old is NOT for the faint of heart. Since 2009 I’ve had neck surgery, almost broke my hip dancing to Thriller on the XBox, had major problems with my legs related to a herniated disc in my back that will one day have to come out, chest tightness in May resulting in a cardiac catheterization that was normal, and just recently a brush with prostate cancer. It was that last thing that plagued me now for almost three months.

My PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen also known as Profound Stress Anxiety) doubled on a routine screening test in November. My urologist recommended a biopsy with the statement, “When your PSA doubles at your age, the changes you have cancer are 30% or 3 chances out of 10”. My father had prostate cancer. His father died of prostate cancer. I decided to go for the biopsy. Problem was, I could not have it until January. I would not be off from work and in town long enough to have the biopsy until then. True, I was off the week of Christmas, but who wants a shiny new prostate biopsy for Christmas!

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It is all said and done, now. And, looking back I’d like to make some observations:

The Anticipation of the Event was the worst part of the whole thing. Endless waiting for the day to arrive. This has really opened up my eyes to what patients go through after I tell their physician, “The CAT scan shows a mass and I recommend a biopsy.”

“Local” anesthetic is NOT anesthetic! My urologist placed a probe up inside my rectum and then uttered these words: “You’ll feel a little pinprick when I deaden the tissue.” Pinprick my, well, my lower anatomy! It hurt! Bad! I use local anesthetic on just about every procedure I do, although my procedures usually go through the skin which is far less sensitive than the lining of my, well, lower anatomy. I now have a new appreciation for what my patients are feeling when I use local. From now on, I will say, “This will feel like a big wasp sting and it is going to hurt like hell”.

Completing the procedure in a timely fashion helps a great deal. My urologist was quick and efficient and literally, the 14 biopsies took less than a minute. It didn’t make them any less painful. But, I hardly had time to think about what was going on before the next biopsy was being done. I’ve noticed this in my own practice. I try not to prolong the procedure with unnecessary “down time” such as preparing the biopsy tray or long chit chat with the patient. Get it done as painlessly as possible and as efficiently as possible. It is wonderful news to hear from my patients when they tell me what I told my urologist: “It’s already over? Thank goodness!”

Getting the news, good or bad, is very, very stressful. I was scheduled to return a week later for my biopsy results. Being a physician, I knew that the results would probably be in much sooner than that. My urologist showed me professional courtesy and called me the minute he had the results. In one way, this was great. I didn’t have to wait a week. On the other hand, it was harrowing. I didn’t know WHEN I would get the news. I would almost have preferred to wait a week knowing the exact date and time I would find out as opposed to watching the clock and the calendar and my iPhone screen waiting for the call. I was a nervous wreck with anticipation. But, good news or bad, I was relieved just to finally know.

Expect the worse and when it doesn’t happen, you are relieved. If it does happen, you are prepared. My wife doesn’t understand this. My father taught me this principle when on the first night in my new bedroom after my sister moved out he brought a hammer and placed it on the night stand by the bed. “What is that for?” I asked. He looked at me and frowned. “To break the glass out of the windows when the house catches fire so you can jump out.” My eight year old mind was alarmed and I slept with the hammer clutched in my hand the entire night but truly never slept waiting for the first tale tale odor of smoke. But, by anticipating what it would mean to have a positive biopsy, I was already prepared. I had researched the treatment options and had even chosen the surgeon and oncologist if the biopsy was positive. I was prepared. And yes, when I heard the results were negative, I danced with glee; shrieked with joy; and thanked God and everyone who prayed for me.

Telling people “It’s going to be okay.” just doesn’t work very well. I learned this the hard way. My friends told me over and over, “Don’t worry, Bruce, it will be negative. You’ll be fine.” I am not normal. I started tallying these remarks and when they were approaching 100, I realized that if this were a democracy, there would be no way I could have prostate cancer. However, there was only one “vote” that counted and that would be the pathologist who examined my biopsies and declared them truly normal. In my atypical, paranoid way the more reassurances I received, the more certain I was that my biopsy would show cancer. Certainly not my friends’ fault. They meant well and it was ME who was having a problem. Weird, warped, paranoid Bruce! Go figure! But, what this taught me is that when I have a friend or relative in this situation in the future I am going say, “No matter what the outcome, I’m thinking about you and praying for you and if there is anything I can do, let me know.” But, then, thank goodness most people aren’t as paranoid as I am! Or, or they????

powerhope

So, let me play off of that last paragraph with the thought that brings all of this together. What we need is HOPE. From my friends, my wife, my children, and everyone who prayed for me, I received hope. I can’t receive hope from the world. Our world is not founded on the hope of Christ. It is founded on the hopelessness of chance; randomness; relativism; naturalism. Only the worldview of Christianity gives us ultimate hope. It tells us that the pain and suffering of this realm are nothing compared to what lies beyond. For, in our future is Another Country with a swift Sonrise and a fair shore where pain and death are but a distant memory. A New Heaven and a New Earth. Our scientific view of the universe promises only a slow, cold death as the energy of the universe dissipates. And, we cannot change the universe. But, there is a second creation coming according to Christ; a world in which these trials and pains are nothing more than training programs for what lies ahead. Hope. That is what got me through the endless weeks. That is what got me through 2012.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

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All That Is NOT SO must Go!

ray2In 2008 I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to meet my all time favorite writer, Ray Bradbury. If you have not read stories by this giant of science fiction and fantasy literature, then you have missed out on a life changing experience. Ray Bradbury passed away in 2012 and his loss was a tiny tremor in the tumult of this past year. For you see, as forward thinking and progressive as Mr. Bradbury was, he hesitated to embrace many forms of modern technology. He refused to fly. He would only travel by train or boat. He would not allow any of his works to be translated into electronic form. You will not find any of his stories as ebooks! Why? Go read Fahrenheit 451 and you might catch a glimmer of the reason. Stories, to Bradbury, belonged inside people! Story is Life!

As we enter 2013, I am depressed at the negative tone of many of my favorite blogs. Who can blame us? If you are a Christian, then 2012 was a year of blow after blow to the Christian lifestyle. And, I don’t need to spend time listing those developments here. Others have done it well. But, there is one concept I want to explore as we enter a new year.

In this past year, scientists have mounted a campaign against God. Not surprising. This happens with regularity. But, this past year the attack was imbedded in such books as “A Universe From Nothing” by Lawrence Krauss or Richard Dawkins’ atheist children’s book “The Magic of Reality”. And, that venerable icon of science for children, Bill Nye, the Science Guy attacked creationism in public and on internet based video. The year ended with the American Atheists’ huge billboard on Times Square asking people to “Dump the Myth”.

Back in the 1950‘s, Ray Bradbury wrote a series of short stories that resonate with today’s headlines. Now, remember, he was an advocate of science. He helped develop ideas for many of Walt Disney’s animated shorts about space travel. He was involved in the design of “Future World” at EPCOT. But, he had cautionary words for us about the danger of the supremacy of science as a philosophy. As a philosophy, this is known as scientism or materialism or naturalism. Nature is all that is. If we cannot sense it with our scientific machines, then it cannot exist. NOTHING in the supernatural realm can be even considered as possible.

martian chroniclesIn “The Martian Chronicles”, Bradbury created a character who had escaped to Mars and built a house of “Usher” to resurrect the creations of imagination. It seemed that on Earth such imaginative works had been outlawed. Look at this passage from “Usher II” in the Martian Chronicles:

They passed a law. Oh, it started very small. In 1999 it was a grain of sand. They began by controlling books, cartoons, and then detective books and, of course, films, one way or another, one group or another, political bias, religious prejudice, union pressures; there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of the present, afraid of themselves and shadows of themselves.

Every man, they said, must face reality. Must face the Here and Now! Everything that was not so must go. All the beautiful literary lies and flights of fancy must be shot in mid-air! So they lined them up against a library wall one Sunday morning thirty years ago, they lined them up in 2006; they lined them up, . . . and shot them down, and burned the paper castles and fairy frogs and old kings and the people who lived happily every after . . . and Once Upon a Time became No More!

 

In another story from that book, “The Million Year Picnic”, a family has escaped the self destruction of Earth and has made it to Mars to rebuild a new life. Here is what a father told his children about Earth:

Life on Earth never settled down to doing anything very good. Science ran too far ahead of us too quickly, and the people got lost in a mechanical wilderness, like children making over pretty things, gadgets, helicopters, rockets, emphasizing the wrong items, emphasizing machines instead of how to run the machines.Wars got bigger and bigger and finally killed Earth.

 

But, the most powerful story, and more than likely a precursor to “Fahrenheit 451” was “The Exiles” from “The Illustrated Man”. In this story, the authors of science fiction, horror and fantasy have found exile on Mars from a world in which their works have been burned and now, a rocket from Earth approaches. In this scene, Edgar Allen Poe is waiting for the rocket men to land so he can defeat them.illustrated_man

 

They won’t be prepared for us, at least. They haven’t the imagination. Those clean young rocket men with their antiseptic bloomers and fish-bowl helmets, with their new religion. About their necks, on gold chains, scalpels. Upon their heads, a diadem of microscopes. In their holy fingers, steaming incense urns which in reality are only germicidal ovens for steaming out superstition. The names of Poe; Bierce, Hawthorne, Blackwood — blasphemy to their clean lips.”

How did this happen and how did Poe come to reside on Mars?

On Earth, a century ago, in the year 2020 they outlawed our books. Oh, what a horrible thing — to destroy our literary creations that way! It summoned us out of — what? Death? The Beyond? . . . the only saving thing we could do was wait out the century here on Mars, hoping Earth might overweight itself with these scientists and their doubtings; but now they’re coming to clean us out . . . “

And, lest you think that Bradbury was not aware of the war on Christmas look at this scene of a wasted, near dead Santa Claus:

They took him, a skeleton thought, and clothed him in centuries of pink flesh and snow beard and red velvet suit and black boot, made him reindeers, tinsel, holly. And, after centuries of manufacturing him they drowned him in a vat of Lysol, you might say.

What must it be like on Earth? . . . Without Christmas? . . . nothing but snow and wind and the lonely, factual people.

Ah, the power of Story. I will address this in upcoming posts. For now, we must stop and revel in the sheer power of Story to transform humanity. Bradbury did it with these short tales. Bradbury cautioned us that if we allow our imagination to die, then we will die as a people. And, imagination is built upon the foundation of the possibility of the supernatural. Eliminate the supernatural, and you MUST eliminate imagination; burn it out of the brain; cauterize it from the human thought patterns; outlaw it from public and private expression.

Don’t miss this. Bradbury talked of it and he was on the side of science. Science is a tool! It is NOT a way of life. And, if we allow Science to become a way of life, we will see the death of imagination; the death of superstition; the death of the supernatural; the death of Story; the death of God! There is no other path.

Adolf Hitler built his world upon the foundation of naturalism. And, he tried to purge the world of superstition in the ovens of Auschwitz. We cannot forget this. We must remember that to kill Story is to kill what makes us humans. And, one Man used Story to change the world. These stories were called parables.

Parables-of-Jesus-image

So, this coming Sunday, January 5th, I will be signing copies of my three books at our local LifeWay in Shreveport, Louisiana from noon to 2 PM. Of course, I would like for you to come. I will be giving away tee shirts. But, here is my request. Go to a book store. Any book store this coming Saturday. Go and find a book that fuels your imagination. There are wonderful books for all ages and for men and women in the realm of Christian fiction at a LifeWay and if you come to my LifeWay, I can point you to many good Stories.

Go out this Saturday and let’s show the world that as followers of Christ, we recognize the importance the power of Story. This Saturday, wherever you are, go into a book store and buy a book and when you check out, look the person behind the counter in the eye and say, “Story Is Life”!

 

Evil Crouches at Your Door!

Sad-Baby-FaceLet’s call him Ben. Ben was small, frail, about 4 years old. He had tousled blonde hair and pale blue eyes and translucent skin with dark blue veins visible just under the surface. In the brief time I took care of Ben, he never said a word. He never uttered a sound. I was a junior medical student charged with caring for Ben on the pediatric wards. His parents were stiff and silent on what had happened to Ben. They just found him in his bed still, quiet, and motionless save for the occasional blinking of his eyes and the rise and fall of his chest.

It was the late 1970’s and a new machine called a CAT scan was available at another hospital in our city. I traveled with Ben in the ambulance to a huge, brightly lit room. Against the far wall was a monstrosity of a machine with U shaped arms that spun and slid like some 1930’s science fiction machination. Ben was so tiny in the center of this huge machine. It would take 30 minutes to image his brain but there would be no problem with Ben holding still. Ben did not move. Today, that same scan would take 2 seconds.

As I watched the images slowly appear on a monitor, the radiologist sat beside me and sighed. He pointed to the white rim of Ben’s skull. He touched the dusty screen over a white blob in the center of Ben’s brain. Blood. Fractures. I was sick to my stomach.

Later after bringing in the police, the parents admitted to placing Ben’s head in the window sill and repeatedly closing the window on his head to get him to stop crying. Ben died in my arms, unloved, rejected, but not alone.

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I have looked evil in the face. Evil is real. It is not a quirk of the synapses. It is not a chemical imbalance. It is not an environmentally produced “disorder”. It is an entity. I saw it lurking behind the feigned tears of Ben’s parents. I saw it in the manic face of a young girl I am convinced was possessed by that evil. I saw it in the relentless stare of a patient who vowed to kill me and eat my liver. I felt its caress on a lonely night in a bed and breakfast in Austin, Texas when I was trying to finish my book about the influence of these evil forces on our world.

I saw it last week. I saw it many times this past year. Last night, my best friend Mark Riser gave me a book for Christmas on theology. I randomly opened it and read a paragraph. It was not a random sampling it turns out. Basically the section was on evil and there was a thought placed there for me to ponder. Maybe our culture is more fascinated with evil than ever in order to pull our attention to the big acts of evil so we do not notice the insidious, quiet, tiny touches of evil as it infiltrates our lives.

The big evil last week was the killing of over two dozen innocent people including children. But that “big evil” came at the expense of dozens of tiny caresses of evil. “He was a quiet, thoughtful person.” “He was so nice.” “I can’t imagine why he did this.” You hear these kind of statements all the time when such a tragedy occurs.

Jay Strack, a motivational speaker back in the mid 1990’s once said when he went scuba diving, it wasn’t the sharks he feared. Rather, it was the multitude of minnows that can nibble you to death. We focus on the “big evil” and miss the accumulating influence of a thousand tiny evils that poke and prod and erode and puncture so much so that one day we find ourselves being bled to death; our resolve, our compassion, our mercy gone and we snap. The big evil takes us and we smash a tiny boy’s head in the window sill or rip a sink out of the wall or take up a gun and kill.

Don’t miss this. Each of us is totally and completely capable of carrying out the kind of “mindless, senseless” violence we saw last week. Don’t think for a moment that you or I are above it. We aren’t. We are imperfect, broken souls on a journey toward forgiveness; love; completion; release. Why are we such broken creatures? Why can we not pull ourselves up out of the muck; above these base emotions and actions?

Jesus of Nazareth had many things to say about evil and here are just three:

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’”

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

Jesus seems to be saying that evil originates in our hearts and minds. WE are the source of evil! How is this possible? If evil is real then how can it also be in us and yet not come from us? Ah, this is the mystery of all time. Our scientific culture wants to assert that we are but highly evolved animals; that we have no true spiritual side; that we do not have a thing called the soul. Such talk is of the supernatural and the supernatural does not exist. It is but a figment of our imagination.

But, Jesus seems to be saying that there is something within us that quickens at the sight of art and beauty; that resonates to the sound of music; that seeks and connects with that most abstract of things, love. And, because we are broken; ruined by this disconnect with the divine; we allow evil to take the place of good; to let darkness rule instead of light. There are only two choices — dark or light — good or evil. One will prevail in our hearts and mind and will rule the day. It is simple, Jesus taught. How then do we push the evil into the dark, powerless corners of our live so that good prevails? One more word from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth:

 “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.”

Ah, we can fight the urges; suppress the evil impulses; push the destructive thoughts away but if we DO NOT have something positive to fill the void, then the evil will return more powerful and more controlling than ever. Look at history. Those who started down the path of evil; those who allowed the minnows to nibble away at their conscience; slowly, inexorably drowned in the sea of evil and became hardened; solidified by evil. For them, there is little hope of return to good; to return to sanity; to return to a world filled with light. Think of the Nazi holocaust, how insidiously a nation desiring to merely rebuild from the ashes of World War I became an engine of worldwide destruction and the killing machine of the Holocaust. Think of Stalin, ruler of Russia desiring to rebuild his country after the devastation of World War II deciding to quietly eliminate a few political enemies for the good of the state. Estimates are that he probably had between 50 and 100 million of his own people executed! There are dozens of such stories just from the twentieth century alone. And, no sane person would ever disagree that Adolph Hitler was evil.

I have no answer for why the events of last week took place. But, our actions should be to reach out in love, compassion, mercy and prayer to the families of the victims and the perpetrator. And, in our response we have once again turned to God. Where was God in the midst of this tragedy? Right where we left Him, out in the darkness; away in the shadows; escorted out of the picture by our culture for we do not need Him in our world of materialism, naturalism, and the promise of answers to all our quandaries from science.

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What we cannot solve with our equations and our theories is the mystery of the human heart and the human soul. Jesus solved that problem. He taught that the heart must change and can only change through a realization that He is the Light. This season whether you believe in God or not; whether you worship the baby born in a manager or believe it is all a myth; seek to fill your heart with the Light of the Love that Jesus showed to us. And, when you do, you will find peace and goodwill toward all men.

 

 

Vampires, Zombies, and Werewolves, Oh My!

Humans are fascinated with the undead — vampires, zombies, and werewolves.

“The Walking Dead” and “Twilight”. I am asked this question often in interviews about my book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon”. Why are we so fascinated with vampires and zombies?

We are fascinated with the undead because we have lost that connection with the divine and the eternal in our culture. In Ecclesiastes, we find a verse that says “God has put eternity in the hearts of all men”. But, our culture no longer accepts organized religion and has pushed God out of the Creator seat and replaced Him with Chance and Scientism. Without without the connection with the divine in our culture, we fill this spiritual void with a poor substitute.

In my book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” I use the context of our fascination with vampires, werewolves, and the undead to reconnect you with the truth that we have eternal souls and we long to connect to our Creator. You see, our “postmodern” culture claims there is no “metanarrative”; no “Big Picture”, no Story in which we play a role. But, Ravi Zacharias says that whatever we believe should answer 4 questions:

How Did I Get Here? — Origins

Why am I Here? — Meaning

How Should I live? — Morality

What Happens when I die? — Destiny

For centuries we here in America have lived according to the Christian “worldview” that there is a Creator with a purpose for creation; for our universe; for our world; for each of us. But, in the last fifty years, our culture has moved towards “naturalism” — the idea that there is no supernatural realm; that we are here purely by chance. When you die, you rot — end of story. Have a nice day.

Once we pushed God out of the creator seat and replaced Him with Chance and Random Processes — our answer to that last question went away. There is no “Destiny”.   We have hidden the Story behind a veil of denial. And yet, each human being longs for the divine; seeks the eternal.

And so, we long for destiny; what lies beyond this realm of existence. We sense there is more to life than just living and dying. And, if you have removed the rational foundation for belief in God, all that is left us is science. Science, or naturalism, tells us we are nothing more than DNA and biochemistry. So, science doesn’t answer the question. And, without God and religion, we turn to fiction; we turn to tales and myths and legends of the undead. Thus, our culture has become fascinated with death — specifically what happens after we die.

Ironically, in denying the truth of God; disallowing anything supernatural; we end up embracing fictional and mythical concepts and ideas that are far more wanky and bizarre than belief in the God of the Bible. As the famous author and apologist G. K. Chesterton wrote: “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.”

Can Christians Make a Difference Anymore?

I am stick to my stomach!

I am repulsed beyond repulsion!

I cannot believe what I read last week.

Two medical ethicists working with an Australian university have written a post in the Journal of Medical Ethics that if abortion of a fetus is allowable, so should be the termination of a newborn.

That’s right! If you missed your chance to have an abortion, then just have the newborn killed! And, we’re not even talking about throwing babies in the fire to worship Baal!

Here is more of what they said:

 “Alberto Giubilini with Monash University in Melbourne and Francesca Minerva at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne write that in ‘circumstances occur[ing] after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.’”

They want to change the name of such a “procedure” to “after birth abortion” instead of infanticide because it

“[emphasizes] that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child.”

You must read this article NOW at this link:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/ethicists-argue-in-favor-of-after-birth-abortions-as-newborns-are-not-persons/

Why am I making such a big deal, other than the obvious reasons this is INSANE and WRONG?

We have seen the devaluation of human life before. When humans become mere chunks of flesh or “meat sacks” then we have lost our way as humans. We are indeed animals. No surprise here. Look what Paul said in Romans 1:

 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.

Now, I have friends who are atheists, agnostics, evolutionists, naturalists, Muslims, and Hindus. I cannot imagine a single one of them condoning the killing of a newborn because the mother and father no longer desire to raise the child. This transcends world views! This transcends philosophies and theologies. If we, as a culture, condone killing newborn babies, then we, as a culture deserve to disappear; be destroyed; be cast down and ground under like dust. The killing of newborns is NOT an act of a civilized nation. And, any thinking person MUST stand up to this! We simply must! For if we don’t, then we are no better than those who killed 6 million Jews because they were deemed “inferior”!

But in doing so, beware. To take a stand on anything implies that we have an absolute value system about that issue. It makes the statement that there are transcendent values; moral values that cannot be made or destroyed by human agency. Our Declaration of Independence labels these as “inalienable” rights. The right to LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. Inalienable means a right that is transcendent and beyond human control. It CANNOT be taken away!

As published Christian authors, those of us who tell the Story of Truth can help to shape and mold public opinion. Writers have for centuries represent the forefront of cultural change mostly for the worse. But, we can do the opposite. We can write blog entries, essays, emails, Tweets, and, yes, stories that champion the kind of values that our culture has lost. We can be salt and light in the world, raising the beacon of Truth to a world steeped in darkness and evil. If we don’t speak up; if we don’t put into words our outrage over such changes in society, then God will hold us accountable for every letter, every word, every paragraph that was put forth for the world to see that failed to raise the light of Jesus Christ.

What do you think? What is our responsibility as followers of Christ? What can all of us, regardless of beliefs, do to help reshape a broken culture?

Is Santa Dead?

The little boy could not have been over 4, maybe 5 years old. He was wearing a sweatshirt meant for a kid around 7 and it swallowed him. He sat on the examining table playing with a straw, bending and flexing the jointed part of the straw. His mother sat in a chair, silent, sullen and withdrawn. I had already decided I was not going to become a pediatrician, but that didn’t keep me from seeing children in the Comprehensive Care Clinic. I was halfway through my senior year in medical school and proudly called myself “Student Doctor Hennigan”. As student doctors, we began to see our own patients in the CCC beginning our junior year. The care of these patients was overseen by family practice physicians with years of training. Any decision we made as students was directed by our “attending” physicians.

I had on my short white coat longing for the day I could move into the long, white coat — the “uniform” of a real doctor. On my breast pocket, I had pinned a flashing Santa Claus face that winked and blinked. I pointed to the pin. “What is Santa bringing you this year?”

The little boy flipped the straw and shrugged. “Santa Claus is dead.”

My mouth fell open and I glanced at the mother. A fiery defiance filled her eyes and she raised an eyebrow. “That’s right. Santa’s dead. In fact, you pronounced him dead, didn’t you Doctor?”

I stuttered. I opened and closed my mouth and she stood up and stepped very close. Her gazed bored into mine. “Now, you listen here. You brought up Santa to my son and I done told him Santa ain’t coming. I had to tell him Santa died cause I ain’t got no money this year for Christmas. You understand? And, unless you gonna cough up some dough, I suggest you tell my son that Santa is dead as a door knob and you personally pushed his body down to the morgue.”

I turned quickly and left the room, slamming the door behind me and stood there in the hall gasping for breath. This is not what I was prepared for in medical school. Santa was dead and I had pronounced him? Tears stung my eyes and I leaned against the wall with the sudden realization that as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t help everyone anymore than I could heal everyone. I had no money myself. I lived off of borrowed student loans or I would march back in and press a wad of twenties into that mother’s hands so that kid could have Christmas that year. But, instead, I limped away to my attending and begged for direction. He just laughed and told me to go back in and take care of the child’s physical needs.

“It’s not our place to promote magical thinking.” He sneered at me. “Go back and examine that child and don’t you say another word about Santa. And, take that stupid pin off your coat.”

I avoided the mother’s gaze while I took care of the child. I never mentioned Santa or Christmas again. I gave her a prescription for antibiotics and stiffly walked out of the room. I had no prescription for her bitterness.

Two thoughts come to mind when I recall this incident.

1 — Our culture wants to kill Santa and any and all “magical” thinking. Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist, has published a book telling children they should appreciate the universe for what it is and to encourage parents to avoid discussions of God as “magical” thinking. No matter where you stand on the issue of the existence of God, such thinking robs our children of the most important tool their minds possess — imagination. It is imagination that led to the discovery of every great scientific development through the history of mankind. It is imagination that has given us music, art, the spoken word, film, the written word, and, yes, Santa Claus. If we discourage our children to think outside the box, we condemn the future of mankind to a cold, sterile death. We indeed kill Santa Claus and every positive thought; every positive development that is to come. We become automatons; biological robots slave to our DNA. This is the ultimate end results of naturalism, the philosophy based on evolution. Just take a look at the one society in the last century that perfected a culture based on naturalism — survival of the fittest — Nazi Germany. I personally don’t want to go there as a society. So, we need to endure the results of magical, imaginative thinking — in fact, encourage it. For, there is truth here. Santa Claus came from the story of a real man; a real human being who saw the suffering of children and reached out to them in secret and that man’s legacy lives on in Santa Claus. If we kill Santa Clause, we kill kindness and mercy and generosity. As a society we can ill afford that right now!

 

 

 

2 — This is the season of light; the season of giving; the season of sacrifice. No matter where you stand on the issue of Christ’s birth, there is no denial that Jesus was born in extreme poverty. His birth was quiet and unnoticed save for the angels’ announcement to the lowest of workers — shepherds. And yet, the proclamation of joy and hope by the angels was undeniable. And, in time, the Christ child would be visited by the highest of the high, three kings; three magi — wise men bearing gifts of great worth. This season as you travel about in the hustle and bustle of buying gifts and going to parties and cooking and enjoying the closeness of friends and family, pause to remember a tiny boy seated on a cold examining table playing with a straw under the impression that the spirit of giving has died. Reach out and give to those who do not have. Spread joy and happiness to those who are living in perpetual sadness. Be a Santa to those who are in need and you will prove that Santa is not dead and neither is the spirit of giving so fittingly exemplified by God’s Gift to mankind — His only Son.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29

In the coming days, I will share with you how one day, not long after the events in this story, I actually KILLED Santa Claus!

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