Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Evil Revisited

Well, the two comments I got on my last post inspired me to write again. So thanks Northern Plains Anglican and Anna! I was thinking of just letting my blog slip into hibernation mode, which still might happen, but right now I'm just going to try to post every week or two. Medical school is going well. The amount of information presented in lectures does make it somewhat like "drinking from a fire-hydrant" but I think, with God's help, I'll make it.

So my topic as you can see from my title is the problem of evil, theodicy. Just in reading my textbooks I'm constantly being confronted with "clinical correlates" which is basically every rare and horrible disease or syndrome you can imagine. Which leads me to cry out, "why God?" To some extent I know the answer: sin and separation from God. But I am still unsatisfied with my understanding of some of the horrible evils that occur as a result of little things like genetic mutations.

Here at Loma Linda we have required religion classes. So far they have been pretty good. We usually have some Scripture-reading assigned along with an article or two to read. We've also had two patients share. Both are Christians and both have a lot of suffering in their lives to deal with. The response of these two people were different but I found both inspiring. One of them feels robbed by what happened to him and he was unwilling to accept any simple explanations like Satan did it or that it was somehow God's will. I think he might still have some anger about it but with all of that he was still able to say that he has a close relationship with God. The other patient was actually able to see her circumstance as a gift from God, that had caused her to draw closer to God and witness to many. As she talked I was amazed by the amount of trust in God that she showed. She said something like, "if I stay here God will take care of me and if I don't stay here I go to my true home." Both of these people live with the "evil" in their lives in different ways and I'm not going to judge if one is better.

So when it comes down to it, the only thing in Scripture that completely defeats any "problem" of evil is Romans 8:18. Paul says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Paul suffered a lot, which to me makes this statement all the stronger. Of course this statement only does away with the problem of evil for a person with enough faith to believe it. This level of trust in God is not always easy to have and I admit that I have struggled with it at times on my Christian journey. The wrongs and evils that are experienced in this world are, for the most part, not righted here. All we can do with them is give them to God, trusting in his Victory, Justice and Love which is being and will be revealed.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Fearfully Wonderful Vapor

I've made it through the first few days of lectures pretty much unscathed. It is a definite change of pace from anything I've done before though. An amazing amount of information is presented in these lectures. I know that for me, figuring out my study strategy will be huge. So far I've read the textbooks, reviewed lecture notes and made some note cards but I think I have a long way to go in figuring out how to study for medical school. My experience in the hospital and the lectures I've attended have made me reflect a bit though on the nature of man.

In the hospital I was reminded of how frail and short human life is. I was reminded that everything in my body is getting older. This heart in my chest that seems so strong will become weak and will eventually stop. From the moment you come into existence as a zygote your life is fraught with peril. From without as well as from within. Truly as James said, "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away," is true about us in our flesh. So thinking about these things have made me ponder where my hope is. Is it in the strength of my flesh? Is it in the pleasure that can be gained from my flesh? If that is where my hope is then it is no hope at all. For those things, strength, pleasure and whatever else is connected with the flesh will shortly pass away. Some of my charismatic friends taught me to speak of "strengthening the spirit-man" within me. It only makes sense to strengthen that which is eternal. Of course I know that there will be a resurrection and our resurrection bodies will not be corrupted but this flesh is weak and quickly passing, therefore make no provision for it.

The other thought that has been running through my mind is the utter stupidity and blindness of the idea that we got here by chance. It is insanity to think such a thing. It seems to me that such a thought is a sin of great magnitude and I will confess that there was a time when I committed it. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Praise God for it.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

Big Bear

Today I made my second foray into the mountains east of L.A. Today my drive and hike were much more interesting than last week when I went to Idyllwild. I drove up to Big Bear Lake, a resort town at 6700 ft. with some ski areas around it. I drove up to one of the ski resorts and wasn’t too impressed by what I saw but I still hope to go snowboarding up here some day. I went to the trusty local Starbucks and asked for directions to a good short hike. The directions I received did not disappoint. The trail was a short but steep ascent onto a rocky ridge southwest of town. Near the top of the ridge are some impressive rock outcroppings. The tops of these outcroppings afford some great views of the lake and the mountains. The area would be great for rock-climbing too.
Well, lectures start on Monday so I’m a little nervous about the real start of medical school. For the last two weeks I’ve been in the hospital every week-day on a team, which has been great, but now things get much more serious. I know that it will be hard work but I also trust God that He will provide what I need. I would appreciate the prayers, though, of any Christians who read this that I would trust God and have a smooth transition into school.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


On Saturday I decided to get up out of the smog and go hiking in some of the mountains east of L.A. I ended up at Idyllwild, somewhere between 5000 and 6000 feet in elevation in a sparsely forested mountainous area. I assumed that hiking trails would be obvious when I got up there, and maybe they were, but all I could find was a guide for short walks. I went on one of these and took in some cool views…More importantly, I talked with God on my hike and I meditated on the words of the 53rd Psalm. It was the Psalm that came up in my regular reading that day. I ended up especially meditating on verse 5, “There they were, overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread. God scattered the bones of those who attacked you; you put them to shame, for God despised them.” Now I am usually uncomfortable when people play fast and loose with Scripture. But when I read this verse, it said something to me that I think is very different from the intent of David when he first wrote it. I think what David was saying was that the enemies of Israel were overwhelmed with dread when humanly speaking there was nothing to dread since the enemies of Israel had greater man-power. God himself overwhelmed the enemies of Israel, causing them to dread, and scattered their bones. But here’s what I got when I first read it: The followers of God were overwhelmed with dread when there was nothing to dread because God will defeat and “scatter the bones,” of the enemies of his people. This really spoke to me because there have been times in my life when I've been in bondage to fear. But if I really believe God’s word, the Bible, and if I believe that God is present with me then why should I fear anything? Why should I be overwhelmed with dread when God will scatter the bones of my enemies? So this Psalm spoke to me about how Satan often deceives Christians into fear when we have nothing to fear. After all, even if we are killed in this life, we will have life-eternal in the glory of the God the Father with the Son and the Holy Spirit. And if God wills that we continue to live in this foreign land then He will deliver us.

I lift my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

One Week In

Well, I don't have too much to say other than that things are going great and I have loved my experience so far at Loma Linda. Right now I'm getting "ward experience" where I'm in the hospital hanging out with a team, seeing everything they do and taking part in some things. This has been a great experience and I got matched with a very helpful third-year student so I've been very thankful for his advice. Lectures start on the 20th so in a way that's when the rubber really hits the road. I'm hoping that my blog will not go dormant at that time. I'm sure that there will at least be short updates like this one and also hopefully some more lengthy pieces. The last week has also been a very good time spiritually. I decided not to get a TV and I don't really have any friends or homework yet so I've been reading some really great books, like this one, in my free-time and praying more than I have in the past.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Sign of the Skunk and New Church Families...

It's a strange title, huh? I thought about writing two separate blogs but I decided just to combine two events that happened in the last two days...

Last night I decided to go for a walk. It was already dark but I went for a walk around Loma Linda Hospital and the campus of the university. I was ascending the stairs to my apartment in the near pitch-black darkness when I became aware of movement about three feet off to my left. I stared at what had moved and in the darkness it looked like a small plant. There are lots of plants near my apartment but I knew that this thing had just moved and made a sound. I stared at it for a second, barely able to see its dark outline. I starting walking again toward my door and it also moved. I looked back and I could clearly see two white stripes against a darker color. I hurried away a bit quicker, not wishing to smell of skunk when I start in the hospital on Monday. I was struck right away though by the appearance of a skunk outside my door as I start medical school. I was struck because two years earlier I had a nearly identical experience. On perhaps my first night at Asbury Theological Seminary I was walking back to Grice from Solomon's Porch and a skunk walked right in front of my dormitory. So I don't know what this means but it does seem a strange coincidence.

More importantly, today I found the church that I will most likely worship in for the next four years. It is Inland Anglican Fellowship of Highland, California. Inland Anglican Fellowship is a church-plant of St. James Anglican at Newport Beach which is under the authority of the Archbishop of Uganda. So I've moved from Rwanda to Uganda and continue to be thankful for the institutional connection with my African brothers and sisters. The people were extremely friendly and it was wonderful to be fed with Spiritual Food in the Sacrament of Jesus Christ's Body and Blood.