Friday, September 28, 2007

Who rocks the cradle?

Thoughts on the book of Esther

God doesn't need to reveal Himself for us to know He's there. Like the wind, He moves invisibly though our lives, softly reassuring us of His presence, sometimes powerfully altering the lanscape of our circumbstance.

Its the only book (i think) that doesnt mention "God"! yet i couldnt help but acknowledge that the scriptwriter is definitely none other than Him. Esther is unique that its just like the dramas played out in my everyday life. No parting of the red sea, no burning bush, no angelic visitors...(though scary, it could have been easier that way!) cause its easy to see God in the miraculous, but not so in the mundane.

A survery of her story is a good reminder to Respond to the QUIET PROMPTINGS of God. I really really love Mordecai's challenge: "...and Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?" (4:14). I love this verse! Esther realized that she was raised to a such position for a reason, but to understand that reason, she has to ignore the palatial surrounding and listen to the still,small voice of providence. And Esther did!

"Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10)

God has set out for me a life where the action never stops. After almost 7 yrs of studying and 2 yrs of doing hospital work, i find it really hard to just sit still and look for God somewhere in the backstage. But now I'm learning...again.

Its so tempting to be up there in action again, to do what im trained to do. I love my work, i love being with the patients, i love the ER and the wards. Some people dont really understand why i chose to do what im doing now. Why i chose to stop for a while...and somehow divert a bit from the usual course. Outwardly, i seem to be very sure of what i want, of what to pursue. With the way my parents brought us up, maybe I am indeed.

But times do really come when a lot of others things have to be considered - - God, family, friends, relationships. I remember in High school when somebody told me: "wag ka na mag-doctor, di ka na mag-aasawa!" I vividly remembered my reply: "Im ready to give up any career if i had to choose between it and my own family". Still true? hmmm...depends on who I meet. :-)

"It's a "career-delay" they said. but i dont know, i just convice myself that maybe God has given me such a time as this indeed for a reason, just like how He maneuvered Esther's path...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Success vs. Excellence

This was part of the sharing i gave in a short session with some UP Medical Students last month.

The moment I learned I wasn’t accepted to my Med school of choice, I thought I’d be disappointed, but surprisingly, I wasn’t. I realized God has other plans. That’s what I wanna share with you guys, how having a real relationship with the Lord made my medical school and training a ‘not-so-smooth’ yet meaningful experience.

So what brought you to medicine? to UP? For me… it was AMBITION. But you know what? I realized there’s something more…there SHOULD be something more. Something and someone greater who kept me going. Kung ambition lang, I wouldn’t have survived med school. (the anti-PBL doctors made it really hard for us to continue med-sch; I have classmates who literally dropped out from 3rd yr, entered 1st yr again, in order to go back to the traditional curriculum). I personally struggled, they said our outcome would go ‘palpak’ coz we’l never get a good grasp of the real stuff. All these criticisms, even some personal criticisms coming from relatives who are big time doctors were really discouraging!

But anyway, I prayed; He was the one who placed me in med sch at the time UST was going into a transition, and who am I to question His plans. Surprisingly, the curriculum worked for me! This was my very style of studying! And the Lord gave me a good start. So what brought you to UP College of Medicine? you have your own reasons, but I do hope that that’s just for starters…

there should be more than just the ambition to be a doctor. There should be meaning and a purpose in that dream of yours.

Tayo kasi, very idealistic. We look for meaning and purpose, trying to see, where in the world will there be a need for us. Where we will fit in and where at the same time we will find satisfaction in the work. Naku, mahirap, when you reach clerkship (senior year), all those ideals of yours will suddenly disappear. Gone is the young doctor, wanting to save & serve patients.

The only thing that worked for me in finding the purpose of being here started from having a personal relationship with God. Give it a try! Squeeze-in that Bible into your study sessions. (hmm, maybe after every few chapters of Harrison, after that chapter on nephritic/nephrotic, or after that verrrryyy long chapter on Lupus!)

Finally here comes clerkship…you feel so excited, heto na! This is what I’ve been waiting for – the real thing! And then during my first duty….oh no…just when I was waiting for someone to call me doctor, I didn’t get any. Instead, we we’re called miss, nurse, ma’am, and get all kinds of statement from patients like: estudyante ka palang diba? Miss,miss,pa-BP nga! Wala bang totoong doctor dito? Miss,magkano ba ang CBC? Wala bang titingin sa akin? (hello! I just did a complete Physical Examination on you head to toe, plus all the orifices of ur body! and you call that ‘walang tumitingin!!”). Little did the patients know that they wont even get a complete physical examinuation from a ‘real’ doctor whom they are looking for! And then suddenly,you see yourself pushing stretchers, wheelchairs and even oxygen tanks, something the nurses in our hospital’s charity wards doesn’t even do!

You know what? After my first duty; I told myself, it seems like I didn’t learn any medicine. What then have i learned? Humility!
2nd day? Even more humility! Mega-dose. This time, something more—humiliation. Because I was young, inexperienced, textbook trained, and proud.

We drain the urine, every hour, no spillage. You fail to report the urine output… then if the patient dies, blame’s on you. Nagututlak ng 02 tank…Do peritoneal dialysis, for almost 24 hrs. Ambubagging the whole night in a dying patient who’s relatives hasn’t arrive yet, and we literally had to shop around for free medicines all night. It was easy to lose all those compassion when you’re sleepy and tired. Be prepared, learn to be humble, or else you’ll learn humility the hard way when you get to do all sort of things as senior students!

But with the Lord, once in a while, you get an eye-opener (a rebuke actually!) He reminds me that these people are no different from me. By nature, we humans are all sinners. I am a sinner whom Jesus died for…these patients are also people whom Jesus died for. When Christ died, He died once and for all, walang pinipili, para sa lahat. And just as I was saved by believing in Jesus as my personal Lord and saviour, these patients are also people in need for a savior. The same God who had a plan for me also have a plan for them. Just like I have many needs, these patients have needs too, and the God who supplies my needs, will supply theirs too.

You, me, our patients …we all need a saviour. Pare-pareho lang tayo.

It’s just that, I was given the privilege to reach out to them because of my training in medicine. That as a medical student I should be grateful, for He is using me as the immediate source of help. Yes, immediate. Such as? giving Oxygen even thru hours of ambubagging, even to the point of your whole hand being numb and weak. I am being used by God to keep them from renal failure thru manual Dialysis. Or in draining the hospicare bag, I obtain the accurate fluid balance.

Big time reminders talaga yun, sometimes nakaka-guilty. Being tired and sleepless ware the perfect excuses for having such attitude. I often forgot all these things. To be honest, I’m not very consistent in spending time with God during those times, I love to rest and sleep. But those reminders just doesn’t pop out from somewhere, the little half-asleep+half-awake time I spent in reading (minsan nga ‘staring’ nalang) the bible and prayer really helped a lot.

Next, how would you define success? Isn’t it funny, that we who are in the medical training are never “successful enough” ??
1st yr – success is “if I pass”
after that 1st half—'if I make it to the dean’s list'
Clerkship -- 'to be known among the bosses… be outstanding in ward work, esp. during rounds…and to get compliments from seniors'.

That would initially define success. I mean, c’mon, we all want that!

I’m no different, I aimed for such things. I want to graduate with honors…I want this, I want that. I told myself, “Lord, pag-nakuha ko ito,I’ll be happy bcoz that’s the only thing I can give back to my parents. All I want was to give them the chance to go up on stage, be recognized. After that, I’ll stop aiming.” (eventually, by God’s grace, I did graduate with honors, but then again, all by God’s grace!).
Then a year of post-graduate internship work…then board exams. What’s success then at this point? to top the boards? who wouldn't want that!

There was a point in time I really felt guilty for wanting more. You see, Success will always have a new definition…it’s a never ending quest.

God then allowed a pastor-friend who reminded me that “hey, there is no other way but to aim for the best. You are a Christian, you always aim for what’s good and beneficial. BUT along with this quest to become successful, there should be a proper motive”. From that time on, instead of focusing on the word success… she just reminded me to strive for EXCELLENCE. To be good in what I am trained to do, as student, as clerk then as intern; to have a pure motive in wanting to pursue excellence.

How? If the task is CPR on a dying patient, I have to excel in doing that (you know how hard it is to pump a man’s chest!). If the task is to run laboratories and get results, then I shouldn’t be wasting a single moment, coz the management depends on it. If I need to do the grandrounds, then ill study well to impress the consultants and to help my classmates learn. If I’m tasked to pull the entire femur bone for 5 hours in the OR, I’ll gladly do it, just so that the proper internal fixation will be made by the orthopedic. Even if its just an appendectomy skin closure, I’ll make a perfect suture, because the scar would matter to the patient (bad scars ruin that hot bikini outfit !).

So excellence is something I know I can achieve in all sorts of task (not beyond the level of capability), be it with the patients, or in front of the consultants. If I focus on success, I know I’ll never be successful enough, bcoz there will always be something else to pursue. We can never be successful enough in our own eyes, moreso not in the eye of the consultants; they always push us to be more like this and like that (oh yes, believe me!)

And in the process of wanting more, We might become dissatisfied with the things that God has been blessing us with.

So with the right motive, and with God’s enabling, we have to strive for excellence. I always remind myself, that I believe in an EXCELLENT GOD who is RUNNING THE WORLD, and the AFFAIRS of EACH INDIVIDUAL (including mine and my patient’s); and for that He deserves nothing less than an EXCELLENT well-trained doctor.

Hard? It is. But it’s meaningful, and its worth all the effort. When you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you know whom you are working for. Even if no one pushes you, you would still without doubt want to excel…for Him, for the patients whom He will bring to you now, maybe later, or someday.

Simply havin’ an Ambition would push us to be good. But focusing & havin a real relationship with the God of the Bible spells the difference between a successful career and a meaningful one. It was the Lord who enabled me to want to excel even more, because I know that one day, my career can be used by God for His work! Be it in a clinic, hospital, or even in some ‘unreached’ places out there!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Customs n' Culture

I got a claim card from the post office. Cheerfully, i went, satisfied that the package wasnt lost at all (oh yes,that happens most of the time!). The customs officer almost handed the package to me, yeah, Almost. Yet something caught his attention, the decleared cost in US$. I was asked to wait...the paranoid side of me thought "hmm...something fishy's goin on, looks like they are conspiring to get something out of this".

True enough, i got the ff questions...
"Ma'am,where do you live? binondo? you live in binondo? binondo?"
"Ma'am, malaki ang declared cost nito, baka ma-tax kayo! papa-compute ko kay sir magkano."
"Ma'am, antay lang kayo ha..."

They opened the package. Among the contents, the 6 books, labeled kaplan caught their attention. "Ma'am, mahal dyan sa kaplan ah,may kakilala ako andyan,mahal yan ah. nag-re-review ka ba dyan?" (hello?? its second hand stuff,and please,mind your own business! Legally speaking,these are not taxable items!)

And slowly,as if waiting for something, they went thru my stuff! Now im getting real annoyed. All this hassle...its hot down there in the basement,and im hungry! The pragmatic (and hungry) side of me just wanna settle and ask How much do they want ba?!

I called up adrin hya (after my bro, he's the next person who keeps me out of trouble...especially when my tire's busted, happens all the time! thanks ads hya,sa susunog na flat tire uli ah) and asked if there's a way out, cz he once had an encounter there. He gave me options, then finally he texted me "joy,you know what? let them compute, pay the whole amount, get the receipt, God will bless you for doing that. Forget about the cost,the hassle,and the money."

I was about to get my money when this old customs lady inside "psssttt" me to one corner and said, "madam,bakit ayaw mo makipag-settle? mabilis naman kausap si boss ah, sige na, mapapamahal ka lang". To make matters more obvious, she even threatened me and said, a lot of medical books are up there in the stockroom because the claimants cant pay for the due tax imposed. Naku, ASA ka pa,i thought. You wont get any merienda from me. (i just saw a bilao of sotanghon few minutes ago inside their office). Realizing that i wasnt about to settle, she then slipped a piece of paper,with her name and cell#. She said "next time po, pag may package kayo,just text me, tayo nalang mag-settle.

Grabe,i can't believe it. Corrupt, selfish, inconsiderate officers were all down there in the hot n' humid basement.

Proudly, i told myself. Haha, gotcha! You thought your gonna get something from this lady from binondo. BUT at the end of the day, i felt guilty cause i forgot to do something beyond what im expected to do.

Yes, I fullfilled my DUTY (Id rather that the money goes to the gov't than to a bilao of sotanghon), but i wasnt pleased. I knew God wasnt completely DELIGHTED. Because I was too annoyed to do something more. I failed to make them realize why I didnt give. I should've told the old lady, "madam,i'm a Christian, and i cannot disobey my God". I should have made her realize WHY i valued honesty, and HOW and WHO's strength it is that I rely on to resist such temptations.

Im sorry, next time nalang Lord...but please, never in that govt office again :-)

Desiring God

" The purpose of Man is to Glorify God
and to enjoy Him forever "
DESIRING GOD, by John Piper

I was once a young high school student back then when i first got a glimpse of how life should go about. A nice lady pastor got me this book. I thought, "sheez...God is so good, its just but right to enjoy God, to find pleasure in knowing Him, to glorify Him! I love God, i enjoy Him, I enjoy His blessings, His Word, and I find it real easy to enjoy being with Him! Why then would a man write so many things about enjoyment? Why?, does grown-ups find it hard to DELIGHT in experiencing such a simple emotion?"

Years went by...duties came...responsibilities grew...
oh...that's why!

then little by little, passion dwindled...

Suddenly debate between Duty and Delight existed.

Hope this review would enourage you to get a copy and read this book written many years ago, back when we were both young, passionate, and eager to enjoy Christ, until life's responsibilities came, and suddenly all those eternal pleasures were hard to find:

" Scripture reveals that the great business of life is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. In this paradigm-shattering classic, newly revised and expanded, John Piper reveals that the debate between duty and delight doesn't truly exist: Delight is our duty. Readers will embark on a dramatically different and joyful experience of their faith. The pursuit of pleasure is not optional. It is essential. Scripture reveals that the great business of life is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. In this paradigm-shattering work, John Piper reveals that the debate between duty and delight doesn’t truly exist: Delight is our duty. Join him as he unveils stunning, life-impacting truths you saw in the Bible but never dared to believe!"