Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My Pilgrimage to Baitumagdis

My country, Malaysia, does not recognised the political nation of Israel and hence we, Malaysian, are not allowed to visit Israel. There is only one country which was printed in our passport which we cannot visit – Israel. So it was with joy that I learnt last year that Malaysia has begun to issue special pilgrim permits to Christians to visit Israel for religious pilgrimage. It was with great joy that we signed up with the Seminari Theologi Malaysia (STM) study tour to Israel from 21-28 May 2012. Going on such a trip is expensive but we are willing to pay for the opportunity. According to the organisers, the application for the pilgrim permit was submitted in February 2012.

We were informed in early May (a couple of weeks before our departure date) that our applications were rejected by the Home Ministry. Then followed a nerve-wrecking time of uncertainty during which the organisers made an appeal to the Home Ministry to reverse their decision. The secretary-general of the Christian Federation of Malaysia was especially helpful.

For me a personal decision has to be made whether to proceed if the appeal did not bear fruit. It was a tough struggle for me to make such a decision. On one hand, a lot of money was spent; hotels and airfares paid, and leave from work arranged. To withdraw would mean substantial financial loss and a wasted opportunity. On the other hand, I agree with Paul (Romans 13:1-7) that we are to obey our authorities (Home Ministry of Malaysia). So it was a time of intense prayer; pleading to God, and also to come to a state when I am willing to submit and let go of the trip if the approval did not come.

Jehovah Jireh! Our God provides. The approval came late on Wednesday 16 May evening. We were to leave on Friday 18 May! Phew! So after putting on our pilgrim shoes, we flew like a flock of homing pigeons to Baitulmaqdis (tulisan Arab/Jawi: بيت المقدس).


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Random Glimpses of My Desktop (23)

hand carved olive wood figurine of Apostle Paul from Bethlehem


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Friday, May 11, 2012

Spirituality and Prayer

Prayer is subversive activity. It involves a more or less open act of defiance against any claim by the current regime. . . .[As we pray] slowly but surely, not culture, not family, not government, not job, not even the tyrannous self can stand against the quiet power and creative influence of God's sovereignty. Every natural tie of family and race, every willed commitment to person and nation is finally subordinated to the rule of God.

Eugene Peterson, Where Your Treasure Is


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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Booknotes on The Contemplative Pastor

Eugene H. Peterson, 1989, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the art of spiritual direction, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

This book should be read concurrently with his memoirs, The Pastor (2011). Peterson’s thesis that pastoral work is spiritual direction is like a breath of fresh air in the numerous books on spiritual direction which focus on techniques and processes. Here, Petersen defines pastoral work as spiritual direction which is also known as soul care. Throughout the centuries of Christian history, he argues that

[T]he [pastoral] work was the same: discovering the meaning of Scripture, developing a life of prayer, guiding growth into maturity. This is the pastoral work that is historically termed the cure of souls. The primary sense of cura in Latin is "care," with undertones of "cure." The soul is the essence of the human personality. The cure of souls, then, is the Scripture-directed, prayer-shaped care that is devoted to persons singly or in groups, in settings sacred and profane. It is a determination work at the center, to concentrate on the essential. (p.57)

I find this refreshing. Spiritual direction (soul care) is helping people to pray, to understand the bible and grow spiritually. A simple and precise definition. Peterson underscores the way we are running the church as compared to spiritual direction (soul care)

In running the church, I seize the initiative- I take charge. I take responsibility for motivate and recruitment, for showing the way, for getting things started. If I don't, things drift. I am aware of the tendency to apathy, the human susceptibility to indolence, and I use my leadership position to counter it.

By contrast, the cure of souls is a cultivated awareness that God has already seized the initiative. The traditional doctrine defining this truth is provenience: God everywhere and always seizing the initiative. He gets things going. He had and continues to have the first word. Prevenience is the conviction that God has been working diligently, redemptively, and strategically before I appeared on the scene, before I was aware there was something here for me to do.

The cure of souls is not indifferent to the realities of human lethargy, naive about congregational recalcitrance, or inattentive to neurotic cussedness. But there is a disciplined, determined conviction that everything (and I mean, precisely, everything) we do is a response to God's first work, his initiating act. We learn to be attentive to the divine action already in process so that the previously unheard word of God is heard, the previously unattended act of God is noticed (p.60-61).

He rewords it so that the contrast is obvious:

Running-the-church questions are: What do we do? How can we get things going again?

Cure-of-souls questions are: What has God been doing here? What traces of grace can I discern in this life? What history of love can I read in this group? What has God set in motion that I can get in on? (p.61)

This gives a new perspective on spiritual direction (soul care) and on the contrast between competitive and contemplative pastoral care. God has already taken the initiative and is active in the world. Our job as spiritual directors are to discern what God is doing in our lives and that of our directees and get on bound. It is a job of grace discernment and appropriation.


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Wednesday, May 09, 2012


THE END IS NEAR – Chapter 5 by Dr Philip Cheong


 In Matthew 24:31, Jesus said He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect (His chosen ones) from the four winds, from one end of the universe to the other. (Amplified Bible) Apostle Paul identified this trumpet as the last one. The rapture will take place at the last trumpet call.

1 Corinthians 15:52 Amplified Bible
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet call. For a trumpet will sound, and the dead in Christ will be raised imperishable (free and immune from decay), and we shall be changed (transformed).

At the sound of the last trumpet Jesus Christ will return to rescue his people at the end of the great tribulation; before the wrath of God is inflicted on this evil and violent world. At that moment, God’s chosen ones will be transformed into imperishable, indestructible and immortal people. What a day that will be!

 read more .


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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Is Dr Google My Competitor?

Increasingly, I find that many of my patients' parents have googled their children's problems before bringing them to see me in my clinic. Gradually, I have been eased from being the first and primary source of healthcare information by Dr Google. Should I be concerned? Yes and no.

Yes, because there is such a pleothora of information out in cyperspace that it is difficult to distinguish the facts from the trash. Anyone and everyone can set up a blog or website and give their two cents' worth. Whether their two cents is worth anything, given the inflation nowadays, is questionable. In the websites of reputable centers such as the CDC (Centre for Disease Control), universities and peer-reviewed journals are a lot of useful information but the general public is generally not equipped to interpret this information and apply it to their own conditions. Support groups and information produced by companies are sometimes useful but often dubious and laced with hidden agendas.

No, because I have taken on Dr Google as my partner in my clinical practice. While I am no longer the first source of information, I remain the trusted source to help the parents sieve through the information and recommend the helpful path. Quoting Aurora et al, an informative opinion article from the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, Virtual Mentor. May 2012, Volume 14, Number 5: 363-436, The Patient, the Physician and Dr Google

From a thorough review of the patient communication literature, Arora et al. recommended that in addition to exchanging information a responsive health care system should also find ways to: (a) enable patients to manage their own care; (b) foster healing relationships with the care team; (c) support patients in making sound decisions, taking evidence-based medical knowledge and personal values into account; (d) manage the uncertainty associated with medical diagnoses and probabilistic treatment recommendations; and (e) help patients deal with and respond to their own emotions 

I also agree with the author, Dr Hesse that

Unlike other sectors, the health care sector must rely on a shared understanding of complex processes to be optimally effective. According to the Institute of Medicine, that shared understanding can and should be extended to patients . Online supports for patient engagement may eventually become an integral part of the process. In fact, new data from the Livestrong Foundation suggest that patients do better at self-management once they begin to feel comfortable with their ability to search for and find medically relevant information from a variety of sources.
I am not taking a backseat to Dr Google but partnering with him in my patient care. Dr Braddock shares his opinion about this medical trinity in Through the Physician's Eyes: The Patients (Internet)-Physician Relationship. He notes,

Similarly, by demonstrating a respectful rather than scoffing attitude toward the patient's sources, one can convert a potentially adversarial discussion into a more collegial one. When patients share their sources of information, they are also demonstrating trust in us and giving us insight into their thinking. What do they really think of our diagnoses and treatment recommendations? These are questions for which we need answers; they hold the key to fostering patient adherence to treatment regimens. We can make the patient feel comfortable by acknowledging that they are not taking their medications, or that they are taking alternative treatments outside of our prescribed plan. These situations also offer an opportunity to give patients advice about finding reputable sources of medical information. We can ask them about their sources, and along the way suggest sources we know to be providers of good quality information. 

 As we doctors have embraced other technologies in our patient care, we must recognise that the Internet is another tool in our arsenal. Like other technologies, it must be used responsibly.


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