Party Center (Psalms 119:36-37)

Whoopee cushion. Party poppers. Magic tricks.

It was all found at Party Center.

When I was growing up, the Party Center was located in our hometown’s major shopping center. Whenever we visited this shopping center, I always insisted my parents take me to this store. It was eye candy and I could spend hours perusing the various items. However, I was always drawn to one item: Morning Breeze. It was an interesting concoction that was bottled in a small elegant bottle mimicking an expensive perfume. However, upon opening it, it smelled like rotten eggs. I was strangely delighted by this and would save my allowance to purchase a bottle whenever I was able, pranking unsuspecting adults. 

I no longer have any of the items that I purchased nor do I know what happened to them. OF course, all of these items can still be found online or in similar novelty stores. Thankfully, I do not have the same eagerness to purchase these worthless things. Yet, have I replaced them with other items? I do not purchase bottles of Morning Breeze but I am a sucker to make impulse purchases when I watch an infomercial for the latest new fangled cooking utensil or a pillow that is guaranteed to induce a restful sleep. 

Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money! Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word. 

Psalms 119:36-37 (NLT)

God intended this Bible verse to instruct me. The passage of time has not really changed me. I still am vulnerable to trivial distractions. Likewise, in my spiritual life, I still fall victim to things that take my eyes off of God and rob me of the abundant life that God intends for me. Praise God for His grace and mercy to me. He is faithful to me even when I am not. 

Amen!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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Sleep Aid (Psalms 119:148)

For the past three years, I have had difficulty falling asleep and remaining asleep. My problem is common and it is well known that as we age, problems with sleep increase. I have tried numerous sleep aids and while they have helped a little, I believe it is a more profound problem than aging or a physiological change. Many nights, I find myself anxious about what I need to do for the next day or pondering unresolved issues from the previous week. The anxiousness is always exacerbated on Sunday evenings, anticipating the next workday after a weekend of rest.  In a way, it is related to age since the longer I live, the more the problems accumulate. 

I stay awake through the night, thinking about your promise. 

Psalms 119:148 (NLT)

An anonymous person penned these sage words. “The average person is crucifying himself between two thieves: the regrets of yesterday and the worries about tomorrow.”

Truth, indeed.

How I wish that during the nights when I cannot sleep, I would think about God and His promises that He always keeps rather than drowning in my problems and potential failures that may occur. Why stop there? Every moment of the day, I should be thinking about His promises; the ones that He has fulfilled and the ones that He will deliver. God is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him. If I give Him my anxieties, He will deal with them and give me peace. 

I don’t need a sleep aid. I need to rest in God. 

Amen!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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Straining To See (Psalms 119:82)

“Now read the letters back to me.”

I strained to make out the letters in the fifth line.

“P…E…uh…O….E….G?”

The optometrist took some notes. We tried another line with my same hesitating results. The diagnosis was clear. I needed glasses. I could not believe it. I was only eight years old, I’m too young for glasses, I naively thought. Not too young, as I soon learned. Both of my parents wore glasses at a similar young age. I have worn glasses nearly my entire life. With rare exceptions, with each passing year, my prescription worsens. For many years, it was nearsightedness. After age forty, presbyopia reared its ugly head and I had difficulty focusing on objects and words directly in front of me. Now I wear glasses with progressive lenses, replete with four different prescriptions to accommodate my weakened near and far vision. My only comfort is a wonderful optometrist who expertly corrects my failing vision. Now, if only my spiritual vision was not as impaired!

My eyes are straining to see your promises come true. When will you comfort me? 

Psalms 119:82 (NLT)

God’s promises are always before me, so why do I act as if I am both nearsighted and presbyopic, straining to see them? My eye vision has become my spiritual vision. God blesses me with so many immediate promises, yet how often do I take them for granted? Other times, His promises take years to fulfill and I grow impatient waiting, thinking He has forgotten me. Instead of glasses, God comforts me by sharpening my spiritual vision. As I yield my life to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, He conforms me to His image so that I may view life from His lofty perspective rather than through my blurred vision.

What a glorious God we serve!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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Passport2Purity (Psalms 119:9)

When my daughter entered middle school, my wife spent a weekend alone with her. They undertook a study known as “Passport2Purity”.  Created by the Christian organization, Family Life, this study encourages a father to meet with his son or a mother to meet with their daughter, ideally spending a weekend together. The objective of the study is to establish a strong relationship between the parent, child, and God as they enter the difficult years of adolescence and are faced with the very adult issues of sex, bullying, and online stalking. 

What was shared between my daughter and my wife was for their ears alone. While I reviewed the material and found it to be Biblically sound, I trusted God to bless their time together and created a solid foundation for my daughter, to navigate the challenges of adolescence and the transition to adulthood. 

How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. 

Psalms 119:9 (NLT)

If we, as parents, are proactive to address issues like sexual and moral purity from God’s perspective, it will do much to combat the world’s barrage of moral and ethical relativism that innundate our children and encourage a carnal lifestyle. The world states, “If it feels good, do it.” God turns this around and states, “If you obey my Word, it is Good.”

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. 

Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)

There are no guarantees in my life. I am thankful that my wife and daughter took the time to do the study. However, this study is only the beginning. As parents, we need to continually pray for our children, directing them onto the right path to God. This is the passport to purity and it is based upon obedience to God and His Word.

Amen!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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Letter of Recommendation (Psalms 119:55)

When I am asked to write a letter of recommendation, I always include a personal story about the applicant that attempts to paint an intimate portrayal, one that accurately depicts the person.  I seek to provide a unique insight, something that cannot be gleaned from reading a transcript. Similarly, when I read a letter of recommendation, I am looking for the same thing. If I read a letter that simply regurgitates the person’s grades and their activities, it is meaningless. It tells me that either the person writing the letter did not really know the person, did not have anything good to say, or was a poor choice to write a letter. Sometimes, it is all of the above. 

A letter of recommendation is a reflection of the person. It is written for the purpose of encouraging the reader to positively act and hire the person for the position to which they are applying. When I read a good letter, it will encourage me to act. What about God? When I reflect upon Him, what is my response?

I reflect at night on who you are, O LORD; therefore, I obey your instructions. 

Psalms 119:55 (NLT)

Like a letter of recommendation, when I reflect upon God, it should motivate me to act. If it doesn’t, it should be a stark warning that I do not know God as well as I think I do. God’s nature and character are perfect. I am an abject sinner. When reflecting upon His pure holiness, it should motivate me to confess and repent of my sins and reaffirm my love for Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. 

Amen!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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Harmonically Excursive (Psalms 119:73)

Being a physician, one may assume that the most enjoyable class I took in college was a science class, but it was not, it was a music theory class. However, it was not the expected music theory class for music majors who were required to have proficiency with the piano, nor was it a music theory class for students who had absolutely no musical background. This class required all students to be able to read music and be proficient in any musical instrument but did not fulfill the rigorous requirements expected of a music major. Since I played guitar and violin and read music, it was the perfect music theory class for me.

I loved the class! Each homework assignment analyzed a great work of classical music: piano sonatas by Beethoven, string quartet pieces from Mozart, and so on. I learned the nuances of the melodic and harmonic underpinnings that established these composers as geniuses. The semester sped by and we were given our final examination assignment. We were to submit an original musical composition and were given no restrictions. I dove into the task with gusto.

Building upon my background in classical and jazz music, I composed a complex piece that could be performed on guitar. While following a traditional framework of most songs, I utilized harmonies and rhythmic devices that stretched my usual boundaries of music. I was quite proud of my work and was elated when my professor praised my work and wrote in bold red letters on the composition, “Excellent job! Harmonically excursive!” I successfully built upon the lessons I learned in the class to create a new direction in my music. 

You made me; you created me. Now give me the sense to follow your commands. 

Psalms 119:73 (NLT)

All successful entrepreneurs, artists, and musicians must learn the rules first before breaking them. Instead, for much of my youth, I placed the cart before the horse, paying lip service to traditions, thinking my creativity would be superior to hundreds of years of tradition in any endeavor I encountered. Religion was no different. I eschewed traditional religions and believed I could create a superior faith, unfettered by the trappings of institutions. In my sophomore year in college, God gave me the sense I was lacking and showed me how I needed to learn the commands that He issued from the beginning of creation. I learned that I was not a random and fortuitous collection of molecules that evolved from simple sugars and amino acids to become the complex being that I am. God created me in His image and my purpose was to follow His commands so that I would thrive and prosper under His rule, not mine. 

I still seek to be excursive in everything I do, yet, I now do so completely grounded in God’s teachings. He sets the rules so that I do not break them!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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Ph’o (Psalms 119:119)

The tantalizing aroma filled the room as our friend warmed her speciality dish in preparation to serve us. Ph’o is familiar to many people who enjoy Vietnamese food. My family has had it many times but this time, it was very special. 

As our friend reminded us, “A good Ph’o has an absolutely clear broth with no oil or fat droplets.” To accomplish this, every few minutes, she would painstakingly skim the fat droplets from the surface until after many hours, the broth was completely transparent. The result was this culinary masterpiece of Vietnamese cuisine, a far cry from the unoriginal Ph’o that I had previously eaten at restaurants. 

With many soups and broths, it is essential to skim the fat to perfect the dish. Many people do a cursory skim and do not have the patience to do what our friend so carefully did. It was a tribute to her mother who lovingly taught her how to prepare this dish and a display of affection she had for us, desirous for us to enjoy the fruits of her labor.

You skim off the wicked of the earth like scum; no wonder I love to obey your laws! 

Psalms 119:119 (NLT)

In these difficult days, it may seem like God is helpless or does not care. Why doesn’t God end the COVID pandemic? Why doesn’t he help the millions suffering under totalitarian regimes? Simply because we do not physically see God, does not mean He is not working in this world. God, the Holy Spirit, is actively working in the spiritual realm, unseen by our eyes. He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent and is skimming off the undesirable qualities of our world that hinder us from seeing Him work. It is not just in the world, it is within our lives. Like the unwanted fat in Ph’o, the scum of our lives encompasses everything from sinful lusts and desires that we harbor to the resentment we feel from the undeserved snide remark directed to us from a total stranger. We cannot understand how God does it, but we should be thankful that He is doing it. Like the painstaking care that my friend took to remove the scum in her Ph’o, we should be grateful for God’s grace and mercy in our lives, as He skims off the sins of the world and our lives, transforming and conforming us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Amen!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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“It’s Hard To Not Be A Dad.” (Matthew 7:9-11)

The dining table was being cleared and the desserts were laid out. We were having dinner with our close family friends whom we had known for over twenty years. We met before either of us had our children and theirs were a bit younger than ours. My friend also invited his sister who was visiting for the week. The conversation turned toward college applications since my friend’s sons were in their senior and junior years in high school. My friend’s sister turned to me and said, “You need to talk to the boys. They are interested in medical school!”

“Oh really, I did not know that. Great! I am sure your mom is a great resource.” as I turned to their mother, who is a pediatrician.

“Yes” she nodded. “But they need to hear some advice from a professor like you.”

“Ok,” It was a high compliment and I was embarrassed by the praise. “But I don’t know how much more I can add beyond what you have probably already heard from your mom.” I then delivered a speech that I give to all students who are seeking advice about pursuing a career in medicine. The boys and parents politely listened but from the look on their faces, I could see that I may have been coming on too strong. The next day I texted the parents. “I hope I wasn’t too serious with your boys. The questions I asked them are the same ones I ask all my students that I mentor who are thinking about medical school. Maybe it was too much information at this stage of their education. I am happy to sit down with either or both of them and let them control the conversation and have them ask me anything they like. I have a tendency to get too intense and don’t want to offend.”

The father texted back. “I thought what you told them was spot on. We have been telling them somewhat the same but as you know, anything coming from the parents is suspect and massively discounted if not ignored completely. I think they took it in and the wheels are turning.”

I thanked the father but I was still uneasy. I was speaking to his children as I speak to my own children. I love my children but sometimes I get into a lecture mode and it can be harsh. Children know this, and as my friend correctly shared from his own experiences, anything coming from the parents is suspect and massively discounted. I once spoke to a Sunday school class during the main church service. Later, one of my friends said, “Good message, but you have to ease up and smile more. They’re just kids!” I reluctantly agreed. I am just too intense. It’s hard to not be a dad.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. 

Matthew 7:9-11 (NLT)

I will never stop being a dad or acting like a dad. Although my intentions are good, my actions and delivery may go awry. Praise God that my Heavenly Father is perfect with both His intentions and actions. He knows how to perfectly instruct, discipline, exhort, and train His children to be conformed in the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. I can never stop being a dad and praise God, that He is my eternal Heavenly Father!

Amen!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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“We’re Not Running A Residency Program!” (1 Timothy 4:12-13)

Many years ago, I was in charge of recruitment for my former pathology group. During my tenure, I was privileged to interview many qualified pathologists who later became successful partners. I also interviewed others who generated divisive opinions. One young pathologist had just completed his residency training. He was clearly intelligent and his sparkling personality charmed many on the selection committee. Yet, it was evident that he would need a great deal of coaching if he were to successfully become a member of our group. Various suggestions were made but everyone realized it would require a huge commitment of time, greater than what we had previously done for other new hires. After a tense discussion, one of my partners, who was the president of the group, dismissively shook his head and declared, “We’re not running a residency program. I pass.”

First jobs are always difficult. Very rarely is an applicant ready to hit the ground running and function as an equal team member. There needs to be a champion, someone who will support and defend the new hire. There also needs to be a period of orientation; the unknown variable is for how long?

Most of us remember our first real jobs. I certainly do. Everyday, I felt I had to prove myself over and over again. Thankfully, I had a champion in one of the partners, who supported and coached me. It is reassuring to know that Timothy, the young minister and protege of the Apostle Paul, undoubtedly felt this same anxiety when he began his ministry, leading to these words of encouragement from his esteemed mentor. 

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 

1 Timothy 4:12-13 (NIV)

In his first letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul encouraged his protege to stand firm and focus on being an ambassador for God and not be concerned about what others may think of him or unfairly judge him because of his youth and inexperience. Paul offered this practical advice. 

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 

1 Timothy 4:13-15 (NIV)

Church historians record that Timothy successfully pastored the first church at Ephesus. It is sobering to learn that even this great leader of the early Christian church needed time to convince his peers that he was up to the task. The Bible does not tell us how much time passed before Timothy was accepted and since this was the early church, there were no role models to determine how long an orientation period was needed. Timothy had a champion with the Apostle Paul and the two letters that he wrote to Timothy were circulated throughout the nascent Church, encouraging the church members to support him. 

Every organization, secular and ecclesiastical, needs to create a program to orient new hires and train them to become leaders. The criteria will differ for each but thanks be to God that He gives us a model to base our decisions. A new hire needs a champion to coach them and encourage others to support them. 

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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No Valet Ticket (Luke 12:6-7)

“We don’t give out valet tickets!”

“Excuse me?”

The man in the neatly tailored suit smiled smugly and once again declared, “We don’t give out valet tickets. We remember everyone’s cars!”

Many years ago, I attended a posh event for the hospital in which I was working. Held in a prestigious club that counted many famous celebrities as members, I was excited to attend. As I drove into the parking lot, I was greeted by a team of valets who welcomed me, took my car, and then surprised me by not giving me a valet ticket. In spite of the valet’s confidence, I was quite skeptical that he and his team would be able to successfully accomplish this task. I left my car with an uneasy feeling, hopeful I would be proven wrong. 

At the end of the evening, I found the same valet and asked him to retrieve my car. Smiling, he confidently nodded and within a few minutes, drove up in a car that was not mine. Chagrined, he tried again with the same result. I am quite certain the valets were adept at remembering the cars of their club members. This evening was different. There were over three hundred guests and many of us drove the same type of car. After two failures, the hapless valet finally asked me, “Do you know your license plate number?” They eventually found my car, nearly 30 minutes later. 

I am always astounded by people who can successfully demonstrate their ability to remember things about people they just met. I recall one person randomly handing out a deck of cards to the members of the audience, remembering to match the card with the person. With the cards hidden, he then proceeded to look at each person and remember their card. This event I attended could have used someone with his skills! God has blessed some of us with excellent memories but there are limits to what one can achieve.

What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. 

Luke 12:6-7 (NLT)

In this passage, Jesus reassures His disciples that God cares very deeply for everyone. Thanks be to God that He knows all of His children, who come and are adopted by Him by confessing and repenting of their sins and accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Of the billions of people who lived or will live on this earth, God knows all of them. Not only does He know our faces, He even numbers the very hairs on our head! That is a feat of memory that dwarfs anything we can fathom! Unlike the valet who still needed my help to remember, there are no limits to God’s memory!

Amen!

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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