Saturday, December 5, 2015

Christian Medical and Dental Society Annual Christmas Banquet

I love CMDS ( It comforts me just to know it is there.  The doctors I’ve met and shared with in this organization have so impressed me not only for their excellence as physicians and dentists but for their compassion as humans. They’re mostly family people as is the Christian way. They celebrate their partners and their children. They are close to their churches and their Bibles.  They are hopeful people.
This year we met at Kaya’s the fabulous Malaysian restaurant on Broadway at Oak.  Dr. Tam greeted us at the door immediately making my friend, Laura and I feel welcome.  I had the pleasure then to speak with Dr. Jeffrey Greenman, President of Regent College. His wife is a paediatrician. I shared how I’d fallen in love with Regent attending the courses of Dr. James Houston.
“He’s teaching another course next year,” Dr. Greenman told me.  “He’s 94 this year and has more energy and enthusiasm than some of us half his age.”  Later at our table I’d share how much Dr. James Houston’s simple book on Prayer had influenced me.
Meanwhile, my friend Laura, had met Kirsti, the Art Historian wife of the Ken, the esteemed violinist North Vancouver  family physician.  They were talking about their children and travels.
A collection of medical students and seasoned CMDS musicians and singers had come together for the occasion leading us all in singing Christmas carols through the evening.  Singing Silent Night, Holy Night, and Joy to the World did wonders for my soul.
Delicious food began to arrive miraculously.  Plate after plate of marvellous morsels graced the table.  As a typical doctor I’d missed lunch and was soon contentedly full with the delights of Kaya’s famed kitchen.
Dr Jeffrey Greenman spoke on the subject “Fear Not”.  I loved that he drew his message from the verses of Luke, the physician gospel writer.  I couldn’t help but think how often Dr. Willi Gutowski, missionary doctor and  long time member of CMDS had told me that Jesus had commanded Christians, “Do Not Be Afraid.”  He loved to say this wasn’t a suggestion.  I’d joked thereafter while sailing bluewater with a Christian buddy that “worrying is wicked’. When our cockpit awash and the ship was floundering in a terrific blow and I was struggling on deck to reef the main, this grinning Christian card had called to me, “Are we wicked yet, Billy?"
Now here was Dr. Jeffrey Greenman,, Oxford and Regent College theologian expanding on God’s message.  “The opposite of fear is faith,” he said.  Then drawing on story after story of Luke’s testimony of the birth of Christ he shared how first with Zechariah and lastly with the Shepherds God’s appearance was overwhelming startling, even paralyzing, but then God said Fear Not.  For the message of the Christmas season is that Yahweh, God almighty has been born as a child in a manger.  This is the Messiah. This is the promise.  All shall be well with God among us.
Dr. Greenman didn’t exactly say ‘god among us’ or ‘god incarnate’ or "the transcendent God”  of the ancients had become the " immanent god of Jesus”.  He didn’t speak theologese at us.  Instead, he  chose simple all embracing words.  He referenced  Roosevelts famous words, ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  And went on to expand on the fuller passage that one line derived from.  He mostly read passages from Luke.  His voice was soothing and melodious. He let the truth of Luke work its calm and  healing   I felt tears welling in my eyes to hear once again the blessed assurance.
After we sang more Christmas carols, the dining area though spacious, felt cozy.  I was again happy with life and felt as if Jesus had once more lifted a burden of worry from my ailing back.  I was here among loving and kind folk who daily faced my frustrations with the struggle to comfort and cure patients in  the horrible politics of todays medical system.  We all had suffered at the hands of the Herods of Government Health Care and the Pontius Pilates of Wrong Judgements.  We’d cried at night when despite all our technical knowledge and decades of intensive learning and experience,  despite  our deepest faith,  we’d still fail to Lazarus that one person we really believed should live. We’d all learned acceptance and humility in those dark nights of our medical souls.  Thy will be done not my will.
Here we were again, eating together, singing together, and praying together,  thankful for that reminder this Advent season, that Jesus, the Messiah was born that blessed day.  Fear Not.
My phone rang and I stepped outside to answer an emergency call.  It wasn’t an emergency.  But I hopefully reassured this frightened and angry person that my assistant would try to book them in on Monday, but I was fully booked till sometime next year. I was sorry waitlists were so long.  Yes I was sorry I’d not be able to see them  this Friday night. It was already past 9 pm.  I was sorry their lawyer had upset them.  I was sorry their lawyer was costing so much money and charged them to talk to them and that I was free.  I was also sorry the government bureaucrats they’d spoken to that day had been so rude and refused to return their calls.  I appreciated their fear but there was nothing I could do tonight.  And no I couldn’t talk more because I was on call for medical emergencies that this was more a legal and beaurocratic problem which the lawyers and bureaucrats must deal with.  I did remind them that they didn’t keep their office appointment with me too and didn’t mention I’d not been paid when they just didn’t show and didn’t cancel.  I said that mostly  this was about money and their fears about their financial settlements.  No I couldn’t make a special appointment to meet with them on Saturday or Sunday either.  They were meeting with the lawyers next week and it was a family matter too which meant i couldn’t just speak with them alone but the only thing that could be decided had to be decided with all parties involved and I couldn’t choose ’sides’ in this matter either.  But really , this isn’t a medical or psychiatric emergency and when I give patients my number it’s for medical and psychiatric emergencies, matters of life and health and death and matters related to medication or treatment.  There was nothing more I could offer over the phone and that this would have to be taken care of at the office.  No I didn’t want them to suicide but what they were calling me about was really not a medical or psychiatric emergency but rather a legal and beaurocratic matter and I could not make a house call to discuss how no one cared. And yes I cared but I couldn’t tell the judge and government to go to hell for them even if I wanted to.  Would they call me at the office on Monday.  Would they be alright till then?   Alright. Good night.
Fear Not.
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