Perils of our profession – part one

“Question for reflection: David’s reputation of being a skilled warrior in Saul’s army traveled even to the Philistines… How can our reputation positively or negatively affect our lives? What can we do to cultivate it?” Discover 1 Samuel

We were on our last study of 1 Samuel and this study guide has been good and helpful. But what is the problem with the assumptions underlying this application question?

“You are a person with many gifts and a calling for your life. You have the opportunity to succeed in your chosen field and to glorify God with your influence. Your competence and intelligence will attract people to faith in Christ…” Faithful is Successful

Justin Denholm is one of the co-authors, writing as a doctor, academic and ethicist (I came across his national TB advisory committee publications and thesis on latent TB modelling before realising he also wrote Christian things). He calls the above “dangerous words… the more so because they contain some element of truth”. Why’s that?

Home to your own – part two

With this post I’m going to take the long road with many detours. In terms of chronology, part two preceded part one.

Good in the bad

“How come you came to talk to me?”
“Because you taught us at Sunday school. Our class was loud and disruptive but I thought you did a good job.”
“Oh, thanks.”

I only found an older Christian to help because I was at the end of my rope with some conflict situation. I wanted to leave and go to another church. Anyway, over time I’ve gained a reluctant but absolutely sincere mentor. I thought she was running away from me but her son tells me otherwise.

A few weeks ago we were praying. And she prayed about my “calling” to be here, in my hometown. Wait, I wanted to interrupt, I never said I had such a calling!

The dreaded word

“Too often we overspiritualize “calling” and make it about self-expression instead of faithfulness to God and service to others.” – TGC, Bethany Jenkins

I hate the word as much as I hate the phrase “waiting for the one”. It makes hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

Of course God can give specific callings but often in my circles, the word is often used as a thin disguise for self-centred ambition. I had heated arguments with my parents about this after getting my results at the end of high school – what if, hypothetically, I’m called to be a baker? Or a chef?

“We rationalize our ambition, sometimes subconsciously, by telling ourselves that we have a specific vocational calling and that he will use our success for His glory. And He may, but often it is our own glory we are seeking.”Faithful is Successful

The first vocation anyone was called to was to be a gardener. Why do we think God is only interested in doctors and lawyers? I’ll write about equating success with faithfulness another time.

Open or closed?

Calling is under the broader topic of God’s guidance and purpose. I want to spend some time on this as this topic comes up frequently in my young adult group. Lots of people pray for open and closed doors. I think it’s a simplistic concept at best. What if there’s more than one open door. If the door is closed does that mean you should try again, or go for another one?

I spent much of my uni life thinking about these things. Who to marry and to a lesser extent, where to live and what career pathway to pursue. There’s loads of books on decision making and seeking God’s guidance / will. Some I found helpful are:

1. Knowing God’s Will by Blaine Smith

I’ve long parted with my second-hand copy with yellow pages. It was a relief to know that we won’t miss out on God’s will if we truly “approach our decision making with a heart toward doing God’s will”. The day to day decisions are a good place to start nurturing a heart of doing God’s will.

2. All the Places to Go by John Ortberg.

This is an easy read I picked up on a recent trip to the Christian book shop (nearest is thousands of kilometres away!). At my crossroads, I think I often equated seeking God’s will with seeking a painless road, without heartaches. Something that won’t make me too tired, please?

“I did not realize for many years that what I was looking for wasn’t so much “God’s will for my life.” What I was really looking for was a way to be relieved of the anxiety that comes with taking responsibility for making a difficult decision.”

“God’s will for your life will often be “You decide.”… That doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about you. It means that God cares more about your personhood and character than anything else – which is of course what we would expect from a truly loving God.” 

Call me somewhere else

From what I’ve said so far it sounds like I either a) don’t care about my career, or b) have no self-centred ambitions. But I do.

Family commitments meant that my study group have finished both writtens and clinicals but I still can’t even sit for the upcoming ones this year. It’s exasperating. It sure feels like I’m taking forever when my high school classmate has finished and is now my small group tutor! Being here means I’ve had to let go of some great study and scholarship opportunities. Plus the professional circles are small – I want to be known on my own merits and not as my mother’s daughter.

So I’ve been a bit resentful. And being in a small church is difficult. My church is going through some major transitions which keeps the elders busy. There’s an expectation that we can run our own group of 15 to 30 year olds, Chinese and English, with a large transient population, without much input. Most of those around me feel incredibly young – in age or maturity. Having been at bigger churches with lots more peers, mentors and resources, it’s hard not to make comparisons.

Call me somewhere else. If it has to be hot (I love winter and so does my 30+ scarves) can it at least be somewhere exotic?


A few months ago I had a specific dream and unusual happenings that were reassuring. I suppose it can be dismissed as a coincidence but if signs existed at all this was a clear one that I’m supposed to be home, and that this little place is God’s church too.

I also think of my previous pastor and his wife who moved from a country town to an even smaller town. They’re retiring soon but are still incredibly passionate. On the first Sunday of last year I was there with them. We sang to YouTube (no musicians) and altogether we had a band of 10 or so (mostly elderly). Not much fresh blood and even some of the regulars were cultural Christians. Isn’t it lonely and discouraging? “This is our mission field. We have our joys and challenges.”

To end, I like this passage. Many times Jesus called people to up and go. This healed man begged to go but was called to stay. He went on to tell those at home what Jesus had done for him:

“As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” – Mark 5:18-20

Home to your own – part one

“It’s messier than when I lived here, don’t you think?”

I laughed a little. Everything was similar to how it was at the beginning. Dust had settled on the blue sheet covering the outdoor couch. Fit for cat use only. Shoe racks were orderly but dirt covered the outdoor tiles. We worked hard to clean the back porch. I mostly did my own nesting but after a good feed, the housemates who didn’t do much on their own accord complied willingly if I handed one a mop and another a vacuum.

“We were all just renting a room so it didn’t matter.”

The lock on the back door was still broken. The kitchen lights were off and the dining table looked largely unused. Our female bathroom was as fresh as ever – the work of two long-stayers who religiously cleaned this part of the house (but only this part) several times a week. The living area sprouted little piles of books, equipment, craft material, paper, and such again. The futility of trying to chuck out junk and store things somewhere, anywhere, other than the floor!

“But when you came, something changed in the air.”

Where rent is extraordinarily high, sharing is a cheap option. Throughout the week I liked choosing between different cosy-but-tidy corners of the house to curl up in with my laptop. I cooked to share but reaped more bread (and salmon) than I casted. I wasn’t specifically looking for friends but food and proximity were wonderful ingredients for friendship. To put it in my friend’s words, I can “superficially perform” socially, but warm up slowly to people. On the whole I’m partial to the people (and pets) that I’ve lived with.

“It’s hard to explain.”

So it wasn’t exactly benevolent. I had my own reasons and may have lived exactly the same way whether I believed in God or not. But my heart wouldn’t have been the same. There’s so many things I wouldn’t have bothered with if I wasn’t concerned about “who is my neighbour?” and, “what does love look like?”

“When I came back to the house… it felt like I was coming home.”

Wow, that’s one of the nicest things I’ve ever heard. How about now? Do I treat the family home as a house or home? Love – the closer it is, the harder it gets.

End of term

On blogging

“You need to keep your readers happy.”
“No I don’t.” Anyway, “I am writing. My assignments.”

“You haven’t posted anything for ages.”
“Why write when you can help other people to write? Their experiences and ideas are so rich. More worth reading than mine.”

But I have a thing for writing something to remember each term by.

End of term

On my last week I wrote my first hospital incident report for a head & neck cancer patient as a parting gift for TB unit (who actually did their part well). There were lots of big holes in that swiss cheese but fortunately they didn’t line up.

Other than that it’s mostly frivolous amusement.

The guy at work who wore Mon :( to Fri  :) socks. He sometimes wore socks that didn’t match the day of the week to be an anarchist.

I played dress up with the reg next door on multiple occasions since nurses mixed us up anyway. Ah, so adult.

Long-ish lunches (but not as long as med student days) with my friend who I never thought I’d work with again after internship.

Who gave this to me

“Never used a condom in my life.” Man in 50s. Positive for both gonorrhoea and chlamydia.

First episode of genital herpes. Over ten partners across Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia… etc whilst backpacking in the last three months. “Who gave this to me?!” he said, indignant.

Going through notes for an audit. Male patient “mistakenly slept with a lady boy but only realised in am.”

In all seriousness, I like sexual health. People are immensely grateful. Having a flat affect can be an asset in alleviating anxieties. Most conditions, at least the physical aspect of the problem, are curable. Even the most chaotic HIV patients see the value of antiretrovirals.

The gardener

The pink flamingo was there. Then it wasn’t, walking past the next morning. I thought I was imagining things. It took me awhile to notice the gardener with a fluorescent vest. Working up a sweat to his radio tune. An iced bottle of water close at hand.

“When I signed up for the job I told them I need a budget for these. How else can I make my garden beautiful?” He took the birds and bunnies out every morning, and back into the storeroom every afternoon. Some days there was even a peacock.

“See that curlew there?” he said, pointing to the brooding female. “Sometimes he leaves her and stands next to this pink flamingo.”

Tidying up our monstrously overgrown tropical courtyard so that it could be used as a walkway again (instead of our alternative – the toilet). Trimming up the side branches so that the shrub didn’t scratch up our cars anymore. I think he did his work with more passion and dedication than any of us.