Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Brief Word on Miracles

I was thinking about a personal situation this week and how it relates to the topic of miracles.

I've shared before how I have become totally consumed with the task of starting and maintaining a medical clinic over the past three years.  While our patient schedule has been as full as it can be and our cost, such as salaries, is cut to the bone, we have three very close encounters with bankruptcy.  The problem has been getting paid for our services.    

In this last crisis, the worst of them all, we were near bankruptcy for three months.  I was under tremendous emotional strain during this time, working night and day to try and figure out why we weren't being paid.  I had shared with my Christian friends about the distress I was experiencing.  For example, this week, I had $20,000 in bills due.  Three weeks ago I had a neg $721 in my books.

I am now poised to complete this narrative when I see my Christian friends today.  You see, last weekend, over $20,000 suddenly came in. This is after three months where our weekly collections were 3-4 thousand dollars with bills of $6,000 per week also coming in.

So that was a simple introduction and I want to move on to a much more important topic and that is of miracles. The old Mike would, without hesitation, tell the narrative that God, working outside of natural laws, brought the money in just in the nick of time. I would even embellish the story a bit by saying I needed exactly $20,000 and exactly $20,000 came in. But that is not true and it is not that simple.  I would also cut out of the narrative all the human activities that led up to the money coming in as not to distract from the notion that this was a miracle.

We are addicted to miracles in the same way that a vulnerable person could be addicted to heroin.  It is reassuring to us and the narrative that our Christian culture demands.

In my story that I just told. We had three months of low collections and a growing debt of $20,000 that was due this week, then suddenly $20,000 came in just in the nick of time.  It does sound like a miracle.  While I verbally praised God from the moment I opened the mail box and walked back to my office, with sincerity and passion, I know in my heart of hearts that this was within the natural laws. The full narrative has the fact that my biller was working tirelessly over the previous two weeks trying to find some of the money owed us.  She found it and knew that it was on its way.

But I thought a lot as I start to encounter my Christian friends and they, who thankfully had been praying for me, ask about what happened.  Was it an answer to prayer?  Sure, I can accept that.  So, while I see it as an answer to prayer, I don't see it as a miracle.  A true miracle is where God chooses, and He rarely does, to do something completely outside of natural laws.

The reason we seek miracles, the same reason that people at the time of Jesus sought miracles.  It starts with the premise that the natural laws are other-than-God, or outside of God.  Therefore, for something to be of-God, they have to miracles.  To give credit to my biller's work, seems to take away the glory that belongs to God alone. But it was God who created my biller and it was God who created the cause and effects of human behavior.

So now, I will happily tell those who were praying for me that this problem, for now, was solved. But I will give credit where credit is due.  It would also be insulting to my biller for me to say that that the funds that came in had nothing to do with her work.

We must find comfort in the notion that God works in glorious ways through the natural laws and the rules of cause and effect through the universe, which He has made.  That these physical things, these actions of man, are indeed of significance. We must know we can think this and share these honest narratives without guilt as if we have betrayed Go.

The harm?  The harm of embellishment and miracle boasting is that at that juncture we step off the curb of reality you enter the world of smoke and mirrors and then nothing has value anymore.  As Christians me must insist that we live in reality because if God is there, and I believe that He is, then He exist within reality and not outside of it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

In Constantinople's Wake

Three weeks ago today, we returned from Istanbul.  My head is still swimming in the experience.  At the same time, my one week's absence, has caused my medical practice to suddenly fall into a crisis. We are near bankruptcy. This is despite having a schedule maxed out with patients for months. It is becoming impossible for a solo medical practice to exist in the age of insurance companies acting as bullies and refusing to pay for medical care delivered.  I'm no longer taking a salary.  I'm working 12 hour days, yet it can't be saved.

Monday I start the process of selling the practice to a large group. That is the only way to exist these days. The problem is, once you are part of a large group you must become a medical care factory.  Time with patients shortened.  The entity dictates what you do, rather than doing what is best for the patient. However, the large groups are the only ones with the clout to stand up to insurance companies and demand that they pay for services delivered.  I will illustrate the problem.  In the prior six weeks, before I left for Istanbul, we billed out $72,000 in medical service bills.  Out of that, as of today, we have been paid $3200.  At the same time the expenses of running a medical practice in the face of intense regulations is about $1200/ day. So, you can see the math how I got in a deep hole quickly.  It is a sad commentary on health care in America.

But I digress. The good news, so I hope, is that I will get out of this nightmare in coming weeks and will find my life again.  I'm not sure I will come back here on a regular basis as I had once before.  Right now I feel as I have nothing left to say. But that might be because my mind is so exhausted from this practice ordeal.

Here is what I've been thinking.  I sit and relive my experience in Istanbul over and over. It is a history buff's utopia.  But my desire to know history isn't isolated in a sterile search for information. It started with a very personal search for truth when my evangelicalism failed me.

In preparation for the trip I had read several books on the history of the city.  Presently I'm reading a detailed history of the fourth crusade.  That was the crusade that raped and destroyed the city of Constantinople, taking away its glory and preparing it for its final demise under the Muslim Turks a couple of hundred years later.

Before this post gets to long, I will try to summarize my thoughts.  I am so taken how the power of the pseudo-narrative is in controlling the behavior of people. The fourth crusade was first launched by a priest's message (and with the blessing of the pope).  His message is recorded in the book.  He began his message to the crowd by saying that the words, which are about to come from his mouth, are not his . . . "but Jesus' very words being channeled through his mouth."  Then  he tells a series of lies.  He tells how Christians, even little Christian children,  in the Holy Lands are tied to post and used for target practice by the Turks.

But in the end, the crowd was worked up into such a frenzy that they immediately committed themselves to give two years to the crusade.

But it is not much very different than modern preachers that use such techniques.  But I will end here.

I pray I can get through this next few weeks and be restored to a normal life again.  Sorry again about the typos.