Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hope for Physicians: A New Paradigm

My article Healing patients shouldn't be killing doctors was published on KevinMD this week. The enthusiastic response from my colleagues has not surprised me, for I know how unsupported and unappreciated so many physicians feel as they do their best for people every day despite countless obstacles. As I said in the article, unsupported physicians are like hamsters in a wheel going around and around never getting anywhere while running themselves to the ground.

In the last few years, the rates of burnout among physicians have reached epidemic proportions. This rising prevalence continues to climb alongside a parallel ladder of increasing barriers to excellent care while the once-central patient-physician relationship sits in a corner, pushed back by technology, the mandated over-reliance on electronic medical records, increasing regulatory demands, and less time available for direct patient care. We spend so much time, energy, and resources constantly adapting to change that a proactive practice is often an unattainable dream.

Yet, this is not the end of our story. In fact, I believe it marks a new and important beginning for our profession.

As physicians, it is time for us to recognize that, without our very active participation, the health care system that's become an enemy for patients and physicians will only worsen. As physician leaders, we are a critical part of the solution to the growing enigma that health care represents. During a time when it's tempting to merely strive to survive on the sidelines, we must become more engaged than ever.

What a privilege to serve at the Florida Capitol!
It is time to change the culture of medicine to one of modeled wellness, interdependent teamwork, and true servant leadership. And as physicians, we must take the lead.

As I explain in the article, we must become courageous champions of change. No letting the complacent entice us, or the naysayers stop us. No letting those with low expectations, no vision, and limited understanding dictate what we can and cannot do. No excuses in pursuing the very best for our patients and for our teams, and no fear. Let us all do our part. Let us lead. Read more here.

Dr Mari 

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Favorite Christmas Gift ... Insects! (Part IV - Transformation Series)

I am the only person I know who received insects for Christmas. Yes! My son thought I'd enjoy watching some caterpillars crawl their way up into a chrysalis ... en route to becoming butterflies. So here's what he got me.

A perfect gift! I'm always mesmerized by watching this process, so I thought I'd share it with you as 2016 gets going. After all, we all have something that needs to be transformed in this new year. I know you agree.

So my caterpillar friends arrived with plenty of food carpeting their cup home. All we had to do was watch them grow, which is a good thing. I don't really like caterpillars. They crawl around, eat, and grow. That's about it. Yet, what comes next is pretty remarkable.

Satisfied with their earth-bound meals, and perhaps recognizing that's all the ground has for them, the plump caterpillars leave behind what's familiar for high places. There they hang for days ... waiting ... making observers wonder if they've just dried up, never to open, or if perhaps they'll emerge one day.

In the waiting, we invariably notice something new. This time I noticed caterpillar parts left behind on the ground and walls. Some parts had to be shed and left behind before entering the chrysalis. I know you also agree there's much food for thought in that as we consider our areas of needed transformation.

After days of waiting patiently, here's how our friend looked right as it emerged from the chrysalis: wrinkled and small. Yet, after a few minutes of pumping the unused wings, they straightened and opened in all their colorful splendor! Amazing.

The process of watching a crawling caterpillar transform into a flying butterfly is always full of surprises. My greatest discovery this time was the beauty and attention to detail evident on the back of the butterfly's wings. On the painted lady butterfly, the back of the wing is stunning. A rainbow of color is hidden on the part of the butterfly we often don't even see.

I can picture God's fingers meticulously adding a bit of blue here, some red there, then orange and yellow and green. So much more than I'd ever seen on this butterfly, miraculous if we consider that the caterpillar that became a chrysalis had only one color: black.

My winged friends teach me so much about life and about myself. Here are just a few thoughts as the New Year takes flight.

* Sometimes life and beauty are hidden, though very present. We need to pay attention to see and perceive it.
* Often what is dried up and looks dead has life within, waiting to be nurtured, discovered, and expressed.
* The process of transformation takes time. Patience is needed ... for the one being changed and for the one observing and hoping for change in someone else.
* When we're tired of crawling around empty grounds, heading upward holds great promise of new life. If life feels empty, look up and start the upward journey. New life awaits at new heights, and it is the climbing that strengthens your wings!
* Seasons of slow crawling are often essential to the growth that's needed. Without the caterpillar, there is no butterfly.
* Life is a beautiful miracle.
* Transformation is always worth the wait.

Ponder with me: What must I leave behind so I may embrace the new and rise higher in 2016?

Pray with me: As this new year begins, may I have the wisdom to recognize areas of needed change, the courage to rise above my circumstances, and the ability to trust that God the Giver of life knows me, loves me, and is always in control.

New Year Blessings!
Dr Mari

* For more of this series on transformation, read Be Still And Know for Part I, Baggage-free Flying for Part II, and Hope Flies Despite Broken Wings! for Part III. *

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Modern-Day Lazarus Opens My Eyes

At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. (Luke 16:20)

Years ago I visited New York City with my father. We strolled down 5th Avenue and arrived at the luxurious Trump Tower that houses oversized condos for the wealthy. I pulled out my camera, pointing straight at it. But before I could snap the shot, a homeless man sprung between my lens and the building and stood there, unmoved, blocking my view and invading my psyche. For what felt like minutes, the unkempt man held my eyes hostage.  

The moment captured my soul and broke my heart.

Although I have no photograph of the stunning skyscraper, I have a priceless image in my soul of a human face I'll never forget. As the man walked off, I felt like sobbing while fighting a nauseating sense of shame for wanting to photograph luxury while oblivious to the human needs around me. I stood there speechless as my father looked on, both of us grasping the fact that we'd just seen the face of Jesus.

I did not give him money, food, or even a hug; I gave him nothing at all, but he gave me a precious gift. That man with cataract-laden eyes opened my eyes, preaching eloquently without words about God's kingdom and the self-indulgence and absurdity of our world, which included me.

The One who rose from the dead revealed Himself that day in the distressing face of a modern-day Lazarus. May we all heed His call to share with the needy, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. And one day we'll hear Him say, "What you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).

Ponder with me: Has a modern-day Lazarus opened your eyes and stirred your heart to serve? How are you responding to God's call?

Lord Jesus, keep our eyes open to the needs around us, and keep our hearts and hands ready to serve You in the hurting, the poor, and the sick. For the sake of Your name. Amen.

Dr Mari

* This is an excerpt from my book, Walking with Jesus in Healthcare (p.177) *

For an opportunity to serve the poor among us, learn about Grace Medical Home, a ministry of service and love through healthcare in Central Florida.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Cultivating Hearts of Service

This weekend I had the privilege of traveling to Colorado Springs to attend the Women in Medicine and Dentistry annual conference. It was my first time surrounded by other women physicians for whom medicine is a calling to serve Christ through healthcare. What a joy it was to meet them, share meals with them, worship and pray with them! I especially loved getting to know some of the medical students who are just beginning this exciting (and demanding ... and life-changing!) journey.

Surrounded by mountains and rock formations that included the Garden of the Gods, it was easy to step off the treadmill that is modern healthcare to take in the fresh air, sunshine, and beauty that help revive the soul. The conference was in Glen Eyrie Castle (did you know there are castles in the U.S.?). It was breathtaking, and the bear sighting (cub included!) just hours before our bonfire added a touch of adventure.

While at the conference, I had the privilege of addressing my colleagues to speak about ways to cultivate hearts of service in a busy practice. I spoke mostly about our need to abide in Christ while caring for people, lest we try to give what we don't have ... striving to meet overwhelming needs while running on empty. We studied John 15, recognizing Jesus' insistence that we remain in Him. "Remain in me," says Jesus. "Apart from me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

I also spoke of my role model, Mother Teresa, whose compassion and selfless love for people continue to inspire and beckon me to become more like Jesus. I reminded my new physician friends (and myself!) that our walk with God in healthcare is a journey. Although we all have days when we wish we'd done better, we can trust God's promise to bring to completion the work He began in each of us. As we continue to surrender our lives to Him, He will surely give us His Spirit, empowering us to fulfill our calling.

When ministry gets tough, we must call on God and remember the words spoken by the apostle Paul in Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

This week, our country is blessed to host Pope Francis, a man who is showing the world Christ-like humility as well as a servant heart. I am thankful to God that there are people we can learn from as we continue to let Him mold us into the likeness of His Son. What a privilege it is to serve Him! May we all continue to keep Him at the center of our lives!

Seek Him!
Dr. Mari

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Romans 5:3-4

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:4

Thursday, June 18, 2015

My new book is out: The 3 Y's of Faith!

It is with great joy that I announce my latest book, The 3 Y's of Faith, just released. It is available HERE. In this book, I share the story of how God transformed my life years ago after a heartfelt prayer ... and thus began the greatest adventure of my life! 

Living out what I call the three Y’s of faith produces the heart of devotion God seeks, which sets us free to love. 

In Jeremiah 30:21, the Lord asks, “Who is he who will devote himself to be close to Me?” The 3 Y's of Faith will inspire you to respond to God’s challenge. Read it on your own or discuss it in a small group. The stories, questions, and scriptures will deepen your faith, refresh your soul with living waters, and draw you closer to the heart of God.
I now lead retreats based on the concepts covered in the book. The next retreat will be January 15-16, 2016 at Canterbury Retreat Center. You may register here. Here's what Fr. Jon Davis, Executive Director of the retreat center, has to say about this project,

“The Three Y’s are a fresh look at what is needed in the spiritual journey to grow deeper in devotion, stronger in faith, fueled to serve, and primed to love as The Lord calls us. It is a needed piety, a Rule of Life for this earthly sojourn. In reading the 3 Y’s you will discover a sacred space, a landscape of Holy Encounter!” 

This new book is part of my answer to Mother Teresa's appeal to do “small things with great love.” 
I thank God for the tremendous privilege of writing for Him. May The 3 Y's of Faith bless you and every reader with a closer walk with God!

Dr. Mari  

I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you.
2 Timothy 1:6

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easter Reflections: The Joy of Seeing Jesus

On the Passover, the Lamb of God was sacrificed for the sins of the world. As foreshadowed in the story of Abraham and his son Isaac, God the Father provided the spotless lamb required for the offering. After Jesus' death on the Cross, here's what happened according to Matthew 28:1-10.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you." 

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

The disciples did see him in Galilee. They believed Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and went to Galilee, where they saw Jesus and worshiped him.

Even more remarkable than this story is the fact that this very experience is available to each of us in uniquely personal ways. I remember so many days, times, and ways in which Jesus has suddenly met me on the road, in my room, in my car, while treating the sick, on the beach, during retreats, while reading quietly, while watching my children, in my prayer time, while reading the Bible, in the grocery store, at church, while helping someone in need, while feeding my sick child soup, while speaking to crowds about my faith ... and so many more times.

How precious it is to recall these special times of closeness and communion. They are possible because Jesus is alive. I have no doubt whatsoever. I speak to him and he speaks to me. He guides me. He inspires me. He encourages me. He challenges me. He feeds me. He transforms me. He saves me.

He loves me.

When you find a fountain among the thirsty, if you have any compassion at all, you invite them to come and drink. Christ's love compels me to share his living waters.

May you experience the unspeakable joy of seeing Jesus this Easter season!

Dr Mari

"Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (Jesus in John 4:14)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. (Ephesians 1:7-10)

 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

For more Easter reflections, see The Hero Lives!

Photo from Used with permission.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday Reflections: Are You Thirsty?

While reading Matthew 25 through the end of the Gospel this morning, I've been all over the Bible. Such in-depth reading and pondering of the story of God's people and their response to God's activity among them helps me grasp a bigger picture. Reading passages from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, and other prophets who prophesied about the Messiah hundreds of years before Jesus' birth expands my understanding of Christ's significance then, now, and forever.

Of the many thoughts and revelations I've had while reading, this is the one that's most poignantly reached my intellect and warmed my heart today. Jesus, the very definition of love and service, has done not only the seemingly impossible but also the highly improbable. The sinless one takes our place. In the midst of unspeakable suffering, he steps in to save the lost and those who actively yell, "Crucify him!" and give him gall to drink. 

Jesus steps into his slaughter and, rather than resent and rebuke, he heals and forgives. He blesses and saves. 

Jesus is the One who tastes the vinegar so sinners may taste living water.

"Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" (Matthew 26:27-28)

"On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.' By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive." (John 7:37-38)

On this Good Friday, I pray that you and I will drink this living water, believe, and live. 

Dr. Mari

"But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." 
(Jesus in Matthew 26:56)

For more Good Friday reflections, see What's So Good About Good Friday?