Five-Minute CME: A Non-Partisan Perspective on the Affordable Health Care Act

English: Barack Obama signing the Patient Prot...

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With busy lives – and the rhetoric of an election year – it’s easy to lose touch with the important events taking place all around us.   At the same time, God doesn’t want us to become so focused on ourselves, or jaded, that we forget He’s put us right where we are.

Part of that means engaging with our culture and trying to stay up to date on its major happenings like the recent Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) decision. Recently, I read this article by Dr. Manoj Jain on the ACA, and felt he did a good job at taking a fair look at the ACA’s potential impact on patients, physicians, and insurance companies.  Share your perspective on what’s happening in the comments section.

Men, Women & The Workplace: A Fresh Vision For An Old Problem

Every now and then, a tempest seems to rise up around the issue of women in the workplace.  Partly because medicine is so demanding, the debate surrounding work-life balance in this field tends to be particularly acute and emotionally-charged.

If you follow these sorts of discussions, you may be familiar with an article by Dr. Karen Sibert in the New York Times (June 11th) entitled “Don’t Quit This Day Job.”  In the article, Dr. Sibert argues that, given the importance of patients and relative shortage of physicians to treat them, medical schools can’t afford to train providers who will only work part-time.  Since women tend to work reduced hours far more often than men, her comments are primarily directed toward them.

The closing paragraph to her article summarizes her position well:

Patients need doctors to take care of them. Medicine shouldn’t be a part-time interest to be set aside if it becomes inconvenient; it deserves to be a life’s work.

Based on further commentary in her article, Dr. Sibert means that the rest of life, such as children, need to fit in around a calling to medicine.

Not surprisingly, though, not everyone agrees.  In a response piece, “Should Women Be Doctors?“, columnist Lisa Belkin takes a different approach:

The problem is… that professions are archaically structured…  The answer is to recalibrate the hours and expectations of professions so that they can be done by the “new worker” — not a man with a wife at home (which is the assumption of the old structures) but rather a mother or father with a working partner and responsibilities at home.

Just because things have always been done a certain way does not mean that is the way things should be done. All those women working 4.5 fewer hours and taking longer leaves in medicine? Where Dr. Sibert sees slacking, I see a new norm. One that requires fewer hours of more workers, perhaps. One that is [sic] should be embraced by men and women.

From these small quotations alone, it doesn’t take a lot of insight to realize that Sibert and Belkin differ dramatically in their approaches to these issues.

Actually, I’m glad that they do.  Encountering different viewpoints like this should force us to think – deeply – about these things.  If you’re in college or early on in your training, these matters may seem relatively academic now, but they quickly become very personal as the years go by and real choices must be made.  As Dr. Sibert rightly noted in her article, “you can’t have it all.”

I’ve seen medical marriages (among Christians) end over these very issues, while others who “stay together” remain unhappy and disconnected.  So, the stakes are high.

I’ll be posting more about this area in the days to come, but I want to make just one point for now.

As we encounter radically different solutions to the work-life balance problem (or any other problem, for that matter), we need to regress to our childhood and ask (with a little more maturity, hopefully), “Oh yeah – says who?!”  In other words, as we sort through things, who has the authority to inform our decisions?

For Christians, the answer is unequivocal.  It’s primarily God and what he tells us in the bible.  (While this may sound archaic to my secular readers, the truth is that we all put our ultimate faith in something, even if it’s ‘me.’  But that’s another story for another day).

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not like there’s a chapter or verse in the Bible that will give us an easy answer to this dilemma.  Far from it.  Rather than a bunch of clear one-size-fits-all “how-to’s”, we find in scripture principles that God calls us to apply with wisdom.  That will look differently from family to family.

But, there’s real wisdom there that should inform our practical, everyday decisions:

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.  (2 Timothy 3:16 from The Message)

Figuring out how work, family and the rest of life fit together is one of those critical “tasks” God is calling us to.

So, over the coming weeks, I’m going to unpack a fresh vision for balancing our work and family from Proverbs 31.  If you’re familiar with that chapter, you may be surprised, thinking, “I thought that was all about the ‘ideal’ Christian woman.  What does that have to do with work and family, too?”

Well, if that’s what you’re thinking, let me gently suggest that you’re right and you’re wrong.  It is a passage about ‘the godly woman’ and contains a lot of wisdom in that area.  But, it touches on men, children, work (over a 1/3 of the passage is about work) and, just as importantly, on how they relate.

So, fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen.  Be prepared to be challenged, encouraged and everything in-between.  I look forward to sharing, learning and living the journey with you.

Man Up: Initial Reflections On Passive Men & How We Can Move Forward

Over the past several years, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in our campus fellowships: we have fewer men involved, fewer male leaders and more passivity among guys who do come out.  In my area this year, for example, we have about two women leaders for every guy leader.  (Hat tip to the women here).

Wondering if my observations were just a result of the bad take-out I had last night, I’ve asked my colleagues if they’re seeing similar things.  While not every one had, one leader, familiar with many medical campuses, said, “Oh yeah.  I am surprised when I have a majority of men leading a campus group.  Rarely does this happen.”  Other ministry leaders in our city have seen a similar dynamic.

As in healthcare, it’s relatively easy to see that the patient is sick, but much harder to make an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.  So, what’s going on and what can we do about it?

The answers, no doubt, are incredibly complex.  I do have some initial theories, though, and want to share them with you.

Possible diagnoses –

  • The fall.  A lot of bad things were set in motion when Adam & Eve, our first parents, decided to disobey God.  (Interestingly, Adam sat passively by while Eve ate the forbidden fruit – see Genesis 3:11).  While it’s hard to decipher precisely what God meant, it’s clear that part of the consequence for their choices would be conflict between them as man and woman (Genesis 3:16).
  • The fall today.  It seems that this original tension and struggle continues to play itself out today.  The packaging looks different depending on time and culture, but it’s always there to some extent.  In America, many of us had grandparents where the man worked and ruled the roost.  Mom raised the kids, kept a tidy home and had dinner ready at 4:37 each day.  Men were more aggressive, with women tending to be more passive.  Since that time, various cultural dynamics have brought much-needed change, but also encouraged a reversal of the previous imbalance.
  • Culture of divorce.  Today, about half of all marriages end in divorce.  In most cases, the kids stay with mom for the majority of the time.  This means a lot of young men don’t have an up-close example of what it means to be a man, leaving them unsure of themselves in that arena.
  • Pop culture.  On TV shows and commercials, if someone gets made fun of, chances are it’s the adult male.  In a recent Microsoft commercial, mom is trying to get a decent family photo while Dad is (ineffectively) trying to stop the kids from fighting.  Since mom can’t get the photo she needs given the circumstances, she goes “to the cloud” and proudly announces that “Windows gives me the family that nature never could.”  We laugh, but this has many of the ingredients we’ve come to expect: a smart, resourceful woman solves life’s problems while an incompetent, passive man (himself a large child) is thankful he doesn’t have to do more than show up.

Possible solutions –

  • Becoming aware.  A good first step is recognizing that a problem exists.  Guys, do you see passivity as an issue in your life?  I know I do in mine.
  • A third way.  It’s important to see that our (and every other) culture tends to distort what God intended.  I’m not advocating for a return to a “Leave It To Beaver” family dynamic, but neither am I suggesting that today’s examples are largely healthy, either.  As in every area, authentic Christianity gives us creative solutions that explode our traditional categories to give us something infinitely better.
  • Return to Scripture.  We discover this sort of authentic Christianity in the bible, so we need to study it much more closely.  Two quick examples – Jesus’ model challenges guys to exercise real leadership, but in a way that puts others first (see Ephesians 5:25-33; Philippians 2:4-11).   The woman in Proverbs 31 is a successful businesswoman (verses 13-19), but still very much concerned with her family (verses 11, 27-28).
  • A bigger vision.  Sports, TV, Facebook and video games all have their place, but they’re largely passive and we can overindulge them.  The only way to say “no” to lesser things is to have a greater “yes” (like the Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20).

I could write more, but I’m going to stop there… this is a blog, not a book.  Guys, I want to challenge you to join me in getting before God and asking Him if being passive is an issue in your life.  If it is, tell Him you’re committed to growing in this area even if the way ahead looks hazy.  There are others (like me) who are on the journey with you, and we can count on His help moving forward.