Faith Flags: Off-label Use

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a big fan of “faith flags“, a short statement in the course of normal conversation that identifies you as someone who values spiritual things.  Faith flags are primarily intended to open the door to spiritual conversations with patients, neighbors, or others who are spiritually-receptive but not Christians.  (It’s important to mention, as always, that the goal is not to manipulate people, but to create opportunities for honest, deeper discussion).

While faith flags are great conversation starters with those who are on another page spiritually, they also have another, ‘off-label’, use: they’re great for meeting other Christians in a secular environment.  A few days ago, for example, I mentioned an upcoming summer medical missions trip to my dental hygienist.  When she asked more about it, I said,

“We go door-to-door, offering free health screens.  Then, we talk about spiritual things if people want to.”

With real interest, she replied, “Well, I’m very spiritual.  I think a lot of people would do much better if they got to know Him.”

As I could talk (she was cleaning my teeth!), I discovered that while she was a Christian, she hadn’t been going to church.  While we didn’t have the time to talk about the details, and I had just met her, it was clear that something difficult had happened at her former church, and she hoped to find a new one.  I simply mentioned that I would pray God leads her to a new church.  Although our time together was brief, I think it meant a lot to her just to have someone listen with understanding and offer hope in the form of prayer.

Then, it was time to go.  The rest is up to God, but I left with the joy that I had been a part of his work.

As you think about your next few days, how can you plant a few faith flags that may help you discover other Christians where you are?

Healthcare Toolbox: Declaration of Forgiveness

It’s time to open again our Healthcare Toolbox, which contains practical tools for following Christ in our daily practice of medicine.  With a little adaptation, I think you’ll find that these tools have a far broader application, too.

Today’s tool is the Declaration of Forgiveness, which I came across while reading “Gray Matter” by neurosurgeon Dr. David Levy.  The book chronicles his journey from being an agnostic to gradually incorporating faith into his practice, and the amazing results he’s experienced.

By way of background, when Dr. Levy senses that a patient is troubled, or, that his/her complications are inexplicable based upon medical considerations alone, he tries to explore other, non-medical causes.  Since our spiritual and physical health impact one another greatly, dealing with these non-medical factors is part of providing excellent clinical care.

After explaining this connection, and clearly asking if they would like to talk about these things, a provider can ask if there are people they need to forgive.  If there are, the provider can help them talk to God about it right there.  He/she can walk them through significant wrongs that were committed against them, releasing the offender for each one, remembering that God alone is Judge.

After that process, Dr. Levy mentions that troubled relationships are usually a two-way street, and gives his patients a chance to confess their own failings and be forgiven by God.

Sometimes his patients’ symptoms are healed, other times they improve, while sometimes no discernible change takes place.  But in nearly every case, his patients experience new hope, improved relationships, and a desire to connect/reconnect with God.  It’s simply part of the bigger picture in providing whole-person care.

Obviously, as a neurosurgeon, Dr. Levy’s situation may be different than your own.  No doubt, there are particular obstacles that need to be faced, and overcome, wherever you find yourself.  But coming alongside patients and helping them set aside bitterness may be a key part of their treatment, and the Declaration of Forgiveness is one practical way to help.