One Month Checkup: What Did We Learn From Dr. Levy?

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  (Jesus, John 13:16)

We see it all the time with patients.  Physicians ask them to take their medications, follow a certain regimen, and so on, only to see those patients disregard their orders to their own detriment.  Advice only works if we take it in the trenches of everyday life!  If we’re honest, of course, we know it’s easier said than done.

So, now that it’s been roughly one month since Dr. David Levy gave his Intermed talks in Philadelphia, I wanted to review what he talked about and see if we’ve continued taking the ‘medicine’ he prescribed.

In my mind, here are the main takeaways from Dr. Levy’s time in Philadelphia:

  • Who we are matters more than what we say.  Dr. Levy gave some of the best talks I’ve heard in a long time.  The content was tremendous.  But, the thing that made them so great is that they flowed out of his living, dynamic relationship with God.  Even though he’s a highly-trained neurosurgeon, it’s immediately obvious that he understands – really – that God is absolutely vital to every moment.  During our rides in the car to and from events, he would often spontaneously just offer short prayers of thanks or need.  And so, his talks were essentially just an outflow of who he is, and his walk with Christ, each day.
  • We need to make our relationship with God real and specific.  During each of his main talks, Dr. Levy invited his audience to imagine they were with him in his office.  He then walked us through exercises he uses with patients, such as a declaration of forgiveness.  The issues he addressed were important in and of themselves, but more generally he taught us to move beyond a vague, lifeless faith to one that is specific and (therefore) full of life.  For example, it’s very different to say, “Lord, I forgive Joe” versus, “Lord, I forgive Joe for the ways he keeps criticizing me and never returns my phone calls.”
  • Our hope lies in God, not our abilities.  In ways big and small, Dr. Levy really modeled that the difference-maker in our lives is God, not us.  We believe that on one level, but our lives often show we really don’t.  There was a moment where Dr. Levy mentioned a passage from Isaiah where God talks about revealing new things to his people for their benefit.  Reflecting on that, Dr. Levy mentioned that he’s been thinking, “You know, that’s what I need… for God to show up and show me something new, something I can’t come up with on my own.”  Dr. Levy has recaptured this idea that God can break into our lives at any moment and take us way further than we ever could on our own.

After listening to his talks, you may have your own takeaways.  The key, though, is asking God to help us start living it out.  (I’m working through the declaration of forgiveness pretty regularly).  That’s where life becomes exciting, where we go beyond information downloads to real-life change.  That should be true whether we’re listening to a talk, a sermon, or just looking around us (see Proverbs).  When we do that, each day becomes a new adventure.

What one thing is God leading you to start living out?

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The Best Week Ever

Just this morning, Dr. David Levy drove off to New York City for the final stage of his East Coast trip.  It marked the end of a wonderful week of ministry in Philadelphia, so I wanted to provide you with a brief report of his time here.

Intermed

This was our biggest event of the week, with well over 100 in attendance on Friday and Saturday.  In addition to our usual student population, we made an effort to attract more residents and graduates this time, and we made good progress on that front.

Without exaggeration, the talks by author and neurosurgeon Dr. Levy were some of the best I’ve heard in a long time.  His messages on sharing faith with those around us, forgiveness and joy combined humor, real-life experience, Scripture and specific application in a very special way.   At the end of the sessions, he walked us through practical exercises on forgiveness and letting go of offenses that created an atmosphere that was, at once, both serious and light.

After the exercise on forgiveness, one student said, “Up until now, I’ve been angry with my mom, but I couldn’t really say why.  Dr. Levy’s practical examples helped me put words to my anger so that I could confess it and forgive my mom.”  She was almost giddy with joy as she shared, and many related similar stories.  God was at work!

Campus Events

In addition to Intermed, Dr. Levy spoke at the Temple, UMDNJ-SOM (Stratford, NJ) and Penn medical campuses.  These were exciting events, with an unusual mixture of Christians and others at various points in their own spiritual journeys.

At SOM, about 55 people came out to hear Dr. Levy speak over dinner.  Jasen, one of the student leaders, had attracted a unique group of believers and spiritually-open folks from the school and surrounding community.  One student said the presentation was the best he had heard the entire year!

Later, 12-15 of us went back with Dr. Levy to the Hrics’ home to continue the conversation over dessert.  Dr. Hric and his wife Susan have made their home a ‘safe place’ for people seeking truth, and our time together there was phenomenal.  Dr. Levy invited each of us to share our spiritual journey, starting with our experience growing up.  One student, honest about being agnostic, expressed his respect for the humility he’s observed in Christians.  He understands the connection to the Christian faith, where our God, though strong, came to serve the weak.  The next day, another student texted me, saying “last night was the most enriching night I’ve had in a very long time, possibly ever.”  I’ve heard testimony today that those came are still telling others and that there’s an overall buzz and excitement!

It’s really hard to communicate in an email how absolutely wonderful this week was.  Everyone who participated came away challenged and encouraged.  ‘Friendships with a purpose’ were created and renewed.  And, there has been a real synergy created by so many people coming together for a common purpose.

Thank you, thank you for your prayers!  Please keep praying that God continues working, and that we intentionally engage others, in the weeks ahead!

Amazed by God,

Bryan & Sharon

Dr. David Levy’s Intermed Sessions

In case you missed it, here are Dr. David Levy’s talks, and Q & A sessions, given at Renewal Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA on March 9-10, 2012.

To access the relevant session:

1 – click on the link below, which will take you its stored location on Google documents;

2 – click “file”, then “download” (see bottom of drop-down list)

3 – either click “open with” your default media player (i.e., Windows Media Player) to listen now, or, “save file” to download so you can store/listen to the file on your computer/MP3 player later.

Friday night’s talk on addressing spiritual concerns and forgiving others

Friday night Q & A

Saturday morning’s talk on joy and handling disappointment with God/others

Saturday morning Q & A

Many thanks to Chris Chong for recording these sessions.  Enjoy!

Three ‘Nights’ And Intermed Just Around The Corner!

Doubt Night

“So, when can we do it again?!”

That’s the response we received after holding our first Doubt Night at PCOM, one of our area’s medical campuses.

You may be wondering, though, what Doubt Night is all about.  (First, credit to liberti Church for giving me the idea some years ago).  In short, Doubt Night is a time where seekers and others with questions about the Christian faith can come and dialogue honestly with Christians about their concerns.  To facilitate this, I took part in a panel that also featured Dr. Keith Herzog and two PCOM students.  Throughout a 1.5 hour discussion, we heard questions dealing with:

  • heaven – is it real?  Is it right to be moral because we want to go there, or, should we act rightly because it’s inherently appropriate?
  • the apparent contrast between God in the Old and New Testaments – why does ‘the God of the NT’ seem more gracious and loving?
  • the trustworthiness of the bible – Christians put so much faith in the Bible, but what makes it more special or reliable than any other book?

Of the 15 who came, I’d say it was about a 50/50 ratio of seekers:Christians, which is what we were hoping for.  We look forward to continuing the conversation on campus, and, in future Doubt Nights!

Men’s & Women’s Nights

Later that week, we also hosted Women’s and Men’s Nights at our home on consecutive evenings.  Sharon led nineteen women in tackling the sensitive area of sexuality and how to live for Christ in a confusing, sexually-charged culture.  The best part about the night was that it provided a safe place to deal with the questions everyone has, but is afraid to ask.  We need to speak to topics like this!

For our men’s night, nine men joined me for an exploration of the topic of why men are so passive, and, what we can do about it.  We took a look at our culture’s portrayal of men, then surveyed key bible passages that help us ‘diagnose and treat’ not only the symptoms, but the underlying causes as well.

Both nights were greatly aided by Sharon’s baking, especially the flourless mocha cake and Ghirardelli brownies!

Prayer Needed for Intermed This Weekend

This Friday night and Saturday morning, MCO and CMDA are hosting Intermed, our annual gathering of local healthcare students and professionals for worship, fellowship and teaching.  But this is not our usual Intermed.  God has allowed us to invite Dr. David Levy, neurosurgeon and author of Gray Matter, to be our speaker.  Based in San Diego, Dr. Levy is going to speak to us at Intermed, but also at other medical campuses throughout his week in our area (March 8-15).

On Friday evening, he’ll show us what it means to talk about Christ with the people around us, as well as challenge us on what it looks like to let go of anger we harbor toward God and others.  More than just raw information, though, Dr. Levy has dealt with these topics very personally in his own life and medical practice.  As we minister to students and professionals, we’re excited about offering them one portrait of who we hope they’ll become.

As you can imagine, we very much need your prayers for Dr. Levy’s visit:

  • for protection from the evil one.  Already we’ve seen evidence of spiritual resistance, and need God to protect us.
  • for the Spirit’s power as Dr. Levy speaks.  His messages will be powerful, but lasting change only happens through Christ’s work in our hearts.
  • that weary people would come away not only changed, but refreshed!
  • for God to put together “divine appointments” for Dr. Levy in between speaking engagements.  He very much wants to minister to those who need what God wants to do through him.  Pray also for me and others as we interact with students at these events; I expect that God will be giving us similar opportunities in response to his work through Dr. Levy.  We want to be His instruments of healing and change here in the city!
  • pray for all the last-minute details that need to come together.  This leads me to praise God for our entire planning team (a collaboration of students, MCO & CMDA) for all the amazing hard work they’ve done to make this week a reality!

Thank you, dear friends, for standing so faithfully with us!

Bryan & Sharon

 

New CMDA Student Newsletter

This month, CMDA is rolling out our new monthly student newsletter.  You’ll find a link to our Life Support Podcast, which currently features an interview with Dr. David Levy, a neurosurgeon who’s learned a lot about the impact of praying with his patients.  He’s written a fantastic book on this subject called Grey Matter, which I can highly recommend.

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.