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Showing posts from 2014

"Getting [Everything] for Christmas"

Our relatively new tradition of writing a letter to Josiah each Christmas has taught us more about God (and ourselves) than we could have realized. We are sharing our letters with you, hoping they bring you laughter and joy this holiday season. If you decide to begin a similar habit of annual letter writing in your home, let us know! We would love to read your thoughts and memories, if you feel inclined to share.  Merry Christmas, from our home to yours -- Christ has come!!  

Sickeningly Sweet

The trust of a child is an astounding thing. Josiah does not do well with milk (i.e. he wakes up every hour if he consumes any dairy products the day before -- I know, I can't believe I am THAT mom with THAT kid either).  So tonight, when he ate a piece of the fudge (i.e. milk chocolate,  sweetened condensed milk, and butter) I left on the table for our guests, I leaped across the room and grabbed it out of his mouth with a quick blind sweep. He looked confused, but nodded calmly when I told him it would make him sick. With the taste of fudge still in his mouth, he snuggled into my shoulder. Seriously?  If someone took fudge out of my mouth,  I would be yelling or inflicting bodily harm.  Or both.  Shouldn't I trust God this way when He takes something that seems good to me? With faith like a child, I should.  God help me.

Connecting in a Connected Society

I used to worry that life on the mission field would be lonely. No doubt, it will be in many ways - language, culture and experience are potentially enormous barriers to intimacy. Recently, however, I have seen with fresh eyes the isolationism that has begun to creep into our interactions here in America. Strangely, God is using this understanding to loosen my grip on my life here in the States. The majority of my close friends in Rochester have moved or are in the process of moving elsewhere to pursue career opportunities. My friends outside of Rochester have become increasingly occupied with very good, very important projects and relationships. This busyness, however, translates to an obvious distance that is more than geographic in nature. I could count on one hand the number of conversations via text, email, or phone I have had in the past six months that were initiated by others. This situation is not unique to me; I have heard similar sentiments in response whenever I make this

Waffles with Peanut Butter and Advent

My prayer before breakfast and lunch often goes something like this: Dear God, Thank you for our family, our friends, our food, and all the good things You've given us.  We love you very much.  Amen. I figure simplicity is the way to go, since a one-year-old's attention span is limited -- particularly when food is waiting to be devoured.  A few days ago, however, Josiah kept holding my hand after I said Amen and started calling out random people that he wanted inserted in the prayer: Papa! Nana! Poppa! Beckies (Ethan's Mom)! So I repeated the prayer, inserting the person's name after "Dear God, Thank you for ---".  Today, after we went through Papa-Nana-Poppa-Beckies, Josiah moved on to, "Books!"  I kept a mostly-straight face as I thanked God for books.  But then... "Bum-bum!" Bum-bum is how Josiah refers to The Little Drummer Boy, his favorite Christmas song (much to my chagrin, since it is the carol with the least accurate theo

Landon Donovan, Jesus, and God's Eternal Purpose

Soccer has long been a passion of mine, and I dare say at times it has been an idol.  I love it.  One of my favorite things to do in the world is to play soccer, slightly lower on that list is watching it. Landon Donovan, without a doubt, is my all time favorite player.  I have watched every soccer game I could since I was around 9 years old. I remember watching the 1994 World Cup with fascination.  I remember watching the United States national team advance via an own goal by Colombia. Alexi Lalas and Cobi Jones were my favorite players.  Alexi Lalas' red hair and tall stature reminded me of my dad.  He was fierce in the air and fearless.  Cobi Jones was relentless, speedy, and crafty. I remember watching Brazil completely dominate the United States in the next round.  I remember Leonardo's thunderous elbow crashing into Tab Ramos jaw, one of the most horrific red cards I have ever seen.  A red card that simultaneously crushed any American hope (Tab Ramos was one of our be

Christmas Cards and Reciprocal Altruism

I love Christmas cards.  I love sending them.  I love receiving them.  We hang them all over our kitchen, and use them as a reminder to pray for our friends and family throughout the year. Recently, however, I read several articles suggesting Christmas cards (particularly the photo variety) are often narcissistic and therefore distracting from the true meaning of the Holiday.  Hmm.  Seems plausible.  It does seem the majority of our cards draw more attention to ourselves than to Christ.  Another article challenged Christians to use Christmas cards to bless those who might not otherwise get holiday wishes (widows, singles, the elderly), rather than practicing reciprocal altruism within our own demographic.  This is an excellent challenge, and one that I would encourage all believers to accept.  Are we really reaching out to those who need love?  Or are we simply passing around delicacies in privileged circles, while many outside are cold and hungry?   As I write this, our own Christ

Rightly Dividing

It's en vogue to allow ourselves and other Christians to interpret Scripture whichever way we see best -- or even to say that we just "can't know" God's view on hard subjects.  However, we are commanded to rightly handle the word of truth -- suggesting there are right and wrong ways to interpret the Bible.   I appreciate conversations with other believers that remind me we have a responsibility to correctly read and apply the Scripture.  This verse always makes me ask God for grace to address all errors in interpretation -- my own and others': "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." - II Timothy 2:1

A Few Thoughts on Whole Foods and the Whole World

Today, my little foodophile devoured oatmeal, apples, homemade chicken soup and hummus.  Watching him enjoy real food made brought to mind so many children who never get the chance to eat well. In our country, kids grow up addicted to processed and sugared foods.  Abroad, kids are happy to find any food.  The distribution of resources is not fair, by any stretch.  My gratitude for what my son enjoys should also translate to an urgency to improve the plight of children everywhere.

The Bible on Immigration/Amnesty

James 1:22, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." Exodus 22:21, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” Exodus 23:9, ““Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” Leviticus 19:33-34, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.  The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 24:22, “You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.’” Leviticus 25:35, “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.” Numbers 15:15, “The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you

World Medical Mission Update

1.)  We have been accepted by World Medical Mission (Samaritan's Purse) and offered spots in the Post-Residency Program.  Praise the Lord.  Doing full time international missions has been my goal for around a decade now, and it is beyond exciting to be close to fulfilling that dream. 2.)  Because World Medical Missions is awesome, we do not anticipate that we will need to raise any support.  It seems the salary will be sufficient to pay our loans.  This may also change how we schedule my time from graduation to completion of pediatric boards (Do I get an urgent care job?  Do I raise support for the hospital where we might be working? Still not decided on what to do).  Please pray. 3.)  In the coming weeks/months, we will be working on getting a email listserv with our prayer supporters.  We will utilize this to give updates on the work of God in whichever country we end up and to ask for prayer.  If you'd rather not receive that sort of information but want to stay in touch,

Faith Like A Child

Josiah was crying for water, so I went into his room and told him I had to go get it from the kitchen. He immediately stopped crying and sat down. When I returned several minutes later he was still sitting, waiting patiently in the dark. This struck me, because while God is far more trustworthy than I am, I rarely sit quietly and expectantly for His provision. My one year old son better applies the spiritual principles of trust and obedience than I do.

Depravity and Spiritual Application

Hebrews is a hard book.  I grew up around scripture, and in high school, I remember my dad teaching Hebrews.  It was hard then.  Then in college, my small group decided to read Hebrews, and I struggled.  I'm reading it again now, and it is still hard, but in general, it is coming easier.  In college, my love for the Word blossomed, and I started reading the Bible every year, which I have done for the most part since I was 19.  So, I've been taking notes on the first 3 chapters of Hebrews and while it takes more time to digest than the other epistles, it had been relatively painless.  That is, until I got to the 4th chapter of Hebrews, and I asked myself the question:  Huh? I turned to for help, and the article I found was tremendously helpful. It turns out that the key of this passage is realizing that there is word play and that there are really 4 types of rest being used interchangeably.  If you really break down the ver

The Lord Saves

In full disclosure, this entry is not a happy story.  It involves the death of a child.  And if you are the sort who cannot bear to read of such events, I encourage you please do not read this.  I am writing it not merely because it was horrific and troubling, but because God spoke to me through it. In medicine, it is easy to get lost in our accomplishments.  Toward the end of my time in Bangladesh, I fell into this trap, thinking to myself, "How many lives have I saved since I have been here?"  God forgive me.  I have no power to save lives.  I have never saved a life.  Only the Lord heals. On the last full clinical day of my stay, I went to the physician's room after lunch to do reading on typhoid when one of the nurses came in to inform me they were currently doing an emergent c-section on a 29 weeker, and my presence would be appreciated.  My heart sank.  In the States a baby born at 29 weeks stands a good chance of doing well.  In Bangladesh, our hospital does not ha

Dumber Phone, Smarter Living

Yesterday, I struggled to get my smartphone to charge for the last time (why is that the flip phones circa 1999 are still functioning perfectly, and the brilliant technology of today can't survive even two years?). This weekend, I sent in my last Instagram photo and spent my last bath time scrolling through status updates.  I dragged out my old GPS, and started checking my email on my laptop.  Far fewer than 64 times per day.  I also lost all my contacts in the transaction.  Which means the only people I will be texting in the future are the people who also text me -- which should reduce my list of contacts to about five family members and three friends. Importantly, our family phone bill is now only $25 per month, including taxes and fees. Which is more than $100 less than it was two months ago.  I feel liberated.  This is the beginning of a new thing.  I will carry my Bible again, instead of reading it on YouVersion.  I will actually know where I am going, because I will ha

What is Jesus worth?

A missionary to Somali on her experience, "...What we were unprepared for was for our friends and colleagues on the field to die; some young, some talented, and all somehow more valuable to the kingdom than ourselves.  We ask ourselves why.  Why them, and not us?  Martin, Sheikdon, Christine, Colin, Libaan, Farah--all died for their faith.  All died violently.  When our dear friend, Martin Utzi, was questioned about the safety of taking his wife and young children to Somaliland, he answered, 'If what we are doing is not worth dying for, then it is not worth living for."  Only a short time later, as his 3-year old son looked on, sweet, gentle Martin died from a gunshot to the head.  Our friends won't have biographies written about them.  Few people know of their sacrifice.  Yet, in dying, they show us how to live."  Mary Wallace, Live Dead People often ask me if I feel scared about moving abroad.  And truthfully I do.  I do not fear for myself, but I do fear for

Fundraising Update

Heya friends, Thank you so much for your prayers and support.  We have already reached our goal, and we are no longer fundraising.  In three weeks, I will be in Bangladesh, so please continue praying.  If World Medical Missions accepts our application, we will likely have more fundraising to do, and we certainly need a lot of prayer raising that God guides us the way He intends us to go.  Thanks again for your support! Re:

Why medical missions?

My cousin asked me to write something for him on why medical missions.  This is what I wrote while being distracted by a beautiful little boy who was eager to sit in my lap and read him books (which I did gladly).  Matthew 28:18-20, "And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”" Clearly, Jesus Christ wants us to go to all nations.  One of the big themes of the Bible is that God desires the praise of all nations.  Psalm 67:3-5 reads, "May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.  May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the people justly and guide the nations of the earth.  Selah  May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise


"I asked the class, 'How many of you have been jailed for your faith?'  Nearly every hand in the room went straight up.  I spoke no Amharic at the time, so I thought they must have misunderstood my American English.  I tried it again from a different syntactical angle.  Same response.  One more time.  Same response.  Finally, an exasperated young man in the front row politely asked me, 'Brother Steve, are you asking how many of us spent time in prison because we are believers in Jesus?'  'Yes!  That's it, that's what I'm asking.' I joyfully retorted.  He turned and spoke in what sounded like tongues for a few moments ... a pause ... then nearly every hand in the room went into the air.  Be more."  Live Dead , Day 14, Steve Pennington, missionary to Ethiopia/Kenya

No Corrupting Talk

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV), “ Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. ” I have struggled with speech since I was a child.   Initially, it was a matter of pronunciation.   I could not say my Rs, and my father would exploit this by having me “make the noise that pirates make,” when around friends.   I would say, “Awwwwww,” to which he would reply, “Oh, the sympathetic pirate.”   When I was a teenager, I justified cursing by saying that the scripture did not say that I should not curse, but instead, that I should not speak crudely. Ephesians 5:4 (ESV), “ Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”    And to be honest, I think I did have a point.   These words do not have to be crude and the s word is no more crude than other words that are more socially acceptable.   Nonetheless, I would use


Yesterday, we read day 6 of Live Dead.  In the journal entry, Jennifer Brogden recounts the challenges she faced when she moved to the Sudan and the all sufficiency of Jesus Christ.  She then challenged us to write what it means to "live dead."  Because I can, I want to alter this and respond about my expectations of living dead in the context of medical missions.  Without further adu, my response to expectations is: I expect it to be hot I expect that many families will be really appreciative of my work, much more than the average patient in the United States I expect that we will be persecuted I expect that we will suffer from various diseases I expect to be humbled I expect that I will have to be flexible; that things will routinely not work out the way I planned I expect natural disasters to be devastating I expect to be taken advantage of financially I expect to have to fight my pride on a daily basis I expect that at times I will feel alone I expect that I w

Our Worries As Idols

Matthew 6:25-34,  "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?   Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ?   "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.   Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.     If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?   So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'     For the pagan

Tithing My Time

For the next 30 days, my wife, myself, and a few friends have committed to tithe two hours and thirty minutes of our time to the Lord while we go through the book Live Dead .  As a father and a resident, I do not know how sustainable this is.  I do know that the concept is important.  Before residency, I was a lot better at abiding in Christ.  There were fewer obstacles.  I had more time.  Christ did not put me in residency to become jaded or to become a victim.  However, in some ways, I have become both.  Lord forgive me. Yet, I know that God is sovereign.  And if God is sovereign, then residency is precisely the kind of suffering I need. How do I learn to grow closer to God with more responsibilities and less time?  The answer is that I must die to myself. Romans 6:1-14 reads: "What shall we say then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized

Live Dead: Tithing Time

Eyes on the Prize

We are Abraham and Sarah. In trying to bring about children of promise by our own means, we create millennia of conflict. We say we trust God's will, yet have very strong ideas about what He should put into and take out of our lives.  During worship service today, we sang songs about our powerful and wise God. But do we really believe this? And if we do, then why do we constantly try to advise Him? A prophetic word was given,  emphasizing that God's will should be our guide. The speaker reminded us that we, as Christians, had turned our lives and wills over to the Lord. Which made me wonder: do we really believe this? Then why do we leverage our resources to change our circumstances, rather than allowing our circumstances to change our hearts? The wise Pastor gave a message on the foolishness of our plans compared to the wisdom of God. He preached on not glorying (or wallowing) in our situations,  but rather in knowing God. There were fewer "Amens" than usual. Mayb

Moving to Bangladesh? Maybe, A call for help

Beloved family and friends! 

 It is with much excitement that I am fwriting this letter. Around nine years ago, I felt called to medical missions. Since then, I have completed my undergraduate studies and medical school, and have begun my third year of pediatric residency.  Recently, Elizabeth and I submitted our applications to work with World Medical Missions (Samaritan’s Purse) for two years, and we are prayerfully awaiting their decision.  This Fall, I will be going to Bangladesh on a two week Global Health rotation, that is a medical mission and scouting trip, under the auspices of World Medical Mission. Bangladesh is an Islamic nation that was once part of India.   After partition, it became known as East Pakistan. In 1971, Bangladesh successfully gained independence from Pakistan at great cost; horrific genocide claimed the lives of between 300,000 to 3,000,000 Bengalis.  Bangladesh is also one of the poorest countries in the world; their GNI PPP per capita (which is a