Two Surgeries in One Week

Some medical procedures have an element of “glamor” about them.

For example, recently Mark Altrogge wrote about “My new career as a stent man,” perfectly (and hilariously) capturing the “glory” of successfully coming through such a serious operation. Doubt he would have been so funny or transparent if it had been something like hemorrhoid surgery or greasy, messy psoriasis treatments!

In the past 12 months I’ve experienced both medical “humiliation” and medical “glory.” On the humiliation side, a year ago I had a double hernia operation following an over-ambitious Tae Kwon Do move. I think I forgot to blog about that….and why are you sniggering?

On the “glory” side, God graciously spared my life in April when I experienced a DVT and multiple blood clots on both lungs. That evoked lots of interest and sympathy, and even seemed to give me “street-cred” with some. Definitely worth a blog or five.

So just what is it that makes one medical problem bloggable and another forgettable?

I’ve been pondering that question as I’ve been recovering from yet another painful surgery in the last few days, a surgery I had decided to keep “low-key” because, as I told the few that had to know, “I don’t want to become known as the Seminary’s drama queen.”

Part of the answer is the position of the particular problem. For example, while we can spend hours talking about our broken leg, or our heart scare, “How’s your colon?” is still a bit of a conversation-stopper.

But there’s something more than the problem’s physical location that determines the level of disclosure, isn’t there.



We divulge what will make us look good and we withhold what we think will make us look weak.

The sharp scalpel of this humbling truth cut me to the heart a couple of days ago as I was listening to Dr Eric Johnson’s superb CCEF lecture on depression (#17 here):

In the light of Paul’s teaching on weakness, to the extent that a counselee’s depression is a weakness, what might a counselee be encouraged to do? To learn how to boast in his or her weakness. I know that’s kind of strange sounding. This is a radical paradigm shift, and as I think about this it requires care in how it is addressed….Paul turned things upside down. We’re all so ashamed of our weakness aren’t we, by nature. We find it hard to admit our weaknesses to one another. And so one of the things the Holy Spirit did through Paul in 2 Corinthians was say, “Let’s turn our weaknesses into strengths. Let’s recognize that God gets glory through our weaknesses.”

Yes, Paul gloried in his weaknesses – especially the humiliating ones – because God (not Paul) was glorified in them. He did not selectively divulge what weaknesses would help his image. He listed all his weaknesses, all his indignities, all his humiliations, and then “boasted” of God’s sufficiency in them (2 Corinthians 11:23-30). He knew that the more his human clay was exposed, the more divine grace would sparkle and shine.

Some questions remain, of course. Do we tell everyone everything – a la Facebook? Or do we disclose selectively – a la Google circles? The answer will probably vary for each person and situation. However, wherever we land on this, we could probably all challenge ourselves more regularly with the questions: Why am I disclosing this? Why am I hiding this? Who’s image is being burnished and enhanced here? God’s or mine?

As for me, it’s the first time I’ve had two surgeries in one week! Both Dr Figg’s and Dr Johnson’s scalpels were painfully necessary, but hopefully both will also produce long-term health.

Upbeat about Downcast

I quite like Apple products.

I’m very keen on Apple…

I’m an Apple fanatic. Hardware, software, accessories. You name it, I love it.

There’s just one fly in the ointment – in fact it’s a tarantula.


I absolutely detest iTunes.

I’ve tried and tried and tried to even like this software/service, but I just can’t do it. I can’t even barely tolerate it.

For long enough I thought that Microsoft must have smuggled someone into Apple’s iTunes department.

Then I blamed myself…surely it must be me…there’s some kind of genius in this I’m just not seeing. But no, I’ve had to admit, Apple has a weak spot, an achilles heel, a chink in their armor, a nightmare piece of software.

How can it be so difficult to sync data, photos, podcasts, and mp3s between my Macbook and my itouch/ipad/iphone? Why can’t I just add an mp3 file to iTunes and find it the next day? Why do backups of my calendar and contacts result in either multiple lost appointments or thousands of entries for my plumber? Why is there a nerve-shredding software update every three days? Why are the software updates so monstrously HYOOOOJE? Why does it take 4,356 steps to turn an mp3 lecture into an Audiobook file that I can then listen to at 1.5x or 2x speed? Why do you need fairies’ fingers to scrub back a few seconds to re-listen to the last sentence? Why does my heart sink every time I try to sync? And how many finger combinations do you need to delete just one file?

But….a few months ago, I read about iOS 5, iCloud, wireless syncing and everything automatically backed up to the cloud from every device, and I thought, “Thank you, Steve, what a priceless legacy.”

But what a mess! Seven weeks and multiple experiments later, I gave up.

Downcast, I discovered Downcast.

Now this $1.99 App is not a complete answer to the syncing idiosyncracies of iTunes, but it’s a huge step forward for syncing podcasts, lectures, sermons, etc.

  • Quick iPhone installation with a tiny footprint
  • Simple, oh-so-very-simple, podcast subscriptions
  • Categorized podcast choices
  • Automatic downloading and syncing
  • Single tap for listen speeds of 1.25x, 1.5, 2x, and even 3x (good for American ears listening to Scottish preachers)
  • Single tap scrub back 15 secs and 30 secs
  • Single click social media sharing
  • Easy access to previous podcast episodes
  • No wires!
  • No need to sync with iTunes!!!!

But what about those audio files of sermons and lectures that you come across from time to time on various blogs and websites? Downcast is working on a way to incorporate these into the App, but, until then, Huffduffer is a good workaround:

  1. Open free Huffduffer account
  2. Set up a podcast feed in Huffduffer
  3. Subscribe to your Huffduffer podcast feed in Downcast

Then, when you see an mp3 you want to listen to, add the link to your Huffduffer account or use Chrome/Safari bookmarklet. It’s relatively painless and, unlike iTunes, does not feel like self-torture.

And at last, I am regularly listening to some of the great audio podcasts out there. Two of my favorites so far are Freakonomics and This American Life. I’ve also enjoyed some episodes of The Entreleadership Podcast, and Thinking in Public. Any others you’d recommend?

Unless I’m missing something however, I don’t think Reformed Christians have yet mastered this media opportunity. Our “podcasts” tend to be either sermons or long-form, high-level discussions of theology/philosophy (e.g. Thinking in Public, White Horse Inn). There’s definitely a place for that, but there’s also got to be some way of utilizing the podcast format in a more effective and “popular” way.

Any ideas? What would be your ideal Christian podcast?

Check out

Thinking wrongly about money
Probably a week too late for some.

New Calvinism
Conclusions and counsels
Jeremy Walker’s last post on the subject (with links to previous four parts).

There’s a Psalm for that
James Faris proposes the Psalter as a Smartphone for the Soul.

Ron Edmondson and Michael Hyatt share insights from their mentoring groups.

Gube curates kid-safe Youtube videos for iOS
Probably not a perfect solution, but definitely a much-needed step in the right direction.

Check out

How to disagree the right way
Stephen Altrogge supplies three questions to help us say “You’re wrong” in the right way.

Polemic Theology
And Roger Nicole adds three more. By the time you’ve asked all six questions, the disagreement may well have passed.

True Confession: Life as an introvert
It’s weird but I can 100% identify with everything in Ron Edmondson’s confession!

For shy worshippers, church can be overwhelming
The Huffington Post interviews Adam McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church. I’ve given this book to two people recently, and both found it liberating.

Block diagramming
Found this excellent step-by-step guide to block diagramming the other day.

Practical Tips for Expository Preachers
Five tips Alistair Begg learned from an older pastor when he was a student.

Check out

Couple of great quotes on sermon preparation here and this one from John Murray (scroll to the end).

10 steps to better preaching
Esp numbers 4, 5, and 9.

Preaching Leviticus
I haven’t listened to any of these sermons yet (though I plan to), but it’s worth clicking even to read Tony Reinke’s interview with the preacher, Jared Mellinger.

Steve Jobs: 20 life lessons
Some sad, some bad, some inspirational. 15 best Steve Jobs quotes at end of article.

21 must-have gadgets of a road-warrior 

Why did I not need this before I saw it?

Check out

Bible Reading
Take the 3650 Challenge with me
I’m tempted to join Tim on this. You?

Bible Reading Plans
Alternatively, here’s selection of other plans from Justin Taylor.

Scottish Conference
“The Call” Leadership Conference
Maybe some of my old friends in Scotland might be interested in this conference. I know Brian Croft and Jeremy Walker and you’re sure to benefit from their ministries (and get ten free books!)

New Calvinism
Jeremy Walker adds a UK perspective to those of Kevin DeYoung and Ray Ortlund.

Stopping seasonal anxieties
Phil Monroe offers some strategies and a better goal.

My new career as a stent man
This would be serious if it wasn’t so funny. Why under “Counseling?” Well, you know what they say about a good laugh being a good medicine.

Franklin Graham: Romney’s mormonism doesn’t bother me

Debt Limit
Funny but worrying (HT: Mike Wittmer)