Saturday, February 25, 2012


The guy was caught with his pants down. Literally.

The pilot of a Chatauqua Airlines flight from Asheville, NC, to New York City, decided it was time for a bathroom break mid-flight. That was when the problems began.

The door jammed and he couldn’t get out. There he was in tight quarters, with the plane ready to land. Desperate to get the plane that was in a holding pattern over LaGuardia down on terra firma, he began banging on the door to attract attention.

A sympathetic and well-intentioned passenger sitting in the front row heard the commotion and rushed over to help. The pilot yelled to the man to alert the cockpit crew to his unfortunate situation.

But the crew didn’t believe the passenger who conveyed the message. Because the passenger spoke with an accent. They didn’t react positively to this unexpected visit from a stranger speaking strange English while attempting to breach a secure area of the aircraft.

The Washington post reported that the jittery copilot—wondering why his captain’s bathroom break was taking this long—thought the accent was Middle Eastern.

He radioed air traffic control, his voice quaking. “The captain disappeared in the back, and, uh, I have someone with a thick foreign accent trying to access the cockpit.” Even after being told of his captain’s toilet woes, the co-pilot remained suspicious.

At this the controller, also spooked, advised the pilot to declare an emergency and “just get on the ground.”

Sensing potential danger, fighter planes were alerted, and FBI and Port Authority officers readied for a major terrorist situation.

Thankfully the trapped pilot finally broke out of the bathroom and got the plane on the ground.

Safe passengers. Empty-bladdered pilot. Relieved co-pilot. No terrorists. No rushed landing.

Pilot-less flying is dangerous, documented well throughout the Bible.

The first crash occurred in the Garden of Eden.

When the woman saw that
the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was desirable to make one wise,
she took from its fruit and ate;
and she gave also to her husband with her,
and he ate.
Genesis 3:6

The rest, of course, is history.

Later …

In those days there was no king in Israel;
everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Judges 21:25

The book of Judges depicts the dire consequences of this self-piloted kind of living.

And even later …

The LORD said to Samuel,
“Listen to the voice of the people
in regard to all that they say to you,
for they have not rejected you,
but they have rejected Me
from being king over them.”
1 Samuel 8:7

They locked out God out of the cockpit. And, needless to say, they suffered the consequences in a long line of generally hopeless and incompetent rulers.

I know, O LORD, that
a man's way is not in himself,
Nor is it in a man
who walks to direct his steps.
Jeremiah 10:23

We are just not able to fly the plane on our own.

Jesus said:

“I am the vine, you are the branches;
he who abides in Me and I in him,
he bears much fruit,
for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

Get your Pilot on board. Let him into the cockpit.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5–6

That’s the way to give the controls to the Pilot. Fly high! 

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Heart Attack Grill.  Yup, that’s what it’s called.

In that notable Las Vegas culinary establishment, your meal can cross the 8,000 calorie mark. (You might remember that the recommended daily intake is between 2,000 and 2,500 of the good stuff per day.)

As if to poke the medical establishment in the eye, waitresses dressed as nurses bring the Heart Attack’s food to your table. Their logo has an EKG in the background: I suppose they guarantee your needing one pretty soon if you frequent their joint.

Here you can get a “Quadruple Bypass Burger” (shown) for $12.94 (4 slabs of beef; add 20 slices of bacon for only $3.69 more). Or if you weren’t that hungry, you could go for the $11.10 “Triple Bypass Burger” (3 chunks of beef; and for 15 slices of bacon, add $2.77). All of this smothered in Heart Attack Grill’s own special sauce. And to make it all worthwhile, throw in “Flatliner Fries,” deep fried in pure lard ($1.84).

If you are over 350 lbs. you eat free. Just make sure you read the sign at the door of one of their franchises: “Go away. If you come in this place, it’s going to kill you.”

The place is run by a former nutrition “doctor” Jon Basso. In another life, the guy used to run—get this!—a Jenny Craig weight-loss diet center. Quite a dramatic shift in career, I might say.

In one of their commercials, starring a 650-lb man, Mr. Basso adds: “I personally guarantee a stable upward progression of body weight while you're enjoying great tasting foods. Along with a cold beer and cigarette, it's a diet you can stick to for life.” The ad goes on to list the side effects of Heart Attack Grill’s glorious cuisine: sudden weight gain, increase in wardrobe size, back pain, lung cancer, tooth decay, stroke, etc. “In some cases,” they note, “death may occur.”

Well, it apparently did for one patron—or at least he came close to that terminus.

Last week, paramedics were seen wheeling out a 40-year-old man from this infamous eating house. He had been consuming a 6,000-calorie goodie (the Triple Bypass Burger) when he suffered a heart attack.

Mr Basso told Fox News: “The gentleman could barely talk. He was sweating, suffering.
'I actually felt horrible for him because the tourists were taking photos of him as if it were some type of stunt.”

Have you found honey?
Eat only what you need,
That you not have it in excess and vomit it.
Proverbs 25:16

Nope, the Bible doesn’t care for excess consumption of food. Not at all. In no uncertain terms, it decries this overdosing on food, lest one suffer its side-effects, as carefully noted by the Heart Attack Grill’s management.

In fact, God warns his people that such a focus on food and the stomach are earthly and temporal and not directed towards God.

Food is for the stomach
and the stomach is for food,
but God will do away with both of them.
Yet the body is not for immorality,
but for the Lord ….
1 Corinthians 6:13

Instead God would have us attend to things that come out of the body, not to what goes in.

Do you not understand that everything
that goes into the mouth
passes into the stomach, and is eliminated?
But the things that proceed
out of the mouth come from the heart,
and those defile the man.
… evil thoughts, murders, adultery,
sexual immorality,thefts, false witness, slander.
Matthew 15:17–19

Oh, and the motto of the restaurant? “Taste Worth Dying For!”

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Bird strikes? OK. Engine problems? Of course. Security threat? Absolutely! I’d gladly be delayed and/or have to return to the airport rather than fly with these potentially dangerous problems. There have been a few odd reasons for delays other than the above and acts of God and inclement weather and the like.

A few weeks ago, a cat got loose in the cockpit; Ripples, the offending feline forced passengers to deplane—a 4-hour delay. Or take the case of a two-hour  delay because of a frozen toilet. Another time, aflight attendant knocked out cold when a carry-on fell out of the overhead bin. Several hours lost.

But the reason that kept Qantas flight 825 from the skies the other day was none of these.

En route from Darwin to Brisbane, Australia, a poopy diaper was the culprit.

Yup, a diaper. A dirty “bomb” of sorts.

It all began with …. Well, we know how it began. Soon passengers complained of a strange odor. Apparently, in such odd-odor situations, Qantas procedures call for an immediate landing. So it did. At Mt. Isa (pop. 18,000), midway between Darwin and Brisbane.

The diaper drama was quickly solved by removing the offensive item from the for’ard toilet. But getting the passengers off the plane didn’t turn out to be that easy.

You see, Mt. Isa airport is not set up to handle the large aircraft (Boeing 767) that was Qantas 825. So after landing, the 161 passengers had to be taken off the aircraft by—get this!—a forklift. Five at a time. It took two hours, just to deplane.

A statement from Qantas:  “Very embarrassing for us all at [Qantas], but, better safe than sorry.” Better safe than stinky. Yes, it was the butt of many jokes. (Ahem!)

(An even more notorious incident occurred in 2010 when an Air Canada Jazz flight was delayed; a passenger had to be removed because his body odor was so “brutal.”)

Ooh, that smell
Can’t you smell that smell?
Ooh, that smell
The smell of death surrounds you
Lynyrd Skynyrd, That Smell, 1977

At any rate, this smelly business matters. After all—and apparently this was the crew’s concern—it could have been leaking sewage that could have threatened the plane’s sophisticated electronics.

We’ve been hardwired to run from dirty smells. Bad smells = danger.

A sinful life smells awful to God.

For my sins overwhelm me;
As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.
My wounds stink, festering,
Because of my folly.
Psalm 38:4–5


A righteous man hates falsehood,
But a wicked man acts in stinking disgrace.
Proverbs 13:5

Our worship of anything but God is abominable to him.

… they have forsaken Me
and have burned incense to other gods
that they might provoke Me to anger
with all the work of their hands,
2 Kings 22:17

On the other hand, a life modeled in Christ is a sweet aroma.

Therefore be imitators of God,
as beloved children;
and walk in love,
just as Christ also loved you
and gave Himself up for us,
an offering and a sacrifice to God
as a fragrant aroma.
Ephesians 5:1–2

May the aroma spread!

But thanks be to God,
who … manifests through us
the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him
in every place.
For we are a fragrance of Christ to God
among those who are being saved.
2 Corinthians 2:14–15

Even the prayers of his people are as incense to God.

… golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints.
Revelation 5:8

Be a perfume to God!

Sunday, February 05, 2012


The other day, I had a patient, a dear old lady who’s been in our practice for a long time.

Her presenting complaints were a rash on the fingers of her left hand.

But things were not what they seemed. To her, this was a dreadful condition. It was staph. It was flesh-eating bacteria. It was every conceivable dreadful, horrific, affliction one could imagine. She was going to lose her fingers, she thought. And her hand. Then her arm. She was almost in panic.

I took one look at the rash and pronounced my verdict in 15 seconds flat: a form of hand eczema.

She didn’t believe it. You see, she had been reading her stuff off the internet.

There is a name for this condition: cyberchondria!

We see more and more of this. Patients who come in to see physicians, after already having self-diagnosed their ailment. Via the internet.

Now, of course, there’s lots of good stuff on the web. But there’s probably more bad stuff out there than good. Multiplying patients’ worries and snowballing their anxieties. Cyberchondria: “an unfounded anxiety concerning one's wellness brought on by visiting health and medical websites.”

Seventy-two percent of Americans use online searches for information on everything from car repairs to growing bonsai. (It was 52% in 2002.) It is particularly high for those scouring the web for health-related information—80%. And almost all of them conclude—rightly or wrongly—that they have a serious medical malady. Their fingers are falling off!

Self-diagnosis often doesn’t work. We have far too many blind spots, to few good sources of self-help information.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Proverbs 12:15

Of course, one shouldn’t be chastised for taking responsibility for one’s health, so this self-diagnosing is not altogether a bad thing. Researching conditions on reputable websites may actually be helpful, a positive step for patients to understand their condition and be proactive about its care and cure. Educated patients, I find, are the best patients to have.

But cyberchondria can be quite a problem. All my education and expertise avails for nothing. They want this test and that. An MRI and a PET scan. Right away.

Then I have to use my charm (OK, OK, you don’t have to say it) and my counseling skills to convince cyberchondriacs I know what I’m talking about and that they don’t need extensive testing to rule out flesh-eating bacteria when it’s only eczema. Trust me!

And, surprisingly, some of them do!

The rest embark on the search for a physician who will concur with their self-diagnosis, consuming everyone’s time, valuable resources, and energy.

For the time will come when
they will not endure sound doctrine;
but wanting to have their ears tickled,
they will accumulate for themselves teachers
in accordance to their own desires,
and will turn away their ears from the truth
and will turn aside to myths.
2 Timothy 4:3–4

Sounds like he knew a cyberchondriac or two!

In the Christian life it works the other way: we are easily misled, thinking we are OK, when we actually are not.

Therefore let him who thinks he stands
take heed that he does not fall.
1 Corinthians 10:12

So being accountable is important. We need to listen to those who know us well—parents, teachers, mentors, spouses, friends, elders, …

Remember those who led you,
who spoke the word of God to you.
Obey your leaders and submit,
for they keep watch over your souls.
Hebrews 13:7, 17

No more self-diagnosis!