Dr. John Remembers

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The photograph was taken in 1963 when I was a senior in medical school. Dr. Berry Moore Sr. on the left was the operating surgeon and was being assisted by his two sons; Dr. Berry Moore Jr. on the right and me, the tall, skinny one in the middle. To the best of my knowledge the patient survived!

I am currently the last of the 3 generations of Dr. Moore’s who practiced medicine in El Dorado, Arkansas. My grandfather, Dr. John Aaron Moore began his practice in 1898 and was joined by his son Dr. Berry Lee Moore Sr. in 1934. Dr. J.A. departed this life in 1943 and Dr. Berry Sr. continued in a solo practice until joined by his son Dr. Berry Lee Moore Jr. in 1957. Their practice of Family Medicine continued until 1966 when Dr. Berry Sr. departed this life. I became a physician in 1964 and continued in training to become a general surgeon. Following 2 years of active duty in the US Air Force, my family and I returned to El Dorado in 1971 when I began private practice in general surgery. My first office was with my brother, but because I had a referral surgical practice I moved my practice to join the Surgical Clinic of South Arkansas in 1974 while my brother continued in a solo general medical practice. I practiced in El Dorado until 1999, when I stopped doing general surgery; transitioned to a wound care practice and moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas to practice wound care at Washington Regional Medical Center. My brother practiced medicine until 2001 when he chose to retire to give home care to his wife LaNell who was diagnosed with a progressive dementia. On the date of his retirement, there had been a Dr. Moore practicing in El Dorado for a period of 103 years.

The purpose of this blog is to chronical the medical ministry of the Moore family to the people of South Arkansas for that 100 year period. I am recalling stories that my dad (Pop) told me of his years in training and his practice life before my brother joined him, and the few years they practiced together. From the time I began practice in 1971, the stories I relate are first hand.

In all of these accounts I purpose to show the hand of God in my life and in my family’s life. I want to recount how my life and practice was changed in 1977, when both my wife Cathy and I were born again into the Kingdom of God. We became radically different, and I began witnessing for Christ through the profession of medicine and surgery into which God had called me. In this effort and through this media, may Jesus Christ be honored and praised!

The Hidden Leg

Artificial Leg

Artificial Leg

 

During my years of surgical training at Charity Hospital in New Orleans I was either the operating surgeon or first assistant on many lower limb amputations. A large percentage of the patient population of the largest teaching hospital in the country (at the time) were disadvantaged elderly, and a very large percentage of that group had peripheral vascular disease related to diabetes. I became skilled at amputations, both above and below the knee since those procedures were life-saving for the patients, and not because I sought to do them or even enjoyed that type of operation.

When I began my private practice of general surgery in El Dorado, Arkansas in the early 1970’s I discovered the orthopedic surgeons in town seldom if ever did limb amputations, so the procedure was done by the general surgeons when needed. An additional skill I learned in private practice involved the fitting and maintenance of the prosthetic device (artificial limb).

One afternoon I admitted a patient from my office named Alvin who had classic symptoms of acute, severe gall bladder disease, and because of his gender and physical findings I knew he needed an immediate operation. He had been tolerating his gall bladder symptoms for several weeks thinking he had a “bad case of indigestion.”  Throughout my years of experience in surgery I observed men in general delayed seeking treatment, and when they did come for an evaluation their condition was more severe than a woman of comparable age and health status.

Alvin was a Deputy Sheriff of Bradley County and lived in Warren, Arkansas which is about 50 miles from El Dorado. Another important part of his past history involved an injury to his right leg sustained by a gun shot wound years before while doing security work in South America. The injury was so severe his leg could not be saved, and  he had a below the knee amputation of his leg. He had successfully worn a prosthesis (artificial leg) for approximately 10 years..

The gall bladder operation done that same afternoon was difficult because of his size and the severity of the infection, but he was a very strong man and tolerated the procedure much better than I thought. When I visited him in his room later in the evening he was sitting up in bed with his glasses on reading the local newspaper! He even said his right side “felt much better” despite having a long incision with multiple staples in his skin. Laparoscopic surgery was not done in those days, and gall bladder surgery was generally much more painful with a longer incision and a longer recovery period. I told him I would see him again in the morning and was confident he would continue to improve rapidly. I noted his prosthetic leg had been removed prior to the operation and was propped against the wall and behind a curtain which partially concealed its’ presence.

The following morning I was making rounds to visit my hospitalized patients and in particular the post-operative patients. With his chart in hand I was walking to the end of the hall where Alvin’s room was located when I saw the door opened quickly, and a man who worked in housekeeping came bursting out of the room and running down the hall. Thinking perhaps Alvin had fallen out of bed or had some severe event such as a heart attack, I began running to his room. As I pushed the door open widely I saw Alvin sitting up in bed holding his right side and laughing as heartily as his painful side would permit. “What in the world just happened Alvin?” Between laughs he said, “The man from housekeeping knocked on my door, and when I gave him permission to enter he asked if he could clean my room to which I consented. He started sweeping first and when he swept the broom into the curtain against the wall he accidentally bumped my artificial leg, and it fell out into the middle of the room with a loud thud! The housekeeper’s eyes widened not recognizing this was an artificial leg and he turned and ran. He was scared to death!”

Later that morning I spoke with the housekeeper and asked him why he was so scared when he saw the leg fall out in the room. He said he didn’t know if it was “alive or dead.” I told him in a joking fashion for him not to worry because Dr. Duzan (the pathologist) kept the legs removed that day in that room before taking them to the basement, and they were not alive. I don’t think he believed me, but occasionally when I would see him working I would ask if any more legs had gotten after him. It took him awhile before he could laugh about the incident with the hidden leg.

Dr. John

 

Water-Skiing On Calion Lake

Ski Boat

ski jump

Calion Lake is well-known to South Arkansans but is little known to folks outside of the area. Perhaps the reason is because the lake is relatively small and there is not much room for anything but fishing. Over the past 40-50 years bass fishing which attracts many fishermen has not been very good in the lake so Calion Lake is not on the radar of the serious bass fisherman. The lake is only 10 miles north of El Dorado, and because it is so convenient to the locals it is the recreational spot for many. At different seasons bream fishing is very good,and I have heard from some that white perch fishing is also good.

During the years I was a teen and always looking for something new and exciting Calion Lake presented an option. Water skiing didn’t sound too exciting because there were lots of stumps in the water and the lake was not wide nor long enough to ski for very long stretches without having to turn around. Also at the time none of my good buddies had one of those sleek and speedy ski boats so it seemed skiing on Calion or any lake was not an option

My closest friend was Eric Richardson and the two of us spent many hours during the summer months camping, hunting in the woods and fishing on the Ouachita River with its’ sloughs and tributaries. Many times I had no idea where we were, but I depended on Eric and his knowledge and expertise to keep us from getting lost or in serious trouble. GPS technology had not been developed so knowledge of the rivers, lakes and large tracts of land were very important.

Although Eric did not have a ski boat like a few of our wealthier friends he had a very nice flat bottom aluminum boat with a 18 hp Evinrude with which we safely and quickly navigated the waterways. We had considered giving a try at water-skiing behind his boat but had never acted on it until one beautiful Saturday morning when the weather was perfect. The closest lake for excellent skiing was D’Arbonne Lake in Farmerville, Louisiana, but it was at least an hours drive away, and Calion seemed like a very good option for our initial skiing adventure. We had heard most if not all of the stumps in the middle of the lake had been removed which made if safer and easier to maneuver in tight turns. In addition we heard a ski jump had been added in the middle of the lake for the real adventuresome skier, but that option was completely off the table for us. There was a story which circulated regarding the ski jump which Frank Thibault Jr. had attempted going over while skiing bare-foot. Frank who was a year younger than us was well-known for some of his antics, and the story didn’t surprise us. I never checked with Frank to verify the story, but we believed it to be true.

Eric’s next door neighbor, Jimmy Moody was with us that morning, and although he was a bit reluctant at first, he was in complete agreement with our plan. Jimmy had friends with nicer ski rigs so he was a more accomplished skier than either Eric or me. In those teen years we were each skinny and didn’t believe our individual weights were too great to prevent the relatively small motor from pulling us behind the boat. When we arrived at Calion we launched the boat with ease. Neither Eric nor I had any experience skiing with a single ski, and although I remember Jimmy knew how to ski with a single, we believed the motor was not powerful enough to pull an even skinny skier on a single.

I remember only one or two other boats with skiers that morning, but we still were going to be cautious and conservative because of the small size of Calion. There would certainly be no attempts at going over the ski jump! None of the three of us were as brave as Frank Thibault, and skiing bare-foot was totally out of the question.

Jimmy went first since he was the “expert,” and with Eric driving the boat and me as spotter Jimmy was successfully pulled up on the skis. What great fun it was that morning with the wind in our faces, the sun on our backs and flying along at about 10-15 mph! Despite our small size the speed generated at full throttle was barely enough to keep us up on skis. No matter–we were successfully skiing despite the fact we looked the part of three rednecks skiing behind a fishing boat!

I was next and was able to get upright on the my first attempt. I made a couple of rounds on the lake, even though I was pretty sure Eric was making more turns than necessary trying to get me to fall. Eric was mischievous enough to do that. When it came Eric’s turn to ski I was the appointed driver. I had previous experience with the boat and motor from many of our fishing and camping outings.

I got Eric up on skis on the first attempt and things were going smoothly as I made a couple of good turns, and Eric stayed up. What happened next is a little blurred, but here is my recollection. The motor began to sputter while losing power and speed. As we slowed Eric sank into the water about 12-15 feet behind the boat. With Jimmy in the front I began pulling on the rope crank to restart the engine while Eric remained in his position behind the boat. I assume a spark from the ignition and a little spilled fuel in the bottom of the boat were the culprits, but a rather large fire ignited in the floor of the boat very near the large gas can! Jimmy would have no part of a possible rescue attempt, so he dove in the water swimming as fast as possible to get some separation before the expected explosion. I figured since I was now captain of the ship I had to at least try to save the boat. There was a lot of screaming and shouting while Eric used the ski rope to pull the boat closer. Without climbing into the boat he was able to reach the gas connect from the motor to the gas can and we moved the gas can as far away from the flame as possible. We were able to extinguish the fire with water from the lake while stability and more calmness was restored. Jimmy was staying afloat about 10 feet from the boat and swam back with the fire now put out out. A near-by boat of skiers was watching this scene and came over pull us back to shore. We were glad we had a boat left to pull.

We never blamed Jimmy for abandoning the boat when he saw the flames; in fact I was about ready to dive into the water with him when Eric came to the rescue. I believe his fear of losing his boat and motor gave him the extra motivation to attempt the rescue. We were all glad he did. The boat and motor survived to run once again but were never used for skiing to my knowledge. Besides within a year or so we had all gained weight!

Dr. John

“I Have A Check For You”

blank-check

The Free Medical Clinic of the Ozarks was opened and became fully operational in November, 2008 as a medical ministry to people with no medical insurance in Taney and Stone Counties, Missouri. I have previously written a 5 part account of the vision and the founding of the clinic (The Free Medical Clinic of the Ozarks Parts 1-5, 11/20/ 2012), and the Free Clinic (FMCO) has been a prominent part of my medical professional life since its’ founding. One of the more amazing things about the Free Clinic has been the funding.

In the initial planning phase of FMCO which began in mid-2007 it was the founder’s desire to provide free medical care, free medicines and the free gospel to everyone who came. The planners had no idea what the annual expenses would be but trusted God to provide. We were not presuming on God to supply that which was not in His sovereign will, but firmly believed the formation of this clinic was His will.

The sources of the funding were to come from any churches who considered the ministry of the clinic an extension of their own ministry; from individuals who were led to make a charitable contribution and from fees charged to legal offices for copying records. In the beginning I contacted many church administrators and pastors to make our clinic known to them and to ask for their support. Both the First Baptist Church of Branson and the First Baptist Church of Hollister agreed to be regular contributing partners while other churches in the area promised their prayer support and financial help if possible. There was a small but significant number of individual supporters who gave generously to the founding and maintenance of the clinic.

The clinic site was initially in a remodeled building owned and maintained by the Covenant Life Church in downtown Branson, Missouri. The pastor and ruling board of Covenant Life Church told us had they not invested significant funds in remodeling, we would have the use of the clinic space at no cost. The rent was to be $1500 per month, but from that amount Covenant Life would give $250 back into our operating expense. We believed the rent was a good investment for a very nice and convenient space with good parking.

All of the workers at the Free Clinic were to be volunteers including the doctors and physician assistants, and most agreed to serve on one clinic evening per month. This kept our overhead expenses down greatly, and we were able to tell all potential donors at least 95% of every dollar donated would go directly to patient care.

Jerry Lilley, the Executive Director and I were guests of 2 local radio stations and Rick Beasley, a board member and I were invited to be guests on Mona Stafford’s show on Bott Radio to explain the work and ministry of the Free Medical Clinic. Our goal was to make the work known and solicit donations for our clinic. I was twice invited as guest speaker at the Branson chapter of the Rotary Club, and was invited to speak at the Lion’s Club in Branson and at a luncheon meeting of the chapter in Branson West. We were grateful to have the privilege of explaining the ministry and giving people the opportunity to partner with us. We were blessed by donors giving generously and were able to meet all the financial obligations with some to spare each month. We have never initiated a fund-raising event, although one Branson tribute artist, Keith Allyn has voluntarily performed 3 separate benefit concerts over 3 years for the clinic for which we are very grateful.

Approximately 2 years after the clinic opened the local hospital Skaggs Community Hospital approached us with an offer for a new clinic space in Hollister, Missouri. The hospital had an existing clinic building which was not fully occupied, and they offered us one of the offices on the first floor. For us the most amazing thing was they offered the space for the lease price of $1 per year. With their offer our clinic overhead expense was reduced by $15,000 per year. In addition to providing ample clinic space there was more parking and easier access for our patients.

One of our original chaplains, Jerri Traister told me one evening the man for whom she had been providing personal home care wanted to make a contribution to the clinic. Her patient Raymond B. had been quadriplegic for several years due to an accident, and Jerri had been providing general supportive care for most of that time. When she was on duty as a chaplain she would bring Raymond to the clinic where he had been interacting with the patients. Jerri said he “loved the clinic and wanted to help out with the finances.” I told her how grateful I was for even his desire to be a part of the clinic.

About 2 weeks following our initial conversation I was at the clinic one evening while patients were being seen. I didn’t realize Jerri was on duty that night, but when I saw her she said Raymond was there with his check for me. She pushed his wheelchair into my office, and I noticed Raymond was holding a check between his index and long finger and it was resting on his chest. I knew Raymond because he had been a patient of mine when I was Director of the Wound Care Clinic in Branson. I told Raymond I was so glad to see him again, and he smilingly said, “I have a donation I would like to make to the clinic,” while he lifted the check and placed it in my hand. At first I didn’t look at the amount of the check, but I told him how grateful I was personally for his contribution, and how we would be faithful to use his gift wisely. I then looked at the check and it was for $10,000! That was the largest single gift ever made to our clinic, and I couldn’t help shedding tears of gratitude. Who could have imagined a man with so many personal needs would give such a huge gift to help meet the needs of others!

God has demonstrated His faithfulness to the ministry of the Free Medical Clinic in so many ways, and as we have seen Him provide the needed finances at just the right time, our faith has grown. We have seen so many demonstrations of His Word from Philippians 4:19 where He promises to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus. Raymond B. was used of God to fulfill God’s promise to us that night, and I’m confident Raymond will be richly rewarded for his obedience.

Dr. John

“I Was Just Walking Down The Highway”

Bush Hog

Bush Hog

In the course of my surgical practice in El Dorado for 30 years I was able to treat some of the most unusual and interesting injuries occurring to my patients. Many of the injuries were the result of automobile accidents in which the injured person was responsible for the wreck because of reckless driving or alcohol use. Cases involving gunshot or knife injuries seldom had an innocent party. It seemed at the time every weekend I was on call to the emergency room there was at least a serious automobile wreck with critical injuries, or an incident involving a gunshot or stabbing injury. One critical injury I treated was neither of these types and was one of the most devastating injuries I ever treated. It involved an individual who was innocently walking down a county road with no automobiles in sight when he was suddenly struck down by an initially unknown object.

I was called to the ER one Saturday afternoon with the ER nurse telling me a middle-aged man had been brought in with a severe penetrating injury to his left groin. I asked if the wound was a stab wound or a gunshot wound, and she said, “Neither.” “Something had to penetrate the leg, so perhaps it could have been a stray bullet that caused the wound?” I asked. “I don’t think so”, she said, “but the wound is a serious one with lots of swelling at the site of entrance and color change in the surrounding tissue.” “I’ll be right out”, I told her.

Upon arrival in the ER I found the man in considerable pain with a 2 inch diameter rounded entrance wound high in the left groin with considerable swelling in the surrounding area of the thigh. I couldn’t palpate a pulse because of the swelling and the Doppler evaluation was inconclusive for a good femoral artery blood flow. It was obvious he needed an immediate operation  to repair the damaged artery and vein in order to restore circulation to his leg so we set in motion the steps to call out the emergency operating team. In the meantime we obtained the necessary lab tests for an operation and arranged for the blood bank to have at least 2 units of blood available in case further blood loss was excessive. I ordered an x-ray of the injury site to look for the foreign object.

While the preliminary tests were being done I questioned him further regarding the nature and cause of the injury. He again said he was walking alone down the county road going to a near-by residence when he suddenly collapsed noting intense pain in his groin. I asked  if anyone else was close-by, and he said, “There was a man bush-hogging the property on the side of the road on which I was walking.” We were then certain the bush hog was the cause of the injury.

Years earlier while in surgical training in New Orleans I treated a lady with a sudden lung collapse. She was seated on her porch watching her husband mowing her yard when she felt a sudden pain in her chest and developed extreme shortness of breath. A chest x-ray demonstrated a collapsed lung and what appeared to be a piece of coat hanger in her chest cavity. The lawn mower had passed over the metal and throw it like a missile into her chest wall. A chest tube was immediately placed and her lung quickly inflated.

Prior to moving the current patient to the operating room I decided to quickly look at the x-ray and was stunned by the finding. There had indeed been a large foreign object thrown into his leg and it was still lodged in the soft tissue. In addition to causing considerable damage to the large blood vessels of the upper thigh, the missile severely damaged the hip joint.

I called Dr. John Giller who was the orthopedist on call, and he came to the ER to evaluate the damage to the bones and the hip joint. His conclusion was the joint could not be repaired with a replacement because of the extensiveness of the injury, and the only option was amputation of the limb at the hip level. Needless to say this was quite a shock to the patient and to our entire OR crew, but we proceeded to the OR to complete the necessary operation. The patient recovered well with no post operative complications, and as soon as he was able was begun on physical rehabilitation and eventually fitted for a prosthetic device for his left leg.

Accidents and severe injuries are sudden, life altering and occasionally deadly. This one was one of the more unusual I treated in my years as a trauma surgeon. The patient survived but his life was changed in an instant. I never drive past a bush hog working in a field I don’t think how that piece of machinery can discharge a missile every bit as deadly as a bullet. I try to get past it as quickly as possible.

Dr. John

A Heart Interval

 

Healthy Heart

Healthy Heart

For the past 4+ months I have taken a leave from writing on the blog because of issues with my heart. I began having heart symptoms in July, 2016 which I recognized as myocardial ischemia (lack of blood flow to the heart muscle) and an irregular heart beat later diagnosed as atrial fibrillation. Cathy and I spent the next 5 months driving back and forth to Fayetteville, AR for a complete heart evaluation coordinated by Dr. David Churchill at the Walker Heart Center. The conclusion was I needed a coronary artery by-pass and what is called a Maze procedure for the fibrillation problem.

Without going into many more details, I had the operation done in Fayetteville by Dr. James Counce on December 1. For the past 2 months I have been in the process of recovering from a very successful operation. It has been a slower recovery than I expected, but I am now in a cardiac rehabilitation program here in Branson for the next 2 months.

I have so much for which to be grateful, but Cathy and I have felt the sovereign hand of our mighty God throughout these long months. There has been no fear of death or complications, and for that I praise Him and His hand of assurance. My Cathy has cared for me night and day without impatience or complaints, and our love and commitment to each other has deepened as a result of this trial. Our children and grandchildren have loved and supported us in so many ways, and we believe this journey has brought us closer together. So many other family members and friends have prayed, called, brought many delicious meals, sent text messages, emails, as well as cards and letters. We are so grateful and humbled for every expression of love and concern.

I believe God has spared me to continue the ministry Cathy and I have shared these past 5 years since my retirement from the practice of medicine. I purpose to allow God to widen our borders and be available for wherever He leads. I will be writing about some of the lessons God has been teaching us through this interval, and want to say to you how thankful I am for your interest in this blog, and the many wonderful comments you have sent. In all of this may God be praised and receive all the glory!

Dr. John

A Great Coach

greater

Several weeks ago the long-awaited movie Greater was released, and Cathy and I had the privilege of watching the movie in a theater in Ozark, Missouri which is approximately 12 miles north of Branson. The movie covered the life of Brandon Burlsworth, a young man born and raised in Harrison, Arkansas which is about 30 miles south of Branson. This faith-based movie inspired and challenged us as we watched the life of this wonderful young man unfold, and as we saw him fulfill his dreams of becoming a phenomenal football player for the Arkansas Razorbacks from 1996-1998.

Brandon’s home life had been splintered by the absence of his father who was an itinerant country and western musician, and who had a problem with alcohol abuse. Brandon’s life was stabilized by the strong character of his mother Barbara and older brother Marty. By the time Brandon was in high school he was an overweight kid with a love for football, but with no personal discipline to train. His high school coach in Harrison, Tommy Tice once told him if he wanted to play football he had to be the “first to come to practice and the last to leave.” He finished his high school days as a lineman with average abilities. He was offered a scholarship to play football at Arkansas Tech, but turned it down in order to try out as a walk-on for the Razorbacks.

In Fayetteville Brandon encountered the offensive line coach, Mike Bender who initially saw no potential for him to ever play for the Razorbacks. Fortunately for Brandon, however; Mike saw his gritty determination to succeed, and allowed Brandon to continue to practice. He followed Coach Tice’s advice and was always the first to arrive and the last to leave. At the end of one year Brandon had developed his body into a strong 6’3″ 300 pounder, and had proved to Coach Bender he had the desire, discipline and talent to play for the Razorbacks. He was offered a full scholarship at the end of his freshman year.

The movie depicted the relationship between Coach Bender and Brandon as almost one of a father to a son, and helped me better appreciate the value of football coaches in general and more specifically Mike Bender.

Cathy and I  became friends with Mike and Gayle Bender shortly after we moved to El Dorado in the early 1970’s. Mike was appointed head football coach of the El Dorado Wildcats in 1974, and I was the team physician. I watched him struggle with teams which didn’t perform well in their conference and in fact lost most of their games. Mike was accustomed to winning having been a great player himself for Strong High School (12 miles east of El Dorado) and becoming a greater player at the University of Arkansas. He played on the 1964 team which was the only Razorback’s team to win the National Championship. He was drafted into the NFL and played several years with the newly franchised Atlanta Falcons.

Cathy and I were especially close to the Bender’s in those early years, because Mike and Gayle were members of our couple’s Sunday school class at First Baptist Church, and our daughter Ginny was best friends with the their only daughter, Eden. Their other child, an older son Brent had some physical challenges related to a birth accident, and because he was nearer in age to our son John, they occasionally spent time and played together.

On one occasion Cathy and I were at the Bender’s home on a Friday night for a social event following a Wildcat football game, and we got to meet one of Mike’s brothers “Little Boy” Bender. When he stood from the couch on which he was seated, he was at least 6’4″ tall weighing over 250 pounds. I said, “I’m not sure I want to meet “Big Boy” Bender as huge as you are! He laughed and said he was so-called because he was the youngest of the Bender boys.

Because of Coach Bender’s belief in Brandon’s abilities while instilling in him sound playing and coaching principles, Brandon became a starting offensive guard in his sophomore year. He performed so well the next year he was selected as one of the Captains of the team and named to the All SEC 1st Team Offense. Before his senior year a new head coach, Houston Nutt was named to lead the Razorbacks replacing Head Coach Danny Ford. Coach Nutt was the one who coined the phrase, “Doing it the Burl’s Way” when challenging the team to do the right thing in life or when playing football, even when no one was watching.

As with all head coaching changes many assistant coaches are replaced by other coaches chosen by the new leader. Under Coach Nutt Mike Bender was replaced as a Razorback coach, and he pursued other coaching opportunities. He was not present for Brandon’s senior year when he excelled as a man and a player, receiving not only repeat 1st team honors All SEC, but also 1st Team All American as well. Academically Brandon was named to the All SEC Academic Honor Roll for each year he was on the team and was the first Razorback ever to receive his master’s degree before playing in his last game, which was the Citrus Bowl in Orlando in January, 1999.

To complete his unbelievable rise to football fame Brandon was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the third round, and following the initial training camp tryout he was assured by the Colt’s line coach he would be a starting guard on the team the following year. Tragically however, Brandon died in a single vehicle automobile accident just weeks before reporting to the team in Baltimore. He was travelling from Fayetteville where he had worked out to Harrison in order to “take his Mother to church.” We recently learned he had a meal with his good friend Brent Bender just before leaving for Harrison.

As in life no individual achieves any measure of success apart from the influence of many people; so a football player does not become great without the instruction and encouragement of a great coach. Mike Bender was used of God in the athletic training of one of the greatest players to don a Razorback uniform. Without knowing for sure I believe both coach and player helped mold each other’s character and Christian witness. In the final analysis God’s purposes for the talents He gives is for us to use them to lead others to a full life in Christ. Both Coach Mike Bender and Brandon Burlsworth did that wonderfully for each other.

Dr. John

Note: On the day this blog story was posted, I read in the Arkansas Gazette Mike Bender stepped into eternity having died in his sleep the night before. I am very sad because I would have liked for him to read this tribute to him, but I do believe he is at peace with God and in the presence of his Savior.

 

Where Is Your Treasure?

Treasure Chest

Physicians in general seem to be special targets for investment specialists who rightly or wrongly believe doctors have lots of disposable income. The average doctor spends the first 3 decades of his life in training for his professional work while often living on near poverty wages. Most of them don’t even consider learning investment strategies. During the early years of post-medical training and then practice most doctors are using their above expenses income to reduce and pay off the indebtedness of those training years.

I discovered soon after beginning my practice in general surgery in El Dorado, Arkansas I was receiving 1 or more phone calls per day from people wanting to sell me something. It ranged anywhere from life insurance to disability insurance and from “great” stock options to an “investment that will make you a lot of money.” I even had one person wanting to sell me part interest in a cemetery. After listening to a few of these well-intentioned salesmen, I began to think I really could become rich! I was forced to have my receptionist screen and block all those types of calls. Fortunately for me at the time my income was just barely enough to pay our bills with enough left over to plan a modest vacation once or twice a year with Cathy and our children.

Early in our marriage Cathy and I agreed to set aside a portion of our income as gifts for charitable organizations and purposed to increase that amount each year as our income increased. We vaguely knew something about the principle of Biblical tithing but didn’t know exactly where that imperative was located in the Bible, except it was somewhere in the Old Testament. As we listened to messages in church concerning giving and studied the Biblical text given, our understanding began to increase somewhat. The significant change occurred in us when we invited Christ into our lives and became Christians in 1977, which was 12 years after we were married.

Cathy and I became convinced and convicted the Bible teaches us all things we possess (including money) are gifts from God, and we are to be good stewards of those gifts in addition to becoming generous (hilarious) givers. There is disagreement among Biblical scholars exactly what is meant by a tithe which is commanded in the Old Testament. We once asked a strong Christian couple who were good friends what they understood about the Biblical mandate for tithing. Their answer was something like this; “We purpose to pay our bills monthly and whatever is left we give away. We are trying very hard to reduce our monthly bills so we can give more.” Cathy and I didn’t ask them any further questions concerning giving!

From the day of our spiritual conversion we have purposed to become generous and cheerful givers. (II Cor. 9: 6,7). Cathy has had an easier time with this, because she is by nature a giver while I am more of a hoarder (stingy)! We are in complete agreement; however, it all belongs to God, and we must be faithful stewards. For a period of time following our conversion I was convinced the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 6:19-21 were directed toward avoiding making retirement investments. Jesus said, “Lay not up treasures for yourselves upon earth where moth and rust corrupt and where thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” During that period of about 7-8 years we did just that. At Cathy’s urging and the counsel of several wise men we trusted, we did change direction regarding retirement funding and began a retirement savings account. It proved to be a very wise decision for us.

Late one afternoon while sitting at my desk completing the day’s necessary paperwork my phone rang, and I was speaking to a salesman from Little Rock. He somehow had gotten through our front desk screening, and he introduced himself and the company he represented. I patiently and politely listened as he told me about a wonderful bond opportunity his company was offering, and he anticipated it had an unlimited earning potential. When he asked, “What do you think?”, I said we didn’t make investments in stocks or bonds. He continued by asking, “Do you mind my asking what you are doing with your disposable income?” I said I didn’t mind at all his asking and said, “We send it all to heaven.” There was a stunned silence as he tried to process what I had just said, and he responded, “How do you do that?” “Fairly simple. We give it to people who are going to heaven!”

He hardly knew how to respond when he said with somewhat of a chuckle, “That is very noble. My mother also gives to the church.” By his reply I was fairly certain he did not understand anything I had said, but still I wanted him to grasp the most important reason for our belief. “We don’t give to try to be noble, but rather to be obedient to our God who made us and owns everything we have. We want to please him by being faithful stewards of His money.”

He said, “It was nice to speak with you Dr. Moore. I hope you have a great day.” My prayer for him as we hung up was he would fully process what I said and consider exactly where he kept his treasures. That is where he will find his heart.

Dr. John