If I were writing for Reader’s Digest, this HeartBeat would be in the “Most Unforgettable Characters” section.
Last Wednesday, I introduced you to 87-year-old Murray Dryden, the Toronto-area father of hockey superstars, Ken and Dave, and the grandfather to thousands of Sleeping Children Around the World.
This week, Philadelphian Dr. Bob Winer, steps front and center.
Besides being deeply committed to his Messianic Jewish congregation — Beth Yeshua — he practices neurology and is assistant clinical professor of neurology at the Allegheny University School of Medicine. In addition, he’s an expert in psychiatry with a post-doctoral fellowship in psychopharmacology from Penn.
However, it’s not the gaggle of degrees behind his name that’s impressive, it’s his heart for people.
The tall, bearded father of three daughters, Dr. Bob is a Renaissance man, spreading his knowledge in more than 50 articles on national and international politics, religion, spirituality and medicine. He’s also author of two books, “The Calling” and “Ten Commandments for Success” that distills his philosophy for life by explaining 10 easy-to-understand principles of prosperous personal, business and family living from the life of Moses.
In 1975, he had a life-changing spiritual experience that he said, “transformed my way of thinking about success. Before that I had the typical get-ahead-at-all-costs mentality.”
Dr. Winer explained that most people never stop to examine the source of this “get-ahead” attitude.
“Bookstores are filled with self-help books, each claiming to be superior to the last one. Why does the public devour these books? Because a subconscious spiritual vacuum in the heart keeps pressing for something intangible yet unobtained,” he emphasized.
Just like most of us, Dr. Bob found himself seeking after more money, recognition, leisure and ease, without finding any lasting contentment.
Recalling his own experience, he said, “After several startling supernatural experiences, I couldn’t deny that God was real. I knew with a deep conviction that I could no longer live without placing my spiritual life above all other pursuits — even a noble one such as helping people through medicine. From that day on — to the best of my ability — I put God first in everything that I did. I can say without hesitation that I never for one moment regret the decision I made as a young man. Now I want to help others find a spiritual anchor for their lives that works for them.”
In the fall of 1993, Dr. Winer reduced his medical practice to three days a week to devote himself to seeing people develop spiritually. He’s convinced that, “no matter how successful you are in the externals, without spiritual development you’ll never find lasting peace or contentment.”
He mentioned that “sometimes we can look back at our life and see that a moment of decision changed us permanently. Extraordinary choices, set before us, have the capacity to alter all that follows. And on reflection, we grasp that it was at a fork in the road that our choice to turn to the right and not to the left was made.”
In Dr. Bob’s own words he relates a story about one of his “forks”:
“On a trip to Europe to help raise money for suffering people in Ethiopia, I took with me a traveling companion, a young, compassionate man, who suffered from cerebral palsy. In a Paris hotel, en route to a speaking engagement in Lausanne, Switzerland, which promised to be the most important meeting in our itinerary, my friend became quite ill. In fact, his spasms became so intense he could not move.
“While contemplating what do for Rich, I laid my hand on his shoulder as he lay in bed and began to pray. Without any warning I heard a clear, yet inaudible voice say, ‘Take your friend home.’
“Now I had for some years believed that God could speak to people, yet I found these particular words both unexpected and counter-intuitive. Inside I questioned the voice, ‘What does this mean? How could I take Rich home since important meetings lay ahead? People were counting on me to speak.’
“Besides this, I had given my word that I would come. Maybe, I could find a local doctor to help him rather than take him home to America.
“I was in extreme mental anguish over this divine command. Certainly lots of reasonable alternatives were available besides taking Rich home. The consequences of following the Lord’s voice meant that my mission would fail. Why disappoint and let down others? Yet later I
discovered this decision wasn’t just about Rich, it was about me — my character as a person and the depth on my relationship with God. As if to underscore the importance of my decision, within seconds of the first word, I heard God speak again this time with an imperative: ‘Take your friend home, now.’
“As difficult as the decision was, I knew deep within my spirit that I had to obey. I realized that it was more important to God that I minister to the needs of my friend right now than to speak on behalf of the needs of others in a distant land no matter how needy they were. God was
challenging me. Did I really believe that He could work things out? Inside I realized the divine wisdom of it all: How could I honestly say I cared for people unless I answered the need of a person right in front me who was crying for help? So I made the decision to take Rich home.
“Immediately after I said the words, ‘Yes, Lord, I’ll do it. I’ll take my friend home,’ God began to move in a remarkable and awesome way.
“I pride myself in being a person, who can get the job done. As a neurologist, I enjoy the problem-solving challenge of sorting out disorders of the brain to help people. Yet after I spoke those simple words of submission to God, a strange thing happened: I didn’t have to do much.
“Amazingly, emergency travel arrangements materialized with the precision of a military foray, each piece of the mission being beautifully executed exactly on cue. God was using absolute strangers to help us. All that was required of me was to answer their requests for the facts. One
after another they came, a linked chain of angel-like helpers propelling us forward.
“Unmistakably, God was directing the whole operation. It seemed to me that a palpable, heavenly aroma surrounded us. I knew that it was the aroma, not our plight that touched people to help us.
“How did I know?
“While it’s impossible to fully (or to a skeptic’s satisfaction) explain a spiritual experience, the extent of both the number and quality of the help we received left me awestruck. I’d been in situations where people helped me, but this had a completely different feel — a transcendent
“Rich was carried on the plane by three French attendants. After takeoff, we settled in for the eight-hour flight with stewardesses doting on us. Soon I saw that Rich seemed more comfortable than in the hotel room where he had been crying out in pain from intense muscle spasms. I was
relieved but still considered the medication I would prescribe for him when we arrived home. I also made sure that arrangements had been made for attendants to help us on the American side.
“Yet God had other plans.
“After landing and in anticipation of the attendants coming aboard to help us, we waited in our seats until all the travelers had exited. Rich then said to me, ‘I feel good. Let me try to get up.’
“Without help, he stood and walked off the plane. He didn’t even need the wheelchair that was
waiting for him at the gate. My friend had been miraculously healed.
“The story of blessing didn’t end there. Remember the purpose of my journey — to help those in Ethiopia who were starving and sick. In our haste to leave, I passed up the chance to speak to what I thought were the most receptive audiences of the trip. My rational side was sick over this
“Yet God was working here, too.
“An Italian, Jewish physician living in Switzerland, whose son was then doing humanitarian
medical work in Ethiopia, heard about the situation and was deeply touched to help. Taking the notes and slides that I left behind he spoke to capacity crowds and raised thousands of dollars for our cause. Long after his presentations the funds kept pouring in.
“In a real-life situation God taught me the power of abandonment. I had successfully taken the first, baby steps. Yet the challenge of the future remained. A few days later I was thinking about what had happened.
“Would I take the lessons I had learned and in the future trust Him enough to surrender my right to decide what I would or would not allow to happen in a situation? As I had done in Paris, I said the words, ‘Yes, Lord, I’ll do it.’
“Abandonment is one of the doors that allows Him to enter into your problem, your concern, your tragedy. My friends, today would you consider this for yourself?”
For more information concerning Dr. Winer’s writings, e-mail him today at: Gesher@compuserve.com