Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New video blog

Here's a link to my new video blog.

I'm talking about my philosophy of medicine and writing...


video blog #4

Friday, August 17, 2012

Download and spread the word!FREE on Kindle for next five days.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Heartbeat Away coming Sept. 1!

Here is my second video blog, something my son filmed on our porch in Kijabe, Kenya. I'm talking about the crazy scientific phenomena known as cellular memory which is featured in my upcoming novel, "A Heartbeat Away."


Friday, August 3, 2012

Video about my new book. Filmed in Kijabe Hospital Operating Theatre.

New Video Blog

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My new publisher does a neat thing. They add in a section called "Afterwords" after the novel to help the reader gain some fun insight into the author.  Here's what we worked up for my new novel,
A Heartbeat Away.

If we could sit down together, I’d want to hear your story. Everyone has one.

If you think I get up each morning, fill up my drip coffeemaker and settle in with my laptop to play with my imaginary friends (my characters, ok? I’m not really crazy) then think again. Oh, I’ve had days when I wonder what a life like that would be like, sitting in a wood-paneled office, with my fingers busy on the keyboard uncovering the great American novel, stopping in the afternoon to read email correspondence from adoring readers. But my life is far from the typical novelist: I’ve spent most of the last decade slugging it out day in and day out with the enemies of surgery in equatorial Africa. Enemies, you ask? Sure. HIV, cancer, bizarre tropical infections, trauma and tuberculosis just to name a few. Just this week, I’ve had to repair a femoral artery severed during a bone-splintering car accident, removed a huge (yes, that’s a common word we use to describe the cancers here) abdominal tumor in an elderly woman (I had to remove a portion of her stomach and colon just to get around it), stent open an esophageal cancer, help an old man urinate by removing the bulging prostate gland that had shut off his stream, and carefully excise an overactive thyroid that had caused a young woman’s heart to race ahead without reason.

The writing part of my life comes at the bookends of days filled with sweat and blood. The sweat is mine; the blood, my patient’s.  My clinics are filled with people who have long ignored their cancers and have often visited “traditional healers” who only worsened their situations. There is little time during the day to turn my thoughts to the craft of fiction, so that comes when the lights in the clinic are off and the last patient has either been admitted or found a ride up the rutted road towards the highway.

I’ve been doing more and more work outside Kenya these days, because medicine opens the way into places of political turmoil and trouble, places where Christian missionaries are unwelcome. And surgery provides a practical way to love people desperate with physical needs and hopefully provide a small glimpse into who Christ is and was.

What is it that motivates me, that makes me tick? Why sacrifice my comfortable life in America for this? And why, for that matter, do I spend the hundreds of extra hours it takes to write novels?

It is not my love of writing or a passion for story (although I am passionate about that).

It is not my love of surgery (although that too is a passion of mine).

My greatest passion and motivation is to see Christ treasured in the hearts of all people. That may sound like an impossible goal to get a handle upon, but I believe it is helpful to understand the target and how my work may or may not fit.

To this end, I believe medicine (and surgery in particular) is a wonderful field of God-sent opportunities: people come to surgeons in crisis. And these crises create a situation where people finally start asking the right questions about eternity. Many of these people would never seek out a pastor; but, by necessity, they find themselves in my office. And there, with permission, we hope to offer compassion, prayer and the science and art of healing surgery. Here in Kenya, I practice in a mission hospital setting and many of the patients come face to face with the Gospel during their hospital stays. It may be a word from a physician, a nurse, the woman who mops the floor, or a chaplain, but my prayer is that everyone has an opportunity to hear the greatest news ever!

This same philosophy guides my writing. A novel is way too long of a project to write simply for entertainment. Don’t hear me wrong! I think entertainment is important; if I can’t capture and entertain, no reader will hang in there to the end. But in the process, I hope that a small message of hope, faith, or grace is absorbed. My desire is that Kraus fiction will nudge people closer to a life where Jesus is treasured. To that end, I desire my protagonists to be real: people with problems. Not all of my protagonists are Christians; many, like Tori in this book, find faith as a result of the conflicts they face. When I write about a Christian character, it is important to me to show them as real people with real life issues. Christians struggle with doubt, Christians have pain, Christians are tempted, Christians fall, get angry, and struggle with materialism and lust. So, if you are reading Kraus fiction, expect a transparent look into real life. You won’t see a rose-pedal strewn pathway for the Christians in my novels. That’s just not reality.

I hope that if we ever have any real face-time together, you will see the same kind of transparency in my life. I’m a Christ follower, but I am a ragamuffin. I sin and I don’t like wearing masks that say, “I’ve got it all together.” Lots of folks like to put authors, surgeons, and missionaries on pedestals, so you understand, some people have a problem putting me in an elevated place where I don’t deserve to stand. When I look down, I’d better be standing on a pedestal of grace, or I’m setting myself up for a fall. I sincerely believe that the world doesn’t need more perfect Christians; the world needs transparency! Christians who are willing to say, I haven’t got it all together, but I’m holding the hand (actually, I’m engraved on His!) of the one who does.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


It's been too long since I last added to this blog.

Partly, it's because I've been looking forward to transitioning my blog to another site: www.threemenwalkintoablog which is going to open soon (I've been saying that for a while, but I really mean it this time).

Three men walk into a blog?

Yep, three authors: James Rubart (bestselling author of Rooms), Dan Walsh (bestselling author of The Discovery) and myself, joining forces to blog about literary life, Christian issues, writing tips, men stuff, family stuff, marriage, current issues, faith, missionary life and just fun.  We've been talking about this move for some time. We want the blog site to be informal, but we won't avoid tough topics, either. It will be a conversation, three friends sharing life with all the warts and back hair (OK, I don't really anticipate talking about back hair, but you know what I mean): we aren't going to polish the appearance of the Christian walk so that it's not recognizable. We are Christian men, but we are men in need of grace.  So you won't get platitudes or pedestals. Hopefully, we can be transparent and insightful.

Another reason I've avoided blogging lately.  I think I'm as close to missionary burn-out as I've ever been.  There's nothing really serious going on, no extra spiritual war (although maybe discouragement is an enemy attack), and no relationship problems.  I think it's a combination of things.

I've allowed myself to listen to the rumor mill too much. I live on a Kenyan mission station where a lot of the work, rightfully so, has been turned over to national staff. Recently, I've gotten an earful of reports of corruption among hospital and station leadership and staff. Some of it is phooey. Some of it might be real. Temptation to twist things in your favor financially (and outright stealing)  runs strong in this place where most of the staff live close to poverty levels.

When I hear rumors, mostly I just keep my head down and keep working. There is so much good going on in this place; so many people getting medical care, and so many people coming to faith in Christ.  I need to remind myself of this when I hear the negative wind that blows.  The Bible tells us to not be weary in well doing. Hebrews 12:1-3 encourages us to keep our eyes on Jesus so that we will not become weary and faint.  So perhaps, I've let my eyes slip from their focus on Christ and on to disgruntled or jealous worker-reports.

Another source of discouragement is seeing a series of poor outcomes (deaths) among our patients here.  We are often the last stop in care, unlike in the US where I could always make a referral of a tough case down the line to the University hospital.  Here, if we don't offer care, it usually won't get done at all. That means we often try difficult and complex surgeries as a last resort. Sometimes, we rejoice in a good outcome. Sometimes, we are sobered by our failures.  Surgery is like that: results, good and bad, are often apparent quickly.

Anyway, I'm trying to fix my eyes on Christ!

So that explains the photograph: it was the closest thing to a picture of burnout I could find. And besides, I love motorcycles. It's been a character flaw since I was a young boy and took my first ride on a friends minibike purchased from the local hardware store.

Some good news:  I'm returning to the US, leaving in two days!  I'm coming home for a month and get to see my second son get married.

So relief from this work is on the way. Pray that I'll returned rested and ready to work again.

Grace to all my readers,

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ahhh, Kenya!

A glimpse into our lives…

     My youngest son, Sam argued with the Kenyan vendor trying to sell him a pair of used blue jeans in an open market in Nairobi. “These don’t fit right. They are women’s.”
     The young man was adamant. “They are men’s.”
     “The pockets are small.” Sam lifted the pants to reveal the leather tag. “Here,” he said. “It says ‘women’s’ on the tag.”
     The man promptly cut the tag off with a pair of scissors. “They are men’s!”
     Ahhh, Kenya.

     My wife, Kris cautiously drove in the exact middle of her single lane in downtown Nairobi to no avail. A matatu driver crowded his van up on our right (we drive on the left here) forcing us to the left, creating two lanes out of one. A few minutes later, I noticed she was hedging the car further to the left. “What are you doing?” I asked.
     “Trying to block another matatu from passing me on the other side.”
     I smiled. I hate driving in Nairobi. Being behind the wheel is the most difficult place for me to “act Christian.”
     Ahhh, Kenya.

     An elderly woman walked into my clinic this week, looking very much like she was carrying quadruplets. Of course I knew better. She had a large intra-abdominal tumor, something she had ignored, likely for years. Denial? Probably not. Access to healthcare? Suspicion of western medicine? Money?
     They are all roadblocks here. They keep the tumors growing. And growing.
     Ahhh, Kenya.

     I spent a week last month operating in a hospital in a neighboring country. I operated on one gun-shot victim with urine draining straight out of his lower abdomen. He told me he had been in the hospital for the last TWO YEARS. Wow.  That even beats my last ahhh-Kenya moment.  Mostly, I did surgery for complications of gunshot injuries. The last evening that I was there, some Muslim extremists chucked a few grenades in a public place where children had gathered to watch TV. TV is evil, or so they say and watching must be discouraged.  One child died. A seven year-old boy’s leg was blown off and his intestines were exposed. All in the name of legalistic adherence to rules of a harsh God.
     It’s so sad, and such a difficult place to live. My host, a Muslim doctor friend named Mohamed, grows tired from the constant violence. Pray for him. He is an exceptional man who has decided, for now, to stay in a violent environment to help his people.

     Last week, I operated on a twenty-five year old woman with esophageal cancer. The rates of that cancer here are astronomical. Haven’t exactly figured out why. This was the youngest patient on whom I have seen the disease. Her age warranted an aggressive approach. The good news: the 36 lymph nodes taken out with the specimen were all negative!
     Tomorrow, I'm planning an operation on a patient with pancreas cancer, another deadly enemy lurking in this country with frequencies I didn't see in the West.

     So why did I put a picture of Kenyan coffee at the top of my blog?
     Because I thought things were sounding a little negative from my end, so I wanted to assure you that I love this place and give you one example of why: the coffee here is unmatched!  I have to say, I'm an addict, and coming to Kenya has spoiled me for the mainstream coffees back in the USA. I'm always looking for an excuse to share a cup (something I'm doing RIGHT NOW as I write). I've got my favorite mug, a black mug with a yellow emblem on one side that says "Deal's Gap Dragon Slayer: 318 curves, 11 miles"...something for the subject of a later blog perhaps, a reminder of a great trip I took with my oldest son.

     Anyway, I'm sipping my coffee and saying "Ahhh, Kenya!"


Friday, April 6, 2012

The Empty Tomb: Four Possibilities

I've been thinking about Easter a lot lately, because I accepted an invitation to speak at a sunrise service (yawn!) so I thought I'd share a few thoughts on the empty tomb. For this, I'll reference author and pastor John Piper, who outlines four possibilities for the empty tomb.

The first possibility is that the foes of Jesus stole the body. But think about it. This makes no sense because as soon as the disciples started proclaiming the risen Lord, the enemies of Christ would have produced the body to prove that the disciples were wrong. So the first possibility doesn't work.

The second possible explanation for the empty tomb was that the disciples stole the body. Well, besides the difficulties that these fisherman would have had to overcome trained Roman soldiers to pull this stunt, would it be likely that the disciples would have been willing to risk their lives to defend something they knew was a lie? Remember, most of the disciples were persecuted and martyred for their proclamation that Jesus had risen from the dead. It is unlikely that they would have been willing to die for something they knew wasn't true.

The third possibility is that Jesus didn't really die. He was only rendered unconscious. He awoke from coma in the tomb, rolled away the stone, overcame the guards, appeared to the disciples a few times to deceive them into thinking he'd risen from the dead, then disappeared from their lives again to propagate the myth of the resurrection. Really, no one can believe this option: could a guy who'd just been stabbed and spent six hours on a cross do this?

That only leaves us with one more option: God the father raised Jesus from the dead.

Option four was predicted before the death of Christ.

Option four changes everything. Pastor Tim Keller says this: "If Jesus rose from the dead you have to accept all he said. If he didn't rise from the dead then why worry about anything he said...If Jesus rose from the dead, it changes everything."

Consider the options.

Then consider the implications for your own life.

For me, if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, my whole life is a sham, based on a lie. I've based everything on this: Jesus was not just a good man, an eloquent teacher or even a prophet. Jesus was God himself and the empty tomb confirms his claim.

I'm proclaiming option four!

Happy Easter.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

God running through us to the world.

I love the parable of the prodigal son. You remember. The youngest son takes his inheritance early, squanders it in rebellious living, and eventually finds himself in a pig pen, hungry and alone, longing even to eat the pig's food.

He decides to return home and request to become a servant.
But his father had different plans. As soon as he saw his son on the horizon, he RAN! Did you know that in Middle Eastern culture it was a shame for a man over forty to run? And to run, he would have had to lift his skirt, which was equally humiliating. But the father didn't care: he humiliated himself, hiked up his skirt, and ran to greet his son.
When Jesus came to earth as a man, he humbled himself.
Of course, when we read the parable of the prodigal son, it is not hard to see ourselves as the rebellious one in the pig trough. And God runs in his humility (the incarnation) to our rescue.
Now, take a look at yourself (I'm thinking about myself here) and those around you that form up this church, Christ's body, those God has chosen to take his message of love to the world. Sometimes (OK, most times) we appear to be a ragamuffin band. Why would God humble himself to let us be his representative channels?
In effect, he is hiking up his skirt again, running in humility through us to a rebellious world, trapped in pig troughs of their own making.
I like that imagery. He is running in humility through you and me. To the lost around us.
What a privilege it is (unworthy as we are) to be used of God in this way.
Grace to you. Thanks for your prayers.