Spiritual Brain Surgery with Dr. Lee Warren

It's Tuesdays with Tata!

We're back with a re-introduction to the man, the legend, Dennis McDonald, known the world over as "Tata."

Tuesdays with Tata has been heard in 160 countries, and is your go-to podcast for a deep dive into Biblical wisdom and practical advice for living a life of becoming healthier, feeling better, and being happier as we get to know Jesus more intimately through Tata's teaching.

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What is Spiritual Brain Surgery with Dr. Lee Warren?

When life gets hard, does what we think we believe hold us up, or does it crumble under the weight of doubt? I'm your host, Dr. Lee Warren- I'm a brain surgeon, author, and a person who's seen some stuff and wondered where God is in all this mess. This is The Spiritual Brain Surgery podcast, where we'll take a hard look at what we believe, why we believe it, and the neuroscience behind how our minds and our brains can smash together with faith to help us become healthier, feel better, and be happier so we can find the hope to withstand anything life throws at us. You've got questions, and we're going to do the hard work to find the answers, but you can't change your life until you change your mind, and it's gonna take some spiritual-brain surgery to get it done. So let's get after it.

When life gets hard, does what we think we believe hold us up,

or does it crumble under the weight of doubt? I'm your host, Dr. Lee Warren.

I'm a brain surgeon, author, and a person who's seen some stuff and wondered

where God is in all this mess.

This is the Spiritual Brain Surgery Podcast, where we'll take a hard look at

what we believe, why we believe it, and the neuroscience behind how our minds

and our brains can smash together together with faith to help us become healthier,

feel better, and be happier so we can find the hope to withstand anything life throws at us.

You've got questions, and we're going to do the hard work to find the answers.

But you can't change your life until you change your mind, and it's going to

take some spiritual brain surgery to get it done. So let's get after it.

Well, friend, we're back, and I am so excited. I'm sitting on the banks of the

North Platte River with my main man Dennis McDonald.

How you doing dad? I am well thank you. It's been since right before Christmas time since we did this.

Yes yes we went to I just I just swapped a wind for the cedar pollen when I went.

That's right well you're back you're back in Nebraska and that means it can

only mean one thing. Yeah. It's Tuesdays with Tata.

We're starting all over again. Yeah yes. And I just want to introduce Tuesdays

with Tata because this is going to air on the new Spiritual Brain Surgery podcast,

which has really got a life of its own now,

and we're going to bring back all of the old Tuesdays with Tata episodes over

time as an archive by subject matter for the paid subscribers,

so that's going to be a new bonus for the paid subscribers, all that old content.

We did over 80 episodes of Tuesdays with Tata,

and today, since we're back on the Spiritual Brain Surgery podcast and the very

first episode of Tuesdays with Tata in the new year, I thought I thought it

would be appropriate to reintroduce you, who you are and why we call you Tata,

and your journey of years of experience as a pastor and chaplain and a person

with a flat kneecap from praying.

And I just thought it would be a good idea to introduce the world to Tuesdays

with Tata and who Tata is, again, since it's been a bit, since we did an episode like that.

So before we start, Tata, would you just maybe say a word of prayer for us? Absolutely.

Father, we thank you for this day that you have made, and we rejoice in it.

We thank you for all of our blessings, but we thank you for our food,

clothing, and shelter. Father, we're blessed in abundance.

We have more than we need. We are blessed and highly favored.

We are blessed beyond measure.

And Father, we thank you for being mindful of us, watching over us,

protecting us from harm, especially the little ones.

And most of all, Father, we thank you for Jesus.

For loving us so much that you sent your one and only Son, Jesus Christ,

our Lord and Savior, to die for us.

So we thank you for this time together, and we ask one thing only,

Father, that you put your words on our heart, you put your words on our lips

for your glory, and we ask it in Jesus' precious name, your Son and our Redeemer.

Amen. Amen. Thank you, Tata.

So before we get started, so your name is Dennis McDonald, but everybody calls you Tata.

Yes. Why do people call you Tata? Well, it started with my grandson,

Joshua, Lisa's son, and your son.

And here again, I don't know that I even had a choice.

And I think somewhere that it was supposed to be Papa after he was born and

had a language, but it came out Tata, and that stuck. That's right.

It's been that way for as long as I can remember. The thing about Tata is,

friend, is if you meet him, even if you just meet him virtually,

before long, he becomes a father figure, a trusted guide.

And everybody we know, literally everybody we know, calls you Tata.

And they called your wife, my dear mother-in-law, Patty, they called her Nanny.

So it was like the guy at the oil change place calls him Nanny and Tata.

And the kid that fixes the computer and the lady that delivers the groceries.

Everybody calls you Danny and Tata. So I think just for a second,

talk about that character that you and Nanny had, Miss Patty had,

of sort of bringing people into your world and getting their guards down and

loving on them. How did that come about?

I don't know that we had a plan.

I think that's just the way we were.

As long as I can remember, that seems like we had a lot of people in our house.

I remember one time when we lived in Liberty, Missouri, and we had a snowstorm,

an ice storm, that we had several people for Thanksgiving dinner,

and they spent the night.

And that's just the way it was. Yeah.

I don't think either one of us ever met a stranger.

That's right. Patty Sue did not meet a stranger.

Even the greeters at Walmart, they knew who she was. Yeah, they did.

And she always said one thing, God bless your day. Right, and you've carried that on.

Amen you carry that on everybody that meets you

gets to hear that i hear it every morning when we part

ways you say god bless your day so i just

i want to give the the listener a little background

in our relationship now dennis is the father of lisa and jessica and james and

rebecca but lisa and jessica still living with us and lisa i mean still among

us as living people um lisa Lisa is my wife. That makes you my father-in-law.

But you and I had a friendship and a relationship long before I knew Lisa. Yeah, we did.

And we came together. I'll tell my side of the story, and you can tell yours.

But I was working as a neurosurgeon at Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio.

And after 9-11, me being on active duty, it became really hard for the civilian

and chaplains and pastors from local churches to come and visit their sick people on base.

And at the time, you were working as the pastoral care ministry minister at

Oak Hills Church with Max Licato as the pastor.

And that was part of your job, right, to go to the hospitals?

What did you do there? Well, I saw a lot of people, and most of them I saw pre-surgery.

And in San Antonio, there were several hospitals,

two military hospitals, And I don't recall now how many civilian hospitals,

but myself and one other guy, we visited patients in every one of those hospitals.

The hardest part was in the NICU, in the neonatal intensive care meeting.

And some of the people that I knew, I met their children before I met them.

And I met them in the NICU. Yeah.

And there's a lot of stories that I can tell about that being in the NICU. Yeah.

And it was so interesting because in Methodist Maine, even in the recovery room,

the nurse that ran that recovery room, they called her Mother Superior.

And she finally invited me in. And she said, what are you doing sitting out here?

And so when people were recovering from surgery, I had privileges in the recovery

room. And so that was astounding to me that I was admitted into that.

Excuse me, I'm still a little hoarse.

The cedar pollen affected my itchy eyes and a runny nose. And we've all been

a little sick the last few days.

I have a little raspiness in my voice still. But it was, and then in addition

to that, I officiated several funerals and also some weddings.

But my work, then that's what my work finally just became, totally,

was working among people that were in those kind of situations.

So it was your love for people that led you to that work, but that was not your

original profession. I mean, you had many years of work history before you came to Oak Hills Church.

Yes, well, we worked for Montgomery Ward for a time, and then I was on loan to a mobile oil company.

And then that's when it became apparent that that's where I should be because

one of the first encounters that I had was we got a call from.

I'm trying to think of the name of the company.

Maybe it was Exxon or maybe it was Conoco. one of their pilots had been murdered

in Africa and his wife worked for Montgomery Ward so I had to find her and and

I delivered the death message.

And then after that, several other instances, there was an inspector that was

killed on a dam project, and I delivered a death message then.

And so that became, and I cannot tell you what caused me to be able to do that.

I often wondered about that. I said, Lord, did you send me? Because I said, send me, I will go.

I don't know. So, but anyway, I did go through a lot of training before.

And my mentor was an Air Force chaplain, Mavis Baldwin. You probably knew him

when you were in Wilford Hall.

And I was mentored by him and also the chaplains in the Methodist hospital system.

And then I went to school in Austin. Boston, but I don't know how I've been

able to do that work with the intensity.

It's a very intense process. It is.

I think it's that old adage that God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called.

That's correct. He called you to that work and gave you the tools to do it. That's right.

And I think in coming months, I

think we'll cover some of the backstory here that

we won't get to today that the you and i both have

the the sadness of being

bereaved parents you've done that twice we both

have a military history and all these things that built our relationship as

commonalities i think and and your faith story i

think will be a whole nother episode to maybe talk about

your relationship with the lord over time but

just to just to get us to where we came together I

want to say after 9-11 I

received an email from the church that

basically said if there's any doctors or any people who work on the base at

Lackland Air Force Base who could who would be willing to pray with some patients

while the chaplains can't get on base and we appreciate that so I signed up

and I started getting an assignment from you an email that would It would say,

I hadn't met you at the time.

It would say, so-and-so's in bed, whatever, and he's got multiple myeloma.

Can you go visit him and pray with him?

And I did that. And then after the sort of prohibition of y'all coming on base

was lifted, you said, why don't we go see these folks together?

And so we started doing that. And I remember sitting at the bedside of a man as he got ready to pass.

John Petrie was his name. Yes. Yes. He's been gone a long time.

That's why I can say his name.

But that's the first time we got together and prayed was around his bedside. Yes.

That forged our relationship was built on the word and built on prayer.

Yes. And built on showing up when people were having a hard time. Yes.

And I recall, and I will never forget this, I guess, but when you first got

orders to go to Iraq, I asked you, well, where are you going to stay?

And you said, well, I guess I'll

stay in the BOQ, the bachelor's officer's quarters. When I got home, yeah.

And I said, no, you can come to our house and stay. You can have your own room.

I said, wait, let me call Patty. That's right. I ended up, after I got home

from Iraq, I had, there's a lot to that story that we'll get to.

But I had about six weeks in San Antonio by

myself after I got home before I was going to be out

of the Air Force and I stayed with you and Patty and I remember

some of those early days after coming home from the war

when I was having nightmares and basically couldn't

sleep and I'd get up at one o'clock in the morning sit on your couch and inevitably

Patty must have heard me she would come out and sit with me yeah and there were

many mornings from one two o'clock in the morning that Patty would just sit

there and hold my hand and we'd watch SportsCenter or something I can remember those times.

See, you and her watching ESPN. That's right.

Just trying to figure out how my brain was supposed to work again after some

of the things I'd seen and had gone through.

So I think that that's another conversation for another day as well.

But I also remember, so at the same time, we're praying together at the hospital,

and I'm playing in the band, in the worship band at Oak Hills,

which is ultimately where I met Lisa.

And I remember you would

you kind of had a side ministry to the musicians you

always would show up early and minister to us and pray with

us yeah yeah the fact is uh well

when when we first moved out to Crown Ridge Oak

Hills did from uh Fredericksburg Avenue uh

we had we had two Saturday night services and then

three services on Sunday and I attended every one of them and

in fact is and we talked about this

once before uh the drummer uh his

name was mohan that's all i can remember he told me he said now you have to

understand who i am he said my father is japanese and my mother is czechoslovakian

catholic he said now you understand why i'm all screwed up and so so we talked

and we we had several conversations and finally one night he He said,

I want to be baptized. And I said, let's do it right now.

Okay. That's right. So that's what we did. Incredible.

Yeah, you always came and ministered and checked on us, prayed with us before the service.

Helped me roll up cables after the service. I remember all that.

And there was one night, I think

this is really when we became more than colleagues and actually friends.

There was a patient at the hospital that died after I had operated on him.

He had incurable brain cancer.

Hit me really hard. And it was a Wednesday afternoon.

And we had a service on Wednesday night. and I didn't have time to go home.

I had to leave the hospital and just in time to get to church.

But I ended up 15 or 20 minutes early and I went into the sanctuary.

There was nobody there yet.

And I was sitting there and I was actually praying and I was weeping over losing this patient.

And I just felt this presence beside me. And it was you. You came and saw me

there. You saw my posture probably.

Put your arm around me and we just sat there and prayed and talked for a long

time. And I remember that being one of the moments that connected us.

Yes. That was a special time together. It was.

And to this day, I can't even tell you how I got there and how that moment occurred.

Only because of him. Yep.

But I recall you said that the family, you had told the family,

you had told him not to do the surgery.

Mm-hmm. and the main thing that you were praying about was that the family would

not hold you accountable for his death.

And the next morning you met with them, and that was the first words out of

their mouth. Right. I told that story, and I've seen the interview.

His disease was basically his entire brain had turned to cancer, and he died,

and the family said that he had written them a letter before he had surgery

that said if it turned out to be incurable cancer, he hoped that he would die.

Even before he knew that and so the family saw

that whole situation as his prayers being answered so

he didn't have to go through the the breaking down of his

body and all the things that were going to inevitably happen and the pathologist

said he probably only had a few weeks to live at

the time we made the diagnosis so that was a really

a connecting moment for us and then eventually we became

family when i married lisa years later and

and so we've had a long walk together we've covered

a lot of ground together yes we have and you were one of

the people that held me up when my son died and and

so that that's kind of the background on who Tata is and how we're connected

now one thing I want to do today Tata is I want you to give us a vision for

what you hope people get out of these episodes well what I hope is and one of

the things that I want to say First of all, and I say it often,

I need an explanation rather than an introduction.

But I want you to know that I am a sinner saved by grace.

And I know when people say that, what does that mean?

Well, what it means to me is that God so loved us that he sent his one and only

son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, to die for us.

And through Jesus' death on

the cross, God redeemed us, brought us back from sin when we have no hope.

And now we have assurance of a home with him through the blood of Jesus.

We have forgiveness of our sins.

And that's how I live, because I know that there's nothing that I can do.

God himself said, apart from me, you can do nothing. That's right. Right.

But then Apostle Paul said that now, through Jesus Christ, we can do all things.

Because he came, became us so we could become like him. Amen.

And so that's where I am. But what I hope is that people, when they hear us

talking about these things, and I still, I want you to know, I still learn.

Every time I hear one of your podcasts and every time I read your newsletter

on Sunday morning, I learn.

Because one of the things that we have to do is we can't ever stop.

And someone likened it to a tomato

it's green and then

it becomes it ripens and then if it stays there

what happens to it that's right

so you have to keep your mind

active and you have to keep thinking and reading and understanding

and that's what i do is i ask god help me understand and so that's what i what

i what i my vision of this is what i see is that hopefully that people have

an an understanding of what their relationship needs to be with God. Yeah.

He said, we know he's our Heavenly Father.

Jesus called him Father. And Jesus is our brother. Because we're heirs of God

and we're co-heirs with Jesus Christ.

And so we've been adopted into God's family. And that, to me,

is a very special relationship.

We were not born into his family. I'm not Jewish by heritage. Yeah.

And as I think about that, and I look at the times that, you know,

you mentioned Rebecca and James.

Rebecca died right after she was born, and James was killed when he was 24.

And then Patty has since passed away as well. So I look at those things.

Those events in my life as gifts from him because he taught me in that.

And the only reason I asked him, the only reason that he did is I asked him for help.

I couldn't do it on my own. I can remember when Patty was in the hospital and Rebecca was born.

The Army gave me three days off through the Red Cross. Wow.

To be with my wife and bury my daughter, bury our daughter.

So all of that, and all of that I learned also that,

and finally, it finally came clear to me right after James was killed that Patty

dug me out of a closet one morning about 3 o'clock, that I said, okay, God, I get it.

It's your plan. It's your watch. Have your way with me.

And it took that to wake me up because the way I grew up I knew a lot about God but I did not know him,

And that's the whole point that we hope that people, the message that people

will get. Get to know him. Get to know him.

That's what we're going to do. I think these episodes, they tend to play out.

We don't usually script these, by the way. We don't really script them.

They come about in a variety of different ways.

The most common one is Tata just has something on his heart that the Lord has

laid on his heart, and he'll research and study it and sometimes give me some

heads up and sometimes not.

And then we just talk about it, and most of the interaction is truly off the cuff.

He'll say something, and I'll look something up, and we'll just have a conversation

about the text or the scripture or the idea that we're talking about.

Another one that's fun, I don't know if Tata thinks it's fun,

but I'll find some bizarre scripture, and I'll throw it at him,

and he'll make an episode out of it.

A couple of years ago, we did one about the great speckled bird that shows up

in prophecy, and we did one about Paul's weird statement about being saved to the uttermost.

And we did the one about the fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge.

So we did some strange episodes like that and just taking something out of Scripture

and letting Tata sort of riff on it and exegete it a little bit.

And so we do those episodes. We also are going to do some that you can inspire.

So if you have a question or a biblical concept or a conundrum or something

you're having a hard time with in your life, you can send us an email and we'll

pick some of those and make episodes out of them.

So send us an email, lee at drleewarren.com, lee at drleewarren.com.

And if it's specifically for Tata, you can email him, dennismcdonald1,

the number one, dennismcdonald1 at gmail.com.

And you can ask us questions or give us ideas for episodes. You can even leave

a voicemail if you want to have your voice show up on the podcast.

Sometimes we'll use those voicemails and put them actually in the episodes.

So speakpipe.com slash Dr. Lee Warren.

Speakpipe.com slash Dr. Lee Warren if you want to leave a voicemail with a question

for me or Tata and ideas for upcoming episodes.

And then I think sometimes, too, we get an email from the prayer wall or something's

going on in the world that we need to comment on, and we'll make episodes out of those.

So sometimes it's current events, prayer requests, user or listener ideas,

and sometimes it's my weird brain trying to noodle something out,

and sometimes it's Tata's heart.

And so that's really where these episodes will come from. But they're all aimed

at Tata's mission of helping people know God and not just know about Him.

That's right. So I think they'll complement Theology Thursdays and other episodes

on the Spiritual Brain Surgery Podcast.

They'll complement this overarching mission of trying to know what we believe,

why we believe it, how to defend it, and what science and faith have to say

about it on both sides of that question.

And so Tuesdays with Tata hopefully will be your favorite part of the week. It's certainly mine.

And we're going to do these frequently. And then we'll be bringing the old stuff

back in context with archives for paid subscribers. subscribers,

and we hope they're helpful to you.

And Tata, what do you think the most important thing, if there's one thing that

somebody could know today that's listening right there, they're hurting or they're

going through something hard, there's one thing that you could tell them, what would it be?

Well, the thing that I live with and rely on is I ask God, help me, please.

I can't do it myself. That's right. And so what that says is trust.

And yes, it speaks to hope. And yes, I understand.

It's easy to do? No. Because we have a tendency to be self-reliant. That's right.

We have a tendency to be equipped to do it ourselves.

And once upon a time, I believed that too. My mantra, you can ask Lisa and Jessica

today what their mantra was when they were little, I can do it.

And I just, when they're little, they still have that. I can do it myself.

So, but anyway, and that's what, Jessica said it to me not too long ago.

She said, I'm so glad you taught me. She said, I don't have to.

No man can tell me what to do.

That's right. She doesn't need that. That's right.

I said, Jessica, that's not entirely true. because you will always have a boss. That's right.

And so everybody has a boss.

I have a boss. You have a boss. Everybody has a boss.

But one of the things that I would hope that people would hang on to is that you can count on God.

That's right. You can rely on Him.

You can trust Him. You can give yourself to Him.

And you can own that relationship. Right. You can own that relationship with Jesus Christ.

And all you have to do is ask. What is our work?

To believe. That's right. To believe. That's right.

Well, if we're going to make that decision, Tata, if we're going to decide to

trust and not try to do it all ourselves and to believe, when should we start? Today. Start today.


Hey, thanks for listening. The Dr. Lee Warren Podcast is brought to you by my

brand new book, Hope is the First Dose.

It's a treatment plan for recovering from trauma, tragedy, and other massive things.

It's available everywhere books are sold. And I narrated the audio books.

Hey, the theme music for the show is Get Up by my friend Tommy Walker,

available for free at TommyWalkerMinistries.org.

They are supplying worship resources for worshipers all over the world to worship

the Most High God. And if you're interested in learning more,

check out TommyWalkerMinistries.org.

If you need prayer, go to the prayer wall at WLeeWarrenMD.com slash prayer,

WLeeWarrenMD.com slash prayer.

And go to my website and sign up for the newsletter, Self-Brain Surgery,

every Sunday since 2014, helping people in all 50 states and 60-plus countries around the world.

I'm Dr. Lee Warren, and I'll talk to you soon. Remember, friend,

you can't change your life until you change your mind. And the good news is you can start today.