Monday, July 29, 2019

Healing Psalms


Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; 
thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
Psalm 32:7 King James Version (KJV)

A recent sermon series was delivered based on the extended reflections of Walter Brueggemann.  What was meaningful was it was not just the sermons, it was the liturgy.  We sung the psalms.

The question for me was how have the psalms been critical in my life?  The answer is that they have been a source of healing.  They have been present in times of lament, times of celebration and times of reflection.  

In October 2012, I was asked to give an OB/GYN Grand Rounds lecture at East Tennessee State University   I chose as a title, “Pause, Reflect, Heal”; the words that had been placed on the doorposts of each patient room.  Those words were based on the Hebrew word “Selah” that is found at the end of many of the Psalms. 

That lecture was transported/translated into “Selah Rounds” while at Tenwek Hospital, Kenya.  Briefly stated, the clinical team would Pause/Pray on entry to the patient’s room, Reflect on the clinical information and look for the healing connection with the patient, family and community.   It would be repeated multiple times as we went by the bedside of each patient.  Frequently, we would be interrupted, surprised and sometimes saddened as we returned to that ritual.  Each day another connection would be added to the care narrative.

What I have learned, is that “Selah” can happen in the psalms of our lives.  It is an ancient and beautiful directive to our healing.

Thanks be to God, Selah



Brueggemann, W. (2002). Spirituality of the Psalms. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Hage, M. L. (2013). Selah

Hage, M. L. (2013). Rounds are Over!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Healing Time

“A Moment of Healing”

In the beginning God created….
Genesis 1:1a (NIV)

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

It is difficult to describe “healing” and “time“ together.  These are two big ideas!  Let’s start with a brief review of the idea of “time”.  

“Time” commonly means chronological time and is a linear concept.  It is how we measure our lives, our “autobiographical time”.  This is the “time” that can have tyranny in our over-scheduled and busy lives as well as how we tell our stories.

Another idea is “biological time” this a cyclical time and is the basis of the rhythm of life.  It is studied as the discipline of chronobiology.  This “time” names the seasons of our lives and nature.

There is time, as understood by astrophysicists, who see it as a “space time” construct.  This space time is a mystery for most of us.  It is really a BIG idea.

There is another idea of time that is kairos.  This Greek word has many translations.  Here I will use the idea of God’s time.  This time is a mystery that is central to our lives together.   It is sometimes referred to as “deep time” or “God’s slow time”.  It can be found in those moments of Sabbath.

When we put together the mysteries of “healing” and “time”,  I believe we have a better idea of the nature of healing.  Healing as experienced in our lives is not manipulated or measured by our common understanding of time.  It is a mystery that is received as a gift and recurs in the different seasons of our lives.  It is seen best when we “slow down”,  name and celebrate the gift.  We know this time of healing when we see it!   If you want to hear about healing time, check out Kate Bowler’s conversation with John Swinton.



Rovelli, C. (2016). Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (First Edition ed.). Riverhead Books.

Forger, D. B. (2017). Biological clocks, rhythms, and oscillations : the theory of biological timekeeping. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Hage, M. L. (2017). Sabbath Healing.

Swinton, J. (2018). Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship (Studies in Religion, Theology, and Disability) (Reprint ed.). Baylor University Press.

Bowler, Kate Podcast (2019) John Swinton: The Speed of Love

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Healing Cultures

First Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, NC

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.
Micah 6:8 The Message (MSG)

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, 
will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14:26 New International Version (NIV)

I just finished three books that address moral quests within our American culture. The question for me was what moral quests have been formative in my life?  Has it been a theme or an event?  How does it connect with the cultures around me?  

A critical influence was another earlier book by Jonathan Imber, Trusting Doctors: The Decline of Moral Authority in American Medicine.  He described the waining theological influence on the practice of medicine.  My response has been a search for a personal and professional moral foundation.  This blog has been part of those explorations.  

That brings us to “trust” in those around us and in God.  Do we really live out “In God we Trust”?  The answer is clear each Sunday in the  congregational confessions.  That confession along with forgiveness is the basis of a healing trust.  A “glue” that holds us together in a world that wants to pull us apart from each other and God.  

So what brings us together and brings peace in our culture wars?  I think it is more than what we believe and what we do!   We need the magnet of the beauty that God has left us!  That beauty is what brings us to together!  The “awe” in and of our lives is all around us; a wonderful gift not of our own making.



Brooks, D. (2019). The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. Random House.

Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion.
Irving, D. (2016). Waking up white: And finding myself in the story of race.

Imber, J. B. (2008). Trusting Doctors: The Decline of Moral Authority in American Medicine (1 ed.). Princeton University Press.

Hage, M. L. (2012). Burdens and Benefits.

Hage, M. L. (2017). The Beauty of Healing.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Saturday of Light

Spire of Notre-Dame
(July, 1962)

Cross in Notre-Dame de Paris after the fire 

The fire of Holy Week 2019, Notre-Dame de Paris, brings attention to a long history of church fires and their origin in hatred and separation.  What does it mean for a “people of the resurrection”?  

One answer appears in our confessions that happen as we state our belief in all the events before the resurrection.  That event appears in the Apostle’s Creed, “he descended into Hell”.  We so often miss this part of the Easter story!  This was the message of Kate Bowler in her Lenten reflection, “The Harrowing of Hell”.  She tells it better, so take a listen!

So the triumph of Easter is not just triumph over death, it is also the promise of triumph over evil and all of “Hell’s Fires”.   In the city of “lights and shadows” the world has seen the Light that overcomes the darkness of Hell.  What a healing word of Hope that we can celebrate this “Saturday of Light”.



Personal Photo from when I first visited Notre-Dame de Paris

CBC News,  Macron Promises to Rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral after fire, seeks international help.

Willimon, W,  Arsonists at Play: Church Burnings in Alabama

Bowler, K.  The Harrowing of Hell

Hage, M. L. (2013). Resistance/Resilience.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Resilient Improvisation

Reverend Marvin Chandler

I just finished a book, Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World.  It was one of many books addressing the realities of what seems like in an increasingly chaotic world.   The name of the chaos changes depending on the context, but in healthcare it is usually described as “burnout”.    Is it the pace of change?  Is it “moral injury”?  What ever it is called, we all have seen and lived it.  

One week later, I heard another voice, Mary Ann McBidden Dana, the author of God, Improv, and the Art of Living.  There is a similarity to Type R in looking for answers but the approach and the basis of the response is different.  It is “improvisation”!  How could that be in world of plans and schedules?

I recalled a wonder filled moment in 2006, when I met Rev. Marvin Chandler in Indianapolis, Indiana.  It was on a Sunday evening at 6 pm when I visited Second Presbyterian Church.   It was The Jack Gilfoy Trio with Rev. Marvin Chandler playing effortlessly at the piano.   It was awesome.  I really didn’t know his story, but found it in a recent PBS documentary that revealed a life of improvisation   Other people had been moved by his life story.  Check out the documentary, “Reverend Marvin Chandler: Open to the Moment”.

What is central is a search for meaning and purpose in our lives.  The answers are as complex as our lives.  There are “BIG” ideas and real lived experiences as we all look to “connect the dots” and create some beautiful music in the moments of our lives.  We  need to connect our lives to these larger ideas and the lives around us. Those responses are more improv than planned.  



Marston, A., & Marston, S. (2018). Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World. PublicAffairs.

Dana, M. M. (2018). God, Improv, and the Art of Living, Eerdmans.

Reverend Marvin Chandler: Open to the Moment 

Hage, M. L. (2013). Resistance/Resilience.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Special Needs

Much of my professional life has been devoted to prevention of death and disability.  It has been done from a western scientific model of medical care.  I have paid less attention to the care of the disabled.  It is difficult to move from our Western cure model to a healing model.

John Swinton’s book, Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship (Studies in Religion, Theology, and Disability  helps all of us embrace a deeper level of friendship with the disabled.  I was able to reflect on my experiences with this kind of care provided at Tenwek Hospital.  What I observed was a skillful and embracing care that doesn’t cure but in real ways brings healing to these children and their families.  This same dynamic is at work at the Friendship House at Western Seminary.. You can see for yourself in the videos from both of these organizations by clicking on the titles.

According to John Swinton, what is critical is our understanding of “time”.  He introduces us to a slower time that builds on the understanding of the ministry of presence and creates a community of belonging.   This kind of “time” is what we all need in our lives.  

We all have “special needs” as we consider our time together.



Friendship House, Western Seminary, Holland Michigan

Swinton, J. (2018). Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship (Studies in Religion, Theology, and Disability. Baylor University Press.

Friends of Tenwek - Special Needs Clinic

Hage, M. L. (2013). Healing Presence.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Real Doc Martin

Martin Clunes as Doc Martin in TV Series

One of my favorite TV series is “Doc Martin”.  The fictional surgeon resides in an idyllic village on the coast of England.  He is brilliant but socially disabled and is required to engage with the realities of a peculiar community.  It is painfully honest and funny.

The memoir, Admissions, by Henry Marsh is a real narrative of the life of an English surgeon.  There was a resonance of his story with my experiences and some new insights.   What is resonant is his love of his vocation and the beauty he sees around him.  His “admissions” are delivered as a kind of public confessional.

An important insight of his surgical life is the critical importance of community.  Upon retirement he finds meaning by being trust into communities in Nepal and Ukraine.  Even though he is dislocated from his own culture, he finds and describes the beauty of these places.   It is a series of pilgrimages that he describes with upmost candor.  He returns to England in a better place than when he left.

Thanks for these lives and stories of healing.



“Doc Martin” TV Series

Marsh, H. (2017). Admissions: Life as a Brain Surgeon (1 ed.). Thomas Dunne Books.

Hage, M. L. (2013). Rounds are Over!