Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Healing Mission

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

I have been reading a series of books about the direction of our lives as individuals and communities.  I know that seems like an odd choice for someone “on the back nine”.   My age group seems more likely to be focused on past accomplishments and writing their memoirs.  

My concern has been how will medicine and the church reconnect to the “Healing Mission”.  I saw the problem through the lens of my personal experiences.   What I found is that I am not alone in my concerns and the mission needs to be rediscovered by each generation.  Our job “on the back nine”, is to provide the tools to help the next generation discover their healing mission.  We need to design new healing mission solutions.

Maybe a better way forward would be to divide the “solutions” into smaller sections…personal, interpersonal and community.  What we can do as individuals, groups and communities are very different.  We all know that healing is a BIG mission that needs action.  The faith communities and healthcare share the mission of WELL BEING -BEING WELL.  Thanks for the new voices exploring these intersections.  Check out the work of Duke Divinity School.



Burnett, B., & Evans, D. (2016). Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. Knopf.

Hage, M. L. (2015). Healing Work.

Hage, M. L. (2016). A Healing Curriculum.

Unexpected Intersections: Arts, Medicine, and Theology--Ray Barfield and Jeremy Begbie

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Healing Challenge

“In the mid-twentieth century, the gap between science and religion grew even wider. Science had become god-like, and the public generally shared physicians’ confidence in its promise. But now, in this so-called postmodern world, society has grown skeptical of science and statistics, while medicine remains relentlessly positivistic, confident in its numbers and commitment to the material world, even when it attempts to address the spiritual.”
                                                                                            Jacalyn Duffin

Jacalyn Duffin faced the challenge to healing as an academic medical historian.  What she reports is a personal pilgrimage of searching and experience.  It is a wonderful and critical examination of individual and community healing stories that followed her medical review of a healing miracle.  

Healing stories require a “big” space for these complicated experiences.  We know that the spaces that have traditionally been found in our communities of faith are questioned.  Even the recent canonization of Mother Teresa has been challenged despite the powerful witness of her work. 

What is clear is that there needs to be a complementarity to the ways of science and faith.   People like  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Doctor Abraham Verghese are powerful voices of their respective vocations.   Added to that list is Professor Duffin who shows how specific communities carry their ancient stories of healing with them to new places in the world.  She has added to the dialogue between faith and science.

Thanks for sharing this complicated history of healing.



Duffin, Jacalyn (2013-05-01). Medical Saints: Cosmas and Damian in a Postmodern World (p. 169). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition. 

Hage, M. L. (2013). The Nature of Healing.

Hage, M. L. (2014). Hope Agents

Sacks, J. (2014). The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (Reprint ed.). Schocken.

Verghese, A. (2010). Cutting for Stone (1st ed.). Vintage Books.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Future Healing

Hope House, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina
Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church

For I know the plans I have for you,” 
declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 
plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

As patients we are concerned about the diagnosis but most afraid of the prognosis.  This is true for individuals as well as communities.  Our hopes seem to be found in either denial or illusions of control found in our technology.  

I just finished a critique of the culture of technology, Narratives of Technology, by J. M. van der Laan.  The focus of this book are the stories we tell about the technology.  What I learned is that we can easily over emphasize the benefits as well as the hazards of the control we seek.  

As physicians we are called to negotiate the diagnostic and prognostic uncertainties using our  technologies.  We change the statistics into stories.  The art is found in the creation of a narrative truth where trust can be found and fears of the future calmed.   Sometimes this happens during the care we provide.  More often the narratives happen in the quiet of places of faith like the “Hope House”.



Hope House

van der Laan, J. M. (2016). Narratives of Technology (1st ed. 2016 ed.). Palgrave Macmillan.

Hage, M. L. (2012). Hope. 

Hage, M. L. (2014). The Limits of Healing?  

Hage, M. L. (2015). Telling the Story.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Healing Children

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital
Grand Rapids, Michigan

“One trip through a children’s ward and if your faith isn’t shaken, 
you’re not the type who deserves any faith”
Peter De Vries (1959)

The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them
 Mark 10: 13-16 (MSG)

There are few challenges that test our faith as severely as sudden and serious illness in our children!   Peter DeVries identified our dilemma in his novel Blood of the Lamb.(1961)  What we pray for is that our children will be spared illness and suffering!  

Like the disciples, we miss seeing God’s kingdom.  We miss seeing the preparation and discipline of the many healing agents who have been called to be present in the emergencies.  We miss seeing God’s healing community.  We miss believing that we are all children of God.

What I have come to believe is that despite our anger and terror, God has been and is present in all the storms of life and he particularly cares for children!   Thanks be to God for his grace and blessing.



De Vries, P.. (2005). The Blood of the Lamb: A Novel (New edition ed.). University Of Chicago Press.  See foreword by Jeffrey Frank

Hage, J (2010) “The God that Weeps” Sermon delivered at Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church on 7/11/2010

Hage, M. L. (2012). God’s Grace.

Hage, M. L. (2015). Healing Grandparents.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Heart Healing

“That’s what we must pray for, each of us — A new heart.  Not a heart of stone, but a heart open to the fears and hopes and challenges of our fellow citizens.”
President Barack Obama - Dallas - July 12, 2016

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; 
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  
Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)

The first healing books that I read were by Norman Cousins, The Anatomy of an Illness  and the companion Healing Heart.  I remember thinking how important it is to look for the other dimensions of disease of what I had only understood as pathophysiology.  

Yesterday, was a time to think anew about “a change of heart”, “a new heart”.  We need a new way forward.   The old responses have disappointed and have fallen short of our expectations.  We need to think and act differently if we expect reconciliation.  Where will be find this kind of heart healing?

The faith community is the one place that is equipped for this task.  We have become separated from this source of care and change.  Our “hearts” need to be reconnected with each other and the faith that sustains us.  The Lord promises this to his people who were broken and oppressed.  We believe that promise is still at work in the actions of people of faith.



Cousins, N. (1983). Anatomy of an Illness. Bantam Doubleday Dell.
Cousins, N. (1984). Healing Heart. Avon Books (Mm).

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Healing Hate

“Shoes on the Danube Bank”
Budapest, Hungary

"The composition titled 'Shoes on the Danube Bank' gives remembrance to the people ( mainly Budapest jews ) shot into the Danube during the time of the Arrow Cross terror. The sculptor created sixty pairs of period-appropriate shoes out of iron. The shoes are attached to the stone embankment, and behind them lies a 40 meter long, 70 cm high stone bench. At three points are cast iron signs, with the following text in Hungarian, English, and Hebrew: "To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. Erected 16 April 2005."[

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35 (NIV)

It happened on the same river that we were enjoying.  We were docked 100 meters from the “Shoes”.  We saw the remains of hate.  We have seen those remains again and again where hate becomes the command.  So besides erecting memorials what are we called to do!  The idea that remembering the tragedies will prevent them from reoccurring seems to be false given recent events.  Where is that balm in Gilead?  Can anger and hate be healed?  

Upon returning, I was informed that our church was reading Jim Wallis’s book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America.  There are multiple actions that are recommended in response.  The larger answer is that we must be the community of faith that witnesses to the larger truth of  being God’s children.  It is the Church’s witness of God’s response to the weeping of His children that brings healing and comfort to the grieving.

My personal answer is that I must confess my own quickness to hate, frustration and anger.  As Christians we are called to be bearers of the cross that represents our sins and ask again and  again for forgiveness.  The good news is that is where we meet Christ’s Love that promises a new heaven and a new earth.  

Thanks be to God for the gift of healing that first comes with a Love from above.



Wallis, J. (2016). America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America. Brazos Press.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Search for Healing

Statue of Saints Cosmas (l) and Damian (r) with Christ (c) on the Charles Bridge
Prague, Czech Republic, 1709
The Patron Saints of Physicians

I just returned from a river cruise that ended in Prague.  We were taken to the famous Charles Bridge and during a brief stop, I found I was standing beneath a statue that speaks to the basis of healing across the centuries.  I almost missed it given all the beautiful architecture on a bright and sunny day in Prague.

What was impressive to me are the continued challenges to healing given the difficult history of the region. We had the opportunity to hear from a volunteer who aided refugees in Hungary.  We visited a school for the Roma people. There have been and are real challenges to the people of this region.  

The modern story of the search for healing also came unexpectedly from our guide, Peter Nagy who wrote, The Way Out.  It is ten short stories that address the modern dilemmas and meaning of life.  It was a wonderful way to hear the challenges from a young searcher.  It was a wonderful way to connect the dots of the past and present.



Hurst J. A modern Cosmas and Damian: Sir Roy Calne and Thomas Starzl receive the 2012 Lasker~Debakey Award. Journal of Clinical Investigation.  122(10):3378-82, 2012 Oct.