Thursday, May 26, 2011

Healing, HeLa and Heaven

"And that's not all. You will have complete and free access to God's kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”  Matthew 16:19 (The Message)
Rebecca Skloot, the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks provides us with a long and wonderful story of healing that confronts the technology of cellular biology and the immortal  “HeLa” cell line.   This story identifies some surprising invisible patient, her family, a daughter who becomes a mother to the author and a researcher.
What I learned is that relationships and art are key ingredients to healing.  Chistoph Lengauer’s beautiful photo of the HeLa cells that previously have only been sources of pain; becomes a wonderful focus of communication and respect.   For scientists the art of the science maybe the best way to communicate when words and jargon only confuse and frustrate.  But art at its best must find meaning in the relationships with the communicants.  
By the art of storytelling, Rebecca Skloot, digs deep into the fractured relationships with a pilgrim’s persistence.   What is critical is that she is part of the healing story without diminishing the integrity of the others.   She becomes loved and through that love is able to hear and learn some remarkable truths.  
We are left with many unanswered questions at the end of this book.  I think the complicated questions of property and product will best be addressed by using the lessons previously learned.   We will need guidance and wisdom that may come from the patients and the community we serve; not just the voices of those who are the experts.

So what about the “heaven” part?...maybe that reality is when “the good” persists or as the title suggests is “immortal”.   We certainly know that when “the bad” persists it is “hell”.   So we can rejoice in the title, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” as a “the good” that persists, a little bit of heaven here on earth.   Thanks for the life of Henrietta Lacks and the good that persists in her ongoing contribution to healing.


For more information:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Good Courage and Healing

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.
(King James Version)
Be brave. Be strong. Don't give up.
Expect God to get here soon.
Psalm 31:24(The Message)

In a recent book,  The Heart and the Fist: The education of a Humanitarian, the making of a Navy SEAL,  Eric Greitens connects two virtues, courage and compassion.  He states, “Without courage compassion falters, and that without compassion, courage has no direction”.  The most impressive part of the book is how he lives his beliefs through the work of his organization, “The Mission Continues”.  He writes about his time in Rwanda and reflects on a machete wound scar of a young girl states, "the world requires of us-of every one of us-that we be both good and strong in order to love and protect.”
Another recent book Love Wins:  A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Rob Bell argues that there is another understanding of evil and that God’s love and specifically Christ’s love wins when confronting evil and suffering.   He also describes being in Rwanda (p. 70) with its visual artifacts of evil and is able to state, “God has been looking for partners ...(who) centered their hopes in God...the God who gives new spirits and new hearts and new futures.“
What I think both views come to is the reality of healing!   Both would agree that “good does overcome evil” but the source and process to the healing is seemingly different.  Eric sees it in discipline and dedication of the men and women he has met and studied.  Rob Bell sees it as gift from God that once accepted allows us a new vision of the world.

I give thanks for the healing agents, Rob Bell and Eric Greitens, who remind us of the importance of courage and love both as virtues and verbs!  God is at work in the lives and leadership of these men.  Thanks be to God!


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Faithful Minds

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
          Romans 12:2(NIV)

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
          Luke 10:27(NIV) 

About a year ago, I read the book, Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality, by Barbara Bradley Hagerty.  What seems undeniable is that there are important neurologic markers of religious experience whatever your faith perspective.  What seems to be difficult is how this biology relates to the larger realities of our lives of faith.  More specifically, the studies look at individuals and not what happens between individuals.

Recently, I have had some challenging medical experiences.  What seems real to me is that the care and illness seems resonant with the larger stories of our Christian faith.   An “Easter Baby” is not resurrection, but it is a wonderful celebration of life in a world of death and suffering. 

This idea of spiritual resonance is not a new idea*.  It means that we see a new meaning in the facts of the care.  This is the narrative reality that we the facts fit together not just for the healing agent but how it can be understood by those who suffer.   It means that we need to be able to connect to those larger stories.   It means that we need to renew our minds and see that new reality.   It means that loving our neighbor is connecting with their stories as well as the larger redemptive story of faith, hope and love.

*A wonderful essay from Azusa Pacific University, “Love as Resonant Communication”, expands this theme of resonance.  Check it out.