Friday, June 28, 2013


“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”    
Isaiah 58:9b-11 (NIV)

The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes. God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree.   
Psalm 19:7-9  (The Message)

On June 20th (What Makes Us Happy?) and 21st, 2013 (Why Those Who Feel They Have Less Give More), Paul Solman on the PBS Newshour addressed the growing economic inequality in our society and the associated effects.  He reviews the findings of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkley.   As you might guess, the questions and the answers are controversial!  

“The U.S. is kind of a notable case in the sense that in the last 35 years, as GDP has grown, we actually haven't seen our average happiness level go up.”  Christine Carter on What Makes Us Happy?

“There are a lot of new data that show if you're generous, and charitable and altruistic, you'll live longer; you'll feel more fulfilled;”  Dacher Keltner on Why Those Who Feel They Have Less Give More.

 I have come to come to two conclusions:
(1)  Even without experimental evidence, the ancient psalmist and the prophet Isaiah would agree that one of those “signposts” leading to a  joyful life is the virtue of charity.

(2) The scientific approach to hard questions of “purpose and place” may be good news to those who search for joy.   What a wonderful surprise when science is usually seen as antithetical to the search for meaning.



Photo by Elizabeth Hage

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

Hage, M. L. (2013). The Poor. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Healing Tools

Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God’s kingdom and heal the sick. He said, “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment.                           Luke 9:1-3 (The Message)

In her recent book, Dirt Work, Christine Byl describes the sacred (my word) work of a traildog where tools and vocation meet.  She works in complicated and mysterious places.  She and her husband worked at Glacier National Park and now in Alaska.  She reports on a life of physical labor.  It is an earthy tale!

For me, the connection with her story was the use of tools.   Specifically, tools, both simple and complex have been at the heart of my profession.  When I first received that black bag and within it the first stethoscope, I entered a world where healing tools would be a part of my life.   They required dedication to learn the secrets they would reveal.

The tool most taken for granted were my hands.   The best expression of the power of hands was the comment I heard about a retired surgeon who was said to have “kind hands”.  That ability to transmit care is the essence of a healing tool.  For his colleagues, the skill and efficiency of his hands were impressive even though the patient only felt his touch before and after the surgery.  

The many tools we use should not be the focus of our work.   What is sacred and mysterious is how the tools bring healing by those who learn to use them.



Byl, C. (2013). Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods. Beacon Press. 
Gawande, A. (2011). Personal best. The New Yorker