Friday, April 25, 2014

Hearing Stories

Medical Brigade in Honduras, 2014

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe
Psalm 107: 2 (NIV)

Sometimes you are unaware of the privilege of “taking a history” and hearing the patient’s story until that is a rare part of your life.   It is one of the realities of retirement.  The recent exception was a week in Honduras with a medical brigade from Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church.  I was able to hear and see people telling their stories with people ready to listen.

At another time in Honduras (1998), I was told that “Being able to tell the story is the beginning of healing”.  What is also true is that it requires a listener and we are all called to be those people as noted by Dietrich Bonhoeffer at a much earlier time (1954). 

“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His word, but also lends us His ear”
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (1954), pp. 97-98

There is another component that happens when you are a part of the story.  This is a special kind of “active listening” that is empathetic.  It is not passive and distant!   It is the heart of healing!

Thanks for the healing power of stories!


Hage, M. L (2014). Returning.  Retrieved from
Hage, M. L. (2013). Difficult Conversations. Retrieved from

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ubuntu Revisited

Robben Island Prison Cell of Nelson Mandela

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Colossians 3: 12-13 New International Version (NIV)

I just finished reading the latest book by Desmond Tutu written that confronts the difficult subject of Forgiving.   This is a guidebook as noted in the title, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World.  We are given examples, exercises to practice  and methods of reflection.   The underlying response is our interconnectedness also known as ubuntu.

We are harmed together, and we heal together. It is only in this fragile web of relationship that we rediscover our purpose, meaning, and joy after pain and loss.

When we visited the prison at Robben Island, we felt the reality of that imprisonment.   The good news is that we also experienced the reality of the healing and remembered the joy of release!  The journey to joy is about forgiving and being forgiven!

Another way of thinking about forgiveness is as a need for a “cosmic pardon”!   We are all imprisoned by anger, regret and now we can receive a new freedom.  For Christians, we celebrate this healing forgiveness as the central message of Easter.



Tutu, Desmond; Tutu, Mpho (2014-03-18). The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. 

Hage, M. L. (2012). Rx Ubuntu. Retrieved from

Tutu, Desmond; Tutu, Mpho (2014-03-18). The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World (p. 104). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.