Sunday, December 27, 2015

Healing Conversations

“Reclaiming conversation is a step toward reclaiming 
our most fundamental human values”
Sherry Turkle

Let your conversation be always full of grace, 
seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:6 (NIV)

I just finished Reclaiming Conversation, a provocative book that exams our digital culture and the loss of conversation.  It was a challenge to a goal of this blog, “Promoting healing conversations”.  Here are my take aways:
  1. This blog is the wrong tool…blogs are not real conversation.
  2. People are loosing the emotional tools of conversation.
  3. Conversations are critical to healthcare and our culture.
Sherry Turkle believes that by understanding these realities we can compensate and reclaim this critical cultural ingredient.

It is reassuring finding a voice that reflects your concerns.  That connection is the beginning of a conversation!  What is concerning is that our digital tools are changing us in ways that need healing. 

The prescription, I believe, is more than just conversation.  The proposals of this blog are based on how your story and life engage a larger faith story.  



Thursday, November 19, 2015

Rx - Be a Blessing

“It is not doing the thing we like to do, 
but liking the thing we have to do, that makes life blessed.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Blessed be the Lord,
    who daily bears us up;
    God is our salvation. Selah
Psalm 68:19 (NRSV)

Patient engagement is a “hot topic” for health care planners.   It is part of the “meaningful use” prerequisite for electronic data management and access to information technology.  Underlying these ideas are how physicians, nurses, allied health connect with patients.  Here is my understanding and experience of that connection.

I would regularly meet a woman on entering the hospital who would respond to “Good morning, how are you?” with a smile and a consistent response, “Blessed”.  It immediately started my day with another vision of my work.  Recently, I read a tribute/eulogy to a teacher and mentor where the author discovers the source of his relationship with patients…”You are a blessing”.  

These two observations remind me of the opportunity we have been given when we are at our best as physicians.  We have that wonderful privilege of being with and standing by patients and their families at critical times in their lives.  

We have duties that we have sworn to uphold, but there is a larger dimension of what we should be and prescribe, “Be a Blessing”.  It means that even in the midst of a difficult illness or procedure, our patients should leave with the belief that you and your team have provided comfort and have been a blessing.

Students will see if this virtue is a reality in the life of the physician/teacher when it happens at the bedside and in the consultation room.   So besides the physician, those who are members of the teams of caring will also be blessed and leave thankful for the opportunity to be a recipient of a blessing.  Sometimes the new communication tools will make that happen.



Carbone L. You are a blessing. Annals of Internal Medicine.  150(4):276, 2009 Feb 17.

Verghese A;  Brady E;  Kapur CC;  Horwitz RI.  The bedside evaluation: ritual and reason.  Annals of Internal Medicine.  155(8):550-3, 2011 Oct 18.

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

Hage, M. L. (2013). Selah. Retrieved from

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Healing Grandparents

“I love you, You love me.”

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
    and the glory of children is their parents.
Proverbs 17:6  (NRSV)

He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, 
and do not hinder them, 
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Mark 10:14b (NIV)

Like parenthood, the skills and activities for grandparents are difficult to describe and perform; at least it was for me.  In the United States, there is a growing population of grandparents.

I always knew there were high expectations of grandparents, but what I did not know was the impact of grandchildren on the lives of grandparents.  We get to see “life again” through “new eyes”.  We also see the early versions of caring and empathy and we are  the fortunate recipients.

So what initially looked like a “one way relationship” is in reality a dynamic one.  These grandchildren bring healing to grandparents!



Lumby J.  Grandparents and grandchildren: a grand connection. [Review]
International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare.  8(1):28-31, 2010 Mar.

Hage, M. L. (2013). Residential Learning. Retrieved from

Hage, M.L. (2014) Ancestry Gift.  Retrieved from

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Challenge

Homeless Jesus by Timothy Schmalz

Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Matthew 5:7 (NIV)

“[ Jesus] understands human sufferings, 
he has shown the face of God’s mercy, 
and he has bent down to heal body and soul. 
This is Jesus. This is his heart”. —Pope Francis

I first entered private medical practice at a hospital that had as a part its name, “Mercy”.  That name was part of a religious ethic that reached out to the suffering even when the resources were very limited.  That is still the case in many parts of the world.

This week, Pope Francis is visiting the United States with a message of “Mercy”.  How will we hear that word and more importantly, how will it impact our actions?  In a recent JAMA editorial, we face a current challenge to that ethic of care when we are faced with those who have been rejected.

“These clinical moments lay bare the normative and moral work of physicians, endeavors that have historically provided the foundation for sustained therapeutic activity between patients and physicians. They also reveal a larger truth that if the arc of medicine is to ultimately bend toward healing, mercy will be its fulcrum.”

Maybe we can rediscover the critical component of mercy as we move toward a revival of healing in modern medicine. 



Pope Francis (2014-04-20). The Church of Mercy . Loyola Press. Kindle Edition. 

Daaleman TP. A piece of my mind. The quality of mercy: will you be my doctor?.
JAMA.  312(18):1863-4, 2014 Nov 12.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Healing Work

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city
 to which I have carried you into exile.
 Pray to the Lord for it, 
because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
Jeremiah 29:7 (NIV)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, 
as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

Today is Labor Day in the United States.  The irony is that this holiday is one that most people escape from work!  

I just finished reading Tim Keller’s,  Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, that makes the argument that it is critical to integrate faith and work.  As you can imagine, I agree with the premise and enjoyed reading how the church has embraced this ministry.

The audience for this ministry are the young. They are at the beginning of their careers when the demands of their jobs are overwhelming and faith questions seem to be an added burden.  However, the reports are that the integration of faith with their work provides a deeper understanding and meaning in their lives!  

A reasonable assumption is that the questions of work would end with retirement. Paradoxically, I find the questions more acute as I see the increase in stress in the environments of healing.  We need places of celebration where work is healed like the Schwartz Center Rounds.  

Have a blessed Labor Day!



Keller, T. (2012). Every good endeavor: Connecting your work to God’s work. Penguin see also

Hage, M. L. (2010). The “Telos” for Christian Healing Agents. Retrieved from

Hage, M. L. (2012). “Burnout” and a “Path Report”. Retrieved from

Hage, M. L. (2012). Vocation & Retirement. Retrieved from

Monday, August 24, 2015

Zero-Sum Healing?

Irresponsible talk makes a real mess of things,
    but a reliable reporter is a healing presence.
Proverbs 13:17The Message (MSG) 

Recently, I attended a local “Schwartz Center Rounds” (See website) and heard a wonderful story of healing.  The audience of caregivers left the room energized!   Add to that the experience of reading the novel by Jason Mott, The Wonder of All Things, and it was a good week. 

The plot of the novel hinges on the protagonist, Ava, becoming progressively sicker each time someone is healed by her miraculous power.  It is a wonderfully written story that helps us all see our hopes and fears. 

Novels and movies that explore the nature of healing are wonderful ways of addressing the limits of our lives.  It is a challenge to hear the stories and relate them to our own lives and vocations. 

For me, the experiences of being part of a healing story is that of inspiration that is more like the Schwartz Center Rounds.   We were all able to clearly see the difference between healing and cure!   For me, real healing is not a zero-sum experience! 



Mott, J. (2014). The Wonder of All Things. Mira

Short list of other favorite healing stories and movies:
Cassella, C. (2010). Healer: A Novel. Simon & Schuster.
Patchett, A. (2011). State of Wonder HarperCollins.
Verghese, A. (2010). Cutting for Stone (1st ed.). Vintage Book
Lourdes (2009) Movie  
Sympathy for Delicious (2010) Movie 

Thursday, July 23, 2015


"The Doctor is Here"

I just finished reading a collection of “doctor stories” of physician’s practicing in Appalachia.  I had the opportunity to practice in a location not far from the author’s home.  There is no question that rural America, like much of the world, has issues of access to care.  The responses are not always obvious.  

Telemedicine with robots may be one solution.  Can we “robotize” medicine?  The good news is that these technologies may help us refocus on the nature of medicine and hopefully the nature of healing.  Is it an adjunct or a replacement?  Is it a new way of expanding the outreach of care?  How will we know?

The answers are likely to be confusing to patients and societies.  We will need help to assess the impact from those who live and work in very different environments.  So for me, the answer is not about the technology, it is about the healing agents who deploy and use these tools!



Jourdan, C. (2012). Medicine Men: Extreme Appalachian Doctoring (11.6.2012 ed.)

Medical robots in action: Ivar Mendez at TEDxToronto ...

Hage, M. L. (2011). Minds, Bodies, Machines and Souls. Retrieved from

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Well Being

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
John 13:34 (The Message)

The students were amazed by the joy we saw when we first visited and lived in a small rural poor community in Honduras!  It was obvious that most of the metrics used to assess need would not capture the well being of this community.  

More recently, we heard again from Jean Varnier, the 2015 Templeton Prize winner and founder of L’Arche communities of the disabled.  His big ideas find their reality in small acts of kindness and communities that value the most rejected.  

This last week, we where all amazed by the forgiveness given by the relatives of those murdered at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  What was the origin of these great acts of forgiveness in that community of faith?

The message for me of these examples of “Well Being” starts well before the suffering and pain.  It happens in small ways that are practiced over and over again.  It becomes a way of being well in a welcoming community.  The practice of healing is found in this practice!  It requires a focus and faith that is lived everyday.  It means that we need to be present with those who suffer even before we try and “do something”.   It is for Christians the basis of our healing mission.  

Thanks be to God for all who build communities that care for each other and bring “Well Being”.



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Doing Better?

“When the consensus culture collapsed in the 1960s and 1970s, 
taking with it all but the vestiges of the old Protestant establishment, 
that collapse initiated, among other things, a religious crisis.”
 George Marsden

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; 
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10 (NIV)

Our church has begun reading Robert Putman’s book, Our Kids, that is a critical look at the changes in American society since the late 1950’s.  He makes the case from a personal as well as with social statistical data that there has been growing inequality in the United States and that it should be corrected.  Others have come to the same conclusion.  What is less clear is the nature and rationale of the prescriptions,  You would think that we know the answer from what has worked as well as failed both here in the United States as well as other nations and cultures.

We need to clearly see the nature of “well-being” as well as the nature of “non-being” and understand that these ideas are not solely economic, educational, societal or scientific.  At its most basic level, the idea of “well-being” combines the ideas of “meaning” and “purpose” as applied to individuals and communities.  These ideas have come to us through faith and within faith communities. 

This is where I think we can find a clear response to what our church is trying to address…How do we respond to and with our community with a message of “well-being”?  What I think we already know, is that when we have reached out, we have been blessed and we have felt that “well-being” both as individuals and a community.  It needs to be the story we share.  It is a story of reconciliation and healing.  It is a “better” story!



Marsden, George (2014). The Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief . Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

Putnam, R. D. (2015). Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. Simon & Schuster.

Pickett, K., & Wilkinson, R. (2011). The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger (Reprint ed.). Bloomsbury Press

Deaton, A. (2013). The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality. Princeton University Press.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Healing Missions


Calvin College equips students
to think deeply,
to act justly,
and to live wholeheartedly
as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.

David Brooks in his recent book, The Road to Character, outlines the paths of and the ideas behind a meaningful life.  Like the last post, “Healing Stories”, we get to hear the stories of struggle and healing in the lives of some famous historical figures and are challenged to examine our own stories.

The book is descriptive and prescriptive!  The authority behind the prescription is a deep faith and purpose demonstrated in the life stories.  This model of education resonated with my teaching a freshman seminar at Duke University and a medical school elective.  We required the students to write a biography of someone they admired.  It was a wonderful experience to share the stories and see them lived out in the lives of the students.  The good news is there is a path based on a faith and mission that results in a wholeness in our lives. 

This weekend, I attended the Calvin College commencement and the alumni reunion of the class of 1965  The alumni shared their faith and life stories as they lived out the mission of Calvin College.   I was inspired by their lives and their faith.

Thanks for letting an “outsider” hear and be a part of the Calvin story and to David Brooks for a challenging book.



Brooks, D. (2015). The Road to Character. Random House

Hage, M. L. (2015). Healing Stories. Retrieved from

"Exploring Medicine: Cross-cultural Challenges in the 21st Century” 1/95-3/98  Duke University Medical Center

Friday, April 17, 2015

Healing Stories

“The difference here is legacy is an act of ego, while teaching is an act of faith.”
Bruce Kramer

In the midst of a very severe trial, 
their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.
   2 Corinthians 8:2 (NIV)

The broadcast of the experiences of Bruce Kramer with Krista Tippett, “On Being”, is a moving account of his life after the diagnosis of ALS.  He has also written a book and blog not as a legacy, but as a lesson on living.

For me the best part of the book is how “art” is the medium that helps us see and understand his life.  For Bruce it was music in his life and his teaching vocation that were the basis of the healing he experienced. These two “loves” were the foundation of his healing.

Another important story for me, is how Bruce Kramer’s living mirrors the experience of Chris Rosati.  Chris’s first lesson for all of us focused on gifts of doughnuts!  Who knew the healing power of doughnuts?  He has continued to reach out to students and communities and that has been inspiration to all of us.  

These two men have a lot to teach us about living!   Thanks for the lives and witnesses of Bruce Kramer and Chris Rosati and for their healing lessons.



Bruce Kramer

Kramer, Bruce H.; Wurzer, Cathy (2015-04-01). We Know How This Ends: Living while Dying (Kindle Location 118). University of Minnesota Press. Kindle Edition.

Kramer, B. H., & Wurzer, C. (2015). We Know How This Ends: Living while Dying (1 ed.). Univ Of Minnesota Press.

Chris Rosati

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Going Far Together

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth. 

Psalm 121: 1-2 (NIV)

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.” 
African Proverb

I have been in Kenya this last month and those experiences alter your vision!   Upon returning, a common expectation is to share what we saw.  I have come to believe that the most important response is how those experiences change “vision.”  I returned with new perspectives of what we have come to believe is reality.

What is most surprising on returning is how central to our lives are the images that confront us daily.  We are overwhelmed with media and advertising that were absent where we lived for a month.  We were in an environment where relationships were the most important and real.   We were blessed to have new relationships as well as reconnecting with others.

The experiences at Tenwek Hospital were about deep relationships and a common faith. That connectedness is what is contained in the African proverb and in a favorite Psalm.



See blog: Kenya 2015 -

Battle, M. (2009). Ubuntu: I in you and you in me. Seabury Books.

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

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Confrontation, Conversation and Healing

Children of Peace
“Peace from above” - Amani ya Juu

Keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34: 13-14 (NIV)

But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Amos 5:24 (NIV)

It has been a tragic couple of weeks of deadly confrontation.  We have been drawn into debates with complicated choices.  What do we all want?  Where is the common ground?  Where is the path of healing?  The answers are unclear from our media driven culture.  The answers are unclear in our violent responses. 

If we believe the psalmist, it starts within each of us speaking the truth that moves us to “seeking”!  We have seen examples of this reconciliation in the context of truth telling.  We have come to understand our interconnectedness in the concept of “Ubuntu”!  We have been forgiven and have a mission of healing that comes from our deepest beliefs and longings for peace and justice.

Today, let us look for those “connections” that are the basis of conversation and see our conversation as an opportunity and a gift.  We can have healing, if we live generously out of those relationships.  It is a divine promise!




Battle, M. (2009). Ubuntu: I in you and you in me. Seabury Books.

Hage, M. L. (2012). Healing and Violence. Retrieved from

Tutu, D., & Tutu, M. (2014). The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. HarperOne

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Telling the Story

Come and hear, all you who fear God;
    let me tell you what he has done for me.
Psalm 66:16 (NIV)

I have read two wonderful books, Endurance and Deep, Dark, Down that describe survival of two very different groups of men.  The stories are true, complicated and instructive to all of our ordinary lives!

What is similar in both reports is the importance of being able to tell the story.   These very talented authors have been able to listen and read the accounts to craft a story of healing and salvation.  Both authors describe the critical importance of leadership and  the importance of “others” in the task of survival.  Both describe the miracles of faith and hope.

Like the authors, we have the wonderful privilege to listen and tell the stories of healing and with that opportunity we also find meaning and healing in our own lives!



Lansing, A. (2014). Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (Anniversary Edition ed.). Basic Books

Tobar, H. (2014). Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Hage, M. L. (2010). An International Healer Parable. Retrieved from

Hage, M. L. (2011). Pilgrimage and Healing. Retrieved from

Hage, M. L. (2012). God, Trials and Fears. Retrieved from