Archives For Healing


[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”0310349761″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”218″]To Steward Our Pain
A Review of 

A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory
Frederick Buechner

Paperback: Zondervan, 2017
Buy Now: [ [easyazon_link identifier=”0310349761″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]   [ [easyazon_link identifier=”B06XF6KK4X” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]
Reviewed by James Matichuk

*** This review originally appeared on the reviewer’s blog,
      and is reprinted here with permission.  Visit his blog for tons of great reviews!

Frederick Buechner is one of my favorite authors. He is a writer of enigmatic fiction with strange and conflicted characters (e.g. the holy and profane [easyazon_link identifier=”0060611626″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Godric[/easyazon_link], an unsaintly, Saint [easyazon_link identifier=”0060611782″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Brendan[/easyazon_link], and the unlikable religious charlatan Lou Bebb), as well as sermons and theological musings, and poignant memoirs which wrestle with darkness, grace and calling.

A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory is vintage Buechner. Quite literally, in fact. Most of this book is culled from the Buechner canon with selections from The Sacred Journey, The Clown in the Belfry, Beyond Words, A Room Called Remember, Secrets in the Dark, Telling Secrets. However, the opening chapter, “The Gates of Pain,” is an unpublished lecture he gave, describing ways we can best steward our pain.

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[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”0814635687″ cloaking=”default” height=”333″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”230″ alt=”Susan Pitchford” ]The Power of Identity


A Review of

The Sacred Gaze: Contemplation and the Healing of the Self

Susan Pitchford

Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2014
Buy now:  [ [easyazon_link asin=”0814635687″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]


Reviewed by Scott E. Schul


Every April 12 I relive the horror of my daughter’s concussion. The head trauma happened the day before, during a seemingly harmless gym class volleyball match, but it was on the 12th when the symptoms fully manifested. That morning in school she began passing out and slurring her words.  She was unable to balance herself and, most terrifyingly, lost a significant amount of her memory. Her brain tried to address the trauma it had suffered by retreating to a safe place in her past. Her voice, tone, and vocabulary took the shape of young girl rather than the high school student she was. In the hospital we reunited her with her beloved cell phone, hoping the many photos and texts would jog her memory. But instead, she looked at me in a mixture of fear and confusion and said in her now-childlike voice, “Daddy, who are all these people in my phone?” In losing her memory, my daughter had lost more than just the identity of her closest friends. She had lost her own identity as well.

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[easyazon-image align=”none” asin=”1455519065″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”221″ alt=”Becca Stevens” ]Healing of all Sorts.

A Review of

Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling.
Becca Stevens

Hardback: Jericho Books, 2013
Buy now:  [ [easyazon-link asin=”1455519065″ locale=”us”]Amazon[/easyazon-link] ]  [ [easyazon-link asin=”B0092XHSI8″ locale=”us”]Kindle[/easyazon-link] ]

Reviewed by Emily Sutterfield

If you feel overwhelmed by the violence of today, disconnected from creation, and disheartened by the inequalities in society, Snake Oil will heal your heart and rebirth a much-needed  hope inside.

When I first picked up Snake Oil, I thought it was going to be just another book about some do-gooder starting a non-profit.  I was wrong.  This is a book that pulls apart the layers of the story of a priest starting a program for abused women.  Each layer unfolds in a beautiful way.  Organic.  Heartbreaking.  Hopeful.

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There’s a number of us here at Englewood Christian Church, who have been thinking recently about churches’ role in nurturing the health of our places (Reading essays like Wendell Berry‘s “Health is Membership” and books like Making Healthy Places, one of our Best Books of 2011). So, we were undoubtedly excited when the review copy of this book arrived in the mail yesterday:

Health, Healing and the Church’s Mission: Biblical Perspectives and Moral Priorities.

Willard Swartley

Paperback: IVP Academic, 2012.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

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“Dance, Rise, Chew, and Swallow

A review of
Let the Bones Dance: Embodiment and the Body of Christ

By Marcia W. Mount Shoop

Reviewed by Angela Adams.

Let the Bones Dance:
Embodiment and the Body of Christ

Marcia Mount Shoop.
Paperback: WJK Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Let the Bones Dance - Marcia Mount Shoop.Let the Bones Dance is based on Marcia Mount Shoop’s premise that the body is ignored in and exiled from Reformed spiritual experience because “the body is a liability, a conspirator in our fallenness” (2). As an overweight woman over 30 struggling with infertility, the idea of the body as liability is nothing new to me. More often than not –in social situations, in the business world, at baby showers – I try my damnedest to prove my worth based on the value of my intellect, my acerbic wit, and my spirit; that is, I try to convince myself and the world to ignore all of this extra flesh. Frankly, I’ve taken some comfort in the fact that church has been the one place where I can check my body at the door. And now Shoop’s gone and screwed up my coping mechanism.

See, Shoop sees it as a problem, a dis-ease, that within church walls we usually relate to our bodies in terms of pain and disease that need healing or weaknesses and lusts we need deliverance from, forgetting that Christ came to us complete with vertebrae, hunger pains, and feet that were probably desperately in need of a good pedicure with all the walking and dirt and dust. Shoop believes this dis-ease does none of us any favors because it cements our own negative opinions of our bodies and prohibits us from healing.

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A Brief Review of Death and Life in America:
Biblical Healing and Biomedicine
Raymond Downing.
Paperback: Herald Press, 2008.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Rev. Karen Altergott.

Is biolife an idol and biomedicine an overly powerful force in contemporary society?  What is a Christian to do when confronted by a beast of a system that seems able to name our problems, control and limit the potential solutions, and make any choice other than biomedical intervention seem foolish?  The option of considering bio-psycho-socio-spiritual healing requires somewhat more of both patient and practitioner.  Biomedicine, while not ultimately to be rejected, is quite reasonably questioned.  The independence from God that a pure mechanical and physical approach implies should be completely and clearly rejected.

Death and Life in America provides an excellent overview of healing as Jesus healed into the Kingdom of Heaven, and healing as modern physicians, including the author, have healed. Physicians heal through the advances of biomedicine in the Kingdom of this World.  While dancing on the edge of gnosticism with the division between physical and spiritual, Downing basically places biomedicine in the realm of the world.  He labels medicine as one of the principalities and powers, and since it is tied up with power over others, the market, the illusion of independence from God, it is somewhat dangerous to all.

On the other hand, the power of Jesus, Son of God, heals in another way.  The comparison of resuscitated life and resurrected life shows the difference between holding on to biolife and to entering God’s Kingdom and the new life therein. The central chapters provide a good description and analysis of healing in the New Testament record. The power of God through Jesus to name the problem humans face, to heal the body, mind, spirit, relationship, and to change the approach we have to life itself is incarnate healing, embodied healing.  If we accept that we are not autonomous from God, that medicine does not rule our decisions or our lives, then there is hope that healing – biomedical as well-  may be based on faith.  The concept of Christ carrying our pain, and of us carrying others’ suffering moves us into the realm of how are we now to live with one another in a very helpful way.  Acceptance of brokenness and suffering – and biodeath when it is time – is a major sub-theme of this book.

What then for medicine and healing?  Perhaps here is where Downing doesn’t go far enough.  With the burgeoning of alternative healing, by 2008 when this book was written, our good doctor could have taken some stance on the many ways of healing that Americans are seeking.  The next book might be notes from the resistance: what it means to combine healing as Jesus heals with a world that accesses – but does not bow down to – biomedicine.


A Prayer
Paul Lawrence Dunbar

O LORD, the hard-won miles
Have worn my stumbling feet:
Oh, soothe me with thy smiles,
And make my life complete.

The thorns were thick and keen
Where’er I trembling trod;
The way was long between
My wounded feet and God.

Where healing waters flow
Do thou my footsteps lead.
My heart is aching so;
Thy gracious balm I need.


A Review of Ernst Bloch’s

Since its original publication in 1968, Ernst Bloch’s Atheism in Christianity: The Religion of the Exodus and the Kingdom has been the book to deal with by any serious quester after knowledge of the deep symbiotic relationship between those über-‘Others’, Christianity and Atheism. As an unabashed utopian Marxist thinker philosopher, Bloch (1885 – 1977) eschews that ‘excess of hyper-rationalism or dogmatic materialism’ his more prosaic musular atheist stable mates generally bring to discussions of religion. In the words of Peter Thompson, Director of the Centre for Ernst Bloch Studies at the University of Sheffield, in his excellent Introduction to this long unavailable classic, ‘Ernst Bloch and the Quantum Mechanics of Hope’ (i – xxx, i):

(R)eligion as both debate and way of life has not crumbled in the face of an apparently inexorable rationalist, scientific, modernising Enlightenment and the globalisation of the market economy, but retains a potency and strength which remains far in excess of its ability to explain.

Bloch himself rubbed shoulders with that unique coterie of enlightened radical Marxists – Brecht, Adorno, Benjamin, for example. Perhaps we have the embryo of some such today in Eagleton, Badiou, Žižek, Habermas and others for whom religion-averse aggressive sorts of atheistic fundamentalism are as intellectually uncongenial as the ‘exclusively modern phenomenon’ (Habermas 2001: 10) of their religion counterparts. Marx’s own dialectical understanding of religiosity, captured well in his open-minded insight into ‘the opium of the masses, the heart of the heartless world’ pervades Bloch’s ‘detective work’, as he himself called it, on the emancipatory – for which, read ‘heretical’, a favourite Blochian trope – potential within Christianity. Bloch’s exegesis of the Bible is an insider’s hermeneutic, unlike that verstehen-free religion-cynical spleen of Hitchens, Dawkins, Gray and other high priests of resurgent Darwinism.

Read the full review:

Ernst Bloch.

Paperback: Verso, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

A Review of Esther Sternberg’s

I have a keen interest in the healing dimensions of space, and in particular the role of landscape architecture and exterior spaces to provide this function. This comes from doing a lot of work and research in the realm of therapeutic garden design over the years in hospital, hospice, and eldercare facilities. I first became interested in the phenomenon while doing my undergraduate final project related to a cemetery design that utilized physical space design to aid in the bereavement process, and was fascinated by the connection between environmental design and health. There is an innate connection between space and health – but sometimes the connections, both physiologically and spatially, are a bit fuzzy. There are a number of successful examples in literature and design, but often there is either dismissal of designs as unscientific by the medical community, or by inadequate application and understanding of scientific concepts and mechanisms by designers – resulting in poor or partially realized applications.

That’s where Ms. Sternberg’s book shines. It is not neccesarily a ‘how-to’ (there are a growing number of resources out there in this genre), but more aptly a bridge between the scientific research of the concept of healing and how this work in the design of spaces. The book spans the available research, starting with some of the more intuitive architectural concepts of Wright, Aalto, and Neutra, touching on the pioneering work of Ulrich, and expanding on the growing design-science connections being made by collaborations between space design and health research, and looking specifically at both the microcosm of hospitals, and the macro-scale of cities, and the range of designs that this thinking can inform.

Read the full review:


Esther Sternberg.

Hardback: Harvard UP, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

BookForum Reviews
Lev Grossman’s new novel

Lev Grossman’s third novel, The Magicians, pulls liberally from a grab bag of very familiar fantasy tropes: the troubled boy–turned–master conjurer; the school of wizardry, hidden by spellcraft in plain sight; the sinister presence that haunts the students’ nightmares; even a sport played, tournament-style, exclusively by young mages. As the book opens, seventeen-year-old Quentin Coldwater is preparing to leave his bucolic Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood for the greener lawns of the Ivy League. He has a small circle of friends, kind but distant parents, and a GPA “higher than most people even realize it is possible for a GPA to be.”

And yet something is awry. Although Quentin has “painstakingly assembled all the ingredients of happiness . . . happiness, like a disobedient spirit, refused to come.” On a bitter winter day, he stumbles through one of Park Slope’s myriad community gardens, past “the corpses of gladiolas, petunias, shoulder-high sunflowers, rosebushes,” and onto the campus of Brakebills College. Here, on an aging country estate, Quentin has been summoned to learn magic from an eclectic cast of master wizards. “First things first: magic is real,” the dean of Brakebills tells him shortly after his arrival. “This isn’t summer school, Quentin. This is . . . the whole shebang.”

Read the full review:

Lev Grossman.

Hardback: Viking, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]