Dust and Breath – Faith, Health, and Why the Church Should Care About Both, is written by Kendra Hotz and Matthew Mathews. Hotz is an assistant professor of religious studies at Rhodes College and Mathews is professor of theology at Memphis Theological Seminary.
I had the good pleasure of meeting both Kendra and Matthew at this year’s Church Health Conference in Memphis and hearing their 2-hour plenary presentation. The insight about the faith and health link that they shared during their talk, which was taken from the material in their book, was wonderful.
They write about the experiences that participants at the Church Health Center have had as the staff has attended to their whole person health. Both Hotz and Mathews bring their knowledge of God’s truths found in the Bible and the insight that they have personally gained through the Holy Spirit into their writing.
As the back cover mentions, this book is indeed an inspiration for churches seeking to develop whole person health ministries for their congregations.
What follows are a few of my favorite lines from the book.
Dust and Breath – On The Purpose and Value of Our Health
“Health enables us to engage in a meaningful work that is an essential dimension of a good life. A holistic understanding of health, then, will it recognize that our bodies must be fit to the tasks to which God calls us. Even when our bodies are disabled by injury, disease, or old age, we can be healthy so long as we are able to engage in the tasks of our vocation.”
Dust and Breath – On the Importance of Loving Our Self
“Learning to love ourselves as God loves us is an important dimension of spiritual health. We need to hear again the importance of that graced kind of self-love, the kind in which we come to love and value ourselves as God loves and values us. Such graced self-love does not arise from selfishness rooted in declaring ourselves to be the gods of our lives; instead it arises from the liberating grace at the heart of the gospel that affirms that despite our brokenness and creatureliness, we are image bearers of God who are still lovable to God. This basic truth of Genesis lies at the heart of the Gospel. It is out of the heart of the Gospel, then, that we are called to a healthy self regard that enables us neither to undervalue ourselves nor to confuse ourselves with God.”
Dust and Breath – On Original Sin, Health and Education
“An honest examination of our own lives will inevitably disclose other forms of bad (and sinful) behaviors that may or may not directly be related to our health.”
“Education and instruction are a key element in the partnership between the healthcare provider and patient and part of effective healthcare education involves cultivating self-awareness in patients so that they can begin to see, name and develop strategies for discovering healthier, positive patterns to replace more disruptive ones in their lives. A key part of healing patients involves cultivating in them a greater capacity to discern and reflect on the patterns of their lives and the relationship of these patterns to their overall health. When we reduce sin merely to bad actions and blame patients for them, we squander the opportunity to educate and empower them for healthy living. Empowering patients to discover their deepest life patterns and explore new possibilities is the way we meet sin with grace rather then with a shaming judgementalism that contributes nothing to good health. Churches can be important partners in this educational process. Congregations that value and cultivate a culture where sin and grace are thought in this more nuanced way prepare the hearts and minds of members for thinking more productively about their health.” (See the resource below)
“A third connection between original sin and health draws us toward concrete strategies for acting on the insights that grow out of reflection. When we empower patients to reflect on the deep patterns of their lives and to imagine new possibilities, we must also provide resources and real opportunities for enacting such new possibilities. Encouraging individuals to exercise their agency for health and wellness on me makes sense in a context where structures exist to make that exercise possible. Churches and healthcare providers can become intentional in creating real, concrete opportunities for patients to act on and live out new patterns of life that promote well being.”
If you have any role in influencing what your church does regarding congregational health ministries, this book will help impress upon you what dimensions you might want to include in your efforts.
Furthermore, if you desire to better understand the link between the Christin faith and whole person health, I also highly recommend this book.
Our PathWay 2 Wholeness Bible Study does exactly what Hotz and Mathews suggest. Issues of unhealthy behavior, sin and grace to make changes, according to biblical principles, are addressed in the study.