How Do You Ask for Healing?


How do you ask for healing?

There are a thousand ways.

With a hand quickly raised.

With a name, an intention,

With a printed drop of water bobbing in an ocean,

With a song and a choir of candles,

With a cry

With a plea.


How do you ask for healing?

With carefully constructed provisos and well-built justifications,

With scriptures like weapons of war and theologies that could storm battlements

With tearful bargains and promises,

With fears under rugs and questions gagged like prisoners.


And then we hear yes; and rejoice with unbelieving surprise

Or hear no, and weep in stunned silence,

Or hear nothing, and listen for the echoes of our prayer in an uncaring darkness.


How do I ask for healing?

When I have rejoiced, and wept, and listened,

As my body shakes and trembles

And my mind stumbles in deep mists;


How do I ask for healing?

When I am betrayed by flesh that is either 33 or 92,

When I lie imprisoned on my bed,

Listening to the sounds of my wife and my boy beyond the bars,

Each gift and green thing repossessed,

Until I am a spectator to my own life.


How do we ask for healing?

If not as conquerors demanding tribute from subjugated gods,

If not as lawyers presenting cases before bored judges,

If not as con-men who turn each “no” into a “yes”?


How do we ask for healing?

We ask like centurions at the end of their power;

Lepers who have forgotten even hope,

Cripples who cannot bathe in water an arms-reach away.


How do we ask for healing?

We ask not like kings, but like beggars,

Not like queens, but like divine panhandlers,

Holding up signs as cars drive by,

Knowing that every real “yes” and “no” must come from anothers lips.


And then – almost unknowing,

We fall into the mystery of love;

Which cannot always heal, but can always hold,

As it trickles through the cracks of a broken world.


For it is then,

When  broken, despairing, and blind,

We stumble into arms that embrace us when we say,

“I am not worthy for you to come under my roof,

But say the words and I will be healed.”

Christianity is a Shocking Religion

“Christianity is a shocking religion, although many of its adherents have managed to protect themselves from its terrible impact. Tears, an awareness of one’s psychic fragility, and a deep sense of peace and joy are not the most obvious marks of believers today. Yet the shock of Christianity remains: the shock of its materialism in its particularity; the shock of its calling us to a messy and untidy intimacy. It claims that the flesh matters. It insists that history (the particularity of time and place) matters. Above all it claims that, in the end, nothing else but love matters.”

Much of the discipline of the desert is concerned with keeping the shock and promise of love alive. Without the occasional abrasive brush with the unexpected, human life soon becomes a mere matter of routine; and, before we know where we are, a casual indifference and even brutality takes over and we begin to die inside.”The shock breaks open the deadly ‘everydayness’ that ensnares us and brings us something awesome and terrifying to our reluctant attention: the believer’s name for that ‘something’ is God.
God ceases to be a subject for philosophical debate, still less the object of our part-time and casual allegiance. This God is no hobby. God is felt in places too deep for words; in depths beyond ideas and concepts. God is felt in pain, sorrow, and contradiction. This, in itself, comes as shock, since we tend to make religion only of our better moments. Our worst moments tend to be repressed and denied. When that happens, we begin to lie to ourselves, and when we do, the very fabric of our life begins to fall apart.”
– Alan Jones, Soul Making: The Way of Desert Spirituality

The Kingdom of God Is Just An F-Bomb Away


I preached this at Pleasant Street United Methodist Church in Waterville, ME this past Sunday. It was particularly wonderful to have a bunch of alumni from my home church in the pews to cheer me on, including two of my former Sunday School teachers. (I told the congregation to blame both of them for any offensive or theologically incorrect statements that I would make over the course of worship.)

For those of you who have not met me before (which I think would be most of you), my name is Ben Yosua-Davis; proud alumni of that school that’s up the road about a mile from here. [Colby College] In fact, in what I I think now qualifies as ancient history, I did a Jan-Plan internship at this church back in 2002; the most memorable piece, of course, not being when I preached, but when I led the Sunday School in a very enthusiastic dance that included a lot of stomping , a dance that was interrupted by a harried usher who very nicely informed me that “You need to be quiet, we’re worshipping down here!”

And speaking of worship, our next scripture passage from the first worship-book of the church, the Psalms; which shares with us about how we should approach God when we gather together as a community:

(Feel free to read Psalm 30 and Luke 18:9-14)

Now, as you might imagine, a lot has happened since I’ve last worshipped with you all. I now live now in a Norma Rockwell painting of a 1950’s small town; Chebeague Island, ME, with my wife Melissa, also a Colby alumn and the pastor of the only church on the island; and my 16 month old son, who is, in my perfectly objective opinion, the most beautiful boy in the world.

But today, I’d like to tell you a story from a previous chapter of my life, one where my wife and I went on a spiritual adventure in Haverhill,MA; one where we planted a new type of church: one that did not have a building or weekly worship, but instead met in homes, and in coffee shops, one that went onto the streets and made friends, and picked up trash, and threw block parties and community board game nights; and tried to love with open hands all the people that our society says are unlovable, a faith community that we called the Vine.

Our story begins on one cold evening in February, as Rob and I were leading Bible study, when I leaned over to him and said, “I need to tell you something.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m going to drop the F-bomb tonight.”

Continue reading

Reports from the Spiritual Frontier – My Bi-Annual Update


Every so often, I like to check in about how my podcast is going. (I tried to do this quarterly last year, and was half successful. (What? Ben? You have a podcast? I must have missed your obnoxiously ceaseless social media posts! Yup, listen here!) With that in mind, here’s a check-in on how everything is going, based on the questions I asked myself when I first started this experiment.

1) Am I having fun?

Oh God Yes. I get to interview the most amazing people for a living. (Okay, it’s a very small living, one that I barely have to report on my taxes, but STILL.) I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it is to talk to some of the most wonderful saints-in-the-making I’ve ever met about the deepest passions of their lives.  I sometimes hang up the proverbial phone after an interview and say to myself, “Wow, that was a truly holy moment.”

2) Is it sustainable?

Yup. My audience is growing, I have one sponsor, a lot of incredibly invested supporters (shout outs to: Paul Nixon, Beth Estock, and the Missional Wisdom Foundation) that give me encouragement and energy (and share generously when they like an episode.)

It’s always been my secret dream to be able to make a living doing creative work: this year it’s finally starting to feel like it might actually be possible.

3) Is it making a difference?

Yup. My podcast audience, much to my terrified delight, has exploded the last two months, seemingly without any particular extra effort on my part. This month, I’ve already passed 1300 listens and 300 total likes on Facebook. I’m hearing from people I don’t know about how my podcast is impacting their lives and I know that other people are using my episodes to tell the stories of spiritual pioneers as part of their work of advocacy.

I don’t know if this type of growth will last forever. I have no clue what’s driving it. (And how is it that I have over a hundred listens from TOKYO?) But to my fans and to the podcasts gods, I say thanks.

4) Am I learning?

Yup. I feel pretty confident about the nuts and bolts of conducting and producing interviews.

Of course, now that I’ve learned the basics, I now have new challenges popping up. My last series on immigration died a sad, silent death, because I lost five of my seven committed guests. While that’s a lot any way you look at it, it points out to me that I really should be recording episodes for September in July, so I can make up for lost guests (or lost health.)

What You See Is Not How I Feel


I wrote this piece about three months ago, as I was realizing that I was going to have to make some very difficult decisions about my work and the rhythm of my life.  Since then, I’ve left a job, started to make steps towards recovery, and tried to lean into the very difficult business of publicly naming that I’m sick.  This experience, although it has lessened somewhat in itsintensity, remains true for me and so many people like me who suffer from invisible chronic illness.

If you watched me yesterday, you might have seen this:

7:30AM: Ben takes dog on a walk, picking up a neighbor’s vehicle at the docks and bringing it back up the road for them.

11:00AM: Ben drives Michael to daycare to drop him off and returns to the house to work.

3:00PM: Ben does an interview for his podcast.

5:45PM: Ben goes to work, where he finishes organizing a new collection and shelving books.

8:00PM: Ben goes home.

Here’s all the in-between stuff you would not have noticed:

6:45AM: Ben wakes up. He wonders, “Is this the day I’m going to start feeling better?”

7:30AM: Ben takes dog on a walk, picking up a neighbor’s vehicle at the docks and bringing it back up the road for them.

8:10AM: Clearly, this is not the day that Ben is going to feel better. He comes home and lies down on the couch, as he can quite get enough energy to sit up at the breakfast table. Melissa brings him his breakfast in the living room while Michael runs around. Coffee is just not helping this morning. When Melissa needs to take a shower, Ben lays down on the floor next to Michael in the play-yard, trying to keep him distracted.

Melissa tries to put Michael to sleep while Ben levers himself up onto the couch. He tries to read, but the words won’t cohere into sentences. He ends up watching television.

Nap fail. Melissa is already an hour late to work. Ben says, “I’ll take Michael to day care.” He takes a deep breath, pushes through the wobbliness in his legs like a runner on the last stage of a marathon, and gets Michael to the car.

11:00AM: Ben drives Michael to daycare to drop him off and returns to the house to work.

Ben lies down on the couch and works through e-mails. It takes him three times as long as it normally would. When Melissa comes home from, he staggers into bed and sleeps.

2:30PM: He wakes up. It’s go time! He pumps himself up, gets his office set up, and does his interview.

3:00PM: Ben does an interview for his podcast.

4:30PM: He finishes the podcast and wobbles downstairs. Melissa asks, “Can you really go into work tonight?” Ben responds, “I’ll only do what I have to.”

5:45PM: Ben goes to work, where he finishes organizing a new collection and shelves books.

6:15: Ben finishes shelving the new collection. He’s beginning to limp and he hopes that no one notices. There’s a pile of books that need to be re-shelved. He figures he can get them done if he goes slowly over the next couple hours. He puts his feet up gingerly and reads.

8:00PM: Ben goes home.

8:15PM: Ben brushes his teeth and crashes into bed.


What you see is not how I feel.

These types of days have been my experience, on and off, for most of my life.

I’ve been passing for well since I was nine and got ME/CFS for the first time.

Normally, I maintain the appearance of wellness by taking from other pieces of my life.  I sleep more, drop my more demanding hobbies, let housework slide, let Melissa walk the dog, crash super hard on my day off, and so on.  It’s a necessary adaptation, and one that has been useful for me at times: it’s enabled me to keep jobs, maintain relationships, and hold onto hobbies that otherwise might have been swallowed up by sickness.

Before I became a dad, I could lay on the couch on my bad days and rest without hurting anyone. Now, those bad days mean that I’m not engaging with my son, not watching him grow, and making my wife be a half-time pastor and a full-time mother.

I’ve been sick for three and a half months now: the longest stretch I’ve had for several years. (Note: I’m now up to six months and running!) There never seems to be quite enough time for me to get better. Either I’m sick, or my work picks up, or Melissa’s work picks up, or Michael is sick or teething or not sleeping, or Melissa is sick. My well-honed bag of work-tricks (e-mails in bed are perhaps my favorite), no longer work to give me enough space to recover while still appearing like everything is okay.

The first person I have to “pass” with is myself.  My interior landscape is propped up by a thousand small mental negotiations: I’ll feel better when this next project is done, I can change my habits, I can eat better, I can go to bed earlier, I can work more efficiently, I can find a couple days just to rest.

It hard to admit that I am not a normal young adult male with a few health issues. For the time being, my career, my hobbies, my passions, are confined by my very, very real physical limitations and the immense price I pay whenever I ignore my limitations.

It’s terrifying for me, in all honesty, to name this.

I’m not terrified that you won’t accept me.

I’m terrified that you will pity me.

I don’t want to be your latest Tiny Tim. Despite all of this, I’ve made something of my life. I went to a top college, married an amazing woman, became a ministerial innovator, worked with the forgotten and marginalized, fathered an amazing boy, and found outlets for joy and connection that my super-sick, super-isolated nine year old self could not have imagined.  I’ve found ways to make meaning in my life and use my sickness as a resource to become a more complete human being.

But I do need your understanding. I need you to understand that when you say “How are you?”, I may say, “Fine,” even when I’m not, because I just don’t have the energy to get into it right now. I need you to understand that sometimes it will look like I’m giving you 50%, because I absolutely can’t give you anything more. I need you to understand that when I say no to your social invitations or work opportunities, it’s because I simply can’t pay the price that saying “yes” would entail.

I also need you to understand that I didn’t choose this and I’m still figuring out what being sick means. I always thought I would grow out of my illness. I always believe that in a moment like this, I would be in the thick of things, building community, going to marches, fighting for justice, being a mover and a shaker.

I need you to understand how painful it is to learn that enthusiastically following my ideals would mean writing checks that my body just can’t cash.

So, please just bear with me.

I may be as well as I’m making myself out to be or I may be far worse.

And depending on the day, neither you nor I may really be able to tell the difference.