Love Heals

Love Heals

by Becca Stevens

Hardcover

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718094553
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 09/05/2017
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 158,123
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Becca Stevens is an author, speaker, social entrepreneur, and founder and president of Thistle Farms, the largest social enterprise in the US run by survivors. An international voice for the global movement for women's freedom and a defender of the marginalized, she has been named a “Champion of Change” by the White House for her work against domestic violence, “Humanitarian of the Year” by a number of organizations, and a “CNN Hero.” Becca has received two honorary doctorates and lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she serves as an Episcopal priest and lives with her Grammy-winning songwriter husband and three sons.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

LOVE HEALS THROUGH CREATION

Recognizing God's love in nature

God's Green Earth

There are days when hillsides blush in tenderness And moments when valleys are unshadowed.
The story of faith begins with the unfolding of God's love over the earth. Love is written into the very fabric of creation. Throughout Scripture we read about love's healing power, from the first vision of a garden with a tree of life to the last vision of a kingdom where that same tree stood, with leaves that were made for "the healing of the nations" (Revelation 22:2). Today we can imagine the roots of that tree running under our feet, calling us to remember God's healing power all around us and in us.

We are part of God's creation. We have saltwater like the ocean for tears, dirt in our DNA, and the same matter that flies through the universe coursing through our veins. In other words, we are made from the same stuff as creation. Eden sprang from just a few words spoken by our Creator and was called "very good" (Genesis 1:31). It follows then that all creation, including our bodies, is a sacred work of God.

If we want to experience healing and love, a good place to start is connecting with creation. It reminds us who we are. Stand in a field, breathe deeply, look toward the heavens, walk through the woods, or consider the thistles around you. You can feel love in creation because it was made by Love.

Jesus taught His disciples to begin their mission by considering the birds of the air and the field of lilies because He understood that the journey to love the world begins with contemplating the Creator of that world. Jesus told them:

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they? ... And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (Matthew 6:25-26, 28-29)

The gifts of creation come to us in a million ways; it can take a lifetime of walking and considering to understand all that creation has to offer. The gifts can come in an intentional moment when we stop to smell honeysuckle or by surprise when we hear a song from a bird while sitting quietly on a beach. The gifts can come when we lift our heads to the hills or dip our bodies in a river as a sign of new life. From every animal that finds us, every flower that allows us to glimpse its blossom, every cloud that inspires us — creation's gifts are infinite if we open our eyes to see them.

Make a point to find these healing gifts in your daily routines. When you wake up, instead of reaching for coffee or the Internet, first simply be. Listen and look. What do you hear and see? These things are reminders of the presence of the living Spirit of God right beside you.

When you feel frustrated at lines, traffic, and the busyness of the world around you, look and listen again. Can you recognize something healing right in your midst that brings you peace amid stress or a bit of joy in sorrow?

As you drift off to sleep, instead of watching TV or reading as the last act of the day, take five minutes and listen as you close your eyes. Recall the amazing creation you have witnessed, and give thanks for every living thing you encountered.

Another way to connect to creation is to learn about the healing properties of the plants around you. Before modern medicine, tradition told us to use what grew from the earth. To breathe in lavender for peace. To pick some rosemary and set it by your nightstand for help with memory. To put some wild mint in a drink to help settle your stomach. Whatever is growing near you, learn about these plants and see how they can be part of healing in your life — not as miracle cures but as part of your intentional walk toward wholeness.

As we consider the gifts of creation, it is good to remember that no plants were considered weeds in Eden. Even some plants we may deem invasive, such as the thistle, carry healing in their essence.

A Poem for Inspiration

Standing under a hundred-year-old elm Whose majesty raises my head With regal canopied scepters,
The muse is lurking in solitude on lofty branches in prismed light.
The muse was waiting in my neighbor's yard While I roamed the world searching,
I set up camp in his shadowed peace,
There is nowhere in the world you can travel where you can't find thistles, and no one will stop you from picking them. I remember a cold January morning almost ten years ago when I was collecting thistles to turn into paper made from their purple down. I was standing in a huge half-dead field, and as I bent over to cut maybe the hundredth blossom, a man drove by and looked at me with some concern. Seeing myself through his eyes, I laughed and waved at him, realizing how silly I must look hunched over, cutting half-dead weeds. Oh my goodness, I thought, I have become a thistle farmer.

And a moment later, I found myself weeping. I wept as I thought about all the side roads, thorns, and brokenness I had known in my life — the loss of my father and mother, the man who abused me for years, and the times in my youth when I was really lost. I thought about all the mercy and forgiveness people offered that helped me find my way home and into a healing community. And I felt completely and utterly grateful that it all had led me to this place — here, by the side of the road — where I could experience a field of half-dead thistle as a rich and beautiful Eden.

When you can see such a field as rich and beautiful, all of creation looks stunning. All of it can be part of our healing, and nothing needs to be left behind or condemned.

Thistles have become for me a beautiful symbol of healing and grace. In the small space below the blossom and above the dagger thorns is a smooth part where you can hold on to the flower to harvest it. Since the plant is known for its dangerous sharp edges, this smooth spot comes as a sweet surprise, like all grace. Thistles remind us that despite the thorns, creation remains healing and beautiful. They teach us that people, like plants, are all part of that creation, and there is no one we need condemn or leave behind.

Learning to love all of creation is an adventure and a surprising walk in grace. Sometimes, if something is common or happens daily, we forget how inspiring it is or that we are looking at God's own handiwork right in front of us. We shouldn't dismiss a sunrise just because it happens every day. We shouldn't let our eyes miss the celebration that is going on around us. God is found in the wilderness and in the trees that clap their hands as they dance in the wind. We can feel the Spirit when we stroll among the daffodils and wayside wildflowers strewn by distant winds. When we look with new eyes at this incredible gift of creation, we can find the sacred in the ordinary, the miracle in the mundane, and the promise of healing in each day-each extraordinary and holy day.

CHAPTER 2

LOVE HEALS WITH DAILY RITUALS

Practicing healing throughout our day

Turning and Turning

God, set me on the path of healing again.
It takes all night to raise the sun. The spinning of the earth makes it possible to catch that first glimpse of a sunrise. Every morning brings hope of a new beginning, but we let too many of them slip by.

My head and heart are clearest in the morning. I like to get up while it's still dark and wait with the patient trees and hungry birds for the sun to rise. The night moves from black to gray, then to a soft lavender with hints of pink. Just as golden shafts backlight the clouds and an orange glow begins to grace the horizon, I can feel my spirit rise with the sun. I feel the gift of another day and the hope of a new beginning.

This morning I went outside and felt the sunrise that was offered like a gift wrapped in bands of purple. I saw two beautiful rabbits feasting on clover in my overgrown yard, and a cool breeze kissed my cheek in the midst of the summer heat. I was full of praise and gratitude, and I felt inspired to birth new ideas. This morning I prayed with joy, Alleluia! Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.

But not yesterday. Yesterday there was another mass shooting in America, someone in our Thistle Farms community relapsed (after she had survived rape and being shot by her pimp), and a storm hid the sunrise. Yesterday I felt anxiety about death after visiting three people who were sick in the hospital. Yesterday was hard. On those days, I need to learn that then, too, I must practice all my daily rituals in faith. Then, too, I need to sing "Alleluia" even as I weep.

Sunrises help me learn to do this. They remind me that healing can be beautifully simple and surprisingly accessible. Healing can happen in both dramatic and small ways. The healing we are seeking for our lives and for the world is something we can experience through a commitment to daily practices that lead us toward wholeness.

The good news of healing is that the oldest wisdom in the world really works. We don't have to reinvent the processes of love or healing, and it is not out of our reach. We simply do basic things every day with unwavering discipline — things that help us slowly but surely grow into who we were made to be.

Our understanding of how love heals evolves and deepens as we practice daily. And learning what works best for each of us also takes time and practice. It's like preparing to run a marathon: we start training for a few miles a day and then come to an understanding of how we can best train our bodies for the long race. That awareness helps us, as the apostle Paul famously put it, "Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly" (1 Corinthians 9:24-26). In a world of aimlessness, we train ourselves through ritual.

My mornings are grounded in ritual. In the dawn's early moments, I light a candle, and it invites me to breathe. I begin my morning prayers and anoint my hands and face with a bit of lavender and moringa oil. Then I sip a cup of tea made by women in our social enterprises, and I either walk, do yoga stretches, or take a bath and begin to write. It took me years to figure out this routine. I read about what other people did, I tried on different ways of preparing for my day, and slowly, over time, my daily healing rituals took shape.

Afterward, I am ready to get my kids to school, meet the women of Thistle Farms, take the time to listen to colleagues, and focus on loving the world one person at a time. Sometimes I still get lazy, sidetracked, and frustrated, and I want to call a mulligan on the day. But mostly I stick to the practice, and the practice makes room for everything else in my day.

Being busy is no excuse. Everybody is busy. The key is deciding what you are going to be busy doing and making space for that. It might mean dinners are simpler, clothes don't get folded as often, and you miss out on other activities, but for folks like me who can spin out and lose focus, morning rituals are grounding and essential.

We can all find ways to incorporate healing practices throughout the day, through even the smallest actions: how we greet another person, how we say a prayer before we get in the car, or how we say good night. It's a matter of becoming aware that with every action, we can practice being more peaceful and prayerful and more loving and compassionate toward ourselves and others. We don't always act because we feel like it. We act because of who we want to become. And we pray for what we hope to become. That is what makes faith a journey. In the small steps we make daily, we find, looking back, that we have made a big difference.

Old-Time Religion

Daily practices remind me of a song from the late nineteenth century, "Give Me That Old Time Religion." It's a mantra to hum while we explore how to respond to universal injustices and personal pain. That old-time religion "was tried in the fiery furnace" ... it "makes me love everybody ... it's good enough for me." We remember that others have gone through what we are experiencing. Others didn't know the road before them. Others felt loneliness and pain. The old wounds humanity carries demand that we respond with love, the oldest and deepest truth of religion.

Thistle Farms is full of daily rituals that change lives. We start every day sitting in a circle and lighting a candle. The candle is made by women survivors, and when we light it we say, "We light this candle for the woman still on the streets, we light this candle for the woman trying to find her way home, and we light this candle because a single candle can cut a path through the darkest night." Then we begin our day of making essential oils that bring healing and products that allow us to talk about women's freedom, to change our culture, and to enable communities of women to be economically independent.

We need some good old-time religious practices to infuse our lives so we can use the most powerful force — love — to heal our communities. Practices teach us to habitually invite God to strengthen and shape us so we can become disciples capable of embracing the backside of anger, the shadow side of pain, the short side of justice, and the inside of prison walls with love. If we practice daily, we will get stronger and stronger in our faith and commitment. We can trust God to transform our brokenness into compassion and empower us to offer love without judgment. That love can be cast wide enough to reach those suffering in the streets and entrenched in prisons.

One of our survivor-leaders grasped this reality one day as we were standing at our Thistle Farms booth at a national convention. Through serious daily practices, she had been working for more than two years on her healing from abuse, prostitution, and addiction. She had worked a twelve-step program, met weekly with counselors, sat in the circle and lit candles at Thistle Farms, and found her own ways of learning to heal daily. She had gone back to school, worked to save money to buy a car, and reconciled with her family. Now she was part of the travel team, selling our healing oils and candles and explaining how our community functions. She was amazed as person after person walked up to the booth, bought items, gave us blessings, and shared their own stories. After a few days, when several hundred people had talked to us, she turned to me and said, "I finally get it. This healing takes a while. And after it takes place, I realize it's not about me; it's about us. I am here so another woman can find her way home."

It takes a while for the truth of healing and love to sink into our hearts, and it takes a daily practice to understand healing love's depth and power. It takes that old-time religion that practices love every day.

Practice is nine-tenths of love. Love is experienced, felt, and spoken loudest in our daily practices with ourselves, one another, and the world. The old phrase is, "Don't tell me you love me. Show me." One of the most powerful examples of this in Scripture is after the resurrection, when Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love Me" (John 21:17)? After Peter told him he did, Jesus asked him to show that love by feeding His sheep. In other words, if you love God, care for the children of God.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Love Heals"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Becca Stevens.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface, 1,
Introduction, 7,
1. Love Heals Through Creation, 13,
2. Love Heals with Daily Rituals, 25,
3. Love Heals Beside Still Waters, 39,
4. Love Heals with Compassion, 51,
5. Love Heals Across the World, 65,
6. Love Heals on the Edges of Our Hearts, 81,
7. Love Heals in the Valley of Death, 97,
8. Love Heals upon the Mountaintop, 109,
9. Love Heals by the Mercy of God, 121,
10. Love Heals During the Act of Forgiving, 133,
11. Love Heals from Past Mistakes, 145,
12. Love Heals over the Bridge of Time, 157,
13. Love Heals Beyond Stress, 167,
14. Love Heals Past Our Fears, 179,
About Thistle Farms, 191,
About the Author, 197,

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Love Heals 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Teadrinker More than 1 year ago
Love Heals is a beautiful book full of encouragement and inspiration. Love Heals is the tagline at Thistle Farms, a sanctuary community for women who survived trafficking, addiction and prostitution. Each woman had a story and each of us has a story. While all our stories are different, Becca Stevens shares what she has learned and stories from other women journeying with God have learned to heal us. The beautiful photographs, poetry, prayers, uplifting stories of overcoming and hope, and practical advice make this book a wonderful addition to anyone's library. This book would also be a great gift for someone needing encouragement while going through hardship or recovering from difficulties. There are 14 chapters sharing different ways love can heal us in our different stories. As someone who has been going through some big personal challenges, I personally found it to be uplifting, encouraging, and full of hopeful stories. I highly recommend it. I received Love Heals from Thomas Nelson Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for the book.
PaperBlossoms More than 1 year ago
The book Love Heals by Becca Stevens addresses the different ways God shows his love to us and offers healing. The book is set up by topics, such as healing through creation, healing through daily rituals etc. She gives examples of how these different areas have been seen her own life and those she is in contact with. The author is the founder of a women's organization called Thistle Farms which sounds like a great ministry, but I personally disagree with a woman being a pastor or being "ordained". For that reason I can't agree with some points in the book and so only give it 3 stars. **This book was given to me from BookLookBloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.**