The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Being Well When We're Ill and The Visitor

Being Well When We’re Ill: Wholeness and Hope in Spite of Infirmity by Marva Dawn is a practical and inspiring paperback that examines the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, social and physical challenges of people with chronic illness and disabilities. The author is a theologian and educator with Christians Equipped for Ministry at Vancouver, Wash. She frequently lectures at seminaries, churches, clergy conferences and universities throughout the world.

Statistics show that 45 percent of U.S. citizens have some sort of chronic illness or condition. Many experience a loss of their dreams of well-being and of what they anticipated doing in the future.

Dawn takes a hard look at the widespread idea that people are responsible for their own illness or disability as a direct punishment of their sin or someone else’s. Instead of asking “Why?” she suggests that we consider “What is God doing in the midst of this?” and “Where do I catch glimpses of the Trinity’s grace?”

We can also focus on caregivers who have become beacons of love, kindness and comfort to us in our times of tribulation. Through changing our focus, we move beyond bitterness and lack of trust into letting God be a bigger part of our lives.

Dawn also deals with such issues as physical pain, unproductivity, worry, boredom, regrets and depression. She emphasizes that the Bible reveals that God’s love for us remains steady, which enables us to remain well when we are ill (Augsburg Books).


The Visitor is one of the most touching and impressive films of the year with its tender depiction of how a closed-off professor’s heart is opened by music and friendship. Walter (Richard Jenkins) teaches at a Connecticut college but has lost his zest for this profession. He keeps an apartment in New York City that he rarely uses since his wife died.

In the city to present a paper at a conference, he is startled to find a couple living there. Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), a Syrian, and Zainab (Dania Guiria), his Senegalese girlfriend, have rented the place from a real-estate scammer. In the first of a series of steps in his gradual opening up to others, Walter decides to let them stay for a few more nights.

A mutual interest in music draws Walter and Tarek together in a slowly unfolding friendship. Tarek, who performs at jazz clubs, offers to teach the professor how to play the African drum. When Tarek is taken to a detention center and faces deportation, their friendship is tested.

Director Tom McCarthy shows us that our lives can be irrevocably changed by the small choices we make. This movie dares to celebrate the deep human connections that can bridge racial, cultural and religious differences. Best of all, the film shows how music can lift the spirit and bring people together in new and interesting ways (Overture Films, PG-13).


Ruth Roeder

Ruth Roeder

Posted at 11:50 am (U.S. Eastern) 7/9/2008

I have multiple sclerosis and am physically challenged by having the use of one limb.  It took a lot of searching on my part to find where this piano playing teacher could fit in now, but I'm now on a committee that sends cards and help with the brain part of the church library.  Thanks for recognizing a growing dilemna.  When someone asks you how you are, sometimes I want to shout "Deteriorating nicely, thanks"  but "from the neck up, great" gets more smiles and we all need those, don't we?

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February issue


Embracing diversity