5 Tips about Preaching on Abraham Lincoln


(Note from ReadTheSpirit: In this historic year of Lincoln remembrances, we are inviting author, theologian and Lincoln scholar Duncan Newcomer to write a series of columns. Earlier, we posted Duncan’s video about Lincoln’s proclamation of Thanksgiving 150 years ago. You also will enjoy our extensive Abraham Lincoln Resource Page. TODAY, Duncan gives sage advice to the men and women preparing talks on Lincoln this autumn.)

Lincoln once exclaimed that when he heard a preacher, he wanted him to preach as if he were “fightin’ bees!” Arms a-wavin’! Feet a-jumpin’! Young Abe loved to stand on a tree stump, before his amused friends, and mimic such frontier preachers.

Those antics may have fueled the myth that Lincoln didn’t like preachers. In fact, the opposite was true: Throughout his life, Lincoln loved to question them searchingly; and he loved to attend and listen.

He just never professed and joined.

This is the sesquicentennial era for many of Lincoln’s greatest speeches and proclamations. Millions will be drawn to echo his words in congregations, even though Lincoln would be amused to think of his words as having sacred value. Yet Lincoln, almost like a high priest, created the nearly religious national holiday of Thanksgiving. Lincoln, almost like a prophet, addressed the nation’s grief with mercy and our offense of slavery with judgment.

These “5 Tips” are the first of several columns that I hope ReadTheSpirit readers, and our clergy colleagues nationwide, will find helpful in tackling the vast and complex subject of Lincoln. Please, share these columns with friends. (Print them out; use the blue-“f” Facebook buttons; use the envelope-shaped email buttons.)

From my own years of preaching, I know the daunting challenge clergy face: carrying a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. That’s how Karl Barth advised preachers to equip themselves. These days, I would add that we now need many hands to lift up all that must be held in mind.


1.) LINCOLN IS ALREADY THERE: He’s a popular preaching topic—but here’s a caution. There are many overt and closet Lincoln-lovers: men and women who have fierce and personal views of what is valuable about Lincoln. If you doubt this, just visit the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where there is a beautiful and almost human-sized statue of a shawl-draped Lincoln on a pedestal in one corner. Look closely. His fingertips are as shiny as new pennies from all the worshipers who have reached up and touched his extended hand. Many people love Lincoln.

2.) LINCOLN WAS A THINKER: Remember the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz who sang, “With the thoughts I’d be thinkin’—I could be another Lincoln, if I only had a brain.” Words from Lincoln are a library of nearly holy insights into love and death, war and peace, poetry and life. He was a secular humanist with a Calvinist mind set. His words still speak to the seeker, the spiritual independent. He talked of God without being a fundamentalist and he spoke of America without darkening our light upon the hill.

3.) POINT “YONDER” WITH HIM: Lincoln had what Carl Sandburg called a sense of “yonder.” He had a mystic sense of the value of our union as well as a prophetic sense of judgment about what he called “God’s almost chosen people.” Lincoln’s faith in the possibility of transcendence and transformation shaped his thinking, his vision and his actions—and fueled his great compassion. He continues to point us toward bridging seemingly impossible divisions and healing seemingly fatal wounds.

4.) LINCOLN WAS GROUNDED: He was, indeed, Honest Abe. Lincoln certainly was an ethical man as well as a moral thinker. Virtue defined him personally and politically. Yet he also was a realist. His blend of ethical vision and practical wisdom still can help us to define the doable good verses the ideologically absolute. Americans certainly can use a good dose of that today. Honest, yes, but Lincoln was so honest that he could deflate the arrogant, the idealist, the doctrinaire among us—often with a joke.

5.) FIND YOUR OWN LINCOLN: Everyone does. You may even feel that he is looking to find you. His visage is among the most beloved in American culture. Remember that this is more a matter of revelation than reason. Lincoln was so limited to his time and place that it may be as fruitless to ask “What Would Lincoln Do?” as it may be to pose the same question about Jesus. But the echoes of Lincoln’s ideas of equality, justice and the common future reveal deep truths about America’s potential. It is fitting that 50 years ago Martin Luther King, Jr., literally stood before Lincoln to deliver his great Dream. King was preaching Lincoln.

(Originally published by readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

Trying to steer your congregation? Try a stunt kite!

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Martin Davis: Growing Your Church through Communication

Welcome back Martin Davis, a well-known congregational consultant. He’s good at answering the nuts-and-bolts questions people are asking nationwide, especially about communication. Please, click on a blue-”f” Facebook button to suggest that friends read this column along with you. Want Martin to help you? See the note at the end of this column. Here’s Martin …

Of Kites and Communication


Our week at the beach in North Carolina was a family vacation—but I came home with more than a tan and fond memories. I came home with a fresh insight—and it all began with a promise I made like so many fathers:

“Kids, while we’re on the beach, we should fly a kite!”

With the exception of Charlie Brown, there are few people who don’t enjoy kite flying. I learned the activity in the Boy Scouts—we won’t discuss what year; just know it was before the ’80s—where I learned to make and fly these wingless birds. A simple, relaxing activity. Place it on a string, get it airborne, and watch it soar.

To the local kite store we went. The kites of my youth—one string, one tail, and some plastic wrapped around two crossed sticks—were nowhere to be found. Instead, we were greeted with an array of shapes, colors and sizes.

We picked one out, carried it to the beach house, unwrapped it …

… and spent the next hour figuring out how to get it together.

Then it took another 20 minutes to unlock the mystery of connecting two separate lines to the kite—standard on today’s “stunt kites.”

It was a humbling experience. My youngest used to believe I was all-knowing, invincible. Alas, no more! At least, I consoled myself: It happens to all parents sooner or later. After all, my colleague Benjamin Pratt just admitted to the whole world: “I’m only a father!

In those first hours with this new kite—I repeated that line! Putting the kite together was easy, as it turned out, compared with learning to fly it. Initially, the kite spent more time knotted and doing nose dives in the sand dunes than sailing gracefully beside the ocean.


But by mid-week, our experience was quite different! I began to get the hang of controlling two sets of strings instead of one. Of learning to read wind directions and currents based on the feel of the lines, and compensating by pulling the appropriate string.

Before any of us thought possible, we were not only flying the kite, but we were making it dip and dive, weave side-to-side, and complete 360-degree turns. We learned to read wind currents, and to marvel at how we could watch the birds’ paths and learn from them by mimicking their flight paths with our kite.

How similar kite flying is to how many congregations must feel about communications today.

Before electronic media (email, e-newsletters and the like) and social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, among many others), congregational communications were like an old-school, one-line kite. Attach your information to the end of a string—the traditional print newsletter—and wait for the wind to take it where it would. Sometimes it would catch an updraft, sometimes not. Either way, there was little you could do to control it. All you could do was build it, let go, hold onto the string for dear life, and hope the kite flew.

Today, the range and variety of electronic communications are more akin to the world of multi-line stunt kites. Each electronic platform has not one, but two strings that allow you not only to send information out, but to read how well that information floats on the currents of your congregation and adjust your message accordingly.

It takes a little time. Generally speaking, we’re good at pushing information out, but we’re must less equipped to read how well that information is playing with our audience and to adjust to that information.

Once you learn it, however, you’ll never go back. After all, better to learn to dodge the kite-eating tree with the new communication tools than to continue crashing into such barriers over, and over, and over again.

Want Martin to help you?

That’s easy! Visit the website for his courses and consulting: Sacred Language Communications. As this column is published, an online class is starting soon—and an in-person conference is scheduled in Virginia. Visit the Sacred Language Communications Events & Registration page to learn more.

You can contact Martin Davis via this page within his website. Martin plans to regularly publish helpful columns in Read The Spirit through the autumn and winter. Please, share his columns with friends by clicking on the blue-“f” Facebook icon or the envelope-shaped email icon. You also can email us at [email protected] with questions.

What’s your story? How successful communities and businesses are built on storytelling

Regular readers know Lynne Meredith Golodner as the author of The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads. (Enjoy our author interview or visit her book page.) Lynne’s talents are rooted in her ability to connect people through stories. That’s why The Flavors of Faith contains both recipes and stories. Lynne also runs the public relations and media marketing company Your:People. Just look at her array of services! A glance at her website shows why we have invited Lynne to write occasional columns. She focuses today on the skill of storytelling, as valuable to individuals, congregations and nonprofits—as it is to Fortune 500 CEOs.
Here’s Lynne …

The Lost Art of Storytelling:
How successful communities & businesses
are built on storytelling


You may think you know your story. You may even know details and dates that are important parts of it. But I’m willing to bet you don’t know the whole story, even though you’ve lived it.

In a way, we are better experts on other people’s lives, businesses and communities than we are on our own. That’s because the unbiased perspective without emotions entangled in the telling is what creates connections and encourages relationships that endure.

In my work and in my personal life, I have always told stories. I was a journalist for a long time and a book author and a teacher of writing. In 2007, I created Your People LLC, a Michigan company that provides public relations and marketing communications guidance to entrepreneurs, businesses and non-profits. This year, we are launching a number of workshops, seminars and conferences to guide entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders in storytelling to build business and community.

Everyone has a story worth telling. We may humbly think there’s nothing interesting about who we are or what we do, but we are sadly wrong. Because people do business with people, and because communities are built on compassionate and caring personalities coming together, understanding the value of your story is vital.

There’s a difference between content and storytelling. In a January Forbes article, writer Mark Evans makes this distinction: “Content is just a commodity without storytelling to give it a rock-solid foundation. Without storytelling, content is nondescript, uninspiring and, frankly, a waste of time and energy.”

So how do you discern your own story? How do you boil down all the dates and details to a quick, compelling narrative that draws people to you, and thus, to your brand?

The Lost Art of Storytelling:
Discerning Your Story

You began with a family and grew into adulthood. You were born with a personality so distinct, it directed you toward engagements and friendships and tussles and tasks. Your work path grew out of all of your life experiences, leading you to This Moment.

What, exactly, happened to bring you to where you stand today?

I used to tell the story that I was a writer who, when journalism started changing, needed to figure out a way to earn a living. I used to add in the quick detail that I decided to divorce my first husband when my three children were very young, creating that sense of urgency to find a steady source of income.

Well, I later learned that the story I was telling was only half of the story. A mentor sat me down and asked me to start from the beginning.

I shifted in my seat. I started to sweat. What did he want to know, exactly? Why would any business audience care about my trivial childhood insecurities? I’m not the kind of person to play the woe-is-me card as a path toward business growth. I don’t want to play the sympathy card.

But I finally sat still and played out the conversation. And what I discovered was that a select few details from early in my life had, in fact, directed me toward this very moment. And that story was interesting.

The Lost Art of Storytelling:
Here’s what I learned

For as long as I can remember, I was told that I was bossy and had a big mouth. Had my parents told me that I was a leader and channeled that energy into a positive, rather than, let’s face it, bossy, direction, I might not be where I am today. But that bossy-big mouth billboard followed me like a wart that won’t go away. I was smart and attractive, but insecure as can be, always looking for love in the wrong places. Which led me to marry the wrong guy because I didn’t believe I could do any better.

Yes, I got three amazing children out of the deal, but I was in a miserable marriage that I knew, six weeks before the wedding, was a mistake. You know how when you’re not in alignment with yourself, everything seems to go wrong? Well, in the first year of my first marriage, I got strep throat three times. I was 29 and otherwise healthy as hail, and my doctor said, “What’s a healthy woman like you doing getting strep throat so many times?”

I fully believe that my lack of a voice in my marriage was making me sick.

Finally, after the birth of my third child, I found the courage to leave. I came to the realization that I would rather spend my life alone than spend it in misery with a bad match. And so I filed for divorce and at the same time, started my company. I wanted my children to see one strong, healthy, independent parent who is successful in her life.

Without the heaviness of a bad situation over my head, I thrived. Clients arrived, I did great work, I poured my passion into using my strong voice and leadership skills to help others build business and brand awareness.

That story usually causes my audience to fall into absolute silence in rapt attention. I tell them then about how my business has grown, and how I finally found love, and how my marriage now, with four children (gained a step-daughter) and a blended family situation, is a dream. I tell them how my life started at 37, when I finally found the courage to embrace my strong personality and not feel bad about it, but rather channel it toward good use.

Everyone in my audiences can relate to some element of my story: a bad relationship, a bad choice, a mistake they wish they hadn’t made. I don’t tell too much, but I tell enough to lay the foundation for true bonding between me and the people I am sharing my journey with. The universal truths in my story become evident in the responses I see in others.

And here’s another universal truth: You’ve also got a valuable, compelling story. We all do. If you are honest and carefully choose the details to share with others, you will connect with people through your shared stories.

The Lost Art of Storytelling:
Carefully choosing what to tell

There are many points along your path that are important to include in the story you tell. Let’s start with three key questions that help you frame your story:

  1. Who are you, truly, at the core? What matters to you, personally?
  2. Why do you do the work that you do?
  3. How is what you do helping the world become a better place?

You’ll notice that none of these questions ask for the price of your services or products, and none of them require the address, day and time of an upcoming sale. That stuff is easy, and you can fill it in later. But you have to hit on the core story behind what you’re doing and what makes you unique before any of the other stuff matters.

This is a good place to start. In my workshops and retreats, and in my client work, I start here. I need to understand the person or people I’m working with so that I can help them pull out those gold nuggets of details that will make all the difference in connecting authentically with their ideal audience and building relationships of mutual benefit that last. Start here with these three questions. I’d love to see what you come up with. And stay tuned for Part 2 in this Storytelling series for Read the Spirit—about what to do with your story once you have it and where/how to tell it.

More on Lynne Meredith Golodner & storytelling

IN MICHIGAN IN OCTOBER, Lynne invites you: If you like what you’re reading here, consider joining me and my team and a host of other great storytellers who are also successful in business at Marketing, Messaging & Media: Storytelling to Build Your Business. It’s Oct. 26-27 in southeast Michigan—a weekend that will change the way you work, and live, for the better. I hope you can join me. (Use this discount code for a great conference rate: YOUR PEOPLE.)

ANYWHERE IN THE U.S.: Throughout 2013 and 2014, Lynne will be crisscrossing the country, visiting a different metropolitan area each month. Note that Lynne Meredith Golodner’s workshops also can be tailored to congregations and nonprofits. You can contact Lynne directly through her Your:People contact page. Or, Read the Spirit readers always are welcome to email us directly at [email protected]especially since Lynne is now one of our authors and contributing columnists.

More on growing your congregation
through better communication

In 2013, Read the Spirit is responding to readers nationwide who love their congregations and are asking us to include more practical columns about growing healthy communities through a better use of media. One way we help is through our Bookstore, which offers dozens of books that are great for re-igniting your small group or congregation.

This summer, we also are adding occasional columns by nationally known congregational consultant Martin Davis. His first column reports on the demise of church newsletters—and practical steps you can take to turn them into powerful tools for outreach.

The Heather Jose Interview: Learning to thrive—not just survive—in life’s toughest struggles

HEATHER JOSE is passionate about helping millions of Americans with crises like cancer—because she’s been through such a life-and-death struggle herself. Today, she is a nationally known writer, speaker and workshop leader focusing on three groups: cancer patients (helping them play an active role in their cancer treatment), medical professionals (helping them to engage with patients in new ways)—and caregivers (helping them to plan for their own well-being even as they aid others).

TODAY, Heather Jose talks with ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm in our weekly author interview about her new memoir, Every Day We Are Killing Cancer. At the end of today’s interview, you’ll find several ways you can connect with Heather’s ongoing work.


DAVID: Your title, Every Day We Are Killing Cancer, is dramatic! Tell us how that defined your approach to recovery.

HEATHER: Those words really describe the mindset that empowered me throughout this long journey. I was able to take the driver’s seat in my own recovery—and those words also signaled to medical professionals and caregivers that this was our purpose. Some people have told me they are turned off by the word “killing.” Hey, I’m a peaceful person, too, but I think it’s OK to say we’re killing cancer cells. (laughs) After all, that’s what chemo and radiation are intended to do.

I still remember my doctor initially telling me to go home and get ready to “start killing cancer.” I took that instruction to heart and I didn’t want anyone around me to step back from the challenge we faced together.

DAVID: You actually printed these words on a sign, right?

HEATHER: Yes, I tell that story in my book. I made this little sign that said, Every Day We Are Killing Cancer, then my daughter Sydney who was very young at the time decorated it with some of her scribbles. I had the sign at home and I took it with me when I went back to the hospital for treatments. I wanted anyone stepping through my doorway to know—that’s our attitude here.


DAVID: Years later, you’ve now crisscrossed the country as a speaker and you also write about these issues in both weekly columns as well as your new book. At the core of your message, you’re still telling people: Attitude matters! You say that a person needs to take charge of his or her life. Why is that so important?

HEATHER: Number 1—no one is invested in you as much as you are yourself. Number 2—you have the ability to make the deepest impact in the most ways. Your doctor can help with medicine. Your husband can make a great meal for you. But, ultimately, you’re the one making most of the decisions throughout each day—so you have to be invested. You have to take charge.

DAVID: OK, that’s an inspiring idea. But you’ve also become a leading advocate for caregivers—the millions of Americans who care for others with conditions like cancer or the disabilities of old age or other health crises. So, how do you balance those two goals: Taking charge of your own care—and actively working with caregivers?

HEATHER: The goal is to identify what you’re good at—then, as the captain of your wellness team, focus on those areas in which you are talented and have energy. Once you understand what you can do, you can supplement that with caregivers who are strong in areas where you’re weak. This isn’t a cookie cutter approach for everyone. You have to start by weighing your strengths and your energy—then find caregivers to do the rest. Sometimes, you’ll be surprised by what caregivers can do, if you carefully organize your team.


DAVID: Your book explains how you did this. Then, your weekly WeAreCaregivers columns give lots of additional tips. But give our audience a couple of examples. Here’s the common situation: A major catastrophe strikes and friends will say, “If you need anything, just call me.” Or, they cook something and show up at the door with a dish in their hands. Neither of those responses is bad—but you say those are just first steps. What do you suggest, when people start offering to help?

HEATHER: First, I need to say: It’s natural that you get a lot of general offers from friends and family. That’s a good thing. People want to help—but, they don’t know what to do yet. That’s why you need to organize. As you’re putting together your caregiving team, it’s your responsibility to tell people what you really need.

One thing you need is accountability. In my case, I needed people in my life who would hold me to a certain standard, have expectations for me. We all get a little complacent and it can be easy to fall into the role of a victim. But with caregivers there to encourage you to participate in daily life and activities that are beneficial for killing cancer, you are much better off.

Here’s another example of how we organized caregivers: At one point in my treatment, we had a three-hour round trip each day for radiation. My husband was working. I didn’t have the energy to drive myself. So, our church let us pass around a sign-up sheet for a transportation schedule. We actually passed it through the pews, inviting people to sign up to make the drive with me. That was a big help and people were happy to do that.

Another example: People wanted to make food for us. But, in my case, my diet was carefully planned. Instead, people provided gift certificates for food. That allowed us to use those options when we really needed them. It gave us choices. We got some pizza coupons, which were wonderful. I couldn’t eat pizza, but my husband loves pizza and he got tired of my diet. So, sometimes, it was great to have an easy dinner with my food for me—and a takeout pizza for my husband. People usually wouldn’t think of this unless you talk it over with friends and family and suggest the idea.

DAVID: Through those years of recovery, you did an amazing job. And you share lots of ideas in your book and your weekly columns. However, you also point out that not all volunteers are up to the task, right?

HEATHER: Yes, you need to be honest with yourself about which caregivers are helping you—and which could be draining you. For example, some people just can’t avoid telling you lots of stories of other people who had cancer, including stories about people who died of cancer. Stories like that really dragged me down. That’s just one example, but it is true: Some people who might volunteer to help are more needy than you are. You can actually wind up draining yourself that way. So, I say: It may sound harsh, but you’ve got to be selfish enough to organize your circle of caregivers to welcome those people who actually will strengthen you.


DAVID: We should explain more about this term “caregivers.” National reports tell us that about one in three American households includes a caregiver. There are millions of men and women doing this work on a daily basis. From your perspective, can you explain the term?

HEATHER: A caregiver is anyone who is providing regular, necessary care for a person who is going through a disease or is challenged by a disability, so this ranges from aiding people with cancer to taking care of a disabled adult son or daughter. One thing we do know about caregivers: Their lives are busy! They’re juggling jobs and family duties and their caregiving tasks. These are normal people—people you meet everyday—who are doing an extraordinary amount of work to help others.

DAVID: One of your major campaigns right now is spreading the word coast to coast that caregivers need more help, right?

HEATHER: That’s right. And the first thing caregivers need is to take care of themselves as well as their loved ones. Here’s the challenge they face: Their time is at a premium. They need to consciously plan how they are going to take care of themselves. How are they going to eat well, exercise, pray or somehow quiet their minds? They can’t refresh themselves if they don’t consciously plan for this.

DAVID: You’ve got lots of suggestions about this. So do other writers who sometimes appear in the WeAreCaregivers website that you host. Dr. Benjamin Pratt wrote a whole book on it, Guide for Caregivers. But let’s give our audience, in this interview, an example: You advise people to keep a personalized list of quick refreshers. You actually tell them to organize the list by the minimum amount of time these activities require—5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes and so on.

HEATHER: Everyone is different. Everyone has a different list, but the idea is to keep adding to your list of things you’d love to do if you just had 5, 10, 15 or 30 minutes. That may sound unworkable. But stop and think about this. For me, if I have just 5 minutes, that’s enough time for me go outside and sit in the sun for those minutes. I love that. Or, I can take a walk through my garden and see if I can find any new blossoms. If I have 10 minutes, I can put together a fast, healthy lunch so I’m not grabbing something at a drive-through window. Those are on my list, but you’ll want to make your own list.

If you’ve got a list, then you’ve got a plan for how to use those brief breaks as they arise in your day. If you don’t think about using those short breaks, then you waste them. This idea is about finding activities that give you some joy and replenish your spirits—and making sure they can fit into your day.


DAVID: You urge people to take a positive approach toward these challenges. In fact, you’re one of the key people trying to change our everyday language from “cancer survivor” to “cancer thriver.” Why are you campaigning for that change?

HEATHER: This is important because your mind can do amazing things. I’m not alone in saying this. Recently, Deepak Chopra was making this same point on one of the network talk shows. Simply changing the way we talk about things can make a big difference.

Here’s an example: I’ve heard people say, “Oh no! This new chemo drug is so painful and it makes me feel so horrible. I hate it.”

That’s a natural reaction, because some of those chemo treatments are horrible. But we could take a different approach and say: “OK, this new treatment may feel terrible, but this is a very powerful drug and it’s really going to kill some cancer cells! I’m ready!”

Those are two ways of responding to the situation. One drags you down; one keeps you in charge of your recovery. Becoming a cancer thriver depends on lots of those small choices we make everyday in our lives.

Another idea? Stop reading all of those labels that detail side effects. Sure, it’s good that we are informed about possible complications. You may want to have someone you trust read the side effects for you. But, here’s the problem: Just reading about them can manifest these problems. A label may say: Can cause cramps in hands. Then, one day, your hand aches and you start thinking: Oh no! I’ve got a side effect! I’m sure of it! Maybe you just strained your hand or you’ve got arthritis.

We become cancer thrivers through making a lot of small choices in our attitudes each day.


DAVID: Faith played a big role in your recovery. You talk a lot about physical fitness, diet and medical options—but you also encourage people to explore spiritual resources, as well. I know that your own community church has been a big help in your recovery. What advice can you share for reaching out to congregations?

HEATHER: First, you need to share with people what’s going on so they can help you. If you want people to pray for you, share honestly and be specific. When I was in the midst of this, my husband and I would tell people about specific tests coming up or other steps in my treatment—so they could pray with us about these milestones.

From the moment I was first diagnosed, our Sunday School group became a core group in my recovery. Sometimes close friends would even come over to our home and pray with us before a particularly big test or treatment or procedure.

I talk a lot more about this in my book, in my columns and in talks I give to groups that are interested in hearing about the spiritual part of this.

DAVID: Unfortunately, studies show that most churches really aren’t well equipped to help people—even though congregational leaders may think they’re good at it.

HEATHER: There’s a lot to discuss about how congregations can respond. We can talk about programs. We can talk about how individuals respond to your condition.

For example, some church people respond by saying: “God’s will be done.” That’s something I come across a lot in Christian groups. And I understand the background of that kind of prayer, but it may not be helpful to people who have just received a diagnosis. That kind of response could signal to people: Just sit back and do nothing—and that’s not a helpful message. I’ve come to believe that we want to form a partnership with God: I’ll do my part as a cancer thriver; and God, I’m asking, will you do your part.

The Bible can help. I know that I loved hearing verses of the Bible that tell us things like: “Have the faith of a mustard seed …” or “Faith can move mountains.”

DAVID: This actually is a wonderful area for churches to explore, because it can lead to church growth—partly through the re-activation of members who have fallen away. We’ve seen this happen in congregations that take caregiving seriously. The problem is that most pastors and lay leaders have never stopped to think about how many caregivers are right there in the community—but have fallen away from active involvement.

HEATHER: You’re right. This is a really big issue that hasn’t been addressed in most churches. First, caregivers do tend to fall away on Sundays. They can’t find anyone to relieve them of their duties on Sundays, so they can’t come to church. Over time, we forget about them. We need to start honest conversations about how many people in our communities are caregivers. If you do that, you’ll be surprised! A simple idea like organizing some rotating respite care to help free caregivers on Sundays—that alone can grow your community. And, there’s so much more you can do. You need to start by asking the caregivers in your community what they actually need.

This is a big, untapped area for congregations. Sure, we all start by praying for people with illnesses or other problems in their lives—but too many people stop there. The result is that we’re abandoning a big portion of our community.


DAVID: In your book, you explain that you summarize your mindset in a one-page “Healing Agreement.” When you give talks and lead workshops, you give participants a copy of this agreement. And now, you’re giving it to people free online—to download and print out for themselves. Can you explain this idea?

HEATHER: Sure. The Healing Agreement came about because we realized that not everyone is an extrovert. Not everyone is ready to charge forward and clearly tell people what they intend to do. It’s tough talking with doctors and health-care providers for some of us.

The Healing Agreement opens up an ongoing conversation between health-care providers and patients—to communicate about what is helpful and what isn’t helpful. We want to empower patients to take a leading role in their own care. And, medical professionals also are better served if they know what’s going on with you as a patient. If you don’t make a commitment like this, there’s a temptation to become passive when you’re receiving treatments. Or you may just focus on the steps for the current medical procedure and never talk to your health-care providers about what you should be doing all the days you’re not in the health-care facility.

DAVID: Where do you see all of this going?

HEATHER: I’m not arguing that we need to spend a lot more money or suddenly find more time. I’m focused on using the tools we already have as individuals to make a better healing environment for everyone. Health care providers can work much more effectively if they train themselves in interacting better with patients. And, if you’re someone with an illness or disability, you need to realize that daily choices you make—often small choices—can have a big impact on the rest of your life.


GET A COPY OF HER BOOK: Click on the book cover above to learn more about Every Day We Are Killing Cancer. The book page allows you to read the Preface by best-selling nutrition author David Grotto, you can see the book’s Table of Contents—and more. To help support Heather’s work, please consider buying a copy of the book.

ENJOY HER (FREE) WEEKLY COLUMNS FOR CAREGIVERS: Every week, Heather hosts the new www.WeAreCaregivers.com column—dedicated to freely sharing ideas to help caregivers improve their lives.

FOR CANCER THRIVERS: Heather also writes a quarterly column for Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine.

SCHEDULE A TALK OR WORKSHOP: Heather travels coast to coast, speaking to three kinds of groups: Medical professionals, people whose lives have been affected by cancer and caregivers. She has provided everything from keynote addresses at major conferences—to workshops and classes that count as continuing-education credits. (If you’re interested in scheduling an event, email us at [email protected].)