John Penn and I met twenty or so years ago when we both worked at The Upper Room in Nashville, Tennessee. John worked in the program area of the organization, focusing on healing and prayer. I was a book editor. The publisher told me that one of my first tasks would be to coax a very late manuscript on wellness from Howard Clinebell, one of the first generation of academic thinkers in the field of pastoral care, and then edit that work so that John Penn could use this resource in his work for the organization. Clinebell and I hit it off and eventually we produced a book titled Anchoring Your Well Being–plus a leader’s guide.
So that I could better work with Clinebell, John Penn and I began a conversation about expectations for the project. John told me about his own understanding of prayer and healing ministry, something of which I had been skeptical. I had grown up with televised healing services in which people ripped out hearing aids and tossed away crutches and then we later learned the fake nature of these episodes. I listened at first to John with the ears of a cynic. Then I realized that John’s understanding of healing differed a good deal from what I had earlier seen. To John, healing encompasses multiple dimensions of life: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational–even as Howard Clinebell wrote, healing of the earth itself through our stewardship. At the core of John’s work is also the healing power of forgiveness and love.
John’s new book Miracles of Healing in the Gospel of Mark (ISBN: 9781539729952) is very much like a straightforward conversation or seminar with him as he offers insights into these multiple facets of healing and Christian discipleship. At times I wanted to interrupt the text to ask John a question, something that might happen in a seminar, but not quite possible with a printed text. This book is intended to be written in, a working document in which each chapter includes an introduction and background material for a specific Markan text, the Bible passage (NRSV and NKJV), and questions related to the Bible passage to connect the text to the reader or the small group. Penn then offers material about the passage and invites readers to go further into the text and the specific form of healing. Each chapter closes with a devotional meditation or prayer and instructions for journaling.
I think this book would well serve those curious or interested in healing and would offer even more insight to clergy who wish to teach and preach about different facets of healing, especially the implications for healing through forgiveness that John notes.