Snake Oil, by Becca Stevens

Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: After experiencing sexual abuse as a child, the Rev. Becca Stevens created a non-profit to help women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction find sanctuary and security. This is her - and their - story.   In Snake Oil, Stevens tells how her childhood, marked by sexual abuse and her father's tragic death, equipped her with the insight to understand other broken lives, leading her to establish the Magdalene residential community for prostitutes and, later, Thistle Farms. Wise and reflective, Snake Oil offers an empowering narrative as well as a selection of recipes for healing remedies that readers can make themselves.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Reverend Becca Stevens is an Episcopal priest serving as Chaplain at St. Augustine's at Vanderbilt University, and founder of Magdalene and Thistle Farms, a community and social enterprise that stands with women recovering from violence, prostitution, addiction and life on the streets. Magdalene, the residential model, serves women for two years at no cost to residents. Thistle Farms employs residents and graduates who manufacture, market and sell all natural bath and beauty products in over 200 retail stores across the globe.  In 2011 Stevens was named one of 15 "Champions of Change" by the White House. To date, she has raised more than $14 million for the organizations she supports. Stevens lives in Nashville with her husband, Grammy-winning songwriter Marcus Hummon, and their three sons.

MY THOUGHTS:  At a time when the fashionable stance in Christian circles is away from tradition and rituals, Becca Stevens is leaning into the past to share the comfort of these familiar things, the value of the tried-and-true.

The book blends recipes for natural balms and oils with stories of the author's life and those touched through the ministries she operates.  She pulls from the pain of her childhood in order to minister to others, drawing from generations of wisdom in the areas of herbal remedies, touch, and prayer. I found it refreshing how honestly she speaks about pain and grief and sickness, all the while sharing ideas for finding peace, healing, and wholeness.

I have highlighted and bookmarked throughout this book but feel like that to take her words out of context doesn't do them justice.  To be honest, if I'd read those same highlighted areas before reading the whole book, I'm pretty sure I would have written this off as something that wouldn't fit my theology.  It definitely flies in the face of a lot of common thoughts today.  I have no doubt that some Christians will find Rev. Stevens offensive, feeling that she tends too far toward New Age and Eastern religions.  She does advocate getting in touch with the gifts God has given us at birth and in the world around us to hone our ability to aid others in healing, but she doesn't stray from Biblical truths or add to what the Creator outlines in the Word.

I would recommend this book to anyone in ministry to women like those of Magdalene community, to anyone in need of healing, or to anyone who wants to be used to help heal others.

**I was provided an advanced copy by in exchange for my honest review.  This book is scheduled to be published on March 12, 2013.

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