Seeds that Move and Seeds that Root

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
    release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the Lord
    and a day of vindication by our God;
To comfort all who mourn;
to place on those who mourn in Zion
    a diadem instead of ashes,
To give them oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    a glorious mantle instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of justice,
    the planting of the Lord to show his glory. Isaiah 61: 1-3
NABRE

Some seeds take root in the ground. Some travel by air or water. They morph from seed to sprout to stem and grow leaves, then fruit.

A letter from a missionary family arrived a couple of weeks ago. It provided updates with lists of praises and prayer requests. It was one in a series of such letters over decades that tells the story of a family. The letters reveal the heart of their composer: a wife and mother–herself a seed who traveled on the wind and brought forth much fruit.

This missionary mom is a rare poetic spirit–walking us through the triumph of seeing souls come to Christ–and the tragedies of her two lost babes–one miscarriage and one newborn who lived about a day–and the more recent loss of a teenage son due to cancer.

She’s had her own physical ailments, yet her faith stands strong. She has no regrets. She and her family invested their lives planting seeds of faith.

The remnant of this traveling family–now a couple with their living, now grown children spread like seeds around the world–have come home. Planting not just seeds but also roots yet holding the earth around them loosely.

A young couple I met recently has two young children and are preparing for a life of seed cultivation on the other side of the planet. They hold the earth around them loosely. Sitting in their living room a few months ago, their plans unfolded for a simple Christmas and then the big move.

Christmas for the little ones involved only a few items that would travel easily. Like the older missionary family, they live holding onto little here.

The seed that is me grew in the soil under my feet. Having lived in the same house since 1977, my roots reached deep in this place. My leaves are the colors of autumn, no longer the green of spring. The seeds I produced sprouted in nearby ground.

In her letter, the elder missionary mother spoke of the offerings she will lay before God someday–the fruit of her life.

What we lay before Him cannot be what we’ve held tightly.

We’ll have only the fruit from seeds planted in loose soil. Seeds we pray the Lord will grow into mighty oaks of justice–His plantings. For His glory.

So let it be.

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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You’re Invited to a Book Launch Party!

On Thursday, March 7, at 3:00 pm EST, my publisher, Morgan James Publishing, is hosting a free online launch party featuring me along with some other amazing authors. We’ll be giving away links to books to everyone who attends, as well as a bunch of freebies!

Could you do me a favor and register for the party (and hopefully come to it!)? I know everyone is busy so don’t worry if you can’t be there live. Register anyway and you’ll get a recording. Again, all you need to do to be a part of my Virtual Book Launch Party is register right here:  www.MorganJamesBookLaunch.com

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Death for Profit

Planned Parenthood’s yearly report is out. And it provides a clear picture of an organization supposedly out to help women.

Even while the abortion rate in the US has been dropping (except in New York), numbers are up, as are profits for Planned Parenthood. PP performed 332,757 abortions last year–an increase of 11,000 more children lost over the previous year.

Technically a non-profit, America’s largest abortion “provider” claims a $250 million SURPLUS. That’s a quarter of a BILLION dollars in excess of their expenses–salaries, utilities, rents. Yet it’s not enough.

But PP does so many good things, some say. Only now they are doing fewer good things. Services other than abortion are down–by 11.5 percent. “Other services” would include cancer screenings (a 70 percent drop in PAP tests) and breast exams (down by 64 percent). Other services might also have included mammograms, but PP has never invested in mammogram equipment.

Adoptions? The ratio of abortion to adoption referrals is 148 to one over the last ten years. There just isn’t any money for PP in adoption.

Congress tried and failed last year to defund the abortion giant. So it’s hard to figure out how taxpayer funds increased to PP–by $20 million to a record $563 million to top off a 55 percent increase over the last 10 years. Apparently, it was a bipartisan deal of death.

Death for babies and wounds for their mothers.

Sadly, the Senate also recently failed to pass the Born Alive bill authored by Sen. Ben Sasse and sponsored by every Republican senator. Even Pennsylvania’s own Democratic Senator Robert Casey–a supporter of PP–voted yes. The bill would have required that any infant who survives abortion receive the same medical care any wanted child would get.

Basic medical care denied for the crime of being unwanted.

One bright bit of news is that the Trump Administration has unilaterally defunded organizations that perform abortions, including PP. Under a new rule, family planning funds will only be available to entities “physically and financially” separated from abortion facilities.

The bad news is that the next president can choose to change the rule to provide those funds. That rule will shift with the winds of change in presidents, back and forth, like the Mexico City policy, which came to be during the Reagan Administration and “prohibits U.S. funding of foreign nongovernmental organizations that perform or promote abortion.”

We know more about unborn life than we ever have. We know that each child is unique, alive, and growing from conception.

That should be enough to protect them in the womb–to get them medical care outside the womb.

That should be enough.

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Trying to Outdo New York

It’s like the states are having a contest to see whose abortion laws can be the most outrageous. And the laws seem designed to protect—not the mother–certainly not the child–but the one performing the abortion–which no longer must be a physician in New York–a provision which may soon pass in other states as well.

Some significant changes in New York: “New York’s RHA also repealed a section of the public health law that required the following: that abortions after 12 weeks be performed in a hospital; that an additional physician be present for abortions after 20 weeks to care for ‘any live birth that is the result of the abortion’; and that such babies be provided ‘immediate legal protection under the laws of the state of New York.”

As outrageous as that is, Illinois and Vermont are in the running to outdo New York by including a provision in their laws (not yet passed, but Vermont’s bill is on its way to the Senate which has a Democrat supermajority). The Illinois provision says that the “fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the law.” The Vermont provision uses similar wording.

The laws will have the same effect as New York’s–abortion until birth. New York jumped through the hoop of making a provision for health of the mother but then neglected to define health, thus leaving it up to personal interpretation. The result allows late-term abortion for preference and convenience.

Vermont and Illinois cut to the chase. Their proposed laws contain provisions that declassify the unborn as humans with rights, which has the effect of not outlawing fetal experimentation and organ harvesting (even for profit).

Planned Parenthood employees will be able to go to lunch, in at least those two states, and negotiate the prices for the livers, brains, and hearts of the unborn without fear of legal retribution.

Further, the Illinois law would require all insurers to cover the costs of abortions–even those of religious organizations. And it “repeals laws that allow husbands to block their wives from aborting their child, eliminates requirements to investigate fetal or maternal deaths resulting from abortion, and allows minors to receive abortions without ever having to notify their parents.”

It’s a dream come true for anyone with a kitchen table and a butcher knife to prey on the unsuspecting and desperate.

Legalizing abortion was supposed to prevent just that kind of back alley scenario.

Alexandra DeSanctis comments: “To the left, abortion is no longer a last resort, an option to be prevented, a difficult and sad choice that some women feel forced to make. Abortion is now a fundamental right, a social good so worth preserving that it is necessary to explicitly dehumanize living human beings to justify it.” (DeSanctis’s emphasis).

We stand at a crossroad in America today. Will we continue down the trail New York has blazed? Or will we choose a different path?

Because of the new abortion law, some New York Christians proclaimed last Saturday as a day of mourning and repentance. And repent is what we must do.

“[I]f then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.” (II Chron 7:14 NABRE)

Let us humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn away from this evil. Please, Lord, hear us. Pardon us. Heal our land.

Please.

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Truth, Beauty, and Light for a Hardened World

We are created in the image and likeness of God, and as such our nature refers us to Him. The battle begins, therefore, against human nature. Ideologies, naturalisms, materialisms, sexual revolutions… Everything is one assault after another on the very concept of the human, to deny the obvious: our transcendence, the immortality of our souls, our need for God, our masculine-female complementarity.” (Qtd. by Rod Dreher)

It was a moment etched in memory for me when I was in graduate school. We had class that day in a local restaurant–a change of pace from our regular classroom. The topic of discussion was an article we had read about colonialism by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak.”

Spivak is an Indian woman who took issue with the British prohibition of sati during Britain’s colonization of India. The British had outlawed the practice of a woman placing herself (or being placed) on her husband’s funeral pyre and dying in the flames.

Spivak argued that the colonialist power was depriving women of their right to self-determination. A classmate of mine agreed with Spivak representing all the voiced opinions except my own.

“But what if she wants to?” she asked me when I lamented Spivak’s view.

But what if she does not? What if her culture/his family/her family have expectations that she will die–as tradition demands? Cultural demands ooze from the word sati–the name for women who die in the flames. Satis means “a good woman.”

What horrified me most was the nonchalant attitude of the instructor and the other students. How easy it is to claim “choice” when the person with the most at stake may not actually have a choice and may not even have a voice.

My instructor and fellow students saw nothing wrong with a custom that would label a woman “good” for wanting to die. And what would the label be for a woman who might prefer not to die? Or for one who might enter the flames in less than a fully conscious state so the family would not face the shame of her resistance?

That encounter reminds me of another one I observed years earlier. I was a volunteer in training at a pregnancy resource center. A young woman came in with an older guy. She was a teen–perhaps fifteen or sixteen. He was clearly older–perhaps in his twenties.

He wanted to know her pregnancy test results–a test the center offered for free–a test whose results we would provide only to her–alone.

When the veteran volunteer told him that we would not give him the results; we would only speak with her alone, he made clear his choice in the matter. “I’ll just drive her to Pittsburgh then,” he said–the city a couple hours away, where they could obtain an abortion. During the entire encounter, she did not say one word.

They left not knowing what we knew. She was pregnant.

Despite all the shouting about female autonomy and choice, she had no voice in the matter. He had already made the decision for her. And he didn’t make it with her best interest–or that of the child–in mind.

Graduate students sitting in a restaurant speaking theoretically about satis were far removed from the reality of such a situation. At the pregnancy resource center, I witnessed someone co-opting a woman’s “right to choose.” There was no theoretical life of a child, no theoretical wound for a mother. Those were real.

Dreher: “There is an “anthropological attack” on the meaning of the human person. What C.S. Lewis called “the abolition of man” is upon us.”

When choice trumps meaning, we lose freedom rather than gain it. And in the process, we lose ourselves.

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Mistaking Emotion for Argument Update

I couldn’t figure it out. A number of students were claiming the speaker was evoking emotion to convince his audience. My college freshmen couldn’t recognize the difference between reason and feelings.

But the speaker didn’t want them to feel. He wanted them to think. To reason. To deduce right from wrong. Feelings had little to do with it. But today, feelings make the argument. Most people can’t discern between feeling and thinking. To do so would mean that were universal truths about right and wrong.

In the early days of the abortion debate, those who support abortion would accuse pro-lifers of just being emotional–too emotional–about the unborn.

Pro-lifers asserted that support for unborn life was more than hand-wringing anguish over potential life. It was reasoned protection for innocent human life. All innocent human life. The foundation for protecting such life was not only religious but also moral and scientific. It was never solely a religious argument. Sometimes, it wasn’t a religious argument at all. (See Dr. Bernard Nathanson.)

But the other side just can’t admit that–unless it tries to co-opt a religious perspective.

“Mary Doe” of Missouri turned the pro-abortion argument on its head. In a lawsuit before the Missouri Supreme Court, Doe protested a Missouri law requiring a waiting period of “72 hours before having an abortion, [that a woman seeking abortion] look at an ultrasound and sign a form which states [she’s] read material that contains the line, ‘(t)he life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.’”

A member of the Satanic Temple,* she asserted that the Missouri law violated her freedom of religion and that “she must not support any beliefs that make her fetal tissue a being distinct from her body.”

“Mary”–an ironic pseudonym–had already had her abortion. She refused to hear her unborn child’s heartbeat. She said she was made to feel “guilt and shame.”

Her emotions trumped truth. She is entitled to believe what she wants. But she is not entitled to her own facts.

She is not entitled to declare a baby a non-living entity simply because that’s what she wants it to be.

The lack of logic, however, was clearest in her assertion that her unborn child is not separate from her own body–not an entity entitled to protection and life. To claim it is merely a Christian view that the unborn are human and alive is also illogical.

Such assertions ignore facts borne of science: The unborn is a separate being. The child has his or her own DNA. That DNA is human DNA. The unborn he or she is not part of the mother; the child merely resides within her–and does so temporarily. The child is growing. That makes the child alive.

It is not a religious idea that we can hear an unborn heartbeat. It’s not religious to see fingers, toes, and a face on sonogram imagery. And it is not religious to recognize babies in the womb as human.

And that is what the Missouri Supreme Court decided five days ago. Because the court recognized reason and truth.

The only appropriate religious view to insert in this discussion is that Satan is the father of lies.

Satan’s Temple of death for unborn children–The Satanic Temple–is aptly named. We can be so thankful that Missouri’s Supreme Court realized reason. And we can pray the members of the Satanic Temple receive the blessing of truth.


This post updates an earlier one discussing the legal challenge to Missouri’s law.

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Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Unruly Sheep Feeding Each Other

“At a point later in the year I observed a paddock with two mature ewes with rather thick necklaces of twisted hay. These stubborn ewes, I was told, had taken a disliking to one another in the field and were almost incessantly butting and harassing each other. These edible Elizabethan-style ruffs of hay were the only source of food in the pen, so if the battling ewes wanted to feed they had to get up close and nuzzle, ultimately developing a bond of familiarity” (Craeft, Alexander Langlands 73).

It’s happened more than we care to admit. We decide we don’t like someone. Then Providence pushes us together in a way that we have to rely on each other.

We come to see the “adversary” in a new light. A bond forms.

In the church, that’s community. Imperfect, sometimes ugly. Yet a community, ideally, that feeds its members.

Sheep crave community. Even if it means building a bond with an adversary. The wise shepherd puts the unruly sheep in a situation where they must feed each other so they can both return to the flock.

Craig Rogers says, “Although many think of their flocking instinct to be a sign of “dumbness,” it is in fact a community-based survival mechanism where they have learned that their strength is much greater in numbers and their comfort and survival is enhanced as a group rather than as an individual. Not a bad lesson for all of us.”

Two are better than one: They get a good wage for their toil. If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help.  So also, if two sleep together, they keep each other warm. How can one alone keep warm?  Where one alone may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord[ais not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NABRE).

Remember that Christian who irritates you? Offer some food–figurative or real–and try to get comfortable as an ally in faith. And how about that neighbor who’s a non-believer? That’s someone outside the flock, perhaps a wounded spirit just waiting for an invitation.

Like sheep wearing food around our necks, we carry the Bread of Life with us.

The lost sheep live among and around us. And we are the only ones who can invite them to come home.


Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

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Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Hospitality Overcomes Hostility

It was 2017. Donald Trump had just been inaugurated. The president’s bad behavior of the past frustrated many women. They decided to march on Washington in protest. But pro-life women were not welcome.

This event was exclusive to a particular mindset–one that viewed the sanctity of human life stance with hostility.

But not all the women shared hostility for all things pro-life.

And that some women learned more about the pro-life perspective that day may simply be due to an aversion to the porta-potty.

if you’ve ever marched in Washington, you are either acquainted with the porta-potty, aka porta-john, or you strategically plan your bathroom breaks. If you are marching in the cold of January, you work harder at the strategic plan of finding bathroom facilities.

In Building the Benedict Option, Leah Libresco tells the story of the Dominican friars of Washington, DC, who welcomed pro-choice protesters to use their bathroom facilities in 2017. They opened their doors to women protesting the election of Donald Trump–protesting the rise to office of a president whose past behavior had been unsavory–a president who claimed to be pro-life.

At first, it was only 12 women seeking to use the facilities; then it became more than 100. Libresco quotes the account of Brother Martin Davis:

“The peculiar situation of some people wearing ‘Get your rosaries off my ovaries’ next to men wearing rosaries on their belts did not stop many [of the women] from inquiring into what brings us to live lives dedicated to Christ” (105-06).

Libresco explains that the friars answered the women’s questions about their work and their beliefs about abortion and unborn life, among other topics. The grateful women then passed a hat collecting over $100 for the church.

They warned Brother Martin to avoid reading the text on the hat they passed.

It was an unlikely encounter and yet a profound one. The friars may have found the march discouraging. They might have withdrawn and stayed behind closed doors. They might have lost hope.

Libresco: “To be a Christian means to believe that hopelessness is always a misapprehension at best, and, at worst, a form of spiritual attack” (158).

More than 100 women saw the beauty of Christ that day and heard the message of life. The march’s organizers tried to shut out that message. But a simple act of hospitality on a cold day shut the door against hostility. And it didn’t take much.

From Libresco: “[T]he friars weren’t engaging in traditional witness. They weren’t preaching or participating in a street prayer vigil” (106-07).

They were just being hospitable Christians. They obeyed a calling from God and opened a door where minds and hearts had been closed.

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Abortion, Child Abuse, Poverty, and the Lies that Perpetuate Them

“The great conflicts in American history, especially slavery, civil rights, and abortion, have been unusually hard-fought and passionate because they cannot be understood as symbolic fights over different worldviews or cultures. Instead, they are better understood as clashes over how common liberal values should be extended to different categories of humans. These conflicts have been disagreements over who counts as a human person.” (Jon Shields)

It was supposed to fix it all–women dying from illegal abortions, child abuse, poverty. Abortion would end dangerous, back alley procedures that killed desperate girls and women. Child abuse would end. Lessening the burden from “unwanted children” would enhance the economic stability of the poor.

Compassionate helpers would be the heroes of abortion “rights”. That’s what they told us in the 1960s and ’70s and into the ’80s. Perhaps some were misguided. We can see now that others were intentionally deceiving us.

Former atheist and “abortion doctor” Bernard Nathanson revealed the concoctions after his conversions–first to a pro-life perspective, then to a Christian one. A leading proponent of ‘legal and safe’ abortion became a vocal proponent for life–and a voice of truth.

“Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200 – 250 annually [before 1973]. The figure constantly fed to the media was 10,000. These false figures took root in the consciousness of Americans convincing many that we needed to crack the abortion law.”

Cracking the abortion law caused, Nathanson said, “the annual number of abortions . . . [to increase] by 1500% since legalization.”

The reporting of abortion complications in 24 states is voluntary, so the numbers we have are guesses.  Even so, the CDC acknowledges that four-hundred and thirty-seven women have died in America of legal abortion between 1972 and 2014. Legal and safe was not safe for them.

America bought the lie. And much of what abortion was supposed to fix got much worse.

I remember the slogan: “Every child should be a wanted child.” The irony is that the rates of child abuse and abortion parallel each other. When abortion rates rise, so do those of child abuse.

Some may argue that better reporting has led to greater transparency of abuse that was going unreported before. But the rates of abuse simply do not translate into abortion access reducing child abuse. Child abuse was a problem before liberal abortion laws; today it is a bigger problem. America bought the lie that abortion would reduce, even eliminate, child abuse.

And poverty. Abortion would keep women out of poverty by ensuring that an unplanned child did not interrupt a mother’s education or require her to leave her job.
Rachel MacNair sites Thomas J. Strahan’s assertion that abortion can exacerbate poverty. “Experience suggests abortion may instead actually be a contributing factor. Through an increase in broken relationships, psychological difficulties, and substance abuse, a practice which is done exclusively on women may put them at greater economic disadvantage.”

And as compassionate as abortionists might like to present themselves, nobody does abortions for free.

An abortion website lists the prices for a medication abortion (abortion by pill rather than surgical procedure) at between $400 to over $790. Costs of surgical abortions begin lower($350) and increase with the age of the unborn child (to more than $3,000). I ‘m at a loss to understand how a pill (a set of four pills) can be, at any point, higher in cost than that of a surgical procedure.

ike the purveyors of illegal abortion, those who engage in the legal practice of ending a pregnancy through the death of a child conduct their business on a cash upfront basis.

Abortion “providers” were supposed to care deeply about women. But those who perform abortions do not provide. They sell. They earn. They prosper.

They are also potential Bernard Nathansons. As he turned from lies to truth, so can they. Robert P. George credits Nathanson’s transformation to the “luminous power of truth.” Truth changed Bernard Nathanson.

Forty-six years ago last month, seven robed justices afflicted America with the lie of free and easy abortion. We have not been the same since. Sometimes, we feel hopeless.

But our hope is always in truth. And there is power in that.


Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Adapted from a post from January 2016.

Friends, Family, and Revolutions

“In a post-Christian culture the dominant worldview is not longer founded on Christian principles. . . The Church no longer shapes the culture. . . . In a very real sense, this ‘post-Christian’ world is coming full circle to resemble the pre-Christian world.” From Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It AgainAquilina and Papandrea, 23.

In the 1950s and ’60s we made room for Daddy and Father knew best, and Donna Reed’s version of Mom held her own as did Lucille Ball’s.

Entertainment mirrors society. As the family is the foundation of Christian culture, so it was in the land of television more than half a century ago. But in the late ’60s and into the ’70s, as America turned away from devotion to God, television lost its devotion to family.

In the 1970s Archie Bunker was a cartoonish father who did not know best. Television celebrated the single woman with Marlo Thomas’s That Girl and Mary Tyler Moore’s self-named series. Men were accessories, not necessities.

In the late ’70s came One Day at a Time, celebrating the woman emancipated by divorce. In the 1990s, Seinfeld was a show about nothing and Friends brought us the sexual escapades of six friends who sometimes came with benefits. Slowly, the television family had been distorted.

Television has become a primary conduit of culture with the average child viewing 28 to 32 hours a week of programming. Television provides much of the information we receive and shapes our ideas. It is an influence on par with the Church and family of the past.

A child growing up on a steady diet of typical network programming would think friendship to be the foundational life relationship, not marriage or a family connection. That sounds like a strange idea. But it’s an idea the world has embraced before.

The Ancient Greek Achilles spent most of the Trojan War upset that he had lost his “prize”–a woman/sex slave he had won through his feats. He only reentered the fight to avenge the death of his friend Patroclus.

Achilles’ fellow soldier Odysseus spent 20 years yearning to get home to his wife. The war consumed 10 years as Odysseus fought beside male counterparts. He spent the next 10 years trying to get home to his faithful Penelope, but enjoying some dalliances along the way. Odysseus retired to marriage; he did not invest his life in it. His son grew to manhood with his father absent.

The Trojan survivor Aeneas left his lover Dido to achieve his greater destiny–founding Rome. Aeneas later married Lavinia after brokering the deal with her father. “The Roman gentlemen we meet in literature were more likely to reserve ‘love’ for the exalted philosophical relationship between equals [other men of their social standing] that they theoretically prized” (Aquilina and Papandrea 71).

Ancient Greeks and Romans reserved affection for friends; marriage was about deal making. American feminism in the 1970s asserted that marriage was a financial arrangement, detrimental to women. Now unmarried couples cohabitate to save money. And prenuptial agreements and no-fault divorce laws do not seem to have contributed greatly to the romance or longevity of marriage.

For some people today, friendship does supersede marriage as the primary relationship. It’s not just that some friendships outlast some marriages. That can happen in any age. It’s that many Americans have come to expect more from their friendships and less from their marriages, just as ancient pagans did.

“From the point of view of Roman tradition, the single most revolutionary thing in Christianity was Paul’s startling instruction “Husbands, love your wives” (71).

The more America rejects traditional marriage and the family, the more like the pagan world America becomes. And the more pagan our nation becomes, the more clearly Christianity should stand out in contrast.

But “the truth is that many self-proclaimed Christians are joining the paganization of the culture, not to mention the criticism of Christianity itself” (23).

To embrace true Christianity today means becoming revolutionary. People will only hear us if we are willing to recognize the “challenges to traditional faith, call them out, and resist them. We will also need to support one another . . . speaking up for our brothers and sisters when they are ridiculed.”

Unity among Christians who embrace orthodoxy in faith and tradition in marriage and family will be crucial to our effectiveness in once more turning the world upside down.

“In this way, the Church of the twenty-first century can overcome the new paganism the way the Church of the pre-Christian world overcame the old paganism . . . by refusing to deny the faith and by being willing to risk our lives (or the comfort of our lifestyles) for something bigger than ourselves” (32).

Refuse to deny. Be willing to risk. Pursue the God bigger than ourselves.

One at a time, we can overturn paganism for Christ once more.

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is available in paperback! Get your copy here!

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Today’s post revised from January 2016

Down a Slippery Slope

When we think of pediatricians, we usually think of kindly people looking to care for infants, young children, tweens, and teens.

We tend not to call to mind the newly elected governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam. In a radio interview, Northam went beyond supporting abortion and beyond even supporting late term abortion. Northam espoused abortion after birth.

Northam’s comments came during a radio interview in which he supported an abortion proposal that would provide no restrictions until birth–clarifying that a woman could be in the throes of labor, preparing to give birth, and could still opt to terminate her child.

And that such a decision could even be made between a mother and her physician after the baby is born.

“If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

He made little mention of fathers being part of the decision.

After a great outcry over his comments, he complained that opponents were taking his comments out of context since such a situation would happen only in “the case of tragic or difficult circumstances . . . [such as] severe deformities.”

Essentially, the governor proposes infanticide–the intentional killing of a born child–because of medical issues the child would face.

Except the bill makes no mention of exceptions–of disabilities that would disqualify a child from life. The bill would allow abortion for any reason at any time.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska is one of those criticizing Northam’s stance. “In just a few years pro-abortion zealots went from ‘safe, legal, and rare’ to ‘keep the newborns comfortable while the doctor debates infanticide.’”

It’s been quite a slide from safe and rare to several states giving an official stamp of approval on late abortions. Yet the slide toward infanticide is not over in Virginia yet. CBSnews reports that a majority Republican committee has tabled the bill.

This time.

The winds of politics blow to and fro. And the next election cycle could produce a committee in lockstep with the governor’s views of life.

Abortion is a big issue right now. As a nation, we are bracing as the SCOTUS decisions that removed all barriers to abortion hang in the balance. Most Americans don’t realize that, in 1973, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton legalized abortion until birth.

In the wake of a more conservative court now–and in view of health problems the court’s oldest justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg suffers presently–some states are taking steps to put restrictions on abortion in place. Others, as New York has done and Virginia is considering, are moving to ensure that no restrictions exist in their states.

Should Roe and Doe die the death of the Dred Scott decision, in places where abortion will remain unrestrained, a culture against life will only continue to grow.

And even some doctors, whom we would expect to care for the welfare of children, will become those who ensure their doom. Doctors like Ralph Northam lead the vanguard of such a culture.

No civilization ever stands still. It moves upward toward a noble culture that values even the weak, or it turns downward into a morass of death.

The state of Virginia gave us Thomas Jefferson who crafted the Declaration of Independence and James Madison who developed the Bill of Rights.

Yet in tomorrow’s Virginia, life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness may belong only to the chosen. Virginia–and every other state who takes this path–will have fallen.

And the fall will be great indeed.

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered came out in paperback on January 22, 2019! Get your copy here!

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The View from Inside the Fence

Abby Johnson worked in the building that sat inside the fence. Outside the fence, pro-life people prayed.

At one point, the people praying logged 40 days of prayer–two people at the site 24/7 for the duration of 40 days.

Abby Johnson had begun her career at Planned Parenthood as a volunteer. She walked with “clients” from their cars to the door of the abortion facility as she talked to them–trying to distract them as those holding vigil outside the fence tried to offer help other than abortion.

Abby then moved up through the ranks of hired employees to the position of clinic director. She became the on-site boss.

The pro-lifers offered her friendship and continued to pray.

After eight years, Abby became one of those on the outside of the fence–one offering prayers for the clients as well as the clinic employees and volunteers. And she tells of her transition in Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the LifeLine.

I read this book–in a matter of a few days–after I’d read Abby’s second book–The Walls Are Talking: Former Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their Stories. I finished that book in just a bit more than 24 hours. I could not put it down.

The Preface of that book begins with this statement from Abby: “This will not be an enjoyable read. It is a necessary one, however, as it narrates the real-life experiences of former abortion clinic workers who agreed to be interviewed, as well as some of my own.”

Reading the books out of order actually provided the context for less detailed stories she provides in Unplanned.

Neither book is for the faint of heart. Yet, I agree with Abby’s preface to the second book: It is necessary.

You might wonder how someone could get caught up in the abortion industry to begin with. And you may also wonder why so many are leaving their jobs.

Swallow hard and pick these books up as soon as you can. Their pages will change you.

Pray for Abby’s ministry–And Then There Were None–which helps abortion workers walk away, get new jobs, and build new lives.

And pray for 40 Days for Life–a ministry Abby once thought was limited to her own clinic but which now touches five continents. Pray for them all prayer warriors and clinic workers. Women and babies.

Prayer makes a difference. Just ask Abby Johnson.


Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered came out in paperback on January 22, 2019! Get your copy here!

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Transparency: Sharing the Real You to Get Help and Give Help

“One after another, a half dozen people in the room named some of the worst things that had happened to them and offered them freely as a gift to the rest of us. In some cases, I had already known the cross a friend was carrying, but there were several weights I learned about for the first time that night. . . My friends moved on from offering conventional strengths and put forward their suffering as their contribution.” Leah Libresco, 56

It’s something we don’t consider often enough. But it makes a big difference as we go through a difficult time and someone else walks with us. It also makes a big difference for someone else who thinks they are struggling alone as we offer to walk with them.

Perhaps it’s happening to you. You face a challenge, but you don’t want anyone to know. You want to keep your secret. Those around you seem so whole and perfect. You don’t want to appear to be the only broken one.

Then perhaps you finally give up your secret. Or even better, when you’re still trying to keep up the appearance of perfection, someone else spits out their secret. You gasp in surprise and relief.

You too?

In sharing your secret or receiving someone else’s, you find a companion who walking that same path.

If we never share our secrets, we can never receive the help we need. And we can never give our help to others.

It seems hard. But it’s not a new idea. It comes from the pen of Paul in a letter of encouragement.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.” II Corinthians 1: 3-5

In our darkest times, we can find encouragement and compassion.

In the darkest time of a friend, we can be the encouragement and compassion God has already given us.

Show your true self. Give up your secret. Receive and give grace and help. Let encouragement overflow.

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered came out in paperback on January 22, 2019! Get your copy here!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Championing the Unborn Even When It’s Hard

“Eleven jack-booted thugs” raided his house to retrieve the evidence. They thought he was a criminal. But the evidence implicated someone else.

Many someone else’s, actually. They are the someones at Planned Parenthood whom he caught negotiating the sale of the body parts of unborn children.

He calls himself a citizen-journalist. He is David Daleiden, and he spoke at the 2019 March for Life Conference in Washington, DC, last week.

“The body parts [of unborn children], he says are valuable to sell because they are just like ours,” he says, proving the humanity of the unborn because they are just like us.

The videos reveal that Planned Parenthood has violated the law by selling the body parts, performing partial-birth abortions in order to obtain them, and ignoring the Born Alive Act requiring that viable unborn children born alive as a result of abortion receive immediate medical attention.

(Reader discretion advised as you proceed.)

Planned Parenthood claims that they only receive reimbursement for processing, and shipping and handling costs. But Daleiden has recovered a copy of an invoice showing a double charge–per body part–for two fetal eyeballs shipped in the same package.

Daleiden refers to Planned Parenthood’s abortion business as “state-funded, industrial scale abortion.”

The word industrial implies a for-profit venture on a mass scale. Medicine (like education and law) was once a profession–an art practiced with the idea that the main advantage would come to the recipient of a service–not to the practitioner. The patient was someone to assist back to better health–not someone to exploit for profit.

Criminal charges against Daleiden have been dropped, but Planned Parenthood’s civil suit against him remains. He would appreciate your prayers.

There is a wonderful irony in the story of David Daleiden. He describes himself as “the product of a crisis pregnancy situation.” He grew up with the idea that sometimes children are conceived in less than ideal circumstances, but that “now is always a good time to welcome a new little person into the world.”

Now is a wonderful time to welcome the new little people that Planned Parenthood is horrifically exploiting for profit.

David Daleiden could have been among them. He is one Planned Parenthood missed.

And our world is better because of that.

—————————————–

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered comes out in paperback on January 22, 2019! Get your copy here!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Restoration of Confession

“[A]nd My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” —2 Chronicles 7:14

[D]irt, soot, and grime can build up on both sides of [stained] glass from pollution, smoke, and oxidation. In churches the traditional burning of incense or candles can eventually deposit carbon layers. These deposits can substantially reduce the transmitted light and make an originally bright window muted and lifeless.[i]—Neal A. Vogel

Six months after I became a mother, my own mother passed away from congestive heart disease. She was only fifty-four, and I was only nineteen. Her illness took her quickly, and there was no time for the kind of healing conversations that might have reduced my regret after she was gone.

After she died, Dad decided to sell the house and move into a small apartment. As we were helping him prepare for his move, my brother and I were cleaning the attic and musing over some of our finds. I still have two—a silver sugar bowl and a veneered dresser that sits in my dining room. But our most fascinating treasure was inside the top drawer of the otherwise empty dresser—a letter Dad had written to his future mother-in-law, Mother Miller, as he called her.

He was writing from California where he was waiting to deploy to the uncertainty of the South Pacific during World War II. He wrote of his sense of “blank thrill”—a combination of “the feeling of the unknown and also adventure.” He discussed how much he enjoyed the navy and how glad he was to be with the men beside him. He expressed his eagerness to return to those he loved after the war. “Back home, I have a wonderful collection of friends; good ones. You and your family come first, Nan of this group being first. She means everything in life for me—and to think about her and the two of us together after the war makes all this worthwhile.”

Dad wrote of three things that gave him a sense of security. First was his assurance in the men he was with: “in our commanders and the reason we are going, also we will be successful in our detail.” The second was his friends at home and “the strength my love for Nan gives me and hers for me.” His third source of strength was his “faith and trust in God.” The first two addressed “my worldly cares, the last, my spiritual … I can leave tomorrow satisfied completely in everything I live for. Not a question in my mind of a thing left undone, or a word unkindly said, not righted, not a care.” The letter was dated August 10, 1942, eight months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Years later I mentioned the letter to him. “I was saying goodbye” was his response, “just in case.”

The part of the letter that has always stuck with me is that he left “no word unkindly said, not righted.” He had done all he could to make everything right with everyone he was leaving behind. He might have been able to convince himself that he didn’t have time to fix things with everyone or that whatever he had done wrong was not a big deal. Instead, “just in case,” he had made things right.

I spent many years dwelling on the sins of my husband before I fully acknowledged my own. I told myself that his sins were of greater magnitude than mine and the cause for justifiable bitterness. My own sins were tiny, long ago, easily explained away as the result of immaturity and, therefore, easily forgiven. Year by year conviction peeled back layers of self-justification and excuses. I marveled that so many years after the poor decisions I made, the consequences of my sin had such weight.

I can look back now and see that God redeemed and restored much that my sin could have destroyed forever.

* * * * *

Up close and personal, the other person’s sins always seem bigger than our own. We don’t see the judgmental beam in our own eye for the speck in theirs. Inevitably, hindsight comes closer to 20/20. As the image of the window becomes clearer, so does the reflection of ourselves in it.

Time gives us the objectivity to see two sides where before we could only see one. We realize that we too are not without sin. We have no stones to throw. We can give forgiveness and ask for it too. The perspective of time gives us the opportunity to repent of sins that might seem long ago and far away. Only Christ, through our true repentance, can wash them away.

Repentance is how we start to restore the image of the Bride, not in a public relations sense, but in a biblical one. And repentance begins with the faithful.

Why the faithful? Isn’t repentance something for the unbelieving population to grasp—those we perceive are messing up the world and dragging our culture into a downward spiral? Yes, it’s something they need to do to become part of the Bride, part of the picture. But the kind of repentance that can turn the world around is for us. It’s for his people already in the church.

I didn’t come to this idea on my own. I’d been praying for our nation to turn back to God, but in my mind that always involved something someone else needed to do. I’ll pray. I’ll watch. I’ll work when I can. I’ll cheer when it happens.

At brunch one day, my longtime friend, Renee, dropped a brick of truth on my head. “He calls his own people to repentance—my people … called by my Name.”

That is me.

That is us.

….

Confession, they say, is good for the soul. When we let others see who we truly are, they can be transparent with us. We can become companions who mentor and disciple each other. Mentoring helps us find a new path in life. Discipling includes bearing one another’s burdens, and confession is part of that. Discipling helps us navigate our new path in faith that grows as it goes.

Christ is the Great Forgiver and the Great Physician who cleans the glass. The repentant church in accord radiates the image of the window in vivid clarity.

* * * * *

 “I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: “but it’s too late now.”

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that’s all.”[i]

—Charles Dickens


[i] Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Stave Two (London: Chapman and Hall, 1846), Project Gutenberg, released August 11, 2004, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/46/46-h/46-h.htm.

Excerpted from Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord–in paperback January 22, 2019.


[i] Neal A. Vogel and Rolf Achilles, “The Preservation and Repair of Historic Stained and Leaded Glass,” National Park Service, Technical Preservation Services, October 2007, https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/33-stained-leaded-glass.htm.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

When We Don’t Understand Why

“Why?

“God, are you here?

“What does this suffering mean?

“At first those questions had enormous weight and urgency. I could hear Him. I could almost make out an answer. But then it was drowned out by what I’ve now heard a thousand times. ‘Everything happens for a reason’ or ‘God is writing a better story.’ . . .

“The world of certainty had ended and so many people seemed to know why” (xv-xvi). Cancer was happening to Kate Bowler, a young wife and new mother, and she did not know why.

In Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, the author provides wisdom, wit, and rawness to guide us through her story of dealing with terminal cancer–all without dragging us down.

Bowler has spent her career as an academic studying the Christian prosperity gospel–the view that all will be well. She and her husband endured the brutal uncertainty of infertility–until their son finally arrived and all, indeed, appeared well.

But then came the horrible diagnosis of terminal cancer. Doctors gave her no hope, but hope was all she yearned for.

“The prosperity gospel is a theodicy, an explanation for the problem of evil. It is an answer to the questions that take our lives apart: Why do some people get healed and others don’t? . . . The prosperity gospel looks at the world as it is and promises a solution. It guarantees that faith will always make a way” (xiii).

The philosophy of the prosperity gospel, she says, was “painfully sweet. . . . And no matter how many times I rolled my eyes at the creed’s outrageous certainties, I craved them just the same” (xiv).

Certainty is something we all crave in life. We seek financial security, good health, and we pray for the provision of health, wealth, and safety for ourselves and those we love.

But we never know what any day may bring. And many times, when the tests come, we don’t understand their purposes.

Bowler’s book is, at times, a rant, not at God, but at the thoughtless among us who don’t know how to avoid saying the most hurtful thing. It is, at times, a grand celebration of life. And it is, at times, a plumbing of the reality many of us will face–a physical decline toward the end.

Yet as she navigates her darkest days, she manages to uplift us. Even to make us laugh. And to help us live in the moment we have–to live in today.

It’s something we strive for–to live in the moment. To deal with the past and leave it behind. To live in the now instead of the not yet.

And we hope it won’t take bad news from a medical team to teach us to dwell in today–something Bowler thought she was doing.

She had spent her life, she believed, “in the center” between the past and the future.

But “I rarely let my feet rest on solid ground, rooting me in the present. My eyes shifted to look for that thing just beyond, the next deadline, the next hurdle, the next plan. . . . As [my husband and I] walked through the tall Carolina oaks on a fall trail dusted with Technicolor leaves, my mind hummed with possible futures. Always. If I were to invent a sin to describe what that was–for how I lived–I would not say it was simply that I didn’t stop to smell the roses. It was the sin of arrogance, of becoming impervious to life itself. I failed to love what was present and decided to love what was possible instead” (154-56).

Bowler’s book is a gentle, well-crafted reminder to love what is present–to be present in today for today is all we can hold.

And today is enough.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Restoring the Shattered in Paperback This Month

What follows is excerpted from Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating the Love of Christ Through the Church in One Accord–releasing in paperback on January 22–ironically the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton legalizing abortion in the United States throughout all nine months of pregnancy.

The debate over abortion had been raging even before I was a high school senior in 1973. In the school cafeteria one day, a fellow student showed me the materials she had gathered for her classroom debate on the topic. I still can visualize the image of tattered unborn children.

By the time the US Supreme Court decriminalized abortion, a handful of states had already liberalized their abortion statutes. But no one expected the total eradication of abortion laws that Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton provided. Roe declared abortion a constitutional right, and Doe paid lip service to the states’ ability to restrict late-term abortions. Essentially, the court legalized abortion in the US for any reason and at any time during pregnancy. America became a darker place on January 22, 1973—the day of Roe and Doe.

But those decisions motivated people from various Christian denominations, other faiths, and even no faith at all to come together to end this horror. I was one of those people.

After our family settled into our new home, I felt restless. I needed a ministry—a cause to devote myself to. I volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center. And in January of 1979, I saw an announcement on television that would enlarge my faith community and expand my pro-life work. The local pro-life group was sponsoring buses traveling to Washington, DC, for the annual March for Life. I arranged for a sitter to watch Angela and Mike in anticipation of a day filled with grown-up conversation.

Calling the number on the announcement to reserve my bus seat kindled a decades-long friendship with the woman who answered the phone. Anne was a wife, a mother, and a registered nurse. She had been an advocate for life even before Roe and Doe, and she became my friend and mentor. We walked together that January with many others. Over the years, we protested together, lobbied together, laughed together, and came to love each other like family. Every Halloween when my children were young, we visited her home for trick-or-treat.

And there were other friends who impressed me with their commitment to life.

In the mid 1980s, I met John after he had spent a week in a Pittsburgh jail for blocking the entrance to an abortion clinic. At that time, rescue efforts across the country disrupted the abortion business in an effort to discourage women from aborting their babies. John was a young married man. I recall that he and his wife had a few children at that time. Eventually they would welcome ten babies to their family.

Knowing about his rescue and jail experiences, I asked him to speak to the junior high group at my church’s Wednesday evening youth program. When he looked into the room and saw about thirty kids, he nearly had a panic attack. After some deep breaths, he rallied, entered the classroom, and inspired us all. Pittsburgh was notorious for its treatment of pro-life rescuers. I thought it funny that thirty junior high kids terrified John, but he was completely okay with being civilly disobedient in a city known for mistreating protesters. In his talk, John didn’t dwell on the unpleasantness of his jail experience. Instead, he told us about a vision he had. Driving down the road one day, he envisioned Christ holding a dead unborn baby and weeping over the child. That experience propelled him into the cause for life.

Within the pro-life effort, I found a second faith community. It did not replace my church, but it did give me a new opportunity to live out my faith and convictions and watch others do the same.

The most significant example of unity between Catholics, Orthodox, and evangelicals in America is the response to the Roe and Doe decisions [regarding abortion]. Conservative Christianity—Catholicism instantly and evangelicals and Orthodox Christians a bit later—reached out to unwed mothers and the unborn, establishing crisis pregnancy centers and offering abortion alternatives. These ministries often involve people from different Christian traditions and are separate from established churches.

Pro-life ministries work to save mother and child from devastation and destruction. The effort employs a three-pronged approach—educating the public about life issues (not just concerning abortion but also about infanticide and euthanasia and, on the positive side, adoption), helping parents deal with unexpected pregnancies and children already born, and promoting legislation that upholds the right to life from conception through natural death.

Efforts in the political realm have been only marginally successful in protecting human life. But those efforts have kept the issue in front of the public. In spite of more than a generation of legalized abortion, the issue refuses to go away.

And abortion rates are now lower than they have been since Roe. While one study’s authors credit new, long-term contraceptives for the drop, they acknowledge that they did not investigate causes of the lower numbers.[i] Two Gallup polls from 2009 and 2012 show that support for abortion had slipped to its lowest point since Gallup began asking the question—pro-choice or pro-life?—in 1995.[ii] In 2015, the number of pro-abortion Americans climbed slightly, but abortion rates have continued to fall since they peaked in 1990.[iii]

Those who support abortion often accuse pro-lifers of caring only for the unborn, of having no regard for the mother or other family members affected by a crisis pregnancy. The accusation is a hasty conclusion that ignores the deep commitment of pro-life people to meet women’s needs as well as those of their children, born and unborn, since the mid 1970s. Those who minister through crisis pregnancy centers know their clients’ needs are not limited to housing, maternity clothing, and baby supplies. Surviving children (siblings and those who survive the abortion process) and post-abortive parents are walking wounded—struggling with physical, emotional, and spiritual scars. In response, many pro-life organizations have expanded services, offering post-abortion counseling, mentoring, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. These ministries reach out to post-abortive fathers who either had no say in a woman’s decision to abort or regret their role in urging her to it. Moms and dads also often need to learn how to parent and manage a household. Crisis pregnancy centers have grown to meet the many needs of babies and their family members.

And ministries to single parents are not limited to crisis pregnancy centers. In order to meet the needs of low-income parents, many churches now host daycare centers. Unaffiliated with a particular church, Mom’s House began in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1983. This ministry cares for children while their parents attend school or career training. Volunteers mentor single parents, teaching them practical parenting and household management skills. Now these parents can complete their education, find employment, and leave welfare. Mom’s House now has seven centers in four states.[iv] Such ministries, which can be found throughout the US, care for women and already born children.

Success stories of changed lives are plentiful. Pro-life Christians encourage our culture to recognize and uphold the sanctity of human life and the primacy of the family. In the meantime, we maintain our personal Christian doctrines and traditions. In no other area of public discourse have Christians worked together as effectively as they have in the pro-life cause—and sometimes with unforeseen results.

* * * * *

Dr. Bernard Nathanson was a central figure in the effort to decriminalize abortion in the US in the late sixties and early seventies. His transition to the pro-life perspective is particularly profound since he was an atheist. I heard him speak in 1980; his intellect and rhetorical skills vastly impressed me. I was unaware—as perhaps he was then—of the transformation sprouting in his heart. He later described his conversion to Christianity as “an unimaginable sequence [that] has moved in reverse, like water moving uphill.”[v] I used to joke that I was our local pro-life chapter’s token Baptist—a lone Protestant within a community of Catholic life advocates. Dr. Nathanson was the movement’s token atheist. His knowledge and experience regarding obstetrical medicine and abortion procedures were, of course, unparalleled within our ranks, and his atheism demonstrated that our cause was not simply one of religious fervor but one of human rights.

Nathanson became pro-life when a career change removed him from the abortion clinic and landed him in an obstetrical office at the dawn of prenatal ultrasound technology. Seeing the reality of preborn children altered his thinking about their humanity. The basis for his new convictions was science, not a foundational belief in the sacredness of human life made in God’s image. His arrival at that conclusion was yet to come.

What was the turning point for him spiritually? Was it Christian pro-lifers’ devotion to doctrine? Was it our intellectual grasp of the issue of human life? It was neither. It was the self-sacrifice and devotion to God he saw in the pro-life rescue movement—the same fervor that landed my friend, John, in a Pittsburgh jail. Nathanson was the rueful champion of “safe and legal” abortions. As a novice but secular pro-life observer, he witnessed the Christlike attitude of those in the rescue arm of the pro-life cause. He wrote:

“I had been aware in the early and mid-eighties that a great many of the Catholics and Protestants in the ranks [of the pro-life effort] had prayed for me, were praying for me, and I was not unmoved as time wore on. But it was not until I saw the spirit put to the test on those bitterly cold demonstration mornings, with pro-choicers hurling the most fulsome epithets at them, the police surrounding them, the media openly unsympathetic to their cause, the federal judiciary fining and jailing them—all through it they sat smiling, quietly praying, confident and righteous of their cause and ineradicably persuaded of their ultimate triumph—that I began seriously to question what indescribable Force generated them to this activity. Why, too, was I there? What had led me to this time and place? Was it the same Force that allowed them to sit serene and unafraid at the epicenter of legal, physical, ethical, and moral chaos?”[vi]

This tipping point pushed Nathanson into a full-fledged investigation of Christianity that resulted in him turning his “life over to Christ.”[vii]


[i] Sandhya Somashekhar, “Study: Abortion at Lowest Point Since 1973,” The Washington Post, February 2, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/study-abortion-rate-at-lowest-point-since-1973/2014/02/02/8dea007c-8a9b-11e3-833c-33098f9e5267_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.44d8f5314a65.

[ii] Lydia Saad, “‘Pro-Choice’ Americans at Record-Low 41%,” Gallup, May 23, 2012, http://news.gallup.com/poll/154838/pro-choice-americans-record-low.aspx.

[iii] Lydia Saad, “Americans Choose ‘Pro-Choice’ for First Time in Seven Years,” Gallup, May 29, 2015, http://news.gallup.com/poll/183434/americans-choose-pro-choice-first-time-seven-years.aspx; National Right to Life Committee, “New Guttmacher Study Shows Abortion Numbers Hit Historic Low,” January 17, 2017, https://www.nrlc.org/communications/releases/2017/release011717.

[iv] Mom’s House, accessed July 3, 2014, http://www.momshouse.org.

[v] Bernard Nathanson, The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2013; first published, 1996), 193.

[vi] Ibid., 199.

[vii] Rev. C. John McCloskey III, “Foreword,” ibid., xiv.

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Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have a material connection to Morgan James Publishing, the publishers of Restoring the Shattered. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Resolving More Specifically to Do More

Last year, I resolved to read more. It was a generic resolution. And one without the means to measure.

This year, I resolve to do better in a more specific way. The accumulation of a pile of books–some I began and set aside and one I’m plowing through–is the foundation of my measure.

I began one book a few days before New Years Day–Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler. Bowler, a Duke Divinity professor specializing in the prosperity Gospel, writes of her struggles as a thirty-something new mother struggling against terminal cancer. She writes in the present tense, and her writing is raw and real. More on this very worthy read ahead.

Another book I’d already begun is The Way of Abundance by Ann Voskamp–a 60-day devotional I set aside briefly to focus on Christmas preparation and Advent-type readings. So far, Voskamp maintains, as usual, a compelling voice of walking in the way of Christ even during difficulty.

The next book I plan to tackle is Dawn–the second book in Elie Wiesel’s Night trilogy. I read Night once, voluntarily, out of curiosity. I read it again, involuntarily to a degree, after accidentally enrolling in a graduate class in Holocaust Literature.

I thought I had signed up for the other lit class at the same time. After all, who would want to study Holocaust Literature for a whole semester? Once I realized my mistake, I decided it was probably too late to try to switch classes. It was my last semester of grad school. I’d just gut it out.

Perhaps my mistake was an accident, or perhaps it was the guidance of God because that class was fabulous. The teacher was the daughter of an Auschwitz survivor and the head of the university’s English department. Best. Class. I. Had. In. Grad. School.

I’ve been curious about Dawn–Wiesel’s first work of fiction–but never took the time–never put it in my pile and never made myself publicly accountable–until now.

Two historical bios inhabit the pile–A Pope and a President by Paul Kengor is about Pope Saint John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan–and Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas.

And there are two books by Greg Groeschel–Altar Ego and #Struggles. I found Groeschel viewing last summer’s Global Leadership Summit.

Jordan Peterson, George Weigel, and Russell Moore round out the enrichment side of the pile. Markus Zusak, the entertainment side, and Karen Wickre’s Taking the Work out of Networking, a professional enrichment pursuit.

So that’s the pile–my resolution to read with a specific measure. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. And please let me know what you’re reading!

Happy New Year!

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Best of 2018: Real Help for Addicted Vets

Imagine an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. People sit in a group. My name is _________. I’ve been sober for three years. . . . I’ve been sober for six months. . . . I’ve been sober for ten years.

Then one stands and says, “I’ve been coming to these meetings and I’d been sober for two years, but this week I fell. I got drunk two days ago.”

Further, imagine that the other members tell this person he has to leave. He can no longer receive the help and encouragement of the group because he failed–once.

And because of this failure, he becomes homeless.

Continue reading “Best of 2018: Real Help for Addicted Vets”

The Four Gifts of the King: A Review

“Instruct these young warriors in the battle that lies ahead of them. Teach them how to fight using the truth as their weapon. Show them how to see the real kingdom, how to recognize the great distortion, and where to launch their campaign against the evil that has befallen this land. Teach them, Steward.” From The Four Gifts of the King~

Imagine having a message for your grown children who’ve gone astray. But you need some way to help them be willing to hear it. 

That’s the premise of a story within a story in the fabulous novel by R. Scott Rodin–The Four Gifts of the King.  

It’s part allegory, part fantasy, and part contemporary novel. A novel piece of work, if you will. 

Sam Roberts receives a windfall that he never saw coming. And when he finds out that his time is short, he ponders how to pass along the gift to his four grown children who have strayed from the path of Christian faith.

After Sam’s death, his lawyer explains to Sam’s four children the terms of his will. Sam has written a book and the children must read it before they can claim their inheritance. Sam’s two daughters and two sons take turns reading the story aloud to each other.

Rodin deftly weaves the two stories together and is not preachy in the application of Sam’s story to the lives of his children.

In Sam’s story, an army of evil Phaedra plan a final battle against the army of the good king. And Steward, the hero on a quest to this strange land, must convince the deluded people of the kingdom to follow their true king.

Themes of meaning, love, faith, compassion, obedience, service, and forgiveness abound in this tightly woven story of good versus evil–the foundation of all mythology.

Rodin’s fantasy world is captivating. His hero’s quest is believable. In his places–Aiden Glen, Seudomartis, Pitcairn Moor, Marikonia, Petitzaros, and Ascendia, Rodin builds a world where the Phaedra deceive people into building false ramps to nowhere and looking into reflectors that reveal only lies about those seeking their true selves.

Serving, giving, healing, seeking, and finding, and most importantly, trusting the King–that’s what this book is about. The read is a ride worth taking.

And along the way, you too may come to know the King’s deep peace.

The Four Gifts of the King is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Four-Gifts-King-Scott-Rodin/dp/1683509323.

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Darkening America, Illuminating Light

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” Charles Dickens

When I was a radio news reporter, I wanted to do a special Christmas feature for the morning drive program.

I wrote a poem to record to music but wanted another voice along with my own on the piece. So I went to my kids’ elementary school and interviewed six first graders. I asked them, “What is Christmas?”

Three of them talked about Jesus. But the other three made no mention of Him. To them, Christmas was all about Santa and presents. Nothing more.

My sample was small and young. Hardly a statistical representation of first graders, let alone Americans in general.

But my results actually came close to how Americans view Christmas today. Pew has issued a study showing that only 55 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. That’s down from 59 percent as recently as 2013.

Many of us bemoan such news. It’s the War on Christmas!

But our complaining about the de-sacralization of the holiday hasn’t changed the minds of those enjoying a holiday they deem secular. All our griping has not turned a tide toward keeping the day holy.

The Pew study investigates not only what bothers us–or doesn’t– about the growing secularization of Christmas. It also investigates belief (or disbelief) in the assertions of the Christmas story: Jesus’ virgin birth, the shepherds, and angels.

Belief in those details, of course, reflects faith in who Christ is. To deny the details of the Christmas story is to deny the deity of Christ. Those details hold great meaning.
He is sinless because He had no human father. God as His Father means He is perfect God as well.

When Christ was born, God the Father sent angels to the socially lowest of people–the disregarded, the outcasts–the shepherds.

The presence of shepherds within walking distance of Bethlehem indicates that Christ was not born in December. Shepherds typically did not keep their flocks near villages because of the odor they caused. They would be nowhere near Bethlehem except during a 30 period before Passover–a period of preparation for the yearly sacrifice.

The shepherds outside Bethlehem were Levitical shepherds. Ironically, they were ritualistically unclean. They walked through feces. They touched dead things.
The angel told them to find a baby lying in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothsTo shepherds raising sheep for Levitical sacrifice, swaddling cloths would be vastly significant. For a lamb to qualify for sacrifice it had to be perfect, without blemish.

The shepherds swaddled lambs intended for sacrifice–they wrapped them in cloths to protect them. The angel saying that they would find the infant wrapped in swaddling cloths indicated that the baby would be a sacrifice. That baby was the Messiah they had long awaited.

Many would have expected a Jewish king to be born in Jerusalem–the city of the king–not Bethlehem. But Bethlehem was the City of David–a keeper of sheep.

God’s choice of a birthplace for his son wasn’t just a fulfillment of prophecy–which it was. It was also a symbol that Christ the King would be the fulfillment of sacrifice on our behalf.

Christ was the sinless Son of God, the perfect Lamb to be sacrificed for the shepherd’s sins–for our sins.

Most of the world isn’t interested in investigating the Christmas story. The trinkets, toys, and glitzy lights of Christmas are enough for them.

They try to fill the empty spaces of life with the clutter and noise of a secular Christmas. When we complain about society’s treatment of Christmas, we merely add to the noise. We can’t fill the empty places of their hearts. Only Christ can do that.

So aside from complaining, what else can we do? We can keep the true Christmas in our hearts. We can heed the angels’ message of “Fear not.”

“Don’t take this sobering news [of the study] as a reason to rend your garments and wail. Use it as reason to make your family’s celebration of Advent and Christmas more religious.” Rod Dreher.

As we do, we recognize that, on that first Christmas, God invited the unclean to see His Son. Those who reject Him today are yet among the invited.

People seek purpose and meaning today. But they cannot find it without Christ. One of those children I interviewed understood what so many fail to see today.

“What is Christmas?”

“It’s Jesuseseses’ birthday.”

He brings peace on earth–within our hearts. He is the perfect sacrifice for us.

When we celebrate Him, our silence can overwhelm the noise and darkness.
Embrace His peace. Celebrate Him. Shine the true light.

Revised from 2017

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The Unexpected Expected Baby King

“Our God who breathes stars in the dark–He breathes Bethlehem’s Star, then takes on lungs and breathes in stable air. We are saved from hopelessness because God came with infant fists and opened wide His hand to take the iron-sharp edge of our sins.” Ann Voskamp (138).

First there was the oppression of Egypt, then the captivity of Babylon, then the occupation of Rome.

For quite some time, Israel had been imagining a conquering Messiah. Perhaps on that silent night before the angels’ announcement, the shepherds were dreaming of the day when they would be free from Roman rule.

The magi–-scholars debate where they came from-–were religious. They came to worship. But they may have also had a political motive. They came seeking the new King. They brought gifts befitting a king who may someday want to conquer.
They did find the One to worship. They gave their gifts. Returned home. And we never heard from them again.

I wonder. Did they expect to meet a humble king in a humble home?
How could they know what to expect of His Kingdom?

The song asks “Mary, Did You Know?” Were there moments when she wondered when she would wake up from this strange dream? But it wasn’t a dream.

He would turn water into wine at her request.  He would, as the song says, walk on water, give sight to the blind, still a storm, and raise the dead.

How could she know what to expect from His life?

Reverberating in the back of her mind through His growing up years rang the prophecy of Simeon the priest: “[A]nd a sword will pierce even your own soul.”

Simeon had a glimpse at least of what was ahead. But perhaps even he did not understand that Christ’s incarnation was not to be political.

From Voskamp: “The Light never comes how you expect it. It comes as the unlikely and unexpected” (139).

Ace Collins writes, “Christ was the king who came not to take, but to give” (101). In the ancient world, that concept may have been the most unexpected of all. A King who would utterly give Himself rather than extracting tribute. A King who would suffer on behalf of His servants. He takes us beyond expectation.

We bring our expectations to our daily lives. We bring them to our churches every week. Reaching beyond expectation to ministry with other Christ followers opens doors of fellowship. Reaching beyond the expectation of the manger takes us to the love of the cross.

Wrong expectations limit ministry. The love of the cross has no such bounds.

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The Light of Christmas

“[T]he light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” John 1:5.

“When we do this, I know Christmas has begun,” my granddaughter says after packing boxes for soldiers.

She and her cousin are my helpers in this yearly task. Gifts and donations loaded into cardboard. Home-made sweets for troops, many serving we know not where.  A box to light, and lighten, Christmas in dark places.

One year, the night before box packing, the cousin and I set up my nativity–porcelain figurines with a light glowing behind a suspended angel.

This past Sunday at church, someone lit the first two purple candles and the pink candle of Advent. I light them at home.

The candleflicker of Christmas. Little lights for darkening days.

Through Advent, every day gets darker until we arrive at the cusp of Christmas. Winter Solstice is December 21st–the longest night of the year. By Christmas Day, light is increasing each day.

But Christ’s birth is most likely to have happened in autumn. Shepherds are not in the fields in December. Even tyrants don’t mandate a census in December. So Christmas is a tradition–not an actual birthday.

Christmas comes during the time of year pagans marked the winter solstice, the darkest day–but the end of encroaching darkness. A feast to celebrate light that overcomes darkness.

Christmas comes near Hanukkah–the Jewish festival of lights. To commemorate victory over an effort to eradicate Jewish civilization. To memorialize one day’s worth of sanctified oil fueling a light that hung on for eight days. Eight days to celebrate light that overcomes darkness.

Christmas proclaims the coming of a King who is the light who overcomes darkness.

“Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,’” John 8:12.

There is a Christmas light to light the world–Christ Himself.

“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth,” John 1:14. 

Christmas is coming. Let His light shine.


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Merry Christmas from Jude

What follows is an excerpt from a book–as yet unpublished–I’ve written with the assistance of some of my grandchildren. The main character and narrator is nine-year-old Jude who hates to sit still. But he loves his grandpa. The two built a treehouse the summer before–and they look forward to climbing the nearby mountain together next summer. But in between, comes Christmas.

That month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is longer than any other month in the year. All us kids kept our teacher Mr. Norman busy trying to distract us from looking out the window and dreaming of Christmas presents.

At last, Dad, Mom, and I made our way to Grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve. While the older folks talked over some hot cider, I sneaked off to search for presents. I peeked under the beds, in the closets, up in the attic, down in the basement, and behind the sofa. No luck.

We brought the tree in—a real one from Grandpa’s hillside. Grandpa guided the tree into the stand as Dad and I held the trunk.

“More to the left,” Grandpa said. “Now, just a bit to the right.” We made the adjustments until the tree stood straight. Then all of us started decorating.

The year before, Grandpa had packed the lights with care to keep them from tangling. So that part was easy.

I picked a wad of tissue paper out of a cardboard box and unwrapped an ornament. It was one I made in Sunday school when I was little. I painted a mom, dad, grandpa, and myself on a cardboard circle. I was about to put it back in the box, embarrassed at my artwork, when Mom said, “I love that one, Jude. Put it right here.” And she pointed to the center of the tree.

When we were done, we helped Mom make stuffing. Dad and Grandpa cut the celery and onions, and I watched the butter in the frying pan to make sure it didn’t burn.

Mom had brought tons of cookies she’d baked. My frustration at not finding any presents melted away as the smells of fir and stuffing filled the house. For supper, we ate toasted cheese sandwiches. The feast would come tomorrow. After a cinnamon cookie for dessert, I climbed the stepladder next to the tree so I could put the star on top.

Mom said, “It’s the best tree ever.” She says that every year, and every year she means it.

Then we headed down the road in Grandpa’s old Buick toward the big stone church. We got there just as the congregation started singing “O Holy Night.”

Being still in church on Christmas Eve is tough. Candles and music help. After the service, a man Grandpa called Mr. Bob stood at the back of the church handing out candy canes to the kids.

Each cane came with a note explaining its meaning and the beginning of the cane tradition. Hold it one way, it makes a J for Jesus. Hold it the other way, it’s like a staff to remind us of the shepherds.

The best part is how the canes came to be. A long time ago, a children’s choir leader had them made to keep his young singers from moving around and making noise during a long church service. I wished Mr. Bob had passed them out at the beginning of the service instead of the end. 

Back home, we celebrated with hot cider and cinnamon chip cookies.

Then Dad said, “Time for bed, Buddy.”

I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t . . .

I woke to light glaring through the window.

“Merry Christmas!” I yelled. Everybody! Let’s go!”

I say that every year, and every year I wait while Mom, Dad, and Grandpa go downstairs, put the turkey in the oven, light the tree, and turn on the radio for Christmas songs. Mom says mood sets memories in stone. She says that every year too.

When they finally came back upstairs, Grandpa read about the shepherds and angels. I read the part about the kings who came to see Baby Jesus.

When I was younger, this waiting tortured me. Now, Christmas wouldn’t feel right without the stories, lights, and music.

After I finished reading, Grandpa talked a bit as he did every year, but not for too long.

“Jesus was a surprise to the world. He astonished the shepherds. The world didn’t know what to do with Him. He bewilders folks today. He’s a present we didn’t expect. A present that can surprise us any time in life.”

 He quoted Isaiah: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us.”

Beside the tree was a blue Huffy bike for me. We covered the floor with wrapping paper.

Grandpa gave everyone the usual—books. I got The Genesis Trilogy and Whalesong.

 “These books look great, Grandpa. Thanks!”

Mom, Dad, and I hung around a few days that year. That was different. We usually headed home a couple days after Christmas. Not that year.

Two days after Christmas, we were still there. The weather warmed turning our spaceman snow alien into a pitchers’ mound.

That evening, Grandpa and I headed for the treehouse with s’mores cookies.

“Y’know, Jude, every year, you look for your presents, but you never find them.”

“I can’t figure that out, Grandpa. They hafta be somewhere.”

“There’s a reason gifts are supposed to be a surprise. They’re like life. Ya have t’let life unfold. Ya can’t push ahead of it. Ya can’t rush it. Spoiled surprises ruin things we need to wait for.”

“I know, Grandpa. Every year, I just wanna know. I can’t figure out where you guys put everything.”

“When you get old enough—and when you stop lookin’—maybe we’ll let you in on th’ secret.”

Christmas is always slow to arrive, but over too soon. When we were getting ready to leave, Grandpa seemed sadder than usual to see us go. But then an idea lit up his eyes.

“Next summer, Jude, we climb the mountain!”

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The Parasite of Peace

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased,” Luke 2:14.

There’s a battle between peace and war. It seems unnecessary to say so. But this season is when peace is to prevail and war is to fade away–at least for a time.

That worked once, at least, but only briefly. In 1914, French, English, and German soldiers called a Christmas truce and even sang in unison. It was a “Silent Night” with harmony in multiple languages.

I remember my mother telling me the story.  For a night, Christmas night, there was peace. “And then the next day, they were out there killing each other again,” she said.

She was born after that war had ended. It was a war intending to end them all. But it only set up the next one. The next one killed even more. Many more.

We look at war and shake our heads. But so the world has been since Cain killed Abel. There will always be those who seek to upend peace to secure their own power, to have their own way.

Into such a world came a baby Christians call the Prince of Peace.

It’s hard for us to reconcile this Prince of Peace with something He would later say: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” Matthew 10:34.

Those at war with Him will be at war with us. But He is at once the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God–a sword-wielding Lion and a sacrificial Lamb who gives peace and life.

We mark His birth when angels sang, when shepherds and visiting kings worshiped. But a fearful king, trying to stomp out prospective competition, killed young innocents.

Fear waged war with a baby king. So it was in the season we celebrate now.

Mistletoe is a symbol of this season. Its association with peace comes from its pre-Christian roots. Scandinavian soldiers who found themselves battling under its branches dropped their arms and made peace–at least temporarily.

Mistletoe was a haven of safety. A sacred place of peace.

But it is a parasitic plant. Mistletoe bores through the bark of a host tree and grows up and down through branches. Once it has established its root system in a host, it’s almost impossible to kill. Any tree mistletoe claims will die prematurely, but slowly. Yet the dead tree will spring forth with life.

A mistletoe-infested forest may produce three times more cavity-nesting birds than a forest lacking mistletoe.”

Like a king who brings both a sword and peace, mistletoe is its own paradox. It’s poisonous but also medicinal. It can bring sickness or wellness–death or life–depending on what we do with it.

War is the norm for humanity. It’s the tree that grows in every forest throughout the world. Peace is the enduring element that seeks to infest it, to overcome it. Our yearning for peace never ends.

The Lion of Judah is the Lamb who comes with peace. This Lion-Lamb will overcome death and war. And there will be peace within and among those who please Him.

We will have death or life–depending on what we do with Him.


Photo Credit: Pixabay

Revised from 12/19/16

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Review of Restoring the Shattered

I’m thankful to fellow blogger Boma Somiari for this review of Restoring the Shattered.

by Boma

(Restoring the shattered: illustrating Christ’s love through the church in one accord by Nancy E. Head)

Brokenness can happen before you even realize it. Nancy learned this many years ago as a young woman doing her best to see her family thrive.

All was fine and going well (on the surface, at least) until suddenly, it wasn’t.

Without much notice, she was thrown into separation, divorce, single motherhood and poverty.

Her family would never remain the same. They were broken, but what kind of broken?

As Nancy tells it –

There are two ways to break glass. One is to simply shatter it. The other is to score it, guide the break, and shape the glass for beauty and function – Restoring the shattered. Pg. 21 

When her family experienced brokenness, the Church was there to help them through that time. Now Nancy tells the story of today’s Church through the lens of this personal experience.

Written in a way that’s easy to follow, the book explores subjects like brokenness, suffering, joy, grace and the Church’s response to the present state of this world.

The Church truly does have a place in all of this because –

God’s hands reshape shattered hearts and rebuild broken lives for placement in His story. Being broken can hurt. But God can use our brokenness to glorify Himself – Restoring the shattered. Pg. 21 

And –

Joy is to have His grace wash over me and splash onto you. To have His grace soak us both through. And stain us forever with His love  – Restoring the shattered. Pg. 41 

If you want to lend a hand and do your part in making someone else’s experience of life somewhat easier, this book is full of simple, yet practical ideas to help you do that.

If you want to learn a bit more about the history of the Church; the similarities and differences that exist within, Nancy sheds light in a way that’s easy to follow.

Plus, did you know toothpaste is the way to go if you need to get crayon markings off your mother-in-law’s wallpaper quickly? True story!


Nancy E. Head attends the non-denominational First Church of Christ. Nancy is a lifelong resident of Blair County in central Pennsylvania, dwelling for most of her years in Altoona―with a brief interval in Logan Township. She is a graduate of Penn State and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She teaches Advanced Placement English at Great Commission Schools and composition classes at Penn State Altoona. Nancy is a United States Armed Forces Mother and a member of the Blair County Republican Committee and Toastmasters. Nancy worked in both radio and print journalism before becoming a high school and college-level teacher. She blogs about Church and social issues twice weekly, and CBN.com has published several of her devotionals. Her experiences as a single mother raising five young children showed her how poverty alleviation is an issue for the church and an issue requiring a Church in accord.

Restoring the shattered is available for purchase on Amazon. 

*****

Disclosure

I [Boma] received this book free from the author for this review.

Emerging from the Cave

Humans, history says, emerged from a cave. We drew pictures of animals on the walls around us.

A great thinker, Plato, told a story about a man in a cave. This man is bound. Unable to see anything except the shadows cast upon the wall in front of him. He perceives these shadows to be the sum total of reality.

As Plato’s story goes, the man one day escapes his bonds, leaves his cave, and goes out in broad daylight for the first time in his memory. The bright sunlight blinds him. He needs a guide to discern this place, this reality.

The man’s eyes adjust to the sunlight. He finds his way. And he decides to reenter the cave and tell the others still in bondage there what he has discovered. They are only looking at shadows.

They are missing all that is real.

But they are content. They call him a lunatic. They know what is real. It is right in front of them. Plain as day. They stew in the darkness of the cave.

Emerging from the cave makes a difference. We move from darkness into light. Into a blinding light to which the eyes of our souls must adjust.

British writer G.K. Chesterton pointed out that one man who was born in a cave grew up to an unjust death. Then He emerged from his cave tomb. At no point did his eyes need to acclimate to the light. He had created it. He spoke it real and it became reality. The man’s birth in a cave, and His emergence from another, marks a division in the history of humanity. In this “second half of history”:

“There is even a shadow of such a fancy in the fact that animals were again present; for it was a cave used as a stable. . . . It was here that a homeless couple had crept underground with the cattle when the doors . . . had been shut in their faces; and it was here beneath the very feet of the passers-by, in a cellar under the very floor of the world, that Jesus Christ was born. . . . God also was a Cave-Man, and had also traced strange shapes of creatures, curiously coloured, upon the wall of the world; but the pictures that he made had come to life.”

We are all creatures of a cave–a cave in which we hide from truth or an empty cave from which we have emerged. Every person we encounter is someone who has discovered reality, or is still in a cave, or has come out but cannot yet fully discern through blinding light.

Chesterton again: “Man is the microcosm; man is the measure of all things; man is the image of God. These are the only real lessons to be learnt in the cave, and it is time to leave it for the open road.”


Photo Credit: Pixabay

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Reposted from December 15, 2016

Cookies as Threads of Memory

I’ve been making them for five decades. I began when I was ten. And I’ve probably eaten more than my own weight in raw dough. Ever since my mother first let me loose in the kitchen.

It’s what she did when I was young. It’s what I did as a tween, then teen. What I did when my children were young. What I still do now.

My repertoire has expanded and contracted over the years to include peanut butter blossoms (chocolate kiss cookies), anise pizzelles, nut puffs (a harkening back to my children’s Italian heritage), buckeyes, haystacks, cocoa cookies with peanut butter chips, and just added a few years ago, a gingerbread cookie with peanut butter and butterscotch chips (a personal invention).

Primarily, though, there is the chocolate chip cookie. It is the one where I began. It is my mainstay recipe.

In the hard days of single-motherhood, I clung to tradition. I refused to settle for less than real vanilla extract.

I tweaked the recipe over the years. Switching from half margarine and half butter to all butter. From half granulated, half brown sugar to all dark brown sugar. The recipe is now my own.

As baseball was for Terence Mann in Field of Dreams, so the cookie has been a constant throughout my life. Cookie baking is thread in the quilt of my years. It connects seasons of anticipation, yearning, trial, fulfillment, and joy.

When I was a novice baker, my older brother was in the navy, out to sea in the Mediterranean. I sent him some cinnamon coated cut-out cookies. He told me that, if I ever shipped that recipe again, be sure to include a spoon.

Another year, I baked and baked and baked. And my other brother and his crowd of friends ate and ate and ate. My mother frowned at noon on Christmas Day as someone ate the last cookie.

Then I was a young wife experimenting with cookie recipes. Some fell off the list; others remained.

The year I had a new baby, my third. I learned that baking early and storing everything in the same container just makes all the cookies taste the same–none of which was good.

As a single mother, there was a year I hardly baked at all because money was so tight and time too pinched. A family unfriendly job provided little money and ate my time.

Then there have been years when Christmas cookies were on our table and in the mail to a son overseas. None were of the cinnamon crumbly type.

My mind can still return to the kitchen of my youth. Mother’s old cabinets that went from floor to ceiling. An old porcelain sink with its own drain board in the pantry. My Easy Bake Oven–miniature pies and cakes. The cinnamon cookies in a box of hope to please the recipient.

Mental snapshots of subsequent toddlers milling around my own tiny kitchen waiting to taste. Years flashing by in technicolor. Handfuls of hope and pleased chocolate-smeared faces.

What were once Tupperware containers in the freezer are now individual cookie trays for each household. A taste of memory from Mom to grace their tables, evoke their memories, and form new ones.

Trays of hope to please the recipients.

Sweet memories and happy baking as you anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth!

Edited from December 22, 2016

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

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Returning the Favor

When I moved into my home in 1977, I salvaged an old table my father was discarding. Our family grew from four to seven around that table.

Then we shrank. When their father departed, we were six.

The years began to show on the table. One of its legs began to wobble. Without warning, it would collapse to the floor leaving all the work for the other three legs. We would laugh. But after a while, one of us found the falling leg not so funny.

When my youngest son was eight years old, he found a hammer and some very long nails and played carpenter. He reattached the errant piece, permanently joining it to the table. The repair was effective, but not pretty.

A few years later, I got a “new” dining room table—also recycled. This table was better. It expanded. And our family was expanding. I had remarried. Some of the children had grown and married and had children of their own.

So the table could be small for everyday dinners, and it could be large for family celebrations. Plus, it was reliable–for a time. Then one of its legs turned mutinous too.

This time, my husband Paul played carpenter, and unless you peeked underneath, you didn’t know the difference.

But our family continued to expand. Eventually, even our stretched out table was too small. Our range of motion became cramped. From fork to plate, to mouth and back. We yearned for extra room for side dishes and elbows.

So we bought a new table. An Amish carpenter constructed it.

This table is even more expandable than the last one. And it’s rectangular rather than oval. Now we have room for baked corn, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, and a host of elbows.

The table was ready just in time for Thanksgiving.

But in order to use your furniture, you first must get it into the house.

Paul heaved and I pushed. But even in its smallest state, the table was too wide for our front door. It would have to come in through the back door. To accomplish that, we would have to hoist the table over the back rail deck. And that seemed impossible unless we could get someone else to help.
The best candidate seemed to be the young man who had just moved in next door. He was strong and he was home.

As only Providence would have it, he is a mover by trade. God had placed the perfect workman right next to us.

Moreover, there are many workmen with you, stonecutters and masons of stone and carpenters, and all men who are skillful in every kind of work. 1 Chronicles 22:15

All we had to do was ask.

The old table went out the back door and the new table came in.
We had planned to put the old table on the sidewalk with a “Free” sign on it. But Paul found out that this very neighbor and his wife had no table. Now they do. We would never have known their need if we had not asked for his help.

So I’m thankful for my new table. I’m thankful for the craftsman who made a table with legs unlikely to wobble in my lifetime. I’m thankful for the help of a neighbor and that we could help him in return.

I’m thankful for all the elbows to occupy our table this holiday. This year, two high chairs sit beside the table. In coming years, perhaps more will join us.

Most of all, I’m thankful for the Master Carpenter who places us in each other’s lives and gives us opportunities to help each other.

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
 For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 136: 26


Revised repost from 2016, published 11/20/17 on CBN.com

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Holiday Anticipation

“The way my family anticipates Christmas feels different from the way we look forward to almost anything else. For other things, we’re excited about learning, seeing, or exploring something new. But Christmas is different. We look forward to it all year. We count down the days, just to experience it nearly exactly as we always have.” Joanna Gaines, Magnolia Journal, Issue 9~

Every year, the stores seem to decorate earlier. Santa arrives earlier. Online shopping decreased the hustle and bustle–at least in public. The early decorating seems to be a quest to set the mood–to draw buyers into stores.

Last year, the stores in my locale weren’t crowded. I shopped in the traditional way–but without the crowds. 

It was great. But I wonder if online shoppers felt like they were missing something–if something about their Christmas experience seemed incomplete. 

Last week–one week before Thanksgiving–we received 10.6 inches of snow. 

Thursday and Friday were snow days–closed schools with some businesses following suit. People stayed home and stayed inside except to clear their sidewalks and driveways. Those who had to went to work on Friday. But anyone who could did not venture far. 

Saturday was different. On Saturday, the snow had done its magic and there I was digging out Christmas music and lighting a balsalm fir candle. 

Then I went shopping (after extinguishing the candle) to discover the crowds had returned. Lines weren’t too bad. But traffic was heav.

The snow (and perhaps some early retail discounts) called us back to a time when shopping was an adventure requiring movement, planning, navigation, and socialization.  

The forecaster I married assures me the snow will be gone before Thursday and may not return for Christmas.

No matter. The weather has evoked memories of white days and glowing trees in years past. We are drawn to the season of peace–a respite from the world of bitter politics and bad news.

We anticipate, count the days, and wait. We work, buying, wrapping, cleaning, decorating, cooking, and baking to relive and recreate a day to carry with us through the year.

Our lives are threads tying generations together. Holidays are exclamations.

Proclaim God’s goodness. Happy Thanksgiving. 

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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Welcome Winter

It’s our first real snow. An unusual storm for November. My husband calculates it’s been 23 years since we had a snow day in November in this part of Pennsylvania.

The day represents an interruption of routine. Plans dashed. Progress shifted from outside errands to inside chores too long overlooked.

Yet the day also provides time to reflect. To enjoy quiet on the cusp of a season full of noise. 

I linger over a book and enjoy a second cup of tea. It will be a while before shovels call us outside.

There is time before the world calls us back into the noise.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

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More than One Way to Give Your Life For Your Country

He was helping me carry my packages to my car. I was buying some items for a church group donation. We were collecting for a men’s group home in a nearby town. Most of the men there are homeless veterans making their way back into their communities.

This man was a veteran from Iran. That caught my ear. I’d never met a veteran of Iran before.

We talked about the 1979 hostage crisis when radical Iranian students invaded the US embassy and captured 52 US citizens. They remained in captivity for 444 days.

In 1979, I was a young mother with two young children and a newborn. My younger daughter was one week old when the embassy fell. She was nearly 15 months old when they were freed.

This man helping me with packages had been part of the failed rescue mission. He said it was his “Benghazi”.

I could tell he had an edge to him. Couldn’t be bothered with small talk. Had seen too many big things in life to talk small.

He mentioned PTSD and some other disorders in quick succession. He had seen things. He had done things.

He said that until he got this job, where he’s worked for five years, he’d had trouble staying employed. This company understood him. Perhaps what they understood was what he’s given for us. Perhaps they understood better than we know.

There is more than one way to give your life for your country.

We say it. We tell them thank you for serving. What we need to realize is that sometimes we are talking to the walking wounded who have truly given their lives for us. They are not the same people we sent off to fix a crisis.

He left part of himself over there.

We can’t thank him enough.

We can’t thank them enough.

Continue reading “More than One Way to Give Your Life For Your Country”

The Power of a Sister

The little sister came home last week. She is the youngest of three: herself, an older brother, and the eldest, another sister. They are all grown, the oldest in her mid-thirties.

Mary, the youngest, has accomplished a great deal in life. With an undergrad degree and a master’s from Notre Dame, she’s been a teacher to the children of some of our national leaders. She now leads a large pro-life ministry in the heart of our nation’s capital. But she always looked up to her big sister.

Mary came as the keynote speaker for a large community breakfast that celebrates human life every October. Her sister was in the audience with their parents. I was there too.

Mary talked about some of her heroes. On her list was the sister who sat listening silently. The sister who did not get an education beyond high school. The sister who has never held a job.

Mary admires the sister whose life limitations many would mourn. But her sister is one who finds joy in living every day. 

What Mary is doing is important. And her sister inspired her to press us toward a higher way. 

“We must work toward a culture of life where abortion is not only unthinkable, but also unimaginable.”

Because it is thinkable and imaginable, our world has lost too many heroes to inspire us to celebrate life and to live every day with joy.

One sister lives a life that many would say lacks value. She contributes no great ideas and produces nothing we can buy.

But the younger sister finds inspiration in the joy in which the elder one thrives. And carries the banner of life for them both. For us all.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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Thinking Outside the Box on the Gun Debate

He had come to speak at our Toastmaster’s meeting as a guest speaker. When I realized what his topic was, my stomach clenched. He was going to talk about gun violence. Inwardly, I rolled my eyes.

I am a gun owner–a proponent of gun ownership–that people need to own guns to protect themselves–that only the armed have the means to defend themselves.

My view reflects the rural influences around me. Those influences differ vastly from a view often seen in the city–that guns are the tools of those who deal in drugs and crime.

I thought my view was one of only two ways of seeing the issue of gun violence.

But he came to our meeting from a city about an hour away, a city that doesn’t quite have daily murders, but sometimes sees shootings weekly or at least monthly. 

My job was to evaluate his speech–hence, the clench in my stomach. I thought he would roll out the only other perspective–the old idea of eliminating guns.

I thought there could be no third way of seeing the problem.

But there is a third way. And the third way works.

Here’s the plan that is already reducing violence, already transforming some places in America (from a news report)

1. Detect and interrupt [retaliation after an act of violence has already occurred].

A. Work to prevent retaliations: If a shooting occurs, teams of trained workers go into the community – even a hospital where a gunshot victim is being treated – to work with anyone impacted and help “cool down” emotions.

B. Mediate ongoing conflicts: Identify ongoing conflicts by talking to key people in the community about ongoing disputes, recent arrests or prison releases, using mediation techniques to resolve them peacefully.

C. Follow up with conflicts as long as necessary.

2. Identify/treat the highest risk – Trained, culturally appropriate outreach workers work with the highest risk to commit violence – often people they hang out with –  to make them less likely to act violently. Provide them with support to help high-risk individuals instead find drug treatment or jobs and lure them away from street gangs.

3. Mobilize communities to change norms – Engage leaders in the community as well as community residents, local business owners, faith leaders, service providers, and “high-risk” individuals, conveying the message that residents, groups, and the community do not support the use of violence.

Here’s a program that’s working. It’s a fresh way of looking at an issue that’s divided our country–among many other issues that divide us today.

There will be places this third way won’t work because enough people won’t step up and do what they have to do to become part of this solution. 

The solution requires people to involve themselves–to immerse themselves in people and problems that are difficult.

The solution requires us to think outside the box, to find the third way. And to invest ourselves in putting the third way into practice.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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Welcome Fall

It’s finally come. The crisp cool air. We’ve had only our second wood stove fire. Warming our house instead of trying to cool it down.

The sun rises and sets earlier. I find that comforting. It draws me home to comfort and good foods. To hot tea and a peaceful solitude that feeds my spirit.

But this is also the time many family traditions kick in.

This week, my preparations continue for trick-or-treat night proceed in earnest. I plan to purchase several bags of locally made candy. 

For years, I’d forgotten that we have a candy factory right here. And buying candy there supports local jobs.

But I’ve already bought some candy from the grocery store this year. Just a couple of bags. Just for the grandkids. I found glow-in-the-dark packaging wrapped around chocolate. That’s perfect for the new tradition begun last year–the trick-or-treat scavenger hunt–conducted in the dark hallways of my house.

Last year, it was glowing paint on wiry spiders that I found on clearance. This year, the grandchildren can go hunting for treats.

Welcome fall. Welcome to this time for traditions and memories. And for new ways to make new traditions, new memories. What are some of yours?

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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A New Season

We’re on the cusp of a new season.

It’s taken a long time this year for fall to arrive. In fact, the temperatures of autumn are not settling in until tomorrow. 

Most of the leaves are still green. A few are red or yellow. When the cold air finally hits, the colors should become vibrant and plentiful–unless we get wind and rain from the hurricanes.

If that happens, most leaves will just fall off in their green state. We may be moving from the balmy temperatures of summer to the grayness of winter without the beauty in between.

As cooler weather settles upon us, my husband will achieve his final day of employment before he retires to a small business venture. So it’s more like he’s switching jobs than finishing his career. 

Yet, it’s a new season. One we expect to hold shorter commutes, less travel, and more sleep. Certainly, it’s a season of change.

Sometimes change is scary. Sometimes it lacks color. Sometimes the colors are beyond our remembering. Always the God who turns our paths walks with us whatever the new way may bring. 

————————————-


Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord now available in e-version on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

Mountains, Mallo Cups, and Train Whistles

“When a community loses its memory, its members no longer know one another. . . How can they know one another if they have not learned one another’s stories? If they do not know one another’s stories, how can they know whether or not to trust one another? People who do not trust one another do not help one another, and moreover, they fear one another. And this is our predicament now.” (Wendell Berry, qtd. by Rod Dreher)

When I wake up in my brother’s house, eight counties away from my home, the sound of train whistles reminds me of home. But those rails are so close, the sound so much louder, I know I’m not home. An early morning visit to the deck off his dining room confirms the conclusion. No mountains. A low horizon.

My older brothers were the adventurers. The eldest did a stint in the navy that took him to the Mediterranean. He settled in Texas. My next brother only moved across those eight counties that separate us.

I have traveled. But my zip code never changed.  My residence remained where the mountain ridges surround me, the train whistles serenade me as they have since my birth, and the Mallo Cups are as fresh as fresh can be because the Boyer factory is right in town.

I can’t say I made the better choice. They journeyed with opportunity. My roots grew deeper. But my brothers planted roots too. They became part of new communities. It isn’t just the sights, flavors, and sounds of home. It’s community. It’s people.

Americans are famous for being movers. Horace Greeley admonished the adventurous to “Go west!”  And westward we turned. But today most of us stay put. Fifty-four percent of us live near the place where we grew up.

Thirty-five percent of us left and then came back.

Rod Dreher is one who came back. The author had hit the big time in large northeastern cities. But after his sister died from cancer, home beckoned to him. He penned The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, chronicling her life and death as well as his journeys away from home and back.

But Dreher had another book to write. Coming home was not what he hoped. In How Dante Can Save Your Life, he recounts that the return from his odyssey did not produce the peace he sought but instead brought him a stress-related illness.

Dreher found peace partly through the pages of Dante’s journey through the eternal regions. But even more important, resolution came through the relationships that developed through his faith in Christ. Companions walked with him through the stress and illness to eventual healing and wholeness.

He told his sister’s story. He shared his own. He learned the stories of others. He found those he could trust. And those who could trust him.
Dreher says, “I came back to Louisiana looking for my family and my home. I found God and this church” (278).

Dreher traded in his professional quest for a personal one. He ended up on a journey he did not foresee. He did not get what he hoped to find.

What he got was so much more.


Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord now available in e-version on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Photo Credit: Joe Calzaretta, Blue Knob Mountain, Central Pennsylvania

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Chance or the Dance: A Review

“The myth sovereign in the old age was that everything means everything. The myth sovereign in the new is that nothing means anything. Thomas Howard~

Chance or the Dance: A Critique of Modern Secularism by Thomas Howard
is a book for those searching for meaning in life–for an alternative to the secular view that we are here by chance and live without lasting significance.

It is also a book for those of us who already believe in God. We know His presence. And we see His work in the world around us. We ponder His ways and see in them the meaning that infuses every moment of our lives. 

Howard explains this way of looking at the world:

“It is a way of looking at things that goes farther than saying this is like that: it says that both this and that are instances of way things are. The sun pours energy into the earth and the man pours energy into the woman because that is how fruit begins–by the union of one thing and the other” (Howard’s emphasis).

Howard points out that, in spite of the world’s acceptance of the new myth, deep within ourselves, the old myth lives on. It is part of us–and we can only pretend to deny it. 

Everything has meaning.

Howard analyzes our partiality for poetry and art, the rhythms and patterns of language and image. The new myth presents a common experience in “order and harmony and serenity, and hence joy [as] a most rewarding fiction” without meaning. The old myth presents the “supreme reality: the way things are.” And that way is full of meaning.

We act out the old myth through a ceremony of meals that we mark by setting the table and arranging the food on the plate in an orderly way.

And we embrace freedom, which is more than “mere self-determination . . . [which would be] tragically limiting.” “Your freedom in the Dance is to be able to execute your steps with power and grace, not to decide what you feel like doing.”

Howard’s book is a delight. It was originally published in 1969–at the height of the sexual revolution. Yet it comes to us in this second edition with a foreword by Eric Metaxas. Metaxas read the book as a new Christian in 1988 and calls it “a kind of prose symphony” and a “rambling yet manicured and sweeping lawn” full of things “you will simply never forget.” 

It’s a book you’ll want to read slowing–to savor the ideas–since such beauty is not to be rushed–as in fruit taken too soon from a vine. 

And through your savoring, may you come to the Dance–to the idea that all we do has meaning now and into eternity.

“In this view, there is no hiatus between what we are given to do in life and what life is ‘really about.’ There . . . a synonymity. All this commonplace stuff is what life is really about.”

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Tea, Friends, and Defining the Important

We drank tea once a week and talked about important things. Specifically, we drank peach tea. And generally, we discussed life.  

It was the early 1990s and my final semester at Penn State. I was commuting about 40 or so miles five days a week with a heavy class load. At times, I struggled to stay awake on my way to my friend’s house. But I always left invigorated, refreshed.

One discussion carried itself over several visits as we sharpened our thinking through conversation.

Much political talk of the day was of values–such as family values. It was a term politicians bandied about freely–a term Friedrich Nietzsche had coined.

Nietzsche used the term as something relative–that morality is something ever changing–or at least something that had changed in modern times–and was subject to change depending on social conditions.

The dispute my friend and I had with that use of the word was its application in moral terms. My friend pointed out that Christian morality specifically is based on standards rather than values. Standards are unchanging, absolute. A cup is a cup. A mile is a mile. And adultery is wrong. Always.

On the other hand, values shift from day to day–as in the value of a dollar or a commodity like, soybeans or pork bellies or bitcoins, which are up one day and down the next. 

Consequently, holding moral standards means that something that is wrong today was also wrong yesterday and will remain within the realm of wrong tomorrow. Relative moral values can shift with the wind. They can become matters of convenience and expediency.

That was our analysis of the political jargon of the 1990s.

Using values rather than standards to discuss moral issues was another way of disregarding the notion of sin. We’d lost our ability to discuss sin.

Yet today, our language has shifted once more. Unfortunately, it still does not allow room for discussion of sin. To do so is to judge. And above all, we must not judge. Even so, the current discussion of values makes room for what is important. And discerning what is important can lead us to moral standards.

In today’s vernacular, values sit on a continuum of priorities. They can be flexible without violating–even while upholding–moral standards.

For example, a business or ministry entity can hold its associates to a standard of integrity. Leaders can expect those under supervision to always be honest and act with integrity in all their dealings. 

Yet these entities can value productivity, hard work, and camaraderie among those supervised. The value of camaraderie might present itself in social events occurring during or after the workday–inside or outside the workplace.

Good leaders value good fellowship among all associates and realize that even while they are on the clock fueling friendship enhances productivity instead of reducing it.

Barbara Corcoran writes: “Employees who regularly gather together trust each other more, which contributes to better teamwork. It also makes them more loyal to the business as a whole. Camaraderie strengthens communications within a team, and these all contribute to the bottom line of the organization.”

Such a workplace can value employee fellowship and teamwork. The team can come together to help a co-worker struggling with illness or a family issue thereby strengthening the team.

Moral standards remain constant. Family and workplace values are a moving target. Yet such values point us to what is important.

And what is important–the relationships we have in our families and at our places of employment–can only hold together as we embrace the unchanging standards God asks of us at every moment.

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Revisiting the Election Year of Grown-Up Mean Children

When I was in fifth grade, I suffered a humiliating episode of isolation. Something had happened between the two most popular girls in the class causing them to hate each other with a previously unparalleled venom.

Each girl began to draw allies to her side and against the other girl. Soon two distinct groups formed with all the girls in one group hating all the girls in the other group and vice versa.

Somehow, I managed to miss the drama of how it had all unfolded.  Maybe I had been sick at home or just not paying attention on the playground.  I wasn’t part of either group. But sadly, not for lack of trying.

Once the groups coalesced, I tried to join first one, then another.  Neither group would have me.  It was nice that nobody hated me enough to form a club of Nancy Haters, Inc. But I was sad that I couldn’t get into one of the clubs.  I didn’t even care which one.  I just wanted to fit in too.

Continue reading “Revisiting the Election Year of Grown-Up Mean Children”

The Cross of Waiting

“It’s the waiting, the not knowing, that’s driving me crazy.”

“The waiting is the cross,” [Mother] answered.” Colleen Carroll Campbell from My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir~

Sometimes it feels like we’ve been waiting for something all our lives. I remember as a teen waiting for my father to pick me up from school and wondering how many hours I’d spent waiting for him in my life. But he always came. I always knew he would, and he did.

Having to wait through the unknown is its own cross–sometimes the heaviest. The test or surgery results, the diagnosis. We dwell on the outcome. The thing that will determine how the rest of our lives plays out.

Colleen Carroll Campbell waited for God to send her a child. She endured the agony of the wait, medical treatments and the monthly realization of yet another failure to conceive.

What weighed most heavily on her was not knowing whether she would ever be a mother.

She and her husband asked God again and again to send them a baby. Yet years of striving and never achieving had convinced her that her dream would never materialize. And in one way it never did. (Spoiler ahead!)

(Spoiler ahead!)

He didn’t send them a baby. He sent them two.

But they had to wait. And in the time of waiting, they grew closer to God and closer to each other.

God says, rest. Wait. Trust me.

We sense we are standing still in that time. But we are not. And God is not still either. He works through our times of waiting. He works in us. 

Rest. Wait. Trust. And watch for the outcome. 

It will be worth the wait.

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14 NASB~

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A Prayer for America Today

We are a divided country today. Righting ourselves begins with the Church. The following excerpt from Restoring the Shattered explains the role of repentance is rebuilding the image of the Church to the world.

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Repentance is how we start to restore the image of the Bride [the Church], not in a public relations sense, but in a biblical one. And repentance begins with the faithful.

Why the faithful? Isn’t repentance something for the unbelieving population to grasp—those we perceive are messing up the world and dragging our culture into a downward spiral? Yes, it’s something they need to do to become part of the Bride, part of the picture. But the kind of repentance that can turn the world around is for us. It’s for his people already in the church.

I didn’t come to this idea on my own. I’d been praying for our nation to turn back to God, but in my mind that always involved something someone else needed to do. I’ll pray. I’ll watch. I’ll work when I can. I’ll cheer when it happens.

At brunch one day, my longtime friend, Renee, dropped a brick of truth on my head. “He calls his own people to repentance—my people … called by my Name.”

That is me.

That is us.

*****

The first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, are a study of contrasts. Each king had a prophet. Each one sinned. Only David repented.

Saul’s prophet was Samuel. Impatient Saul carried out a sacrifice, refusing to wait for Samuel who was supposed to perform it. Afterward, he explained to Samuel that he acted “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines [the enemy] were assembling at Michmash.”

Saul listed his motivations; maybe they sounded reasonable to him. Maybe they sounded silly as he listed them aloud for Samuel, who said, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.”[i] Saul stepped out of his role as king and into the wrong role of priest. But instead of confessing and repenting, he tried to justify himself.

David had a prophet too. When David committed adultery, impregnated the woman, and then arranged to have her husband killed to cover his crime, the prophet Nathan confronted him. Unlike Saul, David did not give a list of excuses. His response was, “I have sinned against the Lord.”[ii]

Saul and David both offended God. Saul made excuses and wore a false face before the people. David was transparent before God and Nathan. That difference set in motion the events that would remove Saul’s line from the throne of Israel and establish David’s in the line of Christ.

Many churches have turned the volume way down on the discussion of repentance and are blasting the message of God’s love. But we won’t find blessing unless we refuse Saul’s methods and adopt David’s.

Our news sources daily spew stories of atrocities accompanied by many excuses and little repentance. Sometimes we are aghast at what people try to justify: mass shootings, rape, looting, riots, and the list goes on.

There is a sense that my rights are sovereign and yours are nonexistent. Many in the church have bought into that message. Instead of confessing our sins and maintaining transparent lives, we justify our sins, deceiving ourselves that they don’t exist or simply don’t matter.

We can’t expect the world to exhibit behavior we don’t model. When we model repentance, others see David instead of Saul. Repentance is the first step on a life journey when we determine to follow Christ, but it’s also a frequent stopping place along the way—a place where we check our direction and retool our priorities, letting him reshape our attitudes.

Repentance produces changed people.

Repentance produces anointed, effective ministry.

Rather than being a negative burden, repentance is an overtly optimistic act.

God commands us to “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.”[iii] Sin and life’s burdens weigh us down. On top of those burdens, we add the pressure to appear perfect.

Acknowledging our reality and letting others into that reality is uncomfortable, but that is where healing happens. There is no other way for us to “bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” [iv] That’s important, and we often overlook it. Sharing our burdens with one another fulfills the law—not just our prayer requests for that new job or relief of our child’s ear infection—but our burdens, what weighs us down and holds us back. Letting each other know our sins is uncomfortable. But confessing our sins to each other brings healing.


[i] 1 Samuel 13:11–13.

[ii] 2 Samuel 12:13.

[iii] James 5:16, emphasis added. The rest of the verse says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Righteousness follows repentance, not the other way around.

[iv] Galatians 6:2, emphasis added.


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Christ’s Prayer for Us

In the garden before his trial and crucifixion, Christ asked for his followers to “be one.” He prayed for those who followed him then and for all who would believe later on—the universal church throughout history.

Many times Jesus prayed to the Father and we have no idea what he said. We’re simply told such things as “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.”[i] Christ and the Father had many moments of communion that the Word does not disclose to us. So every time God’s Word lets us eavesdrop on Christ’s side of those conversations, we should pay close attention.

Jesus taught us how to pray with the Lord’s Prayer. And through his own prayers, he illustrated his connection and communion with the Father. We hear him blessing the fishes and loaves before crowds and the bread at the Last Supper in the upper room, speaking to the Father before raising Lazarus, before choosing the twelve apostles, and before his transfiguration. We also know he prayed in the garden before his betrayal and arrest. And we hear his prayerful cry from the cross.[ii]

Jesus’ prayer found in John 17 is the supreme biblical call for accord among his followers. And unlike Paul’s letters to singular, local churches, Christ’s petition encompasses the worldwide church, for all “those also who believe in Me” through all time.[iii] Jesus directs us to love him, each other, and those outside our churches’ doors.

Through a series of that/sostatements, he tells us what should be (that) and what will result from it (so).

  • That we would “all be one” as the Father and Son are “so that the world may believe” that the Father sent the Son.
  • That we “may be perfected” in that oneness “so that the world may know” that the Father sent the Son and that He “loved [us], even as the Father loves the Son.”
  • That we would be with Christ where he is so that we would see his glory, “which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”[iv]

As Jesus makes clear, the world’s ability to know God’s love relies upon we who are Christians loving one another in unity.

But it’s crucial that we consider what accord is and is not. Christian unity does not mean we dilute our doctrines and abandon our traditions. It does not mean we dissolve our church constitutions and form one gigantic doctrinally devoid church. It means we embrace a visible cooperation with one another—yet without compromise.

“Some suggest [that in his prayer] Jesus is only referring to a nebulous spiritual unity; however, Jesus emphasizes a form of unity that is visible to the watching world, and thus must be referring to a relational unity that can be observed. This does not mean we have to agree on every point of doctrine—we don’t! Nor does it mean we are to adopt some sort of fuzzy ecumenism in which we compromise the truth of the gospel or overlook sin within the church.”[v]

Journalist and cultural commentator Rod Dreher in his book The Benedict Option encourages interdenominational relationships—what he calls “an ecumenism of the trenches.” “To be sure, the different churches should not compromise their distinct doctrines, but they should nevertheless seize every opportunity to form friendships and strategic alliances in defense of the faith and the faithful.”[vi]

Accord means we form friendships and alliances, and we respect each other’s differences. It means, as C. S. Lewis wrote, we may “go on disagreeing, but don’t let us judge.”[vii] It means that, at the end of our weekly church services, we join hands to meet real needs and help hurting hearts find healing in Christ—that we be the visible church.

But we can only increase our ministry by learning how to meet people in their need.

Likeminded Christians of various denominations acting in accord will enhance ministry. We are the sand the Master turns into colored glass. He restores glass pieces cracked under the pressures of life. And he puts them together in a big picture that shows the world his great love.

We can shine the light of the Master on the hearts of the broken and lonely and invite them to become part of God’s big picture.

If you are broken, he can restore you. And once he restores you, he can use you to restore others.



Excerpted from Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord. E-version available October 2. Paperback, January 22, 2018. 

[i] Luke 5:16.

[ii] Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13), his prayer intimacy with the Father (11:25–26), his blessing of food (14:19; 15:37; 26:26), his prayer around raising Lazarus (John 11:41–42), and his prayers before choosing the apostles (Luke 6:12–13), before his transfiguration (9:29), during his time in the garden (Matthew 26:36–44; Luke 22:39–46), and from his position on the cross (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:34, 46).

[iii] John 17:20.

[iv] John 17:21–23.

[v] S. Michael Craven, “Practical Unity: Living Out the Words of Jesus to ‘Be One,’” Christianity Today, May 14, 2014.

[vi] Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (New York: Sentinel, 2017), 136.

[vii] C. S. Lewis, Letters of C. S. Lewis, as quoted in an email from the C. S. Lewis Foundation, January 23, 2015.

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To Love Ourselves

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12: 30-31a

It’s the part of the passage we too often gloss over “as you love yourself.” But do we really?

We speak to ourselves in negative ways. We tell ourselves we have failed. We aren’t smart. Others are better.

I remember in high school watching another girl assess herself in the girls’ room mirror. I thought she was beautiful. I wished I looked like her.

Then she stuck her tongue out at herself and walked out the door. 

That stunned me. How could she think herself ugly? Then I realized. She is just like me. She thinks of herself the way I think of myself. 

We were alike in our disdain for ourselves. Perhaps it has always been so. And perhaps more so among young women.

Yet today, it’s worse for young women who speak to themselves in that same negative voice as the girl in the mirror did.

As we did then, they compare themselves to airbrushed actresses, women on magazine covers, and other girls pondering their images in the mirror as their minds replay the negative echo of social media.

There is a solution. Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves requires us to love ourselves–to stop the negative talk–to affirm ourselves.

This affirmation is not an acquisition of pride–but of seeing ourselves as God sees us. We are people Christ came to die for. We are imago Dei–people of his image who walk in his way. 

Imperfectly. Awkwardly. Stumbling at times.

But in the beauty of God’s love, we can see ourselves as the unique creations we are. The girl in the mirror is not ugly. She is specially designed for a purpose–an important purpose.

She is here to love herself because she is who he made her to be. And in loving herself–showing regard for herself–she affirms the God-reflection she finds others.

Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. 

And so fulfill all the commandments. 

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Echoes of 9-11

“Notwithstanding the beauty of this country of Faerie . . . there is much that is wrong in it. If there are great splendours, there are corresponding horrors; heights and depths, beautiful women and awful fiends; noble men and weaklings. All a man has to do is to better what he can.” 
George MacDonald, from Phantastes.

Horrors and splendor. That’s what we find in life. The horrors include bad things we do to each other and bad things that happen by chance. Yet, life also consists of splendors, God’s expression of beauty, His beauty within our hearts that sometimes comes out through our hands.

Splendor is often our response to horror.

On Tuesday, we mark 17 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives in Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, and New York City.

It happened in my third year of teaching when I was overseeing a class of seventh and eighth-graders. A plane hit the first tower in New York City. The moment marked us all.

Over the last several years, the number of students who can remember the day has trickled to a drip and nearly stopped. Few young people who recall that day sit before me.

September 11, 2001, brought Americans wall to wall coverage of debris and devastation. There was the relief of joy and the devastation of loss. This person was saved. That one was gone.

Today, it is the fading event that echoes in our days, no longer shaping our times. Yet, we are different–sometimes missing the beauty of that day. Often missing the beauty of each other.

Forgetting the horror of the day means forgetting that there was beauty even in the loss. The heroes of Flight 93 challenged horror when it looked them in the eye. They said no. We felt horror at their deaths but beauty in their heroism.

President George W. Bush reminded us that “One of the lessons of 9-11 is that evil is real and so is courage.”

Horror happens at the hands of people who choose to bring it. And, as I’ve mentioned, it comes by chance as well–a different form of fiend. We can’t know why this person didn’t come home at the end of an otherwise ordinary day and that one did.

But we can marvel at those who fight the fiends of evil and chance still today.

This week, we remember the horror and celebrate the beautiful heroes. We celebrate the heroes of today–soldiers, police officers, firefighters, and caregivers. We mark the beauty of those who strive to better what they can. 

May all of us find a way to count ourselves, somehow, among the beautiful. We can work to see the beautiful. And make better what we can.

To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3~


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Endorsements for Restoring the Shattered

Nancy Head’s Restoring the Shattered leads the reader through a compelling and emotional story of the life of a woman who has experienced the best and worst moments of the modern-day church. At the same time, Nancy artfully weaves the surprisingly fascinating history of the church’s theology and its politics in a way that will challenge all of us to walk worthy of our calling.

—Bob Gresh, husband of best-selling author Dannah Gresh (nearly half a million books sold)

In Restoring the Shattered, Nancy’s account of her life experience, intertwined with historic events and lessons from faith leaders of many disciplines, mirrors the personal problems and societal tensions present in the Christian church. Ironically, as the Reverend Billy Graham came to Altoona in 1949 and found discourse in the church strained enough to test his commitment to evangelism, Nancy sees the same discourse today stretching well beyond the city limits of her hometown. Fortunately, through faith and determination, the difficult times strengthened Billy’s and Nancy’s resolve and both were better equipped to encourage others in their journey with Christ.

—Pennsylvania State Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr.

Since the beginning of Christendom, believers have not only engaged in the discussion of difference versus agreement on the doctrines we find within the Bible but have often found themselves participating in the nature of disagreement that brings hurt to individuals and to the church. In her book Restoring the Shattered, Nancy sensitively traces the history of division and encourages the church to focus on those doctrines that bring both harmony and light. She does this through sharing her struggles of separation within her own family and uses the images of shattered glass to illustrate our brokenness. It is a subject that we should not neglect and one that will benefit the church and individuals.

—Stella Price, author of Chosen for Choson (Korea) and God’s Collaborator

When I met Nancy, she served a university-appointed role as a mentor-teacher to me. She gave every impression of a whole person, a great look for a mentor to have. But like all of us, the external appearance of perfection exists only on the surface. Yet Nancy does have an internal assurance of completion—one which comes from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Restoring the Shattered offers readers a chance to examine breaks on every layer to see the combined work of restoration on which Nancy and Christ have embarked and offers hope and advice for those who wish to traverse that same path with him.

—Reverend Adam Shellenbarger, pastor, Joppatown Christian Church, Joppatown, Maryland

Restoring the Shattered is a wonderful first-person perspective of a person on the path of Christianity. It shows the commonality of Christian beliefs that can be shared in our confusing world.

—George Foster, businessman and lay Catholic

I’m a pastor who Nancy gets to hear all the time. It’s been a joy and a privilege to read her and hear what she has to say. She is the real deal! Her passion and insight come through in everything she does, including in her book Restoring the Shattered. This is a joy to read, and it can help you on your life’s journey.

—Reverend John Collins, First Church of Christ, Altoona, Pennsylvania

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Paperbacks available later this month. E-version available October 5. 

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The Lost Art of Craft

“We’re increasingly constrained by computers and a pixelated abridgement of reality that serves only to make us blind to the truly infinite complexity of the nature world. Most critically, our physical movements have been almost entirely removed as a factor in our own existence. Now all we seem to do is press buttons.” Alexander Langlands (review by Gracy Olmstead)

My friend and I were at the fabric store–a place we haunt when we don’t go to a coffee house for tea. Our meeting places most often involve tea and/or fabric and sometimes food, over which we discuss our lives–husbands, kids, grandkids, other friends (in a non-gossipy way), current events–and our perceptions of the workings of God in our circumference.

Sometimes we even discuss our crafting–and what it means to us.

Pieces of us stitched together to pass along to others or enjoy ourselves.

Crafting takes time. Investing time in a project teaches us diligence and patience. There is no such thing as instant gratification when you are handcrafting something.

Time and craft add meaning to the final products.

And time, craft, and meaning add value–to a point of pricelessness–for something handcrafted matches nothing else. It is unique, the only one of its kind.

In his book, Langlands quotes a definition of craft (from the ancient term craeft)–“the organizing principle of the individual’s capacity to follow a moral and mental life.”

To craft is to contemplate–to plan and work the plan. And the contemplative life, Aristotle said, is the only kind of life that can be happy.

As Olmstead asserts in her review of Langlands’ book Craeft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts (now on my Goodreads’ “to read” list) balance is the key today. It’s what Aristotle called the Golden Mean–the balance of a virtue between its excess and its deficiency.

From Olmstead’s review: “Langlands argues for a revival of cræft throughout this book, as a response to the toll that industrialization and consumptive living has taken on our world. Who knows whether slower, more laborious rituals will become a godsend to our broken world in future years?”

Who knows? One does. And godsend? Indeed.

The ultimate Crafter/Creator who gave us time, thought, and art.

Slow, laborious work can be a rite of contemplation as we ponder him and his power to make beauty through work. As we see our work become beautiful over time. As we see ourselves as his image–imago Dei. And as we find ourselves anew by emulating his creative ways.

Here’s to time spent happily crafting.

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Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

More than One Way to Give Your Life for Your Country

He was helping me carry my packages to my car. I was buying some items for a church group donation. We were collecting for a men’s group home in a nearby town. Most of the men there are homeless veterans making their way back into their communities.
This man was a veteran from Iran. That caught my ear. I’d never met a veteran of Iran before. Continue reading “More than One Way to Give Your Life for Your Country”

Feed Your Neighbors: Buy Local

Next Thursday is our community’s Trick-or-Treat night. On that day, my husband, with all the enthusiasm and anticipation of an eager child, will carve our pumpkin. Then, he’ll light its candle. And even before dark, our porch light will alert our neighborhood munchkins that our house is Trick-or-Treater-friendly.

In previous years, we had stockpiled candy from the grocery store, candy shipped in from far away factories. A few years ago, it occurred to us that in our very own community is a candy factory that employs many local people—our neighbors.

Almost daily, we would drive past the factory store as if it were not there. Then one day, I went inside. Yum!—fresh, locally produced extravagances that my neighbors sell to me. Here were the treats of my youth—forgotten in the busyness of adulthood.

As a child, I would traipse around our neighborhood with my older brother. One year, it snowed, and we were the only ones knocking on doors, braving the wind blowing giant flakes sideways. Such was our devotion to confections.

Many neighbors dropped the locally made candy into my pillowcase sack. But I grew up to be a mother who valued the convenience of one-stop shopping. I heeded the sirens of nationally marketed sweets.

Yet, as other local enterprises closed their doors, the candy factory stayed.

My neighbors worked there for decades before I was born.

You might not have a candy factory in your community, which—considering the way some of us feed our sweet tooths—should keep the large corporate candy makers from toppling any time soon. But there are other ways to shop locally and bless our neighbors.

It’s a simple matter to search out locally owned stores, restaurants, farm stands, bakeries, and other businesses. Buying locally allows us to share the resources that we might otherwise distribute far and wide. And there are other advantages besides helping to employ our neighbors.

Locally grown food is fresher, tastes better, and is healthier. And we don’t have to buy everything locally to make a significant difference in our community.

According to loyaltolocal.com, “If every family in the U.S. spent an extra $10 a month at a locally owned, independent business instead of a national chain, over $9.3 billion would be directly returned to our economy.”
It may be a bit more inconvenient to shop locally. It may even cost a bit more. But investing in a local business is ministry.

Feeding our neighbors as we feed ourselves is a creative way to love your neighbor.


Photo Credit: Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/en/candy-corn-candy-halloween-treat-1726481/)

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”