Connecting the Dots on a Divine Plan

“Look how evil forces were put in our way and how Providence intervened.” Ronald Reagan~

They lived on different continents, but their lives unfolded in parallel lines that would one day intersect into friendship.

When each was eight years old, their mothers suffered a terrible illness.

Both of their fathers died in 1941.

As they were growing up, they both participated in acting and athletics.

They faced assassins’ bullets six weeks apart–and survived. They credited God with saving their lives–preserving them for a divine purpose.

Ronald Reagan and Karol Wytola–better known as Saint Pope John Paul II–are the subjects of Paul Kengor’s book A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Untold Story of the Twentieth Century.

Kengor’s research is impeccable and deep. The book takes details that seem disconnected and draws lines between dots that no one else had yet connected.

Kengor ties those details together throughout to make a tapestry of key events that changed the world in the twentieth century.

I remember the day Ronald Reagan was shot on the way to his car after a speaking engagement. For the rest of the day, I was in front of the television.

I remember Secretary of State Alexander Haig saying, “I am in control here.”

Reagan was in the hospital and the nation wasn’t sure whether he would survive. And the vice-president–George H. W. Bush–was out of town. After the shooting and until we fully understood that John Hinckley acted alone, our military was on high alert.

Haig knew the Soviet Union. He wanted America not to look weak at a moment when we felt weakened.

The press lambasted Haig that day and beyond. How dare he assert his own authority?

What the press didn’t put together, but in this book Kengor does, is that Haig’s statement very likely was a solution to a problem he didn’t know he could affect.

That solution likely helped to prevent the Soviet Army from invading Poland.

Solidarity had disrupted Poland to the point that the puppet government had declared martial law. The Soviet military was lined up at the border much as the Chinese army today stands at the ready to invade Hong Kong.

While Haig knew the Soviet Union’s mindset, the Soviets also knew Haig’s since he had been a NATO commander in Europe.

Kengor’s research outlines interviews with a US agent who had been monitoring Soviet communications, anticipating the possibility of a USSR invasion of Poland.

After the shooting and after Haig’s statement, the communications went silent. The Soviets never invaded.

Six weeks later, Reagan was recovering from the attempt on his life when he learned that Pope John Paul II was shot in Vatican City. Their friendship grew on a foundation of shared experience.

The two men, however, shared more than similar childhood experiences, more than the experience of having been shot without deadly result.

Kengor writes that they “shared an understanding of the reinforcing relationship of faith and freedom, the importance of ordered liberty, and the evil of atheistic, totalitarian communism.”

The Haig incident is a small piece of an engaging book. Kengor shows how a Protestant President and a Catholic Pope worked together and separately to defeat what President Reagan called the “evil empire.”

Kengor shows us what Reagan called the DP–the Divine Plan–which saved two lives evil had marked for death–two lives destined to meet and change the world.

There is a divine plan still today. Perhaps you and I play a bigger part in that plan than we realize. Perhaps no one will write a book that lets people know how the dots of your life and mine connected to change the world.

But if we have hope and faith and never quit, the world will change for the good.

“I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.” Saint Pope John Paul II~

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

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From Tiananmen to Hong Kong

It was a highlight of my career as a news reporter, interviewing Shengde Lian, one of the organizers of the Tiananmen Square protests. Now it seems that piece of history from 1989 is repeating itself in Hong Kong today.

Inspired by student protests in America and South Korea they had seen on television, Chinese college students gathered in Beijing at Tiananmen Square to mourn Hu [Yaobang], their advocate for democratic reform. The marathon sit-in lasted seven weeks.

[In Tiananmen Square, protesters crafted a goddess of liberty akin to our statue in New York’s Harbor. ]

Demonstrations weren’t unheard of in China, but the international broadcast of such demonstrations was. The international press was in town to cover [Mikhail] Gorbachev’s visit to Beijing. Because of his attempts to reform communism, the protesting Chinese students considered him a champion of democracy.[i]

The presence of the international press made possible our knowledge of the Tiananmen Square massacre. [There were other crackdowns at the same time across the country.] In front of the international media, the Chinese government, having lost face in the weeks’ long standoff, sent the army into the square, killing thousands and capturing surviving protesters. [Lian served 18 months in a laogai–the Chinese equivalent of a Soviet gulag.]

. . . The Chinese students . . . did not get the change they had hoped for, but change is what China would see. The Beijing massacre and imprisonment of surviving demonstrators prompted Chinese youth, especially students, to look for a new form of freedom. Many found that freedom in Christ.

Why did young Chinese college students suddenly develop a passionate interest in the Christian faith? David Aikman writes that one “suggestion was that China’s traditional Confucian view of man as inherently good was shattered under the tanks that rolled onto the center of Beijing.”[ii]

The Chinese students had put their faith in their government, and their government turned on them and attacked them. Now they would look elsewhere for someone to trust. Within the next ten to fifteen years, China is on track to become the most Christian nation in the world.[iii]

Hong Kong is very different from Beijing. Crosses hang on the exteriors of hospitals to signify their connection to churches. When the British left Hong Kong to the Chinese in 1997, they left behind the stamp of a Christianized culture. They left behind an understanding of basic freedom.

After the 1997 takeover, China discovered in Hong Kong what free enterprise could do. The “communist” government adopted capitalistic practices–with the military owning some companies.

The Mainland economy grew in leaps and bounds. China was building a middle class (without a minimum wage and with a flat tax, by the way, a graduated income tax having been foundational to Marxism.)

In 1997, the communist government in Beijing promised Hong Kong citizens “one country, two systems.”

Kayla Wong and Emily Lo provide an account of a Chinese woman waving the British Union Jack. This woman is not calling for a return to British colonialism but to the practices that helped Hong Kong prosper under the British.

She says Hong Kong has a 20-year history of government’s unkept promises.

Protesters also dare to wave the US flag. And while we are divided over gun control, they are asking for a Second Amendment.

Will Christianity see a resurgence in Hong Kong as is happening in the mainland? That remains to be seen.

China has not sent troops and tanks into Hong Kong–yet–although the military is amassing on the border and engaging in exercises designed to intimidate. All the while, the Hong Kong police show no mercy to the protesters.

Oppression suppresses free speech. An already eroded promise threatens the freedom that remains.

Perhaps China and Hong Kong are at a crossroads. Perhaps the events that unfold in Hong Kong in the coming days will determine whether there is freedom or continued oppression.

Only one King is faithful to His word. Pray for Hong Kongers and Chinese to find that King. Pray for peace and freedom found only in Him.

*****

This post is partially excerpted from Restoring the Shattered.

[i]Nicholas D. Kristof and Special to the New York Times, “China’s Hero of Democracy: Gorbachev,” archives 1989, accessed May 14, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/1989/05/14/world/china-s-hero-of-democracy-gorbachev.html.

[ii] David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2003), 171.

[iii] Tom Phillips, “China on Course to Become ‘World’s Most Christian Nation’ within 15 Years,” London Telegraph, April 19, 2014, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10776023/China-on-course-to-become-worlds-most-Christian-nation-within-15-years.html.

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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.”

The Hard Work Way

It’s one of the final rites of summer for us–Ag Progress Days in Central Pennsylvania. We borrow a van and sometimes take two vehicles to haul as many grandkids as we can from our small city to a celebration of the farm life that surrounds us and feeds us.

We had two sets of siblings with us yesterday, the other set grown or already booked with other activities. But the brothers and brother/sister group we had with us this time got along better together than they sometimes tend to do alone. Community builds goodwill.

We started with our usual. Hamburgers and hot dogs at a tent the Methodists sponsor and tend. Then we were off to the Corn Maze.

It’s not just a game, but a multiple-choice quiz about Pennsylvania agriculture. Pick the right answers and get through the maze quickly. Go the wrong way, and your siblings or cousins will beat you to the end.

They went through multiple times–a couple of them going forwards and backward.

Then, we walked past the tractors. Grandpa told them about his first tractor and showed them the very model. Two of the younger ones measured their heights by the tires. That was a moment for pictures.

On the way to Penn State’s Berkey Creamery (another tradition), we drove past a farm where I’d once taken some of the cousins to pick cherries. We had ice cream that day too.

But much is changing now. The apple orchard is overgrown, and a sign announces a coming housing development. Yet another one as the farm landscape shrinks further.

Birds are gathering sooner this year. Watching them wind their way over us as the flock shifts shape is one of my favorite features of fall.

Our traditions remain the same. Nature follows a pattern. But society changes to move further away from the land.

We live on a half-lot in our city. Farming to us is cutting the grass, occasionally growing tomatoes, and tending a row of black raspberry bushes.

The harvest is our nod to a way of life that taught hard work and diligence despite hardship. A way of life that brought society beyond subsistence to prosperity and freedom.

A way of life that still brings satisfaction in one’s own work.

We journey to you-pick farms and Ag Progress to impress upon those who come after us that the hard work way is good.

That planting a seed means harvesting a crop–after time, after storms, after work.

On such ideas, life grows abundant.

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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.”

Layers of Memory and Legacy

It was my birthday. I don’t remember which one. But my brother pulled me around our neighborhood on my sled. His gift to me.

Another memory: We were grown. His wife was finishing a bout with a 24-hour bug. I must have been having car trouble because he and I were in his car with my five kids and his three kids on our way home from church youth activities.

My sister-in-law wanted a Big Mac–her post-illness craving. So we pulled into a McDonald’s drive-through for our one sandwich order–with ten people in the car.

My brother joked “Can we have a knife with that? We have to cut it up ten ways?”

The worker turned to comply when my brother said, “No, no, I’m just kidding.” People who work in McD drive-throughs probably see it all.

Soon after that, he and his family moved to the northwestern-most corner of our state–about a four-hour drive away.

We visited each other in summers and sometimes over Thanksgiving or Easter weekend. Sometimes, one or two of my kids would enjoy an extended visit.

He and his wife have modeled nearly 45 years of marriage. But his parenting style also caught the attention of my kids.

Last week, my brother got to spend most of a vacation week with most of my kids and their kids.

It gave them the chance to tell him what he meant to them as they were growing up.

Yesterday we had a family birthday celebration. We sang “Happy Birthday” to three of us, each from a different generation. Multiple birthday celebrations are common with our crowd. And when we get to the names part of the song, we are all calling names in random order. Joyful chaos.

Love is in the singing and the celebration. The food and the talking. Love is in the everyday living. Love is in the memories we carry with us.

There is power in the building of memories. Character grows in the young by thin layers built upon previous layers. We can’t see the importance of a simple layer until later.

Each story, each instance a touching of hearts, another layer.

“The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Each layer, touch, story, memory built over a lifetime to glue us together. To make us family.

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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.”

The Spider Zoo

What follows is an excerpt from Jude and the Magic Birds (yet to be published). Our hero/narrator Jude George has just moved into town and made some new friends.

Twins Violet and Jerome also are new in town. Sudzy and Lily are old friends who welcome the newcomers. Lily has Down Syndrome. She welcomes her friends to a special place in her home. Some of the grandkids and I have been working on this project for the last few summers.~

I was excited to be in church the next day—mostly because of the picnic afterward.

Lily sang a song again in church that day. At my old church, only the grownups sang. You had to be really good to sing there. When she was done, everybody clapped like crazy again—like it was something great like you’d see on TV.

And then we all sang the song that means church is over. I thought, Great! Time to eat!

But not yet.

Before we could go to the picnic, the new families had to meet everybody else. That picnic was to welcome all of us. So there I was with Mom and Dad standing in front of the whole church. And Jerome and Violet and Mrs. James were there standing next to us too.

Pastor Kim—who I found out was Lily’s dad—introduced us. We stood there for a while until we shook everyone’s hand and said thank you for the welcome.

Then, I thought, finally, we get to eat!

Mom and Dad brought a big pot of beans. Mrs. James brought pork barbecue. And Pastor Kim and his wife brought some spicy rice and beef dish. I didn’t know how to say it, but it looked and smelled great! Lots of other people brought macaroni and cheese, potato salad, fruit, and pies.

Of course, Mr. Bob was there. And he brought chocolate toffee, fudge ripple, and you guessed it, candy cane ice cream. No vanilla caramel. Hmph.

We were waiting to eat. And then it started to rain so we all went inside Lily’s house.

The adults stood around talking in the kitchen. But Lily said, “I wanna show you my special collection.”

So us kids went down to the basement. I knew Sudzy collected buttons. And Violet liked dolls. So I thought it would be something lame like that.

The basement was really cool with a TV, video games, a little refrigerator, and some comfy chairs. But there was this one whole shelf of aquariums each with its own SPIDER!

“Spiders eat each other–so that’s why they have their own private places t’ live,” Lily said.

Sheesh!

I didn’t want anyone to know how creeped out I was. But I had this tickly feeling of something crawling down my neck. 

Jerome looked cool about everything. But I wondered if he was pretending too. Violet was already back upstairs with the grownups. Sudzy and Lily had been best friends for a long time, and Sudzy seemed just fine in the spider zoo.

The aquariums all had leaves, dirt, and rocks at the bottom. And Lily knew all kinds of stuff about spiders.

“This is Cecilia. She’s a Southern Black Widow Spider. Most people’re afraid o’ her, but it’s really hard f’r her t’ bite people. An’ she can eat fire ants. An’ they’re bad. So she’s got somethin’ good about her.”

She moved down the row

“This spider is Eugene. He’s a Common House Spider. Ya prob’ly have his brothers an’ sisters in y’r house.”

That tickly feeling went down my neck again. She kept going.

“Simon’s a Wolf Spider. He can bite but doesn’t hurt people—unless you’re allergic.”

She opened a small cardboard box with holes in it, pulled out a cricket and dropped the poor thing into the corner of Simon’s home. A big leaf shook and Simon came out. He could star in a monster movie. Simon was gigantic. And fast. He shot across the bottom of the aquarium and the cricket disappeared. It was like Simon hadn’t eaten in a month.

“Hmm,” Lily said. “He was hungry, huh? This next one—is named Agatha. She’s a Long Bodied Cellar Spider. She can’t hurt anybody.”

The next aquarium had a bunch of grass in it with a mess of spider web all over it.

“This’s Drusilla—a Grass Spider. They make their nests in grass, fields, and gardens. But ya know where they are—‘cause ya can see their webs.

“And last of all,” she said to my relief, “is this Yellow Grass Spider. I just got her—haven’t named ‘er yet. She usually doesn’t bite—unless you’re gonna hurt her egg.

I gulped—but the worst was over—or that’s what I thought.

“Oooooohhhhh,” Lily said. “I wonder where Simon went.”

“Si—Simon—which—which one’s Simon?” I said.

“He’s the Wolf Spider.”

“Th–that’s th’ big one, right?” Jerome said.

“Yep. Si—mon, Simon, here, Si—mon,” Lily called.

Mrs. Kim looked down from the top of the stairs: “Lily, did you let Simon get out again?”

“Again?” I said, not meaning to say it out loud and trying not to sound as worried as I was. But now that tickly feeling was going up my back.

“Sorry—Mom ,” Lily said. “I’ll find ‘im.”

By this time, Sudzy was looking behind the curtains and under the chairs. Simon’s escape didn’t seem to surprise her or scare her at all. I tried to look cool and pretended to search the corners of the room as I prayed someone, anyone else but me, would find Simon.

Then Mrs. Kim spoke the most wonderful words I heard all day.

“Why don’t you kids let Lily find Simon herself? She knows where t’ look, and you wouldn’t want to step on Simon and hurt him, now would ya?”

Me hurt him? I think he could eat half my shoe and the foot inside it before I could hurt him. I worked hard not to push the others out of the way to get to the top of the stairs. I had to pause to let Sudzy go first, but Jerome was right behind me.

I couldn’t believe that Mrs. Kim didn’t let on to the other adults that a monster was loose in the basement. She just kept smiling and dishing up the beef and rice, the beans, and pork barbecue sandwiches. Mr. Bob continued handing out ice cream. People smiled and talked, not knowing that doom was running free just downstairs.

For me, lunch was over. That tickly feeling tormented my legs, arms, and back until Lily finally came up from the basement with a big grin on her face.

“Ya found him?” her mother asked.

“Yes. Mom, he’s back in his cage. He’s safe now.”

HE’s safe? I thought. HE’s safe?

“Lily, you hafta be more careful. Some people’re afraid o’ spiders.”

Yes. They are, I thought.

“Why, Mom? What’s there t’ be afraid of?”

“Some people just are, Miss Lily, and you need t’ respect that.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll be more careful.”

“Here’s your lunch now, but how ‘bout ya wash y’r hands first?”

“Okay.” And she disappeared down the hall.

I realized my mouth was hanging open, so I closed it and tried to put a relaxed look on my face.

Lily’s spiders were a big surprise. But there were more surprises ahead.

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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.”

Always a Choice

Imagine being in a terrible place. The food is beyond bad. The clothing is inadequate. The weather is unbearably hot in the summer and way below what we consider cold in the winter. The work is hard, menial, and endless.

Then imagine that you get to go to a better place. The food is better. You can be warm in the winter. You’re not afraid you’ll die from the bad treatment.

But you find out that, in order to stay there, you have to do things you don’t want to do. You have to help your oppressors spy on your fellow citizens. You have to help them send others to the place that is so bad.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn did not have to imagine this scenario.

After spending years in a Siberian gulag, he was able to go to a place where the Soviet government was doing research. In the 1940s, they wanted Solzhenitsyn to help them develop voice recognition technology. If he didn’t cooperate, they would send him back.

So send me back, he told them.

“Even in the camps, human dignity matters,” says Ignat Solzhenitsyn, Alexander’s son. “We always have choices. Even in the camps. Even where everything is decided for you. What clothes you wear, what food … you’re given, and everything is regimented. There is always the choice to behave with freedom and a sense of dignity.”

Freedom in a gulag? Always. Freedom and dignity everywhere? All the time. Solzhenitsyn is proof that Soviet tyrants overplayed their hand.

You only have power over people as long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power—he’s free again.” 

In prison, Solzhenitsyn found he could speak freely. He was already in trouble. What else could they do?

Even later in exile, he spoke. His iron will was forged behind the iron curtain. He was a man whose heart was full and whose character was steel.

You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.” 

The choice is ours–always.

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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.”

Secrecy in the Night

“[N]ine old nanas” is what Ann Voskamp calls them. They kept their secret for thirty years. They conspired and sneaked out to do their “drive-bys” in the night–hoping no one else would ever know.

They carved money from their budgets and hid it from their husbands–almost $400 every month.

After all that time, one of their husbands finally confronted them. What in the world were they doing? What are all the strange transactions in the bank statement? Extra mileage on the car? Where is she going?

Imagine, thirty years of secrets. One husband wonders what’s going on–what’s been going on. He thinks the worst. Is she being unfaithful?

No. His wife and the rest of the nine nanas were thoroughly faithful. Their nighttime adventures were acts of ministry in secrecy.

They met needs. Sometimes for people they knew. Sometimes for complete strangers. They relished the joy of blessing others.–all sorts of ways.

Once the nanas got started, they worked at listening and looking for ways to give–for people with a need they could fill.

Voskamp: “They knew we’re not here to make an impression. We’re here to make a difference.”

It’s the kind of difference people made for me and mine when we were in need. Food on the front porch–I didn’t count how many times. And once–a blue, silk dress for me. A treasure I could not afford had I pilfered my own pennies for years.

Were the husbands angry when they found out about the Nanas’ capers? Yes. They were mad.

“[They w]anted in on the game,” Voskamp tells us. “They wanted in on writing down names and anonymously paying utility bills, delivering pound cakes and pressing beauty into this world.”

Those ladies married well.

And so the conspiracy of blessing others grew.

Perhaps in our day, it’s ill-advised to sneak out in the middle of the night and set off a security system trying to bless someone with a pound cake or the funds for an overdue bill.

But blessing others is always in fashion. And like the nanas, you and I can be creative and secretive about our giving.

We can look and listen and be ready to fill a need.

Day or night.

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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.”

Don’t Miss The Extraordinariness of Simple Things

Republished from Mustard Seed Sentinal, July 27, 2019

“If I am to spend my whole life being transformed by the good news of Jesus, I must learn how grand, sweeping truths–doctrine, theology, ecclesiology, Christology–rub against the texture of an average day. How I spend this ordinary day is how I will spend my Christian life.” Tish Harrison Warren

An ordinary day. Do we truly have ordinary days? Or is every day something special? Something God is working through to shape us–to show us His grand, sweeping truths?

About 30-some years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Christopher DeVinck speak. He was an English teacher from New Jersey, a husband and father, a man with pro-life convictions who had lived those convictions. He talked about the extraordinariness of the ordinary. That things we consider ordinary can actually be extraordinary. That the ordinary is more powerful than we realize.

The example he discussed was his brother Oliver whom Christopher said lived the most ordinary of lives. Because of an accident during their mother’s first pregnancy, Oliver was born with serious disabilities.

He would never speak or walk. He lived his entire life at home with his family.

Christopher remembers that their mother would lay Oliver on a sheet in the summer grass while she hung wet laundry on the clothesline. He remembers the extraordinariness of a grasshopper lingering on the sheet.

If we’re not careful, we miss the extraordinariness of simple things that we might not otherwise notice. These things either pass without our notice or stay etched in our brains throughout our lives. We go through our days not knowing what will stick. What will become something we’ll carry with us. What will pass by and become insignificant because it really isn’t important. Or what we fail to carry with us because of our inattentiveness. These ordinary life events can deepen our bonds or they can change the direction of our lives.

For instance:

A few years ago, our house had fleas. They’d lived here before. And in spite of the visiting dog, we concluded that my husband brought them home from his recent camping trip. He was infested. The dog was not.

So I stripped sheets from beds, powdered the house with borax, and sprayed the dog with a mild vinegar and water wash. Three of the beds weren’t made yet. But we could take care of all that after the family gathering. There would be plenty of time when we got back with some grandkids who were staying overnight so we could pick blueberries the next day.

The plan was simple. I’d make the beds. Paul could walk the dog. Bedtime would be later than usual but not unreasonable.

Then the plan changed.

“We have a problem,” Paul said when he returned from the walk. The dog had nosed his way into a bush and got a snout full of skunk spray.

The new plan meant the dog couldn’t come into the house yet. Paul headed to the store to buy tomato juice. I still had to finish making the beds. So I recruited two grandkids–cousins, the two oldest.

“You two watch the dog, but don’t touch him,” I told them. They sat on the creaky porch swing. The only light from stars and the corner street light.

I gathered old towels, a basin of soapy water, and a bucket for the tomato juice. And by the time I finished the beds, Paul was back.

The younger cousins were upstairs in our guestroom/attic getting in some bonus video game time. Paul and the two older cousins were outside washing the dog.

I stood in between, near a window on a stairway, laughter arose from the driveway.

And I remembered another ordinary day that hadn’t gone quite right. We were at our church picnic. The dinner had been the typical cookout fare of chicken and baked beans. And afterward one of the cousins convinced Grandpa Paul to go on the ride that went forward and backward and sideways.

I chuckled at the memory as I stood on the landing between the cousins upstairs and the ones in the driveway with their grandpa and the soggy dog. I spoke to the ones with the dog.

“Remember the time Grandpa threw up at the park?” I had told them then that they would always remember that day. “You’ll always remember this day too.”

It seemed as though nothing had gone right that day, yet all was right that could be. And washing a smelly dog at 11:00 pm was certainly extraordinary.

HEADlines by Nacny E. Head

Credit: Annie Spratt

After the dog dried off and settled down, the lone girl cousin was down the hall between pink sheets with a book and a light. Quiet there already. Later it was quiet upstairs. After the game was off, after an argument over who was hogging the covers, after cousin whispers of adventures past and future.

When all was quiet, our house could not have been more ordinary, nor more extraordinary.

The next day we picked 22 pounds of blueberries. It took two vehicles to carry the cousins and the grandparents. We stopped for ice cream after our work. Grandpa played tag with them in the ice cream stand’s playground. Memories made. Bonds deepened. Lives changed? We may never know.

Every day is a 24-hour period no longer or shorter than any other. A most ordinary thing. But one moment can change all the other moments of life. Here’s an example.

A grownup Christopher DeVinck invited a girlfriend for dinner with his family. After their meal, he asked her if she’d like to watch him feed his brother Oliver.

“No,” was her simple response. He was disappointed but tried not to show it.

On another occasion, he asked a different girl home for dinner. At the end of the meal, he worked up the nerve to ask the same question he’d asked the previous girl: Would you like to watch me feed my brother his dinner?

“Yes,” she said. And after watching for a few minutes, she asked if she could feed Oliver herself.

This girl had cared for her ailing mother. She understood such ministry.

It was an ordinary act of conveying food from a dish to a mouth via a spoon. But it revealed everything Christopher needed to know. He asks us the key question:

“Which girl would you marry?”

Christopher has written articles published in the Wall Street Journal and Reader’s Digest. He was invited to speak at the Vatican. He’s had an extraordinary life to rival that of most writers.

But I would say that the extraordinariness in Christopher’s life came in the everydays that he taught English in New Jersey and then went home to his wife and three children.

Whether life holds fleas and skunks as cousins prepare to pick blueberries or simple dinners at home with parents and siblings, the ordinary pieces of life can become exuberantly important.

The ordinary becomes extraordinary.

About the Author

Author Nancy E. Head was a single mother with five children under the age of 14 when many in the Church came to her aid. Her story illustrates common problems in our society such as the fracturing of families and communities, reflecting a splintering Church. Alienated families and a riven Church cannot minister as effectively to their own members or others until they find accord.

Nancy is the author of Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord. She leads a small group ministering to the needy in her community.

Connect with Nancy on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

You can read Nancy’s HEADlines column on the 4th Saturday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.

Heading photo credit: Ravi Roshan: Author photo credit: Tammy Wolfe

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.”


Expanding the “Church” Library

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.  Neil Postman~

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde is not 50 Shades. This book is a different kind of dystopia. In it, the author depicts a library with hardly any books. The librarian gives the main character Eddie a tour explaining where books used to sit on the shelves and why they’re no longer there. The powers that Fforde imagined deemed almost all books as too offensive.

The shelves of my local library are becoming emptier as every year passes–but for a different reason. State funding comes in based on the percentage of items checked out.

If a book remains in place for six months, it falls victim to the Used Book Sale held not once, but twice a year.

This library is in Central Pennsylvania but doesn’t have any books by Pearl S. Buck on the shelves. Buck wrote prolifically but is best known for The Good Earth. her Pulitzer Prize winner. She also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938. So a writer from our home state who garnered the world’s most notable literary awards isn’t on our home town library shelf.

All because, at some point, dust collected on the copies for six months.

In the meantime, the National Institute of Literacy says that two-thirds of students who “are unable to read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or welfare. These individuals will also suffer a 78% chance of not catching up.” And that’s not all.

–32 million adults can not read in the United States equal to 14% of the population.
–21% of US adults read below the fifth-grade level.
–19% of high school graduates can not read.
–85% of juveniles who interact with the juvenile court system are considered functionally illiterate.
–70% of inmates in America’s prisons can not read above the fourth-grade level.

Rod Dreher is floating the idea of a community coalition of churches pooling resources to build public libraries for kids that can be safe places for kids to find worthwhile books like Buck’s novels.

” Why couldn’t churches within a specific community pool their resources and open a children’s library where parents didn’t have to worry about their children being propagandized by Wokeness (the liberal agenda)— especially on gender and sexuality?

He and I approach the endeavor from different angles but with the same goals.

Great literature teaches people to think, discern, and act rightly.

Great literature offers us the self-sacrifice of Sydney Carton who gave his life to fulfill the joy of someone else’s life. And he went to a far, far better place.

Great literature gives us the grace a bishop showed to Jean Valjean when the cleric forgave Valjean’s theft and helped turn his path toward improving the lives of others.

Great literature gives us Homer Smith–a Ulysses for America–a Baptist African-American man who helps German Catholic nuns build a chapel.

And great literature gives us Wang Lung, Buck’s protagonist who shows us the remnants of an ancient culture playing out in a twentieth-century setting.

Buck thought Christianity was irrelevant to the illiterate Chinese peasant when she wrote. It’s too bad she didn’t live to see the seeds of China’s conversion now bearing fruit. Still, her books provide insight into human nature.

Great literature has many lessons to teach. But books collecting dust that are then discarded teach us nothing.

If churches establish community libraries to offer literacy and cultural enrichment, will people come? If we build it, will they come?

They may already be coming to church–and we are assuming they can read the words of songs in books or on screens–that they can read the Word of God.

And if they’re not coming to church–we can offer to open the world and eternity to them because that’s what books do. And that is what the Church should do.

Bringing people to reading would be a secondary task to the work of establishing a place for great books. Such a secondary task would include literacy volunteers teaching basic skills and how to read traditional books as well as access e-books.

But we can’t plant seeds without first preparing a garden.

Having a proper garden of books can change the world for anyone willing to come but unable to find a place to grow.

The ability to read and finding enrichment in daily reading–including God’s Word–improves lives, families, and societies.

And that is a task for the Church.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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.”

Grace for the Hard Stuff

“Grace does not make the hard thing go away; grace illumines the hard thing with eternal meaning and purpose. Grace gives you company in your affliction, in Christ himself and in the family of God.” Rosaria Butterfield~

Have you ever considered why God sent an angel to Mary to tell her she was the woman chosen to carry his son–and then waited until later to send an angel to Joseph?

In between Mary had to go to Joseph and tell him she was pregnant. How hard would it be for him to believe her? Very hard it seems–since he decided to divorce her quietly–to break what was, by today’s measure, more than an engagement but not quite a marriage yet.

God let the circumstances unfold with no indication that he ever intended to supernaturally confirm the information for Joseph. But then Joseph’s angel came with direction and assurance.

There was another Joseph in the Bible who spent years in prison–years that must have seemed wasted to him. He waited for his life to mean something. And one day it meant a great deal to him and to those who had mistreated him–his brothers who had sold him into slavery. And perhaps even the woman who had lied to put him in prison. This Joseph had no angel telling him all would end well.

A prophet rather than an angel told David he would be king. But God didn’t just swoop down and remove Saul. David had to fight the battles. And he had to fight them God’s way. He had opportunities to kill Saul himself–but he would not harm God’s anointed.

Mary and Joseph, the Old Testament Joseph, and King David had to do the hard work themselves. In the first instance, it would be difficult for Mary not to postpone what would be an inevitable discovery.

In the second case, it would be hard for OT Joseph to hold back bitterness and hopelessness.

In the third case, patience required David to dismiss opportunities he had to make himself king–now.

Speaking up is hard when we know the other person won’t like what we have to say–when we know they won’t believe us.

Not losing ourselves in hopelessness is hard when it really looks like there is no hope.

And keeping our hand back when we know God has His timetable and it doesn’t always (ever?) match ours is hard.

Speak the truth in love.

Fear not, for God is with us if we are His.

Wait for the Lord, for His time. Wait.

And watch what will ultimately (perhaps not soon) unfold.

God’s plan in God’s truth and God’s time–always worth the hard work.

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.”

The Circle of Us

We start by understanding that there is Truth.

We see our sin and realize God is our only hope.

We encounter him and find joy.

We find a small circle of others like us and settle into comfort.

We feel good about us.

We forget our sin and unworthiness;

We forget God wants us to wash feet,

Carry a cross,

Follow in his steps.

We feel good about us.

We see others’ sins, but not their wounds, their needs.

We look hard at their sins;

We forget our own.

Our little circle is snug.

We feel good about us.

Excerpted from Restoring the Shattered. 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.”

Unloading the Bricks

I couldn’t get the event out of my mind. It had happened more than five decades ago, but for two days as I drove to and from a Pure Freedom conference about sexual purity, this memory dogged me.

I kept thinking–it’s such a small event. Why do I keep replaying it in my head? It was like a brick that I’d carried with me since childhood and just couldn’t throw away.

When I was a child, an older boy chased me across my front yard, a neighbor boy egging him on. When the older boy caught up with me, he touched me inappropriately and boasted as the other boy laughed.

I can’t remember ever feeling fear as I had that day.

But then I got away–into the safety of my home. Over. Done. No harm. Right?

So why did it keep coming back to my mind?

The afternoon of the second day of the conference brought a time of prayer. Truth Prayer time.

Truth Prayer involves asking God to show you which emotion you’re experiencing that He wants to deal with. When you identify the emotion, you look back to the incident when you first felt it.

You find that the disturbing or traumatic incident caused a wound that you carried with you. An influence in your life that marred other places throughout your journey.

You move from the emotion to the memory to the lies that you believed because of the memory. Those lies are the basis for the ruts you’ve experienced in your life journey. From there, you move to forgiveness. And from forgiveness to a breaking of the soul ties formed because of the lies and experiences–because of relationships–good or bad–healthy or unhealthy.

Next is a renouncing of the strongholds Satan has built in your life.

Lastly, you replace the lies you believed with truth you can carry into your future–hence the name Truth Prayer.

I didn’t leave the conference with any great feeling of change. But the event in my yard with the boys stopped coming to my mind.

It might sound a bit hokey or a little too mystical. And a secularist might discount any healing of a haunting emotion as the simple therapeutic process of having talked it out.

But if a traumatic event or a bad life choice has created ties that pinch years later or led to a series of bad decisions producing even more pain, such a talking out would provide only temporary relief.

The ties and strongholds would remain in place. And they would literally come back to haunt you.

Such views–dismissal as hokey or too mystical or just therapeutic–deny the power of the Holy Spirit to heal us through prayer and the holy communion of fellowship–the bearing of one another’s burdens.

But there is danger in such a prayer. Ideally, three people would be present: a prayer leader, someone to record the events, and the person seeking healing.

Necessarily, all three would be Christ followers. One seeking healing–two others seeking only to see God work. Any other combination could lead to more harm than good.

This summer when the conference returned to our area, I went back too. Last year’s prayer time had been the laying down of a brick I’d carried with me since I was a child. It was the bottom brick in a pile I had stacked through my life–some of them heavier than that first one.

Over the course of the year in between, I came to recognize the pile of bricks that had accumulated over the years. The year in between was the unfolding of a healing process that culminated in another prayer.

This year, I unloaded the pile as far as God helped me identify the bricks I carried. Removing the bottom brick made possible the unloading of the rest.

We sometimes carry burdens for years without realizing how heavy the load has become. And we don’t need to have a conference to unload our bricks. Just a couple of committed Christians willing to walk with us.

Sometimes, without realizing it, we build the bricks we carry into a wall around us.

Tear down the wall. Realize and refuse the lies.

The truth will set you free.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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.”

Mealtime–More than Food

Our trip to Scotland and Ireland earlier this summer was one of those tours where you ride a bus or ferry from one place to another. For the first few days, I noticed that people in our group were complaining that the meal service was bad–too slow.

I admit that at first, I was among the complainers. Our initial restaurant experience in Scotland was unarguably horrible. But after that, the service seemed to follow a particular routine.

It was slower than we’ve come to expect in America. But when the same pattern emerged from place to place, I realized that, aside from our initial experience, the service wasn’t bad after all. It was simply a cultural difference giving us time to enjoy the food and each other’s company.

We were Americans (for the most part) in a hurry. They were Europeans bred with the idea of not rushing mealtime.

The restaurant staff seemed to have the idea that mealtime is more than food consumption. A bit of extra time between courses encouraged us to enjoy an unveiling of the meal along with fellowship. The time between appetizer and entree, between entree and dessert, was time to get to know the strangers on the same adventure we were having.

There was a young couple apparently on a second honeymoon away from their three children, a retired teacher from Philadelphia, a couple who had traveled to Vietnam and other exotic places–two young women from Canada, a mother and four of her five adult daughters.

We ate amazing breads, drank tea, and relished unbelievable desserts. (A chocolate mousse with a honeycomb topper. (The chef mixes honey and baking soda together and bakes it–then breaks it up to adorn each dish of mousse.) The result resides on the memory of my tongue.)

We also ate a good many parsnips and turnips. That’s because they’re locally grown. We got a true sense of what it’s like to eat there–not the universal sense you get by eating pineapple in Minnesota.

Food and fellowship go together. They create bonds.

Once we got home, it didn’t take me long to get back into the habit of rushing through meals.

As I ponder time away from my habits and out of my routine, I want to slow down to savor the conversation at every meal–as much as I can.

It may be the part of a day from this summer we remember later on. Not just the baked beans, which by the way, in Scotland, come with breakfast–not with dinner.

No matter which meal you choose to enjoy your beans, linger. Converse. Savor. Remember.

Let God bless the fellowship as well as the food.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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.”

The View from the Front Seat

It was a long drive that began in the evening. My parents put us in the car in the hopes that we would go to sleep. Our long-awaited trip to Florida had begun. At the time, Disneyworld was still a dream in Walt’s head.

Mom and Dad had saved up for the trip. They were always doing that. We would later go to the New York World’s Fair, Chicago for my oldest brother’s graduation from Navy training, and Holland, Michigan, for my other brother’s band trip. But this trip would be our last big one with all five of us.

My oldest brother was sixteen, my other brother, ten. I was six. It was the vacation before the oldest left, but after the youngest had grown old enough to remember.

About twenty minutes out we had to turn around. Mother had forgotten her Catalina swimsuit. It was white with a tiny red logo of a woman mid-dive. It was the suit Miss America contestants wore. It had been an investment.

A half-hour later, we were on the road again.

I remember mosquitos in South Carolina. A frog my oldest brother captured, then released. Red Florida clay hanging from cut out hillsides. A glass-bottomed boat ride. Peacocks, and watching alligator wrestling in the Everglades. And one night and day–a splurge–at Miami Beach.

Eventually, I grew up to sit in the front seat for long trips.

I learned not to “treat” a child in the back seat to chocolate milk. Within a short period of time, the child will be unhappy and no Yankee Candle air freshener can fix that aroma.

I learned how hard it is to drive at night in the rain next to Jersey barriers, with headlights glaring from the other lane and a young child rhythmically kicking the back of your seat.

But I remember my five kids and me singing along as the radio crooned “All I need is a miracle; all I need is you.” And no one complained that I was off key or didn’t know the words. For a moment, we had splendid pitch. Quintessential harmony.

The perfection of the moment washed through me.

Now I have the occasional opportunity to sit up front with grandchildren behind me. Fortunately, there is minimal kicking of the back of my seat. Sometimes, there is the conflict my parents were hoping to avoid by traveling at night. Sometimes, I get louder than they are as I demand peace.

Still, there are moments of perfection. They come in flashes and glimpses as the children sing or tell jokes or just talk to each other.

Once, a swimming flotation device flew down the middle of the van, glancing off the dashboard. A seven-year-old voice said, “I was just testin’ my range.” A major leaguer in the making.

But then there’s my favorite from a granddaughter. We were on the way to see Disney’s Frozen with a van full of cousins.

“I used to have imaginary friends, but my brother told me they weren’t real, so they went away.” Imagination indeed.

The next time we’re in the car and there is conflict, maybe I can tell them about a long drive and a Catalina swimsuit, a frog, a beach, and a miracle song I once sang with some of their parents.

And then I will have a new moment of perfection.

Wishing you some moments of perfection this Independence Day. God bless!

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! 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 Mother’s Miracle Touch

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139: 13-14 (ESV)~

I remember the wonderful feeling on my belly–the squirming child who was recently inside me was now wiggling on me.

That happened four out of five times. One of my babies came so quickly I didn’t have a sterile drape on me to receive the child. (I warned them, but did they listen?)

None of my five were premature. But a preemie (and sometimes a full-term baby) born today is likely to receive “Kangaroo Care”–their parents will hold them skin to skin. This practice provides warmth and connection for the babe. Mother’s (or Father’s) body heart, voice, heartbeat are all conduits to connection.

The practice began in Bogota, Columbia, when incubators were scarce and babies in distress were in great supply. The mortality rate plunged from 70 to 30 percent. Since then, the practice has become more widespread–even when incubators are readily available.

The most interesting aspect of the ensuing research I’ve found is that, during the skin to skin time with the baby on or between the mother’s breasts, the breasts change temperature to accommodate the baby’s needs–even going so far that, with preemie twins, one on each breast, the breasts achieve different temperatures to accommodate each baby’s thermal need.

How amazing!

One mother reports using Kangaroo Care with her adopted newborn daughter–allowing the baby to get used to the mother’s body rhythms–to feel and smell her new mother–to get used to the sound of this previously unheard voice.

But the benefits aren’t just for the babies.

One study discusses the effects of Kangaroo Care (KC) for adopting parents. “During KC the mother’s perception of her infant changes: She feels more competent as a care provider, more responsible for her infant, and more in control of her situation.”

Now I think back 35 years to the last time I felt my baby on my belly–warm and wet through the drape.

These were the days when it was still okay to dispense aspirin even to infants and put them to sleep on their bellies. In spite of all we’ve learned, perhaps there is more yet to learn.

We may just be on our way to discovering how healthy human connections come to be from the beginning.

One of those ways–Kangaroo Care–highlights the deft hand of a loving Creator. The Creator who installed a heating and cooling system in the breasts of mothers–the mother’s miracle touch.

We are indeed wonderfully made.

Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his –Psalm 100:3a~

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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.”

Restoring the Shattered: Reviewed in The Altoona Mirror

I’m grateful to Linda Gracey for writing this gracious article about Restoring the Shattered. Republished from The Altoona Mirror–June 7, 2019~

Local Author Likens Life to Glass

In her book, “Restoring the Shattered,” Nancy E. Head of Altoona looks at several facets of life that are like broken glass, but can be restored to a beautiful and colorful stained glass window in God’s hands.

Her original goal in writing the book was to encourage Christian unity, but she also writes about broken pieces in her life as well as in society.

The subtitle, “Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord,” reflects her original reason for writing the book.

Head, who is an instructor at Penn State Altoona and Great Commission Schools, said she wants to make the Christian Church aware of what it has in common, as opposed to allowing differences in traditions and doctrines to keep believers from accepting one another and working together.

When one of her five children converted to Catholicism, some of her evangelical friends had trouble understanding his decision, she said. They seemed to have misconceptions about the Catholic faith, she said, and she wanted them to understand that the Catholic beliefs were not that different from Protestant ones.

“So much division, separation, is based on misunderstandings,” she said.

In her book, Head provides background on the Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths and examples of how they have worked in unity to spread the gospel. She gives examples of misconceptions and points out how spiritual leaders including Saint John Paul II (pope from 1978-2005), Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Charles Colson encouraged ecumenism.

She also covers legitimate areas where the faiths differ in doctrine and traditions, including concerning communion and baptism.

“Some of our disagreement over communion and baptism is authentic,” she writes in Chapter 10.

“But some is distortion, some is misunderstanding. Determining which is which can help to repair the broken window of our faith communities.”

Whether she is writing about the Christian faith, concerns for societal issues or her own personal life, Head compares the subject to glass in various states. Sometimes it is broken, sometimes it is shattered, sometimes it is scored for a certain purpose. Sometimes she points out how it reflects or transmits light.

Head said the Holy Spirit gave her the idea to use glass, especially stained glass, as a theme throughout the book, but she wasn’t sure how it was going to fit. She knew she was on to something, she said, when she read Ciara Curtin’s article in the Feb. 22, 2007, edition of Scientific American that defines glass as being neither a liquid or a solid, but a state between those two states of matter.

“It’s fluid and flexible,” Head said.

In addition to Christian unity, Head writes about poverty and other societal issues, such as homelessness, abortion and divorce and a need to understand people’s circumstances without being judgmental.

Having known poverty herself, she said, “A lot of people look down on you. You can’t perceive how you ever will become a taxpayer (as opposed to someone who benefits from others’ taxes). You accept the label people put on you.”

Head said, “The church applies labels, too,” adding that that is part of the problem. “The Church needs to look more kindly on people and realize that there but for the grace of God, go I. Instead of judging, we need to learn how to lift them up.”

She gave the example of approaching a homeless man in a church parking lot while others feared him.

“I gave him a gift card (to get a meal at a fast-food restaurant),” she said.

In her own life, it was a divorce in the 1980s that left Head financially challenged. She had to find work to support herself and five children.

In “Restoring the Shattered,” she talks about her struggles and how government programs can be a help and a hindrance. Although she received daycare assistance while she worked, she lost almost all of her subsidized childcare when she decided to attend college. She was able to pursue her goal to acquire a degree, to earn more and get out of poverty, because of Christians who were willing to take on childcare responsibilities.

“We are to encounter the world and meet needs,” she said.

Among those who have read the book are Cindy Updyke, the wife of a former pastor and formerly of Altoona.

Updyke, of North Carolina, said she read the book from the perspective of people who have been wounded and how the body of Christ as a whole has been wounded by suspicion and misconceptions.

“I love how she wove church history into the story … and compared the personal shattering in her life to how the Church was shattered,” she said.

Updyke said the book points out that “We are more effective in healing personal wounds and society’s wounds together rather than when we each stand in our own theological corners. We are more effective in ministering to those who are shattered,” she said.

Updyke said Head is an excellent writer and the history in the book is interesting and relative.

“It’s an easy read,” she said.

Peter A. Joudry, CEO of The Nehemiah Project, said, “Nancy Head is a personal storyteller, a church historian, … and a compassionate believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

He said he read her book while ministering in South America earlier this year and became so excited about what he read that he called her from Bogota, Colombia, to congratulate her.

“She believes that our message is far too important to be hijacked by religious squabbles and personal biases,” he said. “She makes a compelling call to all Christians to unite toward the common objective to be Jesus to our troubled world.”

Local Author Likens Life to Glass by Linda Gracey, Altoona Mirror, June 7, 2019

A Saving Light in the Darkness

“We came from Caladan–a paradise world for our form of life. There existed no need on Caladan to build a physical paradise or paradise of the mind–we could see the actuality all around us. And the price we paid was the price men have always paid for achieving a paradise in this life–we went soft, we lost our edge.” Frank Herbert, Dune~

Imagine spending your daylight hours–most of them in an eighteen-inch tunnel shoveling coal out of your space by hand. Your son stands ready to fill a large bin on wheels just outside the small tunnel. You both get paid for production–not time invested.

You also provide the fuel to warm the homes in your community and beyond.

Boys go to school until it’s time to go to the mines. They grow up and raise families. Sons in the mines, daughters in the kitchens–all working to make life better for the next ones coming. That is the story of the Arigna Coal Mine–now a tourist site–in Ireland.

I grew up in a railroad town near the heart of America’s coal country. I remember the strip mines dotting our rolling mountains. Now restored, the mountains appear never to have been mined.

Yet, mining still happens around us. As my husband and I drove across a bridge in town the other day, we saw a long line of rail cars all filled to the brim with coal.

Mining still happens, but it’s no longer a lone man picking and shoveling out a tiny tunnel.

When machines came to Arigna, they had the opposite effect of what we might expect. Today when we consider robotics and technology in the workplace, we calculate how many jobs will go by the wayside as machines replace workers.

When mining found technology, the industry needed more workers to haul the greater bounty out of the mountain. And since production increased, and since the workers earned through production, both jobs and earnings grew.

Yet in Arigna, one thing remained. And it resonates in my heart every time I ponder it.

When we entered the mine–now a large, reinforced tunnel to accommodate tourists rather than miners–there was a picture of Christ. The tour guide–at a government-funded site, mind you–explained that workers prayed as they began their shifts–prayed for safety–and God answered and blessed.

Our guide credited Christ as the “safety officer” of the mine that produced, first iron, then coal for more than 400 years. In 400 years of mining–with no safety agency overseeing operations until the 1980s–only one man died.*

I’ve pondered the faith and devotion of those miners since my visit to Arigna. And I’ve pondered the life of unimaginable (to me) work!

Like us, they were imperfect. They had conflicts with neighbors and petty jealousies.

They had unmet dreams. In the 1960s, they staged a strike that lasted several months.

Yet overall, they seemed to have a kind of satisfaction we lack today. Life was hard but good.

That’s an idea that seems so foreign to us. We do all we can to resist it. We work with the expectation that life will get better and better must mean easier and more prosperous. Easier and more prosperous came to the miners of Arigna through technology. But they never took the picture down of the One they believed kept them safe.

Life is hard. It’s easier and more prosperous for some. But there is meaning in difficulty. And the One who watched over the Arigna miners is faithful.

Photo Credit: RTE Archives, Arigna Mine

*One website asserts that “five or six died” over the years. Another says, “Accidents were few and far between.”

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.”

Snakes Return to Ireland

“[G]hosts of dead men . . . have bequeathed a trust to us living men.” Patrick Pearse,

Patrick Pearse was an Irish Republican (one who sought independence from the British) during the Easter Rising–the failed insurrection in 1916 that preceded eventual independence for Ireland.

His full name–Patrick Henry Pearse–might lead us to assume that he is the namesake solely of the great American orator who called the Virginia Assembly to liberty or death. America’s Henry survived our rebellion. Pearse did not survive the Rising. He gave his all to it.

But there is an older Patrick of Ireland whom Pearse’s parents may also have had in mind as they named their new babe.

It was Saint Patrick who chased the snakes out of Ireland, the Irish say. But the Irish admit that serpents didn’t inhabit the Emerald Isle in Patrick’s day. The snakes in Patrick’s metaphor refer to pagan practices of ancient, pre-Christian days.

Among those pagan practices was human sacrifice.

Today, Ireland is a beautiful paradise for tourists. Small farms and large ones dot the countryside between a few big cities–growing cities as the young begin to abandon the rural for the urban and urbane–as the country reaches perceived heights of sophistication.

Ireland has come a long way from its pagan days and from its hungry days since the potato famine of 1845 and following. It’s now a land with a solid economy and a growing population. That growth is from immigration.

In 2017, the Republic of Ireland had the highest birthrate in the European Union–yet it was still below replacement levels. And that was before abortion became legal at the beginning of this year–an occurrence that seemed impossible to many even as it unfolded.

In Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change, 1970-2000, R. F. Foster includes a chapter entitled “How the Catholics Became Protestants.” That chapter explains the country’s shift from Catholic values to secular ones.

“The notion of Catholicism as indivisible from Irish nationalism and even from Irish identity might be counted as one of the casualties of the last thirty years’ cultural upheaval,” he writes.

Ireland has taken the same path other western countries have followed from a rejection of sexual license (including nonacceptance of contraception) to the embrace of LGBT sensibilities. From traditional marriage to a no-holds-barred free for all.

Legal abortion was another step on the path to today–although, unlike in America, abortion is limited to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, barring a risk to the mother’s health and the euphemistic “fetal anomaly”–a death sentence for the challenged at every stage of development. A human sacrifice to convenience, cost-effectiveness–ultimately to self.

Foster: “[T]here is a point at which a la carte Catholicism becomes a kind of Protestantism” (57). It’s the same point at which any Christian decides he or she knows best. Whatever our denomination, it’s when we follow our own way.

Hence, legal abortion in Ireland and the rest of the West. And so we abandon some children to death and others to a different kind of desertion.

Michael Brendan Dougherty is an American-born man who grew up hardly knowing his father who eventually married and built a family in Ireland. Dougherty’s mother instilled in her son a deep understanding of his Irish roots. The boy grew into a man who would relish his Irishness and seek a deeper bond with his father.

In My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son’s Search for Home, Dougherty explains the shift of heart that’s happened in the West. In the past, we revered and appreciated those who came before us. Our humility in light of sacrifices they made on our behalf “leads to self-sacrifice in the present and new life and regeneration in the future. . . .

“When we do have children we so often have them as consumable objects, as part of our life-style choices. We do not receive them as gifts, as living things, inviolate and inviolable. We calculate about them, not worried over what we might give them, but what they take from us. . . .

“We are great consumers. We are useless as conservators. Useless in this way, we deepen the pattern, failing to have children, or failing the ones we have” (205-07).

Dougherty, however, has found humility and respect for those in the past. He is breaking the pattern in which he grew up. He and his wife together are raising two young children. He intends to pass Ireland onto them. But he will pass along more than that.

He is chasing away the snake of selfishness and embracing self-sacrifice.

The ghosts of Ireland’s Patrick speaks through Dougherty. “[T]he past reproaches the present on behalf of the future. . . The ghosts of a nation reproach the living on behalf of posterity” (204).

Those same ghosts of Ireland speak to us today–even those of us an ocean away in Dougherty’s America. They call to us to chase away the snakes of selfishness once more–to cleanse our land by washing ourselves in humility and self-sacrifice.

Dougherty quoting Pearse: “There is only one way to appease a ghost. You must do the thing that it asks you” (213).

Photo Credit: Paul Head

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.”

Deus Nobis Haec Otia Fecit

Translation: God has granted us this rest.

A great gift indeed.

I’m just back from a vacation in Scotland and Ireland. Still a bit jet-lagged. My mind is filled with a clearer view of the history of that part of the world.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was the ferry ride from Scotland to Ireland. There was a sense of transcendence with the journey. A compelling impression percolated through me:

I was going home.

With our ever present outerwear, I saved a table in the food court and got in line to buy some food. The table sat beside a window where my husband and I could watch the water go by. I imagined a quiet time of solitude to enjoy that transcendent peace and a portion of a book.

It was not to be. But something better came instead.

I glanced over from the food line to see a woman sitting at “our” table. I thought it rude, but there were few places to sit. And perhaps such a thing is common practice in that place. So instead of quiet, we had conversation.

She was a nurse–retired but answering a call to fill in once every week or two. She rode the ferry to and from work in Scotland and gave me my first lesson on the deep animosity that still abides in some places between the Irish and the British.

She’d had an uncle who died at Normandy. “When I was a child, we were not allowed to speak his name. He was a Catholic, and he went to fight for the British.”

This story illustrates that–as bad as the Nazis were–fighting them required allegiance to Great Britain–who according to Irish history had behaved much the same as Nazis. Alliance was a bridge too far for many.

I hadn’t realized that Ireland attempted to remain neutral during World War II. The woman on our boat said neutrality was embarrassing. She seemed proud of the uncle who fought. Perspectives change over time.

We landed in Belfast–a more industrial setting than we had seen in Scotland. The next day was Sunday, and our group was to see the Titanic Museum. I had not realized the Titanic had been constructed in Belfast–embarked from Belfast–and sank on a returning voyage from America.

But sank it did, and I imagined there might be something better to do with a Sunday morning. I investigated local churches.

The first one I found seem like it might have a universalist slant. One of the comments on its website said the church was good for people of any religion. I kept searching.

We decided on Saint Malachy’s– a short walk from our hotel. Recently restored, the church had been built in the early 1840s–completed just before the Potato Famine ravaged the country.

The church lost its windows to Nazi bombing raids. Neutrality? The Republic of Ireland is just a bit south of Belfast. Belfast is in Northern Ireland–the part of Ireland where Unionists–those loyal to the British–reside next to the Republicans–those yearning for Irish independence from the UK. Northern Ireland was officially supportive of the British during World War II–yet still hung on to neutrality.

If it sounds complicated, it is. Scotland and Northern Ireland use the pound for currency. The Republic of Ireland uses the Euro. The republic intends to remain part of the European Union. Northern Ireland and Scotland expect Brexit. Some want to stay. Joining the EU nearly destroyed the Scottish fishing industry, so many are eager to go.

But back to Saint Malachy’s.

That Sunday was Pentecost Sunday–the celebration of the apostles in the upper room when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

The priest said that life, energy, light, and growth are gifts from Holy Spirit–the Spirit we cannot see–as we cannot see the wind, but we see the effects.

The Spirit of God brings new life even in places that seem lifeless. The Spirit gives energy. Holy Spirit in us is a gift from God–at Pentecost–and every other day too.

The priest proposed a simple prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit.”

In Ireland, there is still much bad blood between the political parties–and between the parties’ members.

There is much talk about Catholics and Protestants attending schools together. There is growing secularization and shrinking church attendance. There is also talk of removing religion from public life–as if that will take away the purpose of the animosity. As if that will bring peace.

But the animosity comes from the perversion of those presenting themselves as religious, faithful people. It comes from political conflict–not with disagreements over doctrine.

It does not come from those willing to ask Holy Spirit to come.

Ireland is changing. I see that in the stained glass tributes in Belfast’s City Hall to the Irish who fought beside the British in both World War One and Two.

I see it on the television programs encouraging the removal of Ireland’s religious heritage from public life in politically slanted broadcasts.

But for a few potatoes, Ireland may have been my earthly home–rather than my home of heritage. The land is yet the home of my heart. A hurting land that needs healing and restoration from the unseen God who conveys life, growth, and peace.

Come, Holy Spirit. Come to Ireland. And shine light through her.

Photo Credit: Nancy E. Head, Saint Malachy’s Church, Belfast

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.”

Rest and Restoration

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. – Jeremiah 31:25

Saturday I made jam. On Monday I cleaned out a big part of my closet. It felt so freeing to bring some order to where there had been little. Now I’m planning to take some time off from my desk too–restoration time.

I’ve been doing this for awhile–blogging since July of 2015 to be exact. This post is number 407.

Many of my posts illuminate the challenges Christianity and innocent human life face in America and around the world. But there have been lighter moments when a dog guest posted and the grandkids picked blueberries. (The dog appears in that one too.)

The challenges remain. The dog went home to his master. And the blueberries eventually became jam. I’ve written and not cleaned closets–an activity I generally avoid despite the feeling of accomplishment that follows it.

Even so, my goal in the next couple of weeks will be to spend time contemplatively. I have a new journal–pure pages yet untouched.

And downtime for me means other books too. I’ve completed some of the books on my reading list for this year. I’m partway through others. I’ve added and deleted a few since the year began. I hope to knock off several of the ones I’ve begun and get to others I’m eager to read.

Thank you to the faithful readers and the occasional ones. Writing nourishes a writer’s soul in and of itself. Still, it’s great to see someone else getting something out of the arrangement of words and ideas on a screen.

I’m planning to check back in on June 17. I’m hoping to be geared up and refreshed for a Master Class with Dannah Gresh that week. And I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Lots to look forward to. Now, onto prep and quiet time. God bless!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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.”

Kirkus Reviews Restoring the Shattered

TITLE INFORMATION RESTORING THE SHATTERED Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord Nancy E. Head Morgan James Faith (238 pp.) $15.99 paperback, $9.99 e-book ISBN: 978-1-64279-049-8; January 22, 2019

BOOK REVIEW

Head, a part-time English lecturer at Pennsylvania State University, Altoona, assesses the denominational fissures within Christianity and the possibility of future unity in this debut treatise. The author experienced the sectarianism of Christianity firsthand when she was a young girl: Her father was a Catholic and she attended Catholic school, but her mother was a Methodist and took her to her own church.

In this book, Head asserts that the doctrinal separation between Protestants and Catholics need not translate into mutual contempt, as both are bound by profound spiritual commitments. She goes on to furnish a far-reaching discussion of the differences between the two sides, emphasizing the tension between Catholics and evangelicals.

Along the way, she provides admirably clear accounts of doctrinal debates regarding such issues as abortion, homelessness, divorce, and poverty. In the case of the latter two issues, she draws deeply from personal experience; after Head and her husband divorced, she says, she had to raise five kids as a single mother and fell into dire financial straits.

The overarching metaphor of the entire study is an image of shattered glass, which can symbolically represent either disrepair or kaleidoscopic diversity. Head also supplies remarkably balanced histories of various religious culture wars in America and of the split between liberal Christianity and conservative evangelical thought. Ultimately, she counsels a meaningful détente between Christianity’s various subdivisions that doesn’t involve surrendering core principles—cooperation without compromise.

At the heart of the book is a genuine spirit of reconciliation: “In every encounter with those who disagree with us, we are always to act in love, accepting and respecting the sacred humanity of every person. But we are not to crumble under the pressure to endorse actions we cannot deem morally justified.”

A thoughtful introduction to complex cultural and theological issues in the Christian faith. 

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.”

Service Fair Ministry

It started as the seed of a plan. Bringing Christian non-profits together to reach out to our city. It came together last Saturday.

After we’d set up our tables, we started with a worship time–a band comprised of five members each from a different church singing in Christian accord.

Our host offered a word from the Bible–Job 9:33–“If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together,”–If only there could be a person to stand between hurting people and God.

“Today, you are that person,” he said.

The kickoff moment came when an elderly man hobbled up the hill to the sidewalk tables and sat down.

The cooking had just begun, but our chef and his assistant scurried to serve the man.

I wondered if he’d had anything at all to eat that day.

Soon parents–mostly moms–came with children.

Outside we offered a mix of donations and discounted (but baked fresh!) food from two meat processors, a bakery, a coffee shop, and some of the ladies attending a retreat that weekend.

I realized we had donors who didn’t offer what was just “good enough”; they offered their best.

Inside were representatives from two pregnancy resource centers, a local counseling group, a Christian school, a neighborhood church with a feeding program, a scholarship provider, a security specialist, and a local children’s ministry offering crafts. There was a table for our host–a city-wide ministry working out of the former elementary school building hosting us that day.

I sat at my author table, next to the table with door prizes.

We lined the edges of the entryway leading up the stairs to the gym where our host had inflated bouncy houses.

People came and found sustenance, encouragement, and those willing to help them in their need.

The expressions on the faces of children winning a prize were utter joy.

When it was over, we cleaned up and went home–bone weary but full of ideas for next year.

We hope this fair was our first attempt. We hope that other places will see and adapt the idea to fit their own communities. And we know that ministry doesn’t end with the conclusion of an event.

Our host will welcome hungry kids this summer, offering a feeding program as well as a reading program. There is more than one way to feed a soul.

We are thankful for the businesses that reached out to people who may never buy a product from them.

We are thankful that some individuals gave money and others baked brownies, cookies, and muffins. People offered us speaking opportunities to let the community know what we were doing and where. A radio station lent us the means to make a public service announcement. A printing/copy company provided insight and expertise in crafting brochures. They worked harder than they had to.

People in community came together to feed and entertain, to encourage and inform–to fill needs. Each one who contributed stood between God and a neighbor as a mediator.

They stood in fellowship with the least of these.

Matthew 25: 40b: “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

May we go and do likewise.

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.”

Loving Our Neighbor

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.’” Matthew 22:26-40

There was a time in America when just about everyone knew that piece of scripture. And knowing it–or being reminded of it–as well as other concepts like The Golden Rule really made a difference in how we acted.

This story from Grayson Quay:

“On the night that Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy was on the campaign trail, preparing to address a predominately African-American crowd in Indianapolis. As cities across the country braced for riots and RFK’s advisors begged him to get as far as he could from the yet-unknowing crowd while he had the chance, the candidate stepped up onto a flatbed truck to break the news. In a scene that was itself like something out of Greek tragedy, he quoted Agamemnon from memory:

‘Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget

Falls drop by drop upon the heart,

Until, in our own despair,

Against our will,

Comes wisdom

Through the awful grace of God.’

That night, while dozens of American cities burned, Indianapolis remained peaceful. “

These words, spoken to those who had grown up with the Golden Rule and the concept of loving our neighbors, kept anger from owning the day in one American city.

Compare that story to this one about Rep. Brian Sims’s encounters, first with an older protester, then with four younger pro-life activists–three teens and a mother–outside a Planned Parenthood in Sims’s district. Sims, who used to escort women into an abortion clinic, recorded the videos himself and posted them on social media.

In the first video, Sims berates a lone, older woman (perhaps in her 60s) quietly protesting outside the facility in his neighborhood. He calls her “an old white lady” whose behavior, in his view, is “disgusting,” “racist,” and “grotesque.” He tells her she can “pray at home.” The woman does not respond to his insults except to reach into her purse to retrieve her rosary beads.

Here’s the link to that video on a website that invites people to “push back against Planned Parenthood protesters.”

It’s not the only time Sims pushed back. The Philadelphia inquirer reports:

In the other[second] video, Sims approaches a woman [Ashley Garecht] and three girls who appear to be in their teens outside the Planned Parenthood clinic at 12th and Locust Streets and refers to them as ‘pseudo-Christian protesters who’ve been out here shaming young girls for being here.’

“’I’ve got $100 to anyone who will identify any of these three,'” Sims says [referring only to the teens, two who are 15, one who is 13, but not to Garecht who is the mother of two of the teens].

“[Garecht] responds, ‘We’re actually here just praying for the babies.'”

It was the second time, according to Garecht, Sims had accosted the quartet of protesters. He yelled at them at first, and then returned with his phone to record himself and ask viewers to identify the teens.

That means he had plenty of time to think about what he was doing.

He directed his comments to the girls. Garecht came between him and the teens and politely asked him to have a conversation. “Talk to me,” she said. “But he continued to yell at the girls.” He called the girls white (as he had done to the older woman)–apparently presuming that as an insult even though he is also white. The Hispanic teen corrected him.

“I’m not white,” the girl said. “I’m pretty far from white.”

But that didn’t slow him down. He claimed that Planned Parenthood “faces such attacks daily.” It doesn’t seem that he knows what the word attack means.

Sims used the videos to solicit contributions to Planned Parenthood, specifying in the second video that he would give $100 to the abortion titan.

But his plan backfired. Garecht and her husband started a Go Fund Me page after the encounter between Garecht, the teens, and Sims went viral. The fund is in support of a Philadelphia pro-life group.

In three days, they raised $118,000.

When Sims was making his videos, there were very few people on the street. Once the pro-life public saw his actions, they rallied on Friday.

Demonstrators at the Philadelphia Planned Parenthood where Brian Sims recorded his encounters with peaceful praying protesters. Photo by Pennlive (link below).

It’s possible that when the older woman pulled out her rosary beads, she was praying for her own protection. But I would not be surprised to learn she was praying for Sims.

That’s what Garecht and the girls did in the moments after their first meeting.

“We prayed for him then. I said we’ll continue to pray for him.”

The “old white lady,” Ashley Garecht, her daughters, and their friend know the words of Jesus Christ and ideas behind Aeschylus’s words from Agamemnon that RFK quoted. The now-famous Planned Parenthood protesters know the ideas that formed our culture before this moment.

Brian Sims, sadly, still has much to learn.

Photo Credit: Unsplash, Pennlive

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.”

Taking Us to the Edge of Darkness?

“I have no personal stake in these people, Jean-Claude, but they are people. Good, bad, or indifferent, they are alive, and no one has the right to just arbitrarily snuff them out.”

“So it is the sanctity of life you cling to?”

I nodded. “That and the fact that every human being is special. Every death is a loss of something precious and irreplaceable.” ~ Laurell K. Hamilton

Social Security came to be during the Great Depression as a way of moving older workers out of their jobs to make room for younger workers. Robert W. Merry points out that, today, the Social Security fund is running out of money.

“Consider the recent report that Social Security costs will exceed the program’s income next year, which means Social Security will have to begin dipping into its $3 trillion trust fund to maintain benefit payments. And that trust fund, under current projections, will run out of money within 15 years.”

The problem looms like an oncoming freight train, yet there is little discussion of a solution.

We’ve seen this problem before. In the early 1980s, Bob Dole, a Republican, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, put their heads together to save the program, which was in crisis at the time.

The solution Dole and Moynihan came up with involved taxing Social Security benefits and postponing those benefits until later in life. When the program began, life expectancy was not what it was in the ’80s although it remains close today to what it was during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

With fewer children being born, the fund can only become more unstable or more expensive per person. Veronique de Rugy writes that between “1945 and 1965, the decline in worker-to-beneficiary ratios went from 41 to 4 workers per beneficiary. Now that rate is 2.9 workers for every recipient.

The cure, if there is one to be found, for this situation may depend on who holds power in Congress and the White House as the problem comes to its inevitable head.

One solution may include higher taxes–both on workers and recipients–and more delays in receiving benefits although it seems unlikely that elder voters will embrace putting off their benefits beyond age 70.

Some may suggest yet another solution–one that is already in play in some places–the withdrawal of medical care from the terminally ill–or the withholding of care from those who need it to continue living–or the overt act of killing someone whose productivity has passed or will never come to be.

Andrea Peyser writes about Stephanie Packer who suffers from scleroderma–an auto-immune disease that causes scar tissue to accumulate in her lungs. She has outlived her prognosis by six years. But not because of any help she got from her insurance company or the state of California–which allows physician-prescribed-suicide.

“[At one point,] her doctors suggested that switching to another chemotherapy drug might buy her time. Her medical insurance company refused to pay. She says she asked if the company covered the cost of drugs to put her to death. She was told the answer is yes — with a co-payment of $1.20.”

We need to let that sink in. The insurance company refused to provide care that would extend Packer’s life, but killing herself would only cost her $1.20.

Some countries where the government manages all health care have moved even further down this road than America has.

In the United Kingdom, there were the cases of Alfie Evans and Charlie Gard–children who died because of a lack of care–care which would have been expensive.

Medical personnel wanted to actively kill Alfie, but his parents protested. The child finally died after authorities ordered the removal of his life support and a court refused to allow him to go to another country for treatment.

Medical decisions are happening based on cost-effectiveness without regard to patient outcomes, families’ wishes, or even a patient’s own desire to stay alive.

Very concerning: right now, 72 percent of Americans believe euthanasia–assisted suicide–should be legal. The only group for which the numbers fall under a majority are weekly churchgoers.

It’s sad to see that so many people don’t see the slope that slides between voluntary death and mandated murder. When the government is the highest authority–when the government pays for everything–or even when it doesn’t–life becomes secondary.

Simon Fitzmaurice, a victim of ALS, escaped death in Ireland only because the person helping him breathe didn’t know the rules. And the rules state that ALS patients don’t receive ventilators–even though the equipment is available at no cost to the government.

This filmmaker and writer would have received a death sentence–if not for the accident of his rescue–and his refusal–even under pressure–to have the ventilator removed after he received it.

Where once America provided for retirees to make room for younger workers, we may soon find ourselves eventually officially abandoning care for our elders, as well as the weak and sick, to make a financial way to care for everyone else.

But everyone else will then have to watch their own backs.

Such a turn of events would be tragic indeed. Life offers few securities. Embracing euthanasia would deprive us of the security that comes from having a society that reveres human life–a society that understands our lives are worthy of respect until their natural end.

Embracing euthanasia would deprive us of precious and irreplaceable human lives snuffed out on the altar of cost-effectiveness.

It is too great a price to pay to save a little money. There must be a better way.

There must be.

“All life is sacred. Human life is especially so. Protecting it is of utmost importance to God. He takes this so seriously and personally because He made humanity to reflect Him. We are His earthly representatives, made in His image. To murder another person is to mount an attack on the One who created him.” (Genesis 9:8-10 Voice)

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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.”

Freedom Beyond the Church Doors

In Lois Lowry’s The Giver, Jonas is a young boy who realizes that his father intends to kill his younger brother. Jonas makes this realization even as his father seems oblivious to the results of his own actions

Lowry paints an “ideal” society where drugs eliminate sexual desires and the social order arranges marriages and provides children to selected parents. The society chooses everyone’s family, everyone’s vocation, and instills everyone’s socially acceptable thoughts into their minds. Almost everyone’s.

The society chooses one person in every generation to receive the truth–to carry it–but never to divulge it. For his generation, that chosen person is Jonah.

But the society had failed to obliterate Jonah’s conscience. Some current societies are trying to do the same thing in a very significant way.

Last year, a Canadian court ruled that a patient’s desire to be euthaniized (a medical suicide) “trumps a doctor’s conscientious objection.”

Wesley J. Smith provides background to the case:

“In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada conjured a right to lethal-injection euthanasia for anyone with a medically diagnosable condition that causes irremediable suffering—as defined by the patient. No matter if palliative interventions could significantly reduce painful symptoms, if the patient would rather die, it’s the patient’s right to be killed. Parliament then kowtowed to the court and legalized euthanasia across Canada. Since each province administers the country’s socialized single-payer health-care system within its bounds, each provincial parliament also passed laws to accommodate euthanasia’s legalization. “

Canada isn’t alone in requiring medical personnel to violate their consciences. Victoria, Australia, requires physicians to perform abortions when requested–or to find someone for the patient who will.

What Canada and Australia have become, America may soon also be. Sam Sawyer, SJ, in response to New York’s recently enacted abortion law:

“The R.H.A. [Reproductive Health Act] does not contain any explicit provision requiring anyone to perform or provide abortions, but neither does it explicitly provide any exemption for conscientious objection by health care professionals regarding abortion.”

So this issue is one that remains for the legislature and/or courts to determine.

The radical nature of New York’s law–removing the requirement that doctor’s perform abortions rather than other medical personnel–and removing all protections from children who survive abortion and are born alive–does not bode well for conscientious objection against taking a life.

In the meantime, because abortion can now occur via prescription medication–because assisted suicide often happens via a lethal prescription–and because some contraceptives act as an abortifacient after conception (they kill embryos instead of preventing them–pharmacists are now at risk of violating their consciences too.

Only six states in the US provide a conscience clause, not requiring the pharmacist to either fill the prescription or help the patient receive the requested service through another outlet.

So it was an answer to prayer last Thursday–the National Day of Prayer–when President Trump announced new federal protections for an array of medical providers:

“We finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students, and faith-based charities.”

As with other such rules, this one is subject to change in the winds of any election.

But for those who support life in the medical field–and those who wish to in the future–the news is only good.

Let’s keep working for life to make this change one that lasts for generations. Otherwise, we risk becoming like the people of Lowry’s The Giver–having our consciences obliterated.

Because as James Madison noted, “Conscience is the most sacred of all property.”

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No, I won’t stay down

Earlier this week, Anne Susan DiPrizio was arrested in the Alabama House of Representatives for spraying the glass separating visitors from legislators with green paint and repeatedly yelling, “Dumb, dumb, dumb.” She “swung and threw paint on” security guards as they were arresting her.

DiPrizio was protesting the Alabama House’s passage of a bill that would ban almost all abortions in the state.

New York and other states are passing laws expanding abortion and refusing to protect children who survive abortion and are born alive.

Some states are going out of their way to make sure that the smallest abortion victims do not live to speak up later on. Others, like Alabama, are doing everything possible to protect the unborn.

America is gearing up for a showdown on Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton the 1973 Supreme Court decisions that eradicated every abortion law in all 50 states.

Forty-six years later, it’s an issue that just won’t go away.

Every year since 1974, the March for Life has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to Washington, DC, to mark the anniversary of Roe and Doe.

America has seen attacks on abortion facilities. “Fanatics resort to violence on both extremes of the pro-choice/pro-life spectrum,” writes Feminist for Life Serrin M. Foster (emphasis Foster’s).

More recently, it was in San Francisco during the 40 Days for Life–before Easter this year–when a young attacker assaulted an 85-year-old pro-life man praying outside a Planned Parenthood clinic.

The attacker knocked “Ron” down and said, “Stay down, old man–Stay on the ground–unless you want to get hurt.”

While on the ground, Ron wouldn’t let go of the pro-life banner the attacker was trying to steal. So the attacker kicked him several times. But Ron came back the next day. He had committed to a certain number of hours–and he came back to fulfill that commitment.

In response to the attack, he said, “No, I won’t stay down.”

So Ron returned to his post where he stood and prayed quietly. The 40 Days for Life philosophy asks participants to always respond “with love and charity”–no matter what they see, hear, or experience.

Forty Days for Life credits Ron’s efforts with saving the lives of three babies.

Many Americans don’t realize that laws like New York’s–laws legalizing abortion until birth–simply restore Roe and Doe in their original form. Abortion for any reason at any time in pregnancy.

But today when legislatures pass laws allowing abortion until birth and allowing the neglect until death of children who manage to live through the abortion process, Americans see that as extreme.

Most of America–even those who call themselves pro-choice–do not support abortion until birth. In fact, only 13 percent do.

Perhaps America has turned the tide on Roe and Doe. Perhaps the strategies of 40 Days and Ron can win the day.

If the side of life is the side of reason–and the side against life is a violent man kicking a peaceful elder and a screaming woman splattering paint on security guards, we will win.

But we must be like Ron to win. We must peacefully pray and stay at our posts–even if we are bruised.

Peace and prayer will win this, the battle of our lifetime. They are the greatest tools. If we use them and them alone.

The lives of many depend are depending on us.

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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.”

Morgan James Red Carpet Interview

Morgan James Red Carpet Interview about Restoring the Shattered


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.”

Get Help; Give Help

The idea is a natural outgrowth of my life.

During the hardest times of my life, the Church was there. A church–the one I attended–but also THE Church–a small piece of it–represented largely in a denomination not my own. The help from those within my worship community and part of other such communities kept my family from being stuck in the poverty trap.

We knew deep need, and the Church stepped up. But we didn’t just get a hand out–or a number of them. We got a hand up.

Christians provided gifts of food, clothing, and money to us. But they also provided childcare so I could go back to school–and advice on how to succeed there and in the workplace. They encouraged. They walked with us.

We did not stay in poverty. And we have those Christians to thank today.

And so is born the idea of the Central Pennsylvania Service Fair–an event to let people in need know where they can get help–or how they can offer help to others.

The idea involves inviting Christian non-profits to participate in the fair. Pregnancy Resources organizations as well as feeding ministries. Children’s, youth, men’s, and women’s ministries. Ministries that provide material needs; ministries for spiritual needs. That’s who we’ve invited to begin.

And then inviting the community–offering fun activities for the family–and a meal. Food is a universal language of fellowship. And we want the day–for a few hours one day next month–to be a day of friendship and fellowship.

–To gather in worship before the event and lift up our community in prayer.

–To let this church over here realize that the church over there is filling a need no one else in the community fills.

–To let people know that someone is there to fill the need that makes them feel all alone in the world.

One church alone cannot lift a community of those in need. It takes individuals and congregations.

Every person who steps up places a brick of support into the wall those in need climb to get out of the hole they inhabit. They have to climb out themselves–but they need the wall of support in order to scale the heights.

A service fair can be a layer of bricks in somebody’s wall to climb out of their hole. The person we help today is valuable to God. And that person receiving help today may be the one giving help tomorrow.

You don’t know the difference your help can make. And you don’t really know the depth of the person you help. What you can know is that no one is beneath the love of Christ. No human being is ordinary.

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”[i] C. S. Lewis

Find a need. Fill it. Lay a brick in someone’s wall. What we do can change eternity.


[i] C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1949), 15. Qtd. in Restoring the Shattered

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.”

Saving the Holy Innocents

“If a woman sees her baby on an ultrasound, there’s better than an 80 percent chance she will not abort her baby. If the dad sees the baby on an ultrasound, there’s more than a 90 percent she will not abort her baby.” Anthony Levatino, former abortion doctor~

The 40 Days for Life are over. God answers the prayers of His people. More than 15,000 babies are alive today because of that effort.

Now it’s Holy Week.

Christ entered the city to shouts of joy. But He knew what was ahead. A bigger agony than any other has ever known–physical anguish–plus the turning away of His Father. The sacrificial Lamb on the cross was alone for the first time in forever.

This was Christ who’d said, “Let the little children come unto me.”

But then Resurrection Day. And then Pentecost–the bestowing of God’s Holy Spirit.

And so came the Church.

We are His messengers. We carry the message of life. Physical life for the weak and voiceless. Abundant life for our spirits.

And we carry joy in our message, the joy of knowing such a Savior.

We carry the hope of light into a dark world.

Happy Easter! God bless!

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.”

Accord in Action

In 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in 456 years. Not only was he not Italian; he was from Poland, a country where the government despised the Church. This new pope was different. Younger than any other pope in the previous century, he had survived the Nazi occupation only to endure Soviet oppression. He knew the suffering that is oppression, and it infused his ministry with vivid colors.

When Wojtyla was in Rome becoming the new pope, Billy Graham was in Poland preaching from Wojtyla’s pulpit, having come at Wojtyla’s invitation. No other Polish Catholic leader would agree to invite Graham, and he couldn’t go without an invitation. Graham would later preach in Orthodox and Reformed churches, a Jewish synagogue, and an Orthodox monastery during his European travels.[i]

Wojtyla and Graham had planned to get together during Graham’s visit, but Wojtyla’s call to Rome for the papal election delayed their meeting.[ii] Before Graham’s arrival, Wojtyla had been overseeing a “radical partnership” between a Catholic youth renewal movement and Campus Crusade for Christ.[iii] His work to light local flames of faith in the young kindled a global bonfire he could never have imagined.

In 1979, the new pope returned to his homeland where more than one million Poles lined the streets to welcome him and millions more came to hear him.[iv] Lech Walesa, firebrand of the Solidarity movement in Poland, told Peggy Noonan in 2002 that “we knew the minute [John Paul] touched the foundations of communism, it would collapse.” Walesa credited “heaven and the Holy Father” as most responsible for destroying communism in Poland.[v]

The pope’s visit to Poland was a tiny pebble dropped into a steaming pond. The resulting ripples turned into a tidal wave. When Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet premier, he saw the handwriting on the wall in Poland and began to implement reforms across the Soviet Union. He hoped to save communism by reforming it.[vi]

But by then, the cracks in the foundation of communism were too deep. Ten years after the pope’s return to his homeland in 1979, the Berlin Wall fell along with the Iron Curtain. The ripples of reform and freedom in Eastern Europe would reverberate across the globe.

Nineteen-eighty-nine was also the year Hu Yaobang died in China. Hu was a high-ranking communist official in the People’s Republic. He had fallen out of favor with party power brokers because he supported reforms, loosening controls on the press and the people. Inspired by student protests in America and South Korea they had seen on television, Chinese college students gathered in Beijing at Tiananmen Square to mourn Hu, their advocate for democratic reform. The marathon sit-in lasted seven weeks. Demonstrations weren’t unheard of in China, but the international broadcast of such demonstrations was. The international press was in town to cover Gorbachev’s visit to Beijing. Because of his attempts to reform communism, the protesting Chinese students considered him a champion of democracy.[vii] The presence of the international press made possible our knowledge of the Tiananmen Square massacre. In front of the international media, the Chinese government, having lost face in the weeks’ long standoff, sent the army into the square, killing thousands and capturing surviving protesters.

Eastern European Christians would ultimately see freedom. The Chinese students, on the other hand, did not get the change they had hoped for, but change is what China would see. The Beijing massacre and imprisonment of surviving demonstrators prompted Chinese youth, especially students, to look for a new form of freedom. Many found that freedom in Christ. Why did young Chinese college students suddenly develop a passionate interest in the Christian faith? David Aikman writes that one “suggestion was that China’s traditional Confucian view of man as inherently good was shattered under the tanks that rolled onto the center of Beijing.”[viii] The Chinese students had put their faith in their government, and their government turned on them and attacked them. Now they would look elsewhere for someone to trust. Within the next ten to fifteen years, China is on track to become the most Christian nation in the world.[ix] The new wave of freedom that started in Catholic Poland ultimately sparked an explosion of evangelical Christianity halfway around the world. Pope John Paul II helped ignite that spark.

John Paul II began his papacy by hoping to visit his Catholic homeland. A faithful prayer warrior, he no doubt prayed for the people of his native land. The echoes of his first trek to Poland resonate around the world and into eternity. Christianity and the call for freedom have gone hand in hand throughout history because Christianity is the truest form of freedom. It frees us from the bonds of sin and points us to eternal concerns and away from irrelevant earthly ones.

The more freedom and opportunity we have, the more God expects of us, but it seems that the more personal comfort we have, the less we do for each other. In America’s large cities, our neighborhoods are more alienated than ever. Fear, anger, and misunderstanding separate us. Many of us feed a selfishness that wants to gain comfort others already have. Some of us just want to hang on to our own level of comfort.

Historically, as Christianity emerges in a hostile society, Christians have come together to further the gospel. Pope, now Saint, John Paul II and Billy Graham showed us the difference accord can make in oppressed nations like Poland once was. But accord is also apparent in oppressed China.

I had the blessing of meeting one of the Chinese student protesters who turned to Christ after Tiananmen Square. I asked him about separation within the Chinese church. “Denomination is not important in China,” was his reply.


[i] Grant Wacker, America’s Pastor, 203.

[ii] The pope would later visit with Graham in Rome multiple times, and the two corresponded through letters. When John Paul died, Graham said this pope had been the “most influential voice for morality and peace in the world in the last 100 years.” Michael Ireland, “Billy Graham: Pope John Paul II Was Most Influential Voice in 100 Years,” CBN.com transcript of CNN’s Larry King Live, broadcast April 2, 2005.

[iii] David Scott, “The Pope We Never Knew,” Christianity Today, April 19, 2005, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/may/13.34.html.

[iv] Peggy Noonan, John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father (New York: Penguin, 2005), 26.

[v] Ibid., 30–31.

[vi] Ibid., 31.

[vii] Nicholas D. Kristof and Special to the New York Times, “China’s Hero of Democracy: Gorbachev,” archives 1989, accessed May 14, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/1989/05/14/world/china-s-hero-of-democracy-gorbachev.html.

[viii] David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2003), 171.

[ix] Tom Phillips, “China on Course to Become ‘World’s Most Christian Nation’ within 15 Years,” London Telegraph, April 19, 2014, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10776023/China-on-course-to-become-worlds-most-Christian-nation-within-15-years.html.

Excerpted from Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered. 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.”

The Secret Trauma of Abortion

I had a strange dream many years ago. Many aspects of it are unusual; the most unusual might be that I remember it so well. My dreams are usually as fleeting as the smoke from a blown out candle.

I was a young mother then. Only two of my five children had been born. In my dream, it was nighttime and I was lying down in the backseat of a moving car. I don’t know who was driving. Perhaps the car was moving of its own accord.

I was on my way to a nearby town–at the time the only place locally where abortions happened. The entire dream was comprised of the two car rides–going there and coming back. The whole way there, I knew that this something had to happen. “I have to do this,” my dreaming inner self said. Ironically, I had the sense that I had no choice.
Then there was the ride home. Nothing in between. No light of the hospital hallways. No smiling or frowning nurse. No doctor reassuring me or disregarding me. No procedure itself.

There was just a ride home in which I felt only regret. As deeply as I felt the opposite conviction on the way there, I felt so profoundly–“I didn’t have to do that.” I awoke with a horror that indelibly impressed the dream in my mind.

For many women, my dream is reality. I only dreamed it. They’ve lived it.

A recent study presumed to prove that 95 percent of women who have abortions have no regrets. But most women (62.5 percent) who had abortions and were asked to participate in the study refused to be involved. Another 15 percent of those who had stayed in the study dropped out later on. And yet another 31 percent dropped out before the end of three years. That’s hardly 95 percent of women who’ve had abortions. That’s hardly even a reasonable sample.

The study further claimed that there is “no evidence of widespread post-abortion trauma syndrome. But it ignored “linkage studies” that showed “an elevated risk of psychiatric admissions following abortion or elevated rates of suicide. Instead, their assessment . . .[was based on] just six emotional reactions they associated with their abortion: relief, happiness, regret, guilt, sadness and anger.”

similar study claimed 80 percent were happy with their decisions to abort. But 76 percent were determined never to have another abortion. It was an experience they would choose never to repeat.

Ramah International reports that many women suffer guilt, numbness, suicidal thoughts, and the inability to bond with their other children after abortion. With one in four women in the US experiencing abortion, that’s a great deal of trauma and lack of family connection.

Crisis pregnancy centers help people (not just mothers) who are dealing with the ramifications of a surprise pregnancy–no matter how it ends. They also help with post-abortion counseling.

Women who have abortions suffer from trauma. Those around them suffer too. For those who favor abortion, that trauma is a secret they prefer to keep.

But many have turned against the pro-choice view. Abby Johnson is notable today because of the movie Unplanned. But Bernard Nathanson had been a pioneer of abortion in the 1970s. He became pro-life before he became a Christian. And Carol Everett had also done abortions. She now speaks against the “pro-choice” perspective. There are others.

Human life is sacred. All of it. Born, pre-born and clinic workers too. Violating that sanctity causes trauma to all involved.

There is healing in Christ. That’s where Johnson, Nathanson, and Everett found it.

Our prayers can help more find that healing too. Today is Day 37 of 40 Days for Life. It’s not too late for you to participate.

Call out to God for the babies, the abortion workers, the mothers, the fathers, and other family members abortion wounds.

Our great God hears and answers.

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.”

What We Are For Is More Than What We Are Against

“You are anti-abortion and anti-gay,” she said. Five words to define me.

She knew me from brief classroom conversations and my writing, including my personal history as a reader. I wrote that history for her graduate class in literacy in 2006, before same sex marriage was a national argument. In it, I mentioned Bernard Nathanson’s book Aborting AmericaNathanson’s account of his journey from abortion doctor (his term) to pro-life advocate.

I included books I felt had shaped me. Nathanson’s had carved conviction for life into my heart.  But there was also William Barrett’s Lilies of the Field, the first book I remember reading because I wanted to, not because I had to. And Laurel Lee’s Walking through the Fire: A Hospital Journal, her story of single motherhood that I read before I embarked on a similar experience only without the threat of serious illness.

I had made no effort to hide my Christianity explaining the change it produced in my life had also changed my choice of reading materials. I hadn’t thought to include a couple books I had read on the Christian perspective about homosexuality. I had an opinion on the subject but not one that defined who I was. Nonetheless, my history as a reader was a woven trail that led to a complex me.

But she boiled me down to five words.

In that moment, I struggled to define myself. “I am more pro-life and pro-family,” I stammered.

With the clarity that comes all too often after an uncomfortable encounter, I can state that I am an advocate for human life in the womb and later (which is why ‘anti-abortion’ is an incomplete term to describe the pro-life perspective). And for me, speaking up on behalf of families has related more to the pain divorce causes than it has to the legality of same-sex relationships.

But with my awkward self-definition still hanging in the air and my clearer definition to be formulated later on as I drove home, we moved on to the purpose of our meeting, a discussion of my work throughout the course. Her opinion of my views did not negatively affect her evaluation of my work. I suffered no injustice because she and I disagreed. We have since had other meetings, always pleasant.

She may consider me somewhat of a friend. If she does, I am her anti-abortion, anti-gay friend.

It’s hard to convince others that we deserve a label that positively states a principle instead of one that negatively threatens to restrict freedom. Rather than simply wanting to end women’s freedom to choose abortion, we want women to be free of the nightmare memories of having killed their own children, free from the physical ramifications, such as infertility, that sometimes result from abortion. We really do care for mother, child, father, siblings, grandparents.

We want to be free from the sin of not speaking up on behalf of the innocent.

We also want to be free from the sin of not speaking up on behalf of the family. It is our duty to speak up in favor of children having two parents of opposite sexes. We want people’s relationships to be holy and healthy. Even if there are those who disagree with us. Even if we would rather not, Even if they call us hateful bigots.

It is our duty to speak up on behalf of holiness, yet always to do so in love.

We may not be able to change the opinions of those who disagree with us, of those who put wrong labels on us. But the burden is not on those who look at us through a skewed worldview lens.

It is on us to show love, speak love, live the love of Christ so that they see Him instead of us.

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.”

Carrying Treasures into the Light

In 1894, a new play opened on the London stage. Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest addressed social concerns, gender, wealth, and status issues.

The story centers around a character with a questionable beginning. Jack Worthing doesn’t know who his biological parents are. Until he does, he cannot marry the girl of his dreams. His shady secret?

He was found in a train station–having been abandoned. Jack Worthing finally finds his mother–and his worth. Now, social status and parentage aren’t as closely connected as they were for Jack or Oscar Wilde. But the world today is finding no shortage of abandoned children.

In 1993, a federal study said 22,000 US mothers abandoned their infants in hospitals every year. Today, the nation isn’t even keeping track of the numbers.

It’s a problem that doesn’t get much attention. Here or there, a story pops up of a child left behind. Sometimes dressed warmly on a doorstep, sometimes in a toilet or a dumpster. And it’s not just babies. In 2008 in Nebraska, a father left nine of his ten children ranging in age from 20 months to 17 years.

It’s also a problem that has accompanied humanity through the ages. In every culture, in every time, children were simply cast out into the dark world. In Rome, they were left to be eaten by wild animals, or perhaps, rescued only to be exploited. Rejected because they were girls, or imperfect, or one mouth too many.

In America in the nineteenth century, early feminists and physicians worked together to criminalize abortion.

The medical community was working to standardize practices–such as hand washing–and abortion was dangerous. Then, feminists knew that abortion exploited women and harmed children.

Previously, abortion had been more widely accepted since there was little knowledge of fetal life and most people–even the Catholic Church–assumed life didn’t begin until the mother felt the child move.

Yet in the countryside, abortion had been uncommon. Parents didn’t abort children who would be valuable assets on the farm. As the population shifted to cities, abortion–and abandonment–ran rampant. By 1900, every state in America had made abortion illegal.

Note that the laws against abortion were to protect women and children from bad medical practices and oppressive men. As abortion increased, so did the numbers of abandoned children. Dickens reflected real life.

Today, every state has enacted a safe haven law in hopes of saving abandoned children. Hospitals provide bassinets in their lobbies for anyone to deposit a child, away from predators, human and otherwise, away from the elements. Such programs exist in other nations too.

A few years ago, there was a controversy over babyklappens (as the baby depositories are called in Germany). Germany’s constitution guarantees that citizens have a right to know their origin. Depositing a baby anonymously means the baby won’t know his origin.

But the controversy was bigger than one country.

The United Nations was concerned about any child who might lose the right “to be known and cared for by his or her parents.” The UN’s opposition to baby drops is blind to the needs of all children facing this plight, especially children in war torn countries as well as America’s inner cities–some of which can resemble war zones.

How can the UN not comprehend that some people cannot or will not care for their own children? Fortunately, the UN has no teeth to enforce idiocy.

But here’s a bigger question: Why do some parents still leave their children in trash canstoilets, or beside the road?

Desperation may be the answer in many cases. but it is not the only answer.
These “unwanted” children are another example of a “problem” legalized abortion was supposed to fix. But legalized abortion leads us to less respect for life, not more. If we can disregard the humanity of the unborn, how much difference can it make to disregard the already born?

Not much, it seems since the US Senate failed to garner the 60 votes needed to bring the Born Alive Survivors Protection Act to the floor for a vote. And a pro-life effort in House of Representatives has struggled to force a vote on a similar bill in opposition to majority leadership.

We would be more than foolish to expect our government to pass and sustain protection for innocent life born or unborn. Or to expect anything at all from the United Nations. Governments don’t have the answer.

The problems seem overwhelming, beyond our grasp. The world lacks peace. And they don’t know how to find it.

In her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa said, “I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion because it is a direct war, a direct killing – direct murder by the mother herself.”

Abortion or abandonment. Both are bombs in a great war between good and evil.

Every life is a treasure–a potential casualty in that war.

We find the weapon to answer the bombs in only one place. Jesus is the light.
We carry His light. We carry peace.

Peace and light spread truth. Speak peace and light today.

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

Revised from an earlier post

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.”


How Incompatible Is Incompatible with Life, Really?

You’re excited to be pregnant. Then the news hits you like a rock. Your child is “incompatible with life. You should terminate.” Or “You have to terminate.” It happens more often than you might think.

But not every unborn child so labeled actually dies.

What follows is a post by Rachael, a friend who knows all too well what hearing those words means since she and her husband Mike found out a year ago that they were expecting identical twin girls–and that the babies were at risk.

“‘SIUGR stands for selective intrauterine growth restriction and occurs only in monochorionic (identical) twin pregnancies.

“About 10% of monochorionic pregnancies will develop SIUGR. Many doctors do not know enough about this condition, and as a result, many are still recommending that parents terminate the smaller identical twin.

“We were given the option to terminate [the smaller baby] Vesper. We faced the options of terminating or relying on faith. We were told, if Vesper passes away, you are going to cause her sister (Olenna) to either pass or have severe brain damage. And you need to prepare for a life with a severely disabled child if that happens As I watched them dancing on the ultrasound screen, we determined then and there that termination was not an option for us. Vesper was growing and fighting to survive. She was just smaller than Olenna.

“So we went to the doctor every two weeks. The anxiety that filled each appointment until we heard both of their heartbeats is something I hope I never have to relive. But every week our girls fought and grew. After 24 weeks the medical staff stopped asking us every appointment if we were going to terminate.

“Finally, at 34 weeks, the longest they would allow our pregnancy to go, we delivered two beautiful baby girls.

“I am raising awareness for every fighter-survivor and angel out there. Olenna and Vesper want you to know that SIUGR does not automatically mean a death sentence. There is always hope. My girls are six months old and the Joy for our days. I thank God for them.

“‘This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’ John 9:3

That’s Rachael’s testimony of life for both her babies.

Hannah Sudlow’s story is different, yet the same. Her single baby Evelyn has the genetic disorder Trisomy 18. Her doctor told her Evelyn would surely die. He said:

“She is incompatible with life. She won’t survive. I don’t think you understand how serious this is.”

But Hannah and her husband Craig insisted on giving life to Evelyn–and committed to enjoying her as long as God allowed her to live. The medical practice treating Hannah did not take the news well.

“I was immediately dropped from the practice after calling through screams and sobs to ask where in the world that information came from and that I would continue my pregnancy. I went five weeks without a provider. Tragically, it was a thousand times easier to schedule an abortion for my child than it was to find proper care for myself and my pregnancy.”

Five weeks with no overseeing physician during a high-risk pregnancy. Easy to abort. Hard to find care. Yet, in this case, Hannah averted tragedy.

Because Evelyn is now 2-1/2 years old.

“The only tragedy here would be never meeting Evelyn. All of our days are limited. Not just a child with a chronic illness. None of us are promised tomorrow. I remind myself daily that on my best day or worst day caring for Evelyn, I never have the power to add or subtract a day from her life. “

Doctors advising Hannah and her husband were operating under the notion that all babies with Trisomy 18 die. But that’s not the case.

Former US Senator Rick Santorum and his wife Karen also have a daughter with Trisomy 18. They too received the terrible new that they HAD TO abort their child who was incompatible with life. They refused.

She is now ten years old.

Doctors are not the authors of life and death. God gives us people to love for as long as they and we are here to give love and receive love.

If only we will be as brave as Rachael and Mike, Hannah and Craig, and Rick and Karen.

If only we too will be so brave.

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

Photo Credit: Mike and Rachael Andrews Family Collection by Lakeside Portraits

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.”

A Hard But Necessary Message

Unplanned is the story of Abby Johnson’s journey from college student to Planned Parenthood volunteer to clinic director to pro-life advocate. It’s in theaters now–but it won’t be there after this weekend unless it makes big box office numbers.

The film begins with Johnson’s statement that the story will not be easy to watch. The film garnered an R rating–ironically making it more difficult for a 15-year-old to see the movie than it would be for her to schedule an actual abortion.

There is no nudity, very little foul language–no F bombs, no God’s name in vain.

Even so, the first ten minutes of the movie may haunt me for a very long time. That portion of the movie depicts a sonogram-guided second-trimester abortion.

Vividly.

There are a few other emotionally jarring scenes. Johnson’s endurance of a chemical abortion (not the simple procedure abortion perveyors present) and the staff dealing with a patient’s perforated uterus (without calling an ambulance) among them.

Ashley Bratcher as Johnson provides an excellent portrayal and delivers a broad range of emotions from the joy of Johnson’s second marriage to anguish over the final realization of what her work for eight years as an “abortion provider” had truly entailed.

But the uncredited star of her story is the prayer others offered on her behalf and for the cause of ending abortion.

Go see this movie. But be prepared to exit the theater changed. There is power in Johnson’s story–whether in her books or on the big screen. There is power in the images of the death and danger involved in abortion.

Yet there is more power in the prayer that asks God to end the horror and grant forgiveness, mercy, and grace after years of pursuing and encouraging death.

This movie can change you.

In more ways than one.

Photo Credit: Lifesitenews

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.”

Human Enough

“Throughout modern history society has been eaten away by a series of internal maladies, man turning against man and class against class: all societies have been characterized by the warfare of opposing interests, by competition, by the isolation and dereliction of each individual man.” Rod Dreher

Roland C. Warren sees a disturbing trend in the argument over human life. Early in the abortion discussion, advocates for abortion (and euthanasia) argued that there was “human life” (with regard to abortion: the mother; with regard to euthanasia: the healthy) and “not yet life” (the unborn), and even “no longer life” (the sick or infirm).

So we had life and non-life. And then ultrasound technology let us peer into the womb where we clearly see–life!

Now, advocates for “freedom of choice” are acknowledging that life is present–and even human. But there is a structure of hierarchy. Some lives supersede others.
Warren cites Mary Elizabeth Williams who penned an article titled “So What If Abortion Ends a Life?” Williams acknowledges that life begins at conception. And acknowledges that the admission can weaken her own argument.

But…

“All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.”

Note that Williams defaults to the essential red herrings of the pro-choice set. “Her life” and “her health” as if her life is enhanced and her health restored because a baby she removed from her womb is dead. The hard cases–life, health, and rape/incest–add up to 1.23 percent of all abortions.

Sandwiched between life and health is “her circumstances”–the situations that motivate 98.7 percent of abortions in the US. Difficult circumstances mean the child–he or she–must step aside.

Take further note that the criterion for getting to decide is autonomy. The shift in thinking has taken us from thinking “It’s not a life” to “It’s a life–a child even–but a “non-autonomous” life. The ability to be independent determines the value of life.

Such a notion fuels the so-called “right to die” movement. In her article, Williams mentions “grandma” before she mentions “baby”. Grandma may herself decide to live no longer–or someone else may decide for her. Killing with consent leads quickly to killing without it.

It’s not a big step from Grandma is in pain to Grandma is a pain–and an expensive one at that. When we arrive at that determination, we have made Grandma subhuman. Then, every one of us becomes subject to the same devaluing. No one is exempt.

But Warren argues: that is not who we are.

He paints a hypothetical situation. You are crossing the street and you see two people carrying their groceries. One is a healthy 25-year-old man. The other is an 85-year-old woman. Both of them drop their groceries at the same time. Who do you help?

We help the woman. The one we perceive needs help more. “It’s wired into us,” Warren says. “It’s what makes us human–how we apportion compassion.” He adds that animals–creatures less than human–operate in the opposite manner. Strong animals eat weak ones.

Humans, at their best, help the weak. When we live otherwise, we live like animals. And then we have all become less.

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! 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 Quiet Voice for Life

“Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push—in just the right place—it can be tipped.”  Malcolm Gladwell

When police came to arrest him, he didn’t understand what the big deal was. He hadn’t done anything wrong. He had only been helping people.

Kermit Gosnell would later be convicted for performing late-term abortions, killing aborted babies born alive, and causing the death of a woman who had undergone an abortion. He believed that, eventually, society would exonerate him because we would come to see that what he did had not been wrong after all.

I continue to feel optimistic of the eventual outcome…the vindication of what I’ve done, why I’ve done it and how [it] will become accepted within my lifetime.”

In January, the state of New York decriminalized every crime Gosnell committed. Had he been convicted in that state instead of Pennsylvania, he would have grounds to be pardoned and immediately released, perhaps with an apology from the state.

The woman who had an abortion and died later, had received medications at the hands of untrained employees acting on Gosnell’s orders in his absence.

And a baby weighing six pounds died after being born alive–after exiting his mother’s body–after he had begun breathing on his own. Gosnell stuck scissors in the back of his neck and cut his spinal cord.

That baby was not the only living, breathing child Gosnell and his co-workers “snipped”.

The state of New York has chosen to side with such an approach to death–death inflicted by the trained and untrained–death for the already born.

New York speaks death over those with no voice.

Yet, there is another voice today–a quieter but growing one. It’s a voice that understands the there is “an American consensus … implying that there are truths that we hold in common, and a natural law that makes known to all of us the structure of the moral universe in such wise that all of us are bound to it by common obedience.” George Weigel

We who understand the power of the one behind this natural law must raise our voices now.

America has been going down the path of death for decades–but not so far that we cannot turn back. A few states like New York are opting for more death. But the outcry for life is making itself heard in every state. People are speaking up.

A few weeks ago, a reader told me that she is praying about what she can do on behalf of the unborn.

Here are a few ideas.

Notify your legislators at the city, county, state, and federal levels about your conviction that the legalized killing of children born and unborn must end.

Talk to your neighbors, friends, and family. Most people don’t realize that Roe v. Wade and its companion case of Doe v. Bolton legalized abortion THROUGH THE ENTIRE NINE MONTHS OF PREGNANCY.

Attend or consider planning an event in your community to raise awareness about the plight of unborn children. Join your local pro-life group. Volunteer for/support your local crisis pregnancy facility.

Go see Unplanned, in theaters this week. The story of Abby Johnson who once managed a Planned Parenthood abortion facility but is now a voice for life–and who now mothers eight children–some of them by birth, others by adoption.

Pray. And then pray some more. Pray about what you should do. Pray for the mothers, the babies, the Abby Johnsons who still work at the clinics, and the Kermit Gosnells who just don’t get why unborn–and newly born–life really matters.

The laws opposing life are not immovable, implacable. Perhaps your effort–or our effort combined–will produce that slightest push to tip America back to the side of life.

Before it is too late.

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.”

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Of Mice and Men and Unborn Children, Part II

“In each of us, two natures are at war–the good and the evil. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. But in our own hands lies the power to choose.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Despite having crafted a rule that defunds Planned Parenthood, all is not pro-life in the Trump Administration. The Health and Human Services Department has not just overlooked but endorsed a funding extension (the second one) for experiments to create humanized mice. The experiments require human body parts–parts harvested from babies aborted late-term.

CNSNews reports that the experimentation at the University of California at San Francisco “creates a demand–driven by federal tax dollars–for tissue taken from late-term aborted babies. According to an estimate it has published on its website, the National Institutes of Health (which is a division of HHS) will spend $95 million this fiscal year alone on research that–like UCSF’s ‘humanized mouse’ contract–uses human fetal tissue.

“Under the new 90-day extension, the contract—which the government calls ‘Humanized Mouse Models for HIV Therapeutics Development’–will run through June 5.”

Whereupon, we must ask whether HHS will grant yet another extension.

Allowing this atrocity to continue gives a sense of schizophrenia to the Trump Administration–who, on one hand, are calling out Democrats for supporting abortion until birth–and infanticide after birth–and on the other hand–approving this practice.

The President calls late-term abortion execution. So why are we executing late-term unborn children in the name of science?

There can be no abortion that redeems itself in research–for the good of someone else. To take one life in the hope (and it is a mere hope) of saving someone else is the stuff of bad science fiction, the stuff of dehumanizing oppression of the worst kind.

The Trump Administration–America itself–must decide whether good or evil will be the nature of our land. Will we be a nation where all people are created equal with rights? Or will we be a horrid shadow of nations who’ve used the weak to fortify the strong?

We must decide. And history will forever note that decision.

Of Mice and Men and Unborn Children (Part One)

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.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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.”

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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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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.”

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!

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.”

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!

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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.”

Today’s post revised from January 2016

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!

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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.”

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.

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.

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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.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this excerpted 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 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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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.”

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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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.”

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

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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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.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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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.


Photo Credit: Pixabay

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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!”

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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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.”


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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

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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

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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. 

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

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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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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.


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