Restoring the Ruins

“‘The West’ . . . was born from the telling of one sacred story — a garden, an apple, a fall, a redemption — which shaped every aspect of life: the organisation of the working week; the cycle of annual feast and rest days; the payment of taxes; the moral duties of individuals; the attitude to neighbours and strangers; the obligations of charity; the structure of families; and most of all, the wide picture of the universe — its structure and meaning, and our place within it.

The West, in short, was Christendom. But Christendom died. If you live in the West now, you are living among its ruins. Many of them are still beautiful — intact cathedrals, Bach concertos — but they are ruins nonetheless. And when an old culture built around a sacred order dies, there will be lasting upheaval at every level of society, from the level of politics to the level of the soul. The shape of everything — family, work, moral attitudes, the very existence of morals at all, notions of good and evil, sexual mores, perspectives on everything from money to rest to work to nature to the body to kin to duty — all of it will be up for grabs. Welcome to 2021.” Paul Kingsnorth~

It might be hard to find a portion of work that better sums up our part of the world at this place in time than the above two paragraphs. Kingsnorth hits a bullseye as he sums up what the West was, and what we are today.

We wonder how we got here, how we got here so fast, but the decline was subtle and slow. From my childhood, I remember dressing a certain way for church or school, having no trouble finding movies that reinforced the ideas of good and evil, watching evening newscasts that rejected ugly, slanted, or illogical discourse, hearing political commentary capable of reaching an audience of broad perspectives. Our milk cartons advised us to attend our church or synagogue this weekend.

We point to moments. It was that election. It was this event. But the starting point of decline is impossible to pinpoint. History moves from moment to moment as we plan what’s for dinner, what to do on Saturday evening, and where to go on vacation next summer.

Yet, here we are among the ruins of our previously Christian culture.

Where to begin to rebuild?

We begin by feeding souls.

The Gospel is the obvious place to start. But the foundations that once helped Americans easily comprehend God’s truth have crumbled away. That bridge needs rebuilding, restoring.

To begin that rebuilding, churches and individuals can help families, single parents, kids struggling to find their way, perhaps with no one showing them a functional way forward.

That way requires some training–us showing others how to do things. I don’t mean an education that leads to specific employment later on. But learning leading to a satisfying life of doing, of action.

Cultivating relationships, developing skills like cooking, playing a sport or a musical instrument–work of a sort that someone can point to and say: “I can do that.”

Some people can’t say that very often today. Being able to say that is important.

And what can we do to enhance literacy around us? And why does literacy matter?

John Wesley opined that “A reading people will always be a knowing people.” Henry Peter Brougham said, “Education makes people easy to lead but difficult to drive.”

Knowing where we’ve come from helps us understand where our place and time will lead us. The past shows us how we got to our place today and how to get to a new place, a better one.

What can we do?

We can ask God to show us whom we can help, who wants to learn, who is searching for help. His answer may call me to help a neighbor and you to volunteer. He may call us both to donate books to a ministry that reaches out to those in need of soul-feeding–to donate food–to feed soul and body.

It’s up to us to show people “the wide picture of the universe — its structure and meaning, and our place within it.”

Civilizations build bridges–and rebuild them–one stone at a time.

Where will you place your piece of rock to rebuild the ruins around 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.”

HEADlines: Love or Lust

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, August 28, 2021~

Covenant: “a formal agreement or contract, between God and humans or between two human parties to do or refrain from doing something. Sometimes only one party was responsible to carry out the terms (a unilateral covenant, which was essentially a promise). At other times both parties had terms to carry out (a bilateral covenant).”

Commodify: “to turn (something, such as an intrinsic value or a work of art) into a commodity–a good interchangeable with other goods.”

We were unhappy with our cell phone carrier. The pricing was erratic, sometimes shocking. “Customer service” was a frustrating, time-sucking vortex.

When our contract was up, we jumped.

We’d ended the relationship with a business that didn’t seem so interested in serving our needs. We found a business that would serve us better. Much better.

So we begin and end business relationships.

And so, as Dr. Tim Keller explains, do we often treat our romantic interactions today, making them more accurate reflections of business dealings rather than lifetime commitments.

In his sermon/podcast “Love and Lust,” he draws a distinction between the virtue of love as seen in covenant relationships, and the vice of lust, manifested in a business-like approach to romance.

Committed love is a covenant relationship. “Sex is supposed to be a symbol of what you’ve done with your life,” Keller says, that you have fully committed to another person, way beyond a physical relationship.

“You must not do with your body what you’re not willing to do with your whole life.” The language sounds limiting, binding. It is. Yet living love this way provides amazing benefits.

“In a covenant, when you have made a promise, sex becomes like a sacrament . . . . an external, visible sign of an invisible reality. . . . That’s why it’s so meaningful. “

In this way, sex reflects the intimate love God has for our souls.

“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine.” (Ezekiel 16:8, ESV).

Covenant, Keller says, provides a “zone of safety where you can be yourself.”

Covenant produces deeper feelings. “When you are committed to a person in spite of your feelings, deeper feelings grow,” Keller says. As in parenthood, covenant marriage requires giving without regard to receiving, thereby producing “a deeper, richer kind of feeling.”

“Covenantal relationships bring freedom.” He references Kierkegaard who claimed non-covenantal relationships make us slaves. Commitment brings freedom. Freedom from commitment is oppressive. That can seem counter-intuitive in these days, but it’s true.

Lust, however, is a transaction. Sex outside of marriage is “marketing.” Marketing is anything but meaningful.

Keller says couples who live together outside of marriage are trying to figure out “whether this person is good enough to marry or whether I can do better . . . It’s not trusting. It’s not resting. It’s not giving.”

People who live together before marriage are learning how to live together as consumers.

As we’ve moved further down the highway of consumer/transactional sex, we see the results of sexual self-seeking instead of sexual (and otherwise) self-giving.

Our culture has almost completely abandoned any sign of covenantal love. We are becoming a strictly commodified society. Therefore, fewer are buying into marriage.

Edward Davies in “Forget Race or Class, Marriage is the Big Social Divide,” writes that marriage rates in the UK have “been steadily collapsing since the 1970s. Not just declining but falling off a cliff. Even at the height of the second world war, (sic) one of its previous lowest points, the male marriage rate was almost triple what it is today.”

America’s rates show a big drop too.

Link for graph

As my mother so aptly put it many years ago: “Why buy the cow when you’re getting the milk for free?”

Especially when the metaphorical cow you’re renting is trying harder to close the deal.

Many of us have been that metaphor. We sold ourselves short.

In the meantime, many have turned to pornography, primarily men, but women too. Porn is an enormous form of commodification, second only to prostitution.

Keller says pornography is “so focused on yourself, you don’t even have another person. . . . [It] is everything the Bible says is not what sex is supposed to be.” He says porn affects all our relationships, porn influences social aspects from fashion choices to marriage rates, asserting that the drop in American marriage rates is largely due to porn.

Keller quotes Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker’s book Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying:

“People who use pornography have crushingly unrealistic expectations regarding physical appearance and sexual performance. . . .

“A significant number of male porn users experience a diminished tolerance for the difficulties of real relationships . . . shrink[ing] the marriage pool for women. . . .”

Pornography is “why the number of people getting married is going down.”

That’s easy to see. But fashion trends?

Regnerus and Uecker assert that “All women . . . are increasingly being forced to accommodate sexual behaviors and their appearances to the images and style of pornography.”

The fashion industry influenced by porn? That seems far-fetched.

But Andi Zeisler agrees with Keller, and Regnerus and Uecker. “Porn is now not only represented in, but an indelible part of, everything from high culture to fashion magazines to college curricula,” she writes.

The discussion comes full circle when Zeisler references Naomi Wolf who predicted nearly two decades ago that “far from turning men into the raving, sex-mad predators that anti-porn crusaders . . . once warned against, [porn] is turning them off of regular, nondigital women.”

Marriage rates support Wolf’s thesis. But not all porn watchers are rejecting sex with a partner altogether.

Ponder this: Rod Dreher’s citation of The Telegraph: “A GP [general practitioner physician] let’s call her Sue, said: ‘I’m afraid things are much worse than people suspect.’ In recent years, Sue had treated growing numbers of teenage girls with internal injuries [caused by frequent deviant sex] . . . not, as Sue found out, because she wanted to, or because she enjoyed it – on the contrary – but because a boy expected her to. “I’ll spare you the gruesome details,” said Sue, [I will too.] “but these girls are very young and slight and their bodies are simply not designed for that.”

What else is porn doing to women and girls?

We imagine the stereotypical porn user as a man sitting in his basement (perhaps his mother’s) in the dark in front of a flickering screen (his phone or computer). He is glassy-eyed and probably unemployed.

But Zeisler cites Adella O’Neal, publicist for Digital Playground, pointing out that “in 2000 roughly 9 percent of the company’s consumers were women; four years later, that figure . . . bloomed to 53 percent.”

Fox News reports: “Women aren’t excluded from this heavy porn-watching either. Pornhub released information in 2017 that revealed women spending more time watching porn than men, reports anti-porn advocacy group Fight the New Drug. Women were also more likely to search for harder versions of porn than men.”

That may be how we moved from the idea that porn exploits and victimizes women to the emerging notion that sex work empowers them.

Sadly many in the Church have been drinking the poison too.

Fox News continues: Covenant Eyes [a porn addiction recovery organization]” reports that “64 percent of Christian men and 15 percent of Christian women report watching porn at least once a month.” Take note: Christians.

Porn gives us a distorted view of ourselves and others. And this distorted vision is downloaded into the minds of a majority of Christian men and a significant percentage of Christian women–at least monthly–often daily.

Also this from Dreher: “At a conservative Christian college not long ago, a campus minister told me that every single young man he works with, helping them to prepare for seminary after graduation, is addicted to pornography (meaning that they use it compulsively, and find it impossible to stop, even though they want to). Sixteen young men — conservative, churchgoing men who want to serve God and others as pastors — caught in that trap.”

In Pure Desire: How One Man’s Triumph Can Help Others Break Free from Sexual Temptation, Ted Roberts writes: “Sexual addiction is not just a struggle over a mental perspective; it touches God’s very image, as well as the depths of a man’s soul.”

Here’s an ironic reality. Psychology Today quotes a scholarly study that shows porn use actually lessens sexual satisfaction rather than enhancing it.

“Notably, under no circumstances was pornography use associated with greater sexual satisfaction. These findings, while correlational, suggest that even infrequent use of pornography has negative effects on sexual satisfaction.”

Satan’s counterfeits never match up to what God intended in giving humans the gift of sex.

Where is hope for us?

As mentioned above, Covenant Eyes is a good place to start.

But first, we must recognize the problem. And it’s much more pervasive than we want to think it is.

It’s a heart issue.

We want what we want. We’ve bought so far into materialism and pleasure that we have lost sight of who we are. Of who every other person is.

Each one, imago Dei, the image of God. Each one, His poiema, God’s masterpiece.

Every one.

The child in the womb. The person on the street, homeless, alone, and hungry. The woman on the screen.

And everyone who sits on the other side of the screen.

No one is ever a commodity.

From Ted Roberts: “Numerous authors have written books concerning the clinical aspects of sexual addictions, and even more books call for believers to seek holiness. But our [ministry’s] ultimate focus is more specific . . . . [We want to] persuade the Church to become a place of hope and healing rather than of shame for those fighting sexual battles. .

“We need ruthless honesty that exceeds our comfort zones and pursues God’s heart, no matter the cost.”

Individuals and ministries need to pursue God’s heart. Such pursuit comes with a great cost.

The cost of ignoring this issue is much greater.

“Flee sexual immorality. Every other sin that a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body,” I Corinthians 6: 18-20.

Photo Credit: Ben White, 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.”

Until Unity–Drawing the Church Together

“When love is shallow, all it takes is something as trivial as a disagreement to divide us.” Francis Chan, Until Unity~

Christian accord–another word for unity–is something my heart has pursued for years. Now Francis Chan writes from his heart about the necessity for Christians to set aside our differences and move forward as the one Church Christ prayed we would be in John 17.

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me,” John 17: 22-23.

But that hasn’t happened. Instead, over the years, centuries even, we have continued to divide ourselves over our interpretations of scripture.

Too often, we point to others as the problem. Maybe, Chan points out in his new book, the problem is us.

“In many ways, we have lost a sense of the true holiness of God, and that has caused pride to grow and fester in the church. Everyone seems to start out with the assumption that his or her opinion of God is right, rather than recognizing that all of us have an incomplete, flawed knowledge of God.”

Scripture permeates Chan’s text. He supports his assertions with God’s Word at every turn.

And Chan is stalwart in his devotion to essential Christian doctrine. He does not promote a false, Kumbaya awakening where we discard the basic tenets of faith for a superficial connection to nominal “believers”.

I recommend a great many books in this space. But this book presents, more than an intriguing read. As Chan points out unity is crucial to the future of the Church–and the eternity of many currently outside the Church.

Christ prays for us to be one “so the world may know.”

For us, unity is “not optional.”

Read this book.

Pray for unity among Christians. Love other Christians who are faithful followers even if they aren’t of your tradition.

Turning our corner of the world around may just be that simple.

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.”

From Appalachia to the Seat of Government?

“Whatever talents I have, I almost squandered until a handful of loving people rescued me.” J.D. Vance~

He has become the voice of an unheard America. A part of America that has lost the American Dream. The dream that, if you work hard, you can make a good life.

J.D. Vance grew up in Rust Belt, USA. His grandparents had migrated from Kentucky to Ohio–but never escaped their hillbilly roots–until Vance graduated from Yale Law School.

Yet he doesn’t seek to disassociate himself from his forebears. He carries with him lessons they taught.

His journey to Yale is remarkable. But many of his peers remain in Appalachia living unremarkable lives. Their dreams are not remarkable. They have lost hope.

Many analysts blame the economic downturn for this lack of hope. But as with every sociological phenomenon, there are many factors. 

The economic downturn coincided with the sexual revolution, which coincided with a freer availability of drugs–marijuana, heroin, crack, then opioids.

The Soma of Huxley’s The Brave New World became reality for too many.

There are not only few good jobs, there are also few fathers–fewer male influences to pass down a concept of hard work and traditional manhood. And since the military draft ended, few young men enlist. Few learn, as Vance did in the Marines, what their true capabilities are.

Vance points out that there is “a lack of agency”–“too many young men immune to hard work.”

Small-town America changed too. Gone are the locally-owned mom-and-pop stores. Those places where everyone knew your name.

But there is always someone who does know your name–or at least someone who can find it out.

What made the difference for Vance? A handful of loving people–a few who cared. There were his grandparents; one was an alcoholic. They divorced, but never severed themselves from each other or the rest of the family. While Vance had a series of father figures, his own father was largely absent.

But his father took him to church–at least briefly. And his grandparents pushed him to work hard.

And the Marines made sure he knew how to balance a checkbook. How to buy a car. How to choose healthy food. How he could go to college. Basically, they taught him how to function in life. How to move beyond his limited background.

He navigated the Marines; he accelerated through college; he realized low-income people get a tuition break at Yale Law. He dreamed big; he applied.

And he worked hard. Teachers encouraged him. He met a girl.

She was the one he called once when he needed an answer fast. He was attending a high-stakes dinner where prestigious law firms sorted through prospective associates at Yale.

From the men’s room, he asked her what to do with so many forks beside his dinner plate. She gave him a quick lesson on how to work through his place setting.

That’s something you don’t learn in a typical household in Appalachia.

But in other ways, he was smarter than his Yale peers.

He and some friends went out to dinner. He and another student from a modest background were appalled at how their group had left the table. Vance knew what it was like to clean up after people who were careless and sloppy. Some never fathom what it’s like to do a dirty job.

The elite students grew up knowing they would go to college. They assumed success in the world. They learned how to fit in with other elite crowds. They knew which fork to use. They had table manners.

Vance and his friend helped clean up the table. They had courtesy.

Now Vance is a latecomer to a crowded Ohio US Senate Republican primary race for 2022. It remains to be seen whether his quest to bring the American Dream back to Appalachia will bear electoral fruit.

Ohio may or may not elect Vance. Our nation’s future doesn’t hang in the balance of primary election results. Perhaps it doesn’t depend as much on those who will choose between a life of dependence on feel-good life-numbing strategies or rising above these standstill ways to reach to fulfill their potential.

J.D. Vance blazed a trail of success and kindness.

But let’s remember that loving people helped him along that trail. Perhaps our nation’s future depends on them.

On us, if we are willing.

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 Lie of Doing Wrong to Do Right

“[T]his is the great Western idea: the proper route forward for the redemption of the individual and for mankind as a whole is as a consequence of the redemption of each individual.” Jordan Peterson

In The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn writes that, in classical works, villains “recognize themselves as evildoers, and they know their souls are black.”

Real people aren’t that honest, even within ourselves. We work to convince the innermost part of our being that, even if we’re doing something others would consider wrong, we’re doing it for a good reason, so that makes it right.

“[T]o do evil,” Solzhenitsyn says, “a human being must first of all believe that what he is doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law.”

Solzhenitsyn dates himself with his mention of natural law–a concept now lost to America–to most of the West. (See Robert Bork.) But Solzhenitsyn was writing in the 1950s about great and obvious evil–the oppression of millions in the Soviet gulag system. And in that day, most still embrace the concept of natural law–of an innate human understanding of right and wrong.

We can credit the existence of natural law with producing the classical villains, the Iagos of Shakespeare, the Bill Sykeses of Dickens, and the Jokers and Riddlers of more modern times. Their authors/creators couldn’t conceive of them not acknowledging their evil.

In reality, clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson asserts, as we prepare to do wrong, we either heed or ignore an inner sense that what we are conceiving is wrong.

Peterson has evaluated why we ignore that small voice inside ourselves and has come to a conclusion he believes is universal: We know what’s right, what’s wrong. But we have the capability to convince ourselves that what is wrong can become right.

He warns that we engage in a “very, very dangerous supposition” when we assume that we would choose differently from the way others have in the past. When we assume we wouldn’t kill millions, that we could handle power correctly. That we can do evil but avoid replicating results the past produced when others decided to do evil.

Peterson says, “I came to believe that the problem was as Solzhenitsyn said . . . that the line between good and evil runs down every human heart.”

Any one of us can and will choose wrong–grave evil–unless we guard against it.

Peterson: “[T]he way to stop such things from happening, to remember [them] properly, is to understand that you could do it, that you could do those terrible things because the people who did them were like you.”

In order to avoid doing the evil we are all capable of we must stop telling “yourself lies you don’t believe in.”

Redemption, for Peterson, occurs through “adherence to the truth and courage in the face of being.”

Peterson won’t talk publicly about his beliefs about God. Perhaps those beliefs are still fluid, still taking shape.

Sometimes people come to a moral code for good through God. Sometimes they come to God by recognizing a moral code and our propensity to violate it.

Redemption comes through truth. Christ is truth.

But we can never come to truth by lying to ourselves about who we are and what is good. We can only come to truth by acknowledging the truth about ourselves.

We need to listen to the still small voice that only speaks truth.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14~

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.”


Freeing Our Children for Excellence

“What’s always struck me about Huxley’s novel [The Brave New World] is that, even amid all this license, the savvier characters still recognize that they aren’t in fact free. Bernard Marx at one point refers to himself as “enslaved by my conditioning,” while the Savage contrasts “freedom” with the World State’s enforced “comfort.” This is the first thing to understand about what we’re doing to our children today: it isn’t liberty so much as the opposite. Huxley’s point is that even liberation can become subjugating if it’s turned into ideology and inflicted upon the young,” Matt Purple~

I remember sitting in a classroom in 1993 for parent-teacher conferences for my then-12th grade daughter. The class was health. I was the parent. The teacher was a woman who’d grown up down the street from my childhood home. We had played with our Barbie dolls together. Now we sat on opposite sides of a desk.

My daughter had told me that this teacher had the class line up, each student holding a placard with the name of a male body part. The supposed goal was to get the students to learn the correct order of placement for male sex organs. The class was co-ed.

An unintended (or not) result of such a classroom activity would be a diminishing of natural self-consciousness among the students, a self-consciousness I would argue is God-given and protective.

Twenty-eight years later, sex education in many districts occurs earlier and is often more graphic than placards with words for male body parts lettered on them.

Now we must ask why some people are working so hard to make sure children (now much younger than my daughter was then) understand all there is to understand about sex, sexuality, and sexual identity while others have ceased to ensure that said children can read, write, and calculate at a functioning level or beyond.

Sharon Slater, co-founder and president of advocacy group Family Watch International, [explains the] ‘harmful elements’ in the United Nations-developed, U.S. government-sponsored Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), including its graphic, pleasure-focused approach toward teaching children about sexual behavior.

“’The publication, ‘It’s Perfectly Normal,’ . . . is in many libraries and school libraries across the United States. [At least one state mandates CSE for classroom use.] It’s very graphic with depictions of children engaging in . . . various sexual acts,’ said Slater.”

Soak that in–children depicted in sex acts. Drawn images, we presume. Otherwise, how would it differ from the kind of pornography explained on our newspaper’s front page last week informing us that the guy who possessed it is now in jail?

And we must note the reference to “pleasure-focused.” Be sure to dust off your copy of Huxley’s The Brave New World, referenced above by Matt Purple. Huxley presents a culture steeped in–and controlled by–pleasure. Oppression through excess of pleasure.

As Purple points out, we have to ask how we got from #metoo to this stuff.

And again, why?

But now to the part most of us assume is the purpose of schools–education, which again, most of us assume is largely comprised of reading, writing, and math. We must be careful not to assume what has previously seemed reasonable to assume.

The state of Oregon is suspending reading, writing, and mathematics requirements for graduating students for at least the next three years.

Perhaps some sort of pleasure indicator will replace the academic requirements.

Maybe other states will follow Oregon’s lead. Even as America continues our decades’ long inquiry into why Johnny still can’t read.

Many dissatisfied parents are moving their children out of such classrooms. As record numbers of families become homeschoolers, private schools are also seeing big enrollment increases.

Newcomers to homeschooling have perhaps found during COVID shutdowns that teaching their own children is positive, effective, doable, and within their control.

Many pilgrims to private schools may just be looking for in-person learning as some shutdowns continue. But Kerry McDonald writes that the “trend [of increasing private enrollment] is likely to continue” when (and if) the COVID crisis abates.

It might be fair for us to conclude that some parents are moving children to new educational environments to enable them to pursue excellence instead of pleasure, to enable them to receive a traditional education of reading, writing, math, etc. Et cetera encompassing science, history, and the arts rather than the simple pursuit of pleasure. These parents know the journey to excellence is not always fun-filled. And it doesn’t happen by accident.

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny,” (Aristotle).

Some in modernity have figured that out too. Even in decadent Hollywood.

The recent anniversary of the death of actor Robin Williams brings to mind his portrayal of an English teacher at a boys’ prep school in Dead Poets’ Society (1989). Williams’ Mr. Keating wanted his students to seize the day–to make sure they didn’t let life slip by without pursuing great dreams.

Such dreams do not come true through hedonism–a devotion to pleasure alone.

“In his immortal performance, Williams gave humanity a great gift of remembering two truths: that we all die, and that the humanities, far from being unserious, drive us toward the serious business of life.” Matthew Becklo.

The serious business of life is the pursuit of full potential, the quest for purpose, the lifelong journey of service to God and people–thereby we find meaning in our lives.

Teaching children that pleasure is the be-all and end-all violates everything education should be.

It sets children up for bondage of all kinds of oppression–public and personal–providing passing good feelings instead of lasting fulfillment. Meaningless pleasure can never be more than a distraction from emptiness. And emptiness is compounded when grown-ups lack literacy and mathematical capability.

The quest for pleasure for its own sake combined with a void of capability creates enslavement as the enslaved one continually seeks more pleasure that provides only more emptiness.

True education fills minds and feeds souls. It recognizes that there is more to each child than a physical body.

Fulfillment comes through a developed character made from challenge and rigor. The work of learning bestows more than knowledge. It instills curiosity and discipline. It enables us to engage in wonder.

Applied thinking, through reading, wordcraft, and calculation, leads children to become people who know when and how to set pleasure aside to reach for a greater good. Only then can they know true pleasure.

Our nation is blessed with many teachers who urge their students toward excellence. Many of them hail from the classrooms of public schools. Not all states and districts have succumbed to the cultural decay of promoting empty pleasure.

Parents must not simply hope for the best. They must not assume all is well in their educational corner of the country.

To assume so is to invite a cost too great and a loss beyond measure. Too many schools ask little or nothing of their students. They promise more than their teachings can ever deliver.

Mr. Keating asks us to reach for more:

“‘[W]hat good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here — that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

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.”

From a Dog’s View

This article, guest-authored by Boomer, appeared in Honeyguidemag.com. Boomer is enjoying life with his master once again. This post is a look back.

I’ve been in this house for a few seasons now. I’m here temporarily, until my master comes home. They say he is deployed. I don’t know what that means. I pass the time until he returns.

I’ve gotten to know them–he and she–the two humans, parents of my master, who live here with me. They take care of me. And I take care of them.

For example, there was this BIG adventure. It seemed so to them, at least. He said he had plugged up that pipe sticking up out of the basement floor so nothing could crawl into the house. This particular creature of the rodent variety pushed its way in. I found the creature under the stove. And when the man lifted the front of the stove for me, that thing jumped right into my mouth. It surprised me so much I dropped it. I was quicker than it was and made short work of it.

It was all over before she realized what the horrible racket was all about. Good thing, too. She was afraid of the rodent thing. I didn’t understand why, but I was glad to do my job. He figured out which pipe was the problem pretty quickly, and he told her what he would need to buy the next day to fix the problem. She told him Lowe’s wasn’t closing for 15 more minutes. He had plenty of time to fix that problem that day. And that is exactly what happened.

I thought it was a bit silly that she was afraid of something that I could quickly dispatch. He didn’t want her to be afraid either.

I felt good earning my keep and soaking up their admiration for the work I’d done. He said, “Good job, Boomer.” They aren’t just doing my master a favor. They like having me here.

We don’t always understand each other. They’ve caught on to my cues for when I need to go out. We have a nice routine. We are flexible about it when we need to be. They’ve learned where I like to walk–to sniff and to leave my own scent around the territory. They see that my territory goes beyond what they consider theirs. Yet, they set boundaries. I can’t pee on these light up devices some of the neighbors have in their yards. These devices seem fine for depositing my scent, but they say, no. I comply, reluctantly.

For some time, they didn’t understand why I would get up on their bed and lie on his spot right before he got in at night. He was away again last night. So I crawled onto her spot. I waited there for a while as she got ready to sleep. (Takes them forever! Three circles and I’m set!). That’s when she understood. She saw I was warming it up for her, welcoming her to her own place, to her rest time on a cold night. She understands that I am not here just for the food, water, and occasional pats on the head. I want to give back, too. It’s good that I am here—for them and for me. I don’t know how long I’ll stay.

It seems like it’s been a long time since my master put me here. Time. It’s a word like soon. And wait. They keep saying those words. Time seems always to be just ahead of us, but we never catch it. Soon never seems to arrive. Wait never seems to end. It’s been a long time for the humans as well. They want my master to come home, too.

In the meantime, the humans and I get along fine. I’ve made a second home here. I have beds all over the place. The people here think a couple of them are for me. What they call a dog bed sits beside their bed, and there’s a blanket spread out on the floor in the office. I make do with them when I must. There are couches downstairs and beds upstairs. When no one else is around–all of them are mine. But someone new has moved in upstairs to a bed that had been there just for me. They say he is an exchange student. He doesn’t seem to exchange anything. They say he is here to study. Aren’t we all? He says he has two homes. That I understand. My favorite part of any day happens outside. They take me on walks. Sometimes just him or just her. Sometimes both. And now, the new kid comes along in the evenings.

When I walk with her, she carries this big stick. She calls it her walking stick. She uses it to help push herself up the hills. I was afraid of it at first. She’s pretty klutzy – every so often, it slips out of her hand. She doesn’t do it on purpose; she usually does it when I’m not looking. It’s alarming. So far, no one’s gotten hurt. Once, when we were strolling down an otherwise quiet street, this big beast of my own species yelled and screamed–you call it barking–and ran at me. I tried to scurry away, but that darn leash held me back!

Get this! She wasn’t running. She who feared a rodent. She just stood there. I tried to say, “Uh, let’s go,” but she held the stick out–kind of like Charlton Heston pretending to be Moses. Then she yelled back at the beast, “NO!” And the beast stopped! His master came out and got him. They both looked ashamed. I was dumbfounded. I felt as though the Red Sea had, indeed, parted. The rest of that walk was unremarkable.

I’m not afraid of the stick anymore. Well, ok, unless she surprises me, dropping it when I’m not looking (as I said–she’s a klutz). Now, I see its purpose. I had been afraid it was there to hurt me. It’s really there to protect me–and push her up the hill, of course. My human is expected home soon. Maybe he’s at a second home. Maybe he is pondering time and soon and wait and all that is life. Maybe he knows that sometimes people drop sticks when you don’t expect it. You’re afraid, but nothing happens. And when you actually see something worthy of your fear, your Protector stands His ground. Stands between you and the big ugly thing trying to scare you.

You can’t run away, because you wouldn’t understand how the Protector works. Soon you’ll be home where it’s supposed to be safe. Even if you’re with people who drop big sticks and make loud noises, but really take care of you. Soon.

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.”

HEADlines: Responding to Your Opposition with Grace and Love

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, 7/24/21~

“Even biology tells us that a high degree of habitual well-being is not advantageous to a living organism.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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 in the continental United States consider cold in the winter. The work is hard, menial, and endless.

Then imagine 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 went 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 who tells the story of his father’s choosing discomfort over betrayal of his fellows. “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.”

And that statement can apply even more deeply to Christians.

Rod Dreher writes: “The Christian life, properly understood, cannot be merely a set of propositions agreed to, but must also be a way of life. And that requires a culture, which is to say, the realization in a material way—in deeds, in language, in song, in drama, in practices, etc.—of the propositions taught by Christianity. To be perfectly clear, at the core of all this is a living spiritual relationship with God, one that cannot be reduced to words, deeds, or beliefs, (emphasis his).

With little fanfare from the mainstream media, the Washington Supreme Court [in 2017] . . . unanimously sided against Barronelle Stutzman, a 71-year-old florist who refused to provide flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

Stutzman battled the legal challenge, which threatened to relieve her of her life’s work and earnings, including her home.

She appealed to the US Supreme Court. A ruling favorable to religious freedom seemed unlikely since the court had already refused to hear an appeal from a New Mexico photographer, also sued for refusing service for a same-sex wedding. These cases are a harbinger of things to come.

Dreher: “Traditional Christians ought to see Barronnelle Stutzman as one canary in the coal mine (and there are many). The State of Washington, the ACLU, and two gay plaintiffs are trying to crush her, financially and otherwise. They may succeed in taking away her livelihood and then bankrupting her. . . . Whatever happens to her, they will not take away her faith and her dignity. She is a rock.”

And Stutzman’s faith has been rock-like. She has consistently reached out to those who oppose her with Christian grace and love.

It’s naive to think that this issue will never land at the doorstep of our churches and private schools.

The SCOTUS ruling legalizing same-sex marriage would seem to reassure churches that in the pulpit religious freedom is secure. But the devil may be found in the details of the local laws that made a florist a civil defendant.

America has reached a point where the primary social imperative is the personal impression of the individual. This impression now trumps all. And it didn’t just begin with same-sex marriage. It’s been going on for quite some time. We have largely looked the other way as moral foundations of life and marriage cracked then crumbled.

Along the way, the Church or at least pieces of it have twisted themselves into pretzel-like contortions trying to—as many might put it—stay relevant.

“50 or 100 years ago, [conservative Christians] were convinced to broaden verses like “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female in Christ” (Galatians 3, Colossians 4) to justify our support of progressive agendas like feminism, while passing over other verses about sexual roles in the church, family, and society (1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, 1 Timothy 3, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 11…). This led us down a road that converged with the Enlightenment’s view of the individual.” David Goodwin

We stopped asking God what He wants for us and began to ask ourselves what we want. And that became our priority.

We have reached a line we cannot cross and still remain the Church because crossing that line would mean we have become something else, no longer the Church. Crossing the line means becoming a false church with a false gospel. The one that tells you it’s okay to worship yourself.

The one that tells you that you are not here to serve God; He is here to serve you.

Baronnelle Stutzman is here to serve Him. Even if it costs her everything. And perhaps it already has.

On July 6, 2021, the US Supreme Court declined to hear her case.

Stutzman’s lawyer Kristen Waggoner says, “This denial paves the way for Washington State and the ACLU to financially ruin Baronnelle.”

The picture is not optimistic. But we are not without hope.

The world rushes in with its noise and threats of coming persecution. We can set ourselves apart—even in the midst of chaos and decadence. We can be the people of hope who shine light in darkness. But only if we stand in the light against the darkness. And we can know we do not stand alone.

And if we do stand, we may see that the American left has overplayed its hand.

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.

He said,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.”

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.”

Coming War?

My husband and I visited China for the first time in 2005 as English teachers. We would return to teach again in 2011.

During our first visit, I had occasion to watch some afternoon television. As you might find on some channels in America, old movies were the fare of the day.

More than once I’d turn on the television and find the storyline of a Chinese village being invaded by Japanese aggressors during World War II.

A visit to an amusement park provided a similar form of entertainment. Along with rides and fast food, actors depicted the Chinese villagers overcoming Japanese invaders. Stuffed dummies with red paint on them represented the killed Japanese troops.

Little children and accompanying parents took it all in.

Most American schoolchildren don’t learn about Japan’s occupation of China or about the Nanking Massacre in which the Japanese military murdered hundreds of thousands, raping and pillaging along their way.

Japan has never apologized. And China has never forgotten.

America fits into the picture this way. China and America were allies during World War II. China had been in the midst of a civil war between Communists and the Kuomintang when the Japanese invaded. After Japan surrendered, those who were able of the Kuomintang, America’s ally, escaped to Taiwan and claimed Chinese sovereignty there.

After the Communists won the mainland, America became the ally of both Japan and Taiwan. But history made no standstill there.

In southern China, I saw a memorial to the Chinese soldiers who fought Americans in Korea.

In 1989, China acknowledged having sent more than 300,000 troops into Vietnam to fight US troops and the South Vietnamese.

America and China have been on opposite sides for most of a century.

Even so, sixteen years ago in 2005, the countryside welcomed us. People knew we were there to help their children succeed in the world. We’d often receive smiles and hear, “Hello, Meguaren” or “Hello American.”

Six years later we returned. While our students and hosts were beyond gracious, we no longer heard, “Hello Meguaren” on the streets.

What had changed?

A new American Administration was spending money in such a way that it devalued the dollar. The money our government had borrowed from China was coming back to them in dollars worth less than the ones we had received. Our dollars bought half as much as they had six years earlier. The Chinese yuan bought less than it had six years before too.

The Chinese people felt America had cheated them.

And long-festering wounds continue to fester.

In my interactions with Chinese students–there and in the US–I was surprised to understand how deeply many Mainland Chinese young people want to reclaim Taiwan.

In the same way they learned to view Japan as an enemy, they learned and embraced the belief that Taiwan must come home–one way or another.

Curt Mills quotes Gordon Chang who asserts that the Olympics could be part of what spurs war–not the current Olympics in Japan, but the games slated for China next year.

“The risk of a Chinese invasion—India, Taiwan, Japan, whatever—increases after the Beijing Olympics next year,” said Gordon Chang, a senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute. “The fear of a boycott of the February’s Games, it appears, is one of the few things keeping Xi Jinping in check at the moment. This, of course, is not to say he won’t do something awful before then as he calculates his interests and views the world differently than the rest of us.” 

Since China’s new administration took over in 2013, China has turned up the volume on its claim to Taiwan as well as some parts of Japan.

In a recent media broadcast, the CCP government announced that its promise not to employ “first-use” nuclear weapons was off the table if Japan were to join the US in defending Taiwan, implying the Chinese military intends to play its hand soon.

China has also disputed Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands last summer and continues to send fishing boats and military vessels into Japanese waters around the islands. The number of ships increased this year.

The Senkaku Islands are close to Okinawa. One Senkaku island is a mere 250 miles from Okinawa, the US base in Japan, and the islands were previously considered part of the Okinawa Prefecture, clearly recognized as Japan’s according to international law.

War drums are beating on that side of the world. The crackdown in Hong Kong was only the beginning.

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Matthew 24:6~

This rattling of sabers might be the beginning of the end. Or maybe not. No matter. When we hear of wars and rumors of wars, we are not to fear.

We are to pray. To watch. To keep faith.

Lord, keep us faithful to truth and what is right.

Photo Credit: Yu Kato, Unsplash (Chinatown in Yokohama, Japan)

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.”

Hot or Cold? Or Lukewarm?

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth,'” (Revelation 3:15-17, ESV).

In his epic poem The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri placed the lukewarm at the gateway to hell, neither in hell nor in heaven. They are “melancholy souls . . ./Who lived withouten infamy or praise,” (Canto III, 35-36). They, in fact, “never were alive,” (64).

They were, Stephen Smith asserts, “souls who have lost truth, have lost God.” The lukewarm “would not exercise their liberty,” and missed out on life and eternity.

Not following God or Satan, Dante explains, they looked out for themselves alone.

Being outside hell sounds better than being inside, but Dante says such souls “envious are of every other fate,” (III, 48). Their end is worse than all others.

Of course, Dante’s poem is literature, not theology.

For theology, we can look to Francis Chan whose discussion of the lukewarm supports Dante’s placement of the lukewarm to either good or evil outside of heaven.

In Chan’s analysis, the lukewarm act like Christians. They go to church. They give money to good causes. But when what is right conflicts with what is popular, the lukewarm “care more about what people think of their actions (like church attendance and giving) than what God thinks of their hearts and lives.”

Chan says such lukewarm churchgoers don’t want to be saved from their sin, only from its penalty.

Their “faith” is emotional; they do not live it out with action. Jesus is part of their lives, but not in control of their lives. They structure their lives so they don’t have to live by faith.

In his typical fashion, Chan, as does Dante from seven centuries ago, convicts and calls us to overcome too much comfort, to be real in our faith.

Francis Chan’s new book Until Unity ties our embrace of authentic faith over a lukewarm counterfeit to Christian unity. Steeped in biblical evidence, Chan says “the unsurrendered will always be at odds with the Christ followers, lobbying for their sins to be overlooked and fighting for their own desires in ungodly ways. . . .

“[The lukewarm] find common ground [among themselves] in judging the radicals who dare think Christ calls everyone to deny themselves and pick up crosses. . . . They can even rally together against those who still believe that the commands of Scripture are still valid today.”

We watch this conflict within the Church. It goes on around us daily. It occurs both at high levels and in small congregations.

“[T]here are many people in churches who do not truly follow Jesus, and with them, there can be no unity. It is our responsibility to lovingly confront them and call them higher. But if they remain unchanged, it is never our responsibility to lower the bar in the name of unity,” (emphasis Chan’s).

The lukewarm live among us. Many sleep.

We will not win them by being like them. We must show them Christ. We must love them, but only in truth.

We can be the hot cup of reality in a community drowsy from the lure of the unreal.

And what must overflow from our hot cups are love and truth.

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.”

Amos: A Worthy Dramatization and a Great Read

Christopher S. Swan’s dramatic manuscript of Amos is a wonderful opportunity to dive into a fictionalized version of an often overlooked Old Testament book.

As I read, I envisioned what the staging could look like–a dark stage at times, a well-lit one as workers harvest olives on Amos’ farmland.

The play would be well served with a multi-media approach as some scenes would work better with a closer view for the audience than the stage can allow.

Even so, an apt narrator could provide the details and still allow a stage dramatization to bring Amos’ story to life.

Yet, a play isn’t always a work that requires actors, sets, and a stage. This work is a great read too. Swan does a terrific job helping you imagine the action–which at times is very suspenseful.

Amos and God’s angels do battle against bandits and pagan forces determined to keep the newly commissioned prophet from his sacred mission–presenting God’s message to His rebellious people.

But along with literary tension come moments of peace and the simple work that defined most of Amos’ life. Swan provides cultural insights and historical detail in many of these quieter vignettes.

“Next to Amos is Tab, his youngest son at 7-years-old. He watches his father’s every move in silence. Listens to his father breathe as he works.

“Amos reaches down into a shallow wood box next to Tab’s sandaled feet. Pulls out a long cube of animal fat. Sets it on top of the baking powder. The cube of fat melts within seconds, seeping into the ochre powder, thickening it.

“Tab’s eyes widen. He looks back at his father, who lays four more long fat cubes down across the mound of rust-red powder. Tab watches the cubes melt in succession. He smiles at the satisfying sight.”

Swan has crafted engaging characters in Amos, his family, those who help him in his quest to deliver the message God has given him, and those representing evil forces seeking to kill Amos and end his mission.

Whether you’re looking for a good summer read–or an anytime read–or seeking out a drama for your church or group to enact, this work brings scripture alive, often tying New Testament grace to Old Testament storytelling and prophecy.

Amos, by Christopher S. Swan is worth your time and attention.

Photo Credit: From Amos by Christopher S. Swan

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.”

Abortion Survivors: A Small Club

“(Live births) are little known because organized medicine, from fear of public clamor and legal action, treats them more as an embarrassment to be hushed up than a problem to be solved. It’s like turning yourself in to the IRS for an audit. . . .What is there to gain? The tendency is not to report because there are only negative incentives.”~

Willard Cates, M.D., former head of the Centers for Disease Control of the U.S. Public Health Service as quoted in”Abortion: The Dreaded Complication,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 2, 1981~

My son had received THE phone call. As a member of the US Army Reserves in 2003, he was to report for deployment to Iraq.

We scrambled around the next day packing and letting family and friends know. Then my husband, my daughter, and I headed with my son to Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he would report.

After a meeting for the troops and family members, we headed to a restaurant where we stood in line waiting to be seated. A man in front of my son turned around to ask him whether he would deploy soon. Upon my son’s “Yes,” the man reached out to shake his hand. As he did so, he placed $20 in my son’s hand and said, “Let me buy your dinner.”

I told my son, “You just joined the biggest fraternity in the world.”

We feel a kinship with people who share, or are about to share, our experiences. We understand how they feel in a way others without that experience cannot.

When Melissa Ohden was born she joined a club of abortion survivors.

They (the media and those in the abortion industry) called such situations the “dreaded complication”–a baby born alive who was supposed to be dead.

Like Melissa, Gianna Jessen was also a survivor. She emerged alive at seven months gestation from a saline abortion–the now outdated procedure in which an abortion doctor injects a salt solution into the amniotic fluid to burn and poison an unborn child to death.

Gianna was born in 1977, the same year Melissa also survived a saline abortion at 31 weeks gestation.

They wouldn’t meet for decades. But Gianna’s story helped Melissa heal from hers.

In her book You Carried Me, Melissa recounts the pain she suffered at learning at age 14 that someone who should have cared for her had intended her death.

Melissa had been “flipping channels on the television” and “stumbled across” an interview Gianna had done. She writes, “I’ll never forget her words: ‘It’s not that I’m mad at my birth mother at all. I forgive her totally for what she did.'”

And Melissa began to understand “If she could feel that way, maybe I could too.”

Melissa’s book tells the story of her quest to find her birth mother. She found great healing in finally learning that the woman who bore her really did want her. Melissa’s grandmother had coerced her 19-year-old daughter Ruth that fateful day in 1977.

Ruth had not desired Melissa’s death. Melissa had been wanted.

Ruth had believed for more than three decades that her child had not survived that day. She had spent the interim “with tremendous guilt and self-loathing because I thought my child had died in the abortion.”

There is much more to Melissa’s story. But such happy-ending accounts may not happen much in the future.

Saline abortions are outdated today because they had a high “failure rate.”

Willard Cates estimated that, in 1981, 400 to 500 abortion live births occur[red] every year in the United States… literally an everyday occurrence.”

Partial birth abortion largely replaced saline abortions. The success rate was 100 percent. When PBA became illegal, fetal dismemberment became the go to procedure.

In the state of New York, it is now legal for abortion doctors to administer lethal injections as part of the abortion process to kill the unborn. Babies like Melissa, like Gianna, like even older babies, who could otherwise survive abortion.

New York’s and Illinois’s expansive abortion laws of 2019 removed protections for born alive infants. Many states have no protections in place.

We understand there are medical emergencies. Sometimes a pregnancy must end early. But late-term babies who need to come early don’t have to be born dead–unless someone wants them dead.

OB/GYN Anthony Levatino, a reformed abortionist, recently testified before a subcommittee of the US House of Representatives: ‘During my time at Albany Medical Center, I managed hundreds of such cases [life of the mother at risk] by ‘terminating’ pregnancies [via live delivery by C-section] to save mothers’ lives. In all those hundreds of cases, the number of unborn children that I had to deliberately kill was zero.’”

Gianna and Melissa are part of a very special club. Both speak out for life–as does Ruth.

According to the CDC, a few children still manage to survive abortion. But “the number is still likely underreported.” Unreported living babies are often left to die–or worse.

“According to research conducted by Family Research Council, only fifteen states provide strong protections for born-alive abortion survivors, and only eight require reporting on infants who survive abortion.” (For a map showing protections or their lack in US states, click here.

At the federal level, bills protecting babies born alive after abortion failed three years in a row from 2019 to 2021.

Babies who survive abortions and receive care join Melissa and Gianna’s small club.

For many women in situations like the 19-year-old Ruth once experienced, the club is not big enough.

Photo Credit: Alex Hockett, 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.”

Love, Lust, Porn and the Church

Pornography is “so focused on yourself, you don’t even have another person. . . . [It] is everything the Bible says is not what sex is supposed to be.” Dr. Tim Keller

I remember a college class called science, technology, and society, actually a philosophy class, in which the professor posited that the images we watch on television become more real to us than the reality around us.

He gave as his example the first (the second hadn’t happened yet) Challenger disaster. He talked about how the tragedies we watch on television can affect us more deeply than local events we don’t see.

What we watch on screens affects us more than we know. And what others see influences the world around us more than we realize.

In his sermon/podcast “Love and Lust,” Dr. Timothy Keller explains that porn affects all our relationships. That porn influences social aspects from fashion choices to marriage rates, asserting that the drop in American marriage rates is largely due to porn.

Keller quotes Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker’s book Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying:

“People who use pornography have crushingly unrealistic expectations regarding physical appearance and sexual performance. . . .

“A significant number of male porn users experience a diminished tolerance for the difficulties of real relationships, . . . shrink[ing] the marriage pool for women. . . .”

Pornography is “why the number of people getting married is going down.”

That’s easy to see. But fashion trends?

“All women . . . are increasingly being forced to accommodate sexual behaviors and their appearances to the images and style of pornography.”

The fashion industry influenced by porn? That seems far-fetched.

But Andi Zeisler agrees with Keller, and Regnerus and Uecker. “Porn is now not only represented in, but an indelible part of, everything from high culture to fashion magazines to college curricula,” she writes.

The discussion comes full circle when Zeisler references Naomi Wolf who predicted nearly two decades ago that “far from turning men into the raving, sex-mad predators that anti-porn crusaders . . . once warned against, [porn] is turning them off of regular, nondigital women.” 

Marriage rates support Wolf’s thesis. But not all porn watchers are rejecting sex with a partner altogether.

Ponder this: Rod Dreher’s citation of The Telegraph: “A GP [general practitioner physician] let’s call her Sue, said: ‘I’m afraid things are much worse than people suspect.’ In recent years, Sue had treated growing numbers of teenage girls with internal injuries [caused by frequent deviant sex] . . . not, as Sue found out, because she wanted to, or because she enjoyed it – on the contrary – but because a boy expected her to. “I’ll spare you the gruesome details,” said Sue, “but these girls are very young and slight and their bodies are simply not designed for that.”

What else is porn doing to women and girls?

We imagine the stereotypical porn user as a man sitting in his basement (perhaps his mother’s) in the dark in front of a flickering screen (his phone or computer). He is glassy-eyed and probably unemployed.

But Zeisler cites Adella O’Neal, publicist for Digital Playground, pointing out that “in 2000 roughly 9 percent of the company’s consumers were women; four years later, that figure . . . bloomed to 53 percent.”

Fox News reports: “Women aren’t excluded from this heavy porn-watching either. Pornhub released information in 2017 that revealed women spending more time watching porn than men, reports anti-porn advocacy group Fight the New Drug. Women were also more likely to search for harder versions of porn than men.”

That may be how we moved from the idea that porn exploits and victimizes women to the emerging notion that sex work empowers them.

Sadly many in the Church have been drinking the poison too.

Fox News continues: Covenant Eyes [a porn addiction recovery organization]” reports that “64 percent of Christian men and 15 percent of Christian women report watching porn at least once a month.”

Porn gives us a distorted view of ourselves and others. And this distorted vision is downloaded into the minds of a majority of Christian men and a significant percentage of Christian women–at least monthly–often daily.

Also this from Dreher: “At a conservative Christian college not long ago, a campus minister told me that every single young man he works with, helping them to prepare for seminary after graduation, is addicted to pornography (meaning that they use it compulsively, and find it impossible to stop, even though they want to). Sixteen young men — conservative, churchgoing men who want to serve God and others as pastors — caught in that trap.” 

In Pure Desire: How One Man’s Triumph Can Help Others Break Free from Sexual Temptation, Ted Roberts writes: “Sexual addiction is not just a struggle over a mental perspective; it touches God’s very image, as well as the depths of a man’s soul.”

Here’s an ironic reality. Psychology Today quotes a scholarly study that shows porn use actually lessens sexual satisfaction rather than enhancing it.

“Notably, under no circumstances was pornography use associated with greater sexual satisfaction. These findings, while correlational, suggest that even infrequent use of pornography has negative effects on sexual satisfaction.”

Satan’s counterfeits never match up to what God intended in giving humans the gift of sex.

Where is hope for us?

As mentioned above, Covenant Eyes is a good place to start.

But first, we must recognize the problem. And it’s much more pervasive than we want to think it is.

It’s a heart issue.

We want what we want. We’ve bought so far into materialism and pleasure that we have lost sight of who we are. Of who every other person is.

Each one, imago Dei, the image of God. Each one, His poiema, God’s masterpiece.

Every one.

The child in the womb. The person on the street, homeless, alone, and hungry. The woman on the screen.

And everyone who sits on the other side of the screen.

From Ted Roberts: “Numerous authors have written books concerning the clinical aspects of sexual addictions, and even more books call for believers to seek holiness. But our [ministry’s] ultimate focus is more specific . . . . [We want to] persuade the Church to become a place of hope and healing rather than of shame for those fighting sexual battles. . . .

We need ruthless honesty that exceeds our comfort zones and pursues God’s heart, no matter the cost.”

Individuals and ministries need to pursue God’s heart. Such pursuit comes with a great cost.

The cost of ignoring this issue is much greater.

“Flee sexual immorality. Every other sin that a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body,” I Corinthians 6: 18-20.

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.”

Updating “Incompatible with Life” Babies

It’s been my most popular post since I began to blog.

How Incompatible Is Incompatible with Life, Really” first appeared on April 1, 2019, and it was no April Fools joke.

The post presented the real-life situations of three families–parents whose doctors encouraged abortion, one whose “caregiver” even demanded it.

Yet, life happened instead.

Mike and Rachael Andrews became Daddy and Mommy to Olenna and Vesper Andrews despite the pleadings of medical personnel to abort Vesper. The pleas of the medical personnel were persistent and presented only bleak possibilities.

The couple decided to exercise faith, not fear, and welcomed two healthy girls who are now 21 months old. The family welcomed a younger sister almost four weeks ago.

Rachael reports that the girls “are doing great!”

Craig and Hannah Sudlow’s pregnancy story is similar–but involved only one child. A doctor demanded the Sudlows abort Evelyn, diagnosed with Trisomy 18–a genetic disorder.

The doctor went so far as to schedule Evelyn’s abortion.

The Sudlows did not comply.

The doctor dropped Hannah from the practice. She spent five weeks seeking medical care.

Evelyn was born with fewer medical disorders than the doctors had predicted–yet still with Trisomy 18.

Nancy Flanders writes for Live Action: “Thanks to doctors who valued Evelyn’s life, she thrived. She became a big sister twice over, she met milestones her parents were told she never would, and she laughed and loved. Though no one could predict how long Evelyn would live or what her future would look like, it was clear that she was happy and that she was well-loved.

Happy and well-loved for three and a half years, Evelyn passed away in April of 2020.

Evelyn’s mother remembers her life, “not for the struggles and challenges, but for the joy and beauty.”

Evelyn Sudlow’s life brought joy and beauty to those who loved her.

A short-sighted person saw himself as an authority to decide life or death. He would have thought the world a better place without Evelyn.

Bella Santorum–like Evelyn Sudlow–has Trisomy 18. Her parents Rick and Karen also received pressure to abort. They know what it’s like to have a doctor tell you that you HAVE TO have an abortion. Like the Sudlow’s, they refused.

On May 13, 2021, Bella Santorum celebrated her 13th birthday.

Her father tweeted: “Our Bella is a miracle, a blessing, a joy, but like all children at times a trial. She is the heart of our family because in her simplicity, fragility and disability she reveals the gift God plants in all his children, His pure love.”

Doctors predicted the deaths of three of these children. They did not expect Vesper Andrews to live to be born.

They did not expect Evelyn or Bella to live beyond a few days after birth.

They did not know what they presumed to know.

Saddest of all is that they could not know the love and joy that comes from loving a child, no matter her state.

Photo: (Olenna and Vesper Andrews), 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.”

Love or Lust: How We’ve Turned Covenant into Commodity

Covenant: “a formal agreement or contract, between God and humans or between two human parties to do or refrain from doing something. Sometimes only one party was responsible to carry out the terms (a unilateral covenant, which was essentially a promise). At other times both parties had terms to carry out (a bilateral covenant).”

Commodify: “to turn (something, such as an intrinsic value or a work of art) into a commodity–a good interchangeable with other goods.”

We were unhappy with our cell phone carrier. The pricing was erratic, sometimes shocking. “Customer service” was a frustrating, time-sucking vortex.

When our contract was up, we jumped.

We’d ended the relationship with a business that didn’t seem so interested in serving our needs. We found a business that would serve us better. Much better.

So we begin and end business relationships.

And so, as Dr. Tim Keller explains, do we often treat our romantic interactions today, making them more accurate reflections of business dealings rather than lifetime commitments.

In his sermon/podcast “Love and Lust,” he draws a distinction between the virtue of love as seen in covenant relationships, and the vice of lust–manifested in a business-like approach to romance.

Committed love is a covenant relationship. “Sex is supposed to be a symbol of what you’ve done with your life,” Keller says–that you have fully committed to another person, way beyond a physical relationship.

“You must not do with your body what you’re not willing to do with your whole life.” The language sounds limiting, binding. It is. Yet living love this way provides amazing benefits.

“In a covenant, when you have made a promise, sex becomes like a sacrament . . . . an external, visible sign of an invisible reality. . . . That’s why it’s so meaningful. “

In this way, sex reflects the intimate love God has for our souls.

“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine.” (Ezekiel 16:8, ESV).

Covenant, Keller says, provides a “zone of safety where you can be yourself.”

Covenant produces deeper feelings. “When you are committed to a person in spite of your feelings, deeper feelings grow,” Keller says. As in parenthood, covenant marriage requires giving without regard to receiving, thereby producing “a deeper, richer kind of feeling.”

“Covenantal relationships bring freedom.” He references Kierkegaard who claimed non-covenantal relationships make us slaves. Commitment brings freedom. Freedom from commitment is oppressive. That can seem counter-intuitive in these days, but it’s true.

Lust, however, is a transaction. Sex outside of marriage is “marketing.” Marketing is anything but meaningful.

Keller says couples who live together outside of marriage are trying to figure out “whether this person is good enough to marry or whether I can do better . . . It’s not trusting. It’s not resting. It’s not giving.”

People who live together before marriage are learning how to live together as consumers.

As we’ve moved further down the highway of consumer/transactional sex, we see the results of sexual self-seeking instead of sexual (and otherwise) self-giving.

Our culture has almost completely abandoned any sign of covenantal love. We are becoming a strictly commodified society. Therefore, fewer are buying into marriage.

Edward Davies in “Forget Race or Class, Marriage is the Big Social Divide,” writes that marriage rates in the UK have “been steadily collapsing since the 1970s. Not just declining but falling off a cliff. Even at the height of the second world war, one of its previous lowest points, the male marriage rate was almost triple what it is today.”

America’s rates show a big drop too.

As my mother so aptly put it many years ago: “Why buy the cow when you’re getting the milk for free?”

Especially when the metaphorical cow you’re renting is trying harder to close the deal.

Many of us have been that metaphor. We sold ourselves short.

In Western society, we’ve commoditized human beings in more ways than one. Fewer Americans of marriage age are buying. Too many relationships are more like mine was with our cell phone company.

And sadly, more often than not, just as unfulfilling.

This post is part one of a two-part series. (Link to Part Two)

Photo Credit: Unsplash and Zagorsky

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.

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New PP Video: How to Maximize Payment for Aborted Babies with Living Cells

The Center for Medical Progress has released a new video. When abortion doctors discuss abortions without dig, they mean digitalis, a drug that, if injected into the heart, stops it.

So when they discuss not using dig, they are doing procedures on living children. Note that in many of these cases, they are talking about unborn children at the age of 22 weeks and six days.

And dismemberment means what you think it means. They are dismembering living children.

Center for Medical Progress video

See more at https://www.daviddaleiden.com/work.php

Photo Credit: Freeart.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.”

HEADlines: The Back Alley on the Island of Dr. Moreau

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinal, 6/26/21~

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for abortion medications to be available via telemedicine.

The new rule is intended to allow girls and women to end a pregnancy of 56 or fewer days from the comfort and privacy of their own homes without having to see a doctor in person.

However, with this new rule, there is no way to ensure–as an in-person physical examination would–that the unborn child is younger than 57 days–or even that the pregnancy is not ectopic (that the child is not stuck in the fallopian tube rather than residing in the uterus–a condition that is potentially deadly for the mother).

Before last month, an estimated 40 percent of American abortions, according to the AP, occurred through the chemical method. Yet the requirement that patients seeking chemical abortions meet with a doctor before obtaining abortion medications ensured that deadly complications (like ectopic pregnancies) and attempts at dangerous, late-term abortions (after 56 days) would be minimized.

Now, they can be maximized.

The rule change will be a boon to the abortion industry in several ways. For every surgical abortion, someone has to remove the child, through suction or manual dismemberment, or stab the child’s heart with a sonogram-guided injection and induce labor so the mother can deliver her dead child.

After a dismemberment abortion, someone must reconstruct the child to ensure that the abortion was complete–that there will be no parts left behind to fuel infection.

Mail order abortion meds prevent trauma to a worker having to deal with the actual killing or disposal of the bodies of dead children. Mailing pills to faceless women is much less traumatic than piercing a heart or reconstructing human body parts. And the industry will need employees with much less training. How hard is it to mail pills? Not very.

Less complex. And less costly for those in the abortion business.

Now girls and women who are aborting at home will perceive that they can escape a problem–and no one else has to know. They’ll perceive this notion because the telemarketer/abortion advisor they spoke with via phone or internet told them so, that the process will be simple, “like a heavy period,” that it won’t be so bad.

One “pro-choice” woman says her experience was “unimaginable,” “indescribable,” “the worst pain I have ever felt. . . . With every cramp I felt my heart race and my blood pressure plummet.” . . . . [She was] “nauseated, dizzy and lightheaded.” She thought she was dying.

Abby Johnson’s chemical abortion experience was similar.

After reading these accounts and understanding that so many abortions happen this way now, we might conclude that these women’s experiences were outside the norm. Yet, the complication rate for chemical abortion is four times that of surgical abortion.

Four times.

And remember, the girl or woman at home will at some point expel a baby. She is likely to see that baby and understand what she perhaps did not fully grasp at the beginning of the process: a baby who was alive and growing within her is now dead.

Other countries are currently conducting studies regarding chemical abortions for second-trimester pregnancies. That means chemical abortion for a four to six month old unborn baby to be born dead at home.

Once achieved, a quest will begin for medication to abort even older unborn children.

“Death and destruction are never satisfied.” Proverbs 27:20a.

Melanie Israel for the Heritage Foundation:

“And I would just caution people … especially if the abortion lobby has their way and abortion pills are available through telemedicine, getting it through mail order, available in retail pharmacies, or even over the counter. That’s what some abortion advocates want, just abortion pills over the counter, no prescription required, no questions asked. Imagine what that would mean in the hands of an abusive partner, a coercive partner, a trafficker.”

Ms. Israel reports that 19 states prohibit telemedicine abortions. But that the restrictions can be “wiped out at any moment” by an edict from the current administration.

In the historic discussion leading to legal abortion in America from conception to birth–the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision–abortion advocates pleaded that abortion be safe, that desperate girls and women gain protection from the butchers of “back alleys.”

Now the back alley is the very homes of these desperate girls and women. The butcher comes as a specter in the form of pills invited in by their unwary victim.

This new rule provides nothing but benefits for the abortion industry. It shifts all of the burdens from the industry to its victims. The babies and the mothers bear all the trauma, all the risk, all the cost.

It’s a cost we will never be able to count. But the cost continues to mount.

With 40 percent of abortions happening chemically, 60 percent still happen surgically. Many of those are late-term abortions. And many late-term abortions involve children born alive. Organs from aborted children, living and dead provide the means for medical “research”.

While experiments on aborted children, many of them still living, are already ongoing in our cities and at universities, they have, until recently, been privately funded.

With the Biden Administration removing limits on experimentation involving unborn children, taxpayers will now be paying for atrocities many of us would call unimaginable.

HEADlines at Mustard Seed Sentinel

Those doing the research say it’s good.

They’ve usurped the place of God–deciding the functions and fates of people whose lives should be beyond their reach.

What’s happening today in America is reminiscent of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, the fictional account of a man who washes up on the shore of an island where a mad scientist is creating human/animal hybrids–creatures who are part-human, part-animal.

Wells illustrates how animalistic humans can be, how we can be as savage, perhaps more savage than the beasts of the forest.

In today’s reality, researchers are injecting monkey embryos with hESC (human embryonic stem cells) harvested from late-term unborn children, abortion victims. Fully developed, capable of feeling pain. The goal is to produce human organs within the monkeys for transplant.

Such evil, albeit with good intentions, goes deeper than we realize. Petra Wallenmeyer provides some insight:

“People on one side of this issue [favoring such research] argue this practice is necessary for scientific advancement, will benefit vast numbers of people by developing treatments for various diseases, and is ethical because no valuable human is being harmed in this research (emphasis mine). Therefore, federal and/or state funds should be allocated for such research (i.e., through grants or awards).”

Because of the rules change, funds are now available.

But notice the ethical gymnastics involved in justifying this practice. The end result may (or may not) be something good–“a scientific advancement”–to “benefit vast numbers of people.” This assessment dictates that some humans are deserving of beneficial treatment, i.e. the receipt of transplantable organs to be gathered from animal hosts. But for that to happen, others must be deemed not valuable, therefore deserving of dissection and distribution into vials so animal hosts can produce organs for transplant.

With such methodology, scientists have already developed mice with human skin.

While it goes on around us, few are discussing the ramifications of such “work”.

One of the few, Kristen Matthews of Rice University, explains the ethical questions that may arise from this research.

“Should it (the resulting human/animal living being) be regulated as human because it has a significant proportion of human cells in it? Or should it be regulated just as an animal? Or something else?” Matthews said. “At what point are you taking something and using it for organs when it actually is starting to think and have logic?”

Or at what point will it matter if science deems “it” to be a life void of value–whether human or otherwise? And the questions press us to further ask whether any creature labeled an animal might be entitled to greater protection than one labeled human–but considered to be of no “value”.

Science has derailed when some humans are valuable to save and others are only good for spare parts.

In such a world, every person potentially can become someone not of value, available to be sacrificed for the sake of another, more highly esteemed person.

Yet there remain many who will tell us it is all good.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;

Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;

Who substitutes bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes

And clever in their own sight! Isaiah 5: 20-21~

Photo Credits: Quesada/Unsplash and Bruce/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 Consent of the Governed

“Evil is ancient, unchanging, and with us always. The more postmodern the West becomes — affluent, leisured, nursed on moral equivalence, utopian pacifism, and multicultural relativism — the more premodern the evil among us seems to arise in nihilistic response.” Victor Davis Hanson

Conservative commentator Hanson explains that ancient Greek city-states Athens and Sparta were “antithetical powers.”

Their cultures were very different. Athens was a seaport, dependent on trade. Sparta was landlocked, relying on agriculture. Athens’ government was an aristocratic democracy. Sparta’s, more egalitarian.

America is a country with two vastly different cultures. Vying for influence, the liberal cosmopolitan perspective, more concentrated in our cities, stands in contrast to the traditional way of the countryside.

The Athenses of America today wrestle with unrest, high taxes, exploding costs, or to sum it all up, urban decay.

Many of the modern Spartas have high rates of joblessness and drug addiction–in other words, rural decay.

Neither place is a panacea.

But many in the country still pursue traditional values and standards–life, liberty, gun ownership for hunting and self-defense–and don’t want to add the problems of the cities to their list of local challenges.

Among the awake (not woke) in the US are rural Oregonians who recently voted on the county level to ask their state government to move the Oregon border so they may become part of Idaho.

Idaho stands ready to welcome them. Seven Oregon counties, so far, stand ready to go. The Greater Idaho petitioners hope some northern California counties will jump on board also.

It’s a switch on a population shift already happening as people leave states like New York and California for Florida and Texas.

And Idaho.

This effort proposes to move state lines rather than people.

The rural Oregonian effort requires approval from legislators in both states and Congress.

Approval from Oregon’s governing bodies seems unlikely because city cosmopolitans hold control there. They will be reluctant to allow tax dollars to move to another state.

They also hold to an aristocratic view that rejects local rule. This aristocratic view is not a local phenomenon.

For example, the White House recently announced its commitment to “codify Roe“–that is, to legalize abortion from conception through birth everywhere in the US.

To codify will make it a law rather than a court precedent. Roe v. Wade and companion case Doe v. Bolton were the 1973 SCOTUS decisions that eradicated all state laws restricting abortion. States have been codifying Roe as cosmopolitans fear SCOTUS will overturn the cases that established unlimited abortion.

Yet at no point since 1973 have Americans supported unrestricted abortion.

The cosmopolitan goal is to take more laws such as Roe/Doe–those involving other life issues like assisted suicide (legal in places like Oregon, the state of Washington, and DC among others), for example–and pass laws that will uniformly apply across the country.

The Oregon effort pushes back at such uniformity.

America is supposed to operate by the “consent of the governed.” The non-consenting of Oregon have officially called on their leaders to let the people go.

Other regions will follow, regions with less cosmopolitan legislatures, places of the non-consenting.

Southern Virginia is in a similar strait as the Oregonians–with rumblings of readiness to become part of West Virginia but also under cosmopolitan rule.

Pennsylvania, however, whose rural legislative control has only increased in recent elections, has no such departure effort.

Yet.

Many, I would dare to say a majority, of central Pennsylvanians deeply resent the liberalism of Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

Will a domino fall and begin a map-redrawing process of departure for rural areas looking to escape city influence?

Or is Oregon already that domino?

Photo Credit: Unsplash

A version of this piece appeared in the Altoona Mirror on June 3, 2021.

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.”

 

Update: The Measure of a Ministry

Almost a year ago, I wrote about a local ministry that has changed many lives.

Because the measure of any ministry is the lives it has changed.

This week marks a milestone for a local effort working to influence young people growing up in dysfunction.

This organization began as an after school outreach to youth.

But some of the kids had no place to go once they turned 18. A case in point:

A boy participated in the after-school ministry The Door. He found food and mentoring there. Because of the encouragement he received, he finished high school and got a job.

When he came home one day, he found his clothes in plastic bags on the front porch.

His success threatened the household where he’d grown up. If he stayed, the family would lose benefits.

He returned to the place that had fed and mentored him into success. The ministry leader Dave Taylor was frustrated to see that no program offered help to someone without addiction or mental health issues.

Dave spent the next few years working to open Lionheart, a home for young men who “age out” of their own families and find themselves with no place to go. Now they have a place.

Lionheart is an 18- to 24-month long program that provides a home, food, training, transportation, and mentoring. High school graduation is required, so kids in the youth ministry can see that they can have independence–if they work for it.

Lionheart teaches young men how to make basic electrical, plumbing, and carpentry repairs–so when they get their own places, they can take care of them.

Lionheart teaches wise use of money through Financial Peace University.

Lionheart teaches interview skills so these men can find work.

And Lionheart helps them save money, shop for cars, find apartments. The ministry gives them the beds they’ve been sleeping on when they go to their new places. They can leave not only with a bed, but also with a dresser, a desk, a toolbox, and up to $7,500 they’ve saved from working.

Now, Lioness, a similar program for young women has two participants. They graduated from high school this week. They go to work next week.

During their 18-24 month stay in the Lioness home, they will learn basic home repair and maintenance just as their Lionheart counterparts do, so, as Taylor puts it, “no one will have to be dependent on a bad relationship.”

HEFT represents the goals of both Lionheart and Lioness ministries. Housing, Employment, Finances, Transportation.

The ministries support the residents with mentoring and transportation to and from work until they can support themselves and provide their own transportation.

Taylor points out that the program costs the ministries $18,000 per year per participant. He compares that to $1.5 million the government pays over the lifetime of a dependent person.

Government welfare programs are designed to support and provide needs for today. But they do little to prepare recipients for tomorrow. There is no government bridge between dependence and independence.

The Door, Lionheart, and now Lioness provide that bridge to self-sufficiency.

The measure of any ministry is the lives it has changed.

Dave Taylor, a lionheart opening doors of opportunity through life-changing service.

TheDoorKids.com

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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.”

Abortion Foisted upon Northern Ireland

When I visited the town of Derry (Londonderry to UK proponents) in Northern Ireland in 2019, I took note of Queen Victoria’s statue in the town’s guildhall.

She was missing her hands and had shrapnel marks all over her.

The tour guide told us that the bomber, an IRA member, got elected to public office upon his release from prison.

The Derry explosion happened in 1972, when the British and Irish were trading bombs and bullets, the former believing they were quelling an insurrection, the latter believing they were fighting to end nearly “500 years of British oppression.”

In 1998, the UK and Irish leaders signed a deal dividing Ireland and Northern Ireland. Ireland would be its own country. Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK but would have the powers of home rule.

In 2018, Ireland voted by referendum to legalize abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. However, exceptions for late-term abortions are permitted.

Abortion proponents knew they could not win a referendum in Northern Ireland.

So in 2019, the UK took advantage of the breakdown of home rule when Northern Ireland was unable to establish its own government through the parliamentary process.

Despite the agreement allowing Northern Ireland independent rule, the UK Parliament voted to establish legal abortion (and same-sex marriage) in Northern Ireland.

Death won the day when the UK forced abortion upon Northern Ireland, not through a democratic process, but through opportunism.

It is upon such issues that otherwise divided people can unite. Northern Ireland is divided by doctrine and politics but has raised a pro-life effort that calls itself “non-denominational and non-party political.”

And pro-life activists there are pushing back legislatively. Recently, a bill to restrict late-term abortions was successful through two stages of the legislative process in the re-established home rule government. Supporters call it a “first step” toward restoring protections for the unborn.

Should Ireland ever reunite, increasing pro-life activism in Ireland and already established advocacy in Northern Ireland may be enough to end the atrocity of baby-killing throughout the island.

The British over the course of centuries have prevailed in Ireland, but they have not killed the spirit of independence in the Irish.

Forcing undemocratic laws in the North ultimately may weaken British power throughout Ireland to more accurately reflect the handless queen who stands in the Derry guildhall.

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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.”

A Tale of Two Brownstones

Two brownstone church buildings once stood in our downtown, a few blocks from each other.

They had once been vibrant communities.

Both sat empty for years.

Last Sunday, we drove past one as it was in the process of being torn down. Piles of rubble surrounded the facade.

We were on our way to the other–about to reopen, refurbished, restored.

I’d driven past both many times over the years. Sometimes I prayed for the second one. One of my sons-in-law had led renovations of the building’s kitchen when he was earning his Eagle Scout award years before.

More than two decades ago I worked in a nearby town writing for the local newspaper, editing the weekly religion page. I got to know a neighborhood pastor. His heart is one of pure ministry. Four years ago, he founded Center City Church. But the church wasn’t in the center of our city.

Now it is.

This past Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, the brownstone was alive with prayer, praise, and worship. It was the fourth anniversary of the founding of Center City Church. And the celebration of the first Sunday at its new location.

A guest pastor preached. His wife had grown up attending the brownstone. At age 95, he was celebrating 82 years of faith and a lifetime of ministry.

We sat under electric lights another son-in-law installed.

History ambles along. Cities’ skylines shift.

But sometimes history reaches back to grab a thread and hang onto a piece of the past.

Resurrection comes for places too.

Welcome to your new/old place, Center City Church.

Photo Credit: Nancy E. Head, Center City Church, May 23, 2021

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.”

HEADlines: To Not Live by Lies: Pessimism or Reality?

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, 5/22/2021.

The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means. Oscar Wilde~

I often show the movie The Natural in the classroom. And unlike what you might predict a teacher would do, I warn students against reading the book.

Spoiler alert for both: The movie ends happily; the book does not.

Bernard Malamud, author of the book The Natural, was born in Brooklyn, the son of Russian Jewish immigrant parents. He grew up to be an acclaimed American writer. When he attended a premiere of the movie based on his book, he exclaimed, “At last, I’m an American writer.”

His book was the type of fiction Russians, over the ages, had come to expect. In Russia and later the Soviet Union, people, Jews especially, lived under oppression. Those who live under such conditions don’t come to expect a happy ending in their literature or in their lives.

The movie, which revised Roy Hobbs’s story without Malamud’s input, has a happy, even joyful, ending. The book’s pessimism marks Malamud as a Russian writer. The movie’s optimism transformed him into an American one.

“It’s the only movie that’s better than the book,” I’ve told my students.

We all like a happy ending. That, perhaps, explains why I’ve discouraged students from the book. I hold the optimism of America in my heart. America has always been the better place–the place others come to escape oppression, famine, and trials.

But I also live in the real world, so I must accept that I have no guarantee of a happy ending just because of geography.

Some might call me a realist. Others could say I’m a pessimist.

Photo Credit: Goodreads

In his new book Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents, Rod Dreher advises that we need to “throw away the crippling nostalgia for the future, especially the habit we Americans, a naturally optimistic people, have of assuming that everything will ultimately work out for the best.”

Many name Rod Dreher among the pessimists of the world, the Eeyores who cannot see good. These critics reject his arguments, claiming “he’s too negative.”

They assume an optimism about America’s future as if it’s a guarantee from God.

Even so, Dreher presents an optimism that begins with the resolve that “Christians must not surrender hope.” The harbingers that testify to coming oppression on the horizon could be delayed, even blocked.

Something positive could turn events around.

Yet, the focus on the book is on what must we do to prepare in case the best-case scenario doesn’t happen?

We can soak in the stories of those who’ve been through persecution and oppression behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Dreher lets them tell their stories throughout his text.

While he assures us that Christians are not obligated to pursue persecution, we are obligated to honor God through it should it come to us.

And his conclusion? Optimism. But of a sort we didn’t expect,

It’s a great irony of history that Christianity thrives best in persecution and seems to die on the vine of comfort and ease.

He presents the family of Vaclav Benda who embraced discomfort–to the point of Vaclav’s imprisonment. The simple refusal to go along, to deny truth, was all it took.

The mother of the family together with her children pursued truth and worked to undermine the oppressors. The poverty resulting from the absence of the family breadwinner, and his inability to work in his field upon his release meant the children wore clothes that weren’t cool.

While the kids didn’t fit in at school, they were part of an effort, one they understood to be important.

“Vaclav Benda taught that the family does not exist for its own purpose but for the service of something beyond itself.”

Today, in freedom, after the passing of their patriarch, the grown Benda children live in faith.

They know what many today do not. Community with purpose gives life meaning. The isolation and purposelessness our society foists upon us are missing in the lives of dissidents. Dissidents share purpose and meaning. They live in community.

And while living in community is often dangerous, it also lends itself toward ministry in a way isolation cannot.

Dreher quotes Pawel Keska who tells the story of one man who “was constantly observed by the secret police, parked right in front of his home. During the severely cold winters, he would bring them hot tea to warm them up. Because they were people . . .”

Dreher’s primary mandate for readers is that we have our spiritual lives in order.

“A time of painful testing, even persecution, is coming. Lukewarm or shallow Christians will not come through with their faith intact. Christians today must dig deep into the Bible and church tradition and teach themselves how and why today’s post-Christian world, with its self-centeredness , its quest for happiness and rejection of sacred order and transcendent values, is a rival religion to authentic Christianity.”

And the book presents an authentic Christianity unlike what we in the comfortable West have lived. He shows us a picture of what our comfort has taken from us.

Joy is not something Christians can conjure. We often experience pleasure and equate it with joy.

And we don’t imagine having joy in a smelly prison where we and those around us regularly undergo torture–even execution.

Dreher quotes George Calciu: “We were in a cell without windows, without air, humid, filthy–yet we had moments of happiness [joy] that we never reached in freedom. I cannot explain it.”

The book is supremely optimistic in revealing God’s faithfulness to his people who remain faithful in Him, sometimes even unto death.

Dreher’s primary call to action for us: We must put our spiritual lives in order. We must resolve to live not by lies.

We begin with ourselves and our families.

“Christians should stop taking family life for granted, instead approaching it in a more thoughtful, disciplined way. We cannot simply live as all other families live, except that we go to church on Sunday.”

We can hold to the truth that God promises His best to those who remain faithful to him no matter what.

We must reject the lie that He has promised us a happy ending in the here and now without any sacrifice on our part.

We can live not by lies.

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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.”

Biting the Apple of Professional Oppression

Imagine being a post-secondary student for 10 years and accruing a debt of $200,000. Then imagine having to decide whether to continue in the profession you’ve dedicated your life to or leaving it behind to save your conscience.

That is the dilemma many face who are part of the medical profession today.

It’s been ongoing since Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton legalized abortion from conception until birth in 1973.

Let’s remember: there’s a shortage of physicians in the US. And that situation is getting worse. America will need to train more physicians. So far, most states protect the rights of medical personnel to not participate in objectionable procedures such as abortion. But in some cases, that is already changing.

The issues are what you might expect: abortion, euthanasia, and transgender drug treatments and surgery.

Some history: In May of 2019, the US Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule stating that health care workers could not be “compelled to participate in abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide procedures.” But the rule was “vague about other services — such as hormonal and surgical treatments for transgender individuals — that some health professionals may also find objectionable on moral grounds.”

Peter Sullivan quotes Roger Severino, senior fellow and director of HHS Accountability Project at the Ethics & Public Policy Center at the time: “This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won’t be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life.”

The rule affected not only doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, but also pharmacists who didn’t want to dispense contraceptives (many of which are abortifacients) and morning-after pills (also abortifacients).

Now the conflict has expanded from abortion and euthanasia (in the states where it’s legal) to transgender treatments and surgeries.

Severino again, “[HHS Secretary Xavier] Becerra is threatening to put doctors and hospitals that disagree with current transgender ideology out of business, including those with medical, religious, or moral objections to conducting sex-reassignment surgeries on minors.”

So if you believe that it’s wrong to surgically alter someone, a child in this discussion, with an operation from which there is no return, the government wants to put you “out of business.”

As things stand today, many medical professionals of faith, including those we’ve praised and lauded during the COVID pandemic, are employed in a hostile workplace.

When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden apple, they had no idea how bad their fall would turn out.

Our government has bitten a poison apple, rejecting Hippocrates’ admonition that medical professionals “first, do no harm,” and placing people of conscience between two bad options.

Damaged career or damaged patients? That’s their choice.

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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 Hand that Rocks the Cradle

It’s something my mother quoted to me more than once while I was growing up:

“The hand that rocks the cradle/ Is the hand that rules the world.” William Ross Wallace

Maybe not the world, but definitely the nation. And the battle is ongoing for power over who will wield that hand.

Because now the US government wants to gain more control sooner over the cradle.

Mary Szoch of the Family Research Council explains what the current administration’s proposal (which the FRC says will cost $2.5 trillion over the next seven years) will do. The American Families’ Plan, would be “the replacement of parents by a government-approved agency.”

“[The plan is] trying to fix a problem America has with fatherlessness by creating a culture that promotes motherless as well,” Szoch says.

The president’s plan would provide free preschool for 3- to 4-year-olds and lower-cost daycare through “approved” agencies. The plan makes no mention of faith-based organizations.

And while it offers tax credits for most parents putting their children in daycare, it offers no such break for mothers giving up income to care for their own children–thereby saving the government money.

The program would dictate that caregivers earn at least $15 per hour (they currently earn $12.24 on average). And “those with comparable qualifications would receive compensation commensurate with that of kindergarten teachers.”

 Being required to pay such wages in order to continue to offer subsidized care might put most churches already participating in the current program out of the daycare business.

I went back to work in the late 1980s when my two youngest children were of pre-school age. The daycare was subsidized. I paid $5.00 per week for the care of both children. That included their meals.

Even with a pro-rated increase to account for inflation and the passage of time, such care would still qualify as affordable for any employed person–even the single mother I once was.

When government officials propose plans like the current one, they must assume most people aren’t aware that there is already a service in place to address the problem.

And if that program is underfunded, as some assert, why not increase funding instead of creating a new bureaucracy?

What could be the motivation for making a new program where one already exists? And why exclude faith agencies where some workers might even choose to work on a volunteer basis?

The primary question is not so much whether mothers of young children should work. Many have to. It’s a question about how much say these mothers should have over whether the care their children receive while they work will reflect their own values and beliefs.

Ministries offer the best opportunity for parents to seek childcare that will match the message they work to instill in their children.

While our national government proposes to provide care for low- and middle-income families, many headed by single parents, legislators in one state propose to roll back legislation that has resulted in more single-parent families–liberalized divorce laws.

The state of Texas is proposing to end one-sided, no-fault divorce.

State Representative Matt Krause says, “There needs to be some type of due process. There needs to be some kind of mechanism to where that other spouse has a defense.”

In Restoring the Shattered, I wrote:

“Instead of a liberating cure-all the feminists of that day presented, divorce has wreaked havoc on our society. Throughout the decade of the 1970s, no-fault divorce laws swept across most of the country. In their aftermath, divorce rates nearly doubled. . . .

“[In 2006] NOW—which had led the vanguard in promoting lenient divorce legislation and unrestricted abortion for decades—was protesting the liberalization of New York’s divorce statute. At that time, New York was the lone holdout on no-fault divorce. The proposed divorce bill provided a unique opportunity for NOW to partner with the Catholic Church against allowing one spouse to dissolve a marriage unilaterally. Unfortunately, in 2010, New York finally became the fiftieth state to enact a no-fault divorce law.[ii]

“We don’t have to think hard to understand why the Catholic Church opposed no-fault divorce. But for liberal feminists to turn on a foundational plank of their platform is astonishing. Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, a catalyst for the women’s movement, had called marriage a “comfortable concentration camp.” She cheered the passage of the first no-fault law in California in 1970. Twenty-seven years later, Friedan—and NOW—realized that the new laws had harmed women instead of helping them.

“Often, men can use custody of the children as a weapon against women. In a perverse game of mental manipulation, the man will agree to forgo a custody battle if the woman agrees to a smaller financial settlement, leaving the woman torn between seeing her children or supporting her children.

“One study found that only 37 percent of women retained ownership of the family home under no-fault divorce, versus 82 percent under fault divorce. . . .

“Under no-fault divorce laws, women tend to come up short in battles over finances and property, and they are more likely to lose their health insurance coverage. Today, divorce places 22 percent of divorced women in poverty as opposed to 11 percent of divorced men.

“Friedan now admits that feminists ‘made a mistake with no-fault divorce.’”[iii]

We often can’t see the results of public decisions until years later. The results of turning young children over to state-controlled daycare won’t manifest themselves for years.

The results of no-fault divorce are already in.

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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.”


[i] New York Times editors, “Is New York Ready for No-Fault Divorce?,” June 15, 2010, https://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/15/is-new-york-ready-for-no-fault-divorce.

[ii] Ashley McGuire, “The Feminist, Pro-Father, and Pro-Child Case against No-Fault Divorce,” Public Discourse, May 7, 2013, http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/05/10031.

[iii] Nicholas Wolfinger, Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in Their Own Marriages, as cited by Stephanie Chen, “Children of Divorce Vow to Break Cycle, Create Enduring Marriages,” CNN, September 22, 2010, http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/09/22/divorced.parents.children.marriage/index.html.

Are We Not Human?

While experiments on aborted children, many of them still living, are already ongoing in our cities and at universities, they have, until recently, been privately funded.

With the Biden Administration removing limits on experimentation involving unborn children, taxpayers will now be paying for atrocities many of us would call unimaginable.

Those doing the research say it’s good.

They’ve usurped the place of God–deciding the functions and fates of people whose lives should be beyond their reach.

What’s happening today in America is reminiscent of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, the fictional account of a man who washes up on the shore of an island where a mad scientist is creating human/animal hybrids–creatures who are part-human, part-animal.

Wells illustrates how animalistic humans can be, how we can be as savage, perhaps more savage than the beasts of the forest.

In today’s reality, researchers are injecting monkey embryos with hESC (human embryonic stem cells) harvested from late-term unborn children, abortion victims. Fully developed, capable of feeling pain. The goal is to produce human organs within the monkeys for transplant.

Such evil, albeit with good intentions, goes deeper than we realize. Petra Wallenmeyer provides some insight:

“People on one side of this issue [favoring such research] argue this practice is necessary for scientific advancement, will benefit vast numbers of people by developing treatments for various diseases, and is ethical because no valuable human is being harmed in this research (emphasis mine). Therefore, federal and/or state funds should be allocated for such research (i.e., through grants or awards).”

Because of the rules change, funds are now available.

But notice the ethical gymnastics involved in justifying this practice. The end result may (or may not) be something good–“a scientific advancement”–to “benefit vast numbers of people.” This assessment dictates that some humans are deserving of beneficial treatment, i.e. the receipt of transplantable organs to be gathered from animal hosts. But for that to happen, others must be deemed not valuable, therefore deserving of dissection and distribution into vials so animal hosts can produce organs for transplant.

With such methodology, scientists have already developed mice with human skin.

While it goes on around us, few are discussing the ramifications of such “work”.

One of the few, Kristen Matthews of Rice University, explains the ethical questions that may arise from this research.

“Should it (the resulting human/animal living being) be regulated as human because it has a significant proportion of human cells in it? Or should it be regulated just as an animal? Or something else?” Matthews said. “At what point are you taking something and using it for organs when it actually is starting to think and have logic?”

Or at what point will it matter if science deems “it” to be a life void of value–whether human or otherwise? And the questions press us to further ask whether any creature labeled an animal might be entitled to greater protection than one labeled human–but considered to be of no “value”.

Science has derailed when some humans are valuable to save and others are only good for spare parts.

In such a world, every person potentially can become someone not of value, available to be sacrificed for the sake of another, more highly esteemed person.

Yet there remain many who will tell us it is all good.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;

Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;

Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes

And clever in their own sight! Isaiah 5: 20-21~

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.”

Headlines: The Loss of True Connection in Our Society

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, 4/24/21~

[T]here were times . . . mainly during the . . . harvest, when we would all be together. The men would go early to have the benefit of the cool of the morning. The women would finish their housework and then gather, sometimes bringing dishes already cooked, to lay on a big feed at dinnertime; and then after the dishes were done, they would go out to help in the field or the barn for the rest of the day. . . . This was our membership.” (Hannah Coulter)

Through most of America’s history, people grew up in small towns. They knew each other and helped each other. Most people were part of a community.

Modern people have accused these forebears of sexual division, relegating women to the kitchen. But women worked in the fields too. Men and women grew food and other crops. Often the division of labor meant he worked harder than she did growing the food. And she worked harder than he did to bring to put it on the table. Children grew up learning a good measure of hard work.

It wasn’t about who did what work. It was about making sure the work got done. Everyone had a part to play, a contribution to make, a purpose to serve.

People worked hard, some just to survive–others, to thrive. They grew old, perhaps at a faster rate than we do. They were tired. But they were not lonely.

That was then. This is now.

A teenage girl stands on her back porch breaking glass jars and cutting her own skin. Trying to cut her way “through the hurt down to the core of things.” Trying to end the pain of her heart.

A man sits alone in a cold cell, isolated from those he loves, those who love him.

Ann Voskamp was the girl on the porch suffering the death of her younger sister, which devastated their family.

She was traumatized. Trauma comes different ways.

Natan Sharansky was a man in a cell. He was a Jew in the Soviet Union, a refusenik, a prisoner of the KGB. His jailers hoped to cultivate Stockholm syndrome within him. That happens when a victim connects with his captors. Trust grows. Secrets spill. Injustice finds new prey.

Voskamp had no one to trust with the pain within her. Sharansky fought to stay connected to those he loved and trusted, if only in his heart and mind. He worked hard not to trust the untrustworthy KGB.

There’s an odd irony in saying that Voskamp and Sharansky are not alone.

In 1985, ten percent of Americans were completely alone in their lives–no confidants, no one to count on. By 2009, that number had grown to 25 percent. Stephen Ilardi calls this nation “perilously isolated.” Isolation numbers continued to grow until COVID only made isolation worse.

And it’s not a problem confined to America. In 2014, an EU survey deemed Britain “the loneliness capital of Europe.” And it isn’t a problem just for those who live alone.

Rebecca Harris: “So why are we getting lonelier? Changes in modern society are . . . the cause.

We live in nuclear family units, often living large distances away from our extended family and friends, and our growing reliance on social technology rather than face-to-face interaction is thought to be making us feel more isolated. It means we feel less connected to others and our relationships are becoming more superficial and less rewarding.”

HEADlines at Mustard Seed Sentinel

More superficial. Less rewarding. Virtual reality gives us virtual connections and produces virtual lives. A virtual life does not contain relationships that can heal our hurts.

We are less real on social media. But sometimes we are too real. We say things to our screens we would never say to someone’s face.

The venom we exuded in the recent election makes us unapproachable to someone smarting from defeat.

If we won, we don’t care. It’s our turn. We build walls against the pain of others. We prove ourselves unworthy of their trust.

If we lost, bitterness can grow inside us. And with it, we build a wall to keep others out. But the wall keeps hurt inside, and we look for ways to let it out.

Voskamp: “Who doesn’t know what it’s like to smile thinly and say you’re fine when you’re not, when you’re almost faint with pain?”

Today, loneliness is an American epidemic. Cigna released a study indicating that most Americans are lonely. We might expect that among the elderly–especially those who live alone–but that isn’t the case. In fact, older people have done the best job of keeping themselves from being isolated.

The loneliest among us are the young.

Cigna says the problem is bigger than social isolation. Cigna is an insurance company. Loneliness is a health problem–as harmful as smoking–making some more prone to heart disease. Loneliness is costly to insurance companies and costly to our society.

And social loss happens in more than dollars. Lonely people are more prone to substance abuse. Loneliness has become a social crisis.

Author of Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry sums up our problem this way: “We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.”

An exodus back to the farming life, the farming community, doesn’t seem reasonable. Much of the available farmland has been consolidated or subdivided. But there are things we can do.

Many of these things came more easily to farm folks. Working together, eating together. We can do those things too. But we have to be more intentional than they had to be.

We can grow some of our own food. Some of us already grow tomatoes–even in pots–even in apartments. What better way to show the young that food doesn’t originate in a store? What better way to explain the concept of cultivation?

In cultivating plants, we cultivate purpose.

And we can cultivate relationships. A local faith-based organization developed a program where volunteers talk with nursing home residents once or twice a week. The caregivers found that their residents were happier. I would not be surprised to find that the volunteers were too.

For investing in others cultivates our souls.

When we give ourselves, we find meaning and purpose—elements we lost when we changed our way of living.

When we as a society left the farm for the town or the suburbs, we thought we were moving to a better place, an easier life. Ease has shown itself to be a false promise for peace in our hearts.

With purpose and giving, we find that peace. And that is something we can pass along.

“It is not good for the man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18

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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.

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A Return to the Back Alley

Just last week, the Food and Drug Administration cleared the way for abortion medications to be available via telemedicine.

The new rule is intended to allow girls and women to end a pregnancy up to the 56th day from the comfort and privacy of their own homes without having to see a doctor in person.

However, with this new rule, there is no way to ensure–as an in-person physical examination would–that the unborn child is younger than 57 days–or even that the pregnancy is not ectopic (that the child is not stuck in the fallopian tube rather than residing in the uterus–a condition that is potentially deadly for the mother).

Before last week, an estimated 40 percent of American abortions, according to the AP, occurred through the chemical method. Yet the requirement that patients seeking drug-induced abortions meet with a doctor before obtaining such medications ensured that deadly complications (like ectopic pregnancies) and attempts at dangerous abortions later in pregnancy (after 56 days) would be minimized.

Now, they can be maximized.

The rule change will be a boon to the abortion industry in several ways. For every surgical abortion, someone has to remove the child, through suction or manual dismemberment, or stab the child’s heart with a sonogram-guided injection and induce labor so the mother can deliver her dead child.

After a dismemberment abortion, someone must reconstruct the child to ensure that the abortion was complete–that there will be no parts left behind to fuel infection.

Mail order abortion meds prevent trauma to a worker having to deal with the actual killing or disposal of the bodies of dead children. Mailing pills to faceless women is much less traumatic than piercing a heart or reconstructing body parts. And the industry will need employees with much less training. How hard is it to mail pills? Not very.

Less complex. And less costly for those in the abortion business.

Now girls and women who are aborting at home will perceive that they can escape a problem–and no one else has to know. They’ll perceive this notion because the telemarketer/abortion advisor they spoke with via phone or internet told them so, that the process will be simple, “like a heavy period,” that it won’t be so bad.

One “pro-choice” woman says her experience was “unimaginable,” “indescribable,” “the worst pain I have ever felt. . . . With every cramp I felt my heart race and my blood pressure plummet.” . . . . She was “nauseated, dizzy and lightheaded.” She thought she was dying.

Abby Johnson’s chemical abortion experience was similar.

After reading these accounts and understanding that so many abortions happen this way now, we might conclude that these women’s experiences were outside the norm. Yet, the complication rate for chemical abortion is four times that of surgical abortion.

Four times.

And remember, the girl or woman at home will at some point expel a baby. She is likely to see that baby and understand what she perhaps did not fully grasp at the beginning of the process: a baby who was alive and growing within her is now dead.

Other countries are currently conducting studies regarding chemical abortions for second-trimester pregnancies. That means chemical abortion for a four to six month old unborn baby to be born dead at home.

Once achieved, a quest will begin for medication to abort even older unborn children.

“Death and destruction are never satisfied. ” Proverbs 27:20a.

Melanie Israel for the Heritage Foundation:

“And I would just caution people … especially if the abortion lobby has their way and abortion pills are available through telemedicine, getting it through mail order, available in retail pharmacies, or even over the counter. That’s what some abortion advocates want, just abortion pills over the counter, no prescription required, no questions asked. Imagine what that would mean in the hands of an abusive partner, a coercive partner, a trafficker.”

Ms. Israel reports that 19 states prohibit telemedicine abortions. But that the restrictions can be “wiped out at any moment” by an edict from the current administration.

In the historic discussion leading to legal abortion in America from conception to birth–the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision–abortion advocates pleaded that abortion be safe, that desperate girls and women gain protection from the butchers of “back alleys.”

Now the back alley is the very homes of these desperate girls and women. The butcher comes as a specter in the form of pills invited in by their unwary victim.

This new rule provides nothing but benefits for the abortion industry. It shifts all of the burdens from the industry to its victims. The babies and the mothers bear all the trauma, all the risk, all the cost.

And it’s a cost we will never be able to count.

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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.”

A Pillar of Iron: A Picture of Our Times?

It’s a book I read when I was about 16. I decided to reread it when I was in my 30s. And at the end of 2020, I determined to make my way through the 700 pages a third time.

Taylor Caldwell’s A Pillar of Iron depicts the life of Cicero–who saved Rome once but was unable to protect the republic from its eventual fall. Cicero wavered between hopelessness for his nation and wonder about the Jewish prophesy of the coming Messiah.

Caldwell presents a pessimistic prediction of the inevitable descent of all republics into democracy, more accurately, mobocracy, the oppressive manipulation of the crowd to garner power for the greedy.

Her views are consistently conservative, a bit less compassionate than those of G.W. Bush in 2000, with Cicero’s acknowledgment that some within the mobs had reason to protest. And, as with many predictors of history, (see also Francis Schaeffer’s A Christian Manifesto) Caldwell’s accounting of Cicero’s Rome comes more closely to resemble our nation as time goes by.

A blurb on the cover of the 1965 edition (first edition) states, “Were Cicero alive in the America of today, he would be aghast and appalled.”

That’s what she thought in 1965. At the time, we had yet to go through the sexual revolution. JFK had already been assassinated, but we had not yet suffered the riots and other violence, including more assassinations, of the late ’60s. And remember the hyper-inflation and terrorism of the ’70s?

Caldwell’s Cicero is a complex character torn between his love for his childhood friend Julius Caesar and his disdain for Caesar’s quest to be the absolute power broker of Rome. Current readers will find parallels in her mentions of Caesar expanding the courts to ensure rulings would go his way as well as the cancel culture Cicero endured before, during, and after his exile.

An important feature of the book is that Caldwell flew from America to Rome and translated Cicero’s letters (to and from others) and his speeches herself. What she includes from Cicero’s own words is the result of her own work.

Despite her pessimism about our nation’s future, she finishes the work on an optimistic note.

Rome fell into tyranny. But before she shattered, the Messiah would come.

And He remains our hope today.

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

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Broken Trust

[I]f 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, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14~

Another admired Christian leader has fallen. He wasn’t the first. He won’t be the last–unless the Church makes some big changes soon.

Among those who’ve gone before are abusers accused and proven in the Catholic Church child sex abuse scandal that resounded around the world shortly after our new century began. Every few months, the remains of scandal resurface with fresh accusations.

What happened in the twentieth century, when we were less prone to speak of such things, as well as less apt to be believed, was unparalleled in its magnitude but it was not exclusive to one denomination.

In the 1980s Jim Bakker went to jail for misuse of donated funds. Amid a sex scandal. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison. He served less than five.

He was, perhaps, an aberration. Not many pastors who start out on a small local television station ever see the material success Bakker saw. Not many get the chance to sin at such a level.

The ministry grew too large too fast, and Bakker forgot that he was to minister, not be ministered to.

Yet there were those we knew we could trust. Billy Graham at the top of the list. In heaven now, he did not topple into scandal, financial or sexual, on earth.

We knew there must be others. Charles Stanley suffered a divorce–apparently not because of impropriety. He continues in the ministry.

Over the years, we would occasionally hear of the pastor who “ran off with” a church secretary or a congregant. They were shameful, but singular incidents. And as far as we could tell, were consensual–except of course, for those left behind.

Then came Bill Hybels’s scandal. He had led the Willow Creek Community Church for more than 40 years. The church grew to seven campuses with 25,000 in weekly attendance in 2015–before accusations took Hybels down.

Finally, Ravi Zacharias. Considered so far beyond reproach that his staff dismissed accusations of a few years ago until Zacharias died of cancer earlier this year. His devices showed the truth. He’d failed to delete “hundreds” of pictures.

But the horror wasn’t just in photos.

The Zacharias scandal is especially insidious. Ravi was said to never travel alone. He boasted about the care he took to protect his marriage vows. About his efforts to be pure.

Now he is accused of a range of offenses from sexting to rape, including the abuse of massage therapists. The term “sexual misconduct” doesn’t cut it.

The RZIM ministry had dismissed the “misconduct” allegations until his death and the discovery of photos on various devices of his. Now they’re apologizing.

I remember a story Zacharias told. A Christian and an atheist were conversing. The atheist could not believe in God since so many Christians misrepresent Christ. The Christian posited a situation in which a good man is robbed of his coat. Someone commits a crime wearing the coat. The good man receives the blame. The atheist admits that the Christian telling the story “wears [Christ’s] coat well.”

Pretending he wore the coat rightly, Zacharias wore it badly. All our sin tarnishes others’ view of Christianity. The “sexual misconduct” in leaders like Hybels and Zacharias tramples the name of Christ itself.

If my people . . . called by my name . . . will . . . turn . . .

We must never again look away when a wolf wears a sheepskin or worse a shepherd’s cloak. And we must do a better job distinguishing wolf from sheep.

We need to ask hard questions.

Is there such a thing as a ministry too big? Too rich? Too influential? A minister too trusted? Or tenured too long?

Is anyone beyond the reach of sin?

Christ founded a small church. Persecution kept the church humble.

Now some are big, famous, and rich.

We are covered in tarnish and worse.

Christ’s name trampled.

As the lost point to and jeer at the man wearing the wrong coat.

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.”

April Fools!

T.S. Eliot tells us that April is the cruelest month. But how can a month with lilacs, forsythia, and a fun holiday be mean?

This day always reminds me of one I lived through during a very rough patch. I was a newly single mother who’d sent my oldest children off to school and didn’t give the silliness of the day a second thought. That is until my phone rang that evening with my breathless friend on the other end.

“Is it true?” she gasped.

“What?”

“Are you having another baby?”

“WHAT?”

Mind you, the youngest of my five children was nine months old. Where in the world did my friend ever get that idea?

It turns out that my ten-year-old daughter told her school friend this bit of news. And the friend reported the shocking news to her mother.

It took us a few more minutes to figure out that the day was April 1.

My daughter, whose world had turned upside down in the previous few months rallied her heart for a bit of humor. She told a story that, because of history, her friends would believe.

And she let the rest of the day pass without saying, “April Fools!”

A heart baptized by fire found a way to make us all laugh.

Seek humor today. You just may brighten someone’s day in a most memorable way.

Photo Credit: Unsplash, Hatice Yardim

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.”

HEADlines: The Ever-Moving Line

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, 3/27/21~

It was interesting to observe. A sociological experiment of sorts. We were at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Our busload of people and several hundred others.

And just two bathrooms.

The driver explained that, because there were so many people and such little in the way of facilities, we were to just get in line together–men and women–and take care of nature’s callings as such.

It was a practical matter–how to move so many people faster. It wasn’t about ideology.

Yes, I was uncomfortable and found the experience unpleasant. But what surprised me most was that the most vocal complaints came from the younger women in our group.

They, of the generation who grew up with the most open views on gender and sexuality since Rome, were beyond uncomfortable. Horrified might be the word they would use. They weren’t prepared for such a change in their social practices.

In his book, The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race, and Identity, Douglas Murray puts forth his thesis that, just perhaps, Western Civilization is shifting too quickly, too sharply.

That happens, he says, when one side wins a battle–but the war continues.

“Our public life is now dense with people desperate to man the barricades long after the revolution is over,” Murray writes.

For example, America and much of Europe have instituted same-sex marriage. Where else can the new social line go? Yet it keeps moving.

It shifts to a Big Brother effort to get everyone on board. To make us all believe the same thing about same-sex marriage, about white privilege, about the evils of the patriarchy that wields power unjustly, holding women down. Justice never happens because the line to fairness keeps moving.

In such times, it’s rare to find a book that, to mix my metaphors, puts a finger on the pulse of the constantly moving line in a way no other author has. We see the “great crowd derangement,” Douglas Murray describes, but “we do not see the causes.” He shows us the causes.

Murray’s book contains a message that is cogent, urgent–and surprising, considering its source.

The perspective in The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race, and Identity is distinctly liberal but at the same time very conservative. Douglas Murray is gay. He believes the line has gone too far. And there may not be a way to pull it back.

He is honest about his fear that “We face not just a future of ever-greater atomization, rage and violence, but a future in which the possibility of backlash against all rights advances–including the good ones–grows more likely.”

Murray says, “Our public life is now dense with people desperate to man the barricades long after the revolution is over.”

When the ObergefellSupreme Court decision came down legalizing same-sex marriage, I thought–albeit briefly–they have what they want now. We will stay in this place. We did not. Instead, we saw lawsuits over wedding cakes, photos, and flowers.

What we saw and continue to see, as Murray puts it, is that once the “boot is on the other foot” the victors treat the losers the way the losers once treated the now victors. Murray implicitly makes a case for the Golden Rule and pulls back the curtain on the “gobbledygook” that has filtered into society from liberal academia.

I’m not sure I’ve ever read a secular book with more wisdom from someone whose worldview is so vastly different from my own.

In his section on Transgenderism–entitled “Trans”–Murray tells three stories.

One is about a man who had felt uncomfortable in his body since childhood. After serving in the military, marrying, and fathering five children, he divorced his wife and became a woman. Once same-sex marriage became legal in the UK, the now trans woman remarried the former wife.

Formerly James, now Jan, felt “euphoria” post-surgery, and was convinced “I had done the right thing.”

Murray writes that the “four surviving children . . . obviously did not have the easiest time adapting to the change in circumstances, though they seem to have been as adaptive as anyone could be.”

That’s Murray’s best case scenario.

The story he opens the chapter with doesn’t end happily.

Murray tells the story of Nathan, born Nancy. As a young girl, Nancy felt the family favored her brothers. Nancy’s mother admitted she found her infant daughter to be “so ugly” that she never bonded with her.

Nancy eventually underwent surgery to become Nathan. But one year later, disappointment in the results drove the trans man to ask the state for euthanasia. The state complied.

Nathan’s mother said, “Her death does not bother me.”

The story prompts Murrays’ questions: “Are we sure that [trans] exists as a category? And if so, are we certain that attempting to turn somebody physically from one sex to another is always possible? Or even the best way to deal with the conundrum this presents?”

Some may say that Nancy/Nathan’s story is a straw man. A terrible example of family rejection and a striving to do anything to find acceptance–which apparently was not to be had.

Yet Murray has other stories. I’ll summarize one that best supports his thesis that today’s culture is moving too fast on this issue.

“James” was a teen when he discovered the gay/drag queen scene. He shared his sense that he was “in the wrong body” with his doctor at age 18. After three and a half hours–yes, hours–of therapy at age 19, James heard the clinician’s conclusion: “You’re trans.”

He then entered the NHS (British health care system) that would accommodate all his needs, beginning with hormones and culminating in surgery–every need except one that would question the diagnosis of trans.

It was a process that began with James living as a woman for two years. Then came the hormones, next, would come the surgery that would finalize the transformation.

James–no female name provided in Murray’s retelling–would see NHS folks once every six months. During that time, no one questioned–or asked him to question–the diagnosis of trans.

Yet, James himself began to ask questions as a point of no return approached.

One can take opposite-sex hormones only so long before an important effect becomes permanent. If he continued to take these medications, James would be irrevocably infertile.

“[The NHS] had treated him as someone with a condition that needed fixing. But online James sought–and found–contrary points of view. Through alternative media he discovered YouTube stars and others who were questioning the wisdom of his decision, including younger and hipper people than he had expected.”

James also had questions about his faith as a liberal Christian–“Questions of God and design.”

He began to ask, “What I need to do to be content with my body, not change my body.” No one at NHS had encouraged such thought.

The government’s philosophy about transgenderism had moved too fast–in only one direction–for James.

Murray’s voice is an important one for our day. It is a voice of reason calling us to the manned barricades that want to move us to a place of no return–without much consideration of the consequences as we go.

Murray calls us to hear what the changes are doing, not just for the “Jan”‘s who are happy with the results of social change–but for the Jameses who looked beyond the NHS’s quest for a one-size-fits-all solution–for the Nancy/Nathans who found that solution insufficient to fulfill a lifelong search for love and acceptance.

Can we hear Murray in time?

Can we hear the truth of who we are as created humans?

Or are we already too late?

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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.

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Pioneers Who Light Our Way

I was a high school junior in 1972 when she sat on the stage of our local high school. She wasn’t the speaker for the assembly that day. But she had arranged for the speaker to come.

The speaker was a woman who’d survived the Holocaust. She spoke about how it all began with abortion. It was abortion that devalued human life enough that other ways of killing the perceived-to-be-less-than-us became thinkable, then doable.

Remember, that was 1972. That was before Roe v. Wade (and Doe v. Bolton) legalized abortion in the US until birth.

I don’t remember the name of the speaker on stage. But several years later I would meet the woman who’d recruited the speaker and arranged for the assembly.

And she would become a lifelong friend and mentor.

In 1979, as the mother of two toddlers, I decided to go to the March for Life. I called a phone number within an announcement scrolling across my television screen about buses for the event.

It was the woman who’d sat on that stage when I was a schoolgirl who answered the phone.

She was the mother of eight–the oldest were teens. Her youngest a bit older than my firstborn. She became a kindly sort of aunt to my children.

I still quote her to people. As I was having a minorly uncomfortable medical test recently, I told the technician something my friend first said to me decades ago: “If you eat a frog for breakfast, nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Yes, it’s a silly saying. But silly sayings are sometimes a good way to put discomforts and inconveniences into perspective. The best way to discern the inconveniences from actual life problems. The best way to discipline yourself to put the unpleasant task first.

And in such ways, friends give their wisdom to us for us to pass on to others. I’ve repeated the saying to students many times.

When I struggled with my growing family, she encouraged me with her humility. I asked her once how she managed her family, her job as a nurse, and her ministry for life.

She replied, “Well, sometimes not very well.”

As I write, I’ve just come home from a fundraising dinner for our local crisis pregnancy center. My friend was always among the last to leave this yearly event. She was the first to receive an award from the organization for being a champion for life. But I like to think of her as a pioneer. For few trumpeted warnings about what would follow 1972. She was one of the few.

She can no longer attend such gatherings. She’s now widowed and in a home. Because of COVID, I am unable to visit her.

She didn’t live a perfect life. None of us ever does. But I remember the kind spirit, the love, the devotion to truth and right.

Pioneers blaze the trail for those who follow after them. It’s up to us who follow to carry on.

And only hope to do as well.

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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.”

More Broken People Broken More

Steven Stayner was seven years old in 1972 when he was kidnapped and held for seven years before escaping with another victim.

The kidnapper had convinced Steven that his parents couldn’t afford to keep him. They didn’t want him anymore. Nobody would be looking for him, the man told the child.

Steven’s kidnapper sexually abused him over the years he held him captive–until Steven entered puberty and became too old to be attractive to the abuser who then sought out and snatched a new child, Timothy White, to fulfill his lusts.

Finally, after years of abuse and the arrival of his presumed replacement, Steven took off with Timothy to save him from the horrors Steven had endured.

The two boys could then be physically safe, but left to deal with the trauma they’d suffered.

How many Stevens and Timothys are out there now?

The National Center for Victims of Crime reports that 20 percent of girls (one out of five) and five percent of boys (one out of 20) are sexually abused in the US. And, like Steven and Timothy, children are most vulnerable between the ages of seven and 14.

So when we consider what happened to those two boys, that there are others suffering today as they did then, and that Steven essentially “aged out” of the abuse he suffered when puberty began, we should pause before we as a country decide to allow medical personnel to prescribe puberty-blocking drugs to children who are confused about their gender. We should more than pause. We should stop fast.

There are children with gender confusion. And there are children who may be convinced into confusion. That these are children should be enough for us to say no to puberty-blockers before adulthood. Young people will not truly know their own minds for some time. And puberty-blocking drugs eventually destroy fertility.

A decision that may be temporary at a younger age produces irreversible effects.

Many children endure Steven’s situation today. Abusers and exploiters can groom, indoctrinate, and intimidate these children into delaying or preventing their own growth and development. We cannot discern between children whose confusion begins within themselves and those whose abusers foist confusion upon them.

Steven’s kidnapper may not have stolen another child if he could have gotten the drugs for Steven that would have kept him physically in childhood–perhaps forever.

If you think that couldn’t happen, that wouldn’t happen, that doesn’t happen, you need to entertain the idea that it IS happening–and right within our own communities.

Mary Szoch from the Family Research Council writes:

“The [recently released] Planned Parenthood annual report also showed that in 2019, there were over 200 Planned Parenthood facilities in 31 states providing services for patients who identify as transgender. As it turns out, Planned Parenthood is the second largest provider of cross-sex hormones. In an interview with Abigail Shrier, a former Planned Parenthood employee described Planned Parenthood prescribing hormones to young clients with almost no examination of their underlying problems and practically no medical oversight.

“Planned Parenthood’s foray into providing cross-sex hormones is not shocking. For years, this organization has rejected basic truths about human beings, putting profits over people daily. During the 100 years of their existence, Planned Parenthood has denied the humanity and the right to life of the unborn child. Now, Planned Parenthood is denying the reality that XX chromosomes make a person a girl and XY chromosomes make a person a boy.”

This is the same Planned Parenthood that has been accused of not reporting child sex abuse and statutory rape–of ignoring the truth about abuse and exploitation–with a great deal of regularity.

Planned Parenthood meets people every day who suffer brokenness. But the huge corporate entity that PP has become is content to sweep the pieces of brokenness under a carpet of pretense. They pretend they are helping. But they enable abuse and exploitation. They help horror continue.

Steven Stayner was a broken young man when he escaped the clutches of his abuser. But before dying in an accident as a young adult, he married and had two children.

Steven Stayner tried to put broken pieces back together.

The Steven Stayners of today will lose a large chunk of their lives–and stay physically broken forever if we don’t stop fast about puberty-blocking hormones for children.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.” Proverbs 31:8, NLT

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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.”

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. And that must also 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.

Republished from June 24, 2019.

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.”

HEADlines: Understanding History and Letting It Inspire You

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, February 27, 2021

People of the past “understood history. Oral history, but history nonetheless. They revered their past and used it to educate and inspire themselves. In many ways, despite high levels of illiteracy, they were more ‘educated’ than we are today. They knew their world intimately and understood the value of what was before their eyes.” Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish

In Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind, Alan Jacobs tells us about Horace–a political dissident in exile. A friend bestows the gift of a farm on Horace, who, separated from the engagement he enjoyed in Rome, begins to write letters, poetry actually, to advise others–and us.

“Horace exhorts [his reader], exhorts himself, exhorts us, to shift our attention from those compulsions [our fears] toward questions that really and always matter–‘Where is it virtue comes from?’–because even by just exploring those questions, . . . we’re pushing back against the tyranny of everyday anxieties.”

It’s the everyday anxieties, the sense of the urgent, that remove us from the important. The important, virtue, often gets lost in the shuffle of where we need to go. We have tunnel vision as we focus on how to get to the goal, the finished project or the diffused crisis. The tyranny that keeps us plodding ahead as we sense we are standing still.

And when we think of virtue, it strikes us as something else to do—something that can’t fit into our already crammed schedules.

But there is an answer to this tyranny of the urgent that keeps us from the important. Heughan, McTavish, and Jacobs would point us to the past to find answers to the present, to inspire ourselves.

We find answers and inspiration in the writings of the dead.

Many, Jacobs asserts, refuse to look to the past because of a way of thinking that’s emerged in recent times.

“There is an increasing sense not just that the past is sadly in error, is superannuated and irrelevant and full of foul ideas that we’re well rid of, but that it actually defiles us–its presence makes us unclean.”

Jacobs asserts that this sense of defilement results from information overload and the sense that the “world is not only changing but changing faster and faster.” And the solution to our overload is exactly what many perceive is defiling us.

Jacobs is pushing against what the Wall Street Journal calls a “sustained effort” to eliminate Homer and a vast array of rich literature from the past. This from the Journal:

“Their ethos holds that children shouldn’t have to read stories written in anything other than the present-day vernacular—especially those ‘in which racism, sexism, ableism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of hate are the norm,’ as young-adult novelist Padma Venkatraman writes in School Library Journal. No author is valuable enough to spare, Ms. Venkatraman instructs: ‘Absolving Shakespeare of responsibility by mentioning that he lived at a time when hate-ridden sentiments prevailed, risks sending a subliminal message that academic excellence outweighs hateful rhetoric.’”

It also sends the message that young minds can’t develop to think for themselves, to discern how and why things have changed—or even that they ever changed at all. For if we eliminate the past, and make no mistake, that’s the proposal here, children will grow up only in the now.

Many children are growing up in this now that refuses to look back. Jacobs quotes Tony Tost:

“And at home, the kids only watched kid-centric YouTube channels or superhero or Pixar movies instead of suffering through dad’s weird favorite old movies. So when the kids hit elementary school, they only have ears and eyes for whatever was being marketed to their age group that year. . . Every step of their development they’ve been trapped in the pre-packaged bubble of the new.”

Imagine having little to no context for history, music, film, economics, or politics. And no one to inspire us but ourselves.

As a thirty-something English major in college in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I sometimes found it difficult to navigate texts like ‘The Wasteland” by T.S. Eliot. Footnotes provided biographical information about Eliot’s allusions, but not context to enlighten me about his discussion.

I left Penn State with a diploma in hand but feeling that my education had been incomplete because I lacked the classical foundation that would have made references to older and ancient works transparent.

In less than a decade, I would become a teacher in a classical Christian school where Homer was required and history revered. I wished my own children had had that education. I wished I had had it. Yet now, when I stand before middle-schoolers and high school students, I still sometimes feel like I’m showing them puzzle pieces of a picture I haven’t quite fit together myself.

For mine was the generation that began to lose the past. I got a smattering of the classical when I sat in a Catholic parochial classroom for three years between fourth and sixth grades. And I picked up bits and pieces of music, literature, and history—as silly as this sounds—from Looney Toons cartoons and Sunday evenings watching The Wonderful World of Disney.

Disney gave me a foundational understanding about what happened at the Alamo in 1836, who Daniel Boone was, and what the legend of King Arthur was all about.

Bugs Bunny introduced me to classical music like “The Barber of Seville,” and works of literature from Romeo and Juliet to Dante’s Divine Comedy to the genre of 1940s crime movies. Television networks in the 1960s provided old cartoons with public domain music to entertain us and let our parents sleep in on Saturday mornings. We got part of our education eating cold cereal in our pj’s.

And we got a great deal from our parents—both of them having lived through the Great Depression and having been World War II era veterans. My brother got more of the classical from our father who must have found the classical heroes of the past too coarse for a young girl for I have no memory of him telling me the tales.

“They were my bedtime stories,” my brother told me once of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

I imagine our Dad retelling the passage when Achilles dragged Hector’s body around the city of Troy for seven days and then saying, “Good night. Sleep well.”

Of course, there is much more to Homer’s works. For Western Civilization, Homer helped define what it means to be a hero.

But my favorite part of this remembrance is how Dad got the stories, to begin with.

Dad was 13 and one of 11 children recently orphaned. Some of the children were already grown. Others went to live with their grandmother. Dad found a home with two women who needed someone to do the man jobs around the house.

Division of labor by gender was big in the past.

One day he discovered his hostesses taking down curtains and washing windows. He asked what he could do to help and received this reply.

“This is women’s work, George. Go outside and play.”

But playmates were no longer around. He wandered off to the local library and inquired of the librarian for “some good books.”

She gave him Homer’s classics.

From Alan Jacobs: “To see the art of our ancestors can be an incredibly powerful thing; but we want also, we can’t help but want also, the human voice, to hear those who came before us speak to us.”

Jacobs points out that we hear those who speak our hearts, but we also learn from those who are different from us. People who came before us are the same in some ways. But we see what is different from us in the writings of the past.

Even the story of dad’s guardians sending him outside to play rather than inviting him into “women’s work” teaches us something of what the past was.

Learning about the past can lead us to ask how we got from there to here.

I’m finishing The Black Ships Before Troy, based on Homer’s Iliad, with two groups of sixth- through eighth-graders. I tell them that the Greeks didn’t marry the women they carried off after sacking a city. They didn’t settle into a life of domestic partnership.

And marriage wasn’t the primary life relationship for the ancients. The friendship between men was their top relational concern–as we see in the story of Achilles and Patroclus, whose ashes were mixed together after their deaths.

In class, I get to explain what the world was like before Christ–and how it changed for the better because He walked here on earth.

I explain that social groups become civilizations when they become writers. When oral traditions, stories, laws, and in the case of the Bible, divine inspiration take a written form.

In these readings we can learn what was, better understand what is, and determine what should be. We can look back for that wisdom. In fact, there is wisdom we can only find by looking back.

Jacobs: “The dead, being dead, speak only at our invitation: they will not come uninvited to our table. They are at our mercy, like the flock of shades who gather around Odysseus when he comes as a living man to the land of Hades.”

And remember what Odysseus learned from the dead Tiresias—how to navigate the perils of the seas and find his way home.

Despite the calls to eliminate the past, many devote themselves to passing it down.

My great-niece in Texas is teaching Homer’s works to her students. She is four generations removed from Dad.

One of my own students, a seventh-grader, couldn’t contain his enjoyment as we discussed Homer’s tales.

“This is a really good weird story,” he said.

Good enough to pass on to his own children someday? And then he’ll tell them to sleep well.

Photo Credit: Natalia Y, 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.”

Urgent: Male and Female Created He Them

[M]ale and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created, Genesis 2:4 (ESV).

If some in Congress have their way this week (The House is set to vote Thursday 2/25), the terms male and female will soon disappear. First, from the realm of bureaucracy that will continually push itself into our private lives, And second, from the hearts and minds of young people who will grow up learning a language, a way of life, that is blind to biology, scripture, and

In Newsweek magazine, Mary Rice Hasson describes the “Equality Bill.”

“The Equality Act is 31 pages long, and devotes thousands of painstakingly drafted words to prohibiting “sex discrimination.” In all those pages, however, the word “female” never appears.”

. . . .

“Under the Equality Act, ‘gender identity’ determines access to “public accommodations,” a category the act redefines to include just about everywhere. It mandates access to ‘a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room’ among other gathering places on the basis of ‘gender identity.’ Translation: There will be no safe spaces left for females. Support groups for mothers or sexual assault survivors would be forced to accept any male who feels entitled to join (based on ‘gender identity’).”

You may wonder: Can that really happen? It can. And without urging some Democrats to vote no in both the House and Senate, it will.

The White House has already announced it concurs with the goals of the bill.

Niamh Harris explains that there will be no safe haven of religious protection.

“Religious institutions fare no better [than public ones]. Religious schools, adoption agencies, and other charities would face federal sanction for operating according to basic biology and mainstream Biblical teaching on sex and marriage. Outrageously, this act exempts itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

We might well imagine that the act would end up in court within hours of passage. But there is oppression in that too. Litigation takes time and costs money. Just ask the Little Sisters of the Poor.

In the meantime, the doors of ministries would close. Many forever even if there is relief from the courts.

And that might be a big if.

I have a friend who was involved in the pro-life cause before 1973. I was still in high school

She battled against abortion before the Supreme Court issued the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions. Decisions that legalized abortion until birth for any reason.

Until birth for any reason.

The decisions went far beyond what the pro-abortion side considered to be their wildest dreams.


“We thought we could count on the courts,” she told me shortly after I began my own pro-life efforts in 1979. I’ve never forgotten.

Around the same time I was reading a book whose title and author I’ve lost–but whose opening example has stayed with me all these years.

The author presented an expectant mother determining to never allow society’s gender preconceptions to affect her child. She would raise her child in an environment that would laud feminist ideals.

This child would not wear dresses, would play with both dolls and toy trucks alike. She would give the child a name that did not assume a gender.

She planned. She prepared.

Labor. Delivery. Birth.

The mother’s first words upon the arrival of the child?

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

Why, the author pondered, did she ask so eagerly and so quickly after denying the importance of gender for so long?

Because it matters. Our gender makes us who we are more than this mother had been willing to admit.

People are free today to be openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender.

But people must also be free, if they are to remain free, to live out religious convictions, to run ministries accordingly, and raise children with biblical principles in mind.

These freedoms are at risk.

And we may soon have to ask ourselves how to manage in a new dark night of oppression based on our conviction that men are men and women are women.

And that God made us that way.

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.”

Normalizing Porn

“What is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage. The mere act of believing that some wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is pernicious.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Fantine is a single mother who loses her job for having a child out of wedlock. That’s the pretext her supervisor uses to fire her for rejecting his advances.

Fantine falls on terrible times. Those who are caring for her child are extorting all her income, lying to her that the child is ill and her medicine is expensive.

Fantine sells her hair and teeth before succumbing to the demand for her body.

She dies destitute but not before extracting a promise from her supervisor’s boss to be a savior to her child.

Today, Fantine’s story repeats itself with more than one twist. Both men and women are selling their bodies virtually on OnlyFans, a social media site on which members pay to view pictures and videos of those they follow.

ABC recently aired a news feature exploring OnlyFans (content warning). The news report presented a view of what’s become a hub for pornography.

And ABC celebrated its arrival.

OnlyFans has processed $1.2 billion since it began, making founder Timothy Stokely worth $120 million.

The ABC piece reads like a commercial. No other voice gets the chance to present a different perspective. ABC provides no discussion of sexual exploitation. And not a peep about porn addiction.

Instead, ABC calls such “sex work” empowering.

The report shows viewers a creative way to make money during the pandemic. Sex work is a ticket to “financial freedom.”

One interviewee says the work requires self-promotion, “which is really difficult when you have a ready, saturated landscape of people who have those large, large followings they’re bringing to OnlyFans.”

It’s an ironic celebration of the free market as an OnlyFan member asserts that he got involved because he was comfortable with his sexuality, and there was “a need”–in other words, a market.

ABC is streaming the story, “‘OnlyFans: Selling Sexy’ on Hulu.”

We know porn is out there. It’s pervasive. Even in the Church.

Now a major television network has told millions more where to find porn, how to participate in it, and how to turn a buck by being part of it.

All without allowing a word of protest or a hint that there might be regrettable effects later. The reporter and a participant admitted and disdained that a “stigma” sometimes goes along with such work.

OnlyFans and ABC’s coverage prompt the question of what can come next.

What follows is a logical result. More people buy into a lie that selling their bodies won’t damage their psyches or their souls. It will only build their bank accounts.

And more people will carry their wounds, addictions, and a perpetual online presence into future relationships and eventual physical decline.

Fantine would warn them. But would they listen?

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.”

A Really Good Weird Story

“They were my bedtime stories,” my brother told me once of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

I imagine our Dad retelling the passage when Achilles dragged Hector’s body around the city of Troy for seven days and then saying, “Good night. Sleep well.”

Of course, there is much more to Homer’s works. For Western Civilization, Homer helped define what it means to be a hero.

But my favorite part of this remembrance is how Dad got the stories, to begin with.

Dad was 13 and one of 11 children recently orphaned. Some of the children were already grown. Others went to live with their grandmother. Dad found a home with two women who needed someone to do the man jobs around the house.

Division of labor by gender was big in the past.

One day he discovered his hostesses taking down curtains and washing windows. He asked what he could do to help and received this reply.

“This is women’s work, George. Go outside and play.”

But playmates were no longer around. He wandered off to the local library and inquired of the librarian for “some good books.”

She gave him Homer’s classics.

From Alan Jacobs: “To see the art of our ancestors can be an incredibly powerful thing; but we want also, we can’t help but want also, the human voice, to hear those who came before us speak to us.”

Jacobs points out that we hear those who speak our hearts, but we also learn from those who are different from us. The same in some ways but different from us is what we find in the writings of the past.

Even the story of dad’s guardians sending him away rather than inviting him into “women’s work” teaches us something of what the past was.

Learning about the past can lead us to ask how we got from there to here.

I’m finishing The Black Ships Before Troy with two groups of sixth- through eighth-graders.

I tell them that the Greeks didn’t marry the women they carried off after sacking a city. They didn’t settle into a life of domestic partnership.

And marriage wasn’t the primary life relationship for the ancients. The friendship between men was their top relational concern–as we see in the story of Achilles and Patroclus.

In class, I get to explain what the world was like before Christ–and how it changed for the better because He walked here on earth.

I explain that social groups become civilizations when they become writers. When oral traditions, stories, laws, and in the case of the Bible, inspiration take a written form.

Even so, we continue to pass stories down both orally and through writing.

My great-niece in Texas is teaching Homer’s works to her students. She is four generations removed from Dad.

And the story goes on from thousands of years ago.

But it won’t end here.

A seventh-grader last week couldn’t contain his enjoyment as we discussed Homer’s tales.

“This is a really good weird story,” he said.

Good enough to pass on to his own children someday?

And then he’ll tell them to sleep well.

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.”

What to Watch

It’s snowing outside. And it’s cold. And television viewing options are, well, less than desirable. What to do?

Many subscribe to Netflix and find some worthwhile viewing there. During our family’s Covid and Christmas break, we re-subscribed for a time to watch Hillbilly Elegy, which did not disappoint.

The acting, directing, and storytelling were superb. J.D. Vance’s story is the American story, and this movie alone makes the subscription fee worthwhile.

Another great find on Netflix was Wish Man. The biopic tells the inspiring story of the founding of the Make A Wish Foundation.

Jacob Engels’ review of Wish Man points out that it’s “become increasingly rare, if not impossible to find films like ‘Wish Man’ that can get their message across without being vulgar or unnecessarily graphic.” 

Pureflix is a movie-membership site that endeavors to provide just that kind of entertainment. The company came to notoriety through the blockbuster God’s Not Dead film series.

Pureflix is a movie site that you can let your kids watch without worry.

Some of the fare, honestly, is so-so. But enough of it is good that subscription is worthwhile.

Late last year, AFFIRM, a subsidiary of Sony, bought Pureflix. It’s reasonable to expect an uptick in quality–with the hope that the high standards of storytelling without vulgarity or graphic violence will remain.

So put an extra log in the woodstove or fireplace, grab a hot chocolate, and happy viewing.

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.”

Snow Day

Today is a snow day for me.

But many students today are waking up to yet another virtual school day. Logging on. Doing their work. Missing interaction with friends and mentoring adults.

It’s the opposite of what used to be. What seems so long ago. Sledding, snowman building, hot chocolate, and digging out.

I think back to last year in March when the governor announced that schools would close “for two weeks.”

I was in the grocery store later that day with a large number of my town’s fellow citizens. Shelves of canned and paper goods, nearly cleared. Yet the mood was like a holiday but even lighter. We hadn’t had a snow day that year. Not even a delay. And now we were getting a spring break.

A break from which some have not yet returned.

I talked with a class of high school students last week (our small school is in-person) about human purpose–about our need to engage others and do work.

They agreed that even playing video games gets old without human fellowship.

They understand something perhaps only experience can teach. They have a new appreciation for the everyday routine they had before COVID.

I think, every so often, of Dawid Sierakowiak, a Jewish teen in Lodz, Poland, during the Holocaust. Dawid (pronounced David) kept journals a la Anne Frank. When the Nazi occupation came, Jews were no longer allowed to go to school.

I remember Dawid’s torment at not being permitted to learn. It was the opposite of what I witnessed in the grocery store last year. But Dawid understood that his “school vacation” was not to be just two weeks.

He was right.

Had students understood last year that many of them would be away from their friends for nearly a year, the mood in the store would have been somber.

Humans yearn for fellowship. We need each other. We need something to do besides games.

Many young people understand now that having to go to school–getting to go–is a gift.

It’s a gift I hope our town soon experiences after so long.

Photo Credit: Isaac Ordaz, 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.”

A Different Standard for Life

“Worthy are You, O Lord; worthy are You, O God, to receive glory and honor and power. You alone created all things, and through Your will and by Your design, they exist and were created,” Revelation 4:11, The Voice.

Through God’s will and by His design, we exist. All of us. In all conditions. With seemingly much to offer. And with seemingly nothing.

God wills. He designs. He creates. And He loves what He creates–especially the ones He made in His own image–human beings.

Then God surveyed everything He had made, savoring its beauty and appreciating its goodness,” Genesis 1:31, IBID.

Justin Hawkins retells the story of a mother who denied her child a safe, uncomplicated surgery that would save his life.

She could not see the beauty within nor savor the goodness of a child she considered imperfect. One with an extra chromosome. One with Down syndrome.

It took eleven days for the child to die. He starved to death for lack of a procedure any “normal” child would have received without question.

You might be surprised to learn that the account Hawkins gives is from 1963–ten years before Roe v. Wade legalized the killing of such children in the womb.

This child’s killing wasn’t in the womb. His death happened in a small room in a sanitized hospital. In America.

Legal justice came to no one for the crime. No justice on this side of eternity.

The 1973 accounting that Hawkins quotes, written by James Gustafson, quotes a doctor who explains that, even in 1963, “a different standard” applied to the disabled.

“That is, there is a different standard. . . . There is this tendency to value life on the basis of intelligence. . . . [It’s] a part of the American ethic.”

A great irony is that many medical personnel, who excel through their intelligence, seem unable to empathize with those who will lack academic abilities in life.

On the other hand, as Hawkins explains, “researchers found that when placed into an experiment in which a researcher feigned pain to study the responses of children, children with Down Syndrome were more likely than other children to attend and attempt to comfort the researcher than did typically-developing children.” 

It seems these children have something to offer after all. Kindness and compassion, so often missing today. In rejecting them, we have missed what they can show us and give us.

But Hawkins has seen what so many of us haven’t. He peppers his article with anecdotes from the life of his sister Jenna who has Down syndrome. Jenna came to be after the capability to diagnose disorders such as hers before birth.

He notes, ” [I]t would likely come as little surprise to any family that has decided to carry a child with Down Syndrome to term that the BBC reported in October 2020 that women were offered abortions up to fifteen times over the course of their pregnancies, even after repeatedly signaling that they did not want the procedure (my own mother [Hawkins and Jenna’s mother] recalls being asked five times over the course of fifteen minutes).” 

Entrenched in the minds of medical overseers is the conviction that the death of the imperfect is necessary for the lives of the rest of us to contain beauty and goodness.

Through that way of thinking, we have lost so much goodness and beauty.

America is now 48 years since Roe and Doe, the SCOTUS decisions that decreed such deaths legal.

If we gave a moment of silence to every child (62.5 million) who has died in the womb since those decisions, we would stand silent for nearly twelve years.

How much longer would we have to stand for the many innocents who have died outside the womb for the crime of imperfection?

God wills. He designs. He creates children. All of us imperfect in some way.

He stamps His image on each of us.

He stamps His image on all of us.

Photo Credit: Nathan Anderson, 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.”

Too Many Evenings

“The trouble with socialism,” said Oscar Wilde, “is that it would take up too many evenings.”

Some might argue whether what we are dealing with, what is ahead for us, is socialism. But we can’t dispute that our thinking and conversations (and social media interactions) about the state of America are consuming our evenings (and much of the rest of the day, as well).

In Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind, Alan Jacobs tells us about Horace–a political dissident in exile. A friend bestows the gift of a farm on Horace, who, separated from the engagement he enjoyed in Rome, begins to write letters, poetry actually, to advise others–and us.

Jacobs writes, “It is useful to see that these anxieties have plagued people who lived so long ago, even if we feel [these same anxieties] with particular intensity today. . . .

“Horace exhorts [his reader], exhorts himself, exhorts us, to shift our attention from those compulsions [our fears] toward questions that really and always matter–‘Where is it virtue comes from?’–because even by just exploring those questions, . . . we’re pushing back against the tyranny of everyday anxieties.”

I’m not suggesting–and I don’t believe Jacobs is either–that we stick our heads in the sands of old books and disregard what’s going on around us.

Instead, we can use older texts. He’s thinking ancient. I’m currently reading a 1960s text about a great ancient–Cicero.

To each his own form of processing.

But many, Jacobs asserts, won’t look to the past because of a way of thinking that’s emerged in recent times.

“There is an increasing sense not just that the past is sadly in error, is superannuated and irrelevant and full of foul ideas that we’re well rid of, but that it actually defiles us–its presence makes us unclean.

Jacobs asserts that this sense of defilement results from information overload and the sense that the “world is not only changing but changing faster and faster.”

As we yearn to slow down, the world moves at a faster pace. That pace and the direction of the change that’s unfolding seem daunting.

Part of that slowing down, Jacobs asserts, is to feed our minds the bread of the past, of the dead, and to feed it to children as well.

“The dead, being dead, speak only at our invitation: they will not come uninvited to our table. They are at our mercy, like the flock of shades who gather around Odysseus when he comes as a living man to the land of Hades.”

And let’s remember what Odysseus received during his visit to Hades: wisdom telling him how to go forward into an uncertain future filled with all kinds of perils.

We can look back for that same kind of wisdom.

It awaits our attention. And it withholds its benefits until we sit with it and partake.

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 Providence of a “Circumstance”

Imagine that you’re walking home as twilight descends. You’re tired after spending a day caring for a sick neighbor. And you’ve made the mistake of staying too late. The walk home is three miles long. Darkness descends.

You’ve walked through a stand of trees and are about to cross a meadow and enter a forest. The gray sky lifts your gaze to a supernatural vision. Four hands hold a sheet over a corpse. You hear a voice saying, “The Lord have mercy on the people. The Lord have mercy on the people. The Lord have mercy on the people.”

That is the situation Harriet Prescott Spofford sets up in her 1860 short story “Circumstance.” Spofford based her work on an incident that happened to her great-grandmother during America’s pioneer days.

The story is worth a look in these days of turmoil.

Spofford’s story features an unnamed protagonist–an everywoman walking metaphorically through life where she faces the challenges of ministry, peril, and darkness to emerge into a new day.

The woman in the story shakes off her vision. She is not prone to fear. But fear soon overcomes her when a panther–an Indian Devil, in Spofford’s words–grabs her, hoists her into a tree, and makes clear his intentions to enjoy her as a meal.

Instinctively, she yells. The animal pauses. She calls to her husband realizing he is too far away to help. But she notices that her vocalizing has caused the panther to stop chewing on her.

She begins to sing, regaling the panther with a range of songs through the night. The songs begin close to home. She thinks of her husband, her infant in the cradle, starting with nursery and dance tunes.

But soon the music shifts to that of a Methodist hymnal. That’s significant because John Wesley organized his song collection differently from other hymnals.

Most church songbooks follow the Church calendar. Wesley’s follows the structure of The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan’s account of an everyman’s journey from conviction to confession to Christian journey, ultimately to the Celestial City–Heaven.

The woman sings through the night. She’s exhausted. She’s in pain. As morning dawns, her voice begins to fail. She hears noises she at first thinks an animal is making. But she comes to realize they are human steps.

Her husband, having become concerned about her extended absence, arrives carrying their child and his musket. She continues to sing with a raspy voice.

He takes aim at the cat but can’t get a clear shot. Her voice continues to falter.

It’s only when she stops, when she can longer connect words and melody, that the animal pauses. He’s enjoying the music and wants it to continue.

The cat shifts his position. The man shoots. She is saved.

Spofford brings a clear picture of salvation–not by our own work. The woman’s own work only delays inevitable death. His work after hers ends rescues her.

It’s a wonderful story, and the man and woman think it’s ended. It has not. (Full spoiler ahead.)

The man carries the child and the weapon. He carries the future and the means of protection.

His wife follows as they head home. He reaches the top of a hill as she notices a footprint on the ground. As she rises to stand next to him, they survey the results of an attack that annihilated their community.

All who stayed behind in what they thought was a safe place are dead. All that remains are smoldering cabins.

The attack of the devil animal in the dark was hard and horrible. But the attack was a gift that saved their lives.

We live in a time where things look bleak. It’s dark outside. Many of us feel under attack.

A new day will come on this shore or on the other. We can have hope. Perhaps the panther that wants to eat us is, in reality, a means of protection.

We don’t know what is happening on the other side of a hill where we thought it was safe.

We can trust the providential God who leads us into the woods. And back out again.

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.”

Reading for the New Year

It’s become a tradition for me to select a stack of books I propose to read in the new year. I adjust the list as the year progresses. New titles find a place there. Others fall away.

Last year’s list altered when, in the spring, I committed to teaching middle school classrooms in the fall of 2020. I sought out versions of The Iliad and The Odyssey for that age group.

So far, I’ve found Rosemary Sutcliff’s versions to be accessible and complete, including much of the back story and details from The Aeneid to round out her version of The Iliad. The Wanderings of Odysseus is proving to be just as satisfying. Sutcliff’s books form a fine foundation for middle-schoolers and for adults wanting to brush up on classical literature.

The image above is of a book I’ve read twice already–first in my teen years, later as a thirty-something. It becomes more profound each time I pick it up.

Taylor Caldwell’s novel about the Roman Senator Marcus Tullius Cicero, A Pillar of Iron, depicts the dismantling of Rome’s republic on the cusp of Christ’s birth. (Cicero died in 43 BC, and according to Caldwell, was awaiting the Messiah’s birth.)

Caldwell saw parallels between Rome’s fall and the state of America circa 1965. So far, my reading indicates that the parallels have only deepened.

Caldwell dedicated the book to the late President John F. Kennedy (D), Senator Barry Goldwater (R), and Senator Thomas Dodd (D)–whose philosophies were probably more in line with each other’s than their party affiliations might lead us to assume.

I’m finding much history and wisdom within the pages.

History and wisdom–themes I’ll pursue this year.

The Power of the Powerless is a paperback (but the link takes you to a pdf version) containing an essay by Vaclav Havel, who, in 1989, became the first democratically elected president of Czechoslavakia, and later the Czech Republic.

I expect a big difference between Cicero and Havel–one whose culture is descending into totalitarianism, and the other whose culture is escaping it.

A novel I may propose for my older students in the next school year is A Canticle for Leibowitz. From what I gather, it’s post-apocalyptic satire. And according to Goodreads, it’s an account of “the relentless progression of a human race damned by its inherent humanness to recelebrate its grand foibles and repeat its grievous mistakes.”

History repeating itself, another emerging theme.

I’ve thrown an eclectic collection into this year’s stack: The Ickabog–by J.K. Rowling. I’m one of the few on the planet who hasn’t delved into Harry Potter. In this new book, Rowling weaves a mythical tale–a morality play. I’m eager to see where it goes.

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien–because I haven’t already read it. And I’m eager to see where Bilbo Baggins goes.

Rescued: The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel, by Fr. John Riccardo. Riccardo is a breath of fresh Gospel air.

If You Give a Girl a Giant: Fighting for Your Life, by Karen Porter, spiritually edifying treatise on successfully defeating the giants life brings our way.

Abba Isn’t Daddy and Other Biblical Surprises, by William L. Burton, OFM, an invitation to delve into Bible study.

And another by Caldwell–Testimony of Two Men (1968) is set at the turn of the twentieth century. It tells the story of a controversial doctor pushing medicine into a modern era–beginning with the concept of handwashing. I’ve read this one before too. It’s worth another go too.

And I’m planning to do Dannah Gresh’s Bible study, Habakkuk: Remembering God’s Faithfulness When He Seems Silent. Habakkuk is a three-chapter, Old Testament book of prophesy. And the circumstances swirling around us today make this study an appropriate way to remember that God is with us–even when He seems silent.

So happy reading. Please let me know what you plan to read this year, and if you’ve read anything on my list, what you think about it.

Photo Credit: openroadmedia.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.”

HEADlines: Christ the King, the Light that Overcomes Darkness

Through Advent, every day gets darker until we arrive at the cusp of Christmas. Winter solstice—December 21st– is the longest night of the year. Light increases each day following.

Christmas comes during the time of year pagans marked the winter solstice, the shortest day–but the end of encroaching darkness. It’s a feast to celebrate light overcoming darkness.

Christmas comes near Hanukkah–the Jewish festival of lights—commemorating victory over an effort to eradicate Jewish civilization. It’s a feast to memorialize one day’s worth of sanctified oil fueling a lamp for eight days. Eight days to celebrate light overcoming darkness.

Twenty-twenty has been a year of darkness and separation. My husband and I stood in our kitchen a couple of weeks ago, both of us steeped in a COVID fog of fever and cough. The radio played “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I pointed out the lyric—“Next year all our troubles will be far away,” commenting that this year’s troubles were unimagined last year.

I imagined people singing that song in 1944—the year Judy Garland first sang it in Meet Me in Saint Louis. The movie opened in November of that year.

Imagine going to the theater to see a light musical—and to watch newsreels. People got their information from newspapers, radio, and movie newsreels—the precursor to television news.

What you’d see in newsreels around then might have included a race riot among US military personnel at Guam. Bandleader Glenn Miller’s plane disappearing over the English Channel. A typhoon hitting Admiral Halsey’s fleet in the South Pacific, costing America almost 800 souls. And Axis forces surrounding US troops at Bastogne.

Much of the news was grim. But Allied forces were pushing back. General Anthony McAuliffe, the American commander at Bastogne, responded to a German demand for surrender with one word: “Nuts.”

In dark days, light emerged.

It’s hard to perceive the depth of darkness people felt when we know now how the story ended. Allied forces converged; McAuliffe’s rebuttal stands as a rebuke to defeat.

But it’s harder to see the light when we sit immersed in the darkness of our own days with little hint of light ahead.

Was it a dark and starless night before the angels came to the shepherds? They were shepherds who’d been waiting for the coming of Messiah. They didn’t expect a blast of light and music with angels singing news of His coming.

The shepherds outside Bethlehem that night 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 cloths. To 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 the baby would be a sacrifice. That baby was the Messiah.

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 shepherds’ sins–for our sins—for the things we walk through and touch that make us unclean.

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

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.

Emmanuel—God with us. Let His light shine.

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.”

A Different Kind of Holiday Season to Cap a Difficult Year

“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~

Twenty-twenty has been a year very much unlike any other year. For many of us, this Christmas will be unlike any other as well. The dream of experiencing the holiday season exactly as we have in the past seems impossible.

In many ways, though, this time is much like any other. Christmas decorations are up in every kind of store. The mall has had the tree up with the lights on for weeks. Grocery stores feature similar decorations and music. Cranberries, turkeys, hams, and cookie ingredients line the shelves–all to evoke our memories of holidays of the past.

I doubt we’ll see long lines of children waiting to see Santa this year. Something that would have tortured me had it happened in the ’70s and ’80s–that period of time when my children posed 16 years in a row for Santa pics (toward the end, much to the chagrin of the first- and second-born).

And I don’t expect the kids’ choir will entertain a crowd in the center of the mall this year either.

Much will be different this year. But much will be the same. We can still enjoy the music, lights, and food. We can wish each other blessings in person or virtually. We can work to remember that it’s the love that matters more than whether we are in person or online.

As we search for finding that sameness in the holidays this year, may we remember those who’ve had it worse than we have. Even if we feel we are at our lowest, it often isn’t difficult to find someone who’s feeling lower than we are.

Even though this year won’t be exactly the same (no year ever is), we are drawn to the season of peace–a respite from the world of bitter politics and bad news.

We will find the joy of the season as we proclaim God’s goodness to others–those we love–those in need around us–those driving by our houses whose lives we don’t know.

We are the people of light. And the darkness around us can never overcome the light.

That is the great promise of Emmanuel–the Light of the world with us.

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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HEADlines: Losing One Tradition and Changing Another

Published in Mustard Seed Sentinel, Saturday, November 28, 2020~

I’ve been making them for more than 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.

Baking cookies.

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 chips (a personal invention—with an option for butterscotch chips too).

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. Some extra chips thrown in. The recipe is now my own. It’s been years since I checked a recipe to determine the next step.

As baseball was for Terence Mann in Field of Dreams, so the cookie has been a constant throughout my life. Cookie baking threads the quilt of my years together. 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 wrote back that, if I ever shipped that recipe again, I should 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 children grew to love lemon sugar cookies, sometimes a gift for my father.

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 demanding job provided little money and ate my time. I still baked peanut butter blossoms.

Then there were years when Christmas cookies were on our table and in the mail to a son deployed 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. My eventual graduation to the oven.

Mental snapshots of toddlers milling around my own tiny kitchen waiting to taste. It was their task, their responsibility to test—to make sure all was good enough for us. Few concoctions failed. Some did, however, burn, the result of me forgetting to set the timer. Years flash through my mind 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.

This weekend has marked a tradition of more than a decade and a half. The day after Thanksgiving has been the day I baked cookies and made an easy fudge recipe for our local Armed Forces Mothers unit to ship off to domestic and overseas deployed troops.

Each member contributed a serving of cookies and fudge for each container to be packed into the larger boxes containing donated items and purchased gifts to be shipped to those serving our country. Our organization has packed between 60 and 100 or so boxes every year. I joined in 2003 after my middle son joined the reserves and departed for Iraq. His younger brother has since deployed twice. We packed enough homemade treats to satisfy a number of troops, many miles from home.

Tradition.

For the last several years, two granddaughters have assisted with box packing. We’ve packed a box or two followed by a trip to a local Wendy’s afterward. A few years ago, one of the girls remarked: “I know it’s Christmas when we do this.”

Because of COVID this year and an uptick of cases locally, box packing is limited to our group president and her family gathering supplies and sending fewer boxes themselves.

My tradition loving heart hurt to hear the news of a tradition broken.

Yet as long as we stay well, these two oldest grand-girls and I plan to celebrate a modified version of another tradition. Every year for the last dozen years, we have attended a performance of The Nutcracker ballet preceded or followed by Asian cuisine. We had hoped to include younger girls this year. But since COVID cancelled live performances this year, I bought a DVD featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov.

The theater won’t be fancy like some we’ve haunted over the years. Just my living room, as we watch a world-class performance.

And cookies. There will have to be cookies.

Perhaps cookie baking for the troops will return next year. Perhaps we’ll see that missing tradition restored for 2021.

But this year with the Baryshnikov DVD, I expect we’re marking the end of one tradition and the beginning of a new one—with a constant of Christmas cookies stirred in. Old and new mixed together to make memories.

May you make your own sweet memories as you anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth in 2020!

About the Author

Nancy E. Head at Mustard Seed Sentinel

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 at Mustard Seed Sentinel.

Photo Credits: Family Collection

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.”

Reasoned and Reasonable Faith

“The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.” (Chesterton, Orthodoxy 34)

In the effort to end the slave trade in Great Britain, William Wilberforce and his allies “looked to the heavens” for help because in the late 1700s and early 1800s, “science was not as advanced as it is today.” That’s what I read in a student paper once.

This student saw faith in God as outdated. He resided within the realm of reason and excluded the possibility of a non-material world having found faith in the “heavens” unreasonable.

What he missed was how Wilberforce, outside the context of his Christian faith, could have come up with the idea that slavery and many other ills of his time were evil. 

The notion that slavery, or any other social woe, could end through a secular perspective is a much more unreasonable idea than searching the “heavens” for moral leading. The theme of faith as unreasoned is not new, but it is now a dominant voice instead of being a secondary one as it was years ago.

In 1962, William E. Barrett published The Lilies of the Field, a novella about Homer Smith, a nomad Baptist handyman who builds a chapel for a group of Catholic Eastern European nuns in the barrenness of the southwestern U.S. after World War II.
The chapel becomes Homer Smith’s life dream, what he believes will be his legacy. But the task seems so big. The needs loom so large.

The book captivated my adolescent mind. At the time, most Americans overwhelmingly found Christianity a perfectly reasonable place to put their faith. Yet faithless reason had gained a foothold.

Barrett included a character who, aligning himself with the modern student/author would say, “Faith. It is a word for what is unreasonable. If a man believes in an unreasonable thing, that is faith” (96).

This man, so sure of himself, is a foil to Homer who has his doubts. At one point, Homer leaves the nuns and the community, some who also doubt the church building can become reality.

But once Homer has left his dream, the dream does not leave Homer. The vision of the nuns and the unfinished chapel calls him back.

When he returns, the community surprises him with donations of bricks, the literal building blocks of his dream. Everyone in the community contributes, that is, except, at first, the “reasonable” man without faith. Clinging to faithless reason, that man arrives one day to see Homer’s project.

Homer’s reaction: “This man probably did not believe in bricks. It was not reasonable that all of these bricks were here, so they were not” (99).

Faith is a step beyond reason. The Church is real. Over the centuries, God has built His Church. But God does not build with bricks man has made. He builds with stones He has formed.

“You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter: 2:5).

What then should we make of our understanding of science? Let’s begin with the scientific method.

Franciscan monk developed it. Our modern concept of seeking to understand the world came from people who were seeking to better understand the works of the Creator God.

According to Pew, today scientists are less likely to believe in God than the rest of society. Given the pervasive teaching that science trumps faith, that is no surprise.

Even so, more than half of all scientists do believe in God or at least some higher power. That more than half believe there is more to the universe than what we can see is surprising.

Those scientists realize that faith is not devoid of reason. Reason without faith makes man a god, an idea that has led us to genocide and licentiousness.

Yet, the question of faith cannot be one of numbers. It is not more reasonable to have faith because many others don’t believe. A majority is capable of being misled.

C.S. Lewis understood that there was no war between faith and reason. “The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other” (139).

Wilberforce and those standing with him in faith knew it too. It was their faith and their reason, their looking to the heavens, that so changed the world.

This year I watched as Barrett’s book captivated a group of seventh and eighth-graders. I plan to introduce the book soon to another group of students.

The light of reasoned faith still finds hearts and minds to illuminate–young hearts and minds whose faith is working through reason.

We are living in days of darkness and division. But there is light in childlike faith.

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.”

A Fellow Writer’s Endorsement

A big thank you to Melinda V. Inman for sharing this piece:

@nancyehead is a truth-telling #writer who pens facts that reveal the dark side of issues about which we may have covered our eyes. Her writing is candid, bracing, intellectual & informative, both blogging and published work.… https://melindainman.com/?p=27847 via @MelindaVInman

NANCY E. HEAD

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Nancy E. Head is an author, teacher, and activist who has also run for political office. She is staunchly pro-life and often writes on this topic as well as the moral condition of America and how we are losing many of the values that were common in the past.

Learn more about Nancy here: www.nancyehead.com.

Nancy blogs weekly. Over several years of reading her work, I’ve found her to be one of the most candid authors I’ve ever encountered. Her wealth of experiences give her a candor and yet kindness toward those in difficult situations, and her strength of character produces writing directed at those difficulties in ways that are straightforward and frank. I learn much from her weekly blog about where our nation is headed morally and ethically.

Boldly, she writes of the ugly side of the abortion issue, euthanasia, and the pressure on those who attempt to intervene. Her writing presents truth fearlessly, with no hiding of the details about which we may have covered our eyes. Bracing, intellectual, and informative — these descriptors encapsulate her work.@nancyehead is a truth-telling #writer who pens facts that reveal the dark side of issues about which we may have covered our eyes. Her writing is candid, bracing, intellectual & informative, both blogging and published work.…CLICK TO TWEET

Take a look at Nancy’s blog. This is one of her latest featured posts.

HEADLINES: THE IMPORTANCE OF MEANING

Published in the Mustard Seed Sentinel, June 27, 2020.

“In the 1950s kids lost their innocence . . . In the 1960s, kids lost their authority [the means of direction]. . . In the 1970s, kids lost their love. It was the decade of me-ism dominated by hyphenated words beginning with self. . . Self-image, Self-esteem, Self-assertion… It made for a lonely world. . . In the 1980s, kids lost their hope. . . In the 1990s, kids lost their power to reason. . . In the new millennium, kids woke up and found out that in the midst of all this change, they had lost their imagination,” Ravi Zacharias.

Innocence, authority, love, hope, reason, imagination, all are necessary elements of a functioning people in a functioning society.

Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 1950—back when there was still innocence, hope, and imagination. The book is about a society that can no longer find itself. The people have no books, no imagination, and no sense of purpose and meaning.

Bradbury depicts these losses in one of the most chilling moments in literature. A man comes home from work to find his wife passed out—overdosed on sleeping pills. He calls for help assuming the 1950s practice that a doctor will actually come to the house to set her right.

Instead, help comes in the form of two cigarette smoking technicians with a snakelike vacuum cleaner of sorts. They sweep out the woman’s system. She’ll be fine in the morning. It’s no big deal, they say; it’s common. So common, in fact, that they get nine or ten calls a night. Every night. . . .

Find the rest of Nancy’s blog HERE.

Nancy is the author of Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord. Currently, she is working on a middle reader children’s book, Jude and the Magic Birds (Working title).

RESTORING THE SHATTERED

Find Nancy book HERE on Amazon.

Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ's Love Through the Church in One Accord by [Nancy E. Head]

Written in an easy-to-understand, conversational style, Restoring the Shattered is an account of Nancy E. Head’s journey through single-motherhood and poverty. The permanent divide between her and her husband led to a shattering of their family as the children settled into separate camps.

The story begins when Nancy and her children have little to eat. Through a miraculous intervention, God provides—and leads them along their way. Other interventions and more guidance came from people of different denominations, illustrating Christ’s love through the larger Church.

When one of Nancy’s grown children became Catholic, she became more aware of the ways her own evangelical tradition often dismisses Catholic believers and misinterprets many of their doctrines. While doctrines may differ, so many essential beliefs are the same. Restoring the Shattered looks at the causes of the Reformation and other schisms, and how the original schism in Christianity happened because of a mistranslation.

Misunderstanding others’ faith languages feeds so much separation today. Nancy encourages pursuing accord among evangelical, Catholic, and Christian Orthodox communities in order to lead the Church to the kind of ministry that helped Nancy’s family so much and rebuild the ruins of society through obedience to Christ’s call for Christian accord.

During our years of need, Christians encouraged her as she earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Penn State and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Encouragement continued as she embarked on a career in journalism and later turned to a career in teaching, which has included two summers in China. She earned my master’s degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Currently, Nancy is an instructor at Penn State Altoona and Great Commission Schools. When not teaching or writing, she restores antique quilts, craft projects for her grandchildren, and helps her husband lead a small group at their church devoted to ministering to the needy in their community.

Find Nancy E. Head on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.

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.”

 

How to Handle an Unlikely Encounter

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. The men 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 to put it mildly–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.

Revised and republished from February 7, 2019.

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.”

HEADlines: Recalling History and Heroes

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, Saturday, October 24, 2020~

“This day is called the feast of Saint Crispin,” So said Shakespeare’s Henry V in his inspirational speech to his troops at Agincourt on October 25 in 1415.

French troops outnumbered Henry’s five to one. But the British had a secret weapon—the armor-piercing long bow. Warfare would never be the same.

After the English victory, Henry proclaimed death to anyone who would take the glory from God for the day.

October 25 about 1100 years earlier was the day Crispin and his brother Crispinian became martyrs for their faith. They spread the Gospel and gave their lives for it.

And those events are not all that happened on that famous date.

October 25 is also the day of the infamous “Charge of the Light Brigade” in 1854. A day of much less success for the Brits who suffered severe losses in a desperate, misguided charge against Russian artillery at Balaklava during the Crimean War.

The incident inspired Alfred Lord Tennyson to record the brave effort in his famous aptly titled poem: “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” A portion follows:

“When can their glory fade? /Oh, the wild charge they made! /All the world wondered /Honor the charge they made.”

In late October 1944, US Naval Admiral William “Bull” Halsey was in Leyte Gulf maintaining radio silence. But the rest of the American forces wanted to know where Halsey was.

An ensign crafting radio messages had studied literature at Harvard before the war and knew his Saint Crispin’s Day history. Asking Halsey’s location, he then tacked on padding words designed to confuse enemy decoders. His padding? “The world wonders.”

Halsey thought his disappearance was known to the world. Legend has it that he dispatched the ensign to an obscure island to sit out the rest of the war.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf was the biggest naval battle of the war. It lasted three days and ended on October 25. The Japanese fleet would never again see the effectiveness of its earlier days.

King Henry promised his men “the greater share of glory.” And that their names would be “household words.” But wars are won by anonymous heroes. Only students of literature remember some of the names of Henry’s “happy few.”

And few can name any of “Noble six hundred” who charged the artillery this day so long ago. The anonymous message encoding ensign remains as anonymous as most who fought and died at Normandy and Bastogne, at Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima.

My father served as a chief petty officer in the South Pacific during World War II. He loved to tell the stories of the heroes of Agincourt and Balaklava and the unfortunate coding anti-hero of Leyte Gulf. He told my brothers and me about General Anthony McAuliffe who, when the German Army surrounded his forces in Bastogne in 1944 demanding his surrender, replied only “Nuts!” And the Allies prevailed.

Dad never thought of himself as a hero. The heroes, to him, were the ones who didn’t get to come home.

Dad did come home, married the woman he’d left behind, and raised three children.

And so we all grew up and married. After Mother died in 1975, 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 living 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’d been waiting to deploy to the uncertainty of the South Pacific and 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.

For thousands of men, “just in case” came to be.

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces landed on Normandy beaches. By the time Paris was liberated more than two months later, nearly 73,000 allies had become Dad’s version of heroes.

June 6, 1994, marked fifty years since D-Day. Two of my sons were in elementary school then. Their teachers neglected to note the day. But both grew up to be soldiers. Both have served in war zones. One of them has gone twice. We will mark the days between October 25 and November 11 with pumpkins, corn stalks, and children dressed as super-heroes. On one of those days in between, our family will mark 104 years since our hero was born.

Most of the anonymous warriors of Europe and the South Pacific are gone now. Those who came home and those who did not are the heroes of history who endured the Great Depression and won World War II. They knew what it was to sacrifice for a great cause.

If we are wise enough to remember them well, they can still teach us.

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.”

Who Are We?

Are we a stiff-necked people? Are we refusing to repent?

Are we on the edge of losing our freedom?

To worship?

To maintain our consciences?

To educate children, ourselves in faith?

Do we see a connection between the state of our hearts and the state of our nation? That connection is real. We miss it to the peril of judgment.

I see more prayer efforts than I’ve seen during other election years. But who are we in our hearts?

Is our praying repentance or just begging favor?

Lord, forgive our sins. Convict us to turn from them. Hear our prayer.

Heal our land.

Image Credit: Pinterest

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.”

Dear Wife: Pursuing Connection in Marriage

From Amanda Davison: “This is what we know: Women are being attacked, because as women, we hold influence. And . . . we know that when God gets a hold of a wife’s heart, her marriage changes. Her family transforms, and generations are impacted.

Our first step as a ministry was a resource responding to wives’ biggest need, which is to have intentional and meaningful time together as husband and wife – to connect.” 

And that’s how Dear Wife: 10 Minute Invitations to Practice Connection with Your Husband came to be.

The book offers letters from seventeen women who teach us how to make connecting in marriage a way of life, not just an occasional nod between two people as they come and go.

Marriage is hard. We get too busy, and the one we’ve pledged to love all our lives may be the person we neglect the most.

The problem compounds itself when we feel unloved because our husbands are stuck in their own roadways of busyness.

Davison knew just that situation. She wanted to fix her own marriage. And she wanted to develop a ministry that would help other wives fix theirs.

The seventeen contributors crafted short letters to readers as invitations to connect through scriptural principles.

There are questions at the end of each letter to allow the reader to personalize the text and help form a connection with God first and husband second.

One contributor is Karen Friday whose work is always worth a read–and a share.

This from her offering:

“[Jesus] didn’t give in to the temptation to defend. Instead he withdrew. He offered grace instead of the gratification proving them wrong would have provided. When we belong to Jesus, He defends us. And Christ defends marriage with the best interests of husband and wife in mind.

Dear Wife is a wonderful, encouraging read. I highly recommend it.

Photo Credit: A Wife like Me

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.”

Forgotten Dream

One of my favorite aspects of fall is watching flocks of birds dance through the sky in synchronized motion.

So I offer this from the work of a grandson and former student, Aaron Hildebrand. You or someone you know could be like the bird in this poem. Let’s work to recognize the broken-winged among us and show grace.

Almost too easy to pass by,

Save for when it gives a cry,

Is the gentle presence of a bird.

Planted lightly in the ground,

It makes a faint yet shrill sound,

In hopes that it will be heard.

In the wind high above,

Sparrow, jay, quail, dove,

Soaring through the sky.

As if by chance or fate

This one bird must forever wait

Till eternity may pass by.

From the sadistic hand of nature

Has this poor bird been injured,

With wings so frail and delicate.

In vain attempt it tries to fly,

Not wanting to leave the sky

Now one bird more desolate.

To the surface it quickly returns,

So far away from what it yearns,

As close as it may seem.

Distant remain the fields of blue and white,

Henceforth destined to believe that flight

Was but a forgotten dream.

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.”

HEADlines: Our Cracked Country

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, September 26, 2020.

Two teens stood across from my book table at a national event. They weren’t yet old enough to vote. But perhaps when they are, they’ll cast their ballots to excise their part of Virginia to make it part of West Virginia–a harkening back to our Civil War. (Or our first Civil War?)

They are frustrated by legislators from the northern part of the state threatening to limit gun ownership and having voted to expand “abortion rights” more broadly than all but a few places around the world.

They are not alone in that way of thinking. Those hoping for Southern Virginia’s annexation to West Virginia will find a communion of spirit in Oregon, some of whose voters want to become part of Idaho. And California also has its own initiatives brewing. But those efforts aren’t about becoming part of an existing state. There are calls to split into multiple statesor even leave the United States altogether and become a separate nation.

Imagine what these efforts–if successful–might lead to.

Political pundits speak of the conservative part of my own Pennsylvania in terms of the T across the north and through the center with Philadelphia in the east and Pittsburgh in the west–although Pittsburgh sometimes joins the T.

The T carried our Keystone State for Trump in 2016–even in heavily Democratic Cambria County–coal country.

If voters in the T decided to follow suit with southern Virginia voters, the bulk of Pennsylvania might also join West Virginia.

Even the bluing state of Texas could end up splitting over voter ideology.

While proposals for state-splitting are still in their infancy–or perhaps in their early childhood–it seems a good time to consider some of the ramifications.

For example, would Philadelphia decide to become part of New Jersey? Could Jersey support the costs of the City of Brotherly Love that rural PA taxpayers have helped to bear for decades?

What if the rural/conservative voters of every state thought it best to cut themselves free from every city that wanted to limit guns and fund abortions throughout gestation?

Would cities’ leaders moderate some of their views to stem the tide of departure (and lost revenues)? Would rural folks bend? Can both sides occupy a middle ground for long?

Rural voters want to keep their guns. On farms or in nearby forests, guns have practical purposes completely unrelated to crime and unfathomable to many city-dwellers.

Conservative and liberal voters can only remain at an impasse over abortion. Room for compromise on this issue is scant because the unborn one either lives or dies. There is no state of in-between.

And there seems to be no room to bend among those who insist our abortion laws continue to go far beyond those of European countries that limit the procedure. The US is one of only seven countries that allows abortion after 20 weeks.

Secession and state-splitting sound far-fetched. But perhaps we are closer to making such dividing lines than we realize.

In American Secession: The Looming Threat of a National Breakup, F.H. Buckley writes:

“[W]e are now facing another constitutional crisis, as we did in the 1850s, when Congress was unable to compromise on slavery or avert the impending civil war. Today again, changes that must be made seemingly can’t be made because of our divisions and failure to compromise. The Constitution was designed for another country, one in which people agreed on fundamental principles, and that’s not today’s America. We are divided on things that used to unite us, and we don’t like politicians who compromise on things we care about.”

Explaining that the framers assumed secession was permissible (“by the consent of the governed“), Buckley lays out the arguments the Constitution’s crafters made as they shaped the document different factions today see either as pliable or etched in stone. It cannot be both.

He makes the case that California, for example, if it seceded, would save “$103 billion … [paid] in federal taxes [more] than it receive[s] back from Washington” and, therefore, should be able to pay for its plethora of social programs. He notes later that California has never had a majority wanting to secede.

But that may change as the middle class continues to flee the Golden State. It also remains to be seen whether $103 billion in extra revenues could truly create the entitlement utopia its leaders seek to create.

Even with such efforts and proposals on the table in multiple places, it may still be hard to imagine the fracturing of states or an actual secession attempt. But here’s part of what goodreads.com says about Buckley’s discussion:

“Across the world, large countries are staring down secession movements. Many have already split apart. Do we imagine that we, almost alone in the world, are immune? We had a civil war to prevent a secession, and we’re tempted to see that terrible precedent as proof against another effort. This book explodes that comforting belief and shows just how easy it would be for a state to exit the Union if that’s what its voters wanted.

“But if that isn’t what we really want, Buckley proposes another option, a kind of Secession Lite, that could heal our divisions while allowing us to keep our identity as Americans.”

Secession Lite would require a live and let live mentality. And just that option is under consideration in the state of New York. Conservatives in that state have introduced bills in the state house and senate that would divide the Empire State into three regions—New Amsterdam, upstate New York; New York; Manhattan and the five boroughs; and the Montauk Region, Long Island, Westchester, and Rockland.

Chris Enloe writes:

“’New Amsterdam & Montauk regional governments would have the power to repeal these unnecessary NYS regulations and bad laws that are killing jobs,’ Divide New York State Caucus explains, [Gannett journalist Julie] Sherwood reported. ‘While the New York regional government could enact those changes it wants for NYC only that upstate currently blocks.’”

The bill remains in committee. But if it passes, it won’t need approval from the US Congress as it would if it were proposing splitting New York into separate states.

Perhaps Buckley has found a philosophical mean that could ensure freedom of conscience. For example, freedom for children to openly pray in schools governed locally. Freedom for municipalities to respect life, if they choose. Freedom for pharmacists to refuse to provide the means for chemical abortion. And that could only happen if the Supreme Court—whose membership is a new battleground for our day—will refrain from dictating what must be for the whole country.

The ideas of secession, state splitting, and regional secession light sound crazy. Buckley tells us they’re not. They or some form of them are real and on the way.

The unprecedented is what we’re experiencing in 2020. Our divided house hovers over a chasm of chaos. And chaos will continue unless we find a Golden Mean of citizenship we can agree on—or navigate how to go our separate ways.

Photo Credit: NASA (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.”

One Nation . . . Divisible

“[W]e are now facing another constitutional crisis, as we did in the 1850s, when Congress was unable to compromise on slavery or avert the impending civil war. Today again, changes that must be made seemingly can’t be made because of our divisions and failure to compromise. The Constitution was designed for another country, one in which people agreed on fundamental principles, and that’s not today’s America. We are divided on things that used to unite us, and we don’t like politicians who compromise on things we care about.” F.H. Buckley~

Every school day, I stand with a handful of high school students to say the Pledge of Allegiance. But I’ve begun to stumble over the word “indivisible”. I’m no longer certain that the United States will remain united.

We are more divided than ever, without being at war. And some places across the country, some of our cities, really are war zones.

Our division, rather its resolution, is the subject of a book by F.H. Buckley, American Secession: The Looming Threat of National Breakup.

Buckley divides the book into three sections: “Part I: A Cure for a Divided People?” “Part II: A Cure for Bigness?” “Part III: Lesser Cures.”

It’s our bigness, he argues, that has caused unhappiness, division, and corruption. But our bigness has made us wealthy too.

Buckley presents the discussion our founders had as they strived to determine which form of government would work for these United States.

Explaining that the framers assumed secession was permissible (“by the consent of the governed“), Buckley lays out the arguments the Constitution’s crafters made as they shaped the document various factions today see either as pliable or etched in stone. It cannot be both.

He makes the case that California, for example, if it seceded, would save “$103 billion …[paid] in federal taxes than it receive[s] back from Washington” and, therefore, should be able to pay for the plethora of social programs its government embraces.

While he notes later that California has never had a majority wanting to secede, that may change as the middle class continues to flee the Golden State.

It also remains to be seen whether $103 billion in extra revenues could stem the flow of departures or truly develop the entitlement utopia its leaders seek to create.

Buckley points readers to other recent secession movements such as Brexit, the UK’s secession from the European Union, and Quebec’s near self-extraction from Canada, arguing that the prospect of official division will affect America too.

As you begin the book, you might expect, as I did, that Buckley will advocate for secession. But the book comes to a different, (and maybe I’m being a bit cynical) less likely, proposal–a live-and-let-live cohabitation.

Is such a compromise possible?

The quick read (135 pages, plus a few charts) is a compilation of keen analysis that aptly shows America’s melting pot is at the boiling point.

Buckley presents more than one solution.

Questions remain: Will we boil over or find a way to dwell beside each other in peace?

And will “peace” include freedom or an enforced perspective that once lay behind an iron curtain?

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.”

Another Modest Proposal

Nearly 300 years ago, Jonathan Swift satirically proposed that the sale of Irish children for human consumption would solve economic distress on the Emerald Isle.

Buried within his satire were his actual proposals that few heeded.

Today, various versions of one sentiment reappear as America discusses the abortion issue on social media. It’s not satire, and it goes something like this:

“If you end legal abortion, who’s going to pay for all those children?” Or: “Are YOU willing to pay for those children?”

So I offer this proposal which could be replicated as needed across the nation:

Instead of aborting, say, 50 children, give me custody so that I might find good homes for them. Many people want to adopt today and would love to have a newborn.

Let’s say I find homes for 40 of them. We can applaud ourselves for having matched up homeless children and yearning parents.

We will have saved 40 lives and passed the expense of their care on to others more than willing to carry it.

But what shall we do with those whom we might call the leftovers?

We could (hypothetically) offer to our commenters the opportunity to potentially save themselves some tax dollars by dispatching the children themselves.

I’m fairly certain, however, that they’d find this act distasteful. The ‘beauty’ of abortion from their perspective is that it’s quick, cheaper (than care), and, to them, unseen.

Yet I would ask them to hear me out about other possibilities and advantages that could be available. After all, why just save tax dollars when you could actually gain income too?

Planned Parenthood has been selling baby parts–often from children born alive–without apparent penalty for some time.

For many research entities, the older the better–because the larger the child, the more tissue to be used in research. Alive and usable, rather than dead and chemically polluted or torn to bits, is quite advantageous.

We may, through such a practice, find a cure for a cruel disease. Look at all we garnered from the work of that German guy in the 1940s.

And as time passes, other opportunities will certainly show up.

For example, California’s legislature just passed a bill easing the penalty for adults engaging in sexual activity with “willing” minors, indicating that a market for living, older children already exists and is certain to grow.

We might work something out that would lessen the occurrence of wanted children being snatched off our streets–of traffickers grooming wanted children to become the “willing”. In their place, these “unwanted” children could serve.

Part of the deal could include a stipend plus reimbursement of taxes paid to support those our commenters consider disposable.

After all the bottom line is the bottom line.

Commenters divert attention from the humanity of children awaiting execution to the expenses children already born incur–costs they seem to deeply resent.

But the commenters are correct about one thing. More Christians could do more to foster already born children, mentor children on the precipice, and give to those in need.

In the end, we will all give an accounting for our compassion or lack of it.

For how much time, effort, and money we provided to help children in distress.

Or how we resented these innocents to the point of death.

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 Secret Past of a Silent Performer

As a child, I watched The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday evenings.

I have a vague memory of a mime named Marcel Marceau performing on the program.

As a high-schooler, I knew a boy who owned a vinyl LP titled The Best of Marcel Marceau. It began with applause and proceeded in silence to the end of Side Two, culminating in a final round of applause.

Few people knew Marceau beyond his artistic genius. But as a youth, Marceau performed great feats of heroism.

Marceau was a Jew in France. He moved from Northern France to the south when the Nazis invaded. But eventually, the Nazis too arrived in Marceau’s new home.

Also arriving were Jewish orphans in search of safe homes. It was up to Marceau to accompany the children across France’s border to the safety of Switzerland.

I learned of this story through the movie Resistance, now out on DVD.

A good deal of the story is fictionalized. Marceau’s romantic interest is part of the moviemaker’s creativity. Another piece is the representation of the Nazis in the person of Klaus Barbie.

The depiction of Barbie, otherwise known as the Butcher of Lyon, garners the movie an R rating despite the lack of graphic violence.

The accurate explanation of Barbie’s torture tactics is enough to justify the rating.

Not every reviewer gives this movie a 10-star IMDb rating as I did. One especially disagrees with the latitude the filmmakers took with the story.

I’m not so sure Marceau would agree. He was an artist. And this movie is art.

Many today haven’t heard of him. Many also don’t know about Barbie. A quick trip to Wikipedia can illuminate both stories for those who need such clarity.

This film tells a tightly woven story with fabulous performances.

And we get to see a young man doing all he can to save others. A young man, at first concerned only for himself, who grew to fame and fortune and apparently didn’t feel the need to let everyone know what he had done.

That’s true heroism. And we would do well to know the story–even with a bit of fiction added in.

Photo Credit: 10 Interesting Marcel Marceau Facts

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 Upside-Down World Is Becoming Our Own

Published in Mustard Seed Sentinel, August 22, 2020.

When the Roman Empire collapsed, the loss of basic knowledge of how to do ordinary things was immense. The Oxford historian Bryan Ward-Perkins [says] that it took western Europeans something like 700 years to relearn how to build a roof as solid as the Romans knew how to build.” Rod Dreher~

When my husband retired from his office job, he leaped into a full-time vocation that he was already doing part-time–roof and chimney repair. And he added a ministry aspect.

When he needs a crew, he goes to a local drug rehab program and recruits workers for the day. A couple of them turned into long-term employees. They arrived with a new outlook and got a new set of skills.

But most of them don’t. After all, not everyone belongs on a roof. Not everyone can traverse a housetop in even a mild degree of comfort. And not everyone is willing to do the hot sweaty work required to finish the task at hand.

Some move on to other work. Others go back to the old way of life.

My husband sees two ways of thinking. One accepts responsibility for the past and doesn’t want to return to the old life. Those workers show promise and are willing to learn. They revel in a sense of accomplishment. They find success in fixing something that had been broken as they watch the broken pieces of their own lives mend also.

The other perspective shifts blame for the past. The shifting means they don’t move forward. They realize no great moments of accomplishment. Without accomplishment, there is nothing to celebrate, to pass on. There is no once-broken-now-fixed thing to see, to point to. And no set of skills attained to pass to others. They can only blame.

That is how we forget.

Decades ago, I was among an inaugural class of girls taking woodshop. I still have the finished cedar box I made complete with a crack across the top because I (apparently) hit the hammer too hard nailing the lid on.

I’m certain it was for reasons other than my cracked lid—or in addition to it—that the teacher swore he would never teach girls again. I assume he retired shortly thereafter. From then on, girls would work with wood and boys would navigate the formerly female-only domain of the kitchen.

Our more modern outlook did well to invite boys to pursue competence in the kitchen and girls to use tools. We taught skills and children accomplished meals and boxes–even those with cracks.

I read recently of schools eliminating home-economics classes–now named Family and Consumer Science.

And I remember the sense I felt a few years ago at seeing a sack lunch for sale in a grocery store. It’s hard to give that feeling a word. But “loss” comes the closest. Are some of us no longer willing to pass along the small accomplishment of packing one’s own lunch?

Think about the exchange so many of us have made. We’ve traded the ability to prepare our own food (let alone grow it ourselves) for going to the store or restaurant, or now to have it delivered.

We have to realize that we are teaching the young how to do things. We are showing them how to accomplish tasks themselves–or how to get others to do things for them. We are always teaching something.

We are missing important components of ourselves in these deficits of basic competencies. With such seemingly small losses come even bigger ones hidden under our radar.

Dreher writes about a conversation he had with someone who works with victims of sex trafficking. He calls the conversation “deeply shocking.”

“He said that in his line of work, he hears from fertility doctors — not one fertility doctor, but several — that they are having to teach married couples how to have normal sex . . . if they want to conceive. These young people have been so saturated in pornography, and have had their imaginations so thoroughly formed by it, that the idea of normal reproductive sex acts are bizarre to them.”

Bizarre. Can it really be that bad?

Yes. It can.

Porn use in America is pervasive. And more harmful than we may realize.

At the Thrive Summit Conference (warning, some images are suggestive), Don Brewster said that, depending on the survey, somewhere between 51 and 86 percent of American men aged 25 and older use porn at least occasionally.

Forty-six percent use it regularly. Males ages 13-24 use porn at a rate of 67 percent.

Younger people (females use it too) using porn affects brains, shapes brains that are still developing. Porn makes physical changes, objectifies others, and effectively makes sex only about self, never a sacred, exclusive, mutual connection.

These effects wire the brain in a way that is very difficult, but not impossible, to undo.

Using porn affects our view of the morality of porn. In The Porn Phenomenon, Barna says, “The more you use porn, the less you think it’s wrong.” For example, 97 percent of monthly porn users believe that porn involving children under 12 is wrong. Only 90 percent of daily users believe child porn is wrong.

Moreover, only 45 percent of monthly users believe porn that depicts someone in a demeaning way is wrong. The number drops to 28 percent of daily users. That’s a large number of people who think children participating in porn is morally neutral and putting someone else in a demeaning situation, not for their own pleasure, is just fine.

While 54 percent of those surveyed said using porn at all is wrong, 58 percent agreed that eating too much is always wrong. Stealing something is always wrong for 95 percent.

Our society is sexually off the rails when married couples don’t understand how to act in order to conceive a child, when young people lack moral discomfort about 11 year olds (or younger) having careers in porn, and when the perception that it’s okay to make others uncomfortable for your own pleasure is just fine.

For many, porn use isn’t just a series of unrelated acts strung together. It’s an addiction. Addicts feel shame. Wives (usually the partner) feel betrayed. There seems to be no way out of a cycle of triggering, failure, and shame resulting in the partner feeling betrayed and the user feeling rejected—usually prompting a new trigger, perhaps with periodic episodes of successful avoidance punctuating the in-between.

There will be those who blame others and perhaps dabble in solutions the way some of my husband’s short-term employees do. But there will be those who seek a way out of addiction.

Some will search for a way and never find it. A young man went to a local social service office seeking help in my town. “Looking at porn is normal” was the reply he got to his request.

I hope he kept looking. But it takes a great deal of work to overcome an addiction, and few people can do it by themselves.

The Church is where people should be able to find the help they need to escape the snares of addiction and loss of understanding. Because of the shame involved, addicts don’t want to admit their problem to a pastor or church leader while many church leaders seem averse to addressing the issue (perhaps because of their own issues with porn).

So it’s up to those who understand the problems and the solutions to step up and create safe, non-judgmental places where people feel they can bring this burden and find assistance.

There is help out there. The Conquer Series and other materials by kingdomworks.com are great resources for individuals or groups. Blazing Grace offers resources as well as online forums for a number of sexual issues.

There is no substitute for walking through tough times with someone who’s walking through or has already walked through such challenges themselves.

Imagine a world where the idea of having your leaky roof fixed is the stuff of fantasy. Where the idea of fixing your own sandwich is passé.

Now imagine a world where God’s intentions for sex, exclusive marital connection and procreation, are completely lost. Where the idea of the normal way to make babies happen is bizarre.

That world is becoming our own.

What will we do in response?

Photo Credit: Ethan Sykes, 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.”

A 40 Year Anniversary

It was forty years ago this week when I turned on the television to see a somber President Carter explain the failed military effort to rescue Americans held hostage in Iran.

Two years ago, I met one of the survivors.

He was helping me carry my packages to my car when I was buying 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 said he was a veteran of Iran and explained that he’d been part of that hostage rescue attempt.

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 said the failed rescue mission 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.

Until he got this job at the department store where he’d worked for five years, he had trouble staying employed. This company understood him. Perhaps what they understood was what he’d given for us. Perhaps they understood what we often don’t realize:

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

We say it. We tell them thank you for serving. Sometimes we are talking to the walking wounded who truly have 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.

———-

For more on the rescue effort, see Desert One. The movie Argo is a fair portrayal of the rescue of several of the diplomats who hid in the Canadian embassy for about six months. (Discretion advised)

Photo Credit: thehostagerescueattemptiniran.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.”

Back to School: A New Season

“School is a building which has four walls with tomorrow inside,” Lon Watters.

This fall when students return to the classroom, I will be going back full-time as well.

I’ve been on a bit of a break for the last several years. Teaching part-time has allowed me time to write two books, one of which is published. I haven’t given up on the other one. And don’t plan to.

But now it’s time to get back behind a different desk.

Last week, my husband and two of our granddaughters painted the four walls of my new classroom, a different color on each wall. Blue, green, orange, yellow.

Colors affect attitudes and attention spans.

I’m excited about books we plan to talk about and even sentences we’ll diagram. (Yes, some teachers still teach that. And I’m glad to teach where grammar is considered important.)

I’m excited about the lives I’ll get to know.

I plan to still continue speaking in this community, but it looks like once a week going forward is a more reasonable expectation for myself.

Many thanks to my faithful readers. Prayers for those in the classrooms of America in this year of COVID will be much appreciated.

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.”

Raising Jesus: A Review

Christian books tend to be texts Christians write for other Christians.

E.J. Sweeney’s Raising Jesus: The Skeptic’s Guide to Faith in the Resurrection is a book by a believer for skeptics. Yet, this believer presents a different viewpoint.

Sweeney begins as one who is skeptical of the miraculous.

“Where others see divine intervention, I see only coincidence. . . .

“I don’t believe in UFO’s, ET’s, or any other assorted acronymed alien invaders. I always look for the simplest and most rational explanation for any phenomena.

“This is especially true of Jesus’ resurrection.”

Sweeney’s book is divided into three sections. The first, “Virtual Certainty–The Historical Evidence,” discusses various alternative theories about the resurrection. Sweeney takes a scholarly approach but with a light tone. The text is serious and thorough, not dry.

Part II, “An Uncanny Fit–The Resurrection and the Historical Jesus,” is my favorite part. This section discusses how beliefs the early Church embraced did not jive with Jewish expectations of the day. Christ’s disciples did not expect a Messiah to come who would suffer, die, and physically come back.

Jews who believed in a resurrection did not expect a bodily rising until the end times. That explains why early Christians thought the end was near.

One of Sweeney’s conclusions: If Christ’s followers were inventing the resurrection, they would have made it up in a much different form–in line with their own expectations.

God surprising us with His own plan, rather than fulfilling human expectation, further confirms the truth of Christ’s sacrificial death and victory over death.

Sweeney aptly presents and refutes arguments from those who dismiss Christ’s deity and paint His life as an attempted earthly revolution.

Instead, Sweeney shows us how “Jesus went willingly and non-violently to his death (Sweeney’s emphasis). And . . . he didn’t die as a rebel leader, but rather, somehow saw his death as the climactic sacrifice that would establish the New Covenant, the restored relationship between God and humans, and thereby defeat the real enemy which is sin and death.”

After laying out a solid case, Sweeney finishes with Part III: “Life is Hard . . . Then You Die!–The Philosophical Question.”

In this section, Sweeney presents an “absolutely unique correspondence between . . . historical facts and the logic of the universe: Jesus completely embodies a God who made us for his perfect love; Christian faith matches the logic of the universe perfectly.”

Sweeney concludes that the only reasonable response to the historical evidence and the distinctions between the Gospel accounts, supported by history, and Jewish expectations is to accept the reality of what seems, at first glance, to be unreasonable. Christ is God’s Son. Christ sacrificed His life for our sins. Christ rose bodily, overcoming death.

I didn’t agree with everything Sweeney asserted. I’m not that skeptical. Yet I do recommend this book for skeptics and believers alike.

For believers, sitting down with this book clarify much about the understanding Jesus’ followers carried into His ministry–and how that changed because of the resurrection and Christ’s well-documented appearances afterward.

For skeptics, the book lays out a case that you will have to refute only by turning your own logic on its head.

Photo Credit: Raising Jesus cover

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.”

Unity Is Imperative

Patti Thor is my guest writer today. Patti’s message calls Christians to pray in unity. That’s a hard thing to ask sometimes–unless the times are like those of World War II–or those of today ~

Unify or die. That was the choice facing Winston Churchill, the unwanted, newly appointed Prime Minister of Great Britain, in May 1940. Political factions, an ailing economy and a failing military front in Europe were career-ending challenges for the ousted Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Churchill inherited these problems plus had to navigate Britain’s imminent defeat or surrender at the hands of a cruel and oppressive Nazi Germany. Knowing that over 300,000 British troops were being overrun by the Nazis with no other option than certain death and that the fate of Great Britain and the free world were at stake, Churchill informed the king.On May 24, King George VI addressed the nation: “Let us with one heart and soul, humbly but confidently, commit our cause to God and ask his aid, that we may valiantly defend the right as it is given to us to see it.”

This National Day of Prayer (the first of seven) was to be held two days later, on Sunday May 26th. Millions responded. The Daily Sketch claimed, ‘Nothing like it has ever happened before.’

Much happened during the years to follow. Victory was not easy, but the resolve of the nation shifted from being defeated to defeating this foe of tyranny. Stories of Divine Intervention circulated, such as the many miracles at the Battle of Dunkirk (May 26 to June 4, 1940). Each story of miraculous intervention served to boost the faith of the prayer warriors in the homeland.

Major Wellesley Tudor Pole realized that if people were asked to devote one minute to a Prayer for Freedom and if enough people joined in this gesture of dedicated intent, the tide would turn and the invasion of England would be diverted. Tudor Pole took his request to the king and Churchill and won the support of both. During The Blitz on the UK (fall 1940), the prayer initiative was started.

At 9:00 p.m. each night, the chimes of Big Ben rang out signaling The Silent Minute. An anecdote emphasizes the profound power of the unity of The Silent Minute.

In 1945, a British intelligence officer was interrogating a high Nazi official. The British officer asked the Nazi official why he thought Germany lost the war. His reply was, “During the war, you had a secret weapon for which we could find no countermeasure, which we did not understand, but it was very powerful. It was associated with the striking of the Big Ben each evening. I believe you called it the ‘Silent Minute.’

Nearly five grueling years of battle, six National Days of Prayer and many more miracles later, the terrorists of Nazi Germany were defeated, and the country and world were safe from the hands of Hitler’s regime and ideology.

At 9:00 p.m. on May 8, 1945, the chimes of Big Ben rang out and King George VI made a radio broadcast to his people. Some highlights of his speech:

Today we give thanks to Almighty God for a great deliverance. Speaking from our Empire’s oldest capital city, war-battered but never for one moment daunted or dismayed – speaking from London, I ask you to join with me in that act of thanksgiving. Germany, the enemy who drove all Europe into war, has been finally overcome.

There is great comfort in the thought that the years of darkness and danger in which the children of our country have grown up are over and, please God, forever. We shall have failed, and the blood of our dearest will have flowed in vain, if the victory which they died to win does not lead to a lasting peace, founded on justice and established in good will. To that, then, let us turn our thoughts on this day of just triumph and proud sorrow; and then take up our work again, resolved as a people to do nothing unworthy of those who died for us and to make the world such a world as they would have desired, for their children and for ours. This is the task to which now honour binds us. In the hour of danger, we humbly committed our cause into the Hand of God, and He has been our Strength and Shield. Let us thank Him for His mercies, and in this hour of Victory commit ourselves and our new task to the guidance of that same strong Hand.

(Credit: Florian Olivio on Unsplash.com)

Today’s enemy is not so straightforward, but the effects are similar. Terror and destruction are on the rise. Murder, rape, and violence are escalating in our cities, in and around otherwise peaceful protests. Parts of our cities are being hijacked and the locals are subjected to the rule of unknown dictators. Stories of systemic oppression are emerging. Each side claims to be acting in the name of all that is good, and that they are fighting for the America of the future.

Jesus told us that a house divided against itself will not stand. To this sentiment, Abraham Lincoln added: “I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” [House Divided speech]

At this moment, the Body of Christ is more divided than ever, and this nation is more fractured than during Lincoln’s time. We fight and judge each other for having differing views on issues such as immigration, school choice, schools re-opening, taxes and tax breaks, centralized vs decentralized government, and multitudes more. I ask, is Christ schizophrenic? Does he want his kids fighting? Jesus instructs his disciples to, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:35 (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

What if we could come into complete agreement in prayer? What if we acknowledge God’s Will as higher priority than each of ours? What if we each lay our personal agendas down and yield to God’s?

What could happen if each of us would use The Silent Minute to come into unity. Unity is imperative to defeating this pervasive foe, who is using guerilla warfare tactics. We can’t even agree on who the enemy is.

Winston Churchill recognized:

[The] enemy is crafty and cunning and full of novel treacheries and stratagems … and there is no dirty trick he will not do. [Their Finest Hour speech]

Ephesians 6:12 shows us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Can we agree that the enemy in our war is not a person?

Bishop Albert Jamison described to Fox News that the July 15th NYC Jericho March was about praying for unity. He said, “In my opinion, the Republicans are not the problem and the Democrats are not the answer.” He reminded the viewers of 2 Chronicles 7:14:

If 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, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (NIV)

Are there long-lasting effects of this WW II prayer of unity? In August 1944, American cargo ship SS Richard Montgomery sank east of London near the mouth of the Thames Estuary. It went down with over 1,500 tons of munitions. Some argue that a resulting explosion could potentially send a tidal wave up the Thames and devastate London. Could the fact that these explosives have never detonated to this day, be a direct result of a nation’s unified prayers for God’s protection?

Remember that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. 2 Corinthians 10:4 (KJV)

I propose that we all use a prayer like this during The Silent Minute:

Father God, I humbly come before You and ask You to search my heart for any wicked way. I ask You to forgive me where I have judged others. I ask You to forgive me for not praying fervently for our current and past presidents and government officials as You have directed us to do. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

We come together in unity to ask You to cover the President and all the leaders of my country with Your Presence. We ask that Your Presence would convict them of any sins of commission and sins of omission. Also convict them of the fact that they are created in Your image and likeness. We ask that You bless and strengthen all current leaders who will bow to Your will and govern in love. We ask that You remove from office any leader who chooses to not do Your will.

During these upcoming elections, we ask that You remove and/or expose all cases of voter fraud and silence all false arguments of the same. We cover all illegal ballots in prayer to the end that they would not be counted.

We ask You to move on the hearts of Your people to vote for those candidates who will choose to do Your will and who will govern in righteousness and love. We ask that any candidate who will not do Your will would not be elected.

We pray for the health of the people in our nation and our world. We ask that You sovereignly destroy the COVID-19 disease around the world and that the SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus) would never again bring harm.

We ask that You bless our humility and repentance with Your Grace and Mercy.

We ask that You give us Your heart for the poor, disadvantaged, disabled, persecuted, forgotten and oppressed members of our society. We repent for having neglected our duties in this area and for relying on the government to be their keeper. We ask You to give us Your eyes to see how we can help them.

We ask that You restore our economy in such a way that we, your people, would use these finances to share the gospel and help the needy in our nation and beyond. We ask that You convict us to release into Your Kingdom our excess stores which are not currently being used for Your purposes. (Luke 12:16-21)

We ask that America would again be one nation under God. AMEN

About the Author

Patti Thor at Mustard Seed Sentinel

Patti Thor is a Speaker, Best-Selling Author, Entrepreneur, Mother and Giver. Patti volunteers in a District Leadership role for Toastmasters International, an organization that grows the confidence of adult learners by teaching/practicing communication and leadership skills.

Thor is the author of Secrets to Raising Amazing Kids Without Being a Perfect Parent: Seven Simple Steps to Strengthen Your Child’s Self-Esteem, Significance and Confidence – Most parents wonder the same things. Can I do this? Will I be a good parent? Am I going to ruin my child?

I’ve learned that great parenting is not about being a perfect parent. It is about being real, being passionate and being creative in the midst of being flawed.

These simple steps will empower your parenting skills to give you confidence in interacting with your child and to give you the skills to recover from mistakes you will make as a parent. Not to worry, your kids will still be amazing.

Contributing author to:

Nothing But Net, a Best Seller – Top speakers share their best business tips.

Jumpstart Your Success, Volume 2 featuring Brian Tracy, world-renowned speaker, author and trainer and James Malinchak, from ABCs hit TV Show Secret Millionaire.

Quotes from Patti Thor have been used around the world to help increase volunteerism and donations. They appear in numerous books and articles including:

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Amy Newmark

50 Great Thoughts on Success by Nick Scheidies with quotes from great thinkers like: Confucious, Aristotle, Zen, Winston Churchill, Deepak Chopra, Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison and Patti Thor.

Children Quotes Tumbler with quotes from great thinkers like: Mother Teresa, Anne Frank, Albert Schweitzer, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Jr and Patti Thor.

Banner Photo Credit: Chichi Onyekanne, 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–today, Patti Thor.

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

Changing the World

Jesus came to change the world.

His followers were looking for change. They wanted to be free from Roman rule. They were counting on Christ to make that happen.

But Jesus died. And the world stayed the same.

This life wasn’t going to be the way His followers had hoped.

But Christ rose. He ascended. The Holy Spirit came down.

Then something else unexpected happened.

The followers changed.

The world has been changing ever since.

The battle for hearts goes on around us, even within us.

We want the world to change.

How willing are we to endure change in ourselves?

How willing are we to act, pray, love, give, serve, sacrifice to see the world change?

How willing are we?

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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.”

A Golden Mean Between Galt and Gone

Aristotle wrote his Nicomachean Ethics 340 years before Christ was born. Within that text, we find the Golden Mean–a call to virtue, the mean between two extremes, a deficiency of a virtuous quality, and an excess of the quality.

For example, if courage is the mean, rashness would be the excess, and cowardice would be the deficiency.

Today in America, we struggle to find a mean between Galt–a reference to Ayn Rand’s objectivism–and Gone–absolute rejection of American tradition.

Galt refers to a character in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. John Galt attended Patrick Henry University, a fictional institution of higher learning.

Galt’s philosophy, the mirror of Rand’s, exalts the human spirit, capitalism, and atheism.

In alluding to Patrick Henry, Rand lauds his revolutionary quest for independence but rejects his faith.

And she wasn’t neutral in her renunciation of faith. She was virulently atheistic.

Not so Patrick Henry. When he argued that the colonists must go to war against the British, he declared that “An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!” Henry built his argument on a foundation of faith.

Many in the Galt camp today are gearing up for arms without God. A 2013 study claimed that 30 percent of those surveyed believed an armed revolution may be necessary to secure our constitutional rights.

We are no less divided now than we were then.

The Galt faction professes an excess of American bravado, absent the balancing influence of faith. It has moved beyond deficiency in faith to hostility.

The Galt excesses of bravado and hostility to faith eliminate the effects of faith: “Objectivism rejects the altruistic premise of self-sacrifice”–a pillar principle of Christianity.

The Gone faction in America is also hostile toward Christianity. But unlike the Galt perspective, this deficiency (of faith) and excess (of hatred for it) includes a rejection of American values. It equates Christianity, a conservative moral code, and a capitalist economy, with all the evils of slavery.

Gone urges deficiencies in order and faith and an excess of chaos. It preaches the message of critical theory–that society is comprised only of oppressed and oppressors. Every person is one or the other. There is none else.

Neither of these extremes can ever bring us to a peaceful, virtuous mean.

F.H. Buckley has written American Secession: The Looming Threat of a National Breakup. Here’s part of what goodreads.com says about the book:

“Across the world, large countries are staring down secession movements. Many have already split apart. Do we imagine that we, almost alone in the world, are immune? We had a civil war to prevent a secession, and we’re tempted to see that terrible precedent as proof against another effort. This book explodes that comforting belief and shows just how easy it would be for a state to exit the Union if that’s what its voters wanted.

“But if that isn’t what we really want, Buckley proposes another option, a kind of Secession Lite, that could heal our divisions while allowing us to keep our identity as Americans.”

Secession Lite would require a live and let live mentality. I’ve written before about the divide between city and country–the demarcation of much of our disagreement over faith, economics, and morality.

Perhaps Buckley has found a philosophical mean that could ensure freedom of conscience. For example, freedom for municipalities to respect life, if they choose. Freedom for pharmacists to refuse to provide the means for abortion. Freedom for children to openly pray in government-run schools.

Localities could be free to democratically decide what to do about crime, immigration, and education.

The idea of secession today sounds crazy. He tells us it’s not. It’s real and on the way.

Crazy is what we’re experiencing in 2020. Our divided house hovers over a chasm of chaos. And crazy will continue until we find a Golden Mean of citizenship we can agree on.

Or see our nation destroyed for its lack.

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.”

I Am David: A Review

“Simply put, the very essence of our sin nature causes us to want to do things our way–not God’s way or anybody else’s way. . . . But think about the ultimate outcome of that approach to life. Any society that would function according to that principle would quickly descend into chaos because humans have a sin nature.” Jimmy Evans~

What we see happening around us is exactly the world that Jimmy Evans points to in his book, I Am David: 10 Lessons in Greatness from Israel’s Most Famous King.

Large segments of America have fallen into chaos, and we wonder how we can–if we can, turn it around.

Certainly, if America is to turn around, this turning away from chaos must begin in the Church.

And Jimmy Evans leads us to a place we can begin.

Evans invites us into the struggle. But the way to first incite change is for each of us to look into the story of King David–the man after God’s heart.

David killed a giant, spent years eluding an enemy who wanted to kill him, became king, sinned, repented, and dealt with the aftermath of sin and his failings as a father.

My favorite part of the book is when Evans discusses the shortcomings of David’s upbringing and how his failure to deal with the pain of his past led to agony later in life.

We, just like David, carry the wounds of our past. Those wounds affect our relationships, our desires, our thoughts and fears, and how susceptible we are to addiction and other sins.

This book is suitable for individuals and groups and contains a study guide and leader guide.

We turn America from chaos to God one person at a time. And the turning begins with each one of us.

Photo Credit: marriagetoday.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.”

The Little Sisters Win–Again–But . . .

Last week, in a 7-2 decision the United States Supreme Court upheld the right of the Little Sisters of the Poor to avoid paying for contraceptives and abortifacients for their employees.

The Little Sisters in America are 300 women running 27 homes for indigent elderly.

The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled just four years ago that the nuns would not have to pay a $70 million fine for refusing to obey the Obamacare mandates on birth control and abortion–even though corporate giants like Exxon and Visa and others are exempt from the regulations.

Despite the Supreme Court having already upheld their freedom of conscience, Josh Shapiro, Attorney General of Pennsylvania followed along after Xavier Becerra, California’s AG, sued to force the nuns to provide contraceptives– those preventing conception and those abortive in nature. These men sued in an attempt to get the court to say states can force the nuns to do what the federal government cannot force them to do.

The nuns have spent nearly a decade in court.

Life Site News reports that “[Justice Clarence] Thomas wrote in his majority opinion[,] ‘We hold that the [federal government’s] Departments had the authority to provide exemptions from the regulatory contraceptive requirements for employers with religious and conscientious objections.'”

But having the authority to exempt the nuns isn’t the same as having an obligation to exempt them. It leaves the question hanging like a door swinging in the wind with the change of administrations.

Lifesite points out that two justices made the argument for an obligation on the government’s part:

“In a concurring opinion, Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch went a step further and argued that not only were the Departments allowed to exempt the Little Sisters, but the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) actually ‘compels an exemption for the Little Sisters and any other employer with a similar objection to what has been called the  accommodation to the contraceptive mandate.'” (emphasis mine)

That view is commendable (and constitutional) and shows why SCOTUS appointments are crucial. If the winds of a new administration blow in a different direction, we will see new appointments and the door will swing again in the direction of oppression over freedom of conscience.

“While ultimately voting with the majority, [Justice Elena] Kagan explained in a concurring opinion that while she believed the relevant departments did have ‘statutory authority to exempt certain employers from the mandate,’ she also believes the accommodation made for the Little Sisters was broad enough that it could still be invalidated under the federal Administrative Procedure Act. So while the ruling is a major victory the Little Sisters and other opponents of compulsory birth control coverage, Kagan’s opinion also provides ammo to a potential future challenge.”

Sadly, we can expect to see the sisters in court yet again.

And last week’s decision affects more than a small sect of nuns, their employees, and their homes’ residents. These cases mark, not a turning point, but another stepping stone on our nation’s pathway (perhaps a circular one) between freedom and religious suppression.

Abolitionist Wendell Phillips said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. . . . The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten,”

Gather fresh manna daily. Be vigilant.

And in this season of turmoil and uncertainty, be especially vigilant in prayer.

Photo Credit: supremecourt.gov

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. 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.”

Preserving the Permanent

“We mistakenly look for permanent victories, political and cultural, and when they do not come, we despair. We seem not to realize that it is not permanent victories that we should seek but rather the preservation of ‘the permanent things,’ which is victory enough.” Stephen M. Klugewicz

It was a movie I watched with my children again and again. Glory (1989) told the story of the 54th Massachusetts, a regiment, the first Union unit comprised of African-American troops.

White officers led the unit, the government believing it must be so.

Maybe it was the supervision of white officers that sparked the vandalism of the regiment’s monument recently. Perhaps it was that the memorial depicts white officers mounted on horses and men of color walking. Nevermind that white enlisted men also walked while officers rode.

I thought the movie was valuable to show history and virtue to my children. Robert Gould Shaw was the commanding officer. His parents were notable abolitionists in Massachusetts.

Shaw was 25 years old when he took command of the regiment.

He told the men that the Confederacy had promised to execute any black man who took up arms against them.

They fought on anyway.

When they learned that black soldiers would be paid less than white ones, “the entire regiment–soldiers and officers alike–refused to accept their wages until black and white soldiers earned equal pay for equal work. This did not happen until the war was almost over.”

Yet they fought on anyway.

That is only some of the truth the movie presented.

One scene depicts a probably fictionalized conversation between Shaw and an enlisted man, Trip, (played by Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington, respectively. Washington would earn an Oscar for his role.)

Trip refuses to carry the company flag asserting that things won’t change for his people after the war.

“Aint’ nobody clean. It’d be nice to get clean.” He thought, maybe, fighting would wash him.

That scene always made me feel a bit uncomfortable. But Trip was right. All was not fixed and clean once the war ended–even though the Union won.

My favorite scene comes the night before the movie’s culminating battle. The black troops hold a prayer meeting. A sergeant played by Morgan Freeman asks God that, if their fate is to die in battle, to let their “folks” left behind in bondage “know that we died facin’ the enemy. We want ’em to know that we went down standin’ up among those who are standin’ up fightin’ our oppression.”

Shaw led his men into battle. He died alongside them. He was buried in a mass grave with them.

There was no distinction between white and black in death. The Confederate commander thought he was insulting Shaw by having him buried that way.

But “Shaw’s parents replied that there could be ‘no holier place’ to be buried than ‘surrounded by…brave and devoted soldiers.’”

I wanted my children to carry lessons from this piece of history with them into adulthood.

I wanted them to learn about virtue in action. About justice. About love for humanity that pushes us to sacrifice. About the idea that such sacrifice for a great cause is heroic.

For those are the permanent things. Living out virtue to inspire more of it.

No matter how many Hitlers, Stalins, or Maos, there will always be those who live fighting evil, who die standing up to it. There will be heroic acts that leave permanent marks, if we don’t lose them, erase them, forget to tell those who come after us about them.

Today the words ring loudly, “Ain’t nobody clean.”

A question remains: Will we wipe out the past and erase our memory of heroes, those who fought to become clean by freeing others?

Eliminating the past won’t make us clean.

It will only mean we’ve lost the permanent things–the history that shows us truth, justice, and self-sacrifice for a greater cause.

We must stand up for the permanent.

Photo Credit: Streets of Salem

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.”

Who Are We, Really?

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” George Orwell~

When I was probably six years old, I went to a neighbor’s house to play. It was my first time at her house. I wanted her to like me.

When she told me her favorite color was blue, I told her it was my favorite color too.

Until that moment, my favorite color had been purple. But sitting at her kitchen table a few minutes later, I made it a point to use the blue crayon.

And in order to form what I thought was a truer picture of myself, I told myself and anyone else who asked for years after that blue was the color I most preferred.

It would take a long time until I realized I needed to be my honest self. And even longer to realize I couldn’t know myself on my own.

It seems easy to find women in media today who are being true to themselves. In Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (2010), Alice and Baynard the hound have a conversation about what Alice should do next.

Alice wants to go to the castle of the Red Queen to rescue the Hatter. Baynard says, “That is not foretold.”

Alice replies, “From the moment I fell down that rabbit hole, I’ve been told what I must do and who I must be. . . . This is my dream. I’ll decide where it goes from here. . . . I make the path.”

This Alice is strong and knows her own mind. But perhaps what such movies, such a philosophy, created is a new way to push people onto a path they wouldn’t otherwise choose.

The pressure to choose a certain way remains in childhood, But it has moved far beyond favorite colors to the true essence of who we are.

Unlike the path parents of the 1950s, say, might have chosen for their daughters–marriage to a man of means and staying home to care for the children–the path much of society urges women toward today is to reject marriage.

It’s extra powerful to embrace a career previously limited to men.

And it’s even more powerful yet for a woman to become a man. Or for a man to become a woman.

There can be no constraints about what someone can decide for themselves. To propose constraint is to engage in what some define as evil. A primary form of evil. One worthy of punishment, of cancellation.

Author J.K. Rowling, no Christian apologist, recently got in trouble on Twitter. She explains:

“For people who don’t know: last December I tweeted my support for Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who’d lost her job for what were deemed ‘transphobic’ tweets. She took her case to an employment tribunal, asking the judge to rule on whether a philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected in law. Judge Tayler ruled that it wasn’t.”

Rowling had been researching the issue of sexual identity for a book she was writing when she stepped into the mud puddle of support for Forstater.

But she stepped again, knowing what could, and would, follow.

“Months later, I compounded my . . . crime by following Magdalen Berns on Twitter. Magdalen was an immensely brave young feminist and lesbian who was dying of an aggressive brain tumour. . . . However, as Magdalen was a great believer in the importance of biological sex, and didn’t believe lesbians should be called bigots for not dating trans women . . . the level of social media abuse [against Rowling] increased.”

For her crimes, Rowling is to be canceled. In 1984, Orwell called the same process erasing.

When I chose the blue crayon over the purple one, I had begun the process of erasing myself. According to Rowling (and others), many of today’s young girls are erasing so much more.

“I’m concerned about the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition and also about the increasing numbers who seem to be detransitioning (returning to their original sex), because they regret taking steps that have, in some cases, altered their bodies irrevocably, and taken away their fertility. . . .

“Most people probably aren’t aware – I certainly wasn’t, until I started researching this issue properly – that ten years ago, the majority of people wanting to transition to the opposite sex were male. That ratio has now reversed. The UK has experienced a 4400% increase in girls being referred for transitioning treatment. Autistic girls are hugely overrepresented in their numbers.”

I hope you didn’t skim over that number too quickly. That was a forty-four hundred percent increase in girls wanting to become boys. Many of them are dealing with social challenges far beyond which crayon to choose.

How many of those girls opt to color their lives with a crayon they think will lead them to social acceptance? They tell themselves for years that it was the right color for them, only to realize later on, they colored their lives in a way they cannot erase.

I wish I’d had the social stamina as a child to choose the purple crayon. Choosing the blue one didn’t make that girl my friend. It did plant the seed in my heart that my choices depended on what others, no matter their level of wisdom, thought. It was the opposite of self-determination.

Society preaches–no, shouts–that self-determination and self-actualization are the be-all and end-all of human existence. They are far from that. Too many factors pull us in directions we would not choose if left to ourselves. And even when left to ourselves, can we truly trust our choices?

For our choices will always appear through the lens of faulty humanity–our own as well as that of others.

Rachel Jankovic points out that our pursuit of self-actualization has served us poorly. In You Who? Why You Matter and How to Deal with It, she makes a distinction between the Christian view of human life as sacred in its essence and the secular view that we form our own essence by what we do. Too often even Christians have bought into this second view, embracing self-actualization.

When we self-actualize, we neglect–or reject–what God has for us. In so doing, we lose ourselves. We color our lives with the wrong crayon.

Jankovic writes, “When we become more like Christ, we are becoming more truly ourselves. The most obedient you is the most truly you you (Jankovic’s emphasis). Complete submission to God is complete fulfillment.”

For God knows who we really are.

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. 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.”

Mundane Obedience: A Review

Why is a question we often ask God when we don’t understand our struggles. We know he allows everything for a purpose. We often don’t know the purpose.

In a beautifully written and illustrated Bible study, Emily Saxe dives into the book of Haggai. Mundane Obedience is a three-week study. And that makes the dive deep because Haggai is only two chapters, 37 verses in all.

Emily takes you on a couple of short side trips into Ezra, Zechariah, and Matthew as well to deepen your understanding of the chunk of history that we find in Haggai.

The Hebrews had rebuilt the temple’s foundation. But during Haggai’s time, they walked past the groundwork as they enjoyed their own nice homes.

Yet they struggled. Their crops were bad. They worked harder than they ever had. But “when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away,” God told them through the prophet.

The Israelites had a bad habit of not following the directions that came through the prophets, but this time was different.

They followed through–even in the face of discouraging circumstances. They worked and saw God work and provide. And they heard the promise of greater glory coming to the temple.

We often forget God’s glory as we grind out tasks that seem endless and pointless. But Emily, and the Holy Spirit through Haggai, reminds us that no act of obedience is pointless.

“I love remembering God doesn’t care so much about the big, lofty acts of obedience. It’s not about how much we serve in church, how many mission trips we’ve gone on, how much money we place in the offering. God cares about any and all acts of obedience done with a heart set on showering Him with love, adoration and respect. Even the small moments of obedience. Even the stuck-in-routine moments. He sees each moment of genuine obedience and receives them all
with joy.”

This Bible study requires small amounts of time for five weekdays over three weeks. The study is deep but not time-intensive.

And it just may help you see where God has been blowing away your harvest. And in so seeing, you may recover a crop of his glory in your life.

Photo Credit: Emily Saxe

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.

HEADlines: The Importance of Meaning

Published in the Mustard Seed Sentinel, June 27, 2020.

“In the 1950s kids lost their innocence . . . In the 1960s, kids lost their authority [the means of direction]. . . In the 1970s, kids lost their love. It was the decade of me-ism dominated by hyphenated words beginning with self. . . Self-image, Self-esteem, Self-assertion… It made for a lonely world. . . In the 1980s, kids lost their hope. . . In the 1990s, kids lost their power to reason. . . In the new millennium, kids woke up and found out that in the midst of all this change, they had lost their imagination,” Ravi Zacharias

Innocence, authority, love, hope, reason, imagination, all are necessary elements of a functioning people in a functioning society.

Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 1950—back when there was still innocence, hope, and imagination. The book is about a society that can no longer find itself. The people have no books, no imagination, and no sense of purpose and meaning.

Bradbury depicts these losses in one of the most chilling moments in literature. A man comes home from work to find his wife passed out—overdosed on sleeping pills. He calls for help assuming the 1950s practice that a doctor will actually come to the house to set her right.

Instead, help comes in the form of two cigarette smoking technicians with a snakelike vacuum cleaner of sorts. They sweep out the woman’s system. She’ll be fine in the morning. It’s no big deal, they say; it’s common. So common, in fact, that they get nine or ten calls a night. Every night.

They pack up their snake device and move on to work on the next person who “just jumped off the cap of a pillbox” (15-16).

The technicians don’t perceive that they’re saving lives. Their act is mundane. It lacks significance, perhaps, because life itself has lost significance.

Bradbury saw that without a vision the people perish. He saw that this lack of vision would continue in a downward spiral until the futuristic time we call today. He knew that, even if bodies come back from the edge of death, souls who can’t find meaning will flounder.

The idea that a doctor might come to your house evaporated shortly after F451 was published. And health care professionals smoking as they work? That was unheard of then and still is now. Yet the cigarettes are symbolic of the casual, cavalier nature of technicians doing something they consider insignificant.

The idea that modern medicine could revive the overdosed shows that Bradbury had remarkable foresight in 1950. He saw then what we now, along with Ravi Zacharias, recognize: Our loss of innocence has produced more losses. These losses have left a void.

To fill the voids, people look for…something. Many try to fill the void with heroin and opioids, whose use has become an epidemic. And with the epidemic comes increasing numbers of overdose deaths.

And as in Bradbury’s fictional setting, we now have a way to revive the overdosed. Today, there is Naloxone.

Also, as in Bradbury’s book, the delivery method for Naloxone is not a physician. Nor is it two jaded, cigarette toting technicians. It’s a wide variety of people. Just about anyone can rescue someone endangered by an overdose.

As we might expect, first responders—EMTs, police, and firefighters—are stocking up on the medication. But so are a growing number of schools. In Rhode Island, the law requires schools to keep the drug on hand—middle school through high school. Middle school starts with fifth graders. Ten-year-olds.

Opioid overdoses skyrocketed since the late 1990s, becoming the worst drug epidemic in modern American history. In 2017, there were over 47,000 opioid overdose deaths in the United States—more than from automobile accidents or firearm-related homicides. Overdose cases declined in 2019, perhaps because of lowered unemployment. But the numbers went back up in the shadow of Covid-19.

Perhaps economic recovery continues and the numbers go down again, but what’s ahead looks like a roller coaster journey that leads only to the end of the ride.

The roller coaster, of course, is not the sickness, but a symptom of the sickness. The sickness is the seeking and not finding what we lost.

When the world had imagination, reason, hope, love, authority, and innocence, the world had meaning. It was by no means a perfect world. But we had purpose. Our lives meant something.

Our innocence let us enjoy life. Our authority gave us direction. Love gave us purpose. Hope gave us optimism. Reason helped us understand ourselves. And imagination gave us wonder.

Innocence, authority, love, hope, reason, imagination, and I would add, memory—memory of our history from the ancients to today.

Achilles, Hector, and Odysseus teach us about virtues such as honor and humility, courage and valor, persistence and patriotism. And every person had a fate. To fulfill that destiny meant something.

The Greatest Generation that won the Second World War had endured the Great Depression. They knew what hardship and sacrifice were. Their character grew tall on a diet of deprivation and devotion to a higher cause. They pursued destiny and found meaning in it.

As we’ve lost history, we’ve lost understanding of overcoming hardship too.

College students show up knowing little about when wars happened, what caused them, how they unfolded, and what difference who won makes to us today. Yet most students believe college is a necessary component to their future happiness.

According to Aristotle, the only kind of life that leads to happiness is the contemplative life. It’s the life we lead when we have innocence, respect authority, express love, use reason, create with imagination, and remember those who’ve failed and prevailed before us. We see meaning in the lives of those who came before us because we see the results of their actions and decisions. That seeing of results tells us meaning can exist for us too.

Rod Dreher writes, “Inside each of us is an emptiness that only meaning can fulfill. When we lose everything from our innocence to a sense of wonder, we try to shove pleasure into that empty space.”

People who seek pleasure as a substitute for happiness understand their lives lack meaning. Aristotle called that kind of life vulgar.

True happiness seekers know the best hyphenated concept associated with self is self-sacrifice. Meaning comes in giving oneself to God, spouse, children, community, and country.

Pleasure seekers can’t love. They can only use. They can’t give. They can only take. They lack imagination. And they cannot realize or remember that legitimate authority has a place in establishing a society that provides the opportunity for happiness.

They will not regard an authority that may cause them to miss out on pleasure.

They often cannot see their way to filling their inner void with meaning—moving beyond pleasure to happiness.

From Ravi Zacharias again: “I am absolutely convinced that meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain; meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure. And that is why we find ourselves emptied of meaning with our pantries still full.”

People seek pleasure but find it wearisome. Yet society has failed to convey the importance of meaning to them. Only people who’ve found meaning can deliver this message. Christians stand in stark contrast to those who find no meaning in life.

We can walk beside people—as families, couples, or individuals, in our churches, in some schools, in our neighborhoods to present our message of meaning. And the message must come line upon line, precept upon precept. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

We have the answer. What will we do with it?

Photo Credit: Ben Wicks, 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.

Those Who Love Death

“But he who misses me or sins against me wrongs and injures himself; all who hate me love and court death.” (Proverbs 8:36 AMP)

Coming soon to a state near you? Euthanasia for terminally ill people is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. So far.

In The American Spectator, Wesley J. Smith says that limiting euthanasia to the terminally ill is “philosophically unsustainable.”

“If the point of allowing suicide by doctor is to eliminate suffering — and if eliminating suffering can include eliminating the sufferer — how can facilitated death be forbidden to patients, such as those with dementia and mental illness, who may suffer far more extremely and for a much longer time than the already dying?”

That might sound reasonable. After all, who wants anyone to suffer? Who wants someone else to suffer?

Or is there an alternative–like treatment and compassionate care? Is death the only option?

Part of the discussion surrounding the argument over abortion is whether the unborn child suffers as he or she is torn apart via suction or dismemberment, receives a shot of digoxin to stop his/her heart, or is crushed to death by instruments.

Deniers of unborn pain deny because they understand that only a cruel person doesn’t care whether others suffer.

So before we embrace an idea intended to alleviate suffering, let’s consider what follows.

And what follows is what’s happening now in Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and perhaps soon, in Canada. The first three nations allow euthanasia for mental illness, and, Smith tells us, “Such procedures are not rare.”

The Swiss high court determined “several years ago that the mentally ill have a constitutional right to access death.” Switzerland has assisted suicide clinics. (See Soylent Green.)

Canada is considering expanding the “right to die,” now available only to the terminally ill, to include the mentally ill as well.

But a right implies choice. And Smith provides two accounts of euthanasia implemented involuntarily. In one case, over the objections of the patient, and in the other case, when the patient’s death was not “foreseeable” (a requirement of the law) and over the objections of the family.

You might expect that the respective governments would intervene or prosecute, but ultimately in these cases, the physician’s decisions were lauded.

And lest you think those cases are aberrations, 20 percent of “assisted suicides” in the Netherlands happen without “explicit consent.”

Voluntary euthanasia leads us to involuntary euthanasia. Every time.

Nancy Pearcey: ““It is a tragedy to see the medical profession move from suicide prevention to suicide facilitation. The right-to-die movement presents euthanasia as compassionate. But disparaging human life as expendable is not compassionate. The term ‘compassion’ literally means ‘to suffer with’ (com=with, passion=suffer). True compassion means being willing to suffer on behalf of others, loving them enough to bear the burden of caring for them.”

Those who make money from abortion say they support choice, but are quick to find only one “solution” for a crisis pregnancy.

And those who make money from euthanasia–and thus save the expense of caring for those in crisis–are quick to present the same “solution”.

Seldom today does anyone suffer without an available form of treatment or help. We can do more than death promoters acknowledge.

They present euthanasia, as they did abortion, as an easy out. But like abortion, euthanasia will prove to be not so easy and just as harmful to the cultures it touches.

As these proponents love and court death, they wrong and injure themselves.

And all of us with them.

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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.”

When Work Gives You Nightmares

I remember the dream I sometimes had when I was in college. I had to take a test. But I couldn’t get there. Something kept happening to keep me from leaving home.

We dream about what is important or challenging. Through our dreams, we see our fears.

Sarita used to dream about her job. She couldn’t escape what she did during the day.

It’s a vast understatement to say she didn’t know what she was getting into when she went to work for Planned Parenthood.

But among her fellow new employees that first day, she was the most qualified to work at a clinic. She was a certified medical assistant. The other two had no related experience or training.

She had to trained these other employees to do basic medical tasks she already knew. “Unprofessional” is a minimal way to describe that.

Her job involved “secrecy and dishonesty” and distrust. Security personnel searched her as she entered work to make sure she wasn’t carrying a recording device.

Supervisors told her those on the other side wanted to harm her. She would never get another job because no one else wants anyone who comes from this industry. She was part of this group, and there could never be another group for her.

That’s what cults do.

But the worst part of her job entailed “putting the puzzle pieces together–reconstructing the pulled apart body parts of unborn children.” It’s a necessary step to ensure the person performing the abortion got it all.

That’s what gave her nightmares. And depression.

“Some babies that had been destroyed had fingernails, eyelashes and genitals. They were the loveless, discarded, tiny parts of a human that I had to gather and make into a baby—something that should be reserved for God.”

And that wasn’t all there was to her job. The person doing sonograms trained Sarita to do them too.

Sarita found out that the person training her only received two weeks of training herself. After two weeks, Sarita’s supervisors gave her a certificate for completing her training. Sarita knew that certification from a university required two years of training. Her certificate, she says, was “bogus”.  

Finally, she became physically ill, and “walked out the back” of the clinic after someone in middle management chastised her for coughing too much. She spent more than a month in the hospital with pneumonia.

While still in the hospital, she learned that the police were looking for her. Upon discharge, she presented herself to clear up what she knew must be a mistake. Police arrested her for the theft of a sonogram machine.

Sonogram machines are not portable. But just as cults often do, PP accused the departing Sarita of wrongdoing. Any background check for a new job would show her arrest record.

Leaving PP restored her health, but cost her $1500 for a lawyer to clear up the invalid charges (eventually dropped) and four years of job searching.

The PP folks were right about it being hard to find a new job after leaving the abortion business, but not for the reasons we might assume.

They were wrong about the intentions of those on the other side. The pro-life community was there to walk with Sarita toward a productive life that would not include nightmares.

Sarita’s story is incredible. You can find it and others like it on the Abortion Industry Quitter page by And Then There Were None–the non-profit group that helps former abortion industry workers sustain themselves and prepare for new employment.

Pray that the name will come true soon–that the day will come when there will be none willing to work in abortion.

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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 Measure of a Ministry

The measure of any ministry is the lives it has changed.

A young man attended a local ministry for youth. He found food and mentoring there. Because of the encouragement he received, he finished high school and got a job.

But when he came home one day, he found his clothes in plastic bags on the front porch. A life door had closed to him.

His success threatened the household where he’d grown up. If he stayed, the family would lose benefits.

He turned to the ministry that had fed and mentored him into success. The ministry leader Dave Taylor was frustrated to see that no program offered help to someone without addiction or mental health issues.

Dave spent the next few years working to open Lionheart, a home for young men who “age out” of their own families and find themselves with no place to go. Now they have a place.

Lionheart is an 18- to 24-month long program that provides a home, food, training, transportation, and mentoring. High school graduation is required, so kids in the youth ministry can see that they can have independence–if they work for it.

Lionheart teaches young men how to make electrical, plumbing, and carpentry repairs–so when they get their own places, they can take care of them.

Lionheart teaches wise use of money through Financial Peace University.

Lionheart teaches interview skills so these men can find work.

And Lionheart helps them save money, shop for cars, find apartments. Lionheart gives them the beds they’ve been sleeping on when they go to their new places. They can leave with a bed, a dresser, a desk, a toolbox, and up to $7,500 they’ve saved from working.

Lioness, for young women, is set to open in a few weeks.

And the young man who found his clothes on the porch in front of a closed door?

He works at Lionheart. He stands before the open door to help other young men in a bad situation move to a better place.

The measure of any ministry is the lives it has changed.

That young man is one life changed through the ministry of The Door. Dave Taylor leads that ministry. He conducted the wedding ceremony when that young man married his life’s love.

Dave Taylor. Now there’s a lionheart.

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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.”

Wolf Hollow: Uncovering Assumptions

When I held my second child, my first son, a thought struck me: When he grows up, there could be a war.

This innocent life in my arms and the horror of war were ideas that did not go together. I would hold two more infant sons, but the idea of war would not pass through my mind at those early moments of getting to know each other.

My oldest son never went to war. The other two, in varying capacities, did.

We seldom see ahead of time how things will work out. I’m glad I didn’t spend 20 plus years of each soldier son’s life wondering about their deployments. My assumptions would likely have been for naught.

A very good book leads us to a similar place. And Wolf Hollow is that very good book.

Placing the opening lines on the front cover was a masterful marketing touch by the publisher because the words draw us in. The proof is in the book’s status as a New York Times bestseller.

Here’s a portion of those first lines: “The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie. The year I turned twelve, I learned what I said and did mattered.”

Annabelle is the soon-to-be-twelve-year-old who lies to protect someone from a false accusation. She tells lies to produce truth. She also learns enough about war to fear someday becoming the mother of sons.

I waited for one character to change, but she didn’t. I thought another character would not change, but she did.

We have to be careful about our assumptions when we read fiction.

The society looked upon one character with regard. They shouldn’t have. They looked at another character with disdain. They should not have.

We have to be careful about our assumptions in real life too.

But the lesson about assumptions is not the only reason to read the book–even if you are usually not inclined to read in the young adult genre.

Author Lauren Wolk is a masterful character builder, and she exemplifies storytelling at its best. I stayed up later than I wanted to a couple of nights because I couldn’t put the book down.

Few books have engaged me that well. Others that come to mind include John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and Leif Enger’s Peace like a River.

Both books carried me to the very last word and left me with a sense of satisfaction. This book does the same.

All three books satisfy readers without sugar coating life or their imperfect characters.

Today we find ourselves in a world stamped with injustice. Annabelle inhabited such a world.

This book invites us into her world. The world of small community America during a big war, World War II. But the wounds of World War I still resonate.

Annabelle is a farm girl with two younger brothers who all live with their parents, grandparents, and a cranky aunt.

She meets bullies at school. She meets a strange man in the woods. She should fear one but not the other.

The book covers a matter of days. But by the end, Annabelle is a young woman. (She was a character I expected to change who did.)

Like us as we grow older, Annabelle learns things she wishes she could forget. She never will.

She will carry those things with her into her later years.

We will carry them with us too and be the better for it.

Photo Credit: Wolf Hollow Cover

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.”

HEADlines: Common Ground

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, May 30, 2020.

As a college junior, she was a latecomer to my freshman English class. The subject of our discussion was the 2001 book Peace like a River by Leif Enger. Filled with allusions to the Bible, historic events, and Zane Grey westerns, the book has plenty of fodder for discussion in a college-level composition course.

What caught this particular student’s eye was a line that repeats throughout the text as the narrator/main character, an 11 year old boy, advises the reader to “make of it what you will.” The it he refers to is Christian faith, faith in the miraculous works that come only from God. The narrator isn’t pushy about faith. He simply unfolds the miracles and invites the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.

My student found that very appealing. She explained that she had rejected faith because it had always been a source of contention in her home. Her father had come from one denomination, her mother from another. They had never been able to find the peace that Christ offers and Enger depicts.

As the product of a ‘mixed marriage’ myself, I encountered no such conflict growing up. Dad was Catholic; Mom was Methodist. They taught us the difference between right and wrong. They encouraged us to believe in God.

We prayed together before dinner every evening, and they taught us to pray before we went to sleep at night. Mother read us Bible stories. Like any married couple, they had conflicts, but never over faith matters, at least never in front of us. Their marriage was a model of faithfulness “for better or for worse.” And there was enough “worse” to make it real.

But when I was in high school, one of my brothers and I introduced a new dynamic into the mix when we became evangelical Christians.

The beginning of my faith journey has some features in common with that of John Riccardo. His father was Catholic and his mother was Methodist too. His three older sisters became evangelicals. Two of them eventually returned to their Catholic roots where John and his brother had remained. After 26 years of marriage, his mother converted to Catholicism.

In college, John met a group of guys who were enthusiastic evangelists—Catholics and evangelical Protestants. Catholics and evangelicals working together to evangelize for Christ.

“Catholics and Protestants together,” he says. “That’s been my whole life, really, working together.”

Today, John Riccardo is Father John Riccardo, a Catholic priest.

In a recorded conversation entitled “Common Ground: What Protestants and Catholics Can Learn from Each Other,” Father John, as his parishioners call him, and Pastor Steve Andrews, of Kensington Community Church, discuss the “tremendous mistrust” and “unbelievable chasm” that existed between evangelicals and Catholics in their fathers’ generation.

That generation was also my father’s—and my mother’s. But my parents, like Father John’s, didn’t foster that mistrust and expand that chasm. For the Riccardo children, my brother, and me, the marriages of these Catholic men and Methodist women cultivated the soil of our hearts and planted the seeds of faith in that soil.

But the mistrust and the chasm are still present in our generation; they also inhabit the generations that follow. There is no expiration date on misunderstanding. When we stand our separate grounds, the ground of our children’s hearts becomes hardened. That’s what happened to my student. When we find common ground, faith grows and faith communities grow.

“We’re saved by grace,” Father John tells his evangelical colleague. “By faith alone, so long as we know what we’re talking about,” so long as our faith is real.

That is the ground where the younger John and his Catholic and evangelical college friends stood. It is the ground where Father John and Pastor Steve stand today.

But there is another example of ground sharing that perhaps is less famous than it should be. 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.

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. Before Graham’s arrival, Wojtyla had been overseeing a “radical partnership” between a Catholic youth renewal movement and Campus Crusade for Christ. 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. 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.

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.

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. 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.” 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. Today, China is on track to become the most Christian nation in the world.

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.

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.”

Graham and now Saint Pope John Paul II are both in eternity. May 2020 marks 100 years since the birth of John Paul. If he were still living, Graham would be 101 years old.

A century of influence. Two men who stood on the common ground of the cross an unfathomable difference for the fate of countless human beings. We can still pursue common ground today.

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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.”

Back in Church on Pentecost Sunday

To be back in church this week was wonderful.

It was Pentecost Sunday–the day Christians remember the Holy Spirit coming to Christ’s followers. The advocate Christ had promised to send arrived in the sound of wind and in tongues of fire.

The disciples had seen Christ ascend into Heaven. More than a week later, Holy Spirit came.

I wonder whether the days between were a time of uncertainty.

Long before, the Israelites questioned God’s faithfulness even after they crossed a dry seabed to escape their oppressors. They saw; they walked to the other side. In the unknown of the wilderness, they still doubted.

How like them we are. Human nature resists the unknown. We yearn for the predictable.

However, Robert Barron writes: “One of the principal Biblical metaphors for the Spirit is the wind, and indeed, on Pentecost morning, the Apostles heard what sounded like a strong driving wind as the Spirit arrived. But the wind, elusive and unpredictable, is never really known in itself, but only through its effects.”

Pentecost brings promise in unpredictability.

On the Day of Pentecost, the disciples gathered, perhaps in anticipation of the prophesied advocate, but definitely in celebration of the Jewish Feast of Weeks.

It’s a celebration of the early harvest. Harvest in the spring? Not typically what we think of as the time to gather crops.

But spring is when farmers harvest winter wheat that held the ground in place through rains and snows. It’s a harvest to plant new seed for the summer crops to be gathered in fall.

The God-Creator who formed us from dust became one of us. Christ, the Bread of Life, holds our ground in place during storms. He prepares the ground of our hearts for new planting in due season.

We are coming out of a strange winter. We had so little snow–no days off school, not even a delay to clear roads. Then came Covid-19.

Isolation, grim news, and fear followed. That was our in-between time. Between harvests. A cold spring after a warm winter. Not at all what we expected as season followed season.

Season: a time that begins and ends.

Now it’s June and the country is coming outside once more. We are coming out of the time for holding ground. But the season did more than keep our plot in place. It prepared us for the next season, the next planting, the next harvest.

In one way or another, we are always waiting, anticipating what we believe to be the predictable. But it’s the unpredictable that works in and through us.

Yesterday, we raised the Hallelujah that we weren’t able to express together at Easter.

The sense of celebration was palpable.

Even without elements, the communion meditation yesterday reminded us to cast our cares upon the Lord, for He cares for us. The message called us to be grateful. To ponder the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

We go forward from here. To a new unknown season for eventual harvest.

We can’t control what follows. We can carry seed. We can ask the holy wind to disperse it. The holy wind we cannot see.

And we can watch to see the effects.

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The Center of Truth

Leah Libresco Sargeant was an atheist who found the arguments for God too strong to resist.

Since 2012, she has been one of us–a believer.

The question that moved her from disbelief to faith was this one: “How is it we come to know truth?” She couldn’t reconcile the notion of no God with the idea of man-made morality, moral laws originating within people.

Moral law transcends people. It comes from outside them, not from within them.

For where did moral law come from if not from God?

Her acknowledgment of truth as something that transcends humanity emerged from the study of C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and Augustine.

It was a process–one that took time–of reconciling what she grew up with–an assumed atheism–with truth, what she came to understand through study. Eventually, the truth of God became obvious to her.
 
Libresco Sargeant’s journey was an intellectual one. Not everyone who believes takes such a path to faith.

My own journey wasn’t nearly as intellectual as Libresco Sargeant’s was. My path certainly had nothing to do with mathematics as hers did.

But I assumed truth. Not that I knew all of it, just that I knew it existed.

I didn’t realize until later that I had begun by presuming truth.

When we come to faith, we arrive at truth–and perhaps we’ve reached the center, the bull’s eye circle. We’re standing in it, but there is always more to know, more to seek. There is always a journey toward a better understanding of God.

We spend the rest of our lives trying to find and inhabit that center. Every day, we move closer to truth–or of our own wills–further away.

Others who aren’t standing near us are on their own journeys to the truth. How quickly they arrive at the big circle of faith may depend on us.

And how close we are to the center of the bull’s eye may depend on how well we treat those not standing right next to us.

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Uncommon Valor

“Poor is the nation that has no heroes. Poorer still is the nation that, having heroes, fails to remember and honor them.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It’s a day we mark with picnics and parades. The unofficial beginning of summer, yet so much more than the chance to eat hot dogs and buy a new swimsuit.

Decoration Day, as the holiday was originally known, began after the Civil War–our bloodiest conflict. It was a time when a divided country was trying to heal–perhaps as we are today.

We mark the day on the last Monday of May–but May 30 had been the selected date before three-day weekends became a priority. May 30 reminds us of no notable battles from the Civil War. The day only reminds us of those who’ve given themselves for the cause of country–our country.

We enrich ourselves in this remembering.

Remembering those who’ve done noble things tells us we can be noble too.

Of his sailors and marines at Iwo Jima in World War II, Admiral Chester Nimitz said, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Iwo Jima is famous for the flag-raising image that is now a statue.

Three of the six flag raisers died in battle.

My father was in the South Pacific as a Navy medic. He was someone who went to war to make sure others came home safely. Someone who hoped not to see battle–but was prepared in case he did,

“Courage, G.K. Chesterton said, “is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.”

Today we remember those who wanted to live but gave themselves instead.

For us.

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The Paganization of Nations

“Over-civilization and barbarism are within an inch of each other. And a mark of both is the power of medicine-men.” G.K. Chesterton

I remember a comparison of two short stories I read for a literature class in college. My liberal colleagues were horrified when an older man lost his job and found himself on the streets–likely to starve. The man was a native-American whom his white supervisor had disregarded–perhaps because of his age and his race.

In the other story, a tribe practiced geronticide (killing the elderly) by throwing an older member out of the boat and chopping off her fingers as she attempted to reenter said boat.

My fellow students were horrified at the first story but didn’t even blink at the second one. The first story represented oppression of one group against another. The second story was “just their culture.”

And they were entitled to “their culture.”

I still don’t understand how they could so clearly see one injustice and not see the other.

Perhaps it boils down to a philosophy Rachel Jankovic outlines in her book You Who?: Why You Matter and How to Deal with It.

Jankovic compares the idea that all human life is sacred with the idea that people who can make choices matter more than people who cannot.

Since the second idea prevails, we have abortion throughout pregnancy, and sometimes even later. But young children aren’t the only ones who are incapable of making choices.

In my own Pennsylvania, we recently learned that Secretary of Health Rachel Levine’s mother miraculously found a safe haven away from the nursing home where she resided until just before an order came from above that could have jeopardized her life.

The order from Dr. Levine required nursing homes to accept Covid-19 positive patients to ensure that the hospital beds they had been occupying would be empty when others, perhaps more valuable to society, needed them.

Dr. Levine says Mother made the request herself. She was capable of choosing, not because of her race or age, but because of a different sort of tribal connection. The elder Mrs. Levine somehow knew when to get out.

Of the state’s 3,806 coronavirus deaths, 2,611 . . . occurred in nursing homes and long-term-care ­facilities.” 

Dr. Mengele was probably nice to his mother too.

I’m guessing my college peers who could so easily divide their logic between the ousted man and the fingerless grandmother nearly three decades ago might find it more difficult to reconcile the deaths of their own grandmothers at the hands of a state official who figured out how to dodge personal tragedy.

Pagan societies sacrifice humans to false gods. They eliminate the weak who might deprive the strong of sustenance or shelter.

Civilized nations protect the young, the weak, the elderly, those incapable of making their own choices, those without the kind of connection Mrs. Levine has.

Pagan or civilized? I know which one we used to be.

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For the Other World

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14.

Times looked dark for Esther and her people. She had become queen, but all Jews were marked to die. And she was a Jew.

Our days seem dark too. In America, Christians’ freedom to speak truth is under attack. In other places, Christians, as well as Jews, are marked to die as Esther and her people were. Many die for their faith.

“For such a time as this” is a phrase that’s been repeating itself. Why are we here? And why now?

It’s a question that perhaps a Nazi’s brother also once asked himself.

In Germany of the 1930s and ’40s, Hermann Goering was a terror. As Hitler’s right-hand man, he held the power of life and death in his hands. For Jews, his word meant death.

His brother Albert risked all to undo Hermann’s work.

Albert Goering was in his place for such a time as those days. He was once arrested for helping a Jewish woman whom SA soldiers taunted and beat before a jeering crowd. Upon learning his identity, the arresting officers immediately released him.

So Albert wrote letters and demanded that prisoners be freed. He used family stationery and signed his missives simply “Goering”. The singular name alone held the power of freedom.
He became bolder. He saved many.

But he died in poverty. Allied forces didn’t believe he acted honorably. Just recently, a documentary filmmaker learned about Albert’s work to save Jews and tells his story.

Many Christians in America are downhearted. Our culture’s decline continues. But we can ask ourselves. Why are we here and why now?

We are here because we are meant for “such a time as this.” We are here for this day to work in our time. In this day. In this place. And, like Albert Goering, our work may not provide a result we see on this side of heaven.

Such a possibility occurred to Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer during the same period. The Gestapo had hounded Bonhoeffer’s ministry into virtual oblivion, so he got a job with the Abwehr, a rival Nazi organization that dissenters had infiltrated. (Eric Metaxas compares the rivalry to what we might see in the United States today between the CIA and the FBI (369).)

Undercover as an Abwehr agent, Bonhoeffer had the freedom to travel and conduct ministry, albeit much more privately than he would prefer. In the meantime, he continued his work as a member of the conspiracy that would twice attempt to assassinate Adolph Hitler.

But also in the meantime, the circle where he could share his true views and the work he was doing (that would not fully manifest itself until after his death) had shrunk to very few people.

Many of Bonhoeffer’s faithful associates could only infer that he had sold out to the Nazis (377). Metaxas says the situation “represented [a] ‘death’ to self for [Bonhoeffer] because he had to surrender his reputation in the church (376).

Imagine that. We Christians pride ourselves on our testimonies. We consider it crucial that others perceive us as faithful Christians.

Perhaps we might admit we do so to a wrongful degree of pride. Bonhoeffer sacrificed what other people thought of him for the sake of how God (and history) would ultimately view his work.

He gave up his place in community to secure a right conscience toward eternity.  

The early Church had the same view toward maintaining a right conscience. Roman society knew Christians by their love and trampled them in persecution because they spoke truth without compromise. But it was those very Christians who turned the world upside down.

How would we act if we found ourselves in the throes of persecution? What if our world suddenly became dangerous for us and even for those we argue with–over culture, over politics, over faith?

Whom would we be willing to sign our names to save? Whom would we love enough to help? How much would we care what others think about us?

We work in this world. But the work we do is for another one.

“You know plain enough there’s somethin’ beyond this world; the doors stand wide open. ‘There’s somethin’ of us that must still live on; we’ve got to join both worlds together an’ live in one but for the other.'”
Sarah Orne Jewett, from “The Foreigner

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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. 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.”

To Be Conservative in a Pandemic

It was a post I saw on social media. It went something like this: Conservatives favor states’ rights–until now.

The commentator pointed out what seemed to be an inconsistency between the view that decisions made about reopening America’s economy should happen on a smaller scale rather than a larger one.

A states’ rights argument would make the case for allowing decisions about opening up our economy at the state level, rather than from Washington.

In the meantime, residents, usually conservative, of numerous states protest stay-at-home mandates these governors have maintained, even as some states like Washington and California (also governed by Democrats) begin to open up. .

This conflict touches upon the disputes that are flashpoints across our country and go beyond shutting down tiny communities with minuscule coronavirus rates.

The conflict is already there. The coronavirus is highlighting, without, we hope, regard to party loyalty, the inability (or refusal) to consider that governing a diverse population may require a conciliatory or at least diversified approach.

The term “states’ rights” came about during a time when America was largely rural. We think immediately of the issue of slavery and its inherent injustice. Ironically, the states looking to claim their rights found an injustice in having Washington tell them what to do.

Now our disputes are largely about education, gun rights, abortion, and social engineering.

Russell Kirk points to local governance as a pillar of conservativism: “[C]onservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism. Although Americans have been attached strongly to privacy and private rights, they also have been a people conspicuous for a successful spirit of community. In a genuine community, the decisions most directly affecting the lives of citizens are made locally and voluntarily.” 

And more from Kirk: “[T]he conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions. Politically speaking, power is the ability to do as one likes, regardless of the wills of one’s fellows. A state in which an individual or a small group are able to dominate the wills of their fellows without check is a despotism, whether it is called monarchical or aristocratic or democratic.”

That is the basis for the conservative call to make decisions at a local level. Perhaps “states’ rights” is a misnomer for an even bigger idea.

With such division today between city and country mentalities and populations, local control would seem to be the solution to many ills.

It is the unspoken concern that draws us to November. And beyond.

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A Mothers Day of Reflection

“Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship our spirit finds
Is like to that above.”
John Fawcett

One of my favorite moments of the past year is one only I will remember.

I swept my toddling granddaughter up into my arms at a family gathering. I talked fast, to say my heart before she could wiggle down and waddle back to Mommy.

“I held you when you were tiny,” I began.

She smiled and stayed still. She listened. I sensed she understood that I was telling her the beginning of our story–the moment she and I first met and the words I told her then.

“Jesus loves you. Grandma loves you. You have a wonderful mommy and daddy.”

I added that we’d been waiting for her.

It’s a tiny moment I may, if God wills, repeat to her over the years. Something I hope and pray will tie a new string between our hearts each time I say it. A string that is a piece of a cord of love.

This Mothers Day was a time of separation–a time that stretched our cords of connection. Not in the certainty of our connections. Just in the yearning for each other’s presence once more.

We never would have imagined we would suffer this separation.

Before our Father’s throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one–
Our comforts and our cares.

Our fears as one is an idea that is more universal in light of the coronavirus crisis. In our separation, we have opportunity to bear one another’s burdens. To strengthen the cords of connection in a unity of distance. We all miss each other.

When we asunder part
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.

It’s a Mothers’ Day we will all remember. We hope next year’s will be different, more like others in the past, yet its own. A day of meeting and connecting.

Each meeting makes a thread to strengthen our cords of connection. Every story told, every memory, every moment of interaction build bonds between us.

There can be a strengthened bond in the anticipation of those moments–our desire laying its own fibers of connection.

God bless the ties that bind our hearts in His love.

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The Left’s Obsession with Abortion

Wednesday, May 6, 2020–the Little Sisters of the Poor found themselves in court once more.

The Little Sisters in America are 300 women running 27 homes for indigent elderly.

And remember, these nuns are women who commit themselves to lives of poverty and are now front-line workers in the coronavirus pandemic.

The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled just four years ago that the nuns would not have to pay a $70 million fine for refusing to obey the Obamacare mandates on birth control and abortion–even though corporate giants like Exxon and Visa and others are exempt from the regulations.

Despite the Supreme Court having already upheld their freedom of conscience, Josh Shapiro, Attorney General of Pennsylvania followed along after Xavier Becerra, California’s AG, sued to force the nuns to provide contraceptives– those preventing conception and those abortive in nature. These men sued in an attempt to get the court to say states can force the nuns to do what the federal government cannot force them to do.

As the cases have run through the pipeline leading them once more to SCOTUS, the sisters lost on appeal against both states. At some point, New Jersey got into the action. And the New Jersey and Pennsylvania cases are the focus of the court’s current discussion.

Ashley McGuire of Real Clear Politics comments:

“Come hell or high water, they [the suing attorneys general] will rope the nuns into complicity with things like abortion drugs in their healthcare plans [emphasis McGuire’s]. Their future political campaigns depend on it, doggone it! Never mind that the Supreme Court already told the federal government it must settle with the Little Sisters in such a way that their conscience rights are not compromised — and despite the fact that [President Trump] issued a subsequent executive order clarifying that under no circumstances can employers be forced to violate their religious or moral beliefs in their healthcare plans.”

McGuire is right that these attorneys general are harassing the nuns to score political points. There is more than a buzz that Shapiro is planning a run for governor in Pennsylvania. Even loftier goals may abound in the minds of these opportunists.

The nuns have spent years in court–nearly a decade. That’s time they could have better spent caring for the neediest of the needy. A constituency (the poor) those in the pro-abortion camp claim as their own.

The lives of those very people are at stake because the nuns stand between the homeless poor and a death of isolation on the streets.

The court’s decision will affect more than a small sect of nuns and their homes’ residents. These cases (there are more) mark a turning point for our nation between freedom of conscience and religious suppression.

Thomas Ascik: “Unavoidably at issue [before the court] are the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Hobby Lobby precedent, and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment itself. In [other] cases, the Court already avoided substantive conclusions. The Court cannot continue to do so, and [this] ruling is sure to be historic.”

May 7, 2020, is the National Day of Prayer. Extend your day into a season of prayer, a season of pleading. Plead for the babies and mothers, the fathers and siblings, the grandparents.

Plead for caregivers, pharmacists, and all who exercise their consciences to honor God.

Plead for our nation and for our freedoms.

And plead for those who pursue ambition and in that course bring harm to the nuns, the poor they serve, and our future consciences under a guise of guaranteeing access to otherwise accessible birth control.

For we have an obligation to lift up those in authority over us–whether they follow God or defy him.

Our country is in great conflict. We must pray, and we must resist such injustice–such oppression.

One great military leader knew the praying we do on our knees is more powerful than the fighting an army does standing up.

“Those who pray do more for the world than those who fight; and if the world goes from bad to worse, it is because there are more battles than prayers,” General George S. Patton~

Do much for the world. Pray.

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Pray Now

This Thursday is the 68th National Day of Prayer in the US.  The roots of the observance go back to post World War II America. 

In 1952, Conrad Hilton (of Hilton Hotels) and Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas, both veterans of World War I, initiated a bill to direct the president to name a day of prayer yearly.

Stephen White explains that “Hilton came to view prayer as no less a necessity and no less a sanctuary than work. ‘Some men jump out windows, some quit,’ his mother told him during the Great Depression. ‘Some go to church. Pray Connie. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make.’ Even at the darkest, most difficult moments of his life, Hilton always found strength and consolation in his faith.”

Hilton saw prayer as necessity and sanctuary. As did Carlson.

Along with his efforts to establish a day dedicated to prayer, Carlson also initiated the yearly Annual National Prayer Breakfast. At the event in 1986, President Ronald Reagan told this story.

“One night in 1952 during the Presidential campaign, Dwight Eisenhower confided something to one of his advisers, a close friend, Senator Frank Carlson. And Eisenhower told him that during the war when he was commanding the allied forces in Europe, he’d had a startling and vivid spiritual experience — he had actually felt the hand of God guiding him, felt the presence of God.

“And the general told the Senator that this experience and the support of his friends had given him real spiritual strength in the hard days before D-day. Senator Carlson said he understood. He, himself, was getting spiritual help from the members of a little prayer group in the Senate. And a few months later, the general, who was now the President, asked Frank Carlson over to the White House.

“And he told him, ‘Frank, this is the loneliest house I’ve ever been in.’ Carlson said, ‘Mr. President, I think this may be the right time for you to come and meet with our prayer group.’ And Eisenhower did just that.

“In 1953 he attended the first combined prayer breakfast.”

And so a new tradition was born.

It’s a tradition born out of necessity and sanctuary–as prayer to our sovereign God has always been. As we have necessity now to find sanctuary.

When Eisenhower led the Allied efforts in Europe during World War II, he also found sanctuary in the necessity of prayer. On the eve of D-Day in 1944, he broadcast a message to the troops about to invade Europe, including these words:

“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”

Many died on the beaches of Normandy and in fighting that pushed through western Europe to secure victory. Eisenhower had known that many would give their lives.

He knew heavy, dark days lightened and illuminated through prayer, lightened and illuminated through God’s presence and guidance.

Let’s not wait until Thursday to begin to seek His presence, His leading for us.

Let us pursue justice, mercy, and humility. Let us pursue the lightening of burdens and the Light of the world. Let us find the sanctuary of His presence.

Let us pray.

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet,” Isaiah 58:1a.

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The Threat to Close Synagogues and Churches

“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.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn~

In Brooklyn, New York, this week. 2,500 people crowded together to pay tribute to a beloved rabbi who passed away.

Some wore face masks; some did not. New York’s infuriated mayor came in person to tell the people to go home. Then he issued a statement:

“My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.”

Fair enough, if that’s so–and if those consequences are fairly applied. But is it really just about stopping the disease and saving lives? Or is it, perhaps, also about power and authority? Is it even about disdain for a particular faith or group?

One councilmember, Chaim Deutsch, chided DeBlasio for not applying the rule of law evenly.

“Did the Mayor of NYC really just single out one specific ethnic community (a community that has been the target of increasing hate crimes in HIS city) as being noncompliant?? Has he been to a park lately?”

All of America–especially those of us who are working at staying home–could discuss whether deBlasio overreacted in showing up and calling on police.

We could wonder whether–if other New Yorkers are defying the rules as Deutsch claims and evidence shows they are–why this gathering got the mayor’s personal attention the way it did. We could also ask why the mayor and the media picked this incident to highlight and not another one earlier that day.

Why didn’t the mayor go downtown and tweet his protest as New Yorkers gathered to watch the Blue Angels fly over the city in tribute to health care workers who have toiled through the worst of the pandemic?

I would argue that, sad as they were over the loss of their beloved rabbi, the people should not have gathered for his funeral. But I would also argue that deBlasio crossed the line when he threatened places of worship with permanent closure if they do not comply.

Permanent, that is.

I might also argue that perhaps many of those 2,500 people watched coverage of the Blue Angels’ flyover earlier in the day and didn’t realize a double standard was in place.

They didn’t realize that ordinary folks could come out to watch a tribute. The rules don’t apply to them. But faithful people may not gather. The rules are especially for them.

And violating the rules will bring about retribution for those singled out. And that retribution could be permanent.

Joel M. Petlin is the superintendent of the Kiryus Joel School District, a Hasidic Jewish school system in New York. He summed the situation up on Twitter: “Two wrongs don’t make a right, but only one wrong makes the news and the condemnation of politicians.”

Mayor de Blasio is an educated man. He can’t possibly believe that the coronavirus passes from person to person in certain groups and not in others. He can’t possibly believe that letting people gather for an event he approves of won’t spread the virus. But events he disapproves of will.

He can’t possibly believe that the actions of some should forever close the doors of worship for many, even those yet unborn.

That just can’t be possible.

Can it?

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HEADlines: Every Life Has Value

Published in the Mustard Seed Sentinel, April 25, 2020~

“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

It was an episode of a television show in the late ’70s or early ’80s. I don’t even remember the name of the series.

A married couple was battling to stay together. Or it was more like they were battling each other. Today we would say they had issues.

One issue–perhaps minor, perhaps not–was that he hated her smoking. He often challenged her to quit. She refused to give it up.

Until they got a report from the doctor. Yes, they were expecting. (No home pregnancy test back then.)

She immediately stopped smoking–just as he’d been begging her to do all along. She had a natural desire to protect the life within her.

But he said, repeatedly, “We can’t bring a baby into this.” Into the mess that was their marriage.

Finally, she succumbed to his unrelenting push for her to abort. And the video depiction of the procedure’s aftermath was subtle but raw.

She left the clinic and got into the passenger seat of the car at sunset. He sat in the driver’s seat as darkness surrounded them. Viewers saw the flick of a lighter. The flame sucked into the glow of a burning cigarette next to the passenger side window.

The smoldering cigarette signifying the snuffing out of their child’s life.

Her natural desire to protect the young one battled his desire to—? Have control? Minimize the potential complications of divorce? We can only wonder at the “internal maladies” he suffered that put him in warfare with the opposing interests of his own child.

He would say they made the choice together—he and his wife. He would deny that the child was capable of having any interests at all.

Roland C. Warren, president and CEO of Carenet, sees a disturbing trend in the argument over human life. Early in the abortion discussion, during the time that television show aired, advocates for abortion (and euthanasia) made a distinction between “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. But she isn’t even pushing a “hard-case” agenda. She’s pushing an “any-case” agenda.

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.

In Williams’s estimation, 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. Always.

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, Warren says. 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.

My opening example of the father who didn’t want to be a father married to a woman he just couldn’t get along with paints this picture accurately. He had autonomy. The baby? None at all.

But the mother? She was following her natural inclinations to protect and nurture what she knew was her child. But she lacked the autonomy to make the decision independently. The choice was not just her own.

Such a television depiction would be unlikely to air today because the man pushed against the woman’s desire for her baby. He gave no room for the “choice” that Williams argues is “Always” hers to make.

In the late ’70s, the discussion around abortion was relatively new. The battle lines had not clearly formed. Truth was more of a possibility. The news media was still objective about the issue, at least in one corner of the world. In 1978, the Chicago Sun Times did an expose on abortion “providers”–not yet so named because euphemism had not yet overtaken the issue.

As a result of the Sun Times’s reporting, one of the abortion facilities the expose covered closed down, and a physician lost his license to practice. A grand jury investigated.

In contrast, a few years ago in my own state of Pennsylvania, law enforcement uncovered Kermit Gosnell’s abortion house of horrors when they were investigating the illegal sale of prescription drugs.

The uncovering of abortion amid filth and broken medical equipment came about accidentally even after a woman died and Gosnell murdered a breathing, six-pound abortion survivor, among others. Still others carry physical reminders of their time in his “care”.

If not for the drug bust, would he still be injuring and killing? Of course he would.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said in a later report that they had stopped inspecting abortion facilities “because of political reasons.”

After a previous alert from a former employee, the state interviewed Gosnell off- site–where they wouldn’t see the condition of his facility. Pennsylvania officials also ignored an insurance company report of a post-Gosnell abortion patient who died from sepsis after he perforated her uterus.

Writing an op-ed for USA Today, Kirsten Powers said, “This [Gosnell’s story] should be front-page news.” But it wasn’t on the front page because the media had completely ditched objectivity at some point after Chicago’s expose.

Today’s media isn’t paying attention–on purpose–all to supposedly protect “a woman’s right to choose.”

But the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons reports that nearly 75 percent of aborting women say they experienced at least some pressure to abort. More than half said they aborted to please others.

And nearly 30 percent aborted out of fear they would lose their partners. The statistics on what happens next for relationships so affected are tough to nail down, but one counselor says his experience shows that half of post-abortion relationships break up. He’s not alone in that way of thinking.

It’s distressing to think that the media got it right in some obscure program that aired decades ago and will never see the light of syndication.

It’s beyond distressing to ponder all those babies gone. All those women pushed. All the lies told and truth withheld in the name of a choice an “autonomous” woman doesn’t always get to exercise.

An unimaginable amount of damage done for someone’s choice–and not even the someone you might expect.

Photo Credit: Danielle McInnis, 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.”

Non Nobis, Domine

Not to us, Lord, not to us
but to your name give glory
because of your mercy and faithfulness.
Psalm 115: 1 (NABRE)~

Regarding the number of coronavirus cases declining in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “The number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that. Faith did not do that.” 

Wow.

Michael W. Chapman reports that “Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a Catholic who supports abortion on demand, even up to the moment of birth.'”

To that and the governor I would say, “I know Catholics. I have family and friends who are Catholics. And you, sir, are no Catholic.”

No Catholic. No Christian of any sort.

So it came to be that, on January 22, 2019, this “Catholic” governor celebrated his signing of New York’s new abortion law–set in place just in case the US Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade–which effectively established abortion through all nine months of pregnancy–for any reason.

The National Review says, “In New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law that makes abortion legal, even after the unborn child is viable, so long as the abortionist makes a ‘reasonable and good-faith judgment’ that abortion will protect the pregnant woman’s health.”

Further, New York’s legislation would also allow medical “caregivers” to deny care to infants after birth. To let them die.

You might ask how killing a child through neglect after she or he is already born protects a mother’s health.

In Virginia, which passed similar legislation, Governor Ralph Northam explained that withholding medical care from born children who have deformities should be up to the mother.

Which still doesn’t get us to improved health of the mother. We find the foundation for this fallacious argument only when we look back at Roe.

More from the National Review: “Roe v. Wade held that states could prohibit abortion late in pregnancy only if they made an exception for abortions meant to protect the pregnant woman’s health. Justice Harry Blackmun’s majority opinion in that case mentioned several health harms that unwanted parenthood could cause. Roe’s companion case, Doe v. Bolton — written by the same justice and handed down the same day — also suggested that health should be read broadly. As Blackmun put it, ‘the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient.’”

The patient, of course, is the mother, never the child–whose relative health, good or poor, is irrelevant.

So we have arrived at today.

New York’s coronavirus numbers are down. And, according to the governor, God had nothing to do with it.

Robert Barron responds to Cuomo’s unGod viewpoint by acknowledging that it’s appropriate to thank those in the medical community for the sacrifices they’ve made. It’s also valuable to ask, “Why ultimately were they willing to do what they did?”

The answer may be the same as the one we come up with when we ask why anyone ever makes a sacrifice for someone else. It may also be the same when we ask where such desire and heroism begins.

It’s sad that Governor Cuomo, his counterpart in Virginia, a handful of other governors, and hundreds sitting in legislatures that have passed horrific death bills don’t understand the nature of sacrificial love and aren’t willing to call us to it.

The love that put Jesus Christ on his cross is the same love that cherishes a less than perfect child–as they all are–as we all are.

It’s the same love that stays up late or gets up early to care for someone who can’t care for himself or herself, no matter how old, how young, how much in need.

It’s the same love that gives to someone who can’t give back.

For their love, we say thanks to the workers.

For the one who plants the possibility of that love in us, we say, “Non nobis, Domine.” Not to us be the glory.

Only to God.

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.”

Out of the Ashes: A Book for a Quarantine Time

“I stand with Livy, who at the final hardening of Rome’s republican arteries, wrote that the study of his land’s history was the study of the rise and fall of moral strength, with duty and severity giving way to ambition, avarice, and license, till his fellow Romans ‘sank lower and lower, and finally began the downward plunge which has brought us to the present time, when we can endure neither our vices nor their cure'” (1).

In his book Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, Anthony Esolen shows us a nation at a crossroads. He shows us a better way, a way up. He wrote before the pandemic. Before the time when we may have begun to consider what our lives have been, what we are making them now, and what we hope they will be when the coronavirus lockdown finally ends.

Many of us are just waiting for normalcy to return. If that’s what we do, we are missing an opportunity.

Perhaps this moment is just the time to hear Esolen’s message to pursue truth and beauty. The call to see the truly important and to disregard the superficial.

We are learning a great deal as individuals and as a people through this crisis. Some of us are learning how to be with family 24/7.

Remember? For better or for worse? For some, it’s better.

People are spending time with their children. If you weren’t already homeschooling, you have a new appreciation for those who’ve done so for years. And if you were busy and distracted with your job before, you’re now getting a better picture of who these young ones are becoming, who they’ve already become when you weren’t looking quite as closely.

Some people are planting gardens. (Except in Michigan where seeds are considered non-essential and their sale is now banned.)

Perhaps our move toward producing our own food has come partly in a panic that we’ll suffer a food shortage. But perhaps it’s also to have something productive to do.

Apparently, we can only watch so many things on a streaming service. We realize that we want something we can point to for how we’re spending our time.

Americans are also baking bread. My husband and I had to order flour online because our local stores are cleaned out and one stocker told him, “There isn’t any in the pipeline.” That means it won’t be on store shelves any time soon.

A loaf of fresh bread is something to savor. (But I’m still far from mastery.)

With planting and baking, children see that food isn’t something that originates in a plastic bag from a store or on a plate a server puts in front of them.

Food takes time and patience. Good food does, anyway. Food with fewer chemicals, food with more flavor, food infused with our own time and labor.

That’s truth. That’s beauty. That’s better.

Sadly, many of us our drowning our inactivity with alcohol. That’s worse. But pain and the struggle of feeling trapped in isolation are real for many.

So here we stand at the crossroads.

Esolen reminds us of Keats’s words to “‘load every rift with ore’ . . . . What Keats did with poems, we ought to do with our minds, claiming for our own the gold that poets give us” (30).

And to the gold of poets, I would add the silver of gardening, baking, crafting, storytelling, and encouraging–the filling of these days with truth, beauty, and goodness.

With admiration for those among us who care for the sick and stock store shelves with available foods and other necessities.

And with mercy and grace for those among us who struggle with isolation.

These days will end. The heroes among us will remember a blur of work, more challenging than they’ve seen before.

Still others, most of us I hope, will have days of creativity and craft to look back on. Days of discovering new ways to do things. Days perhaps, of passing old ways on to young ones who otherwise may not have considered what goes into food growth and production and other kinds of crafting.

Just as with any time of life, this time provides us with choices. To sit, to create, to encourage one another. Now is a good time for a good message–like the one Esolen provides.

To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
(From Isaiah 61, MSG)

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.”

A Fresh Look at Proverbs 31

It’s a portion of scripture that inspires and intimidates us. The ideal woman on the page seems capable of anything.

She gets up early, works with her hands, makes business deals, saves her husband money. Her children call her blessed.

And she does it all as only words of wisdom and kindness fall from her mouth.

But this passage is more than the reading on Mothers Day to lift us up (or make us feel guilty and inadequate).

In her new book Strength of a Woman: Why You are Proverbs 31, Lauren Crews unfolds the Hebrew acrostic that comprises this biblical description.

“Indeed, a woman of strength is priceless, worth more than precious jewels” (10).

Crews tells us that the “Hebrew word translated as ‘jewels’ is paniyn. Many commentaries agree the word means a small round object that has a red tint, usually defined as a coral or a pearl. The first time I read that definition of the word paniyn, I was immediately struck by how the description of small, round, red, and priceless objects resembled drops of blood, the precious red blood our Savior shed. As a woman of strength, you hold great value. You are so valuable to God He was willing to shed His precious blood for you. He paid this price for you; your worth is now above rubies, pearls, or other jewels.”

Crews’ text promises “redemptive stories of the most unlikely Proverbs 31 Woman.”

Reviewer Linda Evans Shepherd says the book explains that “the passage was not designed to make women feel overwhelmed by an impossible to-do list but rather serves to promote a warrior woman you can emulate as you love, work, build, and overcome your own life’s challenges.”

Perhaps we who’ve felt that intimidation while reading Proverbs 31 can find ourselves on these pages. We can see glimpses of ourselves in the stories Crews tells of the unlikely Proverbs 31 woman.

This beautiful book released onApril 16, 2020.

Photo Credit: Unsplash, Crews book cover

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 Day After

One of my very favorite passages from the Bible comes at the end of the book of Luke.

Two men are walking down the road discussing the crucifixion of their leader. Another joins them and asks what they’re talking about. They wonder at him not knowing.

But they don’t realize that He’s the only one who actually does know what really happened.

He talks to them about prophesy. When they reach Emmaus, he indicates that he will keep going.

It’s evening, they say. Stay with us. When he breaks the bread, they recognize him. Then he vanishes.

Did our hearts not burn within us? They ask themselves.

Often that’s where we stop reading. But what happens next?

Once they realize Christ was the one who talked with them, opened the scriptures (the prophecies he fulfilled) to them, and broke the bread, they don’t just go to sleep planning to react to their revelation the next morning.

They immediately return to the place they’d just left–Jerusalem. Walking, tired but exhilarated, filled with the adrenalin of realization, of fulfilled understanding.

Remember, it’s evening. Perhaps it’s even dark before they begin. They already walked and are walking again.

Imagine their arrival, very late, even in the middle of the night.

“Wake up! Let us in! We’ve been with Jesus! He has risen!”

The crucifixion had destroyed any hopes they had that Jesus would lead them in victory over Roman rule. They had been confused. They had lost all hope.

His resurrection brought a better kind of hope, a hope based in the true understanding of who Christ is–a God for life and eternity–not someone who came to get us off a hook of political oppression.

He came to free us from the consequences of being us. He came to give us this life and the next one.

We’ve come through an Easter unlike any other in our lifetimes, but it was probably an Easter not very different for many worshiping in hostile countries.

Like the men who traveled to Emmaus and then returned to Jerusalem in joy, our next step cannot be to go to sleep.

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.”

Yes, Virginia, There Will Still Be Easter

So this year, my husband and I won’t make two kinds of soup, and homemade cannoli.

And even though I almost have five dresses done, three little girls and two bigger ones won’t be wearing them to church on Sunday. There will be no photo recollection of grandchildren on my front porch swing from Easter Sunday.

At dinner time, I’ll miss my kids, and their kids, and their kids.

And I’ll hope the six packages of Peeps I bought don’t get too stale before I can bestow the baskets–even though one daughter will end up with all of the Peeps since no one else likes them.

Appropriate to the year, she likes them to be a bit stale.

For the most part, this Easter will be different from any other we’ve ever experienced.

It takes me back to a Christmas moment. The Whos of Whoville wake to discover that Christmas has arrived. But they don’t even seem to notice that what signifies Christmas is missing.

They sing to welcome Christmas. They sing with joy. And when the Grinch’s heart grows, they welcome him to the feast he tried to steal from them.

So this year, we will welcome Easter. My husband and I alone will bake bread and color eggs and drink grape juice at Communion time as we watch church online.

This Easter I will pursue joy.

I will work to latch onto a wonderful moment to remember from the day. The Easter unlike every other of our lifetimes.

The Easter that, like all the others, calls us to remember that first one. When there were no colorful dresses, no marshmallow chicks, no chocolate bunnies, no colored eggs, no special foods.

Only a risen Savior to take away our sin.

And He is more than enough.

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.”

HEADlines: With a Sense of Purpose We Find Peace

Published in the Mustard Seed Sentinel, 3/28/2020

“We can simplify our society–that is, make ourselves free–only by undertaking tasks of great mental and cultural complexity.” (Wendell Berry 49)

It’s a paradox, of course–a truth that seems counter-intuitive, even contradictory. But it’s neither. It’s just true. We are free when our lives are complex. And when we live lives of complexity, we obtain simple freedom.

Berry points out that, during simpler times (when most of us inhabited rural communities), our work was complex. We built our own houses, grew our own food, and made our own clothes. We navigated the world using a variety of skills.

A farmer–if you’ll forgive the cliche–seldom put his eggs in one basket. He had chickens for eggs and meat, cows for milk, and pigs for meat. He grew corn to feed the animals and himself. But he also grew alfalfa and cotton and wheat. He had a series of enterprises requiring various ways of working. He was not a specialist.

He rotated the crops to take care of the land. He knew that without the land there was no way to sustain life. His complex way of living brought simplicity that was freeing. He produced all or most of what he needed. He lived independently, but in community.

Berry writes:

“[T]here were times, . . . mainly during the . . . harvest, when we would all be together. The men would go early to have the benefit of the cool of the morning. The women would finish their housework and then gather, sometimes bringing dishes already cooked, to lay on a big feed at dinnertime; and then after the dishes were done, they would go out to help in the field or the barn for the rest of the day. . . . This was our membership.” (Hannah Coulter 92)

Modern people have accused our forebears of sexual division, relegating women to the kitchen. But women worked in the fields too. Men and women grew food and other crops. Often the division of labor meant he worked harder than she did growing the food. And she worked harder than he did to put it on the table. Children grew up learning a good measure of hard work.

It wasn’t about who did what work. It was about making sure the work got done. Everyone had a part to play, a contribution to make, a purpose to serve.

People worked hard, some just to survive–others, to thrive. They grew old, perhaps at a faster rate than we do. They were tired. But they were not lonely.

Today, loneliness is an American epidemic. Cigna released a study indicating that most Americans are lonely. We might expect that among the elderly–especially those who live alone–but that isn’t the case. In fact, older people have done the best job of keeping themselves from being isolated.

The loneliest among us are the young. Cigna says the problem is bigger than social isolation. Cigna is an insurance company. Loneliness is a health problem–as harmful as smoking–making some more prone to heart disease. Loneliness is costly to insurance companies and costly to our society.

And social loss happens in more than dollars. Lonely people are more prone to substance abuse. Loneliness has become a social crisis.

Berry sums up our problem this way: “We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.”

How did our loss of each other begin?

In the nineteenth century, moving from the country to the city marked a huge shift in how we saw children, for example. On the farm, children had been blessings from heaven. Once they reached a certain age, they became helpful hands on the farm. One day they would become heirs of the land. Life in that place would go on as it had before—where people lived complex lives of contribution.

Community at Mustard Seed Sentinel

In the complex life on a farm, everyone who was able worked. Children jumped in to help with chores as soon as they were old enough. And they somehow became older sooner out in the country.

In the city, men worked. Women stayed home with children whose contributions to sustaining the family were non-existent or small. If the man’s work provided a good living, the woman and children did not need employment. If the reward of his work was meager, his wife and children made their way into sweat-shops.

It was difficult to carry one’s own weight. Yet many found meaning even in such city places because, even as children, they contributed to the family.

My father rose early as a child and stood on a street corner selling newspapers every day. He never kept the reward of his work. He gave his earnings to help support the household as his list of acquired skills grew.

In becoming specialists in the city, our list of skills shrank as our dependence on others grew. We stopped being producers and became consumers of goods others produced. And ironically, in the midst of city crowds and in our dependent interconnectedness, we lost our sense of community.

In the city, the essence of freedom changed and became something less responsible, more self-focused. The change is something we attribute to advanced technology, to modernity. But it’s more than that. In consumption rather than production, we lost meaning in our lives.

Loss of meaning changes our core beliefs as a people, a nation—hence our red and blue selves. The nature of our beliefs relies largely on where we come from. Two sets of beliefs spring from our different worlds, the countryside and the cityscape. And we will find great difficulty in reconciling the two into a single way of thinking.

In the countryside, fathers still teach youngsters how to shoot a rifle and/or shotgun. Pre-teens hunt and fish, supplementing the family’s store of food. And these children are also prepared to defend the homestead and the livestock against wild animals or someone with evil intentions.

In the city, guns could have only two purposes–threat or protection. Today in cities where specialization reigns, only the police are supposed to protect. There is no place for gun ownership in the minds of many city dwellers.

Issues like that one define our differences. There seems to be no solution in sight.

The American Dream entails the pursuit of a better life. Now, we’ve reached a point where it’s hard to imagine a better life for our children. Is there a better place than the comfortable one we’ve made for ourselves? Seeking more comfort–or for those in a world of pain because of abuse or neglect, some comfort–has brought us the drug crisis and school shootings. Young people lack responsibility and self-control largely because they are more concerned about comfort than meaning. Yet they seek meaning. And they can never quite find enough comfort.

The prize of comfort has revealed itself to be like a plastic trinket—easily broken, the next one to be constantly sought after. Perhaps it’s time to build lives that are a bit more uncomfortable, lives with purpose beyond comfort.

Yet an exodus back to the farming life doesn’t seem reasonable. Much of the available farmland has been consolidated or subdivided. Even so, there are things we can do to regain community, complexity, and simple freedom—that of independence.

Many of these things come more easily to farm folks. Working together, eating together. That can be the primary place we begin during this coronavirus crisis when we find ourselves compelled to stay home. The next step may be not to move back to normal too much or too fast once the crisis passes.

We can grow some of our own food. Some of us already grow tomatoes–even in pots–even in apartments. What better way to show the young that food doesn’t originate in a store? What better way to explain the concept of cultivation?

We cultivate plants. We cultivate purpose. We cultivate our souls. We can produce more. We can consume less. We can show others the difference and pass along responsibility, self-sufficiency, and meaning to them. We can find a new way to go back to a better way of doing things.

When we as a society left the farm for the town or the suburbs, we thought we were moving to a better place, an easier life. Ease has shown itself to be a poor trade for peace in our hearts.

With purpose, we find that peace. And that is something worthwhile to pass along.

Photo Credits: Jamie Street and Guido Klinge

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.”

A Season Beyond Youth

As little girls we practiced motherhood clutching our baby dolls. But we never dreamed about the years that would come beyond. Years that can be enormously productive.

Grateful to have been a guest on Gina Ferrar’s The Feminine Roadmap.

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.”

Embracing Boredom in a Lonely Season

“Today I observe my children when they think nothing is happening: bored to tears, imprisoned in themselves, almost desperate. Like my mother [did when I was young] I feel it would be best if they could experience that more often.” Erling Kagge, Silence in the Age of Noise.

I’ve often heard that people fear public speaking more than they fear death. That those are our two biggest fears. But there’s something else we work very hard to avoid. Boredom.

Because we work so hard to avoid it, it may be that boredom is our most unacknowledged, perhaps our biggest, fear.

Covid 19 is blocking our social outlets leaving technology to feed our efforts to engage our minds.

But there is another option: we can tempt boredom and embrace silence with time to just think. We can find company with our inner selves. We can see whether silence will lead us beyond itself to a new, better place.

In his book, Kagge quotes Norwegian author Jon Fosse: “[S]ilence goes together with wonder, but it also has a kind of majesty to it . . . . And whoever does not stand in wonder at this majesty fears it.”

This fear, Kagge says, “causes me to all too easily avoid being present in my own life. Instead, I busy myself with this or that, avoiding the silence, living through the new task at hand.”

Kagge’s perspective is largely secular. Robert Cardinal Sarah‘s is not: “Sounds and emotions detach us from ourselves, whereas silence always forces man to reflect upon his own life.”

And consider this from G.K. Chesterton: “Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star.”

It’s interesting that Chesterton doesn’t stop at saying we have forgotten who we are. He goes on to say, “We have all forgotten what we really are” (emphasis mine).

That’s a more universal distinction. It’s one true thing to say we don’t know ourselves well enough. It’s another true thing to say we have little understanding of what God made us to be. We can’t have the second without the first. We’ve missed much of what we are–what He intends for us.

This time of social isolation offers us time to pursue the company of God who knows who we truly are (and loves us anyway) and knows what we truly are (His with a purpose).

Dwight Longenecker offers this: “Perhaps in lockdown mode we can all take more time to listen attentively not to another podcast, audio book, or whatever is streaming on our screen gadgets, but learn to listen to the voice of the Lord. Just as God moves slowly, so he speaks quietly. The prophet hears the Lord not in the earthquake, wind, and fire but in the still, small voice of calm.”

These are lessons I’m not done working through. With the coronavirus shutdown, I found the abrupt end to my well-established routine–my everyday program of distractions–to be very unsettling. And I miss the necessary and valid fellowship of others. God did not make us for solitude.

Yet our everyday (pre-coronavirus) lives had an imbalance leaving necessary solitude abandoned and stuck at the top of the teeter-totter of life as we weighed ourselves down with much that did not matter. Now is a good time to learn how to balance the need for interaction that we’re missing with the need for silent solitude that we may have ignored for too long.

Silence feeds our souls. Silence tells us who we are–for better or for worse. (Yet how else might we improve ourselves?)

And silence lets us hear God’s still small voice telling us what we are–what He made us to do.

There are fewer than two weeks until Easter. And this Easter may be very much unlike any other we’ve ever known. Many of us feel like we’re standing still as we move through this Lenten season. And even those of us who do not mark a liturgical calendar are finding ourselves in a state of sacrifice, of having given up much, albeit not willingly.

Every great social challenge is a time of decision. Will we merely endure this time, or use it to seek our better selves and pursue God’s intended purpose for us?

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 on the Teaching, Learning, Leading Podcast

I’m honored to have been invited to be part of the Teaching, Learning, Leading Podcast. Here’s a link to my discussion with Steve Miletto.

https://teachinglearningleadingk12.podbean.com/e/nancy-e-head-restoring-the-shattered-286/


Photo Credit: Podbean Podcast

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 brokenEcclesiastes 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.”

Republished from February 19, 2019