Praying the Pledge

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
The people He has chosen for His own inheritance
(Psalm 33:12 NASB).

On January 7, 2021, I was leading eight 10th graders in the Pledge of Allegiance. Not only could I not finish, I had begun to weep. I felt awful for crying in front of my students and upsetting them.

“What happened?” one of them asked.

I composed myself and explained as best I could. A few of them were aware of what happened the day before, what some call insurrection and others called a large protest, a portion of which became a riot.

I’m not here to argue the terms of that day (and won’t approve argumentative comments about it). I write to propose a way to say the Pledge without hesitation in these days of division.

Over the summer, I mentioned my difficulty to a friend. I told her I was having trouble saying, among other phrases, “One nation, under God, indivisible.”

She gave a simple reply. “Say it as a prayer.”

Oh.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United State of America,

and to the republic for which it stands,

one nation, under God,

indivisible,

with liberty and justice for all.

I add a phrase inspired by a friend. For her, it was a statement, spoken from her heart, from conviction. For me, it’s a tribute to her, still a prayer, spoken softly, not for the ears of those around me.

Born and preborn.

As January 6, 2021, showed us, the United States has divisions that go deeper than issues like abortion. But abortion is part of our bleeding wound of strife and separation.

Say the pledge. Say it as a prayer. Silently pray about the divisions God lays on your heart.

Pray for our nation to honor God and be indivisible in that quest. Pray for the babies, their parents, their families whom we will remember this week as we mark the 49th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion in all 50 states until birth.

Pray those decisions will be overturned soon. Pray America will indivisibly turn to the Creator who blessed us to be here in this time.

Pray for liberty. For justice. For all. For America.

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Reading in a New Year

It’s been my New Years’ resolution for the past several rotations around the sun. Every year I build a stack of books in no particular order. Some fall by the wayside displaced by new texts that call my name.

This year’s stack seems a bit more solid. Most I waited to obtain. One was a surprise.

It may help that our television rendered itself useless last summer, and we’ve committed to adding more seating in its place for conversation, including the silent kind that moves from writer to reader.

At the top of the pile sits Dante, an ambitious–perhaps even a bit afflictive commitment. A grandson and I began last summer with his youth version and my noteless translation. In the previous school year, we had read middle school versions of Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid in the classroom.

Dante seemed like the next place to go for a youthful foundation in the classics, but I struggled to keep up while googling the confusing parts. So much for a noteless rendering. As the weeks of summer passed, we remained in the infernal regions. I want to climb higher this summer.

For Christmas, his mother found me versions of Inferno and Purgatorio with notes by Anthony Esolen. (His annotated but difficult-to-find Paradisio arrived yesterday. Apparently, it’s an elusive text on the more well-traveled sites of book vendors showing that everybody really does want to go to heaven.

I plan to walk further into Dante’s vision with this grandson when the school year ends. Perhaps we can find Paradise before the start of another academic year.

In the meantime, I rang in the New Year finishing A Canticle for Leibowitz. Sci-fi, post-apocalyptic–even post-post (far after) the flame deluge otherwise known as nuclear war. Dry in spots, hilarious in others, vastly profound overall, Canticle is worth your time. I punctuated my reading of Walter M. Miller Jr.’s final few pages of the text with frequent exclamations of “Wow!”

Toward the bottom of the pile sits my first foray into the works of Isaac Asimov. I’m not quite halfway through Foundation, the first in a series. Both Asimov and Miller emphasize the importance of recording and remembering history.

The men’s divergent worldviews are apparent. Miller’s text presents a secular world in which a Christian remnant champions the effort to rescue literacy and preserve the past in the hopes of preventing humanity’s self-destruction. Miller invites us to remember what the world is, and is not.

Asimov’s text makes no allusion (so far) to faith. His depiction of the political is apt, some may say accurate, others, cynical. Asimov is the easier read. Miller is worth the work.

The rest of the stack is non-fiction. Ross Douthat presents our society, The Decadent Society: America Before and After the Pandemic. He offers us two possibilities for COVID’s ultimate outcome: catastrophe or renaissance. We are truly at a crossroads.

Carl R. Trueman offers The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to the Sexual Revolution. It’s another study of how we got where we are.

The Final Pagan Generation: Rome’s Unexpected Path to Christianity by Edward J. Watts provides insight into what the world was like as the power structure of an empire was turning upside down, from pagan to officially Christian. That seems pertinent in our world as a form of paganism, at least in the West, displaces Christianity.

Uprooted: Recovering the Legacy of the Places We’ve Left Behind by Grace Olmstead discusses the ramifications of the uprooting many (most?) Americans have experienced today.

I remember the local communities of my youth, neighborhoods within our city. The second and third generations removed from immigrants felt a connection to the motherland and to our locale. The grandparents and great-grandparents came here but kept close ties through the fellowships of the Sons of Italy social hall or the Unter Uns (German) Society.

Some of those ties still bind smaller communities together. Many have scattered. Olmstead calls them home, truly and virtually.

The cover jacket calls the book “part memoir, part journalistic investigation.” It promises Olmstead will help us cultivate “rootedness.”

In a similar vein, Sohrab Ahmari’s work The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos proposes a way to find happiness, not in a self-crafted identity, but in pursuing virtue and accepting limits. Ahmari emigrated to the US from Iran and, among other job titles he holds, is a contributing editor for the Catholic Herald. He calls himself a “radically assimilated immigrant” and invites us to examine our lives to “live more humanely in a world that has lost its way.”

Ahmari’s book is the surprise in the pile, a gift from a son who often finds gems I’ve not stumbled over yet.

Finally, Christopher Hollingsworth has crafted The Poetics of the Hive: The Insect Metaphor in Literature. I don’t like bugs, but I anticipate the delight of following a thread of metaphor through literature.

As I write, I realize that, including the bugs, these books are about the importance of remembering history, understanding our own culture, and urging society toward renaissance instead of catastrophe.

Reading can be easy or hard depending on the text. The remembering, understanding, and urging are hard work. But important work, work with eternal purpose.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (I Corinthians 15:58 ESV).

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A Gift Prepared Ahead of Time

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (I Timothy 1:17, ESV)

It was a work of Providence I might have missed. I have no idea how long the book sat on the shelf waiting for me to buy it. But I do know it was there just for me, for us, just for the moment we would need it.

That moment would be one every mother who has watched her son go to war knows. It’s an indescribable emptiness. But an almighty God can reach down to fill a heart’s void. And He can use any little nook or cranny to do so.

My daughter and I were in an antique store passing time as we waited to see my son off. He was deploying to Iraq.

While we shopped, his unit was on base packing equipment. Families would see our soldiers later that evening for a short time before they left for their departure point.

A yearlong deployment lay ahead.

But there on the shelf sat his favorite book. It cost only a couple of dollars. The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck. How good it would be to give him a book he loved.

But there was more.

As we were helping him pack later and preparing to say farewell, my daughter picked the book up and read the back cover flap.

“This book can be sent to a serviceman anywhere in the world for the price of a postage stamp.”

The book was copyrighted in 1942. Published for soldiers during World War II–when my father served–it landed in the hands of my soldier son decades later.

I wondered where it had traveled and who had already read it.

Buck’s masterpiece is about a man who battles hunger and injustice. Not quite war–rather wars of a different sort. He had moments of glory, times he didn’t do the right thing.

He was, in short, like all of us.

Even before my son read it, it was a book I had come to love. I’d read it because it was my husband’s favorite book. Paper ideas about important things in life. Paper becomes glue connecting those who’ve read a book and discussed its meaning.

When my son left for war, he carried a piece of home and history with him.

I still had moments of emptiness, moments of worry during that year. But a great God had put a book on a shelf for us to find that day–to remind us that He sees. He cares. He loves.

This time of year is when we celebrate His coming.

He came to give us more than “chance” literature on a shelf. He came to give Himself to us and for us.

Emmanuel—God with us.

Merry Christmas.

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Remembering 80 Years

My mother would often tell me the story. It was a Sunday morning. She was sweeping the basement floor and listening to the radio when the announcement came that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

She shut the radio off as if that would make the news go away.

I’m sad to realize I never got Dad’s story–where he was when he heard.

My parents hadn’t married yet. He joined the navy. She joined the Coast Guard. Dad shipped out as a corpsman to the South Pacific. Mom, ironically, served in Oklahoma, a state that has no coast to guard.

Today, one of my great-nieces is in Texas training to become a navy corpsman.

Eighty years of history have come and gone. There are so few today alive to tell us where they were when they heard about Pearl Harbor.

And we are now at the point where students only know of 9/11 because of their elders explaining where they were when they heard.

It’s an effective way to pass history along. When the young hear our stories, those of our own or those passed down to us, they remember. History becomes real to them.

We must pass along history, for “History is a story written by the finger of God.” (Lewis)

“Lord of hosts be with us yet,

“Lest we forget–lest we forget.” (Kipling)

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Renewing Traditions

Last year, I didn’t bake cookies for Christmas. I came down with COVID just before mid-December.

Since neither my husband (He had it too.) nor I could taste our food, and other family members were concerned about contagions, I didn’t have much reason to make treats.

Paul and I found it odd that we could imagine flavors based on the texture of the foods we put in our mouths.

The buttery saltiness of creamy mashed potatoes was a mental conception, an abstraction of memory. As the New Year dawned, our sense of taste began to return.

Twelve months later, I’ve returned to cookie baking mode.

Baking cookies and I go way back.

When I was ten, my mother let me lose on my own in the kitchen. In the cooler weather of fall, I’d bake on Saturday afternoons. She watched football. I have the sense she considered cookie production a chore and was glad to have me step into the role.

When I became a mother, my own little ones took their responsibility to taste-test seriously. As they grew, they developed favorites, and traditions took shape.

What hadn’t improved much over the years was the kitchen.

After my children had grown, one of my daughters realized a local home improvement company was sponsoring an “ugly kitchen” contest. She photographed the room where she had taste tested cookies hoping we could win some free renovations. (Some other poor soul won, apparently having endured a kitchen worse than mine.)

Even so, I remember the wonderful feeling I got entering the “ugly”, poorly equipped heart-of-home to bake cookies one holiday season. I thought, “It feels good to be here.” Good memories overcame limited resources.

In years since, my husband has made significant improvements. Counter space is now sufficient. The children gifted us with a larger mixer to replace my hand-held device. The room is still a pleasant place in which to bake, now convenient and not in danger of qualifying for an “ugly” contest.

After last year without baking, I was eager to get back to it. First out of the oven were cookies to go to the troops through our local Armed Forces Mothers chapter, an event COVID cancelled last year. The Monday after Thanksgiving, packed boxes winged their way to those serving our country. Last week, my great-niece notified me that her box had arrived much to her delight.

Next, I moved to the eight cookie trays for Christmas Day. One for each family household, one for the Christmas gathering, and one for our own table.

Certain recipes are the norm, but this year I added chocolate chip oatmeal at the request of a granddaughter. Something different mixed in with our traditions.

Traditions call us to memory and wonder. The flavors and aromas of Christmas remind us of our early realization of what Christ’s birth means. I go back to the Christmas Eve service of a particular year, to the manger scene under the trees of my childhood, back to the home where I first bowed my head in prayer, when I first began to seek Him.

We wonder at this holiday, part of history now for more than 2,000 years, transformed, to be sure, from its early days to a commercialized version of gadgets and trinkets.

But only if we let it become so.

Every Christmas reminds us that our Savior came as a baby to grow into a Man who would save us from our sins. Christmas calls us to remember all Christ has done for us.

Memory. Hope. Tradition. Christmas.

Emmanuel, God with us.

Merry Christmas!

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Returning a Favor


CBN reposted my devotional on 11/19/21.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So last year, Paul and I bought a new table. An Amish carpenter constructed it. 

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

The table was ready just in time for Thanksgiving. 

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

Paul heaved and I pushed. But even in its smallest state, the table was too wide for our front door. It would have to come in through the back door. To accomplish that, we would have to hoist the table over the back rail deck. And that seemed impossible unless we could get someone else to help.

The best candidate seemed like the young man who had just moved in next door. He seemed strong and he was home.

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

Moreover, there are many workmen with you, stonecutters and masons of stone and carpenters, and all men who are skillful in every kind of work. (1 Chronicles 22:15 NASB95)

All we had to do was ask.

The old table went out the back door and the new table came in.

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

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

I’m thankful for all the elbows to occupy our table this holiday and those we hope will arrive in coming years. 

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

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
 For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (Psalm 136:26 NASB95)

Copyright © 2017 Nancy E. Head. Used by permission. [CBN]

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HEADlines: Collateral Damage from Abortion

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, 11/27/21~

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20~

The cities of Boston, Pittsburgh, and Portland, Oregon, are now providing 12 weeks of paid parental leave for women who have abortions and for men too. It’s an interesting “perk”.

The ironies abound.

In Boston, the revised benefits plan amends one that provides paid leave for parents who will parent their children and couples who’ve suffered “loss of pregnancy” through miscarriage.

Imagine private companies trying to compete with public entities for employees. A business could enhance the benefits package by adding paid abortion leave and beefing up company IRA contributions.

Remember that supporters of “choice” marketed legal abortion as the way women would be on equal footing with men. Apparently, that’s why men get leave for abortion too.

Also remember, the choice movement promised legal abortion would be safe and not a big deal. If abortion is so safe and simple, why would anyone need 12 weeks to recover?

Planned Parenthood assures readers that surgical abortions are “safe, simple,” and “common.” Such assurances regarding chemical abortion are harder to find. Chemical abortion appears to be a do-it-yourself-in-the-privacy-of-your-home kind of procedure. Just take a few pills as directed, and after some bleeding and cramping, your “problem” is gone.

Simple, right?

Many women are learning the hard way that chemical abortion is far from simple.

For Lifenews.com, Abby Johnson describes her experience enduring and recovering from a chemical abortion.

“Ten minutes later [after taking Mifeprex, an abortion inducing chemical] I started to feel pain in my abdomen unlike anything I had ever experienced. Then the blood came. It was gushing out of me. I couldn’t wear a pad…nothing was able to absorb the amount of blood I was losing. The only thing I could do was sit on the toilet….

“After several hours on the toilet, I desperately wanted to soak in the bathtub. I was hoping that would make me feel better. Maybe the warm water would help the cramping. Certainly it would make me smell better. I had vomit all in my hair and on my legs, not to mention how sweaty I was. I filled the tub and climbed in. It actually did feel pretty good. I remember closing my eyes and leaning my head back. I felt exhausted. The cramps kept coming, but the water helped soothe them somewhat. I opened my eyes after 15 minutes and was horrified. My bathwater was bright red.”

But more and greater pain was ahead. Johnson wasn’t having just the “heavy bleeding and period like cramping” her Planned Parenthood counselor had assured her would be the case. After passing a “lemon-size blood clot” then several more clots of similar size, she believed her experience must not be normal.

She had spent 12 hours in the bathroom and decided to sleep on the tile floor rather than bleed in her bed. The next morning, she would call PP and report her extraordinary experience–if she survived the night.

She did survive to call the PP nurse who assured her that her experience was not at all uncommon.

She was astonished that what the abortion counselor had told her would happen was so different from what came about.

Mary Szoch of the Family Research Council reports: “Disturbingly, the physical trauma that happens to a woman’s body as a result of a chemical abortion is a sign that the ‘treatment is working.’ According to the Mifeprex medication guide:

‘Cramping and vaginal bleeding are expected with this treatment. Usually, these symptoms mean that the treatment is working…Bleeding or spotting can be expected for an average of 9 to 16 days and may last for up to 30 days [For Johnson, it was eight weeks.] …You may see blood clots and tissue. This is an expected part of passing the pregnancy.'” [Szoch’s text includes endnotes for this information and what follows.]

According to one study Szoch sites, in one out of 10 chemical procedures, incomplete abortion occurs, requiring surgery to finish the process and prevent infection in the mother. These numbers are bad enough until we remember that they include only statistics “voluntarily reported” to the FDA.

In 2019, Nancy Flanders reported that nearly half of US states don’t require reporting of complications. Yet complications happen for both surgical and chemical abortions.

“Lakisha Wilson, 22, died after her abortion at Preterm abortion facility in Cleveland when she suffered uterine atony and hemorrhaged. Tia Parks, 26, died after a first-trimester abortion at the same abortion facility. A 21-year-old woman in Rhode Island suffered a perforated uterus during an abortion at the Providence Health Center this year. Margaret Sanger Planned Parenthood in New York City recently hospitalized nine patients within just eight months. And the abortion pill [chemical abortion], which is hailed by the industry as the safest way to kill a preborn child, has also killed at least 24 women. The true number, however, may never be known since abortion groups advise women who suffer complications from the abortion pill to tell ER doctors that they are having a miscarriage.”

Even voluntary reporting indicates that complications from chemical abortion are “four times” higher than those of surgical abortion. And that’s what the abortion industry calls the “safest way.”

Maybe the “perk” of leave after abortion isn’t such a perk. Maybe it’s a necessity for a procedure that really isn’t so simple after all.

Remember the pro-abortion mantra of the 1990s? Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare?

Those who support abortion have thrown their motto of safe, legal, and rare out with the bathwater and, of course, the baby. The Heritage Foundation reports that the percentage of chemical abortions goes up every year, having risen 120 percent over the last ten years.

Along with the new employment perk of paid leave after an abortion, it seems the powers that be are promoting abortion as it becomes less safe for women.

Safe? Legal? Rare?

Legal is all that matters. And the casualties are just collateral damage.

About the Author

Author Nancy E. Head was a single mother with five children under the age of 14 when many in the Church came to her aid. Her story illustrates common problems in our society such as the fracturing of families and communities, reflecting a splintering Church.

Alienated families and a riven Church cannot minister as effectively to their own members or others until they find accord. Nancy is the author of Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord. She leads a small group ministering to the needy in her community.

Photo Credit: Ewelina Karezona Karbowiak in Unsplash.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.”

A Few Steps from Normalizing Pedophilia?

You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the Lord. Leviticus 18:21~

The proscription in Western Civilization against sexual activities outside God-ordained marriage goes back to the Old Testament. Leviticus, the primary book containing Jewish law, includes in chapter 18 God’s admonition against sex acts with close relatives, within homosexual relationships, and with animals.

Within the 30 verses of that chapter resides verse 21: “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.”

A portion of scripture about sexual behavior contains this decree forbidding child sacrifice. And this admonition comes, not at the beginning or the end ,where we might relegate it to a different section. Sandwiched between proscriptions against incest and adultery in the early part of the chapter and homosexuality and bestiality at the end is this law forbidding child sacrifice.

It’s important to remember that, at this point, the Jews were the only culture with rules limiting sex to husband-wife relationships. Only Jews and later Christians held to the ideas of sexual exclusivity between husband and wife and of heterosexual marriage as God’s ideal.

For other cultures–those in the Middle East, Greece, and Rome–sex was a free for all. Women had little to say about what happened to them sexually. Children had no voice at all.

Writing for Crisis magazine, Dennis Prager explains:

“When Judaism demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, it changed the world. The Torah’s prohibition of non-marital sex quite simply made the creation of Western civilization possible. Societies that did not place boundaries around sexuality were stymied in their development. The subsequent dominance of the Western world can largely be attributed to the sexual revolution initiated by Judaism and later carried forward by Christianity.

“This revolution consisted of forcing the sexual genie into the marital bottle. It ensured that sex no longer dominated society, heightened male-female love and sexuality (and thereby almost alone created the possibility of love and eroticism within marriage), and began the arduous task of elevating the status of women.”

Along with elevating women came the protection of children.

It’s surprising to those of us who grew up during the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s, to consider this idea of an ancient “revolution” of morality.

The 1960s didn’t ring in a new way of living never before seen. The revolution marked the return to pagan idolatry–without statues and flames. The general acceptance of such practices is nearly complete. Aside from bestiality, the last moral pillar to remain standing holds proscriptions against sex with children.

How long can it stand nearly all by itself?

The American Conservative commentator Rod Dreher quotes Allyn Walker, a “non-binary assistant professor at Old Dominion University,” who writes that “there is evidence to show that attractions to minors can be considered a sexual orientation. . . . MAPs [minor attracted people] often report becoming aware of their attraction to children during adolescence, a trend that is typical of other sexual minorities.”

Notice the change of term from pedophile to MAP and the language that presents the attraction to children as something akin to an awakening rather than a disorder and the notion that pedophiles are part of a “sexual minority.”

We might be tempted to dismiss this view. But seeds planted at the university level often take fruit in our neighborhoods over time.

Dreher comments:

“Surely there must be some way to get these suffering people the help they need without moving towards considering pedophilia just one more ‘sexual orientation.’ Because if it ever should become that, we are halfway to legalizing it, following the same path that standard homosexuality took. If sexual desire is the equivalent of identity, and if to sexually desire minors is at the core of one’s identity, then how can we stigmatize or otherwise suppress pedophiles if we recognize that other kinds of sexual minorities have civil rights?”

The sexual revolution of the 1960s has been a runaway freight train tearing through the years since, leaving pain and trauma in its wake.

It’s time to ask ourselves how we can stop the train. It’s time to get the suffering people help instead of enabling them to harm others. It’s time to stop profaning the name of God by allowing children to be victimized in the name of self-idolatry.

It’s time we stopped the destruction of our very culture through acceptance of sexual sin.

It’s time.

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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 Great Relearning

“Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.” Numbers 15:37-41~

At the end of the twentieth century, novelist Tom Wolfe recalled efforts to start at zero, to go back to a time before we knew what we now know and try again–and do better. The hippies of the sixties, he pointed out, decided to relearn rules about personal hygiene. What they learned was what non-experimenters already accepted. Wash your hands often, and don’t share someone else’s toothbrush.

It’s a defiance of the common definition of insanity–repeating an activity and expecting a different result. The result in the laboratory communes of San Francisco was a resurgence of long-dead diseases.

In the age of COVID, we wash our hands more often than ever. But we still lean toward this idea that we can begin anew without looking back. Perhaps history is a cycle of such experiments punctuated by remembering, a recurrent remembering that we are not yet in Eden.

Wolfe wrote:

“[T]he painful dawn began with the publication of the Gulag Archipelago in 1973. [Soviet dissident Alexander] Solzhenitsyn insisted that the villain behind the Soviet concentration camp network was not Stalin or Lenin (who invented the term concentration camp) or even Marxism. It was instead the Soviets’ peculiarly twentieth-century notion that they could sweep aside not only the old social order but also its religious ethic, which had been millennia in the making (‘common decency,’ Orwell called it) and reinvent morality . . . here . . . now .”

Modern society continues through a cycle of trying to recreate culture, to turn it into something new. The West won the Cold War in the late ’80s and early ’90s. But we didn’t turn back. Our train of civil movement continued on the same track.

The battle between decency and its opposite has been ongoing. We now tilt toward a social order that is not order but rather its opposite. From newscasts to our personal interactions we see a culture that lacks memory–and manners. History has returned to a day when everyone is doing “what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, 21:25).

In the 1950s, another novelist Walter M. Miller Jr. reminded us that it’s hard to get back what we once knew but now ignore. He wrote about civilization beginning again after apocalypse, starting from zero.

“In the beginning . . . it had been hoped–and even anticipated as probable–that the fourth or fifth generation would begin to want its heritage back. But the monks [preservers of history] of the earliest days had not counted on the human ability to generate a new cultural inheritance in a couple of generations if an old one is utterly destroyed, to generate it by virtue of lawmakers and prophets, geniuses or maniacs; through a Moses, or a Hitler, or an ignorant but tyrannical grandfather. . . . But the new ‘culture’ was an inheritance of darkness,” A Canticle for Leibowitz.

In urban or rural American communities, we see crime, drugs, and lagging education. Mark R. Schneider points out that American literacy rates are lower than those of our 1840s counterparts, “well before the imposition of compulsory public education.” (Note: the figures Schneider sites are pre-COVID.)

Literacy in the America of 1840 included classical and biblical texts that conveyed more than an ability to decode the letters into words and thereby discern meaning. Literacy, faith, and freedom are a three-fold cord, not easily broken. Contemporary culture has undermined all three.

Around 1900 we began education anew. The goals of learning were no longer those of John Adams for his son: “to make you a good Man and a useful Citizen.” Today, school is largely the means to a job, preparation for a career leading to personal fulfillment and material enrichment. It is no longer the formation of character.

I sat in a classroom for a parent-teacher conference not yet 20 years ago when a teacher told me the purpose of his course was that the students would know their rights. I asked if he might tell them their duties.

We will relearn what we have lost. We will learn it by choosing the wisdom of those who came before us or by continuing to reject it and experiencing the consequences of that rejection.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

“Over a half century ago [under communism in the USSR], while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” . . . [I]f I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’”

From Miller’s Canticle:

“What did you do for them . . . ? Teach them to read and write? Help them rebuild, give them Christ, help them restore a culture? Did you remember to warn them that it could never be Eden?”

Solzhenitsyn, Wolfe, Miller, and we who remember hold a key to the future. We hold the wine of truth from the past. Chaos offers a sweet purple Kool-Aid reminiscent of another failed experiment.

Offer wine. Speak truth. Remember.

And remind.

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.”

Prophecy of the Coming King

“To the Old Testament belongs more fear, just as to the New Testament more delight; nevertheless in the Old Testament the New lies hid, and in the New Testament the Old is exposed.” Augustine

The history of man is that God created him, formed a woman-companion from him and for him, and provided a way for the man and the woman to return to God when they rejected Him in sin.

God was clear from the beginning that He would send a Way–the Messiah–to allow rebellious people to return to Him. And the Messiah’s kingdom would last forever.

The scepter will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
    and the obedience of the nations shall be his. Genesis 49:10
, NIV

Israel had big ideas about what that kingdom would look like and what kind of king would garner the obedience of the nations.

Christ was born into a world of darkness and oppression. Israel’s big ideas at this time included a king who would free them from Rome. In their thinking, such a king would not be of humble birth. But prophecy said otherwise.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times. Micah 5:2
, NIV

Seven hundred years before Christ was born, Micah prophesied that the King would be born in Bethlehem.

But which Bethlehem? There were two towns of that name in Christ’s time. The Old Testament foretold Bethlehem, Ephrathah, the Bethlehem that was King David’s home town. The smaller, more obscure town.

The Creator-God came in the most humble of ways–born, not only in a small town, but in a dwelling place for animals.

Throughout Christ’s earthly life, some would reject Him because of his modest beginning. Many wrote Him off as “just the carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55).

A question for us today: How often do we expect Him to be who He is not?

He is the same as He was in Micah’s day. The same since Creation. But not always what we expect.

He came through a humble birth, grew with a small-town upbringing, died on a tortuous cross, and walked with His followers outside an empty tomb. Nothing like what Israel expected.

Today, we find Him where we look for Him in spirit and in truth. We find Him when we are willing to let Him surprise us. We find Him in the New Testament and the Old.

Seek Him today.

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.”