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.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduIce 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.”

Is Texas the End of Roe or a Temporary Reprieve?

Early in the pro-life movement, I attended a rally for a Pennsylvania bill. A reporter asked one of the bill’s authors if he thought his proposal was discriminatory. The question implied that such a law would make abortion more difficult for low-income women since wealthy women have always been able to travel freely–to go wherever abortion is readily available.

The legislator’s response still rings in my mind.

“Yes, it’s discriminatory. It’s highly discriminatory. It discriminates against the children of the rich whose slaughter will continue unabated.”

That bill eventually ended up before the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

While SCOTUS gutted much of the bill, some of the provisions stood.

Now Texas is trying to nearly eradicate abortion. And SB 8 has been largely successful–so far, saving an estimated 100 babies every day since September 1.

Roland Warren is the President of Care Net, a pro-life umbrella organization comprised of 1,200 affiliate pregnancy centers, 82 in Texas. Warren says in Texas, “The call volumes are up 30% or so.” Pregnant women are seeking help from those who can provide it for mother and child.

SB 8 is the recently passed legislation that allows someone to sue the physician and anyone who aids and abets in an abortion after six weeks’ gestation. That includes Uber and Lyft drivers (whose companies have promised to cover legal expenses for employees involved in an abortion situation).

The minimum cost of a judgment against an abortion purveyor or abettor is $10,000.

In The American Spectator, Ellie Gardey cites a source who says 20 of 23 Texas abortion clinics are still open despite the new law but doing fewer abortion procedures. Planned Parenthood’s open clinics are concentrating on “other missions . . . providing birth control, STD testing, and transgender hormone treatments.”

Even so, some clinics struggle to keep the doors open. Gardey explains that one of the largest Texas clinics saw a staff reduction of more than half when nine of 17 staff members quit the day before the law took effect.

The effort to protect the unborn is not new to Texas.

“In 2010, Texas had more than 40 abortion clinics, but more than half closed altogether during the legal battle over a 2013 Texas law that required doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and for clinics to qualify as ambulatory surgical centers. The Supreme Court struck down the law in a 5-3 decision in 2016.” 

The composition of SCOTUS has since changed. The court’s new conservative leaning has resulted in the current Texas law going into effect despite an “emergency” plea from abortion advocates in late August. The high court did not pass judgment on the law itself. They merely allowed it to go into effect while the arguments make their way through the appellate system.

In the meantime, Gardey says, abortion appointments in nearby Oklahoma have seen a big jump as Texan women travel out of state to get around the law.

Sometimes discrimination works geographically rather than just economically.

Yet, the vast size of Texas does make it more difficult to obtain abortions for those who don’t live in the vicinity of Oklahoma. SB 8 is indeed saving unborn children from death and their mothers from trauma.

The saving of some unborn, and the travel out of state, may only last for Texas until a federal judge (an Obama appointee) hears the first appeal sometime this month. We can expect the Texas case to go back and forth until it reaches SCOTUS for a final determination.

Again in the meantime, before the Texas case can reach the high court, SCOTUS will meet in person to hear the dispute over Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act that has been working its way through appeals since 2018. That law prohibits abortions after 15 weeks except for medical emergencies and severe fetal deformities.

At some point, perhaps in December, the court may choose to make clear the degree of severity fetal deformities must attain to warrant abortion.

In these situations, discrimination isn’t just geographical and economic. It’s based in an ideal of human perfection. An ideal that operates on a sliding scale, condemning some and protecting no one.

At last in the meantime, the US House of Representatives last week fueled the flames of debate by passing the misnamed “Women’s Health Protection Act.” The vote came mostly along party lines with one Democrat lining up with every Republican in opposition to the bill that “codifies Roe” and Doe, the primary and companion 1973 cases that effectively allowed abortion for any reason at any time in pregnancy. Now the bill goes to the Senate.

David Morgan and Richard Cowan write about the bill’s chances in the upper chamber:

“It is not expected to pass the evenly divided Senate, where Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans to support it. Republican Senator Susan Collins, [R-Me] a moderate who supports abortion rights, has said she opposes it. She said the House bill would weaken exceptions provided to healthcare providers who refused to perform abortions on moral or religious grounds.”

If the bill dies in the Senate, we may consider America to have dodged a bullet. Not only would children continue to die and mothers continue to be traumatized, but already over-extended medical professionals would be forced to decide between their conscience and their paychecks.

Abounding discrimination would expand to a new population.

If SCOTUS overturns Roe, the chatter about bloating the high court with an unprecedented number of new appointees will become a roar from a minority that is merely loud, not vastly populated.

No matter how many children have died, how many abortion purveyors repent and turn from killing, no matter how many women regret their abortions, this radical, minority voice that calls for unlimited abortion keep singing their song of death.

Even if they have to twist the nation’s arm by forcing medical personnel to participate or get out. Even if they need to add justices to the court that has remained at nine members since 1869.

Imagine new presidents stacking the court every four or eight years.

Those in support of life do not have the ear of the media as do those who sing death. We must raise our voice. We must sing the song of life.

Sing in love. Sing often.

Never stop singing life.

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.”

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.

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.

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.”

Between Two Ways

“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 in community but independently.

When we moved to the city, we became specialists.

Our list of skills shrank. Our dependence on others grew. We stopped being producers and became consumers of goods others produced.

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 our consumption, we lost meaning in our lives.

Loss of meaning changes our core beliefs as a people, a nation. 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 will not reconcile into a single way of thinking.

We can trace the differences in our core beliefs back to people moving from farmland to city.

In the nineteenth century, moving from the country to the city marked a huge shift in how we saw children.

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.

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.

At the dawn of the urban explosion 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 a place. They worked to make sure their own children would not bear a similar burden.

As a child, my father rose early and stood on a street corner selling newspapers every day. He never kept the reward of his work. He contributed his earnings to the household.

He made a better life for his children.

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 long-yearned-for-prize of comfort revealed itself to be a plastic trinket.

In the countryside, fathers taught (and still teach) youngsters how to shoot a rifle and/or shotgun. Pre-teens hunted and fished (some still do), supplementing the family’s store of food. And these children were also prepared to defend the homestead and the livestock against wild animals or someone with evil intentions. Many still are so prepared without danger to their peers.

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 private gun ownership in the minds of many city dwellers.

Such issues define our differences. There seems to be no solution in sight.

But perhaps a solution comes in making our lives more complex.

We are a long way from building our own houses, growing our own food, and making our own clothes.

But learning how to do some of the things that make us more independent can make us more responsible, more independent people. We can produce again rather than simply consume.

And by learning production ourselves, we pass along production, and with it responsibility, self-sufficiency, and meaning to the young.

Doing so can help us understand each other. Doing so can help us help each other. Doing so may make all the difference for someone disenchanted with a plastic trinket of meaningless comfort.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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

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

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. 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.”

Assessing and Looking Foward

Last year, I resolved to read more and included a photo of the books I intended to read in 2019.

Someone commented on that post that he need not finish every book he starts. He resolved “to free [him]self from boring books by freely abandoning them.” 

Without realizing it, he gave me permission to do the same. And I did, more than once. Yet here I invoke a paraphrase of Reagan’s eleventh commandment that no writer say anything bad about another. And my cup of tea may just not suit you.

As is always the case, the list of books I finished is quite different from those I wrote about a year ago. Other books just shouted to go to the head of the line. And I brought them forward.

So this year, my list still contains a few books from last year. I still resolve to read more by managing television and internet time better than I did in 2018 and then in 2019.

Two books that jumped to the front of the line immediately upon my acquiring them were both by Abby Johnson. Unplanned (the basis for the film of last year) and The Walls are Talking are Johnson’s accounts of having worked in the abortion industry and now working to help others escape employment therein.

I read them out of order, reading The Walls first and following up with Unplanned. In her Preface to The Walls, she states, “This will not be an enjoyable read. It is a necessary one[.]”

She is correct on both counts.

Also jumping to the front of the line last year was My Father Left Me Ireland by Michael Brendan Dougherty. My son gave me this book for Mothers’ Day ahead of my journey with my husband to the land of my heritage. The book provided a solid context about Ireland’s history of the Easter Rising and the Troubles. As an American who grew up in a single-parent family, Dougherty also provides a clear diagnosis of the crisis America faces today.

I read one and a half other books on Ireland–but neither matches Dougherty poetic and profound account.

Among the books on last year’s list that I finished is Everything Happens for a Reason–Kate Bowler’s stellar, sometimes humorous, discussion of what it’s like to live with a terminal diagnosis–emphasis on live.

I also consumed A Pope and A President by Paul Kengor. This book allowed me to relive some of the history I’d seen on the evening news over the decades and to get a behind the scenes, in-depth understanding of God’s working in that historic news. There’s always so much more to the story–and Kengor provides it.

I’m still working through Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak–an amazing piece of literature. I get the sense Zusak may have been trying to stay off the Young Adult shelf in America where The Book Thief had landed from his native Australia. However, some of the language he uses in the book’s dialogue does seem to accurately reflect the way teen boys would talk without an authority figure directing them otherwise.

An off-list book I continue to work through is Raising Jesus: The Skeptic’s Guide to Faith in the Resurrection. E.J. Sweeney’s book offers an amazing discussion of the reasons we can trust the veracity of Christ rising from the dead–from a viewpoint skeptical of the miraculous. I frequently underline and make notations as I read.

Even if you’re not a skeptic, this book is still a great apologetic tool for any discussion you may have with someone resistant to faith. I don’t agree with all Sweeney writes (I’m not that skeptical), yet his scholarship is dead on, and his arguments sound.

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life is one I had planned to read in 2019 but didn’t get to. It’s on my list for 2020. I was gratified to see a student reading it on campus last semester. He assured me that it’s a worthy read.

I plan to pick up Man and Woman, He Created Them: A Theology of the Body by Saint-Pope John Paul II again this year. You can read this book as you would a devotional. It seems meant to be digested slowly.

Sonia Pernell’s A Woman of No Importance is on my list for the new year upon the recommendation of a trusted friend.

Also in my pile of books are Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. You might think that watching a couple of episodes of the Tale on Hulu would discourage such a goal in me, but articles like this one and this one push me the other way.

On my list–but not yet in my pile–is Robert Sarah’s The Day Is Now Far Spent. I thoroughly enjoyed his The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, another book you can read as a devotional.

On my list but not pictured is Out of the Ashes by Anthony Esolen, a book about what we should do when we find the civilization around us crumbling. Sounds timely.

And I couldn’t resist John Zmirak’s title The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins. I’ve thumbed through the book and read most of the introduction. Zmirak seems orthodox in his faith and hilarious in his outlook.

Blessings to you this New Year. What do you plan to read?

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.”

When Jurors Cry

A civil trial is underway in California in federal court although you’d never know that from watching network news sources.

Imagine you are the plaintiff. You are suing someone for $16 million. They filmed you without your permission. You go to court.

When one of your employees testifies that the videos harmed her and her family, the defense attorney points out that she has contradicted sworn statements she made in a deposition earlier that the videos had done her no harm since she had said nothing wrong.

The employee is Deborah Nucatola an “abortion provider” who spoke openly on the video recorded by David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt–the defendants in the case–about how she would alter her abortion methods in order to obtain baby body parts to sell.

Nucatola’s contradiction pried open the door to finally let the jurors see what all the furor was about. Until then, the judge had refused to let the jury members see any of the videos in question.

The video shows Nucatola munching on a salad as she cavalierly describes managing the abortion process for maximum profit. She describes how abortion site staff would meet every morning to discuss which parts were on order for that day.

A court observer provided analysis of the jury’s reaction to the film.

“The jury was stunned. It was the first time during the three-week trial that they had seen any of the debated video. It was a game changer and a huge victory for the pro-life defendants. Planned Parenthood’s star witness [Nucatola] turned into a star witness for the defense.”

One court observer said, “tears could [be] seen on the faces of some members of the jury as they watched Nucatola speaking on video ‘about liver, lungs, hearts, muscle, and calvarium (baby heads) that were harvested from the bodies of aborted babies.'”

Daleiden and Merritt have asserted that their recorded conversations always occurred in public places where others would be able to overhear. Therefore, the expectation of privacy was low, and so the recordings do not violate California law.

Further, Daleiden had earlier testified in a preliminary hearing that, before releasing the videos on the internet, he had interacted with police and public officials ten times over a one year period.

David Daleiden had not intended to release the videos to the public. He went to law enforcement. Ten times.

In the meantime, California regulators have shut down the businesses that had been buying baby body parts (often from children born alive)–and two congressional committees are investigating.

But Planned Parenthood, Nucatola’s employer has circled the wagons and is shooting back. They had hoped the jury would not see the truth the videos reveal.

The truth that they were picking apart the bodies of the most innocent humans for profit.

Now the fate of Daleiden and Merritt is up to twelve people. Twelve people looking through their own tears.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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

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

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

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