Restoring the Ruins

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to begin to rebuild?

We begin by feeding souls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can we do?

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

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

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

Where will you place your piece of rock to rebuild the ruins around us?

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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

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

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

Mealtime–More than Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food and fellowship go together. They create bonds.

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

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

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

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

Let God bless the fellowship as well as the food.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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

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

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