A Saving Light in the Darkness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s an idea that seems so foreign to us. We do all we can to resist it. We work with the expectation that life will get better and better. And that must also mean easier and more prosperous.

Easier and more prosperous came to the miners of Arigna through technology. But they never took the picture down of the One they believed kept them safe.

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

Republished from June 24, 2019.

Photo Credit: RTE Archives, Arigna Mine

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

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

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

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

A Saving Light in the Darkness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: RTE Archives, Arigna Mine

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

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

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

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

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.”

Snakes Return to Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

Among those pagan practices was human sacrifice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Paul Head

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

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

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

Deus Nobis Haec Otia Fecit

Translation: God has granted us this rest.

A great gift indeed.

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

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

I was going home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But back to Saint Malachy’s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ireland and Abortion: Northern Ireland and Freedom to Choose Life

So Ireland has voted down its restrictive abortion laws. Now, it seems unlikely that the Emerald Isle will become as lenient regarding “pregnancy termination” as England already is. Yet perhaps someday, we’ll realize they just took longer to get to the same place.

In most of the United Kingdom, including England, abortion regulations require two doctors to sign off before the procedure. But the law grants doctors a conscience clause. They may refuse to sign on moral grounds. And the law prohibits abortion after 24 weeks–with later exceptions for health of the mother or when the unborn child may have “serious disabilities.”

So getting an abortion in the UK is more difficult than it is in the US–which requires no doctors’ signatures and has no gestational time limit. In America, a woman can get an abortion for no reason until “viability”–24 weeks–and for any reason after that. Continue reading “Ireland and Abortion: Northern Ireland and Freedom to Choose Life”