A New First

They woke up to find the table set with the best dishes, the girls’ tea sets, and a chocolate kiss on each plate.

When one of my sons saw the table, he asked, “Mommy! Who’s coming?”

“Nobody. This is for us.”

I’d set the table the night before–after they’d gone to bed. And so a new tradition for the first day of school was born. A fancy table with fancy food on a day I wanted to feel like a holiday.

Images come to me of those early days. A lone girl dressed in a uniform jumper and Peter Pan blouse and standing in the driveway. Then the yearly photos on the living room landing as their number increased.

They grew from one to five. Then not as many.

At last, two almost men chided each other through what they deemed a childish ritual.

Then the last one smiling–a sister came for the French toast and last picture–which she took of him and me together. My teaching career in its fourth year. His schoolboy days coming to a close.

There were other first days with exchange students. Those who made long journeys to have a first day of school here.

Now we are only two and the celebration of first days happens in other houses. But this year, my husband and I had a new first that I hope carries on.

Our city has seen the beginning of a Sunday morning prayer effort. Local pastors getting up extra early to meet and pray before greeting their Sunday morning congregations.

This year on the day before the first day of school, they met near the bronze mascot of our public high school and invited the community to join them.

It was cold for August. But about 100 people came out to pray for the administrators, teachers, and young people of our county and surrounding counties.

No fancy plates, no chocolate kisses, no French toast.

Community fellowship to lift up the young–including the young of my children. All the young of our towns and boroughs who will touch each other’s lives as they go along.

We start traditions hoping those who come after us will carry something good with them to a new time and place.

This year’s new tradition brings the best for all to carry.

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.”

Unloading the Bricks

I couldn’t get the event out of my mind. It had happened more than five decades ago, but for two days as I drove to and from a Pure Freedom conference about sexual purity, this memory dogged me.

I kept thinking–it’s such a small event. Why do I keep replaying it in my head? It was like a brick that I’d carried with me since childhood and just couldn’t throw away.

When I was a child, an older boy chased me across my front yard, a neighbor boy egging him on. When the older boy caught up with me, he touched me inappropriately and boasted as the other boy laughed.

I can’t remember ever feeling fear as I had that day.

But then I got away–into the safety of my home. Over. Done. No harm. Right?

So why did it keep coming back to my mind?

The afternoon of the second day of the conference brought a time of prayer. Truth Prayer time.

Truth Prayer involves asking God to show you which emotion you’re experiencing that He wants to deal with. When you identify the emotion, you look back to the incident when you first felt it.

You find that the disturbing or traumatic incident caused a wound that you carried with you. An influence in your life that marred other places throughout your journey.

You move from the emotion to the memory to the lies that you believed because of the memory. Those lies are the basis for the ruts you’ve experienced in your life journey. From there, you move to forgiveness. And from forgiveness to a breaking of the soul ties formed because of the lies and experiences–because of relationships–good or bad–healthy or unhealthy.

Next is a renouncing of the strongholds Satan has built in your life.

Lastly, you replace the lies you believed with truth you can carry into your future–hence the name Truth Prayer.

I didn’t leave the conference with any great feeling of change. But the event in my yard with the boys stopped coming to my mind.

It might sound a bit hokey or a little too mystical. And a secularist might discount any healing of a haunting emotion as the simple therapeutic process of having talked it out.

But if a traumatic event or a bad life choice has created ties that pinch years later or led to a series of bad decisions producing even more pain, such a talking out would provide only temporary relief.

The ties and strongholds would remain in place. And they would literally come back to haunt you.

Such views–dismissal as hokey or too mystical or just therapeutic–deny the power of the Holy Spirit to heal us through prayer and the holy communion of fellowship–the bearing of one another’s burdens.

But there is danger in such a prayer. Ideally, three people would be present: a prayer leader, someone to record the events, and the person seeking healing.

Necessarily, all three would be Christ followers. One seeking healing–two others seeking only to see God work. Any other combination could lead to more harm than good.

This summer when the conference returned to our area, I went back too. Last year’s prayer time had been the laying down of a brick I’d carried with me since I was a child. It was the bottom brick in a pile I had stacked through my life–some of them heavier than that first one.

Over the course of the year in between, I came to recognize the pile of bricks that had accumulated over the years. The year in between was the unfolding of a healing process that culminated in another prayer.

This year, I unloaded the pile as far as God helped me identify the bricks I carried. Removing the bottom brick made possible the unloading of the rest.

We sometimes carry burdens for years without realizing how heavy the load has become. And we don’t need to have a conference to unload our bricks. Just a couple of committed Christians willing to walk with us.

Sometimes, without realizing it, we build the bricks we carry into a wall around us.

Tear down the wall. Realize and refuse the lies.

The truth will set you free.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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

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

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

A Hard But Necessary Message

Unplanned is the story of Abby Johnson’s journey from college student to Planned Parenthood volunteer to clinic director to pro-life advocate. It’s in theaters now–but it won’t be there after this weekend unless it makes big box office numbers.

The film begins with Johnson’s statement that the story will not be easy to watch. The film garnered an R rating–ironically making it more difficult for a 15-year-old to see the movie than it would be for her to schedule an actual abortion.

There is no nudity, very little foul language–no F bombs, no God’s name in vain.

Even so, the first ten minutes of the movie may haunt me for a very long time. That portion of the movie depicts a sonogram-guided second-trimester abortion.

Vividly.

There are a few other emotionally jarring scenes. Johnson’s endurance of a chemical abortion (not the simple procedure abortion perveyors present) and the staff dealing with a patient’s perforated uterus (without calling an ambulance) among them.

Ashley Bratcher as Johnson provides an excellent portrayal and delivers a broad range of emotions from the joy of Johnson’s second marriage to anguish over the final realization of what her work for eight years as an “abortion provider” had truly entailed.

But the uncredited star of her story is the prayer others offered on her behalf and for the cause of ending abortion.

Go see this movie. But be prepared to exit the theater changed. There is power in Johnson’s story–whether in her books or on the big screen. There is power in the images of the death and danger involved in abortion.

Yet there is more power in the prayer that asks God to end the horror and grant forgiveness, mercy, and grace after years of pursuing and encouraging death.

This movie can change you.

In more ways than one.

Photo Credit: Lifesitenews

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.”

How Much is Enough?

[G]ive me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, Proverbs 30:8b. 
For five years, I was an English teacher at Grace Prep High School in State College, Pennsylvania.  Every year, the school participates in Air School—learning outside the classroom.  In 2009, Air School consisted of a long weekend in an Amish community in Virginia.
My husband Paul and I and three students stayed with an Amish family—mother, father, and their three remaining, as yet unmarried, children.  Seven other children had grown up, married, and established their own homes, so there was plenty of room for us.
No electrical lighting, no microwave, no television, no radio, (I-pods and phones were verboten to ensure the authentic experience), and no computers.  There was a propane powered hot water tank (Yay!) and we cooked on the woodstove (in May!).  We washed dishes by hand in the sink and dried them with a linen towel.  I tried to milk the goats. Continue reading “How Much is Enough?”

Prayer and Action or Action and Prayer

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” Mother Teresa
Some Christian traditions–or just individual Christians–emphasize prayer and contemplation along with Christian action. Others emphasize action along with prayer and contemplation.
In no tradition–and I would hope, with no individual Christian–is either mode of expressing our faith exclusive. It’s a matter of emphasis.
I was struck by this point while reading Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option. In the chapter about the monks of Norcia, Dreher talks about how their days are structured around prayer, then work. Continue reading “Prayer and Action or Action and Prayer”

BLOGPOST: Getting Dirty on Our Knees

I went to see War Room with my husband Paul soon after its release. A box office hit, the movie presents the story of a couple with a rocky marriage and an older woman who mentors the wife toward a renewed relationship with God and a restored relationship with her husband and child. The wife does battle, not against her husband but against the powers of darkness. She wins her war.
More often than I like to admit, I have been checking prayer off my to do list at the end of the day. For Paul and me, our end of the day prayers were often rote and delivered in a semi-conscious state.
Now we end our days on our knees. Continue reading “BLOGPOST: Getting Dirty on Our Knees”