Restoring the Shattered: Reviewed in The Altoona Mirror

I’m grateful to Linda Gracey for writing this gracious article about Restoring the Shattered. Republished from The Altoona Mirror–June 7, 2019~

Local Author Likens Life to Glass

In her book, “Restoring the Shattered,” Nancy E. Head of Altoona looks at several facets of life that are like broken glass, but can be restored to a beautiful and colorful stained glass window in God’s hands.

Her original goal in writing the book was to encourage Christian unity, but she also writes about broken pieces in her life as well as in society.

The subtitle, “Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord,” reflects her original reason for writing the book.

Head, who is an instructor at Penn State Altoona and Great Commission Schools, said she wants to make the Christian Church aware of what it has in common, as opposed to allowing differences in traditions and doctrines to keep believers from accepting one another and working together.

When one of her five children converted to Catholicism, some of her evangelical friends had trouble understanding his decision, she said. They seemed to have misconceptions about the Catholic faith, she said, and she wanted them to understand that the Catholic beliefs were not that different from Protestant ones.

“So much division, separation, is based on misunderstandings,” she said.

In her book, Head provides background on the Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths and examples of how they have worked in unity to spread the gospel. She gives examples of misconceptions and points out how spiritual leaders including Saint John Paul II (pope from 1978-2005), Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Charles Colson encouraged ecumenism.

She also covers legitimate areas where the faiths differ in doctrine and traditions, including concerning communion and baptism.

“Some of our disagreement over communion and baptism is authentic,” she writes in Chapter 10.

“But some is distortion, some is misunderstanding. Determining which is which can help to repair the broken window of our faith communities.”

Whether she is writing about the Christian faith, concerns for societal issues or her own personal life, Head compares the subject to glass in various states. Sometimes it is broken, sometimes it is shattered, sometimes it is scored for a certain purpose. Sometimes she points out how it reflects or transmits light.

Head said the Holy Spirit gave her the idea to use glass, especially stained glass, as a theme throughout the book, but she wasn’t sure how it was going to fit. She knew she was on to something, she said, when she read Ciara Curtin’s article in the Feb. 22, 2007, edition of Scientific American that defines glass as being neither a liquid or a solid, but a state between those two states of matter.

“It’s fluid and flexible,” Head said.

In addition to Christian unity, Head writes about poverty and other societal issues, such as homelessness, abortion and divorce and a need to understand people’s circumstances without being judgmental.

Having known poverty herself, she said, “A lot of people look down on you. You can’t perceive how you ever will become a taxpayer (as opposed to someone who benefits from others’ taxes). You accept the label people put on you.”

Head said, “The church applies labels, too,” adding that that is part of the problem. “The Church needs to look more kindly on people and realize that there but for the grace of God, go I. Instead of judging, we need to learn how to lift them up.”

She gave the example of approaching a homeless man in a church parking lot while others feared him.

“I gave him a gift card (to get a meal at a fast-food restaurant),” she said.

In her own life, it was a divorce in the 1980s that left Head financially challenged. She had to find work to support herself and five children.

In “Restoring the Shattered,” she talks about her struggles and how government programs can be a help and a hindrance. Although she received daycare assistance while she worked, she lost almost all of her subsidized childcare when she decided to attend college. She was able to pursue her goal to acquire a degree, to earn more and get out of poverty, because of Christians who were willing to take on childcare responsibilities.

“We are to encounter the world and meet needs,” she said.

Among those who have read the book are Cindy Updyke, the wife of a former pastor and formerly of Altoona.

Updyke, of North Carolina, said she read the book from the perspective of people who have been wounded and how the body of Christ as a whole has been wounded by suspicion and misconceptions.

“I love how she wove church history into the story … and compared the personal shattering in her life to how the Church was shattered,” she said.

Updyke said the book points out that “We are more effective in healing personal wounds and society’s wounds together rather than when we each stand in our own theological corners. We are more effective in ministering to those who are shattered,” she said.

Updyke said Head is an excellent writer and the history in the book is interesting and relative.

“It’s an easy read,” she said.

Peter A. Joudry, CEO of The Nehemiah Project, said, “Nancy Head is a personal storyteller, a church historian, … and a compassionate believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

He said he read her book while ministering in South America earlier this year and became so excited about what he read that he called her from Bogota, Colombia, to congratulate her.

“She believes that our message is far too important to be hijacked by religious squabbles and personal biases,” he said. “She makes a compelling call to all Christians to unite toward the common objective to be Jesus to our troubled world.”

Local Author Likens Life to Glass by Linda Gracey, Altoona Mirror, June 7, 2019

Accord in Action

In 1978, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in 456 years. Not only was he not Italian; he was from Poland, a country where the government despised the Church. This new pope was different. Younger than any other pope in the previous century, he had survived the Nazi occupation only to endure Soviet oppression. He knew the suffering that is oppression, and it infused his ministry with vivid colors.

When Wojtyla was in Rome becoming the new pope, Billy Graham was in Poland preaching from Wojtyla’s pulpit, having come at Wojtyla’s invitation. No other Polish Catholic leader would agree to invite Graham, and he couldn’t go without an invitation. Graham would later preach in Orthodox and Reformed churches, a Jewish synagogue, and an Orthodox monastery during his European travels.[i]

Wojtyla and Graham had planned to get together during Graham’s visit, but Wojtyla’s call to Rome for the papal election delayed their meeting.[ii] Before Graham’s arrival, Wojtyla had been overseeing a “radical partnership” between a Catholic youth renewal movement and Campus Crusade for Christ.[iii] His work to light local flames of faith in the young kindled a global bonfire he could never have imagined.

In 1979, the new pope returned to his homeland where more than one million Poles lined the streets to welcome him and millions more came to hear him.[iv] Lech Walesa, firebrand of the Solidarity movement in Poland, told Peggy Noonan in 2002 that “we knew the minute [John Paul] touched the foundations of communism, it would collapse.” Walesa credited “heaven and the Holy Father” as most responsible for destroying communism in Poland.[v]

The pope’s visit to Poland was a tiny pebble dropped into a steaming pond. The resulting ripples turned into a tidal wave. When Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet premier, he saw the handwriting on the wall in Poland and began to implement reforms across the Soviet Union. He hoped to save communism by reforming it.[vi]

But by then, the cracks in the foundation of communism were too deep. Ten years after the pope’s return to his homeland in 1979, the Berlin Wall fell along with the Iron Curtain. The ripples of reform and freedom in Eastern Europe would reverberate across the globe.

Nineteen-eighty-nine was also the year Hu Yaobang died in China. Hu was a high-ranking communist official in the People’s Republic. He had fallen out of favor with party power brokers because he supported reforms, loosening controls on the press and the people. Inspired by student protests in America and South Korea they had seen on television, Chinese college students gathered in Beijing at Tiananmen Square to mourn Hu, their advocate for democratic reform. The marathon sit-in lasted seven weeks. Demonstrations weren’t unheard of in China, but the international broadcast of such demonstrations was. The international press was in town to cover Gorbachev’s visit to Beijing. Because of his attempts to reform communism, the protesting Chinese students considered him a champion of democracy.[vii] The presence of the international press made possible our knowledge of the Tiananmen Square massacre. In front of the international media, the Chinese government, having lost face in the weeks’ long standoff, sent the army into the square, killing thousands and capturing surviving protesters.

Eastern European Christians would ultimately see freedom. The Chinese students, on the other hand, did not get the change they had hoped for, but change is what China would see. The Beijing massacre and imprisonment of surviving demonstrators prompted Chinese youth, especially students, to look for a new form of freedom. Many found that freedom in Christ. Why did young Chinese college students suddenly develop a passionate interest in the Christian faith? David Aikman writes that one “suggestion was that China’s traditional Confucian view of man as inherently good was shattered under the tanks that rolled onto the center of Beijing.”[viii] The Chinese students had put their faith in their government, and their government turned on them and attacked them. Now they would look elsewhere for someone to trust. Within the next ten to fifteen years, China is on track to become the most Christian nation in the world.[ix] The new wave of freedom that started in Catholic Poland ultimately sparked an explosion of evangelical Christianity halfway around the world. Pope John Paul II helped ignite that spark.

John Paul II began his papacy by hoping to visit his Catholic homeland. A faithful prayer warrior, he no doubt prayed for the people of his native land. The echoes of his first trek to Poland resonate around the world and into eternity. Christianity and the call for freedom have gone hand in hand throughout history because Christianity is the truest form of freedom. It frees us from the bonds of sin and points us to eternal concerns and away from irrelevant earthly ones.

The more freedom and opportunity we have, the more God expects of us, but it seems that the more personal comfort we have, the less we do for each other. In America’s large cities, our neighborhoods are more alienated than ever. Fear, anger, and misunderstanding separate us. Many of us feed a selfishness that wants to gain comfort others already have. Some of us just want to hang on to our own level of comfort.

Historically, as Christianity emerges in a hostile society, Christians have come together to further the gospel. Pope, now Saint, John Paul II and Billy Graham showed us the difference accord can make in oppressed nations like Poland once was. But accord is also apparent in oppressed China.

I had the blessing of meeting one of the Chinese student protesters who turned to Christ after Tiananmen Square. I asked him about separation within the Chinese church. “Denomination is not important in China,” was his reply.


[i] Grant Wacker, America’s Pastor, 203.

[ii] The pope would later visit with Graham in Rome multiple times, and the two corresponded through letters. When John Paul died, Graham said this pope had been the “most influential voice for morality and peace in the world in the last 100 years.” Michael Ireland, “Billy Graham: Pope John Paul II Was Most Influential Voice in 100 Years,” CBN.com transcript of CNN’s Larry King Live, broadcast April 2, 2005.

[iii] David Scott, “The Pope We Never Knew,” Christianity Today, April 19, 2005, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/may/13.34.html.

[iv] Peggy Noonan, John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father (New York: Penguin, 2005), 26.

[v] Ibid., 30–31.

[vi] Ibid., 31.

[vii] Nicholas D. Kristof and Special to the New York Times, “China’s Hero of Democracy: Gorbachev,” archives 1989, accessed May 14, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/1989/05/14/world/china-s-hero-of-democracy-gorbachev.html.

[viii] David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2003), 171.

[ix] Tom Phillips, “China on Course to Become ‘World’s Most Christian Nation’ within 15 Years,” London Telegraph, April 19, 2014, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10776023/China-on-course-to-become-worlds-most-Christian-nation-within-15-years.html.

Excerpted from Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered. Get your copy here!

Photo Credit: Churchpop

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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.”