PBG Welcomes Author Nancy E. Head to Our Writing Team
Pandora’s Box Gazette welcomes Nancy E. Head to the writing team. Nancy is the author of Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord. Having endured a season of poverty as a single mother with five children, she received the grace of Christian accord as Christ followers from different denominations helped to lift her and her children out of destitution. Now a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Nancy also teaches at both a local Christian school and college campus and leads a small group assisting various ministries for the needy in her city.
The following is an excerpt from Restoring the Shattered.
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
Glass … is actually neither a liquid … nor a solid. It is … a state somewhere between those two states of matter.[i]
We had once been an image of the modern nuclear family—mom, dad, and the kids. The children had thrived in their cocoons of innocence. We had seemed solid, like a singular piece of glass. But when the break occurred, our hearts broke too.
In June of 1992, I had just graduated from Pennsylvania State as a single mother of five children. It was a triumph to celebrate, but family and financial hardship muted my joy. Yearning to recover from the loss of their father through divorce, first one and then another child had gone to live with him. A physical wound shows; a split heart is harder to see. If we could see it, it would look like cracked glass.
Despair mounted and a practical problem emerged. The amount of child support had been a figure my ex-husband and I had mutually agreed upon; now less support came less often. The children and I had been living on support and student loan money while I finished school. Now, with my degree in hand, I had begun my job search. But at this time, child support was our only income. Even so, money wasn’t the cause of my heartache.
Even before my husband left, the children and I were a cohesive unit. We went to church together. We watched movies and went on picnics together. We navigated the grocery store together on a weekly basis. For the first time, we no longer called the same house home.
My broken family was now shattered. For my remaining three children and me, our cupboard became barer and barer. I was now on a first name basis with several bill collectors.
But there was a dim glow on the horizon. Soon a hearing would establish court-ordered support. We just needed to get through a couple of weeks and everything would be okay.
Then a letter arrived explaining that the hearing had been postponed for six more weeks. I took stock of my resources and discovered that someone had given us just the right ingredients to make homemade granola. Unfortunately, I was the only one who wanted to eat it. As the granola became scarce, so did just about everything else, including kitchen staples such as tea and sugar. We had no more peanut butter. The hot dogs were gone too.
So with my kitchen cupboards empty and my support hearing delayed, I sat down at my dining room table and opened my Bible “by chance” to the very short Old Testament book of Habakkuk. There I read of the need to rejoice, even when all resources fail.
Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.[ii]
Here was a turning point. Would I cry about my lack of goods and let bitterness seal itself in my heart? Or would I rejoice in God and the blessings that remained?
“All right, Lord, I rejoice.” Not exactly a resounding shout of praise, but a lesson learned. Rejoice anyway—those were the words for that day.
A sense of joy and peace poured over me.
God was reshaping the glass that was me.
* * * * *
Imagine a great stained glass window depicting a man dressed in white with arms outstretched. He faces a woman also dressed in white—a bride.
A Great Master crafted the window, designing the picture and using heat to turn grains of sand into smooth glass to fit perfectly into his bigger picture—each piece just the right color, set in just the right place. Each piece placed to reveal the Master’s light and to support the others.
One piece alone is useless. It is fragile, subject to cracking. It conveys no light. But within the window, each piece of glass is part of a glorious picture. Together they tell a love story and present the Master’s light. And because of the light pouring through the window, people can become part of the story itself—part of the window shining light to others.
Yet while the image of the man is whole, the image of the woman is imperfect. Someone has thrown stones at her image. Cracks appear in some of her pieces. The Master has fixed some of the damaged panes but cracks still show. And there are shattered places too. Empty places. In some of those empty places the stone thrower has jammed pieces of plastic, distorting the picture. When the weather is cold and stormy, the plastic hardens, breaks, and falls away. But the glass the Master has crafted remains, cracks and all. Still, many people turn away from the spoiled image.
The bride is a picture of the church today.
Satan, the great stone thrower, has fought for the heart and soul of every human since Eden. He has fought for the souls of nations too, including that of America. Christians have worked hard to gain ground in our culture over the last few decades, but today our nation continues to slip further from our biblical roots. In moral peril, our communities and families are the walking wounded. Hurting people without Christ are unrefined grains of sand and often find themselves alone, cracked pieces of solitary glass. As satan aims at hearts, those hearts must be our targets too.
Secular opponents of orthodox Christianity have accused the “Christian Right” of wanting to take America back to the 1950s, to the days of Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, and segregated drinking fountains. We might honestly admit that we dream of past days when teachers led public school students in daily prayer, most children lived with two parents, and terrorism and violence did not appear in daily news reports. We can admit that we would like some aspects of the 1950s without the bigotry and other ills that nostalgia might tempt us to forget.
As much as many of us might like to go back to a society with secure Christian moorings, we now find ourselves in a culture that more closely resembles the world of the first century—with church and state at odds. Christians were once a small minority in a non-Christian society. And that’s what we are becoming today.
Still, we yearn to go back to some fantasy of “the good old days.” In those days, we embodied cultural influence. Some, not all of us, experienced greater civility, prosperity, and comfort. But wanting to return to those days moves us in the wrong direction. That road is where Jesus Christ’s disciples took their misstep. They initially thought Jesus had come to free them from the rule of the Romans. But the freedom he promised has never been political. The freedom he brings reaches beyond a government’s boundaries. Christ calls us to make a difference in the society we have, not the one we wish we had. If the only target of our efforts is the political realm and we neglect the culture around us, society will not change for the better. In fact, decline will continue. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Freedom Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, reminds us that we are “no longer the moral majority. We are a prophetic minority.”[iii] So we can’t move back to the old days, but we can move forward to new days of ministry and service—to days of less comfort but greater ministry—and to less discord and more cooperation. Doing so will allow the light of Christ to shine in a way the world has not seen, perhaps, for centuries. It will make the difference he has called us to make.
* * * * *
In the garden before his trial and crucifixion, Christ asked for his followers to “be one.” He prayed for those who followed him then and for all who would believe later on—the universal church throughout history.
Many times Jesus prayed to the Father and we have no idea what he said. We’re simply told such things as “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.”[iv] Christ and the Father had many moments of communion that the Word does not disclose to us. So every time God’s Word lets us eavesdrop on Christ’s side of those conversations, we should pay close attention.
Jesus taught us how to pray with the Lord’s Prayer. And through his own prayers, he illustrated his connection and communion with the Father. We hear him blessing the fishes and loaves before crowds and the bread at the Last Supper in the upper room, speaking to the Father before raising Lazarus, before choosing the twelve apostles, and before his transfiguration. We also know he prayed in the garden before his betrayal and arrest. And we hear his prayerful cry from the cross.[v]
Jesus’ prayer found in John 17 is the supreme biblical call for accord among his followers. And unlike Paul’s letters to singular, local churches, Christ’s petition encompasses the worldwide church, for all “those also who believe in Me” through all time.[vi] Jesus directs us to love him, each other, and those outside our churches’ doors.
Through a series of that/so statements, he tells us what should be (that) and what will result from it (so).
That we would “all be one” as the Father and Son are “so that the world may believe” that the Father sent the Son.
That we “may be perfected” in that oneness “so that the world may know” that the Father sent the Son and that He “loved [us], even as the Father loves the Son.”
That we would be with Christ where he is so that we would see his glory, “which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”[vii]
As Jesus makes clear, the world’s ability to know God’s love relies upon we who are Christians loving one another in unity.
But it’s crucial that we consider what accord is and is not. Christian unity does not mean we dilute our doctrines and abandon our traditions. It does not mean we dissolve our church constitutions and form one gigantic doctrinally devoid church. It means we embrace a visible cooperation with one another—yet without compromise.
Some suggest [that in his prayer] Jesus is only referring to a nebulous spiritual unity; however, Jesus emphasizes a form of unity that is visible to the watching world, and thus must be referring to a relational unity that can be observed. This does not mean we have to agree on every point of doctrine—we don’t! Nor does it mean we are to adopt some sort of fuzzy ecumenism in which we compromise the truth of the gospel or overlook sin within the church.[viii]
Journalist and cultural commentator Rod Dreher in his book The Benedict Option encourages interdenominational relationships—what he calls “an ecumenism of the trenches.” “To be sure, the different churches should not compromise their distinct doctrines, but they should nevertheless seize every opportunity to form friendships and strategic alliances in defense of the faith and the faithful.”[ix]
Accord means we form friendships and alliances, and we respect each other’s differences. It means, as C. S. Lewis wrote, we may “go on disagreeing, but don’t let us judge.”[x] It means that, at the end of our weekly church services, we join hands to meet real needs and help hurting hearts find healing in Christ—that we be the visible church.
But we can only increase our ministry by learning how to meet people in their need.
Likeminded Christians of various denominations acting in accord will enhance ministry. We are the sand the Master turns into colored glass. He restores glass pieces cracked under the pressures of life. And he puts them together in a big picture that shows the world his great love.
We can shine the light of the Master on the hearts of the broken and lonely and invite them to become part of God’s big picture.
If you are broken, he can restore you. And once he restores you, he can use you to restore others.
 Ciara Curtin, “Fact or Fiction?: Glass Is a (Supercooled) Liquid: Are Medieval Windows Melting?” Scientific American, February 22, 2007, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-fiction-glass-liquid.
 Habakkuk 3:17–18.
 Naomi Schaefer Riley, “Russell Moore: From Moral Majority to Prophetic Minority,” Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2013, https://www.wsj.com/articles/russell-moore-from-moral-majority-to-prophetic-minority-1376694815.
 Luke 5:16.
 Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13), his prayer intimacy with the Father (11:25–26), his blessing of food (14:19; 15:37; 26:26), his prayer around raising Lazarus (John 11:41–42), and his prayers before choosing the apostles (Luke 6:12–13), before his transfiguration (9:29), during his time in the garden (Matthew 26:36–44; Luke 22:39–46), and from his position on the cross (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:34, 46).
 John 17:20.
 John 17:21–23.
 S. Michael Craven, “Practical Unity: Living Out the Words of Jesus to ‘Be One,’” Christianity Today, May 14, 2014.
 Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (New York: Sentinel, 2017), 136.
 C. S. Lewis, Letters of C. S. Lewis, as quoted in an email from the C. S. Lewis Foundation, January 23, 2015.
We are happy that Nancy E. Head will be writing a monthly column for Pandora's Box Gazette.
You can read Nancy’s HEADlines column on the 4th Saturday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.