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 God’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 America 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.”