"…for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." (Proverbs 8:11)
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Category — Character Traits

Light, Love and Lifesavers Candy

When I was four years old, I stole a pack of Lifesavers from the grocery store. I didn’t know at the time that it was stealing. I was shopping with my dad and processing the experience through a four-year-old’s eyes. We went into the store and filled our cart with things we liked to eat. At the checkout, a young man put the food into paper bags while my father spoke with the nice woman behind the conveyor belt. And then we left.

I knew nothing about the exchange of cash for merchandise, and with my short stature, I didn’t see the transaction. So, on this particular trip, I put a roll of Lifesavers in my pocket. That’s what I liked to eat. My father discovered the trespass when we got home and gave me a sound spanking before driving me back to the store so I could return the candy and apologize. The lesson was clear—taking something without paying for it is stealing, and stealing is bad.

I learned right from wrong that day, but I also experienced two profound emotions: fear and shame.

When I was 13, I stole a brooch from a small boutique. Did I know stealing was wrong? Absolutely. Was I afraid of the consequences if I got caught? Yes. But I was more afraid of losing face in the eyes of my friend, Tanya, who had dared me to swipe the jewelry. She reveled in my bravery and rebellion when I showed her the prize. I had won her admiration, but there was no joy. I felt only shame.

My freshman year in college, I stole a candy bar from the student union. Again, the deed was done on a dare. Here I was, entering adulthood and venturing out into the world on my own, yet still doing stupid things because of peer pressure. Five years had passed, but nothing had changed. I was still operating in the same paradigm. I was driven not by the desire to do right, but by the desire to be accepted and avoid the mockery of my peers. The fear and shame that I experienced at four years old colored my thinking far more than the knowledge of the law.

Fear and shame do not inspire change. Love does.

My Facebook feed is filled with the vitriol of friends and acquaintances pointing fingers of judgment at people they have never met but who hold positions of authority and power. They post angry rants about the trespasses of politicians and actors and journalists whose moral failings have been made public. I suppose their finger-wagging gives them a sense of control and bolsters feelings of moral superiority. But it’s all a distraction. I know these people—we have done life together, and they have failings of their own. I know about the binge drinking, the sexual abuse, and those trips to the strip club. I know about the decision to sleep with a married man to stave off the loneliness and self-doubt. I have heard these friends say utterly hateful things about people they care for; witnessed addictions to food, wine and pornography; and mourned their broken relationships and broken homes and broken hearts. I know their stories. I have mine, too. We all do.

Judgment does not inspire change. Love does.

A few years ago, I began doing prison ministry with my husband. Every Wednesday, we drive two hours to a unit in Palestine, Texas, to meet with the 200 men attending a program called Alpha. After a time of praise and worship, someone from our ministry team gives a short teaching related to the current book study. Then, the men circle up in groups for an hour of small group discussion. And things get real.

They talk about their families. They talk about their failings. They talk about knowing right from wrong and making bad decisions anyway—the same bad decisions over and over, that continued to put them back behind bars. And they talk about learning to trust, learning to be authentic, and learning to take accountability. Most importantly, they talk about learning to walk in their identity of who God created them to be, and accepting the love of a Father who is perfect beyond all measure. Through teaching and prayer and fellowship, they discover who they are in Christ. And that changes everything.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1a)

I have seen hardened felons become kind and compassionate men as they experience God’s love for them. I have witnessed men who committed unspeakable crimes become gifted leaders and teachers, encouraging and edifying their brothers in Christ as they walk out their journey of faith. These are no jailhouse conversions, where the men drop their Bibles at the door as they head home. No, this is lasting change—powerful, soul-quenching change born solely out of love. The majority of men we met behind bars who since have been released are gainfully employed, in committed relationships, reconciled with their families, and actively involved in their local church. They are thriving.

For we are God’s handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 
which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

These men stay on the straight and narrow not out of fear of shame or judgment or consequences, but out of gratitude. Like the prodigal son, they chose to live a life of debauchery, finding only fleeting joy in the sex and drugs and approval of their peers. Feeding their fleshly desires ultimately led to greater despair, but no matter how depraved their actions, God loved them anyway. He loved them so much that He sent His Son to bear the punishment for their sins and welcomed His lost children home with open arms. He did it for me, too.

I have seen broken men transformed through God’s love. I have seen women once cloaked in shame discover their true worth through God’s love. I have seen my own heart transformed and experienced inexplicable peace through God’s love.

We can point the finger of judgment. We can spend our days attending rallies and posting rants about the unspeakable acts of others. Or, we can be the light.

Share happiness. Applaud the peacemakers. Bring encouragement and laughter. And soak in God’s love. When you discover how precious you are in His sight, and how deeply He longs to provide for you, comfort you, protect you and raise you up to great heights, you will know your true identity. You will find your purpose and can guide others to healing. You will be a true changemaker, because you walk in love.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

January 5, 2018   2 Comments

Playing with the Queen of Hearts

January 14, 2016

A song was playing in my head as I woke up this morning: Queen of Hearts, by Juice Newton. It’s a song from the ‘80s and such an odd thing to pop into my mind that I felt it had to be more than a random coincidence, but rather something that God was trying to show me. The lyrics for the chorus are this:

Playing with the queen of hearts
Knowing it ain’t really smart
Joker ain’t the only fool
Who’ll do anything for you

Laying out another lie
Thinking ‘bout a life of crime
That’s what I’ll have to do
To keep me away from you

I asked God to show me what He wanted me to glean from the song and the word “Babylon” kept coming to mind. I know the references to Babylon in Scripture as the mother of all prostitutes and as a city of pride and idolatry, so decided to press in further. I did a Google search for “Babylon queen of hearts.” The first result to come up was about a comic character called the Blood Red Queen of Hearts. The description reads:

The queen of hearts is a demonic entity that possesses and moves from person to person through a playing card. She serves under the god Chaos and wishes to be his queen. Her name was once Jezebel. She resided in ancient Babylon, where she served as the high priestess for the notorious Cult of Chaos. She charmed men and women alike with her enticing beauty, a trait she would use to lure them into her cult and then later sacrifice them to the Mad-god Chaos.

The description goes on to say that she wanted immortality and continues to serve Chaos, even though he would not make her his queen, by providing human hearts in sacrifice. Scripture tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9), and we also know that the devil is the father of chaos. As I was reading the description of the comic character, the following passage came to mind:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

I believe the song was a warning for myself and others not to be deceived by a Jezebel spirit, even in the church, or lured by worldly things, but rather to keep our eyes fixed firmly on Christ and seek only to do the Father’s will. Many will be tempted and deceived in these last days, and many will fall away from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1, Matthew 24:10), but for those who remain steadfast, there is a great reward in heaven.

During a study I did this past spring, I learned that the Hebrew letters that spell the word shalom (Shin, Lamed, Vav, Mem sofit) together mean, “To break/destroy the authority that binds us to chaos.” Yeshua is sar shalom, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and we must stand on God’s Word, holding fast to His perfect peace through prayer and supplication as we face the trials to come.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)

January 14, 2016   No Comments