Graffiti of the Heart by Gary and Cathy Stallings
During this journey of writing and publishing Mario’s Golden Locket, we have had the opportunity to share the story with many children as well as adults. Surprisingly, we have noticed that it seems to have more impact on adults than it does on children. Most likely because as adults, we have passed through a multitude of experiences similar to Mario’s and have felt the consequences of believing the lie and forgetting the words of the King. The story is all too familiar!
Scripture teaches us that our hearts are like tablets that can be written upon by God and by us. When speaking of the New Covenant, God tells His people that He will write His law on their hearts. In Corinthians, Paul tells the readers that they are “an epistle of Christ, – written not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” We are admonished in Proverbs to write truth and kindness on the tablets of our hearts. Thus, both God and we have the privilege of writing upon our hearts. (See verses and references below.)
The Bible doesn’t specifically teach that others can write upon our hearts. However, Proverbs 12:18 says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” That verse succinctly describes something we have probably all experienced; the painful piercing of reckless words. Fortunately, most of us have also been the recipients of restorative words.
The most powerful of all restorative words are the words of Christ, spoken to us through His Word and by His Spirit. His words combat the graffiti lies that have been written on our hearts and make them null and void in an instant if we’ll believe them. We have experienced tastes of this in our own lives as we have allowed the Holy Spirit to reveal and heal. Uncovering the lies and exposing them to the power of Christ’s living words has brought us joy, peace, and a greater freedom to be who He has called us to be and do what He has called us to do.
Although they are incomplete and evolving, the following writings are our attempt to share what has been helping us. We pray that you will be blessed as you seek the King, allowing Him to erase the lies in your heart and to tenderly rewrite His unchangeable truths. May you also learn that as the guardian of your heart, you can choose what gets written and whose words you choose to embrace. His are the only ones that really matter.
Where it all started
by Cathy Stallings
The orphanage smelled musty and damp that July winter day when we were let in through the large antique doors by a matronly worker named Sonja. This being our initial experience in a government run orphanage, we didn’t know what to expect. Sonja led us down a hall past two spacious bedrooms with lots of miniature bunk beds to the dining hall and play room. Scattered throughout the room were twenty four children aged two to twelve. Several were on the floor warming themselves by the fireplace, some were running and playing, others were fighting and screaming.
At the far end of the room was a curly haired boy, bundled in a thick green sweater. He spotted us right away and started running with determination directly toward us while screaming in a loud voice. In the midst of the racket we couldn’t hear what he was yelling until he got closer. “HOMBRE!” he shouted as he reached us and did a face plant into Gary’s legs, hugging him with passion. Gary picked up four year old Mario and immediately had a new friend. In the ensuing hours of our visit, we made many more new friends and stayed warm in the cold building, primarily because of the abundance of physical contact. We didn’t lack for someone in our lap, on our back, or in our arms.
Of all the children we encountered that day Mario left the deepest impression and aroused the most compassion. He stayed attached to Gary for most of our visit and when I (Cathy) tried to connect with him, he growled at me and called me an obscenity. We suspected and later had confirmed that Mario had been a victim of abuse at the hands of his mother. He craved contact with men, (hombres), but wanted little to do with women.
Many life lessons had affected Mario at the young age of four. He had already formed some fundamental beliefs and had emotional and physical reactions based on those beliefs. In like manner, each of us has experienced the effects of life in a fallen world to one degree or another, and as a consequence many of us have our own unique set of established beliefs that are often fueled by emotions, but are based on lies.
These lies can simply annoy us like a tag on a new shirt scratching us repeatedly, or they can cripple us, at times leading to addictions, eating disorders or even worse, suicide. The deception of the lie is that it feels like the truth. Recently a story was on national news about a woman who had suffered from the taunts of her classmates as a child because she was poor. In reference to the pain of what she endured, she stated, “It never leaves you…it stays with you all your life.”
The good news is that freedom and healing are available from the hurts and emotions that affect us and we do not have to continue being victimized by the lies that we have received through painful circumstances and encounters. Those words might ring empty and hollow to some and arouse fresh hope in others. Regardless of where you are in your journey, we welcome you to sample that which has helped us. We pray that you will receive revelation from the Holy Spirit and that He will erase the lies that have hindered you and set you free to become all God has created you to be and to do all He has created you to do.
Don’t Delay. By Gary Stallings
One hot summer afternoon in January, shortly after we had moved to Uruguay, I noticed one of our sheep lying by itself in the pasture. Sheep are herd animals and rarely prefer being alone. It was a ewe, and she had been left behind when the flock had moved to another field.
I went to investigate the situation to see why she wasn’t joining the herd. As I got closer, she got up in a panic and took off. However, from a distance I was able to see what the problem was; she had fly strike, a fatal condition if left untreated.
Any animal, including humans can be affected by fly strike. The condition occurs when there is a wound or vulnerable spot on the skin. Flies are attracted to this area and lay their eggs. Within eight to twelve hours the eggs hatch into hungry maggots which consume the tissue rapidly, thus attracting more flies and compounding the problem. In addition toxins from the maggots invade the bloodstream and cause toxic shock. Fly strike can occur in a matter of hours, and death can result quickly if it is not spotted and treated immediately.
I located the medication used for fly strike and attempted to treat the ewe. Unfortunately, she continued to run from me and did not allow me to get near enough to apply the medicine. She didn’t understand that I wanted to help her, not harm her. All she knew was that she was afraid and hurting so she ran. I finally herded her into the corral and applied the medication. Regrettably by this time it was too late. The toxins had invaded her bloodstream; she died a short time later.
As I pondered this unfortunate experience, I saw many spiritual applications. Satan is referred to as Beelzebub or Lord of the Flies in the gospels. Just as the flies attacked the sheep, Satan attacks us. He looks for our vulnerable spots, the wounds in our heart, any place we’re not healthy. He seeks to devour us. He wants to invade our lives and poison us, filling us with toxins. The toxin of shame, hatred, condemnation, and bitterness are just a few examples of what he uses to destroy us and make us ineffective; unable to live the destiny that God has planned for us.
The Bible tells us that in many ways we are like sheep. Isaiah 53:6 says that, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each one of us has turned to his own way.” Our tendency is to run away from the only One who can truly help us. God has given us the freedom to run. In love, He created us with a free will, allowing us to make our own life choices.
One of those choices is will we follow and trust Jesus, the true and perfect Shepherd? This Shepherd gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; He provides everything they need; He restores them, walks with them through difficulty, guides them; protects them, and ultimately dies for them. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 23; John 10:11)
Through Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, provision was made for us to be healed, to be set free, and to have eternal life. A prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah 53 describes an unfathomable exchange; He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, He was pierced for our sins, and crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.
Healing and peace are available through Him. He knows every vulnerable spot and wound that you have. He knows how to heal you. He can even remove the toxins that have invaded and brought destruction. He can turn around your fatal condition if you will go to Him. Don’t delay.
If you are not certain that you have made the choice to trust Jesus as your Shepherd and your Savior, please read Heart Hunger to understand how you can be sure you have started this most important of all relationships.
Adapted from The Alpha Course by Nicky Gumbel
Many people go through life thinking, when I can buy this, or achieve that, or find true love, then I will be truly happy. Sadly many will reach the end of their lives deeply disappointed and regretful of how they lived their life. Jim Carrey an American movie star once said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
The truth is that there is a desire deep within the human heart which yearns for something more than what this world can offer. Blaise Pascal a 14th century French philosopher wrote, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”
Other things in life, even good things, like family or relationships can only satisfy us to a certain level. No matter how much food, drink, cars, friends, vacations, nice clothes and relationships we try to stuff into the God shaped hole inside of us, it still aches.
Jesus Christ addressed this when He said, “I am the Bread of Life, he who comes to me will never go hungry.” (John 6:35) Jesus wasn’t talking about satisfying our physical hunger; He was saying I am the One Person who can satisfy the deep hunger that is within every human heart.
One area that He can satisfy is the desire we have for meaning and purpose in life. Have you had questions such as, “Why am I here on this earth?” “What is life about?” “Who am I?” “What is my purpose?” At times we push these questions to the back of our mind, because they are difficult to answer and the busyness of daily life drowns them out. But what a tragedy to go through all of life and miss the point! Jesus can answer these questions and reveal the personal destiny and plans that He has had for your life ever since you were in your mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:15,16)
Another area He can satisfy is the hunger and need we have for freedom from the things that we do wrong—from guilt and anger and addictions, as well as the consequences of those things and the fears they bring in our lives, even the fear of death. On the cross Jesus took upon Himself every wrong thing that you and I have ever done, and every wrong that you and I will ever do. In essence He said, “Because I love you, I don’t want you to suffer for those things. I will take them upon myself and take your guilt and punishment. I will die in your place.” That is the meaning of the phrase, “Jesus died for your sins”. He died to give us life and rescue us from death, which is the consequence of sin. He died to set us free from the hurts and pains and fears we have. He died to help us become the people that deep down inside we really want to be.
Another area He can satisfy is the hunger and need we have for a Father. Each one of us will have different things come to mind when we hear the word father. Some of us have had good experiences, some of us have had bad, and some of us may have never known our father. Regardless if the word father brings pain or joy to you, there is another Father who longs to parent you and love you like no other earthly father ever could. Knowing Him brings fulfillment and completion to life like nothing else can.
Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father”, (John 14:9) He also said, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” (John 14:6) Jesus is the only Son of His Father, He knows His Papa very well, and He is the One who has made a way for us to know Him as well.
These are just a few of the reasons why Jesus can fill that God shaped vacuum in our hearts; He can satisfy our desire for purpose and meaning in our lives; He can set us free from the things we have done wrong and help us become the people we want to be; and most importantly He is the way to the Father. A relationship with the Father will change your life forever. Literally. Your life will be changed in the present, because knowing God and being in His presence affects us like nothing else can. Having a relationship with the Father will also change your life in terms of where you will spend eternity.
Beginning a relationship with Him is simply a matter of coming to Him as a child and asking Him to forgive you for your sins and asking Him to come into your heart and be the Lord of your life. If you do this it is important to keep growing in your relationship with Him. Just like one bite of bread won’t satisfy your hunger, one initial prayer can’t fulfill a hungry heart. There is an important process of growing in your relationship with God called discipleship.
If you would like to begin this new relationship with God, you can pray the following prayer. It is between you and God. The most important thing is that it comes from your heart.
I am sorry for the wrong things that I have done, and I ask you to forgive me for my sins. I turn away from all that is wrong and I come to You. Thank you for loving me and dying on the cross for me. I ask you to come into my life right now and save me. I give You my life and I receive You as my Lord and Savior. I receive You Holy Spirit as my helper and the One who gives me strength to live every day for You. Thank You Lord Jesus for saving me. Thank You Father for adopting me.
If you prayed this prayer from your heart, you are now a very different person than before you prayed. Something took place inside of you which Jesus refers to as being “born again”. You are literally a different type of being and have a new nature. Also, in some ways you are like a baby. You need help growing up in your faith. It is very important that you connect with others and find a Bible believing church where you can continue to grow and get to know Him and find out more about the wonderful plans He has for your life. Reading the Bible and praying will also help you grow. A good place to start is the book of John in the New Testament.
If you didn’t pray this prayer, but would like to pursue knowing God, we encourage you to simply ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Tell Him you want to know Him, talk to Him. He is there and He is listening. When you are interested in knowing someone, reading a book they wrote is a good place to start as well. Read the Bible, especially the historical accounts of God coming to earth in the form of Jesus Christ. You will find these in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the first four books of the New Testament. Another option is The Alpha Course, which is a widely available course that helps people explore more about the Christian faith. Visit alpha.org to find out more.
What are You Allowing to be Written on Your Heart? by Cathy Stallings
I hung up the phone and shared the news with my husband. I should have been elated. Instead, I felt dejected. Gary asked softly, “What are you allowing to be written on your heart right now?” I paused and did an internal dipstick. Sure enough, there was the lie. “I’m not adequate, I’m not good enough.” I went for a walk and took the lie to Jesus, along with the negative emotions churning inside. I asked Him to forgive me, to erase the lie and replace it with the truth. Wow, what a relief.
This simple question, ““What are you allowing to be written on your heart right now?” has been the starting point for many sweet encounters with Jesus. He has a way of gently exposing the lies in my heart, of showing me the idols I bow to, (the ultimate idol being myself), and doing it in a way where I don’t feel naked or ashamed, but I actually feel loved. What an amazing God! He is tender, firm, loving, unchanging, exposing, gentle, and much more, all at the same time.
He is able to break down the foundations of strongholds, to go deep and expose the lies that have held us captive for years. These strongholds are belief systems that have become comfortable and familiar, but being at ease in them ultimately imprisons us, keeping us from being who God created us to be and doing what He created us to do. Essentially detaining us from the destiny God designed for us.
God is patiently working, preparing us each day for our destiny, but He has also mandated that we must do our part. He tells us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts, above all else. Why does God tell us to guard our heart above all else? Because it is extremely valuable, so valuable that it determines the course of your life. People only guard things that have value. When you take your trash out, it can sit unguarded. Why? Because it is worthless. Not so your heart. “Above all else” it needs to be protected.
From God’s perspective your heart is central to who you are. God does not see as man sees. We look at the outward appearance, making our judgments and assessments from what we can see in the natural. God says that He judges a man, woman or child based on their heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) Likewise, He doesn’t judge us by our words either. He says that we can use the religious jargon, but our hearts can be far from Him. (Matthew 15:8) Just like your physical heart, your spiritual heart is vital to your existence.
Another reason your heart is so valuable is because it has treasures written upon it. God has written things on your heart by His Spirit. As a believer, 2 Corinthians 3:2,3 says that you are a letter, that can be read by everyone. Ink isn’t used. This precious letter has been written by the Spirit of the Living God on the tablet of your heart. You are a letter to the world!
Wonderful things have been written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit, such as His unfailing love for each of us as His adopted children and that He has good plans for our lives. He also writes specific things: deep things that only He understands and reveals to us as we seek to know Him and pursue the destiny that He has prepared for us through the good times and the trials. He created you with dreams and longings, desires and hopes unique to you. A form letter, you’re not. You’re not junk mail either. You’re a distinctive letter to the world revealing a facet of Him that no other person can reveal.
This beautiful letter, crafted by the Holy Spirit, can become smudged, or even obliterated by many things. Bitterness, pride, anger, judgement and lies are a few things that the enemy uses to try and get us to carelessly scribble over the true words of Christ. He wants to steal your heart and destroy the potential that resides in you or at least alter your course so that you dead end and never have the joy of fulfilling your purpose.
It is critical that you be attentive to the condition of your heart. So much rests on how you are caring for it. I am grateful for this simple question that has helped me to consider how I am guarding my heart. What are you allowing to be written on your heart?
We have more to share with you,…… we’re in process and will write more soon.
Blessings, Gary and Cathy