Your Favorite Color in the Land of Darkness

“The light shines in the darkness. But the darkness has not overcome the light.” John 1:5, NIV~

What’s your favorite color? It’s a simple question. But it’s one Yeonmi Park found impossible to answer.

When Park was 13, she and her mother decided to escape from North Korea. Her sister had gone ahead days earlier. The girls’ father planned to follow later.

Park and her mother, as Park’s sister had, paid a broker to get them across the Yalu River thinking they could get jobs in China and be free.

Free–even though the citizenry of North Korea has no word for the concept of freedom or justice. Or an understanding of the pronoun I. There is only we, Park says in her book In Order to Live.

When they got to China, Park and her mother learned they were to be sold as prostitutes or wives for Chinese farmers since the country’s one child policy had created a dearth of women through sex-selective abortion.

Park watched helplessly as a broker raped her mother. Exploitation continued until they met Christian missionaries.

You might think the gathering between grace and those seeking freedom would be one of joy. But the missionaries told Park and her mother that their work in a sex chat room, the only work they could find because of their illegal status, the only work they could do to eat, was sin. They were “dirty”. They must repent or risk their entire group being captured and repatriated to North Korea.

That possibility was no small threat since North Korea typically executes defectors.

Park felt as judged as she had in North Korea during the daily self-criticism sessions.

Park was 15 when they arrived in South Korea through Mongolia. The South welcomed defectors from the North. Yet the transition from oppression to freedom was not a simple one.

Imagine growing up in a society where you almost never have to make a decision, what to wear, where to go, what your job will be, even what to eat because famine meant you ate what you could get–even dragonflies and roaches.

Park had no way to answer questions like What do you think? or What is your favorite color? She even thought that, if not for the death sentence that would ensue, it might be better to go back to North Korea where there was no burden to make decisions.

We in America give no thought to such questions. We know what we think. We know we’re right, most often without listening to those who disagree with us.

And we know which colors we prefer for our clothing, houses, and cars.

We take so much for granted. Our abundant food, our electricity that is reliable for the most part, our freedom in matters large and small.

Such abundance and freedom impressed Park–even in China, not a country most in the West would point to as a bastion of liberty.

North Korea is a land of, not only spiritual darkness, but also physical darkness. The photo above is a satellite image of electrical light at night. One bright spot indicates the capital city where dictator Kim Jong Un resides.

Darkness comes in different forms. Park was surprised and pleased to learn that South Korea had a law forbidding men to beat their wives. Abuse in the North is common and accepted. It’s not that the law is unenforced. There is no law against abuse.

North Korea is a land of darkness, physical, spiritual, moral, and intellectual.

America is a land of artificial light with a sense of freedom that is sometimes deceptive.

What’s your favorite color? You need light to perceive color.

You need light to understand oppression and to navigate freedom.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8:12, NASB~

Escape the darkness. Embrace the Light.

Photo Credit: researchgate.net

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

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.”

Rules to Free Us

“Sin is the failure to live freedom excellently.” George Weigel

When we were children, we told ourselves that, when we grew up, we would do what we want. We would stay up late, drive a car, and watch whatever we want on television.

But then we grew up and wished we could go to bed earlier. We wondered how we’d pay for car repairs. And we wanted to find some time to watch TV. Or when we did have the time, we wished there’d be something on worth watching.

We didn’t realize as children that our extra sleep helped us function and learn. Our parents chauffeured us around while bearing the burdens of car ownership and maintenance. And we enjoyed an innocence about how the world worked–or failed to work well.

We still don’t realize–and often don’t like to admit–rules are good for us.

The Ten Commandments are not just a list of what not to do–the “Thou shalt not’s”–not idolizing, misusing God’s name, stealing, lying, murdering, coveting, and adultering–or something like that.

They also list what to do. The “Thou shalt’s”–honor God, the Sabbath, our parents.

Those three seem less obvious to us. They don’t seem to carry the weight of immediate consequence, at least when we’re older. But they are perhaps even more important than the others. They keep us from the others. The “Thou shalt’s” help us avoid the “Thou shalt not’s.”

Yet every day, we are free to choose. In fact, our ability to choose our actions, according to George Weigel “is what distinguishes the human person from the rest of the natural world[;] freedom is the great organizing principle of a life lived in a truly human way.”

Life is hard. But when we live our freedom excellently we are most free.

Someone pointed out to me that God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites after they left the bondage of Egypt.

I had never thought of that before. I had never pondered why God didn’t give a set of rules written in stone to Adam and Eve upon their departure from the Garden. Or to Noah 120 years before the flood. Or to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob.

God waited until His own people would be setting up their own society–a newfound society of free people coming out of bondage. He gave them guideposts, like road signs. Go this way. Don’t go that way. Avoid the bondage of sin.

They aren’t rules to limit us. They’re rules to free us.

“Had your law not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” Psalm 119:92.

It’s something every generation must learn on its own. I confess that I learned many life lessons the hard way. When we learn that way, we come to see the rules as protective.
God wrote those rules in stone. They serve or are disregarded by everyone throughout history.

As children, we resented our parents’ rules while they formed a hedge of protection around us.

The wise delight in the rules and in the One who gave them to us as a gift.

Only then are we truly free.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

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 Testimonies.”

To Be Conservative in a Pandemic

It was a post I saw on social media. It went something like this: Conservatives favor states’ rights–until now.

The commentator pointed out what seemed to be an inconsistency between the view that decisions made about reopening America’s economy should happen on a smaller scale rather than a larger one.

A states’ rights argument would make the case for allowing decisions about opening up our economy at the state level, rather than from Washington.

In the meantime, residents, usually conservative, of numerous states protest stay-at-home mandates these governors have maintained, even as some states like Washington and California (also governed by Democrats) begin to open up. .

This conflict touches upon the disputes that are flashpoints across our country and go beyond shutting down tiny communities with minuscule coronavirus rates.

The conflict is already there. The coronavirus is highlighting, without, we hope, regard to party loyalty, the inability (or refusal) to consider that governing a diverse population may require a conciliatory or at least diversified approach.

The term “states’ rights” came about during a time when America was largely rural. We think immediately of the issue of slavery and its inherent injustice. Ironically, the states looking to claim their rights found an injustice in having Washington tell them what to do.

Now our disputes are largely about education, gun rights, abortion, and social engineering.

Russell Kirk points to local governance as a pillar of conservativism: “[C]onservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism. Although Americans have been attached strongly to privacy and private rights, they also have been a people conspicuous for a successful spirit of community. In a genuine community, the decisions most directly affecting the lives of citizens are made locally and voluntarily.” 

And more from Kirk: “[T]he conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions. Politically speaking, power is the ability to do as one likes, regardless of the wills of one’s fellows. A state in which an individual or a small group are able to dominate the wills of their fellows without check is a despotism, whether it is called monarchical or aristocratic or democratic.”

That is the basis for the conservative call to make decisions at a local level. Perhaps “states’ rights” is a misnomer for an even bigger idea.

With such division today between city and country mentalities and populations, local control would seem to be the solution to many ills.

It is the unspoken concern that draws us to November. And beyond.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

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.”

Always a Choice

Imagine being in a terrible place. The food is beyond bad. The clothing is inadequate. The weather is unbearably hot in the summer and way below what we consider cold in the winter. The work is hard, menial, and endless.

Then imagine that you get to go to a better place. The food is better. You can be warm in the winter. You’re not afraid you’ll die from the bad treatment.

But you find out that, in order to stay there, you have to do things you don’t want to do. You have to help your oppressors spy on your fellow citizens. You have to help them send others to the place that is so bad.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn did not have to imagine this scenario.

After spending years in a Siberian gulag, he was able to go to a place where the Soviet government was doing research. In the 1940s, they wanted Solzhenitsyn to help them develop voice recognition technology. If he didn’t cooperate, they would send him back.

So send me back, he told them.

“Even in the camps, human dignity matters,” says Ignat Solzhenitsyn, Alexander’s son. “We always have choices. Even in the camps. Even where everything is decided for you. What clothes you wear, what food … you’re given, and everything is regimented. There is always the choice to behave with freedom and a sense of dignity.”

Freedom in a gulag? Always. Freedom and dignity everywhere? All the time. Solzhenitsyn is proof that Soviet tyrants overplayed their hand.

You only have power over people as long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power—he’s free again.” 

In prison, Solzhenitsyn found he could speak freely. He was already in trouble. What else could they do?

Even later in exile, he spoke. His iron will was forged behind the iron curtain. He was a man whose heart was full and whose character was steel.

You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.” 

The choice is ours–always.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

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.”

Brotherhood and Self-Control

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

. . . .

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

Katherine Lee Bates, “America the Beautiful

It’s a song we learned in school as children–people my age, at least. Brotherhood and self-control–one does not happen without the other.

There is little evidence that Bates’s message has slipped into the hearts of our public discourse today.

Self-control is a necessary component for every patriot. But self-control is only one virtue of a patriot. Continue reading “Brotherhood and Self-Control”

Liberty, Freedom, License

Some define liberty as something the government gives you–or doesn’t give you.  Freedom is your ability to think your own thoughts and do your own thing. Internal freedom can remain even in an oppressed society.
America’s founders defined Liberty as the second unalienable right–the right that no man bestows because it comes from our Creator.
But much of America now denies the Creator. And with the Creator go His other aspects–Savior, King, Providence, Protector, Guide. Continue reading “Liberty, Freedom, License”