Secrets Revealed

I never wanted to reveal the secret shame. But I had to let it out because it was so entwined with the story I was compelled to tell. The story of how my helpless, defenseless father was abused and neglected in nursing facilities. So I told the secret in Before the Door Closes: A Daughter’s Journey with Her Alcoholic Father.

Next I wrote Secrets Revisited, a collection of thirty-six personal vignettes showing the dynamics in the alcoholic family. Reliving each experience as I wrote it, I came to realize that through and in it all was God—seeing, knowing, and understanding.

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The King Without a Eulogy

Although a king from David’s royal line, Jehoram of Judah was not given a state funeral. Nor was he buried alongside prior kings. Instead of a pall of sadness, a feeling of relief hung over his death. With good reason, King Jehoram was not eulogized.

From its inception, his reign was an abhorrence. For “when Jehoram had taken over his father’s kingdom and had secured his position, he killed all his brothers along with some of the government officials” (2 Chronicles 21:4 MSG). That would be six brothers.

After eight years of his executing evil upon evil upon evil, is it any wonder that “he departed with no one’s regret” (2 Chronicles 21:20 NRSV)? It was good riddance! The world was a better place with him out of it!

God, too, had issues with this detested king:

The evidence accumulated: Since Jehoram had abandoned God, the God of his ancestors, God was abandoning him. He even went so far as to build pagan sacred shrines in the mountains of Judah. He brazenly led Jerusalem away from God, seducing the whole country.
(2 Chronicles 21:11 MSG)

Would we conclude that King Jehoram of Judah was of no heavenly or earthly good? Probably but for that one thing he did.

He fathered a daughter named Jehosheba. One frightful day she would be instrumental in saving from extinction the Davidic dynasty and thus the birth line of the Messiah. (See The Princess Who Saved a Dynasty, posted on July 27, 2018.)

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The Princess Who Saved a Dynasty

The secret was out. Not another second would she live in fear of the queen discovering she had stolen her grandson.

That terror-stricken day began when Jehoiada, pulling her aside, told her all of the royal heirs were about to be massacred. The dead king’s mother had ordered the execution.

Jehoiada always seemed to hear the slightest rumbling from the palace. How this was possible was beyond Jehosheba. But here was more proof that the chief priest had a secret pipeline.

“Jehosheba,” he had begged, “you must do something. Athaliah will make the line of Judah extinct. Don’t you see? There will be no Messiah.”

“No Messiah? But—whaa-what can I do? I’m only your wife.”

“You’re a princess—our last king’s half-sister. No one will think anything of it if you are seen in the palace. Go! Yahweh will guide you.”

With her heart fluttering wildly like a trapped bird, she had dashed out of the chamber and scurried across the temple courtyard before stopping at the top of the stairway. Below was the palace complex. She kicked off her sandals and hiked up her robe. Her bare feet scampered over the steps as if they were burning coals. Her mind, too, was racing. What to do? Where to go when she got there?

Some of the children would be with their tutors. Suppose the executioner had already done it. She couldn’t bear to look in those places.

She had remembered a room—a room in the far back, away from the palace hustle and bustle. The baby! Maybe he was still safe.

Afraid the sight of her might arouse suspicion in watching eyes, she had forced a lackadaisical saunter down the hallways. But once inside the nursery, she quickly snatched her nephew from his nurse’s arms. As she covered Joash with her flowing mantle, her voice quavered, “Quickly. Follow me.”

And that was the beginning of hiding the future king and his nurse for six years. Now her deed was made public.

Her husband, mustering incredible boldness, had organized the coup. “Then he brought out the king’s son, put the crown on him, and gave him the covenant; they proclaimed him king, and Jehoiada and his sons anointed him; and they shouted, ‘Long live the king!’” (2 Chronicles 23:11 NRSV).

The Davidic dynasty was restored. Messiah would come. A courageous woman could be thankful she did her part.

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Toot!

“Sometimes,” my mother told me, “you have to toot your own horn.” This, I feel, is one of those times.

The reason: Amazon refused to publish a review of Secrets Revisited.

The backstory: My daughter gifted a girlfriend with a copy of Secrets Revisited. After reading it, she passed it to her husband. He submitted a review to Amazon, which Amazon rejected.

The review: “I began reading this book at the beginning of the morning. I didn’t stop until I had read the last page. My heart hung on every word as Mrs. Simon began peeling the onion of her heart. By the time she got to the inside layers, this book revealed itself as a powerful story of unbounded Faith and redemption! I found myself wanting to weep, but, in a strange way, God didn’t want me to weep.  Instead, he wanted me to focus on the lessons laid out to all: don’t let your circumstances define you or those around you. Thank you for writing such a raw, powerful work.”

The disclaimer: I have never met my daughter’s friend or her husband.

Toot!

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The Ambitious Secretary

Back in his day, all secretaries were men. So that wasn’t why Baruch was hired. Coming from a prosperous and prominent family, he was both highly educated and skilled. Probably overqualified. Nevertheless, he took his job seriously. Whether his boss was in or out of prison, he would be at his side, meticulously taking the dictation.

Moreover, Baruch was well connected in society. His grandfather had been a governor of Jerusalem. Thus, he was no stranger to the political movers and shakers of his time. He understood their language, so to speak, and liked rubbing elbows with them.

His employer, on the other hand, had no life outside of his relationship with God. To him God was the be-all and end-all of his existence. As Mr. Jeremiah’s secretary, Baruch should know. Their close contact gave him a window into the prophet’s soul. Seeing his boss’s innermost thoughts and feelings and the intents of his heart, he knew he was the real deal.

Committed to being God’s messenger, Jeremiah followed to the letter whatever the Almighty told him to do and say. Then he embraced the subsequent suffering.

For more than two decades Jeremiah had been warning his fellow citizens of God’s looming judgment if they didn’t shape up. As if stone deaf, however, the people kept their noses in the air. Disbelief, disobedience, and disrespect for the God of their history festered.

Now God’s mercy had reached the end of its rope. He directed Jeremiah to dictate all of those past prophecies for Baruch to compile in one volume. The time for executing justice had come.

And yet, God held out a shred of hope when He told Jeremiah: “Perhaps when the house of Judah hears about all the disaster I am planning to bring on them, each one of them will turn from his evil way. Then I will forgive their wrongdoing and their sin” (Jeremiah 36:3 HCSB).

As Baruch inked a flair to the final yod, Jeremiah gave him his next assignment. “I am restricted; I cannot enter the temple of the Lord, so you must go and read from the scroll—which you wrote at my dictation—the words of the Lord in the hearing of the people at the temple of the Lord on a day of fasting. You must also read them in the hearing of all the Judeans who are coming from their cities” (Jeremiah 36:5-6 HCSB).

What a stroke of luck! This would be the next rung on Baruch’s climb up the career ladder. He would be in the spotlight, showing off his oratorical powers.

Finally, the seemingly endless waiting was over. The day of fasting had come. “So Baruch son of Neriah did everything Jeremiah the prophet had commanded him. At the Lord’s temple he read the Lord’s words from the scroll” (Jeremiah 36:8 HCSB).

Before Baruch could leave the temple, he was summoned to the palace. The princes who had the king’s ear requested an immediate private reading.

Wow! Another career rung! Baruch massaged his ego that the next step would be an appearance before the king himself. But that’s not what the princes concluded after hearing Baruch read Jeremiah’s prophecies.

Knowing the king all too well, they sensed imminent danger. Instead of ushering the secretary into the king’s presence, they urgently advised, “You and Jeremiah must hide yourselves and tell no one where you are” (Jeremiah 36:19 HCSB).

While in hiding, the ambitious secretary sank into depression. But God would not leave him there. Putting His finger on the problem, God let Jeremiah in on it and gave him a message for Baruch: “But as for you, do you seek great things for yourself? Stop seeking! For I am about to bring disaster on every living creature” (Jeremiah 45:5 HCSB).

Civilization as Baruch knew it was crumbling around him. The day was nearing when Jerusalem would be in ashes, the temple in ruins, and the population in captivity. This was no time for Baruch to be making grandiose plans for himself. It was as if God were saying, “Get a grip on yourself, man. Look at the big picture.”

Evidently, he did. For Baruch was still faithfully recording Jeremiah’s prophecies when the two of them were taken to Egypt.

Dare we have the courage to pray: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24 HCSB)?

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Sibling Reversals

“Hey, you little pipsqueak, get down here. Father wants you at home. The judge showed up, and he says he won’t finish his business until he sees you. So hurry up.”

“But what about the sheep?” the boy shouted back.

“You little squirt, don’t you think I’ve thought of that? Do what you’re told, and don’t waste any more time doing it. Why, oh why, am I always the one who has to find the baby brother?”

Sibling stress was still rearing its ugly head five years later when David’s father sent him on an errand. He wanted his youngest son to check on the three oldest ones, who were now on active duty in the king’s army. The teenager was to bring them food and greetings from home and then return to his father with news about their welfare.

David was up at the crack of dawn and, having arranged for someone to tend his flock, took the food and was on his way just as Jesse had directed him. He arrived at the camp just as the army was moving into battle formation, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines moved into position, facing each other, battle-ready. David left his bundles of food in the care of a sentry, ran to the troops who were deployed, and greeted his brothers. While they were talking together, the Philistine champion, Goliath of Gath, stepped out from the front lines of the Philistines . . . .
(1 Samuel 17:20-23 MSG)

What happened next between David and Goliath is world-renowned ancient history. But what is sometimes overlooked in the telling of it is that before slinging the fatal stone, David had to ignore a stinging sibling taunt: “Eliab, his older brother, heard David fraternizing with the men and lost his temper: ‘What are you doing here! Why aren’t you minding your own business, tending that scrawny flock of sheep? I know what you’re up to. You’ve come down here to see the sights, hoping for a ringside seat at a bloody battle!’” (1 Samuel 17:28 MSG).

There was no such innuendo fifteen years from that day, however, when David was public enemy number one. Convinced that David wanted the throne, King Saul was hounding him like a mad dog day and night.

Sly as a fox, David had slipped through the maniacal king’s hands again and again by the time he “escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men” (1 Samuel 22:1-2 ESV).

When the brothers joined David’s gang of outlaws–submitting to him as commander–did they recall years ago when Samuel the judge had passed over all seven of them to pronounce their baby brother a future king? Did they remember the day they didn’t expect the puny runt to take out the giant Goliath? How did the siblings feel about the current turn of events?

David recorded his answer. Sometime–whether before, during, or after this development–he wrote, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1 ESV).

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Drum Roll, Please

Now comes Secrets Revisited, my second nonfiction book. This came about because of surfacing memories while writing Before the Door Closes. I revisited and relived those memories one by one. As I did, my lifelong belief that God is omnipresent held fast. But something else came to light.

God is more personal than Someone who is simply there. He is also the God who always sees, always knows, and always understands—El Roi. I am never all alone. El Roi met me in my circumstances as the oldest child of an alcoholic.

I chose thirty-six of those memories to become vignettes in Secrets Revisited. Today I share with you Secret 33, “Healing Grief”:

My soul weeps because of grief;
Strengthen me according to Your word.
Psalm 119:28 (NASB)
 

Planning our trip, I had thought I would be glad when we stopped at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the heart of the Texas Panhandle. I was looking forward to seeing Paul Green’s musical Texas. But waiting beside my husband in the amphitheater for the pageant’s start, I wished I were back home.

The three-week vacation would be over, my husband would be at work, and I would be alone in our house. Then I could resume what I had been doing for months since my mother’s death. Sink into the arms of sorrow and sob until, clutching my sore stomach, I’d scream, “When will I get over this?”

My mourning encompassed more than missing Mama. I grieved for her hard life because of my father’s alcoholism. Reliving the memories, I’d see one painful scene after another.

The times I periodically knocked on doors and handed neighborhood ladies her note. I was too young to know what felt squishy inside a paper bag I took back to Mama. Later I felt the shame! Mama had to beg for a sanitary napkin!

Again I would see myself sitting scared stiff on the couch with my brothers. Our drunken father was beating Mama behind the locked bathroom door. Why?

I saw the day I asked Mama about the charred footboard on her bed. “That happened when your father set the bed on fire while I was sleeping.”

As my eyes followed singing dancers blithely sweeping across the canyon stage, my heart cried to be at home where I could vent my pent-up pain. Before the finale, though, I heard something that helped.

Lying delirious in his dugout, the character Calvin asked his dead mother’s forgiveness for her hardships. When he spoke of his father, she replied: “I loved your father. I helped him—all I could. I helped him. I loved my children and wonderful and bright the future for them. This was my joy.”

When Calvin was puzzled that his mother had described it as joy, she responded, “All I could give, I gave. That was my happiness. Don’t grieve, my son. Don’t grieve.”

Those words soothed my sorrow. For a while. Four months later the healing came.

It was the Sunday I joined a small prayer circle whose mission was to pray for the ongoing church service. Much to my surprise, I shared my grief with this group of strangers. As I had when alone in my house the past year, I ended, “When will I get over this?”

One of God’s nameless saints had the answer. “You will never get over it; you will get through it.”

Then my heart’s open sore closed.

 

 

 

Choosing Sides

Asa felt like he was walking on air. His army, on a wing and a prayer, had brought those invading Ethiopians to their knees. Against all odds, his army had decimated them! The high and mighty weren’t so high and mighty after all.

Oh, the euphoria of victory! This must be the same feeling his great-great grandfather had when he returned from winning battles. He wished David could see him now. He would have been so proud of him. His beloved Jerusalem was still safe.

Coming out to meet Asa, Azariah punctured the king’s musings. The prophet offered neither a congratulatory handshake nor the glimmer of a satisfied smile. All business, he got right to his point for being there: ‘“The Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you’” (2 Chronicles 15:2 NASB).

The warning hit Asa’s heart. He had been made to face his failure.

From the moment he inherited his reign, Asa had zealously worked to purge the nation of idol worship and the downward depravity it induced. But his zeal had stopped short of cleansing the throne room.

Now, ten years later, Yahweh’s spokesman made clear the dire consequences if he did not restore worship of the true God as the national religion. That meant the utter obliteration of paganism. No exceptions! The most influential woman in the royal court and his chief counselor—the queen mother—should be dethroned. The status quo would not do. He must sever this family tie.

At the outset of his reign, Asa had thought it would be too hard to depose her. Today nothing could keep him from doing the right thing. So he “removed Maacah . . . from the position of queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah, and Asa cut down her horrid image, crushed it and burned it at the brook Kidron” (2 Chronicles 15:16 NASB).

Where there are divisions in families when a moral choice is at stake, God claims the supreme affection. Jesus made that clear, saying, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37 ESV).

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The Darkest Dark

It was pitch black at high noon. Thick darkness enveloped the entire earth, not just Calvary’s hill. There, for the next three hours, Jesus would be hanging on His cross in a dark place.

Most likely, you, too, have been in a dark place. A place where only you knew the depths of your suffering.

The criminals crucified on either side of Jesus identified with the pain of nails pounded into flesh, of excruciating gasps for breath, of burning thirst, of a pulsating headache as well as the humiliation of public nakedness. But they did not experience what Jesus Christ went through during those black hours. For God was making “the One who did not know sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21 HCSB). The sins of all people for all time—past, present, and future—were transferred to Jesus. Also, the punishment.

As with the criminals on their crosses, there might have been one or two in your life who related to some part of your pain. But there was no one who could fully comprehend the turmoil within you. Like Jesus, you sank to your lowest point, where you felt that God had abandoned you.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” cried Jesus as the third hour came to a close. The Son of God could not feel His Father’s presence. But had God removed it? There is Biblical evidence He had not.

Look at Moses as he is about to ascend Mount Sinai. “The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:21 ESV). Later Moses would say, “These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me” (Deuteronomy 5:22 ESV).

See Solomon standing at the dedication of his spectacular temple when “the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chronicles 5:13-14 ESV). Listen as Solomon then proclaims: “The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness” (2 Chronicles 6:1 ESV).

Read what David, Solomon’s father, wrote: “He made darkness His secret hiding place” (Psalm 18:11 AMPC). This was after thirteen years of running for his life from jealous King Saul. Can you imagine the secrets God revealed to him when David knew it was only the two of them!

We should not limit God to our way of thinking. To a feeling. God knows what He’s up to. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33 NASB).

Even though we may not feel it at the time, God is in our dark places. He is working in secret for our eternal good. Calling us to a deeper experience of knowing Him. Making changes to refine our character for His glory.

We will never be where God is not already there. And there will come the moment when, like Jesus, we can say, “It is finished.”

***

FYI, below are other Crucifixion-related blogs:

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Outsmarted

This was the worst night of his life! He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t stop pacing. He–the powerful ruler of the greatest kingdom in the world–had been duped. And there was nothing he could do to undo the diabolical deed. He had spent all day frantically trying to figure a way out, but his hands were tied. Even the king was bound to the law that declared once an edict was in effect, it could not be altered.

Those two-faced officials from the highest ranks in his government had successfully sprung their trap. Now he saw all too clearly how and why they had outsmarted him.

Getting wind of his plan to make Daniel prime minister, they had reacted with fear and trepidation. They had foreseen that Daniel, a man of impeccable character and integrity, would always unmask corruption and hold their feet to the fire. So they had plotted to get rid of him by luring their monarch into a trap.

Those self-serving connivers had preyed on his desire as the new king to get the populace behind him. They had deceived him with an idea for unification which stroked his ego. That was why he hadn’t seen through their scheme.

And they had lied that Daniel also was in favor of the decree they proposed:  No one could make a petition to any god or man for thirty days except to the king. If not obeyed, the person would be thrown into the lions’ den.

How he wished he hadn’t been blinded by flattery! Devout Daniel, who prayed to his God three times a day every day would never have agreed to such a law.

And because he wouldn’t, tonight Daniel was out there shut up in that pit with wild lions. There was no way of escape, for he had pressed his royal seal into the stone lid. But not before he had said to his most trusted advisor: “May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!” (Daniel 6:16 NRSV).

At the break of day, King Darius hurried from his bedroom, down the staircase, and out of the palace. “When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?’” (Daniel 6:20 NRSV).

Daniel then said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.” (Daniel 6:21-22 NRSV)

God will never be outsmarted!

 

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