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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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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Three Years Later

December three years ago I wrote what has become my most popular post. With the hope you have a Christ-filled Christmas, I am reblogging “The Divine Sperm”:

Gabriel had delivered God’s message, but it could not be activated without Mary’s consent. From all the available virgins she was the one who had been chosen; yet she must be willing to submit. Nothing would be forced on her.

The social stigma would be inevitable in her small town. She could expect gossip, suspicion, shame, shunning, possibly stoning. And oh, the pain she would cause her family–her mother, her father–and her fiancé! But there were more lives than hers and theirs at stake.

Gathering up faith to accept the Divine offer with all its known and unknown risks, she gave the waiting Gabriel her answer.  “Then Mary said, Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be done to me according to what you have said. And the angel left her” (Luke 1:38 AMP). When Mary merged her will into God’s will, the power of the Holy Spirit impregnated her with the Son of God.

Three decades later one man’s worldview was revolutionized when the Son of God discussed supernatural birth with him. Nicodemus, a member of the highest legal, legislative, and judicial body of the Jews, was stunned when “Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 AMP).

To Nicodemus, held captive by his inquiring mind as an Old Testament scholar, such an idea was absurd. But to the Son of God, it made perfect sense:  “What is born of [from] the flesh is flesh [of the physical is physical]; and what is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:3 AMP). This rebirth is a choice any individual who wants to become a legitimate child of God can make.

But to all who did receive Him,
He gave them the right to be children of God,
to those who believe in His name,
who were born,
not of blood,
or of the will of the flesh,
or of the will of man,
but of God.
(John 1:12-13 HCSB)

Did the highly educated and socially esteemed Nicodemus activate God’s promise of a new birth? If so, he could only do it with the key of faith. Did he decide to merge his will into God’s will? You be the judge:

After it was all over, Joseph (who came from Arimathaea and was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly for fear of the Jews) requested Pilate that he might take away Jesus’ body, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took his body down. Nicodemus also, the man who had come to him at the beginning by night, arrived bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. So they took his body and wound it round with linen strips with the spices, according to the Jewish custom of preparing a body for burial. In the place where he was crucified, there was a garden containing a new tomb in which nobody had yet been laid. Because it was the preparation day and because the tomb was conveniently near, they laid Jesus in this tomb.
(John 19:38-42 (Phillips)

Decision time comes at the moment we realize God has chosen us to be born again in a spiritual sense. Will we by faith merge our will into God’s will? If we give the consent for His seed to be implanted in our soul, God’s nature will germinate there and never die.

No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God. (1 John 3:9 AMP).

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Oops!

Hot diggity dog! David was thrilled beyond measure! His idea was so good, he couldn’t wait to tell Nathan. Caught up in the king’s exuberance, Nathan advised him to go for it. Oops!

Nathan, a prophet, should have known better. The Architect should have been consulted. God had not signed off on David’s building plan. Both the king and the prophet assumed He would be delighted with David’s grandiose plan for a spectacular house of worship.

But in the same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying, “Go and say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle. Wherever I have gone with all the sons of Israel, did I speak a word with one of the tribes of Israel, which I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’”’
(2 Samuel 7:4-7 NASB)

And David would hear more from Nathan:

The LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
(2 Samuel 7:11-13 NASB)

Not only did God stamp an absolute no on David’s plan, He inserted a promise to make David a house. That is, a dynasty.

This was a lot for David to take in. So he went to the tent of meeting–the tabernacle God designed. David craved to connect with God one-on-one.

At the house of prayer, did he stand with hands and eyes lifted heavenward to praise God? Or did he look down with bowed head and closed eyes in submission? Did he drop to his knees in repentance? Did he prostrate himself and beg?

None of the above. “David the king went in and sat before the Lord” (2 Samuel 7:18 NASB). Alone with God, he sat on the dirt floor, where he meditated in a prayer of gratitude.

“Oh, the thought of having God all alone to myself and knowing that God has me all alone to Himself!” (Andrew Murray)

 

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I See You

She was pregnant and scared. If only she could get back to the place of her birth, she would be safe. Far from the abuse. From conflict’s slippery slope. So she ran away.

She never wanted to become a surrogate mother. But whatever happened to her had been and always would be at the whim of that bitter battleax. She owned her–body and soul. It was her idea that she become the secondary wife to that old husband of hers. Her way of getting what she wanted most in all the world. Mr. Abram didn’t have to go along with it, but he didn’t have the courage to tell his wife no.

Yes, she would be honest and admit she had brought some of this on herself. As soon as she had found out she was pregnant, she gloated. A smirk,  a dropped insult, a curled lip–all intended to send her mistress the message. She, a slave, could have something that the high-and-mighty Sarai could not. A baby.

How foolish was she to think she could get away with rubbing it in her face! Oh, Sarai knew how to make a life unbearable! So she was hightailing it back to Egypt. But now she would stop and rest at this spring for a while and put it all behind her.

That, however, was not to be. For Hagar had an encounter there that changed her plan. Someone met up with her in her distress.

But the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, on the road to [Egypt by way of] Shur. And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where did you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.” The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress, and submit humbly to her authority.”
(Genesis 16:7-9 AMP)

Why would she do that? Because the One speaking to her saw her past, her present, and her future:

The Angel of the Lord continued,
“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall name him Ishmael (God hears),
Because the Lord has heard and paid attention to your persecution (suffering).”
(Genesis 16:11 AMP)

When the encounter ended, Hagar spoke of this messenger as “El Roi.” El Roi is the name for God that means “God who sees.” The all-seeing God was looking after Hagar, watching out for her in her suffering.

The One who sees us is El Roi. He meets us in our place of desperation in order to reach out and help us. El Roi always sees, always knows, and always understands.

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No Buts

Whoopee! Finally, something was going to be done! He was all in on the plan until it suddenly became personal: “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10 NASB).

But God was making a mistake! Who was he for this momentous undertaking? When God’s answer dismissed that, Moses produced another objection.

But he didn’t know enough to handle the questions that would be thrown at him in Egypt. God met that objection and Moses had another.

But he would be discredited. God then endowed Moses with three signs to demonstrate divine power. Again, Moses argued with God.

But he was not eloquent. He did not have talent to match the task.

God said, “And who do you think made the human mouth? And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind? Isn’t it I, God? So, get going. I’ll be right there with you—with your mouth! I’ll be right there to teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:11-12 MSG)

His bag of buts now empty, Moses resorted to begging. “But he said, ‘O my Lord, please send someone else’” (Exodus 4:13 NRSV).

Unlike Moses, Isaiah was desperate to go when he heard the word “send”:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 NASB)

Isaiah volunteered. And that was before he knew the job description! Isaiah was willing to serve God no matter what, no matter where, no matter how. No buts.


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