The invitation to a secret life

“I’m not going to tell you about that.”

This is my three-year-old’s son’s new favorite answer to our questions about his day.

How was preschool?

Good.  

Did you have snack?

Yes.

What did you eat for  snack?

I’m not going to tell you about that.

Did you sing songs at preschool?

Yes.

What songs  did you sing?

I’m  not going to tell you about that.

Now, I am a complete Mom-Professional  when it comes to asking my kids about their day.  I’m no novice here.  I don’t just ask, “How was your day” and then give up when he answers, “Fine.”

I  know better than that.

My modus operandi with all my kids has been to ask very specific questions.  Hence, my questions about snack and songs.  I’ll ask who was the line leader and whether they used the slide or swings on the playground.

This has worked with all three of my daughters.  But my son has found the ultimate weapon against  Mom’s post-school interrogation:

“I’m not going to tell you about that.”

Now what’s a mom to do?

I’ve chosen not to fret over this quirky and unique stage. He tosses his little go-to non-answer at one of my questions with an impish grin.  He enjoys his conversational “checkmate” and giggles a bit.

At some point, we’ll probably move along.  Maybe we’ll even get to know what he ate for snack and what songs he sang with his classmates.

In the meantime, I relish every detail he will share with me, every snuggle when he’s decked out in his Batman pajamas before bed, every whispered, “I love you.”

These are the hidden times, what we share with our family, what we share with each other, but not what we open up to the big wide world.

Jesus had these moments, too.  He’d slip away for hidden times with God, praying all night on a mountain while his followers remained behind (Luke 6:12).

This was the ultimate quiet time.  It was private, hidden, a secret between him and God.

And maybe God invites us in to share some of these intensely personal, hidden moments with him also, just as he did for the disciples when he asked them to “come away with me to a quiet place…..” (Mark 6:31).

In fact, Jesus specifically instructs us to:

  • Give in secret: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:3-4) 
  • Pray in secret:    “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you”  (Matthew 6:6)
  • Fast in secret:  “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you”  (Matthew 6:17). 

It doesn’t mean all gifts must be anonymous and all prayers offered from our prayer closet.

It does mean our faith shouldn’t be religious show—all on public display for our own glory.

It does mean that there should be a secret aspect to our faith—a just between Him and me kind of intimacy.

In  her book, A Beautiful Offering, Angela Thomas writes:

“God wants to meet  with me in secret…There are  a couple of things that really matter to Jesus in this passage.  One is the real intention of our  hearts before God, and the other is that we learn to  practice a secret life with Him”

Our “secret life”is more than giving, fasting, and praying.

It’s sitting quietly with God.

It’s tucking lessons away and pondering them in our hearts

It’s offering Him the parts of our heart that we so often hold back. It’s being honest with Him.

I don’t ask my son questions about his day because I want to pester or annoy him.  I ask because I love him and he’s still young enough for me to be all-up in what happens in his little preschool life.  (I’ll enjoy that while  it lasts!).

Jesus  also invites us into secret communion with him, not to judge us or correct us, not to redirect us or lecture us.

He invites us because He loves us.

In response, we can either toss out a hurried, “I’m not going to tell you that.”

Or we can pour out hearts to Him.  We can linger by His side.  We can laugh together at a joke. We can celebrate a victory.

 

 

 

When Your Toddler Knows Your First Name

1 john 3-1

“James”

“Daddy.”

“James on the phone.”

“Yes, Daddy is on the phone.”

“James.”

This is the back-and-forth conversation my two-year-old son and I have been having.

Over the summer, he mysteriously figured out his dad’s first name and started using it.  We’re not exactly sure how this happened.  He just started saying, “James” out of the blue.  We didn’t teach it to him.

So, for about two weeks it became:

“James on the phone.”

“James at work.”

It was “James” this and “James” that.

I kept correcting him and it took him time to understand that “Daddy” and “James” are just two names for the same person.  But while lots of people might call him “James” only a few people get to call him “Daddy.”

And, two-year-old children don’t get to call their dads by their first names.

Besides that, “Daddy” is the personal name, the relational name.  It’s not just about what is technically on the birth certificate or what anyone can call him whether they are stranger or friend.

“Daddy” shows the privilege of intimacy, position and belonging.

And this matters, not just when we’re talking about family, but when we’re talking to God.

Why would my son choose “James” when he has the privilege of position, the right to call him “Dad?”

Why would we choose distance when God offers us His very presence?

Sometimes, that’s what we do, though.

It can creep up on us so stealthily. One morning we realize we’ve been calling God by formal names and keeping the conversations “all business” instead of making it personal.

Perhaps we’re like Israel out in the wilderness, heading out of Egypt after the grand and glorious displays of God’s might.

Usually, we say that God brought them out of Egypt so He could take them to the Promised Land.

But that wasn’t God’s first intention for His people.  Instead, He took them to Mount Sinai to meet with them.

As John Bevere writes in Drawing Near:

Remember God’s words to Pharaoh, through Moses, “”let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert” Ex. 7:16 NIV). It was not “Let my people go, so they can inherit a land” (p. 4).

But at the foot of that holy mountain, they knew their sin stood in the way.  They could never survive the presence of the Holy God, so they told Moses,

Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say, and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’ (Deut. 5:27 ESV).

Instead of drawing near themselves, they sent in a go-between, an intermediary. Moses could hear from God and tell them about it later.

If only they’d been prepared for His presence. If only their hearts were pure and made ready.

Instead, God said,

“Return to your tents” (Deut. 5:30 ESV).

John Bevere says:

How God’s heart must have broke, and how heavy was Moses’ heart as he returned….God brought them out of Egypt for one reason—to bring them to Himself—and they missed it” (p. 75)

I don’t want to miss it!  When God brings us to Himself, may we be ready to go up, not sent back down to tents far from His presence.

Or maybe we’re like Martha in the New Testament, who allowed busyness, stress, and too many distractions from too many worries keep her from the feet of Christ?

Maybe it’s that we fear what God will ask of us.  Like the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10, we think we want to be with Jesus, but then He asks us to give up position or power or possessions or habits or relationships or plans and dreams.  And the choice is harder; we want God, but do we want Him more than everything else?

Or perhaps it’s the slow drift, drift, drift of our hearts, worn down by the daily grind, where time with Him is duty and not delight.

Or maybe our hearts are tender and bruised with disappointment because even though we know God is good, and even though we know He’ll never leave us, we’re hurt.  Prayers weren’t answered the way we hoped.  Expectations weren’t met.  Dreams didn’t work out.  Healing didn’t come.

So, we cradle our hearts with a wall of self-protection, not just from others—from God Himself.

But here’s what Scripture promises:

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are (1 John 3:1 ESV).

We are His children.  His beloved.

That means relationship.  It means repenting. It means talking it out when we’re hurt. It means choosing to trust.  It means drawing near and knocking down walls.

And He allows us, invites us even, to draw near, to call Him “Father,” to call Him “Dad.”

 

“Facts” About Mom and “Facts” About God:

It seems to be a Mother’s Day staple for elementary school children.  Both of my older daughters made these projects and, according to my Facebook feed, so did the kids of most of my mom friends.002

On Mother’s Day, my daughters presented their handmade creations:  An ice cream cone picture with six adjectives to describe their sweet momma and a worksheet with “Facts About My Mom.”

Mostly as various moms posted their own kids’ responses to similar projects on Facebook, we laughed over the outrageous things kids say about us.

Like when they get our names wrong (!!!) or guess that we’re either 15 years old or 100.

But I opened the handmade gifts on Mother’s Day and didn’t read silly, mistaken or perhaps outrageously funny comments from my kids.

Somehow my daughters got it right.

Sweetly right, but maybe painfully right, too.

(Well, other than the “fact” that I’m probably 20 feet tall and probably weigh 45 pounds.  That’s a little off.)

Yet there were other “facts,” too.

There was the objective data, of course.  Adjectives to describe her mom?  “Married” and “pregnant” made it on the list.  Undeniable truth.

My other girl included “musical, gardener…..and competitive.”

What second grader diagnoses her mom as “competitive?”  My girl.  The one who has heard me apologize for my struggle to her face, and the one I held close while confessing how wrong I was to fret and worry over foolish competitions and how sorry I was that I ever put even one ounce of pressure on her shoulders when I’m so proud of her just as she is.

What does your mom like to wear?  Pants and a sweater.

Simple and sweet truth-telling right there.  Those are my happy clothes.

What is something your mom always says?  Do your homework.  Play piano.  Hurry up.  Go to bed.

Oh, here I pause.  Because last year on this same little assignment, she wrote that her mom always says, “I love you.”  And now here it is in pencil on paper, how I’m always giving instructions, always directing, always focused on getting those daily tasks done.  Why is it so hard to make the words, “I love you” ring truer and louder than the drill sergeant commands of everyday necessity?

What makes your mom mad?  When everything is out of control and no one listens.

When everything is out of control…..

Yes.  Isn’t that what smashes down all of my hold-it-together personal strength? Isn’t it what makes me grumpy, short-tempered and anxious?

When I feel like I’ve lost control so therefore there must be no control, always forgetting that God is in control…. yes, that’s what makes me “mad.”  That’s what God uses to plow right through my heart and break up all of that well-tended ground covering over my insecurities and my deep-down sin attitudes and misplaced trust.

Second graders can be so wise at times.

But I wonder, given a worksheet like this, what would I say about God?

Would I get the “facts” right and answer the questions correctly?  Not giving the dictionary facts or the Bible study answers.  Not the good church girl responses or the pat Christian phrases that tie Mighty God up in neatly packaged paper with a perfect bow on top.

No: Would I know Him?  Would I know His heart?  What makes Him happy?  What makes Him mad?  What do I love about Him the most and why is He the perfect Father for me?

Or would I get it all wrong?

In the book of Job, one man lost family, friends, servants, status in the community, riches, property, and physical health.  And without sinning, he questioned God.  Why this seeming injustice, he wondered, why this tragedy and pain for a righteous man?

Job wants to call God into court and question Him on the witness stand.

Yet, God remains silent.  He waits.  He listens and doesn’t answer. Finally, after almost 40 chapters of Scripture, God speaks.

In her book Wonderstruck, Margaret Feinberg writes,

Instead of focusing on the Why’s of our life circumstances, God calls our attention back to Him and reminds us of the Who that controls everything (p. 37).

That’s God’s answer to the incessant questions.  He never answers “Why,” but He tells who He is in one thundering declaration of sovereignty and power over all creation after another.Wonder Struck

It isn’t until the taking away, the sorrow, the mourning and the grief that Job doesn’t just know about God; He knows Who God is.

And that is enough.

Job says, “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you” (Job 42:1).  Yes, now he knew, not about God, but now He had seen God with his own eyes (Job 42:5).

Intimacy in silence.  Intimacy in the listening, the waiting, the mourning.  That’s how we know Him, too.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 06/09/2012: Searching for Water in the Desert

Hiding the Word:

For the last few days, we’ve been waving at each other from the rear view mirror of our cars.

At least that’s how it feels.  My husband is performing in a show for the next two weeks.  The girls and I have been flitting here and there to concerts, day trips, birthday parties, doctor’s appointments and more.  Plus we’ve started rehearsals for a show of our own.

I kiss my husband goodbye in the morning before he grabs his bagged lunch from the counter.  The next thing I know, I’m waking up to the sound of his car pulling into the driveway past my bedtime.

It’s okay.  It’s temporary.  His show will end.  Our summer groove will settle into place.  We’ll have other weeks of craziness, but nights of rest as well.

But just for today, just for this moment, I am thinking how nice it would be to chat with him about his day and talk about how all this whirlwind of life is going.  If we could talk without children interrupting, fighting, or protesting their bedtime routine, even better.

It’s why I would have failed as a Navy wife–my need for the continuance of connection.  One night without the phone call after his work day, one day when he’s up early and home late, and I miss my husband.  I make determined efforts to sit by his side and hear what happened in his life that day.

Because if you don’t make the time, it generally doesn’t just happen on its own.

How long can you go before you miss God?  How many days can slip past before you feel the void of His presence and mourn the loss of connection with Him?

If we’re walking in intimacy with our God, shouldn’t we miss Him the moment we’ve started a day without prayer or the instant we’ve flown past our quiet time?

On the busiest days, when a snack (preferably chocolate) and mindless television seem the answer to my tired body and exhausted mind, that’s exactly when I long for God the most. Because if I don’t make the time, it doesn’t just magically happen.

It’s the day when I missed my afternoon cup of tea over Scripture because I’m out and about with frenetic activity that I flop into my dining room chair in the first moments after my kids’ bedtime.  I take one long indulgent sip sweet hot tea, open up my Bible and pray, “Dear Jesus, how I’m desperate for You today.  Pleas meet me in this place.”

Since life is crazy, I’ve chosen a verse for the week that reminds us all of how desperately we should seek after intimacy with God:

O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water
(Psalm 63:1 NLT)

This time with God isn’t a luxury.  It’s not a bonus, an extra, an amenity, or a perk.

It’s life itself.  It’s as simple as desperation for water for a soul in the desert.

Let’s seek Him earnestly this week, making it an active and engaged pursuit of His presence.  Making it a priority, not just nonchalantly hoping a few minutes of unstructured time will show up in our day.  Because if we don’t make it happen, it never will.

Weekend Rerun:

Well-Hunting in the Desert

Originally posted on July 20, 2011

 

“Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs”
(Isaiah 35:6-7).

When we first moved into this house, we quickly discovered something unnoticed during the walk-through or inspection.  The water smelled like rotten eggs. As a result, I was brushing my teeth with bottled water and holding my breath while taking a shower.

Like any good 21st century homeowners, we Google-searched our way into solutions and scoured the Internet for answers.  Which we found.  Simply open the top of our well and shock the water with a $1 jug of bleach.

Sounded easy.  Until we realized that somewhere on this half acre of land is the top to a well that we could not find.  We knew it had to be there.  We had running water and didn’t pay the city for it.  We consulted drawings of our property and sheepishly hinted to the water specialist (whom we had to call since we couldn’t fix the stinky water ourselves, having not found the well), that we really would like to know where the well was hidden on this land of ours.  He wasn’t helpful.

We have a guess as to where it might be, but we are in some ways still well-hunters, searching for the source of our water, assuming its presence without seeing it ourselves.

I’ve been well-hunting recently in real life, too.  Like Hagar, wandering in the wilderness, running low on provisions, hopelessly lost and not able to go back and yet not certain where to go instead. Out there in her wilderness, “God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water” (Genesis 21:19).

“Open my eyes,” I’ve prayed, “to the well of your provision, to the fountain of Your presence, to the water of sustenance and hope. I want to see the well You have provided in this desert place.”

Because I’m parched and yet I feel like I’m drowning.

It’s so often God’s way to bring water and with it so much more to those in His care.

To Hagar, a well in the desert that she hadn’t seen before.

To Elijah, “bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water” to sustain him on a 40-day walk to the Mountain of God (1 Kings 19:6).

To the Israelites who complained, “there is no water to drink!,” He brought forth water from rock.

For the redeemed, He promises that “water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs” (Isaiah 35:6-7).

To the woman sitting next to a well with a jar on her shoulder, Living Water drawn up even without a bucket (John 4:10).

Out of nothing, amidst wilderness and desert, even burning sand, He brings water that heals, sustains, provides, and gives life eternal.  He brings it in abundance with bubbling springs, streams filled so quickly that they are pooling, water we could drink that would satisfy us forever.  All out of nothing.

We could spend our lives sitting by clear-running streams of water, never risking the travel through the valley.  We could pitch our tents there by the known source of water and never lose sight of the well, never grow uncomfortable, never walk far enough away to be uncertain of provision, never venture one step into the wilderness.

But we’d never make it to the Mountain of God like Elijah and the Israelites.  Never know the God Who Sees like Hagar.  Never know the Giver of Living Water like the woman at the well.

So, as we scan the horizon and see only barren land, rocks of gray and dusty earth cracked from lack of rain, we search for the well.  It’s there.  Maybe hidden now so that we cannot see, but God works in the hidden places to bring us provision at the exact moment of our need.

David searched for the well in the desert.  He wrote:

“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

and

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2)

David, my fellow well-hunter, knew the best way to find the hidden water, even when his soul was downcast, even when he thirsted for God’s presence like a deer dehydrated after too long a journey away from the stream.

  • Put your hope in God.
  • Praise Him even in sorrow.
  • Remember what God has done.

He says: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you (Psalm 42:5-6).

Years ago, Caedmon’s Call sang these words: “Down in the valley, dying of thirst.  Down in the valley, it seems that I’m at my worst.  My consolation is that You baptize this earth when I’m down in the valley.  Valleys fill first.”

Valleys fill first, my friend.  When God brings the water, when He rains down “showers of blessing” in their season (Ezekiel 34:26), the valley is where you will want to be so that you can fully receive all that He pours over your head.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.