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SIMON COWELL OR JENNIFER LOPEZ?

simonjennifer-lopezI confess, I like American Idol. I Tivo it and watch the parts I like best when I’m too tired to read. I  can plunder some small bits of gold from it.

I love seeing the God-given talent.

I find the socio-dynamics intriguing — often, as is true this year, there are a few Christian participants who have a chance to glorify God or confess when they haven’t.

I find the contrast this year between ex-judge Simon Cowell (who many thought made the show with his sarcastic negativity toward the contestants) and the new judge Jennifer Lopez absolutely fascinating. I have no idea where Jennifer is spiritually, except that she is Catholic, but she exudes grace and is a model of how to give constructive criticism so that these young people can receive, respond, and improve, becoming more of what they were made to be. In Ephesians it says to STOP tearing down and to START building up. Or we could say STOP being a Simon and START being a Jennifer. I listen to her to learn how to do it — for we are all called to speak to one another in love, helping one another be all God intended us to be. Because one of my idols is control, and because I have been too critical of others in the past, I so want to grow in grace. Simon would tear down these young vulnerable kids — making fun of them, marring God’s masterpieces, even, possibly, destroying them. Jennifer encourages the good, and often says, “I know there’s a little more in you — if you would just do this….you are so gifted, I want to see you be your best.”

It amazes me, but even on this seven week journey during Lent, I am seeing more grace in myself. The Stonecutter has been excising my idol, and I am sensing more of His presence. The fruit of that root is love, joy, peace — and definitely more grace toward others. Being more grace filled wasn’t my goal in the beginning. To be honest, I was weary of the pain my idols were bringing me and I wanted them gone.  I am thirsting after Jesus, and am so much more aware of His presence. But replacing my idol with Jesus is producing fruit. Here is a small example from this week, a before and after picture:

BEFORE: Waiting is hard for me, and I have felt our local Christian bookstore is particularly slow. I have been irritable at the counter, though have tried to hide it, wearing a tense pasted on smile.

AFTER: Yesterday I debated about stopping at this store, because of past experience and feeling short on time. But a verse from Sara Groves song “Eyes Wide Open” came to me: “I’ve got layers of lies I don’t even know about…”  I thought, “Help me, Lord. I know I need to let go of control. Come in, breathe life in me.” As I was walking across the parking lot, I was going over in my mind what I wanted. Even as I thought about it, I had to laugh at myself, because, as is typical of control freaks, it was a pretty demanding request. I wanted to find a Bible (in five minutes) and I wanted it to be:

1) Pocket

2) ESV (or second choice, NIV)

3) Large Print

4) Inexpensive

5) A neutral color (no pinks or purples or daisies!)

His Spirit was helping me laugh at myself when a a smiling young clerk said:

“Can I help you?”

I said, “You sure can — but what I want may not exist!” I laughed and told her the five things I wanted in one item. (But not the five minute part 🙂  )

She laughed too and said, “Well — let’s give it a try.”

It took a little while, and I ended up having to compromise — but not too badly. The only thing I didn’t get was large print (and I do have glasses) and it was in my favorite chocolate color and only $5! I was able to tell the clerk what a good job she had done, how helpful she had been — and she simply glowed.  Jesus in me was helping her be the best she could be!

midday-ephraim-0022I left the store feeling peaceful, pleased to have given and received love.I thought That store has gotten better. And then I laughed again, I had gotten better. Jesus in me had added to the beauty.

For you it may not be lack of grace you are seeing, but something else the Spirit is showing you must go. In visiting with Sara Groves about her song “Eyes Wide Open” she said she was feeling convicted about the lack of social justice in her life.

Whatever it is, He can cut the stones out and bring life, like the fresh spring leaves and flowers we are seeing all around.

How does change happen? How do we become kinder? How do we start caring about the things Jesus cares about? I thought back to a conversation I had with a godly man named Howard Dahl. He said that often Christians attempt to change by trying to be their idea of a good Christian (who witnesses, is kind, gives to the poor, doesn’t over-eat…) but that is much better to concentrate on being intimate with Jesus throughout the day and He will change you. I thought — that’s it.

I cannot make myself be as grace-filled as Jennifer Lopez, or as caring as Mother Theresa — but I can let go of my idols and let Jesus fill me, throughout the day, as I say no to self and yes to Him. And guess what? My rocks are replaced with soft green. I begin to have the fruit of the Spirit!

Bible Study

1. First, I told you a story from my life about how Jesus is changing me — do you have a story too?

2. According to Galatians 5:1, what is our calling? What warning is in this verse?

3. How have you been enslaved by your idols in the past? Be as specific as you can be!

4. Read slowly Galatians 5:13-15

A. Again, what is our calling according to the opening of this passage?

B. If your translation uses the word flesh in verse 13, substitute self, for flesh is not just the body. What must we not use our God-given freedom to do? What must we do instead with this freedom?

C. I want you to ask God to make you aware of your next opportunity today to use your freedom either to gratify yourself or to serve another. Tell us what happens. (KEEP YOUR EYES WIDE OPEN)

D.What, according to verses  14 is the positive command for walking in the Spirit?

E. What, according to verse 15, must we avoid and why?

5.Galatians 5:16 is HUGE. Remember to substitute self if your Bible says flesh, because we so often think of flesh as just the body.

A.  What promise is given if you walk by the Spirit?

B. What does it mean to walk, moment by moment, by the Spirit?

6. Are you experiencing more of the fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-23 in your life? If so, share! It encourages us all.

7. FOR AMERICAN IDOL WATCHERS: LET’S PLUNDER THE GOLD FROM THIS SECULAR SHOW, LIKE THE ISRAELITES PLUNDERED THE GOLD FROM THE EGYPTIANS

A. What can you learn from Jennifer about how to give constructive criticism?

B. What ways have you seen participants be honoring to God? Dishonoring?

C. What are the Christian values you’ve seen — the non-Christian values?

8. What’s your take-a-way this week?

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111 comments

  1. I love your example so much…it sounds like a page out of my book of life:) so often I go about trying to get the next thing done without looking at the people who are right in front of me that God put there for a reason.
    I too, as you know:) am a major control addict. the anxiety that comes when i start to feel out of control can be overwhelming at times. this week has been a HUGE lesson in that. we still have no real answers with abby, some of the doctors are saying that it is a conversion disorder (so much stress in her life that her body just did this) I believe she had a perfect storm of things and we are telling most that it was the strep because the stress of people thinking she went “crazy” would make it harder for her to get better. she started her period the day she got better. she had been on the pill for very heavy and painful ones and went off it a month and a half ago without telling me (this set the un graceful, critical,control freek off in my heart but thank GOD not in my mouth!)and had not had one yet. I think she could have also been suffering from severe PMDD.
    that said,,,,,I HAVE NO IDEA AND NO CONTROL! treating her with grace and love has been hard for me, not knowing for sure has been hard on me, but in this God has put his loving arms around me and let me know that HE IS IN CONTROL and I can leave it in his hands.
    my job right now is to love my dear sweet daughter unconditionally, to be very very very grateful that it was none of the deadly things that they were convinced it was and chill out.
    only by HIS power did that happen.
    Im still struggling with anxiety, this really threw me for a loop and I am having a hard time getting my emotions to agree with my head. but i can not even imagine what this would have done to me before this blog. thank you Dee! and everyone else. you have all made a HUGE impact not only on me but on my entire family.

    1. Cyndi–Any update on Abby? Miss you and still praying!

  2. P.S. Luke was named Prom king last night:)

  3. Cyndi, that is great progress. I am so glad that Abby is ok. Great news about Luke’s reign over the prom:-)

    1. I thought I could not see any progress in me. In fact it crossed my mind that I should just quit. How blind I can be. So at first I skipped #1 which was the right thing to do because as soon as I got to #3 I saw it.

    This is a long and roundabout story but I think it will illustrate at least what I see. This morning the youth pastor at my church spoke to me in a manner and at a time that was completely inappropriate. I have been upset all afternoon, not knowing how to deal with it. This afternoon I spoke with my husband about it, not planning what I would say or how I would approach it. So I got him to the table with some food and without Joey and told him about what happened. Earlier I had the thought that a lot of our problems with Joey would improve if he saw spiritual discipline in his father and there was a time when I would have said that 🙁 Sad to say but true on both counts. So I told him what happened and he asked why I didn’t say such and such. I said I just didn’t think of it, I’m just slow of thought and speech. My sweet husband said ‘well, you have a lot on your mind’. Then he said ‘its good thing I wasn’t there’ to which I said ‘it would not have happened if you had been’. He did not bristle with accusation but said that he should have been.
    The reason I think this answers the question is that this conversation was seasoned with grace and the outcome was good because my husband decided to renew his efforts at getting to church. Such conversations in the past have ended with him bristling and nothing changing. In #3 I see what this has to do with my idol but I also think that it is just a result of less idolatry in my life making me a little more like Jesus.

    1. what a wonderful conversation! how beautiful it is when we act with humility with our husbands! I am so proud of you…..I needed to be reminded:)

  4. 2. In Galatians 5:1 we are called to freedom and are warned not to submit again to slavery.

    3. I have been enslaved to the idol of approval and it is strange to me how it is manifested in my life. I am nice to everyone but my family sometimes. What I need is more grace with my family and more backbone with everyone else. All this time I have been trying to figure out how to stand up to people and feeling like I am getting nowhere. What I need to do is start with my family on the other end of the spectrum. Grace is exactly what I need and it will help me to stand up to people I am afraid of and change things for God’s purposes.

  5. I laughed when Dee shared her story about buying a Bible-I can relate!

    1. Now I am learning to be intimate as I walk along the way, talk to him whenever I am scared or don’t know what to say, but the hardest time is when I am frustrated or tired. Those are the times I want to curl around it and control things in order to stay in my comfort zone. (control/comfort god calling me.)

    I have seen small things like yesterday going up and talking with the difficult one in our support group. I admit I did my best to keep busy so I wouldn’t have to talk with her but I am on the board and she used to be on the board before we voted her out due to some issues she was causing in the group.

    Even though she had no issues with me, she is an emotionally imbalanced person so you never know what you will get. It was like my arms and legs were like rag dolls and Jesus was moving them helping me walk toward her..I didn’t want to go..so I said, “Jesus help me, this is yours, I’m empty, help me see her like you do.” He gave me grace to go to her, yet I admit I walked away and was a bit critical. She tends to boast about helping the poor and the first thing she did was tell me how she helped someone. So I walked away with a critical spirit, but then Jesus quickened me and I felt empathy for her. I see her control god is eating her alive. It is sad. God rescued me once again and gave me compassion.

    1. God is so good to help in moments like that!

  6. Bible Study

    1. First, I told you a story from my life about how Jesus is changing me — do you have a story too?

    It’s not very dramatic or exciting so far as stories to be told, but getting closer to Jesus has just eased my soul and given me less anxiety and worry. He provides sweetness in my life and ease that in the natural life could never make sense or be attained.

    2. According to Galatians 5:1, what is our calling? What warning is in this verse?

    Christ has given us freedom, but we must keep ourselves from returning to slavery again.

    3. Every time I take my eyes from Jesus and let self and idols back on the throne of my soul, I am re-enslaved. When I start something without thinking about what God wants of me, I’ll easily give into comfort/security and be drawn into it like quicksand.

    4a. Our calling is freedom in Jesus.

    4b. We are not to be self-centered with our freedom but instead use it to serve each other. If each person did whatever they wanted, it would abuse what Christ gave us. Then we are not following Him.

    4c. One way I can use my freedom to serve others is to be purposefully kind and patient even when I don’t feel well (spring is miserable for me)

    4d. Love your neighbor as yourself.

    4e. We are not to bite or devour each other to avoid destroying ourselves.

    5a. The promise in Galatians 5:16 is that if we walk by the Spirit, we won’t gratify the self (flesh).

    5b. It is the small battles that count… saying no to self each moment of our walk.

    6. I’m seeing a lot more peace, and joy in the blessings of God. All of this creates love.

    7a. Constructive criticism is best given with kindness. Jennifer is not rude, starting with a good thing and gently referencing what needs improvement.

    7b. I was impressed by Jacob’s refusal to perform a sexually explicit song last week. What a witness!

    7c. An example of a non Christian value was when the guy who was given the save cursed a lot.

    8. My takeaway is that walking by the Holy Spirit is a moment by moment endeavor.

      1. I don’t think I saw group night, mainly the top 13 onward. But I thought Jacob’s song choice revision and taking a stand for his beliefs was so neat. It’s refreshing to see people do that on the public eye– true faith is not something to be kept under wraps.

  7. Ladies,

    Yesterday all four of my boys were baptized. My one with Autism as well. There was another little boy with Autism the same day, who went right after our boys.

    I was overwhelmed to see how God gave understanding to both that boy and my son with Autism. I was brought to tears when I saw the mom explaining to the pastor to get him to look into his eyes when he is asked if he has given his life to Jesus..As the pastor practiced once with the boy he said,”YES!”..He has autism more severe than Isaac and my spirit was without words. I felt weak all over as I witnessed the glory of God. Truly a kiss from God yesterday at the top of the stairs of the Baptismal.

    2. According to Galatians 5:1, what is our calling? What warning is in this verse?

    * We are to walk in freedom..the freedom He gave us. We are not to be subject again to a yoke of slavery. I am thinking enslaving ourselves again to our idols and sin. When we walk in freedom-the freedom to enslave ourselves to Him which is REAL freedom, then we are free to fly-to grow-to love others-to share the gospel-to have both fruits..the fruit of the spirit and the fruit of those who come to know Him. We don’t have to ‘create’ the fruits of the spirit or shove the gospel down anyone’s throat. It will happen as an outflow of us letting go of our idols and embracing Him.

      1. That is so wonderful!!

    1. Rebecca, this is momentous because I remember you said that your first concern when being given the diagnosis of autism was whether he would be able to understand salvation. I know your heart was spilling over with this kiss from the Lord. Mine is too. From what you have shared I think they understand more than most.

      1. Anne,

        Amen!!

    2. Rebecca, that is so wonderful!

    3. So excited for you and rejoicing with you! God has given my autistic a very good understanding as well. I praise Him for that. Seeing how they are mostly literal thinkers I am thankful they still have faith like a child. 🙂

  8. 3. I love how Tracy worded this, it is a great description of being ‘re-enslaved’, and what it looks like every day in my life, so I am stealing it from her and putting it down as my answer too: 🙂

    “Every time I take my eyes from Jesus and let self and idols back on the throne of my soul, I am re-enslaved. When I start something without thinking about what God wants of me, I’ll easily give into comfort/security and be drawn into it like quicksand.”

    It is a daily battle, yet it’s so sweet when God rescues us and gives us daily victories!

      1. Dee, 😉 Don’t you just love this answer and how Tracy referred to being drawn into it like quicksand. That is exactly what it is like!

        1. Thank you both for your kind words! What blessings.

          Quicksand is always what it seems like to me because one minute you can be on solid ground looking at Jesus but when you take your eyes away you feel that terrible sinking sensation. Thankfully once you look back at Him, though, you are delivered at once from the quicksand! And to think He wants to keep us from it… He doesn’t send us out alone to battle all alone.

        2. Tracy, Amen!!

        3. Amen!

        4. I like that, Tracy….”Jesus doesn’t send us out alone to battle all alone.”

  9. Elizabeth, Have you gotten to the very end of chapter four of Dee’s book yet?!!?! That just blew me away! I won’t give it away to anyone who hasn’t read it, but I am speechless. Wow..

    1. I love it (The God of all comfort) so much and have learnt so much from it. It is helping me comfort my brother, who is losing his wife of 46 years to terminal dementia. She has forgotten how to walk now, she will eventually forget how to eat and breath. They give her around 3 months now. Please pray for them…Dennis and Mary Kay. He wants to bring her home to die. The nursing home is nice and hospice comes there too, but even tho she can’t talk anymore, he feels she is trying to tell him, home. She said “Gibbon” last night….their home town. It’s very hard to get a word out for her. She has said “Go”. Please pray for them. I love them both so much. Thank you

      1. Joyce, will do. Oh I can’t imagine..I can see just a glimpse of it through this book, but it has given me more compassion for others. I will pray!

      2. Joyce,
        I am so saddened by what is happening to Dennis and Mary Kay. This dementia must be a horrible way to lose someone you love.
        Praying for the Lord to give your family wisdom in how to care for Mary Kay with dignity and to honor her wish to come home and for the strength you all will need, and for the Lord’s comfort.

      3. Joyce, what you share with us here brings up memories of my mothers death that I can’t describe. It is terribly painful but somehow in it all there is a connection to God. I could not see it when she was sick and at hospice. I will pray earnestly that Dennis will be able to bring her home and that she will have lucid moments of connection. Lord please lift Dennis in Your Spirit right now. Give him the strength to cling to you in these last moments of time with his wife. Under gird him with Hope.

      4. Praying right now dear Joyce. I cannot imagine how terribly painful that must be–watching someone you love so much slowly be lost…so sorry. What a light and joy you must be to them. Your brother is so blessed to have you alongside him during this painful time. I will pray too for your strength.

    2. I have to say honestly, no other book has touched me quite like this one. I wish I had read it years ago, but I know God knew the timing when I would be most ready to hear it. I can’t wait to purchase copied for my sisters!

  10. 4.

    A. We were called to be free.

    B. We are not to use our freedom to indulge ourselves-be self centered, self concerned, self focused, rather we are to use our freedom to sacrifice ourselves for one another- to love and serve one another.

    C. Will do! Looking forward to seeing what happens!

    D. Love your neighbor as yourself.

    E. We must avoid destroying one another through being selfish-gossiping, coveting,angry, critical, etc.. just being selfish..It will destroy both our brother or sister and ourselves.

  11. 1. This is a hard one to answer! I make progress and then go backwards, once again. I noted Anne’s situation above with her son, Joey, and her husband. I often struggle with feeling anger at my husband for the lack of any spiritual leadership or guidance; I know he is not a believer, but I think it negatively affects my sons, especially, that their dad doesn’t care about God and he can be quite vocal at times, too, saying he doesn’t believe what’s in the Bible, or rolling his eyes if I want to pray before a meal.
    And the opening of this post really hit me hard, too. I realize how critical I can be, especially of my daughter. Last night I was really getting on her for her bad table manners! I’m afraid I was more like a Simon Cowell than a grace-giving Jennifer Lopez.
    I, too, find it easy to be kind to those outside my own family, and am the hardest on my husband and kids.
    Yesterday morning I was reading a chapter in a book about the twofold nature of Christ; his humanity and divinity. A little light went on for me, and we talked here in a previous post about why we shouldn’t trust in man. Because Jesus was fully man, He can sympathize and identify with us; because He is fully God, He is fully able to help us. So I see the willingness to help coupled with the ability to help. That is something no ordinary human can give; that all-sufficient ability to do all things to help. Hebrews 7:25 tells me that He lives forever to make intercession for me.
    It’s a painfully slow process for me to not turn first to people for help, or to my idols for a temporary “fix”, but to turn first to Jesus.

    1. Lord, even this You will use for Your purposes. I pray right now that You would give discernment. May Susan’s children see how desolate a life of alienation from You is. Make Susan a channel of Your grace on her family. We ask this boldly, In Jesus name, because we know that this is Your will for this family.

    2. This really hit home for me Susan “to not turn first to people for help, or to my idols for a temporary “fix”, but to turn first to Jesus.” It is so easy to pick up the phone and call a friend to vent or ask advice…but He waits for me…to turn first to Him, that is so good. He is ready to lift the yoke.

  12. Oh dear friends, it’s been a rough couple of days around here–just dealing with some health issues with my 7 yr old (too detailed to go into, but food related & something we’ve seen since she was an infant), as well as the usual strong willed attitude!
    I have been reading all of your wise words above and I relate to cyndi saying she’s a control freak (I’m sure nothing compared to me!), to Tracy talking about it being like quicksand–solid ground one minute, the next I’m enslaved again…Rebecca talking about it being hardest when tired (OH this is HUGE for me–problem is I am ALWAYS tired!), and Anne saying she feels like sometimes she can be nice to everyone but family…and when Dee said “waiting is hard for me”–i thought, that about sums me up–I have to be the most impatient person I know!

    So, the past few days I have felt the struggles mostly–trying to pull it together on my own strength I guess, constantly apologizing afterwards. I’ve blamed hormones, tiredness, husband traveling this week…but I have lost perspective that it all comes through Him first, that He is with me, for me and will provide.

    Today I want to put this Dee said into practice: “but that is much better to concentrate on being intimate with Jesus throughout the day and He will change you.”

    Last night at Target I was checking out and the checker was sighing and looked really wiped out. I remembered Dee’s conversation with the book store clerk. I asked the checker if she was OK, she said “yeah, just tired” I asked her if she got off soon and she said she had to work until 11. I told her I was sorry about that and then she poured out how her back was hurting so much from the constant twisting and I told her I would pray for her. She smiled really big and said thank you. That small act took a little bit more time from my efficiency-obsessed mind, but I did feel lighter afterwards. Small, but a reminder–when we use our freedom to bless others, the freedom truly is ours, there is a lightening, a weight lifted.

    1. Elizabeth,
      What you said above is really profound – you had so much going on around you, but what really had happened, as you say, “but I have lost perspective that it all comes through Him first…”
      Doesn’t it all boil down to this? We lose our perspective and get mired in our circumstances. It was good to see how you got back on track – focusing on Jesus!
      I am sure you blessed the cashier at Target; she will remember you praying for her.

    2. Elizabeth, that was wonderful of you.

  13. Two things come to mind first,
    One I love this! “Jesus in me was helping her be the best she could be!”
    Two I keep thinking of these verses to pray. That we all become women of Truth and Grace – For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.John 1:17 When we control we are trying to fulfill the law ourselves…When we let go we are letting Jesus do it through us.

    1-I wish I had a story but I am not at a good place now…Oh how I need to just open my hands wide and trust God with my children and husband. I do flex back and forth.

    2-Freedom, don’t let ourselves be yoked again with slavery.

    3-I think I know better…I control…this is not freedom it is putting me in a walled cell. Forgive me Lord.

    4-wow

    a-FREE

    b-do not indulge in self/humbly serve

    c-Will keep eyes wide open and report back. Lord please help me see.

    d-whole law is fulfilled in Love for one another. That is def dying to self…

    e-critical tongue/spirit/complaining about or toward others. That is not love.
    5
    a-wont gratify self
    b-surrender moment by moment

    6-I again am not sure…sometimes yes and sometimes no. Oh I am struggling. I must let go and let God have control. I think we are partly in a spiritual attack…And I am seeing the ever sinfulness of my deceptive heart. It grieves me so. All I can pray is Lord have mercy on me a sinner.

    7
    a-I have noticed this about Jennifer and admired it as well. She does exude grace.
    b-really like how Scotty expressed himself about how he did not stand up for that young guy Jaycee. He was such a man in how he handled it and apologized. Also, I really like how Jacob Lusk decided not to sing the (sex) song because it was not him and he just could not do it. It takes boldness to stand up and say things like that in front of really powerful people in the business. Inspired by this. Also, I am inspired by James and how he has Aspergers like my daughter and is able to overcome it enough to be on a show like this. Not sure where he is spiritually but really praying for him. Maybe some of these believers will have a chance to share with others. May His glory be spread throughout. Really like to how the judges have not criticized others for their beliefs. Simon did that.
    Dishonoring are the ones who really are not on anymore…looking at them selves as more important as others. Putting selves first. Makes me sad to see this. Must say glad those ones are no longer on.
    c-Christian values, some listed above. Also just how the judges are encouraging and spurring them on in their gifts.
    non-Christian-sometimes innuendos spoken, song choices, etc.

    Keep eyes on Jesus! He has to replace all this junk. We were created to be free not bogged down with all the chains.

    1. oooh…can I jump in your suitcase?! I had been looking at it inline–amazing list of speakers, what an incredible thing for you to get to go! I will pray for safe travels, good fellowship with Sally and that as you are guiding us to do, your eyes (and ears!) will be wide open 😉

      I’m excited too–it looks like they will have downloads of the conference on the website!

        1. I’m listening now to the Keller sermon from Tuesday–on Exodus 14–it’s AMAZING how much it correlates with all Dee has been teaching us!
          If anyone is interested–here’s the link to the conference, the sermons are free to listen to:
          http://thegospelcoalition.org/conferences/2011-media

        2. That is a great sermon. Wow. As so much truths converge my faith is growing and I find a desire to be still and wait for Him. God is speaking from every direction.

    2. Praising God for your oportunity to go! And with Sally so close…oh how you are blessed!!

    3. What a blessing! Praying you are filled so full. 🙂

  14. Thanks to everyone for your prayers

  15. 2.
    My calling is to be freed from the selfish desires and thoughts that enslave me—to be FREE. This just reminded me of something—a few days ago the kids found a birds nest in the backyard with 3 tiny bright blue eggs—they are breathtakingly beautiful. Inside I imagine the baby chicks will grow…then struggle to break free from their shell…and then FLY in the freedom they were created to have. The difference with these birds and me, is that I have been set free—HE did it already—the cross. But for some reason, I wander back and choose to try to get back inside my shell—thinking my old entrapment will bring safety, security…the familiarity of it all can feel momentarily comforting—but keeps me from flying as He created me to.

    3. I have been enslaved to my schedule—I don’t like anything to mess with my agenda for the day. Enslaved by time, really. I hate waiting, anything that seems to waste “my” time.
    I have been enslaved by fear in the past—of my own health issues especially, but also my family’s.
    I have been enslaved by lies—that it was my fault my father and I had a terrible relationship; or that I wasn’t good enough/pretty enough; that I’m not a good mom, or that I will really mess up with my kids (daughter especially)

    4. I have read this vs. many times before but when I just read “to indulge the sinful nature”, I thought this time of how often I “indulge” myself in whining, or self-depreciation—like the other type of pride Keller talked about. Or just pure self-indulgence, thinking far too much about myself.

    A. Again, what is our calling according to the opening of this passage?

    We were called to be FREE!!

    B.
    Don’t use my freedom to indulge myself, but to serve others in love. So convicting.

    C.
    OK, maybe my next opportunity is now. With my husband out of town, I want to keep the kids occupied on their own so I can have it a little easier and continue in my whining that this is hard! In the last hour I have shooed them back outside 3 times! Instead, I will post this right now, and go play with them as they asked—give myself freely to them, serve them, love them in that way. Small, but baby steps, right? 🙂

      1. I might not have realized this is you had not asked, so thank you! But it was so…free! We tossed the base ball, threw bouncy balls over the fence…and this is so hard to admit to all of you, but I’m pretty vulnerable here…but it is hard for me to just stop and PLAY. My husband is the big playful one–always has been, even with my nieces and nephews before we had kids. We were married 10 yr before kids and we would babysit all the time–my husband the fun one, me the time-conscious organized controller. SO, for me to go out and play and drop our bedtime schedule completely off the radar, was extremely out of character, but wow–freeing.

        Then I crawled in bed and read another chapter of The God of All Comfort and I have to go so slow because I have NEVER cried through a book like I do this one. But what I’m seeing now is it is not just a love story of you and Steve–it IS a love story of you and Jesus–so beautiful, and a model of that intimacy you mentioned in the beginning of this study. And that takes freedom to find too.

  16. 4 C. Before I even talked with God about it, God gave me an opportunity right after I signed off this study yesterday morning.

    * I have to be careful because I want to respect my husband’s wishes of privacy, so there is a bit more here than I will share. He was a bit agitated yesterday morning. Usually when this happens I let it control me by getting angry myself, but God is helping me to let go of that relational idolatry. I walked away and let him do his thing-I talked to God, “Is this the opportunity? You went before me, wow..” I felt free, but was a little scared and had to let go of my pride. The Holy Spirit moved and when I came back into the room I told him I understood why he was frustrated, and was empathetic and told him I loved him and hugged him. It changed his countenance. I do appreciate even more though the times when Jesus changes his countenance and those are many times so I am thankful.

    Oh I didn’t feel like it AT ALL.. One thing I am learning is that a huge part of walking in faith doesn’t mean I wait for it to be comfortable or feel good before I obey. Most times, for me, the moments God comes in are times when my feelings and pride are in control and everything in my soul says “NO!”.

    1. Oh Rebecca, that teaches me so much. What a beautiful example. I know you also read Anne Voskamp’s blog–did you see yesterday? It was on blessing our husbands–and it so reminded me of what you just described. That was beautiful.

      1. Elizabeth, No, I didn’t read her blog yesterday. Wow! I will have to try to do that today. 🙂

    1. I love the Stone Cutter…It just jumps out at me because of what I know and what I am going through. However the other title would probably draw more because it is specific…Make sense? Eventhough the subtitle after stone cutter explains that I usually do not take time to read subtitles unless the original title got my attn. Praying you would have wisdom in this. And for the right publisher!! Exciting!

    2. I agree. I like The Stonecutter. For artwork I like that picture of the red heart with stone over it. It reaches farther than words.

      1. I like Stonecutter too. I like that the title is Jesus, and in such a powerful way…there is just so much strength to it..if that makes sense? It’s focusing on the way we are FREED rather than the idols that enslave. I don’t know, I’m often guilty of over-thinking so take my thoughts with a carton of salt 😉

  17. 5.Galatians 5:16 is HUGE. Remember to substitute self if your Bible says flesh, because we so often think of flesh as just the body.

    A. What promise is given if you walk by the Spirit?

    * Boy did I experience Gal. 5:16 yesterday morning..Talk about conflict between the myself and spirit. 🙂

    * The promise is that I won’t gratify the selfish desires of myself.

    B. What does it mean to walk, moment by moment, by the Spirit?

    * This is hard to put into words but I think it means emptying myself daily and yielding to the Holy Spirit’s leading..He does this in many ways with filling me up with Him-He is the Word, so He uses the verses I have memorized, He uses the bible study here, and in speaking truth to my soul. As I was reading chapter 5 of “The God of All Comfort”, (I think it is chapter 5) Dee reminded me of how He encourages this through nature.. Sometimes His word comes alive through nature and He speaks to me through observing scriptural truths contained in it. Most times I have to empty myself of my selfish thoughts first to hear Him.

    1. The part about the deer? Oh that had me just bawling! But it reminded me of this week’s lesson too–having eyes wide open–to hear Him, see Him.

      1. Elizabeth, OH yes, the deer. I remember that and yes that was awesome!! I am talking about when Annie was missing Steve when she was getting ready to be married and..well I can’t say anymore because I don’t want to ruin it. 🙂

  18. D.
    The command is not something to stop doing, but a proactive thing TO do. To think of ways to be a blessing to those around me, let Him use me to bless.

    E.
    I think of the ways I bite others with my words—not usually to their face, but behind their backs…usually not even people I know, but certain ones in politics or media—it is so easy to tear them apart. We must avoid this or we will destroy each other. Even if I don’t know the person, when I am so judging and critical in my spirit, the Holy Spirit is grieved, and I am living in my sinful nature. My pastor once asked the question in a sermon “is that (someone hard to love) person’s name SAFE in your mouth” That was convicting for me.

    5.
    A. I will not indulge my self.

    B. I keep thinking “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet…” Meditating on His Word, memorizing it, keeping His Word before me, it will light the path I walk..so that each moment is walking in Him.
    I think it is surrendering every decision, every “want”, even the simple—“Lord, I don’t want it to rain…but I rest in You”…laying it down. It is a desire to live by the Spirit and trusting He will guide. Slow to speak, slow to react…letting Him lead me.
    There was a place where Dee talked about wanting a friend to come to the cabin…and asking someone but knowing there would be a lot of details to work out, and then she just gave it to Him, trusted HIm. For me, to trust Him with the details I think allows me to walk in Him. And I want my life to reflect HIM, not me!

  19. Dee, I loved both! I can see why this is a struggle. Initially, right off the bat, I wrote down “The Hidden Idols of a Woman’s Heart”, but “The Stonecutter” is so powerful and leaves it open to a larger outreach, perhaps to men. Oh my, I am afraid I am not of any help! 🙂

    Oh, I have to add, I AM SO THRILLED, SOOOO THRILLED you are putting this into a bible study!!!!! I can’t wait!

    1. I agree with Rebecca, if it was hidden idols of a womens heart, men would miss all the glory from it.

  20. Ok just had to report a major place i saw God at work. Eph 4:17-27 is the passage that was in my Bible study today. HUGE for me. Yesterday I struggled greatly with the sin of giving into a hardened heart. I knew this was not okay and I knew I needed to bring that into the light to some strong believers. God worked that all out and I felt much better. Then today He showed me the Scripture about why this was so important. A beautiful way I saw Him today. The problem is not my circumstances it is always my heart about them. This was a huge step and breakthrough. So thankful for it. God is good.

    1. Angela, Amen! This reminds me of Lamentations 3:22,23 ( I memorized NASB but love NIV’s version of it)
      “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

  21. 6. Are you experiencing more of the fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-23 in your life? If so, share! It encourages us all.

    * God has opened up the unkind ladies heart at work toward me and I think it is because of forbearance and kindness and love that God has given me toward her. At first she was cold, distant and unkind to me, and it would have been easy to ignore her and go into my shell for comfort, but God quickened my heart not to and to love her. Now she has warmed up, and I guess I didn’t see the scope of how bad it was, but other subs have refused to work at that school because of her and a few other ladies that work there. She is African American and from Brazil and her language is hard to understand. There are only three ladies who are kind out of about eight.

    I admit I don’t like working in that environment and every inkling within me wants to run, not to reach out and love, rather to stay in my hole and not speak and just work and get it over with, but Jesus wants me to love, so I still sub at that school.

    I am scheduled there today. Her name is Marie..Pray for her. I am pretty sure she doesn’t know Jesus. There is another gal, I forgot her name but she is pretty rude to me too and I have been responding with kindness. Totally God working through me though. She hasn’t warmed up to me at all yet.

    Also, the sub I worked with yesterday said this about another school I am going to sub at in May: “That school has a manager with a very nasty mouth and sense of humor, and there is, you know, ‘one of those Christians’ there whose husband is a Youth pastor at their church..she is really sweet though.” 🙂 I am looking forward to going there and perhaps the youth pastor’s wife and I will bring encouragement to one another and maybe be salt and light to that manager. That is the same manager who called me telling me I was highly recommended and she wants me there every day to finish out the year, so God has given me lots of time there. 😉

  22. I used to be a HUGE American Idol watcher and wished I would have watched the season this year. I have heard nothing but good things. I quit watching it because of time. I never had time to be in front of the t.v. the time it was on. Then I tivo’d it and didn’t have time to watch it then.

    I am going to make an effort to watch next week though. Am I too late? What time and day is it on?

      1. Dee, That is really a great way to do it for those of us who can’t watch A.I. live. The gals at work today talked about it, I felt so lost! 😉

        Hey, were any of you gals praying this morning for Grace for me?!?! It was strange at work today..Everyone was really very kind and positive toward me, and Marie was smiling all the time. I was so happy to see her happy.

        Whenever she would talk to me she had a huge smile on her face and even told me she recommended me to another school if they ever needed to hire someone permanent. My heart is burdened for her because of the way she is belittled at work. I don’t think it is because she is African American, but I don’t think people accept her as she is..She just responds to things differently, and has her preferred way of doing things. I don’t know, I wanted to cry when I drove home thinking about it. Sin is so ugly and destructive.

  23. 2-3 do not go back to being slaves. it is so easy to slip back into old habits. I know for myself it is so hard to stay out of the mire of control and approval. When things are out of control its even harder. My idol of control has been trying so hard to take first place in my heart this week. I have been obsessed with the house being clean. anxiety has been ruling. This is how I lived all the time before and when I see it starting to come back i get so scared.

    I do not want to be a slave to my pride and control yet when I try to let go of it,its the only thing I can think of soooooooo back to square one—–focus on JESUS and not the idol. Im trying!

    4. to live in freedom but not use that freedom to sin. serve one another in love. I serve people ALL DAY just this morning I have performed 7 acts of service and its not 8am. the problem is the IN LOVE part. usually I don’t have that hard of a time with this but I am tired and my attitude is BAD. I am really having a hard time loving my husband this week. I have been really hurt by some of his criticism of me as a mom which has attacked my pride idol. Im feeling more like a slave then a free person! thanks for the reminder!

    Im going to start today with my eyes on Jesus instead of myself, my kids or my husband.

      1. thanks!!! it worked:)

  24. I think God is using my children to get through to me. I so relate to Cyndi’s comment “I have performed 7 acts of service and its not 8am…” but I am convicted of the spirit in which I serve.

    My 4 year old and I were just talking earlier today about Spring Break being next week–he’s all excited he has no preschool, sister will be home, etc…and then he said “Mommy, I wish YOU could have Spring Break”. I answered with the usual “moms don’t get a break–who will do all the cleaning, and cooking, and…” And then I stopped because he was looking down, and then he said “Well, I could do those things by myself”. This is my sweet sweet child who I cannot tell you how many times I have sensed Christ speak to me through him. I thought about what kind of image I must be giving of motherhood that he would want so desperately to give me freedom…

    I know I will fail, but I so long to give to my family with a servant’s heart, a spirit of gratitude for the gift they truly are!

    Tangible step–I will start playing more music–it changes me, especially things like Indelible Grace (please listen if you’ve never heard!)–they sing old hymns, very acoustical and natural…anyway, it helps me relax and be intimate with Jesus.

    1. OH my! I was just thinking that same thing yesterday Elizabeth!!!! Im taking my 5 plus one (2 are 18 so don’t feel to sorry for me:)) to a cabin in southern Ohio for spring break, hubby cant get off work. I was thinking “when do IIIIIIIIIIII get a break?!?!?!?! who is going to cook and pick up and drive etc. you slapped me down again! you really need to stop doing that:)
      I love you, you make me feel normal:)

      1. Cyndi, don’t feel bad, I get to feeling sorry for myself too…dressing, bathing, brushing her teeth, wiping her bottom, helping her eat, showering her, sleeping with her because of sezures…on and on and on and I’m 61 and tired with back pain constantly, but I praise the Lord for her. We never go on vacations and I don’t get to get out on my own or with friends but she brings joy to our lives everyday. The Lord must of picked us for parents for Kendra for some reason, so I keep doing the Lord’s work everyday and am loving it.

  25. what about “set free” escaping the bondage of our idols??? I just thing so many people feel trapped and that kind of title would jump out to them….just a thought.:)

      1. I like the stonecutter because i understand what you are talking about…i just don’t know if I would “get it” if i just saw that title so im glad you have the subtitle for us slow people:)

      2. whatever it is I will be leading it as soon as it comes out!!!!! CAN NOT WAIT:)I always have a
        Bible study at my house in the summer and wish it was ging to be out by then…..

  26. I have read this vs. many times before but when I just read “to indulge the sinful nature”, I thought this time of how often I “indulge” myself in whining, or self-depreciation—like the other type of pride Keller talked about. Or just pure self-indulgence, thinking far too much about myself.

    wow Elizabeth….that hurt. I have been a whining A LOT! and thinking to much of my self. I neede a spankin and you gave it to me:)
    so glad to hear that you had fun, i struggle with that so much. I was old when i was 7!!
    i was reading older posts and saw this and was just really convicted of my pride:-(
    thank you for the prayers Dee, they really helped and I was taken from the black pit of self pitty to a place in my FATHERS lap. He just said, yep you are being a brat, come back to me and I will love ya until you can go love the ones i gave you to love….
    thanks guys!!!

  27. Dee, I do love “The Stonecutter”. Both subtitles are GREAT! I think either one would be good.

    I have a good feeling about this study.

  28. I like… setting us free from the idols that enslave us.

  29. Dee, I am thinking a lot about the title of your book. God’s purpose in it is truly exciting. I agree that the wrong title could scare people. I remember in December how the picture of the heart with the stone breaking from over it spoke to me, it drew me. Who wants a stony heart? The words idolatry and slavery could scare people away. Those ideas could be introduced gradually in the book and not the title. I know that when I read a book I want to uncover truth gradually like mining for treasure and it may be this process that brings true change.

    1. Maybe you could quote a part of Ezekiel 36:26 in a subtitle under The Stonecutter.

        1. I love the title “The Stonecutter”, for that is exactly Who Jesus Is!! I will pray for this project.

  30. I am praying for your book and video, Dee, and that the publisher wants it all and grabs it and runs because they know it is so excellent:)

    1. So thankful you made it to your cabin safely. I have loved reading God of All Comfort–and the times you talk about the cabin– now knowing you’re there, it just makes it feel like I can really picture it.

      Praying right now for Him to bless your time with sweet intimacy with Him.

      so thankful for the gift of you in my life Dee, you are a treasure.

      1. Ditto what Elizabeth said! I too am being greatly blessed by The God of All Comfort..I am almost done with it.

        If “The Stonecutter” comes out by next year I am asking God for an open door to get Dee to come to our church to do a women’s conference on it. Our church is a large church and has hosted similar events that attract people from both Kansas and Missouri.

        I will have to wait until we have more news as to when it is going to come out first though. So, we pray!

        Oh and Dee, you must tell of what did happen at the Coalition!

        1. Yes Dee, I am anxious to hear about the Coalition. Rebecca I will pray also for a conference at your church.

        2. I wanted to read The God Of All Comfort again so I downloaded it to my Kindle- that’s how I do most of my reading these days. I’m very excited to start it again!!

  31. 5b. I think it is a constant awareness of His presence and thought about what will please Him and what will not. It is to pray without ceasing, constant communication. If I am walking in the Spirit I could walk blindfolded. By that I mean not literally but spiritually. My cues for each step would come from the Spirit’s leading, not what my eyes see nor what my heart understands.

    1. 6. I have to say I am stuck this week. It has not been a good week and I have lacked fruit. That is the reason it is not been good, I am sure.

  32. Jennifer Lopez has truly accomplished an admirable job with rebooting her music career on account of The american idol show