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AWAKENINGS (Two Week Study May 29th through June 9th )
















It’s all around us — so it is a matter of being alert and giving thanks.

This last week I returned to my cabin. As I ride down through the woods toward the water, the knots in my neck disappear. This place always lifts my soul beyond my self-preoccupation to think about our magnificent God. My son J. R. and his fiance Dianne came, and he helped me get some footage for the curriculum on Idol Lies. I often think of Ann Voskamp’s quote “my camera is a hammer” — how hammering one nail (seeing and thanking) can drive out another (not seeing or thanking.) J. R. ‘s camera was a hammer.

The second night there was a gorgeous sunset, but we didn’t realize until later that it was an extremely rare solar eclipse. We could see that better on the film. Do you see how the moon has eclipsed the sun? How can you see this and not have your heart quickened? He is Lord of all!


Solar Eclipse May 21, 2012 photographed by J. R. Brestin


When I see His glory in nature, I say, with the psalmist:

When I look at your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him?

(Psalm 8:3-4)



J. R. suggested I go down to the beach before the sun disappeared so he could get me walking in front of what we still thought was simply a magnificent sunset. In my rush, my sandal caught on the steps between the deck and the beach, and I somersaulted onto the rocks. I knew I was in trouble. J. R. cried out and came running. Even in the midst of blood and pain, it was a comfort to see how deeply he cared — his tears, his prayers, his scooping me up to get me to the house. His fiance Dianne grabbed a package of frozen blueberries to hold on my goose-egg, and off we drove to the Sturgeon Bay hospital for me to be stitched up. They prayed all the way. Though I was in distress, I also, through these two, sensed God’s care. I deserve nothing, but I sensed His calming presence. We suffer every day in small or big ways — but we must let that suffering draw us to Him, help us sense His presence. (And at least my fall was romantic — tumbling into the sunset…)

I have also sensed His presence in the kindness of strangers…they see my battered face and go the extra mile — even the security agent who patted me down yesterday at the airport was especially gentle and soothing! Every time I hurt it awakens me to how hard it is to be hurt, to be “poor,” to be vulnerable — and how much I need to sense Jesus through others — and I have!


J. R. is my firstborn. I was twenty when he was born: a lost, spoiled, and foolish mother. Despite all that, God’s grace rescued us, and J. R. has grown into a godly man. However, before God awakened to me to my idol of control, I was continually trying to fix my adult children instead of simply praying and trusting God. J. R. and I often disagree, and sometimes the view from my Presbyterian perch seemed so very different from the view from his Pentecostal perch, even though we were looking at the same Lord and the same Gospel. Continually I wanted to show J. R. that my view was the right one and his was the wrong one! I did it openly and side-ways, for my control idol was very creative. This only led to hurt and withdrawal. But in the last five years, as “The Stonecutter,”  has been chipping away at my control idol, I have been awakened to a new appreciation of this son and his perspective. We still often see things differently, but there is a new sweetness in our relationship. This is the power of God which can only be released when idols are replaced by Him.

How thankful I am for this restoration. Intimacy with my family and with my God. I think of what Rebecca said, “Intimacy with God is like a stream — and I don’t like the rocks that get in the way.”


This week I have been convicted by His Word, but it is a good and beautiful piercing, awakening me from my default mode of self-preoccupation.  I was freshly reminded of how often I confine my Christianity to those who are closest to me — to those who affect me! But oh — that is not God’s heart for me. He wants me to bring His love not just to those who are close to me, but to those for whom His heart breaks. He cares for the oppressed, the lost — for those who like the Ninevites “do not know their right hand from their left.” (Jonah 4:11) How deeply that has been re-emphasized to me again this week as I’ve been reading Keller’s: Generous Justice.

The first point that particularly awakened me is that so often we think of giving to the poor, the prisoner, the oppressed, and the lost as charity, which we might think as optional — but the Bible calls it JUSTICE. It is unjust to withhold, it is unjust to disobey God, it is unjust to shut up our compassions — all these are forms of sin. A fresh definition of sin, which Jonah so vividly illustrates, is running from God.


Jonah ran from God when he refused to forgive, refused to have compassion, and refused to obey.

And we do too.

And a fresh definition of grace, is God pursuing us, rescuing us from our self-destructive behavior.

Grace is God pursuing us, rescuing us from our self-destructive behavior


Are we really destroying ourselves when we refuse to forgive? When we refuse to give justice to those whom God has called us to give justice?

Yes. That is what Jesus says. Perhaps the two most famous chapters are Matthew 25 (sheep and goats) and Isaiah 58, the passage we will look at this week.

I remember the first time I heard a sermon on Isaiah 58. It was from Greg Scharf (a pastor Renee and I were both blessed to have) who became John Stott’s back up preacher and is also the main preaching professor at Trinity. I was pierced by his exposition of Isaiah 58. When God speaks to your heart, there is a quickening, an awaking from the dead. It’s been thirty years, but I still remember Pastor Scharf’s words:

As evangelicals we often define Christianity in terms of private morality —when it is so much more. It is, among so many things, “to pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted…”  He said that it was hard for his wife and him to continually do this unless they had people move right in with them — that was the best way they knew to continually show hospitality to those in need.

That was the beginning of a journey of ongoing hospitality for Steve and me, to adoptions, to a different lifestyle. God in His grace rescued us through His Word from our self-destructive behavior. Yet I need continual rescuing, because I have what Martin Luther termed: “curvature of the soul.” I need to continually gaze on His beauty by being in the Word. Day in. Day out.

Here’s a quote from Generous Justice:

If you are a Christian, and you refrain from committing adultery or using profanity or missing church, but you don’t do the hard work of thinking through how to do justice in every area of life — you are failing o live justly and righteously.

This week you will hear a free sermon from Keller on Isaiah 58. But as Keller says at the close of this sermon, and this is SO IMPORTANT, these passages can make you feel guilty — but guilt is not an effective motivator. We may respond for a few days — but most likely, we just get immunized. We would rather live with the dull ache than to truly and completely love — to forgive, to give, to love as He does.

So what do we do?

We must gaze on His beauty.


When I lost Steve, what helped me the most was to know that Christ loved us so much that He went all the way to the cross. I knew He understood the pain of being separated from the One He loved the most. I knew that, as the Man of Sorrows, He “sat shiva” with me.

Even this week, though this trial of feeling and looking like I’ve been in a prize fight, is a much smaller trial, the cross comforts me. I look in the mirror and see a face that looks like it has been beaten, and I think, “You looked much worse. You were beaten for me. You understand my pain and shame.” I know He understands and cares. That’s the beauty of my Savior. That’s what changes my heart and lifts me beyond my self-preoccupation to being His love in the world.

This is another two week study — you need the time because of Memorial Day Weekend, and I need the time because of my accident! But this is such important material, I think it is God’s plan to slow down. Go at your own pace or follow this time line.

Most of all — keep setting your mind on His beauty — and these five ways may help show you how.

Week 1:

Sunday/Memorial Day/Tuesday

1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

2. Do you have a praise for something that happened over the Memorial Day weekend?

3.  you saw His beauty? (See my five ways above)


Wed/Friday Bible Study

Isaiah 58

It is so easy to appear to be walking with the Lord, when in reality we are pointing our fingers at other people, shutting up our compassions to those in need, and “hiding” from our own flesh and blood. This is a passage that can change your life. Study it — then listen to Keller — and its beauty can awaken you!

4. Read Isaiah 58:1-2 and describe how they had an appearance of holiness.

5. But, according to Isaiah 58:3-5, what revealed their true hearts?

6. According to Isaiah 58:6-7, describe a “true fast.” Don’t be afraid to let Him speak to you hear — He loves you and wants to bless you.

7. We hurt ourselves when we disobey God, when we run from God. What blessings do we forfeit according to Isaiah 58:8-14?


8. What is your take-a-way and why?

Week 2: June 3, 2012

Sunday/Monday: Icebreaker

Jonah gives us a fresh definition of “sin” and “grace.” (Look at above pictures)

9. Share a time when you “ran from God,” but He pursued you, rescuing you from your own self-destructive behavior.

Tuesday-Friday  Keller Sermon

This is a free sermon entitled “Justice” available on the Redeemer Ap under MP3’s and then under

Renewing the City (Look for Justice)

or go to this link — it looks like you will have to purchase it, but it will be free

10. Explain the importance of justice

11. How does the Bible define justice?

12. Keller closes with talking about how beauty can change us, but guilt will not. Take copious notes!

13. What stands out to you and why?


14. What is your take-a-way and why?




Leave a Comment

Comment * If this is your first time here, please comment then fill out your name and email as stated at the bottom. Dee will approve you within 24 hours.







    This is my first time here. I’ve been captivated by your words! I must say I feel like Goliath, your message is so spot on!

    Trying to figure out what was wrong with me has had me in a circle of despair for a very long time. Your words above are what have helped me at least to see what I couldn’t. I praise God for you, you are an answer to prayer. He is so faithful. I’ve got a very long way to go!

    I have a pair of bluebirds living in the crabapple tree outside a bedroom window. I don’t know what that means but I love that they are here. God’s beauty is Splendor unequaled even in the smallest of things. Bring it on – I’m ready to be on the path to slaying my Goliath!

    1. Welcome Janet–so glad you’re here! Appreciate your sweet humble heart!

    2. Janet, welcome! I agree your bluebirds are lovely. We will pray for you and I feel very sure you will find healing as you study with us.

    3. Hello Janet & welcome!

    4. Welcome Janet!

    5. You are in the right place for what you seek. So glad you are joining us 🙂

    6. Hi Janet! So glad you are here-just love your heart. 🙂

      1. Welcome Janet!!!

    7. Welcome Janet!

  2. I did download Anne of Green Gables. What a wonderful story! Dee, I see what you mean about your ‘romantic’ fall.

      1. I love that you & Sally qoute lines from Anne of Green Gables, which I love too.
        For my sister & me the quotes mostly come from Pride & Prejudice,
        once when I was with her as they wheeled her away for surgery I called after her waving my tissue saying ‘Take every opportunity of enjoying yourself’ the nurse joined us in laughing!

        1. Hahaha My best friend and I break out into our rendition from “Seven brides for seven brothers” …them women were sobin’ sobin’ sobin’ buckets of tears…

        2. My sister and I share a love of Jane Austen and I have read Pride and Prejudice several times. The Masterpiece Theater series on this that was done many years ago is the best and most true to the book that I have seen.

  3. I love when Dee reminds us to see Him in Creation–because once I open my eyes to it, I see Him everywhere, all day–giving me glimpses of Himself. 2 little ones today–my family and I were walking at the lake–and noticed a family of tee-niny baby ducklings, 11 of them!, must have just been hatched in the last day–I had ducks as a kid, and never this small! But what made us smile, was as they scurried across the lake, the mama and daddy duck were side by side, and then all 11 of the babies were perfectly lined up behind the mama! But it did make me think–do I follow Him THAT closely? Mimicking His every move? There was such a concentrated effort to follow who they knew to be their provider.
    The other was my 5 year old–we’ve had some rain the past few days, and he makes every effort possible to jump into every puddle anywhere within his eyesight–and I just love that. the joy! I feel like so often I miss the little joys, the little puddles He has for me to jump in, simply because I’m too focused on my own agenda.

  4. I would like to come back to #7 now.

    7. We hurt ourselves when we disobey God, when we run from God. What blessings do we forfeit according to Isaiah 58:8-14?
    I think I had this question turned around in that I looked at what I have to gain as I lean in to God in obedience. I agree that this is a beautiful portion of scripture. I forfeit:
    The dawn of light in my life
    My quick recovery
    Righteousness to go before me and the Lord’s glory as my rear guard.
    The Lord will answer quickly when I call on Him
    V10 light, no darkness
    Satisfaction from the Lord in a parched land (free of idolatry)
    I will be like a watered garden and a sping whose waters never run dry (beautiful, as I have always wanted to be)
    I will be a restorer of the ancient foundations and rebuild the ruined walls (I do feel like an appendix, trouble waiting to happen)
    I will delight in the Lord
    I will ride on the heights of the land
    I will enjoy Jacob’s inheritance (the promised land)

  5. 6. According to Isaiah 58:6-7, describe a “true fast.” Don’t be afraid to let Him speak to you hear — He loves you and wants to bless you.
    Reading these words, and Matthew 25:35-40, oh it is so convicting. He identifies Himself with the poor.He IS the poor.
    My husband and I do have a heart for the poor, especially for children, but I know I show my love within my comfort zone. We support as generously as we can many Christian organizations and missionaries who serve the poor—but bringing them into our home? It’s something I’ve put off—or confined to giving money and helping at church out-reach events or a Thanksgiving soup kitchen. I want to really ask Him to speak to me about where my walls of comfort need to come down. Where does He want me to really be un-comfortable, maybe even risky, for His sake?

    7.–I want to sit with these verse awhile–there is SO much there, wow.

  6. Thank you ladies for all your prayers!!!!!! I PASSED the awful test! I know it was all because I did the work on the ground and had faith in the Lord above. God gave me the knowledge to know exactly what I would be asked. I know that to be absolutely true. What a relief to have that done…..now just a field trip to beautiful Yellowstone and a virtual field trip to create of New England and I am done. God’s earth is a wonderful place; the storms, the mountains, the hot interior, and the ocean. He sure planned it to be an orchestra of sorts. I am so happy that I will be able to focus on my family in the near future. I miss them – it’s as if we have been separated for awhile. Thank you again 🙂

    1. Hooray!! Praise God & good for you Laura!
      Are you really going to Yellowstone?

      1. Yes I am on my way for a 10 day field trip beginning June 23. The cool part of this is that I have studied with some ladies for the past few years who live across the country. My study friend from California, and I are going together. We have figured out over time that we both love God, and she has agreed to do a morning Bible study with me 🙂 I hope we can use this blog for that purpose!

        I am from Florida originally and have not been to that part of the country (Idaho and Wyoming). I have been to almost every state otherwise. I LOVE our beautiful country. I love the people, the starkness of Sedona, Arizona, the flowers in San Diego, the trees in Tennesse and North Carolina, the dust devils in Texas, the lightning storms of my homestate, and the snowy evenings right here in Salem, New Hampshire. Maybe I can post some pictures while I’m on the trip. I don’t do fb much, but I do have an account. I can post them there and give you the link here like others do.

        1. Wonderful!

    2. So thankful you passed!!

    3. Laura Dancer, YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

      1. Yay Laura dancer! So happy for you!

    4. Congratulations, Laura! I hope you enjoy your trip to Yellowstone!

  7. I feel like a heel. Cyndi got me to call the Dr. again and she said, “4 Vicodin a day isn’t much, alot of our patients are on 10-12 a day!” So she said to just take 2-3 at the most, a day untill surgery. I only needed one today, so I’m happy. If I had called her in the first place, I would of never had to go off of it:-(

    I had read to go off of everything on the paper, so never questioned it. Thank you Cyndi and Anne! And everyone for your prayers!

    1. Joyce, So glad to hear this! I read this yesterday but didn’t have time to respond. I feel so awful for you that you are going through all this pain. Will be praying for you and for your surgery.

      1. Thank you so much, Rebecca

    2. OH im sooooo glad you have some relief:-) yipppeeee

  8. 6. According to Isaiah 58:6-7, describe a “true fast.” Don’t be afraid to let Him speak to you hear — He loves you and wants to bless you.

    I think what popped out to me this time is “and not turn away from your own flesh and blood”. My dad’s health is getting worse-he has prostate cancer and emphysema. He is alone pretty much because his sister just passed away and she lived with him. I need to be there for him. There is no question though- I want to, I think this is more of a comfort to me from God-a reassurance that my desire to be there for my dad is His desire.

    what is funny is as much as I would LOVE to jump into working at the City Union Mission or even going into the prisons ministering to the ladies there-I can’t right now. Yet God is faithful-i don’t have to create opportunities-He does! He has blessed me beyond measure! He just gave this to me this morning. Last month I was asked to cover at the City Union Mission’s graduation and serve by singing a song. It was a pleasure to serve in this way-but God opened the door. It is really kind of exciting to know that God will surprise me with opportunities around me-who knows what He will do next-I just want to have my eyes opened. 🙂

    1. So glad to see that you realize that God has His work for you already planned out and that He will put before you what He wants you to do. Keep your eye out for the opportunities that do arise, but you don’t have to go looking for them or make them happen.

  9. I looked this up because verse 12 seemed just right for Kim this morning, but the whole chapter speaks to fasting from self & opening our lives to others.

    Romans 12

    Living Sacrifices

    1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

    3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.


    9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

    14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

    17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

    “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

    In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

    21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    I know this is a lot to post, but I suspect some of you are as eager for more as I am!

    1. Thanks for this long post of Scripture, Chris S. I needed this today. I am substitute teaching an adult Sunday School class this week and our topic (not a co-incidence, but a God-incident)is on justice. I love how the last verses speak of justice. I will use these verses as part of the teaching, though our main passage is from Exodus. Thanks so much!

  10. Diane- read you post this morning in my email now I can’t fInd it on the blog! Anyway I would like to recvomend a book to you called calm my anxious heart it’s by Linda dillow it has a whole chapter that deals with the what ifs! I am praying for you!!

    1. Thanks so much, Meg. You’re sweet! I’ll check that out.

  11. I listened to a great sermon by Keller yesterday…a free one called Forgiving and Forgiven..it really helped me. He talks about anger as an emotion that is okay to have, just not to sin in it or let a bitter root form. Keller keeps pointing to the cross throughout the sermon, how that gives us the power to forgive when we think of how much we’ve been forgiven. I feel like I’m at a place where I can forgive my sister-in-law…I do not feel bitter. Yet I’m following my counselor’s caution to not try to have a relationship with her until she gets help for the brokeness and anger she carries. Just wanted to share, I’m so thankful for the prayers you guys have offered up on my behalf.

    1. I like this, “anger as an emotion that is okay to have, just not to sin in it or let a bitter root form”.

      1. I appreciate your advice to AnneMeredith here too, Dee. I am wondering how to know when another person has changed if you don’t have a relationship with her/him, Especially when it is someone in your extended family and ongoing connections are there. I, too, have a brother who has anger issues with some of us in the family. He refuses to accept apologizes. He has lashed out and now refuses to speak to some of us, but wants relationships with others. I am struggling with how to love in tangible ways, to let him know that I am open to having a relationship, while I do not want to make matters worse or to be hurt any more. It is a delicate situation.

        1. I agree with that…if we can love unconditonally like Christ does, but have boundaries as far as close relationships. We always get a bday present for my sister-in-law…she doesn’t always acknowledge them but I feel led to do it by the Lord. I wonder too how we will know if she has changed. A delicate and tricky situation that has to be navigated by the Holy Spirit I believe.

      2. Thanks Aunt Dee. Yes, by relationship I meant close friend. Thank you for your prayers, they mean a lot.

        1. Yes I listened to a Keller sermon on doubt today…because I surely have it! Doubt!

        2. But still believing for a breakthrough at some point!

    2. Annemeredith–you stay on my heart so much. I know all situations are different, but because “un-forgiveness” is one of my biggest struggles–I have a lot of different relationships to pull on where I’ve had to suffer these pains! And a current one that is a daily battle. I will tell you that I thought I had pretty much resolved my feelings with a major family member years ago…until I met Dee! Then I realized how I had settled for a “as good as it can be” mindset about the relationship–I had not forgiven.

      Going through her studies is really what God used to begin to soften my heart…enough so that when it starts to get hard, I long for that play-dough spirit only He can bring. Dee’s post, on 6/12/11–oh that’s such a good one to pull up!! In it, she said “Forgiveness always demands a price. Letting someone off the hook who doesn’t deserve to be let off the hook is costly. Somebody has to pay when a wrong is done, and it hurts to pay.”

      There is a Keller sermon where he says something like ‘someone has to pay–and we can be more like Christ if we take the debt..’

      Sorry I went so long–I just hurt for you and am praying

      1. Thanks so much for praying and caring Elizabeth. I feel loved and supported and that does make it easier to forgive…when I see how much I have that’s from the Lord and knowing she is a pretty broken person who needs freedom. I’ve been watching Rocky movies with my boys 🙂 not my first choice…but Rocky has a drunk, crazy acting brother-in-law he is constantly forgiving. Not that my sister-in-law is drunk or crazy! But God just highlighted that in the movie, how much Rocky had a godly character that I wanted to be like (at least in his forgiving). Yes, God uses strange ways sometimes to get our attention! Anyway, thanks for praying and caring!

  12. My lady is in heaven with Jesus and her daughter did come and was with her in the end. Thank you God for hearing the prayers of your people!

    1. Oh my Kim…..We prayed, didn’t we, for Vergene and her daughter to be reconciled, for God to change her daughter’s heart! This is amazing, wonderful, and yes, thank you Lord!

    2. Amen.

    3. Oh Kim, I am so sorry for you and her family, but so thankful she is with Jesus, in Glory!

  13. 6. According to Isaiah 58:6-7, describe a “true fast.” Don’t be afraid to let Him speak to you hear — He loves you and wants to bless you.

    I agree with what Rebecca said having our eyes open.. and also be willing to do whatever Gods call me to do.. THere is so much that i want to help with right now.. I am actually stepping back from helping in the church library its just too much for me right now.. I am working every day.. and I have helped in there for over 5 years so I think its time to step back and let someone else step up.. But praying that The Lord will clearly show me whats next! If Anything!

    1. Meg,
      I haven’t told you yet that I’m glad you are back with us. I will pray that God will show you what He has in store for you next!

      1. I agree, Meg:)

  14. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

    The same thing that so many already noted:

    I am characteristically absorbed in myself, in my own anxieties and concerns
    I can tell myself to stop it – but that is not effective
    What really helps me is seeing the beauty of God.

    You know, I can look at my young-adult sons just past the teenage years and see their self-centeredness so obviously at times, yet I still have it too, just in different ways. It seems so hard to get “out of my self” – self-preoccupation. I know it is sin, but it it true that knowing that doesn’t really help me to stop. I need to get my mind preoccupied with thoughts of God.

    I also like the ways we can set our minds on Him, by thinking about His:
    Creation, Presence, Word, Power, and His Cross.

    And this: “We would rather live with the dull ache than to truly and completely love – to forgive, to give, to love as He does.” This is so true, true of me. Is it because we get used to living with mediocrity, with the ache? Perhaps the dull ache feeds self-preoccupation.

  15. 2. Do you have a praise for something that happened over the Memorial Day weekend?

    Yes. Last Friday evening my daughter and I attended a special dinner for all the moms and daughters who participated in the Secret Keeper Girl monthly evenings at our church. It was a catered dinner and they had two ladies speaking to us moms and the girls. Each dad was to write his daughter a special letter and it was a secret; we presented our daughters with their cards/letters toward the end of the evening. When my daughter opened her card, she read it very carefully; it was a Precious Moments card (my husband always gets her one of those little statues each Christmas) and also had a keepsake card with a poem, “Daughter”. She was very quiet. I told her that I had not seen the card as dad picked it out himself; I had nothing to do with it; I only told him he was supposed to do it. She began to cry, and said, “Dad really does love me, and I love him, too.”
    When we got home, she thanked him and then went to her room. I thought she was getting ready for bed. When my husband and I went to bed, there was a note, rolled up like a scroll and tied with ribbon on his pillow. She wrote him a special note and drew a picture on the back of “King Dad” and his Princess, his daughter, holding hands.
    Now, my husband, I don’t think he even realizes how huge this is – he’s not comfortable with lots of displays of emotion/affection – but I think this was huge for her heart, and the way she will see God, as her heavenly Father. It also made me see how important it is for me to build him up in her eyes.

    My other praise was on Sunday morning, getting to see my son graduate at his high school graduation. He attended a Catholic HS, so there was a full Catholic Mass first, then the graduation ceremony. I appreciated the more quiet, worshipful atmosphere (I think I’m more of that contemplative type, too) and that God was being brought into the ceremonies. I felt very much able to worship and pray during the service and to express my love to the Lord. I am thankful that all 4 grandparents were here to see him graduate. Afterwards, we had a nice afternoon with all our family at our house for a party.

    1. Susan–I am running out the door, but OH!! I HAD to jump on here, tears and all–I am honestly in tears reading this sweetness between your daughter and husband–I can’t even find the words yet, but I have goosebumps all over. God is working–wow, thank you for sharing all of this Susan. And so thankful the graduation went so well!

      1. That’s one of the best things about this place – having dear friends to share not only our hurts and sorrows with, but the good stuff, too!

        1. Susan–I’ve had this extra “joy” inside all day since reading this–the funny thing is, I kept wanting to share your good news with someone–and then i’d realize they don’t know you! But I say that to say–we do ALL share such a special bond–in some ways for me, I feel closer to you all than many “in person” friends–and it is a blessing to share in these good gifts! I know it’s risky to hope–but I am keeping lots of hope for your husband’s heart–enough for the days when you don’t feel you can risk it 😉

      2. Elizabeth, I have nerve damage in my right thigh from my last back surgery and it feels like burning, sharp needle pain, once in awhile…not all the time, but my Dr. said to have a “Have a EMG nerve conduction study for nerve damage to evaluate this.” I thought of you, suffering from nerve problems so bad. Has your Dr. suggested this? Praying for you.

        1. Joyce–I am so sorry for all your pain. Yes, I had the EMG and nerve study done. It was helpful in that they found the areas where the nerves were compressed. It’s not much “fun”–a little like the old board game, “Operation”, but I am 100% certain I’m a wimp compared to you!

        2. No Way!

    2. Susan, I agree with Elizabeth and have chills and am full of thankfulness for this breakthrough. Precious to see God at work in this way. We rejoice with you!!!
      Father we pray this will be the beginning of many more blessings in Susan’s family. Let it be, amen.

    3. Susan, you do have much to be thankful for and praise God for!! I’m so happy for you and your family:)

    4. Wonderful, Susan.

    5. How awesome to read this about your daughter and husband. Thanks so much for sharing!

    6. Susan,

      Praise God! I had tears well up when I read this yesterday! Glory be to God!

    7. Susan, So wonderful that your husband gave this lifelong gift to your daughter. Bring this to mind whenever he gets on your nerves 🙂

    8. This is so wonderful Susan! God is working in your family. Lord, thank You! We love the works of Your hand and how You answer our prayers above what we ask or even think of.

  16. My daughter sprained both wrists Tues. at school during Field Day – it rained so we moved inside and she ran a race and all the kids were stopping themselves against the gym wall with their hands. She turned her hands in a funny way so the backs hit against the wall. Yesterday we went to see her doctor and got xrays to make sure no fractures – they are sprained and she has to wear splints on both wrists for awhile but it helps b/c they’re so sore!

    1. Oh No! I feel so sorry for her…how that must hurt 🙁 How long does she have to wear the splints?

    2. ouch! Hope they heal soon.

  17. There are still terrible storms at my workplace, but when a coworker was telling me how to do my job (I’ve been there 26 years, she has been there 3, but that’s beside the point) I was immediately filled with resentment and just as quickly, I was struck with the thought that this is a test. How should I respond to it? The peace and calmness that I felt was amazing. I know you faithful women are praying for me, I feel it. The small unexpected rays of sunshine that appear throughout the day from a few of my coworkers are my main focus, not the negativity. I am keeping my mind dwelling on the 5 areas listed above.

    I’ve been sincerely praying for the ones that are making things difficult. If I can’t find anything good to say then I just pray “Father, you told me to pray for my enemies so I am. I don’t feel it. I don’t want to, but I am doing it in obedience and I know that the Holy Spirit is praying your perfect will toward them in this matter. Give me your heart to love them as you do and to truly want what’s best for them.”
    Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t feel it, but I am striving to be conscience of my reaction and to line my actions up with His word and His will. It’s easy to do when I am sitting at my computer drinking my morning coffee. Much, much more difficult when I am at work looking at their faces and hearing their remarks.

    1. *conscious, not conscience

      1. Yes, I know Jill and she would pass that test well! I only hope I could if need be!

    2. Dawn, your doing great! I was just reading Psalms 101 this morning and the 5th verse really hit me hard!
      “He who slanders his neighbor secretly, I will destroy.
      The man of haughty looks and arragant heart, I will not endure.”

      So keep on a keepin on..your doin’ great!

    3. Praise God Dawn, what a testimony! You are Christ’s ambassador there in your workplace, I love your obedience prayer, it is so hard to submit when the flesh is crying out against it, I have experienced that in my marriage especially. God honors those prayers though, I can’t wait to see what He will do with this whole situation!

  18. 6. According to Isaiah 58:6-7, describe a “true fast.” Don’t be afraid to let Him speak to you hear — He loves you and wants to bless you.

    I think the Lord is asking them to cease oppressing the poor, and to really delight in Him in their fasting. I apply that to my own life as acknowledging Him as Lord with pure worship and joy that only comes from Him.

    Our church is fairly charismatic…we have those who raise their hands, some who dance, some who wave flags in the back of the church. But also those who just sit and pray, or stand and sing. I have found myself becoming less charismatic in my worship and more contemplative. It’s interesting to read the comments on the blog and see us all as facets of the gem that comprises the body of Christ. I know however I worship, if it comes from a pure heart, than it pleases Him.

    Also beyond fasting, He is asking them to share with the poor, provide for them. There a lot of ways to do this, we used to divide our tithe between church, missionaries and then some to give away on the street. We have gotten away from the latter, so it would be good to do this again as part of a true fast.

  19. I apologize for my late reply. This past Memorial Day was very precious to me. We attended a Veteran’s Recognition Service at our city park. The Master of Ceremonies played the theme song for each branch of the service and our veterans stood at attention when their song was played. There was a simulated tomb to represent all of our soldiers who gave the ultimate price for our freedom. At the end of the ceremony, the veterans made a huge circle around the grave and then all of us made circles around them laying our hands on their shoulders.
    It was such a meaningful and moving ceremony and such a beautiful tribute to our veterans. We have so much to be thankful for. I just finished listening to Tim Keller’s sermon “Justice” and it really offered me the opportunity to think about my interactions with the less fortunate. To look at our gifts to others as beauty is so touching to me. Thinking of us all knit together in the fabric of His love is just beyond words. Under, over, in and through – we are knit together in Christ’s love and all he asks is that we love others in beauty just as He loves us. I am so humbled.

    1. Your Memorial Day image is a wonderful one, I love the “knit together in the fabric of His love” too, I am so glad you have returned Peggy!

  20. I read all of the comments on my email but I won’t do that again. By the time I finished I can’t remember what I wanted to say to anyone much less find the comments. I did pray however, as I read.

    8. It is early for a takeaway but I had some thoughts (conviction) as I think about the verses. The 2nd verse in particular because Isaiah could very well be talking about me. I seek the Lord day after day and desire to know His ways. I try very hard to do what is right. I give to the poor out of a heart of compassion but still, I lack love, the kind of love Jesus has. More often than not when I am faced with humanity in person, my compassion grows cold. I feel pretty hopeless about ever loving as Jesus does, yet I know that He is a God of miracles.

    1. Anne, I feel like acknowledging our weakness in this is likely the first step in God breaking through. I know in my own strength I am incapable of the love we are called to. In weakness His power can be perfected.
      Oh that it would be so in me! That I could love that way…I do want to!

      1. Chris, your words are so encouraging. Thank you! I agree that to love this way is what I want.
        Lord, You know us so well. We want to love as You love and yet we are weak. We come to You because we know this is Your will for us and that You are able. Help us to love as You love. Teach us. Change us into the likeness of our beloved Savior. Amen

  21. Oh this study is wrecking my heart more than I thought it would so far. I don’t think it a coincident that I am dealing with homeless people and struggling with how to help them but not enable…It is a lot on a heart. SO I have some solutions. The homeless guy who stands with a sign at the busy Target intersection, I will carry waterbottles and some sort of food that I can give him. At the Lord proper timing I will hear his story. It is hard with kids. But I cannot just keep driving by him, especially when the kids are like we need to help. And now all this. It makes me think of little mans parents and how one day I may see them like that. Oh it is heart breaking. It is their choice though in their situation and I know giving money is bad but providing a drink, food or an ear maybe even wet wipes. That could help and give hope that people still see them.

    4. Read Isaiah 58:1-2 and describe how they had an appearance of holiness. They did what was expected. Outward compliance with no love or proper motivation.

    5. But, according to Isaiah 58:3-5, what revealed their true hearts? They Excused God of not being good yet they exploited, quarreled and struck one another.

    6. According to Isaiah 58:6-7, describe a “true fast.” Don’t be afraid to let Him speak to you hear — He loves you and wants to bless you. I like what he spoke of about foreigners. ESL ministry has been the most wonderful thing for my kids and I to participate in. It is true fasting. Also what I mentioned above is too. Caring for little man is caring for his parents. God is showing me things we are doing. I can see too how I am provided with supernatural strength due to my Lyme disease to care for little man. God has provided so strong.

    7. We hurt ourselves when we disobey God, when we run from God. What blessings do we forfeit according to Isaiah 58:8-14? healing, God guarding us, strengthening, provision, quenched with water, restoration.

      1. I need to just get that book and read it. I know it would be so helpful. IN the ESL ministry we often get people in need. We have a food pantry at church that can be a help but I want to get to know them enough that I know. There were over 39 different countries represented in our area. Some stories are incredible! If I knew them all well I could know how to intentionally help. I usually teach the ones though who speak little to no English so it is hard to know but if they seem unclean or smell I guess could be an indicator. My kids work with the kids and maybe could notice. Language barriers are hard but nothing is impossible with God.

  22. I keep coming back to question 7–it’s hard to write an answer because the Scripture overwhelms me. The extent of His graciousness–it’s so hard to even grasp or put in words. But these verses especially–I am struck by:

    “8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,and your healing shall spring up speedily;
    your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.”
    –The Light breaking through–the HOPE that gives, I love.

    verse 9, I LOVE this–the blessing of His ears hearing my cries, and that I will hear Him in response. I can remember growing up with such a longing to be heard, to be understood, to be rescued–and here, the Ultimate One–hears, understands, rescues ME: “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’”–

    His CONTINUAL guidance, His promise to restore what has been dried up and without hope or life in me–verse 11 “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong;and you shall be like a watered garden,like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

  23. My Mom used to recite this poem to us, it rained gently here all night, It thought of the poem and thought you ladies might love it too.


    I saw God wash the world last night
    With His sweet showers on high;
    And then when morning came
    I saw him hang it out to dry.

    He washed each slender blade of grass
    And every trembling tree;
    He flung his showers against the hills
    And swept the rolling sea.

    The white rose is a deeper white;
    The red, a richer red
    Since God washed every fragrant face
    And put them all to bed.

    There’s not a bird, there’s not a bee
    That wings along the way,
    But is a cleaner bird and bee
    Than it was yesterday.

    I saw God wash the world last night;
    Ah, would He had washed me
    As clean of all my dust and dirt
    As that old white birch tree!

    1. So beautiful!

  24. Susan I join in the chorus of joy regarding your husband and daughter! May this be just the start of a beautiful work God will do in your family!

    Joyce, so glad you are able to use some meds to control your pain, praying with everyone for a wonderful outcome for your upcoming surgery.

    Anne I loved your redecorating story, I keep thinking about it!

    Kim, I am glad to know that her daughter did come to be with her in the end. You must be sad to lose her & yet rejoicing at her home going today.

    Anne M, I love that God has used the Rocky character to inspire forgiveness in you!

    Laura Dancer, Wonderful that you and your California sister in Christ can be together, I am sure Yellowstone will inspire worship, what a field trip!

    I had a great day yesterday! I have so much to be thankful for!
    Our Zach (Air Force) found out yesterday that he is being transferred from North Dakota to Belgium! He is so pleased, he has been in North Dakota 3 years and was so hoping to be stationed in Europe.

    God really has dispelled my self-pity over staying home while Bill is in Disneyworld, I have been a help to them from here, working out behind the scenes things.

    I had news that a good friend is expecting!

    Two little things fell into place yesterday that will make my job a bit easier from now on.

    The weather here will be cool this weekend, so welcome as I have a very full schedule.

    I got a huge jump on preparing for my busy weekend yesterday.

    I feel filled with joy counting my blessings today…all this & Heaven too!
    I love you girls!

    1. Chris–your list of blessings made me smile–a good reminder to me to keep my eyes open–He is always loving us. I was just thinking how I want to end each day looking at the ways He has shown me Himself in the ways Dee stated–His Creation, Presence, Power, Word, and His Cross. You inspired me with your eyes!

  25. 7. We hurt ourselves when we disobey God, when we run from God. What blessings do we forfeit according to Isaiah 58:8-14? This was a good one… I think all the verses had a blessings but will just share a few verses

    Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
    then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
    9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

    This is a good verse for me.. especially this week.. I have been giving into temptation all over the place… I like what the second half of verse 8 says.. and your healing will quickly appear.. Lord help me to cry to you for help.. I was so bad in going to things for comfort instead of you help to to run to you and want to run to you give me an overwhelming passion Lord.

    Sorry about this last speal but wanted to put it out there cause i want to be accountable and let you ladies know how I have been doing 🙂

  26. 7. We hurt ourselves when we disobey God, when we run from God. What blessings do we forfeit according to Isaiah 58:8-14?

    I may be WAY OFF, but this is how I think God is speaking to me. Obeying is really loving God back-and love is sacrificing our own selfish pleasures.

    Right off the bat I am thinking when I run from Him I forfeit the blessing of intimacy with Him, and the strength and the joy he promises to give. The blessing of intimacy is weaved in and out throughout this passage. It is quite the taste of being face to face with him here on Earth. What could be better than that? YET, in my horrible fallen nature I SO EASILY bend toward comfort of my pleasures over trusting Him with sacrifice. I think He can change that-even though not perfect until I am face to face.

    As I obey and put His desires as ultimate above mine which means putting aside my pleasures for others-most likely it will mean sacrifice of time, treasure, and comfort. But God wants me to go further and trust Him with the discomfort of sacrifice-HE WILL GUIDE ME CONTINUALLY THROUGH IT and as He does He will be a salve to my discomfort-another huge blessing. Through this process of letting go and trusting, He is watering me on the inside and there will be fruit springing forth on the outside, and no matter how hard it gets in the midst of pouring myself out for others He will strengthen me and satisfy me-HE will be glorified and take such delight in it-I think just knowing He takes delight in it is a salve and makes me want to obey-love Him back-what a blessing! I picture myself riding on His wings-soaring-flying with Him-delighting in Him and He in me and He will give me His joy, and His peace abundant. Even though I know I am so far from maturity in this, I trust He will grow me in this. OH and I have to add-THERE IS GRACE WHEN WE RUN-He loves giving second chances so even though I am only at the precipice-He is God and full of Grace and Mercy-makes me again want to obey. 🙂 I am so needy of Him.

    1. I was just listening to the sermon and I was coming to the realization that I need to help my co workers and do it because I am doing it for Christ. That I shouldn’t focus on the fact that they don’t talk to me or help me with my job or that they will think that I’m caving to their whims or sucking up, but that I am doing it for Jesus out of obedience to Him. As I was thinking this, I got an email notification of your comment. Thanks for the confirmation 🙂

      1. Dawn, just to hear how he is opening your eyes via the sermon and to see you responding by loving Him more than your circumstances is such an encouragement to me. 🙂

    2. Rebecca, your last sentence…so encouraging! Always He is there with grace and mercy!

      1. So good, Dee. “So much of what I have done in my life is to plan how I can be comfortable and happy — and I forfeit the grace that could be mine.” This has been me as well. I have to continually pray for God to remove the blinders to truly surrender and care for others. As you say, “it is really how desiring God’s glory most of all will lead us to care for the oppressed. And yes, then He does bless us, and the sense of His presence grows — but our heart must be for His glory — and allow Him to do what He will. I see this so happening in your life.”

  27. 4. Read Isaiah 58:1-2 and describe how they had an appearance of holiness.
    2 For day after day they seek me out they seem eager to know my ways (they know what is required), They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.

    5. But, according to Isaiah 58:3-5, what revealed their true hearts? They are demanding something of the fast, their hearts were not right. They received nothing from the fast only felt better about themselves for participating out of duty.

    6. According to Isaiah 58:6-7, describe a “true fast.” Don’t be afraid to let Him speak to you hear — He loves you and wants to bless you.
    It seems others oriented to me – break every yoke, sharing food, provision for others, not to bring division in families.
    I am joining a fast in a Sunday school class this Sunday and we will be fasting a variety of things starting with media. The name of the book is “7” and I will be fasting media for a month then on to other things that keep us from Him. It is neat to me to study this subject just before I begin. The only media I will not give up is this blog. I am excited to begin especially with other gals in my church. There are 40 of us, I believe. Our pastor encouraged this and believes it will have great results.

  28. 7. We hurt ourselves when we disobey God, when we run from God. What blessings do we forfeit according to Isaiah 58:8-14?
    We forfeit all the blessings of Him, knowing Him, sweet fellowship. We think we know what living is but we miss it when we disobey and live for ourselves, turning inward. It seems the more I know Him and experience His love the less I run away, the less I want to go it without Him. Since doing this study I have experienced the breaking of strongholds as in some of these verses. Sins that once had me in their strangleholds are manageable. I run faster and harder from them and towards Him.

  29. Just read through Isaiah 58 in the message. Like it there too.

  30. As I read over the comments I see how God is answering prayer. I would really like to share some concerns in my life right now. I know you will pray. Sisters, you bless me so!

    My relationship with my sister is very rocky right now. She has sort of shut me out. My people skills are not good and she is a grudge holder. It has become like a snowball rolling downhill. Every time I see her I offend her in some way. It is hard for me to balance because I want to divorce my need for approval but I also want to be Christlike to my sister. She is in pain right now because of her son’s announcement that he is gay which brings up another need for prayer. My oldest son has been reaching out to him and encouraging him to rethink his assumption about himself. My son has not shared much with me about it but he did say that he is not ‘that gay’. I am not sure what that means but my son is hopeful that he will turn from that path. Praying for the success of my son’s mission.

    Now for my biggest concern. My oldest son has made the decision to go to law school in Brooklyn. His girlfriend will start her 3rd and last year there and he will begin his first year. They are planning to share family housing. He has very graciously shared his plan with me. I won’t say he was asking for my approval. It was more like asking my acceptance. I encouraged him to marry. He is hesitant because he feels he may not know her as well as he needs to. She has some pretty serious emotional issues and I don’t know if he will be able to support her through healing. These are issues that could affect the health of our grandchildren so I kind of backed off. But the other day he told me that he is being confirmed Catholic next week. That is something he has wanted to do but I also wonder if he may be getting things in order for a wedding. I don’t know and I don’t really have to. We can still pray. Since he was a little boy I have prayed for the right wife for him and that he would not marry before she came into his life. That is still my prayer. All of this is sort of a muddle to me but God knows.

    1. Anne,
      You have some heavy concerns on your heart right now; thank you for sharing with us so we can pray. When you express that this is “sort of a muddle to me but God knows”, I often feel that some situation is like a big tangled ball of yarn, and I ask God to please take it and unravel it, I can’t do it. I know this about you, that you are so faithful to pray for your boys, and I know that God is listening.

      1. Dear Anne, I pray along with Dee here. I will continue to pray…I’m so sorry…this is all so much for you.

    2. Oh, Anne. I can so identify with you on this for your sister and your son. Lord, hear our prayers, touch these lives for you.

    3. Praying Anne.

    4. Wow Anne, lots to think about and pray on……your son seems very astute regarding the nephew who thinks he is gay. I believe that is unfortunate in our culture, many believe this because of the acceptance these days. I don’t believe there are so many who are naturally gay. There is something else that is going on. I will pray.

      I had/have a similar issue with my oldest son in regards to living with his girlfriend. I too asked him to ask her to marry him before they moved in together. They sort of have it all covered though because by live in a state that acknowledges people who live together for 6 months as being married! They have been together for at least 5 years and I really love her as my own. They will be married eventually, I’m sure. I will pray that your son is preparing for a wedding.

  31. Saturday
    8. What is your take-a-way and why?

    I have been praying and pondering how the Lord wants me to reach out to the poor, homeless and hungry. We already support through our giving. But I needed something specific. I have mentioned here before that we had a young homeless woman who lived with us for three years. She has been on her own for 5 years now and we still have occasional contact with her. Well, this week she called me and unburdened her soul to me. She is in a bad head space again. I feel God telling me that this is my needy person to love and pray for at this time. She lives 2,000 miles away but needs emotional and spiritual care and that I can try to give by phone and by prayer.

    1. I agree with Dee – it is interesting that as you were pondering and praying, she called you and entered your life again. Will pray for wisdom for you, Diane.

  32. 3. you saw His beauty? (See my five ways above)

    I’m still behind…. on Memorial Day, my daughter and I planted some flower and vegetable seeds. It made me think about God’s beauty in creation. I could hardly believe that these tiny seeds lying inertly in my hands were going to turn into anything. We placed them in the warm dirt and covered them up. The zinnia seeds are already sprouting and growing. Something like magic happens when you put the seeds into the dirt – they “know” what to do.
    All God’s design and beauty in Creation.

  33. 4. Read Isaiah 58:1-2 and describe how they had an appearance of holiness.

    God’s people were seeking Him out day after day, and seemed eager to know God’s ways.
    I wonder if this means that they were going through the motions of corporate worship, sacrificing, trying to obey the Law. They were actively seeking God’s blessings upon them.
    They were praying and asking God specifically for “just decisions”; perhaps to bless them over their enemies.

    5. But, according to Isaiah 58:3-5, what revealed their true hearts?

    In verse 3, it seems their fasting and humbling themselves had the motive of wanting to catch God’s attention, as they ask, “Why have You not seen or noticed?” It seems their motive was not to just get more of God, but rather, as Keller says, to try to control God, as in, we’re being good and doing all of this so You have to do this for us.

    God points out that while they are fasting, they are exploiting their workers and quarreling with each other, even being physically violent. In verse 5, God asks them is this the kind of fasting you think I approve of? God asks if they think humbling themselves is something you do only for a day; is it just going through the outward motions of bowing your head and lying on sackcloth.

    6. According to Isaiah 58:6-7, describe a “true fast”. Don’t be afraid to let Him speak to you here – He loves you and wants to bless you.

    True fasting is loosing the chains of injustice and untying the cords of the yoke; setting the oppressed free and breaking the yoke.
    – I think of how I may “oppress” my husband and children and others with the chains and
    yoke of my expectations, trying to control and manipulate with cords of guilt and
    “shoulds”; trying to put the yoke of meeting my needs upon them.

    True fasting is feeding the hungry and providing for the homeless shelter and clothing,
    and to not turn away from your own flesh and blood. I am wondering what all is meant by not turning away from your own…
    – I feel sometimes that it is actually easier to be kind to a stranger or forgiving to
    someone I’m not close to than it is to do these things to those living in my own home!

    1. I agree about being kinder to strangers than our own family…this happens to me often. I think it’s because there is no real commitment there; we are giving ourselves to the other person in the moment and we know there is no permanence to our actions. We don’t have to follow through and we won’t be responsible for the long term outcome. In our family situations we know our actions might have long lasting effects that we might not be able to change…there’s more at stake here.

  34. 8. What is your take-a-way and why?
    My Oswald Chambers this morning said “if we are obsessed by God, nothing else can get into our lives—not concerns, tribulation, nor worries.” This week the over-riding message for me seems to be, that my life is not my own, and that my selfishness is the barrier to the life God has for me. I tend to want to give and love and serve—all within my comfort zone. And often it feels easier to love the poor and needy than those within my reach, even my family. But the more I turn to Him each day, the more I lean upon His arms, the more I want to be made like Him. That requires being broken, poured out, laying down my agenda in the every day and letting Him have His way with my life. There isn’t room for both of us to be on the throne of my heart. To truly be like Christ—to put down my hurts, my wants, my fears. To take captive my thoughts when I wander into selfishness or defensiveness.

    I love the reminder to gaze upon His beauty. When I think back over the last 2 years, one of the biggest changes in my life is a deeper sense of His Presence. He blessed me very young with a certainty of Him—but in Dee’s studies, my eyes have been pointed back to Him daily—to seeing the ways He is always here, always with me, always at work. This will sound silly, but I still have a longing at times for a Dad—a real dad. But when I think of these words in Isaiah—it’s as if we have the opportunity to come alongside Him at His workplace—to put on an apron and do His work with Him—love like He does, pour myself out for others. The brokenness required—will take me out of the comfort zone, but as Rebecca said above, “He will be a salve to my discomfort”—He will guide me continually. He will hear me. Oh, to be like Him—that is the blessing.

    1. Elizabeth,
      What a beautiful and strong word picture you give here…”it’s as if we have the opportunity to come alongside Him at His workplace – to put on an apron and do His work with Him – love like He does, pour myself out for others.”
      (That certainly tops our modern “Take Your Daughter to Work Day”!)

      I love how you saw that in this passage! You expressed it so beautifully.

    2. There is a sweet sort of brokeness about this post Elizabeth, apart from Him we can do nothing!

  35. 7. We hurt ourselves when we disobey God, when we run from God. What blessings do we forfeit according to Isaiah 58:8-14?

    There are images in this passage of darkness and light. Reminds me of 1 John. God dwells in the light. When I disobey Him, I go off into the shadows, into the dark. The biggest blessing I forfeit is intimacy with God. Things don’t grow in the dark apart from the light. He speaks of healing – I think a break in intimacy with God can cause real physical symptoms or a feeling of being unwell. My prayers will be hollow and feel like I’m talking to a stranger. I become useless in God’s Kingdom and I am not a light to those around me. God is not guiding me; I am left on my own to figure things out. Relationships remain broken and there is no restoration. I lose my joy.

    I really love Rebecca’s answer to this question, how she describes what obeying and loving God back looks like:

    – it is the taste of being face to face with Him here on Earth
    – how He wants us to trust Him with the discomfort of sacrifice – “HE WILL GUIDE ME
    CONTINUALLY THROUGH IT” and be a salve to my discomfort

    This is so wonderful – I tend to back away from the discomfort of sacrifice thinking it’s just too hard, or I give up, I can’t do it. It’s too painful, I’m too weak, I don’t know what to do…Rebecca gives alot of wisdom here in answer to this.

    Overall, this is such a convicting passage. I read it through, putting in my name in the place of all the “my people”, “they”, and “we”, in the first passages.

  36. I don’t really want to share this story, but my heart is heavy and it goes along with Isaiah 58. I am in a quandary and I don’t know what to do.

    My daughter is supposed to graduate next Friday. I am a teacher and my 2 oldest children chose to take their GED’s which broke my heart, but whatever. Sarah has struggled with school and is 20..she has a low IQ but always hung in there. She would never give up.

    She finished her classes in January and has been trying to work for most of the time….a job at Burger King. They only give her about 17 hours a week. She is very immature and doesn’t know how to save money.she is also very naive and buys all kinds of things for her friends (I’m sure). She spends her entire pay check every weekend.

    You remember that we had a new friend living with us? Sarah struggles with having any friends and I was overjoyed that she had a friend who called her and seemed to be a good influence. Sarah tends to pick girls who are not the greatest in values. This girl lived with us for about 5 months and then something happened and she decided to move out.

    Sarah rejoined with a girl who is serious trouble. This girl just got out of rehab for heroin addiction, dropped out of school a couple of years ago, and was responsible for Sarah being arrested 2 summers ago (long story, but basically I asked the mother if Sarah could do a work program for her and was rejected). This girl is no good and was the one that Sarah was win a couple of weeks ago when my husband and I had to go to Boston to rescue them because they ran out of gas in the middle of the night. Sarah knows I do not like this girl AT ALL. I can’t help my earthly self……she has put our family through a lot of pain. She bosses my daughter around and I’m sure gets Sarah to do things she really shouldn’t do. Sarah thinks I should mind my own business because she is 20, but you see, her brain is really more like a 15 year old.

    So (sorry so long, but background is important here), here’s the problem. Sarah has been lying to me about who she is hanging out with because she know I won’t let her use the car or have her phone if she is with this girl. In fact, I took the car away and turned her phone off last wed. Because she stayed out until 1:00 am and I am tired of waiting up for her when I have to work the next morning at 7:00am. I feel like I am being abused. She and I had a conversation about her graduation party and I told her she could have a few friends there. It will mostly be family and our friends who know her. She said if this girl can’t come (the girl is not allowed in my house or on my property) then she wouldn’t come either. I told her that was rude and she shouldn’t do that to her family coming from 5 hours away. She said she didn’t care. This is partly her “autistic” nature; she has no social recognition (cues); she doesn’t know how to act in social situations. She left yesterday with this girl and I haven’t seen her since. I don’t know how she got where she was going. Her phone is still off. I must be strong because she is so manipulative with her actions and words. My plan is to cancel if she doesn’t go to the mandatory cap and gown rehearsal on Wednesday, but should I avoid this situation and back down and seemingly accept this girl in my home for one night? That’s the Isaiah 58 part. Some people think that people will change. I don’t believe this girl can. She is a “party” girl who loves the night life and unfortunately for her may end up dying. I have tried to accept other teens in the past and tried to help them and most the time they just need to learn on their own.

    God has taught me to not panic that she isn’t home all night; I at least sleep now. However, I have lots of trouble when it comes to thinking about sarahs future. She is ruining this exciting time of celebration because she wants to be in control and doesnt want me to tell her what to do even though she lives under my roof. I thought I would stand firm and tell her any gifts she gets would be put away until she can be respectful to her family. That’s if we go ahead with the party and she doesn’t show. Or, we cancel, and she gets nothing and I am sad about my 3rd child choosing to not go through the graduation ceremony. third choice is for me to back down and let this girl come. If I did, my hateful heart would want to tell her this is a one time deal, and to make sure she knows I still don’t care for her behavior.

    I am praying that God leads mento the right action. Ultimately, I want Sarah to be safe and happy. I’m not sure I’d that can happen if she doesn’t change her hardened heart. Thanks for prayers and any advice.

    1. This is so hard, Laura-dancer. Thanks for being brave enough to share. I will be praying.

    2. Im So sorry Laura-Dancer this is so hard… I will be praying for you!

    3. oh sweet Laura–I will be praying for you to have wisdom and peace, and His protection over Sarah–so sorry

    4. laura, I’m so sorry you are going through so much heartache. I’m praying for your sweet Sarah.

    5. Laura, I agree that this is terribly hard. Even though you gave us background I am hesitant to give advice to you for I just don’t know Sarah well enough for that. I will also pray for the Lord to give you wisdom for this decision.

    6. Praying for you, Laura, and for Sarah. I am with Anne – I hesitate to give advice, and after thinking about your situation, I honestly don’t know what advice I’d give; this is a very hard situation.

  37. Oh Laura, this is so hard. I don’t have any easy advice, but I will pray right now for wisdom for you and your husband, for a plan, and for peace in following it through.

  38. My takeaway is what Dee opened this study up with-Also, to be reminded of God’s heart for the oppressed and the poor-I can’t stop thinking about God’s heart for the Ninevites and that He is slow to Wrath.

  39. As I read what Susan wrote to 7, the inverse of the blessings–what we forfeit with our disobedience. It magnifies the absurdity of my selfishness–why would I willingly give up such blessings and fellowship? And my only answer is my own selfishness. As I read it, this stanza from When I survey the Wondrous Cross came to mind:
    “When I survey the wondrous cross, On which the Prince of glory died,My richest gain I count but loss,
    And pour contempt on all my pride”–the antidote to my selfish pride–to gaze upon Him.

    I was also thinking this morning more about verse 2–the MSG says “They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,”–we talked about this some a few weeks ago–I remember Diane saying something about how our response when we’re asked how we are, is often how busy we are. I feel like if one word could describe our culture, it’s busy-ness. I know in my own life I’m surrounded my friends and family much more involved in things, even good things, than we are–but it seems they have so little time for anything else. I think being busy is a clear idol in our world today–even the kids are always wanted to “be entertained”…like it becomes an addiction so early on to have something to do. Sorry for the rabbit trail soap box! I just was struck again by how easy it is for me to fall into the familiar culturally accepted routine of being busy–without asking if this sacrifice of time and energy is pleasing to Him–is it what He would choose for me to do with the resources I have?

    1. Elizabeth, I think you are quite right. Another symptom I think is how, as a culture, we are so uncomfortable with silence. Restaurants blare with loud music. Everyone has earbuds in their ears. People sleep with the tv on. It’s just never quiet and I don’t think that is good.

      1. My youngest son loves when no one is home and he is by himself. He says it’s quiet and he likes it that way.

      2. So interesting Anne–I have often thought there is a fear in some to be alone with their thoughts–maybe we’ve all experienced it at difficult times, to a degree. But it pains be with non-Christians–I think the Enemy knows that if we are alone with out thoughts–allowed to silence out the distractions of the world–we would have to acknowledge the need for Him…

  40. Saturday

    8. What is your take-a-way and why?
    I feel I am growing (not where I want to be but making strides) in the area of loving the unlovable. I see people everywhere who are hurting or angry or disheartened. I find Him calling me to a harder path of loving people – people who are so hard to love. I was at the post office almost every day this week and there is the snarkiest woman behind the desk and I keep getting her day after day and I dread it but I know God is calling me to not shut up my compassion.

      1. Love your tenacity, I would have given up after the salmon. 😉

        1. I would have given up after the puppy!

  41. My take away is whhat Dee said in the beginning of the study:






    I am praying this for myself.. For the past few weeks I have been so absorbed in my own anxieties and concerns and was trying to tell myself to stop it and trying to think of truth to counter active the lies but it is HARD! I am praying that I see more and more the beauty of God!!

    1. Dear Meg, keep at it, it gets easier. Just this week I heard my head say, “You better not give up media, you’ll be so bored what with not being in your own home yet, you’re already bored, no tv, no facebook, no nothing!” The devil hates to hear us speak truth to ourselves but when I expressed my fears to the Lord He gave peace and stirred up faith that great things would come from my commitment. I am learning to speak truth to my soul too. Were in this thing together girl!

    2. Meg, what I do is try to identify exactly what is making me anxious. Most of the time it is not obvious to me so I have to think and pray about it. When I have it identified I look for scripture or a truth that I have learned that I can speak to myself. You can do a search here on the blog in the top right corner. I am praying that God will reveal Himself to you and that He will help you to think of truths that you can speak to yourself.

      1. thank you Anne and Kim!

  42. 9. Share a time when you “ran from God,” but He pursued you, rescuing you from your own self-destructive behavior.

    I’m not sure this is the type of answer you meant–it’s not exactly specific–but it’s what He’s put on my heart this morning.
    Today’s sermon was on 1 Cor. 13. I was convicted of how I fail to love, how this is my running from God, and yet I see the ways He continually rescues me. My default mode when hurt is to not be patient, not be kind, but to give up hope, to be resentful, hold grudges, retreat. I’ve had a number of past relationships were when it got too hard to follow in a path of love, I made an inner declaration of being “done with” the offender. Walls, distance, sometimes a nice demeanor, but always a cold heart inside—distancing myself. I thought I was being self-protective, but I see—in light of this question—how it was not self-protective, but rather self-destructive.

    The good part, the redeeming part is—I CAN see where He has more and more stopped me from my old destructive habit. In the last 2 years, He has broken my heart, again and again, with the love He has for those who have offended me—and He has reminded me of His dying love for me, and tenderly asked “Do you love me, Elizabeth?”—then “feed my sheep…love these that I love…give them forgiveness as I have given you….”

    1. Reminds me of the song, “We are loved to love, forgiven to forgive, blessed to bless…”

  43. Several years ago I was angry and rude to a bank teller when she wouldn’t allow me to cash a check for an elderly sick client without giving my fingerprint. She dug in her heels and I dug mine in deeper. God convicted me to go back and apologize and three days later I couldn’t take it anymore, I got up the nerve to do it. She was so shocked that she and the other tellers couldn’t speak a response. I went away with such joy that I had obeyed and killed a bad attitude. I knew He was working on self destructive behavior wanting me to become like Him.

  44. Jonah gives us a fresh definition of “sin” and “grace.” (Look at above pictures)
    Really love the big fish and the diver pic, seeing God’s love pursuing us using whatever means necessary! Love that.

    9. Share a time when you “ran from God,” but He pursued you, rescuing you from your own self-destructive behavior.
    It may be coming awhile nor due to fear. Maybe that is why I am under continual and constant discipline. I like it this way because it does keep me dependent on God. I asked Him to do whatever it takes so it is just a season of learning yet I think a new season is arising that has to do with breaking free from this fear. I cannot explain it all yet but so much of this stuff is speaking to me. Even today’s sermon. It just “happened” to be on the first verse God spoke over me and dealing with fear. How precious and patient and merciful He is.

  45. Oh Ladies, I have to say I have missed being in this study and seeing all the great comments. I am posting last weeks answers and will start this week and than go back and catch up on what comments I can. I need to break the hold the enemy has on me and get back on track with Gods study and His help!

    Week 1:

    Sunday/Memorial Day/Tuesday

    1. What stood out to you from the above and why? – I think seeing how Dee’s getting hurt made her see an image of Jesus being hurt even more when she looked in the mirror at her own bruised face. How something so painful and may be embarrassing to her made her see more how loved she was by her own son, and future daughter in law and how much Jesus loves her for taking the hurt for us. The beauty in God’s creations that are all around us should make it so easy for everyone to know that these things can only be created by a heavenly being and by no human hand. But sadly this is not so for everyone. There are so many people out there that just try to minimize God’s abilities and at times seem like they may be winning, but in the end it will be our Gid who reigns.

    2. Do you have a praise for something that happened over the Memorial Day weekend?

    3.  you saw His beauty? (See my five ways above) – during the Memorial day weekend, we had a thunder storm come thru as the sun was setting. What an amazing light show it was. The colors of the sunset along with the darkened sky and lighting was just awesome to see. Only God our creator can have created something so beautiful.

    Wed/Friday Bible Study

    Isaiah 58

    It is so easy to appear to be walking with the Lord, when in reality we are pointing our fingers at other people, shutting up our compassions to those in need, and “hiding” from our own flesh and blood. This is a passage that can change your life. Study it — then listen to Keller — and its beauty can awaken you!

    4. Read Isaiah 58:1-2 and describe how they had an appearance of holiness. – they acted holy by wanting to confront those who were going against God’s laws and letting them know that it was wrong.

    5. But, according to Isaiah 58:3-5, what revealed their true hearts? – All in all they wanted to be praised for what they were doing, they wanted recognition.

    6. According to Isaiah 58:6-7, describe a “true fast.” Don’t be afraid to let Him speak to you hear — He loves you and wants to bless you. – I think what it is saying is we need to get rid of “ourselves” and what we think God wants to see, and put in it’s place only what God is leading us to do, whether or not someone pats us on our backs, or gives us praise for what we did. We should do His leadings as if we were “behind the scenes” with no recognition at all. This I think would be pleasing to God because we do it from our hearts with no earthly reward expected.

    7. We hurt ourselves when we disobey God, when we run from God. What blessings do we forfeit according to Isaiah 58:8-14? We forfeit His protection, His love. We forfeit a relationship with Him filled with joy and peace.


    8. What is your take-a-way and why? – We need to be one with God. To do His work with no reward expected. If we do this, He will ALWAYS be with us, ALWAYS protect us and our relationship with Him will grow stronger each and every day.

  46. 9. Share a time when you “ran from God,” but He pursued you, rescuing you from your own self-destructive behavior. – For me when I run from God is when I let other things in life go before my getting closer to Him either by reading His Word or doing a bible study. Going to church on Sundays is what convicts me and deep down, I know that time with Him on the rest of the days of the week is important and something I need to work hard on doing. So I need to just be alert to His tug and do it and not make excuses for the “other” things.

    1. Julie, glad to see you back. I always enjoy your posts.

  47. 11. How does the Bible define justice?

    I wasn’t sure how to actually define justice using the Bible, so I just looked up some places where it occurs.

    Leviticus 19:15
    “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

    Deuteronomy 16:19
    Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent.

    Deuteronomy 24:17
    Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.

    1 Samuel 8:3
    But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

    Psalm 9:16
    The LORD is known by his acts of justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.

    Psalm 45:4
    In your majesty ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.

    Matthew 23:23
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

    There are so many verses that talk about justice in one way or another. Keller says justice is helping others for no gain of our own. My favorite part of the sermon was when he spoke of the woven fabric; how it takes all of us, woven together to make a whole society.

    I try to be kind to everyone, no matter who they are. My mom is like that. However I have seem my mom be nice on the outside and then speak unkind words to herself at home. I guess she was at least trying; but we can be fake. I usedto know a woman who said she would not allow herself to think unkind thoughts. That’s difficult.

  48. 9. Share a time when you “ran from God,” but He pursued you, rescuing you from your own self-destructive behavior

    Well, I suppose I could say right now I am running from the “right” thing I should do. This is in regards to Sarah and her horrible friend. I am literally seeing the devil working on my daughter and my hands are tied.

    Wouldn’t you know the sermon yesterday was about giving people second chances?! How Paul gave Mark a second chance after Mark left the disciples. So, my husband and I discussed it and decided we should allow the girl to come to the party.

    Sarah called me and wanted me to pick her up in a town 20 minutes away. The girl had left her. I picked her up and on the way home asked her if she needed to go to work. She told me she had quit her job. This is bad news! She is crashing and burning again. I never found the “right time” to tell her we would allow the girl to come to the party – it is difficult to say the words and humble myself when my insides are still so mad she is hanging around with her. I never did tell her and she left again last night and stayed out all night again. So, we draw closer to the day she needs to go to the mandatory cap and gown rehearsal and I don’t know if I will see her to tell her about the girl.

    I don’t know why God has made me suffer in this way with my children. I don’t know what He is trying to teach me. Yesterday I had to sit through a graduation party for a teen at our church and I just wanted to cry. Their family seemed so happy. Ours used to be too. We had sweet children then they became horrible children. I don’t know why other than we moved from Texas to this horrible northeast where people are mean and strange. I’m sorry if I offend anyone from that area, but I can’t imagine what else it could be. I am so sad now i can’t stand it. I know my kids shouldn’t be an idol, but you can’t help but want the best for them, especially when they are mentally challenged. Over the past years I have felt so much like Job. I thought it couldn’t get worse and it usually does. Help me Lord to understand! I am distraught and can’t seem to hold it together right now 🙁 my youngest is my saving grace. He is 15 and such a delight in my life. He goes to a Christian school (I could not let him go to the public schools where the others went for fear be would be ruined as well). He goes to church with us. He is kind to us. I don’t understand.

    1. Laura-Dancer, My heart goes out to you so. 🙁 You have such a wonderful heart and your asking God why and crying out to him is so good-Oh God please come to Laura and be her comfort right now.

      It Looks like you might be going through one of those mysterious long term trials where you just don’t know why God is allowing it, and it is hard to figure out how this could happen. My only encouragement to you right now is to continue to do what you are doing in crying out to Him and keep your face on Him-I am so with you though-I am concerned for my oldest, for some trends I am seeing-long story, but I will pray for you and your family.

    2. Laura Dancer, I’m so sorry for all you are having to go thru right now. I do understand how hard it is to see your daughter making poor choices. My oldest son was doing that to and I did not give up on him as a mother, but gave up trying to steer him right. I cried out to God to take him and control him that I was done. Idid what a mom was to do for a chi,d but that was it. If he wanted to take I was there to listen, but did not bend over backward fro him. He is now in the Army just about out, got married almost a month ago, and is now going to have a baby. He I think and I pray that he is finally seeing the path God has laid out for him. I had to keep telling myself it was the sin that was bad and not him as a person. I will be praying for all to settle down for you. Keep the faith, and keep seeking God for your help and comfort.

      1. Praise God for these blessings with your son! Thanks to both of you for his service 🙂 thank you for your encouragement. I live an up and down rollercoaster with my children. I guess someday I should write a book so other mothers won’t feel so alone….

    3. Oh Laura, my heart is breaking for you. I’m earnestly praying for Sarah and for you… all of your family, as this effects all of you so much.

  49. 9. Share a time when you “ran from God,” but He pursued you, rescuing you from your own self-destructive behavior.

    After thinking about this some more, I think God began his rescue of me from my comfort idol when I was single. My life was ordered to the extreme, overly predictable and very comfortable. He began the rescue after I got married to a single dad with an ex wife who had abandoned him and his daughter, and then we had children of our own. There was one trial after another. Over time I unknowingly retreated to my comfort idol- Then as time went on, God pursued me and rescued me by bringing me here to this blog. Through these trials and unknowingly being bound by idolatry, it wasn’t until I came here to this blog that the truth of idolatry was squeezed out from the inside. So many years I was unaware how I held up things as ultimate over God- the moments I would worry in regard to what others thought of me-approval- I saw I wasn’t really loving, or believing Jesus by trusting in His finished work on the cross-he is my approval-100%; When life events would challenge my comfort zone-I saw that Jesus was all about sacrificing comfort! He lived completely out of His comfort zone for me and went to the cross because He loves me.

      1. Dee, sorry for the confusion. 🙂 All four of my boys are fathered by my current husband. My step daughter is fathered by my current husband and his ex-wife. My first husband and I had no children.

        My step daughter also suffered from Anorexia-she is married now to a wonderful Doctor specializing in radiology who loves her deeply-he has really helped her with this issue as well as in setting boundaries with her mom. God is strengthening her and she and I have an awesome relationship where we can go into depths on a spiritual level. Her and her husband are doing well.

        My first husband and I were married before I came to know Jesus-then I came to know Jesus and he left me out of the blue- I came home and he was gone. Then he filed for divorce-he was having an affair. So I remained single for about 8 years before I met my current husband.

        1. Dee, Oh, no problem! My initial post/testimony is about when I was single as a new believer after my first husband left me-I can see why you were confused! 🙂

          But OH, to look back from where I came from-my dad leaving my mom for another woman, those years with my poor mom being a single mom-and how horribly snotty I was to her as a teen-my rebellion in going off on the road with a band-all the while God was wooing me-Seriously it would be easy to not want to go back and remember, but now when I do I just remember how He was in the middle of it all-drawing me to Him and again I am amazed-His love and His power in my life. His continual pursuit of me really hasn’t been half hearted-but continuous and hard and He is faithful. I can’t get over His love-How or why He would pursue someone like me, but He did!!

        2. Thanks for explaining that Rebecca. Prayers for all of you!

        3. I appreciate you sharing all this about your family and history. It helps me understand how God has worked in your life, Rebecca.