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(Song of Songs 5:15)








C. S. Lewis struggled at first with the whole idea of praising God, explaining:

We all despise the man who demands continued assurance of his own virtue, intelligence, or delightfulness…

Was God like that? But then Lewis realized praise and worship might be for us, for what it does in our hearts.

The most obvious fact about praise…strangely escaped me.

I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour.

…I had not noticed how the humblest,

and at the same time most

balanced and capacious minds, praised most,

while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least.


 I met “Joseph” at pickleball, a growing sport in America that is a less rigorous form of tennis and popular with all ages. Joseph, in his eighties, may be the oldest man who plays regularly with us. He came to faith when he was fired as a young professor. Broken, he picked up a Bible and read the gospel of John. He said, “It saved my life. I thought I was such a hotshot professor, and I am just an ordinary professor.” Joseph loves the Lord and always has a twinkle in his eye and a gracious kindness toward every single person. One fellow pickleball player said to me: “Joseph is such a gentleman.” One day I heard a man who didn’t want Joseph to be his partner be exceptionally rude to Joseph, and Joseph responded immediately with love and kindness. Joseph and his wife adopted all five of their children and have faced many trials with some, including repeated jail sentences for one. When someone commiserated with him, he said, “God gave us exactly the children we needed and who needed us.”

Yet as mature and godly as Joseph is, he has not stopped learning. A new habit has brought even greater radiance and joy to him. Last year he faced rotator cuff surgery (common, unfortunately, among pickleball players!) and asked Twila and me to come and pray with him before his surgery. Twila had gone through the same surgery the year before and faced the same year long recovery. She gave Joseph a journal and told him that every day while she was recovering she recorded her blessings and it helped her stay positive. Recently over coffee with Joseph and his wife, I asked him how keeping that journal had impacted him. His face shone as he told me about it and I was too transfixed to write anything down. So I asked him to write me what he said that day, and he said it would be his great pleasure. 🙂

I write in my journal every day, first thing after the coffee is ready.  “Lily” is still sleeping and our little condo is quiet.  I sit down with the journal and make a list of all the blessings of the previous day, and sometimes I include some anti-blessings also.  I don’t want to call them curses, because they, too, flow from God’s love for me.  They are just the disappointments that flow from my own desires being in imperfect alignment with God’s will for me.  I mark the blessings with a filled-in circle, and the anti-blessings with an open circle.  There are many more filled-in circles than open circles.

Writing in it has become my principal devotional exercise.  I call it “Joseph’s Little Book of Blessings.”  Now, by concentrating each morning on the good things that happen to me, I find myself happier than before — grateful for God’s benevolence and power, and in wonder as I ask, “Why me?”  I am not an exceptional man nor an unusual Christian — whatever seems otherwise was put there by God.  I just reflect His love.

What struck me was recording the “anti-blessings.” I see that as a form of lament — where you speak honestly to the Lord but then allow Him to speak to you. A dialogue. This week, for example, I recorded this “anti-blessing.”

I become so discouraged by the political scene in America. The candidates are so crude, rude, and lacking in integrity.


Then I pause and let God speak to me and record that, if I sense He is speaking.

Nothing slips between Your fingers. You may be refining us, refining America, and giving us just what we need, for suffering refines like nothing else. Or, You may show us mercy and bring a godly leader to us still. But I trust You Lord, for You always do things well in Your time.

Worship changes us, aligns our perspective with God’s, and helps us remember that God is for us, for He is our Beloved, He is our Friend. Even in these times of political dismay and ISIS, God has not forgotten us nor has He turned His back on us. We must pray for revival, for that may be the reason He has allowed this all to happen. The faith of Americans is so shallow when compared to the faith of Christians in third world countries or in prison. May we humble ourselves and ask Him to revive our hearts as He revived the heart of the Shulammite.


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

2. As you reflect on this last week, what are your blessings (and seemingly “anti-blessings” allowed or put there by God?).

Monday-Wednesday Bible Study

Prepare your heart with this famous hymn (exceeded only in popularity by his” Hark the Herald Angels” by Charles Wesley. It is worship for our “Beloved” at its best, so meditate on the words!


While it may seem so lacking to compare falling in love on earth with our relationship with the Lord Jesus, it is what we earthlings know, and so God uses this intimate metaphor to illumine us concerning His love for us and our responsive love for Him. My mother was a gifted soprano and she used to sing “This is My Beloved” from Kismet, but I never ever realized it was inspired by the Song of Solomon until now. This is a song of earthly love and yet, can you not see the “living verbal statue” that we studied two weeks ago, who has “eyes like doves besides streams of water?” She explains “plain words cannot tell the thrill” so her comparisons are to LIFE and nature. (Some of you may think this strange, but I think others of you will get it.) Watch and comment — however it impacts your heart.


3. What reflections do you have on the above?


Read Psalm 45, which has many similarities to the descriptions she makes of her kingly love. Hebrews clearly tells us that Psalm 45 is about Christ. Now that you are much more familiar with the Song, I’d like you to find three passages in the Song that parallel verses from Psalm 45, and after describing the parallel, use it to praise your Lord. Here is an example:

Psalm 45:2 says “grace is poured from his lips” and S. of S. 5:16 says “his mouth is altogether sweet.” And surely we have seen grace upon grace poured from his lips in The Song.

Lord, I can hardly believe the grace You have told me I am loved, I am clean in your eyes, and that You find delight in me. How can I ever thank You enough for this love, this grace?

4. Now it is your turn — find three places that correlate and use what you see as a springboard for praise.

5. See if you can find how the Shulammite has changed by comparing S. of S. 2:16 with S. of S. 6:3. What do you see?

When we first come to Christ we are still so self-centered, exalting in the fact that “Christ is ours” and in the many ways He blesses us. But if we move into the land of “Invincible Love” on this earth, it becomes much less about us and much more about Him. Augustine said: “We are either centered in self and forgetful of God or centered in God and forgetful of self.”

As a young speaker, I often told the listeners the amazing things the Lord had done for me. Today, I want their hearts to melt with the beauty of Christ. Our desires shifts from glorying in what He does for us, to truly glorifying Him. We, like John the Baptist, “decrease that He might increase.”

6. Do you see yourself “decreasing?” (Michael Reeves says it is not wrong to be aware of fruit in your life, for it is “all of Him.”)


Thursday-Friday: Message from Nancy Leigh deMoss Wolgemuth

Falling and Staying in Love with Jesus

7. Share your notes and thoughts.


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

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  1. Dee – I can see that you have set the table once again with a week of needful nourishment!  It is so wonderful to read these words that lead me to ponder worship and praise, blessings and “anti-blessings”, only moments before walking out the door to worship with my brothers and sisters at church this morning!  My early mornings are usually humming with animal care….but when I am able to sit quietly with a cup of coffee for just a few moments, reading the new week’s post, I find my heart singing “….tune my heart to sing Thy grace…..”  Amen!  
    1.  What stands out to you from the above and why?  
    Everything about “Joseph’s” story!  I love the young believers in my life and I feel that God often gives them a wisdom beyond their years….BUT….I’m especially captured by those who are elderly and have walked with the Lord for many, many years.  I find myself hungry for their wisdom.  The gracious humility that you see in “Joseph” is so winsome as to be surely Christ…..in “Joseph’s” words….”I am not an exceptional man nor an exceptional Christian.  Anything that seems otherwise was put there by God.  I just reflect His love.”  Be still my heart!!  All of that in the face of many, many disappointments and heartaches all along the way…..children whose lives perplex and dismay…..losses that seem to only mount up as life goes on….and YET…..joy!!  And such a heart that is wide open to learning new things and taking on new challenges!  “Joseph’s little book of Blessings”.  Even that he is bold enough to use the term “anti-blessings” and record them in his blessing journal!!  Isn’t that JUST LIKE THE GOSPEL?  Turning everything on it’s head, for it is ALL for our good in Christ Jesus.  Thank you SO much for introducing us to “Joseph” this week!  

    1. Amen, Jackie! Imperfect saints like Joseph warm my heart. All we are and do, it is so much grace!

  2. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why? Joseph. This story is affirmation of God’s leading in my life to start such a journal. And affirmation to “keep faithfully on” with a ‘difficult’ child. Even in just telling about Joseph it is obvious that He is turned toward Christ and tuned to Christ and his Father.
    And tears this morning: we do not worship Him because He NEEDS us to but because WE NEED to worship Him! 
    The Lord spoke to me through a friend with the question: why do you study Christ? And my answer was that I wanted to see His beauty…but something lingered in the back of my mind…. His beauty is search-worthy and heart changing but if not careful I will find myself seeking that heart change instead of the heart-changer. Joseph reminds me that true beauty in our won hearts only comes from true seeking of Him for Him and not for our own benefit (even if it is from a desire to be more like Him).

    1. So true, Jill! I need to worship him!

  3. what stood out to me initially is how easy yet how neglected praise and thanksgiving are.  Thy ‘cost’ us only a little time and a shift in our attitude from focusing on what didn’t please us over to recognizing that everything that comes into our lives is a gift.

    1. All a gift indeed, Mary.

  4. Dee,
    Thank you for sharing Joseph’s story here.   I am heartened that Joseph demonstrates that we are never too old to change.   Starting a gratitude journal at 80!   And how here in my early 60’s I so need the Lord to bring change in my heart.  And He abides.  Amazing.
    I have long been a lover of the writings of C.S. Lewis.    He has often helped me know that I am not alone in my ponderings.
    And Michael Card, who wrote, Sacred Sorrow,  talks about “Lament as Worship” ~   The honest conversation that God invites us to have whether we are thanking or expressing sorrow or complaint (the blessings and the anti-blessings).

    1. Nila, you just gave me an idea of what to do with an elderly friend of mine- “starting a journal at 80”!

  5. 1.What stands out to you from the above and why?        CS Lewis’ words:  .”….the cranks, misfits and  malcontents praised least.”     No comments needed.  This is direct. True.  And obvious.  I know it when I see it around me.  I know it when I see it in myself.
    Also:  I would love to get to know Joseph.  What strikes me most is his humility and teachability. To me, it seems pretty rare for people who have lived most of their life, been in a teaching/leading role for decades, to still be so open to still learn from others.  What an example he is!   This quote stands out so much.    “…. I find myself happier than before — grateful for God’s benevolence and power, and in wonder as I ask, “Why me?”  I am not an exceptional man nor an unusual Christian — whatever seems otherwise was put there by God.  I just reflect His love.”
    2. As you reflect on this last week, what are your blessings (and seemingly “anti-blessings” allowed or put there by God?).    
    Blessings:  Last week, I saw the depth of my pastor’s caring heart as she came alongside me, in one of the ‘craziest’ instances of family dynamics. Can’t really say more than that.  I am just floored though, at how she didn’t shy away…..but embraced the messiness and unpredictable nature of something in which, I have by necessity become involved.   I have only known her  a year.  She has come along side me as a life long friend would do.       
      I guess first up  in anti-blessings’  is that I am pretty sick.  I had an incredibly intense week (too hard to describe) and then when I got through the hard parts, my run down body got hit with a cold or flu virus.  Haven’t been ‘down’ like this for years.   The worst of it is that, our whole last month has been one of the most difficult in memory….due to unforeseen circumstances in my husband’s life.  He is ‘springing back’ and feeling over the worst of it and we had planned a getaway to Lake Superior for today and tomorrow.   But, alas……as his circumstances got better, mine hit the wall.   It’s a little bit funny.  But disappointing.   So, as I sit coughing in my chair for the 4th straight day……I must say,  I have tried to be more conscious of my blessings in 2016.  I got a journal going and I don’t write every day, but I do write frequently.  And try to keep it filled with praise and joy.   The praise that comes with being sick this week?   i will need to be open to God’s Spirit.  I will need to let Him show me.  There is nothing like being physically spent, to show me how vulnerable I really am.  It’s a visible picture of my dependence on a source of strength that is far, far beyond me.  


    1. Wanda–praying now for your health to be restored! So sorry. 

    2. Wanda – I love, love, love your determination to praise Him in the midst of your sickness…..kind of the icing on the cake of a long, long month.  ;(  “There is nothing like being physically spent, to show me how  vulnerable I really am.  It’s a visible picture of my dependence on a source of strength that is far, far beyond me.”  There it is.  You are already making application and seeing through and beyond the anti-blessing to Who He is!!!  This is so encouraging to me!  🙂  

      1. Thank you, Lizzy and Jackie.   Today, I have to ‘put my money where my mouth is’!    Not doing so well with that.  physically worse today and that sets back emotional/spiritual state.  Trying to focus and read a bit.  Yes, I need to heed my own words.  🙁  

  6. 1.What stands out to you from the above and why?
    I love the story about Joseph. Both my grandmothers passed away when I was still fairly young (one while I was in my early teens and one in my mid-20s). But my memories of one of them are very happy ones and of the other are sadder. Both were Christians but one was a lovely godly one with a positive outlook, and the other was a worrier and complainer. In all fairness, I did not know my “grumpy” grandmother well, so my impression could have been completely incorrect. We lived quite a ways away from her and did not visit often. I also am thinking that it is likely that she struggled with depression. But a sad impression is there for me, nonetheless. However, it is my prayer that I will not be a grumpy, unhappy old woman. I do not want my grandchildren to remember me with sadness. Her memory serves as a warning for me.
    2. As you reflect on this last week, what are your blessings (and seemingly “anti-blessings”) allowed or put there by God?
    Blessings: I love spring! Birds are returning to the fields, trees and waters. The weather is warming. I can get out for walks more. The evening hours of light are longer. Also, I have seen all my grandchildren in the last month due to school breaks. That is lovely!
    Anti-blessings: For about 4 weeks now, I have been suffering from an injured tail-bone. It is difficult to sit in many chairs, even with a special pillow to relieve pressure from the coccyx bone. The doctor says it may take possibly months for it to heal. It’s not a terrible pain; just a pressure and a stinging upon sitting, or even in the best of circumstances, after I sit too long. My favourite chair is currently unbearable. It really does affect life. However, standing and walking is still pain-free and I am so thankful for that. I am sure that Lord has lessons to teach me from this trial – like patience, hopefulness in pain.

    1. Oh Diane–praying for healing of your tail bone–sounds awful! I am asking that it heal quicker than the Dr says, and for peace and relief. 

    2. Diane, praying for you. I occasionally have those pains when I have sat too long too. My doctor has prescribed some medicine for me because I have osteoporosis. 

    3. Diane, I have a broken tail bone as well, painful! It never healed, but the pain did improve eventually!!  Only saying that to say I sympathize and will be praying for you!

    4. Diane – Like others here, I relate to the tailbone!!  It’s been 20 years since I broke mine but I still remember the weeks and weeks with a pillow always at the ready in the car or anywhere else that I needed to use that sit bone!!  Ironically…..it happened on the morning that I was driving my then 15 yr old son to his first high school rodeo – since he became a bull rider, I had no small amount of second guessing as to our decision to even allow this….but it did end up being truly “right” for him…….ANYWAY…..coming down the steps of our house that morning, lost in thought about the coming bull ride…..I tripped over my little dog and landed hard on my tailbone…..so it was ME and not my son who was injured on the day of his first bull ride!!!  I can’t help but laugh at the memory…..but I commiserate with you over the recovery!  

    5. Thanks, everyone for the sympathy and prayers regarding the tail bone. I am managing, but it certainly does throw a wrinkle in anything that involved sitting, especially for long periods of time. I carry my pillow everywhere.

  7. 1.   What stands out to you from the above and why?
    A.  “”Praise and worship might be for us, for what it does in our hearts.” “Worship changes us, aligns our perspective with God’s, and helps us remember that God is for us, for He is our Beloved, He is our Friend.”
    Wow! So true! I have found that if I focus on the character of God and worship Him, the mountains of concerns I have shrink to a God-perspective smallness and an eye opener to opportunities to see His magnificence and omniscience. Ultimately, this points me to Jesus.
    God inhabits the praises of His people. Psalm 22:3 says, “But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel.” 
     Praising God is a sacrifice pleasing to Him. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of the lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:15
    B.  Praise is inner health made audible.
    Wow again! As a nurse who advocates for health and wellness through what I have learned in school and through experience, here is the best health practice I can advocate for. And it is mine for the taking.
    C.  Now, by concentrating each morning on the good things that happen to me, I find myself happier than before — grateful for God’s benevolence and power, and in wonder as I ask, “Why me?”  I am not an exceptional man nor an unusual Christian — whatever seems otherwise was put there by God.  I just reflect His love. Anti-blessing… are just the disappointments that flow from my own desires being in imperfect alignment with God’s will for me.
    I so love the story of Joseph. And we have a female Joseph in our church! What an encouragement to my heart to look towards the golden years of life and have the surety of God’s faithfulness.

  8. I love this connection between humility and praise and that “praise almost seems to be inner health made audible”.  It reminds me of what Andrew Murray says “Humility is the displacement of self by the enthronement of God.”  We just returned from a few days at the beach–every day showed severe thunderstorms, and yet, everyday we awakened to beautiful cloud-free skies. We all smiled at each other when on the last day, on our trip home, it began to rain. We didn’t have our usual family devotional with us, so we read Keller’s psalm devotional together each day, and we were so blessed to continually praise Him. I am convicted though by how my fears and complaints outweigh my praise. To the degree which I praise God, reveals the degree of humility within. I think praise, in the midst of difficulties, shows my dependence upon Him, my recognition of who He is, the power He holds. When I am struck by fears–fear of rejection, fear of loneliness, fears of sickness, I reveal my desire to have control over these things…truly my pride. Humility is knowing my place, and in knowing mine, and knowing His, I cannot help but praise. 

    1. Lizzy, missing the other pea in the pod. 🙂 “Praise almost seem to be inner health made audible”. Let us make a joyful sound!

    2. Lizzy, Thanks for the reminder.  I just downloaded another of Andrew Murray’s (free!) books on Kindle.  Will be traveling later this week — and that will be a good one to read.

    3. Lizzy at the beach – brings back good memories! ?

  9. 1.    As you reflect on this last week, what are your blessings (and seemingly “anti-blessings” allowed or put there by God?).
    Special services and the sweet fellowship around the tables for breakfast on Easter Sunday, a coming together of a project in school, students going over the hump and finally “getting it” of things that matter with elderly care, time of deep conversations with my husband Richard; a text from our daughter sharing a breakthrough with some of her struggles.
    Lord, you deserve all the honor and glory!
    “Anti-blessing” – naysayers for what I am proposing to do in school; strain relationships among my family in the Philippines; my back and shoulder problems
    Lord, you know my heart more than I do mine. As I encounter naysayers, you are refining me and making me stouthearted in the midst of opposition. May I continue to incline my heart and mind to you knowing that your will will come to fruition. The enemy wants to sow discouragement-may I look to you for encouragement. Help me to see also that you are growing my family in the PI in their faith and trials are part of that. My health issues are opportunities to trust you and not to depend on myself. A staying hand when I overdo and a time to experience the sufficiency of your grace.

  10. oh Bing–praying for you too in your struggles, and your family’s…thankful for the text from your daughter. And I pray with you that I too will see trials as  “a time to experience the sufficiency of your grace.” Amen!

  11. 1.What stands out to you from the above and why?   1) Fresh starts (sigh of relief) and worship; 2) JOSEPH (and pickleball — was at a meeting this week and someone brought up pickleball, wondering what it was; thanks to Dee, I was the only one in the meeting who knew 😉  ) and his journal, including “anti-blessings.”   Uh, I think it’s time for me to have a journal like that.
    2. As you reflect on this last week, what are your blessings (and seemingly “anti-blessings”) allowed or put there by God?  Blessings and anti-blessings often are intertwined — and what is a blessing one day, might seem like an anti-blessing the next day, and vice versa.  So, you all can guess which is which because they may reverse themselves tomorrow (and some of the seemingly negative things have provided real benefits):   family, this blog, friends, health, work, church, new opportunities

    1. Renee, I agree with the intermingling of blessing and anti-blessing. I was thinking that probably all could be called blessing…. But Joseph refers to his desires out of alignment with God’s will which makes me think perhaps it is our out-of-sync desire that would be the “anti-blessing” more than circumstantial things….?

      1. Jill, I too loved Renee’s thought trail here.  My take on “anti-blessings” is that they are things that I need to trust and see in light of eternity.  Along the lines of 2 Corinthians 4:18….”While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen;  for the things which are seen are temporary; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”   In a sense it’s like looking through and beyond what is visible.  Or at least that’s how I’m seeing it just now!  🙂  

  12. 1.What stands out to you from the above and why?
    The part of C.S. Lewis’ quote that says, “…how the humblest…praised the most…” and the “…cranks, malcontents, and misfits praised the least.”
    It just seems about right to me.

  13. 4. In Ps 45:11 the King is enthralled by her beauty and SS 4:7 he says she is so beautiful that he sees no flaw in her.  He is so into what he sees in her that simultaneously he cannot see any flaw.  Lord, that hits me hard, that You would love me that much!  In Ps 45:13 the princess (note the title!) is glorious within her chamber, her gown interwoven with gold and SS 1:10-11 talks of her earrings and jewels, earrings of gold studded with silver.  Both extol the woman as having her beauty enhanced by precious gold and jewels.  O Lord, that You would take me, this dark person, and call me a princess and then adorn me with gifts of gold and jewels!  The thought of it takes my breath away!!  And then in Ps 45:8 all his robes are fragrant with myrrh (there it is again!) and aloes and cassia comparing with SS 1:3 pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes, your name is like perfume poured out.  It brings to my mind Christ in burial, anointed with spices.  Truly, Jesus, Your name is the spiritual fragrance of life.  This helps me to see You more clearly, desire You more, and sing Your praises right now!
    7. What makes Jesus so precious to me?  He is the I AM.  He is beauty.  He doesn’t just demonstrate beauty or contain it, He is it, 100%.  But he is also just as much pure.  And lovely.  And just and kind and righteous.  You cannot come close to what any of these are without coming closer to Him
    8. Take away…I didn’t see the main title until now – worship your way out.  That is so perfect!  He is never really gone away because as soon as I start to praise I find Him here, being everything.  In worship is the way out of temptation, depression, anger, whatever you need your way out of!

    1. Mary B.    I just re-read your post here and this statement really strikes me.  

       He is the I AM.  He is beauty.  He doesn’t just demonstrate beauty or contain it, He is it, 100%.  But he is also just as much pure.  And lovely.  And just and kind and righteous.  You cannot come close to what any of these are without coming closer to Him

      You cannot come close to these without coming close to Him.   And I think that pieces of Him in so many unexpected places.  If we (I) can only begin to really see His beauty and worship Him when it appears where we least expect it.   

  14. praise and worship might be for us, for what it does in our hearts. THIS blew me away yesterday morning..it’s still on my mind this morning…. Worship changes us, aligns our perspective with God’s, and helps us remember that God is for us, for He is our Beloved, He is our Friend.
    And this: Joseph’s view on antiblessings: They are just the disappointments that flow from my own desires being in imperfect alignment with God’s will for me. And Dee’s expansion that they are Laments to God but then we hear Him who we cling to and trust rather than the antiblessing. That the antiblessing is really a blessing. 

  15. 1. As you reflect on this last week, what are your blessings (and seemingly “anti-blessings” allowed or out there by God)? 
    Blessings: Too many to count. Honest words spoken to turn my heart back fully toward Christ. Sunshine, piano, a heart lightened and directed by the Almighty, Loving Father.
    Anti-blessings: I am still so far from what I “should” be, don’t accomplish all that I want to. My kids bickering more and more…. A reaping of what has been sown in earlier years by a regretful mother….
    God reminds me, it is not MY path, I do not control, cannot control, what happens! He has each heart in His hand, molding, shaping, disciplining….LOVING… Does the gold curse the refining fire? No it trusts its maker. God, hold my face that I may see your beauty and not look away! Keep me close to be soft, responsive! May Your love and Grace overflow in me and pour into those around me.

    1. Jill – all I can see here is that your children are blessed beyond measure to have you as their mom!  It may be true that some of your past sins are popping up in your children’s behavior and bickering….in fact, that probably IS true for ALL of us in our parenting!  How could it possibly not be true?  We are sinners.  But so are our children…..and their hearts are  between them and God alone, ultimately.  Don’t believe the lies of the evil one that all of their bickering is indicative of your failure.  THIS IS NOT TRUE!!!  Rebecca has processed this so beautifully of late here on the blog……the sins and rebellion of her children being used as ammunition from the accuser of our souls……but then the turn….the turn to our Redeemer!!!!!  I surely see much the same heart in you Jill.  Your prayer here is lovely and humble and bold.  It is incense pleasing to our Father’s nostrils.  He is faithful.  

  16. 2.  As you reflect on this last week, what are your blessings (and seemingly “anti-blessings”) allowed or put there by God?
    There is no way to number the blessings!  What first came to mind is this from Psalm 139:17&18  “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!  If I could count them, they are more than the sand.  I awake, and I am still with you.”   How can it be????  Immanuel, God with us.  His Word…..revealing to us His thoughts, His ways……who are we, that He should be mindful of us?????
    Yesterday at church, one of the songs we sang was Chris Tomlin’s “Jesus, He Loves Me”.  I could barely sing for the lump in my throat, the tears in my eyes.  I was completely undone.  And in such good company with my brothers and sisters….a dear friend Robin right behind me…..clearly in the same place with Jesus as I!!  Indescribable.  Jesus, He loves me.  Google the song and give it a listen……you will see.  🙂  
    Renee was a springboard to my thinking on a couple of statements that were made to me in the past week or so…..(your thoughts Renee about how blessings and “anti-blessings” can change position!!)one by someone I love so much that I would throw myself in front of a train for her  if need be!!  In explaining to me how she saw herself with regard to the Gospel, to Christ, these were her words: ‘The best way I can think to explain it is that I’ve been innoculated against it.”  OH.  When someone you love says such a thing….well, two simultaneous thoughts were occurring to me:  1.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God – terror for her.  2.  a kind of against all odds hopeful smile in my heart…..as I said “Jesus, she has no idea how powerful Your call is.  When You call her name…..that innoculation will be worthless!! ”    The next statement was from a dear friend who is Jewish and with whom I have shared the Gospel and we have continued to speak now and again of Christ.  She and her son and his fiance had recently attended a “Christian” wedding…..and I gathered there was a whole lot of Jesus in this wedding!  She told me that her daughter in law to be came up to her at the reception and said “Don’t worry…..there won’t be ANY JESUS at our wedding!”.  Again, two things.  1.  Oh Lord, forgive her….she doesn’t know what she is saying.  and 2.  Call her name Jesus, call her name…..perhaps the Jesus at her son’s wedding will be in her heart!!!!      In both of these cases…..the statements were a wee bit of a “pushback” to me….but of course really to Jesus.  So on the surface they appeared as “anti-blessings”.  Nonetheless…..I choose to see these “anti-blessings” as blessings.  These two dear ones are NOT indifferent to Christ!!  They may be pushing back against Him…..but He haunts them.  I believe that He is in their thoughts much more than they would wish!!!  And only HE knows what He is doing in their hearts!!!  And I am also reminded of Rosaria Butterfield’s idea that we need to be close enough to unbelievers to be entirely vulnerable to them.  In these two cases, both of these women hold the power to hurt me deeply and to devastate my life – at least my earthly life.  I am never unaware of that fact when we speak.  But oh how beautiful that can be…..if I lose “everything” will He be enough?  He will.  Walking with Him on this razor’s age is exciting….scary…..and presses me into Him in ways that are BEYOND blessed!!  He loves me.  With ancient Asaph (whoever he was!!)  I long to say “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Amen.  

    1. Renee and Jackie
      Thought-provoking discussion from both of you, regarding how blessings and anti-blessings can change positions in time.    Yes, Jackie, He does indeed press us into Him through the painful circumstances of life.   And so I often come back around to saying, Lord, please help me to not let this situation go to waste.    Help me to see it with your eyes, through your perspective.

  17. Good Morning, Blog Sisters!    Oh, Happy Day!    I just love it when things like this happen.    As I glance through this weeks lesson,  I see that we are comparing Psalm 45 with the Song of Songs.    Well, this morning I began by using my two devotionals.  The one for today that the Kellers wrote in The Songs of Jesus is based on Psalm 45: 1-9.    If that is not enough,   the Daily Guideposts for today is based on Song of Songs, Chapter 2!     Makes me feel like I must be in the right place.     Is this not a God-incidence or a kiss from the King?   

    1. Deanna – how I love your joy in this!!  And it is a God thing indeed…..smiling along with you this morning ….thanks for sharing!  

  18. 1.What stands out to you from the above and why?
    Joseph and others like him model for us what it looks like to grow and mature in Christ.   I have always said I want to “grow old gracefully.”   However, the truth is that I often fall short of that when I get angry and grumpy; and believe me, that does not appear graceful at all!    I also plan to print up the C.S. Lewis quote and hang it on the front of my computer desk (where I will see it daily):  “the humblest praise most, while cranks and malcontents praise least.  Praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.”   

    2. As you reflect on this last week, what are your blessings (and seemingly “anti-blessings” allowed or put there by God?).
    Last week I was impressed with how many friends contacted me in one way or another — by phone (long-distance and local), by email, by mail.   As I get older, friends are more important than ever, and I count them to be such blessings.   Believe me,  all of you are blessings to me too!
    Anti-blessings:    Some thief took the Keurig coffee pot at church, and now I see myself tomorrow having to pack a thermos of coffee to take to the Keenagers breakfast in the morning.   The pastor’s response was to put locks on classroom doors, and she is not handing out keys.  I think this will make church life a bit more difficult!    It happened on a night when we had a lot of community people in the church and also the doors were unlocked for a prolonged period of time, which made the theft less difficult.   Another anti-blessing is that I have a son-in-law who still hasn’t found a job!     That will do for anti-blessings right now!   🙂

  19. 3. What reflections do you have on the above?        “And Can it Be?”   this clip is always so moving.  Unparalleled lyrical/theological depth in this song to express our worship of our Redeemer.  And in a place where worshipers are encircling the sanctuary…. I imagine myself being there.  I think it would be hard to contain one’s feeling of overwhelming ONE-ness in that moment.  Which would be amazing.  A picture of worship around the throne in heaven.
    “This is my Beloved”:   I looked up ‘kismet’ because I’ve wondered before about that word.   There’s a road in my town named ‘kismet isle’.   It has roots in Persian, Turkish, Arabic Urdi, Hindi languages and means roughly, ‘fate or destiny’.   I think ‘serendipity’ might be in there too.    Is  ‘Kismet’ the name of a musical here?     Anyway, my initial reaction is that it’s always amazing to me, to see the myriad of ways that the scriptures are woven into every day language; poetry, metaphor, analogy.   I noticed this just yesterday, watching some old TV episodes.  In the show, someone mentioned, ‘it’s conventional wisdom that you can’t serve two masters’.  In reality, it’s not just conventional.  It’s scripture.  My favorite line of the song, would be what Dee mentioned:  ‘plain words can’t tell the thrill’.    That’s kind of what Bonhoeffer said, when he exhorts us to pray the psalms.  If we’re learning to talk, we speak the words our parents speak.  When we learn to pray, we use the words our Father God gave us.  The language of scripture speaks in innumerable ways.  

    1. Wanda – This song is from the 1955 film version of the musical, Kismet.  I haven’t seen it but when reading the plot it’s pretty clear that the SOS references are out of context ……and yet I have to ponder your words “it’s always amazing to me, to see the myriad of ways that the scriptures are woven into every day language; poetry, metaphor, analogy.”  I will never understand it, but somehow even though we are sinners and lost….yet eternity is within our hearts and we do have yearnings for God that draws us to the scriptures….even if we don’t quite know what to do with it!  (I’m obviously speaking of the world of unbelievers…including each one of us before Christ drew us to Himself)

      1. I did look up the musical too, after I posed the question. (I keep doing that:  ask first; research second.  Working on turning that around!)  The reference I used that I saw on TV about ‘serving two masters’ was also used in a very secular environment.   I just find it fascinating (and encouraging, really) that scripture finds a way into daily conversation, even for people who have never read it.  Much is still present as a part of the fabric of common language.  (Think of how many times ‘Good Samaritan’ is used in secular news stories).  I guess there is always hope that someone, sometime, will be curious enough about those kinds of references to look them up.  Or that someone who knows the meaning, will clarify the adages.  

    2. Wanda, this morning I am appreciating the Bonhoeffer quote!  Using the words (Word!) our Father gave us….I think of Psalm 119, for example.  176 verses on the WORD.  I am just in awe at the many facets of the diamond on display in such a chapter!  Truly only the Holy Spirit could have prompted such an overflow from the human heart.  🙂  

  20. 2. As you reflect on this last week, what are your blessings (and seemingly “anti-blessings” allowed or put there by God?).
    I have avoided this question because I feel like I have nothing to say for blessings. I feel like anti- blessings have taken over my life ?. I will try to be positive…
    blessings – grandson, husband, friends, blog sisters, technology, hot water, food, job, car, clothing, sister, country, bed to sleep in, house. I guess the basic needs of life are a blessing, right? Some people don’t have these basic needs (Sad that my children aren’t on this list, huh?).
    anti-blessings – my brain that keeps me in inner turmoil, my job (s) that keep me entirely too busy, my children who wear me down with their problems, house repairs, sickness, cancer of friends, lack of me time, cleaning…all the things I should/need to do that can’t get done because I am just a simple human trying to keep her head above water and drowning!
    I think Renee is right, the blessings can also be anti-blessings! They co-mingle like my trash!

    1. Laura, praying for you this morning….may your heart be lightened this day by Him….

      1. Thanks Jill. I suppose it’s a wave and will go away soon. I should be used to these times and be able to ward them off by now. This one seems particularly difficult. I appreciate your kind words.

  21. 2. As you reflect on this last week, what are your blessings (and seemingly “anti-blessings” allowed or put there by God?).
    Every day last week has been filled with blessings but my highlighted blessing is smelling and enjoying Spring. I love Spring..But the last couple of days when I looked at all becoming new-the flowers blossoming- the sweet fragrance of flowers in the air I thought of SOS 2: 10-13 and rejoice of this beautiful reminder from Him this Spring. It fills me with joy when I think of the future with Him when the season of singing comes and this melts my troubled thoughts-for they become so small compared to Him!
    Antiblessings: I have so many-daily..where do I start? 🙂  

    1. Dee–this is so helpful, anti-blessings “aren’t curses but seen negatively because of lack of alignment with God”. You reminded me of Joseph speaking to his brothers “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). We DO have so much trial and tribulation, as He said we would–yet He that is in us is greater still. It is so hard to see when we are deep in hard stuff. Thankful for how you have taught us to speak truth to our soul, remember His faithfulness in the past…I look back and I see where He has carried me through fire before and only used it to refine me. And so maybe the “anti” is more of just “dark”. There are things He allows that feel like attacks, and yet, oh how I need the refinement that He brings from them, and the closeness, the intimacy unlike any other, that comes from wilderness times with Him. Sorry! Meant to have a short comment, 😉 but thank you for the truth in this week’s lesson. 

  22. 3. What reflections do you have in the above? There is something about the deep longing to BE with someone that resonates deeply spiritually. It is a shadow in this world of our God-created desire to know and be known… By HIM.To be united, completed. To love and be loved. She is not even concerned about herself, at all, she is just consumed by wonder at her love and how great he is! She doesn’t sing of how she is lacking or how she isn’t lacking but just of him and his beauty. This has been a conviction on my heart the last two weeks, to just praise HIM, not what He gives, not what He does, but just HIM! 

  23. 3.  What reflections do you have on the above?
    Like so MANY in our rich heritage of hymns, “And Can It Be?” just seems to pour biblical theology, Christology over us!  What I love so much about this hymn in particular is the sense of WONDER and AWE therein.  I think it was Tim Keller who commented that the wonderful preacher and teacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones never lost his sense of amazement over the Gospel.  This is the preacher who Keller, Piper, Macarthur and so many others of depth look to as preeminent among teachers and preachers.  And yet the more he delved deeply into the Scriptures with his incredible mind….the more childlike  was his faith.  I’m asking the Lord to give me that daily sense of marveling in Christ and His Gospel…..and hymns like “And Can It Be?” are such good stimulants to helping the Word of Christ to dwell in my richly.  🙂    On another note:  did anyone else happen to be a bit taken aback by the AGE of almost all of the singers????  They were OLD….like me!  How I would have loved to see more youthful faces in the mix!  
    “This is my Beloved” – in my journal I copied down these words….”all that can stir, all that can stun, all that’s for the heart’s lifting”.  I’m so grateful for  my Jesus …..who moves me so….who stuns me with His beauty and shares Himself so fully with me……who creates a union with Himself that causes me to cry out the words of Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”  

  24. 4. Now it is your turn — find three places that correlate and use what you see as a springboard for praise.
    “Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty!”
    ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭45:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬
    “all of them wearing swords and expert in war, each with his sword at his thigh, against terror by night.”
    ‭‭The Song of Solomon‬ ‭3:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬
     These two verses talk about strength. Oh Lord make me strong  in my weak times.
    “your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;”
    ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭45:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬
    “What is that coming up from the wilderness like columns of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant powders of a merchant?”
    ‭‭The Song of Solomon‬ ‭3:6‬ ‭ESV‬‬
    Both verses give word pictures of fragrance. Dear Lord, help me to remember your birth and your sacrifice for me when I think of the myrrh at both of these occasions.
    “Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him.”
    ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭45:10-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬
    “Come with me from Lebanon, my bride; come with me from Lebanon. Depart from the peak of Amana, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the dens of lions, from the mountains of leopards.”
    ‭‭The Song of Solomon‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬
    These two verses  call for the bride to leave familiar turf. Oh Lord, help me to remember it’s not easy being a Christian in this world. I may have to be alone in my faith. Help me remember that you are there and it’s OK. 

    1. Laura–good job!–all of this is so good. “Help me remember that you are there” amen!

      1. ?

      1. ?

  25. 3. What reflections do you have on the above?
    She is singing after just a brief encounter..His presence was that powerful-He melted her heart and she sings back to him in adoration..“Dawns, promising skies, petals on a pond drifting..imagine this in one pair of eyes..this is my beloved. Strange spice from the south, honey through the comb sifting..imagine these on one eager mouth..and this is my beloved. He:  “And when she speaks and talks to me.. music, mystery, and when she moves and when she walks with me, paradise comes suddenly near.”  
    For me it is His presence and how He is melting her and she responds..She is stunned and stirred inside by His beauty..He has captivated her and all her affections are on Him! 

  26. 3. What reflections do you have on the above?
    Such a beautiful song — how could anything but beautiful thoughts be sung with such a beautiful melody? Marsinah is singing, trying to explain that she is totally smitten by her beloved (Caliph).  Only comparison with the most beautiful, sweetest, wonderful things one could imagine would come close to revealing the paradise she experienced when she was with her beloved.  

    I never saw this movie.  I wonder how I missed it.  I remember that for my 12th birthday, my father treated me and a group of my friends to the movie,  Indian Love Call, in which Ann Blyth also starred.  I thought she had such a beautiful voice.   For days afterward, I went around the house trying to sing in some kind of falsetto-soprano voice (must have been hard on the rest of the family) 😀

    1. Sorry,   I realized too late to edit it, that the movie was named Rose Marie   (Indian Love Call was a song in that movie).   

  27. 5. See if you can find how the Shulammite has changed by comparing S. of S. 2:16 with S. of S. 6:3. What do you see?
    “My beloved is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies.”
    ‭‭Song of Solomon‬ ‭2:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬
    “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he browses among the lilies.”
    ‭‭Song of Solomon‬ ‭6:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬
    She changes from saying my beloved is mine and I am his, to I am my beloved’s and he is mine. It’s as if she is first tsking control and then releasing it to him.

  28. 6. Do you see yourself “decreasing?” (Michael Reeves says it is not wrong to be aware of fruit in your life, for it is “all of Him.”)
    Well, I suppose I am showing more of Him, but I don’t think it is always very well received by others. Someone important in my life recently said they thought I should “…pay more attention to them instead of God.” I actually think they are jealous. Has anyone had this problem with people who are close to you? The person believes in God, but is engrained in this life under the sun. They are more self-centered instead of God centered. It is sad, and the only thing I can think of doing is trying to pay more attention to to them, but something else in my life will need to suffer.

    1. Yes, Laura,  I have experienced that.   My husband has a very large extended family.   If we have a time conflict and can’t attend a family gathering because of a church event,   somone will say “Well, yes, you are very involved in your church.”     There was a time when not very many of them were regular church-goers.  One Sunday, a couple of decades back,  the extended family decided to have an impromptu picnic, which they didn’t plan until Sunday morning.    We heard about it after it was over!   When we expressed dismay, we were told “We tried to call you, but you weren’t home.”    They all knew we were in worship on Sunday morning!   I am happy to report that these days there are a few more in the family whose Christian faith dictates their priorities, and nothing like that has happened for a long time.   

    2. Laura – Dee used the word “dilemma” and so it is.  I see it as a good dilemma though, for often the Lord may use others to show us something He wants us to see!  Romans 12:18 exhorts us “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  Though it is a command, I love the “If possible” that drips with grace and God’s understanding that it may not always be possible.  All of chapter 12 that precedes this verse is important, but particularly to start out with verses 1&2.  🙂  It even helps me to look at the context of the verse John 3:30, which I guess would be the signature verse for our “decreasing”!  John the Baptist said “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  Though John was faithful in his mission, he still was imprisoned and martyred nonetheless…..like so many others….even today.  Even though those close to us are not likely to actually physically kill us….it can feel like they are trying to “kill” the flame of love for Christ in our souls.  And yes, that is a VERY deep sadness.   One which I too have experienced.  

    3. Laura, I feel prompted to encourage you to continue praying for this person (I am sure you do!), and to remember that they are in the Lord’s hands…. Not your hands… Only the Holy Spirit can change hearts and open eyes…. Doesn’t make it easier on our own hearts…. ? ….but He is good… Praying for you both this morning.

  29. 4. Now it’s your turn – find three places that correlate and use what you see as a springboard for praise. 
    Psalm 45:8 – your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloe and cassia.
    Song of Songs 1:3 your anointing oils are fragrant…
    Jesus, how your presence is like fragrance. My doubts would conquer me if it were not for your scent surrounding me and speaking constantly of your love.
    Psalm 45:11 – and the king will desire your beauty
    Song of Songs 7:10 I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me.
    God, how can it be, that you desire me… you created me with your hand, and you mold me with your hand, all beauty in me is you, yet despite my idolatry and forgetfulness, you continually woo me back to your unfailing love. You desire me!!
    Psalm 45:4 – In you majesty ride out victoriously…
    Song of Songs 3:6-11 …The litter of Solomon…experts in war…
    God, you are victorious! And majestic! You are the victor! Praise be!

  30. 4.  Now it’s your turn – find three places that correlate and use them as a springboard for praise.
    Psalm 45: 10&11…”…the king will desire your beauty.’  Song of Songs 2:13&14…”…Arise my love, my beautiful one, and come away….let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.”   Oh Jesus, I praise you for your grace…..which has made me beautiful in your eyes.  Before you came to me I was wretched and lost….but you covered me with your blood, your righteousness.  You desire an intimacy like nothing I have ever experienced….you call me to look at you, to speak to you…..how can it be?  Oh Jesus, you do bring beauty from ashes.  
    Psalm 45:8  “your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia…”  Song of Songs 1:13…”…my beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh that lies between my breasts.”  Jesus, the fragrance that you bring to my life goes straight to my heart.  You change me.  Your fragrance brings fruitfulness to my life. You bring union with yourself and the fragrance is my life.
    Psalm 45:14&15…”…she is led to the king…..with joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.”  Song of Songs 3:11 ….”…on the day of his wedding, on the  day of the gladness of his heart.”   My King, My bridegroom….what a day we have to anticipate!  The wedding day, the day of the gladness of your heart.  The day that we are led with joy and gladness into your palace…for all eternity.  You’ve gone to prepare a place for us….but you will return for our wedding…..how lavish your love for me!  How endless, how perfect.  How perfect forever you are, my King.  

  31. 5.  See if you can find how the Shulammite has changed by comparing SOS 2:16 with SOS 6:3.  What do you see?
    In 2:6, the beloved has called to her to arise and come away with him….but she is complacent and comfortable where she is.  She wants to wait for the day to breathe and the shadows to flee….and the next verses find the them separated and her alone on her bed and experiencing deep regret.  In 6:3 she has come to realize that first and foremost, she belongs to HIM….it is not about any comfort that he may bring her, but rather about being with him wherever he may go!  And we soon see her going into the vineyard and investing herself there.  I think we’ve seen her move from being being a prisoner of fearfulness to the freedom of fruitfulness!  His unfailing, relentless love for her has won the day!!  

  32. 8. What is your take-a-way and why?
    I loved the focus of this week’s lesson. God commands our worship—He wants it, it pleases Him. It’s humbling, and a joy to be reminded that I, as small as I am, can do something that brings Him pleasure. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24) To worship in spirit—my heart must be in it. I can do the “right” actions, but without love, I am a clanging cymbal. But I also must worship in truth—reflecting on who He is, and His Word.
    As I listened to the broadcast, I noticed this sequence—she misses Him, she feels the absence of His prescience and her heart longs for Him again. She begins to actively search for Him, and as she does, her desire for Him deepens. Then she reflects on His beauty. She reminds herself who He is to her, His attributes. He is pure (white), He is full of life and joy (ruddy). He has passion for us, to the point of suffering and death for us. His words are full of power, and His arms, hands, legs—are strong to secure us, carry us. It reminded me of a lament in the psalms. The ache, the crying out, the turn—speaking truth to our soul and ending in praise of who He is. 
    I appreciated that Nancy said we will have times of dryness. As that (really) old Amy Grant song says—we have to come down from the mountain top to the valley below. Sometimes that valley is dry. But there is where are faith is tested. It is easy to love Him when we see His gifts for us, when we sense His prescience all around. But my love for Him, my faith in Him, has been so tested when things around me, and in me, hurt. I am thankful for the deepened faith my trials have brought–and continue to. I need to remind myself of this when I feel so ready to be freed of them. But truly, those I admire most in the faith have been through fire. I know with certainty, He does use all things for His purpose and glory–I have seen it and felt it in me. 
    One of my favorite Spurgeon quotes: “The Lord knows that sight interferes with faith, and, therefore, He does not give us a mixture of the two. We do not walk by sight and faith, but, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” To let us occasionally see, would, in fact, remove us out of the realm of faith and bring us down from the high position of Believers to the low platform of sightseers.”
    Nancy said that as we get our eyes off ourselves, and focus on Him, in praise and worship, our hearts are revived, our love for Him renewed. We get to the place of saying “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine”. 
    Last week, I had one of my regular re-listenings to Keller’s “True Older Brother” sermon. He talks about the difference between serving and obeying God out of duty, verses beauty. We often start out following God with a sense of duty, obligation, devoid of joy. We seek Him for what He can do for us. We say “My Beloved is mine”. But when our hearts are softened, and made new, we seek Him, we worship Him, because we see His beauty, we love Him, “I am my Beloved’s”. 
    He has done a deeper work in my heart in the last year. I long for His Word in a way I never have. I seek to read, not so much to help myself or even find answers, but honestly, I want to know more of Him. Hard to explain, but I imagine seeing Him face to face, and I want to know Him more that Day than I do now. As my 9 year old says, God doesn’t use “points” and I know it isn’t about gaining my own righteousness, but there is a desire to just—Know Him more, that’s as well as I can word it!
    I’m also finding that in all these years of trying so hard to articulate Gospel truths to my older child—He has grown me, and blessed me in it. As I regularly try to bring us back to the Gospel in everyday situations and struggles, I am gaining deeper understanding myself. Not sure if/how He may use it further, but I know it has blessed my own heart, to soak deeper into His grace and truth. 

    1. This is gold, Lizzy. I especially liked this part: 

      He has done a deeper work in my heart in the last year. I long for His Word in a way I never have. I seek to read, not so much to help myself or even find answers, but honestly, I want to know more of Him. Hard to explain, but I imagine seeing Him face to face, and I want to know Him more that Day than I do now. As my 9 year old says, God doesn’t use “points” and I know it isn’t about gaining my own righteousness, but there is a desire to just—Know Him more, that’s as well as I can word it!

      So much to ponder about. God doesn’t use “points”. It has been a blessing to me to watch you growing, Lizzy.

  33. 4. Now it is your turn — find three places that correlate and use what you see as a springboard for praise.
    Psalm 45:2 – You are most excellent of men  – SOS 5:10 My lover is radiant and ruddy,
     outstanding among ten thousand.  
    O Lord, you are supreme, and there is none other like you!  You are awesome!  Please help me to live before others in a way that illustrates that fact!  
    Psalm 45:3 – Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one, clothe yourself with splendor and majesty  – SOS 3:7-8 Look it is Solomon’s carriage, escorted by sixty warriors, the noblest of Israel, all of them wearing the sword, all experienced in battle….
    Lord, I so much feel that my safety, as I journey through this life,  depends upon you.  When I look back through my past experiences,   I can tell you were there, girded with your sword, guiding me through all the circumstances that threatened to undo me.   Thank you, dear Lord!
    Psalm 45: 8 – All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia… – SOS 1:3 Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. 
    When I am in your presence, dear Lord, I am so soothed by your spirit.   Your surrounding  essence is love!   When I am feeling low, you can sweep me up in your fragrance and cause me to soar!    

  34. 5. See if you can find how the Shulammite has changed by comparing S. of S. 2:16 with S. of S. 6:3. What do you see?

    It seems to me that the Shulammite began by worrying about how she appeared (from working in the vineyard and having dark skin), although she loved her Beloved, she was still more concerned about how she was regarded and about her comfort (not being willing to put herself out by leaving her bed and answering the door).  By 6:3, she is totally into Him!  

  35. 5. See if you can find how the Shulammite has changed by comparing Song of Song 2:16 with Sing of Song 6:3. What do you see? The phrases “I am my beloved’s” and “my beloved is mine” are reversed in their order. She is focused on him being hers in the beginning but in the sixth chapter she is focused on being his. This comes after many trials: feeling dark and unlovely, hiding in the cleft, seeking him but not finding him, hearing his voice and not responsive, repentance, seeking again, telling of her love to others…. In both verses, despite her focus, he grazes in her garden, in the lilies. He is patience with her…this may contribute to her reversal of focus, amazed that she is still his even after waiting and walking with her through so much…but this is how He is with His beloved’s…. He walks with us on our journey, calling to us when we get stuck… Amazing love, how can it be…

  36. 6. Do you see yourself “decreasing?” When I am squeezed I see different things come out (usually) than what used to. I used to be so angry and want to control everything and all sorts of ugly would seep out when I was squeezed. Me, me, me filled my heat and is what flowed out. Now when I am squeezed I see His hand guiding on a path, rather than my hand loosing control, I see patience and trust in God’s putting the chain links together to Him. Usually. There are still some situations where I do not have His trust and patience….but the fact that I SEE this as not belonging is a sign that God is polishing the mirror of my heart to reflect Christ, not me. I am reminded of The Magician’s Nephew. We all get what we really want – and that eventually becomes obvious, I suppose.

  37. I

  38. 5. See if you can find how the Shulammite has changed by comparing S. of S. 2:16 with S. of S. 6:3. What do you see?
    2:16 My beloved is mine, and I am his;     he grazes[f] among the lilies.
    6:23 I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;     he grazes among the lilies.
    In 2:16 I almost see a little child saying” Mine, mine, mine!” and it always seems to come across as very selfish. And very focused on what is being considered as his/hers.
    In 6:23 On the other hand, a child who comes up to his/her mother or father and ask if he/she belonged to them shifts the focus from self to the person who “owns” or loves the child.
    So much like me for a long time but God has been so patient. Not that I have this Beloved love all figured out by now.  I am slowly brought to the deeper awareness of the magnificence of Christ that I have overlooked through the years. I take Him so for granted and can focus so much on His gifts. And my gifts. Rather than on Him.

  39. 4. Now it is your turn — find three places that correlate and use what you see as a springboard for praise.
    1. Psalm 45:1 My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.  Song of Songs 4:3 HE: Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Song of Songs 4: 11 HE: Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue;
    Jesus your oil of gladness, your fragrance-oh…your Holy Spirit inside me stirring me after you.Your blood made us one-It’s you-You are lovely-your mouth is lovely..you fill my heart with a pleasing theme..You make my tongue overflow with your fountain inside.. Keep me today from others who vye for my affections..may your overflow inside be the words that drip from my mouth. Draw me to you.
    2. Psalm 45:13  All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold. Song of Songs 4:9-10: HE: You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!
    1Your oils, your fragrance, your fountain in me…Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love;  rivers cannot sweep it away. My heart is burning, stirring for you-Draw me closer in Jesus.
    I do have #3 but these two have led me without words at this point-my heart is overwhelmed- and I want to stay here with Him..Here is a song of worship I am singing to him with this study this morning..it is long but good and thought I would share. https://youtu.be/3z7PxDUB5HE?list=RD3z7PxDUB5HE

  40. 7. Share your notes. (Some is paraphrased)
    Song of Songs 5
    Nancy Leigh deMoss Wolgemuth
    The bride is seeking, she asks friends to help, and ends up describing her beloved. -> This description reminds us of Christ in Revelation.
    Her focus has changed – she had been focused on herself (shall I wash my feet again?!) but now she is focused on His loveliness and God renews in her heart a desire for him – he stirs her affections as she realizes what she turned down.
    When we speak of the loveliness of Christ others are effected (both believers and non-believers). When we love Him it overflows and you just speak of how good He is.
    When we speak of the loveliness of Christ we, ourselves, are effected. He hasn’t left – He is in her garden tending to his flock.
    There is a reversal in the verses – “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” Vs. “I am my beloved’s and he is mine.” She no longer loves him for just what he is to her, she loves him because she wants to bless him.
    A note on feelings – we sometimes feel cold and dry, but feelings are not reality. We may feel he is gone. Feelings are not faith. Remember God draws near to praise, He inhabits praise.
    God did not intend for us to always have ecstasy-like, intense feelings. If there were no dry times then the love would be selfish, all about how it makes us feel but we trust and have faith through tears and hardship that he is there. We learn to love, praise in dry times, and then those times become precious and our faith grows.
    So, a question: What is your beloved more than others? Why is He better than all others? God will revive, renew you heart as you consider Him and praise Him.
    John Piper, “Believers live spiritually by viewing the beauty of Jesus Christ like the body lives on food.”

  41. 7. Thoughts. I am absolutely struck by the fact bride searched and searched for her beloved, even getting beaten in the process, but once she praises him she knows exactly where he is. She convinces her friends how her beloved is above all others and they say, well where is he?! And she says (seemingly oblivious to the fact that one chapter ago she couldn’t find him for the life of herself) he is in his garden of course….Wow. 

  42. My notes on Nancy: ( I typed as fast as I can so forgive my errors!) I will need to put this in 2 entries.
    At times of spiritual dryness and separation from our beloved, it is good to take time to recall what he is like, to verbalize his features. and by faith to praise him about what is true of him how and he has been in the past even when you don’t feel like it at the moment.
    She sets out to find the Beloved and enlists the daughters of Jerusalem

    How is your beloved better than others? What is so special about him? How is he unique?
    General description:
    v. 10 white and ruddy chief among ten thousands
    a. white means brilliant radiant shiny a picture of the deity of Christ. Like when Jesus was on the mount of Transfiguration His clothes shone.
    b. ruddy- healthy complexion wholesome manly supreme manhood
    Detailed Description (the unveiling of the excellencies and splendor of Christ)
    Head to feet description
    There is no one like him; No peer; incomparable
    Remembering what is so special
    ( Example: Locks like a raven; Cheeks like bed of spices; Hands rods of gold; Countenance like Lebanon)
    a.  Head- nobility and dignity and authority
    b.Eyes Compassion, tenderness, compassion, grace
    c.  Cheeks hid
    d.Lips purity of His words and power
    e.  Hands hold us safe and secure
    f.   Legs strength; ability to support His people
    Rev 1 the picture of Christ
    OT and NT everything about Him surpasses and excels everyone else
    Magnificent in the parts and in the whole
    v. 16 Yes, He is altogether lovely
    Everything about Him is lovely and desirable

  43. Notes on :   “How to fall  and stay in love with Jesus” A Study in the Song of Songs by Nancy Leigh deMoss Wolgemuth
    It is so important in seasons of spiritual dryness or separation from our Beloved that we take time to recall what he is like, to verbalize His features, by faith to praise Him for what you have known to be true of Him in the past, even when you are not feeling these things at the moment.  
    In the last session, we saw that the bride had spurned the initiative of her bridegroom.   She  was slow to respond to His call.   When she finally got up to open the door to let Him in He was gone.   So she misses Him and she sets out to find Him, which is not an easy thing, as it turns out.   She is misunderstood.  It is the middle of the night after all, and what are respectable women doing out walking in the streets in the middle of the night.   So she finally turns to the daughters of Jerusalem, her friends, and enlists their help in finding Him.   And if they find him, she says, will you please give Him a message for me.   Chapter 5, verse 8:   I charge you, O daughters of Jersualem, if you find my Beloved, will you tell him I am love-sick.    And then those daughters of Jerusalem say to her in verse 9, “What is your beloved more than another beloved,  O fairest among women?”   “What is your beloved more than another beloved that you so charge us?”      As the NIV says there, “How is your beloved better than others?   What is so special about him?    There are lots of other men around here.   If you have lost Him, go find yourself another one.”    In response to that question, the bride begins to explain to the daughters of Jerusalem what it is that makes Him unique.  
    She starts with a general description in verse 10.     She says “My beloved is white and ruddy, chief among ten thousands.   That word “white” in some translations you read as “radiant” or “dazzling”.    It speaks of a brilliant, blinding white, reminiscent of the picture of Jesus on the Mountain of Transfiguration, as His glory and his deity shown through.  
     She paints a detailed portrait of her Beloved, starting with his head and his hair – all the way down to his feet. .    In responding to these daughters of Jerusalem, she recalls all that she admires about the appearance of her beloved.   And as we read this description, we realize we are witnessing an unveiling of the splendor, the excellencies, and glories of Christ.     
    In this description, she sees in his head a picture of his dignity, nobility, his authority.  In his eyes she sees depicted gentleness, compassion, tenderness and grace.   In his cheeks there is the fragrance of his passion, his suffering and his death.  In his lips we see the purity, the power, the beauty of his words.  We see the work of his hands –hands that hold us safe and secure.   In his body, we see depicted the beauty of Christ, his perfection and his symmetry.   In his legs, we see the kingly strength, the ability to support his people.
    Both in  the Old Testament picture and in the New Testament description of Christ (in Revelation) , we see that everything about him surpasses everyone else – every detail is magnificent,  and overall he is magnificent.     He is magnificent in the parts; he is magnificent in the whole.  
    In the last session we saw how the bridegroom knocked and asked her to open to him.   But at that time, she was focused on herself.   She said, “ I have put off my coat, I have washed my feet.   How shall I defile them?”     As a result of that self-absorption, she was estranged from her beloved.     But now she transfers her focus off of herself and fixes her eyes on her bridegroom.   She focuses on his magnificence, on his peerless worth, on who He is.   And by the time she is done with this description, she realizes who it is she turned down and how incredibly precious and desirable He is to her.   
    And as we get our eyes off of ourself and on to him in praise and worship, we find that God revives in our hearts and appreciation of Christ in the present.  I think of that verse in 1 Peter 2 “To you who believe Christ is precious.”     As you focus on him, as you fix your eyes on him, as you describe him, as you praise him, you find Him to be precious.   
    As the daughters of Jerusalem hear her description of her beloved, there is a desire quickened in their hearts to find Him.  You don’t have to know four steps to this or eight steps to that in order to be an effective witness for Christ.  
    Nancy told about her friend Valerie, sitting in the front row, who had come to Christ when she attended a Bible study led by Nancy when Valerie was 16.   Valerie became a hairdresser, and had many clients.   Without any seminary training or special classes, Valerie just talked to people about Christ.   Valerie is an incredibly effective witness because she just tells others about her beloved.     “This is who He is, and this is what He means to me.”  
    It’s not just about talking with lost people about Christ, but there is an impact by talking with other believers about Christ.    What happens when we do?   It strengthens our own faith, but it also stirs up in others their passion and their affection for Him.     Most important of all, it blesses the Lord when we praise Him. 
    As she witnesses to the loveliness of her Beloved, as she describes Him, as she tells others how wonderful He is,   there is something quickened in her own heart.    She comes to realize that he hasn’t really left her.   
    Her love is maturing at this point.   We read a similar verse earlier, but this time it is written a little differently.      The first time she said “My beloved is mine and I his.”   Now she says,    “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”   In other words, she is coming to the point in her life where nothing matters except that she belongs to Him.    She no longer is enjoying Him just because he is trying to satisfy her and blessing her, she is now loving Him, not for what he gives to her but for how she can bless Him. 
     I want to encourage you to remember that God draws near to praise.    God inhabits the praises of his people Psalm 22 tells us.    As you begin to praise and admire Christ and to express gratitude for his characteristics and his graces, as this bride has just done about her beloved, you will find that you will begin to experience a greater sense of the reality of His presence. 
    So I want to ask you today, how would you answer the question that those women asked this bride?  What is your Beloved more than any other beloved?  What makes your beloved so special.   And by the way, if there is any other beloved that you love more than Him, that you have put in His place, or allowed to have encroached inside His place in your life, what do we call that?   An idol. 
    Nancy wrote a card to the Lord, and she encourages us to do the same.  In it she listed all the things the admires in the Lord.   She said that by the time she was done her eyes were totally off of herself and her heart was filled with love for  Christ Jesus.    She said when we do this, we should watch how God will renew and revive our hearts.  
    John Piper tweeted: Believers live spiritually by viewing the beauty of Jesus

    1. Sorry,  somehow the last six words of my above post disappeared.   It should have read:   Believers live spiritually by viewing the beauty of Jesus like the body lives by food.  

  44. I just want to thank Jill and Bing (and Deanna) for posting notes of the sermon. That not only encourages us to listen as well, but it helps those you do not have the time to listen to get some benefits from reading the notes. I find listening to Nancy DW so encouraging! She is a woman of great depth.

  45. Part 2 🙂 Yes, Diana. I agree. Nancy is a woman of great depth. I was going to write some more of my notes but I noticed Deanna (thank you) had done a beautiful job so I will just share my own thoughts:
    Jesus is always there for me/us. Just because I don’t sense His presence doesn’t mean He is not there. Nancy wonderfully pointed out the role of praise in seeing Jesus for who He really is. I am encouraged to write a love letter to our Beloved as she exhorted us to do! “He inhabits the praise of His people.”
    I not only have the responsibility to share our Beloved to those who do not know him but also to those who know Him. Aside from blessing the Lord and  strengthening my faith, it can also ignite passion and affection among the brethren.
    Nothing matters but that she belongs to Him not just because he is blessing her.” Lord, more of you and less of me. You , more than the gift.

  46. 8. What is your take-a-way and why?
    A. The importance of praise. Praise shifts focus from self to the Beloved. Praise blesses my Beloved. 
    B. I would like to write a love letter to my Beloved. He is altogether lovely and the fairest of ten thousands!