Roger Marsh: Well, welcome everyone to Family Talk, the listener supported division of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute. I'm Roger Marsh and today's broadcast is going to be a special treat. Before Christmas, Dr. Dobson had the opportunity to sit down in person with one of his dearest friends, Dee Brestin, for a two-day conversation about her latest book, entitled, The Jesus Who Surprises: Opening Our Eyes to His Presence in All of Life and Scripture. Now, when you listen to the recording, you'll hear that Dr. Dobson's voice was a little scratchy during the session, but trust me, he is just fine. In fact, he's in California right now, busily working on his latest book as we have this conversation.
Dee Brestin is the author of books like, The Friendships of Women and Falling in Love with Jesus. She's written 20 Bible studies, most notably, Proverbs and Parables. She's a graduate of Northwestern University who also studied at Covenant Seminary. When she was grieving the death of her husband of 39 years to cancer and really feeling abandoned, Dee was reminded of the moment when she was attempting to nurse her colicky, baby son. After kicking and crying for 10 minutes, he would finally calm down and latch on. Dee says that like that colicky baby, there's no reason for us to throw a fit because God is right there for us as well.
Join me now, as we listen into this conversation with Dr. Dobson as he begins by asking Dee about that moment, she got the news about their impending first interview on Focus on the Family.
Dr. Dobson: I'm thankful to serve the Lord and savior Jesus Christ, and we have a guest who feels the same way about that, and she is my very dear friend, Dee Brestin. Dee is a best-selling author, a speaker, and a highly sought after Bible teacher. I first interviewed Dee over 30 years ago for her first book, The Friendships of Women. And that book is... Dee, it's still out there, isn't it? Still available?
Dee Brestin: It sure is, I credit you with that.
Dr. Dobson: You credit me? I didn't write it.
Dee Brestin: Yes, but you were such an encouragement to me. And I really feel you opened the door for a ministry that has blessed me and, I know, many women.
Dr. Dobson: Well, I admire you so much for your dedication to the Lord and what you've done. How many books have you written now?
Dee Brestin: About 10 books and 20 Bible study guides.
Dr. Dobson: And most of your time is spent in Bible study, isn't it?
Dee Brestin: It is, it is. And I have a prison ministry in the last 10 years that's been a real blessing too, so that's been great.
Dr. Dobson: Take us back thirty years.
Dee Brestin: Well, I remember when I got the call that you were going to interview me, I was jumping on the bed I was so excited. And I was scared during the interview and my husband kept jumping up and taking pictures, but you just put us at ease and I calmed down and I do feel that God gave me a message about friendship, that women and men still need to hear. We are made in the image of a relational God and we crave relationship, and women have a gift, I believe, for intimacy, and a craving for it. And I had learned so many things from the scripture, looking at the friendships in scripture, that just became radioactive and changed my friendships.
One of the things that I noticed was that God's zooms his camera in on parting scenes and greeting scenes - in the friendships of Mary and Elizabeth, Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan. And I have learned to be alert when I meet somebody, that God might be working. I prayed when I realized that, that if God gave me the opportunity that I would be at the bedside when my parents were dying and indeed, I was able to have a parting scene with my mother and my father and my husband, all within a three-year period, and those are precious moments. So things like that, learning how to value those special bittersweet moments and how to be a real friend.
Dr. Dobson: In one of my early books, What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women, I talked about the great need of women for other women. And a lot of women don't invest the time to make those kinds of friendships, and I think they're the poorer for it. They desperately need each other, don't they?
Dee Brestin: Oh, they do. It took me a while to realize, I know I get grumpy if I'm deprived of fellowship. And during this time of COVID too, when we are quite isolated, it can be exacerbated and get us down, and we need to find ways to connect even now. And our marriages will be better, studies show that women who have close friendships have stronger marriages, are better mothers, so we need to take the time. And a good warm friendship is like a good warm fire, it needs continual stoking.
Dr. Dobson: One of the areas that you're concentrating on these days is how to get through this pandemic, especially the sequestering that's going on. How are women coping with not being able to get with their buddies?
Dee Brestin: I think it's taking its toll and they're getting depressed. We need each other desperately and we will get down if we are not connecting with one another and praying with one another and encouraging one another.
Dr. Dobson: We'll talk more about that. Dee is a graduate of Northwestern University. She also studied at Covenant Seminary. Do you call yourself a minister, Dee?
Dee Brestin: Well, I would say that I'm a female shepherd.
Dr. Dobson: I like that. Well, as we've said, you minister to women in prison all over the world, you host a popular weekly Bible study by way of the website, I'm going to stop here to ask you how people can find that.
Dee Brestin: Well, they just go to my name, deebrestin.com, that's my website. I post a Bible study on Sunday and there's continual interaction and comments, several hundred comments each week where people are digging into scripture and it's like iron sharpening iron.
Dr. Dobson: I'll never forget the time that you came and talked about the death of your beloved husband of 39, I believe, wasn't it 39 years?
Dee Brestin: Yeah, 39 years.
Dr. Dobson: And he died of cancer, and that was in 2004?
Dee Brestin: He did, yes. Yes and-
Dr. Dobson: You came and talked about getting through that crisis. How have you made it? I just can't imagine the loss of Shirley, how did that go down?
Dee Brestin: Yeah. I think that what I've learned in retrospect, there's a verse in Hebrews 12, and I think it applies right now to our tumultuous times, that God is going to shake the world, removing the things that can be shaken so we can be thankful we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. When the props are knocked out from under you, it separates what's eternal from what's transitory. I grieved so much the loss of Steve, but I am thankful for the years we had. And I know it's not the end of the story, I know I will see him again. But it also has caused me to be thankful for a kingdom that cannot be shaken and to press into Jesus with all my heart. And I really feel, Dr. Dobson, that my best books have been written since Steve died, because I have experienced the presence of God out of my desperate neediness.
Dr. Dobson: There are so many widows around us who are going through what you have. And my mother was one of the saddest, she dearly loved my dad from the moment they fell in love with each other, and he was everything to her. And when he suddenly died, just sitting at a table, and he leaned over into her plate and was gone, she could not cope with that. I mean, she lived 11 more years and she was grieving when she died. What do you say to the women out there who have lost what they could not afford to lose?
Dee Brestin: I would tell them that God gives us a prayer book in the scriptures, and that is the Psalms. Philip Yancey said that he was told when he was feeling down or depressed to go to the Psalms. And he said, "I'd go to one of the wintry-est Psalms that said, 'Where are you, Lord? How long will you abandon me?' And I'd come away frostily depressed."
Until I realized that the Psalms are not like other books in the Bible where God is speaking to us. It's like you are looking over the shoulder of the Psalmist's prayer journal, and he is praying his genuine, honest thoughts, and when he is down, he is honest about it. More than a third of the Psalms are laments, and I learned a lament typically has three parts. First, you are honest. You tell God how you're feeling. And then there's a pause and you're still, because prayer is meant to be a dialogue. And the spirit will usually remind you of God's character and then you can trust in him. And I'd like to share a story of how I did that after Steve died and how God spoke to me.
Dr. Dobson: I wish you would.
Dee Brestin: Well, I hated to go to bed after Steve died, because we had some of our best times talking together in bed. And if I had trouble sleeping, he would often pray over me or sing over me, or he'd say a nursery rhyme like, "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod sailed out on a moonlit night." And I told the Lord, I lamented, I said, "You promised you would be a husband to the widow, but I don't feel like you are even here." And then a memory came to me, Dr. Dobson, of when I was a first time mom and I was trying to nurse my colicky baby. We were in a little tiny apartment, Steve had to sleep because he was in medical school. And I would run to that baby, unbuttoning my bathrobe as I ran so as not to lose time. And I'd take him and I put him on to my breast and he acted like I wasn't there. He wouldn't latch on, he'd scream, he'd get red, he'd kick.
And finally, after a good 10 minutes he'd finally find me and calm down, and his eyes would go to half-mast. And I'd think, "What was all that about? I was right here." And I felt the Lord saying, "Dee, what is all this about? I am right here." And he ministered to me, and the next morning I woke up and because it's my habit to pray through the Psalms, I just happened to be on Psalm 131, which says, "Surely, I have quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother."
And I thought, "Oh my goodness, God, you are talking to me." And I started to study it because I knew God was speaking to me, and the first verse is, "I will not concern myself with things too wonderful for me." And I thought, "I've read that verse somewhere else, where is it?" And then I remembered, it's in Job. At the end of Job, when Job has wanted his day in court with the Lord, and God starts giving him all these pictures of, "Were you there when I set the oceans in place? Were you there?" And then Job finally says, "I put my hand over my mouth, I will not concern myself with things too wonderful."
And I thought, "Okay, I don't need to understand all this. I don't need to know why you took Steve. All I need to know is that you are right here with me and that you are smart enough to make the world and I can trust you." And I calmed down, and I can't tell you Dr. Dodson, how the Psalms of lament can help a person who is suffering not to back up from God but to get some real wisdom and comfort.
Dr. Dobson: Has that been comforting to the women that you talk to? You know a lot of widows, don't you?
Dee Brestin: I do know a lot of widows.
Dr. Dobson: We've had 10 that have lost their husbands in my family. And I've watched that up close and personal. It's a tough journey, isn't it?
Dee Brestin: It is a tough journey. Steve and I used to talk about, how do we do this, because one of us is going to go before the other. He said, "We've got to help each other find strength in God now, so that we keep doing that after the other is gone." And I am thankful, too, that God really is God of all comfort. And he doesn't give us comfort for what we are just imagining will happen, he gives us comfort when it really happens.
Dr. Dobson: And the greatest comfort is you're going to see him again.
Dee Brestin: That's so true. Isn't that great?
Dr. Dobson: That's going to be some reunion, isn't it?
Dee Brestin: That is going to be some reunion.
Dr. Dobson: How did you meet him?
Dee Brestin: We met at Northwestern. I sat in front of him hoping he would notice me, and he did.
Dr. Dobson: How long after that did he ask you out?
Dee Brestin: Well, he followed me after that first class and I remember it was cold and... But I was really shaking because I was so nervous that he was following me and hoping he was going to talk to me. And I remember he introduced himself and then he took his coat off and put it around me and my knees nearly buckled.
Dr. Dobson: Oh, man. What did he do for a living?
Dee Brestin: He was an orthopedic surgeon and he worked with four other Christian doctors who took turns on the mission field. It was a wonderful practice in Nebraska. Good man, and I'm very thankful for him.
Dr. Dobson: Did you ever ask the Lord why he took him?
Dee Brestin: I did, I said, "There's so many lousy doctors and husbands and fathers, why didn't you take one of those?" But I think his answer was that night when He told me that He knows what He's doing, He set the stars in place and I can trust Him. And it is true, in Isaiah it says, "He takes some in order to spare them from things." So, I just trust that our God is good and he knows what He's doing and one day there will be answers.
Dr. Dobson: Well, you've got a new book, I guess, from what you said, this is your 10th. And it's called, The Jesus Who Surprises: Opening Our Eyes to His Presence in All of Life and Scripture. That's a neat thought, Jesus who surprises. How does he surprise us?
Dee Brestin: Well, He was always surprising people in scripture, and I think He still does. It is based on the walk to Emmaus, where it's after the resurrection and He comes up to these two grieving disciples and they are kept from recognizing Him. And I think there's some humor in this, because He's saying, "Why are you so sad?" And they say, "Are you only a stranger to Jerusalem, and you don't know what happened?" And I love that because it reminds me of when Paul is talking to King Agrippa and he says, "These things are not done in a corner." Everybody knew about Jesus and His miracles, and the crucifixion. Then He tells them as He walks along beside them, that He had to die and rise again and it is all through their scriptures, which is the Old Testament.
And what I love about that, Dr. Dobson, is that every prophet, every priest, every slain lamb, every suffering servant, every bridegroom points to a better Priest, and better Prophet, the best slain Lamb, the best Bridegroom. The whole Bible is about Jesus, and in this day where so many people are having trouble believing that the Bible is the word of God. I say, "Listen, there are 66 books written over many centuries, many continents, many cultures, by men who for the most part had no contact with each other, but it's one story and it all runs together. The Lamb is the plot line from Genesis to Revelation. There is a bridegroom plot line from Genesis to Revelation. It is one story; this can't happen unless there's one Author behind all these writers."
Dr. Dobson: That is one of my favorite scriptures in the entire gospel. I mean, here, you have these two disciples who had believed Jesus when he said that he was the son of God, they knew he was the Messiah. And then they were expecting such great things, that he was going to be a ruler, the things that are written about him in Isaiah and all of the sudden he's gone. They saw him crucified. They saw him hanging there on the cross. They heard him say, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" Their world crashed. So, there they were walking on the road to Emmaus and they were so lonely and everything had gone wrong, and all of their hopes and dreams had passed. And as they walked along, they didn't know that Jesus was three feet away from them.
I think that's the message to all of us. There are times when we feel like things have not gone right and we're sad, certainly you were when Steve died. And you felt alone, "Where's my husband, my friend, my companion?" And now he's suddenly gone and you didn't know how or why it happened, suddenly he's gone. I know you went through a dying process with him because he had cancer, but then to realize that all the time you were lonely, Jesus was three feet away. I love that concept.
Dee Brestin: I love that too, it's so great. And he uses a phrase with them, "From the books of Moses to the prophets." Which is a phrase that is a Greek word, zeugma that means from front to back. In other words, he's saying, "I am in every single book of your Bible from front to back, And so is the prediction that I would die and rise again, the Gospel."
Dr. Dobson: Well, you talk in your book Dee about three places where God surprises with His presence.
Dee Brestin: Well, it begins with the Books of Moses, when we see how the story began and all went wrong. And then in the Psalms and the Poetical Books, we learn how to live in this hard story, in this fallen world. And then we go to the prophets and I stay in the majesty of Isaiah where we learn how the story will end, and that's how the book is divided. We see Jesus in Genesis 1: we have God the Father creating the world, the Spirit hovering over the face of the deep. And then we know Jesus is the Word from John 1 speaking the world into creation. And we see the pronoun, "Let us create man in our image." So, there He is right in the beginning.
Dr. Dobson: He sure was, and John, the Gospel of John says that, "In beginning was the word..." That's Him. And the interesting thing He says, "Nothing was made that he did not make." Jesus is the Creator, when it talks about the creator it's Jesus they're talking about.
Dee Brestin: That's right. I know it, I know it. And so many people just think He's a great moral teacher, they do not realize who He is.
Dr. Dobson: Introduce Him to us again, Dee. Who is Jesus?
Dee Brestin: Jesus is the eternal life, is what John says. And the reason that is important is that all the other religions say, "If you do this or you do that over there, you will have eternal life." But Jesus says, "No, I am eternal life. If you trust in me, you will have eternal life." And Jesus brings us the difference between religion and the gospel. One of the stories that I tell in The Jesus Who Surprises, and I even had the man that did it act it out for the video curriculum. I had Ron and Debbie over for dinner because I felt like they were coming so close to understanding who Jesus really was, and Debbie was the one in our seeker study. And after dinner we were clearing the dishes away and Ron got behind the counter, and he's a great big guy, Dr. Dobson, he works for FEMA.
And he started pounding on the counter at me. And he said, "What you've been teaching my wife about Jesus is not what I've heard in church all my life." And I said, "How is it different, Ron?" And he said, "You told her that all she has to do is put her trust in what Jesus did at the cross and she'll go to heaven."
Dr. Dobson: Oh boy, what a question, what a question.
Dee Brestin: I know, I know. I said, "Well, that's right, Ron." And then he pounded on the counter again and he said, "Are you telling me she doesn't have to be good?" And I thought, "Oh, I get it." And I ran and I got this chart from Tim Keller that shows the difference between religion and the gospel that he allowed me to put in The Jesus Who Surprises. And there's a whole list of differences, but the first one says, "In religion, I try to be very good in hopes that I can get into heaven." And with the gospel, "I am forgiven, and because I am so grateful for what Jesus did at the cross, I want to be good." And he read through this whole list, Dr. Dobson, and there's so many interesting differences. And he looked up and he had tears in his eyes and he said, "I guess I'm religious. So now what do I do?" And it was wonderful, and he is such a changed man, even... I mean, they just had their 50th anniversary and they say their marriage has never been like this, it's wonderful.
Dr. Dobson: Well, Dee, we're out of time. I want us to tell people again how they can learn more about what we're talking about. The name of your new book is The Jesus Who Surprises: Opening Our Eyes to His Presence in All of Life and Scripture. And you keep on writing and you keep on honoring Jesus and all that you do. You're a blessing to Shirley and me.
Dee Brestin: Thank you so much, Dr. Dobson.
Dr. Dobson: We will talk to you again tomorrow.
Dee Brestin: Great, thank you.
Roger Marsh: You're listening to Family Talk. I'm Roger Marsh, and our guest today has been Dee Brestin. No doubt, if you're a widow, you can certainly relate to her raw emotional pain. I trust this broadcast has served as the healing balm of Gilead. And if a loved one in your life is a widow, why not share this conversation with her? Visit our broadcast page at dr.Jamesdobson.org, and you can hear the entire program online. That's D-R jamesdobson.O-R-G/broadcast. And to learn more about Dee Brestin and her latest book, The Jesus Who Surprises: Opening Our Eyes to His Presence in All of Life and Scripture, you'll find that information as well when you go to D-R jamesdobson.O-R-G/broadcast.
Remember you can always reach us by phone. We would love to hear from you and to pray with you, just dial (877) 732-6825. That's (877) 732-6825. Or you can write to us at the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, PO Box 39000, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80949. Remember to join us again tomorrow for the conclusion of this fascinating conversation, featuring Dr. Dobson and Dee Brestin talking about The Jesus Who Surprises. Thank you for making Dr. Dobson and Family Talk a part of your day as well. I'm Roger Marsh, thanks for listening.
Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.