But God is so much more than I could ever ask or think or imagine, by Rhonda Herman

Memorial Day of 2014, we made the decision to move from Baltimore to Pittsburgh. What? And Where? Can anything good come out of Pittsburgh, the depressed steel city? Even though I knew it was the right decision for many reasons, the thought of leaving our lifelong friends and church community was heart-breaking! I still remember the sad feeling of pulling out of our driveway for the last time on July 31, 2015 with my girlfriend driving and our dog in the back seat headed to our new home. I knew two people in Pittsburgh that I could call on if needed, but it felt so lonely!

The beginning of a new adventure happened in September at a “silent retreat” of just eight women, one of which was my girlfriend from Baltimore. During meal time we were able to talk and converse and I met Mandy, a young doctor’s wife like myself. She invited me to an every other week Bible study of doctor’s wives called Side By Side. How likely is that for me to meet another sister in Christ who understands the ups and downs of being married to a physician at such a small retreat? Little did I know how God was already moving.

Not only is there a daytime Side By Side group, but also another group of young moms who meet in the evening. Immediately, I had at least 30 young women who became very dear to my heart! Only God could have orchestrated this as I didn’t even know such a ministry existed! God blessed me more than I could have imagined or even asked for! These young ladies, who are in the earlier days of marriage and raising children alone with a husband who is in demand, are my new community. We do life together, side by side, encouraging, praying, worshiping, crying and all that life demands of us as doctor’s wives. It can be a lonely life, but what a gift from the Lord that we have each other! And it only took six weeks.

Side by Side Logo

But God poured out the oil of joy

Hebrews 1:8-9 But to the Son God says . . . “O God, your God has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else.”

In Karis’s journals I discovered that she believed God had poured out the oil of joy not only on the Son, Jesus, but on her as well. In high school she was captivated by the expression “oil of joy.” Here are three sample quotes from her journals:

Mar 22, 1998 (age 14) Yesterday the joy-oil that’s deep down in my pan always just started sizzling and popping and pretty soon boiled over. One of those moments when I WISH I had a gloriously beautiful voice to praise You with  . . . I understand that, somehow, the pain is there to make me strong. I know how Your joy can be strength. How I can go to school and work and talk and laugh even when my body says “Go lie down OR ELSE!”

                Mar 26, 1998 (age 14) I didn’t write to You yesterday, Father, because I was too sick. It hurt so much that I rolled up in a ball and cried. . . I wasn’t happy. In fact it would have been very hard to smile last night. But I was so covered to the ears in that peaceful kind of joy that You give me, and I felt as though I had a glimpse of heaven. My joy-oil wasn’t sizzling or boiling over, but it was very, very much there. It was the most beautiful time.

                Sept 4, 2000 (age 17) Joy is a constant presence, like oil inside me: sometimes a silent lubricant, sometimes sizzling and popping to the surface. God, You are with me—that is why I smile. I wonder if my friends understand our secret, Yours and mine. Of how I am safe in Your arms, how I watch You work around me, how I thrill to be with Your beloved people, how we talk, joke, laugh together, rejoice in being.

I am writing this post the day after Trinity Sunday, the day we celebrate and think deeply about the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Yesterday I came to this passage from Hebrews as part of my daily Scripture reading, and  the timing gave me goosebumps. We are allowed to listen in on an intimate conversation between God the Father and God the Son. Just so, Karis’s journals invite us into her intimate conversations with her Father. I am so grateful for the vision of Jesus, more full of joy than anyone else in history, and of Karis, blessed with joy despite her suffering.

How good You are, Lord!

May 25, 2018 But God motivated, by Jim Franzen

More than two decades ago we had a dog named Cleo who I would take out for a walk each night via our usual route. The sidewalk next to the street sloped down. Across the street the land was uphill. The land next to the sidewalk was level for a few feet and then sloped steeply downward. No residences were on either side of the street. Some distance into our walk I unleashed Cleo. Shortly thereafter a small group of high-school boys came down the sidewalk. I thought I should go over to leash Cleo. As I squatted down to gather her leash one of the boys came up behind me and shoved me down the hill. I tumbled down head over heels. I quickly climbed back up and yelled at the boys, adding that my glasses were lost. The pusher ran off, BUT GOD motivated the others to search for and find my glasses. They also apologized for their buddy’s action. I was about to give them a robust thank-you, but Cleo barked. They abruptly hurried away. What I learned was that if some one (or few) in a group does or says something nasty, not everyone is necessarily partner with the wrong; some might be kind, generous, good hearted.

May 23, 2018 But God’s Hand Was On My Shoulder, by Meredith Dobson

In 2 months I will be 80 years old. I don’t feel old and I never thought that added years would bring dramatic changes to my life. I was healthy, my mind was clear, and I was able to live happily and quite independently. One morning, overnight, all of that flew out my window.

I got out of bed and had body tremors that rendered me unable to function as I had only the day before. I was terrified. I had so much fear I thought I could not contain it. I could not control the shaking and I sat in my apartment by myself not knowing whether or not I wanted to live. My head was shaking with such force that my hair flew before my eyes with each turn. I thought of how owls can spin their heads nearly 360 degrees without moving their bodies. I waited a couple of days before saying anything to anyone thinking it would all go away. It didn’t.

My shaking legs and arms woke me at night. My shaking head made it impossible to drink water except from a straw. Texting brought phone calls from grown children. My daughter said “Have you talked to God about this? Maybe, just maybe you could tell God you accept this condition that He has sent you.” Those words raised a panic in me that maybe this condition would never go away. And then I thought about my surrender to God. I knew if the surrender meant anything at all, this was a time to put it in action. My daughter’s words were a perfect reminder.

The next day I read my meditation books that inspire me each morning. I prayed. I told God it was all OK. I said to him I could live with this and if he wanted to take me this way, that was OK too. I didn’t realize until I said those words to God that I meant it in my heart. My whole body relaxed a little. I knew I would be OK. I felt a comforting connection with God. Ease and comfort surrounded me like a blanket.

My daughter flew from Florida to help me. My daughter-in-law flew in from Washington State. Like God’s angels, friends called and wanted to help. Arrangements were made for services designed to aid seniors to live independently. I saw several doctors. I tried different medications. I became like a robot, almost, going from here to there, listening but not always hearing. I followed directions, but didn’t necessarily connect with reason. I stayed in motion as I was directed, but the tremors continued to demand all my attention. In one doctor’s office I began crying uncontrollably and could not stop. The days marched on like the desk calendars where a page gets ripped off only to find another day underneath.

Each morning I said to God “Thank you for sending this help. It gives me hope. God, I’m not well yet in the way I want to be, but I have great faith today that everything will be okay and that You are guiding my life the way it is supposed to be. You are opening new worlds to me. You ease my fears as I gradually surrender and have faith.” I didn’t always believe it fully but I said it anyway. I knew that God was the only reason I could be present each time a calendar page changed. The family help, the doctors, the medications, whirled around me like a merry-go-round that wouldn’t stop, but I knew God’s hand was on my shoulder and I would be OK.

May 21, 2018 But God shows his anger

Romans 1:18, 2:4-11 But God shows his anger against all who suppress the truth by their wickedness . . .

One day I was walking home with my kids from their school in São Paulo when we witnessed a theft. A short distance in front of us, a young man grabbed a woman’s purse and took off with it. In a flash, my young son Danny took off after the robber, but his shorter legs were no match for the robber’s long ones. When I caught up with Danny, he was shaking with anger at the injustice of the situation and his helplessness to do anything about it. We circled back to the distraught victim, and Danny offered her his allowance. His pennies didn’t concretely solve very much for her, but I bet she has never forgotten his generosity and his anger on her behalf.

A similar thing happened one beautiful sunny afternoon on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. My parents were visiting us, and after seeing the major tourist sites in Rio, we relaxed at the beach. Dave and the kids were swimming, my dad was taking pictures of them from the shore, and I sat chatting with my mom on a blanket further up on the sand. Suddenly from every direction a gang of teenagers armed with long knives swooped down on us. One grabbed my mom’s purse while several others knocked down my dad and pulled his wallet from his pocket. They all pounded down the beach, with Danny and my husband Dave in hot pursuit.

Having seen the knives at close range, I was relieved that Danny and Dave didn’t catch the robbers!  As they ran, the thieves pulled and tossed from Mom’s purse and Dad’s wallet the things they didn’t want—pretty much everything, other than money and credit cards. Danny and Dave picked things up out of the sand as they ran, including a number of quetzal bills (the currency of Guatemala, where my parents lived), which the thieves didn’t consider worth keeping.

This time, I was the one shaking with anger. Stealing is one thing, but knocking down an old man in order to do so is another. The violence was totally unnecessary to their purpose.

In my work with sexual abuse victims, many times I was flooded with anger at the perpetrators and the damage they caused. The only way I can handle all of the violence and abuse and injustices I have witnessed and heard about is to remember that God cares enough to be angry when he sees people intentionally hurt each other. Unlike us in the stories I’ve mentioned, he CAN and WILL do something about it. And in his wisdom and compassion, on the day of judgment, he will judge wisely and fairly, taking all the factors into account. At that “but God” event, the world will be set right!

P.S. Interestingly, this month our son Dan graduated from the Metropolitan Police Academy in DC!

But God surprised me, by Timmy Podnar

Sometimes I can feel very alone in life. That no one is really looking out for me. But God surprised me this week when I went outside and found that my back yard was full of forget-me-nots and violets that I had not planted.  God had prepared a field of flowers for my heart.

“And I will satisfy the hungry with good things…”Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-11-28,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

May 14, 2018 But the Lord heard my cry

Psalm 31:22 In panic I cried out, “I am cut off from the Lord!” But you heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help.

A friend invited us to participate in her niece’s wedding. So Dave and I and our four young kids traveled many hours over rough roads to a remote village in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. We stayed in the bride’s modest home; seventeen of us in a two-bedroom cottage!

Rain poured down, so the passel of kids chased each other through the house, around and between and over the cement furniture. (Yes, all the furniture in the house was made from cement blocks!) Their games threatened to upset the ironing board and the aunts cooking the wedding feast and the bride packing her honeymoon suitcase. Every time someone went in or out, rain blew in. Our five-year-old Rachel, in hot pursuit of another child, slipped on the muddy floor and cracked her head against the cement sofa.

Rachel wailed from the pain of her injury, of course, but even more distressing, the concussion blinded and confused her. The bleeding and swelling within Rachel’s brain prevented her from realizing I was right there caring for her. Panicked, she threw herself around, crying “I want my mommy! I need my mommy!” as I tried to calm and comfort her. All the way to the nearest hospital I held her and tried to soothe her with my voice, singing to her as tears streamed down my own cheeks.

I remember this story at times when I feel hurt and panicky, cut off from the Lord’s care. Bad things do happen, and sometimes in the midst of the shock and pain, like Rachel, I can’t find the Lord. I can’t see or feel that he is right there, loving me and providing for me. Sometimes later on, in prayer, he has given me the gift of seeing that he was right there with me, and the excruciating wound of abandonment has been healed.

Rachel and I missed the wedding, and our family stayed in Minas Gerais an extra day while she was in the hospital. But the tender care of the nurse nuns at that sweet little Catholic rural hospital, the medications and rest, brought Rachel back to us, and brought me back to her—or rather, brought back her ability to know that I was there with her. I cherish the memories of those hours and days when my entire focus was my precious daughter. Lord, thank you that you do hear my cry and respond to my call for help, even when I am not capable of perceiving your presence.

May 10, 2018 But God warned him

Gen 2:16 Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden . . . [He] made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit . . . The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “If you eat [the tree’s] fruit, you are sure to die.” Gen 2:8, 15-17

One day in São Paulo a woman clapped at our door (a Brazilian substitute for ringing a doorbell). As I walked toward the door, my nine-year-old daughter burst into the living room yelling, “If you let that woman in, I’m running away! This is not a home; it’s a ministry center!” Valerie pounded up the stairs and slammed the door of her bedroom.

Enticed by the pleasure of serving, giving, caring for the many needs around me, I was saying too may yeses to people outside of our home, and thereby saying too many no’s to my own four children.

The price became too high for me, too: I came within a breath of emotional collapse. But God warned me through Valerie. And he intervened through mission leaders who placed me on a ministry sabbatical. For six months I was allowed to care only for myself and for my family while I studied books like Cloud and Townsend’s Boundaries and Swenson’s Margins. I began to know God as his daughter, not just his servant.

Slowly, as the sabbatical was extended from six months to twelve to eighteen, I learned to say yes and no more appropriately. “No” protects not only me, but also those who have the first call on my heart’s resources. There is not enough of me to go around for all the needs I see around me. And when I try to live beyond healthy limits for me, I die, emotionally and spiritually if not literally.

“No” is not a dirty word.

May 7, 2018 We will tell . . .

Have you ever noticed the “But God” stories in Scripture? Things are going in a certain direction . . . Then God intervenes, and everything changes. I’ve been noting these texts for years, and associating my experiences with them.

So this blog isn’t about me so much as it’s about God. About what I’ve seen him do, in circumstances that seemed difficult or even impossible.

Scriptures leap off the page, especially in the Psalms: I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done . . . Tell the world about the Lord’s unforgettable deeds . . . tell of all his wonders . . . tell of his faithfulness . . . tell of the Lord’s greatness . . . tell how glorious he is . . . tell what he did for you . . . tell everyone about God’s power . . . tell about his righteousness, that he alone is just . . .

Tell, tell, tell . . .

Tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders. (Ps 78:4)

I will start by telling a very current “But God” story:

I wrote Karis: All I See Is Grace out of the firm conviction that God himself was asking me to do so. I assumed therefore that publishing it would be easy. Not so, even under the care of one of the best agents in the business.

Publishers liked the book, but that’s not the bottom line any more. Traditional publishers are fighting for survival. So the bottom line now is whether the author can sell books—lots of books, thousands of books, enough to compensate the publisher’s investment. My agent couldn’t convince them I could sell enough books that they should take a chance on All I See Is Grace. I don’t have the markers publishers look for: name recognition, thousands of social media followers, an exuberant extrovert personality, a knack for marketing; a viable plan for selling 5000 books in one year.

After multiple rejections, I knew it was coming. Still, it was a bit of a jolt to receive the email from my agent saying she had done what she could for me and recommending self-publishing. I won’t go into all the reasons this dismayed and disappointed me. I want to jump to the But God part:

  • I wanted to entrust the book to a publisher, but God wants me to trust him.
  • I wanted to be able to just do what a publisher would instruct me to do, but God knows I wouldn’t be able to handle the kind of external pressure I would be under.
  • I wanted the confidence that would come from having a professional editor shape the book, but God has given me excellent editorial counsel and support in other ways.
  • I didn’t know how sharing about the book could fit in with the rest of my life, but God has opened a four-month window, August-November, in which I can make Karis: All I See Is Grace a priority–from when it comes out (August, I hope) until Thanksgiving.
  • Creating this blog as a necessary step toward “building my platform” felt like enormous pressure. But God is giving me the gift of using it just to share my life with friends. I’m looking forward to that! It’s a delight to honor what he has done through my almost-64 years of living and loving in three countries and four different languages, and with Dave, extending now to fifteen countries on three continents.

I am SOOOO grateful for God’s intervention and guidance on this publishing journey!

What is God doing in your life? I hope that as you read the But God postings to come, they will inspire you to notice and tell your own But God stories, even if it’s just to one other person. If you’re like me, it will be healing and transformative to be more aware of what God’s up to. No matter how you may feel, God is up to something special in your life, and he wants you to see it, remember it, and share it. Just like me, you have no idea how God may make use of that, in his own time and way. Our part is obedience, and (take a deep breath) trust–and hope. And finding joy in him along the way.

My intention is to publish But God stories twice a week, my own on Mondays and potentially one of yours on Thursdays. I welcome your interactions with my stories on the blog. If you wish to send me a But God story of your own, send it by email to debrakornfield@gmail.com and be sure to say whether you’re willing for it to appear with your name on this blog. If I need to edit your story, I’ll send it back to you for approval before I post it. None of my regular postings will be longer than one page.

This Thursday, to get us started, I’ll publish one of my own, and look forward to hearing from you!

We will not hide these truths from our children;
    we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
    about his power and his mighty wonders.
. . .
so the next generation might know them—
    even the children not yet born—
    and they in turn will teach their own children.
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
    not forgetting his glorious miracles
    and obeying his commands.

Psalm 78:4-7