But God

What are you creating these days?

But God’s breath brings life

Psalm 104:24, 30 O Lord, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. … When you give them your breath, life is created, and you renew the face of the earth.

Psalm 139:13-14 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous.

Ephesians 2:10 We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Collected on a walk through our neighborhood yesterday

As around us leaves take on variegated hues, there’s a lot going on in our corner of the world. A new grandchild, soon to be born (perhaps today!) fills us with the awe of co-creation. A co-created book (Treasure Hunt 1904, Book 2 of the Cally and Charlie Series), coming out sooner than expected, bears the imprint of early readers, artists, and designers. Creation of materials and logistics for the first in-person Pastoring of Pastors leaders retreat since 2019, in Bogotá, Colombia October 21-25 engages a whole team of people at one level and all the participants, from twelve countries, at another. Another co-creation with each other and with God.

The last few days while Dave is in Colorado Springs for mission meetings, I re-watched a couple of the early episodes of The Chosen. Remember Jesus the craftsman, leaving carved animals for the girl Abigail when he decamped? And how he created in the minds of the children new vision and spiritual curiosity? I love the visuals of Jesus, co-creator of the universe, a master craftsman in his life as part of our world. I love the fact that God gives gifts through the Holy Spirit, empowering each of us to be creative in our own ways.

What are you creating these days? I would love to know!!

The power of story

But God is powerful and mighty

Psalm 78:2-4 I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. 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.

Jeremiah 32:17-19 NASBOh, Lord God! Behold, You Yourself have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You … great and mighty God. The Lord of armies is His name; great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of mankind.

Zechariah 8:6 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: … All this may seem impossible to you now, a small remnant of God’s people. But is it impossible for me? says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

I love spending Tuesdays with my grandchildren Caleb (4) and Talita (2). Last Tuesday while I folded laundry, Talita napped, and Caleb played near me with his cars, he started singing a song I remember from my own childhood, “Nothing is too difficult for thee.” Google tells me it was written by Don Moen.

Caleb and Talita with their dad, Cesar

Caleb sang it several times. I asked him whether he learned the song at school, at church, or from his mom. “My mom,” he said.

It’s been running through my mind ever since, encouraging me regarding some tough situations. Nothing is too difficult for thee …

It’s caused me to reflect on the power of story. In this case, the story of God creating the universe illustrates his ability to do everything else. Nothing is impossible for him.

How interesting, that a story I learned to sing at my mission boarding school when I was small, and then sang to my children, my daughter Valerie sings to hers. And God used her child innocently singing it back to me to encourage me when I needed it.

Do you see why I want you to tell your story of what God has done for you? And generously share it with me and those who read this blog? You have no idea how much it may encourage someone else.

I hope this story is one Caleb never forgets and passes on in turn to his own children one day.

Everyday love, by Elaine Elliott, Antigua, Guatemala (“Art and Scripture”)

Psalm 138:8 The Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.

Isaiah 43:4 God says: “…You are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.”

Ephesians 3:19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

God has gifted me [Elaine] with an intriguing place to live, a valley with a volcano on one side, lavish flowers all year round, interesting old ruins from the late 1700s, and bright blue skies. Hiking through the surrounding forests as they “sing,” I appreciate God’s cleverness in all he made. I cherish God’s love in my everyday life.

Arco Santa Catalina and Volcán Água, Antigua, Guatemala

Enjoying family and friends, holding them in God’s deep love, makes life interesting. Technology connects us with people at a distance. I encounter strangers with openness, as an opportunity to see Christ in them. Loving and honoring others with genuine affection and delight (Romans 12:10) makes life meaningful.

I fall more in love with God as I learn about his creativity through the innovations of people, in books, documentaries, art, music, and technology. Hospitality, my own creativity, and finding ways to serve others keep me in God’s love. Hearing from God through Scripture, even puzzling things out with help of a commentary, allows me to experience His love.

I am grateful for all the loves in my life: family, friends, community, place, Scripture, beauty, justice, goodness, God himself… Scripture uses the word “love” 500 times in the Old Testament, beginning with parental and spousal love, so it makes sense we find much joy in our families. We find khesed, God’s unfailing love, mentioned about 120 times. Scripture calls us to respond to God’s love with our own: for him, neighbors, strangers, even enemies. Jesus says we are to love him even more than our closest family members, not loving them less, but practicing an even greater love.

Love is produced in us by the Holy Spirit. It knits us together, protects us, makes us good examples, and perfects us as we live in God. Reading through all 800 or so references to love in the Bible builds in me a deep sense of how pervasive love is in our lives. As the Ephesians reference says, Christ’s love is too great to fully understand with our minds. We must experience it. Love is his very nature and appreciating this becomes bedrock for our lives.

As I go through any ups, downs, or plateaus in life, I find it helpful to remember that “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance… Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:7, 13). God’s faithful love makes my everyday life a very good place to be.

P.S. from Debbie: Elaine is the second to respond to my call for “But God” stories. I can’t wait to receive yours!

Where did you hide as a child?

But God is our refuge

Psalm 62:5-8 Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. … O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.

Philippians 4:6-7 Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

When you were a child, did you have a hiding place, somewhere you went to feel safe?

In my small childhood home (two bedrooms for a family of ten), there seemed nowhere to go except inside myself, and I became very good at finding that space. But at boarding school, I hid in two places. One was inside a narrow, covered stairwell with doors top and bottom. The other was high in a cypress tree at the property a block away where we went for recess.

Shutterstock: Air Images

In those spaces, even when I was small, I had a sense of God’s presence with me that I didn’t feel anywhere else. The world out there was too challenging, too crowded, too fraught and frightening. Often I was too flooded to sense he was there in the confusion of competing feelings. In secret, though, the Lord helped me regain my balance. When I’m upset, I can still imagine myself there, take some deep breaths, and begin to relax.

As an adult, hearing other people’s trauma stories, my heart went out to those who blamed God for what they had suffered and thus cut themselves off from his comfort. As a child, I didn’t blame God. I primarily blamed myself. I think it’s natural for children to feel they “should” be able to be “good enough” or “powerful enough” to diffuse the tensions, stress, anger, conflicts, and hurtful actions of the adults around them. Just try harder

God, though, was my refuge. My rock. My place of safety long before I knew anything about Psalm 62, or Philippians 4 or Hebrews 4.

There were times when I doubted God’s power and goodness, when I couldn’t sense his Presence at all. In chapter 1 of Karis: All I See Is Grace, though, I describe a time of crisis when I was able to cry out to him and hear his response. He challenged me to trust him even though I could not understand. Why, if he is all-loving and all-powerful, he allows so much suffering in the world. Why he doesn’t do what I, in my great wisdom, think he should do.

Today, I am making the same choice: to trust. To pour out my heart to him. And then to wait quietly. For God is my refuge, my safety, my hiding place.

You too?

God held my hand, by Meredith Dobson, Pittsburgh (Muddy Boots in the Hallway)

But God’s unfailing love supported me

Psalm 94:18-19 I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

How did summer go by so fast??

Today I decided to take Uber to a doctor’s appointment. I waited outside my building in the rain, watching my phone for his arrival. I saw a car pull into the circle in front of our building the wrong way and immediately thought it must be my Uber driver. It was getting late and I was nervous, in part, because the doctor’s office had provided a same-day appointment and I was already afraid of being late.

When I got in the car, I was very nervous because I was seeing an unfamiliar doctor about a condition I was frightened to learn about and I was alone in doing this. I am 84 years old, I live alone, and get fearful of unknown things I have to do alone. I was rude and voiced admonishment to the driver for entering the driveway the wrong way and another car also let him know how much he was at fault. When he got in the car, I told him I was late already and to go fast that I needed to get there. This prompted a harsh response from him about his not wanting traffic violations and how he had to drop someone off and did I know my way around the city and he was as loud and abusive as I had been. Finally, I said I was already upset about a doctor visit and I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. In my mind, I thought of how I would rate him as a driver with a big old “O” and add a comment about rudeness.

As we got closer to the area, I gave him the actual address since I thought it was a medical building, not the actual hospital. He said, in a very calm, polite voice, he would take me wherever I needed to go. Then I said that I was sorry I had been so rude to him when I first got in. I said that I had talked to him in a way that was not called for, that I was way out of line, and I was sorry. He said he was sorry also and it was all OK. I briefly said that I was going to see a doctor I had never seen before about a condition I was really frightened about and being nervous about all that probably made me speak to him in a way I shouldn’t have. He said, Oh that’s OK. I’m sorry to hear that.  Then he added, “Do you want me to wait here to be sure you are in the right place? I will gladly do that.” I told him no, that I was pretty sure this was the right place. I said something about how things change and I hardly recognize it.

God was present with me all along. God was the one sitting beside me as we rode through the rain drops and the water splashing against the car. God held my hand in the back seat and gently whispered to me about forgiveness and speaking with the spirit of Love. God reminded me that this driver did not have an easy job and he was doing me a service. I was grateful I did not have to park or drive or bother with umbrellas or anything. I became grateful sitting there beside God and I wanted the driver to know.

Does slander matter?

But God cares about our words

Psalm 50:7, 14-23 “O my people, listen as I speak … Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God and keep the vows you made to the Most High.” … But God says: “You refuse my discipline and treat my words like trash. … Your mouth is filled with wickedness, and your tongue is full of lies. You sit around and slander your brother—your own mother’s son. While you did all this, I remained silent, and you thought I didn’t care. But now I will rebuke you … Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.”

Ephesians 4:29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

Hebrews 13:14-16 This world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

James 3:9-10 Sometimes the tongue praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!

Thanksgiving is a few weeks away, but we can pull out our thankfulness and dust it off now. It matters to our Lord! And so do the other words we say, and our attitude when he speaks to us.

In just a few verses, Psalm 50 references:

  • God speaking to us personally and to all humanity
  • His desire that we pay attention when he speaks
  • The value he places on our thanksgiving, above any other sacrifice
  • The value of our vows
  • His promise to hear us
  • How it hurts him when we treat his words like trash, when we lie, when we wound others with our words, when other kinds of wickedness fill our mouths
  • A final reminder about how much our thanks matters to him

We can’t change our national culture. But we can change ourselves and what comes out of our mouths. We can influence our families, our neighbors, our colleagues, our friends, simply by speaking truth with an attitude of thankfulness and a desire to bless.

I’m setting this goal for myself, from now until Thanksgiving Day. Will you join me?

P.S. I’m waiting to receive your “But God” contribution!

I tried to catch the loveliness of the raindrops on the ornamental grasses outside my kitchen window this morning.
Wish you could see them as I do!

What’s your story?

But God cares

Psalm 40:1-3, 17 I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. … I am poor and needy, but the Lord cares for me.

Hey, friend! I know you have a story about God’s care for you. If you share it, others will be encouraged to trust God when they are in despair. And the Lord will be honored.

To help motivate you to post your story on ButGod.blog, I will send the first five responders a copy of Mary’s Diary, a charming booklet written by Karis when she was thirteen that will make a great Christmas gift once you’ve enjoyed it yourself. Karis imagined Mary writing in her diary about her experiences prior to the birth of her son Jesus. Warning: several readers have told me they now think it happened the way Karis imagined it.

In this charming story, Karis imagines she is Mary, writing about her experiences prior to Jesus’ birth

So, remember and tell what God did for you when you were in trouble, as David does in this Psalm. Write no more than a page and send it to me: debrakornfield@gmail.com. If you’re among the first five, I’ll send you Mary’s Diary as a thank you.

I want this blog to be a place where all of us can remember and tell!

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. Sing to him, yes, sing his praises. Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds (Psalm 105:1-2).

Who bore the blame?

But God is merciful

Psalm 86: 15-16 But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. Look down and have mercy on me. Give your strength to your servant.

Psalm 56:1-3 O God, have mercy on me … When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, mercy is “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” The best description of mercy I know is Psalm 103:8-11:

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

Yesterday God’s mercy was the theme of our entire service. Pastor Kevin’s sermon was wonderful, but the music was extraordinary, and I want to share it with you. You can turn them into a playlist or click on any of the links below. Or listen to or watch part or all of the service. “O Gracious Light” begins at 57 seconds. The sermon is 25 minutes-42:30. The second period of worship begins at 56:30.

O Gracious Light” by Andy Clark and Elise Massa: Show me this darkness is not too dark for you.

Each song title is a link:

Lord, Lord, Lord” by Ryan Flanigan: Please restore our trust.

What the Lord has Done in Me” by Hillsong Music: From the heavens mercy streams of the Savior’s love for me

O Come to the Altar” by Elevation Worship: Are you hurting and broken within?

He Will Hold Me Fast” by Keith and Kristen Getty: I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path … He must hold me fast

We Will Feast in the House of Zion by Sandra McCracken: Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed. You are the faithful one.

Love (III) by George Herbert (published 1633)

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked anything.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:

Love said, You shall be he.

I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,

I cannot look on thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?

My dear, then I will serve.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat;

So I did sit and eat.

Love from the center

But God will rise up

Psalm 12:5-8 “I will rise up,” says the Lord, “and will give help to every one who longs for it.” The words of the Lord are pure words. … Preserve us, O Lord, and save us … The ungodly walk on every side when wickedness is exalted among the children of men.

I try to post on Mondays as well as Thursdays, but over Labor Day I was caught up in enjoying these two scallywags so their parents could enjoy a brief getaway. The photo was taken last week when our son Dan visited from DC.

Reconnecting to life outside the delightful Caleb and Talita bubble, I read the Psalms scheduled for Monday in the lectionary. I’ve read the Psalms many times, but I didn’t remember Psalm 12:8 at all. Doesn’t it seem like it was written like, maybe yesterday, not three thousand years ago?

But how do we avoid “exalting wickedness” when it’s already so widespread, including in the halls of power? The starting place is my own heart. Will I let the prevailing sins of our culture contaminate me? How much have I already done so?

While I mulled over Psalm 12, I ran across the following words by Michael Gerson, Director of Speechwriting for President George W. Bush and like me, a graduate of Wheaton College:

Jesus rejected the role of a political messiah. In the present age, He insisted, the Kingdom of God would not be the product of Jewish nationalism. It would not arrive through militancy and violence, tactics that would contribute only to a cycle of suffering. Instead, God’s kingdom would grow silently, soul by soul, “among you” and “within you,” across every barrier of nation or race — in acts of justice, peacemaking, love, inclusion, meekness, humility and gentleness.

 Christians seeking social influence should do so not by joining interest groups that fight for their narrow rights — and certainly not those animated by hatred, fear, phobias, vengeance or violence. Rather, they should seek to be ambassadors of a kingdom of hope, mercy, justice and grace. This is a high calling — and a test that most of us (myself included) are always finding new ways to fail. But it is the revolutionary ideal set by Jesus of Nazareth, who still speaks across the sea of years.

I long to be faithful to this high calling. I want Jesus to so own my heart that I can be an ambassador of a “kingdom of hope, mercy, justice, and grace.”

As I wrote this, I heard my husband reading the following out loud on a Zoom call. Try it yourself! 

“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.

Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.

Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.

Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.

Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.

Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.

Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.

Get along with each other.”

(Romans 12:9-16, The Message)

Lord, we long to see you rise up and usher in your kingdom of love and justice and truth. Please help us to trust you more than we fear people and events. Give us confidence and peace in the center of ourselves because we know you. Help us to live as Jesus taught us and modeled for us, never compromising our integrity or supporting those who do so. Be, truly, Lord of our hearts.