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.

You will find rest

But God always keeps his promises

Psalm 145:2, 4, 13-14 I will praise you every day. … Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power. I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles … I will share the story of your wonderful goodness. … The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does. The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.

It helps. It really does.

When Karis and I came to Pittsburgh in March 2004 for the terrifying prospect of intestinal transplant, not knowing anyone, feeling completely alone and vulnerable, leaving a fruitful and creative life behind, I made a decision. I would find something to thank God for every day. No matter what happened, I would look for what God was doing. “I will praise you every day.” It wasn’t easy, because terrifically painful things occurred, and sometimes the battle for Karis’s life seemed endless.

But I learned a way of seeing, in, through, and beyond the circumstances of a given day or hour. That practice continues to shape me. When troubling and difficult things happen, I know that’s not the whole story. God is keeping his promises today, even with the hard thing I face now. Whatever it is at a given time.

God is gracious in all he does. He helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.

What weight are you carrying today? Allow the Lord to bear it with you. Ask a friend to help you do this. Maybe you’ve picked up more than is meant for you. Maybe you’ve let others overload you. Perhaps saying “no” can be a good thing, for you and for others. I need this kind of help a lot.

Shutterstock: Sergey Nivens

What is tripping you up? Stretch out your hand to his strong and loving and faithful one. Let him help you get back on your feet. Perhaps the physical hand grasping yours belongs to one of his people. We are all called to be the Lord’s Body in the world, helping each other as Jesus would if he still lived physically among us.

Has someone you trusted betrayed you? Have you betrayed a promise to someone you love? Lean into God’s faithfulness. The promise-keeper can help you repair and heal your heart and give you strength to live faithfully.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” Matthew 11:28-30).

Oh give thanks!

But God turns deserts into pools

Psalm 107:34-35 God turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands, because of the wickedness of those who live there. But he also turns deserts into pools of water, the dry land into springs of water.

Psalm 110:7 But God himself will be refreshed from brooks along the way.

While I was in Idaho, my brother-in-law drove me four and a half hours across the rolling high desert hills to a place I wanted to revisit for Treasure Hunt 1904. It’s a journey of dramatic contrasts. From time to time we passed emerald fields patchworking the desert, irrigation rigs spraying life into naturally dry yet fertile soil. The rivers supplying this magic cut deep ravines through volcanic rock.

I’ve never lived in a dry place. In Guatemala we used to say it rained thirteen months of the year, while Brazilian torrential rains gave me a new understanding of the devastating power of floods. In Pittsburgh, if it doesn’t rain for a week, we think we’re in drought. But through my visits to southern Idaho, I’m discovering a unique loveliness in the colors and textures of the desert and the feel of the air.

Scripture often identifies the desert as a place of intimacy with God. “I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there,” says the Lord in Hosea 2:15. The physical desert shifts my perspective from superfluity to simplicity, opening space for me to see the dry and anxious places in my heart. I’m moved from griping to gratitude, appreciating in new ways the “magic” of the sweet, life-giving flow of the Holy Spirit, the river of life. Will I submit the desert of my heart to bubbling Spirit-brooks so my life can be a place of refreshment to the Lord? Isn’t that a startling thought?

Seven times Psalm 107 repeats the phrase “Give thanks to the Lord” as it relates stories of redemption. “Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!” (verses 2, 22, 32). If you like, you can use this blog as a way of telling: send your story to me at debrakornfield@gmail.com. Remember and tell! Your story can encourage others.

Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord (Psalm 107:43).

Protection for our families from pornography, by Jewel Anita Hendrix, Tauranga, New Zealand

But God shows hostility to the wicked 

Psalm 18:25-26 To the faithful you [God] show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. To the pure you show yourself pure. But to the wicked you show yourself hostile.

Psalm 101:2-4 I will be careful to live a blameless life—when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. … I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil.

Tuesday night we hosted Rory Birkbank from Safesurfer for our Justice Night on the topic of pornography. A couple good quotes:

“Porn is sex trafficking with a camera rolling.”

“Disrespecting women—that is what porn is, obviously.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t “obvious” to everyone. Rory gave us an excellent presentation of what is happening online, why and how to protect our own families from it, and how to pray against it.

If you have not looked into Safesurfer before, please do. They help with more than porn: social media, gambling, malware, etc.

Honestly, I have been taken aback a bit by Safesurfer. I knew that it was one of the leading internet protection services in the world. … Then I stumbled on their offices, upstairs in the back of one of the local churches here in Tauranga. I thought it must be a different organization with the same name. After all there is a lot of surfing in Tauranga. This group must be about safety while surfing in the ocean, right?

Nope. They are one of the leading global protection services – in this back office of a random church in Tauranga. They’re a small group of genius Christians with such a heart for families. They have set up their systems so none of their staff have to view the objectionable materials. They automatically report child sexual abuse material (CSAM) to global law enforcement. They provide a free service to remove all nudity – from all devices.

Don’t think you need it for your family? One in four kids have seen porn by age 14. Almost 50% of them have seen it by accident, not looking for it at all. They don’t have to be searching with obvious words. It comes up in so many unexpected places.

Let’s join David in Psalm 101, committing ourselves and our families to living with integrity.

Remember and tell!

But God stands by his covenant 

Psalm 105:1-2, 7-8 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. … He is the Lord our God. His justice is seen throughout the land. He always stands by his covenant—the commitment he made to a thousand generations.

Matthew 26:28 This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.

I was only thinking of three generations when I wrote Karis: All I See Is Grace: my own generation, my children, and my grandchildren, yet unborn. I wanted my children’s spouses and my future grandchildren to know what God had done in our family through his faithfulness to Karis. Verses 1 and 2 of this psalm were part of what motivated me to persist through the three years it took me to write the book, along with Psalms 78:4-7, 102:18, 107:2, 118:17, and 145:4 and 12. All of them instruct us to remember and to tell what God does for us.

Imagine making a commitment to a thousand generations! I know that number means “all the generations to come,” but if we think about it literally and conservatively, choosing twenty years as the length of a generation, a thousand generations is 20,000 years. God keeps his covenant for at least that long. All recorded history is a small dent. Here we are, in our generation, still praising God for his faithfulness to us. If we notice what God does for us when it happens, remember it, and tell others, we’ll be part of Asaph’s vision in Psalm 78.

Last week in Idaho, my sister Marsha and I put together the “reunion puzzle” our daughter Valerie created from photos of the members of the extended Elliott family, in keeping with our reunion theme, “Pieces of a Whole.” The progeny of my parents, Ray and Helen Elliott, now numbers 81, with three to be born in the next three months.

Our reunion puzzle
Three more babies coming, in September, October, and November!

As the beloved faces emerged in the puzzle, I prayed for each of us to remember and celebrate God’s covenant of love for us, in the past, in the present, and stretching into the future to those not yet born and those yet to be brought into the family by marriage or by adoption.

Keeping covenant is costly. It’s not simple or easy. It cost God the life of his son. That’s the measure and standard he set for us. Today, my 68th birthday, I’m asking him to show me day by day in this next year how to live out his covenant; with more boldness remembering and telling, “so the next generation will set its hope anew on God” (Psalm 78:4-7).

Open your mouth wide

But God would feed us  August 11, 2022

Psalm 81:8-16 Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings. Oh, if you would only listen to me! . . . Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things. But no, my people wouldn’t listen . . . But I would feed you with the finest wheat. I would satisfy you with wild honey from the rock.”

This morning I made French toast with yogurt and strawberries, scrambled eggs, and sausage for my husband for breakfast. A way of making up, I suppose, for the week of dry cereal he just had while I traveled to Idaho to visit my sister Marsha and her husband Vance. Of course, if he wished, he could learn to cook! But he has too many other irons in his fire.

While I was making breakfast, I thought about this blog. Some days are French toast days. Some are cold cereal days, when other priorities of life must take precedence. Today, I think, is a cold cereal day, because I’m preoccupied with completing the manuscript for Treasure Hunt 1904. Next Monday the 15th is the deadline for turning it in to the publisher. Four days! Yikes!!

But I do want to honor the Lord today. As I prayed about my trip to Idaho, he gave me this Scripture from Psalm 81, which made me think of baby birds in a nest, trustfully opening their beaks to receive what their mother would bring them.

Shutterstock: PCHT

I wanted to be one who listened, who paid trustful attention to what the Lord was doing in Idaho and in my life and the intersection of the two for a week. I traveled with a sense of curiosity and anticipation.

Some of what God did, I expected. Like the peace and the warm welcome I feel in Vance and Marsha’s home. Their kindness and generosity. Their joy in living one day at a time despite challenging circumstances.

But God filled my mouth with surprises, too. I will treasure forever my sister’s beautiful voice soaring in worship. A dancing fountain became for me an image of the Holy Spirit’s delight in delighting us. I was able to see beauty in the desert this time I had not been able to appreciate on other visits to Idaho. Vance had given me a book to read called Desert Spirituality and Cultural Resistance by Belden C. Lane which nurtured new concepts for me about the hard times in our lives. It challenges me to pay attention, to listen, to watch for the ways our Father draws close to us when we are not distracted by all our stuff and our own “important and urgent” work. To pay more attention to his voice than to having a voice of my own—though of course, the two are intertwined.

Opening my mouth wide is not just for travel to the high desert of Idaho. It’s for Pittsburgh too.

How can it be

But God finds joy in us

2 Peter 1:16-18  For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.

John 17:18, 22, 26 [Jesus prayed,] “Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. … I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. … I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”

Shutterstock: Victoria_vector_art

Last Saturday, August 6, the Church worldwide remembered the Transfiguration of Jesus, another pivotal moment in his life when, as at his Baptism, God the Father reminded his Son that he loved him and found great joy in him.

So it seems fitting that we conclude our consideration of Peter’s writings by returning to chapter 1 of his second letter, when he recalls the impact of Jesus’ transfiguration on his own life. Peter was there! He saw the glory of the Lord revealed on that mountain. He must have recalled his own inept response, yet that was swallowed up into the wonder of this intimacy with his Lord. We saw with our own eyes … we heard … we were with him.”

After his baptism, the Spirit sent Jesus into the desert, where he was tempted. After his transfiguration, Jesus turned toward Jerusalem, where he would be killed. In both moments of his life on planet Earth, Jesus carried as an anchor in his soul his Father’s love and his own deep resonance with his Father’s joy.

One of the greatest delights of my life is to walk into the home of either of my daughters and be met with cries of “Grammy! Grammy!” Talita does a little dance. Caleb runs to show or tell me something. Liliana stretches out her arms. And my heart responds with profound gratitude. “Thank you, Lord, that through these little ones you communicate your love and joy to me. I receive it with thanksgiving and wonder.”

There’s another side, though, to August 6. It’s also the anniversary of the first bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima. Greater even than the wonder of the love of children is the mystery that God still loves and claims his children even when they destroy one another. Even when they crucified Jesus. Even then, Peter tells us, God is patient, not wanting anyone to be destroyed but rather to repent (2 Peter 3:9). On the cross, Jesus said about those who were driving those horrid nails into his flesh, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

“Tis mercy all, immense and free. … Amazing love, how can it be.”