About Becky Pliego

I am grateful because God, in His grace, called me out of darkness and into his admirable light. When I did not look for Him, He found me. When I was in a pit of sin, He rescued me. I am not walking this road alone, my family is always with me, and we love Him, because He loved us first.

Faithful Obedience by Heather Lloyd

When I think of my friend Heather Lloyd, a member of our church, the image that comes to my mind is always of a woman who is never idle, but always on the go. She is clothed with strength and determination is what she wears on her feet. I often times think that maybe she is the one woman in the world whose days are made of 48 hours! Our teenage daughter has spent two summer camps under her direction and she says, “Mom, I love her, she inspires me in many ways, especially on the way you can tell she loves the Lord.” So as you can imagine, I’m grateful to have Heather share with us in our series of Faithful Obedience.

Unanswered Prayer
By Heather Lloyd

A famous country song by Garth Brooks talks about unanswered prayer. It tells the story of a young man praying for a certain young woman and God, seemingly, doesn’t answer. Years later, this man and his new wife run into this “old flame” at a football game, who isn’t the “angel” he remembered. Brooks sings:

“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care… Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”

Sadly, this is often how we view prayer. When God is seemingly silent, or things look awry in the circumstances of life we hold to the idea that God will clearly reveal why He “didn’t answer.” And, we are certain that this revelation will be an “aha” moment, one where we see exactly why God waited to answer our prayer.

But, sometimes we want to think it is simply “unanswered prayer” when really God is saying a firm “no.” By all appearances, there is no reason insight and years later no “aha” moment has come. Sometimes the “no” doesn’t make sense — think Job. It is in these times that we are forced to sit in the hard place of “why Lord,?”

Paul talks about “unanswered prayer” in 2 Corinthians, “a thorn was given me in the flesh.” But he finishes with the reason, and it isn’t a glorious revelation it is simply sanctification; “so he wouldn’t be conceited.”

What does our faith do when God says “no?” It either grows or reveals deep-rooted sin like conceit. It is in these times that we either die to self or reveal our innate selfishness. It is in trials that we realize that the Master Conductor isn’t conducting an audience of one, but it is us performing for an audience of One. We aren’t the center, God IS.

We are not pawns in a game of chess but we are members of the orchestra, we are subjects of the King of Kings. God is directing and orchestrating and sanctifying. So these moments (moments that may last a lifetime) are revealing, but they are revealing of our own need for sanctification and may not necessarily reveal to us the plan that God is unfolding.

We live with relatively benign “no’s” compared to our predecessors. Think of the martyrs of the Church. They pleaded with God as they were tortured. The answer to these pleading saints was a firm “no.” Some gave in to their selfishness and renounced Christ and others lived faithfully to the end.

Blandina was a woman whom God gave a firm “no” to, a martyr of the faith that Eusebius speaks of. Once she realized the answer to her pleading for life was “no” she began to have a distinct fear that she would renounce Jesus when tortured. She asked her fellow saints to pray that she would not, she prayed to die well. Eusebius talks about Blandina facing more torture than any other martyr of the faith and yet through the entire ordeal she cried out “Jesus.” She clung to Jesus while she herself was void of any “aha” moment until she stood “Coram Deo” (before the face of God).

Our trials may seem small compared to a martyr, but we are no less at risk of renouncing Jesus through them. When we pray “thy will be done” we need to really understand what that means. God isn’t going to ignore our prayers. There really aren’t “unanswered prayers” as Garth Brooks sings. The character in that song actually received a “no” but this was a “no” with an easy reason clearly revealed — that isn’t always the case. The Lord will answer. The answer may be “yes.” The answer may be “wait” for a “yes.” And, the answer may be a firm “no.”

What we need to do when we plead with God is follow with “Lord keep me faithful should you answer no.” This is praying in God’s will. This is a prayer knowing that He sees what we need, that He sees what the Body of Christ needs, and He sees His kingdom unfolding from a perspective that we will never have. This is trusting Him, and this is faith.

We must never forget that God’s own son received a “no.” Jesus asked His Father to “take this cup from me” and the echo of that “no” is eternal. It is a “no” that started a Kingdom. The “no’s” we receive are growing that Kingdom.

Faithful Obedience by Rayia Soderberg

Rayia is a friend that has the gift of making everything beautiful and glorious. She is a gift to our local Church and I am specially grateful to have her share with us about this trial she has been going through and the faithfulness of God in the midst of it.

Please, dear reader, be encouraged as you read this testimony, to look up to Christ and be reminded that cheerful obedience to a faithful God is always possible for the children of God.

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When Becky asked me to write a post for her blog I was humbled and nervous. I am not a writer, the medications I have been on this last year can make it difficult for me to formulate thoughts well and I know there are much more qualified women who have written on this topic, Becky being one of them. So please bear with me, dear sisters, as I ramble about and share with you one of the ways the Lord has been teaching me faithful obedience.

May the Lord bless and keep you!

Rayia

Learning Faithful Obedience in the Desert of Chronic Illness

This last year the Lord has asked our family to walk through the desert of chronic illness. This has been a very real and life alerting cross. We are not victims of circumstance or bad luck. We are children of a living God who is writing our story and we know it is good!

So we step forward in faith and ask the questions…

What does it mean to be faithful in the midst of chronic illness? What does faithful obedience look like when God removes health and strength from the picture? How can we turn a profit on this and give it back to Him with interest?

One of the biggest challenges in chronic illness is often the loss of consistency and stability. Making plans must always be tentative and dependent on your heath that day. Your life becomes a balancing act of flexibility, fast acting and holding everything very loosely.

The strength to do ordinary, everyday things is not guaranteed. But the Lord providing always is!

I am reminded of the Israelite’s in the wilderness and the daily mana God provided. He didn’t give them bucket loads of food they could store up and know they had a pantry full of food for the lean times. Instead, He gave them each enough for that day only. He supplied their daily needs and asked that they rely on Him each day, trusting He would keep his promise and there would be food the next day. This daily bread, this food, was gathered and shared every morning. If someone didn’t gather enough, a neighbor shared the extra that they had. This is something I have seen and been blessed by time and time again. Those with more, giving to those with less.

Each day God gave his people what they needed, enough to be faithful. Each day I know and trust that the Lord will and does give me (and my family) enough. He will always provide the mana (strength) I need for that day. My job is not to make sure the mana shows up. My job is to be faithful with the mana that has been given.

I am learning that while there is always enough, there are days when I am asked to be faithful with little and days when I am asked to be faithful with much. Days when the strength is full and I am able to serve my family that way I love to with a clean house, fresh laundry and an oven full of good food. And there are days when the strength is so small that faithful obedience looks like having a cheerful heart and giving my family as much love and affection as I am able from bed.

I really enjoyed grocery shopping, but now give thanks for grocery pick up services. What a blessing!

Baking for my family is one of my favorite things, so I give thanks for prepackaged cookie dough, ready-to-bake pastries and frozen cinnamon rolls because there are days/weeks when that is as close to baking as I can get. I used to sneer at prepackaged pie dough in the grocery store. Ha! Now I rejoice over it and the blessing that it is. Canned soup, boxed mac and cheese and diet soda. All things my overly health conscious (self righteous) past self would never buy unless absolutely necessary, have become cheery reminders that all food is a gift from God to be given thanks for!

I am learning to be faithful on sick days by using them as days of prayer. Spending the day praying for the prayer requests on facebook, for family, my children and grandchildren and our community, both locally and globally. They have become sweeter days. Faith days. Days of deep seed planting. After a day like that it can be hard to feel as though anything was accomplished, but my days are not my own, they are His and He gets to decide what they best used for. I am learning to plant seeds in the rich soil of adversity. I am living in hope of a good harvest.

Not knowing from day to day how much strength the Lord will provide comes with it’s own set of temptations. The temptation to try to “save it up”. We all know how well that worked out for the Israelites and their mana. Ha! His provisions are not to be meagerly divided, hoarded or preserved. They are to be used up, fully spent and shared!
The temptation to become lazy or discouraged and not be faithful with what He has provided is also very real.

A fussy heart can sometimes feel justifiable and self soothing. But the problem with self soothing is just that, it’s about self. And we are called to mortify that self.
It’s temping sometimes to complain because I want more. “I want to give more, Lord. More to my family, friends and church! I would serve you so selflessly if you would just give me what I want, when I want it.” How easy it is to lie to ourselves. Deceiving ourselves into thinking that we would be faithful with more when we struggle to be faithful with less. What a blessing it is to know and be known by a Father we can not deceive. He knows our hearts. He knows our sins and He took them to the cross so we walk fearlessly before Him, loved and resting in His mercies. Hallelujah!

There are day when I grow weary of this wilderness and weep for the life I had hoped for that did not include this cross. I long for a land flowing with milk and honey. But then I am reminded it is here in this desert I see God doing great things in my heart, life and family. Building His house. Writing His law on our hearts. Conquering the enemy. Teaching us to trust Him for our every need. This wilderness is a hard one, but is is good one!

I am so thankful that as His daughter I can know and trust that He will continue to do a good work, because He is faithful and His faithfulness is not dependent on me.

“Truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.” -John 12:24

P.S. Books I highly recommend if you are going through a desert.

Notes from a Tilt-a-whirl and Death by Living, both by N.D. Wilson.
Psalms for Trails, by Lindsey Tollefson.
The Clouds Ye So Much Dread, by Hannah Grieser.
Beside Still Waters, by G H Spurgeon

Faithful Obedience by Kathryn Church

What a blessing it is to have friends who inspire you in many ways, in my life one of those women is Kathryn Church. She is a woman that has a smile that says “Welcome” and a gift to make all things beautiful and fruitful. Kathryn’s faithfulness is a gift to our church, and we all are grateful for her.

Today she is our contributor to the series of Faithful Obedience and lovingly challenges to us pursue faithfulness in the ordinary. Please read and be blessed!

Obedience in the Ordinary
By Kathryn Church

The van was burgundy. A burgundy cloth bench seat in the back with the plastic rectangle storage units. From the recesses of the van, I could see the back of my grandmother in the passenger seat, her arm on the arm rest wearing a rain coat, because that’s what you wear most of the year in Portland. Some twenty years later, I’m sitting in the passenger seat of our car wearing a rain coat, and our kids are in the back. It was the realization that here I was, wearing a similar rain coat, that made me suddenly remember all this. Not a memory that had occurred on some momentous occasion, just the ordinary. My grandparents had a van that allowed them to cart grandchildren in it. They drove over to Idaho for grandparent days at school, special visits, and simply to see us. As a kid I thought they were wealthy grandparents because of how they poured generosity on us with meals out, soda at dinner, and museum trips. They did have a lot of wealth in Christ. They did what God had put before them with all that they had.

When God commands us to obey, He does so over and over again with the image of walking in obedience.

“You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.” Deut 5:33 NKJV

Day in and day out, every step needs to be one in obedience. If you know Becky and are reading her blog, I’m sure you’re familiar with the Bible Reading Challenge. We’re currently in year three, and if there was a “walking in obedience 101 class,” it would start with Read Your Bible. If we are going to walk in obedience, we need to be fed daily with righteousness. And it is this level of saturation in God’s Word that prepares us for obedience in the small moments.

This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” 2 John 1 :6 NKJV

Every step — obedience or disobedience? What is love? Obedience. And it is a question you can ask at any time and in every situation. Am I obeying Christ in this? A lot of this obedience seems too mundane, too unimportant to talk about or pray about.

We have chickens on our property which entails mess and delicious eggs. On an especially busy day, (we own a real estate brokerage and property management company in town), I had gathered eggs with no basket or carton, simply in my hands, and was going through the garage. One naturally escaped and gracefully broke on the floor. The normal thought is “this is not what I need right now,” but that is absolutely false. That is exactly what I needed right then. And I knew it. We obey by doing what God puts in front of us. And on that particular day, it was a broken egg to clean up instead of moving on to the next, “more important” thing. We need a perspective shift.

Are you running late for school and get stuck behind the Subaru going 25? What does it look like to walk in obedience? Are you desperately trying to get ready for company at your house when a neighbor drops by to chat? Are you trying to get dinner in the oven and a child needs discipline? Who put this in front of you? Our ideas about the way and the order we need to get things done are frequently not the way God plans for us to get them done. And taking it one step further, G.K. Chesterton says, “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.” Obedience teaches us to see the adventure being had or the lesson being learned, however mundane or traumatic it might be.

Our 1920s farmhouse runs on a well, one that in the last year and a half has been having production shortages. While inconvenient, we’ve generally managed to space out dishwasher runs with showers and laundry. The well, however, was no match against the stomach bug our family ran into last spring. Sick kids, sick husband, and then, no water. It really felt like we were approaching game time. (That image was probably helped by the fact that I could only find my husband’s basketball shorts to throw on as I felt myself going down. The look was completed by a stretchy headband.) But here we were with a perfectly ordinary test from God. And yet, with something daily like this we have an opportunity for walking in obedience or disobedience. Understanding that we should approach whatever God puts in our path with joyful obedience does not mean you won’t get sick, but it does mean you can gain wisdom and potentially see the humor while going through it. And knowing that means you can walk through the trial without necessarily getting knocked off your feet in the process.

God is teaching us and growing us in Him. He decides when the tests come but He also provides the answers. Nancy Wilson has said it’s an open book test.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” Ps 119:105 NKJV

God’s Word provides everything we need to walk in that obedience. When it gets steep or the conditions are deep levels of snow with no visibility, His Word still can show you the step right in front of you. We know that if we want to be proficient in any area (piano, weightlifting, or sales) we have to start with practice and simply put in the time. When we are commanded to walk in obedience then we should start practicing in the small things! Start with the thing right in front of you. When you cannot find the sock in the laundry pile, here’s an opportunity for obedience! The habit will be to automatically turn to Christ in obedience when disruption or blessing hits no matter what the size. When worries hit, it turns out that the best way to combat them is constant practice in obedience.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Gal 6:9 NKJV

God has a wonderful promise attached with obedience that we may live long in the land that He has given us! How do we start? By doing the dishes in front of us. By leaving a legacy for our grandchildren. By praying over the small daily things. And by reading His Word.

Faithful Obedience by Kate Nieuwsma

We count it a blessing to see, in the church where God has planted our family, how many saints walk faithfully and joyfully through very hard things. Their faithfulness, endurance joy, and faith encourage us to press on looking up to Jesus, knowing that He is near us.

Kate has been such a faithful mom through a long trial, and her testimony of God’s faithfulness sustaining her family is a gift to the church. I trust that you will be encouraged to read this.

The Great Gift (of Small Joys)
By Kate Nieuwsma

“When my anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:19

“But how can they survive?” I asked myself. A few years ago, three faithful women in my community lost their babies within a few weeks of one another, all in truly tragic circumstances. What I saw unfolding for them was my deepest nightmare. The death of one of my children is something that – if I let it – will keep me up at night in a cold sweat. (Pretty sure it will do that to most parents!) Part of why it scared me so much is that I had seen this trial unfold before, and I thought I knew what came afterwards: despair, chaos, spiritual death. I cringed at the loss of faith I thought was fated to follow on the heels of such grief.

But instead? I was given one of the greatest spiritual gifts I have ever received. Every single one of those women showed bone-deep grief. But they also showed us joy. In the months that followed their loss, they told us the sharp-edged sorrow, but they wrapped it with the joy of God’s provision. They showed us laughter with their families. They showed us dignity in loss. They spared us the gritty, public play-by-play of grief lauded in our culture as being the only “authentic” reaction, knowing that we didn’t have the grace to bear that, and they pointed us to Christ instead. When they could have – without guilt – buried us in the heaviness of legitimate grief, they chose instead to hand us joy. Not pretendy joy. Not false laughter that doesn’t admit the difficulty. But that deep, sometimes weeping joy that says “This is a dark night, but Christ is the light.” We saw them cling to Christ, and then we saw them stand strong in joy.

I held onto this gift of joy in trials, but I had no idea how much I would need it. About 8 months ago, my then-2-year-old daughter was suddenly diagnosed with an acute kidney condition. We thought at first it was temporary, but it has become clear over the last few months that this is likely to be a constant throughout her childhood, and perhaps her entire life. Our last few months have been full of pain and pain management, hospital stays, numerous infections, pancreatitis, pneumonia, thousands of blood tests, IV sticks, PICC lines and bandaids and insomnia and hard hospital beds and difficult visions of the future. There was a very real danger of losing her several times in this journey so far, and the possibility for permanent disability or a shortened life is always present.

I remember standing by her hospital bed a few months into her journey after a difficult night and an even more difficult morning blood draw. Things were hard, and the temptation to be weary and weepy and ask for others to join with me in that tired, frustrated pain was very real.  But then I looked up and saw her sitting there with a case of simply legendary bedhead, double-fisting some juice and water, and giving me a classic look of hilarious, near-drunken morning bleariness. There was nothing to do but laugh out loud and take a picture (and show it to her – she laughed too!). That morning, I remembered the glory of those faithful women handing out a glimpse of the joy that comes in sorrow, and I decided to pass that along in a tiny way. I posted that picture of my little one with the very real and cleansing laughter that came with it rather than the bid for sympathy I desperately wanted to post. It was a simple act of finding joy in the midst of difficulty, a preschool level attempt at mimicking the great acts of faith that I had seen, but I can’t tell you how many people have thanked me for that funny little picture and others like it. There is something foundationally comforting about small joys in the midst of a trial. They tell those around us that we will be ok, and it also tells them that they will be too. It tells them that when their turn for trouble comes along (and we all know that it will), that they will make it through. That Christ will be with us all even when things are hard. That in the darkest cave of trials there is still the light of God, the relief of holy laughter. That when pain is real, heaven is more so.

Joy reminds us that Christ will make it right.

Joy is both submission and rebellion, a sword and trowel. It faithfully plants seeds in the midst of a snowstorm, and it guards the soul like a watchdog. It shakes the fist at the type of “rawness” that insists that glory is not possible in the midst of difficulty. That your truest feelings are only the ones that happen when self-control is lost.

And the best part about joy? When you go in search of it in order to pass it on, seeking the beautiful gems of laughter and provision and comfort in the dark cave you’ve been thrown into, you always find far more than you’ve been looking for. Joy is like the stable in C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Last Battle’: far larger on the inside than it is on the outside. When you crack open that door in order to battle the darkness, you find that you’ve actually stumbled on a place of feasting. You find that Christ has “set a table in the presence of your enemies” (especially those enemies of the soul – bitterness, ingratitude, fear, cowardice). Even small joy opens the door to great victory.

This race of faith that God has called my daughter and the rest of our family to may be a long one. We honestly don’t know how far this road will take us or what it will contain. But we have seen the faithful runners ahead of us in this race of faith, and we have seen their faithful obedience of joy. Because of them, we know that we will be ok. We know that Christ is here, because they have shown us His joy. Make us like them, Lord!

Light this darkness with the flame of Your joy.

Faithful Obedience by Lauren McMurray

Lauren and I have gotten to know each other through our involvement in the Bible Reading Challenge. And every time she writes or comments, I pay attention because I know she will have something good for us to hear.

It is a blessing to have women in your life whose words build up those who hear them!

Thank you, Lauren for your contribution to this series on Faithful a Obedience.

I became a Christian when I was 18, my freshman year of college. I didn’t meet my husband until I was 26. And as a part of a large church community, I had lots of opportunities to fellowship through giving my time. Serving my roommates, family, fellow church members, and my coworkers was a joy. When I got married it was hard for me to transition away from looking outward to looking inward as a helper for my husband. Learning how to serve him as a wife and as a friend, and how to be a part of his family with their different-from-mine expectations. My outside-the-home time was crunched keeping a large house without roommates help. I was so busy at home that I felt like I was giving nothing. The feeling compounded when I became a mother two and half years later—it became hard to even make meals for people. I really wanted to serve His people, and it felt somehow selfish to just serve my little family.

Facing my duty, releasing my desire.

Eventually I was blessed to realize—through faithful friends’ podcast—that God gives us desires in order that we might have something to give back to him.

Desires to sacrifice??

I looked at my past, present, future and saw that the very duties that had seemed selfish were the reason I had something more to sacrifice. I was able to faithfully give by “not doing”. I had learned “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” but I finally saw when I chose my duties by not doing, that was still pleasing to the Lord.

Practically I can pray for needs to be filled. I can buy Papa Murphy’s when I don’t have time deliver a home-made meal. I can love my little people by leaning in to my husband and children’s hobbies. Praying for friends, and church family is something I can do while overseeing my little realm. Praying, calling, emailing, or writing a card are all kind ways to serve, and offer up your desire to do more by doing what you can before the Great Comforter, the Great Physician.

Interests, desires, wants are all opportunities to have an open hand before the Lord and cheerfully assume our duties and hold desires with an open hand before the Lord.

Living in Two Worlds -At the Same Time-

Screen Shot 2019-09-27 at 3.39.13 PMIf you have read me for a while, you already know that I love the Puritans and that I have been greatly influenced by their writings. I am a firmly believer that all Christians should always have a book written by a Puritan on their currently-reading pile of books.

This past summer I decided to do something different on the way I would read their books. Instead of reading the Puritans in a random order -as I have done it for years, I would apply myself to study them, first in general, and then dig deeper in the life and writings of a few of them.

Yesterday I finished L. Ryken’s wonderful book, Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were.  Every bit of this book was very interesting and of course I found many great gems that were worth sharing here, but alas! life is busy and blogging some (many!) times has to wait! However, I do want to share a few quotes that I loved because of how relevant they are to what I have always wanted this blog to capture: “I’m fully here, where God would want me to be, but fully aware that I’m Daily On My Way to Heaven.”

“Puritanism was inspired by the insight that all life is God’s. The Puritans lived simultaneously in two words -the invisible spiritual world and the physical world of earthly existence. For the Puritans, both worlds were equally real, and there was no cleavage of life into sacred and secular. All of life was sacred.

Thomas Goodwin wrote that when he was converted, “the glory of the great God was set upon my heart, as the square and rule of each and every particular practice.”

“Godliness in every phase of a person’s life was the Puritan goal. One Puritan spoke of Christianity as a “universal habit of grace” in which “the whole creature is resigned… to the obedience of the glory of its maker.” “If God be over us,  wrote Peter Bulkeley, “we must yield him universal obedience in all things. He must not be over us in one thing, and under us in another, but he must be over us in everything.”

“A logical extension of the principal that all of life is God’s was the Puritan emphasis on seeing God in the ordinary events of life. It is one of the Puritan’s most attractive traits. For the Puritans, everything in life became a pointer to God and a carrier of grace. They viewed life through the wide-angle lens of God’s sovereignty over all of life.

The sanctity of the common was a constant Puritan theme. John Bunyan asked in the preface to Grace Abounding, “Have you forgot… the milkhouse, the stable, the barn, and the like where God did visit your soul?”

“In sum there was no place where the Puritans could not potentially find God. They were always open to what Richard Baxter called a “drop of glory” that God might allow to fall upon their souls.”

“The Puritans were people of confidence, even in defeat, because they knew that they were part of something much bigger than themselves.

 

So yes, I’m doing life with the people I love, the joys of the ordinary and the hardship of God’s tailor-made trials for me. I’m blogging at times, reading much, trying to write more, practicing contentment, packing for a big trip,  and in the midst of it all, I find myself catching drops of glory everywhere I turn… and let me tell you, there are already too many buckets of glory and mercy to count! My cup overflows! God is indeed good!

And so I sign again, as I have done for years now,

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

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PC Credit: Samara Doole via Unsplash