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.

Faithful Obedience by Kirsten Miller

How much I have learned from each one of the ladies  who have contributed to the series  Faithful Obedience. It truly has been a blessing to read how they have  persevered in faithful obedience in all sorts of different circumstances because they have trusted in God who is faithful.  Today I have the privilege to introduce you to Kirsten Miller.

If you ask any of the ladies in our church about Kirsten, you will always hear beautiful comments that speak loud of a woman who has been faithful in loving and serving others. Kirsten’s kindness is contagious because it is genuine, it is clear that it flows from her relationship with Christ.

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The Hard and Joyous Work of Life
by Kirsten Miller

What on earth am I doing here? At age 56, I have learned to ask myself some form of this question every day. Because, what a world we live in! It’s a glorious world, crammed full of opportunities for blessing and cursing, obedience and disobedience, self-serving and self-sacrifice. Every day I have to make choices. So what am I actually doing here?

When I was a teenager and young adult, I thought my life was for glorifying and serving myself. I was pretty miserable and disappointed by that lie. When I repented and returned to the Lord at age 29, I had to revise everything I thought, and change all my goals and priorities.

Now I know I’m here to glorify God and enjoy him forever. God had to teach me what that means and how to do it. He changed me by giving me his Spirit and his Word. And because I’m finite, and easily side-tracked by distractions, I have to keep a close eye on the prize that I’m going for. I said it’s a glorious world, and it is! But it’s Vanity Fair season, and we live every day of our lives surrounded by barkers with bull horns who want to draw us off the path and into buying their wares. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, they would have swallowed us up alive.

I have a husband, eight children (three still at home), two sons-in-law, two daughters-in-law, and twelve grandchildren, all of whom live in our town. My elderly parents also live with us. When God gave my husband and me a large family, he also gave us a lifetime of work to do. These precious people need us to serve and bless them! We’re so thankful to do it. But we’re not actually up to the task. When I was student teaching in a second grade classroom during college, a teacher startled me by commenting that a certain student was “working beyond her potential.” I thought that was a nonsensical statement, and it stuck with me all these years. But that describes my husband and me well: every day we must work beyond our potential. We always come up short on our own: our own energy, our own wisdom, our own faithfulness. But we’ve learned not to despair, because we’ve seen God bless our work and makes it fruitful in spite of our weakness and shortcomings. Praise the Lord! There is no end to the flow of living water that comes to us and through us, from him. He keeps us watered and thriving.

The days are busy. I have a lot to keep track of. I fight to keep my priorities in view, so that I don’t drift off task and waste my time. I have to consciously make room for my core duties, or they get pushed out and neglected. Laziness is a slough, always just off the path. My grandma duties are a growing priority for me these days. I can support and encourage our adult children as they work hard raising their own young families. But that won’t happen if I start telling myself I’ve worked hard, so now it’s the time of life to rest and take care of myself.

My parents need my time and my help. My father has dementia and my mother has heart problems. A couple of years ago, it became difficult and stressful for them to continue to live alone and far away from us. How good it was to be able to make room for them in our home! It was not a hard decision for us to make, because we knew the Lord would bless us and supply all that we needed to make it work, just as he always has with the work he gives us. Our grandchildren now love spending time with their great-grandma and great-grandpa. A few months after my parents moved in, we heard our five-year-old grandson say to my mother, “Great-Grandma, I remember when I didn’t know you!”

So, ladies! Let’s stick our fingers in our ears as we pass through Vanity Fair! They claim to be selling garments made of the finest self-love and self-glory that will keep us warm and make us beautiful and happy. Let’s instead be grateful for the humble servants’ garments our Father has given us to wear in this world and wait patiently for him to clothe us gloriously in heaven. We’re being transformed into his image, from glory to glory. Press on, dear sisters! Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

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You can find the index to this series here.

Read The Word, Pray the Word

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The men and women of God through history are people who pray. And I imagine we all want to know what is it that made their prayer life rich and effective. I would say that one thing they all have in common is that they pray according to the Word of God.

We want to have a rich prayer life too, and having heard of this idea of “praying the Scriptures back to God,” we take a notebook and start jotting down promises, Bible verses that we believe will enrich our prayer life and strengthen our faith. And what a blessing that is. We hold dearly to these words of life. We let them be the last word we hear in our minds to silence our anxious thoughts and fears.

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Ex.14:4

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Is. 40:29

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” Prov.30:5

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Is. 41:10

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Rom. 8:32

These are only a few, there are so many more promises, more than we can count and all are yes and amen in Christ for those who are His. Each one of these promises is powerful and comforting. Each one is like a lifeline thrown from Heaven to us, as so we grasp them by faith.

But there are times when the trials of life are too deep and too dark, they rage against us fiercely, and the pain is hard to bear. We grab our notebook with Promises, and barely find our breath to pray through them… our voice has drowned under our tears.

It is in those times when knowing the God who gives these Promises will keep us alive. It is then when not only one or two Promises will revive us and give us hope, but when we need the whole counsel of God to be our stronghold.

There are times when our flesh will fail us, and our knees will be weak, and in these times every Word we have read in the Bible, every story in it will prove to be the backbone of our life. We may fall one, two, three, seven times, but we will not be crushed because the Word of God has the power to hold us against the enemy.

Oh, how important is is to be immersed in all the Word of God! How important it is to fill our mind and heart with all the stories of the Bible. Stories in which God reveals to us not only His character, but the way He loves to write stories. The Promises we love and count as precious, are not magic words. These promises belong to some part of God’s  story, and when we know the story in which they were spoken, we gain much more assurance.

I have been there, praying with the Bible open, praying not one or two verses, but story after story back to God.  With my Bible open, I have prayed to the God of the Bible because I know Him, I have read His Word, I have read how He is faithful when we are not. I have read how He is just and holy and at the same time merciful and compassionate. I have read story after story how He loves to redeem and restore His own children. I have read how He disciplines those He loves and how He walks with them through the consequences of their sin. I have read in the Bible how He saves those who don’t deserve to be saved. I know how much He loves to show Grace. I have read over and over, from Genesis to Revelation, stories that reveal to us who God is. I can know Him, because He wants me to know Him. I have my Bible in my hands as a proof for that. I know the Triune God of the Bible in whom millions and millions have trusted before and in whom I will trust too.

I will not stop reading. My life depends on the very Words spoken by God, written for me.

I will keep coming, I will keep reading. I want to know my God more, to trust Him more, to love Him more.

I still carry my notebook with Bible promises with me, but in my heart I carry the whole story that gives life to each one of those promises.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

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