The Hope of No More Tears

I wrote the following article just over four years ago, having experienced more pain and grief than I could ever remember having experienced before.  And then in May 2021, I reposted the article, noting the overwhelming amount of grief surrounding me again, grief both my own and that of family and friends.  New grief was being experienced; former grief was being relived.  Loss was inundating our lives like it always does, but it seemed to have risen to a new level.  And then it continued to rise.  Loved ones were lost, some suddenly and some slowly.  Health declined, jobs disappeared, dreams had to change, and tears ruled the day—and the night.  The anniversaries of what had been lost showed up on the calendar as they do every year and had to be faced as surely as the day had to dawn.  And here at the outset of 2022, I realize I have just come through a year full of more grief than I have ever known before.  But with that realization stands the same underlying truth I knew in 2017 and early 2021, hope and comfort comes, too, because I know the God of all hope and the God of all comfort.


(Repost)

No More Tears

“Whew!”  That is about all I can say right now.  How about you?  Is your heart heavy and hurting?  It seems that everywhere I turn, people are in great pain.

I must admit that I have been crying my share of tears this year, even just this month; yes, even just this week.  Difficulties just pile and pile on.  Relentless.  Tears cried in a hospital.  Tears cried at a memorial service.  Tears cried in my home.  Tears cried in anger.  Tears cried in pain.  Tears cried in disappointment, frustration, offense, ….

Well, I have news for you, for us.  For those of us who have Jesus as our Savior, someday there are not going to be any more tears.  No more hospital tears, funeral tears, angry tears, pains-of-all-kinds tears.  Nope.  Not a one.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 KJV)1


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.3


NOTES

©Text and photo Francee Strain, January 16, 2022.

1 “No More Tears” and photo were originally posted November 15, 2017.  Revelation 21:4 taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, public domain.

2 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

3 Romans 15:13 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Prepare Him Room

Last week, my post was entitled “Joy to the World.” I wrote about the joy Jesus brought to the world during His earthly life and the joy we can experience now while we await His return. Since then, I’ve been singing and thinking about the lyrics from the Christmas carol “Joy to the World.”  One phrase says, “Let every heart prepare Him room.”1 Have our hearts prepared Him room?

How do we prepare Him room?  First and foremost, preparing Him room means inviting Him to be our very own Savior.  When we invite Him in, He will come to dwell with us and will forgive us of all sin.  He will stay with us through the entirety of our lifetime, helping us, guiding us, and comforting us; and He will prepare us a place in heaven. 

After we have laid that foundation, our hearts can undergo a remodel that makes even more room. We can make room for thoughts and behaviors that are in alignment with His.  We can do things that matter to Him and please Him.  For example, think about the New Year’s resolutions we have just made—are they all about us or all about Him?  Are we focused on what to do for ourselves and how to make our lives better this year, or are we focused on letting Him remake us and give us the best life possible?  Will we follow His teaching?  Obey His commands?  Give of ourselves, time, and resources for the sake of others?  Essentially, will our lives be filled up with ourselves or filled up with Him?  

We talk about advancing our careers, losing weight, getting in shape, accomplishing some goals, beginning new hobbies, going certain places, making more time for ourselves, and organizing the closets. But are we making room for Him to guide us into the careers for which He created us?  Do we make good choices to care for the bodies He has given us?  Do the goals we want to accomplish consist of temporal things or eternal things?  Will we go anywhere He asks us to go?  Are we investing our time sacrificially or spending it selfishly?  Have we organized our lives so that we have gotten rid of the junk and made room for Him?  Are we making room to love God and love others? 

These are some things to ponder as we journey into this new year. What we make room for matters. Preparation begins in the heart, with our core, with who we want to be…and whose we want to be.


I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart;
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.2


“Joy to the World! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room, And heav’n and nature sing.”3


NOTES

1 Watts, Isaac. “Joy to the World.” 1719.

2 Psalm 9:1–2

3 Watts, 1719.

Scriptures taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, January 9, 2022

Happy New Day, 2022

Happy New Day!

What?! 

You were expecting me to say Happy New Year, weren’t you?  But really, we can have a new year every day that we have a new day.  We do not need our lives to match the calendar’s transition from December 31st to January 1st to experience joy and good plans.  We can turn the page on our old lives and let God make them new this very day.  His mercies are new every morning, but we do not even need to wait for the morning to dawn; He covers the entire day.  So, anytime we are ready to have a happy new year, we can begin it with our present day, our present moment.  His presence is available now.  And His power is forever.

People usually spend the month of December talking about the upcoming new year, but this year, people have been talking about it for months, and some people for much of the year’s entirety.  People have been saying they want 2021 to be over and that they can’t wait for 2022 to arrive.  But flipping a page on a calendar to read January 1, 2022 is not going to change the reality of what we are facing today.  A new page on the calendar does not equal a new day.  A new day equals a new day.

How we live today is what changes the calendar for tomorrow, which eventually changes the calendar for the year. Who and what we prioritize is what fills the squares and fuels our goals.  Well, that’s how things typically work, right?  But what about in a year when things seem to be out of control and we do not get to make the decisions or resolutions we typically make?  Looking beyond the now will help us. 

It is true we cannot control or change a good portion of what is happening, but we can control and change ourselves and the type of legacy we leave behind.  We can take our focus off the temporary and put it on the eternal.  We can put Christ first in our lives, and thus, our days, and live for something beyond ourselves and the trials of this life.  Christ is not just for Christmas and not just for our new year’s resolutions for better living.  Christ is for every day, holiday or not, and for every day beyond the resolutions we do not keep.  He will never abandon us, and it would be excellent if we would never abandon Him.  We can allow Him to make our days eternally significant—every single one of them. 

How do we accomplish this?  By entering into every day with Him—by being deliberate in our steps to follow Him, by being thankful to Him and blessing His name, by seeking His truth and gaining knowledge of Him, by heeding His voice and exercising discernment.  We can fill each day’s page with Him—with His eternal salvation, comprehensive forgiveness, incomprehensible joy, unconditional love, and all-encompassing peace.  We can allow Him to remake us into new and beautiful creations. 

Let’s let the old be gone and the new come.  There is no need to wait for 2022 (or any other new year).  We can see the Light and Joy now.  His presence is here now.  And His power is forever.

Have a happy new year full of happy new days! *


*Author’s note: In this article, my focus was on the word “new” rather than “happy,” but what about the “happy” part of the new day and the new year?  What if our circumstances are terrible, miserable, depressing, or desperate?  We want to be happy, but the reality is we cannot always be.  Things devastate us and break our hearts.  Misery and despair come knocking on our doors and minds.  This truth is the reason I actually prefer to say “Joyous New Year” rather than “Happy New Year.”  Joy is different than happiness.  Happiness is circumstantial, but joy is definitive.  I am not talking about living in denial of reality, I am talking about knowing something deeper than what is happening in our current situations.  I am talking about a knowing in the depths of our souls.  We can always keep the seed of joy planted firmly in our hearts.  We can take joy in the fact that Jesus loves us and will forgive every sin, that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and that He is coming back to get His own.  These truths do not change based on the circumstances of our lives.  This is why joy can remain when happiness flees.

We can take heart because one day, our calendar pages will not contain scribbles and overbookings, stress loads and tear stains.  We will not have to worry about changing pages, because time will be no more.  One day, a new page will turn; eternity will begin.  We are approaching that day, are you ready?  There will come a time when Jesus will make all things new for those who have placed their trust in Him.  For now, He can make us new–new creations in Christ, where the old has passed away and the new has come.  Let us press on toward the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus, press on for the joy set before us, press on for the new day.


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Revelation 21:4-5


NOTES

Scriptures taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, December 31, 2020. Updated January 2, 2022.

Joy to the World

Just over 2,000 years ago, angels brought good news of great joy which was for all people. The Savior of the world had been born!1

Jesus, the bundle of joy, was born to bring a bundle of joy.  He brought joy all throughout His earthly life, and He continues to bring joy today.  When He walked the earth, He brought love, help, hope, and healing to an untold number of people, and when He was resurrected from the dead, He offered eternal life to all who would receive it.  To those who are willing to receive Him, there is joy resulting from having a savior, from having sins forgiven, from being gifted eternal life, from having the help of His Spirit, from having the constancy of His presence, from having His provision, and so much more.  Jesus brings joy to all who give their hearts to Him.  He journeys with them through the good days and bad, giving guidance, strength, comfort, peace, and the assurance of His love. 

And someday, Jesus will bring even more joy when He returns to the earth to gather His own and present them to His Father. In God’s presence, there will be fullness of joy, and at His right hand, there will be pleasures forevermore.2   Joy will be endless in the very presence of Joy.

Joy to the world!  Jesus came for us, and He is coming again!


[W]hom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.3

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.4


NOTES

1 See Luke 2:10–11.

2 See Psalm 16:11.

3 1 Peter 1:8–9

4 John 3:16

Scriptures taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, January 2, 2022

That’s a Wrap

We have just wrapped up Christmas. The big day has come and gone. But let’s allow the beauty of the gift to remain. The Heart of Christmas was here, and the gifts He brought to us can remain in our hearts all year. The hope, love, joy, and peace that graced the world when Jesus entered it do not need to be packed up with the Christmas decorations. The Savior did not come for just one day of the year, He came for every day of the year. Take the Heart of Christmas into your heart and find life abundant—a life that is filled with love, joy, hope, and peace, even in the most difficult of times. As we come to the end of 2021, let’s wrap things up with beauty. Let’s wrap our hands around the hand that will never let us go.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, published December 27, 2020. Revised December 27, 2021.

Immanuel, Every Day of the Year

For Facebook post Dec. 14, 2019

(Repost of 2019 article)

Here we are in December, counting down the days until Christmas when we will celebrate the birth of Jesus. What a wonderful celebration it will be! But there is much more to it than that–Jesus is for 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑦 𝑑𝑎𝑦 of the year, not just December 25th. He is for the good days and bad, the joys and sorrows, the mountaintops and valleys. No matter the circumstances, there is cause to celebrate if we are celebrating Him. He is Immanuel, every day of the year.

Aɴᴅ Hᴇ ᴡɪʟʟ ʙᴇ ᴄᴀʟʟᴇᴅ Iᴍᴍᴀɴᴜᴇʟ, ᴡʜɪᴄʜ ᴍᴇᴀɴs Gᴏᴅ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴜs.
(See Mᴀᴛᴛʜᴇᴡ 1:23)

“Immanuel. God with us. This is one of His names, one of His amazing characteristics, and one of His precious promises. He has said that He will never leave us, nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). When our hearts are heavy and our spirits are wounded, Immanuel. When our minds swirl and whirl in chaos and questions, Immanuel. When nothing makes sense and all hope seems lost, Immanuel. Storms rage. Dreams die. Immanuel. People leave. People die. Immanuel. Homes are lost. Possessions ravaged. Immanuel. Days are long. Nights are longer. Immanuel. Pits are deep. Scars are deeper. Immanuel. No one even understands our pain and the depths of it. Immanuel. In this name, there is hope and there is rest. Immanuel. Comfort can be found in knowing that we are not alone in what we are facing. We can rest, assured of His promise to always be with us. And because God always keeps His promises, we can cling to this name for all we are worth. Immanuel. When we are lost, we can find Him: Immanuel.”

Text and photo by Francee Strain, December 14, 2019.  Reposted December 22, 2021.

Quoted material excerpted from Francee Strain, 𝑁𝑜 𝑂𝑟𝑑𝑖𝑛𝑎𝑟𝑦 𝐼𝑛𝑣𝑖𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛: 𝐶𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝐿𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑎 𝐿𝑖𝑓𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝐸𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑛𝑎𝑙 𝑃𝑢𝑟𝑝𝑜𝑠𝑒, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 65-66.

The Advent of Joy

Joy.  It is a word I am seeing in quite a few places right now.  It is mentioned on Christmas shirts and socks, Christmas cards and photo frames, ornaments and wall hangings, figurines and mugs, wrapping paper and gift bags, among a host of other things.  But what is joy?  What is the meaning of the word featured on so much Christmas merchandise and other items all throughout the year?  Is there joy in all this “stuff”?  Is joy found in items?  No, joy is not found in materialism. It is not found in a holiday, or a season, or a fashion, or a pretty thing. It is not even found in people—as we all know, they can cause us pain.  Joy, true joy, comes from the source of all joy.  Joy is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ, the giver of joy. 

Joy is both a noun and a verb.  Joy can abide in our hearts, but we can also take action with it.  We can access it, share it, give it, receive it, and keep it.  It can influence our perspectives and be the foundation of our actions. Think about when a baby is born—smiles and laughter abound.  Babies are even called bundles of joy.  They are all packaged up in sweetness and wonder.  And we are changed by what we see before us.  Well, one night, the bundle of all bundles of joy was born.  Jesus made His advent into the world.  The Savior was here!  He fulfilled the joy of those who had long awaited His coming.  He filled hearts, and He inspired actions.  There was an advent of joy!

Can you imagine the joy that resounded across the hillsides when the angel announced Jesus’ birth and was then joined by the heavenly host praising and glorifying God and proclaiming peace and goodwill on earth?  Can you imagine the quick and excited steps of the shepherds as they went to see the good news for themselves?  Can you imagine the joy and excitement that inspired the magi to travel long and far to the place where the star marked the joy of the whole earth?  And then, this child grew into a man who continued to bring joy to those who were willing to receive it.  He gave sight to the blind, speech to the mute, hearing to the deaf, food to the hungry, attention to the outcast, healing to the sick, and life to the dead.  And then He gave forgiveness to the sinners so they could experience eternal life and eternal joy at His right hand.

Thinking on these things brings me great joy because I know this Savior.  He has come to live in my heart.  His Spirit fills me with an abundance of joy.  Even in the midst of deep sorrow, great pain, searing loss, and overwhelming troubles, joy remains.  How can this be?  It is possible because the joy I have does not come from the things of the world; the joy comes from Him and cannot be taken away or overcome.

So, even though it is raining on us now, and the day looks as dark as the night, His light is there, shining all around us.  Will we have eyes to see it?  He is the Light of the World.  Will we have eyes to see Him?  He is the joy of every longing heart.  He will never fail or disappoint us.  He will never harm or abandon us.  He will never move on to something else or somewhere else.  Will we have hearts to experience Him?  If we never take Him into our lives or walk in His ways, we will never experience true joy, only temporary happiness connected to the things of the world.  The advent of true joy is connected to the advent of the hope, faith, peace, and love He gives through His very presence.  And this true joy is deep and abiding.  It gives us the ability to look beyond the now, to have strength, to be confident in the hope we have in Him and the love He has for us. 

In His presence, there is fulness of joy.1 This is how joy comes.

Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
For He has done marvelous things;
His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.

The Lord has made known His salvation;
His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.

He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.

Psalm 98:1–4

♫ Joy to the world, the Lord is come!  Let earth receive her king; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.2


NOTES

1 See Psalm 16:11. 

2 Song lyrics taken from “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 20, 2020.  Revised December 21, 2021.

The Advent of Love

(This article is taken from my 2020 five-part series on Advent.)

What is love? 

We would likely define this word by mentioning many aspects, perhaps things like having close bonds with others, giving and receiving affection, being connected in a family, experiencing loyalty and faithfulness, hearing or speaking words of affirmation, giving and receiving gifts, serving others, or being the recipients of acts of kindness.  Yet although we might have all these varied ideas in mind, there is a common thread—love is something demonstrated in deeds.  Love is action.

Since before time began, love was active and awaiting us, and then love came near.  Love took action.  But where did love come from, and why did it come near?

Love came near because God came near.  God is the source of love.  He is love.  He has given the very essence of Himself in an offering to us.  This offering is actually what we are focusing on right now during this season of Advent—He gave His one and only son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life, and He did this because He loved the world (see John 3:16).

Since before time began, God had a plan to gift us with His love.  And when the time was just right, the gift arrived: Jesus was born to be the Savior of the world to show us the love of God the Father.  Jesus was a representation of the love and an act of that love.  He gave up the position of honor He held as King of kings and humbled Himself to walk as a man.  He gave up the riches of the entire universe to be laid in a manger and give everything to us.  He gave up the comforts of having and doing anything He pleased, going anywhere He wanted at any time, to come to this earth and experience the life we experience, walking in obedience to God’s will and God’s timing.  This is the gift of love we celebrate at Christmas.

But the love did not stop there.  Jesus did not remain a baby in the manger.  He grew into a man who continued to act in love.  He travelled and spoke to thousands, sharing with them about the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life.  He healed and fed.  Taught and visited.  Comforted the grieving and raised the dead.  All this, He gave.  And He gave even more, things that we find difficult to give: He loved His enemies.  He prayed for those who despitefully used and persecuted Him.  He gave His time and energy and service to those who gave nothing back.  He loved the unlovely that others avoided and scorned.  He sacrificed His very life for us.  All so that we could know His love and know it forever.

This is how love comes.  God took action.  He has loved us with an everlasting love and drawn us with loving kindness.  He has given us the gifts of His Son, His Word, His promises, His salvation, and His very presence.  Do we see it?  Do we recognize it?  Have we responded to it?  Have we given Him our hearts and our love in return? Has there been an advent of love from us?

You can receive His gift today and return the gift of your heart to Him. This is how love comes.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 12, 2020. Revised December 17, 2021.

The Advent of Peace

(The following is a repost of two readings from my 2020 five-part series on Advent.)

The Advent of Peace—Reading #1

Do you have peace?  Do you want peace?  Do you believe peace is possible, especially in the day and age in which we live?  I fully believe it is possible.  I have experienced it for myself. 

Peace can come to us the moment we open our eyes and take in the light of day.  We can breathe in the peace of God because He has come to dwell with us.  Just over 2000 years ago, God sent His only son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the World.  And one of the names and characteristics Jesus has is that He is the Prince of Peace.  He rules it.  He is the source of it.  It is His to give. 

I have asked Jesus to be a part of my life, and His presence results in peace.  He calms storms of all kinds.  He removes the sting of death.  He does miracles.  He cleanses me from every sin.  He has restored my soul and made it acceptable in the sight of God.  I never have to worry about walking alone because He has said He will never leave me nor forsake me.  I don’t have to worry about what will happen when I die because He has already assured me that since I gave myself to Him, I can never be plucked from His hand.  I do not have to worry about decision making because He gives wisdom to those who ask for it.  I do not have to worry about my needs being met because He is the provider and sustainer.  I do not have to toss and turn at night but instead can sleep in peace because He is omnipotent and will care for those who are His own. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the LORD with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding.  If we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He is going to direct our paths.  I could go on and on with example after example of the things I can know for certain and how this knowledge brings peace.  You can know these things, too.  It simply starts with you coming to the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace, and giving your life to Him.

This is how peace comes.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 6, 2020. Reposted December 13, 2021.


The Advent of Peace—Reading #2

We need peace. Peace in our world. Peace in our homes. Peace in our own hearts. We long for peace. We yearn for peace.

When troubles mount, we can feel overwhelmed. Helpless. Hopeless. Sometimes, we want to bury our heads under the covers. Other times, we want to run away. But these actions are not what will solve the problems. These things are not what will fill us with lasting peace.  Lasting peace can only be found in the Prince of Peace, the One who is Everlasting: Jesus. His name is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6).  Inviting Him into the situation is what will bring peace. Holding Him in our hearts will find Him holding us.1

He comes in the storm with power and authority.  Creator of all.  Ruler of all.  Sustainer of all.  With a word, He can cause the storm to cease. With a word, He can bring great calm. With a word, He can speak peace. In His presence, there is peace.  As the winds of life howl and the storms rage, He holds us–safely and securely in His almighty hands. As the winds drive the pounding rain, and our hearts pound in fear, He comes. Listen to the power of His words, “Peace. Be still” (Mark 4:39 KJV).

Over and encircling, through and beneath, His presence pervades; and there is peace.  This is our God. The God above all gods. Let us never be shaken.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7 NKJV).

During this time of upheaval, I want to encourage you.  You can find hope. You can know peace.  Because…you are loved.  God has loved you with an everlasting love, and with lovingkindness He is drawing you to Himself.  Though the earth shakes, and the mountains fall into the sea, He is the Creator and Ruler of all.2 

Place your hand in the hand of the One who can hold you securely.  Place your heart in the hands of the One who gave His very life to save you.  Look up to where there is help.  Look up to where there is redemption.  Look up into the very face of God.3

This is how peace comes.

___________________________

Excerpt from blog post “In the Name of Peace,” Francee Strain, May 30, 2020

2Excerpt from blog post “He Comes in the Storm,” Francee Strain, May 3, 2020

3Excerpt from blog post “Peace to You,” Francee Strain, March 21, 2020

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 10, 2020. Reposted December 13, 2021.


Several articles regarding peace and comfort can be found on my website. A few you might want to access are: “The Victorious Heart,” “Between Seasons,” and “Immanuel.”  You may access these from the search bar on the home page or by accessing the “articles” page from the site menu.  If you are in need of prayer, send me a comment through the contact page.

~Francee

The Advent of Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy

(Repost of a 2020 series)

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐝𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐇𝐨𝐩𝐞

Walking through a dark and evil world can leave us with deep pain and an abundance of tears. We lose, and we grieve. We wander, and we mourn. We look down, and then we look in. We forget about the light. We find ourselves in a state of hopelessness.

But Isaiah 50:10 says, “Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon his God.”* So, if we look up to see the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, shining all around us, that hope will raise us up. The truth of His hope will enable us to keep moving forward. His power will enable us to walk and love again. Joy will flood the empty spaces of our beings. The pain will be touched by supernatural comfort. The mourning heart will sing again.

Just as the sun always shines even though we can’t see it, God’s hands and heart are outstretched for us to see by faith. God is good, sovereign, and omnipotent. He makes a way out of no way. He provides for every need. He keeps every promise.

The first week of the Advent season, we celebrate hope. Many waited for hope to come to the world, and it finally came. Its name was Jesus.

Jesus gave His life on the cross to give eternal hope through salvation. What a precious gift! And then, He left for a while to prepare a place for those who would believe in Him. And one day, Hope will return to the world. He will come again. He will take all who believe to their eternal home. Have you accepted His gift of hope? Are you ready for His second advent?

This is the truth of hope. Hope has come. And Hope is coming back.

~~~~~

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 NKJV

~~~~~

*Taken from Isaiah 50:10 NKJV

©Text and photo Francee Strain, November 29, 2020

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐝𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐏𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐞–𝐑𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝟏

Do you have peace? Do you want peace? Do you believe peace is possible, especially in the day and age in which we live? I fully believe it is possible. I have experienced it for myself.

Peace can come to us the moment we open our eyes and take in the light of day. We can breathe in the peace of God because He has come to dwell with us. Just over 2000 years ago, God sent His only son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the World. And one of the names and characteristics Jesus has is that He is the Prince of Peace. He rules it. He is the source of it. It is His to give.

I have asked Jesus to be a part of my life, and His presence results in peace. He calms storms of all kinds. He removes the sting of death. He does miracles. He cleanses me from every sin. He has restored my soul and made it acceptable in the sight of God. I never have to worry about walking alone because He has said He will never leave me nor forsake me. I don’t have to worry about what will happen when I die because He has already assured me that since I gave myself to Him, I can never be plucked from His hand. I do not have to worry about decision making because He gives wisdom to those who ask for it. I do not have to worry about my needs being met because He is the provider and sustainer. I do not have to toss and turn at night but instead can sleep in peace because He is omnipotent and will care for those who are His own.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the LORD with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding. If we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He is going to direct our paths. I could go on and on with example after example of the things I can know for certain and how this knowledge brings peace. You can know these things, too. It simply starts with you coming to the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace, and giving your life to Him.

This is how peace comes.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 6, 2020

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𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐝𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐏𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐞–𝐑𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝟮

We need peace. Peace in our world. Peace in our homes. Peace in our own hearts. We long for peace. We yearn for peace.

When troubles mount, we can feel overwhelmed. Helpless. Hopeless. Sometimes, we want to bury our heads under the covers. Other times, we want to run away. But these actions are not what will solve the problems. These things are not what will fill us with lasting peace. Lasting peace can only be found in the Prince of Peace, the One who is Everlasting: Jesus. His name is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6). Inviting Him into the situation is what will bring peace. Holding Him in our hearts will find Him holding us.(1)

He comes in the storm with power and authority. Creator of all. Ruler of all. Sustainer of all. With a word, He can cause the storm to cease. With a word, He can bring great calm. With a word, He can speak peace. In His presence, there is peace. As the winds of life howl and the storms rage, He holds us–safely and securely in His almighty hands. As the winds drive the pounding rain, and our hearts pound in fear, He comes. Listen to the power of His words, “Peace. Be still” (Mark 4:39 KJV).

Over and encircling, through and beneath, His presence pervades; and there is peace. This is our God. The God above all gods. Let us never be shaken. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7 NKJV).

During this time of upheaval, I want to encourage you. You can find hope. You can know peace. Because…you are loved. God has loved you with an everlasting love, and with lovingkindness He is drawing you to Himself. Though the earth shakes, and the mountains fall into the sea, He is the Creator and Ruler of all.(2)

Place your hand in the hand of the One who can hold you securely. Place your heart in the hands of the One who gave His very life to save you. Look up to where there is help. Look up to where there is redemption. Look up into the very face of God.(3)

This is how peace comes.

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(1) Excerpt from blog post “In the Name of Peace,” Francee Strain, May 30, 2020

(2) Excerpt from blog post “He Comes in the Storm,” Francee Strain, May 3, 2020

(3) Excerpt from blog post “Peace to You,” Francee Strain, March 21, 2020

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 10, 2020

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𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗔𝗱𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗟𝗼𝘃𝗲

What is love?

We would likely define this word by mentioning many aspects, perhaps things like having close bonds with others, giving and receiving affection, being connected in a family, experiencing loyalty and faithfulness, hearing or speaking words of affirmation, giving and receiving gifts, serving others, or being the recipients of acts of kindness. Yet although we might have all these varied ideas in mind, there is a common thread—love is something demonstrated in deeds. Love is action.

Since before time began, love was active and awaiting us, and then love came near. Love took action. But where did love come from, and why did it come near?

Love came near because God came near. God is the source of love. He is love. He has given the very essence of Himself in an offering to us. This offering is actually what we are focusing on right now during this season of advent—He gave His one and only son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life, and He did this because He loved the world (see John 3:16).

Since before time began, God had a plan to gift us with His love. And when the time was just right, the gift arrived: Jesus was born to be the Savior of the world to show us the love of God the Father. Jesus was a representation of the love and an act of that love. He gave up the position of honor He held as King of kings and humbled Himself to walk as a man. He gave up the riches of the entire universe to be laid in a manger and give everything to us. He gave up the comforts of having and doing anything He pleased, going anywhere He wanted at any time, to come to this earth and experience the life we experience, walking in obedience to God’s will and God’s timing. This is the gift of love we celebrate at Christmas.

But the love did not stop there. Jesus did not remain a baby in the manger. He grew into a man who continued to act in love. He travelled and spoke to thousands, sharing with them about the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life. He healed and fed. Taught and visited. Comforted the grieving and raised the dead. All this, He gave. And He gave even more, things that we find difficult to give: He loved His enemies. He prayed for those who despitefully used and persecuted Him. He gave His time and energy and service to those who gave nothing back. He loved the unlovely that others avoided and scorned. He sacrificed His very life for us. All so that we could know His love and know it forever.

This is how love comes. God took action. He has loved us with an everlasting love and drawn us with loving kindness. He has given us the gifts of His Son, His Word, His promises, His salvation, and His very presence. Do we see it? Do we recognize it? Have we responded to it? Have we given Him our hearts and our love in return? Has there been an advent of love from us?

You can receive His gift today and return the gift of your heart to Him. This is how love comes.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 12, 2020

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𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗔𝗱𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗝𝗼𝘆

Joy. It is a word I am seeing in quite a few places right now. It is mentioned on Christmas shirts and socks, Christmas cards and photo frames, ornaments and wall hangings, figurines and mugs, wrapping paper and gift bags, among a host of other things. But what is joy? What is the meaning of the word featured on so much Christmas merchandise and other items all throughout the year? Is there joy in all this “stuff”? Is joy found in items? No, joy is not found in materialism. It is not found in a holiday, or a season, or a fashion, or a pretty thing. It is not even found in people—as we all know, they can cause us pain. Joy, true joy, comes from the source of all joy. Joy is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ, the giver of joy.

Joy is both a noun and a verb. Joy can abide in our hearts, but we can also take action with it. We can access it, share it, give it, receive it, and keep it. It can influence our perspectives and be the foundation of our actions. Think about when a baby is born—smiles and laughter abound. Babies are even called bundles of joy. They are all packaged up in sweetness and wonder. And we are changed by what we see before us. Well, one night, the bundle of all bundles of joy was born. Jesus made His advent into the world. The Savior was here! He fulfilled the joy of those who had long awaited His coming. He filled hearts, and He inspired actions. There was an advent of joy!

Can you imagine the joy that resounded across the hillsides when the angel announced Jesus’ birth and was then joined by the heavenly host praising and glorifying God and proclaiming peace and goodwill on earth? Can you imagine the quick and excited steps of the shepherds as they went to see the good news for themselves? Can you imagine the joy and excitement that inspired the magi to travel long and far to the place where the star marked the joy of the whole earth? And then, this child grew into a man who continued to bring joy to those who were willing to receive it. He gave sight to the blind, speech to the mute, hearing to the deaf, food to the hungry, attention to the outcast, healing to the sick, and life to the dead. And then He gave forgiveness to the sinners so they could experience eternal life and eternal joy at His right hand.

Thinking on these things brings me great joy because I know this Savior. He has come to live in my heart. His Spirit fills me with an abundance of joy. Even in the midst of deep sorrow, great pain, searing loss, and overwhelming troubles, joy remains. How can this be? It is possible because the joy I have does not come from the things of the world; the joy comes from Him and cannot be taken away or overcome.

So, even though it is raining on us now, and the day looks as dark as the night, His light is there, shining all around us. Will we have eyes to see it? 𝘏𝘦 is the Light of the World. Will we have eyes to see 𝘏𝘪𝘮? He is the joy of every longing heart. He will never fail or disappoint us. He will never harm or abandon us. He will never move on to something else or somewhere else. Will we have hearts to experience Him? If we never take Him into our lives or walk in His ways, we will never experience true joy, only temporary happiness connected to the things of the world. The advent of true joy is connected to the advent of the hope, faith, peace, and love He gives through His very presence. And this true joy is deep and abiding. It gives us the ability to look beyond the now, to have strength, to be confident in the hope we have in Him and the love He has for us.

In His presence, there is fulness of joy.* This is how joy comes.

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Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.

The Lord has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.

He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.

Psalm 98:1–4 (NKJV)

♫ Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing. ♫

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*See Psalm 16:11.

Song lyrics taken from “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 20, 2020. Reposted December 10, 2021.