The Turnaround

What steps are you taking, and where are your steps taking you? Have they taken you somewhere unwise, unhealthy, ungodly? We have all been there. Actually, some of us are probably there right now. There is not one of us who has not chosen poorly. We make a mess of things. We make blunders and do foolish things. And then we wish our actions could be undone. We want to have a do-over, another chance. Other times, though, we willingly plunge headlong into sin. We think it’s cool, fun, trendy, harmless, or even expected. We think it hurts no one, not even ourselves, but the truth is, it does. It grieves the heart of God. It wounds those who watch us as an example. It disappoints those who thought we were something more. It dashes the hopes of those who were striving to become like us. And it keeps us from being who God created us to be.

Each decision we make, each action we take, has a consequence and brings us toward a destination. Where we are heading matters but so does where we are right now. And sometimes, we are somewhere we ought not to be. But although we cannot unsay what we have said, unsee what we have seen, undo what we have done, or change where we have gone, at this moment, we can turn our lives around and say something else, see something else, go somewhere else, and do something else with the time we have remaining in life. We can step in a new direction to come into alignment with what is right and good. We do not have to remain trapped in the wreckage. God’s hand is there to guide us out, every step of the way.

Every day is a new day, and God’s mercies are new every morning. So, if we failed yesterday—or even earlier today—we have the opportunity to be forgiven, to be made new, to be washed anew in the mercy of God. If we have failed in our weakness, we can let Him be our strength to move forward. If we have strayed off the path He has laid out before us, we can reroute our steps to match His. If we have been caught up in the ways of the world, we can be caught up in God’s arms just as the prodigal son was caught up in the arms of his father. If we have been wandering aimlessly, we can instead trust God to direct our steps. If we have unhealthy habits, He can heal us. If we have fallen into the depths of despair, He can raise us up to the mountaintop of joy. If we have been beaten down, He can pick us up. He is the cure for what ails us. What we are not, He is. He completes us. He is perfection. He supplies every need. And we can do all things through Him, including turn around.

Look at the life of Paul the Apostle. He said he sinned and did the things he hated to do and didn’t do the right things he wanted to do.1 We are just like him in this manner. We all struggle. We all keep messing up. We get set in perpetual patterns of sin. We have habitual hang-ups. But we also have the remedy for all of this available to us—Jesus. With Him, we can say we once were _____, but now we are _____. Saul, a persecutor of Christians, became Paul, the Christian missionary. And huge changes like he experienced all those years ago still happen today. For example, an extremist in Asia who used to persecute Christians has become a pastor and church planter, ministering to the very ones he used to persecute and sharing Christ with the ones he used to be like. An enemy of God has become His friend. A hearer of the Word has become a doer of it. A lost one is now found. A blind one now sees. An old man has become a new man. An old creation is now a new creation. The hopeless has become hopeful. The joyless has become joyful. The one who had wandered aimlessly is now moving with purpose. And all of these things can be true of us as well. This is the difference Jesus can make in a life. He can completely turn it around. There are so many possibilities, we cannot even imagine them all. But we do not need to imagine them, they can be realized:

  • If we are headed toward hell, we can change our destination. We can turn to Jesus for salvation and join Him in heaven for all eternity.
  • If we have been humiliated, we can have our heads lifted.
  • If the breath has been knocked out of us, He can breathe new life into us.
  • We can move from being lame to leaping in praise.

If we realize we are in a negative way, heading down a wrong path, making poor choices, and neglecting to follow the One true God, we can make a change. This is the turnaround. The place where we move from being a graceless wretch to a grace-covered child. We can’t start life back at the beginning, or somewhere during the last year, last month, last week, or last hour—we can’t undo what we have done—but we can make a change right where we are now. We can access God’s grace and forgiveness and seek His help to move forward.

Today is a new day, and it doesn’t have to look like yesterday. This hour is a new hour, and it doesn’t have to look like the previous one. This moment is a new moment, and we can choose a new direction. We can turn around. It’s not too late. If we have forgotten God, we can now remember Him. If we have turned our backs on Him, we can now turn and look upon His beautiful face. We can leave the darkness behind and enter into His glorious light. He is gracious and merciful, forgiving and compassionate.

Let today be the day of the turnaround.


Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.2

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.3

The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.4


NOTES

1 See Romans 7:15–25.

2 Philippians 3:13–14

3 Galatians 2:20

4 Psalm 138:8

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 30, 2022

In the Name of Peace

The following is a repost of an article I wrote in 2020.


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.1 Inviting Him into the situation is what will bring peace. Holding Him in our hearts will find Him holding us.

Peace is a matter of the heart. Peace is for hearts that matter. Peace is for you. YOU matter.

~~~~~

Grief can overwhelm us, and at times, we can become lost in it. Our hearts can break and bleed and cry out for relief. Our hearts can burn with questions hotter than Death Valley. “Why?” “Why God?” “Why are those three young boys going to be left without a mother?” “Why did he do that to me?” “Where were You when that was happening?” We can cry so many tears, inside and out, that we become dehydrated. Our throats become dry from crying, from screaming. We wander alone in deserts of pain and sadness, feeling like the vultures are circling overhead, their dark shadows coming for us next. So many unanswered questions. So much hurt. “Why?” “What good is there in all of this?” “What good is going to come out of this?” Our focus wanders from the well of water directly in front of us, to the blur of the heat waves rising from the burning sand all around us, to the pain of the scorching heat, to the howling of the desert wind. Our focus shifts to the pain and away from what can soothe the pain. But there is someone who can help us return from these perplexed states and find healing: God. We can mimic some of the words King David spoke in Psalm 25:16–18, asking for God to “turn” to us and “have mercy” on us because we are “desolate” and “afflicted” (v. 16). When the troubles of our hearts have grown, we can ask that He would see our afflictions and pain and then deliver us. And if we are in a state of grieving because of our sin, we can ask for His forgiveness (vv. 17–18). Calling out to Jesus is a good thing to do because He was acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3). He knows what we are going through.

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.2

~~~~~

Let Him care for your heavy heart. Let Him catch your tears. He knows your pain. He knows your name.

YOU are precious.

YOU matter to Him.

YOU are loved.


NOTES

1 See Isaiah 9:6.

2 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), pp. 64–6.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 17, 2022. Original article posted May 30, 2020.

Whatever the Day Holds

Fear is becoming chronic … and so is anxiety. Fear used to be occasional; now, it seems non-stop. Going about a normal day and a normal routine has become abnormal. We second guess whether we should take part in certain activities in certain locations because there could be risk involved. We shelter in place when there is no call to do so. We imprison ourselves because of the fear and the anxiety. 

Caution and prudence are wise, but living under the control of fear and anxiety is not. It is not good for our bodies. It is not good for our minds. And it is not good for our souls. It impacts every part of who we are. Instead of focusing on life and living, we are focusing on how to prevent death and dying. We see shadows everywhere and evil lurking in them. We move from being vibrant and healthy to shrunken and sick to death with worry. Our focus shifts from what is to “what if.” The trepidation has ramped up. The number of outings has gone down. Where is the balance? 

The balance is found by sheltering in God. If we turn our worry, fear, and anxiety over to God, He will replace them with His perfect peace. If we trust Him with our lives, we can also trust Him to hold us in death. As long as our souls are alive in Him, they will never die. We can step out then in preparedness, with peace, continuing to interact with others so they will know the love of God and eternal peace. 

He will give us the strength to face the day—whatever the day holds.


Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.

In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me?1


NOTES

1 Psalm 56:3–4 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 17, 2022

This Moment

Will we live to see another sunrise? What if we do? Will we live to see the sun at high noon? How about to see the sun set? We have no guarantees of this. Time is passing, but life is fleeting. In a moment, everything we know can change. In a moment, life can be gone. If you have seen the news lately, that fact is probably pretty evident to you. This is something we typically do not like to think about, however. We are prone to quickly brush the thoughts aside and move on to something else to distract us, to comfort us, to cheer us. But it is of utmost importance that we take this moment to think on these things. 

We need to prepare for “this moment,” the time when our moments will come to an end. What have we done with our lives? 

First and foremost, we need to think about whether we are ready for the eternity that will come after our final breath. Have we prepared ourselves to meet our Maker? We have two choices in this matter. We can choose His plan and spend all eternity with Him, or we can reject His plan and spend all eternity separated from Him. His plan is to love us forever, shown by the provision of His Son, Jesus, to provide salvation to all who will receive it. We have this moment to choose whether to receive it. 

After we have finished this moment of decision, the next thing to consider is how we will spend each moment until the time of eternity. As we move from moment to moment, time is passing; and every moment matters. We have the opportunity right now to make each moment count or not.

“Life is made up of moments, a whole compilation of them—moment after moment after moment. And suddenly, they have made a lifetime, and a life has been made, whether it is long or short. A personality has been formed, a character developed, a reputation established.

Although each moment is different, something happens within each one that is the same: life happens, and choices are made. Will we choose to love, forgive, serve, and heal; or will we choose to hate, grow embittered, act selfishly, and wound? Will we choose self, or will we choose God? Will we live each moment in the flesh, or will we live in the Spirit? Will we walk independently, or will we cling to His hand? This is the time to decide, in this moment—once it passes, it cannot be changed; and we do not know how many moments will comprise our lifetimes.

Moments are gone in an instant, and so, too, can be our testimonies, reputations, credibility, and opportunities. Life itself can be gone in a moment, before we have a chance to change, improve, or make amends. Don’t wait another moment. Turn your moments into a beautiful legacy.

Choose this moment for Jesus.

Choose this moment for love.

Choose this moment for life.

This is your moment.”1


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.2

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 3

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.4

[I]f you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.5

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.6


NOTES

1 Repost of a blog entitled “Moment by Moment,” ©Francee Strain, April 23, 2018

2 John 3:16

3 Romans 10:13

4 1 John 4:15

5 Romans 10:9

6 2 Corinthians 6:2b

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

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, June 9, 2022. The photo features an American robin at sunset.

Hearts That Don’t Quit

Why is this happening to me? This is not what I had planned for my life. This is not what I signed up for. And this is not where I thought I would be by now. There are castles crumbling all around me. Teardrops are falling relentlessly. There are cold hearts, cold glares, empty words, and unfulfilled promises. There’s brokenness everywhere I look. Brokenness in them … and brokenness in me. Yes, we are broken. And we are brokenhearted.

The brokenness comes because we possess broken hearts. We have stepped out of God’s perfect design and into lives marred by sin. We make, and others make, poor choices. Wrong choices. Hurtful choices. Selfish choices. And now, what can we do?

Oh, my heart is heavy, and it’s broken for the pain I’m seeing. I have cried and cried. I have also cried out to God. And, He has whispered to my heart to take heart and not give up, even in the midst of deep pain, even in the midst of such a broken and messed up world.

We’ve all seen it. A day can start out going in one direction, and within seconds, change to a completely different one. By evening, the landscape has changed, and sometimes it’s become completely unrecognizable. Death and destruction have come, despair and derailment are our new realities, and shattered hopes and dreams lie at our feet. In moments, our lives are forever changed. The despair can be overwhelming. The sense of hopelessness can be suffocating. The darkness closes in. And the pain is unrelenting. Our souls are anguished. They are crushed. They seem beyond repair.  And all we can do is ache. Sometimes, all we can do is curl up in a fetal position and sob. And sob. And sob. Our broken hearts spill out into our teardrops.

And in the midst of all this pain is the search for answers, for peace, for help, for hope. And what hope is there? Sometimes, there doesn’t seem to be any, and we just want to give up the fight. We become too tired to fight any more. And that’s just it. We’re tired because we are fighting. There is another Who can fight for us, with us, on our behalf. When our lives seem to have come to an end, we can grasp the source of Life: God Himself, the One who gives life, the One who is all-powerful. He’s there when we get to the end of our rope and our strength. When we need peace, we can obtain it from the Prince of Peace. When life no longer seems meaningful, He can fill it with His presence and the ability to press on to find the good. There is an eternal purpose for us to find and live throughout the remainder of our days. We never have to be alone, and we never have to just survive and try to make it through the day. Whatever looms over us, God can help us face it and keep moving forward.   

I’ve encountered so many people who are searching, so many who are suicidal, so many who are paralyzed by grief. Times are so difficult, more difficult than they’ve ever been. It’s so understandable why these thoughts and emotions come. Our hearts are slammed, crushed, torn. Everything we thought we knew and could depend on is no more. Our heads are spinning. Our hearts are racing. Our tears are falling. Our nights are sleepless. If you look deeply into eyes and hearts, it will break you. There has to be more. There is more. And all of us, we need to know this. 

Problems don’t magically disappear. Time does not reverse. So, we need to discover a solution and a way to move forward. That solution is God. God will listen to our cries. He will catch our tears. He will hold us in the palm of His hand … if we will let Him. A real and lasting peace is available to us. A comfort like none we have ever known is there for us. He is the ultimate source. He wants to carry us and guide us like a shepherd who lovingly cares for the sheep. He wants to provide a place of rest and meet our needs. He wants us to hear and know His voice. He is the Great Provider, the Great Healer, the Great Comforter. He is I AM.

Since before time began, a call went out to us. Even in the midst of a crowd, God has been seeking our hearts as individuals. God gave an invitation with each of us in mind. From the time that the foundation of the world was laid, Jesus prepared to die for us, for each soul that would ever live. His sacrifice was arranged before we were ever a thought—before a single soul had ever lived. He did this so that we might have eternal life. We have the opportunity to respond to that invitation. We’ve been offered a most amazing gift: eternal life. And until the time of eternity arrives, we’ve also been offered an invitation to move forward with His presence and His power in our lives and have life itself.1

If you are someone who is hurting, grieving, feeling alone right now, know that I see you, and you are loved. And know that God sees you and loves you. If you are someone who is suffering and shattered right now, know there is hope and healing. It’s available. We can cast all our cares on God, because He cares for us. We can seek Him and find Him when we search for Him with all our hearts. He is the sure foundation when the world shakes, the steady Rock where all else is shifting sand, the One who will hold us securely and never let us go. If we choose to become His child by putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we have the promise that He will never let us go. He is the God of the brokenhearted. Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted [a]nd binds up their wounds.”2

When desolate and dark times come, His light will still shine. When life is cold and bleak, the warmth and comfort of His presence will enfold us. When we feel lost and unsure of which way to go, He will hold our hands and guide our steps. His heart is for us, and He won’t quit. He went so far as to give His Son for our redemption. He has proven how much He loves us and wants to be with us for all time.

So, take heart, and let His love speak to your heart. His heart is for you.  

Take heart, and don’t quit.


NOTES

1 Adapted from Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 4.

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

Parts of this article are adapted from three other articles I wrote entitled “The God of the Brokenhearted,” “Take Heart,” and “Don’t Quit.”

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 25, 2022

Passing Time

This month marks the 20th anniversary of my family living in our current house. This realization brings with it a flood of memories and a flood of gratitude. The years seem to have passed by very quickly. Actually, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how quickly time is passing. This year contains many significant milestones and other events that are marking the time for my family. My parents have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. I will turn 50 years old later this year. I’ve been married for 30 years. My oldest child is almost a quarter of a century old. This year is the fifth anniversary of my book’s publication. My youngest child got married and made me a mother-in-law six months ago. I began a podcast two months ago. And a month has passed since we celebrated Easter. This got me to thinking about how we view the passing of time. Once the days are gone, it seems we put most of them out of mind—unless they are milestone days—but even those get buried in the forward motion and busyness of life. I wonder how many of us have already put out of mind the significance of Easter: the pain of the sacrifice, the depth of the love, the power of the Resurrection, the salvation made available, and everything to which these events point. But although we may have moved beyond thinking about that event, what took place that day is significant for every day of the year. As a matter of fact, it is the most significant thing for our lives and eternity. 

On Easter Sunday, people are known to say, “He is risen!” Some will even respond to this declaration with the phrase, “He is risen indeed!”1 Have you ever said these words? To whom have you spoken them? Is this a common practice in your family and church? Or are these possibly new phrases to you? What thoughts and feelings arise when you say these words? What are the ramifications of these words?

Have you ever heard of 1 Corinthians 15 being called “The Resurrection Chapter”? Read 1 Corinthians 15:1–8 and list the names of those who were able to utter the words that Jesus was risen indeed. These people saw Jesus with their own eyes. There was living proof right in front of them that He was risen from the dead.

This knowledge brought hope and joy to the world almost 2,000 years ago, and the resurrection of Jesus still brings hope and joy to our world today. And we sure do need it these days. Heartbreaking things are happening. People are in dire circumstances and desperate situations. Perhaps you are yourself. Hearts are full of questions, and fear, and anxiety. Hope is wearing thin, dwindling away, and for some people is already gone.

Was any of this happening when Jesus walked the earth? Yes. The circumstances were different, but the hearts of people are the same through all time. And so is Jesus. Jesus cared for people back then, and He cares for us today. He never changes. His heart is filled with compassion and a longing to help us through this life. He can bring hope into the darkest of times. We do not need to get to the end of the tunnel to see the light; we can see it now. He is the Light of the world.

In our times of difficulty and darkness, we only need look up and cry out. He will come to our aid. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us today through the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus left here to help us while He returned to heaven to prepare a place for those who would believe.

God is still on the move, and the return of Jesus is moving ever closer. Time is passing quickly, and we need to be ready. We are living in “post-Easter” days. We are living in “pre-Second Coming” days. Someday soon, we will be seeing Jesus face-to-face. Look up, you who believe in Jesus Christ, the Risen Savior, for your redemption draws nigh! The tomb is empty, and one day the sky is going to be full—full with the glory of God, as Jesus returns for His own.2

And if you are someone who does not know Him yet, the fact that you still live and breathe gives you an opportunity to know Him. Please, don’t let another moment of time pass you by. The God of the universe loves you, and He wants to have a relationship with you. He sent His Son, Jesus, to remove the barrier of sin that keeps people separated from Him. Jesus died on the cross to atone for that sin, and He offers forgiveness to all who will ask Him for it. Simply believe in who He is and what He has done for you, acknowledge your need for Him, ask for His forgiveness, ask Him to save you, and you will become a child of God. You will be saved from eternal separation from Him and will be welcomed into heaven. “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.” 3, 4


NOTES

1 See Matthew 28:6 and Luke 24:34.

2 Paragraphs two through six are taken from an April 12, 2020 article I wrote entitled “He Is Risen! He Is Risen, Indeed!”.

3 John 3:16 is taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

4 Feel free to send me a message via my contact page to let me know your decision or to ask questions.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 22, 2022

Faithful Faith

What does your faith look like?  Do you have any?  And if so, where have you placed it?  In yourself?  In financial security?  The government?  Good deeds?  Church attendance?  False gods?  Grandma’s faith?  Ephesians 2:4–9 says we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is not anything we produce ourselves or achieve by doing good works.  It is a gift of God.  Faith comes through the grace of Jesus Christ.  He is the author and finisher of faith.1

Once we have placed our faith in Him, how do we then use that faith in our lives?  Is it fiercely focused, distracted by deterrents, hanging on by a thread, or put up on the shelf?  Faith is made for a day-by-day, moment-by-moment experience.  It keeps our eyes looking forward in hope and our hearts reaching forward to God. 

When we are distracted, we are chasing our own desires, fretting about world events, seeking after beauty and longevity, and trying to gain fame and fortune.  We are looking for bigger and better, more and more, greener grass, and no suffering.  We become selfish and insatiable, and we become misdirected and apathetic about true faith.

On the other hand, when our faith is focused, it is a faithful faith.  This kind of faith withstands the test of time, the stormy gales, the fires and floods.  It says God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  It is calm and collected, peaceful and patient, tried and true, strong and sure, ready and real. Even though it is battle-scarred, it is beautiful.  It is built with grit.  It is not overwhelmed or overflown.  It is not downtrodden or despairing.  It is not helpless or hopeless.  It presses on when it is pressed down. It rises up when it is laid low.  It pushes forward while being pulled back.  With faithful faith, we are more than conquerors.  God’s grace is sufficient.  He gives peace that passes understanding. He loves His own with an everlasting love. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  Faithful faith is unshakable, persevering, enduring, stalwart, steadfast, and vested.

Faithful faith is not like deterred faith that is snatched away by lies, choked by cares, deceived, temporary, and based on favorable circumstances.  Faithful faith is not a fair-weather friend.  It sticks it out through the difficulties, the ugly times, the dark nights, and the cold winters.  Faithful faith is tried in the furnace and found genuine.

This sounds like being perfect, doesn’t it?  Well, none of us are perfect.  So, what then?  What if we have failed?  What if we have set our faith aside?  What if we have disowned it?  We have plenty of examples to look at of people who have done this and what the outcomes were.  The apostle Peter claimed he would always be faithful to Christ, yet, he messed up—big time.  He denied Christ.  But then, he came back; and then, he went forward.  David failed, multiple times. Then he repented, received forgiveness, and moved forward.  The apostle Paul said he struggled with his flesh fighting against the Spirit, but he continued to press on, day after day, year after year.  He moved forward.  Yes, faithful faith moves forward after failure, moves forward in the face of fear.  It moves forward forgiven and hoping for the future.

Faithful faith comes when Christ is put first.  He is given preeminence, and all eyes turn to Him.  Faithful faith worships through war, blesses through battle, remains courageous in calamity and chaos, perseveres, trusts, and hopes—because God is love, and He is loved.

So, hold on, my friends, no matter how dark the night, for joy comes in the morning.  The day will dawn when we will see the Bright and Morning Star.  Let’s be faithfully faithful to the One who is the author and finisher of our faith.  Let’s turn our eyes to Him, turn our hearts to prayer, and turn our feet to godliness. Let’s determine that life will be lived in Christ alone.  Our God will hear us, and His presence will be with us.  We can keep believing, trusting, and moving forward.  Yes, our faithful faith can keep us moving forward.  Even though it may have gone through a start-and-stop cycle, it continues the journey.  The road to faithfulness never ends.  This God is our God forever and ever, and He will be our guide until death.2  Let’s set our hearts toward Him and determine to finish the race and keep the faith.  The past is past, and we cannot change it, but we can move on forward through this day and into tomorrow.

Scary and shaky times will come.  How will we respond?  We can choose to go in the strength of the Lord God.  Our spirits can be willing although our flesh is weak.  He can help our unbelief. Moving forward is how faith works.  Understanding the definition that faith is the evidence of things not seen means we have to move forward without knowing.3  But, that doesn’t matter, because we know Him, the God of the universe, the One with all power and all knowledge.  We can trust Him.  We can keep being faithful because He is always faithful.  His faithfulness is great, and His mercies are new every morning.4  We can keep moving forward after mistakes, times of doubt, and unbelief.  There is no need for us to be distracted and turn aside after vain human things which cannot satisfy us or deliver us.  His mercy is available, and we can come boldly to His throne of grace for help.5

So, when the questions come, fear rises, emotions erupt, and our hearts break, may we entrust ourselves to God’s hand and God’s plan.  Let’s not harden our hearts, turn our backs, set faith aside, or call it quits.  And let’s not put our faith into storage until the next crisis comes along, but instead, access it day by day.  Let’s allow the author and finisher of our faith to grow our faith and bring it to completion.

We can consider the great things He has done in the past and look to the future with the faith that will help us live now.  David faced Goliath and won.  Moses faced the Red Sea and crossed it on dry ground. Joshua faced the walls of Jericho, and they fell.  Jesus faced death on the cross and triumphed over it.  All of these situations looked insurmountable, but each person set his face to God, chose to do His will, and moved forward with faithful faith.  And God was faithful to bring the victory.


NOTES

1 See Hebrews 12:2.

2 See Psalm 48:14.

3 See Hebrews 11:1.

4 See Lamentations 3:23.

5 See Hebrews 4:16.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 15, 2022

There in the Midst

I was the new kid on the block, except that I was already an adult and was about to turn twenty-one years old.  I went from being a military daughter to being a military wife.  I arrived in a new state fifteen months after newly arriving in the previous one.  Friendships are difficult to develop while one gallivants around the country.  Yet, in this newest place, something extraordinary happened—within two months, I was invited over to someone’s apartment for lunch.  A young mother of three extended an invitation to me.  And this is how the story of her investment in my life began.

I had been married only eighteen months and did not have any children.  I came from a different world than this woman did, and even though we were now in the same world, I did not live like she lived.  Our family backgrounds were different, our ages were different, our current family situations were different, our careers were different.  Whatever could we have in common?  Jesus.  That is what we had in common.  A passion and love for Christ dwelled in each of our hearts, and something magnificent happened when we came together in friendship—He was there in our midst.  We moved from being friends to being sisters.

The investment turned from sandwiches and tea to fervent prayers and tears.  Tears of joy and tears of sorrow flowed down our faces as we allowed one another to truly see what others had never seen.  My friend gave her time, energy, listening ears, and shoulders to cry on.  She encouraged me, comforted me, consoled me, and gave me a talking to when I needed it.  She saw me at my best, and she saw me at my worst.

Almost 29 years have passed, and this woman has helped mold me into who I am today.  She did not do this of her own power but through the power of Christ moving within her and working through her words and deeds.  At the times I could barely lift up my head, she lifted it for me.  At the times I could barely place one foot in front of the other, she cheered me on.  When all I could do was lay in my bed with messy hair and pajamas for my daytime wardrobe, she sat at my bedside while the casserole she had brought cooled on the counter.  In my pits of despair, God moved her spirit to touch mine.

Agony in life, marriage, health, parenting, career, grieving, disappointment, and rejection all found her at my side.  She was there by phone, by text, by greeting card, and by physical presence, pouring into my woundedness the very things God knew that I needed.  Elation in life, marriage, parenting, career, and other arenas found me running to the phone to share the mountaintop experiences with her.  She rejoiced with me when I rejoiced, and she wept with me when I wept.

How many hours of herself has she given for me?  Countless hours I am sure I will never know about— countless hours spent in prayer—and yet, these ones count as much as the obvious ones.  In my heart, I know that at all of these moments I was loved with the love of Christ.  Through her life, I see God’s unconditional love, faithfulness, gentleness, kindness, patience, and determination to help me succeed in the things for which He has purposed my life.  When she invests in me, she invests in God’s kingdom.  She spurs me on to love and good deeds and reminds me of who I am and what I am here for.  She is the one who invested, but I am the one who found the treasure. 


A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.1


NOTES

1 Proverbs 17:17 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 13, 2022.  This is a revised and updated version of an article I wrote in December 2017. 

The mug pictured in the photo was gifted to me by this friend.

A Season to Bloom

It is our season to bloom.  Not because it is spring, and not because the flowers are blooming, but because we are to bloom in every season of life for our entire lives.  We do not know how long our season will be.  We do not know the number of our days.  But we can know the things to do to cause life to bloom or wither.  We can grow up into Christ and shine forth, or we can shrink back and shrivel.  We can showcase the beauty God has instilled in us, or we can hide it from the world.

Life is not a perfect garden.  Things are often difficult and thorny, the ground dry and rocky; yet, we can let our roots go deep.  We can hold on to Him through the storms, the howling wind, the driving rain, the pounding hail, and the periods of drought.  We can keep pressing on until the harvest.  And when that time comes, we will have produced fruit.  We can be representative of how to survive and thrive, if we abide in the Vine.1  We can bloom when and where we are planted through the strength and the power of God. We can then show the beauty of the finished product and what the world has been needing.   

God has us here for this moment.  And even in difficult times, we can have peace and share peace because Jesus gives peace.  And when it is all said and done, He can bring a glorious harvest from our lives.  So, bloom where you are planted, whether it is in the aisle of a grocery store or the waiting room of a clinic, the deck of a cruise ship or the sand of a beach, the street corner of a bustling city or the counter of a country café; and do it whether you are there for hours, days, weeks, or years.  Every moment of life, every location, is an opportunity to bloom with beauty and spread the fragrance of Christ.2

He has an ultimate purpose for our lives, and every day and every decision moves us either toward that purpose or away from it.  What about when it’s difficult, when we are tired, upset, and everything is going wrong?  Yes, even then.  At all times, and everywhere we go, we are to represent Him.  He is worthy of our praise, at all times and in all circumstances.  So, when the ground is rocky, grow.  When the land is parched, flourish.  When the sun doesn’t shine, reflect His Light.  When this isn’t what you signed up for, complete the mission.  When no one is kind or loving, you be the one to rise to the occasion.  Are we perfect?  Not even close.  But we can always strive to do our best.  He gave His life for us.  Can we, with gratitude, give ours in return?  Can we make His name known, shine His light, show His love, and bring Him glory?  Yes.  Every season is a season to bloom.   


NOTES

1 See John 15:1–8.

2 See 2 Corinthians 2:1417.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 1, 2022

Powerful

(This article is also available as a podcast episode.  Please visit the podcast page on my website at https://franceestrain.com or visit “Eternal Purpose Podcast” on Spotify or Anchor to listen.)

A life lived for God is a life full of power, but sometimes that power goes untapped.  There is power in His name and power when He acts, but sometimes we ignore His name, and we ignore His acts, so we miss His power.  I want to spell the word powerful with two L’s because that is what He is.  There is more impact.  He is full of power and operates with full power. 

How do we get access to this power?  God Himself is powerful, and for those who have placed their faith in Jesus’ atonement for salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in them.  And the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in them.  There is resurrection power available to our dead souls and our “dead” lives.  And we have 24-hour access to this power.  We’re not limited to one hour a week while we attend church or perhaps another hour when we’re at a prayer meeting or a Bible study class.  No, the power does not come from our schedules, our words, our location, our making a formula for it, our having good behavior, or anything else for that matter.  The power comes from God Himself, from Him and His authority, from His omnipotent character.  He is the King of the universe, and He’s at our right hands when our lives belong to Him.  His presence will be with us.  He will hold our hands and lead us and guide us.  He will also hold us in His capable and mighty hands and shelter us with them.  He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High dwells under the shadow of the Almighty.1

So, when we approach God in prayer, we are inviting Him to act.  When we pray and ask, we invoke His power.  We access His strength.  We receive His help.  We are no longer alone, and our strength is no longer human strength; it is now supernatural.  He has all wisdom, power, and authority.  He is mighty to save.  We fight the right way when we fight on our knees, asking for Him to be involved in our lives.

But sometimes, we forget this truth.  How many times have we realized that He could have intervened long ago before things got to be such a mess, if only we had talked to Him about it?

Sometimes, it feels like I’m standing in the middle of a field with gusts of wind trying to blow me down.  There’s no shelter, no cover, no stoppage of the relenting and howling force.  Other times, I feel like a tree in the rainforest being perpetually drowned with overwhelming and regular downpours.  Sometimes, I feel like a beach with wave after wave crashing upon me, and breaking over me, and grinding me into sand.  But then, I remember.  I remember, and the power comes.  I set my mind on Him: the One who commands the storms and calms them, the One who commands life to return and death to flee, the One who commands the supernatural and brings miracles out of the impossible, the One who commands creation to exist and keeps it in perfect order.  I remember my feet are planted on the rock, the solid rock, the sure foundation.  I am not on shifting sand.  I remember who hears my prayers.  I remember who gives me the breath of life.  Yes, I remember the One who holds my very life in His hands. 

Yes, the situations may be beyond our control, but they are not beyond His.  God is still in control.  We may be a diligent worker whose work unravels before our eyes through no fault of our own.  We may experience the death of a loved one that seems to steal our very life and reason for living.  We may experience damage in our physical lives that cannot be undone.  We may have health issues that can’t be resolved.  We may be financially savvy yet take one financial hit after another.  But remember, we are not helpless; we are not hopeless; we are not abandoned; and we are not alone.  God never leaves us.  And because of that fact, that means the power never leaves us either.  Grief doesn’t have to shroud us.  Despair doesn’t have to imprison us.  Unchangeable circumstances don’t have to define us.  We are His.  We are heard, seen, known, loved, and helped.  Peace, be still.  God has an eternal purpose for us.  We can keep moving forward through the storms, through the fires, through the floods, through the pain.  Nothing can thwart His plan. 

We can move from hopeless to hopeful, from wandering aimlessly to having each step guided, from having a mind filled with worry to one filled with wonder.  Yes, when we look upon His power, we will be in awe—in awe of who He is, of what He does, and how He loves us.  His grace is sufficient for us, and His power shines in the midst of our weaknesses.  Apart from Him, we can do nothing, but when we abide in Him, we live attached to the ultimate power source.

King David could leap over walls; Joshua shouted and walls fell; Moses walked between two walls of a sea, parted for his safe passage.  We, too, can face the impenetrable walls in front of us because no one can close the doors God opens.  He will make a way for us to press on.  We can have the courage to go, to do, to say, and to be.  We can be bold, unafraid, fearless.  He is our Helper.  We can enter the promised land when we follow His leading.  We can enter into the things He has for us.  Nothing is impossible with Him.  Tragedies can be turned into triumphs.  One stone made the giant fall.  One week of obedience and one shout made the walls of Jericho fall.  One death on the cross made death fall.  Jesus overcame victoriously, and He lives to intercede for us.  He has resurrection power.  Believe.  Pray.  Ask.

We can press on with hope and purpose.  We can press on with power, the power of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the faithful God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.  We get to choose this day whom we will serve.2  And this is whom I have chosen. 

His is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.


For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.3


NOTES

1 See Psalm 91:10.

2 See Joshua 24:15.

3 Ephesians 3:14–21 is taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

There are many Bible passages that discuss God’s power.  Here are a few others I accessed for this article: Joshua 1:9, 2 Samuel 22, and Psalm 89:13.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 22, 2022