Power Up

“I’m weary, I’m exhausted, I’m beat, I’m so tired, I’m worn out.”  These are phrases I keep hearing— from the mouths of others and even from my own mouth.  We are run ragged by the demands of society, the demands of our schedules, the demands of others, and the demands of our own self-expectations.  We hustle and bustle, expending every ounce of energy we have, and then we go looking for more to finish the job.  Caffeine and chocolate and exercise and power foods become our aids.  We try to boost our energy and keep our eyes open wide.  But somewhere, something is going to give.  We can only keep up such a pace for such a time before it all comes tumbling down.  Soon we will be running on empty, and then crawling on fumes, and then there will be no motion at all. 

Why do we do this to ourselves?  This is not how God designed things to be.  He gives rest, strength, power, and peace, yet, we seem to want to live independently in a frenzy.  He is right there, available and willing to assist us, and yet, we try to get through life on our own and in our own strength.  His ways are higher than our ways, yet we choose the low road, the long road, the hard road.  Our independence and our human solutions make life heavier and more difficult. But there is a better way: His way. 

“We can combat weariness by thinking about these facts: God is our strength, God is our power, and God makes our way perfect (see 2 Sam. 22:33). I can relate these words to my own life because I am not my strength and power, nor do I make my way perfect; I do quite the opposite: I often make my way messy, very messy. Thankfully, the Lord gives strength and peace to His people (see Ps. 29:11). We will find rest when we fill our minds with Him rather than with obsessive thoughts of fear, failure, and worry. And if we are willing to take the time to lay our burdens upon His shoulders and be taught a be­tter way, we will be refreshed, renewed, revitalized, and educated about how to do things in His strength rather than ours. At times, we may be rescued entirely and have the burdens completely taken away; other times, the burdens remain, but He is there to help us carry them. No ma­tter how long, how far, and how difficult our journeys are, God will help us complete them, and not just complete them, but excel at doing so. He will strengthen our spirits with His supernatural power so that we can meet the challenges of life.”1

There are so many things in life that can render us powerless, but His power is always available to us. Whether we are weighed down in our physical bodies, in our hearts, in our minds, or in our spirits, He can give help that is beyond our understanding. We are not left to flounder on our own in hopelessly powerless positions; He is right there by our sides, and He knows exactly how to aid us and handle the circumstances we are in.  When troubles come, He will guide our paths, direct our steps, hold our hands, and guard our hearts.  Even when things look impossible, and it seems we cannot take another step, He is still the omnipotent God. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to those who believe in Him.2   We can be “strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power.”3


I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.4


NOTES

1 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 47.

2 See Ephesians 1:19–20.

3 See Colossians 1:11.

4 Psalm 121:1–2

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 26, 2021

Many Sparrows

A little sparrow awakens each day and does what it was created to do.  It happily hops along, singing and eating insects.  It does this in lush lawns, in parched medians, beneath cars in parking lots, and even beside highways, with vehicle tires inches from its little body.  It takes no thought for the circumstances surrounding it.  Its focus is on doing what God created it to do.

Have you ever taken the time to observe these magnificent little creatures?  They are so common and non-flashy in appearance that we might easily take them for granted, but I find observing them to be fascinating.  Their little sounds are heartwarming.  Their little antics are adorable.  And once, I even saw a parent feeding its offspring beneath a car tire, picking up little bugs from the steaming asphalt and hopping them over to a baby’s wide-open beak.  Sparrows fill the landscape with their flocks, swooping around, landing on sidewalks, branches, rooftops, fences, and power lines.  I find their presence comforting when I think on the words of the Bible which say that God knows when each sparrow falls to the ground, and each of us is of more value than many sparrows combined.1

I was recently within the flock of my extended family.  We ranged in age from two months to seventy-one years.  The room was full of chatter and laughter as we flitted about, happily connecting with one person after another.  But within that flock were twenty-six individuals, all with unique personalities, needs, gifts, and pains.  God knew our family unit, but He also knew each one of us individually.  

God created each of us, and He loves us. He thinks about us.  He sees us.  What we go through is known by Him.  When we fall, He knows.  When we sing, He hears.  He is very aware of us and watches for us to spread our wings or seek shelter beneath His. But do we allow God to care for us as He cares for the birds?  Do we let Him into our lives?  Do we glorify Him with the talents He bestowed upon us?  Are we doing what He created us to do?  Are we functioning within our circumstances the way He designed us to even if the circumstances are not ideal?

How often do we not walk in our giftings?  How often are we held back by ourselves and the fears of our own minds, by others who disallow us, by others who discourage us, by the enemy of our souls?  Feelings of doubt, worthlessness, and other negative things can cloud our thoughts.  But if we listen to truth and look up to the One who thinks we are of more value than many sparrows, we can fly.  Our hearts can soar even if circumstances don’t change.  We can be settled in our spirits, fully confident in the truth.  We can trust that He will never leave us, that He will work all things for our good, and that He will complete the work He begins in us.2

We can come under the cover of His wings where He will shelter us near to His heart.  We can wait upon God and let our expectation be from Him.  He is our rock of strength and our salvation.  He is our defense, our refuge, and our stay.  Power belongs to Him, and we can trust in Him at all times.3 He will help us and carry us through all the difficulties of life.  We do not have to fear what roars right beside us, what could crush us in an instant, because we serve the living God who is above all and has all power and authority.

Negative circumstances cannot detract from the greatness of His plans for us.  Temporary trials and storms do not alter His greater, eternal plan.  Thus, even when treacherous times come, it is possible for us to sing.  We can glorify Him from the midst of the fires or the midst of the sea.  Whatever He does will be forever; nothing can be added to it, and nothing can be taken away.4


“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”5


NOTES

1 See Matthew 10:29 and Luke 12:6–7.

2 See Hebrews 13:5, Romans 8:28, and Philippians 1:6.

3 See Psalm 62:5–8, 11.

4 See Ecclesiastes 3:14.

5 Luke 12:6–7

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 19, 2021

Comfort Zone

I’ve cried so many tears this month they have likely comprised a measurable amount. There is so much pain and sorrow in my life, my family’s life, my friends’ lives, and the world around us.  I find I am in a zone where I need some comfort.

What do we consider to be comforting within our zones?  Our homes?  Being surrounded by family?  Having a cuddly blanket?  Experiencing some peace and quiet?  Eating chocolate?  These might be our default settings for times of difficulty, but what about the comfort zones we erect during days that are not filled with grief—a comfy couch, our favorite shows, a good book, good friends, our hobbies?  Whatever the comforts are, and in whatever seasons of life we seek them, there is a commonality—they are mostly all about ourselves.  But God did not design us to remain focused on ourselves. We are supposed to live to bring Him glory through our love and service to Him and others. 

It can be a scary prospect, or an inconvenient one, to step outside our comfort zones, but the truth of the matter is, life is not designed to be stationary.  We are to move forward in the purpose for which God created us.1  We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.2 And in order to do that, we have to enter their zones.  We have to be aware of others and be involved with them.  

There are an untold number of people who need us to enter their zones and bring them comfort.  How do we accomplish this? If we know the God of all comfort, then we are capable of bringing comfort to others.  He will comfort us in all our difficult times, and later, we will be able to use that to comfort others.  God can bring comfort to our minds, knowing we will spend eternity with Him after these difficult days are over.  He can bring comfort to our hearts, knowing He is sovereign.  In the midst of the bewilderment and grief, the comfort of His presence can be known, but how many people remain unaware of this fact?  Unless we move out of our comfort zones, they may never know.

We have the good news of the gospel, and people could really use some good news right now.  But in order to deliver the news, we need to shift the focus from ourselves onto others.  In order to love God and love others, we have to take action.  We have to move past ourselves, let go of our selfishness, forego our self-interest, shift our self-focus, and surrender our self-preservation. Our purpose here is not to “get all we can and can all we get,” making ourselves rich, pretty, and famous.  God placed us here to serve Him and serve others.  Our treasures are not to be in earthly things but in things of eternal purpose.

At times, we will need to linger in our comfort zones while God is ministering to our hurts and our needs, equipping and preparing us for what’s next, but then comes the time to step out, to cross the line and enter the zones of others—showing them the way of hope and peace, showing them Christ, showing them the God of all comfort.


Let all that you do be done with love. 3

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.  For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 4

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.5


NOTES

1 See Philippians 3:12.  

2 See Romans 12:15.

3 1 Corinthians 16:14

4 2 Corinthians 2:14–15

5 2 Corinthians 1:3–4

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 29, 2021

Stand on the Sea

The world seems to be a raging sea in a relentless storm.  There are storms of war, famine, disease, natural disaster, political difference, family brokenness, and more, and the waves are threatening to overtake us.  What do we do in times like these?  Where do we look for help and hope?  Where do we look for peace?  How do we withstand the storms?

We need to make sure our foundation is firm—this is what will enable us to stand on the sea as if it is solid rather than raging.  If we are planted firmly on Christ as our foundation, then we are planted firmly upon the Rock.  Though the rains come, and the winds blow, He will not be defeated, and we will not fall.  The storms may not dissipate, but our fear and anxiety can, if we keep our eyes fixed ahead on the One stretching out His hand to us, urging us to trust Him, offering us His peace.

Just before Jesus was crucified, He spoke these words to His followers: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Jesus conquered sin and death, and He makes His power available in our lives.  Yes, we live in a broken, fallen world, but He can lift us up and bring us healing.  He can bring a great calm to us in the midst of the storms.

We can scale the highest height, descend into the deepest deep, and traverse the darkest night because there is nowhere we can go where He is not.2  He whispers peace to our anguished hearts and weary souls.  He whispers peace to our racing minds and trembling bodies. 

Peace, be still. 

Peace, with Him. 

Be with Him. 

Peace, be still, with Him.


Stand on the Sea

You can stand on the sea, with eyes kept on Me;
I am with you in the midst of the storm. 
Look up, don't look down.
I'll never let you drown; 
I am with you in the midst of the storm.


Fears will rise.
Child, lift your eyes; 
Look at me in the midst of the storm. 
Courageous and strong, 
With me you belong; 
Look at me in the midst of the storm.


Cares pile heavy, high, and wide.  
Child, it is I who's by your side, 
Who holds you in the midst of the storm. 
Winds will rage both day and night, 
And you'll feel too weak to fight;
But I am with you in the midst of the storm.


Stand on the sea, child. 
Look at me, child, 
In the midst of the storm, in the midst of the sea. 
You can endure.  You can stand. 
And you’re safe.  Hold my hand.
In the middle of the storm, my child, stand on the sea.3 

NOTES

1 John 16:33 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

2 See Psalm 139:7–12 and Romans 8:35–39.

3 “Stand on the Sea,” Francee Strain, ©2021.  These are some words of peace He spoke to my heart.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 21, 2021

Another Sunrise

Am I going to live to see another sunrise?  Covid caused me to ask that question.  I am currently on day sixteen of symptoms.  There have been several times over the past two weeks where I could not breathe or could not breathe well.  Interesting thoughts occur at a time like this.  Fear tries to take up residence in the heart and mind.  But I decided I was having none of that because my life is held in the hands of Almighty God.  He will determine the number of my breaths, and I do not have to fear since my heart belongs to Him.  I entrust my life to Him—at this time and at all times. 


For if I live, I live to the Lord; and if I die, I die to the Lord.

Therefore, whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s.1


Book Excerpt:

I have heard this statement many times: “Life is what you make it.” This is a futile human a­ttempt to make life look pre­tty. The underlying principle is that there is something that can be done about the lives we live. But sometimes, we just cannot change our lives no ma­tter how much we try. What we can do is ask God to change them and change our perspectives of them. When we look at things through God’s eyes, with an eternal perspective, our views will surely change. We will no longer be blinded by what the enemy puts in front of us to keep us from seeing what God wants us to see. For example, Satan does not want us to see our blessings. He does not want us to praise God or serve God but instead wants us to turn our backs on Him in bi­tterness and anger. Satan also wants us to be so inwardly-focused that we do not help others in the name of Christ. But God wants us to see the blessings that He has made available for our lives and wants us to use them to bless others in turn. So, this is what we are presented with: two perspectives. Satan can blind us from what truly ma­tters, and God can open our eyes to what truly ma­tters. Whose vision are we going to trust?

Regardless of the states of our circumstances, it is here that we can seek out God’s joy, peace, and strength—even when we struggle, even when there is loss, even when we are overwhelmed. No ma­tter what happens and no ma­tter the trials and sorrows that we find ourselves involved in, our minds can be at ease and our hearts can be at rest. Even when we are rendered nearly helpless, we are never truly helpless, because we have the Helper. We can rest contentedly, knowing that we rest in His hands. We have cause to give thanks.

In addition to health issues, I deal with the normal things of life that everyone else does: financial issues, vehicle breakdowns, runaway dogs, complicated family relationships, the loss of loved ones, etc. There are also undesirable realities of life that I have to face. Things have not gone as I had planned. Things have not turned out the way I had envisioned. People have not treated me as I had hoped. There have been devastations and limitations. Essentially, my dreams are gone. I have been in the depths of despair—hurting, suffering, lonely, broken, disappointed, frustrated, angry, and dissatisfied. Yes, I have been all of these things and more. But even as much as I am limited in my life, I have cause to give thanks. God’s dreams for my life are so much be­tter, and they are in the process of unfolding.

Over the years, I have had a perspective adjustment. I have come to the conclusion that if this is the road that God desires for me to walk—because through me He is achieving a great and eternal purpose—then I most definitely want to walk it, and walk it with gratitude. I have experiences, circumstances, and even a physical body that I never signed up for, but despite all this, I have a boundless treasure because I have God as my Father, Jesus Christ as my Savior, and the Holy Spirit as my Helper. God Almighty is on my side! And if He is for me, then absolutely no one can be against me!2

I have cause to give much thanks as I watch another sunrise.


NOTES

1Based on Romans 14:8

2 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 199–200.

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, August 14, 2021

Celebrating Four Years

Hello to all of my readers!

I want to share some exciting news with you: it is the fourth anniversary of the publication of my book and writing for my website. I invite you to celebrate with me and participate in some special activities. I am conducting an online Open House throughout the month of August on my Facebook author page (found under my name, Francee Strain) and will be posting the activities there.

I look forward to your participation and the opportunity to connect with you through comments, questions, and suggestions. I will be posting trivia questions, a readership map, reader photos, event photos, book reviews, endorsements, excerpts, reader testimonies, and more.

Thanks for reading and giving your support,

Francee

On My Side

IMG_5193 (3)

God is for me, not against me.

It seems I have heard that phrase frequently as of late. As a matter of fact, I encountered the phrase three times in two days. I believe God wanted to draw my attention to this fact, to examine the reality of this statement and remind me of its truth. What was my conclusion in thinking about this phrase for a while? I concluded without a doubt that He is on my side. Why would I draw such a conclusion? Because the proof is there—the foremost being the proof in His side, where He was pierced after being crucified for my sins—and I trust in His goodness.

It seems so many people are questioning God and whether He is truly on their side. Many blame Him when bad things happen, even when the consequences result from their own choices. He gets blamed when people don’t get their own ways, when things don’t turn out like they want them to or think they should. He gets blamed when life is unfair, when there’s loss, when things are hard, and when He allows tests and trials. He gets blamed for sin and the choices resulting from free will. That is a lot of blame, and it covers everything from A to Z. But the reality is, we live in a broken world with broken people. We also have enemies of our souls—Satan and ourselves. What do we do about the brokenness? How do we see and find the good? How do we get the help of almighty God on our side, to push through these things and make it to the other side? We take a step and move to His side.

God draws near to us when we draw near to Him. And actually, He already stepped near to us about 2000 years ago. He came to our side when Jesus was born and then gave His life for us on the cross. Jesus, God’s own son, stood in the gap between sin and holiness and provided us with a rescue, a way of escape from ever having to be apart from His side. When we choose to do life with Him and for Him, He will never leave us nor forsake us. Choosing to stand on God’s side by choosing His son as our Savior will keep us from ever being plucked from His hand. We will never again walk alone. He will walk beside us as a traveling companion in this life. He will be our provider, source of strength, listening ear, supporter, and encourager. And when this life ends, we will forever be in His presence.

So, before that final day, we all have a choice to make. Will we choose to have God at our sides? As for me, I choose Him. I can confidently say, “God is for me, not against me; He is on my side.” He is always watching over me, and thus, I can walk in peace, knowing all things are working for my good. I need not be anxious about anything, because regardless of the situation, I can still commune with Him and be blessed. I can rest in the knowledge that His will, not mine, is being done. Worry is unnecessary because He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Even when all the world is crumbling or is against me–when the enemy surrounds me, when I falter and fail, when everyone forsakes me–He will keep His promise to never leave me nor forsake me. He will be at my right hand, and I will not be moved. He will fight for me, and I will hold my peace. He will be an ever-present help in time of need.

Yes, I choose to move to God’s side, and thus, have Him on my side.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 24, 2019. Reposted August 8, 2021.

Looking Forward

What are you looking forward to in life?  A celebration?  A promotion?  A reunion?  Rest?

I am looking forward to all of the above.  I have set my gaze forward, and I await the day when I will be promoted from this earthly life to my heavenly one, my labors finished, celebrating my reunion with the Savior of my soul for all eternity. 

Before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that He would see them again and their hearts would rejoice.1  He also told them He was going to prepare a place for those who would believe in Him and that someday He would return to take them there to be with Him.2  But what would they do while they awaited His return?  What will we do?  I am looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.3

With the eyes of faith, I have seen Him for the first time, and when He returns, I will see Him again, face to face, and my heart will rejoice.  Until that day, my eyes need to continue looking forward to the eternal, undistracted from the cares of this world and the sin which so easily besets me.  He has given me an eternal purpose, and for this reason, I press on toward the goal.

Will you join me in looking forward?

“Since before time began, a call went out to you. Even in the midst of a crowd, God has been seeking your heart as an individual. An invitation was developed with you in mind. From the time that the foundation of the world was laid, Jesus prepared to die for you and for each soul that would ever live. His sacrifice was arranged before you were ever a thought—before a single soul had ever lived. He did this so that you might have eternal life. Have you responded to His invitation?

This call has gone out directly to you. It does not involve living vicariously through someone else; it involves you living directly. The rewards of answering this invitation are beyond anything you could ever imagine. God is offering you a most amazing prize: the gift of eternal life. This gift was given in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “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” (John 3:16 NKJV).”4

If we come forward to receive this gift, we can look forward to eternal life. 


NOTES

1 See John 16:22

2 See John 14:1–6

3 See Hebrews 12:1–2

4 Book excerpt taken from Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 4.  Scripture quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

For related reading, see my blog article entitled “Eyes Forward.”

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 1, 2021

The Cares of This World

Sometimes, the cares of this world are just too much—too much to think about, too much to handle, too much to bear.  Their heaviness can weigh on our hearts and minds until our spirits are downcast and we can barely lift our heads. 

I found myself this week sighing in my spirit.  The grief was palpable.  I was distracted from my tasks of the day as my mind started listing the burdens one by one—mine, his, hers, theirs, ours.  The tears welled up and spilled over.  “God, please help us; We need your help,” I pleaded.  And instantly, He was there, speaking comfort to my soul, reminding me that His shoulders are here to carry the loads, His strong arms are here to lift me up, and His hands are here to hold me close. 

We do not need to be anxious about anything.1  God cares about every detail of our lives.  We were not made to carry this weight, and definitely not made to carry it alone.  If we are focusing on our burdens, it will keep us from focusing on our Source of help, whereas trusting in Him will render perfect peace. 

Scripture tells us to cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us.2  We cannot change the past, but He can heal us from it.  The present may be completely out of our control, but He is present.  And instead of worrying about and dreading the future, thinking “What if ___________happens,” we can replace those thoughts with ones about His character and presence, ones like “He is loving.  He is good.  He is sovereign.  He is all-powerful.  He is.” 

Remembering the truth lifted the weight from me.  The problems and pains remained, but healing and strength had come to my heart.  A lilt of joy entered in, and I continued the tasks of the day, going in the strength of the LORD God, the One who cares for this world. 


Carry Me

When the road is long, carry me.

When I’m not strong, carry me.

When all is wrong, carry me.

Carry me on the road that is short to You.

Carry me in strong arms that will pull me through.

Carry me in the way that is right and true.

Carry me straight to You.3


NOTES

1 See Philippians 4:6.

2 See 1 Peter 5:7.

3 ©Francee Strain, August 2017

©Text and photo Francee Strain, July 25, 2021

Hold My Hand

“Hold my hand.  I’m scared.”  These were the words of the seven-year-old boy I was babysitting.  I was tasked to take him to a movie which portrayed good animals and bad animals.  We were sitting on the front row of the theater with our necks craned, looking up at the very large villain. This little boy was a tough guy.  He had a life-threatening disease that eventually took his life a few years later.  He was very mature and well-spoken, as he spent quite a bit of his life around doctors and other health care professionals, but he also had the heart of a seven-year-old little boy, full of silliness and spunk.  So, when it came time for this intense scene in the movie, he needed some reassurance.  My presence was comforting to him as my fingers closed around his. 

How many of us are walking through life beside people who are afraid and needing us to reach out and hold their hands?  How many of us are these people, afraid and needing someone to hold our hands?

So many of my friends and family members are walking through great trials of uncertainty and loss right now. Many of them do not live near me, however, and my health prevents me from traveling to be by their sides. Thus, I cannot physically hold their hands, but I am able to hold their hands in spirit. I can send a message, send a card, or call and pray with them.  A gesture of love and encouragement can become a comfort across the miles. 

And what if we are the ones who need our hands held?  We can speak up and reach out for the comfort we need. But what if there is no one to answer?  At times, we cannot find comfort because others do not truly understand our need, or perhaps they do not have the time or energy to give us.  When we find ourselves in situations like these, we do not have to remain comfortless.  We can always reach our hands up to the Savior of the world.  He tells His own He will be with them to the end of the world.  He gives them His spirit so they are not left comfortless.  His hand is mighty to save.  He upholds, guides, sustains, and shelters.  Fear not.  Reach out for His nail-scarred hand.  He conquered death and is Lord of all.   


Precious Lord, take my hand,

Lead me on, help me stand

I am tired, I am weak, I am worn;

Thro’ the storm, thro’ the night,

Lead me on to the light

Take my hand, precious Lord,

Lead me home.

*

When my way grows drear,

Precious Lord, linger near

When my life is almost gone;

Hear my cry, hear my call,

Hold my hand lest I fall

Take my hand, precious Lord,

Lead me home.


NOTES

©Text and photo Francee Strain, July 18, 2021

Lyrics excerpted from the song “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” by Thomas A. Dorsey.