The Weary Heart

(Part 2 of 3 in “The Runner” series)

“Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. … I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.”1 Have you ever said these words, or perhaps something similar, something with the intent of expressing your arrival at the end of your limits with a situation? These words were spoken by King David millennia ago. He was fleeing for his life, and he had to do so for quite some time. And this was not the first time he had had to do such a thing. Living under the constant threat of dealing with traitors and the constant fatigue of a broken heart became a bit too much to deal with. Sometimes, the things we face in life become a bit too much to deal with. We long for things to be different, but our longing does nothing to change our reality. We pine for the days of old. We fear what our new futures may look like. Our thinking grows muddled. Our tears grow plentiful. And eventually, our hearts grow weary.


(Repost)

The following excerpts are taken from my book, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose. 

THE CALL TO THE WEARY

“Have you found yourself nearing the end of your energy supply? Are you past that point and already running on empty? Forget the running; are you dragging yourself through, day after day after day? Do you want the world to stop so you can get off it for a while? Do you wish it would all just end? Are you consumed by bitterness? Are you tottering on the edge of a nervous breakdown? Are you feeling joyless and unfulfilled and wondering if there is something wrong with you? Are you wanting to go away somewhere where no one knows who you are? Are you wishing to go to a different church where you can sit and be fed and truly worship rather than run helter-skelter, taking care of everyone else’s needs but your own? Are you wishing you could just start over? Are you wishing you could reinvent yourself? Are you regretting that you ever said yes to this or that? I have had every single one of these thoughts and many more.

“Sometimes we find that we are about out of strength and energy and have nothing left in our reserves to fuel us. We feel trapped in never-ending marathons of trials and relationships and often find ourselves wishing to escape the course so we can rest. At times, these wishes are truly a need and not just a want. King David formulated some words thousands of years ago that seem to echo in our hearts and minds today. He said, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. … I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest”(Ps. 55:6–8). We all want to run away at times. And we are not the first ones to think like this—we are just the current generation who is doing so.”2

“We can become so tired that we feel we just cannot take it anymore. We wonder if there is anyone who will allow us to rest, if there is anyone who even calls us to rest. It is easy to feel like this because more often than not, we are told to “get to work” or to do something where work is implied. How many parents tell their children to go do their chores? And what about the honey-do list? Even being asked particular questions calls us to work and not to rest. “Did you get that report done?” “Did you do your homework?” “Did you drop off the dry cleaning?” Even the dentist tells us to do something: schedule our biannual appointments and remember to floss each day. Although these are the frequent words and cares of life, there are actually a few times when we are told to take a break.

“Sometimes, people recognize the need for rest and say or do something about it. When friends see our marriages headed for trouble, they might tell us to find babysitters and have date nights. When our health is in trouble, our doctors might tell us to slow down or lower our blood pressures so that we don’t have heart attacks. When we see loved ones headed for burnout, we may encourage them to take some time off. Sometimes, we might even talk to ourselves if we recognize that we have problems. We might tell ourselves that we need to take breathers or take some time to clear our heads. There are times when we are under great deals of pressure, self-inflicted or otherwise, and we know that we need to rest our minds. Some of the pressures imposed on us by ourselves or others are totally unnecessary. We are good at digging holes for ourselves and then making them deeper and wider until there seems to be no way out unless someone comes along to save the day. That someone who can save our days and save every aspect of our lives is Jesus. He tells us to come to Him and rest.”3

“His provision is great and His provision is all-encompassing. He is our sustenance for life. He is a place where we can rest as we journey. He is a place where we can linger when we are weary. We can draw deeply from the well of His salvation. In His presence, our souls can be rested and replenished, and then we will be able to rise up and go through all the days ahead of us. May coming to Him be elemental to our lives.”


He is inviting us. He has said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” 5

Giving Him our weary hearts will enable us to stay in the race, to keep on running.


NOTES

Psalm 55:6–8 is taken from the King James Version of The Holy Bible, public domain.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 40.

Ibid., 41.

Ibid., 48.

Matthew 11:28–30 is taken from the New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, © 1982.

©Revised text and photo Francee Strain, November 1, 2022.  Original article posted February 21, 2021.

Warm Winter Wishes

It is October, and I am cold in my house. I find myself wishing that things won’t get any chillier and that the winter will be mild. And I am thinking this for more than just my sake. Some recent encounters while out doing errands are now pervading my thoughts.

Many of us are thinking ahead to the winter months. There are less than two months left until it begins, and for some of us, the winter weather hasn’t paid attention to the calendar, so our thinking got started early. Some of us are wishing for a warm winter because we don’t like the snow or the cold. We don’t like to drive on icy roads, shovel the porch, or snow blow the driveway, especially if we are someone like my husband who comes from the south and now lives in the north.

There are also less than two months until Christmas (in case you needed a reminder). Winter and Christmas merchandise has been on store shelves for months. There are already Christmas sales. The seasonal aisles are fully stocked, and extra shelf space from neighboring aisles has been borrowed in order to cram in more items. Holiday travel plans are being discussed. Christmas cards are being purchased. Lists of who to buy gifts for are being composed. Charities are making their needs known for their holiday events—they need donations early in order to be prepared for their upcoming Christmas programs. And we are thinking of our own wish lists in case someone asks us what we want for Christmas.

But, some other people have a very different type of wish list. They are not wishing for gifts to go in their Christmas stockings and under the tree—although that would be nice—they are wishing for a warm winter because they will be spending their season on the streets.

Take a moment to think about your home. Your safe place. Your haven. Surrounded by your things, decorated by things that express your style. A warm bed. A comfy couch. A fuzzy blanket. Your favorite music on the radio. Your fully stocked refrigerator waiting to be opened, containing the flavored creamer for your steaming mug of coffee you will sip as you look out the window at the autumn scenery. Now, imagine it’s all gone. How would you feel? Some people don’t have to imagine this scenario; this is their reality. How they got to this point could be an assortment of reasons, but that doesn’t change the facts. The cause doesn’t matter now, as they have new concerns. How will they obtain their next meal? Where will they sleep tonight? And what will they do for the winter?

Recently, two of the homeless people I stopped to assist voiced their concern about the upcoming winter. One asked me to pray for a warm winter, and the other asked me to pray he’d get a meal that night and then informed me that he’d probably be heading south to another city where it’s warmer. This is their reality. I stepped into that reality momentarily and offered food, prayer, and the knowledge that they were loved by God. It was a blessing and a privilege to be there with them.

My reality is that I started using my furnace last week because I was cold—cold in my house, cold while wearing a sweatshirt and socks and wrapped in a blanket. What would I do if I was outdoors? What would I do if I was outdoors without that sweatshirt, warm socks, and a warm blanket? I think back to several ago when I sat on a curb with a homeless man in 32-degree weather. He had no hat, no gloves, no blanket, and he was hungry. Sitting there for just a few minutes was bone chilling. I could feel the cold seeping through my clothing and the numbness coming on. I gave the man a warm sandwich I had purchased and gave him some warm mittens I had in my car. We chatted for a few minutes while he ate, sharing a bit about ourselves. I then shared Christ with him, and he accepted the good news of salvation. I prayed for him, and then surprisingly, he prayed for me. It still warms my heart all these years later.

Another time, I stopped to help a homeless man who was asking a cashier for a trash bag to carry his things in. The cashier could not give him one, but I happened to have one in my car and offered it to the man. While talking with him and his friend, I learned they had little with which to keep warm for the night in the 30-degree temperatures. The calendar said it was spring, but the weather felt like it was winter. I had a few things I kept in my car for winter driving emergencies and offered those things. They hesitated as they did not want to leave me without my emergency items. And I confess, I was concerned about giving those things up, but I was headed home for the night and knew I could obtain replacement items; and besides, being outside in 30-degree weather all night long is an emergency. A bath towel became a scarf for one man. My snow pants covered three fourths of the other man’s legs. A picnic quilt would be shared between the two of them. Some gloves were a bit small and tight but were better than nothing. A hat my son no longer needed was shared. The men were very grateful for everything I offered to keep them warm for the night. I shared that God loves them and then prayed with them. I hope their hearts were warmed as much as mine.

I could not fix all the problems these men had, but I could point them to the One who could, and I could be sure to meet some of their immediate needs. They were warmed and filled, seen and loved. And in addition to the physical gifts I gave, I offered spiritual gifts as well. I gave them hope, prayer, and the ultimate gift: the love of Christ. The Bible tells us to bear one another’s burdens and we’ll fulfill the law of Christ which is love.1   

I do not share these stories to call attention to myself but to point out that each of us is capable of doing something to help fulfill the warm winter wishes of those on the streets.  We can do practical things such as carrying items in our vehicles so that we are prepared at all times to assist those in need. Perhaps we can spare a few dollars in our budgets so we can run into the store and grab some food and a hat and gloves for those in need or maybe provide a bus pass to get them to the homeless shelter. If we do not have the means to share items, we can be prepared with information to direct these ones to places which can assist them. And being kind, not ignoring them, and not walking past in judgement are helpful things to do also. We may not be able to meet their needs, but acknowledging their existence and their importance to us and God will warm their hearts. Every bit helps, and every gesture matters.  

Jesus cares about all the details of our lives, large and small. And if He is our example, then we, too, should care about the details of the lives of others, both large and small. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and those neighbors do not have to have a home to qualify. In the sight of God, everyone is our neighbor. God showed us kindness by sending His son Jesus to meet our greatest need.2 And now, we have an opportunity to share the blessing of Christ with others, as well as share our time and material blessings. Let’s take the focus off ourselves and place it onto others. Our new view will be truly eye-opening. We have been blessed so that we can bless others. Even if we do not have much to give, there are others who have less than we do. Let’s open our hearts this season so that the wish for a warm winter can be fulfilled.


If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?3


NOTES

1 See Galatians 6:2.

2 See John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:4–10.

3 James 2:15–16 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, October 30, 2022.

The Runner’s Heart

(Part 1 of 3 in “The Runner” series)

(This is a revised version of a February 2021 post)

I well remember the burn. I remember the shin splints. And I remember the moment I said, “I hate running.” 

It was track season, my junior year of high school. The coach was making us run long distances, and to a sprinter, that was awful. I had been a speedy little kid. I had won some races and some ribbons and even a fifty-cent piece. I had done well in some other races although I did not win. And then there were some races where I wondered if I should have just stayed home that day. Yes, my relay teammates may still be upset at me (thirty-some years later) for accidentally disqualifying us at the district meet, all because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. You win some, you lose some. And some you don’t even qualify for, apparently. 

Anyway…there is something else I remember, which brings me to this particular article you are reading.

I remember the heart that was needed for running. Not just a strong heart muscle that could propel a body to the finish line, but the inner heart—the passion, the drive, the mental fortitude, the competitive spirit. You train, you prepare, and you enter the race. And then, you run for the prize. You run in such a way that you may win. 

When you run a race, you know there is an end to it, a finish line; but that end may not be in sight. There may be twists and turns in the racecourse. There may be falls and injuries to your body. There may be high hills and low valleys. And sometimes, the pain is too much. Every ounce of your body screams for you to stop, to quit, to give in, to give up. But it is then that the runner’s heart needs to kick in. The faith needs to be rekindled. The mind needs to remember the hope of the finish line. And then you dig in. And you dig deeper. And sometimes you cry tears. And sometimes you cry words. And you keep on keeping on. And suddenly, you crest the hill, round the bend, or enter the last lap, and there it is: what you have been striving for is now within reach. And then your heart pulls ahead of your body. You push through to the end, and you hear the words “You did it! Well done!” For the joy that was set before you, you finished the race.

My brothers and sisters, the Christian race is like this. Sometimes, we just want to sprint on through to the finish line and cross over into heaven. We want to avoid the burn and the shin splints, the hills and the tears. But the reality of life is that it is not a sprint, it is a marathon. And the course is sometimes filled with difficulties. Sometimes, we need to dig in for more faith and cry out for more help. We might want to quit, to give in, to give up. But remember our example—Jesus. He did not quit, give in, or give up. He dug in deep, surrendering His will to the will of the Father. He pushed through the trials and walked up the hill of Golgotha. For the joy that was set before Him (eternity with those who would believe in Him), He endured the cross. He completed the course that was laid out before Him. He crossed the finish line. His race was well done. His heart for us won the prize of atonement unto eternal life.

And now, He waits to welcome His own into their eternal home, awarding their faith in Him with eternal life. Press on my brothers and sisters. We can do this. Let’s not grow weary. Have faith. Long to hear the words “Well done.” Trust what you cannot see but know in your heart. Cry out when it hurts. Cry out for help. Remember your training. Hydrate with the Living Water. Nourish yourself with the Bread of Life. Be energized by the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember the joy that is set before you. Keep the faith. Stay the course. Finish the course.

I am cheering you on and praying you through. See you at the finish line!


Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

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)

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2)

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. (Galatians 6:9)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)


NOTES

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

©Revised text and photo Francee Strain, October 25, 2022. Original article posted February 14, 2021.

Do You Trust God?

If you follow my podcast or my blog posts, sometime you may notice I miss a week or two before posting a new episode or a new article. Sometimes, it’s because of my health issues. Sometimes, it’s because life happens. And sometimes, it’s because I seem to get a little bit of writer’s block or writer’s interruption. At times, I might think about writing on a particular topic, but then as the week goes along, God redirects my thoughts to something completely different. And sometimes, I just sit there wondering what to write. Should I finish what I started working on last week? That doesn’t always feel right. And then I sit and wait for inspiration, but sometimes nothing is downloaded into me. Sometimes, possible topics flit across my mind, but again, no, that’s not the right thing to write about either. So then I wonder, should I just repost something or record something from years ago that I have in my files. Well, that isn’t it either. So, I pray, and I ask God what I should write about, what I should speak about. Well, one particular time when I was going through this whole scenario, His answer to me was a question: “Do you trust me?”  I ended up writing a blog post about it. Well, He is asking me that question again in this season I’m going through. I’m facing some difficulties that are not being resolved. 

Off and on throughout life, we are going to have to grapple with whether we truly trust God. Are we fair-weather Christians, or will we trust in Him at all times, in all circumstances? Will we trust Him in the little things as well as the monumental? Will we trust Him through all of life and even to the death? Will we remain faithful, steadfast, and unmoved? Do we actually trust Him like we think we do?

Fear sometimes seems to be a factor. We want to say we trust Him. We’ve demonstrated in the past that we did. But do we now? Will we always? Why would we not? Whose vision are we going to trust? Our shortsighted vision, which is limited to what is right in front of us, or the vision of the One who sees the end from the beginning and everything in between, the One whose vision is eternal?

There is no need to fear trusting in Him. On the contrary, trusting in Him will remove a huge load from us. When we commit our lives to Him, He will take care of us. Just as the Bible tells us Abraham trusted God and went forward despite being unaware of where he was ultimately going, so we, too, should trust in God’s plans and promises to get us where we need to go.1 God created the world, and He created us. He has things well in hand.

He will guide our steps even when there are obstacles in our paths. We can trust Him step by step, day by day. He is working all around us, sometimes seen, and sometimes unseen. He works on a future timeline beyond our scope, with a path laid out for us which we cannot even begin to conceive. Psalm 27:23–24 tells us the steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and God delights in his way. Though this one falls, he won’t be u­tterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand. So, we can step out in faith, knowing He is holding us securely in the palm of His hand. He will lead us safely home. 

“We do not need to know everything today; we just have to trust that He has our best in mind. We can find a resting place for our bodies, minds, souls, and faith in the safety of His hands. We can place the details of our lives in His capable hands. We can place the recesses of our vulnerable hearts in His loving hands. We can place our trust in Him because of His unfailing hands. He never fails, never breaks His promises, and will never let go of us.”2

So, are we going to place our trust in people, or in our own limited skills, intellect, ingenuity, strength, and resources; or are we going to place our trust in the One who has proven Himself trustworthy? God fights for His people. He provides for every need. He does not fail nor forsake His own. He has all power and authority, and by Him all things subsist. His wisdom is infinite. He is a God of purpose. He is working for the good of those who follow Him and for His glory. The bad and the ugly from this world of sin? It can be transformed into something beautiful by His hand. He triumphs over evil. He is good, and He does what is good.

Such great knowledge of this great God can give us the ability to trust, and trusting Him will bring peace. There is no need to fret; He can handle the details. He will handle the details. We don’t need to force our hand; we can just place it in His. He is God.

I know what I will answer Him now. What will your answer be? Do you trust God?


Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.3


NOTES

See Hebrews 11:8.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 116.

Proverbs 3:5–6 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, October 11, 2022. This article is adapted from an article I wrote in October 2021 entitled “Do You Trust Me?”

The Comeback Call

When I look into the mirror, or into the lives of friends and family, or into the lives of people I don’t know, sometimes it makes my heart heavy and sad. I’m looking into the eyes of those who have walked away, or are progressively walking away, from the ways of God. This is nothing new, people have been doing it since the garden of Eden, but just because it is tradition does not mean it should continue to be done.

Throughout biblical history, we have been given examples of the walk away, but there’s also always the comeback call to answer it. And here we are in our generation, taking our turn at walking away, and God’s voice ever remains and calls us back to His heart. And now, we have the choice: whether to follow our own prideful hearts, with our prideful thoughts, thinking we know better than God, or humbly repent and confess and get back on the path that is best for us, the one that leads to life. Will we heed the comeback call?

If I asked you if I could speak to your heart today, what would you say? What would you say if God asked you that question? My voice is in these written words, gently speaking to your heart. God is also gently speaking to your heart with His written Word, the Holy Bible. Time after time, His voice calls out to His people to return to Him and to walk in the paths He has designed. They are laid out on paper, accessible to us, where we don’t have to question His plans.

“Have we really left Him?” you may ask. Yes. Some of us are just beginning the departure, others have gone far, far away, but no matter where we are in the process, two truths remain: we are not walking with God, and He is rich in mercy and is calling us back. None of us are too far gone; if we confess, He is faithful and just to forgive.

How are we leaving Him? We leave Him in different ways. We listen to any voice but His. We are prone to wander from Him and take up following after the crowd instead. We try to convince ourselves that what we are doing is right. We try to rationalize and justify behavior that deviates from His way. We might honor Him with our lips but keep our hearts far from Him. We might follow Him for a while and then veer off in another direction. Sometimes, we try to add more words to His words so we can keep a foot in both worlds, but He tells us we cannot be following both; it is one or the other, Him or not Him. We tempt Him, limit Him, and forget Him. We are not steadfast in keeping His ways. We lay up treasure for ourselves and follow after our own hearts instead of laying up spiritual treasure and following after His heart.

We tune Him out, drown Him out, shut Him out, and cut Him out. We close our eyes, plug our ears, stiffen our necks, harden our hearts, and turn our backs on Him. And after we turn our backs on Him, we defiantly walk away, and maybe even run. Despite all these methodologies we might employ, however, His love calls out to us again and again. He wants to have a relationship with each of us that is the best for us, but when our feet are on the wrong paths, they take our ears and hearts with them. We decide not to listen, we decide not to follow His ways, and we decide not to come close to His heart. 

He is a balm for our soul, a healer for our deepest wounds, a help in troubled times, and the hope for always, but we refuse Him. We go instead to the next relationship, self-help book, party, container, store, and screen, trying to fill the void, ease the pain, bury the trauma, and advance our own cause.

What starts this process, and how do we turn it around? We need to know what God’s voice says, and we need to know there is competition for our hearing. Who we allow to speak the loudest into our lives matters. There are voices coming to us from sources such as culture, lust, Satan, false teachers, addiction, friends, family, newscasters, the stage, and our own hearts. Will we listen to and be influenced by these, or will we listen to the One who created us, God Himself? Anyone and anything can compete with His voice—our own hearts can deceive us. And making up our own plans and neglecting or changing His plans will not be what fulfills us or gives us peace. It will ultimately leave us empty, wanting, and restless; and we will start the vicious cycle of trying to fill the void all over again. If we are listening to the voices of the world, we are not listening to the voice of God. We cannot do both. Either we are hearing Him, or we’re not, and we subsequently act on what we hear.

Where are our hearts going? To whom do they belong? We always have a choice. We can always turn away from the dead-end roads and come back to Him. We can make God’s voice the priority. We can leave our contrary behavior behind and be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Our behavior no longer needs to alienate us from Him. The hope of the gospel can connect us firmly to Him, and we can continue from this day forward to live our lives in Him—rooted, built up, and strengthened in our faith.1

Is it easy? Not always. People do not want to be told what to do. But there are some things which God says to do, and there are some things which He says to avoid doing. There is right, and there is wrong. God makes a distinction. He has set the standard, and we should not be modifying His design. There is a prescribed order to His world, yet we are often busy trying to unmake it and remake it; and we have created chaos in the process. Some people will try to excuse their behavior by claiming freedom in Christ, but freedom in Christ does not mean the freedom to sin and abuse His grace.2 Some will try to twist His words and take them out of context to make them fit their own desired circumstances. We need to remain aware and vigilant as the words on social media screens, in the newspapers, books, training sessions, and the talk on the street—or even from the pulpit—are more and more often contradicting the ways of God. God told us this would happen, that the days will become more evil as His return for His own draws closer. What do we do about this?

We should seek the things above, putting off our old man and putting on the new one made in the image of Christ.3 Everything we say and do should be done in His name. If we say we are following Him, we need to make sure our actions are not saying otherwise. If our hearts are not right with Him, we are not living in congruence with His teaching; and incongruency is not a good thing—it’s not a good thing for us, and it is not a good thing for the world. How will they see Jesus when we look nothing like Him, when we misrepresent Him, and when we bring shame to His name? We need to do more than hear the words of God, we need to live them. We need to do more than remember who He is with our brains, we need to let Him flow through our hearts and lives.

I’m going to invite us to come back, to listen to the longing of His heart for us. Do we know the urgency of the time? Let’s not be prodigals headed for a far land void of God’s presence. We have a message to share and a short time to do so. We have a finite number of days to hear and heed the word which the Lord has spoken, and we should not spend that precious time following the ways of those who do not believe. We sometimes exchange the truth for a lie, but right now we have the opportunity to exchange the lies for the truth. “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but He who does the will of God abides forever.”4 God’s voice is the voice of truth. Will we heed the comeback call?


Listen to counsel and receive instruction,

That you may be wise in your latter days.

There are many plans in a man’s heart,

Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel—that will stand.5


NOTES

1 See Colossians 1:21–23 and 2:7.

2 See Galatians 5:13 and 1 Peter 2:16.

3 See Ephesians 4:17–32.

4 First John 2:17

5 Proverbs 19:20–21

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, October 10, 2022

A Moment of Weakness

Do you ever have a moment of weakness? I sure do. All day. Every day.

Journeying through this life is challenging. Moment by moment, decisions have to be made about what we will do or not do in the next moment. And our choices have consequences, some more significant than others, but consequences nonetheless. And bit by bit, these decisions shape who we become. And if we fail to think before we act, develop poor habits, sink into old addictions, and mindlessly while away the hours, we will soon find ourselves in a season of weakness.

We’ve all done it, and we all continue to do it. We experience moments of weakness and do what shouldn’t be done, or don’t do what should be. Our moments of weakness may occur because we make excuses, are afraid, hold stereotypes, and worry about what will happen next. Our moments of weakness may cause us to second-guess what we are supposed to do in a given situation, and then we miss the opportunity to do anything at all. At times, we walk in the flesh and not the Spirit. We rationalize, justify, and excuse our behavior. We hold on to selfishness, pride, and our own comfort. And our actions cannot be undone. What we have seen cannot be unseen, what we have heard cannot be unheard, what we have said cannot be unsaid, and the fact that we went somewhere cannot be erased. But, there’s hope because this is a new moment, and we can choose differently for our next actions.

For example, a few days ago (okay, even a few hours ago), I had an inappropriate thought. It seemed minor, inconsequential. I didn’t act on it, I just thought it. No one besides me knew I had thought it, no one that is except for God. But that is what really matters. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.1 It was wrong in His eyes, and so, it was wrong. I was shocked. I gave myself a talking to. But then in the next moment, I was right back where I started. Once again, I realized this thought process was not pleasing to God. I confessed. I repented. I asked for His help with this situation. And the next moment, my thoughts changed to something pleasing to Him. I did not do this in my own strength and power. If it was up to me, my thoughts and I would have continued on down this negative path, adding to the collection as we went along. It was when I called out for help and strength to redirect my thoughts that the next moment became a beautiful one.

As we journey through life, we need to remain aware and present in the moment. A moment becomes a season when we allow it to go past the next moment. And if we are not vigilant, a beautiful season can disappear, and we can be left standing in an ugly one. When we let our guard down or look the other way, we neglect the Spirit. And if we are out of step with God, our steps are going to be out of step. The strength that could be ours will go untapped. But things do not have to be this way. We can allow Him to reorder our steps and set us back on track. His power knows no limits, so whether it is a small thought or a huge, terrible deed, there is help and hope. We will continually have moments of weakness, but God has strength that will never go away. He never grows weary. He will always give power to the faint, and for those who have no might, He will increase their strength. Those who trust in the LORD will mount up with wings like strong eagles. They will run the race like strong athletes. They will walk through life without being done in by it. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, and will also be the author and finisher of our strength. 2

We may have acquired undesirable names and may have developed negative reputations due to our actions, or lack thereof, but our names and our reputations can change to the opposite now because God can change our lives now. We can be made into new creations. We can be forgiven for the things committed and omitted. And there is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Today is a new day. This is a new moment. This is a new moment for grace.3

A moment of weakness need only last for a moment because in the next moment we can call out for God’s strength, and He will give it to us. If we are facing something we ought not be doing, in a moment we can receive His help to turn away and do something else. If our moment has become a season of moments, He can remake our lives, and in a moment, bring us into a new season. His help is available to us before we even ask for it, and while we are yet speaking, He will hear us. Before a word has been formed on our tongues, He knows it altogether.4 His power is exceedingly great toward those who believe. God resurrected Jesus and set Him at His right hand in heaven. He is far above all principality, power, might, and dominion, so we can come to the logical conclusion that He is able to give us strength.5

Walking with God is a moment-by-moment endeavor. Every moment, we have a choice: to continue walking with Him or go our own way. Every moment, we need His strength. Every moment, we need His sustaining power. And when we are weak, we can be strong, if we will allow His strength to pervade us and our situations. His power is incomparable, and it is available at this very moment.


NOTES

1 See 1 Samuel 16:7.

2 See Isaiah 40:28–31 and Hebrews 12:2.

3 See Romans 8:1–14 and 2 Corinthians 5:17.

4 See Psalm 139:4, Isaiah 65:24, and 1 Corinthians 10:13.

5 See Ephesians 1:19–21.

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, September 27, 2022.

Reset, 2022

This post is a revision of a post I wrote in 2019. I recorded it for my podcast earlier this week and thought I would share it in writing as well. It has been updated to reflect the passage of time and revised in order to share about two great blessings from God.

***

It seems we do two major resets per year: January 1st and the week after Labor Day. But let’s be real here. We need to reset more than twice per year. It’s so easy to get off-track and off-kilter in life. When the power goes out, and the clocks are blinking, we need a reset.

Things can kick our feet out from under us. We can get sucked in, pulled this way, shoved that way. At times, we get dragged in, kicking and screaming. Sometimes, we dive in headlong, willingly. We miscalculate. We set it and forget it. But, regardless of how we get here, we can hit burnout; we can hit depression; we can hit a season of prodigal living; and we can be laying in a rut deeper than we can dig ourselves out of.

I have just passed the 22nd anniversary of the beginning of my chronic illnesses, as year after year, more chronic illnesses have been added to the initial one. There are days when I can barely get out of bed, much less leave the house. Travel is not in my vocabulary. Common tasks like moving, thinking, eating, and communicating all become difficult or impossible. When I originally wrote this article, for a moment, I celebrated the 19th anniversary. I was excited to think about how far God had brought me, because when things first began, I honestly thought I was going to die. But then my mind shifted—my focus shifted—and I watched what everyone else around me was doing: gearing up for vacations, packing up picnic baskets, dusting off suitcases, and stocking up on suntan lotion. And my heart hurt. The celebration came to a halt as reality crowded its way into my mind.

If I go out in public, people think I must be better. They have no idea of the battle that ensued to put me in their presence. And unless there is divine intervention, I will never get better; I will actually grow worse. My mind slips into thinking how unfair this is. Another anniversary of my high school and college graduations has come and gone, and I am not where I imagined I would be at this point in life. Life rolls on without me. The family reunions happen without me. The weddings, baby showers, and even funerals don’t require a seat for me. In my humanness, it is quite discouraging. My heart breaks. My heart cries out—not questioning God, but in frustration. “God, if I was just healthy, I could do a, b, and c. I could do this for You. I could go there for You. I could reach them, touch them, help them in Your name. I could do that God. I could.”

But I can’t. Not in that way. Not yet. There has to be another way.

There has to be something else for me right now. What is it? What is it, God? As my heart breaks, so do the sobs. But then I think about the words “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”1 There is an eternal purpose. There is an eternal plan unfolding in my life right now. Everything is filtered through His hand. Everything can be viewed as a good and perfect gift. Everything is a good and perfect gift. I just need a reset: To reset my mind on things above. To reset my heart in the direction from whence comes my help. A reset in my focus—to still serve God no matter what I can or cannot do. A reset of my course—serving God in this current state. I will do things in a new and different way, or I will do something new and different altogether. I will reset my purpose from temporal to eternal. I will reset my goal—not to be chasing after the things other people are chasing after, nor even chasing after the things I want to or think I should be chasing after, but to instead be chasing after the things God wants for me. This is my goal. This is my purpose. Your will be done, not mine.

I will reset my gaze from what I see now to what is beyond the now. He is good, and He does what is good. I will reset my heart to bow to His will. And I will reset the words running around in my mind and spilling off my tongue to be words of gratitude, praise, and worship. Yes, I am going to reset my mind on things above and not on things of this earth. And in another twenty-two years, I am going to be celebrating again. But I am also going to be doing it all along the way until I arrive there.

Resets can be difficult, but the payoff is worth it. Refreshment will come. Peace will come. Joy, hope, and a powerful witness will come. The new day will bring new mercies. The new eyes will bring new hope. The new direction will leave a new legacy.

The new year, the new season, can start on any day of the calendar year. Reset your mind on Christ.

***

Before I close, I would like to share a testimony with you of something amazing God did for me this year. Above, I mentioned that travel is not in my vocabulary; however, this year, I was able to take two three-day trips. One was to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary. I got to see relatives from both sides of the family, some of whom I hadn’t seen in almost thirty-five years. The other trip was to visit my father-in-law who is in declining health. I had not seen him in thirteen years. And while I was there, I got to see other members of the family, and some of them were new to the family. I didn’t feel well during either of these trips. I had to deal with various symptom flare-ups, spent some time in bed, and missed some of the events, but I am astounded at what God did for me. He gave me the strength, ability, endurance, and help that I needed to be able to accomplish the travel. It was truly miraculous, and I thank and praise Him for what He did for me.


NOTES

1 Colossians 3:2

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

© Text and photo Francee Strain, September 15, 2022. Original article posted July 9, 2019.

Confronting My Heart

As I prayed about what to write this week, God brought the title of one of my 2020 blog posts to mind—“The Heart of the Matter.” It is a very short article with just three questions and two scripture quotations. The questions are: “Have you done a heart check lately? Does your heart belong to Jesus? Does your heart love like Jesus?”1 In recent weeks, I have had to check my heart. I know my heart belongs to Jesus, so no problems there. The problems come with the next question: “Does your heart love like Jesus?” In answering this question, I have had to confront my heart and its contents.

Spoiler alert: I am not perfect. There are times when I have been known to have some thoughts that are not so nice, to act in ways and say some words that are less than kind. Yes, I have sinned in my thoughts, actions, and heart. And lately, it seems there have been a plethora of opportunities to let the thoughts and actions of my heart depart from love.

Lately, I have been angered, disappointed, and wounded. I have been criticized, ignored, and doubted. I have been disrespected. I have been devastated. And the list goes on. The unkind and inappropriate behaviors of others have put my heart to the test. I have had to make a decision whether to walk in the flesh and respond in kind, or walk in the Spirit and respond in love.

When my thoughts and actions jump on the negative train, I am not traveling with Christ. When I am busy formulating and delivering a retort, I am not letting Him speak through me. When I am obsessing over what I should have done or could have done better, and what I am going to say or do next time I get the chance, I am living in the past and not letting Him help me forgive and move into the future. All in all, when my thoughts are on myself, they are not on Him. And when my heart is wrapped up in myself, it is not wrapped up in love. And thus begin the confrontations. Francee, are you acting right? Is that how you should behave? Do you really want to say that? Would that example Christ? Jesus owns my heart for forever, but am I going to let Him own it for the moment of offense?

So, how did I pass through these recent offenses? I battled through. I poured out my heart to God. I poured out my hurt. I poured out my tears. And I asked Him to help me. To help me love. To help me forgive. To help me move on and live a life that is pleasing to Him rather than pleasing to myself.

The heart of the matter is that the heart matters, and so do the matters of it. What we allow into our hearts is what is going to spill out later. Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”2 So, it is wise to confront what tries to enter our hearts, and better yet, to fill them with Christ and His love so there is no room for anything else to enter. 

So, have you done a heart check lately? Does your heart belong to Jesus? Does your heart love like Jesus? Check your heart. Confront it if necessary. Let your heart belong to Jesus, and let it love like Him.


Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.

Put away from you a deceitful mouth,
And put perverse lips far from you.

Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.

Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.

Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil.3


NOTES

1 You can access this article on my website at https://franceestrain.com.  The scripture verses from the article are: “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) and “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b).

2 Matthew 12:34b

3 Proverbs 4:23–27

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 11, 2022

A Season of Heartache

I am looking across the table into eyes filled with tears. I am hearing quavering voices over the telephone. I am reading between the lines of texts and emails and seeing the pain and exhaustion. And I see it in my own reflection in the mirror, I hear it in my own voice, and I read it in my own words. Many of us are in a season of heartache. The reasons that brought on the season vary, but our hearts are all in the same place.

Life right now is hard. The days drag on with heaviness. The nights drag on with sleeplessness. Minds are overwhelmed. Bodies are in pain. Pocketbooks are being drained. Spirits are being wounded. Fears are growing larger. And hopelessness is clouding vision. 

Life is never perfect—there is always some amount of pain—but there are some seasons where heartache rules the day…and the night. Difficulties. Loss. Stormsliteral and figurative. Situations we’ve never navigated before…and never want to navigate again. How do we keep pressing on? How can our aching hearts keep moving forward?

Each season has both good and bad. Spring is too muddy. Summer is too hot. Fall is too wet. Winter is too cold. But spring also has buttercups and shining rainbows. Summer has refreshing showers and prolific flower petals. Fall has sweet scents and sprays of vibrant color. And winter has a breathtaking calm, beauty, and sparkle. Each aspect of a season shapes the season, but our perspectives shape it, too. Do we enjoy wearing rainboots, digging in the dirt for countless weeds, filling bag after bag with fallen leaves, and sliding under silvery skies? Some would say yes. Some would say no. Perspective matters.

So, too, now with our seasons of heartache. Can we lift our eyes to see the beauty behind the pain? Can we see the treasure of someone’s listening ear and warm embrace while we sob our hearts out? Can we hear the crowd along the sidelines lifting our names in prayer? Can we hear the heartbeat of the Savior who stands with outstretched arms ready to enfold us in our grief? My grandma used to tell me to crawl up into Jesus’s lap and tell Him my problems. Jesus is acquainted with grief. He went through a season of heartache like nothing we could ever imagine. He sees people fall to sin. He sees the backs of people when He wants to see their faces. He walked the roads of earth, despised and rejected. And then He was crucified like a criminal although He had never done a single thing wrong. But as He walked to the cross, there was joy set before Him because He knew His sacrifice would purchase our redemption and the opportunity for us to be with Him forever—if we would choose to do that.1

Can we look for that joy? Can we remember that He is there before us, waiting to give us the life He purchased for us, waiting to give us help, hope, and peace? He will help us keep pressing on, and pressing through, to the other side of this season, no matter when or how it ends. We can survive. We can thrive. We can showcase the beauty of the season, if we are refreshed by His presence, if we let Him root out the things which keep us from blooming, if we exude His fragrance, if we reflect His light. We can show His beauty and His power when we persevere; we can show it to a watching world, and we can show it to ourselves when we look in the mirror and when we commune with our hearts upon our beds. We will find He has never left us nor forsaken us.2 We will know deep down in our spirits that He is working all things for our good.3 Always. 

These afflictions are for a moment, but time with the healer of broken hearts is for all eternity.

Peace to you, my friends. He has overcome the world.4


NOTES

1 See John 17:3, Romans 10:13, and Hebrews 12:2.

2 See Hebrews 13:5.

3 See Romans 8:28.

4 See John 16:33.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 2, 2022.

The Cares of This World, Round 2

I wrote the following article more than a year ago, but when I reread it the other day, I could completely relate to what I had written then. It is because I am in a similar place in life again—trial after trial, in my own life and the lives of others surrounding me. There are times when it seems we keep the facial tissue manufacturers in business because we cry so many tears. This is one of those times.  And the solution and truths I state about where I find my help and hope are still completely true and are known with even more certainty than a year ago.

(Repost)

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

See Philippians 4:6.

2 See 1 Peter 5:7.

Strain, Francee. “Carry Me.” 2017.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 30, 2022. Original article posted July 25, 2021.