On My Side

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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.   

Four Years and Counting/Make Me More (double feature)

This week marks the fourth anniversary of writing for my website. It has been an exciting journey to meet people from all over the world. I wanted to take this opportunity say thank you.

•Thank you to anyone who has taken time to read my articles.

•Thank you to those who have become site followers.

•Thank you to those who have shared how an article has impacted you.

•Thank you to those who have given me words of encouragement.

•Thank you to those who have purchased my book.

I am grateful to all of you for being a part of my life. I truly appreciate your support.

Below, you will find the first article I ever posted. Its words still ring true. This is what still pours from my heart.


Make Me More

Do you ever feel like you are not enough?  Do you want to be more?  I suppose we all might likely answer yes to this question, as I do not think I have ever met anyone who has said, “I wish I was less.”  Why is it that we want to be more? Why do we think that we are not enough just as we are?

We want to be more because that is how we were created to be.  We long for more. We search for more.  We ask for more.  We yearn for more.

We have hearts that are on a quest.  Hearts that search and long for something else that they do not yet have.  That something that we do not yet have is eternity.  God has placed a longing in our hearts for it.  A longing for a life that is full and vibrant and beautiful.

So, how do we reconcile the reality of what is and the reality of what could be? How do we get to this place of eternity where the longing will be fulfilled?  The answer is really quite simple.  We place our longing into the hands of God and we take into our hands what He offers in return for that longing.  He offers salvation first.  If we choose to accept that gift, our hands can then become so full that they overflow.

The gift of salvation opens the door to blessings unimaginable because it is the key.

Salvation is given to you when you give your faith and trust to God.  When you realize that there is a door between you and God, a separation that needs to be removed so that you can be together with Him, that is when your hand is about to grasp the key.

Jesus is the key–the key to eternal life.  He is the perfect Son of God who became a perfect sacrifice for you.  He lived a sinless life on this earth and died a painful death on the cross to become the key that opens the door to eternal life.  Each of us is separated from God by our wrongdoings and imperfections.  Jesus came to die on the cross to forgive us of those wrongdoings and make us perfect through His righteousness.  Your belief in His death to atone for these wrongs, and your request that He forgive you of yours, will cleanse you of them and permit you to enter through the door.

And then, there is more.  Salvation through Jesus gives you eternal life, but you also have the opportunity to have abundant life.  Into your hands–into your life, heart, mind, soul, and relationships–can come love, joy, peace, strength, ability, patience, kindness, and so much more.  You can be transformed in how you live–how you act, think, feel, relate.  You can be more.  More because of the gifts that will be placed into your hands.  More because you will have things that you never had before.  Things that cannot be measured.  Things that cannot be priced.  Things that are not tangible.  The “more” will be things that are immeasurable: like the grace of God that covers all sin, a peace that passes all understanding, a joy that is present even when there is no cause for happiness, and a supernatural ability to endure.

And then we, when we have “more,” can be made more.  We can be made into beautiful representations of the love of God, the strength of God, the passion of God.  He is able to do above and beyond all that we ask, think, or imagine.

As for me and myself, I say: “Make me more!”

I want to glow like I have never glowed before.  I want to shine like a star in the heavens.  I want to go in the strength of the Lord God.  I want to do what I have never been able to do before.  I want to tread a path that follows in the footsteps of Jesus.  I want to think like He thinks, feel like He feels, love like He loves.

Yes, God, make me more.


NOTES

© “Four Years and Counting,” Francee Strain, July 10, 2021

© “Make Me More,” Francee Strain, July 8, 2017, revised May 25, 2019

© All photos Francee Strain. This mountain bluebird photo was my first website background photo. The peony time-lapse photos accompanied the “Make Me More” article.

Lingering Gratitude

It has been four weeks since I stood and watched a fire consuming my land.  The landscape has been permanently altered.  There will now always be scars and evidence of trauma.  But I have discovered something in the midst of the wounds and barrenness the flames left behind; I have found gratitude and beauty.

What my physical eyes now see day after day is charred earth and dying trees, but my spiritual eyes see something more.  The scars are ever reminiscent of God’s mighty hand of protection over me.  I see what I have right now, but I am also blatantly aware of what could have been.  And I am grateful.

Sometimes, I walk out and stand in the burn zone.  I look in every direction, and my physical eyes see what the fire tried to take, but my spiritual eyes see the hedge of protection that God raised around us.  The firebreak that the bulldozer carved has become a new path where I have been able to walk and discover new beauty.1  Missing trees and absent foliage provide a new line of sight to scenery that was previously obscured.  I have caught my breath in awe and wonder.

And this is the message to my heart: when the receipt of the blessing is long past, let your gratitude linger. At the end of the day, be thankful He awakened you to that new day and kept you through every hour of it.  When events become memories, remember them.  When discontent and disappointment arrive, remember how you were blessed in the past and still are.  When Thanksgiving Day passes, continue to give thanks.

As we move on through life, let us not forget the Giver of Life.  He gave us the breath of life so we can know He gave His life on the cross to offer us the gift of eternal life. His power is real. His plan is perfect. His peace is available.  Let’s accept His gift, and let’s return our gratitude to Him. 

And let that gratitude linger, remembering all He has done for us.  Let our hearts feel wonder.  Let our lips offer praise. 


They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness,
And shall sing of Your righteousness.

Psalm 145:7

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

Psalm 103:1–2


NOTES

1 This scene was newly photographed from the bulldozed path across my property.

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, July 4, 2021.

The God of the Brokenhearted

Why is this happening to me?  This is not what I had planned for my life.  This is not what I signed up for.  This is not where I thought I would be by now.  Castles crumbling all around me.  Teardrops falling relentlessly.  Cold hearts.  Cold glares.  Empty words.  Unfulfilled promises.  Brokenness everywhere I look.  Brokenness in them … and brokenness in me.  We are broken, and we are brokenhearted.

We are brokenhearted because we possess broken hearts.  We have stepped out of God’s perfect design and into lives marred by sin.  Poor choices.  Wrong choices.  Hurtful choices.  Selfish choices.  And now, what can we do?

We can make more choices.  Choices to mend what is broken.  Choices to ask for forgiveness.  Choices to offer forgiveness.  Choices to leave our lifestyles of sin.  We can choose to do more, be more, love more.  We can choose to live our imperfect lives with the perfect God, the God of the brokenhearted.

God sent Jesus to heal us from sin and reconcile us to Himself by His perfect sacrifice on the cross.  We can choose to believe He did this for us and choose to ask Him to forgive us and save us.  The wounds sin has left upon us can be healed, and our broken hearts can be made whole.

“He heals the brokenhearted

And binds up their wounds.”

Psalm 147:3 (NKJV)

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NOTES

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, October 31, 2017.  Revised text and photo June 25, 2021.

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

The Father’s Invitation

“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).”1

Do you believe?  I do.  And because I have accepted Jesus’ forgiveness, I have become a child of God, and God has become my Everlasting Father.  Yes, I get to call Him Father.  The Great I AM, the God of all gods, the Omnipotent One, the Creator—this very One is also my Father.

So, on this Father’s Day holiday when we celebrate our fathers, I will not only be celebrating the man I call dad but also my ultimate Father, God Almighty.  I am thankful for the things my earthly father did to help me learn about my Heavenly Father, and I am so grateful God extended the invitation so I could become His child.


NOTES

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

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, June 20, 2021.  I chose this photo because God blessed me with this rare sighting, and because my dad and I both enjoy photography and caring for wild birds. 

Eyes Forward

If you noticed my blog article was nonexistent last weekend, here’s why: my property was on fire, along with multiple others in the neighborhood.  Strong winds blew a tree onto some power lines running across the rural acreage here, and a fire ignited.  The fire then spread to the prairie grasses and other trees across the vicinity while the winds continued to blow strongly.  Our family and some neighbors were fighting the flames and dealing with all of the chaos of the situation until enough fire crews arrived to render aid.  When we called it a night, my brain was too exhausted to think.  Praise God, we are all safe, and no homes were lost. 

Prior to the fire, I had been putting a few thoughts together for this article, but the fire adjusted my line of thought and my vision.  I had to keep my eyes forward, with my heart looking to God to help us through whatever the outcome would be.  I could not look at my past experiences with fires, nor be concerned about those that might come tomorrow.  I was in the moment, and that is where I had to live.  Yet, God took me to a place I had not been before.  While flames were inches from my face, God’s presence was closer.  The wave of fear that threatened to drown me at the outset became waves of His peace washing over me.  Panic became purpose.  Chaos was overruled by calm.  The humanly impossible was swallowed up by the power of God.  And then after the smoke began to recede and the scorched earth made its appearance, the magnitude of what He carried us through became ever more apparent.

Standing in the burn zone now is overwhelming.  The magnitude of what was at stake cannot be denied.  The reality of the rescue is readily realized.  And there is beauty.  And wonder.  And awe.  And overwhelming gratitude at the goodness of God.  Praise continues to flow from my heart and lips.  My remodeled landscape is a blatant reminder that God is with me.  He was there in the flames, and He is here in the aftermath.  He sent what I needed when I needed it, and I know He always will.  The eyes of my heart have the vision of His. 

What fires of life are you facing right now?  Are you looking at them with the eyes of your head or the eyes of your heart?  Are you caught up in what your physical eyes can see or in what your spiritual eyes know?  Are you looking to yourself or to others to aid your circumstances, or are you looking to God?  He is good, and He does what is good.  He is worthy to be praised at all times and in all circumstances.  His ways and thoughts are higher than ours.  His love for us is deeper than we could ever comprehend.  Faith in His salvation will be our salvation.  No matter the storm that rages, He is the Master who speaks, “Peace, be still.”  Jesus conquered the power of sin and death to save your soul, and if you accept His gift of eternal life, the things of this temporal life grow dim.  Eyes that look beyond the now to the eternal purposes of God find life, and hope, and peace.

Eyes that look forward see life is not just about waking up, eating three meals a day, going to work for a shift, and filling the evenings with family and recreation.  These eyes don’t focus on the mundane or the chaotic.  They don’t look inside themselves for answers.  They don’t focus on the pain, the past, the addiction, the fear, the comparison, the discontent, the regret.  They look forward.  They look to God.  He created us for a purpose.  He gave His Son to save us.  He has a plan for our lives and a desire to commune with us.  He will do amazing things in us and through us, if we look to Him.  He will watch over and care for His own.  His eyes and heart will be with them.  And beyond the now, those who have placed their faith in Jesus will see more than what their hearts know; they will see Him, face to face.  We have this to look forward to. 

NOTES

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 13, 2021.  This photo was taken of a salsify plant in the burn zone the day after the fire.

He Is Always There

Alone.  I sat in the emergency room alone last week.  My family was unable to be with me.  I wondered if I would die.  Tears filled my eyes as I sat in the waiting room alone.  Surrounded by people, but alone.

But then … God.

God spoke to my heart and reminded me I am never alone because He is always there.  He began to show me things all throughout my eleven hours and thirty-five minutes spent there—touches of His grace, provisions of His mercy, comforts of His love.  He gave me hope.  He brought me joy.  He sent a friend who read His words to me, prayed over me, attended to my needs, and kept me company for ninety minutes of that very long day with offers to give more assistance later.  Others prayed from afar. Strangers stepped up to assist me. Kindness and skill flowed from the employees. It would take a while (eleven hours and thirty-five minutes) to tell you about all of the goodness of God in the midst of that hospital.  He was in the midst of that day, every single minute of it.  His hands were in the details, and He deeply touched my soul.

After my release from the emergency room, I reflected upon my experience there and the following words came to my heart:

He’s always there.

His face is before me.

His hands uphold me.

He goes before me.

He walks beside me.

He’s got my back.

He watches over me.

My feet walk His paths.

His voice is in my ear.

His spirit testifies to mine.

His light is in my eyes.

His words are in my mind.

His wings cover me.

He’s the Rock upon which I build my life.

My name is known to Him.

The hairs of my head are numbered. 

His praise is on my tongue.

His joy is in my bones.

He’s acquainted with all my ways.

He directs my steps.

His mercy is upon me.

In me, through me, and for me, He is always there. 

From everlasting to everlasting, He is God.1


For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”2

Cast all your care upon Him for He cares for you.3

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.4

Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore!5


NOTES

See Psalm 90:2

2  Hebrews 13:5b

3  See 1 Peter 5:7

4  Psalm 46:1

1 Chronicles 16:11

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 30, 2021