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.   

No More Tears

There is so much grief surrounding me right now, and on top of my own grief, friends and family are grieving losses, both current and former. Losses inundate our lives—losses of loved ones, health, jobs, dreams, and more. The anniversaries come around, too, and the pain resurfaces anew, but so can hope and comfort.

I wrote the following post over three years ago, but I hope it will bring a measure of hope and comfort to you.


(Repost)

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

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

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

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


NOTES

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 1, 2021. Originally posted November 15, 2017.

Living in the Shadows

Many people feel like they are living in the shadows.  Many feel unseen, overlooked, and forgotten.  At this time in history, many feel as though they are living under a shadow of foreboding.  They are shadowed by fear, depression, anxiety, and comparison.  Some feel trapped in their homes due to lockdowns, age, poor health, and poverty.  Deadlines loom over some.  Financial crises over others.  Decisions hover that seem incorrect no matter which ones are chosen.  The sun seems long gone.

But the thought that keeps coming to me this week is a remembrance of the shadow of God’s wings.  Several verses in the Bible talk about the wings of the Almighty.  They bear us up, and they cover us.  They lift us to heights we could never reach on our own, and they shelter us from the storms that rage around us.

God holds close His own.  His children are under His watchful and loving gaze at all times.  We are seen.  We are known.  We are not forgotten.

He always offers a refuge, a place of quiet rest near to His heart.1   Will we allow Him to gather us close?  Will we enter the refuge beneath the shadow of His wings? 


Within thy circling power I stand,

On every side I find thy hand;

Awake, asleep, at home, abroad,

I am surrounded still with God.2


How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. (Psalm 36:7 NKJV)

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings. (Psalm 17:8 NKJV)

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by. (Psalm 57:1 NKJV)

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

(Psalm 91: 1–2, 4 NKJV)


Notes

1 See the song “Near to the Heart of God” by Cleland Boyd McAfee

2 Words from “Psalm 139 Part 1,” a poem by Isaac Watts

Photo 1: a young Say’s phoebe waiting on its parent for a meal while sheltered in a ponderosa pine

Photo 2: Canada goose and goslings

©Original text and photos Francee Strain, January 30, 2021

The Advent of Peace—Reading #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is how peace comes.

_________________________________

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

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

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 10, 2020


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

~Francee


The Advent of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~~

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

Romans 15:13 NKJV

~~~~~

*Taken from Isaiah 50:10 NKJV

©Text and photo Francee Strain, November 29, 2020

Losing and Winning

We have lost so much this year—and are concerned we will lose even more.  We are worried about losing via the elections, losing our jobs, losing our health, and losing our freedoms.  The reality is, pandemic or not, we lose all sorts of things in life.  At any time, we can lose money, homes, jobs, loved ones, health, quality of life, and sometimes even life itself.   Life can be very scary and very sad.  It can be so difficult to get through each day and to keep on keeping on.  How can we?  Why would we want to? 

I want to encourage you that life can also be good.  We might find all sorts of good things: happiness, the loves of our lives, the perfect jobs, and sometimes even our car keys.  And think of all the blessings we still have!  But there is something even greater than these available for us to find, the thing that matters most of all: the salvation of our eternal souls.  Jesus gave the treasure of His life, poured out on the cross, to provide that salvation for all who would believe.  Have you ever gathered that treasure to yourself?  He offers it freely to you. 

And when you have secured your eternal life, your earthly life can be filled with the treasures of peace, joy, hope, and love.  And no matter what you lose on earth, these treasures will always remain.

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b NKJV

©Text and photo Francee Strain, October 31, 2020

Some text adapted from Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 63-4.

In the Name of Peace

IMG_8598

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

When troubles mount, we can feel overwhelmed. Helpless. Hopeless. Sometimes, we want to bury our heads under the covers. Other times, we want to run away. But these actions are not what will solve the problems. These things are not what will fill us with lasting peace.

Lasting peace can only be found in the Prince of Peace, the One who is Everlasting: Jesus. His name is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.*  Inviting Him into the situation is what will bring peace. Holding Him in our hearts will find Him holding us.

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

~~~~~

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

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

~~~~~

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

YOU are precious.

YOU matter to Him.

YOU are loved.


*See Isaiah 9:6

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

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, May 30, 2020.

 

Peace to You

IMG_5312 (2)

During this time of upheaval, I want to encourage you.

You can find hope.

You can know peace.

Because…you are loved.

God has loved you with an everlasting love, and with lovingkindness He is drawing you to Himself.  Though the earth shakes, and the mountains fall into the sea, He is the Creator and Ruler of all.

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

 


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

–Francee


Text and photo by Francee Strain, March 21, 2020

 

 

 

When It Just Doesn’t Quit

IMG_8178

Sometimes, it just doesn’t quit. You know what I’m talking about. The stuff. It just keeps coming at you faster than you can swallow, or even blink. There you are, and there it is. And that, and that, and that too. Overwhelmed. Swamped. Buried. Defeated. Hopeless. Despairing.

The trials compound. The stack of bills mounts. The calendar is crammed to capacity. The seams are about to burst. And you are about to unravel.

The crises become commonplace. The hours fly and crawl at the same time. The supporters grow tired of supporting. And there you are, left all alone with a mess in your hands. And in front of you. And on all sides. Pressing in. Weighing down.

When is this going to stop? Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve all of this? I am so ready to be done. I am past ready.

And then, guess what?  It rains some more.  The straw that broke the camel’s back is joined by more straws. You stare bewildered. You stare blankly. You are staring it in the face.

But then—if your heart belongs to Jesus–a still small voice will come. It will remind you of the words. “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Be still, and know that I am God. I will never leave you nor forsake you.”* What precious words. And these words are truth, spoken straight to your heart from the source of all truth: God Himself, the One who holds the world in His hands, and the One who holds you in His hands.

A few blinks will clear away the haze, and the clarity will dawn. God Himself, the Maker of the universe, is right there beside you. He holds your hand, and He holds your heart. Strength will begin to infuse you. Joy will begin to rise up. Hope will be restored. And you can have a plan. He can be your plan.

The piles will still pile on. The stuff will still keep coming. The pain will still be real. But you will be different. With God on your side, the hopeless heart will become hope-filled.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NKJV)

*From Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 46:10, and Hebrews 13:5 NKJV

©Text and photo Francee Strain, February 14, 2019. Reposted March 7, 2020.