The Hope of No More Tears

I wrote the following article just over four years ago, having experienced more pain and grief than I could ever remember having experienced before.  And then in May 2021, I reposted the article, noting the overwhelming amount of grief surrounding me again, grief both my own and that of family and friends.  New grief was being experienced; former grief was being relived.  Loss was inundating our lives like it always does, but it seemed to have risen to a new level.  And then it continued to rise.  Loved ones were lost, some suddenly and some slowly.  Health declined, jobs disappeared, dreams had to change, and tears ruled the day—and the night.  The anniversaries of what had been lost showed up on the calendar as they do every year and had to be faced as surely as the day had to dawn.  And here at the outset of 2022, I realize I have just come through a year full of more grief than I have ever known before.  But with that realization stands the same underlying truth I knew in 2017 and early 2021, hope and comfort comes, too, because I know the God of all hope and the God of all comfort.


(Repost)

No More Tears

“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)1


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2

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.3


NOTES

©Text and photo Francee Strain, January 16, 2022.

1 “No More Tears” and photo were originally posted November 15, 2017.  Revelation 21:4 taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, public domain.

2 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

3 Romans 15:13 taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

Happy New Day, 2022

Happy New Day!

What?! 

You were expecting me to say Happy New Year, weren’t you?  But really, we can have a new year every day that we have a new day.  We do not need our lives to match the calendar’s transition from December 31st to January 1st to experience joy and good plans.  We can turn the page on our old lives and let God make them new this very day.  His mercies are new every morning, but we do not even need to wait for the morning to dawn; He covers the entire day.  So, anytime we are ready to have a happy new year, we can begin it with our present day, our present moment.  His presence is available now.  And His power is forever.

People usually spend the month of December talking about the upcoming new year, but this year, people have been talking about it for months, and some people for much of the year’s entirety.  People have been saying they want 2021 to be over and that they can’t wait for 2022 to arrive.  But flipping a page on a calendar to read January 1, 2022 is not going to change the reality of what we are facing today.  A new page on the calendar does not equal a new day.  A new day equals a new day.

How we live today is what changes the calendar for tomorrow, which eventually changes the calendar for the year. Who and what we prioritize is what fills the squares and fuels our goals.  Well, that’s how things typically work, right?  But what about in a year when things seem to be out of control and we do not get to make the decisions or resolutions we typically make?  Looking beyond the now will help us. 

It is true we cannot control or change a good portion of what is happening, but we can control and change ourselves and the type of legacy we leave behind.  We can take our focus off the temporary and put it on the eternal.  We can put Christ first in our lives, and thus, our days, and live for something beyond ourselves and the trials of this life.  Christ is not just for Christmas and not just for our new year’s resolutions for better living.  Christ is for every day, holiday or not, and for every day beyond the resolutions we do not keep.  He will never abandon us, and it would be excellent if we would never abandon Him.  We can allow Him to make our days eternally significant—every single one of them. 

How do we accomplish this?  By entering into every day with Him—by being deliberate in our steps to follow Him, by being thankful to Him and blessing His name, by seeking His truth and gaining knowledge of Him, by heeding His voice and exercising discernment.  We can fill each day’s page with Him—with His eternal salvation, comprehensive forgiveness, incomprehensible joy, unconditional love, and all-encompassing peace.  We can allow Him to remake us into new and beautiful creations. 

Let’s let the old be gone and the new come.  There is no need to wait for 2022 (or any other new year).  We can see the Light and Joy now.  His presence is here now.  And His power is forever.

Have a happy new year full of happy new days! *


*Author’s note: In this article, my focus was on the word “new” rather than “happy,” but what about the “happy” part of the new day and the new year?  What if our circumstances are terrible, miserable, depressing, or desperate?  We want to be happy, but the reality is we cannot always be.  Things devastate us and break our hearts.  Misery and despair come knocking on our doors and minds.  This truth is the reason I actually prefer to say “Joyous New Year” rather than “Happy New Year.”  Joy is different than happiness.  Happiness is circumstantial, but joy is definitive.  I am not talking about living in denial of reality, I am talking about knowing something deeper than what is happening in our current situations.  I am talking about a knowing in the depths of our souls.  We can always keep the seed of joy planted firmly in our hearts.  We can take joy in the fact that Jesus loves us and will forgive every sin, that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and that He is coming back to get His own.  These truths do not change based on the circumstances of our lives.  This is why joy can remain when happiness flees.

We can take heart because one day, our calendar pages will not contain scribbles and overbookings, stress loads and tear stains.  We will not have to worry about changing pages, because time will be no more.  One day, a new page will turn; eternity will begin.  We are approaching that day, are you ready?  There will come a time when Jesus will make all things new for those who have placed their trust in Him.  For now, He can make us new–new creations in Christ, where the old has passed away and the new has come.  Let us press on toward the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus, press on for the joy set before us, press on for the new day.


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.

2 Corinthians 5:17

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Revelation 21:4-5


NOTES

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

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, December 31, 2020. Updated January 2, 2022.

The Advent of Peace

(The following is a repost of two readings from my 2020 five-part series on Advent.)

The Advent of Peace—Reading #1

Do you have peace?  Do you want peace?  Do you believe peace is possible, especially in the day and age in which we live?  I fully believe it is possible.  I have experienced it for myself. 

Peace can come to us the moment we open our eyes and take in the light of day.  We can breathe in the peace of God because He has come to dwell with us.  Just over 2000 years ago, God sent His only son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the World.  And one of the names and characteristics Jesus has is that He is the Prince of Peace.  He rules it.  He is the source of it.  It is His to give. 

I have asked Jesus to be a part of my life, and His presence results in peace.  He calms storms of all kinds.  He removes the sting of death.  He does miracles.  He cleanses me from every sin.  He has restored my soul and made it acceptable in the sight of God.  I never have to worry about walking alone because He has said He will never leave me nor forsake me.  I don’t have to worry about what will happen when I die because He has already assured me that since I gave myself to Him, I can never be plucked from His hand.  I do not have to worry about decision making because He gives wisdom to those who ask for it.  I do not have to worry about my needs being met because He is the provider and sustainer.  I do not have to toss and turn at night but instead can sleep in peace because He is omnipotent and will care for those who are His own. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the LORD with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding.  If we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He is going to direct our paths.  I could go on and on with example after example of the things I can know for certain and how this knowledge brings peace.  You can know these things, too.  It simply starts with you coming to the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace, and giving your life to Him.

This is how peace comes.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 6, 2020. Reposted December 13, 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.

___________________________

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. Reposted December 13, 2021.


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

Unfolding Beauty

I have been watching a beautiful love story unfold.  It has only been evident for three years, but it began fifteen years ago.  God brought a little girl and her family to our church.  This little girl began to take piano lessons from me when she was seven.  I then became her Sunday school teacher while she was in the 4th–6th grade.  I had occasional contact with her during her teen years while at church or working with the youth group.  I received an invitation to her high school graduation, which happened to be the same ceremony from which my son was graduating.  She and my son both entered college, and life moved on.  I did not see her much for about eighteen months, but then she and my son began developing their friendship, which led to dating, which led to engagement, and which, in just two weeks, will lead to their marriage.  I will enter a new stage of relating to her as I gain a daughter, and I will see more beauty unfold.  I never saw this coming all those years ago, but God had a perfect plan, and when it was His timing, it came to fruition.

God makes everything beautiful in its time.Although we don’t know how things will all turn out, He does, and we can trust Him. Will all things we experience in our lifetimes be good?  No; we live in a fallen world.  But God is good, and He will work for the good of those who love Him.2  So even if the circumstances of our lives do not change, we can be transformed by His glory and for His glory.  There are flowers that can bloom in the desert, during drought, and in the dark, and when we choose to live a life for God, beauty will unfold in our lives.  When we move to become more like Christ and exhibit the fruits of the Spirit, we will become beautiful.  Just as a flower needs time and nutrients to bloom, He will grow us, tend us, nurture us, and bring a beautiful harvest from our lives.  He who started the work will faithfully complete it.

The beauty of His plan for us is beyond anything we can even imagine. Just as it was when God created the world, adding more and more beauty, so it is with a heart surrendered to Him. It is like watching a beautiful love story unfold. Just as we move from being a stranger to an acquaintance to a casual friend to a serious friend to a dating relationship to being engaged to being married, our relationship with God moves through stages.  The more time we spend with Him, the more we will know Him and see His involvement in our lives.  Our actions will make all the difference in how our relationship with Him unfolds.  We can move from a point of realizing He exists to knowing Him intimately.  We can move from being His creation to becoming His child.  We can invite Him to be our Savior, and His Spirit will come to dwell within us, never leaving nor forsaking us.  We can then continue to grow our relationship by communing with Him and taking on His heart and mind.  Over time, we will discover more of His attributes, and our love for Him will grow.  And a beautiful story will unfold.  

He has declared His love for us.  Will we receive it?  Will we invite Him to live in us, walk with us, and be the One with whom we spend eternity?  Prophecy is unfolding step by step.  One day, Jesus will return for His own, and the beauty of eternal life with Him will unfold for them.  Will this beauty unfold in your life? 


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


NOTES

1 See Ecclesiastes 3:11.

2 See Romans 8:28.

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, October 23, 2021

Many Sparrows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


NOTES

1 See Matthew 10:29 and Luke 12:6–7.

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

3 See Psalm 62:5–8, 11.

4 See Ecclesiastes 3:14.

5 Luke 12:6–7

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 19, 2021

Comfort Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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


Let all that you do be done with love. 3

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

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.5


NOTES

1 See Philippians 3:12.  

2 See Romans 12:15.

3 1 Corinthians 16:14

4 2 Corinthians 2:14–15

5 2 Corinthians 1:3–4

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 29, 2021

Stand on the Sea

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

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

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

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

Peace, be still. 

Peace, with Him. 

Be with Him. 

Peace, be still, with Him.


Stand on the Sea

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


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


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


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

NOTES

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

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

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 21, 2021

Another Sunrise

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


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

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


Book Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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


NOTES

1Based on Romans 14:8

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

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

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.

Don’t Quit

It seems to me so many people are battle weary, downtrodden, and living in defeat. But we are not defeated, for the battle belongs to the LORD. The victory is His.

In the midst of these dark times, let’s look for the good He is bringing and the new beauty. Let’s look for the blessings in the brokenness.

Remember these seemingly impossible situations? 

  • The Red Sea loomed in front of Moses and Pharaoh’s army behind him, but God parted the sea and crushed the enemy.  Moses proceeded on dry land, untouched. 
  • Goliath loomed over David, but God helped him defeat the giant.  David proceeded forward and became a man after God’s own heart. 
  • The wall of Jericho loomed over Joshua, but God gave the instructions that toppled the wall.  Joshua marched forward into a miracle and the Promised Land. 
  • Death loomed over Jesus, but He arose from the grave.  It looked like life was over and all hope was lost, but Life and Hope were just beginning.

You do not have to be in the battle alone.  Whatever looms over you, God will help you face it and move forward.  When David came against Goliath, he said he was doing so in the name of the LORD of hosts.1  God is the one who has all power and authority.  Be battle ready and let Him fight for you.

How can you become battle ready?  Guard your heart.  Listen to the voice of God’s truth.  Wear your spiritual armor.  Prepare with prayer, the Word, fellowship, and obedience. Follow the instructions of the LORD God. Nourish your soul with the Living Water and the Bread of Life. Allow God to give you His peace.  Ask for courage. Take in the good. Release the sin that entangles you.  Trust in Him at all times.  He sent redemption and will keep His covenant with His people.2   

Don’t quit. 

Press on. No retreat. No surrender. Sure-footed and strong. Safe in His hand.

If God is for us, who can be against us? We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us so.3

Give it your all, for His glory.


Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

Psalm 23:4–5

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:57


NOTES

1 See 1 Samuel 17:45.

2  See Psalm 111:9.

3  See Romans 8:31, 37.

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 16, 2021