A Time to Hope, Part 2

This article is the second in a three-part series on hope.

Part 2—A Hope-Filled Faith

Currently, there is war in our world, war in our minds, war on our emotions, and war on our hope. Life is a battle. An uphill one, at that. We labor and calculate to try to get through things, to try to get things to make sense, to survive to fight another day. We groan and weep. We suffer and retreat. We grieve and lash out. Our minds are muddled. Our hearts are bleeding.

We try to pretend we are okay, but we are not. We are deeply wounded. We are exhausted and empty. We are often biting our lower lips to hold back the tears. We don’t speak because we know our voices will crack. We don’t make eye contact because we know a look of sympathy will break us. We have heavy hearts, heavy burdens, and eyes that are heavy with tears. Even the air is heavy, and we feel like we are suffocating beneath the weight of it.

We are self-protecting and self-preserving, and at times we are going all out to mask our pain. And in whatever way we are trying to function and trying to cope, ultimately, we are operating in our own strength. And this is not faith. This is self. Self trying to do it all. Self trying to be it all. Self trying to conquer it all. Self trying to pull through. And the placement of our hope in ourselves is a misplaced hope. We ultimately cannot completely save ourselves. We don’t hold all the pieces and parts. We don’t have all the power and control. And, we never will. There has to be more than this futility and defeat. There has to be a better way, a better place to place our hope, something stronger in which we can place our faith. There is, but sometimes it is difficult to do so.

The challenges of life can challenge our faith. Obstacles, suffering, times of waiting, an overwhelming schedule, and the enemies of our souls can all be deterrents and distractions that keep us from believing in and reaching out to God. The very things with which we need help can be detrimental to our faith. But transformation can take place. Faith can become hope-filled when it is placed in God. And hope springs eternal when it is based on the eternal God.

So, when we place our hope and faith in the eternal God, and nothing more or less, what does this mean? How do we move through life with Him as our foundation? Does it mean our lives will be perfect? That we will never face trials and hardships? That we will not be hurt, rocked to the core, and broken? No, it does not. But what it does mean is that when we fall, we will get up again. When we mourn, we will laugh again. When we cannot see for the dark, we will see the light of His glorious face. This is hope-filled faith.

Faith is not a hope that there will be no difficulties. Faith is a hope through the difficulties. We can believe God is our Rock, and though the world shakes, He never will. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is perfect. Trustworthy. Omnipotent. Sovereign. We can know Who this is, this One in Whom we are placing our hope and faith. We can know His character. We can know His capabilities. We can know His heart.

God will sustain us, and with His help, our difficulties will not destroy us. Having hope in Him will strengthen our faith. The reality of our journeys can meet the reality of who God is. He is the God of hope. When we look to Him, we will see amazing things. When we seek His help, we will have a power we have never known before. He will love us at all times and in all seasons, when things look hopeless or things look hopeful. He will always be there even when we don’t think our hope is. Those who belong to God have the power of His Holy Spirit within them and can abound in hope.1 And, remembering His faithfulness to us and all of the generations before us will restore our hope.

The accounts of many people in the Bible show us how to have faith, and the Bible itself gives comfort, which in turn gives us hope.2 One prime example to examine during our troubled times is the life of Job. “Job experienced so many challenges that wore him down. The changes in his life touched him physically and then sank deep into his being; his mind, emotions, spirit, and relationships were all affected. He was devastated and bowed down in the dirt. He was in a sorry state of being and a somewhat sorry state of mind. Hope seemed lost. He could not help himself. He did not have the strength of stones or brass or any other resource to remedy the devastation in his life (Job 6:11–13). He needed God’s help and would not have rest until he allowed God to give it to him. And then, there was God. God touched Job’s life, and Job was able to get up and move forward. And like Job, we no longer have to lie there on the ground, defeated by the heavy loads of life; God can step in and make our burdens lighter too. Yes, the help of God can be found in us if He is found in us. He will give us grace and strength when we hope in Him and choose to walk uprightly. We can pass through our daily trials with strong and hope-filled hearts.”3

“Job’s trials were unbelievably huge, and yet, he had faith in the God who was bigger…Our souls can be still because God is on our side when we are on His side. He is for us when we are for Him. Not all circumstances will be good, but He will always be good. He is the Lord, and He does not change. … Keep the faith. He will always remain, and He will always remain faithful.”4

Hebrews chapter 11 is another place we can look to see the faith of believers on display. The first verse defines faith as the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”5 These people placed their faith in God, not knowing what the outcome would be but knowing in Whom they were hoping. Daniel continued to pray to God despite being told petitions could only be made to the king. He was then sent to the lions’ den to face a painful death, but God sent an angel to close the lions’ mouths. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were told to worship an earthly king. They refused and stated they would only worship the one true God. They knew this choice was a death sentence, but they also knew God could deliver them if He chose to do so. They were bound and thrown into a fiery furnace to die, but God sent them rescue, and not a hair on any of their heads was singed; the smell of smoke was not even on their clothing.

There were other people, though, who did not live to see their faith realized, yet they still hoped. This was because faith does not have to know the outcome, faith just has to be demonstrated by action, and hope is then born of this faith as it is built on the certainty of the One in Whom we place our faith. Our belief allows us to hope because we are persuaded He can do anything, but it is also the reassured recognition God sometimes does not do what we want and when. He is not a vending machine or a genie. He knows the beginning and the end and everything that must happen in between. Our faith just needs to be in Him and His power and not in human wisdom and desires.6 So, let’s not lose hope. Let’s not stay home, give up, or check out. We can live to fight another day. God can become our companion in battle. We can allow Him to fight for us. Some trust in horses, and some trust in chariots, but we can trust in the name of the LORD God.7 Yes, even while we tread the broken roads of this fallen world, He can make our paths straight. While others try to squash us, He can make our spirits soar. When we think we have lost everything, we will find He has never left us. We can firmly believe in this God and give Him our loyalty and devotion. We can trust our pain will be turned to purpose, and we can know our lonely hearts are not alone. As King David said in Psalm 27:5 and 29:11, God will hide us in times of trouble and set us upon a rock; He will give strength to His people and will bless them with peace.

“God is the source of all hope (see Ps. 62:5) and the source of things that give hope. He is the source of salvation and eternal life. He is our rock and our fortress, our strength and stability, our protection from the enemy. We will not be shaken when we place our hope in Him because He is the unshakable God. We, like others, can have hope by recognizing the truth of who He is.”8 King Asa knew the size of the enemy did not matter because God is the one with all the power.9 Jonah knew his prayers would be heard when he called out in his time of difficulty.10 When we need help and answers, God is both. “It is God who can quash our hopelessness. It is He who can aid our helplessness. He has the power to help and to save, no ma­tter how large the enemy is that looms in front of us. He is hope itself.”11

When we trust Him, the heaviness will dissipate. When we allow Him to share in our pain, He will bring us comfort. When we accept His support, our stress levels will be reduced. His peace will surpass all understanding. He will bring true hope which will enable us to endure this life, “no ma­tter what has happened in the past, what we live in today, and what will come our way in the future. He is the Ancient of Days, and He is the contemporary. He has always existed, and He is here with us now. He is the everlasting God, and He will be with us throughout our futures.”12

“Psalm 142:1–7 is a good passage to read when feeling overwhelmed. These verses tell us that we can cry out to God and let Him know about our complaints and the trouble in which we find ourselves. He knows our paths. He is there for us when and where no one else is, even if it is the middle of the night and we are at our absolute lowest points. He is our refuge. He is our deliverer. He is going to bless us. Instead of le­tting our hearts be troubled, we should focus on our belief in Him and know that He is preparing a place in heaven for us (John 14:3). Be­tter days are coming.”13

God will always keep His promises throughout our entire lifetime, even during the tests and trials that come, even during the devastation and destruction of the fallen, natural world. Even when everything around us gives way, He is constant, He is faithful, He is still God. No ma­tter what happens, we can hold fast, unwaveringly, to our faith. When we cannot comprehend the incomprehensible, He is still the One who makes sense. And He is ever faithful to those who belong to Him.14 He gives His Holy Spirit to indwell those who believe, and the Spirit will counsel and comfort us, He will testify to our spirits that we belong to God, He will groan for us when we cannot find the words to pray in our pain, and He will empower us to go through each day, accomplishing the things God has called us to do. And He is the earnest of the promise that Jesus will return to take all believers home to the Father. Those who believe are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.15 For these reasons, and many more, we can look forward with a faith-filled hope.

True hope is built on a foundation of faith in God. Hope rooted in God is hope which cannot be taken away. We know He is always at work, His timing is perfect, and He keeps His promises. Our minds can know, and our hearts can believe, what our eyes cannot see. The evidence is all around. He has been there in the past, He promises to be there in the future, and we can know He holds us now. And this will fill our faith with hope.


NOTES

1 See Romans 15:13.

2 See Romans 15:4.

3 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 81–2.

4 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 201.

5 This portion of Scripture quoted from Hebrews 11:1 was taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, public domain.

6 See 1 Corinthians 2:5.

7 See Psalm 20:7.

8 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 217.

9 See 2 Chronicles 14.

10 See Jonah 2:7.

11 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 218.

12 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 80.

13 Ibid.

14 See 2 Timothy 2:13 and Deuteronomy 7:9.

15 See 1 Corinthians 3:23.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, August 8, 2022. Revised August 9, 2022.

The Sparrow Keeper

This is a revised version of an article I posted in 2020. This revised article is also available as a podcast episode on Eternal Purpose Podcast. You may access it via my website podcast page or by visiting Spotify or Anchor.

https://open.spotify.com/show/23NbWtwZBdGkm1LVIpFtu3

https://open.spotify.com/episode/02z8M2t5FddhQGrHvCPsFe?si=V4lTaL_GTAi6qTKM27RojA

https://anchor.fm/francee-strain/episodes/The-Sparrow-Keeper-e1l5ddm


I’m a birdwatcher. I peek out the windows, and I check on the happenings in my yard. Certain birdcalls send me running outdoors to catch the action. At times, you will find me with my mouth agape as I observe spectacular scenes unfolding before me.

Several of my hobbies revolve around wild birds. Some days, I get a finger cramp pressing the shutter button on my camera. I use my photographs in a multitude of ways. I have a feather collection. Bird figurines adorn my tabletops, shelves, fireplace mantel, and piano. There are framed bird prints hanging in various rooms of my house. I have bird identification books and a magazine subscription—this way, I can gaze at other people’s bird photographs and further my bird education at the same time. I’m not sure where my fascination with birds came from. I remember checking out bird guide books from the elementary school, and I sat at my bedroom desk tracing over the photos. Birds of paradise were always my favorite. But after that, I don’t remember too much of anything else related to birds—until several years ago—I acquired a birdbath.  At that point, I moved beyond being a bird watcher—I became a bird keeper.

A keeper is one who has the job not only to watch but also to protect and maintain what or whom is being cared for. Daily, I have taken to caring for the birds. I water them, fill up bird feeders with birdseed, and I cook up batches of hummingbird nectar. I chase away cats that are looking for a feathery meal, and I shoo away deer who believe the bird feeders exist for their benefit. Thus, I have become a sparrow keeper, along with being a keeper to more than thirty-five other types. It brings great joy to my heart to be able to share in the lives of these beautiful creatures.

When we look at sparrows, “beautiful” may not be the first word that comes to our mind.  We’re probably not impressed by their appearance or wowed by their size. We might think they’re a dime a dozen and are nothing in comparison to showy peacocks or powerful birds of prey. But, the Bible says not one sparrow is forgotten by God or falls to the ground without His knowledge. And we humans are told not to fear because we are of more value than many sparrows.1 Think of it!  If God cares for each one of these little creatures, how much more must He care for us?

But, how do we understand this when life seems to be flying out of control in many directions at once, like a flock of birds flushing out of the field? Right now, there’s noise, confusion, scrambling, blurring, fleeing, crying out, and fear. Things are startling us out of our peace and rest, interrupting us as we try to go about our normal lives, causing us to question what is happening and what to do next. We don’t understand the outside forces that are bearing down on us and making our hearts anxious and pounding. But, I want to encourage us not to fear. God’s eyes are on the sparrows, and He is watching over us, too.

There are songs that talk about God being a sparrow watcher. And when I think about this concept, I realize He’s not just a sparrow watcher, He’s a sparrow keeper. He’s not simply an observer of what’s taking place in our lives, He is involved in our care. He fulfills the definition of a keeper as He guards and cares for, protects and maintains. As we live our lives in the midst of a difficult and fallen world, He abides, faithful.

Indeed, we are told the very hairs of our heads are numbered.2 God is aware of each of us and is paying attention to the details. From our safe little perches and our huge falls to the ground in this big, overwhelming world that’s fraught with danger, He remains vigilant. When gale force winds, seasons of drought, firestorms, and famine come, He speaks peace. When we are separated from the flock, lost or abandoned, He’s omnipresent. When our feathers get ruffled, when we smack into the window while looking at the reflection of something we think we want, or when we get blown off course in the high winds, He sees. He knows. He remains steadfast. And He is available to help us recover. No one else can meet each need or save our very souls except Him. He has provided Himself, the living water and the bread of life. He guards souls from eternal death and is capable of keeping them in life. He is omnipotent and everlasting.

Yes, God is the world maker, star namer, and soul saver. He is the sparrow watcher and the sparrow keeper. From everlasting to everlasting, He is God.


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.

I will cry out to God Most High,
To God who performs all things for me.

He shall send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.3


NOTES

1 See Luke 12:6.

2 See Luke 12:7.

3 Psalm 57:1–3

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

©Text and photos Francee Strain, July 12, 2022. Original version posted August 16, 2020.

Victory in the Valleys

So many people are walking through the valley, crawling through the valley, languishing in the valley, and sadly, there are some who are even dying in the valley.Have you taken the time to look around and see where it is you are and where you are heading? 

In these days of fear, confusion, and disillusionment, it may feel like there is no way to know what is ahead of us and how things are going to turn out.  While it is true that we cannot know what the exact details will look like, the end result is sure, and having this knowledge can give us rest, hope, joy, and peace.

How can we rest in all of life’s circumstances: the normal, the busy, and the difficult? We do it by realizing that the rest is not dependent on us—it is dependent on God. We do not have to succumb to the ba­ttle that is life. We can have true joy in Him even though the things around us bring no cause for happiness. We can also have true rest by having faith in Him and placing our trust in Him. He will allow us to endure and allow us to rest. Faith places our good times and bad times in His hands and invites Him to work in the midst of them. He can miraculously reverse our circumstances, but even if that is not His plan, He can miraculously reverse us—from a state of unrest to a state of rest, from the valley floor to the mountaintop. His Spirit will do the work if we invite Him to do the work.2

We should each take a moment to look at where we are right now and where we are heading. We can come to Him whether we are on the mountaintop or in the valley. We can come whether we have it all together or it is falling all apart. We can come whether we are experiencing great joy or deep sorrow. We can come whether we have traveling companions or are all alone. Whatever the circumstances, we can come to Him and rest during our journeys, and then continue on, with Him by our sides. Will it be worth it to respond favorably to God’s invitations? Yes! Most definitely, yes! We will not even need to exercise a trial period to find out if it will be worth it because we can know beforehand that it is going to be. He is trustworthy, and His love does not disappoint. This world and this current life are not all there is; there is more to come. There is eternity to come. We need an eternal focus, eyes that see past the reality of now. Jesus offers us an invitation to eternal life so that we may benefit in having a relationship with Him in heaven. There is no pressure or obligation to accept His invitation—all that He does is make the offer. The choice is completely up to us. He will come into our lives if we answer yes when He knocks (Rev. 3:20), and then His answer to us will be admi­ttance into heaven.3

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.4

We should not allow our difficulties to destroy us; instead, we should let them define us as people of strong faith. We need to wear the hope of God and allow its weight to affect our hearts so that we can be joyous in our life’s journeys despite their realities. We can break the bondage of suffering, and bear the love and hope of Jesus to those around us, even in our darkest days. We will be able to press on through life with strength and resolve when we are sensitive to His words and His leading and when we exhibit trust, patience, and a­ttentiveness. We will see amazing things when we look up from the loads, and we will be able to accomplish things that we never could on our own. And although we are under these loads, we can feel as if we are on top of them and that they are bearing us upward to God. He knows the times and the seasons, and we can know that He loves us through all of those times and seasons. Let’s bear hope in our hearts! May the loads not break us, may they instead yoke us to Jesus. May we not let our trials have the mastery over us, but instead let them be mastered by Jesus. May we allow Him to set us free.5

There are multiple cares we have, and there are multiple loads we carry, but we can bear these loads and rest in Him simultaneously. Our burdens do not have to overpower us, and they will not, if we take the time to be led by God in the midst of them. These are not platitudes but truths. I have seen proof in countless lives, including my own. We do not have to wait until we get to the end of the tunnels to see the light; we can see it now, even though it is dark all around us. We can see the light of God’s glory shining through the darkest of clouds and the darkest of nights, radiating brightly through the darkness of hopelessness and the darkness of despair. God gives strength beyond strength and peace beyond peace. He is there with us through His Spirit, and He is there with us in love. He does all things well and will be there with us every moment of every day. He is for us, and He has eternal purpose in each day. He is the fountain of life, and in His light we will see light (Ps. 36:9).6

And in these valleys, we will have victory.


Notes

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, January 24, 2021.

1 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 184.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., 254.

4 Ibid., 199.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid., 181–182.

Languishing in Limbo or Living in Liberty?

Are you languishing in limbo or living in liberty?  I am seeing and hearing so much pain and anger in people’s lives and voices.  I see people bowed down, hunched over, listless, and joyless.  Disappointed, disillusioned, and distressed.  Clenched and cocked and flinging words and punches.  This is not how things are supposed to be.  Let’s do a heart check.

The Bible tells us that heaviness in the heart of man makes it stoop, but a good word makes it glad (Proverbs 12:25 KJV).  This is so true.  So, here is a good word for you today: Jesus loves you! 

There is life, joy, hope, and peace available to all who ask Him for it.  In the midst of dark, dreary, and drudging days, there is light.  He is the Light of the World. 

Look up, my friends. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”* 

©Text and photo by Francee Strain, October 10, 2020

*Quotation taken from the song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Helen Howarth Lemmel.

Steadfast

Are you weary?  Steady on.

Are you tired?  Don’t quit.

Are you faltering?  Don’t stop.

Are you losing touch?  Reach out.

Do you feel like giving up?  Look up.

Keep on Keeping on.  Steadfast.

Stand firm in the faith, and walk forward in it, too.  Have faith in the Only Begotten Son of God who loves you and gave His life for you.  His love is steadfast.  He spent a night with no sleep, being betrayed, arrested, falsely accused, mocked, and beaten.  And then, He made His way to the cross—for you.  He gave His very life so you would never have to journey on alone.

He holds the hands of those who hold Him in their hearts.  He never leaves His own.  He was faithful unto death, and now He is faithful unto life.  Eternal life awaits those who place their trust in Jesus, the Savior of the world.  There is hope for better days, days with no more pain, sorrow, or tears.

Life is hard.  And tiring.  And painful beyond belief.  But His presence will go with His children, and He will give them rest.  When the earth shakes, and the mountains fall into the sea, our quaking hearts can walk forward unafraid.  Do not fear.  He will hold us fast.  Having our foundation firm in Christ will give us a solid rock upon which to stand.  He never lets go of those who belong to Him.  He is the Creator of all.  He holds all power and knowledge in His hand.  He does not change, faint, grow weary, or close His eyes in sleep.  If you are on His side, He is on your side.

When we keep our eyes steadfast on Him, we will see His glory and His beauty.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is steadfast and faithful.  His mercies are new every morning.  His love is unconditional.  His peace is beyond understanding.  His joy is indescribable.  His grace is freely given to us, undeserved. 

Do not look for other things to fill, comfort, and satisfy you.  Only He can save, and only He can perfectly help.  Set your heart on Him.

Keep your mind stayed on Him.  Do not let it be overtaken by doubt, impurity, lies, and deception.

Set your ears to listen for His voice.

Set your voice always determined to praise Him.

He is high and lifted up.  He is the King who sits enthroned forever.  And He has said that we can boldly approach His throne and find grace to help in our time of need.

So, for all of my days, I will be steadfast in Him.

I will endure and continue, unshaken.  I will be confident, strong, sure, and peaceful.  I will continue on course, on task, on focus, on point, onward.  Steady on. Steadfast.

My soul follows hard after You; Your right hand upholds me.*

*See Psalm 63:8 KJV.

For further reading: Psalm 40, Psalm 103, Romans 12:12

©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 20, 2020

Beyond the Now

I wrote and posted this article a year ago and also posted it earlier this year…before things were, well, like they are now.  I hope these words encourage you today, even if you have read them before.  Remember to look up.  Remember who you are, why you are here, and what it is all about.  Let your weary heart take heart.

IMG_6650

(Repost)
Eyes on the goal. Eyes on the prize. What you do today impacts your future, and that of others.

There is more to this life and more beyond this life. We must plan and be intentional. We must count the cost when we are laying the foundation. We need to be rooted and built up in Jesus and let Him become our life.

We need to move in God’s direction—staying on course, getting directions from His Word, and letting Him be our motivation. And we need to come back after we fail.

We need diligence, perseverance, and endurance. Just like the slogan for graduates that says “The tassel was worth the hassle,” this hard journey pays off. You are impacted by the path you choose, and you impact others by the path you choose. Choose wisely. Do not give up. Do not quit. Keep pushing. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Be encouraged by those cheering you on, and in quiet stretches, remember those whose voices you cannot physically hear. I think of my grandma; you can think of me; we can both think of the cloud of witnesses (see Hebrews 12:1) …and remember that God is on our side.

We need to saddle up, buckle up, buckle down, hunker down, and batten down. We need to keep calm and carry on. We are not to worry or be anxious. We need to trust in where our help comes from (It comes from the Lord—the Maker of heaven and earth!). We need to look up, but also ponder the path of our feet. We need to hydrate with the Living Water and keep moving, all the while being still and knowing He is God. We need to shake off the pain and take on the peace. There can be joy in this journey. We will never be alone; He is there beside us—hearing us when we call and drawing near to us as we draw near to Him.

We need to reset our focus to the season ahead and move with eternal purpose. What’s done is done, and we need to move forward. Time does not stop, and we do not get to go back. So, now is important, and so is prepping for the future. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus endured the cross. He finished the race that was set before Him to fulfill the reason for which He was born; and He is our example. The “now” for Him was to give His life for us so in the future we had a Savior. Now is our time to call on Him so we can be with Him in the future.

Finish the course. Keep the faith. You can do this. You can get beyond the now. All things are possible with God. And when you cross the finish line, you will lay your eyes on the prize—your eyes will be on Him. He is the joy, and He is the prize that is set before us.

Eyes on the prize. Eyes on the goal. Eyes beyond the now.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12–14 NKJV).

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 15, 2019

Beyond the Now

IMG_6650 (2)

(Repost)

Eyes on the goal. Eyes on the prize. What you do today impacts your future, and that of others.

There is more to this life and more beyond this life. We must plan and be intentional. We must count the cost when we are laying the foundation. We need to be rooted and built up in Jesus and let Him become our life.

We need to move in God’s direction—staying on course, getting directions from His Word, and letting Him be our motivation. And we need to come back after we fail.

We need diligence, perseverance, and endurance. Just like the slogan for graduates that says “The tassel was worth the hassle,” this hard journey pays off. You are impacted by the path you choose, and you impact others by the path you choose. Choose wisely. Do not give up. Do not quit. Keep pushing. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Be encouraged by those cheering you on, and in quiet stretches, remember those whose voices you cannot physically hear. I think of my grandma; you can think of me; we can both think of the cloud of witnesses (see Hebrews 12:1) …and remember that God is on our side.

We need to saddle up, buckle up, buckle down, hunker down, and batten down. We need to keep calm and carry on. We are not to worry or be anxious. We need to trust in where our help comes from (It comes from the Lord—the Maker of heaven and earth!). We need to look up, but also ponder the path of our feet. We need to hydrate with the Living Water and keep moving, all the while being still and knowing He is God. We need to shake off the pain and take on the peace. There can be joy in this journey. We will never be alone; He is there beside us—hearing us when we call and drawing near to us as we draw near to Him.

We need to reset our focus to the season ahead and move with eternal purpose. What’s done is done, and we need to move forward. Time does not stop, and we do not get to go back. So, now is important, and so is prepping for the future. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus endured the cross. He finished the race that was set before Him to fulfill the reason for which He was born; and He is our example. The “now” for Him was to give His life for us so in the future we had a Savior. Now is our time to call on Him so we can be with Him in the future.

Finish the course. Keep the faith. You can do this. You can get beyond the now. All things are possible with God. And when you cross the finish line, you will lay your eyes on the prize—your eyes will be on Him. He is the joy, and He is the prize that is set before us.

Eyes on the prize. Eyes on the goal. Eyes beyond the now.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12–14 NKJV).

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 15, 2019

When Mountains Stand Strong

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(Repost)

For those who are facing mountains right now, I have been there.  I originally wrote this post from a different place than I am writing today.  Some mountains have fallen into the sea; some have yet to fall.  New ones have risen–sometimes multiplying faster than I can count.  To you, I say: Hold fast.  Keep on keeping on.  Grab hold of the One who will never let you go.  With Him by your side, you can face any mountain.*


I am on the mountain of heartbreak, and I don’t want to climb it anymore. Every muscle in my aching body screams for me to stop, to give up, to turn around and get off this mountain—to run and hide rather than face what looms before me, to maybe wander off into a green pasture, to lie down beside a calm stream, to spend hours listening to the symphony of birds in the trees and crickets in the grass—anything but put one foot in front of the other on these craggy ledges and dangling precipices. I am tired from this journey that presents nothing to me but pain and arduous struggle.

The problems that loom in front of me are mountains of immense proportion. Their enormity is overwhelming. Just one look at them can cause my heart to sink into the lowest valley. Their height seems to reach to the heavens, and the length of the mountain chain seems to go on for miles with no end in sight. Whatever can my human heart do when this is what stands in front of me, staring me in the face with its cold, hard reality? These mountains are formidable opponents. Some people don’t survive the battle against these giants. Sometimes, I wonder if I will.

Why can’t I have it the easy way? Why can’t I have the things that look so much more desirable, and that appear as though they will bring me so much more peace? Why do I have to labor and exert myself for hours on end to head to a destination that I can’t even see, that seems so far beyond my reach? Why do I have to do it? Because this is what He has called me to. Because this is His perfect plan for my life. He knows something that I do not know. He sees something that I do not see. He knows what I will find when I get to the end. He goes before me, He goes beside me, He holds me up from behind, and when the finish line is finally in sight, He will be there with arms outstretched and waiting to enfold me—to tell me well done, to tell me that I have gained the prize. It is His wisdom that outweighs mine. It is His sovereignty, His omnipotence, His love that will spur me on. I have to choose. I get to choose. Will I be spurred on? Or will I turn and walk back down the mountain to a destination where He is not? To a place where He is not walking beside me, or upholding me, or spurring me on to finish. Which will I choose? Which direction will I go? I choose Him. In all things, I choose Him. No matter what lies ahead, what difficulties I must face, what trials I must surmount, I choose Him. I would rather have Him than anything. This is what I do when mountains stand strong: I stand stronger because of His strength in me.

So although I am enveloped in a thick, confusing fog, with winds howling all around me; although the storm clouds rage and break upon my face, their roaring thunder striking fear into my heart; although there are sudden avalanches that make the situation even more unstable than I thought it already was, and torrents wash away what I thought I knew, I can look up. Yes, at these times, I can look up. My fear and unbelief will then be washed away by grace, because when I lift up my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help, these heavy things have to flee and give place to hope, peace, and eternal love.

In my newly-washed perspective, I see God—the source of hope, peace, and eternal love. I see His goodness. His power. His strength and majesty. My heart can hope, and it can rejoice. Yes, although my feet are in the valley, my soul can soar above the mountaintops. I can stand strong because my Maker causes me to stand strong. Nothing compares to the awesomeness that He is. Nothing can lift my head like He can. Nothing can lift my soul like He can. Nothing can move my heart like He can. And nothing can move mountains like He can. He can give me the mustard seed of faith that can say to these formidable mountains, “Be moved into the sea!” When my Mountain, my Rock, battles against these mountains, they are no match, because greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. There is power in the name of this great God. There is none else like Him. When mountains stand strong, He stands stronger.**

“You are my rock…
Into Your hand I commit my spirit…
You have known my soul in adversities.”
(from Psalm 31:3, 5, 7 NKJV)

*Intoduction by Francee Strain, July 27, 2019
**Original text by Francee Strain, March 2, 2018
Revised photo by Francee Strain, May 23, 2020

Resolved to Trust

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“Resolve to come when you hear Him call. Trust Him with your life, with all that you are.”

Book Excerpt:
… We can come, resolving to trust. There will always be areas where our resolve will be strong and other areas where it will be weak, but this should make no difference or cause any delay in coming to God. We need Him in all areas, and thus, we should make our coming soon, and make it quick. Acting will strengthen our trust, while inaction will weaken it. We can ask Him to increase our faith and to help us with any unbelief that we have. We should be resolved to come to Him for His strength–strength to add to our weakness and more strength to add to our existing strength. We can come even if we are a solitary number. We can stand even if we stand alone. We should be willing to pay the ultimate price for Him because He paid the ultimate price for us. We should come like sheep to the shepherd; they come because they are called by a voice that they know and trust. Resolve to come when you hear Him call. Trust Him with your life, with all that you are.

… It is wise to have a heart that listens for God’s voice so that even during times when life seems dead and dark, it will still be able to hear Him. It is also wise to have a responsive heart that is quick to come when God calls it. We need to have the understanding that a delayed response can fill the void with excuses, and before we know it, we might find ourselves disobedient and ignoring His calls. Life and light are there within our grasp; we just need to come forth to receive them. This is wisdom.

We can come to Him whether we know much about Him or little. We can come with whatever amount of spiritual understanding we have. We can come with our searching and ask Him to reveal Himself to us. We can ask Him to make His will known to us. We can come with our confusion and questioning, our bewilderment and asking “Why me?” He gives wisdom liberally to all who ask for it (James 1:5).

God is a big God who allows us to come to Him no matter what our statuses are. We do not have to be a king to gain the attention of the King. We do not have to be perfect to approach the perfect God. We do not have to be a giant of the faith to approach the One who is the source of all faith. We can come no matter the amount of our faith, even if it is as small as a mustard seed. He wants us to be seekers who find Him for the first time. Thereafter, He wants us to be people who continually seek His face. He is there to be found.

When God invited David to seek His face, David decided that his heart would do so (see Ps. 27:8). 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.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 115-116.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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Our immediate family, extended family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, acquaintances, and strangers we meet on the street are going through trials right now. Times of great difficulty are not just on the horizon, they are now; they were yesterday; they will be tomorrow. We are in the thick of it, and we are wearing thin. We face things that make us want to quit, things that overwhelm us, things that cut deep, things that we cannot even fathom with our human minds. What recourse do we have? How can we cope? How can we continue to put one foot in front of the other? We give up. We surrender. We put ourselves between a rock and a hard place. But not just any rock—the Rock.

• We let God be at our backs. We let Him be the one we fall back on. So, no matter which direction we turn, there He is, supporting us on all sides.

Then they remembered that God was their rock,
And the Most High God their Redeemer. (Psalm 78:35)

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21)

• We let Him lead us. We let Him be the one that goes before us, preparing the way and meeting us when we get there.

And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you.
He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake
you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

• We let Him carry us. At our lowest, even in the low valley of the shadow of death, it is His everlasting arms that are beneath us.

The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms; (Deuteronomy 33:27a)

• We let His love cover us and His presence overshadow us.

By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He
has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the
Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses
that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And
we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love,
and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:13-16)

This is the rock and the hard place between which I want to find myself firmly planted. Like a rock, immovable, because my God is immovable. He is stronger than anything that comes against me.  Yes, the LORD will preserve our going out and our coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore, if we entrust ourselves to His hand. (see Psalm 121:8)

The Lord is my rock and my fortress
and my deliverer;

As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

For who is God, except the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?

God is my strength and power,
And He makes my way perfect.
(2 Samuel 22:2b, 31-33)

Francee Strain, August 10, 2019

Scriptures taken from New King James Version