Power Up

“I’m weary, I’m exhausted, I’m beat, I’m so tired, I’m worn out.”  These are phrases I keep hearing— from the mouths of others and even from my own mouth.  We are run ragged by the demands of society, the demands of our schedules, the demands of others, and the demands of our own self-expectations.  We hustle and bustle, expending every ounce of energy we have, and then we go looking for more to finish the job.  Caffeine and chocolate and exercise and power foods become our aids.  We try to boost our energy and keep our eyes open wide.  But somewhere, something is going to give.  We can only keep up such a pace for such a time before it all comes tumbling down.  Soon we will be running on empty, and then crawling on fumes, and then there will be no motion at all. 

Why do we do this to ourselves?  This is not how God designed things to be.  He gives rest, strength, power, and peace, yet, we seem to want to live independently in a frenzy.  He is right there, available and willing to assist us, and yet, we try to get through life on our own and in our own strength.  His ways are higher than our ways, yet we choose the low road, the long road, the hard road.  Our independence and our human solutions make life heavier and more difficult. But there is a better way: His way. 

“We can combat weariness by thinking about these facts: God is our strength, God is our power, and God makes our way perfect (see 2 Sam. 22:33). I can relate these words to my own life because I am not my strength and power, nor do I make my way perfect; I do quite the opposite: I often make my way messy, very messy. Thankfully, the Lord gives strength and peace to His people (see Ps. 29:11). We will find rest when we fill our minds with Him rather than with obsessive thoughts of fear, failure, and worry. And if we are willing to take the time to lay our burdens upon His shoulders and be taught a be­tter way, we will be refreshed, renewed, revitalized, and educated about how to do things in His strength rather than ours. At times, we may be rescued entirely and have the burdens completely taken away; other times, the burdens remain, but He is there to help us carry them. No ma­tter how long, how far, and how difficult our journeys are, God will help us complete them, and not just complete them, but excel at doing so. He will strengthen our spirits with His supernatural power so that we can meet the challenges of life.”1

There are so many things in life that can render us powerless, but His power is always available to us. Whether we are weighed down in our physical bodies, in our hearts, in our minds, or in our spirits, He can give help that is beyond our understanding. We are not left to flounder on our own in hopelessly powerless positions; He is right there by our sides, and He knows exactly how to aid us and handle the circumstances we are in.  When troubles come, He will guide our paths, direct our steps, hold our hands, and guard our hearts.  Even when things look impossible, and it seems we cannot take another step, He is still the omnipotent God. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to those who believe in Him.2   We can be “strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power.”3


I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.4


NOTES

1 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 47.

2 See Ephesians 1:19–20.

3 See Colossians 1:11.

4 Psalm 121:1–2

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 26, 2021

The Cares of This World

Sometimes, the cares of this world are just too much—too much to think about, too much to handle, too much to bear.  Their heaviness can weigh on our hearts and minds until our spirits are downcast and we can barely lift our heads. 

I found myself this week sighing in my spirit.  The grief was palpable.  I was distracted from my tasks of the day as my mind started listing the burdens one by one—mine, his, hers, theirs, ours.  The tears welled up and spilled over.  “God, please help us; We need your help,” I pleaded.  And instantly, He was there, speaking comfort to my soul, reminding me that His shoulders are here to carry the loads, His strong arms are here to lift me up, and His hands are here to hold me close. 

We do not need to be anxious about anything.1  God cares about every detail of our lives.  We were not made to carry this weight, and definitely not made to carry it alone.  If we are focusing on our burdens, it will keep us from focusing on our Source of help, whereas trusting in Him will render perfect peace. 

Scripture tells us to cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us.2  We cannot change the past, but He can heal us from it.  The present may be completely out of our control, but He is present.  And instead of worrying about and dreading the future, thinking “What if ___________happens,” we can replace those thoughts with ones about His character and presence, ones like “He is loving.  He is good.  He is sovereign.  He is all-powerful.  He is.” 

Remembering the truth lifted the weight from me.  The problems and pains remained, but healing and strength had come to my heart.  A lilt of joy entered in, and I continued the tasks of the day, going in the strength of the LORD God, the One who cares for this world. 


Carry Me

When the road is long, carry me.

When I’m not strong, carry me.

When all is wrong, carry me.

Carry me on the road that is short to You.

Carry me in strong arms that will pull me through.

Carry me in the way that is right and true.

Carry me straight to You.3


NOTES

1 See Philippians 4:6.

2 See 1 Peter 5:7.

3 ©Francee Strain, August 2017

©Text and photo Francee Strain, July 25, 2021

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

Bloom Where You Are Planted

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Bloom where you are planted…

–in the middle of wonderful circumstances
–in the middle of difficult circumstances
–in the middle of impossible circumstances

How? Lean on the expertise of God, the Master Gardener, to help you bloom.

God can supply everything we need, and He possesses a perspective we do not. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts. He knows and understands our environments and appointed the bounds of where we would live and when. He knows how to nourish us in such a time as this, in such an environment as this. He possesses all wisdom and all knowledge.

He can bring water to a dry situation, remove thorns, pour in His light, revive us with the breath of His Spirit, encourage us when we are downtrodden, and bring beauty from our lives. He is able to cultivate any circumstance and bring forth a fruitful harvest.

He daily loads us with benefits and sets His eyes upon us for our good. Will we set our eyes upon Him so we can grow, and not just grow but bloom?

When we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. And He will help us bloom where we are planted.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 26, 2020

He Is Risen! He Is Risen, Indeed!

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On Easter Sunday, people are known to say, “He is risen!” Some will even respond to this declaration with the phrase, “He is risen indeed!”* Have you ever said these words? To whom have you spoken them? Is this a common practice in your family and church? Or are these possibly new phrases to you? What thoughts and feelings arise when you say these words? What are the ramifications of these words?

Have you ever heard of 1 Corinthians 15 being called “The Resurrection Chapter”? Read 1 Corinthians 15:1–8 and list the names of those who were able to utter the words that Jesus was risen, indeed. These people saw Jesus with their own eyes. There was living proof right in front of them that He was risen from the dead.

This knowledge brought hope and joy to the world almost 2000 years ago, and the resurrection of Jesus still brings hope and joy to our world today. And we sure do need it these days. Heartbreaking things are happening. People are in dire circumstances and desperate situations. Perhaps you are yourself. Hearts are full of questions, and fear, and anxiety. Hope is wearing thin, dwindling away, and for some people is already gone.

Was any of this happening when Jesus walked the earth? Yes. The circumstances were different, but the hearts of people are the same through all time. And so is Jesus. Jesus cared for people back then, and He cares for us today. He never changes. His heart is filled with compassion and a longing to help us through this life. He can bring hope into the darkest of times. We do not need to get to the end of the tunnel to see the light; we can see it now. He is the Light of the world.

In our times of difficulty and darkness, we only need look up and cry out. He will come to our aid. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us today through the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus left here to help us while He returned to heaven to prepare a place for those who would believe.

God is still on the move, and the return of Jesus is moving ever closer. Time is passing quickly, and we need to be ready. We are living in “post-Easter” days. We are living in “pre-Second Coming” days. Someday soon, we will be seeing Jesus face-to-face. Look up, you who believe in Jesus Christ, the Risen Savior, for your redemption draws nigh! The tomb is empty, and one day the sky is going to be full—full with the glory of God, as Jesus returns for His own.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

*See Matthew 28:6 and Luke 24:34.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 12, 2020

Unbound–Part 3 of 3

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Pain and suffering in life can wrap us and trap us.  It can keep us bound.  It can make us feel so numb we wonder if we are even still alive.  It can make us want to give up on searching for life.  But I want to encourage you: there is life to be found in the midst of suffering and pain.  You can be unbound and set free.  I have living proof.  I am living proof.  Seek God’s power, and you will find your proof, too.

“After Jesus’s death, people continued to seek Him. When Peter and John heard that Jesus was resurrected, they went to the tomb seeking proof. They found their proof in an empty tomb. They went away believing, with an amazing story to share with others (see John 20). Afterward, they went to find Jesus in Galilee where He had said He would meet them following His resurrection (Matt. 28:16). They were able to see the living proof they sought!” They saw Jesus unbound,  fully alive after a time of intense pain and suffering.  God’s power overcame the horrible circumstances, and that same power had been working in the midst of the horrible circumstances, even though it was not evident.

“God is at work in the lives and circumstances of His children even when we do not see it, even when the darkness of the tomb envelops us. Even when we do not see His handiwork or feel His presence, He is there. Nothing is too difficult for Him. Nothing is impossible for Him. He can breathe new life into us and into our circumstances. We need to take some time to look around and see what God is doing in our areas of difficulty. Psalm 66:9 tells us that God holds our souls in life and does not suffer our feet to be moved. We do not have to be removed from the circumstances in order to endure or have hope; He will be our anchor right where we are. We are told to cast all of our cares upon Him because He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). He hears, He sees, and His divine purposes are continuing to be worked even as these circumstances swirl and linger around us. Psalm 69:15–18 says, “Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. Hear me, O LORD; for thy loving-kindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies. And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily. Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: deliver me because of mine enemies.” God will give us the strength to live and also endure whatever we encounter while we do. Nothing is dead when God gives it life.

There is freedom when we are unbound from the graveclothes. There is new breath breathed into us when we allow the breath of God’s Holy Spirit to fill our spirits. His light illumines our paths. The wonderful music of His voice joins us and guides us on our journeys. There are beautiful things to open our eyes to in this world: His creation, His people, and His purposes. The newness He brings is like the fragrance after the rain, fresh and clean. Our hearts can begin to beat again and be filled with passion for the lives He has called us to live. Instead of tasting the bitterness of life, which to us seems like death, we can “taste and see that the LORD is good” (Ps. 34:8). Our vision will become clear when we see with His eyes. We will see that life is not over just because we are suffering and feel dead; we will see that we have not yet begun to live.” 2

 

1 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 56-7.

 Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 31-2.

Photography by Francee Strain, ©April 2019