Immanuel

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

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 65-66.

The Presence of God

Sometimes we feel like God is far away.  We don’t think He hears us or speaks to us.  We feel like we are wandering around lost, with no sense of direction.  But there is direction.  He has spoken.  He is speaking.  Even when we are away from the visible presence of the Lord, His presence can still be with us through His Spirit, His Word, and His deeds.  It is in the things that we know.  The things that He has spoken to our hearts.  We can hear Him speak now in the words that He spoke in the past.  We can see Him move now by looking at the ways in which He moved in the past.  We can choose to draw near, and we can choose to see and hear Him.  Now.

“When the Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan River so they could take possession of the Promised Land, their leader Joshua spoke to the three tribes who were going to remain behind on the other side of the river.  These tribes were going to be away from the visible presence of the Lord and away from the remainder of the congregation; thus, Joshua cautioned them and said, “But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Josh. 22:5 NKJV). In dissecting this verse, we can see a way to establish our lives and order our priorities. There are six verbs of instruction that will be beneficial to maintaining a relationship with God: do, love, walk, keep, hold, and serve. If we do the commandment and the law, love the Lord our God, walk in all His ways, keep His commandments, hold fast to Him, and serve Him, then we will remain on the correct path as we live for Him. These are the things that He wants for us because these are the things that we need.”

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Excerpt taken from pages 82-83, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, Francee Strain, 2017.

Photo by Francee Strain

The Bird Watcher

Birds are amazing creatures.  My country backyard abounds with them.  A birdbath filling is a daily ritual around here.  And when the magpies show up, it is a multi-times-a-day ritual!

The details that have been poured into their precious little bodies astounds me.  How can I be astounded when I have seen thousands of birds over the years?  Because I have newly seen them, because I have paused to see them.

The shape and size of their feathers.  The color.  The texture.  Their little toes and cute little voices–or big toes and big cacophonous voices.  Their busy little schedules they keep at 6:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., and even when I am trying to sleep.  Stunning.

And to think that at times, I just see a blob of birds and don’t think about the details.  But God knows each little bird in that blob, and He knows when each one falls to the ground.*  And what’s more, He cares about each bird…and the people watching them.

We look around and we see we are a blob of humanity, flitting here and there from thing to thing to thing.  Busy schedules–even when we are supposed to be asleep. But if we take pause and look closer, we will see exquisite details. Beautiful colors.  Small voices and large.

And to think, God looks at each one of us and thinks about the details–and cares about the details. He knows each one of us.  He knows when each one of us falls to the ground.

He is the bird maker and the bird watcher. And if He cares for each one of these creatures, how much more will He care for us, additional creations of His?  And how much more for someone who has become more than just one of His creations, someone who has become one of His children through Jesus’s salvation and wants His involvement in the details.

If we who are His children pause and look closer, we will see His hand in the details.  He knows His children: when we are rising up or sitting down, what we are thinking, all of our ways, all of our words.  He is before us and behind us and His hand is upon us.  There is nowhere we can go where we will be out of His presence.  His hand leads us and holds us.  His light shines around us.  He formed us intricately and awesomely, and He continues to think about us.  He never leaves our sides.  His works are marvelous, and our souls have the opportunity to know it.  Have we paused to know it?**

 

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Photo by Francee Strain.   This robin is facing the sunrise, Easter 2017.

*Based on Matthew 10:29

**Based on Psalm 139

Francee Strain, August 30, 2017