In the Name of Peace

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

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

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

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

~~~~~

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

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

~~~~~

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

YOU are precious.

YOU matter to Him.

YOU are loved.


*See Isaiah 9:6

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

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

 

The Bird-Watcher

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A robin facing the sunrise, Easter 2017

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 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 see we are a blob of humanity, flitting here and there from thing to thing to thing, keeping 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 who 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?**

*See Matthew 10:29
**See Psalm 139

©Text and photo, Francee Strain.  Original post, August 30, 2017.  Revised post, May 9, 2020.

He Comes in the Storm

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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.”*

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.” **

 

*Quotation taken from Mark 4:39, King James Version, public domain.

**Quotation taken from Philippians 4:6–7, New King James Version, ©1982, Thomas Nelson.

©Original text and photo by Francee Strain, May 3, 2020

Easter—The Preparation, the Purpose, and the Promise (A Three-part Series)

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Part 3: The Promise

When it comes to Jesus, a promise made is a promise kept. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.” He did not just pay lip service to God, He followed through with His actions. The purpose for which preparation had been made was accomplished. He gave His life on the cross to open up a way to eternity with God, and there are so many things subsequently promised, I could fill pages and pages. I will mention a few:

The Promise of Resurrection
The cross is empty and so is the tomb. Jesus promised He would rise from the dead on the third day, and He did! There were witnesses. He walked with them, talked with them, ate with them, and then bade them farewell. He said He must return to Heaven for another time of preparation—to go prepare a place for His followers so He can come back and take them there. He gave the promise of His return and said that every eye will see Him, coming on the clouds of glory. He is drawing all people to Himself by His action on the cross, waiting for the signal from His Father that once again the fulness of time has been reached, and it is time to return for His own. Time will pass away into eternity. Every knee will bow. The perishable will become imperishable. Mortality will be swallowed up in immortality. Death will be swallowed up in victory, with its sting gone, along with its power to hold us in the grave. Jesus was just the beginning of those who will be resurrected!

The Promise of Heaven
Jesus will keep calling out to the lost until the Father says time is finished. He is not slack concerning His promises—He will come again—but He isn’t willing that any should perish, so He is still giving us time to choose. Whoever calls upon His name will be saved, will be reconciled to God, will no longer be condemned, and will be exempt from His wrath. The forgiven have the promise of heaven. A glorious day is coming when all those who have chosen Jesus as their savior will experience His resurrection power for themselves. He will gather those believers to be with Himself forever. Death will no longer have dominion because eternal life will triumph. He will make all things new. The saved will be given a crown of life, have their tears wiped away, and will get to rest in His presence. They will be His people, and He will be their God. But there is more to the promise than just “heaven someday,” there are promises now for life on earth.

The Promise of Adoption
We who choose Jesus become part of the family of God and receive the promise of His presence. We can never be taken out of His hand, and He will never leave or forsake us. God becomes our Father, and the Holy Spirit is sent to live inside of us. We receive His love poured out into our hearts as He adopts us as sons and daughters. We receive His power and help to live abundant lives. We have access to Him at all times, morning, noon, and night. He gives mercy, joy, peace, and sufficient grace; and there is so much more available to us. The Holy Spirit helps, teaches, guides, comforts, and reminds us. God can supply all our needs in every aspect—physically, spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and mentally–according to His vast riches. But there are sometimes going to be difficulties in life because we live in a broken world with those who do not love us or keep their promises; yet, in spite of our circumstances, nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. And His promises to us will never be broken. They will stand the test of time and eternity. So, while we traverse this life, we can know He will hear our prayers and see every tear we cry, for when we are children of God, we are redeemed, purchased by the very blood of Christ, and have our hearts bound to Him for eternity. He will help us to endure anything we face in this life, and He will safely see us to the next because He has overcome the world.

The Promise of Faithfulness
God is faithful and true and never changes. He is the same always: yesterday, today, and forever. With God, what is said is said, and what is done is done. A promise made is a promise kept. History has proven time and again that God keeps His word. He cannot break covenant with His people any more than day and night and summer and winter can cease. He will finish the work He has begun—the work to have a relationship with us for all eternity.

Jesus came to be the Mediator between us and God. God had a plan, striving toward a purpose—He sent the Savior. Jesus came to fulfill the plan—He died to save us. And now, the offer is open to us—will we accept this great salvation? We were created to be with God forever, and Jesus’s death on the cross opened that up as a possibility for each of us. Now it is our turn to take action to fulfill our portion of the plan—to choose or reject what has been offered to us. We have been given freedom of choice in this area. If we say yes, then total fulfillment of the plan will take place—we will sit down in the kingdom of God and dwell there forever. If we say no, the promise of eternal separation from God will also be fulfilled. God will keep His word and fulfill His promise to give life to those who ask for it. My answer was yes, and I am so excited for what’s ahead.

The Promise of Fulfillment
Every Easter is a beautiful reminder and opportunity to reflect on the depths God went to—the preparation, the purpose, and the promise—in order to show His great love for us.

There are promises for now and promises for later, promises for this life and promises for the next one. Remember, there is more beyond the now, and knowing what is coming in the future can spur us on and give us hope. Things can get pretty tough down here and look pretty bleak, but with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we can be encouraged. He is the earnest of the promise, left here with us until Jesus comes to take us home. For now, we have a race to finish; and while we are running our race, He will be at our sides. And someday, when we cross the finish line, He will be there waiting for us. We will see Him face-to-face. He promised.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57 NKJV).

©Text and photo Francee Strain, April 11, 2020

Between Seasons

Hope picture from cell phone Jan. 2020

There is hope of spring while winter still lingers, storms, and swirls.

Winter. Fear can strike the heart as the winds howl and the ground shakes. At times, there are blizzards and chaos. Things cannot be seen clearly, and sometimes they cannot be seen at all. Cold winds blow. Ice freezes in our veins. We don’t know which way to go and which way to turn. Our feet are frozen to the ground in fear.

But then, His voice speaks, and the storms cease.

Rays of light and hope burst in and pervade the heart. Our minds are suddenly at peace. Our heart rates calm. Our breathing slows.

The truth of the matter settles over our situations as His presence enters. He created the world from nothing. In Him all things exist and subsist. Why do we worry about what tomorrow holds? Why are we fretting today? His power is real. His plan is perfect. His peace is available.

So, while we are here between seasons, with difficult days both now and ahead, we can cling to the hope that the Son will break through, and we will pass through from winter into spring.

 

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, February 21, 2020

Your Heart Can Rest

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“Since before time began, a call went out to you. Even in the midst of a crowd, God has been seeking your heart as an individual. An invitation was developed with you in mind. From the time that the foundation of the world was laid, Jesus prepared to die for you and for each soul that would ever live. His sacrifice was arranged before you were ever a thought—before a single soul had ever lived. He did this so that you might have eternal life. Have you responded to His invitation?

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.”*

The words of Hebrews 13:5 are personal for us who call Him “Savior.”  These precious words of God are: “‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”  Did you read that?  He will never leave us. Never. In the midst of this process of life, through all of the struggles we are currently immersed in and the ones yet to come, as we sleep through the night and toil through the day, He will never leave us.  His presence will go with us, and it will be He who give us rest.

Yes, our hearts can rest.  Your heart can rest…if you will let it rest in God.

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, February 8, 2020
*Paragraphs one and two are taken from my book, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 4, 116.
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Immanuel, Every Day of the Year

For Facebook post Dec. 14, 2019

Here we are in December, counting down the days until Christmas when we will celebrate the birth of Jesus. What a wonderful celebration it will be! But there is much more to it than that–Jesus is for 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑦 𝑑𝑎𝑦 of the year, not just December 25th. He is for the good days and bad, the joys and sorrows, the mountaintops and valleys. No matter the circumstances, there is cause to celebrate if we are celebrating Him. He is Immanuel, every day of the year.

Aɴᴅ Hᴇ ᴡɪʟʟ ʙᴇ ᴄᴀʟʟᴇᴅ Iᴍᴍᴀɴᴜᴇʟ, ᴡʜɪᴄʜ ᴍᴇᴀɴs Gᴏᴅ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴜs.
(See Mᴀᴛᴛʜᴇᴡ 1:23)

“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.”

Text and photo by Francee Strain, December 14, 2019
Quoted material excerpted from Francee Strain, 𝑁𝑜 𝑂𝑟𝑑𝑖𝑛𝑎𝑟𝑦 𝐼𝑛𝑣𝑖𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛: 𝐶𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝐿𝑖𝑣𝑒 𝑎 𝐿𝑖𝑓𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝐸𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑛𝑎𝑙 𝑃𝑢𝑟𝑝𝑜𝑠𝑒, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 65-66.

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