Times of Refreshing

I noticed this week that my lawn was brown, dry, and crunchy.  My bare feet were not enjoying the jabs and pokes of sharp blades of dead grass and dried pine needles.  It is April.  This is not what I would expect for a spring lawn and definitely not what I desire.  I found myself longing for soft, green, vibrant, and lush but was instead facing the reality of a pine needle tip stuck in the bottom of my foot.  Yet, in my heart and mind, I held out hope, hope that the rains of spring would come.  And come they did.  Today was a time of refreshing from the LORD.  Tomorrow’s trek through the lawn is going to feel different.

I see many parallels between the state of my lawn and the state of life.  Things seem dead, noisy, sharp, broken, and painful.  We are dry, exhausted, ill, hurting, grieving, longing for hope and the good days.  We long to be refreshed.  What can we do while we wait for the times of refreshing to come?  We can set our hearts to be right with God and look up to the sky in anticipation.  He will refresh His people.  We are simply between seasons.1

I hope the following reposted blog will encourage you.

*****

Between Seasons 2

These are difficult days. Long. Hard. Tiring.

We beg for relief from the firestorm that blazes around us. Will these days never end? Aloud we commentate. Silently we muse. In our hearts we wonder. In our minds we question. Confusion and chaos seem to reign supreme. But I want to encourage you to hold on. Hold on to hope. A change of season is coming. Refreshing rains. Beautiful colors interspersed amongst the landscape. The fruit of harvest.

Things will not always be as they are now. We are simply between seasons. Beyond what our eyes can see and what our minds can comprehend stands Jesus Christ, reigning supreme over all. Fully aware. Fully engaged. Fully planning to keep His promise to return for His own.

But something amazing can happen before the time of His return—He can speak peace to our storms even now and cause the raging winds to cease. We may not see it with our eyes, but we will know it in our spirits. Rays of light and hope will burst in and pervade the darkness and despair hanging over our heads. Peace will flood these plains of anxiety. Rivers of calm we have never known before will fill our quaking hearts.

We can invite His presence to enter into our situations. Today. Now. Even while this relenting heat beats down on our heads and tries to scorch every drop of hope we have remaining within us. He will come if we ask. We won’t need to fret or worry about what tomorrow holds because His power is real, His plan is perfect, and His peace is available.  He created the world from nothing, and in Him all things exist and subsist.

So, while we are here between seasons—enduring difficult days and bracing for more yet to come—we can access His strength.  He will enable us to pass through this dry season into a bountiful harvest.

“The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace.”
Psalm 29:11

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.”
James 5:7


NOTES

1 See Acts 3:19–21.

©Text and photos Francee Strain, April 24, 2021.  “Between Seasons 2” originally posted July 26, 2020.

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

The Freedom to Live

We can be in bondage to so many things. We can be beaten down by so many things that we feel trapped and lifeless, whether it is because of self-damaging thoughts, real words coming out of the mouths of others, regrets from our pasts, or patterns of sin within which we find ourselves entangled, for example.  But freedom from bondage is available.  Yes, freedom is possible, even for us.  As long as we are living and breathing, we can be rescued.  Every single thing that renders us captive and powerless can be touched by the freedom of Christ.  Even when our circumstances do not change, we can be changed through the power of His resurrection life within us.

We can take on His mind and have thoughts that are true and beautiful. We can hear the truth of His words permeating to the depths of our souls.  We can be forgiven by Him for our past mistakes. We can be delivered from our current addictions by accessing His help and power. Yes, we can be healed, renewed, and restored to life in the deadest, darkest, coldest, loneliest places.  Consider what this means by looking at an example of the power of Jesus Christ and how he set a man free. 

This is the story of Lazarus, a man who was bound by death but had the freedom to live:

“Lazarus was not doing anything when his invitation arrived. He was getting nowhere in life. Actually, he was dead! But despite that he no longer lived and breathed, he received an invitation. This was a most extraordinary invitation, and it did not come in the mail! It was personally delivered by Jesus Himself.

John 11:144 gives the account. Jesus had been preaching in another town when word arrived that His good friend Lazarus was ill. Jesus did not immediately depart for the city of Bethany in order to heal Lazarus; instead, He remained where He was for two more days, finishing up what He was there to do. When it was in God’s timing, and after the work had been completed in the place where Jesus was, He then traveled to see Lazarus.

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, He was greeted with criticism and the accusation that He was arriving too late because Lazarus had already been dead for four days! Count them—four. Four days of being dead. Four days that passed while Jesus worked and traveled somewhere else. But Jesus did not allow this unwelcoming reception to stop Him from delivering His invitation to Lazarus. He went to the tomb where Lazarus was buried, told people to move the stone away from the mouth of the tomb, and then proceeded with His commanding voice to issue an invitation for Lazarus to live again. Jesus cried out, “Lazarus, come forth” (v. 43), and Lazarus came out of the tomb. Here we get a really good look at what Lazarus was doing in life. He was dead in a tomb, sealed behind a stone, and bound in graveclothes. But extraordinary things happened when Jesus showed up on the scene. First of all, an invitation was given to a dead person. Second, God’s resurrection power was seen. Third, a dead man got back to living his life. If this does not prompt us to come when God calls, I do not know what will!

God extends the same invitation to us that He extended to Lazarus. God is calling us to come out from death unto life—from spiritual death unto spiritual life. This is eternal life: to know Jesus Christ (John 17:3). No matter what stones are trapping us in life, no matter what we are wrapped up in and tied up in, no matter what stench we are covered with, no matter what cold darkness we are surrounded by, no matter how alone and laid out flat we are, no matter what others say about us, no matter how hopeless things look—even if it appears that our best days are behind us—He wants to free us from spiritual bondage and restore us to life and relationships. He wants us to be healthy and vibrant again, breathing and glowing, being and doing, loving and being loved. He wants us to live! He has placed the breath of physical life into us, but He also calls us to live with the breath of the Holy Spirit.

…We can change, although our circumstances remain the same. We can have a full and joyfully abundant life now—despite the pain—because Jesus came to give us that abundant life. It seems improbable, impractical, and impossible, yet it is true. But we have to make the choice to come out of the tomb and get out of those graveclothes. We have to come forth from the unpleasantness. We have to respond to His call to leave behind the things He wants us to leave behind, and live.”1

Jesus is always inviting us to freedom and life.  It is why He died—so that we might live—both now and forever.  We can stand fast in the liberty by which He made us free and not be entangled again by a yoke of bondage.2  If He sets us free, we will be free indeed.


NOTES

1 Excerpt taken from Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 28-30.

2 See Galatians 5:1.

3 See John 8:36.

©Original text and photo, Francee Strain, March 20, 2021

The Victorious Heart

IMG_4425 (2)

(Repost)

Life is a struggle. A battle. An uphill climb.

They say it takes heart, but my heart is weary. It is overloaded with pain and the cares of the world. It strives. It aches. It weeps. I feel like I am losing the battle and losing heart.

What can turn this around? Is there anything that can be done?

YES!

  • I can offer my heart to the Healer of brokenness.
  • I can offer the heart of this warrior to the one who leads the host of heaven.
  • I can place this lost, wandering, confused, and lonely heart into the hands of the One who knows every trail and trial, every battlefield and tear.

Every step of my journey is already seen and known before I have even stepped. Every battle has Someone to come alongside me. Every hopeless moment is waiting to be filled with the God of all hope. And every desolate battle cry (that sounds more like a whisper) can find its voice in I AM–the One who spoke the world into existence.

No longer will my heart lie downtrodden and defeated. No longer will it fold inward in silence. It will rise up in the power of God’s Spirit, and I will press on. For it is not by my might or power, but by His Spirit. He will lead me to victory. I will see it. I will taste it. I will know it. My heart will know it–because my heart knows Him.

This is the heart of victory.

 

©Text and photo, Francee Strain, February 13, 2020.  Reposted February 7, 2021.

Author’s note: This article is one of three featured in a post entitled “The Heart.”   You may access the other two articles individually by searching the archives for “Hearts of Stone” and “Your Heart Can Rest.”

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.

When Mountains Stand Strong—2021 Edition

Dear Readers,

Some of you have seen the following post before, while to others of you, it is new.  This article just kept coming back to my mind and heart this week, and I felt it timely to post it again.  Although life looks completely different for me than when I originally wrote the article in 2018, the truths of it have not changed.  And now, as I look around at family, friends, and strangers, I keep seeing and hearing a common theme: people are struggling, people are hurting, people are despairing.  More mountains of hardship have arrived.  Pre-existing ones seem to have grown taller.  But I want to encourage you to hold on to hope.  Don’t look at the size of the mountains; look at the One who can move them.

~~~

Original Post:

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)

©Photo and text by Francee Strain, January 16, 2021.  Original post from March 2, 2018.

Advent Series, Parts 1-5

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐝𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐇𝐨𝐩𝐞

Walking through a dark and evil world can leave us with deep pain and an abundance of tears. We lose, and we grieve. We wander, and we mourn. We look down, and then we look in. We forget about the light. We find ourselves in a state of hopelessness.

But Isaiah 50:10 says, “Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon his God.”* So, if we look up to see the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, shining all around us, that hope will raise us up. The truth of His hope will enable us to keep moving forward. His power will enable us to walk and love again. Joy will flood the empty spaces of our beings. The pain will be touched by supernatural comfort. The mourning heart will sing again.

Just as the sun always shines even though we can’t see it, God’s hands and heart are outstretched for us to see by faith. God is good, sovereign, and omnipotent. He makes a way out of no way. He provides for every need. He keeps every promise.

The first week of the Advent season, we celebrate hope. Many waited for hope to come to the world, and it finally came. Its name was Jesus.

Jesus gave His life on the cross to give eternal hope through salvation. What a precious gift! And then, He left for a while to prepare a place for those who would believe in Him. And one day, Hope will return to the world. He will come again. He will take all who believe to their eternal home. Have you accepted His gift of hope? Are you ready for His second advent?

This is the truth of hope. Hope has come. And Hope is coming back.

~~~~~

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.

Romans 15:13 NKJV

~~~~~

*Taken from Isaiah 50:10 NKJV

©Text and photo Francee Strain, November 29, 2020

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

*************

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.

_________________________________

(1) Excerpt from blog post “In the Name of Peace,” Francee Strain, May 30, 2020

(2) Excerpt from blog post “He Comes in the Storm,” Francee Strain, May 3, 2020

(3) Excerpt from blog post “Peace to You,” Francee Strain, March 21, 2020

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 10, 2020

**************

𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗔𝗱𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗟𝗼𝘃𝗲

What is love?

We would likely define this word by mentioning many aspects, perhaps things like having close bonds with others, giving and receiving affection, being connected in a family, experiencing loyalty and faithfulness, hearing or speaking words of affirmation, giving and receiving gifts, serving others, or being the recipients of acts of kindness. Yet although we might have all these varied ideas in mind, there is a common thread—love is something demonstrated in deeds. Love is action.

Since before time began, love was active and awaiting us, and then love came near. Love took action. But where did love come from, and why did it come near?

Love came near because God came near. God is the source of love. He is love. He has given the very essence of Himself in an offering to us. This offering is actually what we are focusing on right now during this season of advent—He gave His one and only son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life, and He did this because He loved the world (see John 3:16).

Since before time began, God had a plan to gift us with His love. And when the time was just right, the gift arrived: Jesus was born to be the Savior of the world to show us the love of God the Father. Jesus was a representation of the love and an act of that love. He gave up the position of honor He held as King of kings and humbled Himself to walk as a man. He gave up the riches of the entire universe to be laid in a manger and give everything to us. He gave up the comforts of having and doing anything He pleased, going anywhere He wanted at any time, to come to this earth and experience the life we experience, walking in obedience to God’s will and God’s timing. This is the gift of love we celebrate at Christmas.

But the love did not stop there. Jesus did not remain a baby in the manger. He grew into a man who continued to act in love. He travelled and spoke to thousands, sharing with them about the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life. He healed and fed. Taught and visited. Comforted the grieving and raised the dead. All this, He gave. And He gave even more, things that we find difficult to give: He loved His enemies. He prayed for those who despitefully used and persecuted Him. He gave His time and energy and service to those who gave nothing back. He loved the unlovely that others avoided and scorned. He sacrificed His very life for us. All so that we could know His love and know it forever.

This is how love comes. God took action. He has loved us with an everlasting love and drawn us with loving kindness. He has given us the gifts of His Son, His Word, His promises, His salvation, and His very presence. Do we see it? Do we recognize it? Have we responded to it? Have we given Him our hearts and our love in return? Has there been an advent of love from us?

You can receive His gift today and return the gift of your heart to Him. This is how love comes.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 12, 2020

*****************

𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗔𝗱𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗝𝗼𝘆

Joy. It is a word I am seeing in quite a few places right now. It is mentioned on Christmas shirts and socks, Christmas cards and photo frames, ornaments and wall hangings, figurines and mugs, wrapping paper and gift bags, among a host of other things. But what is joy? What is the meaning of the word featured on so much Christmas merchandise and other items all throughout the year? Is there joy in all this “stuff”? Is joy found in items? No, joy is not found in materialism. It is not found in a holiday, or a season, or a fashion, or a pretty thing. It is not even found in people—as we all know, they can cause us pain. Joy, true joy, comes from the source of all joy. Joy is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ, the giver of joy.

Joy is both a noun and a verb. Joy can abide in our hearts, but we can also take action with it. We can access it, share it, give it, receive it, and keep it. It can influence our perspectives and be the foundation of our actions. Think about when a baby is born—smiles and laughter abound. Babies are even called bundles of joy. They are all packaged up in sweetness and wonder. And we are changed by what we see before us. Well, one night, the bundle of all bundles of joy was born. Jesus made His advent into the world. The Savior was here! He fulfilled the joy of those who had long awaited His coming. He filled hearts, and He inspired actions. There was an advent of joy!

Can you imagine the joy that resounded across the hillsides when the angel announced Jesus’ birth and was then joined by the heavenly host praising and glorifying God and proclaiming peace and goodwill on earth? Can you imagine the quick and excited steps of the shepherds as they went to see the good news for themselves? Can you imagine the joy and excitement that inspired the magi to travel long and far to the place where the star marked the joy of the whole earth? And then, this child grew into a man who continued to bring joy to those who were willing to receive it. He gave sight to the blind, speech to the mute, hearing to the deaf, food to the hungry, attention to the outcast, healing to the sick, and life to the dead. And then He gave forgiveness to the sinners so they could experience eternal life and eternal joy at His right hand.

Thinking on these things brings me great joy because I know this Savior. He has come to live in my heart. His Spirit fills me with an abundance of joy. Even in the midst of deep sorrow, great pain, searing loss, and overwhelming troubles, joy remains. How can this be? It is possible because the joy I have does not come from the things of the world; the joy comes from Him and cannot be taken away or overcome.

So, even though it is raining on us now, and the day looks as dark as the night, His light is there, shining all around us. Will we have eyes to see it? 𝘏𝘦 is the Light of the World. Will we have eyes to see 𝘏𝘪𝘮? He is the joy of every longing heart. He will never fail or disappoint us. He will never harm or abandon us. He will never move on to something else or somewhere else. Will we have hearts to experience Him? If we never take Him into our lives or walk in His ways, we will never experience true joy, only temporary happiness connected to the things of the world. The advent of true joy is connected to the advent of the hope, faith, peace, and love He gives through His very presence. And this true joy is deep and abiding. It gives us the ability to look beyond the now, to have strength, to be confident in the hope we have in Him and the love He has for us.

In His presence, there is fulness of joy.* This is how joy comes.

~~~~~

Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.

The Lord has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.

He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.

Psalm 98:1–4 (NKJV)

♫ Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing. ♫

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*See Psalm 16:11.

Song lyrics taken from “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 20, 2020

No More Tears

(Repost)

“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)

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Francee Strain, November 15, 2017

Photo by Francee Strain

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

Peace to You

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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.

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.

 


Several articles regarding peace and comfort can be found on my site. 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


Text and photo by Francee Strain, March 21, 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