The Rainy Season

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‘Tis the season—the season for rain.  But it is also the season for thanksgiving.  Rain can be destructive, but it can also bring beauty.  Rain can wipe away our chalk drawings, but it can also grow our roses.  Take a second look at your rainy season and find a reason to give thanks.

Thankful Thoughts (book excerpt)
We have most likely learned that although it may not be raining now, one day it will be. Even though we may be living in relative ease right now, we know to anticipate the “rain” of struggles. Part of being human is facing the difficult times that will be forthcoming someday. On the other hand, we may already be living in the “someday” and be in the midst of those struggles right now. Our lives may be in states of chaos, with one crisis after another, and we can barely think straight. How can we rest amid our suffering? How can we praise God anyway? One place to find answers is to look at the life of Job.

There was a way that Job was able to find peace and rest. He said, “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind. … With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding” (Job 12:10, 13). Job’s burdens were lightened because he placed his trust in God’s character. When we meditate on who God is in relation to who we are, our thoughts will become peaceful as we recognize His sovereignty and omnipotence. When we read these verses and see that He has understanding, it can bring relief to our minds to know that at least He has things figured out even if we do not. God is wise and strong, and He has been around so much longer than we have. He knows how things work–He made them! If He created the earth and He created us, then He definitely knows what to do with our lives. Our minds can be calmed by understanding that He holds our lives in His hands and gives us every breath. So when the rains of life come, we can rest safely in His shelter, knowing He is going to bring growth from this downpour.

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Psalm 135:1-7 (NKJV)

1 Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord; Praise Him, O you servants of the Lord!
2 You who stand in the house of the Lord, In the courts of the house of our God,
3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; Sing praises to His name, for it is pleasant.
4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure.
5 For I know that the Lord is great, And our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places.
7 He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries.

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Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 193.

Photo Credit: Francee Strain

The Heart of Wholeness

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My heart can be whole even when it is broken.
There is a supernatural thread to hold it together, an unbreakable thread to bind it.
God, the Omnipotent One, the Healer, holds my heart in His hands.

When life tries to break me, I remain whole.
Whole is healthy, not unhurt.
Whole is strong, not untrembling.
Whole is real, not the absence of reality.
The impossibility becomes possible.
God knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thus, even when I am stretched to the breaking point, I won’t break. He is the Master Weaver.

The things that try to chain me, break me, burn me, trample me, shake me, prevent me, and destroy me are nothing compared to the skill with which He has formed me.
Even when evil surrounds me, the ties that bind my heart to His cannot be severed.
He is the Master of my destiny, of my heart, of my very soul.

Even when I fall down flat, I can lean on Him.
Even when I am at the bottom, I can rise to the top.
Even when I am heavy with pain, my burden can be lightened.

In danger, I am sheltered.
In damage, I am restored.
In dire consequences, I am relieved.
In my sin-sick state, I am redeemed.

Even when things do not or cannot change, I can.
The heart of wholeness comes in giving Him my whole heart, even when it is not whole.

Though this it is, through this it is.
True it is.
He is.
And I am truly His.
This is the heart of wholeness.

Francee Strain, revised version, February 1, 2019

Photo by Francee Strain

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 Ups and Downs of Life

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Life has ups and downs like a roller coaster.  We experience highs and lows.  Emotions can ramp up and wind down.  Weight can fluctuate like a yo-yo.  Blood pressure can rise and fall.  We can feel on top of the world at times and at other times be laid out flat on the valley floor.  Yes, it’s true, there are definitely some ups and downs in life.  But a life with God can hold steadily and peacefully in the middle, simultaneously incorporating the ups and downs.

What do I mean?  Here, let me show you.

 

Up

Look up, God is enthroned in the heavens.  He has all the power.

He is a sun and a shield.  He gives light and covering. He will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly.

We can rest under the shadow of the Almighty.  He is over all.  The sun will not smite us by day, nor the moon by night.  He is our protector.

We can come under the cover of His wings.  He will shelter us near to His heart.

Look up at the birds of the air.  He feeds and cares for them, and He will do the same for us.  There is no need for worry.

Lift up your eyes unto the hills from whence comes your help.  Your help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

If we hope in God, we can mount up with wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, walk and not faint.  He is our strength and power.

Prayers rise up to Him into His holy temple and come into His ears.

Can you number the stars above you in the heavens?  He created them and knows each one by name.  And He knows your name.

Jesus was lifted up on the cross to draw all people to Himself.  He loved you so much He died for you.

He gathers up His lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart.

 

Down

Every knee will bow at the name of Jesus.  Recognize His majesty and authority.

He descended into the lower parts of the earth and was raised to life again.  He laid down His physical life so He could raise us up to spiritual life.

Our sins are buried in the depths of the sea.

He knows when a sparrow falls to the ground, and we are worth more than many sparrows.

Why are you downcast, o, my soul?  Put your trust in God.

I will lay me down and sleep, for He alone makes me to dwell in safety.

 

This, then, is what I say to you: when life gets you down, you need only look up!  Look up and live.  And walk steadily on, filled with the peace that passes all understanding.  Know deep down in your soul that you are wrapped up in the love that will never let you go.

“I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”  (Psalm 16:8 NKJV)

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[Scripture references: 2 Samuel 22:7, 33; Psalm 4:8, 17:8, 36:7, 42:11, 84:11, 91:1, 121:1, 121:6, 147:4; Isaiah 40:11, 31; Micah 7:19; Matthew 6:26-27, 10:31; John 3:16, 12:32; Romans 8:11; Ephesians 4:9; Philippians 2:10, 4:7; Hebrews 13:5; Revelation 4:2]

 

Copyright of text and photos Francee Strain, August 20, 2018

 

CHAPTER 6  Lost and Found

While we are on the topic of Advent and shepherds, here is an excerpt about the most amazing Shepherd of all. This is an excerpt taken from my book No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose.
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We lose all sorts of things in life: money, homes, jobs, loved ones, health, quality of life, and sometimes even life itself. We also find all sorts of things: happiness, the loves of our lives, the perfect jobs, and sometimes even our car keys. But have we ever found the most important thing, the thing that we can never lose: the salvation of our eternal souls?

THE CALL TO THE LOST
There were specific events for which Jesus came to live on earth. He was given an invitation by His Father to be the Savior of the world, and He responded favorably to the invitation. He prepared for the event of saving the world by His first advent: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). During the course of His ministry, Jesus clarified why He came and why He did not come. He came to preach, to call sinners to repentance, and to save lives (see Mark 1:38, 2:17; Luke 9:56). Jesus came into many cities, and He came in with the intent to minister (Mark 10:45).

As Jesus traveled around, He gave people His time, and He gave them Himself. He did not blow through town like a whirlwind, forcing and rushing His way through. While He was going along His way, He focused His time and attention on the people He encountered. He sometimes spent all day healing the crowds although He could have done it in a single moment with a single word. He saw that the crowds were like sheep without a shepherd, and thus, had compassion on them (Mark 6:34). He gave people His personal touch. He asked them of their faith, asked what they wanted and needed, and took time to encourage them. And then the healing came.

… The underlying reason why Jesus lived like He did was that He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came unto us! He did not come for Himself and His benefit, but for us and our benefit. Jesus offered life and help to the people He encountered during His lifetime on earth, and His offer still stands today. Let the love of Jesus find you, wherever it is that you are in life. Let Him shepherd your wandering heart and lead you safely to your eternal home.

Jesus is not only our Shepherd but also our High Priest, the Mediator between us and God (1 Tim. 2:5). Because He is holy, He was able to victoriously do away with our sin by dying on the cross for us. And because He did this for us and then was resurrected from the dead, we can overcome sin and emerge victorious through His power. His sacrifice gives us access to His Father, His power, and His kingdom. Jesus calls each of us to salvation. The wonderful truth is that the lost sheep (us) can be claimed if they want to be claimed! When we come, we will discover that we are welcomed, loved, and valued. Jesus came for us–will we come to Him?

All of the preparations for us to be found have been made, and the barriers that would separate us from God were removed when they were broken down at the cross. We now need to make our way over to His side, walking past those broken barriers instead of repairing them. A simple yes will do. The fighting in our hearts can stop and we can be at peace, if only we will come. We can stop wandering aimlessly through life like lost
sheep. We can instead let Him minister to us, heal us, and save us. That is what He came to do, and we are who He came to find.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 63-64.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version.

Immeasurably More

When you read the words of Ephesians 3:20, you will find an amazing concept about our amazing God.  In short, you will find that God is able to do “immeasurably more” than we can ask, think, or imagine.*

He is able to do this because of His power.

He does such things in us because of the power of Jesus at work in our lives.

Greatness comes into our lives when we allow God to come into our lives through the acceptance of His Son, Jesus, as our Savior.  Greatness in word, greatness in deed, greatness in endurance. Greatness that is immeasurable.

Life is hard, and so many times it is ugly, overwhelming, and painful.  But through all of this, in spite of all of this, there is immeasurably more.

There is immeasurable grace to cover our mistakes, failings, and shortcomings.  We are immeasurably forgiven by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus.  Our sins are buried in the deepest ocean and are as far as the east is from the west.  They are immeasurably forgotten as He remembers our sins no more.

There is immeasurable endurance to face any trial that comes our way.  We can get out of bed in the morning.  We can continue to put one foot in front of the other.  We can accomplish the things that are necessary to get through the day.  We can sleep peacefully through the night because He gives His beloved sleep.

There is immeasurable love that covers us, that sings over us, that draws us ever nearer to God.  His immeasurable love is patient, and it is kind.  It keeps no record of wrongs.  It endures all things, and it never fails.

There is immeasurable hope.  Even when we cannot see any way out of this or through this, even when we cannot understand what is happening and why it is happening, we can hope. Everything that takes place can be worked into something beautiful by His hand.  All things are not good, but He is able to work all things for good.  Not some things, not a few things, not many things–ALL THINGS.  Immeasurable hope.  Nothing is hopeless with Him in our lives–standing beside us, going before us, dwelling within us.

There is immeasurable peace.  Peace came to live with us and dwell among us in the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  He came to bring peace between us and God–peace in knowing that we will have eternal life if we place our trust and faith in Him and receive His forgiveness. Immeasurable peace.  Peace for now.  Peace for eternity.

There is immeasurable joy.  Through my tears I can see His beautiful face.  Through my pain I can see His mighty hand.  Through my unhappiness I can have a joy I have never known before because I know He has done immeasurable things for me.  He has given His very life for me.  He has given me salvation.  He is preparing a place for me in heaven.  He is never going to leave me or forsake me.  Ever.

Immeasurably more.  Immeasurably God.

 

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…is from the west.031

 

*I have utilized and paraphrased the words of two Bible versions in this opening paragraph.  The phrase “immeasurably more” and the words “ask” and “imagine” appear in the NIV.  The word “think” is taken from the KJV.

Copyright Francee Strain,  July 29, 2017, all rights reserved

Photos by Francee Strain