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

Eyes Forward

If you noticed my blog article was nonexistent last weekend, here’s why: my property was on fire, along with multiple others in the neighborhood.  Strong winds blew a tree onto some power lines running across the rural acreage here, and a fire ignited.  The fire then spread to the prairie grasses and other trees across the vicinity while the winds continued to blow strongly.  Our family and some neighbors were fighting the flames and dealing with all of the chaos of the situation until enough fire crews arrived to render aid.  When we called it a night, my brain was too exhausted to think.  Praise God, we are all safe, and no homes were lost. 

Prior to the fire, I had been putting a few thoughts together for this article, but the fire adjusted my line of thought and my vision.  I had to keep my eyes forward, with my heart looking to God to help us through whatever the outcome would be.  I could not look at my past experiences with fires, nor be concerned about those that might come tomorrow.  I was in the moment, and that is where I had to live.  Yet, God took me to a place I had not been before.  While flames were inches from my face, God’s presence was closer.  The wave of fear that threatened to drown me at the outset became waves of His peace washing over me.  Panic became purpose.  Chaos was overruled by calm.  The humanly impossible was swallowed up by the power of God.  And then after the smoke began to recede and the scorched earth made its appearance, the magnitude of what He carried us through became ever more apparent.

Standing in the burn zone now is overwhelming.  The magnitude of what was at stake cannot be denied.  The reality of the rescue is readily realized.  And there is beauty.  And wonder.  And awe.  And overwhelming gratitude at the goodness of God.  Praise continues to flow from my heart and lips.  My remodeled landscape is a blatant reminder that God is with me.  He was there in the flames, and He is here in the aftermath.  He sent what I needed when I needed it, and I know He always will.  The eyes of my heart have the vision of His. 

What fires of life are you facing right now?  Are you looking at them with the eyes of your head or the eyes of your heart?  Are you caught up in what your physical eyes can see or in what your spiritual eyes know?  Are you looking to yourself or to others to aid your circumstances, or are you looking to God?  He is good, and He does what is good.  He is worthy to be praised at all times and in all circumstances.  His ways and thoughts are higher than ours.  His love for us is deeper than we could ever comprehend.  Faith in His salvation will be our salvation.  No matter the storm that rages, He is the Master who speaks, “Peace, be still.”  Jesus conquered the power of sin and death to save your soul, and if you accept His gift of eternal life, the things of this temporal life grow dim.  Eyes that look beyond the now to the eternal purposes of God find life, and hope, and peace.

Eyes that look forward see life is not just about waking up, eating three meals a day, going to work for a shift, and filling the evenings with family and recreation.  These eyes don’t focus on the mundane or the chaotic.  They don’t look inside themselves for answers.  They don’t focus on the pain, the past, the addiction, the fear, the comparison, the discontent, the regret.  They look forward.  They look to God.  He created us for a purpose.  He gave His Son to save us.  He has a plan for our lives and a desire to commune with us.  He will do amazing things in us and through us, if we look to Him.  He will watch over and care for His own.  His eyes and heart will be with them.  And beyond the now, those who have placed their faith in Jesus will see more than what their hearts know; they will see Him, face to face.  We have this to look forward to. 

NOTES

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 13, 2021.  This photo was taken of a salsify plant in the burn zone the day after the fire.

He Is Always There

Alone.  I sat in the emergency room alone last week.  My family was unable to be with me.  I wondered if I would die.  Tears filled my eyes as I sat in the waiting room alone.  Surrounded by people, but alone.

But then … God.

God spoke to my heart and reminded me I am never alone because He is always there.  He began to show me things all throughout my eleven hours and thirty-five minutes spent there—touches of His grace, provisions of His mercy, comforts of His love.  He gave me hope.  He brought me joy.  He sent a friend who read His words to me, prayed over me, attended to my needs, and kept me company for ninety minutes of that very long day with offers to give more assistance later.  Others prayed from afar. Strangers stepped up to assist me. Kindness and skill flowed from the employees. It would take a while (eleven hours and thirty-five minutes) to tell you about all of the goodness of God in the midst of that hospital.  He was in the midst of that day, every single minute of it.  His hands were in the details, and He deeply touched my soul.

After my release from the emergency room, I reflected upon my experience there and the following words came to my heart:

He’s always there.

His face is before me.

His hands uphold me.

He goes before me.

He walks beside me.

He’s got my back.

He watches over me.

My feet walk His paths.

His voice is in my ear.

His spirit testifies to mine.

His light is in my eyes.

His words are in my mind.

His wings cover me.

He’s the Rock upon which I build my life.

My name is known to Him.

The hairs of my head are numbered. 

His praise is on my tongue.

His joy is in my bones.

He’s acquainted with all my ways.

He directs my steps.

His mercy is upon me.

In me, through me, and for me, He is always there. 

From everlasting to everlasting, He is God.1


For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”2

Cast all your care upon Him for He cares for you.3

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.4

Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore!5


NOTES

See Psalm 90:2

2  Hebrews 13:5b

3  See 1 Peter 5:7

4  Psalm 46:1

1 Chronicles 16:11

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, May 30, 2021

Steadfast

(Repost)

Are you weary?  Steady on.

Are you tired?  Don’t quit.

Are you faltering?  Don’t stop.

Are you losing touch?  Reach out.

Do you feel like giving up?  Look up.

Keep on Keeping on.  Steadfast.

Stand firm in the faith, and walk forward in it, too.  Have faith in the Only Begotten Son of God who loves you and gave His life for you.  His love is steadfast.  He spent a night with no sleep, being betrayed, arrested, falsely accused, mocked, and beaten.  And then, He made His way to the cross—for you.  He gave His very life so you would never have to journey on alone.

He holds the hands of those who hold Him in their hearts.  He never leaves His own.  He was faithful unto death, and now He is faithful unto life.  Eternal life awaits those who place their trust in Jesus, the Savior of the world.  There is hope for better days, days with no more pain, sorrow, or tears.

Life is hard.  And tiring.  And painful beyond belief.  But His presence will go with His children, and He will give them rest.  When the earth shakes, and the mountains fall into the sea, our quaking hearts can walk forward unafraid.  Do not fear.  He will hold us fast.  Having our foundation firm in Christ will give us a solid rock upon which to stand.  He never lets go of those who belong to Him.  He is the Creator of all.  He holds all power and knowledge in His hand.  He does not change, faint, grow weary, or close His eyes in sleep.  If you are on His side, He is on your side.

When we keep our eyes steadfast on Him, we will see His glory and His beauty.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  He is steadfast and faithful.  His mercies are new every morning.  His love is unconditional.  His peace is beyond understanding.  His joy is indescribable.  His grace is freely given to us, undeserved. 

Do not look for other things to fill, comfort, and satisfy you.  Only He can save, and only He can perfectly help.  Set your heart on Him.

Keep your mind stayed on Him.  Do not let it be overtaken by doubt, impurity, lies, and deception.

Set your ears to listen for His voice.

Set your voice always determined to praise Him.

He is high and lifted up.  He is the King who sits enthroned forever.  And He has said that we can boldly approach His throne and find grace to help in our time of need.

So, for all of my days, I will be steadfast in Him.

I will endure and continue, unshaken.  I will be confident, strong, sure, and peaceful.  I will continue on course, on task, on focus, on point, onward.  Steady on. Steadfast.

My soul follows hard after You; Your right hand upholds me.*

*See Psalm 63:8 KJV.

For further reading: Psalm 40, Psalm 103, Romans 12:12

©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 20, 2020

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.

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. ♫

~~~~~

*See Psalm 16:11.

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, December 20, 2020

THANKFUL THOUGHTS

The following passage is taken from my book, which was published in 2017. I think the “someday” has arrived—I hope you are able to fill it with thankful thoughts. Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone.

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

©Photo Francee Strain, November 20, 2020

The Sparrow Keeper

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I am a birdwatcher. I peek out the windows to check on the happenings in my yard. Certain birdcalls send me running outdoors to catch the action. At times, you will find me with my mouth agape as I observe the spectacular scenes unfolding before me.

Several of my hobbies revolve around wild birds. Some days, I get a finger cramp pressing the shutter button on my camera. I use my photographs in a multitude of ways. I have a feather collection. Bird figurines adorn my tabletops, shelves, fireplace mantel, and piano. There are framed bird prints hanging in various rooms of the house. I have bird identification books and recently had a magazine subscription where I could gaze at other people’s bird photographs and further my bird education. I am not sure where my fascination came from. I remember checking out bird guide books from the elementary school library and sitting at my bedroom desk tracing over the photos. Birds of paradise were my favorites. But after that, I do not remember too much of anything else related to birds—until five years ago, when I acquired a birdbath. At that point, I moved beyond being a bird watcher—I became a bird keeper.

A keeper is one who has the job not only to watch but also to protect and maintain what or whom is being cared for. Daily, I have taken to caring for the birds. I water them, fill up feeders with birdseed, and cook up batches of hummingbird nectar. I chase away cats looking for a feathery meal and shoo away deer who believe the bird feeders exist for their benefit. Thus, I have become a sparrow keeper, along with being a keeper to more than thirty-five other types. It brings great joy to my heart to be able to share in the lives of these beautiful creatures.

When we look at sparrows, beautiful may not be the first word that comes to mind.  We probably are not impressed by their appearance or wowed by their size. We might think they are a dime a dozen and are nothing in comparison to the showy peacocks or powerful birds of prey. But the Bible says not one sparrow is forgotten by God or falls to the ground without His knowledge. And we humans are told not to fear because we are of more value than many sparrows.* Think of it!  If God cares for each one of these little creatures, how much more must He care for us?

But, how do we understand this when life seems to be flying out of control in many directions at once, like a flock of birds flushing out of the field? Right now, there is noise, confusion, scrambling, blurring, fleeing, crying out, and fear. Things are startling us out of our peace and rest, interrupting us as we try to go about our normal lives, causing us to question what is happening and what to do next. We don’t understand the outside forces that are bearing down on us and making our anxious hearts pound. But I want to encourage us not to fear. God’s eyes are on the sparrows, and He is watching over us, too.

Recently, I was thinking of two songs which talk about God being a sparrow watcher. But the more I thought about this concept, I realized He is not just a sparrow watcher, He is a sparrow keeper. He is not simply an observer of what’s taking place in our lives, He is involved in our care. He fulfills the definition of a keeper as He guards and cares for, protects and maintains. As we live our lives in the midst of a difficult and fallen world, He abides, faithful.

Indeed, we are told the very hairs of our heads are numbered.** God is aware of each of us and is paying attention to the details. From our safe little perches and our huge falls to the ground in this big overwhelming world fraught with danger, He remains vigilant. When gale force winds, seasons of drought, firestorms, and famine come, He speaks peace. When we are separated from the flock, lost, or abandoned, He is omnipresent. When our feathers get ruffled, when we smack into the window while looking at the reflection of something we think we want, or when we get blown off course in the high winds, He sees. He knows. He remains steadfast. And He is available to help us recover. No one else can meet each need or save our very souls except Him. He has provided Himself, the living water and the bread of life. He guards souls from eternal death and is capable of keeping them in life. He is omnipotent and everlasting.

Yes, God is the world maker, star namer, and soul saver. He is the sparrow watcher and the sparrow keeper. From everlasting to everlasting, He is God.

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Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,
Until these calamities have passed by.

I will cry out to God Most High,
To God who performs all things for me.

He shall send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.
(Psalm 57:1-3 NKJV)

*See Luke 12:6
**See Luke 12:7

©Text and photos Francee Strain, August 16, 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.

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“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

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