Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

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Reading, writing, and arithmetic. In the summer?! Yes, the summer. In the midst of all your busyness, your coming and going, your vacations, camping, and barbecues, remember God.

Remember to spend some time reading His Word.

Remember to spend some time formulating words of praise.

Remember to spend some time counting your blessings and the many ways He shows His love to you.

Commit these things to memory. Don’t forget God like your algebra facts, because the fact is: He loves you and wants to spend some time with you.

“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!
If  I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand.”
(Psalm 139:17-18a NKJV)

Have a joyous summer!

 

Text and photo ©Francee Strain, June 28, 2019

A Change of Heart

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Who likes change? Anyone? Anyone?! I do—if it is a certain type, that is. I like heart change.

There was a time when I needed to have a change of heart. I was so burned out, worn out, stressed out, stretched out, and flat laid out that my heart had become a stone. I was still living and breathing, yet I was cold and dead and numb. But I came across the words of scripture in Ezekiel 36:26 (KJV) which say, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” I began to cry out for God to change my heart. And He did. But not in the way I ever imagined, nor in the way I hoped things would go. I had some open-heart surgery, spiritually speaking. Everything was laid out before God; nothing was hidden from Him. Yes, He saw into the depths of my heart, and what He saw there was not pretty. God had changed my heart once before, from a spiritually dead one to a fully alive one at the point of my salvation, but now I needed some remodeling. At times I still do. So, He went to work in ways only He could, and before I knew it, I had a heart of flesh again.

Back then, it was definitely time for a change, but sometimes still today it is, too. Sometimes I need a change of attitude. Sometimes I need a change of direction. Sometimes I need a change in my motivational level where I have the fortitude and the gumption to keep on keeping on when every cell in my body cries out that it wants to quit. I need to be changed into the image of Christ, to move from my present state into an ever-changing one—one that becomes more and more like Him. This is the essence of growth.

I follow His lead, I follow His example, I follow His commandments—even if all of these require change—change in my thoughts, my hopes, and my dreams; change in how I live life and how I do my routine; change in where I go and how I spend my resources; change in my perspective and change in my priorities.

I have a change of heart when my broken heart becomes a healed heart. I remember His promises, and they soothe my pain. I receive His forgiveness, and He makes me whole. I release the anger and the bitterness, and the gaping hole they left is stitched back together with His divine comfort.

I have a change of heart when I move from being selfish to being generous. I remember it is more blessed to give than receive. I count my blessings and realize all I have comes from His hand. I remember what Jesus gave for me—His life, forgiveness, and eternal life.

I have a change of heart when my restless heart becomes a peaceful one. This happens when I trust His heart, not mine. His ways and timing and thoughts are above mine and perfect. His words “fear not” are not advice or a suggestion, rather they are a command. I am directed to trust Him rather than myself. I am called to focus on the One who has all power and authority. When I listen to Him speak peace over my life, my quivering heart becomes still.

I have a change of heart when I move from having a joyless heart to a joyful one. When I shift my focus to what truly matters, I find joy. This joy is like medicine in my broken life. Heavy circumstances bring heavy hearts, but these hearts can be lightened when they are filled with His hope. Even if the circumstances don’t change, I can. The joy of the Lord becomes my strength.

I have a change of heart when I move from being dissatisfied to content. Rather than trying to skip particular seasons of life, I seek to accomplish God’s purposes in them. Rather than rush through, I realize what I have in Him right now spiritually is more than anything I could ever gain materially. I am learning to be content in whatsoever state I am in.

I have a change of heart when I move from pursuing the desires of my heart to pursuing the desires of His. I pursue Him rather than me. I seek His glory rather than mine. I seek to do His will rather than my own. I focus on the eternal rather than the temporal so that I might leave His love and legacy in the hearts and minds of those I encounter.

Yes, I like change—not for the sake of change itself, but for the end result. For when I draw near to God, He draws near to me. And that changes everything.

 

Text and image copyright Francee Strain, October 24, 2018

Thankful Thoughts

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.

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

The Presence of God

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

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

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

Photo by Francee Strain