Four Years and Counting/Make Me More (double feature)

This week marks the fourth anniversary of writing for my website. It has been an exciting journey to meet people from all over the world. I wanted to take this opportunity say thank you.

•Thank you to anyone who has taken time to read my articles.

•Thank you to those who have become site followers.

•Thank you to those who have shared how an article has impacted you.

•Thank you to those who have given me words of encouragement.

•Thank you to those who have purchased my book.

I am grateful to all of you for being a part of my life. I truly appreciate your support.

Below, you will find the first article I ever posted. Its words still ring true. This is what still pours from my heart.


Make Me More

Do you ever feel like you are not enough?  Do you want to be more?  I suppose we all might likely answer yes to this question, as I do not think I have ever met anyone who has said, “I wish I was less.”  Why is it that we want to be more? Why do we think that we are not enough just as we are?

We want to be more because that is how we were created to be.  We long for more. We search for more.  We ask for more.  We yearn for more.

We have hearts that are on a quest.  Hearts that search and long for something else that they do not yet have.  That something that we do not yet have is eternity.  God has placed a longing in our hearts for it.  A longing for a life that is full and vibrant and beautiful.

So, how do we reconcile the reality of what is and the reality of what could be? How do we get to this place of eternity where the longing will be fulfilled?  The answer is really quite simple.  We place our longing into the hands of God and we take into our hands what He offers in return for that longing.  He offers salvation first.  If we choose to accept that gift, our hands can then become so full that they overflow.

The gift of salvation opens the door to blessings unimaginable because it is the key.

Salvation is given to you when you give your faith and trust to God.  When you realize that there is a door between you and God, a separation that needs to be removed so that you can be together with Him, that is when your hand is about to grasp the key.

Jesus is the key–the key to eternal life.  He is the perfect Son of God who became a perfect sacrifice for you.  He lived a sinless life on this earth and died a painful death on the cross to become the key that opens the door to eternal life.  Each of us is separated from God by our wrongdoings and imperfections.  Jesus came to die on the cross to forgive us of those wrongdoings and make us perfect through His righteousness.  Your belief in His death to atone for these wrongs, and your request that He forgive you of yours, will cleanse you of them and permit you to enter through the door.

And then, there is more.  Salvation through Jesus gives you eternal life, but you also have the opportunity to have abundant life.  Into your hands–into your life, heart, mind, soul, and relationships–can come love, joy, peace, strength, ability, patience, kindness, and so much more.  You can be transformed in how you live–how you act, think, feel, relate.  You can be more.  More because of the gifts that will be placed into your hands.  More because you will have things that you never had before.  Things that cannot be measured.  Things that cannot be priced.  Things that are not tangible.  The “more” will be things that are immeasurable: like the grace of God that covers all sin, a peace that passes all understanding, a joy that is present even when there is no cause for happiness, and a supernatural ability to endure.

And then we, when we have “more,” can be made more.  We can be made into beautiful representations of the love of God, the strength of God, the passion of God.  He is able to do above and beyond all that we ask, think, or imagine.

As for me and myself, I say: “Make me more!”

I want to glow like I have never glowed before.  I want to shine like a star in the heavens.  I want to go in the strength of the Lord God.  I want to do what I have never been able to do before.  I want to tread a path that follows in the footsteps of Jesus.  I want to think like He thinks, feel like He feels, love like He loves.

Yes, God, make me more.


NOTES

© “Four Years and Counting,” Francee Strain, July 10, 2021

© “Make Me More,” Francee Strain, July 8, 2017, revised May 25, 2019

© All photos Francee Strain. This mountain bluebird photo was my first website background photo. The peony time-lapse photos accompanied the “Make Me More” article.

Lingering Gratitude

It has been four weeks since I stood and watched a fire consuming my land.  The landscape has been permanently altered.  There will now always be scars and evidence of trauma.  But I have discovered something in the midst of the wounds and barrenness the flames left behind; I have found gratitude and beauty.

What my physical eyes now see day after day is charred earth and dying trees, but my spiritual eyes see something more.  The scars are ever reminiscent of God’s mighty hand of protection over me.  I see what I have right now, but I am also blatantly aware of what could have been.  And I am grateful.

Sometimes, I walk out and stand in the burn zone.  I look in every direction, and my physical eyes see what the fire tried to take, but my spiritual eyes see the hedge of protection that God raised around us.  The firebreak that the bulldozer carved has become a new path where I have been able to walk and discover new beauty.1  Missing trees and absent foliage provide a new line of sight to scenery that was previously obscured.  I have caught my breath in awe and wonder.

And this is the message to my heart: when the receipt of the blessing is long past, let your gratitude linger. At the end of the day, be thankful He awakened you to that new day and kept you through every hour of it.  When events become memories, remember them.  When discontent and disappointment arrive, remember how you were blessed in the past and still are.  When Thanksgiving Day passes, continue to give thanks.

As we move on through life, let us not forget the Giver of Life.  He gave us the breath of life so we can know He gave His life on the cross to offer us the gift of eternal life. His power is real. His plan is perfect. His peace is available.  Let’s accept His gift, and let’s return our gratitude to Him. 

And let that gratitude linger, remembering all He has done for us.  Let our hearts feel wonder.  Let our lips offer praise. 


They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness,
And shall sing of Your righteousness.

Psalm 145:7

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

Psalm 103:1–2


NOTES

1 This scene was newly photographed from the bulldozed path across my property.

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

©Text and photo Francee Strain, July 4, 2021.

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

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.

~~~~~

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.

©Photo Francee Strain, November 20, 2020

Consider This

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There are so many thoughts that consume our minds, day in and day out. The minutes tick away while the thoughts bounce around in our brains and sometimes come out in our actions. Our thoughts dwell on fanciful daydreams of unrealistic plans, the daily drudgery of our chores and schedules, the pain of the relationships within which we exist, the pridefulness and selfishness of our own desires, the worries and cares of the world around us, the fleeting joy of pleasures, and so on. Well, what if we brought our minds to settle on boundless joy and abundant hope, ceaseless gratitude and incomprehensible peace, lasting love and eternal life? What if we brought our minds to settle on God—who He is and what He does?

Consider that He made and holds all of creation in His hand. He causes the sun to rise, the moon to glow, and the stars to shine. He arrays the flowers of the field in more majestic garb than the richest of kings wears. He sets the bounds of the waves and brings the morning dew. He knows the ways of the wind and when each sparrow falls to the ground. He exists outside of time yet holds every day in His hands. He needs nothing from anyone; and yet, He desires it. He desires a relationship with us. He wants us to know Him.

Consider this: He is mindful of us. He loves us with an everlasting love. Before the foundation of the world, He knew us. He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs with intricate and stunning detail. And as we grew, He waited for us to turn our thoughts and hearts toward Him. He turned His thoughts and heart toward us from the beginning of time. And when the time was just right, He sent His only Son to be the Savior of the world, the Savior of anyone who would believe.

Consider the choice you have to know Him. Consider where you can turn your thoughts and heart. I have chosen where mine will dwell; they will dwell in His presence forever.

I will meditate on all His works and on the glorious splendor of all His majesty. I will remember Him all throughout the day. I will rise up to call on His name in the morning, and I will give thanks to Him while I lie in my bed at night. I will take time to process His words, recognize His character, and ponder His mercy and grace. I will praise Him for His works and His magnificent goodness to me all throughout the day, and I will think about Him in the night watches until my eyes close in sleep.

Who am I God, that You are mindful of me, that You would consider making me Your child? How high are Your ways and Your wonderful works to all humankind.

~~~

Consider Psalm 145 for further meditation.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, June 28, 2020.

The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter blog June 2020

Have you done a heart check lately?

Does your heart belong to Jesus?

Does your heart love like Jesus?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)

 “For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b NKJV)

 

©Original text and photo Francee Strain, June 7, 2020
Scripture verses taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1994.

Strong to the Core, 2020

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How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along–the diets, exercise routines, improved behaviors? Are we remembering to work on the most important thing–strengthening our cores?

It is a new year. New resolutions. New realizations: some of the same old same old found its way into my new year last year, and I expect the same will happen again this year—unless I go on the offense.

I find myself with this priority at the top of my resolution list: I am going to work on strengthening my core. Those flabby parts and over-sized sections that ought not be there—the ones from the distant past that keep showing up, along with the new ones I tacked on this past year—those are my focus. The weakness that resides within me—I am going to replace it with strength. I have a great personal trainer lined up for the task, and I have a willing spirit. Ready. Set. Go to Jesus.

Yes, I am going to be trained by Jesus. I need to work on the core of my spirit. The neglect of the previous years has caused me to grow flabby. Unwanted things like frustration, disappointment, prayerlessness, despair, and fear have grown in size. As I have neglected to deal with these problems, not removing them and replacing them with better things like love, forgiveness, hope, patience, joy, and boldness, I have grown weak.

I am my own worst enemy. If I do not wake up early enough to go to the gym before heading out the door to work, the slippery slope of neglect begins, because often by the end of the workday and the home tasks, I am too tired. I tell myself I will try and do better tomorrow, but tomorrow usually never finds me doing so. Change takes desire and commitment, time and attention, a want-to and a know-how. I want to. He knows how. So, let’s do this!

I look to my trainer, and I ask Him what I need to do. He tells me to approach Him and watch what He does, and then follow His example. I come to Him, trusting in His perfect knowledge and unfailing skill. He is kind, loving, and patient. He forgives me when I fail. He walks right along beside me, offering encouragement and further instructions. I take a step forward, and then another, and then another. And before I know it, I realize this is what I was made to do, and I am becoming who I was made to be.

My focus changes. My tone changes. My ability changes. I mature as I remain teachable. Soon, I have a passion for rising up to begin my day by being infused with strength. When my day comes to an end, I look forward to more of His presence beside me tomorrow. I close my eyes in sleep, and I know in my core that I am strong because of the strength that has been placed within me by the hand of God.

“[T]hat He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:16-21 (NKJV)

© Text and photo, Francee Strain. Original post January 2, 2019. Revised post January 18, 2020.

Resolved to Trust

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“Resolve to come when you hear Him call. Trust Him with your life, with all that you are.”

Book Excerpt:
… We can come, resolving to trust. There will always be areas where our resolve will be strong and other areas where it will be weak, but this should make no difference or cause any delay in coming to God. We need Him in all areas, and thus, we should make our coming soon, and make it quick. Acting will strengthen our trust, while inaction will weaken it. We can ask Him to increase our faith and to help us with any unbelief that we have. We should be resolved to come to Him for His strength–strength to add to our weakness and more strength to add to our existing strength. We can come even if we are a solitary number. We can stand even if we stand alone. We should be willing to pay the ultimate price for Him because He paid the ultimate price for us. We should come like sheep to the shepherd; they come because they are called by a voice that they know and trust. Resolve to come when you hear Him call. Trust Him with your life, with all that you are.

… It is wise to have a heart that listens for God’s voice so that even during times when life seems dead and dark, it will still be able to hear Him. It is also wise to have a responsive heart that is quick to come when God calls it. We need to have the understanding that a delayed response can fill the void with excuses, and before we know it, we might find ourselves disobedient and ignoring His calls. Life and light are there within our grasp; we just need to come forth to receive them. This is wisdom.

We can come to Him whether we know much about Him or little. We can come with whatever amount of spiritual understanding we have. We can come with our searching and ask Him to reveal Himself to us. We can ask Him to make His will known to us. We can come with our confusion and questioning, our bewilderment and asking “Why me?” He gives wisdom liberally to all who ask for it (James 1:5).

God is a big God who allows us to come to Him no matter what our statuses are. We do not have to be a king to gain the attention of the King. We do not have to be perfect to approach the perfect God. We do not have to be a giant of the faith to approach the One who is the source of all faith. We can come no matter the amount of our faith, even if it is as small as a mustard seed. He wants us to be seekers who find Him for the first time. Thereafter, He wants us to be people who continually seek His face. He is there to be found.

When God invited David to seek His face, David decided that his heart would do so (see Ps. 27:8). We do not need to know everything today; we just have to trust that He has our best in mind. We can find a resting place for our bodies, minds, souls, and faith in the safety of His hands. We can place the details of our lives in His capable hands. We can place the recesses of our vulnerable hearts in His loving hands. We can place our trust in Him because of His unfailing hands. He never fails, never breaks His promises, and will never let go of us.

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 115-116.

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.

**********

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.

**********

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

Photo Credit: Francee Strain

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