“In My Life, I’ve Loved Them All”

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“In My Life, I’ve Loved Them All”

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

fubelltowerI only learned a few things during my four years at Furman University:

  • how to read critically
  • believe radically
  • write creatively
  • think deeply
  • share intimately
  • celebrate spontaneously
  • help compassionately
  • dwell communally
  • explore courageously

I only learned how to embrace life and pursue my dreams.

Nothing big.

Only everything that matters when you’ve just turned 21.

And you’re driving out the gate into the Real World with a diploma in your hand and an editorial job at Carolina Country magazine!

Furman Camping Friends 1974 001

Just a few of the folk who thought we could change the world — including yours truly on front row…

I wanted to change the world. As did my best friends.

Perhaps we did. Time will tell…

“There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain…”

It’s not surprising that Lennon and McCartney’s lyrics to “In My Life” perfectly capture my feelings after a whole weekend college reunion with the friends of my youth.

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Polly, Connie, Sheryl, Beth, Cindy, Susan

Why not return? Why not revisit? Knowing how I prefer one-to-one conversation as opposed to mass crowds, I helped gather a few close friends a day in advance to regroup in the mountains that had been the setting for our countless camping trips…

We had all lived our lives focused on a variety of vocations and locations. Yet the years melted away as we shared. Connie said that it was easy because we had been close and vulnerable so long ago. I remember wishing back then that community would never end.

fulettersBeth’s reunion gift was a bundle of my letters to her when I was ages 18-23. Extensive and detailed – these were the musings and wonder of a young woman navigating the delicate dance from youth to adulthood during a turbulent and changing time.

(1974 Cindy to Beth) “I think I realize now more than ever before the stark reality of our parting and separate ventures. I try to view all this with courage. Course, that’s just a matter of maturity into life itself. But I’m also seeing more than a mere physical separation – pursuits are branching out. Last night (amidst those hallowed few who are so dear to me) I became quite melancholy, wondering how long the ties would last.”

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Gloria, Cindy, Syd, Don

 The ties lasted. (Remember, two of of those things I learned during college were how to “share intimately” and “dwell communally”.) The very names that filled those letters were the same people with whom I was gathered this weekend. And the years and angst all melted away…

“All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends
I still can recall…”

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Dave, Mac, Russ

I hugged everyone. I rejoiced that we were all in one place because we were survivors. We had taken the world by storm, all suffered a few blows, yet emerged limping and laughing to stand arm in arm and sing sweet baby James’ “You’ve Got A Friend” while Mac, Russ and Dave played guitar, harmonica and washboard.

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New professor Dr. Albert Blackwell and man with a frog in his hand….

 There were also things I needed to say to some folk. Like my professor Dr. Albert Blackwell, now retired professor emeritus. And what a treasure that afternoon was as we sat in lawn chairs overlooking the campus and mountain escarpment and shared a lifetime of discoveries. I thanked him for being my first Renaissance man. For ‘setting the bar high’ for me in knowing what and who I wanted in life. For teaching me that faith is both believing and doing. That we are to love God with all our minds, hearts and souls. And that there is great beauty in the world of nature, literature, music, art, and humans.

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Albert and Cindy

When we dropped by his home to greet Marian, I saw the Schleiermacher bust, the well-loved piano and volumes of books. Their children I babysat for are now a classics professor at Furman and an administrator and musician at Harvard.  They spoke of community involvement, playing in senior orchestras, teaching adult classes, writing new books, and pouring into the lives of young people. And I realized “I still want to be like them when I grow up.” But maybe, just maybe – by God’s grace – I am sort of  like them already…

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Cindy and Chris in Kentucky

“Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all…”

My roommate Chris was brilliant and beautiful – our valedictorian. She died far too young – at 29. I must admit, it was hard to be on campus without her, but I am grateful her baby girl survived that accident and later also graduated from Furman.

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Alumni Author Booksigning

Most of all, this weekend we celebrated. We laughed. We hugged. We guffawed at the fabulous 40 minute slideshow of our days of bell-bottoms and long stringy hair (both the guys and the gals, I might add). We shared current family photos and old “remember whens”. We did not exclude. We did not critique. We were all one. Because we had started off together and helped launch each other out into a world to live our unique Stories…

“Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more…”

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Connie, Vickie, Judy, Susan, Beth, Ann, Cindy, Beverly

My own life of writing, speaking, ministry, raising four children and 30 years of marriage to an incredible man has been far too full to return to Furman with any sort of regularity. (Imagine, being an English major who got to spend her whole life telling stories – dreams do come true) But I will always be eternally grateful that I was able to attend my 40th reunion. It was a reminder to keep going. To keep relearning all those lessons, even as I enter a new season of life.

Furman University Class of ’74, you Rock! Whether or not we changed THE world perhaps is not so important. For I know we changed OUR worlds.

May we continue to do so…

“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

- Tennyson, “Ulysses” 

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“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield…” Lucinda Secrest McDowell 1970 and 2014 – Furman University

under the mercy, Cindy

Click to LISTEN to Judy Collins sing this song “In My Life” – live 1966

©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  EncouragingWords.net

Thanks to Eric Berg and Vickie Dayhood and Shelley Smith Hobson and Cindy Windham Duryea and Connie Crowe Jones for sharing your reunion photos with me  — I stole some for this blog!

 NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

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Oh, How I Love What These Authors Told Me

 Oh, How I Love What These Authors Told Me

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

bookstilllife I did not get much writing done. On my Writers Retreat. But that’s okay, because, after all, I was one of the directors of the whole event. And speaking faculty.

What I did do was to offer words that might encourage others to write. And it is my prayer that they did just that. Frederick Buechner once said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” For me, that is through “Encouraging Words.”

Today I want to offer you some of the words that have most encouraged me — to keep writing…

quotecomput4erAnd the Lord said to me “Write My answer on a billboard, large and clear, so that anyone can read it at a glance and rush to tell others. But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day.” Habakkuk 2.2-3 TLB

necwrprofile“Your authenticity does not depend on proving to people or to God with pitches, paints or pen – that you really are quite a piece of work. Rather, I pray that you are discovering that your authenticity lies in who you are constantly becoming in Christ, and that you make art because you cannot keep yourself from the simple joy of shaping something as best you can and then pouring it over Jesus’ feet. The only reason for doing our very best, despite any cost, is the infinite worth of Jesus, for making art this way is where authenticity lies…The best artists begin by being influenced and end up influencing.”  - Michael Card in “Scribbling in the Sand”

quotesscrabblewriting“May God grant us courage to face the truth as we perceive it and to take whatever risks may be necessary to state it. We may be mistaken, but it is infinitely better to be mistaken than to bluff. We may be ignorant, but the admission of ignorance has sometimes cleared the way for the statement of truth. The reader recognizes common ground with the writer and is more likely to receive the message. None of us is big enough to contemplate, let alone to write, the whole truth! For God Himself is Truth. What we see of it or of Him at any given moment is what we are responsible to reproduce.”     - Elisabeth Elliot on Writing (1970s)

“You must once and for all give up being worried about successes and failures. Don’t let that concern you. It’s your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly, and to be prepared for mistakes, which are inevitable, and for failures.”   – Anton Chekov’s Letters

Senior lady writing“Here I am, an old woman already. I always thought I had a book in me. Every year I told myself ‘Next year you’ll write a book.’ The years came and went. It always seemed like next year I’d start on it, but I never did – and I’ve had a whole century. If you have a book inside you, sit down and get it written. It’s not a matter of having the time. If you want to do something badly enough, you do it.  Now my hands are twisted up with arthritis, and I can’t see beyond the end of my nose. See? I have time, but I can’t do it.”    – Matilda Johnson, age 101

“Every word You give me is a miracle word – how could I help but obey? Break open Your words, let the light shine out, let ordinary people see the meaning.” Psalm 119.129-130 MSG

quotecrumpledpaper“You are going to have to give and give and give or there’s no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward. There is no cosmic importance to your getting something published, but there is in learning to be a giver.”   - Anne Lamott in “Bird by Bird”

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll have what you’ve always had. But if you want what you’ve never had, you must do what you’ve never done. In other words, we must be willing to make the changes necessary to reach our designated goals, even if it moves us out of our comfort zones and launches us into uncharted territory.”   – unknown

quotesonceupon“Be strong and courageous and get to work! Don’t be frightened by the size of the task, for the Lord my God is with you – He will not forsake you. He will see to it that everything is finished correctly.” I Chronicles 28.20 TLB

“I’d delight if none of my words fell to the ground – if none were useless, excessive, dispensable, easily dismissed… But that’s God’s business. He might use the means of cyber technology, savvy marketing, good publicity. But either God, God alone, keeps our words from falling and scatters them wide, or else there is nothing in them worth keeping and scattering in the first place. Our concern, our responsibility, is simply to hear and heed God. It is always and everywhere to say, Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.”   – Mark Buchanan in “The Rest of God”

So… even though I’m crazy busy this week and off to another adventure in another state, I heard and heeded God. I wrote this down. For you. Today.

under the mercy, Cindy

man writing a contract“When the question comes, ‘Are you still writing?’ I hope your answer will always be, ‘Of course I am writing. I am a writer.’  Tomorrow the sun will rise, God willing, and it will be time again for us to go to our tables. It will be time to pick up the pen or turn on the machine… There are stories that must be told and must be heard, stories waiting on you and me to do the telling. Tomorrow we will write, write and not waste time. We will make dark marks on the page, the gift to which we have been given, the gift that has been given to us. Tomorrow we will go dancing again. Dancing on the head of a pen.” – Robert Benson in “Dancing on the Head of a Pen”

necwr16collageYou might enjoy last week’s blog “The Day I Decided to Keep Writing”

 ©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  EncouragingWords.net

 NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

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The Day I Decided to Keep Writing

 The Day I Decided to Keep Writing

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

auumnleavestypewriter“I’m not impressed and won’t be sending this manuscript to any publisher. Honestly, no one wants this book, so you may as well start over on something else,” my literary agent said during our appointment at the annual booksellers convention.

I was shattered.

I knew about rejections. I had begun my career writing for magazines and had thick files of rejection letters which had only spurred me on to try the next publisher. But now, as an established book author, I was discouraged. Why not just quit? It’s not like anyone would miss a book I haven’t even written!

writingairportYet, I had always tried to live the words “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.” (Psalm 37.5) So, as I trudged through the airport in the wee hours of the next morning I silently offered all my writing back to God – praying for guidance and provision.

I even managed to be friendly to the weary traveler in the next chair. Even before I found out she was an editor at a large publishing house.

“I’m just curious, as you leave the convention, was there one book idea you had hoped to find from an author?” I said in my most timid manner.

books-and-tea“Well, my boss was interested in something that addresses the whole baby-boomers-reaching-middle-age idea. We think that might find a good audience,” she replied.

Did I hear her correctly? Had she really just regretted not being offered something on the very subject of the book proposal now gathering dust in my briefcase?

“Uh, well, I happen to have a book proposal on that very subject. Would you be willing to look it over and see if it might fit your needs?” I stammered.

30 ways cover The startled editor graciously took my manuscript. One year later that new book was published. (find out more about this book “30 Ways to Embrace Life – Wise Women Share Their Secrets”)

From absolute rejection to acceptance in a series of events that could only have been orchestrated by God!

What does it mean to commit everything we do to the Lord?

This simple act of relinquishment means to entrust or put in charge. It also involves the harder internal process of being willing to accept a possible ‘no’ or being redirected on a different path.

launchstorymattersI often think back to that very low point in my writing career.

What if I had continued to pout and retreat to a corner seat, ignoring everyone around me? What if I had simply taken my agent’s advice or stopped writing?

Instead, I chose to prayerfully continue to commit everything to God – the One who called me to write in the first place – and know that He would indeed help me. Life is too short to invest in work that doesn’t have God’s hand all over it. Can I truly surrender all to Him?

launchroundtoptypewriterThat’s the place where He wants me to be.

Lord, I believe in You: increase my faith. I trust in You: strengthen my trust. I love You: let me love You more and more… Guide me by Your wisdom, correct me with Your justice, comfort me with Your mercy, protect me with Your power.  I offer You, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on You; my words: to have You for their theme; my actions: to reflect my love for You…. I want to do what You ask of me: in the way You ask, for as long as You ask, because You ask it. Amen.” (Clement  95 AD) *

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under the mercy, Cindy

writerbewriting*selected from Day 17 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014

 ©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  EncouragingWords.net

 NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

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Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

 Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

bdmcakeReunions. Celebrations. Birthday Parties. I’m all for any excuse to gather with old and new friends. To look back remembering, and to look forward dreaming.

This weekend some women here in New England did just that.

Twenty-five years ago a movement was begun to intentionally gather women and provide theological training, leadership development, fellowship and fun, and vision casting for how we could speak God’s Word and shine God’s Light into our own particular brand of darkness and rocky soil in these six northeastern states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

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Linda Moore is the director of “by design ministry”

And then we literally made history.

Beginning with those first 150 women who gathered under the umbrella of Vision New England and lead by Bev Weinhold, now more than 7000 have sought training and taken up the torch to seek excellence and spread it around! Today Linda Moore is at the helm through “by design ministry” and she was the Host of the 25th birthday celebration this past Saturday. She was also the worship leader. And more. Lots more.

I was just privileged to be invited to the party.

When I arrived in New England 23 years ago and stumbled into a meeting of kindred spirit sisters in Boston, I was literally revived and renewed to take up the challenge in my speaking, writing and conference coordinating. But never alone. For many years there were 12 of us “Heartspring” gals who committed to pray and gather annually for the sole reason of supporting and challenging each other as leaders… and people. When half of them moved out of the area, God provided others for each of us to lean on.

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These are My People! Maggie Rowe, Gail MacDonald, Cynthia Fantasia, Lucinda Secrest McDowell

One of the highlights for me this weekend was worshiping shoulder to shoulder with one of my own spiritual mentors (ever since seminary days back in the ‘70s) Gail MacDonald. Gail, an author of classics such as High Call – High Privilege, Keep Climbing and Comforting One Another, is an grace-filled encourager. I have so many lengthy letters from her and was also eternally grateful that she wrote the foreword to my first book Amazed by Grace and still endorsed my 11th book this year Live These Words.

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New England Leaders Jane Rattray and Rhonda Corey “growing into their crowns”…smile

A few of Gail’s wonderful truths were highlighted this weekend by dear friend Dr. Cynthia Fantasia: “What He asks us to do, He will equip us to do.” “Put the crown a little above their heads so they will grow into it.” “Lord, let me never enter a life, except to build.” Gail is still building, especially into the lives of young seminary wives.

For many years my best friend Maggie Rowe served as Vision New England’s director of women’s ministry and so it was only fitting that she should powerfully charge us not once but twice on Saturday. After beautifully exegeting the word “calling” Maggie reminded us that we are all made in the image of God and thus our greatest and eternal calling is to be “Image Bearers”  — reiterating that “What God forms, He fills and gives a purpose.”

Our purpose on Saturday was to celebrate the faithfulness of God.

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So much fabulousness at this one table – Barbara, Nancy, Martha, Vicki, Rhonda, Bonnie, Nancy…

And it was no mistake that we found ourselves also celebrating the life of a man who had encouraged us so much, the former Vision New England president, David Midwood, who had entered heaven only that day. He and another former VNE president Steve Macchia, were great supporters of women in New England.

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20 years ago….

In my own few words to the group I basically shared that I hope to continue bearing God’s image as long as He gives me breath, using the psalmist’s own words:

“God’s Word entered my life, became part of my very being. 9-10 I’ve preached you to the whole congregation, I’ve kept back nothing, God—you know that. I didn’t keep the news of your ways a secret, didn’t keep it to myself. I told it all, how dependable you are, how thorough. I didn’t hold back pieces of love and truth For myself alone. I told it all, let the congregation know the whole story.11-12 Now God, don’t hold out on me, don’t hold back your passion. Your love and truth are all that keeps me together.” Psalm 40.8-11 MSG

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with new friend Stephanie from Rhode Island

Saturday I did lots of hugging. And listening. To some pretty hard stories of the path God is taking friends through at this time. But also to some pretty amazing stories of how far we have come – by grace — including meeting some brand new followers of Christ who are off and running….for the future.

Maggie closed our time by offering 5 ways to “Live a Legacy of Compassion and Courage”

  1. Let God lift you up.
  2. Recognize that you are called to serve, not to please.
  3. Tell your “worry cop” to get off the beat!
  4. Make the hard choice – it’s often the right choice.
  5. Remember that the choices you make today will determine the legacy you leave tomorrow. (www.MaggieRowe.com)
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Fabulous Worship Team

Do we leave a legacy because we have been “well behaved women” our whole lives? Or is it because we have been “God’s women” our whole lives?

While the saying may go “Well behaved women seldon make history” today I heartily confirm that “God’s Women – who are committed, courageous and compassionate – ALWAYS make history!”

New England has had a very long history of powerful women who have said and done and written hard things that forced a whole world upside down. And in the process of living their lives fully, they did indeed make history.

And I am one of them.

What about you? Are you ready to do hard things? To bear the image of God in the place He has called you? Go for it, friend, and one day may you look back with JOY on all God has done…

under the mercy, Cindy

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Bank envelope for my “Encouraging Words” Book Table!

©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  EncouragingWords.net

 NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

 

 

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Doing Nothing in Nothing but a Robe

 Doing Nothing in Nothing but a Robe

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” —Psalm 23.2,3 NIV

Relaxing in jacuzziA few years ago I went to my first Spa. Oh my! This was during the writing of my book “Spa for the Soul.” I called it ‘research’. Of course, I have had to update my ‘research’ every year since the publication of that book.

At least that’s what I tell myself.

The truth is, I love being pampered at a Spa. And honey, we have a great one here in Connecticut that offers a fall discount package. So my three other ‘birthday buddies’ and I book it every year – girl bonding and low-key celebrating.  (And of course the Spa thinks all of our birthdays are in September/October because that’s when we receive our coupons.)spasash

Yesterday was The Day. To spend all day walking around a public place with nothing on but a white terry cloth robe. Well, at least everyone else was dressed the same way. I can’t tell you how many times I cinched my sash tightly. Just in case…

Now before you get all jealous of me, let me assure you that I deserved every single pampering minute. And so do you, actually. Whether or not we are fortunate enough to be given gift cards to a Spa, we are all made for the kind of rest and serenity inherent to such a time and place.

Did you know that SPA is a word that is actually an acronym for three Latin words  — Salus Per Aquam, which mean “health by water?” (see, I did actually do some ‘research’) While water is the genesis of this term, health is an integral ingredient. Any true Spa will focus on improving your health — physically, emotionally, mentally and yes, spiritually.

Modern Spas have their roots in the ancient towns once known for the healing powers of their mineral waters and hot springs. People would come from far away to “take the waters” and restore their health. In the Bible, the Pool of Bethesda was such a Spa and believed to be a source of healing when the waters were stirred. That’s why the lame man had lain by that pool for 38 years, hoping to ‘take the waters.’

spawaterhandsOver and over again we find in God’s Word refreshment for our soul thirst when we cry out like the psalmist, “God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.” Psalm 63.1

Are you in the middle of a desert place right now? Do you have a dehydrated heart?

When our bodies lack water they give off symptoms such as dry mouth, headaches or weak knees. But what are the indicators that our souls are deprived of spiritual water? “Dehydrated hearts send desperate messages. Snarling tempers. Waves of worry. Hopelessness. Sleeplessness. Loneliness. Resentment. Irritability. Insecurity. These are warnings. Symptoms of a dryness deep within.” (Max Lucado in “Come Thirsty”)

What is needed is ‘health by water’ — a SPA for our souls! (now that would make a great book title…) And it must come from the Source of living water — Jesus Christ! He wants to offer you a transformational Spa so that you, too, might be able to say,  “He turns a desert into a pool of water, dry land into springs of water.” Psalm 107.35

Aroma TherapyGod has made each of us in His image — body and soul. When we neglect one part, the other suffers. I have learned this the hard way. There have been seasons in my life when I focused on the spiritual, while unwittingly neglecting my physical health. There have been other seasons when the outward seemed to get more attention from me than the inward. Either way, our life becomes out of balance and must be restored.

Friend, it really is okay to rest. To linger “beside still waters” so that our Good Shepherd can “restore my soul.” Whether you do it at a Spa or beside a stream, doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that you take time away from the demands of the world, and focus on body and soul, possibly even surrounded by a few supportive friends.

spafeet

Here we are in our robes…

“But when your soul is at rest it occupies the throne of your life.Your will is undivided and obeys God with joy. Your mind has thoughts of truth and beauty. You desire what is wholesome and good. Your body is   filled with appetites that serve the good and with habits that lead you into excellent living. To remain healthy, our souls need solitude with no agenda, no distractions, no noise. If someone asks you what you did in your ‘time apart’ the correct response should be ‘Nothing.’ Doing nothing does wonders for the soul.”                                           – John Ortberg in “Soul Keeping”

            Yesterday I did nothing.     Ahhhh….

under the mercy, Cindy

“Come everyone who is thirsty. Come to the waters… Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call to Him while He is near.” – Isaiah 55.1,6

 cometothewaters

spacoversmall

©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  EncouragingWords.net

 NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

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Are You Too Weary to Climb that Mountain?

 Are You Too Weary to

Climb that Mountain?

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“How much farther to the top?” I panted to my hiking companions. My Furman friends and I loved to spend weekends climbing in the Great Smokey Mountains, but I inevitably seemed to drift into that unenviable position of ‘bringing up the rear.’

“Not too far, Secrest. You can make it. Keep going,” one of them yelled down.

climbpacker I turned and leaned my backpack against the incline, gazing at the autumn palette of color vividly displayed on the valley below. How could the view higher up be any better than this?

“Look y’all! Turn around. From here it looks like the top to me! Couldn’t we just pretend we‘re already at the summit?” I pleaded.

Desperate for a rest, I was quite willing to accept this partial view as a reward for our day’s climb.

If I had, I would have missed so much.

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Me on the Peak!!!

A grander panorama of beauty awaited me at the peak. A celebration of friends reaching the top together. A feeling of accomplishment for having completed the journey.

To this day, old college friends still tease me, “Remember, Secrest, ‘Looks like the top to me!’” they laugh.

But actually it’s a sobering thought to think that I almost gave up before reaching the summit.

What they did was to encourage me – to keep going. They fleshed out that word that means to ‘inspire courage’ in another person, often to take important and meaningful steps.

And I’m not just talking about climbing mountains.

climbencourageHave you ever been too weary to keep climbing? Are you desperate for someone to call out to you with encouragement?

Knowing how much I need verbal support, I determined early in life that I would  “encourage each other and build each other up.” (I Thessalonians 5.11)

The Greek verb here is parakaleo, which means ‘to encourage or comfort, to come alongside, to beseech.’ It appears in the imperative and is a continually commanded action – keep on encouraging.

Words are powerful tools. They can crush. They can build up.

Perhaps the best words of encouragement any of us will ever hear remind us we are truly loved — “God loves you.”

climbgroup

My companions for many mountain climbing adventures – dear friends, some of whom I will see at my Furman Reunion this fall – can’t wait! (I’m back row third from the right with a hat on)

“In our competitive workplaces, schools and world, we won’t hear much talk about love. These are the places where the language of being the beloved competes with the language of earned acceptance. Our various communities — healthy families; safe friendships; churches — are where we look forward to being accepted, embraced, touched and recognized for who we are.” (Henri Nouwen)

But there is no way we can encourage someone unless we are in relationship and aware of their struggles, challenges and feelings. We need to be involved and to listen actively and yes, even to sometimes ask the hard questions.

climbtop C.S. Lewis once said that “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” Sharing words of encouragement shows others they are not alone.

When was the last time you had that “You too?” moment?

I’m so thankful my friends cheered me to the top of that mountain so long ago. And I’m also grateful for other voices through the years that have believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Those who took action and reached down to lift me up when I fell.

climbpuppy

“Secrest” climbing mountains with a friend. I’m pretty sure this is Lookout Mountain in Montreat NC mid-1970s

The softest voice that resonated the loudest was Jesus extending His grace to me – a gift I didn’t deserve and could never earn. When I finally opened that gift – truly received His grace — my whole life changed. Recognizing myself as the beloved, helped me to stop judging, stop performing, stop striving.

Sadly, I don’t always get it right.

Sometimes my words and actions discourage, instead of encourage, but God’s grace reminds me that there is always a second chance, to try again.

There is always an opportunity to turn around, face the mountain, and keep climbing.

Who will you encourage today?

under the mercy, Cindy (aka “Secrest” in college)

*selected from Day 37 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014

 ©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  EncouragingWords.net

 NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

 

 

 

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What to Say When You’re Second Choice

 What to Say When You’re Second Choice

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Understudy. Replacement. Substitute. Interim.

Have you ever been called upon to take someone else’s place at the very last minute? Rarely convenient – always a stretch…

When we’re second choice, it’s easy to feel that our presence is possibly a mistake. And how humbling to learn that we were the one God intended to use all along.

At this time.

In this place.

planbchurchsnow~~~~~~~  John wasn’t a preacher. But as a deacon in the Primitive Methodist Chapel of Colchester, England he had a simple faith and a willing spirit.

Sometimes that’s all that is required.

On one particular January Sunday in 1850, John awakened to a world of white. Suspecting God didn’t take snow days, he put on his boots and trudged six miles into town for church.

Not surprisingly, the church crowd was sparse that day – twelve members and one visitor, a 13-year old boy. In fact, the preacher wasn’t even able to make it through the snow, so someone suggested they cancel the service. After all, who would give the sermon?

planbpewBeing the only church officer in attendance, John Egglen reluctantly agreed to do the honors, based on the scheduled text of Isaiah 45.22: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.”

But remember, he was no preacher.

In fact, he stammered and verbally wandered for about ten minutes until he fixed his eyes on the stranger, easily distinguished in the little company, and said, “Young man, you look very miserable.”

The blow struck home, and although the teenaged Charlie had never had such a personal word from the pulpit before, he listened intently.

John continued, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ! Look! Look! Look! You have nothin’ to do but to look and live.”  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

planbmespeak

Storyteller (photo by Brandon Stone)

I’m not a preacher either, but there have certainly been times when I have needed to step in and offer a good word. Recently I was called upon to “fill in” a 5-day speaking engagement, as a replacement for an older seminary professor who had become ill. While my natural response was to feel unworthy and unqualified, I chose to believe that this was no mistake.  To serve in that place. At that time.

I said “yes” and offered up my words ~ my stories. By God’s grace, that week ended up being one of incredible fruit and encouragement for all involved.

We never know where our words will land, do we? Canadian Pastor Mark Buchanan in his book The Rest of God  elaborates,

“I’d delight if none of my words fell to the ground — if none were useless, excessive, dispensable, easily dismissed… But that’s God’s business… Either God, God alone, keeps our words from falling and scatters them wide, or else there is nothing in them worth keeping and scattering in the first place. Our concern, our responsibility, is simply to hear and heed God.”

Where did John Egglen’s words land that snowy day so long ago? Did they make a difference?

planbspurgeonAs that teenage boy recalled years later, they most certainly did: “I had this vision—not a vision to my eyes, but to my heart. I saw what a Savior Christ was. . . . And as the snow fell on my road home from the little house of prayer I thought every snowflake talked with me and told of the pardon I had found, for I was white as the driven snow through the grace of God.”

That teenager’s name? Charles Haddon Spurgeon.planbchapel

Who grew up and became known as England’s “Prince of Preachers.”

What do you most remember after hearing a good message? Chances are, it’s the stories that take hold of your heart and provide a lasting influence.

Jesus was a storyteller. And our complicated and seemingly impossible lives also tell a story to a watching and listening world…

planbstoryWhat STORY does He want you to share? Why not spend some time preparing for your own snowy day?

And then say “yes” when you are summoned… you never know where your words will land.*

 “PROCLAIM the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.” II Timothy 4.2 NRSV

 under the mercy, Cindy

*selected from Day 20 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014

 ©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  EncouragingWords.net

 NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

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