Why I Didn’t Survive High School


Why I Didn’t Survive High School

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Of course I always knew I left high school after my junior year and went straight to college at seventeen. I just couldn’t remember why

Until this week.


Lucinda Lee Secrest, age 15

I discovered one of my many childhood diaries and was shocked at the bleedings of my young teenaged heart, spilling out over pages filled with both Scripture and Rod McKuen poetry…

Though I seemed to ‘have it all’ (home, good grades, loving family) there were days I was desperately unhappy. The pages I wrote are filled with names and incidents of everyone in my small town who crossed my path.

And did or did not choose to linger.

My whole sense of identity and worth appears to have been based on whether or not ‘other people’ liked me, invited me to their parties, or spoke to me in the hall at school.

hsseventeengirlboyTalk about insecure.

Talk about self-absorbed.

Talk about pitiful.

I tried to fit in. But I’m afraid my ‘relational difficulties’ — bossiness, neediness, a judgmental spirit, I confess from my perspective now — pushed people away instead of drawing them closer. (Sadly, even now I sometimes come across to others in a way that is not uplifting, but inadvertently intense. I hate that.)

Stuck in the pages of my sophomore year diary is a poem I wrote but never shared with anyone. Even then I was searching for authenticity, but not knowing where to turn:

hsmeangirls“Some people live among ‘friends’ and are lonely,

‘friends’ are not friends, but acquaintances.

It’s a blow when you realize the ones you thought liked you…


You (and others) only adored them.

I’ve been lonely in the midst of friends.

I’ve been sad in the midst of happiness.

I cried while others lived.

No one calls. No one truly likes me.

But I won’t change for them!

I won’t become a stereotyped fake.

No, I won’t change.

But I also won’t be living when others are living,

I’ll just be existing.

hsmckuenbooksSurely somewhere there is someone who feels as I do.

My life is running away and I haven’t yet ‘lived.’

What can I do to keep from dying?

Yes, the ‘heart is a lonely hunter’.

It searches for someone to love and to be loved by.

It looks for meaning in life and for friends.

Not just ‘friends,’ but friends who listen and understand.

My heart wants something MORE

than false promises, false flattery – false confidence.

The heart is a lonely hunter.

When will it find?”

- Lucinda Lee Secrest, age 15

hsteengirlsI knew there was more… I wrote that so many times in my diary. I wanted to know myself but, more than that, I was desperate to know that my Creator loved me and had a Story for me to live.

That’s why I lingered long —  nose in books, pen in hand, ears to music, and mind to dreaming.

I didn’t survive high school simply because I hadn’t found Strength and Hope and my own true Identity through a relationship with Jesus as Lord. While He was my Savior, I had never bothered to dig deeper and discover the Truth and Power found in God’s Word.

My barometer for meaning was the ever shifting tide of current circumstances and other teens. Though I prayed occasionally, I was not yielding everything in my life to the Lover of my soul…

hstruckBut the “Hound of Heaven” was chasing after me. And I was running away, at least in my heart.

Christmas Eve — “I read some ‘Seventeen’ stories that weren’t any good and then I laid down on the bed and thought about moving away or running away. Somehow I feel that everything would be alright if I could just start over again at a new place. I love Mama and Daddy muchly but nobody gives a tinker’s damn about me. I’m not sure why but I’d like to know…”  later that same day…Mama let me drive the truck around the block and I loved her for it. It made me feel better.”

But God wouldn’t let me get away. Not just yet.

Woman at beach throwing her arms back behind her.I somehow made it through 10th grade. As a cheerleader. And I also made it through 11th grade, but midway discovered that I could actually get accepted at university using my junior SAT scores. So, after much agonizing (and great support on the part of my parents) I left high school and entered Furman University at the ripe age of seventeen. Hundreds of miles away from home. Knowing not one other person on campus. Ready for a fresh start.

And God met me there. He wooed me to Himself and literally changed my life.

Forty years later, He called me back to high school as a teacher. And I also bravely attended my first high school reunion and had a marvelous time…

Are you longing for more?

Are you a ‘depressed teenage cheerleader’ (of any age) who is fooling everyone else but can no longer keep up the mask? Are you enslaved to people-pleasing to the point that how you feel today is totally dependent on who ‘liked’ your Facebook post or how many people signed up for that Bible Study you are leading at church?

hsgirlcryingstepsOh dear friend, this is not the way to live! And you don’t have to anymore.

Know today that beyond the shadow of a doubt God loves you with an Everlasting Love and He longs to gather you with Lovingkindness (Jeremiah 31.3). You matter to Him. And He wants to shower you with His Grace — a pure gift. You and I can never be worthy enough for all He has for us – we can only choose to accept it as a Gift.

But we can be Thankful. And we can reach out to other “depressed teenage cheerleaders” and help lift them up and show them the way.

Gotta run. I’m heading out the door to spend my day at High School. Maybe I never survived my own years there, but perhaps in some small way God can use me today to encourage someone else to survive theirs….?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????


My friend Allison Bottke’s new book “A Young Woman’s Guide to Setting Boundaries” asks young women such as I was “Are you able to accept the truth that you have precious worth in God’s eyes? … God’s love and your identity in Christ never change. But when you don’t know how much you are loved by God, you give yourself away to other things and people… Claiming your identity and understanding your value aren’t passive exercises, especially if you’re uncertain or confused about God’s plan and purpose for your life.  When you know your identity in Christ, you can find the strength and wisdom you need to be genuinely assertive, set healthy boundaries, and walk in ways that bring glory and honor to God. You are not likely to slide into negative self-talk or self-defeating habits when you truly know and believe that you are a daughter of the King with a divine birthright and an incomparable identity. Don’t miss the vision God has of you and the value He places on you!”

©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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How to P.R.E.P. for a Fabulous Fall!

 How to P.R.E.P. for a Fabulous Fall!

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

fallsceneSummer 2014 is only a memory… Labor Day has come and gone! Whether you are back into the routine of filling backpacks and lunchboxes or at the stage of filling your calendar with work or volunteering, FALL can be a season of gratitude and fresh beginnings.

Since I juggle three jobs (writing, speaking and high school teaching) Fall is my serious kick-off-and-start-running time. May I recommend my own strategy for balancing life at this time of year? I call it P.R.E.P:

fallplanner          P – PLAN

          R –  RHYTHM

          E – EXTRAS

          P – PRIORITY

PLAN – Right now, lay out your calendar pages for September, October, November, and December and write in everything already scheduled: work, activities, appointments, concerts, church services, Bible studies, etc. Include your childrens’ games, recitals, field trips and school holidays as soon as you get the notice. Take a look at the next four months. What is already on the calendar is a given – the empty space is now where your decisions for ‘yes’ and ‘no’ will occur. If there is (horrors) no white space, honey you are already in trouble! Pray about what might need to be reconsidered or culled from your life. I raised 4 kids and we chose to limit each of them to only 2 extra curricular activities per season. (They turned out alright because they had to learn early in life that you can’t ‘do it all’ – at least not at one time!)

fallschoolRHYTHM – What time of day, day of the week, and month of the year do you find you have the most creative energy? It’s helpful to know your own unique ‘rhythm’ and plan accordingly. For instance, I’m a morning person so most of my creative writing is done early in the day and my ‘no mind’ tasks are relegated to the evening hours when my brain slows down. Also, after a full weekend of speaking, I’m usually ‘peopled out’ and thus choose to not schedule hospitality and too much outreach for Mondays.  In addition, twice a year (January and July) I set aside an extended period of time to intentionally be quiet before the Lord and do some prayerful evaluation of my life on all levels – personal, professional, physical and spiritual. This includes a lot of listening….

fallpumpkinblessEXTRAS – As you anticipate the Fall 2014 season, what are the Special “extras” in your life and how can you set aside the resources to prepare for them? I have a College Reunion in October (in SC) and a Family Wedding in November (in TN), not to mention adult children coming home to CT for Christmas throughout the holidays. If I begin now to set aside funds for gifts, travel, entertainment and house prep, I can actually enjoy the process of these events. What about you? Do you get frantic in November and December because you haven’t been strategic about the holidays (even though you know they are coming)? This year, try to do a bit each week in the fall towards your goals. Then enjoy!

CINDYTREESSIPRIORITY – Long before now, you already established your life priorities and how you would choose to invest your time and resources based on your own life values. So today, as kids go back to school, a new church calendar is launched, and the air begins to get crisp and cool, once again you need to visit those “constants” – time with God, family relationships, health strategy, and… (you fill in the blanks here). In addition to confirming daily habits, it’s a great idea to nail down perhaps at least one goal per month. Mine are: September – Finish writing for all fall and Christmas speaking events and start using Fit Bit. October – Be extra supportive of husband as he seeks God’s direction in newly retired life.  November – Concentrate on outreach and encouragement to all extended family members. December – Observe Advent daily with Mike and begin writing a new book proposal.

 Remember, though it is our job to P.R.E.P.,  we must continually offer our lives up to God and trust that He will guide and re-direct as He sees fit.

“We plan the way we want to live,
but only God makes us able to live it.”
Psalm 16.9 MSG


Fall is a grand and glorious season! And, friend, it’s HERE! Rather than be overwhelmed or overscheduled, use the P.R.E.P. model (Prepare, Rhythm, Extras, Priority) and remember to be thankful for the Gift of each new day.



©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 Comes After Sunset?

 What Comes After Sunset?

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell


“Life is as precarious as a fiddler on the roof…” (photo Diane Sobolewski)

We just saw the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Goodspeed Opera House — a birthday gift with dear friends. Having recently married off two daughters, I delighted in the lively song “Matchmaker, Matchmaker.” I somewhat identified with Tevye’s struggle against change in “Tradition.” But I quietly wept during the singing of “Sunrise, Sunset.”

“Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset.

Swiftly fly the years.

One season following another.

Laden with happiness and tears…”

Even as summer 2014  fades into one of my favorite seasons – autumn– so I know that life’s seasons are advancing rapidly as well.


Our family about the time we moved to Connecticut to serve at First Church in Wethersfield

This Sunday my husband will preach his final sermon at a church he has served as a minister for 23 years. “Sunrise, sunset. Swiftly fly the years…”  When I look at the 4 kids in our family picture at the time we arrived here in New England (knowing only one person in all of Connecticut), I can’t help but echo the lyrics “I don’t remember growing older. When did they?”

Only yesterday I was in the ‘sunrise’ of my life — so full of eagerness to embrace everything and maybe even change the world a little bit. I love that my kids and many younger friends are there now – taking on the world by storm and I’m sure making it a better place.

But I’m convinced that the ‘sunset’ of life can be just as engaging, as long as we are open to change and willing to live through the delicate dance of ‘transition.’ (btw, I am not retiring…smile)


We like our new titles – GrandDad and Granny! (photo David Gilbert)


So many Stories…. (photo David Gilbert)

Perhaps Tevye and Golde (the parents in “Fiddler”) might have appreciated this prayer for life’s transitions when their world was changing rapidly: “Lord, help me to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity. Lord, I give you these stirrings inside me. I give You my discontent. I give You my restlessness. I give You my doubt. I give you my despair. I give You all the longings I hold inside. Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth; help me to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtakingly empty space of an open door. Amen.” (from “Common Prayer”)

This weekend our dear friends and church family honored Mike for his years of ministry and it was a precious and grace-filled occasion. Each face represented a story we have lived through and a journey we have walked through with dear people. And yet, at this time, Mike clearly senses a nudging from God to move forward, gracefully and gratefully.

What comes after ‘sunset?’

Honestly, he doesn’t know, but he is confident God is not finished with him yet. Of course, the obvious answer to post-sunset is that the night comes – and with it darkness, but also REST. Perhaps there will be some of both in the days ahead.

The incredible team who creatively orchestrated all the ways to honor my dear husband (their friend and pastor) put up this sign which is really all any of us want to hear at ‘sunset,’ isn’t it? “Well done, Mike, good and faithful servant.”mikewelldonesign

What comes after ‘sunset?’

Here is truth. What comes after sunset is …. SUNRISE. A new beginning of a new day. It happens every twenty-four hours.

Endings morphing into beginnings.

Are you facing a ‘sunset’ situation? The end of a career?  A marriage?  A dream? Or a life? Going through such a transition is definitely “laden with happiness and tears…” All seasons are.

But even if you are still in the darkness, don’t forget that God is not in the dark.

He sees. He knows. He has a plan for you for whatever days are ahead. The years are flying swiftly. “Life is as precarious as a fiddler on the roof.” Change is here to stay.

But the sun will rise tomorrow.


Will you and I (and Mike) be willing to face a New Day and do New Things?

“From SUNRISE to SUNSET, let the Lord’s name be praised!” (Psalm 113.3 CEB)


BONUS: Daughter Maggie sent video greetings to her Daddy’s retirement (she was in a show in the midwest and couldn’t attend) – “Unforgettable” is also the father/daughter dance from her wedding… http://bit.ly/unforgettablemaggie

©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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My 10 Favorite Songs to Sing to Children!

 My 10 Favorite Songs to Sing to Children!

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell



 Everything you told me was absolutely true!

It IS amazing being Granny! And day after tomorrow I finally get to hold my sweet little two-month old Saoirse in my arms again.

And sing to her.

I will sing softly but I will sing her words of love and joy and words of life, as I did with my own four children. And I’m quite confident that she will simply not care if I’m off-key.

Do you sing to your children or grandchildren? If not, why not? Don’t know what to sing?

I thought you might say that. In a casual interview, my friends who have all been grannies longer than I all confessed to singing, even if they were “tone deaf.”

And just what do they sing, you might ask? Let me share some of their answers before I give you my own list…


Fun Grandmother of 21 on the Front Row!

Well, the front runner is quite obviously “Jesus Loves Me” – which I totally get when my Washington DC friend Susan Yates  says it’s her standby. After all, this author and model has 21 grandchildren! I guess you would definitely have to use a short and very familiar song if you have that many to sing to. (In fact, it’s a special song to me as well, if you read last week’s blog “An Amazing Thing Every Mama and Daddy Can Do”)



Texas author Gari Meacham  says that singing “Jesus Loves Me” to her grands is a also a good reminder for her to rest in Jesus’ love. And when California marriage specialist Pam Farrel hears “sing wiff me, Nana,” that 3-year-old  sings the entire hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy!”



Then there are the really great folk classics like “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” and “Hush Little Baby, Don’t Say a Word, Mama’s Gonna Buy You A Mockingbird” which First Place 4 Health Director  Vicki Heath  sings to her 5 grands on Edisto Island, South Carolina and Chicago area author/actor Maggie Rowe  also sings to her new granddaughter.



Georgia Bible teacher Nancy McGuirk  sings to her 4 grands the same bedtime song she sang to her own children -Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord. I have heard You calling in the night. I will go Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.” Oklahoma author Cheri Fuller  sings her 6 grands a goodnight lullaby passed down from her father:  Sleep, baby sleep. Close your bright eyes, and I will sing to you a tender lullaby….” 



We grannies also love fun camp songs like “Skidamarink a-dink, a-dink, Skidamarink a-doo, I love you!” sung often by midwest author Kendra Smiley   to her nine. “I have always sung a mixture of songs to the babies – hymns, silly songs, old favorites.  If the idea is for the little one to fall asleep in my arms, then it is soothing songs.  If the goal is entertainment or distraction, I roll out the silly songs.”


“PP” (long story…)

Texas publisher Karen Porter  uses fun motions to sing to her 5 “Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye….” Ending with a fun tweak on the nose!  “That always gets a giggle, but it’s a good thing we don’t take the lyrics literally.” 



And it’s no surprise that Atlanta comedienne and songwriter  Anita Renfroe  loves to “make up nonsensical songs because they don’t understand English yet”  (but I suspect they understand Southern…)

And now, my own eclectic list (including music/lyric links) - favorites  I once sang to my own children and will carry on with Saoirse and future grands, Lord willing…

My 10 Favorite Songs to Sing to Children!

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell (in no particular order)

  1. “All The Way” - “When your Granny loves you, it’s no good unless she loves you all the way, happy to be near you when you need someone to cheer you, all the way..” (pretend you are Frank Sinatra or Celine Dion.)
  2. “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb” (sung by my husband to our 4 kids and now we are passing it along) Ends with “…loves me every day the same, even calls me by my name!”  Other similar choices which give the all-important message of being LOVED: “Jesus Loves Me” (insert your child’s name in instead of ‘me’) and “Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World”  
  3. “You Are My Sunshine”  (it helps if you have a southern twang, which I most certainly do) and “I Love You A Bushel and a Peck”
  4. “Goodnight My Someone, Goodnight My Love” great song from “The Music Man” (I insert her name instead of someone)
  5. “Spirit Song”“O Let the Son of God enfold you with His Spirit and His Love, Let Him fill your heart and satisfy your soul….” (from my Jesus Movement days…)
  6. “Over the Rainbow”  - just because it is a practically perfect song…”if happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow why oh why can’t I?”
  7. “Fairest Lord Jesus” - merely one of the scores of hymns I sing pretty much all the time, so will definitely pass along to little ones… “fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight, and all the twinkling starry host; Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer than all the angels heaven can boast.”
  8. “Edelweiss” and “My Favorite Things” because if it was good enough for Fraulein Maria in “The Sound of Music” it’s good enough for me.
  9. “The Way You Look Tonight” – - “Someday, when I’m awfully low, and the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you…and the way you look tonight.” (especially for those of us who live far away from our grands…)
  10. “10,000 Reasons- Bless The Lord”  – One of my few favorite contemporary worship songs. But who can beat these words? “The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning, it’s time to sing Your praise again. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes…bless the Lord O my soul…”

keepcalmsingWhat are YOU singing these days?

under the mercy, Cindy

So sing! The song of rejoicing softens hard hearts. Happy praises offered in simplicity and love lead the faithful to complete harmony, without discord. Don’t stop singing. (Hildegarde, 12th century)

 ©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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Every Mama and Daddy Can Do This!

 An Amazing Thing Every Mama and Daddy Can Do!

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

jesus-loves-meThree years ago today, at the end of my eulogy I sang “Jesus Loves Me” to the entire congregation. And I’m not a singer.

Yet it seemed to be the perfect way to end my litany of Daddy’s legacy of love to me. You see, my earthly father’s love for me paved the way for me to understand and embrace the love of God my heavenly Father.

This Sunday our congregation sang all three verses of “Jesus Loves Me” to support the day’s text from I John 4.16 God is love.”    

daddythreegirls (2)The connection was a smile from God.

Because, while I still miss Daddy every day, and while death anniversaries are always bittersweet, I smile because I once again realize the impact a parent can have on a child. Mamas and Daddies can literally love their children into the Kingdom.

How do we do that? How did my own father and mother do it?

I heard “I love you” from them every single day! But I experienced the results of their love even more than that:

  • The small (and big) times of literally laying aside their own desires and needs in order to give us a special experience or opportunity.
  • Putting family memory-making times together above other priorities, knowing that “things” end, but moments can be relived time and time again.
daddyandcindy1970 001

Daddy and Me 1970

Daddy believed in me. Even now as a seasoned adult I still hear his voice in my ear when the insecurities or doubts rise…. “You can do it, Cindy. With God’s help you can do just about anything!” He was a great encourager, not just to his own children, but to everyone he met.

Are you a Mama or a Daddy, a Granny or a Granddad?

Do you know that assuring your children and your grands of your unconditional love is a great gift? As they receive the byproducts of your love – the security, the compassion, the encouragement – they learn how to trust, an important step on the journey of faith.

jesusgirlinarms Do you feel inadequate as a parent?

Even those of us who shower love on our children let them down at times. But if we have invested in helping point them to God, then they know where to turn when the world has been cruel –  to the One who will never leave them.

And that’s why I ended my funeral Tribute with these words…. “One night when I was almost two years old Daddy set up his elaborate reel to reel tape recorder, stuck a microphone in my little face and I, of course, began to sing: ‘Jesus Loves me, this I know. For the, for the, …what for the, Daddy?’ Loud stage whisper – ‘for the Bible’  Little Cindy continues singing ‘for the Bible tells me so.’  You will be delighted to know that I have now mastered all the lyrics to that song, but far more importantly I have spent a lifetime living the truth behind them because of Daddy. (Then I sang “Jesus Loves Me”)  I Love You Daddy!”


Little Cindy singing “Jesus Loves Me”

READ my whole TRIBUTE here (August 2011) 

Today will you go to your nearest friend, colleague, child, spouse, or parent and express your love, your encouragement, your support to them in your life? Make sure they know that God’s love in you is what spurs you on each day.

Who are you going to love towards the Kingdom this August?

We love because God loved us first. But if we say we love God and don’t love each other, we are liars. We cannot see God. So how can we love God, if we don’t love the people we can see? The commandment that God has given us is: “Love God and love each other!” (I John 4.19-21 CEV)

under the mercy, Cindy

 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’ as I post them. Thanks!

©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  www.EncouragingWords.net

Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 

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Pray & Proclaim

 Hands on a World Map…

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

?????????????????????????????????????I sat in the Prayer Chapel, looked at the map of the world, and thought of the last time I had been here.

Thirty-five years ago.

As a seminarian, I had joined others in a daily noon “Pray for the World” time where we literally placed our hands on countries and claimed people groups for Christ.

I was going to be a missionary. I was going to change the world.


Our floor-to-ceiling map of the world has now been replaced by this beautiful altar in the Prayer Chapel.

Back then, this place was tucked into a small room behind the Chapel. Today it has been refurnished and renamed the “J. Christy Wilson Prayer Chapel” in honor of my missions professor and mentor.

The room has changed. The pieces of paper with requests have changed. The names of many of those countries on the map have changed. And I, too, have changed in the past three decades.


Fall 1977 – One of our hymnsings when I lived with Elisabeth Elliot my first year of seminary (my first red walls)

But God has not changed.

Mike and I are gathering with other Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary grads for our 35th Reunion. We dine together, celebrate, and even spend a day exploring the rich spiritual heritage of this part of New England.

gctsprayerdeskBut to conclude our reunion, we are once again in this sacred place – the Prayer Chapel – spending time doing that which we learned so long ago as youths but which still sustains —- praying over one another.

The requests are different now. They are gritty and hard: children with addictions, fractured churches, faith struggles, retirement decisions and health challenges. Many in this room have spent their lives in those very places we prayed for long ago — Cambodia, Turkey, Japan… And I, too, have counted faraway places as part of my own life ministry, though never my home – Thailand, Malawi, Hong Kong, Kenya, Mexico, Tunisia, Israel, Netherlands, and more.


By God’s grace, I have 11 books on this Alumni Author Bookshelf. So humbled…

God’s plan for me did not include becoming a missionary. But He does continue to allow me to partner in helping to “change the world.” Through prayer. Through proclamation – both written and spoken.

I will never forget receiving an invitation to speak at the opening chapel on my first day of seminary – a time when women were still somewhat rare in such circles. For some reason out of the entire first year class this Boston school chose me and another guy from Carolina to bring a word to fellow students just embarking on our course of theological training.


May 1978 – I am second from left in this group of seminary friends in our “Wilderness Training” class

Honestly, to this day I do not remember what I said. But I do remember that I said it with conviction and Holy Spirit power.

God’s words to Jeremiah were the promise I clung to back then Do not say, ‘I am only a youth,’ for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you.” (Jeremiah 1.7) While I am definitely no longer a youth, I still find courage to proclaim truth through God’s power and anointing. *


This is the site of the old chapel where I spoke at opening convocation back in 1977…

Tradition has it that Saint Francis once said “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.” Do you suppose that was a mandate for us to do the Gospel and not just proclaim it? What do you most remember after hearing a good sermon? Chances are, it’s the stories that take hold of your heart and provide a lasting influence.

Jesus taught through stories too. The world is watching and listening to those who have chosen to live for Christ. What story does He want you to proclaim?


May 2014 – Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Alumni friends – Susan and Darryl Caldwell (Cambodia/Ohio), Doug and Jeanie Birdsall (Japan/Massachusetts), Cindy and Mike McDowell (Connecticut)

I hope that you will have an opportunity to gather and share stories with old friends as I did recently.  And then to pray over each other – gratitude for God’s faithfulness, grace for the future.

gctsarticle“Dear Lord, You have sent me into the world to proclaim Your word. So often the problems of the world seem so complex and intricate that Your word strikes me as embarrassingly simple. Many times I feel tongue-tied in the company of people who are dealing with the world’s social and economic problems… Let me retain innocence and simplicity in the midst of this complex world. What really counts is that all this information, knowledge and insight allow me to speak more clearly and unambiguously Your truthful word. Give me the strength to think clearly, speak freely, and act boldly in Your service. Amen.” -   Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)*


GCTS President and Mrs. Ockenga in their NH cabin where I spent Thanksgiving 1978 – dinner cooked on woodstove!

under the mercy, Cindy

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’ as I post them. Thanks!

©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell


*selections from  “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell


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Summer Reading

My Eclectic & Excellent Book Suggestions!

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

bookhammockreading“A book is a soulish thing. It is physical — dots of ink and paper from old trees — and yet it feeds our minds and moves our wills. We read with our bodies; with our wills we choose to have our thoughts guided by the words of another person. Books connect us with ourselves and with others — and perhaps with God.” (John Ortberg in “Soul Keeping”)  

Good writers are always good readers. So, yeah, I’m reading as much as I can during these summer months, and I hope you are too! This week I thought I would share some of my eclectic and excellent book suggestions from what I’ve read this month. Perhaps you will find something you like! And please leave a comment with your own summer reading recommendations!

bookbenson“Dancing On The Head of a Pen” is one of my most favorite author’s latest work – Robert Benson shares both practically and poetically about the life of a writer and how he writes. Of course it was all I could do not to devour it in one sitting, but I managed to stretch out the wisdom. You might enjoy this quote I shared on a photo recently…bensonwriterquote booktoddIf you are missing watching Downton Abbey, then why not try Charles Todd’s mysteries which are set in post World War I England (author is a mother/son writing team). I read the entire Ian Rutledge series and now I’m working on the Bess Crawford series, recently “A Question of Honor.” She is a nurse during the Great War and gets into all kinds of mischief. (Think “Lady Mary” in a nurse’s uniform…)


Enjoying a picnic with Christy Award winners (my friends) Christa Parrish (and son Noah) and Tessa Afshar

Speaking of fiction, I was totally enthralled with my friend Christa Parrish’s latest novel “Stones for Bread” – which just received a Christy Award for contemporary fiction. Christa is a master at the lyrical understatement of presenting broken people who slowly find their path through grace and mercy and a tender touch from God and His people. bookstonesLiesl makes bread in Vermont and makes big decisions in her heart. I was so stunned with beauty after reading this book that I just had to sit and ponder. And weep. Then I had to eat some bread and butter. Then I had to order five signed gift copies… bookplatform

Another ‘must read’ for authors (when Lael Arrington and Karen Porter tell you to read a book, you do it!) is Michael Hyatt’s “Platform” which gives the complete ‘scoop’ on how to be an author and speaker in the 21st century. I admit, I was greatly enlightened …..and totally overwhelmed. But I am slowly checking things off my long ‘to do’ list in order to move forward as an author/speaker. booklistening

My pastor/seminary professor/author friend in New Zealand, Dr. Lynne Baab’s new book is all about “The Power of Listening” something I need. I was especially grateful it includes a section on how to listen to God through spiritual practices. And the “Toolbox” which gives practical application and explanation of listening styles and opportunities, is simply invaluable for any of us in ministry, or in life for that matter.

bookfieldOf course, speaking of Christy Award winners, I definitely re-read friend/author Tessa Afshar’s new release “In the Field of Grace” (a truly beautiful story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz) since reading a manuscript for critique is very different from reading the finished novel. (She won this year’s Christy for biblical romance for “Harvest of Gold”) And I was thrilled to moderate her book launch this month as 200+ readers celebrated yet another well-researched, theologically sound, historic biblical romance. You will savor this amazing story which changed the course of history. (I’m off on retreat with Tessa tomorrow as she writes her 5th novel, and I write — well — I write something….) bookbunn

And one more Christy Award winner from last month, Davis Bunn. I pretty much read everything he writes too and just finished his novel “Gold of Kings” (2010) which included mystery and some really great biblical archeological insight as well. bookleon

Yes, I love good detective fiction have been slowly working my way from #1 (at the library) through Donna Leon’s series set in contemporary Venice, Italy with Commissario Guido Brunetti. This summer I just finished book #22 “The Golden Egg” and still thoroughly enjoy the nuances and clever plot and characters she weaves. bookwetzel

My friend Sarah Wetzel’s new memoir is called “Growing Down” which I savored because of her sharing so many ‘literary friends’ influence as well as vulnerably chronicling her own life as a missionary, mom of four, and fellow traveler on this journey of learning to live in grace.

And this book by friend/author and recent Roaring Lambs Award winner Allison Bottke is “A Young Woman’s Guide to Setting Boundaries” just arrived in the mail and I haven’t read it all, but she talks honestly about hard things to teens: bookalaison“… I ran away from home as a teen, quit school, and married my boyfriend who beat me, raped me, and almost killed me. I got divorced and became a mother, got my GED, had an abortion, gained 100 pounds, discovered diet pills, attended cosmetology school, and subsequently gave up on myself, on love, and on God – all before I turned 18. Trust me, I’m not your typical advice-offering adult…” As a high school teacher, I know there is a great need for this book. booksoulkeeping

Don’t worry! I continue to read a lot of devotional work as well. Arriving on my doorstep this week is John Ortberg’s new “Soul Keeping – Caring for the Most Important Part of You” so I will let you know what I think after I read it. He is the current pastor of the church where I served as missions pastor – Menlo Park Presbyterian, California.

Let me close these musings with another quote from Robert Benson on what he gains from reading good books:  “I turn to these writers and their pages again and again. They are my teachers… They remind me to pay attention to the stories of my life so that in the telling of them I might help others recall the stories of their lives… They push me to tell the truth, the hard truth about my life, as someone may be dying to hear it. To tell the old stories when the time comes but make them come alive. To not be so busy being an artiste that I forget to be a person and a friend.” (Robert Benson in “Dancing on the Head of a Pen”)

What are YOU reading this summer? I’d love to hear…bookpoolkingandprince

 under the mercy, Cindy

 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’ as I post them. Thanks!
©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
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