Summer Reading

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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…)

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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…

bookplatformAnother ‘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.

booklisteningMy 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….)

bookbunnAnd 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.

bookleonYes, 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.

bookwetzelMy 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.

booksoulkeepingDon’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
EncouragingWords.net
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Weep…

 When All I Can Do Is Cry…

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

 crywomanSometimes I just want to cry. So many dear ones are battling life-threatening illness, family crises, injustice, financial obstacles and deep loss that it’s not a stretch at all to live these words“WEEP with those who weep.” (Romans 12.15)

And then there are the news stories that break your heart. Atrocities, war and deprivation far and wide amongst people God created and loves. I hardly know how to process such sorrow for those unknown to me who suffer so desperately.

I know you feel it too. Everyone’s life is touched by tragedy at some time or another. But why does it feel much more frequent these days? And what can we do? Besides cry…

My dear friend Carole just lost her husband of 55 years. Since she lives 1000+ miles away, I have to be creative in figuring out how to share her sorrow and lift her up at this time. The same is true for dear friends on the West Coast and in the South who are currently undergoing grueling treatment for cancer and having their lives measured out in months…  I read their brave words online and stand in awe of the courage and honesty with which they face each day.

crypenwriitngI weep with them and for them. But surely I could do more? Is my lament on their behalf enough of an offering to the Lord? Do you ever wonder these things? Even though I wire flowers and write almost weekly cards and notes, or send memorial gifts, I still feel so inadequate.

Sometimes all I can do is cry. But did you know that saints of old viewed crying as a grace or a gift to be offered to one in pain or grief? And when I cry I am entering into an ancient Christian tradition called the charism of tears.

???????????????I’m reminded of the little girl who lost a playmate in death and one day reported to her family that she had gone to comfort the sorrowing mother.

“What did you say?” asked her father.

“Nothing,” she replied. “I just climbed up on her lap and cried with her.”

We are called to share our hurts and sorrows with one another.*

crycomfortfriendtea“If you and I are to know one another in a deep way, we must not only share our hurts, anger, and disappointments with each other (which we often do), we must also lament them together before the God who hears and is moved by our tears. Only then does our sharing become truly redemptive in character. The degree to which I am willing to enter into the suffering of another person reveals the level of my commitment and love for them. If I am not interested in your hurts, I am not really interested in you.” (Michael Card in “A Sacred Sorrow”)

Everyone knows someone who is crying today. Who do you know facing grief, loneliness, despair, illness, or abandonment? Will you do something to reach out to them? If you can’t literally show up and ‘weep with those who weep,’ here are some other ways to reach out:cryflowerteacup

  • pray for them
  • make a brief phone call
  • arrange to clean their house or mow their lawn
  • mail a thinking-of-you card or postcard
  • drop off flowers from your garden (or market)
  • cryteapartyinbaskettake over a *“teaparty in a basket” and then visit over tea and treats. (Teaparty in a Basket – keep packed for such occasions: 2 teacups/saucers, a small teapot, several bags of black and caffeine free tea, dainty napkins, package of shortbread cookies/treats and small tray. All you have to do at your friend’s house is heat water. Just be there and listen.)*

cryjesusSometimes all we can do is cry. But do not despise your tears. Jesus didn’t. He also wept.

Weep. Pray. Reach out.

“Dear Man of Sorrows, so acquainted with grief, Help me not to recoil from Your wounds, not to fear touching them or to be touched by them. Help me to understand that in my suffering I am not only nearest to You, but nearest to becoming like You… Thank You for being in the midst of these sorrows, transforming them into blessings and filling them with meaning. Amen.” - Ken Gire

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!

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

©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

www.EncouragingWords.net

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Come…

One Year Later…

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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July 2013 – Remembering the stories…. researching… birthing a book…

Whoever invented the phrase “the wind rustling through the leaves” obviously sat on this screen porch in these woods. The breeze is so cool, the leaves are dancing, the birds are singing, and I am remembering one year ago when I sat right here and asked God to guide my writing of a new book.

Last summer while house/pet sitting for dear friends, I spent hours just listening – remembering stories, researching prayers and biographies and biblical teaching so that I would have enough chapters to submit to potential publishers. My desire was to write a devotional focusing on key biblical words that encourage action.

At that time I had the 40 words and needed everything else.

This summer? On the same porch, attended by rustling leaves, I hold the published book in my hand – “Live These Words.” In the short span of a year, God has fulfilled my dream and “established the works of my hands.”

The first chapter, “Come,” speaks of that time:

“There at “Mountain Meadows” I settled into an antique wicker chaise on the screen porch which beckoned me during each morning cup of coffee. As I sat back and listened to the singing birds, the chirping cicada and occasional patter of raindrops, I was content.

I was ‘with God.’

pigletandpooh

..her tattoo was this exact illustration…

Just like Piglet in “Winnie the Pooh” as he seeks his dearest friend.

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

Do you need to just ‘be sure’ of Jesus? Then, get right next to Him.” *

Isn’t this always the first step towards spiritual growth – to get next to Jesus? Recently I was speaking in New Jersey and mentioned this illustration. In the audience was a visitor who had never been to a women’s retreat. After hearing my mention of Piglet and Pooh, she came up to me and pushed up her pants leg to reveal a colorful tattoo.

It was an ink replica from the “Winnie the Pooh” classic storybook illustration of when Piglet sidles up to Pooh “just to be sure of you.” And my words that night (of all the children’s books I could have mentioned) were a clear confirmation of God calling and wooing her to Himself. By the end of the weekend, she had responded in faith.

When we take time for God, He meets us in surprising ways. So this morning as I feel the breeze through the screen, I know that the Holy Spirit has continued to blow through my life since I last sat in this antique chaise.

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July 2014 – (same porch) My husband now reading the completed devotional – “Live These Words”

What are your dreams, hopes, visions and desires this summer? Will you pray and seek God’s face? Ask Him to reveal to you … what? A new path? A new sense of His love and acceptance? A new “kick in the pants” to take the plunge of faith?

Why not set apart a time somewhere to simply be in God’s presence —   marking a specific time on your calendar to explore a quiet place? Whatever you do, just enter in to your time with an open heart to receive God’s love. Come with open ears to hear His voice and come with open hands to carry back all you have gained. Just come….

“Father, I exult in the free, confident access You have provided so that I can come into Your Presence for warm fellowship, for refreshment, for mercy when I’ve failed, for grace when I’m in need. What a joy to know that I can draw near to You at any moment, wherever I may be…that I can come boldly to Your throne of grace, assured of Your glad welcome. Thank You that I can ‘be still’ and know that You are God… that You are in control… and that I can restfully depend upon You and absorb Your strength and joy and peace. To think that You not only permit me to come before You but You actually desire my fellowship, my worship, my prayers and my eternal presence! Thank You. Amen.” - Ruth Myers (1928-2010)*

cometommeadowsAs you pray this prayer, be prepared for what can happen in a year’s time. For me, those rustling leaves sound a lot like trees “clapping their hands.”

God did it. The applause of Heaven…

under the mercy, Cindy

 NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above left 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

 

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

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Book Launch…

A Celebration of Words!

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

launchsigningtablecindyshortThis month we had two ‘births’ in our family. The most important one was the birth of my first grandchild which, even now, leaves me in awe and gratitude and wonder…. For that birth I was content to celebrate quietly by spending a week just holding little Saoirse in my arms. However, I’m also quite excited for the ‘birth’ of another heart dream – my new book “Live These Words” (which was celebrated far more publicly.)

launchsignFor many years I have longed to put together a collection of stories that prompt readers to dig deeper into God’s Word for practical life advice, but then also elicit a response to what they’ve read. And, to end each day by sharing one of the many fabulous prayers I have discovered, written by fellow Christ-followers both ancient and modern. “Live These Words” is that book!

launchhostcindywithcindyRecently many dear friends helped me launch “Live These Words” into the world with a grand event at the Mark Twain House and Museum here in Hartford, Connecticut. More than 100 folks gathered (from 4 different states) for “A Celebration of Words” which included fun word games (with word plaques as prizes), an interview about my book, incredible piano music, as well as treats and fellowship around tables filled with creative tablescapes depicting our theme. launch3ofusmdMy writers group colleagues Lauren Yarger  and Tessa Afshar helped make this happen in a timely and fabulous way!

Throughout the evening we were seeking to lift up words of hope, words of life, and words of encouragement. My new book explores 40 words that cause us to reflect as well as take action. launchfavorsSo all our guests received favors of a specific ‘word’ from my book in the form of scrabble pieces in a box. But we also sent them away with their own pencil, with the hopes that each one will begin to write the stories of their own life.

“Live These Words” is full of stories because that is how we learn, how we grow and how we remember.  I was deeply honored that so many other authors read the early manuscript and embraced this new devotional:

“Not only does the first sentence of “Live These Words” grab me, but Lucinda Secrest McDowell writes with three significant qualities: honesty, warmth, and practicality. Rarely do I find all three in the same book.”  -Cecil Murphey, author of 135 books, including 90 Minutes in Heavenlaunchmorewordgames

launchcynthiarachelcindy“I found these stories becoming my stories, our stories, woven together with words of wisdom and prayers of well-known pilgrims who have preceded us.  Through these words, we are invited to take the next step… Do we dare live these words?”-Dr. Marta D. Bennett, pastor/professor, Nairobi, Kenya

“While we are acclaimed for our hard work for God’s sake, we are rarely affirmed for our resting. We need both. Lucinda writes with insight and imagery and her intriguing use of original language adds depth to the readings…” -Jane Rubietta, author of Finding Life

launchtwainbust“Lucinda’s are clear, practical words, delightfully added to the always needed contemplative conversation that advises us to ‘be’ with God so that we can better ‘do’ for God.” - Robert Benson, author of Dancing on the Head of a Pen

“Convicting, yet comforting… I highly recommend this book!”Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni and Friends

“My friend Cindy’s book, Live These Words, has all the imprints of her personality – profound, really smart, funny and real. It will scoop you up into the wonder of His Word and give you forty days of encouragement and direction on living it.” -Jennifer Kennedy Dean, author of Live a Praying Life

launchoverview“Take one of these “words” daily – for your spiritual health.” -Dr. Leighton Ford, author of The Attentive Life

Live these words, pray these words, trust these words, but most importantly read these words of Cindy’s as part of your daily walk with our Lord.  -Debbie MacomberNew York Times bestselling author

When I go to online reviews, I am delighted to find that readers are truly ‘getting it’ and moving forward in living their own words:

launchdarlenegailmikecindy“I felt as if I had been invited to sit on Cindy’s front porch and share a cup of tea while she gave me the straight scoop on God’s Word. She is clear, painfully honest about her own failings, and yet totally secure. She just wants you to know what her Best Friend has taught her….”Doretta

“I couldn’t stop at reading just one day at a time! For me, I will never look at these words the same way again. Cindy has brought such beauty and meaning to them all. Each one will draw you to lean in closer to Jesus. The stories that surround these words are so captivating. I felt like I had just traveled the world with Cindy. She is a Hoot as well as sensitive. Her love for God is so evident as she has Trusted Him in this walk of life.”Gail

launchhostpattiwithcindy“Reading this book is like listening to the thump-thump of Cindy’s heart for God. She didn’t simply search the dictionary for forty words; she extracted them one by one from the depths of her soul. She wove together her gift for story-telling and her knowledge of God’s Word to create a beautiful tapestry that I shall wrap around my heart for years to come.”Darlene

(If you have read “Live These Words” I hope you will take a moment and click here on AMAZON’S  “Live These Words”  to make a comment. Believe it or not, this greatly helps get new books into the hands of readers!)

3d cover live these wordsWhat are YOU reading this summer? If you haven’t yet decided on a devotional to begin or finish your day, may I humbly recommend you try “Live These Words?” In fact, if you begin in early to mid July and only explore one word a day, you will be finished by the end of August. So, check out my author page at AMAZON – amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 

Or you can order online a personalized SIGNED COPY from HERE . I also offer book group discounts if you call me at 860.529.7175.

Visit my “Live These Words” page for more information.

launchcindydawnfriendLet me close this blog with one of the many great prayers in the book, this one is at the end of  Day 30 “Look” - “O Lord my God, teach my heart this day where and how to see You, where and how to find You. You have made me and remade me, and You have bestowed on me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know You. I have not yet done that for which I was made. Teach me to seek You, for I cannot seek You unless You teach me, or find You unless You show Yourself to me. Let me seek You in my desire, let me desire You in my seeking. Let me find You by loving You, let me love You when I find You. Amen.”                   Anselm (1033-1109) 

under the mercy, Cindy

©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

www.EncouragingWords.net

 

 

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Retreats…

Come Apart Before You Fall Apart!

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

blog4For speakers, this is the time of year known as ‘retreat season’ and I am so privileged to spend many of my spring weekends speaking at a variety of conferences and retreats from Maine down to Maryland this year.

Venues vary. Occasionally, smaller retreats will be held at a center that was once a grand country estate, eventually given to or bought by a Christian organization many years ago. Both this month and last I stayed at such places – “Rolling Ridge” in Massachusetts and “Liebenzell” in New Jersey. Faithful staff continue to serve their guests, even while trying to maintain/upgrade the once-elegant homes and acreage. I so appreciate their faithfulness. And what a service they provide by offering cozy surroundings, good food, and peaceful rest in the midst of a culture that often screams for the big, shiny and fancy! Fortunately, I have several more of such favorite sanctuaries, especially here in New England.

blog2Whilst there I usually awaken quite early in the morning and explore, eventually ending up in the Library with my first cup of coffee. There I always peruse volumes of incredible writings I have yet to discover, often leaving a donation of one of my own books as a ‘calling card.’

A few weeks ago I opened the front door of such a place and was greeted with these words “Come away to a quiet place and rest awhile.”  “Come” happens to be the very first word on the very first day of my new 40-day devotional which will be published next month (“Live These Words” – click here for more information). This book-of-my-heart encourages us to find ways to balance the ‘being’ and ‘doing’ in our lives.

blog6This invitation to “Come” is extended to everyone, but Jesus especially target the “weary and burdened” (Matthew 11.28). If we respond to Christ by entering His presence, the take-away favor is incredible – rest!

It is only in the silence that we hear the voice of God speaking directly to our souls. Perhaps He will reveal areas that need change or healing.  Perhaps He will plant the seed of a dream you never thought attainable. Most probably He will whisper words of love and affirmation and encouragement in your ear. And you will be strengthened for what is ahead.

I don’t know whether or not you will have an opportunity to “come apart awhile” in the next few months – to retreat or spend some quiet time with God in a set-apart place, either with others or alone. But I hope you will! Even if you can’t swing an organized retreat, be creative in finding your own sweet spot for at least one whole day.

blog5Today I am writing this in a guest house named “Ebenezer” – which is taken from the story found in I Samuel 7.12. There Samuel decided to place a stone of remembrance of what God had done. He called it “Ebenezer” which means “the Lord has helped us to this point.” While I was having my morning prayers here in the Library, the sun rose and I now hear the voices of the women beginning to stir and wander down for breakfast.

Soon we will gather for our final session. All weekend we have explored the theme: “BREATHE – Finding Space for God in Your Full Life.” Friday night we arrived exhausted and stressed as we looked at “Tight Spaces.” On Saturday we studied the essential discipline of “Quiet Spaces” and later that evening found healing from “Dark Spaces.” For our send off charge I will speak on “Living Spaces” with the text/promise from II Peter 1.3 “God’s divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”

blog7It’s always hard to re-enter our crazy Real Life after being away for a whole weekend, but God promises us that we already have “everything we need” to live the life He has called us to live. With Him. And for His glory. To touch a broken world. With hope, grace and mercy. We leave filled, so that we might pour out into the lives of others.

I love what I do. I pray God will continue to open doors and give me strength to walk through them with life-giving WORDs from Him.

under the mercy, Cindy

P.S. I’d love to lead a retreat for you and your group. Check out other pages on this website for themes, schedule and endorsements and contact me by phone 860.529.7175 or email cindy@encouragingwords.net

finalfinalfrontcoverLTWIf you live anywhere near Hartford, Connecticut, I hope you will plan to join me for “A Celebration of Words” at the Mark Twain House and Museum on Tuesday, May 20th from 7-8:30 pm. This is my Book Launch for “Live These Words” and we are going to have a fabulous time! Free, but space is limited and you need to Register by clicking on THIS LINK.

 

copyright 2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

EncouragingWords.net

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Word for the Year – New…

Newthingflowerinsnow

“NEW” – Exciting & Risky

Word for the Year

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Back when the New Year 2014 began (36 days and many, many inches of snow ago) I chose “NEW” as my word for the year, believing that God was saying to me, “I am doing a NEW thing!” (Isaiah 43.19).

While there is nothing magic about having a word for the year, it is something to hold onto for guidance, encouragement and daily hope as each day of the year unfolds…

I knew when I chose “New” that it could be exciting to see what New things might be in store in my life ahead – new opportunities, new people, new growth. But I also figured there would be a risk factor – all those new opportunities, people and growth might bring with them challenges that stretch me and force me out of my comfort zone.

Barely into the second month of the year I am delighted to report two very New things that will change my life forever (well, at least the first one will).

babyinbasketvintage1 – NEW grandchild (my 1st) Fiona & Tim due this Summer! Woo Hoo!

2 – NEW book “Live These Words” (my 11th) due late Spring!

What huge cause for rejoicing! But they will only come with time…. Right now, both Fiona and Tim’s baby and my book (which is, if you ask any author, a bit like birthing a baby) are still in process. They are very real, but not yet seen…

Isn’t that true about much in life? As I type today at “Sunnyside” cottage here in Connecticut, we have just received a foot of new snow. It covers everything and will undoubtedly not have time to melt before the next huge storm arrives this weekend.

A lot will be hidden. For a long time, perhaps.

My new favorite children’s devotional book is “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing” and in it, author Sally Lloyd-Jones describes this phenomenon to children:

“In the Winter it looks like the trees have all died. Their leaves wither and drop off. They stand like skeletons against the cold, desolate sky. But did you know before even a single leaf falls to the ground, next spring’s bud is ready? Next summer’s leaf is furled inside that tiny bud, waiting. And Jesus says there is nothing broken that won’t be mended, nothing sick that won’t be healed, nothing dead that won’t live again…  We can’t see it now, but remember the fruit tree in winter? It looks dead. But the buds are ready to go. And, come spring — blossom and fruit! ‘Look, I am making everything NEW!’ (Revelation 21.5)”

roundtoptypewriterhandswordsAnd so we wait…

There is much to be revealed each and every day.

I don’t know what New things are ahead for me, but I’m grateful that whatever comes, someOne very familiar will be at my side. And I fortify myself with a host of biblical promises that are both exciting and risky.

A DOZEN NEW PROMISES

  • “He put a NEW song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.” (Psalm 40.3)
  • “Sing to the Lord a NEW song, for He has done marvelous things.”  (Psalm 98.1)
  • “See, the former things have taken place, and NEW things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” Sing to the Lord a NEW song, His praise from the ends of the earth.”  (Isaiah 42.9-10)
  • “See, I am doing a NEW thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43.19)
  • Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are NEW every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3.22-23)
  • “I will give them an undivided heart and put a NEW spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11.19)
  • “A NEW command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13.34)
  • “He has made us competent as ministers of a NEW covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (II Corinthians 3.6)
  • “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self… and to be made NEW in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the NEW self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4.22-24)
  • “But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a NEW heaven and a NEW earth, where righteousness dwells.” (II Peter 3.13)
  • “To the one who is victorious… I will also give that person a white stone with a NEW name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2.17)
  • “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything NEW!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21.5)

Keep these words in mind as you are waiting for the NEW, or pursuing the NEW, or even if you are avoiding the NEW… God never changes. He is beside us. He will hold our hand and guide us through…

snowflowerpurpleOut of the snow and into the spring…

“Dear God of new beginnings, we are walking into mystery. We face the future, not knowing what the days and months will bring us or how we will respond. Be love in us as we journey. May we welcome all who come our way. Deepen our faith to see all life through your eyes. Fill us with hope and an abiding trust that You dwell in us amidst all our joys and sorrows. Thank You for the treasure of our faith life. Thank You for the gift of being able to rise each day with the assurance of Your walking through the day with us. God of our past and future, we praise you. AMEN.” (anonymous)

 under the mercy, Cindy

Be sure to check out my NEWS PAGE for more new things! 

©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

www.EncouragingWords.net            www.NewEnglandChristianWritersRetreat.com

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Pour…

“Nothing in the House”

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

nothingcindypodiumLast week I discovered that I needed to fill in for another speaker who had to cancel due to a family emergency. No problem, right? I am, after all, a speaker and have gone on as an ‘understudy’ many times before. Except this time I was also busy helping to direct the event. And did I mention that my audience would be a couple dozen top speakers and authors from around the country? So I did what you probably would have done too. I grabbed my Bible and fell on my knees. “God, what do we most need to hear from You tomorrow (Sunday) morning?” Then, because I was in a warm climate in the middle of January, I went outside and sat at a picnic table, opened my small travel Bible, picked up my pen and notebook (because this was also an unplugged-from-technology week for me) and began writing.

nothingnotebookI decided to speak to my colleagues on “How to Live An Impossible Life.” You see, I often feel that my life is practically impossible to live – too many people needing too much of me too often. Always behind, never caught up. Sandwiched between needs of parents and needs of kids. You know. Kind of like your life too. So I figured my speaking sisters would certainly relate to the topic, if nothing else.

So many demands…. And yet sometimes so little available to meet them. So little strength, money, time, resources… Do you ever feel as though you have “nothing in the house?” That phrase is a direct quote from a remarkable story found in II Kings 4.1-7, of a woman who feels her life has become impossible. This widow of one of the prophet Elisha’s most faithful servants has suffered a triple blow: her husband has died, the creditors are coming to take her children as slaves, and there is nothing in the house. She is grieving, fearful and destitute.

As this new year begins are you experiencing loss? Are you afraid or worried? Are you lacking in resources? Then read carefully as we discover how God brings something out of nothing, how He can enable us to live through seemingly ‘impossible’ circumstances.

nothingonejarIn the text, Elisha comes into the house and asks how he can help: What do you have in your house?” (verse 2)

And the widow answers “Your servant has nothing there at all, except… a small jar of olive oil.” It’s almost as though the one thing she does have – the small jar of olive oil – is simply an afterthought because it seems so ordinary, so insignificant. And yet, it’s a start – a place for God, through His servant Elisha, to begin the miracle work.

I have often felt as though I had “nothing in the house….except” when it comes to what is needed for my daily life. Oh yeah, I have a lot of ‘stuff’ in the house, but sometimes I’m down to bare bones when it comes to offering hope, offering wisdom, offering answers… That’s when my answer needs to be, “I have nothing in the house except…..my willingness to be used, Lord.”

Last week as I was studying this scripture I remembered a poem by one of my favorites – Amy Carmichael. I first read this poem way back in seminary days and recall that it begins with her telling God she has nothing in her house but Pain. Amy, a Victorian missionary to India who rescued young girls from temple prostitution (the original human trafficking), lived in pain all her life. The last two verses of the poem are God’s words to her:

nothingamycarmichaelMy servant, I have come into the house-
I who know Pain’s extremity so well
That there can never be the need to tell
His power to make the flesh and spirit quail:
Have I not felt the scourge, the thorn, the nail?

And I, his Conqueror, am in the house,
Let not your heart be troubled: do not fear:
Why shouldst thou, child of Mine, if I am here?
My touch will heal thy song-bird’s broken wing,
And he shall have a braver song to sing.

-    Amy Carmichael “Nothing in the House”

God makes His presence and power and provision known when we most need it. Are you empty? Do you wonder how you can possibly have enough or be enough for what is required from you? Take a look at your resources – what has been provided instead of what has been withheld. Even the widow had something – one small jar of oil. And Elisha saw what could come from that.

nothingjarsGod wants to do the same thing in my life and yours — take something small and multiply into more. But in the process we may be asked to do some questionable things, such as… gathering more of nothing! Yes, Elisha immediately told her to go and find as many empty jars as she could and bring them into the house (verse 3.) I can’t help but wonder what went through her mind as she was obeying this strange request? What goes through your mind when you are obeying God, but not understanding His will and His way? I confess I often grumble “I’ll do it, but it won’t make any difference” or “This is not the way the world works today, don’t you know that God?”

Then Elisha told her to take the one jar of oil and use it to fill a house full of empty containers (verse 4.) I wouldn’t be surprised if she was secretly relieved he had told her to shut the doors so that no neighbors would see her. And yet, as she poured, there was always more — more oil to fill every jar. The impossible had become possible.

And God’s purposes for this widow’s life – to enable her to become financially stable in order to provide for her family – were accomplished as she was instructed to sell all the oil (verse 7.)

nothingemptyhandIt is a new year. And I suspect that during 2014 many of us will inevitably meet up with both opportunities and challenges which require more than what we have. And when that happens, we may be tempted to say “I have nothing left!” – no more energy, no more hope, no more words, no more time…

If that  day comes, will you remember the widow’s answer “nothing in the house… except” and will you take whatever small thing you do have, offer it up to God and allow Him to multiply it into an ‘impossible’ amount of more?

Yes we can live our lives – our nitty gritty hot mess kind of lives – because truly “Nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1.37 ESV)

under the mercy, Cindy

 FYI The second lesson in my presentation last Sunday was based on the Joshua 3 story, but I’ll save that for another day…

©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

www.EncouragingWords.net

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