If You Sorrow Deeply this Christmas…


If You Sorrow Deeply this Christmas…

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

sorrowornamentToday we were bombarded yet again, with tremendous sorrow and shock — this time the evil slaughter of innocent children in Pakistan. Amidst the holiday celebration, there is tremendous sorrow. And pain. And loss.

Perhaps you are one of those who cannot stop crying, even as the radio stations play “Deck the Halls” and sponsor Ugly Christmas Sweater contests? It’s just too, too much, and sometimes you wish it were over…

sorrowcardLast year, during a concert, singer/songwriter Michael Card told my church family that he identifies with those who are depressed during Christmas. In fact, he even said that out of the 400+ songs he has written, his most favorite is “Come Lift Up Your Sorrows.” As I heard him sing it in our 1761 century Meetinghouse that evening, it soon became one of my favorites as well.

“In this most holy place, He’s made a sacred space,

for those who will enter in and trust to cry out to Him.

And you’ll find no curtain there, no reason left for fear.

There’s perfect freedom here, to weep every unwept tear.” (Michael Card)

sorrowjesusNot your typical Christmas carol. But appropriate for all who weep. That child who was born into a dark and evil world – Christ – was born to join us in our pain. “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood…” (John 1.14 MSG) This Christ child was also “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…” (Isaiah 53) He knows what our lives are like. And that’s why He came — to sit with us in our sorrow, to guide us in our bewilderment, and to give us hope to take the next step.

EmmanuelGod with us — is the great good news for all who weep today.

If you are someone who is struggling to lift up your sorrows, perhaps these few suggestions from a counselor can help you adjust your holiday expectations: 

1. Talk about your feelings. It’s okay to be sad, even when others are not. Opening up with safe and supportive family and friends can be a great way to cope. Also talking with your pastor, a counselor or attending a grief support group can be especially helpful.

sorrowgrave2. Make a plan to honor your loved one. There are many ways to do this- anything from watching their favorite Christmas movie, to lighting a candle at the dinner table, to hanging a special ornament on the tree can all help you feel connected to that person. Don’t be afraid to say their name, to reflect on happy holiday memories spent with that person or look at old photos. While those things may often bring tears, they can also bring comfort.

3. Give yourself permission to change your usual traditions. It’s ok to not go out in crowds if that feels overwhelming. It’s ok to skip putting out all the decorations you normally would. It’s ok to cook less, or not at all. During times of grief and loss, it’s most important to take good care of yourself. Over-scheduling and pressure are especially hard to handle, so eliminate everything that is draining, and make time for comforting and resting.

4. Spend time with loved ones. While over-scheduling is not good, isolating can lead to depression. Many grieving individuals find it helpful to create a support team of two to three people who call and visit, and whom you can call anytime you need to talk. Often friends and family don’t know how to help when someone is grieving. There are probably several people in your life who have said “If you need anything, let me know.” Ask them to be a support person. Ask them to call you every few days and tell them you might need to call them just to cry or talk.

5.  Try to spend time in prayer, reading your Bible and worship. Remember that God cares for you. It’s ok to feel angry with God during grief, but try not to allow that feeling to keep you from Him. God experienced the loss of His own son Jesus and can empathize with your pain. The Bible says, “God is close to the broken-hearted…” (Psalm 34:18). It also says that “He heals the broken hearted…” (Psalm 147:3)

Remember that there is no way to remove the pain of grief. There is a path to move through the pain. It is a season that will one day pass.“Weeping may last for a night, but rejoicing will come in the morning.” Psalm 30:5  (from Debi Russell, Pastoral Counselor)

sorrowcandleI cannot imagine the sorrow and loss you are experiencing right now. But I want you to know that I care too. Today I shall offer a prayer that the “Man of Sorrows” will enter your life in a special way this week and grant you His Presence and His Peace. May the message of Christmas bring you Hope for better days to come…

“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. sorrowdogHelp me to understand that in my suffering I am not only nearest to You, but nearest to becoming like You. It’s a sobering thought and I shudder when I think of it. Help me to understand that many of the sorrows I experience in this life belong to the nature of the world I live in, and will not pass away until this world passes away. 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

CLICK HERE to hear Michael Card’s Song “Come Lift Up Your Sorrows” 

©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell


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!

Posted in 1 | 4 Comments

Time to Shine!


Time to SHINE!

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

christmasoutsidelights“Arise, shine for your Light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” Isaiah 60.61

Here in Connecticut, darkness descends each day at 4:30, so that’s when the clear lights on our screen porch Christmas tree turn on. And, if I’m home, I run around to light the candoliers in each of our windows. So eager we are to shine some brightness into our neighborhood, our world, our lives….

Anything to dispel the encroaching darkness…

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Isaiah 9.2

Because the world is actually quite dark, isn’t it? A year ago most of us never dreamed

  • that multiple beheadings would be a part of the evening news,
  • that a deadly disease like Ebola would kill thousands and threaten paranoia,
  • that teenage girls could be kidnapped by the hundreds and never heard from again.

xmassadAnd perhaps there are dark places in your own life this year. Are you experiencing a special disappointment? A financial struggle? A fractured relationship? The death or a dream? A health scare? An empty place at the holiday table?

How do we celebrate Christmas with Joy? How do we celebrate the New Year with Hope?

With Light. Jesus – the Light of the World.

christmascandle“I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8.12

Christmas is all about God’s plan to dispel darkness. – by sending a Child.

Most of us are familiar with the Christmas story. We know about God. But do we know God? You see, what matters is faith — not a religion, but a relationship. That’s why God became a man, so we could know Him as a friend, as well as Savior and Lord. And you and I can count on that Love.

Now, we are already into our second week of Advent – the season of waiting for the Light to appear. What are you waiting for?

Are you waiting to receive that great present? Sometimes I think I’m waiting to experience that perfect family gathering with diverse loved ones all in agreement and full of praise for me as the matriarch. (like in Proverbs 31 when “her children rise up and call her blessed”)

Perhaps you’ve been waiting a long time for that feeling to go away. You know the one that keeps reminding you that you’re not enough and never will be, the one where you are looking for something that will make everything else fall into place. But it’s just beyond reach…

christmaslightshepherdsThe first Christmas happened in the midst of a people who had spent 400 years waiting in the dark for deliverance. People just like you and me. Wanting to hope, but wary of yet another disappointment.

A Messiah had been promised, so over the years they fashioned Him in their minds to be a great King – a mighty Super Hero. No one ever dreamed to look for a baby. In a barn. But God’s ways are not our ways.

The world into which that baby was born was pretty dark too. It was ruled by King Herod – a man so evil that he killed his own family when they disagreed with him. Under this cruel ruler, lives were disposable, promises broken, politics dangerous, and trusting others extremely risky.

christmaslightsjesusGod sent Light. In a most unusual way. To this day we celebrate Christmas with symbols of stars and twinkling lights to remind us that the Light has truly come into the world. And that the darkness cannot and will not extinguish it.

How can we live in the Light every day? How can we be the light?

We can choose to Shine. We can make a deliberate choice for light over darkness. In our thoughts. In our homes. In our actions. And in our words. The words we utter can crush a spirit and wound a soul. But different words can change a life and give wings to a dream.

We embrace the Light of the World every time we remember that Jesus’ name is truly Emmanuel – which means God with us. Which means we are never alone. Even if we feel alone.

Glowing lights in the dark.In the New Testament, long after Christ had come and gone, St. Paul urged the struggling, faithful to shine like lights in a dark world.” Philippians 2.15

Because the world is dark. But life in this world is also beautiful and good.

You or someone you love was given a second chance this year to make it right. You or someone you love recently celebrated a milestone – 3 years sober, 10 years married, balanced the checkbook, got the last kid through college. Something good.

xmassalvationarmyAs my Daddy used to say, “It’s a Great Day to be Alive.”  Not because it’s a perfect day or a perfect season or a perfect year. But because God loves you and has granted you another day to love Him back, to serve Him through loving others and to discover your destiny — shining for Him.

How can we Shine in the remaining days of this Christmas season?

  • Remain calm. Set the tone in your home. If you have chosen to spend quiet moments with God each day it will show in your spirit and in your demeanor and in your voice.
  • Decide what’s important for you during the holidays and then pursue that. If it’s writing cards or giving gifts or having parties or going to concerts or worship, then make sure that happens. Start new family traditions.
  • If this is a lean Christmas or a lonely Christmas, let it be. Just don’t waste it.Spend some quiet time asking God to show you His next step for your life. And then be willing to follow Him. He can turn even a small flicker into a sparkling flame eventually.

Favor from this week’s Christmas Tea at Newton (MA) Presbyterian where this message of “Shine” was part of my presentation.

Time to Shine. To receive the Light. To be the Light – to your family, your work colleagues, your neighbors – those you know and those you don’t. Time to Shine your unique self to the world because the Light within has reminded you that you are greatly Loved, totally Accepted, and filled with Power and Purpose because of this Child who came.

Christmas is God’s Love Story. The Christmas we choose this year will become Our Story. May it be one of Light, Joy and Hope.

cindynewtonunder the mercy, Cindy

©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell


xmasgiftCHRISTMAS PRESENT SUGGESTION – Click Photo left for how to order my book “Live These Words” (sorry about the ‘shameless promotion’…smile)

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!

Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

Jen & Jane’s ‘Impossible’ Path to Christmas


Jen & Jane’s Impossible Path to Christmas

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

ballsWhat! It’s December already?

How can I possibly survive the holidays with my faith and family intact?

jkdmaryIn the biblical Christmas story the angel assured a teenage Mary that “Nothing is impossible with God.”  (Luke 1.37)

I believe that. I know I can make choices this month that will enable me to savor precious moments during this holy season. To give and wrap and sing and bake and write and worship and clean and welcome and visit and receive and listen and shine and rest and wait and celebrate…

But sometimes our Advent days seem impossible, don’t they? Everyone needs us and we need a break. Our lists are endless and our finances limited. Emotions and expectations rule the day when extended families gather. And somehow in the midst of all this clatter and chaos and celebration, too often we forget the Child!

Friends, we can do this thing! The next days can be our best and brightest and most blessed moments where the impossible becomes possible!

But I need some help, and perhaps you do too. That’s where my good friends Jen and Jane come in – both have absolutely fabulous Advent books that keep my soul calm and my heart focused on the true reason for the season.

jkdcollagejaneJane Rubietta’s new “Finding the Messiah” begins with asking us to imagine God saying these words over us now:

Dear one,

Don’t worry about the calendar

And don’t worry about the clock.

jkdquiltForget about the lists,

Your lists,

Others’ lists,

Your forgiveness lists,

And your unforgiveness lists.

Every year

You try so hard,

But really

Only one thing

Is needed.

lightCome to Me.

I have a story

To tell you

About a time

And a place

And a people

Who needed

To be found in the dark.

Don’t worry,

I have a light.

I am the light.

I am sending the Light

                                                                  Of the world.            (Jane Rubietta)

Mary never asked for the Gift she received, yet she accepted God’s plan, even though it seemed impossible. What is happening in your life right now that seems impossible? Impossible to handle? Impossible to solve? Impossible to believe?

I agree with Jane that “Maybe Christmas isn’t about getting what we think we want. Maybe it’s about getting what we need, and then realizing, once we open the gift, that what we need is actually what we wanted all along.”

jkdcollageMy other friend Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s Advent Prayer book – “Pursuing the Christ” – is now well-underlined from 5 years of use. She elaborates on the Magnificat: “Mary could not help but wonder how such a thing – a virgin bearing a son – could be accomplished. Where the world has no way and no process, God has a way. God is the way.”

Friend, we need to stop listening to the world. Stop believing all those commercials (and even some of those well-meaning blogs). We must draw close to the manger and be still and silent with the Child. Open our hands to receive whatever He is bringing to us this year.

Mostly, pray to the One who promises the impossible:

jkdnativity“Dear God, You never speak a word that does not carry Your guarantee in it. You never speak a word that is not fully backed up by your power. You are the same God who spoke through Gabriel to Mary. When you speak to me, Your words have the same guarantee. Whatever You promise, You perform. Why do I think I have to be able to see a way? You do not call me to believe based merely on evidence; You call me to believe things that are impossible. By the exercise of Your power and the experience of Your presence, nothing will be impossible. Amen.” (Jennifer Kennedy Dean)

Feel better already? More focused? More peaceful? Whatever you choose to use (one of these books, an online devotional, app, etc), may I encourage a daily spiritual focus for these days of waiting – Advent. Your soul will thank you and those around you will perhaps see something impossible this year – a bright light from within!

Let’s SHINE…..                                                                           under the mercy, Cindy




ABOUT Jane Rubietta HERE           ORDER Jane’s “Finding the Messiah” HERE

ABOUT Jennifer Kennedy Dean HERE      ORDER Jennifer’s “Pursuing the Christ” HERE

©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell


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!

Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

Sometimes We Have to Dig Deep for Thanks

 Sometimes We Have to Dig Deep for Thanks

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever!” (Psalm 118)

thankslonelyPerhaps you aren’t feeling very Thankful today. The losses have piled up one after another — health, relationships, financial security, dreams — and you really wish everyone would just quit asking you to list what you are thankful for…

Some people call this “Turkey Day” but that would be limiting. It is called Thanksgiving to prompt us to dig deep enough to find something which offers hope and promise. When I am in these hard places, I find it helpful to focus my soul on these two things:

1. Remember that GOD is the One we thank.

thanksgodGod is the One we thank because He loves us more than we can possibly imagine. He has our back. Knowing that we are created, loved and sustained by a merciful and gracious God is the ultimate reason for giving thanks.

          “It is a good Thanksgiving because we have Someone to thank Who loves us, Who shows Himself to us in the dark and Who is in control of the mess. Some of us will have more ‘stuff’ than others. Some will be going through some rough waters and some will be sailing through the calm between the storms. Some will be facing emotional or physical pain, loss of a loved one or the prospect of great failure, while others will be sitting on top of the world. Those aren’t even the issues though. The issue is GOD. Run to Him. Thanksgiving will be natural.” (Steve Brown)

2. Make a CHOICE to live in Gratitude, no matter what.

thankspersonSo, I can either complain and whine about the direction life has taken me— the detour in the road, the closed door, the seemingly impossible challenge — or I can believe that nothing is too hard for God-with-us (that is Emmanuel, one of the names of Jesus). Maybe your situation is darker this year than last, but if you know God as the Great Provider, you can choose to declare:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails  and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength…” (Habakkuk 3.17-19)

I’m grateful for parents who taught me early on that Thanksgiving is actually a way of life. Recently I discovered a small piece of paper with a long childhood list — my ‘ticket’ to Thanksgiving dinner…


Thankful Girl – Cindy with 3 dogs!

My Thankful List 1965

(misspellings are original, italics are updated notes)

“Food: Turkey, Ice Cream, Spagetti

Shelter: Brookside (our farm in the country), Pinecrest (our house in town), Treehouse (mine!)

Family: Mama, Daddy, Susan, Cathy

Pets: Friskey, Rusty, Animals (Frisky, Rusty and Polka Dot are pictured right with me)

School: Education, Teachers, Materials

Clothes: Slacks, Skirts, Dresses, Shoes (old), Jeans

House: Kitchen, My Room,

thanksplateGovement: Free Country, Leaders, Democracy, President (even though he is Mr. Johnson), White House, Capital, Heroes, Republicans

Senses: Hearing, Seeing, Tasting, Feeling, Smelling

Workers: Fireman, Doctors, Nurses, Pulpwood Dealers (this is what my daddy did at the time), City Workers, Farmers, Radiomen

Transportation: Bycicle, Automobiles, Airplane, Train, Jet, Rockets

thankshandsChristen Life: Church, Music, Preacher, Deacons, Elders, Missionaries

Movie Stars: Hayley Mills, Kevin Corcoran, Doris Day, Peter McEnery

Machines: Television, Radio, Intercom

Keystone Camp!

Nature: Birds, Trees, Plants, Animals, Music, Smell, Wonders

And that is just a little bit of what I’m thankful for.”                                                                                              Cindy Secrest, Thanksgiving 1965

thankslistIf I could just sit down and write out 70 things on my thankful list (in categories, no less) back when I had only lived a few years, then surely I can think of at least ONE today.

What is one thing you can Thank God for today? Even in the pain, even in the loneliness, even in the uncertainty. Now breathe it out or write it out. Good for you.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell


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!

Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

“Heaven Is Going to Be Wonderful, You Know?”

 “Heaven Is Going to Be Wonderful,

You Know?”

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

sharing words from Dr. Stephen A. Hayner


Steve and Sharol Hayner (copyrighted 2011 Coenraad Brand Photography )

LSM Note: Our dear friend, Steve Hayner, president of Columbia Theological Seminary (and former president of InterVarsity, dean at Seattle Pacific University and pastor at University Presbyterian in Seattle) and his wife Sharol live in Atlanta. Steve officiated at Inka’s Seattle memorial service back in 1981 (Mike’s late wife) and also preached our own wedding sermon in Menlo Park CA in 1984. Our daughter Fiona and their daughter Emilie were in pre-school playgroup together in Seattle and Sharol greatly helped me to transition into motherhood during those days…

Recently World Vision asked Steve to share a devotion on his life perspective amidst terminal cancer. As we enter a season of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share his words with you (with Steve’s gracious permission of course)- in Thanksgiving for the life and reach of Steve Hayner, and also the amazing presence and power of God. 


Hayners with their Grands earlier this year

STEVE HAYNER:           “Over the last six months my life has completely changed.  I haven’t been able to go back to my former job. I have had several surgical procedures, and I’m on a chemo-therapy every two weeks. On the weeks that I don’t have chemo, I currently feel pretty good and am able to carry on with a good schedule that includes time with people and projects.  But I don’t know how long any of this will last, and I seldom know from day to day how much I can plan to do.  The only certainty that I have related to this world is that someday, sooner than I had planned, I will go home to be with Jesus.

Facing death has a way of clarifying life.  So let me tell you a few things that I’ve learned in the lasts months.

1.     When Jesus is all you have, you soon discover that Jesus is all you really need. One of the creeds of my denomination opens with the phrase, “In life and in death we belong to God.” God created us …Jesus has redeemed us … and the Spirit transforms and gifts us for life everyday. It is Christ who gives us meaning, purpose, worth, and security.  We look for these things in a variety of places: in our families, in our jobs, in our churches, in our convictions, in our health, or wherever we think it can be found. But only in Jesus will we find Life with a capital “L”–abundant Life which we experience now and will last forever.  I’m in the process of losing everything that I have known on this earth, but I will never lose what God has given me in Christ.

2.     As long as I have life on this earth, I have a call.  God has given me work to do and continues to give me work to do.  Over my lifetime I have had many roles to play and many jobs to fulfill.  But it is not the particulars of being a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend, a seminary president, a World Vision board member, or anything else that ultimately matters so much as the underlying call to be faithful. God has called me to follow Jesus in everything I do: to love the way Jesus loved; to listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings; and to be obedient to God’s commands. Every day no matter how sick I become, I still have a call.

3.     God will never give up in his work to transform me into the likeness of Jesus.  I fail every day at being and doing what God has intended. But God has promised to use everything in my life to continue the process of helping me to become more like Jesus in my thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. At this stage in my life God is using my disease to teach me. It’s not easy and I don’t like to change.  But God loves me too much to give up on me. Therefore, God uses my circumstances, whatever they are, to continue the process of transformation.


Columbia Seminary Event celebrating President Steve Hayner

4.     Joy is not about my circumstances, but rather about being held and sustained by God’s love.  Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God–not suffering, not want, not abundance, not sin, not anything.  God loves us from beginning to end and through every circumstance. If there is one thing that I can trust, it is God’s love for me in Christ Jesus.

There is nothing new about any of these lessons.  But God continues to remind me. And I continue to be grateful for every reminder. On Halloween an unexpected reminder came from a trick-or-treater, who was about 8 years old and was dressed like a little sheep. Surrounded by a flock of siblings, who were also dressed as sheep, he blurted out that they knew I was sick and were all praying for me.  “Thank you,” I replied.  And then with big sincere eyes, he looked at me, smiled and said, “Heaven is going to be wonderful, you know?” All I could think to say was, “It already is.”

May God continue to bless, encourage, sustain, and energize you for your call, too. Who you are in Christ and what you are becoming really matters in this world—as well as the next.”

- Steve Hayner, November 11, 2014


“It already is….”

How will these 4 statements affect the way you and I LIVE today? I hope you will join me in continued prayer for Steve and Sharol Hayner and their family.

“Teach us to number our days,

that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90.12

under the mercy, Cindy

stevehandsTo read or write tributes to Steve Hayner,

go to www.ThanksToYouSteve.com

 ©2014 Stephen A. Hayner


 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!

Posted in 1 | 1 Comment

Honest Letter to a November Bride

 Honest Letter to a November Bride

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Dearest one,

Only 10 days until your wedding – Woo Hoo! Our entire family is thrilled to join you both for this momentous celebration and I rejoice that God has brought you together for a lifetime of marriage. What a rich heritage you have — grandparents married 62 years and your own parents for 37 (and counting.)

?????????Marriage is a huge Gift.

It is also extremely difficult at times.

May I be perfectly honest? Will you allow an older woman who loves you to share how I have experienced God’s faithfulness since I made those vows more than 30 years ago?

I’ll begin by confessing that I wasn’t sure we would make it to our 10th wedding anniversary…

Marriage had been challenging from the get-go. Of course there were perfectly good reasons why this was so, but that didn’t lessen my subtle feelings of failure to discover the ‘key’ to this mystery. We loved each other, loved our four children, and had made a covenant to one another and God, in front of witnesses ‘til death do us part.’

briderachcodySo every day became a decision to do what God said – “Love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4.8

We already had that whole ‘multitude of sins’ thing covered because there was no doubt that each of us had married a sinner. But it was the pro-active verb – to love – that was the deciding factor.

We had to choose to act on our commitment, whether we felt like it or not.

Hon, having just celebrated our 30th anniversary, I can honestly say that I have never loved Mike more deeply than I do now. Deep, as in soul-level. We continue to grow into the very people that we vowed so long ago to encourage each other to become (and y’all will too!) But life has certainly sanded off a lot of rough edges in the process…

brideunitycandleDear one, I want all good things for you and your groom! My prayer is that you won’t have to go through any struggles or challenges along the way to your own 30th anniversary.

But I realize that may be unrealistic, considering the ‘consumer mindset’ of today’s culture.  Too many people these days look at marriage as more of a ‘contract’ (I will love you as long as you fulfill the need I have right now, but when you can’t, I’m out of here) than a ‘covenant’ (My love for you is a binding relationship of love and commitment which takes precedence over my changing needs and desires). 

bridecovenantFrankly, sometimes it takes a lifetime to make it to that ‘deep’ kind of loving. It’s not the same as the love we felt on our wedding day. It is a love that ‘covers’ the inevitable times when our spouse may disappoint us.

What do we do if there are days when feelings of affection and delight cannot be sustained?

 brideholdhandscomputer“When that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must be tender, understanding, forgiving, and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.”    (Tim & Kathy Keller in The Meaning of Marriage)

God makes a covenant with us and we, in turn, make covenants with one another. In my wedding bulletin is the scripture Mike and I claimed on that special day – a reminder of God’s lasting covenant. brideringheartbibleThey will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear Me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them…I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all My heart and soul.” Jeremiah 32.38-41 *

God has kept those promises to us and our family.

brideredshoesEven as I continue to love deeply  (some days successfully, other days not so much), I rejoice in the great privilege and joy that is Marriage. I also pray that you two will experience this same joy in the days ahead.

I will be seeing you soon at The Wedding. I will be the one dancing the wildest and hooting the loudest as you become Mr. and Mrs. — a true cause for Rejoicing!

with all my love,  Cindy

 ©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  EncouragingWords.net

*selected from Day 39 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014

 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!

Posted in 1 | 6 Comments

Two Simple Words

 Two Simple Words

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

2wordsgroup“Thank you.”

Simple words. When I was a child, they were the twin to another magic word – “Please”.

“Thank you.”

Sometimes mumbled as an afterthought. Occasionally shouted and accompanied by a bear hug. Always appropriate.

“Thank you.”

Five orange pumpkins sit in a row in front of a distressed, wooden background.Important words. Because they acknowledge that we know we have been the unworthy recipient of something good and true. Something unexpected or especially helpful.

And we are Grateful.

It’s November. And people seem more inclined to start making a list of things for which they are thankful. Sometimes that’s the ‘ticket’ for Thanksgiving Dinner (it was for me – click to read my childhood list of “70 Reasons to Thank God”)

silhouette of woman with open arms at sunsetBut what about the other 364 days of the year? The other 11 months?

Why not say Thank You every single day?  Twice?

  1. To GOD – the Giver of all.
  2. To Someone else.

Who touched your life with kindness or encouragement?  With a gift or a timely word? Perhaps long ago (a teacher? your mama?) or even today (a colleague? or helpful store clerk?).

2wordsgratitudeI want Gratitude to be my lifestyle — my ‘daily default.’ I believe we can train ourselves to be people who awaken with these words on our lips, “Good Morning, God,” rather than the grumble “Good God, it’s morning…”

Back around the time my New England church was gathered (1635) poet George Herbert captured beautifully what it means to live a life of constant praise.

“Thou that hast given so much to me,

Give one thing more, a grateful heart…

Not thankful when it pleaseth me;

As if Thy blessings had spare days:

But such a heart whose pulse may be

Thy praise.” - George Herbert*

I want a Grateful heart. Every day. Not just in November. And not just on Thanksgiving.

I want my very pulse to be praise. How about you?

2wordslistSo, here’s an idea. Every day (starting today through Christmas Day which is the next 55 days) let’s record 2 Thanks:


  1. Thank you, God, for _____________________.

  2. Thank you, ______(name) for _________________.

While we can talk to God anytime in prayer and give Him thanks, I’m suggesting you keep a written list. And the caveat for #2 is that you have to actually THANK the person verbally either face-to-face or in a voicemail, text, note, letter, postcard, social media or skywriting.

Okay, I’ll go first:

2wordscoffeeNovember 5, 2014:

  1. Thank you, God, for physical and mental strength to go teach high schoolers today.
  2. Thank you, Lori, for walking with me through a ‘professional glitch’ a few years ago. (I will tell her this in person when we meet for coffee this afternoon.)

See — we can do this! Hey, it’s not rocket science, it’s just taking time to notice God’s blessings and to acknowledge what others have done.

Not feeling particularly thankful today? I get it. Life is hard. Sometimes we have to dig deep to find something praiseworthy in our current situation. Living in gratitude is making a choice to thank God ‘anyway’ however He chooses to resolve difficulties.2wordspigletbetter

We are not negating the fact that while there is so much happening that is good, pain and suffering are all around us. Our gratitude does not ignore the struggles, but chooses to thank God for His presence in the middle of them, for His power to help us live as overcomers, and for His purposes that will be revealed as a result of our perseverance. *

If we do this every day, our thanks-giving will bless others (as they realize we remember their efforts) and will also strengthen us as we walk through the busy holiday season!

“Thank you.”

Two simple words.

2wordslanguagesWhen I am on the receiving end, they flood my soul with joy. I realize that what I did or said or gave truly did make a difference in someone’s life.

When I am the one who offers those words (whether to God or another person), I experience renewed hope and purpose, recognizing that I am most blessed.

“Thank you.”

Two powerful words.

“The magic of words is that they have power

to do more than convey meaning;

Not only do they have the power to make things clear,

they make things happen.” – Frederich Buechner


This is the bumper sticker on the Suburban I drove for 18 years…

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136.1

Start counting…

under the mercy, Cindy

 ©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  EncouragingWords.net

*selected from Day 11 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014

click to read my childhood list of “70 Reasons to Thank God”

buechnermagicofwords  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!




Posted in 1 | Leave a comment