What Do We Do with Random Acts of Violence?

What Do We Do with Random Acts of Violence?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Will we ever get used to the news of a mass murder of innocent people? In a church? In a theatre? In a school? In an office? In a nightclub?

I hope not.

I hope we remain horrified. And utterly saddened. I hope we never get blasé or resigned to this kind of life.

Because then “they” would win. The ones who hate. The ones who crave power or fame or just some twisted sense of belonging to something big.

I will not live in fear! Not for myself, not for my children and grandchildren, most of whom reside in large prominent cities – high target zones.

randomactsBut I will cry. For the ones who are lost. And for the ones they left behind who must relive the violence and loss over and over again. And I will cry out. Against terror. For laws that might protect. I will cry out that there must be a better way.

God — the One who created us and loves us all —  knows lament. Have you read the Psalms lately?

 O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall. But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me. (Psalm 13)

How long, O Lord? How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat? How long will they speak with arrogance? How long will these evil people boast? They crush your people, Lord, hurting those you claim as your own. Who will protect me from the wicked? Who will stand up for me against evildoers? Unless the Lord had helped me, I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave. I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. …But the Lord is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide. (portions of Psalm 94)

Are you devastated by the random acts of violence in our world today? 

What do we do with our pain? 

 I don’t have all the answers. But I know we need to both Pray and Act.

I begin by turning to God in lament. In lament, a petitioner addresses God on some occasion of calamity. This is a process.

If you (like me) are feeling helpless and hopeless, may I suggest you join me by reading one of the Psalms of Lament in the Bible and then, using the same elements, experience your own Prayer of Lament:

  • Be still and enter God’s presence. Invite Him to sit with you in your sorrow and confusion. This is usually best done in silence.
  • Talk through the painful or evil situation that happened which is causing such grief and horror. Articulate your feelings as you think of the suffering and injustice.
  • Wait and allow God to speak into your heart and soul as you continue to intercede in prayer for the people, places and circumstances of this tragedy.
  • Identify with those involved and call out to God in honesty. Yes, lament. Articulate your complaint and confusion and even anger to God. He can take it.
  • Know that our God is a God of compassion. Take time to confess your trust in God’s power and provision – in His sovereignty. Use your own words.
  • Listen for God’s word of assurance to you. And then write those words to yourself and perhaps share them with your community so desperate for answers. Sometimes the greatest answer is God saying “I am here.”
  • Conclude with an offering to God that you will praise Him for who He is – and that you know the end of the story is His ultimate victory.

In the face of violence, tragedy, fear, anger, pain and grief, we pray first then look for positive actions to embrace.

It’s a beginning…

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.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!

ORDER My Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.86) or “Dwelling Places” ($9.98) at AMAZON.com — best price online 

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 The Power that Lifts Up When We Fall

 The Power that Lifts Up When We Fall

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

My first thought was, “What am I doing sprawled at the bottom of these stairs?”

Beside me, I noticed my purse in the corner and one shoe lying nearby.

I didn’t know exactly how I had fallen down the stairs, but as I was bundled off into an ambulance, I knew I was in big trouble.

My mind raced with the ambulance.

I thought about how great the weekend conference had been going and how well-received my first two presentations had been. I remembered eager anticipation of a free afternoon exploring the quaint Amish countryside.

A trip to the Lancaster emergency room had not been on my agenda.

Now here I was – injured in an unfamiliar city. Tears streamed down my face as I prayed for God to help guide me and be with me in this strange hospital.

God’s promise “Fear not, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 43.5) calmed me during the hours of treatment for a broken leg and the dread that engulfed me after hearing I’d be immobilized all of November and December.

“So, what’s the subject of your talk tonight?” the technician teased after she had heard my story.

“God’s Presence in the Midst of Suffering,” I weakly replied, the irony all too apparent.

After vulnerably receiving lots of help in getting dressed later that evening, I rolled into the meeting room and invited the ladies to gather around my wheelchair. And very quietly and gratefully I experienced the reality of Acts 1.8Receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”

“Let’s have a fireside chat about Christ’s presence in the midst of our suffering,” I said. Armed with power from on high and a slight dose of painkillers, I found the strength to speak and pray with them all evening.

My pain subsided. I sensed a power go through my words; but more importantly, a peace came through my willingness to be a living example of a surrendered soul. My natural responses of panic and worry faded, replaced by serenity and trust.

Soon after I returned home, a beautiful potholder quilt made by all the conferees arrived with this note, “Thanks for showing us the power of the Holy Spirit to persevere and be used even when the going gets tough.”

I believe that “God’s divine power has given us everything we need” (II Peter 1.3) for all the unexpecteds that come our way. Yes, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is available to every believer. But that doesn’t mean we always choose to live in that power. It is up to us to willingly receive it.

The power and strength of God live within us by His Holy Spirit and the revelation of that truth releases spiritual power in our lives which strengthens both our bodies and spirits. The Greek word dunamis is often used in reference to the power of the Holy Spirit available to us. This word is the root word for dynamic, dynamo and dynamite. Dynamite power, by way of the Holy Spirit, enables us to be more than conquerors (spiritual dynamos) and stronger people.

“The anointing of Holy Spirit power is the difference between what you can do and what God can do. It’s the place where the power of God and the favor of God intersect. It’s the difference between the natural and the supernatural. It’s the difference between the temporal and the eternal. It’s the difference between success and failure.”  (Mark Batterson)

Are you tired of trying to live an unlimited life with only limited power?

Be filled with God’s Spirit today – and then, watch out world!

 “O Holy Spirit, as the sun is full of light, the ocean full of water, Heaven full of glory, so may my heart be full of Thee. Give me Thyself without measure, as an unimpaired fountain, as inexhaustible riches. Suffer me not to grieve or resist Thee. Come as Power, to expel every rebel lust, to reign supreme and keep me Thine; Come as Teacher, leading me into all truth, filling me with all understanding; Come as Love, that I may adore the Father, and love Him as my all; Come as Joy, to dwell in me, move in me, animate me; Come as Light, illuminating the Scripture, molding me in its laws; Come as Sanctifier, body, soul and spirit wholly Thine; Come as Helper, with strength to bless and keep, directing my every step. Magnify to me Thy glory by being magnified in me…Amen.”  (Puritan Prayer “Valley of Vision”)

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

~ Excerpted from Day 22 in Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.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!

ORDER My Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.86) or “Dwelling Places” ($9.98) at AMAZON.com — best price online 

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Have You Opened the Gift?

Have You Opened the Gift?

 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Every single day of my life I thank God for His gift of GRACE to me.

Every day.

What is that grace that literally “saved a wretch like me”? (thank you, John Newton for writing the hymn “Amazing Grace”)

My own definition  is: “Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve and can never earn; mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve.”  

Hardly profound.  Definitely life-changing.

But grace can only change a life if the gift is received when the gift is offered. According to Ephesians 2.8-9 “by grace you are saved through faith, this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast.”  If you are a follower of Christ you have been given the free (not earned) gift of grace. The question is, “Did you open that gift? Did you appropriate it in your life?” Or are you like I was for so many years, just carrying around the gift in a beautiful package but never quite embracing all it could mean for me personally? I did, eventually, though.

God’s vertical grace reached deep down into the pit of my own making and pulled me out and reminded me that striving and trying to be ‘good enough’ to earn His favor was simply not the definition of “receiving a gift.” And that, in turn, helped me totally change the way I view life and others – seeking to offer horizontal grace to those I encounter.

“Grace is something you can never get but only be given. The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you. I created the universe. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.” Frederick Buechner in Wishful Thinking

It has been almost thirty years since my “Grace Tutorial” (an intensive learning time between my Professor/God and me) commenced.  I continue to be ever grateful for both Grace and Mercy extended to me – neither of which I deserve. I simply cannot stop speaking and writing on the transformational and redemptive character of God’s grace! And I am ever indebted to so many people along the way who have been formative on my journey —  some of them in very personal ways, some of them in ways they will never know because we haven’t actually met. But isn’t that God’s economy — using our words and our stories to touch lives of people we may never know this side of heaven?

Back in the early 1990’s I happened to be at the bookstore at Mt. Hermon Conference Center in California and as I walked the aisles, a brand new book literally fell off the shelf and into my hands. It was called The Ragamuffin Gospel and it was by an author I had never heard of – Brennan Manning. I was a  poor clergy wife and mother of 4 young kids at the time, but one look at the subtitle “good news for the bedraggled, beat-up and burnt-out” and I knew I had to buy it. Reading that book changed my life.

Brennan Manning, who called himself “Abba’s Ragamuffin,” was, like me, a sinner saved by grace. In fact, his final book was an autobiography entitled All Is Grace.                   “My life is a witness to vulgar grace—a grace that amazes as it offends….This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try and find something or someone that it cannot cover. Grace is enough…”—Brennan Manning (1934-2013)

Do you believe that Grace is enough? Enough to help you face that ‘impossible’ thing in your life? Enough to help you change – to make a 180° turn from going your own way to going God’s way? Is grace enough to give you hope and courage when everything else seems to bring despair and discouragement? Is grace that you received enough to turn you into someone who extends mercy all ‘round?

I look at my life today. Just doing it seems impossible. I am overwhelmed with lists. I am  behind in writing deadlines. I am underfinanced in what I need to cover. But I am simultaneously overcome with Gratitude for joys that abound.

For gifts that keep coming to my door (not boxes, folks, the other kind of Gifts…) In fact, I wrote an entire book about those very gifts — Ordinary Graces

The only possible response? Thank you.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.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!

ORDER My Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.86) or “Dwelling Places” ($9.98) at AMAZON.com — best price online 

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A Long Line of Powerful Women

A Long Line of Powerful Women

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. —1 Corinthians 4:20

She had no idea she had any power. All she thought she had was beauty. And a big secret.

estherEsther was a Jewish orphan living in Persia with her cousin Mordecai. The Bible tells us she was so beautiful that when King Xerxes was looking for a new queen, “she won his favor and approval” (Esther 2:17).

So he put a crown on it.

Though she’d won the love of Xerxes and earned the trust of her court attendants, Esther neglected to tell her new husband she was Jewish. After all, her people were in danger of annihilation due to the vengeance of Xerxes’s right-hand man, Haman.

Since Queen Esther was firmly established in the palace, Mordecai begged her to intervene with the king and save the Jews from Haman’s attacks. “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

It was time for an important choice to be made and this queen knew her only power resided in God. So Esther’s immediate response was to ask the Jews to fast and pray with her, “When this is done, I will go  to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (v.16).

When was the last time you were asked to do something for which you felt unprepared? Did you recoil in fear or go forth in Holy Spirit power?

God immediately answered Esther’s prayers—granting strength and courage to face her king and gain his favor even though she entered his presence unbidden, an act normally punishable by death. She used her audience with the king to reveal Haman’s true plan against the Jews and entreated Xerxes to save her people with a royal edict. He not only gave her what she asked, but he punished Haman’s deceit by hanging, and he elevated Mordecai to rule his household.

Most importantly, God’s people were saved, and to this day the Jews celebrate Esther’s role through the annual feast of Purim. “In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating” (Esther 8:17).

God uses women to help bring about His kingdom through “living by God’s power.” This is why we were created.

In the biblical account of creation (Genesis 2), after God created man, Scripture records, “But still there was no helper just right for him” (v. 20). The original Hebrew language used for the word helper is ezer, which can either mean “strong helper,” as God is a strong helper, or “strong power.”

In the book Reclaiming Eve, the authors suggest the original meaning of this verse might be, “To end the loneliness of the single human, I will make another strong power, corresponding to it, facing it, equal to it. And the humans will be both male and female.”

That’s what you are, sister, a strong power!

“For not only has God identified you as his image-bearer, but he also chose back in the garden of Eden to identify you as a strong power. Nowhere in these two primary keys that unlock your identity do we find a hint of female inferiority or a whiff of male superiority. Instead, we find the beauty of an interdependent relationship formed by a God of relationship.” (Suzanne Burden, Carla Sundberg, and Jamie Wright, Reclaiming Eve)

Did you know that we come from a long line of strong women? Like Esther, let us go forth for such a time as this…

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

 Today’s blog is excerpted from my newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.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!

ORDER My Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.86) or “Dwelling Places” ($9.98) at AMAZON.com — best price online

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How Much Do You Want Freedom?

How Much Do You Want Freedom?

 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

fccinside1It doesn’t exactly look like a place of Total Revolution. Total Transformation. Freedom. Yet it is.

It is completely and utterly white. Puritan. No stained glass windows. No ornate decorations. Just a simple Meetinghouse built in 1761.

And I am standing in the same place that faithful patriots assembled one Sunday afternoon in order to pray before they marched off to Lexington Massachusetts to fight against England for freedom! As I glance around, I am reminded of the great ‘cloud of witnesses’ who have gone before me.

fccinside3My home church is called the First Church of Christ because it was the first church gathered in Connecticut back in 1635. We still worship in the 18th century building and we are still embracing freedom. Are you?

Historian Lois Wieder explains that our forefathers and foremothers likened England’s persecution of her colonies to the Old Testament persecution of the Hebrews by the Egyptians; encouraged their people to enlist and support resistance efforts; and when war actually came, saw divine intervention in all colonial victories. They were serious about freedom!

freemilitia“The Sunday following the Lexington alarm was a busy one in Wethersfield. The Broad Street or First Company of the Sixth Militia regiment prepared to march to Boston. They attended the morning service as a body and sat in the gallery. Dr. Marsh preached and everyone in the church was in tears. Final preparations were made and in the afternoon families and friends gathered in front of the Meetinghouse where Dr. Marsh offered a prayer.”  (from “A Pleasant Land – A Goodly Heritage” by Lois M. Wieder, 1986)

During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington worshiped at my church three times. Sunday, May 20, 1781, was particularly notable because it was during this meeting Washington had with the Count de Rochambeau that the Battle of Yorktown was planned. The following Tuesday the generals and their aides met in Old Wethersfield to hold what has been called ‘the most important conference of the war.’

As I worship in our Meetinghouse this Fourth of July weekend, I can’t help but wonder ‘Is this the pew where George Washington sat?’ My mind imagines that Sunday when so many of the parishioners were coming for spiritual sustenance before embarking on a journey from which they might never return. Were they excited? Were they exhilarated? They were going to fight for freedom! And they were willing to lay down their lives for freedom if that were required.

St. Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery… You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5.1, 13)

freedomblogHow much do you want freedom? And what are you willing to do to throw off chains that bind, so that you might embrace the freedom Christ offers — freedom from anything or anyone who enslaves you?

Paul reminds us yet again in that “Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6.14) Ahhhh, grace. The gift we don’t deserve and can never earn. And can never lose. The gift that sets us free. From performance; from shame; from paralyzing fear.

During this month of July – Independence Day month – why not ask God to help free you from anything that is binding and preventing you from experiencing the life He wants to offer? Imagine yourself as a patriot – a soldier in the militia – coming to church to pray before you head out in battle to fight for freedom. Thus fortified, you and I can face anything.

Raise your Sword and sing heartily the words of Charles Wesley’s glorious hymn “And Can It Be” with me:

  • “My chains fell off!
  • My heart was free!
  • I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
  • Amazing love!
  • How can it be
  • That Thou, My God, shouldst die for me?”

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.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!

ORDER My Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.86) or “Dwelling Places” ($9.98) at AMAZON.com — best price online

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What Elisabeth Elliot Told Me

 What Elisabeth Elliot Told Me

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

This week is the fourth anniversary of author Elisabeth Elliot’s entering “through gates of splendor” to her heavenly Home. How well I remember that June morning when her daughter Valerie shared her final moments with me in a phone conversation —  the funeral and burial in Massachusetts; and then when Mike, Val and I visited her grave together one year later (2016) near Boston, singing together “Thine is the Glory…” 

This year the whole world now has new access to the life of this servant, through Valerie Elliot Shepard’s beautiful new book Devotedly  containing previously unpublished letters and journal entries from her parents Elisabeth and Jim. This work of love and diligence is both beautiful and remarkable. Not only is the writing exquisite (which causes me to deeply mourn the almost lost art of letter-writing and journaling) but the thoughts, struggles and commitment of these two young people inspire no end!

I have personally gifted at least a dozen copies of Devotedly this year and will be giving another one to one of YOU, my readers this week. All you have to do is post a comment on this blog and then I will make a random draw on Monday July 1 to someone who will greatly enjoy this hardcover volume, containing lots of photos…    

EE1977

Lucinda and Elisabeth 1977

            Many years ago when I was studying at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I lived with Elisabeth Elliot as her student lodger. By then she had already written 20 books and was well-known for taking her young daughter, Valerie, to live with Auca Indians in Ecuador – the same ones that had speared her husband, Jim Elliot, and four other missionaries to death. By the time I first heard her speak, at ‘Urbana ’76,’ her second husband, Dr. Addison Leitch, had just died of cancer.

            Though I was a disappointment as a housecleaner (her words, not mine) I did pretty well at my other duties – transcribing Jim Elliot’s journals for her current manuscript (on a typewriter), driving her to the airport for frequent speaking engagements and organizing events in her home. We shared many lively breakfast conversations (yes, we did have differing opinions on a few things), hosted hymn sings and dinner parties, and even shoveled out of the Great Blizzard of ’78. I loved her sense of humor, her stories and enjoyment of parlor games. I don’t remember there being a television in the house at all.

            We were certainly an odd couple – me with my gushy southern type-A personality and her with her reserved New England demeanor and dry wit. But somehow God brought us together in a friendship that lasted 38 years. As I review my journals from that time so long ago I am amazed at how much of my own Life Story and message was shaped by my exposure to Elisabeth’s teachings during that formative season.

            Reading in my journal about a Sunday dinner I cooked for Elisabeth, her mother and sister, and four of my friends, I treasure the notes from that conversation. Jim Glasgow, a seminarian from North Carolina, commented that so many people he admired had gone through great suffering. “Do you feel that’s necessary in order to become a man or woman of God?” he asked Elisabeth.

            That evening I scribbled as much of her answer as I could remember in my journal. “She said ‘yes’ she believed we must know the cross in our own lives — Philippians 3.10 ‘that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death…’ That we must suffer for the Lord even though we don’t seek out the suffering, nor do we have anything to do in choosing the fashion it will take. Sometimes this means allowing ourselves to be joyfully inconvenienced, not seeking our own way, but serving others. Daily prayers for another can be an opportunity of laying down our lives for someone else.”

           I remember her warning us that our generation was not prepared to suffer or even be inconvenienced. I wrote “She pointed out that we must learn discipline and submission to authority in order to better be able to submit more wholly to God. Discipline should be exercised in our daily devotions, in our studies and in our love life. We must become responsible for that with which God has entrusted us now so we can be better prepared for all He has in store for us later.”  Do you remember the very first time you heard such powerful and challenging teaching as a young follower of Christ? I was like a sponge, soaking it all in…

            This particular journal entry (October 30, 1977) closed with my own lament “Oh! How can I remember all she said – it was so profound. I can’t possibly do it justice writing it down here. But there are at least 2 basic things I want to begin putting into practice right now:

  1. Discipline in all areas, but especially my devotions and studies.
  2. Daily seeking ways to ‘suffer’ for God through discipleship and serving others.”

                Today I find myself older than Elisabeth was when I lived with her. I am a seasoned mentor, utterly dependent on God’s mercy through all my life’s experiences, and yes, suffering. I am also, by God’s grace, a person He uses to touch others through my writing and speaking. I still find that remarkable – that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe would choose me to have even a small part in helping to further His kingdom.

            I smile as I read the postcard Elisabeth sent me shortly after she married a third time and moved down to Atlanta while I stayed in her Massachusetts home. I had sent her an article of mine which appeared in the seminary newspaper. “…The parable is very good, I think. Perhaps it would be more effective if a wee shorter in the description of your failure, and a little longer on the remedy. You definitely have a flair for writing. Have you tried to do anything for Christian magazines? Spring is lovely in Georgia, isn’t it? Today I get a NOW hairdo to replace the THEN one….E”

            After my graduation a few years later, Elisabeth spoke strongly into my life concerning God’s call and purpose. “Cindy, God has given you a gift of writing and it is your duty to offer it back to Him.” And so I do.

           EEbook Once Elisabeth told me that each of us is given only about two major themes/messages and that everything we speak and write about flows from that core. As I reflect on her life and international influence through her 30 books, Gateway to Joy radio program and many seminars, the messages that resonate most clearly seem to be:

  • Offering our suffering and circumstances to God, knowing that nothing is wasted – laying it on the altar and asking how we can learn and grow through this.
  • Serving others through the discipline of having a my-life-for-yours attitude every time we pray for someone or encounter a God ordained interruption.

           I don’t know if it is written in any of her books but one of the most powerful things I remember her telling me was “Suffering is having what you don’t want and wanting what you don’t have.”  I’m delighted that her final speaking series Suffering is Never for Nothing has also just been released as a beautiful new book which I highly recommend. 

                        Some years ago Mike and I drove to Boston and took luncheon over to Lars and Elisabeth’s home so that I could say some important things that needed to be said. After all she had told me through the years, I very much needed to tell her what she had meant in my life. This was during her final quiet years and though the conversation was somewhat one-sided, it was precious and special and I was gratified that she seemed to remember me. 

            May I close with the words of a letter Elisabeth Elliot wrote to a very, very young Cindy Secrest back in 1978: “Amy Carmichael of India said ‘all weathers nourish souls.’ It’s true. All situations, all circumstances, all privations and abundances are opportunities to be spiritually nourished – if we respond in faith. This lesson has been laid before me again here. There are things that are not to my liking about the situation, of course. So what! ‘I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content’ (Philippians 4.11). You are dear to me, Cindy. In the will of the Lord we’ll see more of each other. You are in my prayers – keep me in yours, please. Lovingly, Elisabeth”

Who has had an impact on your life that you remember with gratitude today?

What messages of your own life will people remember long after you are gone?

(Be sure and share a comment on this blog to enter my giveaway of Devotedly by Elisabeth’s daughter Valerie Elliot Shepard. I will name the winner on Monday, July 1. Meanwhile, think about your own two or three life messages. And be sure to share them with others.) 

under the mercy, Lucinda

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping you Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the author of 14 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her books include the award-winning Dwelling PlacesOrdinary Graces,  Live These Words, Refresh, and the soon-to-be-released Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most. Lucinda, a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs for The Write Conversation, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Blog and (in)courage. Whether co-directing  “reNEW ~ retreat for New England Writing,”  pouring into young mamas, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Lucinda’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things.  Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at http://www.EncouragingWords.net/ 

My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE for only $10.99 – 30% pre-order special price

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.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!

ORDER My Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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For Those Who Served…

For Those Who Served…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Most of us cannot even imagine the horror of young Allied troops landing on Omaha and Utah Beaches in Normandy seventy-five years ago. But for any who experienced first-hand D-Day on June 6, 1944, their lives have never been  the same. And our country owes each of them a deep debt of gratitude for their sacrifice.

I have been watching television reports this week where veterans (most in their mid-nineties) reflect on that life experience where more than 10,000 Allied casualties occurred in one day. Some are making a pilgrimage to Normandy – others will mark this occasion at reunion gatherings which they all declare may be their last trip ever.

As I thank God for these brave soldiers, I also ask God that we might somehow as a nation be worthy of their sacrifice.  Tomorrow is the anniversary. How will you mark it in your heart and in your prayers? Perhaps thinking of one tangible way we could lift up America would be a start.

My Daddy was in the Air Force on that day in 1944, but he was not on Normandy. Still, I pay honor to him (and my father-in-law who was serving in the Philippines then.)

Pratt Secrest – U.S. Air Force

Pratt Secrest, was one of the Greatest Generation who served during both World War II (Air Force pilot) and the Korean War (Information officer/journalist). Can you even imagine training to be a bomber pilot at age eighteen? What responsibility at such a young age… When Daddy turned twenty he wrote down some of his thoughts after a war-torn year which included D-Day, in his poem “Outlook”

  • Sometimes I look at life through the span
  • Of twenty years without a caravan
  • Of thoughts to bring a sweet and low refrain,
  • A song to penetrate endless rain.
  • In spite of hopes to think of things I love,
  • I find that memory honors only tears.
  • In vain I lift my eyes to look above
  • The strife and death of conflict-shattered years.
  • Oh, men of earth! You know that war’s release
  • Is only through the God of Lasting Peace!
  • Pratt Secrest, 1944

Even as a young airman, Pratt Secrest chose to use humor to get through tough times…  Here is his take on First Aid training during flight school in his poem

“First Aid”

  • I’ve studied blood and bleeding, and cuts from ear to ear,
  • And what to put on punctures when the doctor isn’t here.
  • With digital compression I’m supposed to be a whiz,
  • But actually, my technique’s wrong, I’m really just a fizz.
  • And if the victim has a bone that’s broken, torn, or bent,
  • I proudly put a bandage on (resembling a tent).
  • The teacher made me volunteer to be a case of rabies,
  • (If this continues, soon I’ll be delivering little babies!)
  • So give me no more bruises, burns, incisions, lacerations.
  • If anybody mentions blood, I’ll change the conversation.
  • You keep your dern old First Aid stuff, I only want to fly!
  • And if I ever get a wound… so help me, I’ll just die.
  • Pratt Secrest, Flight School 1943 (age 19)

“I only want to fly!”

Let’s all take time today and this week to Pray for all those men and women who have served and continue to serve our country. Here is a prayer I use for such times…

“O Prince of Peace, we humbly ask Your protection for all our men and women in military service. Give them unflinching courage to defend with honor, dignity and devotion the rights of all who are imperiled by injustice and evil. Guard our churches, our homes, our schools, our hospitals, our factories, our buildings, and all those within from harm and peril. Protect our land and its people from enemies within and without. Grant an early peace with victory founded upon justice. Instill in the hearts and minds of men and women everywhere a firm purpose to live forever in peace and good will towards all. Amen.” 

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.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!

ORDER My Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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A Dozen Things I Would Tell that Bride Who Was Me

A Dozen Things I Would Tell that Bride Who Was Me

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary this week was celebrated quietly. A lovely time for Mike and I to look back and remember – to look forward and hope. As I glanced at the photographs of my younger self, I thought of all the things I could tell that young woman now. She knew almost nothing about marriage and mothering, grit and grace, serenity and strength. But God never saw her as a hopeless case. He had so many, many plans for her good. Still, the journey would be nothing like she imagined. The journey would instead, be… more.

Oh, if I could just whisper a few hints in her ear —  Oh Cindy, do you realize that…

  1. This beautiful wedding and God’s answer to your prayers for a husband and children is a big splashy celebration of all that is good and hopeful in your life. But the days to come – the years to come – will be far more ordinary, filled with daily acts of faithfulness. You will learn to embrace smaller, quieter moments along the way. The part of you that longs for the big and splashy will be seasoned into a transformed soul who understands the hiddenness of deep growth. 
  2. This man you hardly know is good choice for life! He is honorable and will stay loyal and faithful to you, seeking to keep his vows. He was definitely worth the wait. As you literally floated around the room, dancing to “Can I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life?” you will enjoy dancing together every chance you get, even when moving much more slowly. But yes, there will be times of sickness (not health) and worse (not better) and those seasons will require all your God-given steadfastness to keep going. But you will. By God’s grace and with Mike’s love.
  3. You are about to discover, dear bride, that all your outside wedding photographs were ruined by your photographer (that’s what you get for hiring the church custodian-photographer-in-training.) You will think it’s a catastrophic loss. Trust me, it is not. The portrait on the church chancel with your new husband and children will be sufficient to revisit often over the next thirty-five years.
  4. Even as you’re enjoying the glorious music (hand selected by your groom and performed today by a full choir and exceptional organ) at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, these notes are being imprinted on your heart. Every time in the future when you hear Widor’s “Toccata” (your recessional), Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” (your bridesmaids’ processional), Charpentier’s “Te Deum”  (your own processional), Bach’s “Sheep Shall Safely Graze” or “God is Wisdom, Love” your heart will be stirred and your strength shall return. Because music holds our life’s moments.
  5. 5. As nine-year-old Justin pulled his bloody tooth and handed it to you in the middle of the ceremony, this was a foretelling that injuries and crises will usually appear at the least opportune moments. But you will learn to deal.
  6. The sight of four-year-old Fiona running down that very long aisle, swinging her flower basket and seven-year-old Timmy twirling his ringbearer’s pillow (fortunately with a fake ring sewn on it) will come to mind again and again as you delight in grandchildren so reminiscent of them.
  7. Shortly after you start a new family in your Seattle home, y’all will need professional help in working through the myriad of issues arising from family history, adopting three children, marrying a widower, and forging your new identity. You will feel like a huge Failure. But you and Mike will work hard through this for ten years, building a strong foundation that stands firm for the next twenty-five years.
  8. Your desires for organization, control, recognition, and achievement will eventually die small deaths upon the altar of a gloriously demanding family and ministry life. Mothering a son with special needs will teach you the value of endless repetition, and how to value small victories. It will also show you that life can change in a moment with just a phone call. You will learn to firmly embrace the old adage, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break.”
  9. The year you turn thirty-eight, you will be diagnosed with clinical depression – a consequence of chemical imbalance and too many changes in too short a time. On that day, you will be a mother of four children ages 2-16, a pastor’s wife, and writer/speaker who has never even heard of a depressed Christian (!) You will believe that there is a big “L” (for Loser) on your forehead for all to see. That you can never climb out of the darkness. But God’s grace will miraculously rescue you. And you will change, for the better.
  10. No, you don’t actually know how to mother these children. Not yet. But you are eager to give 100% and be the Best. Mama. Ever. Honey, can I just tell you, you will not win any awards for Best Mama. You will find yourself expecting too much, occasionally speaking in a harsh tone, and sometimes wanting to hide. But you will also pray for them every morning, read to them every day, sing to them every night, go to their sports, scouting awards, concerts, and plays. You will create a cozy and healthy home, hoping they will know a haven of love and acceptance. You will urge each of your kids to become the unique person God calls them to be. Sure, you will make mistakes, but God will redeem all in the lives of your children.
  11. If you keep waking up and showing up, when you turn around on your thirty-fifth anniversary, May 26, 2019, you will realize there is no one you and your husband would rather spend time with than your young adult children and the grands. You will look at them all and be amazed at the people they’ve become. Not because of you, but in spite of you. And your heart will almost burst with gratitude.
  12. As you glance at the hundreds of friends and family who have gathered at this wedding to sincerely wish you well, may I tell you, dear younger Cindy, that your life will continue to be enriched by many more friends and new family in the years ahead. People who appear just when you most need what they have to offer. Some will stay for a lifetime. Others will weave in and out as seasons pass. You will especially rejoice and treasure your friendships with other creative, compassionate, and crazy women. With those you love, you will have to learn (sometimes the hard way) how best to work, travel, play, and minister together. And you will ask forgiveness more times than you imagined. But you will be rich with remarkable humans in your life. And you will experience the privilege many are denied – growing older with grace, grit, and gratitude.

Our Wedding Text – Jeremiah 32. 38-41

They 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 and that all will then go well  for them and for their children after them.  I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.  I will rejoice in doing them good  and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.

under the mercy, Lucinda

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping you Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the author of 14 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her books include the award-winning Dwelling PlacesOrdinary Graces,  Live These Words, Refresh, and the soon-to-be-released Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most. Lucinda, a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs for The Write Conversation, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Blog and (in)courage. Whether co-directing  “reNEW ~ retreat for New England Writing,”  pouring into young mamas, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Lucinda’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things.  Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at http://www.EncouragingWords.net/ 

My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.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!

ORDER My Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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Best. Thank You Note. Ever.

Best. Thank You Note. Ever.

 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Mama taught me that when given a Gift, the only proper response is to say “Thank You”… then immediately write a Thank You note.  So, today as I write some thank you notes, my heart is full of gratitude  – to God, family,  friends,  readers…

This week I am overflowing with THANKS for….

  • The milestone of My Birthday this week and God giving me Life and Health and Jesus – and for lovely wishes from so many. I’m also thankful this year to be celebrating tomorrow among many friends in the publishing industry while gathering at a conference in what I call “God’s Country” – Black Mountain/Montreat where I lived so long ago. (see photo below of me climbing on Montreat’s Lookout Mountain the year after Furman graduation)
  • Celebrating this week with joy the 35st Anniversary of marriage to my faithful and godly husband Michael. Truly, it is All Grace that he has put up with me these many years. So very thankful for his recovery this year from some major medical concerns. What a privilege to be able to grow old together…
  • On Memorial Day coming up, I remember with gratitude all those who serve in the Military and preserve our Freedom (including my own Daddy of ‘the greatest generation.’) I’m also very grateful for First Responders here as well as many ordinary people who sacrifice with heroic acts in the face of violence.
  • Rejoicing this week in daughter Maggie’s Birthday and for the Amazing daughter, wife, mama, singer, actor, friend, sister and compassionate human she is. An early gift was her singing “All the Way” to me at a recent concert – the old Frank Sinatra song I sang to her each bedtime while growing up, so obviously life has come full circle. Yes, there were tears… 
  • My jersey says “Secrest 23” for my birthday – May 23

    The fabulous surprise gift of daughter Fiona’s family moving from London to New York City in two weeks time and welcoming their third child in September. 

  • My Mama’s 92nd Birthday last week and the privilege of celebrating with her and my two sisters later this summer, God willing. God gave me just the two parents I needed and I know that doesn’t always happen, so I never take them for granted.
  • Bright summer days ahead which include speaking on holiday at our family favorite Camp of the Woods in the New York Adirondacks with our son Justin, plus visiting son Tim in Montana.
  • Upcoming release in November of my 14th book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” from the good folks at New Hope Publishers. And for grace and just the right words to meet my Book #15  deadline this summer.
  • Every New Opportunity to share my Encouraging Words with the world…

Why don’t you join me in praying one of my favorite thank-you-notes-to-God today, as though it were the very first time? Savor each word and pour out your grateful heart to the Lord who loves us more than we can possibly imagine….

Best. Thank You Note. Ever.

(Write it. Pray it. Live it.)

“Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we Your unworthy servants give You humble thanks for all Your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom You have made. We bless You for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for Your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of Your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth Your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to Your service, and by walking before You in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.”(Book of Common Prayer)

I know that the very best way to respond to such abundance of blessing is to offer our lives back to God, willing to be used in any way for His purpose and plan. Friends, let’s give back and pay it forward.

Thank You Notes are good for the soul…

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.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!

ORDER My Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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The Original ‘Old Faithful’

The Original ‘Old Faithful’

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

The park ranger promised me it would happen at this exact moment. And as I stood with hundreds of people from all over the world, our long-awaited anticipation was rewarded with a true spectacle.

            Old Faithful.

            The famous geyser at Yellowstone National Park that erupts about every ninety minutes, shooting up as high as 184 feet, lasting as long as five minutes. Without fail.

As I joyfully witnessed the plumes of boiling water and steam bursting skyward in a majestic show of power and beauty, I couldn’t help but think of the original Old Faithful.

            God.

            The One by whom other forces of nature shrink in importance, no matter how predictable they are. But though God’s faithfulness is constant, it is often surprising. There’s no scheduling His appearance – only that He will be faithful to every promise.

“The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.  The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” Psalm 145:13-14 

            Perhaps you and I are not unlike those Yellowstone tourists – finding ourselves waiting around, thinking we know exactly how and when God will choose to come through with His power and promise. We have set aside this time in our lives and are ready.  Only, instead of a prompt appearance, we discover that the God of the Universe will not be managed or manipulated. He is:oldfaithfulmikecindy

  • Faithful in putting together families; just not always in the traditional fashion.
  • Faithful in providing financial resources for our needs; but perhaps not all our wants.
  • Faithful in walking beside us through every calamity, though the journey often involves painful detours.

Still, we can rely on His character. This verse reminds us not only that God is “faithful in all He does,” and can be trusted to keep His promises.  He will lift us up when we fall and help us stay upright when we wobble.  

When I struggle with faith, I remind myself of the acronym for FAITH I learned so long ago: Forsaking All, I Trust Him.

            Where do you need God to be faithful in your life today? Take a moment and write down two areas and then pray over them by singing this familiar hymn.

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father; There is no shadow of turning with Thee, Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not, As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”  (hymn “Great Is They Faithfulness,” Thomas Chisholm,1923)

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.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!

ORDER My Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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