Where Does A Writer Find Encouragement?

Where Does a Writer Find Encouragement?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell 

“Cindy, God has given you a gift of writing, and it is your duty to write for Him!”

Imagine being only 26-years-old and personally hearing those words from Elisabeth Elliot—respected mentor, international speaker and author of more than thirty books.

I had already felt a nudging from God on this path of writing, but her words helped confirm and encourage me further. Needless to say, I was a bit daunted, but also energized to pursue more training and opportunity (this happened when I was heading off to Wheaton Graduate School of Communication after graduating from Gordon-Conwell Seminary.)

Believe me, no one is more amazed than I that so many years later, I can look back at my published work, by God’s grace: 12 books authored, 25+ books as contributing author and articles published in more than 50 magazines.

book & cup of coffeeI write because I can’t not write. (yes, I know that’s a double negative, but it’s also true).

Writers write.

It’s the way we filter life. We don’t always write for publication. Sometimes what we ‘write’ in our minds never makes it to paper or computer, but the stories are there all the same.

As my years increase, so does my wisdom in believing that knowing and telling our stories is perhaps one of the most important ways of participating in furthering God’s Kingdom here on earth. So I am perfectly content at this point to say that I am, indeed, a Storyteller.

“My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours… it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes Himself known to each of us more powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.” (Frederick Buechner in Telling Secrets)

Writing is a discipline and only happens when we deliberately make room in our lives to pursue it. My entire life has been filled with people and activity and ministry and drama; and yet I have somehow managed to insert my writing amidst the chaos.

Rarely have I had the luxury to finish a book deadline in complete solitude. Those images of authors working in a cottage by the sea totally undisturbed are not my reality. Most of the time we writers are simply trying to squeeze our craft in between all the other responsibility and serendipity that come our way…

I love what one of my ‘writer heroes’ says: “It will not surprise you if I say that I think being a writer is a fine thing to be. Except for when you actually have to write, of course. Then it is about as exciting as washing dishes. Which is the other thing I do a lot of at my house… Some days I travel somewhere to lead a retreat or speak at a conference. Some days I write letters and answer phone calls as though I were an actual business person, and some days I teach the class at the local high school. I do laundry in between paragraphs on Tuesdays… I wear a lot of hats. Just like everyone else. Some days I feel like a poet and some days I feel like a housekeeper, and some days I cannot tell the difference. I expect most of us feel that way sometimes. Life is made up of a lot of good stuff and a lot of bad stuff, too, and in between you have to clean your room.” (Robert Benson in A Good Life)

This week I have the great privileged of serving on the faculty of the Blue Ridge MountainsChristian Writers Conference near Asheville, North Carolina. Long time a dream of mine (since I first attended back in 1987), I am totally enjoying both formal and informal times of teaching and helping writers  discover more creative ways to tell their unique story within the greater Kingdom Story.

This is my sweet spot. Doing what God created me to do. Encourage. Speak. Empower. Challenge. Tell Stories.

Now I’m the one telling that 26-year-old I meet that God has given her a gift of writing and it is her duty to write for Him…

So I will Keep Writing.

And I will also Keep Encouraging Writers.

Trusting God for the fruit…

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell IS AVAILABLE NOW from the good folks at Abingdon Press. 
order from Amazon HERE
order from ChristianBook HERE
order from AbingdonPress HERE

DPCindyBarn

Website/Blog 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!
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The Great Secret of Adopted Children

The Great Secret of Adopted Children

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Today I am in the Netherlands where I will, in an act of honor and gratitude, visit the gravesite of the woman who gave birth to my first three children.

I never knew Inka, but I am looking forward to meeting her in heaven one day – we love all the same people! And I am utterly thankful for her life (too short though it was) for in many ways her life was pivotal for the unfolding journey of my own life…

adoptionI will never forget that day 32 years ago when I adopted my first three children.

I was ecstatic to mail engraved announcements which included this verse: “Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me!” (Isaiah 8.18)

Because once they were not my children, but now they are.

I am reminded of Peter’s similar words, “Once you weren’t a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you hadn’t received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2.10)

All of my four children are a great mercy to my life.

The whole adoption process helped me better understand the Father’s love: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are!”(1 John 3:1)

Honey, we are no longer orphans—we are allowed to call the Creator of the universe Abba, the most intimate Aramaic word for “Daddy.”

BlogAdoptedChildrenDo you ever still act like an orphan – as though it’s all up to you? That you have no heavenly Father?

That is not your destiny! “God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan.” (Ephesians 1.5)

When God offers us new birth and adoption into His forever family, we receive all the rights of sons and daughters – we become heirs. “You received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8.15)

And the most important (and miraculous) thing of all? He wants us as His children not because of anything we’ve done for Him, not because of how we look or how smart we are or because we have gotten everything just right. He calls us His children because of love. And mercy. And grace.

In fact, we can never be worthy of a place in the family.  But we have one.

Even though I don’t possess material wealth, all I have is fully available to my children. Because of my great love for them, I willingly give of my resources, my strength, my creativity, my wisdom, my encouragement, and my possessions each day. How sad I would be if they acted as if I’d never come along. How useless I’d feel if they never came to me for all the blessings I so desire to give them.

If I feel this way, how much more so must my heavenly Father when I run around acting like an orphan, and not His child.

 “Fatherlike, he tends and spares us; All our hopes and fears he knows. In his hands he gently bears us; rescues us from all our foes. Allelulia! Alleluia! Widely as his mercy flows.” [“Praise My Soul the King of Heaven,” Henry F. Lyte, 1834]

jesusgirlinarmsWhy don’t you crawl up into your heavenly Father’s lap today and allow His mercy to wash over you?

“We are children, perhaps, at the very moment when we know that it is as children that God loves us – not because we have deserved His love and not in spite of our undeserving; not because we try and not because we recognize the futility of our trying; but simply because He has chosen to love us. We are children because He is our Father; and all of our efforts, fruitful and fruitless, to do good, to speak truth, to understand, are the efforts of children, who, for all their precocity, are children still in that before we loved Him,He loved us, as children through Jesus Christ our Lord.” [ Frederick Buechner, “The Magnificent Defeat”]

Thank you, Abba.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell IS AVAILABLE NOW from the good folks at Abingdon Press. 
order from Amazon HERE
order from ChristianBook HERE
order from AbingdonPress HERE

DPCindyBarn

Website/Blog 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!
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Why Deep Roots Matter

Why Deep Roots Matter

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

It’s called The Big Oak.

My Georgia hometown’s most popular tourist attraction. After all, this southern live oak tree dates back to 1680 and is currently 68 feet tall and has a limb span of 165 feet.

bigoakmama2013

Happy 89th Birthday Sarah Hasty Secrest!

It is also where my mother was born 89 years ago TODAY, at the home of my great-grandparents Chastain who lived there from 1906-1966.

The tree is magnificent. The heavy limbs are now held steady by support cables and an underground watering system as well as an above ground sprinkler system all work together to maintain health and endurance. It is preserved as a landmark of the International Society for Agriculture.

But it’s the roots that tell the full story.

A mature live oak can have roots that spread underground totaling hundreds of miles. The system is intricate and interwoven. At the beginning of an oak’s life, when an acorn first sprouts, most of its energy is spent on root development, with little growth aboveground. The initial root is the taproot, which grows deep underground, seeking a dependable supply of moisture. Once this is accomplished, greater foliage and branch growth can begin.

blogrootsStanding next to the Big Oak I am reminded:So live in Christ Jesus the Lord in the same way as you received him. Be rooted and built up in him, be established in faith, and overflow with thanksgiving just as you were taught.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

I know that Paul was emphasizing that the only way we can grow strong and endure the storms of life is if we have a deep root system. Planted in the soil of God’s love. Watered by His grace. Strengthen in adversity. Providing shelter for others in on the way. And extending quite a reach to a hurting world.

How’s your spiritual root system thriving these days?

As a southerner, family roots are important. And since mine started here, I return with Mama during her ninth decade. As we walk over to the trunk, she reminds me of her own mother playing in the center of that huge tree which was already at least 200-years-old at the time. Mama also played dolls in the Big Oak whenever she visited her grandparents’ home. We have the faded black and white photos.

“It breaks my heart to see the tree looking so old and worn out,” she says.

When I hear these words, I sigh… I feel the same way about her.

bigoakresurrectionfern

Resurrection Fern growing on limbs of the Big Oak

Walking along the heavy-laden branches, Mama – ever the master gardener — points out the lush Resurrection Fern growing out of the limbs. She explains this phenomenon. “Most of the time, Cindy, these leaves are brown and brittle. But when it rains they become green and vibrant and full of life. That’s why this is called Resurrection Fern – it comes back to life if given nourishment and attention.”

How true for people as well as leaves on an ancient oak.

DwellingPlacesRootedWe may (we will) experience those dry times of pain, disappointment and weariness. We may often feel that life is over and we have nothing left to give. I suppose an elderly widow might be tempted to think that at times, don’t you?

But the truth is that God is always our Sustenance, our Source. When He looks at us, he sees “a planting of the Lord as a display of His splendor” (Isaiah 61.3) The rain comes and we drink it in. And we, too, are resurrected.

Cherish your roots.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell IS AVAILABLE NOW from the good folks at Abingdon Press. 
order from Amazon HERE
order from ChristianBook HERE
order from AbingdonPress HERE

DPCindyBarn

Website/Blog 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!
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Who Holds You – Always?

Who Holds You – Always?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean—even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight! Psalm 139:9-10

Henri once told his father that he had always wanted to be a trapeze artist.

Having become great friends with The Flying Rodleighs, Henri enjoyed conversation with them in between performances around Europe. “As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher,” Rodleigh began. “The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.”

Henri was fascinated and asked how that worked. “The secret is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely in… A flyer must fly and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him,” Rodleigh concluded. [Henri Nouwen, “Our Greatest Gift”]

In a similar way, God is always there to hold us tight – to catch us.

BlogHolds“The eternal God is your refuge and dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33.27) He is our dwelling place. No matter where we go in the world, God is the One who will provide a home and safe refuge. And His arms will hold us tight.

Psalm 139 is one of the most beloved passages in the Bible. It begins with David’s realization of God’s intimate knowledge of us and constant presence with us. We are told You surround me—front and back. You put your hand on me. That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t fathom it.” (Psalm 139.5-6)

Did you know God holds you?

Later this week I am in London —  literally “on the far side of the ocean,” holding my precious grandgirl in my arms. She refers to me as ‘Granny ReadBook’ and so I do. Read to her. While snuggling we often share favorites such as “The Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown. Written in 1942, it’s a classic for children. Of any age.

In this story, the little bunny wants to run away from home and experience a grand adventure. But no matter how or where he decides to go, his mother is always there — for she loves her little bunny very much.

When the bunny says he’ll become a rock on a high mountain, the mother replies that she will then become a mountain climber and climb to where he is. When he decides to hide in a garden as a crocus, she declares that she will become a gardener and find him. And when he threatens to become a bird and fly away from her, she calmly proclaims that she will then become a tree that he comes home to.

After several more scenarios the little bunny realizes the relentless love of his mother and decides, “Shucks, I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.”

Where can you go from His presence?

There is nowhere. God’s hand will be wherever we are – to lift us up, to hold us tight.

Shucks, we may as well rest in the dwelling place of His love and care.

And be His child.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell IS AVAILABLE NOW from the good folks at Abingdon Press. 
order from Amazon HERE
order from ChristianBook HERE
order from AbingdonPress HERE

DPCindyBarn

Website/Blog 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!
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The Sweet Sound of Your Name

The Sweet Sound of Your Name

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

           “Lucinda!” came the call from across the lobby.

            I turned, and saw a woman I greatly admire but didn’t know very well. We hadn’t seen each other for several years. Yet here she was remembering my name.

            My heart sang.

            Daddy taught me the importance of remembering to call people by name, because “the sweetest sound to our ears is our own name.”

            When someone calls you by name, it’s like they are saying, “You matter. You are important to me.”

God declares, “I have called you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43.1)

          BlogName How truly remarkable!  The Creator and Sustainer of the universe knows our name. He not only calls me by name, but He claims me as His own.

            What could be better than that?

            Well, perhaps this. God also knows the names we call ourselves – Loser, Failure, Ugly, Stupid, Worthless. But He loves us too much to allow us to own those names. He looks at us and sees a new name. In Simon He saw the potential and changed his name to Peter, a ‘rock.’ Abram became Abraham, which means ‘father of many’ and his wife Sarai became Sarah, ‘mother of nations.’

            I remember identifying with the name of the little goat in Hannah Hurnard’s allegory “Hind’s Feet on Hight Places.” Her name was ‘Much Afraid’ because she lived in fear of all that she encountered on her journey from the valleys of life to the mountain top of God’s love. One of her most valuable lessons on her arduous climb was to rely on God’s presence with her at all times. When she reached the peaks, her name was changed to ‘Grace and Glory.’

            In the last book of the Bible we read “To the one who overcomes… I will give a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” (Revelation 2.17) One day we will all receive a new name.  

            DwellingPlacesNameWhat do you think your new name will be?

            What would you like it to be?

            Personally I’d like to be known by some combination of these words: peaceful, compassionate, kind, empowering, joyful, wise, serene, gentle, and strong.

             Or perhaps I will be named Light. My actual first name, chosen by my Daddy just because he liked it, is Lucinda, which derives from the word meaning “light.” One could do worse than try to live up to that name.

            Whatever my name – old or new – I’m thankful God knows it. That He recognizes me. And that He calls me His.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Surprise! “Dwelling Places” is shipping early – if you pre-order now you can have it by Mother’s Day! (even though the official release day is June 6). And honey, I am praying this prayer by Amy Carmichael — her precious prayer/poems open each section of my new book and you will so love them…

prayershipping

dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell arrives June 2016 from the good folks at Abingdon Press. Available in Paperback and Hardcover. 
Preorder from Amazon HERE
Preorder from ChristianBook HERE
Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE
Website/Blog 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!

 

 

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Would You Follow Sheep Over the Cliff?

Would You Follow Sheep Over the Cliff?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

sheepmovieWe watched in horror as a herd of two hundred sheep threw themselves off the cliff while Farmer Oak looked on helplessly. Our girlfriends gathering around the large screen TV to watch the British romance “Far From the Madding Crowd” had started off with an especially graphic pivotal plot twist. And it most certainly confirmed what I had always heard about sheep.

Sheep follow the crowd, no matter what.

Jesus says we are like dumb sheep. Troubled and helpless. “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9.36)

Which stirs in Him compassion. He knows we need a shepherd. We need Him – the Good Shepherd (John 10.14).

Have you ever noticed how many times the Bible uses the whole sheep/shepherd word picture?

It’s not something I’m proud of.

Because sheep are kind of pathetic; they’re so dumb that they blindly follow the crowd, no matter where the crowd is going. I just read that recently in Turkey hundreds of sheep plunged off a cliff – one following the other. The first four hundred died and the next eleven hundred (yes, 1100 who followed them) just landed on a soft heap of sheep bodies and survived. Their shepherd, it seems, had gone off to breakfast. The loss to local farmers was $74,000.

BlogSheepRight about now I’m wondering whether this was the part of us that made Jesus think of sheep. How we can totally get carried away with the cause of the moment, the thrill of the week, the adventure of the season, and stupidly leave our brains behind.

Sheep are also wanderers, which we also know from biblical stories about the ones that got lost.

They look for grass in treacherous hills and through stony paths, so the shepherd has to keep an eye on them all the time. It’s way too easy for them to stray. Not only that, the shepherd must be a protector against wild animals and even robbers who want to steal the sheep.

Now I totally understand the analogy. After all, our world is scary and the path is narrow. We need a shepherd who protects. Where do you most need protection? Instead of blindly following the crowd, call upon the Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10.11)

DwellingPlacesSheepFor sure the most interesting thing I learned about sheep is that if they fall over on their backs, there is no way they can right themselves. They are totally helpless until someone comes to turn them back over.

Have you ever fallen and been unable to retrieve your equilibrium on your own, either literally or figuratively? Then you need a Shepherd too.

The great news today is that our Good Shepherd is compassionate, caring and diligent to seek us out when we stray. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep.”(John 10.15)

No, I don’t particularly like being compared to sheep, but I love the idea of having a Shepherd.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell arrives June 2016 from the good folks at Abingdon Press. Available in Paperback and Hardcover. 
Preorder from Amazon HERE
Preorder from ChristianBook HERE
Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE
Website/Blog 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!

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How to Be Both Strong and Gentle

How to Be Both Strong and Gentle

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

          We welcomed a new baby into our extended family recently. Beatrice is precious and perfect, with ten fingers and ten toes. She is rosy and healthy, for which we are all most grateful. But she is still tiny and fragile.

            So everyone treats her with much gentleness.

            Even I know to be gentle with newborns. It’s everyone else I seem to have trouble with…

            Paul reminded, “Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5)

            I often imagine God admonishing me, “Cindy, take it down a notch.” Or “Lower your voice.” Or even “Keep Calm and Carry On!” (who says God doesn’t quote the British?)

            I confess, my default manner is not gentleness. In fact, my tone of voice with all its urgency (I prefer to call it ‘passion’) is sometimes mistaken for harsh instead of enthusiastic. Imagine!

            But I long to let my “gentleness show.” A soft touch. A whispered endearment. A kind word of encouragement and support.

            blogGentleWhat if, in our “treatment of all people,” we used the same gentle manner as with babies or frail and elderly great-grandmothers? As though they might break if handled too harshly.

           Sometimes the strongest thing we can do is to be gentle.

            The truth is we all break rather easily.

             And the louder the words we hear, the more defensive we become. King Solomon knew this quite well when he warned, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” (Proverbs 15.1)

Harsh words can crush a spirit and shut down a soul. Kind words can mend a broken heart or plant a dream.

In what ways can you offer gentleness to others today?

  • The clerk at the checkout counter
  • The colleague at work
  • The unruly child who clamors for attention
  • The spouse who is sometimes overlooked

            Take heart, no matter whether you are predisposed or not to being a gentle person. “Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves.” (Matthew 11.29) With Christ dwelling in us, being yoked to us, we can learn from the best of the best.

Because not only is He gentle, but “The Lord is near.”

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell arrives June 2016 from the good folks at Abingdon Press. Available in Paperback and Hardcover. 
Preorder from Amazon HERE
Preorder from ChristianBook HERE
Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE
Website/Blog 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!
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