Beyond the Birthday Candles…

EWWelcome

Beyond the Birthday Candles…

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

cindyat5

My 5th Birthday

This week is my birthday and I’m feeling many different emotions: Grateful (thankful for every single day of life); Relieved (wow, I made it this far); Bewildered (how could I possibly be ‘that number’ when I feel so young inside); Contemplative (strong desire to make the most of time); and Expectant (excited about what the next year holds).

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 
I Corinthians 2.9 NLT

Birthdays and other significant milestones cause us to reflect, don’t they? Both on what was and what will be. So during my birthday month I plan to spend some quiet time with my journal,  answering these 12 questions. Perhaps you’d like to join me?cindyatcake

  1. What one area in my life needs the most change __________________ and what will I do about it?
  2. What one thing will I pray for this year that seems impossible __________________, knowing that “nothing is impossible with God?”
  3. Where do I waste time ______________________ and how can I avoid that?
  4. cindyat19

    My 19th Birthday (with little cousin Ashley)

    What is one important thing I could do to improve the quality of my family relationships this year _______________________?

  5. What’s the most strategic decision I need to make this year __________________?
  6. What’s one thing I could do this year to enrich my spiritual legacy to my children and grands ______________________?
  7. What’s an important financial goal this year ______________________ and how will I meet it?
  8. What’s an important trip I need or want to take this year ____________________________?
  9. Which spiritual discipline will I intentionally pursue this year ___________________________ and how?
  10. What new skill do I plan to learn this year _______________________?
  11. cindyat60

    Still Celebrating Life!

    How will I care for my soul this year (daily)______________________ (periodically) _____________________?

  12. What is my biggest regret about last year _____________________ and how can this year be different?

As much as I like to reminisce and remember former ages and stages, I plan to focus beyond the birthday candles.  Your cake may not have as many candles on it as mine does, but I assure you we are both given the same amount of hours each day. As a Gift. To spend however we choose. How will we choose?

During this birthday season I’m intentionally asking God for His presence, peace and yes, perseverence to make whatever days ahead are given me the most fruitful ever!

Happy Birthday indeed!

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43.18-19)

under the mercy, Cindy

 ©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
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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Are You Really Wearing That?

EWWelcome

Are You Really Wearing That?

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

We get dressed every day. Occasionally, several times a day.

Depending on our personality and the occasion, we sometimes give a lot of thought and attention to what we wear. It took me months to find an appropriate mother-of-the-bride gown. Twice.

Other times, we throw something on without thinking. Just grab the nearest sweater and comfy jeans and we’re good to go.

Most of us wouldn’t dream of walking around naked…

Perhaps that’s why Paul knew he would have our attention by using this imagery – to clothe ourselves. “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3.12)

dressedoldmanExcept he doesn’t complete the sentence with the expected ‘fashion tips’ like cloak, sandals, or robe. He throws in a twist.

He tells us to get dressed up in kindness. To button up gentleness and step into patience.

Well, what in the world does that look like?

Earlier in this letter to the believers living in Colossae, Paul has reminded them that they are new creatures in Christ. Referring to the ways they used to walk, he suggests they get rid of (“take off”) a long list of unholy practices, and then “put on the new self.” (Colossians 3.7-10)

dressedhangingclothesBefore the ‘new clothing’ is listed, Paul reiterates the most important truth of all – that they are “chosen, holy, and dearly loved” by God (v.12). Embracing these facts is key, because our identity always precedes our actions and attitudes. We are new creatures through our faith in Christ, by no merit of our own, who have a significant role to play.

We must decide put on Christ each day, just as we put on clothing. When we freely choose to dress in spiritual clothes every day, the Holy Spirit produces change—change in our personalities, our priorities, and our prayer. What is alive in our hearts shines out from us.

The five ‘garments’ mentioned in today’s verse are what I would call somewhat muted clothing. They don’t make a huge splash, like bright jewel colors and bling, but are instead lovely and quite powerful in their subtle beauty:

  • dressedcompassionCompassion (Greek word oiktirmos: meaning mercy, feeling sympathy for others’ misfortunes) – as we wear compassion we will be better able to come alongside those who are in pain and trouble.
  • Kindness (Greek word chrestotes: meaning to extend goodwill, kindness and helpfulness) – those who wear kindness are quick to offer help and a good word to anyone.
  • Humility (Greek word tapeinophrosyne: a lowliness of mind and attitude, modesty) – when we wear humility, we are content to work in the background, not calling attention to ourselves.
  • Gentleness (Greek word proutes: describing meekness, obedient submissiveness to God) – clothed in gentleness, we are more apt to speak quietly, move slowly, and carry out God’s ways in a loving manner.
  • Patience (Greek word makrothumia: which means long-suffering, handling injustice or difficulty well) – those who wear patience will always be welcome as a tribute to fortitude and serenity in the midst of the unknown.

dressedpatienceAre you clothed in these today?

My best ‘fashion tip’ is to remember that you are holy, chosen and deeply loved. You have taken off the grave clothes and are now putting on grace clothes.

All dressed up with somewhere to go — out into the world!

under the mercy, Cindy

“O Christ, clothe me with Yourself. Be for me a warm garment that will protect me from catching the cold of this world. If you are away from me, dear Lord, all things will be cold and lifeless. But if You are with me, all things will be warm, lively and fresh. As I cover my body with this article of clothing, please become the clothing of my soul. Put upon me mercy, meekness, love, and peace. Amen.”     John Bradford (1510-1555)

dressedbradford“WOLF HALL” Factoid: The above prayer was written by a godly man who lived during the time of Henry VIII and his many wives. In fact, Henry’s daughter, Queen Mary, burned John Bradford at the stake simply because he was a Protestant and she was a Catholic. Known as “Bloody Mary” this daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon had 280 Christians burned at the stake during her reign. Still angry about the whole Church-of-England-and-get-rid-of-Queen-Catherine thing I guess. So many repercussions of sin….

~ Excerpted from Day 24 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
 ©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
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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Especially for the Mama You Love

Especially for the Mama You Love

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

mamachild

Sarah Frances Hasty

This week we especially remember with gratitude our own mothers and we who are mothers and spiritual mothers also thank God for that great privilege and honor.  Isn’t it wonderful that God often used motherhood as a symbol for Himself in scripture?

God reminded us that He too is compassionate and comforting like a mother:
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you – Isaiah 66:13.
God reminded us that He knows us the same as each mother knows her child and that He, like she, will never forget us…
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Isaiah 49:15

mamaold

Sarah Hasty Secrest

King David compared his refuge in God’s care as the same feeling of safety and serenity in a mother’s arms:
But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Psalm 131:2
Jesus compared himself to a mother who longed to gather her children:
How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings… Matthew 23:37

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“Dear God, now that I am no longer young, I have friends whose mothers have passed away. I have heard these sons and daughters say they never fully appreciated their mothers until it was too late to tell them.

mamacindyold

Lucinda Lee Secrest with her Mama. “Mama tried…”

I am blessed with a dear mother who is still alive. I appreciate her more each day. My mother does not change, but I do. As I grow older and wiser, I realize what an extraordinary person she is. How sad that I am unable to speak these words in her presence, but they flow easily from my pen.

How does a daughter begin to thank her mother for life itself? For the love, patience and just plain hard work that go into raising a child? For running after a toddler, for understanding a moody teenager, for tolerating a college student who knows everything? For waiting for the day when a daughter realizes how wise her mother really is?

mamacindy

Mama’s 87th Birthday last May – she has a Mother’s Day Birthday!

How does a grown woman thank a mother for continuing to mother? For being ready with advice (when asked) or remaining silent when it is most appreciated? For not saying, “I told you so,” when she could have uttered those words dozens of times? For being essentially herself — loving, thoughtful, patient and forgiving?

I don’t know how, dear God, except to ask you to bless her as richly as she deserves — and to help me live up to the example she has set. I pray that I will look as good in the eyes of my children as my mother looks in mine. Amen.”     — written by an anonymous daughter 

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Loving Father, we also pray for those for whom Mother’s Day is a time of heartache rather than celebration…

emptyswing

      *We pray for those who have never known their mother or whose mothers have died.
Heavenly Father, bless them with your love
       *We pray for those who long to be mothers but as yet have not had their own children.

Heavenly Father, bless them with your love
       *We pray for those who struggle with the way their children have chosen to live their lives.

Heavenly Father, bless them with your love
        *We pray for those who have a difficult relationship with their mother.
Heavenly Father, bless them with your love                                                                             May they have the comfort of knowing that your love for them is constant, your understanding is perfect, your compassion is never-ending. Amen

mama4girls

Look out Beach….the Secrest gals are on their way!

Remember…. for Mothers, love is spelled T.I.M.E. so go spend some time with yours. My crazy sisters and I are headed down south to do just that with our sweet Mama later this month!

under the mercy, Cindy

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
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 Raise a True “Star”

  How to Raise a True “Star”

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

The text from my actor daughter brought a tear to my eye: “Rejection can be God’s protection – He has something better for me!” Audition season had been tough, and the ups and downs of casting was certainly a roller coaster ride.  I couldn’t have been more grateful for Maggie’s  groundedness and grace.

Then I came home and opened my mail. I had received the new book from my friend Cheri Fuller whatagirlneedscover“What a Girl Needs from Her Mom” – and it was encouraging to read her interview with me last year for the chapter “A Mom Who Nurtures Her Daughter’s Potential and Encourages Her to Dream Big.”

We mamas can do only so much, and then our kids take their own wings and fly. But we can do something in those early years. Here is Cheri’s account of my interview from that book about one of my daughters (I have two):

 ~~~~~~~~~

starfirststage

Maggie’s first stage – our hearth

“From the moment Maggie was born, Lucinda played music and sang to her baby girl every day. Every night she sang her to sleep. As she was growing up, Maggie absolutely loved music. At age three, she was singing into a wooden spoon as her microphone and using their hearth as her stage. She was born loving to perform.

“We were purposeful about encouraging her gifts but not pursuing them professionally while she was a child. One the one hand, we wanted her to have training in her God-given gifts, but on the other hand, we wanted her grounded in her identity in Christ.” Lucinda told me, “which for us meant she’d take advantage of opportunities like camp, dance lessons, and being on the dance team at high school.

starballerine

Dance lessons, Voice Lessons, Choir Rehearsal, Dance Team Rehearsal, High School Musicals, etc. etc. etc.

They gave her voice lessons at the Hartt School of Music and Maggie was also in the church choir, where she learned a lot of classical music. As a child she once told her parents she wanted to grow up and be a Star! They encouraged her to hone her talents but also to have a balanced life and be well rounded.

“Thinking of a child going into the arts can be interesting for parents; you don’t usually dream that for your child,” Lucinda said, “Who will really make it? And what is the price of fame? We felt her acting, music and dancing were gifts. But we wanted her to develop as a person and not just Maggie the singer.”

starbelmont

Junior Recital at Belmont University in Nashville

By her junior year of high school, Maggie had been in several school and local productions. “If you really want to pursue a triple major in singing, acting and dancing, go explore another part of the country (not New York City),” her folks advised. After audition, admission and four years of hard work at Belmont University in Nashville, Maggie graduated with a degree in Musical Theatre and moved to New York City where she is now a professional equity actor, singer and dancer.

Here are 5 key ways this mama guided her daughter:

  1. Encourage her to Dream Big. Know who your daughter is and who she isn’t, and help her discover her unique strengths, weaknesses, insecurities, and gifts. Help her grow her talents, but make sure the priority is developing into a whole person.
  2. Don’t let your focus be to make something happen or pressure your daughter. Let her live her life as a child rather than your living through her.
  3. Learn her language of love so you can be her encourager. Some of that has to do with being there with her: taking her to auditions and building her up in the midst of rejection.
  4. Help her know her true identity. “It can be a minefield out there,” as Lucinda says, “but Maggie can handle those pressures because she has a foundation of being a person first, of her faith in God, and knowing this job doesn’t define her. She’s also a wife and daughter, a sister, aunt and friend.”
  5. Build into your child the importance of being kind and compassionate, reaching out to help others.
Maggie McDowell

Maggie McDowell at her off Broadway premiere in “Disaster, the Musical”

“Go after your dream,” Lucinda always told her four children. “Whether you apply at this college or graduate school or audition for a play, or go to a foreign country to help others, or compete in Special Olympics, remember: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. What’s the worst that can happen? Even if you don’t succeed, it’s okay to take risks and go for it! And, by the way, nobody ever died of embarrassment.”*

*excerpt from “What A Girl Needs from Her Mom” by Cheri Fuller

 ~~~~~~~~

(back to Cindy) Let me be clear. Daughter Maggie is where she is today due to her own hard work, talent, choices and attitude. I post this in honor of both upcoming Mother’s Day and Maggie’s May Birthday. All of my children are now grown and scattered across the country doing amazing things that fit their gifting and personalities. My time of influence is greatly reduced, though I certainly don’t let that prevent me from praying daily for them and occasionally offering a bit of advice. Smile.

If you are a mama, aunt or granny of a girl, I think you will find all the chapters in “What A Girl Needs from Her Mom” very helpful. And author Cheri Fuller has also written a book “What A Boy Needs from His Mom.” Now honey, I could tell a few stories about those boys of mine…..

under the mercy, Cindy

 ©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
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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When God’s Answer Is No

When God’s Answer is No

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

nonorthfork

North Fork Valley, Black Mountain, North Carolina

Last month while speaking in North Carolina, I borrowed a car and made a pilgrimage of sorts. Turning down North Fork Road, I parked on the side and got out for a magnificent view of the Blue Ridge mountains. This was the very spot where I had poured out my twenty-something heart to God in prayer – hoping His will would be the same as my will:

“God, all I want to do is marry Paul and live the rest of my days in these beautiful mountains. We could  build a log house right here on his land and raise our children in the country. I will even teach Bible studies for my church if You want me to. But please, please, please answer this prayer and I will spend the rest of my life serving You here in North Carolina! Amen.”

nogirltree

          While I didn’t exactly view God as a cosmic Santa Claus who ponied up with the loot after reviewing my list of gimmies, I was close. Hadn’t I waited for this godly man before falling in love? Hadn’t I finished college and worked for several years while volunteering as a church youth leader? Hadn’t I prayed for God to guide and direct me?

Yes to all of the above. So I was confident that My Plan would work out for my own version of ‘happily ever after.’

climbpuppy

Top of Montreat’s Lookout Mountain 1976

God did answer my prayer that day. 
         He said No.
         In fact, He said No to all of it: Paul, the mountains, the log house, the kids, the country life, and North Carolina. 
          And I was crushed.

          I believe that God answers every heartfelt prayer either Yes, No or Wait. I love it when I get a Yes answer and can mark the date in my prayer notebook. It’s a lot harder to get a Wait answer, but it reminds me to continually bring those concerns and people before Him with prayers of hope.

           No answers are another thing entirely. There is finality and a reality that must be faced. Dreams die, bringing pain and confusion as companions in the aftermath. I felt all those things initially when God said No to me back in my twenties.

           But I mustered courage to move forward with my life, believing the promise that “No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84.11)
           I moved to Boston for a seminary degree. Journalism work took me to Chicago and Thailand. Then I served as a missions pastor in San Francisco, traveling around the world twice before I was thirty. I married Mike, moved to Seattle and began raising children. nohartfordNorth Carolina seemed very far away, and in the meantime, life held many surprises and challenges.
            Today I live near a Connecticut city, not in the Carolina countryside. Mike and I are about to celebrate our 31st anniversary with our six kids and brilliant grandgirl. Yes, I do teach Bible studies, but I also speak to many people across the country through my Encouraging Words speaking ministry. And, grace upon grace, my eleventh book was just published.

             My life looks nothing like the one I prayed for so long ago.

montreatcindylakesusan

Back ‘home’ in Montreat NC 2015

              I’m confident that one of the reasons God said No to that prayer in the mountains was that, for me, that particular vision was too small. To grant those desires would have allowed me to settle for what was comfortable, rather than take risks and follow God into some challenging and ‘impossible’ situations. 
               My world didn’t end when God answered my prayers with No. Instead, those losses opened me up to be filled with other people and new experiences. 
              Has God said No or Wait to one of the deepest desires of your heart?                                       Do you find yourself uttering only ‘safe’ prayers?

May I encourage you to keep praying the desires of your heart and laying bold requests before His throne of grace. But always, always, conclude with the biblical mandate “Thy will be done.” 

God answers every heartfelt prayer in His way and in His timing. For our good.

nopraise                Last month when I stood on the side of the road I prayed again. This time, thanking God for the many years of His guidance and provision in ways I could never have imagined way back in my twenties.

Then I drove back into my life, understanding anew that No can indeed be a good answer.

under the mercy, Cindy

 ©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
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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When the Very Worst Happens…

 When the Very Worst Happens…

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

mikelopez

Mike McDowell age 32.

What does a 34-year-old man do when he hears these two phrases only days apart: “Congratulations, you have a baby daughter!” and “I’m so sorry to tell you that your wife has liver cancer?”

He makes a choice to move forward into each new day, trusting in God’s strength and seeking to fulfill his calling as loving husband and father.

He perseveres.

At least that’s the way my husband, Michael McDowell, faced life when he and his first wife, Inka, were confronted with the unthinkable as a young couple.

In the Bible we are told to “persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”  (Hebrews 10.36)  But what if the will of God involves walking through the suffering of someone you love? Holding your family together while juggling work, childcare, medical appointments and household; all the while watching the love of your life grow weaker, cancer diminishing her vibrant young life?

“At first the whole thing was surreal,” Mike recalls. “I remember standing in the kitchen on the telephone, absolutely stunned and speechless, hearing the doctor’s prognosis that was about to turn our lives upside down. Yet, through much help, we sought treatment and surgery for Inka, cared for the three kids and felt hopeful that the cancer was completely eradicated.

inkakids

Last photo of Inka with all her children, 1981.

“By the end of the year we were all devastated when the cancer returned with a vengeance.”

One thing that helped Mike keep going was the example of his own parents who had survived the death of their seven-year-old son Greg, battled financial hardship, and struggled with their own medical challenges. “I learned at an early age to never give up. And my whole ministry at the time – InterVarsity outreach to college students which required raising support each month – taught me that God could be trusted to provide, no matter what the circumstances.”

As Inka’s condition worsened, she wanted to be near her family in the Netherlands, so Mike transferred there and moved everyone into a Dutch flat, never realizing he would be a widower within the month. He remained there, learned the language and kept his two sons and daughter well cared for an additional two years before returning to the States.

Today those same kids are the age he was during this ordeal.

He recently shared how he was able to persevere through so many hard times. “I cannot imagine going through the life I’ve lived without a solid sense of God’s presence, love and care for me at all times. Three ways I experienced this:

  1. mikechildren83

    Single dad, 1984.

    The body of Christ ‘held up my arms’ like Aaron did for Moses in the Bible. When I was too tired or perplexed to handle a situation I would often find someone else quietly cleaning our home, or (in a most generous surprise) anonymously providing a final family trip for all of us to Hawaii. I still meet people who remember praying for Inka back in the 1980s – those prayers sustained us.”

  2. I found that in the midst of horrific change, God never changes. One way this sustained me was through my own spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, the sacraments, and Bible reading. Those are the touchstones not only for my life, but for the lives of countless saints through the ages. There’s a reason we commit God’s Word to memory in the good times – so that it can be remembered in the bad times, and bring hope.”
  3. Lastly, in order to persevere, I simply learned to take the next step.”

“We cannot survive on our feelings. Many times I didn’t feel like getting up to change my daughter’s diaper or bike the boys to school, but actually those very ordinary routines were what kept me going. Yes, it’s hard to be a single parent, but knowing those precious lives depend on you is a great boost to focus beyond your own pain,” Mike concluded.

RevMcDowellathome

Today Mike and Cindy are grateful for 31 years of marriage and God’s faithfulness to our whole family!

What situation has interrupted your life recently? What was your very first reaction? Run? Pray? Scream? Confide in a close friend? But what did you actually do? Take some time today and examine your own strategy for choosing to persevere through tough times.

Michael McDowell, has modeled perseverance for family and many others his entire life. Life continues to confront us all with the choice to give up or keep going.

Will we persevere?

        under the mercy, Cindy

NOTE: Just to fill in some blanks, in case you are puzzled. When I married Mike 31 years ago, he was a widower with 3 small children. I went through the court process in Seattle and adopted Justin, Timothy and Fiona as my own —  both in my heart and legally. However, we have stayed in close touch with all of his late wife Inka’s family in the Netherlands and many of them joined us for our two daughters’ weddings recently. God is faithful. 
~ Excerpted from Day 13 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
 ©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
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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Is God Big Enough to Be in Your Church ….and Mine?

EWWelcome

Is God Big Enough to Be

in Your Church ….and Mine?

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

allsaintschurchThe smells were different. The sights were different. The music was different. And even some of the words were different.

But it was the Same God.

I was attending a worship service in a Christian church culturally and theologically not my own. On first glance, the differences were what bombarded my senses. Incense and icons. Robes of gold and an exquisitely painted dome.
churchafrican

I was reminded of other ‘different’ services I’d experienced in other lands — preaching from a flat-bed truck in Malawi, on the beach in Thailand, gathering in a dark hut in northern Kenya, and sitting in the back pew of a Mediterranean camp church where it was literally “all Greek to me.” Here in the USA I’ve worshiped in gymnasiums, cathedrals, tents, stone chapels and yes, even a Kentucky country church with snake-handlers!

churchcountry         Yet in all these places the same Jesus Christ was lifted up and worshiped — the same Bible taught.

Personally, I would rather embrace my common beliefs with other Christians, rather than focus on our differences. True, there are distinct differences. But we have the same Bible and the same Lord and Saviour.

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 2.5)

            churchnotredameWhy not build bridges instead of erecting walls?

That said, I do acknowledge that ‘different’ can often be uncomfortable. It is human nature to seek the solace of the familiar. And far too often our insecurities prompt criticism — “Why do they sing choruses instead of hymns?” or “Why do they sing hymns instead of choruses?” or “Why do they chant instead of singing hymns and choruses?”

churchmodernDo you think God is actually Big Enough to receive our praise and worship in a whole world full of creative ways? Do you think perhaps that our prayers reach God’s ears whether they are totally spontaneous or whether we pray from the heart the words of an ancient prayer? I do both. And, I assure you, God hears.

Because God knows the heart of the worshiper. He knows whether or not we are focused on Him, committed to Him, believing the words we sing and recite. Somehow I don’t think God cares as much about the form as we do. He cares that we trust and believe and hope and worship.

                            fccsnow2 “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” (Romans 15.5-7 NLT)

And whether God’s people gather in an urban storefront or an underground cellar or yes, even an ornate sanctuary, He is among us.

churchorthodoxRecently someone I love decided to continue his faith journey in the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox church instead of the Protestant church in which he’d spent his life thus far. While his calling is different from my own, I can appreciate the fact that expressions of faith and worship are a personal choice.

Frankly, I’m not crazy about religious labels. This Sunday’s New York Times article about Pope Francis’ popularity mentioned two different “evangelical Christians” as examples of two extremes. Interestingly, both of those men mentioned are my personal friends. Though I identify more with one of them, I can appreciate the ministry and heart of the other.

fccinside2I am a Christ follower.  That’s all that really matters. My home of worship is currently (and has been for 24 years) the oldest church in the state of Connecticut. Gathered in 1635, our sanctuary is called The Meetinghouse and we worship in a Puritan white simple edifice with doored pews and a high pulpit and absolutely no decoration whatsoever! In fact, it remains the same as when George Washington and Jonathan Edwards worshiped here hundreds of years ago.

And it couldn’t be a more different atmosphere than the church mentioned in my blog opening.
fccinside1

Yet here I find God. As do hundreds who attend our four Sunday services. Do you find God where you worship? Isn’t that what truly matters?

After all, it’s not about me. It’s about Him.

This weekend I will speak out of state and gather with God’s people probably in a venue unlike my home church. But I will rejoice and praise and pray and listen to the Word. And I will thank God that He is Big Enough to be everywhere.

”Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13.8)

under the mercy, Cindy

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
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