That Time I Received Everything as a Gift…

That Time I Received Everything as a Gift…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

On Crazy Christmas Sweater Day at the high school, I wear one depicting my favorite scene from the movie, “Elf.” Pictured on the front is Buddy the Elf screaming with ecstasy “Santa’s Coming! I know him!” Raised (by Santa) at the North Pole, Buddy works in the Christmas department of a New York City store. Though an upcoming visit from “Santa” is a humdrum for the other staff, he spends all night excitedly decorating to welcome a person he both knows and loves.

I’m the same way around Christmas – but not for Santa. For Jesus.

You see, Christmas celebrates Jesus’ coming. And since I know Him that changes my whole motivation for celebration..

Do you truly know Jesus or do you just know about Him?

Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God.” (2 Peter 1.3) Here we are promised that one of the greatest gifts we are given is the opportunity to get to know our Savior “personally and intimately.” How? By taking hold of the “everything” that is needed to live a life of godliness.

Literally we have received Everything!

The New Testament Greek word used here is pas which is translated “everything, all things, complete.” No exceptions. In the context of today’s verse, it refers to anything we need in order to grow spiritually.

It’s not enough just to have the gift, we must actually use it.

When Crowfoot, Chief of the Blackfoot nation in Alberta, gave the Canadian Pacific Railway permission to lay train track from Medicine Hat to Calgary, he was given in exchange a lifetime railroad pass. A ticket he could use to go anywhere, anytime. Everything he needed for a journey.

For the rest of his life.

Chief Crowfoot was so pleased with the gift that he put it in a fine tooled leather pouch and wore it around his neck. But he never used it. He never took a trip on the train. He had everything but he didn’t avail himself of the gift.

Don’t waste the grace gifts God has given you. “In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2.3) Simply draw near, read His Word, talk to Him in prayer.

That’s everything.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

ORDER HERE – Click “BUY” and you can choose to purchase from ANY Online Store.

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!

 

Advertisements
Posted in 1 | 2 Comments

Will You Have a Shiny Christmas?

Will You Have a Shiny Christmas?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I don’t want to just survive the holidays, I want to shine.

Don’t you want the season to be different this year? Not as hectic or harried. Not as full of stress and ‘shoulds.’ More purposeful and peaceful. Brighter and more beautiful, but in a low key way.

I’m thinking of words here like simplicity and serenity. You too?

Ready to let go of the debt and duty. Happy to keep the lights and shimmer. In fact, I want every single corner to shine, not necessarily with a designer tree or sequined sweater, but with sweet contentment.  In thinking of such possibilities, my heart bursts into praise, “Shine, Jesus shine, Fill this land with the Father’s glory.”

But, of course, my deepest prayer is “Shine on me.”

For until I am filled with that light inside, I can never reflect it to those around me.  

“If you have arrived at Advent, at the coming, with doubts, dragging chains of disbelief, disenchantment, and discouragement, welcome. You are not alone. And if you enter this season with a harried heart and a furrowed brow, welcome. You are not alone. If your moanings feel louder than the quiet, subtle hope tucked behind the noise of the world’s Christmas season, then welcome. You are not alone. And that’s the good news, isn’t it? That in this darkness, in this aching nighttime, we are not alone. Christ comes. Christ pierces the darkness with His light.” (Jane Rubietta, “Finding the Messiah”)

One symbolic way our family enjoys keeping the shine in our season is the tradition of lighting candles each day.  Advent wreaths can be purchased widely, from simple frames at hobby stores to elaborate ones in gift shops. But all you really need is a circle of four candles and a place in the middle for the Christ candle. Candles can be any color, or you use the traditional colors of three purple/blue and one pink. Each week, a new candle is lit. The first Sunday, we light a purple candle for Hope, the second Sunday another purple candle for Love, the third Sunday  the pink candle for Joy, the fourth Sunday a purple candle for Peace and on Christmas Eve the center white candle for Christ. With each lighting, we read Scripture and sing a Christmas carol.

Our dwelling place is God’s presence. Out of that place of refueling and reigniting, we then go forth to mingle with a damaged and desperate culture. “Among these people you shine like stars in the world.” (Philippians 2.15)

I’m looking forward to a Shiny Christmas, how about you?

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Dwelling Places (Abingdon Press)

ORDER HERE – Click “BUY” and you can choose to purchase from ANY Online Store.

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

 

Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

A Question to Ask at the End of the Day

A Question to Ask at the End of the Day

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Mike calls me out on the porch to watch the sunset.

It is glorious — fiery red, dazzling orange with a bit of purple mixed in. We are in awe and enjoy the companioned silence.

Seven years ago we decided to downsize — give away or throw away pretty much half our life’s ‘stuff.’ After living for twenty years in a beautiful, large colonial parsonage, we were eager to settle into our own little nest. The fact that this cottage was high on a hill was a great determining factor for our future home. Christened “Sunnyside” we looked forward to such things as sunsets and vistas of the surrounding New England village.

It seemed appropriate that for the ‘sunset’ time of life, we chose this verse for our home: “May God be merciful and gracious to us, and cause His face to shine upon us and among us.” (Psalm 67.1)

He is and He does. All the time. So I endeavor to thank Him all day long.

And now it’s time for bed. I set the alarm, turn on my sound machine (ocean waves) and snuggle deep into the warm fleece sheets. As my mind settles over the story of my day, I ask the only truly important question.

“Did my life today please you, Lord — have I loved well?”

St. John of the Cross once said that “at the evening of our day we shall be judged by our loving.” Perhaps that means that my list of what was done and what was left undone is not as important as how I attempted each task, each encounter.

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” What small things did I do today — and were they done with love?

I usually go to sleep quickly once my head hits the pillow, but I linger a bit for three final rituals: pray through the names on my family list, ask forgiveness for today’s sin, and begin my litany of praise for every single blessing. Sleep often overtakes me before I can even finish… “let the Lord’s name be praised.”

Have I loved well?

Ken Gire says that if we can answer yes to that sunset question, it is enough. It may not be enough for our employer. It may not be enough for our fellow workers. It may not be enough for all the carpools and committees and other things on our calendars. It may not even be enough for us. But it is enough for God. And that should make it enough for us.”

Live with a grateful heart. Love well. And sleep in peace.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

ORDER HERE – Click “BUY” and you can choose to purchase from ANY Online Store.

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

 

Posted in 1 | 2 Comments

It’s Not Turkey Day, It’s THANKSGIVING!

It’s Not Turkey Day, It’s THANKSGIVING!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

They are the first words I see.

The moment my eyes open from a night’s sleep. Stenciled on the gable directly across from my bed — “Each day is a gift from God.”

Prompting me to thank God even before my feet hit the floor. Before the world inevitably begins to invade my posture of praise. A bill I can’t pay is due today. The morning news is violent. Icy roads disrupt my schedule. And I’m still waiting on medical tests results.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let’s continue to express our gratitude. With this gratitude, let’s serve in a way that is pleasing to God with respect and awe.” Hebrews 12.28

Do you sometimes find it difficult to muster up feelings of gratitude? 

Jonathan Edwards (who worshipped here at my church for two years in the 18th century) suggested we live “gracious gratitude — being thankful not just for God’s gifts and blessings but for God Himself and who He is.”  So in those moments when we cannot think of one thing to thank God for, we can thank Him for who He is.

Thanksgiving and praise to God run throughout the pages of the Old Testament even in the midst of violent and horrific circumstances. And they continue through the New Testament, despite persecution and danger.

We are called to live with a heart full of gratitude, not just when we awaken to a sunny sky, but when we face a day of darkness and despair.

My friend Jennifer Dukes Lee says, “On your best day, gratitude reminds you that your gifts are not your own. And on your worst day, gratitude reminds you that you are not alone.”

Be sure to Thank God today that He is always with you – you are never alone!

Gratitude flows from the ability to see all you have and all you are as a gift. This means you insist that persons are more valuable than things. Ultimately the opposite of gratitude is not ingratitude, but chaos. If we are to be human in the truest sense of this word, it will be as we tenaciously insist that we live life grateful.” (Barnabas Powell)

I am so very grateful. First for God. Then for His gifts. THANKSGIVING!

Receive God’s Thanksgiving Benediction over you this Thanksgiving:       My child, it is My deepest joy to offer you gifts – of grace, mercy and hope. As you unpack their worth and usefulness, may your own heart be filled to overflowing with gratitude. For opportunities that come your way. For people you can bless. And yes, for Me, the Lover of your soul.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

ORDER HERE – Click “BUY” and you can choose to purchase from ANY Online Store.

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

Why a Gratitude List is Good for Your Health

Why a Gratitude List is Good for Your Health

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“I tell you I’m going crazy,” the woman shouted to her mentor.

He gently replied, “Here is a yellow pad and here is a ballpoint pen. I want you to write down your blessings.”

She refused, overcome by the despair that had seized her soul.

But he didn’t give up. “Think of the millions of people all over the world who cannot hear a choir or a symphony or their own babies crying. Write down ‘I can hear, thank God.’ Write down that you can see this yellow pad and think of all the millions of people around the world who cannot see a waterfall or a flower blooming or their lover’s face. Write down ‘I can see, thank God.’

And so she began to make her list. As she reached the last line of that yellow notepad, clearly “the madness was routed.”

From then on Maya Angelou wrote all of her books and poems on yellow notepads, saying, “As I approach the clean page I think of how blessed I am.”

Ann, a Canadian pig farmer’s wife, began listing her blessings on a dare. Pretty soon her entire life and outlook changed as she kept lists of her one thousand gifts. Ann Voskamp began blogging and writing books to encourage others to do the same. And in just a few short years, many readers have seen their lives transformed by the spiritual practice of thanking God for all that is given.

Even science has shown that practicing gratitude is good for you. According to one study, those who keep gratitude journals:

  • exercised more regularly,
  • reported fewer physical symptoms,
  • felt better about their lives as a whole,
  • and were more optimistic about the upcoming week

They were also more likely to make progress on their personal and professional goals if their gratitude was recorded in some manner, like a list.

The hymnist Frances Ridley Havergal kept what she called a ‘journal of mercies.’ She crowded it with remembrances of God’s goodness. She was always on the lookout for tokens of the Lord’s grace and bounty, and she found them everywhere. She believed that many a complaining life would be changed into music and song by a journal of mercies.

Do you have a gratitude list? Why not?

The daily planner I ordered online this year includes a space each day to list gratitudes. My husband keeps one of those small pocket calendars solely dedicated to writing his everyday thanksgivings. Some people put them on slips of paper in a Mason jar.

You could even start right here:

  1. I am grateful for __________________________________________
  2. I am grateful for __________________________________________
  3. I am grateful for __________________________________________

But however you choose to record God’s goodness and faithfulness to you, my prayer is that it will enrich your life, bubbling over to all those you encounter.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

ORDER HERE – Click “BUY” and you can choose to purchase from ANY Online Store.

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

 

Posted in 1 | 2 Comments

But How Do I “Rejoice Always?”

But How Do I “Rejoice Always?”

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“I have been living without the use of my hands and legs for fifty years!” Joni Eareckson Tada recently wrote.

When she first broke her neck as a teenager, she met a guy who had been in a wheelchair for eight years – unimaginable to her at the time. And yet today this vibrant woman remains full of JOY.

How has she been able to do what the Bible commands, “Rejoice always” ? (1 Thessalonians 5.16)

Joni answers, “I shake my head in amazement, look  back and wonder, how did I make it to this point? And how have I done it, for the most part, with a smile? It’s all because of God, His grace, and loving Christians. The grace-filled believers that God brought into my life made all the difference.”

Do you find it hard to Be Thankful in difficult times?

In this verse Paul was writing to people in distress. After the Romans overtook Thessalonica, they stripped the people and the territory of everything valuable. They pillaged resources, then set into place a prohibition for trade between districts which totally impoverished the Thessalonians.

Can you imagine how a command to “rejoice always” went over?

Kind of like today?

But Paul was able to empathize with them because he, too, had been there. “Over the course of his life, Paul is tossed into prison and brutally beaten on multiple occasions, shipwrecked, and nearly drowned. His life is marked by affliction and controversy, his body shaped by exhaustion, thirst, and hunger. Yet even in the midst of life’s heaviest blows, he still says give thanks. If Paul lives a safe, comfortable life, his words could easily be dismissed. But Paul embodied his message.”

I have no problem rejoicing at the good things in life. But the test comes when we realize we are invited to rejoice also in the midst of bad things.

“Gratitude invites us to trust God in all things. Thankfulness is the acknowledgement that God can redeem every situation and make us more than triumphant in any circumstance. Whether we’re facing a season of absence or abundance, barrenness or bounty, turmoil or tranquility, the command to give thanks remains. To the outsider, such an act is undeserved; but for those who place their faith in God, thankfulness is a powerful confession that God’s purpose is being worked out in all things.” (Margaret Feinberg)

What things in your life need to be worked out by God? Can you rejoice today that God is able?

Could radical gratitude reorient your own life toward God?

Begin not by looking at your circumstances. Look up – to God. The Giver of all good gifts. Rejoice!

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

ORDER HERE – Click “BUY” and you can choose to purchase from ANY Online Store.

NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!

 

Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

How Do You Remember Them?

How Do You Remember Them?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Do you celebrate All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Soul’s Day (Nov. 2)?

Even though some think only the canonized are ‘saints’, the Bible recognizes all Christians as ‘saints.’ We remember the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in the faith, stretching across the centuries and around the globe.

“However hard it might seem to follow the way of Jesus in our own time and place, this is a day to remember that we may be crazy, but we are not alone.” (Common Prayer for Nov. 1st)

  • Recently I visited the grave of a woman I never met. I helped my son and husband plant flowers and we sang together the hymn inscribed on Inka’s tombstone “Thine is the Glory.” Except for our voices, it was strangely quiet in this small Dutch village churchyard as we dug and stood vigil. A grace gift of both joy and solemnity.
  • Before my youngest daughter married her husband, we stood in a Texas memorial garden honoring his father, and prayed with thanksgiving for Tom’s life and our children who had come together to carry on his name and legacy.
  • And when I visit my Georgia family, I occasionally kneel at the grave of my childhood friend Cax and chat about growing older without her. Sometimes I leave little gifts, like the Barbie Christmas ornament that reminds me of so many little girl dreams – ones that she decided on her own would never come true.

Graves and tombstones are tangible memorials to someone’s life. As believers we know they aren’t actually there, in the ground or the vault. But these places provide a touchstone of remembering who they were and how they changed our lives.

“How often do we go to the cemetery and stand, kneel or sit in front of the place where our spouse, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, or friends have been buried? Are we still in touch with those who have died, or are we living our lives as if those who lived before us never really existed? (Henri Nouwen)

How do you remember the life of a loved one who has died?

Perhaps you keep a possession of theirs, a recording, or a letter. Maybe you donate to a cause or ministry they were passionate about, or establish a scholarship to encourage students their field.

“What a gift it is to know deeply that we are all brothers and sisters in one human family and that, different as our cultures, languages, religions, life-styles, or work may be, we are all mortal beings called to surrender our lives into the hands of a loving God. What a gift it is to feel connected with the many who have died and to discover the joy and peace that flow from that connectedness.” (Henri Nouwen)

Because they lived, we are different.

So…. if you, like me, find yourself teary occasionally as you trudge this journey of faith and fortitude, seeking to persevere amidst all that says give up, then remember those words, “we may be crazy, but we are not alone!”  

What will others remember most about you? That you were kind, encouraging, helpful, funny? Or that you were always too busy? I urge you to live each day as though everything you do, everything you say and everyone you encounter builds the kingdom. Because it does. You don’t have to worry about memorials. Just live.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)

ORDER HERE – Click “BUY” and you can choose to purchase from ANY Online Store.

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!

 

“Almighty God, with Whom still live the spirits of those who die in the Lord, and with Whom the souls of the faithful are in joy and felicity: I give You heartfelt thanks for the good examples of all Your servants, who, having finished their course in faith, now find rest and refreshment. May I, with all who have died in the true faith of Your Holy Name, have perfect fulfillment and bliss in Your eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.” (Divine Hours)

Posted in 1 | 4 Comments