Need Quiet?

Need Quiet?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

In looking over the evaluation sheets from a recent retreat I was struck by every single answer to this question being almost exclusively the same:

“What was the best part of the day?”   Quiet time alone with God.

We all desire quiet. We all need calm. But sometimes we have to be given permission to spend extended times in silence, listening for the voice of God to speak into our hearts and soothe our souls. To comfort and encourage. To challenge and prod. To gently lift us up and send us out among the walking wounded with a word of mercy or hope or grace.

This is why my heartbeat is to encourage us all to dwell in the constant presence of God. Therefore, the Lord God, the holy one of Israel, says: ‘In return and rest you will be saved; quietness and trust will be your strength— but you refused. Isaiah 30:15 

quietcoffeeleavesDo you need a “quiet place” – somewhere to go and experience God’s peace and presence? Do you deliberately carve out hours or days when there is no noise, no music, no technology, and no interruptions to dispel the sounds of silence?

Or are you like the Israelites in this verse who have yet again turned away from their God in order to pursue all the world has to offer? The prophet Isaiah is begging them to return and find strength through quietness and rest. Yet they refuse.

Do you refuse?  I know why I do – because it’s simply not natural to be alone and quiet and still. And yet it is a restorative spiritual discipline.

“To be in solitude is to choose to do nothing. For extensive periods of time. All accomplishment is given up. Silence is required to complete solitude, for until we enter quietness, the world still lays hold of us. When we go into solitude and silence we stop making demands on God. It is enough that God is God and we are His.” (Ruth Haley Barton, “Invitation to Solitude and Silence”)

It is in the quietness that we hear the still, small voice of God. He is longing to speak to us but our lives are too filled with the cacophony of the world and chatter of own voice to actually hear.

It will take some strategy, for sure. Carving out a place and time with no distractions. Turning off cell phones, pagers, computers, i-pods. And then putting ourselves in a position of receiving – with open ears, open hands, open hearts – all that God wants to say. It will seem awkward and almost impossible at first. But, if you’re like me, the silence will soon become a wanted friend, a comfortable dwelling place.

In this quietness we create space for God’s activity, God’s agenda, God’s words rather than filling every minute with our own.

What will He reveal to you today?

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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!

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

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How Will You Remember Christ’s Passion?

How Will You Remember Christ’s Passion?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

It was all so new they didn’t understand.

            The twelve disciples had gathered in the upper room with Jesus and He was talking with them about His body and blood as He passed around some wine and bread. What did it all mean?

            This symbolic feast, which became a sacrament of the Church, was given in order that we remember. Remember Christ. And, in our remembering His sacrifice – His body broken and His blood shed – we continue to be His hands and feet and mouth and heart to a hurting world.

            Maundy Thursday is the day which commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the apostles. It is also the night in which Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane. The English word Maundy is derived from a Latin word meaning “mandate” because of our Lord’s mandate to the disciples in the upper room: “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” (John 13.34 CEB)

            What do you remember most about Christ’s passion during Holy Week?

            The following verses includes the words of constitution in the service of Eucharist, a name derived from the Greek word for “giving thanks,” which is exactly what our Lord did as He began the Last Supper. As we come to the table, may we also be filled with gratitude for what Christ has done for us. But, more than that, may we leave determined to also live eucharistic lives of gratitude.

“After giving thanks, [the Lord Jesus] broke bread and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this to remember me.’ He did the same thing with the cup, after they had eaten, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Every time you drink it, do this to remember me.’” 1 Corinthians 11.24-25 CEB

            This sacrament is also known as “Communion” (from the Latin meaning ‘union with’) because it does indeed celebrate our union with God made available through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. As such it is a meal of compassion, acceptance and forgiveness. And Jesus Himself is welcoming us to the fellowship of His table. How meaningful to know we share this experience with believers all over the world and throughout time, marking our union with all who share in the hope we have in Christ.

            “We taste Thee, O Thou living bread; And long to feast upon Thee still; We drink of Thee, the fountainhead; And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.” (hymn “Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts,” Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th century)  

            What are some ways you can prepare to remember Christ through communion this week? Times of silence and listening; confession and repentance; a sacred concert; a Tennebrae (dimming of the lights) service; a vigil?

            Robert Benson urges us to never forget the story of God with us. “We are called upon to remember that everything changed after that night. We are called upon to remember Him as we take the Body and Blood…We are called to remember that to do so in this mysterious sacramental act is a call for us to be broken and poured out as well.” 

            Always remember.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

lentfrontLENT began March 1st! CLICK HERE for your Free Printable of “2017 Lent Guide” to use with “Dwelling Places.” 

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!

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

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When No One Sees or Knows … Except God

When No One Sees or Knows… Except God

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

             Today Dieter lives an unseen life.

            But it was not always so. He pioneered one of the first GenX churches in America and was worship pastor at Willowcreek Community Church’s Axis ministry for young adults. For years he was in great demand as a musician, speaker and author. Everyone wanted to listen to him perform and hear what he had to say.

            Then Dieter suffered a major stroke, resulting in a coma.

“Six days later he awoke as a different man. His crippled right hand couldn’t play the piano. He couldn’t sing. He couldn’t even speak – except very slowly and painfully to mumble a stuttering string of unrelated words. Dieter’s stage was gone. The applause he thrived on was gone. The opportunity to use his talents and earn a living were gone. It seemed everything was all gone.”

“Yet, inside Dieter was still the same person. His brilliant and creative mind was completely in tact. He had the same emotions, the same sense of humor, the same wit and eloquence, but he had a bungling mouth. It tired people out trying to understand him. One by one they went away. Isolation set in. He was sealed off from the rest of the world behind the wall that is called aphasia.” (Bill Gaultiere, “A Kingdom of Cardboard and Spoils,”) 

Is our life worth living if most of it is unseen?

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal2 Corinthians 4.18 NIV

            Today Dieter Zander works in a back room at Trader Joe’s and breaks down cardboard boxes. He also sorts through the shopping carts marked “spoils” and salvages food to deliver to the Salvation Army. “It will feed the hungry, who won’t care at all that their apple is lopsided, that their hamburger is in the waning stage of freshness. They don’t care how it looks. They just want to eat.” Dieter reflects, “I understand the spoils. I can relate. I used to be packaged as perfect. But now I am recycled Dieter.”

            In his private world of aphasia, Dieter heard the voice of God and felt His comfort, peace and even laughter. Robert Murray McCheyne once said, When the heart is at rest in Jesus — unseen, unheard by the world — the Spirit comes, and softly fills the believing soul, quickening all, renewing all within.”

            What things unseen are important in your own life today — prayers, kindnesses, serving, giving, listening, sacrificing? Will you invest in such things, knowing that no one will know, except God?

            Dieter has indeed changed.  Of his unseen life, Dieter is finally able to talk after years of therapy, “God was my boss. God is my friend now. Years ago, everything is dead. But now, my stroke is good to me and I am happy. I talk to God every day. I say, ‘Thank you, I am alive again.’” 

            Can we say the same?

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

lentfrontLENT began March 1st! CLICK HERE for your Free Printable of “2017 Lent Guide” to use with “Dwelling Places.” 

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!

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

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Are You 6 Months Away from a Dream?

Are You 6 Months Away from a Dream?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

You could be six months out from a dream come true!

A time to reNEW your vision and passion for sharing your Story!

Gathering here in New England amongst the beautiful autumn leaves with other creative souls who are passionate about sharing Words with the World.

  • Written Words that teach, encourage, lift, inspire and tell stories that change lives.
  • Spoken Words that connect, reveal, challenge, and weave amazing truth from ordinary life situations.

If you are a Word person (written, spoken, or a little of both) we Invite You to reNEW – retreat for New England Writing.

6 months from NOWOctober 6-8 we are gathering at Holy Family Retreat Center – 48 beautiful acres near Hartford CT – and living in community while we hear from some of the very best faculty on both writing and speaking. Our faculty is not chosen merely based on their expertise or their awards (although those are in abundance). They are all people who come for the weekend to interact with you for encouragement, support, prayer and sharing stories of a life of God’s faithfulness. (Find out more about Carol Kent, Christa Parrish, Lori Roeleveld, Christa Hutchins, Tessa Afshar, Rachel Britton and Lucinda Secrest McDowell on our website www.reNEWwriting.com)

Yes, we WRITE (you will have your own dedicated desk 24/7 and can work as you choose – everyone also has a single room with a desk), we EAT (all meals provided), we LEARN (many plenary and workshops to choose from based on your interests), we FELLOWSHIP (great place for walks, cozy couches for conversation), we WORSHIP (prayer gatherings as well as our closing Sunday communion service in the chapel) and we CONNECT on so many levels. You will definitely leave with some New Best Friends.

reNEW 2016 Book Celebration Authors (we are Serious about writing…)

The atmosphere is low key and accepting. There is no rushing for signup sheets, no people to impress, just all of us sitting at the foot of the cross looking to Jesus in response to His call.

Remember, this is a retreat, not a conference. We are from many backgrounds and at different places on our journey. This is what makes Life Interesting! Our first plenary kickoff is a Book Celebration of recent publications by those in our community – interviews with these authors are a great way to get fired up!

  • What is holding you back? Perhaps you aren’t sure you will ‘fit in’ since you haven’t yet published a book.
  • Perhaps you wonder if you are indeed called to be a speaker since invitations aren’t pouring in.
  • Others of you are seasoned and wonder if this investment will re-invigorate you or discourage you.

Listen! There is something here for us all. Because our God is a God of renewal – He takes the weary, the confused, the unprepared, and He clearly guides and provides for all He wishes to do through us.

Sometimes you just have to come.

So, please pray about reNEW – retreat for New England Writing. Visit our website and check out the schedule and the faculty. Contact co-directors Lucinda and/or Rachel —  info@reNEWwriting.com — we are quite different (Rachel speaks British and lives in New York City, Lucinda speaks Southern and lives in Hartford CT) with a combination of many unique experiences in this field and would love to chat with you.

Pray, but then Plan by reserving your spot. We intentionally keep reNEW small so space is limited. The cost increases on June 1st. 

Six months will pass in a flash, I assure you. What a great event to look forward to as the air becomes crisp and God’s palette of color paints the countryside. Last year we had participants from 15 different states, so many like to add a holiday on to the front or back end of the retreat. And quite a few arrive at Holy Family one night early to settle in and gather their thoughts together. That’s one reason we are scheduling during Columbus Day weekend.

Are YOU six months out from a dream come true!

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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!

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

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Do You Need a New Heart?

Do You Need a New Heart?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

                       John and Charles desperately needed a change of heart.

We may know the Wesleys today as ‘spiritual giants’ who wrote hundreds of hymns. But they weren’t always faith-filled followers of Christ. Just like you and me, sometimes they faltered…

Yet these were the very two brothers who had formed the Holy Club while in school – covenanting to live disciplined Christian lives of serious Bible study, prayer, fasting and charitable works.  They had grown up in a strong Christian family and served in church leadership.

Still, it wasn’t enough.

They longed for more assurance of God’s love and grace.

Desiring to be used by Him, John and Charles even sailed to the colony of Georgia with General Oglethorpe. John served as a military chaplain and Charles secretary to the governor. But their strict legalism made them view the natives as savage thieves, liars and murderers. And there was opposition from the other white colonists who resented their rigid high churchmanship and many prohibitions.

The Wesley brothers returned home to England totally disillusioned. John even wrote, “I went to America to convert the Indians; but, oh, what shall convert me?” 

Have you ever found yourself going through the motions? Checking off a list of spiritual activity and involvement, but discovering no joy in the process? Doing all the ‘right things’ but for all the wrong reasons?

Perhaps you, too, need a change of heart.

God promises I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one.” Ezekiel 36:26  All you have to do is turn to Him and ask.

That’s just what Charles and John Wesley did back in 1737 after they returned from America. They had witnessed a vibrant faith in a group of Moravians who spoke of the assurance of salvation that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus.

Then on Sunday, May 21, 1738 Charles had a spiritual experience that enabled him to be justified by faith. He wrote in his journal that the Spirit of God “chased away the darkness of my unbelief.”

And then he went on to write more than seven thousand hymns reflecting his new heart, beginning with this one “No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine; Alive in Him, my living Head, And clothed in righteousness divine, Bold I approach the eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own. Bold I approach the eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own.” (hymn “And Can It Be,” Charles Wesley, 1738) 

A mere three days later, his brother John had what he called his own “heartwarming” experience. On May 24, 1738 he journaled, “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans… While he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.” He ran to his brother and declared, ‘I believe!’ They prayed together and embarked on a very full life of international spiritual influence to this day. 

God is in the business of fanning the flame of cold hearts. If you are in need of a “heartwarming,” just ask. And He will replace yours too.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

lentfrontLENT began March 1st! CLICK HERE for your Free Printable of “2017 Lent Guide” to use with “Dwelling Places.” 

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!

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

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For Those Days When You Feel Empty…

On Those Days When You Feel Empty…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

  • I’m poured out like water.  
  • All my bones have fallen apart. 
  • My heart is like wax; it melts inside me.  
  • My strength is dried up like a piece of broken pottery. Psalm 22.14-15

Have you ever experienced a “dark night of the soul?”

This term, first mentioned by 16th century St. John of the Cross, has come to mean a season when one senses the total absence of God. Our prayers lack feeling and imagination. No insights carry us through the day; no sense of the holy emerges. It is an experience of dryness, darkness and emptiness.

And it can come to anyone. Even a saint.

A few years ago the world was shocked to learn, through the publication of her private letters, that Mother Teresa of Calcutta experienced a dark night of the soul, which tormented her even in the midst of her amazing ministry to the poorest of the poor. Over time, a spiritual adviser helped Teresa realize that her feelings of abandonment only increased her understanding of the people she helped. Ultimately, she identified her suffering with that of Jesus, which helped her to accept it.”

            The psalmist in today’s verse is experiencing deep emotional and spiritual trauma which manifests itself in his body as well, All my bones have fallen apart.” One cannot read very far in Psalm 22 without realizing that these are the prophetic words of Christ’s experience on the cross. No other Old Testament passage provides such a full picture of His suffering, beginning in dark anguish and ending in soaring hope.

But even when Jesus experienced a life “poured out like water,” His passion was still to do the will of His Father, no matter how much it hurt, for the greater glory that would come.

If you are suffering, God is still at work in your life. In your soul.

My friend Cecil knows about dark nights: “For Christians, those dark times may be a time for us to look deeply within ourselves and to examine our hearts. They may push us to overcome our complacency or to become aware of our dependency on God, or make us yearn for an even deeper commitment. Because of my period of darkness, I’ve come to realize that whether I sense the divine presence or I don’t, it doesn’t say anything about the Lord. When we’ve examined our hearts and believe we’re as close to God as we know how to be, yet we have no sense of His presence, it may mean God is at our side, silently watching over us and always caring for us.” (Cecil Murphey, “Knowing God, Knowing Myself,”)

How do we find our way back into the joy of God’s presence?

“What do we do in the dark night? We do nothing,” suggests John Ortberg.  “We wait. We remember that we are not God. We hold on. We ask for help. We do less. We resign from things, we rest more, we stop going to church, we ask somebody else to pray because we can’t. We let go of our need to hurry through it. You can’t run in the dark.” (John Ortberg, “Soul Keeping,”)

Friend, if these words in our Lenten devotion today resonate deep within your soul, may I assure you that God knows. He is with you and will never forsake you. And I am spending time in prayer this week for all who feel utterly poured out….

“Holy Spirit, Light divine,

shine upon this heart of mine;

Chase the shades of night away,

Turn my darkness into day.”

(hymn “Holy Spirit, Light Divine,”Andrew Reed, 1817)

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

lentfrontLENT began March 1st! CLICK HERE for your Free Printable of “2017 Lent Guide” to use with “Dwelling Places.” 

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!

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

 

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Who Holds You Tight?

Who Holds You Tight?

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 always wanted to be a trapeze artist.

Having become great friends with The Flying Rodleighs, Henri Nouwen enjoyed their performances around Europe. “As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher,” Rodleigh told him. “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.”

Fascinated, Henri 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 catch us – and hold tight.

We do nothing, except reach out. He does everything.

“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?

I love nothing better than to hold my precious grandgirl in my arms. Unless it’s to hold her and read her a book. Such as “The Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown. Written in 1942, it’s a classic for children of any age.

Of course the little bunny, like many of us, 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.” (Margaret Wise Brown, “The Runaway Bunny”)

Where can you go from His presence?

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

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

lentfrontLENT began March 1st! CLICK HERE for your Free Printable of “2017 Lent Guide” to use with “Dwelling Places.” 

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!

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

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