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, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)      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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

Advertisements
Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

When Your Family is “Complicated”

 When Your Family is “Complicated” 

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Let’s face it. Great Uncle Horace is not going to change this year.

He will still be obnoxious, drink too much, bring totally inappropriate gifts and end up snoring in the recliner during the family Christmas gathering. Yes, he’s a piece of work.

But he’s your family’s piece of work!

Ahhh…. extended families during the holidays. Can someone say, “It’s complicated?”

Even if we didn’t have all the drama with in-laws and outlaws and custody and visitation, we would still find ourselves with a living room full of people with varied views on everything from religion to sports to politics to parenting and even the traditional menu for the holiday meal.

Don’t dread it. And don’t skip it. Embrace the mix! Do what the apostle Paul encouraged If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12.18 

Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Matthew 5.9  Unfortunately, our world is more than ever defined by our many conflicts.  

But my friend Jennifer Kennedy Dean in “Pursuing the Christ” brings the focus in tighter to our personal worlds. “Little arguments, petty responses later regretted, disagreements blown out of proportion, and hurt feelings, nurtured and fed, occur in abundance. Let peace begin with me… The focus is on what I can do to be an instrument of [Jesus’] peace.” 

The Bible promises that the “dawn from heaven will break upon us… to guide us on the path of peace.” Luke 1.78-79 In following that pathway, let’s offer acceptance and grace.

C.S. Lewis once commented that there are two kinds of love: “We love wise and kind and beautiful people because we need them, but we love (or try to love) stupid and disagreeable people because they need us. This second kind is the more divine because that is how God loves us: not because we are loveable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but He delights to give.”

Love. Peace. It’s all been given to us.

Will you return the favor this season?

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  adapted from Dwelling Places (Abingdon Press)      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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

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, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  adapted from Dwelling Places (Abingdon Press)      www.EncouragingWords.net 

My book Dwelling Places has an entire section “SHINE” devoted to the 30 days of December. One word a day in this Season of Waiting. Order yours now! ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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

But What If You Don’t Feel Thankful?

But What If You Don’t Feel Thankful?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Perhaps you aren’t feeling very thankful this week.

The world is a scary place. The losses have piled up one after another — health, relationships, financial security, dreams — and you really wish everyone would just quit asking you to list your one thousand gifts…

 

Some people call this holiday “Turkey Day” but that would be limiting. It is called Thanksgiving to prompt us to dig deep enough to find something which offers hope and promise.

To say Thank You. Even if we don’t feel thankful.

When I am in these hard places, I find it helpful to focus my soul on these two things: 

  1. Remember that GOD is the One we thank.

G.K. Chesterton once famously wrote, “The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank.” To whom are you thankful today? 

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.” (1 Chronicles 29:13) This verse reminds us that God is the one we praise. We thank Him because He loves us more than we can possibly imagine. He has our back. Knowing that we are created, loved and sustained by a merciful and gracious God is the ultimate reason for giving thanks.

  1. Make a CHOICE to live in Gratitude, no matter what.

So, I can either complain and whine about the direction life has taken me— the detour in the road, the closed door, the seemingly impossible challenge — or I can believe that nothing is too hard for God-with-us (that is Emmanuel, one of the names of Jesus).

Maybe your situation is darker this year than last, but if you know God as the Great Provider, you can choose to declare: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3.17-18)

thankfullist1965I’m grateful for parents who taught me early on that Thanksgiving is actually a way of life. Recently I discovered a small piece of paper with a long childhood list — my ‘ticket’ to Thanksgiving dinner. I was startled to count 70 different things on this thankful list —  in categories, no less! If I could write that many at age twelve, just think of all I can thank Him for today after so much more life and blessing.

What is ONE THING you can Thank God for today?

Even in the pain, even in the loneliness, even in the uncertainty. Now breathe it out or write it out. Good for you.

Heavenly Father, I thank you. Most of all for loving me, for being my Savior and my Lord. But also for the many blessings you have showered upon my life. Every good gift is from you and I will declare my gratitude by living with a thankful heart. Not just on this holiday, but always. Amen. 

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell       www.EncouragingWords.net 

holidayfp4hThis Devotional appears in “A Joy-Full Season” Holiday Wellness Study from my good friends at First Place 4 Health. Want to Stay Healthy during the upcoming holidays? Order your copy HERE NOW! (I am grateful to be a contributing author of several devotionals in it – there are lots more from fabulous people!)

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

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 as you choose to do it, it will enrich your life, bubbling over to all those you encounter.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)      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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

That Thing We Can All Do… for Our Country

That Thing We Can All Do… for Our Country

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Please don’t complain about the condition of our country, our government and our elected officials…

If you don’t vote.

It’s too easy to become complacent. We never lived during the time when only white male property owners were allowed to have a voice in the running of this country. But thankfully, brave men and women opened the doors for us all. Will we walk through them?

The women’s suffrage movement took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win the vote, and their campaign was wrought with much conflict. But on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified, enfranchising all American women and declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Your vote and mine do make a difference. Martin Luther King, Jr. admonished us to “never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us.  The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressman and government officials, but the voters of this country.”

As citizens, voting is our right and privilege. As believers, we have a biblical precedent to “Choose for each of your tribes individuals who are wise, discerning, and reputable to be your leaders.” Deuteronomy 1.13 

But in today’s climate, it can be easy to feel that our vote doesn’t really matter.

Did you know that only one person’s vote in 1776 resulted in the United States choosing English as our language instead of German?

Or that in 1923, only one vote gave Adolf Hitler leadership of the Nazi Party.

Our flag would only have 46 stars if one extra person in California, Washington, Oregon and Texas hadn’t voted for statehood. (Frankly I can’t even imagine a country without those significant states!). In 1876 Rutherford B. Hayes beat Samuel J. Tilden for 19th president of the United States by one vote.  Only time will reveal the difference our votes made in a lifetime.

Perhaps you did vote. But your candidate was not the one elected. This time. Will you despair or will you hold fast to these three truths?

  1. God is still sovereign. He is not wringing His hands over this latest election. He is in control.  God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. Psalm 47.8       Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! 2 Chronicles 20.6 
  1. We are called to pray regularly for our leaders and our country. Prayer is powerful.       The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.1 Timothy 2.1-3 
  1. God offers a purpose and a hope for us now and for generations in the years to come.     I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ Isaiah 46.10     How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation. Daniel 4.3    

One day when your children ask you about this time in history, be sure you tell them that you made a deliberate choice to exercise your right to vote. 

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.EncouragingWords.net 

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

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

 

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 Novenber 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, Lucinda

Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces  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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

How WORDS Can Change a Life

How WORDS Can Change a Life

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

The year I was twenty-nine (serving as missions pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian in California’s Silicon Valley) a small band of fellow pilgrims and I discovered a new book called “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” by Eugene Peterson. We gathered weekly in my little parsonage to read and discuss its implications on our (very young) lives. Over time, our perspectives were challenged and our souls were knit together in pursuit of all God would call us to (and away from) in the years ahead…

As I peruse that well-worn volume today (with underlining on almost every page) I realize that Eugene Peterson’s words quite literally changed my life.

And this was even before he wrote The Message Bible!

Today I read the New York Times Obituary of this remarkable servant of God. And I am in awe of the power of words…

Originating from God, filtered down through the Holy Spirit, processed amidst the ordinary and splendor of our daily lives, and then (often through nothing more than obedience and sweat) typed or written or spoken with the presumptive hope of redemption, reconciliation, or restoration towards a broken world. WORDS.

In honor of his life, on today’s Encouraging Words blog I’d like to share some of my favorite words from Eugene Peterson, and perhaps they will become yours as well…

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

“It is this ‘long obedience in the same direction’ which the mood of the world does so much to discourage. In going against the stream of the world’s ways there are two biblical designations for people of faith that are extremely useful: disciple and pilgrim. Disciple (mathetes) says we are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master, Jesus Christ. We are in a growing-learning relationship, always. Pilgrim (parepidemos) tells us we are people who spend our lives going someplace, going to God, and whose path for getting there is the way, Jesus Christ.” ― Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

“And yet I decide, every day, to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do very clumsily–open myself to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride.” 
― Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

On Soul Care, Eugene Peterson notes that the primary sense of cura in Latin is “care,” with undertones of “cure.”          “The soul is the essence of the human personality. The cure of souls, then, is the Scripture-directed, prayer-shaped care that is devoted to persons singly or in groups, in settings sacred and profane. It is… a way of life that uses weekday tasks, encounters, and situations as the raw material for teaching prayer, developing faith, and preparing for a good death… It is also a term that identifies us with our ancestors and colleagues in ministry, lay and clerical, who are convinced that a life of prayer is the connective tissue between holy day proclamation and weekday discipleship.”     – Eugene Peterson in “Curing Souls, the Forgotten Art,” Christianity Today 1983

“Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless.” 1 Peter 3.8-9 MSG

Stories:         “There are no shortcuts in growing up. The path to maturity is long and arduous. Hurry is no virtue. There is no secret formula squirreled away that will make it easier or quicker. But stories help.” 
― Eugene H. Peterson, Practice Resurrection 

“When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight.” Mark 4:10-12 MSG

 “When we submit our lives to what we read in scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.” 
― Eugene Peterson Eat This Book – A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading

God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. When I got my act together he gave me a fresh start. Now I’m alert to God’s ways; I don’t take God for granted. Every day I review the ways he works; I try not to miss a trick. I feel put back together, and I’m watching my step. God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.” Psalm 18.20-24 MSG

Grab the promised Hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God, where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent position as high priest for us.” Hebrews 6.18-20 MSG

Hoping does not mean doing nothing… It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying. And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident alert expectation that God will do what He said he will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith. It is a willingness to let him do it his way and in his time. It is the opposite of making plans that we demand that God put into effect, telling him both how and when to do it.”
― Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

My Own Life Verse:        “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.” Isaiah 58:9-12 MSG

Receive this Prayer in closing:       “I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:14-21 MSG

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.EncouragingWords.net 

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

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

Posted in 1 | 2 Comments

5 Tips for When You are Discouraged in Your Calling

5 Tips for When You are Discouraged in Your Calling

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

(Note: Last weekend I was privileged to be part of an incredible “reNEW – retreat for New England Writing” but I know that after the high of community, worship and inspiration, many can find ourselves back at home staring at the wall. If you are discouraged about your life in any way — not just writing–  perhaps these tips can be tailored to your own situation. I’m praying for all of you who read this blog.)

You got excited. Inspired to write. Motivated to minister. Challenged to pursue dreams.

And, for a while there – surrounded by kindred spirits cheering you on – you could almost taste the success. A book published. A conference keynote scheduled. A popular blog.

But now. Now you live in reality. Of words that won’t come. At least not in the right order. Of emails that say your social media numbers aren’t high enough. Of family and friends who still treat your holy calling as a mere hobby.

Today discouragement is your new companion.

What’s a writer to do?  (feel free to tailor these tips to your own unique calling)

  1. Reflect and Review. Ask yourself the hard questions: Why am I writing? What is my unique message? When and how did I confirm God’s calling to share my story? Who are those who have encouraged and challenged me to do this – and what did they say? What scripture has spoken directly to me as I have sought to pursue writing and speaking? Which biblical character do I most identify with on this journey and what can I learn from them? Then take it all to your heavenly Father in prayer. Pray with surrender and supplication for guidance and provision. Be quiet and ask for peace deep in your soul over all things in the publishing industry which are causing fear, hesitation or confusion. God will meet you where you are. Open your hands. To both release and to receive. 
  2. Plan Strategically. What is your first step? An outline? A strategic blog? Chances are you have already begun to write and even gotten quite far along this path so far (submission to potential agents or editors, etc.) Still, it helps to write down the steps necessary to reach your goal. In doing so, you may just be reminded of something or someone you neglected to contact. Perhaps that writers conference workshop recording you haven’t listened to yet. Set realistic goals for each week of this fall and do your best to reach them.
  3. Reach Out. No matter how engaged you are with readers (or potential readers and audience) you could always use more “friends and followers” right? This is just part of how our world operates today. It won’t help to bemoan the process of platform building. Think of it this way – an opportunity to get your vitally important message out to hurting people who need to hear Good News! So yes, you are going to have to reach out and “invite” people to “like” you. Yes, you will need to spend time online (when, I suspect, you would far rather be writing) engaging with others in the field. Just do it. 
  4. Gather. Writing is such a solitary profession that it is vital you make time to gather with others for learning, prayer and iron-sharpening-iron growth. Are you in a local writers’ group? Even if you can’t find someone geographically nearby, there are online groups. And I highly suggest making it a priority to attend a Writers Event every year if possible. There you will meet other like-minded creative souls just like you. They understand. They know what it takes and will encourage and pray for you. 
  5. Do the Next Thing. I hope the first four tips haven’t come across as demands, but more of suggestions. As always, I am writing this blog to myself first. Reminders of what I already know after a lifetime of writing and speaking. And yes, a lifetime of occasional times of discouragement in both areas. Still, I cannot tell YOU what God is asking of you at this moment. He may be saying “lay it down” for a season. He may be “kicking you in the pants” and urging courage and risk. But I do believe that as you and I make all our concerns a matter of prayer, God will guide us to the next thing. Spend some time listening and you will know what your Next Thing is. Then, by faith and in obedience, do it. God will then give you another next thing…

“Be strong and courageous and get to work. Don’t be frightened by the size of the task, for the Lord my God is with you; he will not forsake you. He will see to it that everything is finished correctly.” 1 Chronicles 28.20 

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.EncouragingWords.net 

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

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

 

 

Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

When You’re in the Path of Destruction

When You’re in the Path of Destruction

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Is anyone else out there struggling with compassion fatigue?

As the death toll climbed into the thousands in Indonesia last week I could hardly wrap the tragedy around my heart. And the most recent hurricanes have threatened and destroyed vast areas where I grew up in both the Carolinas and south Georgia/north Florida. 

Some people lost everything.

What do we do with all these feelings of sorrow and helplessness? Well, of course, there will emerge tangible ways to actually donate or help in rebuilding and relief, and we must be proactive and generous. But meanwhile… I do the one thing I know how – I pray for all those suffering. And I suspect you are doing the same. 

Please feel free to Share this Prayer with those who need it most. 

A Liturgy for those who Suffer Loss from Fire, Flood or Storm

Leader: (reads regular font) O Christ in Whom Our Lives are Hidden

People: (read boldface font) fix now our hope in that which alone might sustain it.

O Christ in Whom Our Treasures are Secure, fix now our hope in You. In light of all that was so suddenly lost, O Lord, in light of all we had gathered but could not keep, comfort us.

Our nerves are frayed, O God. Our sense of place and permanence is shaken, so be to us a foundation.

We were shaped by this place, and by the living of our lives in it, by conversations and labors and studies, by meals prepared and shared, by love incarnated in a thousand small actions that became as permanent a part of this structure as any nail or wire or plank of wood. Our home was like a handprint of heaven. It was our haven, and now we are displaced, and faced with the task of great labors – not to move forward in this life, but merely to rebuild and restore what has been lost.

Have mercy, Lord Christ.

What we have lost here, are the artifacts of our journey in this world, the very things that reminded us of your grace expressed in love and friendship, and in shared experience. It is for these reasons we grieve the loss of our home and its contents – we grieve them for what they had come to signify in our stories, for they were charged with such meaning and memory, and woven with so much that is eternal.

O Father, we have suffered a hard loss, and one that we cannot endure alone. May we emerge in the months to come – even in our frailty – stronger than before, more deeply rooted in you, and more wrapped in the necessary arms of community. Give us humility to receive that which we need and cannot repay, when it is offered by others.

We thank you for the presence of friends who would share this burden of grief simply by showing up in the midst of it, and grieving with us. We thank you for small mercies and kindnesses extended. For the grace of thoughtfulness translated into the tiny details of life. For beauty. O Lord, let us not lose sight in our grief, of all that is yet bursting with beauty in this world.

Indeed, for anything spared and salvaged, we give you thanks. Let us see that even in disaster, there is grace still at work, for you know the limits of our hearts. Be with us now as we sift and clean, as we slog merely to reclaim some fraction of that which we once took for granted. Be with us as we navigate the countless details that must be tended and decisions that must be made between now and the time that we begin to feel normal again.

We do not even know yet today the full measure of what we have lost. Today is for mourning. So let us grieve together as those who know the world is broken, but who yet hold hope of its restoration.

Comfort us, O Lord, in the wake of what has overtaken us. Shield us, O Lord, from the hurts we cannot bear. Shelter us, O Lord, in the fortress of your love. Shepherd us, O Lord, as we wake each new morning, faced with the burdens of a hard pilgrimage we would not have chosen. But as this is now our path, let us walk it in faith, and let us walk it bravely, knowing that you always go before us. Amen.

©2017 “Every Moment Holy” Douglas McKelvey (Rabbit Room Press) ~ shared by Lucinda Secrest McDowell www.EncouragingWords.net

 Personal Note: Thank you to my readers for your constant prayers for my husband Michael in his recent brain surgery. He is now home and recuperating with the expert aid of visiting nurses, therapists, wife, son and brother. We are full of gratitude and hope… I promise to write a real blog next week.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.EncouragingWords.net 

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

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

 

Posted in 1 | 5 Comments