When God Whispered to Me in January

When God Whispered to Me in January

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

 Mine was the last plane out before the snowstorm hit New England. Escaping to a warmer clime for a “desperate respite” thanks to the gracious hospitality of friends.

            Long days beside the wind and waves quieted my soul (and my weary, throbbing brain) to a place where I could actually hear God’s whisper.

            No schedule. No online presence. No books to read… or write. No makeup. No jewelry. No music (except the hymns that occasionally burst forth from a heart of praise as I walked and basked in God’s beauty.)

            Oswald Chambers once observed that “the voice of the Spirit is as gentle as a zephyr. So gentle that unless you are living in perfect communion with God, you never hear it.”

             I want to hear this Voice. And be sure the words are from God and not me.  “The checks of the Spirit come in the most extraordinarily gentle ways, and if you are not sensitive enough to detect His voice you will quench it, and your personal spiritual life will be impaired. His checks always come as a still small voice, so small that no one but the saint notices them.” (from “My Utmost for His Highest”)

            For many of us it takes time and deliberate withdrawal to come to a place where we can fully receive God’s marching orders for a new season. And so, holy men retreat to the desert. And I go to the beach. In the dead of winter.

            A month when the wind is fierce and loud, the waves pound upon the shore as if to rhythmically remind me of my Creator’s power and presence.

            It’s not terribly peaceful, but in fact, more stirring. Reflecting my own inner stirrings and desire to be released with fresh power of my own for whatever may be ahead.

            For days and days I watched the tall palm trees (all that stands between me and the ocean) buffeted by the force of nature. At times they bent so far that I feared a break was imminent. But no. As I look out today they stand straight and strong. Steadfast.

            A month ago I chose “Steadfast” as my word-for-the-year and began asking God to show me why. And how. Today, gazing at the palms, I recall other words associated with ‘steadfast’ – established, immoveable, persevering, wholehearted, firm, faithful, resolute.

            The kind of person I long to be. Especially this year.

            At its core, my identity has always been “God’s Beloved.” But I believe it is time to add to that– “Seasoned Mentor.” Dare I hope even “Steadfast Seasoned Mentor?”

            Because this is what God’s whisper revealed so clearly when I was finally able to settle down long enough to receive it:

            My Beloved, Lucinda, this is a season to share the story of what you have learned through My presence, power and provision. How letting go of grasping helped you receive the gift of grace; how healing in your brokenness refined your view of scars as beautiful. How filling up with more of Me allowed you to freely pour out for others in strength and service.

            Tell them. Show them. Point out that there are always more options than the ones loudly appearing front and center. That one must go deeper — sometimes bending quite low —  to discover My Best. Warn them that it will take great courage and faith to make wise choices, so they must live boldly. With Me.

            Stand steadfast in your belief that what you have based your entire life on is true. Essential. Learn how to live simply. Focus. Persevere, even if you are ignored as irrelevant.

Steadfast (“hypomoneo”) means abiding whilst in the midst of adversity. You have already learned the hard lesson of dwelling deep; now do it. Begin at home. Then allow Me to open other doors.

Fling grace widely, everywhere you go — just as Miss Rumphius did with lupine seeds! (And yes, some folks called her a crazy old lady.)

This will be a sweet season, daughter. Don’t worry about legacy, just love. Serve.

I am here. Always have been. Always will be. Because you are Mine. Beloved.

            I carefully pack up these precious words along with my sandals and jeans for the trip back to my real life. To the noisy and needy. The immediate and important. The clutter and the cold. But I am fortified and steadfast. And not alone.

            In God’s whisper I heard several intimate messages that I hold close in my heart. But those whispers also confirmed why I am here for others:

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

under the mercy, Lucinda

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://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” or “Dwelling Places” HERE for under $10 each!

 

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This Lent Will Be Less… and More

This Lent Will Be Less… and More

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

            Today is “St. Valentine’s Day” and we celebrate Love. But I’m reminded of the ultimate Love Story:

            “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends… I have called you friends.” (Jesus speaking in John 15)

            We are loved. So much. But Jesus’ words also hint at sacrifice.

Because today is also “Ash Wednesday” – a day to remember sacrificial love. Many of us will begin our journey through the holy season of Lent – which comes from the old Saxon word meaning ‘lengthening of days.’

            Even as the cold, wintry days are gradually lengthening, so are our souls moving from winter into the spring of new life and hope. This practice of a 40-day preparation began in the 3rd century and is a great way to seek God, culminating in the grand celebration on Resurrection Sunday – Easter (April 1, 2018)!

            Often believers will use these forty days to outwardly fast from something in order to focus more on their inner faith journey. Less of ___________________ and more of Jesus.

            In my ongoing effort to simplify various areas of my life, I have chosen during Lent to fast from buying stuff, except for food. (Can you hear my hubby loudly singing the Hallelujah Chorus?) 

            Even though I don’t have a lot of money, I somehow manage to find plenty of ways to spend it on little gifts for others, clothes, accessories, home décor, stationery, books, or the latest gadget designed to simplify my life. How ironic is that?

            Too often this “stuff” represents my feeble attempts to fill the empty spaces. 

            No more. No spending that way. In fact, instead of collecting I hope to be (re)distributing much of the stuff I already have. After all, “Your home is a living space, not a storage space.” (from “The Joy of Less”)

             I’ll let you know where and how this frees me up to focus elsewhere…

                Do you truly want More of Jesus? If so, why not use these forty days before Easter as a process in which you draw near and go deep? Begin each day with time in God’s Word and prayer.

Note: There is an abundance of wonderful Lenten devotionals available in book form and online. In fact, my own “Dwelling Places” has a 40-day section “Renew” which gives you two pages a day from now through Easter.

                 What do you want Less of? Less stress? Less clutter? Less busyness? Less noise? Less worry? Less drama? Less snow and ice (sorry, but I live in New England and it just came out…)? Take these cares and concerns to Jesus today. Open your hands full of the “stuff” and lay them down at the foot of the cross.

              He will pick them up. He will carry your burden. He will give you More.

              Of Him.

“I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” John 10.10

under the mercy, Lucinda

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://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” or “Dwelling Places” HERE for under $10 each!

 

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How to Purge a Full Closet

How to Purge a Full Closet

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

To be honest, it’s not only time – it’s past time.

To clean my closet. Actually, to purge my closet. It’s not a walk-in, but a 1940’s cubicle back when wardrobes were simpler. And less. Perhaps a better way to live…

            I have done this before. Seasonally. Well, at least once a year. But sadly, no matter how many black garbage bags are hauled out for trash or donation, the remaining garments always seem to multiply.

            “Hello, my name is Lucinda. And I have too many clothes – way too many.” In my defense, they cover a range of sizes and seasons, options and occasions. Just in case….

            But that day rarely comes. And Honey, I’ve got better things to do than spend time trying to decide what to wear!

            This year is a season of Simplicity for me. Both inside and out. And so I decided to begin with a radical outward step, remembering that “Simplification of outward life is not enough. It is merely the outside. The complete answer is not to be found on the outside, in an outward mode of living. This is only a technique, a road to grace. The final answer, I know, is always inside. But the outside can give a clue, can help one to find the inside answer.” (Anne Morrow Lindbergh in “Gift from the Sea” 1955)

 As I was contemplating all things simpler, I learned a new (to me) term: “capsule wardrobe.” According to one lifestyle blogger this is “a mini wardrobe made up of really versatile pieces that you totally love to wear.” The way it works is that each season you clear your closet except for a set number of pieces; they suggested 37. Doing this clears up more time, money and energy for things that really matter.

            Sounds good to me. So on a recent holiday (away from my closet) I made a list of 37 items I need during the winter season here in Connecticut. Then the theoretical became reality this past Saturday. A harsh reality. But I survived it … and you can too, if you like.

            Here’s how to purge a full closet:

  1. Pick a day off and forbid hubby to enter the bedroom all day.
  2. Purchase a box of large black garbage bags.
  3. Empty your entire closet on the bed.  Note blog title photo here.
  4. Move each item into one of these 4 piles:
  • Keep – because you love it or it’s a staple
  • Maybe – saving for its proper season or can’t decide yet (limit to only 1 bag)
  • Donate – so someone else can enjoy
  • Trash– if beyond repair or need
  1. Review your Keep How many items? If more than 37 (or whatever number you chose) move more clothes into the Maybe, Donate or Trash piles.

Try on everything with a critical eye. Combine into outfits for different occasions. For instance, I need a variety of pieces that work for speaking on stage, teaching high school, and playing with my grands. Here in New England boots are also necessary for snow and ice. Keep in mind your location and vocation.

            When the final step comes – putting it all back into the tiny closet – I am AMAZED. And a bit anxious. Can I really make this work?

            I want to make this work.

            Since I’m a novice at this whole simplifying-your-wardrobe thing, allow me to share Courtney’s valuable lessons from dressing with less since 2010:

  • I need way less than I think to be happy.
  • No one cares what I’m wearing.
  • Deciding what to wear requires mental energy better spent on other things.
  • A simple closet is the gateway to a simple life.
  • Simplicity is the way back to love. Imagine what would happen if you invested most of the time, money, and energy you spend on your clothes on the person underneath them. (“Soulful Simplicity” 2018)

I’m on my way. Will you join me?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow He will certainly care for you.” (Matthew 6.28-30)

under the mercy, Lucinda

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://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” or “Dwelling Places” HERE for under $10 each!

 

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Choosing a Quiet January

Choosing a Quiet January

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

2018. Wow.

I greet this New Year with mixed emotions. For this baby-boomer growing up in mid-century America, my first response is incredulity –- 

“How did it get to be 2018 already?” 

Quickly followed by my second response,  “How utterly Faithful and True my God has been over the past many years!”  Which is a Good Thing, since the year ahead will most certainly offer numerous occasions to cry out to Him – seeking His wisdom, protection, power and provision. 

I experience many more responses as I turn the page to January 2018 but for now, I will simply “ponder” those in my heart.

After a full holiday season, I am going to go into a Quiet Space for the month of January. I won’t be interacting on social media or posting blogs or sharing memes. I am going to be still and listen to God’s Whisper on my life. As a new and significant year for me begins I am going to wait in wonder for instructions and guidance. I will unplug from technology and plug in to a very few people, sanctuary places and intentional prayerfulness. 

“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.” (from “Invitation to Solitude and Silence” by Ruth Haley Barton)

I also plan to marinate in my word for the year 2018 – STEADFAST

  • Reveling in God’s STEADFAST LOVE (hesed adonai) for me The steadfast love of the Lord never changes, His mercies never come to an end…”  Lamentations 3.22 
  • Seeking to become more STEADFAST (hypomoneo) “Let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1.4 

Signing off for the month now — praying for both a restorative and revealing time alone as well as moments with family and friends. 

Perhaps you will choose to do the same? Let me know, and thanks for being patient with my reply…

under the mercy, Cindy

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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 a New Devotional “Ordinary Graces” or “Dwelling Places” HERE – Click “BUY” and you can choose to purchase from ANY Online Store.

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Your “Mess” Can Become a “Messiah”

Your “Mess” Can Become a “Messiah”

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

George was a mess. One night in 1741, this bent old man shuffled listlessly down a dark London street. he was starting out on one of the aimless, despondent wanderings that had become a nightly ritual for him. His mind was a battleground between hope based on his past glories and despair based on the future.

George Frederich Handel couldn’t help but think of his roller coaster life…

For forty years he had written stately music for the aristocracy of England and Europe. Kings and queens had showered him with honors. Then court society turned against him, reducing him to poverty and illness. For awhile he experienced a recovery in health and fortune, until his patroness, Queen Caroline, died. As Handel sank deeper into debt, his heart sank deeper into depression.

Trudging into the warmth of his apartment that night, he discovered a package had been delivered– a commission to write a sacred oratorio. He would have preferred writing another opera. That is, until he began to read the words he was asked to set to music… “He was despised and rejected of men;” “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace;” and “I know that my Redeemer Liveth.”

As these words came alive with meaning and purpose, so did Handel. He became consumed with writing and then jumping up and running to the harpsichord. At times he would stride up and down the room flailing the air with his arms and singing at the top of his lungs, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” the tears running down his cheeks.

People thought he was going mad. For twenty-four days he labored like a fiend with little rest or food. Then he fell on his bed exhausted, with his new score, “Messiah,” laying on his desk. At the very first performance of “Messiah,” the King and Queen attended and spontaneously stood in reverence when the “Hallelujah Chorus” began. That custom has continued to this day.

Handel never again succumbed to despair. Age sapped his vitality, he went blind, but his undaunted spirit remained to the last. “Until us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” became words that gave him new life.

And through his oratorio, George Frederich Handel lit a torch that still shines.

This Child whom we celebrate during Christmas has great power to rescue those who are at the end of their rope – “messes” like you and me.  To offer a lifeline which restores purpose and passion to a discouraged soul. To anoint with power so that even the most feeble of humans can make a divine offering back to the Giver.

What will your “Messiah” be this coming year?

  • For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given;
  • And the government will be upon His shoulder.
  • And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor,
  • Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

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!

 

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Guess Who Moved Into the Neighborhood?

Guess Who Moved Into the Neighborhood?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

People were confused, hurting, angry and impatient. They wanted relief. They wanted results. Perhaps what they really wanted was a savior. Someone to solve all the problems in the world and thus make their life easier.

They had already tried just about everything, including following their own instincts, going after whatever would satisfy, even as a temporary fix. But it wasn’t enough. Our way usually isn’t.

After what seemed like silence for more than 400 years, a loving God did a radical thing to reach down into the world he had made and which had subsequently tossed him aside.

He came.

God became incarnate as Jesus Christ, the Son, and entered into our mess, helpless as a baby, unknown and ordinary. “He moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1.14 MSG)

To be among us.

Not over us, spouting truth from on high. But down here where life is gritty and grace is gulped by desperate people wanting to belong. Among. Walking down the dusty streets with beggars and women of the night. Confronting corrupt temple holy men even as the ordinary worshiper became discouraged by church politics.  Making his home in our homes.

Dwelling in our midst and eventually in our very hearts.

This is huge.

That One who is all-powerful and all-knowing would draw close to someone just like you and me. And yet Jesus-among-us is exactly what we celebrate every Christmas. The glory in the manger.

Where is God in your life? Is he still “up there” out of sight, out of reach, impossible to communicate with?

Or do you know him “here?” Christ among you. A breath prayer away from solace and sanctuary.

Invite Him in and stay close. Speak to Him of your concerns and your joys. Ask Him for power when yours gives out. Ask Him for love to share with the unlovely. Rest with your head on His lap and in obedience do hard things that will display His glory to the world.

This is why God sent Jesus.

under the mercy, Cindy

Merry Christmas from the McDowell Family

©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!

 

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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!

 

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