Who Holds You – Always?

Who Holds You – Always?

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 had always wanted to be a trapeze artist.

Having become great friends with The Flying Rodleighs, Henri enjoyed conversation with them in between performances around Europe. “As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher,” Rodleigh began. “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.”

Henri was fascinated and 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 hold us tight – to catch us.

BlogHolds“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?

Later this week I am in London —  literally “on the far side of the ocean,” holding my precious grandgirl in my arms. She refers to me as ‘Granny ReadBook’ and so I do. Read to her. While snuggling we often share favorites such as “The Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown. Written in 1942, it’s a classic for children. Of any age.

In this story, the little bunny 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.”

Where can you go from His presence?

There is 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

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell IS AVAILABLE NOW from the good folks at Abingdon Press. 
order from Amazon HERE
order from ChristianBook HERE
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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!
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The Sweet Sound of Your Name

The Sweet Sound of Your Name

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

           “Lucinda!” came the call from across the lobby.

            I turned, and saw a woman I greatly admire but didn’t know very well. We hadn’t seen each other for several years. Yet here she was remembering my name.

            My heart sang.

            Daddy taught me the importance of remembering to call people by name, because “the sweetest sound to our ears is our own name.”

            When someone calls you by name, it’s like they are saying, “You matter. You are important to me.”

God declares, “I have called you by name; you are mine.” (Isaiah 43.1)

          BlogName How truly remarkable!  The Creator and Sustainer of the universe knows our name. He not only calls me by name, but He claims me as His own.

            What could be better than that?

            Well, perhaps this. God also knows the names we call ourselves – Loser, Failure, Ugly, Stupid, Worthless. But He loves us too much to allow us to own those names. He looks at us and sees a new name. In Simon He saw the potential and changed his name to Peter, a ‘rock.’ Abram became Abraham, which means ‘father of many’ and his wife Sarai became Sarah, ‘mother of nations.’

            I remember identifying with the name of the little goat in Hannah Hurnard’s allegory “Hind’s Feet on Hight Places.” Her name was ‘Much Afraid’ because she lived in fear of all that she encountered on her journey from the valleys of life to the mountain top of God’s love. One of her most valuable lessons on her arduous climb was to rely on God’s presence with her at all times. When she reached the peaks, her name was changed to ‘Grace and Glory.’

            In the last book of the Bible we read “To the one who overcomes… I will give a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” (Revelation 2.17) One day we will all receive a new name.  

            DwellingPlacesNameWhat do you think your new name will be?

            What would you like it to be?

            Personally I’d like to be known by some combination of these words: peaceful, compassionate, kind, empowering, joyful, wise, serene, gentle, and strong.

             Or perhaps I will be named Light. My actual first name, chosen by my Daddy just because he liked it, is Lucinda, which derives from the word meaning “light.” One could do worse than try to live up to that name.

            Whatever my name – old or new – I’m thankful God knows it. That He recognizes me. And that He calls me His.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Surprise! “Dwelling Places” is shipping early – if you pre-order now you can have it by Mother’s Day! (even though the official release day is June 6). And honey, I am praying this prayer by Amy Carmichael — her precious prayer/poems open each section of my new book and you will so love them…

prayershipping

dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell arrives June 2016 from the good folks at Abingdon Press. Available in Paperback and Hardcover. 
Preorder from Amazon HERE
Preorder from ChristianBook HERE
Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE
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!

 

 

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Would You Follow Sheep Over the Cliff?

Would You Follow Sheep Over the Cliff?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

sheepmovieWe watched in horror as a herd of two hundred sheep threw themselves off the cliff while Farmer Oak looked on helplessly. Our girlfriends gathering around the large screen TV to watch the British romance “Far From the Madding Crowd” had started off with an especially graphic pivotal plot twist. And it most certainly confirmed what I had always heard about sheep.

Sheep follow the crowd, no matter what.

Jesus says we are like dumb sheep. Troubled and helpless. “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9.36)

Which stirs in Him compassion. He knows we need a shepherd. We need Him – the Good Shepherd (John 10.14).

Have you ever noticed how many times the Bible uses the whole sheep/shepherd word picture?

It’s not something I’m proud of.

Because sheep are kind of pathetic; they’re so dumb that they blindly follow the crowd, no matter where the crowd is going. I just read that recently in Turkey hundreds of sheep plunged off a cliff – one following the other. The first four hundred died and the next eleven hundred (yes, 1100 who followed them) just landed on a soft heap of sheep bodies and survived. Their shepherd, it seems, had gone off to breakfast. The loss to local farmers was $74,000.

BlogSheepRight about now I’m wondering whether this was the part of us that made Jesus think of sheep. How we can totally get carried away with the cause of the moment, the thrill of the week, the adventure of the season, and stupidly leave our brains behind.

Sheep are also wanderers, which we also know from biblical stories about the ones that got lost.

They look for grass in treacherous hills and through stony paths, so the shepherd has to keep an eye on them all the time. It’s way too easy for them to stray. Not only that, the shepherd must be a protector against wild animals and even robbers who want to steal the sheep.

Now I totally understand the analogy. After all, our world is scary and the path is narrow. We need a shepherd who protects. Where do you most need protection? Instead of blindly following the crowd, call upon the Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10.11)

DwellingPlacesSheepFor sure the most interesting thing I learned about sheep is that if they fall over on their backs, there is no way they can right themselves. They are totally helpless until someone comes to turn them back over.

Have you ever fallen and been unable to retrieve your equilibrium on your own, either literally or figuratively? Then you need a Shepherd too.

The great news today is that our Good Shepherd is compassionate, caring and diligent to seek us out when we stray. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep.”(John 10.15)

No, I don’t particularly like being compared to sheep, but I love the idea of having a Shepherd.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell arrives June 2016 from the good folks at Abingdon Press. Available in Paperback and Hardcover. 
Preorder from Amazon HERE
Preorder from ChristianBook HERE
Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE
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!

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How to Be Both Strong and Gentle

How to Be Both Strong and Gentle

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

          We welcomed a new baby into our extended family recently. Beatrice is precious and perfect, with ten fingers and ten toes. She is rosy and healthy, for which we are all most grateful. But she is still tiny and fragile.

            So everyone treats her with much gentleness.

            Even I know to be gentle with newborns. It’s everyone else I seem to have trouble with…

            Paul reminded, “Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5)

            I often imagine God admonishing me, “Cindy, take it down a notch.” Or “Lower your voice.” Or even “Keep Calm and Carry On!” (who says God doesn’t quote the British?)

            I confess, my default manner is not gentleness. In fact, my tone of voice with all its urgency (I prefer to call it ‘passion’) is sometimes mistaken for harsh instead of enthusiastic. Imagine!

            But I long to let my “gentleness show.” A soft touch. A whispered endearment. A kind word of encouragement and support.

            blogGentleWhat if, in our “treatment of all people,” we used the same gentle manner as with babies or frail and elderly great-grandmothers? As though they might break if handled too harshly.

           Sometimes the strongest thing we can do is to be gentle.

            The truth is we all break rather easily.

             And the louder the words we hear, the more defensive we become. King Solomon knew this quite well when he warned, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” (Proverbs 15.1)

Harsh words can crush a spirit and shut down a soul. Kind words can mend a broken heart or plant a dream.

In what ways can you offer gentleness to others today?

  • The clerk at the checkout counter
  • The colleague at work
  • The unruly child who clamors for attention
  • The spouse who is sometimes overlooked

            Take heart, no matter whether you are predisposed or not to being a gentle person. “Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves.” (Matthew 11.29) With Christ dwelling in us, being yoked to us, we can learn from the best of the best.

Because not only is He gentle, but “The Lord is near.”

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell arrives June 2016 from the good folks at Abingdon Press. Available in Paperback and Hardcover. 
Preorder from Amazon HERE
Preorder from ChristianBook HERE
Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE
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!
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When You Feel Just Plain Ordinary

When You Feel Just Plain Ordinary

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

She could not have been more ordinary.

Gladys, was also a poor student and had quit school by age fourteen. She grew up to be a London parlor maid with few prospects. But then God got a hold of her heart and after hearing about the needs in China, she was determined to serve Him there.      

Only no mission board would accept her.

In 1929 China Inland Mission declared she was not qualified and her educational background was too limited. So Gladys Aylward decided to reserve a one-way train ticket to China and every month made a small payment to the travel agency. By age thirty, she was on her way, not knowing where, what or with whom she would minister, but determined to serve God there.

gladys-aylwardThrough a miraculous journey across Russia and many war zones, Gladys arrived in this very foreign country, ready to take on the world. Years later she said: “I had two childhood heartaches: 1. Everyone else had golden curls and I had short dark hair 2. Everyone else kept growing but I stopped at four foot ten inches. I always wished things were different. But when I got off the train in China I was shocked to discover that everyone else around me was short with dark hair. I was home.

Do you ever feel just plain ordinary? Do you ever wonder if God can use you in His radical Kingdom work in the world?conversefield

Gladys’ first mission was at “The Inn of the Eight Happinesses” where she watched over orphans and had a government job of inspecting feet to help educate women on the new law banning foot binding. This gave her an ‘in’ with the community and from then on she became one of them.

By the time war came, she had adopted several children and bravely escorted hundreds of orphans safely across the mountains and the Yellow River. Throughout the Shanxi Province there were churches and believers when she finally left China.

An ordinary woman living an ordinary life? Perhaps. But her story became a bestselling biography by Alan Burgess – “The Small Woman.” And none other than screen star Ingrid Bergman (who was definitely not short) played Gladys Aylward in the Hollywood movie “Inn of the Sixth Happiness.”

glays aylwardMost important was her spiritual legacy, of course.

Our God takes an ordinary person and does extraordinary things through them.

Peter and John, for instance. “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.Acts 4.13 NIV

What was the deciding factor that catapulted them into the extraordinary?

“These men had been with Jesus.” And it showed.

What could an ordinary person like you (or me) do if we spent more time with Jesus? Short, dark haired parlor maid Gladys gives us one answer.

What will your story reveal?

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell arrives June 2016 from the good folks at Abingdon Press. Available in Paperback and Hardcover. 
Preorder from Amazon HERE
Preorder from ChristianBook HERE
Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE
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!
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3 Reasons You Need to Write With Us in New England!

3 Reasons You Need to Write With Us in New England!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

necwrfunnycodirectorsOne day, amidst the critiques, plotting and prayers, three writers had a dream.

“What could we do to encourage other writers and would-be-writers on their journey?”

Long answer made short: Organize and offer a retreat and community for attendees to both concentrate on their spiritual calling to write for the Kingdom, as well as honing their writing skills and learning new technique. Above all – build community.

That’s when the New England Christian Writers Retreat was born – back in 2013.

NECWRwebsitephotoAnd we’re doing it again in just a few short months – June 17-19 on the campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary just north of Boston. Amazing faculty include Liz Curtis Higgs, Torry Martin, Lori Roeleveld, as well as co-directors Lauren Yarger, Tessa Afshar and me (Lucinda Secrest McDowell).

Everyone gets a dedicated study space the entire weekend (to actually write!) plus there are numerous workshops and plenary sessions, time to pray and be prayed for, worship/communion, and lots and lots of networking! See Full Schedule Here

Why should YOU pray about joining us at the New England Christian Writers Retreat?

necwrpromoTo invest in your life – and your writing.

Here are three strategic reasons why events like NECWR are an important investment:

  1. People – You will meet others who have a passion for writing for the Kingdom. Honey, these are your people! I suspect you may make lifetime friends if you allow yourself to let go of insecurity and be open to unlikely partnerships. Way back in 1993 I tied for the “Mount Hermon Writer of the Year” award with a California writer named Janet Holm McHenry and we are still great friends today who pray for each other’s deadlines. Many of my best professional and personal friendships came out of writing events. Community is so important – we share each other’s struggles and successes.

But, in addition to meeting other writers, you will meet people who are there to pour into your life great wisdom and practical skills that will make you a better communicator. These faculty are there to give back to the community. Make the most of every moment you have talking with them at the dining table, sitting under their teaching, and divine appointments.

  1. writingalonePurpose – You may wonder whether or not you are called to write and speak professionally. If so, going to a writers event can be a helpful way to determine whether or not you are prepared and willing to do the hard work required in honing your craft. Integral in this process is listening to God. Strength of soul will spill over into the words you share, so do not neglect spiritual disciplines in your faith development.  Use your time at the conference to ask the hard questions of other writers who have forged ahead in the journey. And remember, learning what we are not called or gifted to do, is as important as learning what we are to pursue in life. Remember who you are and what your story and style is, and don’t try to compare yourself to everyone you meet. Be sure and take time after the event to process all you have heard and to pray about what it means for your writing and speaking career.                          
  2. Profession – If a writers retreat can help you understand your purpose and calling and offer you amazing people for leadership and companionship, then it becomes a huge investment in your professional journey. Take advantage of much of the schedule, but know your limits and be sure to rest, so you don’t become overwhelmed. Keep in touch with special connections made and set forth a workable follow-up plan. Be grateful for this opportunity. Thank everyone who helped you get here.

Would you like to know what some of our NECWR alumni have said about their time with us in the past years? Click Here.

necwr14class

New England Christian Writers Retreat – Class of 2014

I would love to see you there!

 under the mercy, Cindy

New England Christian Writers RetreatJune 17-19, 2016 – held at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary near Boston MA. www.NewEnglandChristianWritersRetreat.com

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell arrives June 2016 from the good folks at Abingdon Press. Available in Paperback and Hardcover. One of the books featured at our NECWR Book Launch June 17.
Preorder from Amazon HERE
Preorder from ChristianBook HERE
Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE
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!
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We Are Easter People!

 We Are Easter People!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

The old cemetery is cold and dark.

I climb slowly up the hill, clad in snow boots and a winter coat covering a bright spring dress underneath. Grasping my daughter’s hand, I weave through eighteenth-century tombstones, up to the summit of the Ancient Burying Ground.

We are waiting for the sunrise.

As light filters over the hill a full brass band plays “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” and about a hundred people sing to commemorate that first Resurrection Sunday—Easter!

Shouts of “The Lord is Risen,” followed by “He is Risen, Indeed,” accompany our worship and joy. When the service is over, we make our way carefully back down to the church—this time in the light. And gather for a hearty New England breakfast.

And now folks’ faces are shining like the sunshine that appeared. We had experienced the dark together, encountering obstacles but always waiting for the promise.

And He came.

EncouragingWordsResurrectionLent6Is this what it was like for the women who visited the tomb at sunrise so long ago? Daring to believe that indeed the One they loved and followed had conquered death and come back to life, just as He said?

Within me comes a renewed hope, a renewed vow to always be an Easter person.

And, of course, a strong desire to sing Handel’s music comes too: “Lo! Jesus meets us, Risen from the tomb; Lovingly He greets us, Scatters fear and gloom; Let the church with gladness, Hymns of triumph sing; For her Lord now liveth, Death hath lost its sting. Thine is the glory, Risen conquering Son, Endless is the victory, Thou o’er death hast won.”

As Easter Sunday culminates in the end of our season of repentance and renewal, where does the Risen Lord find you in the Easter story?

  • Are you the one who goes to sleep in the garden?
  • Are you the one who helps Jesus carry his cross?
  • Are you the enthusiastic follower who falters when the going gets tough?
  • Are you one of the first at the tomb?
  • Are you the one who doesn’t even recognize your companion on the road?

Jesus knows who we are. And still He loves us and reminds us. You have been born anew into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. ~ 1 Peter 1:3 CEB

         “Almighty Father, who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples with the sight of the risen Lord: give us such knowledge of his presence with us, that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life and serve you continually in righteousness and truth; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”

“Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one.

I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever!

And I hold the keys of death and the grave” (Revelation 1:17-18 NLT).

He will have the last word. Hallelujah!

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell contains a 40-day Lenten devotional “Renew” (as well as fall, Advent and summer) It arrives June 2016 from the good folks at Abingdon Press. Available in Paperback and Hardcover. During Lent 2016 I will include some of those devotionals on my weekly blog.

Preorder from Amazon HERE

Preorder from ChristianBook HERE

Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE

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!
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