Welcome a Joy-filled January!

Welcome a Joy-filled January!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Welcome to 2017!

A fresh page. A clean slate. An opportunity for New, Change, and Growth. Lots of space for God to show up with His Love, Mercy and Grace! Mostly, 2017 can be filled with Hope and Joy because we know that God is all-powerful, wise and in control!

joyfilledjanuaryJanuary 1930 – Frank Laubach resolved: “To be able to look backward and say, “This, this has been the finest year of any life”—that is glorious! But anticipation! To be able to look ahead and say, “The present year can and will be better!”—that is more glorious! I have done nothing but open windows—God has done the rest. There has been a succession of marvelous experiences of the friendship of God. I resolved that I would succeed better this year with my experiment of filling every minute full of the thought of God than I succeeded last year. And I added another resolve—to be as wide open toward people and their need as I am toward God. Windows open outward as well as upward. Windows open especially downward where people need the most!”

I am beginning this year on a writing deadline and appreciate your prayers as I finish writing my new book for Abingdon Press – “Ordinary Graces” is scheduled for a fall release. When I shared my concerns about this with my prayer partners yesterday, they replied that I had actually said the same thing (“How will I ever finish writing this book in a way that glorifies God?”) for each of the past 12 books they have prayed me through writing. And yet, God is always faithful to accomplish in us more than we can possibly do on on our own – which gives Him the glory! I’m looking forward this week to my annual time of beginning the year in Texas with dear writing/speaking sisters as we pray together, set healthy goals for body and soul, listen for God’s Word to us, and offer our new year, both personally and professionally, to Him. I desperately need that time of retreating and preparing.

jancookbookDuring that Wellness Week, my friend Lisa Lewis will once again prepare healthy meals for us and I’m thrilled that her brand new cookbook – Healthy Happy Cooking – is here so all of you can benefit from these meals as well! Order by clicking on the photo of the book and going to the First Place 4 Health website. You will love it!

janspeakbookWant to be a SPEAKER? Then check out this helpful new book, here’s my endorsement: “I have been a public speaker my entire adult life and quite often someone in the audience will approach me with “I want to do what you do. Where do I begin?” I am delighted to say that now I will always answer with “Begin by reading my friends Linda Gilden and Edna Ellison‘s new book “Called to Speak!”  How marvelous to have a primer that contains all the information and inspiration for both beginning and seasoned communicators. I especially appreciate the care these authors have taken to encourage speakers in confirming our commitment and calling in Christ. Numerous practical details help us in the craft, prayer and perseverance help us keep the Gospel message on track both in our words and our lives. Pursue your purpose and allow God to open the doors and bring the fruit.” (We will also have Carol Kent – who wrote the forward – teaching you how to be a great speaker this year at our “reNEW – retreat for New England Writing” in October)

janpoppybookAnd here’s my endorsement of another great tool for January planning: “Do you ever feel stuck in life? Desiring purpose and fulfillment, but not exactly sure how to get there? Look no further than my friend Poppy Smith’s new book “Go For It – Make Your Life Count for God!” This is a treasure trove of wise encouragement coupled with very practical steps you can begin today. Working through the lists and applications here is like partnering with your very own Life Coach. Smith brings all her experiences, knowledge, faith commitment and lifestories together so that we are able to better discern  the unique life God has for each of us. Don’t just sit around, get a copy now and Go For It!”

Two opportunties to speak coming up and perhaps I shall see YOU there:

reTREAT – by design Ministry, Camp Connri, CT Feb. 3-5, 2017  – I am so excited to join with other New England women leaders at this annual gathering. My topic for the weekend is “Overflow – Living from the Inside Out” and I hope you will plan to join us. Click here for all details.

jangoconfGO Conference – Vision New England, Worcester MA February 17-18, 2017 – Hear Bob Goss, Sarah Bessey and more! I am delighted to be offering a workshop in the “Walk Humbly” track – “Dwell Deep – Personal Soul Care” (not sure yet which day it will be). Also, I will have a booth in the Resource Center offering Encouraging Words. Rachel Britton, co-director of “reNEW – retreat for New England Writing” will join me and we will seek to encourage writers and speakers who stop by our booth. 

“Let the creation now cast off all things old, beholding Thee, the Creator, made a child for through Thy birth Thou dost shape all things afresh, making them New once more and leading them back again to their first beauty.” (Archbishop Tikhon’s Christmas message 2016)

It’s a New Year friends. An empty book on which to write the Story of your life. Live it well. Glorify God. Keep the faith…

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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

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

 

 

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A Baby Born at a Dismal Time?

A Baby Born at a Dismal Time?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

babyborn

Our greatest Christmas 2016 gift is the birth of a baby this week – my new grandson in London!

As I witness the news of suffering, homeless war-torn and starving families struggling to survive the upcoming winter, I cannot help but think of so many through the years who have brought hope to a chaotic world.

Through the birth of a baby.

The year 1809 was a bleak and dismal time for giving birth. With the ruthless dictator, Napoleon determined to conquer the world, there was almost no hope left in anyone’s heart. Yet in that one year alone, babies who were destined to change the world were born – Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, William Gladstone, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Edgar Allan Poe, Cyrus McCormick and Felix Mendelssohn.

While no one noticed.

Millennia before, very few noticed the birth of a baby to a young couple traveling to Bethlehem on a donkey and forced to spend the night in a stable. But God knew. And He orchestrated this humble birth as the beginning of life for a child who would literally change the course of history – Jesus Christ.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 NRSV

Do you ever wonder what this birth was really like?

Allow me to borrow the description of favorite storyteller Max Lucado: “A more lowly place of birth could not exist. Near the young mother sits the weary father. If anyone is dozing, he is… The mystery of the event still puzzles him. What’s important is that the baby is fine and that Mary is safe. Wide awake is Mary. My, how young she looks! Her head rests on the soft leather of Joseph’s saddle. The pain has been eclipsed by wonder. She looks into the face of the baby. Her son. Her Lord. His Majesty.

adventoholynightplaque“At this point in history, the human being who best understands who God is and what he is doing is a teenage girl in a smelly stable. She can’t take her eyes off him. Somehow Mary knows she is holding God. So this is he. She remembers the words of the angel, ‘His kingdom will never end.’ He looks anything but a king. His face is prunish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And he is absolutely dependent upon Mary for his well-being. This newborn baby is majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.”

I picture that scene surrounded by the music of this fifth century carol, O that birth forever blessèd, when the virgin, full of grace, By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race; And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer, First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore! (hymn “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” Aurelius Prudentius)

Babies. Birth. Hope.

May you and yours treasure the quiet and peaceful moments that are waiting for you during this holy and yes, hopefilled, Christmas week.

Click HERE for my 1 minute Christmas Greetings from my favorite Christmas movie, “Elf” https://youtu.be/NIzm2lATsW8

under the mercy, Cindy

Christmas Joy to you and yours from all the McDowells

xmas16vpfrontjpeg

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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

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

 

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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.

complicateduncleHe 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 NIV)

familycomplicatedJesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5.9 NIV) Unfortunately, our world is more than ever defined by our many conflicts.  But my friend Jennifer Kennedy Dean 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.” [Jennifer Kennedy Dean “Pursuing the Christ”]

The Bible promises that the “dawn from heaven will break upon us… to guide us on the path of peace.” (Luke 1.78-79 CEB) 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, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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

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

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A Season of Waiting…

 A Season of Waiting…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell


waitingImagine waiting more than 400 years for an answer to prayer!

That’s what God’s chosen people had to do – waiting in the dark, hoping for deliverance. Perhaps singing their own version of  “Come, Thou long expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee.” (hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” Charles Wesley, 1745)

In between the Old Testament and the New Testament, the heavens seemed closed to the nation of Israel. God appeared to be silent. They thought nothing was happening. And certainly their prayers for a Messiah were falling on deaf ears.

Yet, in reality, God was still at work bringing about the perfect political and religious setting for the appearance of His Son. “But me! I will keep watch for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.”  Micah 7:7 CEB

God’s timing is always best. Even if it means we have to wait. We can be assured that “my God will hear me.”

During those waiting years, the Jews had become unwilling subjects of the Roman Empire. But they wanted more than just limited freedom to worship and hope. As they read the prophecies of the Old Testament, they dreamed of the Messiah who would finally arrive and restore them as a powerful nation as in the time of King David. Surely this person would be a mighty warrior, a strong and larger-than-life hero!

No one was looking for a helpless, newborn baby. In a barn.

What are you waiting for these days?

For that feeling to go away? You know, the one that keeps reminding you that you’re not enough and never will be, the one where you are searching for something that will make everything else fall into place…but it’s just beyond reach. Sometimes I think I’m waiting to experience that Perfect Family Gathering with diverse loved ones all in agreement and full of praise for me as the matriarch (you know, when “her children rise up and call her blessed…”).

God knows.

He desires good things for us but often His timing is not in sync with ours. “We orient our lives to speed. We want faster computers, fast food, instant coffee. We want what we want now, so waiting becomes hard. Waiting in our prayer life and waiting for Christmas become disciplines we return to every December. For what do we wait? Do we wait for a baby to be born? Do we wait for peace to dwell in the whole world and in our fractured, busy lives? Do we wait for the rebirth of joy, a rekindling of hope?” (from“Openings”)

adventwaitinggirlHere are some steps I find helpful during those excruciating waiting times:

  • Write down your prayers and concerns for this situation.
  • Assure God you truly desire His will in His way.
  • Intercede in prayer for others you know who are also waiting.
  • Take the next step that has been made clear to you.

Why not choose to try one of these in the upcoming days of Advent?

“Keep watch.” God will show up.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

adventprintable

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

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

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

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Celebrate A Delightful December!

Celebrate a Delightful December!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Welcome to December! While this can be one of the busiest, most stressful months of the year, with a bit of intentionality you can make it one of your most calm and celebrative seasons. 

delightfuldecemberWhat helps keep me grounded amidst all the hooplah is that I am committed to reading an Advent Devotional every single morning and singing a Christmas carol every day. There are many wonderful resources out there and my new book “Dwelling Places” even has an Advent section. Click here for a free printable Advent 2016 Guide.

I also try to be realistic about my own expectations for the season. This year I am finishing up a new book so I only have time to go to work every day, come home and write, and spend one week focused on my visiting family. Yes, I will attend our Christmas concert and my Bible Study Christmas dinner, but have had to scale back other extras. This will help keep me sane and prepared to welcome everyone for a celebrative week.

If you love to read special Christmas novels, I recommend three new ones by dear friends: Restoring Christmas, the newest Christmas novella from Cynthia Ruchti is amazing and I was honored to endorse it. You might also enjoy   God Bless Us Everyone by Eva Marie Everson and Red Pen Redemption by Lori Stanley Roeleveld. 

fccconcertIf you live in the Hartford CT area may I invite you to my own church’s Christmas Concert on Sunday, December 18 at 4 pm? Our meetinghouse was built in 1761 and our Minister of Music and the Arts, David Spicer, will pull out all the stops (literally) that afternoon with Bach and Vivaldi (and it’s free) – so come for a glorious time of worship and celebration! 

My greatest suggestion for having a Delightful December is that you keep your focus on the Holy reason for the season – the birth of the Christ Child. Read the Christmas story. Reflect on how Christ “moving into the neighborhood” has affected your own life. Pray. Be thankful. Reach out to others. Embrace loved ones. Be generous as you can be (without going into debt, that honors no one). And look forward on December 31 to God’s great gift of a Brand New Year – 2017!

“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 is the good news, isn’t it? That in this darkness, in this aching nighttime, we are not alone. Christ comes. This Advent, we face the shadows, and embrace the Light.” (Jane Rubietta in Finding the Messiah) 

Have a peaceful December, full of reflection and delight.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

adventprintable

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

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

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

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Begin Advent with Thankfulness

Begin Advent with Thankfulness

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

To me, thankfulness is not so much an act as an orientation.

beginadventEach day we face what life brings, receive it and, no matter how challenging, give thanks. “Let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” (Hebrews 12.28)

As Advent begins this first Sunday after Thanksgiving (November 27), it is a good time to renew our faith in God’s goodness. “We can speak all the lofty phrases we want about God’s sovereign goodness, but the proof is in the thanking. The Bible tells us to give thanks for all things and in all things. It tells us not to be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, to present our requests to God. Only thankfulness on this scale is an incontestable sign we believe what we say. It is the single most convincing testimony beyond our spoken testimony that we’ve put our hope in the God who vindicates and saves.” (Mark Buchanan, “Spiritual Rhythms”)

The daily discipline of thanking God can change a life. Just ask Ann Voskamp, Canadian farmer’s wife and author of the New York Times best-selling “One Thousand Gifts.”  Many have learned from Ann about worshipping God with eucharisteo, the Greek word translated “to be grateful; to give thanks.” Mostly that it is our choice. We can choose to whine, grumble, complain or even just neglect looking for God’s good gifts. Or we can discipline ourselves to recognize them. The more we do it, the more naturally we do it. “When we practice giving thanks, we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don’t have to change what we see. Only the way we see.”

How will you live a life of thankfulness today? During the Advent season? All year?

  • Set a goal to notice and announce/record three of God’s gift each day.
  • Keep a large jar out filled with paper slips of recorded thanks.
  • Make simple ornaments for your tree, commemorating God’s special gifts this year.
  • Worship God with thanksgiving, “Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him. Let the Amen sound from His people again, Gladly for aye we adore Him.” (hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” Joachim Neander, 1863) 

adventprintableIf you would enjoy walking through Advent one-word-a-day, then please download the free printable of my Advent 2016 Guide which corresponds to the “Shine” section of my book “Dwelling Places. The words begin on Sunday, November 27 and conclude New Year’s Eve. Click on this icon and you need to have the book – it’s under $10 right now on Christianbook and Amazon. (Hint: There is also a 40-day Lenten section called “Renew” and two other sections “Dwell” and “Grow”)

Wishing you a shining, peaceful Advent Season. under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 excerpted from “Dwelling Places” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

 

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When You Don’t Feel Thankful

When You Don’t Feel Thankful

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Perhaps you aren’t feeling very thankful today.

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…

thankfulSome 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.

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 Saviour 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. 

holidayfp4hThis Devotional appears in the Brand New “A Joy-Full Season” Holiday Wellness Study from my good friends at First Place 4 Health. 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!)

under the mercy, Cindy

Advent is coming! adventprintableIn fact, the first Sunday is during Thanksgiving weekend. Wouldn’t you like to have a more nurturing and peaceful November AND December? Then be sure to DOWNLOAD my FREE PRINTABLE Advent 2016 Guide listing one-word-a-day devotional from the “Shine” Advent season of my book “Dwelling Places.” Click HERE or on the photo and be sure to soak in God’s Word each day!

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE

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