The Last 7 Novels I’ve Read

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The Last 7 Novels I’ve Read

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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My Reading Stack – February 15, 2015

“It is only a novel… or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.” ― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Last month I posted a stack of my TBR (to be read) books — are all by both non-fiction and fiction authors who are also friends. And since the past months have been filled with Snow (!) and Speaking Travel, I’ve had opportunity to begin to chip away at that stack, and post my reviews at online sites. In the process, I have enjoyed a variety of fine novels and wanted to share them with you. 

novelsstilllife“Author Christa Parrish possesses that unique gift of being able to portray the life and world of broken and flawed humans through the lenses of grace, beauty and hope. Ada Goetz is merely the latest of her heroines to draw me into her world of fractured history, bewilderment amidst change and the delicate dance with a God who both frightens and intrigues her. Yes, “Still Life” is a story of tragedy and how the consequences ripple throughout the lives of previously disconnected people. But the focus stays on the redemptive story of the man who was lost – and how Julian’s actions and choices leave a legacy which will bring new meaning and hope to those floundering in the wake of the crash. I freely admit that I have loved all of Parrish’s award winning novels. I’m grateful she aims her lens on those who live at the fringe of society and are rarely noticed, much less understood. But I’m even more grateful that in “Still Life” and prior works, this author allows us to both question and embrace the real Jesus – a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Read Christa Parrish, for all the right reasons.” - Lucinda Secrest McDowell

noveltheredcoat“To read “The Red Coat” is to be instantly transported to another world – Irish families in post WWII South Boston. From the very first scene where an upper class Beacon Hill socialite and an Irish washerwoman exchange ownership of a red coat, the reader is treated to a lesson in all things Bostonian – from dressing up to shop downtown at Filene’s to Irish Catholic policemen in the South end. Along the way, we are privy to intimate details of the tumultuous family life of both the Irish “Kings” and the Brahmin “Parkers.” How these two intertwine throughout the decade makes for a fascinating story. Author Dolley Carlson (who has based this first novel on her own family – she is ‘Ruth Ann’) colorfully describes the social manners, class distinctions, religious challenges, and even mid-century fashion and retail to make it truly come alive. And the setting of Boston landmarks (generously presented in sidebars and photos) serves as a main character in itself. Dolley Carlson is a fabulous storyteller with a trained eye to detail and well-documented research. I’m recommending “The Red Coat” to all my New England and Irish friends and hope you will read it too.”  - Lucinda Secrest McDowell

novelwoodsedge“Stories of the rocky road to forgiveness in fractured families are as old as ancient times. And yet the repercussions of pivotal choices continue to make for high drama, whether in biblical times or pre-Revolutionary War America. In Lori Benton’s first novel in the new Pathfinder Series, “The Wood’s Edge” we discover how the interweaving of the Aubrey family and an Oneida Indian family build towards a true transformation. The question is will it be a tearing apart by sworn enemies or a forgiving together of comrades on a common mission? After having enjoyed Benton’s award winning “Burning Sky” and “The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn” I was eager to read about Anna and Two Hawks, Lydia, Reginald and Good Voice. Benton deftly transported me back to eighteenth century upstate New York and offered a satisfying and ultimately redemptive story, leaving me ever eager for the sequel.” (this novel to be published in April- I’m an early reader) – Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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Cathy Gohlke & Lucinda Secrest McDowell exchanging books!

novelsavingamelie“If I’m going to read an historic novel, I want to be sure it is filled with both a fascinating story and compelling, accurate details based on thorough research. And if the characters experience a spiritual transformation (not contrived or ‘preachy’ but in a ‘journey’ fashion, like real life) due to the people and experiences portrayed, then I’m in! That said, Cathy Gohlke, in her latest book “Saving Amelie” had me at page one. Though it is a cringe-worthy expose of the Nazi experiments in eugenics, this story deftly weaves elements of family, romance, heartbreak, struggle, and boldness in standing up for those who have no one to speak for them. I especially appreciated how the twin sisters differed from one another – both were authentic and flawed but also full of courage and perseverance. I’m delighted to have discovered Gohlke and will now set about reading her award-winning backlist of great stories. “Saving Amelie” shows there was (and can yet be again) good amidst great evil.” - Lucinda Secrest McDowell

novelophelia“As an occasional teacher in public high school, I’ve often wondered if my sporadic and limited contribution makes any difference in the lives of my students. Cecil Murphey’s new novel “The Promises of Ophelia Bennett” offers a story explaining how one teacher did just that – profoundly impacting her students for more than forty years. Don’t expect a fast paced thrill-a-minute narrative. Set in 1940’s Illinois, Mrs. Bennett’s creative ideas about educating ‘hellions’ who reside in a setting where innovative was suspect, different was bad and encouraging words were received as water to a thirsty soul. But soon, the foundational plan of this seasoned educator takes an unexpected (or perhaps predictable all along) turn. Years later, the ramifications of both her courage and choices are revealed. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Murphey named most of the characters after many of our mutual friends in the publishing industry. Anyone who is an influencer will find great lessons here, and educators perhaps a boost for today’s similar institutional challenges.”        - Lucinda Secrest McDowell

novelunexpectedmatch “It’s almost impossible to lead a double life in a small and sheltered community, but Rachel Beller does just that – at least for a while. This young Amish widow’s yearning for knowledge exceeds her allegiance to family tradition and rules. Gayle Roper’s newest novel “An Unexpected Match” brings Rachel together with fellow students Rob and Amy who are each dealing with their own story of failure, family and buried dreams. As the trio’s classes at both community college and the school of life proceed, we discover principles that perhaps shine a light on our own struggles and yearnings. I’m a Roper fan (though hardly an Amish fiction fan) and I highly recommend “An Unexpected Match” for a completely satisfying story of the delicate dance between family loyalty and becoming the person God created us to be.”  - Lucinda Secrest McDowell

spasisterscindycynthiaruchti

Lucinda Secrest McDowell & Cynthia Ruchti

novelmorningglory“I greatly enjoyed reading the stories of three different women dealing with the same issue in the Victorian era, the Post War 1950s and today. One would think that the whole predicament of “pregnancy outside of marriage” would have evolved into a non-issue in our current culture. But, surprisingly there are still challenges and complications when young women are surprised by impending motherhood they never planned. “When the Morning Glory Blooms” is the second fine novel I have read from award-winning author Cynthia Ruchti, though certainly not the last. As she weaves a story about a brave woman with a calling to make a difference in her world, we are also introduced to several others who will follow in her steps, though in unique ways and times – Anna, Ivy and Becky. Though each is in a different position, they all must come to terms with their own choices, both in family relationships and with God. The unveiling of the common thread – morning glories – makes this an authentic and ultimately hope-filled story.” - Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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Gayle Roper & Lucinda Secrest McDowell

What are YOU currently reading? Why not leave a comment and share some of your favorite novels? And if you’d like to try one of the above, just click on the bookcover to purchase from Amazon. Happy Reading!

under the mercy, Cindy

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 

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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Miracles Happen One Day at a Time

Miracles Happen One Day at a Time

By Lucinda Secrest McDowell 

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Justin and his Daddy – Lopez lsand, Washington

“What do you think his future will be?” she asked, after observing my little boy in an agitated state outside the Sunday School classroom.

“Honestly, I don’t know. We’re just living one day at a time…” I mumbled, while grabbing Justin’s hand and heading off to retrieve my other kids.

I didn’t know. What the future would be for my eldest child. Born at a time when “mental retardation” was the diagnosis (thankfully, we don’t use the “R word” anymore). While words like that tend to put people in a box, I chose to receive them as a challenge!

“By God’s grace, we will raise this child to live to his highest capabilities…and beyond!” I determined, with both fear and anticipation.

     40thbdaycandlesAnd now, this week is Justin’s 40th birthday.

31 years of living “one day at a time” have occurred since my conversation outside that Seattle Sunday School.

I won’t lie to you. It has been hard. And sometimes terribly frustrating. And occasionally heart-breaking.

Raising a child with special needs can put us through the whole spectrum of emotions. Sometimes all in a single day.

Still, parenting Justin McDowell has been Pure Joy. And that’s the truth.

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Justin and his Mama We are so much alike!

In our family, when someone has a Birthday, we all go around the table and tell the guest of honor something that we appreciate about them. I’d like to do that publicly here for my son Justin. What are just a few of the qualities of the man who has enriched my life and our family in countless ways?

AUTHENTIC Justin tells it like it is. There is absolutely no guile, no pretense in his soul or demeanor. Now, of course this means we have been forced to live utterly transparent lives, since some things are shared without filter. But that’s not exactly a bad thing…smile.

HELPFUL Justin helps his Mama and Dad all the time with mowing the lawn, moving furniture, carrying luggage, setting the table or cleaning up a family dinner. And through his prayers and verbal encouragement. But he also helps people I will never know. He constantly volunteers to help folks move, help with children, help at church suppers, in his neighborhood and at work. He has a servant’s heart.

DETERMINED Justin has overcome much in his life. He is determined to do what others can do – such as go on an overseas mission trip (twice) or learn to snow ski black diamond trails in Canada, or learn how to type on a computer keyboard. When he faces an obstacle, he doesn’t back down and thus has shown courage and perseverance repeatedly.

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Uncle Justin

FAITHFUL If you ask Justin to pray for you, he will. He calls me up before every speaking engagement and prays for me and my audience and my travels. He prays for his family and when he first met his baby niece, he promptly laid hands on her little head and claimed her for God, praying for that day in the future when she would ask Jesus into her heart (with absolutely no prompting from us!).

LOYAL Justin is a friend who will stand beside you when times are good and when times are hard (though, remember he will be sure to ‘tell it like it is’ which might include some advice…).  He believes the best in people and doesn’t give up on them. He offers grace and forgiveness readily. You definitely want him on your side.

GIVING Of course I wrote all about Justin in my latest book “Live These Words” under the day which illustrates the verb “give.” Because Justin is always giving away anything he has that he thinks somebody else needs more than he does. Mostly he gives words of encouragement and praise to help support his friends or sports teammates, or colleagues.

Team Connecticut Tennis

Special Olympics National Games – Justin (2nd from left) won Gold for Tennis!

Justin was 9 years old when I became his mother and I honestly didn’t know what his future would hold. I had no idea how his ‘differing abilities’ would play out amidst a competitive and fast-paced world of success and achievement. Today I am utterly grateful that he was able to earn his food services certificate from Manchester Community College, has worked at Red Lobster for 18 years, has lived in his own apartment (with some support) for 15 years, walks and buses everywhere, holds gold medals in tennis for several International Special Olympics,  and helps with Prison Ministry, Alpha and VBS at our church in addition to several Bible studies.

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Justin at the “Live These Words” Book Launch – 2014

Is there someone in your life who has been “labeled” with a disability? Please don’t ever give up. Keep pouring into their lives and urging them to fulfill the unique purpose and place God has for them. One day you might just turn around and celebrate another 40th birthday with Joy!

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 NLT

 under the mercy, Cindy

Read my 2010 post “Disabilities or Differing Abilities” by clicking here.

 ©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 

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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Why I Love St. Patrick

Why I Love St. Patrick

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

patrickstatueWhat if evil hijacked your youth and held you captive for years and years? When escape to a new life was finally achieved, you would vow to stay as far away from your former captors as possible, right?

Well, maybe not.

Maybe you would choose to return and “conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12.21)

Patrick was a sixteen-year-old teenager when he was abducted. There were no milk cartons broadcasting his disappearance, no organizations rescuing young people from human trafficking, no Amber alerts. He was on his own among a fierce pagan people.

He was now a slave, far from home.

In 5th century Ireland.

The land was lush and beautiful. But the people were themselves enslaved to superstition, spirits and fear. Violence was common and life was cheap. In this alien land, Patrick grew up quickly as slave to an Irish Chieftain.

????????????When there was time to be lonely and homesick among his heathen captors, Patrick found solace in God and converted to Christianity. He drew close to Him through nature, silence and prayer. One evening he felt God’s Spirit was prompting him to go to the shore two hundred miles away. There he discovered a boat which he immediately took as God’s provision for his escape.

After six long years he was finally free and able to pursue a new life! With a deepened, faith, he pursued ordination in the church and continued a vital ministry in Roman Britain. But the land that first captured him, now captured his heart.

He longed to return to Ireland. Patrick had become convinced that he was handpicked by God to convert the entire country to Christianity.

patrickcloverPatrick greatly respected nature, but he also wanted the Irish to know that God was the only One worthy of worship. So he used a shamrock to explain the three persons of the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — one stem but three leaves.

Patrick labored in Ireland for thirty years and even though some say he singlehandedly converted Ireland, Patrick preferred to put it this way: “I owe it to God’s grace that so many people should, through me, become Christians.”

patrickiconhome

Icon of Patrick, enlightener of Ireland, here at “Sunnyside”

He loved the Irish and they loved him back, perpetuating many legends about his life and ministry. When this Briton born as Patricius died at age 75, he was named Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.

And neither Ireland nor Christianity was ever quite the same.

The following prayer is commonly known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate, found in the ancient Book of Armagh, from the early ninth century. Patrick is said to have written this prayer to strengthen himself with God’s protection as he prepared to confront and convert Loegaire, high king of Ireland.

We may not wear combat gear in our daily lives, but St. Patrick’s Breastplate can function as divine armor for protection against spiritual adversity. Where do you need to conquer evil by doing good? Ask God and He will reveal to you His battle plans for your own life.

(Author’s note: Whenever I pray this prayer, I have to stand and raise my right hand as though holding a sword. Then I proclaim with great conviction “I arise today…” I have not condensed it here.)

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

       “I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through a belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. I arise today through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism, through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial, through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension, through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom. I arise today through the strength of the love of cherubim, in obedience of angels, in service of archangels, in the hope of resurrection to meet with reward, in the prayers of patriarchs, in preachings of the apostles, in faiths of confessors, in innocence of virgins, in deeds of righteous men. I arise today through the strength of heaven; light of the sun, splendor of fire, speed of lightning, swiftness of the wind, depth of the sea,  stability of the earth, firmness of the rock. patrickI arise today through God’s strength to pilot me; God’s might to uphold me,  God’s wisdom to guide me,  God’s eye to look before me,  God’s ear to hear me,  God’s word to speak for me,  God’s hand to guard me,  God’s way to lie before me,  God’s shield to protect me,  God’s hosts to save me from snares of the devil,  from temptations of vices,  from everyone who desires me ill, afar and anear,  alone or in a multitude. I summon today All these powers between me and those evils, Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, Against incantations of false prophets, Against black laws of pagandom, Against false laws of heretics, Against craft of idolatry, Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards, Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul; Christ to shield me today Against poison, against burning, Against drowning, against wounding, So that there may come to me an abundance of reward. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left,  Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,  Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me,  Christ in the ear that hears me. I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through a belief in the Threeness, through a confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. Amen.”    Patrick of Ireland (390-461)

Click HERE to listen to my dear friend Christin Ditchfield pray the above prayer to music. Click on St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer (and there are many other prayers there too!)

under the mercy, Cindy

* selected from Day 14 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2015

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 

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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One Writer’s Life…

 One Writer’s Life …

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

      writerswonderfullife“Cindy, God has given you a gift of writing and it is your duty to write for Him!” (Elisabeth Elliot in a personal conversation)

Imagine being only 26-years-old and hearing those words from such a respected mentor, international speaker and author of 30 books… I had already felt a nudging from God on this path, but her words helped confirm and encourage me further. Needless to say, I was a bit daunted, but also energized to pursue more training and opportunity (this happened when I was heading off to Wheaton Graduate School of Communication after graduating from Gordon-Conwell Seminary.)

LSMcDowellbookheadshot2015Believe me, no one is more amazed than I that today — 36 years later — I can look back at my published work, by God’s grace: 11 books authored, 25+ books as contributing author and articles published in more than 50 magazines.

I write because I can’t not write… (yes, I know that’s a double negative, but it’s also true). Writers write. It’s the way we filter life. We don’t always write for publication. Sometimes what we ‘write’ in our minds never makes it to paper or computer, but the stories are there all the same. As my years increase, so does my wisdom in believing that knowing and telling our stories is perhaps one of the most important ways of participating in furthering God’s Kingdom here on earth. So I am perfectly content at this point to say that I am, indeed, a Storyteller.

writersclock“My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours… it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes Himself known to each of us more powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.” (Frederick Buechner in Telling Secrets)

writerbooksWriting is a discipline and only happens when we deliberately make room in our lives to pursue it. My entire life has been filled with people and activity and ministry and drama; and yet I have somehow managed to insert my writing amidst the chaos. Rarely have I had the luxury to finish a book deadline in complete solitude. Those images of authors working in a cottage by the sea totally undisturbed are not my reality. Most of the time we writers are simply trying to squeeze our craft in between all the other responsibility and serendipity that come our way…

I love what one of my ‘writer heroes’ says: “It will not surprise you if I say that I think being a writer is a fine thing to be. Except for when you actually have to write, of course. Then it is about as exciting as washing dishes. Which is the other thing I do a lot of at my house… Some days I travel somewhere to lead a retreat or speak at a conference.writer Some days I write letters and answer phone calls as though I were an actual business person, and some days I teach the class at the local high school. I do laundry in between paragraphs on Tuesdays… I wear a lot of hats. Just like everyone else. Some days I feel like a poet and some days I feel like a housekeeper, and some days I cannot tell the difference. I expect most of us feel that way sometimes. Life is made up of a lot of good stuff and a lot of bad stuff, too, and in between you have to clean your room.” (Robert Benson in A Good Life)

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This past week I was privileged to serve on the faculty of the Florida Christian Writers Conference. My soul was enlarged through both formal and informal times of teaching and helping writers  discover more creative ways to tell their unique story within the greater Kingdom Story. It was my ‘sweet spot’. Doing what God created me to do. Encourage. Speak. Empower. Challenge. Tell Stories.

Now I’m the one telling that 26-year-old I meet that God has given her a gift of writing and it is her duty to write for Him…

So I will Keep Writing.

And I will also Keep Encouraging Writers. Trusting God for the fruit…

writeon…I’d delight if none of my words fell to the ground — if none were useless, excessive, dispensable, easily dismissed… But that’s God’s business. He might use the means of cyber technology, savvy marketing, good publicity. But either God, God alone, keeps our words from falling and scatters them wide, or else there is nothing in them worth keeping and scattering in the first place. Our concern, our responsibility, is simply to hear and heed God. It is always and everywhere to say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’(Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God)

under the mercy, Cindy

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©2015 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!

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A Mama’s Choice

A  Mama’s Choice

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

choicefingers2My child recently had a child. She chose life –– to become a mother. And I think back to the choice I made the day I walked out of a Seattle courtroom as her new mother.

Do you remember when you first became a mama? Parenting is a privilege, an honor, and lifelong commitment. We are not only life-givers at the beginning, but every subsequent choice we make either gives life to our child or takes a piece of it away.

choicefamilygardenOur Heavenly Father knows all about hard choices. Though His own children had rejected Him time and time again, God always offered them a second chance – a choice: “Choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord Your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.”  (Deuteronomy 30.19-20)

Love Him. Follow Him. Obey Him. And the reward? Life. A full life. Who wouldn’t want that for their children?

CHOICEBWCROPAnd yet, even the best parent falters and fails. I know I have.

I entered motherhood with great desire and determination to pour love, courage, joy and hope into the boys and girls God entrusted me with for such a short time. And I meant it. So I tried to do it – with a full measure of grace and mercy.

But sometimes I made poor choices.  Have you ever chosen self over others; temper over temperance; control over release; fear over trust; loud over quiet; or settled into lethargy rather than actively respond to God? Yeah, me too.

choicefamilyEventually, my ultimate choice was to parent with the grace I had received – allowing my children to learn the hard way, even to fail. To help them know that God (and I) offer second chances, actions have consequences, and choices do make a difference.

 

Wouldn’t you like to be a Mama who:

  • choicegrandbwPromotes Security – assuring children they are accepted and loved, no matter what.
  • Offers Significance — helping them understand their unique gifts and leanings and then urging them to courageously pursue all God has for them.
  • Provides Strength – cultivating inner fortitude to keep going in difficult times and placing their hope in God.

Think of the ever-widening ripple effect of such a choice for life. Our children will change a future we will never see!

As I hold my new granddaughter, I believe this with all my heart.*

under the mercy, Cindy

* selected from Day 31 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 

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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What I Discovered in Gethsemane

What I Discovered in Gethsemane 

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

gethchurchofagony

Church of the Agony – 2009 LSM

A few years ago I had the great privilege of spending time during Lent in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. In the Easter story, Jesus’ time in the Garden is one that pierces my soul every time I think of all He encountered. So it was especially poignant to be there amongst the olive trees and in the shadow of the Church of the AgonyGethsemane means ‘pressed down’ and that’s exactly how Christ felt in that night of his betrayal.

  • He goes through the whole range of emotions as He first tries to bargain with God for ‘another way’ (Have you ever tried to bargain with God?),
  • then He cries out for friends who aren’t there for him (Have you ever felt abandoned by those you’re counting on?),
  • gethprayerthen finally, He surrenders with great peace to the will of God, the One who knows and loves Him best and created Him for this very moment (Have you ever finally said to God, ‘nonetheless not my will, but Thy will be done’ and really meant it?)

As I observe Christ’s obvious peace in the midst of agony (that church is most aptly named), I realize that Jesus’ whole life was preparing Him for this moment and the way He was able to stand in it was in direct correlation to how He spent His days. I want to be more like Christ — it is a longing of my heart. And so I simply must do what Jesus did.

Here are 5 ways God is directing me on that path during this Lenten season. (for more about Lent, see last week’s blog “It’s Not Just About Giving Up Chocolate…”

1. Embrace Silence – listen to God’s ‘still small voice.’

lentmanonbenchWe read in God’s Word that Jesus withdrew from others and prayed often to his heavenly Father. In recent years God has literally opened up whole new vistas of prayer for me by teaching me how to embrace silence. It is a growing discipline of mine to begin morning devotions by having 3-5 minutes of complete silence and listening for God’s still small voice. You would not believe what I have heard in those times. Silence and solitude go against the grain, but offer great benefits for those who seek them. “As we remain in the silence, the inner noise and chaos will begin to settle. Our capacity to open up wider and wider to God grows. The Holy One has access to places we don’t even know exist in the midst of the hubbub. Lean into God, trusting that being with Him in silence will loosen your rootedness in the world and plant you by streams of living water.” (Adele Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines)

2. Incorporate prayers of the church in my devotions.

lentbibleprayeri am a firm believer in praying extemporaneously. But I have also increasingly learned to appreciate praying the prayers that have been around simply for ages and ages. Prayers by King David found in the Psalms. The Lord’s Prayer. And prayers by many, many followers of Christ through the centuries. It has been my great joy to introduce my readers to some of my favorite prayers as I included one in each day of my “Live These Words” 40-day devotional. This week I was on Sirius Family Talk Radio interviewed by Rev. Jim Wood and we both agreed that it’s not the fact that a prayer has been written down before that can occasionally make it seem ‘rote’ or ‘meaningless’. It is always what is in the pray-er’s heart that affects prayer. If you truly embrace words such as these, then your prayers are definitely heartfelt, even though what you are doing is aligning yourself with prayers of fellow believers centuries before now. 

3. Keep short accounts – forgive easily, offer grace, accept God’s mercy.

lentashverseMany of us will attend an Ash Wednesday service today or tonight and receive the ashes in the form of a cross on our foreheads. As the pastor says “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” I am always reminded of my own mortality and how fragile life is. Are you? If so, then how important to keep short accounts with others, to not let the sun set on our anger. To reach out in love and friendship both to those we know and those whose path we cross unexpectedly. I am daily grateful for God’s grace to me and this season I want to be a grace giver to others. Offering forgiveness quickly is one way to do that. But also, we must learn to accept God’s forgiveness of us and therefore live each day under His mercy.

4. Fast during Lent from something in order to focus on Jesus and His work on the cross for us. 

lentfastwordsFasting is one of the spiritual disciplines of Lent which begins today with Ash Wednesday. One definition of fasting is “the voluntary denial of something for a specific period of time for a spiritual purpose.” The intent is that we give up something in order to focus more prayerfully on Christ. One spring I gave up reading novels because I found that I was using them to ‘escape’ from other things.One of my fasts this Lent is that I have decided to abstain from technology on my Sabbath so that no interruptions such as email, facebook, internet research, etc. will distract me from rest and worship.

5. Surrender…Relinquish… Lay it/him/her at the foot of the cross, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” 

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Garden of Gethsemene – 2009 LSM

Finally, I hope we can all learn from Christ in the Garden that the place of surrender is truly the place where our wills meet God’s. In 40 short days believers will gather all over the world in places of worship and lay our concerns at the cross of Jesus. Did you know that during Lent we can do that daily? Even folks like me. I’m a recovering control freak, so letting go of anything is pretty difficult for me. But I’m aiming for surrender and relinquishment this season and I hope I can do it as Christ did, with great peace and serenity “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

Jeremiah 6.16 reminds us to “Ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”  May we all do that in this holy season of Lent.

“Heavenly Father, Forgive those things we have done which have caused You sadness, and those things we should have done that would have brought You joy. In both we have failed ourselves, and You. Bring us back to that place where our journey began, when we said that we would follow the way that You first trod. Lead us to the Cross and meet us there. Amen.” (unknown)

 lentenwordsspecialamazonunder the mercy, Cindy

©2015 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!

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It’s Not Just About Giving Up Chocolate…

 It’s Not Just About Giving Up Chocolate…

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

lentchocolateWhen I was growing up in south Georgia, my Episcopalian friends Mercer and Lisa always proudly announced this time of year that they were “giving up chocolate for Lent!” I never really knew what that meant. All I knew is that they didn’t seem any more holy after doing this, so I kept eating chocolate…

Now, I not only know what “Lent” means, I embrace this season – the 40 days prior to our celebration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is one of the holiest and most significant observances in the life of a believer and definitely deserves more than just a one-day acknowledgement. lentrenewal“Lent” derives its name from an old Saxon word lencton which literally meant length. During these 6 weeks while we are repenting and reflecting on what Christ did for us, the days are lengthening and we are moving from winter to spring – literally into New Life.

In the 3rd and 4th centuries Christians began the practice of a 40-day preparation period which many still embrace today. Lent is a time when our souls seek God in a fresh way. lentbowlAnd yes, fasting is one way to do that. Some people fast from a certain  kind of food, others from tempting time-consuming activities such as television or facebook. The idea is to practice denial of something so that we can focus more on what Christ has done for us.

For many followers of Christ, Lent has not been a regular part of their life because it’s what those “other churches” do. But I assure you, there are practices we can all embrace during this time which will draw us closer to Jesus.

lentnouwenquoteHow will YOU observe Lent this year?

  • Daily soul nurture through silence, prayer and a biblical devotional?
  • Reflection and repentance for times of choosing another path?
  • Reaching out with love and service to those who are hurting and need hope?
  • Worshipping with the body of Christ – Holy Communion weekly?
  • Living in gratitude and sharing the Hope of Easter to all around you?

One thing we can all do during these 40 days is to set aside time each day with God – reflection, prayer and Bible reading. While there are many great resources out there, may I humbly suggest my own book “Live These Words” – it is 40 days of devotionals which include one biblical word a day, a prayer and an action point. For Lent 2015 I have written a companion guide “Lenten Words” which literally takes you through these devotionals, beginning with Ash Wednesday, February 18 and concluding on day 40 with Easter Sunday, April 5. You can easily PRINT “Lenten Words” here.

lentenwordsspecialamazon

My publisher, Bold Vision Books, has arranged for Amazon to offer a special discount for “Live These Words” in both paperback (only $11.69) and kindle ($1.99) from NOW through Ash Wednesday February 18.    So order soon and then download “Lenten Words” from this website.

lentnail “O, God, when we pause to look back at our lives on this Ash Wednesday,  we realize that we have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.  We have neglected to do good when it was in our power to do so. We have ignored the cries of the motherless, the fatherless, the widow and the widower choosing instead to turn children and the elderly into the new poor.We have not dealt honorably with our enemies or our friends, and we have feigned a place in the company of the righteous. Forgive us, O God,    for the times we have neglected to provide our children and our world an authentic example of Christianity. As we begin the journey of these 40 days, Wash us, O God and we shall be clean.Cleanse us, O Lord, and we  shall be made whole. Amen.”

under the mercy, Cindy

©2015 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!

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