About Those Messages Filling Our Minds…

About Those Messages Filling Our Minds…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

 As my eyes open after a long night of sleep, they slowly begin to focus on what’s in front of me. Letters merge into words and I read them yet again — “Each day is a gift from God.”

I imprinted these words on the slanted eaves of our bedroom wall, exactly at eye level, so that they would be the first words I saw when I woke up and the last words as I went to bed.

They are now deeply engrained in my mind and heart, prompting gratitude for the gift of life.

In Deuteronomy, Moses is warning the people who have wandered in the desert for forty years and are soon to be crossing over into the Promised Land. He knows how easy it will be for them to, yet again, forget the faithfulness of the true God, and chase after other false gods. So he suggests several ways to keep God’s law in their lives –“Imprint these words of Mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Deuteronomy 11.18-19 HCSB

Anything to make sure they don’t forget the truth.

What cultural messages are saturating your mind today? How can you (and I) keep God’s Truth at the forefront?

One way is to imprint scripture on our minds, and hearts too.

God’s words bring life and light to us on the journey. I love how this is illustrated in C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair. The Christ figure, Aslan the lion, tells Jill four signs to lead her on her journey and emphasizes their importance,

“But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs…”

“Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.”

Jill leaves on her quest to find a lost prince, but along the way the signs are forgotten or misunderstood. Dire consequences ensue – the group begins without official support, they end up almost eaten by giants, and then fail to recognize the prince when they finally come face to face with him. The problem is that even though Jill has learned the signs, she cannot remember them.

When we are alone with God and in His Word, scripture seems so clear, so life-giving. But then the atmosphere changes in our world and we get confused. Our distractions and fears cause us to forget even the most simple of commands such as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10.27)

It’s far too easy to veer from our desired course. That’s why we need to learn to imprint the words on our hearts and minds. Let us remember every morning and every night and repeat them when we awaken in the middle of the night.

How do you best upload God’s Word into your heart and mind?

  • Are you an auditory learner? Then say the verse aloud or listen to a version of the Bible while you walk, drive or clean house.
  • Are you a visual learner? Use a highlighter when you read, write passages in your journal, or print up scripture memory cards to keep in prominent view for easy recall.
  • Are you an experiential learner? Then think of a way to use the story of the text in your life and associate it with something you do.

I know I must stay in God’s Word, seeking to understand the meaning and the implications for my life today. Will you also begin the quest to “remember the signs”?

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net

*selections from “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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

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

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That Man Who Said Some Hard (but Good) Things to Me

That Man Who Said Some Hard (but Good) Things to Me

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

When I came to the end of this book two surprising things happened:

  1. I started weeping.
  2. The author informed me this was really an intervention and that everyone I know had been calling him and asking him to break some news to me:

You can no longer continue to be the person you’ve been! What are you going to let go of? Who have you been playing it safe with, while politely keeping your distance? Who has been mean or rude or flat wrong or creeps you out? Don’t tell them all your opinion, give them all your love. I know it’s hard for you. It’s hard for me too. Even when we feel like we can’t muster the strength and humility to love our enemies, the truth is we can…. It will be messy. Sometimes ugly messy. You’ll also be misunderstood – you might not even understand yourself anymore. You’ll grow. As you practice loving everybody, always, what will happen along the way is you’ll no longer be who you used to be. God will turn you into love.”  (Bob Goff, Everybody Always)

And I came to the end of this book Everybody Always in a very short time because I simply could not put it down!

Bob Goff is a courageous man and a consummate Storyteller. I won’t give away any of the stories because I want you to read every single one – about the TSA guy, all the prisoners who phone him collect (and he always answers), the little boy Charlie, and the witch doctors…oh the Witch Doctors! Honey, you have a treasure trove of Amazing Stories ahead.

But not just for entertainment’s sake —  to flesh out what it means be love, like Jesus. Do you wish we Christ followers had a better reputation for loving in the world? Me too. Reading this book might just be a launching pad for that to begin to happen. In our one life.

Here are some questions I am asking myself this summer:

How do I view those who are difficult, different and demanding?

“God doesn’t see people the way I do. The ones I see as problems, God sees as sons and daughters, made in His image. The ones I see as difficult, He sees as delightfully different. The fact is, what skews my view of people who are sometimes hard to be around is that God is working on different things in their lives than He is working on in mine… I think He wants us to see things the way He does, and it’s not going to happen from the top floor of our castles. It will happen at the ground level of grace.”  (Bob Goff, Everybody Always)

Do I tell people what to do or encourage them in who they are becoming?

“Telling people what they should want turns us into a bunch of sheriffs. People who are becoming love lose the badge and give away grace instead. Tell the people you meet who they’re becoming, and trust that God will help people find their way toward beautiful things in their lives without you.”  (Bob Goff, Everybody Always)

What’s holding me back – wondering what others will think?

Bob’s Life in Six Words – What if we weren’t afraid anymore?

Bob Goff’s enthusiasm is contagious! (Boston 2017)

How can you and I help change a world that is full of division, despair, distrust, and danger?

“God’s endgame has always been the same. He wants our hearts to be His. He wants us to love the people near us and love the people we’ve kept far away. To do this, He wants us to live without fear. We don’t need to use our opinions to mask our insecurities anymore. Instead, God wants us to grow love in our hearts and then cultivate it by the acre in the world. We’ll become in our lives what we do with our love. Those who are becoming love don’t throw people off roofs, they lower people through them instead.”  (Bob Goff, Everybody Always)

How can I flesh out my own true purpose in life?

 “People will figure out what we really believe by seeing what we actually do. Everybody has a plan, but God is looking for people who know their purpose. It’s taken some time, but I’m starting to act like my purpose is to love God and to love the people around me the way Jesus loved the people around Him. To pull this off, I need to do it with an unreasonable amount of patience and kindness and understanding. “  (Bob Goff, Everybody Always)

Last February I had the privilege of meeting Bob Goff when we both spoke at the VNE GO Conference in Boston. Although I don’t really know him personally,  I thank God for his presence in our world today. Like you and me, he is simply being an instrument in the hand of God. To share love, acceptance, understanding, grace and mercy. That’s all.

Wow.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net 

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

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

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Hush!

Hush!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

You quieted the raging oceans with their pounding waves and silenced the shouting of the nations. Psalm 65.7

When God says “Hush” we had better listen! He is, after all, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, able to silence nature as well as nations.

Do you find yourself only half-listening to a conversation because you are mentally crafting your own brilliant response? Are you tired of your own voice yet?

Sometimes God bids us to be quiet – to speak small and listen large.

Even if such practice goes against our nature. Even if we actually have something important and worthy to say. But especially if we haven’t invested sufficient thought and prayer into what the words will be that come forth from our mouth.

Jesus said that it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6.45). So perhaps we need to make sure these fickle, fragile hearts of ours have sufficient tending. Listening for God’s still small voice. Resting and relying on His words to fill us with both truth and trust.

Time to HUSH:

H – Hear God’s voice through reading His Word.

U – Understand His will through prayer.

S – Silence your own voice, in order to receive.

H – He will quiet your soul.

Lord, my mouth is shut and ears are open. Please speak. Amen.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net 

Today’s blog is adapted from one of my devotionals in the new book/journal “Just Breathe!  ORDER your own leatherette copy here ($11.47)

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

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($8.79) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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Weeping

Weeping

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Sometimes there are just no words.

And so, I turn to God. In prayer. Today I am sharing with you a liturgy prayer from Every Moment Holy:

“There is so much lost in this world, O Lord, so much that aches and groans and shivers for want of redemption, so much that seems dislocated, upended, desecrated, unhinged – even in our own hearts.

Even in our own hearts we bear the mark of all that is broken. What is best in this world has been bashed and battered and trodden down. What was meant to be the substance has become the brittle shell, haunted by the ghosts of a glory so long crumbled that only its rubble is remembered now.

Is it any wonder we should weep sometimes, without knowing why? It might be anything. And then again, it might be everything.

For we feel this. We who are your children feel this empty space where some lost thing should have rested in its perfection, and we pine for those nameless glories, and we pine for all the wasted stories in our world, and we pine for these present wounds. We pine for our children and for their children too, knowing each will have to prove how this universal pain is also personal. We pine for all children born into these days of desolation – whose regal robes were torn to tatters before they were even swaddled in them.

O Lord, how can we not weep, when waking each day in this vale of tears? How can we not feel those pangs, when we, wounded by others, so soon learn to wound as well, and in the end wound even ourselves? We grieve what we cannot heal and we grieve our half-belief, having made uneasy peace with disillusion, aligning ourselves with a self-protective lie that would have us kill our best hopes just to keep our disappointments half-confined.

We feel ourselves wounded by what is wretched, foul, and fell, but we are sometimes wounded by the beauty as well, for when it whispers, it whispers of the world that might have been our birthright, now banished, now withdrawn, as unreachable to our wounded hearts as ancient seas receding down some endless dark.

We weep, O Lord, for those things that, though nameless, are still lost. We weep for the cost of our rebellions, for the mocking and hollowing of holy things, for the inward curve of our souls, for the evidences of death outworked in every field and tree and blade of grass, crept up in every creature, alert in every longing, infecting all fabrics of life.

We weep for the wretched expressions of all things that were first built of goodness and glory but are now their own shadow twins. We have wept so often. And we will weep again.

And yet, somewhere in our tears, a hope still kept.

We feel it in this darkness, like a tiny flame, when we are told. Jesus wept.

You wept.

So moved by the pain of this crushed creation, you, O Lord, heaved with the grief of it, drinking the anguish like water and sweating it out of your skin like blood.

Is it possible that you – in your sadness over Lazarus, in your grieving for Jerusalem, in your sorrow in the garden – is it possible that you, have sanctified our weeping too?

For the grief of God is no small thing, and the weeping of God is not without effect. The tears of Jesus preceded a resurrection of the dead.

O Spirit of God, is it then possible that our tears might also be a kind of intercession?

That we, your children, in our groaning with the sadness of creation, could be joining in some burdened work of coming restoration? Is it possible that when we weep and don’t know why, it is because the curse has ranged so far, so wide? That we weep at that which breaks your heart, because it has also broken ours – sometimes so deeply that we cannot explain our weeping even to ourselves?

If that is true, then let such weeping be received, O Lord, as an intercession newly forged of holy sorrow.

Then let our tears anoint these broken things, and let our grief be as their consecration – a preparation for their promised redemption, our sorrow sealing them for that day when you will take the ache of all creation, and turn it inside-out, like the shedding of an old gardener’s glove.

O Lord, if it please you, when your children weep and don’t know why, yet use our tears to baptize what you love. Amen.” 

(Douglas Kaine McKelvey in “Every Moment Holy” ©2017)

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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

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Are You Praying for Them?

Are You Praying for Them?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Our country is awash in disunity, often fueled by shocking words of those who should be leading the way.

It’s disheartening, discouraging and dishonoring to God.

So what can one person do to help turn the tide back to civility and dignity?

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and  it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.  1 Timothy 2.1-3

God’s Word says that prayer will bring about peace and please God.

Prayer!

How often do you pray for those who are opposed to everything you hold dear? Do you pray daily for your country’s president and other leaders around your family table? Because children will pick up on our attitude, we need to convey a hopeful spirit.

This is not merely a suggestion for Christ-followers. Prayer for “kings and all who are in high positions” is a mandate. Whether or not that person would have been our first choice.

Prayer is powerful and God can change a heart and a leader however He chooses. Never give up.

Lord, thank you for hearing my prayers for others. Amen.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net 

Today’s blog is adapted from one of my devotionals in the new book/journal “Just Breathe!  ORDER your own leatherette copy here ($11.47)

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

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($8.79) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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Here’s What I Sing to My Grands

Here’s What I Sing to My Grands

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Happy and Exhausted! Have you ever felt that way? You’re beyond tired, but you wouldn’t trade what you’re doing for anything in the world… 

This month I’m so very grateful to have my actor daughter and her 9-month-old son living with us while she performs in a musical nearby. Because …. I get to be Granny Nanny to Sweet T. Every single day. And most nights during performances.

Happy and Exhausted.  That’s me – GrannyLu. I am treasuring every single moment with this precious child and one of the things I do often with him (as well as his cousins in London) is to SING!

I seem to constantly be singing him words of love and joy and words of life, as I did with my own four children. I’m pretty confident he doesn’t care if I’m off-key. (though, it is true that back home in NYC, all his nannies are Broadway singers, so they set the bar high…)

Do you sing to your children or grandchildren? If not, why not? Perhaps when the time comes to settle them down for naps, you can’t think of anything to sing? 

Here’s my own eclectic list (including music/lyric links) – favorites  I once sang to my own children and now carry on with Darlin’ Girl, Little Prince and Sweet T:

My 10 Favorite Songs to Sing to Children!

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell (in no particular order)

  1. “All The Way” “When your Granny loves you, it’s no good unless she loves you all the way, happy to be near you when you need someone to cheer you, all the way..” (pretend you are Frank Sinatra or Celine Dion.)
  2. “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb” (sung by my husband to our 4 kids and now we are passing it along) Ends with “…loves me every day the same, even calls me by my name!”  Other similar choices which give the all-important message of being LOVED: “Jesus Loves Me” (insert your child’s name in instead of ‘me’) and “Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World”  
  3. “You Are My Sunshine”  (it helps if you have a southern twang, which I most certainly do) and “I Love You A Bushel and a Peck”
  4. “Goodnight My Someone, Goodnight My Love” great song from “The Music Man” (I insert my grand’s name instead of someone)
  5. “Spirit Song”“O Let the Son of God enfold you with His Spirit and His Love, Let Him fill your heart and satisfy your soul….” (from my Jesus Movement days…)
  6. “Over the Rainbow”  – just because it is a practically perfect song…”if happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow why oh why can’t I?”
  7. “Fairest Lord Jesus” – merely one of the scores of hymns I sing pretty much all the time, so will definitely pass along to little ones… “fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight, and all the twinkling starry host; Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer than all the angels heaven can boast.”
  8. “Edelweiss” and “My Favorite Things” because if it was good enough for Fraulein Maria in “The Sound of Music” it’s good enough for me.
  9. “The Way You Look Tonight” – – “Someday, when I’m awfully low, and the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you…and the way you look tonight.” (especially for those of us who live far away from our grands…)
  10. “10,000 Reasons- Bless The Lord”  – One of my few favorite contemporary worship songs. But who can beat these words? “The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning, it’s time to sing Your praise again. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes…bless the Lord O my soul…”

keepcalmsingWhat are YOU singing these days?

So sing! The song of rejoicing softens hard hearts. Happy praises offered in simplicity and love lead the faithful to complete harmony, without discord. Don’t stop singing.       (Hildegarde, 12th century)

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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

 

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When Another’s Pain Makes You Weep…

When Another’s Pain Makes You Weep…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I found myself weeping recently – for another’s burden.

Because life isn’t all barbecues, babies, books and birthdays… Because, as grateful as I am for so many daily grace gifts, I am also aware of others in need of a special touch of compassion and mercy.

Because sometimes  the tears come, unbidden, for someone else…

So yesterday I mailed prayerful notes to friends for whom life is hard right now:

  • The one whose ALS came quickly and rendered her physically helpless, praying she will make it to her only daughter’s wedding in two weeks.
  • The one who is seeking to stand strong in a work atmosphere of toxicity and secrecy – a place where believers are behaving anything but Christlike.
  • The one burdened by her disabled brother’s new medical and emotional challenges for which she is responsible.
  • The vibrant creative older couple who spread joy wherever they go, but who both are compromised medically, he with stage four cancer.
  • The middle-aged single mother just diagnosed with early onset dementia, who is the primary caregiver for her young chronically ill child.
  • The one whose family has seen way too much heartache lately, and now her best friend has died.
  • The one who watches her once strong inspiring mother completely diminish in all areas and grieves the loss of so much.
  • The health professional undergoing radical medical treatment so that she can move freely and continue to encourage many.
  • And, of course, my own sweet mother who is not recovering as she hoped from several surgeries this year – life is challenging when you’re in your nineties.

What can I say? I feel helpless to make it better. But not hopeless. I can do only what those friends in the Bible did – they lowered their sick friend through the roof to be near the Master. What can I do? I can bring them to Jesus. Through prayer and perhaps through a few words of encouragement and support.

Are you weeping for someone today?

“It’s an odd thing. Jesus wept. Job wept. David wept. Jeremiah wept. They did it openly. Their weeping, sanctioned by inclusion in our Holy Scriptures, is a continuing and reliable witness that weeping has an honored place in the life of faith. Why are Christians, of all people, embarrassed by tears, uneasy in the presence of sorrow, unpracticed in the language of lament? It certainly is not a biblical heritage, for virtually all our ancestors in the faith were thoroughly ‘acquainted with grief.’ And our Savior was, as everyone knows, a ‘Man of Sorrows.’” (Eugene Peterson)

In our lifelong pilgrimage to reflect more and more the image of Christ, perhaps we should remember what he did when his friend Lazarus died.

Jesus wept.

“When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him [Lazarus]?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him.'” (John 11:33-36)

Do you know someone today for whom life is incredibly hard? Do you also feel helpless in what to say or what to do to ease their pain? Just be a friend. Remember them in some small way. Don’t try to fix it (you can’t), just reach out. If you have the time and energy to provide a meal or a ride, do so. If your own life limits your involvement, you can always pray – and let them know you care.

There is a lot of pain in the world. In your life. And in the lives of those you love. Perhaps even today you and I will be called to sit with someone in sorrow. Michael Card wisely observes “The degree to which I am willing to enter into the suffering of another person reveals the level of my commitment and love for them. If I am not interested in your hurts, I am not really interested in you.”

I don’t pretend to know what hurts you today, but I am sure there is pain in your life too. May I offer you the gift of a beautiful prayer? (from my book Live These Words

Dear Man of Sorrows, so acquainted with grief, Help me not to recoil from Your wounds, not to fear touching them or to be touched by them. Help me to understand that in my suffering I am not only nearest to You, but nearest to becoming like You. It’s a sobering thought and I shudder when I think of it. Help me to understand that many of the sorrows I experience in this life belong to the nature of the world I live in, and will not pass away until this world passes away. Thank You for being in the midst of these sorrows, transforming them into blessings and filling them with meaning. Amen (Ken Gire)

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net

*selections from “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($8.79) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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