How to Live in Difficult Times

How to Live in Difficult Times

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

  • “In the last days there will be very difficult times.
  • difficulttimesFor people will love only themselves and their money.
  • They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God,
  • disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful.
  • They will consider nothing sacred.
  • They will be unloving and unforgiving;
  • they will slander others and have no self-control.
  • They will be cruel and hate what is good.
  • They will betray their friends, be reckless,
  • be puffed up with pride,
  • and love pleasure rather than God.” 2 Timothy 3.1-4 NLT

          Why are we so surprised to be living in such difficult times?

          When I read today’s text, Paul’s final words to Timothy, I am amazed that in many ways, very little has changed in our world.

          But if “difficult times” have been present off and on for two millennia and beyond, then why do we wring our hands, whining that surely this is the end of the world?

          God is still on the throne.

          Whatever is happening in your world today… it did not take Him by surprise. If He allows such difficulty to intersect with your life, be confident that He will put Himself right in the middle of it in order to provide for you.

          I don’t know what you are experiencing as you read these words. But as I write them, there is great change and upheaval in my own country. People are afraid. People are angry. And even some believers are forgetful. 

                That our Christian faith was not only born in the midst of political turmoil (murderous King Herod and Christian persecutor Nero), but it has prevailed throughout time with both weak and strong leaders, believers and scoffers. 

     How should we conduct ourselves during difficult times when all of the things listed in today’s verse are truly personified in our daily news and our daily encounters?

                We should do exactly what Paul exhorted Timothy, “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught.” (2 Timothy 3.14 NLT)

                One pastor offered these suggestions for living in difficult times:

  • Pray repentance and saving faith “for kings and all who are in high positions” everywhere. (1 Timothy 2.2) 
  • Lift up Christ and gather with people, in beautiful diversity and harmony to worship God together in healthy, holy, humble churches.
  • Love each other “earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1.22), remaining “unstained from the world” (James 1.27).
  • Spread the great good news of the saving grace of Jesus Christ to all people. 

             These are characteristics of reconciliation. Isn’t this who we are called to be?

             “[Reconcilers] bring people together. They hate war, violence, contentiousness, division caused by race, economics, gender and ideology. They believe that being peaceable and making peace trumps all other efforts in one’s lifetime. A Christian is mightily stirred into action when he sees those dividing walls that separate people, each of whom was made uniquely and loved by God. What an incredible example he is to exploitative and arrogant people who walk through every day dividing and diminishing people all around them. The transforming Christ-follower knows his natural human tendency and seeks God’s power to replace it with another tendency: redeeming, healing love.”  (Gordon MacDonald)

          Difficult times are inevitable. May our response bring reconciliation and peace.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

lentfrontLENT begins March 1st! CLICK HERE for your Free Printable of “2017 Lent Guide” to use with “Dwelling Places.” 

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

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I Now Answer to the Name “Beloved”

I Now Answer to the Name “Beloved”

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.” (Romans 9.25 MSG)

         beloved I remember the moment I finally got up enough nerve to say aloud “I am God’s Beloved.”  Now this is my primary identity.

          After half a lifetime of wrestling with unworthiness, I finally received the gift the above scripture speaks of —  God’s unconditional love that transforms those who feel unloved and forgotten into His beloved.

          From then on, we are called to live loved.

          “It’s not deciding in my mind I deserve to be loved. Or manipulating my heart to feel loved. It’s settling in my soul, I was created by God, who formed me because He so much loved the very thought of me. When I was nothing, He saw something and declared it good. Very good. And very loved. God’s love isn’t based on me. It’s simply placed on me. And it’s the place from which I should live…loved.” (Lysa Terkeurst)

          Have you forever been changed by the love of Christ?

          Fil Anderson was just walking along the beach one day when suddenly a young boy with Down Syndrome ran towards him, hugging and kissing him. Though startled, he remembers feeling that God was saying: “That little boy was a picture of my wild love for you. The way he looked into your eyes is the way I have always looked at you. That beaming smile on his face is how you make me smile. The way he wildly screamed with glee is how I feel about you. The way he kissed you only begins to express the love that is in my heart for you. I am totally crazy about you.”

          God is totally crazy about you and me too.

Which should make every other title or status or label pale in comparison to Beloved. Those are ever changing, but God’s love will always be the set point of who I truly am. 

          “Jesus came to share his identity with you and to tell you that you are the beloved sons and daughters of God. You were the beloved before your father, mother, brother, sister, or church loved you or hurt you. God loved you before you were born and God will love you after you die. This is who you are whether you feel it or not.”  (Henri Nouwen)

          To know this and truly believe it will enable us to live loved. 

          It was a decisive moment in Jesus’ life – the divine affirmation at his baptism: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 2.17 KJV) That identity defined and empowered him all his days on earth. 

          Believing the opening verse of this blog can also be a decisive moment in our lives as well – the day we received the gift of a new name – Beloved.

And began thus to live out our calling. “Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all.” (Frederich Buechner)

          Just call me Beloved.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

lentfrontLENT begins March 1st! CLICK HERE for your Free Printable of “2017 Lent Guide” to use with “Dwelling Places.” 

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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Ordinary Graces

Ordinary Graces

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” John 1.16 

“Sometimes I blurt out words that hurt other people. In trying to hide my insecurity, I become bossy, controlling and impatient. My ears are tickled by praise of others and my mood can fluctuate from joyful to despondent on the whim of someone’s opinion. I find it hard to focus on any one person because I’m always in a hurry. But I don’t want to be this way! And I often wonder if anyone will ever really love me.”

         ogblog I was “that girl.”

Striving. Enslaved. Rigid. Even though a Christ-follower. Carrying around God’s gift of grace, but never bothering to open it and embrace its richness as a whole new way of life.

            The last person you’d expect to be writing a book offering the many gifts of God’s ordinary graces.

But here I am.

Transformed by an encounter with Jesus who stooped and lifted me out of my pit, relocating me to holy ground. The humbled recipient of a gift I don’t deserve and could never earn by my own efforts – God’s amazing grace. It cost me nothing (except surrender), but it cost Jesus everything. 

Saul was the last person you’d expect to be picked by God. To change the world.

Oh sure, he had plenty of academic and professional credentials. Lots of knowledge and ambition. Self-confidence in spades. Problem was, Saul was batting for the wrong team. He hated followers of the Way and was complicit in the stoning murder of Stephen, “spewing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.”(Acts 9.1 CEB)  

Hopeless, right? Not in God’s sight. 

God saw something in Saul that could be used for the Kingdom. Instead of punishing him, He waylaid Saul on the road to Damascus and assured the early Christians, “This man is the agent I have chosen to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites.” (Acts 9.15 CEB)

That one act of grace turned Saul the persecutor into Paul the missionary of Christ.

Do you feel like the least likely person to be gifted with a life of love, grace and purpose? You are in fine company with me and with Saul. Receive that second chance and out of your own undeserved freedom, begin to look at others with fresh eyes of compassion, mercy and grace.

Paul’s “brand” was grace. Out of the 155 references to grace in the New Testament, 133 are his words. The New Testament Greek word, charis, is translated “grace” and “favor,” and is the root of charisma, for “gift.”

Grace gifts abound. They are everywhere, just waiting to be opened. I discover them in ordinary places, like the people who touch my soul because of their courage, kindness or self-sacrifice. I even find them in the challenges that simultaneously turn my world upside down and change me from the inside out. 

Mostly I discover these ordinary graces through His Word. Each word is a Gift. Waiting to be received, unwrapped and incorporated into our hearts and souls and actions. 

To me, “ordinary graces” are surprising gifts that come to me while simply living my story. If I am in a hurry I will miss them. If I am distracted I will ignore them. But for those of us who are weary from effort yet thirsty for more, God offers grace, strengthgratitude and life.

I’m learning so much as I continue to write this new book “Ordinary Graces” (coming from Abingdon Press this fall). By God’s grace, may it be a tool to help us all open many, many grace gifts — one day at a time.

under the mercy, Cindy

lentfrontLENT begins March 1st! CLICK HERE for your Free Printable of “2017 Lent Guide” to use with “Dwelling Places.” 

©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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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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