But What If You Don’t Feel Thankful?

But What If You Don’t Feel Thankful?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Perhaps you aren’t feeling very thankful this week.

The world is a scary place. The losses have piled up one after another — health, relationships, financial security, dreams — and you really wish everyone would just quit asking you to list your one thousand gifts…

 

Some people call this holiday “Turkey Day” but that would be limiting. It is called Thanksgiving to prompt us to dig deep enough to find something which offers hope and promise.

To say Thank You. Even if we don’t feel thankful.

When I am in these hard places, I find it helpful to focus my soul on these two things: 

  1. Remember that GOD is the One we thank.

G.K. Chesterton once famously wrote, “The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank.” To whom are you thankful today? 

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.” (1 Chronicles 29:13) This verse reminds us that God is the one we praise. We thank Him because He loves us more than we can possibly imagine. He has our back. Knowing that we are created, loved and sustained by a merciful and gracious God is the ultimate reason for giving thanks.

  1. Make a CHOICE to live in Gratitude, no matter what.

So, I can either complain and whine about the direction life has taken me— the detour in the road, the closed door, the seemingly impossible challenge — or I can believe that nothing is too hard for God-with-us (that is Emmanuel, one of the names of Jesus).

Maybe your situation is darker this year than last, but if you know God as the Great Provider, you can choose to declare: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3.17-18)

thankfullist1965I’m grateful for parents who taught me early on that Thanksgiving is actually a way of life. Recently I discovered a small piece of paper with a long childhood list — my ‘ticket’ to Thanksgiving dinner. I was startled to count 70 different things on this thankful list —  in categories, no less! If I could write that many at age twelve, just think of all I can thank Him for today after so much more life and blessing.

What is ONE THING you can Thank God for today?

Even in the pain, even in the loneliness, even in the uncertainty. Now breathe it out or write it out. Good for you.

Heavenly Father, I thank you. Most of all for loving me, for being my Savior and my Lord. But also for the many blessings you have showered upon my life. Every good gift is from you and I will declare my gratitude by living with a thankful heart. Not just on this holiday, but always. Amen. 

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell       www.EncouragingWords.net 

holidayfp4hThis Devotional appears in “A Joy-Full Season” Holiday Wellness Study from my good friends at First Place 4 Health. Want to Stay Healthy during the upcoming holidays? Order your copy HERE NOW! (I am grateful to be a contributing author of several devotionals in it – there are lots more from fabulous people!)

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” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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Why a Gratitude List is Good for Your Health

Why a Gratitude List is Good for Your Health

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“I tell you I’m going crazy,” the woman shouted to her mentor.

He gently replied, “Here is a yellow pad and here is a ballpoint pen. I want you to write down your blessings.”

She refused, overcome by the despair that had seized her soul.

But he didn’t give up. “Think of the millions of people all over the world who cannot hear a choir or a symphony or their own babies crying. Write down ‘I can hear, thank God.’ Write down that you can see this yellow pad and think of all the millions of people around the world who cannot see a waterfall or a flower blooming or their lover’s face. Write down ‘I can see, thank God.’

And so she began to make her list. As she reached the last line of that yellow notepad, clearly “the madness was routed.”

From then on Maya Angelou wrote all of her books and poems on yellow notepads, saying, “As I approach the clean page I think of how blessed I am.”

Ann, a Canadian pig farmer’s wife, began listing her blessings on a dare. Pretty soon her entire life and outlook changed as she kept lists of her one thousand gifts. Ann Voskamp began blogging and writing books to encourage others to do the same. And in just a few short years, many readers have seen their lives transformed by the spiritual practice of thanking God for all that is given.

Even science has shown that practicing gratitude is good for you. According to one study, those who keep gratitude journals:

  • exercised more regularly,
  • reported fewer physical symptoms,
  • felt better about their lives as a whole,
  • and were more optimistic about the upcoming week

They were also more likely to make progress on their personal and professional goals if their gratitude was recorded in some manner, like a list.

The hymnist Frances Ridley Havergal kept what she called a ‘journal of mercies.’ She crowded it with remembrances of God’s goodness. She was always on the lookout for tokens of the Lord’s grace and bounty, and she found them everywhere. She believed that many a complaining life would be changed into music and song by a journal of mercies.

Do you have a gratitude list? Why not?

The daily planner I ordered online this year includes a space each day to list gratitudes. My husband keeps one of those small pocket calendars solely dedicated to writing his everyday thanksgivings. Some people put them on slips of paper in a Mason jar.

You could even start right here:

  1. I am grateful for __________________________________________
  2. I am grateful for __________________________________________
  3. I am grateful for __________________________________________

But however you choose to record God’s goodness and faithfulness to you, my prayer is  that as you choose to do it, it will enrich your life, bubbling over to all those you encounter.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell  adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)      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” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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That Thing We Can All Do… for Our Country

That Thing We Can All Do… for Our Country

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Please don’t complain about the condition of our country, our government and our elected officials…

If you don’t vote.

It’s too easy to become complacent. We never lived during the time when only white male property owners were allowed to have a voice in the running of this country. But thankfully, brave men and women opened the doors for us all. Will we walk through them?

The women’s suffrage movement took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win the vote, and their campaign was wrought with much conflict. But on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified, enfranchising all American women and declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

Your vote and mine do make a difference. Martin Luther King, Jr. admonished us to “never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us.  The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressman and government officials, but the voters of this country.”

As citizens, voting is our right and privilege. As believers, we have a biblical precedent to “Choose for each of your tribes individuals who are wise, discerning, and reputable to be your leaders.” Deuteronomy 1.13 

But in today’s climate, it can be easy to feel that our vote doesn’t really matter.

Did you know that only one person’s vote in 1776 resulted in the United States choosing English as our language instead of German?

Or that in 1923, only one vote gave Adolf Hitler leadership of the Nazi Party.

Our flag would only have 46 stars if one extra person in California, Washington, Oregon and Texas hadn’t voted for statehood. (Frankly I can’t even imagine a country without those significant states!). In 1876 Rutherford B. Hayes beat Samuel J. Tilden for 19th president of the United States by one vote.  Only time will reveal the difference our votes made in a lifetime.

Perhaps you did vote. But your candidate was not the one elected. This time. Will you despair or will you hold fast to these three truths?

  1. God is still sovereign. He is not wringing His hands over this latest election. He is in control.  God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. Psalm 47.8       Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! 2 Chronicles 20.6 
  1. We are called to pray regularly for our leaders and our country. Prayer is powerful.       The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.1 Timothy 2.1-3 
  1. God offers a purpose and a hope for us now and for generations in the years to come.     I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ Isaiah 46.10     How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation. Daniel 4.3    

One day when your children ask you about this time in history, be sure you tell them that you made a deliberate choice to exercise your right to vote. 

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” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

 

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How Do You Remember Them?

How Do You Remember Them?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Do you celebrate All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Soul’s Day (Nov. 2)?

Even though some think only the canonized are ‘saints’, the Bible recognizes all Christians as ‘saints.’ We remember the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in the faith, stretching across the centuries and around the globe.

“However hard it might seem to follow the way of Jesus in our own time and place, this is a day to remember that we may be crazy, but we are not alone.” (‘Common Prayer’ for Novenber 1st)

  • Recently I visited the grave of a woman I never met. I helped my son and husband plant flowers and we sang together the hymn inscribed on Inka’s tombstone “Thine is the Glory.” Except for our voices, it was strangely quiet in this small Dutch village churchyard as we dug and stood vigil. A grace gift of both joy and solemnity.
  • Before my youngest daughter married her husband, we stood in a Texas memorial garden honoring his father, and prayed with thanksgiving for Tom’s life and our children who had come together to carry on his name and legacy.
  • And when I visit my Georgia family, I occasionally kneel at the grave of my childhood friend Cax and chat about growing older without her. Sometimes I leave little gifts, like the Barbie Christmas ornament that reminds me of so many little girl dreams – ones that she decided on her own would never come true.

Graves and tombstones are tangible memorials to someone’s life. As believers we know they aren’t actually there, in the ground or the vault. But these places provide a touchstone of remembering who they were and how they changed our lives.

“How often do we go to the cemetery and stand, kneel or sit in front of the place where our spouse, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, or friends have been buried? Are we still in touch with those who have died, or are we living our lives as if those who lived before us never really existed?” (Henri Nouwen)

How do you remember the life of a loved one who has died?

Perhaps you keep a possession of theirs, a recording, or a letter. Maybe you donate to a cause or ministry they were passionate about, or establish a scholarship to encourage students their field.

“What a gift it is to know deeply that we are all brothers and sisters in one human family and that, different as our cultures, languages, religions, life-styles, or work may be, we are all mortal beings called to surrender our lives into the hands of a loving God. What a gift it is to feel connected with the many who have died and to discover the joy and peace that flow from that connectedness.” (Henri Nouwen)

Because they lived, we are different.

So…. if you, like me, find yourself teary occasionally as you trudge this journey of faith and fortitude, seeking to persevere amidst all that says give up, then remember those words, “we may be crazy, but we are not alone!”  

What will others remember most about you? That you were kind, encouraging, helpful, funny? Or that you were always too busy? I urge you to live each day as though everything you do, everything you say and everyone you encounter builds the kingdom. Because it does.

You don’t have to worry about memorials. Just live.

under the mercy, Lucinda

Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell – adapted from Ordinary Graces  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” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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How WORDS Can Change a Life

How WORDS Can Change a Life

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

The year I was twenty-nine (serving as missions pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian in California’s Silicon Valley) a small band of fellow pilgrims and I discovered a new book called “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” by Eugene Peterson. We gathered weekly in my little parsonage to read and discuss its implications on our (very young) lives. Over time, our perspectives were challenged and our souls were knit together in pursuit of all God would call us to (and away from) in the years ahead…

As I peruse that well-worn volume today (with underlining on almost every page) I realize that Eugene Peterson’s words quite literally changed my life.

And this was even before he wrote The Message Bible!

Today I read the New York Times Obituary of this remarkable servant of God. And I am in awe of the power of words…

Originating from God, filtered down through the Holy Spirit, processed amidst the ordinary and splendor of our daily lives, and then (often through nothing more than obedience and sweat) typed or written or spoken with the presumptive hope of redemption, reconciliation, or restoration towards a broken world. WORDS.

In honor of his life, on today’s Encouraging Words blog I’d like to share some of my favorite words from Eugene Peterson, and perhaps they will become yours as well…

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

“It is this ‘long obedience in the same direction’ which the mood of the world does so much to discourage. In going against the stream of the world’s ways there are two biblical designations for people of faith that are extremely useful: disciple and pilgrim. Disciple (mathetes) says we are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master, Jesus Christ. We are in a growing-learning relationship, always. Pilgrim (parepidemos) tells us we are people who spend our lives going someplace, going to God, and whose path for getting there is the way, Jesus Christ.” ― Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

“And yet I decide, every day, to set aside what I can do best and attempt what I do very clumsily–open myself to the frustrations and failures of loving, daring to believe that failing in love is better than succeeding in pride.” 
― Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

On Soul Care, Eugene Peterson notes that the primary sense of cura in Latin is “care,” with undertones of “cure.”          “The soul is the essence of the human personality. The cure of souls, then, is the Scripture-directed, prayer-shaped care that is devoted to persons singly or in groups, in settings sacred and profane. It is… a way of life that uses weekday tasks, encounters, and situations as the raw material for teaching prayer, developing faith, and preparing for a good death… It is also a term that identifies us with our ancestors and colleagues in ministry, lay and clerical, who are convinced that a life of prayer is the connective tissue between holy day proclamation and weekday discipleship.”     – Eugene Peterson in “Curing Souls, the Forgotten Art,” Christianity Today 1983

“Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless.” 1 Peter 3.8-9 MSG

Stories:         “There are no shortcuts in growing up. The path to maturity is long and arduous. Hurry is no virtue. There is no secret formula squirreled away that will make it easier or quicker. But stories help.” 
― Eugene H. Peterson, Practice Resurrection 

“When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight.” Mark 4:10-12 MSG

 “When we submit our lives to what we read in scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.” 
― Eugene Peterson Eat This Book – A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading

God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. When I got my act together he gave me a fresh start. Now I’m alert to God’s ways; I don’t take God for granted. Every day I review the ways he works; I try not to miss a trick. I feel put back together, and I’m watching my step. God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.” Psalm 18.20-24 MSG

Grab the promised Hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God, where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent position as high priest for us.” Hebrews 6.18-20 MSG

Hoping does not mean doing nothing… It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying. And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident alert expectation that God will do what He said he will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith. It is a willingness to let him do it his way and in his time. It is the opposite of making plans that we demand that God put into effect, telling him both how and when to do it.”
― Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

My Own Life Verse:        “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.” Isaiah 58:9-12 MSG

Receive this Prayer in closing:       “I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:14-21 MSG

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” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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5 Tips for When You are Discouraged in Your Calling

5 Tips for When You are Discouraged in Your Calling

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

(Note: Last weekend I was privileged to be part of an incredible “reNEW – retreat for New England Writing” but I know that after the high of community, worship and inspiration, many can find ourselves back at home staring at the wall. If you are discouraged about your life in any way — not just writing–  perhaps these tips can be tailored to your own situation. I’m praying for all of you who read this blog.)

You got excited. Inspired to write. Motivated to minister. Challenged to pursue dreams.

And, for a while there – surrounded by kindred spirits cheering you on – you could almost taste the success. A book published. A conference keynote scheduled. A popular blog.

But now. Now you live in reality. Of words that won’t come. At least not in the right order. Of emails that say your social media numbers aren’t high enough. Of family and friends who still treat your holy calling as a mere hobby.

Today discouragement is your new companion.

What’s a writer to do?  (feel free to tailor these tips to your own unique calling)

  1. Reflect and Review. Ask yourself the hard questions: Why am I writing? What is my unique message? When and how did I confirm God’s calling to share my story? Who are those who have encouraged and challenged me to do this – and what did they say? What scripture has spoken directly to me as I have sought to pursue writing and speaking? Which biblical character do I most identify with on this journey and what can I learn from them? Then take it all to your heavenly Father in prayer. Pray with surrender and supplication for guidance and provision. Be quiet and ask for peace deep in your soul over all things in the publishing industry which are causing fear, hesitation or confusion. God will meet you where you are. Open your hands. To both release and to receive. 
  2. Plan Strategically. What is your first step? An outline? A strategic blog? Chances are you have already begun to write and even gotten quite far along this path so far (submission to potential agents or editors, etc.) Still, it helps to write down the steps necessary to reach your goal. In doing so, you may just be reminded of something or someone you neglected to contact. Perhaps that writers conference workshop recording you haven’t listened to yet. Set realistic goals for each week of this fall and do your best to reach them.
  3. Reach Out. No matter how engaged you are with readers (or potential readers and audience) you could always use more “friends and followers” right? This is just part of how our world operates today. It won’t help to bemoan the process of platform building. Think of it this way – an opportunity to get your vitally important message out to hurting people who need to hear Good News! So yes, you are going to have to reach out and “invite” people to “like” you. Yes, you will need to spend time online (when, I suspect, you would far rather be writing) engaging with others in the field. Just do it. 
  4. Gather. Writing is such a solitary profession that it is vital you make time to gather with others for learning, prayer and iron-sharpening-iron growth. Are you in a local writers’ group? Even if you can’t find someone geographically nearby, there are online groups. And I highly suggest making it a priority to attend a Writers Event every year if possible. There you will meet other like-minded creative souls just like you. They understand. They know what it takes and will encourage and pray for you. 
  5. Do the Next Thing. I hope the first four tips haven’t come across as demands, but more of suggestions. As always, I am writing this blog to myself first. Reminders of what I already know after a lifetime of writing and speaking. And yes, a lifetime of occasional times of discouragement in both areas. Still, I cannot tell YOU what God is asking of you at this moment. He may be saying “lay it down” for a season. He may be “kicking you in the pants” and urging courage and risk. But I do believe that as you and I make all our concerns a matter of prayer, God will guide us to the next thing. Spend some time listening and you will know what your Next Thing is. Then, by faith and in obedience, do it. God will then give you another next thing…

“Be strong and courageous and get to work. Don’t be frightened by the size of the task, for the Lord my God is with you; he will not forsake you. He will see to it that everything is finished correctly.” 1 Chronicles 28.20 

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” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

 

 

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When You’re in the Path of Destruction

When You’re in the Path of Destruction

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Is anyone else out there struggling with compassion fatigue?

As the death toll climbed into the thousands in Indonesia last week I could hardly wrap the tragedy around my heart. And the most recent hurricanes have threatened and destroyed vast areas where I grew up in both the Carolinas and south Georgia/north Florida. 

Some people lost everything.

What do we do with all these feelings of sorrow and helplessness? Well, of course, there will emerge tangible ways to actually donate or help in rebuilding and relief, and we must be proactive and generous. But meanwhile… I do the one thing I know how – I pray for all those suffering. And I suspect you are doing the same. 

Please feel free to Share this Prayer with those who need it most. 

A Liturgy for those who Suffer Loss from Fire, Flood or Storm

Leader: (reads regular font) O Christ in Whom Our Lives are Hidden

People: (read boldface font) fix now our hope in that which alone might sustain it.

O Christ in Whom Our Treasures are Secure, fix now our hope in You. In light of all that was so suddenly lost, O Lord, in light of all we had gathered but could not keep, comfort us.

Our nerves are frayed, O God. Our sense of place and permanence is shaken, so be to us a foundation.

We were shaped by this place, and by the living of our lives in it, by conversations and labors and studies, by meals prepared and shared, by love incarnated in a thousand small actions that became as permanent a part of this structure as any nail or wire or plank of wood. Our home was like a handprint of heaven. It was our haven, and now we are displaced, and faced with the task of great labors – not to move forward in this life, but merely to rebuild and restore what has been lost.

Have mercy, Lord Christ.

What we have lost here, are the artifacts of our journey in this world, the very things that reminded us of your grace expressed in love and friendship, and in shared experience. It is for these reasons we grieve the loss of our home and its contents – we grieve them for what they had come to signify in our stories, for they were charged with such meaning and memory, and woven with so much that is eternal.

O Father, we have suffered a hard loss, and one that we cannot endure alone. May we emerge in the months to come – even in our frailty – stronger than before, more deeply rooted in you, and more wrapped in the necessary arms of community. Give us humility to receive that which we need and cannot repay, when it is offered by others.

We thank you for the presence of friends who would share this burden of grief simply by showing up in the midst of it, and grieving with us. We thank you for small mercies and kindnesses extended. For the grace of thoughtfulness translated into the tiny details of life. For beauty. O Lord, let us not lose sight in our grief, of all that is yet bursting with beauty in this world.

Indeed, for anything spared and salvaged, we give you thanks. Let us see that even in disaster, there is grace still at work, for you know the limits of our hearts. Be with us now as we sift and clean, as we slog merely to reclaim some fraction of that which we once took for granted. Be with us as we navigate the countless details that must be tended and decisions that must be made between now and the time that we begin to feel normal again.

We do not even know yet today the full measure of what we have lost. Today is for mourning. So let us grieve together as those who know the world is broken, but who yet hold hope of its restoration.

Comfort us, O Lord, in the wake of what has overtaken us. Shield us, O Lord, from the hurts we cannot bear. Shelter us, O Lord, in the fortress of your love. Shepherd us, O Lord, as we wake each new morning, faced with the burdens of a hard pilgrimage we would not have chosen. But as this is now our path, let us walk it in faith, and let us walk it bravely, knowing that you always go before us. Amen.

©2017 “Every Moment Holy” Douglas McKelvey (Rabbit Room Press) ~ shared by Lucinda Secrest McDowell www.EncouragingWords.net

 Personal Note: Thank you to my readers for your constant prayers for my husband Michael in his recent brain surgery. He is now home and recuperating with the expert aid of visiting nurses, therapists, wife, son and brother. We are full of gratitude and hope… I promise to write a real blog next week.

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” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

 

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Those Words We are Longing to Hear

Those Words We are Longing to Hear

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

A few years ago, a nationwide poll asked, “What word or phrase would you most like to hear uttered to you, sincerely?” The top answers (especially number 3) might surprise you:

  1. I love you.
  2. You are forgiven.
  3. Supper is ready.

Sometimes grace looks a whole lot like supper. At someone else’s table. But before we can sit down, we must first be acknowledged, known, and invited. Not overlooked.

My eldest son, who has intellectual disabilities, has spent a lifetime overlooked by certain people who refuse to see beyond the exterior to the fun, wise, giving, and kind person he is. I wish you could see his ear-to-ear smile when anyone invites him to have a meal with them, whether in their home or at a restaurant.

Invited.

And so my mama’s heart feels deeply when I read in the Bible about Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth. Lame in both feet, Mephibosheth spent much of his life in the shadows. Although the grandson of King Saul, this young man was not turning down invitations to parties.

But as God continued to work in the heart of the current king—David— he suddenly remembered a long-ago promise. “David asked, ‘Is there anyone from Saul’s family still alive that I could show faithful love for Jonathan’s sake?’” (2 Samuel 9:1)

Needless to say, an unexpected summons to the king frightened young Mephibosheth. But David surprised him with unexpected news, “Don’t be afraid . . . because I will certainly show you faithful love for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the fields of your grandfather Saul, and you will eat at my table always” (v. 7).

Mephibosheth was shocked and could hardly believe that he was being treated like one of the king’s sons. Even as he grew older, he was part of the royal household. “Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table. He was crippled in both feet” (v. 13).

Is this a reminder that you perhaps need to follow through on a long ago promise to someone?

How about beginning with an invitation to share table time—a simple homemade soup or even meeting at a local coffee shop?

Grace is said at tables because grace happens when we gather around a table. The meal is such a common biblical image that it beckons us to think of our table literally as a table of redemption, where healing occurs for the downcast, where joy is shared in Christ, and where the gospel is modeled to the unbeliever. Meals put people at ease and lower anxieties. The path to being heard by those who do not know Christ sometimes begins over an authentic dinner conversation. (Barry H. Corey)

“Lord, thank you that your love for us is never wasted. Keep us rooted in your word, eating at your table, and praying by your Spirit, so that we may remember when we fail that we are part of your family not because we deserve to be but because you want us. Amen.” (Common Prayer)

Who is waiting to hear you say, “Supper is ready!”?

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2017 Lucinda McDowell adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)       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” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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“It’s Only Brain Surgery!”

“It’s Only Brain Surgery!”

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I was only 19-years-old when I first met a neurologist and a neurosurgeon.

I remember their names to this day: Dr. Brian Robinson and Dr. James Geissinger, both of Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. You see, these men changed my life. They removed a brain tumor from my Daddy and enabled him to live almost forty years longer. I am forever grateful to them.

Recently I met my second neurologist and neurosurgeon.

It’s been many years in the interim and honestly, I think if I’d gotten to choose, I would have just passed on such new acquaintances. However, I believe that these two young men are brilliant and caring and worthy of treating my sweet husband’s brain.

Brain Surgery.

Why do those words carry such weight? Because it’s dangerous, intricate, and life-altering (in one way or another). And yet, it is also miraculous. I know this from experience with having Daddy back for many years after his tumor was removed.

Even I have been known to use the idiom “Well, it’s not brain surgery!” meaning, of course, that whatever you are attempting isn’t anywhere near as difficult and delicate as what Neurosurgeons spend a lifetime preparing for and executing. But what if it IS brain surgery?

I’m counting on the miraculous in the next few weeks.

Mike will have brain surgery October 1 – inserting a permanent shunt to relieve pressure on his brain from built-up cerebral spinal fluid (NPH – normal pressure hydrocephalus, though there is nothing normal about it).

We are hopeful. Full of hope. Because honestly, it’s been excruciating watching parts of my beloved diminishing before my very eyes – mobility, balance, cognitive problem solving. He says he wants his life back…

Both Mike and I believe that Nothing Is Too Difficult for God.

‘Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! There is nothing too difficult or too wonderful for You—Jeremiah 32.17 

So maybe I should be saying “It’s only brain surgery!”

What are you facing today that seems delicate or difficult, scary or surprising?

Oh friend, you are not alone. There is One who has experienced all such emotions and knows your heart. The One who will draw close and comfort, encourage and heal. Will you turn to God in these times of uncertainty and great concern?

Perhaps this liturgy will help – Mike and I pray it together for each medical procedure. Please pray it yourself or pass it along to someone you love.

A Liturgy for the Morning of a Medical Procedure

Intercessors: (read boldface font)                  Patient: (reads regular font)

Intercessors: You designed our bodies, O Lord, with wondrous capacity for regeneration and healing. You give wisdom and knowledge and skill to those who by long training in their professions learn to diagnose and treat ailments of the body. And you, by your Spirit, sometimes effect miracles of healing that even the most skilled of practitioners cannot duplicate.

Patient: Today, as I submit myself to this procedure, I ask, O Lord, that by all means your care toward me would be manifest, for I am utterly dependent upon you. Give to my body immunity and vitality that I might recover quickly. Give me strength and health to resist complications. Give to my medical providers wisdom, skill, and insight. And by your Spirit, transcend even what body and medicine at their best might do. Where it is needed, bring the healing of your own touch to bear in my mortal frame.

 Be merciful, O God.

Show your goodness to me, and to those who share my concern. Be now my physician, my mender, my healer. Even in the midst of this procedure, let me rest in you.

Amen.

As I approach this procedure I acknowledge my own fears at the possibility of outcomes I cannot control.

O God unshaken by any circumstance, be now my rock and my refuge.

Still my racing thoughts. Speak peace to this gale-storm of my insecurities. In the midst of my concerns, give me grace to receive without bitterness the presence and support of friends who, seeking to ease fears they cannot understand, might utter unhelpful things.

Give me also grace to trust, to rest my trepidations in you, for your purposes and your presence transcend all possible outcomes.

Whether the end result of this procedure brings news that is good, bad, or uncertain, nothing that is essential or eternal will have changed.

My great hope is secure. Let me rest in that.

At the end of this day, I will still be your child, utterly dependent on you, utterly loved by you. At the end of this day, my life will yet be hidden with Christ, even as it now is. I will remain an heir to the promise that this imperfect, mortal body, though it faces temporary decline, will one day be swallowed up in a glorious immortality.

We pray for good outcomes from this procedure, O Lord.

We ask for good outcomes, pleading that you would be mindful of our mortal frailties,

But we know that regardless of the tidings to come, you are tender and present and sovereign over all circumstance,

and what is more you love us fiercely and eternally.

Therefore I will trust you to lead me well along the paths of any wild and perilous country. You are my shepherd. This day will hold no surprises for you. Let me rest in that.

Amen.       ©2017 “Every Moment Holy” Douglas McKelvey (Rabbit Room Press)

Thank you for your prayers in the days ahead.

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” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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5 Exciting Things for Autumn in New England!

Here’s My Latest Newsletter!

5 Exciting Things for Autumn in New England!

  1. All the Senses Engaged – You know that smell…. Crisp. Clean. Cool. What we used to call “sweater weather.” And envision those colors – hues of vibrancy that only an Artist like God could create and splash on leaves of all shapes and sizes. The taste of pumpkin everything! I want to start my days on the screen porch, breathing in deeply and exhaling love all around me. You too?
  2. Words, Words, and More Words – Every single open door for speaking Encouraging Words is a pure joy for me to walk through. I am excited to see many of you at a variety of events this Fall; including a coffee shop, family camp, girlfriend weekend conference, mama gatherings, writing retreat, and book club (click on below photo for details).  I’d love to be invited to your group in the future. Ring me at 860.402.9551.
  3. Two More Books – I’ve long wanted to offer resources for younger women, encouraging a life of serenity and strength through healthy spiritual habits. So, I’m extremely excited to announce that I’ve just signed contracts with the good folks at New Hope Publishers to release my new devotional in 2019 and my new discipling journal in 2020. Grateful to work with editor extraordinaire Ramona Richards again. And I so appreciate your prayers for the writing process..
  4. Smell of New Pencils – Yes, I return to Wethersfield High School for my 10thyear as a substitute teacher covering all subjects. It’s a perfect opportunity to (hopefully) encourage teens, learn the latest lingo, serve my community and enjoy a job that leaves all the work at the office! Who in your circle is going “back to school?”
  5. Fresh Start – Fall is like our second New Year. Time to start filling in a brand-new planner (this year I’m using Emily Ley’s Simplicity Academic Year Planner) with goals and stickers. A time to join that new Bible Study or Book Study group. A time to focus on healthy eating, not just for you, but even for the kids’ lunchboxes. A time to get back to fellowship in your church, or even start looking for a faith community. What will you begin this September?

My Favorites of Summer 2018!

Movie –  “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” (Netflix)
TV Series  “Endeavor” on PBS Masterpiece Theatre
Non-Fiction Book  “Everybody Always” Bob Goff
Non-Fiction Spirituality Book – “Survival Guide for the Soul” Ken Shigematsu
Fiction Book – “Send Down the Rain” Charles Martin
Biblical Fiction Book – “Thief of Corinth” Tessa Afshar
Off-Broadway Show – “The Marvelous Wonderettes” at Kirk Theatre 42nd St.NYC  featuring Maggie McDowell  as nerdy Missy – comedy and music from the 50’s and 60’s, tickets on sale through November.
Summer Dress – Kohl’s Smocked Tank Dress in Navy Multi Paisley
Jean Jacket  Chico’s Floral Applique Denim Jacket (sale coupon)
Everyday Jean Leggings  – Time and Tru from Walmart!
Shoes –  Rothy Flats (from recycled water bottles, ask me for a $20 off coupon)
Best Date  Mike McDowell took me overnight to NYC to see daughter Maggie’ McDowell’s amazing Cabaret Show “Morning Person” at GreenRoom42.
Trip – London to watch precious grands for their parents’ 5-year anniversary trip.
Food –  Fresh melon balls with cottage cheese for breakfast!
Concert –  National Memorial Day Concert on PBS
Speaking Event –  I loved teaching daily at Camp of the Woods in the Adirondacks.

Most Popular Recent Blog


In my late twenties, when was still not married, I decided God needed some specific help! While many of my professional, educational and ministry dreams were being fulfilled, the lifelong hope of being a wife and mother was still incubating…

With no prospects in sight, I went on a day-long prayer retreat and made My List. I decided to write down exactly who I was praying for in a husband. When the day was over I had a list of 24 attributes which I promptly typed and put in my planner.

Then I began praying diligently for each and every one to be fulfilled…. always ending my prayers in the prayer He taught us – “Thy will be done.”

When you read my list you might think of me as bold, longwinded, too picky or ‘shooting for the moon’ but guess what? I was/am all those things! You see, I believe in praying specifically yet always leaving it to God to winnow out and whittle down as He sees fit. Why should I pray a small prayer for something as important as a husband?

I’m still praying Big Prayers!

     “God is for you. If you don’t believe that, then you’ll pray small timid prayers; if you do believe it, then you’ll pray big audacious prayers. And one way or another, your small timid prayers or big audacious prayers will change the trajectory of your life and turn you into two totally different people. Who you become is determined by how you pray. Ultimately, the transcript of your prayer life becomes the script of your life.” (Mark Batterson, “The Circle Maker”)

My List

Lucinda Lee Secrest   – August 1981

Want to See That List? Click Here for the Rest of the Blog

There are a Few Spots left at reNEW – retreat for New England Writing in West Hartford CT October 5-7!  If YOU feel a tug towards writing or speaking and are searching for a like-minded community, excellent faculty, writing time and a spiritual retreat amongst 46 acres of New England autumnal beauty, then Register Soon! All details here at www.reNEWwriting.com

Please FOLLOW ME on INSTAGRAM – Click Here!
May the JOY and HOPE of Jesus Fill You This Fall!

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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