Why Is Lent a Season of Renewal?

EWWelcome

Why Is Lent a Season of Renewal?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Round Top, Texas, is home to the “Junk Gypsies,” and whenever I’m there, I like to pop in and see what latest “junk” they have transformed into “treasure.”

These two sisters, hosts of their own television show, see old horseshoes and envision a chandelier. With a bit of welding, those used-up, thrown-out pieces of rusty metal become a shabby chic light fixture for a fancy barn party.

I love this concept. Looking at the old and tossed-aside remnants of a life. And then, with love, creativity, and hard work, repurposing it into a unique and beautiful new creation.

God does this with souls. He renews us.

He sees far more potential in us than we ever can because He knows our hearts. And, more than that, He knows what a bit of love, grace, and attention can do to renew us from the inside out. To make us into something like “junk jewels.”

EncouragingWordsRenewalLent1Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. ~ (Colossians 3:10 NLT)

Here the New Testament Greek word anakainoo’ is best translated as “to renew, make new again, amend, or change.” This is referring to how God transforms a believer. This word renew is specifically used for causing something (or someone) to become better or superior to what they were before.

God can do the same thing with our lives: repurpose us as an authentic soul who dwells in the power and presence of Christ.

This verse uses the present tense to mean we are “constantly being renewed,” to a new quality of life. This is a marathon, friends, not a sprint, and will continue the rest of our lives—the process of sanctification or conforming to the image of God’s Son.

Paul chose anakainoo’ in referring to our physical bodies: “Even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 CEB). And he used it referring to our minds: “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:2 CEB).

Are you ready for renewal?

We can choose to “renew” any time, but the days building up to Easter Sunday are an especially appropriate season for repenting and reflecting on what Jesus Christ has done for us. The season of Lent derives its name from the old Saxon word lencton, which literally means “length.” Even as the cold, winter days are gradually lengthening, so are our souls moving from winter into the spring of new life and hope. This practice of a forty-day preparation began in the third century and is a great way to seek God in a fresh way.

In the ensuing days, may we choose to walk by faith not sight, by grace not law, by the Spirit not the flesh, by relinquishment not resistance, by wisdom not folly, and by losing our lives for Christ’s sake instead of always looking out for number one.

In this way, may we “learn to know your Creator and become like him.”

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

dwellingplacescoverabingdonMy new book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell contains a 40-day Lenten devotional “Renew” (as well as fall, Advent and summer) It arrives June 2016 from the good folks at Abingdon Press. Available in Paperback and Hardcover. During Lent 2015 I will include some of those devotionals on my weekly blog.

Preorder from Amazon HERE

Preorder from ChristianBook HERE

Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE

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

 

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When You Feel Helpless with a Sick Friend

When You Feel Helpless with a Sick Friend

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

casseroleRecently I have felt utterly helpless in the face of a friend’s illness and suffering. What can I do? With no medical expertise, I usually fall back on that perennial southern prescription – a casserole.

Seriously, beyond the occasional card, visit, meal delivery or volunteer errand, how can we make a difference in the lives of those we love who are sick?

We can bring them to Jesus.

Remember that wonderful story found in Luke 5.17-26? Jesus was teaching  a packed house full of people and the Bible says “the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus” (verse 17).  On the outside, there was a paralyzed man. Though he was gravely ill, this man had faithful friends. And when those “stretcher bearers” couldn’t get their friend anywhere near Jesus, they refused to accept the word ‘impossible.’

They found a way where there seemed to be no way. They climbed up to the roof, removed some tiles and then lowered the stretcher through the roof right down to the feet of Jesus as he was speaking to the gathered assembly (verse 19). Talk about a dramatic entrance!

You see, these companions believed that if they could only get their sick friend to the Master, he would be healed. So they brought him to Jesus. And seeing the faith of these persistent friends, Jesus told the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven and he was to pick up his mat and walk home (verses 19 and 22). This man rose up and went on his way rejoicing!

If you feel helpless in the illness of someone you love, you too can bring them to Jesus.

In prayer.

I was for several years a part of a small, private group called “The Stretcher Bearers” who prayed daily for a friend’s situation that was tragic and dangerous and fraught with impossibilities. Each one of us felt helpless to make a difference. But we brought that family to Jesus daily in prayer.

Today that may be all we can do for our sick loved one. But remember, prayer is powerful. And God always answers. In all our prayers may we always include “Thy will be done.”

rosefrombrierMay I highly recommend to you a marvelous little book for those in chronic pain? It is “Rose from Brier” by Amy Carmichael who herself lived with great pain.  Last year I felt nudged by the Spirit to send a copy of this book to three friends I knew who were experiencing great medical challenges. Each of them responded to me that it arrived at a perfect time and continues to speak to their hearts.

So today I’d like to share with you two poem/prayers from Amy. Feel free to pass them along to others.

For All in Pain

Dear Lord, for all in pain, We come to Thee; Oh, come and smite again, Thine enemy. Give to Thy servants skill, To soothe and bless; And to the tired and ill, Give quietness. And Lord, to those who know, Pain may not cease, Come near, that even so, They may have peace.       ~ Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)

She Whom Thou Lovest

She whom Thou lovest, blessed Lord, is ill. With Thee is counsel; give Thy servants skill. O Great Physician, touch her and restore, As Thou hast done before.

roseamyWe would not press Thee, for Thou knowest well, Our need of her  that word could never tell. We would not press Thee, as if all unproved, Thy love for Thy beloved.

But as in eventide in Galilee, They brought their sick, we bring her unto Thee; And from the depths we pray: do Thou fulfill, For us, for her, Thy will. ~ Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

dwellingplacescoverabingdonYou might enjoy my upcoming book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell, Abingdon Press, June 2016. Available in Paperback and Hardcover.

Preorder from Amazon HERE

Preorder from ChristianBook HERE

Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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Why Kindness Matters

 Why Kindness Matters

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I bought the little wooden sign impulsively – in fact it seemed to jump off the shelf into my hands – “Be Kinder than Necessary.”kindnesssign

A few days later I understood why.

I was unkind to someone I care about. Not intentionally, of course. Just a careless word blurted out in a too-harsh tone. But the damage was done.

Fortunately, because the person is full of grace, we were reconciled when I reached out and asked forgiveness. But I was left with a deep, deep desire to somehow pursue Kindness as my default reaction to…. well, everything!

My word for 2016 is Kindness.

kindnessheart*First, I want to give the Author of Kindness praise and gratitude: “I will tell of the KINDNESS of the Lord, the deeds for which He is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us.” Isaiah 63.7

*Secondly, I want to clothe myself in Kindness: “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way… in purity, understanding, patience and KINDNESS.” 2 Corinthians 6.3-4,6

*Finally, my prayer sisters reminded me that perhaps this year I also need to learn how to receive the Lord’s Kindness offered to me: “I led them with cords of human KINDNESS, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.” Hosea 11.4

kindnessbattleScottish pastor John Watson, writing under the pen name Ian Maclaren, once wisely wrote “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” 

What hard battles are you facing today? Will you receive the Lord’s great kindness extended to you? And then pass it along?

For the past few months I have wondered long and hard what my word for the year would be. There seemed to be several candidates marinating in my heart and mind, but last week God clearly lifted up this word – Kindness.

And now I pray that I can live this word…

under the mercy, Cindy

kindnesscotwbench

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

dwellingplacescoverabingdonYou might enjoy my upcoming book Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell, Abingdon Press, June 2016. Available in Paperback and Hardcover.

Preorder from Amazon HERE

Preorder from ChristianBook HERE

Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!
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That Time a Nest was My Refuge

EWWelcomeThat Time a Nest was My Refuge

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I awaken to the sound of heavy rain encompassing me. nestbedThis second floor sleeping porch contains one piece of furniture – a large bed surrounded on three sides by floor to ceiling windows, setting me high amongst the trees.

Sliding down into the soft sheets, I pull up the covers, thankful for my cozy refuge from the outside world. Nothing, it seems, can touch me here.

For the first time in my life, I have the sensation of being in a nest, dwelling in the shelter of God’s wings.

And I remember that in the original language of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “to dwell” is sometimes translated as “to nest.”

eagleinnest“He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge.” (Psalm 91.3-4 NIV) I recall how baby chicks rush under the mother hen at the first sign or sound of danger. Because she holds them tightly, they can nestle into a sense of safety and security.

I believe this is exactly how God wants me to feel about Him —  my true Refuge.

Nesting in my bed, I think back to the previous week when I had been reading a favorite book to my precious grandgirl- “Are You My Mother?” by P.D. Eastman. The story is simple but it cleverly reinforces the sheltering refuge of the home nest to those who are lost and wandering. In that story, after asking every creature she encountered “Are you my mother?” the baby bird finally ends up safely back in the nest only to realize that her mother is the one who nourishes her and shelters her.

nestpdSo often I relate to the psalmist’s yearnings, “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”  (Psalm 61:4 NIV) David wants God to be his forever nest. He’s had enough of running and hiding and maneuvering and outwitting. He just wants to snuggle under those wings and be safe.

Is this the longing of your soul as well?

If so, all you have to do is call upon the name of the Lord. And that’s pretty simple. It can even sound something like “God, are you there?” or “Dear God, help me.” Or you could just groan and He will understand.

Hannah Whitall Smith discovered this the hard way when tragedy came. “The secret of His presence is a more secure refuge than a thousand Gibralters. I do not mean that no trials come. They may come in abundance, but they cannot penetrate into that sanctuary of the soul, and we may dwell in perfect peace even in the midst of life’s fiercest storms.”

nestdwellsignIt’s time to stop asking everyone you meet some version of “Are you my refuge?”

And start dwelling –nesting – under the shelter of the One who knows you best and loves you most.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

under the mercy, Cindy

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

dwellingplacescoverabingdon-excerpt from the “Dwell” season of Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell, Abingdon Press, June 2016. Available in Paperback and Hardcover.

Preorder from Amazon HERE

Preorder from ChristianBook HERE

Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!
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Are You Ready for Something New?

 Are You Ready for Something New?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

newfireLast year hundreds of thousands of acres of western land burned in forest fires. At tremendous cost – lives, homes, forests, and entire communities.

So many people have been forced to start over, though not by choice.

A new life and a new dwelling. The comment I heard most from the new homeless? “At least we are alive.”

Sometimes the new is forced upon us and sometimes we choose to start fresh.

As New Year 2016 begins, are you also longing for newness in some area of your life – a new ‘dwelling place?’

newcleanhandInstead of despair, hope; instead of chaos, calm; instead of busy, intentional?

So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! All of these new things are from God. 2 Corinthians 5.17-18 CEB

What needs to be destroyed in your life before you can fully embrace the new?

Many Southeast Native Americans, including the Cherokees, actually chose the purging by fire in their annual ‘Busk’ ceremony. Villagers would first make new clothes and home utensils and place them all outside the village. Then a sort of spring cleaning commenced.

newcherokeeEvery corner of each Indian home was scrubbed. All the furniture was thrown out, and even children’s toys were placed on the communal garbage heap. The dirt paths were swept, and the weeds were plucked up. Even the food left over from winter was thrown out. When all of the refuse in the village was gathered together into a pile in the center of the village, the chief set it on fire. As they watched it burn, they took off their clothes and tossed them into the fire as well.

Then the entire village washed and dressed in their new clothes. Gathering together, the chief started a new fire and from those flames each family took burning sticks home to start their own fires. The old was gone, new life was beginning again!

I wish that new could come without loss. But, isn’t it worth it to release the old so that we can follow Christ more closely? “Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life.” Romans 6.4 CEB

newcleanslateI guess we have to want new more than we want safety

Finish, then, Thy new creation; Pure and spotless let us be. Let us see Thy great salvation, Perfectly restored in Thee; Changed from glory into glory, Till in heaven we take our place, Till we cast our crowns before Thee, Lost in wonder, love, and praise.” (hymn, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” Charles Wesley, 1747)

under the mercy, Cindy

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

under the mercy, Cindy

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

dwellingplacescoverabingdon-excerpt from the “Renew” season of Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell, Abingdon Press, June 2016. Available in Paperback and Hardcover.

Preorder from Amazon HERE

Preorder from ChristianBook HERE

Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE

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

Will You Take Time to Ponder?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Sometimes it’s what we don’t share, that’s most precious.

Those moments and memories we keep to ourselves, taking out occasionally and reflecting on the glory of it all. Those times we don’t even try to capture in a picture because the true beauty or meaning simply cannot be contained in the two dimensional.

ponderingmaryjesusBut we can treasure them privately.

Pondering.

After all that had happened in Bethlehem, Mary chose to keep her impressions, her experiences and her joy quite close. “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2.19 ESV If she had lived in the twenty-first century, I doubt she would have tweeted or posted on Facebook.

The whole miraculous glory of it all was too intimate.

In an age where many of us simply ‘overshare,’ perhaps there is something to learn of the importance of pondering.

Taking time and place to think, reflect, observe, remember and process all that has happened in our life. The events, the conversations, the opportunities, the disappointments, the bad choices and untraveled roads. All are important in the living of our unique story.

Do you take time to search out meaning in your moments?

ponderingwithpenAs the Christmas season draws to a close even at the end of our calendar year, perhaps now is a perfect opportunity to take up the spiritual discipline of journaling. This is defined as “to be alert to my life through writing and reflecting on God’s presence and activity in, around and through me.”

I sometimes call this “pondering with a pen.”

Schedule a time and place where you can enjoy both solitude and silence. Pray and ask God to help you ponder the past year and look ahead.

ponderingcoffeecupHere are questions to help you get started:

  1. What is my one prayer for this year that seems impossible _______, knowing that “nothing is impossible with God?”
  2. What is one area in my life that needs the most change _____ and what will I do about it?
  3. What is one thing I could do to improve the quality of my relationships this year ________?
  4. Where do I waste time ______ and how can I avoid that?
  5. What is the most strategic decision I need to make this year _____?
  6. What is one thing I could do to enrich my spiritual legacy to my children and grands ______?
  7. What is an important financial goal this year ______ and how will I meet it?
  8. How will I care for my soul this year _______?

Conclude your time by singing this or another favorite carol: How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is given; So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heaven. No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.” (hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” Phillips Brooks, 1867)

May you and I prayerfully welcome in the New Year 2016 with HOPE…

under the mercy, Cindy

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

dwellingplacescoverabingdon-excerpt from the “Shine” season of Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell, Abingdon Press, June 2016. Available in Paperback and Hardcover.

Preorder from Amazon HERE

Preorder from ChristianBook HERE

Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!
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A Baby Born at a Dismal Time

A Baby Born at a Dismal Time

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

mangerAnd 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

Christmas 2015. As I witness the news of suffering, homeless refugee 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.

babyabeThe 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.

Do you ever wonder what this birth was really like?

babyshepherdsAllow 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.

“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.”

babytreeThis 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)

babyocomeWhen I was a little girl Mama read to me these words from Charles Allen’s Christmas in Our Hearts: “At Christmas our pulses beat more quickly because we know the coming of that Baby has done more to soften the hardness of the world’s heart, to bring hope in the midst of the world’s despair, and to bring joy in the midst of sadness, than any event that has ever taken place since the beginning of time… I wish we might think about that Baby every day of the year.”

Babies. Birth. Hope.

Christmas Joy to you and yours from all the McDowells2015wholefamilychristmas

Click here for BEST CHRISTMAS VIDEO EVER “An Unexpected Christmas” 

– only 5 miutes – you will love it!

under the mercy, Cindy

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

dwellingplacescoverabingdon-excerpt from the “Shine” season of Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season by Lucinda Secrest McDowell, Abingdon Press, June 2016. Available in Paperback and Hardcover.

Preorder from Amazon HERE

Preorder from ChristianBook HERE

Preorder from AbingdonPress HERE

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