How to Eat an Artichoke

How to Eat an Artichoke

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

She carefully laid the flowery vegetable on a plate in front of me. I simply stared. Where to begin?

Artichoke“Simply pull off each petal, dipping the end into melted butter and then scrape the soft tender flesh off into your mouth with your slightly clenched teeth. When you reach the heart, scoop out the fuzzy choke with a spoon. That’s where the sweetest taste is,” my eloquent hostess carefully explained.

I was incredulous as I explored this exotic edible. Having just moved to Boston, all I could think was “Wonder what the folks back home in Georgia would think of this?” Who knew such treasures lay inside this prickly (yes, even ugly) plant?

Honey, of all the things author/mentor Elisabeth Elliot taught me, how to eat an artichoke is right up there at the top!

Today one of my favorite recipes is artichoke dip, made with heart of artichoke. I laugh when I remember the adventure of discovery, glad I was game to try anything. And I’m grateful Elisabeth also instilled in me the missionary’s motto: “Where He leads me, I will follow. What He feeds me, I will swallow.” It was an attitude I passed along to my adventurous children.

God is far more creative than we can imagine. After all, He is the one who thought up the anteater, dressed the zebra in black and white stripes, and decided that porcupines were a grand idea. You and I might have kept the world quite monotonous if we played it safe with only the familiar.

“No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it— What God has arranged for those who love him.”  (1 Corinthians 2.9)

But God says we cannot even imagine all He has planned for us. How often are you willing to try something new or daring or exotic? Perhaps now would be a great time to “taste and see the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34.8 NLT)

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

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And, dear ones, if by any chance you have read this book, please kindly take a few moments to post a short REVIEW on Amazon or ChristianBook. I will love you forever!

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Need Some Summer Shade?

Need Some Summer Shade?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I love hydrangeas.

In fact I think they look like bouquets of lace. So I was thrilled to receive a beautiful hydrangea plant for my birthday, which was immediately stuck in a hole in the ground outside. But I am not a gardener. Every time blossoms would come they turned brown almost immediately and no amount of water could resuscitate them.

shadeblogThe problem was, of course, they had way too much sun. Hydrangeas grow best in the shade. I know that now. And our plant, repositioned by my gardener husband, is beautiful and now thriving in the shadow of our porch.

Shade is not just for comfort; it’s also for protection.

You have been a refuge for the needy in distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.”  (Isaiah 25.4) Here the Old Testament Hebrew word which connotes protection is tsel, translated “shade” or “shadow.” They are interchangeable as also found in Psalm 91.1 “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Whether in gardening or in life, we all need some shade. A respite from the heat of the sun or the heat of demands and pressures to perform or produce.

Shade evokes a sense of rest and peace.

When was the last time you sat in the shade and soaked in the presence of God?

The psalmist reminds us that “the Lord is your protector; the Lord is your shade right beside you.” (Psalm 121.5)

May I suggest today that you go find some lovely shade and just sit still with open hands to receive the love, protection, mercy and grace God has for you? After a few moments, here is a prayer you might want to offer up this season:

DwellingPlacesShade“Lord God, I pray that You bear lasting fruit in my life through the gift of the Spirit. You are the fountain of life. Enliven and refresh my listless, thirsting soul and spirit through Your love and vibrant life that renews. You are the tree of life. Make strong the branches of my life that have been weakened by the storms of daily life. Keep me fresh and filled with Your life. Your Spirit is living water. Deepen the roots of my restless and weary life through the river of life in Your Word. Refresh me and bring me joy by infusing me with Your Holy Spirit and more of Your abundant life. Your Church is the orchard that you feed and prune by Your love. Lord, I come to You longing for peace, nourishment, and to find rest in the shade. Amen.” [adapted by Dr. Catherine Hart Weber from “Intercession”]

And remember, sunhats provide lovely shade too.

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

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from AbingdonPress HERE

And, dear ones, if by any chance you have read this book, please kindly take a few moments to post a short REVIEW on Amazon or ChristianBook. I will love you forever!

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Learning How to Breathe

Learning How to Breathe

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Yes, the sand in Bermuda really is pink. And the water really is turquoise. And the best way to enjoy both is to snorkel in the sea.

I admit it took me a while to learn to swim with fins and breathe through my mouth into a tube whilst peering through goggles. But once I got the hang of it – bliss!

blogbreatheWonder. Color. Creativity. “So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it.”(Genesis 1.21) All of God’s best handiwork on display right here under the sea. But you can’t appreciate any of it if you are in a hurry.

Snorkeling is a slow activity. Breathe in. Breathe out. Kick and paddle with those fins and reach out to coral and underwater rocks buried deep in the ocean floor.  Eyeball the iridescent Parrot fish and try in vain to count the hundreds of tiny minnows that seem to swim in formation . But take your time.

Breathe deeply and enjoy the moment.

God created these colorful “creatures of the sea” just for us. In the beginning, “darkness covered the ocean, and God’s Spirit (ruach meaning “breath”) was moving over the water.” (Genesis 1.2 NCV) Have you ever noticed that we use the words “breath” and “spirit” in similar ways today? If we say It took my breath away, we don’t literally mean we stopped breathing. It means our spirit was deeply affected. We felt awe or amazement – a strong reaction deep inside our being.

That is similar to how I felt when I finally got comfortable breathing through a tube. Relaxed and yet amazed. Eager to explore more and more of the deep waters God had breathed over just for me.

Is it time for you to slow down and breathe deeply?

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

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from AbingdonPress HERE

And, dear ones, if by any chance you have read this book, please kindly take a few moments to post a short REVIEW on Amazon or ChristianBook. I will love you forever!

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I Still Hear Daddy’s Voice in My Ear

I Still Hear Daddy’s Voice in My Ear

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Five years ago, on August 6, 2011, my Daddy died. And I still miss him. In fact, I hear his voice in my ear every single day. What does he say? Why was his fathering so important in my life? Read on and you will know…

(Remembering Daddy 5 Years Later – Repost from August 2011)

TRIBUTE

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

daddytribute        Daddy spoke at his own funeral. Sounds weird? Believe me, it wasn’t. His pastor had saved a tape of Daddy’s 1987 Testimony and when his clear, younger and vibrant voice began we all literally ‘looked around.’ It was pure ‘Pratt Secrest’ — the man who enthralled crowds all over the world with his words of inspiration, challenge and humor. In these final words to a congregation who had come to both mourn and honor him (the entire Rotary Club sat en masse front and center), Daddy shared how he had gone from being a ‘churchgoer’ to having a vibrant, personal relationship with the living Christ. He ended with the lyrics of a favorite gospel hymn, “the Savior is waiting to enter your heart….why don’t you let Him come in?”

Recently, we found a letter dated August 6, 1981 (written exactly 30 years BEFORE the day he died) that Daddy sent to us and his pastor. It began “I never felt better and have NO premonitions, but think it prudent to let you know how I would like my final rites to be when the time comes…” Then he went on, requesting hymns for a praise and celebration service… “This should be a very happy occasion because my entire life has been blessed by all my family, friends and church family, and I’ve had a wonderful life thanks to all these and a JOYFUL one…”

And so we celebrated his life. My dear husband co-officiated…Justin read Psalm 23 (perfectly, I might add, a true miracle.) Tim read “High Flight” a poem Daddy, a WWII bomber pilot, loved which ends “reached out my hand and touched the face of God…” My nephew read scripture, my brother in law played guitar and sang beautifully “My Jesus, I Love Thee,” sister Cathy read an original poem (a tradition in our family), sister Susan read Daddy’s journal entry from 1975 “If I knew this would be the last day of my life…”, my daughter Maggie closed the service with an angelic and heartfelt singing of “The Lord’s Prayer” and I? Well, I spoke as a Daughter, not a professional speaker. Only a few words… but I shall share them here with you. That is, if you are still reading this long and personal blog…

Why Pratt Secrest Was the Best Father in the Whole World!

 I’m Cindy, the middle one. Daddy was a middle child too. We had a few things in common… I would like to share why Pratt Secrest was simply the best father in the whole world. There are hundreds of reasons, but I’ll be brief and offer you only four:

 He LIVED AUTHENTICALLY. The public person known by many was the same man we knew at home. Yes, he really was that much fun, that creative, that generous, that visionary, wise, faith-filled, smart, versatile, compassionate, a good leader, loving, organized, optimistic, honest, affirming and musical.  We never had to wonder what he’d be like on any given day – he was simply an Original. The Real Deal.

 He LOVED MY MOTHER Someone once said “The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.” My parents were married more than 62 years. Daddy loved Mama well.

 He was a GREAT ENCOURAGER Daddy was my best cheerleader. He believed in me and urged me to live fully — a life of adventure, daring to try new things. He told me I was smart and talented and beautiful and fathers don’t lie! He led me to believe that I could BE and DO whatever God called me to! Long before it was popular, Daddy was the Ultimate Life Coach.  And I bet he encouraged you too!

 He LOVED ME UNCONDITIONALLY. This is actually the most important reason of all. There has not been a single day of my life that I wasn’t absolutely sure of his complete love. And most of those days he told me how much he loved me. Yes, even in our final days together recently he was still saying it over and over again. (Now, if Daddy were writing this script he would say, ‘Turn to the audience and ask “Is there someone YOU need to love unconditionally today?”) This was absolutely the Best Gift. Because of my earthly father’s love, I was able to embrace and receive the love of my Heavenly Father. Daddy taught me about God’s Love.

 One night when I was almost two years old Daddy set up his elaborate reel to reel tape recorder, stuck a microphone in my little face and I, of course, began to sing: ‘Jesus Loves me, this I know. For the, for the, …what for the, Daddy?’ Loud stage whisper – ‘for the Bible’  Little Cindy continues singing ‘for the Bible tells me so.’  You will be delighted to know that I have now mastered all the lyrics to that song, but far more importantly I have spent a lifetime living the truth behind them because of Daddy. (Then I sang “Jesus Loves Me”)     I Love You Daddy!

#######

Earlier in the summer I spent one whole day listening to 6 hours of Daddy’s taped piano playing and storytelling from 1994. What a treasure those are — he played the standards and I know the words to every single song from the ‘40s and ‘50s because of growing up with them. Anyway, my assigned task from the family was to somehow reduce all this to a 30 minute Piano Mix so that we could play it at Visitation during a slide show (and give each grandchild a copy). How to choose only 30 minutes? Hard, but with the help of friends this task was completed just in time. I play it all the time now…

Since I often sing the Standards as love songs to my family, I will close this blog with a song to Daddy. Perhaps you know it from composer Johnny Mercer…

I remember you.

You’re the one who made my dreams come true…

When my life is through,

And the angels ask me to recall

The thrill of it all,

I will tell them

I remember YOU…

under the mercy, Cindy

©2011 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

www.EncouragingWords.net

My family with Mama after Daddy’s Celebration of Life 2011

NATHANIEL PRATT SECREST

1924-2011

(Obituary from Thomasville GA “Times Enterprise”) A man of faith, devoted to family, friends and community, Pratt Secrest lived out his favorite motto — “A Great Day to Be Alive!” — sharing encouragement with all whom he encountered. Born November 12, 1924 in Athens, Georgia to the late Edgar Lee Secrest and Evelyn Pratt Secrest, he served in the Army Air Corps as a bomber pilot during World War II and a Public Information Officer during the Korean War.  After earning his degree in Journalism and Public Relations from the University of Georgia, Secrest moved to Thomasville to manage a new radio station. He married the love of his life, Sarah Hasty, and spent 25+ years as president of Secrest Pulpwood and Timber, becoming Director of the American Pulpwood Association and Georgia Forestry Commission. Later, as a realtor, Secrest founded “First Thomasville Realty” and was named President of the Southwest Georgia Board of Realtors – developing some fine local neighborhoods such as Tall Pines, Victorian Square and A Place in the Woods.

Loving his adopted homeland of Thomasville, Secrest invested in the community through leadership in the Chamber of Commerce, City Commission, Salvation Army Board, YMCA, Arts Guild and Historical Society. He was a founding member and Director of the Board of Brookwood School and was a Director of the Commercial Bank. After joining the Thomasville Rotary Club in 1947, Secrest served Rotary on every level – local to international – as Club President, District Governor, International Director, and Aide to the President. He was a Paul Harris fellow and received the international Polio Plus Pioneers Award. Accompanied by Sarah, he gave inspirational speeches on four continents as one of Rotary’s best goodwill ambassadors.

Pratt Secrest was a gifted communicator, storyteller, outdoorsman, pianist, poet and songwriter who greatly enjoyed people. In 1995, Thomasville city officials adopted the song, “Thomasville The Beautiful” (sung to the tune of “America the Beautiful”) as the official city song. “Secrest said he wrote the song while thinking about how wonderful the city is, and wanted to show his appreciation for the town. He dedicated the song to his wife, Sarah.” He is also the author of two poetry books “For Better or Verse” and “Montreat – A Very Special Place.” He also relished God’s Creation both at his Thomas County “Brookside” farm and also his Blue Ridge mountain home in Montreat NC. He was privileged through the years to be part of the church families of both First Baptist and First Presbyterian in Thomasville.

A follower of Christ his entire life, Pratt Secrest was grateful for his loving family and countless opportunities to leave the world a little better than he found it, a legacy that can be summed up best in his own word, written in 1968:

“Make the most of every minute! Put every hope and effort in it!

And when it’s gone, don’t stop and stare…another minute’s waiting there!

God gives us all the same amount of minutes in each day to count,

Will we be proud, when life is done, of how we used each priceless one?”

Nathaniel Pratt Secrest is survived by his wife of 62 years, Sarah Hasty Secrest of Thomasville GA; three daughters and sons-in-law – Cathy Secrest Ray and Hank (Oklahoma), Lucinda Secrest McDowell and Michael (Connecticut) and Susan Secrest Waters and Glen (Thomasville GA); nine grand-children – Catharine Ray Russell (Michael), Henry Ray (Chris), Pratt Ray (Nicole), Justin McDowell, Timothy McDowell, Fiona McDowell, Maggie McDowell, Sarah Waters and Rachel Waters; and six great-grandsons – Madison, Brayden, and Landen Russell, Griffin and Carter Ray and Lincoln Ray. He was preceded in death by his brother E. Lee Secrest,  Jr. and his sister Katrina Poole Froelich.

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!

For those who have asked about my new book:

Order “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE

Order “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE

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Juicy Fruit and Legacy

Juicy Fruit and Legacy…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

The south Georgia sun beat down on our heads as we sat cross-legged in the field with our maternal grandfather. Daddydee pulled out his pocket knife and began the cutting process which instantly started our mouths watering and our excitement growing.

juicy fruitWatermelon! Red, ripe and juicy with lots and lots of black seeds. And the best part? Out here we kids were allowed to slurp and spit to our heart’s content! We were reaping all the benefits of a summer harvest of fruit, but Daddydee had done the entire farmer’s work. “They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded a fruitful harvest.” (Psalm 107.37)

What are you sowing in your own life today? Are you careful to drop here and there seeds of wisdom and virtue and faith into the young lives of those you touch? Do you submit to nurture, rest, watering and even pruning as parts of fruit growth – both in gardens and in people?

I look at the generations that have come from my grandparents and realize that they certainly lived the motto – “We must all plant a few trees that we will never sit under.” Because part of our calling is to plant for those who will come behind us and need to know of God’s wisdom, faithfulness and strength.

Even if we never live to see it happen.

There will be a harvest if we do not give up. “The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.” (Isaiah 32.17 NIV) Meanwhile, pray for the legacy you leave behind and spend as much time as possible with children.

Preferably in a watermelon patch.

under the mercy, Cindy

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!

For those who have asked about my new book:

Order “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE

Order “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE

And, dear ones, if by any chance you have read this book, please kindly take a few moments to post a short REVIEW on Amazon or ChristianBook. I will love you forever!

 

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When Fear Strikes Your Heart

When Fear Strikes Your Heart

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

If you’re not afraid right now, then just check the news. Plenty of horrific happenings this summer while tempers are hot, triggers are happy, and trust is in short supply.

fearHow do we live in this world full of fear?

  • Refuse to keep up with the news, hoping it will go away?
  • Cringe every time one a loved one uses an international airport?  
  • Keep your kids inside for the rest of their lives?   OR
  • Seek the Lord?  “I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34.4

Friend, I refuse to live in fear! Because every time we give in to fear, Satan wins. “Fear is your enemy’s best weapon. He uses it skillfully and often to great effect. Fear and its offshoots—worry and anxiety—are like a wildfire, encroaching on every area of your life and leaving destruction in its wake. Fear eats its way into your emotions, robbing you of the peace and rest God intends for you. Fear burrows into your relationships and colors your interactions with those you love. Fear robs your body of its vigor, and occupies your thoughts, and monopolizes your attention. Fear  hijacks your life.” (Jennifer Kennedy Dean)

The antidote? Well, there are at least 365 verses in the Bible saying some version of “Do not fear.” That would be a great start – claiming God’s peace, presence and power through His Word. Sometimes it helps to do it whilst singing hymns loudly:

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.
(Kelso Carter 1886)

I have also discovered that taking time for solitude and stillness quiets my mind and heart as well as calming my body. As I pray and focus on who God is (and all those verses) I remember that He is in control. Poet Wendell Berry puts it this way:

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
– Wendell Berry

I was thinking recently of two of my friends, Carole and Jennifer, who actually lived through their worst fears happening. And you know what? They survived. Jennifer shares from that experience: “The key to living without fear is not in believing that nothing fearful will happen, but that nothing will happen apart from God’s intervening grace. Nothing will happen without the hand of God in control, filtering out what will destroy, softening the full force of the blow, and bringing a result that could not be accomplished any other way.” (Jennifer Kennedy Dean “Live a Praying Life Without Fear” October 2016)

When fear strikes (and it will) we must seek the Lord for deliverance. Here is a prayer I often use:

“Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of You, and to cast all our care on You who cares for us: Preserve me from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from me the light of that love which is immortal which You have manifested to us in Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”  (Divine Hours)

                                                                       under the mercy, Cindy preservefromfearprayer

©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 “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE

Order “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE

Order “Dwelling Places” from AbingdonPress HERE

And, dear ones, if by any chance you have read this book, please kindly take a few moments to post a short REVIEW on Amazon or ChristianBook. I will love you forever!


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When Waves Wash It All Away…

When Waves Wash It All Away…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Far out to sea the waves began to roll and crash, eventually making it to the sandy beach where I lingered alone. Truly, the ocean is never still. As the wind blows across the waters, energy surges and causes these waves.

I dug my barefoot heel into the wet sand and moved around until the words were written large on the shore. WORRY. WORDS. ME.

These were my concerns of the day. WORRY: I was churning inside over several strategic unresolved issues and relationships, refusing to trust that God could help me. WORDS: There were far too many of them I wished I had never said — hurled like grenades in an argumentative or defensive manner. ME: Ah, now that was my core problem — an unending focus on myself; my needs, my wants, my life. Too self concerned to help others.

wavesI sat on the beach and confessed all three to God, asking desperately to be free of such tendencies. Like King David, I plead,“Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51.2)

And as I opened my eyes, a wave gently poured over all my words and they disappeared. The beach became smooth. As though mercy and grace had simply washed it all away. 

A clean slate. A place to rewrite my life and move forward. Thankful for this sign from nature, I asked God to give me new words. Words of release and renewal. Words of hope and purpose.

Brushing off the sand, I stood up and walked down the beach into a new day.

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 “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE
Order “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE
Order “Dwelling Places” from AbingdonPress HERE
And, dear ones, if by any chance you have read this book, please kindly take a few moments to post a short REVIEW on Amazon or ChristianBook. I will love you forever!
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