When the Very Worst Happens…


When the Very Worst Happens…

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell


Mike McDowell age 32.

What does a 34-year-old man do when he hears these two phrases only days apart: “Congratulations, you have a baby daughter!” and “I’m so sorry to tell you that your wife has liver cancer?”

He makes a choice to move forward into each new day, trusting in God’s strength and seeking to fulfill his calling as loving husband and father.

He perseveres.

At least that’s the way my husband, Michael McDowell, faced life when he and his first wife, Inka, were confronted with the unthinkable as a young couple.

In the Bible we are told to “persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”  (Hebrews 10.36)  But what if the will of God involves walking through the suffering of someone you love? Holding your family together while juggling work, childcare, medical appointments and household; all the while watching the love of your life grow weaker, cancer diminishing her vibrant young life?

“At first the whole thing was surreal,” Mike recalls. “I remember standing in the kitchen on the telephone, absolutely stunned and speechless, hearing the doctor’s prognosis that was about to turn our lives upside down. Yet, through much help, we sought treatment and surgery for Inka, cared for the three kids and felt hopeful that the cancer was completely eradicated.


Last photo of Inka with all her children, 1981.

“By the end of the year we were all devastated when the cancer returned with a vengeance.”

One thing that helped Mike keep going was the example of his own parents who had survived the death of their seven-year-old son Greg, battled financial hardship, and struggled with their own medical challenges. “I learned at an early age to never give up. And my whole ministry at the time – InterVarsity outreach to college students which required raising support each month – taught me that God could be trusted to provide, no matter what the circumstances.”

As Inka’s condition worsened, she wanted to be near her family in the Netherlands, so Mike transferred there and moved everyone into a Dutch flat, never realizing he would be a widower within the month. He remained there, learned the language and kept his two sons and daughter well cared for an additional two years before returning to the States.

Today those same kids are the age he was during this ordeal.

He recently shared how he was able to persevere through so many hard times. “I cannot imagine going through the life I’ve lived without a solid sense of God’s presence, love and care for me at all times. Three ways I experienced this:

  1. mikechildren83

    Single dad, 1984.

    The body of Christ ‘held up my arms’ like Aaron did for Moses in the Bible. When I was too tired or perplexed to handle a situation I would often find someone else quietly cleaning our home, or (in a most generous surprise) anonymously providing a final family trip for all of us to Hawaii. I still meet people who remember praying for Inka back in the 1980s – those prayers sustained us.”

  2. I found that in the midst of horrific change, God never changes. One way this sustained me was through my own spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, the sacraments, and Bible reading. Those are the touchstones not only for my life, but for the lives of countless saints through the ages. There’s a reason we commit God’s Word to memory in the good times – so that it can be remembered in the bad times, and bring hope.”
  3. Lastly, in order to persevere, I simply learned to take the next step.”

“We cannot survive on our feelings. Many times I didn’t feel like getting up to change my daughter’s diaper or bike the boys to school, but actually those very ordinary routines were what kept me going. Yes, it’s hard to be a single parent, but knowing those precious lives depend on you is a great boost to focus beyond your own pain,” Mike concluded.


Today Mike and Cindy are grateful for 31 years of marriage and God’s faithfulness to our whole family!

What situation has interrupted your life recently? What was your very first reaction? Run? Pray? Scream? Confide in a close friend? But what did you actually do? Take some time today and examine your own strategy for choosing to persevere through tough times.

Michael McDowell, has modeled perseverance for family and many others his entire life. Life continues to confront us all with the choice to give up or keep going.

Will we persevere?

        under the mercy, Cindy

NOTE: Just to fill in some blanks, in case you are puzzled. When I married Mike 31 years ago, he was a widower with 3 small children. I went through the court process in Seattle and adopted Justin, Timothy and Fiona as my own —  both in my heart and legally. However, we have stayed in close touch with all of his late wife Inka’s family in the Netherlands and many of them joined us for our two daughters’ weddings recently. God is faithful. 
~ Excerpted from Day 13 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
 ©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
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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Is God Big Enough to Be in Your Church ….and Mine?


Is God Big Enough to Be

in Your Church ….and Mine?

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

allsaintschurchThe smells were different. The sights were different. The music was different. And even some of the words were different.

But it was the Same God.

I was attending a worship service in a Christian church culturally and theologically not my own. On first glance, the differences were what bombarded my senses. Incense and icons. Robes of gold and an exquisitely painted dome.

I was reminded of other ‘different’ services I’d experienced in other lands — preaching from a flat-bed truck in Malawi, on the beach in Thailand, gathering in a dark hut in northern Kenya, and sitting in the back pew of a Mediterranean camp church where it was literally “all Greek to me.” Here in the USA I’ve worshiped in gymnasiums, cathedrals, tents, stone chapels and yes, even a Kentucky country church with snake-handlers!

churchcountry         Yet in all these places the same Jesus Christ was lifted up and worshiped — the same Bible taught.

Personally, I would rather embrace my common beliefs with other Christians, rather than focus on our differences. True, there are distinct differences. But we have the same Bible and the same Lord and Saviour.

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 2.5)

            churchnotredameWhy not build bridges instead of erecting walls?

That said, I do acknowledge that ‘different’ can often be uncomfortable. It is human nature to seek the solace of the familiar. And far too often our insecurities prompt criticism — “Why do they sing choruses instead of hymns?” or “Why do they sing hymns instead of choruses?” or “Why do they chant instead of singing hymns and choruses?”

churchmodernDo you think God is actually Big Enough to receive our praise and worship in a whole world full of creative ways? Do you think perhaps that our prayers reach God’s ears whether they are totally spontaneous or whether we pray from the heart the words of an ancient prayer? I do both. And, I assure you, God hears.

Because God knows the heart of the worshiper. He knows whether or not we are focused on Him, committed to Him, believing the words we sing and recite. Somehow I don’t think God cares as much about the form as we do. He cares that we trust and believe and hope and worship.

                            fccsnow2 “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” (Romans 15.5-7 NLT)

And whether God’s people gather in an urban storefront or an underground cellar or yes, even an ornate sanctuary, He is among us.

churchorthodoxRecently someone I love decided to continue his faith journey in the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox church instead of the Protestant church in which he’d spent his life thus far. While his calling is different from my own, I can appreciate the fact that expressions of faith and worship are a personal choice.

Frankly, I’m not crazy about religious labels. This Sunday’s New York Times article about Pope Francis’ popularity mentioned two different “evangelical Christians” as examples of two extremes. Interestingly, both of those men mentioned are my personal friends. Though I identify more with one of them, I can appreciate the ministry and heart of the other.

fccinside2I am a Christ follower.  That’s all that really matters. My home of worship is currently (and has been for 24 years) the oldest church in the state of Connecticut. Gathered in 1635, our sanctuary is called The Meetinghouse and we worship in a Puritan white simple edifice with doored pews and a high pulpit and absolutely no decoration whatsoever! In fact, it remains the same as when George Washington and Jonathan Edwards worshiped here hundreds of years ago.

And it couldn’t be a more different atmosphere than the church mentioned in my blog opening.

Yet here I find God. As do hundreds who attend our four Sunday services. Do you find God where you worship? Isn’t that what truly matters?

After all, it’s not about me. It’s about Him.

This weekend I will speak out of state and gather with God’s people probably in a venue unlike my home church. But I will rejoice and praise and pray and listen to the Word. And I will thank God that He is Big Enough to be everywhere.

”Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13.8)

under the mercy, Cindy

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
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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What He Did…

 What He Did…

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

 I still cannot believe what He did.

For me.

holyweekpalmsundayThis is Holy Week. It began a few days ago as Christians all around the world celebrated Palm Sunday – a commemoration of that day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the cheers and adulation of crowds waving palm branches and singing “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.”

In mere days those cheers turned into the jeers of angry crowds shouting “Crucify Him.”

I can relate to fickleness. Even in my faith life. Most of the time I am gregarious and sold out for God, eager to play my small role in helping to further His kingdom. But sometimes my celebration turns into complaint, my litany into lethargy. While I don’t actually yell “Crucify Him” I do occasionally fall asleep in the garden…

How about you? What do you do in response to what He did? For us. In the Garden. On the Cross. At the Open Tomb.

In these next days we are called to Remember. To commemorate What He Did. I have gathered some favorite prayers and hymns and scripture to guide my journey through the Trisiduum (3 days) and hope you will join me in this Holy Time.

MAUNDY THURSDAY – April 2, 2015

Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. It is also the night on which Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane. The English word “Maundy” is derived from a Latin word meaning “mandate.” This refers to Christ’s words when he was explaining to His disciples in the Upper Room the significance of washing their feet, “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13.34) As we remember this mandate to love, how will we respond?

holyweeklastsupper“Lord, How often when weary do we sigh ‘The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’ How often when in prayer are thoughts distracted by sounds or circumstance or prayers diverted by trivial concerns. Baggage carried with us rather than left at Your feet. How often do we find ourselves apologizing to you for our abbreviated prayer life.  And yet You draw us still to be in Your presence as You did the disciples at Gethsemane. You want us to share in Your life to play our part. You told your disciples to watch and pray so that they might not fall into temptation. Do You ask the same of us and do we also fail You each time we whisper ‘The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’ Grant us the strength, Lord of body and of spirit, to offer You the sacrifice of our lives. Amen.”   (faithandworship.com)

GOOD FRIDAY – April 3, 2015

holyweekcrucifixGood Friday is the day we remember the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The hours of noon to 3 p.m. are particularly significant as these commemorate the time Jesus hung on the cross. It is a somber day and many choose to wear black to symbolize darkness and mourning.

  • “Most dear Jesus, condemned to death by an unjust Council, taken as an evildoer before Pilate, and ridiculed by the wicked Herod, have mercy on us, O Lord.
  • Most dear Jesus, publicly shorn of your garments, and most cruelly scourged at the pillar, have mercy on us, O Lord.
  • Most dear Jesus, crowned with thorns, beaten and blindfolded, clothed in rich purple and mocked, have mercy on us, O Lord.
  • easter scene with crown of thorns, hammer and nails with blood on sandMost dear Jesus, likened to the infamous Barabbas, rejected by your people, and unjustly sentenced to death, have mercy on us, O Lord.
  • Most dear Jesus, burdened with the weight of the Cross and led to the place of execution like a lamb to the slaughter, have mercy on us, O Lord.
  • Most dear Jesus, reckoned with the wicked, blasphemed, and derided, and given gall to drink to mitigate your pain, have mercy on us, O Lord.
  • Most dear Jesus, dying on the Cross, pierced with a lance that drew blood and water from your side, have mercy on us, O Lord.
  • Most dear Jesus, horribly bruised and marked with wounds, anointed for burial and placed in a tomb, have mercy on us, O Lord.
  • My Jesus, I thank you for dying on the Cross for my sins. Have mercy on us, O Lord. Amen.”

HOLY SATURDAY – April 4, 2015

holyweektombmosaicThis is a day to behold the body of Jesus in the tomb today, and to contemplate the mystery of our death in preparation for our hearts to receive the Good News of life.  We know that tomb will be empty and remain empty forever as a sign that our lives will not really end, but only be transformed. Our reflection on this Holy Saturday, and our anticipation of celebrating the gift of Life tomorrow, can bring immense peace and joy, powerful freedom and vitality to our lives.  For if we truly believe that death holds no true power over us, we can walk each day in the grace being offered us – to give our lives away in love. 

“For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with Him in his death, we will also be raised to life as He was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with Him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and He will never die again. Death no longer has any power over Him. When He died, He died once to break the power of sin. But now that He lives, He lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6.4-11)

EASTER SUNDAY – April 5, 2015

holyweekemptytombHe is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Could there be any more hopeful and extraordinary words ever uttered on an early Sunday morning? Do you believe them? That Christ is Alive? And that He wants to fill you and me with His Life – empowering us to live as “Easter People” every single day?

“Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate
Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen
Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing
Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty
Christ is Risen indeed from the dead,
the first of the sleepers,
Glory and power are His forever and ever. Amen.”
(Hippolytus of Rome, AD 190-236)

“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” (hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts) Today will I yet again surrender to the Risen Christ…

  • My soul?
  • My life?
  • My all?

“O You Who Comes, Who are the hope of the world, give us hope. holyweekJesus-by-Akiane-KramarikGive us hope that beyond the worst the world can do there is such a best that not even the world can take it from us, hope that none whom You have loved is ever finally lost, not even to death.

 O You Who Died  in loneliness and pain, suffer to die in us all that keeps us from You and from each other and from becoming as good and as brave as we are called to become. O Lamb of God, forgive us.

       O You Who Rose Again, You Holy Spirit of Christ, arise and live within us now, that we may be Your body, that we may be Your feet to walk in the world’s pain, Your hands to heal, Your heart to break, if need must be, for love of the world. O Risen Christ, make Christs of us all. Amen.”     (Frederich Buechner)

 Click HERE to Hear/See “Was It A Morning Like This” – beautiful! 

under the mercy, Cindy

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 

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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The Last 7 Novels I’ve Read


The Last 7 Novels I’ve Read

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell


My Reading Stack – February 15, 2015

“It is only a novel… or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.” ― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Last month I posted a stack of my TBR (to be read) books — are all by both non-fiction and fiction authors who are also friends. And since the past months have been filled with Snow (!) and Speaking Travel, I’ve had opportunity to begin to chip away at that stack, and post my reviews at online sites. In the process, I have enjoyed a variety of fine novels and wanted to share them with you. 

novelsstilllife“Author Christa Parrish possesses that unique gift of being able to portray the life and world of broken and flawed humans through the lenses of grace, beauty and hope. Ada Goetz is merely the latest of her heroines to draw me into her world of fractured history, bewilderment amidst change and the delicate dance with a God who both frightens and intrigues her. Yes, “Still Life” is a story of tragedy and how the consequences ripple throughout the lives of previously disconnected people. But the focus stays on the redemptive story of the man who was lost – and how Julian’s actions and choices leave a legacy which will bring new meaning and hope to those floundering in the wake of the crash. I freely admit that I have loved all of Parrish’s award winning novels. I’m grateful she aims her lens on those who live at the fringe of society and are rarely noticed, much less understood. But I’m even more grateful that in “Still Life” and prior works, this author allows us to both question and embrace the real Jesus – a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Read Christa Parrish, for all the right reasons.” – Lucinda Secrest McDowell

noveltheredcoat“To read “The Red Coat” is to be instantly transported to another world – Irish families in post WWII South Boston. From the very first scene where an upper class Beacon Hill socialite and an Irish washerwoman exchange ownership of a red coat, the reader is treated to a lesson in all things Bostonian – from dressing up to shop downtown at Filene’s to Irish Catholic policemen in the South end. Along the way, we are privy to intimate details of the tumultuous family life of both the Irish “Kings” and the Brahmin “Parkers.” How these two intertwine throughout the decade makes for a fascinating story. Author Dolley Carlson (who has based this first novel on her own family – she is ‘Ruth Ann’) colorfully describes the social manners, class distinctions, religious challenges, and even mid-century fashion and retail to make it truly come alive. And the setting of Boston landmarks (generously presented in sidebars and photos) serves as a main character in itself. Dolley Carlson is a fabulous storyteller with a trained eye to detail and well-documented research. I’m recommending “The Red Coat” to all my New England and Irish friends and hope you will read it too.”  – Lucinda Secrest McDowell

novelwoodsedge“Stories of the rocky road to forgiveness in fractured families are as old as ancient times. And yet the repercussions of pivotal choices continue to make for high drama, whether in biblical times or pre-Revolutionary War America. In Lori Benton’s first novel in the new Pathfinder Series, “The Wood’s Edge” we discover how the interweaving of the Aubrey family and an Oneida Indian family build towards a true transformation. The question is will it be a tearing apart by sworn enemies or a forgiving together of comrades on a common mission? After having enjoyed Benton’s award winning “Burning Sky” and “The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn” I was eager to read about Anna and Two Hawks, Lydia, Reginald and Good Voice. Benton deftly transported me back to eighteenth century upstate New York and offered a satisfying and ultimately redemptive story, leaving me ever eager for the sequel.” (this novel to be published in April- I’m an early reader) – Lucinda Secrest McDowell


Cathy Gohlke & Lucinda Secrest McDowell exchanging books!

novelsavingamelie“If I’m going to read an historic novel, I want to be sure it is filled with both a fascinating story and compelling, accurate details based on thorough research. And if the characters experience a spiritual transformation (not contrived or ‘preachy’ but in a ‘journey’ fashion, like real life) due to the people and experiences portrayed, then I’m in! That said, Cathy Gohlke, in her latest book “Saving Amelie” had me at page one. Though it is a cringe-worthy expose of the Nazi experiments in eugenics, this story deftly weaves elements of family, romance, heartbreak, struggle, and boldness in standing up for those who have no one to speak for them. I especially appreciated how the twin sisters differed from one another – both were authentic and flawed but also full of courage and perseverance. I’m delighted to have discovered Gohlke and will now set about reading her award-winning backlist of great stories. “Saving Amelie” shows there was (and can yet be again) good amidst great evil.” – Lucinda Secrest McDowell

novelophelia“As an occasional teacher in public high school, I’ve often wondered if my sporadic and limited contribution makes any difference in the lives of my students. Cecil Murphey’s new novel “The Promises of Ophelia Bennett” offers a story explaining how one teacher did just that – profoundly impacting her students for more than forty years. Don’t expect a fast paced thrill-a-minute narrative. Set in 1940’s Illinois, Mrs. Bennett’s creative ideas about educating ‘hellions’ who reside in a setting where innovative was suspect, different was bad and encouraging words were received as water to a thirsty soul. But soon, the foundational plan of this seasoned educator takes an unexpected (or perhaps predictable all along) turn. Years later, the ramifications of both her courage and choices are revealed. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Murphey named most of the characters after many of our mutual friends in the publishing industry. Anyone who is an influencer will find great lessons here, and educators perhaps a boost for today’s similar institutional challenges.”        – Lucinda Secrest McDowell

novelunexpectedmatch “It’s almost impossible to lead a double life in a small and sheltered community, but Rachel Beller does just that – at least for a while. This young Amish widow’s yearning for knowledge exceeds her allegiance to family tradition and rules. Gayle Roper’s newest novel “An Unexpected Match” brings Rachel together with fellow students Rob and Amy who are each dealing with their own story of failure, family and buried dreams. As the trio’s classes at both community college and the school of life proceed, we discover principles that perhaps shine a light on our own struggles and yearnings. I’m a Roper fan (though hardly an Amish fiction fan) and I highly recommend “An Unexpected Match” for a completely satisfying story of the delicate dance between family loyalty and becoming the person God created us to be.”  – Lucinda Secrest McDowell


Lucinda Secrest McDowell & Cynthia Ruchti

novelmorningglory“I greatly enjoyed reading the stories of three different women dealing with the same issue in the Victorian era, the Post War 1950s and today. One would think that the whole predicament of “pregnancy outside of marriage” would have evolved into a non-issue in our current culture. But, surprisingly there are still challenges and complications when young women are surprised by impending motherhood they never planned. “When the Morning Glory Blooms” is the second fine novel I have read from award-winning author Cynthia Ruchti, though certainly not the last. As she weaves a story about a brave woman with a calling to make a difference in her world, we are also introduced to several others who will follow in her steps, though in unique ways and times – Anna, Ivy and Becky. Though each is in a different position, they all must come to terms with their own choices, both in family relationships and with God. The unveiling of the common thread – morning glories – makes this an authentic and ultimately hope-filled story.” – Lucinda Secrest McDowell


Gayle Roper & Lucinda Secrest McDowell

What are YOU currently reading? Why not leave a comment and share some of your favorite novels? And if you’d like to try one of the above, just click on the bookcover to purchase from Amazon. Happy Reading!

under the mercy, Cindy

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 

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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Miracles Happen One Day at a Time

Miracles Happen One Day at a Time

By Lucinda Secrest McDowell 


Justin and his Daddy – Lopez lsand, Washington

“What do you think his future will be?” she asked, after observing my little boy in an agitated state outside the Sunday School classroom.

“Honestly, I don’t know. We’re just living one day at a time…” I mumbled, while grabbing Justin’s hand and heading off to retrieve my other kids.

I didn’t know. What the future would be for my eldest child. Born at a time when “mental retardation” was the diagnosis (thankfully, we don’t use the “R word” anymore). While words like that tend to put people in a box, I chose to receive them as a challenge!

“By God’s grace, we will raise this child to live to his highest capabilities…and beyond!” I determined, with both fear and anticipation.

     40thbdaycandlesAnd now, this week is Justin’s 40th birthday.

31 years of living “one day at a time” have occurred since my conversation outside that Seattle Sunday School.

I won’t lie to you. It has been hard. And sometimes terribly frustrating. And occasionally heart-breaking.

Raising a child with special needs can put us through the whole spectrum of emotions. Sometimes all in a single day.

Still, parenting Justin McDowell has been Pure Joy. And that’s the truth.


Justin and his Mama We are so much alike!

In our family, when someone has a Birthday, we all go around the table and tell the guest of honor something that we appreciate about them. I’d like to do that publicly here for my son Justin. What are just a few of the qualities of the man who has enriched my life and our family in countless ways?

AUTHENTIC Justin tells it like it is. There is absolutely no guile, no pretense in his soul or demeanor. Now, of course this means we have been forced to live utterly transparent lives, since some things are shared without filter. But that’s not exactly a bad thing…smile.

HELPFUL Justin helps his Mama and Dad all the time with mowing the lawn, moving furniture, carrying luggage, setting the table or cleaning up a family dinner. And through his prayers and verbal encouragement. But he also helps people I will never know. He constantly volunteers to help folks move, help with children, help at church suppers, in his neighborhood and at work. He has a servant’s heart.

DETERMINED Justin has overcome much in his life. He is determined to do what others can do – such as go on an overseas mission trip (twice) or learn to snow ski black diamond trails in Canada, or learn how to type on a computer keyboard. When he faces an obstacle, he doesn’t back down and thus has shown courage and perseverance repeatedly.


Uncle Justin

FAITHFUL If you ask Justin to pray for you, he will. He calls me up before every speaking engagement and prays for me and my audience and my travels. He prays for his family and when he first met his baby niece, he promptly laid hands on her little head and claimed her for God, praying for that day in the future when she would ask Jesus into her heart (with absolutely no prompting from us!).

LOYAL Justin is a friend who will stand beside you when times are good and when times are hard (though, remember he will be sure to ‘tell it like it is’ which might include some advice…).  He believes the best in people and doesn’t give up on them. He offers grace and forgiveness readily. You definitely want him on your side.

GIVING Of course I wrote all about Justin in my latest book “Live These Words” under the day which illustrates the verb “give.” Because Justin is always giving away anything he has that he thinks somebody else needs more than he does. Mostly he gives words of encouragement and praise to help support his friends or sports teammates, or colleagues.

Team Connecticut Tennis

Special Olympics National Games – Justin (2nd from left) won Gold for Tennis!

Justin was 9 years old when I became his mother and I honestly didn’t know what his future would hold. I had no idea how his ‘differing abilities’ would play out amidst a competitive and fast-paced world of success and achievement. Today I am utterly grateful that he was able to earn his food services certificate from Manchester Community College, has worked at Red Lobster for 18 years, has lived in his own apartment (with some support) for 15 years, walks and buses everywhere, holds gold medals in tennis for several International Special Olympics,  and helps with Prison Ministry, Alpha and VBS at our church in addition to several Bible studies.


Justin at the “Live These Words” Book Launch – 2014

Is there someone in your life who has been “labeled” with a disability? Please don’t ever give up. Keep pouring into their lives and urging them to fulfill the unique purpose and place God has for them. One day you might just turn around and celebrate another 40th birthday with Joy!

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 NLT

 under the mercy, Cindy

Read my 2010 post “Disabilities or Differing Abilities” by clicking here.

 ©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 

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 I Love St. Patrick

Why I Love St. Patrick

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

patrickstatueWhat if evil hijacked your youth and held you captive for years and years? When escape to a new life was finally achieved, you would vow to stay as far away from your former captors as possible, right?

Well, maybe not.

Maybe you would choose to return and “conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12.21)

Patrick was a sixteen-year-old teenager when he was abducted. There were no milk cartons broadcasting his disappearance, no organizations rescuing young people from human trafficking, no Amber alerts. He was on his own among a fierce pagan people.

He was now a slave, far from home.

In 5th century Ireland.

The land was lush and beautiful. But the people were themselves enslaved to superstition, spirits and fear. Violence was common and life was cheap. In this alien land, Patrick grew up quickly as slave to an Irish Chieftain.

????????????When there was time to be lonely and homesick among his heathen captors, Patrick found solace in God and converted to Christianity. He drew close to Him through nature, silence and prayer. One evening he felt God’s Spirit was prompting him to go to the shore two hundred miles away. There he discovered a boat which he immediately took as God’s provision for his escape.

After six long years he was finally free and able to pursue a new life! With a deepened, faith, he pursued ordination in the church and continued a vital ministry in Roman Britain. But the land that first captured him, now captured his heart.

He longed to return to Ireland. Patrick had become convinced that he was handpicked by God to convert the entire country to Christianity.

patrickcloverPatrick greatly respected nature, but he also wanted the Irish to know that God was the only One worthy of worship. So he used a shamrock to explain the three persons of the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — one stem but three leaves.

Patrick labored in Ireland for thirty years and even though some say he singlehandedly converted Ireland, Patrick preferred to put it this way: “I owe it to God’s grace that so many people should, through me, become Christians.”


Icon of Patrick, enlightener of Ireland, here at “Sunnyside”

He loved the Irish and they loved him back, perpetuating many legends about his life and ministry. When this Briton born as Patricius died at age 75, he was named Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.

And neither Ireland nor Christianity was ever quite the same.

The following prayer is commonly known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate, found in the ancient Book of Armagh, from the early ninth century. Patrick is said to have written this prayer to strengthen himself with God’s protection as he prepared to confront and convert Loegaire, high king of Ireland.

We may not wear combat gear in our daily lives, but St. Patrick’s Breastplate can function as divine armor for protection against spiritual adversity. Where do you need to conquer evil by doing good? Ask God and He will reveal to you His battle plans for your own life.

(Author’s note: Whenever I pray this prayer, I have to stand and raise my right hand as though holding a sword. Then I proclaim with great conviction “I arise today…” I have not condensed it here.)

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

       “I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through a belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. I arise today through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism, through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial, through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension, through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom. I arise today through the strength of the love of cherubim, in obedience of angels, in service of archangels, in the hope of resurrection to meet with reward, in the prayers of patriarchs, in preachings of the apostles, in faiths of confessors, in innocence of virgins, in deeds of righteous men. I arise today through the strength of heaven; light of the sun, splendor of fire, speed of lightning, swiftness of the wind, depth of the sea,  stability of the earth, firmness of the rock. patrickI arise today through God’s strength to pilot me; God’s might to uphold me,  God’s wisdom to guide me,  God’s eye to look before me,  God’s ear to hear me,  God’s word to speak for me,  God’s hand to guard me,  God’s way to lie before me,  God’s shield to protect me,  God’s hosts to save me from snares of the devil,  from temptations of vices,  from everyone who desires me ill, afar and anear,  alone or in a multitude. I summon today All these powers between me and those evils, Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, Against incantations of false prophets, Against black laws of pagandom, Against false laws of heretics, Against craft of idolatry, Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards, Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul; Christ to shield me today Against poison, against burning, Against drowning, against wounding, So that there may come to me an abundance of reward. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left,  Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,  Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me,  Christ in the ear that hears me. I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through a belief in the Threeness, through a confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. Amen.”    Patrick of Ireland (390-461)

Click HERE to listen to my dear friend Christin Ditchfield pray the above prayer to music. Click on St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer (and there are many other prayers there too!)

under the mercy, Cindy

* selected from Day 14 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2015

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 

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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One Writer’s Life…

 One Writer’s Life …

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

      writerswonderfullife“Cindy, God has given you a gift of writing and it is your duty to write for Him!” (Elisabeth Elliot in a personal conversation)

Imagine being only 26-years-old and hearing those words from such a respected mentor, international speaker and author of 30 books… I had already felt a nudging from God on this path, but her words helped confirm and encourage me further. Needless to say, I was a bit daunted, but also energized to pursue more training and opportunity (this happened when I was heading off to Wheaton Graduate School of Communication after graduating from Gordon-Conwell Seminary.)

LSMcDowellbookheadshot2015Believe me, no one is more amazed than I that today — 36 years later — I can look back at my published work, by God’s grace: 11 books authored, 25+ books as contributing author and articles published in more than 50 magazines.

I write because I can’t not write… (yes, I know that’s a double negative, but it’s also true). Writers write. It’s the way we filter life. We don’t always write for publication. Sometimes what we ‘write’ in our minds never makes it to paper or computer, but the stories are there all the same. As my years increase, so does my wisdom in believing that knowing and telling our stories is perhaps one of the most important ways of participating in furthering God’s Kingdom here on earth. So I am perfectly content at this point to say that I am, indeed, a Storyteller.

writersclock“My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours… it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes Himself known to each of us more powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.” (Frederick Buechner in Telling Secrets)

writerbooksWriting is a discipline and only happens when we deliberately make room in our lives to pursue it. My entire life has been filled with people and activity and ministry and drama; and yet I have somehow managed to insert my writing amidst the chaos. Rarely have I had the luxury to finish a book deadline in complete solitude. Those images of authors working in a cottage by the sea totally undisturbed are not my reality. Most of the time we writers are simply trying to squeeze our craft in between all the other responsibility and serendipity that come our way…

I love what one of my ‘writer heroes’ says: “It will not surprise you if I say that I think being a writer is a fine thing to be. Except for when you actually have to write, of course. Then it is about as exciting as washing dishes. Which is the other thing I do a lot of at my house… Some days I travel somewhere to lead a retreat or speak at a conference.writer Some days I write letters and answer phone calls as though I were an actual business person, and some days I teach the class at the local high school. I do laundry in between paragraphs on Tuesdays… I wear a lot of hats. Just like everyone else. Some days I feel like a poet and some days I feel like a housekeeper, and some days I cannot tell the difference. I expect most of us feel that way sometimes. Life is made up of a lot of good stuff and a lot of bad stuff, too, and in between you have to clean your room.” (Robert Benson in A Good Life)


This past week I was privileged to serve on the faculty of the Florida Christian Writers Conference. My soul was enlarged through both formal and informal times of teaching and helping writers  discover more creative ways to tell their unique story within the greater Kingdom Story. It was my ‘sweet spot’. Doing what God created me to do. Encourage. Speak. Empower. Challenge. Tell Stories.

Now I’m the one telling that 26-year-old I meet that God has given her a gift of writing and it is her duty to write for Him…

So I will Keep Writing.

And I will also Keep Encouraging Writers. Trusting God for the fruit…

writeon…I’d delight if none of my words fell to the ground — if none were useless, excessive, dispensable, easily dismissed… But that’s God’s business. He might use the means of cyber technology, savvy marketing, good publicity. But either God, God alone, keeps our words from falling and scatters them wide, or else there is nothing in them worth keeping and scattering in the first place. Our concern, our responsibility, is simply to hear and heed God. It is always and everywhere to say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’(Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God)

under the mercy, Cindy


©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell


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

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