Confessions of a Recovering People-Pleaser

Confessions of a Recovering People-Pleaser

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

 “Remember, you are living for an audience of One.”

My friend Steve Hayner’s great reminder of our goal — to glorify our most important ‘audience’ – God. Not that our friends be spellbound.  Not that our social media reach be expanded. Not that our personality be embraced.

            We were not called to follow Christ, build the Kingdom and please people. Paul learned this the hard way. By accumulating the accolades (from people) he almost lost the Audience (of God).

            But grace changed all that.  And he could never go back. “I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace.” (Galatians 2.21)

In a recent survey of 1200 pastors, 91% admitted to people-pleasing tendencies.

One who says he is now in recovery elaborates. “Pleasing people, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing. And some professions, by their very nature, draw people into them because they offer opportunities to help others. That desire, however, often makes us susceptible to the type of people-pleasing that becomes problematic.” 

Problematic is when outside affirmation guides us more than inner conviction.

Due to a false sense of responsibility, we then take ownership for everyone else’s feelings. We commit to too much because we don’t want to let anyone down, yet in the process of not being able to fulfill unrealistic expectations, we let everyone down.

My mantra for too long, “I just want everybody to be happy…”

Which is, of course, absolutely impossible.

Kevin DeYoung cautions, “You may have a reputation for being the nicest person in the world because the operating principle in your heart is to have a reputation for being the nicest person in the world. Not only is that a manifestation of pride and therefore a sin; it also makes our lives miserable (living and dying by the approval of others), and it usually hurts those who are closest to us (who get what’s left over of our time and energy after we try to please everyone else).” 

Grace is Jesus plus nothing. 

So let’s not add to that, ok?  Our job is to be faithful to the call. God’s job is what happens next.

Can you live out grace, not contingent on how people respond?

Only if your identity is as a beloved servant. 

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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What I Promised All My Children

What I Promised All My Children

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I prayed a dedication over each of my children – that they would know God and that He would always guide and protect them throughout life.

From then on, my role as a mama was to hold on loosely, even when I wanted to squeeze tight.

Long ago I promised all four of them (and eventually my two sons-in-law as well) that by the time they awakened each morning, I would have already prayed for them by name.

My mother-heart gift to them forever.

Sometimes friends comment on how spread out my children are now – doing amazing things all over the world. I reply, “Well, if you raise your children to become adventurous, don’t be surprised if they live an adventure!”

Long ago God promised to “pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children.” (Isaiah 44.3)

But what is a comfort to me might be a great puzzle for those whose children are far from God right now.

Are you thirsty for the spiritual life of your family members?

Monica’s heart was broken as only a Christian mother’s heart can be. When her son reached adolescence he began to follow in the footsteps of his pagan, lustful, violent father. She wanted to see him settling down with a godly wife, but instead he moved in with a mistress and they had a son. Monica begged her son to join the church and take hold of the life-changing truths of Christ, but instead he fell in with a cult and dabbled in dark heresies.

The young man moved to Rome and when his mother tried to follow him, he tricked her into missing the boat. He thought he could escape her, but he didn’t realize the power of her prayers and perseverance. This mother prayed for fifteen years and every day she went to church to pour out her heart to God.

Monica never lost confidence that her prayers for her son would be answered.

Finally the young man repented and gave his life to Christ. Augustine’s faithful mother, Monica, lived from 331-387 AD, and her son is known today as Saint Augustine.

Because of a mother’s prayers this brilliant theologian’s passion for God and profound spiritual wisdom shaped the entire course of Western civilization.

The young man himself later wrote in his “Confessions” some of his own experience of God’s pursuit during his youth: “Too late I loved Thee, O Thou Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Too late I love Thee! And behold, Thou wert within, and I abroad, and there I searched for Thee… Thou calledst, and shoutedst, and burstest my deafness. Thou flashedst, shonest, and scatteredst my blindness. I tasted, and hunger and thirst. Thou touchedst me, and I burned for Thy peace.”

God provided Living Water to quench the thirst of this wayward young man.

Will you keep praying and trusting and persevering for your descendants?

The story is not over yet.

This Mother’s Day why not give your children (and grands) the best gift ever – daily prayer on their behalf to the One who knows them best and loves them most?

under the mercy, Cindy

With GRATITUDE for the special ones I’ve been privileged to MOTHER through the years. Happy Mothering Day!

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy 90th Birthday to My Sweet Mama – Sarah Secrest

This year both of my daughters will be celebrating Mother’s Day – they are incredible Mamas…

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

Order my book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

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4 New Books for Mothering Day

4 New Books for Mothering Day

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

That special day of recognition is coming soon – you know, the one that can be either joyful or painful, depending on your life story.  Perhaps we should call it “Mothering Day” and take time to honor anyone who has ever encouraged a child, for truly there are many people who have helped launch our little ones out in the world with courage and compassion – living that verb ‘to mother.’

My friend Barbara Mahany says “May it be mothering, the art of tender caring, coaxing life, leaving mercy in your wake, the art that knows no gender bounds, the art the world needs in mighty thronging masses, may it be mothering, and not just mothers, for which we stand and shout, God bless you, each and every motherer.”

In celebration, I‘d love to introduce you to 4 great new books by author /friends whose words touch those places and times of investment in precious lives of the young.

For anyone at any time – great words to grab and go for your day:  “Do you know a mama who could use some encouragement? Then, Kendra Smiley’s new “Mother of the Year” would be a perfect gift. Each day it’s like having coffee with a wise and witty older woman who has been there and lived to share the fun, frustrating and faith parts of the ‘hardest job you’ll ever love.’ This daily walk through motherhood offers bite-sized words of wisdom for every day of the year. And the author actually holds the legitimate title of “Mother of the Year” (Illinois) so you know it’s good advice! Soaked in scripture, this tiny volume packs a punch and fits nicely into your purse, briefcase or diaper bag. Don’t do motherhood without it!” ~ Lucinda Secrest McDowell

For when your birds have flown the nest and you are recalibrating your mothering:    “With my fourth child now enrolled in university 1000 miles away, I devoured Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest by Susan Yates and Barbara Rainey! This book (new edition just released) is not only full of practical advice and life application for dealing with this new season of changing relationships, but it also actively encourages me to pursue new opportunities as God leads. I especially appreciated the emphasis on taking time to reflect on my life story and then gearing up to embrace my future with both purpose and passion. We Baby Boomers always wanted to change the world. The good news is that we still can, as older, wiser, focused women of God.” ~ Lucinda Secrest McDowell

For those who mother the one you chose who is challenged on many levels:       “Every story is unique. Some are life-changing. Meadow Rue Merrill‘s “Redeeming Ruth” is a memoir that may just change forever the way you look at sacrifice, perseverence, and finding joy in that which the world disdains. Because of her vast journalism background, this narrative is riveting in its depiction of the plight of disabled children in Africa and the challenges of international adoption with seemingly insurmountable medial needs. But because of her deep faith, this tender telling of God’s provision at every obstacle — financial, physical, spiritual, medical — will most certainly offer hope to all readers who are seeking God’s power and presence in their own challening life. Mostly, “Redeeming Ruth” is a story of courage. A couple who decided to follow God in obedience and trust Him to write the ending. As the parent of a special needs child and a fellow supporter of the Joni and Friends international ministry, I totally agree with Merrill that her little Ruth’s life help teaches “the value of people the world often overlooks. How that which requires the greatest sacrifice can also bring our greatest joy.” I dare you to read of her harrowing travel to Uganda without seeing God’s hand all over this story. Thank you, Meadow, for reminding us all that “Joy… is trusting God to meet my needs while I pour out my life to meet the needs of others.” May we all endeavor to do the same.” ~ Lucinda Secrest McDowell

For anyone at any time who believes that love and prayer are our greatest legacy:      “Motherprayer  is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. Barbara Mahany not only writes from deep within her heart, but she carefully crafts each chosen word with meaning that touches the reader’s soul. Especially those of us who have been given the inestimable privilege of mothering. Yes, the verb which of necessity simply must be accompanied by much prayer since we all arrive at this job “barely equipped.” Using birds and nesting as a metaphoric thread throughout the book was a delightful bonus, as were the recipes and celebrations of ordinary life that we long to capture forever in our memories. Mahany’s transparent memoir of sorrow, dreams, paying attention, joy, release, listening, and changing seasons reveal a life that squeezes meaning from every precious moment. Undergirding it all is the belief that prayer and loving are perhaps a mother’s greatest legacy. “I was teaching my little boy to pray… Most of all he learned that God is the unseen, but very much present, Someone to Lean On in our house. That’s what I always wanted – for him to know with his every breath that there was a God to whom he could always turn, with whom he could share every twitch and twang of his heart.” Don’t just read this book – savor it slowly – then pass it along to that person who needs these tender words.” ~ Lucinda Secrest McDowell

With GRATITUDE for the special ones I’ve been privileged to MOTHER through the years. Happy Mothering Day!

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

Order my book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

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100 Days of Trust

100 Days of Trust

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

The news tonight was horrific. And frightening. Seemingly hopeless.

And the news last night was the same.

In the first 100 days of this new year there were times I was tempted to feel a bit like the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, who cried out to God as the Babylonians were overtaking Israel:

  • “Violence is everywhere!
  • Must I forever see these evil deeds?
  • Why must I watch all this misery?
  • Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence.
  • I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight.
  • The law has become paralyzed and there is no justice in the courts.
  • The wicked far outnumber the righteous…” (Habakkuk 1.2-4)

What in the world was happening to them (and why does it sound so much like today?)

“The crisis internationally was serious. But of even greater concern was the national corruption. No wonder Habakkuk looked at all the corruption and asked, ‘Why doesn’t God do something? Godly men and women continue to ask similar ‘whys’ in a world of increasing international crises and corruption. Nation rises up against nation and sin abounds at home.”(J. Ron Blue)

            What can we do at such times?

            Habakkuk chose to trust“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!

    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” Habakkuk 3.18 NLT  

            He knew how important it was to take the long view, to realize that God is sovereign. To know that God’s timing is perfect.

            Even if we, too, say, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help?”  (Habakkuk 1.2) Can we handle slow?

            “Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time… Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you.”  (Pierre Teilhard De Chardin)

            Habakkuk looked around and all he saw was emptiness – no fruit, no animals, no wheat. But he knew God.

And so he chose to trust, praying, “I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy.” (Habakkuk 3.2)

            At first I thought that I would just fast from the evening news. But, alas, curiosity and concern caused me to realize that I have to live in reality. For one thing, news headlines make a prayer list all by themselves. For another, I am called to shine my light – however tiny – into the darkness.

As I make my own list of ‘though…yet’ I shall trust in the slow work of God. Will you join me?

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

Order my book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

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Need Quiet?

Need Quiet?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

In looking over the evaluation sheets from a recent retreat I was struck by every single answer to this question being almost exclusively the same:

“What was the best part of the day?”   Quiet time alone with God.

We all desire quiet. We all need calm. But sometimes we have to be given permission to spend extended times in silence, listening for the voice of God to speak into our hearts and soothe our souls. To comfort and encourage. To challenge and prod. To gently lift us up and send us out among the walking wounded with a word of mercy or hope or grace.

This is why my heartbeat is to encourage us all to dwell in the constant presence of God. Therefore, the Lord God, the holy one of Israel, says: ‘In return and rest you will be saved; quietness and trust will be your strength— but you refused. Isaiah 30:15 

quietcoffeeleavesDo you need a “quiet place” – somewhere to go and experience God’s peace and presence? Do you deliberately carve out hours or days when there is no noise, no music, no technology, and no interruptions to dispel the sounds of silence?

Or are you like the Israelites in this verse who have yet again turned away from their God in order to pursue all the world has to offer? The prophet Isaiah is begging them to return and find strength through quietness and rest. Yet they refuse.

Do you refuse?  I know why I do – because it’s simply not natural to be alone and quiet and still. And yet it is a restorative spiritual discipline.

“To be in solitude is to choose to do nothing. For extensive periods of time. All accomplishment is given up. Silence is required to complete solitude, for until we enter quietness, the world still lays hold of us. When we go into solitude and silence we stop making demands on God. It is enough that God is God and we are His.” (Ruth Haley Barton, “Invitation to Solitude and Silence”)

It is in the quietness that we hear the still, small voice of God. He is longing to speak to us but our lives are too filled with the cacophony of the world and chatter of own voice to actually hear.

It will take some strategy, for sure. Carving out a place and time with no distractions. Turning off cell phones, pagers, computers, i-pods. And then putting ourselves in a position of receiving – with open ears, open hands, open hearts – all that God wants to say. It will seem awkward and almost impossible at first. But, if you’re like me, the silence will soon become a wanted friend, a comfortable dwelling place.

In this quietness we create space for God’s activity, God’s agenda, God’s words rather than filling every minute with our own.

What will He reveal to you today?

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

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How Will You Remember Christ’s Passion?

How Will You Remember Christ’s Passion?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

It was all so new they didn’t understand.

            The twelve disciples had gathered in the upper room with Jesus and He was talking with them about His body and blood as He passed around some wine and bread. What did it all mean?

            This symbolic feast, which became a sacrament of the Church, was given in order that we remember. Remember Christ. And, in our remembering His sacrifice – His body broken and His blood shed – we continue to be His hands and feet and mouth and heart to a hurting world.

            Maundy Thursday is the day which commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the apostles. It is also the night in which Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane. The English word Maundy is derived from a Latin word meaning “mandate” because of our Lord’s mandate to the disciples in the upper room: “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” (John 13.34 CEB)

            What do you remember most about Christ’s passion during Holy Week?

            The following verses includes the words of constitution in the service of Eucharist, a name derived from the Greek word for “giving thanks,” which is exactly what our Lord did as He began the Last Supper. As we come to the table, may we also be filled with gratitude for what Christ has done for us. But, more than that, may we leave determined to also live eucharistic lives of gratitude.

“After giving thanks, [the Lord Jesus] broke bread and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this to remember me.’ He did the same thing with the cup, after they had eaten, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Every time you drink it, do this to remember me.’” 1 Corinthians 11.24-25 CEB

            This sacrament is also known as “Communion” (from the Latin meaning ‘union with’) because it does indeed celebrate our union with God made available through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. As such it is a meal of compassion, acceptance and forgiveness. And Jesus Himself is welcoming us to the fellowship of His table. How meaningful to know we share this experience with believers all over the world and throughout time, marking our union with all who share in the hope we have in Christ.

            “We taste Thee, O Thou living bread; And long to feast upon Thee still; We drink of Thee, the fountainhead; And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.” (hymn “Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts,” Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th century)  

            What are some ways you can prepare to remember Christ through communion this week? Times of silence and listening; confession and repentance; a sacred concert; a Tennebrae (dimming of the lights) service; a vigil?

            Robert Benson urges us to never forget the story of God with us. “We are called upon to remember that everything changed after that night. We are called upon to remember Him as we take the Body and Blood…We are called to remember that to do so in this mysterious sacramental act is a call for us to be broken and poured out as well.” 

            Always remember.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

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When No One Sees or Knows … Except God

When No One Sees or Knows… Except God

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

             Today Dieter lives an unseen life.

            But it was not always so. He pioneered one of the first GenX churches in America and was worship pastor at Willowcreek Community Church’s Axis ministry for young adults. For years he was in great demand as a musician, speaker and author. Everyone wanted to listen to him perform and hear what he had to say.

            Then Dieter suffered a major stroke, resulting in a coma.

“Six days later he awoke as a different man. His crippled right hand couldn’t play the piano. He couldn’t sing. He couldn’t even speak – except very slowly and painfully to mumble a stuttering string of unrelated words. Dieter’s stage was gone. The applause he thrived on was gone. The opportunity to use his talents and earn a living were gone. It seemed everything was all gone.”

“Yet, inside Dieter was still the same person. His brilliant and creative mind was completely in tact. He had the same emotions, the same sense of humor, the same wit and eloquence, but he had a bungling mouth. It tired people out trying to understand him. One by one they went away. Isolation set in. He was sealed off from the rest of the world behind the wall that is called aphasia.” (Bill Gaultiere, “A Kingdom of Cardboard and Spoils,”) 

Is our life worth living if most of it is unseen?

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal2 Corinthians 4.18 NIV

            Today Dieter Zander works in a back room at Trader Joe’s and breaks down cardboard boxes. He also sorts through the shopping carts marked “spoils” and salvages food to deliver to the Salvation Army. “It will feed the hungry, who won’t care at all that their apple is lopsided, that their hamburger is in the waning stage of freshness. They don’t care how it looks. They just want to eat.” Dieter reflects, “I understand the spoils. I can relate. I used to be packaged as perfect. But now I am recycled Dieter.”

            In his private world of aphasia, Dieter heard the voice of God and felt His comfort, peace and even laughter. Robert Murray McCheyne once said, When the heart is at rest in Jesus — unseen, unheard by the world — the Spirit comes, and softly fills the believing soul, quickening all, renewing all within.”

            What things unseen are important in your own life today — prayers, kindnesses, serving, giving, listening, sacrificing? Will you invest in such things, knowing that no one will know, except God?

            Dieter has indeed changed.  Of his unseen life, Dieter is finally able to talk after years of therapy, “God was my boss. God is my friend now. Years ago, everything is dead. But now, my stroke is good to me and I am happy. I talk to God every day. I say, ‘Thank you, I am alive again.’” 

            Can we say the same?

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from Amazon HERE under $10

Order my new book  “Dwelling Places” from ChristianBook HERE under $10

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