What I Know For Sure
by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Today begins a new year. Who knows what appointments and events will fill the pages of my calendar? Who knows what joys and sorrows will fill the memories of my heart and mind? Who knows what concerns will cause me to fear, to cry, to tremble? Who knows what new opportunities will cause me to research and create and thrive? Who knows what undeserved great blessings will mercifully come my way?
Only God knows.
2013 is as yet unknown to me. That can be exciting. That can also be a bit scary. What IS known is the character of God. He never changes. Just as He was faithful in the past, He has accompanied me into this New Year and will never leave my side — whatever comes my way.
I understand concerns about an unknown 2013…. People are worried about falling off cliffs, high unemployment, financial devastation, a world at war, violence to innocent children, health scares, and moral decay… I’ve decided instead to focus on what is KNOWN rather than what is unknown. So, here is What I Know For Sure (yes, I know Oprah has a monthly column called “What I Know For Sure” but honey, she does not have a corner on sure knowledge…):
1. I am deeply loved. You are too.
This is where I hang my ultimate identity – I am “God’s Beloved”. If that sounds a bit presumptuous, so be it. In the Bible (which I believe) God says “I have loved with you with an everlasting love; I have gathered you with lovingkindness.” (Jeremiah 31.3) That’s good enough for me. So, you can take any titles or status or other identity-marker away and this is what I’ll be – simply and purely God’s Beloved.
Do not be naïve – there is (and has always been) an ‘enemy of your soul’ who will do anything to destroy your life and keep you from being the person God created you to be. His wiles are many – but they usually start with whispers, doubts, distractions and making us believe lies… When people give in to this enemy, they do horrific things which destroy their lives and others lives. (We in Connecticut having been living such a nightmare these past days.) We are at war in the spiritual realm so join me in being a Warrior Princess every single day as we fight for truth.
3. The only way to grow in faith is to spend time with God.
A lot of people want to be spiritual. In fact, I’ll bet a lot of people have some sort of spiritual New Year’s resolution today. But the truth is, most people don’t want it enough to do what it takes to be godly, wise, and yes, holy. We cannot know God and live the life He calls us to by simply having a WEEKLY spiritual rhythm (church service, a Bible Study, etc.). We must spend time with Him in prayer, meditation/study of His Word, and worship through a DAILY spiritual rhythm. This is not ‘new news’ – it is the ancient practice of spiritual disciplines. And there truly is no other way. Trust me.
I spend a lot of time and thought and prayer over my (now) six young adult children. They are not living in my nest because they are all out discovering how to live their unique lives and fulfill their callings. They are scattered far and wide and are each great adventurers. Sometimes I ache and cry and want to ‘fix’ life for them, but I can’t (nor should I, for I would definitely get it wrong…) Sometimes I worry and want to protect them but I must continually remind myself that even though I love them enough to be willing to die for them, God loves them even more than me and He is a perfect parent. And through His own Son, he did that very thing.
5. We are not alone.
It’s so hard to feel all alone in a crowd. And it’s also hard to feel alone whilst, well, alone. No one understands. No one knows. No one can help carry this particular ‘load.’ But the truth, as Christ told us upon leaving earth, is “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.20)We are not alone after all. He is only a prayer away. It often helps for me to envision Him sitting in the passenger seat of my car, or on the empty chair across from my sofa. I find His “presence” my greatest present most days…
Okay. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Stop complaining and whining and dwelling on all the negative stuff. Instead, try to identify at least one thing you can Thank God for every single day. If you write it in a small little datebook, just think, you can finish 2013 with a long list of blessings to ponder and remember, especially when times are tough. By the way, this WILL change you/me.
7. Prayer is powerful.
True prayer is made up of a whole lot more than a list of things to ask God for… I try to use the acronym TRIP to remind me to include Thanks (praise), Repentance (confession and asking forgiveness) Intercession (praying for others) and Petition (praying for me). The most important thing about prayer is to DO IT. But I find that making lists and consulting the Psalms (God’s prayerbook) as well as ancient prayers help me focus each morning and beyond. I have discovered there is nothing — nothing — that can refresh, revive and support me daily as does praying the hours, even if it’s only the morning and evening office. Praying is powerful because it changes the pray-er. And in 2012 I saw ‘mountains move’. So I shall keep praying in 2013…
I love open doors and fresh beginnings and when someone says “Yes” to a request. A new book contract, an invitation to speak, a job offer, a budding relationship… But the truth is, in my own life God has also used closed doors (sometimes slammed in my face) to guide me to where He wants me. And I have almost always come to be grateful for that ‘severe mercy’ of deliverance. So, as 2013 unfolds I want to remember this and hope it takes the sting out of disappointment. He is sovereign. He is in control.
9. In every season of life, we have something important to offer.
This is a big year for me in that if I make it to late May I will have reached a milestone birthday. Woo Hoo! Certainly beats the alternative… But it also means that with the years I want to also have the wisdom and passion to make each moment count and to do the important things, not just the same-old, same-old. Sometimes I don’t know what I have left to give that will change the world, but I’m determined to wake up each day and take feeble steps forward as a Kingdom Builder — with encouraging words on my lips and a thankfulness in my heart for the privilege to grow older with grace. I will not coast…!
When I finally discovered that I didn’t have to strive to earn God’s love, but could rest in His grace because I was the recipient of that amazing gift I did not deserve, it literally changed my life. My only response was to seek to be a grace-giver to others. But that meant letting go of ‘shoulda-coulda-woulda’ living and judgmental attitudes. I haven’t always done this perfectly, but I join our literary friend Jean Valjean (he of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables”) in knowing that when we have received much, we give much — “to love another person is to see the face of God” (final sung moments in the musical). I know this is true. For a while I lived the other way. Today – this year 2013 – I choose to live in grace.
What I Know For Sure are those things above. Well, at least those are the first ten things that came to mind this snowy afternoon on New Year’s day after I packed up the leftover Hoppin’ John (black eyed peas and organic black japonica rice) that all true southerner’s eat on January 1st, after all the kids left in planes, trains, and automobiles after coming home to “Sunnyside” during the holidays – my greatest gift. These are the truths that came to me while my amazing husband, Mike, delightedly plays with his new gift – an I Phone – and the house is still.
What do YOU know for sure as 2013 begins? And will it change your life this year?
I’d like to close with a 50 year old prayer from one of my heroes, Billy Graham (I grew up in Montreat NC on the same side of the mountain as the Grahams).
“Our Father and our God, as we stand at the beginning of this new year we confess our need of Your presence and Your guidance as we face the future. We each have our hopes and expectations for the year that is ahead of us—but You alone know what it holds for us, and only You can give us the strength and the wisdom we will need to meet its challenges. So help us to humbly put our hands into Your hand, and to trust You and to seek Your will for our lives during this coming year. In the midst of life’s uncertainties in the days ahead, assure us of the certainty of Your unchanging love. In the midst of life’s inevitable disappointments and heartaches, help us to turn to You for the stability and comfort we will need. In the midst of life’s temptations and the pull of our stubborn self-will, help us not to lose our way but to have the courage to do what is right in Your sight, regardless of the cost. And in the midst of our daily preoccupations and pursuits, open our eyes to the sorrows and injustices of our hurting world, and help us to respond with compassion and sacrifice to those who are friendless and in need. We pray for our nation and its leaders during these difficult times, and for all those who are seeking to bring peace and justice to our dangerous and troubled world. We pray especially for Your protection on all those who serve in our armed forces, and we thank You for their commitment to defend our freedoms, even at the cost of their own lives. Be with their families also, and assure them of Your love and concern for them. As we look back over this past year we thank You for Your goodness to us—far beyond what we have deserved. May we never presume on Your past goodness or forget all Your mercies to us, but may they instead lead us to repentance, and to a new commitment to make You the foundation and center of our lives this year. And so, our Father, we thank You for the promise and hope of this new year, and we look forward to it with expectancy and faith. This I ask in the name of our Lord and Saviour, who by His death and resurrection has given us hope both for this world and the world to come. Amen.”
under the mercy, Cindy
©2013 Lucinda Secrest McDowell