Holy Week ~ Experience the Wounds and the Wonder

Holy Week ~ Experience the Wounds and the Wonder

 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

 I still cannot believe what He did.

For me.

This is Holy Week. It began 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 own 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 Triduum (3 days) and hope you will join me in this Holy Time.

MAUNDY THURSDAY – April 18, 2019

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?

“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 19, 2019

Good 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.
  • Most 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 20, 2019

This 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. (Romans 6.4-10)

EASTER SUNDAY – April 21, 2019

He 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. Give 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, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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Reminders from Gethsemene

Reminders from Gethsemane 

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

A decade ago I had the great privilege of spending time during Lent in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. In the Easter story, Jesus’ time in the Garden is one that pierces my soul every time I think of all He encountered. So it was especially poignant to be there amongst the olive trees and in the shadow of the Church of the Agony

Gethsemane means ‘pressed down’ and that’s exactly how Christ felt in that night of his betrayal.

  • He goes through the whole range of emotions as He first tries to bargain with God for ‘another way’ (Have you ever tried to bargain with God?),
  • He cries out for friends who aren’t there for him (Have you ever felt abandoned by those you’re counting on?),
  • Finally, He surrenders with great peace to the will of God, the One who knows and loves Him best and created Him for this very moment (Have you ever finally said to God, ‘nonetheless not my will, but Thy will be done’ and really meant it?)

As I observe Christ’s obvious peace in the midst of agony (that church is most aptly named), I realize that Jesus’ whole life was preparing Him for this moment and the way He was able to stand in it was in direct correlation to how He spent His days. I want to be more like Christ — it is a longing of my heart. And so I simply must do what Jesus did.

Church of the Agony (2009)

Here are four practices God continues to use in my life during recent weeks.

  1. Embrace Silence – listen to God’s ‘still small voice.’

We read in God’s Word that Jesus withdrew from others and prayed often to his heavenly Father. In recent years God has literally opened up whole new vistas of prayer for me by teaching me how to embrace silence. It is a growing discipline of mine to begin morning devotions by having 3-5 minutes of complete silence and listening for God’s still small voice. You would not believe what I have heard in those times. Silence and solitude go against the grain, but offer great benefits for those who seek them. “As we remain in the silence, the inner noise and chaos will begin to settle. Our capacity to open up wider and wider to God grows. The Holy One has access to places we don’t even know exist in the midst of the hubbub. Lean into God, trusting that being with Him in silence will loosen your rootedness in the world and plant you by streams of living water.” (Adele Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines)

  1. Incorporate prayers of the church in my devotions.

I am a firm believer in praying extemporaneously. But I have also increasingly learned to appreciate praying the prayers that have been around simply for ages and ages. Prayers by King David found in the Psalms. The Lord’s Prayer. And prayers by many, many followers of Christ through the centuries. It’s not the fact that a prayer has been written down before that can occasionally make it seem ‘rote’ or ‘meaningless’. It is always what is in the pray-er’s heart that affects prayer. If you truly embrace words such as these, then your prayers are definitely heartfelt, even though what you are doing is aligning yourself with prayers of fellow believers centuries before now.

  1. Keep short accounts – forgive easily, offer grace, accept God’s mercy.

Some of us attended an Ash Wednesday service and received the ashes in the form of a cross on our foreheads while hearing “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” I am always reminded of my own mortality and how fragile life is. Are you? If so, then how important to keep short accounts with others, to not let the sun set on our anger. To reach out in love and friendship both to those we know and those whose path we cross unexpectedly. I am daily grateful for God’s grace to me and this season I want to be a grace giver to others. Offering forgiveness quickly is one way to do that. But also, we must learn to accept God’s forgiveness of us and therefore live each day under His mercy.

  1. Surrender…Relinquish… Lay it/him/her at the foot of the cross.

Finally, I hope we can all learn from Christ in the Garden that the place of surrender is truly the place where our wills meet God’s will. During Easter, believers will gather all over the world in places of worship and lay our concerns at the cross of Jesus. Did you know that we can do that daily? Even folks like me who have a hard time letting go of anything. But I’m aiming for surrender and relinquishment this season and I hope I can do it as Christ did, with great peace and serenity “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

Jeremiah 6.16 reminds us to “Ask where the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”  May we all do that in this holy season of Lent.

“Heavenly Father, Forgive those things we have done which have caused You sadness, and those things we should have done that would have brought You joy. In both we have failed ourselves, and You. Bring us back to that place where our journey began, when we said that we would follow the way that You first trod. Lead us to the Cross and meet us there. Amen.” (unknown)

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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Is It Time to Return?

Is It Time to Return?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Christina couldn’t wait to leave home and see the world.

Though she had a loving mother, life in her poor Brazilian village provided only a pallet on the floor, a washbasin and a wood-burning stove. Christina dreamed of more. And she expected to find it in the Big City – Rio de Janeiro.

It broke her mother’s heart. Maria knew that her beautiful daughter had no way of making money and would be forced to do whatever was required when pride meets hunger. So she packed a small bag, bought a bus ticket and stopped briefly at the drug store photo booth for lots of small photos of herself.

This desperate mother trudged through the city, stopping in the worst places – bars, nightclubs, seedy hotels – anywhere that prostitutes might frequent. And in every location, she taped on the mirror a small picture of herself with a note on the back. And prayed. Soon out of money and pictures, she took the bus back home to her village.

Weeks later, a disillusioned and broken down Christina descended some stairs in the latest hotel, feeling exhausted and fearful. Living a nightmare instead of a dream. How many times had she wished she could trade any of those countless beds for that safe pallet back home? But she could never go home again. Not now. As she walked to the door her eye caught sight of a picture of her own mother on the lobby mirror.

What in the world?

Written on the back she read, “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. I love you. Please come home.” 

And she did. 

      Have you wandered far in search of more?

      Seeking a path of sensation, significance or security? Only to discover the price was far too dear — you had to forfeit your scruples, your self-esteem, and perhaps even your soul. But now you realize that going it alone is highly overrated. Listening to the world’s views will only confuse and confound.

 Is it too late to return to the God who knows you best and loves you most?

Absolutely not. “Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your hearts, with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow; tear your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord your God,  for he is merciful and compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love, and ready to forgive.” Joel 2. 12-13 CEB

Now is the perfect time. He is waiting to welcome you home. But it does require a choice.

During this season leading up to Easter —  there is ample opportunity to offer up your own tears and sorrow, your broken heart and shattered dreams, your disobedience or shame. God still loves you. He still wants you. And His arms are open to receive, “for he is merciful and compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love, and ready to forgive.”

I don’t know what day it is that you are reading this blog. But I do know it is a good day to return to the Lord in contrition and repentance. Having strayed and turned our attention to other pursuits, we have too often neglected to provide our children and the world an example of Christianity. But today we begin anew.

Today, we return.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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When It’s Hard to Put Others First

When It’s Hard to Put Others First

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

People came from many nations and backgrounds to the Lausanne Committee 1980 Consultation on World Evangelization, held in Pattaya, Thailand. I was the communications editor for the event and my exposure to these servants of God from so many different countries changed my world view immensely.

But it was a simple story of two Americans that fleshed out humility in a very real way.

Our venue was on the Gulf of Siam and rooms on one side of the hotel had a magnificent view of the ocean, while rooms across the hall saw only the ugly parking lot and dump outside their window. Boston area pastor Gordon MacDonald and seminary professor J. Christy Wilson arrived late at night and had gone straight to their shared room after a long travel day.

Gordon awoke early, opened the drapes and looked out upon the dump, blurting out “Oh, no, we got the terrible view.”


1980 – Pattya, Thailand l-r: Gordon MacDonald, Cindy Secrest, Ramez Attalah, J. Christy Wilson Jr

Dr. Wilson, just awakening, immediately responded, “Isn’t that wonderful! It means that some of the brothers and sisters from the Third World who have so little will get a chance to enjoy a beautiful sight this morning.”

Gordon later commented on this gentle rebuke, “Almost never do I forget Dr. Wilson’s words and his attitude when I feel the temptation to complain about something that does not seem in alignment with my best interests.”

Let’s face it. Most of us do not automatically respond with such gestures of selfless consideration. And yet, we could. The assumption of others as better than ourselves could be our default reaction, rather than our try-hard reaction.

But only as we have the mind of Christ. Consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  Philippians 2.3-4

The apostle Paul admitted that this mindset was a struggle for him to achieve as well. Earlier in this passage he asks God to let him do nothing out of selfish ambition (translated from the Greek word epithelia, which means jockeying for position or acclaim) or vain conceit (translated from the Greek word kenodoxia which means empty praise or jealousy). He then urges us all to consider others in advance of our own concerns.

That’s exactly the way my seminary mentor Dr. Wilson lived, and thus the first words out of his mouth that early morning (when he was barely awake) were joy that someone else would get the best view.  I am forever indebted to Dr. Wilson and all he taught me, especially about prayer, and I am posting this story today, remembering that it was 20 years ago he entered glory.

Perhaps it would be helpful to review what the first generation of Christ-followers did in response to words that many of them actually heard Jesus say in person.  A document from the philosopher Aristides in 125 AD described them this way:

“They walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them, and they love one another. They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. He that has, distributes liberally to him who has not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof, and rejoice over him as if he were their own brother: for they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit of God; but when one of their poor passes away from the world, and any of them see him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability; and if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs, and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him. And if there is among them a person that is poor and needy, and they have not an abundance of necessaries, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.”

If we are to live the words found in Philippians 2, we must obviously look after our own interests, which is not usually much of a stretch. But our primary focus should be first and always to look after the interests of others, considering them more important, more worthy.

Christ did that for you and me. Will we follow Him and do likewise?

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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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?

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 recently attended worship  in a Christian church culturally not my own. In such a situation, often the differences are what initially bombard the senses. Incense and icons. Chanting of unfamiliar music. 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!

        Yet in all these places the same Jesus Christ was lifted up and worshiped.  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 Scripture 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)

            Why 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?”

Do 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.

                             “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.

First Church of Christ – Wethersfield CT

Frankly, I’m not crazy about religious labels. I am a Christ follower. That’s all that really matters. My home of worship is currently (and has been for 28 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 opening.

Yet here I find God. As do hundreds who attend our three 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.

Last weekend I was privileged to speak with God’s people in a setting different from my home church. God met us there and all who attended were welcomed into fellowship. I 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, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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Why I Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Why I Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

What 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.

Patrick 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.”

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. I 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)

under the mercy, Lucinda

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

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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Lent ~ It’s Not Just Giving Up Chocolate

Lent ~ It’s Not Just Giving Up Chocolate

 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

When I was growing up in south Georgia, my Episcopalian friends Mercer and Lisa always proudly announced this time of year that they were “giving up chocolate for Lent!” I never really knew what that meant. All I knew is that they didn’t seem any holier after doing this, so I kept eating chocolate…

Now, I not only know what “Lent” means, I embrace this season – the 40 days prior to our celebration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is one of the holiest and most significant observances in the life of a believer and definitely deserves more than just a one-day acknowledgement.

“Lent” derives its name from an old Saxon word lencton which literally meant length. During these 6 weeks while we are repenting and reflecting on what Christ did for us, the days are lengthening and we are moving from winter to spring – literally into New Life.

In the 3rd and 4th centuries Christians began the practice of a 40-day preparation period which many still embrace today. Lent is a time when our souls seek God in a fresh way. And yes, fasting is one way to do that. Some people fast from a certain  kind of food, others from tempting time-consuming activities such as television or social media. The idea is to practice denial of something so that we can focus more on what Christ has done for us.

For many followers of Christ, Lent has not been a regular observance because it’s what those “other churches” do. But I assure you, there are practices we can all embrace during this time which will draw us closer to Jesus.

How will YOU observe Lent this year?

  • Daily soul nurture through silence, prayer and a biblical devotional?
  • Reflection and repentance for sin in choosing another path?
  • Reaching out with love and service to those who are hurting and need hope?
  • Worshiping with the body of Christ – Holy Communion weekly?
  • Living in gratitude and sharing the Hope of Easter to all around you?

One thing we can all do during these 40 days is to set aside time each day with God – reflection, prayer and Bible reading. While there are many great resources out there, may I humbly suggest my own book “Dwelling Places” (order here) which contains a 40-day section for Lent “Renew.” 

 FOR FREE DOWNLOADABLE 2019 LENTEN 40-DAY GUIDE CLICK HERE2019 Lenten Devotions from “Dwelling Places”
by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Ash Wednesday, Mar. 6 Day 1 “Return
Thursday, Mar. 7 Day 2 “Renewed”
Friday, Mar. 8 Day 3 “Pray”
Saturday, Mar. 9 Day 4 “Called”

Monday, Mar. 11 Day 5 “Winter”
Tuesday, Mar. 12 Day 6 “Sees”
Wednesday, Mar. 13 Day 7 “Forgiveness”
Thursday, Mar. 14 Day 8 “Hold
Friday, Mar. 15 Day 9 “Temptation”
Saturday, Mar. 16 Day 10 “Wounds”

Monday, Mar. 18 Day 11 “Repentance”
Tuesday, Mar. 19 Day 12 “Restores”
Wednesday, Mar. 20 Day 13 “Guide”
Thursday, Mar. 21 Day 14 “Wrestled”
Friday, Mar. 22 Day 15 “Godless Chatter”
Saturday, Mar. 23 Day 16 “Betray”

Monday, Mar. 25 Day 17 “Engraved”
Tuesday, Mar. 26 Day 18 “Humility”
Wednesday, Mar. 27 Day 19 “Poured Out”
Thursday, Mar. 28 Day 20 “Fear”
Friday, Mar. 29 Day 21 “Flame”
Saturday, Mar. 30 Day 22 “Brokenhearted”

Monday, April 1 Day 23 “Freedom”
Tuesday, April 2 Day 24 “Near”
Wednesday, April 3 Day 25 “Heart”
Thursday, April 4 Day 26 “Hear”
Friday, April 5 Day 27 “Sheep”
Saturday, April 6 Day 28 “Wisdom”

Monday, April 8 Day 29 “Name”
Tuesday, April 9 Day 30 “Suffering”
Wednesday, April 10 Day 31 “Unseen”
Thursday, April 11 Day 32 “Power”
Fri. Apr. 12/Sat. Apr. 13 Day 33 “Defeated”

Holy Week 2019:
Monday, April 15 Day 34 “New”
Tuesday, April 16 Day 35 “Mercy”
Wednesday, April 17 Day 36 “Remember”
Maundy Thursday, Apr. 18 Day 37 “With Me”
Good Friday, April 19 Day 38 “Death”
Holy Saturday, April 20 Day 39 “Wept”
Easter Sunday, April 21 Day 40 “Resurrection”

PRAYER FOR ASH WEDNESDAY: “O, God, when we pause to look back at our lives on this Ash Wednesday,  we realize that we have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.  We have neglected to do good when it was in our power to do so. We have ignored the cries of the motherless, the fatherless, the widow and the widower choosing instead to turn children and the elderly into the new poor.We have not dealt honorably with our enemies or our friends, and we have feigned a place in the company of the righteous. Forgive us, O God,    for the times we have neglected to provide our children and our world an authentic example of Christianity. As we begin the journey of these 40 days, Wash us, O God and we shall be clean.Cleanse us, O Lord, and we  shall be made whole. Amen.”

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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How to Thrive in Your Professional Connections

How to Thrive in Your Professional Connections

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

C. S. Lewis knew how important it was to have like-minded friends with similar interests and concerns. Those who shared the same passion for writing and creating –like J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. So, the Inklings gathered together twice a week in community, out of which came such classic works as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings.

“It is important not to overstate the importance of this group, widely acclaimed as one of the greatest literary clubs of the twentieth century. To challenge the status quo demands fellowship and commitment. Lewis emphasized the privilege of being part of such a group ‘In a good Friendship, every member often feels humility towards the rest. He sees that they are splendid, and counts himself lucky to be among them.’” (Alister McGrath, “If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis”)

Do you have professional connections of the soul – like minded people who “get” you? By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped. Ecclesiastes 4.12

I’m grateful for many friends, including my “spasisters” who offer endless counsel, wisdom, support and prayer for me both professionally and personally. This name is really misleading because we have never communed together over a whirlpool or sauna. But we have gathered for “spiritual spas” and I find I can jump right in no matter how long it has been since the last communique. No long explanations needed – we are all seasoned women in leadership seeking balance. They are truly sisters-who-know-what-my-life-is-like.

A new connection with a guild of mostly younger women who are writing and speaking on cutting edge issues is also timely for me. Every day these sisters (through our online group) teach me something new and point me to exciting ministries that are evolving in fresh wineskins. And occasionally, I’m able to offer wisdom and encouragement from my own lifetime of writing and speaking. I eagerly look forward to more.

Would you like to thrive in your own professional connections? Here are some guidelines I use in the publishing field – feel free to tailor them to your own milieu:

  1. Never Compare – Competition can kill professional connections. Please recognize that you both have strengths and unique stories to share. Don’t try to imitate her journey or personal style. Be confident in who you are and what you have to offer.
  2. Keep Confidences – Nothing destroys a relationship faster than telling secrets. Be a person she can trust, whether she talks to you about her new proposal, her financial advance, or a family struggle.
  3. Promote Her Publicly – Praise her on social media and recognize her contribution to your life (or even your work) when appropriate. Be a cheerleader.
  4. Brainstorm Together – One great service we can perform with others in the publishing industry is brainstorming over titles or plot devices or platform expanding. Listen. Then, be an authentic soundboard and always be kind.
  5. Refer Her When Appropriate –One day you may be asked to speak at an event (or write a book) on a theme that is not your forte, but fits her perfectly. How gracious if you recommend her as an even better expert on the subject.
  6. Plan Appointments – If you are both going to be at the same convention, sharing a platform, or even an airport, plan in advance a time for one-to-one catch up if at all possible. This shows how much you value keeping in touch.
  7. Share Her Joys – Make a deliberate effort to congratulate her on a new book release or an award nomination or win. Chances are nobody “at home” noticed, so your words will be especially appreciated.
  8. Endorse Her Work – If asked and you are able, seek to endorse her book or give a speaking endorsement for her website. “Do send me the manuscript and I will consider writing an endorsement if at all possible.”
  9. Don’t Use Her – Yes, our professional friends have all sorts of contacts and while there is nothing wrong with occasionally asking them to mention us to that event planner or editor, try not to make this a habit or certainly not the basis of your relationship.
  10. Keep Expectations Loose – She is your friend but she is also professional friends with many other people. So, don’t expect to always be included in every gathering and don’t assume rejection when you see her social media posts.
  11. Welcome New People – Don’t always gravitate just to those you already know at professional events. Reach out to welcome new people into your life and expect a blessing.
  12. Pray for Her – And by that, I mean don’t just say you will pray for her, do it! If possible, pray over specific requests (or dates or deadlines) that she shares with you. This may be the most important ‘glue’ for your relationship. We grow to love those for whom we pray.

There is strength in connection!

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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The Fine Art of Asking Excellent Questions

The Fine Art of Asking Excellent Questions

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

 “Who is your favorite literary character and why?” was the question that opened our online study – a weekly gathering of ten women from all over the country.

What ensued was a lively discussion of our childhood heroines, including insight into how those characters may have helped shape the course of our lives. Though we had known each other for many years, our answers were surprising and provocative.

That discussion question comes from a new Dutch parlor game called Vertellis. This name is derived from two Dutch words Vertel Eens. which loosely translate to “Tell Us More.”- which is what Vertellis revolves around! Not just by answering questions, but also by fully engaging. The creators’ mission is to bring people together at a time when we seem to be distracted by technology and ambition. The Vertellis team hopes to make a positive impact in the world by facilitating beautiful conversations and stimulate time offline. 

Questions have a way of doing that — good questions get right to the core. And in the answering of them we often learn about ourselves. 

Here are just a few examples of when Jesus used questions to help prompt people to identify their feelings, their needs and what to do next.

  • “Do you want to get well?”John 5.6  (to the man who had lain by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years, hoping to be healed.)
  • “Who do you say I am?”Matthew 16.15   (to Peter who answered “You are Messiah.” Then Jesus told Peter he would build the church on this rock.)
  • “Who touched me?”Luke 8.45  (in the crowd when the woman with an issue of blood reached out for healing and restoration.)
  • “What do you want me to do for you?”Luke 16.4  (asking Bartimaeus, who responded “I want to see” and immediately his sight was restored.)
  • “Do you love me?”John 21.5   (on the shore after the resurrection, Jesus gave Peter three times to answer and affirm his love and commitment to “Feed my sheep.”
  • “Which of these was a neighbor?”Luke 10.36    (after telling the parable of the man put upon by thieves and showing that only the Samaritan helped him.)

Are there ways you could use questions to improve your own relationships?

For instance, when a child first arrives home from school, don’t just ask “How was school?” or you run the risk of hearing a short, non-specific answer like, “Fine.” Instead, ask something which stimulates conversation, possibly revealing more about your child’s day. Questions such as:

  1. What made you smile today?
  2. Did you hear anything that surprised you?
  3. Who did you play with/talk to at recess?
  4. What new word did you learn?
  5. How were you helpful today?

Questions can also be a vehicle for our own spiritual growth. Do not hesitate to voice to God those things with which you are struggling. Look for answers in His Word, and through godly counsel. “We’re continually faced with questions that challenge our belief systems. This isn’t a bad thing, and much of Jesus’s ministry revolved around asking questions. In the end, thoughtfully examining our faith promotes a spirituality that is healthy, honest, genuine, and mature.” 

A treasured gift I received recently is the devotional book, “Sacred Questions” in which the author’s own spiritual journey began with questions — bringing them to God, not just to receive answers, but to also be changed. In the process, God used that questioning to allow her to know Him and herself even better, to break patterns of sin, grow in forgiveness and love, and join his work in the world.

“Asking sacred questions opens a holy dialogue with the loving, ever-present God who is at once holding all things together and dwelling within us. Instead of doing all the talking, we learn how to listen for what God is saying. We all long for space to hear him, to allow ourselves to receive his love, and yet we often either fail to make the time or are unsure how to do it (and maybe a little of both).” (Kellye Fabian, “Sacred Questions”)

God loves to answer our questions, so ask away!

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online


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So, How Hard is it to Really Love?

So, How Hard is it to Really Love?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection,          and take delight in honoring each other.   Romans 12.9-10 

  • Love is and love does.
  • My home church’s motto is “Love God and Love Others.”
  • The Beatles sang “All you need is Love.
  • Love is a Battlefield” was a 1980’s music video selling a million copies.
  • “I Love NY” is a popular state slogan.
  • One restaurant calls itself “We Love Burgers.”

The above random examples clearly make the case for why we are so confused about love! When we use the word for everything from loving our husband to loving hamburgers, the word is in danger of losing value.

But one truth I discovered a long time ago: I cannot love others until I first receive the unconditional love of God for myself. My Creator declares “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31.3)

Do you believe God loves you unconditionally?

In the original Old Testament Hebrew, the word chesed appears – often translated as “everlasting love” or “unfailing kindness.” Both are parts of this large word. One scholar notes that “no single word in our language is adequate to translate it, so we revert to the use of adjectives to bring out the distinctive quality and broad reach of this love.”

Yes, we first receive such love from God, but then we are called to generously dole out love as well. “We humans, who have been created in the image of God, are also capable of loving this way, even though we never seem to get very good at it. Chesed is love without regard to shifting circumstances, hormones, emotional states, and personal convenience.” (Eugene Peterson, Leap Over a Wall

I recently taught a mid-week Bible Study during the months of July and August – a time when most New Englanders are “at the shore.” I decided to call it “Finding Answers Together” tackling some of today’s pressing dilemmas. Needless to say, on the week scheduled for answers to the question “How Do I Love Difficult, Different and Demanding People?” the room was packed. Some people even came home from the shore to be there!

Because how do we make the choice to love someone who appears unlovable?

Shannan Martin and her family discovered the answer by radically changing their lifestyle, moving into the inner city and intentionally noticing others around them. “We watch from our windows. We venture outside. We receive the help that’s offered. We find ourselves connected in spite of everything we once thought stood between us… As our love for our place deepens, our love for its people will flourish. We taste the possibility and power of ordinary, luminous love, and discover we can’t get enough. In our heads, we understand that everything we accomplish is pointless if we cannot be known as people who love freely and fully.” (Shannon Martin, The Ministry of Ordinary Places

She embodies today’s verse, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them,” Which is practically impossible unless we learn to look at others with fresh eyes.

Bob Goff does this by first admitting that people we often see as a problem, God sees as sons and daughters made in His image. His challenging, yet promising words: “Who has been mean or rude or flat wrong or creeps you out? Don’t tell them all your opinions, give them all your love. I know it’s hard for you. It’s hard for me too.  You’ll also be misunderstood – you might not even understand yourself anymore. You’ll grow. as you practice loving everybody always what will happen along the way is, you’ll no longer be who you used to be. God will turn you into love.”  (Bob Goff, Everybody Always

May God turn us into love today. And may that love be part of healing our broken world.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($11.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online

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