What I Learned After I Knew It All

What I Learned After I Knew It All

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I was once young and full of it. Ideas. Opinions. Advice. Me. Truth-as-I-saw-it. Then… Life. I grew up and learned how much I really didn’t know.

So I began a new quest. For Vision. Purpose. Compassion. Truth. Hope. Grace. My Story….  Wisdom.

Today I’d love to share with you What I Learned After I Knew It All…

  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 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.

  1. There is evil in the world.

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 are at war in the spiritual realm but we know Who has the power to win the final battle. Stay strong!

  1. The only way to grow in faith is to spend time with God.

A lot of people want to be spiritual. 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, a Bible Study). 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.

  1. Being grateful is much better than whining and complaining.

I had a bumper sticker on my old suburban which says “Have You Thanked God Today?” Well, have you? Have I? 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, you will have a long list of blessings to ponder and remember. By the way, this will change you/me.

  1. God loves my children even more than I love them.

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. 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 (and my three grands) even more than me and He is a perfect parent. And through His own Son, he did that very thing.

  1. We are not alone.

It’s so hard to feel all alone in a crowd. And it’s also hard to feel alone whilst 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, on the empty chair across from my sofa. I find His “presence” my greatest present most days…

  1. 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 &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 that can refresh, revive and support me daily as does praying both in the morning and evening. 

  1. We are guided through both opened and closed doors.

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. remember this and hope it takes the sting out of disappointment. He is sovereign. He is in control.

  1. In every season of life, we have something important to offer.

This year was a Big Birthday for me! 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 thing. I don’t always know what I have left to give, 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.

  1. The only proper response to God’s gift of grace is to receive it and pass it along to others.

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 I choose to live in grace.

What are you learning along life’s journey today?             

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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Because Today We Need to Trust

Because Today We Need to Trust

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I looked up at Daddy with wide-eyed, ten-year-old amazement, “I can’t believe you burned down ‘Brookside.’”

The fire had left its devastation — everything around us was black and charred. There were no tall grasses left, no bushes, no wildflowers. ‘Brookside’ was our family’s small farm just outside town, a place where we fished, hunted, played, rode horses, and spent campouts at the cabin dubbed by my parents as “The Last Resort.”

“Oh, Cindygirl, I didn’t burn down ‘Brookside’,” Daddy replied with a grin. “This is what is called ‘controlled burning’ – setting carefully guarded fires to clean out the underbrush and make way for new spring growth. Remember, I’m a forester. This is what we do every year.”

I wanted to trust Daddy, to believe that what he said was indeed the truth.

But the blackened ground didn’t look like it would ever see green again. It seemed more reasonable to trust what my eyes saw instead of what my ears heard. Tentatively I sought to grasp what he had said. “So, it only looks like you destroyed ‘Brookside,’ but what you were really doing is preparing it for growing?”

“Exactly, “Daddy explained. “Those weeds and tall grasses would have choked back the new plants and flowers coming this spring. So we clear that away, and before you know it, this whole area will once again be covered in beautiful green.”

For another moment I experienced an internal battle between what the person I trusted was saying and what I was actually seeing.

I knew that my daddy loved this farm – that he enjoyed walking through the trails and boating on the two ponds and driving the jeep from the brooks that bordered each side of the vast acreage. I also knew that he always replenished the lands that provided wood for his pulpwood business.

Most of all, I knew that he was a person I could believe with all my heart. I chose to trust him because I knew him so well.

And my trust was rewarded with visible evidence — by the very next weekend there were tiny shoots of green peeking up all over the farm!

The psalmist encourages us to Trust in God at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”      Psalm 62.8

When we are young children, our parents should embody the same kind of safety, refuge and trustworthiness as our heavenly Father. In my life, I was privileged to make an easy transition from trusting a trustworthy father to trusting my heavenly Father. But sadly, we know that is not always the case.

How can we live out the word ‘trust’ when others have betrayed our trust so many times that we have become wary?

 In this verse, the word trust is translated from the Hebrew word chacah, a verb which means to seek refuge or put trust in God. Its noun form, machacah, is actually interchangeable with our English word ‘refuge.’ So when we speak of trust, we are also speaking of a safe place to dwell – actually living in a refuge of trust.

As my childhood story suggests, one of the stumbling blocks in trusting is that trust involves saying no to our natural tendencies and yes to what sometimes appears impossible. That’s where faith comes in.

My father was a worthy object of my trust and so I chose to believe what he said instead of what I mistakenly deduced from my surroundings. I could wholeheartedly put my trust in him because I knew his heart.

What do you see when you look at your life today? Is there devastation? Have dreams been shattered? Are resources depleted? It’s pretty easy to trust that what you see must be the final reality.

But you might be wrong.

The burnt-out brush of your life right now might very well be a carefully ‘controlled burning’ orchestrated by your heavenly Father to provide ideal conditions for new growth. Maybe something in your life has to go so that God can replace it with something even better.

Will you trust Him to do that in His way and His time?

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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I Did A Drastic Thing Today!

I Did A Drastic Thing Today!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Look what I found in the Bible!

“Hair that is turning white is like a crown of honor. It is found in the way of being right with God.” Proverbs 16.31 NLV

You mean all that natural white hair I’ve been hiding for ummm… a few years… is actually a Crown of Honor? Found on those who are Right with God?

Who knew?

I decided to reconsider some of my choices. Like maybe to give in to my genes and begin sporting the white that is my heritage.

I thought I had a good reason for staying blonde. Because I don’t feel old I didn’t want to look old. But then I realized that God, the Artist, designed my youthful attitude and my lighter hair to perfectly complement each other in this season of life.

Drastic Thing Today? Embracing life in my natural hair color – sorta beigy/white.

See these three beautiful ladies here? That’s Mama (91) with her younger sisters Aunt Carol (80) and Aunt Rebecca (77). In the Hasty/Chastain branch of our family, many of the women’s hair naturally turns white in their thirties, others reach that gorgeous color later in life. I think they look wonderful, but mostly they ARE WONDERFUL women!

A few other wonderful women gave me great thoughts on silvery living.

My dear friend Liz Curtis Higgs proudly began showing her silver when she was fifty! “One mature woman clucked her tongue at me and said, ‘Honey, you are aging yourself ten years with that hair.’ (It was really hard not to snap back, ‘And you, honey, are fooling no one with your color not found in nature!’ But I didn’t. Honest.)” Liz has discovered that many women under thirty appreciate her silver crown, “Wild, right? Could be they’re happy to see an older woman take what God has given her and run with it. Why not?”

Fellow author friend Kendra Smiley’s white locks were definitely in the minority at a recent high school reunion where age is no secret, but she prides herself on being a “natural woman!” Can’t you just hear Carole King belting out that song right now?

Why not?

So I’m now on my way… Just one more step on this year’s journey of

  • Simplifying my Life,
  • Focusing on the Essentials, and
  • Learning how to Live Steadfast & Soul Strong.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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Are You Really Wearing That?

Are You Really Wearing That?

 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

We get dressed every day. Occasionally, several times a day.

Depending on our personality and the occasion, we sometimes give a lot of thought and attention to what we wear. It took me months to find an appropriate mother-of-the-bride gown. Twice.

Other times, we throw something on without thinking. Just grab the nearest sweater and comfy jeans and we’re good to go.

Most of us wouldn’t dream of walking around naked…

Perhaps that’s why Paul knew he would have our attention by using this imagery – to clothe ourselves. “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3.12)

Except he doesn’t complete the sentence with the expected ‘fashion tips’ like cloak, sandals, or robe. He throws in a twist.

He tells us to get dressed up in kindness. To button up gentleness and step into patience.

Well, what in the world does that look like?

Earlier in this letter to the believers living in Colossae, Paul has reminded them that they are new creatures in Christ. Referring to the ways they used to walk, he suggests they get rid of (“take off”) a long list of unholy practices, and then “put on the new self.” (Colossians 3.7-10)

Before the ‘new clothing’ is listed, Paul reiterates the most important truth of all – that they are “chosen, holy, and dearly loved” by God (v.12). Embracing these facts is key, because our identity always precedes our actions and attitudes. We are new creatures through our faith in Christ, by no merit of our own, who have a significant role to play.

We must decide put on Christ each day, just as we put on clothing.

When we freely choose to dress in spiritual clothes every day, the Holy Spirit produces change—change in our personalities, our priorities, and our prayer. What is alive in our hearts shines out from us.

The five ‘garments’ mentioned in today’s verse are what I would call somewhat muted clothing. They don’t make a huge splash, like bright jewel colors and bling, but are instead lovely and quite powerful in their subtle beauty:

  • Compassion (Greek word oiktirmos: meaning mercy, feeling sympathy for others’ misfortunes) – as we wear compassion we will be better able to come alongside those who are in pain and trouble.
  • Kindness (Greek word chrestotes: meaning to extend goodwill, kindness and helpfulness) – those who wear kindness are quick to offer help and a good word to anyone.
  • Humility (Greek word tapeinophrosyne: a lowliness of mind and attitude, modesty) – when we wear humility, we are content to work in the background, not calling attention to ourselves.
  • Gentleness (Greek word proutes: describing meekness, obedient submissiveness to God) – clothed in gentleness, we are more apt to speak quietly, move slowly, and carry out God’s ways in a loving manner.
  • Patience (Greek word makrothumia: which means long-suffering, handling injustice or difficulty well) – those who wear patience will always be welcome as a tribute to fortitude and serenity in the midst of the unknown.

Are you clothed in these today?

My best ‘fashion tip’ is to remember that you are holy, chosen and deeply loved. You have taken off the grave clothes and are now putting on grace clothes.

All dressed up with somewhere to go — out into the world!

under the mercy, Lucinda

“O Christ, clothe me with Yourself. Be for me a warm garment that will protect me from catching the cold of this world. If you are away from me, dear Lord, all things will be cold and lifeless. But if You are with me, all things will be warm, lively and fresh. As I cover my body with this article of clothing, please become the clothing of my soul. Put upon me mercy, meekness, love, and peace. Amen.”     John Bradford (1510-1555)

dressedbradford“WOLF HALL” Factoid: The above prayer was written by a godly man who lived during the time of Henry VIII and his many wives. In fact, Henry’s daughter, Queen Mary, burned John Bradford at the stake simply because he was a Protestant and she was a Catholic. Known as “Bloody Mary” this daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon had 280 Christians burned at the stake during her reign. Still angry about the whole Church-of-England-and-get-rid-of-Queen-Catherine thing I guess. So many repercussions of sin…

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net

adapted from “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014 

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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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Did You Know that “It’s a Great Day to be Alive?”

Did You Know that “It’s a Great Day to be Alive?”!

 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

This post was originally written August 6, 2010 – and exactly one year later – August 6, 2011 – my sweet Daddy went Home. This year I will be in Georgia with Mama on the 7th anniversary of his homegoing, so I thought I would re-post some of his poetry in fond remembrance of him. Enjoy!

What’s left when you begin to lose your sight, your memory, your health? What remains? I believe it is one’s ESSENCE. The True You – the Core of God’s Unique Creation that is YOU!

My Daddy, who is 86 and suffering from macular degeneration, dementia and frail health, has always been a man who chooses to look on the bright side and be an encourager to all around him, a man who communicated eloquently and often through both the written and spoken word, a man of faith, adventure, gratitude and generosity —an amazing musician, humorist and storyteller.  Today, even with his limitations, he is still the Same Man. While spending a week with him in assisted living in my hometown of Thomasville, Georgia, he must have told me he loved me more than a dozen times each day, just as he has done every day of my life.

Is it any wonder that my own ‘language of love’ is encouraging words?

Is it any wonder that God has also chosen to use my own writing and speaking to share hope and grace with others?  I am truly my father’s daughter….

And this week I have the privilege of offering back to him a few encouraging words and acts of service and love…

Perspective is a precious gift. How can one complain about anything after worshiping in the living room of an assisted living facility with 80 and 90-year-olds singing the old hymns like “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!” or even “Great is Thy Faithfulness” while looking back at milestones of challenge and courage in life?

Or what about yesterday’s morning break when the fiddler of a visiting bluegrass band strolled over to Daddy in his walker and began to recount to him a time many years ago when Daddy wrote a letter to the newspaper editor extolling the fine work of this man in the GA Forestry Service. This fiddler said, “Mr. Secrest, I will never forget you as long as I live…” I must admit my eyes were leaking as he walked away…

One important thing Daddy taught me was that life is a Celebration. His favorite motto still is “It’s a Great Day to be alive! And don’t you forget it!

During my entire life he wrote poems to commemorate anything and everything — no need for a special occasion, just being alive that day was cause enough. When he turned 75 I compiled a few of them into a book “For Better…Or Verse” by Pratt Secrest. As I sit by his bed and read them aloud he comments on how great they are and I remind him of the author…. Indulge me a bit on a few favorites which may help you know him better.

Only 19 and already a pilot in World War II….

Walk With God  (1943)

My walk with God is not a task, made hard by common strife,

It’s not a labor, nor a bond inhibiting my life.

For when I walk at peace with God, to Him my soul I give,

And then I promise, heart and hand, for Him my life to live.

The year he met my mama – they’ve been married 61 years now…

To Sarah (1949)

If I had a trillion I would buy you all of France!

And I’d give you a million if I only had the chance!

Had I a thousand bucks I’d buy a set of diamond rings.

And even with a hundred I could buy you lots of things!

If I had just a dollar I could get you something green…

And I’d only need two bits t buy a brand new magazine!

And here’s one thing for sure, my dear, I really love you true!

If I only had a nickel I would spend it all on you!

Countless Letters to me through the years, this one to faraway Camp Keystone… 

To Cindy at Summer Camp (1964)

Gosh, but we miss you around this place!

(Oh please don’t forget about washing your face!)

On the door of your room we have hung up a wreath

(And always remember you must brush your teeth!)

We haven’t seen Velvet or gone to the stable,

(Do use your best manners when you’re at the table)

Rusty and Frisky are barking at cars,

(Have you slept on the ground yet, out under the stars?)

Susan is playing with friends in the yard,

(Is your cabin ok? Is your bunk soft or hard?)

Cathy is busy typing at school,

(Be sure to obey every single camp rule)

Mother is sewing and raising tomatoes,

(Each day do they feed you three kinds of potatoes?)

I’m hammy as ever with your sisters and Ma

(Do your friends know you’re just as much ham as your Pa?)

We’re lonesome for you and your grin and your curls!

(Be friendly and nice to each one of the girls!)

Well, have a good time and don’t let the bugs bite!

(And Cindy, Oh Cindy, remember to WRITE!) 

Continued Faith Journey…

I’m Gonna Try (1975)

I’m gonna try to be a better man today.

Gonna watch what I do; watch what I say

Not too quick to make a sarcastic remark

(That’s as dumb as taking a shot in the dark!)

I’ll compliment people for jobs well done.

I’ll sympathize, too, for races not won.

I’ll find someone to tell how Jesus changed me.

How He offers us all a new life for free!

I’ll try to get organized (one of these days!)

And make my desktop less of a maze!

With my family I’ll try to be more loving, too.

More helpful to Sarah in all that I do.

So here I go, Lord, help me do what I say!

The sun’s coming up now! Here comes the new day!

Still choosing God’s Way (last poem I found for Daddy’s Book on his 75th) 

Resolution  (1998)

The world is full of music – some good and some bad!

Some cheerful and happy, and some dreadfully sad!

Some climbing mountains, some skiing slopes,

Some raising our spirits, some drowning our hopes.

The music is ours to hear as we choose –

The magic of laughter or the sadness of blues!

Ah, the world has enough of that negative tone!

Too many who live with a sigh or a grown.

So let’s raise our voices and sing to the Sun:

“I’ll make someone happy before this day is done!”

–       All poems by Pratt Secrest 

  I’ll be honest. It’s hard to see loved ones grow older and diminished… It’s hard to not be able to offer much to them, especially if you live far away… But it’s also Good to remember:

  • Life is a Gift, so treasure each day.
  • Now is the time to tell someone you love them.
  • We are never alone – God promises to be with us.
  • Give, laugh, sing, and celebrate every single day

because, as Daddy says, “It’s a Great Day to be Alive!”

Sarah, Pratt and Cindy, August 2010

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018/2010 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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So God, Here are the 24 Things I Want in a Husband…

So God, Here are the 24 Things I Want in a Husband…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

In my late twenties, when was still not married, I decided God needed some specific help! While many of my professional, educational and ministry dreams were being fulfilled, the lifelong hope of being a wife and mother was still incubating…

With no prospects in sight, I went on a day-long prayer retreat and made My List. I decided to write down exactly who I was praying for in a husband. When the day was over I had a list of 24 attributes which I promptly typed and put in my planner (see photo to the left – the back side of the page was full too…)

Then I began praying diligently for each and every one to be fulfilled…. always ending my prayers in the prayer He taught us – “Thy will be done.”

When you read my list you might think of me as bold, longwinded, too picky or ‘shooting for the moon’ but guess what? I was/am all those things! You see, I believe in praying specifically yet always leaving it to God to winnow out and whittle down as He sees fit. Why should I pray a small prayer for something as important as a husband?  I’m still praying Big Prayers!

     “God is for you. If you don’t believe that, then you’ll pray small timid prayers; if you do believe it, then you’ll pray big audacious prayers. And one way or another, your small timid prayers or big audacious prayers will change the trajectory of your life and turn you into two totally different people. Who you become is determined by how you pray. Ultimately, the transcript of your prayer life becomes the script of your life.” (Mark Batterson, “The Circle Maker”)

My List

Lucinda Lee Secrest    August 1981

  • Strong commitment to the Lord; good theology; able to verbalize and share faith
  • Has a vision for reaching the unreached
  • From a Christian family
  • World Christian – open to missions and has traveled abroad
  • Strong spiritual leader and would easily take that role in our marriage & family
  • Would see my spiritual strength, gifts and commitment as positive, not as threat
  • Wants children and willing to spend significant time as a father raising them
  • Committed to trying to live as simply as we can
  • Knows how to budget money and handle financial affairs
  • Believes in having an open home and extending hospitality to others
  • Honest and open – a good communicator
  • Believes in this priority system: 1- God 2- Family 3- Ministry/vocation
  • Loves me just the way I am but wants to help and encourage me to become the woman God made me to be
  • Communicates openly to me – able to be vulnerable
  • Strong, yet gentle
  • Thinks I’m beautiful (I suppose this also means he needs glasses)
  • Intelligent (at least college graduate)
  • Doesn’t care if I’m not super athletic; likes me to be feminine
  • Feels comfortable with my family
  • Good sense of humor
  • Committed to tithing at least 10% to the Lord’s work
  • Knows manners and common courtesies
  • Likes to spend time outdoors
  • Has never been married before

I prayed and I prayed. For years actually.

In the meantime I went around the world (a second time) speaking and ministering. I went to dozens of weddings. I went to work every day and sought to grow as a woman and a Christ-follower.  I became a doting aunt to nieces and nephews. And, one day at my office in the San Francisco area I had an appointment with a man from Seattle. It lasted a real long time and when we parted he asked for my itinerary (because I was leaving the next day for a month speaking in Africa) and several weeks later when I landed in Tunisia, there was a letter waiting with a request for a date!

One thing led to another and within a year I married Michael McDowell! I was 31 and he was 39 — a tad older than typical baby boomer marrying age.

God answered my prayers!

Would you believe that Mike embodies every single thing on my list? No? Well, then you’re right. He actually embodies everything except one.

The very last thing I wrote on my list was that my future husband “has never been married before.” (don’t judge me for wanting to be someone’s “one true love”) God took one look at that request and LAUGHED!

In His wisdom and sovereignty God knew what was better for me than what I was praying for.

His Best for me was a widower with three small children whose first mother had died from liver cancer three years earlier. God gave me EVEN BETTER! Not just one amazing person but four! In fact our youngest daughter (who was actually born 5 years later) says that the last one is her favorite thing on the list because it reminds us that God loves to show control freaks (like her Mama) that HE knows best!

Today I cannot imagine my life story any other than the one in which I married a widower and adopted my first three children – yes all at the same time! (though I get exhausted  just remembering those early days… )

Because this week is Mike’s birthday, I am remembering God’s faithfulness in our many joys and challenges since we first met in 1983. Because it is so important to re-focus on the Love that began and continues through each new season of life.

Are you praying through your own deepest desires?

Though He may not always give the answer we want, God does always give Himself and His presence to us. He is faithful.

So, go ahead Make a List. Pray through it.

Then, be prepared to be Surprised. Be prepared to be Blessed.

“God is for you. I can’t promise God will always give you the answer you want. I can’t promise that He will answer on your timeline. But I can promise this: He answers every prayer, and He keeps every promise. That is Who He is. That is what He does. And if you have the faith to dream big, pray hard, and think long, there is nothing God loves more than proving His faithfulness.” (Mark Batterson)

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net

adapted from “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014 

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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

©2018Lucinda Secrest McDowell

www.EncouragingWords.net

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About Those Messages Filling Our Minds…

About Those Messages Filling Our Minds…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

 As my eyes open after a long night of sleep, they slowly begin to focus on what’s in front of me. Letters merge into words and I read them yet again — “Each day is a gift from God.”

I imprinted these words on the slanted eaves of our bedroom wall, exactly at eye level, so that they would be the first words I saw when I woke up and the last words as I went to bed.

They are now deeply engrained in my mind and heart, prompting gratitude for the gift of life.

In Deuteronomy, Moses is warning the people who have wandered in the desert for forty years and are soon to be crossing over into the Promised Land. He knows how easy it will be for them to, yet again, forget the faithfulness of the true God, and chase after other false gods. So he suggests several ways to keep God’s law in their lives –“Imprint these words of Mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Deuteronomy 11.18-19 HCSB

Anything to make sure they don’t forget the truth.

What cultural messages are saturating your mind today? How can you (and I) keep God’s Truth at the forefront?

One way is to imprint scripture on our minds, and hearts too.

God’s words bring life and light to us on the journey. I love how this is illustrated in C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair. The Christ figure, Aslan the lion, tells Jill four signs to lead her on her journey and emphasizes their importance,

“But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs…”

“Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.”

Jill leaves on her quest to find a lost prince, but along the way the signs are forgotten or misunderstood. Dire consequences ensue – the group begins without official support, they end up almost eaten by giants, and then fail to recognize the prince when they finally come face to face with him. The problem is that even though Jill has learned the signs, she cannot remember them.

When we are alone with God and in His Word, scripture seems so clear, so life-giving. But then the atmosphere changes in our world and we get confused. Our distractions and fears cause us to forget even the most simple of commands such as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10.27)

It’s far too easy to veer from our desired course. That’s why we need to learn to imprint the words on our hearts and minds. Let us remember every morning and every night and repeat them when we awaken in the middle of the night.

How do you best upload God’s Word into your heart and mind?

  • Are you an auditory learner? Then say the verse aloud or listen to a version of the Bible while you walk, drive or clean house.
  • Are you a visual learner? Use a highlighter when you read, write passages in your journal, or print up scripture memory cards to keep in prominent view for easy recall.
  • Are you an experiential learner? Then think of a way to use the story of the text in your life and associate it with something you do.

I know I must stay in God’s Word, seeking to understand the meaning and the implications for my life today. Will you also begin the quest to “remember the signs”?

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net

*selections from “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014 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!

ORDER My New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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That Man Who Said Some Hard (but Good) Things to Me

That Man Who Said Some Hard (but Good) Things to Me

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

When I came to the end of this book two surprising things happened:

  1. I started weeping.
  2. The author informed me this was really an intervention and that everyone I know had been calling him and asking him to break some news to me:

You can no longer continue to be the person you’ve been! What are you going to let go of? Who have you been playing it safe with, while politely keeping your distance? Who has been mean or rude or flat wrong or creeps you out? Don’t tell them all your opinion, give them all your love. I know it’s hard for you. It’s hard for me too. Even when we feel like we can’t muster the strength and humility to love our enemies, the truth is we can…. It will be messy. Sometimes ugly messy. 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)

And I came to the end of this book Everybody Always in a very short time because I simply could not put it down!

Bob Goff is a courageous man and a consummate Storyteller. I won’t give away any of the stories because I want you to read every single one – about the TSA guy, all the prisoners who phone him collect (and he always answers), the little boy Charlie, and the witch doctors…oh the Witch Doctors! Honey, you have a treasure trove of Amazing Stories ahead.

But not just for entertainment’s sake —  to flesh out what it means be love, like Jesus. Do you wish we Christ followers had a better reputation for loving in the world? Me too. Reading this book might just be a launching pad for that to begin to happen. In our one life.

Here are some questions I am asking myself this summer:

How do I view those who are difficult, different and demanding?

“God doesn’t see people the way I do. The ones I see as problems, God sees as sons and daughters, made in His image. The ones I see as difficult, He sees as delightfully different. The fact is, what skews my view of people who are sometimes hard to be around is that God is working on different things in their lives than He is working on in mine… I think He wants us to see things the way He does, and it’s not going to happen from the top floor of our castles. It will happen at the ground level of grace.”  (Bob Goff, Everybody Always)

Do I tell people what to do or encourage them in who they are becoming?

“Telling people what they should want turns us into a bunch of sheriffs. People who are becoming love lose the badge and give away grace instead. Tell the people you meet who they’re becoming, and trust that God will help people find their way toward beautiful things in their lives without you.”  (Bob Goff, Everybody Always)

What’s holding me back – wondering what others will think?

Bob’s Life in Six Words – What if we weren’t afraid anymore?

Bob Goff’s enthusiasm is contagious! (Boston 2017)

How can you and I help change a world that is full of division, despair, distrust, and danger?

“God’s endgame has always been the same. He wants our hearts to be His. He wants us to love the people near us and love the people we’ve kept far away. To do this, He wants us to live without fear. We don’t need to use our opinions to mask our insecurities anymore. Instead, God wants us to grow love in our hearts and then cultivate it by the acre in the world. We’ll become in our lives what we do with our love. Those who are becoming love don’t throw people off roofs, they lower people through them instead.”  (Bob Goff, Everybody Always)

How can I flesh out my own true purpose in life?

 “People will figure out what we really believe by seeing what we actually do. Everybody has a plan, but God is looking for people who know their purpose. It’s taken some time, but I’m starting to act like my purpose is to love God and to love the people around me the way Jesus loved the people around Him. To pull this off, I need to do it with an unreasonable amount of patience and kindness and understanding. “  (Bob Goff, Everybody Always)

Last February I had the privilege of meeting Bob Goff when we both spoke at the VNE GO Conference in Boston. Although I don’t really know him personally,  I thank God for his presence in our world today. Like you and me, he is simply being an instrument in the hand of God. To share love, acceptance, understanding, grace and mercy. That’s all.

Wow.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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Hush!

Hush!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

You quieted the raging oceans with their pounding waves and silenced the shouting of the nations. Psalm 65.7

When God says “Hush” we had better listen! He is, after all, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, able to silence nature as well as nations.

Do you find yourself only half-listening to a conversation because you are mentally crafting your own brilliant response? Are you tired of your own voice yet?

Sometimes God bids us to be quiet – to speak small and listen large.

Even if such practice goes against our nature. Even if we actually have something important and worthy to say. But especially if we haven’t invested sufficient thought and prayer into what the words will be that come forth from our mouth.

Jesus said that it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6.45). So perhaps we need to make sure these fickle, fragile hearts of ours have sufficient tending. Listening for God’s still small voice. Resting and relying on His words to fill us with both truth and trust.

Time to HUSH:

H – Hear God’s voice through reading His Word.

U – Understand His will through prayer.

S – Silence your own voice, in order to receive.

H – He will quiet your soul.

Lord, my mouth is shut and ears are open. Please speak. Amen.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 Lucinda Secrest McDowell        http://www.EncouragingWords.net 

Today’s blog is adapted from one of my devotionals in the new book/journal “Just Breathe!  ORDER your own leatherette copy here ($11.47)

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 Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($8.79) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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Weeping

Weeping

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Sometimes there are just no words.

And so, I turn to God. In prayer. Today I am sharing with you a liturgy prayer from Every Moment Holy:

“There is so much lost in this world, O Lord, so much that aches and groans and shivers for want of redemption, so much that seems dislocated, upended, desecrated, unhinged – even in our own hearts.

Even in our own hearts we bear the mark of all that is broken. What is best in this world has been bashed and battered and trodden down. What was meant to be the substance has become the brittle shell, haunted by the ghosts of a glory so long crumbled that only its rubble is remembered now.

Is it any wonder we should weep sometimes, without knowing why? It might be anything. And then again, it might be everything.

For we feel this. We who are your children feel this empty space where some lost thing should have rested in its perfection, and we pine for those nameless glories, and we pine for all the wasted stories in our world, and we pine for these present wounds. We pine for our children and for their children too, knowing each will have to prove how this universal pain is also personal. We pine for all children born into these days of desolation – whose regal robes were torn to tatters before they were even swaddled in them.

O Lord, how can we not weep, when waking each day in this vale of tears? How can we not feel those pangs, when we, wounded by others, so soon learn to wound as well, and in the end wound even ourselves? We grieve what we cannot heal and we grieve our half-belief, having made uneasy peace with disillusion, aligning ourselves with a self-protective lie that would have us kill our best hopes just to keep our disappointments half-confined.

We feel ourselves wounded by what is wretched, foul, and fell, but we are sometimes wounded by the beauty as well, for when it whispers, it whispers of the world that might have been our birthright, now banished, now withdrawn, as unreachable to our wounded hearts as ancient seas receding down some endless dark.

We weep, O Lord, for those things that, though nameless, are still lost. We weep for the cost of our rebellions, for the mocking and hollowing of holy things, for the inward curve of our souls, for the evidences of death outworked in every field and tree and blade of grass, crept up in every creature, alert in every longing, infecting all fabrics of life.

We weep for the wretched expressions of all things that were first built of goodness and glory but are now their own shadow twins. We have wept so often. And we will weep again.

And yet, somewhere in our tears, a hope still kept.

We feel it in this darkness, like a tiny flame, when we are told. Jesus wept.

You wept.

So moved by the pain of this crushed creation, you, O Lord, heaved with the grief of it, drinking the anguish like water and sweating it out of your skin like blood.

Is it possible that you – in your sadness over Lazarus, in your grieving for Jerusalem, in your sorrow in the garden – is it possible that you, have sanctified our weeping too?

For the grief of God is no small thing, and the weeping of God is not without effect. The tears of Jesus preceded a resurrection of the dead.

O Spirit of God, is it then possible that our tears might also be a kind of intercession?

That we, your children, in our groaning with the sadness of creation, could be joining in some burdened work of coming restoration? Is it possible that when we weep and don’t know why, it is because the curse has ranged so far, so wide? That we weep at that which breaks your heart, because it has also broken ours – sometimes so deeply that we cannot explain our weeping even to ourselves?

If that is true, then let such weeping be received, O Lord, as an intercession newly forged of holy sorrow.

Then let our tears anoint these broken things, and let our grief be as their consecration – a preparation for their promised redemption, our sorrow sealing them for that day when you will take the ache of all creation, and turn it inside-out, like the shedding of an old gardener’s glove.

O Lord, if it please you, when your children weep and don’t know why, yet use our tears to baptize what you love. Amen.” 

(Douglas Kaine McKelvey in “Every Moment Holy” ©2017)

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

©2018 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 New Devotionals “Ordinary Graces” ($10.99) or “Dwelling Places” ($10.99) at ChristianBook.com — best price online!

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