For Those Who Served…

For Those Who Served…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Most of us cannot even imagine the horror of young Allied troops landing on Omaha and Utah Beaches in Normandy seventy-five years ago. But for any who experienced first-hand D-Day on June 6, 1944, their lives have never been  the same. And our country owes each of them a deep debt of gratitude for their sacrifice.

I have been watching television reports this week where veterans (most in their mid-nineties) reflect on that life experience where more than 10,000 Allied casualties occurred in one day. Some are making a pilgrimage to Normandy – others will mark this occasion at reunion gatherings which they all declare may be their last trip ever.

As I thank God for these brave soldiers, I also ask God that we might somehow as a nation be worthy of their sacrifice.  Tomorrow is the anniversary. How will you mark it in your heart and in your prayers? Perhaps thinking of one tangible way we could lift up America would be a start.

My Daddy was in the Air Force on that day in 1944, but he was not on Normandy. Still, I pay honor to him (and my father-in-law who was serving in the Philippines then.)

Pratt Secrest – U.S. Air Force

Pratt Secrest, was one of the Greatest Generation who served during both World War II (Air Force pilot) and the Korean War (Information officer/journalist). Can you even imagine training to be a bomber pilot at age eighteen? What responsibility at such a young age… When Daddy turned twenty he wrote down some of his thoughts after a war-torn year which included D-Day, in his poem “Outlook”

  • Sometimes I look at life through the span
  • Of twenty years without a caravan
  • Of thoughts to bring a sweet and low refrain,
  • A song to penetrate endless rain.
  • In spite of hopes to think of things I love,
  • I find that memory honors only tears.
  • In vain I lift my eyes to look above
  • The strife and death of conflict-shattered years.
  • Oh, men of earth! You know that war’s release
  • Is only through the God of Lasting Peace!
  • Pratt Secrest, 1944

Even as a young airman, Pratt Secrest chose to use humor to get through tough times…  Here is his take on First Aid training during flight school in his poem

“First Aid”

  • I’ve studied blood and bleeding, and cuts from ear to ear,
  • And what to put on punctures when the doctor isn’t here.
  • With digital compression I’m supposed to be a whiz,
  • But actually, my technique’s wrong, I’m really just a fizz.
  • And if the victim has a bone that’s broken, torn, or bent,
  • I proudly put a bandage on (resembling a tent).
  • The teacher made me volunteer to be a case of rabies,
  • (If this continues, soon I’ll be delivering little babies!)
  • So give me no more bruises, burns, incisions, lacerations.
  • If anybody mentions blood, I’ll change the conversation.
  • You keep your dern old First Aid stuff, I only want to fly!
  • And if I ever get a wound… so help me, I’ll just die.
  • Pratt Secrest, Flight School 1943 (age 19)

“I only want to fly!”

Let’s all take time today and this week to Pray for all those men and women who have served and continue to serve our country. Here is a prayer I use for such times…

“O Prince of Peace, we humbly ask Your protection for all our men and women in military service. Give them unflinching courage to defend with honor, dignity and devotion the rights of all who are imperiled by injustice and evil. Guard our churches, our homes, our schools, our hospitals, our factories, our buildings, and all those within from harm and peril. Protect our land and its people from enemies within and without. Grant an early peace with victory founded upon justice. Instill in the hearts and minds of men and women everywhere a firm purpose to live forever in peace and good will towards all. Amen.” 

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE

©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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A Dozen Things I Would Tell that Bride Who Was Me

A Dozen Things I Would Tell that Bride Who Was Me

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary this week was celebrated quietly. A lovely time for Mike and I to look back and remember – to look forward and hope. As I glanced at the photographs of my younger self, I thought of all the things I could tell that young woman now. She knew almost nothing about marriage and mothering, grit and grace, serenity and strength. But God never saw her as a hopeless case. He had so many, many plans for her good. Still, the journey would be nothing like she imagined. The journey would instead, be… more.

Oh, if I could just whisper a few hints in her ear —  Oh Cindy, do you realize that…

  1. This beautiful wedding and God’s answer to your prayers for a husband and children is a big splashy celebration of all that is good and hopeful in your life. But the days to come – the years to come – will be far more ordinary, filled with daily acts of faithfulness. You will learn to embrace smaller, quieter moments along the way. The part of you that longs for the big and splashy will be seasoned into a transformed soul who understands the hiddenness of deep growth. 
  2. This man you hardly know is good choice for life! He is honorable and will stay loyal and faithful to you, seeking to keep his vows. He was definitely worth the wait. As you literally floated around the room, dancing to “Can I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life?” you will enjoy dancing together every chance you get, even when moving much more slowly. But yes, there will be times of sickness (not health) and worse (not better) and those seasons will require all your God-given steadfastness to keep going. But you will. By God’s grace and with Mike’s love.
  3. You are about to discover, dear bride, that all your outside wedding photographs were ruined by your photographer (that’s what you get for hiring the church custodian-photographer-in-training.) You will think it’s a catastrophic loss. Trust me, it is not. The portrait on the church chancel with your new husband and children will be sufficient to revisit often over the next thirty-five years.
  4. Even as you’re enjoying the glorious music (hand selected by your groom and performed today by a full choir and exceptional organ) at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, these notes are being imprinted on your heart. Every time in the future when you hear Widor’s “Toccata” (your recessional), Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” (your bridesmaids’ processional), Charpentier’s “Te Deum”  (your own processional), Bach’s “Sheep Shall Safely Graze” or “God is Wisdom, Love” your heart will be stirred and your strength shall return. Because music holds our life’s moments.
  5. 5. As nine-year-old Justin pulled his bloody tooth and handed it to you in the middle of the ceremony, this was a foretelling that injuries and crises will usually appear at the least opportune moments. But you will learn to deal.
  6. The sight of four-year-old Fiona running down that very long aisle, swinging her flower basket and seven-year-old Timmy twirling his ringbearer’s pillow (fortunately with a fake ring sewn on it) will come to mind again and again as you delight in grandchildren so reminiscent of them.
  7. Shortly after you start a new family in your Seattle home, y’all will need professional help in working through the myriad of issues arising from family history, adopting three children, marrying a widower, and forging your new identity. You will feel like a huge Failure. But you and Mike will work hard through this for ten years, building a strong foundation that stands firm for the next twenty-five years.
  8. Your desires for organization, control, recognition, and achievement will eventually die small deaths upon the altar of a gloriously demanding family and ministry life. Mothering a son with special needs will teach you the value of endless repetition, and how to value small victories. It will also show you that life can change in a moment with just a phone call. You will learn to firmly embrace the old adage, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break.”
  9. The year you turn thirty-eight, you will be diagnosed with clinical depression – a consequence of chemical imbalance and too many changes in too short a time. On that day, you will be a mother of four children ages 2-16, a pastor’s wife, and writer/speaker who has never even heard of a depressed Christian (!) You will believe that there is a big “L” (for Loser) on your forehead for all to see. That you can never climb out of the darkness. But God’s grace will miraculously rescue you. And you will change, for the better.
  10. No, you don’t actually know how to mother these children. Not yet. But you are eager to give 100% and be the Best. Mama. Ever. Honey, can I just tell you, you will not win any awards for Best Mama. You will find yourself expecting too much, occasionally speaking in a harsh tone, and sometimes wanting to hide. But you will also pray for them every morning, read to them every day, sing to them every night, go to their sports, scouting awards, concerts, and plays. You will create a cozy and healthy home, hoping they will know a haven of love and acceptance. You will urge each of your kids to become the unique person God calls them to be. Sure, you will make mistakes, but God will redeem all in the lives of your children.
  11. If you keep waking up and showing up, when you turn around on your thirty-fifth anniversary, May 26, 2019, you will realize there is no one you and your husband would rather spend time with than your young adult children and the grands. You will look at them all and be amazed at the people they’ve become. Not because of you, but in spite of you. And your heart will almost burst with gratitude.
  12. As you glance at the hundreds of friends and family who have gathered at this wedding to sincerely wish you well, may I tell you, dear younger Cindy, that your life will continue to be enriched by many more friends and new family in the years ahead. People who appear just when you most need what they have to offer. Some will stay for a lifetime. Others will weave in and out as seasons pass. You will especially rejoice and treasure your friendships with other creative, compassionate, and crazy women. With those you love, you will have to learn (sometimes the hard way) how best to work, travel, play, and minister together. And you will ask forgiveness more times than you imagined. But you will be rich with remarkable humans in your life. And you will experience the privilege many are denied – growing older with grace, grit, and gratitude.

Our Wedding Text – Jeremiah 32. 38-41

They will be my people, and I will be their God.  I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well  for them and for their children after them.  I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.  I will rejoice in doing them good  and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.

under the mercy, Lucinda

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping you Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the author of 14 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her books include the award-winning Dwelling PlacesOrdinary Graces,  Live These Words, Refresh, and the soon-to-be-released Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most. Lucinda, a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs for The Write Conversation, Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Blog and (in)courage. Whether co-directing  “reNEW ~ retreat for New England Writing,”  pouring into young mamas, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Lucinda’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things.  Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at http://www.EncouragingWords.net/ 

My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE

©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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Best. Thank You Note. Ever.

Best. Thank You Note. Ever.

 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Mama taught me that when given a Gift, the only proper response is to say “Thank You”… then immediately write a Thank You note.  So, today as I write some thank you notes, my heart is full of gratitude  – to God, family,  friends,  readers…

This week I am overflowing with THANKS for….

  • The milestone of My Birthday this week and God giving me Life and Health and Jesus – and for lovely wishes from so many. I’m also thankful this year to be celebrating tomorrow among many friends in the publishing industry while gathering at a conference in what I call “God’s Country” – Black Mountain/Montreat where I lived so long ago. (see photo below of me climbing on Montreat’s Lookout Mountain the year after Furman graduation)
  • Celebrating this week with joy the 35st Anniversary of marriage to my faithful and godly husband Michael. Truly, it is All Grace that he has put up with me these many years. So very thankful for his recovery this year from some major medical concerns. What a privilege to be able to grow old together…
  • On Memorial Day coming up, I remember with gratitude all those who serve in the Military and preserve our Freedom (including my own Daddy of ‘the greatest generation.’) I’m also very grateful for First Responders here as well as many ordinary people who sacrifice with heroic acts in the face of violence.
  • Rejoicing this week in daughter Maggie’s Birthday and for the Amazing daughter, wife, mama, singer, actor, friend, sister and compassionate human she is. An early gift was her singing “All the Way” to me at a recent concert – the old Frank Sinatra song I sang to her each bedtime while growing up, so obviously life has come full circle. Yes, there were tears… 
  • My jersey says “Secrest 23” for my birthday – May 23

    The fabulous surprise gift of daughter Fiona’s family moving from London to New York City in two weeks time and welcoming their third child in September. 

  • My Mama’s 92nd Birthday last week and the privilege of celebrating with her and my two sisters later this summer, God willing. God gave me just the two parents I needed and I know that doesn’t always happen, so I never take them for granted.
  • Bright summer days ahead which include speaking on holiday at our family favorite Camp of the Woods in the New York Adirondacks with our son Justin, plus visiting son Tim in Montana.
  • Upcoming release in November of my 14th book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” from the good folks at New Hope Publishers. And for grace and just the right words to meet my Book #15  deadline this summer.
  • Every New Opportunity to share my Encouraging Words with the world…

Why don’t you join me in praying one of my favorite thank-you-notes-to-God today, as though it were the very first time? Savor each word and pour out your grateful heart to the Lord who loves us more than we can possibly imagine….

Best. Thank You Note. Ever.

(Write it. Pray it. Live it.)

“Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we Your unworthy servants give You humble thanks for all Your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom You have made. We bless You for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for Your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of Your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth Your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to Your service, and by walking before You in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.”(Book of Common Prayer)

I know that the very best way to respond to such abundance of blessing is to offer our lives back to God, willing to be used in any way for His purpose and plan. Friends, let’s give back and pay it forward.

Thank You Notes are good for the soul…

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE

©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 Original ‘Old Faithful’

The Original ‘Old Faithful’

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

The park ranger promised me it would happen at this exact moment. And as I stood with hundreds of people from all over the world, our long-awaited anticipation was rewarded with a true spectacle.

            Old Faithful.

            The famous geyser at Yellowstone National Park that erupts about every ninety minutes, shooting up as high as 184 feet, lasting as long as five minutes. Without fail.

As I joyfully witnessed the plumes of boiling water and steam bursting skyward in a majestic show of power and beauty, I couldn’t help but think of the original Old Faithful.

            God.

            The One by whom other forces of nature shrink in importance, no matter how predictable they are. But though God’s faithfulness is constant, it is often surprising. There’s no scheduling His appearance – only that He will be faithful to every promise.

“The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.  The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.” Psalm 145:13-14 

            Perhaps you and I are not unlike those Yellowstone tourists – finding ourselves waiting around, thinking we know exactly how and when God will choose to come through with His power and promise. We have set aside this time in our lives and are ready.  Only, instead of a prompt appearance, we discover that the God of the Universe will not be managed or manipulated. He is:oldfaithfulmikecindy

  • Faithful in putting together families; just not always in the traditional fashion.
  • Faithful in providing financial resources for our needs; but perhaps not all our wants.
  • Faithful in walking beside us through every calamity, though the journey often involves painful detours.

Still, we can rely on His character. This verse reminds us not only that God is “faithful in all He does,” and can be trusted to keep His promises.  He will lift us up when we fall and help us stay upright when we wobble.  

When I struggle with faith, I remind myself of the acronym for FAITH I learned so long ago: Forsaking All, I Trust Him.

            Where do you need God to be faithful in your life today? Take a moment and write down two areas and then pray over them by singing this familiar hymn.

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father; There is no shadow of turning with Thee, Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not, As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”  (hymn “Great Is They Faithfulness,” Thomas Chisholm,1923)

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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Where are the Spiritual Mamas Out There?

Where are the Spiritual Mamas Out There?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

While still in my thirties, I realized I was an ‘older woman.’

I had stumbled upon the mandate in Titus 2 about older women living in a way that honors God, “They should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women…” It was easy to dismiss this as something for my mother’s generation, until the Spirit spoke into my heart. No matter your age, there are always younger women. And it occurred to me that as a college dean’s wife I had a whole campus full of younger women just outside my door.

So I immediately started a weekly Bible study in my home for college women – yes, even though my hands were full as a part-time radio broadcaster and full-time mama of four young children. As for our gatherings, I know they weren’t perfect and I will probably never know this side of heaven the fruit of our time together. But my obedience to this prompting was the impetus to always keep my eyes open for those I could encourage along life’s journey.

As each Mothering Day approaches, I’m reminded of both my stumbling and soaring as I sought to mother my four quite different children through the many vicissitudes of life. I am utterly grateful that each survived and is now thriving as their own person with a myriad of interests and responsibilities. But I also realize that my life’s influence goes beyond mothering my own children. I can be a spiritual mama to many throughout my lifetime.

While all women do not necessarily become mothers, I believe all women have the potential to serve as spiritual mothers.

Sometimes such relationships of older women with younger women last for years or a lifetime. More frequently such influencing times last for a season, even for a weekend intensive, such as a conference or retreat.

Inter-generational sharing is important to both the older and younger woman for many reasons. Those of us who have lived more of life and experienced both suffering and God’s faithfulness have many stories and lessons to share with someone a few steps behind. Even though our circumstances may differ, there are universal truths to be learned. From younger women we can discover new ideas, technology, thinking and trends – making us more sensitive to how to help in their many challenging changes. Our hearts and minds open to experiences we might not have otherwise pursued without their influence.

Does the idea of spiritual mothering sound a bit daunting? Perhaps it will help if you think of it as using skills you’ve already learned whilst parenting, teaching or managing a staff. Here are six key actions I have identified as important to those seeking to serve as spiritual mamas:

1.     Listen. Get to know someone by truly hearing their heart and not just what they are saying. Be present and truly interested in them as an individual. People are hungry for someone to focus on them in real time, face-to-face. This speaks volumes to their worth.

2.     Look. Ask God to help you truly see this person as one created in His image. Discover their unique gifting, passions and skills. Recognize and affirm both the strengths and potential pitfalls in being who they are.

3.     Lift. Everyone needs a cheerleader. Perhaps you are the one to lift them up and praise the small victories. Encourage through affirmation, good advice, prayer support and being available. Be their safe haven.

4.     Learn. Just as you have spent a lifetime (no matter how long that is so far) learning about all aspects of the character of God – trustworthy, faithful, unchanging, sovereign, compassionate, strong, and ever-present – you can now help them learn these foundational truths through sharing your stories.

5.     Love. Isn’t this the key – deciding that you will be a vessel of God’s unconditional love and acceptance to another person desperately needing assurance that they matter? Love is full of grace to cover our failures. But it is also full of truth to help steer our paths. You can offer both aspects of love to another person with whom you are in authentic relationship.

6.     Launch. Perhaps the hardest stage is when the time comes to let go and lessen the intensity of your interaction. Just remember that all you have been pouring into this person’s life has built to this point. Commit to pray for them and entrust them in God’s capable hands. Leave the fruit with Him.

Where are all the spiritual mamas out there?  Look in the mirror. You are an older woman to someone. God will show you the way, and I will be cheering you on…

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE

©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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Resilience

Resilience

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

We only have one small tree in our front yard.  By choice. When we downsized from a five bedroom colonial parsonage to a much smaller Cape Cod cottage, we deliberately chose a yard that requires little upkeep. But this pink dogwood sits right outside the bay window of our porch and is a beautiful focal point throughout each season.

Back in October 2011, it was laden with gorgeous autumn leaves when a freak 12-inch snow-and-ice-storm hit Connecticut and left us without power for a week. Ice usually just crystallizes bare limbs in winter, but this time it covered the leaves, the heavy weight bringing every branch to the ground. By the time all was melted, we had lost more than half of the tree. What a sad sight. It looked chopped up and forlorn. I wondered all through that winter if our little tree would make it.. The elements of the years had been brutal at times; this final blow… 

But a mere six months later, on a balmy April day, I glanced out to see beautiful pink blossoms on a seemingly-full dogwood tree! Spring had come and our little-tree-that-could was once again blossoming and cheery. What a story of resilience and perseverance! And how much more beautiful it is to me because I remember the loss, the broken limbs, the heavy weight of ice…

Resilient has two distinct definitions: 1. returning to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched. 2. recovering readily from illness, depression, adversity or the like; buoyant..

Sarah Hasty Secrest – Then

My mother — Sarah Hasty Secrest — is like our little tree. She perseveres! Just like our dogwood, Mama has experienced unexpected storms that weighed her down and even broke off a few bits. 

Sarah Hasty Secrest – Now

But Mama is also very resilient. She has forged through life without her husband of 62 years, learning new roles and responsibilities and determining to live as fully as possible, even with her physical limitations. I admire her for that and I hope to exhibit that kind of strength when I am 92…

 

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Mama’s birthday falls on Mother’s Day weekend. Other than time together (which will happen this summer) Mama has no birthday wish list. So I decided to give her something that only I could give — I dedicated my new book “Life-giving Choices – 60 Days to What Matters Most” to her:

  • Dedicated to Mama
  • Sarah Hasty Secrest
  • Thanks for life, love, prayers;
  • and for giving me the courage
  • and confidence to choose wisely.

Storms will come. Ice will make us brittle sometimes and lead to loss and brokenness.

But Spring also comes.

When it does, we can choose to turn our faces towards the Sun and wear our most beautiful garments of bright color, shouting to the world “I’m still here and God is faithful!”

Happy Birthday Mama. You are Beautiful.

“She is strong and respected and not afraid of the future. She speaks with a gentle wisdom. She is always busy and looks after her family’s needs. Her children show their appreciation, and her husband praises her… Charm is deceptive and beauty disappears, but a woman who honors the Lord should be praised. Give her credit for all she does. She deserves the respect of everyone.”               (Proverbs 31.25-31)

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE

©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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Because Everyone is Wounded 

Because Everyone is Wounded 

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“Just assume that everyone within the reach of your words is wounded.”

These were my words to the writers and speakers attending my seminar entitled “What Your Audience Desperately Needs.” Because it’s true.

We all carry soul wounds.

Scars from childhood family skirmishes. Scratches from professional rejection. Scabs from physical trauma we never saw coming. Limps from having fallen one time too many.

What are your souvenirs of suffering? And what do you do with them?

Here is Elisabeth Elliot’s suggestion: “There are two ways to receive wounds. One leads to larger life. The other leads straight to death, that is to destruction—of those we influence as well as of ourselves. No one has power to hurt us more deeply than somebody we loved and counted on to understand and support us. By grace we can receive the wounds of our friends in Christ’s strength and for His glory. Or we can use the world’s methods of anger, resentment and retaliation, which is natural but lethal. The choice is ours.”

Making this choice in the middle of woundedness is strategic: “Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Jesus knows we are wounded.

That’s one reason He came and made the ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross: “he was wounded for the wrong we did; he was crushed for the evil we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to him.” He submitted to the lashes and the nails so that we wouldn’t have to; “and we are healed because of his wounds.” (Isaiah 53.5)

Be assured that our Lord is in the “binding up” aspect of restoration and healing: “God heals the brokenhearted / and bandages their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

“Jesus mends. He sutures. He slathers salve on the injured area and wraps it in holy bandages presoaked in mercy. Then, under His divine touch, wounds heal. Even wounds that cut bone-deep or leave raised-welt scars. His mending is artistry. Restoring is His specialty. Renewing broken things is His heart. Reclaiming shattered souls—repairing tattered lives—His preoccupation.” (Cynthia Ruchti in “Tattered and Mended”)

Like Thomas, perhaps we need to touch His hands and feet. He understands.

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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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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