Are You 6 Months Away from a Dream?

Are You 6 Months Away from a Dream?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

You could be six months out from a dream come true!

A time to reNEW your vision and passion for sharing your Story!

Gathering here in New England amongst the beautiful autumn leaves with other creative souls who are passionate about sharing Words with the World.

  • Written Words that teach, encourage, lift, inspire and tell stories that change lives.
  • Spoken Words that connect, reveal, challenge, and weave amazing truth from ordinary life situations.

If you are a Word person (written, spoken, or a little of both) we Invite You to reNEW – retreat for New England Writing.

6 months from NOWOctober 6-8 we are gathering at Holy Family Retreat Center – 48 beautiful acres near Hartford CT – and living in community while we hear from some of the very best faculty on both writing and speaking. Our faculty is not chosen merely based on their expertise or their awards (although those are in abundance). They are all people who come for the weekend to interact with you for encouragement, support, prayer and sharing stories of a life of God’s faithfulness. (Find out more about Carol Kent, Christa Parrish, Lori Roeleveld, Christa Hutchins, Tessa Afshar, Rachel Britton and Lucinda Secrest McDowell on our website www.reNEWwriting.com)

Yes, we WRITE (you will have your own dedicated desk 24/7 and can work as you choose – everyone also has a single room with a desk), we EAT (all meals provided), we LEARN (many plenary and workshops to choose from based on your interests), we FELLOWSHIP (great place for walks, cozy couches for conversation), we WORSHIP (prayer gatherings as well as our closing Sunday communion service in the chapel) and we CONNECT on so many levels. You will definitely leave with some New Best Friends.

reNEW 2016 Book Celebration Authors (we are Serious about writing…)

The atmosphere is low key and accepting. There is no rushing for signup sheets, no people to impress, just all of us sitting at the foot of the cross looking to Jesus in response to His call.

Remember, this is a retreat, not a conference. We are from many backgrounds and at different places on our journey. This is what makes Life Interesting! Our first plenary kickoff is a Book Celebration of recent publications by those in our community – interviews with these authors are a great way to get fired up!

  • What is holding you back? Perhaps you aren’t sure you will ‘fit in’ since you haven’t yet published a book.
  • Perhaps you wonder if you are indeed called to be a speaker since invitations aren’t pouring in.
  • Others of you are seasoned and wonder if this investment will re-invigorate you or discourage you.

Listen! There is something here for us all. Because our God is a God of renewal – He takes the weary, the confused, the unprepared, and He clearly guides and provides for all He wishes to do through us.

Sometimes you just have to come.

So, please pray about reNEW – retreat for New England Writing. Visit our website and check out the schedule and the faculty. Contact co-directors Lucinda and/or Rachel —  info@reNEWwriting.com — we are quite different (Rachel speaks British and lives in New York City, Lucinda speaks Southern and lives in Hartford CT) with a combination of many unique experiences in this field and would love to chat with you.

Pray, but then Plan by reserving your spot. We intentionally keep reNEW small so space is limited. The cost increases on June 1st. 

Six months will pass in a flash, I assure you. What a great event to look forward to as the air becomes crisp and God’s palette of color paints the countryside. Last year we had participants from 15 different states, so many like to add a holiday on to the front or back end of the retreat. And quite a few arrive at Holy Family one night early to settle in and gather their thoughts together. That’s one reason we are scheduling during Columbus Day weekend.

Are YOU six months out from a dream come true!

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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

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

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Do You Need a New Heart?

Do You Need a New Heart?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

                       John and Charles desperately needed a change of heart.

We may know the Wesleys today as ‘spiritual giants’ who wrote hundreds of hymns. But they weren’t always faith-filled followers of Christ. Just like you and me, sometimes they faltered…

Yet these were the very two brothers who had formed the Holy Club while in school – covenanting to live disciplined Christian lives of serious Bible study, prayer, fasting and charitable works.  They had grown up in a strong Christian family and served in church leadership.

Still, it wasn’t enough.

They longed for more assurance of God’s love and grace.

Desiring to be used by Him, John and Charles even sailed to the colony of Georgia with General Oglethorpe. John served as a military chaplain and Charles secretary to the governor. But their strict legalism made them view the natives as savage thieves, liars and murderers. And there was opposition from the other white colonists who resented their rigid high churchmanship and many prohibitions.

The Wesley brothers returned home to England totally disillusioned. John even wrote, “I went to America to convert the Indians; but, oh, what shall convert me?” 

Have you ever found yourself going through the motions? Checking off a list of spiritual activity and involvement, but discovering no joy in the process? Doing all the ‘right things’ but for all the wrong reasons?

Perhaps you, too, need a change of heart.

God promises I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one.” Ezekiel 36:26  All you have to do is turn to Him and ask.

That’s just what Charles and John Wesley did back in 1737 after they returned from America. They had witnessed a vibrant faith in a group of Moravians who spoke of the assurance of salvation that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus.

Then on Sunday, May 21, 1738 Charles had a spiritual experience that enabled him to be justified by faith. He wrote in his journal that the Spirit of God “chased away the darkness of my unbelief.”

And then he went on to write more than seven thousand hymns reflecting his new heart, beginning with this one “No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine; Alive in Him, my living Head, And clothed in righteousness divine, Bold I approach the eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own. Bold I approach the eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own.” (hymn “And Can It Be,” Charles Wesley, 1738) 

A mere three days later, his brother John had what he called his own “heartwarming” experience. On May 24, 1738 he journaled, “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans… While he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.” He ran to his brother and declared, ‘I believe!’ They prayed together and embarked on a very full life of international spiritual influence to this day. 

God is in the business of fanning the flame of cold hearts. If you are in need of a “heartwarming,” just ask. And He will replace yours too.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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

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

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For Those Days When You Feel Empty…

On Those Days When You Feel Empty…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

  • I’m poured out like water.  
  • All my bones have fallen apart. 
  • My heart is like wax; it melts inside me.  
  • My strength is dried up like a piece of broken pottery. Psalm 22.14-15

Have you ever experienced a “dark night of the soul?”

This term, first mentioned by 16th century St. John of the Cross, has come to mean a season when one senses the total absence of God. Our prayers lack feeling and imagination. No insights carry us through the day; no sense of the holy emerges. It is an experience of dryness, darkness and emptiness.

And it can come to anyone. Even a saint.

A few years ago the world was shocked to learn, through the publication of her private letters, that Mother Teresa of Calcutta experienced a dark night of the soul, which tormented her even in the midst of her amazing ministry to the poorest of the poor. Over time, a spiritual adviser helped Teresa realize that her feelings of abandonment only increased her understanding of the people she helped. Ultimately, she identified her suffering with that of Jesus, which helped her to accept it.”

            The psalmist in today’s verse is experiencing deep emotional and spiritual trauma which manifests itself in his body as well, All my bones have fallen apart.” One cannot read very far in Psalm 22 without realizing that these are the prophetic words of Christ’s experience on the cross. No other Old Testament passage provides such a full picture of His suffering, beginning in dark anguish and ending in soaring hope.

But even when Jesus experienced a life “poured out like water,” His passion was still to do the will of His Father, no matter how much it hurt, for the greater glory that would come.

If you are suffering, God is still at work in your life. In your soul.

My friend Cecil knows about dark nights: “For Christians, those dark times may be a time for us to look deeply within ourselves and to examine our hearts. They may push us to overcome our complacency or to become aware of our dependency on God, or make us yearn for an even deeper commitment. Because of my period of darkness, I’ve come to realize that whether I sense the divine presence or I don’t, it doesn’t say anything about the Lord. When we’ve examined our hearts and believe we’re as close to God as we know how to be, yet we have no sense of His presence, it may mean God is at our side, silently watching over us and always caring for us.” (Cecil Murphey, “Knowing God, Knowing Myself,”)

How do we find our way back into the joy of God’s presence?

“What do we do in the dark night? We do nothing,” suggests John Ortberg.  “We wait. We remember that we are not God. We hold on. We ask for help. We do less. We resign from things, we rest more, we stop going to church, we ask somebody else to pray because we can’t. We let go of our need to hurry through it. You can’t run in the dark.” (John Ortberg, “Soul Keeping,”)

Friend, if these words in our Lenten devotion today resonate deep within your soul, may I assure you that God knows. He is with you and will never forsake you. And I am spending time in prayer this week for all who feel utterly poured out….

“Holy Spirit, Light divine,

shine upon this heart of mine;

Chase the shades of night away,

Turn my darkness into day.”

(hymn “Holy Spirit, Light Divine,”Andrew Reed, 1817)

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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

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

 

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Who Holds You Tight?

Who Holds You Tight?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell 

If I could fly on the wings of dawn,  stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean—even there Your hand would guide me; even there Your strong hand would hold me tight! Psalm 139:9-10 

Henri once told his father that he always wanted to be a trapeze artist.

Having become great friends with The Flying Rodleighs, Henri Nouwen enjoyed their performances around Europe. “As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher,” Rodleigh told him. “The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.”

Fascinated, Henri asked how that worked. “The secret is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely in… A flyer must fly and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him,” Rodleigh concluded. (Henri Nouwen, “Our Greatest Gift”) 

In a similar way, God is always there to catch us – and hold tight.

We do nothing, except reach out. He does everything.

“The eternal God is your refuge and dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33.27)

He is our dwelling place. No matter where we go in the world, God is the One who will provide a home and safe refuge. And His arms will hold us tight.

Psalm 139 is one of the most beloved passages in the Bible. It begins with David’s realization of God’s intimate knowledge of us and constant presence with us. We are told You surround me—front and back. You put your hand on me. That kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t fathom it.” (Psalm 139.5-6)

Did you know God holds you?

I love nothing better than to hold my precious grandgirl in my arms. Unless it’s to hold her and read her a book. Such as “The Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown. Written in 1942, it’s a classic for children of any age.

Of course the little bunny, like many of us, wants to run away from home and experience a grand adventure. But no matter how or where he decides to go, his mother is always there — for she loves her little bunny very much.

When the bunny says he’ll become a rock on a high mountain, the mother replies that she will then become a mountain climber and climb to where he is. When he decides to hide in a garden as a crocus, she declares that she will become a gardener and find him. And when he threatens to become a bird and fly away from her, she calmly proclaims that she will then become a tree that he comes home to. After several more scenarios the little bunny realizes the relentless love of his mother and decides, “Shucks, I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.” (Margaret Wise Brown, “The Runaway Bunny”)

Where can you go from His presence?

Nowhere. God’s hand will be wherever we are – to lift us up, to hold us tight.

Shucks, we may as well rest in the dwelling place of His love and care. And be His child.

  under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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

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

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Is It Time to Return?

Is It Time to Return?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“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

returnChristina 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. 

Now is the perfect time to “Return to the Lord your God.”  He is waiting to welcome you home. But it does require a choice.

During this season of Lent — forty days building 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.”

Today is Ash Wednesday – a good time to return to the Lord in contrition and repentance. We have 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, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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

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

 

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How to Live in Difficult Times

How to Live in Difficult Times

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

  • “In the last days there will be very difficult times.
  • difficulttimesFor people will love only themselves and their money.
  • They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God,
  • disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful.
  • They will consider nothing sacred.
  • They will be unloving and unforgiving;
  • they will slander others and have no self-control.
  • They will be cruel and hate what is good.
  • They will betray their friends, be reckless,
  • be puffed up with pride,
  • and love pleasure rather than God.” 2 Timothy 3.1-4 NLT

          Why are we so surprised to be living in such difficult times?

          When I read today’s text, Paul’s final words to Timothy, I am amazed that in many ways, very little has changed in our world.

          But if “difficult times” have been present off and on for two millennia and beyond, then why do we wring our hands, whining that surely this is the end of the world?

          God is still on the throne.

          Whatever is happening in your world today… it did not take Him by surprise. If He allows such difficulty to intersect with your life, be confident that He will put Himself right in the middle of it in order to provide for you.

          I don’t know what you are experiencing as you read these words. But as I write them, there is great change and upheaval in my own country. People are afraid. People are angry. And even some believers are forgetful. 

                That our Christian faith was not only born in the midst of political turmoil (murderous King Herod and Christian persecutor Nero), but it has prevailed throughout time with both weak and strong leaders, believers and scoffers. 

     How should we conduct ourselves during difficult times when all of the things listed in today’s verse are truly personified in our daily news and our daily encounters?

                We should do exactly what Paul exhorted Timothy, “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught.” (2 Timothy 3.14 NLT)

                One pastor offered these suggestions for living in difficult times:

  • Pray repentance and saving faith “for kings and all who are in high positions” everywhere. (1 Timothy 2.2) 
  • Lift up Christ and gather with people, in beautiful diversity and harmony to worship God together in healthy, holy, humble churches.
  • Love each other “earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1.22), remaining “unstained from the world” (James 1.27).
  • Spread the great good news of the saving grace of Jesus Christ to all people. 

             These are characteristics of reconciliation. Isn’t this who we are called to be?

             “[Reconcilers] bring people together. They hate war, violence, contentiousness, division caused by race, economics, gender and ideology. They believe that being peaceable and making peace trumps all other efforts in one’s lifetime. A Christian is mightily stirred into action when he sees those dividing walls that separate people, each of whom was made uniquely and loved by God. What an incredible example he is to exploitative and arrogant people who walk through every day dividing and diminishing people all around them. The transforming Christ-follower knows his natural human tendency and seeks God’s power to replace it with another tendency: redeeming, healing love.”  (Gordon MacDonald)

          Difficult times are inevitable. May our response bring reconciliation and peace.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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

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

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I Now Answer to the Name “Beloved”

I Now Answer to the Name “Beloved”

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.” (Romans 9.25 MSG)

         beloved I remember the moment I finally got up enough nerve to say aloud “I am God’s Beloved.”  Now this is my primary identity.

          After half a lifetime of wrestling with unworthiness, I finally received the gift the above scripture speaks of —  God’s unconditional love that transforms those who feel unloved and forgotten into His beloved.

          From then on, we are called to live loved.

          “It’s not deciding in my mind I deserve to be loved. Or manipulating my heart to feel loved. It’s settling in my soul, I was created by God, who formed me because He so much loved the very thought of me. When I was nothing, He saw something and declared it good. Very good. And very loved. God’s love isn’t based on me. It’s simply placed on me. And it’s the place from which I should live…loved.” (Lysa Terkeurst)

          Have you forever been changed by the love of Christ?

          Fil Anderson was just walking along the beach one day when suddenly a young boy with Down Syndrome ran towards him, hugging and kissing him. Though startled, he remembers feeling that God was saying: “That little boy was a picture of my wild love for you. The way he looked into your eyes is the way I have always looked at you. That beaming smile on his face is how you make me smile. The way he wildly screamed with glee is how I feel about you. The way he kissed you only begins to express the love that is in my heart for you. I am totally crazy about you.”

          God is totally crazy about you and me too.

Which should make every other title or status or label pale in comparison to Beloved. Those are ever changing, but God’s love will always be the set point of who I truly am. 

          “Jesus came to share his identity with you and to tell you that you are the beloved sons and daughters of God. You were the beloved before your father, mother, brother, sister, or church loved you or hurt you. God loved you before you were born and God will love you after you die. This is who you are whether you feel it or not.”  (Henri Nouwen)

          To know this and truly believe it will enable us to live loved. 

          It was a decisive moment in Jesus’ life – the divine affirmation at his baptism: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 2.17 KJV) That identity defined and empowered him all his days on earth. 

          Believing the opening verse of this blog can also be a decisive moment in our lives as well – the day we received the gift of a new name – Beloved.

And began thus to live out our calling. “Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all.” (Frederich Buechner)

          Just call me Beloved.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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

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

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

 

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