Focused Living… in a World of Distraction

Focused Living… in a World of Distraction

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Home after a season of travel, I find myself  playing major Catch-Up on everything from correspondence to housework to seasonal decorations (I think now that Easter is over the neighbors might appreciate it if I take the Christmas balls off the small tree in our front yard… Ya think?) 

The day is wide open but I can’t seem to settle — too many distractions. No sooner have I tackled one project than another calls my name and I’m off…

What are your greatest distractions? For me, sometimes it’s in the juggling of too many things at one time – which has a 21st century term now. According to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, “continuous partial attention means that while you are answering your email and talking to your kid, your cell phone rings and you have a conversation. You are now involved in a continual flow of interactions in which you can only partially concentrate on each . . . You’re never out anymore. The assumption is now that you’re always in . . . And when you’re always in, you are always on. And when you are always on, what are you most like? A computer server.”

Well, I am not a computer — I am a person! And though the lines between “much” and “meaningful” have blurred quite a bit, I am seeking clarity by fixing my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith.” Hebrews 12.2.

Do you also find it hard to focus in a world full of distraction? Personally, I hate to be talking to someone when their eyes are constantly darting around the room in search of a more interesting diversion. Their actions cause me to feel unimportant and even unnecessary. Are you “continually partially attentive” to a lot without being fully focused on anything? Have you finished reading one whole book lately? When did you last sit down for a period of time and look into your child or friend or spouse’s eyes and really listen to what they had to say? And, oh by the way, what scripture penetrated your heart this week from your devotions or worship or class – do you even remember it?

The word ‘distraction’ comes from the Latin distractus which literally means “to draw or pull apart.” In his book The Attentive Life, Leighton Ford says “It can have a very innocuous sense: a distraction can be an amusement or diversion that relaxes us. But more seriously a distraction is a pull away from what deep down we know is our most fundamental goal, purpose or direction. When we are distracted, we are often confused by conflicting emotions or worries. The more ‘noise’ that surrounds us, the more we absorb, the more likely we are to be distractible, our attention readily diverted and restless, and the more vulnerable we become to all the distractions around.”

Being distracted is not new to our day and age. My friend, Miriam Huffman Rockness, in her wonderful biography Passion for the Impossible, described Lilias Trotter who lived a life of art, privilege and leisure in London more than a hundred years ago. Even art critic John Ruskin enthusiastically proclaimed her as one of the best artists of the 19th century. But Lilias’ devotion to Christ compelled her to abandon that world for an entirely different life in Algeria, North Africa. There her love of literature and art became dynamic tools for evangelism and her compassionate lifestyle of love and encouragement captured the hearts of the Muslim people for 40 years.

Trotter’s struggle (and eventual victory) in the whole area of finding focus inspired these words by hymnist Helen Lemmel in 1922: Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace”.

Maybe it’s time for the things of the earth to grow strangely dim in my own life…

Lilias Trotter was quick to say that it is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies. “Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? Does this test not give the clue? Then dare to have it out with God. Dare to lay bare your whole life and being before Him, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His glory. Dare to face the fact that unfocused, good and useful as it may seem, it will prove to have failed of its purpose.”

Since I’m basically a practical person, I therefore need practical ways to combat the whole sense of too-much-to-do-and-not-enough-of-me. How do I fix my eyes on the meaningful and take them off the much? Years ago I developed a system to help me in this struggle; I call it “selective neglect.” Knowing that I can’t do everything in front of me, even everything good, I make a deliberate decision what I will not do. In other words, I decide to selectively neglect something so that I can deliberately focus on the more important task or situation or person at hand.

For instance, any given day I might have a list of ten very good and worthy things to do, but that’s not even bringing into account unforeseen interruptions which can also be of God. So, as part of my morning prayers I offer up my agenda to God and ask that He guide me in the essentials, leaving the rest for another day or (heaven forbid) another one of His servants to cover. That leaves me with perhaps two or three ‘must dos’ and the rest only ‘possibilities’. Knowing my limitations, I wouldn’t have been able to get to it all by the end of the day anyway, so why not let me be the one to decide what will be neglected?

Our friend, Lilias Trotter, illustrated this principle many years ago when she said “What does this focusing mean? Study the matter and you will see that it means two things–gathering in all that can be gathered, and letting the rest drop. You have to choose which you will fix your gaze upon and let the other go.”

My prayer for you (and me) today: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope  of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.” Ephesians 1.18-19

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!

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What He Did

 What He Did

 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

 I still cannot believe what He did.

For me.

holyweekpalmsundayThis is Holy Week. It began a few days ago 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 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 Trisiduum (3 days) and hope you will join me in this Holy Time.

MAUNDY THURSDAY – March 29, 2018

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?

holyweeklastsupper“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 – March 30, 2018

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.
  • easter scene with crown of thorns, hammer and nails with blood on sandMost 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 – March 31, 2018

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. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6.4-11)

EASTER SUNDAY – April 1, 2018

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”

©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” or “Dwelling Places” HERE for under $10 each!

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When Writers (or even You) Need to Rest

When Writers (or even You)

Need to Rest

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

A whole week in a cottage by the sea. Sounds like a perfect time to write, doesn’t it?

Or not.

            Maybe it’s a perfect opportunity to actually Do Nothing. To rest. To walk. To be silent. To listen. To remember. To dream. To create. To be nourished, body and soul.

Victorian art critic John Ruskin once observed, “There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it. In our whole life-melody the music is broken off here and there by rests, and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the tune. Not without design does God write the music of our lives. But be it ours to learn the tune, and not be dismayed at the rests. With the eye on Him, we shall strike the next note full and clear.”

            Pauses are essential for those of us who spend our lives creating. And for everyone else too. That’s how our Creator wired us. We see it in natural rhythms which include times of both music and restful silences.

            Are you so full of ideas, plots and words that you feel like you will burst? Or are you dry and empty, in dread of facing yet another empty page (or screen)? Either way, it may be time to pull away from it all.

No music for a time. In order to receive.

            Start by unplugging from all your devices. Stop researching. Stop thumbing through your Bible in search of that perfect scripture quote. Stop reading great stuff by brilliant writers. Just stop!

            Be perfectly quiet.

            Sit in a comfortable place with your hands open wide. To release and receive.

            RELEASE your concerns, anxieties and fears. Ask God to carry them for you; or even dispel them altogether. Identify them and then pray:

Lord, you know what weighs me down, what hinders my life and my work. And why. I release them now to You, one by one ___________________, trusting in Your protection and deliverance. Amen.

            Now RELEASE your dreams, hopes and daring ideas to the One who will hone, fashion and tweak for His best purposes. Identify them and then pray:

            Lord, I want so much! Keep my vision and goals high and lofty – bold for Your glory. But today, as I name them _________________________, I release them back into Your hands, asking that You will guide me forward or redirect me as You choose. I want Your will and Your perfect timing. Amen.

            You are now in a position to RECEIVE. Once again, open your hands and be still. Pray as Samuel did, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3.10)

            Continue in silence. Five minutes may seem like five hours to those of us who love to fill all space with words. But God is so very present in this place as you pray:

            Lord, I receive from You love, grace, mercy, hope, joy, forgiveness, wisdom, truth, strength, Holy Spirit power, courage, peace, and a very real sense of Your presence even now as I dwell deeply with You. Reveal to me where to direct my energy and resources in this ministry. Give me grace to face both opened doors and doors slamming shut. Keep me close to You that I might always recognize the Source of all that is worthy to be released to a broken world, through the very human vessel of my words. Amen.

            Whether your time apart is a day or a week, it will be an investment in your ministry of writing and you will see benefits. Maybe not immediately. But cleaning the clutter makes way for fresh work, a fresh filling. Even our Lord Jesus withdrew to a solitary place for refreshment and renewal – emerging with power. To conquer the very next challenge – feeding the five thousand!

            Writer, will you rest? Friend, will you rest?

  1. Release   Receive

Then go forth Restored.

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

Note: I’m teaching a 5-part Morning Track on “The Spiritual Life of the Writer” at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference March 22-26 and would love to see you there – come say Hey!

EncouragingWords.net     reNEWwriting.com

©2018 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” or “Dwelling Places” HERE for under $10 each!

 

 

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Why I Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Why I Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

What if evil hijacked your youth and held you captive for years and years? When escape to a new life was finally achieved, you would vow to stay as far away from your former captors as possible, right?

Well, maybe not.

Maybe you would choose to return and “conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12.21)

Patrick was a sixteen-year-old teenager when he was abducted. There were no milk cartons broadcasting his disappearance, no organizations rescuing young people from human trafficking, no Amber alerts. He was on his own among a fierce pagan people.

He was now a slave, far from home.

In 5th century Ireland.

The land was lush and beautiful. But the people were themselves enslaved to superstition, spirits and fear. Violence was common and life was cheap. In this alien land, Patrick grew up quickly as slave to an Irish Chieftain.

????????????When there was time to be lonely and homesick among his heathen captors, Patrick found solace in God and converted to Christianity. He drew close to Him through nature, silence and prayer. One evening he felt God’s Spirit was prompting him to go to the shore two hundred miles away. There he discovered a boat which he immediately took as God’s provision for his escape.

After six long years he was finally free and able to pursue a new life! With a deepened, faith, he pursued ordination in the church and continued a vital ministry in Roman Britain. But the land that first captured him, now captured his heart.

He longed to return to Ireland. Patrick had become convinced that he was handpicked by God to convert the entire country to Christianity.

Patrick greatly respected nature, but he also wanted the Irish to know that God was the only One worthy of worship. So he used a shamrock to explain the three persons of the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — one stem but three leaves.

Patrick labored in Ireland for thirty years and even though some say he singlehandedly converted Ireland, Patrick preferred to put it this way: “I owe it to God’s grace that so many people should, through me, become Christians.”

He loved the Irish and they loved him back, perpetuating many legends about his life and ministry. When this Briton born as Patricius died at age 75, he was named Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.

And neither Ireland nor Christianity was ever quite the same.

The following prayer is commonly known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate, found in the ancient Book of Armagh, from the early ninth century. Patrick is said to have written this prayer to strengthen himself with God’s protection as he prepared to confront and convert Loegaire, high king of Ireland.

We may not wear combat gear in our daily lives, but St. Patrick’s Breastplate can function as divine armor for protection against spiritual adversity. Where do you need to conquer evil by doing good? Ask God and He will reveal to you His battle plans for your own life.

(Author’s note: Whenever I pray this prayer, I have to stand and raise my right hand as though holding a sword. Then I proclaim with great conviction “I arise today…” I have not condensed it here.)

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

       “I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through a belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. I arise today through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism, through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial, through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension, through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom. I arise today through the strength of the love of cherubim, in obedience of angels, in service of archangels, in the hope of resurrection to meet with reward, in the prayers of patriarchs, in preachings of the apostles, in faiths of confessors, in innocence of virgins, in deeds of righteous men. I arise today through the strength of heaven; light of the sun, splendor of fire, speed of lightning, swiftness of the wind, depth of the sea,  stability of the earth, firmness of the rock. I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me; God’s might to uphold me,  God’s wisdom to guide me,  God’s eye to look before me,  God’s ear to hear me,  God’s word to speak for me,  God’s hand to guard me,  God’s way to lie before me,  God’s shield to protect me,  God’s hosts to save me from snares of the devil,  from temptations of vices,  from everyone who desires me ill, afar and anear,  alone or in a multitude. I summon today All these powers between me and those evils, Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, Against incantations of false prophets, Against black laws of pagandom, Against false laws of heretics, Against craft of idolatry, Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards, Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul; Christ to shield me today Against poison, against burning, Against drowning, against wounding, So that there may come to me an abundance of reward. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left,  Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,  Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me,  Christ in the ear that hears me. I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through a belief in the Threeness, through a confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. Amen.”    Patrick of Ireland (390-461)

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

under the mercy, Lucinda

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

3d cover live these words* selected from Day 14 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2015

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net

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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!

 

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Is It Time for You to Return?

Is It Time for You to Return?

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

My friend Ruth Graham went straight for the heart when she shared last week at Billy Graham’s funeral:  “Daddy wasn’t God, but he showed me what God was like.” She went on to tell of when she returned to her parents’ home after disobedience and sin, knowing she had made bad choices and hating to disappoint them… and God.

“We live on the side of a mountain and as I wound myself up the mountain, I rounded the last bend in my father’s driveway and my father was standing there waiting for me,” she said through tears. “As I got out of the car, he wrapped his arms around me and said ‘welcome home.’ There was no shame, there was no blame, there was no condemnation – just unconditional love.”

But in order to receive that amazing grace gift, Ruth had to make the choice to return – making a 180 degree turnaround from where she was to where she wanted to be.

########

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.   

Now is the perfect time to do what the prophet Joel said, “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

He is waiting to welcome you home. But it does require a choice.

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.”

This season of Lent is all about returning.

Returning to God after pushing Him out of most of our life and activities. Returning to values and faith. Returning to complicated relationships and doing whatever it takes to mend them. Returning to the purpose and calling God placed on each of us, but it got worn down by weariness and the world.

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, 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” or “Dwelling Places” HERE for under $10 each!

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Waiting for the FOG to Lift…

Waiting for the FOG to Lift…

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

           The view from the porch would be beautiful if not for the thick early morning fog. But it totally hides the large flowering camellia bush, majestic pine trees and rustic guest cottage across the way (relocated from where it once served as Daddy’s first office.) I know they are there somewhere… but unseen for now.

            As I sip the strong hot coffee which is to be my fuel for the day ahead, Aunt Carol (we’re sitting on her porch at “Honeysuckle Farm”) observes, “Cindy, this fog is like your life today. You are wondering what’s ahead for your mother as she lies in the hospital recovering from surgery, sick with the flu and facing another surgery in a few days. There are so many decisions to make and yet nothing is clear.”

            Unseen for now. I gulp, realizing she’s absolutely right.  I am literally “in a fog” on how to help my frail and fragile 91-year-old Mama.

            As anyone returning home knows, part of us reverts to childhood upon re-entry. So no wonder my little girl self keeps looking around for the adult-in-the-room. The one who knows what to do, who will make wise decisions to move us forward on the caring, healing path. To my astonishment I remember, That person is me!

            This very week an esteemed psychologist told me, “The sign of mental health is the ability to handle ambiguity.” What is ambiguity? Being able to say “I know that I don’t know and that’s okay.”

            I wonder if I can handle this not-knowing — this fog.

            My Aunt Carol may not be a psychologist but she is one of the wisest women I know. How grateful I am to nestle under her afghan (which she knitted with yarn she spun from sheep she raised) and hear these next words: “The fog will lift, Cindy, and all will be made clear. One step at a time. God will show you what needs to be done and when. Trust Him with your precious Mama.”

            Almost two weeks ensued – some days clear, others cloudy. Small steps; big steps. Answered prayer; more questions. Transition from hospital to rehab, and then it was time for me to fly home. Even though Mama was not yet healed.

            My final morning coffee with Aunt Carol was yet again shrouded in deep fog.

Aunt Carol at 80 – I come from Strong Southern Women who are Beautiful and Brilliant

            “This is a journey,” she said. “None of us knows what the future holds, even today. Remember your Mama has a strong desire to recover and live. I know my sister and she is not afraid. You can truly leave her in God’s hands.”

            What I desire for my sweet Mama is peace, not pain. But I had to return home feeling helpless and too far away. Grateful that Jesus is still by her side, breaking through every foggy barrier and bringing His Light.

            I can definitely relate to those disciples who sometimes had a hard time not understanding what was going on, prompting Jesus to say, “You don’t understand now what I am doing. But someday you will.” John 13.7

            Emotionally and physically exhausted, I almost regretted that on my first day home I had volunteered to run the booktable at a conference where my husband was the emcee. Yet I smiled upon reading the title of the guest speaker’s book – “Becoming a Healing Presence.” Can you even imagine how much Dr. Albert S. Rossi’s words ministered to me that day? So timely and life-giving.

            I’m trying to accept this season of concern about my mother’s compromised health. Living with ambiguity as I pray daily for God’s provision, power and peace in her life.

            Do you find yourself in a fog today?  Concerning a major decision? A conflicted relationship?

            In the midst of pea-soup thickness, perhaps embracing this wise advice will help you (and me) be patient and peaceful:

  1. I know that I don’t know.
  2. I know that Christ knows.
  3. I trust Him. (from “Becoming a Healing Presence” by Dr. Albert S. Rossi)

                In closing I’d like to share one of Amy Carmichael’s poems which I have quoted widely in my own books. It speaks to me of how to live while we are waiting for healing, waiting for the fog to lift – before all the answers come.

  • Before the winds that blow do cease, 
  • teach me to dwell within Thy calm.
  • Before the pain has passed in peace,
  • give me, my God, to sing a psalm.
  • Let me not lose the chance to prove
  • the fullness of enabling love.
  • O Love of God, do this for me:
  • maintain a constant victory. 
  • ~ Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)

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!

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When God Whispered to Me in January

When God Whispered to Me in January

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

 Mine was the last plane out before the snowstorm hit New England. Escaping to a warmer clime for a “desperate respite” thanks to the gracious hospitality of friends.

            Long days beside the wind and waves quieted my soul (and my weary, throbbing brain) to a place where I could actually hear God’s whisper.

            No schedule. No online presence. No books to read… or write. No makeup. No jewelry. No music (except the hymns that occasionally burst forth from a heart of praise as I walked and basked in God’s beauty.)

            Oswald Chambers once observed that “the voice of the Spirit is as gentle as a zephyr. So gentle that unless you are living in perfect communion with God, you never hear it.”

             I want to hear this Voice. And be sure the words are from God and not me.  “The checks of the Spirit come in the most extraordinarily gentle ways, and if you are not sensitive enough to detect His voice you will quench it, and your personal spiritual life will be impaired. His checks always come as a still small voice, so small that no one but the saint notices them.” (from “My Utmost for His Highest”)

            For many of us it takes time and deliberate withdrawal to come to a place where we can fully receive God’s marching orders for a new season. And so, holy men retreat to the desert. And I go to the beach. In the dead of winter.

            A month when the wind is fierce and loud, the waves pound upon the shore as if to rhythmically remind me of my Creator’s power and presence.

            It’s not terribly peaceful, but in fact, more stirring. Reflecting my own inner stirrings and desire to be released with fresh power of my own for whatever may be ahead.

            For days and days I watched the tall palm trees (all that stands between me and the ocean) buffeted by the force of nature. At times they bent so far that I feared a break was imminent. But no. As I look out today they stand straight and strong. Steadfast.

            A month ago I chose “Steadfast” as my word-for-the-year and began asking God to show me why. And how. Today, gazing at the palms, I recall other words associated with ‘steadfast’ – established, immoveable, persevering, wholehearted, firm, faithful, resolute.

            The kind of person I long to be. Especially this year.

            At its core, my identity has always been “God’s Beloved.” But I believe it is time to add to that– “Seasoned Mentor.” Dare I hope even “Steadfast Seasoned Mentor?”

            Because this is what God’s whisper revealed so clearly when I was finally able to settle down long enough to receive it:

            My Beloved, Lucinda, this is a season to share the story of what you have learned through My presence, power and provision. How letting go of grasping helped you receive the gift of grace; how healing in your brokenness refined your view of scars as beautiful. How filling up with more of Me allowed you to freely pour out for others in strength and service.

            Tell them. Show them. Point out that there are always more options than the ones loudly appearing front and center. That one must go deeper — sometimes bending quite low —  to discover My Best. Warn them that it will take great courage and faith to make wise choices, so they must live boldly. With Me.

            Stand steadfast in your belief that what you have based your entire life on is true. Essential. Learn how to live simply. Focus. Persevere, even if you are ignored as irrelevant.

Steadfast (“hypomoneo”) means abiding whilst in the midst of adversity. You have already learned the hard lesson of dwelling deep; now do it. Begin at home. Then allow Me to open other doors.

Fling grace widely, everywhere you go — just as Miss Rumphius did with lupine seeds! (And yes, some folks called her a crazy old lady.)

This will be a sweet season, daughter. Don’t worry about legacy, just love. Serve.

I am here. Always have been. Always will be. Because you are Mine. Beloved.

            I carefully pack up these precious words along with my sandals and jeans for the trip back to my real life. To the noisy and needy. The immediate and important. The clutter and the cold. But I am fortified and steadfast. And not alone.

            In God’s whisper I heard several intimate messages that I hold close in my heart. But those whispers also confirmed why I am here for others:

“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”

under the mercy, Lucinda

©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” or “Dwelling Places” HERE for under $10 each!

 

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