Category Archives: Guest Posts

When Will You Finally Slow Down?

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Lately, I’ve been in a season of slowing down, resting, and trusting that God has a plan (a good plan). I’m thankful for the encouraging words of other authors, one of whom is Lucinda Secrest McDowell. Lucinda has a beautiful new book called Dwelling Places, and she agreed to provide the following excerpt as a guest post. I’ve had the great fortune of being in one of Lucinda’s classes, and I can tell you she is a wonderful lady with a powerful message. I’m sure her post will resonate with you as much as it did with me.

 

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Author Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Driving through Pebble Hill Plantation I saw the road sign that caused me to grind to a halt.

            “Slow Down. I Mean It!”

And Pansy Poe, the owner of this beautiful estate outside my Georgia hometown, had signed her name to give it more authority.

Actually, God could have authored that sign as well.

I believe He sends signs warning me to “Slow Down” all the time, but I’m usually running by too quickly to notice. Missing what God has for me – “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” (Isaiah 32.18)

Or, as one seasoned pastor advises, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry.”

When was the last time you really rested? Hard to do, isn’t it? Our environment is constantly depleting us with noise, distractions and the compulsion to always be in a hurry. We are just too busy to rest.

“Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means that you are busy, just like everyone else,” claims Kevin DeYoung, a pastor and father of six who struggles with finding true rest. “It’s not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos. What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable – is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.”

Do you want more of Jesus and His rest?

I believe our greatest threat is distraction. Did you know the root of this word is the Latin word distractus which literally means “to draw or pull apart?” No wonder we feel torn in every direction!

The author of “Sanctuary of the Soul” says that we have noisy hearts. “The fact that our schedules are piled high and we are constantly bombarded by multiple stimuli only betrays that we have succumbed to the modern mania that keeps us perpetually distracted. The moment we seek to enter the creative silences of meditative prayer, every demand screams for our attention.”

How can we quiet our hearts and discover these “undisturbed places of rest?”

Unplug. Sign out. Turn off. Hang up. Be ‘Closed for the Weekend.’ Clean up your surroundings so fewer projects call out your name. Put sleep and ‘nothing’ on your agenda and then keep those appointments. Determine your greatest distractions and energy-drainers and decide to be proactive about curbing their power over you.

And then go to Jesus and rest in His care. “Faith means resting – relying – not on who we are, or what we can do, or how we feel or what we know. Faith is resting in who God is and what He has done. And He has done everything.”

Slow Down. I Mean It!


Lucinda Secrest McDowell is passionate about embracing life — both through deep soul care from drawing closer to God, as well as living courageously in order to touch a needy world. A storyteller who engages both heart and mind, she offers “Encouraging Words” to all on the journey. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, Cindy is the author of twelve books, including Dwelling Places, Live These Words, Refresh!, Amazed by Grace, Quilts from Heaven and Role of a Lifetime. Whether co-directing the “New England Christian Writers Retreat,” mentoring young moms, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Cindy’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. She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at EncouragingWords.net

 

The Places You’ll Go, Part 2

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This week’s blog picks up where we left off last time. If you missed Part 1 of Kristen Hogrefe’s blog last week, check it out here. Thanks again to Kristen for sharing her insight and encouragement with us! ~ Ashley

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Photo and design by Kristen Hogrefe.

 

 “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Perhaps you recognize this conversation from Alice in Wonderland.

If you’re a graduate, maybe you feel a little bit like Alice. You’d like very much to stop and ask for directions.

I hope you wrote down and started praying over your list of dreams and goals, like we talked about last time. These can become your map as you seek the next step to pursue them.

Along the way, life is going to take you places you might not expect. Last week, we saw the first two, and today, we’re going to look at two more.

 

THE DESERT

Missionary explorer David Livingston trekked across Africa from west to east and braved many hazards, including the great Kalahari Desert. If you’re looking for an inspirational biography, I challenge you to read his.

He had this perspective on where life took him:

I’d rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God, than on the throne of England, out of the will of God. 

Although you may never cross a literal desert, you will face times of spiritual dryness or times when God doesn’t seem to hear your prayers.

That’s when waiting on Him becomes so important. Trust me, I’ve been there. The “waiting room,” as I’ve come to call it, is not a fun place to be. When is a door going to open? When is God going to make a way where there seems to be no way?

Ironically, the barrenness of the desert can produce some of the richest fruit in our lives, because it forces us to depend day by day on our heavenly Father.

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV)

Learn to face deserts with anticipation, because you never know how God will lead you through them and what will be waiting on the other side.

 

THE GARDEN

By garden, I mean quiet and still places that bring to mind shady trees, a gentle breeze and a cozy hammock.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:2-3 NKJV)

The garden is a place of rest, refreshment and refocus. When you find yourself with breathing room, don’t chide that the action and drama of life have slowed. Take the opportunity to spend more time in God’s Word and enjoy the people and opportunities at your fingertips.

While planning ahead is great, counting your blessings in the here and now is also important.

Thank God for what you have, and trust Him for tomorrow.

 

COMMENCEMENT

Graduate, I’m excited for all the places you’ll go! God has good plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11), and wherever you go, He’ll go with you (Joshua 1:9). Don’t waste the precious life entrusted to you, but pursue the passions God’s laid on your heart. Give God permission to redirect as He sees best, and get ready for the next step on your journey.

As Dr. Seuss said:

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

~Kristen Hogrefe

The Places You’ll Go, Part 1

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May is graduation month. I should know, as my “baby” brother Ridge is graduating this weekend. In honor of Ridge and all the other graduates, I’ve asked author Kristen Hogrefe to share her insight and encouragement with us. Kristen has delivered three commencement addresses and is currently writing a devotional for graduates, so she’s in tune with what young people need to hear. She’s also made this material accessible so, regardless of your stage in life, I’m sure you’ll find great value in this two-part blog. Please leave a comment with your feedback.

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Design by Kristen Hogrefe.

 

You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!

Dr. Seuss penned these well-known verses which have become synonymous with graduation. They capture a sense of achievement and the anticipation of climbing the mountain ahead.

Mountains are awesome to climb (We’ll talk about that in just a minute), but there are several other places graduates will find themselves in the years ahead. Some of them are exhilarating; others are exhausting.

Even if you’re not a graduate, you can still relate to these places. Wherever you are in your journey, I hope these words will encourage and challenge you to pursue your God-given dreams – wherever they take you.

 

THE MOUNTAINTOP

For those of you who are graduating, this is where you are right now. The spotlight is on you, and your parents are in a frenzy to make every moment special, every moment count.

Personally, I enjoy mountain climbing. Last year, my brother and I hiked Mount Washington, the tallest peak in the northeastern United States. The sense of achievement upon reaching the top (and surviving the round trip) merited a large iced coffee, a chocolate cake donut and bragging rights.

Mountaintop moments chronicle our success stories, and you’ll probably climb several figurative, if not literal, mountains in your life. However, pinnacles can be dangerous if we hunger for them more than for God.

In The Truth ProjectDr. Del Tackett calls this desire a hunger for significance. The drive for success is natural and God-given, but it can become a killer when we crave significance above our relationship with God.

The Apostle Paul warns about this pitfall in Galatians 1:10.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (ESV) 

Go climb a mountain. Go for your goals, and do so with the drive to please God with your life.

 

THE VALLEY

Geographically speaking, valleys are much wider places than mountaintops. Death Valley stretches 100 miles long across the borders of California and Nevada. It is one of the hottest places in the United States.

Life sometimes brings us face to face with trials that threaten to burn us. We lose someone we love. Our application is denied. We don’t get the job or promotion. The relationship ends.

Although the future sometimes looks hopeless in the valley, we don’t have to travel it alone.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me… (Psalm 23:4a ESV) 

Valleys are part of living in an imperfect, broken world. By God’s grace, they won’t keep us down for long. Regardless, our Lord goes with us through them.

 

NEXT TIME

There are some other places you’ll go in life after graduation, and we’re going to look at two more next week.

Until then, I have an assignment for you. Grab a pen and notepad, and write down your hopes and dreams for tomorrow. No matter how crazy or impossible they seem. As someone has said, “A dream is just a wish until it’s written down.”

You’re either going to face these goals (take risks) or forget them (avoid life). I strongly recommend facing them, because no matter how scary your dreams seem, they are at least experience or at best, success.

After you’ve written them down, then pray over them – that God will shape them and give you the courage to pursue them tenaciously.

Then, get ready for the adventure. You never know what places you’ll go.

Homesick? Hold On.

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A new day dawning (Photo by Kristen Hogrefe)

A new day dawning (Photo by Kristen Hogrefe)

(The following a guest blog by author Kristen Hogrefe. See the “Guest Bloggers” section for more info on Kristen.)

Life sometimes feels like a wheel, and I ask the question, “Haven’t I been here before?” When I was a teen, I thought I’d have everything figured out in my twenties.

Nope. And now, I hold no such illusions for my thirties or thereafter.

Just as so many of you are gearing up to start school and move away to college, I’m starting a new adventure that gives me a fresh perspective on how some of you may feel. I just moved away from my hometown, got a new apartment and am beginning a job as a marketing director and barista for The Hollow. (Yes, coffee and ice cream really do fuel the world or at least make it a livable place.)

After a weekend at my parent’s home, I pulled out of the driveway and suddenly found tears streaming down my face. What on earth!

Homesickness. It’s the emotion we can’t put our fingers on when we’re seeing the familiar disappear in our rear-view mirror and our eyes start to burn.

It’s normal, and in fact, it might just be a good thing.

Joseph’s story

Most of us are familiar with the story of Joseph. His brothers, jealous of their father’s favoritism toward Joseph, sold him into slavery. At seventeen (Genesis 37:2), he found himself far from home, a slave in a foreign country, without a friend in sight.

Sounds like a death sentence to me. Yet Joseph turned to the one Friend, accessible even from a slave’s chamber and available 24 hours a day. Even though he had no one, he had the One he needed most. The Lord God was with him.

“The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand.” (Genesis 39:2-3, NKJV)

That’s great, you say, but I can’t touch or see God. He doesn’t greet me at the door of my apartment or wrap His arms around me with a warm hug.

No, He does something better. Infinitely better.

  • He promises to be with us when others forsake us. (Psalm 27:10)
  • He promises to never leave us. (Hebrews 13:5)
  • He promises to be a shield for us. (Psalm 3:3)
  • He promises to be our refuge, and we can pour out our hearts to Him. (Psalm 62:8)

Do we not know His presence most keenly when we turn to Him in the absence of our comforts? Does not His Word speak most poignantly when we search its pages for comfort and guidance?

A silver lining

Corrie Ten Boom, a concentration camp survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, once said:

“You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”

Could homesickness be a disguised blessing in that it forces us to hold onto the One we should have been clinging to all along?

There’s a song by Carrollton called “Holding on to You,” and the lyrics say, “When I can’t catch my breath and there’s nothing left to hold on to, I’m holding on to you.”

My challenge to you is not to wait until there’s nothing left to hold on to. Reach out to God now, wherever you are, and rest in the assurance He’s always got you, whether you feel it or not.

There’s another disguised blessing from homesickness in that it provides an earthly reminder of an eternal truth: No matter where I am, I’m not really home yet.

One of my favorite quotes is by C. S. Lewis:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

I’m not belittling the loneliness. It’s real. It’s painful.

I’m just saying we have a choice.

Will we waste our time with self-pity and distractions, or will we pursue a deeper relationship with the God who satisfies the longing soul (Psalm 107:9)?

God, satisfy us with Yourself. Be enough, more than enough wherever we are. Help us live in the abundance of your love.

~ Kristen Hogrefe