Lucinda Secrest McDowell
“From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” John 1.16
“Sometimes I blurt out words that hurt other people. In trying to hide my insecurity, I become bossy, controlling and impatient. My ears are tickled by praise of others and my mood can fluctuate from joyful to despondent on the whim of someone’s opinion. I find it hard to focus on any one person because I’m always in a hurry. But I don’t want to be this way! And I often wonder if anyone will ever really love me.”
Striving. Enslaved. Rigid. Even though a Christ-follower. Carrying around God’s gift of grace, but never bothering to open it and embrace its richness as a whole new way of life.
The last person you’d expect to be writing a book offering the many gifts of God’s ordinary graces.
But here I am.
Transformed by an encounter with Jesus who stooped and lifted me out of my pit, relocating me to holy ground. The humbled recipient of a gift I don’t deserve and could never earn by my own efforts – God’s amazing grace. It cost me nothing (except surrender), but it cost Jesus everything.
Saul was the last person you’d expect to be picked by God. To change the world.
Oh sure, he had plenty of academic and professional credentials. Lots of knowledge and ambition. Self-confidence in spades. Problem was, Saul was batting for the wrong team. He hated followers of the Way and was complicit in the stoning murder of Stephen, “spewing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.”(Acts 9.1 CEB)
Hopeless, right? Not in God’s sight.
God saw something in Saul that could be used for the Kingdom. Instead of punishing him, He waylaid Saul on the road to Damascus and assured the early Christians, “This man is the agent I have chosen to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites.” (Acts 9.15 CEB)
That one act of grace turned Saul the persecutor into Paul the missionary of Christ.
Do you feel like the least likely person to be gifted with a life of love, grace and purpose? You are in fine company with me and with Saul. Receive that second chance and out of your own undeserved freedom, begin to look at others with fresh eyes of compassion, mercy and grace.
Paul’s “brand” was grace. Out of the 155 references to grace in the New Testament, 133 are his words. The New Testament Greek word, charis, is translated “grace” and “favor,” and is the root of charisma, for “gift.”
Grace gifts abound. They are everywhere, just waiting to be opened. I discover them in ordinary places, like the people who touch my soul because of their courage, kindness or self-sacrifice. I even find them in the challenges that simultaneously turn my world upside down and change me from the inside out.
Mostly I discover these ordinary graces through His Word. Each word is a Gift. Waiting to be received, unwrapped and incorporated into our hearts and souls and actions.
To me, “ordinary graces” are surprising gifts that come to me while simply living my story. If I am in a hurry I will miss them. If I am distracted I will ignore them. But for those of us who are weary from effort yet thirsty for more, God offers grace, strength, gratitude and life.
I’m learning so much as I continue to write this new book “Ordinary Graces” (coming from Abingdon Press this fall). By God’s grace, may it be a tool to help us all open many, many grace gifts — one day at a time.
under the mercy, Cindy
©2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
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