Everyone loves to receive a gift. And God has given us many, such as his grace—the gift we don’t deserve and can never earn. Promises from the One who declares we are already loved, already accepted, already created in his image. The question becomes, will we truly receive that gift? Will the reality of it actually change the way we think and notice and reach out?
God’s Word will stand forever, in any season of life. These truths prompt us to respond with compassion and courage.
Through inspiring devotions, Lucinda Secrest McDowell reveals biblical blessings that remind us that: God’s promises give us strength, God’s grace can be most evident at our weakest points, a proper response to our abundance of blessings is simply gratitude, and the “more” we are all looking for is the same abundant life that Jesus came to give us.
Would you like to receive these gifts of ordinary grace? Join Lucinda in focusing on one word a day through devotional readings and short benedictions for any and every season to explore the many facets of Grace, Strength, Gratitude, and Life.
Ordinary Graces is filled with sweet surprises. Lucinda Secret McDowell presents her readers with one powerful word gift a day. She skillfully defines it within a biblical context, and then challenges us to take an action step. This devotional will transform the way you live each day. I highly recommend it!
—Carol Kent, speaker and author He Holds My Hand
Author Lucinda Secrest McDowell has given us an extraordinary book with her newest release, Ordinary Graces, Word Gifts for Any Season. Although this wonderful resource is one you'll always want close at hand, it's also one that you'll find yourself sharing with those you meet who need encouragement and hope. McDowell is an author you'll turn to again and again when you're looking to connect with our Heavenly Father in a deeper, more intimate way. Truly a book that is a gift to us all.
—Edie Melson, Award Winning Author, Blogger, and Speaker
Lucinda always brings me to a place closer to God, deeper in the Word, happier in relationships and more joyful in life with Ordinary Graces.
—Pam Farrel, author of 45 books including Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti and 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman
Whether read one day at a time or in a season of refreshing, Ordinary Graces by Lucinda Secrest McDowell offers focused reflection on key, attitude-altering words. McDowell's interweaving of quotes from other thoughtful considerers adds even more depth to the beautifully expressed ponderings.
—Cynthia Ruchti, author Mornings With Jesus and As My Parents Age
Little did Lucinda Secrest McDowell know that my ‘life verse’ is John 1:16: ‘For of His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.’ In Ordinary Graces, Lucinda has conveyed the strategic importance of looking for and finding God's grace in our everyday lives. His grace does transform our lives. Gently. Tenderly. Wonderfully. The words she has chosen are exquisitely real and important to my life—and yours. Indulge in the grace-filled truth she is sharing. Take it for yourself.
—Ruth Graham, author In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart
What a delight to slow down for a few minutes of quiet with this beautifully written devotional, Ordinary Graces. In a world of hurry, Lucinda's words remind us there is grace and strength available if we will just stop to receive. Each day's reading will speak to you from Scripture and change your life for the better.
—Arlene Pellicane, author of Calm, Cool, and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life
In the beginning was the Word ... and there were words ... and they all had meaning and they were good for the spirit of man. And then Lucinda Secrest McDowell came along and took ordinary words and ushered in ordinary graces. These are the words you'd expect in a book such as this, words like gift and life. But there are also words one doesn't expect, words like broken and anger. And perhaps my favorite word of all, sleep. In Ordinary Graces, Lucinda gives us a glimpse of the ordinary to the extraordinary, highlights of her heart, and moments within the heart of God. Close enough to hear His heartbeat.
—Eva Marie Everson, CBA Bestselling Author, President, Word Weavers International
Ordinary Graces is the sort of book I can return to again and again for wise and gracious words that encourage, challenge, inspire, and comfort. A feast for the soul.
—Sharon Garlough Brown, author Sensible Shoes novel series
When I buy a devotional, I want to know that I’m getting profound insights that are theologically grounded, yet relatable to my everyday, ordinary life. That’s exactly what Lucinda Secret McDowell offers in Ordinary Graces. I wanted to underline something in every paragraph, and I found myself reflecting on her words when I went about my day as a mom and a wife. This beautiful devotional will minister to your heart and lead you straight to the source of all grace: Jesus.
—Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of The Happiness Dare and Love Idol
Ordinary Graces is a short excellent daily devotional, with a Scripture verse and then practical ways on how to put the presence of God in the forefront of our day. Each one is named with a word we use in our everyday lives which Cindy knows how to capture in an excellent illustration. She writes beautifully and succinctly of the things we need to hear, usually with some humor and sharing a fascinating story from her own or a friend's life. At the end of each day's devotion, she writes a short intimate message from God to us, always aligned with the truths of Scripture. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking to grow in knowing God.
—Valerie Elliot Shepard
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So grant, I pray Thee. Lord, that by Thy grace The fragrance of Thy Life may dwell in me, That as I move about from place to place, Men's thoughts may turn to Thee.
~ Amy Carmichael "Christ's Fragrance"
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. With ears tickled by the praise of others, my mood can fluctuate from joyful to despondent on the whim of someone's opinion. But I don't want to be this way! I often wonder if anyone will ever really love me.
I was "that girl."
Striving. Enslaved. Rigid. Yes, a Christ-follower. Carrying around God's gift of grace, but never bothering to open it and embrace its richness as a 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, 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).
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).
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 and mercy.
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 in 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 and incorporated into our hearts and actions.
To me, "ordinary graces" are surprising gifts that come to me while I'm simply living my story. If I am in a hurry, I will miss them. If I am distracted, I will ignore them. But for anyone weary from effort yet thirsty for more, God offers grace, strength, gratitude, and life.
Let's open these gifts, one day at a time.
My child, welcome to this place of grace. Just come as you are. These gifts may change your life — My love, acceptance, and grace. For you. Not because of anything you've done. But simply because you are.
So Mephibosheth ate at David's table, like one of the king's own sons.
~ 2 Samuel 9:11b
A few years ago, a nationwide poll asked, "What word or phrase would you most like to hear uttered to you, sincerely?" The answers were:
1. I love you.
2. You are forgiven.
3. Supper is ready.
Sometimes grace looks a whole lot like supper. At someone else's table. But before we can sit down, we must first be acknowledged, known, and invited. Not overlooked.
My eldest son, who has intellectual disabilities, has spent a lifetime overlooked by certain people who refuse to see beyond the exterior to the fun, wise, giving, and kind person he is.
I wish you could see his ear-to-ear smile when anyone invites him to have a meal with them, whether in their home or at a restaurant.
And so my mama's heart feels deeply when I read about Jonathan's son Mephibosheth. Lame in both feet, Mephibosheth spent much of his life in the shadows. Although the grandson of King Saul, this young man was not turning down invitations to parties.
But as God continued to work in the heart of the current king — David — this king suddenly remembered a long-ago promise. "David asked, 'Is there anyone from Saul's family still alive that I could show faithful love for Jonathan's sake?'" (2 Samuel 9:1).
Needless to say, an unexpected summons to the king frightened young Mephibosheth. But David's news surprised him: "Don't be afraid ... because I will certainly show you faithful love for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the fields of your grandfather Saul, and you will eat at my table always" (v. 7).
Mephibosheth was shocked and could hardly believe that he was being treated like one of the king's sons. Even as he grew older, he was part of the royal household. "Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king's table. He was crippled in both feet" (v. 13).
Is this a reminder that you perhaps need to follow through on a long-ago promise to someone?
How about beginning with an invitation to share table time — a simple homemade soup or even dessert at a local coffee shop?
Grace is said at tables because grace happens when we gather around a table.
The meal is such a common biblical image that it beckons us to think of our table literally as a table of redemption, where healing occurs for the downcast, where joy is shared in Christ, and where the gospel is modeled to the unbeliever. Meals put people at ease and lower anxieties. The path to being heard by those who do not know Christ sometimes begins over an authentic dinner conversation.
"Lord, thank you that your love for us is never wasted. Keep us rooted in your word, eating at your table, and praying by your Spirit, so that we may remember when we fail that we are part of your family not because we deserve to be but because you want us. Amen."
Who is waiting to hear you say, "Supper is ready!"?
My child, I know how it feels to be left out. Deliberately snubbed. Passed over. But I am always with you. And perhaps today there is someone somewhere who needs your invitation to the table. In sharing My love with the uninvited, you may just draw them to the One who never turns anyone away.
Isn't everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what's the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need.
~ 1 Corinthians 4:7 MSG
"I can't believe the Joneses are vacationing in Europe, and we can't even get to the beach."
"Why did she get a book contract when I've been writing longer than she has?"
"I sent the steering committee my résumé, but they chose a younger person with less experience."
Don't do it, friend.
Because it is simply a dead end. Personally. Professionally. Spiritually.
God has called you to follow Him, glorify Him, and further His kingdom through your own unique story. Not hers.
Can you trust Him for that? A chance to live out the grace you received as a free gift?
Paul reminds us today, "Isn't everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God?" We were created, redeemed, and sustained so that we may live our unique stories — yes, with all the mess, mistakes, meanderings, and even miracles.
Those who need to know us will be put in our path by a sovereign God.
Her success does not mean my failure.
A few years ago, Tracie was thrilled to be invited to speak at a large women's conference. But as she sat in the hotel lobby and observed the other speakers, her confidence began to slip away. "I began wondering whether the other speakers were more experienced than I was, if their messages would be more encouraging than mine, ... if they were more successful in their ministries, if the attendees would like them better, on and on it went. As I compared myself to these women, my mind was filled with thoughts of insecurity and inferiority."
Every time we compare ourselves with someone else, we are in danger of believing the lie of rejection — that our own lives are not important.
Did you think you were the only insecure person around?
Everyone suffers from comparison. "So much of our own unhappiness is rooted in assuming that someone else is living the happy life we want. The person you're measuring your life up against? She is measuring her life against someone else's. And someone is comparing herself to you! It's a whole cycle of comparison that doesn't end until someone says enough is enough."
Okay, I'll say it: "Enough is enough!"
Here's how I fight the comparison battle:
1. I truly believe that I am loved and chosen by God.
2. I obey what He is calling me to do and be.
3. I encourage, promote, and lift up others. I go first.
I pray to be a generous and grace-filled person.
You were not created to be her.
Isn't that a relief? Now, go forth and become the very best version of yourself, by God's grace.
My child, I planned you long ago. You are the unique creation I love and desire to help bring the kingdom of heaven here on earth. Yes, with all of you that is still "in process." With that hidden strength and blossoming wisdom. So, child, don't ache to be like her. She has her own story, and it is not yours. Be you.
The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.
~ John 1:14
Two thousand years ago, people were confused, hurting, angry, and impatient. They wanted relief. They wanted results. Perhaps what they really wanted was a savior. Someone to solve all the problems in the world and thus make their lives easier.
They had already tried just about everything, including following their own instincts, going after whatever would satisfy, even as a temporary fix. But it wasn't enough. Our way usually isn't.
I look around and wonder if our behavior and rebellion are any different from those of people back then, when our Creator intervened so radically in human history. Sure, some of our complicated problems have different names and higher technological sources, but the hearts of men and women are continually seeking.
After what seemed like silence for more than four hundred years, a loving God did a radical thing to reach down into the world He had made, which had subsequently tossed Him aside.
God became incarnate as Jesus Christ, the Son, and entered into our mess, helpless as a baby, unknown and ordinary. "[He] moved into the neighborhood" (John 1:14 MSG).
To be among us.
Not over us, spouting truth from on high. But down here, where life is gritty and grace is gulped by desperate people wanting to belong. Among. Walking down the dusty streets with beggars and women of the night. Confronting corrupt temple holy men even as the ordinary worshiper became discouraged by church politics. Making His home in our homes. Dwelling in our midst and eventually in our very hearts.
"His answer was a man. One man who came and loved us. He loved us — face to face, hand to wound, eye to eye, belly to the table, sitting-and-sweating-with-us close. He loved with words. With actions. With truth. He loved large. He loved small. Out of love for the Father and for us, he died to himself every minute of every day."
This is huge.
That One who is all-powerful and all-knowing would draw close to someone just like you and me. And yet Jesus-among-us is exactly what we celebrate every Christmas. The glory in the manger.
Where is God in your life? Is He still "up there" out of sight, out of reach, impossible to communicate with?
Or do you know Him "here"? Christ among you? A breath prayer away from solace and sanctuary?
If you don't yet walk on the "with God" journey, you can begin now. Invite Him in and stay close. Speak to Him of your concerns and your joys. Ask Him for power when yours gives out. Ask Him for love to share with the unlovely. Rest with your head on His lap, and in obedience do hard things that will display His glory to the world.
This is why God sent Jesus. To be among us.
My child, when I first came to earth, things were in turmoil. People had been waiting a long time. For something. They were not expecting that something to be Me. My desire is to always "dwell among you" so that you will know you are not alone. I come every day. Often in the unexpected. I am here.
I became a servant of the gospel because of the grace that God showed me through the exercise of his power.
~ Ephesians 3:7
"Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes."
This sign hung in a radical Christian community house. And I both grin and shudder at its words. Because they are so true.
We want to do Important Things. We love the idea of being a servant — that is, until we actually have to serve.
Do you have a servant's attitude toward both tasks and relationships? Jesus clearly taught that "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. ... For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45 NIV).
Throughout these verses the original New Testament Greek word used is diakonos, which is translated "servant" or "minister" — the root word for "deacon." But if you break down the word — dia = "thoroughly" and konis = "dust" — the completed definition is to "thoroughly raise up dust by moving in a hurry, and so to minister."
What a word-picture of a servant!
Some of the dearest servants I've known became that way through ordinary graces in the midst of their brokenness.
They discovered that when we receive grace at our lowest point, we are then empowered to serve others. "If we, like others who have known pain, are intact today with a heart's desire to serve, it is not because of anything in us. We have simply received grace. We take no credit for it. How can you boast about a gift?"
Oswald Chambers says that "to serve God is the deliberate love-gift of a nature that has heard the call of God. The call of God is essentially expressive of His nature; service is the outcome of what is fitted to my nature. The Son of God reveals Himself in me, and I serve in the ordinary ways of life out of devotion to Him."
Paul speaks today of becoming a servant "because of the grace that God showed me." What grace gifts compel you to want to serve others?
Are you willing to live as a servant in the midst of ordinary graces?
One willing, young mother still struggles with how this is embodied in her own life today ...
And so this is what I need now: the courage to face an ordinary day — an afternoon with a colicky baby where I'm probably going to snap at my two-year-old and get annoyed with my noisy neighbor — without despair, the bravery it takes to believe that a small life is still a meaningful life, and the grace to know that even when I've done nothing that is powerful or bold or even interesting that the Lord notices me and is fond of me and that is enough.
Perhaps it's time to be willing to kick up a bit of dust for the Kingdom.
My child, serving others may be your most important job today. The task no one sees or applauds. Behind the scenes. Not post-worthy. What is that hard thing you must do today? I will help you serve. Gladly.
"Don't call me Naomi, but call me Mara, for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has returned me empty."
~ Ruth 1:20-21
One day her life included a husband and two grown sons. But how quickly she found herself all alone, describing her current identity with two words.
Naomi had followed her husband, Elimelech, to Moab, expecting good things — a fresh start for their family, away from the famine of Bethlehem. But tragedy struck, first with the death of her husband, then with the deaths of both sons, leaving her with only two foreign daughters-in-law.
And an empty heart.
How easy to praise God and trust God when we are full — full of health, full of purpose, full of friends and family. Full of good food! Oh yes, full is a desirable place to be.
Empty means nothing. No home or people to fill it. No job and no money. No vision or purpose to keep going. Just a hole.
Bitter blaming ensues. The same God who was the giver of the good now becomes the culprit who has ruined our lives. Naomi certainly felt this way — enough to change her name to Mara — "Bitter."
But bitterness is a dead end. One that can eat us alive, from the inside out.
Naomi had every right to feel angry, abandoned, rejected, unprotected, uncared for, and unfairly burdened in life. After all, life wasn't what she had expected and her heartaches were many. ... She loved God and her faith had been strong, but now she felt unseen by Him. Unloved. Her new name personified the status of her new opinion about herself, her life, and her God. When we are empty, we are desperate to be filled. We want something to make up for the loss. A rebound relationship. An excessive habit to numb the pain. A get-rich-quick scheme that sounds too good to be true. Because it is.
Excerpted from "Ordinary Graces"
Copyright © 2017 Lucinda Secrest McDowell.
Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
14. Say No,
16. Peer Pleasing,
9. Evil One,
17. Everlasting Arms,
12. Good Things,
22. Prime Example,
27. Unfailing Love,
7. One Thing,
20. Worthless Things,
28. Difficult Times,
30. Remained Faithful,
About the Author,