Have You Opened the Gift?
Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Every single day of my life I thank God for His gift of GRACE to me.
What is that grace that literally “saved a wretch like me”? (thank you, John Newton for writing the hymn “Amazing Grace”)
My own definition is: “Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve and can never earn; mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve.”
Hardly profound. Definitely life-changing.
But grace can only change a life if the gift is received when the gift is offered. According to Ephesians 2.8-9 “by grace you are saved through faith, this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast.” If you are a follower of Christ you have been given the free (not earned) gift of grace. The question is, “Did you open that gift? Did you appropriate it in your life?” Or are you like I was for so many years, just carrying around the gift in a beautiful package but never quite embracing all it could mean for me personally? I did, eventually, though.
God’s vertical grace reached deep down into the pit of my own making and pulled me out and reminded me that striving and trying to be ‘good enough’ to earn His favor was simply not the definition of “receiving a gift.” And that, in turn, helped me totally change the way I view life and others – seeking to offer horizontal grace to those I encounter.
“Grace is something you can never get but only be given. The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you. I created the universe. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.” Frederick Buechner in Wishful Thinking
It has been almost thirty years since my “Grace Tutorial” (an intensive learning time between my Professor/God and me) commenced. I continue to be ever grateful for both Grace and Mercy extended to me – neither of which I deserve. I simply cannot stop speaking and writing on the transformational and redemptive character of God’s grace! And I am ever indebted to so many people along the way who have been formative on my journey — some of them in very personal ways, some of them in ways they will never know because we haven’t actually met. But isn’t that God’s economy — using our words and our stories to touch lives of people we may never know this side of heaven?
Back in the early 1990’s I happened to be at the bookstore at Mt. Hermon Conference Center in California and as I walked the aisles, a brand new book literally fell off the shelf and into my hands. It was called The Ragamuffin Gospel and it was by an author I had never heard of – Brennan Manning. I was a poor clergy wife and mother of 4 young kids at the time, but one look at the subtitle “good news for the bedraggled, beat-up and burnt-out” and I knew I had to buy it. Reading that book changed my life.
Brennan Manning, who called himself “Abba’s Ragamuffin,” was, like me, a sinner saved by grace. In fact, his final book was an autobiography entitled All Is Grace. “My life is a witness to vulgar grace—a grace that amazes as it offends….This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try and find something or someone that it cannot cover. Grace is enough…”—Brennan Manning (1934-2013)
Do you believe that Grace is enough? Enough to help you face that ‘impossible’ thing in your life? Enough to help you change – to make a 180° turn from going your own way to going God’s way? Is grace enough to give you hope and courage when everything else seems to bring despair and discouragement? Is grace that you received enough to turn you into someone who extends mercy all ‘round?
I look at my life today. Just doing it seems impossible. I am overwhelmed with lists. I am behind in writing deadlines. I am underfinanced in what I need to cover. But I am simultaneously overcome with Gratitude for joys that abound.
For gifts that keep coming to my door (not boxes, folks, the other kind of Gifts…) In fact, I wrote an entire book about those very gifts — Ordinary Graces.
The only possible response? Thank you.
under the mercy, Lucinda
“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity and Strength”
My newest book “Life-Giving Choices ~ 60 Days to What Matters Most” is a devotional journal which can help any woman make the most important choices every day. Coming out this Fall from the good folks at New Hope Publishers, it is available now for pre-order HERE.
©2019 Lucinda Secrest McDowell www.EncouragingWords.net
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