April 10, 2008

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Leigh McLeroy's  new book, The Sacred Ordinary: Embracing the Holy in the Everyday (Revell, 2008).

Cleaning out a junk drawer, eating in a restaurant, flipping through catalogs, going to a baseball game – these activities don’t seem nearly as spiritual as going to church or walking a nature trail in prayer. But the ordinary moments you encounter in everyday life are much more significant than they seem. If you look for God in the midst of the ordinary, you can discover Him at work in extraordinary ways.

Here’s how you can discover some glimpses of God in ordinary places:

In a junk drawer: Your soul holds junk, too, in form of sins you haven’t yet confessed. If you leave the junk inside, it’ll pile up into a mess of shame and bitterness. So clean it out regularly by confessing and repenting of your sins. 

In a restaurant: Just as food nourishes your body, God’s mercy nourishes your soul. His mercy always available to you. Whenever you’re hungry, you can come to Him anytime, day or night.

While waiting: So often in the course of a day, you have to wait for something: waiting in the kiss and ride line for your kids to get out of school, waiting for a paycheck to arrive before you can buy something you need, waiting for a doctor to call you back for your appointment. While you’re waiting, don’t just languish in boredom until your circumstances change. Instead, do your best to make good use of the time in productive ways, and ask God to give you the hope and strength you need in the process.

At a clothing store: Fashion styles will change with the seasons, but God’s grace remains constant. Ask God to clothe you with His grace everyday so you’ll have all the power you need to successfully face whatever comes your way. 

At a jail: Sin imprisons you, even if you’ve grown comfortable with it. Recognize just how much sin is limiting your freedom. Then confess and repent of your sins to be set free.

At a repair shop: If you’ve tried to repair something that’s broken in your life but haven’t been able to, don’t give up on it. With God, nothing is beyond repair. Take your broken relationship or situation to God and trust Him to fix it.

Watching animals: Animals adapt to their surroundings by conforming to their environment. But, as a human being, you’ve been created to be transformed from the inside out instead of being conformed from the outside in. Rather than worrying about trying to change your behavior yourself, invite God to change your soul, and your behavior will naturally change as a result of that.  

Listening to a musician practice: Playing an instrument well demands lots of time, and the discipline to make that practice time a high priority. If you want a close relationship with God, you need to make spending time with Him in prayer a high priority, and stick to it every day with discipline.

While on vacation: Your expectations are high for a great trip before you get there, but sometimes, after you arrive, you’re disappointed because your experiences aren’t as good as you’d hoped they would be. But if you let go of your own agenda in life, you’re better able to enjoy what God has to give you – which is often better than you could have imagined.

While lost: Whenever you lose track of your physical whereabouts, it’s a good idea to remember that you can easily get off course spiritually, too. Check in with God regularly to make sure you’re heading the right direction. Aim to follow where He leads so you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be.

Here’s how you can discover some glimpses of God in ordinary people:

Watching a newborn baby: Just as the baby has recently been thrust from one physical support system (the womb) to another (the world), being born again spiritually means trading a reliance on one entity (yourself) to another (God). Be willing to leave behind everything you’ve ever known for something you’ve never seen, as babies do when they’re born.

Talking with a disabled person who has overcome challenges: When you move past your discomfort over someone’s disability and get to know him or her as a person, you often discover how heroically he or she has overcome challenges. Jesus Himself wasn’t the kind of hero people expected; He surprised them while He walked the Earth. But unlikely heroes can be the best kind.

Experiencing the kindness of strangers: The kindness of people you’ve never met before reminds you that you’re part of the great family of God together with many others, and you have family members everywhere. Let the gratitude you feel after you’ve benefitted from someone’s kindness motivate you to help other people.

Spending time with a senior citizen who has aged well: Growing old doesn’t have to be a depressing experience. While your body declines, your soul can be wiser and more joyful than ever before. Approach old age with great expectations of continuing adventures with God.

Receiving someone else’s mail by mistake: The mail a person receives tells a lot about him or her – interests, causes contributed to, etc. If someone should accidentally receive your mail one day, what would it say about you? Are you living out your core values and setting the right priorities?

Making assumptions about people you’ve just met: First impressions often cause people to make snap judgments. But there’s always much more to a person than what you can tell at first. Take the time to really get to know people. Listen to their unique stories.

Hearing about someone’s death: Remember that every person who dies is an eternal being, and those who have placed their faith in Jesus will live with Him forever. Rejoice that, for believers, death has been defeated.

Trying to gain access to someone powerful: Even if another person won't take your call, the most powerful One of all – God – is always available for you to contact. Even if another person doesn’t care about your needs, God does.

Dealing with difficult people: Some people are hard to love, and it’s okay to admit that. But God calls you to love them anyway. Ask for His help, and you’ll be able to reach out to them with love, no matter what.

Here’s how you can discover some glimpses of God in ordinary things:

Rugs: Rugs are made to be stepped on and used, not just looked at from afar. In the process of serving God, you too may start to look as if you’re worn thin. But being fruitful is much more important than just looking good.

Malfunctioning cars: When something minor breaks on your car, you can often work around it, suffering some inconvenience rather than paying the cost of expensive car repairs. But if sin has broken something in your life, you need to get it fixed right away. Bring it to God and He’ll repair it for free.

A box of crayons: Instead of living your life within just safe, somber shades of gray, be willing to take the risks necessary to live in vibrant color, as God intends for you to do.

Catalogs: Life as it’s portrayed in catalogs seems perfect, but real life is full of imperfections. Instead of expecting life to be perfect, accept the fact that you live in a fallen world. But count on Jesus to redeem every imperfect experience you have, to accomplish something great.

Food that’s passed its expiration date: Is your faith still fresh? How much time has it been since you’ve spent time with God, listened to His guidance, and acted on what He wants you to do?

An iPod: God is portable in the sense that He always goes with you, but He’ll never be small. He’s much too big to ever be diminished. Approach Him with a healthy sense of awe.

Glasses and contact lenses: So much of your perspective depends on your attitude. Ask God to give you His perspective on the situations you face so you can respond in a healthy and positive way.

Exercise equipment: If you had the best intentions to use the expensive exercise equipment you bought, but ended up abandoning it instead, you’re not alone. The hope God offers you, though, is much more than just wishful thinking. It’s real, so count on it.

Wood: Let wood remind you of the wooden cross that Jesus died on to pay for your sin. Be willing to carry the crosses He asks you to carry in your life, making the sacrifices you need to make to grow into the person He wants you to become.

Here’s how you can discover some glimpses of God in ordinary moments:

Changing a porch light: Doing irritating chores like this that you wish you didn’t have to do reminds you of the importance to remain humble. Jesus humbly has humbly served you, and it cost Him much more than just some irritation.

Losing a parking ticket: You can’t always pay for your own mistakes, but you can always trust God to help you learn from them and move on to a better future.

Attending a baseball game that runs into extra innings: Whenever you have to endure a challenge longer than you’d expected, you can discover things about yourself that you couldn’t have discovered otherwise. Pray for the strength you need.

Storing your treasures: Just as you try to keep your important belongings in a safe place, you should also keep your heart in a safe place by entrusting it to God.

Inviting guests over for dinner: Don’t worry about trying to create a perfect experience for your guests; simply offer them hospitality, and know that you’ll be blessing them with fellowship no matter how imperfectly the evening goes.

Having your hands full: Although our culture values being busy all the time, God’s wisdom says to make time to rest on a regular basis.

Seeing your image enlarged on a screen: Remember that only God, not your own achievements, can truly make you big. Be humble.

Here’s how you can discover some glimpses of God in ordinary words:

Asking “Why?”: God doesn’t usually offer explanations for the bad experiences that come into your life. But He always answers when you ask “Who?” because He has promised to be with you Himself in the midst of everything you endure.

Reading romantic poetry: As beautiful and inspirational as poetry can be when it celebrates romantic love, nothing is more powerful than another kind of love – God’s love for you.

Praying: Don’t worry about trying to find the perfect words for your prayers. What’s most important to God isn’t how eloquent you sound, but how often and how sincerely you connect with Him through any sort of prayers.

Talking: You speak a huge amount of words each day, not to mention all the words you listen to, read, and write. But how often do you stop to consider the awesome power behind words? Positive words you speak can bless others; negative words can harm them. And God, who spoke the universe into existence, came as The Word in flesh to Earth.

Hearing “No”: It’s not easy when you ask or hope for something, only to be given a “no” answer. But there’s always a loving reason behind why God allows a “no” to come into your life. Trust Him to do what’s best for you, giving you what’s right, at the right time. And don’t give up asking Him questions; sometimes, the answer will be “yes.”

Reading a good book: Whenever you read a book you enjoy so much that you wish its characters would step off the pages and enter your real life, thank God that the most compelling character in the most compelling book of all time (Jesus in the Bible) did just that.


Adapted from The Sacred Ordinary: Embracing the Holy in the Everyday, copyright 2008 by Leigh McLeroy. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., http://www.revellbooks.com/.        

Leigh McLeroy is a contributing writer for several books and the author of The Beautiful Ache and Moments for Singles. A frequent conference and event speaker, she is also the creator of Wednesday words, an email devotional with a life of its own. Leigh is a graduate of Texas A&M University and makes her home in Houston, Texas.