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Lagniappe (LAN – yap) 

By David Cox


“But to each one of us grace has been given…”  Ephesians. 4:7


Some time ago, along with a used book I ordered, a January copy of Guidepost magazine was included in the shipment.  The magazine was nine months old, but it was a nice gesture on the part of the seller.


Attached by paper clip to the cover of the magazine was a note with this title across the top, “A New Orleans Custom Makes a Terrific Business Practice.”  The note included a definition of “lagniappe” from the Epicurious Food Dictionary.  Lagniappe is “used primarily in southern Louisiana and southeast Texas. The word ‘lagniappe’ refers to an ‘unexpected something extra.’  It could be an additional doughnut (as in a baker’s dozen), an unanticipated tip for someone who provides a special service, or possibly a complimentary dessert for a regular customer.”


The phrase “an unexpected something extra,” caught my attention. As I reflected on the unexpected copy of Guidepost, I was struck with the fact that more was given by the seller than I had paid for or anticipated.  Now the word may be “lagniappe” and be pronounced LAN-yap, but it sounds a lot like grace to me.


In 2 Corinthians 12:9, we read, “My grace is sufficient for you…” But in what way is His grace enough? How does the grace of God make up for what has been lost or taken? Three times Paul prayed for the removal of his thorn in the flesh, and each time his prayer was answered that the grace of God was enough. This affliction became God’s vessel through which His enough-ness flowed into and through Paul’s life. Through this unwanted agitator the awesome power of God would be revealed in a way not possible otherwise. Paul’s loss made him the recipient of more than what he expected or deserved.


Too often, our cry for grace is a hope that God will restore what we have lost. We want life to be back to normal, but what if God’s reality only offers a grace we never anticipated or imagined?


Ronnie, a retired crane operator, was my introduction into jail ministry. My interest was that of an outsider. I sought to offer hope the hope of Christ to those who believed they were outcasts from society and knew they were alienated from God. Ronnie’s interest was that of an insider. He knew firsthand of the isolation of prison.


Ronnie was a believer who made unwise decisions and ended up unfortunately being charged with a felony crime. Desperate and confused by the evil one, he came to believe the lie that he would be better off dead. He loaded his gun and pulled the trigger. The firing pin struck the shell but nothing happened. In an instant he fell to his knees thanking God for sparing his life.


Ronnie’s case went to trial. He was convicted and was required to serve time in prison. He lost his freedom, his wife, his family and all he had. Ronnie’s heart was bitter toward God. He blamed God for all his troubles and losses, and accused God of abandoning him.


In the sixth month of his incarceration, as he lay in his bunk one evening, the Spirit of God brought conviction upon him. As Ronnie describes it, “The Lord informed me that He had not left me but that I had left Him.” The message was clear. “Gird up your loins. I have work for you to do.” This was a grace Ronnie had never counted upon. He repented of his bitterness, obeyed the word given by God, and was given a fruitful ministry while in prison.


In Maxie Dunnam’s The Workbook on Abiding in Christ, he makes a distinction between resignation and surrender. When facing a hopeless life event, one option is to hang our heads and simply accept it as our lot in life. However, in Christ there is always another option. In every occasion we have the invitation to surrender our loss(es) and our hopelessness to the Lord of enough. In that split-second moment of surrender, we find that He opens up to us possibilities that were previously locked away.


Have you resigned yourself to a “that’s the way it is” mentality about an issue, person or condition? There is always another option. In surrender, there is the awaiting abundance of God’s grace. Any issue, burden, or sin given over to Christ becomes His bridge for sharing the liberating news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For each Christ-follower, Jesus Christ has saved you with someone else’s salvation in mind.


Lagniappe may be a word from our neighbors in Louisiana, but the concept is from God. Grace is always an unexpected extra, and even if it is just a little extra, it is always enough. Lagniappe is a funny sounding word, but in God’s vocabulary, it’s grace every time. 


About the Author 

Reverend David Cox has served in ministry for twenty-six years and is currently Senior Pastor of Hernando United Methodist Church in northwest MS and. David earned a Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in 1988. David and his wife, Dale, have five children. 


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