Please note: This post was not written in affiliation with the author or publisher of this book. I purchased the book on my own and am sharing it on my own. However, the links within the post are affiliate links with Amazon. Blogging takes time, and this is one small way that it helps contribute to my family. I almost always buy my books from Amazon, so I would’ve directed you there, regardless. 🙂
I’m not even sure how I came across this book, but I’m so glad I did. “Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World” is a breath of fresh air in a culture with mantras like you only live once and follow your heart. The wisdom of this world encourages us to chase hard after our dreams no matter the cost and then frowns upon life callings that aren’t glamorous or newsworthy. Those who aspire to live quietly and work with our hands, as commanded in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, are viewed upon as strange and unambitious. Somewhere along the way, these ideas have seeped into our churches where celebrity Christians are exalted and the “ordinary” occurrences of grace expressed in the local church body are downplayed. We are left swimming in a sea of comparison and with many faithful Christians who are wondering if there is something more they can be doing for the Lord.
I am by no means against pursuing a dream. In fact, I talk about this very topic in my interview at the Journeywomen Podcast. Deeply Rooted is in existence because we pursued an idea and gained the support of many who also believe in that idea. But in the almost four years of running Deeply Rooted, I will admit that I’ve found myself, at times, yawning at the ordinary callings placed in my life. If I’m honest, there have been seasons of difficulty in transitioning from encouraging women seeking sound advice to chasing around a toddler who distrusts my advice that a new diaper is a good idea. I experienced this right after hosting our 4-day retreat last year. Micahel Horton addresses this well:
“It is all too easy to turn other people in our lives into a supporting cast for our life movie. The problem is that they don’t follow the role or the lines we’ve given them. They are actual people with actual needs that get in the way of our plot, espeically if they’re as ambitious as we are. Sometimes, chasing your dreams can be ‘easier’ than just being who we are, where God has placed you, with the gifts he has given to you.” (Pg. 16)
He’s right, sometimes it can be much easier to create or write or serve or work or minister to other women more than laboring in love towards our own husband or kids. My kids are not the supporting cast in my personal life movie. But when we are gripped by a dream, how easy is it for us to view children as a hindrance to that dream? The very notion that my calling as a wife and mom (and the ordinary tasks that come with it) are of lesser value than the ministry work I do is a complete lie. I may see some immediate fruit in ministering to women but loving our husbands, growing and discipling souls from the ground up, and keeping our homes is a mighty task — a Biblical task (Titus 2)! Deeply Rooted started from a place of encouraging motherhood but somewhere along the way, I allowed the value of the ordinary callings before me to get lost in a sea of to-do lists. But I’m grateful to God for the way He transforms us and conforms us to His image daily. This past year has been a year of refining as God continues to teach me to see things as He does. Kingdom work begins with loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, is poured out within the walls of your home, and then overflows to your neighbors around you.
I’m so grateful that God’s purpose for our lives can be expressed in a variety of shapes and forms. We know that whatever it is we do, we can and should do it for the glory of God because of the work that Christ has done on the cross for us. We discover that we are not left to live our lives (that are not our own but bought with a price) independent from one another, but instead are to come together as one with Christ as our Head to further His kingdom purposes. This heavenly perspective affirms that, yes, we do only live once but rather than following our heart recklessly we follow Jesus faithfully.
He addresses this also in his book:
“Our passion for life and achievement and our desire to strive toward a daring goal are essentially hardwired into us by God. What has changed since the fall is the direction of this drive. Unhinged from its proper object – God’s glory and our neighbor’s good – our love becomes self-focused; our holy passions become vicious, driving us away from God’s approaching steps and away from each other. We’re not living in the real world, the creation that God called into being and sustains by the word of his power, but in a make-believe world. We are living as though God and our neighbors were made for us. In other words, we are living unnatural lives — living as if we were or could become someone other than the image of God, created to love God and each other.” (pg 88)
Michael Horton does a great job of using Scripture, research, and examples from history to display the extreme God-given value to the ordinary portions of life that we encounter every day, as well as to show us the great value of the Church. This book is not meant to discourage those with “big dreams.” However, it does address that even these good things we want to pursue can become bad things when they “become curved on ourselves” (pg. 103). But Scripture is clear that God does not share His glory. His purposes are greater than the kingdoms we try to build for ourselves and in the end, we realize that our call to love God and love our neighbor, aren’t so ordinary after all.
I really appreciate this book and felt like it encouraged and challenged me in a number of ways. These are several of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Rosa Parks didn’t wake up one day and decide to become the ‘First Lady of Civil Rights.’ She just boarded the bus as she did every day for work and decided that this day she wasn’t going to sit in the back as a proper black person was expected to do in 1950s Montgomery, Alabama. She knew who she was and what she wanted. She knew the cost, and she made the decision to pursue what she believed in enough to sacrifice her own security. At that point, she wasn’t even joining a movement. She was just the right person at the right place and time. What made her the right person was countless influences, relationships, and experiences — most of them seemingly insignificant and forgotten. God had already shaped her into the sort of person that would do such a thing. For her at least, it was an ordinary thing to refuse to sit in the back of the bus on this particular trip. But for history, it had radical repercussions . . . Excellence means that whether God calls me to serve the poor in Calcutta or diners in a French restaurant, the simple fact that it is God’s calling renders it precious ‘So . . . whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). (Pg. 34)
“[God’s covenant of grace . . . does not follow consumer cues of this passing age, dividing people accodring to generations, ethnicity, gender, class, or political parties. In Christ, these walls are broken down. He is now our real location, the marker of our ultimate idenity (Gal 3:28). United to one body with one Head, it is our differences from each other that give each part of the body what it needs. The younger needs the older. Wealthier believers need the gifts of poorer members. Rather than feed a comfortable narcissim, we need to be enriched by the insights, fellowship, and correction of brothers and sisters from ethnic, political, and economic backgrounds different from our own. The church isn’t a circle of friends, but the family of God. The covenant of grace connects generations, rooting them in that worshipping community with the ‘cloud of witnesses’ in heaven as well as here and now (Heb 12:1).” (Pg. 52-53)
“Is the intense longing for revival itself part of the problem, fueling the feverish expectation for The Next Big Thing? Is it not remarkable enough that Jesus Christ himself is speaking to us whenever his Word is preached each week? Is it not a miracle enough that a lush garden is blooming in the desert of this present evil age? Is it not enough of a wonder that the Spirit is still raising those who are spiritually dead to life through this preached Gospel? Is water baptism an outward pledge that we make in response to a decision we made to be born again? Or is it a means of God’s miraculous grace? And is it not sufficient that those who belong to Christ are growing in the grace and knowledge of his Word, strengthened in their faith by teh regular administration of the Supper, common fellowship in doctrine, prayer and praise, guided by elders and served by deacons? Doesn’t the longing for revival tend to create the impression that between revivals you have ullus where the Spirit is not active at least in the same power or degree of power through these means Christ appointed?” (Pg. 80)
“Contra to the wisdom of this age, Paul tells us that the body of Christ is not just a voluntary association for realizing my dream of ‘belonging’ or a place where I can assert my unique qualities. Christ’s body is not a stage for my performance, but an organism into which I’ve been inserted by the Spirit, by a miracle of grace.”If we stick closely to the biblical terms for it, ambition is folly, for we will take God’s gift of godly aspiration and fashion them into weapons of self-interest. . . Ambition is an empty pursuit, because none of us is truly the master of our fate and the captain of our soul. We cannot live up to our own Facebook profile or the expectations that ahve been placed on us by others. When we do try to disengage ourselves from the ties that bind, the whole body suffers. As we have seen above, especially from Paul’s exhortations, ambition is bound up with rivalry, factions, jealousy, envy, and even fits of rage. When we are ambitious, each of us campaigns for the office of emperor. In the process, we’re tearing Christ’s body, our homes, our workplaces, and our society to pieces.” (Pg. 93)
“Yet Paul’s calling is qualitatively different from Timothy’s, and you see this in the contrast between the passage in Galatians 1 and the exhortation he gives to his apprentice. He tells Timothy that he is a simply to pass on to others what he has received from Paul the apostle, to keep the deposit rather than add to it, to teach it to other men who will carry on the work. The super-apostles boasted of a ‘higher knowledge’ than the apostle’s doctrine, seeking to reinvent a gospel more ‘relevant’ to the Greeks. But Paul warns, ‘O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith: (1 Tim 6:20-21). unlike the apostles, Timothy is not called immediately and directly by Jesus Christ, but through the ministry of the church. He is answerable to the presbytery – or council of elders – that ordained him (4:14). Timothy is not an apostle; he is serving in the vanguard of the ordinary ministry that will continue after the extraordinary ministry of the apostles.” (pg. 108)
“In most cases, impatience with the ordinary is at the root of our restlessness and rootlessness. We’re looking for something more to charge our lives with interest, meaning, and purpose. Instead of growing lik a tree, we want to grow like a forest fire.” (Pg. 127)
“So what does it mean to be content with God’s provision? It means that when you and I are safely hidden with Christ in God through faith in his gospel, we are opened up to the others around us – first fellow saints, and then our other neighbors. Instead of being threats, they are fellow guests of God at his table. No longer competitors for commodities in a world of scarce resources, they are co-sharers with us in the circulation of gifts that flows outward from its source without running out. After all, that source is the triune God: from the Father, in the Son, by the Spirit.” (Pg. 135)
“Contentment comes from knowing that the body of Christ is far greater than any of its members by itself. Christ considers himself incomplete until his whole body share in his risen glory.” (Pg. 167)
“The more deeply rooted we are in the Word of God, the more our witness will be authentic and imbued with personal conviction.” (Pg. 1 75)
“We look at the work of someone like Mother Theresa from the endpoint, as the Nobel Prize winning figure who founded an order of nuns spread across India and around the world to serve the poor. However, she described in her own life in terms of countless decisions and actions that hardly seem revolutionary on a daily scale. She learned to help the person she was with a the moment – actual neighbors, not ‘the poor’ in general, but people created in God’s image who needed something particular that she had to give.” (Pg. 194)
“‘God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does. When we offering our works to God, we simultaneously ‘attempt to depose Christ from his throne’ and neglect our neighbor, but to parade before God.; God descends to serve humanity through our vocations, so instead of seeing good works as our works for God, they are now to be seen as God’s work for our neighbor, which God performs through us. That is why both orders are upset when we seek to present good works to God as if he needed them. In contrast, when we are overwhelmed by the superabundance of God’s gracious gift, we express our gratitude in horizontal works of love and service to the neighbor.” (Pg. 197)
“The Gospel makes us extrospective, turning our gaze upward to God in faith and outward to our neighbor in love.” (Pg. 199)
There are so many more quotes that I highlighted that I would love to share, but this is already an obnoxious amount. If you’ve made it this far and found it encouraging, then I recommend buying the book or adding it to your Christmas wishlist!