Friday, July 10, 2015

Ordinary

A friend recently loaned me a book, "Ordinary" by Michael Horton.

I've only just finished Chapter 1, but I've found too many convicting quotes that I need to ponder a while longer before reading on.  So I'm putting them here, with a few brief reflections.

Quote 1: "Ordinary has to be one of the loneliness words in our vocabulary today. Who wants a bumper sticker that announces to the neighborhood, "My child is an ordinary student at Bubbling Brook Elementary"? Who wants to be that ordinary person who lives in an ordinary town, is a member of an ordinary church, and has ordinary friends and works an ordinary job? Our life has to count! We have to leave our mark, have a legacy, and make a difference. And all of this should be something that can be managed, measured and maintained. We have to life up to our Facebook profile. It's one of the newer versions of salvation by works." (pg. 11)

My Reflections: Wow.  I agree, I definitely don't want my life to be classified as "ordinary."  Yet...why do I do the things I do?  What is my motivation and purpose?  It is just to present a certain image?  And where did that image come from?  And why is it so important?  And is it always wrong?  What happens when it fails me?

Quote 2: "I'm not saying that there is something wrong with moving to the city to pursue an adrenaline-racing calling.  And I understand the fact that advertisers have always targeted our longing for self-importance.  The real problem is that our values are changing and the new ones are wearing us out.  But they're also keeping us from forming genuine, long-term, and meaningful commitments that actually contribute the lives of others.  Over time, the hype of living a new life, taking up a radical calling, and changing the world can creep into every area of our life.  And it can make us tired, depressed and mean." (pg. 13-14)

My Reflections:   It is not wrong of me to follow the Lord's clear leading into certain 'radical callings' that outwardly appear more extraordinary or at least more measurably world-changing by earthly standards than an ordinary one.  But, there is something wrong with thinking that those kind of callings are somehow more pure and holy than any others.  Horton says, "Genuine.  Long-Term.  Meaningful."  I would say that even radical callings can be genuine and meaningful.  But... it is true, they are often temporary.  They are seasonal.  What happens to the genuineness and meaningfulness when the radical calling comes to an end?  Hmm.

Quote 3: "The problem is not that we are too active, but that we are recklessly frenetic.  We have grown accustomed to quick fixes and easy solutions.  We have grown accustomed to running sprints instead of training for the long-distance marathon.  We have plenty of energy.  The danger is that we will burn ourselves out on restless anxieties and unrealistic expectations.

To be clear, it's not as if all the values being promoted today by calls to be radical or invitations to change the world are wrong-headed or un-biblical.  Taking a summer to build wells in Africa is, for some, a genuine calling.  But so is fixing a neighbor's plumbing, feeding one's family, and sharing in the burdens and joys of a local church.  What we are called to do every day, right where God has placed us, is rich and rewarding." (pg. 18-19)

My Reflections: This is the second time Horton clearly states that going and doing something incredible somewhere else is not wrong.  However, he is trying hard to dispel the deeply rooted belief that going and doing something incredible somewhere else is not the only thing that counts in life.

Quote 4: "The call to 'radical discipleship,' helpfully challenges our addiction to comfort.  But for those of us - and there are a lot of us - who are drawn to an edgy, sizzling spirituality, we need to embrace radical ordinariness and to be grounded in the challenge of the stable mundaneness of the well-lived Christian life." (pg. 20)

My Reflections: It's not about settling for less than what is radical or amazing.  It's about re-defining what we classify as radical and amazing.  But even more than definitions and semantics, it's about living as the Lord leads.  Sometimes He leads you to leave your family for 3 years and to help unreached people groups hear God's Word in their very own language for the first time.  Sometimes He leads you to stay in the town where you were born, loving your nieces and nephews more than any other aunt possibly could, and by God's grace, demonstrate to them what it looks like to follow the Lord on a daily basis.

Lord, help us follow you well in the midst of a world that demands unsustainable radical living every moment and diminishes the faithful walk through the ordinary things of life.

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