Book recommended: Ordinary Saints: Living Everyday Life to the Glory of God (2023)

A theme that Margie and I mention frequently—in talks, conversations, and our writing—is that the primary calling for followers of Jesus is faithfulness in the ordinary. We aren’t called to do extraordinary or spectacular things. And God arranged our lives so we can demonstrate in the ordinary and routine the love, creativity, service, and faithfulness that characterizes the kingdom of God. My ordinary is different from yours, but that doesn’t make it more or less significant. This is where we are called, so this is where we are to be faithful, this is where we can use our gifts to his glory and learn contentment. And when we add up all the ordinary and routines over the whole world, we see lived out what it means that Jesus Christ is Lord of all life and culture.

In Ordinary Saints, published by Square Halo, 40+ followers of Jesus introduce us to their ordinary, and the assortment is both delightful and well… extraordinary in breadth and insight.

Anglican priest and poet Malcolm Guite has a chapter (and three poems) on “Smoking My Pipe.”

I am an inveterate pipe smoker. No, inveterate is not the right word; it sounds pejorative, a concession to a weakness or a vice. On the contrary, the long, settled, rich pleasure of pipe-smoking, the warm and companionable sessions given over to it, are not a vice or an indulgence, but rather a recovery: a recovery of simple being, from the desert wastes ofdoing. It is a return to the first and primal gift from God, who is Being itself, and in His love and for His glory, has created us, let us be, shared with us gift of being. Naturally we must occasionally do something, but that’s usually where the trouble starts, as it did in Eden, and has continued since, until we become so foolish as to think we are saved by our own actions, our works and God has once again to knock us off our latest high horse, as He did with Paul, and teach us to accept everything anew by sheer grace. [p. 21]

Poet Luci Shaw writes on “Knitting: To Knit is to Join.” Libby John explores “Dancing: Life Revealed Through Living Shapes.” Tamara Hill Murphy glorifies God in “Napping: A Foretaste of Eternity.” Calvin Seerveld asks us to consider “Knowing: The Marvelous Process.” Literature professor proposes we think anew about “Dracula: Vampire-Hunting Saints.”

Margie Haack—yes, my dear, sweet wife, author of the Place trilogy—contributes a chapter on “The Joy of Chickens.”

            Three years ago my four hens died due to various causes and I spent each of the following seasons trying to decide if replacing them was worth the effort. Plowing through drifts of snow to reach their house. Hanging a lightbulb above their waterer when the temps dropped far below freezing. Scraping and hauling their droppings from their house to the compost pile. Finding my sugar snap peas stripped after a free-range trip to the garden. Calling, calling, searching, searching, crying, giving them up as lost forever until they nonchalantly appeared from under the hostas.
            I had named them after women authors and Jane was my favorite. She was a friendly Red Star who laid a coffee brown egg nearly every day. Eudora was next, a sweet silver-laced Wyandotte. There was, of course, an Annie and a Charlotte. The four followed me around the yard—flying, if it can be called that, in their awkward chickenly way, tumbling at my feet, scrambling to see where I was going and what adventures I had in store for them.
            This year I finally decided, yes, it was worth it. The desert years of Covid, and a change of policy at the Iowa hatchery where I order my chicks convinced me to start again. The last time I ordered, the minimum number was twenty-five chicks, and I had to Craigslist them down to our community’s limit, which was four. This year, to my delight I only needed to order six. I poured over their catalog and goggled Buff Orpingtons, Blue egg-layers, and chickens with feathery crowns, trying to decide which six I wanted. My husband insisted I get a White Polish with a fluffy white topknot to match my head of curly hair, so I could be like a dog owner who resembles her pooch. I couldn’t think fast enough for a crack back and there aren’t many bald-headed chickens. Later I found an amusing species, the Naked Neck Turken and suggested its featherless neck reminded me of his bald head. They are nice but ugly. [p. 79-80]

There are chapters on “Drawing” by art and science teacher Matthew Clark; on “Bone Broth: More Than Leftovers” by artist Phaedra Taylor; on “Traffic: Minivans and Monasteries” by poet and storyteller Shannon Coelho; on “Grandparenting: A Blessed Crown” by writer A. D. Bauer; on “Presence: The Gaze of Beauty” by psychiatrist Curt Thompson; on “Retail: Filthy Lucre;” on “Juggling: Joyful, Joyful, We Juggle for Thee” by Jesse Joyner; on “Brokenness: To Be the Bad Man” by scholar and author Junius Johnson; on “Lovemaking: I Am My Beloved’s and my Beloved is Mine” by creative director for Square Halo Books Ned Bustard.

And there are so many more.

The point of Ordinary Saints is simple. Jesus is Lord of all. All of life and culture and reality. To put it another way—paraphrasing Abraham Kuyper—there is not one square inch of created reality over which Jesus does not insist, I am Lord! Our calling is to live as if that is true. In every aspect of the ordinary and routine of our lives. Ordinary Saints will help you celebrate the gracious calling you have been given and encourage you that your calling, whatever it is, will bring glory to God. Which is the entire point of life and existence.

The constant tsunami of news and celebrity stories makes it hard to see the little details of a faithful life as truly significant. Yet they are. “I’m as convinced as ever,” says Heidi Johnston in her essay on “Community,” “that some freshly baked scones can be a great way of loving people, but I’m also convinced that they are best eaten together. I’ve had some of my best conversations while trying to ensure there isn’t flour or cream on my chin.” [p. 195]

Soli Deo gloria.

Photo credit: Photo by the author with his trusty iPhone.