Books

God of the Ordinary

A book to help us to reflect on the way God is with us in the everyday, and how ordinary things can remind us of that.

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An extract from the book

Everyday reminders of Jesus
One of the things I love about following Jesus is this – it is not a religious thing. In one sense you could say it’s not even a ‘spiritual’ thing, if we think that the spiritual life exists somehow in a vacuum separate from the physical life. Following Jesus is about the everyday things in life. If you asked Jesus how his spiritual life was going he’d most likely say – ‘Sorry? What?’ To Jesus there is only life – everything is connected. So I wanted to share thoughts and ideas around this in the book you hold now. And reminders. Jesus left a lifetime of things he’d built and fixed and repaired, after eighteen years as a builder and carpenter. A trail of reminders that folk would bump into each day, physical reminders of the grace of God made flesh. Reminders that Jesus loves this world and is with us in it.
You’ll find empty spaces throughout this book for your own thoughts, ideas, reactions, memories, longings, dreams, disappointments, frustrations and reminders. Also, you could argue back if you like. These spaces are intended for your involvement, so write, draw, doodle, do anything you want. Doesn’t even have to make sense.
Here’s a kick off thought from The Message for this introduction (a couple of verses from Lamentations): ‘When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: wait for hope to appear.’
Lamentations 3:28-29 (The Message Bible)
When Jacob woke up from his dream he said, ‘Surely God was in this place and I never realised it.’
Genesis 28 v 16



Dirty dishes
I haven't always loved washing up, and, to be honest, there are times when I'm still a light-weight really; a few pans and a dish or two, and some cutlery does me. But I do enjoy it when I can put on the radio, or some music, or an Alan Partridge podcast. There is something about washing up which produces instant results, getting some order back into my life. Dirt happens, doesn’t it. We are constantly in need of cleaning. Dust settles, grime gathers, muck splatters – especially when it hits the fan.
When Jesus went to a wedding he famously made wine, but I discovered recently the deep significance of the water that he used. It wasn’t Evian, or tap water, or the latest canned product Liquid Death: Kill Your Thirst! No, the water Jesus used was actually more shocking than that. It was ceremonial washing water, which created a big problem. If that 180 gallons was now the best wine, how could people possibly get clean for God? The answer was right there, smiling as he raised a glass of vintage red. There was a new way of washing in town: the carpenter from Nazareth. And he was available to all, poor and rich, weak and strong, sick and well, sad and happy.
Jesus later commented on what really makes us dirty – the heart and head stuff. The malice and envy and greed and lust and two-faced stuff; the arrogance and critical worldviews. That’s what needed cleaning up. And the right man was in town to do the job.
Lord, remind us again of how much you can deal with our mess and mistakes, and please keep reminding us, for those days when we feel overwhelmed by our faults.



Searching
I just had one of those experiences I don’t want to repeat in a hurry. In trying to clean my electric razor I took the top off it and shook it out into the kitchen bin, however, all the various bits of the rotating metal head fell into the bin too. And though I was able to quickly fish out most of it, one bit had slipped out of sight, and the more I delved into the collection of wrappers, stale bread, cold baked beans, clammy sweetcorn, used tissues, and discarded fluff, the further it disappeared into the mire. Eventually, after pulling the bag out of the bin and laying it on the floor, I managed to retrieve the lost metal blade, but not before my fingers got covered in congealed food.
I have often talked about the way we might update Jesus’s parable of the lost coin (in Luke 15) to the lost glasses, or keys, or phone, but I have never before thought of it as the lost electric shaver heads. But here I was enacting it, delving ever deeper into the mess and mire to retrieve that which was precious and vital.
Jesus is most certainly not afraid of the daily gunk and gunge in our lives. He’s always ready to delve right in to find the lost and messed up places of our being, refusing to give up on us, or to hold back from coming close and reaching out to help us find hope and rescue in him.
Next time you are searching high and low for something, or emptying your bin, maybe it will bring that to mind.
Lord, thank you that you never give up on us. No matter how dark or grimy our lives feel. You want to help us.



Bridges
I live in a place full of bridges. You can’t walk or drive far without crossing one. There has been a lot of talk about walls in the last decade, and particularly along a certain Mexican border.
I only found one reference to a bridge in the New Living Bible on my computer, and that was from the book of Job – a promise of things getting better and the time of trouble passing like water under the bridge.
The first definition I found of the word ‘bridge’ online was this one: a structure carrying a road, path, railway, etc. across a river, road, or other obstacle.
I was particularly struck by the word ‘obstacle’ here, as bridges offer a way when an obstacle blocks our path. Simon & Garfunkel famously sang about their bridge going over troubled waters.
Jesus is in the business of removing barriers. He began by removing the barrier between us and God, ‘I call you friends,’ he said. An extraordinary idea back then, and an extraordinary thought now. God as our close friend.
Jesus talked about the way he had not come to judge the world but to rescue it. In effect to build bridges into our lives, to enable us to meet with God and with one another. To cross over from death to life, with himself as the path. In all kinds of ways, he’s looking to draw us together, to God and to one another, and to help us to be bridges rather than barriers.
Lord, may we be a bridge for someone today, even if we don’t realise it, may we be part of helping someone get through a difficult time or experience.



Comfort food
A while ago I heard Grace Dent on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour (yes, I listen in sometimes) talking about comfort food. She made the point that food often comes with stories. I still remember the boiled eggs my mum used to make for me, along with the regiment of thin sliced bread and butter soldiers. Gosh, even as I type this I can taste the butter in my mouth. I’m a yolk-soft kind of guy, and my mum was pretty good at that. I wonder what your comfort food of choice is?
Food gives us so much to talk about (and write books about) and Jesus knew this. So much of his influence involved food; who’d ever forget him feeding thousands of people with a few bits of bread and fish? Who’d forget that breakfast on the beach and the smell and the sound of that frying? Who’d forget the wine at that wedding? Presumably there would be so many times after Jesus was long gone that discussions would begin, and tales retold, while folks shared food and drink together.
When Jesus was in the wilderness, he quoted Deuteronomy to ward off temptation… ‘People need more than bread, they need the living words of God…’ That line comes from the desert-crossing years – when God fed the people each day from his own divine bakery.
And as I’ve often said, and written about before, what’s the last invitation in Revelation chapter 20 verse 3? Food! If we open the door and let Jesus in he’ll share our favourite meal with us.
Lord, thank you for leaving us this vital and familiar sign to remember you. We need food, we need drink and we need you.



DIY
I am hopeless with a hammer, scrappy with a screwdriver, disastrous with a drill, charmless with a chisel. Feel free to make up your own dodgy tool-related alliteration, because that’s me. The DIY gene passed me by. My dad was great at it. He was never happier than when fixing things or building stuff. But me? I’d rather write about it – as you can see.
My dad was like Jesus. Handy with a hammer, smart with a screwdriver, chipper with a chisel. I mentioned in my introduction that Jesus spent years building things and fixing things. And in doing so he left a trail of grace. How many people had things in their house that Jesus had fixed or made? Things that would forever remind them of the carpenter from Nazareth.
This is also a great reminder of how rooted Jesus is in reality. He grew up in an occupied country where life was hard and taxes high. He was a boy, a teenager, an apprentice and a working man. At some point his father Joseph died and he would have felt that loss. He had brothers and sisters who didn’t understand him. Even his devoted mother got confused about him at one point. Have a look at Mark 3 v 21.
Jesus knew the realities of life. He was after all the word made absolutely flesh – the glory of God being this human being from Nazareth fully alive – and that’s the great thing. We can tell him anything about life, and he understands; he’s faced it all. God with skin on, up close and personal.
Lord, thank you that you brought your glory into the harsh realities of this planet. Thank you for walking this way of dust and grime and wonder for us. For me.

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