Encouraged by the news this morning that the great BBC comedy series Rev is to have a third coming (in 2014), it seems unremarkable that it is such an account of ordinary life that struck such a chord with people. It is funny because it is real.
Yet, we are in the midst of that great celebration of extraordinary prowess and achievement that is the 2012 Olympics in London (and elsewhere). Every minute of the day we witness the best, the most powerful, the most excellent, the strongest, the most enduring, the most courageous. Sitting in the chair with a beer can’t help but make us feel a bit weak and feeble. A bit silly, really, as to compare oneself (in my case a 54 year old bloke who is off to the osteopath again in an hour) with the most physically fit and trained athletes of a generation is ridiculous. I wouldn’t dare to wear lycra – even for a laugh.
Perhaps it isn’t a coincidence, then, that the running down of workload for the ‘summer’ month is allowing the space to read a few books that have been sitting on my desk for months – or that one of them is about ordinariness in Ordinary Time.
Everyday God: The Spirit of the Ordinary is the latest publication by Dr Paula Gooder. Anything by Paula is worth getting and reading. She is one of those rare people who can do the academic stuff – and comfortably use the academic language – and also communicate with us ordinary mortals in ways that fire the mind and spirit. Not surprising, then, that she is in heavy demand as a speaker and lecturer around the world.
Everyday God simply reflects on biblical passages and episodes to draw out the importance and facility of living in the moment, embracing the ordinary, and not missing the obvious whilst searching for the spectacular. Paula points out early in the book the need to find (and work at) a rhythm for ordinary life – a way of shaping life rather than simply drifting through it. She writes (p.9):
The challenge for each one of us is to find a rhythm that works with our personality, our home life and our working pattern… When you have found the rhythm that works for you and you have done it for long enough, then the rhythm carries you… It is a little like steering into the current of a river. Once there the rhythm does the rest, pulling you closer and deeper into the presence of God. The problem is getting into the rhythm in the first place. It takes discipline, practice and sometimes pure grim determination to get over the hump of boredom, distraction and busyness into the rhythm beyond.
She goes on in the book to illustrate what it looks like to ‘see differently’, recognising that familiar biblical passages can be read afresh in ways that encourage and not simply challenge. The structure is simple and clear: ‘Ordinary people’, ‘Ordinary God’, ‘Living extraordinary ordinary lives’.
This is the third in a series of books that take us through the rhythm of the year: The Meaning is in the Waiting: The Spirit of Advent and This Risen Existence: The Spirit of Easter are also excellent.