According to Webster's Dictionary, one of the definitions of ``ordinary'' is: ``a set meal served regularly at the same price.'' It seems to me that we often live life in the ordinary. Life becomes routine. We produce the same actions and reactions over and over again. For some, the ordinariness of life provides a sense of security, one knows what to expect. For others, ordinariness leads to a sense of boredom and loss of purpose.
For centuries, the Church has used what is called a Liturgical Calendar. In this calendar each Sunday is given a name which points to the season of the Church's year. For instance, during the season of Lent (the 40-day period before Easter) the Sundays are called, the first Sunday of Lent, the second Sunday of Lent and so on. The primary seasons in the life of the church are Advent (four weeks prior to Christmas), Lent and Easter. There are also special Sunday celebrations such as Pentecost, Trinity Sunday and the Baptism of Jesus. These seasons and celebrations make up only 19 of the 52 Sundays in a year. The rest of the 33 Sundays are called Sundays of Ordinary Time. This Sunday marks the beginning of five months, 22 ordinary Sundays in a row.
In a book called ``Children's Letters to God'' one child writes, ``Dear God, could you put another holiday between Christmas and Easter, there is nothing good in there right now.'' This letter speaks to our desire to live for the next holiday, vacation or extended weekend. And yet, these ties make up so little of our daily existence. How then can we live life fully in the ordinary?
The only way I know to find eternal significance, relevance and purpose in life is to live in relation to God. God alone holds the key to the fullness of life. Eugene Peterson has written a wonderful fresh translation of the Bible called ``The Message.'' Below is his translation of Romans 12:1,2:
``So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around-life and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God has done for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't be so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out.''
Some people find it hard to pray because they say there are not eloquent or they don't know what to say. I want to remind us that prayer is simply being with God. It is opening our lives to the presence of the one who created us and loves us. Prayer is so important and so necessary that there is no such thing as a bad prayer.
For the next seven ordinary days try this exercise in prayer:
1) Find or create a place where you can have some silence. As you begin to pray, opening yourself to the presence of God, do not worry about internal distractions. If something keeps coming to your mind, spend some time talking to God about it.
2) Reflect upon your day:
A) In the morning, reflect upon the day ahead. Talk to God about the various situations you will be faced with. Tell God your hopes and fears. God knows what you will have to deal with and longs to share life with you. Ask God to help you be more aware of God's presence throughout the day.
B) In the evening, reflect back over the day. Ask these questions to yourself and share them with God. Where did you struggle? Where did you find contentment? Where did you lose sight of God's presence? At what point were you most aware of God's presence? Close by finding something to thank God for.
When we open ourselves to the reality of God and live in relationship to God, life becomes less and less ordinary and more and more extraordinary. May the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ and the compassion of the Holy Spirit encourage you in your journey of faith.
The Rev. Steve Olmstead is the pastor at Chapel by the Lake.