Updated: Feb 25, 2022
"Can you clean up the decking area?" When I worked at Kuiken Brothers, a lumber and building materials store in Midland Park, this request from my dad/boss meant I was in for a monotonous day. Where we kept all the pressure treated and composite decking was intended to be nice and tidy, with units of deck boards neatly stacked on the ground or in racks according to size and/or color. When we needed to load a customer's truck or build an order to be shipped out, it needed to be organized to easily find what we needed. Most of the time if we kept up with it, it would stay that way. But every once in a while when it got crazy busy, that area would start to get pretty chaotic. The new units of decking would be cut open but no one would take the time to remove and discard the straps and wrappers. So bright green straps and giant plastic wrappers became tripping hazards all over the place. Returned boards would be haphazardly stacked in the wrong spots. Leaves and debris would find new homes where they shouldn't. So cleaning up the decking area meant getting a big forklift and a little dumpster, a broom and time to get organized. I'd be on and off the forklift constantly. Moving units to another spot, sweeping the area up, getting more units to add, neatly restacking the piles, moving them back, starting the same process on the next pile in cycle that lasted hours. If you can't visually picture it, the point is it was monotonous and tedious. I found myself working almost robotically while my mind drifted to other things. Tediously doing some task over and over again isn't something many of us look forward to. It's not exciting. It's boring. It's ordinary. Do you know what season we are in according to the church calendar? "Ordinary Time". Huh. Interesting, isn't it? It almost surprises me that we have a time that actually highlights the ordinary. I think I learned about it for the first time in seminary. I don’t remember celebrating Ordinary Time growing up in the church. We usually remember seasons like Advent because it points us to Christmas. We pay special attention to Lent because it leads us to Good Friday and Easter. Eastertide continues where we remember Jesus' risen appearance to many witnesses. Finally, Ascension and Pentecost finish highlighting the major moments in Jesus' life and ministry. What about the time in between? The day after Pentecost to the day before Advent is dedicated to remembering the ordinary. It's the season where we take all we've learned about Jesus and learn to apply it to the everyday time of our lives. It's a reminder that our faith journeys are not just for the big events like Christmas and Easter; it's about how the work of Jesus impacts every moment of everyday. Don't be afraid of the ordinary. Many of us live and work in the ordinary. You hop on the tractor for hours driving forth and back keeping your eyes on that line to make sure the corn is planted in neat rows. You drive that truck for hours delivering valuable material from one place to another. You make the same pastries to be baked every day. You're the chauffer for the kids' busy schedules. You feed the baby, change the diapers, feed the baby, change the diapers. You make your rounds in the hospital checking charts, talking to patients, getting what they need. You go to the same office or get in front of the same computer screen all day, alternating between meetings, spreadsheets, tasks and phone calls. You manage the company and help customers. It might even look the same most days. And that's okay. In fact, it's actually a reflection of God's ongoing care and provision for us. Consider Psalm 65. David is praising God because he answers prayer, forgives sins, and cares for his people. Listen to David describe God's care in vs 9-13: "You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the wilderness overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing." Notice the details about God's handiwork that all too often we take for granted. The streams are filled and their waters feed the crops. The grasslands overflow and it feeds the livestock. God cares for creation, and creation sings his praise. God's care for creation is tedious and continuous, but there's nothing ordinary about it. He showed his love so deeply and abundantly that he sent his own son Jesus as a gift of love, forgiveness and assurance that God is always good and always with those who believe in him. It is the most sure thing we can count on. And we, too, join in singing God's praises. So as we go through ordinary times in our lives, let's meditate on the faithful work of God and his goodness. As we do, I trust that God's love and grace will shine through the ordinary in extraordinary ways.