Courage of the Ordinary

This week’s Cincinnati Business Courier features an interview with restaurateur David Falk, who runs the Boca restaurant group.

Falk makes a number of comments that set my synapses dancing, but for this post, I’ll focus on this one – an answer to the question “Who inspires you as a chef? As an entrepreneur?”   Falk replies:

Any momma in Italy or in France who has been cooking draw dropping food for decades unnoticed while the rest of the world is fixated on Food network chefs who are all about publicity over the simple (but difficult) art of hospitality with impeccable quality.   The more we can be like those amazing souls the more we can hopefully pass on a legacy and a motto that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

I love how this quote illustrates the idea of the “courage of the ordinary” – that it takes great courage to tend to ordinary things when everyone is dazzled by style and glitter.  Falk’s quote also implies that the ordinary becomes extraordinary through attention and love. 

We see this theme stated differently in scripture.   Paul instructs servants:  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  (Colossians 3:23-24).   It’s a concept that is echoed in the old Benedictine maxim Ora et Labora “prayer and work.”   The idea is not so much that prayer and work are two discrete things, but that your work should be an expression of the prayers of your heart.  

As an illustration of this theme, I think of my friend Tim Fary.  In seminary, he gave a presentation about Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God.   Lawrence was a kitchen monk who was known for great spirituality, and when asked about it, he told that his secret was constantly being in prayer – offering all his activity as prayer.   He made his bread and broke his eggs, and swept the kitchen, all praising God and praying for the people who would receive the meal.  Tim talked about how his mother would do this while ironing shirts – she would pray for blessing for the wearer of the shirt, pray thanksgiving for the shirt, pray that God would be glorified through the shirt.    Ora et Labora – prayer and work. 

When we mindfully give our work unto the Lord, the Lord dignifies even the humblest labor.  The simple deeds of cooking, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn take on a bit of the whiff of heaven.  And if this is true in the mundane, how much more then in the vocational tasks to which we are called?

Soli Deo Gloria


One thought on “Courage of the Ordinary

  1. How infinite and sweet, Thou everywhere
    And all abounding Love, Thy service is!
    Thou liest an ocean round my world of care,
    My petty every-day; and fresh and fair,
    Pour Thy strong tides through all my crevices,
    Until the silence ripples into prayer.

    That Thy full glory may abound, increase,
    And so Thy likeness shall be formed in me,
    I pray; the answer is not rest or peace,
    But charges, duties, wants, anxieties,
    Till there seems room for everything but Thee,
    And never time for anything but these.

    And I should fear, but lo! amid the press,
    The whirl and hum and pressure of my day,
    I hear Thy garment’s sweep, Thy seamless dress,
    And close beside my work and weariness
    Discern Thy gracious form, not far away,
    But very near, O Lord, to help and bless.

    The busy fingers fly, the eyes may see
    Only the glancing needle which they hold,
    But all my life it, blossoming inwardly,
    And every breath is like a litany,
    While through each labor, like a thread of gold,
    Is woven the sweet consciousness of Thee.

    Susan Coolidge’s poem: Laborare Est Orare

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