Gospel-centric ambition at work
Jordan Raynor sits down with Ruth Chou Simons, founder of GraceLaced, to talk about what good, righteous, gospel-driven ambition looks like in our work, how the simple creative connection of “depth and beauty” allowed Ruth to create something unique in the world, and how to think about our work as a generous gift to the world.
[0:00:05.3] JR: Hey everybody, welcome to the Call to Mastery. I’m Jordan Raynor. This is a podcast for Christians who want to do exceptional work, world class work for the glory of God and the good of others. Every week, I’m bringing you a conversation with somebody who is following Christ but also pursuing world class mastery of their crafts. We’re talking about their path to mastery, we’re talking about their daily habits and how their faith influences their work.
Today’s guest needs no introduction for most of you, I’m talking with Ruth Chou Simons today, she’s the founder of GraceLaced, she’s best known as the bestselling author of the book with the same title as well as a book called Beholding and Becoming. Now listen, I personally judge books by good reads ratings, I find that they are extraordinarily rare to find a book with a 4.5 average rating or above. Ruth’s books crush it on that platform, consistently being rated over 4.75 with hundreds of ratings. She’s an exceptional writer but she’s also an unbelievably talented artist.
And is coming in her own as an entrepreneur building a really significant company around her beautiful gospel centric products. Ruth and I recently sat down, we talked about, what is good, righteous, gospel centric ambition look like in our work? We talk about how the simple creative connection between theological depth and artistic beauty allow Ruth to bring to markets some really unique products and we talked about how to think about our work as a generous gift to the world.
You’re going to find tremendous rest, tremendous joy in this conversation. Please enjoy this conversation with Ruth Chou Simons.
[0:02:00.6] JR: Ruth, it is so good to have you with me. Thanks for spending a few minutes with our audience.
[0:02:04.5] RCS: Thanks for having me Jordan, it’s a pleasure to be here.
[0:02:06.9] JR: For our listeners who don’t know, although I think that’s a small subset of our listeners. Who are you and tell us a little bit about the work that you’re doing today with GraceList?
[0:02:15.7] RCS: Sure. I’m Ruth Chou Simons. I am the founder of GraceLaced.com, a website that had started as a blog and now has become a lifestyle brand in the last couple of years, I’ve also had the opportunity to publish and my first book, GraceLaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart. Won an ECPA Christian Book Award in 2018 and was certainly kind of a beginning of a genre in publishing where there was a combination of really grounded truth and a beautiful visuals together.
That was my first book. I’ve had a few little books in between and then my second big book was Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship that released last fall and super grateful to be able to offer work that really brings the reader to both in an invitation with their eyes as well as you know, with their hearts. Yeah, I’m super grateful to be doing what I’m doing.
[0:03:10.5] JR: Yeah, on the publishing side, one thing I really appreciate about you is I think you’re moving publishing forward in an interesting way. I think your products are super unique, there’s no such thing as super unique. They are unique and I want to come back to that and what makes them special in a minute but first, what’s your story. Like start as far back as you’d like.
I’m just really curious. What’s the narrative that brought you to the work you’re doing now?
[0:03:31.6] RCS: You know, I’m a mama to six, for anyone who doesn’t know that about me, I’m a mother to six boys, my oldest is almost 18 and my youngest is six. Been married to my husband Troy for almost 22 years and in a different season of life, he was a church planting pastor, preaching pastor so I was a pastor’s wife and in that same season, we founded a classical Christian school. This is like late 20s, early 30s when you think that you can do anything at any pace and you kind of start so many things.
In that same decade, we had six kids, started a school, started a church and we’re running really hard and fast except I was kind of at home, holding down the fort and counseling young women after the kids went to bed, painting maybe once a year. Wondering my goodness, did I go to college, did I have all these drive so that I could like pickup Cheerios every day of my life and what is this all about? I knew that that answer was going to come with me looking back to who I am and my identity in Christ and how the grace of God and the Gospel actually intersected my daily life.
I started a blog called GraceLaced and the whole idea at that point was, I just wanted to explore this idea of how grace is laced through my everyday life. Even if my life currently does not look the way I expected it to. For me, the way it didn’t look the way I expected to as I wasn’t on the mission field, I wasn’t running a business, I wasn’t speaking to millions, I wasn’t even writing viral blogpost all the time. It wasn’t that there were huge moments of success and it wasn’t that I was trying to make money doing it.
I simply had a realization that this was not a season to simply survive and get through. God was trying to teach me something in the middle of this. I worked that out through writing and most people didn’t even really know that I had a background in art and I have a fine arts degree and that I kind of went from bio chem major to arts major and that’s a whole other story but that ultimately – you know, this is a person who wasn’t just working out her faith but going Lord, help me learn right now, all the things that you want me to learn in a season that feels really hidden and not on display.
I don’t get to do anything super publically. I’m raising a bunch of little people who throw things across the room, you know? Yeah, years later as my kids grew and I had spent a lot of time having really wonderful conversations with women during nap time and on Saturday mornings and after a time, I had an opportunity to start exploring things like Instagram and Facebook because everybody was doing that. For me, it was kind of like the first time I was able to lead out image first, beauty first became the platform called for that, you know?
Instagram called for your personal lens like how you see the world and for me, that was an opportunity to write short devotional thoughts, not trying to write devotions but really saying, okay, this is for five seconds here as you stop your scroll, how do we just focus on really, what is the grace of God, how does the grace of god have anything to do with what I’m going through right now.
That came in the form of for the first time in a long time, some paintings that I would paint or drawings that I would draw while sitting around the table with my boys as I was homeschooling them. My first – what they call flat lay photos now. You know, eight years ago was really just me standing up from my desk or my kitchen table and taking a photograph with my cellphone overhead and my table as is, with supplies everywhere and my artwork there.
Those were my very first flat lays and now if you pop over to read on Instagram, you’ll see really beautifully styled flat lays but that’s where it really started and not a lot of folks were doing that and so it kind of invited you into not just the finished product but the work in progress. I think that’s a really interesting story for creatives to be able to bring people into what it is that is like driving you, causing you to have to share that story because anyone can paint a bible verse but what is it that’s going to cause somebody to say, you know what?
I’m seeing it in a new light, I see it differently and I’m invited into your real space. That’s where it began, got the attention of publishers, long story short, it took off. I think that you know, we have in common that we’re entrepreneurial in the way we’re made and God made us this way and I definitely think that all of that was already there like the marketing, thoughtfulness and the desire to be a good steward of what I have, the ability to reproduce and invest wisely and create more from what I have.
Those are things that I didn’t go to a class to learn those things. It was just that I was using those in my everyday life, in places that people couldn’t see but then when the time was right, I got to use it for my business. The business grew, the books were published and now, years later, my husband and I have an opportunity, we’ve always worked full time together, whether it was with a church or with a school but now we’re working full time with GraceLaced.
[0:08:29.0] JR: I love it. People like you come on to the scene with these big books and everybody looks at you and like my gosh, this is an overnight success. You started the blog, what was it, 2000? what year was that that you started to blog?
[0:08:40.9] RCS: I think it was 2007.
[0:08:43.0] JR: My gosh, we’re talking 13 years, right? I love this theme of just taking life, taking the business, taking the work like one step at a time, right? You called to write so you were to blog, you saw Instagram. An interesting opportunity to slightly pivot to like these image-driven devotionals, right? At some point, you just took the step and kind of combined all that. What was that inflection point, right?
What was the point in which we’re like okay, I can combine written word, I can combine art into this really unique, physical product, this type of book experience that’s so different from anything else in the market at that point?
[0:09:21.5] RCS: Well, here’s what’s interesting. I think that sometimes, we’re so – I’m thinking about what you just said and that we underestimate how much everyday faithfulness builds to a lifetime of resources and a full tank that you can produce and create from. Because we kind of think, this is the end goal, what’s the fastest way I can reach my goal. Whereas my story shows that sometimes you don’t see the end goal, you really have to just be faithful right where you are.
For me, paradigm and my worldview really affected the way I saw social media because it really wasn’t hey, can I create a genre in which we write devotionals in short deep readings and combine it with art? Surely, somebody wants to buy that, that wasn’t even what was crossing my mind, Jordan. What crossed my mind was, what is the most generous thing to do for a generation that currently feels so depleted that they have to go on to Instagram, scroll around to find satisfaction or some kind of connection. My realization was, I have something to offer, I have words to say but the way that I will reach that person who is lonely or confused or longing for a friend or wanting their faith to make sense.
The way I could reach that person was through something that they could sense and feel, a beauty that they would feel like wow, I want to linger long here for. For me I think, it organically happened based on me not wanting to waste anyone else’s time including my own.
It was freeing because I wasn’t saying this is what is expected of me, this is what I’m trying to accomplish, I’m not going to get a book deal if I don’t do this, none of that was true. The only thing that was driving my thinking was if I’m going to be here, what is the best way I can use this platform, this time and the space and God honored that and just gave some success to that goal.
[0:11:13.7] JR: I love thinking about this through the lens of generosity. Thinking about work in terms of generosity, like okay, given what I currently have, in terms of skills, in terms of knowledge and resources and time and energy, how could I most generously contribute to loving my neighbor as myself.
[0:11:30.1] RCS: Absolutely.
[0:11:31.5] JR: Right, there’s a lot of wisdom in that. We’ve talked about the uniqueness of your book. I want the audience who hasn’t picked up one of your great books to understand why they are unique, right? Talk about not necessarily the substance of a book like Beholding and Becoming but the format, right? What makes the product so different.
[0:11:50.3] RCS: Yeah, I think that for a long time, there was a separation between beautiful things and deep things. If you wanted to read something deep, you had to sacrifice all, you had to basically walk away from your desire for beauty and desire for your senses to be stimulated and to really go, okay, now I’m going to get a heavy text book and grapple with deep truths or you go and pickup something really beautiful at the store and it has nothing of substance.
For me, I really thought, okay. What would happen if every time you turn the page, you kind of had to stop, you were riveted by beauty or that you would see a reflection of God’s creation. Something that I didn’t come up with, I mean, I didn’t create birds, I didn’t make a sunset. If I capture that in a way that causes somebody to look outside their window and go, my goodness, that is beautiful. Look at how she reflected what is around me all the time.
Would the Word of God stand out in a new way, would we linger longer, not just read something over and go yup, what’s the take away in there for me? But to say, I was made to sit here and think on this, mediate on this. Maybe slow down and listen a little bit better and experience this more.
The format is such that the readings are short-ish being like you know – my goal was always to, I had a hard time Jordan, initially calling them devotions. I got to be honest because my experience with devotions usually felt like some little cheesy story with a quick application at the end and I was like, I am not going to be somebody who writes something like that.
I’m for sure not going to write a gift book where a teddy bear has to be involved and you get a free mug or a free teddy bear to go with the book. Those two words were bad words to me, I was like, I don’t’ want the word devotions or gift books involved but what I sought to do ultimately was to redefine what those two words mean.
That gift book could mean that you give the gift of truth and beauty and that devotion means that you could sit down and then 1,200 words which kind of comes out to maybe like, 10 minutes of slow reading, actually engage in the word of god, engage in deep truths that you might chew on for the rest of the day. Not be left with a sense of that author told a funny story but rather, that author made me think about the actual author of all creation.
Let me go and find out more about him. That has been my goal from day one and to accomplish that goal, I interspersed writing with a lot of art, even art where you would dwell on one word for a while. Art that would dwell on one word for a while. Arts that would cause you to go, I’m not sure what it is about this page but it makes me want to linger long and stare at it for a long time.
[0:14:35.4] JR: Yeah, it started with such a simple concept, right? It basically, the core idea was, combining depth and beauty, that’s a pretty simple idea, right? I’m curious, what was going on in your life, what were the disconnected threads that ended up converging in that idea? Can you pinpoint it?
[0:14:54.5] RCS: Yeah, well, I think I just got kind of sick and tired of seeing that Christians were always trying to create artistic things that were mimicking things of the world and not really kind of bringing excellence and depth to it but just kind of like trying to give a Christian alternative and then seeing that I’m somebody who was reading old dead guys of books that were so great that had such theological depth but kind of didn’t look like anything that reflected my aesthetic or things that I really wanted to spend my time staring at or setting out on my table and so for me, I guess I just –
Maybe this sounds crazy but I think I just wanted for this moment in history for to be a part of something that said, God deserves everything, every creative bone in our body to create words and acts of praise and for me, the act of praise was to create something really beautiful that honored him, that wasn’t just a Christian alternative or let’s just put a few little swirlies on here in pink so that people will buy it but to say, I am bringing the art that you filled me up with and everything I’ve got is on this page because you deserve it Lord.
[0:16:03.2] JR: That’s so good. I have so much respect for you. I think you’re building a really world class personal brand, right? Personal brand under your name but also under GraceLaced. I’m curious, what’s your perspective on what world class personal brands are doing today? That they’re less masterful counterparts aren’t doing? What’s the delta?
[0:16:22.3] RCS: Yeah, you know, that’s a tough one. I mean, I will say, the first thing that comes to my mind is always that my theology and the way I think about God makes me want to say first and foremost that the sovereignty of God ultimately granted that mastery and that favor, more than anything I could ever do.
Nothing I share here will ever be like hey, if I just do that, the grace of God is incredibly kind, right?
[0:16:46.4] JR: Everything is graced.
[0:16:48.1] RCS: I don’t claim a single moment where I can say, you know what Jordan? I really did that and if everybody would do that more, I can’t say that. But with that said, I will and kind of going along with this. I don’t know if this answer might make sense but I do think that the people who become world class are often the people who are the most humble and the ones who realize that in humility, they don’t know it all. You could say it’s curiosity but it’s more than curiosity. It’s not just hey, I want to keep growing, I want to take more classes.
It’s that in humility, when you realize that you’re not the end all, be all, the big source of all things, whether that’s connecting you back to God or even surrounding yourself with other people. When you realize that you’re not the hero of your own story, it actually causes you to be setup for greater success because you’re not relying all on yourself. I don’t know.
When I look back at this idea of mastery and creating something that really stands out in a world class way, I would say yes, of course perseverance, of course hustle, of course working hard and work ethic but what it comes to my mind over and over again is like, humility is lost so often and the people who are not humble may show great success for a few months, for a few years but what about legacy?
Legacy in that kind of world class investment is left by those who see themselves as part of a bigger story.
[0:18:15.1] JR: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve written a lot about Bezalel, are you familiar with this character in Exodus 31?
[0:18:20.8] RCS: My goodness. Go for it.
[0:18:23.1] JR: Bezalel is going to be your new hero. Bezalel, here, I’ll put it up right now. Exodus 31:1. Then the Lord said to Moses. See, I have chosen Bezalel, son of Yuri, son of Her, of the tribe of Judah and I have filled him with the spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills to do what? To make artistic designs for working gold, silver and bronze.
To cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of crafts. What’s interesting about this passage, Bezalel is the first person in scripture that we are told was filled with the spirit of God and Bezalel was an artist. He was a creative, he was commissioned by the Lord to create the Tabernacle. This is compelling on a number of levels, right? One, it reminds us that the spirit of God is creative, right? That we are made in the image of the creator God.
But it also reminds people, you are just talking about humility. You know it says, I have filled him with the spirit of God, I have filled him with wisdom, I have filled him with understanding. Our wisdom, our creativity, our pursuit of mastery, we did none of it. Everything we have is graced and we can trick ourselves into believing it was that great course we decided to buy or whatever but at the end of the day, it’s 100% the grace of God and his spirit.
Your books are masterfully written and painted and I was reading your book recently and I was thinking about the famous quip that you hear some people say, spend 20% of your time writing the book and 80% of your time marketing the book. That was literally holding your book, I was like, I don’t think you think this way, right? I want you to talk about, get practical, what percentage of your time do you spend creating the product versus marketing and selling the product?
[0:20:06.7] RCS: Okay, this is really interesting topic and I’ll just tell you, I understand what you mean by saying you know, my book took me a good solid year to write because I had to write the whole thing and paint the whole thing and even though there’s only 32 pieces of writing in it, it took me a solid 12 months of creating almost from sun up to sun down in the midst of everything else.
Yeah, there was a lot of time dedicated to that but if I’m honest, marketing does not start when the book is finished and you have a campaign manager and you start talking about graphics and launch teams. That’s not the marketing. The marketing is when you begin the conversation and so, in that regard, I would say. No, I started the conversation long before that. The conversation and whether you say you know, you speak in that conversation through a hashtag or you just bring people along in the wonder and the question of that. That started a few years ago.
In that sense, I would say yeah, I probably have spent 80% of my time marketing the book in the sense that not through ads, not through a push to have to pre-order, buys or anything like that but simply if we are talking about marketing as spreading the message, the message was long in discussion and long in my daily writings in Instagram long before it was ever created.
[0:21:25.9] JR: Yeah, you see marketing creating some kind of simultaneously. Like you package up into product what you have been writing about for years, right? What do you think is the most impactful? Look five years down the road, right? What are the most impactful authors five years from now are going to be doing that other people aren’t?
[0:21:43.7] RCS: Well, the first thing that comes to mind for me is that they’re going to be resting. I think five years from now if an author is really successful and there’s longevity and legacy, it is going to be because that person learned how to rest both in the spiritual way before the Lord, knowing that He is their rest but also knowing how to take some time off, knowing how to rest weekly, how to have a Sabbath mindset, you know?
Because I think we might be in a time where people like to talk about resting kind of like a trendy buzzword but the actual commitment and sacrifice to doing soul work, which is what I really think rest is. Rest is not laying on the couch and watching Netflix. That’s not the only picture of rest. Rest is when you take the emphasis off of what you can accomplish with your hands to letting the Lord accomplish things in your soul and I think that kind of rest that’s going to be the common denominator of all authors that stand the test of time.
[0:22:45.6] JR: What are other habits – so you talk about Sabbath-like thinking. So my wife and I for years have practiced a regular life-giving Sabbath but I have been thinking more and more about how to think more like how to integrate Sabbath throughout the week. So I am really curious, what are your habits and routines to cultivate that Sabbath-like mentality?
[0:23:05.6] RCS: Yeah, so the reason why I think I pointed to the idea of a Sabbath mentality is because sometimes it looks like taking a whole day off on Saturday and then sometimes it doesn’t. There are seasons when you work straight through and you go, “Oh I’ve got to re-establish a new pattern because we are not under the law in that way and it is not that if you do not keep it a certain way if it is all over is that Jesus is our rest and it is available to be our rest and to reshape the way we rest in him every single day of our lives.
And so the way we pursue things every day either we’re pursuing because there is freedom to pursue or we’re pursuing because we are afraid that we are not going to have freedom and so you are either running hard and fast and hustling out of fear or freedom and so resting in our mind and in our hearts is ultimate freedom. It’s the ultimate ability to say, “My entire self-worth is not dependent on how this book does or how this new product does on the market.”
My whole self-worth is not based on my Instagram following and those are hard things to say for anyone even if you are successful in your field, those are hard things to say because we’re sinful and we constantly want to kind of control and manipulate our own comforts and the things that make us feel like we’re making it in life and so for me, some of those habits really boil down to including things in my daily life that remind me that I am not as big and powerful as I think I am.
Because you might be the boss of an organization or the head of something, there are plenty of things. You could be the mom of your household and call the shots there but whatever you’re doing, sometimes you can deceive yourself into thinking that you are in control and you are in charge and so for me getting off the internet definitely helps because it for sure helps me pay attention and see all the good gifts that God has given and all the things that He has brought into my life that I had nothing to do with.
And I have said this before and I will say it again but I definitely start my days and end my days gazing at Him and I don’t mean that – please don’t hear that like I stand outside and the music is playing and I’ve got some mystical amazing like you know it is not like Enya is going on in the background having some deep thing with the Lord. Sometimes it is not that. Sometimes it is literary just looking up and not just letting the sun set on my day while I tap out more email responses.
But to take the time and go, “Lord, you literally called this day into order and close this day out and you didn’t really need my help. You did this” and He even does it in like a grandiose creative God way, right? Sunrises and sunsets are not so boring and when the stars come out at night they’re pretty impressive. They’re not just like “whatever” you know? I mean obviously if you go deep into the woods they’re even more impressive and they really shine.
But I don’t mean to be cheesy about it but I really do have to look up so often and go, “Okay what are the things in my life that I have nothing to do with?” They are not dependent on me, they don’t showcase my abilities, those are the things I keep looking up and reminding myself, “Hey, God’s got this and he is way bigger than you.” Be grateful that you get to be a part of this at all.
[0:26:27.4] JR: Yeah, no I don’t think that’s cheesy. So all right, you talked about the book, what ends up your day. Beginning, ending, gazing at the Lord, fill in the gaps. Fill in the middle, what is a typical day in the life of Ruth look like?
[0:26:39.1] RCS: Yeah, you know it varies. Obviously I have been in a heavy season of speaking and traveling. Again, another area in my life that I wasn’t setting out to do. I did not sign up to go be a national speaker. It just was an opportunity. Again Jordan, for me it was like what is the most generous thing I can do to not be somebody who just offers my work in perfect form? Well that is to show up in person and to say, “You know what? My talk may not be perfect.”
I may swing my hands around when I am talking and I may stutter because English is my second language and sometimes I forget a word, no joke I really do and like often times things like that happen but it helps connect me with the reader and for people to know that she’s a real person and yeah, photos are edited, books are edited. They go through lots and lots and lots of new variations but ultimately this person I could share myself as a person with you.
So I have been in a heavy season there. I feel like I have a couple of different jobs and maybe you are aware that these are the things in my life but as a leader of a team that runs the business and so we’re remote, which means my days are filled with a lot of text messages, a lot of pinging on Slack, a lot of assignments in Asana and a lot of emails and so I have a lot of that going on because I lead a group of women who are keeping everything regarding business and products going.
So that I can write books and do the other things that I am doing. It also looks like reading a book to my child when in between phone calls and being able to sit on the couch and say yeah, I will dictate those words. I am not the primary home schooler. My husband is taking that charge in this season of our lives but I love being able to say, you know the privilege of working from home is that sometimes I get to take my lunch and sit with you in the couch.
So it looks like that as well but a lot of it really looks so not glamorous right? I mean it is not me sitting there painting to beautiful music. Sometimes it does but most of the time it’s answering a million phone calls and putting out fires, trying to deal with why this didn’t work and that didn’t work or why our website needs a facelift or whatever it is. You know all the things that we are trying to do to do things more efficiently and I’ll just be honest and say that sometimes I get to noon and I’m like, “I didn’t fix myself a lunch” because you are working so hard.
And so you know I would say that this season of my life looks a lot busier than it’s ever looked in terms of working fulltime. I think I work a little bit more than fulltime. I actually think when you own a business and it is on the internet sometimes it sneaks up on you and you find yourself working more hours than if you were showing up at an office and so I’ve been in a season of working on that as well. Just learning okay, it is good to turn it off. It’s good to watch a movie with your kids and not know if they are –
Not that I have notifications turned on but sometimes because of different time zones you have to address something at a certain time of night and so learning how to communicate with my team and with publishers and with other people like I am not going to be available for the next six hours and that’s good.
[0:29:44.6] JR: Yeah that is a challenge. I’m on the east coast, I was doing west coast radio just last night in the closet while my three month old is screaming in the other room. It’s a joy and not glamorous at all a lot of times. So you talked about speaking. It was a really interesting perspective on speaking. Just showing up being imperfect. I like that idea. You’re clearly ambitious for your work to do great work because that is a form of generosity.
How do you manage the tension between striving for excellence but not perfection and not making perfection the goal? How does the gospel give you the resources to manage that tension well?
[0:30:21.1] RCS: I think it really starts with being really familiar with Ephesians 2 and making sure you know who you are in Christ. So it has to start there because here is the thing, I don’t think the word ambition is a bad word at all if ambition means that you are taking everything you’ve been given and running as far and sharing with as many people and stewarding it as well as possible. So I am ambitious to not waste my life. I am ambitious to make sure I don’t squander my gifts.
And I am ambitious to make sure that if I got this one life and I am almost 45 years old, I’ve got a little less than half to go on this thing that I will take every opportunity even when I am scared and so there are certain things that I don’t love doing. I’m not like, “Wow I am so good at that” and you know, showing up on a stage with 4,000 people watching me is not my favorite thing. I am not so excited to have the spotlight on me but the ambition isn’t to be known.
The ambition is to make sure that if I have been given a message. I have been given an opportunity, that I don’t squander just because I am scared to death and just because I don’t think I am good enough.
[0:31:31.2] JR: Yeah I think it is the pursuit of excellence that we’re called to is not necessarily the outcome, right? And the gospel assures us of that. You know I think for me a symptom that I am forgiving the truths of Ephesians 2, the truth of the gospel is the fear of failure. It is just when I am afraid of the outcome and I am not taking big swings because of it I have forgotten the assurance and the depths of the gospel that regardless of victory or defeat or selling books or not, I am good. Everything is good, right?
[0:32:04.7] RCS: Yes absolutely.
[0:32:06.4] JR: So the subtitle of Beholding and Becoming is The Art of Everyday Worship, right? And in a way it is what this podcast is all about, right? Celebrating the fact that all work can be worship. So I am curious to get your take on how can we create everyday worship at work whether we’re an entrepreneur or a CPA or a fire fighter, how do we do that?
[0:32:31.4] RCS: Yeah so you know, I didn’t come up with it. I mean many more brilliant people said if before me but the main theme of the book is ultimately we become what we behold and so at the end of the day we really will always go where we’re fixated like where our eyes go is where our bodies and our action will follow suit. I mean as simple as the analogy of a car when you’re driving it’s like obviously you are going to go where your eyes are focused.
You are not going to drive a different direction than where your eyes are but in the same way in our everyday lives, you can approach your spreadsheets with frustration and weariness feeling complete irritation that you got the short end of the stick and you’re dealing with stuff that nobody else wants to deal with or you can behold who Christ is and why he’s placed you in the role that you are in and so it is just a simple way to say you know in our everyday lives whether you are on stage with a microphone.
Or you are dealing with a lot of paper work that nobody else wants to deal with or if you are a man cleaning out the refrigerator going, “I have a college degree what am I doing wiping up these spills?” and the goal when you look at my book and you see all of these topics that look kind of mundane that was intentional. It was intentional because I really think that at least among my peers and among women in this current age, I think there is a real elevation and rightly so.
I am so excited for the age that we are in. There is some elevation of women doing really big, bold, exciting things globally. I am so excited about those opportunities. I love that women are doing and going places that maybe women haven’t had opportunities before but I also want to cheer on the reality of every women and every person, you know your audience is not just women but for the listener today whether you’ve got the biggest contract that you have ever gotten.
Or you are promoted in the best role that you have ever been in, you are just like everyone else. You still have to go do your laundry and clean out your refrigerator, have that difficult tack with your child, deal with a family member that is hard to love. You still have situations in your life where it’s just not fair where you are going, “This isn’t all that victorious and exciting in my life” and I have to wait this out. I have to wait for the outcome for the Lord to right this wrong.
We all have things like that. All of us have to do things that we don’t want to do because it is boring and mundane and repetitive and what do we choose in those times? Because all of us are not going to live our best lives every day and sometimes we’re in a season where we’re like, “Wow, this is seriously my year. This is amazing” and some of us go through an extended season where it’s like, “Lord do you see me? Do you see how much I am struggling here?”
So whatever season you’re in I really think and believe that the scripture shows us that it doesn’t really matter what our circumstances are. We’re called to set our sights on Christ and like the hymn says, tune our hearts to sing His grace and then ultimately have a praise focused mindset because we are beholding Him. That ultimately when we look at what transforms us what actually changes us, what takes us from the pattern of the world to a renewed mind for Christ.
What actually causes that to happen is not because you took a great course on it or you had the perfect mentor or everything finally worked out and you’re living where you want to live. No, it’s actually if day by day, moment by moment you readjust and realign with your true identity in Christ and what’s God has done for you.
[0:36:09.1] JR: And that’s what breeds contentment. You know we take Philippians 4:13 out of context so much in culture today. Well let’s talk about contentment. I can be content in all things, why? Because of Christ, right? Because of Christ I am contended with what I am.
[0:36:24.8] RCS: All things that he can do isn’t to be an Olympic gymnast or be the CEO of a company even if that is –
[0:36:31.7] JR: He is talking about suffering.
[0:36:32.6] RCS: He is talking about suffering, absolutely. He is talking about like I can do all things including not getting the promotion that I wanted or not getting the top spot that I thought I deserve right? And so I think when we recognize that it is all by Him and for Him and to Him as we read in Romans, you know that ultimately that sets us up to be able to worship every day of our lives and that doesn’t mean turning on a praise song and having some extravagant worship time.
It means that moment by moment, you can be saying, “I extoll you God, I look to you and I adore you more than my circumstances. I find my comfort in you and I praise you and not the work of my own hands” and that is the pattern and the art of every day worship.
[0:37:22.9] JR: I love that. Hey Ruth, so three questions that I love to end in every conversation with. First I am really curious as author, which books do you recommend or gift the most to others?
[0:37:35.3] RCS: Besides my own?
[0:37:35.9] JR: Besides your own yeah that doesn’t count.
[0:37:38.1] RCS: Yeah I think they will always be the two that come to mind would be Morning and Evening by Spurgeon. I just think that that is just so solid book will always –
[0:37:47.9] JR: You’re my kind of people, Spurgeon, as I raise that question? Oh yes.
[0:37:51.5] RCS: Morning and Evening by Spurgeon. Spurgeon is my hero. Valley of Vision I think is such a collection of Puritan prayers that were edited. It is by a small publishing house called Banner of Truth but it’s beautiful and it absolutely – there are several versions of these kinds of books but Value of Vision is an incredible one and then a more modern book, I actually really love introducing to people The 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke.
Not because I want to say like, “Hey, stop using your phone” but really just to engage in that conversation, let us not pretend that this is not stressful and hard to deal with. Let us encourage one another to discuss better how to not let our phones work for us and not for us to work for our phones.
[0:38:34.3] JR: And just be more mindful of them. We have to be intentional to how we use our devices. I love that. What one person would you most like to hear talk about how their faith influences their work? Maybe somebody who is not doing overtly evangelical, just a Christ follower that does really great work.
[0:38:53.2] RCS: You know the first person that comes to mind is Anna Bond, the founder of Riffle Paper Company. She’s kind of like the count, I believe and she doesn’t talk about it very often I have not read interviews but I have friends who went to school with her at Liberty and so I believe she’s a believer who chose to run a non-faith based company and I respect and love the work that she does and I would love to know more about her and her journey.
[0:39:19.0] JR: That’s a terrific answer I am going to try to get Anna on the show. That is a great answer. All right, you bring such great wisdom what one piece of advice would you leave this on to people who are seeking to do extraordinary work primarily for the glory of God and the good of others?
[0:39:36.1] RCS: I would say the one thing that I would just want to encourage with is ultimately that while there is nothing new under the sun, nobody will ever say or create or express things the way you can and you are the only you. So in this world of constant reminders that somebody else is 10 steps ahead of us when there is ample opportunities to compare, there is even the temptation to copy or redo in our way, don’t underestimate the fact that our creator God, formed you like nobody else.
He literally could have created you to be anybody and you don’t look like anybody else. You don’t have traits like anybody. He is that unique and that special about creating you, don’t underestimate what He will do with your creativity and with your life.
[0:40:24.2] JR: That is a great encouragement. Hey Ruth, I just want to commend you for the beautiful and more importantly deeply gospel-centric work that you do. Thank you for helping us behold our Father and more deeply root our sense of identity in His Son and thank you for reminding us that we worship the creator God and we are called to image His creativity to the world. I am so grateful for your work. Hey if you guys want to connect with Ruth, she is super easy to find at Ruth Chou Simons on Instagram or on gracelaced.com.
And be sure to pick up a copy of Beholding and Becoming. It is a terrific book, it is a beautiful book. Ruth thank for hanging out with me today.
[0:41:03.3] RCS: Thank you Jordan.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:41:04.3] JR: Man, I am such a fan of Ruth’s even more so after having that conversation with her. Hey, if you are enjoying The Call to Mastery do me a favor, take 30 seconds and go review this podcast. Thank you guys so much for listening to this episode, see you next week.