The Stenographer

The widow had to wonder as all who grieve do — Why? Why now? 

Gertrude had only been married seven years before her husband died unexpectedly after surgery for appendicitis. Their daughter had only recently turned four years of age. No doubt, she asked herself, and her God, “What do I do now?

She had met her future husband in 1908 on a ship bound for America from Japan. They corresponded after the trip and soon fell in love. Married in 1910, they welcomed their daughter in 1913.  But tragedy struck when her husband died in Egypt near the end of World War I.

The marriage that started with such promise and hope had shockingly ended only seven years later. Gertrude was now a thirty-four-year-old widow. What indeed would she do now?

Gertrude had an unusual gift.  She had learned shorthand as a youth and developed the remarkable ability to take dictation at 250 words per minute — faster than most people talk. Her husband, a preacher, had started a Bible college and later served as a chaplain in the military. Gertrude took notes of all his sermons, talks, and lectures. So devoted was she to her husband and her faith that her husband nicknamed her B.D. for beloved disciple. “Biddy” became the name she cherished.

Returning to England after her loss, Biddy and her daughter moved to Oxford, where she ran a boarding house for students. Having transcribed most of her husband’s talks, she set about the mission of transforming years of shorthand into published works. One book, three years in the making, reflected her husband’s teachings during a devotional hour he taught at a London Bible College a decade before.

Published first in England in 1924 and later in America in 1935, that book would become a best seller. Now published in 39 languages, My Utmost for His Highest is considered the most influential daily devotional of the 20th century. It has never been out of print.

Biddy was Gertrude Hobbs Chambers, and her husband was Oswald Chambers.

The book credits the author as Oswald Chambers. But it was his beloved disciple and wife, Biddy, who labored for three years in a boarding house basement, condensing her voluminous shorthand notes into a 366-page daily devotional.

Biddy lived until 1966 and completed 31 volumes of her husband’s work, but the most famous and arguably, the most influential one was My Utmost for His Highest.

And though the young missionary life of Oswald Chambers had been cut short, now, thanks to an extraordinary stenographer and wife, we have a classic devotional that continues to inspire Christian believers a hundred years later.

January 7 — My Utmost for His Highest

The Christian who is truly intimate with Jesus will never draw attention to himself but will only show the evidence of a life where Jesus is completely in control.”

January 17 — My Utmost for His Highest

Service is the overflow which pours from a life filled with love and devotion.”

March 4 — My Utmost for His Highest

Never consider whether or not you are of use — but always consider that ‘you are not your own’ (1 Corinthians 6:19).  You are His.”

March 11 — My Utmost for His Highest

The only way to be obedient to ‘the heavenly vision’ is to give our utmost for His highest — our best for His glory.

August 4 — My Utmost for His Highest

The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the surrounding influence and qualities produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to give our attention to, and it is the one thing that is continually under attack.”

September 10 — My Utmost for His Highest

Crises always reveal a person’s true character.”

December 9 — My Utmost for His Highest

Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence. The natural life is not spiritual, and can only be made spiritual through sacrifice.”

These quotes are from the 1992 updated edition of My Utmost for His Highest, by James Reimann.  Please note that the selected quotes are intended to whet your appetite and encourage you to read this classic devotional and the quotes in context.

And to think this was made possible thanks to a speedy stenographer and devoted wife in the early 1920s.

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