Book Review of Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman Behind the World’s Best Selling Devotional

Ordinary skills can be used for the kingdom. It’s not just the big name teachers and preachers who impact the world for the LORD. When ordinary people use the skills God has given them in faithfulness and prayerfulness, people’s lives are impacted.

Gertrude Chambers impacted the world through her ordinary, day-job skill. Before she married the preacher/teacher Oswald Chambers, Gertrude (whom Oswald nicknamed Biddy) was a stenographer who used shorthand to take rapid notes while someone was speaking. She excelled in this skill. The average person speaks 100-125 words per minute. Biddy could write in shorthand at 250 words per minute.

After Oswald and Biddy were married, Biddy used her shorthand skills to take notes when Oswald was preaching and teaching. Later, she used her notes to publish what Oswald Chambers had spoken. 

All of what was published under Oswald Chambers’ name was because of Biddy and her shorthand notes including his famous My Utmost for His Highest which was published well after his death.

This was new information to me. I always assumed that “old man Oswald Chambers” bent over his study desk as he penned his famous devotional. But this is far from the truth.

Michelle Ule brought out the true story behind the devotional in her book Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional.

A picture of the cover of the book Mrs. Oswald Chambers.

A Biography that Reads like a Novel

I read a lot of biographies so this book immediately caught my attention. For the past several years, I have been reading biographies of the First Ladies of the United States. Many of them are written by historians and professors who serve heaping helpings of fact and analysis which are a great deal of work to read. They are worth reading, but it certainly is an intellectual pursuit. Michelle Ule uses her talents as a novelist to write about Mrs. Oswald Chambers in an easy-to-read way, but “easy-to-read” doesn’t mean she left out facts or analysis. Michelle Ule was able to both maintain an intriguing storyline of Biddy’s life while providing historical details and refection. I especially appreciated her analysis of why Biddy chose certain topics for certain dates in My Utmost for His Highest (biblical marriage on their wedding anniversary, etc). The way Michelle Ule described the analysis gave me a picture of Biddy deep in thought in her editorial work.

What I learned from Biddy Chambers’ life

It’s worth investing in everyday skills to impact the kingdom. This applies to skills you learn yourself and skills that you encourage others to practice. I attended a mission’s conference where three missionaries shared their work. One worked with special needs students overseas. One worked building relationships for church planting in a foreign country. And one, my brother-in-law, worked as an accountant in the home office of World Team. While he was speaking, the other two missionaries gave him a hearty AMEN and THANK YOU to him for his work since they know firsthand how important his skills are to the missionaries. Do you or does your church support missionaries who use “ordinary” skills? Administrative work? Mechanical work? Office work?

Embrace the “ministry of interruption”. While Biddy was editing and typing her notes of Oswald’s teachings to prepare for publishing, her days were filled with phone calls and knocks on the door of people who needed her advice or wanted to visit. What did she do when an interruption came? She put down her work and ministered to the person in front of her. It was convicting to read about how graciously she welcomed the unannounced visitors and did not grumble and complain because she had so much work to do. Michelle Ule was also convicted by this when studying Biddy’s life and I’m thankful that she pointed this out.

Devotionals can be powerful. Sometimes devotionals get a bad rap because they are seen as shallow. I used to think that way, but over the last few years, I have changed my tune about the power that devotionals have. Just as in all sermons, songs, books, or blogs there is a range of depth, there is a range of depth in devotionals, too. “Devotional” usually means that the readings are short and focused on application.  Just because a book is labeled a “devotional” doesn’t mean it’s fluffy or touchy-feely. My Utmost for His Highest is a great example. How many thousands of people have been impacted by this devotional since its publication in 1927? If you are looking for a recommendation of a devotional book, perhaps one to read in the New Year, I have put together this list of suggestions.


Have you read any of Oswald Chamber’s work?

How do you manage the interruptions to your day?

Do you have a favorite devotional?

Comment below!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


6 thoughts on “Book Review of Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman Behind the World’s Best Selling Devotional

  1. So good! I have never seen the book, but because my daughter’s favorite devotional is Oswald Chambers, I plan to purchase this book for her for Christmas! 🙂 Stopping by from Grace Girls!

  2. I loved this! I’m using a Christmas gift card to purchase this book…Oswald Chambers is a favorite around the Meyer household…so learning about his wife will be wonderful! Thanks, Rachel! Hope you had a Merry Christmas!

    1. You will love this book! And it’s a quick read so it’s doable for you in your season of life right now. I am using a Christmas gift card to buy My Utmost for His Highest. I’ve never read it! So this biography intrigued me to read it. We had a great Christmas! So great to hear from you!

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