Liturgy of the Ordinary

{15} Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren “The kind of spiritual life and disciplines needed to sustain the Christian life are quiet, repetitive, and ordinary. I often want to skip the boring, daily stuff to get to the thrill of an edgy faith. But it’s in the dailiness of the Christian faith—the making the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small—that God’s transformation takes root and grows.”

I so enjoyed this book. Warren takes the daily and mundane tasks of our lives–eating, sleeping, checking email–and asks us to look at them again through a spiritual lens. Warren argues that the rituals we may seem as meaningless are in fact not meaningless at all. What we do daily transforms who we are and who we are becoming. I had so many takeaways here, but I narrowed them down to my top five:

I am shaped and formed by my the small moments that shape my ordinary day. I was reminded early in the book that it really isn’t the big things I do that shape me. Honestly, I don’t do “big things” that often. I do small things often–daily even. It is these moments, the small ones, the ones that seem totally insignificant that have the most bearing on who I am becoming. Part of this book for me has been about examining my daily routines and truly seeing how they are forming me. Warren notes, “Examining daily life through the eyes of liturgy [ritual] allows us to see who these [daily] habits are shaping us to be, and the ways we can live as people who have been loved and transformed by God (32). My daily habits, no matter how small, are not meaningless. Added together they form my life.

The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning actually makes a difference. I hadn’t thought it really mattered much that I spent the first few minutes checking my phone while waiting for my Keurig to heat up. Scrolling through Instagram seemed like a perfectly good way to fill that time. Warren though challenged me to not “imprint” my day with technology, but rather to use that time to be silent and still–setting a different kind of tone for my day. I tried it the morning after I read this section of the text, and the difference was significant. Starting slower and without a screen in my face, actually set a different tone for my morning, and ultimately, the rest of my day.

Pausing before I eat gives me a chance to be truly grateful. I always pray before I eat dinner with my kids. Even in a crowded restaurant, I pray with my kids before we eat because I want them to understand gratitude. If I’m being honest though, I don’t always pray before I eat alone. I don’t stop to be grateful myself even though I value the importance of this simple act enough to demonstrate it for my kids. Warren reminds me though that stopping, even for a brief moment, repositions my heart and mind toward gratitude. This simple posture changes eating to a a simple routine to one with meaning and purpose. I am being nourished, and I am grateful.

Spreading peace is a simple act that I can do, and it starts with me in my own home. I have a tendency to feel that unless I am doing something big for God, I’m doing nothing. Warren reminds me here that my ordinary “passing of the peace” is enough. It is something. I can work on creating peace write where I am. When I get coffee from my local coffee shop, when I interact with my co-workers, when I talk to my kids about their day while I’m washing dishes all provide me opportunities to “pass the peace.” Passing the peace on a global scale isn’t really in my current job description–what is in my job description is passing the peace right here in my normal and very ordinary day.

Slowing down and savoring the meaningful moments in my life is a discipline and it takes practice. I want to enjoy the small moments in my life, but as a chronic over-achiever it is easy for me to pass them by on the way to doing something that I deem more important. The act of enjoying the small and most meaningful things in life is a discipline that requires effort an practice. I may want to pour a big glass of wine and get lost in my book (and often this is exactly what I need to do!), but sometimes I would find more fulfillment by taking a walk outside and looking up at the sky. Warren notes, “…it takes strength to enjoy the world, and we must exercise a kind of muscle to revel and delight. If we neglect exercising that muscle–if we never savor a lazy afternoon, if we must always be cleaning out the fridge or volunteering at church or clocking in more hours–we’ll forget how to notice beauty and we’ll miss the unmistakeable reality of goodness that pleasure trains us to see (136). Beauty is all around me, if only I will stop long enough to see it.

I so enjoyed reading this book. This is another one of those books that will stay with me for a long time to come.

Star Rating: 5/5

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