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Liturgy of the Ordinary

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Tish Harrison Warren's Liturgy of the Ordinary is wonderful. (To give you an idea: while typing that sentence, a text from Rachel appeared asking me if I could bring my copy home so she could give it away to a friend, and she didn't want to give away her copy.) Essentially, the idea is that we all spend our lives the way we spend our days, so we need to structure our daily routines in ways that develop Christlike habits, practices, and ultimately character. Warren then takes us through a host of daily routines—waking, brushing teeth, eating leftovers, losing keys, resolving conflict, sleeping—and shows how we can find God in them. It is a beautiful, poetic, yet real and thoroughly practical book, and both Rachel and I recommend it.

Here are a couple of excerpts which I found especially helpful. On the central idea of the book:

Alfred Hitchcock said movies are “life with the dull bits cut out.” Car chases and first kisses, interesting plot lines and good conversations. We don’t want to watch our lead character going on a walk, stuck in traffic, or brushing his teeth—at least not for long, and not without a good soundtrack.

We tend to want a Christian life with the dull bits cut out.

Yet God made us to spend our days in rest, work and play, taking care of our bodies, our families, our neighbourhoods, our homes. What if all these boring parts matter to God? What if days passed in ways that feel small and insignificant to us are weighty with meaning and part of the abundant life God has for us?

On sleep and worship:

Our sleep habits both reveal and shape our loves. A decent indicator of what we love is that for which we willingly give up sleep. I love my kids, so I sacrifice sleep for them (often)—I nurse our baby or comfort our eldest after a nightmare. I love my husband and my close friends so I stay up late to keep a good conversation going a bit longer. Or I rise early to pray or to take a friend to the airport.

But my willingness to sacrifice sleep also reveals less noble loves. I stay up later than I should, drowsy, collapsed on the couch, vaguely surfing the Internet, watching cute puppy videos. Or I stay up trying to squeeze more activity into the day, to pack it with as much productivity as possible. My disordered sleep reveals a disordered love, idols of entertainment or productivity ...

The truth is, I’m far more likely to give up sleep for entertainment than I am for prayer. When I turn on Hulu late at night I don’t consciously think, “I value this episode of Parks and Rec more than my family, prayer and my own body.” But my habits reveal and shape what I love and what I value, whether I care to admit it or not.

On living life with our destination in mind:

What if, in traffic on I-35, we travellers forgot our telos? What if we all forsook our destinations—our commitment to where we are going—and came to believe that this grimy interstate was all there is? What if we all left our cars and set up cots on a dingy stretch of highway? Someone pulls a grill out of a truckbed and starts a barbecue. Maybe we set up a poker game. We aren’t going anywhere. Eventually we say, “There’s nowhere to go,” and simply make ourselves as comfortable as we can. People begin to hoard food. Fights break out. People siphon gas and squabble over jumper cables to keep the air conditioning going. We each stake out our own territory and try to eke out an existence on the interstate, believing that these gasoline fumes and concrete pillars are all there is; this is the way the world always has been and always will be.

It would be a disaster. Out of touch with larger reality, we would have lost our telos. We’d have forgotten that there are better ways to live.

Indeed there are. You should read it.

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