Read and Respond: Liturgy of the Ordinary

I have a confession. Too often, I go to bed without brushing my teeth. Don’t worry. I’m a religious flosser, and I rarely descend from our second story bedroom in the mornings without a good, swift brushing. But the nighttime ritual often gets abandoned, not because I don’t believe in good oral health, but because I drop off to sleep watching Netflix or some on-demand television show, and the next thing I know, Steve’s waking me up so I can go to bed. I’m not good at endings.

Actually, I’m not all that good at beginnings, either. I hit the snooze too often, which forces me to forsake my morning quiet time which I really do value. Sure, I manage to brush my teeth and shower most days. But I don’t take the time I need to greet the day and prepare for my place in it. Instead, I rush around making toast and checking email, running just close enough to behind that I get freaked out when my youngest stepson comes down from his room in shorts when the high temperature for the day will be 41. He can’t find pants; I’m trying to get dinner in the crockpot. And now, we’re both a little more frazzled than we should be on a Monday morning.

I was thinking about my lack of beginning and ending habits as I was reading Tish Harrison Warren’s new book, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. While you’d think a book with a title like that might make a person like me, with my lack of morning and nighttime routines, feel guilty and conflicted, the opposite actually was true. Instead, after reading it, I looked at the minutes and hours that make up my days, and I felt hope that the daily rituals I do fall back on might give me enough of a framework to build on.

See, the chapters of this book aren’t titled with words like meditation, confession, and fasting, among the spiritual disciplines I do aspire to in my everyday life. Instead, the chapters are named Making the Bed, Brushing Teeth, and Eating Leftovers, things I actually already do despite the otherwise lack of structure. I know how to live a totally ordinary life with the most mundane responsibilities, and according to Warren, that means I’m halfway there.

“We don’t wake up daily and form a way of being-in-the-world from scratch, and we don’t think our way through every action of our day. We move in patterns that we have set over time, day by day. These habits and practices shape our loves, our desires, and ultimately who we are and what we worship,” Warren writes.

That’s why it’s not just important to try to implement new habits into our lives that reflect what we value, but also to go back to the habits we already embody and determine what they reveal about us. Warren does this by taking even the most frustrating of our habits, like losing our keys, or the most glorious part of the day, like calling a friend, and showing us how God is at work in those moments. If only we will listen, watch, and pay attention. This is how God forms and shape us.

“Sometimes the difference between drudgery and epiphany is just seeing things from the right angle, a frame that reframes everything, even the mundane,” writes James K.A. Smith in his endorsement of the book. “You don’t need to do more in a day, Warren shows. Instead, reframe the everyday as an extension of workshop, and folding the laundry, washing dishes, and even commuting become habitations of the Spirit.”

If you’ve ever longed to make your days count, to suck the life out of every minute, and to reflect on the hours and realize you were there the whole time, paying attention, you’ll want to read Liturgy of the Ordinary.

InterVarsity Press provided me with a review copy of Tish’s book so that I could share my honest thoughts about it, but they also provided me with an extra copy of the book so I could share one with one of you! Leave a comment on this post or share it via social media (be sure to tag me!) to enter this drawing. On December 15, I’ll select one name to send a free copy of Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. Can’t wait for you to read it!


Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.

  • Keta Cross ,

    As I continue to try and figure out who I am becoming , this book sounds like a good read and because I love there seems to be a some self awareness going on. Thanks for sharing !

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      Charity Singleton Craig ,

      Keta – I love the way you worded that — “who I am becoming.” So much motion and presence in that. I think this book would really help in your journey.

    • Ann Kroeker ,

      Brush your teeth! (I just paid for someone in the family to have a root canal done) And keep flossing. And thank you for reminding me of all that unfolds in reframing the ordinary, daily moments of life.

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        Charity Singleton Craig ,

        I know! I keep reminding myself that morning brushing isn’t sufficient. And yes, so much to learn in our ordinary moments.

      • Sharon A Gibbs ,

        Hi Friend! This book sounds amazing! And I love your thoughts on beginnings and endings.
        “These habits and practices shape our loves, our desires, and ultimately who we are and what we worship,” so true!
        I needed this reminder.

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          Charity Singleton Craig ,

          Thanks, Sharon. It’s a really great book. My blog post here is a little late for the book launch because I was savoring the reading and taking it slowly. It’s that kind of book. One that really makes you think.

        • Jane DeGroot ,

          Thoughtful stuff, here. Thanks, Charity for sharing this concept. I have a hunch there’s a lot of truth to it. I wonder, too, if being attentive to what we are doing–whatever it is–helps to give God the glory and not to us. In other words, when we are so self-conscious about what we are doing, we can deflect the attention off God and put it on ourselves. Being in the moment and focusing on what’s happening, in some way allows us to be free of the tyranny of self. Maybe writing has to be like that, too. That we get involved, caught up, captivated, mesmerized, even with our story that we are not aware that it is we who are writing. Just thinking out loud for a few minutes. Food for thought, to be sure. Thanks again for sending the article our way!

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            Charity Singleton Craig ,

            Jane – I really like your thoughts here, especially as they relate to writing. As I was reading, I was wondering about that fine line between attentiveness and self-consciousness. Maybe it has to do with which direction our attention is focused. I’ll be thinking more about your comment here. Thanks for popping in.

          • Angela Elliott ,

            Sounds interesting! Would love to read it. I need some motivation to get back on track with a better morning routine. The snooze button is the wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing for me. 🙂

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              Charity Singleton Craig ,

              Angela – I think you’d like this. What I didn’t explain in the post is that book is organized over the span of one day, from waking to sleeping and everything in between. Of course those ordinary tasks of our day serve as a springboard to talk about bigger, meatier topics, but it’s a lovely construct for the book.