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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"Liturgy of the Ordinary" (Tish Harrison Warren)

TITLE: Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life
AUTHOR: Tish Harrison Warren
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2016, (192 pages).

Spirituality is not just something for the clergy or the spiritualists. Neither is it reserved only for the retreat centers and extraordinary circumstances. It is in fact very practical and can be implemented in ordinary spheres of life. It does not have to be difficult in terms of complicated rituals or requiring great theological training. Covering a 24 hour cycle, author Tish Harrison Warren shows us the way to instilling spiritual sensitivity through our daily activities. She helps us turn work into opportunities for worship. In doing so, she helps us avoid dichotomizing the sacred from the secular. She gives us eleven ordinary activities that we do going through the 24-hour clock framework. We begin with waking up in the morning after a night's sleep. She compares this with the act of baptism, how we are birthed from old to new. Each morning begins with dew of freshness. We see the world from this perspective and to realize that God is constantly forming us as new people each day to see fresh perspectives amid the routine and mundane. We avoid the tendency to cut out life and focus only on the exciting and sensational. Warren is convinced that theology practiced in the ordinary is essentially what the Christian life is about. Our ritual of making the bed reminds us that the things we do so regularly are habit forming. Just like many people whose lives have been changed by technology. They wake up and the first thing they check is their social media updates; their emails; or their messages from various apps. While convenient and fast, such digital devices have subversively lowered our tolerance for boredom. Just today, I read about the talk of a new law in France that gives workers the right not to connect or be contacted by their bosses during their break time. I think there is increasingly a need for some of us who tend to hog the digital waves. In brushing teeth, we learn about maintaining cleanliness and the way Christianity teaches the importance of caring for our physical selves. As we prepare to leave our houses, many of us drive. In our rush, there is always a chance of losing something such as our keys. We retrace our steps. We blame our carelessness. We get frustrated when the search is prolonged. Then and only then do we embark on prayer. It is a powerful reminder of how we take God for granted, leaving God out until we most desperately needed Him. We have such a patient and magnanimous God!

Eating leftovers can be an exercise of appreciating the overlooked nourishment. Like reading the Bible. Some of us tend to prefer reading the opinions of others instead of appreciating the Bible for itself. It's like preferring processed food instead of the natural thing. Warren shares about marital spats and the need to pass the peace in our relationships. Using emails can become a way in which we bless. Sitting in traffic can become a sacred way of resting and maintaining an unhurried posture. Calling a friend points us toward the need for community building. Drinking tea is an opportunity to savor the moment and to dwell in the sanctuary of rest. It also reminds me of the Sabbath keeping. Finally, we come back to the time to go to bed. An important tip is to learn to shut down our busy technology activities an hour or more before we sleep. Doing so not only prepares us mentally and physically, it is a good spiritual practice of recognizing our humanness. We are not computers that can easily shit off at the push of a button. We need time to warm down. Perhaps, that is something we all lack in our busy modern lives. We need to capture the essence of God's work amid the ordinary. Spiritual maturity is very much about seeing the miraculous among the monotonous; the extraordinary amid the ordinary; and the supernatural in our natural world.

Most importantly, we do not have to wait until a specific season like Lent before embarking on any spiritual disciplines. We can do it anytime. Warren has given us eleven ordinary moments of the day to help us do just that. we can surely find our own unique ways to practice the liturgy in what we call the ordinary day. This book is not just a call to work well, it is also an urgent plea for us to rest well. We learn that nearly 30 percent of adults in a National Health Survey tend to sleep less than 6 hours per day. That is why the lack of sleep is increasingly a public health concern. This is linked to our inability to recognize a deeper crisis: A spiritual crisis. For until we learn to see the liturgy among the ordinary, we will fail to recognize the disembodied states we have become in this complex and often busy world.

Tish Harrison Warren is a priest in the Anglican Church. She has spent seven years with the Inter-Varsity Graduate and Faculty Ministries and now works in the InterVarsity Women in the Academy and Professions.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Inter-Varsity Press and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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