Because I love liturgy, I was both excited and intrigued to read Tish Harrison Warren's Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. In this book, Tish explores her daily life “as a liturgy – as something that both reveals and shapes what she loves and worships.” In doing so, she reminds her readers that “the question is not whether we have a liturgy. The question is, 'What kind of people is our liturgy forming us to be?'”
The parts of our routine that Tish explores as liturgy include many of the mundane tasks of life, including waking, making the bed, brushing teeth, losing keys, eating leftovers, sitting in traffic, checking e-mail, and calling a friend. In connecting faith with such ordinary facets of our lives, Tish not only redefines what it means to worship, but she also skillfully (and seemingly effortlessly) helps her readers better integrate their faith into their ordinary lives.
Tish's writing is beautiful and her words are profound (often reminding me of Kathleen Norris). For that reason, I savored this book, reading it slowly, allowing the ideas from each chapter to gradually work their way into my own life. For example, since reading Tish's chapter on brushing your teeth, that simple act has become holy for me, reminding me of the remarkableness of my body. As Tish says, “When I stand before the sink brushing my teeth and see my reflection in the mirror, I want it to be an act of blessing, where I remember that these teeth I'm brushing are made by God for a good purpose, that my body is inseparable from my soul and that both deserve care.”
Similarly, Tish's chapter, “Sitting in Traffic: Liturgical Time and an Unhuried God” has helped me reevaluate waiting. Like so many people in this day and age, I loathe waiting. Since I first purchased a Smart Phone, I've found it difficult to simply sit and wait without aimlessly scrolling through my phone. In this chapter, Tish challenges people to see the value in waiting. She reminds her readers, “In the liturgical year, there is never celebration without preparation. First we wait, we mourn, we ache, we repent. We aren't ready to celebrate until we acknowledge, over time through ritual and worship, that we and this world are not yet right and whole.” She classifies waiting as an “act of faith that is oriented toward the future.”
To be sure, Liturgy of the Ordinary is a tremendous book. Whether you read it alone or together with a small group, whether you attend a church that utilizes liturgy at every service or are entirely unfamiliar with liturgy, Tish's words will challenge you. Although the practices Tish examines are “ordinary”, her words are not. They're filled with profound insights that will help readers discover the sacredness of our ordinary practices and in so doing, encounter God.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Liturgy of the Ordinary in exchange for a fair and honest review.