Editor's note:

On March 6th the Renovaré Book Club will begin our third book of the season: Tish Harrison Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary. Tish, an Anglican priest, author, wife, and mother, shares some background to her book in the Book Club Introduction:

This book began as a simple thought one day around four years ago. I was home in our tiny, messy house with a newborn and a toddler, remembering some of the more outwardly “risky” things I had down in my twenties—times I briefly spent in a war-torn area of Uganda or working with homeless teenagers or drug addicts­—and, almost in passing, I noticed that I experienced more angst and anxiety in a given day of my seemingly ordinary life than when I was in the midst of seemingly riskier adventures. It was a moment’s thought; nothing revolutionary, certainly nothing to write a book about! But that thought began to grow, and I began to look at how I wrestled with fear and a sense of meaningless in my quotidian days. I wrote an essay out of that experience called “Courage in the Ordinary,” and the response to it was overwhelming. I got emails and comments from hundreds of people from all over the world about how they struggled with the same thing. Clearly, I thought, this wasn’t simply my personal struggle or merely the seasonal struggle of moms with young children, the sheer “everydayness” of life is something that many of us in different life stages wrestle with.

As that essay became the genesis of Tish’s book, we thought we’d share a portion of it here. You can read the entire essay at The Well. And it’s not too late to join the Book Club

—Renovaré Team

A prominent New Monasticism community house had a sign on the wall that famously read “Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.” My life is really rich in dirty dishes (and diapers) these days and really short in revolutions. I go to a church full of older people who live pretty normal, middle-class lives in nice, middle-class houses. But I have really come to appreciate this community, to see their lifetimes of sturdy faithfulness to Jesus, their commitment to prayer, and the tangible, beautiful generosity that they show those around them in unnoticed, unimpressive, unmarketable, unrevolutionary ways. And each week, we average sinners and boring saints gather around ordinary bread and wine and Christ himself is there with us. 

And here is the embarrassing truth: I still believe in and long for a revolution. I still think I can make a difference beyond just my front door. I still want to live radically for Jesus and be part of him changing the world. I still think mediocrity is dull, and I still fret about settling. 

But I’ve come to the point where I’m not sure anymore just what God counts as radical. And I suspect that for me, getting up and doing the dishes when I’m short on sleep and patience is far more costly and necessitates more of a revolution in my heart than some of the more outwardly risky ways I’ve lived in the past. And so this is what I need now: the courage to face an ordinary day—an afternoon with a colicky baby where I’m probably going to snap at my two-year old and get annoyed with my noisy neighbor—without despair, the bravery it takes to believe that a small life is still a meaningful life, and the grace to know that even when I’ve done nothing that is powerful or bold or even interesting that the Lord notices me and is fond of me and that that is enough.  

I’ve read a lot of really good discussions lately about the recent emphasis on “radical” Christianity (see one at an InterVarsity blog and one at Christianity Today). This Radical Christian movement is responsible for a lot of good, and I’m grateful that I’ve been irrevocably shaped by it for some fifteen years. When we fearfully cling to the status quo and the comfortable, we must be challenged by the call of a life-altering, comfort-afflicting Jesus. But for those of us—and there are a lot of us—who are drawn to an edgy, sizzling spirituality, we need to embrace radical ordinariness and to be grounded in the challenge of the stable mundaneness of the well-lived Christian life. 

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