I’m going to be really honest with you here...this series on work and rest has been really tough for me to write! What began as a fun post inspired by our hard-working boys has turned into an all-in “rabbit hole” exploration of work, rest, leisure, legalism, and grace. And this post is the hardest of them all for me, because the concept of liturgy in everyday life is so new to me. So be forewarned: I am no expert in this area. In fact, I am only just beginning this exploration. Maybe we can explore this together, then, and share our insights and experiences as we grow.
Liturgy...what does that word bring to mind for you? I used to see it as simply an order of worship for a church service; sort of a “template” that you would plug different scriptures and readings into. I didn’t see that as being bad; in fact, as a worship ministry student at Spring Arbor University, we studied the liturgical model quite a bit and I really enjoyed it. Of all the different church services we visited, the liturgical Anglican service was probably my favorite. So, I already had a favorable impression of liturgy for church worship, but for a long time (as in up until about 6 months ago!) that’s where my thoughts on liturgy stopped.
Over the last year or so, several influences have come together which have begun to change and form the way I think about liturgy, not just for Sunday worship, but for everyday life. I’ll just touch on each one of them briefly here:
Morning TIme: If you’ve been reading my previous posts at all, you already know that “morning time” is kind of a big deal around here! I was first introduced to the concept, like so many others, by Cindy Rollins. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, morning time is very much like it’s own little liturgy. Since you don’t spend a lot of time on each “subject,” you’re moving pretty quickly through a preset order of songs, art, recitations, and readings. Sounds a lot like a liturgy, doesn’t it? Currently our morning time “order” looks something like this, with variations depending on the day, the amount of time we have, etc…
Light our candle
Prayer (we use Aquinas’s Ante Studium, or Prayer Before Study)
Listen to beautiful music while we look at a piece of art
Sing a hymn
Recite our scripture memory passage
Review and recite poetry
Recite geography facts (we’re just getting started with this, so right now we’re just doing the continents!)
Reading from Plutarch or Shakespeare
Reading from something for the younger kids (Aesop’s Fables, 50 Famous Stories Retold, etc)
Read a chapter of something fun (Right now the Little House series)
Recite the Apostle’s Creed
Blow out our candle
I don’t tell the kids that what we’re doing is a “liturgy.” They wouldn’t even know what I was talking about if I did! Someday we might dive deeper into what that means, especially for the older ones, but for now I really want the rhythm of learning together to become natural, normal, and unforced throughout their days, and especially in the practice of morning time.
Learning as liturgy: Over this past summer I had the pleasure of taking part in an online course called “Bringing Schole to Your School and Homeschool” with Dr. Christopher Perrin of Classical Academic Press and about 20 other wonderful women who were also seeking ways to bring truth, goodness, and beauty into their children’s education. We covered a lot of ground in the course, exploring the way the ancients viewed education, all the way through the Church fathers and Middle Ages. I had two major takeaways from this course: first, there is a LOT that I don’t know! I could be studying this for the rest of my life. And second, bringing truth, goodness, and beauty into your homeschool (and life in general) isn’t hard, but it does take intention. This endeavor needs to be reflected in my personal life, my own reading, the way I order our homeschool days, and even the curricula and books I am giving my children. Morning time has helped me tremendously with this because it has forced me to really think about what the most important things are, and given me a framework for incorporating them into our schedule.
Life as liturgy: Around the same time that I was taking the course over the summer, a facebook ad kept popping up on my feed for something called the “Sacred Ordinary Days Planner.” I don’t typically click on facebook ads, but this one kept catching my attention, so I checked it out. In a nutshell, it’s a planner that brings together daily scripture readings, to-do lists, daily scheduling, and a rhythm of work and rest so you can avoid burnout. I downloaded a sample month and used it consistently, and it was wonderful! Instead of viewing just church worship as liturgy, or just morning time as liturgy, I began to view my entire day as a liturgy. It helped me to establish a meaningful framework for my days so that I can be very intentional about what I accomplish. I have a tendency to want to go in a million directions all the time because so many things are interesting to me. But when I stick to my “schedule” (and I used that term loosely because I am not a really “regimented” person!), I am able to focus on the important things, follow through on them, and have a sense of fulfillment without burnout.
How does all of this relate back to the concept of hard work? Two words keep coming to the forefront of my mind: intention and diligence.
Viewing my life through the lens of liturgy has really brought intention to the choices I make on a daily basis. Instead of going aimlessly through my days, working like crazy on something that came to me on a whim and then realizing it wasn’t worth the effort, I now have a framework - a schedule - for investing my time and effort into the things that matter. Intention reveals the meaning behind the hard work.
Following through on this daily “life liturgy” doesn’t just happen all on its own, however! It does require some diligence on my part to stick with it. I am not perfect in this, by any means, but I am slowly learning how to have the desire and self-discipline to stay focused. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and it is the little daily choices to pursue right and lovely things, that add up to a sanctified life. Is it “work”? Yes. Is it “hard”? Sometimes. Is it rewarding? Always. Not in the “I just won the jackpot prize” kind of reward, but in the deep, lasting reward of contentment and inner joy that comes from listening to and obeying the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit day after day. It’s a continuous, ever-deepening cycle; as we pursue that which is good and true, our affections begin to be ordered to love those things. And as we grow in our love of those things, we desire to pursue it more...and on and on, until at the end of my life I pray that I might be able to say with Paul:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
Take the Next Step:
Do your days follow a regular pattern? Does this pattern reflect your values?
How could you be more intentional about how you spend your time, both in work and rest?
At the end of each day, do you generally feel that you have spent your time in meaningful work, or do you feel like your days are slipping by without focus on the things that really matter?
Consider implementing some of the resources mentioned here, such as morning time or a planner (and I do highly recommend Sacred Ordinary Days!)