How ‘the ordinary becomes a container for the divine’

My brother and sister in law gave me an Amazon gift card for my birthday. It didn’t take me long to go straight to my Wish List and find the two books I’ve been most longing for. One is finally going to order my life (I know it! Come on, Organized Simplicity!)

The other is going to be discussed on these pages over and over and over. I can feel it.

To Dance With God was recommended by my friend Nancy in San Francisco, who taught a course in our church on living as a Missional family. She often alluded to this book, which is subtitled Family Ritual and Community Celebration. I can’t express how much I long for intentional ritual and spiritual rhythm in our family’s life. I want our lives to be seasonal, measured by the Church calendar, and our instruction to our children in the faith to be grounded and ordered, not simply shaped by our whims or lucky conversations. But I also don’t want to be the parents who force boring “devotional” times on our kids. (I have this sick feeling when I think about a half-hearted dad reading scripture to bored kids in the living room.) I want to wow them with wonder. I want their senses to be stirred by the beauty, the blessing, the power of the God we worship. I want their worship to be childlike, tactile, magical.

When my kids grow up and remember the autumns of their childhood, I want for them not only the magic of cooler nights and bundling in blankets at the football stadium, I also want them to connect the fall season with All Saints Day and how we made an attempt to remember those we’ve loved who’ve died. I want their memories of Advent and Christmas to be tied to so much more than gift opening, but to recall how we prepared ourselves as a family for Christ’s birth, how we acted out the story with their toys. I want their memories of Holy Week to include how we used our hands: baked Easter bread, made a prayer corner in our home with hand-drawn pictures on the wall.

I love thinking about these things and I can’t wait to share them with you as we enter from Ordinary Time into the Church seasons. Until then, I’ll leave you with this:

This Church celebrates our cycles and seasons, inviting us to see and engage and feel and touch and be aware and grow and be transformed. Through myth and symbol the experiences which make up our daily lives are affirmed and made sacred.

This creative and poetic Church helps us to pay full attention to what we might otherwise deem ordinary and commonplace. Rites and symbols use the ordinary and earthy elements of our existence and, by encircling them, ratify, sancitfy, complete. The ordinary becomes the container for the divine and safely holds what was uncontainable. The transcendent is disclosed in what is wonderfully familiar: bread, wine, fire, ash, earth, water, oil, tears, seeds, songs, feastings and fastings, pains and joys, bodies and thoughts, regressions and transformations…In its creative function, the Church speaks directly to the heart, a heart which hears symbols, not rational vocabulary (7).

How good is that?!


Filed under Books

6 Responses to How ‘the ordinary becomes a container for the divine’

  1. Maybe you know about this already, but Amy Snell did a really beautiful talk last year about the church year, and posted it all online at:
    Check it out if you haven’t before. She offers beautiful examples of how her family lives out liturgy and ritual.

  2. Mollie

    Lately I’ve been feeling a pull for my family to experience Christ through ritual and intentionality, but the Churches of Christ have not traditionally observed the liturgical calendar, so I’m clueless. I just ordered the book you mentioned above. Thanks!

  3. That is great! I want this too, but I’ve never seen it lived out. I started last year w/trying to make Advent more meaningful in our family and then practiced Lent myself for the first time this year. I’ll be looking forward to hearing more about how this looks in your family life.

  4. Sam

    Again, this is one of the gifts the Methodist church gave me. Observing the liturgical year is really wonderful and has taught me so much through the years. I think it helps kids to understand, too - I remember being confused as a kid, thinking that Jesus magically became a man in the months between Christmas and Easter. Can’t wait to hear more about this book!

  5. Sam and Callie, I promise to post more on it as I try her ideas. Thanks!

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