Reflections at the Close of Ordinary Time

I’m a Baptist born and bred, but I have begun observing the liturgical calendar within this year. There is something grounding in reading the Bible seasonally alongside believers around the world.

This week—the week before Advent—marks the end of Ordinary Time, a portion of the liturgical calendar I didn’t even know existed. This season is not named because the season is average or boring. Instead, it is named for the latin word ordo from which we get our word “order.” It is a season of ordered life in the church—neither feasting or fasting, but faithful watchfulness for Advent.

There has been something resonant as I have read about the journey of Israel out of Egypt, or David’s path to the throne. Israel had escaped their season of suffering, but had not yet arrived  in the promise land (this was pre-40-years-of-wandering). David had been promised the throne by God, but Saul was not ready to hand it over. These were times of hope ahead, but also mourning was at bay for a moment.

And we know how things turned out. Israel had to wait longer than expected to take the promise land. David had to run and hide lest he be killed before he even go close to fulfilling his calling. But for a time, there was a time of faithful trust—a stewardship to be where God had placed them despite the average order of that time.

I find myself in a season of neither great joy or mourning, neither change or stagnancy, neither stressful or restful. My season in life is in and of itself an Ordinary Time. So what do I do in this time?

Honestly, I don’t totally know. I feel a little guilty not experiencing anything too traumatic or going through a huge life transition after a season of seemingly endless transition. I know this isn’t the case for most of you. But in a season to be marked by faithfulness, how does one seek to cultivate that faithfulness.

It looks like making space and time for practices that make me more like Jesus. It looks like reimagining a Sabbath focused more on reflection over my week and the week ahead and less like focusing on the inside of my eyelids. It looks like serving in and pursuing a community that is broken, but still where I am called to be. It looks like finding new ways to express gratitude. It looks like learning to lament with those who mourn and celebrate with those who are joyful.

According to Eugene Peterson, it’s long obedience in the same direction.

There is an order in this time in my life—a call to stay the course and faithfully look forward to whatever God may have ahead. I can so easily look at what has passed and want to dwell on its pain or cling to its victories. I can desperately race to what I think the future should hold for me, attempting to grasp or control.

Or I can do what is hard. I can dwell in the season God has placed me in for his purposes. Faithfulness and hope. That is what is being cultivated in these days.

As Ordinary Time comes to a close, there is an excitement to moving in to Advent. There is also the reminder to enjoy and rest in the order of my current days. I do not know what lies ahead, but God can be trusted in the order.

How has God met you in the Ordinary seasons of your life?

Something Small, Something Simple

I shared a couple weeks back about feeling cranky with my faith. Some of this stems from some things in my church that may not be to my personal preference. Most of it stems from a personal pursuit of God that was too narrow and self-focused.

It’s easy for my heart to go from discerning and deep-thinking to cynical and critical, and I was seeing evidence of this in my relationship with God. So much felt like thrill-seeking—the next conference, the next bible study, the next coffee with a mentor—that would bring the insight, depth, or change I was aching for. But God is not a spiritual crack dealer.

God is found in the simple and small—the word, prayer, and community. And so a journey to find personal liturgy began.

…And slowly crashed and burned.

Reading James K.A. Smith’s You Are What You Love was insightful, bringing words to feelings and longings I’ve held in my faith life for so long. The book is a call back to small daily practices that realign us with God’s story. It’s a call to look at our habits and what they point our hearts to and retraining our habits to point to the gospel—what we truly want to love. It’s looking for liturgy in the everyday.

Thing is, the book was on the philosophy of this more than the practice. So what do daily liturgies look like for a single girl in an evangelical church?

Honestly, I still don’t know. What I do know is this:

I operate better under structure, though I try to avoid it to keep my autonomy

Autonomy is not biblical, and that is something I’ve had to examine and accept. Having a structure to my days and weeks helps me to function better and live healthier. Having habits to look to from the outset keeps me from feeling lost or purposeless. It instead brings focus and shape.

I love my job and the flexibility it brings, but I also acknowledge that it is an opportunity to steward my time and habits well and I want to do so in a way that welcomes community. Not in a way that hordes my autonomy.

Prayer is not passive, but is, in fact, the most powerful thing we can do

Prayer was something I did in a prayer journal when I had plenty of time to write out long prayers by hand in a prayer journal. So guess what was the first thing to go out the window when life got busy?

So, yes, I still love those extended times of prayer, but I’ve also found that I want to form habits that allow me to pray without ceasing. When a friend I haven’t talked to in a while comes to mind, I pray for them. When something on the news stirs my hear to be anxious, I pray about it. When I’m at a loss, I pray.

Not all the time, but enough that this is becoming second nature, rather than just some new thing I’ll try for three days and forget about.

The church is built when the body of Christ is down on it’s knees

Yes, spiritual formation can happen in big arenas with flashy speakers. But lasting change and discipleship happens in the quiet moments alone, between the word and prayer.

I can think I know what is right for myself, or the church, or society at large, but I am so often wrong. Starting my day with prayer and time in the bible rather than the news or my email inbox brings a different rhythm to my days.

I have started reading Seeking God’s Face each morning and am grateful for the reminder of who God is and what his heart is for every morning. The book pairs a psalm and passage of scripture with prayer prompts and excerpts from various books of prayer. It also guides you through the seasons of the Christian year—something very new to this baptist girl.

This habit has been refreshing and grounding.

I’ve found that seeking to live in God’s story is not something glamorous or earth-shattering—not in the day-to-day. It’s small, it’s simple, and it’s so very necessary.

How are you seeking small and simple habits to point you back to God’s story?