The Liturgy of the Everyday
About the Guest
The book of common prayer contains liturgies for weddings, funerals, and holy days. What if there were liturgies for more menial tasks like paying bills, planting a garden, or changing diapers? Douglas McKelvey helps us remember that God is the God of every day.
Douglas Kaine McKelveyDouglas Kaine McKelvey is an author, lyricist, poet, and screenwriter who was born in New Hampshire and grew up in East Texas. His published works include the best-selling prayer book Every Moment Holy: New Liturgies for Daily Life, a critically-acclaimed middle-grade chapter book titled The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog, a novel-length story in Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Tales collection (The Places Beyond the Maps), a family book journal (Stories We ...more
What if there were liturgies for more menial tasks like paying bills, planting a garden, or changing diapers? Douglas McKelvey helps us remember that God is the God of every day.
The Liturgy of the Everyday
Michelle: As you look around, everything you see—God created it. In Psalm 19, King David wrote these words: “The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of His hands.” But how often do you think of God in your everyday moments?—you know, in those mundane times? Here’s Douglas McKelvey.
Douglas: If this is the true story of history, what is revealed in Scripture of God’s plan—and if this is where it’s going, to this glorious end—then whether that moment is changing a diaper, or planting a flower, or filling out your taxes, it follows that every moment of our lives, no matter how mundane, finds its context within that storyline/that greater story of redemption.
Michelle: If we believe God is in every moment of our lives, what should our response be? We’ll talk about that today on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. Today we are going to take a journey through prayer. It’s going to be a special day. So let’s just begin right here.
Meet me, Oh Christ, in the stillness of this morning;
Move me, Oh Spirit, to quiet my heart.
Mend me, Oh Father, from yesterday’s harms;
Let me enter this new day aware of my need
And awake to your grace, Oh Lord.
Prepare our souls for the sorrows and joys we will encounter,
That every circumstance would serve only to draw us nearer to you.
May the light of that eternal city illuminate our hearts, our oaths, our vision, Through these next hours, Lord.
So you must come repeatedly to the end of trust in your own strength, Child.
You must avail yourself, again and again, of His strength.
Walk with us now, O LORD, in the stillness of this tilled and quiet space,
That when we venture again into the still greater garden of Your world,
We might be prepared to offer our lives as a true and nourishing provision
To all who hunger for You.
Michelle: Don’t you feel more peaceful right now?
Over a year ago, I was visiting a friend and her family on the east coast. I had just finished emceeing at an event and was just depleted and tired. One morning, my friend Jenny handed me a book. This book is titled Every Moment Holy, and it’s by Douglas McKelvey. At first glance, it was just a book of prayers to guide me through my days and my life; but it’s a book of liturgies.
Let me just give you a little background on liturgies. It’s actually a part of Sunday morning worship services, where people read together: it could be a creed, or Scripture, or even a simple prayer. Now, I know some think of this as something from the 1600s or as “too stuffy”; you know? But, for people like me, it’s a way of centering my mind on the most important thing that matters—God.
This book, Every Moment Holy, I have used before going on stage, before reading a new book, or doing my laundry. God used this book to quiet my soul and refill my tank, because Douglas McKelvey is reminding us that every moment is sacred/every moment is holy.
I had a chance to sit down and talk with Douglas McKelvey about the importance of liturgy in our daily moments.
Douglas: The church does have, you know, established and very well-thought-out and stated liturgies for many of those important things—those things that we would look at. Those kind of things have been addressed in terms of people thinking Christianly about them, bringing Scripture to bear in framing those things, and giving us a roadmap to walk through them by looking at some of the more ordinary, mundane, pedestrian moments of our days.
My hope was that, by exploring those in the book, it would help me/it would reframe my vision. It would be a way of practicing an awareness of the presence of God and that it would potentially serve other people in the body of Christ in the same way, because we know—in our head knowledge, if someone pushed us to say, “Is this true or false?,”—I think most of us in the body of Christ would say, “Well, yes, I know God is always with me; Scripture tells me that.” But I think we move through so much of our day-to-day lives without being aware of that.
You know, I think it’s interesting—we all have work that we have to do, and we need His hand to guide us; but there are too many days where I just get up and I just start doing what I need to do—I just go through my day. It’s not that I don’t think about Him, but I don’t sit there and think through asking Him to come in. That’s really what I’m hearing from you—is that we need to be so mindful of who He is and that He is in, even these little moments, like the brewing of coffee.
Douglas: It’s part of the process of sanctification, which is not a sudden change; right? It’s a slow, daily process of being incrementally, gradually conformed more and more to the likeness of Christ. I think a helpful way to think of it is, you know, think of how a child—like my youngest daughter, when she was three years old—she would dress in these outlandish tutus and ballet outfits, and would, you know, kind of randomly flail around the room, pretending she was a dancer.
I never thought to reprimand her, and to tell her: “What are you doing? You’re not a dancer,”—you know—“You’re just a little kid, flailing around.”
Douglas: And the reason that, of course, I wouldn’t say that to her is because, I think, we recognize that children playing—at being a dancer, being a musician, being a mother or a father, or a fireman, or whatever it is—that they are exercising, through their imagination, possibilities that can become realities; right? By 17, my daughter was an accomplished and graceful dancer.
Douglas: The process of sanctification—the process of becoming more engaged, moment to moment, in our relationship to God: more responsive to Him; more aware of how we want to become more like Christ—that’s a gradual thing. There is an element to it that, sometimes, is maybe like child’s play—
Douglas: —where it’s like we look at the person of Jesus in Scripture and we see: “Jesus was like this,” “Jesus did this. I’m going to try to be more like that than the way I have been.” We’re not going to do it perfectly.
Douglas: But, in the process of being mindful of it, we are becoming a little bit more like that. The possibility of being more like Jesus in that way becomes more real. Over time, as that process continues and plays out, we do become more mature as followers of Jesus.
Michelle: Such insight from Douglas McKelvey. Isn’t it exciting that God is maturing us? —and as we spend more and more moments with Him, we are becoming more and more like Christ. It’s in those everyday moments, like remembering Him in our evening hours. Here’s a liturgy for nightfall.
Let our inability to ever perfectly love you, Oh God,
Drive us daily into the arms of Christ,
Wherein the enormity of Your mercy,
And the scandal of such grace lavished upon us would birth in us a new and Greater desire to do that which pleases You.
Somehow, use even our weaknesses for Your glory.
Michelle: That was a “Liturgy for Nightfall.”
You know, as I’ve read Douglas’s book and listened to him talk, I was reminded of how God washes us with His Spirit when we mindfully sit in His presence and ask Him to enter each of our moments, like the planting of plants. It may seem simple; but remember the passage in Matthew, where Jesus says not to worry about our days but to consider the lilies of the field. You know, everything in our life points back to God—He created it all! He maintains us all and, yet, He invites us in through the act of gardening.
O, Creator, Who calls forth life
May this ground and our labors here invested
Yield good provision for the nourishing of both body and soul.
Lord, let our labors in this garden be fruitful.
Lord, let our labors in this garden be blessed.
Walk with us now, O Lord, in the stillness of this tilled and quiet space,
That when we venture again into the still greater garden of Your world,
We might be prepared by the long practice of Your presence
To offer our lives as a true and nourishing provision
To all who hunger for mercy, and hope, and meaning—
A true and nourishing provision to all who hunger for You.
Michelle: As I have been listening to you, today, talk, I’m just reminded that we need to be mindful of who God is during those times and how He has given us those good things.
I do have your book. I read through the liturgy for planting of plants—of the planting of a garden. Now, as I go back, I look through my garden and I’m like: “God has given me these plants for beauty, and it’s for His beauty,” and “I’m creating a sanctuary; but really, it was Him that created the sanctuary,”—just always reframing things to think about Him.
Douglas: I think it is/I think it really is about reframing—and not just reframing for the sake of coming up with an outlook or a vision that is a little more pragmatically useful or successful for us—but it’s really about looking at the totality of Scripture and the revelation of God’s story of redemption: of where we began in the Garden; and then the Fall that threw everything into chaos, and toil, and sin, and strife, and suffering; but then, where it’s heading—to this redemption and restoration—this thing that is so good that we dare not even let ourselves believe it, because it seems too good to be true; and yet it is true that all of the sad things are going to come untrue.
There is no good thing in creation/in our lives that will be forever lost. Those things will all be remade, restored, redeemed, and find their fulfillment and their true identity in the new heavens and the new earth. We have this magnificent story—you know, it’s like a fairytale of this King, who has promised to come back and set all things right; and initiate this reign of eternal peace, and joy, and human flourishing and fruitfulness; to restore, completely, the relationship of God, and man, and creation.
It’s in that context that every moment of our lives is lived; right?—whether that moment is changing a diaper; or planting a flower; or filling out your taxes; or you know, standing in church and joining in congregational worship. If we truly believe that all of life is lived under the gaze of God and He is sovereign—and everything that happens to us, God redeems and turns into an invitation for us to draw closer to Him—then, if this is what we believe is true/if this is the true story of history, what is revealed in Scripture of God’s plan—and if this is where it’s going, to this glorious end—then it follows that every moment of our lives, no matter how mundane, finds its context within that storyline/that greater story of redemption.
Grant us strength and grace, Oh God,
Sufficient to the remains of the day,
That we might move through its unfolding
In humble obedience to Your will,
And in sensitivity to Your Spirit,
And in joyful expectancy for Your coming kingdom.
May the light of that eternal city illuminate our hearts, our oaths, our vision
Through these next hours, O LORD.
Michelle: That’s the “Liturgy for Mid-day.” We’ve been talking with Douglas McKelvey about his book, Every Moment Holy. And you know, it’s important to remember that every moment that we live is not wasted by our Creator. We need to keep our minds on Him at all times. That’s hard, because we are forgetful people; we easily get distracted and we look away from Him.
We’re going to take a break; but when we come back, I want to continue talking about this using of liturgy and prayer over the mundane things to keep our minds centered on God. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill.
Have you ever been fearful? You know, when you’re fearful, someone’s going to counsel you with these words from 1 Timothy 1:7: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” But how do you get there? How do you take God’s words and really implant them in your heart? One way may be a liturgy; here’s one for fear of failure.
Under the Spirit’s tutelage,
Such fears might become messengers of grace,
Revealing to you only what was true all along.
In yourself, you do not have the strength, or the wisdom, or the ability
To accomplish the task to which you are called.
And so you must come repeatedly
To the end of trust in your own strength, Child.
You must avail yourself, again and again, of His strength.
Use then, O LORD, even my failures and my fears of failing
To advance Your purposes in my heart,
And in Your kingdom, and in this world.
My confidence is only in You. Amen.
Michelle: Today, we are taking some time to reframe our minds and our thoughts and remembering that God is in the little things. We’re taking some time to look at prayer and liturgy today. From my vantage point, I’m watching young people being pushed and pushed to do great things rather than just, maybe, being.
I’m not looking out and saying, you know, how we’re pressing in on them is necessarily wrong, but there’s no lax for just having an ordinary life.
Douglas: Yes; my wife and I have had a number of conversations over the years about that very thing, especially as our girls were teenagers; because there are people, who are very well-meaning, but who do give this message to kids that you have to be doing great things for God: “You need to go take your high school for Christ.” That’s an awful lot of pressure on a kid; right? When what God is calling us to, as His children, has a lot more to do with that learning of day-to-day faithfulness and obedience in the small things; in the tending of the relationships amongst our families/our friends; you know, the other kids at school/our communities.
And faithfulness in the Christian walk is about learning to love people, with a Christ-like love, in those contexts. You know, that same kid—who’s feeling this pressure: “Okay, what does this even mean?—to ‘take my high school for Christ’?”—is being told they need to be doing something other, and more spectacular, than what they’re already doing.
The real battle in their heart might be to be patient and loving with their little sister.
Michelle: That’s true.
Douglas: That might be where that epic, cosmic spiritual battle line is drawn in their life. They might not have the maturity, or the gifting as an evangelist, or whatever it might mean to “take their school for Christ,” but God is clearly calling them to love their family and, you know, to be a faithful witness in the context of the relationships that He has entrusted them with.
Michelle: I think that’s a good word for all of us because I know—in my life and in many of my friends’ lives, we feel like we have to push so hard and meet this certain standard—when God is asking us to love Him and love others; above all, to love Him first and to have that relationship/that tight relationship with Him.
Douglas: Yes; yes. I mean, I’m speaking from my own experience as well. I can look in Scripture and see that the call to love with a Christ-like love is clearly there—it’s front and center. It’s going to take me my whole life just to kind of stumble partway down that path from where I am; so maybe, I need to let go of these other things that I think—or that I’ve thought for so long that: “This is what the Christian life needs to look like,”—and say: “God, those are in Your hands; and however You want to use me in my life, I’m okay with. I’m going to quit seeking all these things, because I suddenly see so clearly that I’m not even at all like Jesus in the way that I treat people and the way that I make people feel.”
That’s where I need to start; you know? That’s what doing a great thing for God would look like in my life—is just that I become a more compassionate, empathetic, caring, loving, merciful, kind, forgiving human being, who extends grace to the people around me.
Grant us clarity, creativity, and discernment;
Prepare our souls for the sorrows, and joys, and celebrations,
And disappointments we will encounter
That every circumstance would serve only to draw us nearer to You.
Michelle: Wow! Thanks to Douglas McKelvey for joining me today and sharing with us just how God is in those little moments—and how we can welcome God in and serve Him with our life—while we’re doing those small things like brushing our teeth, or doing our laundry, or paying our bills; because actually, if you have money in your checking account to pay your bills, that’s because God gave you a job!—and He is providing for you! That’s a very good thing. Today has been refreshing for me—to remember how God cares for us. I hope today has been refreshing for you, too.
A few weeks ago, Ron Deal and I started a conversation about loss and suffering and building a community to help each other through those hard times. There is so much to be said, so Ron and I are going to pick up where we left off and discuss the loss of a loved one. This is something that Ron can speak into; because he and his wife Nan lost their 12-year-old son, Connor. I hope you’ll join us for that conversation. It will be a meaningful conversation, filled with help and even hope. That’s on the next FamilyLife This Week.
Hey, thanks for listening today! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producer, Meredith Empie. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, with the help of Meredith Empie, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator. The liturgies today were read by my friends: Megan, Shannon, Christy, Grant, Jim, and Zion.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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