Liturgies and Smoking

I've been thinking lately about what it is that liturgy does. Since liturgy is basically the habitual worship of God, the closest thing I can compare it to is smoking cigarettes, which I know seems weird, but hear me out.

The first time you smoke a cigarette, it doesn't change you. It might set you on a new path, but it's still a crossroads of sorts. It doesn't turn your lungs black, it doesn't really do much. This is the same as the first time you say a written prayer, or read a certain scripture.

But as your smoking habit grows, you, unfortunately, become addicted. It changes everything about you too. You drive differently because now you have to drive one handed with the window cracked while you hold your cigarette in your other hand. You go to different places since you now have to buy your cigarettes from different stores. Your whole day is organized differently because now you must set aside time every hour or so for a smoke break. It changes you physically too. Your lungs grow blacker, your sense of smell changes, your fingers perpetually smell of cigarettes. Other people always smell smoke on you, too. Your skin changes, your eating habits change, it really affects everything. You become a smoker.

You didn't spontaneously change into a smoker with the first cigarette. It was easy to wash the smell off, it wasn't life-changing at that moment. But it built into a complete life change.

It's the same in liturgy, with one huge difference. Liturgy is never addictive. It is always a choice. Afterall, choice is freedom. We must freely decide to worship the Lord, each and every time. Liturgy will never chain you or try to control you. This makes it more difficult, but also keeps you human.

Liturgy, though, will change you. It will change everything about you, all of your habits, and it will also change the way people experience you. Maybe not quite the way you smell, but it will change the way people react to you.

Starting a liturgy is hard. You might cough your way through it, it might overwhelm you, you will probably fail miserably. I suggest starting as small as possible. The hardest part of a new habit is setting aside the space. Sometimes, like on January 1, we're all gung-ho and excited about starting our "new life." And we're usually exhausted and burnt out before January 31 because we're trying to squeeze a new life into our time and while still keeping the old life. You can't live two lives. It's best to start a new habit on a random day, like Thursday, by setting aside five minutes.

Just five minutes! The hardest part is the setting aside, the creating of space, so the smaller the space you are trying to set aside, the easier it is to do. Sitting down to a planned 30 minutes of Bible study on your first day is sure to fail. No one, including you, is used to leaving that space alone, yet. So it's good to start smaller. We all have five minutes, right? Five minutes less of Facebook isn't that big of a sacrifice.

After you've established that your five minutes is Bible reading time, it's much easier to add on to that time. You are already there in the position, so to speak, and it's easy to go a minute or two longer. Then, those minutes add up to 10 minutes. And so on. Then one day you look up and it's been almost three years of a daily habit of worship. And you can see the fruit of it.

Now maybe, your whole morning is organized around your liturgy. Maybe your liturgy has changed the way you organize your day. Maybe your liturgy is also busting into your daily activities. Maybe, like the smoker, you need a liturgy break during the day. It doesn't change your life the first day, and maybe not even the 100th day, but give it time. It changes everything.

It's similar to planting a seed. It is so very easy to push a tiny seed into the dirt. Take for instance the above. Those are pumpkin plants grown from seeds thrown out to the chickens in October when we were carving our Jackolantern. I guess the chickens missed some of the seeds. Five minutes is like a seed, just thrown out or pushed into the dirt.

It is much more difficult to transplant a big rose bush, as it is to start with thirty minutes of Bible study. Transplanting requires digging a big hole, adding soil additives, watering, etc. As this poor rose bush can attest to, it's a lot of work to ask of people. Obviously, the rose bush should have been planted long before now, but we weren't able to, or maybe more honestly just didn't, get around to it. So my advice, plant a rose seed instead of a rose bush. Let God do the work of growing the seed, establishing the roots, and producing the fruit. You might actually get a rose.

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