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Habit, routine, and ritual are three words we sometimes use interchangeably, yet they have nuanced differences. A habit is something we do without thinking about it, and they fuel our routines. A ritual implies intentionality, meaning, or significant purpose.

Maybe you have a morning routine. Mine is simple —


I sleep as late as my body will do so. When I awake, I try to snuggle in the covers just a little longer, enjoying the feel of soft sheets on my skin, the sleepy pleasures of stretching, prone, body relaxed. When I finally convince myself to leave my cocoon, I head straight to the bathroom – no surprise. 

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of God. 

1 Corinthians 10:31 NLT

Coffee & Prayer

The very next stop is my coffee setup. I push the “water boiler” button to dispense hot water over my coffee grounds. I settle in a favorite chair, hot coffee in hand, check my calendar, email, and pray. My prayer is a simple liturgy, a ritual, at that time of day; it’s a “help me” prayer. “Help me, Lord, with this day. Make me useful in your kingdom. May I bring glory to you in all that I do today.” Then I often sit, think a bit, and sometimes read until the coffee cup is empty. 

Walking Routine

Next, I go for a walk. Generally, I walk 3 to 3.5 miles, listening to podcasts, sermons, scripture, or audiobooks. When I return from walking, I shower; it’s plenty warm where I live, and I don’t like to spend time in sweaty clothes! 

Time to Eat

Finally, I eat my first meal of the day. It is often after 10 am, sometimes approaching 11 am. I might eat breakfast food – oatmeal with banana or lunch food if there is something tasty leftover from the previous dinner. That’s my morning routine, usually five out of seven days! 

I try not to schedule events that interrupt the morning routine, although that happens occasionally. The slow morning with a long walk has become very satisfying, helping establish a certain calm to my day.

“We must accept the circumstances we constantly find ourselves in as the place of God’s Kingdom and blessing. God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are. If we faithlessly discard situation after situation, moment after moment, as not being “right,” we will simply have no place to receive his kingdom into our life. For those situations and moments are our life.” 

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God

But then …

Calm until the little things go awry. The cookies burn, a sink backs up, a rock hits our newly repaired windshield, or I spill the proverbial milk. My overreaction, frustration, and even anger or disappointment erupt in those moments. They remind me that the practice of meeting Christ daily amid the upsets of life in the routine ritual of repentance and forgiveness is transforming my life.

[Repentance] is the steady drumbeat of a life in Christ
and, therefore, a day in Christ.

Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary

Our routines and rituals shape our life. As Tish Harrison Warren put it, “We have everyday habits—formative practices—that constitute daily liturgies.” I’ve shared a formative practice or two. What about you? Do you have a routine that is calming? What rituals help you focus your attention on spiritual truths?

What kind of people are our habits, routines,
and/or rituals forming us to be?

I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Waves of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.

May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

John O’Donohue, from “A Morning Offering,” To Bless the Space Between Us

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