What is it about new paint that can get our hearts pumping and our pulses racing? Many of us love the idea of something fresh and new, whether it is a fresh coat of an old color or a brand new color to liven up a space, paint can change our environment. With the increase in popularity of HGTV and shows like Fixer Upper or Property Brothers, many of us dream about renovating a home. The editing and behind the scenes work of many people make renovating look easy and quick.
But, as most of us have experienced first-hand or overheard, renovating always takes more time and more money than what you originally plan. The reason being that we have to get to the structural issues before we can add the accessories and color. Sometimes, a fresh coat of paint may look great. But, over time, the original flaw will be back if not made even more apparent. If the issues with the underlying wall are not taken care of, the paint could peel or crack revealing the structural problem.
In our spiritual lives, the same can be true. We can look to the saints or people we consider to be holy and figure that God just gave them an extra dose of grace and that they have always been that way; kind of like a beautifully decorated room we see online or on TV. From our point of view, it may appear that everhing came together for these holy people in a flash (or 30 minutes like a home renovation show). But, if you have ever tackled a home renovation, you know that a thing of beauty comes together with planning, attention, and time.
This past summer, a group of us gathered at church to discuss Mathew Kelly's book, Resisting Happiness. Each week we read several chapters and discussed our thoughts. The book is easy to read and I highly recommend it if you are looking for spiritual encouragement. Part of Kelly's premise is that we resist happiness because we fail to recognize that a plan is necessary in order to structure our lives in such a way that God's grace can enter freely.
If we want renovated hearts that allow God to be the designer of our lives, bringing us His peace and joy-- we need to renovate our schedules. This week as we ponder how to enter into Lent, consider some of the following practices to try either for the entirety of Lent or one practice per week throughout Lent.
1. Schedule 15 minutes of daily prayer and reflection if this is not in your normal routine. If you have a regular time of prayer, consider adding prayer journaling or trying Lectio Divina (prayerful reading of Scripture).
2. Attend Mass during the week. Add either one or two daily Masses to your week. I love the "Catholic Mass Times Church Directory" app to find the convenient Mass times near me. This is helpful especially when I am in an unfamiliar area.
3. Read a spiritually encouraging book. If you need recommendations, let me know in the Comment Section below.
4. Serve others in a hands-on, direct way. Do one thing each day for another person that is not in your normal, direct path. Consider doing something for someone without consideration for whether they can or will reciprocate. For instance, send an encouraging email to someone you are not in regular contact with, call someone you don't speak to often, take steps to speak up for someone without a voice, etc.
5. Fast from social media to allow space to ponder.
6. Pray for someone or a group of people you do not agree with.
7. Research a group that does not have a voice, pray about why God lead you to this group and what you might be able to do to give them a voice. Allow your conscience to be stirred and wrestle with the sense of dis-ease that God is bringing to mind.
8. Schedule time to exercise each day with the Holy Spirit. Exercise and pray without music or distraction. Hear what He is wanting to say and you move and stretch.
Next week, I will share the Soul Renovation plan that a friend created after reading Resisting Happiness. You may be surprised by what she learned from her "successes" and her "failures".