O Lord, the house of my soul is narrow; enlarge it, that Thou may enter.
Augustine of Hippo
Let me know the need of renovations in order to serve and enjoy Thee forever.
Our little house was built in the late 1950’s and it is definitely showing signs of age.
Since moving in 25 years ago, we have tackled a variety of renovation projects, from taking down a wall in the kitchen to a basement up-do, complete with a bedroom, bath and family room. We’ve had new windows installed and torn out old carpet to reveal hardwood floors underneath...that are again in desperate need of refinishing! Sigh.
But, this summer, the time had come for this old house of ours to undergo a much needed face lift - new siding, sliding glass door, soffit's and shutters!
Like my little house, my little life also got its start in the late 1950’s. And, it too, is showing signs of age.
Weight gain, wrinkles, age spots and gray hairs notwithstanding, it isn’t just my aging body that needs renovations; the house of my soul requires renewal from time-to-time as well.
The thing is, it's easier to spot extra pounds on the scale or a patch of gray hair, than it is to gauge the health of our soul. Especially in our busy world, where we can ignore or avoid our soul's needs altogether simply by adding more to our schedules. Being busy silences the voice within...at least for a time. But, eventually our attitudes and actions betray our deepest need.
When my soul begins to show signs of weariness, when it feels frayed at the edges, and in need of repair, I turn to the same prayer practices that sage folks down through the ages have turned to; I turn to Spiritual Disciplines.
Now I know that the word discipline often conjures up thoughts of punishment, or at the very least, constraint or restraint. But, nothing could be further from the truth. Take Bible Reading, for example, one of the Spiritual Disciplines.
Instead of reading your Bible obligatorily, imagine yourself waking up a few minutes earlier each morning to watch the sun come up with the Savior. Then open God's Word and read it with a heart wide open to hear Him whisper what He longs to say to you. If you need a few more winks...crawl back into bed until the alarm rings.
But, I can assure you, reading the Bible will never feel constraining again.
Another discipline I love is Worship. In fact, as soon as my eyelids open in the morning I "sing" an old hymn to myself, as a prayer to God. One of my fav's is, "When morning gilds the sky, my heart awakening cries, may Jesus Christ be praised." It's a day changer for me. And when I hear the birds outside my window lifting praises heavenward, I can't help but join in the chorus.
I also Fast from time-to-time, but, not necessarily from food. I have found one of the surest ways to repair my soul, and communication with the Savior, is to fast from my smart phone and social media. It's amazing how quickly we've become addicted to these devices. Fasting from sunup to sundown or even 24 hours can clear away all the voices that block God's.
In the evening, when all is quiet in my house, I like to close out my day in Prayer. The forefathers of faith called it the Prayer of Examen. I play some of my favorite Celtic instrumental music very quietly. It has an ethereal sound that helps me imagine myself before God's throne. Then, I invite Him to walk back through the day with me. During this time I am able to see where I slipped and stumbled, or where I marched to my own drumbeat. I am also reminded of all the journeying mercies He sprinkled along my pathway. And, it is in this time of prayer that He restores my soul and prepares me to meet the new day that awaits in the morning.
The disciplines of Silence and Solitude are two love gifts we rarely experience in this noisy world of ours. In fact, many folks are hesitant to be quiet or alone. One way I combine the two is to get away to a prayer cabin. But, if that seems a bit of a stretch for you right now, check out a Silent Retreat. (You can find info on my Events page!) Or, in the short term, find a local garden where you can walk slowly, take some pictures, and sit quietly breathing in the stillness. Or take a walk around a lake. Or sit on your porch with a glass of ice tea and enjoy the fresh air.
Remember the Sabbath. This, too, is another Spiritual Discipline. When was the last time you carved out time to simply rest in God? Our souls crave this kind of sacred rest!
Here are a few other ideas to restore your soul...
*Keep a journal - recounting blessings both past and present.
*Find a Soul Friend (a Spiritual Director) who is invested in the care of your spiritual well-being.
*Create a cozy place in your home to meet with God.
*Walk God's good earth, stopping to smell the roses, to breathe and to praise.
*Take time for face-to-face conversations with good friends that includes loads of laughter.
*Get a good night's sleep!
*Read for pleasure. Some of my favorites are: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Gifts from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen, A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle, Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens and of course anything by Jane Austen.
*Get in a garden...your own or another's.
*Fill a vase with flowers to remind you of all the good things God has made.
*Press and sketch flowers or leaves.
*Take a nap.
*Be creative! Craft, sew, knit, paint, write...
How is your soul doing these days?
The Lord is my shepherd. I will always have everything I need.
He gives me green pastures to lie in.
He leads me by calm pools of water.
He restore my soul.