Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. This day marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Many Christian faith traditions observe this season. Many people think of Lent as the time to "give up" something. Quite often, the choice is to give up some sort of food or drink item: candy, chocolate, ice cream, soda pop, energy drinks, or other similar items. Others decide that it is time to lose weight and give up snacking in-between meals. Others give up playing video games or watching certain television shows. These are all good things. What if we chose to go a different direction, though? What if we wanted to do something that could be life-changing?
It is possible! The process is easier than one might think. Giving up a behavior, adding a new habit to each day, or changing a thought pattern, throughout the season of Lent, can create a new way of life. Some ideas for things to give up:
1. Judgment. By allowing others to be themselves, including yourself, it can create less animosity and more joy in relationships.
2. Negativity. By giving up negative thinking, fear, anxiety, and bad feelings can be eliminated.
3. Unkindness. Be kind to one another. We need to be kind to ourselves, as well. Kindness brings love and warmth to every friendship, relationship, and moments with others.
4. The ego. Letting go of the ego brings a person to a level in which everyone has the same worth and value, has the same rights as everyone else, has the same opportunities as others, and helps us to see one another as all part of the human family.
5. Material objects. If we let go of some of the material items that take precedence in our lives, it can be a freeing experience. Clutter can cause stress. Too much "stuff" can create fire hazards. Things stacked here and there also create fall or tripping hazards.
6. Busy-ness. For those who are continually on the go, take a little time to let go. Spend time with some friends or family. Relax. Take a walk. Play a board game. Take a drive. Go somewhere new and different.
7. Unforgiveness. Take the time to forgive someone. No matter what it is for, or how long ago the wrong may have been done, forgive him/her. Even if the person does not accept it, it can help to let go of the hurt feelings, grudge, or resentment that might have existed.
These are ideas of things to add to each day:
1. Compliment someone. Take time each day to give someone a compliment. Be sincere. It might not be an easy thing to do at first, but gets easier as time goes by.
2. Pray. Some people only pray in church. Others only pray in extreme circumstances. Take the time to add prayer to the daily routine. Pick a time that would be convenient and talk to God. Tell Him of concerns, illnesses, and struggles. Tell Him of hopes and dreams. Share joys with Him. He would like to hear from each of us on a regular basis.
3. Exercise. Take time to exercise each day. It could be a short walk, a trip to the gym, sit-ups at home, taking the steps at work, rather than taking the elevator. Instead of sitting for long periods of time, get up and walk around every fifteen minutes or so. Any small change to get a person moving can spur a healthier body.
4. Learn something new. Sign up for a class, read a self-help book, enlist a friend to share a skill. Learning new things helps the brain to be healthier. A new hobby may be found in the process.
According to Molloy, "The period of forty days of repentance and preparation for Easter is called Lent. The forty days recall the period of fasting and prayer that Jesus spent in the desert before his public life began. For many centuries, people were expected during Lent to do without meat, dairy products, and wine--all foods that were once associated with luxury." He continues, "Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, when the devout wear ashes on their foreheads to recall the inevitability of death and to show sorrow for wrongdoing. It has been customary for devout Christians to give up pleasures during this time," (Molloy, 2010, Experiencing the world's religions: Tradition, challenge, and change, 5th ed., New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, pps. 403-404).
Become light in the darkness to others. By being less negative, more complimentary, less egotistical, less busy, less judgmental, and more forgiving, and more prayerful, we become more of what God wants us to be. Matthew 7: 12 says, "The Golden Rule: Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets," (The New American Bible, 1991, Wichita, KS: Devore & Sons, Inc.).
Lent. A time of prayer and a time for change.