Today is Ash Wednesday, one of my favorite days on the Christian calendar, though I realize this is a bit odd. Ash Wednesday signals the beginning of the Lenten season of the church--the 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent also includes Palm Sunday, Maunday Thursday and Good Friday. We like to name our days of the week here in Christianity. Perhaps that's a bit weird, but what can you do?
So, Ash Wednesday begins a season of prayer and fasting for those who follow its disciplines. Ash Wednesday is widely considered a Catholic-only tradition, but us United Methodists receive the imposition of the ashes, as well. Many Catholics don't eat meat on Fridays, but at least in my experience, that tradition hasn't been as widely accepted into the Protestant observance of Lent. It is common, however, for people (myself included) to give something up, or to take on an additional discipline for the 40 days. In the past, I've given up chocolate, candy, sweets, and one year I even gave up Facebook. (I was still in college, this was a big deal!)
This year, I've decided to give up carbonated beverages. I've been wavering on-and-off the Diet Coke and Coke Zero since before the wedding, but my consumption lately has increased, and I'd like to put a stop to that. My goal is for this to be a kick-off for giving it up all together--to not run back into the arms of my favorite cold caffeinated drink come Easter Sunday...it's better for my body and even if there are no calories in my soft drinks of choice, they just aren't necessary. I'm of the belief that Lent is a great "excuse" (though that's certainly not ALL Lent is) to kick-start efforts toward a healthy lifestyle, or at least an improved lifestyle. I think there are so many things in our lives that we could either give up or take on that would improve our quality of life if we'll just take the courage to start.
So yes, I get excited (that doesn't seem like the right word, but go with me here) for Ash Wednesday and Lent, despite the fact that these 40 days are time of mourning, soul-searching and honest, sometimes heart-wrenching self-examination in preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus.
I may be adding something to my Lenten discipline as I pray and seek God's word to me on the subject, but I know for now, this is the prime opportunity to really commit to cutting out the soft drinks for good.
If you aren't familiar with Lent, please check out this article, which is also my picture source.
Also, while I'm here (and because I told you I wasn't going to show my face until next week), I must tell you that Valerie at Next to Heaven is at it again! She's reached 100 followers, and is giving away a surprise box of goodies to one lucky follower. You should go check her out!
Until next week (if I can wait that long...)