Today is Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras is in full swing. People all over the country will be indulging in crawfish & corn chowder, red beans & rice, etouffe, chicken gumbo, and a host of other creole / cajun dishes. Beads will be collected... drunken revelers will be ticketed & taken to jail. (Doesn't that sound like a fun way to spend Mardi Gras?)
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday - the beginning of Lent... the 40-day liturgical season of fasting and prayer before the resurection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. The forty days represent the time Jesus spent in the desert where he endured temptation by Satan.
The Bible doesn't mention Ash Wednesday or the custom of Lent, however, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21.
Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. During some Ash Wednesday services, the minister will lightly rub ashes in the sign of the Cross on the forehead of worshipers.
At one church I attended, on the Sunday prior to Ash Wednesday, worshipers wrote their "sins" on a small slip of paper. Worshipers, one by one, brought their sins to the cross (slipping their papers into cracks of the cross). After the service the sins were then collected and burned... and on Ash Wednesday the Pastor used the ashes to make the sign of the Cross on those wishing to have it.
I'm not a "faster"...I tried doing an all day fast once & discovered that my blood sugar could not handle it...however, I suppose I could fast during one meal of the day & spend that time studying the Bible or in prayer. I don't know yet what I will be "giving up" for Lent. Quite frankly, I hadn't given it much thought until today. One year I gave up alcohol and lost 10 pounds. I'm not saying one should use Lent as a diet plan. Somehow that seems almost sacreligious.
Here's a thought: how about giving up plastic bags & plastic water bottles for Lent?!
At any rate... enjoy Mardi Gras and follow your heart during Lent. Easter is on its way.