You don’t have to be fat this Tuesday

mardigrasI missed the annual Mardi Gras party thrown by friends this year. The schedule collided with a performance of The Chalk Garden.

I was robbed. No hurricanes. No pralines. No King’s Cake.

Nobody threw me any beads.

I did get a fine portion of some mighty tasty jambalaya that our host sent home via my wife. So it was not a total loss.

I didn’t grow up celebrating Mardi Gras. In fact, in my home church we did little, if anything to recognize Ash Wednesday or Lent. We just didn’t follow the church calendar. My current church doesn’t really do that either. We get the big holidays of Christmas and Easter.

But I’ve been part of churches where we did follow the church calendar. I miss the other days of recognition. I miss the signficance along with the history and teachings that accompany them.

Most people celebrating Mardi Gras are also not really following the church calendar. A few years back I wrote a piece for the Richmond Bible Examiner about The Religious Origins of Mardi Gras.

Today it’s a big party with parades, and beads, and drinking, and eating. Don’t get me wrong, many do still take the religious aspect very seriously.

I’m still pondering what, if anything, I’ll give up for Lent this year. The whole idea is that you’ll give up something you’ll miss so that it reminds you of the sacrifice of Christ and so that you can prepare your heart for the coming celebration of the Resurrection.

So, giving up something I’ll miss means I have to keep my day job. And, as much as I’d like to give up winter, that’s above my pay grade.

I’m also working hard to cut back, or eliminate sugar, and most grains. I’m not always successful there.

Regardless of what you (or I) give up or don’t give up, Lent is a wonderful season to take time to get quiet, to meditate, to reflect on the sacrifice of Christ.

The days and events of the Lenten season in 1991 run together in somewhat of a blur. That was the spring just after my cancer surgery and while I was still going through, or completing treatment. I didn’t give up food because a good portion of that time it was a matter of finding food I could keep down.

I remember also that our church in DC passed out nails at the Ash Wednesday service. We were encouraged to keep those nails with us as a reminder of the cross. I wore mine around my neck. Ironically, it delayed me once on a visit to the White House when it set off the metal detector. That was back in the days when they’d let me in. Another story.

What came out of that Lenten season for me was a realization that I was carrying too much. Too much was going on with my health. I was over committed with church obligations. I was over committed with professional association obligations. The message was clear.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
~ Psalm 46:10

So, I droppped as many of the obligations as I could at the time and focused on my health. Physical. Spiritual. Mental.

It was exactly what I needed to get through that time.

While pressures and obligations add up, I’ve never quite gotten back to the point that I was that spring. Cancer sux. Even when you’re as fortunate as I was.

But I do often find that I’m overcommitted. I’ve got too many places to go. Too much on the agenda. Most days I have no one to blame for that but myself. I need to learn to say no. I need to learn to be still.

Regardless of your faith or your beliefs, getting quiet and being still is a good thing to do from time to time.

I’m fortunate enough that most years I get the chance to do that for a week on the beach. But that doesn’t work for Lent.

Instead, what I need to do is shut off the computer, turn off the television, sign out of Spotify or Pandora, put away the books, the pens, the bills. And just be quiet.

It’s not an easy thing to do. Either the to-do list is playing on continuous loop in my mind…or I fall asleep, which is a form of being still.

Naps. Now, that I would hate to give up.

But, for a few more hours, Laissez les bons temps rouler.


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