Ash Wednesday

I hesitate to write this entry, because there is so much else that is going on in the world, but I feel it must be written, as, in essence, this is part of the world.

There are anywhere between 1.5 and 2.2 billion Christians in the world of all denominations, and today marked the beginning of the season of Lent, a period of 40 days (not including Sundays) where we prepare for the Passion of the Christ, his trail, torture, death, and Resurrection. Most people use this time to either give up something that tempts them, such as chocolate, Facebook, soda, etc, and others take the time to add a faith practice, whether it be attending church, doing a devotional, or reading the Bible.

Lent is one of my favorite liturgical seasons, as it allows me to challenge myself. Since I started giving up things for Lent, I’ve given up non-scholarly Internet access twice, I’ve given up soda a couple of times, and a variety of other things that escape me at the moment. But through all of these practices, I’ve seen a vast improvement in my life. Giving up soda and sweets has made me feel healthier and has given me more energy, and giving up non-scholarly Internet allowed me to focus more on my studies, raising my grades and improving my GPA.

This year, I’ve decided to participate in both sides of the the season. I’ve given up several things that tempt me every day, with kissing and swearing being the two major things. The first came at the delight of my girlfriend, who suggested it after she noticed for a period of several months that we had gone away from the deep, meaningful conversations we used to have, and became physical. We’ve gotten better on that front, and Lent is only the jump-start we both feel is needed.

The second one I felt needed to be implemented when the first words out of my mouth were cursing the morning and sleeping through my alarm. It’s something that I’ve been working on for a while, back when the only things that would come out of my mouth were curse words, making me appear juvenile and unprofessional. Giving up both of these things will greatly improve my personal and professional life.

Along with this, I am also adding a couple of new practices: fasting and daily meditation. Although I consider myself a Christian, I don’t have many faith practices. Sure I’ll delve into a deep discussion, and I’ll read commentary and religious articles. Recently I started reading the entire Bible, since it is one thing that I haven’t done, but I’ve never been much for prayer. It’s something that concerns me a little bit, that when I do pray, it is very generic and very relevant to why I’d been asked to pray. If I can help it, I usually don’t.

My goal is to take 30 minutes out of every day and reflect and meditate. If Bible reading comes into play, then all the better. To help me focus, I’m fasting during the daylight hours, as well. I used to fast during Ramadan to try it out and to explore the different facets of the religions of the world, but even then, I wasn’t really into it. I’m going all out this year with my fasting, making sure that after the sun goes down, I don’t stuff myself, but rather continue on a normal eating pattern as if nothing happened. It’s a challenge, but I think I’m up for it.

I hate being self-centered and self-serving, but it is something I truly believe in, and something that I feel makes perfect sense to me. I’m open for questioning and discussion, as I believe that it is only by questioning and discussing can a person improve their faith. So I open up for all comments, emails, and other personal correspondence: Do you celebrate Lent? How are you celebrating it? Why don’t you celebrate it? What sort of faith practices do you have?

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