Mardi Gras

Well it is Mardi Gras or in English, Fat Tuesday. In my case this is to go along with Fat Monday, Fat Wednesday, Fat…..You get the picture. Over the last few years I have slowly put on weight, exacerbated by a bicycle crash a few years ago which left me in a lot of pain in my right shoulder which meant that I got out of a cycling routine and despite that having been corrected with a couple of surgeries I am still not cycling as much as I should. Maybe 40 days of fasting through lent is what I really need, together with a better exercise routine.
But is that all that lent is about? Doing without food? Of course not, the original idea was that it was a time of introspection, self-examination, repentance and confession in order to prepare yourself spiritually for Easter and its great celebration. You spend the time you would usually spend in preparing, eating and clearing up after the meal in prayer. It is not so much the taking away of food but the addition of prayer time, reflection and seeking God’s presence.
I was talking to one of my colleagues recently who has put a different spin on lent. His congregation is being encouraged to do something positive for each day. I like that idea. It might be to visit someone who is lonely, buy someone else a cup of coffee, offer to give someone a lift to the supermarket.
I don’t think the two are exclusive. When Nehemiah heard of the state of Jerusalem, he fasted, wept and prayed for many days. He prayed for God to tell him what he could do for the beloved city. I want to encourage you to do the same this lent. Spend time in prayer, even fast if you can and pray for God to reveal to you little acts of kindness that you can do each day for your city, town or village. Your city may not be in quite as much as a shambles as Jerusalem was in the days of Nehemiah but I can assure you, there are drug addicts, homeless people, people living below the poverty line. There are those who are lonely, even suicidal. Ask God to reveal to you what you can do each day even if it is just a friendly phone call or to volunteer at a shelter or food bank. Make this lent, not just a time for introspection but also for service, serving God and humanity. Let’s make a difference during these forty days.

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