Today is Ash Wednesday in Christianity, the day that marks the beginning of Lent, the season that commemorates Jesus fasting 40 days in the desert.  Often referred to as the three pillars of Lent, many commit to 40 days of

  • Fasting
  • Almsgiving
  • Prayer

Frankly, those are three things that every human should practice 365 days each year.

Many religions and philosophies around the world practice fasting.  They include Bahaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, and Taoism.

As a child in the 50s, I knew fasting as ‘giving something up.’  In the days leading up to Lent, a common question discussed at recess and family dinner tables was “What are you giving up for Lent?”  A young boy’s religious affiliation made no difference on the playground.  Everyone wanted to know what the Catholic kids were ‘giving up’ for Lent.  I remember ‘candy’ as the most popular thing ‘given up’ for Lent by kids.  For adults, it might have been beer.  Regardless, we were inclined to give up a specific, physical thing most often associated with food and drink.  I tend to think the success rate among laypeople was similar to the success rate of New Year’s resolutions.

For 40 years, I drifted from my religious roots when I left home following high school.  After those many years of searching and seeking, I developed a stronger sense of spirituality.  I continue to search, but I am comfortable with my credo.

As I ponder fasting on Ash Wednesday this morning, I have a new idea:  I will give up what I want and limit myself to what I need.  As an example, I want a telescope, but I do not need one.  By giving up my desire for a telescope that I do not need, I have $500 I can direct to those in need of basic things like food and water, clothes and shoes, shelter, and other life essentials.

Think of all the good things you can do by giving up those things you do not need.

Regardless of your religious beliefs and spiritual affiliation, when you consider fasting, consider giving up those things you do not need.  Your own life will be better for it and you can make the world a better place for someone else.

“I have conquered the need to conquer the world.”

Mitakuye Oyasin

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

Isaiah 58:6-9a

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