The Lenten season, which lasts from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday, is intended to be a time of spiritual self-examination, repentance and renewal.

Today marks Ash Wednesday. My church will be holding the traditional Ash Wednesday Service tonight for the imposition of ashes. The ashes used to mark a cross on a person’s forehead symbolize the belief that God created man from ashes and that man returns to ashes after death. The ritual is usually marked by a minister or priest saying, “Remember, man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.” The ashes are also seen as a mark of sorrow and grief for personal sins and as a symbol of repentance.

Before my current job, I worked as a Youth Minister for almost 18 years. I spent a lot of time working with teenagers who would talk about what they were going to “give up” during the 40 days of Lent (although technically it’s 46 days, but who’s counting?). I always wanted to make sure they understood the reasoning behind the practice of giving up something they normally can’t do without. I wanted them to remember this idea was more about repenting of their sin and dedicating their lives to God. It was not a time of boasting of one’s sacrifice or trying to earn God’s favor or love.

Instead of thinking about what I’m going to give up this season of Lent, I want to adopt some new habits. Here are a few goals I have set for myself:

  • I want to be more present in the here and now. I am going to be very intentional about staying off of my computer/phone/iPad early in the mornings and later in the evenings. I have a tendency to spend way too much time on them.
  • I want to have more meaningful conversations with family members and friends.
  • I am going to try to reach out to someone I haven’t talked to in a while at least every few days, for no other reason than just to catch up.
  • I want to spend more time giving back to others. I spend way too much time focused on myself.
  • Finally, I want to spend less time watching TV and more time reading, playing guitar, and spending quality time with Rachel.

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