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Dear friends,

How are those New Year’s Resolutions coming along?  You know, all the things you promised yourself you’d do in 2017?

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Yeah, me too.

Fortunately, this life affords us (nearly) infinite opportunities to start over.  Many of us start over on the first of the month, or on a Monday morning, or on our birthdays.  Perhaps you’re nearly finished with a long-term project, and you vow that as soon as it’s over, you’ll tackle another area of your life.  Perhaps you’ve been waiting for a sign that the time is right.

Today is Mardi Gras, aka “Fat Tuesday.”

What does that mean?

Well, in the Christian tradition, it’s a day of feasting before the fasting season of Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter).  It’s also known as “Pancake Tuesday” in some circles.  The feasting tradition began as a way to use up all the fattening things in the house – sugar, butter – before the Lenten fast begins on Ash Wednesday.  It’s a last chance to get all the gluttony out of your system, and eat some goodies.

What then?

On Ash Wednesday, the symbolic fast begins.  You may have heard people say they are “giving up” something for Lent.  For Christians, it’s a way of honoring God, and being mindful of higher things.  It’s also a challenge, to abstain from something for a long period of time.

It concerns me when people set goals that are a form of self-attack:  “I’ll work out for two hours every day” or “I’ll never eat chocolate again.”  We’re programmed to resist attack, even when it comes from within.  Self-attacks are bound to fail, and only make us feel worse about ourselves.  So, how can we choose something to abstain from, and do it in a positive way?  Consider this:

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Whether you observe the symbolic Lenten fast in a religious or secular manner, I urge you to keep your focus on the good, the soul-nourishing, the higher things in life.  Fast from anger, fast from worry.  Use this time as an opportunity to slow down and focus on what’s really important.

I believe in you.