Pondering Ash Wednesday

altar-arches-architecture-art-632628In a world that’s beyond fast-paced, where news is instant and everyone is hyper-connected, when change is not just daily but moment-by-moment, I crave constancy. There’s a certain peace that comes with routine, with the assurance that some things will not change, not at their core, at least. I think that’s why I like Ash Wednesday so much.

From when I was just a little kid in a scratchy school uniform to this evening when I go to Mass, I know what’s going to happen. The familiar scent of the ashes, the church decked in purple, the same dirge-like music…it’s all there, just the same. And it’s comforting, these rituals; makes me feel like, despite all the crises in the church, there is hope and strength in these traditions that bind us together in faith and love.

So I like my Catholic traditions, even if some of ’em have fallen by the wayside over the years. Like giving up something for Lent. Holy Sister Mary Joseph, I used to give up something every year, even before I knew why. Mostly, it was chocolate back then, which made Easter morning baskets all the sweeter.

But as the years progressed, I’ve quit most of the easy vices to give up, or I don’t indulge enough to make giving ’em up meaningful. Now I’m left with the tougher ones on that Seven Deadly Sins list. Like pride, avarice, envy, sloth… for cryin’ out loud, how do you give up pride? And if I gave up sloth, does that mean I’d have to give up my naps? I LOVE MY NAPS.

I pondered this problem in my latest post over at The Muffin in “Giving Up to Get More.”And though it’s about how we can give up certain bad habits to become better writers, they’re bad habits that affect us in more ways than writing. They’re the kind of bad habits that keep us from becoming the best version of ourselves, whether that’s a writer or a mom or a salesperson.

So I’m giving up my Debbie Downer habit this Lent (according to Youngest Junior Hall, I start first thing in the morning by reading out all the bad news from the paper. I also read the wacky news and Dear Abby but fine, I’ll keep the latest on the coronavirus to myself).

I was about to say it’s not going to be easy but see? There’s that negativism cropping up already and I haven’t even gotten my ashes yet. Pray for me, y’all, it’s going to be a long Lent!


Heaven on My Mind

I mentioned earlier in the week about Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Messages from Heaven being a national best-seller.

I’ve been thinking about that all week…I mean, there have been a ton of Chicken Soup books, and they all follow a similar format. They’re feel good books, nice little stories to ease what ails you. And yes, it’s always been a fairly lucrative franchise. But still. National best-seller? What’s so special about Messages from Heaven?

I’ve decided that it has to be the subject matter. Perhaps we hunger for more than material comforts; we want to know that there’s spiritually more, more than mortgage payments and careers and cars and closets of shoes.

Or maybe it’s as simple as reassurance. Maybe we just want to know that love carries on.

If you happen to be awake late tonight, you can hear Amy Newmark, coauthor of the book and publisher of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She’s the featured guest on George Noory’s Coast to Coast AM show, and starting at 10 PM Pacific Time (1 AM Eastern Time) to midnight, she’ll be discussing Messages from Heaven.

(You can click on this link to find the radio station in your market that carries the show.)

And now, maybe you’re wondering, too. What is so special about Messages from Heaven? So I’m going to give you a chance to win a copy. Just leave a comment and let’s see…I’ll draw a random name on Friday week. I’m limiting it to US residents only since I’m mailing one of my copies, but you know it’s available just about anywhere, right?

It’s a national best-seller after all. Which kinda gives me a hopeful feeling about this old world and the people in it.