Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the 40 day Lent preparation for Easter. As a protestant I did not grow up celebrating Lent. I think this can be both good and bad. I worked at a Catholic hospital for a few years and many (but not all) of my coworkers strictly abstained from their "sacrifice" of choice, but their life showed no signs of a real life changing faith in the Lord. Then on the other extreme there are many true believers who walk into church on Easter morning without a single thought of how Easter has changed their lives. I have fallen in the later category many times unfortunately.
I think the idea of giving something up during Lent is good, but in addition to abstaining we should spend time preparing our hearts and minds for Easter. John Piper has written a short book called, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ that can be downloaded for free here. There is also a reading plan that can be downloaded that breaks up the book along with scripture into 41 days. This year the Lenten season is 46 days so that gives you a few days to miss a reading if need be. If you have a Kindle or other E-reader, I use a program called Calibre to convert pdf files like this to my Kindle for easier reading. I am sure there are many other great resources for devotion and prayer to use in preparation for Lent, but whatever you do, let me encourage you to spend time meditating on Jesus' ministry, death, and resurrection this year as we enter into the Easter season. If you don't know much about Jesus or wouldn't call yourself a Christian take time as we await Easter to learn about the origin of Easter; it's much more than bunny rabbits and jelly beans. And as believers we especially should find ourselves pondering the gospel of Jesus Christ even more so we can say with Paul, "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection" (Philippians 3:10).
How are you preparing for Easter? Are you giving up something for Lent?