What a difference 50 degrees makes.

What a difference 50 degrees makes.
I’m taking a Mardi Gras week this year. Not in New Orleans with the great food and wild parades, but a week before Lent to relax and recreate before Lent begins Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday is early this year, Feb. 10, and I needed a chance to breathe between the Christmas, annual report and planning retreat, and when the bright, shining moments that are Epiphany worship ended and the more ominous, contemplative time of Lent began.
Simply put, I needed a break.
So I am sitting in a lounge chair in my jeans, socks, shoes and a T-shirt — showing I’m not quite ready for summer and must be from up north — with the waterfall flowing noisily into the pool and palm trees blowing in the wind above on a quick trip to Florida. Some kind of music with a beat is playing in the background.
Most people around the pool are engaged in conversation with some form of electronic device, as am I. I’m drinking coffee as my conversation is with you, friends in Neosho, where it is 50 degrees cooler.
I would like to share the warmth, the view of palm trees, the deep breath of vacation air, a little bit of sunshine and joy, too, because that is what Mardi Gras is about — silly and sometimes outrageous fun where you laugh a lot and remember how good life is when you have no great burdens to bear and sun and water, good food and family and friends accompany you.
It’s also true that, when the helicopters fly overhead, it’s good to know they are tourist helicopters rather than medical, which in Neosho always inspires worry over who it might be and whose family has jumped into crisis mode.
Mardi Gras is literally Tuesday fat or Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday and when you eat up all the rich food in the house before Lent begins and some form of fasting takes place.
Historically, Lent was a time to give up meat, then meat on Fridays. Many Christians are not thinking about giving up anything for Lent as it’s a tradition often considered outdated.
The point of observing excessively delightful and delicious Mardi Gras before Lent is because joy often is fleeting. Joy is to be embraced and fully appreciated because the darker side of life may be just around the corner.
Lent is a reminder that illness, tragedy, evil, sin and death are a part of life as well as joy, goodness and life, so we must be prepared for whatever difficulty might come our way. The 40 days of Lent between Ash Wednesday ( when we remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return) and Easter proclaiming God’s love and life victorious over whatever darkness may come our way remind us of this reality.
Real life is not as well organized as the church calendar. Life is messy with good and bad stuff happening on any given day.
A baby is born, a cancer diagnosis is given, a student fails a test, a couple falls in love, a crime is committed on any given day. The discipline of the church calendar, the Mardi Gras-Lent-Easter contrast reminds us to keep it all in perspective.
Mardi Gras is more joyful because Lent is coming; Easter more miraculous because Lent has prepared us. It’s also true that there are more days of Easter celebration, resurrection and hope than of Lent. In God’s calendar and world, goodness always overcomes evil, life always overcomes death and joy triumphs.
Back to my palm tree. It makes me happy, as does the warmth, the water and the sun. May you know a little Mardi Gras between now and Tuesday. May you always carry a little Mardi Gras with you, the knowledge of great joy no matter how dark the path may become. That’s the way it is with those of us who follow Christ and whose name we wear. Amen.

The Rev. Dr. Sara J. Chaney is pastor of Neosho United Methodist Church. She writes a column for the Daily News.