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A long Blog today, but worth it. This Wednesday, February 14th is Valentine’s Day, but it’s also Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. During Lent, many people decide to give something up that they love, whether it’s chocolate, sweets, coffee, or even using social media. I’ve never heard of anyone giving up their cell phone, but that might be a good one to give up. Honestly, I don’t know if people could actually do that. Some people actually fast the entire period, giving up food other than essentials for life, or maybe fast one day a week. Others might decide to take on something that perhaps they haven’t been consistent with, like helping out more with chores at home or making an effort to do nice things for their family and friends.

Whatever you do, Lent is a period of 40 days during which Christians remember the events leading up to and including the death of Jesus Christ, whose life and teachings are the foundation of Christianity. The 40-day period is called Lent after an old English word meaning 'lengthen'. This is because of the time of year when it happens, when the days start to get longer, as we approach Summer. It starts on Ash Wednesday and runs through Holy Saturday, the day before Easter, skipping Sundays. Or, some people observe it everyday beginning Ash Wednesday, and end Palm Sunday.

Either way, itis a time of reflection, asking for forgiveness, and when Christians prepare to celebrate Jesus's resurrection on Easter. Many churches hold special services on Ash Wednesday, many even put ashes out the whole day, and members can come in, mark their foreheads with ash (which signifies humbling oneself before the Lord), and reflecting for a little while, what Christ has done for us. It’s a time of remembering the season leading up to Jesus crucifixion. This is a symbol of death and remembering the not-so-good things that we have done. This is where the day gets its name from.

Typically, the ash is made from burning either special crosses made out of palm wood, which were used in church services on the previous year's Palm Sunday. It is sometimes mixed with special oil. Still other churches burn the palms used from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. Many people take a palm and wrap it into a wreath and hang it somewhere where they will be reminded of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into their lives, where still others will simply hang the palm over a picture of Jesus in their home. Those palms are then collected a year later, burned, and the ash put out at the church where those members attend.

But why do people give things up during Lent? Well, many do it as a sign of sacrifice and to develop their self-discipline. Christians believe that this is to represent Jesus’ sacrifice when He went into the desert to pray and fast for the 40 days that Satan tempted Him, before later dying on the cross. The Bible shows us that while Jesus was there, Satan tempted him to turn away from God and worship him instead, but Jesus refused to, which is why people might give something up, in order to test their own self-discipline too. It’s an example Jesus gave us, that He was tempted in every way that we are as humans. Lent ends with Holy Week, culminating on Easter Sunday, typically considered the most important day in the Christian calendar; yes, even more so than Christmas. And the reason is, that it marks the resurrection of Jesus after His death on the cross, and is a celebration of his life. Jesus’ birth and the circumstances surrounding it are huge for sure; but it culminates with His Resurrection from the dead; making a pathway for all humans to accept Him as their Savior, guaranteeing that they too, will resurrect from spiritual death, into everlasting life in eternity with Jesus.  Yes, Lent is a tremendous season for sure. Let’s prepare our hearts to celebrate this amazing gift Jesus gave us. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.”

Love and prayers,

Dr. D.