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  • Writer's pictureAlan and Jean McKinnell

Lent is coming up! So put it in your diary! Why? Read on........

I was brought up in a Presbyterian background, Church of Scotland, we did not do anything that might have been seen as ‘Roman,’ Lent would have come under this. When I came to a personal faith in Jesus, I started attending an Anglican Church in Toulouse, France, as far as I can remember this was when my first connection with Lent would be.

I can remember the question that usually went around as Lent approached, what are you giving up for lent? This usually meant giving up chocolate, for me giving up chocolate was bad enough but giving up chocolate when Easter eggs were starting to appear in shops, well that took penance to a whole new level, and should it be penitence or penance? And where is it in the Bible?

According to dictionary definitions, the primary meaning of penance is the deeds done out of penitence, which also focuses more on the external actions than does repentance which refers to the true, interior sorrow for one's hurtful words or actions. So, is it all just for religious show? Or is there more to it than giving something up for Lent?

Lent this year starts on Wednesday 14th February, commonly referred to as Ash Wednesday, and lasts until Holy Thursday 28th March, followed by Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. It is a time when we can take the opportunity to really reflect on God and our relationship with Him. Having something that helps us refocus on that relationship can be a real boost to our Faith and our overall well being. Giving up chocolate may seem sacrificial but can also seem quite trivial if that is all we do. Nowadays there is often a big lean towards doing something 'nice' or 'kind' for Lent, but then doing something good should not be just for 40 days in a year and should certainly not come in line with some form of penitence. I have found that the best way of 'doing Lent', is to use it to focus on God. What do I mean by that? Giving up chocolate usually meant I ended up focusing on me, even doing 'good' for Lent was really focusing on me and what I can do. For Lent it's good to do something that focuses on God and our relationship with Jesus. The Bible tells us that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. (James 4 v 8). This year why not use Lent as a time to draw near to God, set a time aside every day throughout Lent to read your Bible, there are Bible plans and Apps, some specifically for Lent, that can help you with this, during this time also plan in some time to pray. During a recent Bible study at St David's someone brought up that when praying take the time to listen, if this is something you don't usually do then Lent is a good time to add it into your prayer life. They say it takes 21 days to break a habit or to start a new one, therefore at the end of 40 days of Lent not only will you feel refreshed by your time spent with God, you will have a new habit, a habit that draws you nearer to God, builds your Faith, and brings you the peace and joy of a strong relationship with Jesus, you will have built a good foundation, but remember, foundations are only the start, keep building!

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