The season of Lent gives us a chance to slow down and to take time.

Take time in prayer. Take time with God.

Take time to walk through the scriptures and figure out what this Lent thing is, anyway (even if all you know until now is that you usually give up soda for a few weeks).

Take time to repent, to turn your heart toward Jesus.

And consider that at the end of the day, what God really wants is your sincere self — no more, no less.

You can learn a lot in this season, if you take time.

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Blow the horn in Zion; give a shout on my holy mountain!

Let all the people of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming.

It is near— a day of darkness and no light, a day of clouds and thick darkness!

Like blackness spread out upon the mountains, a great and powerful army comes, unlike any that has ever come before them, or will come after them in centuries ahead.

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your hearts, with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow;

tear your hearts and not your clothing.

Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love, and ready to forgive.

Who knows whether he will have a change of heart and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?

Blow the horn in Zion; demand a fast; request a special assembly.
Gather the people; prepare a holy meeting; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants.

Let the groom leave his room and the bride her chamber.

Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, weep. Let them say, “Have mercy, Lord, on your people, and don’t make your inheritance a disgrace, an example of failure among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

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I’ve met many people who are uncomfortable with Ash Wednesday, yet I’ve been surprised more by those who find it integral to their Christian faith. Maybe your church celebrates Ash Wednesday every year, or maybe not.

When the ashes are imposed on our foreheads, they are accompanied by the words, “From dust you came, and to dust you shall return.” These are not words said to make us feel terrible, but actually to help us remember that while we may only be here for now, God has been before us, and God will be present after our time on earth has finished.

The words from Joel say “return to me with all your heart.” Ash Wednesday, as the beginning of Lent, invites us to return to God from all of the things that have stood in our way. This will look different for everyone. Have we been honest? Have we been welcoming? Have we been faithful? We are given another chance to live full lives here and now, by the Holy One, who continues to show up.

Emily Miller

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God who was, is, and who will be, help me remember that my life is not just a blip on the radar, and that you have invited me to return with repentance to you over and over again. Give me the strength to accept this invitation. Amen.

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"O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above."

from "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," by Robert Robinson

Emily Miller

Emily Miller is a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), currently serving in the Young Adult Volunteer office, where she invites young adults into year-long service opportunities around the world. Emily lives in Louisville, Kentucky and FaceTimes with her nephew every chance she gets.

Wondrous Love: I Surrender All

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