Some of my friends are getting crosses put on their foreheads and talking about "Lent". What is this all about?
Today marks "Ash Wednesday", which is traditionally the first day of "Lent". Those are two terms that you don't often hear about in EFCA churches, but which are generally celebrated by Christian churches around the world. Neither is mentioned in the Bible, so there is no requirement to observe either. But it can be useful to understand the traditions, at the very least.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent on the church calendar - exactly 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Easter. It is celebrated by the placing of ashes on the forehead of faithful Christians, to represent repentance as one looks forward to Good Friday (Jesus's death for our sins) and Easter (Jesus's resurrection from the dead). More on the holiday can be found here: http://www.gotquestions.org/Ash-Wednesday.html.
Lent marks a 46 day season (40 days not including Sunday) before Easter, during which many Christians choose to renew their commitment to Jesus and symbolize it with acts of self-denial. It is traditional among many Christian denominations to give up some beloved thing during this time period to remind themselves that Jesus must come first in their lives. Often the beloved thing is a favorite food (chocolate, red meat, etc.) or a favorite activity (television, golf, etc.). More can be found on the observance here: http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-Lent.html