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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday: Focus


Jesus tells us not to do things for show. When we do such practices it is hard not to think about what others will think about us. So how then can we do them? I think the answer is SEEK JESUS. If we are focused on Him we will not be looking at ourselves and wondering if we are looking good.

I still remember when I figured out that I did not need to ‘brush my teeth’, I needed to clean them to prevent cavities. I had years of programming to do ‘what I was supposed to do’ and that usually meant an unenthusiastic level of compliance. (Going through the motions of brushing but not systematically cleaning) I remember being mad when the dentist said I had a cavity. “I brush my teeth,” I grumbled, “it is not fair.” But the way I brushed my teeth obviously was not good enough, was it?

  •  I know the difference between wanting to pass the test and desiring to learn a subject. 
  •  I know the difference between sitting as you talk and listening to understand. 
  •  I know the difference between ‘doing some exercises’ and working out to get stronger and healthier. 
  •  I know the difference between spiritual disciplines and loving Jesus. 
  •     So do you!

From the outside the behaviors may look the same, but inside they aren’t. When you do it wrong you finish and say, “got that out of the way” or “glad that is done.” When you do it right you say “love you Lord” or “thank you Jesus.” And you do not want it to end.
Lent is a season of metanoia (Gk) or sub (Hebrew). Greek means to take on a new mind. Hebrew means to turn around. Both mean a break from who I am and what I do. Both mean a reordering of my life focus on a new goal.
I want to know Jesus.
I want to love Jesus.
I want to follow Jesus, be with Him and work with Him and serve Him.
And the more I repeat that the more I will integrate it into my heart.
Like every relationship it requires time and effort.  Jesus reveals Himself to the one who is obedient and sincere.
"I am Lord," He says, "if you will submit to me I will reveal myself to you."

As we begin the forty day journey into the heart of God Jesus is the key. We are not invited to disciplines for their own sake, but for relationship with the eternal God made present in the man Jesus. It is a journey we enter together, as church. We are yoked in the parish, but also with the billion Christians around the world.

Seeking Jesus means that we allow Jesus to find us.
It means listening for Him, longing for Him. And it means loving Him.
So it begins. I invite you to repeat this prayer, often and sincerely:
I love you Lord Jesus. I want to know you and love you.
You will spend eternity with Jesus. He is the only One whom I am 100% sure is there. Might as well get started improving that relationship today…

 (below is an exercise to be repeated several times a day)

Coming to know Jesus this Lent
1. Take three deep breaths and quiet yourself. Pray for help from the Holy Spirit. Focus on the goal: I want to see Jesus, know Jesus, and love Jesus. Say these words out loud to the Lord. (there is a difference between thinking and talking. Verbalizing words makes them more real)
2. Thank the Lord for making you, calling you into covenant relationship, forgiving your infidelities, healing your wounds and blessing you. Pause to reflect on who He is and what He has done.
3. Repetitive Prayer: Speak some short phrase to the effect “Lord Jesus I want to see you/be with you/know you/love you.” Repeat it over and over (at least fifty or one hundred times). It will not be easy. When you drift refocus. You are re-shaping the desire of your heart. Every day we voice hundreds of desires (I wish it was warmer, I wish it was lunch time, I wish my kids would obey me, etc.). We are trying to balance all the "I wants" of our life with wanting Jesus! The volume needed to do that is immense!
4. if possible: Reflect on a Gospel passage (e.g., Sunday Gospel or daily readings). Ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you in what you read. Ask Him to connect your heart with His, your mind with His, your goals with His. If you want it He will do it. If you don’t want it yet, then pray that He will help you want to want it.

Two prayers to serve as models:
Come Holy Spirit, fill my mind with the Light of Wisdom, Truth and Understanding; fill my heart with the fire of Faith, Hope and Love; conform my will to Jesus in perfect obedience to the Father: in worship and ministry.
Surround me Holy Triune God. Encircle me to guard and guide me. Encircle me with your mercy and love. Encircle me with your Light and truth. Encircle me and fill me with Jesus. Drive out all sin. Let Jesus rule me, fill me up and overflow out of me to bless others. Amen.


  1. I get the feeling that this is the first in a Lenten Series called "Seeking Jesus by Marx." Hubba, hubba!

  2. Ol Dave, YOU are a blessing!
    Now is Hubba, Hubba Greek for "let's get on it!" or Hebrew for "Bless the Lord, O my soul!"?

  3. "Hubba, hubba!" is variable, like bible exegesis. It depends on the context. In this context by this epistle-izer, it means "What a great idea! Hubba, hubba!"