“Surround them with Your angels. Surround them with Your care and protection. Surround them with good friends, good influences, good teachers and coaches. Surround them with wisdom and understanding, foresight and insight, encouragement and blessing. Surround.”

Today is Tuesday, the first of March, 2022, in the eighth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

February is finally over. For the shortest month of the year, it sure seems like it lasts a long time. Of course, as I’ve mentioned, it is my least favorite month of the year, and has been for well over thirty years. It’s not all because of the fact that we get our harshest “winter” usually during February.

As I mentioned yesterday (I think) today is “Fat Tuesday,” otherwise known as Mardi Gras. It is the traditional day where people indulge their desires before starting the long “fast” of Lent on Ash Wednesday. I haven’t thought a lot about Lent, yet, this year. Which means that I also don’t know if I’m “giving up” anything for the forty day event. I should probably give up candy.

The electrical service went well, yesterday. They arrived on time, if not a little early. It was a bit pricey, but they were very professional and got the job done. The light fixture did not have to be replaced, so we have one to return to the store. It turns out that we had a “loss neutral” (I think that’s what he said) between the panel and the light switch. He was able to locate the place and fix it without having to run any new wiring. He did have to dig into one other switch and two outlets to find it. Based on what he found, I believe it to be an issue that has existed since the house was built, and it just finally got to a point where it “broke” Saturday night. Anyway, the light works, now, and he replaced two switches and outlets, and installed the new ceiling fan in the bedroom. All of this wound up costing almost $800.

C is working from home today, which, it turns out, is good, because her stomach was bothering her a bit, last night. The A/C guy is supposed to come over today, between 12-1 to talk about options for our heating/cooling systems. I didn’t hear from him, yesterday, though.

I work this evening, from 4:15-8:15, and will be back tomorrow at 9:15, as this is my “heavy” week at the library. I may be driving to Mineral Wells on Thursday to bring Mama here for another stay. We aren’t sure about that, just yet.


"O Lord,
you have mercy on all.
Take away my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of your Holy Spirit.
Take away my heart of stone
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore you,
a heart to delight in you,
to follow and to enjoy you, for Christ’s sake.
(Prayer for A Renewed Heart, St. Ambrose)

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.
(Psalms 7:17 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. that ceiling fans and light fixtures are working properly
2. for the writings of Catherine Marshall regarding a critical nature
3. that I am surrounded by You
4. that You make all things beautiful in Your time; help me to trust Your timing
5. for the upcoming season of Lent, and its help in preparing us for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday

It seems only fitting that my progression in the book, Spiritual Classics, has brought me to the section on the discipline of fasting, as we begin the month of March, and as the season of Lent begins tomorrow. The first of four chapters on fasting examines a selection from Catherine Marshall, from A Closer Walk. In this excerpt, Catherine writes about fasting from criticalness.

Right off the bat, she cites Matthew 7:1-2.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
(Matthew 7:1-2 NIV)

She speaks of getting an “assignment” from God. “For one day I was to go on a ‘fast’ from criticism. I was not to criticize anybody about anything.”

Her typical objections: “But then what happens to value judgments? You Yourself, Lord, spoke of ‘righteous judgment.’ How could society operate without standards and limits?”

She strongly felt the Lord telling her to obey Him without question, “an absolute fast on any critical statements for this day.”

My first thought was to think how silent Facebook would be if all of us were able to accomplish this for even an hour.

The encounter has humor to it. For the first half of this day, Catherine speaks of feeling a void, “almost as if I had been wiped out as a person.” And, she observed, as she had lunch with her husband, mother, son, and secretary, her comments about issues discussed were not missed at all. No one seemed to notice that she wasn’t talking. They were all too busy talking, themselves. “The federal government, the judicial system, and the institutional church could apparently get along fine without my penetrating observations.”

As the afternoon went buy, though, Catherine began to see what this was accomplishing. She had been praying for a young man whose life had gotten sidetracked. “Perhaps my prayers for him had been too negative. That afternoon, a specific, positive vision for this life was dropped into my mind with God’s unmistakable hallmark on it – joy.”

It turns out that her critical nature, while not fixing one single thing with which she had found fault, had stifled her own creativity “in prayer, in relationships, perhaps even in writing.”

The word translated “judge” in most translations of Matthew 7 could easily be rendered “criticize.” “All through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets Himself squarely against our seeing other people and life situations through this negative lens.” Following are five things that Catherine summed up that God showed her through this.

  1. A critical spirit focuses us on ourselves and makes us unhappy. We lose perspective and humor.
  2. A critical spirit blocks the positive creative thoughts God longs to give us.
  3. A critical spirit can prevent good relationships between individuals and often produces retaliatory criticalness.
  4. Criticalness blocks the work of the Spirit of God: love, good will, mercy.
  5. Whenever we see something genuinely wrong in another person’s behavior, rather than criticize him or her directly, or – far worse – gripe about him behind his back, we should ask the Spirit of God to do the correction needed.

Here is the prayer that Catherine Marshall found herself praying: “Lord, I repent of this sin of judgment. I am deeply sorry for having committed so gross an offense against You and against myself so continually. I claim Your promise of forgiveness and seek a new beginning.”

I am deeply moved by this selection, today, as a judgmental or critical nature is something I have struggled mightily with, throughout my life.

(From Spiritual Classics, by Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin)

Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, while not directly addressing the above topic of criticism, seem to lend themselves to a similar interpretation.

Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. . . . Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don't be diverted. Just keep at it.  
(1 Timothy 4:12-13,15-16 MSG)

Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, incorruptible in your teaching, your words solid and sane.
(Titus 2:2-8 MSG)

In the words of Eugene H. Peterson, “This is essential reading because ill-directed and badly formed spiritual leadership causes much damage in souls.”

The reason I compare this to Catherine Marshall’s writing on a critical nature is that this is what I’m seeing, right now, in our culture, and it is largely coming from my generation, as well as the generation or two directly behind me. Nothing but criticism, and all negative, with no positive reinforcement. In other words, all complaining with no solutions, other than ousting the current administration.

And this “ill-directed and badly formed spiritual leadership” is driving young people away from the church (lower-case “c”) in droves.

(From Symphony of Salvation, by Eugene H. Peterson)

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV)

You say, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge with equity.”
(Psalms 75:2 NIV)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)

Today’s prayer word is “surround.” I like this one. The quoted Scripture verse is:

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
(Psalms 34:7 ESV)

“Encamps around” = “surrounds.”

The writer of today’s reading, the ubiquitous “Bob,” writes of using this word as he prays over family members each day. His grandchildren were attending a new school, fresh with new challenges. “Surround,” he prays over them as he drops them off.

“Surround them with Your angels. Surround them with Your care and protection. Surround them with good friends, good influences, good teachers and coaches. Surround them with wisdom and understanding, foresight and insight, encouragement and blessing. Surround.”

Immediately, I am reminded by a worship song that I learned a couple years ago. “It may look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You. . . . This is how I fight my battles.”

Our Father surrounds us every day. Whether we are aware of His presence or not, He is there. How much sweeter it is when we are aware of Him!!

Father, again, there is a lot to take in, this morning. I am moved beyond description at Ms. Marshall’s writing on the critical nature. While it may not be the particular “fast” you are calling me to this Lenten season, I believe that You have been and continue to call me away from this nature. I pray desperately that You would remove any form, any remnant of the critical nature from my heart, my soul, and my spirit, Father! I literally hate that aspect about myself. I know that it does not come from You, and that it does not in any way resemble the nature of the Savior in whose steps I am supposed to walk. So please remove it.

I praise You that You surround me. That truth brings me great comfort whenever I remember it and focus on it. I know that You always surround me, but when I know it and acknowledge it, it is so much sweeter and comforting. I thank You for Your presence, Father, and I pray for my entire family, that You would make Your presence known to them. Surround them all, Lord. “Surround them with Your angels. Surround them with Your care and protection. Surround them with good friends, good influences, good teachers and coaches. Surround them with wisdom and understanding, foresight and insight, encouragement and blessing. Surround.”

All glory to You, through the Son and by the Spirit.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“Lord, I repent of this sin of judgment. I am deeply sorry for having committed so gross an offense against You and against myself so continually. I claim Your promise of forgiveness and seek a new beginning.” ~ Catherine Marshall

Grace and peace, friends.

The Sovereignty of God

Good morning. It is Tuesday (post-Monday), February 17, 2015. Only three more days until pitchers and catchers report! 48 more days until Opening Day! Also, today is what is known as “Fat Tuesday.” Which makes tomorrow “Ash Wednesday.” Easter will be on April 5, this year.

Today’s word of the day is week. I know what you’re thinking. Well, maybe I don’t. But this “week” has nothing to do with seven days. It is defined as, “Representing a short high-pitched sound, esp. as made by a pig. Freq. reduplicated.” If you think about it, it works, doesn’t it? “Week! Week! Week!,” said the pig.

Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day. I think you know what to do.

So what did I do on my day off? I went to have lunch with Christi (and our insurance agent/financial advisor), I bought Kristy Kreme doughnuts on the way home, as well as drinks from Sonic, I practiced the trombone, I played baseball on the Xbox, watched a silly movie, and then cooked dinner. It was a nice day. Christi and I watched the premier of The Slap, last night. I think it came on last Thursday. We won’t be continuing this series. It’s too uncomfortable in several ways. And it looks like it will continue to be more so. After that, we watched The Mentalist. Sadly, there is only one more episode of that show left. Next Wednesday will be the series finale.

Today, it’s back to work, and then I have Huddle tonight. Today is also, as mentioned above, “Fat Tuesday.” The culmination of Mardi Gras. Traditionally, the idea is to indulge in as much sinful activity as possible on this day, because “Ash Wednesday” is tomorrow, which signifies the beginning of Lent, the period of fasting that is to occur before Easter. Mardi Gras (along with Carnival in other countries) has just become the world’s biggest party, and my guess is that a large percentage of the people who participate have no clue what the meaning is. They’re just along for the party. Personally, I believe the whole idea is ludicrous, and shows a deep misunderstanding of what the Gospel is all about. And since I’m not Catholic, I don’t really observe any of it, anyway. I don’t “give up” anything for Lent, either. The whole idea of gorging yourself on Tuesday and then giving something up for the next forty days, well, it kind of baffles me. It’s like pigging out the day before you know you’re going to fast. It defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?


. . . when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.
Psalm 17:15b

(FromSolid Joys)

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,
Galatians 1:15

Today’s reading is “The Sweet Designs of God.”

“Ponder the conversion of Paul, the sovereignty of Christ, and what Paul’s sins have to do with your salvation.”

Note that Paul says that God set him apart before he was born (see the verse from Galatians, quoted above). Then, when Saul was on the Damascus road, God called him, “by his grace.” So, between Paul’s birth and his Damascus road experience, he was an “already-chosen but not-yet-called instrument of God.” This also means, and pay attention to this, that “Paul was beating and imprisoning and murdering Christians as a God-chosen, soon-to-be-made-Christian missionary.” We need to think about that for a little bit.

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'”
Acts 22:6-7

This was the moment. Paul was chosen before he was born, and now, God was taking him. “The word of Christ was sovereign. There was no negotiating.”

And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’
Acts 22:10

This is important. “Damascus was not Paul’s final, free will yielding to Christ after decades of futile divine effort to save him. God had a time for choosing him (before he was born) and a time for calling him (on the Damascus road). Paul yielded when God called.”

And here is something that is even more astounding. In fact, I know some people who would run away screaming at this point. “Therefore, the sins that God permitted between Paul’s birth and his calling were part of the plan, since God could have done Damascus sooner.” What?? Could sin actually be a part of God’s plan??? God is sovereign. If God is sovereign, there are no accidents.

What do the sins of Paul mean for you and me? Consider them. Paul, as Saul, murdered dozens of Christians. He was on hand, giving his approval when the religious leaders stoned Stephen to death. He persecuted Jesus Christ by killing his followers. These sins “were permitted for you and me — for all who fear that they might have sinned themselves out of grace.” Here is what Paul says about them:

Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy . . . for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:13, 16

“O how sweet are the designs of God in the sovereign salvation of hardened sinners!”

O, Father, I praise you for your sovereignty! I believe that you also chose me before I was born, and, at the appointed time, you called me. My life is very different from Paul’s, and many sins have threatened my relationship with you since the time you called me. However, since you are sovereign, and no man can snatch me out of the hands of my Savior, here I still am, trying my hardest to love you, follow Christ, and share the kingdom. I am so grateful for your sovereign grace! I thank you that you have placed me where I am, right now, unexpectedly leading an intercessory prayer ministry. I pray for your Spirit to help me understand, to teach me more and more about prayer and what it accomplishes. And I thank you for the example of Paul, not that I can feel better about my sin (I never murdered anyone, you know), but so that I can see the marvelous expanse of your wonderful grace!

I pray for this day. May our trip to work and home be safe. I pray for Christi’s work day, that it will be productive, and without stress or anxiety. I pray for my work day, that I will not be too far behind after being off yesterday. I pray for Stephanie, that you would show your great love to her, and that you would give her understanding. I pray for you to show her future to her (and to us, as well).

Your grace is amazing, Father!

God is sovereign. His grace is amazing. You cannot sin your way out of God’s grace. If he has chosen you, he will (if he has not already) call you. We may not all be “Paul,” but God has a plan for us, and he will work that plan!

Grace and peace, friends.