Today, I am sharing a memory from a couple summers before all things COVID-19 when LIFE began FLASHING before my eyes.
Life Flashing before my eyes..
In 7 short days I have experienced highs and lows, laughter and tears, life and death. I know most of all of us have weeks like this, but last week was my turn.
On Tuesday August 9th my Aunt Marie passed away unexpectedly at the age of 87. She was very special to me, Marie (known as Babe) was loved and will be missed of course by family and friends. We all grieve and are sad for our loss, but celebrate her arrival to Heaven where she is reunited with family, friends, and most importantly JESUS.
This is the paradox of the Christian experience where our existence moves from life on Earth, to death, then to Eternity in Heaven for those who love the Lord.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Revelations 21:4
Then Friday morning August 10th my long awaited (9+ months) expected third granddaughter Reagan Holland Larson arrived. SHE'S A KEEPER!
This of course is the best kind of news, and holding her the following morning was a perfect healing touch for my grieving heart.
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL.. Over these same 7 days my wife's family were in town for a reunion. There are six siblings in the Laun family.. ages 83, 82, 79, 77, 60, while my wife is the itsy bitsy BABY at age 57.
All six siblings were here with their spouses along with a smattering of kids and grandkids. Activities included sight seeing, a picnic, paddle boat ride on the Mississippi, and a (heart attack free )baseball game of sorts with players ranging from age 6 through 77.
This was a great time of celebrating family and heritage. All are doing well and actually still like each other. - Who knew families still like each other these days. -
Health of all siblings is good, but if some nefarious sort targeting senior citizens robbed us the highlight of their booty would selling our hearing aides on the black market. The only negative me spending that many days with Mary's family is that I ate waaay too much. I know, I don't have to eat so much, but.. mind your own business.
So there you have it, what a week. Life Flashing before my eyes? .. or as Mufasa from the Lion King explains.. This is the Circle of Life.
This Life is messy, including roller coaster moments wanting you to exit the ride, or 'hurl'. From birth through the family reunions to that day until this ride stops .. this life is a gift from God.
If you don't know Jesus, if you don't have a relationship with God.. now is the time to say YES to Him. Say YES acknowledging Him as savior of your life, and giving Him the proper place in your life. This life is flashing and will be gone before you know it.. then eternity.
I pray we all choose wisely, it matters eternally.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
May God bless each of your lives with joy in your journey. Remember always to love God, enjoy the big and little things of this life, love &care for others with the promise of someday Heaven for those who love Him. Because this life is FLASHING and then in the blink of an eye .. eternity.
update: Now 2 years later and life is still messy but good. My now 2 year old beautiful granddaughter Reagan has a smile that melts me. All my sibling-inlaws are doing well, and God is so good even in this most ugly of years 2020.
The ants go marching one by one hooray! hooray! The marching of the little people is what makes this world work. You see there are presidents, kings, superstar athletes, CEOs of major corporations, and then there is me. There are men of great strength, Hollywood celebrities, super models, great authors, and there is me.
So where do you fit into this world? Are you a superstar or a worker bee? Do you run a major corporation or are you just part of life's ant farm? Truth is I like it here on the farm. Just another face in the sea of faces.. and you know what they say.. all ants look alike.
I have not polled any ants or bees, but I think the message they have is being about the business that needs to be done, and not being jealous of the queen bees or the bossy foreman of your ant farm staff.
So how does that fit in with the body of Christ? Selfless service and simply doing what needs to be done no matter if you are the next Billy Graham, the next church janitor, or even.. a cartoonist!
Whether you are the head of a corporation, work in the mail room, or a server at the local pie shop. What if you are a mom buried with the responsibilities of caring for your preschool children, or a teacher of 4th graders, or a senior widow woman slowed by old age? All one body of many parts, and all parts important. 1 Corinthians 12
The list of possibilities go on and on.. , BUT..
What a life this could be if we were all happy living in God's ant farms or being His little worker bees. A life not burdened with the status of man but instead living for the Kingdom of God.
God's Bugs? what a high calling! Maybe the bar should set a bit higher, lest the classic Hymns for us 'bugs' be The Ants Go Marching One By One, Hooray! and the Flight of the Bumblebee.
note: This is not a call to a life of underachievement where you settle for less than what God has called you, but simply a call to be useful and to serve as God leads in the moments that make up each day.
My prayer for each of today is to be true to who God made us. This makes God smile, and leads us to a place of contentment and success.
Jeff ( a bit buggy ) Larson
It's a big day for ME today as August 11th, 2020 is my 36th wedding anniversary. On that day in 1984 Mary Kay Laun said 'YES' (WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?!)... and she became my wife.
August 11th was a little more hectic 36 years ago. On that day before cell phones with the wedding set for 11 a.m., my groomsmen took me out for breakfast. Well, Mary could not get me on the old landline phone and assumed the worst. Either 1. they kidnapped me, or 2. I got cold (size 12) feet and ran far away.
note: I am writing about my wedding anniversary so rest assured I was on time for our 11 a.m. wedding.
This morning in contrast, we shared morning coffee and chocolate chip muffins while lounging in our pjs after taking our morning doses of ibuprofen. We did pray together and thanked God for these 36 years which included ups and downs. Those newlywed anticipation of 'starting our lives together butterflys' are replaced with anxious anticipation for those above mentioned chocolate chip muffins. love is still in the air for us two old love birds.. but .. rumor has it.. so is COVID-19.
Our plans for 11 a.m. this year is not renewing our vows as the sunsets holding hands exchanging goofy young love grins but instead we visited a local sunflower farm where the above picture was taken exchanging a 'smirking kiss' under our masks safe from the reaches of Covid-19 and Governor Tim Walz mandates. This was followed by fine dining of chic-fil-a for lunch, a walk in the park on this beautiful summer day, and tonight finish our celebration of 36 years of bliss by cooking a steak on the grill tonight at home.
But though what happened was 36 years ago.. I do remember
This was my 3 step plan for happiness with Mary as the love of my life, best friend, and a true gift from God.
We filled those 36 years with looks, stares, glares, loving glances, rolled eyes, kisses, quarrels, while raising 3 kids that cluttered up our home with good times, great memories… and lessons learned. Our family titles have included husband & wife, mom & dad, and now.. WE ARE GRANDMA and GRANDPA. Best job ever!
So in honor of our Anniversary let me share a few questions that if answered correctly are like … maybe a gift of a 1/2 dozen red roses. <pause> ok I admit they are not like roses, but there are 6 of 'em... and your wife will like you better when you answer correctly.
Behold 6.. Simple Answers by Simple Men to Simple Questions by her
Q1: Are your pants too tight? A: NO DEAR
Q2: Are you listening to me? A: YES DEAR.. your cute little opinion is important to me. (scratch that last part)
Q3: Do you have something to say?.. NO .. NOT REALLY
Q4: Do I leave the toilet seat up? MAYBE.. um no, the dog did it.
Q5: Will I still love you when you are old? MORE THAN EVER
Q6: Do you want to go shopping with me? OK.. I GUESS
So.. in conclusion.. Happy Anniversary to Mary.. and me-self! How time flies when you are marry the right woman.
Proverbs 31:10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
Jeff (I found a gem) Larson
Where do you think you are going or 'yer goin' for us rednecks at heart? Honest question that can be asked of most of us. And many times the answer is.. "you can't get there from here."
This question holds true on many a road trip where I became lost, or took what I thought was short cut.
This is true for many a college graduate looking for a high paying job in Corporate America with a Masters degree in 'Cartoon Art History' with a minor in 'Bagpiping'. Or that
mountain climber aspiring to climb Mt. Everest, but afraid to leave his home state of Nebraska. or
taking a road trip from California to Hawaii.
In all these cases and more.. the answer is .. you can't get there from here. While these may be absurd and hopefully amusing examples, there is a more alarming examples in today's culture.
I observe a concerning trend in church becoming a Sunday social club where we go to be fed/entertained every week but never go deep. We do not devote our lives to God except to be a pretty good person. Not exactly a high calling. Will being a pretty good person get me to Heaven, or does God expect more of me? Where do I think I am going? Heaven? This is not a pointing my finger at anyone else before I point it at myself. Is my life foremost about ME, or is it about my God? Honestly, what is my answer? Umm.. easier to talk about politics in church than my honest commitment to my creator.
The following are a few scripture passages, that are convicting and give clarity to this question? Where do I think I am going?
I Never Knew You
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Mt 7:21-23
What good is it to love those who love you?
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Lk 6:32-36
So based on the road I have chosen for my life.. am I going to Heaven or not? Am I a true follower of Christ or just another 'church goer'? How about you? It matters eternally what we believe so choose the God of our Bibles. There is no other God.
But many are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or simply believe in a 'higher power' and so we all believe basically the same thing, right?
I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, Is 45:5
So sincerely wrong is still wrong.
Now you may argue with me that I am wrong, but this is what I believe. So the answer for me to the statement we all believe in basically the same thing is.. If you want to get to Heaven.. You can't get there from here.
So take these words for what it is worth. I am sure I am preaching to the choir for the most part, but even us in the choir need to daily turn to God and consider seriously.. Do I serve Him first and foremost in our lives.. going beyond being a good (church goer) person? And for those not in the choir, I respect where you are at, but prayerfully take to heart the issue of Eternity. It matters what you believe and where you place your faith. Placing your faith in Jesus, and pursuing God first in your life, then with regards to eternity, and Heaven.. You CAN get there from here.
May God bless and use us all with our lives for his glory. Amen.
Jeff (a little bit lost sometimes) Larson
important ETERNITY note: The alternative to not getting to Heaven from here.. is Hell. It is our choice alone. Heaven is the free gift from God to those who place their hope and lives in Him. Hell is the awful other choice we all are allowed to make. There is no home (eternal existence) in between for being a pretty good person.
If I remember correctly, today (August 8th) is the birthday of my good Richard (Dick) Ludzack, and Dick was 6 days my senior as I was born on August 14th. He was a lifelong friend as we grew up in the same home town and attended the same church, played sports together, and both participated in each other's weddings. Dick passed away suddenly a number of years ago, and at that time I wrote my own memorial of his life. I would like to share it again today about a life well lived.
THE ONLY CHOICE THAT MATTERS 10/12/2003
I traveled home yesterday to visit my mom and was greeted by the news that a life long friend of mine was killed the day before in a work related accident. This friend was Dick Ludzack, and his dad Karl Ludzack also passed away last January. Please pray for Dick’s wife Tammy, his kids, and for his 10 other brothers and sisters, and mom. It is kind of news that knocks the wind out of his many friends, and hits even much closer to home for his family.
Dick was a great guy, and though we have not talked all that often in the last few years.. I consider him a true friend. He was a good man who loved God and his family.
Dick was one of the guys that as a youth I sat with in the Back Pew of the church. He was also one of us guys that could not sing. NONE OF US COULD. We called it the sin of our parents. You know, when the people asked Jesus why a certain man was blind.. was it because of his own sin or the sin of his parents?? Well there was a core group of guys in our church, and NONE were blessed with the ability to sing. Some of us sang… but we pushed THE JOYFUL NOISE UNTO THE LORD concept to it’s limits. So the joke among a few of us guys was.. Jesus was it our own sins, or the sin of our parents why we can’t sing? The answer we have concluded.. was.. IT MUST BE OUR PARENTS. Lol
So back to the serious sobering point of these days. Dick was a good man, a good family man, and faithful to God. Though he will be missed.. Dick’s life was a success. Never to trivialize the loss to his family, and friends, but Dick lived his life right.. he loved the Lord, and is in Heaven now. Dick who lived only to be 46 (same age as me) was faithful with the time he had on Earth.
None of us know how long we have here in this world that is a blend of joy and pain. Where there is so much good, and so much tragedy.. so in the end it ETERNALLY makes a difference the choices you make in life. Dick chose wisely.
I pray we are faithful in making the same decision. May the Lord protect each of you.. may he give us all the perspective that is only his.. may his comfort and love be felt by us all, and may we all know Jesus.
In the month of August in the year 2020 I celebrate my 63rd birthday, my 36th wedding anniversary.. AND it is my 57th anniversary for accepting Jesus into my heart ironically while sitting in the Back Pew of a little country church during Summer Bible School in my home town of Cable Wisconsin. John 3:16
Q. Should a fella receive a Gold Watch on my 50 YEAR 'Jesus in my Heart' Anniversary? asking for a friend.
Seriously, this was truly a cornerstone moment in my life. OK, I admit at age 6 I had neither a grasp on theology or anatomy but it was the very real beginning of my Christian journey.
Now 50+ years as a follower of Jesus Christ I am still a work in progress. I have made my share of compromises, bad choices, and had many regrets over the years.
But I look back fondly at that day in 1963 when I accepted Jesus in my heart. He has been there through all my ups and downs. I may have wandered a ways on my Prodigal Son vents a few times, but He was always there for me when I return.
So on this August day in 2020 I look forward to the next curve on life's road, and see the sun and son shining in my life. I am not ready to get off the ride, and the reward of Jesus in my life is better than any old Gold Watch.
Jeff (50+ in the Back Pew) Larson
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” James 2:2-3
James 2:2-3 This is how it looks for me in Minnesota-->
Let me start by sharing my wife and I attend a church that we really like. It is a friendly congregation represented by all age groups. The worship music is well done, and the preaching is straight from God's word in a manner that is both challenging and easy to listen to. The people are friendly and welcoming even in this season of all things COVID-19.
Next, let me share I am over 5 years sober now after it became apparent I was an alcoholic where drink was becoming a growing compromise in my life (off and on) for about the previous 15 years. It did not ruin life, but I was headed on the wrong road, and my addiction to a buzz was growing and dangerous. I thank God for his healing in this area and for the love and grace of my family.. especially my wife... and of course my God.
I never did attend a recovery program until about a year ago when I attended a Celebrate Recovery program for a few weeks to see if it was right for me at this point in my recovery.
Well, in contrast to my 'good church' where the worship, preaching, and presentation on Sunday's is clean and sharp.. this Celebrate Recovery program is messy.
These are people who are struggling. Some have been sober for 15+ years, others are celebrating not have a drink for 30 days, or less. Some are people who have been in and out of treatment, and/or suffering the consequences of their addictions by losing their drivers license, jobs, or family. Stories of jail-time, and restraining orders were common. Many were in the place where they were not drinking but now dealing with the void in their lives where once was a buzz. This group is a mess, but .. a Beautiful Mess
What makes this group such a beautiful mess is their journey starts and ends with a return to God. Not just a 'higher power' but the only true power, the God of our Bibles. This is our only hope for the alcoholic and ALL of the rest of humanity (aka sinners).
Life not so long ago..
Now after 5+ years of being sober, I look back on my journey to where I am now. I did not realize what a fragile mess I was.
So this all makes me reflect on James 2:1-2. I am ashamed to say I honestly don't like the mess or messy people. I like happy Christians with no deep dark secrets and/or sins. I like the well orchestrated church service and an attractive congregation that looks like .. church people should look? I don't know if I want my church to be messy, even a beautiful mess.
So here I am convicted, and I thank God for this conviction. I now desire to be in the mess, and I will blend nicely as I am a mess. Together we love and support each other. Where one hurts all hurt, and when all rejoice we rejoice together (1 Cor 12:26).
God desires to RESTORE US to become the healthy body of Christ. After church I don't want to be the guy looking past the guy or gal out of place to find my usual friends where I am comfortable. I don't know exactly how this conviction on my heart will play out, but I pray God would speak to me and change me to serve him among the beautiful mess that are the people Jesus would be spending his time with.
May God bless you, care for you today, and use you to serve Him in this very messy world. I pray for revival and restoration in our chaotic 2020 America. I pray His church is sensitive and caring for the beautiful mess inside and outside our church walls.
Jeff (plenty messy still) Larson
note: Recovery is not just for the alcoholic, it is for everyone that struggles with the very real issues of life. Depression, co-dependency, anger, sex addiction, anxiety/fear, etc. I pray we allow ourselves to be honest, and allow God to restore us from what ever has compromised our lives.
It is common knowledge in the church that all those who accept Jesus Christ as their savior automatically receive an eternal life insurance (ELI) plan protecting them from Hell Fire . This ELI plan is a must for all those who value eternity.., I highly recommend it. No monthly premiums to remember, so why not sign up today.
But, besides the ELI policy featured in the Gospels I was concerned regarding the life and health insurance needs for an extremely violent Old Testament. What happens what tragedy strikes?Then after researching Google and after about 7 red bulls at 3 a.m. I uncovered the little known but powerful insurance plan known as the Aflack Apocrypha Comprehensive Insurance Plan (AACI). AACI covered the following significant Bible moments and more..
Other probable insurance claims I noticed were..
So there you have it.. The Aflack Apocrypha (AACI) . This was the original 'We know a thing or two cuz we've seen a thing or two' insurance company.
Note: I am pretty sure this illustrated blog/writing/policy outline will NOT become an accepted part of the canon of scripture, but I am ok with that since I confess.. I never googled the Alfack Apocrypha.. I made it up.. (insert shock & awe here). I don't drink red bulls, and I certainly at my age am not up at 3 a.m. unless I have to pee. TMI TMI
note: If you have great Health, Dental, and Vision insurance now.. GREAT.. but if you don't have the assurance of Heaven in your future (John 3:16).. then you are under-insured. There is only one way to Heaven (John 14:6). In this case there is no better time than NOW to give your life to God.
May God bless you with health and good insurance on Earth... and the promise of someday Heaven with our Jesus.
Jeff ( Insured by Grace ) Larson
Well, I cannot stop Father time.. or in my case grandfather time. I will turn 63 this month, and if the calendar did not tell me that.. my body reminds me often.
I can't complain though, or rather I shouldn't complain. I am in many ways healthier than I was even just a few years ago. My blood pressure is very good, and I no longer drink alcohol (5+ years sober). Now on the flip side, I now have hearing aides, a stronger bi-focaled eye prescription, and I describe through exaggeration my spine as a shaken up can of Pringles (vertebraes all stacked up but with a few cracks and crumbles.
Along with grandfather time shouting into my new hearing aides, he reminds me of my mortality. When I was 20 this was never a subject I gave much thought to, but that was 40+ YEARS AGO.
Ok, so far I have pondered getting older so let's move on to the topic of .. DEATH, and also.. ETERNITY. Oh great you are thinking, now Jeff is going to share his funeral arrangements and/or funeral home collection of cartoons. WRONG. :) I don't have funeral home cartoons.. YET. What I do want to share is the hope of Heaven. Not like I hope I win the lottery, but a infinitely better reward than a lottery, and with certain (100%) odds of Heaven.
The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”
Oh death where is your victory, where is your sting? These are also the words of the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:55) not Edgar Alan Poe. Paul continues.. 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Of course, this life does not guarantee us 80, 60, or 20 years, and no matter and our lives are a mere drop in the ocean of eternity. We cling to this life on Earth so tightly and that seems only right, but let's not hang on too tightly where we lose sight of Heaven.
May God bless each of us with REAL JOY during our lives on Earth even when 'we' are 60+ years old with hearing aides, bi-focaled eyes, and a spine like a shaken up can of Pringles. Sorry, I digressed. May God find us faithful in the moments that make up this life.
Jeff (achy breaky senior citizen) Larson
A strange title indeed. There was an AT&T commercial a while back where this guy in the suit is sitting at a table asking a bunch of little kids what is better FASTER or SLOWER? They all agree faster is better. One little girl explains faster is better or else you might be bitten by a werewolf and then you will say.. wawawawawawa.. which means I wish I was human again! The man in the suit stammers.. "what?"
note: If you don't remember this commercial, it is a must watch. click here-> wawawawawawa
Well I think I have similar state of mind when I can become so overwhelmed by the challenges of the year 2020 to where I lose all perspective. Frustration, discouragement, and yes anger with this world gone bonkers clouds my thinking. Some days I become a brooding, and sputtering little black rain cloud with the fruit of God's Spirit windblown from my countenance finding myself much like the girl in the AT&T commercial saying.. "wawawawawawa.. I wish I was CHRISTIAN again."
Moments like these leave me stinging.. and feeling badly about myself. I know I did not lose my place in Heaven because of my discouragement but I don't exactly feel like a victorious Christian either.
Good news ALWAYS is God's Grace is there for me AGAIN. I can pick up and start again to become intentional in my pursuit of God where I see God, and I see HIS purpose (Matthew 6:10) before I see mine. I desire to truly love God and keep him always center in my life and realize when I am weak (and I am often) HE makes me strong (Philippians 4:13).
What if my faith was NOT ABOUT ME but instead ALL ABOUT JESUS? What a difference this would make in me realizing and taking in the truth.. 'I AM A CHRISTIAN saved by His Grace and loved by Him.' What if His Church (all believers) loved God, the church, and the world.. with God as primary focus? Wow, that is a beautiful and big WHAT IF. But is my prayer.
Personally I know this prayerfully would reduce those feelings where I tongue in cheek 'wish I was Christian again'.
May God bless your lives with knowing the promise of salvation, and peace that passes all understanding even in this 2020 world where peace is the last word to describe it.
Jeff ( Thankful today ) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson