I think I am a pretty good guy. I did not keep a good count of my bad behaviors versus by good choices, but on the good guy meter.. I am again 'pretty good'/'not bad'..
But no matter good or bad I am, getting into Heaven is about God's grace and never about my relative goodness. His grace is sufficient. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Whew!.. so being pretty good will be good enough.
The bible is full of stories of God's Grace and hope for mankind including pretty good guys, and not so good guys. Our God's love is great, and so is his patience and grace for all of us.
Persecution for my faith? I think the closest thing I encounter as persecution of my faith is going to church Sunday morning where this miserable cold MinneFROZEta winter mocks me for leaving my warm home. "You fool, you fool!" cries old man winter as we now enter yet another day with below zero temps.
Persecution 2000 years ago looked allot different. After the first Christian movement begins at Pentecost in Acts 2 the church grows. In response the religious establishment of the day is outraged and fights them for the next 26 chapters of Acts. This first century church perseveres through REAL PERSECUTIONS that make my cold Minnesota mornings feel like a warm summer day.
Peter and John are imprisoned for what I like to call 'inciting a revival', Stephen is stoned to death, and then Paul enters the scene and is blinded, beaten, stoned, snake bit, shipwrecked, and in and out of jail more than Otis from the old Andy Griffith show.
So 2000 years later I am sitting in my warm home in a country that has allowed me freedom to worship. While it is below zero again outside, I have my gas fireplace warming me as I type. Real persecution? That is what I read about in the book of Acts or in a mission report from somewhere in this big old bad world.. but here at home in America? Not so much. Not really.
Timeout! Timeout! I have something in my eye!
But what I do suffer from is distractions of this rush hour life with 24/7 stimulus from my TV blaring often the profane, vulgar, and less inhibited lifestyles of the rich and famous. Our pop culture society at the very least mocks traditional Bible teaching.
When I am not bombarded with images of societies distorted views on beauty, and sexuality, I am tempted with other images of things I want... AND I DO WANT THEM. The new computers, smartphones, HD TV sets, tablets, sound systems and more. More compromise of my desires and my pocketbook.
STOP THE MADNESS, my brain is full, and I need VISINE!
It is an easy topic for to ramble on as you can tell, but instead I pray .. the body of Christ not be distracted by any compromised society.
I pray .. our words and actions not deter us from God's two greatest commandments. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and care for others in need and love them as ourselves.
My God find us all faithful, and in all things.. To God be the Glory!
Blessings, Jeff (Visine user in the back pew) Larson
I attended church this Sunday morning for about 90 minutes where I was moved by the worship time and inspired by the preaching. Perspective and Godly focus was in my spirit as I leave the church building... BUT... this leaves me with over 166 hours on my own until next Sunday.
The news is wars and rumors and rumors of wars, the politics is often self-promoting and partisan, the cities are filled with hatred, racism and reverse racism. It is a world with a broken spiritual and moral compass. As I cringe I say "Hello world" and prepare myself for these next 166 hours until I am safe again inside my church walls.
I do feel the weight and oppression of this world's demands. Unlike the safety and fellowship I find at church, I often find the world to be difficult, confrontational, and void of Christianity.
So Lord I need you these next 166 hours to be in communion with you, and fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ, Lord I pray the fruit of your spirit is evident in my life while often on my own. I pray I my life is a light in dark places, and the joy of my life's witness in words and deeds be evident these next 166 hours.
May God bless and use each of you during your 166 hours in ways that are beyond your dreams!
Twenty nine years ago my wife and I were anxious parents-2-be expecting our first. We had already made a few typical false alarm trips to the hospital (aka Braxton Hicks practice contractions), but on February 13th, 1986 it was the real deal and life would NEVER be the same.
READY SET GO.. At 12:30 a.m. on February 13th 1986 my wife and I had just headed off to bed for a long winter’s nap. About midnight I arrived home from working the evening shift at my job and was off to bed with my fully 9 months pregnant wife Mary. Before I could even fade into sleep Mary exclaims “My water broke, or I just peed the bed.” So off to the races we headed for the birth of our child #1.
BUT FIRST.. We had to stop was for gas as I had not planned on this midnight run to the hospital all while Mary’s contractions were kicking in to gear.
NOTE TO SELF: Keep gas tank full when babies are near due date.
So we arrive at the hospital ( I ran a few red lights just for added high drama) and the nurses get us settled into our room and notify our doctor. Mary is then hooked up all sorts of monitors including this cool baby monitors that measures the strength of her contractions. COOL.. something for me to watch over the next hours.
OVER THE NEXT HOURS.. The contractions come and go.. the doctor visits and early on is able to give Mary the drugs of choice to calm the pains. I remember after several of the contractions where Mary seemed to be hurting especially bad I said to her.. “That one was not really that bad it was only a 4 on the monitor.” Shortly later I found out the monitor strap had come loose and was not measuring accurately.
NOTE TO SELF: keep stupid comments inside head.
BIRTH CLASS IN ACTION: Mary and I had attended the birthing classes, so I knew to hold her hand and to coach her breathing. Problem was Mary preferred to hold the nurses hands because they were cooler to the touch, and at one point during my breathing she said.. “Quit breathing in my face.”
NOTE TO SELF: Quit breathing??
MORE DRUGS .. PLEASE: So the hours move along and it is early morning around 4:30 when Mary pleads with her doctor for more drugs.. but the doc says nope.. too late.. no more drugs for you. At least I was smart enough at this point to not repeat the doctor’s words. I just sat quietly supportive.
NOTE TO SELF: Plead Mary’s case for drugs as a sign of being supportive, and ask for some for self as my back is killing me.
THING ARE GETTING INTENSE: Around 8 a.m. the pains are strong, but the process seems to have stalled a bit. So while Mary is in her ‘painful’ holding pattern, the morning breakfast cart rolls around. They peek in and ask sheepishly.. “Breakfast anyone?” There is a momentary silence.. then I finally say.. “Yes, I think I could eat something.”
NOTE TO SELF: Next time shout, can’t you see my wife is in labor, and then meet cart in hallway for a secret snack under the guise of chewing them out.
So the process continues as I eat breakfast and between bites of food call to my wife with my mouth full.. “push”.. and “remember your breathing.”
FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN: Finally around 10:00 a.m. a child is born and they shall call his name .. Curtis Walter Larson. He is healthy but a bit cone headed but a keeper. After the usual initial checks and I get to cut the cord from mothership Mary we head back to our private room where the three of us mom, dad, and new baby Curt.. all lying in the same bed. And around 12:30 early that afternoon, baby Curt is asleep, I am asleep (and snoring) while Mary lies wide awake with the adrenaline rush of her life.
NOTE TO SELF: I don't know what Mary thinks BUT.. this giving birth thingy is exhausting!
So there you have it, BIRTH FROM ONE MAN’S PERSPECTIVE. Now 29 years later we have a son Curtis Walter Larson who has given us both our share of joys and exasperations.
NOTE TO SELF: God is good, Mary is wonderful, and Curtis is a son to be proud of.
Today I write again about the challenge of being a spiritual man. Why is it is so challenging to keep a spiritual perspective with my eyes on Jesus in this life? I find first of all I become so busy with the demands of each day, and in fact some days are simply overwhelming. Then on those days where I do have time I have a gift for cluttering up my day with tasks that are either leisurely or are simply a waste of time.
Now don't get me wrong, I believe in leisure. I love my sports teams, and my hobbies but when they clutter up my free time then they also may be keeping me from intimacy with God.
The other problem I sometimes have is reducing my time with God to look a certain way or being on a sort of 'spiritual check list' that I will call my 'to dos' and my 'to don'ts'.
It is like I was taught years ago about the fruit of God's spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.) being something we do rather that it describing who we should be. Those days when the fruit of God's spirit describe my spirit is when I believe I am living in the sweet spot of being a spiritual man.
So while prayer lists and scripture readings are important guides to our lives, they are not in themselves spiritual. The great value I do find in prayer lists and scripture reading is adding focus and minimizing my mind from drifting.
The next piece I find critical in becoming a spiritual man is my personal physical disciplines. The scriptures teach my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.. so what I drink, eat, and when and how much I sleep are very important first of all to my physical health, but also to my spiritual being.
I grew up in a logging community where TIMBER MANAGEMENT was what we did. You know, literal trees from the literal forest stuff. I am in fact as the son of professional logger Walter Larson I have ‘whacked’ with a chainsaw many a tree for the 'Log'father just like Luca Brazzi did hits for the Godfather.
In contrast those environmentalists we loggers affectionately called ‘tree huggers’ did not see trees as a renewable resource but rather as.. people! And … the words CLEAR CUT made them imagine a mass killing by those unshaven, donning flannel shirts and stocking caps working for organized crime (against nature) timber companies. So in summary.. loggers see the big picture… TREES are the renewable resource in the collective called a FOREST.
Years later I found myself working in a Corporate work setting as a programmer analyst where I was once told by a Lead Consultant .. that the problem between the two of us was .. I was a linear thinker while she was a parallel thinker. You know.. she could see the FOREST (project big picture) while my linear brain could only see the TREES (a simple line of code on my computer).
But.. even a slow ‘linear’ thinker like me knew I was being insulted. And.. though I would like to have left her tied to a TREE in a distant FOREST.. I deflected her comments with a few carefully chosen words and did not take her bait to escalate conflict.
Now fast forward another 13+ years to my present day ‘simpler’ life of Crayons and Stripped Shirts.
While this sounds like I am in prison for being a graffiti artist .. many of you know crayons are my code word for cartooning, and stripped shirts are the fashion statement of choice for my alter-ego of sports official/ref/ump extradinaire!
The problem is though I am no longer logging a tree in a forest like I was 30+ years ago in Wisconsin, and I no longer struggle as linear ‘like a tree’ thinking programmer in a forest of corporate suits, I am NOW BUSIER than I know what to do, and unable to distinguish the TREES (today) from the FOREST (the future).
So.. I resolve to embrace my dependence on God with faith, hard work, prayer, laughing loud, because as creator God definitely sees the trees from the forest, and the forest from the trees. aka Spiritual Timber Management.
May God bless and use each of you whether your name is Albert Einstein Jr., or Mr. Obama. Whether you are a CEO, CPA, M-O-M, D-A-D, or a R-E-F like M-E.. exhale and realize God is in control, and that’s the best place to be. Love God with all our hearts, soul, and minds, and others as ourselves.. the rest is .. trees from the forest stuff.
Safety Note: I stopped chewing gum while typing this email to focus my 'linear' thinking mind so I would not strain-a-brain synapse.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson