(Formerly titled.. 'But I don't wanna go to church.')
I could tell this was going to be a very bad day to go to church. Just getting out of bed was tough enough.. and the Sunday paper was calling my name…. “psst fella, over here… look at me. I know STUFF”
The coffee was brewing, and it called out to me too.. “Hey fella, slow down.. it’s Sunday.”
So, I listened to the voices..
I grabbed the paper (cuz it wasn't gonna read itself), a cup of coffee.. and I was ready to leap into a state of perpetual in-action.
After all Sunday is the DAY OF REST (Genesis 2:2-3) and the Lord said it was GOOD.
Now I am a good Christian man, and as leader of our home it is important sometimes to declare a family day!.. where we stay home from church and spend time together bonding.
Ok, I confess 'Family Day' is actually code for I WANT TO STAY HOME AND NOT SHOWER UNTIL NOON… drink a pot of coffee, and read the sports section and maybe the Sunday funnies.
Well I may be the Head of the House, but my wife wants to go to church and sing with the 'other' blessed saints.
Sing? I don’t honestly like to sing, and I know the people I go to church with. They be nice people but .. SAINTS they AINT.
So off we go to church leaving my Sunday morning paper and my coffee at home.
So I bid adieu to my very good friends the Sunday paper, coffee mug, and my fuzzy slippers as we board the family car that knows it's way down that familiar road to that familiar church with a backseat loaded with our darlin’ children who bicker and fuss in that also familiar way that they do.. the whole blessed drive to church.
This leaves me all the more lamenting the ‘family day’ lost.
Then we arrive to the blessed house of God and put on our happy faces.
First things first.. COFFEE. In the fellowship area they do have coffee.. but it is not STARBUCKS, Folgers, or even SANKA.
Our coffee is not brewed in a fancy latte-da Espresso machine or even a Kurig. Instead my church dispenses a strong black brew from a traditional big ALUMINUM DRUM that has been used but not cleaned since the Eisenhower Administration. It probably resembles a moonshine still more than a Kurig.
It's not great coffee, but I still down a couple cups of brew to keep me awake for what is to come.
After the formalities of coffee we move to the church sanctuary. There are no cushy theater seating at our church but instead we have traditional wooden (with no pads) church pews so I sit and pray for a sliver free service.
The sanctuary is not really so crowded, but I am a big guy, and the ambiance falls short in comfort to sitting in MY living room drinking MY coffee, and reading MY Sunday paper.. in MY PJs!! … having a FAMILY DAY!
BUT I DIGRESS… again!
The Worship Leader is a bit over the top, and his Las Vegas flair certainly is noticeable during his rendition of ‘The King is Coming’.. This only serves to bring the ‘worship wonders’ out of the wood work.
I don’t sing so ‘gooder’, and my sense of rhythm is that of a badger with back spasms. IT’S NOT PRETTY so I keep my worship stylings pretty close to the vest.
But no worry.. we have all the 'charismaniacs' types to make up for me… performing I guess for style points. We have Bullwinkle, Six-shooter Sam, Holey Harry Holman, and I sitting right behind a guy with the plumbers backside with hands raised high.
Even when the people are not hootin’ and hollerin’ they are peculiar.. AND past Sunday mornings have not been free of controversy.
The offering/guilt plate is of course passed which I with a smirk said..”no thanks, I am trying to cut back on giving.”
My smirk moves to a cringe at the sight of our pastor as he saunters up to the pulpit… armed only with one lapel microphone and the word of God… both which he seems to overuse.
Pastor's words and mannerisms are direct, and passionate, but I notice his pants are unzipped. This brings up a less than holy smirk on my face as I PRAY “Dear God please keep me from giggling!” Nothing sounds sillier than a big man giggling at church!
So there you have it. I do hope and pray there are jewels in my crown someday when I get to Heaven because on this day.. I WAS AT CHURCH worshiping with the saints and aints when I wanting to be home worshiping God in my own way with my new Virtual Reality Church System.
signed - some anonymous Sunday blogger or in this case BLAHgger
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are the views of an 'anonymous guy' and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Back Pew. :)
Truth is.. I love my church and look forward to Sunday. Our church motto is 'No perfect people allowed'.. and so I fit right in with others like me who prayerfully seek to worship and honor our God with our lives. God is good, and his Grace is complete.
I pray God will bless each of you with a church you can call home.
Jeff (anonymous guy) Larson
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
The classic Bible story of David and Goliath found In 1 Samuel 17 seems to be the perfect illustration of what the Apostle Paul wrote many years later in Romans 8:31. The mano a mano battle between the Philistine Behemoth War machine Goliath and the little Shepherd boy David son of Jesse had Las Vegas bookmakers of course laying heavy odds on a first round knock out.
In one corner (actually on a hillside) stood Goliath. He is a 9' tall lean mean killing machine whose mere presence has the armies of Israel shaking in their boots.. while others piddled in theirs.
And a very Monty Python like battle cry.. "RUN AWAY RUN AWAY" was heard through out the land.
In the other corner (actually the other hillside) King Saul who was the big man on campus (head and shoulders above the rest) was NOT 9' tall. So he promised one of his daughters as the literal 'trophy wife' for the man who would come forward and challenge Big Bad Goliath.
But.. the idea of being known as the soon to be 'DEAD' at the hands of a GIANT son in law of the king was met with resounding silence.. except the sound of the knocking of the knees of Israel's First 'chicken' Brigade. I guess none of these soldiers had read Romans 8:31.
Enter stage left.. David who shows up to deliver brown paper bag lunches (PB&J sandwiches, apple, bag of chips, and gatorade) to his brothers. Ok, not sure about the menu, but he was sent by his dad Jesse BUT when David overheard the 9' tall heathen windbag taunting the one and only true God he was all in to taking down Mr. Fee Fi Fo Fum! Up until now David's battle resume was as a defender of .. 'sheep'. But as noted by personal reference Sal the Sheep, 'David had killed lions, (maybe tigers) and bears OH MY and he was one baaaa-d dude."
I guess Saul thought to better you than me and loaded up David with all his armor from the big & tall King section.
David looked more like the tin man from Wizard of Oz than a mighty warrior and so David shed all this oversized armor and instead traveled light with 5 smooth stones, a sling, and most importantly his Faith in the One True God.
Goliath even taunts David calling him a dog. Then as the LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE announcement is made over the hillside, the bell rings and both men leave their respective corners (er a hillsides) to do battle in the valley.
The Thrilla in Pallestinia
From all published accounts (1 Samuel 17) the battle was over before it really began. But in the very first 'David defeats Goliath' story-line it was a FIRST ROUND KNOCKOUT for the ages. Not until years later when Rocky Balboa defeated Apollo Creed have the Las Vegas odds-makers been so wrong.
David drops Goliath with one smooth stone square in his thick skull dropping him like a 9' tall sack of philistine potatoes. David then pulls Goliath's own sword from his sheath kills Golaith and cuts off his head and returns it to Saul.
Further investigations of the Crime Scene confirmed the details of the battle. Crime Scene smelled like sheep, Stone shaped indentation in vic's head matched stone near crime scene. Vic's own sword was used to sever head of the big man... BUT it appears it was not suicide. DUH.. how does someone cut off their own head?
Moral of the Story.. of every story is again found in the words of the Apostle Paul
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
No matter the GIANT in your life.. remember the rest of Romans 8
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? .. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
May God bless and use all you Davids in ways that are beyond your dreams and all that God intended for His glory. Amen.
Jeff (Giant Killer) Larson
Thirty two 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: Do not think 'out-loud'.
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, 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 32 years later we have a son Curtis Walter Larson who has given us both our share of joys and exasperation.
NOTE TO SELF: God is good, Mary is wonderful, and Curtis is a son to be proud of.
I am a pretty good guy. I did not keep a good tally of my bad behaviors versus good choices on my pocket abacus , but I still attest I am 'pretty good and not so bad'.
But no matter how good or bad I am, getting into Heaven is always about God's Grace and not about my relative goodness. His grace is sufficient. 2 Corinthians 12:9
So in my case, being pretty good never felt so.. good.
The bible is loaded with stories of God's Grace and hope for both those of us in the pretty good guys club, and also those falling way short of.. pretty good. Our God's love and His patience is great, and there is unlimited grace for all who would receive it.
So rest easy there is no entrance exam to get into Heaven. You will not need to know the names of at least 10 of the 12 disciples, or know the names of the sons of Nahor in Genesis 22. hint: Their names rhyme with fuzz.
At the Pearly Gates you will not be greeted by a Gate Keeper suspecting you of smuggling in contraband (ie devils food cake?).
The only question asked in 'Pearly Gate Redneck speak' will be "if yer kin yer in."
note: This email is not a battle cry for mediocrity, or to strive to only be 'good enough', but only to clarify our goodness is tentative when compared to our perfect creator.
This is all GREAT NEWS for all of us. From the thief on the cross, to any Jeff on his office chair, and everyone else.
Jeff (Good Enough) Larson
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. Genesis 6:5
This was the report card for mankind by God just before He commanded Noah to build an ark. The letter grade for having the inclinations of your heart being only evil all the time got them a.. F! They failed! Mankind did not even show up for class or open a book (figuratively speaking). There was no extenuating circumstances to consider so get ready, and be sure to update your flood insurance policy cuz it's gonna be getting wet.
Evil all the time.. what does that even look like.? I would guess there would be your garden variety envy, greed, racism, and hatred fueled by a self indulgent 'hell bent' looking for the next high' attitude in drink, sex, and/or any other means imaginable. Evil all the time.. folk are gluttons for all forms of pleasure with no boundaries. Their motto was .. 'What happens in Genesis 6:5, stays in Genesis 6:5.'.
Now fast forward to our modern lives. I cannot imagine a society where evil all the time is there every inclination. <insert reflective pause> Unless.. I turn on the evening news. Then I might declare .. 'whoomp there it is.'
Maybe 'evil all the time' is an unfair assessment life today, but we are exposed to a very secular 24/7 stimulus overload with very little time left over for worship of our God. This is not the road God intends for us. We see hatred, envy, anger, greed, and more fuel theft, murder, wars, and more. The internet is a great source for answers and information that is just a click away. But this same internet is a cesspool of depraved, violent and truly dark sites that scream to us evil and is just a click away.,
Of course evil all the time is not a description of the church and God's people and if someone is outside the church just to be clear does not make someone evil.. BUT I see society as a whole being like 'frog in the boiling pot' unaware of how hot the water is. Cooked in what he thinks is a Jacuzzi while drinking a pitcher of margaritas.
Insert REVIVAL here!
BUT.. If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
I know 2 Chronicles 7:14 was written a long time ago to the nation of Israel, but I believe the promise to restore and heal our lands is true today... and not just for Israel.
So what if.. our nation sought the face of God? Then God would maybe paraphrase/revise Genesis 6:5.
The Lord saw how great the goodness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only to love GOD and care for others all the time. Genesis 6:5 (revival edition)
May God bless each of you today in your pursuit of God and for a revival that changes the world.
I grew up in a good God fearing church in rural Wisconsin where the people loved and worshiped God. The joy of the Lord was real but if you were raising your hand(s).. they be expectin' you to have a question.
Since then I moved to the big city where more than a smattering of city folk in their city folk churches raise there city folk hands.
So it was only a matter of time for my close to the vest worship styling succumbed to the hand raising masses.
I started with one hand raised slightly about waist high, with a quick look to my left and right to be sure no one was watching me.. cuz I might be doing it wrong. Then one hand raised but still slightly below shoulder height, palm open of course. About 6 months later I ventured out to raise one hand above my head but only for a split second so that no one thinks I just have a question... Then quickly my hand is raised again this time for half a chorus. Finally both hands above my head high like Jesus just ran 80 yards for a touchdown!
My Worship Metamorphosis is complete!
Think of it like learning to ride a bike. You start out with both hands on the on the handle bars.. then try riding with one hand, then finally big and bold you are riding with no hands. Pretty, pretty cool.
Same thing with worship hands. You start out with both hands on the chair or pew in front of you. Then over time you let go with one hand, then finally both hands raised! Warning: The first time I raised both hands I lost my balance and fell over and skinned my shin.
Ok, I have rambled long enough to where I forget again what is true and what I made up for fun. Fact? Fiction? Hmmm, think of it as a 'hybrid of truth'. Truth be told I do not recall falling over during worship, though one of my butt cheeks did fall asleep on a particularly hard chair at our church. But that is a topic for another day..
What I do know that worship is a time to express our adoration to our loving Heavenly Father. Whether I choose to raise my hands, or remain seated with the above risk of a cheek going numb..
Posture is optional, but Heart is essential.
Note: Besides learning to raise my hands during worship I am also an accomplished 'worship watcher' (much like bird watching) always observing and collecting worship stylings. Let me share a few. There is..
Oh there are many more.. but I leave you all with one final request of any fellow 'worship watchers'. Please report back to me any 'creative' worship styling(s) you have observed so I can capture them with my vivid 64 pack of Crayola Crayons.
So until then.. Keep Calm and Worship on!
Jeff (Two Hands Raised High) Larson
My good friend Bryan Anderson is a Biology professor at Bethel University. He is a smart guy from my home town of Cable Wisconsin population 280ish. Bryan lives the good life with his family now in the Twin Cities faithful to God, family, and friends.
Like I said Bryan is a very good friend, and we meet for lunch often, and when we meet he shares with me his secrets for a happy life. I have summed up his secrets in what I would call The Four Principles of Bryan.
After all Bryan is a Biology professor, a man of science,.. he knows.. STUFF
While I cheerfully own a cell phone, read my email, and wear a seat belt.. I do believe Bryan is on to something regarding this sign happy world.
Also Bryan reinforces his sign concerns by quoting Jesus in Matthew 16:4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it.
So there you have The Four Principles of Bryan for a world looking for a.. a.. ahem a sign?
May God bless your life with a fully charged smartphone, a manageable email inbox, seat belts in your cars, a life uncluttered by excessive 'signage'... and good friends to be used as blog fodder.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson