How does my resume look? Am I qualified? Can God really use a NOBODY with nothing to offer? What if my self-esteem is in the DIRT of my Monday - Friday RUT where my abilities and influence never seem to make a difference for God.
Oh sure I attend church most every Sunday, and my wife and I even host a Small Group bible study every other Sunday night.. but what difference does any of that make? Who am I? Hi, my name is Jeff and I am NOBODY.
Then I reflect back over my years in the work place. I have traveled on a seemingly random career path. As a young man I worked as a logger in rural Wisconsin, then moved to the big city where I was a computer programmer/analyst, and not so many years ago I was the owner/manager of a sports officials management business.
After selling my sports officiating biz overal several years I coasted into early retirement while driving school bus part time on the side. I find officiating sports and officiating school kids on a big yellow bus are very similar.
Side note: There was one summer while between jobs I was a PAPER BOY (for God?) delivering the daily newspaper.
All while through my years in the work force I have continued my hobby/passion of cartooning..finding out it is not a successful 'get rich quick' scheme or a cash cow though I better known for my cartoons than I am for any of my proffessional accomplishments.
Then to further feed this 'I AM NOBODY' theme there was a time when I received an actual letter in my mailbox declaring my 'nobodyness'. Well, actually worse than nobody.. the letter said I was DEAD. This letter was from my bank addressed to Jeffrey DEAD Larson instead of Jeffrey DEAN Larson.
I am not sure if that was a typo or a snarky comment on my personal credit so I did quick check my pulse, and good news.. I was not dead.
Good News? I am not dead. Bad News? I am nobody!
So I turn to God's word for encouragement and inspiration in hopes to find a glimmer of hope that I am not a NOBODY, but rather a somebody. I was quickly reminded of great Bible nobodys turned to somebodys
By God using these very flawed men to serve him in great ways it demonstrates it has always about God's message and not the messenger.... so maybe there is hope for a NOBODY like me.
NOBODY(s) for JESUS.. sounds more like a label for a Christian support group than a battle cry to serve God. Can't you hear our Battle Cry?
Who are we? nobody.
The mighty mighty.. Nobodys?
Who am I without God anyways? BUT an equally good question is.. WHO AM I WITH GOD? What is possible?
This is not to say God will use me to part any Red Seas, raise any dead, or become the Billy Graham of Christian cartoons, .. but
I believe if I am willing, God will bless and use me in ways that are beyond what I could dream.
The one thing I am daily reminded is.. this life is not about me. It is about loving God with all my heart soul and mind and caring for others. To be faithful in the moments presented to me each day and then God can and will use me in little subtle ways for sure, and who knows maybe in big ways. I am sure there is a sea that needs parting somewhere.
May God bless and use each of you as you are faithful to HIm in ways that are always beyond our dreams and all that God intends.
Have a great day. Smile lots.. and enjoy life!
Jeff (NOBODY) Larson
I would not claim I have a great memory and I am horrible with names. I confuse and/or forget names often, embarrassingly often.
But what I do remember clearly are my past mistakes/blunders/boo-boos and/or 'sins'. These memories are clear and hard for me sometimes to let go.
This 'Jeff Larson blooper reel' when played can spur on all sorts of regrets often accompanied with those ucomfortable feelings of shame and failure... BUT.. this is NOT what God intends..
for as far as the East is from the West so are our sins removed. Ps 103:12 from us once I ask forgiveness. This is good news for regret laden fellow like me.
I do need to ask forgiveness and be truly sorry and not saying sorry through clenched teeth, but once that is done.. forgiveness is full and complete.
The bible teaches us we are forgiven and God remembers our sins no more.
He will again have compassion on us.. you will cast our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19
This of course does not imply God is forgetful, but simply our sins are forgiven and we they should no longer be a weight on our hearts or minds.
Again.. If we confess our sins, God forgives us and remembers them no more.
The point is they are GONE so let your mind find peace in this great truth.
My prayer today is that God bless you with the assurance of His love. He forgives and forgets your every transgression, and he answers your prayers like the perfect Heavenly Father he is.
And.. He can and will restore you and I both in ways that are beyond our dreams.
important note: Not all regrets are due to past sins. Our honest mistakes, limited abilities, wrong choices, bloopers that were not sins can also haunt us.
Please read Isaiah 40:28-31, and Psalms 23 for messages of hope that is in our loving Heavenly Father.
Most every year around this time I like to share the story of the birth of our first born. The birth of each of our children have their own special story, but my son Curtis just had a birthday on February 13th so it is his turn to be remembered in this birth blog.
Thirty five 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 35 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.
Hi, my name is Paul and this is my story how I found happiness. Before my trip to Damascus I was a big shot Pharisee type. I was an important man in the Jewish community with a focus at this time on putting an end to this Jesus movement.
Then came that day on the road to Damascus I saw the light (both literally & figuratively). Of course my momma always said don’t look directly into the sun or you’ll burn out your eye balls.. well.. momma was right.
But this light stopped me dead in my tracks like a traffic light on main street .. and there was a voice from the light calling me by name “Saul (my friends used to call me Saul).. why are you persecuting me?” because at this time I was described as.. a man breathing murders and threats against Christians .
This light, this voice, this Jesus had my full attention. So here I am blind as a bat with cataracts and have to be led the rest of the way to Damascus. This is where I met God and to show God’s ironic sense of humor I was instructed to resign from my position as ‘Chief Church Prosecutor / Persecutor’ and make a 180 degree change to my new calling to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to both the Jews and Gentiles.
Once my sight returned I could not stop preaching Jesus Christ. I was of course at first received cautiously by Christians who were unsure of my motives. I guess breathing murders and threats up until this point made a negative impression. GO FIGURE, and now I was a mystery wrapped in an enigma with my Pharisee Lodge brothers.
But in time Christians saw my love for Jesus was real, and the Jewish community realized this was not just a Pharisee mid-life crisis. My life would never be the same. It was a very dangerous, but miraculous time to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
There was even a time where differences between myself and Silas resulted in us prayerfully and respectfully going different directions but still both serving the same God. You might want to call this the beginning of denominations. The church was truly now one body of many parts.
It was a time to sing , and a time of high drama , and a time to stand up to share truth that Jesus is the Messiah!
Side note: I also remember when a young man named Eutychus fell asleep during one of my sermons, fell from a balcony to his death, but .. got better?
Anyways let’s just say from this day forward this young man was known as the unofficial patron saint for those who ‘sleep in church’ . And no hard feelings towards Eutychus, I tend to get a little long winded when I preach.
It was the Tale of Two Ministries where it was the best of times, and the worst of times. It was a time of both great revival and great persecution. And no matter the price or personal loss the gospel message of Jesus Christ must be told to both the Jews (God’s chosen people) and the Gentile (that is everyone else).
It was a time where zealous anger of the religious establishment had me arrested while others plotted my death .
Funny thing is.. these were the best years of my life.
Of course prison life, and being hated by those in power was not on my 'bucket list'.. BUT God was able to use these times to share his Gospel truth like only He could. While I suffered, God gave me peace that none of this was about me, but It was about sharing the greater hope in Jesus Christ.
I even endured a storm at sea , and was shipwrecked on the island of Malta. I believe the name of the boat was the S.S. Minnow, and if not for the courage of the fearless crew we would have all perished . Special thanks go out to the Skipper and his first mate.. who I think the professor called.. Gilligan.
Then while around a fire on this island I was bit by a poisoness snake . Of course God protected me again.. I shook off the snake and the only frustrating after affect was that several of the crew took this as a sign to start a ‘Snake Handler Church’. Oh brother!
After 3 months on this Island we set sail again and made our trip to Jerusalem where again I could plead my case for Jesus and the truth that he was the son of God who came to earth, lived, was crucified for our sins, and was resurrected, and now is in Heaven with the Father.
What a great honor for God to choose me the once great hater of the church to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ! God is so good, and I am blessed.
To sum it all up after the Damascus Road I was blinded, beaten, hated, ship wrecked, snake bit, and had a discount punch card for all my time spent in jail… BUT truth be told.. I was too busy serving to really notice.
My prayer today is that God blesses each of your lives with opportunities to serve Him and others in ways that make your lives full and complete. In ways that are beyond your dreams.
Be faithful in the moments that make up your day, and may your happiness never be measured in comfort or wealth but in service to God and others. When you discover this, then you also will be living the best years of your lives.
(loosely translated by some guy sitting in The Back Pew)
Not so long ago there was a GEICO commercial featuring a Sumo figure skater with the tag line "Sumo Wrestler figure skating? Surprising! What's not surprising is what you can save on car insurance by switching to GEICO."
This is the kind of kind of absurd humor my Back Pew mind can appreciate and has inspired a few GEICO-esque cartoons
"Heavy Metal Yodeling?" Surprising. What's not surprising? How much money you could save by switching to GEICO."
I am still waiting for GEICO to call me back on this 'creative' concept, but so far..
'I hear crickets'.
So then I take a look at my collection of cartoons and found very quickly three more Heavy Metal cartoons. They are...
I believe with these cartoons I have demonstrated a GEICO like absurdity that I embrace. AND.. I believe there is very little if any spiritual message from these toons, but..
I will give it a try.
Heavy Metal Yodeling, Polka, Sunday School with Ozzy Ozbornagain .. surprising!
what's not surprising is God's Amazing Grace covers all our sins.
It's not surprising because we are loved with the perfect love of our Heavenly Father.
Ok, it's maybe not GIECO material, but the John 3:16 promise of Salvation beats the best of insurance plans.
So I pray today that each of you experience God's Amazing Grace, the promise of His presence in your lives today, and the promise of Heaven in your future.
Jeff (surprised often) Larson
If you sneeze, I will politely respond "Bless you." If you sneeze again.. you are on your own as I adhere to a strict one blessing per sneezer rule. This is not negotiable.
But sneeze blessings are not the topic of the day instead a Father’s Blessings, and ultimately God’s blessings. These blessings I want, and like I say often in The Back Pew .. ‘BlESSED beyond my DREAMS’. I want Prayer of Jabez supersized blessings.
It seems just like a chapter ago Isaac was just a boy, but now in Genesis 25 Isaac is all grown up and with his wife Rebecca has twin boys. The first to enter the world was Esau, and right on his heel literally (Ge. 25:25) was Jacob.
These boys were like so many brothers as they were very different from each other. Esau grew up to be a scruffy/hairy outdoors type who loved to hunt. Jacob on the other hand was not scruffy, and liked to hang out in the kitchen with maybe a reputation as a mamma's boy.
The Father's Blessing
Next we are introduced to the power of the Father’s Blessing, and especially the blessings set aside for the first born in this case.. by beating brother Jacob in the 'birth canal dash' was scruffy/hairy Esau.
I am not sure how or why they worked the way they did in the Old Testament, but it seems like the 'Father’s blessing' had the power to make or break the future of the ‘blessee’. It was like winning the family inheritance lottery.. and there were no TAKE BACKS.
The Blessing Plot Thickens
So one day Esau comes in from hunting famished and is met by his brother Jacob. Esau is so desperate for food, that Jacob talks Esau out of his birthright since Esau replies, "what good is my birth right if I die today from starvation."
note: It appears Esau was a great hunter, but a bit of a drama queen.
I don’t know exactly follow how the whole birthright and blessing stuff worked in those days, but I am thinking this birthright transfer should have required a signed agreement witnessed and stamped by a notary public.
ie The first party (Esau) agrees to relinquish his future blessing reserved for the first born to the second party (Jacob) in exchange for one bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup.
Esau sign here
Jacob sign here
Notary sign here
Date enter today's date
I am not sure if today this birthright exchange for soup arrangement would hold up even in front of Judge Judy, but in Genesis 25 it set the stage for the Ol' Birthright SWITCHEROO.
Isaac is very old!
As the story continues, their father Isaac is getting very old, he is nearly blind and his health is failing. Isaac recognizing his days on this earth are numbered and so wants to give his blessing to his first born son Esau before he hears Heaven's Angels singing 'Happy Trails to you'. and 'When the Roll is called up Yonder'.
So Isaac asks Esau to hunt, and then fix him some wild game for him and at that time he will give Esau his blessing.
Well, Rebecca overhears this and wants this blessing to got to her favorite son (and kitchen apprentice) Jacob. So while Esau is out hunting, she comes up with a planso simple, so ingenious, but with more than a hint of .. WHAT?
Mom schemes to put animal skins on Jake’s arms to appear hairy like his brother Esau.
As strange as this sounds.. this plan works and Isaac though he was suspicious thought it was Esau, and in the end gives Jacob THE BLESSING OF THE FIRST BORN. The Ol' Birthright SWITCHEROO is complete!
Of course being a cartoonist, and a dog owner I wonder.. WHAT IF the FAMILY DOG wanders on to the scene before the walking talking/lying carpet remnant Jacob and receives the blessing of the first born?
The Dog is hairy, Esau is hairy, and the gggruff voice it could be Esau with a cold. Hmmm.. WHAT IF?
But I digress as no dog wanders in, and Jacob gets the blessing and skips town just before Esau returns from hunting. Esau fixes a fine dinner of wild game along with a bottle of Desert Merlot. He walks into to see dad ready to receive the blessing of the first born WHEN…
It's like Déjà vu all over again for Dad. -The Prophet Yogi Berra
Isaac exclaims.. “Hey, weren’t you just here?... er..aaaa.. didn’t you already come for your blessing?.. I mean.. I mean.. HEY WAIT A MINUTE!”
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME?
This is the moment when the light bulb goes on enough for Isaac’s dim eyes to realize.. HE GAVE THE BLESSING TO THE WRONG SON!
I hate when that happens!
Esau is of course distraught and cries out .. “Bless me too!!.. what about me!!??” In response Isaac hold out his right arm limply and says..
“It’s empty.” no blessing for you, but we have some lovely parting gifts.
Ok he did not say those exact words, but Isaac is very clear .. the blessing of the first born has been given.. given to Jacob. Like a winning lottery ticket, THERE WAS ONLY ONE!..
So this caper of the misplaced blessing is over.. without me understanding the blessings of Isaac, except the fact that there are no take backs. The fact is God did intend for Jacob to be blessed as he continues to bless the descendants of Abraham as promised, through Isaac, and now Jacob to continue the promise of a great nation.
Moral of the story for us today? Be faithful like Abraham so that God can bless and use you as part of his plan. Whether you are the first born, that dreaded middle child (kidding), the baby, or you are adopted.. God loves you, and has a plan to bless & prosper all who love and obey Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 "'For I Know The Plans I Have For You' Declares the Lord, 'Plans to Prosper You and Not to Harm You, Plans to Give You Hope and a Future.
Psalms 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
May God find us faithful and full of love for the one true God, and blessed by him in ways that are beyond our dreams.
Jeff (first born) Larson
Before I discuss the Old Testament equivalent to E-Harmony let me give a Genesis update where in Genesis 20 where Abraham AGAIN fibs a bit. He is not even original as he tells Abimelek King of Gerar that Sarah is his sister. So Abimilek took Sarah into his house .. until God spoke to Abimelek in a dream with the words "You are a dead man walking for taking a married woman from my prophet."
But God showed mercy on Abimilek as he had not come near her yet. The next day he gave Sarah back and Abe tried to explain himself in verse 12 (paraphrased).. "Well, technically she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife."
Sounds less like a passage from the Holy Bible and more like a Reality TV show 'The Real Housewives of the Region of the Negev between Kadesh and Shur'.
Q. Why do Kings and Pharaohs of this time desire 80+ year old women? Not judging, just asking for a friend'.
Next in Genesis 21 we learn Sarah becomes pregnant in her old age. This was before gender reveal parties so Abraham and Sarah had to wait the traditional 9 months before they exclaimed "It's a boy, and we shall call him Isaac."
In celebration then passed out blue cupcakes, and drank blue kool-aid... cuz of course boys are BLUE and girls are PINK.
Now onward and forward we go..
Now remember when maidservant Hagar in Genesis 16, was given to Abraham 'by Sarah' and they had a son. This fact now complicated life where tensions and jealousy rose between Hagar and her son Ishmael with Sarah and baby Isaac. So Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael packing.
I obviously do not understand this whole dynamic or know how to justify this.. except I do know that Hagar and Ishmael were not how God would bless Abraham. Instead Abraham would become the father of a nation through the birth of Isaac.
This story is harsh, but in these verses we learn God heard the cries of Hagar .. the angel of God called to Hagar from Heaven "Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying ..Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Ge 21:17
Next, in Genesis 22 there is a plot twist when God tests Abraham by instructing him to sacrifice his only son Isaac whom he loved dearly. Abraham was faithful in this test and of course God stops Abe from sacrificing Isaac by providing a lamb to be sacrificed.
Notes to ponder..
Note 1: I confess I may have 'figuratively' threatened to kill my boys when they were acting out as teenagers.
Note 2: Isaac being saved was very good news for the literal future of Israel.
Note 3: Not a good day to be a lamb stuck by dumb luck in a thicket.
Moving forward in reading Genesis 22:21 we are introduced to my favorite names in the Bible.
Uz and Buz (not LIghtyear) but instead the sons of Nahor.
Not much is said about these two fine young men leaving this cartoonist with time on his hands to imagine they were chick magnets and had a cousin named.. Fuzz.
Maybe, maybe not.
Gotta Find that boy a Woman..
At this point in the Genesis account, Abraham is well over 100 years old, and his wife Sarah passed away Genesis 23. So Abraham feels an urgency of finding his son Isaac a wife before his days are over too. How is Abraham going to be the father of a nation with more descendants than the stars in the skies if his son never even goes on a date?
"Isaac my son, you need to go outside and stop playing video games all day. Go find yourself a nice Jewish girl, settle down, then go forth and MULTIPLY!"
maybe, maybe not
If the story in Genesis 24 was today, Isaac may have found the future Mrs. Isaac by checking the church bulletin board, attended a church potluck where the dishes are HOT just like the ladies, or.. used an online dating. Of course at the time of Genesis the choices of internet providers was limited, and their speeds were slow and not reliable.
maybe, maybe not.
So... since as described above, dating life in Genesis 24 was a tad primitive Abe decides to help his son out. Oh great, that is just the news any young man wants to hear.. Dad is finding me a woman of my very own.
To make this process even stranger-er, Abraham insisted his chief servant 'promise' to find this woman.
How is this promise secured you may ask?
No instead Abraham says.. “Hey fella, put your hand under my leg and swear.”
<insert dramatic pause here> I beg your pardon? Come again? Is this an advanced version of the old 'pull my finger' joke?
maybe, maybe not
But Abraham’s servant does swear to Abraham to follow his instructions and finds the lovely Rebecca. It was truly love at first sight? er aaa.. meet?.. er aaaa… first selection.
She agrees to return with Abe's servant and leave her family to marry Isaac. And they all lived happily ever after. Well at least through Genesis 24.
After the deal is done.. Abraham gets busy himself. He marries again and his new bride has more 6 kids. Finally at a very youthful age of 175 Abe breathes his last though they say he never did look a day past 155.
The lesson I see again in these Genesis stories God is faithful even when we make bad decisions like Abraham. Life will never be about being the perfect Christian. Perfect Christians are like the Loch Ness monster.. folk lore at best.
I pray God finds us faithful, and I pray for His blessings and providence in our lives as we daily love and obey Him with all our heart.
Jeff (My wife is NOT my sister) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson