Albert Einstein was quoted as saying a 'COINCIDENCE' is a miracle where God chose to stay anonymous.
In that case.. my life needs a.. COINCIDENCE!
This statement does not discount the need for me to work hard, make good choices, and be responsible.. BUT .. in this rush hour world with lost jobs, partisan politics, envy, greed, stress, foreclosures, sickness and death.. I need the sometimes subtle and/or big touch of God in my life. I need a coincidence!
Note: For the remainder of this blog when I say coincidence .. I am referring to miracles.
The Bible is full of 'coincidences ' and there is no evidence that our Creator has got out of the coincidence business.
When talking about the 'coincidences' of the Bible I must share I sometimes watch the National Geographic Channel (aka NatGeo) on TV. NatGeo is an amazing channel covering a wide range of topics regarding this big ol' world we live in, and the bigger ol' universe our our big ol' world so neatly spins in.
From time to time NatGeo devotes shows to great Bible stories to 'explain them' using science, history, archeology, and a dash of theology. I have watched shows ranging from Noah's Ark & the flood, the Parting of the Red Sea, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the events of the end times as described in the book of Revelations.
Most times NatGo explain away these great moments from the Bible as folklore or acts of nature to the point that they leave out the most important factor .. the 'coincidences' of God. This I guess is because 'true science' does not believe in .. coincidences.
This always makes me chuckle at the statement 'I believe in Science'.. leaving me with the question.. Which Science?
In all these amazing stories and more science insists 'coincidences' can be explained logically by the rules and laws of ..'science', BUT.. illogically science does not account for an author of these rules.
Our God is the creator and the author of all rules science is based on. AND.. as author of all rules God transcends the constraints of time and space and can bend any and all rules at His discretion.
When this happens.. 'viola' we have a 'coincidence'.
In my life I do not recall God working so boldly as to part a Red Sea for me or even part a little rush hour traffic. ,, BUT .. I believe God answers my prayers in big and small ways that I will never realize on this side of Heaven.
Now the question is.. Are these moments coincidences? or 'coincidences?'
Fact is.. my life has been full of coincidences. I have a wonderful wife, family, and friends. I have been protected from bad choices, difficult circumstances, a vice or two in a way that I believe was a coincidence.
My prayer today is for God to bless your lives with the loving touch as needed of His coincidences. May He provide, and protect, and use your lives in ways that are BEYOND YOUR DREAMS.
Jeff (no coincidentally in the Back Pew) Larson
ok.. you can now return to using the correct description of miracle to replace what man foolishly labels a coincidence.
I know I am getting older when many have no idea who the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN was.
HE IS NOT.. a 'moderately' paid pro athlete. Instead I am speaking about a TV Show from 1974-1978 about Steve Austin who was in some terrible accident where all the FDA 'doctors', and all the CIA men couldn't put Steve back together again.. so the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence) was called in to install him with ‘bionic’ parts.
Basically it was the story of Humpty Dumpty becoming Inspector Gadget.
And back at the day of this show the going price for bionic reconstructive surgery was $6,000,000.00! I think today it costs about $4000 for Lasik Eye surgery so bionics for 6MIL seems like a SWEET DEAL.
This 6Mil-Man could run 60 miles per hour (though it appeared in slow motion), he had superman like strength, vision better than Lasik combined with 'carrot' steroids, and whenever the bionics kicked into gear, it would make this techy-spring like noise. Not unlike a cartoon BOING.. but a sound that made it clear his 'bionics' were in use.
His bionics were only in one eye, one arm, and both legs. It seems like this would be a serious health risk when one arm can lift a normal weight while the other can lift a … BUICK. Now that I think of it... maybe INSPECTOR GADGET is a more realistic depiction of a bionic overhaul than is the 6 million dollar man.
So how about SPIRITUAL BIONICS? ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’. With a truth like this.. who needs bionics? For those of you unsure if bionics are for you or being a new creature in Christ is a better choice I have put together a side by side 'very scientific' comparison of the Bionic Man v the New Man in Christ..
May God bless each of you with a great day, not limited by this world, but empowered by the one true God who is the source of this life, and the life that is to come.
RAISE THE BAR on what is possible with the Spirit of God in your life.
I was in our master bathroom where around the bathroom vanity there were 29 separate items.. four of which were mine. I have a razor, toothbrush, deodorant, and toothpaste (the toothpaste I share with my wife).. the rest belong to my bride.
Included in the other 25 or so items is a bag of makeup… so in reality the total is much more one sided. BUT.. if I trim my beard and a few whiskers are left around the sink.. the countenance of my bride darkens… but
do I ever complain about ‘OUR’ bathroom vanity covered with a cosmetology collective of spray bottles, brushes, lip STUFF, hair dryers and the like?? <pause>
Oh wait, I guess I am now.. BUT NOT TO HER FACE… so that does not count.
This brings me to a similar subject.. a ‘WOMAN'S PURSE’.
To me this is much like a Magician’s Hat.. where my wife will ask me for example to get her car keys from her purse for her. I cringe as I know THIS WILL NOT BE EASY.. so with my mouth hanging open, and my brow furrowed I look inside into the unending collection of ‘necessities’.. A LADY'S LABYRINTH of no end!
Even though her purse is very typical in size.. when you look inside it seems to go on forever. I finally closed my eyes, reached in and pulled out a rabbit, but no car keys. She then smirks, reached in her purse without taking her eyes off me and retrieves her keys with a look that said to me “are you blind?”
Another time when looking for a blessed stick of gum I caught a glimpse of what I believe was a secret passage to the Land of Narnia behind her cellphone, tic tacs, and what appeared to be a magnum 44 hand gun.. but I found the gum became distracted and lost sight of this Narnia portal.
Also, there is a third mystery I would like to share..
With my razor, toothbrush, deodorant, and a clean pair of jeans I can be ready for church in less than 15 minutes from shower to starting the car.. while my wife the process is a tad longer.. A REALLY BIG TAD.
I mean.. Mary must choose between outfits to wear, and does not use the guy-proven method of preparation which is … wear what is clean OR.. do the quick smell test if we are not sure if that shirt left on the floor the other week is still ok for a little Sunday morning hand raising. Then again, Mary does look and smell better than me... but if it were a race, the safe money is on me.
So what is my spiritual message today? <insert reflective pause here> Maybe if for no other reason man and woman are meant for each other so.. guys don't go to church dressed like the fella in the above picture.. and men are good for woman to.. umm.. to.. umm.. kill and/or protect the fairer sex from mice and spiders?
That's all I got, I am drawing a blank.
Seriously, may God bless and use each of you today in ways that are beyond your dreams. For you ladies may you find your bathroom vanities whisker free, and your man willing and able to navigate the Estrogen Ocean of your purse without making any comments.
Jeff (Survivor on Estrogen Island) Larson
I shared this blog just 4 months ago, but feel compelled to share it again after watching 'The Chosen' season 2, episode 6. One of the plotlines of this episode dealt with 'what-if' Mary Magdalene relapsed into her old sinful life far from God, but then returning to Jesus. The answer is Jesus welcomes her with no reservations all while feeling the pain in Mary's heartfelt repentance.
This message strikes a cord with my alcoholic heart. I have been sober for over 6 years and while drink has lost it's appeal for me for now, I am wary that I could relapse in a moment of weakness, and again enjoy the buzz. I fear the damage it could do to my marriage, family, and health.
I pray it does not happen, but WHAT IF it did? There would be consequences, and for me I should never drink again, but I believe Jesus would welcome me back like Mary Magdalen if my repentance was heartfelt. I also believe my family would too.
Meanwhile in real life in the fall of 2016 I woke up crying from A VERY BAD DREAM (aka Nightmare) where I relapsed into drinking again, and my wife told me I should leave.
Horrible dream is an understatement. It was still very dream like, but the thread of my past (the alcohol) shook me, and it was just 18 months after my last drink.
But then even as I became more awake and realized it was just a bad dream the song by Big Daddy Weave 'I am redeemed' came to my mind.
Alcohol was becoming something that is more and more in my rear view mirror, and my wife loves me (go figure). So I smiled big, became completely awake kissed Mary on the cheek and got up wanting to listen this song by Big Daddy Weave and blog the great truth. I AM REDEEMED.
That was five years ago, and I still have not had a drink. (Thank you Jesus, and Mary.. in that order).. and watching this episode of The Chosen reminded me.. I AM REDEEMED.
Ok here Jeff goes again.. he is a cartoonist not a preacher, and not even much of a good-er-r writer. This is all true, but again more importantly .. I AM REDEEMED.
This is more of an uplifting message for me and many of you than any smile for a day cartoon. So with this intro,
let me share the lyrics for I AM REDEEMED by Big Daddy Weave.
link to youtube video of this song can be found -> HERE
Seems like all I can see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me "son
Stop fighting a fight that's already been won"
I am redeemed, You set me free
So I'll shake off theses heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be
I am redeemed
All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper, "Child lift up your head"
I remember oh God, You're not done with me yet
I don't have to be the old man inside of me
'Cause his day is long dead and gone
I've got a new name, a new life I'm not the same
And a hope that will carry me home
I am redeemed, You set me free
So I'll shake off theses heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be
Oh God I'm not who I used to be
Jesus I'm not who I used to be
'Cause I am redeemed
Thank God, redeemed
My prayer is that each of you realize YOU ARE or CAN BE REDEEMED. All a prodigal son or daughter must do is come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness and you are REDEEMED. Don't EVER think your situation is too far gone for Jesus and a life redeemed.
Jeff (redeemed in the Back Pew) Larson
It is not good for man to be alone. God decided this before the second chapter of Genesis was over. Genesis 2:18
Adam's socks were all over the Garden. Dirty dishes were everywhere, and all man did was sit around watching ball games on TV telling knock knock jokes.. to himself.
Besides, Adam was not even using that rib.
So it was clear then and is now it was not good for man to be alone UNLESS his only choice is a described in Proverbs 21:19.. then God advises.. get a room on the second floor of a one story home. The view is spectacular and the quiet is so .. quiet.
Of course there is much more to be said about God's Gender Odd Couple (man & wife). Both common sense and God's word make this abundantly clear.
One of my favorite verses to take out of context is Ephesians 5:22 Wives SUBMIT to your husbands.
This is an annoying verse to my wife Mary when I take too long to pause and ponder this 'great' scripture without continuing to read the next 11 verses. I even try to convince her that there are only 22 verses in Ephesians 5. She is not amused proving women have no true sense of humor.
But when I get serious and take time to read Ephesians 5:21-33 in a modern translation like The Message (MSG) my smirky bell-ringing stereotype of 5:22 goes silent.
21 Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.
22-24 Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The Husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
25-28 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.
29-33 No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.
There you have it, just like when Jesus taught us how to pray in 5 short verses (Mt 6:9-13), now Paul shares how to have a happy marriage in 13 short verses (Eph 5:21-33).
This scripture of a good marriage does inspire me to love, cherish and appreciate my wife, BUT I also do see in verse 32 Paul admits.. This is a huge mystery and I don't pretend to understand. Well Paul, welcome to my Marriage Mystery Club with a membership of about a BA-ZILLION!
Marriage truly is a beautiful mystery though our different emotional and processing 'wiring' often do create a few sparks. Just know even in the best of marriages you can count on your share of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, disagreements, a few tears, and if looks could kill..
I WOULD BE DEAD 1000 times over!
In the end most days most of us both love our spouse to death, and are scratching our heads wondering what planet they are from.
May God bless each of you that are married with spouses that are described in Eph 5:21-33, and not Proverbs 21:19.
Happy Fathers Day to all you dads! It is a fine day and I look forward to it each year to remember my good dad who passed away I believe now 20 years ago... and hopefully to be remembered by my 3 kids for being an OK dad too.
While I do miss my dad I also recognize him as the source of my strange sense of humor, and my quirky personality of what I like to call being 'an introvert trapped in a world full of people.'
For example, a few years back I was joking around with my then 15 year old daughter Erin trying to get a rise out of her. She laughed and said “Dad you are so weird.” I replied.. “Weird like my daughter.” Of course she blamed her odd sense of humor on me since her mom’s sense of humor is more traditional.
To console her I said… “You know this strange sense of humor comes from Grandpa Larson.” Then after a short pause while we both nodded.. I spoke again like I was my dad saying.. “Oh sure, blame the dead guy.”
Then Erin and I chuckled over me saying that for the next several minutes. So there you have it.. my dad was the guy with a quiet dry sense of humor and irony and is to blame for .. ME.. and my daughter Erin!
I also give him credit for teaching me the art of ‘good natured’ teasing/pestering. Please don’t confuse this with mean spirited or cruel teasing, it was more like.. pestering to get a rise out of someone or a situation but NEVER to disrespect someone or embarrass.
It is the type of good natured needling that friends and family do to show they like each other. Well at least my family does this.
My dad was a kind man with a big heart and an appreciation for the simple pleasures in life. No one ever confused him with being a theologian , philosopher , or a CEO of any corporation except Walter Larson Logging.. BUT everyone knew my dad was a good man, and I knew my dad was proud of me, and believed in me even in my less than bright and shining moments.
So what greater reward can I have on Fathers Day then to know I was blessed with a good father who taught me the important lessons in life about family, friends, and seeing the best in others.
If.. IF someday (hopefully today) this would be my legacy for my kids and nothing else.. this too would make me smile.
My dad never left me a fortune to inherit unless he put it in a lunch box and buried it in the woods (and never told me where!), and at my present rate.. my kids are not inheriting much except a hard drive full of cartoons , and my kneaded eraser.
BUT.. what I desire to give them is what my dad gave me. A home with love, laughter, good coffee, and good food … and most importantly ‘a personal faith in the God of our Bibles’.
May God bless each of you this Fathers Day. May God provide healing and peace in those hurting relationships, AND love and humble appreciation for those who had or have is so good like me.
Jeff (Father & Grandfather) Larson
<- Satan remembered on Fathers Day
A few years back my wife and I lived in Roseville, a suburb of St Paul MN. Nice neighborhood, easy access to highways, shopping, dining, and.. is unofficially the bunny capital of the world. Bunnies were everywhere.
These friends of Bugs (bunny) crisscrossed our yard constantly. We don't have a garden so they are harmless and cute.. I guess... but what goes on in their little minds as they scamper from here to there and back again. All this is done of course as they travel their literal bunny trails.
Then I wonder.. are there 'BAD BUNNIES'.. you know, with tattoos hanging out the street corner smoking cigs and.. sorry, I guess my mind just went on its own bunny trail.
Ok, while I am obviously NOT a bunny, but I have traveled my share of bunny trails meanderings. I even have the 'gift' of veering off topic railroading a conversation 'deftly' interjecting my thoughts that have wandered away from the original subject. How did I get here?.. and now how do I find my way back?.. I don't know, maybe I will ask a BUNNY.
Even those involved in the conversation may with a bewildered look on their face respond with .. "whaaa.. and If no bunny can be found to help me I will segue back by saying "but I digress"
Of course for the most part the literal bunny trails in my yard and the nonsensical bunny trails in my head are harmless. They may be puzzling, possibly frustrating, but seriously no harm no foul.
But what about the more serious bunny trails we take? In a world that needs Jesus we are busy with bunny trails... even Pokemon Go trails.. really?
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Js 1:27
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Mt 22:37-40 .
There you have it.. all that is important shared economically in just 5 verses, BUT..
All of the above can be definite bunny trails that have nothing to do with Js 1:27 and/or Mt 22:37-40.
I am a big fan of the 'My Utmost for His Highest' devotional by Oswald Chambers. His daily readings are amazing bits of truth that return focus to what is important. Oswald's message is that life begins and ends with a devotion to God. What we say and do matters, and stay off the bunny trails that keep us from this truth.
Another great read is 'The Pursuit of God' by AW Tozer. In this book Tozer makes clear the pursuit of God is a direct path with focus and purpose and any bunny trails are mostly found in the pursuits of man... and his folly.
My prayer is to live a life that loves God in words and deeds (Js 1:27 and Mt 22:36-40) where I give my utmost for His highest in my daily pursuit of God while keeping my bunny trails to a minimum.
My prayer today is your life's journey has focus and purpose, and that He provides hope, and direction for those of us when we find ourselves off on a bunny trail using His Word and our Prayers as our map.
Me, myself, and I. Me.. me.. me. , What about me? , What's in it for ME?
A few years back I heard a great sermon where our pastor described the Me-Monster. I have to admit I don't recall much of the sermon, but I remember it was good AND it impressed on my cartoonist brain to sketch in my sermon notes The Me-Monster.
So I brought Mr. Me-Monster home scanned him into my computer and did a little Photoshop extreme makeover on him all so I could share his surly mugshot with you. And so BEHOLD.. The Me-Monster.
The Me-Monster is an ugly fella, and even his open mouth resembles an M, and the back of his throat an E. The disturbing thing about this Me-Monster is that when our motives, focus, and actions are focused on .. SELF.. any of us can become a pretty gnarly looking creature too.
We all notice this world is filled with attention seeking ME-folk flaunting their success and perceived self-importance without a speck of humility. So many celebrities, athletes, and politicians out there in front of the camera as self appointed experts on topics they have not a clue. They share their pious golden nuggets of 'truth' to the masses fawning for adoration... all while you can hear the wind whistling through their ears.
And our society measures our own success by the car, home, career, a trophy wife or hubby with good looking kids on the honor roll, and captain of their sports teams. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of these things unless it inspires a me-monster ego trip.
Now for me, I have more of an econo-sized Me-Monster. My monster does not get identity from a high profile existence, nor does my life check all the boxes above of how society measures success, but my me-monster still likes to be known even if on a budget.
You see I care what others think about me, and to be respected and viewed as successful. I desire to have friends, and of course I seek the love of my wife, my adult children, and grandchildren. I also do not want to be known for my past failings.
This also is all ok, in fact good except if I do not seek God first, and know His love and forgiveness, and while what others think is important, what is most important is how God sees me.
In fact any level of success or any talents I have are from the Lord. So who is any man to boast. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? 1 Cor 4:7
I could ramble on about ME as I am prone to do, but wanted to conclude with again God's two greatest commandments. 'Love God with all your soul and mind and others as yourself.' Mt 22:37.
What if I focused my life on these words of Jesus? Then all the details and trimmings of this life while nice would be trivia to a life well lived... and no Me-Monster.
So I pray for God's Holy Spirit to lead me, and for me to trust His direction so that I can SERVE Him and others. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and finally in all things to God be the glory!
May God bless and use each of you in ways that are beyond your dreams. May our lives be about God's Kingdom and not ours. And may you be Me-Monster free.
I like the old saying ‘That fella is so Heavenly minded, they are no Earthly good.’ This describes a person is so in to church and ‘churchy’ things that they don’t add much value or function outside of church walls. He can barely change a light bulb let alone the oil on his car.
Over the years I have smirked at a person or twenty that fits that description, BUT I have come to believe the irony is actually there are too many people are so EARTHLY minded to be much HEAVENLY GOOD.
It's just too easy to be caught up in this pace and 'stuff' of life (good and bad) to where God is put on the back burner. Instead of starting my day quiet before God, reading my Bible, and prayerful I often clutter my life with the very real demands of work, family, rush hour traffic, and.. maybe what is on the TV and become simply more EARTHLY MINDED than HEAVENLY GOOD.
The real irony is.. When I drift from God is NOT when I am too busy or stressed but instead when life is good. No immediate worries or concerns so I relax my dependence, praise and appreciation of God to again become so earthly minded... and erroneously feelings of being self sufficient. Maybe even a little bit proud.
So while I don’t want my life to look as out of place as an Amish folk high rollin' in Las Vegas.. I do want my spirit, and life to start and end with God. A place where my personal faith shows through in all that I do and say.
My prayer for all of you is that this day and always be a life in love with God, and a life where God is not fit in around the details of the day. That sweet spot where our minds on God/Heaven impact our lives on Earth.
May your life be blessed and USED by God in ways that have both Heaven and Earth in mind.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Mt. 6:10
Be 'Blessed and Used' of course in ways that are BEYOND YOUR DREAMS and all that God intends for you!
Max Lucado wrote a book in 1994 titled ''When God whispers your name'. It is a great read with his usual humor and spiritual insights, but my question is..
What happens when God whispers my name but .. I am hard of hearing, or maybe God simply remains silent?
Not so many years ago I weathered personal hurricane force storms in back to back years. My finances, health, and spirit were challenged and I didn't know if I would survive the first year's storm only to be windblown and tattered the next year too. I have never despaired more in my life.
Let me tell you I literally cried (sobbed), and cried out to God for HELP. I wanted God to calm these storms, but my prayers were met with His resounding SILENCE.
Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Ps 10:1
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Ps 22:1-2
I admit my cries to God were not as eloquent as when David penned the above Psalms, but I shed enough literal tears to warrant flood insurance.
Side note on Crying:
When a woman cries we feel empathy as her deep emotions touch our hearts.
When a man cries it sounds like a wounded Badger caught in a trap trying to gnaw off his leg in a short sighted attempt to escape his pain. Those in ear shot want to put that badger out of his misery, and thecrying men.. STOP IT!
but I digress..
Now back to my storms..
During these stormy times I discovered God's providence/answers were found in His silence. During my storms I needed to experience the full impact of my situation including my mistakes and their circumstances.
God was with me the whole time, but pain and reflection was important for me to grow on a true path of restoration. A genie in a lamp with three hot wishes available was NOT what I needed.
Life rains on the just and the unjust Mt. 5:45, the Jeffs and the unJeffs!
We all know the story of Peter walking on water until he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on those very real waves.. and began to sink.
Just like Peter those the very real waves in my life overwhelmed me because I did not put my trust in the man who walks on water and calms the seas.
The good news is I endured those stormy years and learned over time how faithful and loving God was and is.
The details of my storm(s) are not important except to share a lesson learned when God seems silent. “Be still, and know that He is God." Ps 46:10
Be still, be faithful, be listening, be prayerful, and peaceful even when you experience God's Resounding Silence.
Jeff (actually wearing Hearing Aids) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson