Most of us remember the story of Jesus telling Peter to walk on water, but as 'Pete' noticed the VERY REAL waves about him and as the seeming nonsense of walking on water began to sink in.. so did Peter.
When I was younger I thought “Oh Pete of little faith, I would have done cartwheels on the sea with my perfect faith of Jesus intact”. But now after wading around in the seas of life’s experience.. I see the waves in my life are just as real as those literal waves Peter faced 2000 years or so ago, and at best I look like Gilligan hollering for SKIPPER!..
but of course this analogy falls flat as I am not comparing the Skipper with Jesus... and I am too 'husky' to be Gilligan... BUT I DIGRESS!
So with my assessment that my faith is often at best an undersized mustard seed as I choose to get out of the boat and trust God. I may sink at times like Peter but.. the same Jesus who calmed the seas, healed the sick, fed the multitudes,walked on water, and rose from the grave is my answer to life’s figurative (but VERY REAL) waves of health, finance, family, or fear.
I could expound on this fact, as like many of you I experience seasons of waves, and tests that put my trust in God to the test.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart soul and mind and lean not unto your own understanding .. in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Pr 3:5-6
EASY WORDS to say.. DIFFICULT WORDS to comprehend just like walking on water MAKES NO SENSE.. but I choose to believe both to be true.
May God bless each of you this day in your journey. May we all learn to trust God when life is great, when life is difficult, or when all seems lost.
Trust in the Lord as your providence, Trust in the Lord as your source for answers, Trust in the Lord for blessings, and Trust in the Lord for perspective that is beyond the limits of any circumstance.. so even when the waves swell and the storms rage.. we can give the triumphant shout..
SURFS UP Blessings!
Jeff (flappable) Larson
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil 4:5-7
I live in America where moderation is not the modus operandi. We like big, more, and we supersize whenever possible. Too much for us often is not enough.
While I am not saying having nice home, car, etc are bad things at all, but modesty and moderation does not come easy to Americans. IMO
But what if we temper our lives with those 3 verses in Philippians. What if we were known for our moderation, prayerful, and thankful to our God? Then the peace of God that does pass all understanding is there for each of us no matter if we are living check to check or encumbered with the trappings of wealth.
Let me leave you with a couple more scriptures of perspective in a world and even some in the church where moderation does NOT come easy.
May God will bless, lead, and use us all for His glory (not ours) in ways that are beyond your dreams. I pray we keep in mind Phil 4:5-7, Mt 5:3, and Mi 6:8 as a guide for our lives.
Jeff (slightly supersized) Larson
What happened? Was I out for 5 minutes when everything changed? Didn't up used to be up and down .. down.. not the other way around? And I am pretty sure too that WRONG is now the new RIGHT.
Let's start with a few easy Wrongs declared Right from where I sit observing our society.
So you see.. Wrong is the new Right.
We are numbed and dumbed down to vulgar language and violence in movies, TV, and pop/hip hop/rap music. Sex before marriage, and teen sexuality is assumed not discouraged.. in fact sex without boundaries is encouraged. Everyone claims to be a victim, or bullied which muddies truth of those who truly are victims and/or bullied. AND anyone who voices a contrary view is expressing HATE SPEECH.
The #MeToo movement, terms like toxic masculinity, white privilege, systemic racism, and systemic police brutality often dilute if not poison truth and justice. Note: There is only God's Truth & God's Justice and it is for all. Then we throw the old KKK in with the new rage (literally) Antifa (anti-fascists? not!). They are nothing more than masked domestic terrorists. And BLM black lives matter is a statement that is true just as all lives matter, but the organization BLM is a Marxist hate group.
We are a culture who on one hand munch on popcorn while being entertained by horror, violence, the occult, or the sorted story of a serial killer, BUT.. think that our 2nd amendment rights are the root of all evil. Wrong is new Right.
Now in 2020 the Wrong is the new Right has been amped up with the reality of Covid-19. I will not go into my opinion about what should or should not be done, but I will say it has divided us.. and divided the church. We too quickly condemn each other over this virus. We can't just disagree on the solution we decide to label each other naive or selfish.. and these feelings become something maybe just short of hate. This is Wrong, but this Wrong is also the new Right.
Even in the church simple choices of right and wrong are more carefully handled than a suicide vest by a bomb squad whose only training was using the old 'Operation board game'. We are so deathly afraid to call sin.. a sin in fear others will judge us as judgmental.
My concern/observation is The church (as a whole) is 1/2 afraid to speak truth in love afraid of the mess it may cause, and the other 1/2 appears to be like the frog in the boiling pan of water slowly cooking in our new boiling Baptismal Jacuzzi unaware the temp is rising. We are no longer salt and light as commanded in Mt 5:13-16, but excuse this compromise with the broad brushed statement.. We are about love, Jesus is love.
I agree Jesus is love, but his love included speaking directly about sin. He may have called the religious leaders a brood of vipers, but he also lovingly spoke truth to the woman at the well. How would Jesus have been loving if he did not speak the whole truth? In fact I believe Jesus referenced Hell 46 times. Hell is the scary truth regarding sin.
Same with Paul, he was loving but so direct about sin not because it was on his legalistic DO NOT DO list but because sin is harmful to the body and soul.
Let's even be more basic about TRUTH. We as Christians believe there is one way to Heaven and that is Jesus. To share this truth should be the most important truth we can share. BUT agnostics, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, etc would disagree. So do we quit sharing this truth because it might offend.. but let them go to Hell?
Do we just gently say, well we all believe generally in the same thing 'higher power' so.. peace be still.. Or remain silent because I respect your feelings so much that I would rather let you go to Hell for eternity than offend you today on Earth. This is so very Wrong, and.. the new Right
I also believe there is a growing population in the church that doubt the Inerrancy of the Scriptures. It's understandable to have questions on Bible issues we do not understand, but it is alarming to doubt that it is truly God's word. -Insert Head Slap here-
MY OWN MESS - Let me be very clear, I am such a sinner.. aka made 'lotsa' mistakes. I have trouble with my temper, watched movies and laughed at jokes I should not have. I have made compromises, told altered truths (aka lies) and all the other goodies that many of us do.
I am also a man who compromised too many years with alcohol (aka alcoholic), and it was ruining my life. I share the cartoon on the left that is typically received understandably with collective cringes as it is NOT FUNNY, but it is was becoming my story.
So in response to my drinking my wife expressed to me in love and sometimes the appropriate amount of anger "YOU NEED TO QUIT DRINKING. This is not good for you, it is not good for your family." So my question is.. was my wife intolerant and judgmental of me as a person, or was she directly and loving me tell me my alcohol use was hurting me and my family?
Well, I believe I would be dead now if I continued drinking. And.. to be honest I did not always welcome her words and would soften them by saying I would do better next time, but bottom-line my wife's loving admonishment CHANGED MY LIFE. I thank God for my wife and my three adult kids who lovingly told me truth. Changing a Wrong in my life to make me return to doing Right.
So in this world where WRONG is the new RIGHT how shall we participate? In our society compromised by ignorance, arrogance, and self we need to stand firm, in love and always stand for God's Truth.. because as they say.. Two Wrongs don't make a Right.
May God bless each of you to boldly go each day into a world that may hate you for saying RIGHT is still right, and WRONG is still wrong.
Thank you for indulging me sharing this topic of societal angst that is on my heart.
When I am weak.. you make me strong. When I am blind, you shine your light on me.. and I will never get by standing on my own abilities. – This is the lyric of one of Casting Crown’s songs and it makes me smile.
The KINGS of this world delegate to those like me who are COGS, and I am OK with that arrangement. The Kings we all know about but us Cogs are the every day folk who are vital to the world functioning.. and when the world struggles to function the optics shine on the bad king/leaders of countries, states, cities, companies and the church. But know while the world sees the kings.. the importance of us cogs goes unrealized.
Politicians, superstar athletes, movie and rock stars are the kings of our pop culture. We all know who they are. We are a society of hero worship, BUT.. the cogs? Not so much. No posters on walls to recognize a teacher, custodian, factory worker, computer geek, etc etc.
Everyone from these factory workers, stay at home moms, custodians, teachers, and the rest of us little people (including cartoonists.. maybe) are the ones that make the world work. We all fly under the radar with very little fanfare.
While this world’s measure of a man’s worth is.. his bank account balance, his home on a lake, fame, a trophy wife or two, and a really hot ride for someone my age.. Unfortunately it IS NOT traditionally based on how many colors he has in his coloring box, but if it was my answer would be 64 bright and shining Crayolas.
It is amazing the complexity of society, and how each of us are wired differently but together with our own set of gifts are called to serve God and others to make society function. We are all the hands and feet of Christ in our jobs, families, churches, and society.
Some are gifted to be kings and God bless those kings they are gifted to be leaders as God uniquely wired them.. BUT in the same way God has wired so many COGS too. The body of Christ is made up of many parts as called by God to serve Him and care for others.
The good message of this ramble is how we each have our own unique calling by God to serve Him, and all our unique abilities are important.. even if you are armed only with 64 crayolas and a vocabulary that includes the under appreciated word… UM.
One body many parts, all are important, and DO NOT measure your worth by the world's yard stick because man’s measurement of success is as confused as America converting to the metric system!
Be a KING or be a COG, but do it for God's glory and obedient to who God made you.
Love God with all your heart, and others as yourself.. the rest is trivial pursuit!
MEGA 'UM' BLESSINGS!
Jeffrey 'Cog' Larson
The word of God is sharper than a two edged sword, it penetrates even to the soul and spirit, joint and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
I claim this scripture anew today.. BUT.. I observe even those of us in the church too often spend too little time reading, studying or fully living the truths taught in God's word. Any bible resemblance to a sword in America is sadly reduced to a plastic butter knife found at any church potluck... or a 'spork'
One of my favorite gifts EVER was a Bible presented to me by my wife on Christmas 2000. I truly love my Bible and it is precious to me.. but in the harried pace of life I know I don't spend the time reading God's word as I should.
It truly is a trick of the devil and my cluttered mind that I do not spend more time in the book I believe is the inspired word of God
As I write this email it is the Summer of all things Covid-19 where our country and this world are on high alert to the health risks associated with this new variant of the flu.
Another health risk maybe not covered by my annual flu shot is the risk of inhaling DUST from a seldom used bible.
Our country needs to blow the dust off these Bibles risking Bible Dust Lung, and open them risking Paper cuts that are sharper than any two-edged sword to find TRUTH which is our ONLY WAY back to God.
I do confess .. the Bible includes more than its fair share of arduous facts, BUT it is much more than Church trivia, and is NOT a collection of fairy tales and/or folk lore.
Our Bibles contain the timeless truths of God and Chronicles the history of His providence for mankind. Simply by reading our bibles we can begin to grasp His greatness, love, and Amazing Grace for mankind both from the Garden through today.
Next, let's address a couple age old EXCUSES for not reading my Bible.
My prayer is that finding your Bible on Sunday morning is not as easy as looking for the place I left it the week before when I came home from church.
If you are guilty of underachieving Bible reader moments me, there id no better time to start a Bible Resolution than today. Also, note.. Some time is better than NO time, and I believe God blesses our efforts to know Him better in ways that are BEYOND OUR DREAMS.
May God find His followers faithfully seeking Him with His Word. May this knowledge of God's word unite us not divide us, and may we experience His love for us and in return share this love with this angry hurting world.
note: If you are worried about Bible dust lung put on your Covid mask, and if you are worried about paper cuts.. band aids are in the medicine cabinet. In both cases you will live to tell the tale..
I watched a show a while back on the often overlooked fuel of sleep. When I short myself on a proper amount of sleep I compromise my mood ( i get pouty), capabilities, productivity, clarity of thought, and in general my outlook on life becomes negative. Without good sleep any circumstance I face may be tainted with depression, anger, impatience, with maybe more than a smidgen of hopelessness. Admittedly I am kind of a baby.
It is often easier said then done when sleep deprived is to get more sleep, but.. when I do get enough sleep those clouds of confusion and irritation part, and what once felt hopeless is now met with a more rationale and healthy vantage point leaving me scratching my head why I ever thought my situation was hopeless.
Last night was a good example of this. In the summer of 2020 we are in an election year, dealing with Covid-19, and racial tensions are higher than any point in my lifetime. Anarchy is in the streets, and all this while the 24/7 news gleefully gaslights all this into a roaring fire where traditional values are mocked, and in God we trust is questioned if not sneered at.
So this all makes me irritated. I prayed a little, but I mumble more as I find all this reporting is to sell a story, and not offer solutions or positive comments. Well my mumbling and maybe a little bit of a tired brain started me rolling down hill feeling hopeless about society, and very such feeling that way about church in America.
Then comes this morning where I wake up and none of this bad world was overwhelming me. I still believe the evening news is (forgive me) a sewer, but my happiness is not defined by this sewage. Joy is not found either in the very real circumstances of this world but it starts with my relationship with God, and to see the blessings I have and so the sun is shining a bit more in my spirit.
Moral the story so far? SLEEP it does a body good.
Then just as bad, no actually worse is when afflicted by spiritual deprivation where I do not take time for God declaring myself too busy. To miss out on a daily devotional time, and compromise my prayer times with God compromises .. my spirit and perspective on life just like operating on 4 hours of sleep while eating junk food all night. YECH! Yes, spiritually speaking I feel YECH!
I may even confuse my life further by excluding the good life disciplines of exercise, work, and play. AND IF.. I do take time for my relationship with God I find my perspective, attitude, and joy fall short of what God intends and desires for me. In contrast, IF I honor God with prayer and devotional times the clouds of doubt and loneliness part for me as God is now included included in my day as he should be.
Summary: Be sure to get a proper amount of the overlooked fuel for my body of sleep, AND be sure to include the discipline and joy of a personal relationship with God.
May God bless each of you in this journey to honor Him with all your resources.
Jeff (looking forward to a nap) Larson
side note 1: I have a confession to make.. At this point in my life.. I lOVE NAPS. What was the big deal when we were kids and we never wanted to go down for a nap. Now, in the afternoon, I get a little groggy, and then will take a 20 minute (or longer) nap. It simply feels so good.
side note 2: Sleeping in church is still frowned on.. though it cannot be eradicated completely even with the use of SHOCK COLLARS that are tuned into your REM cycle.
I wrote a while back about GETTING WHAT I DESERVE from God. I shared in this blurb I deserve God's Grace, I deserve His Love because I am a child of God and God the Father is the perfect parent, and even as an imperfect parent myself I would always forgive and forget and strive to be patient and graceful towards my kids no matter their mistakes.
This GETTING WHAT I DESERVE writing was met with mixed reviews as some shared Grace is a gift we do not deserve, and our goodness is as filthy rags in comparison to our creator. This is also true.
Here in lies for me the PARADOX as both seemingly contradictory statements are true. We are all God's children, and He desires each one of us choose Him, BUT I know first hand my weaknesses my failures, my selfish desires are sometimes far from the heart of God.
I could ramble on about this topic and may do so another day, but today I will use the PRODIGAL SON as a great story of this paradox. This rebellious son chose his own way with his own free will and was allowed by the father to separate his life and choices totally from the father. During this time he was still the son and was loved, but far from doing anything remotely obedient or loving.
Once the prodigal son hit bottom, he grieved his poor decisions and with his same free will CHOSE to return to the father who welcomed him NOT with scolding words of disappointment BUT with open arms and love and a celebration of a son who was lost but is now found. My son was lost but now is found.
This prodigal son was both selfish, sinful, rebellious, and also loved beyond description by his Father. Both aspects of the son were true.. he was a walking talking (smelling like a pig pen) paradox... and so are we.
Our very best is NOTHING compared to our Heavenly Father. He deserves and desires our love and appreciation but we have the choice to 'GO PRODIGAL' on Him. Isn't it great to be loved like this. Unconditional love that welcomes us back when we blow it.
Of course you may be like the other son who has NOT wandered far from home and was good, BUT please take on the heart of the father when those who have suffered prodigal moments have returned. We should celebrate the return of a brother or sister, and not EVER shake our heads comparing our relative goodness. Note: The very best of any of us is still truly filthy rags compared to our Father. Not shaming anyone, but the very best virtuous, moral, giving, talented, gifted orators are clanging cymbals without God's love. So be thankful, stay humble, and rejoice with others and with the Father always.
This PARADOX is the heart of the gospel. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 Two seemingly contradictory statements that are both beautifully true.
May God bless and use you today no matter if you are the good rule following child of God OR.. the prodigal who has wandered away YET AGAIN. Both of you are His children and you are loved, and you DESERVE HIS GRACE if you choose it.. because that is what perfect love does. Accept this paradox from God.
Jeff (A living Breathing Back Pew Paradox) Larson
The Back Pew believes it is ok to have a sense of humor and still be allowed in Heaven.
From time to time I share cartoons, and blogs regarding my concerns that America has compromised it's Christian values. America was founded as a Christian nation but is now a melting pot of faiths where false gods are given equal billing with the only true God of our Bibles. We should NOT apologize for our Christian heritage, but instead should embrace and develop it.
So that was then, but today I want to follow up with an email title borrowed from the ‘very minor prophet’ Dr. Seuss where the Sam I speak of is Uncle Sam. That Sam I am, that Sam I am, I do like that Uncle Sam I am.
We are blessed to be in a country (even with all it’s problems) where we can worship God freely (modified by Covid-19 in 2020), where I can pray and am not truly persecuted for my faith. That Sam I am That Same I am, I do like that Uncle Sam I am... though I am not so sure about any Green Eggs and Ham. maybe on the 4th a slice of good ol' Apple Pie...with a scoop of Vanilla ice cream. Ok, two scoops.
I live in a beautiful country that that is presently (summer of 2020) in turmoil. Covid-19 pandemic, racial tensions are high, and a portion of population including anarchist group (ie Antifa) are rioting, looting, and destroying historical monuments.. all while the 24/7 news channels are giddy gaslighting the chaos. We can debate another day if this or any is justified and what is fake but there is no debate life in America is a mess.
With all this being said I still do not really know what true hardship is. I live in a country blessed with great family, friends, and a church heritage from rural Wisconsin that is the roots of who I am.. and for me to wallow in any difficult circumstance I may face is really a moment of lost perspective.
And.. There is nothing new under the sun-- While I am not lowering the bar of expectations for America to honor God first, I am thankful for the blessings of living in a nation where so much is possible. Prayers and dreams of what could be and for a perspective of what God wants for me, my family, my country, and for this world.
With regards to America getting past these dangerous times.. it is simple. REALLY SIMPLE..
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
So SIMPLE.. if we had a repentant heart. There is lies the challenge, and should be our prayer.
So God bless America, and his people to love and serve Him, and others as He intends. May the faith of our nation become as stereotypical American loud and bold in our words and actions honoring the ONE TRUE GOD.
Happy 4th Blessings!
I have this prayer prep that I recently turn to when my mind is busy and unfocused. I slow my mind to take a glimpse of my significance.
Specifically, I am a speck on a blue ball (Earth) that spins at 1000 mph orbiting around our sun in our Solar System of 8 (or 9) planets, which is one of countess galaxies in our infinite Universe. ..
AND this existence.. my existence is just a microscopic blip on the timeline of .. eternity!
So while I admit I should lose like 25 pounds I also am feeling very small. Then to think of the intricacies of the human body, the human condition, that I have a free will, and I believe a His spirit makes me a very special speck on this blue dot.
While I attempt to grasp this perspective of significance.. I pray Psalms 8:4 Who am I that you are mindful of me? .. and I am in awe of creation and more importantly our creator and His inexplicable love for each of us. Better yet, y'all best read all of Psalms 8
Now .. I am ready to pray as the world slows down.. I am an awe of God, and thankful for this day (even the bad ones), and pray that my life, my family, my friends, church, community, state, nation, and world come to realize the significance, purpose, and place as their own speck like roles on this blue dot.
Love God, love others (less social media).. and all glory to God on this day! Cuz ya know, the rest is trivia by comparison.
Jeff (A Big Speck) Larson
In my collection of cartoon topics I have boldly cartooned where man should not cartoon.. the topics of dating and marriage. Ok maybe boldly is not the right word .. maybe I foolishly cartoon to a land of THIN ICE.
So walk with me today, but tread lightly because.. HELLO.. the ice is THIN... the water is COLD.. and you will go DOWN.
THIN ICE is found.. where a man..
1. Speaks words he should not speak,
2. Does things or does not do things he should or should not do, and/or
3. Thinks things he should not think. SHE WILL KNOW!
You may say well that is confusing. What I say or don't say.. what I do or don't do, and even what I think could put me THIN ICE? Of course for all men who are in or have been in a relationship with a woman you know the answer is YES, but you may not always know how you got there until you hear the ice cracking.
Even after being married almost 36 years I still find ways to test for thin ice. Sometimes this is by mistake as 'who can understand the mind of the fairer sex'.
side note: Why are women called the fairer sex when guys continue to get in trouble without a definitive list of dos & don'ts, say & don't say.. and thinks. I mean, guys who play sports know the rules, so why isn't that way in marriage? - end of side note -
But back to being married almost 36 years. There are other times where I test the ice and even intentionally step out further on the ice.. knowing it is thin but having a bit of RUSH testing it out. I think I like the feeling of living dangerously.. You know, see how far I can go. But I would not advise this to any man in the first 20 years of marriage .. this is simply too risky. Correction, do not test thin ice in the first 30 years.. ok, don't test it at all, only test thin ice if you consider yourself a professional LIKE ME.
It matters not if you are a slender 125 pound fella or a ' big boned' 350 pounds..Both men and all men of all shapes and sizes know.. THE ICE IS THIN & UNFORGIVING.
There, I have exhausted my words so let me finish out today's blog with a few illustrations. You know they say a picture is worth 1,000 words. So a cartoon should be worth 250-500 words by my estimate.
For more examples of Man Dancing on Thin Ice.. visit my Dating & Marriage page where life imitates art... or is it cartoon imitates life.
May God bless and use each of you today in ways that are beyond your dreams.. even if you wander on THIN ICE.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson