I grew up in the ‘metropolis’ of Cable Wisconsin with a population of about 280. Highway 63 travels through Cable, and rush hour traffic exists only from 7:45 am to 7:47 am, and returned from 4:58 pm to 5:02 pm. Traffic jams are only urban legends warning us of the EVIL big city.
I now live in Coon Rapids (pop 62,000), a suburb of Minneapolis Minnesota (pop 429,000). (the big city) and for years have experienced real rush hour traffic.
I know first hand about traffic jams while I traverse a pot hole du jour on busy streets where road construction is a way of life. The skyline of downtown Minneapolis is just a few miles away and is filled with impressive tall buildings which is a stark contrast to the skyline of 'trees' for my hometown of Cable.
In Cable the evenings are quiet as the few stores in town close down by early and traffic is reduced to the occasional car that can be heard in the distance going down highway 63.. and the sky is filled with stars. In contrast, even my quiet neighborhood of Coon Rapids is alive with stores AND.. the 24/7 busy-ness of the big city and it's lights mute the stars in the sky.
So the moral of the story.. You can take the BOY out of the small town, but you can't take the small town out of the BOY.
Insert musical interlude here -
Thank God I'm a Country Boy - John Denver and..
Small Town - John Mellencamp
So let me continue as I pay tribute to.. Small Towns and Rednecks.
In church on Sunday we might not be like the big city churches with a la-ti-da pipe organ. and/or GEE-TARS, but we certainly might find a zither or a BANJO!
Small towns God fearin' folk who Pray real good, and church fashion may replace fancy suits with a clean flannel shirt along with the appropriate head coverings.. including in Wisconsin.. A Cheesehead Prophetess.
Church sermons are practical words using object lessons on DUCT TAPE from behind a Freight Crate Pulpit, and to be sure every service ends with the Red Neck Great Commission GIT-R-DUN!
So to be very clear.. the country folk worship the same God as the city folk. One body, many parts. One family, many cuzin's. One church.. some from the city and some in the woods.. but the important point to make is - If yer KIN Yer In!
Well that is all for today. I am sure my whole website has a small town flavor and not just the toons I listed above. Small Town is a very good thing.
Have a great day, blessed by God in great ways.
note: In reality my home church is not as extreme as the redneck toons above, but it does have a small town flavor. It is a great church where the word of God is preached and is the place where I gave my heart to the Lord when I was 6 years old... and so small towns (specifically Cable Wisconsin) will always be special to me.
Praise the Lord for small town churches, and for His people.
Jeff (country boy at heart) Larson
Imagine a World where all the great men chosen by God are gathered together in one place.. now imagine they become woodland creatures, and finally .. imagine (it is not hard if you try) I don't have anything of significance to talk about today.
Well then this is that day, and BAM this is that blog.
And.. while we do not all agree on who are the great and not so greats, but let me share with you a few of these 'Christian Critters'.
Faith healer Oriole Roberts, Preacher DUCK Swindoll.., Evangelist Billy ‘Goat’ Graham…, Author/preacher Max LOONcado , and of course the late great Charles Sturgeon.
I also can see a time Christian Critters like these being sold as little stuffy animals along the checkout aisle at your local Bible Bookstore. Right next to the Bible Bobbleheads.
Jeff (lost in the Northwoods) Larson
THIS LIFE is filled with awkward moments. For example,
Ok, TMI I know, but in reading my Bible I discover I am not the only one with awkward moments to deal with.
There were miracles a plenty.. in my Bible leaving mouths hanging open speechless at the power of God. But of course as a cartoonist and self-declared humorist awkward silence in between the verses retelling these stories are a fine place for a awkward one-liners. For example, when..
In all three instances someone awkwardly got wet.
all of the above and more from the the very pages of our Bibles cry.. AWKWARD!
BUT.. that was THEN.. This is NOW
The above are just a few moments that make me collectively cringe, smirk, and then realize the more things change the more they stay the same.
Today's world is still so very awkward in response to this life and God. We as Christians are to be in this world but not to be of this world, but awkwardly we attempt to do both. We reason.. 'Jesus is love so I should be about loving others'.. BUT.. in doing so we embrace the sins of this world. AWKWARD.
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15
So I pray we all stand strong for our God.. unwavering examples of His truth, and do so in love. To stand faithful in our words and deeds is to honor God and be a testimony to mankind.
May God bless and use each of you this day in ways that are beyond your dreams and even in the awkward moments of life.
Jeff (sitting awkwardly in the Back Pew) Larson
DEATH.. by Cartoon.. While there were preexisting conditions, it was THE CARTOON that killed him. - CDC (Center of Deceased Cartoonists) Dr. Foogee
Dateline: 11th Century BC
Later testing determined VIC did not die from bump on head and not from his head being severed, but instead it was .. COVID-19! Kidding, kidding, I could not help myself.
Truth is .. the VIC was Goliath who met his demise in the form of the shepherd boy David armed with a sling, a few choice stones all endorsed by the very POWER OF GOD.
BUT.. I digress... as this event should be classified as.. DEATH BY CARTOON.
Note: From the beginning through this very day, only Enoch, and Elijah have been given a 'hall pass' from God to cheat death. In the case of Elijah, he lived even though he was not wearing his seat belt. To this truth my good friend Bryan Anderson clings on to as America's lone 'seat belt denier'.
Everyone else gasped their last breath and succumbed their inevitable demise.
Let me share a few more memorable DEATH BY CARTOON Bible moments.
In the day of the OT (old testament)
- Sisera died from a tent stake splitting headache.
- Eglon was run through.
- Noah's neighbors could not tread water for 40 days and nights.
- Jericho Guards fell down go boom.
- Abimelech's world was rocked.. lol, killed by a 'girl'
then on to the New Testament where
- Lazarus DEAD!.. then not dead
- Jesus died then of course rose from the grave. while the ..
- The Thief died on the cross next to Jesus, but then HEAVEN! Truly Amazing Grace
finally we read about..
- Death riding on a horse and in need of a tic-tac.
DEATH .. more than a macabre theme for Halloween, or the chilly exit from out time on this Earth. For believers death is the beginning to LIFE eternal.
Oh death where is your victory? Oh death where is your sting? I Corinthians 15:55
Since I probably will not leave this Earth riding a chariot of fire, and I know this life is just a drop in the ocean of eternity. I will grieve when loved one's die, but I pray always for perspective that includes eternal life for those who love God. Then death truly has no victory, death has no sting.
May God bless each of you with the peace of someday eternal life with God.
May we gain a glimpse of the big picture with a perspective outside our circumstances and pain we may endure.
May the promise of a peace that passes all understanding become real to each those who choose to follow our God.
Jeff (still kickin' in the Back Pew) Larson
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalms 42:5
I recently had 'successful' back surgery 'except' I developed bad headaches along with intense pain in my neck. This of course set me off course down a discouraging path resulting in a pity party featuring a familiar lament that I have more than my fair share of pain. My pain excuses no no it justifies my bad attitude. I even remembered Jesus spoke to this subject of pouting I believe somewhere between Mt 5:4 & Mt 5:5 was addressed.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
-4b- Blessed are the Pouters.. for they shall have a pity party
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Ok, per usual I have embellished.. Pouters are not blessed in the Gospels (there is no Mt 5:4b) or anywhere else in the Bible. This can only be found in my BADattitudes and not the Beatitudes.
Truth is last Friday I left a doctor appointment discouraged, lamenting pain is my lot in life. My perspective needed an attitude adjustment. So Saturday morning came and I had a great conversation with my wife Mary as she had been reading about Job regarding pain and trusting God.. and how even Job who lost everything should not have went down the pity party path he took. Who are any of us to tell God life is not fair?
Read Job 38 where God speaks to Job from a whirlwind adding a deity perspective to his pity party.
So starting that Saturday morning I intentionally chose to be thankful and hopeful instead of throwing a pity party that no one wants to attend.
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalms 42:5
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him? Psalms 8:4
I would like to say I am pain free, but that is not how this story (life) goes, but today I choose to be thankful and prayerful in the midst of any pain or trial I face.
I pray God blesses us all with perspective that is His alone. I pray we find His hope and peace that passes all understanding. Thank you Lord for the blessings of this life and I pay you find us faithful in serving you first no matter our circumstance.
In all things to God be the Glory.
Jeff (pain in the neck) Larson
The Bible in many ways is a RULE BOOK FOR LIFE, but beyond the Bible lists of Dos and Don’ts I find JESUS LOVES ME. Not actually beyond this but wrapped around these rules for life is the truth Jesus loves me.
The Bible also includes many great and powerful acts of God ..
In the Old Testament there was..
In the Gospels Jesus ..
but.. with all these jaw dropping miracles they all are just very loud clanging cymbals with the great truth Jesus loves me and He loves you!
Jesus loves me, this is know.. cute Sunday School song, but.. why would the creator of this world love? It’s a miracle.
While It is nearly impossible to get to know the preacher in any modern day big church (no knock on big) but in contrast our omniscient, omnipresent creator is involved with His creation to the point where all the above mentioned miracles and all the details in between occurring from Genesis 1 through this moment is NOT indifferent to His creation, though mankind often walks the other way, God is always there. <-- side note: I just completed a 72 word run-on sentence of truth.
The words in our Bibles shout the truth of a personal God who loves us enough to send His us his son. From the Old Testament stories of providence, to the gospels of Jesus Christ, to the Acts of the first church, to the Revelations to John of what is to come... these are all LOVE STORIES from a loving God!
An indifferent God would not be so involved or patient with mankind and it's often prone to wonder actions of free will.
So In this 24/7 world of distractions from our creator, let’s realize JESUS LOVES US, and live out in response God's two greatest commandments. Love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, and mind and others as yourself.
Jesus love me this I know! Go figure! Peace be Still! Jesus love me this I know! The rest is details.
Jeff (Jesus loves me this I know) Larson
sidepoint: I bought a coffee coaster that says.. Jesus loves you, BUT I'm His favorite. While this is of course not true ( He loves us all the same ) but I thought it was a cute smirky coaster.
PAIN IS EVERYWHERE.. and our God alone is the answer.
There is pain in our bodies, minds, and even our souls. Pain is found inside our own families, with our friends, and if you turn on the news it is filled with angry, hurting, and often hateful people wanting relief and/or revenge.
For me in 2021 physical pain has become my companion. About three weeks ago I had surgery to relieve nerve pain in my lower back. This surgery went well, BUT just as I was feeling better about my back I went to the ER suffering with very bad headaches. The ER doctor did a CT scan suggesting I may need surgery to repair another disc issue this time in my neck. I will know more over the next few days as an MRI is scheduled.
So this recent bout with pain has inspired the following 'deep thoughts' regarding pain...
Of course PAIN IS a relative experience prone to hyperbole. For example right now I have headache that is killing me and my head feels like it will explode. but.. truth be told I am sure I will live and my wife will not likely be cleaning up 'brain guts' this evening from any explosion.
* note * don't try this at home ->
But seriously, it is true many of the important lessons I have learned are the product of pain. It may be dealing with physical pain, or often lessons learned on the other side of (painful) blunders, stumbles, and/or bad choices. Or even deeper yet are the lessons I found in the death of a friend or family member.
I also believe this problem of PAIN & SUFFERING is the source for that age old question. If there is a God why does he allow bad things to happen to good people?
This is a valid question. Here is where I see a 'Dangerous Beauty' where God the Creator allows his creation (you & me) the opportunity to persevere and succeed despite this world's pain and constant state of brokenness.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
This Dangerous Beauty is found as we are allowed to choose right over wrong in big & small ways, and even good instead of evil.
There is DANGER in choosing poorly, and if we do not persevere.. and danger when we choose well in the face of a world that chooses poorly, BUT...
There is BEAUTY in choosing well, supporting others, and when we persevere while trusting God when it would be easier to quit when bad things happen to good people.
To summarize.. Faith, Family, and Friends (in that order) are how God comforts and heals this world of hurt. So I seek God today as my compass and my only worship, and I thank Him for the blessing of faith, family and friends where we can love and support each other as God intends.. even in times of pain.
May God bless and provide for each of you this day with love and grace when you are hurting physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually. While pain can be discouraging may we as believers (His Church) be God's comfort and healing for others in this broken/hurting world while always leaning on His Spirit.
Jeff (ibuprofen & Spirit infused) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson