Though the amount of food I consume on Thanksgiving is impressive it cannot be not classified as a miracle. But after the meal, after watching football and fitting in a Thanksgiving Day tryptophan induced nap, I return to the kitchen to find LEFTOVERS! So many leftovers! How can there be so much food in my kitchen considering all my family consumed just a few hours before? So many leftovers that I ponder could Jesus have fed the 5,000 with one turkey and a few side dishes instead of the bread and fish menu recorded in the gospels?
It's a miracle! Ok.. maybe not a miracle but it is a really really good illusion leaving my mind and stomach full through the middle of December.
A more serious assessment on miracles is.. God answers prayer. He may part the Red Sea and other times it is the subtle tweak of circumstances, but I believe God answers all prayers with the heart of a loving Father. These are the true miracles found every day of the year... and do not include my Turkey leftovers.
God's loving interaction with his children altering our attitudes, and possibly the outcome of very real circumstances are just as much of a miracle as a parting Red Sea, or Creation itself. His supernatural intervention is personal and never arbitrary.
May God bless and use each of you in ways that are beyond your dreams and full of His subtle and big miracles. I pray your Thanksgiving Day is blessed with faith, family, friends, and .. LEFTOVERS.
Jeff (always stuffed in the Back Pew) Larson
Drawing a line.. is a topic I can so easily relate to. Drawing lines, and coloring inside those lines.. and viola' I have a cartoon. Everybody loves cartoons.. ok, some of us more than others, but hey.. it's what I do.
Now the beauty and curse of a cartoon it allows me the liberty of exaggeration. Exaggeration in a world with big noses, bellies, expressions, and points of view. The lines drawn in cartoons are just outside the lines where reality exists and in this world, I am among friends.
So while I like cartoons and the work of great cartoonists they are obviously not likely found in an Art Gallery.
True art draw lines along with colors and shadows that are amazingly true to the subject of their creation.
This world of true art exists in sharp contrast to my world of cartoons with the above mentioned exaggeration of lines, shadows, and colors to distort truth for the purpose the humor or illustrate a particular point of view.
So then we come to God's Word, His never changing Truth. There are clear lines drawn within it's pages of right and wrong, good and evil, love and hate. The pages of our Bible's are TRUE ART. These lines are perfect with a message that is both honest and loving.
Of course using my finite mind I struggle at times to grasp the depths of these truths and honestly at times DO NOT UNDERSTAND what I am reading.. BUT.. never the less these NEVER CHANGING truths are constant, flawless, and does not need the collective so-called enlightenment of any man from Adam through this very minute including a certain cartoonist from Minnesota.
Here in lies the dilemma.. I observe a trend in today's church to believe the perfect lines of God's unchanging truths need to be redrawn. Too many believe the Bible is outdated and in order to fit God's word into their 'evolved cultured' sensibilities they in effect redact passages they do not agree with and/or use scripture out of context to fit their narrative. These man 'inspired' efforts draw new progressive lines and proceed to color outside the perfect lines of God's inspired word. These efforts make a cartoon out of God's perfect loving Bible truths.
Let me share examples of these sharp contrasting lines
SIMPLE RIGHT & WRONG
GENDER & MARRIAGE
LUST & ADULTERY
CARING V SELFISH
Of course, no one wants to be labeled the uncaring bigoted judgmental Christian stereotype. So while we need to be sensitive regarding all issues of the day including today's hot-button topics (racism, abortion, homosexuality, and gender identity, etc etc ) we need to blend this with God's firm loving Truths . Remember always speak God's truth with love, but 'flip it' to realize love is found only in God's Truth.
And.. the next time someone tells you "I like Jesus but not Christians because Jesus was about love.. but Christians are are judgmental, hateful, bigoted, sexist, patriarchal homophobes.. . Read them Luke 12:49-53
Not Peace, but Division Luke 12:49-53 49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Finally, if we are not careful even those of us who are not progressives allow God's lines to be changed into a caricature at best, or even worse into a big ol' ugly cartoon instead of the beautiful piece of art God's Word is. STAY INSIDE THE LINES, LIVE INSIDE THESE LINES.
Note: I am not casting stones here as I am convicted and reflective on my own past & present spiritual compromises, and prayerful God will guide me with his truth and find me obedient.
May God bless each of you with discernment regarding God's Truths while being salt and light in dark empty society. Be strong for the Lord as we answer to God.. not man.
Jeff (Drawing lots of lines) Larson
Aretha Franklin sang her signature hit R E S P E C T in 1967 as a declaration from a strong, confident woman, who demands the"respect" of her man.
Now 40 years later Aretha's cry for R E S P E C T has been hijacked and ratcheted up with evening news 'shows' reporting/exploiting headlines of sexual misconduct (and worse), bullying, systematic white supremacy, white privilege, (white bread), racism, reverse racism, envy, greed, hatred, and our Universities filled with melting fragile snow-flake students claiming 'micro-aggression' by the man. Whoever the man is.
Don't get me wrong, injustice is a serious matter, but truth often is lost in our GUILTY before proven INNOCENT 'intersectional' virtue signalling society.
The above mentioned microaggressions are defined as the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In fact in today's progressive thinking.. if I disagree with your views I can consider your words 'an act of violence' towards and can retaliate with real violence like a punch in the nose, or key your car door, or worse.. So beware!
By this 'standard' I have been microaggressed as a white man with a rural Wisconsin upbringing lacking economic opportunities or exposure to a racially diverse culture. Now that I am older I am again microaggressed for wearing bi-focals, and hearing aides by my younger better seeing, hearing, and looking co-workers.
Truth is I am NOT microaggressed, and I believe it is all 'microaggressed-hogwash'. Life is good but has never been a level playing field. So let's all determine to.. BUCK UP BUTTERCUP!
But back to Aretha's call for RESPECT.. Why do we make RESPECT so complicated? In Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus taught us the two greatest commandments ‘Love the Lord your God' with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind .. and.. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'.
If I truly love my neighbor my words and deeds will demonstrate respect, and a nice byproduct is it's difficult to feel micro-aggressed if my focus is on God and others.. leaving little time for all things ME.
As I mull over this blog, I remember a couple years ago I had a job where my boss and I had honest mutual dislike for each other. I believed I was disrepected and mistreated leading to a mutual parting of the ways. Looking back I know I should have handled this better. Love God? check, love this boss? I did not appreciate, or RESPECT him so loving him like myself wasn't happening.. but it should have. I put my hurt ego over humbling myself and representing Christ. So my prayer coming from this bad experience is to get my eyes off of ME, love God, and care for others... even when the others are bosses from a no good very bad day.
So today I pray we all love God with all our hearts, and uses each of us to be the hands and feet for those who are in need, even maybe your enemies. (note these are God's two greatest commandments, not two greatest suggestions) May our hearts, words, and actions always be compassionate and RESPECTFUL to others in this hurting world, and I pray for God's loving presence and perspective when we are disrespected and/or mistreated by others.
Jeff (micro-REgressing?) Larson
p.s. On a lighter note, I would like to share a clip regarding Injustice inherent in the system at the time of King Arthur. Repression Inherent in the System. <-- click here for a chuckle
Low-Batt Signal sounds like a problem in Gothom City where the Joker, Riddler, and the Penguin are on a Crime Spree and Commissioner Gordon needs Batman and Robin NOW but the Bat Signal needs to replace a couple AAA Batteries. Hence the Lo-Bat signal
Ok, today I am not concerned about that low Batman Signal, but I can experience trouble with a Lo-Batt Signal in my 'spirit'.
Let me explain..
Most every Sunday I attend a church which has the slogan no perfect people allowed. They may not be perfect but they are pretty good. They are welcoming to all, and have a great little coffee shop in the fellowship area, and... I like coffee! The church service has great worship, and the pastor always shares a relevant, scripture based, grace filled message.
Also on every other Sunday evening my wife and I attend a small group bible study with about 8 others from the church to study God's word, share, and pray together.
So a quick check of my spiritual battery on most Sunday evenings I appear in good shape for another week.
Then Monday comes, followed by it's evil sidekicks Tuesday - Friday. The Good News shared on Sunday is replaced by 24/7 Bad News channels. Oh good does happen but that does not sell ads for CNN, FOX, CBS, NBC, or ABC.
So my Sunday 'No Perfect People Allowed' is hijacked with a slogan that resembles a 'What happens in Vegas , stays in Vegas'. attitude. and.. there is rush hour traffic!
Monday through Friday replaces the generosity found when the offering plate is passed on Sunday with a land of greed. Greed in the work place, and greed in a society where wants are more important than needs.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot almost every Monday-Friday after working 8 hours I am TIRED. It's November now and within an hour after getting home from work it is getting dark, and I live in Minnesota so it goes without saying it is getting cold. All this is draining on my spirit and creating in me a LO-BATT condition.
Ok, as 'per usual' I do embellish a bit, but I do not think I am the only one who feels drained by the week and wondering where that Sunday Spirit has gone. So what's a lo-batt fella like me supposed to do?
Here are a few tips I try to follow...
1. Be sure to get enough sleep. Don't underestimate the power of sleep unless you are doing it at work. :(
2. Go on a TV Diet. Don't bloat your brain on 24/7 bad news, or UNREAL reality TV, etc etc
3. Quit looking at your phone, and instead enjoy friends and family while enjoying the peace & quiet uncluttered by #2 (your TV diet).
4. Read a good book, even better yet The Good Book. and stay in an attitude of prayer.
5. Be prayerful, thankful, and trust God. Most complaining, and worry create a big battery drain.
These are just a few of my basics to avoid a Lo-Batt condition of my spirit, and your just say NO to Lo-Batt list may vary.
May you find the love of God and the pursuit of Him in all things energizes you in this busy life. Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and others as yourself. The rest is by comparison.. trivial pursuit.
May your Sunday's always charge your batteries, and your Mon-Fri be no match for your life in tune with Jesus.
Jeff (Battery Challenged) Larson
Note of Clarification
The following blog commentary is about the little word 'BUT' ..but.. it is not to be confused with the word 'BUTT' (aka bottom.. aka buttocks, ) which always makes Minions laugh.
I recently read a quote by Tim Keller on Twitter.. 'Repentance is crucial for renewal and restoration', and full disclosure honesty is required for true repentance.
Very true, BUT it is often easier to say "I am sorry, BUT.." then insert my favorite excuse/rationalization of what I am supposedly sorry for. Here are a few I am sorry BUTs.
Next let me share a couple gender specific 'sorry but' prayers.
(see cartoon on the right)
Hmmm, maybe we should raise the bar and strive to do better than either of the above man, or woman's prayers.
Back to Tim Keller's words of wisdom. 'Repentance is crucial for renewal and restoration', and full disclosure honesty is required for true repentance. Not much wiggle room for any sorry buts.
BUT.. Hey I am a pretty good guy. I go to church, love my wife and stay out of trouble.
But who am I fooling? Not God. He knows my secret doubts, rage, anxiety, envy, mumbled profanities, and other more quiet rebellions against what I know is right in my heart. I have too often compromised time, resources, and talents that were truly a gift from God. This does not include bigger sins (ie alcohol) that almost killed me. For all these and more I am sorry.. no buts.
Mark me down as a work in progress.
What would be possible if we all were truly repentant and inspired by the love of God? It could be a revival this fallen world needs.. like.. NOW!
May God bless each of you on your spiritual journey, where you are blessed and used by God in ways that are beyond your dreams. My our hearts be repentant, and open to receive the promise of God's Grace.
Jeff (no buts about it) Larson
A while back my wife Mary and I were reading Max Lucado's book He Still Moves Stones. Let me paraphrase the words of Max. The honest prayer of a hurting man, the feeble prayer of a righteous man.. the awkward prayer of the average joe/jane, the timid prayer of those emotionally/spiritually broken down.. the sincere prayer of a sinner, EVEN a 'pathetic prayer of Jeff' .. HAS GREAT POWER and WONDERFUL RESULTS.
This is my rambling paraphrase of James 5:16.Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. , and gleaned from the truths found in Mark 9:14-29 where the power of God is found not in what we can do but instead when we pray.
Max also writes ..Our prayers may be awkward, our attempts may be feeble. BUT since the power of prayer is in the one who 'hears' it and not the one who 'says' it, our prayers make a difference.
That is great news for folk like me who can get lost in my real or perceived problems juggling them in my head all while I pray.. awkwardly. These sincere prayers are highlighted with fumbling words sounding confused, anxious, and kind of pathetic.
So do you ever say pathetic prayers. I am sure you don't, it's only me right? But I would like to suggest when we feel lost and/or pathetic simply cry to God "HELP! I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO!" That's OK, because God does.
I actually have my prayer list hanging on a bulletin board in my office. This simple list of very few words is mostly family, friends, my church, our country, and this tumultuous world.. and gives me a visual perspective that my issues pale by comparison.. LIFE IS NOT ABOUT ME and when I pray for others and trust God I find a peace that was not there when my prayers revolved around ME.
Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
So let's all agree to bring our prayers to God even when our words are fumbling and our spirit is weak. Speak to God when you feel forsaken, alone, desperate, when your thoughts are riddled with doubts.. AND when life is good (do not let your guard down) . Our perfect Heavenly Father hears our word and His spirit interceds for us.
Romans 8:26-27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
May God bless all of you today with the promise of .. when life is difficult.. God says, "Don't worry, I got your back.
Jeff (in need of HELP) Larson
I guess by strict definitions I am a protestant, but technically more of a protestant MUTT.
Actually I would like to be simply defined as a CHRISTIAN thank you very much. I am not being a rebel, but I don't fit nicely into any denominational box. I respect the views of others, but have to come to my own conclusions on all the nooks and cranny faith issues.
And let me be clear I am not judging your choice of 'box' unless.. you have a SNAKE in it.
So with this in mind I place all I have learned from God and his church and it all fits nicely in 'My Faith Box'.
The next challenge is fitting My Faith Box into the ever changing Post Modern Society box aka the PM Society box. This is a big box with lights and sounds. Inside their is a society of blended cultures with ever changing faster than a speeding bullet technology, and much much more. All the bells & whistles of the PM Society box are distracting and often attractive BUT I need to be careful when fitting My Faith Box in the PM Society Box. This can be messy.
I believe a classic Billy Graham message shared.. We are called to be in the world, but not of it.
And certainly not a frog simmering in a pot of secular values.
So In this PM Society box I find things like.. The internet. Which is both an incredible resource for 1. LIGHT (faith, family, friends, news, etc) and 2. DARKNESS (anger, hatred, self-indulgence, porn, etc ).
The internet also offers the ever evolving social media kit at no extra charge where I can text, tweet, post on facebook, instagram, or you can blog.. Blog? sounds like a cheap horror movie from the 1950s.. 'The Attack of the 50 Page Blog'. Maybe that should be the name of my blog?
In our PM Society box I can also stream music, videos or even sermons (if I am feeling particularly spiritual ) of any big name preacher or subscribe to Cyber Clyde's Bed Hair Pod Cast.
This can all be done from the convenience of my office chair while donning the same gym shorts, tank top, and bed hair just like Cyber Clyde.
When PM Society is not on the computer it is on your smartphone, or surfing HD TV with a bazillion (I actually counted there are a bazillion) sports, news, and movie channels.
In PM Society Box people buy meals, high buck coffees and lattes through a drive through window... or have them even delivered to their door. They will soon even have their groceries delivered by little retail drones. I can't wait til they do appliance deliveries via drones. When that happens I am canceling Cable TV and just following the Home Delivery Channel.
My Faith Box is now feeling a little agitated and stimulated at the same time. So far I am having trouble keeping all this PM Society box stuff out of My Faith Box. I see a TV remote is in my Faith Box, and an Amazon Prime Card. In fact I think grease from a leaky fast food bag from the PM Society box is soaking into the corner of My Faith Box and sadly I like the smell. I kind of like some of this PM Society stuff, and it is easy to justify there place in my Faith Box. I THINK I NEED HELP.
OK, I may not be so desperate that I need a Faith Box Exorcism, or an Exterminator, but I could do some spring cleaning... here in November.
My serious prayer is to have an honest Faith Box, with the word of God in it that never changes and a prayer list that is ever changing. I want to be in this world but not of it. This world (aka PM Society Box) is a mess! It is filled with noise, smells, and sights that are often far from God. It is a box that NEEDS GOD, not religion of man, but needs GOD THE CREATOR and GOD THE SAVIOR. PM Society box is in need of a revival.
Regarding Revival: I listened to a sermon a while ago by Louie Gigglio and he said "Where there is pain, where there is a mess this is where a revival can happen". No one has a personal revival when life is going perfect. So by this definition this world is ready for a revival.
OK, probably I took the box analogy a bit too far about a half a blog ago, but if you are still with me I pray God inspires in us a love for Him and His ways that make us truly salt and light in a PM Society box that is in contrast bland and existing in the dark like a mole eating rice cakes.
Jeff (All Boxed in) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson