Like an ugly ornament that I cannot bear to throw away so is my retelling of a Christmas Concert from a few years back.
In December of 2007 my wife and I went on a Christmas date to get the season started off right, but it did not end up like anything 'dreamed of' by Bing Crosby singing White Christmas.
We started the evening off with a nice dinner at a local steak house in front of a roaring (gas/fake) fireplace as the weather outside was as the Christmas classic described accurately as frightful. More specifically it was very COLD.
After dinner we were off to downtown Minneapolis to the Pantages Theatre to listen to an A Cappella group called the Blenders for their Christmas concert.
note: I am not an A Capella kinda guy normally, but I got the tickets for free from my cousin.. and I AM a free tickets kinda guy so I thought I would go where the cool kids go... or something like that.
Gentlemen.. start your engines! As we approach downtown we soon learn parking on a Friday night during the holiday season would not be a picnic. There was a Christmas parade in progress near the theater so we began driving in a slow moving car conga line consisting of a series of one-way right hand turns for about 30 minutes resulting in us parking about 5 city blocks from the theater. Like a slower colder version of NASCAR without a winner.
Once parked we began our Frozen Mecca to the Pantages Theater where the air temp was about 2 below zero and wind chill 14 below.
It was Minnesota Fresh! Oh by the way we were walking into this wind not with it. To complicate things for poor little ol me I was not wearing a hat, and my coat was was not a great coat for MinneFROZEta.
Along our walk we passed by several downtown establishments. One was a gay bar and then we passed a club advertising topless girls, with the words.. hot, hot, hot over the topless ad.
Now this is where I was tempted.. not to see topless girls.. but I asked my wife since they were hot maybe we could go in for a moment and warm ourselves by their heat.
Ok, honestly there was no temptation here for me, just an excuse for me to share another bad pun with my wife so she could roll her now frozen eyes at me.
Pantages at last! We finally arrive about 15 minutes before the concert began. Shivering and frozen we bought a $3 cup of coffee from the cash bar in the lobby which my wife and I took turns holding it to keep warm.
When another couple entered the theater and sat next to us visibly cold too, I offered to let them hold my coffee for $1 apiece. They both laughed, but I did not see what was so funny.
It's SHOWTIME.. So inside we go and the concert begins. The Blenders are very good but for me, one evening with an A Cappella group will be enough... enough for my lifetime. The Blenders are 4 guys I would guess their mid to late 30s in suits with choreographed movements like four Caucasian Temptations.
To add to the atmosphere there was a group of well dressed professionals filling a large block of seats just in front of us. I am guessing they were part of a company holiday party dressed up in suits and dresses.
They were kind of loud 'notice me types', which is .. not my type. Then during intermission they all stood in front of my wife making FULL use of the cash bar in the lobby and there was also one young good looking guy passing a flask with something that I am pretty sure was stronger than 7-Up.
After two hours of listening to an A Capella Christmas, were retraced to our frozen steps to our car and then headed back to our warm home free of anyone in my living room passing a flask and standing in front of my TV.
So to sum it all up .. We had dinner in front of a fake fire, participated in downtown traffic jams, crowded parking ramps, snow, ice, passed by topless & gay bars, all to sit behind loud drinking young professionals while being entertained by .. Minnesota Night and the Pips?
The next night.. was more low key Larson type of Christmas which we spent with our son Nate and his then girlfriend Kendra, and our daughter Erin. We listened to Christmas music, made gingerbread cookies, and played the protestant approved card game.. Rook. It was a great evening which included a mini-fight with flour while making cookies.
IF by chance anyone from that corporate America party who 'LOUDLY' sat in front of me at the Pantages theater in 2007 I am sorry you missed out on my great Saturday night making cookies with family. Then again the risk of flour finger prints on your $500 suits, and the probability of gingerbread crumbs falling into the cleavage (front or back) of your black backless & low cut dresses without a flask in sight would not be who all would call fun.
Merry Christmas Blessings. May your family times be warm and.. A Capella free!
My wife Mary and I have several nativity sets that we put on display each Christmas season. And in the month of December 2004 was a Christmas season like most all the others, EXCEPT.. our dog Baylie (Husky Springer Spaniel mix) who was about a year and a half old at the time still liked to chew on things that were not her designated chew toys.
One of those items is my kneaded eraser which I use when I am drawing my cartoons, and it looks like a lump of clay. Well Baylie would sneak it off my desk, and chew it up but never swallow it. Leaving a mangled pile of eraser fragments on the family room floor. I push the crumbs back together, and continue to use it. I know, I know.. Ewwwww!! But she cleans the pencil lead out of it and dog drool seems to be an active agent in making the eraser .. erase. BUT I DIGRESS..
Back to the Larson Nativity sets. One afternoon in December 2004 my wife and I came home to what looked like a Nativity Mob Kill scene. The wooden cart from the stable was in pieces, a shepherd laying face down on the coffee table, and a baby sheep took a fall off the table and onto the living room carpet.
I can’t imagine the horror in eyes of the 3 wisemen who traveled so far only to see Baylie walk off with Baby Jesus in the clutches of her jaw.
The question remained why? Maybe Baylie wanted Jesus in her heart, and thought swallowing him would be close to her heart. Stomach? Heart?.. good enough. BUT THEN she maybe did not like the texture of the ceramic Jesus figurine.
OR MAYBE an audible voice from the Heavens spoke to my dog.. “
Baylie.. This is my beloved son.. DONT EAT HIM!” Only Baylie and the figurines from the nativity set know for sure.
Good News: Only a short time later the 'baby Jesus hostage crisis was over. The son God in ceramic form was returned to ceramic parents Mary & Joseph who were besides themselves with worry. Baylie was thankful God did not strike her with lightning which was within his right. But.. just a couple weeks later Baylie was shocked (literally) when she chewed the lights on our Christmas tree.
Coincidence? I think not.
Moral of the story. If you really love Jesus don’t risk God revoking your ticket to Heaven just because your nativity sets are low enough for Baby Jesus to be mauled by the family dog. AND.. just like Baylie could not get Jesus in her heart by eating a figurine, neither can any of us have Jesus in our hearts just by going to church.
May this Christmas be a peaceful season of adoration and personal faith where Jesus is in our hearts and not just in our nativity sets.
aka.. The BUZZ Around The Coffee Maker. IT'S A SIMPLE PLAN
Often in the traditional workplace the coffee maker is the common place for socializing with coworkers. While pouring a cup of caffienated fuel there is talk about the big football game on Sunday, sharing vacation plans, some are brave enough to discuss politics and/or religion and have lived to tell the tale (not recommended), and of course the ever popular grumbling about the boss (the emperor who has no clothes) in hushed tones.
So imagine the buzz around the coffee maker in Heaven a little over 2000 years ago when God's plan for ‘saving’ mankind was revealed?
Setting: It was just another day at the 'office' when Larry and Betty meet at 'Heaven's Coffee Maker' for their morning cup of coffee.
Larry the Angel: "Hey Betty, did you hear the latest about the plan the boss has for saving the world?"
Betty The Angel: "No, so what's up?"
Larry the Angel: "Well rumor has it, Jesus Christ will come to earth as a child born of a virgin in a barn and sleep in a feeding trough for animals. His birth will not be proclaimed to the world, but to .. get this.. shepherds." And a few guys from the east
Betty The Angel: "Shepherds? .. right."
Larry the Angel: "No really it's true. , and Jesus will be raised by a common carpenter and his life" and for the next almost 30 years Jesus will work as a carpenter, in rural Israel.
Betty The Angel: " Good one Larry, and so being a carpenter.. he will then build his father's kingdom." LOL
Larry the Angel: "I know this sounds bizarre, but I heard it all from a very reliable source. And that's not all. Next, Jesus will choose 12 men to assist him as key members of his kingdom
Betty The Angel: "You mean like a presidential cabinet of sorts? Made up I imagine of priests, rabbis, maybe a few influential politicians, and some sort of minister of defense would seem
Larry the Angel: "No, .. they are mostly fishermen."
Betty The Angel: "I see.. fishermen... So far we have Jesus born in a barn in obscurity except to shepherds, his critical years of development to be the King and Savior are spent as a carpenter instead of seminary?
Larry the Angel: "I know, I know.. but that's not all. Next Jesus will take on the established religious community. He will challenge, and mock their rules and their motives.. which of course flies like a politically incorrect Lead Balloon."
Betty The Angel: "Well if this is true, then what else could they expect. Now who is it you said you heard this all from? You were not talking to Cliffy from the mail room again were you? I know this is Heaven, but Cliff is full of it."
Larry the Angel: "No Betty it wasn't Cliff, it was from a very reliable source. Now be quiet for a minute and let me finish.. then you can let your jaw drop to the floor... because there is more."
Betty The Angel: [ Betty motions that she is zipping her lip and smiles.. in silence ]
Larry the Angel: "All of this leads to a final week when the salvation message is realized. Jesus in this unconventional plan lulls the leaders of the day into .. falsely arresting him, mocking him, he is beaten and whipped to the point of death. Then to a jeering crowd he is lead up to a hill where he is crucified as a common criminal while being rejected by the people he came to save... JUST THE WAY HE PLANNED IT ALL ALONG."
Larry the Angel: Of course Jesus will not stay dead. He will rise from the dead, but not everyone will witness this.. and so believing in Jesus, and accepting his free gift of salvation will be a matter of choice and it will require a personal faith in things not seen.
Betty The Angel: [still silent, Betty stands with her arms crossed]
Larry the Angel: "That's it Betty, believe me or not.. that is the God's honest truth (no pun intended)." <pause> "Ok, now you can speak."
Betty The Angel: I don't know who put you up to this.. but I would tell these wild tales to anyone else... This is all CRAZY TALK.. and I have better things to do with my time. Next time you learn anymore 'Revelations' .. get it in writing on God's very own BLESSED executive stationary!! Next time.. you should consider your sources before swallowing it all hook line and sinker. You are just soooo gullable."
Betty walks away shaking her head. Larry refills his coffee cup and heads back to work perplexed why Betty did not believe him.
Ok maybe it was not quite like this, and I don't think this would have been a script in Hollywood. Kings, and great rulers would be scripted to be more spectacular than a poor carpenter boy who ticks off the establishment and is ultimately crucified as a criminal. Then again.. Hollywood's vision of drama, 'passion' or anything with a salvation message of sorts is typically a bit.. WACKED.
God bless you all today.. and may the great news of God's plan for our salvation and for a happy life here on Earth be realized in each of your lives.
I confess #IHATEHASHTAGS is not the most endearing blog title, but my purpose is to focus on a Biblical response to the glut of #movements in our VERY SECULAR society.
This messy world is inundated with Virtue Signalling / Social Justice Crusaders all whipped up into a frenzy by the media and social media with images, sound bites, tweets, etc, which often lack context promoting 'feelings' over 'facts', agendas over truth. Collectively I will label these the dreaded #SJWCRUSADES (social justice warrior crusades).
These #SJWCRUSADES exist in a land where everyone is a victim, and/or bullied into a fragile 'snowflake' condition barely able to function. Their victim status paralysis is someone else fault when 'feelings are hurt', and/or they were made to 'feel uncomfortable' which is considered an 'act of violence' against them. Who is to blame? Mostly, Men.. more specifically WHITE MEN. And the luck of the draw, I was born a white male have continued that status for my entire life. So.. sorry? I guess for something I did or didn't do inherently because I am white? and male?
Important note: I am not insensitive to injustice, but am concerned with a #SJWCRUSADE response to injustice, and where they place hope. For me, I would like to place my hope in the following Bible Basics..
Getting back to the (Bible) Basics..
Welcome to the #SJWCRUSADE Jungle..
#metoo, #churchtoo, #BLM, #believewomen, #toxicmasculinity, #whiteprivelege, #woke, #lgbtq, #prochoice, #abortionisawomansright, #impeach45, etc etc.
In most of these movements GUILT, MOTIVES, and PRIVILEGE are assumed.. and terms like INTERSECTIONALITY are spewed out (yes spewed). But honestly most #SJWCRUSADES add nothing to justice not already covered by God's Word and common sense, and #SJWCRUSADES often have their own agenda that perverts truth.
So with this in mind, onward and forward to societies #SJWCRUSADES parade of Injustices.
1. Respect Women (#believewomen, #metoo, #churchtoo, #toxicmasculinity)
I believe all these #SJWCRUSADES have hijacked/injured truth where guilt is assumed (and very public) because we must #believewomen. After all.. Why would a woman lie? A. Because for women, just like men Romans 3:23 applies.
Slavery, racism, and discrimination based on the color of your skin is foolish sin. Please note, when the Bible speaks of slavery it was a different culture and the meaning of the term slave was very different from what it means today. The Bible never condoned slavery as we think of it today, or any bias against anyone based on the color of their skin.
3. Abortion (#prochoice??, #abortionisawomansright)
There are ZERO valid arguments for abortion. Science and common sense tell us the unborn child is a beautiful human life and to be #prochoice is at it's heart a deception of truth or worse. There is a beating heart, there is the developing body of the unborn child. The birth canal is not the arbiter of life... conception is. And abortion needs to be seen for what it is.. the ending of this life by violent methods.
4. LGBTQ & Gender Issues (#lgbtq)
It matters what we Christians believe on these issues. Of course Christians should respect, appreciate, and love those who are LGBTQ, But.. we should not turn a blind eye to ANY sinful sexual lifestyle from infidelity, porn, adultery, and including LBTQ issues where the scriptures are so clear.
Again, The pursuit of Justice and Truth are biblical. Justice where we are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and where a just punishment is delivered to the truly guilty.
Though I am sure I have ruffled feathers of some of you. My point in blogging this is God's Word is perfect and loving truth and justice for all and #SJWCRUSADES are too often misguided 'very secular' tools with man made agendas.
My prayer is for God's people to know and obey His unchanging truths. Be wary of any Trojan Horse Crusade that claims to seek justice, but have hidden agendas that may not include truth. May God bless each of you with peace and perspective that is from Him and is totally #FREE.
Jeff ( I like hashbrowns not hashtags) Larson
aka The Northwoods Good Samaritan of 2001. This is a story near and dear to my heart that I like to share most every December.
Back in the December of 2001 on the roads of ice and snow near Hayward Wisconsin a young mom with her preschool children loaded in the family car was heading home to the nearby town of Drummond when along the road she spots an older man with the hood up on his car.
This was a typical bitter cold December day, but though she has her young children with her she is impressed to stop and see if she can help.
As she pulls over the old man approaches her car. She cautiously locks her doors and rolls down her window slightly to ask if she can help. The old man does not speak, tries to open the door, then reaches inside his coat.. making her all the more uneasy.
The old man pulls out a small keyboard from his jacket and plays a pretyped short message explaining he has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) so he can not speak. He then types needs a ride into town. The young woman opens her car to the old man she does not know and drives him home.
This old man was my father Walter Larson, and the young woman was Jen Herricks, and Jen was the the Good Samaritan of Northern Wisconsin 2001. I wonder how many cars drove by before Jen stopped to help. How many macho northwoods guys in their 4x4 trucks drove by too busy to help an old man stranded on a bitter cold winter day? Maybe none, but maybe too many. But no matter, my dad was cared for by someone with a family car, and a kind heart.
Jen later explained to my mom that she thought my dad was an angel. There are a few explanations for this observation but no one before this had described my dad as an angel. A good guy for sure, but an angel? .. hmmm. No so much.
Maybe there was an angel standing alongside my dad that cold December day, or the the peace dad demonstrated just months before passing on to Heaven. Either way today this was certainly a divine appointment with an angel named Jen.
I love the gospel passage Mt 25:35-40ish “You fed me when I was hungry, you clothed me when I was naked.” Well if the gospels were written today they would also say “you gave me a ride when I was an old man when my car broke down on a winter road in Wisconsin. For when you do these things for the least of my people, you do it for me.”
So Jen gives my dad a ride home. He offers her money, she refuses, and they go their separate ways. NICE STORY, BUT IT IS NOT OVER!.
A few weeks later my folks receive a Christmas card from Jen wishing and praying the best for them. This was nice touch too, but... THE STORY IS NOT OVER!
My dad passed away from his battle with ALS just a couple short months after their December encounter. The funeral was a celebration of the good man my dad was, and his reward in Heaven. 'Irony' or providence has it Jen and her family began attending my mom & dad's church in Cable Wisconsin still not realizing the connection.
After a short period of time it became clear to Jen that my mom attends this same church.. and so Jen contacts my mom. This began a friendship that continued until my mom passed away in December 2016.. 15 YEARS later. This friendship continued after Jen's family moving 70 miles away, and my mom later moved 150 miles to the Twin Cities. I mean, c'mon this took this good Samaritan thing too far.. they must have actually become close friends. Correction they were the best of friends.
When Jen came to visit my mom it is with hugs and kisses that are reserved normally for family. Her kids called her Grandma Nell, and many of the trips included sleep overs in my mom's little apartment This friendship God has provided Jen those 15 years my mom as a ‘seasoned’ Christian woman to talk and confide in.
My mom as I mentioned passed away in December 2016, but you can not take away the blessing of that God orchestrated ride 15 years ago for my dad, or the wonderful friendship over the next 15 for my mom and for Jen. God is good even through the tough times.
Thank you Jen.
So as Christmas approaches, please take time to slow down and notice the angel appointments in your life.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson