In 1971 John Lennon wrote the song "Imagine" encouraging us to imagine a world at peace without borders, religion, nationality, or attachment to material possessions.
This song 'Imagine' is a message for our world choosing anarchy over order, insults over compliments, greed over generosity, crass over clever, profane over profound, hatred over love, war over peace, and violence over peace.
While I love this message I would be happy just to imagine a world without rush-hour traffic and road construction.
John Lennon Imagine shares a 'nice' broad brush imagination of a 'world living as one', BUT I must add the Gospel message (not religion) is the ONLY answer/salvation for this tumultuous world. Imagine that.
DROP THE MIC!
Next, let's fast forward 30 years from John Lennon's 1971 song Imagine to 2001 when Bart Millard of the Christian Music band MercyMe released the song "I can only Imagine". This MercyMe song ponders some day Heaven and be standing before our Heavenly Father.
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Cor 2:9
Now with this all in mind, let me share the side-by-side lyrics of 'Imagine' and 'I Can Only Imagine'. I will call this... 'The Dueling Imaginations'
For those of you who kept reading this blog until the end, I pray you enjoyed and were blessed by doing a little Imagining where peace on Earth and the promise of Heaven is found in Christ alone.
Jeff (Imagining cartoons) Larson
Your will.. my will?
Our Father who is in Heaven, GREAT is your name... Your kingdom come, YOUR WILL be done ON EARTH as it is in Heaven.
Many of you know this is the start of the Lord's Prayer (Mt 6:9-13) and we should NOT gloss over this prayer introduction to get to the GIVE US TODAY OUR DAILY (me me me) BREAD part. Of course, our God hears, cares, and answers prayers for our needs & well-being BUT...
today let's focus on God's will not my will.
God's Will on Earth? So how is that working out?
With all the tension among believers, I am looking for an MMA pay-per-view event featuring Catholics v Protestants to determine once and for all.. who really is saved? It can't be both.. can it? I mean, one of the two must be on the fast track to HELL.
Or will there be a Pro(testant)-Wrestling match with a high-flying Beth Moore coming off the top rope attempting to way-lay John MacCarther.
But while I DO LIKE BUNNY TRAILS.. let us now return to the LORD'S PRAYER. God your will be done on Earth.. starting with .. Jeff.
Throughout my life (I am 65 now) I have prayed "Lord show me your will for my life." many times. At times regarding big decisions and that is good always to seek the Lord and His will, but I have come to realize this prayer "what is your will for my life?" can become me-centric.
Prayers focusing on the right job, house, finding Mrs. Right/Larson, or even a car purchase wanting God's can become my own little Prosperity Gospel prayer rather than 'thy will' pointing to God's kingdom (souls saved, and a society honoring Him).
Looking back I wish I could have heard an audible voice from Heaven telling me if I was close. :)
God could be heard from the Heavens with the words... "Warmer, warmer.. hmmm.. colder, colder.. now you are FREEZING. And so I guess living in Minnesota and being COLDER is about what I deserve.
Truth is (insert light bulb moment for me here) The prayer "Lord what is your will for my life?" should be more specific... "Lord how can I serve you today, show me what I can do for your kingdom." "How can I be that part of the Lord's Prayer helping God's Will be Done?
What would that look like if God's will was being done by those of us in the church? What if we were faithful in the moments that make up our days? What if we truly worshipped God in words and deeds with our eyes first on God and then on the needs of others? What would that look like?
Even my little Back Pew Ministry. I am blessed to be used by God in a way that He uniquely wired me. but even in my world of cartoons, I can take my eyes off of humbly being used by God in this small way to pray for God to bless The Back Pew into becoming The FarSide, or Calvin & Hobbes of Christian cartoons, complete with a modest (OR.. substantial) income. "SHOW ME THE MONEY!"
In recent years I have become more intentional in MY PURSUIT OF GOD. While I am and always will be a work in progress and have not resulted in an exorcism of my old self, it has become both a convicting and inspiring journey where today my prayer is .. "Lord what is your will for my life going forward? How can I serve you? Lord help me NOT to bury my talents in the sand, but instead do my part so GOD'S WILL is done on Earth as it is in Heaven. AMEN."
I write this hoping it does not take any of you 65 years to figure out God's will for you to serve Him. But if it does, 65 is not too late. Love God, Serve God where your will is God's will.
May God bless you all in this journey of discovering who you are intended to be in God's Plan and for HIS Kingdom on Earth.
Jeff (slow learner) Larson -->
St Patrick Speaks
Saint Patrick's Day is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated each year on March 17th, the death date of the most commonly recognized patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick.
The day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and is a celebration of the Irish heritage and culture. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals and wearing green attire and shamrocks...
and drinking lots of GREEN BEER
The Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day which has encouraged and propagated the holiday's tradition of alcohol consumption. <pause> like a man needs another excuse to drink beer... even green beer
But enough about DRINKING. I thank God today for St. Patrick and his mission to Ireland. May God bless the Irish and all those who pretend to be Irish each year in March. May it be a great day of celebration of heritage and culture, and may the consumption of all be done with reasonable moderation.
Please enjoy my modest collection of St Patrick's Day cartoons.
Jeff (Irish for a day) O'Larson
Unfortunately, I can be a moody fella, and being moody my wife informs me is not one of my endearing qualities. I have low moments where my introspection GOES ROGUE leaving my self-worth a bit tattered.
Just a couple weeks ago I was in one of those funks, but am happy to report I am 'prayerfully' doing much better. Then a fragment of scripture came to mind which led me to a Google search locating... Psalms 8:3-5.
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 Who is man that You are mindful of him, 5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
Mindful of me? You see this is my struggle. I believe in God, as from the micro-level cellular miracles of our bodies to the infinite world of the Cosmos it all screams to me... THERE MUST BE A CREATOR.
But for me, it is more work to realize this amazing creator cares about me. Who is Jeff that God is mindful of him?
So at least for the day, the clouds have parted and I see God as my Heavenly Father, mindful of me. The great creator of all loves me, and I like that.
Then to round out my little spiritual exodus the song "Mighty To Save" came to mind. Here are the lyrics.
Everyone needs compassion... A love that's never failing... Let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness... The kindness of a Savior... The hope of nations
Savior, he can move the mountains,... My God is mighty to save... He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation... He rose and conquered the grave... Jesus conquered the grave
So take me as you find me... All my fears and failures... Fill my life again
I give my life to follow... Everything I believe in... Now I surrender
Savior, he can move the mountains,... My God is mighty to save... He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation... He rose and conquered the grave... Jesus conquered the grave
Shine your light and let the whole world see .. We're singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus
This song is about the full circle relationship with God as He intends. No matter if I am lost in introspection or feeling invincible I will need compassion, kindness, and love of the God of our Bibles. He is that loving Father, He is Jesus our Savior, and He is the Holy Spirit who brightens up any DARK and/or hopeless situation. Our God is mighty to Save.
May God bless each of us where the realization of a Savior who both moves mountains, and is mindful of each and every one of us.
Jeff (child of God) Larson
Faithful in the Details
I was 'praying anxiously' the other day. Of course, praying anxiously is an oxymoron bigger than a skinny Baptist preacher... But God reminded me I am called to be FAITHFUL IN the moments that make up my day not FAITHFUL FOR a moment in my day.
I guess this is obvious to everyone else, BUT for me, it was an epiphany.. and my new calling.
I should not longer worry about being recognized as the 'FarSide' of Christian cartoonists (lol, in my dreams).. but instead, focus on being Faithful in Word and Deed in what every day presents to me.
Faithful is not just when everyone is watching. We are called to be faithful to God in words, emotions, deeds, thoughts, and in our prayer life.
Prayer is how we fight our battles.
May the Lord find us all faithful in big and small ways including every nook and cranny that makes up our days.
Jeff (work in progress) Larson
BIRTH... One man's perspective
Most every year around this time I like to share the story of the birth of our firstborn. The birth of each of our children has its own special story, but my son Curtis just had a birthday on February 13th so it is his turn to be remembered in this birth blog.
Thirty-eight years ago my wife and I were anxious parents-2-be expecting our first. We had already made a few typical false alarm trips to the hospital (aka Braxton Hicks practice contractions), but on February 13th, 1986 it was the real deal and life would NEVER be the same.
READY SET GO... At 12:30 a.m. on February 13th, 1986 my wife and I had just headed off to bed for a long winter’s nap. At about midnight I arrived home from working the evening shift at my job and was off to bed with my fully 9 months pregnant wife Mary. Before I could even fade into sleep Mary exclaims “My water broke, or I just peed the bed.” So off to the races we headed for the birth of our child #1.
BUT FIRST... We had to stop for gas as I had not planned on this midnight run to the hospital all while Mary’s contractions were kicking into gear.
NOTE TO SELF: Keep the gas tank full when babies are near the due date.
So we arrive at the hospital ( I ran a few red lights just for added high drama) and the nurses get us settled into our room and notify our doctor. Mary is then hooked up to all sorts of monitors including this cool baby monitor that measures the strength of her contractions. COOL.. something for me to watch over the next hours.
OVER THE NEXT HOURS... The contractions come and go.. the doctor visits and early on can give Mary the drugs of choice to calm the pains. I remember after several of the contractions where Mary seemed to be hurting especially bad I said to her... “That one was not really that bad it was only a 4 on the monitor.” Shortly later I found out the monitor strap had come loose and was not measuring accurately.
NOTE TO SELF: Do not think 'out loud'.
BIRTH CLASS IN ACTION: Mary and I had attended the birthing classes, so I knew to hold her hand and to coach her breathing. The problem was Mary preferred to hold the nurse's hands because they were cooler to the touch, and at one point during my breathing she said... “Quit breathing in my face.”
NOTE TO SELF: Quit breathing??
MORE DRUGS .. PLEASE: So the hours move along and it is early morning around 4:30 when Mary pleads with her doctor for more drugs.. but the doc says nope.. too late.. no more drugs for you. At least I was smart enough at this point to not repeat the doctor’s words. I just sat quietly supportive.
NOTE TO SELF: Plead Mary’s case for drugs as a sign of being supportive, and ask for some for me as my back is killing me.
THINGS ARE GETTING INTENSE: Around 8 a.m. the pains are strong, but the process seems to have stalled a bit. So while Mary is in her ‘painful’ holding pattern, the morning breakfast cart rolls around. They peek in and ask sheepishly... “Breakfast anyone?” There is a momentary silence.. then I finally say... “Yes, I think I could eat something.”
NOTE TO SELF: Next time shout, can’t you see my wife is in labor, and then meet the cart in the hallway for a secret snack under the guise of chewing them out.
So the process continues as I eat breakfast and between bites of food call to my wife with my mouth full.. “push”.. and “remember your breathing.”
FOR UNTO US, A CHILD IS BORN: Finally around 10:00 a.m. a child is born and they shall call his name .. Curtis Walter Larson.
He is healthy, a bit cone-headed but a keeper. After the usual initial checks and I get to cut the cord from 'mothership' Mary we head back to our private room where the three of us mom, dad, and new baby Curt.. all lying in the same bed.
And around 12:30 early that afternoon, baby Curt is asleep, I am asleep (and snoring) while Mary lies wide awake with the adrenaline rush of her life.
NOTE TO SELF: I don't know what Mary thinks BUT.. this giving birth thingy is exhausting!
So there you have it, BIRTH FROM ONE MAN’S PERSPECTIVE. Now 37 years later we have a son Curtis Walter Larson who has given us both our share of joy and exasperation.
NOTE TO SELF: God is good, Mary is wonderful, and Curtis is a son to be proud of.
32 years!? It seems like almost yesterday.
A whole lotta life can be lived in these past 32 years. 32 years is a ride filled with precious moments and a few potholes. This describes my last 32 years, and I would never trade them.
It was just over 32 years ago my lovely daughter Erin entered planet Earth via spaceship mom. Ok, bad analogy.. my wife Mary was pregnant but not as big as a spaceship. BUT I DIGRESS.. after a high-risk pregnancy including 5 1/2 months on bed rest Erin entered this world in a rush about 10 weeks early and weighed in at a lean mean 3 lbs. 13 oz.
As you can imagine Mary being on bed rest for 5 1/2 months, with 2 preschoolers running around the house while I was working full-time was stressful and exhausting. But we were so blessed with a good family, a church, and friends that were truly PRICELESS in getting us to the finish line.
D-DAY ( or B-DAY) February 5, 1991: So just after just getting home around 9pm from the hospital visiting Mary with our two boys, I put the boys to bed, and the phone rang. It is the hospital informing me I better get back right away if I want to see the birth of my daughter. I did, so I did.
So I get the boys up, rush them over to Mary’s sister’s house (she lived 2 blocks from the hospital), and arrive in time to be with my wife. Since Mary’s due date is not for another 10 weeks the doctor expounds great words of wisdom for the day... “Don’t push too hard or you might shoot your baby across the room.” Ya gotta like a doctor with a sense of humor.
So unto us an 'Erin' is born, around 11:30 pm with no complications except that she is only 3 lbs 13 oz. After an initial exam, she is given her first ambulance ride to the Children’s Hospital NICU in St Paul where they specialize in care of preme-babies. WHEW! Glad they did, cuz I did not.
After a short time, at a Children's Hospital Erin came home to be with her brothers, and our family never looked back.
We have so many memories of Erin as a little girl, then off to school, and even those dreaded teen years.. that makes us both smile and cringe.
No manual prepared this dad for teenage girls... THEY SCARE ME!
Now fast forward 32 YEARS from 1991 and our little girl is is a wonderful mom for her soon to be 2 year old son Ira Tyron McDonough. Grandma Mary and I now enjoy our many visits as they only live a few miles away.
So those are my 32 years, these are Erin's 32 years and we both are ready for the next 32 (yikes that would make me 97) filled with more precious memories and the accompanied potholes that are all so priceless and a gift from God.
Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.
Jeff (proud daddy and granddaddy) Larson
Another Profanity Diet
I mention often we live in a society where crass is considered clever, profane is provocative, and Christian Values are considered hate speech. One obvious example of our profane society is this world believes the all-purpose F-bomb or mother F-bomb is a trendy adjective.
While the F-bomb may be today's most popular profanity there are too many to list other profanities used by the masses. The point is the use of profanity is ‘dumbing down’ our communication skills. Hip-hop lyrics, comedians, emphatic politicians, and rush-hour drivers feel the need to blurt profanity to make their point.
note: Studies have proven an individual's IQ is lowered by 15 points every time they use the F-Bomb
-follow the science-
Note: Even Assyrian Captains from the Old Testament struggle -->
Confession: While my vocabulary is not a clever plethora of profanities, or compares with above mentioned Assyrian Captain neither would I describe it as a pristine mountain stream.
And... I am surprised how we Christians blend into this profane world.
We are called to be salt and light, but we curse, rage, and drink like the world. We laugh at jokes, watch movies, and use language that does not honor God.
This world is like the BORG (from Star Trek) and the church is being assimilated.
This is not a guilt trip it is a gut check!
So join me on a ‘PROFANITY DIET’. You know.. at least cut back on our blue cloud of words emissions.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things... Phil 4:8.
We don’t need to use an 'okely dokey' vocabulary like Ned Flanders on the Simpsons, or sound like Pa Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie, BUT neither should we be confused with the sailor on shore leave.. unless you are Popeye. Popeye is cool, just sayin'.
To be certain no one is going to Hell or even made to stand in the corner by God for blurting out words only 4 LETTERS LONG.. but the next time you are cut off on the road let your words be few and your actions honor God.
May God find us to be Salt and Light rather than assimilating into our Crass Culture. And for those who do not struggle with '4 letter words' I commend you.
Jeff (sometimes 'blurting' in the Back Pew) Larson
A Narcissist is a person with an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves. Narcissists are selfish and have a sense of entitlement. They lack empathy, seek attention, and are self-centered.
Examples of Narcissists should be limited to very young babies... But today they are also found in politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and entitled pro athletes. They live a self-adoration existence prone to share their 'gold nuggets of wisdom' with us 'common folk'. How else could we carry on?
But Sadly... narcissism also can be found in today's Church. Too many preach/tweak God's Word for the itching ears of those who prioritize entertainment over seeking God.
Church Narcissism can be found in messages like... 1. God loves you just the way you are. 2. You are enough, 3. the prosperity gospel, and 4. become a better you. Prosperity and comfort take precedence over loving God with all your heart, and others as yourself. God's two greatest commandments Matthew 6:5-15
But Also... I observe church narcissism that is fueled by our insecurities. Our busy anxious minds can obsess over hurt feelings as our eyes are fixed on ourselves. These are self-preservation fears that can drive us inward as much as any of the above ego-motivated narcissism.
note: Of course, Christian Narcissism is an oxymoron of Biblical proportions. Narcissism is self-serving while True Christianity serves God and others.
In a recent Bible study with friends, we read The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer .. and in this short book, Tozer prescribes the cure for Narcissism.
Together let's pursue His Truth and serve with His church in this world as the Body of Christ. We are one body with many parts (denominations, giftedness, talents) all designed (narcissism free) for the Glory of God.
Jeff (one body, many aches) Larson
The Art of Forgiveness
I do not claim to have a great memory and have the gift of confusing and/or forgetting names often... embarrassingly often.
But I do remember my past mistakes/blunders/boo-boos and/or 'sins'. These memories are clear and hard for me sometimes to let go.
This 'Jeff Larson blooper reel' when played can spur on all sorts of regrets often accompanied by those uncomfortable feelings of shame and failure... BUT.. this is NOT what God intends.
for as far as the East is from the West so are our sins removed. Ps 103:12 from us once I ask forgiveness. This is good news for a regret-laden fellow like me.
We all do need to ask forgiveness and be truly sorry ... and not say sorry through clenched teeth, but once that is done.. forgiveness is full and complete.
The Bible teaches us we are forgiven and God remembers our sins no more.
He will again have compassion on us... you will cast our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19
Note: This of course does not imply God is forgetful, but simply that our sins are forgiven and they should no longer be a weight on our hearts or minds.
Again. If we confess our sins, God forgives us and remembers them no more.
The point is they are GONE so let your mind find peace in this great truth. Forgiven by God is perfect, and complete.
But... let's not forget the other critical part of forgiveness. Nestled right in the middle of The Lord's Prayer. We must FORGIVE OTHERS!
Just listen to Jesus teaching his disciples to pray
9 “This, then, is how you should pray“ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
This critical piece of forgiving others has been on my heart lately. God's Spirit has opened my eyes to some of my faulty forgiveness logic.
I have always been forgiving of those who were sorry they wronged me, BUT ...
NOT SO MUCH when it came to those I deemed unrepentant.
This 1/2 complete spirit of forgiveness has held me at times in my life. But now I seek to prayerfully do better.
My prayer today for you is that God bless you with the assurance of His love. He forgives and forgets your every transgression, and He answers your prayers like the perfect Heavenly Father He is. And... I pray you live out a spirit of forgiveness towards others as Jesus taught us.
And... then God can and will restore, and bless your lives in ways beyond our dreams.
ps Isaiah 40:28-31, and Psalms 23 share messages of hope that is in God alone. In all things TO GOD BE THE GLORY.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson
Back Pew - Draw Close to God
116 pages of cartoons of 'Clean Humor & God's Truth'
CRITICS ARE SAYING..
Laughter is just a CLICK away