Happy Fathers Day to all you dads! It is a fine day and I look forward to it each year to remember my good dad who passed away I believe now 20 years ago... and hopefully to be remembered by my 3 kids for being an OK dad too.
While I do miss my dad I also recognize him as the source of my strange sense of humor, and my quirky personality of what I like to call being 'an introvert trapped in a world full of people.'
For example, a few years back I was joking around with my then 15 year old daughter Erin trying to get a rise out of her. She laughed and said “Dad you are so weird.” I replied.. “Weird like my daughter.” Of course she blamed her odd sense of humor on me since her mom’s sense of humor is more traditional.
To console her I said… “You know this strange sense of humor comes from Grandpa Larson.” Then after a short pause while we both nodded.. I spoke again like I was my dad saying.. “Oh sure, blame the dead guy.”
Then Erin and I chuckled over me saying that for the next several minutes. So there you have it.. my dad was the guy with a quiet dry sense of humor and irony and is to blame for .. ME.. and my daughter Erin!
I also give him credit for teaching me the art of ‘good natured’ teasing/pestering. Please don’t confuse this with mean spirited or cruel teasing, it was more like.. pestering to get a rise out of someone or a situation but NEVER to disrespect someone or embarrass.
It is the type of good natured needling that friends and family do to show they like each other. Well at least my family does this.
My dad was a kind man with a big heart and an appreciation for the simple pleasures in life. No one ever confused him with being a theologian , philosopher , or a CEO of any corporation except Walter Larson Logging.. BUT everyone knew my dad was a good man, and I knew my dad was proud of me, and believed in me even in my less than bright and shining moments.
So what greater reward can I have on Fathers Day then to know I was blessed with a good father who taught me the important lessons in life about family, friends, and seeing the best in others.
If.. IF someday (hopefully today) this would be my legacy for my kids and nothing else.. this too would make me smile.
My dad never left me a fortune to inherit unless he put it in a lunch box and buried it in the woods (and never told me where!), and at my present rate.. my kids are not inheriting much except a hard drive full of cartoons , and my kneaded eraser.
BUT.. what I desire to give them is what my dad gave me. A home with love, laughter, good coffee, and good food … and most importantly ‘a personal faith in the God of our Bibles’.
May God bless each of you this Fathers Day. May God provide healing and peace in those hurting relationships, AND love and humble appreciation for those who had or have is so good like me.
Jeff (Father & Grandfather) Larson
<- Satan remembered on Fathers Day
A few years back my wife and I lived in Roseville, a suburb of St Paul MN. Nice neighborhood, easy access to highways, shopping, dining, and.. is unofficially the bunny capital of the world. Bunnies were everywhere.
These friends of Bugs (bunny) crisscrossed our yard constantly. We don't have a garden so they are harmless and cute.. I guess... but what goes on in their little minds as they scamper from here to there and back again. All this is done of course as they travel their literal bunny trails.
Then I wonder.. are there 'BAD BUNNIES'.. you know, with tattoos hanging out the street corner smoking cigs and.. sorry, I guess my mind just went on its own bunny trail.
Ok, while I am obviously NOT a bunny, but I have traveled my share of bunny trails meanderings. I even have the 'gift' of veering off topic railroading a conversation 'deftly' interjecting my thoughts that have wandered away from the original subject. How did I get here?.. and now how do I find my way back?.. I don't know, maybe I will ask a BUNNY.
Even those involved in the conversation may with a bewildered look on their face respond with .. "whaaa.. and If no bunny can be found to help me I will segue back by saying "but I digress"
Of course for the most part the literal bunny trails in my yard and the nonsensical bunny trails in my head are harmless. They may be puzzling, possibly frustrating, but seriously no harm no foul.
But what about the more serious bunny trails we take? In a world that needs Jesus we are busy with bunny trails... even Pokemon Go trails.. really?
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Js 1:27
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Mt 22:37-40 .
There you have it.. all that is important shared economically in just 5 verses, BUT..
All of the above can be definite bunny trails that have nothing to do with Js 1:27 and/or Mt 22:37-40.
I am a big fan of the 'My Utmost for His Highest' devotional by Oswald Chambers. His daily readings are amazing bits of truth that return focus to what is important. Oswald's message is that life begins and ends with a devotion to God. What we say and do matters, and stay off the bunny trails that keep us from this truth.
Another great read is 'The Pursuit of God' by AW Tozer. In this book Tozer makes clear the pursuit of God is a direct path with focus and purpose and any bunny trails are mostly found in the pursuits of man... and his folly.
My prayer is to live a life that loves God in words and deeds (Js 1:27 and Mt 22:36-40) where I give my utmost for His highest in my daily pursuit of God while keeping my bunny trails to a minimum.
My prayer today is your life's journey has focus and purpose, and that He provides hope, and direction for those of us when we find ourselves off on a bunny trail using His Word and our Prayers as our map.
Me, myself, and I. Me.. me.. me. , What about me? , What's in it for ME?
A few years back I heard a great sermon where our pastor described the Me-Monster. I have to admit I don't recall much of the sermon, but I remember it was good AND it impressed on my cartoonist brain to sketch in my sermon notes The Me-Monster.
So I brought Mr. Me-Monster home scanned him into my computer and did a little Photoshop extreme makeover on him all so I could share his surly mugshot with you. And so BEHOLD.. The Me-Monster.
The Me-Monster is an ugly fella, and even his open mouth resembles an M, and the back of his throat an E. The disturbing thing about this Me-Monster is that when our motives, focus, and actions are focused on .. SELF.. any of us can become a pretty gnarly looking creature too.
We all notice this world is filled with attention seeking ME-folk flaunting their success and perceived self-importance without a speck of humility. So many celebrities, athletes, and politicians out there in front of the camera as self appointed experts on topics they have not a clue. They share their pious golden nuggets of 'truth' to the masses fawning for adoration... all while you can hear the wind whistling through their ears.
And our society measures our own success by the car, home, career, a trophy wife or hubby with good looking kids on the honor roll, and captain of their sports teams. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of these things unless it inspires a me-monster ego trip.
Now for me, I have more of an econo-sized Me-Monster. My monster does not get identity from a high profile existence, nor does my life check all the boxes above of how society measures success, but my me-monster still likes to be known even if on a budget.
You see I care what others think about me, and to be respected and viewed as successful. I desire to have friends, and of course I seek the love of my wife, my adult children, and grandchildren. I also do not want to be known for my past failings.
This also is all ok, in fact good except if I do not seek God first, and know His love and forgiveness, and while what others think is important, what is most important is how God sees me.
In fact any level of success or any talents I have are from the Lord. So who is any man to boast. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? 1 Cor 4:7
I could ramble on about ME as I am prone to do, but wanted to conclude with again God's two greatest commandments. 'Love God with all your soul and mind and others as yourself.' Mt 22:37.
What if I focused my life on these words of Jesus? Then all the details and trimmings of this life while nice would be trivia to a life well lived... and no Me-Monster.
So I pray for God's Holy Spirit to lead me, and for me to trust His direction so that I can SERVE Him and others. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and finally in all things to God be the glory!
May God bless and use each of you in ways that are beyond your dreams. May our lives be about God's Kingdom and not ours. And may you be Me-Monster free.
I like the old saying ‘That fella is so Heavenly minded, they are no Earthly good.’ This describes a person is so in to church and ‘churchy’ things that they don’t add much value or function outside of church walls. He can barely change a light bulb let alone the oil on his car.
Over the years I have smirked at a person or twenty that fits that description, BUT I have come to believe the irony is actually there are too many people are so EARTHLY minded to be much HEAVENLY GOOD.
It's just too easy to be caught up in this pace and 'stuff' of life (good and bad) to where God is put on the back burner. Instead of starting my day quiet before God, reading my Bible, and prayerful I often clutter my life with the very real demands of work, family, rush hour traffic, and.. maybe what is on the TV and become simply more EARTHLY MINDED than HEAVENLY GOOD.
The real irony is.. When I drift from God is NOT when I am too busy or stressed but instead when life is good. No immediate worries or concerns so I relax my dependence, praise and appreciation of God to again become so earthly minded... and erroneously feelings of being self sufficient. Maybe even a little bit proud.
So while I don’t want my life to look as out of place as an Amish folk high rollin' in Las Vegas.. I do want my spirit, and life to start and end with God. A place where my personal faith shows through in all that I do and say.
My prayer for all of you is that this day and always be a life in love with God, and a life where God is not fit in around the details of the day. That sweet spot where our minds on God/Heaven impact our lives on Earth.
May your life be blessed and USED by God in ways that have both Heaven and Earth in mind.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Mt. 6:10
Be 'Blessed and Used' of course in ways that are BEYOND YOUR DREAMS and all that God intends for you!
Max Lucado wrote a book in 1994 titled ''When God whispers your name'. It is a great read with his usual humor and spiritual insights, but my question is..
What happens when God whispers my name but .. I am hard of hearing, or maybe God simply remains silent?
Not so many years ago I weathered personal hurricane force storms in back to back years. My finances, health, and spirit were challenged and I didn't know if I would survive the first year's storm only to be windblown and tattered the next year too. I have never despaired more in my life.
Let me tell you I literally cried (sobbed), and cried out to God for HELP. I wanted God to calm these storms, but my prayers were met with His resounding SILENCE.
Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Ps 10:1
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Ps 22:1-2
I admit my cries to God were not as eloquent as when David penned the above Psalms, but I shed enough literal tears to warrant flood insurance.
Side note on Crying:
When a woman cries we feel empathy as her deep emotions touch our hearts.
When a man cries it sounds like a wounded Badger caught in a trap trying to gnaw off his leg in a short sighted attempt to escape his pain. Those in ear shot want to put that badger out of his misery, and thecrying men.. STOP IT!
but I digress..
Now back to my storms..
During these stormy times I discovered God's providence/answers were found in His silence. During my storms I needed to experience the full impact of my situation including my mistakes and their circumstances.
God was with me the whole time, but pain and reflection was important for me to grow on a true path of restoration. A genie in a lamp with three hot wishes available was NOT what I needed.
Life rains on the just and the unjust Mt. 5:45, the Jeffs and the unJeffs!
We all know the story of Peter walking on water until he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on those very real waves.. and began to sink.
Just like Peter those the very real waves in my life overwhelmed me because I did not put my trust in the man who walks on water and calms the seas.
The good news is I endured those stormy years and learned over time how faithful and loving God was and is.
The details of my storm(s) are not important except to share a lesson learned when God seems silent. “Be still, and know that He is God." Ps 46:10
Be still, be faithful, be listening, be prayerful, and peaceful even when you experience God's Resounding Silence.
Jeff (actually wearing Hearing Aids) Larson
On October 31st (Halloween?) 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany. Luther's 95 theses brought attention to corruption in the Catholic Church.
Luther appealed to the Pope to stop the practice of squeezing ‘indulgences’ from parishioners as ‘down payments’ on Heaven, and/or petition God to limit the time their dead loved ones spent in purgatory.
I know the Catholic Church still practices indulgences but I believe these gifts are seen as part of turning our attention from our sins and to The Church. I can't say I completely understand this, but that may be just my protestant upbringing.
Anyways Catholics and Protestants should all agree our salvation is found only in Jesus Christ as our savior, then loving God and serving others with our lives. The giving of money or anything resembling an indulgence should be an act of service to God not affecting our status in eternity.
Anyways, while we protestants sometimes are dismissive regarding the Catholic Church and their history with indulgences... but how does that 'speck' scripture go?
Be careful about pointing out the speck in someone else's eye when you have a beam in your own.
So 'INDULGE ME' as I share possible Protestant Church Indulgences?
It goes without saying God's house is special. We are to be reverent and generous in the space and resources we use for church. God does love a cheerful giver, but let's not lose sight of the Gospel Message compromised by the giving of protestant indulgences to men or buildings of men. Everything we have belongs to the Lord. Hebrews 10:2
Jesus said after clearing the Temple. “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of 'indulgences?'” Mt. 21:13 MSV (mega standard version)
ALSO.. beware our indirect indulgences outside of church where we justify indulging our wants that feed our social status and in the church. aka Indulgences of comfort and/or ego.
So I pray today for all believers that we return to a true pursuit of God not compromised by indulgences of self, churches and/or ministries. I believe this topic is an issue for us all to consider. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Mt 6:21
May God bless each of you and the churches you attend. No person or church is perfect, and when we stumble I pray we return our focus again to Him and His Gospel Message.
Jeff (getting off his soap box now) Larson
In this world of Essentials we have ..'Essential Oils' (5 quarts of motor oil?).. the 'Essential Van Morrison' album compilation, and during this last year while in Pandemic lockdown mode our government determined/MANDATED everything else that was 'essential'.
In a disturbing twist of irony our secular society determined essential businesses were liquor stores, and Planned Parenthood while church gatherings were too 'risky' aka non-essential. In some states you could buy 'weed' to smoke (essential) but could not buy 'weed killer' (non-essential) at the local garden center.
So I ponder what if Mother Theresa lived during this covid-19 'pandemic' in my home state of Minnesota? Would her orphanage and ministering to lepers be considered risky? And how about JESUS CHRIST.. Would Jesus wear a mask (WJWM)?
My sarcasm is obvious as I bristle not over the health risks of Covid but rather our Government's mandated overreach regarding the good, bad, & ugly list of essentials, non-essentials complete with social distancing guidelines.
During the pandemic I listened to a sermon snippet from a Pastor on Facebook. His message was "be prayerful & smart in our response to Coronavirus but remember our (the church) focus is on Revival not Survival."
Societies message is temporal and 'non-essential' . note: liquor stores and planned parenthood are so very not essential, but the
Gospel message is essential and filled with lasting hope for today and tomorrow.
So now after a year of the Gospel according to 'Zoom' I see church beginning to limp forward moving away from 'safety being our God' and our spiritual diet consisting of You-Tube sermons.
And while.. Zoom and streaming has it's place for most of us being together face to face in a full church worshiping God looking to God and not to be entertained is what church is called to be.
And worshipping with masks is a muted sad expression of what God intends and sounds more like a chorus of 'Charlie Brown's teachers' than a choir of angels.
So I choose not live in fear and believe the church is essential. I pray the world soon leaves their masks behind, and the 'next' COVID-19 like panic (I predict Climate Change) does does not become a social and political wedge dividing our society and the Essential CHURCH.
May God bless and use each of you in ways that are beyond your dreams.
May you feel His protection and love that transcends the fears of men, and their politics.
May our safety, life, revival and hope be found in His Words, His church, and not in a mask or overbearing 'big-brother' government mandate. AND..
May God's Essential Church have an uncompromised revival.
Jeff ( Essential Back Pew) Larson
As a guy.. I am a TV Commercial aficionado. While I respect my wife.. when it comes to TV Commercials hands-down I have a deeper appreciation for their .. art.
Case and point is a TV commercial by AT&T where a tattoo artist tells his client he is just an ok tattoo artist but not good one. Then the concerned client questions the tattoo artist not drawing the image before inking the real tattoo.. and this 'just ok' tattoo artist tells him "Stay in your lane bro."
Funny stuff, and it makes me smile every time it pops up on TV.
Message of this commercial? Don't settle for just ok.
But of course in my mind I see a spiritual correlation in this commercial.
When I talk (aka pray) to God, I am NOT talking with a just an OK deity. I am talking with the Creator of this World. Omniscient, Omnipresent, and our perfect loving Heavenly Father.
And when I vent (aka pray) to God my busy mind swimming in a big bowl of worry. I tell God "I don't know how this is going to all work out."
And this is when God whispers to me.. "Stay in your lane bro."
ok, I paraphrased.
Unlike a 'just ok' deity our God is sovereign. He has this bowl of worries of mine along with everyone else's favorite rage and/or anxiety recipe and though mankind has again made a mess of things.. God is not caught off guard. He is not surprised, and NEWS FLASH none of this is a ripple in God's great plan.
I do want to be clear there will always be consequences for anyone and/or nation who rejects God's will, and there is pain in being a part of this world compromised by sin, but there is peace in knowing God is sovereign.
Important NEWS FLASH.. It is also important to share this life, our moment in time is not about ME or YOU. This life is about being faithful to our God in word and deed. This our lane.
So I pray..
Heavenly Father bless and use us for your glory in ways that only can be described as beyond our dreams or understanding. This is God's lane
Jeff (drifting over the center line) Larson
It seems like a long month for me with much going on. So many distractions of significance that have deserved my attention and the attention of others I love. The birth of my brand new baby grandson Ira, and the passing of my brother in law Dan have both been impactful in polar opposite ways on my life.
With all this in mind I need to return my focus to a very important day for all of us... MOTHER'S DAY.
I was blessed with a loving mom who taught me well, and raised me to love Jesus. I married my beautiful wife Mary who raised our three kids (all grown up now) with love and faith which led to us now having 5 wonderful grandkids that make my life full.
So anyways, for all you good moms out there know you are loved and appreciated.
Next on to those years of schooling where you tag team raising your children with the educational institution of your choice. This is a 12+ year process getting them from grade K through High School (note: Beware the teen years!) and beyond as you still are mom preparing them for that big old scary world out there with the hopes of someday in the back of your mind they will married and have kids of their own.. aka your grandchildren.
This is when you stop to ponder I just spent my whole life waiting for .. grandchildren? REALLY?
Okay, I embellish of course as this is a beautiful journey filled with joy and yes some pain. It is not what you signed up for, but is more than you could ask for.
So no matter if you are a mom yet, or no matter where you are on this journey know being a mother is a true high honor, and a most significant role in this life. You are so appreciated, and loved.
In the year 2020 the Coronavirus pandemic kidnapped the world holding EVERYONE hostage with no tangible ransom demands except to social distance, wear a mask (or three), and obey all other 'Big Brother' government lockdowns in true George Orwell 1984 fashion.
I really do take COVID-19 serious, but there are so many contradictory 'expert' opinions funneled through a media monster hopped up on Red Bull with an agenda. The popular statement 'I believe science' begs the question..
'Ok, but which science?' But that is a ramble for another day.
Now in 2021 we still have COVID-19, plus riots disguised as peaceful protests, and the cries of of all things racist have become the 2021 version of the CRT boy who cries wolf (in this case racism).
Trending in 2021 are Socialist, Marxist, BLM, Antifa, SJW, CRT, and LGBTQ agendas, all the while the deconstructing of Christianity is finding it's way deep into the traditional Christian church. This all leaves a normally sane guy like me to ask "Why God.. "WHY?"
Our society is like a roller coaster going too fast, with faulty safety harnesses careening along tracks last serviced in 1984. This will not end well. We are all destined to leave the tracks in front of the camera ready news shows of CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, and FOX salivating in anticipation watching society crash into a twisted heap of metal and cotton candy (from one kid riding in the front car).
Who was to blame? Was it society, the church.. maybe Donald Trump? Why God why?
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why do bad men prosper?
Why is there so much pain & suffering?
Would a good God (if he even exists) allow and/or cause this rollercoaster train wreck?
So we ask "Why God.. Why?"
AND THEN... the Lord answered me from the whirlwind ..
“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?.. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. .. What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone.. “Who kept the sea inside its boundaries.. But of course you know all this! For you were born before it was all created, and you are so very experienced! (God then rolled His eyes at me from the whirlwind) “Who created a channel for the torrents of rain? Who laid out the path for the lightning? ..
Oh, God went on to say a lot more to me... but you get the point.
WHO AM I.. to tell the creator of all things what is fair and unfair, and more importantly who is to blame?
Ok, I tried to pull a fast one on all of you but God's response was actually from the book of Job chapter 38 where God answers Job (not Jeff) in a whirlwind.
For the first 37 chapters Job who was a righteous and wealthy man (Job 1) who then death of loved ones, his wealth stolen, and even his physical health was taken from him to the point that his body was covered from head to toe with sores.
Then starting in chapter 38, God speaks to Job from the whirlwind where God shares perspective to Job or anyone (even a Jeff) about questioning God.
As the book of Job ends, Job is restored with wealth, health and family beyond all that he had lost. Read the whole book of Job to better understand our place when life becomes a world of hurt.
Ok, I accept God the creator of this world can do whatever he pleases. But still Why God, why? Still why do you allow bad people to thrive, and the good to be mistreated? Why do the innocent suffer?
The Answer.. Because man from the very beginning when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden continues to mess up aka sin.
In fact just 6 chapters into the book of Genesis we read.. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5
and so God destroyed the Earth with a flood.
But most of us may semi-rightly say.. "I may not be perfect, but my heart is not wicked, and my every intention is not on evil continually." Hey, I am not HITLER.
but King Solomon writes.. Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins. Eccelsiastes 7:20
And.. Paul writes.. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Romans 7:15
So.. while I may not be evil, this world filled with a SINS great and small in fact man's every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually... and VOID OF GOD.
AND.. Mankind has been blessed by God with FREE WILL lest we be His slaves or robots void of a relationship with God. There is happiness when our free will chooses God, but through history man has abused this free will and corrupted the good God intends for each of us. The result is a world of hatred, stress, envy, illness, and death. Our fallen world of pain & suffering is our own fault, and not God's.
But on this roller coaster of life sailing off the tracks, I thank God for his perfect grace and forgiveness for this soul. So now I truly wonder Why God, why.. do you still love me?
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love, Here's my heart, oh take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above. -- excerpt from the great hymn Come thou Fount of Every Blessing.
My prayer today is for God's people to live in obedience and praise to our God. May we fear and honor Him with our words, and actions as an outpouring of our love for Him. May this love and service extend out to a world that needs hope.
Jeff (no more why questions for today) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson