Even in the year 2020 (the mother of all bad years) the classic It's a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed plays on. The story of George Bailey through the assistance of apprentice angel Clarence learns the impact he is unknowingly having on those around him... culminating in George realizing though in a true moment of despair.. HIS LIFE IS WONDERFUL!
Just hours before the angelic intervention of Clarence, George Baily is stressed, depressed, desperate, and feeling hopeless to the point of contemplating suicide believing his life has been a waste never accomplishing anything of significance, and the world would not miss him in fact would be better off without him. So he whispers a prayer (while sitting at a bar) .. "If you are out there God, I need your help."
So here I am Jeffrey ( George Baily ) Larson who at times feels a tad stressed and depressed, and at times feeling less than a success. Often I am 'financially challenged', my body aches while wincing in pain from arthritic joints, failing eyesight, a herniated disc or two, and in my case a surgically repaired knee reminding me my physical prime is in my rear view mirror... on the distant horizon.
Then, I look in the mirror to see an aging face made for radio, a voice made for blogging, and my gramr & spellin not 'gooderer' than a 4th grader. Then there are times I become oversensitive to what others think of me like a teenage girl with a big ol' honking zit on her nose on prom night. LIFE IS HOPELESS!
Ok, per usual I embellish MUCH to make my smirky points. THIS IS A WONDERFUL (dare I say BLESSED) LIFE!
I know each of our lives have blessings and burdens, and my wonderful life list above may not be real to you, but I pray for each of us that no matter any circumstance we each may face that putting our faith in the creator of the Universe.. should take our breath away. The promise of eternity with Him in Heaven outshines the weight and burdens of this life on Earth.
May God bless each of you with His Spirit to provide perspective that only comes from Him. That we may realize IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE full of hope, and promise.
From time to time.. ok daily.. I find it important to declare the truth of what I believe beyond any circumstance in my busy busy mind that may be troubling me. Of course that is doubly true in 2020.
What I believe should not be reduced to a cute Christian cliche.. but instead it IS a rock steady truth that goes beyond the high or low found in any day.
What I believe should not be reduced to a rote list of dos and don'ts.
What I believe is in a personal relationship with the creator of this world.. The rest of ..
What I believe is trivial pursuit in comparison.
So today I am re-sharing (complete with of course cartoons) the song ‘The Creed’ written by Rich Mullins and later performed by Third Day into a cartoon vehicle for the Gospel message.
Here we go… THIS IS WHAT I BELIEVE TO BE TRUE..
I believe in God the Father, Almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth,
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten son our Lord.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.
Suffered under Pontius Pilate where he was crucified dead and buried.
And I believe what I believe in is what makes me what I am.
And I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man.
I believe that He who suffered was crucified, buried and dead.
He descended into Hell and on the third day He rose again.
He ascended into Heaven where He sits at God's mighty right hand.
I believe that He's returning to judge the quick and the dead of the sons of men.
And I believe what I believe in is what makes me what I am.
And I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man.
I believe it, I believe it. I believe it.
I believe it, I believe it. I believe it.
I believe in God the Father, Almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son our Lord.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, one Holy Church
The communion of saints, the forgiveness of sin
I believe in the resurrection
I believe in a life that never ends.
There you have it. We all have to believe something, and this is what I believe. It is a powerful song based on the powerful TRUTH of the Apostle’s Creed, based on the very truth of the Gospel message.
Of course cartooning the Creed (should be recognized as the CREEDtoon) may make some of you cringe.. but hey.. that’s what I do.
May God bless each of you in great ways today with a faith and a creed stating your devotion to the ONE true God. .. accept no substitute!
I just finished reading the book 'The Danger of Shallow Christianity' by AW Tozer (can never lose by reading Tozer) where he in one chapter spoke on the dangers of living out of prosperity and adversity. One is self sufficient, one is hopeless. BOTH are wrong thinking.
Prosperity by the world's standards (money, status, lifestyle) have never been a 'problem' in my humble life. But prosperity can lead to the wrong thinking of self-sufficiency, and an air of superiority.
Adversity can be found on the other end of the spectrum of prosperity. Adversity can challenge us on to persevere through the challenges of life, or instead fuel anxiety, doubts, and even a sense of dread.
Now while prosperity has never been a 'problem' for me.. or even on the radar for me.. but adversity I can relate to. Don't get me wrong, life is good, but I have no illusions of being self-sufficient as my bank account can attest to. Also, I do relate to issues of doubt and insecurity.
Anxiety and depression are emotional first cousins that have come to visit me more frequently than I would like to admit.
Then let's add the realization I am not getting any younger. I am 63, wear bi-focals, a 'couple or 20' pounds over my ideal weight, and arthritis now speaks to me which I hear fine without the aide of my hearing aides.
Then, outside my control are societal ills including IMO oppression by Covid-19 related government mandates with more than a dash of 'Big Brother', political unrest, voter fraud, and a truly Godless media gaslighting lies while suppressing truth all to promote their own biased narratives.
We also have Social Media (ie Twitter & Facebook) actively suppressing conservative and traditional Christian free speech by allowing certain views to be spoken and others are 'fact checked into oblivion'.
It's not fact checking at all but is manipulating the public conversation by banning (ie fact checking) conservative and/or traditional Christian voices. THIS fans the flames of FEAR.
At the core of this suppression is not actually the politicians, but the 'we the people' who voted these partisans into office.
While I agree we all have the right to vote our conscience, but the problem is too many and too many in the church itself do not vote with a Christian world view.
We want to be 'progressive', and want the world to like us so we act like the world.
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19
Too many in the church support
So the people in our country and in our churches (including me).. worry me.
This is The Smell of Fear in 2020
I share all this because I don't think I am alone. Many if not most of us face challenges that we did not sign up for. Our individual situations and/or challenges may be our own doing, or out of our control. It could be a diagnosis that compromises your life. It could be a lost job that was or was not your fault. Maybe problems in your marriage or with your children or grandchildren that break your heart. Maybe the issue is a vice/addiction. So we become afraid... and we can smell the fear.
The issue front and center for me today in November 2020 where Covid-19 is king, and FEAR is our God. It is dividing our nation, our families, it is suffocating our churches as we live muted lives zooming our faith instead of in person as God wants us to be. I know Covid-19 is a risk for the elderly and those with compromised health issues, BUT shutting down our economy and our freedoms have a cost too.
Through all this I know God to be the answer in my life. I believe He is loving, and NOT indifferent to any of our situations.
From Job to the Prodigal Son God was faithful and caring. Look through the Gospels and read Jesus teachings, and look at his examples where He listened, wept, He healed, and He was truth in love, and even on the cross he promised paradise to the thief on the cross next to him.
What a blessing it is to serve our loving God. The creator of the Universe is intimately interested in each us and our fears.
I pray God's blessings and providence for his church today, and for a lost world that needs to know our loving Savior. As the slogan goes No Jesus, Know Fear. Know Jesus, No Fear.
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 anyone elses 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
The internet also offers the ever evolving social media kit at no extra charge where I can text, Tweet, post on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TicTok, or blog.. Blog? Sounds like a cheap horror movie from the 1950s.. 'The Attack of the 50 Page 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. Rumor is Cyber Clyde is trending... maybe.
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 and there are actually ONE 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 their 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. In this box I pray I do not confuse my political beliefs are important but should never be confused with my Faith.
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 JESUS OUR SAVIOR.
In this world now, in the PM Society box is needed a return to God's Truth. WE NEED 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, and better year in need of a revival is this hot-mess Covid-19 compromised 2020.
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
SKOSH.. From the Japanese word "sukoshi," pronounced skosh. That also means a little bit. For example, "I'll have just a skosh of that pie..."
Skosh is a great underutilized word, and though I don't recall Skosh ever making it into any translations of the Bible I am sure it can by implied and rest assured it will be in my Back Pew paraphrase. In fact I would like to create a Skosh-Meter to measure small amounts (a skosh) of.. 'stuff' you cannot measure with your standard ruler or scale.
For example, Ned crossed through the Red Sea with the nation of Israel in Exodus 14 and the Skosh Meter would indicate with just a Skosh of faith.
when God asks Adam and Eve "Did you eat of the forbidden fruit?" .. They answered in unison.. "Umm.. maybe just a skosh."
the Skosh-Meter is waved and.. beep, beep, beep
Oh they ate more than a skosh.
Next, how to insert the word 'skosh' in a loving words shared between a husband and wife.
Wife: "Honey, are these pants too tight?"
Husband: "umm, maybe just a .. skosh tight"
Ok on this one, don't wave your Skosh-Meter anywhere near your wife's butt (can I say butt?)
You might as well paraphrase President Trump and say "My dear, you look a bit BIGLY for those pants!
Then using a SKOSH-METER to measure my love for God
Let's try it on God's two greatest commandments.
Q: Do I love the lord God with all my heart and soul and mind, and others as myself.
A: After a long work day, I would sigh, but still say.. Yes
but.. I am not really sure what my trusty SKOSH-METER will say. I want it to be pegged all the way to the right by the words WITH ALL MY HEART, and far from the left side of the skosh-meter by the red letters -just a skosh- and no beeping sounds please
Then again, I really don't want a Skosh-Meter thank you very much. I prefer God's grace and God's Truth better.
God will not reject me from Heaven for scoring 67/100 on Heaven's Entrance Exam. He knows I have problems memorizing scriptures and story problems confuse me.
I mean missing out on Heaven by 3 lousy points (technically a skosh) is very un-Godlike. *note* To those of you that I worried for a moment.. There is no Entrance Exam. No minimum score.. only grace for the repentant heart.
But seriously back to loving God with all your heart soul and mind and others as yourself. These truly are the two greatest commandments and my daily pursuit until someday Heaven. Pursue God with my whole heart (not a skosh) put all (not a skosh) of your hope in Him, and I believe my love cannot help but grow for Him and a natural extension of this love for God is a love for others.
May God bless each of you in your journey to know God, and.. to know God is to love God in ways that are much more than a SKOSH but instead BEYOND YOUR DREAMS.
Oh, and if you ever have the need to move a mountain.. I hear just a skosh of faith (mustard seed size for you gardeners) will be enough.
Labor Day to me marks the last day of summer as it falls nicely on the first Monday in September.
MY LABOR.. over the years has included such occupations as grounds keeper on a golf course, Logger, convenience store attendant, computer programmer, sports official, and school bus driver. Now in my 63rd year of wandering this Earth I am semi-retired while driving the above mentioned school bus. .. oh, and I draw a cartoon or two or three.
another kind of labor day ----->
So with Labor Day here I am reflecting on these sobering social & economic times where the response to Covid-19 has complicating the employment and budgets of many. With this and more muddling my life I am choosing to AGAIN claim the great scripture..
Trust in the Lord with all my heart, in all my ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.
TRUST is a little 5 letter word (infinitely better than any 4-letter profane word) and the above scripture should be spoken out loud in my opinion. I can reflect on the words all I want, but I then need to come to the conclusion to Trust God. In my opinion it would not be trust if it was easy.
Just like walking on water for Peter made no logical sense, neither do the answers to the many of the troubles we face. Walking on water is of course a miracle and not a parlor trick or slight of hand.. er.. slight of foot.. BUT maybe the answers to my prayers are your prayers are no less a miracle even if they appear to be more subtle.
For example when a person prays for a tragic family situation that seems hopeless and rolling out of control BUT prayer intercedes and life no longer is hopeless but is back on track.. that may be GOD'S SUBTLE MIRACLE. When you have no way of paying your mortgage and the deadline is here, and you work so hard, and you prayer so hard, then TRUST God.. and somehow the funds are available.. it may be a subtle miracle of God.
On the sobering side of prayer we do find man has free will and sometimes must accept that God's will and his providence is bigger than any circumstance. Bad things do happen to good people. This is a fallen world with much sadness and tragedy. We do hurt, we are fragile, there is sickness, and we all will die.. BUT this does NOT discount the the loving miracles of God.
I believe it was Albert Einstein who said "Coincidences are miracles where God wished to remain annonymous."
Of course right after Labor Day we return to rush hour traffic, work, or school, but as I reflect on Labor Day.. I hope and pray for a day to regroup and recoop our energies for another season of trusting and serving our Lord. Let's take the lid off of what is possible when we trust God.
I pray today for God's care to be on display in big and small ways. Where we are truly BBYD = Blessed Beyond our Dreams. May God find us obedient on this Labor day and those other 364 days too.
Jeff (not breaking a sweat today) Larson
Most of us remember the story of Jesus telling Peter to walk on water, but as 'Pete' noticed the VERY REAL waves about him and as the seeming nonsense of walking on water began to sink in.. so did Peter.
When I was younger I thought “Oh Pete of little faith, I would have done cartwheels on the sea with my perfect faith of Jesus intact”. But now after wading around in the seas of life’s experience.. I see the waves in my life are just as real as those literal waves Peter faced 2000 years or so ago, and at best I look like Gilligan hollering for SKIPPER!..
but of course this analogy falls flat as I am not comparing the Skipper with Jesus... and I am too 'husky' to be Gilligan... BUT I DIGRESS!
So with my assessment that my faith is often at best an undersized mustard seed as I choose to get out of the boat and trust God. I may sink at times like Peter but.. the same Jesus who calmed the seas, healed the sick, fed the multitudes,walked on water, and rose from the grave is my answer to life’s figurative (but VERY REAL) waves of health, finance, family, or fear.
I could expound on this fact, as like many of you I experience seasons of waves, and tests that put my trust in God to the test.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart soul and mind and lean not unto your own understanding .. in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Pr 3:5-6
EASY WORDS to say.. DIFFICULT WORDS to comprehend just like walking on water MAKES NO SENSE.. but I choose to believe both to be true.
May God bless each of you this day in your journey. May we all learn to trust God when life is great, when life is difficult, or when all seems lost.
Trust in the Lord as your providence, Trust in the Lord as your source for answers, Trust in the Lord for blessings, and Trust in the Lord for perspective that is beyond the limits of any circumstance.. so even when the waves swell and the storms rage.. we can give the triumphant shout..
SURFS UP Blessings!
Jeff (flappable) Larson
I like those Info-mercials with high energy sales person pitches the latest and greatest product to
In contrast for the unbelievably low price of FREE we can speak to our Heavenly Father and never miss out on access to the power of the creator of the universe. and there is no buyer beware asterisk regarding God.
Of course Buyer beware.. not saying the are lying but still.. buyer beware.
Ok, you say you have never even had coffee with the pastor at your church so you figure God would be outside your social network. Fair enough.
King David raises that question too .. 4 What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, Ps 8:4-6
Rightfully so, this does boggle the mind, but I believe the same God who hangs the stars in the sky has shown his care for mankind since the very beginning in Genesis. The same God who.. parted seas, crumbled walled cities, fed 5,000 with fish and chips leftovers, and slayed those unsightly giants still answers prayers for each of us in BIG and SMALL ways.
So my prayer now becomes.. THINK BIG. Don't put a lid on what is possible with God on our side.
Your UNSIGHTLY GIANT.. may be health issues, literal or figurative.. spiders? (my daughter HATES spiders), finances in crisis, a looming foreclosure, addictions that feel hopeless, a failed marriage, grades below C-level, or loneliness. No matter.. God still slays these unsightly Giants in our lives.
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Mt 7:7-8
Jeff (Giant Slayer in training) Larson
My wife and I have a rescue dog named Cooper and I have written a 'beautiful' poem that captures my life with him.
Ode to Cooper
Cooper is our little rescue dog;
there's no doubt he LOVES my wife Mary,.
BUT despite the fact I 'm the one who rescued him;
.. for me.. Cooper remains wary.
I so want Cooper to love me too..
but he's a work in progress..
You see Cooper does not trust me ..
leaving me judged without due process.
Thank you, thank you
But then I stop and realize.. I am SORTA a rescue dog too.
For example, in this big old bad world I might turn on the evening news and .. I get uneasy as I can sense the tension EVERYWHERE, so I start to growl at partisan politics as I pace the room.
My demeanor only gets worse as these 'News SHOWS' spew this world's hatred, racism, and violence all wrapped in their biased narrative void of truth leaving me ..
out of control barking my panic and distrust of this world.
This state of panic and unease over just the evening news can leave me in reality wary of my God. He is my perfect loving Heavenly Father, Jesus my Savior, and the Holy Spirit my comforter. My God is my RESCUER from both the evening news and anything else found in this broken world.
So just like Cooper I need to chill. Chill and realize this broken world is the result of man's own free will, and compromised desires. This brokenness was never a part of God's plan.
So chill Jeff, and realize in God I have hope, a future, and a plan for happiness. So Jeff.. No more barking.
May each of us find our hope (our rescue) in the loving Heavenly Father who sent his son Jesus as our savior, and his Holy Spirit as our comfort.
note: God is still our rescuer even when we bark.
Now if Cooper would only understand that about me.
Jeff (Rescued) Larson
In this world of Essentials we have ..'Essential Oils' (5 quarts of motor oil?).. the 'Essential Van Morrison' album compilation, and now ..our government in Pandemic lockdown mode determines which businesses are 'essential'.
The disturbing twist of secular PANICdemic irony is this list of essential businesses include liquor stores, and Planned Parenthood while church gatherings are too 'risky' aka non-essential. In some states you can buy 'weed' (dude) but you can't buy weed killer (garden store).
It is a good thing Mother Theresa is not serving today in my home state of Minnesota where her 'willy nilly non-essential' orphanage and leprosy mission works would not be tolerated.. unless these lepers and orphans also tested Covid-19 positive.
It is obvious by my sarcasm I bristle over our Government's mandated (but ever changing) good, bad, &ugly list of essentials,non-essentials, and social distancing guidelines. But though I bristle I have remained law abiding through my clenched teeth and grumbled tones.
Then I heard a little sermon snippet of 'sunlight' from a Pastor in South Bend Indiana (Pastor YPJ). The just of it his message was to be prayerful & smart in our response to Coronavirus but remember our focus is on Revival not Survival.
With this bit of sunlight in mind, I may listen to Dr Fucci, and weed through the ever changing CDC labyrinth of scenarios, but in none of them do I find hope. Societies message is temporal and 'non-essential' by the Gospel message is life, hope for today and tomorrow, and essentially essential.
I will be smart, I will be safe, but I will not live in fear.
May God bless and use each of you this week in ways that are beyond your dreams. May you feel His protection and love that transcends the fears of men... May we find life in His Words, and a Revival of our hope.
To paraphrase an old Superman slogan.. "This is a job for Supernatural Man" filled by God's Spirit.
Jeff (The Essential Back Pew) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson