If you sneeze, I will politely respond "Bless you." If you sneeze again.. you are on your own as I adhere to a strict one blessing per sneezer rule. This is not negotiable.
But sneeze blessings are not the topic of the day instead a Father’s Blessings, and ultimately God’s blessings. These blessings I want, and like I say often in The Back Pew .. ‘BlESSED beyond my DREAMS’. I want Prayer of Jabez supersized blessings.
It seems just like a chapter ago Isaac was just a boy, but now in Genesis 25 Isaac is all grown up and with his wife Rebecca has twin boys. The first to enter the world was Esau, and right on his heel literally (Ge. 25:25) was Jacob.
These boys were like so many brothers as they were very different from each other. Esau grew up to be a scruffy/hairy outdoors type who loved to hunt. Jacob on the other hand was not scruffy, and liked to hang out in the kitchen with maybe a reputation as a mamma's boy.
The Father's Blessing
Next we are introduced to the power of the Father’s Blessing, and especially the blessings set aside for the first born in this case.. by beating brother Jacob in the 'birth canal dash' was scruffy/hairy Esau.
I am not sure how or why they worked the way they did in the Old Testament, but it seems like the 'Father’s blessing' had the power to make or break the future of the ‘blessee’. It was like winning the family inheritance lottery.. and there were no TAKE BACKS.
The Blessing Plot Thickens
So one day Esau comes in from hunting famished and is met by his brother Jacob. Esau is so desperate for food, that Jacob talks Esau out of his birthright since Esau replies, "what good is my birth right if I die today from starvation."
note: It appears Esau was a great hunter, but a bit of a drama queen.
I don’t know exactly follow how the whole birthright and blessing stuff worked in those days, but I am thinking this birthright transfer should have required a signed agreement witnessed and stamped by a notary public.
ie The first party (Esau) agrees to relinquish his future blessing reserved for the first born to the second party (Jacob) in exchange for one bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup.
Esau sign here
Jacob sign here
Notary sign here
Date enter today's date
I am not sure if today this birthright exchange for soup arrangement would hold up even in front of Judge Judy, but in Genesis 25 it set the stage for the Ol' Birthright SWITCHEROO.
Isaac is very old!
As the story continues, their father Isaac is getting very old, he is nearly blind and his health is failing. Isaac recognizing his days on this earth are numbered and so wants to give his blessing to his first born son Esau before he hears Heaven's Angels singing 'Happy Trails to you'. and 'When the Roll is called up Yonder'.
So Isaac asks Esau to hunt, and then fix him some wild game for him and at that time he will give Esau his blessing.
Well, Rebecca overhears this and wants this blessing to got to her favorite son (and kitchen apprentice) Jacob. So while Esau is out hunting, she comes up with a planso simple, so ingenious, but with more than a hint of .. WHAT?
Mom schemes to put animal skins on Jake’s arms to appear hairy like his brother Esau.
As strange as this sounds.. this plan works and Isaac though he was suspicious thought it was Esau, and in the end gives Jacob THE BLESSING OF THE FIRST BORN. The Ol' Birthright SWITCHEROO is complete!
Of course being a cartoonist, and a dog owner I wonder.. WHAT IF the FAMILY DOG wanders on to the scene before the walking talking/lying carpet remnant Jacob and receives the blessing of the first born?
The Dog is hairy, Esau is hairy, and the gggruff voice it could be Esau with a cold. Hmmm.. WHAT IF?
But I digress as no dog wanders in, and Jacob gets the blessing and skips town just before Esau returns from hunting. Esau fixes a fine dinner of wild game along with a bottle of Desert Merlot. He walks into to see dad ready to receive the blessing of the first born WHEN…
It's like Déjà vu all over again for Dad. -The Prophet Yogi Berra
Isaac exclaims.. “Hey, weren’t you just here?... er..aaaa.. didn’t you already come for your blessing?.. I mean.. I mean.. HEY WAIT A MINUTE!”
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME?
This is the moment when the light bulb goes on enough for Isaac’s dim eyes to realize.. HE GAVE THE BLESSING TO THE WRONG SON!
I hate when that happens!
Esau is of course distraught and cries out .. “Bless me too!!.. what about me!!??” In response Isaac hold out his right arm limply and says..
“It’s empty.” no blessing for you, but we have some lovely parting gifts.
Ok he did not say those exact words, but Isaac is very clear .. the blessing of the first born has been given.. given to Jacob. Like a winning lottery ticket, THERE WAS ONLY ONE!..
So this caper of the misplaced blessing is over.. without me understanding the blessings of Isaac, except the fact that there are no take backs. The fact is God did intend for Jacob to be blessed as he continues to bless the descendants of Abraham as promised, through Isaac, and now Jacob to continue the promise of a great nation.
Moral of the story for us today? Be faithful like Abraham so that God can bless and use you as part of his plan. Whether you are the first born, that dreaded middle child (kidding), the baby, or you are adopted.. God loves you, and has a plan to bless & prosper all who love and obey Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 "'For I Know The Plans I Have For You' Declares the Lord, 'Plans to Prosper You and Not to Harm You, Plans to Give You Hope and a Future.
Psalms 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
May God find us faithful and full of love for the one true God, and blessed by him in ways that are beyond our dreams.
Jeff (first born) Larson
Before I discuss the Old Testament guide to 'FINDING A WOMAN' let me give a Genesis update where in Genesis 20 where Abraham AGAIN lies. He is not even original as he tells Abimelek king of Gerar that Sarah is his sister. So Abimilek took Sarah into his house .. until God spoke to him in a dream with the words "You are a dead man walking for taking a married woman from my prophet."
But God showed mercy on Abimilek as he had not come near her yet. The next day he gave Sarah back and Abe tried to explain himself in verse 12 ..
Well, technically she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.
<insert reflective pause here>
Sounds like an episode from the Reality TV show 'The Real Housewives of the region of the Negev between Kadesh and Shur'.
Let me note again.. Sarah was some kind of sport to go along with this. Don't think this plan would fly right with my wife Mary.
Also, why do Kings and Pharaohs in the book of Genesis want 80+ year old women? Not judging, just sayin'.
Next in Genesis 21 we learn Sarah becomes pregnant in her old age. This was before gender reveal parties so Abraham and Sarah had to wait the traditional 9 months before they exclaimed "It's a boy, and we shall call him Isaac."
In celebration then passed out blue cupcakes, and drank blue kool-aid... cuz boys are BLUE and girls are PINK.
Now onward and forward we go..
Do you remember Hagar in Genesis 16, The fact that she had a son with Abraham now complicated life. Tensions and jealousy rose between Hagar and Ishmael with Sarah and Isaac, so Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away.
I obviously do not understand this whole dynamic or know how to justify this.. except I do know that Hagar and Ishmael were not how God planned to bless Abraham but through the birth of Isaac.
This story is harsh, but in these verses we learn God heard the cries of Hagar and was with the boy. 17 ..the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven "Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying ..Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
Next, in Genesis 22, God tests Abraham by instructing him to sacrifice son Isaac whom he loved dearly.
.. but God finds Abe faithful in this test from God and God stops Abe from sacrificing Isaac and instead provides a lamb to be sacrificed.
Note 1: I confess I may have threatened to kill my boys when they were acting out as teenagers.
Note 2: Isaac being saved was very good news for the literal future of Israel.
Note 3: Not a good day to be a lamb stuck in a thicket.
Note 4: The above threats to kill my sons was a figure of speech
Moving forward in reading Genesis 22:21 we are introduced to my favorite names in the Bible.
Uz and Buz (not Buzz LIghtyear) the sons of Nahor.
Not much is said about these two fine young men leaving this cartoonist with time on his hands to imagine they were chick magnets and they had a cousin named.. Fuzz.
Maybe, maybe not.
Now back to Abraham. He is now well over 100 years old, and Sarah passed away Genesis 23. So of course Abraham feels the urgency of finding his son Isaac a wife before his days are over too. How is Abraham going to be the father of a nation with more descendants than the stars in the skies if his son never goes on a date?
"So Isaac my son, you need to go outside and stop playing video games all day. Say hi to a girl, they won't bite. Go find yourself a nice Jewish girl, settle down, then go forth and MULTIPLY! Maybe, maybe not
If the story in Genesis 24 was today, Abe could help Isaac set up an ad in the personals, sign up for a E-Harmony site, or Jewish Mingles, order a MAIL ORDER BRIDE, check the church bulletin board, or.. attend an old faithful church potluck where the dishes are HOT just like the ladies. Maybe, maybe not.
Since dating life in Genesis 24 was a tad more primitive than today with zero wi-fi, Abe decides to help his son out. Oh great, that is just the news any young man wants to hear.. Dad is finding me a woman of my very own. What I am trying to say is.. While I may have never been a major-mover with the ladies I never stooped to asking my dad for dating advice. I love you dad, but this was not going to happen.
To make this process even stranger-er, Abraham insisted his chief servant 'promise' to find this woman.
How is this promise secured you may ask?
No instead Abraham says.. “Hey fella, put your hand under my leg and swear.”
<insert dramatic pause here> I beg your pardon? Come again? Is this an advanced version of the old 'pull my finger' joke?
Aah those good old (testament) days. You just never hear anyone say anymore.. "put your hand under my leg".
note: I have a very good friend Bryan Anderson, and if he asked to put my hand under his leg you could be assured I would SWEAR. "Oh bleep, that was creepy!" Then I believe I would be deemed ceremonial unclean by my church for at least 7 days. maybe, maybe not
So Abraham’s servant does swear to Abraham to follow his instructions and finds the lovely Rebecca. It was truly love at first sight? er aaa.. meet?.. er aaaa… arranged marriage.
She agrees to return with Abe's servant and leave her family to marry Isaac. And they all lived happily ever after. Well at least through Genesis 24.
After the deal is done.. Abraham gets busy himself. He marries again and his new bride has more 6 kids. Finally at a very youthful age of 175 Abe breathes his last though they say he never did look a day past 155.
The lesson I see again in these Genesis stories is how God is faithful even when man even when we makes decisions that leave me more than scratching my head (ie Abraham). This is good news for me, and you too. I make more than my fair share of mistakes, and while my faith is not on par with Abraham.. I am blessed knowing God honors my desire to obey Him.
Life will never be about being the perfect Christian. Perfect Christians are like the Loch Ness monster.. folk lore at best.
I pray God finds us faithful, and I pray for His blessings and providence in our lives as we daily love and obey Him with all our heart.
Jeff (My wife is NOT my sister) Larson
I shared recently the mysterious voice saying "If you build it, they will come." happened way before the movie 'Field of Dreams' when God spoke to Noah instructing him to build it (an Ark) and they (the Animals) would come two by two.
Next big event IMO in the book of Genesis was when the phrase 'Home of the Whopper' was coined way before a single Burger King fast food joint existed. Let me explain.. but first..
ON THE ROAD AGAIN!
In Genesis 12 Abram enters the Old Testament story. Abram is maybe 85 years young, his bride Sarai is maybe 70. The Lord tells Abram .. “Road Trip.!!.. pack up the Winnebago”. So Abraham loads a destination of Canaan into his GPS and says goodbye to Sweet Home Haran with Lynard Skynard playing in the background.
HOME OF THE WHOPPER!
The next thing you know Abram was in Egypt with his wife Sarai while there was a famine in the land. While in Egypt, Pharaoh spies Abram's wife Sarai who rumor has it was a 'fetching' 70 year old hottie. So Abe tells a little fib that Sarai is his sister as he is afraid they will kill him to take Sarai as their wife. Ok, that is not a white lie this is a WHOPPER of a lie.
So Pharaoh takes Sarai into his palace, and treats Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels out of the exchange.
side note: I am not sure my wife in Sarai's place would have been such a good sport.
But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
side note 2: While Abraham would become known as a great man of faith, Honest Abe was our 16th president and never confused with this Abram guy pawning his wife off in Egypt.
After Egypt, Abe travels to southern Canaan as a very wealthy man with cattle, silver, and gold. But tension arose between Abram and his nephew Lot because there were simply too many animals for the land to support. So Abe says to Lot, “Let’s not bicker over land. If you choose the land to the left, I will go to the right, and if you choose the land to the right, I will go to the left.” And Lot chooses the land in the direction of Sodom which could have been named LOT VEGAS!
In chapter 14, there were battles, but I gather that military tactics were a bit primitive. One particular lesson learned is still taught in the Soldier’s Field Manual at WestPoint stating a soldier should always avoid the short cut across the TARPITS.
During all this time, the Lord often reminds Abraham that he will be blessed by God so that to try to number his descendants will like trying to count the grains of sand on the shore, or the stars in the skies. There was of course the minor problem that AARP collectors Abram and Sarai had no kids.
So now the plot thickens as Sarai (the good wife) says to Abram, “Why don’t you sleep with my slave girl Hagar?” I have a couple of Back Pew comments with this part of the story.
1. When I think of Hagar, I think of that Viking cartoon character Hagar the Horrible.
2. My wife has never offered me a slave girl to sleep with! Of course if she did I would say very politely, “Why Mary, thank you very much for this most generous offer, BUT (with the vision of Hagar the Horrible in my head) I’m good.” I may not be a great man of faith like Abram, but my momma didn’t raise NO DUMMY!!
But Abram ignores the tell tale warning signs that this idea is DUMBER-ER than a bag of hammers, and wanders out onto THIN ICE IN THE HOT DESERT and says more than howdy-do to the lovely miss Hagar.
Hagar now becomes pregnant by Abram and Sarai lets Abram have it by probably saying something like, “I told you to sleep with her, but not SLEEP with her!” To which Abram so eloquently in his defense says, “Huh? What? But you said!!! I thought I could.... Huh?”
As you can read in chapter 16, this arrangement is nothing you ever see discussed on Focus on the Family, Oprah, or even The Jerry Springer show. These chapters are NOT in the Bible as an example how to model the perfect marraige, but to instead show us God is faithful and caring for Abram and Sarai even when they do really dumb things. Fortunately for all of us, our foolish choices are covered by God’s grace and goodness.
In chapter 17, God says to Abram to change his name from Abram, to Abraham. I wonder if this was so that he could start fresh and people would not know he was the guy who lied that Sarai was his sister, and slept with his wife’s slave girl. Sarai also has her named changed to Sarah. Then near the end of the chapter 99 year old Abraham is circumcised. This profound scripture emphatically reminds me not to complain about my own aches and pains. And all men collectively shout AMEN!!.. and .. YOWTCHEE!!
I thank God for His love and grace not dependent on my perfection. I pray God finds us all faithful in words and deeds and willing to hear God's voice when He calls us.
Jeff (my wife is not my sister) Larson
I found a web site which lists the oldest people living today. When I checked it I read of a lady who was 115, and another that was 125, and then some lady I think from Peru that was supposedly 140! There was a picture of this lady and, yes, she looked every bit of 140. Of course I am not sure how we can really know she is that old (count her wrinkles like the rings on a tree?), but there is no doubt she is very, very old.
So segue back to Genesis after Cain kills his brother Abel we move on to a ‘a whole-lotta-begetting’ going on. God’s command to “go forth and multiply” was one command mankind took to heart well beyond just knowing simple math facts!
But old in Genesis is a relative thing. People in Genesis times lived to be sometimes 800 or 900 years old.
Adam lived to be 930 years old after God created him on the 6th day Genesis 5:5. His son Seth was 912 Genesis 5:8, Noah later on in Genesis we learn lived to be 950 years, and the long in the tooth award winner is .. Methuselah... the oldest man in the history of .. HISTORY. Methuselah was cut down in the prime of life at the age of 969 Genesis 5:25-27
I figure if I eat my veggies, drink milk, get 8 hours of sleep a night along with daily exercise and in only 908 more birthdays I will have Methuselah beat. That will be in the year.. 2928 when I am neighbors with George Jetson.
They say you are only as old as you feel and I find this to be very little encouragement some days when feeling 'Genesis5esque' old. Maybe not Methuselah old, but at least somewhere in the mid 500s. and to think they did not have Ibuprophen.
The other interesting pattern of this was how old people were still.. um.. still.. ‘begetting’. While one of today’s serious society concerns is teen pregnancies, this was not the problem with society recorded in Genesis.
In Genesis 5 it was not unusual for a couple to wait 70 to 500 years old before starting a family. I guess those 500 years were spent playing golf, world travel using up frequent flyer miles, paying off the mortgage(s), credit card debt, or marking hot yoga off their bucket list.
Maybe women in Genesis 5 wanted a career as a shepherdess, garden mogul, or working as a Mary Kay Cosmetics specialist before settling down and having kids.
Note: This parenting trend even held true even after Noah came onto the scene.
At age 500 Noah had three sons, and when he was about 600 years old when the Lord told him to start his Desert Ark Marina, and from what I read his sons helped with this process.
Ok, so picture this - 600 year old Noah, and his three 100 year old sons building a very big (BBIIIGGG) boat. Five hundred years old!? That would be like Columbus still being around, and working with those old people I found on that web site to build an ark. Of course Columbus may understand boats, BUT.. HE’S VERY OLD AND VERY DEAD, and those people from the website are VERY OLD and will be dead soon enough.
I do believe these stories we read about in Genesis, but in our modern world I have trouble picturing this Old Testament culture. But then again, I suppose IF Noah reappeared in the desert near the city of Las Vegas (aka Sin City), he would most likely sigh and say, “I better get busy building another ark in the desert again because society is certainly going to Hell.” (insert pun here).
Let me close these early chapters of Genesis with a few more images sharing a Back Pew perspective.
So while it is hard for me to grasp the fact that I am 62.. a Methuselah like age (969) boggles the mind. But like so many things in the Bible, just because I don’t understand does not make it not true.
From Genesis through Revelation I find the evidence and promise of God’s love and grace.
From the Garden to the Flood to the Cross all the way through life today sitting in my Back Pew there is this promise and evidence of a loving God.
May God bless each of you today in ways that are beyond your dreams. I pray you place your faith and hopes in the one true God of our Bibles.
Jeff (Methuselah like aches & pains) 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.
I have shared this tale before, but just like any Clint Eastwood Western ie. The Good the Bad and the Ugly, or The Unforgiven.. this story of Justice with 6 shooters blazing begs to be retold.
A while back I watched a TV docudrama on the history of the American West. It was a time when Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, and Jesse James with guns a blazing shared the headlines of lawman versus Lawbreaker.
This brought my mind back to over 50 years ago in the (MID)western frontier of Cable Wi (population 280-maybe) when I served as an 8 year old lawman working with my deputee and 6 year old friend David Larson. It was a time of lawlessness where big talk and big guns (cap & pop alike) were a way of life.
Bad blood had been brewing since Sunday School the previous Sunday when Dastardly Dick Ludzack and BadNews Bryan Anderson AGAIN refused to sing Jesus loves me (truth is neither could sing a tune to save their lives) and this type of brash defiance of our Lord would not be tolerated. So just a few days later September 14, 1965 (right after school) Deputy Dave and myself traveled to the Ludzack Farm on the east side of town to bring these brazen lawbreakers to justice. If justice came at the end of a rope or my smokin' guns.. So be it.
This day would soon after be known as The Shootout at Ludzack Farm. (kinda like an elementary school version of the Shootout at the OK Corral)
When we arrived at the Ludzack Farm we learned Dastardly and BadNews were camped out on the North side of the family barn, so we quickly set up just on the Southeast corner as news traveled they were heading south along the east side of this same barn. We were ready, but knew they would not surrender without a fight. Both sides had enough Guns & Ammo to make the NRA blush.
Tension was in the air as Dastardly & BadNews turned the southeast corner and were met with guns a blazin'. BLAM, BLAM, PEW, PEW, POP, BANG. This gunfight was was over before it started.
As the smoke from our cap guns lifted it was clear by their (imaginary/implied) bullet riddled bodies both Dastardly & Badnews had their come up ins. There would be no trial, there would be no chance for them boys to redeem themselves and sing like choir boys next Sunday morning cuz.. THEY WUZ DEAD.
Except.. out of the silence BadNews Bryan (always hated him) shout "Uh-uh" you missed me, and you are both DEAD cuz I shot you both in the HEAD."
It was such a grand lie. Such a big fib that 50 years later I am surprised Bryan thinks he has a chance at Heaven. This just ruined my day. I came to this town to bring law and order, and I am thwarted by a 7 year old and those weak words.. Uh-uh! I was so mad I went home and told my mom.
Thinking back to those lawless times in the fall of 1965 I am haunted by my failure to bring to justice that no good lyin' snake Bad News Bryan Anderson. Of course the story is not over as Bryan was the best man in my wedding in 1984 and we meet almost weekly for lunch.
You know what they say, keep you friends close, and your ENEMIES closer. Better sleep with one eye open BadNews.
Jeff (dreaming of exercising my second amendment rights since 1965) Larson
note: I forgot to include a spiritual lesson today, I will be sure and double down next time.
"You always, and you never" has been the muttering mantra of exasperated parents since like.. FOREVER. Typically it goes something like this. "Billy, you ALWAYS leave your homework until the last minute!" or "Susie you NEVER get through dinner without fighting with your sister."
I must confess, my mom & dad never said to me, "Son, you ALWAYS do your chores without us even asking, and you NEVER complain about it."
But after High School, I moved out on my own and out of ear shot of my parent's 'you ALWAYS or YOU nevers'. I was now living in the land of grown ups, working a grown up job, and married a wonderful 'grown up' Christian woman. I made no time for any weak you ALWAYS or you NEVER accusations.. UNTIL my marriage introduced a new 'strain' in the form of the dreaded Honey-Do-List. And though my wife is very patient with me, it is fair to say Jeff ALWAYS need to be reminded to work on 'the list', and Jeff will NEVER finish it.
But to fair, a honey-do-list has no real end.
Then kids entered our lives and I discovered the Lion King 'circle of life' for Norwegians regarding those timeless you ALWAYS and you NEVER comments. I remember specifically my son Curtis ALWAYS having a reason/excuse for everything. I nicknamed Yanna Nobutt a fictitious Yugoslavian Tennis player because whenever his actions were in question he would reply "ya, I know, but.." then followed with his excuse de jure.
Truth is my kids were pretty good, and though there were plenty of times where they tried our patience and boundaries.. I did learn that You always and you never.. is not the right message.
In hindsight I also recognize the irony of me lecturing my kids about homework considering I was jjust a C+ B- student who ALWAYS missed too much school, and NEVER did his homework. Then to show God has a sense of humor.. I married a school teacher!
Now while this all makes good fodder for my smirking blog as I reminisce on my lifetime of you ALWAYS & you NEVER moments, the truth is.. it is simply not good practice. It implies a basic hopeless scenario, and no one wants to hear the you ALWAYS & you NEVER scolding.. this certainly is NOT the Gospel message of Grace.
So I pray each of you have a great day knowing God ALWAYS keeps his promises (Deuteronomy 7:9), and He will NEVER leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)
AND.. no matter your big or small prodigal son/daughter moments, your failures, your down moments, your rebellions, your SINS. are ALWAYS forgiven as our Heavenly Father rejoices in our return and forgets he NEVER gives up on you. (read the Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-32)
ps. While my Honey Do list is as endless as the universe itself, this morning I replaced a bad electrical outlet, hung a flag pole outside, put down a first coat of paint in our downstairs family room/office, and worked in the yard transplanting ferns and trimming branches. I am finishing this blog while my bride is away browsing neighborhood Garage Sales..Fortunately, she does not read my blogs so this will be our secret.
Running on Fumes is an expression used when driving a car when the needle is on empty but still running. We say it is 'running on fumes'.
So I created a cartoon (surprise) of where my GPS located my CAReer. The cartoon caption caption is below.
I find myself careening towards retirement in a Clown CAReer. I am running on fumes, with tires bulging, and tread worn. That new CAReer smell is replaced with spilled coffee, & fast food wrapper odors. My windshield is bi-focaled & smudged. I am leaking oil, ‘my’ exhaust is loud & smelly.. BUT.. next stop.. RETIREMENT!
These last few years I have been working a number of jobs that are less than satisfying. I show up everyday, work hard and thank God for employment. BUT.. I am currently in between assignments trying to peek over the hill towards the day I retire.
When I retire, I will not miss rush hour traffic, or office politics, but I don't plan on being lazy. I plan on enjoying myself. I won't be rich, I won't be driven, but I will be busy with some of my favorite things in..The Back Pew.Here I can continue to share Clean Humor & God's Truth through cartoons, and blogs.
I imagine days listening to worship music (and a little classic rock), studying scriptures, and more accessible to assisting with grandkids. It can be a better time to serve.
I feel kind of bad, but most of the 9-5 jobs in my life have not provided me much satisfaction, but I am thankful they helped pay the bills. My good friend Bryan Anderson has been a college professor at Bethel University since graduating from college and loves it. I am envious of that and happy for him and others like Bryan, but that has not been my story. But that'a neither here nor there.. now. I am almost 62, in good health, and look forward to waking up without an alarm clock, then drinking coffee at a leisurely pace,
I have a good life! Wonderful wife of almost 35 years. Our three grown up 'kids' and 4 grandkids all live close by. We attend a wonderful Bible preaching church Grace Church Roseville, where we have made good friends. And, we have a loving God with has plans for us.. even in retirement. Just hope it is like Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
and not what God said to Abram in Genesis 12:1-4.
The LORD had said to Abram, 'Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.' So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.
This life is not over.. and my wife and I are blessed with faith, good health, family, friend, and church that make life full and satisfying.
We look forward to what God has instore for our lives. To God be the glory in all we do.
It could be years before I retire, but I know the day is coming, and it makes me smile like the kid in school counting down til the end of the school year.
May God bless each of your lives.no matterwhat stage of life you are in. Life is an amazing journey from youth through retirement. It is not always easy, but with God it is blessed.
Jeff (smelly fumes) Larson
Most every year around this time I like to share the story of the birth of our first born. The birth of each of our children have their 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 three 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. 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 was for gas as I had not planned on this midnight run to the hospital all while Mary’s contractions were kicking in to gear.
NOTE TO SELF: Keep gas tank full when babies are near 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 all sorts of monitors including this cool baby monitors 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 is able to 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. Problem was Mary preferred to hold the nurses 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 self as my back is killing me.
THING 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 cart in 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 33 years later we have a son Curtis Walter Larson who has given us both our share of joys and exasperation.
NOTE TO SELF: God is good, Mary is wonderful, and Curtis is a son to be proud of.
Life Flashing before my eyes.. Larson Style. In the last 7 short days I have experienced highs and lows, laughter and tears, life and death. I know most of all of us have weeks like this, but last week was my turn.
On Tuesday August 9th my Aunt Marie passed away unexpexectedly at the age of 87. She was loved and will be missed of course by family and friends. We all grieve and are sad for our loss, but celebrate her arrival to Heaven where she is reunited with family, friends, and most importantly JESUS. This is the paradox of the Christian experience where the lines between death and life (the eternal type) are experienced by those who love the Lord.
Then Friday morning August 10th my long awaited (9+ months) expected third granddaughter Reagan Holland Larson arrived.
This of course is the best kind of news, and holding her the following morning was a perfect healing touch for my grieving heart.
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL.. Over these same 7 days my wife's family was in town for a reunion. There are six siblings in the Laun family.. ages 83, 82, 79, 77, 60, while my wife is the itsy bitsy baby at age 57.
All six siblings were here with their spouses along with a smattering of kids and grandkids. Activities included sight seeing, a picnic, paddle boat ride on the Mississippi, and a (heart attack free )baseball game of sorts with players ranging from age 6 through 77.
This was a great time of celebrating family and heritage. All are doing well and actually still like each other.
Health of all siblings is good, but if some nefarious sort targeting senior citizens robbed us the highlight of their bootie would selling our hearing aides on the black market... or random senior homes. The only negative me spending that many days with Mary's family is that I ate waaay too much. I know, I don't have to eat so much, but.. mind your own business.
So there you have it, what a week. Life Flashing before my eyes? .. or as Mufasa from the Lion King explains.. This is the Circle of Life.
Life is messy, including roller coaster moments wanting you to exit the ride, or 'hurl'. From birth through the family reunions to that day until this ride stops .. this life is a gift from God.
May God bless each of your lives with joy in your journey. Remember always to love God and care for others.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson