As the final week of Jesus continues, we find Jesus frustrated with more than just a case of the Mondays. This special Monday he enters the temple where it was reduced from being God's House of Worship to a first century Holy Land Mini Mall.
Of course in my Back Pew way of looking at things I have imagined and illustrated a few of these temple violators. There were The Temple ..
All these and more turned the temple into as Jesus called it "a true den of thieves". So I guess frustrated was a true understatement as I will call Jesus state of mind The Temper in the Temple.
After turning over a few tables Jesus left the temple not in the mood for encountering a 'fig-free-fig-tree' which he promptly cursed. This was a lesson NOT LOST on his disciples.
It is not fair to assume the mind of Christ, but from my human perspective I imagine Jesus did feel the elation of his triumphant entry that first Palm Sunday. This followed by his frustration of this broken world where on Monday the Temple was shameful, and the fig tree bore no fruit.
Simple emotions for someone like me but deeper and more complex for our Savior as his foretold arrest and crucifixion were only days away.
While my cartoons are a smirky look at very real biblical events my prayer is we remember the Holy Week. Remember and honor the amazing truth of salvation realized between that first Palm Sunday and that first Easter morning.
Happy New Year wishes from The Back Pew! I hope your holiday season was merry and bright, AND.. I pray you live in a warmer state than Minnesota. - Amen!
Since around 9pm on Friday December 29th through 7am January 2nd I am writing this we have had one hour where the air temperature was above zero at a sweltering ONE DEGREE.
But I digress.. because today is not about the 'new' Ice Age, it is about Resolutions!
So without further adieu let me present the all new '2018 Jeff Larson Resolutions'. Oh they may resemble last year's resolutions.. but these 2018 Resolutions aspire to at least to never run out of gas ..aka broken resolutions.
1. Diet - My four year old granddaughter asked me the other week why my stomach was round. I considered the comeback "Shut up.. your'e short and you spell like a preschooler." but.. i restrained myself as I know exactly why it is round, and she is adorable.
2. Exercise - My once trim athletic physique now resembles a butter sculpture.. in the sun. Nuff said on the 'E' word.
3. Budget - My wife and I have plans to move this year looking for possibly a town-home.. and rumor has it moving costs money.
4. Time for God - The chaos of this world (much of it void of God) as reported on the 24/7 News 'SHOWS' affect me adversely. So it goes without saying more time focusing on God in his word, and in prayer is so much better time spent in front of the aptly named boob tube where brain cells fall to the wayside with every moment in front of my HD TV.
Then again if you ask my wife Mary, she would be happy just to add her Honey-Do list to my 2018 Resolutions, but she fears that would doom her list to certain failure.
But all smirking aside, no matter if I lose weight, get fit, win the lottery in 2018, and find the fountain of youth, or even fountain of middle age.. what matters most is my heart and attitude towards God. Love God care for others.. the rest is by comparison trivial pursuit.
At church on Sunday I heard a great New Year Resolution sermon from Colossians 3. A call to 'Put on the New Self' .
3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. ... 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:
... take time to read the whole chapter as it is so simple yet so complete in the call to a better way. Dare I say, A Happy New Year.
So I do pray that I would love God in word and deed, and my heart be sensitive to others in need like never before. I pray my mind is on things above and not stuck in the muck of the evening news, and my below zero Minnesota.
So 2018, I am as ready as I will ever be. To God be the glory in all things.
May God bless and use each of you in 2018 and beyond in ways that are BEYOND YOUR DREAMS.
ps : Of course no New Year Resolution list would be complete without a list from my dog Cooper. Just like his master, he is a work in progress.
I watched a sermon video a recently by Brother Buzz LIght Year. It was an uplifting sermon where the sky is the limit, his exact words were TO INFINITY & BEYOND and I was challenged to not hold back in neither my pursuit or zest for life.
<insert puzzled expression here>
Now that I think about it I was actually watching the movie Toy Story with the grandkids, but it was still a powerful message of family, and friendship all while accepting my place in this expansive Universe.
<insert 2nd puzzled expression here>
Ok, I guess I have not blogged in a while (11/11/16 was my last post) and it appears my thoughts are meandering a bit.
2016 did end for me in a bitter sweet way as my mom passed away at age 88 between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This did occupy my time and mind as you can imagine.
But now I am rested and ready and looking forward to the New Year. In 2017 I plan to blog more and in these posts be less scattered in sharing my thoughts and now and then actually MAKE A POINT. I am blessed by God with a good life with the 3 Fs (Faith, family, and friends) and look forward to a great year. So with this awkward segue let me move onward and forward into 2017 with my very simple list of Resolutions.
MY 2017 RESOLUTIONS
1. Pursue God like never before
2. Serve God like never before
3. Trust in God like never before
4. Love God like never before
5. Care for others like never before
6. Believe in the power of prayer like never before
7. Trust in God's timing like never before.
8. Show kindness like never before
234. Don't post snarky political views on Facebook
235. Pray for a Geen Back Packer Super Bowl
236. Lose 15 pounds
437. Say something nice about the Minnesota Vikings
I do wish each of you a great 2017 blessed and used by God in ways that are beyond your dreams. May you pursue him and love him with all your heart and serve and care for others in need all to the glory of God.
Happy New Years Blessings!
Simply Amazing.. or a True Miracle?
Though the amount of food I consume on Thanksgiving is impressive it cannot be not classified as a miracle. But after the meal, after watching football and fitting in a Thanksgiving Day tryptophan induced nap, I return to the kitchen to find LEFTOVERS! So many leftovers! How can there be so much food in my kitchen considering all my family consumed just a few hours before? So many leftovers that I ponder could Jesus have fed the 5,000 with one turkey and a few side dishes instead of the bread and fish menu recorded in the gospels?
It's a miracle! Ok.. maybe not a miracle but it is a really really good illusion leaving my mind and stomach full through the middle of December.
My more serious assessment on miracles is.. I believe God answers prayer. Sometimes he may part the Red Sea and other times it is the subtle tweak of circumstances but I believe God answers all prayers with the heart of a loving Father. These are the true miracles found every day of the year. God's loving interraction with his children alterting our attitudes, and possibly the outcome of very real circumstances. This supernatural intervention is personal and never arbitrary.
May God bless and use each of you in ways that are beyond your dreams. I pray your Thanksgiving Day is blessed with faith, family, friends, and the subtle miracle of LEFTOVERS.
Jeff (stuffed in the Back Pew) Larson
I must confess I never finished college. I have about 3 years of college in along with a 1 year computer technology certification. I then used this education to gain me opportunities in the business world that combined with hard work landed me several nice positions in the world of computers.
Of course that is now in my rear view mirror as I moved away from the white collar world of computers to a profession where I wear stripped shirts accessorized with a referee whistle. No regrets really, in fact I am thankful for the career opportunities God has allowed me over the years to support my family.
But now let me segue to my SPIRITUAL EDUCATION. I have been reflecting lately on how little time I still spend on my spiritual education all while I desire a more intimate relationship with the God of the universe. Educationally speaking I believe I have accomplished a spiritual 2 year associates degree CRAMMED into my 57 years of life on Earth.
So here comes another new year right around the corner. Time for a New Years resolution for intimacy with God that I do not break like a bad fad diet. What if in 2015 I became a spiritual success story. What if in 2015 I understand the spirit of God better, understood His word better, listened to Him when I prayed, and was more generous in my service of Him? WHAT IF?
What if more important than losing a few pounds was a deeper relationship with God?
There are New Years Resolution success stories where people do lose weight and keep it off.. so why can't I be a spiritual success story becoming more sensitive to His will by spending more REAL time with Him. Even at my grand 'old' age of 57.
This is my prayer, this is my resolution.
May God bless each of you on your spiritual journey. May His will for your life in 2015 be more than a continuation of an underachieving spiritual education. AND.. may this education be more than head knowledge but instead a blessing of your heart and soul in ways that are BEYOND YOUR DREAMS.
Before Felix and Oscar in Neil Simon’s ‘The Odd Couple’ there were the Shepherds and Angels that first Christmas Night. Never has there been a starker contrast between major players in any significant moment in history. Not since Almighty God himself walked through the Garden of Eden with the under-dressed for the occasion fig leaf clad Adam & Eve have there been such high society folk mixing with blue collar / red necked Joe and Joe-ette.
Think of it…
The Angels from the Realms of Glory wing their flight over all the Earth, while
the shepherds snack on ‘sheep jerky’ playing pull my finger jokes around the camp fire dressed and smelling like.. sheep.
The Angel Choirs sing Hark.. and Glory to the new born king, while
The Shepherds are in need of a SHEEP-PS (sheep positioning system) just to find this same baby Jesus.
Even Floyd ‘The Least’ looked high society in comparison to this motley crew of sheep flock watchers.
Of course that was then.. this is now. Meaning, CHURCH is still such a strange collection of odd couples.
Pentecostals, Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, and ... those like me who ‘claim’ to be non-denominational.. aka denominational mutts.
So if Angels and Shepherds could unite in worship 2000+ years ago that first Christmas night, I think all Christians from the Holy Rollers to Baptists in need of Bran should worship the birth of Jesus this year.
If you are a high church kind of guy or gal, or if you call dressing up wearing a clip on tie on your best flannel shirt. If you raise your hands in worship, dance in the aisles, speak in tongues, baptize in an ocean, have bingo in the church basement.. we are all a part of the same church body.
May we unite our intentions and energies to bring Glory be to God this Christmas season! Love God, and care for others this Christmas.. the rest is just details.
I wonder if that first Christmas there was any mistletoe growing wild by the stable where Jesus was born.
Probably not, but today's Christmas season has parties, homes, and offices decorated with Christmas trees, garland, and maybe a chunk-a-hunk-a-burnin-love-mistletoe in a doorway or two.
Each year in the Larson home we do hang our very own little plastic mistletoe in a doorway as part of our Christmas decorations though not much kissing goes on.. that I am aware of.
I don’t know much about Mistletoe except that if you wander under it with someone else you should kiss... RISKY BUSINESS for sure. So without further delay let me share a few 'risky mistletoe moments' from a Back Pew perspective.
With these images now implanted in your brains let me conclude the following mistletoe advice shared in the lyrics by Stephen Stills.
And if you can't be with the one you love, honey Love the one you're with!
Of course while these sentiments seem like something we might 'sorta' read in Song of Solomon, but... they are neither biblical, appropriate, or in any way wise. With regards to mistletoe kiss and love they are to be shared ONLY with your spouse. Stephen Stills advice is from a lonely rock star on the road and probably on drugs which does NOT make him credible, and King Solomon had 700 wives, and so he is 'I guess' may be an exception to the mistletoe rule. BUT I DIGRESS!
Merry Christmas wishes from The Back Pew
Like an ugly ornament that I cannot bear to throw away is the following retelling of a Christmas Concert from just a few years ago.
In December of 2007 my wife and I went on a Christmas date to get the season started off right, but I am not sure it was anything depicted by Bing Crosby singing White Christmas.
We started the evening off with a nice dinner at a local steak house in front of a roaring (gas/fake) fireplace as the temperature outside was moving down down down that Minnesota winter night. After dinner we were off to downtown Minneapolis to the Pantages Theatre to listen to an A Cappella group called the Blenders for their Christmas concert.
The Weather Outside? frightful & freezing..
Did I mention it was cold out? It was as my protestant friends would put it.. “BLESSED COLD!” and parking was not a simple task. There was a downtown Christmas parade in progress so after driving in a slow moving automotive circle/parade consisting of a series of one-way right hand turns for about 30 minutes we completed what was in affect a 360 degree oblong circle where we parked about 4 blocks from the theatre.
Then.. we began our Frozen Mecca to the Pantages Theatre walking into the wind. Air temp was about 2 below zero and wind chill we heard (and felt) was about 14 below. I was not wearing a hat, and my coat was was not a great coat for MinneFROZEta. So the weather outside was as the ol Christmas song goes.. FRIGHTFUL.
Along our walk we passed by several downtown establishments.One was a gay bar and then we passed a club advertising topless girls, with the words.. hot, hot, hot over the topless ad.
Now this is where I was tempted.. not to see topless girls.. but I asked my wife since they were hot maybe we could go in for a moment and warm ourselves by the heat. Ok, honestly there was no temptation here for me, just an excuse for me to share another bad pun with my wife so she could roll her now frozen eyes at me.
Pantages here we go..
We arrive about 15 minutes before the concert began. Shivering and frozen we bought a $3 cup of coffee from the cash barin the lobby which my wife and I took turns holding it to keep warm. When another couple entered the theatre and sat next to us visibly cold too, I offered to let them hold my coffee for $1 apiece. They both laughed, but I did not see what was so funny.
Let the Show Begin..
So inside we go and the concert begins. The Blenders are very good and for me, one evening with an A Cappella group is enough. The Blenders are 4 guys I would guess their mid to late 30s in suits with choreographed movements like four Caucasian Temptations.
professionals on parade..
To add to the atmosphere there was a group of well dressed professional looking people taking up a large block of seats in front of us. I am guessing they were part of a company holiday party. That was fine.. I GUESS.. but this brought back bad memories of when I was part of a now defunct consulting firm that liked the look & style as only young professionals can. All in suits and dresses looking and ACTING the part of Type-A schmoozers without their ritalin. PLEASE PASS THE BUCKET. Ooops, sorry.. I guess I wrote that.. OUT LOUD.
Being what I would describe as a blue collar person trapped for years in a white collar job I find that I loathe this kind of behavior. Shallow, notice me people that stood at intermission in front of my wife and I til I found myself again appreciating my departure from corporate America to my world of people wearing stripped shirts (not prison inmates, but referees)
For those of you in corporate America.. let me offer both my apologies for my biased views, and my condolences for you being a part of it.
Let's have a drink.. NOT
Then to add to their festive corporate schooze, was the booze. Besides the cash bar in the lobby there was one young good looking guy dressed and acting the part of this corporate love fest passing a flask with something that I am pretty sure was stronger than 7-Up.
My Night in a Nutshell..
So here is my big Christmas night out with my wife.
I may make fun of my Friday evening out, but that is what I do. I am Christian who SMIRKS. I did have a good time with my wife.. I was cold.. but to be with the woman I love and to take time to be with her and appreciate her was a great way to start Christmas.
The next night..
was more low key as we spent it with our son Nate and his then girlfriend Kendra, and our daughter Erin with her boyfriend. We listened to Christmas music, made gingerbread cookies, and played the protestant approved game of cards.. Rook. It was a great evening which included a mini-fight with flour while making cookies.
IF.. IF by chance anyone from that corporate America party in 2007 reads this email about my great Saturday night making cookies you can thank God instead for your night out schmoozing sipping from your flask, with NO gingerbread cookies, flour prints on your $300 suit, or gingerbread crumbs stuck in your cleavage while donning a black backless & low cut dress that you bought special for this occasion and certainly NOT from the local JC Penney.
Merry Christmas to all of you TOO who were on display at the Pantages Theatre Saturday night BLOCKING MY ‘BLESSED’ VIEW OF THE BLENDERS!!!!
Jeff (frozen in the back pew) Larson
Every year during the Christmas season I take out and share this Christmas story like I do other Christmas decorations. I pray you enjoy.
I am not in the traditional workplace anymore, but I remember the coffee maker was the gathering point for socializing with coworkers. While pouring a refill there was talk about family, upcoming vacations, sports, or the ever popular grumbling in hushed tones about the boss.
So imagine.. the buzz around the coffee maker in Heaven a little over 2000 years ago when God’s plan for saving mankind was 'leaked out' around Heaven's coffee maker where Betty and Larry the angels meet to fill their morning cup of Heaven's finest brew. <pause> I am talking COFFEE not BEER just to be clear.
Betty: “Hey Larry, did you hear about the plan the 'boss' has for saving the world?”
Larry: “No, so what’s the scoop?”
Betty: “Well rumor has it, God's son Jesus will come to earth as a child born of a virgin in a barn and sleeps in a feeding trough for animals. His birth will not be proclaimed to the world to kings but to .. get this.. shepherds.“
Betty: “No really it’s true. , and Jesus will be raised by a common carpenter and his wife” and for the next almost 30 years in rural Israel.
Larry: “ Good one Betty, and so being a carpenter.. I suppose he will then build his father’s kingdom?” LOL!
Betty: “I know this sounds bizarre, but I heard it all from a very reliable source. And THAT'S NOT ALL. Next, Jesus will choose 12 men to assist him as key members of his kingdom movement.”
Larry: “You mean like a presidential cabinet of sorts comprised of priests, rabbis, maybe a few influential politicians, and seasoned military leaders would seem reasonable selections.
Betty: “No, .. they are mostly fishermen.”
Larry: “I see.. fishermen… So far we have Jesus born in a barn in obscurity except to shepherds, his critical years of development to be the King and Savior are spent as a carpenter instead of seminary? Yes, yes.. this makes ‘boat loads’ of sense…. NOT!”
Betty: “I know, I know.. BUT THAT'S NOT ALL... Next Jesus takes on the established religious community. He will challenge, and mock their rules and motives.. which of course flies like a politically and religiously incorrect Lead Balloon.“
Larry: “Now who is it you said you heard this all from? You were not talking to Cliffy from the mail room again were you? I know this is Heaven, but Cliff is full of it.”
Betty: “No .. it was not Cliff, it was from a very reliable source. Now be quiet for a minute and let me finish.. then you can let your jaw drop to the floor… because THERE IS MORE!”
Larry: - [ Larry motions that he is zipping his lip and smiles.. in silence ]
Betty: “All of this leads to a final week when the salvation message is realized. Jesus in this unconventional plan lulls the leaders of the day into .. falsely arresting him, mocking him, he is beaten and whipped to the point of death. Then to a jeering crowd he is lead up to a hill where he is ultimately crucified as a common criminal while he is rejected by the people he came to save… JUST THE WAY HE PLANNED IT ALL ALONG.”
Betty: Of course Jesus will not stay dead, but is RISEN from the dead, but not everyone will witness this.. and so believing in Jesus, and accepting his free gift of salvation will still be a matter of choice and requires a personal faith in things not seen or every fully understood.
Larry: [still silent, Larry stands with his arms crossed]
Betty the Angel: “That’s it Larry, believe me or not.. this is the God’s honest truth (no pun intended).”<pause> “Ok, now you can speak.”
Larry: I don’t know who put you up to this.. but I would NOT tell these wild tales to anyone else… This is all CRAZY TALK.. and I have better things to do with my time. Next time you have anymore ’Revelations’ .. get it in writing on God’s very own BLESSED executive stationary!! Next time consider your sources before swallowing a whopper like this one hook line and sinker. You are just soooo gullable.”
[Larry then walks back to work leaving Betty looking exasperated]
Ok maybe it was not quite like this, but I don’t think this is a story line embraced in Hollywood. Kings, great rulers, and most certainly saviors would be scripted to be spectacular and not born in a barn, surrounded by sheep, raised as a poor carpenters boy to be the ONE challenging the motives ot the established church, stirring the hearts of the people, who is ultimately crucified as a criminal, but rises again our savior.. Then again.. Hollywood’s vision of drama is Law & Order reruns and ’passion’ is a steamy Hollywood 'love' story.
I thank God for the beauty of his plan. God's ways are not our ways, and his thought are higher than our thoughts Is 55:8-9.
What a perfect and loving plan to save the world. Just like the wisemen when Jesus was born I pray we all seek to find the Messiah.
May God bless each of you with a great day and may the great news of hope and salvation shared around Heaven's coffee maker over 2000 years ago be realized in each of our lives.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson