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
THIS LIFE is filled with awkward moments. For example,
Ok, TMI I know, but in reading my Bible I discover I am not the only one with awkward moments to deal with.
There were miracles a plenty.. in my Bible leaving mouths hanging open speechless at the power of God. But of course as a cartoonist and self-declared humorist awkward silence in between the verses retelling these stories are a fine place for a awkward one-liners. For example, when..
all of the above and more from the the very pages of our Bibles cry.. AWKWARD!
BUT.. that was THEN.. This is NOW
The above are just a few moments that make me collectively cringe, smirk, and then realize the more things change the more they stay the same.
Today's world is still so very awkward in response to this life and God. We as Christians are to be in this world but not to be of this world, but awkwardly we attempt to do both. We reason.. 'Jesus is love so I should be about loving others'.. BUT.. in doing so we embrace the sins of this world. AWKWARD.
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
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15
So I pray we all stand strong for our God.. unwavering examples of His truth, and do so in love. To stand faithful in our words and deeds is to honor God and be a testimony to mankind.
May God bless and use each of you this day in ways that are beyond your dreams and even in the awkward moments of life.
Jeff (sitting awkwardly in the Back Pew) Larson
FIELD OF STREAMS (Ge 6-9)
If you have ever seen the movie Field of DREAMS you will know it’s about an Iowa farmer who hears voices telling him to plow under his corn crop and build a baseball field where the ghosts of old pro players, including Shoeless Joe Jackson, would play. Now of course, the neighbors and the town folk think he is nuts, and that he is risking his farm for the sake of old baseball players that no one can see but himself.
The decision for this Iowa farmer to listen to whispering voices saying, “If you build it, they will come”, and then to build a ballpark without having a real explanation of what this is all about takes some faith. So what about Noah?
The Bible tells us that Noah was a righteous man, and faithful to God in a world of sin.
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. Genesis 6:5-6
and so God tells Noah, If you build it, they will come. Genesis 6:13-21 in this case THEY are a literal ‘boat-load’ of animals.
If you think an Iowa farmer got funny looks plowing under his crop/ livelihood, so that he could build a ballpark, I am sure that's nothing compared to Noah building a humungous boat in the middle of a desert. It became Noah’s “Field of Streams”.
Of course this Desert Ark Building attracted some serious ridicule, or at the very least a few chuckles and smirks from the town folk.
Noah builds this ark out of cypress wood. It is 450 feet, 75 feet wide, and 40 feet tall.
Next, please note the Ark Project was constructed by 600 yr. old Noah with the assistance of his 100 year old sons.
Think about it, Noah was approximately 10 times older than me, and his three 'boys' were 3 times older than my two sons.
Anyways, the ark is built, and then the collection and storing of the animal pairs begins.
Let me add a little perspective here..
Also illustrated below are a few more boarding the Ark highlights.. including the demise of the Unicorn.
GRAB YOUR UMBRELLA
Once the animals were all boarded, God seals the Ark and the skies opened up which not one local Weather channel predicted, and those left behind did perish. These flood waters go higher and higher until on I believe the 40th day the highest mountains are covered.
I know the question sometimes arises as to whether or not this was a local or world widen flood. What I do know is it was a WHOLE LOT OF WATER.
LIFE AT SEA..
So now there is a time where God floats the boat. Loaded with animals of every kind I cannot imagine how this all worked out. I am challenged to get my one rescue dog out several times a day to ensure he does not do his 'bizness' on the carpet so 'say-no-more' bout' waste management on this sea sick petting zoo. But on the bright side the excursions and amenities not found on any other Cruise line, and since they would be in the Ark for I believe 371 days, they might as well make the best of what Noah's Luxury Cruise had to offer..
ALL ASHORE THAT'S GOING ASHORE!
Finally the the waters subsided and the ark settled on one of the mountains of Ararat .
Once it became safe to leave the Ark, the animals were let go, must have been as interesting as the boarding), and shortly there after the first pooper scooper was invented.
In all seriousness now, this was the new beginning for manking, and God signed with a RAINBOW His promise that he would never destroy the Earth by flood again.
Noah was a righteous man, and lived to be an incredible 950 years, just 19 years less than longevity king Methuselah.
THIS WAS ONE CRAZY BOAT RIDE..
I have to be honest the story of Noah, the Ark, the boarding of every animal two by two, all culminating with a Flood killing all life leaves me scratching my head. BUT just like the flood was an act of God, so was this animal control process. So I must distinguish between hard to understand and don’t believe. I believe, but can I tell you how it happened.. NOPE. It's as they say.. 'above my pay grade'.
I believe God hears our honest questions, and our lack of understanding, and in reply he may simply say, “Of course you don’t”.
One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 55:8,9 where God declares, “My ways are not your ways. Neither are my thoughts your thoughts. For as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways than your ways and my thoughts than yours.”
So again.. when I don’t understand – but still I believe!
CUTE STORY? SOBERING TRUTH? or both?
In summary, the story of Noah has today often is told as a children’s story. Christian Gift Shops have cute figurines of Noah, and his Ark all filled with smiling animals. Also, in my cartoon world the story of Noah's Ark is loaded with silly fodder. BUT the story of Noah has a sobering message balancing perfectly God’s providence for the faithful and obedient with harsh judgment of a wicked world.
The story of Noah and the ark is our story
This is a world of great sin where the hearts of man (just like in Ge 6:5-6) appears to be on evil all the time. The Great News is those who love God receive His Amazing Love & Grace… but again realize.. HOW WE CONDUCT OUR LIVES MATTERS ETERNALLY. if we choose self over God than our eternity is the same as those outside the Ark. We may not get all wet by a supernatural Great Flood, but we will be just as lost, just as judged, and just as damned.
May God bless each of you to be faithful and obedient to God while living in this self indulgent world.
Jeff (wearing my waterwings today) 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.
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.
A more serious assessment on miracles is.. God answers prayer. 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... and do not include my Turkey leftovers.
God's loving interaction with his children altering our attitudes, and possibly the outcome of very real circumstances are just as much of a miracle as a parting Red Sea, or Creation itself. His supernatural intervention is personal and never arbitrary.
May God bless and use each of you in ways that are beyond your dreams and full of His subtle and big miracles. I pray your Thanksgiving Day is blessed with faith, family, friends, and .. LEFTOVERS.
Jeff (always stuffed in the Back Pew) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson