My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” James 2:2-3
James 2:2-3 This is how it looks for me in Minnesota-->
Let me start by sharing my wife and I attend a church that we really like. It is a friendly congregation represented by all age groups. The worship music is well done, and the preaching is straight from God's word in a manner that is both challenging and easy to listen to. The people are friendly and welcoming even in this season of all things COVID-19.
Next, let me share I am over 5 years sober now after it became apparent I was an alcoholic where drink was becoming a growing compromise in my life (off and on) for about the previous 15 years. It did not ruin life, but I was headed on the wrong road, and my addiction to a buzz was growing and dangerous. I thank God for his healing in this area and for the love and grace of my family.. especially my wife... and of course my God.
I never did attend a recovery program until about a year ago when I attended a Celebrate Recovery program for a few weeks to see if it was right for me at this point in my recovery.
Well, in contrast to my 'good church' where the worship, preaching, and presentation on Sunday's is clean and sharp.. this Celebrate Recovery program is messy.
These are people who are struggling. Some have been sober for 15+ years, others are celebrating not have a drink for 30 days, or less. Some are people who have been in and out of treatment, and/or suffering the consequences of their addictions by losing their drivers license, jobs, or family. Stories of jail-time, and restraining orders were common. Many were in the place where they were not drinking but now dealing with the void in their lives where once was a buzz. This group is a mess, but .. a Beautiful Mess
What makes this group such a beautiful mess is their journey starts and ends with a return to God. Not just a 'higher power' but the only true power, the God of our Bibles. This is our only hope for the alcoholic and ALL of the rest of humanity (aka sinners).
Life not so long ago..
Now after 5+ years of being sober, I look back on my journey to where I am now. I did not realize what a fragile mess I was.
So this all makes me reflect on James 2:1-2. I am ashamed to say I honestly don't like the mess or messy people. I like happy Christians with no deep dark secrets and/or sins. I like the well orchestrated church service and an attractive congregation that looks like .. church people should look? I don't know if I want my church to be messy, even a beautiful mess.
So here I am convicted, and I thank God for this conviction. I now desire to be in the mess, and I will blend nicely as I am a mess. Together we love and support each other. Where one hurts all hurt, and when all rejoice we rejoice together (1 Cor 12:26).
God desires to RESTORE US to become the healthy body of Christ. After church I don't want to be the guy looking past the guy or gal out of place to find my usual friends where I am comfortable. I don't know exactly how this conviction on my heart will play out, but I pray God would speak to me and change me to serve him among the beautiful mess that are the people Jesus would be spending his time with.
May God bless you, care for you today, and use you to serve Him in this very messy world. I pray for revival and restoration in our chaotic 2020 America. I pray His church is sensitive and caring for the beautiful mess inside and outside our church walls.
Jeff (plenty messy still) Larson
note: Recovery is not just for the alcoholic, it is for everyone that struggles with the very real issues of life. Depression, co-dependency, anger, sex addiction, anxiety/fear, etc. I pray we allow ourselves to be honest, and allow God to restore us from what ever has compromised our lives.
Today in my Minnesota the heat index forecast is 110, with the air temp being around 94. Ok, I know some of you may think that is not hot or humid, but for this very white skinned Norwegian it is HOT. But with this in mind I want to share a great Minnesota summer day from a weekend in 2007.
I remember a perfect Summer Saturday in 2007 .. Sunny, 75 degrees, light breeze, low humidity and I started this day in a perfect way with coffee and the morning paper with my lovely wife Mary.
After this peaceful slow start I was off to my job for the day as an umpire for a 12 yr. and under girls slow pitch softball tournament.
Now on this perfect summer day the games begin at 9:00am. Coaches and parents cheer on their ‘little darlins’ with smiles and encouraging words while the concession stand provides the hot dogs, candy, and pop in a way that gives this day the look of a classic Norman Rockwell painting.
So there you have it.. I am living a life blessed by God on a perfect summer day! Families, sports, summertime food, and I thank God for allowing me to be a part of this. Livin La-Vi-Da-Larson!! Ya-sure u- betcha!
As morning moved to afternoon, and finally evening rolled around it was still a beautiful day. BUT I was on my way to umping 10 games this day to be followed by 7 more on Sunday. The mood and competitive nature of some of the parents and coaches started sliding downhill.
One team in particular that was coached by three ‘gentlemen’ resembling Hell’s Angels (the bikers, not the minions) in both their demeanor and flavor of sportsmanship.
My sunburned body, tired mind and blistered feet are now mumbling over this ‘perfect’ summer day. Perfect summer day? Perfect Summer Day? Why do I have to be outside all day? I am an ‘inside dog’!.. I own a home, and I WANT TO GO TO IT!
Now fast forward to Sunday afternoon, the temperatures are hotter, the breeze is nil, and the humidity is up. So fate finds me umping a very competitive game between two very good teams that goes into extra innings! The joy of summer is back! The parents, kids, and coaches are having the time of their lives with me as the centerpiece enforcing the rules.
But... This Norman Rockwell moment comes crashing to a halt on a very close play at home that I call SAFE! The winning team is exhilarated, while the losing team quickly formed a lynch mob brandishing a hangman's noose created from the belts of parents who were now looking for a tree to STRING ME UP.
This Mob INCLUDES one pretty young mom who walks over to me, points her finger in my face and through her clenched teeth calls me a BLEEPING umpire. For ‘bleeping’ fill in the expletive of your choice.
Just a few short hours later I am welcomed home by my loving wife, my daughter, pizza, a pitcher of ice tea, and a big bottle of ibuprofen. All five are a welcomed sight as this ‘inside dog’ sits in his easy chair with blistered feet up, resting his sunburned body (even my lips are burned), and feeling every bit of my AARP legal existence.
The moral of this story is .. this is a wonderful world God has blessed us with. And a beautiful summer day in Minnesota can be almost Heaven… but 17 games in this Heaven on Earth can be TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING.
May God bless and use you this summer in ways that are BEYOND YOUR DREAMS. May the sun be shining, and the sunblock readily available, may your heat index NOT be 110,... and may no one call you a bleeping umpire!
AND remember there is hot and there is HOT!
Jeff (in the AC now) Larson
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil 4:5-7
I live in America where moderation is not the modus operandi. We like big, more, and we supersize whenever possible. Too much for us often is not enough.
While I am not saying having nice home, car, etc are bad things at all, but modesty and moderation does not come easy to Americans. IMO
But what if we temper our lives with those 3 verses in Philippians. What if we were known for our moderation, prayerful, and thankful to our God? Then the peace of God that does pass all understanding is there for each of us no matter if we are living check to check or encumbered with the trappings of wealth.
Let me leave you with a couple more scriptures of perspective in a world and even some in the church where moderation does NOT come easy.
May God will bless, lead, and use us all for His glory (not ours) in ways that are beyond your dreams. I pray we keep in mind Phil 4:5-7, Mt 5:3, and Mi 6:8 as a guide for our lives.
Jeff (slightly supersized) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson