If I remember correctly, today (August 8th) is the birthday of my good Richard (Dick) Ludzack, and Dick was 6 days my senior as I was born on August 14th. He was a lifelong friend as we grew up in the same home town and attended the same church, played sports together, and both participated in each other's weddings. Dick passed away suddenly a number of years ago, and at that time I wrote my own memorial of his life. I would like to share it again today about a life well lived.
THE ONLY CHOICE THAT MATTERS 10/12/2003
I traveled home yesterday to visit my mom and was greeted by the news that a life long friend of mine was killed the day before in a work related accident. This friend was Dick Ludzack, and his dad Karl Ludzack also passed away last January. Please pray for Dick’s wife Tammy, his kids, and for his 10 other brothers and sisters, and mom. It is kind of news that knocks the wind out of his many friends, and hits even much closer to home for his family.
Dick was a great guy, and though we have not talked all that often in the last few years.. I consider him a true friend. He was a good man who loved God and his family.
Dick was one of the guys that as a youth I sat with in the Back Pew of the church. He was also one of us guys that could not sing. NONE OF US COULD. We called it the sin of our parents. You know, when the people asked Jesus why a certain man was blind.. was it because of his own sin or the sin of his parents?? Well there was a core group of guys in our church, and NONE were blessed with the ability to sing. Some of us sang… but we pushed THE JOYFUL NOISE UNTO THE LORD concept to it’s limits. So the joke among a few of us guys was.. Jesus was it our own sins, or the sin of our parents why we can’t sing? The answer we have concluded.. was.. IT MUST BE OUR PARENTS. Lol
So back to the serious sobering point of these days. Dick was a good man, a good family man, and faithful to God. Though he will be missed.. Dick’s life was a success. Never to trivialize the loss to his family, and friends, but Dick lived his life right.. he loved the Lord, and is in Heaven now. Dick who lived only to be 46 (same age as me) was faithful with the time he had on Earth.
None of us know how long we have here in this world that is a blend of joy and pain. Where there is so much good, and so much tragedy.. so in the end it ETERNALLY makes a difference the choices you make in life. Dick chose wisely.
I pray we are faithful in making the same decision. May the Lord protect each of you.. may he give us all the perspective that is only his.. may his comfort and love be felt by us all, and may we all know Jesus.
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.
Well, I cannot stop Father time.. or in my case grandfather time. I will turn 63 this month, and if the calendar did not tell me that.. my body reminds me often.
I can't complain though, or rather I shouldn't complain. I am in many ways healthier than I was even just a few years ago. My blood pressure is very good, and I no longer drink alcohol (5+ years sober). Now on the flip side, I now have hearing aides, a stronger bi-focaled eye prescription, and I describe through exaggeration my spine as a shaken up can of Pringles (vertebraes all stacked up but with a few cracks and crumbles.
Along with grandfather time shouting into my new hearing aides, he reminds me of my mortality. When I was 20 this was never a subject I gave much thought to, but that was 40+ YEARS AGO.
Ok, so far I have pondered getting older so let's move on to the topic of .. DEATH, and also.. ETERNITY. Oh great you are thinking, now Jeff is going to share his funeral arrangements and/or funeral home collection of cartoons. WRONG. :) I don't have funeral home cartoons.. YET. What I do want to share is the hope of Heaven. Not like I hope I win the lottery, but a infinitely better reward than a lottery, and with certain (100%) odds of Heaven.
The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”
Oh death where is your victory, where is your sting? These are also the words of the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:55) not Edgar Alan Poe. Paul continues.. 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Of course, this life does not guarantee us 80, 60, or 20 years, and no matter and our lives are a mere drop in the ocean of eternity. We cling to this life on Earth so tightly and that seems only right, but let's not hang on too tightly where we lose sight of Heaven.
May God bless each of us with REAL JOY during our lives on Earth even when 'we' are 60+ years old with hearing aides, bi-focaled eyes, and a spine like a shaken up can of Pringles. Sorry, I digressed. May God find us faithful in the moments that make up this life.
Jeff (achy breaky senior citizen) Larson
A strange title indeed. There was an AT&T commercial a while back where this guy in the suit is sitting at a table asking a bunch of little kids what is better FASTER or SLOWER? They all agree faster is better. One little girl explains faster is better or else you might be bitten by a werewolf and then you will say.. wawawawawawa.. which means I wish I was human again! The man in the suit stammers.. "what?"
note: If you don't remember this commercial, it is a must watch. click here-> wawawawawawa
Well I think I have similar state of mind when I can become so overwhelmed by the challenges of the year 2020 to where I lose all perspective. Frustration, discouragement, and yes anger with this world gone bonkers clouds my thinking. Some days I become a brooding, and sputtering little black rain cloud with the fruit of God's Spirit windblown from my countenance finding myself much like the girl in the AT&T commercial saying.. "wawawawawawa.. I wish I was CHRISTIAN again."
Moments like these leave me stinging.. and feeling badly about myself. I know I did not lose my place in Heaven because of my discouragement but I don't exactly feel like a victorious Christian either.
Good news ALWAYS is God's Grace is there for me AGAIN. I can pick up and start again to become intentional in my pursuit of God where I see God, and I see HIS purpose (Matthew 6:10) before I see mine. I desire to truly love God and keep him always center in my life and realize when I am weak (and I am often) HE makes me strong (Philippians 4:13).
What if my faith was NOT ABOUT ME but instead ALL ABOUT JESUS? What a difference this would make in me realizing and taking in the truth.. 'I AM A CHRISTIAN saved by His Grace and loved by Him.' What if His Church (all believers) loved God, the church, and the world.. with God as primary focus? Wow, that is a beautiful and big WHAT IF. But is my prayer.
Personally I know this prayerfully would reduce those feelings where I tongue in cheek 'wish I was Christian again'.
May God bless your lives with knowing the promise of salvation, and peace that passes all understanding even in this 2020 world where peace is the last word to describe it.
Jeff ( Thankful today ) Larson
There are those grey overcast days where I think the sun will never shine again. Maybe a little foggy, drizzling still morning but then a spot on the clouds glows and just moments later the sun peeks out. I now see the sun and feel it’s warmth. Amazing how that feels especially on that cool grey day, but sometimes as quick as the sun appears the clouds return and the sun is gone and so is it's warmth.
This glimpse of the sun describes often my pursuit of God. I read, and pray and the story of God and the Gospel message makes sense. This time of clarity is beyond refreshing until.. circumstances and the world distract me, along with my inconsistent pursuit of God until my perspective is clouded and poof my moment of clarity is gone.
Does that sound familiar, or am I the only one? A simple check on Twitter and Facebook and the social media posts of Christians and I will conclude this line looking for Glimpses is a very long line. I am among friends.
In my defense I find Isaiah 55:9, and 1 Corinthians 13:12 . I feel like Winnie the Pooh, a Bear of very little brain creator of cartoons attempting to grasp Almighty God creator of the Universe. Advantage God
It does not seem fair to have only glimpses. I even have my fair share of questions about God himself and the inerrant of His Word. note: While I have questions, I want to be clear I choose to place my trust and hope in Him and the answers found in His Word.
Short bunny trail... Now being a guy, I like gadgets.. so I am thinking maybe if God would give me a remote control for 'glimpses from God'.. then I could hit PAUSE when His light shines and I see.. if I could only make these glimpses longer. -sigh- ok, I checked Best Buy, and there is no such remote - end of bunny trail-
So again, I realize in this life I cannot and will not fully understand so many things, but when those clouds part that glimpse of God like the sun through the clouds on a grey day is priceless. This glimpse of God's truth, and love speak to me like the warmth of the sun. My shoulders relax, there is sudden clarity and perspective. Lord I pray for more glimpses, and I pursue these glimpses by quieting myself, focus on God's Truth in His word, pray without ceasing, listen to worship music, spend time with other believers, and serve others.
No matter how cloudy your day is in this broken world of sickness, conflicts, family issues, greed, racism, and/or POLITICS (please pass the bucket).. pray for Glimpses (and more) of God and His purpose and perspective.
Find peace in knowing the Lord as your Shepherd Psalm 23, and the live out Phil 4:8 dwelling on and pursuing what is good.
May God bless each of you this day with more than glimpses of Him that pierce the clouds in your life and this DARK world. And.. rest in the promise of what He will reveal to us fully someday.
Jeff (glimpse chaser) Larson
Note: The Apostle Paul given a tad more than a glimpse of the sun/Son on that road to Damascus. On your Damascus Road.. wear SUNBLOCK.
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
What happened? Was I out for 5 minutes when everything changed? Didn't up used to be up and down .. down.. not the other way around? And I am pretty sure too that WRONG is now the new RIGHT.
Let's start with a few easy Wrongs declared Right from where I sit observing our society.
So you see.. Wrong is the new Right.
We are numbed and dumbed down to vulgar language and violence in movies, TV, and pop/hip hop/rap music. Sex before marriage, and teen sexuality is assumed not discouraged.. in fact sex without boundaries is encouraged. Everyone claims to be a victim, or bullied which muddies truth of those who truly are victims and/or bullied. AND anyone who voices a contrary view is expressing HATE SPEECH.
The #MeToo movement, terms like toxic masculinity, white privilege, systemic racism, and systemic police brutality often dilute if not poison truth and justice. Note: There is only God's Truth & God's Justice and it is for all. Then we throw the old KKK in with the new rage (literally) Antifa (anti-fascists? not!). They are nothing more than masked domestic terrorists. And BLM black lives matter is a statement that is true just as all lives matter, but the organization BLM is a Marxist hate group.
We are a culture who on one hand munch on popcorn while being entertained by horror, violence, the occult, or the sorted story of a serial killer, BUT.. think that our 2nd amendment rights are the root of all evil. Wrong is new Right.
Now in 2020 the Wrong is the new Right has been amped up with the reality of Covid-19. I will not go into my opinion about what should or should not be done, but I will say it has divided us.. and divided the church. We too quickly condemn each other over this virus. We can't just disagree on the solution we decide to label each other naive or selfish.. and these feelings become something maybe just short of hate. This is Wrong, but this Wrong is also the new Right.
Even in the church simple choices of right and wrong are more carefully handled than a suicide vest by a bomb squad whose only training was using the old 'Operation board game'. We are so deathly afraid to call sin.. a sin in fear others will judge us as judgmental.
My concern/observation is The church (as a whole) is 1/2 afraid to speak truth in love afraid of the mess it may cause, and the other 1/2 appears to be like the frog in the boiling pan of water slowly cooking in our new boiling Baptismal Jacuzzi unaware the temp is rising. We are no longer salt and light as commanded in Mt 5:13-16, but excuse this compromise with the broad brushed statement.. We are about love, Jesus is love.
I agree Jesus is love, but his love included speaking directly about sin. He may have called the religious leaders a brood of vipers, but he also lovingly spoke truth to the woman at the well. How would Jesus have been loving if he did not speak the whole truth? In fact I believe Jesus referenced Hell 46 times. Hell is the scary truth regarding sin.
Same with Paul, he was loving but so direct about sin not because it was on his legalistic DO NOT DO list but because sin is harmful to the body and soul.
Let's even be more basic about TRUTH. We as Christians believe there is one way to Heaven and that is Jesus. To share this truth should be the most important truth we can share. BUT agnostics, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, etc would disagree. So do we quit sharing this truth because it might offend.. but let them go to Hell?
Do we just gently say, well we all believe generally in the same thing 'higher power' so.. peace be still.. Or remain silent because I respect your feelings so much that I would rather let you go to Hell for eternity than offend you today on Earth. This is so very Wrong, and.. the new Right
I also believe there is a growing population in the church that doubt the Inerrancy of the Scriptures. It's understandable to have questions on Bible issues we do not understand, but it is alarming to doubt that it is truly God's word. -Insert Head Slap here-
MY OWN MESS - Let me be very clear, I am such a sinner.. aka made 'lotsa' mistakes. I have trouble with my temper, watched movies and laughed at jokes I should not have. I have made compromises, told altered truths (aka lies) and all the other goodies that many of us do.
I am also a man who compromised too many years with alcohol (aka alcoholic), and it was ruining my life. I share the cartoon on the left that is typically received understandably with collective cringes as it is NOT FUNNY, but it is was becoming my story.
So in response to my drinking my wife expressed to me in love and sometimes the appropriate amount of anger "YOU NEED TO QUIT DRINKING. This is not good for you, it is not good for your family." So my question is.. was my wife intolerant and judgmental of me as a person, or was she directly and loving me tell me my alcohol use was hurting me and my family?
Well, I believe I would be dead now if I continued drinking. And.. to be honest I did not always welcome her words and would soften them by saying I would do better next time, but bottom-line my wife's loving admonishment CHANGED MY LIFE. I thank God for my wife and my three adult kids who lovingly told me truth. Changing a Wrong in my life to make me return to doing Right.
So in this world where WRONG is the new RIGHT how shall we participate? In our society compromised by ignorance, arrogance, and self we need to stand firm, in love and always stand for God's Truth.. because as they say.. Two Wrongs don't make a Right.
May God bless each of you to boldly go each day into a world that may hate you for saying RIGHT is still right, and WRONG is still wrong.
Thank you for indulging me sharing this topic of societal angst that is on my heart.
I watched a show a while back on the often overlooked fuel of sleep. When I short myself on a proper amount of sleep I compromise my mood ( i get pouty), capabilities, productivity, clarity of thought, and in general my outlook on life becomes negative. Without good sleep any circumstance I face may be tainted with depression, anger, impatience, with maybe more than a smidgen of hopelessness. Admittedly I am kind of a baby.
It is often easier said then done when sleep deprived is to get more sleep, but.. when I do get enough sleep those clouds of confusion and irritation part, and what once felt hopeless is now met with a more rationale and healthy vantage point leaving me scratching my head why I ever thought my situation was hopeless.
Last night was a good example of this. In the summer of 2020 we are in an election year, dealing with Covid-19, and racial tensions are higher than any point in my lifetime. Anarchy is in the streets, and all this while the 24/7 news gleefully gaslights all this into a roaring fire where traditional values are mocked, and in God we trust is questioned if not sneered at.
So this all makes me irritated. I prayed a little, but I mumble more as I find all this reporting is to sell a story, and not offer solutions or positive comments. Well my mumbling and maybe a little bit of a tired brain started me rolling down hill feeling hopeless about society, and very such feeling that way about church in America.
Then comes this morning where I wake up and none of this bad world was overwhelming me. I still believe the evening news is (forgive me) a sewer, but my happiness is not defined by this sewage. Joy is not found either in the very real circumstances of this world but it starts with my relationship with God, and to see the blessings I have and so the sun is shining a bit more in my spirit.
Moral the story so far? SLEEP it does a body good.
Then just as bad, no actually worse is when afflicted by spiritual deprivation where I do not take time for God declaring myself too busy. To miss out on a daily devotional time, and compromise my prayer times with God compromises .. my spirit and perspective on life just like operating on 4 hours of sleep while eating junk food all night. YECH! Yes, spiritually speaking I feel YECH!
I may even confuse my life further by excluding the good life disciplines of exercise, work, and play. AND IF.. I do take time for my relationship with God I find my perspective, attitude, and joy fall short of what God intends and desires for me. In contrast, IF I honor God with prayer and devotional times the clouds of doubt and loneliness part for me as God is now included included in my day as he should be.
Summary: Be sure to get a proper amount of the overlooked fuel for my body of sleep, AND be sure to include the discipline and joy of a personal relationship with God.
May God bless each of you in this journey to honor Him with all your resources.
Jeff (looking forward to a nap) Larson
side note 1: I have a confession to make.. At this point in my life.. I lOVE NAPS. What was the big deal when we were kids and we never wanted to go down for a nap. Now, in the afternoon, I get a little groggy, and then will take a 20 minute (or longer) nap. It simply feels so good.
side note 2: Sleeping in church is still frowned on.. though it cannot be eradicated completely even with the use of SHOCK COLLARS that are tuned into your REM cycle.
I have this prayer prep that I recently turn to when my mind is busy and unfocused. I slow my mind to take a glimpse of my significance.
Specifically, I am a speck on a blue ball (Earth) that spins at 1000 mph orbiting around our sun in our Solar System of 8 (or 9) planets, which is one of countess galaxies in our infinite Universe. ..
AND this existence.. my existence is just a microscopic blip on the timeline of .. eternity!
So while I admit I should lose like 25 pounds I also am feeling very small. Then to think of the intricacies of the human body, the human condition, that I have a free will, and I believe a His spirit makes me a very special speck on this blue dot.
While I attempt to grasp this perspective of significance.. I pray Psalms 8:4 Who am I that you are mindful of me? .. and I am in awe of creation and more importantly our creator and His inexplicable love for each of us. Better yet, y'all best read all of Psalms 8
Now .. I am ready to pray as the world slows down.. I am an awe of God, and thankful for this day (even the bad ones), and pray that my life, my family, my friends, church, community, state, nation, and world come to realize the significance, purpose, and place as their own speck like roles on this blue dot.
Love God, love others (less social media).. and all glory to God on this day! Cuz ya know, the rest is trivia by comparison.
Jeff (A Big Speck) Larson
I am one of those folks who likes my food ever so slightly overcooked. I like the cheese on my pizza to be golden.. a 'dark' golden, and toast my bagel dark so to contrast with a spread of cream cheese. I want my bagel to CRUNCH when I bite into it. And I like DUSK.. where the sun has just dropped peacefully below the western horizon but before the black of night,
Of course choosing dark over light in the tasty matters of food or sunsets is fine, but in matters of the SPIRIT.. always choose the LIGHT.
This Present Darkness is a Christian novel by Frank Paretti published in 1986 showing the reader a view on angels, demons, prayer, and spiritual warfare while demons and angels interact and struggle for control in our lives and communities. And though this book was fiction, I believe this battle is real.
Of course there is obvious DARKNESS in this world, but I am surprised by many Churches maintain a Frog in the Boiling Pot perspective on life where God is fit into societal norms rather than the other way around as God intends. The temp is going up, but we the church are too often oblivious... and actually enjoying this Jacuzzi of the soul.
"In God We Trust" may be the official motto (for now) of the United States of America, but in this world's shadows we move closer to a Godless reality found in Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
How else can explain our society where
All this madness happens and honestly I am not sure the church knows how to handle it. I observe many if not most churches are afraid of secular man and public opinion rather than afraid of disobeying God.
If anyone espouses traditional Christian values we are deemed judgmental, hateful bigots or worse. But what of that? They hated Jesus first for telling loving truth, so why are we afraid to be hated for the Gospel?
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:19-21
So these very words of Jesus make it clear.. It matters what we believe, our choices matter. JESUS WAS NOT TALKIN' TOAST. We are commanded in loving firm truths to stay in the light by Jesus. He does did mince word and the world hated Him for it.
So I prayer God finds us IN THE LIGHT, living in obedience to His word, loving and truthful in our words and deeds with others, and never lingering in this world's shadows.
Enjoy this life in the LIGHT.
Jeff (dark toast please) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson