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
Let me start today with a good ol' Protestant Brag.
I have attend church most every week, and not just Sunday mornings, I often go on Wednesdays too. I accepted Jesus into my heart at age 6, was baptized at age 14, and have been married to a wonderful Christian woman for almost 36 years! You see, I AM ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS.
Besides going to church, I work hard, pay my bills, and have endured rush hour traffic that would tempt Mother Theresa's to swear like a sailor.
I aspire to be like Jesus and so again.. I am a pretty pretty good guy. BUT.. (NEWS FLASH) I am really any better than those who never darken the door of a local church. Let's just say I am a lifelong member of the 'Flawed Folk Fellowship'.
The friendly members of 'Flawed Folk Fellowship' are known for their welcoming slogan 'No Perfect People Allowed' but this also could serve as a disclaimer much like you hear at the end of one of those prescription med TV ads.
CURElanta may be right for you. <pause> BUT.. some taking CURElanta "may experience tingling toes, a bloody nose, itchy ears, swollen rear, and.. in extreme cases DEATH or worse.
Our Flawed Folk disclaimer could be .. In some cases those attending Flawed Folk Fellowship experience involuntary hand raising, amen vocalizations and often the compulsive utterance of a hallelujah. On other Sundays sermon snoring may occur.
All silliness aside.. there are two recurring comments you hear regarding us Flawed Folk.
I confess I am happy to be a part of Flawed Folk Fellowship. There is no better place to worship & give thanks to our God for the blessings 'and trials' of this life. There is no place to be than worshiping God together sharing and praying to our loving Father who cares. To become a community of other flawed believers in our sincere attempt to be a church family.. aka the body of Christ.
My prayer for each of you today is to find your own Flawed Folk Fellowship. To share, and support each other in our struggles, and to worship together the one true God of our Bibles is priceless.
(revised and formerly entitled 'My Painful Introspection')
PAIN IS EVERYWHERE.. and our God alone is they answer.
There is pain in our own bodies, our minds, and our souls. Pain is found inside our own families, our friends, and everywhere else if you turn on the news and see all the angry hateful hurting people of our country and this world wanting relief from pain. With this in mind let me share..
My Painful Introspection.. by Jeff Larson (deep thoughts)
For those of you that know me, aches and pains have been my lifelong companion & complaint. I have migraines, a bad back, and these days I spend more and more time discussing life with my good friend Arthur Itus (arthritis). It tell Art what I would like to do, and he tells me why I can't.
Of course PAIN IS a relative experience, as I know the headaches, and bad back I suffer with are trivial by comparison to what others suffer with. None the less these are MY pains and THEY DO HURT... and this is MY blog. :)
But seriously, many of the important lessons I have experienced in life have involved pain. It may be dealing with physical pain, or lessons found the other side of (painful) blunders, stumbles, and/or bad choices. Or even deeper yet are the lessons I found in the death of a close friend or family member.
I believe the problem of PAIN & SUFFERING is the source of the age old question. If there is a God why does he allow bad things to happen to good people?
This is valid question, but for me I see a 'dangerous beauty' in this broken world where God the Creator allows his creation (you & me) the opportunity to persevere and succeed despite our state of brokenness.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
This Dangerous Beauty is found as we are allowed to choose right from wrong in big & small ways, and even good from evil.
There is danger in choosing poorly, and if we do not persevere.. BUT
there is beauty in prayerfully choosing well, supporting each other, to persevere, and trust God when bad things happen to good people... when it HURTS!
I believe Faith, Family, and Friends (in that order) is how God intends to comfort and heal this world of hurts. I seek God as my compass and my only worship, and I thank God for the blessing of family and friends where we can love and support each other as God intends.
May God bless and provide for each of you this day with love and grace when you are hurting physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually. While pain can be very discouraging, but may we as believers (His Church) be God's comfort and healing for others in this broken/hurting world.
Jeff (ibuprofen infused) Larson
Me, myself, and I. Me.. me.. me. , What about me? , What's in it for ME?
A while back I heard a sermon where the pastor described the Me-Monster. I have to admit I don't recall much of the sermon, but I remember it was good AND it impressed on my cartoonist brain to sketch in my sermon notes The Me-Monster.
So I brought Mr. Me-Monster home scanned him into my computer and did a little Photoshop extreme makeover on him all so I could share his surly mugshot with you. Without further delay Ilet me present.. The Me-Monster. Ta-da!
The Me-Monster is an ugly fella, and even his open mouth resembles an M, and the back of his throat an E. The disturbing thing about this Me-Monster is that when our motives, focus, and actions are focused on .. SELF.. any of us can become a pretty gnarly looking creature too.
There are plenty of attention seeking folk out there that flaunt there success and perceived self-worth without a speck of humility. They live in a world where success is measured by the car they drive, the neighborhood they live in and that lovely lake home up north. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of these things unless it inspires a me-centered ego trip.
Now on the other hand I have more of an econo-sized Me-Monster. My monster is does not get identity from a high profile existence, but did show up recently as I became unemployed.
What do I do now? What will my friends think of me? What do my wife, and my adult children think of me?
Of course it is important to learn from life's pitfalls, circumstances, and/or blunders.. And it is ok to hurt when bad 'stuff' happens. These are opportunities to move do my best, learn and move forward.
I will confess in the past I have wallowed pretty low during difficult times. I struggle with anxiety and depression from time to time (which I am pretty sure neither are NOT listed in the 'fruit of God's spirit).
Panic and Despair have in the past injured my self-esteem and worth and all fed my Econo-Me-Monster .
I share this because my wife told me recently how proud she is of how I am handling my current unemployed state. She can see I am sad, but not going to a low place, and that I am seeking God during this time. I must confess those where precious words of affirmation to ME from the woman I love,
I could ramble on about ME as I am prone to do, but wanted to conclude with again God's two greatest commandments. 'Love God with all your soul and mind and others as yourself.' Mt 22:37.
What if I focused my life on these words of Jesus? Then all the details and trimmings of this life while nice would be trivia to a life well lived... and no Me-Monster.
So I pray for God's Holy Spirit to lead me, and for me to trust His direction so that I can SERVE Him and others. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and finally in all things to God be the glory!
May God bless and use each of you in ways that are beyond your dreams. May our lives be about God's Kingdom and not ours. And may you be Me-Monster free.
I like the old saying ‘That fella is so Heavenly minded, they are no Earthly good.’ This describes a person is so in to church and ‘churchy’ things that they don’t add much value or function outside of church walls. He can barely change a light bulb let alone the oil on his car.
Over the years I have smirked at a person or twenty that fits that description, BUT I have come to believe the irony is actually there are too many people are so EARTHLY minded to be much HEAVENLY GOOD.
It's just too easy to be caught up in this pace and 'stuff' of life (good and bad) to where God is put on the back burner. Instead of starting my day quiet before God, reading my Bible, and prayerful I often clutter my life with the very real demands of work, family, rush hour traffic, and.. maybe what is on the TV and become simply more EARTHLY MINDED than HEAVENLY GOOD.
The real irony is.. When I drift from God is NOT when I am too busy or stressed but instead when life is good. No immediate worries or concerns so I relax my dependence, praise and appreciation of God to again become so earthly minded... and erroneously feelings of being self sufficient. Maybe even a little bit proud.
So while I don’t want my life to look as out of place as an Amish folk high rollin' in Las Vegas.. I do want my spirit, and life to start and end with God. A place where my personal faith shows through in all that I do and say.
My prayer for all of you is that this day and always be a life in love with God, and a life where God is not fit in around the details of the day. That sweet spot where our minds on God/Heaven impact our lives on Earth.
May your life be blessed and USED by God in ways that have both Heaven and Earth in mind.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Mt. 6:10
Be 'Blessed and Used' of course in ways that are BEYOND YOUR DREAMS and all that God intends for you!
I was reading recently about Martin Luther nailing his 95 thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany. Luther's 95 theses brought attention to corruption in the Catholic Church. Luther appealed the Pope in 1517 to stop the practice of squeezing ‘indulgences’ from parishioners as ‘down payments’ on heaven, and/or petition God to limit the time their dead loved ones spent in purgatory.
I know the Catholic Church still encourages indulgences but I believe they describe these gifts as part of turning our attention from our sins and to God's church. I can't say I completely understand this, but that may be just my protestant upbringing speaking up.
Anyways Catholics and Protestants should all agree our salvation is found only in Jesus Christ as our savior, then loving God and serving others with our lives. The giving of money or other form of indulgence will not affect our status in the next life.
Anyways, back to indulgences. We protestants sometimes are flippant about the Catholic Church and their history with indulgences. But how does that 'speck' scripture go? Be careful about pointing out the speck in someone else's eye when you have a beam in your own.
So I take a glance inward at the Protestant Church, and observe some possible big buck 'indulgent' items I am not just talking about the Prosperity Gospel Churches and the lavish lifestyles of their Leaders (ie Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn), but even many of the church programs (Mega & not Mega) in our cities? Are they a ministry serving God or a monument to the Church itself.
Of course it goes without saying God's house is special. We are to be reverent and generous in the space and resources we use for church, but the Gospel Message should never focus on a building or be concerned with numbers. But some churches appear to believe in buildings and cry they need xy & z to grow the church, and put up a good and proper Sunday morning SHOW. Q. Do we really need three huge video screens, and stream to other locations all over the city to share God's Good News? Maybe.. but maybe not.
It is obvious by the collective gasp of those reading this blog I now have stepped on many toes of those attending church in America. Still I am concerned too many church growth programs are the product of 'Church Consultants' focusing on numbers but lite on discipleship. They say "To grow the church you must promote the church,, and to promote the church you need a building program. Then to promote the program the pastor should write a book, and/or your need your own buzz words to 'market/brand' your ministry. And to function properly you will need xy & z to share the Gospel giving that old book (aka Bible) a modern kick." True? Maybe, or maybe not
Note: funny Jesus did not need xy & z, he just lived and taught God's Truth to a hurting world, and He did it without 3 big screens, A worship band, or a building of His own.
I observe many well intended building programs are built around a series of services focused on exciting church growth news followed by a series of sermons on giving. These services focus on what we do is special, dare I say anointed. No one does quite like we do! True? Maybe, maybe not.
The focus during this time is on giving above and beyond normal in 'faith' for this cause of God through testimonials of ordinary folk blessed by the church WHEN they gave more. The congregation is 'gently coherced' over the next several weeks leading to a special 'Sunday of Giving' with a special service where the whole congregation is invited to come forward and drop their pledges (indulgences?) into special baskets at the front of the church.. where it is visibly clear who participated in giving and who did not. All while the Worship Band plays. True? Maybe, maybe not
So my question is.. Did I just participate in a Protestant Indulgence? No, we are not like in Luther's day giving an indulgence to the church to get a loved one out of purgatory (or worse).. but are we giving to God or a monument to man? Do we desire to be a seeker friendly church that is a mile wide and 6" deep where people can comfortably attend, never convicted, never challenged to go deeper but again comfortably 'entertained' as they ease through life attending the weekly Sunday Worship Show eventually to Hell... or is my church something more?
Now let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with a Mega-Church with multiple sites where the service is streamed. I confess I stream sermons from the convenience of my home, and have attended churches with great preaching where the message was streamed from another site. But something with all this does not sit well with me. It may be just my preference, but maybe something more. Feels too often to be the Cathedrals of Man. Indulgence much? Maybe, maybe not.
For those who read this and are indignant that I am implying you are participating in protestant indulgences. Please don't be. If what your church does is all about God. Having 3 big screens at the front of your church is not the issue, and if the programs and efforts meet the community in very real ways bringing them closer to God, and if you are growing disciples.. then keep doing what you are doing.
But if your church is focusing on being cool & trendy then maybe you need a reset. Is this what God really wants, or is this what I convinced myself God wants?
Final confession. It's easy to throw stones at Glass churches.. BUT I am a bit of a hypocrite as I have and still do justify purchases that I want, are good, and convinced I need.. but.. I don't really need and should not afford. Kind of a personal indulgence where I may not be taking directly out of what I should give/tithe to the church, but indirectly that is exactly what I do. I even may pray to God about a purchase, but since God did not speak to me with a clap of thunder I may go ahead with my 'self-indulgent' purchase. My choice may not be bad, but is it the right choice. I like to think I am getting better about this, but I know I am a work in progress.
So no condemnation here of self or the church here. Just honest questions about priorities. Each of our personal priorities and the priorities of the collective church.
So I pray today for our churches are not just comfortable social quasi spiritual gatherings where on judgment day we cry "Lord, Lord".. but God replies.. "I never knew you". Mt 7:21-23 I pray our churches to be houses of worship, outreach, and discipleship that are not about being the cool church, but being the House of God. And I pray for myself and those of you who struggle with self-indulgence. May the Church and our lives listen to God's voice and to all things To God be the Glory.
Jeff (a tad self-indulgent) Larson
Hmm, where to start..
Hmmm.. yes I think that sums up what I believe. I started writing today's blog with the title 'NICE TRY' which is an apt description of my beliefs. Like I noted above, God's ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts (Is 55:8-9), and in my most lucid moments.. I see dimly what God will one day make clear (1 Cor 13:12).
So this is what I believe which is important to ME. What do you believe? What is God teaching you about truth? Do what I believe and what you believe fall in line with God's Truth?
and.. I believe it is important for everyone to pursue a serious 'NICE TRY' understanding and appreciation of God. This is not an issue anyone should put on the back burner of life. We owe God at the very least to make a NICE TRY... and for eternity's sake we owe ourselves.
May God bless each of you today where Covid-19 and more just keep piling on more questions than we have answers. I pray for peace, and the Holy Spirit's leading us to truth and answers for all of life's questions, and to a place where we feel God's love and peace like never before.
Jeff (Trying to be Nice) Larson
During this pandemic shutdown, I have come to realize how very LOUD our society was. Oh there is now less to do, less to watch, and less to fight about, and HEY.. THEY TOOK AWAY MY SPORTS! But we are still Loud while Home-bound .. once we turn on the evening news.
AND in the midst of this Shutdown we are becoming a little (or lot) stir crazy. The rush is removed from rush hour traffic while the din of sports, entertainment, and misc. life have been reduced to .. sports reruns (zzzz), and movies of the good ol' days before social distancing. I even treat watching Gilligan's Island reruns like it was the original Survivor series! My money is on Gilligan getting voted off.
The blessing for me of this shutdown, is before the government shutdowns are lifted and we return to the 'smack down' of 24/7 Election coverage.. I have been listening to audiobooks
One of my current listens is a biography on the life of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stood up to Hitler and the Nazis. It is very interesting listen, but I have found disturbing parallels between Nazi Germany in the 1930s with America in the year 2020. While you may think this is a grand conspiracy theory of someone in a state mandated lock-down.. I respectfully disagree, and so let me share a few social parallels..
In response to Hitler and Nazi Germany Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote..
So as we move back towards the din and distraction of normalcy let's not lose sight of what God has been teaching us in the Silence of this Shutdown.
As believers we cannot be silent. We need to stand tall and strong in our obedience to God proclaiming the Gospel. And remember part of these loving words and actions is to speak loving truth. We cannot be compromising of God's Truth even when our secular society reacts with any of the above 'Social Parallels' to Nazi Germany.
Finally, remember the words of Jesus
May God bless and speak to you in the Silence of the Shutdown. May you fill your stir crazy moments with prayer, and God's Word. Tune out the voices of the world where blame for the pandemic and the panic of the pandemic can consume our thoughts. Our God is sovereign, and soon this shutdown will be over. Let's take this time to be a spiritual reset so when the world is running full tilt again.. our spirits compass points to God alone in a way that the din of society cannot alter.
In all things (including shutdowns), to God be the Glory. Amen
Jeff (Shutdown but not Shut off) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson