As I roller coaster through the amusement park of life past the sideshows of a bearded lady, the two headed cow and the tattooed sword swallowing vicar I realize again.. LIFE IS A RIDE.
My rollercoaster existence leaves me at times exhilarated while other times ready to BARF. These twists and turns in my life do expose my Dr Jeffrey and Mr. Hide (like a less sinister version of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde) personality quirks. I am Dr Jeffrey when all is good, but Mr Hide but rises up as my rollercoaster dips and there is a big bend up ahead.
AND yes I did mean to say Mr. Hide (not Hyde).. 'Good grief I am cartoonist not a monster’.
My alter ego Mr. Hide unfortunately appears when my "I'm ok facade" is threatened to be exposed by my collection of insecurities, circumstances, mistakes and bad choices. Better to hide and live to fight another day.. or something like that.
Mr. Hide wants others to see me as a success. A man with a career, admired, and a man of status, and dashing good looks. Mr. Hide promotes the illusion that he is confident, funny, never depressed, and has never struggled with substance abuse. Oh there are many other things Mr. Hide hides from others, but you get the idea.
I do recall from time to time where I want to hide. A circumstance mixed in with a dash of my special brand of stumbling/bumbling has me looking for a hiding place.
But while I may want to hide, or at least get away I know none of my circumstances surprise God. I am sure He did not slap his forehead and declare.. "Wow, now that's a new one."
Anyways, I choose to put my trust in God. I could quote a ba-zillion verses about God's love for me, but I will keep it simple and share the oft quoted Psalm 23.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Another reason not to hide.. God's people.. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
So today I pray God bless, care, and restore each of us when life seems to have replaced our highs with lows. Remember.. If God is for ME, who can be against ME? Ro 8:31
Jeff (hiding in the Back Pew) Larson
"He who dies with the most toys wins." This quote was attributed to flamboyant millionaire Malcom Forbes in the 1980s.
You can't take it with you." In stark contrast Jesus taught in the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Mt 19:16-26.
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
While it was clear no big ol' hairy humped desert beast could pass through an eye of any needle, the 'eye of the needle' Jesus refered to was a small gate in Jerusalem where a camel could only pass through if it stooped and had its baggage removed. Not impossible but difficult, and the camel could take it (anything) with him.
Now I should be safe from being convicted by the teaching of the rich young ruler as I grew up in a lower middle class home and my 'wealth' since then is barely a blip on any money radar. BUT.. Wealth is a relative commodity, and I believe there is a lesson here for all of us.
ME ME ME ME FIRST!
I may not have wealth, but.. I am convicted there are things that keeps me from really following Jesus? How about you?
Maybe our toys, hobbies, sports, friends, family (yes family), or simply maintaining my comfort keeps me from being ALL IN FOR JESUS?
I desire to put God first.. but there is a lot of ME in me. I like, I want, I slip up, and am afraid of messing, and/or give up my time to serve Him..
SO I KNOW.. whether a 'Rich Man' or a 'Poor Man' it is clear to me we daily need to say to God I am yours. This pursuit of Him is through prayer, Bible (God's word), fellowship, and an intentional effort to serve Him in big or small, whether rich or poor, in sickness and in health (like a marriage vow).. all to the Glory of God.
My prayer is all of the RICH and POOR folk of God be faithful in the lives we live and the resources we are blessed with. May we all be about the business of sharing Jesus to a world that is lost as 'One body, many parts'.. God bless y'all!
Jeff (relatively poor and content) 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..
In all three instances someone awkwardly got wet.
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
PAIN IS EVERYWHERE.. and our God alone is the answer.
There is pain in our bodies, minds, and even our souls. Pain is found inside our own families, with our friends, and if you turn on the news it is filled with angry, hurting, and often hateful people wanting relief and/or revenge.
For me in 2021 physical pain has become my companion. About three weeks ago I had surgery to relieve nerve pain in my lower back. This surgery went well, BUT just as I was feeling better about my back I went to the ER suffering with very bad headaches. The ER doctor did a CT scan suggesting I may need surgery to repair another disc issue this time in my neck. I will know more over the next few days as an MRI is scheduled.
So this recent bout with pain has inspired the following 'deep thoughts' regarding pain...
Of course PAIN IS a relative experience prone to hyperbole. For example right now I have headache that is killing me and my head feels like it will explode. but.. truth be told I am sure I will live and my wife will not likely be cleaning up 'brain guts' this evening from any explosion.
* note * don't try this at home ->
But seriously, it is true many of the important lessons I have learned are the product of pain. It may be dealing with physical pain, or often lessons learned on 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 friend or family member.
I also believe this problem of PAIN & SUFFERING is the source for that age old question. If there is a God why does he allow bad things to happen to good people?
This is a valid question. Here is where I see a 'Dangerous Beauty' where God the Creator allows his creation (you & me) the opportunity to persevere and succeed despite this world's pain and constant 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 over wrong in big & small ways, and even good instead of evil.
There is DANGER in choosing poorly, and if we do not persevere.. and danger when we choose well in the face of a world that chooses poorly, BUT...
There is BEAUTY in choosing well, supporting others, and when we persevere while trusting God when it would be easier to quit when bad things happen to good people.
To summarize.. Faith, Family, and Friends (in that order) are how God comforts and heals this world of hurt. So I seek God today as my compass and my only worship, and I thank Him for the blessing of faith, family and friends where we can love and support each other as God intends.. even in times of pain.
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 discouraging may we as believers (His Church) be God's comfort and healing for others in this broken/hurting world while always leaning on His Spirit.
Jeff (ibuprofen & Spirit infused) Larson
Supersized and drive through meals ... delivered freaky fast your way that are finger lickin' good. These are a few fast food 'conveniences' for our fast paced lives in the fast lane. I am guilty of participating in both ordering my share of supersized McArtery Clogger Value Meals, and using the drive through for lunch, lattes, and my banking needs. Life is busy and there is a time and a place for fast food, and fast service but there is a time and a place to SLOW DOWN.
Now as I segue 'deftly' to my faith journey.. I find awkward parallels to our fast food society.
1. I want the blessings on my life supersized now please,
2. I sometimes pray like I am using a drive thru window. I don't even slow down to say hello to God but place my order/prayer list with the angel stationed at my drive thru prayer window. And..
3. my patience for His answers rivals my belief that microwave popcorn still takes waaay too long.
Moral of this blurb is.. God does listen to and answer our freaky fast faith moments (sometimes that is all we have), BUT how much better my perspective is when ..
There will be those times where freaky fast faith is all we have time for, but let's purposefully slow down and make time with God that is more than a microwaved/reheated moment of spiritual nourishment.
Hmm.. I am getting hungry.
May God bless and use each of you for His glory in SUPERSIZED ways
Jeff (McBack Pew) Larson
A strange title indeed based on one of my all time favorite commercials from back in 2013. It was a commercial for AT&T wireless where a man in a suit is sitting at a table asking a group 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
I have similar state of mind with this world's challenges, distractions, and 'nonsense logic'. Our society claims gender is a social construct, men (called birthing persons) can have babies, and white baby boys are born racist.
To all this nonsense and more like the guy in the AT&T commercial I stammer .. "What?"
My other response to this world gone wrong is to become caught (being too slow) frustrated, discouraged, brooding with a dash of anger. It's enough to transform a likeable guy like me into that little girl in the AT&T commercial in exasperation moaning.. "wawawawawawa.. I wish I was CHRISTIAN again."
So where should we turn in this world gone mad? The answer is in God's Word.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Phil 4:8
..but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 1 Pe 3:15
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Phil 4:13
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph 6:11-12
These are just four (of countless) scriptures to help us not just endure this world wishing you were/felt Christian again, but become boldly effective for Jesus.
May God bless each of you as believers with a the peace that passes all understanding in a world that often rages outside of God's will.
Jeff ( feeling both human and Christian today ) Larson
A few years back my wife and I lived in Roseville, a suburb of St Paul MN. Nice neighborhood, easy access to highways, shopping, dining, and.. is unofficially the bunny capital of the world. Bunnies were everywhere.
These friends of Bugs (bunny) crisscrossed our yard constantly. We don't have a garden so they are harmless and cute.. I guess... but what goes on in their little minds as they scamper from here to there and back again. All this is done of course as they travel their literal bunny trails.
Then I wonder.. are there 'BAD BUNNIES'.. you know, with tattoos hanging out the street corner smoking cigs and.. sorry, I guess my mind just went on its own bunny trail.
Ok, while I am obviously NOT a bunny, but I have traveled my share of bunny trails meanderings. I even have the 'gift' of veering off topic railroading a conversation 'deftly' interjecting my thoughts that have wandered away from the original subject. How did I get here?.. and now how do I find my way back?.. I don't know, maybe I will ask a BUNNY.
Even those involved in the conversation may with a bewildered look on their face respond with .. "whaaa.. and If no bunny can be found to help me I will segue back by saying "but I digress"
Of course for the most part the literal bunny trails in my yard and the nonsensical bunny trails in my head are harmless. They may be puzzling, possibly frustrating, but seriously no harm no foul.
But what about the more serious bunny trails we take? In a world that needs Jesus we are busy with bunny trails... even Pokemon Go trails.. really?
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Js 1:27
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Mt 22:37-40 .
There you have it.. all that is important shared economically in just 5 verses, BUT..
All of the above can be definite bunny trails that have nothing to do with Js 1:27 and/or Mt 22:37-40.
I am a big fan of the 'My Utmost for His Highest' devotional by Oswald Chambers. His daily readings are amazing bits of truth that return focus to what is important. Oswald's message is that life begins and ends with a devotion to God. What we say and do matters, and stay off the bunny trails that keep us from this truth.
Another great read is 'The Pursuit of God' by AW Tozer. In this book Tozer makes clear the pursuit of God is a direct path with focus and purpose and any bunny trails are mostly found in the pursuits of man... and his folly.
My prayer is to live a life that loves God in words and deeds (Js 1:27 and Mt 22:36-40) where I give my utmost for His highest in my daily pursuit of God while keeping my bunny trails to a minimum.
My prayer today is your life's journey has focus and purpose, and that He provides hope, and direction for those of us when we find ourselves off on a bunny trail using His Word and our Prayers as our map.
Life is good, and I am blessed. I serve a great God, my wife loves me, and I am content.. most of the time.
But then.. like that (loved but not liked) relative showing up unannounced with his unruly kids to visit for the evening OR LONGER.. arrives Mr. B.A. (Bad Attitude). Recently it appear Mr. B.A. stops over with his buddy Mr. B.B. (bad back) when I prefer to be left alone.
An everyday example of a visit from Mr. B.A. is arriving at home at the end of the day greeted by our dog Cooper (a rescue dog with issues) barking at me. While Mr. B.A. has not entered my house at this point I cringe to my barking dog and see Mr. B.A. easily as I look out my front window. He is sitting in his car on the curb, he notices me, and smiles giving me a thumbs up. Arghh.
I am tired after a long day and all I want to do is relax for a few moments, so I turn on the TV and flip it to the evening news.
Top stories are the border crisis, race riots, LGBTQ is adding another letter, and in North Korea that rogue 'nut job' hopped up on Red Bull is testing Nukes again.
Meanwhile Congress is playing partisan politics russian roulette with the American public, and.. there is a 'weather' alert of a pending 'snowflake' blizzard/protest in Berkeley where frightened college students burn flags, tipping monuments, and blocking streets as part of a SJW class project?
And OBTW.. everything bad listed above I have learned is still the fault of .. DONALD TRUMP. I thought he was no longer president. GO FIGURE!
So I turn off the news and notice Mr. Bad Attitude is now out of his car walking towards my house grinning big, and pointing to my door to let him in. I cringe but for the moment I look away.
Next is dinner, And dinner is always good as my wife Mary takes good care of me. Following dinner we most always watch Wheel of Fortune. Dinner and now Wheel watching is our 1 hour reprieve from this big ol' B.A. world.
For a brief moment I pretend Mr. B.A. is gone. I imagine he is not just outside my house.
but he is.
THEN.. 'Wheel' is over and so from 7pm CST to bedtime there is rarely anything good to watch on TV but I want to be sure so I waste the next 30 minutes channel surfing and coming up with zip!
AFTER.. the channel surfing I browse the web, or then on to Social Media for the whole 'poke the bear' experience.
Social Media is a digital glut of cat videos, political judgments, and 'Christian' cries of heresy among the bretheren. This angst found in the world via Social Media is sensed by Mr. B.A. and so he makes his move.
Now it is 7:45pm, and Mr. B.A. responding to the vibe of pointless channel surfing, and web browsing let's himself in and sits in MY chair. From his newly claimed throne he is munching Flaming Hot Cheetos leaving cheeto-orange greasy finger marks on my chair, TV remote, and my computer laptop. B.A. does acknowledges me with a glance and a nod before taking control of the TV remote with his left hand a computer mouse with his right. It is Clickity, clickity, click as Cheeto dust fills the air.
I am tired, irritated, my dog growls at me because I spoke to my wife without asking his permission and Mr. B.A. is now in full control of all things electronic for the evening, and in his glory!
So I mumble/moan about another evening lost with Mr. B.A., while I sulk (loudly). Yes I sulk 'loudly'.
It is not a pretty sight... Sulking loudly is much like when men cry. It is an ugly display of emotions and not an endearing as observed by my wife Mary.
Then, there is a LIGHT BULB MOMENT.. Ya know, it does not have to be this way. There could be more to my life than you-tube videos, and Twitter suspensions. Imagine a life bigger than Big-Bang reruns or a Hollywood blockbuster/flopbuster.
Even as I type these words a Spirit inside me speaks in a still small voice.. "Well, duh." note: I am not saying this voice was the Holy Spirit as I pretty sure He does not say "Well, duh" unless these are His words after passing through my Jeff filter.
So maybe I quiet myself. Yes, I remember being quiet for an evening back in 2017.. and I liked it.
Well about 'doing quiet' again tonight? I could turn off the TV, read a book, or listen to good music.. maybe even Worship Music. Yes, I do remember I liked that. This could work!
And maybe I calm myself to PRAY.. not asking God for stuff like a child at Christmas, or to help me not be bored, but pray to know God better, to thank Him, and to pray for others.
So while I ponder being quiet I notice Mr. B.A. seems distracted, and looking uneasy. He looks at me as if to say, "hey you need to focus, the night is young, let's binge Netflix!"
But I continue to ignore B.A. and quiet myself, I pray and let my mind be amazed by our God the Creator of all things and our perfect Heavenly Father.
At this point Mr. B.A. gets up. The TV is off, the computer is in sleep mode and he is feeling ignored. His Flaming Hot Cheetos are gone except for the crumbs his beard and speckled down his Back in Black AC-DC t-shirt.
Mr. B.A. looking dejected leaves my home while muttering maybe I will see you tomorrow. I smile, but honestly I am not sure tomorrow is going to work for me. I remember that time in 2017 when I was quiet just like today and I liked it.
AND.. my wife likes me better this way as my loud sulking is not one of my endearing qualities. So it's a win win situation.
I would like to say Mr. Bad Attitude will not come to visit again, but I know better. Also my TV and computer are not bad they just symbolize the distractions and wasted times that keep me from God's peace.
May God bless those moments of quiet and purpose found in His word, prayer that are rarely found in front of a HD big screen TV.
May He bless each of you with joy and purpose found in a life long pursuit of Him in the quiet.
May your attitudes be good, your hearts always thankful, and no loud-sulking please.
Jeff ( attitude adjusted ) Larson
To sum up 2021 (IMO) our tumultuous society seems to disagree (often passionately) on most everything from politics, gender identity, LGBTQ, race issues, diets, and sports. At the core of much of this turmoil is a spiritual angst of global proportions.
BUT even if IF if we could agree there is a spiritual component, society does not agree on what we mean by spiritual. Islam, Christianity, New Age, or seek deeper meaning as a Buddhist, or a Hindu?
AND even as Christians I need to ask what 'faith flavor' are you? Could be Catholic, Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Prosperity Gospel believer, the ever popular 'non-denominational', OR maybe your faith is motivated by a Progressive / SJW focus.
AND let's not forget that fella who likes to handle snakes. Yikes!
So this is what I believe which is important to ME. What do you believe? What is God teaching you about truth? Does what I believe and/or what you believe fall in line with God's Truth?
and.. I believe it is important for everyone to pursue their own 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 with 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.
We should not expect to get it all right, but there still is no greater pursuit for mankind than to know Him.
My heart says of you, “Seek His face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Jeff (Trying to be Nice) Larson
Of course we all know the Ten Commandments Moses brought down from the mountain.
These Commandments if obeyed would solve most if not ALL of societies Ills.
Paraphrased loosely 1. worship only God, 2. no idols, 3. don't take God's name in vain, 4. honor the Lord's day, 5.respect mom & dad, and.. 6-10. don't kill, commit adultery, steal, curse, tell lies, or covet.
These 10 Commandments are simple but profound directions from God to honor our creator and play well with others. Why would anyone disagree the 10 Commandments?.. unless of course you are the ACLU.
Now while I would never command anyone except my dog (though he does not always listen) I have opinions on everything and so I would like to add a few suggestions.
These suggestions are not delivered on stone tablets, but instead on this one digital blog via the web.. cuz stone tablets would cost too much in shipping charges.
But I digress..
BEHOLD... The Five Suggestions -
There you have it.. Five Suggestions that while they pale in comparison to the Ten Commandments you must admit.. but hey I'm Jeff not Moses so it's the best I can do.
May God bless your day with God's Truth, and obedience of His loving commandments.. and while you may not listen to my 5 suggestions.. at least you guys listen to your wife when she says you are not going out in public looking like that.
Jeff (out of suggestions) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson