I am such a work in progress as my daily emails make clear. Today as I THINK OUT LOUD typing my thoughts, reflections, fears, anxieties let me share MY GRACE REALIZED.
A while ago I saw the movie Amazing Grace detailing the passionate enduring battle of William Wilberforce against a society and commerce built around slavery. Blacks were treated as cargo stored on ship like lumber, and the depth of this cruel time in history was the inspiration of a slave ship captain's repentance and writing the great hymn Amazing Grace. This movie was an eye opener for someone like me who's relative discomfort in life is misplacing the TV remote. I can never truly grasp the unspeakable ABUSIVE history of slavery, and while if there was a movie about my spiritual journey it may not be called Amazing Grace, BUT it could be called ‘A GRACE REALIZED’.
My GRACE REALIZED are those moments of peace.. where no matter my sins (aka mistakes in judgment, choice, vices), no matter my short comings I realize I AM A CHILD OF GOD. God’s Grace is not limited by a 30 return policy or 'pre-existing conditions'. LIMITS ON GRACE are from man (and woman), misguided churches, and the evening news.. BUT never from God.
Like many of you I am the product.. or byproduct of a world cluttered with rush hour traffic, bumper to bumper, a dog eat dog work world where GRACE IS RARELY REALIZED or shared. For having 60+ years of life experience I feel like such a slow learner… BUT this brings me back to the reality of a GRACE TO BE REALIZED. It is always there.. but without a paradigm shift of an oppressed mind towards God.. I will remain an underachiever.
So today I encourage each of you to accept God’s love, believe His words (our Bibles), and smile mon’ because you can and I can be refreshed and energized by A GRACE REALIZED. May God bless each of you in this journey where you love God with all you have, and love and care for others! May a ‘Grace realized’ for each of us be more than the name of the organist at our church, or.. the name of your church.
A Grace UN-realized is a life sold short of what God intends and what we desire!
Thus saith.. JEFF
Lions and Tigers and Bears.. OH MY! The Bible is full of stories and lessons regarding animals and their place in this world.
In Genesis: Adam named the animals, a snake tempted Eve, there was a boat load of animals for Noah, and a few overlooked. Even Pharoah dreamed about..
How about Balaam's Talking Donkey.. before the famous Mr. Ed
Next came the rules regarding sheep and bulls and the proper way to prepare them and not one rule had anything to do with marinating them on a grill. This all led to the Leviticus Livestock Revolt.
Later in the OT Samson plays rough with a Lion, Daniel smirks at a Den full of hungry lions, and Jonah was eaten and spitup by a fish that was on the WILD SIDE 4 SURE.
The New Testament:..starts with sheep as bit players at the birth of Jesus. Some of these wooly creatures were helpful while others had a decidedly baaaa-d attitude
Christ's ministry is marked when the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus like a dove at the time he was baptized. This was to the dismay and envy of Vinny the Vulture. Later we find cliff diving pigs.. The prodigal son ate with a large hog named AbraHAM until he returned home to the fatted calf.
The temple was cleared by Jesus of those who were dealing 'birds'. and.. On Palm Sunday Jesus entered the city on a donkey which was the envy of all donkey-dom.
The End Times prophesies in the book of Revelation include the 4 horsemen riding on of course 4 horses.
Today: We have cats, dogs, and little birds who can't keep secrets. In Minnesota wildlife includes Mooses and Mosquitoes. If you say Mosquitoes are not animals then you have not been to Minnesota.
In My Life: I have owned many dogs and even a few cats over the years providing us with both goo memories and not so good ones. Right now my wife and I have one rescue dog named Cooper. He must have had a rough life before coming to us because he is a bit wary of men, but we love him quirks and all. He knows in the end he is well cared for. Dare I say.. blessed beyond his doggie dreams.
May God bless each of you this day with good friends, a good church, and dogs that neither chew your slippers or 'dooties' in your house. May your cats be hairball free, and you hamsters content running in those little wheel things... and may we all simply be found to be WILD or DOMESTICATED for Jesus.
I know I am getting older when many have no idea who the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN was.
HE IS NOT.. a 'moderately paid pro athlete'. I am speaking of the TV Show from 1974-1978 about Steve Austin who was in some terrible accident where all the FDA 'doctors', and all the CIA men couldn't put Steve back together again.. so the OSI was called in to install him with ‘bionic’ parts.
Kind of a combination of Humpty Dumpty and Inspector Gadget.
And back at the day of this show the going price for bionic reconstructive surgery was $6,000,000.00! I think it costs about $4000 for Lasic Eye surgery so this to me seems like a SWEET DEAL.
This 6Mil-Man could run 60 miles per hour (though it appeared in slow motion), he had superman like strength, vision better than Lasic combined with 'carrot' steroids, and whenever the bionics kicked into gear, it would make this techy-spring like noise. Not unlike a cartoon BOING.. but a sound that made it clear his 'bionics' were in use.
His bionics were only in one eye, one arm, and both legs. It seems like this would be a serious health risk when one arm can lift a normal weight while the other can lift a … BUICK. Now that I think of it... maybe INSPECTOR GADGET is a more realistic depiction of a bionic overhaul than is the 6 million dollar man.
So how about SPIRITUAL BIONICS? ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’. With a truth like this.. who needs bionics?? For those of you unsure if bionics are for you or being a new creature in Christ is a better choice I have put together a side by side 'scientific' comparison of the Bionic Man v the New Man in Christ..
BIONIC MAN versus NEW MAN
(1) The Procedure...
Bionic Man – Major surgery requires replacing broken down human parts with bionic parts. IT’S GONNA HURT.. LOTS!! Stock up on ibuprofen. Worse than a knee replacement X 10!
New Man – REFINING one's spirit in my opinion would be more painful than Lasic, less painful than bionics.
(2) The Brain...
Bionic Man – Bionic Brain IS NOT available at the time that I wrote this email
New Man – RENEWAL of your mind is one of the major benefits of New Man v Bionics. Some Eastern Religions claim that their meditation techniques are a renewal of the mind but then again.. when I look at Buddah I don’t have an impression of a man/deity who had enough self control to leave the buffet table alone let alone offer me peace of mind... unless he was eating comfort foods.
(3) Strength & Speed...
Bionic Man – Superhuman strength & speed limited to laws of physics and nature but are without a doubt beyond the abilities of any powerlifter or sprinter ever.
New Man – STRENGTHENED by God, New Man is not limited by laws of physics and nature. It is rumored mountains can be moved simply by faith. It sounds New Age, but it's not!. New man can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!
Bionic Man – Lasic is wimpy compared with bionics. Bionics provide a rev’d up digital camera cranium implant providing better than 20/20 vision.
New Man – GOD’S VISION.. New man has no real improved physical vision, but also the ability of discernment from God allows new man to be sensitive to the needs and hearts of others.
- Bionic Man – There are serious concerns if bionics are exposed to moisture and especially sea water. Also bionics are heavy.. putting you at risk of .. sinking like a 6 MILLION DOLLAR BOAT ANCHOR..
New Man – New man capabilities are very sea worthy. Power to PART SEAS, and WALK ON WATER are all documented attributes of new man. New Man's physical attributes of man (weight & density) remain unchanged, but the power of God allows New Man to defy laws of physics and nature.. without water wings. IN FACT many Baptists take to water like Michael Phelps.
- Bionic Man – I do not recall any brochures on bionics touting linguistics as a marketing strength.
New Man – The pro bionics crowd points to The Tower of Babel as being a linguistic drawback to being New Man, but after further investigation it became clear that the language barriers at the TOB ( Tower of Babel ) had to do with Old Man, and not New Man. Later in the 2nd Chapter of Acts, the linguistic capabilities of New Man were put on display like a linguistic-matrix affect on all involved. Communication in words meant only for God confounded Old Man.. even if he was bionic. This provides a coded language to Almighty God that is only understood by the decoding of the Holy Spirit.
(7) Warranty Related Issues...
Bionic Man – Life time warranty on bionics, but still limited by the typical aging process and life expectancy of the physical portion of the bionic man and/or woman... Also this warranty is limited to our physical realm here on Earth.
New Man – Simply put.. New Man has ETERNAL LIFE . So while New Man is empowered in super natural ways during his life on earth, the best is yet to come. Better than a lifetime warranty, New Man will have a second life of no pain, no fear, and no limits. There is no ENTRANCE EXAM , and you will not be rudely BOUNCED at the gate as long as he/she believes in the God who was their source for life while on Earth.
Bionic Man – Back in 1974 the cost was $6,000,000 for an eye, an arm, and 2 legs. With inflation I do not want to guess what this procedure will set you back.
New Man – As strange as this sounds.. this transition from Old Man to New Man is FREE.
Closing Comments comments come in the endorsements of SUPERMAN, SPIDERMAN… and the original WHEATIES BOY Samson.
Have a great day, not limited by this world, but empowered by the one true God who is the source of this life, and the life that is to come. RAISE THE BAR on what is possible with the Spirit of God in your life.
Happy Fathers Day to all you dads! It is a fine day and I look forward to it each year to remember my good dad who passed away I believe now 18 years ago... and hopefully to be remembered by my 3 kids for being an OK dad too.
As I share frequently my dad passed away a few years back. While I do miss him I also recognize him as the source of my strange sense of humor, and my quirky personality of what I like to call 'being an introvert trapped in a world full of people.'
For example, a few years back I was joking around with my then 15 year old daughter Erin trying to get a rise out of her. She laughed and said “Dad you are so weird.” I replied.. “Weird like my daughter.” Of course she blamed her odd sense of humor on me since her mom’s sense of humor is more traditional. To console her I said… “You know this strange sense of humor comes from Grandpa Larson.” Then after a short pause while we both nodded.. I spoke again like I was my dad saying.. “Oh sure, blame the dead guy.” Then Erin and I chuckled over me saying that for the next several minutes. So there you have it.. my dad was the guy with a quiet dry sense of humor and irony and is to blame for .. ME.. and my daughter Erin!
I also give him credit for teaching me the art of ‘good natured’ teasing/pestering. Please don’t confuse this with mean spirited or cruel teasing, it was more like.. pestering to get a rise out of someone or a situation but NEVER to disrespect someone or embarrass.
It is the type of good natured needling that friends and family do to show they like each other. Well at least my family does this.
My dad was a kind man with a big heart and an appreciation for the simple pleasures in life. No one ever confused him with being a theologian , philosopher , or a CEO of any corporation except Walter Larson Logging.. BUT everyone knew my dad was a good man, and I knew my dad was proud of me, and believed in me even in my less than bright and shining moments.
So what greater reward can I have on Fathers Day then to know I was blessed with a good father who taught me the important lessons in life about family, friends, and seeing the best in others. If.. IF someday (hopefully today) this would be my legacy for my kids and nothing else.. this too would make me smile.
My dad never left me a fortune to inherit unless he put it in a lunch box and buried it in the woods (and never told me where!), and at my present rate.. my kids are not inheriting much except a hard drive full of cartoons , a hundred or so unsold mosquito and snoahs ark t-shirts, and my kneaded eraser.
BUT.. what I desire to give them is what my dad gave me. A home with love, laughter, good coffee, and good food … and most importantly ‘a personal faith in the God of our Bibles’.
May God bless each of you this Fathers Day. May God provide healing and peace in those hurting relationships, AND love and humble appreciation for those who had or have is so good like me.
Jeff (Father & Grandfather) Larson
This is the name of a great song from Matthew West with words of truth and perspective for those traveling through life's 'valley of the shadow of death' (Psalms 23).
Below is an excerpt of lyrics from this song. Note: A link to the video is at the end of this email.
Hello, my name is regret .. I’m pretty sure we have met .. Every single day of your life I’m the whisper inside That won’t let you forget.
Hello, my name is defeat .. I know you recognize me .. Just when you think you can win I’ll drag you right back down again ‘Til you’ve lost all belief
Oh, these are the voices. Oh, these are the lies. And I have believed them for the very last time
Hello, my name is child of the one true King. I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, I have been set free. "Amazing Grace" is the song I sing. Hello, my name is child of the one true King
I am no longer defined .. By all the wreckage behind ..The one who makes all things new Has proven it’s true Just take a look at my life
.. I am a child of the one true King
Video of Hello My Name is .. by Matthew West
Like most folk, I have regrets for a number of missteps, and fall on my face moments.
But for these past faux pas and for the ones ahead of me that I will still make God's Amazing Grace and perfect love relaxes my shoulders and perspective returns to me with a smile.
I am a child of the one true King.
And so are you.
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
Simply put I think I deserve the BEST in life.
You may be wondering if have been sippin’ from the ‘Name It, Claim It’ and/or ‘Prosperity Gospel’ koolaid. Well, I do claim God's promises and a prosperity that is measured in Heaven but not necessarily in this life.
So let me clarify, I am a pretty good guy. I work hard, love my family, and love God. BUT I complicate this relative goodness when I make bad/wrong choices (aka sins).
I know what is right and wrong in God's eyes and I have compromised 'the best' that God intends for me, and at times I have not been good at all.
The Filthy Rags v God's Grace Summary
So I realize my righteousness is as filthy rags Isaiah 64:6 but I also know His love that is greater than all my sins. Romans 5:20
God’s grace and blessings in our lives is available in ways that are BEYOND OUR DREAMS. No more living in regret of past mistakes, and what the devil (there really is one) plans for bad in my life… God can use and bless in ways that I never saw coming. Our Heavenly Father is good and kind, and PERFECT. As far as the East is from the West so are my sins forgiven!
So with this all cleared up, let me continue with Getting what I deserve
No more hiding of sins.. no more hiding my faults..
Now most of you probably do not let your mind wander in circles like mine obviously does like a hamster in a wheel, but for those who are tired, depressed, sick, burdened with the weight of the world.. YOU DESERVE MORE.
You deserve the best that God has to offer. His best for you may or may not be fame and fortune, health and adventure… but HIS BEST which you deserve is the peace and perspective that passes all understanding or any circumstance.
They say money can’t buy you happiness, but it helps calm the nerves… BUT whether rich or poor, famous or obscure, fat or skinny, or any other nook or cranny of this world’s class system.. we can be content… and living unafraid, and enjoying the lives we have in ways that are beyond what we have yet to experience.
There is a scientific study claiming we only use 10% of our brain.. well I believe we as believers experience only a fraction of the blessings God wants us to experience… and only a fraction of the blessings WE DESERVE as his children.
May God bless each of us with lives blessed by God in ways that are NEVER limited by our abilities, but are truly BLESSED BEYOND OUR DREAMS and as God intends, and what WE DESERVE as his children.
Breaking Bad was the hit TV show on AMC a few years back where unassuming high school chemistry teacher and family man Walter White evolves over 5 seasons into someone truly bad.
Maybe.. Not since God tossed Satan out of Heaven has there been a comparable BREAKING BAD moment.
Walter White's life was a slippery slope of compromise, and his white (no pun intended) lies evolved into massive cover-ups. Walter White changes over these few years into a ruthless big time meth producer responsible for countless murders, and in the end, he dies alone, his family is destroyed, and the wake of his truly bad choices on those around him was far reaching for both innocent and guilty. Even those who survived DID NOT live happily ever after but were truly Badly Broken.
note: For those of you contemplating binge watching Breaking Bad on Netflix please disregard the previous paragraph. MY BAD
Ok, so far there are three obvious lessons learned
1. Don't cook Meth,
2. Don't Murder, and
3. Don't trust criminals to keep secrets.
But Breaking Bad is actually the story of mankind and from the very beginning it seems to be BAD is what we do. Since the very beginning our sins great and small, and our attempts to cover them up is the common plot line for lives we live.
EVEN OUR BIBLES are filled with Breaking Bad moments of literally biblical proportions.
Then let's fast forward to a few more contemporary Breaking Bad paths we travel today..
Comfort and Hope for your BB Moments..
But no matter your flavor of Breaking Bad there are so many great scripture truths of comfort and perspective. Here are two.
1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.
AND if/when we fall.. know the grace of our Heavenly Father is perfect. No matter how great or small your prodigal son or daughter moment.
Let's agree to fix our minds on the Will of God, not our own. Let' agree to seek His voice, and not the voices in this world. I pray God blesses His people with repentant and obedient hearts. Lord your will, not my will be done.
May God bless each of you on your journey.
Jeff (not so bad) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson