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February 5th, 2014
Unto us a Child is BORN..
Twenty three years ago my daughter Erin was born to us. Erin arrived 10 weeks before her due date after my wife Mary spent 5 1/2 months on bedrest. Erin weighed in at only 3 lbs, 13 oz but she was a keeper.
It was an amazing day, an amazing baby who grew up to be an amazing young woman.
Like each of our three children Erin grew up giving us moments of joy and exasperations. Mary and I had already weathered the teen years of our two sons, but this did NOT prepare me for raising a teenage girl. To be honest, I do NOT always understand my wife Mary. Her emotions, feelings, and those things impressed on Mary's heart have taken years for me to only SORTA understand. Don't get me wrong, Mary's ideas are very important and without her in my life my house would look like the Green Bay Packer hall of fame, and my lack of sense of fashion would become further exposed. There are two old sayings that sum up most marriages.
Then Erin enters the picture.. and changes from my cute little girl playing with Polly Pockets (little doll people) and pretending to what seemed like overnight into a TEENAGER. Nothing in my life to this point prepared for my little girl turning in to a mini-Mary. In my defense if I do not often understand my wife Mary so how could I understand a TEENAGE GIRL (aka woman in training)? I even survived Erin going through a goth/punk stage.
The good news I survived. Yeah me! My daughter is now a young woman who has grown into this interesting person I love. We enjoy the same sense of humor, and movies which bothers my wife a bit, but she is so stilll very much like her mom. When the two of them sit down together and talk about their day I find myself on what I like to call ESTROGENE ISLAND. In the Larson home since my boys moved out and got married I am stranded here ALONE my wife, daughter, my 85 year old mom, a female cat, and two female dogs. HELP SKIPPER!
Truth be told, I love to watch Erin talk with her mom as in many ways Mary is Erin's best friend. Of course I from time to time try to enter into these conversations, but they look at me like I am from a foreign land, and I realize then I don't speak ESTRONGENESE. So I return to watching the ball game on TV and they pretend I did not speak to them.
But that's ok as there are other times where Erin and I do bond like only fathers and daughters can and I realize she will always be my little girl.
So.. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ERIN! I love you, and am proud of you. I hope you don't mind I shared your story in words and toons, cuz TOUGH LUCK IF YOU DO! This is what I do. I can't help myself.
I pray that this sharing this brief blurb about my daughter Erin is a smile and encouragment to those of you mom's on bedrest, those with preme babies, and those of you dad's who have endured or are will soon endure TEENAGE girls.
Jeff 'The Back Pew Guy' Larson
The Back Pew is a collection of Christian cartoons and writings with the mission of sharing Clean Humor and God's Truth.The Back Pew believes it is ok to have a sense of humor and still be allowed in Heaven.
February 4th, 2014I don't believe in God!
When I was 6 years old at summer Bible School I accepted Jesus into my heart ironically while sitting in the Back Pew of a little white (inside and out) country church in my home town of Cable Wisconsin. This was the start of my faith journey.
Over the next 50 years (wow.. how did I end up being 56?) I have attended church, prayed to God, attended numerous bible studies, men's retreats, prayer meetings, worship concerts and more. I have become growingly outspoken about my faith while learning to share God's loving truths with my less than eloquent tongue. I have pursued God's truth while facing all the challenges everyone else on this planet faces. I have also compromised/sabotaged my life at times with bad choices, bad habits, and dealt with anxiety related issues along with my wonderful NOT bad back. To sum it all up.. my life is very much the life of your average Joe (or Jeff in this case). Like King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun. It rains on the rich as well as on us starving christian artist/cartoonist. Life is chasing the wind.. futile, difficult, and then.. YOU DIE. Solomon even says it is better to have never been born than to live in this wearisome world.Thanks Solomon, that helped alot.. NOT!
This brings me to my recent realization...I DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD!
So, I must conclude I DON'T BELIEVE GOD answers my prayers, cares when I hurt, and is indifferent to my life long struggle with anxiety and self doubt. If there was a God.. then why is my life this way? Why does he not make my life better?
WHY? WHY? WHY?
Truth is I DO BELIEVE IN GOD, but my actions and thoughts do not always reflect this. My faith the size of a mustard seed with my brain that at times seems equally small compromises me at every turn.
The issue is NOT that I don't believe in God, because I do. Instead the not always so simple solution is I need to work hard, pray often, trust God and in the big picture not worry. Like Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, it will rain on the just and unjust, nothing is new under the sun as we all work hard but this life is NOT always or often fair. My happiness, and my level of contentment should not be restricted to how 'successful' I am in this life but rather how faithful I am to God.
I AM a man with both talents and limitations. Like I share often, I am a man with a quick wit, but a slow mind. I do have abilities but anxiety and self doubt will always be a challenge for me.
So where does this leave me? Answer, right where I need to be. Dependant on God like everyone else. Appreciative of God. Thankful for this life's blessings, and the lessons grown out of a lifetime of experiences.
I THANK GOD this morning as I type. God knows my limitations, my abilities, and understands me better than I do myself. I will never do it all right, and will continue to struggle with my circumstances which many are my own doing. I will continue to blow it, and to get off the track God intended for me. I will sometimes get frustrated at my wife, or someone I work with, or that guy in front of me on the highway driving 50 in the left lane!
So my prayer today is to regroup, and pursue God DAILY. Don't put off my time with him, don't leave him behind when I start my daily routine. THEN.. may he find me faithful and attentive to his will in the tasks and words that make up my day.
Love God, care for others.. the rest is 'trivial pursuit'
May God bless each of you on your faith journey. May he find you faithful and loving and trusting, and my you realize his grace is there any time you stumble, doubt, or are hurting.
Jeff (trusting in the Back Pew) Larson
The Back Pew is a collection of Christian cartoons and writings with the mission of sharing Clean Humor and God's Truth. The Back Pew believes it is ok to have a sense of humor and still be allowed in Heaven.
January 29th, 2014CHASING MY TAIL
Ecclesiastes is that timeless book of wisdom and perspective written by King Solomon. Nothing new is under the sun.. Solomon's pursuit of pleasure through wine, women, and song, or anything else a king could afford WITHOUT GOD left him feeling empty.
This morning I decided to work on completing my through the bible reading quest from 2013 that fizzled at the end of August. I became and let myself be too busy to stay on task. Not an excuse, but just the reality of the life of Jeff. With amazing IRONY (God's Irony) today's reading includes Ecclesiastes. Who knew Solomon was writing about my life. Catch phrases like.. nothing new under the sun.. chasing the wind.. all life is futile. My fulltime job has become all consuming lately and has become overwelming. I assign sports officials for tournaments, schools, and leagues through out the Twin Cities and overwelming where I could get out of bed and since I work at home, start work at 6am and go into the evening. So much to do, and so little time to do it. All seems futile. Perspective is lost when this happens. Now it goes without saying, the opportunities and responsibliies of a Christian cartoonist are scaled back when compared to a king. BUT.. let me share a few broad parallels between King Solomon and Cartoonist Jeff.1. King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 ‘concubines’, but as of this morning I still am with wife number one. I guess being king allows a fella more opportunities to find that special woman.. er..a.. WOMEN, in contrast Jeff is happy with my one wife Mary, thank you very much. 2. I have experienced drink with varying levels of failure. I do now have a glass of wine or a beer in moderation, but am wary of the negatives and addictive natures of some of my uncles. I know this too could be me. Drink is an obvious problem in our society as there are simply so many negatives in contrasted to the momentary positive of a drink.. that lead often to DRINKS. As you can tell so far I am a man of limited resources. My stable of women consists of my one wife, and my home bar is stocked with ice tea, diet coke, and Crystal Lite. But these are just two little items in a modern world full of pursuits other than God .. and all these pursuits are just as King Solomon put it.. chasing the wind.. while other times we are simply downwind, or... as my dog Pepper would describe life as .. chasing her tail.
So I echo King Solomon’s sentiment there is nothing new under the sun.
I believe we should enjoy this life to the max. A life with good food, drink, a good wife ( or if you are king.. WIVES?), a good dog, HD TV, wireless internet, smartphones, a Super Bowl victory, Nascar?, a movie date with a large tub of buttered popcorn, a new car, sports & hobbies, concert tickets, a summer home on a lake, family vacations, an ocean cruise, or simply a good drawing pad with a new kneaded eraser are just a few of the very real pleasures of this life.. TO ENJOY.. BUT.. without God, and without love.. they will not satisfy.
I write this from the Minnesota Deep Freeze where the schools have been canceled as daytime temps are -10 and night time temps were -20 with a windchill of -38. For those of us in Minnesota this is as Solomon writes Nothing new under the sun. Cold in the winter, mosquitoes in the summer.
No matter your lot in life, I pray we all realize our common need for God in our lives daily.. hourly.. and minute by minute in the tasks that make up our day.
Let's take Solomon's advice to enjoy life knowing with God as our center we can be happy in our work, happy in our leisure, and even happy when it is -40 wind chill.
Love God, care for others, trust and rest in God's unlimited grace when we fall, and whatever is good, pure, and holy dwell on these things. Smile Mon.. and BP Blessings Jeff
January 30th, 2014
SUNSHINE on my SNOWY day Ok this title sounds like the Motown tune for Eskimos, BUT it is today the reality of the sun ( or is it Son ) shining in my life. This winter in MinneSNOWTA has been as cold and severe as I have endured in recent memory. Five inches of SNOW today, and -24 temp just last Monday. BUT I DIGRESS as the SON is shining today, or at least should be. I feel I am having one of those fleeting days of perspective.. a glimpse of life from God that goes beyond my tired body, my limited bank account, and the literal snowy or rainy skies… AND SO.. for me today the sun is shining. I remember a Sunday morning not so long ago when I was drinking the morning coffee with the lovely Mrs. Larson relaxing until it would be time for church BUT THEN.. THE PHONE RINGS. The phone rings and my other life of managing sports officials interrupts my morning coffee as a referee did not show up for his assignment. So I have to get ready and head out the door to cover this game and possibly a whole set of games. On the way to this assignment I am taking time to enjoy one of the positives of this 24/7 information society by listening to Christian radio on my smartphone. On the way to this game I pray that this can be my worship if need be and that if this ref does not show I can take this time to preach Christ always and if I must blow my whistle. In other words my focus was on smiling and enjoying my circumstance and to honor God in the moment.. even if this moment would include parents, and coaches not always happy with me as a ref. Good news is the ref did show up and I returned home but did not let this wasted hour phase my day. Praise God for the 'son' shining in my life that day. I pray for more days like this where my heart and mind are selfless and I can think of each moment as an opportunity to praise God with my words and actions. I know there will be days this summer where the sun is literally shining, and the breeze is warm when my perspective and mind is a cold, damp, and rainy place… BUT FOR TODAY.. praise God for the sun and his Son who’s love warms a cold winter day. You may think this email is inspired more by too much coffee but it is instead one of those days where I believe I have God’s perspective that goes beyond circumstance. I am reading Ecclesiastes, and am reminded of the futility of life. It rains on the just and the unjust equally, and that much of life feels like chasing the wind, and that the dead are better off than the living, and that it is better to not be born at all. Thanks King Solomon.. you sure are a ray of sunshine.. NOT!
Of course these scriptures are true but Solomon's thoughts are not complete until you add the rest of his message. Life with God is a life that is full and satisfying. Life with God has hope and perspective when it rains on the just, when our work seems futile. If we focus on life and hardships we will miss the boat on what life is about. King Solomon also writes it is better to eat, drink, and enjoy this life (your lot) under the sun. Let's be determined and focused to live life and NOT just endure it.
My prayer for all of you today is to realize God is not distant.. God is personal and His love is perfect. If our faith was simply a list of rules, rites, rituals, and rote prayers spoken then we will never be inspired for life as God intends. God’s love for us and in return our love for Him is the center of a happy life. This is where inspiration for a sunny day and a cloudy day resides. Love God, love others.. Trust God, and dwell on what is good and pure and holy.. and ENJOY THE SUN even if you live in MinneFROZETA! Blessings Jeff
January 22nd, 2014
The call to FULL TIME MINISTRY
Abraham at age 75 was called to postpone his retirement and START A NATION. These stories from Genesis regarding Abraham and his faithfulness speak volumes.
Today, when I think of Full Time Ministry I think of a missionary or preacher, BUT this narrow definition of ministry lets the rest of us non-preacher folk off the hook. If ministry was reserved only for preachers and missionaries I would be left to center my life on ME. More hours for reality TV, and all the delivery pizza I could stomach. But..
Full Time Ministry is .. what we are all called to. Full time ministry is being faithful in the moments that make up the day without ever preaching a sermon from a pulpit or going overseas on a mission field. I look around my community, city and country I see the obvious need for God is greater than can be handled by fulltime preachers and missionaries. Teachers, carpenters, business men, factory workers, and every other nook and cranny of society needs the compassionate hands and feet of Christ demonstrated by every day folk. There is even a place for those chosen few who like to draw cartoons... like me. So in summary.. Many are called to be a pastors, or serve on a mission field in another land BUT .. ALL are called to preach sermons with the words and deeds in the moments and contacts that make up our day.
Abraham was faithful to God's road trip call on his life and became the father of a nation. But while Abe was a great man of faith he had a few less than stellar moments. Most notably..
So it is clear by Abraham's example.. being perfect is not a requirement for full time ministry but being faithful is. I suddenly feel very qualified and so should you.
The question now is .. Will we be faithful to God's call on each of our imperfect lives?
If.. we are found to be intentional and FAITHFUL in our service God will bless and use each of us in FULL TIME MINISTRY in big and small ways as He chooses.
Love God, Care for others.. the rest is trivia in comparison.
Jeff (in the Back Pew) Larson
safety note: Being faithful is always the right choice BUT.. could result in very real PAIN!
This page features cartoons and writings regarding the state of Minnesota and the importance of the Christian faith
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