Oops! Slight Delay In Today’s Comic Strip Posting!

Due to a few snags with today’s post, I’m offering my apologies and a “Classic Moment” from “The Lloyd Servant Show.”

If you’re a regular reader, you will remember this, I’m sure!

If you’re not, this may not make much sense, but the compilation of all 20 comic strips will be available soon! Then “Please come smell my miracle feet!” may give you a chuckle. (And really it is sort of funny even if you don’t know the context!)

I’ve got a few snags to work out before sharing the “Chapter 1” compilation with you. It just don’t look right to me yet, and I don’t want to share for downloading until I feel like they are right.

Thanks everyone for your patience! Be on the lookout for “The Miraculous Multiplying Pie!”

“Can I Tell Just You Two Kids Something?”

There was a poll here recently to get an idea about your favorite comic strip from Nickel Boy Graphics, and Laser Eyes Jesus received more votes than any of the others. (Though I have to say the more serious comic strips received the most comments!) If I had to make a guess at “Why?” I’d say it’s because even though he occasionally blasts little kids (harmlessly) with his laser eyes to keep them on the right path, he really is just a “regular guy” trying to make it as best he can. (Oh, yeah, and what’s not to like about somebody who loves pudding cups and Godzilla movies?)

So what do you think? Have you ever criticized yourself for “not being enough”? Have you ever said, “I don’t want to be like this?” Have you ever asked, “Why can’t I be normal just like everybody else?” Don’t those kinds of thoughts hurt and frustrate? Seriously.

I’m wondering if there really might be just two main ways of looking at ourselves or judging ourselves: according to the standards of the world and according to the standards of God.

The world says, “Here is what success looks like. You’re on your own to make it happen.”

God says, “Here is what success looks like. I’m going to help make it happen.”

You know, I’m wondering why the world’s standards have been my default way of looking at myself. Part of it is definitely that there is an allure to what the world offers. But what if the bigger part of it is that in my mind it seems easier to be successful according to the world’s standards rather than God’s standards? Those actually seem unattainable to me, and maybe to you too, so let’s take a closer look.

“Here is what success looks like.”

…to be conformed to the image of his Son… Romans 8:29 (NRSV)

Success looks like Jesus. Now before you begin to get overwhelmed by that thought (because that really is overwhelming), remember the other part of God’s standards: “I’m going to help make it happen.”

Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Romans 14:4 (NRSV)

Can I take a moment to say how thankful I am that God’s Word does not say “You’re on your own to make it happen”?!?

Sometimes I think in our desperation to “be enough,” “be different from this,” and “be normal,” we may become too fixed on what we think we need to change or improve when really those things may be inconsequential to God, for the present time, and maybe for the future time as well.

What I’m saying is that every person is extremely complex and only God can see the heart and know what is needed and when, and that’s where prayerful self-examination (when we listen more than speak) is so important.

What success looks like, I believe, is the image of Real Life Jesus, and I think that it’s really quite possible that we may already be more like the image of Our Heavenly Father’s Dear Son than we even imagine in His Eyes, if not our own!

Now you know I’m just on a journey here and appreciate having you along even though I don’t have a stack of answers to pass out, but I think we might be on to something here!

“God’s Transforming Love”

Yesterday was Ascension Day, and it was also the day that I was received into the Episcopal Church after participating in a program called “Pilgrims In Christ” for eight months.

Part of the program involved sharing our “Faith Stories.” I won’t share everything here now, though I may one day.

But I want you to know about St. John’s Church and why I do what I do here with these comic strips (some funny, some serious). If it wasn’t for the people of St. John’s, you wouldn’t be reading any of these comic strips.

Back when the “Pilgrims In Christ” program started last October, I began writing posts here at WordPress, and that led to creating comic strips because it just seemed like the thing to do. There is a great community here at WordPress that has helped and encouraged me, just like the people at St. John’s. In January, I moved all of the graphics over to this website, got more ideas, and have done a few posts in this series called “Voices From The Last Pew.” That’s because when I went to St. John’s for the first time last August, I was honestly set in my mind that it really would be the last church pew ever. So I sat in the back by the door.

You see, they had these amazing words on their website and even on their printed order of worship, words that really seemed too good to be true. A huge part of me wanted to believe that it was just a trick, just a phony promise. Then I could say, “I did it. I’m done. There really isn’t a place for me. They don’t want me and I don’t want them.” It wasn’t that I was planning to give up on Jesus, just church.

Here is the first part of those words. I can’t even read them silently without getting choked up. No lie.

Believe this simple truth: God loves you, no matter who you are. No matter how you have lived your life. No matter your age. No strings attached. At St. John’s, we believe in God’s transforming love…

In my “Faith Story,” I told how I have had a bumpy ride throughout my Christian life. Most of it has been because of a message I carried inside, “God hates you. You’re going to kill yourself. You are going to die and go to hell where you belong.”

As a Christian, I’ve wrecked and crashed and burned more times than I can count. I’ve been way too rigid and rules oriented, and then can’t live up to it. I’ve thrown Bibles against walls and into the trash. I’ve tried to escape from everything in a lot of different ways including alcohol and suicide attempts. I’ve cursed God and Jesus and tried my best to commit the unpardonable sin, whatever that might be. But Jesus never gave up on me.

That “God hates you” message can get planted in a person’s mind and heart in a lot of different ways. When I told my “Faith Story,” I explained how that had happened with me. But here is the thing. It doesn’t matter how it got there. Getting rid of that message is the important thing.

That’s done, I believe, primarily through God’s Transforming Love.

The active component to God’s Transforming Love is the Holy Spirit, and the best delivery method is Christian Community.

If you have sat there on “The Last Pew,” please know that there are a lot of people just like you. I know how difficult it is to say, “I’m going to give this one more try.” But there is a place out there where you can find God’s Transforming Love and the Holy Spirit, just like how I found them at St. John’s Church.

It will be a place where people really do care about you. They don’t want you to just quietly go away. They don’t want you to die and go to hell. They want to pour out God’s Transforming Love on you and receive it back from each other because that’s how God designed Christian Community to work.

Until you find that place, maybe you’ll only have someone at work or a neighbor who truly believes in God’s Transforming Love. But that is a start. Maybe you’ll only have a few people within your current church who truly believe in God’s Transforming Love, but that is a start too. And you have me who truly has experienced God’s Transforming Love.

In the meantime, if you don’t have that place of Christian Community, I really want to renew my commitment to you readers to do all that I can to share God’s Transforming Love to you through these graphics and words.

Thank you, both Readers and People Of St. John’s Church, for sharing God’s Transforming Love with me.

“Voices From The Last Pew” Update

This is a “trigger warning” concerning tomorrow’s post for “Voices From The Last Pew.”

It will be titled “God’s Transforming Love” and will touch on some of my experiences with churches and the time when I really said to myself, “This is the last pew I will ever sit in.”

Maybe you were bullied by “the church kids” when you were growing up. Maybe you feel like you have to stop being who you are or hide who you are in order to “fit in” when it comes to church. Maybe you have felt different, unwelcome, and rejected in church. Maybe you can’t really identify anything in particular, but you just feel like a “Church Outsider” for some unknown reason. Those things are what I want to begin looking at in the next “Voices From The Last Pew.”

I know that some of you are dealing with or recovering from some form of abuse or discrimination that involved people in church leadership positions or occurred in a church setting. So even though that’s not what this post will be about, for some people just the word “church” can stir up painful things about sexual abuse, religious abuse, doctrinal abuse, and more. This posting today is just a “heads up” or “trigger warning” in case some readers may be concerned that this topic will bring up painful memories from their past.

Hopefully it will be a good post, one that the Holy Spirit can use to bring help and healing to the Church which Christ bought with His Own Blood.

“The Gifts: My Praise, My Thanksgiving”

This series is still being shaped in many ways “right before your eyes” based on what you are sharing with me! That’s really exciting!

You’ll notice that the main title has changed to “The Gifts,” and it looks like the graphics will be built on two frameworks.

One is “The Gifts Of God For The People Of God.” Those are words from the Eucharist or Communion celebration, and that’s what the first graphic in this series was about. This framework seeks to ask and answer the questions “What if the only thing Jesus has to give us is Himself? Would we be satisfied?” This is about relationship and seeking Jesus for who He is rather than “getting stuff” from Him.

The other is new today and is “The Gifts To God From The People Of God.” It seeks to ask and answer the questions “What if the only thing we have to give Jesus is ourselves? Would He be satisfied?” This is also about relationship and “being enough in ourselves” to please God.

I think that both of these are things that many of us may struggle with from time to time when we focus on “getting stuff” and “being enough.” I think it’s right to say that is usually the way that the world operates, but it’s not the way that God operates.

For me, so often I’ve felt like I have nothing to give God that will please Him, that in one way or another, I just wasn’t good enough. Maybe you’ve felt like that too? It really wasn’t until recently that my feelings about this have changed as I’ve rethought “Things That Are Pleasing To God.”

Here’s the turning point realization for me: My Faith may please God, but He gave it to me in the first place and Jesus is My Coach to improve My Faith.

What if we looked at Our Heavenly Father like a loving earthly parent? (Even one from an old TV show like “Family Affair” or “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” if imagining a loving earthly parent is tough for you. Seriously, I get that. I really do.) He gives his children money to go and buy a Father’s Day gift to give to him. Even lets them use his wrapping paper, his scissors, and his tape to dress it up like a great Father’s Day gift. He even gives them the materials and some ideas for the Father’s Day card to go with it all!

What if that’s really what Our Heavenly Father does with us? Only He gives us the faith, the courage, the generosity, the love and all of the other things we have to then give back to Him? And He lets us believe they were all from us! (Because we haven’t held on to those things.) And it’s exactly what He wanted! (Because they really are.) And we are the best children ever! (Because we really are.)

Yet all the time we know He gave us the gifts to give back to Him, and Jesus served as our guide for the tough parts, and the Holy Spirit helped from start to finish! That’s like a family relationship, wouldn’t you say?!? Yes, it is! And yes, you are enough!

But I am lowly and in pain; let your salvation, O God, protect me. I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. Psalm 69:29-31 (NRSV)

So what about the gifts of “My Praise, My Thanksgiving”? What about “Even In Afflictions And Pain”? Just think about this. Jesus never stopped offering praise and thanksgiving, even during His most anguishing and painful moments. He is our Example. He is our Guide. We can embrace Him and say, “Jesus, please show me and help me to have praise and thanksgiving, even though right now it feels like life is crushing me.” He gets it. He’s been there.

If I could give you “Ten Easy Steps,” I would, but I can’t. I really can only give you “One Often Difficult But Not Impossible Step,” and that is “Grab Onto Jesus.” He is enough. You in Him are enough.