“The ‘My Grandma’s Jesus’ Zone”

Just as a refresher, with this whole concept of “Not My Grandma’s Jesus,” I cycled through some of the Nickel Boy Graphics characters and imagined how they would react to it. These aren’t arranged in any special order other than what I thought would look good visually. These are just a few of the ideas to come to mind.

As I was thinking about these for today’s post, it occurred to me that they almost made a storyboard for a movie or television show like maybe “The Twilight Zone.” This was partly because of how the individual dialog balloons seemed to go together and also because the swimsuit in Panel 2 (upper right) looks a lot like the swimsuit in Panel 3 (lower left).

So I used a black and white type of filter on them and took away the dialog in the balloons because I thought you might enjoy imagining your own movie or television episode titled “The ‘My Grandma’s Jesus’ Zone” or something similar. So that’s why they are empty today! (Not that I got lazy and couldn’t think of anything!)

Just to “set the stage”a bit…If you are familiar with this old show created by Rod Sterling, you’ll recall it frequently imagined “a world gone mad” where you learned to expect the unexpected.

Each episode in a season had a standard opening narration. This is the one used for Season 1.

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.

There was then a unique introduction to set up the story to follow. This is the one used for Episode 1 of Season 1.

The place is here. The time is now. And the journey into the shadows we’re about to watch could be our journey.

So what do you think? If you were to write an episode, not necessarily based on anything scriptural (seriously, invading space aliens) or with a happy ending (seriously, a hoard of evil invading space aliens), how would that go? The only real “rule”is that each of the four panels must include “My Grandma’s Jesus” or “Your Grandma’s Jesus” at least once. Inserting “Not” is okay too. Here is a link to download a single page PDF to doodle on and print. (The background is white to save ink and toner.)

Tomorrow I will share my version of this storyboard’s dialogue, and you can compare it with your own. (Oh, WOW! A two-part episode! “Tune in tomorrow!“) You may find that your first impressions are very self-revealing, at least I did for myself. 

The dialogue that I used actually told me more about my perception of how the world views Jesus than I expected. For me, that’s important because it showed me some of my preconceptions about people which I may unknowingly carry into a conversation about Real Life Jesus. Those preconceived notions may make it difficult for me to truly listen. In other words, I think it’s quite possible if we assume that the majority of the people we come in contact with view Jesus a certain way, then that is going to shape our interactions with them regardless of what they might say to us. That will then be a barrier to making a connection with that person.

Until tomorrow! And HEY! Don’t get trapped in either “The My Grandma’s Jesus Zone” or “The Not My Grandma’s Jesus Zone”! Make sure you’re in “The Real Life Jesus Zone.”

“Not Your Grandma’s Jesus (Go And See)”

With this whole concept of “Not My Grandma’s Jesus,” I cycled through some of the Nickel Boy Graphics characters and imagined how they would react to it. These aren’t arranged in any special order other than what I thought would look good visually. These are just a few of the ideas that came to mind. More to follow!

I’m not saying that any of these are true and are a model for what you or anyone else should believe. This is not a multiple choice quiz where you try to “Select the one which best represents a proper Christian attitude. Please be sure to use a #2 pencil for accurate scoring.” There are no “trick questions”!

Yesterday, I wrote about how people can “Come and see” how wonderful Jesus is, how it would take all eternity to know Him. Today’s post is different. My writing began to be about “Why can’t people come and see Jesus?” but has evolved into “Why can’t I go and see people?”

For too many years, my thinking was along the lines of a person is either “A Christian” or “Not A Christian” according to my personal pre-determined standards. Perhaps one of the greatest dangers with this kind of thinking is that it can lead to treating people like they have never heard of Jesus or at least not “My Jesus.” (But that’s for another post and another day.)

Here’s what I mean. In the bottom left corner is Helena Montgomery, one of the not so pleasant Nickel Boy Graphics characters. On the surface, you might think she is definitely “Not A Christian,” and that was really what I was thinking when I originally drew her months ago and also when I gave here this speech balloon for today.

But now, I’m wondering if that’s true. The reason is in the words “bound up” which I didn’t choose for any other reason than that’s what I imagined she would say. Why these words? “Bound up” opens a whole world of possibilities for where she has come from, what she has experienced, and what has brought her to her present situation as we find her.

What if the message for me is I should do a self-inventory first and then listen more carefully to really see a person before I try to help them see Jesus?

“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. Luke 6:42 (NASB)

I wasn’t really listening when I wrote the words “bound up” originally, so what if someone had really said something like that to me? Would I have heard it? Would I have noticed what those words might let me see in that person’s life? Would I have seen them as a clue to know what I might say with the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

Here’s a radical thought. What if I assumed everyone already had a relationship with Jesus? So maybe it’s a one-way relationship and Jesus is the only one actively involved, but it’s still a relationship. What if my goal should not be to start that relationship but instead to help that relationship along? 

Maybe someone like Helena Montgomery isn’t “Not A Christian” the way we assumed she is. Maybe there’s more to her story than we know. Maybe if we found out what “bound up” meant to her, we might just agree with her! Maybe we could say, “I agree with you. I don’t mean any disrespect, but maybe your grandma was wrong.” What if I was able to go to someone like Helena and see that what she needed was to give herself permission to come and see Jesus? Maybe then she would have the freedom to earnestly seek Him for herself? Or does this only work in comic strip worlds?

“Not Your Grandma’s Jesus (Come And See)”

Things bump and bounce around in my brain quite often, and this is one of those things: “Not your grandma’s Jesus.” So I figured I’d try to get it out through a comic strip.

Maybe it’s a sign that I want to know Jesus more personally? That sounds good. Maybe it’s a sign that I need to root out any outdated imaginary ideas about Jesus that I’ve been holding? That could be good too.

So what do you think? What does “not your grandma’s Jesus” mean to you? A lot is going to depend on what your grandma’s relationship with Jesus was like and maybe even what your relationship with your grandma was like. (Hmm…Maybe grandma’s not the best source of knowing Jesus, just a really good home cooked meal!)

Recently I’ve done some reading about Post-Modernism and how it has effected the way we think about things. (This came up in a post last week too.) With Post-Modernism, everything is personal and individual. In other words, you get to define what is true and right in your life. I get to say what is true and right in my life. What is true and right for you, may not be so for me. I get to decide that.

To take this one step further, each of us gets to define who Jesus is. You get to say who He is and who He isn’t in your life.

He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Matthew 16:15-16 (KJV)

Is that right? Was Jesus a Post-Modernist thinker way back then when He asked “Who do you say that I am?” Well, maybe “Yes” and “No.” So “Yes,” Jesus actually invites us to say who He is, but “No,” that doesn’t mean He’s going to change to match what we imagine. 

But what if I had never experienced a relationship with Jesus for myself? What if I only had what other people told me about Jesus to go by? What if the only knowledge I ever had about Jesus came from someone else in a second-hand way? What about that whole “Not your grandma’s Jesus” deal?

One of the things that I like about John’s Gospel is how “come and see” is used right in the very first chapter. It’s like an open invitation! “Come and see” is what Jesus said when people wanted to know where He was dwelling. (John 1:39) “Come and see” is what a follower said when someone else doubted that Jesus was someone special. (John 1:46)

In later chapters, it’s used to bring others to Jesus and also to bring Jesus to others. “Come, see” is what an outsider Samaritan woman said to her neighbors after she had spent time with Jesus. (John 4:29) “Come and see” is what the people said to Jesus when He asked where His dead friend Lazarus was laid. (John 11:34)

Isn’t it interesting that two very simple easy-to-read words “come” and “see” both begins and sustains the Christian life journey? Would it be stretching this too far to say that for all eternity we will still be saying to each other “Come and see” something about Jesus that’s more wonderful and more filled with glory than what we had seen before? 

There is one more thought I’d like to share about the question Jesus asked to Simon Peter, and to each of us really, “Who do you say that I am?” To me, that is so different from what we hear in some other religious texts and faith traditions. For some, I get the feeling it’s more like, “I’m going to tell you what’s what and who’s who.” That’s never my intention here. If Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God, then anyone who does “come and see” can find out for themselves.

As an extension of this, tomorrow’s comic strip, I believe, will be a look at “Not your grandma’s Jesus” through the eyes of some of the characters here at Nickel Boy Graphics.

“This Is What Self-Delusional Looks Like”

Well, I have to say that being locked up in jail like the Apostle Paul would have given this a very interesting plot twist! (And I think the whole concept of “jail” can be very fascinating to children. There is an abstract quality about it, much like “death.”) 

So what do you think? Are there certain characteristics that a person has, characteristics that God gives to a person as a gift, maybe beyond just what comes naturally? Do we have a choice then of how those characteristics are used to build people up or tear people down? Is it possible to get so wrapped up in the characteristic and the gift that we don’t stop to think about how it is being used?

What actually prompted this comic strip was a verse that I read last week.

Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction. 2 Corinthians 13:10 (KJV)

What Paul said about his own characteristic of sharpness was interesting to me. It really stood out to me. His sharpness was a power…maybe somewhat like a gift since it came from God…and it can be used for either edification or for destruction. For me, that has been a great deal to consider.

It made me wonder about other things that really carried power which we possess, perhaps unknowingly. It made me wonder about how these powers could be used. Most often we may think of power as being something that people in politics or big business possess, but which most of us don’t possess. Yet it seems that “sharpness” is a “power tool” found in Paul’s “invisible toolbox”! Hmm…something to search out in my own life! What do I possess? Am I using it to tear people down or build people up?

“The Gifts: His Preservation, His Direction”

The Book of Common Prayer was totally new to me when I first went to St. John’s. I had heard of it, but never heard anything from its pages, or so I thought. Having been raised and baptized in a tradition that frowned upon prewritten prayer, this was one of those things that was, I guess you’d say…questionable. It was sort of, in my mind, like the “vain repetitions” that Jesus spoke concerning and criticized.

Perhaps like me, you’ve heard that prayer is supposed to come from your heart. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t. But what if your heart is so burdened or clogged up or trampled upon…or just slowly turning to stone…that you don’t have any words to pray from your heart? When it doesn’t seem worth the energy?

This is where I was. This is why I am gradually learning the real treasures that can be found in “The Book Of Common Prayer,” and not only from there, but from other collections of prayers as well from other Christian traditions.

Today, I thought it might be good to share this prayer with you from “The Book Of Common Prayer.” It’s one that I latched onto right away and committed to memory. It’s a special form of prayer called a “Collect” and after thanking God for bringing us (not just me, but all of us) safely to a new day, it asks for two of His Gifts: His Preservation and His Direction.

Hopefully you will find this prayer meaningful and will receive new insights each time you read it as I do. So rather than giving you any of my commentary on what His Preservation and His Direction mean to me, perhaps it is best for you to listen to what God’s Spirit is saying to you as you read these prayerful words.

The graphics in this series have a real “Old School” feeling but that sort of fits. (A reader had commented positively along these lines some time ago.) Like the others in this series, I wanted it to be something that you could print and post on your refrigerator or even in your cubicle at work. (On most systems, I believe, you can select and print just the image without these other words.) I picked a chicken and a sunrise because…Well, did I ever tell you about my chickens?!?

Thanks so much, everyone!