Cousin Eddie

Poor Randy.
Talk about life imitating art.

Poor Randy.

It seems like he has been riding the crazy train for a good long while.
At this point in his life he has faced (along with his wife) numerous legal charges in the form of defrauding an innkeeper, burglary, conspiracy, and illegal occupancy.

As far as I know, poor old Randy is still holed up in Canada to escape being killed by a mysterious group called the Hollywood Star Whackers.

Poor Randy Quaid.
I really liked him as an actor. I hope his life is going a million times better than what I read and hear. I really do.

In my favorite movie Independence Day, he plays a crazy crop duster that claimed to have been the victim of an alien abduction.

But the role for which he is probably most famous is that of Cousin Eddie in the Vacation movies, metal head plate and all.

I love Cousin Eddie. Sometimes I think my life has enough kookiness in it to qualify me as an official Cousin Eddie.

Or maybe there needs to be a twelve-step group for Cousin Eddie wannabes… whether they wanna be or not.

Hi! My name is Cousin Eddie aka Les Ferguson, Jr.

Maybe I should write a book: My Cousin Eddie Life! It might not be a best seller, but it might would make you laugh or cry.
Probably both.

Does everybody have a Cousin Eddie in his or her family somewhere? Probably so. But I suspect most of us try to keep them under wraps.

Unfortunately that can be quite difficult.
And it is really hard to do when you yourself are the Cousin Eddie.

Trust me, I know.

Dear old Cousin Eddie.

Over the years I have done lots of stupid stuff.
Funny stuff.
Even ignorant stuff.
To postpone embarrassment, I should save those for the book.

Occasionally, I’ll meet folks whose theology and or understanding of God is as kooky as Cousin Eddie could ever dare to be. And the kookier it gets, the crazier the ramifications.

When I meet those folks and hear how kooky their theology can be, I usually just smile.
And remember.

Yes, I remember my own kookiness. I remember how my twisted and crazy understanding of God left me ill prepared for what my life would endure.

In my Cousin Eddie life, God was always going to work just like I directed Him to do. I made arrangements.
I made deals.
I signed contracts.
And as long as I did exactly what I said I would do, God would perform exactly like I told Him to do.

See?
I told you Cousin Eddie was real.

These days I don’t pretend to speak for God where He hasn’t already spoken.
I don’t claim to understand the entire why’s and how’s of His existence and work among us.

And though I often wrestle with Him, I am learning to trust Him all over again.
On His terms.
With the certain understanding that He is still a mystery that will someday unfold…

Cousin Eddie still rides, but I am learning to be less Cousin Eddie and more like Him…

That’s the kind of preacher I am.
That’s the kind of church I want to serve.

And in true Cousin Eddie style, that’s exactly what I get to do!

Thanks for reading–and if you get the chance, check out my latest offering at Wineskins.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

The Power of Stuff

I like power.
Especially when it rumbles and roars with twin exhausts and just a hint of a low throb while sitting at an idle.

I like power.

I like it, but my wife doesn’t like that I like it like I do.

How’s that for a mouthful?

I drive a Toyota Camry. She’s a pretty thing.
Bright Barcelona Red. She gets me to work and back home again—and doesn’t use nearly as much gas as some vehicles might do.

But I really like power.
And that’s what Becki drives.

A white Dodge Durango SUV family carrying machine…

But dude, it’s got a Hemi.
A big V8 Hemi with Twin exhausts.
When you give that baby the gas, she roars.

IMG_0494

Guess who likes to make her roar?
Guess who doesn’t get to drive her to work everyday?

The correct answer to both questions is yours truly.
I like power, but in this case power does not like my gas budget.

Power.
The power of nature is an awesome thing to behold.
And the power of God? It defeated death and continues to do things beyond our frail human comprehension.

All of us are subject to power in many different forms.
Government.
Family.
Jobs.
Community.

Power is all around us and we gyrate a delicate, intricate dance with all of her different embodiments.

But there is one power in particular that causes us untold heartache.
It’s the power of stuff.
It’s a power that left unchecked will corrupt and destroy.
It causes envy, greed, and materialism.
It consumes those in its grasp.
And at its worst, it damages relationships.

With God.
With church.
With our family.

Jesus’ answer to the power of stuff is really quite simple. It’s also quite possibly the hardest thing He calls us to do.

Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. (Luke 14:31-33)

Giving up everything I have?

Can you imagine what that would be like?

Even though I have given up much in my life–destroyed and taken by the thief–I still cannot imagine what losing everything would be like…

But if required, that is exactly what we are called to do…

If you visit us at the Lake Harbour Drive Church this coming Sunday morning, this is what we will be talking about.

Blessings to you and yours,

Les, Jr.

Where Do We Go From Here?

So I have been absent for awhile.
Not the kind of writing behavior that keeps a blog front and center in the minds of its readers.
And certainly not conducive to the stats need to get a publisher interested in my ongoing book experiment.

Honestly?

I don’t know what to do with this blog.
Originally it was written to chronicle and give voice to my anger, pain, hurt and distrust of God and people too.
It was about my journey through an emotional and spiritual minefield.

As long as I was writing from that perspective, it resonated with the pain and hurt others have felt or are feeling even now.

So I wrote.
I cried.
I ranted.
I struggled.
And I wrote some more.

I fought to move forward in all aspects of my life.

Sometimes I took big steps forward.
Sometimes I took small steps forward.

Sometimes I took huge steps backward.
Sometimes it felt like I was sliding back down the hill.
Unabated and for good.

All the while, I spoke openly and freely about what I faced, what I endured.

You never know what life is going to send your way.
You never know what fundamental questions are going to find you with answers that are either not forthcoming or simply not up to the task at hand.

So what do you do if you lose you?

If you are me, you write.
You engage ideas and concepts.
You take long philosophical looks in the mirror.
And you when you don’t like what you see, you write some more.

You wrestle and stretch.
You grow even when you think no progress is made.

And over time and through the encouragement of others you realize you will never be you again. At least the you like you used to be.

My me is vastly different.
Sure, I still look like me.
And I am even back to full-time ministry (something I couldn’t ever imagine being my life again).

Certainly my ministry will be different because my relationship with God is different.
More real.
Less pretentious (Please Lord, let it be).
And focused quite differently.

Mercy, grace, redemption, and second chances… those are the things I want to emphasize. That’s the message of hope I want to bring.

The truth is, people are tired of being beat up.
They are beat up by the world, on the job, and often by our culture itself.
They are beat up by their own mistakes, by failures that destroy.
They are beat up by so-called family and friends.
And far too often, they are judged, condemned, and thoroughly trashed by the spiritual arrogance and spiritual smugness of some in the church.

We have forgotten the old cliche about the church not being a hotel for the perfect; instead it is a hospital for sinners, for the broken, for those who have made a complete mess of their lives.

I want to be that one guy, that preacher, that fellow miscreant who offers a word of hope, who gives a hand in peace, who understands what it means, what it feels like to be thoroughly broken…

This next bit is going to sound strange. I get that. I really do.

I still grieve.
I am in such a good place right now with my family and new ministry, but I still grieve.
I always will until the day God calls me home.

I still grieve.
And I am glad.

I am glad that my brokenness will never be completely healed on this side of the great divide.
It’s not that I enjoy pain.
Not at all.

I am glad because the world is full of broken people—and only the truly self-aware broken can stand with them.

When we come alongside those who are hurting for whatever reason and stand with them as anything other than another broken person too… instead of offering them mercy, grace, redemption, and second chances, most likely what they will get isn’t real hope, but the condescension of one who thinks they have it all together and know all the answers.

Nothing makes the broken more broken than condescension, condemnation, and judgement.

All of that and we still haven’t answered the question of what to do with this blog… except, maybe we have.

If you are broken and know it, this place is for you—I’ll try to write the encouragement we both need to make it through.

If you are grieving, this place is for you. I’ll share my grief from time to time and you’ll know you are not alone.

Desperately Wanting To Believe Again?
You betcha! I long for that day when all wrongs will be made right.
But until then, I will strive to remember the words of a desperate father when he once met Jesus… “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Lawman!

***Some days are hard. Some days are harder still. I heard about a murder last night during midweek Bible Study… I almost gagged and threw up.

****But God is big. Bigger still than I can ever comprehend. I am thankful He is still working in my life.

*****This post and the last couple come from my new blessing as a full time minister again. With apologies to those who read the Lake Harbour Dr bulletin…

Unrepentant.

Dictionary.com defines unrepentant in the simplest of terms: not repentant or contrite.

A lot of friends and contemporaries have gone where I cannot go.
I feel badly for them.
But I remain unrepentant.

To wit: I am a life long devotee of classic rock. Not pop, bebop, or anything else. I will not listen to country.

Will.Not.Listen!

Give me Rock. With speakers powerful enough to vibrate my bones, rock should be heard and felt.

Yes sir and yes ma’am…

I bought Becki tickets for her birthday to see two of her favorite classic rock bands, Foreigner and Styx.

Who am I kidding? Happy Birthday to me!

In their song Renegade, Styx sings about the wanted man on the run—fleeing from the lawman and the hangman. The chorus says:

The gig is up, the news is out
they finally found me
The renegade who had it made
retrieved for a bounty
Never more to go astray
The judge’ll have revenge today
on the wanted man…

In my imagination, this song with it’s driving beat has always evoked images of the old west. The bad guy being tracked down by the good guy out to see the guilty stopped and punished.

And if you’ll follow that imagery a bit, the bad guy is me (and you too, you’re not getting off that easily).

The good guy? That’s God coming with righteous punishment and His mighty justice in hand.

Surely we deserve it.

In the book of Romans, Paul paints a bleak picture of sin, failure, and pure ugliness. And the brush he uses? It’s wide enough to catch us all. Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

But God does a funny thing.

With mercy and grace and a huge reservoir of love, Jesus pays our bounty and frees us from the long arm of the vengeful lawman.

However, If you read Romans 3:23 without reading verse 24, you miss the amazing gift Jesus brings…

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Here’s a news flash: For those who accept the gift of Jesus, the bounty has been paid.
The price was love.
The sentence has been lifted.
The past is forgiven.

How could you not love a God like that?

Rest easy my friends; secure in the knowledge that God loves you and so do I!

Les, Jr.

Why Are You Reading Here?

Yes.

Why are you reading here?

Move along, move along.

There is nothing for you to see today except old posts… And you are welcome to read them. Should be a new one sometime in the next three or four days.

But in the meantime, there is a new post up at Wineskins.

“A Second Chance Lord”

Please check it out and read some other stuff by some great writers!

Happy Mothers Day!

Les

Give Me Jesus!

OCD.
AADHD.

Those are some of the letters it’s been suggested I use after my name.

Instead of Les Ferguson, Jr., B.A, M.A., it would be Les Ferguson, Jr., OCD, AADHD.

Wouldn’t that look grand on a letterhead or resume?

Les Ferguson, Jr., OCD, AADHD.
Minister for the Lake Harbour Drive Church of Christ
Ridgeland, MS.

Except I know what those letters stand for.

“Obsessive Compulsive Disorder”
“Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder”

Yes, I can be a bit obsessive about things–and nobody has ever claimed my personality was calm and serene. I can be and often am very hyper. (Bouncing of the walls is more apt a description.) But instead of it being a bad thing, I like to think of myself as energetic, a go-getter—one who focuses in on a task and doesn’t stop until I get it done.

Except that isn’t how it always works.

I can be very focused—obsessed even–until something else comes along that directs my attention elsewhere. But once my attention is shifted to something new?

The process starts all over again…

You may not want those letters to be behind your written name, but I suspect I am not alone.

Especially when it comes to our spiritual lives…

• Have you ever started to pray and found yourself a while later wondering why you never finished?
• Have you ever started a daily Bible reading plan only to discover how far behind you’ve managed to get in the first week?
• Have you ever made the decision to be more spiritually minded, to be a better parent or spouse, or to live more simply only to realize that none of it ever happened?
• Have you ever wondered why your religious beliefs never quite give you what you need?

Welcome to my weary world! I cannot be all that others want. And more often than not, I cannot be even what I want. And just having a religion?

For those of us who struggle with focus? Well, discouragement comes easy and often.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in Matthew 11:28-30 and it is so much a message of hope for weary and discouraged folks—particularly those who are burdened and weary from the expectations of religion and their own failures…

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (NLT)

Indeed.

Fernando Ortega once wrote a song made even more popular by Jeremy Camp called Give Me Jesus.

In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise,
In the morning when I rise,
Give me Jesus.

Give me Jesus,
Give me Jesus.
You may have all the rest,
Give me Jesus.

Whatever letters you have behind your name—whatever difficulties, struggles, or failures you face, however weary you might be… the answer is found in having a relationship with Jesus!

Jesus said, “Come to me.”

I say, “yes, give me Jesus!”

Les Ferguson, Jr., ID/BWHIJ
(Imperfect Disciple/ Believer Whose Only Hope Is Jesus)

The Land of Never Say Never

It can be quite funny when you find out you are wrong.
All these years and the whole time I thought I was a good citizen of The Land Of I Am In Control.

And it’s not like I shouldn’t have known. The evidence to the contrary was there for me to see.

But apparently I am not so smart.
Not this guy.
No Sir and No Ma’am.

As it turns out, I was a temporary resident-alien in The Land of Never Say Never.

After the life changing events that happened to my family on October 10, 2011, I was in shambles—emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. It didn’t happen all at once. Instead, it involved a long progression on a steeply graded slope. Hitting bottom was painfully harsh.

Looking back, God helped me make some fantastic choices—and blessed me in amazing ways. I could have never had the foresight needed to see me where I am now.

But on the other hand, I also stubbornly got in His way and made some boneheaded decisions in the process.

Some of those decisions were astronomically dumb. Truthfully, there were many days where I didn’t give God much to work with.

However, with my feet planted firmly in the dirt of Never Say Never, I forged ahead anyway. I didn’t get very far, mind you, but I tried. I tried to be in control. I tried to be the master of my own destiny. I tried to force life to fit my terms, my conditions. I tried so very hard.

And, much to my chagrin, it turns out my entire existence has been lived in the Land of God’s Got This!

We used to sing He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.
And He does.

Maybe we should dust that one off and sing it some more.

Like mine, your life may look nothing like you planned. Circumstances and situations may be disheartening. Difficulties may come and go. Pain may be an ever-present distraction.

But God?
He’s got this!

In that respect, I so love Joshua’s words to Israel as they prepared to enter the Promised Land…

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, NIV)

God’s Got This!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

News I Can Use

So.
In the life is stranger than fiction category, my resurrection saga continues.
In the category of never saying never, well, I made that mistake too.
In the category of a seemingly never-ending job search, well, that’s a wrap!

Hallelujah! I have a job. And not just a job, a ministry! I have been given the opportunity to serve with and minister to and for the wonderful folks at the Lake Harbour Drive Church of Christ in Ridgeland, MS.

I am beyond excited. I cannot wait to begin working with this group of elders, deacons, and saints.

Will there be problems and difficulties? Absolutely!
Will I have to stretch and grow? Without a doubt, yes!
Will there be growing pains? Of course.

But I am still overwhelmed by the knowledge: God is not through with me yet!

If God is not through with me, then rest assured, God is not through with you either! Life can be hard, unyielding, and relentless. It can feel for all the world like unending roller coaster of pain and suffering.

I get that. Been there; done that. Got the T-Shirt. And still I wrestle and struggle… In some ways, I always will until this life ends and my eternity begins.

But God is still God.
His Throne is secure.

So hold on.
Hold on.

God is not through with us yet.

And if you are in the area, come see us. I start my new job (did I mention I have a fantastic new job?) on April 28th.

I’ll post a real blog post soon.
Promise.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Waiters, Part 2.

The letter to the Romans is a fascinating read/ study. It is one of my favorites. A long time ago in a life sometimes hard to remember, I studied this New Testament jewel in my undergrad days with the guidance of Cecil May, Jr.

Romans 8 is a chapter that brings me great hope. I suspect you know these verses:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-38, NIV)

There’s hope for sure.

But earlier in the chapter there is another bit of hope.
Especially for those of us who wait upon the Lord.
Patiently.
Impatiently.
Angrily.
Stoically.
With tears and without.

However you wait, Romans 8:18-22 says, I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

We do not wait alone.

I find it comforting to know that even Creation itself recognizes the brokenness of nature. I find it comforting to know that even Creation understands our pain and heartache were never meant to be.

In John Waller’s song, While I Am Waiting, he sings of waiting patiently, hopefully, obediently, peacefully, and faithfully.

I love his song. I suspect I’d like him as a human being. But I am a long way from singing this song. At least truthfully.

I am more confident than I have been in the past that God is doing something in me and through me. But to be completely honest, I sure wish He would speed up the process.

My waiting is full of every inconsistency you can imagine.
In fact, there are things I await that will require a lifetime of living to get through. I want the then to be a part of my now, except it’s not.

So I wait.
I wait to see what God will do with my ministry desires.
I wait to see the redemption of what was to what will be.

Waiting is hard. But waiting is easier when you know there are others who wait also.

Some of you are waiting on God.
Some of you are waiting on life to be restored; some for time to be no more.
Some of you are waiting on hearts that just won’t heal; some for the time when life seems more real.

I can’t fix what you are waiting for. And you may or may not have the power to help end some of my wait.

But this I can do: I’ll wait with you.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

 

The Tulsa Workshop

Last week was amazing.

I used to go to The Tulsa Workshop as a teenager. Later as a college student and after, it became a yearly conference to attend—usually with my college buddies.

Over the years, this workshop has reinvigorated me.
It has challenged me.
It has fed me.

And the fellowship… these guys I have gone with have been some of my closest friends since I was 18 years old.

For awhile I missed a few years.
Hurricane Katrina disrupted an entire year of our lives. There was no time for such a trip.
And then, Cole’s disease progressed to the point that it was just unfair to leave one person at home to help care for him.

So I missed some years.

But last week was amazing.

I enjoyed my time with Becki.
I enjoyed my time with some of my oldest friends.
I enjoyed getting to meet face-to-face some folks I’d corresponded with for a good long while.
I networked.
I hobnobbed.
I enjoyed some of the best singing this side of eternity.

It was all good stuff.

And the icing on the cake? I was privileged to be one of the speakers. (You know how some kids want to be a professional baseball player? I wanted to be a Tulsa Workshop speaker!)

It was a challenge.

One topic was The Weakness of God. I love speaking about this. I really love it. And if you think the title is somehow blasphemous, just know it comes straight out of scripture. It is a message of hope to all who are broken. It is a reminder that God is not absent or done.

The other two sessions were back-to-back lessons on Is It Ok To Have Doubt, Part 1 & 2. So much of my understanding, belief, and theology about God, faith, and struggle has undergone a massive transformation. This topic in particular forced me to put some cohesive thought into the relationship between doubt and faith.

I don’t think I have ever spoken anywhere on any subject where people seemed to resonate with what I said like they did at the workshop.

It was gratifying.
It gave me a sense of ministry that has been missing from my life.
It allowed me to feel like me if only for a short time.
And more than anything else, I drove away from Tulsa knowing I had said some things some needed to hear.

I will always be grateful to God and The Tulsa Workshop.

Lots of potential changes in my life… I am praying for the opportunity to wrestle with some decisions. Would you pray with me?

And while you are at it, check out my post on the Holy Spirit as The Comforter over at Wineskins. I’d love to know what you think!

By the way, in a shameless bit of promotion, all of the lessons presented at the workshop can be ordered from their website.

Yours,

Les Ferguson, Jr.