For Messy People Everywhere

Anybody that knows me fairly well can’t help but know some of my flaws and failures.

As much as I’d like to be an extremely private person, I tend to live my life out there where others can see.

Sometimes that out there persona engenders ridicule and criticism.
Sometimes the engendered ridicule and criticism means I’ll end up showing more of my failures and flaws.

It’s a vicious cycle.

On the other hand, living my life out there for all to see can also engender healing.
My healing often begins as I discover others walking alongside me.
From a different perspective, the healing of others is sometimes made possible as they come to understand how un-alone they really are…

So in the interest of being transparent and finding common ground, you should know…
I struggle with food and eating and eating too much.
I don’t take care of myself as well as I should.
I struggle with confidence.
I wrestle with my self-worth.
It’s hard for me to not be in control.
I hardly ever feel as if I am good enough or that I bring true value to the table.
I struggle with not being a victim.
I live with regrets and guilt…

Those are just some of my struggles. There are many more.
Many, many more…
Remember the proverbial you haven’t yet touched the hem of the garment?
Yeah…

I tell you these things not because I want you to make me feel better about myself.
(Here’s another one of my flaws: I probably wouldn’t believe you anyway.)
No, I tell you because being transparent and vulnerable means being honest with you and being honest with myself.

“Hi, my name is Les Ferguson, Jr. and I am 52 years old. I am a mess. Some might call me a hot mess, which is much, much messier than a plain old vanilla mess.”

Sometimes I think my mess is too messy to ever be cleaned up. But amazingly enough, I belong to the God who is not intimidated by messes! I belong to the God whose imagination is so much greater than mine. I belong to the God who takes my flaws, failures, and ongoing messes and gets creative.

Every time I turn around my pain, hurt, and anger is given the opportunity to help someone else who is struggling.
The more I help others, the less painful my mess is…

As it turns out, ministry is messy because it is a sharing of messes

The Irish band U2 just released a new album last week. I am not an expert on the band. I have been a low-key fan over the years and that’s about the best way I can say it. But this new record has captivated me—and it will take Bono himself to tell me I am wrong… But I am convinced the lyrics to Song for Someone are about Jesus…

You’ve got a face not spoiled by beauty
I have some scars from where I’ve been
You’ve got eyes that can see right through me
You’re not afraid of anything they’ve seen

I am not quite at the point where I can thank God for my mess—and I may never get there, but I am thankful for what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will yet do… I am thankful for eyes that can see right through me and are unafraid of the mess I have made…

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Psalm 121:1-2)

Messily yours,
Les Ferguson, Jr.

Foolishness, Part 1

I need to be writing more, but family and ministry consumes me… And for that I am glad. No complaints here…

I did muster the courage to write a new chapter for my book project… One day, one day…

In the meantime, I would like to share the sort of transcript of a sermon recently preached here at Lake Harbour Drive… I need to appease the two or three readers I have left!

Foolishness?

Proverbs 26:1-12…

Good morning and welcome! Today we are taking a ride on the Fool Train—I am your conductor and engineer all rolled into one. It’s a fast ride—faster than you might expect and you are going to need to hold on tight and pay attention…

The first thing we need to do is illustrate the difference between one who isn’t and one who is…

Over the years, Dean Kamen has had his detractors, but in the long run, he has the chops to prove his worth. An American inventor, the maker of the Segway, he has his hands in lots of radical sounding stuff that ultimately proves real. If he shows up today and wants to share something wild and crazy, I am going to pay careful attention.

But then there is a guy named Joseph Newman. He’s a Mississippi fellow hailing from Lucedale, down south in George County. Have you ever heard of perpetual motion? It’s the stuff of dreams and legends. As a young boy I remember vividly reading stories and accounts of men who had supposedly done the unthinkable. Yes, that’s the claim of Joseph Newton—one he is still pursuing in spite of being shut down here and their for fraudulent activity.

But as long as we are taking a ride on the fool train, is there anybody here who would like to invest in this motor? It’s a perpetual motion machine and if I could just get around thirty people to invest $100 each, we’d be on easy street in just a few short weeks!

Some of you are looking at me like I am an idiot.

Some of you might like to say something like my father did when we came to him with some harebrained idea, “Do you think I was born yesterday?”

You know what they say?

A fool and his money are soon parted!

For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Some things are just foolish!

But on the other hand, this crazy ride on the Fool train might just convince you that being a fool is majorly cool! Because the crazy truth is we serve a God who uses foolishness to confound and defeat enemies and sin!

Here’s an Old Testament example: Do you remember the story of Gideon and the Midianites? Judges 7:1-21…

God has Gideon gut his army down to 300 men who are armed with nothing more than a trumpet, a pitcher, and a torch.

And with the most foolish weapons of war one could ever imagine, the might of the Midianites was destroyed!

Who in their right mind does battle with a trumpet, a pitcher, and a torch? To us, it’s foolishness, but to those who followed God, it was victory!

As we move to a New Testament example, I want to remind you of Deuteronomy 21:22-23… If anyone is found guilty of an offense deserving the death penalty and is executed, and you hang his body on a tree, you are not to leave his corpse on the tree overnight but are to bury him that day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

In the ancient world of Jesus, in the world of Peter, Paul, and the other Apostles, the idea of a crucified man being humanity’s salvation was just utter foolishness.

Nothing brought greater shame and humiliation than being put to death on a Cross.

To claim power and redemption from the weak instead of the strong was pure craziness.

Nobody was more humiliated or weaker than the poor soul hanging from a tree!

1 Corinthians 1:18-25…

Foolishness!

Because Satan goes to war against God, a wedge is driven between Creator and the created. 

Paradise is destroyed.

Ugliness rules, but foolishness reigns supreme!

What is foolishness to the world—a God dying on a Cross–is simply the amazing love of God!

When Peter confesses Jesus as Lord in Matthew 16, Jesus tells us something that cuts against the grain–and to our ears maybe even sounds crazy or foolish.

Matthew 16:18, And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

The gates of Hades will not overcome it is the phrase in question.

Obviously this is about church, but what about gates? Are gates defensive or offensive? They are defensive! Nobody attacks with a gate!

So think about it: who is attacking the realm of the dead/ who is being defended?

It’s pretty common to see the church not being overrun by Hades but here’s the problem with that: the church is the one attacking!

Through the foolishness of the Cross, through the craziness of God’s plan, the church–us–me–you–we are attacking the realm of the dead! We are denying Satan his power of sin and death!

1 Corinthians 15:55-57, Death, where is your victory?
Death, where is your sting?
Now the sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ!

God’s foolishness is power!

The message of Christianity is counter culture to the message of the world! The world is all about wielding power. It’s about logic and rules. It’s about influence and one-upmanship. Remember the old saying he who has the most toys wins? That’s the message of the world!

But Christianity? It’s a message of foolishness. It’s a message of faith and trust and throwing out all the logic we order our lives by.

Christianity is a message of foolishness, the foolishness of a God who would die on a cross!

Who wants to be a fool? I do! And as it turns out, the Fool Train is exactly where I want to be!

Quickly, let me share with you three things–foolish in the eyes of the world–that can make a major difference in your life–three things that ought to be characteristic of fools for Christ!

  • Pray! Prayer is our constant source of strength and communication with God. Paul urges us to pray continually (1 Thess. 5:17). It’s an attitude/ way of life that seeks to be constantly connected to the source of everything–it’s an act of trust and submission—the recognition that we are not the supreme authority. Like any other oxymoron, can you really be a Christian and not be a person of prayer?
  • Serve! Being a servant is the epitome of Christianity (how foolish is that—he who would be first is last)! It’s what Jesus did, as our suffering servant! The world doesn’t want to serve but be served and that’s exactly what we should do. Jesus said to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile–that’s service. Paul said to serve one another in love.
  • Live!I don’t mean just exist, but live. Paul tells us in Philippians to do everything without complaining and arguing–to shine. Colossians 3:17, And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him… Give God glory in good or bad and watch what happens! Live every moment for Him!

 A fool for Christ?

Foolishness is God’s way of changing the world.

Isn’t it time to be a fool for Him?

 

Fools Gold

Now Peter and John were going up together to the temple complex at the hour of prayer at three in the afternoon. And a man who was lame from birth was carried there and placed every day at the temple gate called Beautiful, so he could beg from those entering the temple complex. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple complex, he asked for help. Peter, along with John, looked at him intently and said, “Look at us.” So he turned to them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Then, taking him by the right hand he raised him up, and at once his feet and ankles became strong. So he jumped up, stood, and started to walk, and he entered the temple complex with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized that he was the one who used to sit and beg at the Beautiful Gate of the temple complex. So they were filled with awe and astonishment at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:1-10)

Hidden somewhere known only to me is a bag of silver.
A bag of silver.

When I was a little boy, my paternal grandfather used to give me silver dollars made of real silver. I still have them and over the years I have added to the collection with other silver dollars and silver dimes, nickels, quarters, and half-dollars as I have found them.

As small as it is, it’s not worth much money at all. And certainly not worth the effort to acquire it, but it is my bag of silver.
And it is real.

The world is busy offering lots of valuables to us, but most of the time those valuables have the equivalent of being fools gold.

They may appear beautiful. They may seem to be of great value… But in the end, the value they bring is not worth the time and effort…

Fools Gold.

In the long run, we strive for and pursue much, but anything of this world is fools gold.

A few years ago, I would have given anything to keep my son alive and here with me. Indeed, I miss him so… and while I have no desire to leave this life anytime soon, I am often conflicted. If my life takes the normal span, it will be years until I get to cross the great divide and see him again.

Yes, I miss my son.
Some days I yet weep for all the time that has to pass.
Some days my desperation is hard for others to imagine.
But having him back? Well to him who is safe, secure, and whole in the arms of Jesus? That would be fools gold.

And while I hesitate to make you see me in the same light as Peter and John, we do have something in common…

Like them I cannot give you any silver or gold, but if you are lame, broken, grieving, and hurting—as a result of the brokenness of this world as evidenced by your own sin or failures—or the sin and failures of others—I can give you Jesus… the only thing that matters!

Les, Jr.

Pumpernickel, Anyone?

bread

Bread.
I am not a fan.
But don’t get me wrong because I like bread.

I know some people who just get all ga-ga about bread.
They could care less for the entree’s at O’Charley’s, but will go to the moon and back to eat a couple baskets of those hot fresh buttered rolls.

Other bread specialty restaurants can be found here and there.
Maybe you’ve had an opportunity to experience the “throwed rolls” at one of the three Lambert’s Cafes… it’s all ok, but throwing a roll across the room doesn’t really change how it tastes.

I am really not the bread Grinch.
I like bread.

Some have referred to bread as the staff of life because it has long been the main ingredient of the human diet.

Sometimes we refer to something that is really neat as being the greatest thing since sliced bread.

James Beard, an American icon and culinary expert, once said, Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.

I don’t much like plain white loaf bread. But then if you slather it with mayonnaise, add slices of thick garden fresh tomatoes, and liberally dose it with salt and pepper… Oh, man. That is a slice of nirvana held in two hands…

I really like BLT’s… But honestly, a BLT is nothing more than a different vehicle for getting bacon off the plate and onto the taste buds.

I can dig a good club sandwich. But heaven is a Reuben on Rye with a good sauce and sauerkraut.

Maybe I like bread better than I think.

What’s your favorite bread?

Or better yet, what are you consuming?

Here’s a painful confession…

When Karen and Cole were murdered, I was ill prepared.
And obviously that’s a great understatement in one perspective. How could you be prepared?

Here’s where the painful confession comes to play… in my life as a preacher and an elder, I was busy. Busy writing and speaking. Busy helping others. Busy feeding the flock. But my consumption of bread, my feeding on the Word of God was almost non-existent. I neglected my own relationship for the sake of others and it cost me dearly. When tragedy occurred, when the pain and heartache hit, my foundation crumbled.

It’s still a struggle. It’s still far too easy to want to help take care of everyone else first. However, I have learned that in order for me to feed others, I have to make sure I am being fed too.

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.”

As the old hymn says, Bread of Heaven feed me till I want no more…

(Hey, check out my latest post at Wineskins!)

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Lake Harbour Drive Church of Christ
Ridgeland, MS.

Not Born Retarded

So. It’s been awhile. Life is keeping me busy. Being a preacher again is keeping me busy. But don’t think I am complaining. The Lake Harbour Drive church is simply amazing. We have been welcomed, loved on, and the process continues. Sometimes I think they are the most easily made happy people ever… especially when it comes to preaching.

My confidence is improving, but still I am amazed…

I have added a few new speaking engagements to my speaking page. My elders have said I have a message and they want to make me available to share it. I think they must have all been running a fever at that time.

In the meantime, I want to continue dedicating time to writing my book, but that has proven to be elusive… If I were to self-diagnois, I’d say I suffer from fear of rejection and fear of success.

Crazy, I am sure.

This coming Sunday morning, I am teaching a one-time class with our 20″s & 30′s group–we are beginning a new study together the following week. So while we wait for everybody to get a book, I am filling one class time with something different. I choose a chapter of what I have written previously to share with them. It’s from my book and maybe you will be blessed by it too.

At any rate, I love my readers and thank each of you for taking this journey with me…

Les, Jr.

Not Born Retarded

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people (Ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people (Ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all belong?
The Beatles

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.
“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”
So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.
When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
Genesis 12:1-14, NLT

I was taught through much of my life that it was wrong to hate anything.
But I do.

You may be tempted to think I hate Paul Buckman for what he did. I tried to. I want to. Sometimes I think I feel the need to. But the simple truth is it takes too much energy and time to keep that hatred stoked and burning. I knew Paul Buckman but for a short time.

With apologies to those who may have loved him, it’s best for my well being to just let him go. He is in the hands of God and however He works that out is His business.

On the other hand, being fully human, I claim inconsistency.
Like you, there are many inconsistencies in my life.

There are some things I hate with a passion.

I hate the word retarded. And that’s probably the largest understatement you’ll read today.

I hate the word retarded.

If you ever feel the need to have your butt kicked or your insides pulled out through your nostrils (trying to be as descriptive as I can without being profane or obscene), let the parent of a mentally challenged or handicapped child hear you calling their kid retarded. Or describing them as someone who rides the short-bus.

I hate the word retarded.

I hate it because that was how so many saw Cole and others like him.
I am not in denial. I know he was (hallelujah, no more).

But with or without his mental and physical limitations, he was worthy of respect and love. He was a good boy who didn’t deserve the horrors that befell him–even the one that afflicted him from birth.

The bitter truth is we are all retarded in some fashion or another. Not a single one of us is a perfect physical specimen without flaws. And that’s just on the outside. In our hearts and minds, in our thinking and attitudes, we all are less than what God intended.

Cole was retarded. It makes me nauseated to think, say, and write it. I know how the world saw him. But those who knew him best saw the incredible gift of ministry and love he gave to the world.

Years ago when I was a youth minister, Cole was my greatest asset. He brought those kids together like nothing else could. I am proud he is my son.

Being retarded was just another example of the weakness of God. God could have healed him, but He didn’t. And still God was at work in Cole’s life and through Cole, the lives of others.

Reading through the pages and stories of the Bible, there are no characters that are retarded at first sight. But the truth is, any number of characters were damaged goods–and by damaged, I mean the way we would look at them.

Take David as one example. God called him a man after His own heart. We know him as a dysfunctional husband, father and leader. And still, he did great things for God and His chosen people.

So there is a sense in which you could call every person in the Bible–other than Jesus of course–somewhat dysfunctional at best, stunted in the middle, and retarded at worst.

I’d like you consider the story of Isaac in that light.
Can you imagine what it must have been like living with Abraham, the Father of Faith?

You know, son, back in my day, when God spoke, we listened.
He said, go, and we went. He said, leave, and we left.
He said, you’re gonna have a son who will be the child of promise and a whole nation will come from him. That’s you, boy. And in just a few minutes we are gonna load up and head up that mountain to offer a sacrifice. And don’t you worry your little head one bit, you carry the firewood and God (said in a voice like Jerry Clower, Gaaawwwd) will provide the sacrifice…

Do you remember the old sitcom, Different Strokes? Gary Coleman had a signature line he would use on his brother… What you talking about, Willis?

In my crazy imagination, I hear Isaac saying something similar especially about the time he realizes he’s the sacrifice his father is offering.

How old was Isaac when this episode occurs? There is vast disagreement. Some say between 18 and 20 years old. Others around 33 years old. The Jewish historian Josephus, says he was 25 years old. And still others who believe he was around 37 years old. The one thing they all agree on? Isaac was no small boy when this incident happened–a small boy couldn’t have carried the wood needed for such a large sacrifice.

However you read it, can you try to imagine all of this from Isaac’s perspective?
Can you imagine that an incident like this might have stunted your relationship with your Father? With both of them? Can you imagine that when it came to all things God-related, Isaac might very well have been retarded?

How do you have a good relationship going forward when you were the object lesson in testing your father’s faith? How do you relate to God when He called for the same?

From our vantage point, we can surmise that God would have never allowed such a thing to happen in the first place. But, how do we know? How could Isaac have known? His own Dad was willing to take that chance.

Would you blame him if he spent the rest of his life licking his wounds from such an ordeal? Or, would you expect him to move forward as if nothing ever happened?

While he wasn’t born that way, I suspect Isaac was fundamentally and functionally retarded from that point on. I further suspect Eleanor Rigby had nothing on our man, Isaac.

And yet, Isaac was still a part of God’s plan.

So am I.
So are you.

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