How Do You Smell?

I have been away for far too long. No excuses, just busy with preaching, traveling (you can catch my Pepperdine class on podcast at iTunes), and working on this house so we can move in the middle of June. In the meantime, Conner graduates from High School next weekend and… between that and trying to figure out college, well, writing took a back seat…

At any rate, here’s something I wrote this week…

NOAA-Hurricane-Katrina-Aug28-05-2145UTC

Hurricane Katrina was one of those defining moments in life. It was a before and after delineation and everything you did or had done was put through that particular filter.

Back before Katrina, we used to…
After Katrina, we had to…

I came out of Katrina and all of its associated recovery with some strange idiosyncrasies.

For a long time, I filled up my vehicle every time it got to three quarters of a full tank—I did not want to get stuck without enough gas to get where I might need to go!

And then there is the whole antiperspirant situation.
Yes, you are reading about antiperspirant in the church bulletin.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, you couldn’t make a trip to Wally World for whatever you needed, whenever you needed it. And because there was no electricity (and therefore no air conditioning) or fresh water to bath in, antiperspirant was worth its weight in gold. I came out of that experience with a determination to always have at least two unused antiperspirants at home at all times…

Yes, I know it’s weird.
Yes, I know I am weird.
And yes, you can tell me any of the above.
But, you will never–to the best of my ability–be able to truthfully say I literally stink!

This article might stink.
My sermons might stink.
Occasionally, my attitude might stink.

But not me, not me! No sir and no ma’am.
Fresh as a daisy—that’s my plan and my approach. And if I do happen by some astronomically poor planning to run out of antiperspirant, I am going to have enough gas to get somewhere to buy what I need!

How much does a guy have to pay to get an Amen?

In the book of Proverbs, we read that there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (14:12)

When I say, death stinks, you will most likely agree. It does. Seeing those we love suffer and die, stinks to the high heavens. Visiting a cemetery stinks like nothing else can.

Death stinks.

Years and years ago, Loudon Wainwright III sang a rather goofy song about a dead skunk in the middle of the road stinking to high heaven

Death stinks. And when it is the stench of death and decay from our rebellion and sin? There is not an antiperspirant or deodorant good enough to mask that smell.

Thankfully, for those in Christ, we are given a new aroma—not a masked, powdered, covered over smell—but the very aroma of Christ himself. (2 Corinthians 2:15)

Death stinks.

How do you smell?

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

The Hope & Hurt of Easter

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A million miles away
Your signal in the distance
To whom it may concern
I think I lost my way
Getting good at starting over
Every time that I return

I’m learning to walk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I’m learning to talk again
Can’t you see I’ve waited long enough?
Where do I begin?

Do you remember the days,
We built these paper mountains
And sat and watched them burn?
I think I found my place
Can’t you feel it growing stronger?
Little conquerors

I’m learning to walk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I’m learning to talk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?

(Walk by the Foo Fighters)

Easter Sunday 2015 (two days ago as I write this), I preached about the Resurrection—about hope.

In this sermon…

• I made oblique references to my own struggle of pain and heartache. I talked about Martha’s words to Jesus after Lazarus had died.
• I spoke of my reactions—of stomping my feet and shaking my fists—of demanding answers from an otherwise silent God.
• I committed the Hara-Kiri of clichéd Christianity by unequivocally stating God does not always show up on time. And from Martha and Mary’s perspective as well as ours, that is often the case.
• I mentioned the words of a Jeremy Camp song I once heard and tried to sing along with at a double funeral a few years ago… there will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears. There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face…

On Easter Sunday 2015, I sucked up my pain and lived by my own words. I gave Jesus all my hurts and fears. I claimed the hope of the Resurrection as my own, because there will be a day!

And it was a good day. I wasn’t the smooth communicator I wanted to be as I stood before such a nice crowd. But, on the other hand, my words were authentic and so was the desperate desire to communicate the only real source of strength…

But all that was Easter Sunday 2015.
Two days ago.

Since then, the rush of Easter has passed.
The adrenaline of the day has faded.

Two days after Easter, I still cry…
I cry over my losses.
I cry over the ache of my family.
I cry because even in my hope, the pain will always be there.

And that brings me back to the hope of Easter.

Easter is about new beginnings, reboots, and fresh starts.
It’s about learning to walk and talk again.

Easter is about our shared pain, our shared hope.

My favorite Bible verse is found in the story of Lazarus’ resurrection: Jesus wept.
And he did.
I believe He still does.
His tears mingle with mine.
His tears mingle with yours.
And though we hurt and weep together, in the story of the Resurrection, we find hope.

Together.

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.
(Ps 112:1-2)

May the Lord be praised,
for He has heard the sound of my pleading.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
Therefore my heart rejoices,
and I praise Him with my song.
(Ps 28:6-7)

Together!
Les Ferguson, Jr.

A Season of Hope/ A Redeemed Story

Over the last couple of years, I have publicly and privately expressed a lot of pain. I have not wavered from sharing my struggles. I have ranted and raved. I have shaken my fist. I have stomped my feet like a petulant child–literally and on the pages of this blog.

Occasionally, I have been asked to speak and share my story. At times I have chosen to offer help to those who hurt too. Sometimes, my message was more about what not so say and how to treat those who are suffering. At this point in my life, I am never more excited than when I get to share what God has done in the redemption, restoration, and reconciliation of my life. Better yet, I am thrilled when I have the chance to help people see hope–to know that God can redeem not just their souls from sin, but that He can and does redeem their stories.

Stories.

We all have a story. Some of us can’t escape the knowledge of our stories, they are ever before us. Some of us are blessed to have stories of far less drama and tragedy than others. But all of us have a story. We each have a story of sin and the broken life that follows. We have a story of loneliness and despair. We have a story of _________________ (I’ll let you fill in the blank).

We each have a story, but no matter what yours is or isn’t, here’s hope: There is no story too horrific or too ugly for God to redeem.

None.
Not a single one.
No matter the details.
No matter the guilt.
No matter the shame and embarrassment.
No matter the consequences still yet to be faced.

None.
Not a single one.

Yours, like mine, can be redeemed.
Beauty can be found again.
Although different from before, life can be resumed once more.

In today’s post, I’d like you to notice the tag line has changed to be more reflective of where I am on this journey…

From the crash and burn of destruction and despair to a posture embracing redemption, restoration, and reconciliation, this is my journey of leaning on the gospel of grace…

And lean I do… For where I lean, I find hope!

For those who walked this journey with me, a million billion gazillion thanks. Yours is a story worthy of telling and telling soon!

In the meantime, the following links are the beginnings of Desperately Wanting To Believe Again.

If you choose to stop reading here, Happy Easter! It is a season of hope!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

**Warning: Graphic Details Ahead**

http://lesfergusonjr.com/2013/02/08/blogging-porno…hy-its-obscene/ ‎

 http://lesfergusonjr.com/2013/03/06/obscenity-redux/ ‎

Forward

After some soul searching (and listening to the advice of others), I have decided to leave the blog name just as it is. Because the truth is simple: every day is new–and each new day is an opportunity to wrestle with and struggle through old and fresh doubts, pains, fears,and heartaches. These days I find myself in a much better place. My marriage and family are amazing–so is my work with the Lake Harbour Drive church. I am blessed beyond measure. But in another moment of full disclosure… As the man once told Jesus… 

I believe. Help my unbelief…

 

My friend Jimmy Hinton put Angela Williams in touch with me sometime last year. Angela is the force behind Voice Today–an organization that seeks to give a voice to those who have been sexually abused as children.

In her own words from the Voice Today website:

I believe that through communication and education the stigma of child sexual abuse can be removed from the victim and placed on the predator, where it belongs. By giving this epidemic visibility, we are able to focus society on the issue and, as a result, become a VOICE for the voiceless. It takes great courage for a survivor to step out from the silence and shame and reach for healing and wholeness. They must be met with compassion and understanding to feel safe with each step they take. I believe adults need to take responsibility for the protection of children through education. A trained, conscientious and vigilant society puts the predator on notice and gives the child a community of safe people to watch over them. My dream is that one day this silent epidemic will be exposed, leaving no place for a perpetrator to hide. I pray this plague will be eradicated. I have a lifelong mission to help create a world without sexual abuse, a world where children will be safe, growing up whole and healthy with their sexual, physical and emotional boundaries in tact. Will you help me? Please give of your time and resources! Please join THE VOICE MOVEMENT today!

Angela is doing the work of a lifetime and I am proud to be her friend. She is getting ready to publish another book for children–a tool in the hands of parents who want to protect their precious children. This book is being produced in the memory of my son, Cole. Angela has honored me with the opportunity to write the forward and what follows is my first try…

Forward

I really hate that I am writing this forward.
I really hate that you are reading this book.
I hate that you feel the need to read or share with your children anything of this nature.

And yes, hate is a strong word for this man whose mother taught him not to hate anything.
But hate I do.

Even worse, I hate the events that have led me to this place.
I wish I could stick my head in the sand and have it all go away.
I wish I could, but I can’t.
And so here we are.

You are reading a book to help teach, explain, and protect your children from an insidious evil.
This is an evil most never really know exists.
Please make no mistake. This evil is real. It is deceptive. It is treacherous. It is sinister. It is so very subtle.

Those that know these things are faced with difficult choices. You can choose a path of deliberate ignorance and thereby hope to avoid the pain and discomfort this topic engenders; or, you can choose the path of knowledge and empowerment—and by doing so, embrace the opportunity to face down a malevolent force—to take a stand for the lives of children and families everywhere.

Those lives and that family could well be your own.

And since I am a preaching minister, please allow me this brief moment of preaching: That desire to ignore this evil? It will only serve to ensure more devastated lives in the future.

Unfortunately my family was that family of shattered dreams and broken tomorrows.

We were not deliberately ignorant, but ignorant we were. And that ignorance has cost us dearly.

Sexual abuse is real.
It happens.
It robs the innocent.
It redefines life.
It destroys.

This book is dedicated to my son, Cole. He was abused and more, if your imagination can imagine the very worst. Mentally and physically disabled, he eventually found the courage to speak out—to name his abuser, the destroyer of his innocence. Ultimately, it cost him and his mother, Karen, their very lives.

Yes, you read that correctly.
They were brutally murdered as the final and ultimate abuse. Just like the story of Cain and Abel, their blood cries out from the ground. Their lives demand and deserve justice.

So if by reading this book, your children remain safe and whole, then the lives of my murdered family are given fresh new meaning.

And I?
I am given hope.

So read this book.
Love your children.
Save a life.
And smile with me at the memory of a mother who died protecting her son and a boy who loved God and lived the best life he could…

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison, MS

Silence

Silence.
I relish quiet time and silence.
Time when the kids are asleep.
Time when and the TV’s are not blaring.
Precious time to think, process, write and rewrite.
Time to just breathe…
Time when silence is in fact, golden.

Golden, yes, but not when it comes to prayer.
Silence is painful then.
Silence is a reminder of an empty void.
Silence serves as a jarring notice that while we still pray, we also still want and need, wonder and question.

If I had a dime for every time I cried out to God on Cole’s behalf…
Obviously it’s not the money I would like to see.
Not the money at all.

But my prayers for Cole were all of a similar nature.
To be normal.
To be like the other kids.
To be able to run, walk, climb, and jump.
To be without pain.
To speak clearly.
To have a girlfriend.
To have a life.
To really live.

None of those requests are out of the ordinary. In fact most parents—-at least in our American culture–assume their children will live normal productive lives. And more times than not those children will have the opportunity to do so.

But not Cole.
Not Cole.

Cole had more physical disabilities than you could imagine. Add in his cognitive challenges and the struggle was immense. But in spite of his difficulties, the intellect for self-perception was always there. He knew he was different and not in a way the world perceived as good.

And as much as we loved him, we could not always protect him from that pain.
But we tried.
Oh God how we tried.
And prayed.
And begged.
And pleaded.
And made deals.

And there was nothing but silence.

Silence.
Screaming, ear busting, head splitting, banshee loud, deafening silence.

Silence.

For twenty years.
Silence.
Silence.
Silence.

And then he was gone.
Ripped from life before he ever had the chance to live like other kids.
Gone before… so many things he would never see, do, or experience.

I wish I had a dime for every time I cried out to God.
I wish I could have sucker-punched every well-meaning soul who tried to console with words, images, and thoughts of Cole in a better place.

Intellectually, I understood his pain and struggles were over.
Theologically, I believed he was with God and well.
Spiritually, I was angry and hurt.
Emotionally, I cried for what was lost and what would never be.

I live with a lot of regrets and what ifs.
We lost an awful lot that terrible day.
The empty seats at the table are ever before us.
And if the silence was deafening before…

As clichéd as it might be, time really does help.
On most days, even though I miss him with a deep unfulfilled longing, I can smile, laugh and talk about my son who is in a different place.
But some days the pain is just as raw as it was the day he was taken.
And silence is an all too familiar experience.

On those days I sometimes use this picture to remind me of Cole’s new reality and the truth of answered prayers… even when they are not answered in my arbitrary time frame.

HopeRealized
(With thanks to the Huffington Post for an inspiring picture and story)

Even though the silence mostly still remains, I am thankful for so much. I am thankful for the good memories and the precious time we had. Cole made me a better person. I miss him so, but I am glad he is free and unfettered…

cole

To those who hurt with loss, you are not alone…

Blessings to you,

Les, Jr.

Email address

Is It Icey or Icy?

IMG_0899 (looking out the kitchen window)

In 1977, the British-American rock band, Foreigner, released their hit single Cold As Ice. And while they were singing of a relationship gone awry, the imagery is apropos.

Ice.

It is very cold. As Cold As Ice.

Literally.

As I write this I am sitting in the kitchen lingering over a late breakfast/ lunch.

Ice is everywhere.

I went to get some firewood a bit ago, but the driveway was so slick with ice, I envisioned an unhealthy and painful fall… so I came back inside where I sit reading, contemplating, and writing…

Ice.

Everywhere I look here in the woods of north Warren County is the evidence of cold, bitter weather.

IMG_0900

As Vanilla Ice once said, ice, ice, baby.

It’s everywhere.

We are pretty much iced in. When the gravel road is as slick as… well, ice, you are not going anywhere anytime soon.

At this stage of the game, I am thankful we have not lost power and for what remains of our dwindling firewood supply. And if completely honest, I also confess to being thankful for the still warm plate of deer sausage in front of me.

Ice, ice, baby.

And if you want to know the cold, icy truth of my life, I am thankful for the ice today. The ice we are predicted to endure tomorrow is another story, but for today, I am thankful for the forced isolation. I am thankful for the forced slowdown. I am thankful for the time to relax—to have the family home in one place…

Ice, ice, baby.

As God said to Job, Whose womb did the ice come from? Who gave birth to the frost of heaven when water becomes as hard as stone, and the surface of the watery depths is frozen? (Job 38:29-30 HCSB)

Thank you, Lord.
For family.
For heat.
For good food.
For coffee.
And for the ice that pauses and brings reflection.

Ice is cold, but my heart is warm…

Ice, ice, baby!

And by the way, it’s icy not icey out there!

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Somewhere deep in the woods of Oak Ridge…

Momma Said!

So I am back to preaching and being a minister.
And because ministry often involves serving people at times of great pain and heartache, I find myself sharing in funeral services once more.

Last week a much beloved member of our church lost his battle with cancer and won the victory in Jesus. As I contemplated being a part of a funeral service again, I penned what you read below.

But before you read, I am still searching for the right name for this blog–so stay tuned, changes are coming sooner or later that will hopefully reflect my new reality!

Thanks for being a part of my life!

Les, Jr.

Most Moms are founts of knowledge and wisdom. And most of us grew up with any number of things we needed to heed and remember simply because Momma said.

My mother and my life were then and are still no different.

Momma said.

And she did.

Things like:

If you can’t say anything nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all.

 Don’t talk with your mouth full.

Chew your food up.

Wash your hands.

Be on time.

Wear socks to church.

Be nice to your brother.

Be a gentleman at all times.

Be nice to your sisters and their friends–you might marry one of those friends one day.

Yes, Momma said.

Well maybe not that part about marrying one of my sister’s friends. But she should have because I did!

I am thankful for all the warnings and wisdom found in what Momma said. Thanks to her, I have thus far avoided the catastrophic indignity of riding in an ambulance to the hospital while wearing ratty old undergarments! (And by using the word undergarments, I have also avoided using in public a word/ subject Momma said I shouldn’t talk about).

Momma said.

One time before a date, Momma said I should always keep a copy of the Bible between me and whatever lucky girl I was with. When I asked her (my momma, not my date) about the validity of just using a small checkbook sized New Testament instead, I distinctly remember that Momma said something I didn’t want to hear…

Momma said.

Momma said we shouldn’t use the word hate.

Momma said we shouldn’t hate anybody or anything.

I am hoping that Momma will give me a one-time pass on this one…

Because I hate dying and death.

I hate the pain and suffering of all concerned.

I hate the heartache.

I hate the long-term struggle of coming to grips with the empty seats at the table.

I hate dying and death.

I do.

I do.

I am not alone.

Not by a long shot.

I am not alone.

The psalmist says in Psalm 116:3-4, The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the torments of Sheol overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of Yahweh: “Yahweh, save me!”

Death was not a friend of the psalmist. In fact, he reminds us that God knows the high cost of this thing, this enemy we hate…

Psalm 116:15, The death of His faithful ones is valuable in the Lord’s sight.

I hate death, but in Christ, death’s victory will be short-lived…

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!
(1 Corinthians 15:55-57 HCSB)

Momma said I could trust God in this.

I do.

I do.

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory!

Amen!

The Humpty Dumpty Conundrum

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Life leads us to lots of questions.

And often questions of the kind of Humpty Dumpty might have asked.

I have no idea what precipitated Mr. Dumpty’s unfortunate plunge from the wall where he sat.
Maybe he had inner ear problems and it eventually destroyed his equilibrium.
Maybe he was pushed by circumstances outside of his control.
Maybe he jumped.

Oh my.
Isn’t that a kicker?

Of course this is a children’s nursery rhyme.
And when you write nursery rhymes for a living, there is no contractual obligation to end the story with the plot all tidied up and all the possible questions and scenarios believably answered and or resolved.

But in the vein of another great literary tale, who shot JR?
I am sure there is answer and we can all Google it later…

But back to Humpty Dumpty’s great fall…
How did it happen?
Why did it happen?

Who knows? (Since it’s my blog, I also am not contractually obligated to offer any speculation made to look like a definitive answer. Yes, I know. I am just lucky that way.)

But before the great fall that splattered his world, I imagine he asked the same sort of questions common to all men… even those who look like an egg drawn by a bad cartoonist.

Humpty_Dumpty

And like Humpty, we sometimes wonder…
Who am I?
Why am I here?
What is my purpose?
What really matters?
And does anybody care whether I like green eggs and ham?

Wait.
Sorry.
I am guilty of mixing more than my metaphors at this point.

Again, back to the point at hand…

Eventually we all run headfirst into the God questions…
Who is God?
Is He really here?
Does He care about me?
Does He really care about what I am going through?
Where is He when I need Him most?

You may not recognize them quite yet, but those are delivery room questions born of pain—be it physical, spiritual, emotional, or even philosophical.

Eventually, as most of us will experience in some fashion or another, there will come a day when everything shatters, when the world falls apart, and life makes absolutely no sense.

Sort of like Sir Dumpty’s great fall as immortalized by nursery rhyme…

Except ours are real and the consequences severe—often accompanied by an agony that expands like a nuclear mushroom cloud and consumes everything in its path.

And as Old Humpty Dumpty experienced, when all the king’s horses and all the king’s men have completely failed to put us back together again?
What then?
What now?
What next?

And when the whole montage of questions and doubt turns theological…
Where was God?
Why didn’t He fix this or stop it?
And who is this Jesus anyway?

Now that’s the real question.

Who is Jesus?

Ultimately, He’s the author of the epic story we were created to live.
He’s the one who makes possible our redemption, restoration, and reconciliation.
He’s the one who will one day wipe away all our tears.
He is the one who puts us back together again.
He’s the one that brings meaning to our story.
He’s the one who loves us the most in spite of ourselves.

So who is this Jesus?
Really.
And what does it all mean?

Scripture gives many names and concepts to describe Him.
He’s the Lord of Lords.
He’s the King of Kings.
He’s the Alpha and Omega.
He’s the Lamb that was slain.
He’s the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

And while I am fascinated by this Lion of the Tribe of Judah description, there is quite another designation that resonates with my greatest need.

My little brother, Billy, recently reminded me of this and I am so glad he did.

Who is Jesus? He’s a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19) just like me.

And for those of us whose life experiences and consequences make Humpty Dumpty’s great fall look like a cake walk?

Here’s hope: There is no fall so big, so bad, so dramatic that Jesus cannot redeem, restore, and reconcile…

But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. (Isaiah 53:5 HCSB)

Humpty Dumpty lives!
He may not be quite as egg shaped as he once was. But if anyone could put him back together again, it’s Jesus!

Thank you for reading.
And stayed tuned for some future changes at Desperately Seeking To Believe Again!

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

David Bowie Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Me…

In another world, in a different time, David Bowie sang that it was time to turn and face the strange changes

Indeed.

In the same song, he also said he didn’t want to be a richer man, instead, he was just gonna have to be a different man.

Yes, indeed.

While I wouldn’t sneeze at the opportunity to be a little more financially independent, being rich materialistically is not one of my life-shaping goals.

I’m just gonna have to be a different man.

How many times can a guy say indeed in one blog post?
Apparently, at least five times…

So once again, indeed.

I am just gonna have to be a different man and I am.

Strange changes abound. Strange changes indeed.

I suspect as long as I am alive, there will occasionally be moments of anger and pain, heartache and rage–yes, joy comes in the morning, but there are plenty more nights of questions and grief to come.

And I am ok with that.

Indeed (somebody stop me…).
There’s one of those strange changes… I have learned to not be afraid of it–grief serves its purpose and while tears can be bitter, they can also be cleansing…

I am thankful for many of the changes in my life.
I am thankful for lessons learned.

My reality has changed.
I am enjoying life.
To quote the Foo Fighters, who will have their own post fairly soon (as in almost done), I am learning to walk again…

Strange Changes.

I am wrestling with a new name for my blog. Desperately Wanting to Believe Again has served it’s purpose. I never quit believing. I do believe. I still struggle with trust at times, but I trust God even if I don’t always understand.

I am done with bitterness. I may be bitter at times or for a moment, but I never want to embrace bitterness again.

I may still have hurt. Pain will raise itself once in awhile, but I never want to be that guy again whose hurt turns him into a pariah.

It’s time to move forward.
It’s time time live again.
And I am.
I am.

Ok. So I am blathering on like the crazy strange man I am.

Four more things:

1. I am going to recommit to writing here more often–giving it the good old college try (whatever that means).

2. I am going to make significant progress on my book (call the first two New Year resolutions if you want).

3. If you have an idea for a new blog name reflecting my new reality, please share it ASAP.

4. Here’s a sermon from the first Sunday of 2015 (last week)–it ends with what I call a story of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation…

God bless and Happy New Year!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

and oh yeah, one more piece of happiness…

My beautiful wife and our new house in Madison, Mississippi! (This picture was from yesterday–after we closed on the house!)

New_house

The Defiant Song

Yeah.
It’s been awhile.
A couple of weeks, or maybe three.
I don’t know.

There is always something, some bit of writing that needs to be written percolating in my head—either for here, Wineskins, or the book that seems as if it will never be completed.

And then there are the sermons.
I am so grateful to be studying for and writing sermons again.
Life is so very busy for just about everyone I know. But no complaints from me—I am living in so many, many ways.

If you could see me as I write this, you’d see a guy wearing a very relaxed smile, sitting by the fire, and just enjoying being alive…

Preachers/ ministers are not supposed to say what is coming next. Surely it says so in a ministry handbook or seminary class somewhere.
Surely.

Lots of folks understand pain and depression. Broken people know the brokenness of grief. Broken people know full well their inadequacies when facing such struggles. Broken people feel the additional burden of their own actions and reactions steeped in misery, sin, and causing pain for others.

Here’s a fact: Hurt people hurt people.

But more than that, I understand suicide. I get a pain so great, a loss so devastating, and a heartache so profound that the only conceivable way you can think of to make it stop is by ending your life.

I get it.
For the biggest part of my life, I couldn’t understand how anybody could do such a “selfish” thing. I couldn’t even come close to grasping a pain that great.
But I get it now.
And I am glad I do.

You don’t have to remind me that this is not something ministers should say. I get that too. But, those who have suffered the most and continue on anyway—somehow, someway, by the loving attention of others, through the mercy and grace of God—and in the process find a measure of peace, hope, and renewed joy? Those people want others who hurt to find the same.

And that’s what I want more than anything else.
I want to dispense the same mercy and grace to others.
I want to share my pain and walk with you in yours.
Not in pity and arrogance.
Not in criticism and judgment.
Not in an “I’m better than you and holier than thou” kind of way.

No, I want to walk with you as one who still wears the stench and soot of the fire.
Who still struggles.
Who still hurts.
Who still knows the bitterness of defeat.

I am convinced that is why I am still here.
Writing.
Preaching.
Talking to you.
Walking this path.

There is a song I call My Defiant Song. It’s by a band, a group of guys from the Mississippi Gulf Coast with the unorthodox name, 3 Doors Down. On my play list is found their greatest hits collection. I listen to it frequently and can be regularly seen driving between Vicksburg and Ridgeland screaming/ singing at the top of my lungs.

I like all of the songs on this album. But there is one song… It is my anthem song. It is my defiant song…

Like most songs, this one is open to a number of different interpretations. One in particular sees it as a romance gone bad song or a song lamenting the loss of a significant other. As far as interpretations go, I would guess it is as good as any other.

My take is radically different. I see this song as a progression. The singer sings about some calamity, some tragedy, some difficult or horrific situation and simply says/ asks, It won’t be too long and I’ll be going under, can you save me from this?

I don’t know how much help he receives.
I don’t know if others rescue him or not.
I don’t know if he ever had the kind of support so many tried to give me.
But at some point in his struggle, at some place in his journey, he makes a definitive defiant statement and it changes everything…

Looking back of the beginning of this
And how life was
Just you and me and love and all of our friends
Living life like an ocean
But now the current’s only pulling me down
It’s getting harder to breathe
It won’t be too long and I’ll be going under
Can you save me from this?

‘Cause it’s not my time I’m not going
There’s a fear in me it’s not showing
This could be the end of me
And everything I know
Ooo but I won’t go

I look ahead to all the plans that we made
And the dreams that we had
I’m in a world that tries to take them away
Oh but I’m taking them back
‘Cause all this time I’ve just been too blind to understand
What should matter to me
My friend, this life we live is not what we have
It’s what we believe

And it’s not my time I’m not going
There’s a fear in me it’s not showing
This could be the end of me
And everything I know
But it’s not my time I’m not going
There’s a will in me and now I know that
This could be the end of me
And everything I know
Ooo but I won’t go
I won’t go

There might be more than you believe
(There might be more than you believe)
There might be more than you can see

But it’s not my time I’m not going
There’s a fear in me it’s not showing
This could be the end of me
And everything I know
But it’s not my time I’m not going
There’s a will in me and now it’s gonna show
This could be the end of me
And everything I know
Ooohh

There might be more than you believe
(There might be more than you believe)
There might be more than you can see

But I won’t go
And no, I won’t go down
Yeah

I am alive!
I am still here!
I am surviving!
And it’s not my time I’m not going
There’s a fear in me it’s not showing
This could be the end of me
And everything I know
But it’s not my time I’m not going…

Obviously, I have no idea what could happen tomorrow. But as long as I can fight back and stand, I will. And not only stand, I will stand with all who are desperate, broken and hurt…

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand… (Ephesians 6:10-14b HCSB)

It’s not my time.
I’m not going…

Thanks for reading.

Les, Jr.