Cover Art

This might be my shortest blog post ever.

Unfortunately, I suspect all fifty of my readers will get tired of hearing about this book!

As far as I know, the publication date is still Spring 2018.

Even so, I am extremely excited and proud to share with you the cover art!

May your day be blessed!

Les

Imago Dei (2)

Writing, writing, writing…  I am writing left and right it seems these days. And I love it! I am amazed to see myself where I am… Thank you for reading and sharing and encouraging! I am blessed and thankful!

The following is the second in a series of old bulletin articles…

Mad face.

Grumpy face.

Happy face.

I must be a horrible father because I cannot remember which boy. One of them, either Conner or Casey, was good at making faces on demand. They were quite funny. The happy face was sweet. But the grumpy and mad faces were hysterical because they served as miniature caricatures of how many adults look and act.

Honestly, I don’t know many people—adults especially—who haven’t perfected wearing the grumpy woe-is-me-the-world-is-ending kind of face.

Likewise, I have seen enough mad faces to know it doesn’t take any special skill to scare the socks off folks with a practiced, well-aimed glare.

And if I can be a bit meddlesome, some of us deserve an Academy Award except for one thing; we aren’t acting!

I teased Mickey in my article last week. I am not going to tease him this time. I have never seen his grumpy or mad face. I suspect he has one of each, but if you want to know more, you’ll have to check with Kay.

In the meantime, the Latin phrase Imago Dei means the image of God. When those words are used, it is meant to convey the same thing you read about last week.

Genesis 1: 26a, Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness….

We bear the image of God.

Now some question what that means. There are those who think its about knowledge and wisdom from God. Others see this as something we lost with the Fall of Man. Still more understand we were each created with a bit of the divine and therefore have inherent value, worth, and identity.

Imago Dei. Image bearer. It’s that last concept that really rings true for me. I have value. You have worth. A part of God is in each of us. We were made in His image. That ought to give rise to a happy face.

It ought to also make us pause when we treat badly someone whom God has made and infused with the precious gift of life.

What did Jesus say?

You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire. (Matthew 5:21–22 CSB17)

Whose image does your face, words, and action resemble?

It’s worth considering again what it means to bear the image of God!

Les, Jr.

PS. Try to make a happy face right now. Try to keep it all day long. I triple dog dare you…

Still Wrestling… And impatiently waiting!

Here’s my latest book news…

So the full title/ subtitle is Still Wrestling: Faith Renewed through Brokenness.

I am told that work is under way on cover art. How cool is that?

I am excited. Life is absolutely crazy, but it’s a cool ride anyhow!

The link here is to my latest offering at The Clarion-Ledger.

May you be blessed!

Les

Image Bearer (1)

  I had a funny (as in Ha-Ha) conversation with my editor at Leafwood Publishers today that went like this: “Any news on a title? That would help me a lot—it gives me something to tell people. It is too weird telling folks ‘I have a book coming out next spring. No, I don’t know the name of it yet.’”  

In perfect timing, she emailed me back with an answer this afternoon. Pardon the pun, but while we are still wrestling with the subtitle, I am fairly confident that the main title will be: “Still Wrestling!” 

As far as I know, everything is percolating right along for a late spring/ early summer 2018 release.

I can hardly wait! This is worse than waiting for Christmas morning! Meanwhile, I continue to write for The Clarion-Ledger on a monthly basis. I am also at work on a second full book of my own. If I had to guess, I’d say it will serve quite well as a sequel to my first.

If you are in the area, we would love for you to come visit at the Lake Harbor Church of Christ where I minister and preach.

What follows is the modified first of a four-part series of bulletin articles I wrote earlier this year. I hope each will be of benefit…

You have four choices to choose from in answering this question:

Where was I?

  1. A Star Wars/ Star Trek/ Battle Star Galactica Convention
  2. An intergalactic Zoo
  3. The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  4. A point in time where transhumanism was in full evidence.

In the vein of a popular syndicated morning radio show, take C.

I had never in my life seen anything like it.

Anybody with eyes in their heads could have seen this country bumpkin come to town.  What a rube I was! Did I mention I had never in my life seen anything like it? In every direction I turned, I saw a new sight stranger than the one before. I didn’t want to be rude, but I wanted to ask a lot of questions.

Or not. I was genuinely afraid of the answers.

So there I was, with my mouth, wide open and my faced scrunched up in a semi-permanent, “Wow, are these people real?”

Why yes, yes, they were.

Jim Morrison didn’t know the half of it. People are strange.  Apparently, the Los Angeles airport is where strange comes to town.

Or a magnet. That’s a distinct possibility. I did see lots of metal stuck in the weirdest places.

Netflix’s production company missed out on a money saving/ money making opportunity. Instead of all the effort involved in the filming and special effects in Stranger Things, they could have set up a camera in the Los Angeles airport.

People are strange.  There is no doubt about it.

Take my friend Mickey for instance.  On second thought, my contract only allows me to tease Mickey while I’m preaching.

Take me for example.  Or you, if you’re feeling a little bit charitable.

I love ketchup on my eggs and grits.
I have a child who eats ranch dressing on everything.

Those aren’t half the examples of strange things in my family. Need some more?

I have a brother who likes the University of Alabama.  I don’t know how much weirder that can get.

And my own wife, yes even her, likes to work around the house on Saturdays. Work? Yes, work.  She grew up in a strange family apparently.

But then there is you. Can you spell weird? The music you listen to, the shows you like, the things you expect–and from your preacher too.

Weird, strange, and sometimes hysterical. Yes, we are.

Because of our idiosyncrasies, most of us are in a constant need of mercy and grace. Unfortunately, instead of being deep reservoirs from which we share the same, we tend to be fixers. We try to fix everybody in every way that doesn’t line up with our own likes, understandings, and beliefs.  And maybe some fixing is needed.

But whether it is mercy, grace or fixing you offer, it ought to all stem from one specific understanding.

Genesis 1: 26-27, Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”  So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.

Image-bearer! Every human being bears the image of God. Even those of us who are strange.

Think about that the next time you want to be critical, overbearing, mean or ugly.

I am an image-bearer. So are you!

Check out my Facebook Writer’s Page!

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

Today

I know the face of evil. It is extraordinarily ugly; it looks just like us. The link I am sharing is about an evil that struck our community today. It is still reverberating and the aftershocks will go on for a lifetime… What follows after the link is my attempt to process and offer a small token of encouragement…

http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/local/2017/05/18/jackson-amber-alert/329460001/

Today an unspeakable evil has raised its ugly head in our community. It’s not the first time. It will not be the last time.

One thing I have learned is this: none of us are too far removed from the pain and heartache of tragedy. The ability and inclination to harm others surprises us as it rises to take root in what we think are unlikely people. Evil reaches out and hurts even the most vulnerable among us.

My family has certainly experienced this. Others among us have as well. Still others will face some extraordinary ugliness in the future.

If there is another thing I know, it’s the white-hot rage that desires answers and retribution. The evil that has given birth to such deep pain and emotions can well spark an ugliness in our own hearts and actions.

At such a time, we would do well to heed the words of James: My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. (James 1:19-20 CSB17)

Can I confess? The thing that has struck our community today makes me extraordinarily angry. It makes me so very sad. It reminds me of my own tragedies. It draws out my own pain. It hurts to know that other families will now be forever changed by a moment of inexplicable horror.

However, as we contemplate the brokenness of our world, I am reminded of Paul’s words in Romans 16:19b-20, I want you to be wise about what is good, and yet innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (CSB17)

Evil does not win. Evil does not have the last word.

But in the meantime, may the lament of David be our own—may we find comfort in God alone…

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry for help. The face of the LORD is set against those who do what is evil, to remove all memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit. (Psalms 34:15–18 CSB17)

Rest in peace, Kingston Frazier.

May God bless his family.

May God bless us all.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

 

Life (With Joy) & News, News, News

Not to us, LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory
because of your faithful love, because of your truth.
(Psalm 115:1 CSB

Sometimes life goes in directions we have planned and provided for; other times it takes us places no one could have ever imagined.

One day we laugh; the next we cry.
One day we are surrounded by those we love; the next is lonely.
One day we are on top of the world; the next we are in a deep dark valley.
One day we are the champion of all we survey; the next we lose.

Sometimes it isn’t just a matter of a day or even a week. Often it is comprised of seasons–seasons of triumph, defeat, challenge, and grief.

From one season to the next, we ride the waves of opportunity; we struggle through the stormy seas. It is an amazing thing to live, especially live well among the good and bad this life has to offer.

Over the last four years, I have written about my struggles with grief, doubt, and faith. I have shared my desperation. I have written from a place of pain. I have shouted from a place of joy.

There will be more days of struggle in the future. That is the nature of life.

There will be more days of joy. That too is the nature of life.

The fact is, even in our pain, joy is possible if we look for it.

My life and the life of my family will forever be marked/ scarred by the events of October 10, 2011. However, that day will not define who we are, where we go, or what we do.

To the contrary, we choose hope.
We choose peace.
We choose joy.
We choose the God who gives them.
We choose life!

Somedays it will be easy; other days it won’t, but I choose life!

Speaking of life, I’d like to share something joyous from mine…

Last Tuesday (April 18th), I signed a very important document. I have been waiting and hoping for a long time to say these exact words: I am under contract with Leafwood Publishers!

What does that mean? My book is happening!

There is still work to do. There will be an editing and reshaping process. The name may even change. But, I expect to have copies in my hand late spring/ early summer of 2018.

Over the past several years, so many–God, Becki, family, friends, and church family– have walked with me through dark days and hard seasons. I am thankful for your encouragement and support.

We may yet face dimly lit days ahead, but the Son still shines!

Choose life ( you’ll be glad you did)! Never quit dreaming!

Les, Jr.

 

The Weakness of God!

Yesterday I finished writing the epilogue. I cried like a baby. It was an emotional moment–from the sake of memories as well as the thought of all the work/ writing that had taken place.

178 pages.
61,173 words
26 chapters with a conclusion and epilogue to boot.

After all that, where am I?

I don’t really know.

The first draft/ first self-edit has been completed. A couple or three folks have copies and they will be using red pens to mark it up, I am sure.

There is something crazy difficult about submitting a manuscript and/or letting others have a first look. I am terrified of rejection (although to this date, it should be old hat). I am afraid people are going to look at what amounts to an awfully large investment of time, energy, and emotion and find little value.

Having someone say this stinks is quite painful.

At any rate, I am committed to seeing where this takes me. And being a glutton for punishment, I have already started writing another.

Hey, if you are famous and wouldn’t mind writing an endorsement, sing out!

Sometime this month I hope to share with you a really neat opportunity that has been placed in front of me. But that will need to wait just a little while.

In the meantime, some of you have been following my efforts here and in other places–speaking, preaching, Wineskins–for a long time. I am thankful for your encouragement and support.

I have to also mention my wife, Becki, my big extended family, and the Lake Harbour Drive Church of Christ–I am where I am because of you and God.

You are the very best.

Thank you,

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

The Very Worst Most Horrendous Awful Horrible Christmas Songs Ever?

worst-christmas-songs-640-80
(Pic from Rawhide & Velvet)

Thought I’d share with you an article I wrote for our church bulletin this week… Enjoy!

Every year I hear people complaining about their least favorite Christmas songs.

Mostly I am shocked at their choices.  I mean for real, you know mommy was kissing Santa Claus.  Happens at my house all year long—at least if I am good! (Hey Sweetie, I promise I’ll be good. Sort of.)

As for me and grandpa, we believe grandma did get run over by a reindeer, bless her silly little heart.  If I am not mistaken, one of my neighbors shot, stuffed, and hung that bad boy on his living room wall. I have seen it myself.

Oh, the drama.

I can’t figure out why so many are upset over Christmas Shoes.  I mean who wouldn’t want a new pair of fuzzy pink house shoes for Christmas?  Personally, I wish they’d sing about Christmas boots instead.  I could always use a new pair of Ariat’s.

I’ll admit that I kind of wondered where they are coming from with Santa Baby.  It seems counter-intuitive to me. I just imagine those fuzzy outfits would irritate any baby, no matter if it is cold outside.

As for poor old Paul McCartney, give that good British knight a break. Don’t be a real-life mean one, Mr. Grinch! Only a Grinch deliberately plans to not have a wonderful Christmas time

I hope you are smiling with me!

Christmas means a lot of things to a lot of people. For the most part, I enjoy this time of year.

For some there is great theological meaning. Indeed, without the incarnation, we would never experience the Cross. Without the Cross, we would never know redemption, restoration, and reconciliation.

For others, Christmas is a happy time of family—a special Kodachrome occasion for creating memories and remembering days gone by.  I am thankful for the memories I cherish of Christmas past.  I look forward with great anticipation to many more festive occasions in the future.

Even so, I am also reminded forcefully of those who are missing from around the family tree. I must acknowledge that this holiday is a difficult occasion for some–including me at times.

However, you celebrate, with whatever family traditions you imbue this time of year, I trust you will be enveloped by the presence of God–that you will know the joy of the Savior–that you will embody the Spirit of God that indwells you.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13 NIV11)

Merry Christmas to All and to All a good night!

Les, Jr.

PS. For those who might still be interested, I am still working on a book–Over 127 pages of single spaced words have been written (that’s a word count of 42, 708) Not gonna quit!

‘Tis the Season…

6925088-free-christmas-images

‘Tis the season to be jolly. At least until you run out of fa la la la la la la…

At this point in life, I can fully empathize with those who suffer through the holidays.

Personally, I normally try to fight through my pain. I don’t want to be that guy who is always a mess of wildly fluctuating emotions.  Letting myself have an old-fashioned cry isn’t my default choice.

But there are those moments when the only way forward is found in entering the emotional minefield. I am doing that now by sharing with you a part of my story only a few haver ever heard…

Several weeks before October 10, 2011, we started a Christmas layaway for the boys–mainly Casey and Cole.

After October 10, 2011, one set of items was no longer needed.

Unfortunately, this store did not understand my dilemma. They did not have any available mechanism or procedure to cancel part of the layaway or separate the items no longer needed.

There are some things in life you cannot avoid. Like I said earlier, sometimes the only way out is to go through it. And that’s what I did. I had to purchase the entire layaway and then separate all the individual items and return what wasn’t needed.

I feel sorry now for the poor cashier/checker who had to serve me, but not then. Not then at all. I was so full of anger and pain combined with a weird kind of tenderness. Cole never touched any of those things, but somehow they were still his treasures and worthy of a bit of respect.

I lost a piece of me that day. In many respects, it was like pouring salt on an open wound.

Why am I telling you this? This story is a sacred place for me. Hopefully sharing it will encourage you to have empathy for those who struggle during this time of year.

The best gift you will ever give cannot be bought. Give others the gift of patience, love, and acceptance.  Show them the arms of Jesus.  After all, tis the season to be the reason the people around you experience love.

Thank you for being my safe place too.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor. 13:7 HCSB)

Blessings to all,

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

My Eyes Are Dry

cole 1  You may look at the title and think the reference is to my tears or lack thereof.

Don’t get your hopes up.

I still cry.
I still struggle.
I still wrestle with loss.

Last month’s five-year anniversary of the day that changed our lives forever was particularly hard.

Honestly? I am already dreading the 27th of this month. That is Cole’s birthday. He would have been twenty-seven. I miss him so.

There is a place in my heart that will always be just a bit raw over our losses. I grieve regularly for my children and their pain.

In some respects, I will always have unanswered questions–at least on this side of the vale.

Believe it or not, sometimes my questions have much less to do with tragedy and more with life itself.`

Scripture often affirms that which we may not always quite understand or comprehend.

In this case specifically, I am reminded of the following descriptions of King David:

But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”  1 Samuel 13:14

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ Acts 13:22

I read those verses and confess: I sometimes struggle to understand how this could be true.

David, a man after God’s own heart?

Obviously that sentiment is positively affirmed by scripture.  And just as obviously, I must accept it while I try to understand it.

When I look at David’s life, I see it through some dark and dirty lenses—my own as well as his.

He was a man of mistakes.  I am a man of mistakes. Some of David’s, like his affair with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband Uriah, are stupendously ugly.  I’d rather not have to confess all of my ugliness, but ugly I own in multiple shapes and fashions. When you look at David’s family it becomes readily apparent that he would have never won the Father of the Year award. In solidarity, I have made more than my fair share of parenting gaffes and blunders.

So while freely acknowledging the sometimes strident nature of his failures and sins, still God says he was a man after His own heart.

How? How could a man like David be afforded such a gracious epithet?

Better yet, how can I? How can you? Is there any real hope for those of us who own an error filled life?

Yes, there is hope. No matter how dark the day, no matter how messed up the occasion, there is hope. And the answer to how may not be as far off as you might suppose.

These are David’s words: Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.  I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”  (Psalm 16:1-2)

David recognized the one true source of protection—the only place of real refuge.  David understood that without God he was nothing. And David, in spite of his epic flaws and failures, longed most of all to know and be known by God.

Although not written during David’s time, I suspect David instinctively knew the truth of Keith Green’s song, “My Eyes Are Dry.”

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of Your Blood

May God soften my heart. May God soften yours. And in the softening may we be shaped, formed, and fashioned in such a way as to become a man, a woman after God’s own heart.

I long for the heart of God.

How about you?

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS