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.

The Story From My Perspective

I understand my story is difficult to hear.

It is certainly painful to tell.

There are days when I have to try harder than others to not live with a victim mentality. Days when the anger, resentment, and bitterness want to have free rein in my heart. Days in which it would be easier to just give in to despair.

The losses we faced back then were compounded by all the other losses that seemed to keep coming no matter what we tried or did. Yes, even ongoing losses that seem to be insurmountable.

Certainly, in spite of the horrors visited upon us in the spring of 2011–the horrors that reached a crescendo pitch on October 10, 2011, I sit here at my desk today as an incredibly blessed man.

In this season of thanksgiving, I am acutely aware of my past. But I am even more acutely aware of my present and the hope we have for the future.

I am thankful for the health of my children–of every variety. I am thankful beyond words for the beauty, vitality, and heart of the woman who has made it her job to walk alongside me as my wife.

I am thankful for my redemption–from God and for God. I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve again as a minister. I am thankful for my new church family. I am thankful for their encouragement to use my story for the help and hope of others. Redemption for me means using this story of faith and doubt, agony and pain, and restoration as means to bring honor to those we lost–and to ensure their deaths would never be in vain.

Yes, I am so very thankful.
I am thankful for family far and near.
I am thankful for friends old, present, and future.
I am thankful for hope both now and in the eternity to come–an eternity that is closer than we often know.

I am thankful.

Over the last several weeks I sat through hours of interviews with a new friend, Billy Watkins. Billy is a writer/ investigative reporter for the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, MS. We talked about things I had forgotten. I recalled things that were difficult to put together. I described things whose clarity has not yet begun to fade nor will in any future I can imagine. Some things just are…

But Billy and I talked. A lot. In person, via text, on the phone. We talked a lot.
In some of those conversations, I cried–and I think there were times he cried in the hearing.
The story he heard was terrible. It was terrible in the telling. It was terrible in the writing. It is terrible in the reading.
Even now.
Even now.

But I am thankful for the opportunity he gave me. I have heard from countless people who see the hand of God still active in our lives. And that hand of God? That is the real story.

That is the real story.

And I am thankful.

If you would like to see the story as Billy wrote it, you can see it here.

As well, I’d like to point you to my latest offering at Wineskins. I hope it will be of benefit.

Blessings to you and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Les

Stand in the Gap

IMG_0743

Stand in the Gap!

That is the name/ theme of the prayer breakfast I am speaking at this Saturday in Atlanta.

It is sponsored by Voice Today, an organization dedicated to fighting child sexual abuse and exploitation.

It is an epidemic of epic proportions.

It is disgusting.

It is sick.

It is a perversion.

And it destroys/ robs so many of their future.

I am thankful to have the opportunity to speak to survivors as well as to those whom we hope will Stand in the Gap!

I told some friends today that I am thankful for each and every opportunity to help those who have suffered and still suffer–be it sexual abuse, grief, faith or doubt struggles.

Redemption is both powerful and painful.

And healing is possible.

Father God, let redemption and healing come to all!

Les, Jr.

 

 

There is Always Hope; This I know!

hope

There have been occasions when I thought my world was falling apart.

In some ways it has.

And yet the reality is I am still standing.

Battered, yes.
Changed, yes.
Different, yes.

And at the risk of being misunderstood, at this point in my life, I like who I am as a minister better than I ever did before.

I often hear people say that if they were they in my shoes, they couldn’t do what I am doing now; they couldn’t be where I am now—but in my opinion, they are selling themselves short.

The human spirit was created with resiliency and strength. You are stronger than you might have imagined, but with God, you are far stronger than you know.

And while life can be quite complex, the truth is fairly simple.

Life moves on.
People adapt.
People adjust.
We grow and stretch.
We stretch and grow.

We learn, develop, and become something new, something different, and sometimes something better.

What we have suffered or endured can be and frequently is a crucible of fire refining what was into what will be.

Even better, Christians have the ability to look back and see God at work—and to know he is still at work in our lives!

I am not sure I always believed that.
But I do now.
I do now…

Three years later.
Three years later, our lives are vastly different.
Three years later, we have learned to live again.

To laugh.
To hope.
To dream.
To experience.

Three years later, we are always cognizant of those who are missing from the table.
Three years later, we are never far from the reminders of what was.
But, three years later, we know there is life yet to be lived and we honor the memories as we build a new future.

Three years later…

These days, life has never been more real or precious to me.
My perspective has changed.
My propensity to judge has been dampened.
I am more apt to listen and empathize with the hurts, losses, and struggles of others.

That’s where I am.
I have learned to trust that God is working and using our experiences to somehow bring glory to His name and hope for His people.

Because no matter how dark it gets…
No matter how hard the wind blows…
No matter how deep the losses pile up…

There is always hope.
There is always hope.
This I know.

Three years later, there is always hope.
This I know…

 For I, Yahweh your God, hold your right hand and say to you: Do not fear, I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13 HCSB)

Up on the mountain,
Where your love captured me,
Where finally I’m free,
This I know.
Up on the mountain,
Where you taught my soul to sing,
Amazing grace the sweetest thing,
This I know.

And then the storm rushing in,
And here I am again,
This I know.

Take me up to where I was,
When I never wanted more than you.
Lift me up to feel your touch,
It wouldn’t be that much for you.
This I know.
This I know.
This I know.
This I know.

Up on the mountain,
Where You took me by the hand,
Taught me to dance again,
This I know.
Up on the mountain,
Where You took this heart of stone,
Put life back in these bones,
This I know.

Take me up to where I was,
When I never wanted more than you.
Lift me up to feel your touch,
It wouldn’t be that much for you.
This I know
This I know
This I know
This I know
(David Crowder)

There is always hope.
This I know.
This I know.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Life is Good

Busy, busy, busy…

Just like you.

Next Tuesday I will be speaking/ teaching three classes at the 2014 Harding University Bible Lectures. If we haven’t met and you are there… well, come let me buy you a cop of joe!

Today I sent in my topic title for the 2015 Pepperdine University Lectures.

Won’t that be a funny sight? A Mississippi Redneck in Malibu, California!

I would have never imagined how much life could have turned in around in the past three years. We are fast approaching the three year anniversary of the day my family came unglued.

And while all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again… God has been mightily at work in the life of my family.

What was broken has been in many ways restored.

At any rate, I am thankful for so much that we have been given–new opportunities for ministry, speaking, writing…

I am so thankful for Becki and the way she has brought peace and love into our lives.

My parents, siblings, and close preacher friends have been rocks of stability!

And then there is my oldest son, Kyle. No man could have asked for and received better support and love from his oldest son (and his wife, Karissa)!

Indeed, all my children–whether birth, adopted, or step continue to give me great joy and more reasons to fight on!

And I cannot say enough about my new church family at the Lake Harbour Drive Church of Christ in Ridgeland… Your positive encouragement and patience mean everything!

So.

No theology or challenges from this blog tonight (Although you can read new material from me posted this evening at Wineskins.org–please feel free to check it out!)

Just thanks.
Thanks to all of you who have allowed me into your lives–who have helped give me a new voice!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

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.