News I Can Use

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But God is still God.
His Throne is secure.

So hold on.
Hold on.

God is not through with us yet.

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

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

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Waiters, Part 2.

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

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

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

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

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

There’s hope for sure.

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

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

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

We do not wait alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Les Ferguson, Jr.

 

The Tulsa Workshop

Last week was amazing.

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

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

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

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

So I missed some years.

But last week was amazing.

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

It was all good stuff.

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

It was a challenge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours,

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Trying to Sing A New Song (Reflections on Being Herded)

Have you ever had to change your story?
Or maybe learn to sing a different tune?

Sometimes we find out things are not quite what we thought or maybe there was a different detail than what was first understood. As a result, we may have to amend what was said or be more accurate in the future telling.

Sometimes we have learned a song one way only to realize we have been singing the wrong note or using the wrong tempo. Adjustments have to be made in order to sing the song as it was written.

Time, distance, and perspective often conspire to cloud our vision or remembrance. Pain and suffering can do the same thing.

Tragedy has a crazy way of redefining, rewriting, and rewiring not only our story or song, but whatever they might become.

In my case, I have long felt certain a particular part of my life has been closed off to me altogether.

Done.
Finished.
Over.
Thankful.

Yes, thankful. Being a full time local minister is hard, difficult, and emotionally draining.
It is hard on families.
It is hard.

It is full of amazing blessings, but often hard nonetheless.

As a result, I have spent lots of time preparing, trying, and singing a new song.

This song is comprised of a new identity, new career, new direction, and a new location.

At one point, I never really thought I would ever speak again in front of any kind of crowd. Especially one church related.

Done.
Finished.
Over.
In the past for good.

That one didn’t last for very long.

Quicker than I would have imagined it fell by the wayside. With the foray into blogging and writing, the speaking opportunities have been pretty steady. This week makes the first week this year that didn’t have me speaking some where, some how. I’ll make up for it speaking three times next week at The Tulsa Workshop.

My goal and plan, this new song I wanted to sing, began to change. Slowly but surely I reimagined myself back in ministry, but totally defined in a way that let me be comfortable.

I was either going to stay in real estate or find another job that would provide for my family while allowing me the freedom to continue writing and speaking on weekends. There are lots of folks who struggle with faith and trust—and I felt (still do) that my abilities, knowledge, and experience were perfectly suited to help fellow travelers…

Thus commenced the other-than-real estate job search for something a little more dependable financially. I think I can fill out an application, take a questionnaire, describe my experience, and write a cover letter blindfolded and asleep, all at the same time!

Yes, I am that good. But apparently not good enough for another job. I can also fill up a trashcan with all of the rejection letters.

It’s actually quite funny. There have been days when tears of frustration rolled down my face, but now I just have to laugh at how crazy it all is!

Day Laborer? Not qualified!
AT&T Store? Not qualified!
Community/ Public Relations? “We never even considered you!” (That one hurt bad!)
Government Job? Not qualified!
Government Job? Not qualified enough!
Government Job? Qualified but not as qualified!
Home Depot? Depart from me, we never knew you!

And while at times my emotions have been all over the map, I am beginning to think there is a God reason for all the set backs, difficulties, and disappointments.

I think my new song is not going to sound anything like I intended.

And truthfully, I am somewhat afraid of the tune that seems to be playing.
Terrified, actually.

I don’t know how, where, or why, but it feels like I am being herded right back into the life and work of a local church minister.

I can’t believe I just typed that…

Done.
Finished.
Over.
In the past for good?

Not so fast, Mr. Used-to-Be Preacherman, not so fast.

My new song may end up being an old familiar one.

My struggles with God are not over. I have much yet to understand.
In the process I am having to learn how to not be so resistant.

I used to sing where He leads me I will follow.
With a scratchy voice, I am warming up for the song to come!

In the meantime, does anybody want to buy or sell a house?

Blessings to all,

Les Ferguson, Jr.

The Stuff of Life

It’s been like ten days.

Ten days since I did anything on this blog other than answer a few comments.

As much time and energy as I have put into this thing… At one point, being on the outside and looking in, you’d probably think the guy writing all this (me) didn’t have much of a life.

But I do.
I find myself busier than ever.

We are working hard in this rodeo they call real estate. Sometimes I feel more like the clown than I do the successful bull rider. But then again, it really doesn’t matter as long as I have the bull by the horns.

Yes, it’s a bad cliché. I have to own that one.

But truthfully? We are busy with the process of living. Instead of just reacting to life, we are grabbing the horns as hard as we can.

I want to live.
Not just exist.
I want to live.

So we work this real estate gig.
I write and seek places to speak and share.
Occasionally, I apply for a different kind of job.

But, we are busy.
In North Little Rock this Sunday.
The week after in Monroe, La.
Then the Tulsa workshop where I am blessed to speak three times.
And then the last Sunday of March we will be in Ridgeland, MS.

Did I mention I am writing? Yes! I wish I was working on book stuff, but I am staying busy trying to get lessons and sermons situated and done.

The book stuff will come–and it does in bits and spurts. The big deal with that situation is finding an editor who can work with me (translated: doesn’t cost an arm and a leg–I can afford a toe, but who’s counting?).

In the meantime, I want to live.
Not just exist.
I want to live.

My struggles with the difficulties of this world can be exacerbating at times–and that on a good day.

But, I want to live.
Not just exist.
I want to live.
And so, my focus can’t be on all the stuff and things that tend take up our time and attention.
Sure, some of it can be important and may have a needed bearing on where we go and what we do.

But not life.
No sir.
No ma’am.

I want to live.
Not just exist.
I want to live.
And to do that, it is all about relationships.

God, my family, friends, neighbors, co-workers… And even the guy at the Tamale shop next door.

Relationships are the stuff of life.

I want to live.
Not just exist.
I want to live.

My relationships are all a work in progress.
But I am working.
Forgive the mini-sermon, but you should be working on your relationships too. You never know when the time to do so will be no more!

Thanks for being in a relationship with me–even if it is just through the words of this blog. You have blessed me greatly.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

When Church Is A House Of Pain

The title to this blog post sounds mighty negative. I get that. However, my goal in sharing what you are about to read is that it not be another post bashing the bride of Christ.

To the contrary.

I love the church and have much I owe her. I have not always gotten along with her well–there have been many days when she frustrated or made me angry.

But when you are dealing with mistake prone people–family and friends even who are as damaged by sin as the next guy (the next guy being me), you’re going to find flaws. And where you have flawed people, you will find pain–self-inflicted as well as inflicted by others.

As Uncle Si would say, that’s a fact, Jack!

I have written before about the pain and anguish felt as the result of people who didn’t handle the hurts and disappointments of others very well. Especially those who are struggling with death and loss.

Obviously, everybody’s story is different. But for most, the initial days, weeks, and months after the funeral is over are just the beginning of new adjustments, new levels of anguish, and trying to rebuild. Frankly for me, the second year was harder than the first. I don’t know why, it just was.

To illustrate how it works for some, read what Pam McCutcheon says about the aftermath of losing her son….

“I have a confession.  Please don’t judge me.  I haven’t attended a church service for over three years.  My relationship with God is strong and my faith is not in jeopardy.  But church is a house of pain, on many levels, since Max was killed.

First and foremost, my grief lives deep down in my soul.  A vulnerable place.  That same place in my soul that I tap in to when I worship God.  The tears naturally come.  And I refuse to “play” church and keep a happy face on.  I bawl when praise music starts.  God is fully worthy of my praise.  But (He already knows this, it’s well discussed territory), I am mad at Him for the decision to take Max to heaven at 18. I cannot sing about the faithfulness of God when I know very well I feel like He betrayed my trust.  I cannot sing about His goodness, even though I know and believe He is good.  Not in public.  I know others cry in church.  But I don’t have a ‘pretty’ cry.  My face gets red, I am vocal, and I melt down.  I’m a spectacle and truly, I don’t want people gawking at me when I’m that exposed.  It was much easier for me to sing “I Surrender All” when it didn’t require me surrendering my oldest child to death

Secondly, I have been betrayed by those who genuinely love and follow Jesus.  Some do not know how to minister to grieving people.  Some can only do it for a short while. I’m not talking about those people, although they have hurt me because I truly needed them and they weren’t there.  No.  I’m talking about the horrible things said “in the name of Christ”, or “telling the truth in love”, both phrases thrown around with too many cliches that have no meaning or power in my grief.  I am not going to get too specific because I hope to mend those fences someday, even if I have to wait until I reach eternity for unity again.  The self-righteous, smug, advice-givers inflict the most damage.  And they are not the reason I stay away from church.  But they certainly contribute to the church being a house of pain.  I do not doubt that they love Jesus, but they surely don’t reflect His heart for grieving people.

Do you know what Jesus did when He came upon the sisters of Lazarus right after he had died?  The sisters were angry with Him, yelling, they told Him that if He had been there, Lazarus wouldn’t have died!  Did Jesus say “but he is in heaven, a better place”?  Did Jesus say “you might damage your witness by grieving so outwardly”?  Did Jesus say “here is some Scripture”?  NO.  Jesus simply WEPT.  He wept with them.  He was deeply moved and He wept.  Even though He knew He was going to resurrect him that very day.   He wept out of love.  (John chapter 11)  I pray more would use His example and not say damaging things, but simply weep with those who weep.
The man who asked me to write a blog on this topic has this to say in HIS blog – ‘I discovered that theological arguments, debates, and discussions matter little to people living on the jagged edge of holding it together or losing it entirely. And, I discovered that more “church members” are in that category of folks than we could possibly imagine.’ 

And finally, if you (as a church) are looking for people to minister to, please humbly accept my suggestion to start with your own congregation.  There is plenty of pain in your own back yard.  Talking of grand mission trips are fine, but only if you are taking care of your own too.  Know someone in pain in your congregation but don’t know how to help?  Take a meal, send a note of encouragement, organize a group to come over and surprise with a cleaning crew or a day working in their yard, take the kids out for an afternoon so the parents can be alone for a few hours, call them for lunch, meet them for a walk, ask questions that allow them to talk about their pain rather than avoiding them.  The gestures don’t have to be big, but they need to be ongoing beyond the first days of crisis.  People in pain look around at the others in church and beg to be helped, yet it seems easier not to get involved or bring “it” up.  Please do.  Get involved, bring it up, JUST DO IT.  Otherwise, your personal church is a house of pain.

I will attend church again.  I want a place to belong and feel loved again, a place that I can contribute my gifts and talents to.  But not yet.  Just not yet.”

Yes.

Even though everyone does not have the same grieving experiences, those are hard words to read.

And, in an effort to help the church be what she should, may I humbly suggest… We can do better.
We can.

Part of my mission in life is to help those who hurt and those who might minister to us.

Here’s the second rule to follow: when striving to help the hurting, patience is the key, along with lots of mercy, grace, and compassion.

And the first rule is even more simple: use hugs and actions. Words just muddle it all up!

God bless us all.

Please remember my in-laws in prayer… Joan Brown is very sick and Bob is keeping a bedside vigil. They have experienced so much loss…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Church Questions

A little different kind of a post for me, but maybe it will be of interest…

Awhile back, I sent a resume to a church and received the following questions in response:

–Churches across the country are struggling to maintain attendance and growth. Do you agree that Churches of Christ are also fighting this decline? Give us your thoughts on what is driving this.

–What specifics might you focus on, at the congregation level, to change the direction of decline?  Specifics might include demographics, worship styles, education, outreach, etc.

–In your personal experience or observation of other congregations, what have you seen to make you feel these things would work?

I thought they were good questions and actually enjoyed formulating my answers.

I thought I would share them with you as a topic of discussion…

Yes, I agree with the premise that churches are struggling to maintain attendance and growth. Certainly, churches of Christ cannot be singled out any more than any other group of believers. We all have our fair share of problems.

Obviously, I cannot answer for every church in every place. There are often economic factors that change populations. Socially and culturally, we face an often-disheartening system of values or a lack thereof. Morally speaking, church members tend to be just like the people around us.

From that perspective, instead of leading, guiding and illuminating our culture, we are either reacting to it negatively or living in it no differently.

And, where we have focused on minor issues, argued among ourselves, participated in power struggles, missed the major issues, and failed to live out the story of Jesus individually and collectively… We have quite simply lost our influence and ability to deliver a life changing perspective.

In some ways, we have lost our place at the table while we have celebrated the irrelevant.

In the midst of and as we moved out of the immediate heartache and despair of our family tragedy, my faith wavered. I never lost my belief in God, but I certainly began a period of questioning exactly who and what He was. Some of those questions remain and are good reminders of what is real and important.

Personally, I discovered that theological arguments, debates, and discussions matter little to people living on the jagged edge of holding it together or losing it entirely. And, I discovered that more “church members” are in that category of folks than we could possibly imagine. Some of them are quite cognizant of how much they struggle even as they do their best to hide it from themselves and others (the biggest lie told at assembly times? I am ok, doing good, etc.). Many more are just one difficulty away from finding out their faith isn’t as deep as they might have surmised.

What was important to me were simple but deep theological questions with life-altering impact.

• Does God really love me?

• Does God really care?

• Where is God when I needed Him the most?

So what is the answer?

A theological buzzword bandied about these days is missional.

Everything is missional. Missional coffee, missional programs, and on and on it goes. I suspect the validity and intent of what being missional is all about gets lost in the clutter of ecclesiastical systems.

Take a look at these excerpts from Alan Hirsch in Leadership Journal, Fall 2008…

A proper understanding of missional begins with recovering a missionary understanding of God. By his very nature God is a “sent one” who takes the initiative to redeem his creation. This doctrine, known as missio Dei—the sending of God—is causing many to redefine their understanding of the church. Because we are the “sent” people of God, the church is the instrument of God’s mission in the world. As things stand, many people see it the other way around. They believe mission is an instrument of the church; a means by which the church is grown. Although we frequently say “the church has a mission,” according to missional theology a more correct statement would be “the mission has a church.”

Many churches have mission statements or talk about the importance of mission, but where truly missional churches differ is in their posture toward the world. A missional community sees the mission as both its originating impulse and its organizing principle. A missional community is patterned after what God has done in Jesus Christ. In the incarnation God sent his Son. Similarly, to be missional means to be sent into the world; we do not expect people to come to us. This posture differentiates a missional church from an attractional church.

A missional theology is not content with mission being a church-based work. Rather, it applies to the whole life of every believer. Every disciple is to be an agent of the kingdom of God, and every disciple is to carry the mission of God into every sphere of life. We are all missionaries sent into a non-Christian culture.

Being missional is about restoration. Not restoring a church, but restoring a world to God’s ideal. That starts individually and then collectively within our own family and church family. Being missional is about taking responsibility for our own little corner and shinning the light of Jesus there.

I believe churches of every stripe will continue to decline when our focus is on anything else than connecting people to Jesus. That’s the answer for the hurts and despair so many experience. That’s the answer for struggling marriages and faltering families. That’s the answer to a crumbling society and culture that is completely out of tune with God.

Jesus. That’s the answer to decline.

Certainly, I have my favored church systems. I like a more contemporary worship experience. Those things help me connect, if you will. But we could spend an enormous amount of time designing and tweaking our assemblies and still miss folks who are looking for something different.

Somehow we have to help people connect outside the assembly. Using pressure and guilt to build attendance does not facilitate spiritual growth. Restoration and renewal of the heart have to be our focus—and not a one-hour a week assembly time that caters to whomever has the loudest cry for doing things the way they like.

In my case, after our loss and becoming a single parent for a while, Wednesday nights became a curse. It caused me to rethink our purpose in doing whatever we do. If people want to gather on Wednesday nights, then by all means let them gather. By the same token, if this strung out family of four has no family time, no opportunity to just be together, then spiritually, emotionally, and physically, they might best be served by dedicating that evening to just being family.

Outside of the Sunday morning assembly, small groups—with a focus and plenty of dedication—can be great tools in helping people connect to each other and a higher purpose for life.

But, this restoration and change we seek—no matter the tools we use–can only begin when people are sold out to Jesus—and want to make a difference in the lives of others.

As shepherds and ministers, our job is to model the Christian life—to let our light so shine that the world may see Jesus. Let restoration and renewal begin with us.

Don’t be afraid to toss the traditional formats; don’t be afraid to embrace them either. The purpose isn’t how. The purpose is Jesus.

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Vicksburg, MS

Forgiving again…

The last time I wrote here—a little over a week ago, I said these words: Paul Buckman? I may have to wrestle with this over and over again, but today, I forgive you.

I wonder how many who read this the first time around caught the word today.

I.

We like to think forgiveness means forgetting. And often it should. A slight or slur forgiven four years earlier ought to soon become something of little consequence and certainly not an event or circumstance to be trotted back out again and again.

In the great biblical chapter of love (1 Corinthians 13, NIV), Paul says love… keeps no record of wrongs.
And in that sense, forgiveness, love, and forgetfulness all become intertwined.

Forgiving Paul Buckman can never mean forgetting.
There is no way short of a full frontal lobotomy to ever forget the events of October 10, 2011.
Not on this side of eternity.
And maybe not ever.

From my perspective, heaven’s promise to wipe away all tears does not mean all past heartaches will be forgotten. However, I believe it does mean the sting, pain, and hurt will all be taken away.

So, as I said before, forgiving Paul Buckman can never mean forgetting.
The consequences, fall out, and ripple effects are ever before us.
There are empty places at the table.
There are tears for the missing.
There are hurts at key moments and significant events with the absence of those who have gone on before.

Indeed, every time a little seven year old boy says, I miss my mom, there is no way to forget.

Forgiveness does not always mean forgetting.
Somethings just cannot be done.

So what then?
How do you forgive that which utterly destroys?
How do you forgive an obscenity that most cannot even imagine?
How do you forgive a nightmare scenario that becomes reality?
How do you forgive a life altering event that cannot possibly be forgotten?

How?

And maybe that is your question too.
Maybe you have never and will never experience anything like our family tragedy.
Maybe.

But maybe just maybe you still know the pain of unfairness.
Maybe you have known what it felt like to be treated unkindly and condescendingly.
Maybe you have experienced insult and slander.
Maybe you have experienced harsh attitudes and harsher actions from someone who was supposed to love you.

Maybe.

What then?
How do you forgive when you cannot forget.

Letting something go is a cliched concept that is easier said than done.

Instead, the key for me is today.

Paul Buckman? I may have to wrestle with this over and over again, but today, I forgive you.
Today, I choose forgiveness instead of bitterness.
Today, I choose peace and tranquility.
Today, I choose life instead of the despair of anger and rage.
Today, I choose to live.

I cannot ever forget the horror that invaded our lives.
But I can choose to live a life of love.

Once more, the Apostle Paul says, love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I choose love with the hope and perseverance it brings.

Today, I choose to forgive.
I choose to live.
I choose love.

How about you? What will you choose?

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Living on Salsa Time

Diets.
I hate being on a diet.

I would like to wish for those days long ago when my metabolism was high and I could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

Except the gene pool left that metabolism thing out. I have never been that person, at least that I can remember.

At this point in life, I gain at least five pounds every time I go on Facebook and see the pictures of whatever my friend Ricky Grau has posted for a meal.

It’s once again cardio time. Lots of running, walking, biking—whatever the weather will permit. Along with plenty of table push backs and healthier eating.

I don’t want to do it, but do it I must.

Unfortunately, this round of dieting and trying to get control of my eating must include a complete withdrawal from my favorite drug of choice: Chips & Salsa.

Chips & Salsa.
Oh, the glory and beauty of golden yellow chips and rich red salsa. Preferably the hotter the better.

Nothing makes a bad day or a stressful time better than a big bag of tortilla chips and some good salsa.

As much as I like it, I am not a salsa snob. I have had all kinds, all brands from ultra cheap to the best you can find. One of my favorites comes from Texas. Peach Salsa.

Yeah. I roll like that.

Oh my.
Just writing about it makes me wonder if life might be better lived fat and happy with chips in one hand and a bowl of salsa in the other.

At this point I bet you could easily guess my favorite kind of restaurant. Yep. Any that serve Mexican style food. You know the kind, don’t you? They always deliver chips and salsa.

I have spent years living on Salsa Time. And if I can lose some weight, I can get back to living on Salsa Time again. At least until I gain all the weight back and start all over once more.

It’s a vicious cycle.
Somebody help me.
I wonder if there is a support group for Salsa Addicts.

I hope you hear me having a little fun with something I seriously need to work on. I really must let go of my unhealthy approach to eating.

That’s not the only thing I am having to learn how to let go of…

It would be no gamble for me to say I am not alone.
You, dear reader, have things in your life that control you inordinately just as I do.

Here’s where this post on Salsa Time is taking us…

It has been a real temptation for me to let anger and bitterness control who I am and who I will be.

This is going to sound heartless and cruel, but I hope you will follow through with my thoughts and reasonings and hear me out.

I am glad Paul Buckman took his own life. I am sorry for his family, but I am glad he is gone on to his just reward, whatever that might be. I am thankful we were spared a trial and all the circus that comes with it.

There was a time in which I hated him and hated his family even worse. That anybody might have loved him and had an inkling of what he was capable of was a massive affront. I wanted every relative and distant connection he might have had to be gone from this earth.

But in the taking of his own life, he did me a service, as harsh as it might be. I hate what he did, but I cannot hate him for he is no longer here.

I have had to learn to let it all go.
Anger and bitterness engendered by his despicable actions are nothing but a poison to my body, mind, soul, and life.

The toxin that results from holding on to my anger and bitterness robs me of the joy of family. My beautiful new wife.
My children.
My new stepchildren.

They need me to be me. Not some twisted version of hate, rage, and bitterness.

I have been in a long process of letting it go.
Forgiveness is the next step.
And I am learning how to do even that.

Paul Buckman was just a man. However it happened, his made-in-the-image-of-God humanity got skewed all out of whack. I am sure his parents never envisioned what he would become. I suspect he never planned or desired to have his life end the way it did.

I hate the pain he has caused us. I hate the pain we will hold until God calls us home.

But I can no longer hate him.

A long time ago, in another life in the first church I served as full time preaching minister, a young lady said something I have never forgotten:

Forgiveness is a gift you gave yourself.

That’s powerful.
And true.
And totally rehabilitating.

Paul Buckman? I may have to wrestle with this over and over again, but today, I forgive you.

I forgive you.

Are there are folks and situations I need to let go of?
You betcha!

But for now, my plate is full. It’s impossible to forget, but I am going to forgive.

How about you?
Any forgiveness you need to give?

In the meantime, does anybody know where I can find some calorie free chips? My contraband salsa is waiting.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

So Dang Good-Looking? :)

So. What’s happening in your little world?

Me? Life continues. And I am glad.

Conner is driving now. Casey is blossoming. Michael is getting ever closer to his drivers license—Can you understand when I say I am insurance poor? Max is going to be our ladies man. Kyle is in nursing school.

Becki is working harder than anybody I know to build a real estate business all while being an amazing wife and mother. She wears me out just watching her.

And me? I am working this real estate gig as hard as I know how. I am trying to write. And I have applied for more jobs than you can shake a stick at. Government jobs. Retail jobs. Preaching jobs. Laborer jobs.

I have not had much luck in the job market. Most of the time they say I am over qualified. Personally, I think I am so dang good-looking that I intimidate potential employers.

You believe that, don’t you?

I have had a phone interview with a preacher search committee for a church really close to home. I have a great hope that I’ll get asked for a follow-up interview.

My preaching calendar was so empty for several months, but suddenly there are lots of speaking opportunities—every Sunday in January is scheduled. I am speaking twice thus far in February—one of them is at a Saturday seminar on Child Abuse in Somerset, PA. No traveling involved—it will be done via Skype.

For the most part, my message is one of hope in the midst of doubt; triumph in the thrall of pain. If I can help your church organization, I’d love to do so. Ministry is in my blood and preaching is my passion.

http://lesfergusonjrt.com/speaking

Yes, life continues. Change occurs. Difficulties arise. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. And sometimes it can be life affirming.

That doesn’t mean the bad somehow wasn’t or isn’t painful. To the contrary.

And yet?

I will go to my grave with unanswered questions, yes. But I will also go to my grave determined to not be consumed by them.

I will go to my grave as the recipient of more beauty and grace than I could ever deserve. I will one day die very happy to have lived this life.

And that my friends is the state of my life at this moment in time.

I am so glad I get to share it with you.

Before I go, take a look at this link for my latest post on Wineskins…

http://wineskins.org/article/holy-ground-2/

Be a blessing; be blessed!

Les Ferguson, Jr.