It’s What I Do!

The sixteen year old needed to use my Macbook for a school project.

Made me wonder who he thought he was.

My Macbook?

Give a teenager (hey, there are three at my house right now and they can be rented out for odd jobs as long as you feed them) an inch and well, you know the old cliche.

Really son? My Macbook?

But then he needed my flash drive too.

Remember that thing about giving them an inch?

So I copied the flash drive onto my Mac in order not to lose it’s contents…

In the process I discovered something I have absolutely no memory of writing. It has a system saved date of November 29, 2011. Just a little over a month after the events of October 10, 2011.

I read this bulletin article (I think that’s what it was) ) and wonder how I had the clarity to say, think, or write any of it.

Here’s a snippet:

Life as we know it sure can change in an instant. And not always for the better…

I wish I had lots of words of encouragement and comfort to share. I wish I could look at each of you and tell you that whatever pain you are suffering/ enduring was going to get better sometime soon.

I really wish I could do that, but I can’t.

In reality, I know things will one day be better, if not highly different and strange in how they look and feel.  But until they do—until enough time has passed—where you are is where you must be.

I read that and shake my head. Part of me would like to punch the guy who wrote those words.

Cheeky fellow, he was.

I read that and find it hard to believe this guy was still trying to minister even in and through his own pain.

What was he thinking?

Truthfully? I don’t know if I was thinking. I suspect I was running on autopilot. I had spent so much of my life trying to care for the needs of others regardless of my own.

Whether it should or shouldn’t be that way is a discussion for maybe another day.

But the reality is most preachers pour their lives out in service. And even when they can no longer preach from a pulpit on Sundays, they are still seeking to serve. It’s not second nature for them–it is first.

In the meantime, I don’t know what the future holds for me (none of us really do).

I don’t know if I will ever preach for a church again on a weekly basis (I did recently dare to dream and emailed a resume or two).

But this I do know.

I want to serve and minister to those who are hurting (I hurt with them) and to those who are struggling and wrestling with God (it’s a tag team match, I promise).

It’s who I am.

It’s what I do.

I try to remind God about that on a regular basis. But, maybe just maybe, through the words of this blog and other writing ventures–through speaking here and there–I might still make a difference.

That’s the purpose I crave.

Thank you for helping me fulfill it.

And that article written by a hurting preacher who had no idea or clue how difficult it would become? It ended with these still applicable words, slightly edited for publishing in this venue:

Here is ministry advice from one is literally fighting for his life, his faith, and his future…

Life is too short too live in bitterness and anger—forgive before it consumes you.

If you are married, do not take your spouse for granted.

Hug your children. Everyday. As often as you can.

And finally, if you have a damaged relationship with a friend or a family member, don’t wait for the right opportunity to begin repairing it—the opportunity is now—you will be glad you did.

 

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Done Dood!

Today I ran. It was a crisp cool morning.
The weekend rain had settled the dust.
The long gravel driveway and the two other gravel roads I ran were quiet and peaceful.
My running music was Billy Squire’s greatest hits, but as my mind ran on ahead of me, the music was soon an almost unheard background tempo…

I have never been an overly confident person.
Like many others, I often struggle with self-doubt.

As a preacher, even when I should have been confident in my ability, such knowledge often eluded me.

Why did I have such a lack of confidence?

There are a number of reasons.

I’d like to let myself off the hook and pretend that’s just the way I was wired. But the truth is I have allowed other factors to reprogram my original software with glaring glitches that are not all that flattering.

Where do these glitches come from? What causes our programming to be corrupted? The preacher in me wants to pound the pulpit and say in thundering voice sin is the reason. Sin corrupts everything, but that may be too simplistic of an answer.

From my personal perspective, instead of trusting in how God sees me, instead of finding my self-worth in Him, I tended to find value in performance.

My performance.
As in how well I performed in whatever capacity was called for.
Great performance always calls for pride and setting oneself up as the standard by which we measure.

But, performance is subject to many different variables. Some we can control; others we cannot. At any rate, as long as pride allows any of us to be the standard, failure is bound to happen.

Nobody is perfect.
Certainly not me.
Nor you either.

You know what happens when you fail often enough or performance falters? Yep. Prideful self-confidence is going to suffer!

But that’s not the end of the matter. As it turns out, our own pride in performance isn’t always the culprit. Sometimes it’s the pride of others. When they set themselves up as your standard, chances are, you’ll fail that little song and dance too. Where or when any of us tries to live our lives to please others? We will both be miserable before it’s over!

This is hard stuff for me to admit and change. I like to make people happy. I like even more to know I knocked it out of the ballpark.
Every time.
Every.

With that kind of motivation, it is easy to find yourself doing things for all the wrong reasons.

If I ever preach again on a regular basis, it has to be different than it was before. I have to be different. At the very least, I need to do a much better job of taking my ego out of the equation.

There I ago again.
Isn’t it funny where and how pride raises its ugly head?
I need God to take my ego out of the equation.

So today I ran.
As I ran, the music faded into the background, and I could clearly hear Cole’s words from the not-so-distant past… You done dood, Dad.

Dood.
That’s Cole-speak for good.
High praise indeed.
How I wish I could hear it today.

One day I hope to listen as the Father says well done good and faithful servant, followed by Cole’s pronouncement you done dood, Dad. You done dood.

Today I ran on gravel roads. But in the blink of an eye, Cole and I? We will run together on streets of gold…

Ready to run,
Les Ferguson, Jr.

Scalped

Move over, Alexander.
In fact, you need to move way down to the other end of the bench.
In the next state.
There is no room for you here.
All this space is mine.
Yesterday I claimed it for a very long time.

I wasn’t trying to rhyme, but I am good.
Really good.
And yet, I digress.

You do know Alexander, don’t you? I bet you have worn his name a time or two. Or maybe three or four.

Somedays, I think I own the title, rights, and everything else pertaining to Alexander.

Dear old Alexander…

He is actually a fictional character created by Judith Viorst in her amazing little book entitled Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. This story is from a child’s perspective which is kind of on the mark since he is a child. If you haven’t read this book, you are missing a treat

Yesterday, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
It has extended itself in one particular way into this day.

When I was young, I loved reading Westerns. I liked the Westerns where the good guys were fighting off the bad guys–including the additional storyline of a band of blood thirsty Apache Indians. Yes, I was a Louis L’Amour fan.

Today, I am officially afraid of being scalped.
Again.
Seriously.

Scalped.
And by scalped, I do not mean a bad haircut.

Scalped.

Yesterday morning started out ok. I was able to register Casey for a fall soccer league. In fact, the best and brightest part of the day was seeing his face light up with unabashed joy over a new pair of soccer cleats, shinguards, and a ball. We start practice tonight.

At any rate, after the online registration and and getting Casey on the bus, I began looking for my soccer coaching stash from years gone by. At one time or another, I coached all the other boys in soccer.

My search took me to the dreaded basement. The basement. The basement where Cole’s treasures are stored. And against my better judgment I opened those footlockers… and the tears began. They turned into a screaming match with God, only He didn’t scream back. My heart hurt most of the day. Everything was colored by pain. Even though my life is so much better than it could be… Even though my life is amazingly full and happy… The thought of all the ensuing years to come before I see my son again is daunting to say the least.

For the rest of the day I tried to function and live in the moment. I guess for the most part I did.
But it felt an awful lot like I was under water.
Slow.
Sluggish.
And hard to breath.

Thus went the day.
By evening, my equilibrium was better.
My outlook on life was much improved.
And Alexander? I was just about ready to cede back to him complete ownership of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
At least up until the moment I got scalped.

Did I say scalped?
Why yes, yes I did.

Scalped.
Not by a tomahawk.
But scalped nonetheless.

I was going up the spiral staircase to tuck Casey in for the night when I had the bright idea of tossing some clothes from the stairs to a basket below. In a moment completely bereft of any common sense, I leaned over the stair case to do so… and right into the spinning blades of a ceiling fan spinning on the highest speed.

Scalped!

Did you know head wounds bleed profusely?
Did you know gashes in the skull are painful?
Kids, don’t try this from home, take it from me instead.

Yes, a bad day got worse.
And quickly.

My head hurt then and it still hurts now.
But that pain will pass.
That wound will heal.
And I will eventually forget about how stupid I feel.
But my heart?
That pain will not completely go away until it is my turn to step across the great divide.

Until that day comes…
Blessings to you and yours,

Les Ferguson, Jr.

A Pensive Persistent Melancholy

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up… To more than I can be.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up… To more than I can be.

There is no life – no life without its hunger;
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;
But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up… To more than I can be.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up… To more than I can be.

You raise me up… To more than I can be.
Josh Groban

Today, I am a little sad. Not the kind of sad that looks like the beginnings of some deep dark depression, but sad nonetheless. Maybe a pensive persistent melancholy is a better way to describe how I feel today.

Moving back to Vicksburg was about coming home. About coming back to the place that was so much of a tether, at least in my mind.

I was going to be grounded here.
Being surrounded by old friends, old surroundings, and familiar haunts was going to make this a safe place–providing a security I wanted and needed.

I am so glad I came back. I am glad Becki was here. I am grateful for the sense of being important and loved she gives me. She is a constant source of strength and encouragement. She has made this house we live in a home for all of our boys. Truly we rise up and call her blessed. That this town is a safe secure place is largely due to her.

But today, I am a little sad, a kind of pensive persistent melancholy.
Mourning a little bit.
Grieving just a tad.

Mostly today, it is about me.
The loss of me.
The loss of purpose.
The loss of friends, circles, and fellowships.

Don’ get me wrong. I am not without friends. I have a group of buddies scattered about–mostly in the South–and we communicate as a group every single day of the week and have for years thanks to the internet. Preachers mostly. We are all save one connected by the now defunct Magnolia Bible College. Most of these guys I have known since I was 18 and three of them from an even younger age.

Those guys are my friends and brothers (one of them is my little brother), and I love them unequivocally–even the one whose politics are way outside anything I can understand and appreciate.

But today, I am a little sad. Once again, a pensive persistent melancholy, if you will.
Rebuilding a shattered life was going to be easier here.
At least until I figured out it was going to be hard anywhere.

Life has a funny way of moving on.
People change.
Life happens.
Time rolls on.
And relationships have to be nurtured in order to be sustained.

In the meantime, please understand it is not nearly as dreary as it may sound.
I know good things are coming.
I know they are. I believe that with all my heart.
I do, however, get very frustrated when God’s timing is not in line with my I-want-it-now perspective.

So.

Here’s to new friends and new situations…
Here’s to moving forward and growing stronger…
Here’s to building a new life on stronger foundations…
Here’s to God as the cornerstone and architect!

Today, I am a little bit sad and yet very determined to face the challenges of a great new adventure with the God who raises us up.

How about you?

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Where Eagles Fly

I am often told my writing is raw, honest, and full of emotion. Most of the time those that tell me also thank me for it.

I also hear from people who tell me how painful and hard it is to read, but read it they must.

Sometimes I think honesty is a trait of another time and place. We often pull our punches. We often tell people exactly what they want to hear.

I know some good people who would love for me to write today and tell you of all the wonderful things in my life… tell you about my successes and blessing… let you know of all the joy and happiness that has invaded my life.

And, if the truth be told completely, there are wonderful things, wonderful people in my life. In some places, in some areas I see successes, I recognize blessings. I am thankful that I do know joy and happiness–I am often able to easily find reasons for joy and happiness.

But if the truth were to be told completely, I’d have to tell you–even though it may not be what you want to hear–that there are still dark places, dark things I wrestle with.

Truthfully?

I am tired.
Weary.
Frustrated.

A lot.

Add to that a cup or two of anger here and there and it is a potent mix.

I don’t understand why it seems the wicked prosper.
Why can’t I have some of that?

I don’t have a clue why life has to be so crazy hard at times.
Is it too much to ask for a day or two every once in a while on Easy Street?

My patience with God often gets stretched thin.

Here’s my truth: I am fully ensconced in just such a time.
I am exasperated with the constant sense of having to scratch and claw.
I hate feeling desperate and unsure.
I am so ready for God to work in my life in bigger and better ways.
So ready.

So this morning, in the absence of that, I did run therapy.
Three faster than normal miles on some dusty gravel roads.
And I listened to music.

Robbie Williams crooned…
When I’m feeling weak and my pain walks down a one way street…

Yep. I get that. Perfect words to encapsulate my frame of mind.

But, I didn’t need any auditory reminders this morning. So with apologies to Mr. Williams, that just wasn’t going to work. I needed music to groove/ move me faster–and help me out of my funk. And being that I am an unrepentant hard rock fan, I turned to the Red Rocker instead.

My musician Sammy Hagar can usually move me. Today he did. I like a bunch of his work, but my all time favorite and one of my most listened to songs is called Eagles Fly.

Sunday morning 9 a.m. 
I saw fire in the sky 
I felt my heart pound in my chest 
I heard an eagle cry 


Now I’m alive I can breathe the air 
Feel the wind, smell the earth in the air 
I watch an eagle rise above the trees 
Project myself into what he sees 


Hey- 
Take me away 
Come on and fly me away 
Take me up so high 
Where eagles fly 


I often dream I sail through the sky 
I’ve always wished I could fly 
The simple life of a bird on the wing 
Oh Lord, I could sing 


Take me away 
Come on fly me away 
Lift me up so high 
Where eagles fly 


Oh yeah- 
I’m alive, I breathe the air 
Wash the earth from my face 
I catch a glimpse of another dream 
I turn, I look but there’s no trace 


Take me away. 
Come on, fly me away. 
I wanna fly away. 
Pick me up so high 
Where eagles fly 


Oh yeah- 
Eagles fly, oh, take me away 
Eagles fly, oh, take me away 
Come on, let’s fly away where eagles fly 
Come on, fly away where eagles fly.

Sammy probably never intended for a guy like me to use his music to fight my way out of a funk.

But that’s where I am and not where I want to be, so fight I must.

Take me away. 
Come on, fly me away. I wanna fly away. Pick me up so high 
Where eagles fly…

Thank you Sammy for helping me move faster and groove on while doing it.
More importantly, thank you for reminding me of scripture…

Even youths grow tired and weary,
 and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
 will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
 they will run and not grow weary,
 they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31 (NIV)

Come on God, I am so ready to soar.
How about you?

Take me away. Come on, fly me away. I wanna fly away. Pick me up so high 
Where eagles fly…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Extravagant

I used to have a really bad temper.

Flying off the handle.
Getting mad.
Harsh words.
A willingness to fight.

There have been times in my life when those things could have been and were an apt description.
Not always, but definitely some.

I have never been proud of my hot-headed tendencies. I have often fought and won against them.

But not always.
Unfortunately, the ones I love have more often either been in the crosshairs or innocent bystanders with collateral damage.
Either way it hurts.

I am not going to tell you that my temper is no more.
As soon as I did, some situation would arise to put the lie to my words.

But, I have matured.
I have changed.
My volatility is nothing like it was in the past.
These days I am learning the art of asking myself an all important question: Does this really matter enough to lose my cool?

Still, there is room to grow.
Not losing my temper needs to become having greater patience.
Being more tolerant. 
Exhibiting mercy.
Being a conduit of grace.

I am so glad God is still working in me…

Having said all of that, I still struggle with anger.
I still wrestle with resentment.
I still want answers.
I still get mad at God.

Still.
Get.
Mad.
At.
God.

And yet.
And yet…

I am glad He loves me enough to be patient.
I am glad His tolerance is much better than mine.
I am thankful for His mercy.
I am gratified by His grace.

I am learning to live with the non-answers.
I am learning to trust God’s love even when I cannot comprehend.
I am learning how to still worship… even when the oceans rise and thunders roar. (Still by Hillsong United)

I wish I was the only one with unanswered questions.
I wish I was the only with with anger.
I wish I was the only who has ever been mad at God.

But I am not.
These days I too often meet fellow travelers.
Or, hear of those who have joined this fraternity of pain, doubt, and questions.

I wish I had the answers we both want.
I wish.
How I wish I did.

But some answers are never to be.
And in truth, we both know that the answers will never undo the pain or repair the damage.

But, from my perspective almost two years out from the horror of October 10, 2011, I’d like to share with you a passage of scripture that gives me comfort, hope, and a little bit of peace.

Still.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
1 Corinthians 13:12-13, (The Message)

In your pain, with your doubt, and in spite of your unanswered questions, do your best to love.
Love extravagantly.

In the act of loving, redemption and relief can often be found…

I am thankful for the love shown to me.
I am thankful for the blessing of loving you in return.

Extravagantly yours,
Les Ferguson, Jr.

I Didn’t Believe

I didn’t believe.
God help me, I didn’t believe.

It was a normal stressed out Wednesday. I was getting ready to go home for supper and take a break before services when the phone rang. I heard the words, “something’s happened and it’s bad.”

Before the evening was through, a professional counselor would tell us she believed Cole had been molested.

A handicapped young man.
Wheelchair bound.
Totally dependent.
Mentally deficient.
Molested (and worse) at the hands of a seventy year-old man.

On our part, there was tears, anger, hurt, and confusion.

How could this be?
How could such a thing happen?

And then my distorted view of reality kicked in.
No way.
Not possible.
There has to be some kind of mistake.
Cole is just confused. He has no idea of such things.

I didn’t believe.
God help me, I didn’t believe.

How could I?
How could I suspend disbelief and even think such a thing was possible?

I know these things happen all the time. I know that sick perversions warp, hurt, and do damage to a degree we may never fully comprehend.

All the time.
In situations and places where kids ought to be safe.

I know this intellectually, but emotionally, I still find it hard to wrap my mind around such a thing. It makes no sense to me at all.

I didn’t believe.
God help me, I didn’t believe.

While we had lots of lively arguments and discussions at my house during those early days of discovery and comprehension, I was still determined to support my son. The disbelief of others made me incredibly angry.

And yet,
I didn’t believe.
God help me, I didn’t believe.

Before you judge me, hear me out.
I didn’t believe, not because I distrusted or doubted my son.

I was a Daddy who loved his boy with all that I was or could ever hope to be. Still do.
I didn’t believe because I didn’t want to.
Would you?

Who could want to believe such a horrible thing? I would much rather Cole be confused or even dishonest than to be forced into believing such horrible things had happened to him under my watch.

I didn’t want to believe because I didn’t want it to be true.

But, God help us, it was true and I had to believe.

You need to believe too.
You need to believe that there are sick evil people in this world who prey on the helpless, the innocent.
You need to believe there are those who will go to any measure to infiltrate the lives of good people in order to fulfill their wicked desires.

When it does happen to someone you know, please be sure to understand that how you handle the knowledge can have a lasting effect.

I didn’t believe.
God help me, I didn’t believe.

But I believe now.
And that belief will ever be vigilant for the predators among us.

If you or your church are interested in a conversation along these lines, please let me know.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

The Morning Fog

One day this past winter, Becki and I took an hour long walk down an old gravel road not far from our house.

It is a narrow road with hardly enough room for two cars to pass in most places. It winds and twists through hills and gullies and steep ravines. The trees tower over both sides of the road, creating a sunlight canopy in places.

It is one of my favorite places to walk or run. Very quiet and secluded. In fact, I can only remember meeting somebody on that road a very few times–mostly during deer hunting season.

I get a sense of peace and tranquility from the beauty of God’s creation on display. Wildlife is plentiful on this road. We’ve seen deer, turkey, and even a bobcat or two.

But on this particular day I was hurting. Enough so that I actually started this blog post, but got no further than a blank document with a two word title attached to it, although not the same title you see now.

Life is so extremely transient.

Planned changes/ directions often take a far different and unexpected tack.

Unplanned or unprepared for changes can not only take the wind out of your sails, but also leave you floundering at best or sinking at worst.

Like I said, life is so extremely transient.

Some of you who read this have the ability to look backward and see exactly how your life took shape as planned accordingly. And that’s a blessing.

Others of us look back at our lives and wonder how we got here–maybe we marvel at the unexpected while appreciating just how things developed. Certainly there can be a blessing in that.

And still others of us thought we had a plan and were working it. But then, the hull of our ship sustained massive damage. As we sink, we can’t help but wonder where the blessing is in that…

One of my blessings is the renewed ability to live in the moment. At least better than I did before. I still struggle with wanting security. I still wrestle hard with patience and wanting to know how God is going to make all of this work out now!

But, I am much more cognizant of the transitory nature of this earthly existence. I try to relish the moments where joy is found.

Things change.

Sometimes to our benefit.

Sometimes not.

Sometimes we can anticipate the changes.

Sometimes not.

Regardless, change is coming to your life and to mine.

As I write this, one of my closest friends, another long time preaching buddy, is sitting with his father, waiting on the Heavenly Father to call his Dad home. Awaiting one of the biggest changes in both their lives. There will be tears. There will be the knowledge of God’s presence. (If you will, pray for the family of Bill Huggins)

Change happens.

On that late winter walk referenced above, we found an old homestead off the road and in the woods.

IMG_0366 IMG_0368 IMG_0367

I wonder who once lived there.

I wonder what changes occurred in their lives.

I wonder how a place of hearth and home gets abandoned and slowly reclaimed by nature.

And I am reminded of the words of James 4:14, How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. (NLT)

As David Bowie once said, Turn and face the strange changes… 

Life can be stranger than fiction. But be sure, change is coming, somehow, someway.

May your change be blessed.

Thanks for reading.

Les Ferguson, Jr.