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.

 

Wineskins Check-Out: I Need Restored!

Hey There Friend! I am so glad you have spent time with me in the past year as I wrestle with my faith. A new year has dawned and many of us are still wrestling with questions and that’s ok. Wrestling is growing.

I hope I never stop.

I have been out of the loop a bit, so here’s a little self-promotional news about the happenings in my life.

I preached this past Sunday in Natchez, Ms. I will be speaking there again this coming Sunday. Always looking for more opportunities to share…

Also, the new schedule for the Tulsa Workshop is out and I am presenting three times–and yes, I am very excited.

I have spent considerable time this week reworking my book proposal and remain committed to the process.

Awhile back I announced the opportunity that had come my way to be a featured author at wineskins.org. At the time I didn’t quite grasp how it was going to work—I thought DWTBA was going to be linked and what I wrote here would just become a part of the other web e-zine.

Not the case at all.

In fact, I am writing in two different places.

So, I would like to invite you to take a look at the new issue as soon as it is out. The writers are each telling stories of those special people who have helped shape their own personal faith.

Please take the time to check out http://wineskins.org.

In the meantime, I am going to share here what I wrote there in the inaugural restart issue…

Thanks for sticking with me—
Les, Jr.

Restoration.
I have experienced way too much of that in my life.
Going to the dentist is painful and difficult when you have had mouth trauma over the years.
It is also financially painful.

At age 51, I (and my wallet) remain terrified of dentists and the work they do.

Why?

Because at age 15, I totaled a Volkswagen Beetle. In the process, I ate the steering wheel and knocked teeth out and tore gums away. Not a pretty sight, for sure. But, the docs were good and wired it all up and things stayed well for a number of years until some of those teeth died.

And when they had to be removed, we found out that a prescribed acne medicine had caused chemical bonding of those dead teeth to the bone. Getting them out of my mouth required some uncomfortable surgery.

My teeth woes have gone on and on throughout much of my adult life.

But wait.

This is a place for theological discussions, not bad oral health stories.
This is a blog post that is supposed to be a part of a theme on Biblical Restoration.
Amazingly enough, there are some similarities between the two.

Dentists and those who practice dentistry with bigger and fancier names know all about tooth decay and gum diseases. They have seen the results of accidents. They know the stench and damage of rotting teeth.

Sounds a lot like sin, does it not?

Sin causes spiritual decay. It causes the very fabric of our lives to become rotten to the core. And the following physical, emotional, and mental trauma is often spread into the lives of others.
The consequences can be really really high and very very hard.

The man who murdered my first wife and our handicapped son didn’t start out life as a child molester, rapist, and murder. But the effects of sin caught up with him—resulting in an even greater sin spiral that eventually spilled over into our lives in a horrific way.

Please don’t take this as somehow blasé. Because it most assuredly is not. Sin always has consequences. And sin often has ramifications that are unintended in our own lives and often claim innocent victims as well.

So how does all of this work into the theme of biblical restoration?

The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
That word all is a funny little guy. It leaves no one out. We are all guilty.
And, the result is all are also in need of restoration as well.

So, I am very grateful for the forgiveness, mercy, and grace God grants me. But beyond all the. wonderful forgiveness, I need a full scale restoration. I need a life obsessed with living for God in all respects.

This heritage many of us call the Restoration Movement is a great thing. Restoring the church of the New Testament is a lofty goal. But when you get down to it, the church of the first century was full of the same kind of folks as the church of the 21st century (no matter what name is on the door).

Sinners all, we are a people who need to be healed and forgiven. We are a people whose lives need a total transformation. And only God can create the kind of total make over that fundamentally restores perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors in redeeming fashion.

As it turns out, restoration or restoring people to God saves not only them from pain, but also others who might otherwise be hurt.

Hey kids.
Brush your teeth good before bed tonight.
But before then, consider those areas of your life that need to be restored to Him.

Les Ferguson, Jr.