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.