The Twins

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-29

Poor old Thomas.

He gets ridiculed for his doubt. How in the world could he not believe Jesus had risen from the dead?

But back in Thomas’ day and in mine as well, people died, they got buried, and short of divine intervention, that’s how they stayed, dead as a doorknob–at least in this present world.

And yet at the same time, we know Thomas was privy to the fact that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. He was aware of all the particulars on that spectacularly amazing day.

Still, how many other folks had managed to drag themselves back from the grave? How many other people took an abbreviated dirt nap before awakening themselves and arising to walk in this world again?

Zip.

Nada.

Zilch.

None.

Not a singe one.

Can you cut Thomas a little slack? Can you give him a little bit of wiggle room? I mean, all he had to go on was the testimony of his fellow disciples. And when you get down too it, they weren’t necessarily a stellar crowd.

Among them were poor fisherman, a political zealot, a betrayer, and a denier. None of them were scholars. Their qualifications, behaviors and attitudes sometimes left a lot to be desired. So before we jump on old Thomas, maybe we ought to ask ourselves if we would have believed under the same circumstances…

I suspect I would have been a twin to Thomas. I suspect that though I would have wanted to believe, I would have wrestled with confusion, stress, frustration, and well, whatever meager evidence my eyes could have seen.

The truth is, I am a lot like Thomas to this very day and what I would have wrestled with then, applies now.

Please don’t get me wrong. I believe in God. I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in Jesus. I believe in what Jesus did. I believe in what He is still doing in the lives of people everywhere. I believe Jesus is coming back to take home those who belong to Him.

I have faith.

But I also have doubt.

Some days it is hard to really believe God cares for me.

Some days I really struggle with the the idea God has my best interests at heart.

And almost every day I wonder if God’s timing will ever be on time for me.

I am a twin to Thomas the Doubter.

Or maybe his clone.

But even as I doubt, I believe.

I believe.

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” (Khalil Gibran)

Come See Me This Weekend at Discover Rally!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Show Me The Way–Another Throwback Post

Thanks to a friend, we are chilling out, regrouping, relaxing, and recreating in Destin, FL. I came here with the intention of trying to write, but the beach and water call my name.

There is something restorative about the ocean… The never ending waves roll in and with them the certainty that life goes on.

I worry about the future. I stress constantly over being able to support my family. I wrestle with doubt. I strive with fear. I struggle with self-confidence… And still, life goes on.

Patience is not my strong suit. I want a voice from heaven that says everything is going to be alright. Bills will get paid. Opportunities are coming.

Yes, as I once said before, I am a mess. Certifiable.

In the meantime, I found another old post from my old life and old blog. Amazingly enough, it is so appropriate for where I am today. In the next day or so I hope to share something new. In the meantime. Check out my new endorsement and enjoy…

Every night I say a prayer in the hope that there’s a heaven
And every day I’m more confused as the saints turn into sinners
All the heroes and legends I knew as a child have fallen to idols of clay
And I feel this empty place inside so afraid that I’ve lost my faith

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Show me the way

And as I slowly drift to sleep, for a moment dreams are sacred
I close my eyes and know there’s peace in a world so filled with hatred
That I wake up each morning and turn on the news to find we’ve so far to go
And I keep on hoping for a sign, so afraid that I just won’t know

Show me the way, Show me the way
Take me tonight to the mountain
And wash my confusion away

And if I see a light, should I believe
Tell me how will I know

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Show me the way, show me the way
Give me the strength and the courage
To believe that I’ll get there someday
Show me the way

Every night I say a prayer
In the hope that there’s a heaven… (Dennis DeYoung)

I vacillate in the type of music I listen to. Some days it’s more about good classic rock. The kind of music I grew up with. The kind that has been belted out of my lungs from the first day I ever got behind the wheel. I love rock and roll. Put another dime in the jukebox baby.

Some folks might read this and laugh at the idea of a dime jukebox. Others are probably looking at this and trying to remember if they have ever seen an old jukebox in an old movie.

Isn’t that a hoot?

But I digress.

My other favorite is contemporary Christian, preferably the hard charging kind that is reminiscent of secular rock but with lyrics that reflect Christian values and/or praise God.

And from day to day and sometimes within the same day, I go from one to the other.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I connected with an old rock song from a group that is still around in one form or another a song with a decidedly spiritual touch. A plea even to see and know and understand that there is something out there that is better than the values of this world.

Enter Dennis DeYoung and Styx.

Show me the way.

Indeed.

I don’t know how I missed the import of the lyrics for all of these twenty-seven plus years that I have been singing along to this song. But I did, that is, until last week.

Show me the way. That might very well be the anthem cry of generations of young people, middle aged people, and old people.

Show me the way.

Politicians fail us.

Sports figures fail us. (Did Kenny Rogers really have pine tar on his hand?)

Teachers and principals and business leaders and religious leaders fail us.

Even our own flesh and blood can fail us in grievous ways.

Is it any wonder then that the world, at least those who are not so far gone in self-absorption, is looking for something better? And in particular, someone to show them the way?

That’s where you and I come in.

Christians.

Beacons of light.

The people who can show the way, if we only will.

Matthew 5:14-16, (NIV) You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Show me the way, show me the way
Give me the strength and the courage
To believe that I’ll get there someday
Show me the way

Every night I say a prayer
In the hope that there’s a heaven…

A Doormat Christianity

Matthew 22:34-40, Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Loving God and loving others. The two greatest commands. The heart and soul of what it means to live a Christian life.

In an old newspaper column somewhere back in time, I once wrote about God’s response when looking at his children and all of the theological drama we have created. In my imagination, I saw Him shaking His head and saying, “No, no, no. That isn’t it all.”

I suspect there are lots of ideas, beliefs, and dogmas that satisfy our human nature but miss entirely the ideal of God.

You might be an arm chair or a classically trained theologian and think me arrogant to even suggest such thing. In return, I think it pretty arrogant to ever imagine even for a minute that we have gotten it all right.

Along the way of developing and defending our doctrinal beliefs, it sometimes feels as if we have lost the main thing. I often tell the sixteen year old in our house, you can be right and still be wrong. If you are right, but mouthy and snotty in the process, all the right doesn’t undo what the attitude got wrong.

The same is true of Christianity. If your doctrine of _________ is exactly what God intended, but you fail to be loving toward your follow man, what good does it do?

You can be right and still be wrong.
Can I get an Amen?

I will probably not make any friends with this post. I suspect some will disagree vehemently. And that’s ok.

I keep being told that one day I will be back in full time ministry. I agree.

I am trying hard to find my voice, to discover my niche, or for lack of a better term, create my own ministry role. But, if you mean being a full time pulpit minister/ preacher/ pastor for a local congregation… I just can’t do that.

One reason is I am a long way from an everyday hey-God-I-can-do-this kind of thing. God and I are still wrestling. I am still limping. And like it or not, most churches wouldn’t handle very well a preacher who openly limps. I am sure there are exceptions, but I wouldn’t know them.

More importantly, another reason is my inability to practice a Doormat Christianity.
Go ahead and ask… you know you want to… What is Doormat Christianity?

As a preacher, my greatest desire was to see the kingdom of God grow. To do that, I strived hard to love God by loving others. In the process, I often allowed myself to become a doormat to those I served.

What about Jesus’ commands to turn the other cheek or to go the extra mile? I fully believe those words at work in our lives would go an awful long way to bringing us peace in our relationships.

Loving God by loving others even when they are unloveable is not the issue. On the other hand, we are often motivated by something less than love in going the extra mile or turning the other cheek.

It’s not a pretty picture, but in my life as a preacher, it was often more about self-preservation. In order to not rock the boat, I welcomed the opportunity to be a doormat to keep my job or provide for my family.

I am kidding right? Not one little bit.

Spiritual abuse? Bring it on.
Power trips? Learn to roll with the punches.
Maintaining the status quo at the cost of your own spiritual growth and creativity? You betcha.

I probably sound bitter. I am. But, I am not content to stay there and so God and I are having to wrestle with that as well.

In the meantime, can I ask a favor? Love your ministers lavishly. Chances are you have no idea what they are sacrificing–sometimes even their own self-esteem. If you like to make jokes at the preacher’s expense about only working one day a week or keeping his moving boxes close to hand or how much money he makes, Stop!

Stop now. He may laugh with you, but it takes a toil.

Eventually he becomes a doormat whether he wants to acknowledge it or not. Even when he can’t or won’t see it for what it is, his spouse sees it and suffers too.

Doormat Christianity is hurtful, destructive, and ultimately damaging to the spirit within.

Loving others means saying this is wrong!

Thanks for reading.
Anything in particular you would like me to address?
How can I help you?

Les Ferguson, Jr.
DWTBA

My Friend Kansas Bob

A question came in on the comments today. It referenced a time in my life when I was a yearly director of a camp session at Gulf Coast Bible Camp (a great place to support or send your kids). That particular week’s theme was I Am A Friend of God.

The question: Do I still consider myself a friend of God or are we more like frenemies?

Good question. I’d like to believe I am not an enemy of God. I certainly don’t believe God is my enemy. We have been a bit estranged in the past year and a half. We have wrestled an awful lot–and I have yet to win one single match. But I still wrestle. I guess I am stubborn like that.

Often friends get crossways with one another. But getting crossways or having a difference of opinion doesn’t mean abandoning the relationship.

If rape and a double murder could be construed as God’s plan for me, my anger would be much greater. If God was trying to help me grow or teach me some lesson and thereby let this happen, then I would be sorely ticked off at Him. There are much nicer ways to get my attention. I don’t think God was doing that. I don’t think God caused the perverted creep to do the perverted creep things he did.

I doubt I’ll ever have full understanding, but I am thankful God has not abandoned me in my time of questioning and wrestling!

And you know what? I am not alone. There are lots of us out here who struggle to understand why our lives have fallen apart–why so many bad things have to happen–why we continue to endure while others skip through life with hardly a disruptive ripple.

We are many. And as long as this earth lasts unredeemed, we will be here.

We are not going away. Chances are, there may be an unwanted occasion when you become one of us. I hope not, but that’s the reality of this world…

In the meantime, I’d like to share a guest post from a man who has also endured much.

Blog, meet Kansas Bob. Here’s what he has written:

In March of 1990 my life fell apart. Ellen, my wife of 19 years, had a heart attack and kidney failure.

In the following four years my whole life’s focus was caring for her. Everything else I was doing, ministry-wise, stopped.

I slowly died on the inside.

It was during this time that I began to be confronted by the control issues that surrounded me and lived deep within me.

As I continually prayed for my wife she got weaker and weaker.
And my frustration got stronger and stronger.

I had no control over what was happening. My children began having problems in school. They too were dealing with a deepening grief about their mom’s health.

All the while I was being forced to change – I hated it. All of the things in life that I thought I had figured out were unraveling before my eyes. Everything that was important to me was falling apart.

I was dying on the inside and in May of 1994 my dear wife of 23 years died.

The past years had taken a toll on our family, my 14 year old son, my 10 year old daughter and me.

We were all devastated at my wife’s death.
We all expected her to get well.

That is what we prayed for.
I believed in healing and miracles.
Standing by her side I even prayed for a resurrection when my wife breathed her last.

The aftermath of her death found my son medicating with drugs, my daughter struggling with identity issues and me dealing with a broken theology.

I increasingly became aware of how much I had been led by principles and precepts.
Subconsciously I had developed a complex internal system of rules and logic concerning life.

These “of course” were all based in scripture and encompassed words like “authority” and “submission”.

Unclear to me was the real issue – living by rules put me in control.

For years I lived the life of a “led by the Spirit” Christian when in truth, I was more like a rules following control freak.

Sadly, my legalistic approach to life and Christianity bred an arrogant attitude towards people who didn’t see the scriptures the same way I did.

When my wife was sick, the arrogant attitude began to give way to glimpses of humility.

I was humbled when meals came into my home from friends at church for 10 weeks.

Coping with hospitalizations, doctor’s bills (from 40+ doctors), hemodialysis, and a boatload of medical problems brought me to a place of breaking.

I was losing control.
I didn’t want to let go of my legalistic ideas and practices but had no option.
I could no longer maintain and feed the on stuff that once brought my ego such satisfaction.

The years after my wife’s passing brought many changes in my life.

That major theme of losing control seemed to subtly resurface as my children began to outwardly grieve the loss of their mom.

“Control” is a major battlefield for one trapped in black and white thinking.
It is all about “control”.

That brings me to the end of 2002.

I had remarried and Ann, my new wife, was going through an intense health crisis that involved paralysis.

I was beside myself once again when the Holy Spirit began to speak to me.
He spoke to me about life and living.
About letting go and flowing in life instead of controlling.
He said that life isn’t something to be managed like a project but something to be lived.

God was beginning to slay my desire to be in control.

Little did I know how much this would be tested over the coming years.

In the summer of 2007 my wife had another relapse of this nasty neurological disease called Neuromyelitis Optica.

This time she did not bounce back like the many times before.
This time she could not walk.
This time she would need to use a wheelchair to get around.
And she does to this day.

In January 2008 I read this quote from G. K. Chesterton:

“Why be something to everybody when you can be everything to somebody?”

It got me crying.

And over the following months I became convinced that God was leading me to leave my job as a pastor.

That summer I retired to minister full time at home.

I still find it difficult to let go and not control but I am making progress.

I try to see issues in the color gray rather than in black and white.
I do things these days that have clear boundaries.
I listen more to the advice of friends and family.
I honor the choices of my adult children even when I don’t agree with them.

And in all things I remember that God loves me and wants me to trust Him.

Not that I always do.

After all, trust is an issue of letting go and giving up control.

Kansas Bob
http://kansasbob.com

White Chocolate, Pecan Eggs, Yellow Peeps, Jelly Beans, & Doubt

Easter.

Mom always made sure the Easter bunny brought white chocolate bunnies for my sister Julie, pecan eggs for me, and regular chocolate for Billy and Amy. And then there were the jelly beans and yellow peeps.

You may be a peep fan, but as far as I can determine they are proof we live in a flawed universe.

No peeps for me, yellow, pink, or any other color.

But then my mom scarred me for life–not by feeding me liver or brussel sprouts (which she did and it could have definitely done major damage, but so far, I am resisting therapy for that). No, by far the worst damage done by my mother was the new Easter clothes, particularly the emasculating burnt orange leisure suit.

It really existed.
I really had to wear it.
Can you feel my Easter pain?

(Laugh, Mom… You made Dad wear one too!)

A new friend asked me today what it was I desperately wanted to believe again?

This Easter weekend, please know I believe.
I believe in God the Father.
I believe in the Holy Spirt.
I believe in Jesus and his sacrificial death on behalf of sinners everywhere.

I believe in the goodness of God.

Somebody once suggested to me I needed to realize that God did not stop the Crucifixion of Jesus.

And the point seemed to be, that if God did not stop the death of His Son, there was no reason to stop the death of mine.

There is a huge difference here. The death of Jesus and His resurrection was a foregone conclusion. That was the plan. To redeem broken sinful man by the greatest of all sacrifices.

I am thankful for that.

I believe in the resurrection of the dead–I believe even now my son knows perfection first hand, up close, and personal.

And yet, I doubt. But my doubt is not about Cole or anybody else besides me.
Myself.
I.

Call me selfish or self-absorbed. I don’t care.

What I want to believe and know again with all of my heart is God’s love toward and protection of me. That God has my bests interests at heart.

That is my struggle.
Every fiber of who I am says God failed.
Or turned His back.

And I am not alone.
Those thoughts are felt and those words are expressed every day by countless others who cannot help but wonder why their lives are full of such pain and sorrow.

Like me, they want to believe and are searching even now for the faith, hope, and trust they want to put in the hands of God.

Happy Easter.
We still believe; we just have a few more doubts to wrestle with…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

How Faith Survived?

The following is an attempt to answer a question posed by a reader in response to this post. The question: How could I still believe at all?

I love being able to take pen to paper or pound on a key board. I love using words to communicate feelings, describe emotions, and work out meaning and understanding.

That I am not alone in seeking something better and more complete makes the process that much sweeter.

For the longest time I felt all alone. I was the only person I knew who had experienced the murder of spouse and child by somebody known, trusted, and invited into our home. The fact that he was a member of our church family made the horror of it all so much greater.

I felt physically and emotionally alone everywhere I went.
I was damaged goods.
The world was dark and dim.
And no matter how many times somebody said I understand your struggle and feel your pain, the truth was this: you had no idea.

I couldn’t begin yet to quantify the depth, height, and width of anguish, sorrow, and hurt. I am still discovering those dimensions–in some ways, we will not ever know how big the hurt will be. In fact, my children have a lifetime of painful moments ahead of them. Every significant event, holiday, achievement, success or failure will be a moment in time in which they will be reminded of their loss–and the brutal horror of it.

I have teased my oldest son and his wife that they are not allowed to become parents–because I am not old enough to be a grandfather. So far it is working.

But there is going to come a day when that first grandchild makes an appearance. And in the midst of happiness, I will know my son’s bitter hurt and disappointment because his mother and brother will not be there to share…

So if we can’t know yet the dimensions of our pain, how can you?

Please don’t misunderstand and think we are a family burdened by an overwrought misery. To be expected, we all have our moments. I had one last night–it was a brief time of guilt because I had such a good day. Some of you will comprehend the guilt inherent in having a day not weighed down by sorrow.

But the truth is we are all trying to live good, happy, and adjusted lives–far different than what we imagined, but good nonetheless.

Did I mention how alone I felt?

Surrounded by family and friends, you can still be the loneliest person in the world.
Especially when the most lonesome aspect is perceived abandonment by God.

Whether He was there or not, it is hard to feel Him in the grips of such grief and anger.

Initially I was bolstered by my faith. But in the next month or so as the new reality of tragic loss began to take hold, faith turned into anger.

How could a loving God let such a thing happen? Where was He when Cole was being systematically raped and abused.

That was my precious son and God stood by and did nothing.

Where was He when Cole and Karen were fighting for their lives?

Yes.
I.
Was.
Angry!

Wouldn’t you have been?

Those were the times when the platitudes and sappy hope of an effortless faith meant nothing at all.

My faith loss wasn’t about disbelief in God. My loss of faith was about my understanding of God’s nature. Who was He, really? What was he really like? How could He really let such evil thrive?

No, I never quit believing in God. There is a sense in which I never quit believing He loved me.

I just didn’t understand. I can’t yet claim to understand a God who is so far beyond human comprehension.

The truth is this simple: I never realized how much hard work faith requires. Faith requires a belief and trust that God really does have your best interests at heart. I struggle with that. At the same time, I am not ready to jettison the idea of God caring for me.

So here is my conundrum…

Either I go through life empty with no hope.
Or, I try to do the hard work necessary to trust the God I don’t understand.

It is easy to be peeved and angry–it is hard to trust.

So I wrestle and limp and wrestle some more.
And have faith that one day, my limping gimpy self will trust the God I chose to serve…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

IMG_0045.jpg

Horatio Spafford & Me

Oops. I accidentally posted this a bit ago with the wrong Horatio. Thanks to RW for alerting me. I knew when I did it something was off–how I got the name wrong, I will never know! Grace, I need grace!

I appreciate much the reading, comments, sharing, and subscribing so many of you have done. You have helped give me voice again. Those of you who have already subscribed (see the subscription link to the right of where you are reading now), are helping me get ready for the next opportunity–whatever that might be.

This faith journey is taking me somewhere–and from what you are saying, I have struck a nerve. I am not alone in wrestling, fighting, and struggling with God. My faith is not the only faith with deep questions. My life is not the only life that has faced, is still facing, and will face that dark night of the soul…

Thank you…

We went to worship yesterday.

That is nothing unusual. I normally enjoy being with God’s people when they gather together. I have long appreciated David’s words,

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1 NIV)

For the longest time, being inside a church building was just utter torment. Being in worship was just a reminder of what God didn’t do.

Praying? I will not claim to have ever had the kind of praying relationship I would have liked. So much of my prayers over the years have been wordless appeals to God. And now? Most of the time I start to pray, but it just drifts away because I have no idea what to pray for and expect in return. I believe God still hears me, but if He is waiting for me to have a clearer picture, we might be awhile…

I do try to say bedtime prayers with Casey. He doesn’t much want to do it, but on the nights he wants to, I end up angry at God all over again. It’s kind of hard not to get upset when a now seven year old asks God to tell his mom and brother hello. And God help me, he sent a letter to each of them in January by helium balloon–and he has asked God to have them send a letter back to him.

What do you do with that?

Singing? I have found little if any peace in worship music of any kind. Which is really saying something when you know how much I like bands and artists such as Mercy Me, Newsboys, Jeremy Camp, Chris Tomlin, and David Crowder. Over the last six months or so, they have largely been absent from my life.

And giving? I have tried in the past to be a generous giver–there was a time when I had a bit too much pride in that regard. But now? Maybe you might think I am being overly dramatic, but it feels like I have already given too much of me…

But those are my problems, not yours–and for me, I am striving to work through them.

At any rate, we went to church yesterday and heard a great sermon about children honoring their parents (Thanks TW). But I almost missed it

At some point before the preacher took the stage, we sang an updated version of an old hymn by Horatio Spaffordr. I sang it as hard as I could with tears streaming down my face.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul,It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I wish it was.

I want it to be.

It is well… And though it isn’t always, I hope and trust, one day it will…

Thanks to a new friend and blog reader, I leave you with this prayer from Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I want to believe.

How about you?

Fight Like A Man, You Dirty Dog!

Just a note before I begin, to those who have now subscribed, many, many thanks. I would still like some feedback on my about page and my speaking page, but I’ll try to be content to wait.

In the meantime, the battle still rages…

When we were children, my Uncle David’s son, Scott was tough as nails. I haven’t seen Scott much over the past 25 years or so, but from what I know, tough still describes the guy who travels the world looking for new and better places to surf.

Once in a neighborhood scuff up, cousin Scott knocked another kid down and was heard to say as he stood over him, “get up and fight like a man, you dirty dog!”

At least that’s how the story goes…

In some ways, I am torn between two positions. On the one hand, I think a fair fight is one that you win, doing whatever you had to do to win it.

And then on the other hand, I have a strong sense of justice and fair play. People that do not play by the rules drive me nuts. (To be completely fair, I also like to make the rules fit my needs, wants, and wishes–I know I am not alone in this, am I?)

But when people tear you down by rumor and innuendo and you can’t say or do anything to defend yourself; I want to say get up and fight like a man, you dirty dog!

When you get blind-sided or stabbed in the back (meaning there is nothing you can do to be prepared), I want to say get up and fight like a man, you dirty dog!

And the reality is, in this dog eat dog world, dirty dogs can be found for a whole lot less than a dime a dozen.

Don’t get me wrong.

I am not so jaded or damaged to fail to see there are plenty of kind people who would never seek to hurt either of us.

To be sure I have been wounded. In some respects I wonder if the damage will ever completely heal. In fact, what happened to us is so strange, bizarre, and out there, it still sometimes defies belief.

I am a little more guarded than I used to be–which wasn’t much at all. I still question at times whether I am being used in certain situations or if people really, truly do have my best interests at heart.

But, my natural inclination to trust people is still pretty much intact. I just don’t quite run with it as easily as I might have before.

However, Dirty Dogs Do Exist!

Too often we never know their true character or nature until the dog has bitten a big chuck out of our backside. People don’t always fight fair. Justice isn’t always pervasive.

In fact, from my perspective, justice is a nice sounding platitude that often fails to live up to its billing.

One if the hardest lessons to ever learn is life isn’t always fair.
Or just.

So.

What do you do about dirty dogs?

Don’t look at me for the answer, I am asking you…

Seriously.

How do you handle the dirty dogs in your life?

Me? I wish I could identify them beforehand so I could emulate the Old Testament God of smiting thine enemies. I’d like to change the words of Jesus and do unto others before they do unto you. And turn the other cheek? Oh, yeah. That’s not exactly the attitude I’d like to take.

Not by a long shot.

No Sir.
No Ma’am.

Being a powerless victim is not the game I ever intend to play again. At the same time, I also understand I don’t always get to choose. And neither do you.

Stinks, doesn’t it?

In the meantime, what some may consider sacrilege, I consider part of my wrestling and fighting with God. I hope you’ll forgive and at least try to understand what I and others sometimes wonder about…

What do you do when it feels like you have given God everything and there is no divine protection in it?

If the Creator of the Universe doesn’t fight fair, what recourse do we have?

I get that we live in a broken world and bad things happen to good people.
I get it.
I hate it.
And I certainly don’t understand it.

But what do you do when it feels like the dirty dog is God?

So Many Whys

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***Warning:Hard Questions Ahead***

Years ago, I belonged to the Kiwanis Club. It was a good organization. I made some friends. We did some good things. I even served as chapter president one year.

Aren’t you proud?

I was particularly gratified by the way we partnered with Wal-Mart and our church to provide backpacks full of school supplies to kids who really needed the help.

Becki and I want to start the Ferguson Family Foundation in Karen and Cole’s memory. Not sure how to go about it yet or any of the legalities involved–and I am not asking for donations–let me repeat I am not asking for donations. At least not now.

One of the ideas we are kicking around is “Backpacks for Cole.”

I hope being proactive to honor their memory will help find me find some measure of peace.

In the here and now though, I still have so many questions of God. I still struggle hard attempting to understand his nature or why he didn’t intervene.

And I am weary of his new club I am in.

I believe God is good, but how can a good God not stop such an atrocity?

If I, as a father stood by and watched that evil scum rape and terrorize my son and lift nary a hand to stop it, I would be complicit in the crime and a horrible father to boot.

And yet…

That’s exactly what God did. He knew what was happening to my boy.

He knew. And did nothing!

All that pain.

All that fear.

All that terror magnified over and over again until two bullets to the brain ended it all.

Why I ask, why I rail, why I rage did God not smite that evil man with a mighty blow before his horror could be inflicted?

Why?

Why?

Why did the Father God of a precious, innocent, handicapped, and defenseless child stand idly by and do nothing?

Were all the prayers over the years for healing, safety, normalcy just empty words without meaning in a heavenly nuthouse?

Why?

I know God hears my complaint.

And still the questions remain unanswered even as they accumulate.

Why did Cole’s mother have to fight so hard and for naught. Why was Karen forced to swing a hatchet over and over again in a fruitless effort to save both of their lives?

Why does a 15 year old have to wrestle with such grown up questions?

Why does a 6 year old have to tie letters to helium balloons to send to his mother?

This week I had the opportunity to share lunch with a man on the two month anniversary of losing his teenage son.

I am not alone in the asking why?

He and I have been inducted forcibly into a new club neither of us want to be in.

And we cry why and the silence is deafening.

Why,  Lord , do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1 NIV)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?  My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1, 2 NIV)

 I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”  My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:9, 10 NIV)

Why?

Just Waiting: My Evident Mortality

I am in a good place.

Seriously.

Really, I am.

You may be surprised by that admission even as we both acknowledge my struggle with faith, hope, and trust in God.

My paternal grandfather was a big fan of ‘rasslin. (For my northern friends who like to affect a bit of Yankee sophistication, that’s known as wrestling.)

He wouldn’t go any where on a Saturday unless he was given the promise he could still watch wrestling on TV.

He was a ‘rasslin kind of guy. (It’s real, Butch, it’s real…)

Apparently I share that trait as well. I seem to be stuck in a wrestling match with God about how I view Him–how I understand his nature. Like the biblical Jacob, I may limp from a prolonged engagement with God for the rest of my life.

It’s real.

But even as the battle rages, I am in a good place.

My new wife has blessed me beyond measure. She is the worthy woman of Proverbs 31. She has given me a joy and zest for life. She has become my partner walking side by side facing the challenges before us; hand in hand, she has become my co-celebrant celebrating life’s successes.  When I weep, she sits and weeps with me.

I cannot imagine where I would be without her.

Yes, I am blessed.

And yes, I am in a good place.

But therein lies the rub and it is a most difficult thing.

I am in a good place, but since the last week of December through this very week, I have been in a mess.

My life has been fearful, anxious, unfocused, and weird. (Yeah, I know… What’s so new about weird?)

Everyone of those days was lived with the expectation of dying. I expected to die in my sleep or in the deer stand. I was confident my days were greatly numbered. When I told my children good night, I just knew I wouldn’t get to tell them so again.

I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was all ripped away once so how could  it not be ripped away again? Why wouldn’t it be ripped away? God didn’t care before so why would He possibly care now?

This time, it was me. I was going to die and lose it all again.

That has been my conviction.

And that is no way to live.

My wrestling match with God continues even in a good place…