Unpacking A Move!

boxes
(http://www.guardianremovals.co.uk)

Over the past several weeks, we have moved more of our stuff from Vicksburg to Madison

We’ve packed up over there; unpacked over here (or least stacked boxes in sometimes strategic places).

The act of moving is not an art. There isn’t a delicate movement here or there—no finely tuned instrumentation taking place. It is just a blunt necessity.

This particular move has been anything but typical. We have strung this out in bits and pieces while we work on the new house. But ready or not, it is time to get everything from there to here.

What has been typical comes from this perspective: What looked valuable, important, and needed over there somehow looks junky, unimportant, and unwanted over here.

Be that as it may, all this moving stuff has caused me a bit of difficulty.

Over there, I had mostly hidden the treasures and knick knacks that were so important to my son, Cole. Hidden, as in put away, out of sight, and lacking the ability to move around on their own. I knew what and where to avoid—to keep myself from stepping on any emotional land mines especially if I was unprepared (as if one could ever be truly be ready).

Over here, I am having to handle them, find places for them, and otherwise deal with my grief and pain in a fresh new way.

I have been known to say that losing a child is like living a nightmare you never wake up from.

It’s always there.
It never goes away
And tears may come when you least expect it.

King David mourned the death of his son with these famous words: My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son! (2 Samuel 18:33 HCSB)

I get it.
I wish I didn’t, but I do.

I get the pain.
I get the hurt.
I get the anguish and anger.

As I write this, I would like to fuss about my contacts not working.  I’d like to complain about how blurry my glasses are. But the truth is often quite simple: tears have a way of distorting our vision.

Some days it is just plain hard to see.
I miss my boy.
I really do.

But as I push past the tears, as I trust in the God who will one day wipe them all away, I find myself thankful for you:

For my wife
For my children
For my family
For my friends
For my church
For all who lent an ear, shared a shoulder, and otherwise walked with me through the valley of the shadow of death.

Your love and support helps bear a burden too big to carry alone.

Thank you for being Jesus to me and living out the words of Paul in Colossians 3:12-15.

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.

And I am.
Thankful.

As the song says, thank you Lord for loving me

Les, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland

Doing the Maybe Dance

If you have woken up any day in the past couple of weeks and thought, I don’t recognize my world anymore, I completely understand…

Call me naïve.
Consider me sheltered.
And maybe even wonder if I have had my head in the sand…

But at the end of the day, I don’t recognize my world anymore.

I don’t understand how folks can be so full of hate that they shoot up churches. And it’s not like I haven’t personally experienced evil. To the contrary, I am well aware of how wicked and ugly people can be.

I don’t understand how and why folks can twist what is good and right into a perversion or caricature of what is intended.

I don’t understand how Christians can claim Christ and be hateful and spiteful—to each other and anybody else they find disagreement with.

So, if you are like me and hear yourself saying, I don’t recognize my world anymore

I get it.
In my best 80’s Valley Girl imitation, I so totally get it, dude! Or dude-ette. Whatever the case may be.

Up is down.
Down is up.
Right is wrong.
Wrong is right.

I don’t recognize my world anymore.

To some degree or in certain situations or circumstances, maybe I am naïve or sheltered. Maybe my head has been firmly entrenched in sand. I am not really prepared to argue it one way or another.

However I got here, I don’t recognize my world anymore. But since we are doing the maybe dance… Maybe that’s a good thing.

Because as it looks and feels today, Christianity is on the wrong side of culture.
Out of step.
Behind the times.
Old-fashioned.
Out of tune.
Or better yet, counter-culture.

Maybe we need to remember that because, well…

Maybe we have depended entirely too much on a government to provide the standard of what is good, right, and wholesome.

And maybe we have become entirely too comfortable with this world—too agreeable with a stance that doesn’t rock the boat or make some kind of a wave.

And maybe in all of our hand wringing when faced with the fact that the world’s values have never been that of the church, maybe we’ll remember we are here to share the eternal perspective of Jesus.

And maybe we have lost sight of the fact that this world is not our home.

And maybe we’ve forgotten that broken is broken and we are all broken in some form or fashion.

And in a maybe that might be the worst, maybe we have just simply loved ourselves more than others—and maybe in our own self-preoccupation, we have lost sight of that fact loving others isn’t always easy or pretty.

Finally, as we bring this maybe dance to a close, maybe we should quit saying maybe and remember the words of Jesus…

If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me. (John 15:18–21 HCSB)

And then,

You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:11–14 HCSB)

Maybe?
No maybe to it.

Counter-culture.
Salt and light.
Love and hope.
Mercy and grace.
That’s our answer to a world we don’t understand anymore.

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

How Do You Smell?

I have been away for far too long. No excuses, just busy with preaching, traveling (you can catch my Pepperdine class on podcast at iTunes), and working on this house so we can move in the middle of June. In the meantime, Conner graduates from High School next weekend and… between that and trying to figure out college, well, writing took a back seat…

At any rate, here’s something I wrote this week…

NOAA-Hurricane-Katrina-Aug28-05-2145UTC

Hurricane Katrina was one of those defining moments in life. It was a before and after delineation and everything you did or had done was put through that particular filter.

Back before Katrina, we used to…
After Katrina, we had to…

I came out of Katrina and all of its associated recovery with some strange idiosyncrasies.

For a long time, I filled up my vehicle every time it got to three quarters of a full tank—I did not want to get stuck without enough gas to get where I might need to go!

And then there is the whole antiperspirant situation.
Yes, you are reading about antiperspirant in the church bulletin.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, you couldn’t make a trip to Wally World for whatever you needed, whenever you needed it. And because there was no electricity (and therefore no air conditioning) or fresh water to bath in, antiperspirant was worth its weight in gold. I came out of that experience with a determination to always have at least two unused antiperspirants at home at all times…

Yes, I know it’s weird.
Yes, I know I am weird.
And yes, you can tell me any of the above.
But, you will never–to the best of my ability–be able to truthfully say I literally stink!

This article might stink.
My sermons might stink.
Occasionally, my attitude might stink.

But not me, not me! No sir and no ma’am.
Fresh as a daisy—that’s my plan and my approach. And if I do happen by some astronomically poor planning to run out of antiperspirant, I am going to have enough gas to get somewhere to buy what I need!

How much does a guy have to pay to get an Amen?

In the book of Proverbs, we read that there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (14:12)

When I say, death stinks, you will most likely agree. It does. Seeing those we love suffer and die, stinks to the high heavens. Visiting a cemetery stinks like nothing else can.

Death stinks.

Years and years ago, Loudon Wainwright III sang a rather goofy song about a dead skunk in the middle of the road stinking to high heaven

Death stinks. And when it is the stench of death and decay from our rebellion and sin? There is not an antiperspirant or deodorant good enough to mask that smell.

Thankfully, for those in Christ, we are given a new aroma—not a masked, powdered, covered over smell—but the very aroma of Christ himself. (2 Corinthians 2:15)

Death stinks.

How do you smell?

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

A Season of Hope/ A Redeemed Story

Over the last couple of years, I have publicly and privately expressed a lot of pain. I have not wavered from sharing my struggles. I have ranted and raved. I have shaken my fist. I have stomped my feet like a petulant child–literally and on the pages of this blog.

Occasionally, I have been asked to speak and share my story. At times I have chosen to offer help to those who hurt too. Sometimes, my message was more about what not so say and how to treat those who are suffering. At this point in my life, I am never more excited than when I get to share what God has done in the redemption, restoration, and reconciliation of my life. Better yet, I am thrilled when I have the chance to help people see hope–to know that God can redeem not just their souls from sin, but that He can and does redeem their stories.

Stories.

We all have a story. Some of us can’t escape the knowledge of our stories, they are ever before us. Some of us are blessed to have stories of far less drama and tragedy than others. But all of us have a story. We each have a story of sin and the broken life that follows. We have a story of loneliness and despair. We have a story of _________________ (I’ll let you fill in the blank).

We each have a story, but no matter what yours is or isn’t, here’s hope: There is no story too horrific or too ugly for God to redeem.

None.
Not a single one.
No matter the details.
No matter the guilt.
No matter the shame and embarrassment.
No matter the consequences still yet to be faced.

None.
Not a single one.

Yours, like mine, can be redeemed.
Beauty can be found again.
Although different from before, life can be resumed once more.

In today’s post, I’d like you to notice the tag line has changed to be more reflective of where I am on this journey…

From the crash and burn of destruction and despair to a posture embracing redemption, restoration, and reconciliation, this is my journey of leaning on the gospel of grace…

And lean I do… For where I lean, I find hope!

For those who walked this journey with me, a million billion gazillion thanks. Yours is a story worthy of telling and telling soon!

In the meantime, the following links are the beginnings of Desperately Wanting To Believe Again.

If you choose to stop reading here, Happy Easter! It is a season of hope!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

**Warning: Graphic Details Ahead**

http://lesfergusonjr.com/2013/02/08/blogging-porno…hy-its-obscene/ ‎

 http://lesfergusonjr.com/2013/03/06/obscenity-redux/ ‎

Is It Icey or Icy?

IMG_0899 (looking out the kitchen window)

In 1977, the British-American rock band, Foreigner, released their hit single Cold As Ice. And while they were singing of a relationship gone awry, the imagery is apropos.

Ice.

It is very cold. As Cold As Ice.

Literally.

As I write this I am sitting in the kitchen lingering over a late breakfast/ lunch.

Ice is everywhere.

I went to get some firewood a bit ago, but the driveway was so slick with ice, I envisioned an unhealthy and painful fall… so I came back inside where I sit reading, contemplating, and writing…

Ice.

Everywhere I look here in the woods of north Warren County is the evidence of cold, bitter weather.

IMG_0900

As Vanilla Ice once said, ice, ice, baby.

It’s everywhere.

We are pretty much iced in. When the gravel road is as slick as… well, ice, you are not going anywhere anytime soon.

At this stage of the game, I am thankful we have not lost power and for what remains of our dwindling firewood supply. And if completely honest, I also confess to being thankful for the still warm plate of deer sausage in front of me.

Ice, ice, baby.

And if you want to know the cold, icy truth of my life, I am thankful for the ice today. The ice we are predicted to endure tomorrow is another story, but for today, I am thankful for the forced isolation. I am thankful for the forced slowdown. I am thankful for the time to relax—to have the family home in one place…

Ice, ice, baby.

As God said to Job, Whose womb did the ice come from? Who gave birth to the frost of heaven when water becomes as hard as stone, and the surface of the watery depths is frozen? (Job 38:29-30 HCSB)

Thank you, Lord.
For family.
For heat.
For good food.
For coffee.
And for the ice that pauses and brings reflection.

Ice is cold, but my heart is warm…

Ice, ice, baby!

And by the way, it’s icy not icey out there!

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Somewhere deep in the woods of Oak Ridge…

Momma Said!

So I am back to preaching and being a minister.
And because ministry often involves serving people at times of great pain and heartache, I find myself sharing in funeral services once more.

Last week a much beloved member of our church lost his battle with cancer and won the victory in Jesus. As I contemplated being a part of a funeral service again, I penned what you read below.

But before you read, I am still searching for the right name for this blog–so stay tuned, changes are coming sooner or later that will hopefully reflect my new reality!

Thanks for being a part of my life!

Les, Jr.

Most Moms are founts of knowledge and wisdom. And most of us grew up with any number of things we needed to heed and remember simply because Momma said.

My mother and my life were then and are still no different.

Momma said.

And she did.

Things like:

If you can’t say anything nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all.

 Don’t talk with your mouth full.

Chew your food up.

Wash your hands.

Be on time.

Wear socks to church.

Be nice to your brother.

Be a gentleman at all times.

Be nice to your sisters and their friends–you might marry one of those friends one day.

Yes, Momma said.

Well maybe not that part about marrying one of my sister’s friends. But she should have because I did!

I am thankful for all the warnings and wisdom found in what Momma said. Thanks to her, I have thus far avoided the catastrophic indignity of riding in an ambulance to the hospital while wearing ratty old undergarments! (And by using the word undergarments, I have also avoided using in public a word/ subject Momma said I shouldn’t talk about).

Momma said.

One time before a date, Momma said I should always keep a copy of the Bible between me and whatever lucky girl I was with. When I asked her (my momma, not my date) about the validity of just using a small checkbook sized New Testament instead, I distinctly remember that Momma said something I didn’t want to hear…

Momma said.

Momma said we shouldn’t use the word hate.

Momma said we shouldn’t hate anybody or anything.

I am hoping that Momma will give me a one-time pass on this one…

Because I hate dying and death.

I hate the pain and suffering of all concerned.

I hate the heartache.

I hate the long-term struggle of coming to grips with the empty seats at the table.

I hate dying and death.

I do.

I do.

I am not alone.

Not by a long shot.

I am not alone.

The psalmist says in Psalm 116:3-4, The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the torments of Sheol overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of Yahweh: “Yahweh, save me!”

Death was not a friend of the psalmist. In fact, he reminds us that God knows the high cost of this thing, this enemy we hate…

Psalm 116:15, The death of His faithful ones is valuable in the Lord’s sight.

I hate death, but in Christ, death’s victory will be short-lived…

Death, where is your victory?
Death, where is your sting?
Now the sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ!
(1 Corinthians 15:55-57 HCSB)

Momma said I could trust God in this.

I do.

I do.

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory!

Amen!

Fools Gold

Now Peter and John were going up together to the temple complex at the hour of prayer at three in the afternoon. And a man who was lame from birth was carried there and placed every day at the temple gate called Beautiful, so he could beg from those entering the temple complex. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple complex, he asked for help. Peter, along with John, looked at him intently and said, “Look at us.” So he turned to them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Then, taking him by the right hand he raised him up, and at once his feet and ankles became strong. So he jumped up, stood, and started to walk, and he entered the temple complex with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized that he was the one who used to sit and beg at the Beautiful Gate of the temple complex. So they were filled with awe and astonishment at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:1-10)

Hidden somewhere known only to me is a bag of silver.
A bag of silver.

When I was a little boy, my paternal grandfather used to give me silver dollars made of real silver. I still have them and over the years I have added to the collection with other silver dollars and silver dimes, nickels, quarters, and half-dollars as I have found them.

As small as it is, it’s not worth much money at all. And certainly not worth the effort to acquire it, but it is my bag of silver.
And it is real.

The world is busy offering lots of valuables to us, but most of the time those valuables have the equivalent of being fools gold.

They may appear beautiful. They may seem to be of great value… But in the end, the value they bring is not worth the time and effort…

Fools Gold.

In the long run, we strive for and pursue much, but anything of this world is fools gold.

A few years ago, I would have given anything to keep my son alive and here with me. Indeed, I miss him so… and while I have no desire to leave this life anytime soon, I am often conflicted. If my life takes the normal span, it will be years until I get to cross the great divide and see him again.

Yes, I miss my son.
Some days I yet weep for all the time that has to pass.
Some days my desperation is hard for others to imagine.
But having him back? Well to him who is safe, secure, and whole in the arms of Jesus? That would be fools gold.

And while I hesitate to make you see me in the same light as Peter and John, we do have something in common…

Like them I cannot give you any silver or gold, but if you are lame, broken, grieving, and hurting—as a result of the brokenness of this world as evidenced by your own sin or failures—or the sin and failures of others—I can give you Jesus… the only thing that matters!

Les, Jr.

Pumpernickel, Anyone?

bread

Bread.
I am not a fan.
But don’t get me wrong because I like bread.

I know some people who just get all ga-ga about bread.
They could care less for the entree’s at O’Charley’s, but will go to the moon and back to eat a couple baskets of those hot fresh buttered rolls.

Other bread specialty restaurants can be found here and there.
Maybe you’ve had an opportunity to experience the “throwed rolls” at one of the three Lambert’s Cafes… it’s all ok, but throwing a roll across the room doesn’t really change how it tastes.

I am really not the bread Grinch.
I like bread.

Some have referred to bread as the staff of life because it has long been the main ingredient of the human diet.

Sometimes we refer to something that is really neat as being the greatest thing since sliced bread.

James Beard, an American icon and culinary expert, once said, Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.

I don’t much like plain white loaf bread. But then if you slather it with mayonnaise, add slices of thick garden fresh tomatoes, and liberally dose it with salt and pepper… Oh, man. That is a slice of nirvana held in two hands…

I really like BLT’s… But honestly, a BLT is nothing more than a different vehicle for getting bacon off the plate and onto the taste buds.

I can dig a good club sandwich. But heaven is a Reuben on Rye with a good sauce and sauerkraut.

Maybe I like bread better than I think.

What’s your favorite bread?

Or better yet, what are you consuming?

Here’s a painful confession…

When Karen and Cole were murdered, I was ill prepared.
And obviously that’s a great understatement in one perspective. How could you be prepared?

Here’s where the painful confession comes to play… in my life as a preacher and an elder, I was busy. Busy writing and speaking. Busy helping others. Busy feeding the flock. But my consumption of bread, my feeding on the Word of God was almost non-existent. I neglected my own relationship for the sake of others and it cost me dearly. When tragedy occurred, when the pain and heartache hit, my foundation crumbled.

It’s still a struggle. It’s still far too easy to want to help take care of everyone else first. However, I have learned that in order for me to feed others, I have to make sure I am being fed too.

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.”

As the old hymn says, Bread of Heaven feed me till I want no more…

(Hey, check out my latest post at Wineskins!)

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Lake Harbour Drive Church of Christ
Ridgeland, MS.

Cousin Eddie

Poor Randy.
Talk about life imitating art.

Poor Randy.

It seems like he has been riding the crazy train for a good long while.
At this point in his life he has faced (along with his wife) numerous legal charges in the form of defrauding an innkeeper, burglary, conspiracy, and illegal occupancy.

As far as I know, poor old Randy is still holed up in Canada to escape being killed by a mysterious group called the Hollywood Star Whackers.

Poor Randy Quaid.
I really liked him as an actor. I hope his life is going a million times better than what I read and hear. I really do.

In my favorite movie Independence Day, he plays a crazy crop duster that claimed to have been the victim of an alien abduction.

But the role for which he is probably most famous is that of Cousin Eddie in the Vacation movies, metal head plate and all.

I love Cousin Eddie. Sometimes I think my life has enough kookiness in it to qualify me as an official Cousin Eddie.

Or maybe there needs to be a twelve-step group for Cousin Eddie wannabes… whether they wanna be or not.

Hi! My name is Cousin Eddie aka Les Ferguson, Jr.

Maybe I should write a book: My Cousin Eddie Life! It might not be a best seller, but it might would make you laugh or cry.
Probably both.

Does everybody have a Cousin Eddie in his or her family somewhere? Probably so. But I suspect most of us try to keep them under wraps.

Unfortunately that can be quite difficult.
And it is really hard to do when you yourself are the Cousin Eddie.

Trust me, I know.

Dear old Cousin Eddie.

Over the years I have done lots of stupid stuff.
Funny stuff.
Even ignorant stuff.
To postpone embarrassment, I should save those for the book.

Occasionally, I’ll meet folks whose theology and or understanding of God is as kooky as Cousin Eddie could ever dare to be. And the kookier it gets, the crazier the ramifications.

When I meet those folks and hear how kooky their theology can be, I usually just smile.
And remember.

Yes, I remember my own kookiness. I remember how my twisted and crazy understanding of God left me ill prepared for what my life would endure.

In my Cousin Eddie life, God was always going to work just like I directed Him to do. I made arrangements.
I made deals.
I signed contracts.
And as long as I did exactly what I said I would do, God would perform exactly like I told Him to do.

See?
I told you Cousin Eddie was real.

These days I don’t pretend to speak for God where He hasn’t already spoken.
I don’t claim to understand the entire why’s and how’s of His existence and work among us.

And though I often wrestle with Him, I am learning to trust Him all over again.
On His terms.
With the certain understanding that He is still a mystery that will someday unfold…

Cousin Eddie still rides, but I am learning to be less Cousin Eddie and more like Him…

That’s the kind of preacher I am.
That’s the kind of church I want to serve.

And in true Cousin Eddie style, that’s exactly what I get to do!

Thanks for reading–and if you get the chance, check out my latest offering at Wineskins.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

The Power of Stuff

I like power.
Especially when it rumbles and roars with twin exhausts and just a hint of a low throb while sitting at an idle.

I like power.

I like it, but my wife doesn’t like that I like it like I do.

How’s that for a mouthful?

I drive a Toyota Camry. She’s a pretty thing.
Bright Barcelona Red. She gets me to work and back home again—and doesn’t use nearly as much gas as some vehicles might do.

But I really like power.
And that’s what Becki drives.

A white Dodge Durango SUV family carrying machine…

But dude, it’s got a Hemi.
A big V8 Hemi with Twin exhausts.
When you give that baby the gas, she roars.

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Guess who likes to make her roar?
Guess who doesn’t get to drive her to work everyday?

The correct answer to both questions is yours truly.
I like power, but in this case power does not like my gas budget.

Power.
The power of nature is an awesome thing to behold.
And the power of God? It defeated death and continues to do things beyond our frail human comprehension.

All of us are subject to power in many different forms.
Government.
Family.
Jobs.
Community.

Power is all around us and we gyrate a delicate, intricate dance with all of her different embodiments.

But there is one power in particular that causes us untold heartache.
It’s the power of stuff.
It’s a power that left unchecked will corrupt and destroy.
It causes envy, greed, and materialism.
It consumes those in its grasp.
And at its worst, it damages relationships.

With God.
With church.
With our family.

Jesus’ answer to the power of stuff is really quite simple. It’s also quite possibly the hardest thing He calls us to do.

Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. (Luke 14:31-33)

Giving up everything I have?

Can you imagine what that would be like?

Even though I have given up much in my life–destroyed and taken by the thief–I still cannot imagine what losing everything would be like…

But if required, that is exactly what we are called to do…

If you visit us at the Lake Harbour Drive Church this coming Sunday morning, this is what we will be talking about.

Blessings to you and yours,

Les, Jr.