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/ ‎

Forward

After some soul searching (and listening to the advice of others), I have decided to leave the blog name just as it is. Because the truth is simple: every day is new–and each new day is an opportunity to wrestle with and struggle through old and fresh doubts, pains, fears,and heartaches. These days I find myself in a much better place. My marriage and family are amazing–so is my work with the Lake Harbour Drive church. I am blessed beyond measure. But in another moment of full disclosure… As the man once told Jesus… 

I believe. Help my unbelief…

 

My friend Jimmy Hinton put Angela Williams in touch with me sometime last year. Angela is the force behind Voice Today–an organization that seeks to give a voice to those who have been sexually abused as children.

In her own words from the Voice Today website:

I believe that through communication and education the stigma of child sexual abuse can be removed from the victim and placed on the predator, where it belongs. By giving this epidemic visibility, we are able to focus society on the issue and, as a result, become a VOICE for the voiceless. It takes great courage for a survivor to step out from the silence and shame and reach for healing and wholeness. They must be met with compassion and understanding to feel safe with each step they take. I believe adults need to take responsibility for the protection of children through education. A trained, conscientious and vigilant society puts the predator on notice and gives the child a community of safe people to watch over them. My dream is that one day this silent epidemic will be exposed, leaving no place for a perpetrator to hide. I pray this plague will be eradicated. I have a lifelong mission to help create a world without sexual abuse, a world where children will be safe, growing up whole and healthy with their sexual, physical and emotional boundaries in tact. Will you help me? Please give of your time and resources! Please join THE VOICE MOVEMENT today!

Angela is doing the work of a lifetime and I am proud to be her friend. She is getting ready to publish another book for children–a tool in the hands of parents who want to protect their precious children. This book is being produced in the memory of my son, Cole. Angela has honored me with the opportunity to write the forward and what follows is my first try…

Forward

I really hate that I am writing this forward.
I really hate that you are reading this book.
I hate that you feel the need to read or share with your children anything of this nature.

And yes, hate is a strong word for this man whose mother taught him not to hate anything.
But hate I do.

Even worse, I hate the events that have led me to this place.
I wish I could stick my head in the sand and have it all go away.
I wish I could, but I can’t.
And so here we are.

You are reading a book to help teach, explain, and protect your children from an insidious evil.
This is an evil most never really know exists.
Please make no mistake. This evil is real. It is deceptive. It is treacherous. It is sinister. It is so very subtle.

Those that know these things are faced with difficult choices. You can choose a path of deliberate ignorance and thereby hope to avoid the pain and discomfort this topic engenders; or, you can choose the path of knowledge and empowerment—and by doing so, embrace the opportunity to face down a malevolent force—to take a stand for the lives of children and families everywhere.

Those lives and that family could well be your own.

And since I am a preaching minister, please allow me this brief moment of preaching: That desire to ignore this evil? It will only serve to ensure more devastated lives in the future.

Unfortunately my family was that family of shattered dreams and broken tomorrows.

We were not deliberately ignorant, but ignorant we were. And that ignorance has cost us dearly.

Sexual abuse is real.
It happens.
It robs the innocent.
It redefines life.
It destroys.

This book is dedicated to my son, Cole. He was abused and more, if your imagination can imagine the very worst. Mentally and physically disabled, he eventually found the courage to speak out—to name his abuser, the destroyer of his innocence. Ultimately, it cost him and his mother, Karen, their very lives.

Yes, you read that correctly.
They were brutally murdered as the final and ultimate abuse. Just like the story of Cain and Abel, their blood cries out from the ground. Their lives demand and deserve justice.

So if by reading this book, your children remain safe and whole, then the lives of my murdered family are given fresh new meaning.

And I?
I am given hope.

So read this book.
Love your children.
Save a life.
And smile with me at the memory of a mother who died protecting her son and a boy who loved God and lived the best life he could…

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison, MS

The Humpty Dumpty Conundrum

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Life leads us to lots of questions.

And often questions of the kind of Humpty Dumpty might have asked.

I have no idea what precipitated Mr. Dumpty’s unfortunate plunge from the wall where he sat.
Maybe he had inner ear problems and it eventually destroyed his equilibrium.
Maybe he was pushed by circumstances outside of his control.
Maybe he jumped.

Oh my.
Isn’t that a kicker?

Of course this is a children’s nursery rhyme.
And when you write nursery rhymes for a living, there is no contractual obligation to end the story with the plot all tidied up and all the possible questions and scenarios believably answered and or resolved.

But in the vein of another great literary tale, who shot JR?
I am sure there is answer and we can all Google it later…

But back to Humpty Dumpty’s great fall…
How did it happen?
Why did it happen?

Who knows? (Since it’s my blog, I also am not contractually obligated to offer any speculation made to look like a definitive answer. Yes, I know. I am just lucky that way.)

But before the great fall that splattered his world, I imagine he asked the same sort of questions common to all men… even those who look like an egg drawn by a bad cartoonist.

Humpty_Dumpty

And like Humpty, we sometimes wonder…
Who am I?
Why am I here?
What is my purpose?
What really matters?
And does anybody care whether I like green eggs and ham?

Wait.
Sorry.
I am guilty of mixing more than my metaphors at this point.

Again, back to the point at hand…

Eventually we all run headfirst into the God questions…
Who is God?
Is He really here?
Does He care about me?
Does He really care about what I am going through?
Where is He when I need Him most?

You may not recognize them quite yet, but those are delivery room questions born of pain—be it physical, spiritual, emotional, or even philosophical.

Eventually, as most of us will experience in some fashion or another, there will come a day when everything shatters, when the world falls apart, and life makes absolutely no sense.

Sort of like Sir Dumpty’s great fall as immortalized by nursery rhyme…

Except ours are real and the consequences severe—often accompanied by an agony that expands like a nuclear mushroom cloud and consumes everything in its path.

And as Old Humpty Dumpty experienced, when all the king’s horses and all the king’s men have completely failed to put us back together again?
What then?
What now?
What next?

And when the whole montage of questions and doubt turns theological…
Where was God?
Why didn’t He fix this or stop it?
And who is this Jesus anyway?

Now that’s the real question.

Who is Jesus?

Ultimately, He’s the author of the epic story we were created to live.
He’s the one who makes possible our redemption, restoration, and reconciliation.
He’s the one who will one day wipe away all our tears.
He is the one who puts us back together again.
He’s the one that brings meaning to our story.
He’s the one who loves us the most in spite of ourselves.

So who is this Jesus?
Really.
And what does it all mean?

Scripture gives many names and concepts to describe Him.
He’s the Lord of Lords.
He’s the King of Kings.
He’s the Alpha and Omega.
He’s the Lamb that was slain.
He’s the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

And while I am fascinated by this Lion of the Tribe of Judah description, there is quite another designation that resonates with my greatest need.

My little brother, Billy, recently reminded me of this and I am so glad he did.

Who is Jesus? He’s a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19) just like me.

And for those of us whose life experiences and consequences make Humpty Dumpty’s great fall look like a cake walk?

Here’s hope: There is no fall so big, so bad, so dramatic that Jesus cannot redeem, restore, and reconcile…

But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. (Isaiah 53:5 HCSB)

Humpty Dumpty lives!
He may not be quite as egg shaped as he once was. But if anyone could put him back together again, it’s Jesus!

Thank you for reading.
And stayed tuned for some future changes at Desperately Seeking To Believe Again!

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

The Defiant Song

Yeah.
It’s been awhile.
A couple of weeks, or maybe three.
I don’t know.

There is always something, some bit of writing that needs to be written percolating in my head—either for here, Wineskins, or the book that seems as if it will never be completed.

And then there are the sermons.
I am so grateful to be studying for and writing sermons again.
Life is so very busy for just about everyone I know. But no complaints from me—I am living in so many, many ways.

If you could see me as I write this, you’d see a guy wearing a very relaxed smile, sitting by the fire, and just enjoying being alive…

Preachers/ ministers are not supposed to say what is coming next. Surely it says so in a ministry handbook or seminary class somewhere.
Surely.

Lots of folks understand pain and depression. Broken people know the brokenness of grief. Broken people know full well their inadequacies when facing such struggles. Broken people feel the additional burden of their own actions and reactions steeped in misery, sin, and causing pain for others.

Here’s a fact: Hurt people hurt people.

But more than that, I understand suicide. I get a pain so great, a loss so devastating, and a heartache so profound that the only conceivable way you can think of to make it stop is by ending your life.

I get it.
For the biggest part of my life, I couldn’t understand how anybody could do such a “selfish” thing. I couldn’t even come close to grasping a pain that great.
But I get it now.
And I am glad I do.

You don’t have to remind me that this is not something ministers should say. I get that too. But, those who have suffered the most and continue on anyway—somehow, someway, by the loving attention of others, through the mercy and grace of God—and in the process find a measure of peace, hope, and renewed joy? Those people want others who hurt to find the same.

And that’s what I want more than anything else.
I want to dispense the same mercy and grace to others.
I want to share my pain and walk with you in yours.
Not in pity and arrogance.
Not in criticism and judgment.
Not in an “I’m better than you and holier than thou” kind of way.

No, I want to walk with you as one who still wears the stench and soot of the fire.
Who still struggles.
Who still hurts.
Who still knows the bitterness of defeat.

I am convinced that is why I am still here.
Writing.
Preaching.
Talking to you.
Walking this path.

There is a song I call My Defiant Song. It’s by a band, a group of guys from the Mississippi Gulf Coast with the unorthodox name, 3 Doors Down. On my play list is found their greatest hits collection. I listen to it frequently and can be regularly seen driving between Vicksburg and Ridgeland screaming/ singing at the top of my lungs.

I like all of the songs on this album. But there is one song… It is my anthem song. It is my defiant song…

Like most songs, this one is open to a number of different interpretations. One in particular sees it as a romance gone bad song or a song lamenting the loss of a significant other. As far as interpretations go, I would guess it is as good as any other.

My take is radically different. I see this song as a progression. The singer sings about some calamity, some tragedy, some difficult or horrific situation and simply says/ asks, It won’t be too long and I’ll be going under, can you save me from this?

I don’t know how much help he receives.
I don’t know if others rescue him or not.
I don’t know if he ever had the kind of support so many tried to give me.
But at some point in his struggle, at some place in his journey, he makes a definitive defiant statement and it changes everything…

Looking back of the beginning of this
And how life was
Just you and me and love and all of our friends
Living life like an ocean
But now the current’s only pulling me down
It’s getting harder to breathe
It won’t be too long and I’ll be going under
Can you save me from this?

‘Cause it’s not my time I’m not going
There’s a fear in me it’s not showing
This could be the end of me
And everything I know
Ooo but I won’t go

I look ahead to all the plans that we made
And the dreams that we had
I’m in a world that tries to take them away
Oh but I’m taking them back
‘Cause all this time I’ve just been too blind to understand
What should matter to me
My friend, this life we live is not what we have
It’s what we believe

And it’s not my time I’m not going
There’s a fear in me it’s not showing
This could be the end of me
And everything I know
But it’s not my time I’m not going
There’s a will in me and now I know that
This could be the end of me
And everything I know
Ooo but I won’t go
I won’t go

There might be more than you believe
(There might be more than you believe)
There might be more than you can see

But it’s not my time I’m not going
There’s a fear in me it’s not showing
This could be the end of me
And everything I know
But it’s not my time I’m not going
There’s a will in me and now it’s gonna show
This could be the end of me
And everything I know
Ooohh

There might be more than you believe
(There might be more than you believe)
There might be more than you can see

But I won’t go
And no, I won’t go down
Yeah

I am alive!
I am still here!
I am surviving!
And it’s not my time I’m not going
There’s a fear in me it’s not showing
This could be the end of me
And everything I know
But it’s not my time I’m not going…

Obviously, I have no idea what could happen tomorrow. But as long as I can fight back and stand, I will. And not only stand, I will stand with all who are desperate, broken and hurt…

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand… (Ephesians 6:10-14b HCSB)

It’s not my time.
I’m not going…

Thanks for reading.

Les, Jr.

The Story From My Perspective

I understand my story is difficult to hear.

It is certainly painful to tell.

There are days when I have to try harder than others to not live with a victim mentality. Days when the anger, resentment, and bitterness want to have free rein in my heart. Days in which it would be easier to just give in to despair.

The losses we faced back then were compounded by all the other losses that seemed to keep coming no matter what we tried or did. Yes, even ongoing losses that seem to be insurmountable.

Certainly, in spite of the horrors visited upon us in the spring of 2011–the horrors that reached a crescendo pitch on October 10, 2011, I sit here at my desk today as an incredibly blessed man.

In this season of thanksgiving, I am acutely aware of my past. But I am even more acutely aware of my present and the hope we have for the future.

I am thankful for the health of my children–of every variety. I am thankful beyond words for the beauty, vitality, and heart of the woman who has made it her job to walk alongside me as my wife.

I am thankful for my redemption–from God and for God. I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve again as a minister. I am thankful for my new church family. I am thankful for their encouragement to use my story for the help and hope of others. Redemption for me means using this story of faith and doubt, agony and pain, and restoration as means to bring honor to those we lost–and to ensure their deaths would never be in vain.

Yes, I am so very thankful.
I am thankful for family far and near.
I am thankful for friends old, present, and future.
I am thankful for hope both now and in the eternity to come–an eternity that is closer than we often know.

I am thankful.

Over the last several weeks I sat through hours of interviews with a new friend, Billy Watkins. Billy is a writer/ investigative reporter for the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, MS. We talked about things I had forgotten. I recalled things that were difficult to put together. I described things whose clarity has not yet begun to fade nor will in any future I can imagine. Some things just are…

But Billy and I talked. A lot. In person, via text, on the phone. We talked a lot.
In some of those conversations, I cried–and I think there were times he cried in the hearing.
The story he heard was terrible. It was terrible in the telling. It was terrible in the writing. It is terrible in the reading.
Even now.
Even now.

But I am thankful for the opportunity he gave me. I have heard from countless people who see the hand of God still active in our lives. And that hand of God? That is the real story.

That is the real story.

And I am thankful.

If you would like to see the story as Billy wrote it, you can see it here.

As well, I’d like to point you to my latest offering at Wineskins. I hope it will be of benefit.

Blessings to you and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Les

Stand in the Gap

IMG_0743

Stand in the Gap!

That is the name/ theme of the prayer breakfast I am speaking at this Saturday in Atlanta.

It is sponsored by Voice Today, an organization dedicated to fighting child sexual abuse and exploitation.

It is an epidemic of epic proportions.

It is disgusting.

It is sick.

It is a perversion.

And it destroys/ robs so many of their future.

I am thankful to have the opportunity to speak to survivors as well as to those whom we hope will Stand in the Gap!

I told some friends today that I am thankful for each and every opportunity to help those who have suffered and still suffer–be it sexual abuse, grief, faith or doubt struggles.

Redemption is both powerful and painful.

And healing is possible.

Father God, let redemption and healing come to all!

Les, Jr.

 

 

There is Always Hope; This I know!

hope

There have been occasions when I thought my world was falling apart.

In some ways it has.

And yet the reality is I am still standing.

Battered, yes.
Changed, yes.
Different, yes.

And at the risk of being misunderstood, at this point in my life, I like who I am as a minister better than I ever did before.

I often hear people say that if they were they in my shoes, they couldn’t do what I am doing now; they couldn’t be where I am now—but in my opinion, they are selling themselves short.

The human spirit was created with resiliency and strength. You are stronger than you might have imagined, but with God, you are far stronger than you know.

And while life can be quite complex, the truth is fairly simple.

Life moves on.
People adapt.
People adjust.
We grow and stretch.
We stretch and grow.

We learn, develop, and become something new, something different, and sometimes something better.

What we have suffered or endured can be and frequently is a crucible of fire refining what was into what will be.

Even better, Christians have the ability to look back and see God at work—and to know he is still at work in our lives!

I am not sure I always believed that.
But I do now.
I do now…

Three years later.
Three years later, our lives are vastly different.
Three years later, we have learned to live again.

To laugh.
To hope.
To dream.
To experience.

Three years later, we are always cognizant of those who are missing from the table.
Three years later, we are never far from the reminders of what was.
But, three years later, we know there is life yet to be lived and we honor the memories as we build a new future.

Three years later…

These days, life has never been more real or precious to me.
My perspective has changed.
My propensity to judge has been dampened.
I am more apt to listen and empathize with the hurts, losses, and struggles of others.

That’s where I am.
I have learned to trust that God is working and using our experiences to somehow bring glory to His name and hope for His people.

Because no matter how dark it gets…
No matter how hard the wind blows…
No matter how deep the losses pile up…

There is always hope.
There is always hope.
This I know.

Three years later, there is always hope.
This I know…

 For I, Yahweh your God, hold your right hand and say to you: Do not fear, I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13 HCSB)

Up on the mountain,
Where your love captured me,
Where finally I’m free,
This I know.
Up on the mountain,
Where you taught my soul to sing,
Amazing grace the sweetest thing,
This I know.

And then the storm rushing in,
And here I am again,
This I know.

Take me up to where I was,
When I never wanted more than you.
Lift me up to feel your touch,
It wouldn’t be that much for you.
This I know.
This I know.
This I know.
This I know.

Up on the mountain,
Where You took me by the hand,
Taught me to dance again,
This I know.
Up on the mountain,
Where You took this heart of stone,
Put life back in these bones,
This I know.

Take me up to where I was,
When I never wanted more than you.
Lift me up to feel your touch,
It wouldn’t be that much for you.
This I know
This I know
This I know
This I know
(David Crowder)

There is always hope.
This I know.
This I know.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Life is Good

Busy, busy, busy…

Just like you.

Next Tuesday I will be speaking/ teaching three classes at the 2014 Harding University Bible Lectures. If we haven’t met and you are there… well, come let me buy you a cop of joe!

Today I sent in my topic title for the 2015 Pepperdine University Lectures.

Won’t that be a funny sight? A Mississippi Redneck in Malibu, California!

I would have never imagined how much life could have turned in around in the past three years. We are fast approaching the three year anniversary of the day my family came unglued.

And while all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again… God has been mightily at work in the life of my family.

What was broken has been in many ways restored.

At any rate, I am thankful for so much that we have been given–new opportunities for ministry, speaking, writing…

I am so thankful for Becki and the way she has brought peace and love into our lives.

My parents, siblings, and close preacher friends have been rocks of stability!

And then there is my oldest son, Kyle. No man could have asked for and received better support and love from his oldest son (and his wife, Karissa)!

Indeed, all my children–whether birth, adopted, or step continue to give me great joy and more reasons to fight on!

And I cannot say enough about my new church family at the Lake Harbour Drive Church of Christ in Ridgeland… Your positive encouragement and patience mean everything!

So.

No theology or challenges from this blog tonight (Although you can read new material from me posted this evening at Wineskins.org–please feel free to check it out!)

Just thanks.
Thanks to all of you who have allowed me into your lives–who have helped give me a new voice!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Not Born Retarded

So. It’s been awhile. Life is keeping me busy. Being a preacher again is keeping me busy. But don’t think I am complaining. The Lake Harbour Drive church is simply amazing. We have been welcomed, loved on, and the process continues. Sometimes I think they are the most easily made happy people ever… especially when it comes to preaching.

My confidence is improving, but still I am amazed…

I have added a few new speaking engagements to my speaking page. My elders have said I have a message and they want to make me available to share it. I think they must have all been running a fever at that time.

In the meantime, I want to continue dedicating time to writing my book, but that has proven to be elusive… If I were to self-diagnois, I’d say I suffer from fear of rejection and fear of success.

Crazy, I am sure.

This coming Sunday morning, I am teaching a one-time class with our 20″s & 30’s group–we are beginning a new study together the following week. So while we wait for everybody to get a book, I am filling one class time with something different. I choose a chapter of what I have written previously to share with them. It’s from my book and maybe you will be blessed by it too.

At any rate, I love my readers and thank each of you for taking this journey with me…

Les, Jr.

Not Born Retarded

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there
What does he care?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people (Ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people (Ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all belong?
The Beatles

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.
“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”
So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.
When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
Genesis 12:1-14, NLT

I was taught through much of my life that it was wrong to hate anything.
But I do.

You may be tempted to think I hate Paul Buckman for what he did. I tried to. I want to. Sometimes I think I feel the need to. But the simple truth is it takes too much energy and time to keep that hatred stoked and burning. I knew Paul Buckman but for a short time.

With apologies to those who may have loved him, it’s best for my well being to just let him go. He is in the hands of God and however He works that out is His business.

On the other hand, being fully human, I claim inconsistency.
Like you, there are many inconsistencies in my life.

There are some things I hate with a passion.

I hate the word retarded. And that’s probably the largest understatement you’ll read today.

I hate the word retarded.

If you ever feel the need to have your butt kicked or your insides pulled out through your nostrils (trying to be as descriptive as I can without being profane or obscene), let the parent of a mentally challenged or handicapped child hear you calling their kid retarded. Or describing them as someone who rides the short-bus.

I hate the word retarded.

I hate it because that was how so many saw Cole and others like him.
I am not in denial. I know he was (hallelujah, no more).

But with or without his mental and physical limitations, he was worthy of respect and love. He was a good boy who didn’t deserve the horrors that befell him–even the one that afflicted him from birth.

The bitter truth is we are all retarded in some fashion or another. Not a single one of us is a perfect physical specimen without flaws. And that’s just on the outside. In our hearts and minds, in our thinking and attitudes, we all are less than what God intended.

Cole was retarded. It makes me nauseated to think, say, and write it. I know how the world saw him. But those who knew him best saw the incredible gift of ministry and love he gave to the world.

Years ago when I was a youth minister, Cole was my greatest asset. He brought those kids together like nothing else could. I am proud he is my son.

Being retarded was just another example of the weakness of God. God could have healed him, but He didn’t. And still God was at work in Cole’s life and through Cole, the lives of others.

Reading through the pages and stories of the Bible, there are no characters that are retarded at first sight. But the truth is, any number of characters were damaged goods–and by damaged, I mean the way we would look at them.

Take David as one example. God called him a man after His own heart. We know him as a dysfunctional husband, father and leader. And still, he did great things for God and His chosen people.

So there is a sense in which you could call every person in the Bible–other than Jesus of course–somewhat dysfunctional at best, stunted in the middle, and retarded at worst.

I’d like you consider the story of Isaac in that light.
Can you imagine what it must have been like living with Abraham, the Father of Faith?

You know, son, back in my day, when God spoke, we listened.
He said, go, and we went. He said, leave, and we left.
He said, you’re gonna have a son who will be the child of promise and a whole nation will come from him. That’s you, boy. And in just a few minutes we are gonna load up and head up that mountain to offer a sacrifice. And don’t you worry your little head one bit, you carry the firewood and God (said in a voice like Jerry Clower, Gaaawwwd) will provide the sacrifice…

Do you remember the old sitcom, Different Strokes? Gary Coleman had a signature line he would use on his brother… What you talking about, Willis?

In my crazy imagination, I hear Isaac saying something similar especially about the time he realizes he’s the sacrifice his father is offering.

How old was Isaac when this episode occurs? There is vast disagreement. Some say between 18 and 20 years old. Others around 33 years old. The Jewish historian Josephus, says he was 25 years old. And still others who believe he was around 37 years old. The one thing they all agree on? Isaac was no small boy when this incident happened–a small boy couldn’t have carried the wood needed for such a large sacrifice.

However you read it, can you try to imagine all of this from Isaac’s perspective?
Can you imagine that an incident like this might have stunted your relationship with your Father? With both of them? Can you imagine that when it came to all things God-related, Isaac might very well have been retarded?

How do you have a good relationship going forward when you were the object lesson in testing your father’s faith? How do you relate to God when He called for the same?

From our vantage point, we can surmise that God would have never allowed such a thing to happen in the first place. But, how do we know? How could Isaac have known? His own Dad was willing to take that chance.

Would you blame him if he spent the rest of his life licking his wounds from such an ordeal? Or, would you expect him to move forward as if nothing ever happened?

While he wasn’t born that way, I suspect Isaac was fundamentally and functionally retarded from that point on. I further suspect Eleanor Rigby had nothing on our man, Isaac.

And yet, Isaac was still a part of God’s plan.

So am I.
So are you.

The Land of Never Say Never

It can be quite funny when you find out you are wrong.
All these years and the whole time I thought I was a good citizen of The Land Of I Am In Control.

And it’s not like I shouldn’t have known. The evidence to the contrary was there for me to see.

But apparently I am not so smart.
Not this guy.
No Sir and No Ma’am.

As it turns out, I was a temporary resident-alien in The Land of Never Say Never.

After the life changing events that happened to my family on October 10, 2011, I was in shambles—emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. It didn’t happen all at once. Instead, it involved a long progression on a steeply graded slope. Hitting bottom was painfully harsh.

Looking back, God helped me make some fantastic choices—and blessed me in amazing ways. I could have never had the foresight needed to see me where I am now.

But on the other hand, I also stubbornly got in His way and made some boneheaded decisions in the process.

Some of those decisions were astronomically dumb. Truthfully, there were many days where I didn’t give God much to work with.

However, with my feet planted firmly in the dirt of Never Say Never, I forged ahead anyway. I didn’t get very far, mind you, but I tried. I tried to be in control. I tried to be the master of my own destiny. I tried to force life to fit my terms, my conditions. I tried so very hard.

And, much to my chagrin, it turns out my entire existence has been lived in the Land of God’s Got This!

We used to sing He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.
And He does.

Maybe we should dust that one off and sing it some more.

Like mine, your life may look nothing like you planned. Circumstances and situations may be disheartening. Difficulties may come and go. Pain may be an ever-present distraction.

But God?
He’s got this!

In that respect, I so love Joshua’s words to Israel as they prepared to enter the Promised Land…

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, NIV)

God’s Got This!

Les Ferguson, Jr.