‘Tis the Season…

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‘Tis the season to be jolly. At least until you run out of fa la la la la la la…

At this point in life, I can fully empathize with those who suffer through the holidays.

Personally, I normally try to fight through my pain. I don’t want to be that guy who is always a mess of wildly fluctuating emotions.  Letting myself have an old-fashioned cry isn’t my default choice.

But there are those moments when the only way forward is found in entering the emotional minefield. I am doing that now by sharing with you a part of my story only a few haver ever heard…

Several weeks before October 10, 2011, we started a Christmas layaway for the boys–mainly Casey and Cole.

After October 10, 2011, one set of items was no longer needed.

Unfortunately, this store did not understand my dilemma. They did not have any available mechanism or procedure to cancel part of the layaway or separate the items no longer needed.

There are some things in life you cannot avoid. Like I said earlier, sometimes the only way out is to go through it. And that’s what I did. I had to purchase the entire layaway and then separate all the individual items and return what wasn’t needed.

I feel sorry now for the poor cashier/checker who had to serve me, but not then. Not then at all. I was so full of anger and pain combined with a weird kind of tenderness. Cole never touched any of those things, but somehow they were still his treasures and worthy of a bit of respect.

I lost a piece of me that day. In many respects, it was like pouring salt on an open wound.

Why am I telling you this? This story is a sacred place for me. Hopefully sharing it will encourage you to have empathy for those who struggle during this time of year.

The best gift you will ever give cannot be bought. Give others the gift of patience, love, and acceptance.  Show them the arms of Jesus.  After all, tis the season to be the reason the people around you experience love.

Thank you for being my safe place too.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor. 13:7 HCSB)

Blessings to all,

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

My Eyes Are Dry

cole 1  You may look at the title and think the reference is to my tears or lack thereof.

Don’t get your hopes up.

I still cry.
I still struggle.
I still wrestle with loss.

Last month’s five-year anniversary of the day that changed our lives forever was particularly hard.

Honestly? I am already dreading the 27th of this month. That is Cole’s birthday. He would have been twenty-seven. I miss him so.

There is a place in my heart that will always be just a bit raw over our losses. I grieve regularly for my children and their pain.

In some respects, I will always have unanswered questions–at least on this side of the vale.

Believe it or not, sometimes my questions have much less to do with tragedy and more with life itself.`

Scripture often affirms that which we may not always quite understand or comprehend.

In this case specifically, I am reminded of the following descriptions of King David:

But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”  1 Samuel 13:14

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ Acts 13:22

I read those verses and confess: I sometimes struggle to understand how this could be true.

David, a man after God’s own heart?

Obviously that sentiment is positively affirmed by scripture.  And just as obviously, I must accept it while I try to understand it.

When I look at David’s life, I see it through some dark and dirty lenses—my own as well as his.

He was a man of mistakes.  I am a man of mistakes. Some of David’s, like his affair with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband Uriah, are stupendously ugly.  I’d rather not have to confess all of my ugliness, but ugly I own in multiple shapes and fashions. When you look at David’s family it becomes readily apparent that he would have never won the Father of the Year award. In solidarity, I have made more than my fair share of parenting gaffes and blunders.

So while freely acknowledging the sometimes strident nature of his failures and sins, still God says he was a man after His own heart.

How? How could a man like David be afforded such a gracious epithet?

Better yet, how can I? How can you? Is there any real hope for those of us who own an error filled life?

Yes, there is hope. No matter how dark the day, no matter how messed up the occasion, there is hope. And the answer to how may not be as far off as you might suppose.

These are David’s words: Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.  I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”  (Psalm 16:1-2)

David recognized the one true source of protection—the only place of real refuge.  David understood that without God he was nothing. And David, in spite of his epic flaws and failures, longed most of all to know and be known by God.

Although not written during David’s time, I suspect David instinctively knew the truth of Keith Green’s song, “My Eyes Are Dry.”

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of Your Blood

May God soften my heart. May God soften yours. And in the softening may we be shaped, formed, and fashioned in such a way as to become a man, a woman after God’s own heart.

I long for the heart of God.

How about you?

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

I Am Waiting…

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As I write this I am waiting.

I am not at the doctor’s office or hospital.
I am not waiting on a child to get through with music lessons.
I am not waiting on somebody to get ready.
I am not waiting on an appointment.

And even though you were to see me now sitting at my desk in my office pecking away at this keyboard, you would find me waiting.

I am not good at waiting. Years ago in the US Navy we would laugh with frustration at how the military often worked. It was quite common to both hear and say, hurry up and wait

I am waiting on many things in this life.
People don’t move at the speed I would like.
Things don’t happen in my timeframe.
My expectations/ desires are often not the reality of my world.

And so I wait.

I wait for fairness and justice.
I wait for understanding.
I wait for answers I know will not satisfy the longing in my heart.
I wait for answers that will not be given on this side of life.

And so I wait.

I eagerly await the day when sickness, sorrow, pain, and suffering are no longer a part of our lives.
I long for the day when death is gone forever.
I wait expectantly for the ultimate redemption, restoration, and reconciliation of this world/ creation.

At times it seems as if it will take forever.
And so I wait.

I am tired of being broken.
I am weary of struggling against my own broken nature.
I am often exhausted by by the ache and loss in my heart.
I shed tears on a regular basis for the pain and hurt my children feel but seldom express.
I am sometimes shocked by how much that which would be joyous is overshadowed by loss.

There is a tension here at my new address.
And so I wait.

Thankfully, I do not wait alone.
I wait with my wife and family—we walk this journey together.
I wait with others whose faith has been tested.
I wait with those who so identify with the man who told Jesus: I believe. Help my unbelief.

We are not joyless people out here on the margins.
We are not without hope.
In fact, ours is a hope so real we cling to it as if nothing else matters.
Because nothing else does…

May the greatest of blessings be yours this season.

Merry Christmas to all…

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS.

Unpacking A Move!

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(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

I Finally Found God

This was written at the request of The Relevant Christian magazine–I suspect it will form some of what I might say in one place or another… In the meantime, here it is.

found

My name is Les Ferguson, Jr.

That may not mean much to you and that’s ok. In fact, you may have no idea who I am or where I have been. Any news stories you might have seen have long left the airwaves…

And I am good with that.

There was a time not so long ago when my name didn’t mean much to me either. I longed to drown my memories, to forget my existence, and to somehow alleviate my all-encompassing pain.

At this point, frankly, I am somewhat weary of the notoriety of my story—I am weary of some of the things that have become an ingrained part of my new identity. I am weary of the heartache of the past that will always be a part of my present and future.

My name is Les Ferguson, Jr.
I am a preacher’s kid.
The world of church work has been a part of my life since almost as long as I can remember.
I grew up in church.
I came of age in church.
Much of my identity and self-worth has long been tied up in church and service to her. Even when I wanted to be far away, she was always close by, an ever-present attraction or irritant, depending on the circumstances.

My name is Les Ferguson, Jr.
I used to be a preacher and that is a story we are getting to.

In fact, I started preaching for a little country church at the age of 15. It was a predominately African-American church. I say predominately, because there was one skinny white kid who preached there on Sunday mornings. Yes, that was me.

I owe that little group of folks a lot, but that’s a part of my story we will not delve into today…

My name is Les Ferguson, Jr.
I went to Magnolia Bible College and studied to be a preacher. My time at school was divided by a six-year hitch in the US Navy. After the Navy, I began work as a youth minister in Vicksburg, MS and also went back to school. In time, I began a full-time preaching ministry in Laurel, MS and later in Gulfport, MS.

I’d like to think I did good work during some of those years. Certainly I grew as a speaker/ communicator. More importantly, I grew as a theologian and minister. And as compassionate as I’d like to think I was, I had lessons yet to learn that would prove to be the fight of my life…

My name is Les Ferguson, Jr.
I used to be a preacher and then I found myself being one again.

In some ways, it would be easier if I could tell you I suffered a moral lapse or made some huge mistake that necessitated a ministry time out. It would be easier to say I cheated with my time. Or maybe I swindled some sweet elderly lady out of her life’s savings or insurance. It would be so less painful to tell you I embezzled church funds or got caught up in some aspect of illegal drug use. It would be far simpler to just acknowledge some degree of depression or a mental breakdown.

It would be easier and I wish I could, but I can’t.

My name is Les Ferguson, Jr. and the time between having been a preacher and becoming one again was a long hard battle of lost and rediscovered faith.

Preachers are not supposed to lose their faith. Standing all alone atop our pedestal of supposed super spirituality, we are thought to be invincible to the failure of doubt. At least until we aren’t and by then, there is little you can say to stop it.

When faith departs, there isn’t a single religious cliché that will fix anything—not WWJD (What would Jesus Do) and not FROG (Fully Rely On God). And faking it till you make it isn’t a viable option either.

And then there was scripture.

Comparing my story to the story of Job wasn’t comforting; it was obscene. And Romans 8:28 enraged me—there was nothing good about the murder of a wife and son.

And so faith departed. It didn’t happen all at once, but I felt it trickle away and was powerless to stop it.

I am not sure I wanted to.

I suppose I should clarify what I mean by losing faith. In my case, I never quit believing in God. I never doubted His existence. I never doubted His presence in this world. In fact, that knowledge and belief in Him fueled my doubt like pouring gasoline on an already raging fire.

When I say I lost my faith, what I mean is losing my trust, hope, and belief in a God who loved and cared for me. I knew He cared for others. I saw the evidence in a thousand places in a thousand times. I heard the happy praise. I saw the exponential joy. I felt the faith of others as a living, breathing, tangible thing…

I get giving God credit for the good things we experience in life. I really do. But every time I heard someone speak of what God had done for them–curing their illness, getting them a new job, buying them a new house, or making their headache go away… I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs both literally and metaphorically the immortal words of Esau, “Do you only have one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” (Genesis 27:38 HCSB)

The next phrase in that verse says, “And Esau wept loudly.”

So did I.
So did I.

And in my tears, rage, and bitterness, I cried with an impotence hard to imagine…

What about me?
What about me, God?
Don’t I count too? 
Why doesn’t my family matter as much as his stupid toothache or her goofy issues?
Why God, why?
Why can’t I be blessed like all the rest around me?
What did I do wrong?
How did I fail you?
What about me?

In those words are the pain of every hurting, broken, questioner who has wondered where God is and why He hasn’t made a difference so desperately wanted and needed.

In the dark despair of tragedy, in the grip of a destructive evil, those were my words.
They were given birth the day my family was ripped from me.
I angrily thought them the day I was forced to pick out two caskets.
I mouthed those words relentlessly as I stood in a day long receiving line.
I cried those words as the funeral message was preached.
I sobbed those words quietly at night as I tried to comfort a five-year demanding to see his grave-bound mother…

Eventually those words took on a life of their own. In my bitterness and despair–in a dry and weary land–there was no comfort, no solace, no balm of Gilead to soothe my spirit, to ease in even some small way the despair that had taken root in my soul.

In that fertile ground of pain and sorrow grew the sure knowledge that God—real and alive—cared nothing for me. I couldn’t trust Him. There were no bargains to be made; no deals to be had.

Hope was gone and I was alone.
Raw.
Bleeding.
And desperate for something to ease the pain…

In my heartache and anger, I eventually found God.
Not all at once.
But slowly and surely, as life became more than just my pain, God started showing up.

Here’s where the story gets real.

The former preacher, the guy with two theology degrees and a lifetime of ministry, finally found God.

Not the God who blesses America (even though He does).
Not the prosperity God who delivers wealth to those who contribute (to whatever cause or bank account needing funding).
Not the God we keep all locked up in a box (church, traditions, understanding) of our own making (although He can dwell there too if He so chooses).
Not the God we bargain with and cut deals for (even though I am sure He is interested).

Instead, I found God.
The God who created everything.
The God who wants nothing more than relationship with His creation.
The God who offers grace, mercy, and love.
The God who redeems our brokenness and changes our story.

For me, the redemption of my story was everything. To use my pain to bless others means my family did not die in vain.

And thus, the grace of God has proven to be overwhelming.

I am preaching again and this time I share a message of grace I have experienced; a message of grace I am compelled to share with others.

My faith is secure.

It took awhile, but I finally found God on His terms and not mine…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Madison/ Ridgeland, MS.

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

Dear Family

I have been absent, but busy. In the meantime, I want to share with you a letter I just sent our church family…

Dear Family,

Today is Thursday, June 18, 2015.

It is a warm day. It is a beautiful day.

But not for everybody.

No, not for everybody.

Last night we had ice cream, brownies, cookies, fellowship and fun.

We gathered together and sang songs, prayed and heard a message from a guest speaker that challenged all those who were really listening.

After services, fellowship and conversation continued. Laughter could be heard in the foyer among different pockets of people who were enjoying our mutual relationships in Christ.

Even as we gathered together, others of our number were home grieving, hurting, and wrestling with their loss.

I weep for them too.

But as we enjoyed the evening, I had no idea of the hurt, pain, rage, and ugliness playing out in the life of another church family in Charleston, SC.

I wish I had no idea what this church family is facing, but I do. I do know the pain and heartache of such evil. I do know it, but not on this scale, God help us, not on this scale.

I fear for the ensuing ugliness. I fear and hurt for those who will have to face and live with this ugliness for the rest of their lives. I fear for what Satan will yet do to make this worse. I fear for the division that is surely yet to deepen.

I cannot fix Charleston, SC.
But I can pray.
You can too.

Will you join me in praying consistently and constantly for this church family?
I sincerely hope you will.

But in the meantime, there are things we can do right here at Lake Harbour Drive that will have a ripple affect across our land.
Yes, we are a diverse church in the heart of Mississippi.
I am proud of that.
And yes, we have a measure of unity in our diversity.
I am glad of that too.

But we can do better.
We can do more.
We can go past surface levels of relationship to a deeper walk with God and each other.
We can be beacons of hope to our community that says: we love God and we love each other—and the proof is our united hearts, minds, and lives! And whether you give us an opportunity or not, we love you!

So as Charleston reels, we pray.
We pray for them.
We pray for us.
We pray for our community.
And in the process we lean on the hope of Jesus, the hope of the Gospel.

May the Gospel live in us to be the bringers of hope this world needs.

In the immortal words of Mr. Rogers, will you be my neighbor (and partner in the Gospel)?

Yours for the Hope,

Les, Jr

The Hope & Hurt of Easter

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A million miles away
Your signal in the distance
To whom it may concern
I think I lost my way
Getting good at starting over
Every time that I return

I’m learning to walk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I’m learning to talk again
Can’t you see I’ve waited long enough?
Where do I begin?

Do you remember the days,
We built these paper mountains
And sat and watched them burn?
I think I found my place
Can’t you feel it growing stronger?
Little conquerors

I’m learning to walk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I’m learning to talk again
I believe I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin?

(Walk by the Foo Fighters)

Easter Sunday 2015 (two days ago as I write this), I preached about the Resurrection—about hope.

In this sermon…

• I made oblique references to my own struggle of pain and heartache. I talked about Martha’s words to Jesus after Lazarus had died.
• I spoke of my reactions—of stomping my feet and shaking my fists—of demanding answers from an otherwise silent God.
• I committed the Hara-Kiri of clichéd Christianity by unequivocally stating God does not always show up on time. And from Martha and Mary’s perspective as well as ours, that is often the case.
• I mentioned the words of a Jeremy Camp song I once heard and tried to sing along with at a double funeral a few years ago… there will be a day with no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears. There will be a day when the burdens of this place, will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face…

On Easter Sunday 2015, I sucked up my pain and lived by my own words. I gave Jesus all my hurts and fears. I claimed the hope of the Resurrection as my own, because there will be a day!

And it was a good day. I wasn’t the smooth communicator I wanted to be as I stood before such a nice crowd. But, on the other hand, my words were authentic and so was the desperate desire to communicate the only real source of strength…

But all that was Easter Sunday 2015.
Two days ago.

Since then, the rush of Easter has passed.
The adrenaline of the day has faded.

Two days after Easter, I still cry…
I cry over my losses.
I cry over the ache of my family.
I cry because even in my hope, the pain will always be there.

And that brings me back to the hope of Easter.

Easter is about new beginnings, reboots, and fresh starts.
It’s about learning to walk and talk again.

Easter is about our shared pain, our shared hope.

My favorite Bible verse is found in the story of Lazarus’ resurrection: Jesus wept.
And he did.
I believe He still does.
His tears mingle with mine.
His tears mingle with yours.
And though we hurt and weep together, in the story of the Resurrection, we find hope.

Together.

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Ps 112:1-2)

May the Lord be praised,
for He has heard the sound of my pleading.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
Therefore my heart rejoices,
and I praise Him with my song.
(Ps 28:6-7)

Together!
Les Ferguson, Jr.

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

Silence

Silence.
I relish quiet time and silence.
Time when the kids are asleep.
Time when and the TV’s are not blaring.
Precious time to think, process, write and rewrite.
Time to just breathe…
Time when silence is in fact, golden.

Golden, yes, but not when it comes to prayer.
Silence is painful then.
Silence is a reminder of an empty void.
Silence serves as a jarring notice that while we still pray, we also still want and need, wonder and question.

If I had a dime for every time I cried out to God on Cole’s behalf…
Obviously it’s not the money I would like to see.
Not the money at all.

But my prayers for Cole were all of a similar nature.
To be normal.
To be like the other kids.
To be able to run, walk, climb, and jump.
To be without pain.
To speak clearly.
To have a girlfriend.
To have a life.
To really live.

None of those requests are out of the ordinary. In fact most parents—-at least in our American culture–assume their children will live normal productive lives. And more times than not those children will have the opportunity to do so.

But not Cole.
Not Cole.

Cole had more physical disabilities than you could imagine. Add in his cognitive challenges and the struggle was immense. But in spite of his difficulties, the intellect for self-perception was always there. He knew he was different and not in a way the world perceived as good.

And as much as we loved him, we could not always protect him from that pain.
But we tried.
Oh God how we tried.
And prayed.
And begged.
And pleaded.
And made deals.

And there was nothing but silence.

Silence.
Screaming, ear busting, head splitting, banshee loud, deafening silence.

Silence.

For twenty years.
Silence.
Silence.
Silence.

And then he was gone.
Ripped from life before he ever had the chance to live like other kids.
Gone before… so many things he would never see, do, or experience.

I wish I had a dime for every time I cried out to God.
I wish I could have sucker-punched every well-meaning soul who tried to console with words, images, and thoughts of Cole in a better place.

Intellectually, I understood his pain and struggles were over.
Theologically, I believed he was with God and well.
Spiritually, I was angry and hurt.
Emotionally, I cried for what was lost and what would never be.

I live with a lot of regrets and what ifs.
We lost an awful lot that terrible day.
The empty seats at the table are ever before us.
And if the silence was deafening before…

As clichéd as it might be, time really does help.
On most days, even though I miss him with a deep unfulfilled longing, I can smile, laugh and talk about my son who is in a different place.
But some days the pain is just as raw as it was the day he was taken.
And silence is an all too familiar experience.

On those days I sometimes use this picture to remind me of Cole’s new reality and the truth of answered prayers… even when they are not answered in my arbitrary time frame.

HopeRealized
(With thanks to the Huffington Post for an inspiring picture and story)

Even though the silence mostly still remains, I am thankful for so much. I am thankful for the good memories and the precious time we had. Cole made me a better person. I miss him so, but I am glad he is free and unfettered…

cole

To those who hurt with loss, you are not alone…

Blessings to you,

Les, Jr.

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