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 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.

IMG_0494

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.

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.

Hey Pimp!

Hey Pimp!

Yep. You read that correctly.

Hey Pimp!

My friend John Mark Hicks connected me with another writer by the name of Tim Brown. Tim is going to help me work through the process of getting a literary agent.

I called Tim the other day and got a voice mail prompt that made me think I had the wrong number. I tried again and got the same. The problem wasn’t my dialing.

So since I thought I had the number wrong, I sent Tim a short message through the FaceBook Messenger app on my phone. A couple of hours went by and no response. I checked my original message and was horrified at what I found.

Somehow Hey Tim was autocorrected to Hey Pimp!

Yep.
Hey Pimp!

Truthfully? I was mortified. Embarrassed. Horrified. Frustrated.
And apologetic.

Thankfully, Tim laughed. And I did too.
Eventually.

That’ll teach me to put faith in technology.

Faith is a funny thing.
We claim it.
We proclaim it.
We compare it.
We share it.
We shame it.

Shame it? Yes. It may not be what you are shooting for, but people often get shamed by others from their point of faith. I can tell you that from my experience–on both sides of the coin.

“You just have to be strong in your faith. Just be strong and have faith that everything will work out.”

How many times have you said or heard or thought something along those lines?

Sounds powerful and true, does it not?
That is, until it doesn’t work out.

The truth is sometimes very brutal no matter how much you don’t want to see, hear, or otherwise experience it.

Finding out you are paralyzed from the neck down–and it’s permanent –does not work out.
Realizing your child is mentally and physically handicapped does not work out.
Losing a parent, spouse, child, or sibling does not work out.

As a result though, you may adapt.
You may learn.
You may grow.
You may accept.
Life changes.
Life becomes very different.
But those things do not work out, no matter how strong your faith.

“Faith and doubt are opposite sides of the same coin.”

How different ministry and service to those who grieve and suffer might be if the acknowledgement of this simple truth could’ve made.

Truly, faith and doubt are inherently wrapped up in our relationship with God.

Having faith doesn’t insure against the absence of at least an occasional twinge of wondering/ questioning where God is or what his nature might be. And sometimes it even means examining and wrestling with the reasons why we believe in the first place.

Instead of being afraid, condescending or judgmental when doubt is expressed by others, we should instead recognize it as a valid thought or emotion. Doubt is usually expressed in the aftermath of crisis, in pain, and with great fear of the future.

It is easy to tell someone “it will all work out.” It is quite another to walk alongside–allowing them to give voice to their heartache and frustration–particularly where God is concerned.

This Christmas, the best authentic gift you might ever give is the gift of presence, compassion, and understanding. Faith and doubt go hand in hand, especially when you lend your faith and strength to those who wrestle with it.

Thank you to all who have walked with me through deep and dark emotions. Yours is the gift of life to one who has struggled.

Merry Christmas to all! (But don’t tell my mama I called you a pimp…)

🙂

Les Ferguson, Jr.

A Philosophy of Preaching

I am a political animal. There was a time, when I would have jumped into politics with both feet given the right opportunity and financial wherewithal. In fact, had I met the eligibility requirements for Warren county, I would have mounted a campaign for state congress this past fall.

I have some strong beliefs and find myself having to exercise some restraint—particularly on my Facebook wall and even here.
I am probably best described as a radical conservative. I whole-heartedly believe the liberal progressive direction some would take us in is a damaging the Republic.

I am a veteran of the US Navy. I love my country. I spent six years of my life serving her in a military capacity. I am proud of that service—and grateful for the opportunity I had to do so.

But the truth is, nations rise and nations fall. There is a very real probability that this great nation will one day go the way of other great nations and civilizations before her. May that day be ever far off.

However, I have a more pressing agenda.

As such, I’d really rather Desperately Wanting To Believe Again be about things that matter more, long-term.
Like eternity.

Sharing with you my struggles helps me find the right eternal perspective and hopefully encourages others as well.

In the meantime, I have submitted my name for three different preaching jobs. Some days, I lack the confidence necessary to believe I am a viable candidate for any of them. Not looking for words of encouragement here, so please don’t think it necessary to try.

But, here’s why I sometimes struggle with the idea of preaching once more on a regular basis… There are moments when I am not sure where I fit in the theological framework of my tradition. The tragedy my family has faced fundamentally rewired my thinking.

I have long been willing to explore and rethink (or reimagine, as good friend Patrick Mead might say) the things that have defined my religious place before God. I have not been afraid to come to the same conclusion. I have not been afraid to come to a new conclusion. I have not been afraid to leave it (whatever it might be) in the realm of questions of which I have no sure or easy answers.

Please know I am not talking about the identity, divinity, or authority of God or even scripture. I am not talking about anything salvational in nature.

If the truth could be any stranger, it probably would be. Here’s mine: I am mostly neither left or right on the grand theological scale. The word moderate wouldn’t be a very good description either.

Maybe the best way to describe my positioning on the theological continuum is basic or fundamental.
A fundamental Christian. And by fundamental, I mean one who has no choice but to explore hard, deep questions of the soul.

My concern is so very less about this position or that stance. It isn’t about shaking the status quo. It isn’t about playing devil’s advocate. It isn’t about challenging old traditions. It isn’t about fostering new traditions. It’s not really about making people think or somehow wrestle with old or new viewpoints.

I am a basic, fundamental Christian who wrestles, struggles, questions, worries, fears, and wonders. I can’t afford, in this context, to be a political animal playing church politics of any kind. I don’t have room in my life for arguments and debate.

Once I might have, but now I am consumed with fundamental thoughts…
Does God really truly love me?
In the midst of the worst life has to offer, can God be trusted?
Does God really care?
Am I really important?
Does my life matter?

Can you see how those questions are so very fundamental? If I am going to love God and keep His commandments, if I am going to love others in a God-honoring way, then I need to know those answers in every permutation they can be known in.

I suspect I am not alone.

Churches are full of folks who need to hear someone who has been through a fire say with real life conviction: I may not have all of the theological answers about every possible question, but I can say, without any doubt at all, Jesus loves me, this I know.

I may rage at what feels like God’s absence.
I may not understand how He works in every situation.
I may not grasp where He is during every moment.
But Jesus loves me, this I know.

How’s that for a preaching philosophy?

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-36, NIV)

Thanks for reading,
Les Ferguson, Jr.

Throwback Thursday With Cole

Sometime in April 2009, I wrote the bulletin article below. It was a time when I wrestled and struggled with the health difficulties ever present in Cole’s life. Like every parent of a handicapped child, there were lots of implications and heartaches. Mine often took a spiritual direction.

Two weeks from today would have been Cole’s twenty-fourth birthday.
While I am glad he is now free from pain and struggle, I miss him so.
And, as it turns out, I still need to be reminded of the last few paragraphs I wrote what seems like so very long ago…

I Am Waiting

I will admit it. I don’t understand.

Sometimes my not understanding leads me to anger and sometimes to despair.

Truthfully, there are also times—more numerous than I want to admit where my not understanding leads me to a numbness of the soul where my spirituality isn’t really alive and vital—more of a going through the motions.

And yes, the theologian in me likes to think I do know the answer, but the answer I know—intellectually—isn’t always very satisfying emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

And it’s not like I don’t pray. And it’s not like it’s beyond God’s ability to answer my specific prayers in ways that would astound the world and give him all the glory.

Maybe you understand what I mean from your own unique perspective. However, my perspective is for our son, Cole.

I don’t understand why he has to go through 19 years of life with all of the difficulties, frustrations, and challenges he faces.
I don’t understand why we have to go through test after test and can’t seem to get any definitive answer.
I don’t understand why God doesn’t see fit to heal him completely…now.
I don’t understand why our prayers for his anger and out-of-control behavior seem as if they never rise above the roof.
I don’t understand why it seems at times we cannot get a single moment of peace.

Theologically, I understand sickness, disease, and death are by-products of living in a broken world.

Theologically, I understand the question isn’t “why me” but “why not me.”

Spiritually, emotionally, and physically, I am tired of that answer. But I am waiting. And as I wait, I pray that my attitude, actions, and life will reflect the words of John Waller’s song…

I’m waiting 
I’m waiting on You, Lord 
And I am hopeful 
I’m waiting on You, Lord 
Though it is painful 
But patiently, I will wait 

I will move ahead, bold and confident 
Taking every step in obedience 
While I’m waiting 
I will serve You 
While I’m waiting 
I will worship 
While I’m waiting 
I will not faint 
I’ll be running the race 
Even while I wait

In Mark 9, Jesus is presented with a healing opportunity—a boy with an evil spirit. As he talks with the boy’s father, Jesus says “Everything is possible for him who believes.” And the father’s answer has to be mine, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

I am waiting, Lord, sometimes impatiently, sometimes angrily, sometimes with a deep, deep numbness. But I am waiting. Help me over come my waiting that really isn’t.

May God help each of us move through life bold and confident, even when we are waiting…

Les, Jr.

I Don’t Know Where I Fit In

In my earliest days as a beginning theologian, I understood well my conservative upbringing. I knew intimately the points and counterpoints of some pretty intense theological debates.

I was well versed in the different papers and publications put out by the differing and dueling editor-bishops. I knew what schools held to what doctrinal positions. I understood what would happen if I aligned myself to this camp or another.

There were theological giants walking among us and I was quite eager to hear everything they said.

For years I thrived in that atmosphere. I was a living sponge soaking up those doctrinal differences and arguments—reveling in my knowledge, honing my own ability to dissect, discourse, and write.

A large portion of my life involved doctrine, doctrinal analysis, debates, discussions, and like the proverb says, iron sharpening iron.

The little dictionary capability that resides within my word processor defines lockstep like this:

  • a way of marching with each person as close as possible to the one in front. 
  • close adherence to and emulation of another’s actions.

Yes, I was good at maintaining the right positions and attitudes—I could march and fit in—and I did.

I did at least until a pesky thing called ministry got in the way.

Ministry or the art of ministering into the lives of others was where I found myself more times than not. I could only retreat into my study and the scholarship of which I love for so long before real life had to be challenged.

Ministry meant interacting in the messy lives of others—and confronting my own messiness in the process.

Along the way, a funny thing happened (here’s where I probably lose the next preaching job or opportunity). As I became intimately involved with the lives of hurting broken people—as I came alongside them with the brokenness and hurt of my own life, I found it harder and harder to maintain some of my positions.

Sometimes it was because my positions didn’t hold water in the practicality of living out my faith—at other times, I realized that in the grip of pain and struggle, I couldn’t often afford the luxury of smug self-assurance.

At this point in my life, I have apparently lost the ability to march in lockstep. Or maybe you might consider me a round peg in a square hole.

And it’s not that I am advocating for you to rethink your arguments or positions. I am not all that worried about knowing whose theology is more accurate, yours or mine.

But here’s the rub: things that were once so important have lost their impetus.

I have come to believe that in the context of theology—and in the context of how we live our lives, a lot of doctrine and theology—bad, misguided, or completely correct—is overshadowed by the two greatest commands: Love God & Love Others.

I desperately want to have a ministry again one day. But in the trauma and heartache of my life, I have come to realize that nothing matters more than how I love God by loving others.

Living out that ideology might just be the biggest and best ministry any of us can have.

Yes, I am not sure where I fit into the theological world today… and yes, I respect your beliefs and opinions. But…

I choose to remember the words of Peter in 1 Peter 4:8, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Waiters

So yesterday I spoke at the Discover Rally. I am thankful to my lifetime buddy, John Dobbs, for inviting and giving me the opportunity.

I doubt if anybody needed to hear the message more than me.

The majority of the sermon came directly out of a chapter called Forlorn and Forgotten, written for my book-in-progress. It is about Hagar and Ishmael, but mostly Hagar. She is a highly sympathetic character and deserving of our attention to her story.

As far as the book chapter goes and the edited version for a sermon, I needed to write those things as a part of my journey, a part of my recovery, and a part of my new walk of faith. And as much as I needed to write them, I needed even more to say those words out loud with others as a witness.

The reality is quite simple: I needed to believe them then… I need to believe them today.

And I do.

Honestly?
Some days it is harder than others to do so.
Some days the pain is closer to the surface.
Some days the frustration is much to high for comfort and ease of belief.

But on most other days, life is good.
Really good.
On those days, pain is buried pretty deep and finds it so much harder to reach the surface.
On those days, I find ready laughter, abundant joy, and much to live and hope for.

And I do.

Truthfully?
Those are the kind of days when I need to believe even more.
Those are the kind of days my focus on God needs to be much clearer.
Those are the days I need to be most aware that my blessings come from God…

Why?

Because those are the days I am most tempted to rely on my own strength and ability.
Those are the days I am tempted the most to fall prey to the world’s ideas of rugged individualism versus the idea of patiently waiting on the Lord.

No, I am not normally patient.
The idea of sitting still and waiting is foreign to me.
I don’t like to wait.

A long time ago Queen sang,

Adventure seeker on an empty street
Just an alley creeper light on his feet
A young fighter screaming with no time for doubt
With the pain and anger can’t see a way out
It ain’t much I’m asking, I heard him say
Gotta find me a future move out of my way
I want it all I want it all I want it all and I want it now
I want it all I want it all I want it all and I want it now

That could be my anthem song because I do want it all.
And yes, I am tired of waiting. I want it now.

Please?

In the meantime, I am trying to learn how to believe and live the waiting of Lamentations.

I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.” I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord ’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:17-26 NIV)

Waiting is easier in the company of other waiters.

Anybody else need to learn how to wait?

Impatiently yours,

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Wise Counsel

For many years I had people come to my office for counseling. I was never much a counselor of note. I had no specific training or expertise. There was nothing special about my technique.

The only qualification I had was a couple of theology degrees and years of experience loving people at their worst and enjoying them at their best. That and having to learn how to listen, something I struggle with even now.

Please know there is a lot of distance between worst and best behaviors and problems. Not to mention the varied and sometimes crazy and embarrassing topics and subjects you might be asked to shed some light on.

I wasn’t always the most sympathetic listener. More than once I wanted to look at whomever was gracing me with their presence and say something along the lines of “You are wasting my time and yours with this? You need to get a life. At least let me give you a swift kick in the backside for a reality check.”

  • Believe me. I didn’t want to know about your ED meds. I didn’t want to know about how you finally came to the decision to talk to your doctor. I didn’t want to know how they helped you. (Not kidding about this, I promise)
  • Believe me. I could not fix her. If I could have, I’d probably have started with you. But I could not fix you. At least I couldn’t do it and avoid jail at the same time.

Maybe you are laughing; maybe you are not. But, surrounded by the four walls of my office, I have heard some weird and wacky stuff.

Which leads me to believe all of us have a certain capacity for the weird and wacky. But then I digress.

I find myself these days on the other side of the desk wrestling with emotions and frustration I’d rather not. And no, I haven’t embarrassed myself with something weird or wacky.

Yet.

Knock on wood…

Earlier this week a counselor told me I needed to be easier on myself, I needed to have more patience with where I’ve been and where I am going. I get that. I have always been harder on myself than anybody else would be.

At the same time, I think that would be much easier to do if it wasn’t so open-ended. If I knew I just had to be patient for another month or two, that I could do.

So.

How do you let go and trust?  How do you just live in the moment?

Those are things I want to do, but I am not wired to do them easily.

Jesus teaches us not to worry, but that is easier said than done.

I guess I am like the guy who once told Jesus, “I believe. Help me with my unbelief.”

Except my words would be, “I trust you God. Help me where my trust has faded.”

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Toothpick

Toothpicks.

I rather doubt anybody would ever decide to read about toothpicks.

I can’t imagine such a subject would be very enlightening or informative or otherwise helpful for those who struggle.

Unless, however, you are challenged in the dental department with gaps and holes and other places for Big Macs and fries to get stuck.

As I write these words, I am in the middle of a Mr. Mom gig at the orthodontist with my youngest stepson, Max.

It’s braces day and I am reminded of toothpicks.

Go figure.

I like toothpicks.

I prefer the flat uncolored kind.

When I was a kid, we used to buy cinnamon oil from the pharmacy and make our own amazingly hot cinnamon toothpicks.

But I digress.

I have only ever once watched the Science channel show, How Do They Do It. And wouldn’t you know it, the subject was toothpicks.

It was interesting.

Ok.

More than interesting, I was enthralled.

High drama, huh?

Toothpicks.

Have you ever wondered how they were made?

Did you ever question the manufacturing process?

When you picked up one of those individually wrapped toothpicks at the check out counter of your favorite restaurant, did you marvel at the engineering?

It’s time to ‘fess up, as my daddy likes to say.

Go ahead and admit your lifelong fascination with the whole subject of toothpicks.

Ok, I am waiting…

What? No takers? An opportunity to come clean and face your obsession and you are going to let it slide?

“Hi, my name is Les Ferguson, Jr. and I am addicted to all things toothpick.”

No. Not really. It’s all a lie. A sham. A shameless literary stunt to introduce something else.

A little resentment if you will…

Toothpicks are in reality, a fairly common, mundane fact or object of life. Unless that is, you are a really strange and obsessed connoisseur of toothpicks. Otherwise, toothpicks are a tool you use or not.

They don’t require much thought.

They don’t factor into your life in a huge meaningful way.

Toothpicks are toothpicks. They just are.

I envy those of you who have toothpick lives, who just get to rock along content and unworried.

And sometimes I feel not a little, but a great resentment.

I look at our struggles. I wrestle with our needs. And I wonder…

I wonder why so many get to skate through life seemingly untouched by trauma, heartache, and the ever present after-effects.

I wonder why our difficulties can be so all-consuming and yet invisible to many.

I wonder why life has to be so hard for some and so easy for others.

I wonder why opportunities and success can be ever present or always elusive, depending on who you are.

Like you, I want peace, hope, and security. I want a purpose that matters on a bigger stage.

I am sure I am consumed with envy.

Please forgive me.

And yet, as much as I want better circumstances, I am also thankful for the new found ability to truly be compassionate and understanding of those whose lives involve heartache and struggle.

I get it, I really do.

If you struggle, you are not alone.

On the other hand, if you are free from major heartache and trauma, take a walk on the wild side and open yourself up to what others have to endure. You’ll be more thankful and eventually be a blessing to some poor soul in need.

Yes, I hate our struggles at the same time I am thankful for the life lessons learned.

Who wants a toothpick?

Les Ferguson, Jr.