For Messy People Everywhere

Anybody that knows me fairly well can’t help but know some of my flaws and failures.

As much as I’d like to be an extremely private person, I tend to live my life out there where others can see.

Sometimes that out there persona engenders ridicule and criticism.
Sometimes the engendered ridicule and criticism means I’ll end up showing more of my failures and flaws.

It’s a vicious cycle.

On the other hand, living my life out there for all to see can also engender healing.
My healing often begins as I discover others walking alongside me.
From a different perspective, the healing of others is sometimes made possible as they come to understand how un-alone they really are…

So in the interest of being transparent and finding common ground, you should know…
I struggle with food and eating and eating too much.
I don’t take care of myself as well as I should.
I struggle with confidence.
I wrestle with my self-worth.
It’s hard for me to not be in control.
I hardly ever feel as if I am good enough or that I bring true value to the table.
I struggle with not being a victim.
I live with regrets and guilt…

Those are just some of my struggles. There are many more.
Many, many more…
Remember the proverbial you haven’t yet touched the hem of the garment?
Yeah…

I tell you these things not because I want you to make me feel better about myself.
(Here’s another one of my flaws: I probably wouldn’t believe you anyway.)
No, I tell you because being transparent and vulnerable means being honest with you and being honest with myself.

“Hi, my name is Les Ferguson, Jr. and I am 52 years old. I am a mess. Some might call me a hot mess, which is much, much messier than a plain old vanilla mess.”

Sometimes I think my mess is too messy to ever be cleaned up. But amazingly enough, I belong to the God who is not intimidated by messes! I belong to the God whose imagination is so much greater than mine. I belong to the God who takes my flaws, failures, and ongoing messes and gets creative.

Every time I turn around my pain, hurt, and anger is given the opportunity to help someone else who is struggling.
The more I help others, the less painful my mess is…

As it turns out, ministry is messy because it is a sharing of messes

The Irish band U2 just released a new album last week. I am not an expert on the band. I have been a low-key fan over the years and that’s about the best way I can say it. But this new record has captivated me—and it will take Bono himself to tell me I am wrong… But I am convinced the lyrics to Song for Someone are about Jesus…

You’ve got a face not spoiled by beauty
I have some scars from where I’ve been
You’ve got eyes that can see right through me
You’re not afraid of anything they’ve seen

I am not quite at the point where I can thank God for my mess—and I may never get there, but I am thankful for what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will yet do… I am thankful for eyes that can see right through me and are unafraid of the mess I have made…

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.
(Psalm 121:1-2)

Messily yours,
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.

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.

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.

The Promise of a Coming Day

By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
Psalms 137:1-4

As irritating as TV commercials can be, there is one playing currently that cracks me up.
Literally, it has me laughing out loud. And sometimes even before the funny part–all in anticipation.

Maybe you’ve seen it.

It starts with animated characters drawn in what looks like pencil. The whole thing is set to the old A-Ha song, Take On Me (and uses the original music video as its inspiration). Suddenly, the whole scene changes to a board room type situation where we realize the drawings have been made by a guy doodling as the meeting progresses… only to realize he is singing. Loud. In the middle of the meeting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=bbRVMua0HUc

Can you say embarrassment?
I love it!

For about a week now I have been humming, whistling, and singing one particular song by Crosby, Stills, and Nash…

I whistle a bar here, sing a line there. And like the guy in the commercial, suddenly realize I am humming out loud.

I love their music. They have multiple songs on their playlist that I really enjoy.

But my favorite song was a dream that one day came true.

During my stint in the US Navy, I travelled all over the world.
Saw some great places.
Met different and intriguing cultures.
My favorite country to visit? Chile.

It was on the way to Chile, as we sailed and showed the Flag around the entire continent of South America, that I finally saw what I had only envisioned in my mind before.

The Southern Cross.
The constellation ancient mariners navigated by in the southern hemisphere.

Thanks to Crosby, Stills, and Nash, I once longed to see those stars aligned in the nighttime sky. Thanks to the US Navy (and Becki), I have. (The Becki part? That’s a story for another day.)

I’d like to see the constellation again someday, but in the meantime? I sing, whistle, and hum…

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small
But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a comin’ day…

The song itself is about loss.
It’s about escape.
It’s about a new life even as one moves forward from and within the remnants of the old.
Most importantly, its about the promise of a coming day.

In other words, hope!

Hope!

Today may be painful.
Tomorrow may be worse.
And next week or even next year?
Yes, there will be times of continued pain and difficulty or the onset of brand new hurts not even imagined as of yet. And it may feel as if you are living in a foreign land…

Turns out, there isn’t a shelf life or expiration date for the pain life often has to offer.
Like losing a child… it will always be there, always sting, and always ache. Like a nightmare you can’t wake up from, it never quite goes away.

It is what it is.

But even in the pain.
Even in the uncertainty.
Even in the questioning and wondering of why you came this way…
There is always the promise of a coming day.

Hope!

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small
But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a comin’ day…

In Jesus, there will be a new day!

Hope!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

It’s What I Do!

The sixteen year old needed to use my Macbook for a school project.

Made me wonder who he thought he was.

My Macbook?

Give a teenager (hey, there are three at my house right now and they can be rented out for odd jobs as long as you feed them) an inch and well, you know the old cliche.

Really son? My Macbook?

But then he needed my flash drive too.

Remember that thing about giving them an inch?

So I copied the flash drive onto my Mac in order not to lose it’s contents…

In the process I discovered something I have absolutely no memory of writing. It has a system saved date of November 29, 2011. Just a little over a month after the events of October 10, 2011.

I read this bulletin article (I think that’s what it was) ) and wonder how I had the clarity to say, think, or write any of it.

Here’s a snippet:

Life as we know it sure can change in an instant. And not always for the better…

I wish I had lots of words of encouragement and comfort to share. I wish I could look at each of you and tell you that whatever pain you are suffering/ enduring was going to get better sometime soon.

I really wish I could do that, but I can’t.

In reality, I know things will one day be better, if not highly different and strange in how they look and feel.  But until they do—until enough time has passed—where you are is where you must be.

I read that and shake my head. Part of me would like to punch the guy who wrote those words.

Cheeky fellow, he was.

I read that and find it hard to believe this guy was still trying to minister even in and through his own pain.

What was he thinking?

Truthfully? I don’t know if I was thinking. I suspect I was running on autopilot. I had spent so much of my life trying to care for the needs of others regardless of my own.

Whether it should or shouldn’t be that way is a discussion for maybe another day.

But the reality is most preachers pour their lives out in service. And even when they can no longer preach from a pulpit on Sundays, they are still seeking to serve. It’s not second nature for them–it is first.

In the meantime, I don’t know what the future holds for me (none of us really do).

I don’t know if I will ever preach for a church again on a weekly basis (I did recently dare to dream and emailed a resume or two).

But this I do know.

I want to serve and minister to those who are hurting (I hurt with them) and to those who are struggling and wrestling with God (it’s a tag team match, I promise).

It’s who I am.

It’s what I do.

I try to remind God about that on a regular basis. But, maybe just maybe, through the words of this blog and other writing ventures–through speaking here and there–I might still make a difference.

That’s the purpose I crave.

Thank you for helping me fulfill it.

And that article written by a hurting preacher who had no idea or clue how difficult it would become? It ended with these still applicable words, slightly edited for publishing in this venue:

Here is ministry advice from one is literally fighting for his life, his faith, and his future…

Life is too short too live in bitterness and anger—forgive before it consumes you.

If you are married, do not take your spouse for granted.

Hug your children. Everyday. As often as you can.

And finally, if you have a damaged relationship with a friend or a family member, don’t wait for the right opportunity to begin repairing it—the opportunity is now—you will be glad you did.

 

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Scalped

Move over, Alexander.
In fact, you need to move way down to the other end of the bench.
In the next state.
There is no room for you here.
All this space is mine.
Yesterday I claimed it for a very long time.

I wasn’t trying to rhyme, but I am good.
Really good.
And yet, I digress.

You do know Alexander, don’t you? I bet you have worn his name a time or two. Or maybe three or four.

Somedays, I think I own the title, rights, and everything else pertaining to Alexander.

Dear old Alexander…

He is actually a fictional character created by Judith Viorst in her amazing little book entitled Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. This story is from a child’s perspective which is kind of on the mark since he is a child. If you haven’t read this book, you are missing a treat

Yesterday, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
It has extended itself in one particular way into this day.

When I was young, I loved reading Westerns. I liked the Westerns where the good guys were fighting off the bad guys–including the additional storyline of a band of blood thirsty Apache Indians. Yes, I was a Louis L’Amour fan.

Today, I am officially afraid of being scalped.
Again.
Seriously.

Scalped.
And by scalped, I do not mean a bad haircut.

Scalped.

Yesterday morning started out ok. I was able to register Casey for a fall soccer league. In fact, the best and brightest part of the day was seeing his face light up with unabashed joy over a new pair of soccer cleats, shinguards, and a ball. We start practice tonight.

At any rate, after the online registration and and getting Casey on the bus, I began looking for my soccer coaching stash from years gone by. At one time or another, I coached all the other boys in soccer.

My search took me to the dreaded basement. The basement. The basement where Cole’s treasures are stored. And against my better judgment I opened those footlockers… and the tears began. They turned into a screaming match with God, only He didn’t scream back. My heart hurt most of the day. Everything was colored by pain. Even though my life is so much better than it could be… Even though my life is amazingly full and happy… The thought of all the ensuing years to come before I see my son again is daunting to say the least.

For the rest of the day I tried to function and live in the moment. I guess for the most part I did.
But it felt an awful lot like I was under water.
Slow.
Sluggish.
And hard to breath.

Thus went the day.
By evening, my equilibrium was better.
My outlook on life was much improved.
And Alexander? I was just about ready to cede back to him complete ownership of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
At least up until the moment I got scalped.

Did I say scalped?
Why yes, yes I did.

Scalped.
Not by a tomahawk.
But scalped nonetheless.

I was going up the spiral staircase to tuck Casey in for the night when I had the bright idea of tossing some clothes from the stairs to a basket below. In a moment completely bereft of any common sense, I leaned over the stair case to do so… and right into the spinning blades of a ceiling fan spinning on the highest speed.

Scalped!

Did you know head wounds bleed profusely?
Did you know gashes in the skull are painful?
Kids, don’t try this from home, take it from me instead.

Yes, a bad day got worse.
And quickly.

My head hurt then and it still hurts now.
But that pain will pass.
That wound will heal.
And I will eventually forget about how stupid I feel.
But my heart?
That pain will not completely go away until it is my turn to step across the great divide.

Until that day comes…
Blessings to you and yours,

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Extravagant

I used to have a really bad temper.

Flying off the handle.
Getting mad.
Harsh words.
A willingness to fight.

There have been times in my life when those things could have been and were an apt description.
Not always, but definitely some.

I have never been proud of my hot-headed tendencies. I have often fought and won against them.

But not always.
Unfortunately, the ones I love have more often either been in the crosshairs or innocent bystanders with collateral damage.
Either way it hurts.

I am not going to tell you that my temper is no more.
As soon as I did, some situation would arise to put the lie to my words.

But, I have matured.
I have changed.
My volatility is nothing like it was in the past.
These days I am learning the art of asking myself an all important question: Does this really matter enough to lose my cool?

Still, there is room to grow.
Not losing my temper needs to become having greater patience.
Being more tolerant. 
Exhibiting mercy.
Being a conduit of grace.

I am so glad God is still working in me…

Having said all of that, I still struggle with anger.
I still wrestle with resentment.
I still want answers.
I still get mad at God.

Still.
Get.
Mad.
At.
God.

And yet.
And yet…

I am glad He loves me enough to be patient.
I am glad His tolerance is much better than mine.
I am thankful for His mercy.
I am gratified by His grace.

I am learning to live with the non-answers.
I am learning to trust God’s love even when I cannot comprehend.
I am learning how to still worship… even when the oceans rise and thunders roar. (Still by Hillsong United)

I wish I was the only one with unanswered questions.
I wish I was the only with with anger.
I wish I was the only who has ever been mad at God.

But I am not.
These days I too often meet fellow travelers.
Or, hear of those who have joined this fraternity of pain, doubt, and questions.

I wish I had the answers we both want.
I wish.
How I wish I did.

But some answers are never to be.
And in truth, we both know that the answers will never undo the pain or repair the damage.

But, from my perspective almost two years out from the horror of October 10, 2011, I’d like to share with you a passage of scripture that gives me comfort, hope, and a little bit of peace.

Still.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
1 Corinthians 13:12-13, (The Message)

In your pain, with your doubt, and in spite of your unanswered questions, do your best to love.
Love extravagantly.

In the act of loving, redemption and relief can often be found…

I am thankful for the love shown to me.
I am thankful for the blessing of loving you in return.

Extravagantly yours,
Les Ferguson, Jr.