Dear God…

I ran two miles today–the second day in a row. Yay me! This morning as I ran, I tried to pray, but mostly I just cried in frustration. I am not suicidal or despondent or even bereft of happiness or hope. I have blessings and they are counted and appreciated.

And yet…

The following prayer is what I wanted to express to the Father…

Dear God,

I don’t know how to pray anymore.
I am not sure I ever did.

Gone are all the words of majestic grandeur. The ability to ascribe wonder, awe, and amazement toward your great and bountiful blessings seems to be a thing of the past.

These days almost every time I try to pray it becomes some wordless groan and cry filled with anger, hurt, bitterness, and questions.

And rage.
Let’s not forget the rage.

I am glad scripture affirms that the Holy Spirit interprets for you. He’s probably working overtime to translate my frustrations into legible communication.

I am tired.
I am weary.
I am sick to death of struggling, scratching, and clawing.
Rebuilding is hard work often with more steps backwards than forward.
I’m guessing you know that to be the understatement of the century.

I am a fighter, not a quitter, so you’re gonna have to deal with me for a long time to come.

But you have to know this hurts. You have to.
This. Hurts. Horribly.
And it leaves me feeling inadequate at best and a loser at worst–even as I know I am not.

You have to know how badly I want some relief, some breathing room, some respite, just a small amount of security.

Is that too much to ask?

Honestly, it feels like it must be the hardest, biggest, largest thing anybody ever pleaded with you for…

Do I need to be punished for something? Is there some lesson you have picked for me to either learn or be the example of? Do I need to remind you there is a house here full with four wonderful boys and one amazing woman who are paying the price too?

Yeah.

In case you missed it, there are thousands and thousands of people on this planet who feel the same way. The exact same way.

We are not asking for riches.
We are not asking for every little wrinkle in the road to be smoothed over.
We are not asking for something foreign that no one else has ever experienced

On the other hand, many of us are striving with everything we have to live lives not defined by our past or even the horrors or difficulties that so easily overwhelm us. To the contrary, we want lives that are defined by hope, a better tomorrow.

We know you can fix it all, and while we would love that, we would be greatly satisfied with feeling, knowing your presence in concrete ways that help us see better days and eased struggles somewhere close on the horizon.

And like Abraham of old, we ask, Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

Amen.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Show Me The Way–Another Throwback Post

Thanks to a friend, we are chilling out, regrouping, relaxing, and recreating in Destin, FL. I came here with the intention of trying to write, but the beach and water call my name.

There is something restorative about the ocean… The never ending waves roll in and with them the certainty that life goes on.

I worry about the future. I stress constantly over being able to support my family. I wrestle with doubt. I strive with fear. I struggle with self-confidence… And still, life goes on.

Patience is not my strong suit. I want a voice from heaven that says everything is going to be alright. Bills will get paid. Opportunities are coming.

Yes, as I once said before, I am a mess. Certifiable.

In the meantime, I found another old post from my old life and old blog. Amazingly enough, it is so appropriate for where I am today. In the next day or so I hope to share something new. In the meantime. Check out my new endorsement and enjoy…

Every night I say a prayer in the hope that there’s a heaven
And every day I’m more confused as the saints turn into sinners
All the heroes and legends I knew as a child have fallen to idols of clay
And I feel this empty place inside so afraid that I’ve lost my faith

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Show me the way

And as I slowly drift to sleep, for a moment dreams are sacred
I close my eyes and know there’s peace in a world so filled with hatred
That I wake up each morning and turn on the news to find we’ve so far to go
And I keep on hoping for a sign, so afraid that I just won’t know

Show me the way, Show me the way
Take me tonight to the mountain
And wash my confusion away

And if I see a light, should I believe
Tell me how will I know

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Show me the way, show me the way
Give me the strength and the courage
To believe that I’ll get there someday
Show me the way

Every night I say a prayer
In the hope that there’s a heaven… (Dennis DeYoung)

I vacillate in the type of music I listen to. Some days it’s more about good classic rock. The kind of music I grew up with. The kind that has been belted out of my lungs from the first day I ever got behind the wheel. I love rock and roll. Put another dime in the jukebox baby.

Some folks might read this and laugh at the idea of a dime jukebox. Others are probably looking at this and trying to remember if they have ever seen an old jukebox in an old movie.

Isn’t that a hoot?

But I digress.

My other favorite is contemporary Christian, preferably the hard charging kind that is reminiscent of secular rock but with lyrics that reflect Christian values and/or praise God.

And from day to day and sometimes within the same day, I go from one to the other.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I connected with an old rock song from a group that is still around in one form or another a song with a decidedly spiritual touch. A plea even to see and know and understand that there is something out there that is better than the values of this world.

Enter Dennis DeYoung and Styx.

Show me the way.

Indeed.

I don’t know how I missed the import of the lyrics for all of these twenty-seven plus years that I have been singing along to this song. But I did, that is, until last week.

Show me the way. That might very well be the anthem cry of generations of young people, middle aged people, and old people.

Show me the way.

Politicians fail us.

Sports figures fail us. (Did Kenny Rogers really have pine tar on his hand?)

Teachers and principals and business leaders and religious leaders fail us.

Even our own flesh and blood can fail us in grievous ways.

Is it any wonder then that the world, at least those who are not so far gone in self-absorption, is looking for something better? And in particular, someone to show them the way?

That’s where you and I come in.

Christians.

Beacons of light.

The people who can show the way, if we only will.

Matthew 5:14-16, (NIV) You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Show me the way, show me the way
Give me the strength and the courage
To believe that I’ll get there someday
Show me the way

Every night I say a prayer
In the hope that there’s a heaven…

Saturday’s Ruminations… A Fork?

It’s a Saturday.
We took one dog in the truck to be shaved and bathed.
Went to the hardware store.

It’s a Saturday.
The garden has been picked.
Snap beans have been snapped (I loved writing that, don’t ask me why–I have no idea).

It’s a Saturday.
Normal life goes on.

Even with a headache today, I can still appreciate the life we have been given. And find many, many reasons to be thankful.

Unknown to anybody else but God, earlier today I had a pretty intense crying spell. I cried quite hard for my friend Mark who lost his son in a car accident Thursday evening. He was 19. I cried for the parents of the 16 year old girl who was killed with him. I cried for my friend Randy who wrestles just as hard as I do, but about a year or so behind me on this insane dizzy journey of loss. I cried for other parents too. For John and Maggy. I cried for parents who are almost paralyzed by the fear of joining this unfortunate soiree.

In full disclosure, my crying jag didn’t start out that way. It begin with an attempt to do what is so very hard for me. It began with prayer. Just me and God (I know that isn’t correct, but it’s my blog and I type how I want to…). I began by trying once again to explain my desperate need for peace with Him. I talked about all the ways I have tried to justify Him. I tried to talk about my need to have all these unanswered questions answered… about how my faith, trust, and hope is so dependent on answers even as I try to live without them. Even as I try with all my heart to find a new me, a new ministry, a new niche in serving those who need to be served…

So I prayed. Prayer turned into anger which in turn segued into tears.

One of my old friends from high school wrote me this week and said…

I think in your former life you were like a silver goblet. The kind they use in Catholic communion. Everyone drinks from the cup. It’s ornate and everyone likes to touch it as they take a drink. But God decided to melt the goblet and make something different. Now He will make you into a fork. Not as noticeable by the crowd, but more useful. The fork is what gets the meat into the hungry person’s mouth. It is used one person at a time, so it’s a more intimate relationship than the goblet. Les, I think you will be able to feed people that are truly hungry for the REAL God in a way that most “preachers” will never be able to.

The truth? That’s not what I necessarily wanted to hear.
The truth? I needed to hear it.

I never imagined my relationship with God would be so hard. I have had my Jonah moments of rebellion and pride. Who hasn’t? But this feels so different even if it isn’t.

I am trying to wrap my mind around being a fork…

How would you describe yourself?

Les Ferguson

Happy Memorial Day?

Happy Memorial Day?

A quick perusal of Facebook tells me people are wondering if it is ok to say Happy Memorial Day.

For the first time, I am not so sure anymore.

But for the biggest part of my life it was never a question.

Memorial Day and Veterans Day have always been big deals for me. And mostly synonymous. I love them because I am highly patriotic. Probably too much so for my own good, but nevertheless, I still am.

Military service, in my way of thinking, is something to be proud of. While I stop short of calling for a military draft, I believe everybody ought to have to give something back in service to the country. How that would work in my mind is fairly simple but needs to be a different topic on another day–and mostly not for this format–unless I am begged very hard–and bribed too.

Ed Conner, my grandfather-in-law, who has now gone to be with the Lord, fought in hand-to-hand combat through the islands of the Pacific in WWII.

Bob Brown, my father-in-law, served in the Army as an Officer and Combat Engineer during a tour of duty in Vietnam.

My father, Les Ferguson, Sr. served as a radar operator on the East Coast on Nike Missile installations during a hitch in the US Army.

And me? I am proud of my service as a weapons control computer operator/ technician on the USS Josephus Daniels CG-27 in the US Navy.

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I have never regretted my six year enlistment in Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club. I saw lots of different things, experienced some really cool places, people, etc. I am, however, not all that eager to go back to the Middle East again–six months of Operation Desert Shield was enough combat pay/ adrenaline to last a lifetime.

I am thankful for all those who have served before, with, and after me. So many Americans have no idea the sacrifices military and their families endure.

If you want a better way to support those who currently serve, I’d suggest the Wounded Warrior Project.

At any rate, back to the idea of saying Happy Memorial Day…

For what it is worth, Memorial Day has taken on some additional meaning for me. At this stage of my life, grief is an ever present, bittersweet sort of friend. On one hand, I wish he would disappear for ever; on the other hand, I am glad for the constant reminder of what has been lost. I don’t want to forget…

Memorial Day is about remembering so that those we have lost will not be forgotten.
Today, I celebrate Memorial Day a little differently than I have before. I remember those who have fallen, yes, but, I also grieve with and for those who are left to carry the memories of loved ones lost.

My suggestion? Enjoy the time with your family. Barbecue on the grill. Go fishing with the kids. Canoe a river. Celebrate the wonderful life and blessing of being an American.

And as you do, don’t forget the inherent sadness of the day. Don’t forget to grieve with those who know Memorial Day to really be a mourning day. Explain it to your kids. Remind them of the sacrifices made by those who lost their lives–and the sacrifices those left behind still have to make.

Happy Memorial Day? I don’t think so…

God bless all who sit down tonight without the one they love. May they find some sweet memory that brings just a little bit of a smile. They deserve that and more!

PDFLogo copy

 

A Doormat Christianity

Matthew 22:34-40, Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Loving God and loving others. The two greatest commands. The heart and soul of what it means to live a Christian life.

In an old newspaper column somewhere back in time, I once wrote about God’s response when looking at his children and all of the theological drama we have created. In my imagination, I saw Him shaking His head and saying, “No, no, no. That isn’t it all.”

I suspect there are lots of ideas, beliefs, and dogmas that satisfy our human nature but miss entirely the ideal of God.

You might be an arm chair or a classically trained theologian and think me arrogant to even suggest such thing. In return, I think it pretty arrogant to ever imagine even for a minute that we have gotten it all right.

Along the way of developing and defending our doctrinal beliefs, it sometimes feels as if we have lost the main thing. I often tell the sixteen year old in our house, you can be right and still be wrong. If you are right, but mouthy and snotty in the process, all the right doesn’t undo what the attitude got wrong.

The same is true of Christianity. If your doctrine of _________ is exactly what God intended, but you fail to be loving toward your follow man, what good does it do?

You can be right and still be wrong.
Can I get an Amen?

I will probably not make any friends with this post. I suspect some will disagree vehemently. And that’s ok.

I keep being told that one day I will be back in full time ministry. I agree.

I am trying hard to find my voice, to discover my niche, or for lack of a better term, create my own ministry role. But, if you mean being a full time pulpit minister/ preacher/ pastor for a local congregation… I just can’t do that.

One reason is I am a long way from an everyday hey-God-I-can-do-this kind of thing. God and I are still wrestling. I am still limping. And like it or not, most churches wouldn’t handle very well a preacher who openly limps. I am sure there are exceptions, but I wouldn’t know them.

More importantly, another reason is my inability to practice a Doormat Christianity.
Go ahead and ask… you know you want to… What is Doormat Christianity?

As a preacher, my greatest desire was to see the kingdom of God grow. To do that, I strived hard to love God by loving others. In the process, I often allowed myself to become a doormat to those I served.

What about Jesus’ commands to turn the other cheek or to go the extra mile? I fully believe those words at work in our lives would go an awful long way to bringing us peace in our relationships.

Loving God by loving others even when they are unloveable is not the issue. On the other hand, we are often motivated by something less than love in going the extra mile or turning the other cheek.

It’s not a pretty picture, but in my life as a preacher, it was often more about self-preservation. In order to not rock the boat, I welcomed the opportunity to be a doormat to keep my job or provide for my family.

I am kidding right? Not one little bit.

Spiritual abuse? Bring it on.
Power trips? Learn to roll with the punches.
Maintaining the status quo at the cost of your own spiritual growth and creativity? You betcha.

I probably sound bitter. I am. But, I am not content to stay there and so God and I are having to wrestle with that as well.

In the meantime, can I ask a favor? Love your ministers lavishly. Chances are you have no idea what they are sacrificing–sometimes even their own self-esteem. If you like to make jokes at the preacher’s expense about only working one day a week or keeping his moving boxes close to hand or how much money he makes, Stop!

Stop now. He may laugh with you, but it takes a toil.

Eventually he becomes a doormat whether he wants to acknowledge it or not. Even when he can’t or won’t see it for what it is, his spouse sees it and suffers too.

Doormat Christianity is hurtful, destructive, and ultimately damaging to the spirit within.

Loving others means saying this is wrong!

Thanks for reading.
Anything in particular you would like me to address?
How can I help you?

Les Ferguson, Jr.
DWTBA

Judging Fixing Helping Loving

The following was written earlier today for my first speaking opportunity tonight with a small group from Cross View Church…

But before you read, check out a brand new endorsement at http://www.lesfergusonjr.com/endorsements/

When People hurt…

I suspect you know at least some of my story.

  • It is graphic, horrific, shocking, disgusting… well, you can come up with your own words too.
  • It involved abuse, betrayal, drugs, rape, and four bullets–two murders execution style.
  • We will deal with the implications of what culminated on October 10, 2011 for the rest of our lives.

It’s not just the death of a wife, daughter, mother, and sister… It’s not just the death of a son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin.

  • Those things happened. And they are far worse than you can imagine.
  • The hardest part is not exactly dealing with the loss. Don’t get me wrong. The loss is hard. I feel it every day. Yesterday was my birthday. And nobody anywhere could have given me what I really truly wanted… to spend the day with my boy. To laugh and aggravate and tease…

Loss is hard. But living with the aftermath is hardest still.

  • The easiest thing to do would have been to check out… to end the pain.
  • The road forward is difficult. And for me, the ripples just don’t ever seem to end.

We lost emotionally, mentally, spiritually, relationally–those are things you expect.

But what do you do when the loss becomes so much more?

  • When your financial stability goes away?
  • When your health is affected?
  • When your credit is destroyed?
  • When your job and career are lost?
  • When you realize people don’t care as much about you as what you do for them?

Even worse, what do you do when your children are rewired by tragedy and you have no ability to undo the damage?

And finally, what do you do when the very fabric of who you are is ripped away and you have to rediscover, recreate, reinvent a whole new life?

Welcome to my world. I sincerely hope you never have to join it.

As I walk this sometimes lonely path–please don’t get me wrong–I am very happy with my wife, with our family, with the life we are trying to build… But, I am in great need of patience. Because I can’t yet be where I once was, it sometimes feels very lonely outside the success I used to enjoy. I need to learn patience with myself–the rebuilding is not happening overnight. And I need others to be patient with me as I constantly try to keep my footing and find my way.

As much as I would like to believe I am the only person struggling, the truth is there are people in every direction who are hurting, struggling, and maybe even at the point of giving up.

You know people like that. You know people who are afraid to reveal just how much they hurt and struggle.

Chances are, you may be that person too…

What can you do? What can we do to help?

I thought you’d never ask…

Matthew 22:34-40, Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In my past life as a preacher, I always taught this passage in a simplified version: Love God; love others.

Loving God could only really be expressed appropriately by loving others.

How do you do that? Love isn’t a feeling, it’s an action. So in any situation, you give, help, recognize, and meet the needs of others before yourself..

But what about when someone is hurting? When life has stuck a blow almost too hard to comprehend? What do you do when the pain is self-inflicted through bad decisions and wrong priorities?

Maybe we should also ask, if somebody is hurting, does it really matter whose fault it is?

No. The answer is no. Pain doesn’t differentiate and neither should we.

So what do you do?

For the most part, we have four choices.

  • Judgment
  • Fixing
  • Loving
  • Helping

The easiest to do is judging. And when we judge, guess what we try to do next? Fix it (because the person in pain obviously is incapable of doing it themselves). Guys, ask yourself how many times you tried to fix a problem for your significant other and judged them in the process?

Judging is easy until we find ourselves in the same place–and discover for ourselves that some things cannot be fixed.

So that leaves us with loving and helping. Loving may not mean anything else but sitting quietly and being available. If you put yourself in the position of loving, then a way to help ease the burden, not fix it, will make itself known.

I sometimes hear people say they aren’t very compassionate… I don’t believe it for a minute. However, if they could tamp down their inclination to judge and fix, they (we) might be surprised at just how compassionate they (we) can be…

I am trying to listen to my own advice… How can I help you?

Answered or Unanswered Prayers

My wrestling with God is no secret. I have been raw, honest, and real about my struggles, difficulties, and frustration with Him.

There are times when I have been highly confident and secure in my relationship with God.

But these days, I am all over the proverbial map.

I seem stuck in a place I can’t escape from–and God? I believe He is my Father. I believe His Son died for me. I believe the Holy Spirit works in believer’s lives.

I believe all that.
I do.
I am really not trying to convince myself or you of those beliefs.

I just can’t quite let go of my struggle to understand God more.
I just can’t.

I am not a deist. I don’t believe God created the universe, wound it up, and then took a step back to watch what happens.

At the same time, I have a strong need to understand how or why God answers some prayers and others He doesn’t.

But before you tell me God always answers prayers with a yes, not, or wait… I understand what you are saying. On the other hand, put yourself in my place for just a second–I wouldn’t ever want you to really be where I have been. Imagine praying and asking God to keep your family safe from harm–to protect them from people who would want to do them grave physical harm… Can you imagine that? Probably you have done the very thing yourself.

Now imagine something far worse than your worse nightmare taking place. (When we were in the criminal justice system waiting for justice, I always imagined a confrontation would take place one day before a court trial occurred. In my mind it was all verbal–some yelling and jousting…) Of course, you know what ultimately happened. I wish I could be completely honest about where all the ripples have taken us. I wish I could tell you what our very real struggles still are. I suspect you would be in shock all over again.

So it happened. It was bad. It’s still a waking walking nightmare.

How do you view God? Can you imagine a God who would say no to keeping your family safe? Or is it easier to believe somehow, someway that that particular prayer went unanswered?

Thus my need to understand God’s nature more better as we like to say down here.
More better.

In graduate school, I did a paper on the nature of Hell. One of the things I discovered was this: the doctrine of hell is based more on the literary piece known as Dante’s Inferno than any clear Biblical texts.

I wrestled hard with hell. I looked at the major theories. I researched, wrote, and wrote some more. In the end, I felt pretty comfortable with seeing hell differently than I had in the past. In the conclusion of the paper, I hedged my bets though and said something like this: Whatever form hell takes, I don’t want to be there.

I have no intention of ever finding out firsthand about eternity in hell.

Hell on earth? That’s another story.
Been there.
Done that.
Tired of wearing the T-Shirt.

Ultimately, whether I understand the shape, form, and fashion of hell correctly or not (or even heaven as well) isn’t all that important.

But understanding God? Understanding how He works? Those are questions worthy of my struggle.

I know heaven is in my future. I just want a piece of it here.

By the way, if you would like a copy of my paper on The Nature of Hell, send me a quick message through the contact page and it is yours free of charge–to read, line your bird cage, or to clean up with after your new puppy!

Blessings,

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Theological Juggling/ Spiritual Gymnastics, Part 2

I enjoyed graduate school. Some of my best thinking and preaching took place during that time. My course of study in New Testament Preaching at Johnson University challenged me, forced me to grow, and helped develop some critical thinking and writing skills.

During that time, my sermons became much more focused. I begin writing and preaching messages that only had one point. I was a better communicator for it.

Over the years I flirted with going back to school to work on a Ph.D in speech communications, but there was never really the time, money, or energy. At the very least I couldn’t find or fund the emotional and mental reserves necessary to commit to that course of action.

I regret that at the same time I don’t. If you know what I mean.

Yesterday, I could have apparently used some better communication abilities.

Maybe this will help…

I am sure of Jesus.
I am sure of the Father.
I am sure of the Holy Spirit.

I believe in them with all my heart.

However, I have no shame in saying, there are aspects of each I don’t know or understand.

I believe Jesus was fully human and fully divine at the same time. I am not sure I understand exactly how that worked except with God, all things are possible.

I believe the Father loves me. And yet, even knowing that, there are some times I am quite confident I am not experiencing His love–at least how I imagine it to be.

I believe the Holy Spirit is my comforter. Scripture affirms that. Not only am I not sure, but there are times I am certain His comfort is far from me.

My need to know exactly how God works and what He is doing and why he does or doesn’t is part of my human nature that needs to control.

If I know, I can feel in control.

God’s nature is love. But the full expression of that love and how it will completely work out in our lives is still a mystery. I wish I could, but I cannot control that.

And like it or not, there are any number of doctrines that have divided, confused, and confounded us. We can’t all be right.

So, I’ll stake some comfort in the idea that when it comes to God, perfect knowledge is incomplete and out of my control.

In a comment today, Greg England said,

One thing I do know for sure and that is the longer I live the more I realize just how little I know when it comes to God and His Word. But it’s a blast, ain’t it, just to be able to scrounge around in the Word without having to know everything for sure (obviating faith) and enjoying the vast mystery of it all. I’ll forever be in kindergarten when it comes to my knowledge of God. But when He says I’m declared righteous because of my belief in Jesus, I’ll take it!

So will I, Greg. So will I.

In the next few days I’ll be writing a bit more about the idea of unanswered prayer (or, when God says nothing at all). As a teaser, I am not a deist, but I have some real questions about the nature of God.

God bless and have a great night/ day/ or whenever you read this!

🙂

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Theological Juggling/ Spiritual Gymnastics

I don’t know.

I am not sure.

It may be beyond my ability to understand or definitively explain.

Try saying those words.

Seriously.

They are actually quite easy. And if you need the practice, just a little bit will do. In no time at all, those words/ phrases will be rolling off your tongue!

And needed.

Yes, so very needed.

Can we all agree there are things in the Bible we don’t understand?
Can we all agree that God is so vastly outside our human comprehension, to the point we can’t always wrap our minds around Him?

When we don’t know the answers, when we can’t quite grasp, it is more intellectually, theologically, relationally, and spiritually honest to say…

I don’t know.

I am not sure.

It may be beyond my ability at this time to understand or definitively explain.

I grow weary of theological juggling and spiritual gymnastics. I tire easily of bible verses multiplied and added, subtracted and divided, with a great unknown amount of square roots and fractional computations all to prove some already held belief, dogma, or doctrine.

Here’s a rule of thumb: if you have to work that hard to make your point, there is a very high chance your point is wrong.

Here’s another: context is king!

Really?
Absolutely!

Personally, I keep encountering some pretty obscene theological posturing. At the same time, I don’t have all the answers either.

Bet you didn’t know that, did you?

I struggle understanding the nature of the Old Testament God versus the nature of the New Testament God.

The old seems pretty bloodthirsty.
The new seems full of mercy and grace.
And they are the same God.

I know that.
You know that.
And rather than participating in extreme biblical jousting, it is easier, far easier for me to say…

I don’t know.

I am not sure.

It may be beyond my ability at this time to understand or definitively explain.

Please… I am not suggesting we can’t seek to know God better, to understand more fully His Word. With all of my heart, I want a more complete knowledge of God. I am confused by some things; baffled by others. I want answers, but not man made manufactured ones that fall apart in the light of day.

We would all be better off–and closer to the truth if we kept the context of scripture in understanding the meaning.

In the meantime, I don’t understand some important things about the nature of God. I want to, but I don’t.

I don’t understand why God does not intervene when evil invades our lives.
I don’t understand why some prayers are answered and others are not.
I don’t understand why innocence is sacrificed on an altar of despair.

I don’t understand, but I do believe in the One who does.

Come quickly, Lord.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

My Friend Kansas Bob

A question came in on the comments today. It referenced a time in my life when I was a yearly director of a camp session at Gulf Coast Bible Camp (a great place to support or send your kids). That particular week’s theme was I Am A Friend of God.

The question: Do I still consider myself a friend of God or are we more like frenemies?

Good question. I’d like to believe I am not an enemy of God. I certainly don’t believe God is my enemy. We have been a bit estranged in the past year and a half. We have wrestled an awful lot–and I have yet to win one single match. But I still wrestle. I guess I am stubborn like that.

Often friends get crossways with one another. But getting crossways or having a difference of opinion doesn’t mean abandoning the relationship.

If rape and a double murder could be construed as God’s plan for me, my anger would be much greater. If God was trying to help me grow or teach me some lesson and thereby let this happen, then I would be sorely ticked off at Him. There are much nicer ways to get my attention. I don’t think God was doing that. I don’t think God caused the perverted creep to do the perverted creep things he did.

I doubt I’ll ever have full understanding, but I am thankful God has not abandoned me in my time of questioning and wrestling!

And you know what? I am not alone. There are lots of us out here who struggle to understand why our lives have fallen apart–why so many bad things have to happen–why we continue to endure while others skip through life with hardly a disruptive ripple.

We are many. And as long as this earth lasts unredeemed, we will be here.

We are not going away. Chances are, there may be an unwanted occasion when you become one of us. I hope not, but that’s the reality of this world…

In the meantime, I’d like to share a guest post from a man who has also endured much.

Blog, meet Kansas Bob. Here’s what he has written:

In March of 1990 my life fell apart. Ellen, my wife of 19 years, had a heart attack and kidney failure.

In the following four years my whole life’s focus was caring for her. Everything else I was doing, ministry-wise, stopped.

I slowly died on the inside.

It was during this time that I began to be confronted by the control issues that surrounded me and lived deep within me.

As I continually prayed for my wife she got weaker and weaker.
And my frustration got stronger and stronger.

I had no control over what was happening. My children began having problems in school. They too were dealing with a deepening grief about their mom’s health.

All the while I was being forced to change – I hated it. All of the things in life that I thought I had figured out were unraveling before my eyes. Everything that was important to me was falling apart.

I was dying on the inside and in May of 1994 my dear wife of 23 years died.

The past years had taken a toll on our family, my 14 year old son, my 10 year old daughter and me.

We were all devastated at my wife’s death.
We all expected her to get well.

That is what we prayed for.
I believed in healing and miracles.
Standing by her side I even prayed for a resurrection when my wife breathed her last.

The aftermath of her death found my son medicating with drugs, my daughter struggling with identity issues and me dealing with a broken theology.

I increasingly became aware of how much I had been led by principles and precepts.
Subconsciously I had developed a complex internal system of rules and logic concerning life.

These “of course” were all based in scripture and encompassed words like “authority” and “submission”.

Unclear to me was the real issue – living by rules put me in control.

For years I lived the life of a “led by the Spirit” Christian when in truth, I was more like a rules following control freak.

Sadly, my legalistic approach to life and Christianity bred an arrogant attitude towards people who didn’t see the scriptures the same way I did.

When my wife was sick, the arrogant attitude began to give way to glimpses of humility.

I was humbled when meals came into my home from friends at church for 10 weeks.

Coping with hospitalizations, doctor’s bills (from 40+ doctors), hemodialysis, and a boatload of medical problems brought me to a place of breaking.

I was losing control.
I didn’t want to let go of my legalistic ideas and practices but had no option.
I could no longer maintain and feed the on stuff that once brought my ego such satisfaction.

The years after my wife’s passing brought many changes in my life.

That major theme of losing control seemed to subtly resurface as my children began to outwardly grieve the loss of their mom.

“Control” is a major battlefield for one trapped in black and white thinking.
It is all about “control”.

That brings me to the end of 2002.

I had remarried and Ann, my new wife, was going through an intense health crisis that involved paralysis.

I was beside myself once again when the Holy Spirit began to speak to me.
He spoke to me about life and living.
About letting go and flowing in life instead of controlling.
He said that life isn’t something to be managed like a project but something to be lived.

God was beginning to slay my desire to be in control.

Little did I know how much this would be tested over the coming years.

In the summer of 2007 my wife had another relapse of this nasty neurological disease called Neuromyelitis Optica.

This time she did not bounce back like the many times before.
This time she could not walk.
This time she would need to use a wheelchair to get around.
And she does to this day.

In January 2008 I read this quote from G. K. Chesterton:

“Why be something to everybody when you can be everything to somebody?”

It got me crying.

And over the following months I became convinced that God was leading me to leave my job as a pastor.

That summer I retired to minister full time at home.

I still find it difficult to let go and not control but I am making progress.

I try to see issues in the color gray rather than in black and white.
I do things these days that have clear boundaries.
I listen more to the advice of friends and family.
I honor the choices of my adult children even when I don’t agree with them.

And in all things I remember that God loves me and wants me to trust Him.

Not that I always do.

After all, trust is an issue of letting go and giving up control.

Kansas Bob
http://kansasbob.com