Imago Dei (2)

Writing, writing, writing…  I am writing left and right it seems these days. And I love it! I am amazed to see myself where I am… Thank you for reading and sharing and encouraging! I am blessed and thankful!

The following is the second in a series of old bulletin articles…

Mad face.

Grumpy face.

Happy face.

I must be a horrible father because I cannot remember which boy. One of them, either Conner or Casey, was good at making faces on demand. They were quite funny. The happy face was sweet. But the grumpy and mad faces were hysterical because they served as miniature caricatures of how many adults look and act.

Honestly, I don’t know many people—adults especially—who haven’t perfected wearing the grumpy woe-is-me-the-world-is-ending kind of face.

Likewise, I have seen enough mad faces to know it doesn’t take any special skill to scare the socks off folks with a practiced, well-aimed glare.

And if I can be a bit meddlesome, some of us deserve an Academy Award except for one thing; we aren’t acting!

I teased Mickey in my article last week. I am not going to tease him this time. I have never seen his grumpy or mad face. I suspect he has one of each, but if you want to know more, you’ll have to check with Kay.

In the meantime, the Latin phrase Imago Dei means the image of God. When those words are used, it is meant to convey the same thing you read about last week.

Genesis 1: 26a, Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness….

We bear the image of God.

Now some question what that means. There are those who think its about knowledge and wisdom from God. Others see this as something we lost with the Fall of Man. Still more understand we were each created with a bit of the divine and therefore have inherent value, worth, and identity.

Imago Dei. Image bearer. It’s that last concept that really rings true for me. I have value. You have worth. A part of God is in each of us. We were made in His image. That ought to give rise to a happy face.

It ought to also make us pause when we treat badly someone whom God has made and infused with the precious gift of life.

What did Jesus say?

You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Whoever insults his brother or sister, will be subject to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hellfire. (Matthew 5:21–22 CSB17)

Whose image does your face, words, and action resemble?

It’s worth considering again what it means to bear the image of God!

Les, Jr.

PS. Try to make a happy face right now. Try to keep it all day long. I triple dog dare you…

Suck It Up Buttercup!

fat-man-running

These have been my mantras of late:

  • Endurance.
  • Perseverance.
  • Fight through the pain.
  • Soreness is weakness leaving your body.
  • It doesn’t matter where you start; It’s where you finish that counts.
  • I may be slow, but I’m faster than everyone still sitting on the couch.

And my favorite motivational phrase (thanks to Becki who found the t-shirt) is Suck it up Buttercup!

Over the last twelve weeks I have been on a journey of pain, soreness, competition, and learning about myself.

As a result, I am healthier, fitter and more fully engaged in a long-term transformation procedure. (Not where I want to be yet, but getting there…)

They call it Fitness Bootcamp.
I call it a desire to live better.

(Huge shoutout to Paul Lacoste, Clark Bruce & team at Paul Lacoste Sports–these are the guys to work with, hands down!)

I am not the first to do such a thing.
I will not be the last.
Actually, I am already signed up for another go!

(Good gracious, who was the chucklehead who invented burpees?)

This weight loss, get-in-shape, be healthier process is a lot like life. Christianity itself calls for perseverance and running the race with determination and endurance.

1 Corinthians 9:24, Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize.

And so we run and train spiritually all the while knowing:

  • There will be detours.
  • There will be roadblocks.
  • There will be difficult competition.
  • There will be temptations to take shortcuts.
  • There will be pain.
  • There will be soreness.
  • And there will be days when you will desperately need the attitude and demeanor that says Suck it up Buttercup.

But no matter how hard life gets…

No matter how difficult this world can be…

No matter what tribulations come, we serve a God who tells us quite clearly that He has this!

Romans 8:35-39, Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

So do me a favor. If you see me struggling—if you catch me wallowing—then not so gently please  remind me, Suck it up buttercup!

arm_muscle

Blessings to you and yours,

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

Brett Favre’s Second Biggest Fan?

There is hopefully, a significant point to what you will read below. It is not to make you sad.

Not at all.

On the other hand, I hope you find the same joy and confidence in the Lord…

Trevor Cole Ferguson is my son.  I miss him so.

I miss his funny way of talking.
I miss the mischievous gleam in his eyes.
I miss his big wide open smile.
I miss the way he talked trash about even his own favorite football team if he thought it would get your goat.

Brett Favre never had a bigger fan unless it was his mother–I even miss having to hear about him constantly.

I miss my son.
And yet…

I am glad of the comfort I have in knowing he rests now in the arms of Jesus. But, as any parent who has lost a child understands, I miss him so.

We are coming up this fall on the fifth anniversary of the two deaths that so transformed our lives.  I am so thankful God has worked through heartache and pain to bring such great joy back into my life/ our lives.

Last week, we got to spend time with Cole’s namesake–our eight-month old grandson, Jude Cole Ferguson.  We did so in a place where I have such good memories of my Cole. It was fun, sweet, and beautiful to play, snuggle and love on that precious little boy. His smiles are infectious and I hated to see them go back to their own home in Tennessee…

The more time that passes, the more I have learned to appreciate Psalms 86:5…

 For You, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive, rich in faithful love to all who call on You. (Psalms 86:5 HCSB)

The Lord is kind, rich in faithful love.

It’s hard to believe at this stage in my life how much joy, peace, contentment, and love I am experiencing/ living with. Some of that comes from having a wife and family that enjoys one another. Some of that comes from having a church family like Lake Harbour Drive. Some of it comes from a perspective that is determined to enjoy life and live it to the full. All of it comes from God!

The Lord is kind, rich in faithful love.

A week ago this past Thursday was our fourth wedding anniversary.  Becki and I got away that Saturday night for dinner by ourselves. It was to loud to talk much, but not to loud to make goo-goo eyes across the table. Turns out, I am good at making goo goo eyes! The whole evening was a blessing in more ways than one. Keep reading and you will see why…

Our waiter/ server that night was funny. More than just funny, he was delightful and entertaining. He made the evening good even without the serendipity of his name.

His name?
Yes, his name…

Trevor.

And I had to smile.

God is good in ways we sometimes cannot anticipate or begin to imagine—but if we learn to listen and see with our hearts, we might, just might come to know God’s love more deeply.

For You, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive, rich in faithful love to all who call on You. (Psalms 86:5 HCSB)

Les, Jr.

Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

Doing the Maybe Dance

If you have woken up any day in the past couple of weeks and thought, I don’t recognize my world anymore, I completely understand…

Call me naïve.
Consider me sheltered.
And maybe even wonder if I have had my head in the sand…

But at the end of the day, I don’t recognize my world anymore.

I don’t understand how folks can be so full of hate that they shoot up churches. And it’s not like I haven’t personally experienced evil. To the contrary, I am well aware of how wicked and ugly people can be.

I don’t understand how and why folks can twist what is good and right into a perversion or caricature of what is intended.

I don’t understand how Christians can claim Christ and be hateful and spiteful—to each other and anybody else they find disagreement with.

So, if you are like me and hear yourself saying, I don’t recognize my world anymore

I get it.
In my best 80’s Valley Girl imitation, I so totally get it, dude! Or dude-ette. Whatever the case may be.

Up is down.
Down is up.
Right is wrong.
Wrong is right.

I don’t recognize my world anymore.

To some degree or in certain situations or circumstances, maybe I am naïve or sheltered. Maybe my head has been firmly entrenched in sand. I am not really prepared to argue it one way or another.

However I got here, I don’t recognize my world anymore. But since we are doing the maybe dance… Maybe that’s a good thing.

Because as it looks and feels today, Christianity is on the wrong side of culture.
Out of step.
Behind the times.
Old-fashioned.
Out of tune.
Or better yet, counter-culture.

Maybe we need to remember that because, well…

Maybe we have depended entirely too much on a government to provide the standard of what is good, right, and wholesome.

And maybe we have become entirely too comfortable with this world—too agreeable with a stance that doesn’t rock the boat or make some kind of a wave.

And maybe in all of our hand wringing when faced with the fact that the world’s values have never been that of the church, maybe we’ll remember we are here to share the eternal perspective of Jesus.

And maybe we have lost sight of the fact that this world is not our home.

And maybe we’ve forgotten that broken is broken and we are all broken in some form or fashion.

And in a maybe that might be the worst, maybe we have just simply loved ourselves more than others—and maybe in our own self-preoccupation, we have lost sight of that fact loving others isn’t always easy or pretty.

Finally, as we bring this maybe dance to a close, maybe we should quit saying maybe and remember the words of Jesus…

If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don’t know the One who sent Me. (John 15:18–21 HCSB)

And then,

You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:11–14 HCSB)

Maybe?
No maybe to it.

Counter-culture.
Salt and light.
Love and hope.
Mercy and grace.
That’s our answer to a world we don’t understand anymore.

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

David Bowie Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Me…

In another world, in a different time, David Bowie sang that it was time to turn and face the strange changes

Indeed.

In the same song, he also said he didn’t want to be a richer man, instead, he was just gonna have to be a different man.

Yes, indeed.

While I wouldn’t sneeze at the opportunity to be a little more financially independent, being rich materialistically is not one of my life-shaping goals.

I’m just gonna have to be a different man.

How many times can a guy say indeed in one blog post?
Apparently, at least five times…

So once again, indeed.

I am just gonna have to be a different man and I am.

Strange changes abound. Strange changes indeed.

I suspect as long as I am alive, there will occasionally be moments of anger and pain, heartache and rage–yes, joy comes in the morning, but there are plenty more nights of questions and grief to come.

And I am ok with that.

Indeed (somebody stop me…).
There’s one of those strange changes… I have learned to not be afraid of it–grief serves its purpose and while tears can be bitter, they can also be cleansing…

I am thankful for many of the changes in my life.
I am thankful for lessons learned.

My reality has changed.
I am enjoying life.
To quote the Foo Fighters, who will have their own post fairly soon (as in almost done), I am learning to walk again…

Strange Changes.

I am wrestling with a new name for my blog. Desperately Wanting to Believe Again has served it’s purpose. I never quit believing. I do believe. I still struggle with trust at times, but I trust God even if I don’t always understand.

I am done with bitterness. I may be bitter at times or for a moment, but I never want to embrace bitterness again.

I may still have hurt. Pain will raise itself once in awhile, but I never want to be that guy again whose hurt turns him into a pariah.

It’s time to move forward.
It’s time time live again.
And I am.
I am.

Ok. So I am blathering on like the crazy strange man I am.

Four more things:

1. I am going to recommit to writing here more often–giving it the good old college try (whatever that means).

2. I am going to make significant progress on my book (call the first two New Year resolutions if you want).

3. If you have an idea for a new blog name reflecting my new reality, please share it ASAP.

4. Here’s a sermon from the first Sunday of 2015 (last week)–it ends with what I call a story of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation…

God bless and Happy New Year!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

and oh yeah, one more piece of happiness…

My beautiful wife and our new house in Madison, Mississippi! (This picture was from yesterday–after we closed on the house!)

New_house

There is Always Hope; This I know!

hope

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

In some ways it has.

And yet the reality is I am still standing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three years later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Les Ferguson, Jr.

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.

News I Can Use

So.
In the life is stranger than fiction category, my resurrection saga continues.
In the category of never saying never, well, I made that mistake too.
In the category of a seemingly never-ending job search, well, that’s a wrap!

Hallelujah! I have a job. And not just a job, a ministry! I have been given the opportunity to serve with and minister to and for the wonderful folks at the Lake Harbour Drive Church of Christ in Ridgeland, MS.

I am beyond excited. I cannot wait to begin working with this group of elders, deacons, and saints.

Will there be problems and difficulties? Absolutely!
Will I have to stretch and grow? Without a doubt, yes!
Will there be growing pains? Of course.

But I am still overwhelmed by the knowledge: God is not through with me yet!

If God is not through with me, then rest assured, God is not through with you either! Life can be hard, unyielding, and relentless. It can feel for all the world like unending roller coaster of pain and suffering.

I get that. Been there; done that. Got the T-Shirt. And still I wrestle and struggle… In some ways, I always will until this life ends and my eternity begins.

But God is still God.
His Throne is secure.

So hold on.
Hold on.

God is not through with us yet.

And if you are in the area, come see us. I start my new job (did I mention I have a fantastic new job?) on April 28th.

I’ll post a real blog post soon.
Promise.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Waiters, Part 2.

The letter to the Romans is a fascinating read/ study. It is one of my favorites. A long time ago in a life sometimes hard to remember, I studied this New Testament jewel in my undergrad days with the guidance of Cecil May, Jr.

Romans 8 is a chapter that brings me great hope. I suspect you know these verses:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-38, NIV)

There’s hope for sure.

But earlier in the chapter there is another bit of hope.
Especially for those of us who wait upon the Lord.
Patiently.
Impatiently.
Angrily.
Stoically.
With tears and without.

However you wait, Romans 8:18-22 says, I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

We do not wait alone.

I find it comforting to know that even Creation itself recognizes the brokenness of nature. I find it comforting to know that even Creation understands our pain and heartache were never meant to be.

In John Waller’s song, While I Am Waiting, he sings of waiting patiently, hopefully, obediently, peacefully, and faithfully.

I love his song. I suspect I’d like him as a human being. But I am a long way from singing this song. At least truthfully.

I am more confident than I have been in the past that God is doing something in me and through me. But to be completely honest, I sure wish He would speed up the process.

My waiting is full of every inconsistency you can imagine.
In fact, there are things I await that will require a lifetime of living to get through. I want the then to be a part of my now, except it’s not.

So I wait.
I wait to see what God will do with my ministry desires.
I wait to see the redemption of what was to what will be.

Waiting is hard. But waiting is easier when you know there are others who wait also.

Some of you are waiting on God.
Some of you are waiting on life to be restored; some for time to be no more.
Some of you are waiting on hearts that just won’t heal; some for the time when life seems more real.

I can’t fix what you are waiting for. And you may or may not have the power to help end some of my wait.

But this I can do: I’ll wait with you.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

 

The Tulsa Workshop

Last week was amazing.

I used to go to The Tulsa Workshop as a teenager. Later as a college student and after, it became a yearly conference to attend—usually with my college buddies.

Over the years, this workshop has reinvigorated me.
It has challenged me.
It has fed me.

And the fellowship… these guys I have gone with have been some of my closest friends since I was 18 years old.

For awhile I missed a few years.
Hurricane Katrina disrupted an entire year of our lives. There was no time for such a trip.
And then, Cole’s disease progressed to the point that it was just unfair to leave one person at home to help care for him.

So I missed some years.

But last week was amazing.

I enjoyed my time with Becki.
I enjoyed my time with some of my oldest friends.
I enjoyed getting to meet face-to-face some folks I’d corresponded with for a good long while.
I networked.
I hobnobbed.
I enjoyed some of the best singing this side of eternity.

It was all good stuff.

And the icing on the cake? I was privileged to be one of the speakers. (You know how some kids want to be a professional baseball player? I wanted to be a Tulsa Workshop speaker!)

It was a challenge.

One topic was The Weakness of God. I love speaking about this. I really love it. And if you think the title is somehow blasphemous, just know it comes straight out of scripture. It is a message of hope to all who are broken. It is a reminder that God is not absent or done.

The other two sessions were back-to-back lessons on Is It Ok To Have Doubt, Part 1 & 2. So much of my understanding, belief, and theology about God, faith, and struggle has undergone a massive transformation. This topic in particular forced me to put some cohesive thought into the relationship between doubt and faith.

I don’t think I have ever spoken anywhere on any subject where people seemed to resonate with what I said like they did at the workshop.

It was gratifying.
It gave me a sense of ministry that has been missing from my life.
It allowed me to feel like me if only for a short time.
And more than anything else, I drove away from Tulsa knowing I had said some things some needed to hear.

I will always be grateful to God and The Tulsa Workshop.

Lots of potential changes in my life… I am praying for the opportunity to wrestle with some decisions. Would you pray with me?

And while you are at it, check out my post on the Holy Spirit as The Comforter over at Wineskins. I’d love to know what you think!

By the way, in a shameless bit of promotion, all of the lessons presented at the workshop can be ordered from their website.

Yours,

Les Ferguson, Jr.