The Very Worst Most Horrendous Awful Horrible Christmas Songs Ever?

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(Pic from Rawhide & Velvet)

Thought I’d share with you an article I wrote for our church bulletin this week… Enjoy!

Every year I hear people complaining about their least favorite Christmas songs.

Mostly I am shocked at their choices.  I mean for real, you know mommy was kissing Santa Claus.  Happens at my house all year long—at least if I am good! (Hey Sweetie, I promise I’ll be good. Sort of.)

As for me and grandpa, we believe grandma did get run over by a reindeer, bless her silly little heart.  If I am not mistaken, one of my neighbors shot, stuffed, and hung that bad boy on his living room wall. I have seen it myself.

Oh, the drama.

I can’t figure out why so many are upset over Christmas Shoes.  I mean who wouldn’t want a new pair of fuzzy pink house shoes for Christmas?  Personally, I wish they’d sing about Christmas boots instead.  I could always use a new pair of Ariat’s.

I’ll admit that I kind of wondered where they are coming from with Santa Baby.  It seems counter-intuitive to me. I just imagine those fuzzy outfits would irritate any baby, no matter if it is cold outside.

As for poor old Paul McCartney, give that good British knight a break. Don’t be a real-life mean one, Mr. Grinch! Only a Grinch deliberately plans to not have a wonderful Christmas time

I hope you are smiling with me!

Christmas means a lot of things to a lot of people. For the most part, I enjoy this time of year.

For some there is great theological meaning. Indeed, without the incarnation, we would never experience the Cross. Without the Cross, we would never know redemption, restoration, and reconciliation.

For others, Christmas is a happy time of family—a special Kodachrome occasion for creating memories and remembering days gone by.  I am thankful for the memories I cherish of Christmas past.  I look forward with great anticipation to many more festive occasions in the future.

Even so, I am also reminded forcefully of those who are missing from around the family tree. I must acknowledge that this holiday is a difficult occasion for some–including me at times.

However, you celebrate, with whatever family traditions you imbue this time of year, I trust you will be enveloped by the presence of God–that you will know the joy of the Savior–that you will embody the Spirit of God that indwells you.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13 NIV11)

Merry Christmas to All and to All a good night!

Les, Jr.

PS. For those who might still be interested, I am still working on a book–Over 127 pages of single spaced words have been written (that’s a word count of 42, 708) Not gonna quit!

My Eyes Are Dry

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

Don’t get your hopes up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David, a man after God’s own heart?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I long for the heart of God.

How about you?

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

I Am Waiting…

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As I write this I am waiting.

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

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

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

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

And so I wait.

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

And so I wait.

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

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

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

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

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

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

May the greatest of blessings be yours this season.

Merry Christmas to all…

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS.

The Power Of A Villain Story–By Tyler Jarvis

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One of the things I like the most about the Bible is that it doesn’t pull any punches. I mean, there are lots of guys who are generally “good” guys but who do really crappy things. Generally, when you read a story, the main character is presented in the most likable light possible.

Not in the Bible. Or at least, not always.

In the Bible, you hear about guys like David, who was famously described as a man after God’s own heart, but who also impregnated a woman who was married to another guy, and then carried out a plan to kill the woman’s husband so he wouldn’t be caught.

In the Bible, you hear about guys like Samson, who served as a Judge of Israel and was supposed to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines, but he actually just winds up breaking all the vows he made to God, and even when he does kill a few Philistines, it’s too little too late, and he dies without having done what he was called to do.

In the Bible, you hear about guys like Peter who was the rock on which the Church was built, but who was portrayed as incredibly dim-witted all throughout the Gospels. And even after the resurrection, when Peter is supposed to be super awesome all the time, Paul still has to get onto Peter for being a racist.

I think it’s important that these stories are included in the Bible, because the writers understood the importance of a villain story. It’s important to have stories about people who screw things up. It’s important to tell the stories of the guys who weren’t always good at following God.

Because really, that’s our story. I can relate to guy who does good and bad things. I’m familiar with seeking after God’s heart, but also trying to make myself look good. I know what it’s like to know what God has called me too, and to ignore it because there were other, better things to do. I know how it is to want to follow Christ, but to make stupid mistakes.

The Bible includes all these stories to show us that being a follower of God isn’t just something for the elite. David wasn’t bred to be a holy King. He was a shepherd boy who accidentally found himself anointed to be King, and he screwed up along the way. Samson had strength, but lacked the discipline and desire to follow God. Peter was self-absorbed, and only followed Jesus because he thought Jesus was going to lead a violent rebellion against the Romans, but he wound up leading Christ’s Church.

This is important to note, because, like Peter, Samson, and David, we’re not always going to be the good guy. We are going to do things that are stupid, shameful, and Un-Christlike. At some point in our lives, we are going to do things that hurt the cause of the Kingdom of God. And God can use us anyway.
Because the Christian story isn’t a hero story. It’s not a fairy tale. It’s a real story about real people who seek after God and who screw up. It’s a story about people who are constantly being transformed, but who sometimes resist that transformation. It’s a story about people who don’t always look more like God today than they did yesterday.

And that’s encouraging. Because I take steps back. I have days like David, where if people knew what I’d done, they would probably think I wasn’t a Christian. I have days like Peter, where even though I work as a leader in a Church, I exclude people that I’m supposed to include. I have days like Samson, where God gives me everything I need to follow him, and I do my own thing anyway. And it’s on those days that I need these reminders that God’s not finished with me yet. Even on the days that I’m the villain of the story, God works in and through me.

We should strive to be followers of God. We should strive to be after God’s own heart. We should strive to be perfect as God is perfect. But we should also rest in the comfort that God uses us when we screw up. Some of the greatest heroes of the faith were bigger screw-ups than you and me.

Sometimes, the villains make the best heroes.

Tyler Jarvis is the youth minister at the Oak Ridge Church of Christ in Willow Park, TX. He’s married to his wonderful wife Andrea and they have zero kids. He enjoys playing guitar, rock climbing, and writing about himself in the third person. You can check out his blog at tylerjarvis.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter at @Tyler_Jarvis.

Summer Blog Tour–The Power of Telling A Story

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I am participating in a summer blog tour–over the next few weeks, there will be a number of guests posts. I will be writing for this as well.

To kick it off, I gladly share the following by Steve Ridgell…

The Power of Telling a Story

Jesus often used stories to illustrate how to live as his disciples. I believe hearing the stories of Jesus still equip us to live out his call on our lives. And here is one example of how I think that works.

I have often heard people talk about the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28, but I wonder if we have missed what it means.   It is too easy to simply make the point that “go into all the world” means go out of your front door and into your world.

What does that mean in terms of real life action? I believe Jesus explains exactly how his followers go into their world and make other followers. I think he shows how to go, where to go, and what to do when we get there.

Listen to the stories he told about going into your world.

How do I go? I go living forgiven.

She was a woman caught in adultery. The response by those who caught her was the familiar refrain of guilt, shame, and feelings of worthlessness. But Jesus offered forgiveness, not condemnation. And then he told her to “go and leave your life of sin”. Go back among her friends and family as a changed person. Live forgiven. That is how we demonstrate the truth that Jesus changes lives. We are the living examples of God’s work in this world.

Where do I go? To those in need – and then serve them intentionally.

The story of the Good Samaritan was told to illustrate who is our neighbor. It is the story of a man who saw someone in need and then did something about it. He cared for them. Your world, your neighborhood, is full of hurting people in need of help. Physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs. Sick people, abused people, lonely people, addicted people. The last thing Jesus said after the story of the Good Samaritan was for us to “go and do the same.” So we go into our world as servants committed to helping others. But we do it with purpose.

We serve intentionally in the name of Jesus. This gives us credibility to speak into lives. Our lives are living proof that Jesus works. Our service is the proof that the Jesus story is worth hearing.

What do I do when I go? Speak with courage the story of Jesus.

He fought so many demons he was called Legion. He was lonely and in pain. Jesus met him, connected with him, and healed him. When Jesus left that place, Legion was ready to go with him. He was all in for a mission trip with Jesus. Except that Jesus told him no. Instead, he told him to go home to his family and tell them what the Lord had done for him and how he had mercy on him.

Our lives give credibility to the story of Jesus. Our service gives opportunity to share that story. But you will not make followers of Jesus in your world until you tell them the good news of Jesus. Tell your story. Tell His story. And invite them to become part of the story.

Go into all the world. Go into your world.

Live Forgiven.

Serve with Purpose.

Speak with Courage.

And you will make followers… who will make followers… who will make followers.

Buffalo Gap

Steve Ridgell lives to share the story of Jesus with this world. In addition to his work as Director of Ministry for Hope for Life (http://hopeforlife.org), Steve is a regular writer for Heartlight.org and has written books. His latest book is Can I Tell You a Story? https://www.21stcc.com/viewproduct.cfm/resultstable/tblItem/prodno/9780890984550/startrow/1

Steve also serves as an elder at the Southern Hills church of Christ in Abilene, Texas.

How Do You Smell?

I have been away for far too long. No excuses, just busy with preaching, traveling (you can catch my Pepperdine class on podcast at iTunes), and working on this house so we can move in the middle of June. In the meantime, Conner graduates from High School next weekend and… between that and trying to figure out college, well, writing took a back seat…

At any rate, here’s something I wrote this week…

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Hurricane Katrina was one of those defining moments in life. It was a before and after delineation and everything you did or had done was put through that particular filter.

Back before Katrina, we used to…
After Katrina, we had to…

I came out of Katrina and all of its associated recovery with some strange idiosyncrasies.

For a long time, I filled up my vehicle every time it got to three quarters of a full tank—I did not want to get stuck without enough gas to get where I might need to go!

And then there is the whole antiperspirant situation.
Yes, you are reading about antiperspirant in the church bulletin.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, you couldn’t make a trip to Wally World for whatever you needed, whenever you needed it. And because there was no electricity (and therefore no air conditioning) or fresh water to bath in, antiperspirant was worth its weight in gold. I came out of that experience with a determination to always have at least two unused antiperspirants at home at all times…

Yes, I know it’s weird.
Yes, I know I am weird.
And yes, you can tell me any of the above.
But, you will never–to the best of my ability–be able to truthfully say I literally stink!

This article might stink.
My sermons might stink.
Occasionally, my attitude might stink.

But not me, not me! No sir and no ma’am.
Fresh as a daisy—that’s my plan and my approach. And if I do happen by some astronomically poor planning to run out of antiperspirant, I am going to have enough gas to get somewhere to buy what I need!

How much does a guy have to pay to get an Amen?

In the book of Proverbs, we read that there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (14:12)

When I say, death stinks, you will most likely agree. It does. Seeing those we love suffer and die, stinks to the high heavens. Visiting a cemetery stinks like nothing else can.

Death stinks.

Years and years ago, Loudon Wainwright III sang a rather goofy song about a dead skunk in the middle of the road stinking to high heaven

Death stinks. And when it is the stench of death and decay from our rebellion and sin? There is not an antiperspirant or deodorant good enough to mask that smell.

Thankfully, for those in Christ, we are given a new aroma—not a masked, powdered, covered over smell—but the very aroma of Christ himself. (2 Corinthians 2:15)

Death stinks.

How do you smell?

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

A Season of Hope/ A Redeemed Story

Over the last couple of years, I have publicly and privately expressed a lot of pain. I have not wavered from sharing my struggles. I have ranted and raved. I have shaken my fist. I have stomped my feet like a petulant child–literally and on the pages of this blog.

Occasionally, I have been asked to speak and share my story. At times I have chosen to offer help to those who hurt too. Sometimes, my message was more about what not so say and how to treat those who are suffering. At this point in my life, I am never more excited than when I get to share what God has done in the redemption, restoration, and reconciliation of my life. Better yet, I am thrilled when I have the chance to help people see hope–to know that God can redeem not just their souls from sin, but that He can and does redeem their stories.

Stories.

We all have a story. Some of us can’t escape the knowledge of our stories, they are ever before us. Some of us are blessed to have stories of far less drama and tragedy than others. But all of us have a story. We each have a story of sin and the broken life that follows. We have a story of loneliness and despair. We have a story of _________________ (I’ll let you fill in the blank).

We each have a story, but no matter what yours is or isn’t, here’s hope: There is no story too horrific or too ugly for God to redeem.

None.
Not a single one.
No matter the details.
No matter the guilt.
No matter the shame and embarrassment.
No matter the consequences still yet to be faced.

None.
Not a single one.

Yours, like mine, can be redeemed.
Beauty can be found again.
Although different from before, life can be resumed once more.

In today’s post, I’d like you to notice the tag line has changed to be more reflective of where I am on this journey…

From the crash and burn of destruction and despair to a posture embracing redemption, restoration, and reconciliation, this is my journey of leaning on the gospel of grace…

And lean I do… For where I lean, I find hope!

For those who walked this journey with me, a million billion gazillion thanks. Yours is a story worthy of telling and telling soon!

In the meantime, the following links are the beginnings of Desperately Wanting To Believe Again.

If you choose to stop reading here, Happy Easter! It is a season of hope!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

**Warning: Graphic Details Ahead**

http://lesfergusonjr.com/2013/02/08/blogging-porno…hy-its-obscene/ ‎

 http://lesfergusonjr.com/2013/03/06/obscenity-redux/ ‎

Is It Icey or Icy?

IMG_0899 (looking out the kitchen window)

In 1977, the British-American rock band, Foreigner, released their hit single Cold As Ice. And while they were singing of a relationship gone awry, the imagery is apropos.

Ice.

It is very cold. As Cold As Ice.

Literally.

As I write this I am sitting in the kitchen lingering over a late breakfast/ lunch.

Ice is everywhere.

I went to get some firewood a bit ago, but the driveway was so slick with ice, I envisioned an unhealthy and painful fall… so I came back inside where I sit reading, contemplating, and writing…

Ice.

Everywhere I look here in the woods of north Warren County is the evidence of cold, bitter weather.

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As Vanilla Ice once said, ice, ice, baby.

It’s everywhere.

We are pretty much iced in. When the gravel road is as slick as… well, ice, you are not going anywhere anytime soon.

At this stage of the game, I am thankful we have not lost power and for what remains of our dwindling firewood supply. And if completely honest, I also confess to being thankful for the still warm plate of deer sausage in front of me.

Ice, ice, baby.

And if you want to know the cold, icy truth of my life, I am thankful for the ice today. The ice we are predicted to endure tomorrow is another story, but for today, I am thankful for the forced isolation. I am thankful for the forced slowdown. I am thankful for the time to relax—to have the family home in one place…

Ice, ice, baby.

As God said to Job, Whose womb did the ice come from? Who gave birth to the frost of heaven when water becomes as hard as stone, and the surface of the watery depths is frozen? (Job 38:29-30 HCSB)

Thank you, Lord.
For family.
For heat.
For good food.
For coffee.
And for the ice that pauses and brings reflection.

Ice is cold, but my heart is warm…

Ice, ice, baby!

And by the way, it’s icy not icey out there!

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Somewhere deep in the woods of Oak Ridge…

Momma Said!

So I am back to preaching and being a minister.
And because ministry often involves serving people at times of great pain and heartache, I find myself sharing in funeral services once more.

Last week a much beloved member of our church lost his battle with cancer and won the victory in Jesus. As I contemplated being a part of a funeral service again, I penned what you read below.

But before you read, I am still searching for the right name for this blog–so stay tuned, changes are coming sooner or later that will hopefully reflect my new reality!

Thanks for being a part of my life!

Les, Jr.

Most Moms are founts of knowledge and wisdom. And most of us grew up with any number of things we needed to heed and remember simply because Momma said.

My mother and my life were then and are still no different.

Momma said.

And she did.

Things like:

If you can’t say anything nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all.

 Don’t talk with your mouth full.

Chew your food up.

Wash your hands.

Be on time.

Wear socks to church.

Be nice to your brother.

Be a gentleman at all times.

Be nice to your sisters and their friends–you might marry one of those friends one day.

Yes, Momma said.

Well maybe not that part about marrying one of my sister’s friends. But she should have because I did!

I am thankful for all the warnings and wisdom found in what Momma said. Thanks to her, I have thus far avoided the catastrophic indignity of riding in an ambulance to the hospital while wearing ratty old undergarments! (And by using the word undergarments, I have also avoided using in public a word/ subject Momma said I shouldn’t talk about).

Momma said.

One time before a date, Momma said I should always keep a copy of the Bible between me and whatever lucky girl I was with. When I asked her (my momma, not my date) about the validity of just using a small checkbook sized New Testament instead, I distinctly remember that Momma said something I didn’t want to hear…

Momma said.

Momma said we shouldn’t use the word hate.

Momma said we shouldn’t hate anybody or anything.

I am hoping that Momma will give me a one-time pass on this one…

Because I hate dying and death.

I hate the pain and suffering of all concerned.

I hate the heartache.

I hate the long-term struggle of coming to grips with the empty seats at the table.

I hate dying and death.

I do.

I do.

I am not alone.

Not by a long shot.

I am not alone.

The psalmist says in Psalm 116:3-4, The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the torments of Sheol overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of Yahweh: “Yahweh, save me!”

Death was not a friend of the psalmist. In fact, he reminds us that God knows the high cost of this thing, this enemy we hate…

Psalm 116:15, The death of His faithful ones is valuable in the Lord’s sight.

I hate death, but in Christ, death’s victory will be short-lived…

Death, where is your victory?
Death, where is your sting?
Now the sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ!
(1 Corinthians 15:55-57 HCSB)

Momma said I could trust God in this.

I do.

I do.

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory!

Amen!

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!)

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