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.

IMG_0900

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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Pumpernickel, Anyone?

bread

Bread.
I am not a fan.
But don’t get me wrong because I like bread.

I know some people who just get all ga-ga about bread.
They could care less for the entree’s at O’Charley’s, but will go to the moon and back to eat a couple baskets of those hot fresh buttered rolls.

Other bread specialty restaurants can be found here and there.
Maybe you’ve had an opportunity to experience the “throwed rolls” at one of the three Lambert’s Cafes… it’s all ok, but throwing a roll across the room doesn’t really change how it tastes.

I am really not the bread Grinch.
I like bread.

Some have referred to bread as the staff of life because it has long been the main ingredient of the human diet.

Sometimes we refer to something that is really neat as being the greatest thing since sliced bread.

James Beard, an American icon and culinary expert, once said, Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.

I don’t much like plain white loaf bread. But then if you slather it with mayonnaise, add slices of thick garden fresh tomatoes, and liberally dose it with salt and pepper… Oh, man. That is a slice of nirvana held in two hands…

I really like BLT’s… But honestly, a BLT is nothing more than a different vehicle for getting bacon off the plate and onto the taste buds.

I can dig a good club sandwich. But heaven is a Reuben on Rye with a good sauce and sauerkraut.

Maybe I like bread better than I think.

What’s your favorite bread?

Or better yet, what are you consuming?

Here’s a painful confession…

When Karen and Cole were murdered, I was ill prepared.
And obviously that’s a great understatement in one perspective. How could you be prepared?

Here’s where the painful confession comes to play… in my life as a preacher and an elder, I was busy. Busy writing and speaking. Busy helping others. Busy feeding the flock. But my consumption of bread, my feeding on the Word of God was almost non-existent. I neglected my own relationship for the sake of others and it cost me dearly. When tragedy occurred, when the pain and heartache hit, my foundation crumbled.

It’s still a struggle. It’s still far too easy to want to help take care of everyone else first. However, I have learned that in order for me to feed others, I have to make sure I am being fed too.

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.”

As the old hymn says, Bread of Heaven feed me till I want no more…

(Hey, check out my latest post at Wineskins!)

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Lake Harbour Drive Church of Christ
Ridgeland, MS.

Lawman!

***Some days are hard. Some days are harder still. I heard about a murder last night during midweek Bible Study… I almost gagged and threw up.

****But God is big. Bigger still than I can ever comprehend. I am thankful He is still working in my life.

*****This post and the last couple come from my new blessing as a full time minister again. With apologies to those who read the Lake Harbour Dr bulletin…

Unrepentant.

Dictionary.com defines unrepentant in the simplest of terms: not repentant or contrite.

A lot of friends and contemporaries have gone where I cannot go.
I feel badly for them.
But I remain unrepentant.

To wit: I am a life long devotee of classic rock. Not pop, bebop, or anything else. I will not listen to country.

Will.Not.Listen!

Give me Rock. With speakers powerful enough to vibrate my bones, rock should be heard and felt.

Yes sir and yes ma’am…

I bought Becki tickets for her birthday to see two of her favorite classic rock bands, Foreigner and Styx.

Who am I kidding? Happy Birthday to me!

In their song Renegade, Styx sings about the wanted man on the run—fleeing from the lawman and the hangman. The chorus says:

The gig is up, the news is out
they finally found me
The renegade who had it made
retrieved for a bounty
Never more to go astray
The judge’ll have revenge today
on the wanted man…

In my imagination, this song with it’s driving beat has always evoked images of the old west. The bad guy being tracked down by the good guy out to see the guilty stopped and punished.

And if you’ll follow that imagery a bit, the bad guy is me (and you too, you’re not getting off that easily).

The good guy? That’s God coming with righteous punishment and His mighty justice in hand.

Surely we deserve it.

In the book of Romans, Paul paints a bleak picture of sin, failure, and pure ugliness. And the brush he uses? It’s wide enough to catch us all. Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

But God does a funny thing.

With mercy and grace and a huge reservoir of love, Jesus pays our bounty and frees us from the long arm of the vengeful lawman.

However, If you read Romans 3:23 without reading verse 24, you miss the amazing gift Jesus brings…

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Here’s a news flash: For those who accept the gift of Jesus, the bounty has been paid.
The price was love.
The sentence has been lifted.
The past is forgiven.

How could you not love a God like that?

Rest easy my friends; secure in the knowledge that God loves you and so do I!

Les, Jr.

Why Are You Reading Here?

Yes.

Why are you reading here?

Move along, move along.

There is nothing for you to see today except old posts… And you are welcome to read them. Should be a new one sometime in the next three or four days.

But in the meantime, there is a new post up at Wineskins.

“A Second Chance Lord”

Please check it out and read some other stuff by some great writers!

Happy Mothers Day!

Les

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.

Wise Counsel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet.

Knock on wood…

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

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

So.

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

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

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

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

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

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Done Dood!

Today I ran. It was a crisp cool morning.
The weekend rain had settled the dust.
The long gravel driveway and the two other gravel roads I ran were quiet and peaceful.
My running music was Billy Squire’s greatest hits, but as my mind ran on ahead of me, the music was soon an almost unheard background tempo…

I have never been an overly confident person.
Like many others, I often struggle with self-doubt.

As a preacher, even when I should have been confident in my ability, such knowledge often eluded me.

Why did I have such a lack of confidence?

There are a number of reasons.

I’d like to let myself off the hook and pretend that’s just the way I was wired. But the truth is I have allowed other factors to reprogram my original software with glaring glitches that are not all that flattering.

Where do these glitches come from? What causes our programming to be corrupted? The preacher in me wants to pound the pulpit and say in thundering voice sin is the reason. Sin corrupts everything, but that may be too simplistic of an answer.

From my personal perspective, instead of trusting in how God sees me, instead of finding my self-worth in Him, I tended to find value in performance.

My performance.
As in how well I performed in whatever capacity was called for.
Great performance always calls for pride and setting oneself up as the standard by which we measure.

But, performance is subject to many different variables. Some we can control; others we cannot. At any rate, as long as pride allows any of us to be the standard, failure is bound to happen.

Nobody is perfect.
Certainly not me.
Nor you either.

You know what happens when you fail often enough or performance falters? Yep. Prideful self-confidence is going to suffer!

But that’s not the end of the matter. As it turns out, our own pride in performance isn’t always the culprit. Sometimes it’s the pride of others. When they set themselves up as your standard, chances are, you’ll fail that little song and dance too. Where or when any of us tries to live our lives to please others? We will both be miserable before it’s over!

This is hard stuff for me to admit and change. I like to make people happy. I like even more to know I knocked it out of the ballpark.
Every time.
Every.

With that kind of motivation, it is easy to find yourself doing things for all the wrong reasons.

If I ever preach again on a regular basis, it has to be different than it was before. I have to be different. At the very least, I need to do a much better job of taking my ego out of the equation.

There I ago again.
Isn’t it funny where and how pride raises its ugly head?
I need God to take my ego out of the equation.

So today I ran.
As I ran, the music faded into the background, and I could clearly hear Cole’s words from the not-so-distant past… You done dood, Dad.

Dood.
That’s Cole-speak for good.
High praise indeed.
How I wish I could hear it today.

One day I hope to listen as the Father says well done good and faithful servant, followed by Cole’s pronouncement you done dood, Dad. You done dood.

Today I ran on gravel roads. But in the blink of an eye, Cole and I? We will run together on streets of gold…

Ready to run,
Les Ferguson, Jr.

A Song Can Rise

Normally I write on my Mac or my iPad. But last night, inspiration struck late. I spent awhile furiously scribbling on scraps of paper and left over stuff from the real estate day we had just concluded.

I can’t wait to finish it. I can’t wait to share it. I think it will be provocative and challenging. I believe if shared enough, if given a wide enough audience, it might just help us in the fight against those who who molest children or sexually assault others.

But in the midst of the writing storm, an old friend from my preaching days posted some song lyrics on Facebook. She didn’t give the name of the song. She didn’t share the identity of the group that sang it.

But how the lyrics resonated.
With me.
With my life.
With my struggle with God.

I am doing so much better than I was. I am standing. I am determined. I am moving forward to build the best life ever.

But there are days. Yes, there are days…
There are days of heartache and challenges.
There are days of little to no self-confidence.
There are days where the questions seem to overpower the hope.

But not for long.

So, as I work on an article I believe will be helpful, I’d like to share the lyrics from Worn by Tenth Avenue North

I’m tired
I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes to keep on breathing

I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn

I want to know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

I know I need
To lift my eyes up
But I’m too week
Life just won’t let up
And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn

I want to know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

And my prayers are wearing thin
I’m worn even before the day begins
I’m worn I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn so heaven so come and fluid my eyes

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn

I want to know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Yes all that’s dead inside will be reborn
Though I’m worn
Yeah I’m worn

I want to know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life

With sometimes cracking voice and strained vocal chords, I am singing.

I suspect some reading this need to let God start warming them up to sing again.

Do you think we might sing together?

Les Ferguson, Jr.