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…

Your Preacher/ Minister

I have been neglecting my blog.
Not intentionally.
It’s just life.

The real estate work Becki and I have embarked on is keeping us busy. And it is a true joy for us to work together as a team. I hope we are successful even as I hope, pray, and work toward success in a new ministry of writing and speaking.

I am writing. And studying. Wrestling with scripture. Trying to pray. And wondering.
Wondering if the God I knew before will be transformed into a God I understand better… Or rather, if I will be transformed into a man who enjoys a closer relationship than my past life entailed.

I hope so…
I desperately need it to be so.

Desperately Wanting to Believe Again isn’t about a disbelief of or a denial of God.
Not at all.

It is, however, about my personal journey.
About my emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.

It is about trying to have a new understanding of the nature of God.
How He acts, interacts, or not in the lives of men.

I have struggled with Deism a bit. It is easier for me to perceive a God who wound up the cosmos and let’ er rip (Sorry for the Beyblade terminology, I am the parent of a seven year old who is forever “letting it rip”). But while Deism might provide a particular framework to help understand why some bad things happen, it fails miserably in meeting our deepest need for a relationship with the one who made us!

And so I move forward, however slowly, seeking the answers that I need.
I am so very thankful you have embarked on this journey with me. I am grateful for the reads, follows, subscriptions, and sharing. Please continue to pass it on…

As I write what I hope will be published one day, I am enamored by the life of Jacob. In fact, up until about three or four weeks ago, the title was going to be something like A Jacob Life. But in a bit of a teaser for the discoveries I am working through and trying to process, I feel another title change coming.

Something a tad more provocative, but you’ll have to read it to ascertain it’s validity…
The Weakness Of God.

So be teased.

In the meantime, someone asked for me to expound a bit more about the insensitivity some congregations have toward their preachers.

Hmmm.
I am not sure if whole congregations should be categorized that way–although if influenced enough by a person in power, I suspect a congregation can have that particular feel or flavor.

So let me preface the following with this fact about myself: I am a prankster. A joker. A kidder. But just because you can kid somebody about something, doesn’t mean you should…

Being a person who has struggled off and on with weight issues most of my adult life, fat jokes and unasked for comments hurt. No matter who says them. Or How.

Am I too insensitive? Should I probably develop a thicker skin?
Not doubt but easier said than done.

Supposedly joking or not, I think it can be quite easy to develop a cultural contempt toward the work preachers do. Even while loving them.

I suspect you know the drill.
“You only work on Sunday.”
“How hard can it be?”
“We pay you way to much money.”
“It must be nice to get something new.”
“Preachers need to be kept poor and dependent.”
“Don’t you have some nicer looking suits?”
“Preacher’s kids are the worst kind.” (Only because we played with the elders and deacon’s kids, heathens all… Just kidding. Kind of)

I once had an elder who did despicable things. His attitude toward preachers? I quote, “preachers are a necessary evil.”

Looking back, I shudder to think how much I just laughed and went along with it.
But the truth is that kind of behavior toward the men and their families who are trying to serve God through the local church creates a toxic atmosphere–the kind that can become abusive. The kind that can drive preachers into looking for any other kind of work. Anything that will support their family and allow them a modicum of self-respect.

And ultimately, while I struggle to find a new ministry voice, I cannot fathom ever again subjecting my family to that…

Your experience may be different than mine. You may have had a preacher that did nothing but milk the system. Those kind exist, but they are not the norm.

So whether you agree or not, do yourself a favor… love your preacher. He works in sometimes difficult positions and harsh arenas. And he loves you with everything he has. Chances are, he deserves better than he gets.

I am thankful for those who minister to me…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

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

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

Lonely

I tend to like having time alone depending on what I am doing.
Sometimes.

Sounds conflicted, doesn’t it?

One of the things I value so much about my new marriage is our ability to be together quietly.

Nothing is forced. We don’t have to talk for the sake of creating noise. We can each be doing what we want and are completely comfortable just knowing the other is near.

That shared look across the room communicates volumes (and truth be known makes my heart race).
I am grateful for her continued presence in my life.

Sometimes I like solitude.
Often I like peace and tranquility.
But never, ever do I like being lonely.

When I remarried, the tongues wagged (and so did the keyboards). I heard from numerous folks how “men just don’t do well alone.” As if the only reason I married again so quickly was to fill a void in my life. But hey, if they were talking about me they were giving somebody else a much need break.

Can I get an amen?
Anyway.

Was there a void in my life? Yes.
Did I get married just to fill it (or have a momma figure for my boys)? No.

Not being lonely is important to me, but not so important that I would jump into something rash just so I wouldn’t be alone.

All that being said, I married Becki because it was obvious we had a deep, deep connection. It was crystal clear that together, neither of us would ever be lonely again. We have a good marriage. We are a good team.

Three Dog Night (Yes, I am that old) once sang one is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.

Real lonely hurts deep. You can be lonely by yourself. You can be lonely in a crowd. You can be lonely in a relationship. You can be lonely preaching for a church. You can be lonely when your greatest needs, desires, and expectations are unmet.

Don”t believe me? Just ask.

Ask the wife who hasn’t had a meaningful conversation with her husband in years.
Ask the preacher who is shriveling on the vine for lack of real friendship among the people he serves.
Ask the single person who is desperately tired of having no one to share their heart.
Ask the woman who wants a child what it is like to be surrounded by other women and their children.
Ask the step-parent who wants nothing more than to be able to love the children of his or her spouse.
Ask the man, woman, or child whose emptiness wants more than anything to hear a word from God.

There are people all around you–some even close–who are so lonely they could scream.

Have you ever noticed?

Pain and tragedy creates loneliness. And sometimes others are so uncomfortable with your pain that they unintentionally create distance making the loneliness that much more profound.

There is a very real chance that nothing you can say or do will alleviate that particular pain. But at least by being present, the loneliness might not be so, well, lonely.

Each of us has the ability to speak to the loneliness present in our world.

Will you?

Les Ferguson, Jr.

When God Isn’t

God.

How do you cope, what do you say when God isn’t?

Isn’t what?
Yes, that’s the question, what then when God isn’t God?

I am getting ready to celebrate the two year anniversary of my 49th birthday.
If you can’t figure that out, it means I’m almost 51.

I don’t feel old, act old, or look old. In fact, I am one good looking man. Right Becki? Becki?

Smiling with you before we go a bit deeper.

The point isn’t my age or what I look like…
The point is the culture in which I live.

I am a Burger King guy in a Burger King world. Not so much the actual burgers themselves, but I have grown up and matured in a culture that has told me I could have it my own way. Every time. All the time.

Like most people in the American context, we want what we want and we demand it our way… or else.

And in our thinking, that’s the way it works in a God context as well. Man is made in the image of God–and we turn around and make God in ours.

In my mind, God is like my Father. He is my protector, fixer, helper, and validater (ok, validater is not a word, but I needed the tense and couldn’t say validates). I have meaning because God says it and proves it doing the things a father does.

Until He doesn’t.
What then?

My expectations of God are not that difficult. Not for an all powerful, ever present God. Especially considering we had a deal.

I serve Him. He protects me and mine.

Until He didn’t.
What now?

I never knew until I did how many other people have such questions. Such pain. Such anger. Such doubt about how He choses to work or not in our lives.

Since I started writing Desperately Wanting To Believe Again, my email is dinged daily from people who struggle just like I do.

People who are bitterly disappointed in God. People who cannot understand how a loving Father God sits idly by and does nothing. People who are on the ragged edge of ever believing and trusting in Him again.

If it were you, could you really blame us? If you had to walk in our shoes, would your faith take a hit?

Please, please quit telling us how God has a plan. Really? God’s plan was a brutal double homicide? Or cancer? Or suicide?

This isn’t really about how disappointed we are in God. I am. We are. And He knows it.
He would have to be deaf and blind or zoned out to not know.

But that’s not the only way we have made God in our image. We have this expectation of answers here. Answers now. Answers that make sense and give us hope.

Sadly, those answers are not always forthcoming–and we are not completely capable of understanding.

It is hard when God isn’t God. At least the God we have come to demand and expect.

So what then when God isn’t?

That’s the conundrum of faith.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1Corinthians 13:12, NIV)

Faith is a journey some of us limp on…

Where are your faith struggles?

Les, Jr.

How Faith Survived?

The following is an attempt to answer a question posed by a reader in response to this post. The question: How could I still believe at all?

I love being able to take pen to paper or pound on a key board. I love using words to communicate feelings, describe emotions, and work out meaning and understanding.

That I am not alone in seeking something better and more complete makes the process that much sweeter.

For the longest time I felt all alone. I was the only person I knew who had experienced the murder of spouse and child by somebody known, trusted, and invited into our home. The fact that he was a member of our church family made the horror of it all so much greater.

I felt physically and emotionally alone everywhere I went.
I was damaged goods.
The world was dark and dim.
And no matter how many times somebody said I understand your struggle and feel your pain, the truth was this: you had no idea.

I couldn’t begin yet to quantify the depth, height, and width of anguish, sorrow, and hurt. I am still discovering those dimensions–in some ways, we will not ever know how big the hurt will be. In fact, my children have a lifetime of painful moments ahead of them. Every significant event, holiday, achievement, success or failure will be a moment in time in which they will be reminded of their loss–and the brutal horror of it.

I have teased my oldest son and his wife that they are not allowed to become parents–because I am not old enough to be a grandfather. So far it is working.

But there is going to come a day when that first grandchild makes an appearance. And in the midst of happiness, I will know my son’s bitter hurt and disappointment because his mother and brother will not be there to share…

So if we can’t know yet the dimensions of our pain, how can you?

Please don’t misunderstand and think we are a family burdened by an overwrought misery. To be expected, we all have our moments. I had one last night–it was a brief time of guilt because I had such a good day. Some of you will comprehend the guilt inherent in having a day not weighed down by sorrow.

But the truth is we are all trying to live good, happy, and adjusted lives–far different than what we imagined, but good nonetheless.

Did I mention how alone I felt?

Surrounded by family and friends, you can still be the loneliest person in the world.
Especially when the most lonesome aspect is perceived abandonment by God.

Whether He was there or not, it is hard to feel Him in the grips of such grief and anger.

Initially I was bolstered by my faith. But in the next month or so as the new reality of tragic loss began to take hold, faith turned into anger.

How could a loving God let such a thing happen? Where was He when Cole was being systematically raped and abused.

That was my precious son and God stood by and did nothing.

Where was He when Cole and Karen were fighting for their lives?

Yes.
I.
Was.
Angry!

Wouldn’t you have been?

Those were the times when the platitudes and sappy hope of an effortless faith meant nothing at all.

My faith loss wasn’t about disbelief in God. My loss of faith was about my understanding of God’s nature. Who was He, really? What was he really like? How could He really let such evil thrive?

No, I never quit believing in God. There is a sense in which I never quit believing He loved me.

I just didn’t understand. I can’t yet claim to understand a God who is so far beyond human comprehension.

The truth is this simple: I never realized how much hard work faith requires. Faith requires a belief and trust that God really does have your best interests at heart. I struggle with that. At the same time, I am not ready to jettison the idea of God caring for me.

So here is my conundrum…

Either I go through life empty with no hope.
Or, I try to do the hard work necessary to trust the God I don’t understand.

It is easy to be peeved and angry–it is hard to trust.

So I wrestle and limp and wrestle some more.
And have faith that one day, my limping gimpy self will trust the God I chose to serve…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

IMG_0045.jpg

What Can I Do For You?

Yes, I know this is not the promised post Damned If I Don’t. 

It is percolating and playing its way out onto the written page.

In the meantime, I would like to ask a question.

Today, I spent some time praying for those who read what I write. I keep hearing from many that you are being helped by my out loud struggling and wrestling with God.

For that I am glad. It’s nice to know my limp is worth something to others.

I have a dream of how I want my voice to be heard–and whether or not it works out that way, only God knows as of this writing.

In the meantime, I am trying to be patient and trying to be content with where I am. (For my personality, that’s not an easy thing to do!)

So, back to my question…

How can I help you? What topics would you like to see my address?

Seriously.

I mean that.

You will continue to be in my prayers…

Les

Damned If I Do…

It’s an old cliché.
But just because it’s old doesn’t make it untrue.

Sometimes you are damned if you do; damned if you don’t.

I am cognizant that living such a public life as a preacher for a thriving, growing church means the community of believers and the community at large is watching.

Watching and judging every move I made, people had expectations I couldn’t begin to comprehend.

And the truth is, in the face of such tragedy and heartache, I became very, very selfish.

I didn’t want to think of anybody else’s needs. Yet, so many, and not just from my local church family wanted, expected, and needed me to step back in the pulpit. They needed me to normalize their lives by being the same man, the same preacher I had always been.

The day Karen and Cole were murdered, some pour soul–and I am not really sure who it was–told me the church needed me to be strong for them.

It was one of those moments of extreme restraint. Whoever held me back that day is owed a large debt of gratitude.

Maybe selfish isn’t the right word to use. I didn’t then nor do I now want to be perceived as selfish.

On the other hand, pain and horror rendered me incapable of thinking about anyone else’s real or imagined needs. I didn’t know how to anymore. All I could see, feel, and know was my own pain and the suffering of my family.

One of my biggest regrets and worst failures as a husband and a father was putting church ahead of my own family’s needs. And I did it time after time. Truthfully? Some of it was my tremendous ego and the inordinate amount of pride I had in my work–to the point that I self-blinded myself to the needs of those I loved.

And the brutal truth is my own Christianity had already been sacrificed on the twin altars of success and church growth. My family was nothing more than collateral damage.

Long before the events of October 10, 2011 I needed to step back and re-evaluate. I’d like to think I would have, but that’s probably another little self-delusional thought.

Knowing what you have now heard, is it any wonder faith took such a strong hard hit? My faith was already compromised by relying on self and the prideful proverbial bootstraps I used to accomplish my goals and dreams.

Turns out I was pretty selfish before as well.

The point is this: no matter how you judge me or not, being a local church preacher is something I no longer want to do or can.

To those of you who preach, my hat is off in joyful recognition of the tremendous way you serve God’s people. The vast majority of preachers are good, honest, sincere people who seek only to serve.

You deserve more credit and appreciation than you probably get. (And more money!)

I, too, still want to serve. But I have to find a way to do it without forcing my family to squirm in that particular crucible. Even more, I have to find a way that doesn’t compromise my relationship with God.

As self discovery goes, it’s now abundantly clear I was never very balanced nor good at trusting God before. That’s a big part of my new reality. Finding my own faith, learning to trust, and discovering a new voice and a better way to minister is my goal.

Damned if I do? Yes, I walked away. And I have not looked back.

But instead of wallowing in pity and anger, I am choosing to find a new way.
To live.
To serve.
To minister.
To love.

And even though it is hard… Even though I am not sure of where I am going… Even though I still wrestle with God, I sense and feel Him taking these new tentative steps with me.

It’s a new journey.

As one of my favorite classic rock bands sings, Walk on.

Tell me what you think?

(This is a two part article… Damned if I Don’t is up next…)