Paralyzed/ Fear

A Life Observation #1

Paralyzed.

To be paralyzed, unable to move, and totally dependent on the work and care of others is terrifying. The thought scares me greatly.

Obviously, there are many in this world who suffer paralyzing injuries and manage to claw their way back to living a productive and happy life. How they do so often proves to be a powerful testimony and an inspiration.

For that reason (politics aside), I am a fan of Charles Krauthammer. I so appreciate how he has overcome his paralysis to do all the things he does so well.

All that being said, the idea of being paralyzed is absolutely terrifying.

In the movie Remember the Titans, there is a character who has a fateful car accident right before the state high school football championship. Cole knew every word and scene by memory. As we would watch this favorite movie, Cole would always cry when we found out this star player had lost the use of his legs for the rest of his life.

Living in a wheelchair gave him lots of empathy.

Several weeks ago, Becki and I watched the movie late one Friday night. And yes, I cried again for Cole and with Cole.

I hate the brokenness of our world where vibrant people sometimes find their physical lives restricted in such horrible fashion.

Unfortunately, the brokenness of this world often casts its shadow and influence in ways we least expect. The result is a life that has become paralyzed.
Or hearts.
Or spirits.
Or futures.

I have known this paralysis first hand.
Grief and tragedy can stunt, stymie, and paralyze even the strongest among us.

But beyond the horrific that sometimes occurs, many of us have become paralyzed in one fashion or another for a variety of reasons or excuses.

Here’s a life observation: From my perspective, FEAR is the biggest and greatest culprit.

I fear.
And it’s often paralyzing.

Please don’t see this as something I am saying as result of our tragedy. This has often been my nature both before and after.

Most of the time my fears are self administered. I allow fear to take root and it is almost always self-limiting.

As a result, I can find myself afraid to hope, afraid to dream, and afraid to live.

I would be less than honest to suggest that our tragedy had no effect on this. I know it did, but as I alluded earlier, it could only magnify a tendency already in existence for me.

Living in fear is no fun especially when that fear paralyzes and keeps one from living the life they should.

Yes, we may get rejected.
Yes, we may fail miserably.
And yes, we may wear ourselves out trying and trying again.

But If we quit, if we let fear win, what does it get us but additional misery?

Not this guy.
Not this guy.

I may get down.
I may occasionally feel momentarily defeated.
But I just can’t quit.

Not today.
Not tomorrow.
Not next year.
I am kind of stubborn like that…

What fear is holding you back? Wrestle with it now! I know you can! The New Year is coming soon. Wouldn’t it be great to face the New Year with the confidence? God can help; ask Him!

I love what Paul tells Timothy: …for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT)

Thanks for reading this first in a series of life observation posts!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

The Twins

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-29

Poor old Thomas.

He gets ridiculed for his doubt. How in the world could he not believe Jesus had risen from the dead?

But back in Thomas’ day and in mine as well, people died, they got buried, and short of divine intervention, that’s how they stayed, dead as a doorknob–at least in this present world.

And yet at the same time, we know Thomas was privy to the fact that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. He was aware of all the particulars on that spectacularly amazing day.

Still, how many other folks had managed to drag themselves back from the grave? How many other people took an abbreviated dirt nap before awakening themselves and arising to walk in this world again?

Zip.

Nada.

Zilch.

None.

Not a singe one.

Can you cut Thomas a little slack? Can you give him a little bit of wiggle room? I mean, all he had to go on was the testimony of his fellow disciples. And when you get down too it, they weren’t necessarily a stellar crowd.

Among them were poor fisherman, a political zealot, a betrayer, and a denier. None of them were scholars. Their qualifications, behaviors and attitudes sometimes left a lot to be desired. So before we jump on old Thomas, maybe we ought to ask ourselves if we would have believed under the same circumstances…

I suspect I would have been a twin to Thomas. I suspect that though I would have wanted to believe, I would have wrestled with confusion, stress, frustration, and well, whatever meager evidence my eyes could have seen.

The truth is, I am a lot like Thomas to this very day and what I would have wrestled with then, applies now.

Please don’t get me wrong. I believe in God. I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in Jesus. I believe in what Jesus did. I believe in what He is still doing in the lives of people everywhere. I believe Jesus is coming back to take home those who belong to Him.

I have faith.

But I also have doubt.

Some days it is hard to really believe God cares for me.

Some days I really struggle with the the idea God has my best interests at heart.

And almost every day I wonder if God’s timing will ever be on time for me.

I am a twin to Thomas the Doubter.

Or maybe his clone.

But even as I doubt, I believe.

I believe.

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” (Khalil Gibran)

Come See Me This Weekend at Discover Rally!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

The Promise of a Coming Day

By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
Psalms 137:1-4

As irritating as TV commercials can be, there is one playing currently that cracks me up.
Literally, it has me laughing out loud. And sometimes even before the funny part–all in anticipation.

Maybe you’ve seen it.

It starts with animated characters drawn in what looks like pencil. The whole thing is set to the old A-Ha song, Take On Me (and uses the original music video as its inspiration). Suddenly, the whole scene changes to a board room type situation where we realize the drawings have been made by a guy doodling as the meeting progresses… only to realize he is singing. Loud. In the middle of the meeting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=bbRVMua0HUc

Can you say embarrassment?
I love it!

For about a week now I have been humming, whistling, and singing one particular song by Crosby, Stills, and Nash…

I whistle a bar here, sing a line there. And like the guy in the commercial, suddenly realize I am humming out loud.

I love their music. They have multiple songs on their playlist that I really enjoy.

But my favorite song was a dream that one day came true.

During my stint in the US Navy, I travelled all over the world.
Saw some great places.
Met different and intriguing cultures.
My favorite country to visit? Chile.

It was on the way to Chile, as we sailed and showed the Flag around the entire continent of South America, that I finally saw what I had only envisioned in my mind before.

The Southern Cross.
The constellation ancient mariners navigated by in the southern hemisphere.

Thanks to Crosby, Stills, and Nash, I once longed to see those stars aligned in the nighttime sky. Thanks to the US Navy (and Becki), I have. (The Becki part? That’s a story for another day.)

I’d like to see the constellation again someday, but in the meantime? I sing, whistle, and hum…

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small
But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a comin’ day…

The song itself is about loss.
It’s about escape.
It’s about a new life even as one moves forward from and within the remnants of the old.
Most importantly, its about the promise of a coming day.

In other words, hope!

Hope!

Today may be painful.
Tomorrow may be worse.
And next week or even next year?
Yes, there will be times of continued pain and difficulty or the onset of brand new hurts not even imagined as of yet. And it may feel as if you are living in a foreign land…

Turns out, there isn’t a shelf life or expiration date for the pain life often has to offer.
Like losing a child… it will always be there, always sting, and always ache. Like a nightmare you can’t wake up from, it never quite goes away.

It is what it is.

But even in the pain.
Even in the uncertainty.
Even in the questioning and wondering of why you came this way…
There is always the promise of a coming day.

Hope!

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small
But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a comin’ day…

In Jesus, there will be a new day!

Hope!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Hampered By Fear

I wonder sometimes if I am the only person with my unique worries and fears.

Most likely since I am the only me, I am unique in that respect.

But I doubt very seriously that I am alone in having the worries and fears I do.

Nor doubts either.

Can’t forget questions as well.

But sometimes, I find myself plagued by fears–the kind that keep me from doing what I know I should and could do.

I am writing like crazy. Almost two chapters for my proposed book have been completed this week. I have talked on the phone this week as well with two different people about what I need to do in order to get published.

And that makes a total of four who have now given me some direction. Two have actually given me a format to use in writing a proposal.

As crazy as it seems, I am terrified about writing a proposal. To my credit, one set of directions wants me to write things I have no concept of–no understanding. And, I am wigging out about even asking what those things mean. I am trying to write a book, so why would I want to highlight my ignorance in bright green and red neon?

But one proposal instruction are simply a one page affair with a few sample chapters attached. Still I procrastinate–I am even afraid of writing a bio my own brother wants for a speaking engagement where he preaches.

Failure.

Appearing stupid.

Not wanting to toot my own horn.

Those are all very real things for me (and some of you too–I’ll admit it even if you don’t want to).

Why is this so hard? It should be simple. It should be something a climber can climb with no problems. And I am a climber. My life is all about climbing out of the abyss and building a new life.

Attacking mountains is the name of the game.

I am not afraid of hard work. I am not afraid of looking at my deepest emotions and finding them wrapped in the harshest of realities.

But.

I. Am. Terrified.

My friend Cecil May III helped me figure it out today. He called to check in on me–to see how things are going. In the course of our conversation, I told him about the fear of writing these proposals.

And in his inestimable fashion, he nailed the issue squarely. Sending a proposal means putting my work in the hands of somebody who is just as likely to reject it as accept it.

That scares me to death. Who wants rejection? That has frozen me into a certain inactivity or avoidance.

So, I have given myself a self-imposed deadline. I will write a bio and a one page proposal before Monday morning. Or sooner.

I owe it to my family that was lost.

I owe it to my family that survives.

I owe it to all who suffer, question, struggle, wrestle, doubt and fear.

And you can take that to the bank!

So back to work all of you who are reading this and avoiding something you need to do. Life is about challenges and we can face them together…

What are you afraid of? What are you avoiding? If it is fixing a broken relationship, please don’t wait another day.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Relentless

Destin, FLorida is beautiful. We have enjoyed our stay, but the trip home is fast approaching.

Vacations can be fun, should be fun, but I often find it hard to really relax. I am normally a fairly driven person (ok, so maybe intense is more accurate). And it seems like there is always something that I could be doing to get a leg up on the competition–to make a sale, get a listing, new marketing, etc. it is hard for me to let it all go for even short periods of time.

To say I have huge security issues is quite the understatement. I am not all gloom and doom, but I am afraid far too much of the time.

Whether it be fear, worry, grief, or pain, life can often be like the waves pounding the seashore.

Relentless.
And sometimes the waves come in so fast you can hardly catch your breath.

I try hard to believe God has good things in store for me. I try hard to trust life will not always be difficult. I try hard to hold on to the hope that one day pain will not be quite so intense.

In so very many ways, I can see what I just wrote as being my reality.
I have a loving and compassionate wife. We have children that are amazingly good kids. And thus far, nobody has ever gone hungry or without. Crippling pain and grief still rears its ugly head from time to time, but not nearly as much as it has in the past.

This vacation as been a little bit of a chance to catch our collective breaths. To get ready for the waves to come again…

I don’t know what God is always up to. I try to trust Him even though it is very hard for me to do at times.

Long ago I learned a saying that may be familiar to you…

God is good all the time.
All the time God is good.

I want to believe that.
Do you?

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…

Big Fat Hairy Deal

Remember the old cliche about a monkey on your back?
It’s often associated with some kind of addiction or character flaw.

I asked this question on Facebook yesterday: Everybody has a monkey. What’s your monkey’s name?

Some of the answers were serious.
Some were funny.
Some were flippant.

If the shoe was on the other foot, I’d try to answer with something funny or flippant too. If you are like me, your real monkey is serious, painful, and seemingly best ignored.

But, this thought leads us to some funny imagery… In a room full of people, or better yet, a church auditorium or sanctuary, we all walk around seeing the monkey on others while trying to ignore our own. And lest we forget, the readily available righteous indignation when someone happens to get a glimpse or fix on the monkey riding our back.

As it turns out, monkey business is never very funny for very long.

My monkey wasn’t/ isn’t alcohol or drugs. There was/ is nothing about mine that would suggest some kind of aberrant behavior. It wasn’t/ isn’t a family embarrassment. Nor the kind of monkey one shouldn’t talk about in polite social situations.

But, he was/ is a big monkey. Ape-sized. Bigger even. I think he had a previous life as a body double or stand-in for another famous Hollywood chimp type. You might remember him? The one who climbed the Empire State Building and swatted airplanes from the sky?

Did I say he was big?

Huge.
Hairy.
Strong.

Have you ever heard the term BHAG? It stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. I am beginning to develop one, but more on that later.

In the meantime, what I have had riding on my back was a BHFD.

Big
Hairy
Fat
Deal.

That wasn’t (isn’t) necessarily my monkey’s name, but it sure describes his importance, or at least how hard a monkey to shake he has been.

My Dad has a color-pencil drawing in his office that a sweet lady did for him many, many years ago. It is a caricature of Dad sitting at his preacher’s desk with piles and piles of different kinds of hats. The drawing symbolized all the different hats–jobs, roles–Dad had to wear in doing ministry. Every preacher should understand that.

Likewise, my monkey wears a lot of different hats too.
Or rather, outside of the things he isn’t (see seventh paragraph from the top), my monkey (otherwise known as a big fat hairy deal) is a multi-talented creature.

He weaves an unbelievable tapestry of fear, doubt, worry, and lack of self-confidence.
The resulting picture is demoralizing, paralyzing, and capable of producing a self-sustaining debilitation.

He is pretty gifted like that.
I should know.
After all, he is my monkey.
I have owned him for a very long time.

But yesterday, he took a major blow. I heard him shudder. I felt his weakness. I sensed his grip losing its hold.

For years (even during the good ones) he has told me I am not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough. He has painted me with fear, soaked me in doubt, infused me with worry, and convinced me that nothing I did would ever matter.

Add to that potent mix Satan’s mighty evil blow, and my monkey could have, should have had it all sewn up tight.

But contrary to my strongly held monkey belief, God wasn’t/ isn’t finished with me yet. He surrounded me with encouragers, provided the right opportunity, and helped me take the first step forward.

Yesterday, I shared my new found, hard won faith. (Thanks Meadowbrook!)
I preached.
And it felt better than it ever has before.

I am learning to never say never while my monkey is fighting to hold on.
I doubt I would ever be a full time preacher again, and yet, if the right place or people came calling, I would have to ask God what He was up to.

In the meantime, the big fat hairy deal is giving way slowly but surely for the big hairy audacious goal. I am daring to dream–really dream–that I have found my new ministry role/niche/voice to fill.

Thanks to those who have believed in me, found patience to share, and otherwise supported me. Your strength has made a difference.

The road ahead–though with plenty of setbacks and struggles still to encounter–looks brighter still.

Here’s the best part: If God is willing to work in my life, He is certainly willing to work in yours–and through all of our worries, doubts, fears, and perceived inadequacies.

You gotta like that!

If I can help you or your group/church, etc., please feel free to contact me.

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