Enough?

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12–13)

Once upon a time, in a land far away, I woke up to the simple fact that I was woefully flawed.

It wasn’t really anything newly discovered.  There wasn’t any blatant immortality that suddenly reared its ugly head.  There was no forced intervention of family and friends to rescue me from some overtly destructive behavior.

On the other hand, there was the slowly dawning realization that my flaws and failures were real and weren’t going to be wished away.  There was the slowly expanding understanding that the Spirit of God had much work still yet to do in me.  And, to make matters worse I came to see how my stubborn pride was doing a pretty good job of putting out the Spirit’s fire.

I was a master at sticking my head in the sand. I was perfectly equipped to ignore or at least see my flaws as less flawed than others. As a result, it was far easier to preach to someone else than to recognize God’s Spirit illuminating my own short comings.

Ultimately, I began to understand with greater clarity that all men (and women) were truly equal: we are all broken by sin!  My sin, my struggles, my brokenness was not somehow less sinful than yours. At the end of the day, the only real difference between any of us–outside of the saving grace of Jesus– was our ability to see our own imperfection.

Today?

Today, I am the same guy to one degree or another. I am still tempted on occasion to see myself as above others. I am still enticed by the desire to see your failures as worse than mine. Thankfully, God is still working on me and His enlightenment continues to grow.

Tomorrow may be different. I may get stuck again. I may close my eyes to some essential truth. And If I do, well, tomorrow I may need you to kindly and lovingly remind me that I am not what I sometimes think.

But today? Today I can say with all the hope in the universe… “Hi! My name is Les Ferguson, Jr. I am a husband, father, son, and brother–and now a grandfather. I am a minister. I am a writer. But more importantly, I am a child of the King. Broken by sin/ renewed, restored, and reconciled by grace.”

And that’s enough.

Until God calls us home, that’s enough.

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Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

Practice

There are four violinists in my house.

I am not one of them.

Years ago, I took violin lessons for a short time. But when I was in college I met this beautiful girl and badly wanted to take her on a date.

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So I took my violin to a pawn shop, had a fantastic date, and in another unimagined life many years later, that beautiful girl became my wife.

Unknown to me during the intervening years, her mom took up violin and eventually she and her two boys did as well. After we got married, the youngest in our Brady Bunch World began taking violin lessons. And he took to it like the proverbial duck to water. He has a natural ability.

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I don’t mind paying for music lessons. I would love to take some for myself. However, at this stage of life, I mostly have to be content with playing a radio louder and better than most.

But, do you know what costs more than music lessons and instruments to play?

Practice.

As in pulling our hair out to get somebody to practice like they should.
It takes a lot of time, effort, and patience to get someone to do what they ought to do.
And not just where music lessons are concerned.

As it turns out practice is not cheap for anybody.

The same could be said for grace.

I am so thankful for the grace given through Jesus.
I know I don’t deserve it.
I know I rarely live worthy of it.
I know it requires an unfathomable amount of love and patience for me to have it.
And I know it is the costliest thing in the world.

Grace has never been cheap.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinhians 6:20 we were bought at a price. The cost of our redemption came at an awful expense.

Grace is never cheap.
Nor is the practice of grace.

If I give you grace, it costs me something.
It might be time.
It might be personal pride.
It might be a change in attitude.
It might be a change in behavior.

Giving you grace means I don’t have to be right.
I don’t have to force my understanding.
I don’t have to have my way.

How I wish we could be as quick to give grace to one another as we are to judge and condemn.

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I am thankful for you.
I am thankful for grace.
I am thankful for the grace God gives each of us to begin each day anew.

Practice grace.

It will cost you something but the benefits are out of this world!

Les, Jr.

Grace: The Power of a Redemption Story

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This is my contribution to the 2015 Summer Blog Tour… I pray it blesses you in some small way!

I don’t watch a lot of TV. Consequently, I often miss things that are culturally relevant. I hear about TV shows and have no clue about them at all. People talk about movies and actors and I just kind of nod my head because more often than not, I have no idea who or what they are talking about.

Even when a movie comes along that grabs my attention, I rarely make the time to see it. In fact, I cannot at this moment remember the last movie I saw.

The truth is, I am a nerd and would rather read a good book.
That I can talk about with ease.

So while my grasp of popular culture is fairly tenuous, I am somewhat aware of a Discovery channel program called Dirty Jobs. Instead of trying to explain something I have never really watched, the following comes directly from the show’s website…

Welcome to Dirty Jobs, the new Discovery Channel series that profiles the unsung American laborers who make their living in the most unthinkable – yet vital – ways.

Our brave host and apprentice Mike Rowe will introduce you to a hardworking group of men and women who overcome fear, danger and sometimes stench and overall ickiness to accomplish their daily tasks.

Not one to just stand by, each week, Rowe will assume the duties of the jobs he’s profiling, working alongside rattlesnake catchers, fish processors, bee removers, septic-tank technicians and other professionals: average folks tackling extraordinary tasks that simply must get done.

But you’ll walk away from Dirty Jobs with more than just a glimpse into unfamiliar occupational duties…

If you’re like us, you’ll also gain a new understanding and appreciation for all the often-unpleasant functions someone is shouldering to make your everyday life easier, safer – and often cleaner.

Dirty Jobs.
Nasty jobs.
Disgusting jobs.
I know there are plenty of jobs out there I wouldn’t want to do.

Not today.
Not tomorrow.
Not ever.

But, I’d like to suggest maybe the nastiest, dirtiest job of all is one done by God…

The job is grace.

We typically define grace as unmerited favor.The definition itself ought to tell us ahead of time that grace is a dirty and rough business. Giving grace means giving people what they need not necessarily what they deserve.

Speaking of movies I have seen, remember Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ? Like the movie tried to convey, the Crucifixion wasn’t a death penalty punishment meant to impart death from a “let’s-try-and-spare-the-punished-any-overt-pain” kind of experience. To the contrary, far from humane, it was intended to inflict massive emotional, mental, and physical suffering—a total annihilation of body, soul, and spirit. For those who had to watch one live and in person, it must have been a spiritual gut-punch.

Hopefully you are managing a visceral grasp on the ugliness Jesus endured, because there was nothing rougher or more difficult than the grace procured by the Cross…

Did I mention it was a dirty job?
It is always a dirty job.
Grace means getting down into the filth and ugliness of our world.
Worse, grace means there are no rubber gloves and boots to protect you from the showers and splatters of filth that will come.

That’s what Jesus did.
That’s what we are called to do.

I wish I lived in a sterile, clean, antiseptic environment, but I don’t.
Sometimes I whine, complain, and get all twisted up.
Sometimes I act ugly, mean, or spiteful.
Sometimes I am selfish and heartless.
Sometimes I experience/ endure heartache.
And because I am fundamentally flawed and broken, I need grace.

I need grace from God.
I need grace from you.

Yes, grace is a dirty job.
But it’s grace that takes away our guilt and shame.
It’s grace that says, “I love you.”
It’s grace that says, “I forgive you.”
It’s grace that takes broken stories and breathes into them the new life of redemption.
It’s grace that takes our pain and humiliation and turns it inside out.
It’s grace that redeems our story and makes it into something different, something useful, and something of service.
It’s grace that wipes away our tears.
It’s grace that empowers our own acts of forgiveness.

In the heartache of brokenness, I am thankful for the God who could not be pushed away by my anger and pain.
I am thankful for the grace of God.
It’s a dirty job, but it is the power of my redemption.

Grace.
It’s a dirty job but it’s my story…

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS.

Doing the Maybe Dance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t recognize my world anymore.

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

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

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

Maybe we need to remember that because, well…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then,

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

Maybe?
No maybe to it.

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

Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Ridgeland, MS

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/ ‎

Where Do We Go From Here?

So I have been absent for awhile.
Not the kind of writing behavior that keeps a blog front and center in the minds of its readers.
And certainly not conducive to the stats need to get a publisher interested in my ongoing book experiment.

Honestly?

I don’t know what to do with this blog.
Originally it was written to chronicle and give voice to my anger, pain, hurt and distrust of God and people too.
It was about my journey through an emotional and spiritual minefield.

As long as I was writing from that perspective, it resonated with the pain and hurt others have felt or are feeling even now.

So I wrote.
I cried.
I ranted.
I struggled.
And I wrote some more.

I fought to move forward in all aspects of my life.

Sometimes I took big steps forward.
Sometimes I took small steps forward.

Sometimes I took huge steps backward.
Sometimes it felt like I was sliding back down the hill.
Unabated and for good.

All the while, I spoke openly and freely about what I faced, what I endured.

You never know what life is going to send your way.
You never know what fundamental questions are going to find you with answers that are either not forthcoming or simply not up to the task at hand.

So what do you do if you lose you?

If you are me, you write.
You engage ideas and concepts.
You take long philosophical looks in the mirror.
And you when you don’t like what you see, you write some more.

You wrestle and stretch.
You grow even when you think no progress is made.

And over time and through the encouragement of others you realize you will never be you again. At least the you like you used to be.

My me is vastly different.
Sure, I still look like me.
And I am even back to full-time ministry (something I couldn’t ever imagine being my life again).

Certainly my ministry will be different because my relationship with God is different.
More real.
Less pretentious (Please Lord, let it be).
And focused quite differently.

Mercy, grace, redemption, and second chances… those are the things I want to emphasize. That’s the message of hope I want to bring.

The truth is, people are tired of being beat up.
They are beat up by the world, on the job, and often by our culture itself.
They are beat up by their own mistakes, by failures that destroy.
They are beat up by so-called family and friends.
And far too often, they are judged, condemned, and thoroughly trashed by the spiritual arrogance and spiritual smugness of some in the church.

We have forgotten the old cliche about the church not being a hotel for the perfect; instead it is a hospital for sinners, for the broken, for those who have made a complete mess of their lives.

I want to be that one guy, that preacher, that fellow miscreant who offers a word of hope, who gives a hand in peace, who understands what it means, what it feels like to be thoroughly broken…

This next bit is going to sound strange. I get that. I really do.

I still grieve.
I am in such a good place right now with my family and new ministry, but I still grieve.
I always will until the day God calls me home.

I still grieve.
And I am glad.

I am glad that my brokenness will never be completely healed on this side of the great divide.
It’s not that I enjoy pain.
Not at all.

I am glad because the world is full of broken people—and only the truly self-aware broken can stand with them.

When we come alongside those who are hurting for whatever reason and stand with them as anything other than another broken person too… instead of offering them mercy, grace, redemption, and second chances, most likely what they will get isn’t real hope, but the condescension of one who thinks they have it all together and know all the answers.

Nothing makes the broken more broken than condescension, condemnation, and judgement.

All of that and we still haven’t answered the question of what to do with this blog… except, maybe we have.

If you are broken and know it, this place is for you—I’ll try to write the encouragement we both need to make it through.

If you are grieving, this place is for you. I’ll share my grief from time to time and you’ll know you are not alone.

Desperately Wanting To Believe Again?
You betcha! I long for that day when all wrongs will be made right.
But until then, I will strive to remember the words of a desperate father when he once met Jesus… “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Les Ferguson, Jr.