The Sovereign Beginning

Nine months.

It’s been almost nine months of writing, crying, and healing.
Nine months of the occasional scab being ripped off.

Nine of months of wondering.
Of being angry.
Of asking questions.
Of wanting answers.
Of glimmering hope

Nine months of struggle and happiness, sadness and joy all juxtaposed together.

After nine months of writing under my belt, I am in a different place than where I began. I have more vivid dreams and aspirations. At the same time, the disappointments and anger are still larger than life should want them to be.

And patience? No, I have little to nopatience with this process.

And yet…
And yet.

Here I am.
Not where I want to be in some regards, but ecstatically happy in many others.
And headed I hope toward a place of peace, trust, and opportunity.

Here’s the post that started this blog journey… With blessings to all who might read again or for the first time…

Sovereign in the mountain air
Sovereign on the ocean floor
With me in the calm
With me in the storm

Sovereign in my greatest joy
In my deepest cry
With me in the dark
With me at the dawn

In your everlasting arm
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

Sovereign in the mountain
Sovereign on the ocean floor
With me in the calm
With me in the storm

Sovereign in my greatest joy
Sovereign in my deepest cry
With me in the dark
With me at the dawn

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

All my hopes
All I need
Held in your hands

All my life
All of me
Held in your hands

All my fears
All my dreams
Held in your hands

All my hopes
All I need
Held in your hands

All my life
All of me
Held in your hands

All my fears
All my dreams
Held in your hands

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

I love this song.
I hate this song.
I love Chris Tomlin.
I hate Chris Tomlin.

To say I am a conflicted man is a such cliched statement.
Cliched or not, it’s true.

Please understand, what you will read in the pages and chapters of whatever this will ultimately become won’t be for the faint of heart. It won’t be for those whose faith is comfortable or complacent. It may very well be too much for those who cannot handle unvarnished truth and pain.

One page may be raw emotion. Another story may be bittersweet memories of what was lost forever. And still another entry may be rage against the God I believe in… the God whom I have lost my faith, hope, and trust in.

That’s why I both love and hate Chris Tomlin’s song Sovereign.

In your everlasting arm
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

I want to believe that so badly.
I desperately need to believe again.

And yet.
And yet…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Life Goes On?

Life goes on.

I don’t particularly like those words.

I have said them.
To others.
To myself.
I have said them lots and lots of times.

I know them to be true.
Short of a cataclysmic world ending life-as-we-know-it event or the second coming and the end of time, life goes on.

Life goes on.
The sun rises.
The sun sets.
Days and weeks go by.
Months pass.
Seasons change.
Life goes on.

Two years later, I am well aware of the simple fact that life goes on.

Yes, life goes on.
The sun rises.
The sun sets.
Days and weeks go by.
Months pass.
Seasons change.
Life goes on.

But what about when it doesn’t?
What about when it doesn’t?

What about when the phone rings and the worse news you could ever imagine is heard?
What about when the doctor delivers devastating words no one ever wants to hear?
What about that frozen moment in time in which everything near and dear is completely undone?

What about then?
What about then?

I have written about it before and do so here again. I will never ever get the image of the coroner coming to give me the worst news possible out of my mind. It is an exquisitely painful freeze frame seared into my consciousness.

I remember time slowing down.
I remember the chief-of-police talking–his voice sounded like he was underwater.
I remember this uncharacteristic and extremely loud roaring in my ears.
I remember seeing faces of people who were normally as familiar as the back of my hand–their looks of horror rendered them unrecognizable–although now, I can pick them out of the full color video loop that now plays unerringly.

What about then?
What about then?

Life goes on?
In moments like those, it feels as if life has ended.

I well remember being offended that others got to keep living their lives without the fundamental changes I was experiencing.

Yes, life goes on.
But if you are wondering, let me help you understand: hearing those words is hardly comforting.

Life goes on is actually a pretty fatalistic view of life.
It’s the kind of phrase that goes with a shrug of the shoulders and can sound as if devoid of all hope.
It’s a phrase that makes it seem as if what really matters somehow doesn’t.

To the ears of those for whom life has come to a shuddering stutter-step stop, life goes on lacks the compassion so desperately needed.

Be patient with us (whomever or wherever we might be).
Hopefully we’ll get there one day…

Thank you for reading, sharing, and commenting…

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.

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.

From My Perspective: What Real Faith Looks Like!

Faith.

We sing about it.
We talk about it.
We pray about it.
We throw it around as if it was somehow easy to have or easy to grasp.

We tell people they need to have faith.
We tell others they need to keep the faith.
Or maybe we ask them, Where’s your faith?

We describe faith as pure. Or simple. Maybe basic. Or even elementary.

And sometimes we describe those who might be struggling as losing or having already lost their faith.

I know
Believe me, I know.

I have been accused of not having enough faith.
I have been pigeonholed as one who has lost his faith.
I have heard how he’s (that’s me) lost his way, bless, his heart.

Or better yet, what kind of a preacher gets mad at God?

As it turns out, this kind.

And the truth is? My faith has suffered some hard, hard days.
Try having your family ripped asunder.
Try seeing your whole world unglued.
Try losing a whole circle of friends.
I bet you’d also find it hard to sing about having an awesome God…

Not that He isn’t. Not at all.

But when people are hurting and wanting answers, it’s not a simple matter of just having faith.

I never once stopped believing in God.
Not once.
Never.

But if you reframe the question, then I had trouble seeing his goodness. I had a difficult time finding His mercy. I struggle even now with seeing His purpose for my life. Lots of things are still topsy turvy upside down. With no end in sight.

Still want me to have faith that everything is going to work out alright?

Let’s be real. Somethings will never be made right. Not on this side of eternity.

But in a funny way, I have found strong hope in the strangest place.

My hope is wrapped up in faith.
A faith I wrestle with.
A faith that has left me without near enough answers to satisfy my anger, fear, and frustration.

You see, I think we have the concept of faith all messed up. We see faith as something concrete, fixed, unmovable. But that’s not necessarily true.

The very idea of having faith means also having doubts, fears, worries, and questions to go along with it. Without those things, faith wouldn’t really be faith, would it?

Honest and pure faith is full of unanswered questions. It is a wrestling with God and the answers we crave.

I confess: I don’t always understand. But my hope is in a God of faith who recognizes the validity of struggle, who acknowledges the doubt, who understands the heart behind the questions, and who helps me take a step forward, even when it seems so counterintuitive to do so…

Faith.
It’s hard.
It’s difficult.
And sometimes it seems like the last thing we ought to hold on to.
But it gives me hope.
And I am glad.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Saturday Night’s All Right! (So Sue Me For liking Elton John Songs)

I have been busier than ever imagined or hoped with real estate.
Did I say busy?
Yes, busy.
Very, very busy!

It is at times exciting, fun, and frustrating.
I think it will eventually pay the bills.
That’s even more exciting for reasons obvious.

But, working is seriously cramping my style.
My writing style, that is.

I have planned to take a day off once a week to devote to writing for the past four… it hasn’t happened yet. But, having speaking opportunities (the more the merrier, hint, hint) ensures I will make time to write, think, and study. We are working at creating an absolutely fabulous place here at the house for that very purpose.

Still I am grateful. (And convinced a sermon will get finished somehow, some way in time for June 30th… and that’s pretty funny considering in my old life, sermons were always done by Tuesday evening–always).

I am not complaining. I am, to the contrary, joyously happy for the distractions of life that mean we are still living. Learning to be in the moment is to relish those moments as they happen. There is immeasurable riches and richness in that.

So, from that perspective, stolen moments to write–like now, are relaxing. We are sitting on a bench at the outlet mall. Becky is shopping. The other boys are doing whatever teenage boys do in a place like this. Casey is sitting beside me eating a scoop of rainbow sherbet in a waffle cone. And I am fully relaxed and amazed at the sunset spread out before me (while valiantly fighting the urge to get my own ice cream cone).

I still wrestle with God.
I mourn the relationship I thought I had with Him.
My spiritual limp is pretty evident.
My prayers are fraught with doubt and questions.
I long for the ability to trust once again–for the knowledge that my trust is not in vain.
I crave the experiential presence of God.
I often feel a weird disconnect (which is probably more in my mind than anywhere else) with friends and acquaintances from the past… like I don”t quite fit in.
On occasion, I am surprised and overcome when least expected with powerful episodes of tears and anger. I still hurt. Badly.

But, in spite of it all, God has managed quite nicely to help me find more peace than frustration, more tranquility than anxiousness, and more joy than sadness.

Who couldn’t be happy with that?

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Judging Fixing Helping Loving

The following was written earlier today for my first speaking opportunity tonight with a small group from Cross View Church…

But before you read, check out a brand new endorsement at http://www.lesfergusonjr.com/endorsements/

When People hurt…

I suspect you know at least some of my story.

  • It is graphic, horrific, shocking, disgusting… well, you can come up with your own words too.
  • It involved abuse, betrayal, drugs, rape, and four bullets–two murders execution style.
  • We will deal with the implications of what culminated on October 10, 2011 for the rest of our lives.

It’s not just the death of a wife, daughter, mother, and sister… It’s not just the death of a son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin.

  • Those things happened. And they are far worse than you can imagine.
  • The hardest part is not exactly dealing with the loss. Don’t get me wrong. The loss is hard. I feel it every day. Yesterday was my birthday. And nobody anywhere could have given me what I really truly wanted… to spend the day with my boy. To laugh and aggravate and tease…

Loss is hard. But living with the aftermath is hardest still.

  • The easiest thing to do would have been to check out… to end the pain.
  • The road forward is difficult. And for me, the ripples just don’t ever seem to end.

We lost emotionally, mentally, spiritually, relationally–those are things you expect.

But what do you do when the loss becomes so much more?

  • When your financial stability goes away?
  • When your health is affected?
  • When your credit is destroyed?
  • When your job and career are lost?
  • When you realize people don’t care as much about you as what you do for them?

Even worse, what do you do when your children are rewired by tragedy and you have no ability to undo the damage?

And finally, what do you do when the very fabric of who you are is ripped away and you have to rediscover, recreate, reinvent a whole new life?

Welcome to my world. I sincerely hope you never have to join it.

As I walk this sometimes lonely path–please don’t get me wrong–I am very happy with my wife, with our family, with the life we are trying to build… But, I am in great need of patience. Because I can’t yet be where I once was, it sometimes feels very lonely outside the success I used to enjoy. I need to learn patience with myself–the rebuilding is not happening overnight. And I need others to be patient with me as I constantly try to keep my footing and find my way.

As much as I would like to believe I am the only person struggling, the truth is there are people in every direction who are hurting, struggling, and maybe even at the point of giving up.

You know people like that. You know people who are afraid to reveal just how much they hurt and struggle.

Chances are, you may be that person too…

What can you do? What can we do to help?

I thought you’d never ask…

Matthew 22:34-40, Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In my past life as a preacher, I always taught this passage in a simplified version: Love God; love others.

Loving God could only really be expressed appropriately by loving others.

How do you do that? Love isn’t a feeling, it’s an action. So in any situation, you give, help, recognize, and meet the needs of others before yourself..

But what about when someone is hurting? When life has stuck a blow almost too hard to comprehend? What do you do when the pain is self-inflicted through bad decisions and wrong priorities?

Maybe we should also ask, if somebody is hurting, does it really matter whose fault it is?

No. The answer is no. Pain doesn’t differentiate and neither should we.

So what do you do?

For the most part, we have four choices.

  • Judgment
  • Fixing
  • Loving
  • Helping

The easiest to do is judging. And when we judge, guess what we try to do next? Fix it (because the person in pain obviously is incapable of doing it themselves). Guys, ask yourself how many times you tried to fix a problem for your significant other and judged them in the process?

Judging is easy until we find ourselves in the same place–and discover for ourselves that some things cannot be fixed.

So that leaves us with loving and helping. Loving may not mean anything else but sitting quietly and being available. If you put yourself in the position of loving, then a way to help ease the burden, not fix it, will make itself known.

I sometimes hear people say they aren’t very compassionate… I don’t believe it for a minute. However, if they could tamp down their inclination to judge and fix, they (we) might be surprised at just how compassionate they (we) can be…

I am trying to listen to my own advice… How can I help you?

Doritos, Blue Skies, Boys, & Graduation

Congratulation to my oldest son, Kyle! He graduated today from Lipscomb University with an MA in Theology. I am proud of him and hate we couldn’t make the trip.

As I write this, I am eating Doritos underneath a cloudless blue sky. Temps are around 70 degrees and it is an absolutely gorgeous day.

There are more boys around here than you can shake a stick at today. Good boys. Kind boys. Polite, respectful boys.

Most of them are Boy Scouts.

That’s something I never had any real experience with. I was a Webelos scout once for a short time. The only thing I really remember is getting introduced to dry ice. You can do some pretty cool things with dry ice.

But I digress.

I look at these kids and I am thankful that somebody has been a good influence. Somebody has infused them with good qualities. Obviously God has done His work, but others have developed, mentored, guided, disciplined, and corrected.

Like I said, good boys. I am glad some of them live under my roof.

Unfortunately, they come into contact with some kids in the school system who are not nearly so good. Or nice. Or polite. Or respectful.

I feel sorry for those kids.
And fearful too.

So far this school year our district has lost six children. I have grieved anew at each loss. For the parents especially. For our community. For the pain and anguish felt. For the salt each death has poured into my own wounds.

Some of those have been tragic horrible stupid accidents. But not all. At least one was a murder quite possibly committed by six other young people.

Bad kids that weren’t born that way.

I wonder what went wrong in their lives. Was it parents who were inattentive? Was it outside influences that could have been prevented?

I don’t know and I don’t presume to judge.

But I wonder and I worry.

And God help me, I can’t help but wonder what went wrong in Paul Buckman’s life. Was he influenced as a little boy? Did he get introduced to perversion as a teenager? Was he himself the victim of a sexual predator?

Those are questions to which no answers will be found. But still I wonder who or what could have made a difference. That difference just may have saved my family from a world of hurt and pain.

But it didn’t happen. Horror invaded. And we are left to pick up the pieces and move on.

And as we do, I am thankful for all who do strive to make a difference in young people’s lives. Your work is seen, noted, and appreciated.

And Boy Scouts? You guys are the bomb! Thanks for the hope you instill in those of us who are watching!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Mississippi Blue Skies

Thursday’s storms have passed on by.

It is a beautiful Saturday on the mighty Mississippi river here in Vicksburg.

Forgive the following brag…

It looks like I may have several speaking gigs in the process of being lined up (yeah me!). The blog will most likely go over 62,000 page views in the next few hours or so. Email subscribers are at 310. Facebook page likes are at 577. And, it is quite possible I will be published in two national publications–online and print. But most importantly, I am thankful for all of you who have helped give me a voice again.

The future may not yet be bright enough that I have to wear shades, but the day is not yet over! I am eagerly looking forward to whatever comes next

How’s that for an optimistic outlook on life?

I look forward to the day when some of the struggle is a thing of the past.
Do I think I will still wrestle with God? You betcha! But truthfully, I think my give and take with God is more honest and life/ hope affirming than not engaging Him.

And being able to share your heartbreak, pain, and questioning of God gives great meaning to my life. Neither of us are alone…

In spite of the occasional storm clouds of anger, doubt, confusion, uncertainty, and fear, the sky is still blue. Sometimes you have to wait awhile for the blue to peek through, but peek through it will eventually do.

For my fellow strugglers who wrestle with the pain and hurt of this world…
For my fellow travelers who rage at the inadequacy of faith and additional pain from the hands of a platitude based Christianity…
For my fellow questioners who long for answers they may never have this side of eternity…
For my fellow limpers barely getting by in a world of sprinters and long distance runners, limp on…

Blue skies are just beyond the clouds.
If I can discern them, you will too one day!

(Somebody please remind me of this post when the skies are dark and gray as they sometimes will be for me and you)

Happy Saturday!
May your today and tomorrow be blessed!

Rock on,
Les Ferguson, Jr.

Cole’s Special Day, Part 2

***Warning*** You May Need A Box of Tissues!!

 

cole muscles

I am terrified.

I am terrified to write what I am thinking.

I am terrified to think what I am about to write.

I know it is the truth. I know it is the truth. I know it is the truth.

And maybe if I keep telling myself, I will believe it with my heart and mind.

But it is a close, close thing, this that I write, feel, question, doubt, believe, and get mad about all at the same time. I try to find peace all while wanting to shout, scream, rail, and shake my fist at the sky.

I am literally sitting here afraid to put the words on the page. Some will read them and instantly understand. Some might read them and think I am finally ready for prime time Loony Tunes.

I belong to both groups.

How I wish with all my heart that this dilemma was not mine. I would rather have never been born. But not being born would have meant missing some incredible moments of living–both before and after the tragedy that changed everything.

I see the hand of God in my life. I feel the blessing of God in my life. I am still mad at Him–and thankful He loves me anyway.

And I am delaying the inevitable.

I have to write.

I don’t want to write.

I will write.

These are the words I hate/love: On October 10, 2011, my son Cole, my precious beloved son, Cole, had his most special day ever.

How special? On October 10, 2011, Cole took his first whole, perfect step into an eternity of bliss holding his mother’s hand and the hands of Jesus.

I am so angry God never let me see him whole, well, and functioning like the young man we hoped and prayed about.

I am so angry he had to suffer and struggle his entire life.

I am so angry that people like Paul Buckman are allowed to personify Satan and walk the earth stealing, killing, and destroying.

And yet…

I am striving with all I am and will ever be to see Cole, not as the helpless victim of murder, but as God fully intended him to one day be…

It is so hard to want my son with me and at the same time be thankful his problems, heartaches, and struggles are no more.

Dilemma? Yes, it’s the conundrum I live with.

If you remember in Cole’s Special Day, Part 1, I made mention of my new belief regarding the Holy Spirit? I believe when those four gun shots were fired, Cole and his mother were no longer there. I believe the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, was shielding them from those final terrifying moments–and long before the echoes of gunfire faded away, they were walking the streets of gold…

In the meantime, I am going to live and celebrate life. I am going to enjoy and love my family. I am going to do more than survive; I am going to thrive.

There is still a great adventure ahead of me. No doubt I will continue to wrestle with God. And in this world I may limp from my struggle, but one of these days, a certain young man and I are going to have the best footrace ever!

Don’t you wanna go to that Land? 
Don’t you wanna go to that Land? 
Don’t you wanna go to that Land? 
Where I’m bound, where I’m bound.