Image Bearer (1)

  I had a funny (as in Ha-Ha) conversation with my editor at Leafwood Publishers today that went like this: “Any news on a title? That would help me a lot—it gives me something to tell people. It is too weird telling folks ‘I have a book coming out next spring. No, I don’t know the name of it yet.’”  

In perfect timing, she emailed me back with an answer this afternoon. Pardon the pun, but while we are still wrestling with the subtitle, I am fairly confident that the main title will be: “Still Wrestling!” 

As far as I know, everything is percolating right along for a late spring/ early summer 2018 release.

I can hardly wait! This is worse than waiting for Christmas morning! Meanwhile, I continue to write for The Clarion-Ledger on a monthly basis. I am also at work on a second full book of my own. If I had to guess, I’d say it will serve quite well as a sequel to my first.

If you are in the area, we would love for you to come visit at the Lake Harbor Church of Christ where I minister and preach.

What follows is the modified first of a four-part series of bulletin articles I wrote earlier this year. I hope each will be of benefit…

You have four choices to choose from in answering this question:

Where was I?

  1. A Star Wars/ Star Trek/ Battle Star Galactica Convention
  2. An intergalactic Zoo
  3. The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  4. A point in time where transhumanism was in full evidence.

In the vein of a popular syndicated morning radio show, take C.

I had never in my life seen anything like it.

Anybody with eyes in their heads could have seen this country bumpkin come to town.  What a rube I was! Did I mention I had never in my life seen anything like it? In every direction I turned, I saw a new sight stranger than the one before. I didn’t want to be rude, but I wanted to ask a lot of questions.

Or not. I was genuinely afraid of the answers.

So there I was, with my mouth, wide open and my faced scrunched up in a semi-permanent, “Wow, are these people real?”

Why yes, yes, they were.

Jim Morrison didn’t know the half of it. People are strange.  Apparently, the Los Angeles airport is where strange comes to town.

Or a magnet. That’s a distinct possibility. I did see lots of metal stuck in the weirdest places.

Netflix’s production company missed out on a money saving/ money making opportunity. Instead of all the effort involved in the filming and special effects in Stranger Things, they could have set up a camera in the Los Angeles airport.

People are strange.  There is no doubt about it.

Take my friend Mickey for instance.  On second thought, my contract only allows me to tease Mickey while I’m preaching.

Take me for example.  Or you, if you’re feeling a little bit charitable.

I love ketchup on my eggs and grits.
I have a child who eats ranch dressing on everything.

Those aren’t half the examples of strange things in my family. Need some more?

I have a brother who likes the University of Alabama.  I don’t know how much weirder that can get.

And my own wife, yes even her, likes to work around the house on Saturdays. Work? Yes, work.  She grew up in a strange family apparently.

But then there is you. Can you spell weird? The music you listen to, the shows you like, the things you expect–and from your preacher too.

Weird, strange, and sometimes hysterical. Yes, we are.

Because of our idiosyncrasies, most of us are in a constant need of mercy and grace. Unfortunately, instead of being deep reservoirs from which we share the same, we tend to be fixers. We try to fix everybody in every way that doesn’t line up with our own likes, understandings, and beliefs.  And maybe some fixing is needed.

But whether it is mercy, grace or fixing you offer, it ought to all stem from one specific understanding.

Genesis 1: 26-27, Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”  So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.

Image-bearer! Every human being bears the image of God. Even those of us who are strange.

Think about that the next time you want to be critical, overbearing, mean or ugly.

I am an image-bearer. So are you!

Check out my Facebook Writer’s Page!

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

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.