Life is Good

Busy, busy, busy…

Just like you.

Next Tuesday I will be speaking/ teaching three classes at the 2014 Harding University Bible Lectures. If we haven’t met and you are there… well, come let me buy you a cop of joe!

Today I sent in my topic title for the 2015 Pepperdine University Lectures.

Won’t that be a funny sight? A Mississippi Redneck in Malibu, California!

I would have never imagined how much life could have turned in around in the past three years. We are fast approaching the three year anniversary of the day my family came unglued.

And while all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again… God has been mightily at work in the life of my family.

What was broken has been in many ways restored.

At any rate, I am thankful for so much that we have been given–new opportunities for ministry, speaking, writing…

I am so thankful for Becki and the way she has brought peace and love into our lives.

My parents, siblings, and close preacher friends have been rocks of stability!

And then there is my oldest son, Kyle. No man could have asked for and received better support and love from his oldest son (and his wife, Karissa)!

Indeed, all my children–whether birth, adopted, or step continue to give me great joy and more reasons to fight on!

And I cannot say enough about my new church family at the Lake Harbour Drive Church of Christ in Ridgeland… Your positive encouragement and patience mean everything!

So.

No theology or challenges from this blog tonight (Although you can read new material from me posted this evening at Wineskins.org–please feel free to check it out!)

Just thanks.
Thanks to all of you who have allowed me into your lives–who have helped give me a new voice!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

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.

I Don’t Know Where I Fit In

In my earliest days as a beginning theologian, I understood well my conservative upbringing. I knew intimately the points and counterpoints of some pretty intense theological debates.

I was well versed in the different papers and publications put out by the differing and dueling editor-bishops. I knew what schools held to what doctrinal positions. I understood what would happen if I aligned myself to this camp or another.

There were theological giants walking among us and I was quite eager to hear everything they said.

For years I thrived in that atmosphere. I was a living sponge soaking up those doctrinal differences and arguments—reveling in my knowledge, honing my own ability to dissect, discourse, and write.

A large portion of my life involved doctrine, doctrinal analysis, debates, discussions, and like the proverb says, iron sharpening iron.

The little dictionary capability that resides within my word processor defines lockstep like this:

  • a way of marching with each person as close as possible to the one in front. 
  • close adherence to and emulation of another’s actions.

Yes, I was good at maintaining the right positions and attitudes—I could march and fit in—and I did.

I did at least until a pesky thing called ministry got in the way.

Ministry or the art of ministering into the lives of others was where I found myself more times than not. I could only retreat into my study and the scholarship of which I love for so long before real life had to be challenged.

Ministry meant interacting in the messy lives of others—and confronting my own messiness in the process.

Along the way, a funny thing happened (here’s where I probably lose the next preaching job or opportunity). As I became intimately involved with the lives of hurting broken people—as I came alongside them with the brokenness and hurt of my own life, I found it harder and harder to maintain some of my positions.

Sometimes it was because my positions didn’t hold water in the practicality of living out my faith—at other times, I realized that in the grip of pain and struggle, I couldn’t often afford the luxury of smug self-assurance.

At this point in my life, I have apparently lost the ability to march in lockstep. Or maybe you might consider me a round peg in a square hole.

And it’s not that I am advocating for you to rethink your arguments or positions. I am not all that worried about knowing whose theology is more accurate, yours or mine.

But here’s the rub: things that were once so important have lost their impetus.

I have come to believe that in the context of theology—and in the context of how we live our lives, a lot of doctrine and theology—bad, misguided, or completely correct—is overshadowed by the two greatest commands: Love God & Love Others.

I desperately want to have a ministry again one day. But in the trauma and heartache of my life, I have come to realize that nothing matters more than how I love God by loving others.

Living out that ideology might just be the biggest and best ministry any of us can have.

Yes, I am not sure where I fit into the theological world today… and yes, I respect your beliefs and opinions. But…

I choose to remember the words of Peter in 1 Peter 4:8, Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 

Les Ferguson, Jr.

It’s What I Do!

The sixteen year old needed to use my Macbook for a school project.

Made me wonder who he thought he was.

My Macbook?

Give a teenager (hey, there are three at my house right now and they can be rented out for odd jobs as long as you feed them) an inch and well, you know the old cliche.

Really son? My Macbook?

But then he needed my flash drive too.

Remember that thing about giving them an inch?

So I copied the flash drive onto my Mac in order not to lose it’s contents…

In the process I discovered something I have absolutely no memory of writing. It has a system saved date of November 29, 2011. Just a little over a month after the events of October 10, 2011.

I read this bulletin article (I think that’s what it was) ) and wonder how I had the clarity to say, think, or write any of it.

Here’s a snippet:

Life as we know it sure can change in an instant. And not always for the better…

I wish I had lots of words of encouragement and comfort to share. I wish I could look at each of you and tell you that whatever pain you are suffering/ enduring was going to get better sometime soon.

I really wish I could do that, but I can’t.

In reality, I know things will one day be better, if not highly different and strange in how they look and feel.  But until they do—until enough time has passed—where you are is where you must be.

I read that and shake my head. Part of me would like to punch the guy who wrote those words.

Cheeky fellow, he was.

I read that and find it hard to believe this guy was still trying to minister even in and through his own pain.

What was he thinking?

Truthfully? I don’t know if I was thinking. I suspect I was running on autopilot. I had spent so much of my life trying to care for the needs of others regardless of my own.

Whether it should or shouldn’t be that way is a discussion for maybe another day.

But the reality is most preachers pour their lives out in service. And even when they can no longer preach from a pulpit on Sundays, they are still seeking to serve. It’s not second nature for them–it is first.

In the meantime, I don’t know what the future holds for me (none of us really do).

I don’t know if I will ever preach for a church again on a weekly basis (I did recently dare to dream and emailed a resume or two).

But this I do know.

I want to serve and minister to those who are hurting (I hurt with them) and to those who are struggling and wrestling with God (it’s a tag team match, I promise).

It’s who I am.

It’s what I do.

I try to remind God about that on a regular basis. But, maybe just maybe, through the words of this blog and other writing ventures–through speaking here and there–I might still make a difference.

That’s the purpose I crave.

Thank you for helping me fulfill it.

And that article written by a hurting preacher who had no idea or clue how difficult it would become? It ended with these still applicable words, slightly edited for publishing in this venue:

Here is ministry advice from one is literally fighting for his life, his faith, and his future…

Life is too short too live in bitterness and anger—forgive before it consumes you.

If you are married, do not take your spouse for granted.

Hug your children. Everyday. As often as you can.

And finally, if you have a damaged relationship with a friend or a family member, don’t wait for the right opportunity to begin repairing it—the opportunity is now—you will be glad you did.

 

Les Ferguson, Jr.