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.

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/ ‎

The Story From My Perspective

I understand my story is difficult to hear.

It is certainly painful to tell.

There are days when I have to try harder than others to not live with a victim mentality. Days when the anger, resentment, and bitterness want to have free rein in my heart. Days in which it would be easier to just give in to despair.

The losses we faced back then were compounded by all the other losses that seemed to keep coming no matter what we tried or did. Yes, even ongoing losses that seem to be insurmountable.

Certainly, in spite of the horrors visited upon us in the spring of 2011–the horrors that reached a crescendo pitch on October 10, 2011, I sit here at my desk today as an incredibly blessed man.

In this season of thanksgiving, I am acutely aware of my past. But I am even more acutely aware of my present and the hope we have for the future.

I am thankful for the health of my children–of every variety. I am thankful beyond words for the beauty, vitality, and heart of the woman who has made it her job to walk alongside me as my wife.

I am thankful for my redemption–from God and for God. I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve again as a minister. I am thankful for my new church family. I am thankful for their encouragement to use my story for the help and hope of others. Redemption for me means using this story of faith and doubt, agony and pain, and restoration as means to bring honor to those we lost–and to ensure their deaths would never be in vain.

Yes, I am so very thankful.
I am thankful for family far and near.
I am thankful for friends old, present, and future.
I am thankful for hope both now and in the eternity to come–an eternity that is closer than we often know.

I am thankful.

Over the last several weeks I sat through hours of interviews with a new friend, Billy Watkins. Billy is a writer/ investigative reporter for the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson, MS. We talked about things I had forgotten. I recalled things that were difficult to put together. I described things whose clarity has not yet begun to fade nor will in any future I can imagine. Some things just are…

But Billy and I talked. A lot. In person, via text, on the phone. We talked a lot.
In some of those conversations, I cried–and I think there were times he cried in the hearing.
The story he heard was terrible. It was terrible in the telling. It was terrible in the writing. It is terrible in the reading.
Even now.
Even now.

But I am thankful for the opportunity he gave me. I have heard from countless people who see the hand of God still active in our lives. And that hand of God? That is the real story.

That is the real story.

And I am thankful.

If you would like to see the story as Billy wrote it, you can see it here.

As well, I’d like to point you to my latest offering at Wineskins. I hope it will be of benefit.

Blessings to you and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Les

Stand in the Gap

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Stand in the Gap!

That is the name/ theme of the prayer breakfast I am speaking at this Saturday in Atlanta.

It is sponsored by Voice Today, an organization dedicated to fighting child sexual abuse and exploitation.

It is an epidemic of epic proportions.

It is disgusting.

It is sick.

It is a perversion.

And it destroys/ robs so many of their future.

I am thankful to have the opportunity to speak to survivors as well as to those whom we hope will Stand in the Gap!

I told some friends today that I am thankful for each and every opportunity to help those who have suffered and still suffer–be it sexual abuse, grief, faith or doubt struggles.

Redemption is both powerful and painful.

And healing is possible.

Father God, let redemption and healing come to all!

Les, 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.