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.

The Stuff of Life

It’s been like ten days.

Ten days since I did anything on this blog other than answer a few comments.

As much time and energy as I have put into this thing… At one point, being on the outside and looking in, you’d probably think the guy writing all this (me) didn’t have much of a life.

But I do.
I find myself busier than ever.

We are working hard in this rodeo they call real estate. Sometimes I feel more like the clown than I do the successful bull rider. But then again, it really doesn’t matter as long as I have the bull by the horns.

Yes, it’s a bad cliché. I have to own that one.

But truthfully? We are busy with the process of living. Instead of just reacting to life, we are grabbing the horns as hard as we can.

I want to live.
Not just exist.
I want to live.

So we work this real estate gig.
I write and seek places to speak and share.
Occasionally, I apply for a different kind of job.

But, we are busy.
In North Little Rock this Sunday.
The week after in Monroe, La.
Then the Tulsa workshop where I am blessed to speak three times.
And then the last Sunday of March we will be in Ridgeland, MS.

Did I mention I am writing? Yes! I wish I was working on book stuff, but I am staying busy trying to get lessons and sermons situated and done.

The book stuff will come–and it does in bits and spurts. The big deal with that situation is finding an editor who can work with me (translated: doesn’t cost an arm and a leg–I can afford a toe, but who’s counting?).

In the meantime, I want to live.
Not just exist.
I want to live.

My struggles with the difficulties of this world can be exacerbating at times–and that on a good day.

But, I want to live.
Not just exist.
I want to live.
And so, my focus can’t be on all the stuff and things that tend take up our time and attention.
Sure, some of it can be important and may have a needed bearing on where we go and what we do.

But not life.
No sir.
No ma’am.

I want to live.
Not just exist.
I want to live.
And to do that, it is all about relationships.

God, my family, friends, neighbors, co-workers… And even the guy at the Tamale shop next door.

Relationships are the stuff of life.

I want to live.
Not just exist.
I want to live.

My relationships are all a work in progress.
But I am working.
Forgive the mini-sermon, but you should be working on your relationships too. You never know when the time to do so will be no more!

Thanks for being in a relationship with me–even if it is just through the words of this blog. You have blessed me greatly.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Rain

It’s raining today.
All day long.
A hard rain.
I suspect it will rain far into the night.

I like the rain.
I like how it cleanses the air and washes the earth.

It can be a bit messy and problematic at times.
And of course winter rains seem to quickly become things of misery and mud.

But I like the rain.
I particularly like it when it means a cozy day at home with a great cup of coffee and a good book at hand.

For me, rainy days are kind of like the Sabbath requirement in the Old Testament.
I like rainy days especially when they mean an opportunity to slow down, to relax, to recharge the batteries of life. I don’t often enough get to treat them that way, but, when I am afforded that little luxury, well, it is luxurious.

I like the rain.
I like rainy days.

These days, it seems I am always hurrying, scurrying, and fretting about. Trying to sell a house, getting a listing, or meeting a new potential client often leaves me feeling like an unrepentant snake oil salesman. I am not a natural hustler, but hustle I must!

Becki says I am a scholar–that’s kind of a family joke. But the truth is, I am never more comfortable working than when reading, researching, studying, or writing.

Some may read this with a bit of disbelief, but I am not an extrovert at heart. I have trained myself to act like one. In that process, I have learned how to be Mr. Personality in the pulpit and around the people I know best.

I can be excitable and full of passion and energy. I can be the cheerleader for a new effort or ministry, but when it is all said and done, I can’t wait to get back to my study.

My office.
My sanctuary of books and thinking and writing.

That’s the me I miss so much.

Don’t mistake what I am writing as coming from one with an ungrateful heart.
Whiny, maybe, but not ungrateful.
Not at all.
I am truly thankful for the new life and opportunity God, Becki, and Vicksburg have afforded me. And I am trying to both grab and give all the joy and living I can!

In the meantime, I am thankful for the rain and those stolen moments of just finding a bit of harmony and peace in a slower pace of life… If only for a moment…

I will be speaking this weekend at the Discover Rally.
Would love to see you there!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

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.

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.

Your Preacher/ Minister

I have been neglecting my blog.
Not intentionally.
It’s just life.

The real estate work Becki and I have embarked on is keeping us busy. And it is a true joy for us to work together as a team. I hope we are successful even as I hope, pray, and work toward success in a new ministry of writing and speaking.

I am writing. And studying. Wrestling with scripture. Trying to pray. And wondering.
Wondering if the God I knew before will be transformed into a God I understand better… Or rather, if I will be transformed into a man who enjoys a closer relationship than my past life entailed.

I hope so…
I desperately need it to be so.

Desperately Wanting to Believe Again isn’t about a disbelief of or a denial of God.
Not at all.

It is, however, about my personal journey.
About my emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.

It is about trying to have a new understanding of the nature of God.
How He acts, interacts, or not in the lives of men.

I have struggled with Deism a bit. It is easier for me to perceive a God who wound up the cosmos and let’ er rip (Sorry for the Beyblade terminology, I am the parent of a seven year old who is forever “letting it rip”). But while Deism might provide a particular framework to help understand why some bad things happen, it fails miserably in meeting our deepest need for a relationship with the one who made us!

And so I move forward, however slowly, seeking the answers that I need.
I am so very thankful you have embarked on this journey with me. I am grateful for the reads, follows, subscriptions, and sharing. Please continue to pass it on…

As I write what I hope will be published one day, I am enamored by the life of Jacob. In fact, up until about three or four weeks ago, the title was going to be something like A Jacob Life. But in a bit of a teaser for the discoveries I am working through and trying to process, I feel another title change coming.

Something a tad more provocative, but you’ll have to read it to ascertain it’s validity…
The Weakness Of God.

So be teased.

In the meantime, someone asked for me to expound a bit more about the insensitivity some congregations have toward their preachers.

Hmmm.
I am not sure if whole congregations should be categorized that way–although if influenced enough by a person in power, I suspect a congregation can have that particular feel or flavor.

So let me preface the following with this fact about myself: I am a prankster. A joker. A kidder. But just because you can kid somebody about something, doesn’t mean you should…

Being a person who has struggled off and on with weight issues most of my adult life, fat jokes and unasked for comments hurt. No matter who says them. Or How.

Am I too insensitive? Should I probably develop a thicker skin?
Not doubt but easier said than done.

Supposedly joking or not, I think it can be quite easy to develop a cultural contempt toward the work preachers do. Even while loving them.

I suspect you know the drill.
“You only work on Sunday.”
“How hard can it be?”
“We pay you way to much money.”
“It must be nice to get something new.”
“Preachers need to be kept poor and dependent.”
“Don’t you have some nicer looking suits?”
“Preacher’s kids are the worst kind.” (Only because we played with the elders and deacon’s kids, heathens all… Just kidding. Kind of)

I once had an elder who did despicable things. His attitude toward preachers? I quote, “preachers are a necessary evil.”

Looking back, I shudder to think how much I just laughed and went along with it.
But the truth is that kind of behavior toward the men and their families who are trying to serve God through the local church creates a toxic atmosphere–the kind that can become abusive. The kind that can drive preachers into looking for any other kind of work. Anything that will support their family and allow them a modicum of self-respect.

And ultimately, while I struggle to find a new ministry voice, I cannot fathom ever again subjecting my family to that…

Your experience may be different than mine. You may have had a preacher that did nothing but milk the system. Those kind exist, but they are not the norm.

So whether you agree or not, do yourself a favor… love your preacher. He works in sometimes difficult positions and harsh arenas. And he loves you with everything he has. Chances are, he deserves better than he gets.

I am thankful for those who minister to me…

Les Ferguson, Jr.