Damned If I Don’t!

I chose to live.

There was a brief moment or two when it seemed it would be so much easier, so less painful to let it all end.

I cannot begin to describe the agony. Anything I say just won’t do it justice.

It hurt worse than anything I can ever imagine. Day after day, once the kids were in school and I was safely alone, I would scream and call down curses from the sky.

And God help me, I would wear myself out crying and scrubbing blood spatter stains off the trim work and walls. I don’t understand it, but no matter how hard I cleaned, it seemed to come back the next day in new places.

And then there was the anger. Early on it was a living breathing vivid thing. It was ever present and constantly smoldering.

I was angry at Paul Buckman. I was angry at his lowlife family and friends or whoever it was that had protected him or refused to acknowledge his perversions. I hated them and wished for all of their deaths.

I was angry at the criminal justice system and the judge who let him out of jail.

Just an hour before Karen and Cole were so brutally murdered, I called the investigators to get his license number because he had followed them the night before–and was denied. I was angry at them as well.

But most of all, I was angry for failing to see the threat he was–I was angry for not seeking vengeance myself for what he had done to Cole.

So add up all the anger and pain. Factor in the expectations of those who still do not understand why I had to walk away from a house, town, job, and church home. Multiply that by all the job and insurance related fear and confusion. Add in another dose of what-do-I-do-now and how-do-I-support-my-family…

What amazes me are the people who continue to second guess how I responded–and judge me still. (Walk 15 minutes in my shoes and I bet your thinking changes–but hey, I wouldn’t wish this on you for any reason…)

But into this incredible cauldron mix of conflicting and seething emotions walked an angel.

DSC_0484

I have called her Becki Beth since she was 14. She was the best friend of my sister, Julie.

Way back when, we dated for three or four years. At some point in time, as the old Journey song goes, we entered separate ways and spent almost three decades worlds apart.

IMG_0036 IMG_0093

We had no contact in all those intervening years.

Yet, here she was. Not to do anything but be a friend, to be supportive, to listen.

Thankfully, she didn’t come alone–hope and laughter came with her. And grief. To this day, when I cry, she cries with me.

To those who cannot fathom my new life, I know it seems crazy. But over an admittedly short period of time, the sun began to shine anew. The stars learned how to twinkle again.

And love blossomed once more.

I know some expectations were shattered. I was supposed to be the grieving widower much longer than I was.

Yeah. Damned if you do; Damned if you don’t.

Regardless of how others think or feel, I chose to live.

Thank you, Becki, for walking this road with me. For loving my children, for loving me with such a fierce passion and protection. I love you. (And yes, on our wedding day, I know you wore that $99 promise ring I bought back in 1984… if you wear it again, please quit handing people a magnifying glass to see the diamond in it… LOL! JK!)

In the meantime, if you still don’t understand or if you just want to disapprove, all you really need to know is this: I choose to live.

What would you have done?

us

Les, Jr.

What Can I Do For You?

Yes, I know this is not the promised post Damned If I Don’t. 

It is percolating and playing its way out onto the written page.

In the meantime, I would like to ask a question.

Today, I spent some time praying for those who read what I write. I keep hearing from many that you are being helped by my out loud struggling and wrestling with God.

For that I am glad. It’s nice to know my limp is worth something to others.

I have a dream of how I want my voice to be heard–and whether or not it works out that way, only God knows as of this writing.

In the meantime, I am trying to be patient and trying to be content with where I am. (For my personality, that’s not an easy thing to do!)

So, back to my question…

How can I help you? What topics would you like to see my address?

Seriously.

I mean that.

You will continue to be in my prayers…

Les

Damned If I Do…

It’s an old cliché.
But just because it’s old doesn’t make it untrue.

Sometimes you are damned if you do; damned if you don’t.

I am cognizant that living such a public life as a preacher for a thriving, growing church means the community of believers and the community at large is watching.

Watching and judging every move I made, people had expectations I couldn’t begin to comprehend.

And the truth is, in the face of such tragedy and heartache, I became very, very selfish.

I didn’t want to think of anybody else’s needs. Yet, so many, and not just from my local church family wanted, expected, and needed me to step back in the pulpit. They needed me to normalize their lives by being the same man, the same preacher I had always been.

The day Karen and Cole were murdered, some pour soul–and I am not really sure who it was–told me the church needed me to be strong for them.

It was one of those moments of extreme restraint. Whoever held me back that day is owed a large debt of gratitude.

Maybe selfish isn’t the right word to use. I didn’t then nor do I now want to be perceived as selfish.

On the other hand, pain and horror rendered me incapable of thinking about anyone else’s real or imagined needs. I didn’t know how to anymore. All I could see, feel, and know was my own pain and the suffering of my family.

One of my biggest regrets and worst failures as a husband and a father was putting church ahead of my own family’s needs. And I did it time after time. Truthfully? Some of it was my tremendous ego and the inordinate amount of pride I had in my work–to the point that I self-blinded myself to the needs of those I loved.

And the brutal truth is my own Christianity had already been sacrificed on the twin altars of success and church growth. My family was nothing more than collateral damage.

Long before the events of October 10, 2011 I needed to step back and re-evaluate. I’d like to think I would have, but that’s probably another little self-delusional thought.

Knowing what you have now heard, is it any wonder faith took such a strong hard hit? My faith was already compromised by relying on self and the prideful proverbial bootstraps I used to accomplish my goals and dreams.

Turns out I was pretty selfish before as well.

The point is this: no matter how you judge me or not, being a local church preacher is something I no longer want to do or can.

To those of you who preach, my hat is off in joyful recognition of the tremendous way you serve God’s people. The vast majority of preachers are good, honest, sincere people who seek only to serve.

You deserve more credit and appreciation than you probably get. (And more money!)

I, too, still want to serve. But I have to find a way to do it without forcing my family to squirm in that particular crucible. Even more, I have to find a way that doesn’t compromise my relationship with God.

As self discovery goes, it’s now abundantly clear I was never very balanced nor good at trusting God before. That’s a big part of my new reality. Finding my own faith, learning to trust, and discovering a new voice and a better way to minister is my goal.

Damned if I do? Yes, I walked away. And I have not looked back.

But instead of wallowing in pity and anger, I am choosing to find a new way.
To live.
To serve.
To minister.
To love.

And even though it is hard… Even though I am not sure of where I am going… Even though I still wrestle with God, I sense and feel Him taking these new tentative steps with me.

It’s a new journey.

As one of my favorite classic rock bands sings, Walk on.

Tell me what you think?

(This is a two part article… Damned if I Don’t is up next…)

And I Can’t Find My Way Home…

Just so you know, I am writing–actually I am in a tag team match with God and the words I want to say. But in the meantime, I thought I would share with you a part of something I wrote for the bulletin of the Orange Grove Church of Christ back in May, 2008.

 Although they each had their own particular story, these men still had something to prove, still had things yet to be accomplished musically. And so in 1969, Blind Faith was born.

If you don’t know this story, Blind Faith was an English rock band, a super group whose members were Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood and Ric Grech. You may not know the names of Baker or Grech, but Clapton and Winwood are living legends.

Unfortunately, Blind Faith was only together for one year—they only produced one album of the same name. In many ways, the band’s demise was a product of the superstardom attained by its members even before the forming of this particular band.

I was reminded recently of Blind Faith because of a song played on some TV show or movie we watched. I couldn’t tell you for all the gold in Ft. Knox what we were watching, but I was instantly grabbed anew by the song.

It’s an ironic twist that a group called Blind Faith would sing about not being able to find their way home.

Come down off your throne
and leave your body alone.
Somebody must change.

You are the reason
I’ve been waiting so long.
Somebody holds the key.

 But I’m near the end and                                                                                                         I just ain’t got the time                                                                                                            And I’m wasted and                                                                                                                  I can’t find my way home.

 Come down on your own                                                                                                       and leave your body alone.                                                                                      Somebody must change.

You are the reason
I’ve been waiting all these years.
Somebody holds the key.

 Chorus

But I can’t find my way home.
But I can’t find my way home.
But I can’t find my way home.
But I can’t find my way home.
Still I can’t find my way home,
And I ain’t done nothing wrong,
But I can’t find my way home.

 by Steve Winwood

Here’s a new thought to go a long with the old… There are a lot of us out here who are wasted. Not necessarily wasted in the sense of alcohol or drugs–although for some that applies as well– but wasted… washed out, damaged by life. Wasted by circumstance, heartache, tragedy and pain. A wasted where you haven’t done anything wrong. A wasted in which finding your way home seems like the completely unattainable.

But, you can find your way again.

It’s a path we can walk together, you and I.

Who is with me?

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Excitement Times One Hundred Thousand Equals?

C’mon.

Surely you know the answer.

Quit teasing. I know you know…

Are you sure you want to continue this obstinate streak?

Ok. So be it.

For those math challenged among us (self-included), I’ll help you work the equation.

Excitement X 100,000 =?

In this equation, excitement is knowing somebody passed this blog on to a huge Canadian talk show host by the name of Drew Marshall. Got that?

100,000 is a hypothetical number representing the unknown amount of people who will listen via radio and online in over 150 countries to stated radio show host. If you don’t like that number and insert your own figure, the answer will still be the same.

So are you ready to do the math? You have thirty seconds to work the equation.

Go!

(Insert countdown timer here)

Whew. That was the longest thirty seconds of my life.

Anybody that didn’t come up with the answer of Les Ferguson, Jr. got it wrong.

Me!!! Me!!! I am bouncing off the walls excited!

(Did you get the mental picture I am really, really kid-on-Christmas-morning-getting the biggest-and-best-toy-ever kind of excited?)

Yep. That’s me.

On the afternoon of April 6, you can tune in online at The Drew Marshall Show and listen as Drew asks about me, the blog, you, and the journey we are on together.

Please share in my excitement and pray I have the right words to get this message of struggle, faith, and God into the ears, hearts, and minds of others who hurt, question, and doubt.

Yes, I am excited. And yes, this is a cheesy post considering other topics, but, I am hopeful this will lead to more opportunity.

Thank you for traveling with me.

More details to follow as I know them.

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Stop, Drop, & Listen

If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas–no wonder my words have been impetuous. (Job 6:2-3 NIV)

Don’t be a fool!

Yes, a fool.

And yes, I am talking to you.

I have made many foolish mistakes in my life. Sometimes I am afraid my picture has been used in the dictionary as the illustration of the definition fool.

Free Online Dictionary: Fool–One who is deficient in judgment, sense, or understanding. One who acts unwisely on a given occasion.

IMG_0067

I wish I had cornered the market when it comes to being a fool, but it would be foolish of me to think so.

So when I say Don’t Be A Fool, it’s really about saving ourselves from creating more heartache, pain, anger, and stress in those who are already dealing with a painful reality.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this post is really about what to do or not and what to say or not when people are grieving.

Grieving is the hardest work I have ever done. Grieving turns your already upside down world into a life that is now also inside out.

Try to imagine.

Let it be the loss of a child and then the depth of the grieving pit is bottomless… to my friends that belong to the cruelest club in all the world, can I get an Amen?

Here’s how not to be foolish when interacting or attempting to comfort those who grieve:

1. If you can’t control your need to say something with words, buy yourself some duct tape or otherwise, don’t say anything other than I am sorry and I love you (repeated over and over again).

Please try to get this. Job’s friends were most helpful when they sat silent with him in the ashes of mourning. But as soon as they opened their mouths… well, you know the story. Their words did not help. Their words created more pain, more stress, and more anguish.

Even now, well meaning people keep trying to fix me. Sit in the ashes with me, but please quit using your theological arguments to fix what can’t be fixed. My heart may be, but I am not broken!

I suffered a great loss and dealing with that is different for each person. It is a journey, a path, a road that must be traveled. You cannot make it shorter, but you can surely make it longer, harder, and more difficult.

I know my friends have a need to make things better. And I know you would be more comfortable if my grief or struggling wasn’t so evident.

But think of the alternative… Wouldn’t you rather me engage God and wrestle my way back to a stronger, deeper faith than ever before? Wouldn’t you rather me limp with God than not walk at all?

2. This is so important: See what was written above!

Please don’t take this wrong. Please don’t see this as being just about me.

It’s not.

It is, however, about every lost soul who wanders hurt and lonely in the darkness wondering why God has disappeared…

Give us enough time and we’ll find our way again.

God is patient and you should be too.

“Therefore I will not keep silent;
I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. (Job 7:11 NIV)

PS. Please hit the share button–and go DWTBA Facebook Page and like and share!

Les Ferguson, Jr.

Pushy and Bold?

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.                                                                                                                   It wouldn’t be the first time somebody called me pushy and bold.

I know I can be pretty blatant about what I want or what I am looking for.

Case in point? See the little thing off to the right that says subscribe? Yep. Right there. I know you see it. At any rate I have been asking people to subscribe and some of you like to make me continue asking because you haven’t done so yet…

Guess I’ll just have to love you to pieces anyway as we like to say in my family.

So.

What are you waiting for? When Cole wanted something really badly, he would say “Pretty please with ice cream on top?”

Is that what you want me to do?

Ok.

Pretty please with ice cream on top?

And while you are at, my buddy Brad Palmore has done it again. He has created a Facebook page for my blog as a way to integrate better my social media and help me reach more who are struggling in their faith.

My new blog articles should show up there automatically.

So.

Please take a quick minute and click the Desperately Wanting To Believe Again Facebook Page and hit like.

Thank you for all the encouragement and excitement you generate in me and for me.      You are simply the best…

Coming soon, a post about fools…

Your friend and fellow traveler,

Les, Jr.

Horatio Spafford & Me

Oops. I accidentally posted this a bit ago with the wrong Horatio. Thanks to RW for alerting me. I knew when I did it something was off–how I got the name wrong, I will never know! Grace, I need grace!

I appreciate much the reading, comments, sharing, and subscribing so many of you have done. You have helped give me voice again. Those of you who have already subscribed (see the subscription link to the right of where you are reading now), are helping me get ready for the next opportunity–whatever that might be.

This faith journey is taking me somewhere–and from what you are saying, I have struck a nerve. I am not alone in wrestling, fighting, and struggling with God. My faith is not the only faith with deep questions. My life is not the only life that has faced, is still facing, and will face that dark night of the soul…

Thank you…

We went to worship yesterday.

That is nothing unusual. I normally enjoy being with God’s people when they gather together. I have long appreciated David’s words,

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1 NIV)

For the longest time, being inside a church building was just utter torment. Being in worship was just a reminder of what God didn’t do.

Praying? I will not claim to have ever had the kind of praying relationship I would have liked. So much of my prayers over the years have been wordless appeals to God. And now? Most of the time I start to pray, but it just drifts away because I have no idea what to pray for and expect in return. I believe God still hears me, but if He is waiting for me to have a clearer picture, we might be awhile…

I do try to say bedtime prayers with Casey. He doesn’t much want to do it, but on the nights he wants to, I end up angry at God all over again. It’s kind of hard not to get upset when a now seven year old asks God to tell his mom and brother hello. And God help me, he sent a letter to each of them in January by helium balloon–and he has asked God to have them send a letter back to him.

What do you do with that?

Singing? I have found little if any peace in worship music of any kind. Which is really saying something when you know how much I like bands and artists such as Mercy Me, Newsboys, Jeremy Camp, Chris Tomlin, and David Crowder. Over the last six months or so, they have largely been absent from my life.

And giving? I have tried in the past to be a generous giver–there was a time when I had a bit too much pride in that regard. But now? Maybe you might think I am being overly dramatic, but it feels like I have already given too much of me…

But those are my problems, not yours–and for me, I am striving to work through them.

At any rate, we went to church yesterday and heard a great sermon about children honoring their parents (Thanks TW). But I almost missed it

At some point before the preacher took the stage, we sang an updated version of an old hymn by Horatio Spaffordr. I sang it as hard as I could with tears streaming down my face.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul,It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I wish it was.

I want it to be.

It is well… And though it isn’t always, I hope and trust, one day it will…

Thanks to a new friend and blog reader, I leave you with this prayer from Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I want to believe.

How about you?

A God Who Works In Really Strange Ways

This afternoon between Becki studying and my working around the place, we made time for a short walk. As we walked and talked, it occurred to us–not for the first time–there was no way anybody could have ever imagined or dreamed the crazy twists and turns our lives have taken.

Certainly, I could not have ever had a nightmare with the reality of the one that jumped on me with both feet.

In steel-toed boots at that.

As I sit here in the swinging rocker by the grill this evening, I keep thinking about the last thing I posted on my old blog, September 8, 2011.

Even though I know they are true, what I once thought were wise words, what I thought was great theological counsel, what I said, seems so different, so difficult, and so, well, out there

But I am going to try.

I can’t promise that I will do it well. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

But I am going to try.

I am trying…

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12, NIV)

It’s kind of hard to think about persevering when it involves a trial or a test. We instinctively know that having trials in our lives and facing tests of our faith and character is hard. Not only hard, they are often painful with consequences beyond much of our control.

And yet, James says there is a blessing in standing tall. There is a blessing in finishing the race.

Maybe you are catching something significantly missing in this passage. We are not being urged to be victorious in the sense of us personally winning the fight.

Why is that significant? Because we live in a culture where being “in it to win it” implies our own strength and ability.

But that is not what James is imploring us to do.

Our energy is to be spent in persevering. That means keeping our heads straight, staying focused on God, and remembering the battle belongs to the Lord!

Les, Jr. (Source: Article by Perry Noble, 21 Questions Leaders Must Wrestle With)

September 8, 2011.

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.