Guest Post: Janet Ferguson

He Is Able to Free the Captives

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners. ~Isaiah 61:1, NIV

About a decade or more ago, I was volunteering with our church youth group, and one young teen was especially passionate about blight of human trafficking. Until then, I hadn’t realized the enormity of the problem. Heart pricked, I started reading books like Be the Change and Not in My Town and others. Imagining our modern world where the despicable practice not only still existed, but existed in our country, travelled our interstate systems, blew me away. It was a bit overwhelming. We’ve given a bit of money here and there to charities that helped free victims. Our church supported a village for children who had been freed for a Christmas project.

But still…The conclusion of the story comes to life. (1)

So, I decided to incorporate the heartbreaking issue into my latest novel as a tiny means of spreading the word. The novel is set on the campus of the University of Mississippi, and in the summer the students volunteer at a Summit on Human Trafficking. Without going into dark details, they become aware of the problem. The heroine of the story is a college student. She is three years down the road from a date-rape that happened to her in high school. She finds hope as she sees the recovery and strength in one of the speakers who survived sex trafficking and has started an organization to help other victims.

My prayer is that God uses my little story to bring hope and light and freedom. We were all captives to darkness and sin at some point. But we have a Savior who has defeated our enemy. No matter where we find ourselves in this life. We are free in Christ. Isaiah 61 has been my inspiration for the Southern Hearts Series. The second part of verse one says:

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners.

May you find and share that freedom.



Tackling the Fields
Southern Hearts Series ~ Book 3

Cole Sanders is a changed man. The university quarterback questions his direction in life after serving on a mission trip in Honduras. Things that used to fill Cole’s ego seem empty after witnessing the developing country’s extreme poverty and the death of a precious child. The one glimmer of hope through his confusion is the fresh perspective he now has about his tutor, Audrey. She possesses something beautiful inside and out—something that might help him become the person he wants to be.

University senior Audrey Vaughn tutored Cole Sanders for an entire year and never imagined the popular quarterback would see her as anything more than a friend. After partnering with him on the mission trip, they are drawn together. And he appears to have changed for the better. To let Cole into her life, Audrey will have to overcome not only her brother’s distrust, but also the paralyzing fear still lingering from a past she’s tried to leave behind.

Cole can’t walk away from Audrey now that they’re back in Oxford. He’ll have to figure out how to keep her giant of a brother, a lineman on his football team, from killing him when the coach has his back turned. But can Audrey trust her heart to a player so similar to the one who stole so much from her in the past?

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janetprofileJanet W. Ferguson grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served her church as a children’s minister and a youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a few cats that allow them to share the space.

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Morning Desperation

Faced a crisis this morning: Crawled out of my bed after the third round of snooze-slapping, wandered to the kitchen and hit power on the Keurig. Pod in, mug positioned…go. It dripped about a quarter of a cup…and then broke my heart. I slunked back to my room, my day now ruined forever, curled up on my bed and covered my head with a pillow. Hubby comes out of our bathroom wondering why I’m going to die. “I just need a cup of coffee…”background-15994_1280
Yes. This is tragic.
So I’m sitting here with my McCafe in hand (sorry Joltin’ Jo’s. I couldn’t muster the strength to brave B street. The not plowed roads around the schools were enough stress for this uncoffeed woman this morning. I shall return when the streets are clear.) and I’m finally getting to the reading of God’s Word.

“Lord, you are my portion and my cup of blessing; you hold my future.” Psalm 16:5, HCSB

Huh. What would it be like if I woke up every morning as desperate for Jesus as I am for my cup ‘o caffeine?

I’ll ponder that as I finish my coffee…

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He Gives Me Freedom and Purpose

I’ve been entrenched in the study of James. Our church is doing a holistic approach to the book. Because I’m a teacher to our junior high students, I’m studying beyond what is available to me on Sundays (which, by the way, we all should anyway… but that’s not my point).

It’s been a rough few months.

I like James. I’ve always liked James. I’m a black-and-white kind of girl. I like rules that tell me what I should do and what I shouldn’t do.

But then again, James is a tough guy. When I read Romans 1:17 (the verse that turned Martin Luther’s head and heart, allowing him to see the God whom he could love) and then skip over to James 2:22-24, I’m conflicted. Painfully so.

The righteous shall live by faith…but faith without works is dead, and man is justified by works and not by faith alone…

Wait, what happened? This is the same Bible, is it not? Paul and James followed the same Jesus, did they not?

You know what, I’ll let you grapple with it…because that’s not really the point of this entry. I will say that context is everything, so keep that in mind. I will also say that Paul points to agreement with James in his many other writings. He doesn’t state it the same way, but it is there (Ephesians 2:8-10; don’t leave verse 10 out!).

Here’s what I am writing about today: I am startled to see how much I get James, the man. He sticks out as an oddity–something I can totally identify with. Amen.

He seems to be the stern face preaching works to a crowd dancing in the streets to a rhythm of grace.

“But look,” he says, “you’re dancing carefree, and yet over there–you’ve just mistreated someone because they couldn’t pay the pew tax. And you walked right by that naked boy. What of the penniless widow? Did you notice her at all while your hands were lifted high?”

Huh. Maybe he has a point.

“Love your freedom,” he continues. “It gives the law LIFE and PURPOSE. So, USE IT. If you don’t, then you’re not really free. You’re simply oblivious.”

See, the thing about James is that he knew dead works. He knew legalism. He lived without compassion, clinging to his Jewish upbringing with an iron grip, while at the same time he mocked the Messiah in his own home (you did know he was Jesus’s half-brother, right?).

James also knew great grace. Jesus has a reputation for redeeming those who had mocked him not very long before. Praise God.

Perhaps James is a problem to us because when truth was revealed to him and he believed, we expect him to let go of that Jewish upbringing, steeped long and deep in the law.

He didn’t.

Maybe it’s the middle child in him (and this is why I can relate?). The unique position to see two very different perspectives–the somber authority and responsibility of the oldest, and the carefree, fly-into-the-wind-and-embrace-life attitude of the youngest.

Responsibility. Freedom. Law. Grace.

James sees both sides. He held onto both. Perhaps because seeing the TRUTH gave PURPOSE to the law.

That’s the thing about freedom. It’s supposed to have purpose.

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He Gives Me Directions

“And Joshua fell on his face…and said to him, ‘What has my lord to say to his servant?'” ~Joshua 5:14, NASB

We discussed the falling of Jericho yesterday, and with it, the purpose for the nation of Israel. They were a people of God’s choosing, a people set apart for His purpose. His glory. His revelation.

They were to show who the true God is to the world. And God worked in and through them to reveal himself. Pretty well, too, despite the Israelites many, many flaws. Consider Rahab, her response to the Hebrew spies…

“…our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:11)

She had heard about the Red Sea. About the wilderness, and the mighty kings the nomadic wanderers had taken out. No doubt she’d heard about the crossing of the flooded Jordan river…and now these people, whose God was clearly THE God, were coming.

Notice what she didn’t hear about…How amazing the leadership was among Israel. The awe-inspiring orator who captivated his audience. The unbelievably gifted song leader who could raise a frenzy of praise with his charismatic performances…Sometimes showing who God is to the world around me is as simple as walking. Am I willing to obey-

She heard about God. HIS power. HIS doing. HIS redemption of his people. Were there amazing leaders, great writers/speakers, gifted musicians? Yep. Among many other extraordinary people, there were such in Israel. Gifted and called by God himself. But Rahab’s faith didn’t sprout from them. She planted herself into the conviction that God was sovereign over all–people, nature, nations. All.

So, what does that have to do with the felling of Jericho? Well, we know Rahab was saved from that destruction. We also know that her legacy wasn’t restricted to her soiled past. Boaz, her son, was quite a good man, you know. And God saw fit to include Rahab in Jesus’s genealogy.

Anything else?

Well, we circled around to this question: “How do we, like the Israelites, show who God is to a godless or idolatress world?”

Perhaps the answer is found in this part of the story.

“I have given Jericho into your hand…. You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days…then on the seventh day march seven times, and the priest shall blow the trumpets…and all the people shall shout…”

What? Not only is that a very strange string of directions, it’s actually quite terrifying. March around the fortified city walls? That is a completely vulnerable position. And seven times? Not only is it vulnerable, it has now become predictable. A recipe for slaughter.

Here, maybe, is the key. Obedience. God said march. Just walk. No shooting. No secret attack. Nothing fancy, cunning, or brilliant. A simple walk around the wall–easy directions that are leg-shakingly difficult to complete. But the obedience is visible, so when Rahab and her family ask “why did you do that?” the people would say, “because God said to.” So when the nations around heard about the walls coming down, the only bit of strategy that they could gain from studying that victory is, “they obeyed God.”

Sometimes showing who God is to the world around me is as simple as walking. Am I willing to obey?

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Out of Bondage

Out of Bondage.

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He Leads Me

Arise, my beloved, and come away with me.

~Song of Solomon 2:10

image“Come with me!”

What do you do when you hear that? Me? My first response is to ask, “where are we going?”

A valid question, right? If I’m going to leave the comfortable spot I’ve been warming for however long, I want to know the end destination. Come on, now, be honest…you probably do too.

So, let’s play out this conversation…

“Come, my love, let’s go.”

Still in my comfy warm spot. “Where are we going?”

He smiles, holds out his hand. “Come with me.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

His grin fades a bit. “I’m giving you an invitation to be with me. Does the destination matter?”

Yikes. Jesus calls me to follow where He leads. To be with Him. And my caveat is, “I need to know where we’re going”?

Maybe I need to have that “define the relationship” chat with him again. He is good, faithful, trustworthy, and when he invited me into a relationship with him, I was all in. “You lead, I’ll follow.” That was the deal.

Because where we were going wasn’t the point. He leads, I follow, because I want to be where he is.

I think that makes the whole where are we going question irrelevant.

Lead on.

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He Completes Me

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~Phil. 1:6, HCSB

I’m a writer–I write fiction. At any given time, I have at least three manuscripts sitting on my hard drive waiting to be finished. I thought of this yesterday as I read through Philippians one. Quirky, I know, but I can actually hear my characters call to me “finish my story…I’m not done yet!”

One story I’m working on now particularly came to mind as I pondered Philippians 1:6. I’d left my MC in a bad place. Lonely, desperate for love, for belonging, she cries out to her writer, “please, don’t leave me like this forever!” And I hear her. I promise, “this will make sense in the end. Just wait and see.”

Our Father, the Writer of our souls hears our cries. The thread of our stories is not yet complete, and He, who writes beautifully and knows the beginning from the end, will not leave us forever in our desperate, unfinished scenes. He will bring us to completion. And when the story is fully known, it will make sense. All of it. We will see as He sees, know what He has always known, and will shout to Him who does all things well, “Glory!”

He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion. Your story isn’t over yet.

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