The Hobbits Were On to Something

The opening chapter of Tolkien’s masterpiece invites the reader into the extravagant world of hobbits whom have gathered together for the greatest birthday celebration you and Hobbits have ever seen.  This particular party was for none other than Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. Moreso Bilbo, than his younger nephew Frodo. And as is Hobbit tradition, there presents given to all the guests who attended. Quiet the opposite of the American mindset. I think those midgets of middle earth were on to something truly remarkable: the heart of a servant.

Its funny. I always looked forward to this day as a child. Dreaming about all the toys I hoped to get on this one day. And ice cream cake. My mom always bought me a vanilla ice cream cake for my birthday. Looking at the past, I have some pretty fond memories of this day. I still remember being paraded around the library blindfolded while all my friends had gathered in the break room with a Star Wars birthday cake, complete with Obi-Wan and Darth Maul. Yes, even at my age, I am still into the jovial sorts of things that keep me young at heart. Thanks to all you who did that last year. It has definitely made a memory.

So on my 27th birthday of the 27th day of this month, I am brought to terms with two even more radical impacts on my life. First, my family. I was blessed to have the past 3 days off from work to spend with Amanda, Caedmon and Presley. And I have loved every minute of it. My love for my kids is easy, they are my own flesh and blood. But Amanda, that’s a whole other story. I wouldn’t want to spend my birthday with anyone else in the world. I need my wife more than anyone else in my life. Man I love her!

Perhaps the greatest impact in my life though has been none other than Christ himself. I think that it is important to give credit where credit is due. I have been alive and am being made alive because of His impact on my life. So I offer to you the testimony of how I cam to know and am still learning to know God in my life:

Early Childhood
I always
start with the prophet Jeremiah when sharing the testimony of God’s
grace in my life, because I believe that God has spoken these same
words to me:

5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
         And before you were born I consecrated you;
         I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
    6Then I said, “Alas, Lord GOD!
         Behold, I do not know how to speak,
         Because I am a youth.”
    7But the LORD said to me,
         “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
         Because everywhere I send you, you shall go,
         And all that I command you, you shall speak.
    8“Do not be afraid of them,
         For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD. 
         Jeremiah 1:5-8 (NAS)

I was born in Mineral Wells, TX out of
wedlock. My father lived in Converse, LA out in the middle of a swamp.
That is where I spent the early portion of my childhood with my younger
brother. His name is Charles Burleson, Jr. or Chucky for short. He’s a
whole other story, but it suffices to say that my mother committed
adultery, got pregnant, and that is how my younger brother was brought
into the family. He’s about a year and a half younger than I am, an my
dad loved him like his own. In fact, for most of my life I didn’t even
realize we were half brothers because we are that close.

We were born into a broken household of
alcohol, drugs, and abuse of every sort. One of the only memories of my
father was baking marijuana in the oven. He grew the stuff in the back
yard.  My family was also very poor. In fact, we would drape towels
over 5 gallon buckets as a filter to catch the rain water. Our only
running water was a well in the back yard. Looking back, I am glad I
was so innocent. My brother and I dumped all kinds of things into that
well and I don’t think I could ever drink from it again. My father
built the house we lived in. A very authentic log cabin if you will.
The kind with the big log burning stoves and the only bathroom was the
outhouse in the back. We either bathed in the pond on the property or
used the kitchen sink. Most of our food was hunted or given to us from
charity. Yes, I said hunted. Believe it or not, there is game like deer
in the swamps. My dad would skin the deer and use the hide for rugs and
then we would eat the meat. We also used the goats for milk. So you
know, poor.

One week we decided to visit friends and
family up in Mineral Wells, TX where I was actually born. There is a
small swimming hole outside of town known by the locals as the “Blue
Hole.” It was never blue. But we were poor and it was free swimming. So
we packed up and headed out. My grand-mother, 2 uncles, mom, dad, and
my mom were all there. At least those are the only ones I remember. I
was only 5 at the time.

After arriving, my mom took my brother to the
other side of the swimming hole. I was jealous and determined, so I
stepped out into the strong current, making way for the other side on
my own. My dead body floated down stream and bumped into my
grandmother’s back. She thought it was one of my uncle’s sneaking up on
her. Grandma turned around to find the lifeless body of her first
grandson.

I was rushed to shore and was given CPR by
someone. If I ever believed in guardian angels, this would be one of my
primary experiences. No one knows the guy who did it and after he
handed me to my mother, he was gone. Never got a thank you and no one
to this day knew who did it. God decided his plans for me went further
than my 5 year old life and granted me a second chance.

Two years passed before the next tragic
event. That is if you don’t count the abuse that went on. My cousin
sexually abused my brother and I,  while baby sitting us. He
would raped our innocence, forcing us to do things to him. Not to
mention the prevelant p laying around the house We were also beaten
with just about everything you can imagine: a fan belt, water hose,
whatever was convient at the time. But these were common place.

That all changed one afternoon, while my
mother and I were making sandwhiches in the kitchen. My father was
outside welding on the car. My younger brother (I get to him in a
moment), was off playing somewhere. A light drizzle started to fall
outside. I went to get my dad to let him know lunch was ready and found
his dead body under the car. The drizzle shorted the wielding machine
and the car acted as a temporary conductor, electrocuting my father. My
mother couldn’t bare to live there and became an alcoholic and we
moved, putting an end to the sexual abuse, for now.

Growing Pains
After
Louisana, we spent most of our time moving from one place to another.
My mom was searching for something, and found the only way to handle
her wrecked life was through drinking, boyfriends and bars. We lived in
Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. My brother and I were always
the new kids in school and often found ourselves the target of
ridicule.

But, I had a peace about it. Remember the
part of Jeremiah, where God said He called the prophet from the womb?
You see, God called me as well. As a child, I can remember walking to
the nearest church. Be it Pentecostal, Methodist, Baptist…which ever
one was closest. And I drug my little brother along. I owe a great deal
of thanks to my deceased Grandmother for that. She is the one who
forced my dad to marry my mom because it was the right thing to do. And
she burned much of the midnight oil praying for her grandkids.

When it comes to your salvation experience,
do you remember it? I know for some it is a lifelong thing, where in
there wasn’t a moment, but a period. For some, this is because they
have the awesome blessing of being raised in a Godly home. For others,
they don’t remember the exact point of when they chose to follow
Christ, but as far as they can tell they have always followed him. For
me, it was an exact moment. I was 9 years old. And admist the turmoil
in my life, I realized at that point my desire to go to church was an
all to familiar God tugging at my heart. So I kneeled before this metal
fold up chair in my Sunday School class and I spiritually gave my heart
to Christ, meaning every word I said to Him that day. I wanted Christ
like no other, because He was my source of strength, refuge, and
shelter from my broken life back home. I wish my brother had done the
same, but that’s another story.

And albeit, that exact moment was forever,
the happiness didn’t last too long. One day, my brother and I were
locked in our bedroom after school. My mom and her boyfriend began to
fight and throw things against the walls. After listening to the hate
filled banter for what seemed like forever, we were taken out of our
rooms to watch her boyfriend beat her and then stick a gun to her head.
Thankfully, the gun was not loaded. They guy left and we moved again.

The Teenage Years
After
that boyfriend, my mom found a guy who seemed decent enough. We lived
with the new guy for about 4 years. He drank a lot, but for some reason
it didn’t affect his emotions. He never lashed out at us and for the
first time in my life I had a semi-father figure. My mom on the other
hand, couldn’t hanlde the drinking. Finally, Joe (the new guy) gave her
an ultimatum: control the drinking or get out. She chose the later.

I was 15 when we left Joe’s place and decided
to move back with my family in Louisiana. Moving back to Louisana
created another thread of painful memories. You see, my mom collected
social security money from my father’s death. My uncle (my dad’s
brother) and aunt saw this as free money and offered to take me in. It
was during these years, I found myself eating out of a dumpster near
the local school.

After putting up with this for a while, I
decided to write my mom in hopes that she would come get me. My aunt,
in a desperate cling to the free money, would take my letters out of
the mailbox. My mom after many months wondered why she hadn’t heard
from me and decided to come visit. 

However, I am not sure why we didn’t leave
right away. She decided to stay with them a while and she put up with
the fighting by drinking.

 My aunt and my brother never really got
along. His temper often got him in trouble. I walked in one afternoon
to find my aunt had my brother by the hair of the head beating and
screaming at him. My mom wasn’t doing anything. I had enough and for
the first time in my life hit a woman. And I hit my aunt as hard as I
could. But only once, to maker her let go of my brother. My uncle came
through the front door just in time to see it happen. My mom, for
whatever reason thought this was a good time to pull me back over the
couch. In doing so, I inadverntaly kicked him in the groin. That with
seeing me strike his wife was enough to send him into a rage. My
brother and I made it past him and out the door before he could catch
us. Needless to say, we moved again.

This time with another aunt in Louisiana. My
dad’s sister. Albeit she was never in a rage, she permitted some really
screwed up things to go in the house. She would give oral *beep* to my
cousin’s husband. My cousin and her husband would also have sex in
front of us, telling us to turn our backs. I would leave the house. It
was disgusting and revolting and just wanted to be away.

Eventually, my brother’s biological father
found us and we moved in with him back in Mineral Wells, TX. For a
moment, I was excited because he said that he went to church every
Sunday. For once a godly father figure in the house. WRONG. It was a
complete fabrication to get my mom to come back. And so we did, my
sophmore year of high school. And not only did he drink, he did drugs.

At the age of 16, I joined a church that made
a huge impact on my life. Calvary Baptist Church. It was there I met my
best friend in high school, Chris Brown. He was the pastor’s son and
invited me to their church in chemistry class. So I went and within a
few months, his dad, Bro. Calvin asked me to move in with his family. I
did and spent the remainder of my high school life with them. My
brother chose to go with the local gangs. The Krypts to be exact.

College Years
Come
graduation, I was ready to go to Dallas Baptist University. Or at 
least I thought I was. No money and certainly no family support, I gave
up the idea of going to college. However, I was over at a friend’s
house one day and noticed a brochure for Wayland Baptist University. In
that instant, God said “That is where I want you to go.” Alright,
that’s fine and dandy, but I don’t have any money. God said he would
provide and the next week $7,000 in scholarships showed up in my mail
box. On top of that, my church took up a love offering and sent me to
college with over $500 in cash to help me settle in.

So I started my college career at Wayland
back in 1997. My degree was in Religion, with a minor in Management of
Information Systems. Through the Baptist Student Ministries, I was able
to grow and mature in my Christian walk, participating in the drama and
prayer ministries and eventually leading the Freshman and Summer
Missionaries ministries. But I never understood what my religion degree
was for, because I was a nerd at heart and my passion was computers.

My junior year I met the one person who would remain a constant factor for the rest of my life, Amanda.
Supposedly, I met her while doing a Disciple Now back in Artesia, New
Mexico. I don’t remember that, but she remembers commenting about my
Larry the Cucumber shirt and how I quickly dissed her. Needless to say
she came to Wayland. I met up with her at Koinonia and thought she was
a hottie. Being the humble nerd I am, I didn’t think she was
interested. But then, oh my gosh, THEN she walked into the cafeteria
wearing a skirt (full length, I am not a pervert) with TENNIS SHOES.
For whatever reason, I was hooked. We dated for a month, got engaged
and were married a year later on August 8, 2000.

The Other Career
Dr.
Lackey called me up on my honey moon and asked me if I were interested
in working at the library full time. I had been a student worker for a
while and they were needing someone to take over the website.

So now I had a job and a hottie wife, what
next? Well three months into the marriage, we were pregnant. The little
rugrut, who would later be named Caedmon Jeremiah was born on August 8,
2001, our first anniversary. And you have heard countless times, the
joys of father hood from me and the many lessons that little guy has
taught me about God’s love. On March 31st of this year, Presley Clair came into our lives. She is a well of absolute awe and has the most beautiful blue eyes. I can’t help but tell her how beautiful she is.

At the start of the summer, I got a job as a shift manager at Hastings. It has been tiring to say the least. I am working about 60 hours a week, give or take a few depending on how much they need me there.  We are currently  job searching where I won’t have to work so much and can  still pay the bills.

Harvest
Christ has really ministered to us through a local congregation. One night I had a vision to go to Harvest Christian Fellowship. Prior to this vision, I wouldn’t step near the building with a 10 foot pole. In the past, friends of mine had some theological beliefs coming out of there that I did not agree with. I was obedient to the vision and can not express my gratefulness to God for leading my family to this body of believers. For all those who read with me through the difficult times when my faith in the Body was weak, you know the difference this body has made. We have meet some people who have caught the same vision and Christ has brought a lot of strong relationships into our lives. Our marriage and family as a whole have grown tremendously since we started attending.

And that is where I am at in my life. Still stiving to find my identity in Christ. Approaching 30 and still haven’t found a career that suits me. However, I still hold fast to the promise that God has great plans for my life. He has my purpose and will show me in due time.

Please pray with me and my family as we look onto this next chapter in our lives. Pray that we find a job that allows me to be at home more often and if God willing for us to stay in Plainview. Pray that His purpose in this testimony comes clear to my heart so I can lead my family in way that honors Him.

Thanks for listening and see you on Fantastic Friday.


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