Monday, October 29, 2007


My laptop crashed while I was in Charlotte NC a couple of weeks ago and is in the hospital...literally. It's called the "Computer Hospital." All my research notes and previous study materials from which I draw information for writing posts are with it and not, I hope, lost. That reported, instead of the final post on the topic of the "Feminization of the Church, I've chosen to do a personal word. You'll see why in a moment.

Yesterday Wade, our oldest son and Pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid Oklahoma, preached a message from his series in Genesis and the failure of Abraham to speak the truth about his wife, calling her his sister, out of fear for his own life. His son later did the same thing. So Wade addressed "generational sins." [With a distinction between sins and curses.] It was a superb message and one every Christian should hear. You can... by going to the Emmanuel web-site. His Mom and I listened by web-cast in live time after attending the early service at our own fellowship.

In the course of the message Wade told the story, with my blessing, of MY failure as a father when anger was a besetting sin in my life. It was of an incident when I, while Pastor of a large Church in Texas, got out of the car on I-35 driving back to Texas from Oklahoma with Mary, my wife and Wade's mother, because she and I were arguing and I was not controlling my temper, as was the case much of the time in those days.

She drove off [wise decision and completely biblical since we are commanded to not keep company with an angry man] and I was left to hitch-hike home, and did. Not the stuff great biographies of godly men are made of, but the truth nonetheless.

It was at that time and because of that incident I got serious about God working in my life and started the painful process of facing, repenting [genuinely] and removing that particular besetting sin from my life. I'm grateful, as are all the Burlesons, including Wade and his three siblings, that God has worked. Wade told that story with correct details, a forgiving spirit, while taking responsibility for his own besetting sin and showing they CAN be generational unless one chooses to stop them with honesty, repentance,and removal. As I said, a superb and needed message by all.

Now, as Paul Harvey says, "for the rest of the story." Even Wade doesn't know what I'm about to reveal.

I was broken-hearted during that trip home hitch-hiking. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know the sin and utter stupidity of what I had done and was doing. But it does take the Grace of God to genuinely grieve over it. I've come to see the presence of Grace in one's life is not evidenced by no longer failing/sinning but , rather, being broken over it. Much as Lot was "vexed in his righteous soul" by the deeds of those around him [and his own later. 2 peter 2] so will a Christian be "vexed." I was. So much so that when I got home later and found Mary gone doing errands I hid in the garage until she returned so the kids would not know we didn't come home together. [It wasn't godly repentance yet as you can see] It was sometime later I got honest and then even later that I related it to Wade as he told it correctly in his message. The cloak of secrecy still prevailed. Someone has said you are only as healthy as you are commited to keeping no secrets. I think they are right. I wasn't healthy quite yet.

Now for more of the Grace part. While hitch-hiking home that day, I was picked up by a business man. We started conversing and he realized I was not a bum hitch-hiking across country but was, in fact, educated and knowledgeable. [Though far more stupid than he knew.] I did not reveal I was a Pastor for obviously shameful and self-protecting reasons. We talked. One thing led to another. Before much time went by we were pulled over to the side of the road and, with my hand on his shoulder, he wept his way into repentance and faith gifted to him of God in that providential moment. he took me to my home and went on his way rejoicing.

I tell you this NOT to take away the sting of my own failure and sin. The Cross has done that. But to remind all of us, as I was reminded that day, that our God isn't waiting until we have it all together before He pours His Grace through us, but in fact, shows us that where sin abounds Grace DOES much more abound.

Some might think this being said might take away from the responsibility of wrong/sinful actions on my part. My thinking is that it only reminds us of "why" we can be honest, repentant, and broken over our sins. There IS no reason to fear His anger. That was poured out on Jesus. Grace is poured out on us. You can trust Him enough to be honest about yourself. In context, "she is my wife, not my sister, but I lied about it and am ashamed of that fact," can be shared with a son, daughter, spouse, friend, BECAUSE His love DOES cover a multitude of sins and those sons/daughters can hear one generation speak to another generation of their own failures/sins against the backdrop of His work on the Cross. "Freedom" is what that really amounts to. It's like coming out of the bushes [Adam] and saying the truth about whose fault it really was. [What if Adam had said 'mine'?] God works in that context Graciously. Thanks Wade for a great message and a great reminder for all of us.



Alycelee said...

Paul, this sounds like someone else, certainly not the person we know. I do appreciate your willingness to be so vulnerable in order that the grace of God not only we active and alive and working in your life, your families lives but in others as well.
By the way, Mary is my kinda sister. :)

Paul Burleson said...


Someone has said the key to forgiving yourself is to know that, given the same situation, God has worked and that work would show up in you being the new person He has made to be. THAT is my confidence now as it is for every believer. "Capable of anything but confident that He is accomplishing what has been begun by His Grace" is my mantra.

Bob Cleveland said...


I can look at Wade and tell that the two of you did a wonderful job raising him, overall. So this post emphasizes even further that God is gracious and that rowing toward the right tree on the shore will .. I repeat will .. get us home through the storm.

I have many stories of neglecting my family through the years and similarly thank and praise God for the abundance of His grace.

I'm glad to have you as a friend (not to mention fellow old coot).

Bryan Riley said...

Thank you for sharing this Paul. Many men struggle with the in of anger. I know God first started showing me the anger in my life when I saw my anger coming out in my oldest son toward his little brother and sister. It was then that I was awakened to my need to humble myself before God.

Yes, praise God for his grace and love.

Paul Burleson said...


You guys did what I married above yourself. [I've met both of your wives so I know where of I speak.] So you understand what I mean when I say that Mary is the single greatest gift of Grace God has ever given me other than redemption itself. She opted out of collusive marriage games those years ago and I could either get real or play marriage games alone. That's the pits so I chose to get real.

I must admit I'm still slightly embarrassed about where I came from to where I am today by His Grace and would not talk of it unless called upon to do so to demonstrate what God can do when we do get real about ourselves. I'm much happier speaking of what I'm learning and experience now than that learned thirty years ago. But all of it is my journey and has it's appropriate place in giving a "what meaneth these stones?" to others. Thanks for your gracious comments.

Bob Cleveland said...


It's usually embarrassing to admit how bad we used to be, particularly among folks who used to be just as bad but won't admit it. I recall times when I got so mad at Peg (late 50's, early 60's), I'd go sit in the drainage ditch in front of my house and envision steam coming out my ears. Two things happened that changed my demeanor completely .. one was that #1) I decided I would never ever let anyone else affect how I felt (really more like how I felt about me), and #2) I discovered that Jesus gave Himself up for His bride that He might present her to himself spotless and radiant. And my job as a husband was to treasure my bride, regardless of anything.

Oh, I got saved between #1 and #2. Well, not really, I'd been saved as a kid, but God reeled me in, between there.

Paul Burleson said...


I've sure been reminded to not assume salvation means instant growth and sanctification for a young Christian when I remember my own journey.

It is the journey, however, that is the important thing and, you're right, you and I HAVE been at it a long while, haven't we. :)

Paul/Mary Burleson said...

Paul (aka My Handsome Feller),
I cannot not write. Thanks for your honesty and transparency.

If you're doing this, then I have to add my perspective. It takes two to play marriage collusive games. Our game was that you carry the anger for both of us. That allowed me to be the "good girl" and not show anger, and at the same time condemn you for yours. (Hindsight provided this perspective. We were clueless at the time.)

When we both began to wake up to our games, I realized I was every bit as anger-motivated as you were. I began to claim my own and take responsibility and untangle your carrying my anger for me (underground games that neither of us were fully aware of).

Mine became known to me when I was suffering major depression and my doctor-friend suggested to me that I was not owning my anger. He suggested that usually depression is repressed anger. My thought was HUH? I'm not angry. Little did I know. Now I know. 'Tis true. Thus the path to my own emotional health and our marriage health took a major turn toward health and reality.

It's fun now to see how the relational games are played. Untangling our own has made us somewhat aware of others' games. But one game we don't want to play is the "Fixing Others" game. Staying real and not playing any kind of relational game has become the biggest challenge of all, but quite exciting!

Our growth together and our life together has been one adventure after another. It's been fun for me because we're both still growing and learning. May it ever be!

Love you much, Handsome!

Lee said...

I married above myself, too.

Thanks for sharing this, Paul. Ultimately, grace covers our sin, but I think being open and honest in repentance brings about the kind of maturity that God wants us to have. That is a very hard lesson to learn, though.

I've always struggled with the tension between the expectation that the church sometimes puts on you to be perfect and just being open about who you are and what you are struggling with. The fact that you can share something like this means that people can see that you are on the same journey together, and they trust you more, don't you think?

Paul Burleson said...


Now look at what you've done. You've said it more clearly and better than I did...that makes me so mad...:)

For those of you who don't know..her favorite nickname for me is "handsome". Mine for her is "beautiful". In her nickname for me there is just wishful thinking. In my nickname for her I'm simply stating fact. She'll disagree...but what does she know? She's just a woman. :)


There is that tension. But...

I learned a long time ago there will be someone in the church who won't like what you do NO MATTER what it is. So I've always opted for just being myself while respecting others for who they are and let the chips fall where they may. I always got along better with those who hung around after that anyway. [Some didn't hang around.] And I agree, those who hang around really do trust you more.

By the way Lee, my joke in the previous comment to Mary, my wife, is an example of that. After I wrote it I thought, "someone is not going to know I'm kidding about her just being a woman." They are not going to know of my total respect for female gender." But I chose to be my humerous, fun loving self at the risk of someone being offended. :) Silly example...but there is that tension you commented about.

By the way, great reporting on the BGCT meetings. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

It is very refreshing to hear any Christian being honest but especially a minister. I think if ministers would be honest like this it would be very attractive to their hearers who have similiar problems themselves but can't relate to a man of the cloth that has no problems himself!

Bobby Brown

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks and welcome. We don't hear enough from you. Good to have your comments...always.

Bob Cleveland said...


Well you've really done it now. That exchange between you and Mary is going to lead some people to the radical conclusion that preachers (at least some of y'all) are human beings after all, and thus foolishly believe that fellers and gals in the pews can really identify with y'all.


Transparency in ministers may even give us hoi polloi the impression that we actually have something to contribute to your lives.

Goodness me.

(I guess I really should have thrown the Socratic Irony flag first)

Paul Burleson said...


You are incredibly funny. This comment is yet further evidence of that.

But did you know your use of the phrase "hoi polloi" is a REAL foundation to my philosophy of life? I REALLY do believe you, and all others, have something to contribute to me as much as I to you.

For some who might not know...the phrase means "the many" and the idea is that everyone has something to contribute...not just the elite. [As some ministers sometimes hold to the idea that being in the ministry gives them a divine right to know and tell what is Truth and everyone ought to listen and learn...FROM THEM.]

We ALL learn from and should listen to each other. This is biblical Christianity if I understand things correctly.

Good thoughts Bob.