Thursday, January 03, 2019

2018 Year in Review

2018 Year in Review

As I sit down to type out this year in review for 2018 I realize that this once a year blog post is about the only consistent time I update the blog. Also, if you are used to coming to this blog via, then you may have trouble finding it. I created a website there advertising web site creating services. It’s not really exactly how I want it, so I haven’t advertised much. In last year’s blog entry you will recall my announcing of This is a site I put together for a local businessman who sells art display panels. That site went live in January of this year. Thus the reason for updating my website. I’d like to offer web development or creation services to other small businesses. Often small businesses only need a basic site. But one huge difference that has come about over the past several years is the growing abundance of smart phones and the number of people using smart phones to access websites. There are many small businesses out there using old technology. Their nice looking website doesn’t look so nice on the tiny display of the smart phone. Often you have to zoom into to see the text and pictures. It doesn’t make for a very good user experience all together. Though I need to update the content on my personal site, if you browse over to either or you’ll see what a mobile ready site looks like. My personal site was fairly easy to put together. The Gallery Panels one wasn’t too tough, though there were several products to add to it. If you’d like an estimate for putting together a site for you, please drop me an email at

For my “day job” I am still employed at Dolese Bros.

Back in March of this year I was installed as an elder at Northwest Bible Church ( It is such an honor to have the privilege to serve this congregation. My love for this group of people grows stronger each day. My love and respect for the other two elders at NWBC has grown tremendously as I get to meet with them on a weekly basis. During this meeting we discuss church business, and we also take the time to read the scripture and pray for members of the congregation. Our main teaching elder, Alan Conner, was diagnosed with cancer this year, but by God’s grace it appears that he has completely recovered. That was a huge answer to prayer. His diagnoses came the Thursday before I was installed as an elder in March. After much prayer and several sessions of chemo and radiation, they were unable to find remaining cancer in his body. All praise be to God for Alan’s healing. I was blessed with the privilege of representing Northwest Bible Church with Jeremy Malone at the FIRE Conference in Oxnard, CA this past May. ( It was at that conference that I realized that I am in the same organization as Gunny Hartman, the longtime friend (and best man at his wedding) of my brother Jason. It was great to see him at the conference and catch up.

In April I gave away my second daughter, Brianna, to Matt Petty. Matt is a great guy, and a good husband for Brianna. He is in the Air Force, but plans to become a CPA. I love it that the Lord is blessing me with sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law whom I get along with very well and I feel are a good match for each of my children. I pray for them, along with my own children, every day. Brianna’s wedding was beautiful. We had it on the beach in Galveston, close to Matt’s parent’s home.

In October, my fourth grandchild was born. Andy Southerland was born to Michael and Heather. I’m gradually becoming accustomed to being a grandpa, though I already have four grandkids.

One little note on my health: In June I grew fed up with being labeled by my doctor as “obese.” To me, “obese” means barely able to move because you are so big, it is practically a disability. Apparently, the medical community has their own standard of measure for obesity, with a BMI of over 30 (I believe). So, in June I began a workout and diet regiment of losing weight. At the end of the year I had lost about 30 pounds, dropping from 199 to 169. I’ve got about 10 pounds more to go to be in “normal” range. I did drop out of the “obese” range, and am now classified as merely “overweight.” I still think they are a little harsh on their labels, and I think that my short height (5’ 7”) doesn’t help the BMI calculation, but whatever, I now have a New Year’s resolution to knock out that remaining 10 lbs. With all the fuss over weight loss and the obsession that it is in our country, I’m coming away with the impression that all it really boils down to is self-discipline. At one point my weight had been approaching 220. All it really took was a determined desire to shed the pounds, and the determination to follow it through. The “secret” (if it can really be called that) is simply to burn more calories than you consume. It’s not easy, because I like to eat lots of calories, and I like to not exert myself. But it is simple. About an hour on the treadmill each morning at a speed of about 4.5 miles/hour and eating around 1600 calories a day is what did it for me. The holidays have stagnated my progress, but I’m ready to get moving again and lose those last 10 pounds. When I get to 159, I can enter “maintenance” mode whereby I can slack off on the walking and/or relax the eating regiment slightly. But I can’t neglect it entirely or I will gain back everything I lost. The benefit to my health has been noticeable. I don’t lose my breath like I used to simply carrying a laundry basket full of clothes from our closet to the washroom. Plus, my heart rate hovers around 60 beats per minute, often lower, when at rest.

I will close for now. I won’t promise any further updates, until this time next year. I’ve found Facebook to be a suitable alternative to blogging. Even then, I’m more of a reader than a poster.

Monday, January 01, 2018

2017 Year in Review

I am writing this on the first day of 2018. Time continues to fly by.

On my job front, I am still at Dolese. I really like this company. In February, the company celebrated 115 years of service. The CEO, Mark Helm, has some great plans for IT expansion in 2018 and beyond. It’s great to be a part of this time of growth for Dolese.

This year I also begin my adventure into the world of landlording. We secured our first rental property in Guthrie in August. We found a great realtor, Brice Semrad, who helped us locate and buy it. Brice doubles as a realtor and a real estate investor. So he was a great help in knowing what to look for. I also found a good online resource in and the accompanying podcast. Some people really get into the real estate investing thing. So far, I’ve enjoyed it. But it doesn’t seem to hold the passion for me like it does with some. In any case, I think this will be a good investment over the long run. Real estate, by and large, tends to appreciate over time. It is already cash flowing. I’m sure it’ll have its own set of challenges over time. But so far it really hasn’t been that tough. We managed to get our first renters who started their lease on October 1. They seem to be very good renters and I hope that they continue to live there for the long term.

One interesting providence happened while I was showing the rental property to potential renters. A man walked in to talk to me about my experience in the rental process. He is also a new investor. It also turns out that he is a local business owner. He has operated Armstrong Products since 1974. He asked me what I did on my day job, and when I shared that I was a web developer he asked if I ever took on any side projects. We exchanged information, and he called me several weeks later. He manufactures and sells high quality art display panels used for showing fine art at events. He also manufactures and sells safety tread stair nosings. These are the non-slip surfaces on the edge of steps on a stair case most often seen on commercial properties. Their existing website is If you follow the link you will see their high quality products. However, the website is admittedly very dated. Mr. Armstrong needed me to create a new website that concentrates on his art panels. is the solution we came up with. As of this writing, if you visit it, you will find an “under construction” message. We have not yet gone live with it, as we still need to nail down the details with shipping so that customers can order their art panels and supplies online. I expect that this site will be live in the next few weeks. I built it using Wordpress with a WooCommerce addin for shopping cart purposes. It is mobile ready. I’m hoping that it will really help their sales. If you have a need for an updated website, drop me an email at I’d be happy to talk over what requirements you have and help you formulate a solution.

2017 was the year that I received my first surgery. I had a “clean out” scope procedure on my left shoulder in November. I have healed up nicely from that. There is still a little soreness, but it is doing a lot better. But that was a memorable experience having to wear a sling for several weeks and not being able to drive for about two weeks.

I’m enjoying being both a grandfather and a father. I’m watching my grandchildren grow older, while watching my younger children do the same. This year Paton had his “rite of passage” as he turned 13. This was the first year we were able to host it at our church, Northwest Bible Church. Two of our elders, Alan Conner and Alan Loeffler, gave excellent encouraging talks to Paton. My brother, Jason, and his son, Daniel also shared with him. I’ve now completed three of these for my sons. Two more to go.

I expect that this year Sheri and I will give another of our daughters away. Brianna’s boyfriend, Matt, asked me for my blessing for him to marry Brianna. I gave the blessing. As of now, he has not officially proposed. But regardless of that technicality they are busily planning for it and have given us an estimate of sometime this Spring.

Justin and I wrapped up the computer portion of driver’s ed. In the next few months we’ll work our way through the driving portion. He’s already 16. It’s been tough to have us both home at the same time to get this done.

Paton continues to excel with his violin playing. In addition to his normal recitals, he has played a couple of times at church this year, primarily during the Christmas program.

 Sarah has really blossomed in terms of keeping in touch with family. She’s been the best one of the kids in making sure to consistently email and facetime our extended family in Texas.

Samuel started Trail Life this year. He seems to really enjoy it. I just hope I’ll be able to survive the campouts with him. I’ll enjoy the time with him, though camping hasn’t always been my “thing.”

Melody is very close to finishing her “Teach Your Child to Read” book. She and I have been working on this for quite a while. I have a Bible with her name on it to present to her when we are done.

David is growing taller and has become quite a blessing in our family. He is certainly full of life.

In closing, I wanted to mention the passing of a mighty man of God. Since I came to a Reformed understanding of scripture I have enjoyed and profited from the teaching of Dr. R.C. Sproul. He left this world in December, leaving behind many books and teachings for the edification of the church. I never was able to meet him in person, but I have watched him several times on DVD and read a few of his books.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

2016 Year in Review

The biggest news of 2016 is that I became a grandfather three times! Our first grandbaby, Clara, was born way back in January on 1/5. Then, at the end of January I inherited another granddaughter when my son, Michael, married Heather. Addalynn turned 8 this year. Finally, it wasn’t long after their marriage until Michael and Heather announced that they were expecting their first baby together. My first grandson, Levi, was born on 12/2. So, at the end of 2015 I had no grandchildren. Here, at the end of 2016 I have three! What a difference a year can make.

On the job front, I continued to contract with Dolese until August. In around June or July the management at Dolese offered me a full time position. At the same time, they let me know that if I did not accept it, then I would need to be moving on. After a few weeks of poking around to see what I could find, I realized that I had a pretty good thing going at Dolese in terms of the work I was doing and the people I was working with. So I wound up accepting their full time offer. The pay is a bit less than I was making as a contractor. But it’s nice to have health insurance and paid holidays and vacation again. Plus, I’ve been supplementing my income a bit on the side. Since about October I’ve been doing some Lyft driving. It doesn’t pay a lot, but it’s fun to see different parts of the city and to meet new people. Plus, the biggest advantage is that it is extremely flexible on when I can work or when I don’t have to. I just turn on the app when I want to give rides, and turn it off when I’m done. For supplementing income it gives a lot more freedom than a second job would. Lyft has a few perks that I’ve been able to take advantage of, like a fuel discount at Shell. The better “side job” I have found was through I’m doing some database programming for a company that does mortgage loan processing, titles, etc. It’s all about real estate loans and processing. This is working very well for me, though I’m hoping that as 2017 starts we can pick up the pace and start knocking 2 or 3 of these projects out a week. They pay on a “per project” basis rather than by the hour. I think this is a great way to do it. It sure gives me an incentive to work quickly and efficiently. For both of these “side jobs” I bought some new tools. For the programming job, I bought another laptop. My previous one was in sad shape. The power port had become disconnected so that I could no longer plug it in while working, or even when I wasn’t working in order to charge the battery. In most cases, that would have been a show stopper right there. But I did find a device on either Amazon, or eBay, can’t remember, that allowed me to charge a laptop battery outside of the laptop itself. So that kept me going for a while. However, in the middle of one of my SQL projects, my battery didn’t charge after leaving it on all night long. I had located a small computer shop that had a laptop that was compatible with my existing one. What that meant was that I was able to take the SSD hard drive and the 8 GB of memory out of my old one and use it directly in the new one. This was convenient as I didn’t have to reinstall any of my software, etc. I just popped my existing drive in and continued programming. Now, I have a laptop that I can actually plug in again. I’m writing this post on it now. Another nice thing is that the guy took $100 off the price of the new laptop since I didn’t use his hard drive. The new “tool” that I bought for the Lyft job is another car. Actually, I bought the car before I decided to do Lyft. So, it’s not exactly accurate that I bought it for that purpose. But the timing was pretty close. I bought the car and about two weeks later started doing Lyft with it. If you read the 2015 Year in Review, you’ll remember me describing Brianna’s Crown Vic Police Interceptor. Hers has worked out well. So I decided to get one myself! It’s a 2005, V-8, black and white, with a long police radio antenna on the trunk. I may eventually hook that up to a CB. I haven’t quite decided yet. I really like it. It’s got lots of power and even has keyless entry, which is rare for police vehicles. Doing Lyft with it has been fun as I get lots of comments.

Church has been going great. As time goes on it’s more and more clear that this is the best place for us. It’s another one of those situations where “if I had it to do over again” I would have attended here from the time we first moved to Oklahoma. The last time I experienced that was much more drastic in Tennessee. When we first moved out there we were involved in a charismatic, non-denominational church. By the time we left, we were attending at Reformed Baptist of Nashville. So, the situation here in Oklahoma is reminiscent of that, though quite a bit different in that all three churches we’ve attended here in Oklahoma have at least been much more Christ exalting and orthodox than the charismatic one in Nashville.

Updates on the kids –
I already mentioned Brittney and Landon having Clara. No second baby on the way yet (or at least they haven’t told anyone if there is!).

I also mentioned Michael and Heather already having Levi. His middle name is Malcolm, named after my grandfather.

Brianna has been dating an Air Force guy named Matt. He seems like a really nice guy and he gets along well with all of Brianna’s little brothers and sisters (and her older ones too).

Justin turned 15 and is counting the days until he can get his driver’s permit. Oh no, not that again. J

Paton is excelling at his violin playing. He also turns 13 in April. So I’m busy preparing for yet another Rite of Passage ceremony.

Sarah is doing very well at her piano playing. She’s also loving being an aunt to Clara and Levi.

Samuel is growing in the Lord. He’s got a great smile and is a joy to be around.

Melody turned five. She also loves being an aunt to Clara and Levi, but she has found a new really good friend in Addalynn. They love to play together.

David is David… He’s quite a handful. But he’s full of personality. He’s still attached to sucking his thumb. He turned three last August. He’s got a great vocabulary as he listens in on everything we’re saying.

I’m still learning on the “grandpa” thing. We’re trying to teach the grandkids to call me “Granddaddy.” I liked “Pepaw,” but my older kids vetoed that saying that Pepaw could never be replaced. (That was Malcolm that I mentioned earlier.) But in getting used to the Grandpa thing I’m not certain how much info my kids want me to share on their kids. So until I get a better feel for those expectations my updates on them will be pretty shallow, not that I gave you a lot of info on my own kids either! J But that’s mainly due to time over conviction. I began this post over the Christmas holiday and here it is January 4, and I’m just now posting it. Better late than never. No promises on posts between now and next year, but here’s hoping that I will.

Have a great 2017!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Scalia, Trump, and Cruz

Tomorrow is "Super Tuesday" for 11 states. Oklahoma is one of those states. In light of the recent passing of Justice Antonin Scalia there is an enormous Republican effort to have the nomination of the replacement for Justice Scalia postponed until the new president takes office. Now if either Sanders or Clinton win the presidency I don't expect that their nomination would be any worse than what Obama would give us today if he has the chance. *However*, and I'm addressing fellow Republicans here, consider well which Republican candidate would nominate a better judge, Donald Trump or Ted Cruz? Donald Trump may do a great job when it comes to fiscal responsibility, but he is inconsistent at best when it comes to the social issues that are so important to Christians, like the right to life, right to bear arms, and traditional marriage. Another thing I'd like to point out: if you are still holding out for Marco Rubio it is my opinion that you are taking needed votes away from the one who has a good chance to beat Donald Trump, the constitutionalist, Sen. Ted Cruz.

Please honor the memory of Antonin Scalia by choosing a presidential candidate who will nominate someone who supports the same issues that Scalia was famous for.

Vote tomorrow, 3/1, for Sen. Ted Cruz for the Republican candidate for President of the United States.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

2015 Year in Review

2015 was quite an eventful year for all of us. In January we started attending Northwest Bible Church in Oklahoma City. I love this church. It is Reformed Baptist, with expositional teaching through the scriptures. The music is traditional with hymns. We are making many friends, and we love our new church. Northwest Bible Church believes in the biblical doctrine of plurality of eldership. Alexander Strauch covers this topic thoroughly in his book, Biblical Eldership. I was included in a group of men that read and studied this book this year over the course of about six months. We worked through the accompanying workbook and met together to discuss. The eldership at Northwest Bible Church currently consists of Alan Conner, Alan Loeffler, and Dwayne Bolin. I had met Alan Conner and Dwayne before we started attending. However, over the course of this year, I have gotten to know all three of these men better and have developed a deep respect for all of them. Alan Conner is the primary teaching elder. If you visit the church, most likely you will hear him preaching. He has been working his way through the Gospel of John ever since we started attending in January. We joined several months later.

When I started 2015 I was employed as a contractor at Chesapeake Energy. I really like working there. Their environment seems to be a good match for me. There was a Toastmasters club on the campus that I became actively involved in. “Chesaspeak” Toastmasters is a great club with a great group of individuals. I had been at Chesapeake since September 2014. When I left my government contracting position at Tinker Air Force Base the assurance was given that this was a “long term contract” with an expectation of lasting about two years. There were four contractors on our team. In January they renewed all our contracts for another six months. However, when June rolled around and it was getting close to time for them to renew the contracts they informed all four of us that due to budget constraints tied closely to the low energy prices Chesapeake had to let all their contractors go.  They gave us ample notice of several weeks. I believe it was about 4 weeks if I recall. So I began another job search. I ended up at Farmers Insurance. The appeal to this new position was two-fold. 1) Seeing the clock wind down on my time at Chesapeake I needed to find something in order to support my family and 2) this was an “IVR” position. Much of my career has been in the telecom industry programming IVR systems, phone switches, call centers, etc. So I saw this as an opportunity to renew my skill set in a niche where I already had a lot of experience. The only problem, and I did know this when I took the position, was that this was much more of an advisory role as opposed to a hands on programming position. Most of my days were spent on the phone in conference calls discussing issues that were to be fixed, or the new project that was going to begin shortly. However, after the talking had been done, it was a vendor, not our team that got to do the “fun part” of actually coding the changes. I am a programmer. Since I began my career I have been a programmer. I have never liked the thought or the duties involved in project management. Give me a technical problem to solve rather than an administrative one. One additional side note, and Farmers, if you are reading this please take notice, this is the only contracting position I have ever held where contractors were included in an “on call” rotation. Sure, they paid me if I spent extra time responding to a call. But I didn’t get any extra pay for the hassle of making sure I was “ready” if I received a call. I felt like I was being treated as a full time employee. Yet I didn’t receive any of the standard full time employee benefits. During my final two weeks there, I wasn’t “on call” but there was a mix up in the schedule where some thought that I was. So I received two calls on the weekend of my birthday. This was also a Friday night in which Paton was in a Christmas recital with his violin. I had to apologize to the guy who called me and let him know that I was not on call. Then, throughout the recital my mind was on whether I should have dropped everything to handle this call. Avoiding this type of personal interference is one of the benefits of contracting. I am simply expendable “paid help” brought in to help solve a problem. I take no ownership or loyalty to the company as a whole like I would if I were a full time employee. Chesapeake understood that and operated on those principles. I didn’t get invited to the company Christmas party, because I was a contractor. I didn’t get invited to company wide “town hall” meetings, because I was a contractor. But neither did I carry an on call responsibility, because I was a contractor. I was good with that. They were good with that. But at Farmers it seemed they were as inclusive as they could be with their employees and contractors. I regularly called into remote “town hall” discussions over the phone. I even took a business trip, as a contractor, with Farmers. I was scheduled for another trip the first week of January 2016 (next week) if I hadn’t have left. I am super glad to have avoided that trip for reasons I will cover when I talk about each of the kids in a moment. Long story short, after looking for another position for several weeks I received an offer for a contracting position at Dolese doing web programming in C#, ASP .NET. I started there on December 18. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. This is good for my career as I don’t want to be too far removed from hands on programming experience. I liked the people I worked with at Farmers, but this is an altogether better match for me. Lastly, news about Sheri and I include the fact that we have discovered a new “buying club” that is currently in its pre-launch stage. It’s a sort of a mix between Sam’s Club and Amazon, with a fabulous referral bonus business model rather than advertising. That’s all I’ll say for now. I’ll have more details later this month. If you’d like, drop me an email and I’ll tell you all I know.

OK, now for the part that everyone is waiting for, what’s going on with the children? Well, in my last “Year in Review” I talked about Brittney’s marriage to Landon Hastings. Early in the year they let us know that they are expecting our first grandbaby! Brittney’s due date is actually tomorrow, January 3. They are having a girl. They’ve already picked out a beautiful name; Clara Joy Hastings. Brittney’s middle name is Joy. So it’s a great name for their little girl.

Michael also surprised us this year by proposing to Heather Poencet. He met her when he worked at Kimray. That was several jobs ago. This year has been a year of constant transition for Michael. Things are looking hopeful for Michael landing at a fire station. Stay tuned for more information as that develops.

Brianna became the third graduate from our homeschool this year. She’s kept pretty busy after that including working at a Summer kids camp in Texas, working at a local honey farm (mainly helping the owner with construction projects), and continuing to further her photography skills. She also bought her first car this year. It’s awesome. It’s a 2000 Crown Victoria police cruiser. She doesn’t have emergency lights, as that would be illegal. But she does have the big black bumper guard thing on the front, a spotlight on each front door, and the original black and white color scheme. It’s fun riding with her on the freeway. People naturally get in the right lane and let her by. The specs on the car are pretty nice as well. It’s got a beefed up suspension system, engine, and transmission. We haven’t tried this yet, but the guy that sold it to us said that you can hit a curb doing 40 mph and it will handle it fine. He also said that you can take a 90 degree turn at 55 mph. That sounds a little daring, but if it can handle that, then surely it can handle “normal” driving. We bought it from a guy in a small town that is part of their emergency team. He bought three cars from Edmond PD and “fixed them up,” providing what he thought was the best of the three to the small town police dept. Then he finished the one for Brianna and thought it cleaned up nicer than the other two. The guy was asking $2000 and Brianna got it for $1900. It’s a great deal for an older car that runs great with cold AC. As an added bonus he left the two antennas on top of the car to give it that “police” look, though he took out the emergency radio.

Justin seems to keep growing taller and taller. He’s got an interesting “hair look” going on. He’s taken an interest in entrepreneurship. He’s currently reading The Richest Man in Babylon. He has a drive to excel and I expect that he will be very successful in whatever business attempts he tries.

Paton continues to get better and better at his violin playing. He finished “book 3” out of the Suzuki series.

Sarah has continued to improve in her piano playing. Sarah and Samuel were baptized in October. This was preceded by a six week study that I did with both of them. We worked through a book provided by Alan Conner speaking to the meaning of baptism. The title escapes me now, but it is also used at Bethlehem Baptist Church (the church where John Piper formerly pastored).

Samuel’s update is pretty much combined with Sarah’s above as his baptism was the biggest news for him last year.

Melody loves looking at books. She’s moved up to “preschool” in both her coop classes and in her Sunday School class. I’m planning to at least start teaching her to read this year.

David is two, and full of life. He loves to have books read to him. I think his favorite is The Adventures of Ping. Toddlers love repetition. So I think I just about have that book memorized.

OK. Well, this post seems longer than most, and I’m already late in getting it out. So I’ll end it for now. Hopefully I’ll put another post out before my 2016 Year in Review. But we’ll wait to see if that happens. Later.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

2014 Year in Review

There were many reasons to celebrate in 2014. Plus there were a few reasons to mourn. Wanting to start this blog entry off on a positive note, I’ll talk about the celebration aspect first!

Easily grabbing the top spot in the “celebration” category is the marriage of my daughter, Brittney to Landon Hastings. This time last year I had no idea that this was in store. I believe it may have been June of 2014 when Landon approached me to let me know that he had an interest in my daughter. So we began to meet weekly to talk through things, get to know each other better, and to review a few theological resources that I wanted to give him. Brittney was “in on it” at this point, as she knew that Landon had asked and that we were starting this process. Everyone involved expected that if all went well the wedding would happen sometime in 2015, probably in the Fall. Things seem to be going well. Landon seemed like he was a good match for Brittney. We discussed several things from scripture. It was a good time to dig into the Word together. Then in October Brittney informed me that they would really like to get married this year. In fact, they’d like to get married in about 5 weeks from that point. What’s strange/funny is that Landon had not really “officially” asked me to marry my daughter. Of course, we knew that was the end goal of what we were preparing for. But both of us had an understanding  that that would need to happen before we moved forward with wedding plans. Being a protective dad I honestly would have liked a few more months of preparation and study with Landon first. But also knowing that the scripture blesses marriage and passages like I Corinthians 7:36 indicate that “if his passions are strong” we should “let them marry,” I prepared myself to accept Landon’s “official” request for the hand of my daughter in marriage. I planned an evening where Brianna watched the little ones, and I took Sheri, Landon, and Brittney to Red Lobster where we could visit. Landon could ask me right then and we could all share together in the moment. We sat down and ordered the food. We reminisced about times when Brittney was younger. We shared some of our times about Jamestown and the awesome trip we took there in 2007. But I kept waiting for Landon to “ask the question.” It never came! We finished the meal. And we awkwardly left the restaurant. We had all ridden in the same car. I was totally confused and wondered what just happened. I think there was a communication breakdown between Landon and Brittney. In the course of our meeting I had given Landon some questions that I had asked him to respond to in writing. After receiving them from him, there were a few points of clarification that I had really wanted him to respond to. So I found out later that while I was waiting for Landon to “ask the question” he was waiting for me to ask him questions about the answers he had given to my initial questions. He was seeing that as a necessary step before he asked the all important question of me. It is true that I would have liked a little more time to go over those answers and draw a few more details out of him. But I had just been informed that there were only five weeks to go before they wanted to “tie the knot.” I felt comfortable enough in giving my blessing, even without thoroughly hashing out the details in his answers to my questions. Plus, I knew that if we were going to get started planning the wedding, that critical step of his asking had to take place. Riding back to the house, we stopped off at Braum's. I can’t remember if the excuse was to get milk for our family (like we always do), or if we were going to get an ice cream. But in any case, after pulling into the parking lot Brittney spoke up and tried to clarify things. Unknown to me, she and Landon were texting each other in the back seat so that I couldn't hear their discussion. Bottom line is that he finally asked the question, I gave my blessing, and we began frantically planning the wedding for five weeks later. So here we are at the start of 2015 and I have a new son-in-law! He really is a great guy. I’m glad to have him in our family. I’m confident that he will lead my daughter and any children they have well. He is a solid believer in Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that they will be married for the rest of their lives until the Lord takes one or both of them home.

Since I started with my oldest this year, I’ll go through the list of updates starting with her. Besides the wedding, Brittney also bought a Mustang GT this year. It is an 2004 model. Five speed, red with tan leather seats. It’s in great shape. I’m really fighting the temptation for coveting my own daughter’s car as I head out to work each morning in my grandfather’s 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that I have a car that works for me. And it has a lot of room in it. But one of the mistakes I made in my lifetime was selling my 1997 Mustang when Brittney turned 16. I got antsy with insurance concerns and didn't research the financial realities the way I should have. It really wouldn't have been as bad as I had imagined. Brittney proved that by buying herself a GT, which would have been higher premiums than I would have had on my 6 cylinder. Oh well, live and learn. I’ll get another Mustang someday.

Michael turned 19 this year. He has had a full year. He graduated from high school. We had a graduation ceremony for homeschoolers in our co-op group back in May. He started working this year at Kimray. That has been a great opportunity for him. He’s really enjoying it. However, his biggest passion is firefighting. This year Michael volunteered for our local volunteer fire department: Woodcrest Vol. Fire Dept. He is loving it. He’ll get called in the middle of the night. When that happens the same son who I have a very hard time pulling out of bed in the morning when I need to wake him up, jumps out of bed, pulls on his clothes, and heads out of the door in a flash to “come to the rescue.” Michael has a heart to help people. So he’s living in his groove when he can rush out the door to help actually save someone’s life. He’s learning all about emergency medical care and firefighting. They are giving him some great training, for free, at the Fire Department. I expect that sometime in the next year or two Michael may be able to transition into a full time paid position at a fire station. When that happens he’ll be living his dream.

Brianna is in the middle of her senior year in high school. She’s doing awesome in her studies. She’s had a bit of a challenging year. Brittney has always been her best friend. So this was the year that her best friend moved out of the house when she was married. On the flip side, Brianna finally has her own room! Brianna has been a huge help with the little ones this year.

Justin turned 13 this year. So that means that we held his “rite of passage” ceremony. Very similar to what we did for Michael in 2008, Justin received a book that I wrote for him entitled “Charges for a Southerland Son.” This was an extensively revised edition based on the one I wrote for Michael.  Justin also received a Geneva Bible, Family Bible edition. Lastly he received a beautiful Claymore sword with a custom scabbard. Unfortunately Brittney somewhat “upstaged” Justin with her wedding. So out of town family, knowing that they would be in Oklahoma for a wedding in November weren't able to come twice so close together in October. But Landon and his family were in attendance. I was happy about that so that they could witness what we do with our sons. I’d love to work with Landon when the time comes to help him do the same for my grandsons. Justin is also excelling in his schoolwork. Justin is now taller than me. He has changed in looks quite a bit over the past year.

Paton is continuing to excel in his violin playing. He’s doing great in his homeschool co-op. Paton has started drawing very good pictures. He is quite talented.

Sarah Grace has started piano this year. She’s doing very well. She had a recital this year at Guthrie’s Victorian Walk in December. She has an ear for music and has caught on very fast. Just this past week Sarah got her ears pierced.

Samuel is growing. He’s becoming quite a helper around the house. He’s also very funny even when he doesn't mean to be! The biggest news with Samuel is that this is the year that he professed faith in Jesus Christ! This brings great joy to my heart.

Melody is growing too. She’s becoming quite the little mommy with her baby brother David. I’m amazed at the vocabulary she has developed. I guess when you are the 8th child of a homeschool family you tend to pick up on a lot of words.

David has left behind any concerns we had about him with low weight. He has really grown. He’s walking all over the place now and saying several words. This year we were able to move him from our room into the office. We didn't think it was a great idea to try and squeeze him into the room with the other four boys. I think he’d wake them up, and they’d probably wake him up too.

For me, this has been an eventful year. In my job I began the year still employed with CSI at Tinker. But in September I returned to Chesapeake as a contractor. I really enjoy the private sector, and Chesapeake in particular. I can relate to the culture there. This year I closed AnswerSoft, but started a new opportunity. I bought my own business called Life Leadership. It is a leadership development business. There are a ton of high quality encouraging materials available.

This was a sad year for our good friends, Bruce and Connie Kessler. They lost one of their sons this year. Then later in the year, Connie lost her father. Bruce and Connie are some of the nicest and caring people you’ll ever meet. We love them and mourn their losses with them.

A former church member and colleague of our pastor, Brian Wilson, passed away this year. He was pretty young.

All in all, this was a great year. We look forward to what the Lord is going to do in our lives in the year to come.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Do We Think About What We Sing?

What is the reason we sing congregationally in the meeting of the church? I submit to you that first and foremost, it is to give praise, honor, and glory to God.

Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!” (Psalm 150:1, ESV)

In many other places in scripture we read of exhortations to praise the Lord in song corporately.  A second reason to sing in a corporate environment is to exhort and build up one another.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16, ESV)

I honestly cannot think of another reason to sing corporately. If I have missed a reason, please let me know in a comment to this post. Now, given that music in the church is to either glorify God, or to exhort one another, does it not make sense that we should critically evaluate the songs that are sung during the meeting of the church?

I have evaluated songs before in this blog. One brother encouraged me that if I needed clarification on a particular song, why not write the author and ask him what he meant rather than airing my concern in a public blog? But should I really need to do that? If a song is not obvious in its meaning is it a good candidate for corporate worship? What if I needed clarification from Isaac Watts on his music? He’s dead. So I can’t ask him. Oh yeah, the subject of his music is pretty obvious. It is simply Christ and Him crucified. I mean no disrespect for modern day artists. I mean, they have to make a living somehow. A steady stream of church pop music puts food on their tables in a way that public domain hymns cannot.  Regardless of our concern for the need of worship leaders to feed their families, I do believe that it is beneficial that if a song is proposed for corporate singing (especially in the church I attend) that as a congregation we consider carefully what words will leave our lips as we worship the Lord together.

So after having given my reasoning for evaluating musical lyrics, let’s move on to this blog post’s spotlight. Today’s critique is Daniel Bashta’s “Like a Lion.” Now, I’ve been told that this is a very popular Christian radio song. That’s news to me because I’ve never heard it. But then again, it’s tough to hear it when I never listen to the radio. Some who have heard it tell me that seems strange to sing it as a corporate worship song. In any case, I have it on good authority that it is in the docket for corporate worship in a sanctuary near you.

I’m not sure what a “Misc” is in music terms, but this song has 4 of them. Those are separate from the Verses (there are two), and the choruses (there’s actually only one).

The entire “Misc 1” is  “Now I’m lost in Your freedom Oh this world I’ll overcome.”  I assume this is the first thing that is sung because it appears at the top of the lyrics. Yet the word “Now” indicates some sort of causative action. It’s similar to “Therefore” or “Because of (what was stated previously).” So already I’m confused, “Now” what? Nothing has prefaced it. Next, what does it mean to be “lost in Your freedom?” Being raised up in church I can see the capital “Y” in Your and assume that this is referring to God. Would everyone know that? Maybe. Maybe not. In any case, what does it mean to be lost in God’s freedom? We aren’t told. “Oh this world I’ll overcome.” Hmmm, how will we overcome? I John 5:4-5 tells us:

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4–5, ESV)
Is this what this song is hinting at? If so, then it left some very important details regarding *how* we are to overcome the world. This isn’t something we are going to drum up within ourselves. And if the song is going to make the claim that we’ll…sorry “I’ll”…overcome, then shouldn’t we be given doctrine to back up the claim?

Next, we fall straight into the chorus. “My God’s not dead He’s surely alive And He’s living on the inside roaring like a lion.” Hmmm….why do you say He’s not dead, but alive? Is it because He rose from the dead, conquering death, hell, and the grave? Then tell us that! Rather we are left to assume that his god is not dead with the following reasoning, “He’s living on the inside roaring like a lion.” You know, that could just be heartburn. It might be good to have it checked out. Seriously though. On the inside of what? Of me? Scripture reference? And where does “roaring like a lion” come from? Without further context my mind wanders to this scripture:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV)

Yes, there are references to God as compared to a lion. But as we’ve seen above, a lion can also be representative of satan. To get a full sense of what is inferred here we need better scripture context, not simply “living on the inside roaring like a lion.” We don’t worship Aslan. We worship Jesus Christ.

“Verse 1”… “Let love explode and bring the dead to life A love so bold to see a revolution somehow” I’m really scratching my head on this one. Typing “love explode” into my Bible search in Logos pulls up no hits. Wasn’t there something from the 1960’s that involved a “love explosion.” Nah… And does “love” bring the dead to life or does Christ do that? And why, O why do we need to sing about “revolution?” In most cases, revolution is an act of rebellion against God ordained government. Consider the French revolution. This can hardly be called godly. Some have called the American War for Independence a “revolution.” Yet, I resist that label because of its anti-Christian aspects. I believe that a case can be made for the justification of America’s founding, but that is a subject for another blog article. But back to the issue at hand, what kind of revolution are we supposed to be singing about in a corporate worship song in the meeting of the saints? To say this is inappropriate is an understatement.

“Verse 2”…”Let hope arise and make the darkness hide My faith is dead I need a resurrection somehow” Hope in what? That’s a valid question because it hasn’t been stated in this song. I guess we can assume Christ, because, after all, this is being sung in corporate worship, right? But why do we assume? What if we assume wrong? Next there is a lament that his faith is dead and he needs a resurrection “somehow.” Well, we read in James 2:17 that:

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17, ESV)

So I assume that there is no fruit of good works in this man’s life, else his faith would not be dead. So, let’s assume for a minute that we are really singing a song written by a man who has a self professed dead faith. He says he needs a resurrection “somehow.” What can possibly resurrect his faith? Ohh, pick me! Pick me! I know! How about Christ? Christ is the answer to your “somehow” Daniel. Call out to Him! He can resurrect not only your dead faith, but your dead spirit. And if He has already done that to you, then why not share that good news with your music fans?

Falling into “Misc 2” we are simply told “He’s surely alive Oh He’s surely alive” Again, assumptions can be made as to who is alive, but since we’ve not heard the name of Christ, it remains an assumption.

“Misc 3” tells us “Let heaven roar and fire fall Come shake the ground with the sound of revival” What is it that Daniel is asking for here? When I hear of fire falling I think of God’s judgment.

Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.” (Genesis 19:24–25, ESV)

Maybe Daniel is asking for a Charles Finney revivalism? If so, that’s not really what I’d want in our Reformed Baptist church either.

“Misc 4” trails off with five repetitions of “Oh He’s surely alive” never really telling who is alive except for “My God” as specified in Chorus 1. As the name of Christ is not named we are left once more to conjecture.

Brothers and sisters, we have so little time to spend in corporate worship over the course of our lifetimes. Will we spend these precious hours and minutes in singing ambiguous fluff that we hear on our pop music radio stations, or will we sing a solemn song of worship and praise to the Lord our God? If I’ve unfairly characterized this particular song, I’ll welcome your comments. But my guess is that most people who follow along glibly and sing this in corporate worship don’t stop even for a second to consider what they are singing. It has a good beat or a “chord progression” or it’s just fun to play on an electric guitar. But is that really the standard that we should apply in determining what we will offer as a sacrifice of praise to our one true and living God?