Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 Year in Review

2007 was a year of tremendous blessing. The first anniversary of our time in Oklahoma happened in February. For a secular company, I have greatly enjoyed working with Dobson Communications. I have a good working relationship with my peers. I earned the highest award for IT. It was an award of Excellent Customer Service. It is nice to be appreciated for the efforts I make in my job. I was also happy to have earned this in less than one year of service. Later at the end of June, I would discover that Dobson was being acquired by AT&T. As I write this, I am now an employee of that huge company, though my day to day work has not changed much. Whether I stay with AT&T for a while or not, the Dobson acquisition gave me needed impetus for furthering my pursuit of self employment. I have investigated several possibilities, including copywriting, real estate investing, and pulling telephone cable. Any of these options would allow me to work for myself, incorporating the help of my children, at least more than what they are able to currently do in my corporate position. I am still happy with my employer, though the shake up is a wake up call not to get “too comfortable.” Change is most likely on the horizon sometime in the near future. Whether this change is just a transfer to self employment, or yet another move, remains to be seen. Thankfully we can trust in the providential hand of a loving Father God who ordains all things according to His good pleasure.

For the first half of 2007, we were relentlessly working our way toward the goal of 400 gold coins in Jamestown, Virginia in Vision Forum’s “Jamestown 400: Our National Treasure Hunt.” We had a great time and learned a lot of history along the way. On May 14th and 15th, we, along with 100 other sleuths, were up into the wee hours of the morning working on the final two days of the Jamestown 400. It was exhilarating as we received our “Congratulations!” from Jack as we solved the final clue. A month later, we were exploring the hallowed grounds of America’s founding, first in Williamsburg, then Yorktown, and Jamestown on the last day. My family and I managed to stay in the hunt on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, not being eliminated until Friday morning when the top three finalists went on to hunt for the physical gold. While we were disappointed not to actually get to dig for treasure, we realize that God has foreordained all that comes to pass. In His plans, He willed Melanie Thomas to become the “Fifth Trustee.” We were thrilled, however, to make it to the final 14 contestants, and for the opportunity to search for clues in Jamestown, when most of the contestants were eliminated after Williamsburg or Yorktown. This will truly be a time we will remember for the rest of our lives. It has also renewed a fire within me to learn all I can of history when on vacation. This Jamestown trip definitely tops my list of all time favorite vacations. The souvenirs we have from our Jamestown hunt are a three ring binder packed full of research, some 3 foot by 5 foot maps downloaded from the Library of Congress, and printed off at Kinko’s “just in case” (we never had to use them), a contestant t-shirt, and a ton of memories that we will cherish forever.

Sheri was an amazing trooper during our Jamestown hunt, as we packed our family of 8 into a very small hotel room for a week. Not to mention that this was June, and she was pregnant with our seventh child, Samuel Davies Southerland. He was named after the famous Virginia missionary who we learned more about in…the treasure hunt, of course! Samuel was born on October 29, 2007. After hoping for a VBAC, and changing doctors for that purpose, Sheri wound up getting yet another cesarean section after Samuel decided to turn sideways on the night of his birth. He was born at 3:15 AM Monday morning.

On November 15, 2007 my father’s mother, Gran-Gran, as she was known by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren went home to be with Jesus. Gran-Gran left a godly heritage for her family. She always stressed the importance of prayer. As I’ve mentioned more than once in this blog, Gran-Gran is the one who taught me to read and instilled in me a love for reading. My family and I will miss her greatly. Indeed, we already do. However, with the passing of a loved one, I am reminded of God’s plan for life. We lose those we love, and God blesses us with children that carry on the heritage to the next generation.

Finally, this is the first year that we, as a family, have stopped celebrating the holiday commonly known as Christmas. I have studied this out for several years. Our church has been a great encouragement in this area, as two other families also hold to these convictions. We visited family as they celebrated this holiday. It seemed to go well. I hope that the name of Christ was glorified in our actions and that we were a witness to them as we shared our reasons for not acknowledging a day that has never been commanded in scripture, promoted by the Roman church, and thoroughly mixed with pagan ritual.

All in all, 2007 has been an outstanding year. We have grown spiritually (and in numbers!). 2008 seems to be poised to bring us closer to many of our goals. Michael will turn 13 in December. As I prepared for Brittney’s “rite of passage” when she turned 13, a large focus of 2008 will be the final preparations for Michael’s ceremony. I have great plans that I will share in later blogs. I am excited to see the things that God has planned for us this year.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

GOSPEL SONNETS - Chapter 2 - Section 2

By Ralph Erskine
Chapter 2

SECTION II. – Conviction of SIN and WRATH, carried on more deeply and effectually on the heart.

So proudly forward is the bride, and now
Stern Heav’n begins to stare with cloudier brow;
Law-curses come with more condemning pow’r
To scorch her conscience with a fiery show’r
And more refulgent flashes darted in;
For by the law the knowledge is of sin. (1)
Black Sinai thund’ring louder than before,
Does awful in her lofty bosom roar:
Heav’n’s furious storms now rise from ev’ry airth, (2)
In ways more terrible to shake the earth, (3)
Till haughtiness of men be sunk thereby,
That Christ alone may be exalted high.
Now stable earth seems from her centre tost,
And lofty mountain in the ocean lost;
Hard rocks of flint and haughty hills of pride,
Are torn in pieces by the roaring tide.
Each flash of new conviction’s lucid rays
Heart-errors, undiscerned till now, displays.
Wrath’s massy cloud upon the conscience breaks,
And thus menacing Heaven, in thunder speaks:
“Black wretch, thou madly under foot hast trod
Th’ authority of a commanding God;
Thou, like thy kindred that in Adam fell,
Art but a law-reversing lump of hell,
And there by law and justice doomed to dwell.”
Now, now, the daunted bride her state bewails,
And downward furls her self-exalting sails;
With pungent fear, and piercing terror brought
To mortify her lofty legal thought.
Why? The commandment comes, sin is revived, (4)
That lay so hid, while to the law she lived;
Infinite majesty in God is seen,
And infinite malignity in sin,
That to its expiation must amount
A sacrifice of infinite account.
Justice its dire severity displays,
The law its vast dimensions open lays.
She sees for this broad standard nothing meet,
Save an obedience sinless and complete.
Her cob-web righteousness, once in renown,
Is with a happy vengeance now swept down.
She who of daily faults could once but prate,
Sees now her sinful, miserable state.
Her heart, where once she thought some good to dwell,
The devil’s cab’net filled with trash of hell.
Her boasted features now unmasked bare,
Her vaunted hopes are plunged in deep despair.
Her haunted shelter-house in by-past years
Comes tumbling down about her frighted ears.
Her former rotten faith, love, penitence,
She sees a bowing wall, and tott’ring fence.
Excellencies of thought, and word, and deed,
All swimming, drowning in a sea of dread,
Her beauty now deformity she deems;
Her heart, much blacker that the devil’s seems;
With ready lips she can herself declare
The vilest ever breathed in vital air.
Her former hopes, as refuges of lies,
Are swept away, and all her boasting dies.
She once imagined Heaven would be unjust
To damn so many lumps of human dust,
Formed by himself; but now she owns it true,
Damnation surely is the sinner’s due:
Yea, now applauds the law’s just doom so well,
That justly she condemns herself to hell;
Does herein divine equity acquit,
Herself adjudging to the lowest pit.
Her language, “Oh! if God condemn, I must
From bottom of my soul declare him just;
But if his great salvation me embrace,
How loudly will I sing surprising grace!
If from the pit he to the throne me raise,
I’ll rival angels in his endless praise:
If, hell-deserving, me to heaven he bring,
No heart so glad, no tongue so loud shall sing.
If wisdom has not laid the saving plan,
I nothing have to claim, I nothing can.
My works but sin, my merit death I see;
Oh! mercy, mercy, mercy, pity me!”
Thus all self-justifying pleas are dropped,
Most guilty she becomes – her mouth is stopped.
Pungent remorse does her past conduct blame,
And flush her conscious cheek with spreading shame.
Her self-conceited heart is self-convict,
With barbed arrows of compunction pricked:
Wonders how justice spares her vital breath,
How patient Heaven adjourns the day of wrath;
How pliant earth does not with open jaws
Devour her, Korah-like, for equal cause;
How yawning hell, that gapes for such a prey,
Is frustrate with a further hour’s delay.
She that could once her mighty works exalt,
And boast devotion framed without a fault,
Extol her nat’ral powers, – is now brought down,
Her former madness, not her powers, to own;
Her present beggared state, most void of grace,
Unable even to wail her woful case,
Quite powerless to believe, repent, or pray:
Thus pride of duties flies and dies away.
She, like a hardened wretch, a stupid stone,
Lies in the dust, and cries, Undone, undone!

(1) Rom iii. 20.
(2) Wind, or quarter.
(3) Isa. ii. 17, 19.
(4) Rom vii. 9.