Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Year in Review

In sitting down to write this year’s review, I took a few moments to look at the 2007 Year in Review. I began last year’s review by sharing that Dobson had been acquired by AT&T. At that time I was not sure how long I’d be employed there. As it turned out, I sought and acquired another position in the Dallas area. I started working at T-Mobile in April. They really worked with me and allowed me to telecommute while I tried to sell our home in Oklahoma. Well, the real estate market wasn’t very good as the house stayed on the market for 60 days with only 3 showings. I’m not convinced we selected the best of realtors. In any case, we wound up removing the home from the market, hoping that T-Mobile would indefinitely allow me to telecommute. After all, I was excelling in the position, and my manager was pleased with my performance. Unfortunately, the decision was not his, and HR eventually mandated that I needed to be in Frisco, Texas full time. You can imagine that that did not sit well with me. I could get from my home in Oklahoma to T-Mobile in Frisco in about 3 1/2 hours. But that was still too far to drive every day. I knew something needed to change. Either I needed to get the family down there with me or I needed to find another job in OK. That was in August. The Lord worked things out so that a company I had contacted earlier in the year, TransCore, called me back for an interview. Though my primary expertise has been in interactive voice response programming since 1994, TransCore hired me as a C# programmer, as that was the language I had been using for Dobson’s IVR for about 2 years. I started with TransCore in September. It was nice that we didn’t have to struggle to sell the house. But this has made for a hectic year of “We’re moving!...No we’re not…Yes we are…Not really.” There were many mixed feelings in the whole process. There were times, and there still are, where we wish we were closer to family in Texas. After all, that was our stated reason for leaving Tennessee in 2005 (I still miss living out there a lot.) Plus there was no way if I had known the future while we were in Tennessee that I would have left there to move to Oklahoma. God is sovereign and not me. So, He used this time to bring us into a very good church. We have established relationships with the others in the body. Another blessing that occurred the month after I started at TransCore is that we had a family visit our church. The man of the household was also a C# programmer looking for a new position. I was able to recommend him for a position at TransCore. He interviewed and was offered the job. He took the position, and moved his family about a mile away from our house. He and I have been carpooling together since October. God is good. He has given me a job in the Oklahoma City area where we didn’t have to sell our house. Plus He has put another believer with me, actually in the cube right next to mine at work. It’s very nice to have good fellowship every day.

In 2007, we lost my grandmother. Well, on September 21 of 2008, her husband, my grandfather, also went home to be with the Lord.

In April I took Brittney and Brianna to the Father Daughter Conference with Vision Forum. In was in Pine Mountain, Georgia. We heard a lot of good messages, saw lots of pretty flowers, and had a great time together. Then in August, I took Michael and Justin to the Father Son Conference. That was located in Winter Park, Colorado. It was likewise filled with good messages, lots of trees, and a great time with my boys.

Probably the highlight of the year remains the Rite of Passage ceremony we held for Michael. I haven’t blogged much about it this year because it remained a surprise for him up until the night we did it. Be sure and read the update under “Rite of Passage” on this blog. I prepared for this since at least 2004. My brother, Jason, seems to think that the planning started much earlier than that. In any case, it was a huge success.

2009 is shaping up to be an interesting year ahead. With a natural eye there is reason for great concern. President Hussein will take his oath of office on January 20. I can’t help but feel that America has elected Osama’s cousin. May God protect us. He has always built His church in times of persecution. It may be just around the corner. Stand strong and quit you like men. God is still on the throne.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Rite of Passage

Last Saturday, the work of about four years of preparation culminated in the "Rite of Passage" ceremony for my oldest son, Michael A Southerland III. He turned 13 on December 27, 2008. At the ceremony he received advice from his great-grandfather (via recorded video since "Pepaw" passed away in September), both of his grandfathers, his mother, his uncle, our provisional church elders, and of course, yours truly, his father.

I charged Michael with the responsibility of preparing to undertake the three roles that a man should fill while leading his family. Mirroring directly from the example of our Lord toward His Church, these roles are those of a prophet, priest, and king. Michael received a gift corresponding to each of the roles for which he was charged.

For the role of Prophet, I charged Michael with the following responsibilities:
- Speak Vision Into Your Family
- Hold Yourself to the Highest Standard of Ethics
- Bridle Your Tongue
- Never Stop Learning
- Know "What You Want to Be When You Grow Up"
- Use Civil Disobedience Appropriately
- Seek a Godly Wife
- Encourage Your Wife and Children
- Be Consistent With Discipline
- Direct Your Family's Ministry
- Realize the Blessing of Children

After charging him with these responsibilities and getting an affirmative answer from him, I presented him with a copy of Charges for a Southerland Son. This leatherbound book represents many, many hours of labor in writing down my charges and thoughts to him. I intend for him to keep it updated in subsequent editions in order to pass down the message to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

For the role of Priest, I charged Michael with the following responsibilities:
- Intercede on Behalf of Your Family
- Be Cautious of Charismatic Gifts
- Teach the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
- Teach the Five Points of Calvinism
- Teach the Five Solas of the Reformation
- Catechize Your Children

After charging him with these responsibilities and receiving an affirmative answer, I presented him with a leatherbound copy of the Geneva Bible in a family Bible edition. This is the Bible used by the Reformers and the Pilgrims. This particular Bible has room to record his family tree information.

For the role of King I charged Michael with the following responsibilities:
- Defend Your Family
- Be a Good Steward of Resources Entrusted to You
- Walk With Honor
- Be Sober Minded
- Be a Leader
- Make or Influence Public Policy
- Guard Your Time
- Guard Your Family's Purity

After charging him with these responsibilities and receiving an affirmative answer, I presented him with a Scottish Highland Claymore sword encased in a custom made leather scabbard adorned with our family crest and inlaid with our Southerland (Sutherland) tartan.

I have so many people to thank that helped bring this project to fruition. Some I have personal relationships with. Some I have met. Some I haven't. Some only through e-mail. First and foremost, I thank the Lord Jesus Christ. Without Him, this is all meaningless. Next, my bride and Michael's mother, Sheri. She has supported me throughout all this. The other list of credits include my brother Jason who originally planted this thought in my head; my parents for laying a Christian foundation for me on which to build; Doug Phillips and Geoff Botkin for their visionary messages on fathers leading their families; Phil Lancaster for his book, Family Man, Family Leader from which I pulled the whole concept of a man serving as Prophet, Priest, and King like our Lord; Scott Brown for his counsel on what traits should be found in a young man from the perspective of a father evaluating a suitor for his daughter; Russ Ellis, of Tritonworks, the artisan that gave me advice on where to order the sword and did an excellent job of crafting a custom made scabbard for it.

My goal is that this will not die in my generation. I plan to do these ceremonies for each of my sons (and similar, though not exact, celebrations for my daughters). They are to charge their sons as well. This should be kept up ad infinitum throughout the generations. Yet, I will be satisfied if it at least propagates through 200 years. That is the vision, sons. Now let's make it happen with God's help.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

End of the Year Sale!

From now until December 31, save on over 250 items from Vision Forum!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Raising a Mighty Man of God

This Saturday, my oldest son Michael will turn 13. In light of this event, I highly recommend this sermon by Kevin Swanson. Swanson nails several of the convictions that I have for Michael. A lot of what he says is what was on my mind in thinking of various goals that I have for my sons. If you are a friend or family member reading this, and you'd like a better idea of my thoughts toward raising sons, I'd encourage you to click through and listen to Kevin Swanson's thoughts on the subject.

SermonAudio has proven itself to be an excellent resource for solid Christian teaching. The link to this particular message is as follows:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lose Your Job, Kill Your Baby...So Sad

In a disturbing article I read this morning, it seems as though Planned Parenthood is getting a surge of new business. If this is true, then it is truly despicable, but believable in this wicked society in which we live.

The Bible calls children a blessing. A family with many children is truly wealthy. Though in our society that wealth is often seen in heritage and non-monetary ways, I believe that God intends for children to bring financial wealth to a family as well. I know several families who work together on their farms or family businesses. Many hands make light work.

So, if God provendentially removes your job, don't cut off His blessings. Rather, find a way to work beside the children He has given you and rejoice that He is sending another helping hand into your fold. Those are my long term plans that could be shortened anytime God wills it. Remember that He is in control and, if you belong to Him, He works all things in your life for good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Think I'll Fire My Mechanic!

OK, here's the deal. I need my thermostat replaced in my '97 Ford Mustang, V6, 3.8L. Easy enough, right? Any mechanic worth his salt could whip that out in about 15 minutes (though he'd probably charge a full hour). Well, my mechanic doesn't seem to be that talented. He's a "moonlight" guy who holds down another full time job during the day. It's a good thing too, because after his performance on my car, I'd hate to see him try to make a living at auto repair. After seeing the symptoms last week, I had him take a look at it on Saturday. Beautiful day...60 something degrees...no big deal, right? Well about four hours later he had broken two bolts off into the engine block. Fortunately he was able to get them out because they broke off "above the threads" of the block. Well, by this time the parts house that he needed was closed. He assured me that the fault was in the cheap bolts he had bought from the local auto parts store and he needed to get the genuine ones from Ford. Ford is the epitome of customer service (sarcasm here) exampled by keeping their hours as close as possible to the time when "normal" people are at their day job. So, my mechanic friend wasn't able to get parts until yesterday (Monday). Last night after work, he shows up, not with Ford bolts, but with a tap to clean out the threads in my block and a couple of better quality, but still generic, bolts. He spent another 3 hours trying to get the thermostat to stay in place on the side of the engine block while he tightened the bolts. When he was "done" we cranked the car. It didn't take long to see the antifreeze start to drip. Oh, and did I mention that unlike the nice day we had on Saturday, last night's temperatures were in the teens, and it was dark? Well, his solution to the drip was to tighten it further. He cranked a few more turns, not wanting to break off these new bolts. Finally, after cranking it, the drips slowed to 1 or 2 a second. At this point, I'm thinking that I really need to fire this guy. Frustrated, I told him he was done for the night. I test drove the car and barely made it back home before it overheated to the point of damage. I popped open the hood and examined his work. The thermostat (or at least the rubber seal around it) could be seen protruding out of the bottom of the housing. So, most likely, this guy crushed my new thermostat because he didn't get it lined up right before tightening down those bolts. I normally don't like to name names, but as a courtesy to my readers I really feel I need to warn you. Whatever you do, don't let Mike Southerland repair your car! He's a programmer, not a mechanic! So, Mike, you're fired! I guess I'll have to do it myself now.

Mike Southerland

Monday, December 01, 2008

Play Kitchen Tries to Teach my Daughter to Swear!

This past Thursday we had a great time as a family. We give our children gifts on Thanksgiving instead of "Christ-mass." (But that's a topic for a whole other blog post.) All the boys except for our one year old got tools. These aren't toys, but "real man" tools. So, they spent most of the day on Friday hammering and sawing into a 2 x 4 I bought them to go along with it. We gave my oldest daughter a book set as reading is one of her favorite things to do. I spent a couple of hours on Saturday working with my second oldest daughter on the doll house we got her. It looks like it may be quite a project, but it'll be some good time together. Oh, and the baby boy got a cloth book that he can stuff in his mouth to his heart's delight without us having to worry about him actually eating it (like all the other books). But the subject of this blog post is the gift we gave our youngest daughter. One of the best gifts we gave our oldest daughter when she was about 2 or 3 was a play kitchen. Little girls love to put the plastic food in bowls and in the skillet and play like they are cooking like Mommy. Brittney's kitchen lasted for years until we finally broke down and threw it away earlier this year. It had gotten really dirty and had been relegated to the back yard rather than the girls' bedroom. So, my wife and I took the opportunity this Thanksgiving to get our almost 3 year old a new play kitchen. We had a hard time selecting it. I liked the wooden ones, but they were quite a bit more expensive than the plastic ones. Plus, the one that Brittney enjoyed so much was plastic. So, we finally decided on the Little Tikes Cook 'N Learn Interactive Kitchen. On the side of the box it advertised that it would make sounds and tell your child, "Good job!" This certainly wasn't a selling point for me. Who of you has a "real" kitchen that talks to you? Hmm...maybe your microwave is fancy and will tell you "Food's done!" or something...but even then I bet this is pretty rare. I know our kitchen never talks back to us. Well, my objective was to get something that didn't look like it would fall apart in a week, but was still reasonably priced. So, we bought it in spite of, rather than because of, the "interactive" feature. After a struggle of about an hour putting it together (there's at least one design flaw that I found!), we were ready for my little girl to start playing with it. I was going to just leave the batteries out of it, but after persuasion from family I succumbed and brought the beast to life with 3 AA batteries. I must admit the first minute or two was pretty neat. The little play egg "sizzles" when you put it in the frying pan on the burner. (OK...so our real kitchen doesn't talk...but it does sizzle from time to time! :-) ) But then the talking started. I didn't hear anything harmful at first, so (here's my mistake) I left her to her play while I focused my attention on another child. Within a few minutes my wife noticed that the kitchen seemed to complain of work stating something like, "If I have to work I'll go berserk!" or something to that effect. OK. Strike one. But it didn't stir me enough to go shut it down based on just that. But, the last straw happened just a short while later. My oldest son comes in and tells me, "Daddy. The kitchen just said, 'I swear!'" Well, that's a no-no in our family. There are scriptural examples of swearing, but to do it flippantly is obviously wrong.

But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
(Mat 5:34-37)

Yet, this arrogant little kitchen decides that it knows better than me what to teach my daughter. (Or more accurately, the big whigs at Little Tikes think they know better than parents what to teach children.) I went into the room and had my son show me how to make it say the offending language. The kitchen has this thing about rhyming. The "berserk" rhymed with work. So this phrase went something like, "I swear, it's a pear!" At that point, the batteries came out and haven't been back in. Now, some people think I'm extreme or overreacting on this, but I am determined not to have my little girl running around the house repeating "I swear!" to her brothers and sisters.

So here's the plan...we spent $79.99 on this "tutor." I think I'll take the silly thing apart, package it back in the box and take it back. Then I'll fork over another $40 to buy the wooden kitchen that doesn't "say" anything. Better yet, maybe I can get those boys with the new tools to make her one! :-)