Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Year in Review

2012 has come and gone like a whirlwind. I reviewed my “2011Year in Review” before sitting down to compose this one. One thing I noticed is that 2012 saw an all time low in the number of blog posts I wrote since beginning this blog in 2006. This post marks only the fourth post done all year. I attribute part of that to an increased use of Facebook. So that short comments are generally offered there. But I will admit that a big part of this is simply the busyness of life. I have an idea to begin going through my “Charges for a Southerland Son” and blogging each section. It’s not too early to start revising it for Justin’s 13th birthday in just under two years. Every year I see Doug Phillips admonishment on “How to End the Year X and Begin Y” (where X is the current year and Y is the year that will be here in a few days). Doug has a grand vision with a lot of good ideas for chronically what the Lord has done over the past year. This blog entry is my feeble attempt to do something, even if I don’t take every suggestion Doug has made.

I’ll begin this year with what is happening on the job front. I ended 2011 excited about doing IVR contracting. If you review that post you’ll see that I had left TransCore and was working from home coding IVR systems. Well, unfortunately the six month contract I had came to an abrupt end during the first week of January. Though the contracting company was apologetic, a new CFO at the end client was hired and shook things up after the end of the year. Several programming jobs were offshored to India. So that left me looking for work for about a month. In February I hired on, still as a contractor, with Chesapeake Energy. I started out doing some C#, ASP .NET work with Silverlight and WPF. After knocking out several bugs over the course of the next three months, Chesapeake told me that was all the programming they had for me at the time, but that they had a real need for help in Reporting Services. I have had a lot of experience doing that at TransCore and other positions before that. Long story short, I began doing reporting for them in May, and my contract has been extended a few times since then. Currently I’m good through the end of January 2013. We’ll see what God has planned for me then, whether a contract extension with Chesapeake again, hiring on full time with them, or moving on to other opportunities. Contracting certainly causes me to look to God more frequently, and to place my trust in Him that He will provide. It can be a little unsettling to not know what the future holds more than a month or two in advance. But in reality, that’s true for all of us. None of us are even promised another day of life. God has always provided my needs. I have had a desire for quite some time to work for myself. I’m working toward that end with AnswerSoft, the company I founded in 2010. Though I began it as a reseller for IVR services through IfByPhone, I have shifted the concentration during 2012 to mobile app development. AnswerSoft still offers discounted rates on IfByPhone, and I still support customers who sign up through AnswerSoft. However, app development is something whereby I have a little more control over the decision making process. I am currently working on an iPhone app for a local non-profit ministry. My plans are to port the app over to an Android implementation when done and support both operating systems. If the Lord wills it I could perhaps start doing app programming full time. But for now I need to work another day job in order to support the family.

Much has been going on with the children over this past year. Here’s a quick update on them.

Brittney is still working to get her leather working business going. She made me a great pair of leather flip flops. Her goal right now is to try and earn enough money to take a class from Lisa Sorrell, a world famous bootmaker that has a shop right here in Guthrie. She is also stepping in to help teach the other children handwriting during their homeschooling. That’s a big help as handwriting is really a one on one type of activity. Brittney’s help on this really takes a load off of Sheri.

Michael has continued to work hard building airplane hangers. He saved his money and bought himself a Dodge pickup this year. He also finished up his drivers ed and got his regular license. So now he’s mobile! He is adding to his arsenal of tools that he can use on the job site. We got him a DeWalt cordless drill. He also received other tools as gifts this year. It’s good to see him invest his money in things that he can use to earn more. Even the truck will help him expand his territory past our little two street neighborhood. Michael is also joining Justin and I in a study of Joel Beeke’s A Puritan Theology. I’ll talk more about that in Justin’s section below.

Brianna has really made great strides in her pottery this year. She made me a coffee mug. She’s made several bowls and other dishes. Sheri’s cousin, Brandon Drew is a chef. She showed him some of her work last week in Texas. He was very impressed and thinks that many in the circles he is in would love to purchase Brianna’s work. If it makes financial sense Brianna may consider that. She still enjoys photography, though she has yet to monetize it. We tried to set her up with an istockphoto account this year, but ran into a snag when they wanted a photo ID. Brianna is scheduled to start Driver’s Ed in 2013. So maybe her learner’s permit will serve as the photo ID for istockphoto and she can start pulling in some income from that endeavor.

Justin is chomping at the bit trying to figure out how to make money. There’s one thing for sure in our household, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. But how is an eleven year old boy going to make some cash? He’s had a few ideas, but not too many have panned out yet. Michael still does most of the yard work for the neighborhood. Maybe Justin can help out in that area this Spring and Summer. I’ve tried to drop the bug in Justin’s ear that computer programming doesn’t discriminate against age and he could do really well if he learned to program early. So far he’s shown a little interest. We’ll see if he pursues it. As I mentioned earlier, Justin, Michael, and I began a study of Joel Beeke’s new book, A Puritan Theology. Our goal is to cover a chapter each week. It will take us a little over a year to accomplish it. It looks to be very good, covering what the Puritans had to say about various theological topics. It’s like a Systematic Theology comprised of many different outstanding authors woven together though the pen of Joel Beeke.

Paton began playing the violin this year. He was inspired by our friends, the Chatham family. Their three oldest girls play beautifully. It just so happens that though they live in Blanchard, their violin teacher lives right here in Guthrie. So Paton decided he wanted to learn. It seems like it has come very naturally for him. Paton’s teacher says that he is doing great. He played in his first recital a few weeks ago. He did a great job, and even won a medal for the number of minutes he spent practicing. Also, this year Paton was baptized at GracePointe Baptist Church!

Sarah is growing up to be quite a big helper with Melody. She is so excited to have a little sister and she does a great job playing with her. Sarah has continued to improve in her reading. Earlier this year Sarah began to experience very real conviction over sin. She became very concerned that she was a sinner. We explained to her that she is right, she has sinned and that she needs to call upon Christ for the salvation of her soul. She prayed on her own and cried out for the Lord to save her. We are rejoicing in the salvation of yet another one of our children.

Samuel is just about done with the book that Sarah finished last year, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. He’s doing extremely well. There are parts of the book where I’m supposed to tell him to “sound out the words.” Meanwhile he’s already figured it out in his mind and reads it “the fast way” before I’m able to tell him to sound it out. He doesn’t know it yet, but I’ve already got his Geneva Bible sitting on the shelf with his name on it waiting for him to finish the book. We did Lesson 90 last night. He’ll most likely finish up in January.

Melody learned to walk early. She walked at 10 months old, the youngest of any of the girls, and tied with Michael, who was our fastest “learn to walk” child prior to Melody. That means she’s been getting into everything. We bought new cabinet locks. She’s very inquisitive and smart. She also has quite the personality (and temper!). She is a blessing, and I thank God for trusting her into our care.

Things continue to go well at GracePointe Baptist Church. The Lord has added several new families and formed new friendships in our lives. I’m thankful for God’s blessings throughout 2012 and look forward to what he is going to do in 2013.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Anti-Racist (with exceptions...)

Let's say, hypothetically of course, there was a candidate who proclaimed loudly that he was not a racist. However, when you press him on it, he will admit that there are "exceptions" to his love for all men. After all, you can't really expect him to be totally non-racist, can you? Now, for the sake of argument, let's say he was running against a candidate who hated every single people group except his own. Who should we vote for? Well, pragmatism may say that we vote for the first candidate. But what if the one people group that he hates just so happens to be the people group of which you are a member? Could you still vote for him? If you say no, then tell me this: If your race is not the one despised in his eyes, could you vote for him then? I tell you that if that is true, then you have just as much hatred for that people group as the candidate who tries to pass himself off as "anti-racist."

Now, if that makes sense with a "politically correct" argument concerning race, does it not also apply to abortion? If you have one candidate who is pro-death all the way around and never saw an abortion he didn't like (Obama), and another candidate who announces that he is pro-life (except for despised babies who are the products of rape or incest - Romney), who do you vote for? I say that if you vote for Romney, you are declaring that you too despise the lives of those "unwanted" babies.

As much as I would like to cast my vote for a God fearing, pro-life candidate for President of the United States, I can't, because no such candidate exists this year (on the Oklahoma ballot anyway - vote Virgil Goode if your state lets you).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

GOSPEL SONNETS - Chapter 5 - Section 4

by Ralph Erskine
Chapter 5

SECTION IV. - Damnable Pride and Self-righteousness, so natural to all men, has little need to be encouraged by legal preaching.

THE legal path proud nature loves so well,
(Tho' yet 'tis but the clearest road to hell,)
That lo! ev'n these that take the foulest ways,
Whose lewdness no controlling bridle stays,
If but their drowsy conscience raise its voice,
'Twill speak the law of works their native choice,
And echo to the rousing sound, "Ah! true,
I cannot hope to live, unless I DO."
No conscience breast of mortal kind can trace
The mystery deep of being sav'd by grace.
Of this nor is the natural conscience skill'd,
Nor will admit it when it is reveal'd;
But pushes at the gospel like a ram,
As proxy for the law, against the Lamb.
The proud, self-righteous, Pharisaic strain
Is "Blest be God, I'm not like other men;
I read and pray, give alms, I mourn and fast; (1)
And therefore hope I'l get to heaven at last:
For though from every sin I be not free,
Great multitudes of men are worse than me.
I'm none of those that swear, cheat, drink and whore."
Thus on the law he builds his Babel tower.
  Yea, ev'n the vilest cursed debauchee
Will make the law of works his very plea;
"Why (says the rake) what take you me to be?
A Turk or infidel? you lie! I can't
Be term'd so base, but by a sycophant;
Only I hate to act the whining saint.
I am a christian true; and therefore bode
It shall be well with me, I hope in God.
An't I an honest man? yea, I defy
The tongue that dare assert black to mine eye."
Perhaps, when the reprover turns his back,
He'll vend the viler wares o's open'd pack,
And with his fellows, in a strain more big,
Bid damn the base uncharitable whig.
"These scoundrel hypocrites (he'll proudly say)
Think none shall ever merit heav'n but they,
And yet we may compete with them; for see,
The best have blemishes as well as we.
We have as good a heart (we trust) as these,
Tho' not with vain superfluous shew and blaze.
Bigoted zealots, whose sole crimes are hid,
Would damn us all to hell; but God forbid,
Whatever such a whining sect profess,
'Tis but a nice, morose, affected dress,
And though we don't pretend so much as they,
We hope to compass heav'n a shorter way:
We seek God's mercy, and are all along
Most free of malice, and do no man wrong.
But whims fantastic shan't our heads annoy,
That would our social liberties destroy.
Sure, right religion never was designed
To mar the native mirth of human kind.
How weak are those that would be thought nonesuch!
How mad, that would be righteous overmuch!
We have sufficient, though we be not crammed:
We'll therefore hope the best: let them be damned!"
  Ah, horrid talk! yet so the legal strain
Lards even the language of the most profane.
Thus devilish pride o'erlooks a thousand faults,
And on a legal ground itself exalts.
This DO and LIVE, though doing power be lost,
In every mortal is proud nature's boast.
How does a vain conceit of goodness swell,
And feed false hope, amidst the shades of hell?
Shall we, who should by gospel-methods draw,
Send sinners to their nat-ral spouse the law;
And harp upon the doing string to such,
Who ignorantly dream they do so much?
Why, thus, instead of courting Christ a bride,
We harden rebels in their native pride.
  Much rather ought we in God's name to place
His great artill'ry straight against their face;
And throw hot Sinai thunderbolts around,
To burn their towering hopes down to the ground;
To make the pillars of their pride to shake,
And damn their doings to the burning lake;
To curse the doers unto endless thrall,
That never did continue to do all; (2)
To scorch their conscience with the flaming air,
And sink their haughty hopes in deep despair;
Denouncing Ebal's black revenging doom,
To blast their expectation in the bloom;
Till once vain hope of life by works give place
Unto a solid hope of life by grace.
The vig'rous use of means is safely urged,
When pressing calls from legal dregs are purged;
But most unsafely in a fed'ral dress,
Confounding terms of life with means of grace.
Oh! dang'rous is th' attempt proud flesh to please,
Or send a sinner to the law for ease;
Who rather needs to feel its piercing dart,
Till dreadful pangs invade his trembling heart;
And thither should be only sent for flames
Of fire to burn his rotten hopes and claims;
That thus disarmed, he gladly may embrace,
And grasp with eagerness the news of grace.

(1) Luke xviii. 11. 12.
(2) Gal. iii. 10.