November 2012


Congressman PoseyIt was a happy day when I mentioned to a person who works at Congressman Posey’s office about my AT&T phone problem.  “Oh, no,” the Congressman’s helpful office manager, Pam Gillespie, said.  “It is a federal law that you must be able to transfer your number to your new carrier. They are breaking FCC rules.”

For over a month, I’d been fighting with a slew of AT&T representatives to get my home/ministry phone connected from a different carrier.  The result was that AT&T had somehow lost my phone number; and they were reporting to me that there was no way to retrieve it from the new carrier who had acquired it.  While this didn’t seem reasonable to me, because the phone number would not be given to someone else for at least two months, I could not get anyone at AT&T interested enough to eliminate the problem.

Mrs. Gillespie advised me to notify the Congressman’s office and fill out and sign a privacy form.  She assured me that if there were a Congressional Inquiry started regarding my situation that my month-long ordeal would be resolved to my satisfaction.  Mrs. Gillespie was correct.  Even though it was the day before Thanksgiving, I received calls from my former carrier and AT&T within an hour of the carriers’ receiving the inquiry information.

By the end of the week, I had my phone with my old phone number.  While my ordeal seemed complicated and overwhelming to me, a report to the Federal Communications Commission from Congressman Posey’s office quickly untangled the knots from the problem.

I want to personally thank Congressman Bill Posey and his fine staff for solving this perplexing situation.  Phone service seems to be a complicated problem for many people and there are many complaints regarding AT&T service.  However, if you are facing this hassle, call your congressional representative.  I did and I was thrilled with the results. In addition, I found that every AT&T rep that I spoke with (and I chatted with about 100 of them) were all friendly and sincerely wanted to help me.  Almost every time I yelled at them, I was almost sorry that it did it.

LutherMartin Luther has been quoted (or probably misquoted) as saying, “I’ve read the Bible once.  I don’t need to read it again.”  The life of Luther disavows this ascertion because it was his study of the scriptures that led him to faith in Christ.  His last note scribbled on a scrap of paper while he lay on his death bed was an exhortation to study the Bible with a humble heart.

As a young woman, I was a bit preplexed when I learned that Christian seminaries teach theology–not the Scriptures.  Theology, as I’m sure you know, is the study of God rather than the study of the Word of God.  While the Bible is the basis for all theology, our seminaries teach and examine the thoughts and beliefs of theologians regarding what the Bible teaches about God.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve seen this study of theology in our seminaries as a good thing, rather than a negative.  While I do not believe that the study of the Scriptures should ever be replaced with the thoughts and ideas of men, we learn from and gather knowledge from women and men who know God and have searched the depths of His love and grace.

This year, I’ve simply read and reread the New Testament for the past six months.  When I received an iPad as a ministry tool, I found it a valuable tool for studying the scriptures, as well.  Then I discovered the value of the audio Bible.  I read along with the audio and gleaned a great deal more than I have gathered from all the years of reading it to myself.  Preparing for bed, I would listen to the Bible.  I’d read my normal four chapters before I went to sleep and then I would listen to the Bible as I went to sleep.

I found amazing nuggets that I’d missed previously.  I’ve always desired to have a deep understanding of the Book of Romans.  I listened and relistened to Romans.  I read and reread Paul’s epistle.  I found that repetition brought great meaning to me.  I felt the sting of his rebuke and the comforting joy of knowing that my redemption was fully and completely bought by the blood of Jesus.  I entered a new time of rest and joy as I rehearsed Paul’s writings from Romans 8.

Again and again, I would stop the audio to reread a part that seemed new and fresh.  Perhaps it is the working though grief that has drawn me into the New Testament in this way.  I must say that I’ve felt more of the Lord’s grace and mercy during the past 18 months, than I’ve felt sorrow or remorse.

My mother used to say, “Repetition bring out thought.”  I’ve seen that my repeated reading of God’s Word has brought out a thoughfulness that I’ve not experienced in all my years of studying the Scriptures.

I’ve also wondered how much value the mentally challenged community would received by a daily rehearsal of the scriptures.  I understand that the Bible is not a “magic book” but we are promised that the truths contained in the Bible are valuable and able to transform our minds and hearts.  What do you think?  Do you believe that there is value in having our member hear the Scriptures read to them as they follow along?

For years, one of our Bible teachers at Special Gathering reviewed the same Bible verse with his class every week.  “I will pray morning, noon and night.”  As the first five years rolled around, I became a bit disturbed.  Doesn’t he know any other verses? I asked myself.  Then I came to welcome the value of what he was teaching his class.  The learning abilities of his class were limited.  He drilled them each week.  While some of the members could quote the verse easily, others struggled week after week, year after year.

Slowly, as the years melted into seven, eight years, I came to see that my understanding of the verse was deepening.  Almost every week, I would sit in his class.  I found that this simple Biblical declaration became dear to me.

“I will pray morning, noon and night,” I would mutter to myself as I climbed into my car for lunch.  At odd times, I realized that my spirit mind was telling my sub-conscious mind, I will pray morning, noon and night.  It became a call to prayer for me that became a welcomed reminder and spurred my mind to think about prayer more often.

My mother took a selling job when I was a pre-teen.  In her training, she was taught an important principle that she shared withher daughters, “Repetition brings out thought.”  For those of us who value our quick minds, we sometimes discount the value and purpose of repetition.

However, men and women who make a daily practice of memorizing scriptures, repeat even the familiar ones several times a day.  They carry their scriptures packets for review during their down times.  Not only are they learning the Word and hiding God’s message in their hearts, they are bringing out new thoughts about what God has to say to them.

Ethel was a Bible teacher at Special Gathering.  Additionally, she wrote many books for the mentally challenged community and they were published in our monthly newsletter.  Ethel and I shared a passion for writing and Special Gathering.  Therefore, we became good friends through our shared ministry concerns.  In addition, we both excelled at “going to lunch” and we practiced that part of our friendship often.

Ethel wrote for our monthly newsletter “Connecting Point,” and she was incredibly faithful in her efforts.  Even after she moved to Volusia County, Ethel always met our deadlines; and she wrote with great skill and feeling for the special needs population.
As a Bible teacher, Ethel could not be matched.  She taught the Scriptures with a keen eye for truth and clarity.  Her class was a verse-by-verse discussion study for our readers.  It has become the model for our leadership and readers classes.
My first view of Ethel came 22 years ago through Sarah, her daughter who was mentally challenged.  It was my first year at Camp Agape, our annual ministry retreat.  Sarah was my bunk mate.  I had the top bunk and she had the bottom.
On Sunday afternoon, after two days of camp, I thought I was too tired to climb to the top bunk.  Therefore, I decided to lay on Sarah’s bottom bed, thinking that she would never notice or understand.  I was wrong!
Sarah came into the cabin and jumped me.  “Get off my bed,” she insisted. “You can’t get on my bed!”  Ethel had taught Sarah well.  It is vital for our population to understand their rights and Sarah knew that I was an intruder and she wasn’t intimidated by me.  Ethel treated Sarah as an adult, and she allowed Sarah the dignity of being valued for being a child of the Lord.
One year, in touring our campgrounds, Ethel asked Sarah what she liked best about camp.  Immediately, Sarah said, “Pool.”
Shocked, Ethel said, “You don’t know how to play pool.”  Sarah walked over to the pool table and demonstrated to her mother that she certainly did know how to play the game.  Ethel laughed, “Guess she showed me.”
Ethel was never willing to compromise her faith.  Yet, she shared the message of Jesus with compassion and great love.  Her greatest legacy is her faith in Christ and love for all people but especially for the men and women who knew and loved her through her ministry within the mentally challenged community.

Tell the good news that makes people happy

Luke 2:10

Central Theme:   Telling the good news of Jesus makes people very happy.

Introduction–Have a string of lights wrapped around your neck and drop a box of tinsel all over the floor.  Say, Christmas does not always make me happy. During Christmas time, there is too much work and you can never please everyone. But the good news of Jesus always makes people happy.  Have a member read Luke 2:10.

I.     Tell the story of the birth and the angels and the shepherds from Luke 2.

1.  The angels told the shepherds that this good news will make the whole world happy.

2.  The encyclopedia notes that Jesus is the one man who has changed the world for good more than any other person.

3.  The influence of Jesus has made the world a better place to live.

II.     The angels promised the world happiness.

A. Happiness and joy are not the same.

1.  Joy is a peace and contentment deep inside.

2.  Happiness is feeling or sense of pleasure.

B.  The angel said because Jesus was born the world would have a greater feeling of pleasure.

III.     We talk a lot about what we can do to be better Christians but I want to talk about what God has done to make our lives better.

A. God gave us Jesus to make everyone‘s lives more pleasant and happy.

B.  Our country is the result of this happiness–part of our constitution is that we have the right to try to find happiness.

C. The Howard family is going on a cruise this week.  It will make us all happy and that is part of what God wants for all of us.

Conclusion:  God wants us to be happy and he sent Jesus to make that happen.

The choice that changed everything

Nehemiah 9:17

Central Theme:  Man choices to sin and God chooses to be gracious.

A ream of paper has 500 sheets–not more and not less.  A foot is 12 inches–not more and not less.  There are many absolutes in our lives.  There are a couple of absolutes that totally changed mankind.  First, since Adam’s sin, we all choose to sin; and God always chooses to be gracious and forgive. Have a member read Nehemiah 9:17. 

I.     Tell the story of the fall and sin of mankind.

A. Eve ate the fruit and Adam followed.

B.  They were tricked by Satan.

C. God made them leave the garden but he chose to love them and forgive them.

II.     God will always choose to be gracious and loving to you.

A. We must desire God‘s love and his forgiveness.

B.  We don’t always think we need God.

III.     The ways we reject God.

1.  We decide that we can handle everything ourselves.

2.  We work toward being independent of God

3.  We want to please people rather than God

3.  We disobey God‘s laws.

A. There are unintended consequences to all of the bad choices that we make.

IV.     We should never forget that God will always show his love and graciousness to us.

Conclusions:  Each of us chooses to sin but God chooses to forgive us all the time.

Her voice was tentative, “Are you all right?”  My friend, Pam, asked.

At first I had no idea to what she was referring.  “Great.  What are you talking about?” I inquired.

“Well,” Pam started, hesitantly, “when we were having lunch on Monday and you got that phone call from AT&T, I was really surprised at how angry you got.  I’ve never seen you get angry.”

Alexander Graham Bell

Since October 16, I’ve had an ongoing battle with AT&T to get my home phone transferred from my previous server to their phone service. AT&T has been in business since 1885 and can trace its roots back to Alexander Graham Bell.  You would think this company would know how to connect a home telephone.

In fact, the process of connecting a phone appears to be so easy that they send self-installation kits to your home for you to install your own phone. (Because of their incompetance, I’ve received three installation kits.)  Yet even with 137 years of experience and the current ease of installation, I have been trying to get my phone installed for over a month.  It appears the skill needed to install a home phone has been lost by AT&T.

My journal logging the events over the past month is a three page, single-spaced document.  I’ve been shuttled to so many helpful service representative that I’m thinking of hooking a few of them up with some stray, unmarried cousins.

During lunch last Monday, I received a phone call from an extremely polite man from India or Pakistan informing me that I would now have a new phone number.  “It appears Mrs. Howard,” he quietly and most jovially said, “that you have misplaced your former phone number and AT&T cannot find it.

In response, I screamed as calmly as I could, “Oh, no!  I’ve had that phone number for 45 years.  You lost the number; now you find it!”  Then I hung up as I headed to the AT&T store where I had initiated the transfer.  The store resides only a mile away and I arrived there almost before he could call me back.

“Mrs. Howard, you must let me explain!” his quietude was withering.  I calmly screamed for a few more minutes.  Finally, I listened.  His explanation was classic.   I had somehow fouled up the account and even though AT&T was working as hard as they could, I would need to choose a new phone number.

I have spent over 40 hours on the phone with AT&T’s extremely polite and considerate representatives. My phone was originally connected by AT&T on October 16.  Disconnected on October 17.  The phone has been connected and disconnected an additional five times in the past month.  In response to each disconnection, I have been kind.  I’ve joked. I have raised my voice.  I’ve cajoled, begged, pleaded, demanded, asked to speak to the supervisor.  AT&T’s usual response is an extremely polite moment of silence on the other end.

I must commend AT&T for the training of their reps.  In the 40 hours spend being transfer from one representative to another, I have only encountered one person who has not treated me with the greatest of respect.

The only problem–I don’t want or need respect.  I need my phone.

It is November 15 and I still don’t have a telephone. Though I have been politely and joyously assured that I will receive yet another self-installation kit tomorrow.

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