crumpled paperEach day begins with prayer and either household errands or blogging.  As much as I enjoy writing, the daily household demands of living often interfere with what I feel God has called me to do.  The author of thousands of magazine articles and more than 40 books, Jamie Buckingham often said,  “Writers write.  That’s why they are writers.  Publishing may or may not happen.”

Shelly is a writer.  Many Sundays she sticks a poem or article into my hands and says confidently.  “I knew that you would want to read this.  It’s the best work I’ve ever done.”  After I hug her, she walks away satisfied that someone else appreciates her writing efforts.

the writerEric has a different writing style.  He takes a Scripture and then applies it to his life.  I must ply his works from him one finger at a time.  They are neatly handwritten in pencil.  I always receive a nugget from his scriptural commentary that I’d not seen before reading his manuscript.

Even though Shelly and Eric are intellectually disabled, they have dedicated themselves to sharing from what God puts in their hearts.  Shelly’s poetry has been published and republished.  She has been asked to speak at a high school English Composition Class.  There is much to learn from her poetry.

Eric’s works are equally provocative.  However, he is less likely to share his works with others.  His personality is more private and reserved.

On the other hand, Jeremy wants to write and talks about it often.  Yet, he never seems to be able to put onto paper the many ideas that swim through his fertile mind.  Jeremy is by far the most able of the three to put into a readable form his thoughts and idea; but Jeremy lets the tasks of the day get in his way.

There are four things I see which hinder Jeremy that Shelly and Eric do allow to work against their writing.

1.  As I said before, Jeremy is a busy person.  He flits from one thing to another.  While he says that he really wants to write, he never seems to find the time.  Therefore, it never gets done.

2.  He wants someone to work with him.  He wants a class.  Shelley and Eric simply write.  They don’t need a teacher or tutor to inspire them to put pin to paper.  They are writers and writers write.

3.  Jeremy wants his works to be as close to perfect as possible.  Perfection works against the writer, as it does in almost every area of life.  No matter how many times I go over a piece, I can never seem to find all the mistakes until I hit the PUBLISH button.

4.   There is passion in Jeremy but not for writing.  He desires to teach and he is willing to prepare to make it happen.  A writers passion much be writing, first and forever.

Jamie BuckinghamAs Buckingham said, “Writers write.”  We can’t help it.  It is born and bred into our DNA.  Sharing the Gospel of Jesus is perhaps the main reason the Lord has given many Christians a passion for writing.  Each time, I get an article, teaching or poetry from Eric or Shelley, I’m impressed with the value of the written word which shares God’s love for us or our love for God.

I am often surprised at where blog entries go and even more surprised where they do not go.  It seems that each time I plug into another venue (Facebook, Pinterest, etc.), there are new readers.  At this point, other than the US, the country where this blog is most read is Australia.

Because my emphasis is the lives of people who are mentally challenged, I’m also aware that the pool in which I’m swimming is pretty limited.  However, it isn’t unusual for me to get 150 to 200 hits a day.

When I began blogging six years ago, I could not find anyone else who was doing a daily blog or even a monthly blog in the area of intellectual disabilities.  However, today almost everyone who is in disability ministry is blogging.  This is a very good thing.  The more voices, the more people have the opportunity to understand the wonderful world in which we live and serve.

In addition, people with disabilities, especially those people whose disability is within the autism spectrum, are blogging regularly.  If you haven’t seen any of their blogs simply google “Aspergers” and you will find some excellent places to learn about this interesting personality spectrum.

Blogging is a way of self-publishing and having access to a world-wide audience at no expense to you or your reader.  By blogging each day, you are able to push your blog up to the forefront of the Search Engine World.  By keeping your blogs interesting and thoughtful, or humorous and pithy, you will be able to gather an audience, no matter what your subject area.

My purpose and message has been to simply introduce people to folks who are intellectually disabled and the fact that they can have a vital and real relationship with the Lord.  This past year, I’ve not kept up my daily vigor.  However, people still come and people still read.  For that I am most grateful and humbled.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Thought you might like to see a few of the stats over which we bloggers obcess.  Here’s an excerpt:

Crunchy numbers

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 33,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 8 Film Festivals

In 2012, there were 243 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 1,600 posts. There were 370pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 21 MB. That’s about a picture per day.

The busiest day of the year was November 27th with213 views. The most popular post that day was The Mystery of Prayer.

Click here to see the complete report.

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.

While searching a photo of my mother on the Internet to use in a sermon blog entry, I found an interesting image of a young woman who had the same name as my mother.  I had been quickly overseeing the 30 or so pictures that I could fit onto my computer screen from a Google Images search.

When I came across the photo that surprised me, she looked like a young me.  The hair, the eyes and especially the nose.  Not so much the mouth.  I muttered, “This has to be a relative of my mother’s, she looks so much like me.”

When I clicked onto the photo, I realized it was my niece.  She is a school teacher in Virginia and this was a school photo. If you’ve googled a photo, you realize that you may get more than 10,000 hits.  While her first and last name are the same as my mother’s, we always called her by her middle name.  Yet, without all the artsy frills, I could see myself looking back at me.

Of course, I emailed my niece to confess my confusion and delight in finding her photo.

Occasionally, in the course of our work, we find surprises that amuse and entertain us.  This breaks the effects of a mundane course of the day.

I was reading today an email from a businessman turned minister.  He told about a short period in his life when he had become jealous of his co-workers.  It seemed that everyone was getting promotions, except him.  As the Lord revealed to him his sin, he was skeptical until he opened his own daily email and found that he had written about workplace jealousy.

Writing these daily entries weeks–even months–ahead isn’t unusual.  What is unusual:  Finding that your words which are intended to convict others are being used by the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to you.  The author was amused and happy to accept the correction from the Lord.

Today will stand out in mind as a day that the Lord gave me a delightful surprise by aligning me with my niece’s photo.   I’m always surprised at the thousands of individual ways, the Father has in pleasing, convicting and ministering to us.

The news reported that an owner of a restaurant asks that everyone check in their phones and electronic tablets when they enter the restaurant so the patrons will be free of such devices while eating their meals.  He said it was apparent that more and more people were not communicating with each other but texting, checking Twitter and Facebook and answering email during their visits at the restaurant.  “Mealtime has always been a time for people to touch base and talk.  The disturbing thing was that people were no longer talking to their table mates but communicating with everyone else in the world.”

At this age, I find that I am accumulating an entire zoo of pet peeves.  Nevertheless, this one is being pushed to the front, especially at church.  This is especially disturbing when there are mentally challenged people who need supervision and staff and volunteers are paying more attention to their phones or tablets than the members of a program.  I understand that our tablets and phone now contain our Bibles.  I know that many people discuss the sermon during messaging.  They are staying engaged through this median in new and exciting ways.  However, when I sit next to folks in a small group setting who are “engaged” with their phones or iPad, it isn’t the sermon or the scriptures they are discussing.  Almost without exception when I glance over, they are playing games.  At times they are texting but there is NO ONE else in the room who is texting back.  Therefore, how can they be discussing the Bible study?

Maybe I simply need to get with the times and ignore this behavior but it has become difficult.  Understand, I love the new technology.  I had a smart phone before smart phones were smart.  Special Gathering was using the TRIO years before the iPhone came out.  I get the convenience.  When my phone dies, it’s like a part of me is missing.  I get it.

But there is a time for polite company.  Here is a list of times that we should refrain from checking our messages, Twitter accounts, Facebook, texting, or checking our email:

  • During a worship service.
  • At a meal.  There are a multitude of scriptural teachings that God has ordained the meal as a time for fellowship and communion.  Losing that time is one of the travesties of modern society.
  • While engaged in a one-on-one conversation.
  • At a social event.

There are ways to send a message that isn’t intrusive.  “Can’t talk now.  I’ll call later,” is a message that takes seconds to type but communicates three things.  1) I got the message but I’m doing something important.  2) I won’t forget you and I’ll call back.  3)  To the people who are with you, it says, “You are important.  I’m not going to interrupt my time with you for someone else.”

I understand that there are some people with whom you MUST talk.  Your spouse.  Your boss.  Your children. A colleague who is currently doing you a favor.

However, why make an appointment with someone if you are going to be barely engaged?  Why go to church or a Bible study if you are going to be interacting with the vast world of cyberspace the entire time?  Why not stay home or in your office so that you can give full attention to the person who truly needs your attention?

The truth is that most of cyberspace communication isn’t that vital and could wait for an hour. Yet we want to answer because…? Each of us must fill in the blank because our unique personalities dictate the rest of the sentence.

My learning philosophy with pretty much every project is that I endeavor is to learn as much as I need so I can do the job and leave the other stuff to people who compose, fix and invent things.  That is especially true with the computer.  As examples, I don’t have to have all the music memorized to lead the choir in their first rehearsal of a song and I don’t need to understand the transfer of electrical currents to turn on a light switch.  Usually, my life philosophy serves me will.  That is until I try to invade a world where I need to understand more than I know.  Like blogging.

Our executive director gave me a wonderful gift after I’d been blogging for about a month.  It’s a manual on blogging.  Excited and happy, I immediately started reading it.  I underlined and tried to memorize as I went along.  You see, after a time of blogging, I realized that I know so little about the Internet and it’s terminology that I don’t even know what I don’t know.  That, of course, means that I don’t know enough about what I’m doing to know what I need to know.  Therefore, by ability to learn is hampered because I need to know how to do what I need to know.  If you are confused by all this, imagine how I feel.

After a few hours of reading my rich treasure manual, I needed to put it down–for a few days.  This was a fatal mistake.  When I picked it up again,  I’d forgotten to mark the page I was last reading but that didn’t matter to me at the time.  Because I’d underlined key passages as I went along. I was confident that I could find my way back to my place.  The only problem.  I somehow didn’t remember one thing I had read.  I needed to begin from page one.

The acronoms were particularly troublesome.  I could not remember even one of them. This time reading through I wrote out each acronym that I came to.  Therefore, I was not only remembering what the acronym means but I’ll understand the sentence better.  My philosophy in reading is the Lemony Snicket Theorywhich is similar to my life philosophy.  I skip the words I don’t understand and usually the context of the material will help me to understand the sentence and the words I didn’t understand. This is not true in blogging.

While I’m  into my fifth year of blogging, it has been only one year since I’ve become confortable inserting pictures.  In the process, WordPress, the website that hosts my blog has made adding photos much easier.  Additionally, I’ve learned to find my pictures from Google Image.  Then I download them onto my desktop and then use them in my blog.

Jesus said that we should never begin a blog unless we understand enough about the Internet so we can estimate the amount of time it will take us to complete each daily article and draw traffic to our web entry.  Sure, I am paraphrasing but you get the point.  I’m not a quitter but I sure wish I could sleep through the learning process, the way my choir often sleeps through rehearsals.

As I venture into a fresh project, I find I have much in common with my mentally challenged members.  It’s easy for me to lose interest in the new things as they become more complicated.  But that is childish, not child-like.  Struggle helps us to learn and survive.  Forcing, Nancy and Lucy, members of the choir, to stay awake while we’re doing the hard work of rehearsal is beneficial.  Likewise, rereading those first four chapters will embed them into my brain.

Have you found, like me, that you are sometimes enthused to start a new project only to become totally disinterested when it’s a bit harder than you anticipated?   Is it possible that we are more like members of my special needs choir, than we are different?