Last week, my e-mail program started having problems.
"Error occurred" kept appearing on my computer screen: not an encouraging sign since e-mail is my primary vehicle to send this weekly column to more than 100 newspapers in the United States and Canada.
I have a dependable backup person who uses her computer to care for emergencies like this, but she and her husband are in Florida on a vacation.
A call to the technical support department of my Internet provider sent me on an international telephone journey to technicians who are supposed to know how to fix problems like mine.
Starting with an overseas expert who gave up on my difficulty, I was switched to Canada, Arizona and Texas. At each electronic stopover, I probed the needs of these hopeful helpers, ending each conversation saying, "Remember God loves you."
"God bless you," said the overseas contact.
"I try to remember that, but sometimes forget," replied the Canadian.
"I've made some mistakes in life," volunteered the Arizonan, while letting me know he was interested in what I had to say. I've mailed a helpful book to him.
The Texan was cheerful, friendly and the most helpful of the four, but noncommittal.
My e-mail problems were finally solved by a friend not far from my office with some added help from one of my computer-wise grandsons. But I don't count as wasted my nearly fruitless telephone conversations with those supposed to be in the know. Each of these people provided opportunities to share my faith.
A sign on top of my library, directly across from my desk, says, "Blessed are the brief for they shall have lower phone bills," a good reminder of the cost of calling for one who could easily become a telephone junkie.
My affection for ringing telephones is probably rooted in my youth. Our old wind-up, party-line phone was one of the lifelines of our family business.
During those Depression years, phone calls often meant customers were interested in buying cattle and horses our means of livelihood so callers were greeted with kind words and courteous information, qualities of conversation I still try to convey to all who call.
The advent of telemarketing temporarily cooled my enthusiasm for phone calls. How did these interrupters of my life know when I was eating, enjoying a conversation or involved in the most pressing work of the day?
Why didn't they mind their own business? Then, one day, I realized this was their business and my business was to find out about their personal needs so I could help them.
This change of perspective has enabled me to welcome these formerly unwanted calls, seeing each of them as another chance to connect with a person who is likely in need of encouragement and faith, a candidate for new life.
I've been amazed at what a few kind words can accomplish when spoken to a person who has been told off, cursed and hung up on; some of these wounded ones have written to me for more help.
When I'm away from home, I commission my answering machine to minister for me. If you call today and I'm unable to get to the phone, you'll hear me saying, "Remember God loves you and nothing you face today will take him by surprise."
Frequently, when I play back my calls, some thank me for the message, saying it was just what they needed.
The next time your phone rings, consider it the sound of good news.
Every call will either be one of good news for you or an opportunity to put your faith on the line, giving your caller the best news of all.
Roger Campbell is an author, radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist from Waterford, Mich. He has written more than 20 books and has had articles published in most major Christian magazines. He was a pastor for 22 years and has been a guest speaker in Alaska churches from Anchorage to Homer.
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