The Ultimate Telephone Line
I hate to say this, but I have sort of missed out as far as the mobile phone era is concerned!
Give me a computer and that's a different story. But hand me a mobile phone, especially one of these really modern ones, complete with cameras, satellite navigators and what seems to be everything except the kitchen sink inside them and I fumble away with them for ages. What makes matters worse, is that I have quite large fingers and seem to always press two of the delicate little buttons at the same time. This causes all sorts of rather strangled beeps, as well as other, much more exotic noises, which the phone was probably never designed by the manufacturers to make. At this stage, the poor unfortunate phone, probably on the verge of an electronic nervous breakdown, almost sounds like it is crying and usually switches itself off very hastily!
I do own a mobile phone, but in comparison with modern times, I've been reliably informed that it is a dinosaur. I bought it back in 2003 and thought it would be a great thing just to keep in the car to call out the A.A. if the car broke down. The phone is very bulky and quite clumsy looking. It is also the largest mobile phone that you have ever seen. I managed one time to just about fit it in one of my larger coat pockets and the bulge looked like one of those concealed weapons that Private Eyes carry about with them on these American t.v. shows.
The phone has been almost permanently switched off and as a result, on the outside at least, has remained in near enough pristine condition. It is a very basic model, which actually is - believe it or not - just a phone, with no extra enhancements. As a result, it doesn't make my morning coffee, but it is possible, somehow, if you press the right sequence of buttons and have enough patience, to suddenly enter the amazing world of sending texts.
I produced it one time, in the presence of some young people whom I knew. They gasped in wonder and regarded it with awe, like you would with some ancient relic that had just been unearthed and hadn't been seen for thousands of years. One of them asked me if she could examine a thing called the sim card, (or maybe it was the test card) and I said, “Be my guest,” as I was curious to see what this thing would be.
With a loud and very disturbing screech, that is probably only heard when ancient Egyptian tombs are being opened, she managed to prise the phone open, then screamed as a large cloud of dust shot up which then made her sneeze. I don't know if she found the sim card, but I do know that she hastily snapped the phone back together again and gave it back to me very quickly.
I sent a text one time from it about six years ago and that is a story in itself. I happened to have it switched on that day while I was in St.Andrews, because one of my friends there was very brave and sometimes tried to phone me. This lady had lots of patience and would wait while I fumbled about with all the buttons, as well as dropping the phone two or three times before finally answering. On some occasions, I cut her off accidentally, and after these false starts, she must have either laughed, or more likely, cried, then simply phoned me back. She was very accomplished at sending out texts with fantastic punctuation and even capital letters when they were required.
She even seemed to know the ancient and mysterious abbreviated language that seems to resemble a cross between Egyptian hieroglyphics and shorthand which appears in texts on mobile phones and which seems to have been innately handed down to everyone except myself. I would receive wonderful but totally cryptic messages like,
“c u b4 I go 4 t.”
I often felt a bit like Sherlock Holmes must have felt like when he was trying to decipher the mystery of The Matchstick Men, which had mysteriously appeared on someone's wall. One lunchtime, I was right in the centre of town, sitting in the really picturesque quadrangle at St. Salvators, enjoying a cup of coffee, when I received a text from this lady:
“c u 45 mins @ St Sally's 4 t. GB”
I had a sudden revelation and realized that it is only when you read these things out loud that they actually begin to make sense. I think what she was trying to say was that she was meaning to meet me at this very place in three quarters of an hour, to go for some tea. I thought to myself, “Let's be a bit adventurous,” and tried to send her a quick text back along the lines of:
“ok that is fine see you then from drew”
There would be no such luxuries as punctuation or capital letters. The button for that was located somewhere near the bottom, but it had to be pressed in a certain sequence. To make matters worse, the phone had some kind of feature on it which attempted to try and second guess what I was going to write, (I suppose it was its way of trying to be helpful) and it kept putting in the wrong words which I had no idea how to delete. After much fumbling, frustration, guessing, several aborted attempts, and dropping the mobile phone twice, my friend actually arrived 45 minutes later, while I was still trying to send her this little reply!
But I am glad to say I am not alone. I was delighted to discover that in the “Rebus” detective novels, Ian Rankin's brilliant main character is exactly the same as I am. I was reading one of the novels and Rebus was desperately trying to send a text to his colleague Siobhan. He seemed to be having just as much problems as I had and couldn't find the capital letters either.
So it is reassuring to know that it is not just me and that I share this in common with someone, even if it is a fictional character in a detective novel. No doubt in the real world, there are lots of other folks out there too who are just the same.
Communication nowadays is a wonderful thing, but because it has advanced so much over the years, it has also become rather complicated. When we think on how much the ability and speed to spread news around the world has changed since the time Jesus was on this earth we can only marvel at the knowledge we have been given in science and technology, entirely by the grace of God.
However there is one form of communication that absolutely delights me. The thing that absolutely thrills me about it, is that it has been with us since ancient times and is just as effective now as it was then. It doesn't require any form of electronics or radio masts. No texts are required! There is never a breakdown in communications and the signal is never lost, no matter where you are. This wonderful communications system is the communication with our Lord through prayer.
From the time Jesus was on this earth and taught us to pray right up until the present moment, all through the ages we have found comfort in being able to talk with our Lord through prayer to seek guidance, comfort and help. We can share with him our joy. We can be comforted by him in our sadness. We can give thanks for being able to come into his presence each Sunday when we worship him.
In the very first century, Paul prayed daily and sometimes hourly for help and guidance, just like we do in the twenty-first century. He would kneel down and seek the Lord's guidance and strength, not just for himself, but for others. The methods he used are no different from today. Communication with the Lord through prayer is so simple to do, but can be life changingly effective.
The wonderful thing about this sacred form of communication is that it can be done at any time. No matter where a person is, he or she can pray for guidance, whether they find themselves at the top of Mount Everest , or in a submarine at the bottom of the deepest ocean, where no mobile telephone would ever work. The Lord can hear us just as clearly no matter where we find ourselves. We are also never alone, no matter where we may be. He is with us from the furthest outposts of space, to the deepest parts of the earth.
The Apollo 13 Astronauts, back in 1970, prayed to our Lord for guidance and protection when an explosion occurred in one of the module tanks of their spacecraft. The whole world prayed with them.
Their prayers were answered.
The commemorative medallion that was issued soon after the three men returned safely back to earth has a pair of praying hands with the inscription,
“And the whole world prayed.”
Just last year, the Chilean miners prayed to our Lord continually, without ever losing faith, seeking comfort and protection throughout the first month when they were trapped so far underground and no-one knew exactly where they were and if they were even still alive. Jesus, when he was with us said “Always pray and don't lose heart.” (Luke Ch18 verses 1-8). When they were rescued, with each one travelling up the narrow shaft in the small lift, the first thing that many of the men did, when they set foot on the surface and experienced freedom, was that they got down on their knees and gave thanks to our Lord.
It was such a touching sight to see.
I rejoice so much that I can pray to our Lord just like people did in ancient times without the aid of mobile phones or modern gadgets. I don't need them when it comes to communicating with the Lord because he hears me just as he did when Paul was praying to him so long ago. But he hears you too just as clearly. He hears all of us, no matter when we talk to him and no matter where we are. He watches vigilantly and lovingly over everyone on this earth like a shepherd watching his flock. Everyone is special to him. He knows each and every one of us by name We only have to pray to him and he will listen. We are never alone.
We have the ultimate telephone line to a King of kings who is also our friend.
The line is never engaged.
The signal is never lost.
Nor is it ever out of commission.
He is always at the other end.