We who preach and write, do so in a manner different from which the Scriptures have been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We speak as we still knock for understanding...If anyone criticizes me when I have said what is right, he does me an injustice. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth than I would be with the one who criticizes me unfairly. -Augustine

Grandma’s angry at the bank!

Shown below, is an actual letter that was sent to a bank by an 86 year old woman. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the New York Times.

Dear Sir:

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nano seconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it.

I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire pension, an arrangement which, I admit, has been in place for only eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $30 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways.
I noticed that whereas I personally answer your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person.

My mortgage and loan repayments will therefore and hereafter no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.
Be aware that it is an OFFENSE under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.

Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course, at MY convenience, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required of me to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further. When you call me, press buttons as follows: IMMEDIATELY AFTER DIALING, PRESS THE STAR (*) BUTTON FOR ENGLISH.
#1. To make an appointment to see me.

#2. To query a missing payment.

#3. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.

#4 To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.

#5. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.

#6. To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.

#7. To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated to you at a later date to that Authorized Contact mentioned earlier.

#8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7.

#9. To make a general complaint or inquiry. The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service.

#10. This is a second reminder to press * for English.
While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.
Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement. May I wish you a happy, if ever so slightly less prosperous New Year?
Your Humble Client
And remember: Don’t make old people mad. We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to make us mad!

Published in: on January 3, 2012 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Potter’s Apprenticeship, Part 2

In our previous Lamplighter Moment we talked about Ange, a highly skilled potter, who was given the opportunity of a lifetime–to learn from one of the most accomplished potters in the world.[1]

Ange was excited to learn from the master, but when given her first assignment, she was taken by surprise. The master said to her, “The way you do the most insignificant activity in your daily life will reflect in your work.”[2] After speaking these words, he sent her to the rice fields to dig for clay. Throughout her six-month apprenticeship, never once did she throw the clay on the wheel or work side by side with the master. Once in a while she caught a glimpse of the master at work, but she was never given the opportunity to demonstrate her skill or learn from his expertise.

As she was about to return home, feeling humbled and defeated, the master’s wife approached her. “When you came to us,” she said, “you were like a fully grown tree with big branches. We have to cut those branches for something new to be able to grow.”[3]

Ange came to realize that, though she never worked side by side with the master, she had learned more about pottery than if she had been shaping the clay day and night for years. For when she returned to home, something new and beautiful began to emerge. The old had been stripped away, and a new work had been borne.

The story of Ange presents the essence of what the Apostle Peter learned during his apprenticeship.

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you . . .” (1 Peter 5:5-6).

Not enjoying your current assignment? Yield to the pruning, patiently endure, do more than is expected, and expect great things from God.


[1] Ange Sabin Peter, “A Japan Story,” Ceramics Technical 23 (2006): 95-97.

[2] Ann Spangler, Lois Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2009, 52.

[3] Ibid., 52.

Published in: on January 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm  Leave a Comment