Archive | July, 2014

How to Tell When You Receive a Fake Collections Notice . . .

31 Jul

This morning my husband was taken in by a fake collections notice, in this case, supposedly from an EZ Pass company claiming he had driven on toll roads without paying the toll.

Since probably 1000 of our friends may have received the same notice today, let me quickly go through the steps I took to review this email before I deleted it (I never clicked on the enclosure, which could have been the source of hostile code, also known as a virus, which would then attempt to install itself on my computer or our network).

As my first clue, I am not positive, but I believe that collections notices do not come via email. I will check this with my friend who works collections, but I believe they have to use an actual physical address to go after someone. An email address may help track someone down, but I don’t believe you can legally send them threats to take action via email communications.

However, even if that were a legal way to contact me about a debt, the bottom line is that we did not incur that debt. How do I know?

1) The person sending the fake collections notice did not even bother to spoof his email address. It did not come from anything designed to look like an EZ Pass company. It came from a private email address. So look at the address of the sender first.

2) Remember that anyone can fake a company’s picture, very easily, just by going to Google Images and rightclicking a picture to copy it. So I dismissed the EZ Pass picture outright.

3) The email did not use Noel’s or my name, only his email address. We have an iPass transponder (from the state of Illinois) but it is registered to *my* email, not Noel’s. And, if they had a record of that, they would realize that it was probably a case of my transponder not working correctly, and not a case of stealing access to toll roads by going through the transponder lane without a transponder . . .

4) No one ever hauls an email address into court for a collections case. If the email can’t identify my husband or me by name, it can’t be claiming to be ready to sue us.

5) Our license plates are not tied to our email accounts either. Nowhere on this planet (and this is what I had to say to Noel to get him to understand). We may have given the DMV our emails in order to facilitate communications, but any company attempting to collect tolls from our Virginia license plates would need to utilize the Virginia DMV to do so. Again, the DMV would give them our names and addresses in that case. They would not be contacting us via email. I doubt the DMV would even give out our emails if it were subpoenaed to give collections information. What good would the emails do? Better to give out the actual address where we live.

6) The grammar of the email sent to Noel was shaky. Now I realize there are plenty of Americans who can’t write standard English. But an email that leaves out indefinite and definite articles may originate in Russia, where they don’t *use* indefinite and definite articles in the Russian language. I am 75% sure the email did not come from anywhere in the U.S.

So … I deleted that email. There are laws protecting us as citizens. We don’t need to be afraid when unscrupulous people seize on the latest trend of using transponders to pay tolls and try to claim money from us that we don’t owe.

P.S. We use our transponder just often enough that I review the statement every couple of months to ensure that we were charged for everything we used and *not* incorrectly charged for someone else’s activity!

The Loss of Pastoral Credibility in the Age of the Internet

29 Jul

Learning to intelligently engage with other views . . .

Alastair's Adversaria

Rockwell - Freedom of Speech

The Internet has introduced a new level of visibility to areas of our social life, exposing certain uncomfortable realities. Rod Dreher recently wrote a perceptive and troubling piece on the way that the Internet reveals corruption and abuse within the Church and other institutions, provoking a reaction of distrust and a loss of these institutions’ effective authority. While the dramatic collapses of trust in the institutional authority of the Church following the exposure and scrutiny of cases of abuse may receive the most attention, there are other ways—albeit slower and more gradual—in which this trust is being eroded. Perhaps the most significant of these in my experience has been our greater exposure to Church leaders and their thinking.

On Twitter earlier today, I remarked that the Internet exposes the fact that most people were never trained to function effectively in the context of an argument. As forms of discourse such…

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Four Birthdays and A Funeral

29 Jul

Fabulous tribute to her granny, who taught her to cook!

Texana's Kitchen

July 28th is a special day in my life….So many birthdays in my family.

My BFF Lance. My cousin Evan. My quasi-cousin Jennifer. And it was supposed to be the day my first born came into the world.  But he had his own ideas, and arrived two weeks early.

But most notably, today is my Granny’s birthday.

My Granny was a babe My Granny was a babe

My Granny—Neva Lee Knight Gough— would have been 87 years old today. But instead, she died ten years ago, and left a hole in my heart that will never heal.  All of my grandparents are gone now, and of course, I loved them all.

But my Granny and I had a special bond.

My Beautiful Granny My Beautiful Granny–at 14 (YES, 14!)

She used to hold my hands in hers—my hands were always very hot—and tell me that I had healer’s hands, that my hands were hot because I had…

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Michael Horton on infant baptism

28 Jul

Even though I do not believe in infant baptism, I have grown to respect my brothers and sisters in Christ who do. Not as a means of salvation, but as a sign of a covenant initiated by God. This post explains their case.

Theologia est doctrina Deo vivendi per Christum - Theology is the doctrine of living unto God through Christ


“Let me summarize what I regard as the most compelling arguments for infant baptism:

  1. God has brought us into a covenant of grace, and although not all members of this covenant will persevere (i.e., they are not elect and have not been regenerated), they enjoy special privileges of belonging to the covenant people. This was true of Israel, and the New Testament simply applies this to the New Testament church as well (Deut. 4:20; 28:9; Isa.10:22; Hosea 2:23; Rom. 9:24-28; Gal. 6:16; Heb. 4:1-11; 6:4-12; 1 Peter 2:9-10).
  2. Even though bringing someone under the protection of God’s covenantal faithfulness does not guarantee that that person possesses true, persevering faith (Heb. 4:1-11), that does not mean it is unimportant as to whether children of believers are given the seal of the covenant.
  3. Children were included in the covenant of grace in the Old Testament through the sacrament of circumcision, and in the new…

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C.S. Lewis on Chronological Snobbery

26 Jul

C.S. Lewis coined the term “chronological snobbery.”

When Something from your Past Reaches out to Choke you Now . . .

26 Jul

Very wise counsel here!

Great Plays: Death of a Salesman vs. The Glass Menagerie

23 Jul

I read quite a few great plays back in high school, along with other works of literature that got made into plays/movies at some point in their journey.

In fact, I may have read more solemn literature in my high school years than I have in the years since then, as I was quite a serious student who had not yet developed a sense of humor. No balance.

The serious 20th century playwrights definitely got my attention: Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Eugene O’Neill, for three examples. Although, in all fairness, I didn’t see O’Neill’s Moon for the Misbegotten until college and I later read his A Long Day’s Journey into Night while serving with the Navy in Jacksonville, Florida.

While I used part of Miller’s The Crucible for my recitation in a high school forensics competition, my favorite play of his was Death of a Salesman. And I just now had the incredible treat of finding Death of a Salesman on Netflix with Dustin Hoffman playing the title role of Willy Loman.

Amazingly, Hoffman was made up as an old man while playing opposite John Malkovich as Willy’s son Biff. Magical.

Hoffman affected a crooked spine and the laborious walk of an old man so well that it took me a full ten minutes to convince myself that was really him. Of course, he carried off Rainman the same way, studying the moves and gestures of people with autism until he could convince us he was legitimately a part of that world!

Any movie that goes over two hours can’t be all sober moments, however (or the audience would become suicidal!!! LOL!), so the flashbacks to happier days between Willy Loman, his wife, and his two sons work very well to lighten up the atmosphere and to fill in parts of the Loman family history that might baffle us.

The classic lines about the worth of a man play with resounding power in this version of the play/movie. The scene where Willy Loman loses his job after 38 years, without retirement or severance pay, is heartbreaking, especially when Willy reminds his boss, the son of his original boss, that one can’t just totally consume a fruit, then toss the peel aside afterwards.


On the other hand, I recently saw a Netflix version of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie with Katharine Hepburn as Amanda Wingfield. That, too, was an extraordinary work.

The play was not nearly as sad as I remembered it, particularly as my aging process has given me a more philosophical outlook about the very fact that Amanda’s daughter Laura opens up to love for the first time with her “gentleman caller,” foreshadowing the idea that she will be able to love again (and maybe again after that!).

Amanda’s son Tom does remain nigh on hopeless, but then again he was a autobiographical twin of Tennessee Williams!

What a treat to see great plays done with great actors and actresses.

Endemic Lack of Trust . . .

22 Jul

What do our culture of outrage and helicopter parenting have in common?

Why Asking Whether Bonhoeffer was Gay Misses the Point . . .

22 Jul

We keep on insisting on reading history through a 21st century lens . . .

Watching Plays through the Filter of Autism . . .

19 Jul

Most of you who know our family well know my story first hand.

About ten years ago, we took Joey, our son with autism, to a high school musical–West Side Story–at Tallwood High near here. He would have been eleven or twelve. Our young friends from church, the Davises, went with us.

We enjoyed a great performance by the young actors. Joey seemed to enjoy it as well.

At least until the end. I looked over at him as we were getting ready to leave our seats and saw him crying inconsolably.

Since Joey is not usually a crier, I was alarmed. I went over and asked him what was wrong.

Joey asked me a question in return, “How are they going to do the play again tomorrow night with all those people dead?”

It was like an arrow through my heart. I had never thought to tell Joey in advance that the people who died in the play were only playacting their deaths.

Poor guy! He didn’t know. A wave of sadness washed over me, too.

Autism is so inscrutable. Just when you think a person understands things in a normal way, something like this happens . . .

So it is that last night, when we went to Regent University to see the outdoor Shakespeare play (Julius Caesar), I was very happy to note our son sitting on a blanket in the front row, taking the deaths of the emperor and various other combatants in stride!

In fact, since he knew one of the castmembers and it was an all female cast (college students), he was visibly entranced by the loveliness before him! Typical 22-year-old guy!

He did ask his friend afterwards whether her dagger was real–he seemed to be relieved when she let him feel for himself that it was rubber.

In any case, he knew that no one really died–that the fight scenes were staged.


People with Special Needs Need Friends, Too

19 Jul

Today I want to address the hesitancy many have to befriend folks with special needs, usually out of a fear that the needs will be so deep that the new friend will be overwhelmed.

Let me just say that you don’t need to fear that. You *will* be overwhelmed. But isn’t that what *any* friendship is about? We are *all* needy people. For Christians, that is good news, for being overwhelmed is a condition that leads us to rely on Christ more!!! And that is a good thing.

Let’s do the math. People with special needs are, first of all, people like the rest of us. Most of them need and want friends, just like the rest of us.

If we conclude that only the people who are used to people with disabilities should befriend them, we exempt a good chunk of the human race from having any responsibility whatever towards people with special needs. But is that Biblical (or moral, if you are not a Christian)?

We parents of kids with special needs are usually pretty comfortable around others who have various conditions, not just our own personal child. But is it then right that we should be responsible for being their *only* friends and support system? The way I figure it, that would make me responsible for being the best friend of about 200 young people I know with disabilities.

That can’t possibly be my calling! I could not do that in 50 lifetimes.

So here is a practical hint. Don’t *let* the situation become untenable and overwhelming.

One young lady with disabilities who is just starting out on her career PM’s me every time she sees me on Facebook. We all know how that works. You can see when someone else is active. When she sees that, she shoots me a message. If I answer, I get another message ten seconds later. And then again. And again.

So I have told her we are working on rhythm. On how people can message each other throughout the day and still get their work done. I respond to her every couple of hours. That way, she knows I care. I get things done.

Not hard, is it? It is only hard if I allow myself to think that her feelings of wanting constant texts from me have to govern my behavior. They don’t.

People with issues related to OCD will always push you to give them more and more. For that matter, people without OCD will do the same. We *all* want to feel important to someone else.

The solution for those of us who love people with disabilities is to give them what we can, but to let them know that their loneliness, boredom, lack of structure, or whatever is currently going on in their lives is not going to be allowed to control us or guilt us into spending more time than we can afford to spend being in touch.

Still, it is good to be in touch with someone with disabilities. They need friends, too. And they have much to offer and teach those of us who don’t ostensibly have disabilities.

20 New Favorites among Latin Phrases

19 Jul

Oh, there are so many good ones here. I can’t choose just one or two!

Marriage Myths: God Will Make Me Marry Someone Ugly!

17 Jul

This week I have been talking to my Sunday school class about the way we ladies in the U.S. have overlaid our Western view of things onto the Bible and made some really shaky conclusions about its teachings on marriage.

It is easy to do that, and not just for Americans. If we don’t consciously account for our culture, *everyone* ends up overlaying her particular culture onto the Bible.

One way that can happen is by us falsely dividing things into “spiritual” vs. “worldly” categories.

When we do this, we tend to place “sexual attraction in marriage” into the “worldly” category and to assume it doesn’t matter to God.

In other words, we overspiritualize marriage.

Now, don’t get me wrong, marriage is indeed an earthly picture of the relationship Christ has to His Bride, the church.

But that does not remove the delight of the one flesh concept God built into marriage. It does not remove sexual attraction from marriage. The one flesh concept was God’s idea, after all.

It is important to remember that. When I was young, I used to think that holding out for a man who made me all trembly might be sinful. I thought maybe God wanted me to be okay with marrying any guy who honored him. Even those whose body shape or personal smell turned me off.

I could not have been more wrong.

I firmly believe there is someone for everyone. Therefore, if someone “smells too musty” to me, there is another woman somewhere who will find that smell to be a turn-on.

There is no reason any woman needs to “settle” for marrying someone in whom she doesn’t absolutely delight in every way, including the physical.

Sure, his faith and his lifestyle matter just as much as the physical side of things. But they don’t make the physical side of things irrelevant.

When we teach it that way, we unconsciously teach that God is the “great killjoy in the sky.” Or rather, we make the Great God of the Universe into just another member of the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods, who were totally capricious and didn’t miss a chance to “teach human beings a lesson” by denying them the things in which they took delight.

Now, after twenty-five years of being married to a man who is a believer, as well as a warm and funny person, and one whom I find totally hot physically, I can say without reservation that God’s plan is for us to marry another believer, but one with whom we have fallen deeply in love. God never calls for us to “settle” for something short of that, just to be married or just to please God.

When I think back to my college self and the way I sold God short, treating Him as a killjoy, I giggle at my own foolishness.

I recall a friend who lived next door in the dorms whom I often used as my “test of spirituality,” assuming that I would be very spiritual if I were willing to marry him. He had been badly burned in a fire as a child and was of a very stout build (not really overweight, just non-athletic and flabby). He was also black but that would not have been an impediment to me, even then.

Thing is, as I befriended him and tried to lead him to Christ, I used the wrong lens, my Western culture lens. I personally did not find him attractive, but I also never saw him come to faith in Christ. He may have done that later. And who knows how Christ might have changed his actual appearance later, if he became Spirit-led?

My whole premise was faulty, as though God would use willingness to marry this man as a test of my spirituality. As though finding guys who appealed to me physically was something *I* had to do for myself, since God clearly didn’t care whether I liked how a potential mate looked or not.

Such silliness in a girl in her late teens and early twenties.

But how many of us are still there, subconsciously? How many of us, if we are single or divorced or widowed, still assume deep down that God wants us to “settle” for someone who falls far short of delighting us? And what does that say about that person for whom we “settle”? Wouldn’t that guy be better off being cut loose from us so that he can find a woman who truly *will* delight in him in the Lord?

Our silliness can not only trip us up, it can trip up good men, created in God’s image, who deserve to find the ladies who will love them unreservedly.

Yes, God does care about whom we marry. And, yes, God does care that the one flesh concept is lived out in our marriages accompanied by a feeling of delight, not a sense of repugnance.

He has made all things good. Especially marriage.

Thoughts on Rights of Religious Freedom vs. Rights of LGBTQ People

17 Jul

I like the legal analysis here. And the way the author proposes, then analyzes, various courses of action.

Are Progressives Always Right?

15 Jul

The things I have thought but could never have written quite this eloquently.

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