Friday, March 7, 2014

Coloring Within the (Written) Lines

The phone buzzed on the table beside me. A quick glance told me my employer was trying to get in touch with me.


“What are you doing?” asked the voice on the other end of the line.

“Writing a letter. Why?”

There was a moment of silence before she continued on. “We were wondering if you could come in early today...”

The grilling started at the time clock. “Who were you writing to?” “Why don't you send emails like the rest of the world?”

Truly there are any number of ways to stay in touch electronically with those we love these days, and I'm grateful for the ease and speed of all the messaging options available to us. But there is something to be said about a letter you hold in your hand that sets it in a category of communication by itself.

For a good portion of my life I was on the receiving end of such a blessing, my father having used the only form of communication available to him in his day and age to stay in touch with his children who had left home for any length of time. From daily encouragement to homesick kids at summer camp, to weekly submissions to college mailboxes, to family newsletters sent to our own eventual roadside mailboxes, he was the epitome of faithfulness in that regard. By rough calculation, my dad wrote me between 600 and 700 letters in my lifetime, culminating in the one left in a strongbox, written in the days before his death, which he knew to be imminent. I gathered together the ones I still had on hand after he died and put them in a binder to be kept with my most treasured possessions.

Years later, his youngest grandson started asking questions about this grandfather who had died long before he was born. Naturally the subject of his letter writing habit came up in the ensuing discussion, and I mentioned my amazement at the sheer quantity of mail I had received from my home address.

“It is evidence of how much he loved you,” my son replied, words that prompted me to take pen in hand and start writing letters to my own boys who had moved out on their own. In one of the first missives I sent to this son in particular I included a couple of letters I had kept from my dad, hoping that he would catch a glimpse of the man he was, from the words he wrote, to the way he phrased his thoughts, to the ideas that intrigued his curious mind. How gratifying it was to hear my boy later voice his reluctance to return them, saying he felt in doing so he was saying goodbye to a man he was just barely getting to know.

I used to be an avid letter writer. Somewhere deep down I still am. I felt the stirring inside when I came across a couple of websites last year, one of which belonged to a man who planned to write a letter a day for a year, mailing them off to people who signed up to receive them. A similar one dedicated just the month of February to putting snail mail in any form in mailboxes around the country, I suppose as a means of spreading love in the month dedicated to the same. Intrigued, I knew that when the second month of the new year rolled around, I'd be similarly engaged in some way.

Suddenly that very month was upon me, and I found myself with no time to prepare for the event, no time in my schedule to devote to it...and very close to discarding the idea altogether. But something happened that changed my mind. I was plugging in my electric rollers one morning, and noted that because the set had turned upside down in the cabinet, the rollers inside were a jumbled mess. I opened the lid and went about the task of setting each one back on its heat conduit, muttering “Get back to your post!” as I did so. Strange that I would speak to my curlers in such a way, and stranger still that God would speak to me through them! Suddenly those five words were a directive from the Lord to get back to a task I had fallen away from some years ago.

I've written letters all my life, but once I came to know the Lord, He put purpose in my passion. The letters I sent were no longer just a written chat, but a chance to share my Father's love along with my own, in the hope that those on the receiving end would get to know Him a little better, much as I hoped the snippets from my dad's letters that I sent to my son would introduce him to to the grandfather he never knew.

Individual as we are in our pursuits and giftings, we each have our own way of making the Father known. Christian author Max Lucado describes it as coloring a picture of God using whatever crayons we've been given.

Perhaps you've had your life turned upside down by events beyond your control, and now find your priorities to be a jumbled mess. It's not too late to reconnect with your lfe source and reignite the fire within. Others of us simply set our tools aside for a time and they got lost in the clutter of our everyday lives. Now is the time to dig them out and put them to work once get back to our posts. As the times get more difficult, the world needs to be able to see the image of our Father more clearly than ever before. May He simply inspire the artist inside each of us to new effort...and may our work become evidence of how much we love Him, indeed.

Do not neglect the gift which is in you, [that special inward endowment]... Practice and cultivate and meditate upon these duties; throw yourself wholly into them [as your ministry]...”
(1 Timothy 4:14-15 AMP)

1 comment:

  1. Elaine, this puts a whole new slant on the word "post." I think I need to do less digital posting and more sending letters in the "post." Thanks for the reminder of how precious the handwritten note can be.


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