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  • tenleyschwartz

Unsolicited saviors

I got some weird mail today.

An envelope addressed by hand, in shaky elderly cursive, to "Ms. Tenley Schwartz (or current resident)."

Inside is a letter in the same careful script, plus a drawing of yellow flowers. At first glance, it's handwritten, a rare treat. The only people who send me handwritten notes are my friends. But on closer inspection, it's a printout, with my name written in the salutation. The printed flowers have been outlined in glitter gel pen.

"Dear Tenley,

It's so nice to see the Springtime season.

Everyone looks forward to outdoor activities.

Despite peaceful conditions here in Sioux Falls, many happenings earthwide are disturbing.

War, terrorists activities, mass shootings and natural disasters.

If humans were asked to end war, could they?

Rather than end wars, countries take sides and show support. However, our Creator, who dispises [sic] much of human activities, is powerful enough to end wars. Psalm 46:9,10 says in part "He is bringing an end to wars throughout the earth..."

By examining scripture, not religious doctrine, the truth comes out.

Have you ever wondered if we live in the "last days"? (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Why is Armageddon something to look forward to?

Obtain a free Bible study session without obligation. You will appreciate the focus on the Scriptures.

Questions? Call or text the number below (our cell phone) or go online.

Sincerely, Gillian and Larry


Enclosed is a flimsy brochure with an anguished woman on the cover.

I can imagine an elderly couple carefully assembling their letters, hoping to reach a lost soul. It's sweet, in an odd sort of way. But mostly it makes me mad.

Who do they think I am?


Why does it feel like they're trying to trick me?

Honestly, what Bible study isn't free? That's not a real selling point.

The addition of 'or current resident' negates all personal touches.

How can you send me this thing without knowing me? A message is best when it's specific. This one feels off because they're using the trappings of my personal friends (handwriting! mailbox! my home!) but we have no trust built up. Deep conversations come after trust.

Call this letter what it is--marketing. And if you're going to market, at least do a good job.

I think I'd rather talk to a nonbeliever who's curious about the world and about me, rather than a believer who wants to tell me everything sucks unless I follow this one weird trick.

This letter strategy is predicated on "other people." Other people will like this, the sender thinks. The poor, the lost, and the lonely will snatch this fakey letter and feel touched. Do they think the recipients are all so dumb that they'll think this thing has been written just for them?

It reminds me of this thing that happened growing up. We had a lot of kids and little money. Every so often, a certain gentleman would knock on our door, beaming. He'd just collected a large stash of food through his ministry. There was an overflow! He thought of us!

9 times out of 10, the food was stale, past date, and something we didn't regularly consume.

We'd take the overstuffed cardboard box from him and dump most of it in compost for our garden, the source of fresh food that actually sustained us.

We laughed about the bad offerings, mostly. "Where does he even get this stuff?" "Better he gives it to us than someone else."

We talked about how it felt like kicking someone when they're down.

We vowed to never give old goods to food pantries.

If a person is starving, do not give them expired goods and expect them to be thankful.

Give them a feast, the very best.

Value who they are now.

The best thing someone did for our family in those thin years was to ask for specific Christmas lists--things for each one of us kids. I remember they hunted down a green cardigan to fill my sister's request. They cared, down to the color of the sweater. They remained anonymous, they didn't need photos of our reactions, or thank you cards. They saw a place to share goodness and they did it with specificity and care.

Rather than form letters full of chilling suppositions, value who a person is now.

Be friends with people. If you're really into Jesus, it'll spill out in weird places anyway. The truth comes out.

We don't actually know how it'll be in God's restored kingdom. How do we love what is in our world today?

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