Hand-written letters will someday follow the dinosaur by traveling the road to extinction.  What once represented such a formal, elegant expression of words is quickly being discarded in favor of more efficient, practical methods of communication.  What a shame.

Over the last month I have received quite a few hand-written notes by people wishing me well as we plan our move to Arizona.  In some, they have stated simply their appreciation for our family.  Others have noted the impact we have had on their lives.  Some have shared funny memories and some have moved our hearts to tears.

No matter what type of note, they are all a treasure to me.

I actually keep three different notes in my desk.  Each of them were written by different people, over a span of ten plus years, and the contents of them cover completely different topics.

What makes such potent, impactful letters?  A few thoughts:

1. They build identity in you.  Take for instance the postcard I received in 1992.  As a young man early in ministry, a mentor of mine said to me,

Your goal this year is to quit sitting & watching leaders lead with authority but doing it yourself.  Be bold, strong, & smile.  God has given you the ability – so use it!”

I remember reading this postcard over and over taking in each word on it.  I was young and insecure, so the words meant volumes to me as I struggled to “cut my teeth” in ministry.

2.  They remind you of a deep, spiritual truth.  In the late 90’s a good friend saw in me a never-stop-working mentality.  There was always something that could be improved, or a new idea that could be hatched.  I was working myself to the bone and was on pace to fizzle out soon.  It was in that season that I received this letter in the mail.  It read:

Remember, rest is not in sleeping late.  It is not in being alone.  Rest is active, and full of faith.  It is sitting before the Lord and drawing all your desires from him.”

He went on to quote Psalms 62:1 “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.”

The letter set me free.  It reminded me that I wasn’t working to please God, but working out of His pleasure in me.  That freedom allowed me to stop and enjoy the journey He had me on.  I took that letter and read it to my staff each year for the next ten years.

3. They communicate value or encouragement.  I had just met a beautiful young girl on a blind date.  In the next day or so following that date, I left to speak at a conference in Colorado.  My blind date went on a trip to Switzerland.  Back then there weren’t cell phones so it left me thinking about her, wondering if we’d go out again.

While in Colorado I couldn’t help but speak of that girl.  I sat with my old mentor and told him all about her.  When I got back from the trip he wrote in a letter:

Here’s the reimbursement for your expenses related to the trip – I threw in a little extra just to let you know I value you and your friendship so much, and to encourage you to blow some money on that new love interest of yours!  From what you’ve said, she’s worth the time and effort to know and allow her to know your heart.”

He was right; she was worth it.  I ended up marrying her just 10 months later.

I want to continue to speak identity, truth and value into people.  This might be to people I work with or to friends and family.  To this day one of my wife’s prized possessions is the journal I write in a few times a year.  My kids also love when I put letters in the mailbox for them.  They are short and sweet, but they are a reminder to my kids of a dad who loves them deeply.

Do you have any prized letters you’ve received from someone?