Body, Mind & Spirit

Who’s out there taking grammatical notation…

Through the years I have received many anonymous letters. As per my practice, however, I have made it a point to keep anonymous letters to myself – and I do not share the information or take the opinion to account unless a person is willing to sign his or her name.

Anyone who leads is going to receive anonymous suggestions and comments. That’s a fact. Most pastors probably have drawers full of these letters. But I thought I might break with my own tradition and offer you a sampling of some of the anonymous letters I’ve received through the years. It might help clear the air for many folks.

One of my favorites arrived many years ago – a small sealed envelope deposited on my desk, which simply read: “Dear Pastor, You ‘lay’ down on a bed, not ‘laid’ down.”

I suppose the individual was offended by my bad grammar and was not weighing in on my sleeping habits, but I made it a point to watch my verb tenses from there on. Still, I kept wondering – who’s out there taking grammatical notation of this sermon and what is the active tense of nervous?

Another letter read: “Dear Pastor, some of us have been talking and we think you should preach more on hell.” This one galled me as I had already had one hellish week up to that point and I also had buried the family dog. Why do so many anonymous letters include references to “us?”

Who are “they” and why do “they” crave hell? I kept thinking, if only “they” walked a week in my shoes, they’d have all the hell they wanted, as well as a sprinkling of heaven, too.

One of my favorites arrived on the heels of an administrative council decision opening the church doors to homeless families for overnight lodging: “Dear Pastor, Do we really want those people inside our church? Look at the messes we have to clean up!”

Sad – but how could this well-meaning person have known that I was the one who had slept overnight on the youth room couch and had eaten that box of Twinkies? That, and the paper towel dispenser was broken, which was the reason for the mess in the men’s room. I also was responsible for the puddle of root beer outside of the kitchen. Once I explained these things in a sermon on hospitality, I got no more anonymous letters – although someone did send me a box of Handy-Wipes. The people realized the homeless are a breeze compared to me.

And not long ago, I received an anonymous letter that read: “Dear Pastor Todd, You are the best pastor ever and I love you!” The handwriting was a child’s and the letter made my day. It was anonymous, but I was glad my notes were getting more positive. But I still have to say to all who receive such letters – stay humble and don’t believe everything you read.

Todd Outcalt is the author of The Ultimate Christian Living and $5 Youth Ministry. His latest CD is, What is a United Methodist? and may be ordered at www.calvaryunited.org. One-hundred percent of the proceeds will go to Friendly Planet Missiology (www.friendlyplanetmissiology.org).