signing off

SONY DSCSigning off has become far more complex with the introduction of new forms of communication. Letters were fairly easy when they were hand-written, or even typed or word-processed: ‘yours sincerely’ when you knew the name of the recipient; ‘yours faithfully’ when you didn’t.

Now we have much less formal methods of written communication like text messages, email, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter and so on, there’s the dilemma of knowing quite how to sign off from them. Should you stick to ‘yours sincerely’ which, if I am honest, seems a bit formal for a text message on my phone? Or should you say ‘bye’ as if you were speaking in person, but that sometimes seems a bit informal?

It’s not actually as complex as I am making it seem, or rather it is no less complex than with earlier analogue methods of written communication. That’s because we didn’t only restrict ourselves to ‘yours sincerely’ and ‘yours faithfully’. There are many other ways of signing off a letter. There are romantic, intimate ways of signing off a letter to a loved one: I will start you off with ‘lots of love…’ and let you fill in your own thoughts there. There are other alternatives: ‘Respectfully yours’; ‘Cordially’; ‘Best wishes’; or even ‘Wish you were here’ (for postcards). One of my favourites, which I have sometimes adopted is ‘Yours heartily’. This was how CH Spurgeon used to sign off some of his correspondence and I love the affectionate, whole-hearted way in which it conveys good will.

What we tended to do was sign off our correspondence in a way that matched the relationship we had with the correspondent. We almost instinctively knew how to do it. We would rarely sign off a letter to the bank manager with ‘Love and kisses’ (unless we wanted a loan). But the plethora of new media and new means of communicating in writing have caused us anxiety because we don’t want to get it wrong in that way.

The general rule of thumb I use is that I usually sign off emails with ‘Bless you’ or ‘God Bless’ or ‘Blessings’. I think that conveys a sense of wanting God’s best for that person that reflects how God sees them. And maybe that is the answer. Maybe we should think about how God looks at the recipient and then sign off in a way that reflects that?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

post it


actually, not this sort of ‘post it’

Yesterday I had three pieces of correspondence relating to the first church in which I ministered (they are still recovering 12 years after I left!).

The first was a letter from the General Register Office, who are the people who oversee the registration of births, deaths and marriages. The letter was sent to the church in Colchester where I minister. It said that they had sent me a letter which was returned marked ‘no longer at this address’ and so they wanted to confirm if this was the case – in which case they would remove me from being registered as the Authorised Person at the church (able to conduct weddings). I phoned the office, negotiated my way through the options in their menu, and explained that I had received a letter saying that I was not at that address (yet presumably sent to the address I was assumed not to be at!) After some keyboard tapping and mouse-clicking from the other end it was found that the letter that had been returned had been sent to the address where I resided when I was in my first church which is 100 miles away in West Sussex.

I was rather surprised at this as I had not lived there for more than 12 years!  The man at the other end of the line put it down to ‘computer error’ and corrected it so that in future correspondence should at least go to the correct town… (In case I have married you or am about to and you are worried that I am not legal, I am!)

The second item of correspondence I opened was a letter. It was from a lady who was a member of the West Sussex church where I first ministered and was incredibly encouraging. That she had taken the time and trouble to find out where I was now and to write (using a pen, children!) to me blessed my socks off. How kind and thoughtful!

The third item was from a friend in Horsham – a Christmas card. Now we get lots of Christmas cards and we love them all, it’s a special way of reminding someone that you are thinking of them (and it blesses Royal Mail shareholders too now). But this one had a personal message about our friend that brought a tear to my eye. (It’s a personal message so I am not going to share it with you, sorry!)

Isn’t it amazing the difference a letter or card can make? A letter based on an error could have made it very difficult next year when I tried to conduct my next wedding if I had not responded to it and corrected the error (it’s better to correct a mistake as soon as you discover it than to ignore it and hope it will correct itself or go away). A letter written to encourage me blessed me so much and revealed someone’s generosity of spirit that reflects God’s generosity and desire to bless. And a Christmas card with a personal note of just 8 words brought joy welling up from within.

So when you are writing the 101 Christmas cards, be encouraged by the thought that it may bless and encourage the person who receives it. And if you have a moment, think about whom you can encourage (I had another card yesterday from another friend with an encouragement in it) – perhaps someone who blessed you a long time ago.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Yesterday my sister posted a joke on Facebook about a hedgehog and it inspired me to find some others. This one made me chuckle:

The devout cowboy lost his favourite Bible while he was mending fences out on the range. Three weeks later, a hedgehog walked up to him carrying the Bible in its mouth.

The cowboy couldn’t believe his eyes. He took the precious book out of the hedgehog’s mouth, raised his eyes heavenward and exclaimed, “It’s a miracle!”

“Not really,” said the hedgehog. “Your name is written inside the cover.”