A few weeks ago, someone arrived on my blog by Googling this title. What a superb idea! We need a How-To list for a lot these days, so let’s help each other with this challenge. First of all, the person who Googled that was probably running late on the task. Yes, we’re busy, but think of it this way: I’ve kept all of the letters written to me while on retreats. Retreatants know they’re important. You care about someone enough to take on this challenge. It won’t be easy because you want it to be genuine. Start with a prayer and start early. Secondly, change things up. If you spend all of your time on the computer, give pen and paper a shot. Even if you draw blanks, start writing. Paper isn’t as rare as it used to be; you can start over. If you live in 1789 and you tend to write with quill and parchment, Google up some typing lessons and draft your letter on a computer (transfer it to paper later, of course).

This letter is a visible sign of several relationships. Your relationship with the send-ee and his or her perception of you are good places to begin. Do they look up to you? Tell them something about them that you admire. Do they ignore you? Secondary question: is he or she a teenager? Surprise them. You don’t need to make yourself heard or try too hard. Most likely, you have their attention because of the compelling weight of an envelope full of pen and ink-scribbled paper. 1. Another set of important relationships in this exchange is that involving God. How is your relationship with your Creator? Share some pragmatic ways you build a relationship with our Lord or how you need to work harder to do so. Do you forget to show His Love to others sometimes? Write it down. It’s good to learn from others’ mistakes. You’re not writing this letter because you’re perfect and bestowing your wisdom on an imperfect being.

You’re both imperfect. Tell them that you love the way they Love, if you have witnessed a strengthening relationship with Him. If the letter’s receiver begrudgingly went to the retreat, they need your love now. The Devil hates the good fruit that retreats bring, so he constantly preys on retreatants. Start with Love. If you think their priorities stray from concentrating on Him, show them Love in your letter. This is not the time to say, “I wish you were more like THIS.” Instead, tell them that God knows who they are: His son or daughter. Chances are you’ve watched them grow at some point in their life. From an infant to a toddler. From singing the alphabet to writing stories with a fat pencil. From multiplication and division quizzes to algebra. Write to tell them how excited you are to watch them mature. Remind them that you know a sliver of what it must be like for God to watch all of his children grow. Let them know how privileged you feel to be in their life. Less is more. Lots of words do not always mean more love.

You can have a greater impact with carefully chosen, few words. Keep in mind that he or she is probably exhausted. Retreats can take it out of you, physically and spiritually. He or she may not know how he or she feels at that point. Assure them that’s okay. He or she either learned new facts about the faith or are trying to convince himself or herself they haven’t learned anything. Assure them that retreats affect people differently. The person to whom you are writing may disagree with or dislike something about the faith. Encourage them to ask questions of the priest, if you suspect this is the case. Remind them to remain calm and polite when doing this. Discussion is good, but hostility will produce skewed results. Quotes are used so often because smart people pack HUMONGOUS messages in succinct, profound nuggets. Before you start your letter, pick a few quotes or Bible verses that embody what you’d want to hear at a retreat.

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