This how all great scams pull you in: an awesome envelope!
And so it was that one arrived yesterday at Stately Darn Floor Manor. In lieu of a return address, the envelope featured these words:
God's Holy Spirit instructed us to loan you this to start turning things around for you. So here it is. Use it and be blessed.
Given our increasingly bleak financial situation (the result of my decision to become entirely self-employed about 18 months ago) this sort of come-on is exactly the kind of thing that's going to pique my interest. I have no use for get-rich-quick schemes, I distrust multi-level marketing, and Robert Tilton is for entertainment purposes only. But this little piece of bulk mail hit me right in the sweet spot: challenging my faith while provoking my cynicism. That sort of thing can make your head explode.
It's wording like this that makes the cynic in me run around happily with a silly grin on his face:
Heavenly Father, we pray that this one who needs this divine help will write their needs on page two of this letter and will place this blessed, biblical, Acts 19:11, 12, Handkerchief and this sealed --
WHOA! This what?
This "blessed, biblical, Acts 19:11, 12 Handkerchief"?
The cynic grins.
-- and this sealed Bible prophecy under their side of the bed as they sleep tonight. Let Thy power from heaven descend upon this home tonight and tomorrow night, after this one has mailed their most pressing needs back to the 56-year-old church ministry. We pray that they will break open this sealed prophecy after sunset tomorrow. Amen.
Ignoring for a moment the mixed use of single and plural pronouns (a pet peeve) the whole sealed prophecy thing is intriguing. A sealed prophecy for me?
Like one of those scrolls from the book of Revelation?
What if I open it and it rains frogs in my kitchen?
Well, we'll worry about that later.
For now, you know these people are serious because although most of this message (and this is still on the envelope itself -- we haven't even opened it yet) is in a pleasant Garamond typeface, the "Amen" is in a heavy calligraphic typeface, suggesting not only that these people have a nice collection of fonts, but that they mean for you to see this "Amen" as if it were being sung by heavenly choirs on golden harps. A perfectly harmonious chord full of grandeur.
But back to the biblical handkerchief. Inside, the message continues. "I've read and reread in the Holy Bible
how God instructs ministers
to send Bible faith handkerchiefs
to people's homes, and as a result, miracles of blessings occur."
And then in large friendly letters are the words "Here, I loan you, in Jesus' holy name, this paper, bible faith handkerchief for something good to happen to you."
This is tagged with Acts 19:11, 12.
For those as curious as I was, this passage does
say that "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them." So although it's a bit of a stretch to say that "God instructs ministers to send Bible faith handkerchiefs to people's homes," it's not entirely false. Just mostly.
The "handkerchief," by the way, was a piece of paper designed to look like a piece of cloth. The letter instructed me to print my name in the middle of the handkerchief along with my most pressing problem and the name of someone I loved who needs God's help. I am presuming that the loved one is not also the most pressing problem. Then I was told that I had to open my bible to Acts 19: 11, 12, place the paper handkerchief on it, and put it under my bed so I could "sleep on it."
Now that part's kind of weird, but I took this as a battle between cynicism and faith, and went ahead and did it anyway, smirking cynically all the while. Maybe that's the reason I had a horrible night's sleep -- that this bible faith handkerchief acted as the pea under the mattress of my cynicism upon which I have been known to recline with some regularity. Or maybe it was because the toddler woke at 3 am and decided it was the perfect hour for crawling out of her crib, running to the foot of our bed, and crying her head off.
Whatever the reason, I woke up grumpy.
The instructions for the next day were to mail the paper handkerchief back to the sender, along with a little form. "Pray for my family and me for . . . "
the form started off, followed by a series of statements to check off. "A closer walk with Jesus."
Sure, I checked that. "To be saved."
Got that covered. "Our family member's health."
I couldn't think of anyone ailing in our family, so I left that blank. "Confusion in my home."
No, I didn't think I wanted that, so I left that blank, too. But I checked off "A better job," "A new car," "A money blessing."
(Amen in fancy type to that!) There was also a separate spot that read: "Pray for God to bless me with this amount of money: _____________" Throwing caution (but not all my cynicism) to the wind I wrote: $1,000,000. What the heck. There's a faith journey I'm willing to take!
And of course, as you might guess, there was the suggestion that I also "sow a biblical seed offering unto the Lord"
which we all know means "send us money."
Perhaps this letter was from Robert Tilton after all.
But nowhere did it appear that God was going to withhold his blessings if I didn't give "Saint Matthew's Churches" of Tulsa, Oklahoma a bit of seed money. So I put the paper handkerchief back in an envelope and sent it back without a "seed offering." The letter instructed me to use the pre-paid envelope, but that had my address printed on it, and I felt that if this was really going to be a test of faith, God's blessings would have to find me without the help of the post office.
And then I opened the prophecy.
And really, it was just a lengthy bit of encouragement, and I really couldn't find anything unscriptural about it. No plague of frogs either. My cynicism was left unfed. I guess this is a good thing.
I have a suspicion that whoever opens this letter will look around for the seed offering, and finding nothing, toss it in the trash. (There goes the cynic again.) But what does it matter? Even if this mailing was just an unscrupulous method used to get money, for a few minutes it made me aware of how cynicism chips away at faith. I doubt that's what the sender had intended, but if it means that I will begin choosing faith over cynicism, this is a good thing, right?
And if a million dollars happens to come my way? Well, . . . I'll let you know how that goes.