Reflections on My “Sixty-Six Love Letter Challenge”

A year ago on Valentine’s Day I wrote a post called “Sixty-Six Love Letters”. In that post I shared this quote,

“Read the Scripture, not only as a history, but as a love letter sent to you from God…” [1]

That quote inspired me to read all sixty-six of God’s love letters to me by Valentine’s Day 2016.

Well, I’ve had a couple of months to reflect since February 2016 and so am ready to share what I learned from my “Sixty-Six Love Letters Challenge”.

  • As I kept going through the challenge, I discovered I could read a lot more Scripture than I thought I could. When I started, a couple of chapters seemed like a lot. Then I found I could read 5 pages in a sitting! (That’s when I needed to catch up.) 🙂
  • Reading bigger chunks of Scripture in a sitting often made the story come together better. However, I’ll admit I do still like those three-chapter books that I could read through and feel like, “Hey, I just read a whole book of the Bible!”
  • I was awed by the poetry in the Bible and the power of God: 

    “He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord is his name….” (Amos 5:8, ESV)

What a blessing it is to not worship or fear the stars or the sea but to worship the Lord Who not only made the stars and the sea but also directs the sea and names the stars (Psalm 147).

  • The Old Testament and the New Testament go together like Oreo cookies and cream filling – you simple cannot have one without the other. That may seem like a simple truth, but sometimes I think we like to value one or the other more. Of course, I’ll be the first one to admit that reading through the history books of the Old Testament was rough, but there is a profound truth in those books that ties into the New Testament: People cannot save themselves; we need a Savior. Then the prophets point us to Christ in so many ways. As Acts 10:43 (ESV) says, “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
  • Truly, “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV) Reading God’s Word changes your life. Sometimes it jabs and slices into areas that are uncomfortable. That’s called conviction. Don’t read these sixty-six love letters unless you want to come away looking (and living) at least a little different. 
  • Reading through the whole Bible in a year was great, but I didn’t delve into passages that left me with questions. This year I want to be about that delving deeper – even if it’s only into a handful of books. Like I tell my Spanish students, “It won’t really help you if you know it, but don’t really know what it means!” (Something like that!) So that’s my new goal for this year. Lord willing, sometime after Valentine’s Day 2017, I’ll be reporting in on how it went.

What about you? Did you take up the Sixty-Six Love Letters Challenge? How did it go? What did you learn? If you’re in the middle of it, how’s it going? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so type in a comment or send me a message. Blessings!


[1] Watson, Thomas: A Body of Divinity, http://thomaswatsonquotes.com/?s=love+letter

Simply Stepping Stones: What Thanksgiving Is Really About (It’s Not Just the Pilgrims)

All things considered, I think you could forget the Pilgrims and still celebrate Thanksgiving this year. 

But, no, just eating a stuffed bird or watching men chase each other with a funny-shaped ball does not count as celebrating Thanksgiving. If that’s all we do, let’s be honest, please, and call it Turkey Day or even Football Day.

(Note: I don’t actually have anything against turkeys – especially when they’re on my table – or funny-shaped balls; I just would like us to call things what they are, even holidays.)

Back to Thanksgiving. 

It’s not that the Pilgrims would be all fine and jolly with you forgetting them entirely. At least William Bradford would be concerned. And with good reason. 

He understood a particular aspect of humanity: unless you’ve gone through the suffering required to reach a goal yourself, you’re apt to not value the reward nearly as much as those who did suffer. Bradford wanted the Pilgrims’ descendants to treasure what they were given, so he wrote an account of their struggles called Of Plymouth Plantation. (It’s worth cracking the cover. I believe Grandma called it “fascinating”.)

But, as far as Thanksgiving Day itself goes, I think the Pilgrims really wouldn’t mind if we happen to talk about them less. Squanto and Samoset probably wouldn’t be bothered either.

Why? Quite simply, it’s not about them.

Yes, Thanksgiving is a good time to remember our history, but it’s still not about the Pilgrims.

Then what or who is it about?

In Bradford’s own words, this group of sojourners who became known as the Pilgrims saw themselves as potentially “but stepping stones” to something – or you could say Someone – much more important than themselves. 

“Last and not least, they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations or at least of making some way towards it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.” [1]

Then who is Thanksgiving about?

Thanksgiving is – or is supposed to be – a day when we take time to be thankful not just to each other but really to God, the God Who sustained the Pilgrims, the God Who prepared Samoset and Squanto to help them, the God Who has been directing the stories of our lives ever before and ever since the Mayflower anchored off America’s shore, the God Who makes plants grow and created that turkey on your table. 

God really is the One the Pilgrims would want you to be thinking of and thanking this Thanksgiving, even if you forget them. After all, the Pilgrims may be simply “stepping stones”. 

“Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.  

For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

~Psalm 100:3-5, KJV

 

1 William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation: Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Settlement: 1608-1650, pg. 21.

More than One Answer…

Genevieve peeked around the marble pillar. She wasn’t supposed to be here. Well, at least not at this exact moment. The king was listening to his subjects’ petitions, and Genevieve was eavesdropping.

She knew from experience that the king usually gave one of three answers – either “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait” – to the supplications of those under his protection. Of course, everyone hoped to hear a “Yes”. When the king said “Yes,” you knew that he meant it, and you went on your way merrily.

Nobody really wanted to hear a “No” or a “Wait”. Nobody, including the man kneeling before the king just then.

As Genevieve watched, her eyes grew wide. The man stood and stomped his foot. His hands clenched.

Genevieve felt for the man. After all, what he had asked for seemed like a good thing.

Sadness crossed the king’s face. Rising from his throne, he reached out his hand.

The man refused to take it. “I came to you for help, and this is all you give me? You didn’t even answer my request!” He turned, stormed past the marble pillars and left the throne room.

Genevieve ducked back into the shadow of the pillar. Doesn’t that man realize that the king did answer him? It was just a different answer than he wanted. Doesn’t the king have his best interests in mind and know more about what is going on in his vast kingdom than this man?


Genevieve has a good perspective on things from her hiding place, doesn’t she? I know I’d like to stand in her shoes. But you know what? I’ve also been like the man in this story.

There have been times when I’ve come before the throne of grace, before the King of Kings, with requests for what I saw as deep-down good things. But God didn’t answer all of my prayers. That is, He didn’t answer them with a “Yes” (what I wanted) or with what I expected.

And sometimes that was really hard to take. 

With the release of the box-office-surprise film War Room I’ve been contemplating prayer. What does it mean to have God answer our prayers?

Clearly, God does answer our prayers, even when He gives a different answer than we would like. If He isn’t worth trusting with a “Wait” or a “No”, He isn’t Almighty God, is He?

Well, that’s a start on my thoughts. I think little bits will be popping up throughout posts in the coming weeks. For now, I’ll leave you with these verses that are becoming precious to me. I hope they’ll encourage you as well.

 

“…[D]o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8