Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Tale of Two Letters

Hmmm...I just read a post on whether we should write thank you notes, and whether we should make our kids write them. Or, have hand written notes went the way of the dodo bird?

If you remember (and you probably don't, but I do=)), one of my New Year's Resolutions was to write a hand written letter every week. I must confess that I have not done too well. Realistically it has been closer to one a month than one a week. But I guess that is an improvement. Part of the thing is that if people read my blog, I feel like I would just be repeating myself. Nevertheless, I have written a few notes.

And I think that letter writing is a good practice. Part of our home schooling curriculum is having both boys write a letter every Monday. And, if a gift has been given recently, or a service has been rendered, the letter is a thank you note. I want them to learn gratefulness. I want them to learn good letter writing practices. I want them to learn that if someone took the time and thought of them by giving them something or doing something with/for them, they can take a few minutes to say thanks. Thankfulness and generosity go hand in hand.

But, character apart, we all know the excitement of going to the mailbox, and pulling out junk and bills, and then finding a surprise letter nestled in there! It is truly an awesome experience. A letter written just to you. I know I read those ones over and over again. I can remember growing up, and checking the mailbox several times everyday, hoping for and looking for a letter, from one of my many pen pals. I don't want to deprive my kids of that experience. And, now they ask me, "did I get any mail?" They only get mail once in a blue moon, but they still enjoy and look forward to receiving their own note.
And that experience won't be continued if we don't encourage it. Yes, it takes more time. Yes, it costs money. But it's a relatively cheap thrill.=) And, I think it is a way to bless others too. So, keep writing.

As I was doing my devotions recently, I was reminded of Hezekiah, and the two letters he received. 2Kings 19-20 record the story. Both were probably "handwritten", since there was no internet back then.=) Both were from world leaders-the army general of the king of Assyria, and the king of Babylon.

The first letter was a threat-"our army left, but your God didn't save you. He can't save you. We will be back, and we are going to cream you." The second was a get well note. "Heard you were sick. Glad to hear you are better. Also glad to hear you defeated our mutual enemy-Assyria."

What did Hezekiah do with the letters? I love what he did with the letter from Assyria. He took it to the temple, spread it out before God, and basically said that this is the disaster we are facing, but you are all powerful. Save us. Have you ever done that? Have you ever been at the end of your rope, and cried out to God in absolute desperation? Have you literally or figuratively, laid out before God, your bill you can't pay, your situation you can't handle? Total surrender to God's power because you can't handle the situation on your own? And then you see God work in an amazing way. And you give God the glory because it was all Him, none of you.

But how about that second letter? What did Hezekiah do with that one? He received the letter and the emissaries. What a nice note! So encouraging! "You're right...we did good, didn't we." He then showed the emissaries all his wealth and precious things. He didn't lay that letter before God. God had defeated his enemies. God had healed him. It seemed such an innocent thing. A congratulatory note.

Have you ever done this? I know I have. Someone encourages me for a job well done, and I soak it up. And I forget completely that it was God who worked. Not me.

What if Hezekiah had taken his "triumph" to God? What if he had sought God's direction in this situation that seemed like it just required common sense? What if he had thanked God for His provision and protection? What if he had taken this letter to the temple and prostrated himself before God?

Judah still would have been punished their disobedience and idolatry. But Hezekiah wouldn't have gotten this message from the Lord that said that all those treasures he had shown the Babylonians were going to end up in Babylon. That his descendants would end up slaves in Babylon.

It is a good thing to be at the end of ourselves and calling upon God to work. It is just as a good a thing, just as vital, to be at the end of ourselves and before God, in the common sense things. The triumphs of our lives. What pitfalls would we avoid if we approached God in thankfulness when things are going well, and we still need direction?

It is not only in our times of desperation that our heart is revealed, but in the good times too. Who gets the glory for the good happening in your life? Do you thank God? Do you thank others?

What will you lay before God today?