The old man turned from the box of old memories to look at his great granddaughter.
"You gettin' board?"
"No way!" she answered, "This is cool!"
Smiling, Jacob Carlson pulled out an old book.
"Oh, I wondered where this had gotten to."
"What is it?" Jenny asked.
"Yeah, you told me about that. You said she used to read it to you every night."
"She did. Mama was determined that her children know God's Word. To this day, I wish I'd paid more attention."
"Didn't she send it to the war with you?"
"She did. She slipped in in one of my bags when I wasn't looking. I found it when I unpacked."
Jenny flipped through the worn book. The pages were somewhat yellowed with the years, but her great great grandmothers handwriting in the margins was still readable. Her grandma Jenny sure had loved God's Word.
As Jenny flipped through the New Testament, a yellowed envelope fell out on to her lap. She picked it up and scanned the return address.
"Who was Mary Owen, Grandpa?"
Jacob paused in the middle of flipping through an old photo album and took the envelope from the girl's hand.
"Mary Owen. You know, I never did find out who she was exactly. But her letter was used in a mighty powerful way."
Jenny knew it was time for another one of Grandpa Jacob's stories. Yes! She loved these moments.
"Yeah?" was all she said.
"Yeah. It was 1944. It was coming around to time for the invasion of Normandy. World War II was a bloody thing. I still have nightmares about it once in a while. Anyway, sometime in May, a letter came.
I read the return address over and over again, thinking there had to be a mistake. I didn't know anyone named Mary Owen. But it was addressed to me, LEUTENNENT Jacob Carlson. So I opened it; more out of curiosity than anything else. Here I'll read it to you.
"Dear LEUTENNENT Carlson,
You don't know me, but God knows you. I was readin' my Bible the other night and suddenly your name and address popped into my head. I asked the Lord what it was all about and He said He wanted me to write something to you.
Your Mama read God's Word to you every night before you fell asleep. She did it even when you didn't want to listen. She read you the verse in John that says: `"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son; that who so ever believeth in him should not parish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16, KJV)."`
You didn't really pay attention then, but it's true. Leutennent Carlson, God loved the world, loved you, so much that He sent His son to die on that cross. He rose again and is waiting for you to except His gift. He loves you and He's calling you to come home. Read the words LEUTENNENT. They're true. And they're for you.
At first, I thought it had to be a hokes. Mama had to have something to do with all this. But I knew Mama better. She never tried to force God on us boys. She prayed, prayed hard and insisted that we live by God's rules in her house, but she never played subtle tricks. So, the only answer was that it had to be God. He had told this woman to write to me to tell me to read God's words, that the words were speaking to me.
Well, it's hard not to listen when God does something like that. So I did it. I picked up Mama's Bible and started readin''. This time, I read as though the book was written for me. Of course, I know it was written for everyone, but in a way, the realization that God had me in mind along with everyone else when He inspired the writers gave the words new meaning.
Then one night, I came to the passage Mrs. Owen had copied, John 3:16. This time, unlike the time Mama read me that verse, I understood. I was loved. There was a way made for me to have `Everlasting life.` I believed. I knew from Sunday school what I needed to do. I bowed my head and asked the Lord to come into my life. I knew that I was forgiven for all I'd done wrong and that I was new. I can't tell you how it felt. It was sweet and scary all at the same time. But I wouldn't have traded it for anything.
The next day, we invaded Normandy. Scared? Oh yeah, I was scared. But I knew that if I did die, I'd be going home to Jesus. Well, you can see for yourself that I made it."
Through the tears that had been running down her face, Jenny laughed.
"I guess so," she said. "Grandpa?"
I never understood before. I mean, I've been living the same way you were. Mom and Dad make us read the Bible, but I didn't know it was so important. I just thought it was something they made us do. I don't know. I just never got it before."
"And you get it now?"
"I guess. At least, I want to get it."
So the old man took his Mama's Bible and read to his great granddaughter. For the first time in her life, the girl realized that the words, the promises were meant for her.
When he was done reading, LEUTENNENT Jacob Carlson took the girl's hand and they prayed. Jenny Louise Carlson was now a child of God. She knew it as surely as she knew her own name. She was free and new. She ran home light as a feather to tell her parents and siblings all about it.
Jacob Carlson took his mama's Bible and the old letter and placed them on the mantle. It was where they belonged. He smiled as he propped the letter against a picture frame.
"So Lord, You had another use for this old letter after all."
This fictional story was inspired by "Letters from Home," sung by John Michael Montgummery and fictional events chronacled in the audio drama, "Down Gilead Lain," put out by CBH Ministries.
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