Tag Archives: Robert Browning

Read Any Good Love Letters Lately?


Robert Browning



Elizabeth Barret Browning


Robert and Elizabeth exchanged over five hundred letters before their kindred passion for words and writing blossomed into a love for one another. Nearly a year after Elizabeth received Robert’s introductory letter, the two met in person and began courting. But Elizabeth’s father vehemently disapproved of their relationship. Undaunted, Robert proposed and the couple eloped to Italy to be married. In Italy their love for one another and for writing grew. So was born one of the world’s greatest love stories between two of the world’s greatest poets.

God too has engaged in a letter writing campaign to his beloved, you and me.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Jeremiah 31:27-32:44

1 Timothy 3:1-16

Psalm 88:1-18

Proverbs 25:20-22

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.


1 Timothy 3:1-16: This list of leadership qualifications is intriguing and not as easy to apply as we may wish. Often biblical interpreters focus on certain aspects but not on others. Based on this passage many churches insist elders and deacons must be male, married, but not divorced. But they are less stringent about leaders not being lovers of money, managing their families and having children who treat them with respect. And how do we measure how much temperance and self-control one must possess in order to qualify for leadership?

Is this an exhaustive and absolute list? If so, not many of us qualify, male or not. Or is it more of a measuring stick, something to which we call our leaders to and as leaders we ourselves aspire to?


These four passages vary vastly. Jeremiah is poetic, otherworldly and prophetic: “‘The days are coming when I will plant the house of Israel,’ declares the Lord.” 1 Timothy is propositional and directive: “Now an overseer must be above reproach.” Today’s Psalm is lyrical and personal “May my prayer come before you; turn you ear to my cry.” Our Proverb is practical but highly interpretive: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food.”

These important interpretive differences aside, what is the thread that runs through all of Scripture that we often miss? Like the letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, this book we call the Bible is filled with God’s love in history, stories, commands, and letters communicating his love for us.

Sweet, rhythmic words drew Elizabeth and Robert to one another. Today their letters and poetry are classics of English literature. Even most school children can quote the first line of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem defining her love for Robert Browning: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” God asked the question first.

But there is one man Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s words could not touch–her father. After Elizabeth and Robert eloped, her father never spoke to her again. Still Elizabeth never gave up her hope for reconciliation or her belief in the power of words. She wrote her father nearly every week for ten years. He never replied. How could her father ignore a love communicated so powerfully that the rest of the world considers even these letters classics? He never read a single word Elizabeth wrote him! In a large box, after ten years, he returned to her each letter unopened.

And so a love that moved thousands never affected one she held so dear.

And so it is with God! God gave us a book filled with love stories, love songs, and love poems. Through the rhythm of human history God wrote his poem to us. Every page of this book is filled with the record of Gods desperate desire to win our hearts. In one story God compares his heart sickness over our broken relationship with him to that of a husband whose wife sells herself again and again to the highest bidder. In Isaiah God compares himself to a mother who will nurse us and dandle us on her knee. “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you,” God croons. Through Jeremiah God sings, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” In the New Testament Jesus stands over Jerusalem lamenting, “I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” And the Apostle Paul prefigures Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s How Do I Love Thee? poem by wishing we could “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”

But just like with Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her father, much of this letter goes unread or, at least, misunderstood. Despite millions of Bibles being sold each year (it is still the number one best seller of all time) and hotels hiding Bibles in bedside drawers and scholars and scoffers arguing over its message, few of us have read and understood God’s love letter to us. A comedienne on The Prairie Home Companion radio show warned listeners not to use the maps in the backs of their Bibles when traveling in Israel–because they’re out of date.

And therein lies the problem. We often use the Bible as God never intended. It is not a hammer to pummel those who disagree with us. It is not a proof text for our personal choices. It is not a science textbook or a batch of outlandish myths. The Bible is a series of stories of a Lover’s pursuit. We will never get the message leaving the letter unread. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in her poem Aurora Leigh:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

Have you read any good love letters lately?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com


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Seeing Is Believing. Maybe Not.

“It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.”

Suddenly I feel a cold, dry breeze brush across my face. I shiver and look around in shock.

How did I get here? What happened?

Towering above me a line of ancient white arches stretch from one end of a noisy courtyard to the other. Below the pillars, walking on rough, uneven paving stones, unshaven men, shy rugged women, and children bouncing against the cold, bump and bustle about some business I can’t quite fathom.

Where am I?

A small wiry man next to me asks another, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

The other turns and an ironic smile flashes from under his beard. “I did tell you, but you do not believe,” he says. “The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”

Just as suddenly I am back on my couch, Bible on my lap open to the daily reading for May 19. I am once again alone, warm and comfortable. But I am wondering.

What if I had been there? Would I better believe in Jesus if I could have actually seen him?

Would you?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

1 Samuel 24:1-25:44

John 10:22-42

Psalm 116:1-19

Proverbs 15:20-21


1 Samuel 24-25:44: What other sacred book, or history of a nation or king, stoops so low as to record a story about a king chosen by God being embarrassed and nearly killed while in a cave for a bowel movement? The Hebrew we translate “to relieve himself” is literally “to cover his feet,” a euphemism which describes how, when Saul squatted down, his robe covered his feet. For me the raw and gritty nature of this narrative, and in the entire Bible, speaks to its veracity. If this sacred book can be that honest about who we are as people, then I believe we can trust it to be honest about who God is too.

Mark Twain, in his autobiographical book, Roughing It, writes that he doubted the veracity of The Book of Mormon for the exact opposite reason. He found it too flowery, embroidered, and trying too hard to sound ancient. It lacked the smack of reality.

Psalm 116:1-19: The psalmist prays that God would hear his cry for mercy in the midst of trouble and sorrow. His cry is not for help received in a far away heaven, but in the “land of the living.” Some have argued the use of this phrase shows ancient Hebrews had no concept of heaven or hell. If so, why have a phrase that differentiates between the “land of the living”? Rather this phrase shows the Hebrews did have some concept of the afterlife and yet saw life here and there as crucial to God. Hebrews did not hold the view that this life is evil (though they understood life as sometimes very hard), and heaven as the only good life. They saw the two places as connected.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.


John’s Gospel narrative is beautifully written, evocative. I can almost see, feel, actually hear Jesus’ strong, clear voice. But not quite.

Obviously John was there. If only I too could have been!

I would not doubt, falter, fall into dishonest, fearful thoughts and actions so often, if only I had been able to touch him.

But that’s just one more white lie among the myriad of others I daily tell myself. And it’s almost as if I’m blaming God for my inability to follow Jesus the way I desire.

God, You had me born in the wrong time.

Yet scores of people touched him, saw what he could do in the Father’s name, and failed to believe.

Belief, however, is possible. John ends this account with, “And in that place many believed in Jesus.” What made the difference?

Belief doesn’t have to be big. I think my desire to possess more than I have been given (such as being born in Jesus’ time) defeats belief. Jesus called us not to have mountains of faith but said a small amount could move mountains. I forget that grace-filled truth.

Also, belief is a gift we must receive. God bestows belief on us, but I often leave the gift unopened. I’m similar to the father of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning who disowned his daughter for marrying fellow poet Robert Browning. After her marriage, she wrote many letters to her parents that they never opened.

John tells of those who witnessed Jesus’ miracles and rather than open them in wonder, they walk away.

Others who opened the gift believed and Jesus calls them his sheep.

Notice belief is an action not just an acceptance of ideas. Today we are often taught that believing in Jesus has only to do with an assent to intellectual truths. Though I intellectually assent to the idea that Jesus actually lived, died, rose again, and in so doing forgives my sins, full belief is more than that. It is acting on what I have assented to.

In my younger and crazier days, standing atop a cliff, I intellectually assented to the idea that a rappelling rope could hold me. But that was not enough. Belief did not become real until I stepped off the rock.

So, I am brought to this reality. Jesus is here with us in a different way than with his disciples. But here he is.  Do you see him? I can act on that truth. In the end then believing is sometimes seeing.

  1. What theme or idea that connects these four readings?
  2. Do you struggle with belief?
  3. When has your belief been most strong?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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