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About Valentine’s Day

Culture will try to tell us what to think and how to act. The media, in all its various venues, formulates ideas they want us to accept. If they say it often enough, we tend to believe it is true, especially if it is on the internet.

How does that relate to Valentine’s Day?

We are told the day is for lovers and sweethearts, couples and spouses.  We must buy things, like candy and cards.  Spend money on jewelry and flowers.  If you are not currently in a relationship, or your sweetie forgets you, or you don’t get something costly, well you just must not be loved.

Please, don’t believe that lie.

love-wordLove is from God.  It is His essence, who He is. Anything good in this world, any smidgen of kindness, any beauty, any joy comes from the Creator of good and perfect gifts who first initiated love.

His love is displayed in the warm sun, the air I breathe, the faces of my children and grandchildren.  His love is in my Sweet William’s embrace, in the smile of a friend, and in the strength to take care of another.

God’s love is shown by strangers who let me in the line of traffic, by the customer service person who helps me resolve a problem, by my neighbor telling me she is just a phone call away.

God shows His love for me by showering me with grace all day long, gifts like a good cup of coffee, a gorgeous sunrise, finding our Maisie who was lost, and a phone conversation that encourages.

But the very most extravagant love God ever demonstrated was the life of His Son to a world that did not recognize Him, did not welcome Him, did not love Him back.  The greatness of His love was manifest in this fact: He loved us when we were unlovable, unfaithful, unholy.  He loved first.

Any good in this world is because He gave love. He lavished it on the ones made in His likeness, the very ones who turn their back on Him and use His name to curse.  The ones who don’t believe.  The ones who choose their own determined way instead of running to His beckoning arms of forgiveness and mercy.

Stories and legends abound about the man named Valentine, how he was kind and loving, and so we celebrate him with a special day. We call him a saint. We are enticed to spend money in his honor.  Sorry, it’s just not about that.

Love is serving, giving of oneself, sacrificing our own wants for someone else.

Love forgives and doesn’t hold grudges. Love does not get offended easily.  Love is patient and kind, not jealous or prideful.  Love causes us to consider another first and act in loving ways, no matter what.  Love longs for truth and doing the right thing.  Love bears up under the hardest of circumstances, continues to believe God is good, and trusts Him for power to keep on going in the grace that strengthens.

Love does not end.  Not when divorce divides.  Not when loved ones die.  Not when words wound.  Not when distance or misunderstanding or unresolved conflict separates. Love keeps giving, keeps restoring, keeps healing, keeps seeking.

Because God is love.  And love comes from God.  And nothing, absolutely nothing can separate me from His love.

This love is worth remembering and celebrating on a day in February and every other day of the year.

Revised and reposted from February 2015

 

 

February begins

The origin of the word February is surprising to me. I’ve always simply thought of it as the month of love.

With the advent of Valentines Day, merchants discovered another way to entice us to spend money, reds and pinks showing up in stores early last month. Cards to honor the day of hearts and flowers flood the isles, and TV commercials encourage us to make diamonds the proof of undying affection.

But what if . . .  what if we really did practice a little more love during February? Not the gushy, mushy vaporous emotions or the once-a-year expensive gifts that last but a little while before they are forgotten and we move on to other “more important” endeavors.

What if we tried scattering a little more kindness this month, without it turning into a spending spree or a guilt trip? What if we gave out of the abundance of our hearts, out of the grace we have been given?

We take on the character of God when we become givers. God gave. God gives. God will give eternally.

“What if the truth is every tremor of kindness here erupts in a miracle elsewhere in the world?” — Ann Voskamp,  The Broken Way

Chapter 5 of Ann’s new book, a gift from a friend, ignites something this morning as I read about her and her children leaving unexpected gifts all over the city, creating smiles and joy in their wake.

One of the dots on my Bucket List is “Always be kind.” I wish that just writing that down and marking it a priority made it always be true in my every day. It isn’t. I need a reminder. Often.

Scatter Kindness 8x10 Canvas Quote[purchase the canvas at this Etsy shop]

So I am challenging myself to Scatter Kindness in February, to find unusual and unexpected ways of giving to others out of my own abundance. Thoughts, ideas already drift in my head. I would gladly bring a few more smiles to the faces I encounter regularly and those who just happen along my pathway.

This month, February, I will make it my goal to Scatter Kindness, to Sweet William first for his is the face I see most often and the one I can so easily take for granted. I will endeavor to Scatter Kindness to those I know and to those I don’t, to the ones in my circle of  influence and to those I may pass only once in this life.

It will be challenging because I am too often self-centered. Perhaps the focus on others will alleviate my struggle for a while. At least for the next 28 days.

And like the dandelion fluff I’ve scattered with my breath on scores of summer days, perhaps one seed will take root in another heart. Perhaps Scattering Kindness will grow and flourish in someone else.

This morning’s radiance splashes pinks and oranges in the sky from my eastern window. The Spirit whispers, “I love you. This is for you.”

The world is chaotic and dysfunctional. I cannot fix it or make people happy. But I can show them they are loved by simple, kind deeds. And “no matter what anyone’s saying, everyone is just asking if they can be loved.”*

February could turn into a bountiful opportunity to show God’s love through small acts of kindness. There is the chance it could change me and my little corner of the world.

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* Quote from The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp

Sunday grace

Love.

God is love.  Not that God loves, an action, but that love is His essence.  He embodies love.

When He moves, creates, judges, offers grace, it is Him being true to His nature.

Love.

When we move, create, judge it is more often out of selfish interest.  Our concern for ourselves motivates us too much.

When we give grace, we imitate the God who is love.

Give grace today.  Give grace to those who look different, who think differently, who act in a way different from us.

Give grace to those who offend and hurt us with their words and actions.  God will judge rightly.

Give grace to yourself when you mess up for the umpteenth time.  Accept the grace given by God, the forgiveness He offers that covers a multitude of sins.  Don’t keep carrying that dead weight around.

The cross testifies to the love of God, the essence of God, that He loves us so much He was willing to die and take our punishment rather than live without us.

Oh the wonder of love.  The wonder of God.

Sunday grace.

grace

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All about love

I’m listening to Adele on a DVD from my public library’s collection.  Believe it or not it’s my first time to hear Adele.  I know! Where have I been?

She takes my thoughts to Valentine’s Day with all the songs about love.  Unrequited love.  Disappointed love.  Love gone wrong.  Love that came and then went.  Makes one wonder, is there really a love that lasts?

While there are couples who have stayed together to celebrate 50, 60, even 70 years of marriage, how many have gone by the wayside?  Too many.

In a perfect world, we would all love with a pure love, without expectations, simply loving for the sake of love.  And wouldn’t the world be a better place?

But we don’t live in a perfect world.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment – and there were so many the Jewish people were concerned with following – there were only two He mentioned.

The first and most important one is this,” Jesus replied—‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength’. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. No other commandment is greater than these.

Everything else hinges on these two commands.  Love God.  Love others.

What if we asked God for the power, the ability to do that?  What if everything we did was first measured by “what would love do?”  What if this kind of love changed our hearts and made us different in every way?

Jesus beautifully did exactly that.  He loved God perfectly, and He loved others perfectly.  And the world killed Him for it.

But the power of love is greater than death.  He proved it to us.  He lives and loves still.

While I am in my lenten season of being present in the moment, I hope I can focus on loving better.

Loving like Jesus is a high calling, more than celebrating Valentine’s Day or the wedding anniversary each year.  It’s not something I can do naturally because I’m too self centered.  It will require a heart transplant.

His heart in me.  It’s the only way to love.  The only way to really live.

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Valentine’s Day is not about sweethearts

Of course, the media in all of its intrusive forms would make us think Valentine’s Day is for lovers and sweethearts and couples and spouses.  We must buy candy and cards.  We must spend money.  Jewelry and roses are expected.  And if you are not currently in a relationship, or your sweetie forgets you, or you don’t get something expensive, well you just must not be loved so much.

NOT!  Please don’t believe that lie.

love-wordLove is from God.  I’ve been recognizing this more since doing a Bible study by Kelly Minter and gathering weekly with sisters to talk openly and be real about our lives and our relationships.

Anything good in this world, any smidgen of love displayed, any beauty, any joy all comes from the Creator of every good and perfect gift.

His love is displayed in the warm sun, the air I breathe, the faces of my children and grandchildren.  His love is in my husband’s embrace, in the endurance and strength to care for him, in the kindness of medical professionals and visitors to his hospital room.

God’s love is shown by strangers who let me in the line of traffic, by the customer service person who helps me resolve a problem, by my neighbor telling me she is just a phone call away.

God shows His love for me by showering me with gifts all day long, gifts of grace like a good cup of coffee, a gorgeous sunrise, my little dog snuggling close, by a phone conversation with my grandson-too-far-away.

But the very most extravagant love God has demonstrated was the gift of His Son to a world that did not receive Him, did not know Him, did not love Him back.  The greatness of His love was manifest in that He loved us when we were unlovable, unlovely, unholy.  He loved first.

Any good in this world is because He initiated love and lavished that love on the creation, the very ones who turn their back on Him and use His name to curse.  The ones who don’t believe.  The ones who choose their own determined way instead of running to His welcoming arms of forgiveness and grace.

Many stories try to tell us the origin of a man named Valentine, how he was kind and loving and so we celebrate him with a day in February.  We call him a saint.  And then we ask you to spend money to show your love.  Sorry, it’s just not about that.

Love is serving, giving of oneself, sacrificing your own wants for someone else.

Love forgives, does not hold grudges, hardly notices when others do you wrong.  Love is patient and kind.  It’s not jealous and boastful.  Love helps you think of others first and act in loving ways no matter what.  Love longs for truth and right living.  Love bears up under the hardest of circumstances, continues to believe God is good, and trusts Him for power to keep on going in the grace that strengthens.

Because Love does not end.  Not when divorce divides.  Not when loved ones die.  Not when I am wounded by words.  Not when I am separated by distance or misunderstandings or unresolved conflict. God’s love keeps giving, keeps restoring, keeps healing, keeps seeking.

Because God is love.  And love comes from God.  And nothing, no nothing can separate me from His love.  And that is worth remembering on Valentine’s Day.

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What to do with Valentine’s Day

100_1774February.  The month of Love.  Soon after January the first the stores fill with red and white temptations, decorations, cards of endearment.  All of it shouting “buy me, buy me and show someone how much you love!”

I recall working with a young woman who was a newly wed.  It was Valentine’s Day.  Her newly wed husband took her to lunch and handed her a card.  She happened to see the sales receipt for the card and found he had only purchased it just before lunch.  She threw the card at him, angry for his lack of planning because to her that meant he didn’t put enough thought into his efforts at love and romance.

I had been married for all of 15 or so years, and I knew that young woman had a lot to learn about love and marriage.  Sadly, the couple divorced after just a year or two.

So what do we do with Valentine’s Day, a day that seems to be made for couples who are madly in love and can’t wait to shower one another with flowers, candy, jewelry, and romantic dinner dates?

Saint Valentine didn’t invent love.  It started in the beginning when the Word was with God and the Word was God and nothing was made without Him being there, His hand forming each and every molecule of life.

Love has to be more than a fancy card or Godiva chocolates  or candles glowing.

I think of the single woman in my Bible study class who longs for a husband and feels like her time is running out and how does she even find a good man in a society where giving up herself is expected after a few dates.

I think of my divorced friend who has settled into her singleness and will not get a romantic love note.

I think of a widow and a widower who lost their spouses of 50 plus years to death last year and will face a Valentine’s Day with no sweetheart.

I think of my precious almost 17-year-old granddaughter who has the same dreams I did at that age of finding that someone special and making a life with him.  But where is he?

And I want to know about this thing called Love.

Valentine’s Day can build up expectations of what we want, hope for, and maybe think we deserve.  Those expectations can be dashed to the dingy dirt too quickly.

Is it about getting the Love I expect from another human being who is equally flawed like me and unable to completely satisfy?

It has to be different.  It must be as it was meant to be in the beginning, when Love was given freely, leaving the glories of the heavenlies to put on flesh and blood and pour Himself out freely without demanding equal treatment and never asking “what’s in it for  me?”

I’ve seen what Love looks like in the faces of the caregiver who is worn out from giving care.  From the mom or dad sacrificing themselves to make a home for children who haven’t a clue the toll it takes on them.  From my sweet missionary friends stationed in Peru, Malaysia, and Middle Earth joyfully submitting to the higher call.  From those serving at local missions offering a cup of coffee and a warm place to stay the night.

Sweet William and I are still learning about Love, how it is done perfect and holy.  We’ve come such a great distance, and yet we have a long way to go.  I still want my own way too much, get cranky and frustrated too often, ask myself when is it gonna be about me?

I’m reminded that Love was completely given to me and I am called to be doing the same.

When Bill endured so many surgeries and long recoveries only a short while back, I often helped him with his bath rituals.  There were many days when I put the small plastic washing tub on the floor and washed his size 12 triple E feet.  And when I bent over to the soap and water, I felt the Lord’s pleasure.  I cannot explain it, but the lowly task of washing my husband’s feet became an offering of love and was pleasing to the Lord.

Is that what Love is?  Bending low to do the lowly when no one is watching?  Is it the act of kindness that will not be announced on the 6:00 news?  Is it the service to the unlovely, the forgotten, the broken?  Is it the love shown to those in our homes, our own neighborhoods, our circles of influence?

Yes!  Oh yes, I believe this is Love, the beauty that was my Savior’s sacrifice.  His life was laid low, bled out and totally spent on me.  On you.  All because of love.

The call is to live a life of Love not just one day for a Valentine card, the moments that offer a chance to sacrifice ourselves.

When Jesus bent low and washed his disciples feet on the night He was to be betrayed, He told them afterwards, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Someone said, that we cannot pour perfume on another without some of it splashing back on us.  Love’s return is the bouquet of words from the only One who matters, “Well done my faithful friend.”

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Ah Love!

Aren’t we all thinking of love this Valentine’s Day?  Perhaps you are hoping for an expression of devotion from that special someone.

Love is not really about hearts and flowers, candy or jewelry, the warm fuzzy feelings of “being in love,” or a nice Hallmark card.  (Sorry Hallmark; I do enjoy your movies and your accompanying commercials.)

Love is so much more.

We honor love on February 14.  So I have been considering the wonderous qualities of this thing called love.

Oddly enough my thoughts have gone to being an only child.  Because of it, I never experienced sibling rivalry or what some children think is divided attention from their parents.

Sweet William and I had an only child also, not by choice but by Providence.  All my affections were lavished on this one boy.  I put all my eggs in his basket. 

Years later when we learned we were to be grandparents, I was excited about adding a girl-child to our family.  At the moment our first and only granddaughter was born I fell madly in love with her. 

When she was about 4 years old, her mom and dad told us they were expecting another child.  I never voiced it, but honestly I wondered how I could possibility love another grandchild like I loved the first one.  I had no experience in loving a second child.

My concerns were completely unfounded and proved to be untrue when I met the second tiny little girl.  How could I have known my heart would burst wide open for her.  Alas, when the third grandchild came along, I had this love thing down.  I never doubted for a minute that he would make his own wonderful place in my heart.  And he did.

So there is the premise for my thoughts about love.  Just when we think we have given it all away, someone else comes into our lives to love.  Wonder of wonders, our love multiplies, and we have more than enough to give again.

I have proven it to be true as the years have added family members by birth and by marriage.  Friends, young and older, have found their way into my life, and more love sprang up from a well deep within me.  I have discovered I have an enlarged heart and it’s incurable!

Atheists can argue that we evolved to this.  I beg to differ.  We are born completely self-centered while parents, teachers, ministers, and counselors try to teach us to share our toys and to think about someone other than ourselves. 

We are not naturally others-focused. 

Where else could this capacity to love come from but the God who reveals Himself as Love, who showed His love in the most tangible way on Calvary’s cross when we did not love Him?

This love shows up in an aged wife who spends her days and energy caring for her ailing husband because he took care of her so many years.

It is pictured in the baby-boomer adult children who are now in the role of providing for the needs of parents who can no longer live on their own.

I see it in those who open their homes and their hearts to foster children who may be so wounded they cannot return love yet.

The mother who wonders where her wayward child is tonight, who prays unceasingly, whose love will not let him go bears the mark of this love.

Loving the unlovely, the unloveable, the broken and the hopeless could only originate from the Eternal Originator of all things good and perfect. 

This wonderous thing we celebrate has its source in God.  For love is from God.

An old song comes to mind, the words of a poet, Frederick Lehman.

Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made;

Were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade –

 To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry,

Nor could the scroll contain the whole, tho’ stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!  How measureless and strong!

It shall forever more endure the saints and angels song

Happy Valentine’s Day dear ones, family and friends whom I love sincerely.  You have made my life richer and have filled my heart to overflowing.