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Time to Love Extravagantly

Posted by NancyWilliams on January 5, 2011

“Will you be my Valentine?”

The question will soon ring out in numerous ways as we approach February 14th – Valentine’s Day. It’s the day greeting card distributors anxiously await. A day when 1 billion cards will be exchanged. That’s right: 1 billion cards, according to the Greeting Card Association. Second only to Christmas (when 2.6 billion cards are sold annually), Valentine’s Day is THE day for sending expressions of love. Cards, candy, flowers, special meals, balloons, gifts, hugs, hands gently clasped, tender words spoken – gestures conveying the stirrings of our hearts.

Everywhere we turn, red hearts in all shapes and sizes bombard us as the air fills with the sweet fragrance of floral bouquets. We hear the giggles of little children exchanging valentines. We catch a glimpse of two young lovers, savoring a romantic meal as they share the hopes and dreams of their future; then we turn to notice the twinkle in the eyes of a couple who has shared many valentines together. We join last minute shoppers in search of the proper expression of our sentiments, hoping to find that ‘perfect moment’ to express our love to our special valentine.

This day of celebration acquired its name from the patron saint, Valentine, although the truth around the legends about this priest seems somewhat murky. The stories, though varied, describe him as sympathetic, heroic and romantic. He became known to some for the love he expressed to a young woman who befriended him while he was in prison. Perhaps you’ve heard stories of his concerns for young soldiers who were banned by the Roman emperor from marrying. Supposedly, this priest named Valentine secretly performed marriage ceremonies for some of those soldiers and the young women they loved. Other reports suggest that he was killed for helping Christians escape the harsh punishment and cruel torture of Roman prisons. According to these legends, Valentine understood the power of love – between lovers, among friends, and through acts of compassion that overflowed from his love of God. He spent his life sharing that love with others.

February 14th has become a day set aside to focus on love – what it means to have it and how we can share it with others. Although we tend to think of the day’s celebration primarily in romantic terms, it can also provide an occasion to reach out to family and friends, people who hold a special place in our lives. Love can come in a card, a gift, a kiss or a hug. It shows up when we smile, when we offer a helping hand or a word of encouragement, and when we give our time and attention. It’s even expressed when we take care of ourselves and become a healthier partner, parent and friend.

When we think of the love that is ours to share, our minds and hearts also turn to the one who instills his love in us and then encourages us to pass it on – our Heavenly Father. Look up and look within to experience his gift of love. Spend time reading God’s word, his love letter to his children, to understand what true love is all about. You’ll find a glimpse of what God wants our love for others to look like in I Corinthians 13 of the Bible’s New Testament.

“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others. Isn’t always “me first.” Doesn’t fly off the handle. Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. Doesn’t revel when others grovel. Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth. Puts up with anything. Trusts God always. Always looks for the best. Never looks back, but keeps going to the end.” (taken from The Message, © 1993, NavPress).

The best part of the story? We don’t have to wait until February 14th to pass that love along. This day, and every day, we can do as the last verse in that passage of I Corinthians advises: we can “love extravagantly.”

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