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True Love

Ahh, February, the month of love!

Some people are happy that February only has 28 days! It can be a tough month, with so many events happening in such a short span of time. There’s no escaping it; no matter how many wonderful days there are to celebrate this month, Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14th) overshadows everything. But, before we get into February, let’s look back on December and January which happen to be a busy time for our family, as well, busy with holiday and birthday celebrations.

We were blessed to end the year on a high with family and friends over to our home, or us visiting them. Toward the end of December, we were invited to visit with John Bradshaw and his lovely wife at the It Is Written headquarters in Collegedale, Tennessee. Two of our grandchildren had been inspired, after viewing a video of the work Eyes for India was doing, to raise money to help people in India and Africa restore their sight through cataract surgery, a program sponsored by It Is Written Ministries. Mariah and Malachi had been putting away their money for over a year, and with the help of family, friends, and Chobu (their grandfather Vernon), they donated $1500 to this worthy cause enabling twenty people to recover their sight lost to this crippling disease!

We start the New Year with almost back to back birthdays. If we included our extended family, there would be a birthday nearly every few days in January. But, just within our home, we started on January 18, with our granddaughter Mariah turning 11, then in rapid succession our daughter Soñée’s (Mariah’s mother) on January 24, my love Vernon’s on January 25, and finally our grandson Josiah’s who turned 9 on the 26th of January. Some years ago, when Vernon found his Korean birthmother, he found out that his actual birthday is the 24th and not the 25th. How awesome to find out that Soñée and he share the same birthday!

January is also the month we start going through the seed catalog, making our list of what we will be planting, and getting our seed starts ready to plant in February. This year we will be planting in our high tunnel so we will need to prepare the soil and garden beds. We also start our early spring cleaning removing some of those big items you no longer need, getting them out of the way for an easier and thorough cleaning. January also sees us reengaging and refocusing on our ministry. We are looking forward to seeing what opportunities God will bring our way in 2023.

Now back to February. What is February famous for? Here’s a short list of holiday happenings and February facts that I found interesting! In addition to February being known as the “love month” (Valentine’s Day), and the American Heart Month and Black History Month, it is also the month to celebrate other major events as well, such as National Bird-Feeding Month, National Children's Dental Health Month, and the Turner Syndrome Awareness Month. February may be the shortest month of the year, but there are still so many important days and celebrations packed into the 28 days (or 29 if it's a leap year, which will be next year). After you've celebrated all of the January holidays, it's time to flip the calendar. February boasts popular holidays like Groundhog Day, and Galentine's Day (which takes place on February 13 for you to celebrate loving your friends). It also contains key events like the Super Bowl, the start of the Lunar New Year celebrations, Canned Food Month, Presidents’ Day, Great American Pie Month, National Cherry Month, National Grapefruit Month, National Self Check Month, National Hot Breakfast Month, National Library Lover’s Month, National Snack Food Month, National Embroidery Month, National Weddings Month to name a few. Who knew that February had so much going on!

Here is one reason February is so important to many of us. The days steadily grow longer with a promise of spring just a calendar page away. When you are a farmer, longer days are warmer days, and the warmth invites things to grow. What a blessing!

But do we need a date on the calendar to remind us to “love one another”? Nevertheless, as I think about the month of February when love and friendship is celebrated, I ponder the question, “What is true love? Where does it come from? What would life be without it?” I’m sure most of us have had similar questions. Many of us may think, “Love is wonderful. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It feels good to give it and receive it.” Sometimes I think that the concept of “love” has been depreciated by our application of it to so many things. “I love my spouse”: romantic love; “I love my children” or “I love my parents”: familial love; “I love my friends”: a strong connection between friends; “I love my country”: a deep sense of loyalty to community; the bond we have with our beloved pets, even our “love” for our favorite foods, etc. With the single word applied to so many different things, it loses its impact.

But, what does the Bible say “love” is? We find it in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. True love never ends”. This is a far cry from what the world tells us that love is.

“Love is patient.” Over the years I have found myself becoming more patient, praise the Lord! Love doesn’t come naturally, does it? At least not true love. The Greeks had many words they translate as “love”: philos – a brotherly love; eros – a sexual, romantic feeling; and storge (stor-gae) – a familial love. But true agape love is a “willed love;” it is a self-less, other-centered love. It isn’t dependent on feelings; in fact it is the rich soil in which lasting feelings can grow. Love is a Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Notice that this list begins with “love”. Love is foundational to all the other “fruit” because love best describes God, and God is foundational to all life and love. 1 John 4:16 states that “God is love.” When we have this love in us (i.e. God in us), joy will follow, peace will reign in our lives, patience will develop, kindness and goodness will flow out of our hearts, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will characterize our relationships. We don’t become any of this naturally. It takes the Holy Spirit – it takes prayer; it takes time; and it takes doing (love is an action word!).

True love is a journey that takes a lifetime. It’s a journey for all married couples, parents, and friends. There is no plan B. We can only enjoy true love by dying to ourselves as Christ died for us. And we can only do it with Him and His love in us. True love is what brings us together, and keeps us together; it is the “golden cord” that binds us to each other and to God; and if you’ll permit me, it is the fundamental “force” that holds everything together, from the minutest atom to the largest galaxy: indeed, the whole universe would fall apart without it!

A wise person once wrote,

True love is a high and holy principle [law], altogether different in character from that love which is awakened by impulse and which suddenly dies when severely tested.

True love is not a strong, fiery, impetuous passion. On the contrary, it is calm and deep in its nature. It looks beyond mere externals and is attracted by qualities alone. It is wise and discriminating, and its devotion is real and abiding.

Love is a precious gift, which we receive from Jesus. Pure and holy affection is not a feeling, but a principle. Those who are actuated by true love are neither unreasonable nor blind.

Mildness, gentleness, forbearance, long-suffering, being not easily provoked, bearing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things—these are the fruit growing upon the precious tree of love, which is of heavenly growth. This tree, if nourished, will prove to be an evergreen. Its branches will not decay, its leaves will not wither. It is immortal, eternal, watered continually by the dews of heaven.

May the days of true love be lengthened in your life to warm your soul, melting away the iciness that life sometimes brings.

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