Whether you love Valentine’s Day or despise it, it echoes through our culture, and the feelings linger on even when the day is past.  Our bloggers are looking past the flowers, and past the pressure to be a perfect couple, past the teddy bears and the emphasis on romantic love to something deeper.  This day full of hearts is fun for some people and hard for others, and our bloggers have a wider, and wiser, vision for us.  If we see the holiday through their eyes, there’s more going on than the carnations and the heart shaped cookies. 

Keep the love going, Kristin Berkey Abbott encourages us.  “What if we continued to look for opportunities to shower expressions of emotion onto our loved ones?  What if we widened our circle of loved ones?  We could write notes of encouragement and/or thanks to our political leaders, and let us not forget the local leaders.  We could write similar notes to coworkers and people in our churches and civic groups.  We could write letters or cards to loved ones far away.  We could do the same for those who don’t have loved ones who will write to them, like prisoners, refugees, or members of our churches who have outlived their friends and families.”  She adds, “Let us also remember that we need to show ourselves the same level of care.  What does your soul need to feel nourished?  How can you sustain yourself so that you can continue to love the world that can be so hard to love at times?”  A love letter to God is also among her recommendations. 

And, reflecting on the kind of evil that is the opposite of love, our RevGals book guru recommends the book Far More Terrible for Women, a painful and illuminating book about the experiences of women who were enslaved in the United States.  Book reviewer Julia S. read the book after a recommendation from the Rev. Angela Shannon.   Julia S. says, “Far More Terrible is complicated. It is the stories of real women who were born into circumstances that named them as not fully human and not necessarily worthy of fully consideration. Even when receiving a wedding celebration, the events are cut short because the new bridegroom must return to the plantation where he works the next morning (story of Tempie Herndon Durham). The women who are recounting their narratives have mixed feelings about their childhood experiences, as well as their adult circumstances. They are struggling, like everyone else, during the Depression and their present stress reflects on their memories.  This small book of narratives is, in my opinion, an essential volume for the modern US citizen or resident who wants to grapple with the genuinely complex nature of modern social and commercial interaction. Nearly everything we take as “normal” in contemporary U.S. social interaction comes from a framework that was built on saying some people were worth less than others.”     

Remembering last Valentine’s Day, which was also Ash Wednesday, Elaine Besthorn reflects on learning about the school shooting in Parkland, FL on that day.  Looking back to that day of mingled emotions, she says, “I have always found Ash Wednesday services to be meaningful when there is plenty of time for silence, plenty of candles and the opportunity to rest and wrestle with dust.  Recently I’ve pondered being stardust. Somewhere along the lines someone posed the question, “When we gaze at the stars do they gaze back?” That night one year ago caught me off guard.”  When it was time for the benediction in the Ash Wednesday service, she said “something along these lines: “I did not include a time for prayers for the world this evening. But I would be remiss if I didn’t offer us that time considering the events in Florida.  My voice cracked. I did not expect that.  Tears came to my eyes.  I did not expect that.”  A year later, she says, “I still remember the magnitude of that night. I continue to ponder stardust and if stars do indeed gaze back upon us, the earth and humanity, and I wonder what the stars are thinking?”

On an anniversary of a terrible health crisis, Kathy Manis Findley recalls how much love she experienced through the time of her illness, “the love and care of my church, the family that constantly clamored for updates, the handful of good friends that were present, the food that the church brought to us every single week, and the nurses, angels in disguise.  I must say that, even to this day, I miss the sweet nurses that cared for me with great compassion. They were ever-present when I needed help and, during those long nights, they would often come in with a popsicle, sugar-free of course!” 

Also looking beyond Valentine’s Day to a wider view of love, Leslie Scoopmire is praying for us:

“May we extol the power of love
in every action we take,
— love that gives itself for others,
with no agenda but kindness
and the well-being and flourishing of all living things.”

Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church of Detroit, a diverse Presbyterian Church.  She is the author of Meeting God at the Mall

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