Celebrating VD

Observant citizens of The Manoverse may have noticed that awhile back I created a new category for the archives called Holidays & Celebrations. That celebrateidea came about mainly due to my love for Christmas, but I am also interested in the history of other special days on the calendar. I feel like society often pushes aside the meaning of holidays and looks at them simply as a day off from their job or as a reason to frivolously spend money. Don’t misunderstand…I am not anti-frivolity. Fireworks on Independence Day, costume parties & trick-or-treating on Halloween, football & cheesy parades on Thanksgiving, Christmas presents & eggnog…it’s all good. But we should always remember that there is a reason…usually a profound & significant one…that these became widely recognized annual celebrations in the first place.

 

vdValentine’s Day is tomorrow. It is my least favorite holiday, as it likely is for many single individuals. When most people think of Valentine’s Day I am sure certain images come to mind…heart shaped boxes of chocolate, red roses, & those little candy hearts with messages written on them like “Be Mine” or “Kiss Me”. Is Valentine’s Day just a conspiracy from Big Candy and the Flower Mafia designed to guilt married people into buying their products and drive the lonely & unattached into a bottomless pit of despair?? Surely there is more.

 

First things first…
There was indeed a Saint Valentine. He is an obscure priest known to have lived in the 3rd century and been martyred in Rome. That’s pretty much all that is known. There may have even been more than one Saint Valentine, but that just adds to the confusion.

 

So why is there a holiday dedicated to a guy that we know virtually nothing about?? While Saint Valentine was indeed real, the holiday dedicated in his saint-st-valentine_fbhonor seems to be built on a foundation of legends & folklore. Some stories indicate that he was imprisoned for giving assistance to Christians who were, at the time, being persecuted in Rome, and also performing marriage ceremonies for soldiers (who were forbidden from getting married). It is said that while in prison Saint Valentine healed his jailer’s blind daughter and converted the man himself to Christianity. Valentine was then beheaded by order of Emperor Claudius because he refused to deny Christ, but before his death he left a goodbye note for the formerly blind girl and signed it “Your Valentine”. No one knows if any of these things actually occurred, but it makes a great story.

 

The Feast of Saint Valentine was initially began by Pope Gelasius in the 5th century. It is believed to have been placed in mid-February to Christianize a pagan fertility feast called lupercalia, aka the Wolf Festival, named in honor of Lupa, a female wolf who was said to have suckled the twin infants Romulus & Remus, the mythical founders of Rome. The month of February itself comes from the term februum, which means purification. Romans believed that birds chose their mate in February.

 

chaucerThings got a bit of a boost during The Middle Ages, which lasted from the 5th to the 15th centuries, but in this case we’re probably looking at around the 12th century when things like chivalry & love became somewhat of a pop culture sensation. Author & poet Geoffrey Chaucer made a big contribution to the Valentine tradition with his poem Parliament of Fowls, which was written to celebrate the nuptials of two 15 year old kids…England’s King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. Twelve years later Anne died from the plague and Richard II became nuttier than a fruitcake, but at the time of their marriage they were the Middle Ages equivalent of Brangelina, Kimye, or Jay-Z & Beyonce. At any rate, in Chaucer’s poem he writes:

For this was on Saint Valentine’s day
When every fowl comes there his mate to take
Of every species that men know, I say
And then so huge a crowd did they make
That earth and sea, and tree, and every lake
Was so full, that there was scarcely space
For me to stand, so full was all the place

And as Alain, in his Complaint of Nature
Describes her array and paints her face
In such array might men there find her
So this noble Empress, full of grace
Bade every fowl to take its proper place
As they were wont to do from year to year
On Saint Valentine’s day, standing there

You know that on Saint Valentine’s day
By my statute and through my governance,
You come to choose and then fly your way
Your mates, as I your desires enhance
But nonetheless my rightful ordinance
I may not alter, for all the world to win
That he that is most worthy must begin

Saint Valentine, who art full high aloft
Thus sing the small fowls for your sake
Now welcome summer, with your sun soft
That this winter’s weather does off-shake

In 18th century England Valentine’s Day began to resemble the holiday that we all know. It became common to exchange Valentine cards & candy with one’s sweetheart. You can easily fill in the blanks as far as the rest of the holiday’s evolution.

 

Valentine’s Day is celebrated worldwide, but it is interesting that its religious origins have been minimized to the point that most don’t even realize that heartsthere was a real Valentine, that he was a priest, and that he was martyred for spreading the gospel and refusing to deny his Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. Only the Anglican & Lutheran churches retain any semblance of the day’s sacred significance. So enjoy your chocolates, flowers, & dinner with your spouse, life mate, mistress, boy toy, or “friend with benefits”. I am sure many will celebrate by heading to the cinema to see the romantic blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey. Like I said, frivolity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But also take a moment to appreciate the real reason for the season.

The Fruits of The Spirit – Love

An old Saturday Night Live sketch (the one with the annoying head bobbing guys in rayon suits) used the (equally annoying) song “What is Love?” as its theme. The answer to that question must be answered if we are to understand the importance of love within the framework of The Word of God and why it is a Fruit of the Spirit, and the answer is complex. I cannot possibly say everything that should be said on the subject here, but I will say what I feel is important and hope that it is sufficiently fascinating to spur independent study.


For guidance we will use the Greeks as a jumping off point, one that seems valid since the Greek language was one of the three languages used to write the earliest translations of The Bible. The Old Testament had first been written in Hebrew and Aramic, while The New Testament was done in Greek.


Greek distinguishes several different senses in which the word love is used:

Agape is the verb “I love” and generally refers to a pure, ideal type of love, the love of the soul, of intelligence, of reason and comprehension coupled with corresponding purpose. It represents the divine love of God toward His Son, believers, and human beings in general and is vastly superior to any other form of love. It is used to depict the outwardly focused love God expects believers to have for one another. Agape is charitable, selfless, altruistic, and unconditional. We can agape others only if God has first filled us with His agape. All the other forms of love need a reaction, something in return, but agape comes from God and those that are full of it do not need a confirmation from others, being fully satisfied in the agape of the Lord.

Eros refers to sexual, erotic love or desire.

Philia means “to have ardent affection and feeling” and includes loyalty to friends, family, and community. Philia is a human response to something that is found to be delightful. It is the root of philadelphos, meaning brotherly love…..hence the nickname “City of Brotherly Love” for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is a feeling that finds attraction in another person and expects a return.

Storge is the natural affection felt by parents for offspring, which is why babies are said to be delivered by the stork.

Xenia means hospitality and was an extremely important practice in Ancient Greece. It was an almost ritualized friendship formed between a host and his guest, who could previously have been strangers. The host fed and provided quarters for the guest, who was expected to repay only with gratitude. The importance of this can be seen throughout Greek mythology, the best examples being Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.


Eros, xenia, and storge aren’t really utilized in The Bible, so we can put them on the shelf and concentrate on the other two: agape and philia. That simplifies things to the point that when we study The Word of God we just have to ask ourselves which one is being referred to in a particular passage. This is made even easier when we realize that agape is used 90% of the time and philia is used the remaining 10%. Logic would then dictate that agape is the type of love that we need to truly have a firm grasp on, although it can’t hurt to have an understanding of philia as well.


The word “God” appears in The Bible over 4000 times, the word “man” over 3000, and the word “sin” over 1000. By comparison, love or some form of the word is mentioned just over 600 times. But I don’t think the numbers paint an accurate picture. For one thing, the perfect example of God’s love is His Son Jesus Christ, who didn’t come along until the New Testament. Secondly, without explicitly saying so, many of the other expectations God has of His creation (such as the other Fruits of The Spirit that we will eventually discuss) have love as a foundation. It is difficult to forgive or honor, have faith, and be good, kind, patient, and gentle without love. Without the love of God there is no true peace and joy. So if one looks at all the other verses in The Bible in which various virtues are talked about, it should be inherently understood that love is being discussed as well.


Christ put such an emphasis on love that he told His apostles this: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you lovealso love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Two things must be highlighted from this verse. First, “to love one another” as Jesus loved us is a commandment, meaning it is on par with The Ten Commandments. In other words, as obvious as it is that we should not kill, steal, or commit adultery, it should be just as clear that we need to love. Most average folks in their right mind don’t go around shooting people or pilfering others’ stuff, and if one does do those things there is a legal and societal consequence. Why then is it so easy for us to feel malice in our hearts toward so many of our fellow human beings, to act on a daily basis with such selfishness, malevolence, and general disregard?? Secondly, Christians need to show our love because it is how we are recognized as believers, how we are set apart from “the world”, how we glorify God, how we “prove our metal”. Anyone can call themselves anything, but the proof is in the pudding. As I mentioned in the introduction to this series, one thing about fruit is that it is tangible evidence that differentiates one type of tree from another. If we don’t bear fruit…..in this case, if we don’t shine the light of God’s love…..then we’re just another tree that will eventually be chopped down and burned up.


Studies have proven that pets (who provide unconditional love and companionship) can help lower blood pressure, ease loneliness, and help children overcome allergies. Heart attack patients with dogs are eight times more likely to be alive a year later than people without dogs. So if a dog or cat or bird can have such a positive effect on people, how much greater does a mutually loving relationship with God affect a person?? That’s not to say that Christians have it made in the shade, not by a long stretch. But “with God all things are possible”. I’ve never heard as good a review about what’s possible without God.


Two aspects of love that most of us really struggle with (I know I do), are the directives to “love thy enemies” and “love your neighbor as yourself”. Let’s face it…..we tend not to love anyone quite as much as we love ourselves, no matter how noble we seem. And we really resist the whole enemy thing…..the concept of forgiveness may be one of the most difficult to master. Ghandi once said that “it is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends, but to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.” I couldn’t possibly state it any better. The question becomes “how do we truly forgive and love others as much as we love ourselves?”. I won’t lie…I’m still figuring that out myself on a daily basis and cannot honestly say that I am anywhere close to where I need to be. But I know a few things. I know that the aforementioned relationship with God is a necessary starting point. One doesn’t just get a PhD right out of the gate…..grade school, high school, a bachelor’s degree, and then a master’s are building blocks. We live in a drive thru society that desires an instant fix, but the truth is there are steps. We must develop a relationship with God, understand on some basic level His love for us, and show our love for Him before we can begin to love our enemies and “forgive those who trespass against us”. These are essential steps. The book of Matthew plainly states that “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”


God speaks to us through parables and miracles and various other means, but sometimes He just lays it on the line. One such case is the well known 13th chapter of Corinthians, commonly referred to as The Love Chapter. In that chapter Paul clearly articulates an easily understood definition of love:

Love is patient

Love is kind

Love does not envy

Love does not boast

Love is not proud

Love is not rude

Love is not self-seeking

Love is not easily angered

Love keeps no record of wrongs

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth

Love always protects

Love always trusts

Love always hopes

Love always perseveres

Love never fails

Just reading that list pierces my heart. I know I am not always kind and patient. I can be too prideful. As polite and mannered as I was raised to be I can still be rude. I am most certainly easily angered. I too often keep a record of wrongs. In other words, I’ve got some work to do…..how about you??


Paul prefaces that list by saying this: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” That is a very powerful statement. “Love” may not be mentioned as often as some other terms, but the passages in which it is mentioned pack a powerful punch.


Which brings me to my concluding point (and the crowd goes wild!!). Of all the verses and chapters and books in The Bible, there is one that packs such a punch that it is well known by people far and wide, whether they are Christians or not. John 3:16 says “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”. That is the essence of love ladies and gentlemen. We were made by God, in God’s likeness, for the express purpose of glorifying God and having relationship with Him. Adam and Eve messed up in The Garden as bad as anyone has ever messed up. Did God hold a grudge?? Did God give us the cold shoulder?? Did God seek revenge?? Did God destroy us forever?? No. God did what only someone who truly loves can do…he forgave us and gave us a second chance. And not only that, but he sacrificed His Son in offering us that reprieve. If you are reading this and have children, look at them right now. If you don’t have children think of your most prized possession. If someone asked you to throw that child…or car, house, heirloom, or whatever else you may value most in your life…into a fiery pit in order to save the lives of not only loved ones, but strangers, and even those who have hurt you deeply, would you do it??


I’m a Trekkie, and Spock always espoused the maxim “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one”. But that’s a television show, pure fiction. Enjoyable and interesting, but fictional nonetheless. We humans tend to invert Spock’s maxim, focusing on the needs of the one fruit-aisle~s600x600(ourselves), then the few (close family and possibly a few friends), and maybe, on the rare occasion when we are feeling magnanimous and the sacrifice isn’t too harsh, there’s a chance we may care about the many. However, God’s word tells us that we shouldn’t differentiate, that we should love freely and without expectation. God’s instructions about love illustrate that Spock’s words of wisdom aren’t fiction at all.


We began with a song so we will end with one. The 80’s band The Cars had a song that said “I wanna know what love is…I want you to show me”. God has told us and shown us exactly what love is…..all we have to do is pay attention and follow his example.


Copy and Paste

Rest assured that this blog will almost always be, for better or worse, original content emanating from my heart and mind. I do have a few ideas rolling around, but I’m in one of my “not in the mood to write ” moods. It’s not writer’s block. I have things to say.  I just haven’t found the motivation to put anything in black and white. I get like this occasionally. It usually lasts a week or so, then I’ll go crazy. Until then, I’ve received a couple things from friends that I feel are good enough to pass on.

The first was contained within one of those dozens of e-mails we all receive daily encouraging one to forward it to others. I usually ignore such things. Either it’s something supposedly humorous that I can’t really see the humor in, or it’s one meant to make a person think but I don’t find it particularly profound. However, occasionally one does come to me that I do find worthy. This is one such example.

Recently I overheard a Father and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure. Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the Father said, ‘I love you, and I wish you enough.’ The daughter replied, ‘Dad, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Dad.’ He walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, ‘Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?’

‘Yes, I have,’ I replied. ‘Forgive me for asking, but why is this a for ever good-bye?’.

‘I am old, and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is – the next trip back will be for my funeral,’ he said.

‘When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?’

He began to smile. ‘That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone..’ He paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and he smiled even more. ‘When we said, ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.’ Then turning toward me, he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good- bye. He then began to cry and walked away.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.

The second was forwarded to me by a long time friend, and it intrigued me because George Carlin was one of my favorite comedians.

Isn’t it amazing that George Carlin – comedian of the 70’s and 80’s –
could write something so very eloquent…and so very appropriate.

A Message by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but
shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more,
but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and
smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.. We have more
degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts,
yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too
little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too
tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too
much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years
to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We
conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but
not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the
atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan
more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We
build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies
than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small
character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days
of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These
are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one
night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from
cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the
showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can
bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share
this insight, or to just hit delete…

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not
going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe,
because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is
the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a
cent.

Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but
most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes
from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person
will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the
precious thoughts in your mind.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the
moments that take our breath away.