Now that I am past the ninety-sixth birthday, I want to write something really meaningful for the February entry on the website. I have been praying about it for a week or so. The twelfth is my son Frank’s birthday, as well as President Lincoln’s, and then there is Valentine’s Day. Everyone loves February.
Giving and receiving a Valentine greeting is a big thing, especially to those who are in love, engaged to be married, or are married. This is because of the historic story of St. Valentine who was a priest in the third century and Emperor Claudius II forbade marriage because it was thought that unmarried men made the best soldiers. St. Valentine encouraged marriage and performed the ceremony according to the rites of the church. Therefore, he was imprisoned because of his belief that marriage is sacred and he had scriptural authority for his belief.
While he was in prison there are many stories of his ministry to others and one who received healing from his prayers to God for her. She was grateful and he wrote her a letter, in which he expressed the love that the Savior has for her, signing it “yours—Valentine.” This is thought to be the origin of lovers signing their message of love with a “your Valentine” and it grew into all that we do today in remembrance of this wonderful saint of God. Lovers in every generation have honored his faithful life and death for the cause of love and marriage.
When he was beheaded for standing firm in his faith and never relenting, he stayed faithful to his God. Therefore, we still today honor this man of God who gave up his own life for the faith that we hold. We look forward to our valentine greetings, because anyone who truly loves always wants to express it in poetry or song, even when it has grown to be an avenue for friends and family to show love as well as the romantic.
I remember so well when I was a child I would hear my father singing on the porch and when he began singing my favorite I would creep up to the front door and listen closely as he sang that beautiful melody of Drink to me Only With Thine Eyes. It was years before I understood all the meaning of the words, but I am sure that Mother did. Busy in the kitchen, she would pause in her work and listen, brushing away a stray teardrop as he sang: “Drink to me only with thine eyes and I will pledge with mine; Or leave a kiss within the cup and I’ll not ask for wine! The thirst that from the soul doth rise doth ask a drink divine; but could I of Jove’s nectar sip, I would not change for thine. /// I sent thee late a rosy wreath not so much honoring thee, as giving it a hope that there it would not withered be. But thou thereon didst only breathe and send’st it back to me; since then it grows and smells, I vow, not of itself but THEE!
Of course, I was a little child, and had no idea why Mother would stop her task and listen to that song other than the same reason that I loved it. The melody is a plaintive one and suits the words perfectly. I was a teen aged girl before I thought back and heard it again in my heart for we were separated from each other by the great depression, and I spent many hours of dreaming back to my happy childhood. So now, at age 96, I thank God for those Victorian parents who had genuine affection for each other, and found ways of saying it so that even a child could be charmed by it and in later years be grateful to God for that tie that binds the heart in Christian love.
Now we all know that God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden, when He saw that it was not good that man should be alone, and said, “I will make a mate suitable for him.” I like to have fun with my audiences when I refer to that union—I like to say, “I wonder what he was up to that the Lord saw it was not good that he should be alone!” Then everyone loves the story of the Lord’s first miracle being performed at the marriage at Cana! We love that he loves to celebrate marriage along with us! We can be sure that he is present at our own wedding and if we run out of wine we can substitute water and everyone will love it!(some more of Mackie’s fun)
The scripture regarding marriage that is used often is from Ephesians in speaking of a wife’s submission to her husband. In chapter five Phillips translates it this way: “But remember this means that the husband must give his wife the same sort of love that Christ gave to the church when he sacrificed himself for her.” Then Paul elaborates by saying, “Men ought to give their wives the love they naturally have for their own bodies. The love a man gives his wife is the extending of his love for himself to enfold her. Nobody ever hates or neglects his own body. He feeds it and looks after it. And that is what Christ does for His Body, the Church. And we are all members of that body! We are His flesh and blood!
For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, And sall cleave to his wife and the twain shall become one flesh. Letters to Young Churches J.B.Phillips, c1947
I have valentines from Frank all the years of our life together. I treasure them and love to read them over and over. I celebrated the day with Bill in 2006 and we found a little town with a great seafood restaurant and sat there for two hours doing what he liked to call “Catching up!” This catching up was telling each other all the stories of the years when we did not know each other—for more than half century we had marriages and families and all the tales that would bring us up-to-date. This was a wonderful thing for both of us had great love stories to tell about, and we each had memories to share that were fascinating for the other to hear. I was able to write most of the ones I heard in his own words for his children, so they could know of his love for their mother—how they met, fell in love and wrote letters during the war, and never stopped being on a honeymoon—I know that children often do not picture the parents the way they were in love, and now that they were grown I knew they would love it, so I put it all down for them in his words to me! I have been blessed with a good memory and I wrote them down as he told them so they could treasure his words in the last months of his life.
Then for my own children I wrote in my memoirs of how I met Frank, of our falling in love, being married, having a honeymoon, etc so they could picture us the way we started out, and then they remembered the celebrations that I wrote about. I especially wanted my granddaughters to read it and be encouraged to wait for the right one. And I say here, to anyone who does not have a special love and you hope one will appear on the horizon; Something kept me from saying yes before the right one came along, and I showed the whole scene so they could know the reservations that had to be overcome and all sorts of things to encourage them to be sure that it is the kind of love that will stand up in the trials that make up a lifetime.
There is Sonnet CXV1 by Shakespeare that I loved to hear Frank read. Even now, as I read it, I hear the resonance of his voice as he spoke the words. Incidentally, that might be something that I left out of the book. I’ll have to look and see if I showed that one of the favorite things we did was read aloud to each other out of Shakespeare’s writings. Both of us had favorite passages, and this was one that we both loved, and he wanted me to read Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s great one, How Do I Love Thee.
You can look this up on internet and read it, or print it out to send to someone. It begins like this: Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. Love is not love that alters where it alterations finds, Or bends with the remover to remove. Then all the lines tell of how steadfast is the love when it is the real thing, and says at the end that if these words are proved false then no man ever loved. It is a beautiful poem of love.
My greatest reason for writing this on the gift of love is to be sure that I bring you around to the fact that GOD IS LOVE. And it was not because we loved Him, but because He loved us first, that we are able to love with the intentional kind of love that God inspires in us by His Holy Spirit Who stays with us and empowers us after we are converted.
I love to think about God’s act of creation in making people, and He breathed into Adam’s lungs the breath of life and man became a living soul! That act caused us to be different from all the other creatures. We are given with that breath the mind and the soul. In the beginning, this also included the gift of His spirit, but when Eve chose to believe the father of lies instead of the Father Creator, that spirit was withdrawn, and a deep sleep fell on her spiritual life which the Bible calls “dead in trespasses and sin,” a condition that came down to all generations. Every person is waiting the awakening that will be brought by the regenerative power of God’s Holy Spirit.
Thus we have the wonderful verse of John 3:16—God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that he [even] gave up His only begotten [unique] Son, that whosoever believes(trusts in, clings to, relies on)in Him shall not perish(come to destruction, be lost)but have eternal [everlasting] life. (Amplified Bible) This much loved verse and the one following it, assures the human race of restoration to the pre-Fall condition of mankind! Nevertheless, He left intact our freedom of choice. His Spirit will woo the human who hears His Voice, and will continue for a period only He knows. If there is resistance with no response after a certain period He will leave that person alone.
Being omniscient means that He alone knows if that person will ever repent, so it is not for us to judge. We must keep on urging, for we do not have the insight that God has. We are warned here in this scripture that, “Today if ye shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” (The Letter to Jewish Christians. J.B. Phillips. C1947.) When once you have turned around and as Isaac Watts says it, “surveyed the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died,” it is urgent that you do not hesitate to come with a heart of love and joy to the Lord and He accepts you as His own. As Billy Graham always warned when he gave the invitation and urged people that the Spirit of God will not always strive with man and that it was urgent that they respond at once.
If you read prayerfully the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, you find here the spiritual description of this high and important gift that Christians are given. It is placed here for our instruction and inspiration. A measuring rod it is for the Christian. I see myself as I read it, and here I pray for the Lord to correct me. The Bible teaches that he chastens us and prunes us so that we can acquire these wonderful traits that our Lord possessed even in his human form, so we know that when we truly abide IN HIM, we are bound to be brought into the light of His Power and Presence and see where we fall short and study to show ourselves approved unto God. When the scripture says we need to be a workman unashamed, rightly dividing the word of Truth, to me it means not so much, being knowledgeable about the Bible contents, so much as how prayerfully we study to show ourselves approved in these matters of great importance as we are to grow into the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ!
I thank the dear Lord that there is, because of His mercy and grace, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk in the spirit, for when we confess our sins we are forgiven and cleansed. That is the way we can keep on persevering in our faith and trying to grow in these powerful gifts that we are given! As Peter says to make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self control, and to self control, perseverance, and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice he is generous in saying “if you possess these qualities in increasing measure,” so that causes me to take heart, for it means if you have a little bit of these qualities you can work to increase them! That is where the water hits the wheel in the Christian life, for the work of the Holy Spirit will do the work that all of this requires if we remain faithful in Bible study and putting into practice the gifts that are listed here, one day at a time. I always take courage when I think that Jesus said I can “become” as a child. I do not have to suddenly have all those precious qualities, but want them enough to turn to Jesus for help and begin that walk in the light every day, for it was He who said, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
At this point I will now write the conclusion to this post by sharing a poem that I memorized along about the seventh grade—This is Abou Ben Adhem by Leigh Hunt:
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw within the moonlight in his room
Making it rich and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold.
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold
And to the Presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?” The angel raised his head
And with a look made of all sweet accord
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” asked Abou, “Nay, not so.”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low
But cheerily still and said, “ I pray thee then
Write me as one who loves his fellow men.”
The angel wrote and vanished. The next night
He came again with a great awakening light
And read the names of those whom love of God had blessed
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.