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Beyond Valentine's Day - by Angela Morgan

February: the month of love! While I don’t buy into all the commercial hype around Valentine’s Day (pun intended!), I rather like the opportunity to do something a little special for my family on the 14th. Perhaps hand-written love notes tucked into lunch boxes (for the younger ones), or heart-shaped toast at breakfast or a supper table decorated in true ‘Valentine’s’ style. All a lot of fun! Small touches that may indeed mean a lot to your loved ones. Go ahead, be creative in celebrating Love! Can we ever love too much? Not a chance!

The bigger, more important issue, however, is what you’re doing about love on the 15th of Feb, and in the months of June, August and November? How well are you loving when the chocolate hearts and red roses have long since left the shelves of your local grocery store? While a bit of creativity with Valentines paraphernalia is all good and well, what about the quality of your love beyond the 14th? How are you showing love on a Monday morning or a Thursday afternoon? How are you expressing it when life has you down, when you’re scrambling to meet a deadline or your house is a mess? What are you doing with Love when your child is difficult or your spouse has disappointed you?

More than any other trait I would like to be known for, Love trumps them all! I want to be remembered in the future as one who loved well. I want my love to be authentic, deep and consistent. I want it to be pure, selfless and extravagant. I want it to come straight from my heart and I want it to make the lives of others better, richer and more joyful.

Many poets, authors and song-writers have written note-worthy things about love. It is the theme of many a pop song, a universally understood language, a basic human need, and a force to be reckoned with. We want it, need it, will live and die for it. Does it not make life worth living and bring purpose to our every action? Don’t we all want to be experts at showing it, expressing it, speaking it and living it?

It is this desire, this longing, that leads me time and time again back to Love Himself. He is the source of it all, an endless flow of perfect, flawless, unconditional love. When I lack, He is more than enough. When my own reserves have run dry, He is a river of Love. When I struggle to love, forgive and share as I should, there are the arms of Love, wide open to receive me. There is the cross, the blood, the brokenness that made it possible for me to love too. Loving well starts with receiving Love into the depths of your heart. Humbly accepting this incredible, extravagant God-love into your life will change you from the inside out! It will transform you, free you, heal you and empower you to love as He does!

His word is the most outstanding book of love ever to be penned. Read it for instruction on how to love well. Absorb its powerful truths as inspiration on the blue-sky days, as well as in the ‘dark night of the soul’. Allow it to mould you, shape you and change you. Let it revolutionise your thinking and inform your living. House it, own it, eat it up and your love will grow stronger, purer and deeper by the day!

In The Passion Translation, we are instructed to ‘echo God’s intense love for one another’ (1 Peter 4:8). I want my life to reverberate with His love. I want to be so intimately connected with Him that my life is indeed an echo of His love in the world.

In 1 Corinthians 13, we are told that ‘above all else’, love is to be ‘the beautiful prize for which we run’ (TPT) Above all else! Love is the highest and the best and it has eternal worth. Prize love! Value it above wealth, wisdom and spiritual gifts. Live a life that is large with love, for without it we are absolutely nothing.

How then can I be proficient in speaking the language of love? How do I love well? The following are a few thoughts that may be helpful:

· Find out how your child/spouse/friend receives love best. We are unique in this. My ‘love language’ may be vastly different to yours. Should you be speaking words of affirmation or spending quality time with them? Do they feel most loved by your acts of service or the gifts that you give them? Is it physical affection that they desire and need the most? Once you know what makes a person feel most loved, be sure to lavish them with this expression of love, even if it feels awkward or difficult for you.

· Believe the best of others (1 Corinthians 13:7).

· Honour one another, in fact, ‘outdo one another in showing honour’ the bible tells us in Romans 12:10! Always look for the gold in others, especially those who have prickly exteriors. Often the ones who are most difficult to love are the ones who need it the most.

· Practice self-love. Yes, that’s right! Jesus Himself told us to love Him wholeheartedly and to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39) Loving and accepting yourself , as He loves and accepts you (warts n all!) will be the starting point of you truly loving others well. It is impossible to give love if you have never received it! Receive it again and again and again. Forgive yourself. Forgive those who have wronged you. Drink in His grace and you will surely echo His love in a most profound way.

· Speak kindly and gently to and about others and yourself. Words matter, they break or they build. Choose yours wisely.

· Wear love as ‘your basic, all-purpose garment,’ (Colossians 3, Message Bible) ‘Never be without it’, the word tells us. Love will always be in fashion, ladies!

May your life be full and overflowing with divine Love, both on the 14th of February, and beyond!

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