Cultivating Daily Valentine’s Week: are you unmarried but wish you were? wish Valentine’s Day would fall into the abyss of hurtful, lonely days? You are not alone…

Maybe you are unmarried or not even in a relationship that indicates you are at least a baby step closer to marriage, but you really wish you were. Then all this Valentine’s Day stuff happens, and the loneliness that you endure is highlighted with every email and e-card and cheesy Valentine you see. Facebook posts about undying love sting. Flowers smell less sweet. And even those color-dyed, sugar candies with messages like “kiss me” become annoying rather than cute.

If that’s you, you are not alone.

Believe it or not, I know some folks who are married and feel the same way. Having a mate close to you who is not close at all can be very lonely, too.

I don’t pretend to know how you feel or understand your current pain. It has been over 13 years since Jen and I tied the knot, and I am so grateful for her. But I do hurt for you. I have thought about you this week. I have hoped that you will remember that you are loved, even worth dying for, to a God who has come near.

Now, I am not throwing that out there in a cold, Christian-cliche kind of way. I promise. That’s not intended to be some cure-all salve for your heart, or some “suck-it-up cause you are supposed to be more spiritual than that” kind of message. I sincerely mean it. I pray that you actually believe that, because I have found in the different seasons of my own personal loneliness that remembering that Jesus actually does love me and thinks I am worth dying for is about all that I had to help me endure.

Enduring loneliness is so hard. Hope remains only when hope is believed. Perseverance is strengthened only when a persevering love is present. And focusing your thoughts on what i true is about the only thing that reorients the abstract reality of profound loneliness toward the Emmanuel-reality resurrected unto us in Christ.

The verses that I memorized and quotes over and over and prayed over and over in my own personal loneliness were Philippians 4:4-9. I wanted to share them with you here hoping they will offer encouragement to you.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 

May our minds dwell on what is true and real and beautiful, not on the lies and abstractions and ugliness and fears that we tend to imagine for our future when we are walking in the darkness of loneliness.

It will not be any easier, but it will likely lead you down a destructive path unless you let your mind dwell on His imagined future for you rather than on your imagined future.

I hope your future will include a beautiful, difficult, worthwhile marriage. But even if it doesn’t, I pray that you and I both will never, ever, ever forget that to Jesus we are worth dying for.

That’s the Valentine’s Card otherwise known as the cross.

You are loved. I know, I know. You are lonely. But you are not alone. Again, this is just a reminder. A compassionate one.

I pray that somehow in some specific way that this weekend will include a significant reminder of that truth and a near embrace from the God who put on skin to come near.

Much love.
-jason

Cultivating Daily Valentine’s Week Edition: the real story of Valentine’s as shared by @MarkMerrill of @AllProDad…

Hope you had a Happy Valentine’s Day!!! I took a break from blogging yesterday, because I was in meetings all day and with my kids and sweetheart at night. It was a special day.

I understand that with Valentine’s Day comes a wide spectrum emotions for people. Tomorrow I will be sharing some thoughts for those without a Valentine. Some may not have been bothered by the day. Others may have been very saddened. I hope that what will be posted will encourage you either way.

For today, though, I came across a post from Mark Merrill of All Pro Dad that I thought was more than worth sharing. You can read it on his blog by clicking here. Or, you can keep scrolling down and read it on this post. Most people don’t even know the real story of the real Valentine. Hopefully this will encourage you as you keep cultivating daily the near love of Jesus into your pathway relationships.

-jason

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THE REAL STORY OF VALENTINE’S

This Valentine’s Day you will probably either send or receive a Valentine from someone. More than a billion are expected to be given away in the United States alone.  But just like many of our holidays, there’s a lot more behind it than just cards and gifts.  There’s a true life story. It’s a story that teaches us a lot about the true meaning of love, sacrifice and commitment.

In the third century, the Roman Empire was ruled by Emperor Claudius II Gothicus. He was nicknamed Claudius the Cruel because of his harsh leadership and his tendency for getting into wars and abusing his people. In fact, he was getting into so many wars during the third century that he was having a difficult time recruiting enough soldiers.

Claudius believed that recruitment for the army was down because Roman men did not want to leave their loves or families behind, so he canceled all marriages and engagements in Rome. Thousands of couples saw their hopes of matrimony dashed by the single act of a tyrant. And no one seemed interested in standing up to the emperor.

But a simple Christian priest named Valentine did come forward and stood up for love. He began to secretly marry soldiers before they went off to war, despite the emperor’s orders. In 269 AD Emperor Claudius found out about the secret ceremonies. He had Valentine thrown into prison and deemed that he would be put to death.

As Valentine was awaiting execution, he fell in love with a blind girl, who happened to be the jailer’s daughter. On the eve of his execution, with no writing instruments available, Valentine is said to have written her a sonnet in ink that he squeezed from violets. Legend has it that his words made the blind woman see again. It was a brief romance because the next day Valentine was clubbed to death by Roman executioners.

St. Valentine gave his life so that young couples could be bonded together in holy matrimony. They may have killed the man, but not his spirit. Even centuries after his death, the story of Valentine’s self-sacrificing commitment to love was legendary in Rome. Eventually he was granted Sainthood and the Catholic Church decided to create a feast in his honor. They picked February 14 as the day of celebration because of the ancient belief that birds (particularly lovebirds, but also owls and doves) began to mate on that very day.

It’s surprising to know that Valentine’s Day is really founded on the concept of love in marriage. On This Valentine’s Day, what are you doing to keep the love in your marriage burning? While giving a gift and card, having a candlelight dinner, and sharing special words of love are all important, the true spirit of Valentine’s Day needs to last throughout the year.

Here are some ways to bring more love into your marriage:

  • Schedule priority time together. Pull out your calendars and set a date night every week or two—just to spend time together and talk. (Note: movies don’t count.)
  • Laugh together. When was the last time you shared a funny story and chuckled with each other? Loosen up and laugh freely. Live lightheartedly!
  • Play together. Find a hobby or activity you both enjoy—fishing, bowling, tennis, hiking, or biking.
  • Be romantic together. Send your spouse a note of encouragement in the mail every once in a while just to say “I love you.” Spend one or two weekends away each year, just with your wife. (No buddies allowed.)

While Valentine’s Day is a good time to put a spark back into your relationship, the only way to fan the flame of a good relationship is for every day to be a Hallmark moment.

What are you doing to fan the flame of love in your marriage?

Cultivating Daily _ Valentine’s Week: imagine the power of a thoughtful Valentine…

We gave those meaningless Valentine’s back in third grade, too. I don’t even remember the “theme” of the card I gave, much less the themes of the cards I received. I think my son gave Jeff Gordon Valentines cards a couple of years ago, which is appropriate since he digs #24 but inappropriate since cards should be about the one to whom we are giving the Valentine I think.

Can you imagine the power of a thoughtful Valentine?

Kind of like any gift. There are those gifts you get that mean nothing. You open it and think, “Yeah, I saw this on the Clearance rack at Target, too. I didn’t really need another oven mit.” And then there are those gifts you open and think, “Oh my goodness. How very thoughtful of you to remember me mentioning that and put the effort in to get it and give it. It is as though I am actually loved.”

Now back to the Valentines thing. Don’t you want folks to open their Valentine from you and think the latter thought in the above paragraph?

Yeah, me too.

How powerful that might be. Especially if they might think they are loved.

After all, that is the reason for our existence, isn’t it? To believe that we are loved. More specifically, to believe in the God who demonstrated His love for us in this way – He gave up His Son. If that is our reason for existence, then maybe the reason for the church’s existence is to be a people among whom that love is on display and through whom that love is given into the lives of the lost and lonely and unloved of our world? If we go near to them, thoughtfully, caring more about what they are becoming than what we are becoming, how powerful could that be? How transforming?

That others who question the near love of Christ might witness it right before their eyes through the near love of a Christ-follower.

I guess that sort of makes His church a Valentine-giving agency. Maybe that’s a stretch. Or maybe not.

May we NOT be the sort of churches that give those generic Valentines-ministries that are more about who we are than about who the receiver is. May we instead give thoughtful, intentional, wise, near letters of love daily.

PRAY _ Lord, to whom might You be leading me to give a very thoughtful Valentine tomorrow? Please grant me wisdom regarding that gift, that it might demonstrate with much power how near Your love really is to us.

Grateful.
-jason

Cultivating Daily for VALENTINE’S: today & next week, I’ll be posting Valentine-focused posts for cultivating into relationships. Here’s today’s…

To all you husbands out there, just a REMINDER – IT’S VALENTINE’S DAY NEXT TUESDAY!!! Since many of you are in a stupor with the NFL season coming to a close, I just wanted to give a friendly reminder to remember your wife on Valentine’s :)

All Pro Dad put out an article recently entitled “10 Ways to Make Valentine’s Day Wonderful for Your Wife.” Click on that title to read it, then get to scheming this weekend so you can cultivate love into her heart and show her how much she really is your Valentine!!!

Much love. And go Saints all the way to the Super Bowl next season! WHO DAT!!!
-jason