Did you hear the terrible news?

 

This Valentine’s Day, there will be no conversation hearts to share with others!  No candies to employ to express our feelings to those we hold most dear.

 

What happened?  According to Kaitlyn Tiffany of Vox , “We will not be telling each other “I Love You” or “Fax Me” or “LOL” with Sweethearts conversation hearts this year. There will simply be none for sale anywhere in 2019.

 

“As is so often the case these days, we can blame this crisis on corporate drama we had no hand in: Necco, the candy company that has been making the little pastel sugar-and-grout Valentines since the mid-19th century, was purchased by a new parent company at the end of last year and simply did not have enough time to set up the manufacturing process for its yearly 8 billion hearts.”

 

Thank goodness those little hearts will be back in 2020.

 

In the meantime, the celebration of love will take place, just like it always has.  There’s much love to celebrate this month, and every month.  Loving is hard wired into our hearts, minds and souls by God.  We can’t help but love others.  God’s created us to love.  And signs of this love are everywhere.

 

You can see God’s love is alive and well in Candice Payne, of Chicago.  Payne, and a group of around eight business-owner friends, helped move more than 100 people from their homeless camp near Roosevelt Road and Des Plaines Avenue, into the Amber Inn Motel.  Payne and her husband couldn’t bear to see the homeless suffer through last week’s cold snap, reported Madeline Buckley and Rosemary Sobol.

 

“This is just regular people trying to help,” said Payne.  “We wanted to get as much of them out of there as possible,” said Payne, who works in real estate.

 

The Paynes and some friends “drove by the homeless camp Tuesday night and took those they could persuade to leave to the Amber Inn at 39th Street and Michigan Avenue, renting 20 rooms at about $70 a piece. Payne had called dozens of hotels, and the Amber Inn was the only place that would take them.

 

“On Wednesday afternoon, with temperatures well below zero, a propane tank exploded at the camp. That led fire officials to confiscate dozens of propane tanks, leaving the campers who hadn’t accepted the initial offer of a hotel room without any source of heat.

 

“Payne and her crew returned to the camp and took another group of people, now facing a night of near-record-low temperatures, to the motel.

 

“Payne posted about the effort on her Instagram account, and friends jumped in to help. They quickly paid for more rooms and also donated food, clothes and diapers. Many came to the hotel to help get the people settled.

 

“By Thursday night, they had enough money for 60 rooms for four nights, enough for about 120 people. A receptionist at the motel said the group has nearly filled the entire inn.”

Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan came to mind as I read the story of the Paynes, their friends and the homeless folks they helped.  God’s love is alive and well.

 

But wait, there are more signs of love.   My sister-in-law, Julie, as you know, is fighting colon & liver cancer.   Every other week, she receives chemo treatments at a cancer center not far from home.  Late last year, she asked me to take her to treatment as my brother was out of town.

 

Walking into that center was like walking into pure love.  There you found some of the kindest, compassionate, caring nurses and doctors you ever could meet on this side of heaven.  When the staff listened to her, they hung on every word.  They joked with her.  They laughed with her.  They checked on her and cared for her with such attention to detail—seeming to know what she needed before she even asked.

 

But the love that was shared didn’t exclusively flow from nurse to patient.  Julie cares deeply about those nurses.  She remembers important moments in their lives.  She asks about and then listens to two nurses (who are sisters) whose mother just passed away.  And Julie bakes for them.  Every time.  Without fail.  There are always two desserts she whips up for all the staff in the center.

 

The baking, the caring, the sharing of the joys and challenges of life comes from a call—a call to love others as much as self—just like Jesus asked.  God’s love is alive and well.

 

And God’s love is alive and well when: your child stands up for another child who’s often bullied; a neighbor shovels out another neighbor after the latest snow storm; a congregation “adopts” the kids in a school classroom in a low income neighborhood—sharing time with them, encouraging, applauding them; a child introduces a classmate to Jesus and tells, in her own words, the story of salvation.  That’s when God’s love is alive and well.

 

May we all fan the flames of love as we live.  May we applaud and join in when others initiate action.  May we never tire of doing God’s good work in this world every month, and without prompting.  May we give God thanks that he’s blessed us to be a blessing and cherish the honor of sharing his love with others.

 

In Christ, Pastor Sharon