You do not see many Zimmer frames, wheelchairs or hearing aids on Valentine’s Day cards. They mostly seem to be full of young love, hearts and roses. Young love is wonderful and beautiful, full of optimism, and plans and hopes for the future. Yet that doesn’t look at breakups or divorce. We certainly have no weddings in the United Benefice this year that may be due to Covid or things not falling right.
But love in later life is precious too. It is a love that has been forged through years of shared experiences and joy, maybe raising children together, perhaps enjoying grandchildren. It’s a love that’s stood the test of time, and deeper, much deeper, than any shop-bought Valentine’s Day card can describe. That long-term love can also be shown by the devoted wife or husband who visits their spouse in a care home each day, gently talking with them when they are, perhaps, deep into dementia. Or sitting for long hours by a hospital bed. Or dutifully caring for them at home.
Love is a marathon, not a sprint. It starts with white lace and promises and grows over the years. Mature love is about the commitment that spans decades and is seldom shown on the cards on sale in the High Street this Valentine’s Day.
As a priest, when I marry a couple and take them through their wedding vows, I hear them make their lifelong commitment “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part…” It’s so wonderful to see the bride and groom smiling, and enjoying this precious moment, making vows that will, hopefully, span the rest of their lives. I love taking weddings – it’s an immense privilege to be part of a couple’s special day. And I find myself pondering what the future will hold for them. I wonder what shape that lifelong commitment will take, as I pray a blessing on their marriage. Sadly for some it is divorce I think six months is the shortest marriage I have known from taking the ceremony to coming for a copy of the marriage certificate for the solicitor. How much wealth or poverty will come their way? Will it be sickness or health that will accompany them through the years? How will they support each other as the years go by?
‘Love is patient. Love is kind.’ These are familiar words from the popular wedding reading in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. That patience, that kindness are qualities that can develop over years of marriage. Just how much patience will be needed in the years ahead cannot usually be known on the wedding day.
So, this year, as I look at the rows of red or pink Valentine’s Day cards on sale in the shops, I shall look out for cards that have a deeper message. I shall seek out cards that celebrate long-term love. Cards that say something about the joys and challenges of growing older together.
Cards that go beyond hearts and roses to the deeper love that transcends love’s first blossoming. I just hope I can find some…I am not sure I will
With every good wish
“I can resist everything but temptation” (Oscar Wilde). During Lent we remember Jesus’ experience in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), when ‘He was led by the Spirit.. to be tempted by the devil.’ (1). Temptation is a test of obedience, whether we do things our way or God’s way. After 40 days of fasting Jesus was tired, hungry and vulnerable. Like Him, the Devil will attack us at our most vulnerable moments, especially during this pandemic. The first temptation was to turn stones into bread: Jesus’ ministry was not about meeting His own needs, but being nourished by God’s Word. ‘We do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Deuteronomy 8:3). Like Jesus, we are called to make God our priority and trust Him completely. The second temptation was to put God to the test: Jumping off the Temple pinnacle would have been a dramatic way for Jesus to gain popularity, but this is not God’s way! ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ (Deuteronomy 6:16). We too need to learn this lesson! The third temptation was to worship Satan: Finally, the devil took Jesus to a mountain to offer Him worldly power. In contrast, His calling as Messiah was marked by suffering and honouring God. ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only’ (Deuteronomy 6:13). This is often our experience in living for God.
Jesus stands with us in our temptations. As we claim the promises of Scripture, we will find strength in the power of the Spirit and the victory of the Cross. ‘If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest!’ (Corrie Ten Boom).
Sir Keir Starmer praises churches
Christianity has provided a blueprint for social improvement, according to the Labour Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer. Writing in a recent issue of Church Times, he said, “For all the loss and difficulty, we should not let this year be defined by pain. Throughout the pandemic, we have also seen the best of humanity.” Sir Keir said that during this past year “religious institutions and local communities have banded together for the common good, showing us the very best of Britain.” And he went on to say that “the best of British values” that have surfaced during the pandemic “are also the best of Christian values.”
G – God
R – Ran
A – Alongside
C – Carrying
E – Everything
What have men and women been thinking about during the pandemic? According to recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), men have been preoccupied with takeaway food and pints, while women have been keeping in touch with their friends.
In a study on the social impact of coronavirus, the ONS found that women are only half as likely to leave home for a takeaway or drinks, and much more likely to go out in order to meet a friend. Women are also far more likely to form a lockdown support bubble and to adhere to government advice than men.
It has been a terrible year for farmers and workers in the global south.
In 2020, on top of the pandemic, they had to deal with the growing impact of climate change: more droughts and crop disease, locusts, floods, fires, and heatwaves. No wonder their harvests were shrinking.
Yet with the help of Fairtrade, many of these producers of food, drinks and cottons can be equipped to meet more everyday needs, and to deal with the challenges facing them.
So this month, why not visit www.fairtrade.org.uk and see how you can send some support.
If you are already struggling to keep it, here is something that might help you.
Psychologists advise that it is useless to say you are going to quit anything. Instead, make your resolution to change into something positive. For example, instead of “I will give up sweets,” say “I will eat fruit twice a day.”
It seems that people with an ‘approach goal’ score greater success than those who see themselves quitting something they still like. As one Swedish doctor explained: “You cannot erase a behaviour, but you can replace it with something else.”
The most popular resolutions regard physical health, weight loss and change of eating habits. The research was done at Stockholm University.
St James the Least of All
My dear Nephew Darren
I appreciated your recent concern when you heard one of our parishioners had slipped on a gravestone. Your desire to help was entirely commendable, and I do know that sending your own church’s health and safety officer to give us some advice was kindly meant. But the 200-page report was not welcome. If we implemented even half of your officer’s suggestions, life would become unbearably safe.
St James the Least of All has survived perfectly well for the last 600 years without gutter cleaning inspections, path degreasing and electrical safety certificates, so I think we may survive a little longer without them. As far as I am aware, the only disaster to hit us was when Cromwell’s soldiers stabled their horses in the nave – which I suspect a few of our oldest members still clearly remember.
The shock the sidesmen sometimes get when switching on the lights occurs only occasionally, is relatively mild and soon over – and if it happens when preparing for the 8am Service, helps to wake them up. The weight of the Duke of Clumber’s marble sarcophagus is slowly detaching the south aisle from the rest of the church, but it is very slow – and the pews in that area are used only once a year when his relations visit from America to commemorate his death at Agincourt – which is probably just beyond remembrance of the oldest of our congregation.
Leaks from the ceiling in the north aisle are solved with a row of buckets – and even you must concede that the fungi on the oak beams look really rather attractive when the sun catches them. The sapling growing out of the spire is certainly an issue – although it looks so attractive in Spring when in blossom. As for our fire extinguishers, they were serviced when my predecessor-but-two was in office, and I have the certificate to prove it.
So, do thank your health and safety officer for all his work and tell him we will bear his recommendations in mind. Also tell him I was so sorry he slipped and broke his leg in our choir stalls while he was with us. But that bit of floor has been out of alignment since 1748, and it seems a shame to disturb it now. If only he had arrived encased in bubble wrap, it would never have happened. Perhaps you could put that on the agenda of your next health and safety meeting.
Your loving uncle,
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