FAITHFUL LIVING: Natural lessons are God’s sweetest teachings on love

Did you know there are lessons of love just outside your door?

To best experience them I suggest that you walk outside into the early morning air, briefly stepping away from schedules and morning traffic reports, lunch making and last-minute ironing. Time it right and you will not need your flashlight, for the days are beginning to lengthen and there is ample light to guide your path.

As you put on your jacket, ask God to give you the eyes to see and the heart to experience the gifts of nature. With anticipation, step outside and listen for the male owls calling out to the females, high in the treetops. Next, look along the ground. You may notice that the American robins are venturing back to our neighborhoods. If you cannot see any in the early morning light, listen for the call of the male birds. You will hear a “tuk, tuk, tuk, tseep!” as they advertise their territories and work to entice those returning females.

It was precisely these sounds that greeted me this week when I asked God to give me a lesson about love, out there in the early morning chill. After all, it is almost Valentine’s Day and it seems appropriate that we take a look at love.

In some respects, this is an easy task when surrounded by ads featuring diamonds and flowers, chocolates and Teddy bears. While I am all for romance as I head into my 23rd year of marriage, I also find this national celebration to be so commercialized it feeds the notion that love is purely romantic and, well, pink.

At moments I long for natural, pure symbols of love to teach and guide my heart, instead. That is why I venture outside. And true to form, God brought to mind this week some great reminders about that inner emotion and drive we collectively call, “love.”

Most of us instinctively know that love is more expansive than romance. But we need some reminders. The first aspect is the covenant love God has for people — a love that can redeem us, sustain us when life is terribly difficult, and can secure us a place in His presence for all of eternity if we claim it.

There is also the kind of love God places in our hearts for our children, family members and people in need. It is demonstrated in service and not only forms a lifeline to those who need our care, but such love produces in us deeper patience, understanding, and generosity that goes beyond what we alone can provide.

Then there is the love of a friend, and the moment I realized how mightily blessed I have been with this aspect of love was the moment I found myself hurrying over to the north side of my house to gaze upon the bare ground where my bleeding heart plant sleeps. For the moment it is tucked away in its underground winter bed. It is not yet ready to venture out. But that does not matter to me, for the mental image of it reminds me of the dear friend who gave me the plant years ago when my family and I first moved into our home.

“Take this bleeding heart and plant it in that bed on the north side of your house,” Corrine had said. “It’s a friendship plant. Those tiny, heart-shaped blooms will remind you of the love of a friend.”

Each spring I watch the plant — not only rise out of the ground but grow ever larger. I am reminded that the love of a friend can become one of the most enduring, satisfying, and lasting of all the forms of love we will experience in our lives.

Let us not forget, as we peruse those Valentine-laden store aisles, those friends who send us cards, letters, e-mail messages and call us at just the right times. Those who pick up our kids at a moment’s notice, pray with us over the phone, or slip us a prepaid coffee card — just because. And what about those friends who watch sports with us, help with household projects, and hug us when life is in turmoil and it feels like things will never again be OK?

Thank God for those outdoor lessons and the expansive nature of love, best expressed in the people and experiences of our lives. May we utter a prayer of thanks and spread a little love this week.

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is

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