February is upon us and again we are reminded of “the month of love” and Valentine’s Day. Red hearts filled with candy appeared on store shelves the day after Christmas. Greeting card shelves lined with $10 greeting cards gushing romance. Another opportunity for the retail community to separate us from our money to commercially celebrate L-O-V-E. I think we forget that God is love.
Love to me can be romantic gush but primarily it is the softness and compassion that comes from my heart. The day in and day out serving others, smiling at strangers, making time in my day to care about someone other than me. I believe love is not an emotion but a working action within our hearts. Our heart has been shown scientifically to have its own brain that works independently of our actual brain. It can process information which means awareness (love) begins in the heart and not the brain. For more information on this check out HeartMath Institute. https://www.heartmath.org/science/
I could go on forever about the mechanics of the heart and love but I would never get the actual purpose of this blog post completed. That purpose is to talk about our “Bag of Love”. “What in the world?”, you are probably thinking but hang in there with me.
In my ministry, it is vital that I keep things simple and uncomplicated when I am teaching. I learn visually so I make the assumption everyone else does. I know, selfish on my part but I think it works effectively. February rolls around every year and I try to base my talks on just love and not specific types of love. For example, not everyone is romantically involved and probably doesn’t want to hear a talk on how being in love “completes” your life or people don’t want to hear about the mythical origins of love that Plato devised. As I said before, God is love so that keeps that topic simple and complete. I talk about developing a “Bag of Love” at my February classes. In each class, I hand out small bags with hearts on them to each person attending and I explain the following teaching.
I start by analogizing that the bag is our life. The bag is empty and the things we add to the bag will influence our lives. Now, a participant can choose to throw the bag in a drawer never to be seen again or they can begin to fill it (just like our lives). I insist that the bag only be filled with things the participant personally loves, hence the hearts on the bag. Again, I need it simple, so I offer simple. A heart is the symbol of love so having the bag covered with hearts emphasized what goes in the bag. The bag is a good size but not too big to force participants to feel they have to fill the bag.
I ask participants to think deeply before adding anything to the bag because what goes in should never come out (except to remind yourself of the original reason it was added and I’ll get into that later). I ask they prioritize things as they go in the bag. For example, whatever they feel most love from goes in first.
The first item I placed in my bag was an olive wood cross from Jerusalem. My first love is Jesus Christ reflected in God’s love for me. 1 John 4:7-10 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
God is my first and one true love and hopefully, He is yours too. I have always felt that when I am placing God first in my actions and decisions that I am experiencing the utmost love possible. God shares unconditional love when we don’t deserve it. As humans, we can’t offer this type of love honestly and genuinely like He does. He has to be first in my “Bag of Love”
Next, I added my Family by placing pictures of my family. The family that is still here with me and my family that have moved to Heaven. Family should be the support of earthly love but many times it may be a family of friends that share your love. I want to emphasize that a family can be a community that is not a blood relative that treats and respect you like God intended a family to be. Use the word “family” loosely if need be. My family includes true family and friend family members.
The third thing I have added to my “Bag of Love” is my ministry, Grateful Gratitude. God really interrupted my life to hand me this ministry and it made my life so beautiful. The gratitude heart started everything when I began practicing gratitude and gifting the hearts to others in gratitude. The hearts are hand carved in Kenya with allows me to be grateful for artisans I don’t even know but have impacted my life greatly. Their dedication to producing the hearts and my fair trade importer keeps me supplied with hearts and have yet to run out. The heart in my bag represents my love for the ministry God gifted me.
Lastly, I ask participants to add one thing that reminds them of simple love. This should be something you look at and it represents earthly love and happiness. This last thing is a penguin. The penguin has so many endearing qualities that to me represent love. Do you know that penguins mate for life, they huddle together in large groups to protect other penguins, their feet are built for long journeys, male penguins gift female penguins with rocks in order to woo them, and male penguins guard the eggs and keep them warm? So many beautiful and loving characteristics. The little penguin statue below is in my bag.
I told you earlier in this blog that you keep everything in the bag and keep it closed. This is important because there will be days down the road you will need to open it to be reminded of your love. There will be times of funerals, lost jobs, anxiety, hopelessness, and loneliness that your will need to be reminded of the items in your “Bag of Love”. I anchor people to Gods’ love by holding a gratitude heart. This “Bag of Love” is just as important. We need to be reminded in a difficult time that God is with us and we have many things that we love that God has placed in our lives to be anchored to. Our hearts will soften when we see the items we took the time to appreciate and add to our “Bag of Love”.
Some suggestions for your bag may be a baby’s hospital bracelet, a small bible, a special poem, a dime you picked up in a special place, a dried flower from your wedding, your grandmother’s favorite recipe, really, just anything that you hold and feel love.
I hope you create your own “Bag of Love’ with special items of love personalized to you. Please comment if you have something special you would place in your “Bag of Love”. My love and gratitude for you-LoLo