Valentine’s Day Blip

Ahhh…The smell of chocolate is in the air. Nervous tension lingers in the minds of lovers near and far, as they laboriously mull over choosing that one perfect purchase. On Valentine’s Eve, sleeping retailers toss and turn as they anticipate bare shelves, where once droves of heart covered, paraphernalia lay. Some curious Valentines’ Day seekers will delve into the deep historical mysteries that surround this midwinter holiday. Come with me as we enter the world of abbreviated facts and legends dedicated to the, “Celebration of Love”. Indulge, as I toss out a few micro-morsels applicable to V-day.

According to church history, numerous early Christian martyrs were named “Valentine”, and they are honored annually in Rome on, February 14th. These include Valentine of Rome, Valentine of Terni and a third who was mentioned in early manuscripts. (This unfortunate man was killed in Africa.) Only one Valentine wins, “The Most Famous and Influential of all Valentines”. If you guessed Valentine of Rome, you were right! This priest and physician, married young couples in secret thereby violating one of Claudius’s II’s laws. The Roman emperor wanted his soldier’s attention fixed on war, not on their wives. Initially, the ruler enjoyed conversing with Valentine. However after an unsuccessful attempt was made to convert Claudius to Christianity, Valentine was thrown into prison. Before his execution, it is reported he performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter, of Asterius, his jailer. Church records state that St. Valentine did this through prayer and or by applying salve to the girl’s eyes. This miracle, prompted the jailer to convert to Christianity. Legend says that the night before he was to die, the man penned a note to his young patient, signing it, “From your Valentine”. Thus the very first valentine was written. In the morning Valentine was beaten and beheaded. Hypothesized date for his death: February 14, 269 A.D., He was buried the same day at the Via Flaminia, Italy.

The Love Connection – The first link between St. Valentine’s Day and love was credited to Geoffrey Chaucer. The famous writer penned, what is most likely the first Valentine’s Day poem, The Parliament of Fowls in 1383. An excerpt from Chaucer’s poem:

For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl comes there his mate to take,
Of every species that men know, I say,
And then so huge a crowd did they make,
That earth and sea, and tree, and every lake Was so full,
that there was scarcely space For me to stand, so full was all the place.

Ever wonder how other countries celebrate….

Japanese Change Up – Japanese women feel obliged to give chocolates to all male co-workers, except on a Sunday. Men are expected to return gifts that are at least two or three times more valuable than the gives they received. Here’s the kicker – Returning a gift of equal value as the one received, sends the message that you are ending the relationship.

Underground Purchase – In Saudi Arabia in both years 2002 and 2011, religious police banned the sale of all Valentine’s Day items, for the day is considered a Christian holiday in the country. Shop keepers were warned to remove anything from red from view on this day. Thus a black market was created, causing citizens to retreat to back alleys for their roses and wrapping paper.

Sticker Mania! In Lithuania and Latvia – A friend or family member will, “sticker”  a loved one. These little signs of affection are placed on the face and clothing of the one admired.

Three facts for the road…

Number of Valentines sent each year in the U.S. – 1 billion

Oldest known Valentine – One sent by the Duke of Orleans, in 1415 to his wife after he had been taken prisoner by the English.

Expected amount of money spent on chocolate candy Valentine’s Day week -$345 million Dollars

My hope is that you’ve garnished something that interests you from this blip on Valentines’ Day. I’ll wrap things up with a holiday quote “He called me smarty-pants, and I think I’m in love.” – Author known:)

Sources:
Spiritual Living, Christian Faith CBNhttp://www.cbn.com/sp

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The Largest Christmas Project on the Globe!

Imagine, due to a life of poverty, that your child has never received a gift of any kind, not from you, your family, or from anyone.  Now imagine your child’s face when a shoe box full of gifts is handed to him or her free of charge.  Who would do such a selfless act?  The answer is a volunteer for Operation Christmas Child.  A branch of the international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child is the world’s largest Christmas project.

Operation Christmas Child became a part of Samaritan’s Purse in 1993 when Dave Cooke from Wales handed the project to the organization.  Samaritan’s Purse is based out of Boone, North Carolina and, although founded in 1970 by Dr. Bob Pierce, the current president is Franklin Graham.  The group’s purpose is, “to provide immediate, no-red-tape response to the physical and spiritual needs of individuals in crisis situations – especially in locations where few others are working.”  According to its mission statement, the organization has helped meet the needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Fourteen countries take part in the giving of shoe boxes:  the United States, Canada, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hong Kong, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Approximately 8 million suffering children in more than 100 countries on six continents will receive these gift boxes.  The recipients include children in Sudan, Russia, China and other war-torn and poverty-stricken countries.  Several shoe box gifts have also been distributed in North America to Native American and Appalachian children.  One such distribution took place in the Alaskan town of Hooper Bay.  In August of 2006, the community was devastated by fire, and Samaritan’s Purse helped rebuild the town and handed out shoe boxes to those who lost everything.   OCC has donated a total of 88,666 shoe boxes to need children living in the United States, but its focus is international missions.

Empty  shoe boxes are packed year-round by compassionate individuals, families, schools, churches, civic clubs and other organizations in all 50 states and 14 countries.   Even U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have all packed an Operation Christmas Child shoe box with gifts for needy children.

Each OCC brochure includes shoe box labels, and donors can choose if they would like the box to be sent to boy or girl. Then they are to select the age of the recipient.  The ages range from 2-14 years old.   Also included in the brochure is a list of suggested gifts.  Some of the items include school supplies, candy, hygiene items, family photos, notes of encouragement and yes, even shoes.  Some of the volunteers’ favorite items include the following:  dolls, small cars, washcloths and games.

After the boxes are brought from local drop off points, they are inspected at six warehouses across the United States.  Next, they are shipped by cargo planes, trucks or sea containers to a variety of destinations.  In the remote location of Zimbabwe, one local form of transportation has been used – elephants.  Other colorful modes of transportation have included camels and dog sleds.  By using “EZ Give,” the online giving option on the Samaritan’s Purse Web site, donors can follow their box to the destination country where the boxes are hand-delivered by church leaders in that particular country.

The coordinator for the Southeastern Pennsylvania area, Lynette Dallman, has been with the organization for 3 years.  When asked what drew her to Operation Christmas Child with so many other charities to volunteer for, here’s what she said: “Operation Christmas Child impacts the lives of children and gives them hope.  It lets them know someone out there loves them.”  Lynette has traveled side by side these precious boxes on two occasions.   First she traveled to Panama in Central America and then to Burkina Faso, West Africa.  With a thrill in her voice, she recounts the exciting atmosphere. “I felt so honored to be handing out gifts that had been prepared for these children.  Just to look into their eyes and give them that knowing smile, lets you know you care about them.  Seeing them open their boxes, to hear delight in their laughter and to see their faces is such a joy.”

If you would like to be a part of this mission of giving, Samaritan’s Purse will be collecting gift-filled shoe boxes at more than 2,400 drop-off sites in all 50 states during National Collection Week, Nov. 14-21, 2011.  To learn more visit http://www.samaritanspurse.org.

Originally printed in The Country Register, October 2010.

Palm Sunday – What do palms signify?

As a child, I just liked waving the palms high over my head while singing with the rest of the kids that once a year song, “There’s a Palm”.   Some of you may recognize the lyrics: “There’s a palm, there’s a palm, there’s a palm for you and me hallelujah…”   These  plants were just great to play with.  Tapping your pew neighbor on the head with a palm, was a requirement to get the full holiday experience.

On Palm Sunday (some refer to it as “Passion Sunday”), starts the beginning of Holy Week, which ends on Easter Sunday.  Christians celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the week before his death and resurrection.

Joyful crowds welcomed him by waving palm branches.  The onlookers also covered the path before him with palm branches.  Some were mistakenly viewing him as a leader who would overthrow the Roman government.  In many denominations globally, a palm branch is given to parishioners to reenact Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We see this again at the end of the Bible (Rev. 7:9) where people from every nation raise palm branches to honor him.

In biblical times, palm branches symbolized goodness and victory. You could find them on coins and on the sides of important buildings.  Solomon had palm branches carved into the walls and doors of the temple (1 Kings 6:29).

As Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, he traveled through the Eastern Gate (or Golden Gate).  This is the oldest of city gates and is positioned at the eastern wall of the Temple Mount.  Interesting fact: The gate has been sealed for almost twelve centuries and will reopen upon Christ’s return.  (Ezekiel 44:1-2)

Bono’s Gift

Identification.  Thoughts that intertwine our minds with those individuals we feel understand us.  At times, Bono speaks to me.  Not audibly, although I align myself with his stance on irradiating global poverty.  When I reflect on his words, they usually meet me at a place of acknowledgement and validation.  Once Bono made the comment in an interview, that he could write a song at any given moment on any given day.  Definition:  Gift discovery.   That flicker of realization as to  why we were individually, placed upon this planet.  Favorite pick for this topic : The Purpose Driven Life by Max Lucado.  Could I weave a tale in an instant?  Isn’t that what most of us can do?  What are my gifts?  Unsure.  I will say that for me, writing it’s a needed release and is one my chosen carriers, in which to support worthy causes. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:9, that each unique gift works together for the greater good. ..You miss too much these days if you stop to think.