Focal verse 

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).

Reflection

At age 3, my daughter started speech therapy. She is 6 now and continues to work on her speech and language with a therapist. Her therapy sessions include practicing words, repeating phrases, and strengthening her mouth and tongue muscles.

In the beginning I didn’t understand the word “muscle” in relation to how we speak. Yet over the years, watching my daughter bring her voice into the world has taught me that it takes time, work, dedication and strength for her to communicate. I’ve watched my daughter’s therapist use multiple props and techniques to apply pressure to her tongue. Over and over again, the goal is to strengthen her muscles for clearer communication.

Just as my daughter has been bolstering her mouth muscles, I’ve been reflecting on how we can build our faith muscles, and specifically how we can increase our desire to love both ourselves and one another.

In our homes we are given many opportunities to build our faith and capacity to love. We build our muscles to share love with others by praying together out loud, lighting candles to remember loved ones, baking cookies for neighbors, reading Bible stories, offering a calm presence during meltdowns, forgiving and blessing one another and showing up to church—either virtually or in person in an adapted format—week after week.

What practices do you and your family already incorporate into your daily lives to show and share love? Do you routinely call and check on neighbors or bring food to a family in which someone is sick or has just returned home with a baby? Do you offer prayers together, seeking ways for God to show you how to love more deeply? Do you invite God to increase your resolve to reach out to neighbors? Do you listen to people who have different opinions?

Even as the pandemic continues to disrupt our lives and keep us from gathering as we would like, God continues to love us. First and foremost, before we offer love to our neighbors, we need to remember that we are loved. In our remembering and with small actions done in love, we can increase our capacity to care for others and respond as God’s beloved children.

Practices

  • Cut out hearts for each day of February and write a Bible verse on each one. Read one every day and remember God’s love for you and your family.
  • Take time this month to intentionally share with others what you love about them. Write notes to friends or call family members. Remind them that God created them in love.
  • Maybe I Can Love My Neighbor Too (Beaming Books, 2019) explores how we can share love with our neighbors.

Prayers

We pray for those who face challenges to speech.
We pray for occupational and physical therapists.
We pray for families navigating hard conversations.
We pray for writers, poets and storytellers.
We give thanks for the gift of relationships in all their diversity and abundance.
We give thanks for cards and letters that connect us across the world.
We give thanks for church leaders and musicians sharing the story of God’s love.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen.

Service opportunity

Make a Valentine’s Day basket of love for neighbors or nursing home residents. You could include letters of encouragement, baked goods, books and magazines, and any small items meant to share your love.

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is kimberlyknowlezeller.com.

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