My recently released novel, Angel Mountain (Wipf and Stock Publishers), won Finalist in the Inspirational category with Feathered Quill Book Awards. It made me reconsider what exactly it is that inspires people today?
A family friend said to me recently that what folks really want in their lives is meaning. He himself is not religious but finds meaning in his work.
Is work enough to provide meaning to one’s life? Certainly, it does provide meaning or I wouldn’t be typing these words into a document to be placed in my blog to hopefully be read by someone somewhere. I agree with him. But work is ephemeral, not to be trusted to always be available or meaningful.
Is meaning the same as inspiration? Close cousins at least.
Today is Valentine’s Day, a day when I pull out a meaningful card (inspirational?) from my desk and set it on the breakfast table for my husband. He does the same for me, and we share a moment of simple, meaningful, inspirational delight: love.
Today is Quinquagesima Sunday as well, celebrated by the Church since the Middle Ages, the third Sunday in Pre-Lent and the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and Lent’s beginning. It is a day full of meaning as well as inspiration. It is also a day of love, this year coinciding with St. Valentine’s Day, for we listen to the magnificent and poetic words of St. Paul writing about love to the church in Corinth:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (BCP 122-3) 1 Corinthians xiii. 1+
By “charity” Paul means love, and we are told it translates to the love known as agape, the unconditional love of God for man and man for God, considered the highest form of love.
Paul lists this love’s qualities: better than prophecy, knowledge, faith, brotherly love, and martyrdom; it is long suffering, kind, without envy or false pride, unselfish, not bragging, not provoked, thinking good not evil, rejoicing in truth, bearing difficulties with fortitude, believing, hoping, enduring, unfailing.
Angel Mountain was written as a work of love, love of God and love of mankind. In the love of God we find answers to the turmoil of mankind. We see where humanity has strayed, where we have strayed away from true charity. For if we love our fellow man we do not see them in terms of identity groups but as individuals, each one unique and precious. We are all handicapped in some way, in spirit or flesh. But each one of us has unique talents, given and developed by a loving God as we go through life on Earth. Each one of us is given the ability to love one another and celebrate our differences, not bemoan our differences or be divided by them.
This is the love of God, our Creator. And he continues the creation daily, minute by minute. He gives us life and he grants our world more life with the birth of each child. He teaches us to mourn the death of every life, to consider life a precious gift. He teaches us to celebrate all creation and to love all people as he loves them, unconditionally.
Valentine’s Day reminds us of our Christian heritage in this secular world. Valentine (226-269 AD) was a Christian priest who was martyred in the early Church. He practiced charity, the love of God. It is a day reminding us that love is inspirational, holy, revealed to us by Christ and his great acts of redemption on Earth, witnessed to by the saints and martyrs. It is a rich and meaningful day and season.
We move from this celebration of love to Ash Wednesday. What will this season teach us? What does that ashen cross marking our foreheads truly mean? Our humanity, our flesh, our very breath comes from God and goes to God. We are given new bodies as the old ones turn to ash.
Our lives were and are and ever shall be full of meaning, inspired by the love of God our Creator.