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Today is Valentine’s Day. It is a day when candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones.

One source, attributed to the Greeting Card Association, estimates that 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)

The origin of this holiday and its theme of romance is not clear and there is much mystery about its patron saint St. Valentine. Theories include aspects of early Christianity, ancient Roman tradition, and customs of Victorian England.

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. (https://www.history.com)

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. By the Middle Ages Valentine had become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

It has also been suggested that in the 5th century when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s feast day it was an effort of the Church to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia which was celebrated on February 15. Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, and to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

It was not until the Middle Ages that Valentine’s Day became definitively associated with love. In those days it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

Although Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, written Valentines didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today is believed to be a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Whatever the origin of Valentine’s Day and no matter what customs or traditions are followed, it is a good thing to focus on the most powerful force in the universe. Reeva Steenkamp said, “I’ve realized that although Valentine’s Day can be a cheesy money-making stint to most people, it’s a day of expressing love across the world. It doesn’t have to only be between lovers, but by telling a friend that you care, or even an old person that they are still appreciated.”

So on this Valentine’s Day “let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God.” (I John 4:7 CEB)

Jamie Jenkins

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Nearly 1600 years ago St. Augustine of Hippo said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” I agree with this ancient theologian and philosopher but I wonder what he would say today. Would he see a world that is much larger and complex or would he see a world that is smaller and interdependent? Would he recognize our similarities or our differences?

best travel quotes travel makes one modest

Regardless, I agree that travel is life changing. It helps you to see a great big wonderful world but “travel makes you modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” (Gustave Flaubert).

In one of Willie Nelson’s songs he longs to get back “on the road again…making music with his friends.” I have no experience or desire to travel the same way Willie does but many experiences have been enhanced by others who have been on the journey with me. At the same time I think Mark Twain is right, “There ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”

Whether it is the snow-capped peak of Japan’s Mt. Fuji, Israel’s Mt. Hermon, the Tyrolean Alps in Austria/Italy, or the Rocky Mountains in the western United States- photos and videos are not adequate. Books and journal articles are not enough. There is no substitute for being there.

Hummus in Israel/Palestine, a churro with cajeta in Mexico, fish and chips in England, Nasi Kandar in Malaysia. You can eat these foods anywhere but it is not the same as when you eat them “there.”

People can tell you about the great cathedrals of the world but no description can compare with actually standing in awe when you visit Notre Dame in Paris, St. Paul’s in London, the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, or St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

There is no way to fully appreciate the Parthenon in Athens, the Coliseum in Rome, the pyramids of Egypt, or the rose-red city of Petra carved into the hillside in Jordan without being physically present in those places.

One cannot comprehend the beauty and majesty of the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, the Great Barrier Reef, or the Northern Lights without traveling to those locations. Turia Park, Keukenhof Gardens, Bellingrath Gardens, and Monet’s Garden require a visit to Valencia (Spain), Amsterdam, Mobile, and Giverny in order to be captured by their splendor.

The significance of the beaches of Normandy, Pearl Harbor, the Cabinet War Rooms in London, Auschwitz, and Hiroshima cannot be understood unless you have been there.

A few years ago a friend and his family spent the Christmas-New Year holidays in a distant land where violence and tension provide daily news stories. After returning to Atlanta I asked him what was the most memorable part of that experience. He replied, “I realized that we are all alike. We want the same thing for ourselves and our families.” Maybe Aldous Huxley was right. “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”

I enjoyed a recent trip to England. We drove through the beautiful Cotswold region and stopped by William Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-Upon Avon. I saw the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham and Windsor Palaces. But the trip centered on places of significance to the Methodist Movement in the late 18th century. My faith was strengthened by traveling to places of my religious heritage as I learned about the Wesleys and the spiritual awakening that they fostered. Many trips to the Holy Land (Israel/Palestine) have made the stories of the Bible come alive.

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While the articles and podcast interviews of the website www.anepiceducation.com focuses on family traveling, there is so much truth to it’s tagline- “Travel is an education and the world is the classroom.”

Where do you want to go? What do you want to learn?

Jamie Jenkins

Best-Travel-Quotes--better-to-see

My next trips are to the Holy Land (March 11-22, 2019), Greece and Turkey to follow the journey of the Apostles (April 23-May 3, 2019), Holy Land (again Feb. 15-26, 2020) and to the Oberammergau Passion Play and European Capitals (Munich, Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, Regensberg, and Prague- June 3-12, 2020.

Your are invited to join me. Contact me if interested.