A Heart on Fire by Danielle Coke Balfour

Book Review: A Heart on Fire by Danielle Coke Balfour

Finally, a picture book for grown-ups! If you’re looking for an uplifting and insightful read that can change the way you see and exist in this messed up world, check out my latest review of Danielle Coke Balfour’s “A Heart on Fire: 100 Meditations on Loving Your Neighbors Well.” It’s not just a book, it’s an invitation to become a better, more empathetic person. Dive into vivid art and powerful words that make big issues easy to understand and tough action easy to take. Click to discover why this book is a must-read!

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Love Songs & Unselfish Love

Unselfish Love

Love is in many ways fine—
Like a nickel, like a dime.
But love is more valuable to me
than one, two, or even three...

And so begins one of the most *ahem* “memorable” poems I’ve ever written.  (I won’t make you suffer through the rest of it.) Judging by my handwriting at the time, I’m guessing I was around nine or ten years old when I penned that masterpiece. Back in the day, apparently, those two silver coins represented huge value for me, because I compared them to the one thing everyone on the planet desires: LOVE.

It should come as no surprise that my nickel and dime view of love wouldn’t last forever. As I entered the teen years, my experience of love shifted from coins in my pocket to “teardrops on my guitar.” (Well, make that my pillow. Taylor Swift, I am not.)

Photo of 4 hands spelling out the word LOVE

All The Feels

In high school, hormones had me convinced that love was a feeling (or more than a feeling)—one I couldn’t fight anymore. When “the feels” eventually subsided or my heart was broken, that all-consuming “love” evaporated into thin air. And then, I was all out of love, and so lost without ____________ (fill in the blank). Emotion took me over—tied up with sorrow; lost in my soul. And time? It kept flowing. Like a river.

As I matured, I struggled to wrap my mind around that crazy little thing called “love.”

It’s such an ambiguous term, we shouldn’t be shocked people go looking for love in all the wrong places. For with this singular word love, I can express my passion for my husband, my son, penguins, The Princess Bride, quality dark chocolate, NFL football, Ted Lasso, and air conditioning!

If I were to explain the power of love according to hit singles on the radio, it might sound a little bit like this:

Love is an open door…in the air. It keeps lifting me higher and higher. Love is higher than a mountain and thicker than water. It’s all we need, because we found love right where we are. It will keep us together! I love you. You love me…tender. The fact is, I will always love you, because you’re my endless love. And there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make you feel my love. I’m gonna love you forever. Forever and ever, amen. I’m literally lost in love, but I still have one little proble: I wanna know what love is!!!

Stringing together lyrics from a few famous love songs weaves a fascinating tapestry of the feelings-based, self-absorbed, narcissistic version of love our society promotes 24/7/365. The problem is that this kind of love is a poor impostor of the real thing. And let me tell you, ain’t nothing like the real thing, Baby! 😉

In his first letter to the Christ-followers in Corinth, the apostle Paul, wrote one of the most famous poems about love ever penned—and I think we can all agree that it’s inspired! Check out 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a:

Image of the word LOVE spelled vertically with the "e" extending upwards to a heart-shaped balloon

Love is patient,
love is kind.

It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects,
always trusts,
always hopes,
always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Did you notice anything in this list connecting love to how a person makes me feel? No? Me neither.

Paul’s point here is crystal clear: Loving another human has nothing to do with meeting my own needs and everything to do with how I relate to and treat others in my life.

To offer clarity through contrast, Paul highlights what love is not. Love is neither envious nor boastful. “It is not arrogant or rude. It’s not irritable or resentful. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.” In other words, love literally limits the influence of negative emotions on our actions.

Love is not a feeling: Love is a verb.

Offering Christian love—selfless, no-strings-attached, generous—to another living being is a free-will choice, and that’s what makes it so precious. When we choose to love, it’s always a risk, and it’s always a dare. There are no guarantees that our gift of love will be received; however, since love is not made of physical matter, the only way a person can know he or she is loved is through the selfless actions of another.

Words, while welcome and worthwhile, mean nothing without the corresponding actions to back them up: Love must be demonstrated to be known.

"The Lord Himself modeled this when, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Are we literally called to die in order to prove our love? Of course not! But we are called to die to selfish desires—and our own personal agendas and expectations—and simply LOVE one another. Not merely with words, but mostly with actions. Not for recognition or kudos, but solely for the benefit of the other person. No ropes attached.

You might be wondering, “But what about me? Don’t I need love, too?”

Of course! And who better to supply the exact love we need to fill us up than the Lord God Almighty? Our Heavenly Father. It’s only because of our personal relationship with Him and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we are able to share any love with anyone at all! Out of the overflow of that relationship—knowing that we are drawing from a well that will never run dry—we are able to share unselfish love with others.

A Meditation on Love 🙏❤️🤲

Pause for a moment and inhale deeply. Hold it. Exhale slowly. Do this a couple times, and then offer this simple prayer:

“Lord, thank you for loving me as-is.
Thank you for not giving up on me.

You are faithful and your love endures forever. (lift your hands)
I lift my hands to you in worship and adoration. (open your hands)
I open my hands to receive what you have for me today. (bring your hands to your heart)
Fill my heart with your love once again, O Lord.
I’m completely yours.”

This devotional was initially featured in the ‘Rooted at the Throne’ series, a yearlong collection of devotionals curated by renowned author and speaker Rachael Carman on her previous blog.

Photo credits: 
Love spelled with fingers photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
Love word with heart puff licensed by Laura Zielke for this article