A single Nor'easter or Santa Ana wind can pack a wallop well-remembered. A so-called Perfect Storm merging two major systems creates a super-force to be reckoned with and then recalled in later years. Now we hear of a Polar Vortex, which catastrophically combines three already challenging weather elements to wreak great havoc on all in its path and earn a place on future calendars.
I'd like to transfer the image of this phenomenon to a far different setting -- call it a Vitality Vortex. This humane influence combines faith, hope and love into a force of healing and mercy measured not by size, but by meaning.
Many sacred and secular poets have described these remarkable currents that in powerful and positive ways swirl about those who are hurting, alone or frightened -- pulling them graciously into the very heart of the Divine.
Following the Apostle Paul's word-order as recorded in antiquity, a Vitality Vortex is rooted in faith, which is what much of life's journey is all about. We start by trusting in what is seen and unseen; the Book of Hebrews says as much. While Spirit (and religion) seeks meaning, science seeks evidence.
I asked a budding scientist what invigorated him most about physics: the postulates and facts, or the theories and as yet unknown or unsolved matters. For him, it was the latter.
Without denying the scientific method and objectives in the least, I suggested to him that within such mysteries of life dwells faith. The mighty force of faith swirls about all of us as a sacred gift, not as manufactured skill.
Added to faith is hope, another sacred gift. By itself, hope is important. Even when faith in what is assumed may wane, hope in what is possible can sustain. Hope often makes the difference between ending the trip prematurely and finishing the journey at the goal.
Just ask Ernest Shackleton and company of almost a century ago about the role of hope amid the vast Antarctic waters as they labored in extraordinary fashion against a different vortex of challenges, setbacks and dangers. And when merged, faith and hope create powerful inner vitality that often is difficult to predict or measure.
And then comes love, the greatest gift of all. Alone, love still makes a great difference. Faith and hope can fade, while love (God's essence) remains. And when love combines with faith and hope, this life-empowering vortex churns about quickening ossified or petrified souls, or girding up those caught in darkness of all kinds.
Just ask Nelson Mandela about the power of faith, hope and love co-mingling into the same subtle yet enormous power of a plant called forgiveness growing in seemingly solid rock or water of reconciliation being transported far up a giant tree.
The vortex of faith, hope and love swirls about us as gently as lower Yakima River eddies or as violently as the former Dry Falls cataracts. May you be drawn down into its blessings and find meaning, peace and joy in the aftermath of a Vitality Vortex.
-- Rev. Tim Ledbetter, DMin, BCC is an American Baptist-endorsed professional chaplain and member of Shalom United Church of Christ in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.