A Pattern of Love in All Things

by Victoria Loorz

by Victoria Loorz

The resurrection is a pretty extreme application of our monthly theme of “ReVIVE.” It would be a little hokey, in fact, if we were trying to be literal about it. But, the resurrection story of Jesus is interesting to me not just because Jesus walked out of a tomb and through walls, freaking everyone out along the way. The story is fantastically and naturally and wonderfully and simply relevant because the pattern of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection follows a pattern found in everything. It’s a pattern of Love.

Life simply does follow this pattern: Life: Death: Grief: New Life. It’s built into nature. It’s built into transformation. It’s built into the stories we tell. It’s just the way it is. Love is all about What Actually Is, not what we think it (or at least the “other”) should be.

LIFE. It begins with life, regular good life. Life that you hope would and should, honestly, go on forever. A lover who understands you and sees you and laughs at all your jokes. A family you made all on your own with children and a house and holidays. A healthy body that can do anything: look hot in your new jeans, climb mountains, cry at happy movies, move furniture for your friends. A job that uses your skills and challenges you in just the right ways, bringing in more money than you really need.

GOOD FRIDAY. And THEN something happens. The lover who betrays you. The children who move away and stop talking to you. The body that won’t stop hurting long enough to make it to the market much less the mountaintop. The job that gets cut out and never really materializes again. The car accident, the violence, the loss, the ending. Everything you thought life would be….isn’t. Good Friday comes in a variety of ways….almost never welcome.

HOLY SATURDAY. Followed by an emptiness, a grief, a silence. A wondering what you did wrong. A confusion. A loneliness. Sometimes we try to skip this step, this Holy Saturday, and we want to climb right into whatever can take us out of this pain. But when we try to force the end of the pain, it never leads into New Life. It is just Distraction or Denial or Delay. And it usually leads to Addiction. But, when we try to avoid the pain of Love lost, we miss something. We miss the actual resurrection. The pattern requires a time of emptiness, surrender. When you are in the clutches of grief, your priorities suddenly get rearranged. Urgent projects are suddenly rendered meaningless. People you used to think were important to you disappear and others who you never noticed, show up and sit with you. As you grieve, something shifts in you, a softening begins to happen.

EASTER SUNDAY. Only Mystery we sometimes recognize as God can bring about the new life of resurrection after a major loss. And while we don’t want to even think about “something more” when in the reckoning of loss and death, this is the only way through. All we can do is face the death and surrender to it, allow the emptiness so that we can receive whatever lies on the other side. When you do allow it, something new awakens in you. New gifts, new insights, new perspectives. Deeper connection with your soul. The new life will not bring back that which you lost. Your lost loved one will probably not be resurrected and revived like Jesus. But, new life does follow. Something expands in you …. a compassion, a kindness and tenderness you never knew before being thrashed open, and a deepened capacity to love.

My favorite book of 2018 is called Matter and Desire: an Erotic Ecology. In it, author and biologist Andreas Weber, with nearly swooning language befitting Song of Solomon, describes how all of life is actually grounded in this pattern of life-death-emptiness-new life and how it is Love. I like this kind of thinking. It’s spiritual truth told through a non-spiritual lens and language. Sometimes we forget that spirit and matter are not actually disconnected.

The logic of the living world, he says “relies on the fact that every species is dependent on another, that every act of taking is balanced by an act of giving.” The inherent relationship between predator and prey reveals a degree of intimate interconnectivity. The salad you eat require the lives of the carrot and beet to be taken. The giving of one life to continue to life of another is built into the system. “All matter,” he says, “can only be understood as the experience of being in relationship.” The world is not a series of singular autonomous separate beings. “Everything is a dynamic of interaction where one thing changes through the change of another.” And that change is a pattern of new life, surrendering to death, surrendering to new life.

I had to cut back the ferns hogging all the space in the front of my house this morning. They were not allowing the purple Easter-looking flowers enough sun to stand up straight. I didn’t kill them, but it felt like it. I’m not a gardener and so i have an aversion to cutting things back. But it was clear that unless I participate in the Pattern of Love, which in this case, was cutting off the still alive fern fronds suffocating everyone else, the new life of the flowers, longing to show up this Spring, was not going to happen.

It is good to celebrate Easter, new life, resurrection. But, the whole pascal mystery, the whole passion week is the pattern of Love in this sacred story, not just the Sunday part. The deaths come without my beckoning. The new life comes mysteriously and in ways I can’t contrive. The only part of the pattern where I actually have any agency is the part where I face up to the losses, accept them, grieve, and hold out my broken heart in a posture of vulnerability. It takes a lifetime, it seems, to trust the pattern of love in all things. All things. For the new and deeper life I seek, for the love I long to see awakened, what must I surrender? What is dying or already dead in me that is waiting patiently for me to grieve and feel and enter into emptiness so that I can be open to the new life starting to unfold within me? Dare we trust that in all things, the pattern of love is enacted in us and through us, to the whole world?

Come to the Easter Walk next Sunday, which honors the pattern of love weaving through the life, death, new life of our city and the story of Jesus.

April // re-VIVE

Photo by Sissi Zhang on Upsplash // Post by Jory Mickelson

Photo by Sissi Zhang on Upsplash // Post by Jory Mickelson

We are entering into a new month. The origins of the word April are uncertain. The Latin aperire means “to open.” This could refer to the opening of spring flowers, or to something lost to us entirely in the modern world. But April is a time of opening. The skies open to let down showers. The earth opens to send up green life. Our word for the month of April is REVIVE.

Revive is a kind of restoration to life or consciousness. It means to regain life or strength. Or what we give strength or energy to. To renew in the mind or memory. To become active or flourishing again.

And nature all around us is growing, restoring, showing off what it does best.

What we can begin to ask ourselves this month is where are the dark and dusty spots within ourselves? What have we put off or put away for too long? Is there something within us that is crying for our attention, our energy, or our care?

This isn’t an exercise in doom and gloom. This kind of thinking can be a joyful undertaking. This is an opportunity for us to lavish our time and our nurturing on something that we usually don’t give our time or nourishment to.

Is there a hobby you have put aside that used to bring you joy? Is there an activity you haven’t done in “a dog’s age” that you used to give you life? These count. These may especially count in the riotous goings on in the season.

Take a moment and ask yourself what needs to be restored within you. Make it a small prayer, like the Psalmist when they say: Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? (Psalm 85:6). Rejoice! Not punish. Not talk down. Not berate for forgetting about or avoiding or letting go. Revive something that causes you to REJOICE! Something that gives you and others delight!

During my childhood, every Easter basket included an inexpensive kite. In the weeks that followed, I would stand in a windy field and fly it as high as the air would carry it. It was a joyful way to spend time outdoors. It was a delight to see the kite dive and dip and maybe even come crashing to earth! Maybe I DO need to go fly a kite again. Maybe you do too.

One small delight I have been focused on is writing small messages in the skin of the banana my spouse takes to work with him. He doesn’t see the notes when he leaves, but when he goes to eat his breakfast, his banana is telling him “I love you” or some other sentiment. It lets him know that he is being thought of, being payed attention to, being revived in my mind on a daily basis.

Where can you add joy and delight to your own life and to the lives of others? Let April be the season in which we all begin!

Rebooting Lenten Practices

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

So. We’re halfway through Lent.

For me, that means I’m supposed to be half way through some kind of Lenten practice. Traditionally this meant a fast of some sort. I’ve fasted from sugar (not all out, mind you, or my sweet teeth would have rotted away), I’ve fasted from technology (that one didn’t go very well), I’ve fasted from negative self talk, fasted from buying new outdoor gear, and fasted from complaining.

At some point I realized that instead of removing something in my life, maybe I should add something in. So I added in Bible time, or praying, or reading great spiritual books, or getting more exercise.

And yet, I just don’t know. Several weeks ago, when Lent actually started, I saw a Facebook post with a quote from a famous person about how Lenten practices have zero gain if they don’t benefit someone else. Of course I can’t find that quote now. Dangit.

BUT, it’s what I’ve been leaning toward for several years. If this faith that we have is world-changing, if the radical love that Jesus gave to all persons is actually for all and not just a privileged few, then wouldn’t Lent be all about benefiting others?

So, yeah, great, it’s a fantastic idea to have a Lenten practice that brings goodness to others! I mean, I can cut out sugar and fast from negative self talk anytime because hey, that’s about ME. Seriously, I can start and stop this on a whim.

And yes, I could also start and stop an others-benefitting spiritual practice anytime, too. But what about now? Midway through Lent? Can’t we just start next year?

What if we could reboot Lent and say, “Hey, so I might’ve missed the Lenten boat. So what? That Lent ship returns to the dock every single day through Sat., Apr 20. It sails every day! Let’s go check it out.”

If we want to benefit others, then why would we be bothered about starting a Lenten practice halfway through Lent? It’s okay. I certainly haven’t done well with sticking with anything this Lent, and I don’t want to feel crappy about that. So how about we abandon the crappy feels and instead just feel good about doing something positive instead.

If you’re game for this, here are a few suggestions:

-       Buy no plastic (plastic is harming life everywhere)

-       Send a message of kindness every day to someone who doesn’t usually hear from you (or to a business or non-profit or politician or person that you value)

-       Donate every day to charities or churches doing good stuff

-       Offer to do favors for others and actually do them

-       Drive less; carpool, take public transit or use your own human power

-       Give away a lot of stuff that you don’t need

-       Volunteer for service projects

-       Babysit for parents/guardians who trust you (please don’t endanger the kid’s life if this isn’t your jam)

-       Highlight a social injustice every day on social media

-       Highlight a goodness every day on social media

-       Take edible treats to your neighbors (again, please don’t endanger your neighbor’s lives is this isn’t your jam)

-       Write postcards to politicians asking them to work toward common good

-       Stand on a corner and hold a sign that says something awesome and life-giving

-       Address bullying

-       Start a fundraiser for something important and work on it every day

-       Use less water

-       Buy local

There’s an infinite number of ways that we can benefit others.

If it’s the ONLY spiritual practice that we do, it’s still well worth it. 

Lent on.

by Charis Weathers