Friday, June 21, 2013

Keeps me singing, keeps me breathing

Mile log: 603

"Come set your rule and reign
In our hearts again
Increase in us, we pray, 
Unveil why we're made
Come, set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls
Holy Spirit, come invade us now
We are Your Church, 
And we need Your power in us!"

Abby and I sang the words loud and clear in the car this morning, as we drove to my pulmonary doctor's office at the hospital. I have my regular 6-month check-up in two weeks, but I had to go this morning to do a "breathing test" so the doctor could really know how I am doing. In the metaphorical way the tech put it: "We need to track how your plumbing and filtering systems are working."  

I recently read Joni and Ken, a new book about the unusual and powerful love story of Ken and Joni Eareckson Tada. (Um, read it!) One habit Joni has had for years is that she sings hymns and praise songs as loud and strong as she can to combat two pitfalls - depression and pneumonia.  So, while I did go through my morning routine of nebulizing and machine-coughing, I thought I'd better also prepare for my appointment by singing like Joni does. I don't know if Joni ever listens to or sings along with Rend Collective Experiment, but I did today. And wow, was it good. 

So I breathed into a machine, and followed orders that sounded a lot like Lamaze coaching, and watched the line on the graph go from a mellow flow to a spike-and-plunge that translated into decimal-pointed numbers in a chart. Crazy, how we can reduce the wonder of the human body to charts and graphs. The tech was really impressed though, and showed me how the lines and numbers matched the test measurements she took of me a year and a half ago. The amazing thing about it is, in that year and a half, I have spent two weeks in the hospital with bronchitis/pneumonia last spring, and had it again in the comfort of my own home for two weeks this past winter. The tech said that people with my kind of weakness just don't bounce back from that kind of respiratory distress - not in the 100% way that I did... plus I'm two years older, and she said age naturally factors in. I think that is what we call a miracle... right? 

It encouraged me. It made me recall congestion and pain, and smile at the quiet flow of air that effortlessly filled my lungs today. My "plumbing" is clear, my "filters" are clean, and I can breathe and sing. Sing! Abby and I swung by Starbucks on the way home to buy celebratory drinks and make a toast: to restoration. God is in the business of restoring... and I know that he has restored my lungs and my strength in this season for a good purpose. 

"Unleash Your kingdom power
Reaching the near and far
No force of hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts. 
For You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ
We are Your church, and
We are the hope on earth!"

Monday, June 17, 2013

Reflections on a wedding

Mile log: 590

Another wedding has come and gone... Yesterday, our friends Joe and Lisa got married, and the Women of the Hobbit Hole were blessed to share in the celebration. Today as I drink my coffee and look at pictures and listen to romantic music and remember the highlights of the wedding, my mind is forming some clearer reflections on it all.

It was at their families' church, and their traditions (we were warned) are quite different from what we are used to. The wedding was part of the regular church service. There was no exchange of rings, no romantic songs/poems/personalized vows, no unity candle/sand/tree/what-have-you, no kiss (?!),  and no wedding march. As the congregation sang Psalm 23 in beautiful a capella four-part harmony (without a worship leader or choir), the entire wedding party came in together, including the bride. They all sat on the front pews for the sermon, and at the end of the service Joe and Lisa stood together and said their vows, and that was about it. Actually, I almost forgot that we were there for a wedding.

Initially, this felt very strange to me, even wrong. In every wedding I've ever been to or dreamed of, the bride and groom are the focus and centerpiece of the occasion. Even in Christian weddings, when they give God all the glory, they are the visual symbol we look at. And I've always thought that was the way it should be... and I still believe there is nothing wrong with that. But the more I think about it, the more it made sense, the way this wedding was done... it truly was not about the couple, but about worshiping the Lord and focusing on him, in a more literal way than I'm used to seeing. I definitely admire the humility it took for Lisa to surrender and submit "her day" to God like she did.

Sure, I really missed the moment when the music changes and everyone stands and looks to the back of the church to see her appear, so radiant and beautiful. And yes, I was pretty disappointed that I didn't get to relish the pastor giving them permission to kiss as husband and wife in front of everyone. But I left feeling like I had truly witnessed a holy and sacred thing, and that God had been honored above all... and I'm so thankful I got to be there.