Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Heard the Bells on Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is one date I don’t struggle with too much. Dana and I put that one in the “Hallmark marketing” category; plus, she was usually playing the harp, and while we weren’t sappy about it, we liked to think that every day had some Valentine’s Day element to it. Still, I think about the love when this date rolls around (jewelry companies make sure of that).

On Valentine’s Day evening I took a little neighborhood walk at about 6 p.m. and heard the church bells (to see why I would call them the church bells, you may want to check out this post, The Deer Story). I decided to let myself listen to what they were pealing, to let the hymns encourage me. Hymn 1: “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” You cannot get more resolute than that! And there’s something about “a bulwark never failing” echoing across a quiet neighborhood to give you some needed assurance. And then Hymn 2: “God of our Fathers,” which, as strange as it may sound, could not have been a more appropriate Valentine’s Day song for me.

Dane, one to eschew tradition when it’s just for the sake of tradition, planned a few things in our wedding ceremony that diverted from expected wedding ceremony paths, one of which, using a hymn for a wedding march. The church where we were married, Vine Street Christian, in Nashville, had an incredible pipe organ and we had an incredible organist, Carol Tornquist. Those elements needed to be featured. And while Dane was the bride and the one in white, she wanted to be sure that God was the star of the show. We actually had two “congregational” hymn sings (since then, whenever we heard “Joyful Joyful” anywhere we’d look longingly at each other and say, “Ahhh, they’re playing our song.”) And the wedding march? “God of our Fathers.”

It was all as big and majestic as you could imagine.

So here I am taking a walk on Valentine’s Day, listening to our wedding march being chimed out on the bells that ministered so deeply to Dana in her cancer battle, the bells that gave me the “deer God stamp” that has ministered to all of us. I’m thinking there must be something to this, besides making me cry in front of my neighbors.

I’m still not to the point where thoughts of our wedding or memories of other special life events generate warm feelings of gratitude. They will someday but right now those thoughts still bring on a pretty tough emotional ride. However, I have begun to process this question: What is a best-loved guy to do after he’s lost the source of that love, and lost the object of his great love? I think there will be a nice list of good answers as I continue to process that question. I get the sense that that question is a seed for resolve and perspective. As the seed takes root and the resolve and perspective form I will begin to see who and what I am to be as a person as a result of having loved greatly and lost greatly. For now I will hold to one of the verses of that great hymn. I think that’s the “something” that I’m to hold to from this brief Valentine’s Day God Stamp:

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

This verse captures the essence of this journey so far, with particular regard to the God Stamps. There have been a couple things I can say with assurance about this journey: it is a toilsome way; God has been near from night to day; He has filled my life with love and grace divine.

I’m eager to share a couple experiences over these past couple weeks. I’m planning to post them soon: I am currently in a “run to the fire” experience, skiing in Montana with our friends Kay and Randy Creech which included our second annual “Dine and Ski” event in honor of Dana; also, I have now seen and held new “buzzin’” August Christopher Chaney; and of course, there's the matter of the Super Bowl champs, the Green Bay Packers. More to share soon.
With much love and gratitude,