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I met the queen of Iowa

July 18, 2007

 

Me and Andy P., writer of "The Queen of Iowa"

Me and Andy P., writer of "The Queen of Iowa"

I’m about haflway through a month worth of camp ministry that I do every year in Southwestern MN, and the theme this year is “The Royal Family” as we do teachings around the idea of being a part of another Kingdom. It reminded me of an encounter I had with unexpected royaly when I met the queen of Iowa recently.

You didn’t know Iowa had a queen? Well, neither did I until I heard Andrew Peterson’s song about her on his record “The Far Country”. When I first heard it, I thought it was the best song on the record, and the story behind it was even more compelling.

Andrew and his buddy Ben were playing a concert in Iowa and were invited to come and play a mini concert in the living room of a woman who wouldn’t be able to attend the concert that evening. As it turns out, in Andrew’s words: 

“…this woman had been brutally raped fifteen years before, and had contracted AIDS as a result. Since that time she has gotten brain cancer and lung cancer and all sorts of maladies that should have killed her. No one could explain why she was still alive. The church found out her story and they just started loving on this woman and her family. She was not a Christian at that time, but several years ago she and her husband accepted Christ.

“We had to wash our hands really well and take off our shoes before we came into the room. There was this woman lying on the couch who had not opened her eyes in a week, but they told us they knew she could hear us because some times she cried. So we sat down and started playing the songs her husband had requested. We barely made it through, and as we played she opened her eyes and started crying.

“What a gift. On the way home on the airplane I tried to write down all the things that God was doing with my heart after that experience. And in my journal I wrote, ‘Tonight I met the queen of Iowa.'”

Amazingly and against all odds, Jody is still alive more than two years later, and we were blessed to get to meet her when the Downhere tour came through Cedar Rapids in May. Taya and I felt like we were living this song that we loved so much, and certain lines came into sharp focus, like when Andrew wrote that he removed his “shoes in that holy place”, he really meant it! We were asked to remove our shoes at the door and wash our hands before entering to minimize the chances of bringing germs into the house.

And what a holy place it was in the “hallowed ground of her living room…” I meagerly offered my songs off of a request list that John, Jody’s husband, had put together. Whether I was able to offer anything worthwhile, I’m not sure, but I do know that I received something priceless.

It’s no wonder that Andrew reckoned her as the Queen of Iowa, the way her husband sat at her side and waited on her hand and foot. Jody appears to be near the very end of her life and was mostly unresponsive while we were there. And yet she is very much alive to John who whispers tenderly into her ear, constantly strokes her hair, and lifts her torso from time to time when she begins to convulse or has trouble breathing. He adores her and waits on her every need. 

It was frightening in a way, because both Taya and I knew that we were undoubtedly in a holy place. Something holy was happening in that room, and it expressed itself in the great selfless love that John has for his wife – maybe best understood as the great love that God has for Jody that He expresses through John.

I don’t think we’ll ever forget being able to play in the courts of this extraordinary Queen, witness to a holy love, catching glimpses of God hiding beside the sofa in a living room in Iowa. 

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