Sunday, July 15, 2012

Friends are Friends Forever...revisited

"The two of us have vowed friendship in God's name, saying, 
'God will be the bond between me and you..." 
1 Samuel 20:42 (msg)

My oldest friend, Lori, went to be with Jesus one year ago today. This was the post I wrote just days after she passed away. In her honor I would like to re-post it today.

Love you and miss you, Lori!

I was born in Arlington, VA where my dad was stationed in the Navy. I was little when he left the Navy and began to work for the government. But when I was seven years old, we left Virginia and moved to California, where we lived for two years. At the age of nine, we moved again to Houston, Texas. I have vague memories of little girls I played with in Virginia and California, but because I was so young, many of those friendship were forgotten. When we moved to Houston, one of the little girls I met was our pastors youngest daughter, Lori. She was a year younger than I, but we became fast friends. 

Oh, the slumber parties; the church camps; the Missionette classes; the birthday parties. We spent lots of weekends at each others homes. And when we weren't together, we were on the phone. Many were the nights I remember sitting in the hallway of my house talking on the phone with her (our phone was in my parents bedroom, so I stretched the cord out into the hallway). We would talk for HOURS and then it became a "you hang up first", "No, you hang up first"....until finally she would say, "I really have to go now" at which point I would begin singing
Sleep tight, 
And pleasant dreams to you.
Here's a wish
And a prayer
That all your dreams come true
And now til we meet again
Adios, Au revoir, Auf Wiedersehen.....
(Anyone remember Lawrence Welk?)

This sequence would be repeated often before one of our mothers would make us get off the phone. We grew to become teenagers, and I graduated from High School the year before she did. She gave me a beautiful figurine of a young woman in a long dress holding a bonnet....I still have that figurine on my shelf. A reminder of the young girls we were and the memories we shared. She had an after school job as a bank teller at a bank near my home. She worked the drive-thru, and I opened an account there so I could go and visit her. There was a guy that worked with her, and she set me up on my first blind date with him. I think his name was Randy and we went on two dates....he was kind of an odd cookie. We laughed about that experience for a long time.

I believe it was that same year that her parents went to Switzerland on a long trip; several weeks, I think. Her brother and sister were already out of the house, so I came to stay with her while parents were gone. We had so much fun... pretending to be all grown up and on our own....Just Lori, me and "Little Bit", her pet poodle. Her mom brought me a beautiful crystal bell from Switzerland with my initials etched in it. 

We became young women...Lori got married before I did and moved away; Dallas, I think. I believe John was still in college. When they came back, they moved to Pasadena and began attending a different church closer to their home. We saw each other a few times when she would come to visit her parents church. But soon I was married and Mark and I had moved away....we lost touch. But I never forget my childhood friend.

As the age of Facebook came around and I began to reconnect with old friends from High School and church, I began looking for her. You would be surprised how many Lori Moon's there are! One day I found Donna Banning (her sister-in-law) and sent her a message that I was looking for Lori, would she please give my contact information to her. About a week later, I received a Facebook friend request from Lori! I was SO excited! I had found my oldest friend! We talked on the phone, sent emails and facebook chats to catch up on the nearly 30 years we had been separated. It was as if we had never been apart....the years melted away. She had the same sweet voice, the same quirky sense of humor, and the same love and compassion for others that I remembered from all those years ago. 

As we shared with each other how our lives had grown and changed, she rather casually mentioned she had been fighting breast cancer. She was so upbeat and positive. She had so much faith... she knew her Heavenly Father was her source, her strength, her Savior and her healer. She was a valiant warrior....and I was encouraged by her strength. Every time we spoke, I would ask, "Lori, how are you doing?" and she would always respond, "Oh, I'm good." I never spoke to her when she was down or discouraged. 

Sharon, Lori, Lena
"Friends are Friends Forever"
Last June, my husband and I made a trip back to Houston. I had not been back to Houston in almost 22 years! And I told Mark that if we went to Houston, I was going to see Lori. It was a trip full of disasters and at one point we almost decided to stay home. But we made it to town, and on June 8th I spent three amazing hours with Lori and one of our other childhood friends, Sharon Messersmith. We had so much fun, laughing over old memories; crying over losses we had each experienced; rejoicing in victories we had won. It was a most precious time. When we parted, we prayed together and it was truly a holy moment. The Lord was in that room with us and we all knew it. It was an absolute gift from our Father.....

Last Friday, on July 15th, Lori went to be with Jesus. My first response was sadness - my friend was gone. My second response was gratefulness - the Lord had given me a most precious gift in allowing me to visit with her and love on her before He took her home. And finally, my response is to rejoice with her....for she is in that place that we all long to be....

the arms of the Father
the throne room of God. 
No more pain, 
no more fear...
and she's probably telling Jesus her really corny jokes! 

My heart aches from the loss. I will miss our phone calls and emails. I will miss her encouragement and confidence. But I will remember her faith in God, her absolute love of Jesus and her valiant courage. 

In the words of Michael W Smith, "Friends are friends forever, if the Lord's the Lord of them...". Our friendship did not end because we were separated for so many years. And it will not end just because she left this earthly dwelling.  I will see her again.....and I can't wait for her to show me around the streets of gold!

Lori Banning were a true friend, and a valiant warrior! I miss you, dear friend.... "and now til we meet again...."  I love you!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Failure. . . Redemption . . . Restoration

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and 
pray for each other so that you may be healed. 
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
James 5:16 (AMP)

There is a fine line between admitting your failures and being a failure. I am trying hard not to cross that line. No, this is not an invitation to a pity party . . . it is a confession.

The fact is that I have failed. I have failed my children, I have failed my husband, I have failed my friends, I have failed myself, and . . . I have failed my God. And if we all were to be truthful, everyone would make that same confession. The bottom line is - I am tired of failing.

I sat at the beach this morning having a heart to heart chat with God, confessing my failures, grief-stricken that my failures have had affected others, and admitting that I just cannot do anything without Him. 

I was reminded of His grace;
that grace that is sufficient for all of my inadequacies,

I was reminded of His mercy:
new every morning,

and then . . .

I was reminded of His redeeming love;
that love that covers a multitude of sins and yes, even failures.

And I wondered, does His redeeming love cover the affect that my failures have had on others? Will He repair the damage I have done to others through my own inadequacies as a wife, mother, friend, etc.? I have to believe that it does. My prayer this morning was not just for myself, that I would be more  faithful and disciplined in everything that I do and to everyone I have contact with; but also that His redemption would cover and repair the results of those failures.

The Amplified version of James 5:16 puts it this way: 
"Confess to one another your faults . . . and pray for one another, 
that you may be healed and restored." 

So this is my confession: I have failed. 

But this is my hope: I have a Redeemer! 

I choose to believe that His redeeming love covers not only my imperfections, but will bring healing and restoration to those around me. Exodus 6:6 says, "I will redeem you with an outstretched arm" and Isaiah 59:1 says, "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save." 

Your thoughts are always appreciated!


Friday, July 6, 2012

This is my Hope...

"Most blessed is the man who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the Lord, 
and whose hope and confidence the Lord is."
Jeremiah 17:7 (AMP)
As I mentioned before, I am taking a philosophy class on worldviews. The last week has been filled with so much information regarding the seven basic worldviews: Monotheism, Deism, Naturalism, Nihilism, Pantheism, Existentialism and New Age. I find myself feeling a good deal of pain for all of those who are seeking “enlightenment” when what they really need is Jesus. And what I really do not understand is why people are so determined to make life and believing in God more difficult than it has to be. As I read through all of these philosophies and what they believe, so many of them have no purpose for being. Existentialism – we just exist. Nihilism – there’s nothing to believe in so no purpose for being. Naturalism has no absolutes; Pantheism says you won’t find purpose now, so reincarnation will bring you back again and again. Even Deism, which believes in God, says that He just created the universe and man, but then walked away and left us on our own.There is nothing to look forward to – no hope or future. It is purposeless!!
            This week, the James study I am doing by Beth Moore seemed to parallel what we are studying. We read James 1:2 “consider it all joy”; but then we turned to John 16:20 where Jesus says, “Your grief will turn to joy”. The word for grief there is actually anguish (Greek thlipsis) and “conveys the picture of something being crushed, pressed, or squeezed from a great weight. It is used to denote grievous physical affliction or mental and spiritual distress” (Moore, 2011, p. 68). Beth Moore made the comment in her video lesson, “We can live with pain better than we can live with purposelessness.”  And my mind immediately went to all of these philosophies we had gone over in class. They are filled with purposelessness.
            God gives me purpose; a reason to get up in the morning. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and fine me when you seek me with all your heart.’”
            That is my “mantra” for lack of a better word. He has plans for me, he listens to me, and when I seek Him, I will find Him. This is my hope… my hope is in the Lord.