Monday, March 7, 2011

A Lifetime's Not Too Long

She has played many roles--wife, mother, foster parent, janitor's wife, church pianist, church secretary, choir director, prayer partner, pastor's wife, grandmother, teacher.

I have known her best simply as friend. 

It was music that brought us together, and for a brief time, working in the same office.  We call each other Thelma and Louise because of our shared innate ability to get into difficult situations together, none of which I will chronicle here.  (You'll have to wait for that until after the statute of limitations expires.) We are notorious for sharing a brain that has a mind of its own and spends most of its time on vacation at exotic locales far away from the both of us.

Thanks to a major confluence of events(or could it have been...God?!) involving a local radio talk show giveaway,  my acting on an impulse, a charged cell phone, uncharacteristic patience and perseverance (I dialed...8 times?) and a guess(!) that was the right answer, I ended up with two free tickets to a concert Thursday night.  My Dear Professor's chronic fatigue now prohibits long drives from home and attending late night events, and so the second ticket was offered to my dear friend.





It was billed as the "2 Friends Tour".  Michael W Smith and Amy Grant played together in the 80s when "Smitty" was the relatively unknown musical director/pianist for a young, rising star in Christian/contemporary music. They collaborated on several songs, but their careers and life choices caused a gradual, unintended separation.

Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
I can't believe the hopes He's granted
Means a chapter of your life is through

The evidence of true friendship is that it never ends. It is an invisible connection that endures all things and can be picked up right where it left off,  regardless of the number of intervening years.

But we'll keep you close as always
It won't even seem you've gone
'Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong


The lasting nature of Michael and Amy's friendship was revealed in one beautiful moment Thursday night.  Amy was introducing a song Michael had written about the struggle he felt sending his daughter off to college.  Amy connected with that struggle, and spoke about how difficult it was to sing with the raging emotions in a mother's heart.  Michael said softly, "I've got your back."  Amy stopped, and in a moment of heartfelt realization, turned to him and said, "You always have."

And friends are friends forever
If the Lord's the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
'Cause the welcome will not end
Though it's hard to let you go
In the Father's hands we know
That a lifetime's not too long
To live as friends

It was not a coincidence that at that moment, in the Benedum Theater, I was standing next to my dear friend for the past 20 years.  This was the first concert we had attended together, and will be the last we have opportunity for in western PA. In a few months, after 27 years in exile, my Dear Professor and I are packing up and moving back to our country of origin, Texas.

And with the faith and love God's given
Springing from the hope we know
We will pray the joy you live in
Is the strength that now you show

If ever there was one (other than my Dear Professor) who has "had my back" these long years of exile in a strange place, it has been my dear friend.

We'll keep you close as always
It won't even seem you've gone
'Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong

I pray that she can say the same. All I know is that her friendship, her modeling of Jesus, her wise counsel, and her wicked sense of humor have been a place of safety for my heart.  In being who she is,  she has given me a living, breathing picture of true friendship.  The kind that Jesus speaks of.

The "laying down your life for the other" kind.

Though it's hard to let you go
In the Father's hands we know
That a lifetime's not too long
To live as friends

Though miles will now separate us, our hearts remain connected through our shared love of music, our awe of the One who is our true friend,


and the memory of standing arm in arm, singing with Michael and Amy and the others in attendance,

"No a lifetime's not too long to live as friends"* 

(*Friends are Friends Forever, by Michael W Smith)

My counting with the Community of One Thousand Gifts:
190. my dear friend
191. 20 years of sharing a brain
192. radio station giveaway
193. perseverance
194. a charged cell phone
195. acting on impulse
196. an answered question
197. shared experiences
198. memories evoked by music
199. difficulties that forge bonds
200. laughter
201. joy
202. time together
203. a beautiful theatre
204. beautiful music
205. a testimony of real friendship
206. worshipping together
207. the child sitting next to me singing "Mighty to Save" with great gusto
208. a successful, talented man who is compassionate and humble
209. green rooms
210. generosity
211. finding my way to Pittsburgh and back without getting seriously lost
212. an offering of talent back to its Creator in praise
213. agape