In times of affliction we commonly meet with the sweetest experiences of the love of God.
The words from a song dance through my head as I sit down to write today. Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold. I first heard it sung around a campfire as a Brownie Scout in the 1960s. That catchy little lyric and tune come from the words of a poem written by Joseph Parry, who was born in 1841 and died in 1903, so it’s an oldie but a goodie – a song and a message that have stood the test of time.
Two of the “old” friends I had the opportunity to reconnect with at Ruby Buckle's one-year celebration were some of the first Christian friends I had the pleasure of making. They were longstanding members in the church choir my father and I sang with. I was the new girl. Within a couple weeks of unpacking the moving truck that had carried my belongings from Montana back to Minnesota, I was seated in the choir loft with a folder chock-full of sheet music. I was a brand-new Christian, so the songs were new to me.
As I look back, I see the grace of God setting me down in that choir. I had no friends in my new community. The old friends I hung around with in high school and college had scattered. The ones whose whereabouts I did know of were spending time in places I knew I shouldn't go anymore – bars, dance halls, and the like.
I didn’t understand it then, but this loft full of singers was family. I was now a member of the family of God, and these fellow choristers were more closely related to me than a blood relative who didn’t share the bond of Christ. These new relationships being formed would become of great value because they remain with me still, even over years of living apart.
Two of these precious sisters, Kathy and Pam, stopped by to visit the Ruby Buckle booth at the conference we were all attending. I had to get hugs and updates! Though many years have passed since our last embrace, the bonds of love were as strong as ever. And even in that brief exchange in the midst of hundreds of women scurrying about, there were tears shared. Beautiful tears. If they had had a color, they would have been gold.
Kathy lost a most precious loved one 17 years ago — her beautiful boy, Joshua, age 14. I received the phone call informing me of the accident that took his life right after I had dropped my own teenage son at the Minneapolis airport for a long summer mission trip overseas. Joshua had a heart for missions too and wanted to become a missionary pilot. He was already in training to make that dream become a reality. Oh, the searing pain of such a great loss.
The large church was filled to overflowing for his funeral. Standing room only. I was in the balcony with a view from above, and I have a vivid memory from the service. Kathy and her husband stood next to their son’s beautiful casket draped with a lush spray, lifting up their hands toward heaven while we sang beautiful songs of praise to our great God. It was a picture of rejoicing in sorrow that I had never seen before. That's why I've never forgotten.
There is a certain song sung that day that plays on the radio still. Whenever I hear it, I can’t help but think of my friend and her husband, and their beautiful daughter who lost her only sibling. I’ve also got a cherished handwritten recipe card in my file box from this precious friend. It's a must-have for girls who enjoy cake baking on occasion: seven–minute frosting. The sweet, white fluffy stuff that crowns the simplest cake and makes it a masterpiece.
The song and the recipe card have reminded me to keep praying for them through the years.