Everything on here is basically the same. I love hearing those "Welcome," "Good-Bye" and "You've Got Mail" sounds. My soul, what memories! I remember writing emails in AOL Mail, specifically the "Spiritual Diaries" that I had sent out to a few folks (see my website). This was before the days of AOL Hometown, where God allowed me to create not just one, but two websites, the main one and the second one which was my Poetry site. Oh my soul, how I wish they were still available.
There is one major difference here now: no AIM chat, the predecessor of phone texting. It used to be in the upper right corner of the AOL window. There was the Buddy List, which held a precious few names whom I spoke with. Sigh. So many memories were made there for me, when I used to wait for my friends to come online and the "Buddy In" sound of an opening door played. I would get so excited when I heard that sound! And when the "Buddy Out" sound of a slamming door played, I was heartbroken, and wondered when my next conversation with a real Christian would be.
You see, I was a baby believer for 20 years, and God had sent a few people my way through this program called America Online. He knew I needed to grow, so He sent Pastor Wayne, Donna and Gary my way during those early years, and how I loved every moment of it! To me, when I talked to them, it was as if I was speaking with the Lord Himself. They were literally speaking for God, which astounded and amazed me. That's how I thought back then. It was a respite and a refuge from my life while married to an unsaved man. Thank You, Lord, for those early years of spiritual growth.
I did unfortunately have a few encounters with pseudo-Christians, a.k.a. people who believed in water baptism for salvation, or speaking in tongues, or healing, all of that charismatic junk, which thankfully, God steered me away from. I never would have guessed that they were not saved at all. I remember talking to a man in the chat room about being saved, and he claimed (and I never forgot this) that to be saved, you had to speak in tongues. I was mortified, and for days afterward I would try to speak in tongues because I knew I WAS saved. He was dead WRONG, however, and I never did speak in tongues, just jibber-jabber which was not of God at all. I wonder if that man is still around, because I'd like to give him a spiritual whipping!!
Pastor Wayne was the man who taught me to forsake the Catholic church I was going to, since I was a Christian believer and I needed to go to a "Calvary" church (by this he meant a Bible-believing church). I remember his internet went out for a time, and I had to go to the nearby laundromat to give him a "collect call" (when someone pays for your call for you at a pay phone; oh my soul, that was long ago). I did this a few times, and when I doubted, he said to me in no uncertain terms, "Do NOT stop calling!" Unfortunately I had to stop because I thought my husband would find out what I was doing. I never heard from Pastor Wayne again. But I thank the Lord for this man's exceptional effort to minister to me. He was my very first Pastor! I hope he's still alive and serving the Lord.
I also remember wanting to meet Gary so much. He lived in Michigan, so that was never to be. I still have him on my Facebook, and he is now married and has two teenage children. I remember he was a teenager of only 13 when he and I met on AOL. I even thought he could travel out to Philly and perhaps stay in a hotel so I could meet him in person. I even remember the hotel. Sadly, these were just pipe dreams which never happened.
Donna is the only AOL friend I got to meet in person. To me, she was the most Godly woman. She was saved from a life of being a lesbian. She had long silver hair, and she stood only 5 feet tall. I loved her so much. She was visiting her friend on the outskirts of Philly when I met her, and she had to go back home to Washington (the state) after a few months. God used her to teach me to be loving and sweet, and she left an indelible mark on me. She even told me that God gives us the power of changing the weather, which unfortunately is a falsehood (it's God who controls the weather, not us), but the way she said it, so convincingly and powerfully, I actually believed it for a time.
I even brought my young children to meet Donna, and we all went to see her friend who lived in an apartment complex, but I can't remember where it was. I just remember the playground, and the swings which we loved to go on. They still remember Donna, but they were very young. Her friend had a teenage son. She gave my youngest son a watch to keep. They served us hot chocolate. I remember the layout of the apartment. It was very small, and I felt as if I stayed there myself. So many memories.
A bad time in my life came when I decided I wanted to take my children and leave my wayward husband. I remember talking to Donna about it, and she had told me she would meet me (only God knows where) so we could go to her apartment in Washington State and live with her. I never learned the city she lived in. I wanted to take my kids, but I remember how upset they were at the very idea that they were going somewhere without their dad. And somehow he found out, and he was very angry at me, but God got a hold of me powerfully through that trying time. Through this ordeal, the Lord patiently taught me that it's better to obey Him and stay faithful as a Godly wife than to disrupt my whole family. Afterwards, I never had another urge to leave again. Thank You, Lord Jesus.
AOL is a fountainhead of memories and much-needed lessons in my early Christian life. I'm convinced that God uses people who want to be used by Him, and when they are, they have such a powerful impact on others that the time spent with each one molds and shapes them to be more like Christ. It's called "discipling." That's why we as Christians must be patient and loving to others as Christ would. There is a baby Christian out there somewhere in this cold, wicked world, all alone, wanting to love and learn about the Lord Jesus. Will you be their mentor?
As I said, I was very young in the faith and very impressionable during those years. I remember my friends with fondness and thankfulness. Even as I was writing this post my mind went back, and I wish one of them will IM me....
"Buddy In" sound!