|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.70(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Sally Clarkson is the mother of four grown children who walk with God. She is the author of many books, including Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe and The Mission of Motherhood. She is a speaker, writes a personal blog at ITakeJoy.com, and is the director of Mom Heart Ministry, an initiative to inspire, encourage, and restore mothers' hearts to God's heart for motherhood.
Sarah Clarkson, a graduate of Oxford University, is the author of Book Girl, The Lifegiving Home, Read for the Heart, and Caught Up in a Story. She blogs at www.sarahclarkson.com.
Joy Clarkson is a lover of God, people, and a crafter of words. She is working on her doctorate in theology, imagination, and the arts at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
Erica Sullivan is a professional actress of both stage and screen and holds her MFA from the Yale School of Drama. Currently a company member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, she has performed in New York and regionally with such companies as the Lincoln Center, Soho Repertory Theatre, and New Dramatists. She makes her home in Ashland, OR, with her family.
Caroline Shaffer is an AudioFile Earphones Award-winning narrator. A former company member at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for nineteen years, she received an MFA from the American Conservatory Theater.
Read an Excerpt
Commitment: The Glue That Preserves the Bond of Friendship
You don't fall into love. You commit to it. Love is saying, "I will be there, no matter what."
Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.
1 Samuel 23:16
Sally It is often the small events in our lives that have big consequences. Yet in the flow of normal days, we are unaware that such events are about to occur. February 2, 1978, dawned just like any other day. I did not know that an inauspicious event on that day would change my life profoundly.
Having been challenged to consider investing my life in missions, I had a pathway open up for me to work in Communist Eastern Europe in 1977. My assignment would be to work on a traveling team that trained and discipled leaders in countries throughout the area, countries that were, at that time, under the control of Russia.
My entrance into this traveling life started when I found an apartment with two other girls in a small home in a district in Vienna near the vineyards, with the famous Vienna Woods nearby. Living on the top floor of an Austrian bungalow in a tiny room with a slanted roof meant that I could stand up to my full height in only one part of the room. That particular morning, I had crawled out of bed, rushed to grab a bite to eat in the shared kitchen with my roommates, caught the bus and then the tram, and ridden downtown for another morning of German at the Goethe institute of language.
Having arrived in Vienna six months before, I was thick into language training but still getting my feet wet in learning the culture of my new home. As a traveling missionary to Communist countries — Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Poland — I was studying German mainly to be able to live well inside Austria.
That evening I was looking forward to meeting a friend I had been corresponding with for a couple of months but had never met. Gwen was her name, and she had lived with a former roommate of mine, so I wanted to welcome her to Austria. We would be working together occasionally in this wild adventure of seeking to take the gospel behind the Iron Curtain with a team of others who were committed to the same task. She had visited for a few weeks at a summer student camp, but she had just moved to Austria for the long haul. I anticipated some tension in our relationship because my former roommate had said, "I don't think you two will get along at all. You are so extremely different from each other." This comment had prepared me for polite conversation but left me with low expectations for a close friendship.
It was Gwen's second official day in Austria after moving there full time. Since she naturally felt apprehension about finding her way around Vienna during the first week, I planned to meet her at a tram stop that intersected a busy street halfway between her home and mine. It would take both of us about half an hour to get to the meeting place. Since all the stops were announced in German and there was a hustle and bustle of people getting on and off, it was always a little precarious to figure out when to get on or off a bus or tram. I attempted to give her simple instructions and told her that I would be waiting at the stop.
The area where we would meet was still new to me, and I knew only enough German to begin getting around the city without getting lost. I could barely find my way around a grocery store, where all the words of food were new to me. Yet I wanted Gwen to think she was in good hands, so I clothed myself with an air of confidence as we both forayed into a new neighborhood.
Boot-clad, scarf-wound, wool-coated people swirled around me as I pushed my way through the exit door. I was hoping I had arrived first so I could flag Gwen down as she approached the island in the middle of the street where we would meet.
After five minutes of standing among the crowds in the chilly winter air, I peered into the dark night at a red tram gliding snakelike toward the crowded platform. Sure enough, it was number 37, the one I knew she would be riding.
I spotted a tall, chestnut-haired young woman sporting a red jacket. Her appearance resembled the photograph I had received from her, confirming that this was her. She looked very American amid the sea of dark coats that the Austrians generally wore. I waved energetically above the crowds to attract her attention. Relief danced through her eyes as we made eye contact and I ran to greet her.
The cold night air whooshed about us, and I looked around for a café where we could sit inside to eat and chat.
The word Stüberl was lit up in front of a tiny window across the street. I supposed it to be a neighborhood café, but in reality it was probably a local bar. Even so, I forged ahead, confidently holding Gwen's arm and guiding her through the crowd as though I knew what I was doing.
As we entered, we were accosted by the slight stench of smoke, and a faint brown haze hovered above the few tables in front of a bar filled with men gulping their beer. As the only women in the room, we felt the eyes of the strangers following our awkward movements, so we quickly sat at a little table in the corner as out of the way as we could manage. The only meal I recognized on the menu was goulash, so I ordered two, along with some sparkling apple juice (apfelsaft gespritzt).
We talked easily, and conversation began to fill up the spaces in our hearts. We hardly noticed that the greasy soup had finally been served because from the first, both of us were caught in the miracle of finding a kindred spirit in such an inauspicious place as a smoky little bar in a foreign country. We both had come to Austria in faith that God would meet us in this place. And so He had.
As the hours passed, Gwen and I were unaware of what was happening around us. Connecting on a spiritual level, immersed in deep, delightful conversation, we were oblivious to the comings and goings of the men in the room. Before me was a woman rich of soul because she had invested her life in serving others, studying Scripture, facilitating countless meetings in a college ministry, and teaching and leading young women. She had formed friendships with people from all over the world. To find the treasure of such rich companionship was a rare gift for me after lonely months of learning to be faithful alone in a foreign land. Our newfound friendship seemed a surprise gift from God.
Gwen's "excellent self" unearthed desires inside me to become my most excellent self. Her thoughts challenged me to become a more resilient student of great ideas. Her gentle love gave room for me to show my true self, warts and all.
Rare was my experience to find someone who would seek me out and delve into questions aimed lovingly at finding out my story, exploring my history, my fears, my passions. Having a friend reach into my own heart by enthusiastically pursuing me was an unusual experience, as I was so used to being the one to reach out, to keep conversations going.
Soon after that first meeting, I got a note from Gwen asking me to join her for dinner at her apartment. "Come in and sit for a while and let's be friends" were the most welcoming words I had heard in months. As I looked for her apartment number on the cozy old vine-covered building, she suddenly emerged from a hallway balcony and pointed. "This way!" She was the first woman around my age in six months to actually invite me to her home for a meal. Yes, I had gone to language school; found my way around this strange new city, only getting lost about five times; and even learned how to buy groceries and shop at the outdoor markets with my very limited German, but I longed for a personal touch. Loneliness as I had never felt it thrummed through every beat of my heart. I wished for someone to talk to who understood the foreignness of being in a country where few people fluently spoke my native language.
I even remember what she served me that night — meatloaf, cottage cheese, and steamed broccoli. Not fancy, but it seemed so familiar from an American standpoint. I remember it as one of the best meals of my life because it was served with such kindness and love. She extended the hospitality of Jesus to me, and it warmed me to my toes.
From this humble evening, we decided to meet once a week. Before long, we were going to concerts together (music is the love language of Vienna, as it's the home of Mozart, Beethoven, and other famous musicians). When we had open weekends, we explored new mountain villages in the Alps and snacked on the train. In meeting often, we became like sisters. We did life together between our ministry trips, language study, and other commitments.
Eventually, Gwen moved to Poland to open our ministry there with another team. Before she left, we met at our favorite coffee spot. Our conversation flew to many subjects so we could get in everything we wanted to say before she would be in another country. At some point, and neither of us remembers how, we began to talk about Jonathan and David from the Bible. Theirs was a story of committed friendship. David had been chosen by God to become the king who would eventually lead all of Israel in their worship of God. We know from Acts that David was chosen because he was devoted to seek God, to follow Him, to love Him. We read in Acts 13:22, "God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.'"
Perhaps in the context of David's anointing at such a young age, God provided a friend who would walk beside him for a while and help him sustain the challenging call on his life. Perhaps that's why He gave him Jonathan as a friend.
We read, "Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself" (1 Samuel 18:1, NASB). We pondered what it meant that Jonathan's soul was knit to the soul of David, and in the context of our conversation, we decided that God had knit our souls together. We made a sort of pledge to each other to support each other, to seek the other's good, to help when help was needed. We decided we would be friends for life.
We found another verse that reflected the foundation of David and Jonathan's friendship: "Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God" (1 Samuel 23:16). This phrase became a sort of promise we made to each other to commit to helping each other stay strong in our faith as we walked with God. And as young women, we made a sincere promise to be friends for life and to uphold our commitment to help one another.
Eventually I was assigned to the same team as Gwen and moved to Poland, where we tried to establish a ministry in this Communist country. Learning to live in the shadow of Communist rule, with little food available, visits from the police, and challenges at every point forged a deeper understanding in our hearts of the sacrifice people all around us were making to follow Christ.
Daily life was demanding and lonely. But Gwen and I created a home that was a haven where others could find hot tea, warm bread and cheese, and a welcome from the darkness of life outside our walls. Eggs seemed to be the main protein we could find in the stores, as meat, along with vegetables and fruit, was scarce. Discovering new ways to cook eggs or making simple soups each evening provided a welcome reprieve in our challenging days. We lit candles, turned on music on our small tape recorders, and finished the evenings by reading books aloud together. Our sweet companionship became a beautiful reflection of the love of God to the many people who came to our fourth-floor walkup apartment. We partnered together to teach Bible studies, to pray with the brokenhearted, and to usher others into an atmosphere of safety, comfort, and heartfelt compassion from Christ.
As I reflect on the deep friendship that began that night so many years ago, I can better understand how God provided us with what we both needed in order to find the strength to fulfill His call on our lives, even as He provided Jonathan for David. The care and support of godly friendship sustained us through the rigorous and demanding life of pursuing missions in Communist countries at the beginning of our friendship and as we pioneered new ministries through the years.
Now, forty years later, I understand that this treasure of friendship was, in a way, God's gift to me that would safeguard me from falling during the periods of darkness and temptation that would come through the years. When we lived in different countries, we supported each other through faithful letter writing, phone calls, and yearly visits. We bore each other's burdens as we faced the deaths of family members and the challenge of illnesses. Our friendship helped provide the spiritual strength to keep following hard after Christ as we lived faithfully through all dark and joyful seasons of life.
I could not have imagined on the first night we met how this amazing, quiet woman would become like a family member to me over forty years of companioning me through the trials and personal tests of my life.
After I moved away from Poland, I married and had four children. Our family was led to begin a ministry, start a publishing business, host conferences, write books to inspire others, and move seventeen times. Yet God had planned to provide me personally with a friend who would impart love, strength, a listening ear, a praying heart, and wise counsel through each new phase of life. He knew that a godly friend was what I would need to be able to pursue what He wanted us to do. When I lacked family support, Gwen loyally encouraged me, my husband, and my children as though we had been born sisters from the very start.
Later, as my husband and I engaged in a spiritual battle to help preserve families in a culture bent on destroying them, God knew we would need friends to walk beside us and to give us the strength to pursue His ideals against much opposition. Even as a single woman, Gwen always believed in the messages that burned in my heart, and she would share encouraging words, write notes of Scripture, share books to inspire me, and shower my children with the charming love of an "auntie" they otherwise would not have had.
Perhaps God plans to fulfill our deep needs for friendship so that we can better feel His love in a world where we hunger for companionship as we do His Kingdom work.
As I look back over the years, it occurs to me that the context for friendship, especially friendship in the Lord, is so important to keep us growing toward His desire for us to know Him intimately. God is always doing more than we can think or imagine, and even though the gift of a friend may seem like a wonderful personal gift, He always has more in mind. Spiritual friendships are not just about personal fulfillment but also about the scope and journey of what God wants to accomplish in our lives and how He wants us to live in His Kingdom ways. We could not do this without friends.
In a world where most people feel isolated, alone, unseen, and lonely, we need this view of friendship as something that shows us the fullness of God's love more than ever. To cherish and guard friendships can be a safeguard from personal pettiness and a reminder to be selfless. To embrace a friendship in full-fledged commitment provides us with a visible picture and personal experience of what we hope for in God: one who will love us, help us, and respond to us, no matter our failures, our needs, our vulnerabilities, or our prickly moments. It is a picture of a forever-and-always love that gives life.
As I look around, sometimes it feels like the fabric of society is falling apart — people are lonely, marriages are disintegrating, children do not know if they are wanted or loved, nothing in areas of ethics or morality can be counted on. The deadly effects of this cultural slide are painfully obvious — from the social and political implications of leaders falling to people in power abusing those in positions of weakness to the deeply personal pains of broken families. I think part of that destruction comes from people lacking godly support and friendly encouragement, from not having a cloud of witnesses surrounding them to spur them on to faithfulness in living out biblical ideals.
When we are devoid of the support or sympathy that comes from deep, close, loving relationships, we are more easily tempted to look for temporal things to fulfill our needs, to compromise our previous heartfelt commitment to follow hard after Christ. This kind of support — the accountability of godly friends — reminds us to be faithful in our own stories, to remember the legacy of believers who have gone before us.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Girls' Club"
Copyright © 2019 Sally Clarkson, Joy Clarkson, and Sarah Clarkson.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 Commitment: The Glue That Preserves the Bond of Friendship, 1,
CHAPTER 2 The Voice of Loneliness and the Voice of Love, 13,
CHAPTER 3 Learning to Embrace the Capaciousness of Womanhood, 29,
CHAPTER 4 Loving Each Other's Woundedness, 45,
CHAPTER 5 Saturday Mornings: The Girls' Club Prototype, 61,
CHAPTER 6 Dating Your Friends, 83,
CHAPTER 7 The Faithful Friend, 99,
CHAPTER 8 Looking for Avonlea, 119,
CHAPTER 9 The Tribe, 137,
CHAPTER 10 The Hospitable Friend, 153,
CHAPTER 11 Becoming a Queen, 171,
CHAPTER 12 As You Are Going, 189,
About the Authors, 205,