Reblogged from incourage
August 26, 2011

Yesterday I asked you to finish this sentence: If I were to be totally honest, ______.” I wasn’t sure what would come out, but let me tell you what did:

Worry. Anxiety. Longing. Regret. Exhaustion. Loneliness. Comparison. Failure. A little bit of hope. Mostly fear.

You who are brave and beautiful, who have great things to offer the world not because of what you can do, but because of who you are, you who spoke out into the darkness yesterday – may blessing and peace and hope and abundance pour out all over you today.
“When I was a child my parents loved me not because I was good, but because I was Madeleine.”
Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water
What would happen if we believed it? Would love make a difference in our ability to be honest about these difficult places where we find ourselves? Because it’s one thing to say honest things in a comment box on a blog. It’s completely another thing to sit in a room with other women, to look into their eyes, to hear their voices, to see their pain, to nod your heads together.

But that? Is so risky. Because those same people who might really understand are also the people whose opinions we so desperately want to manage. And so we hide from one another and stay fine.
Maybe it’s time to give up fine. Here are some ways to start:

Are you a small group leader? Read this book with your group. You won’t be able to avoid authentic no matter how hard you may try. There is a complete small group leaders guide in the back of the book designed to run for 8 weeks. Or you can visit Chatting at the Sky and download and print the leader’s guide for free right now.

Are you looking for someone to read with? If you aren’t in a small group, might a make a suggestion? Don’t read Grace for the Good Girl alone. Grab a girlfriend or a sister or a co-worker or a cousin and read it together.

If you are in a season of loneliness or isolation and you physically don’t have anyone to chat with about this book, perhaps you will find some people in one of these places:

Chatting at the Sky – a place for your soul to breathe, where I write nearly everyday-ish. Many of the women who read my blog will also read the book, so perhaps you will find some kindred conversations here. Also, the entire month of October, I’ll be writing a series called 31 Days to Change the World – because I really do believe that this grace changes everything.

Facebook Page – Women who are reading the book often come to the Facebook page and comment. Perhaps you can join in the conversation there.

Is it possible to live a life of joy? Peace? Hope? Willingness? Expectation? Rest? Fellowship? Satisfaction? Is it possible to believe, really believe that the God of the Universe who lived so long ago lives and walks in and among us right now? Is that a fairytale? A lie? A dream? A joke?

Jesus doesn’t tell us to try to figure out a way to follow him. He didn’t come to this world upside down just to show us how to live life and then dare us to get it right.

He came, not to show us how to do it, but to do it for us. He showed up not to inspire us to copy him, but to indwell us with his Spirit. He does not simply tell us to have patience and be strong. He becomes patient in my impatience. He becomes strength in the middle of my weakness.

This life is impossible. But God shows up in the middle of impossibilities. Impossible is His favorite.
I have so enjoyed being here at Bloom (in)courage this week. Your words, insights, and honesty have been a spacious place for this rookie author. I don’t know how to do this stuff really – to talk about my art, to share it with the world, to offer it to friends – but you have helped me remember the beauty and grace and acceptance available in community. I hope to do the same for you.

love and grace.
- emily, Chatting at the Sky

Emily Freeman is a writer who encourages girls of all ages to create space for their souls to breathe. She is the author of Grace for the Good Girl (Revell). She and her husband live in North Carolina with their twin daughters and twinless son.

Course taught by Dr. and Mrs. Akin

It's not to late to register for Biblical Women's Institute classes!  Class start next week.  We want to spotlight one of our most popular classes today.  Biblical Foundations for the Minister's Wife is a class taught by Dr. and Mrs. Akin on Thursday evenings from 7-9 pm.  The class provides a practical survey of issues relating to the role of the minister's wife. This class is directed primarily toward pastor's wives, current and potential, but the class is open to women in all roles - students, spouses and women in the community.

The class is underwritten, which means that it is a class at no-cost to the student.

You can find more information about this class as well as our other Fall courses online here.  

Childcare is available as well.  We offer childcare on Thursday evenings for a small fee.

For more information on how to register for classes or childcare please contact the Women's Life Office at (919) 761-2340.              


Surrender. It all comes down to surrender. Does anything we have in our lives actually belong to us? Did we decide on and create the people in our lives to custom fit our needs and our circumstances? No, of course not! Our all-knowing, wise Creator did! The people in our lives are gifts from God. They are instruments used for God purposes.

Surrender is key to Christ-centered relationships; so that when the time comes to let go, you already have. Now I am not saying that you should not love or even that you should love less. Of course that would be disobedience to Christ’s many commands to love one another and give thanks for each other. This does not mean you live at an arms distance either because the New Testament clearly demonstrates living life with each other and bearing each others’ burdens and joys. But the best love, what I believe to be the most Christ-glorifying love, is love with open hands. Holding loosely to the things and people God has entrusted to you.
This comes back to living with eternal perspective. Relationships, as we know them, are also temporary. 

They serve eternal purpose and with believers they have an aspect which will last for an eternity. But that is the Christ-glorifying aspect! What we manage to accomplish in the slightest way here of centering our relationships around Christ is only a shadow of the purpose of our eternal relationships with other followers of Christ. John Piper writes in Don’t Waste Your Life about a plaque which hung in his home as a child. My sister also made me a replica of it which hangs over my bed. It reads, “Only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

If you live a life of constant surrender, you respond differently to God’s direction. Take possessions for example. If I have surrendered my possessions to God, then when something is stolen, sold, or given away it comes with ease and joy because I’ve already given it to God! It is His anyway. My life doesn’t fall apart at the loss of those things. Surrendering your possessions can be tough and has to be done every time you make a Christmas wish list or start packing for a big move. But something I believe is even harder to surrender than possessions is relationships. Relationships of all kinds – with our parents, with our friends, with our sisters and brothers, with our church family, with children, and with husbands.

Remember the idea of living with open hands. This is where holding loosely becomes so important. In receiving and giving of the things we’ve been entrusted with by God, keeping this “open hands” mindset gives freedom to live for eternal things. Again, this does NOT mean you do not love, invest in, cherish, and serve the people in your life; rather it means you do those things for the sheer glorification of Christ. If in Christ’s call for you to die to self and take up your cross, He requires you to go great distances from your family and friends or you lose a dear one to death or sickness, open hands enables you to trust God’s greater purpose and bigger plan. Great challenges and lose will come in our fallen world, ask God to instill this concept into your heart and life ahead of time.

For example, as a single I surrender my future husband to God. I hold loosely to him before I even know who he might be. Whether or not God chooses to give him to me or however long or short God allows me to have him before one of our deaths, I surrender him.  I surrender my children, before I even have them. That means whether or not God allows me to have children, how long my children might live, and how they might obediently follow Christ in difficult or distant ways. I have neither husband nor children right now, but these are areas in my life that demonstrate the need to live with open hands. Even when God entrusts us with relationships for a season of our life, we are to receive, rejoice, and release- all with open hands.

What if we don’t surrender? Sometimes we turn the blessings from God into idols. We turn the things that God intended for us to use as tools for serving Him into things we serve instead of Him. This is no different from those mentioned in Romans 1 who traded worshipping the Creator for worshipping mere created things. Living continually with two open hands leaves no room for clinging to an idol or hiding it behind your back. Surrender has to be daily. We cannot muster up the ability to surrender. We must ask for it from God. The good news is- it is God’s desire too, and He will equip us and strengthen us each day!

 Katie Kasey is a 2+2 (International Church Planting M-Div) student at Southeastern. God has given Katie the privilege of serving Him in Ecuador on several occasions, as well as Ukraine and East Asia. Katie serves at North Henderson Baptist Church in Henderson, NC, with her family.  She is excitedly preparing to serve God both at home and overseas. Katie’s greatest joys in life are her two sisters Britney & Meredith and their wonderful husbands- John Marks & Ricky, and her parents Brent & Teresa. She also loves using photography and writing to encourage others and promote God’s glory among all people.

Who is your greatest lover?

Reblogged from Answers of Truth

Nothing of love and romance matters if you aren't flourishing in the Great Love Story. For most of you this story isn't new, but listen closely to the Passion unfold:

The Great Love Story
Jesus, the Creator God, made his dwelling among men (Jn. 1:1-14). Though He is in very nature God, He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Leaving the triune Godhead (the Trinity—God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit), He came to earth to save mankind (Phil 2:6-7). These men, however, were so wicked and full of sin that it was written, “There is no one righteous, no not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good not even one. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:11-18).

But God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son, that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him. The world needed a Savior, one who would die for their sins, die for their wickedness. This Savior is Jesus, the promised Sacrifice (Isa. 53). Jesus told all men, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Then God said to those men, “Whoever believes in my Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects my Son will not see life for my wrath remains on him (Jn. 3:16-18, 36).

So Jesus came to those who would believe in his name, giving them the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (Jn. 1:1-13)—children who would be heirs with Him in His inheritance. Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Heb. 2:14-18). And although men were evil, Jesus who is fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life (Heb. 4:15). To pay for the sins of mankind he would be betrayed, beaten, arrested, flogged, stabbed with a crown of thorns, pierced with sharp nails through his hands and feet, and crucified on a cruel cross. He died.

But this Jesus did not stay in the grave.

On the third day he rose, conquering sin and defeating death. Jesus said, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Death has been swallowed up in victory” (Hosea 13:14). Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 5:57). This victory, through faith in Jesus our Savior and Lord, restores mankind to God to spend an eternity with him in Heaven. Jesus said, “In my father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (Jn. 14:2-3).

If we believe in faith that Jesus is Savior and Lord, that God raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:9-10), and that none of our own works bring us merit before God (Isa. 64:6, Eph. 2:8-9); we are told because of His Great Love, we can be saved from God’s justified wrath and enter into His awesome presence. Our Prince, our bridegroom, Jesus, has gallantly come to rescue us from captivity and death. He has invited us to be His Love, His Bride (the Church). This is the Greatest Love Story ever written. A marriage not ending in death; but a marriage beginning with death to our sin and newness of life to our souls. Our Great Love will last throughout all eternity. “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Rev. 19:9).

This is what we LIVE for! As exciting as it is to fall in love and be married to a godly man, it is dull in comparison to the pleasures and joys which are found in the arms of our Savior. He is the Prince who sacrificed his life to rescue us. He is the King crowned in Majesty inviting us to share in His inheritance. And he is our Great Lover who desires unity with us for all eternity. Our job is to fall more in love with our Prince, our King, and our Great Lover, Jesus Christ. The most important preparation we can ever do, is to ready ourselves to stand before our Bridegroom! Are you more preoccupied with a human lover or a Holy Lover? Can you say, “
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Ps. 73:25).

The only way to have successful human relationships is to have Jesus Christ as your Greatest Love. A joyous marriage, begins with a foundation that flourishes in Christ first.

Where are you putting your greatest energy and affection? The answer should be Jesus. If it is not…what is causing your affection to turn to others lovers (idols)? 

 K.J. Nally is a writer, teacher, and counselor. She is pursuing her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling, concentrating in women’s ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. K.J. and her husband, Dustin, have a passion to fight for Godly marriages, spur on teens to seek purity, and encourage men and women to live obediently to their Creator God.

K.J. and Dustin are marriage and individual counselors at Hope Counseling Center through their church, North Wake. They also work with Converting Hearts Ministries,’ a Christ-centered addictions ministry.

K.J. currently works as a freelance journalist with The Wake Weekly. Check out more about Christian Living at K.J.’s blog, Answers of Truth.

Pursuing Friendships

I want to tell you about 3 young ladies that I have come to love.  These ladies have taught me about pursuing a friendship.  Let me give you some background.

In January, my hubby and I decided to volunteer with the Wake County Board of Human Services for a 12 week class they were offering for the community.  It was not a Christian organization, and we actually were told that we could not proselytize.  A few others from our church volunteered each Thursday night, simply with the intention to love the people.  Most of the families that attended the classes were Hispanic and did not speak much English, so the language barrier was hard at times, but we continued to push through.  We had anticipated to just be "greeters" and eat dinner with the families and form relationships, but God definitely had another plan.  The first night our pastor approached us about working with the teens.  Believe it or not we were a little hesitant.  Lee (my hubby) was a youth minister for 3 years back in Alabama and I hate to say this but we were kind of "burnt out" with youth ministry.  Of course though, I said yes and we started helping with the youth.  As soon as I met these teens I knew that there was something about them, and I couldn't get enough of them.  For the next 11 weeks we met with these kids and loved them.

Two of the girls I instantly bonded with.  They were both in high school, very smart, kind, funny and just made me smile.  Each week I would just spend time with them during dinner and get to know them and their family more and more.  About the 5th week, I asked them a question.  It just came out.  I couldn't help it.  I asked them if they knew Jesus.  They responded that they knew God, but by their reaction I knew that they didn't really understand this Jesus that I was talking about.  Right then and there I asked them to come to church with Lee and I.  In the moment I wasn't even thinking about the "no proselytizing" issue, all I was thinking about was that I wanted them to hear the Gospel.  They agreed and we picked them up for church the following Sunday.  They were hesitant at first, but they LOVED IT.  I could write in so many details of conversations, but due to space and time I won't do that, but they kept coming.  They soon invited their older sister, who was in college, to church and she was hooked as well.

It wasn't the church building (we meet in an office space), it wasn't all the nice and friendly people (though that helped), or even the free coffee.  It was the good news that they were hearing each week.  We got them Bible's and they began to read the bible with the Gospel in mind.  Many Sunday's later, they were baptized.  That's right.  They accepted Jesus and realized the hope that they had in Him.  We watched them be baptized and I cried and smiled till it hurt.

After the class ended we continued to meet with the three of them every Thursday, and we still do today.  I look forward to Thursdays.  I can't get enough of them.  Right now we are going through the book of Mark and they come with questions and we discuss the Bible.  And believe me, they come with hard questions.  I love it though when they ask the hard questions, because that means that God is working in their hearts through the reading of His word.  They are hungry.  It's so awesome to see that, and be challenged by them.

I tell you this story to encourage and challenge you to go out of your comfort zone and pursue friendships.  These ladies are so dear to me, and I know that we will be friends for the rest of our lives.  They will hold and play with my baby and watch her grow.  They have taught me so much, and words cannot express how thankful I am for them.

You ready to meet them?  Meet Dayana, Sally and Maria.  This was taken after their baptism.

Laura works in the Women's Life Office at Southeastern.  Laura's husband, L is pursuing a M.Div in International Church Planting.  They are also anxiously awaiting the arrival of their first child, a baby girl in September.  L and Laura are members of Summit and attend the North Raleigh Campus.

One Better

Reblogged from (in)courage
Angie Smith ~ April 30, 2011

For the record, it was Todd’s fault.

I don’t even remember the specifics of our “disagreement,” but I am quite confident he was in the wrong. I don’t back down as readily as some of my “really good at being submissive” friends, and I recognize that it’s something I need to be better at doing.  For some strange reason, I seem to forget this factoid when I am knee-deep in self-righteous bickering and convinced that I am one witty comment away from victory.

But this particular night, I bit my tongue. I stepped on my pride momentarily and offered the kind of olive branch that was (sadly) uncharacteristic of me when I am mad (and also, right. Just in case you hadn’t picked up on that part).

I saw Todd’s face settle, assessing me in order to see if this was just a gimmick to lead up to my final blow, and it made me cringe. He knew that I could, and he was waiting because he assumed that I would.
But I didn’t.

I told him I was sorry and that I didn’t think it was his fault (that part was kind of a white lie. As previously stated I am convinced he was in the wrong. Carry on.)

As I looked at his face softening, I thought about the day I walked down a long aisle to get to him, knowing he was the only one I would ever love this way. And what in the world was I thinking right now? That somehow me proving how smart I was would change our marriage and make him look at me the way he did from the other end of the church?

So I stopped myself. I took a breath and apologized.

And in my head I heard the words, “You can do one better.”

And I did. In fact, I did more than one better because as soon as I started going I couldn’t stop. All I desired was to feel like I had built him up and swallowed my own ugly pride.

It turned out well, as you can imagine, and I walked away from it feeling like I had done the right thing.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but these two words have helped me make some really good and life-giving choices over the past several weeks…

One better.

I walk through the family room and notice a cup on the floor. I absentmindedly pick it up and start to walk to the sink.

One better, Ang.

So I go back, straighten the pillows, quickly gather the books scattered on the ground, and deposit the kids shoes in the shoe bin where they belong.

My friend calls to tell me about her business trip and all I can think is that I have deadlines that are crushing me and I don’t have time for the details. I catch myself, close the computer, and tell her I want to go on the porch so I can focus on what she’s saying.

It was just one better.

My daughter comes to me after having her feelings hurt, and I have a great talk with her. I mention Scripture I think will help her, I hug her, and I tell her I want to pray for her. It was good, but I knew I could just do one better.

I asked her if she wanted to go get a hot chocolate at the coffee shop down the road. We had a blast. When we got home, Todd had started making dinner and I told him I appreciated it.

And then I deliberately walked over to him, took his face in my hands, and told him what a good man he was.
It’s hard to do everything, but it isn’t hard to just do one better.

Make a note to yourself today and hang it where you will see it. As you walk through the day, instead of feeling like you can’t do it all, just remember-you don’t have to.

You will not believe the way these two little words start to shape your hours and your heart…so go ahead…do one better.

I dare you.

No wait, I DOUBLE dare you (see? It works for everything!).

Angie is the proud wife of Todd Smith of Selah, and the blessed mommy to Abby, Ellie, Kate, Charlotte, and Audrey Caroline, who passed away the day she was born, April 7th, 2008. You can read more about Audrey's story in Angie's first book, "I Will Carry You" available at bookstores everywhere. Her greatest desire is to share her heart and love for the Lord. Angie holds a Master's Degree in Developmental Psychology, and loves to write about topics related to parenting and child development. She is grateful for the opportunity to share her heart here on (in)courage as well! Follow Angie on twitter as@angelac519.

New Series: Relationships

Can you believe it's August?!?  The start of another school year is quickly approaching.  We are getting ready for our new students and excited to see our returning students.  New Student Orientation is in just a few weeks and then classes will start and before we realize it will be Christmas!  For the month of August we are going to discuss relationships.  Not just dating relationships or marriage, but friendships and accountability.  A new school year brings new friends which is always fun, but we can't forget our old faithful friends who have seen us at our ugliest moments.  How do we balance our relationships?  

We will be discussing dating relationships and marriage as well.  Be prepared to be challenged and encouraged this month.  We look forward to your comments!  To start us off take a look at these questions from the blog girltalk that encourage REAL fellowship among women.  

  • Describe your current practice of the spiritual disciplines.
  • What is a passage of Scripture you have been meditating on recently?
  • What fruit of the Spirit are you cultivating?
  • What sin are you seeking to weaken?
  • How can I pray for you?
  • Here is an evidence of grace that I observe in your life.
  • How are you seeking to grow in expressing biblical femininity

Do you have women in your life that you can sit down with and ask these questions - better yet, do you have a friend that will ask you these questions?  Our prayer is that through this series you will be learn more about relationships and how to be a good friend that strives others to pursue Christ. 

Thoughts from Noel Piper

Reblogged from Ligonier Ministries 
Noel Piper July 1, 2011

Go ahead. Ask me what would make me happiest if I had a totally free day. I’d tell you that during such a dream day I’d be by myself, probably with a book. Right at the front of my personality assessment is a capital that means “introvert.” It could also stand for “I want to be alone—a lot.”

Over the years, when my husband and I have tried to untangle some of the snarls in my life, sometimes he’s ventured to ask, “Noël, don’t you think it might help to have some women around you to offer other perspectives and to pray for you and maybe give some helpful suggestions?”

I knew he must be right because King Solomon said the same thing, and his wisdom was so phenomenal it left the Queen of Sheba breathless (1 Kings 10:1–13). His writings in the Bible are even called Wisdom Literature. So I thought it probably would be wise for me to pay attention when Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 4:9–10a that it’s good to have friends because they support each other: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.”

In fact, Solomon goes on to say we’re in trouble if we don’t have friends: “Woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (4:10b). He says friends watch out for each other’s needs: “If two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?” (4:11). And friends share their strength against adversity: “Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him — a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (4:12).

So my mouth said to my husband, “That’s a wise idea.” But my heart cringed at the thought of letting people close enough to poke around in my weaknesses, my mistakes, my faults, and my inadequacies. I decided that I needed to get my life sorted out, then I could include friends — someday, when I could be a giver instead of a taker. “I ought to be able to manage all this,” I thought.

But no matter how much I tried, things didn’t get better. And I felt more and more depressed.
Then came the day in the counselor’s office when he said, “Tell me the names of four or five godly women you’d be willing to be totally open with.” I rolled the eyes of my heart. Not this again.

I told him who those women would be (if I were going to be totally open with someone). I thought: “He’s going to counsel me to think about drawing them around me sometime soon. I’ll say OK and then drag my feet a few weeks until we’ve moved on to other things.”

But he didn’t leave me that escape route. Instead, he said: “When you get home, contact them today. Ask each woman if she can commit to be here with you at our appointments, starting next time. Their wisdom will be part of our conversation. And they will be a support to you in the days between appointments.”
Right,” I thought pessimistically. “Those are busy women. They have their own problems to deal with. I’d be presumptuous asking so much time from them.”

But I did as I was told. I went home and emailed four women a message that boiled down to this: “My life is a mess. Will you help me? But I know you’re really busy, so please say no if that’s best for you.”

I pressed the send button, hoping they’d all say they couldn’t. That thought was barely complete before the replies showed up in my inbox — four people who said they felt inadequate because of their own struggles, but they were honored and would be with me at the counselor’s office on Monday.

As minimal as my email confession had been, it was enough to poke a small hole through the curtain I’d been living behind — the screen that allowed an audience to see only a shadowy outline of me. On my side of the curtain, I was amazed to sense the thin beam of light and the breeze of fresh air making their way through the hole.

Already I could breathe a little more easily because now there were four women with whom I could start to relax, since I wouldn’t need to maintain with them the tension of projecting or protecting an image of the person I thought I ought to be.

Yes, this would be good in the long run, but in the meantime, what? The day came to meet with the women and the counselor. I headed off to that appointment feeling an ocean of empathy toward Eustace when he was waiting for Aslan to peel off his dragon skin.

In my anxiety, though, I hadn’t taken into account one essential thing: friendship goes both direct ions. These women weren’t coming to examine me and work on fixing me. They were ready to give themselves and to receive from me and from each other.

In that session and in the days to come, as these friends opened themselves to me, my heart warmed to them and I felt more and more freedom with them. We came to trust each other with the tender places of our hearts.

In Proverbs 27:9, Solomon might have been writing about my friends: “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” God used them to make my heart glad with their contemporary versions of practical oil and luxurious perfume: homemade bread, excellent coffee, brilliant bouquets, lunches together, and meals for my family.

God showed Himself in the deep wisdom that sprang from their lives’ stories of widowhood, life-threatening disease, physical disability, and victory over severe obesity. In their wider family groups were suicide, mental illness, prodigal children, and alienation. Those kinds of pain become part of a person’s life and are rarely over and done. So from within their own history and daily experience, with tenderness, understanding, and empathy of experience they prayed for me, advised me, and gave me hope.

To be fair, sometimes their words were not easy for me to hear. Often the phone calls, text messages, or emails were positive and encouraging. But sometimes a wise friend saw that I needed a rebuke, a reminder to call sin “sin.” “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6).

I was sixty years old when this story began — when I was forced to have friends. I am ashamed that, until then, I could have remained so ignorant of what God intended friendship to be. At the same time, I am filled with gratitude that God didn’t leave me alone.

Good things can happen in solitude. Quietness can be a sweet place to meet God. But there’s a dark side to solitude when I crave it above all. The I comes to mean not “introvert” but literally only “I”: I don’t want you around, because I am the one who makes me happy. I can solve my own problems. I am all I need.
Right now as I lay those thoughts out so bluntly, I recoil from my arrogance. Do we really think, “I am all I need?,” as if we were God?

O Lord, protect me from myself. Please help me to be still and know that you are God.

I am still an introvert. My dream day still is a day by myself, but only once in a while. I thank God for the women he gave me when I needed to receive friendship. I pray that God will shape my heart to give friendship like they do — like Jesus told us to: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Jesus said, “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). He is the one I most want as a friend. I don’t want ever to be totally alone, without Jesus. I thank God for friends who have shown me Jesus’ kind of love. They have been an appetizer for the feast of Jesus’ friendship.


Noël Piper and her husband, John, have ministered since 1980 at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They have five sons and a daughter. Noël grew up in Georgia and is a graduate of Wheaton College.