When I Was A Child…

bristol-blog-photo-child-with-flowerI thought about this verse when I was reading an account of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s life as the wife of aviator Charles Lindbergh.

As her mother was dying, Anne supposedly told her, “Mother, you’re my hero.”  To which the woman replied, “You need to…stop looking for heroes, Anne.  Only the weak need heroes and heroes need those around them to remain weak.  You’re not weak.”

I heard Harry Reeder, pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian in Birmingham, once say that we all need role models, but we should choose role models who are dead.  We need to look up to people who have finished their lives well.

Given the first comment I made, I think he has a good point.  We are all mortal.  We have feet of clay, and we carry our treasure in earthen vessels.  Even people with admirable qualities fail us.  A person’s reputation for integrity must last to the end of his or her life.

As a child I idolized television and movie stars as well as baseball players.  That’s pretty typical behavior. But as I grew, I realized that these were not the people I needed to emulate.

People who set themselves up as heroes often deserve the reputation for doing heroic things.  Charles Lindbergh did many heroic things:  flying solo across the Atlantic, charting routes across the Artic and Asia and helping launch commercial air travel.  But he also embraced the policies of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany for a time, articulated anti-Semitic views and fathered seven children with three German women while married to Anne (who bore him six children).

People who seem larger than life often need to surround themselves with ‘yes’ people to keep reinforcing the illusion of their own greatness.  If our identity is grounded in who we are in Christ, it will not be affected by every compliment or criticism and will not be dependent on the constant praise of others.

The Apostle Paul tells us:  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  I Corinthians 13:11, NIV


Sara Anderson

Are we preoccupied with sex or something?

You can’t disagree that relationships, including sex, preoccupy the minds of young adults. You remember being young, don’t you? I do, vaguely.

When our high school seniors go to college they find a world far different from that of their parents. Discussions these days aren’t about dating; they are about “hooking up” and “friends with benefits”. Relationships are more complicated today than ever before. If not approached from a Christian perspective, the complexities can leave wounds that scar a woman for the rest of her life.

Bristol House has several books that deal specifically with relationships. Real Sex by Lauren Winner is the best book I’ve seen on relationships and sexuality. It provides a frank perspective on healthy relationships from a woman who came to Christ after being sexually active. This book comes highly recommended from Rev. Karen Booth, director of Transforming Congregations and author of Forgetting How to Blush, a Bristol House publication.

Sex and the Soul of a Woman, written by Christian therapist Paula Rhinehart, describes the heartache and healing of young women who have been sexually active before marriage. Part of the theme of the feminist movement encouraged woman to be as casual about sexual activity as men. But, as, the author points out, women aren’t wired that way, and every casual sexual encounter leaves them more insecure and eventually numb. Rhinehart’s book offers warning to the uninitiated and encouragement to those who have been hurt.

In The Ring Makes all the Difference, Glenn Stanton uses sociological studies to reinforce what we already know to be true—that biblical standards of morality shape stronger relationships. Studies conducted over 40 years show that “trial marriages” of living together before marriage damaged relationships. In what seems counter-intuitive in contemporary society, cohabiting weakens bonds and leads men, in particular, to be less responsible. Even moving in together during the time prior to the wedding is not a helpful for the long-term stability of marriage.


Sara L. Anderson

What Good Comes From Praying?

bristol-cover-love-to-praySeveral years ago, the church I attend did a 6-week study on prayer based on the book, Love to Pray, by Alvin VanderGriend. Lately a friend unwittingly reminded me of some important prayer concepts in that book.

I feel I have been led to help revive a prayer ministry in my church. I’ll admit to arguing with the Lord about this. “But if I do this, I will encounter more spiritual battle. Frankly, I don’t want the aggravation,” I muttered. I was rebuked by this passage from the book:

“Prayer is the means by which God accomplishes His purposes and defeats Satan. Through prayer we are involved with God in a grand enterprise. And the going is not always easy (p.30).”

Anything worth doing in life will have challenges. If we are willing to sacrifice for lesser endeavors (losing weight, saving for a new car, taking college classes) should we not be willing to face the challenges of bringing our concerns and those of others before God?

I was also convicted of the following:

“Though He is almighty, all-wise and fully able to work without us, God chooses to work through our prayers. He calls us into a working partnership. We co-labor with Him to accomplish His purposes. Things happen when we pray that won’t happen if we don’t pray (p.16).”

Ouch! While it is impossible to pray for every need in the world, we can pray for those things God brings to our minds and the burdens He places upon our hearts. When distressed by television news, have you ever thought to offer sentence prayers for the situations and persons locally and around the world?

Finally, I meet with an ecumenical prayer group Thursday mornings at 7 am. We pray for the needs of our community, the nation and the world. I’m a novice. These women have been praying for 30 years. The following quote provided encouragement for us to not grow weary:

“When believers in neighborhoods and workplaces lift up praying hands over those around them, the powers of darkness are pushed back (p.17).”

Amen, and thank you, Dr. VanderGriend!


Sara Anderson
Bristol House, Ltd.


Just Say ‘no’ to New Year’s Resolutions


This is the time of year we make resolutions, most of which are broken by Valentine’s Day, if not before. We vow to exercise daily, cut back on our sugar consumption, read a book a week, clean out the garage, landscape the yard, etc.

A few years ago I became so discouraged at my inability to follow through on my resolutions that I resolved NOT to make resolutions that year!

Nevertheless, I acknowledge that it’s beneficial to approach a new year with some intention for focus and faithfulness. I was pondering what I should do this year when I saw this prayer by Thomas Merton, twentieth century monk and mystic:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will doesn’t mean that I am actually doing so.

But, I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And, I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore, will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” Thomas Merton.

So, this is my resolution for 2015: By the grace of God and the dependence on the Holy Spirit, I want to desire to please my Father in thought, word and deed.

Blessings for the New Year

Sara Anderson
Bristol House, Ltd.

Try A Lot of Kindness

By Sara Anderson

Bristol Blog Twin TowersThere’s a lot of dark news on television, the internet and newspapers these days.  Sometimes I would like to crawl into bed and pull the quilt over my head.  But then I see grace-filled news about the kindness of ordinary people, which is heart-warming. Here’s a sampling:

A woman’s husband collapses while mowing grass. After he has safely been taken to the hospital, one of the firemen comes back to finish mowing the lawn.

An eight-year old girl hears that a veteran needs a service dog to assist him with his Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  She begins to raise money and enlist others to help.  The vet now has his service dog.

A woman in New York City found a wedding picture in the rubble of the World Trade Center.  For 13 years she had been trying to find the owner of that photo.  She and one of the men in the photograph (a member of the wedding party who had placed the picture on his desk in one of the Twin Towers) were on television this morning.  He said that on September 11, we saw the worst of humanity. On September 12, we saw the best of humanity; the woman determined to find the photo’s owner represents the best of humanity.

To my thinking, it is all grace.  I don’t know if any of these people were believers, but I do believe that God uses unexpected circumstances and ordinary people to demonstrate His grace in our fallen world. We don’t have to be heroic with a capital “H”.  We simply need to let God’s grace flow through us.


Sara Anderson
Bristol House, Ltd.

Sounds of Silence

 By Sara Anderson

Bristol Blog Sara Long View SilenceOne of the disciplines of the contemplative life is practicing periods of silence to listen to God and to think.  It is hard to find quiet in our clanging mostly urban and suburban world.  Yet such time is important for our sanity and the health of our souls.

I recently returned from my third retreat and vacation to the island of Iona, one island in Scotland’s’ Inner Hebrides.  Approximately three miles long and one and a half miles wide, Iona is home to the historic Iona Abbey, founded by St. Columbia in 553.  The current structure dates to the Thirteenth Century and fell into disrepair.  After numerous renovations over the centuries, it was almost completely restored in the early 20th Century and again repaired recently.  It is now an ecumenical Christian center for worship and spiritual retreat, as well as a historic preservation.

Early in the trip a new friend asked me, “With all of the beautiful places in the world to see (and Iona is ruggedly beautiful), why do you keep coming back?”

I tried to give a succinct answer, but I think it is a combination of things:  the beauty, the quiet (only the approximately 175 permanent residents of the island are allowed to own motorized vehicles), the worship services held in several churches on the island, the company of long-time friends with whom I have traveled and the Christian history which is so evident.

Iona has been called a ‘thin place’, a place where the space between Bristol Cover Prayer Begins with a RelationshipGod and humanity has been easier to span. It is not that God is closer to me when I visit; it is that I am encouraged by the quiet and lack of distractions to carefully listen to God.

After hearing about the advantages of silence from a gregarious pastor on Sunday morning, my friends and I discussed how hard it was to be quiet and listen.  One woman said that silence sometimes forced her attention toward things she really didn’t want to think about and caused her to grab her MP3 player and headphones.  But she stopped instead and listened to some of the feelings and thoughts she believed God wanted her to work through.

I think she pinpointed one of the significant reasons that it is hard to be silent, to still our bodies and minds and attend to the thoughts of God.  He often has things to say to us that we might not want to face – but need to for our spiritual health.

If you are not used to silence and your mind is prone to racing thoughts, only five minutes of quiet and disciplined focus on the Lord can be a good beginning.  You will be amazed by what you hear!


Sara Anderson
Bristol House, Ltd.