Throwing Off Cloaks Of Unforgiveness

The writer of Hebrews, in chapter 12 vs. 1, exhorts us to “throw off anything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” He then tells us that we are not alone in this race set before us– that Jesus went ahead of us enduring the pain and shame of the cross, and opposition from sinful men. What might God be asking us to “throw off”? On Palm Sunday, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, the people “threw off” their cloaks on the ground. What might be our old, worn, sin-infested garments, that could be hindering us from running the race that He has specifically appointed for us? One common old garment or hindrance is an attitude of unforgiveness toward someone. It is difficult to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:29) when you have been hurt by someone that God is calling you to love. Without forgiveness, our love is incomplete.

So what exactly is forgiveness? Forgiveness is first accepting our own hurt and pain as valid. The very fact that we are in a position to forgive someone, means that we are in pain. If we invite the Lord to bear the pain with us, we will find that His comfort and love go very deep. He soothes the sharp sting-that acute, knife-like feeling that often accompanies a deep hurt. He bears it with us. We are not alone.

Secondly, forgiveness is acknowledging that we are all-even our enemies or those who have hurt us-equal in human worth and value before God. Likewise, we are all sinners. In John chapter eight, Jesus said to the onlookers who were ready to stone the woman caught in adultery: “Let the one who is without sin, cast the first stone.” The onlookers put their stones down and walked away.

Thirdly, forgiveness is canceling the debt that we have against someone who has wronged us. It is to say in our hearts-“You owe me nothing-not even an apology. Even in my thoughts, I will not harbor bitterness or resentment against you.”

What are the benefits to forgiveness?” Author Richard Dobbins states that forgiveness “frees us from our own overwhelming anger and hatred toward the offender.” Anger, hatred, obsessive thoughts about the offense, or calculating a plan to “get even” entangles us and hinders us. We are, on some level, re-traumatizing ourselves. Instead of running our God-appointed race with joy, we sentence ourselves to an emotional prison. This makes it hard to move forward with our lives.

Corrie Ten Boom, the Dutch Christian who hid Jews in her home in an effort to shield them from Hitler’s regime, was eventually imprisoned at Ravensbruck, a German concentration camp. She endured severe, inhuman abuse. Her sister, Betsie, had died at that very camp. After her release, she was speaking at a church in Munich. Afterward, one of her former captors came up to her and introduced himself as one of the guards at Ravensbruck. Since the war, he had become a Christian. He extended his hand to Corrie, and asked, “Will you forgive me?” Author Cynthia Heald, in her book, A Woman’s Journey to the Heart of God describes Corrie’s response:

And I stood there-I whose sins had every day to be forgiven-and could not. Betsie had died in that place-could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion-I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then the healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

After the people threw off their cloaks for Jesus on Palm Sunday, their hearts and actions were one of praise and worship: “Hosanna-Hosanna to the Son of David!” When Corrie threw off unforgiveness to her former captor, the Lord supplied her with the strength to accept his hand. When we throw off unforgiveness and trust Him to fill our pain, He will teach us how to love the ones who hurt us. The old “cloaks” of revenge, obsessive thoughts, and painful memories, will no longer have as great a power over us. Our lips too, can more easily shout “Hosanna!” as we move on in His calling on our lives.

Compliments of Practical Family Living, Inc.

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

Good Friday Reflections

Good Friday Reflections

My friend became a grandmother yesterday. She was hoping the baby would come on that day because it was her father’s birthday. I was touched by this because her relationship with her father wasn’t always what it should have been, to put it mildly. But God redeems. The baby came on his birthday which happened to be Maundy Thursday. His name means “at the cross.” Beautiful.

It got me thinking this Good Friday about some significant things that have happened on this day. Good Friday 1979 I lost my beloved Grandma. I grieved but the hardest part honestly was watching my Mom grieve. And my sweet Grandpa – we never thought he’d be the one to outlive her and he was so unprepared because she had taken such good care of him.

Grandma and me 57  Grandma

My uncle and his family shared a duplex with them and he worked hard to help them remain independent and to maintain their dignity toward the end of their lives. He decided when Grandma got sick to set up breakfast for them at night so that all Grandpa had to do in the morning was plug in the coffee pot and drop in the toast. The first morning, Grandpa put the electric percolator on the stove burner and turned it on. The things you don’t think to explain…

Fast-forward to Good Friday 2008 when I woke in the hospital with a tube from nose to stomach and a huge incision just beginning to heal. Crazy set of circumstances, but it began the most interesting Easter season I’ve ever experienced. The scent of lilies and other spring flowers still reminds me of the hospital room that was so filled with flowers that it made everybody sneeze. It also reminds me of the time I had that Easter season to consider all that really matters.

Then came Good Friday 2012. We were just back from a vacation in Eastern Europe less than a week. A Texas thunderstorm had blown through with a vengeance on the Wednesday. We had a hail-totaled car in the garage and a tarp over the skylight. Every tree in the neighborhood had a pile of “salad” underneath where the hail had stripped the new leaves.

I watched the storm roll through on the radar from Bonnie’s hospital bed, where she’d been for 7 weeks trying to hold out as long as possible to give birth to our first 2 grandchildren. We had family spread all over town and I called them all to make sure everyone took shelter while the 2 of us sat up in the bed.

Friday morning I did something I NEVER do. I asked Lindsey to trim the back of my hair because it was just wonky.  Halfway through the trim the phone rang and it was Bonnie – on the way into surgery! I took my life in my hands and made him finish and then we took off for the hospital. Jimin had a whole plan in place to get to the hospital from school, but they foiled her plans and came on a school holiday!

Words cannot describe these people who are about to turn 3. Danger – you’re about to get wrapped around some little fingers…


Like I said, God redeems. “This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.

“He never did one thing wrong, not once said anything amiss.

“They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:21-25 Message)

I grieve for the people of Kenya today. I thank God that he gave me the miracle of time there with his precious people last summer. The Good Fridays of my life remind me of the joy and pain we all experience. How thankful I am that “our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:17-18 NASB)

Rainbow Promises

highway-rainbow-590x442A soft rainbow graced the blue sky above as my friend and I traveled on the highway. We couldn’t help but look, feeling that something deep within demanded it. Not to do so would have been like disobeying our daddies when we were little girls and were told to stop at the curb before crossing the street. A command sprang up from somewhere deep within. Stop. Look. Listen.

The rainbow demanded our attention. To ignore it would betray our better judgment. No matter that we were searching for exit signs on an unfamiliar highway, we had to look. Against a beautiful blue backdrop, the colors appeared as if a paint brush had dipped into pastels of cotton candy and then spread its catch in three long simple curves right in front of our car. We stopped. We looked. And then, a few miles down the road as our car was pelted with a strong, unrelenting rain, we listened.

Susan said, “Usually, we see the rainbow after the storm. This time, we saw the rainbow before the storm.”

Her words sank deep within. How many times have I trudged through one of life’s storms, fighting my way to the other side and trying to handle it all by myself before looking up to recognize God’s desire to help me? When the storms of difficult circumstances are raging in my life, I can see nothing but the pelting rains of discouragement. Often, I search for a rainbow through tears that dim my view. But, the rainbow was actually there for me before the trouble began. God’s promises don’t begin during or after the storm. God’s promises begin before the storm.

Our place is to stop, look and listen. Stop to recognize God’s faithfulness to guide us. Look for his promises to strengthen us. And listen for his whispers of encouragement.

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.


Frogs and Pearls

small pearlWhen I was around eight, my maternal grandmother told me a story about the importance of talking nicely. She said when we talk ugly, frogs come out of our mouths, but when we talk with love and kindness, pearls come out. The same mouth can either hurt people or show them love.

What she said made a great impression on my young life. With her words, she painted a clear picture. I visualized those frogs, and I wanted no part of them! The thought, however, of pearls coming out of my mouth sounded much better. I only saw Mama Newton when my family drove to Live Oak, Florida to my Grandparents’ large two-story home. I rocked in huge rocking chairs on their wrap-around front porch, studied the lovely stained glass window at the curve of the oak stairway, and played in all of the upstairs bedrooms. One of the best memories I have of her, however, is the lesson of the frog. She made a believer out of me!

Other than the frog/pearl story, one other memory stands out. She did not have a driver’s license, but when she learned of a friend with cancer, she walked all the way across town to pray for her. Her friend recovered. This left a strong impression on my life. From her I gained two valuable lessons. When we feel led to pray for a person, we must pray, even if we have to walk a ways to get there. When we speak to others, pearls are better than frogs.

The book of James puts these two teachings in perspective. James 5:16 reads, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James even has a pearl/frog story when he speaks of the power of the tongue. “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing….this should not be.” The next time God impresses you to pray for someone, do it. The next time you start to speak critically or hastily, think “pearls.”

Drunk With Hope: God’s Help for Addiction and Emotional Wounds

more more more“Tony” became increasingly involved in his job, to the sacrifice of time with his spouse, children and self-care. In childhood he was primarily rewarded and noticed for accomplishments, rather than loved for just being him. Addictive work habits were familiar to him and offered reassurance for his sense of self worth. However, his compulsiveness with work eventually fell short of filling empty emotional places within him.   Emotional distancing (from both self and family) and habitual overwork even took their toll on the very goal he yearned for; a dream job never materialized. This husband and father was left with finally exploring the fact that God loves him for who he is, not for what he does. The truth that God loved Tony before Tony did anything to “deserve” it–by sending His Son into the world (I John 4: 9)–was the beginning of healing for him and his family.

Emotional wounds are often at the heart of an addiction. Addiction is the “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol).”(The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 1998) Furthermore, the verb form “addict” means, “to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or excessively.”(Ibid) Often, the excessive use of something is an attempt to fill unmet relational needs. Relational brokenness and emotional wounds go hand-in-hand. Alcohol, drugs, work, shopping, caffeine, pornography, or unhealthy relational attachments can temporarily fill painful loneliness, sadness or anger that result from relational disappointments.   Ultimately however, these substances and compulsions fail us. One of the first steps in freedom from addiction is to ask God to help us identify those places inside of us that are empty and wounded. A qualified Christian therapist can be helpful in this process.

Carolyn Rose, from Love In Action (, a ministry devoted to healing from sexual brokenness, believes that every individual struggles to some degree with addictions, “because we are all wounded and the wounds come out in different areas depending on our life circumstances.” Rose states that when the evil one spots our vulnerability, he is masterful at implanting lies that target those areas of woundedness. These lies are in direct opposition to how God really views us. Neil Anderson, in his book Victory Over the Darkness, identifies truths from scripture to help us replace these lies. Following is a partial list that Anderson suggests for healing from emotional wounds:

  • I am a son (daughter) of God; God is spiritually my Father (Romans 8:14, 15; Galatians 3:26; 4:6).
  • I am an expression of the life of Christ because He is my life (Colossians 3:4).
  • I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12; I Thessalonians 1:4).
  • I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
  • I am a member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession (1 Peter 2:9,10).

The prophet Isaiah assures us in Chapter 51 that our Creator, the one who is powerful enough to establish the earth and put the stars in the sky, can surely release us from any captivity (vs. 13 & 14). This includes addiction! God promises to make our desert places blossom and our barren wilderness beautiful (vs.3). When addiction ultimately fails us and tears us down, God’s truth and love builds us up.

Depression In the Soul: Six Steps to Freedom

Woman-with-Depression“Wake up, you sleepyhead city! Wake up, you sleepyhead people! King-Glory is ready to enter.” (Psalm 24, The Message).

In these words from The Message Bible translation, Eugene Peterson illustrates a hibernating city and a hibernating people. Inactivity, listlessness and unawareness prompt a needed pronouncement for a time of release.

Depression in the human soul can be a type of hibernation. Our responses to outside stimuli are slowed and even shut down. Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and low self-esteem beset us. Focusing inward, body, soul, and mind sleeps.

The book of Revelation, chapter five, speaks of Jesus taking the scroll out of God’s right hand and breaking its seven seals. The scroll represents the redemptive plan of God in Jesus Christ. Only Jesus is worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals (Rev.5:9) because of redeeming us through His own blood.

God has also authored the scroll of our own lives. We are written on His heart. Through Christ’s blood we are redeemed from sin and set free from the seals of bondage. Whatever seals our minds and hearts from being fully alive can be broken. The elders’ and angels’ response in Revelation to the opening of the scroll was to focus not on themselves, but on the Lamb: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” (Rev.5:12)

When depression seals us with feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, perhaps the following steps could be helpful:


  1. Spend extra time with God. Reading in the book of Psalms, listening to praise and worship music and prayer, are some ways to reconnect with Him.
  2. Practice hopeful, positive thinking. Ask God to take negative thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and focus on past ways where God proved His faithfulness to you.
  3. Ask God to show you one, small, practical step you could take to move forward in an area where you feel stuck.
  4. Reevaluate eating, sleeping, and exercise habits. Are they healthy and in balance?
  5. Reconnect with a loved one or a friend who is emotionally supportive and comfortable to be with.
  6. If depression persists, it could be a sign of a mental health issue and/or a chemical imbalance. A licensed mental health professional can help determine if a combination of counseling and medication could restore your personal well-being and possible chemical imbalance.


If we let Him, God is able to take loving control of our lives. The former “scrolls” of self-defeating thinking and behaviors can be changed to allow Him to reveal His unique plan, purpose and power for our lives.


“Who is this King-Glory?

God, armed and battle-ready.

Who is this King-Glory?

God of the angel armies!

He is King-Glory.”

(The Message, Eugene Peterson, Psalm 24)

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.

Morning Star: All Through the Night

By Mary Lambrecht, M.S. LMFT

“Look up.  See the designs of God’s hands.  The Bear, Orion, the Pleiades.  Trace the constellations with your finger…
See how the tall cottonwoods wear stars in their bare branches,
Fancy in the dancing black night.”

Take a deep breath and look and look and look.
Are you dizzy with the looking?

These lines from the poem “All Through the Night” by Nancy White Carlstrom cast a reminder to us of just how big, how powerful, how creative, God is.  Reverand Rob Renfroe states; “And that God—the God who is big enough to speak all of that into existence…says you matter to Him.  He says I matter to Him.” (Good News Magazine, November/December 2010).

We matter so much to God that He sent His Son as a baby born of Mary, as the Root, the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star, (Revelation 22:16) to comfort us in all trouble, to bring light to any personal darkness.

Even as a newborn babe sleeping in a feeding trough wrapped in strips of cloth, darkness and suffering stalked Him.  Herod, determining to kill Jesus but under the pretense of wanting also to worship our Messiah, commissioned the wise men to find this Jesus, and then to report back to him His whereabouts.  God picked not His mighty constellations, but one star to guide the wise men.  And this one star guided them to Bethlehem.  Scripture states they found the baby Jesus, and fell to their knees and worshiped Him.  But “when it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.” (Matthew 2: 11-12).

From the moment of the manger, to snide rejections of Pharisees, to dozing disciples in Gethsemane’s pain, to the incalculable cruelty of the Cross, Jesus knew suffering. Because the same God who put the stars in their places deeply cared for each one of us, Jesus grew from a tiny babe in Bethlehem, to be a man.  A man acquainted with sorrow.

Why do these truths matter for you, for me, today?  They matter because Jesus suffered darkness on earth, for the purpose of bringing us out of darkness into light.  He promises that if we believe Him, we will not remain in darkness (John 12:46).  Light of the World and Bright Morning Star, Jesus illumines our personal darkness and shines the beacon of hope—eternal light and eternal life in God’s presence.

These words matter, because this same God who created the heavens called each one of us for a unique purpose here on earth. (Isaiah 42:6).  Sometimes it’s easier to grasp our final purpose of Eternal Life, than it is to grasp or endure the “what on earth am I here for?” purpose.  To this earthly question, and to the sorrows and trials that often beset it, He promises us in Isaiah 11:2:

His Spirit of Wisdom
His Spirit of Understanding
His Spirit of Counsel and Strength
His Spirit of Knowledge
And….Love.  For God is Love  (I John 4:16).

“In the pale light of a sliver moon we walk
out into the night.
Sssh.  Be very quiet.
Listen to the sounds floating through the
Air like angel’s wings.

Do you feel tiny under the great celestial roof of the earth?
Yes, we are small but never alone, and
Dressed in glory like the stars.
All our names are known.

In the darkness under the blanket of the Night sky
We, all creatures, great and small, slip
Softly into shelter, sing sweetly into sleep.

Praise God all through the night.”

Excerpts from “All Through the Night” by Nancy White Carlstrom (Wheaton Magazine, Autumn 2010).