Category Archives: Forgiving

FAITH – Seventy Times Seven and Forgiveness at Christmas (Matthew 2:10-11)

The Gift of Forgiveness Taught to Me from the Reverend Ada Slaton Bonds of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church


Christmas is that very special time during the year when we celebrate with so many throughout the world the birth of our Savior.

We begin this festive time of year dreading all the stress that accompanies our shopping for hours in the malls…people and traffic everywhere. Then, we come home and wrap presents for hours. Why? We do all this out of love for our family members and friends.

Growing up the grandson of the first ordained woman in the Louisiana Presbytery, Reverend Ada Caston Slaton Bonds, I found Christmas Eve to be a fun time. I would go to Old Bethany outside Coushatta, Louisiana and my brothers and I, along with our cousins, would dress up as Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, three wise men, angels, and yes, my older brother always got the part of the donkey. It was a memorable time in my life as we would all focus on the real reason for the season, the birth of our Savior and Redeemer.

The next morning, we would wake up outside Mansfield, Louisiana and scurry around the Christmas tree to see which gifts were there. There was great excitement, laughter, joy, and happiness as smiles beamed across our faces from ear to ear.

You know, this time of the year on December 12th is when my Mother, Dorothy, was taken to heaven. She was the last daughter born to the Reverend Ada Caston Slaton Bonds. I cannot help but think of her and my grandmother during this time of year.

As I think of the presents my wife and I give and receive at Christmas, my memories and thoughts reflect on the gifts associated with Jesus Christ, our Savior. These gifts are reflected in Matthew 2:10-11, “Whey they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”

The receiving and giving of gifts during this time of year reminds me of the gifts to Christ on the occasion of His birth.

I watched this year, as I have in so many years in the past, most stores beginning to capitalize two and even three months before the Christmas season…the commercialization of Christmas. It is oftentimes unfortunate that Christ is left out of Christmas.

Let’s go back and look at the Christmas season in a spiritual sense. The greatest gift that we have received from our Heavenly Father is the gift that he gave us when he sent His son, Jesus Christ. His sacred atonement was his highest act of FORGIVENESS.

I still remember when my Mom was informed she had terminal cancer. The doctor gave her not more than sixty days to live. I saw a gift given before it was too late, the gift of forgiveness in a grudge she and her sister had carried against each other for over ten years. She walked into the hospital room, sat next to my Mom’s bed and asked for forgiveness for not speaking with each other for ten years!

I think of times like this during the Christmas season and only think of the gifts we should be giving…those that last forever and ever…and they don’t cost one penny or need any of that expensive wrapping paper and bows. What are those gifts you ask?

Gifts of our heart, our gift of understanding and listening, our gifts of charity, gifts of patience, gifts of our friendship, gifts of our caring, gifts of forgiving a grudge that lasted for years and years. Furthermore, one other gift…the gift of our forgiveness for those who have hurt us or one of our loved ones.

These are great gifts, don’t you think. Ever since writing my grandmother’s inspirational story about finding forgiveness (FAITH – Seventy Times Seven), I have learned so much from numerous scriptures researched during the writing of this novel. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

I was with friends at dinner in Georgetown, Texas the other evening and we discussed “forgiveness.” My good friend had a perfect answer for the discussion. “When we forgive others, it frees us to choose how we will live our own lives.

What better time is there to give the gift of forgiveness to one who has wronged us than at Christmas time? Healing a family…what better time is there to heal a family with forgiveness than at Christmas time?

Still, two years later after the writing of this novel, I struggle with forgiveness. I have come to grips that forgiving someone who has hurt us deeply is probably one of the hardest things I will ever do. The freedom that you will feel in doing so  will be worth all the pain and effort it took to do. This forgiveness only comes with the help of our Lord.

I have completed my 10th novel scheduled for release on December 12th (The Flaming Blue Sword) and assure you I could never have found the words or strength to reach such a milestone without the Lord beside me each step of the way.

This is my Christmas message to you at this time of year! Take the time to give to those who may have offended you or hurt you in any way your gift of FORGIVENESS.  May we also look for the gift of forgiveness from those whom we may have hurt or offended. As we all do this, relationships will mend themselves, families will heal…miracles will happen!

May we all feel comfort and peace this Christmas season.


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Faith – Seventy Times Seven (Matthew 18:21-22) Heads to Silver Screen

I was excited a few weeks ago when I received an invitation to present a screenplay to on my novel, Faith – Seventy Times Seven, but with it, my sadness started all over again from the words I had written in 2014.

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Before reflecting on the novel, the first thing I thought when I was contacted, was who could star in the movie. The Reverend Mrs. Ada Caston Slaton Bonds was the First Lady of the Louisiana Presbytery, the First Ordained Woman in the Presbytery, and the longest active woman minister serving the Lord in history. A modest, kind, beautiful and Christian woman, full of compassion, is necessary for her portrayal.

I thought of Audrey Hepburn, star in the Storm Queen, but she passed in 1993. And then I thought of Kathleen Byron, star in Saving Private Ryan, but she passed in 2009. Then, I sat down and began dissecting the novel to fit the many scenes that needed to be built for presentation of the script to Hollywood. Oh, I am still thinking, but it will definitely need someone just right. I stopped at Meryl Streep because my wife said let the filmmakers fit the part. Meryl and I are the same age and she is the same height and build as the Reverend Ada Slaton Bonds…perfect!

That is when it all started again. You almost have to be a writer working in creative non-fiction and trying to do justice in bringing to life a true and inspiring story of the trials and tribulations of the First Lady of the Louisiana Presbytery. We have all heard of Susan B. Anthony because she is on a small silver colored coin, but have you heard of Ada Caston Slaton Bonds?  Her spreading the word of God began at 10 years old down by an old walnut tree on the Red River outside Coushatta, Louisiana and continued until she was 77 years old.

“What did Jesus mean when He said that we should forgive others seventy times seven?”

When writing the novel, I had old letters, a diary from early on in her life, and knew the woman first-hand as she was my grandmother. To write each chapter, I had to imagine I was standing in her shoes. I am in my writing room putting the words on paper at an early hour of the morning, and I, again, can not stop the tears that fill my eyes. I felt her frustrations for over twenty chapters. Her life was riddled with the devil trying to break her spirit…to break her faith, but each time she found forgiveness. How? How was she able to battle the Devil with such strength.

Now, writing the screenplay, I am reliving the novel, and not able to stop the tears while following the Reverend Ada Caston Slaton Bonds as she finds forgiveness over and over and over…490 times and more.

Answer: Jesus said we are to forgive others “seventy times seven” in response to Peter’s question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18: 21-22). To fully understand what Jesus was saying, we must look at the words in the entire chapter, for Jesus was speaking not only about forgiving one another but about Christian character, both in and out of the church. The admonition to forgive our brother seventy times seven follows Jesus’ discourse on discipline in the church, Matthew 18: 15-20, in which he sets down the rules for restoring a sinning brother.

When Jesus said to forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven, he was not limiting forgiveness to 490 times, a large and unobtainable number to be reached in a lifetime. Reverend Ada Slaton Bonds with her forgiving heart never did limit the number of times she forgave herself and those of others, especially her husband, Sidney Slaton, an abusive alcoholic.  Not even when the Ku Klux Klan visited Old Progress Church in Pleasant Hill, Louisiana in 1920. Or, when the Boll Weevils destroyed her entire cotton crop in 1927. Or, when she lost her twin daughters in 1922. Or, when almost losing her life from starvation in the dark and dreary back swamps of north Louisiana from swine fever. She continued to forgive with as much grace the 491st time as she did the first time. This remarkable woman was capable of this type of forgiving spirit because the Spirit of God lived within her, and it is He who provides the ability to offer forgiveness over and over, just as He forgives us over and over.

I am pleased to write the screenplay and can only hope Hollywood can find just that right person to play the part of such a remarkable woman!