Tree Roots

I have a neighbor with the most beautiful lawn. He feeds it his own special receipt of secret ingredients. He waters it every day and mows it every other day leaving glorious patterns that catch the light just right. I love it because his diligence raises my real estate value. Another thing I have noticed is the trees in my yard closest to his yard are very healthy. Arborists tell me the root system of trees can be five times the height of the tree. Some of my trees are easily fifty feet tall, which means they have root systems that spread out 250 feet in search of water and nutrients. I think my trees are eating his special formula and they are loving it. Please don’t anyone tell him I told you this or he might want me to help pay his water bill.

The very first Psalm says, “Blessed is the man … who delights in the law of the Lord. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth fruit in season.” I like the next part. It says, “Whatsoever he does shall prosper.”

God’s law is not an arbitrary set of commands designed to see if we are faithful. They are counsel from the one who knows all things. He knows if we follow His direction we will have a good abundant life just as a well-watered apple tree bears good apples. God is a God of good common sense.

When it gets dry in Massachusetts my trees do well. If we obey God’s word,we will do well.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 25, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Grandpa Is Listening

My wife has a wonderful ability to talk on the telephone with our grandchildren. She can create an endless stream of questions to keep them pleasantly engaged. It is just the opposite with me. After a few questions about school I run dry and so when we are both home my wife does the talking with them. But I listen. I enjoy listening. I want to know what is happening in their lives; I just do not have the creativity to extract the information. The children think they are only talking to grandma. They don’t know grandpa is listening.

My heavenly Father and I do not engage in active conversation. I do not know what to ask Him. What do I say, “How are you?” I know He’s fine. I guess I could ask Him what He did today but I doubt if I would understand the complexity of what He does to maintain the universe. It would be like my conversation about work with my older son. When I ask him what he does at work he tries to explain but I am too dull to get it. Don’t misunderstand me, I do talk with God in my prayers but it is not much of a dialogue. I mostly hear me.

Someone could say, because I do not hear Him He is not there. I would be tempted to think so but then I remember the telephone calls with my grandchildren. Grandpa is there. He is listening. He cares.

“And Jesus said unto them, ‘When you pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven.'” Luke 11:2

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 22, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

On Being a Protector

There was a small valley behind my house when I was a boy. In the field that ascended on the opposite side was a wonderful fencerow filled with oaks, maples, birches and sumac. My little dog and I loved to wander along the row scaring up rabbits and chipmunks. One year a big fat old groundhog moved in. He was grand. When we came near he whistled and disappeared into his chambers. He was my neighbor.

Late one afternoon I heard a shot and rushing outside I saw a man lying in the field beside my house aiming at my groundhog. Again he shot and I saw dirt kick up beside my brown chubby friend before he dove underground for safety. From that time on I watched diligently and each time I saw the man come with the gun I would run across the little valley to sit at the groundhog’s door. Finally the man stopped coming but my groundhog disappeared. I think the man came one day while I was in school.

I was not a very good protector. Fortunately we have a protector that never fails. Jesus promises in John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” I wish I could tell you that promise meant nothing bad would ever happen to us. It does not. What it does mean is our eternal destiny is sure. As long as we live in a sinful world bad things will happen to good people. However, Jesus cares.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 16, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Lo, I Am with You Always

There’s a great quote by Salmon Rushdie. He said, “Most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence.” I never thought about that before but he is absolutely right. We were not present when we were conceived. That was pretty important. Few of us are present when committees decide whether or not to give us a job or allow us to keep the one we have. We are not present when someone decides how much tax we have to pay on our house or out of our paycheck. We are not usually present when someone burglarizes our house or steals our car. If we are brought to trial we are not present when a jury deliberates our fate.

In regard to spiritual things we were not present when Adam and Eve failed and plunged us all into sin. Neither were we present when Jesus gave His live for us to get us out of sin. We are not present when our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life referred to in the Book of Revelation.

I am beginning to wonder if we are present at anything important in our lives. But wait there are some things. We are present when we marry our spouse. That’s pretty important. We are present when we are born. We are present when we die.

At the close of Matthew Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always.” In John He promised to hold us safely in His hand. I really like that kind of presence. It’s the best.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 15, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

“Cut A Hole in the Roof”

In the middle of “Finding Nemo,” a 90 some minute Disney film about two fish trying to find each other, my 4 year old granddaughter stood up on her seat and said, “If they aren’t going to find each other, let’s go home.” She had reached and exceeded her frustration level.

My sentiments exactly about going to church and having the hour filled with everything accept the story of Jesus. Sometimes there are so many announcements and so much money to raise and so much promotion of some worthy cause we forget what we really came for. We came for Jesus and us to find each other and if it’s not going to happen let’s go home.

I know it is difficult sometimes for a pastor to squeeze everything in his allotted time and it is easy to momentarily lose one’s priorities. Life is full of so many important things. In Mark 2 there is a great story about a group of friends who wanted to bring someone to Jesus for healing. There were so many people around the door of the house where Jesus was they eventually dug a hole in the roof so they could lower their friend to Him. In verse 4 Mark says, “They could not come near for the press, . . .” Obviously Mark was talking about people but we could use it to talk about the press of life’s duties and responsibilities keeping us away from a relationship with Jesus.

Do whatever you need to do. Cut a hole in the roof but make sure you do get together with Jesus.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 14, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

I Can Hear Him Calling

There is a wonderful little balcony off the back second story of our house. Since we live on top of a hill there was a marvelous potential for an awesome view but when we moved in years ago the view was completely obstructed by trees in the back woods. So my son and I cut them down and the view was grand. This afternoon I heard the roaring sounds of an air show at our local airport. Running out onto the balcony I had a rude awakening. I couldn’t see anything. Little by little each year the trees grew back. All I can now see is a marvelous crop of maple leaves. It’s time to get out the chainsaw.

As I turned to go back inside I thought of the innocence of childhood and how clearly I could see Jesus. But little by little as the years and decades slipped away I sometimes find it more challenging to see Jesus. Things have grown up and gotten in the way. Doubts, questions difficult to answer, hypocritical Christians, personal hurts, disappointing leaders who forget that people are more important than organizations and my own failures to live up to my own standards all obstruct my vision. Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he wrote, “When I was a child I thought as a child, but now as a man I think like a man.” “I see through a glass darkly.” I Corinthians 13.

Despite the maple leaves I can hear the airplanes on the other side. Despite the things of adulthood I know Jesus is there. I can hear Him calling.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 12, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

It Requires More Than Words

Today I shared my favorite of Jesus’ parables with my students. The reaction was, “Oh hum.” I was literally filled with pain as I saw the lack of response to Matthew 20 where Jesus tells us about the man who paid all his workers the same no matter how long they had worked. I love that parable. It tells us so much about God. It speaks of His grace, His liberality, His unselfishness and His desire to give each of us of His love without any prejudice. Yet I could not seem to light up my “Christian” students to the deep wonders of this story.

Surely the defect was with me, the messenger. Or could it be we have developed an insatiable appetite for new stories and new material? If we have heard something before do we not bother to apply any intellectual muscle assuming we already know about this item? At first I thought it was just undergrads so in the evening I tried it again with my graduate students and got pretty much the same detached stare.

It had to be me. A story filled with such grandeur could surely not fall on ears so calloused to the Gospel that it no longer stimulates. Merely telling people that Jesus loves them doesn’t seem to do it. We need to show them. We need to be filled with God’s power because the projection of our power just doesn’t hack it. Jesus tells us to let our light shine. Obviously it requires more than words.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 11, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

The Benefits of Being a Citizen of God’s Kingdom

When I was a little boy I used to wonder where in China I would come out if I started digging a hole in my yard and burrowed the whole way through the earth. Now as an adult I know where I would come out and it isn’t China. It would be in the Indian Ocean west of Australia. I guess that means warm salt water would come rushing out of the hole into my yard. Well, not really. But what I do know now is there is a name for the place on the direct opposite side of the planet. It is called the antipode. I guess hell is the antipode of heaven. Something else I have learned is heaven and hell don’t have to be a place but can be a state of mind.

Enjoying the benefits of being a citizen of God’s Kingdom does not have to be delayed to some far off time in the future. Jesus invites us to participate even now. We can bask in God’s approval. We can be at ease knowing our sins are forgiven. We can experience the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives giving us direction and improvement in our facilities. Development is what God wants so much for us. Just as car models keep getting better and better so is God’s desire for us. He wants us to be healthier and smarter than we were last year. Our homes can be places where angels love to dwell and bring with them the blessings of heaven.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 10, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Your Image of God

Despite all we know about the human mind consciousness is still a mystery. The self and its awareness and interaction with its environment awes us. The mind is incredible. It is small enough to put in a box and yet big enough to hold the universe. We live our whole life inside our head. People can lock up our bodies but only imprison our minds if we allow them. In less than a second I can be any one of a thousand places. It is just a matter of accessing memories.

When pondering this wonder cognition scholars propose the idea that all meaning in life is self created. Our senses pour data into our minds and we assemble it into experiences. This is a fascinating thought when it comes to reading. It would mean there is no meaning in the symbols on a piece of paper other than that which we produce. Because each of us has a different set of memories, which are the tools we use to form new experiences, each of us brings a unique interpretation to words spoken or written.

I was then wondering how different people react to the statement, “God is our Father in Heaven.” If our earthly father was cruel is our heavenly Father someone we fear to meet? If our earthly father was caring and sacrificing is our heavenly Father someone we can hardly wait to meet? Father is a name that elicits as many different reactions as there are children. How important for us to proclaim the good news that our heavenly Father cares and sacrifices for all.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 9, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

The Toymaker of Nazareth

There is something wonderfully satisfying about chopping firewood. Late summer days are good chopping days. Often I have tried to analyze what is so gratifying about swinging a heavy ax down on a nice piece of hardwood and having it split in two. Perhaps it’s the satisfaction of hitting the target when you swing down. Maybe it is the thought of preparing for winter for as nice as it is now the snow will come again. Maybe it is a feeling of kinship with our great grandfathers who had to do this if they were going to survive cold New England Januarys. Perhaps it is an innocent release of pent-up aggression. Or possibly it is just the joy of good hard physical exercise. Whatever it is I like it.

Each of us has something we enjoy doing. Everyone needs a release from the normal everyday routine of life. We garner great satisfaction in knowing how to do something well. Now I know there is no great skill in chopping wood but as primitive as it is, it pleases me to see the wall of split wood pileup in the garage away from the wet winter storms.

I have often thought of Jesus in His carpenter’s shop. He learned His trade from Joseph and we can only imagine that He was very good at what He did. I wonder how many of His tables and chairs sat in the houses of Nazareth. It is intriguing to think of the One who could speak worlds and galaxies into existence making wooden chairs or pull toys for Nazareth’s children.

Written by Roger Bothwell on Sept. 8, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453