On Wasting Time

Have you ever come to the end of a day and realized you did nothing useful or productive all day long?  Wonderful, isn’t it?   I know I am supposed to be horrified and say how terrible, but I can’t.   Our culture drives us to be productive.

We, at least I, grew up hearing lectures about not wasting time and that we are accountable to God for every minute.   For decades I was driven to be busy, to come to the end of every day knowing I worked hard.   Working hard is good.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  But if God wanted us to be driven all day He wouldn’t have invented easy chairs.  I have one that is better than any sleeping pill.  Just to sit in it is an invitation to disappear into slumber.

Right from the beginning God told us to take it easy at least one day a week.  Check out Genesis one and two.  He told us to lay aside our weekday occupations and to slow down.  In Ecclesiastics Solomon reminds us that the person who works sixty hours a week and the person who works twenty hours a week eventually end up in the same cemetery.  Only maybe the person who worked sixty hours a week got there first.

Once again I would like to assure you I am not making an appeal for us to be indolent and to neglect our responsibilities.  Quite to the contrary.  I am just speaking out for moderation and balance.  Work is good but so is rest. Again in Ecclesiastics three, Solomon wrote there is a time for every purpose under heaven. Getting back to coming to the end of a day and having not done anything useful.  Well that really is a waste.

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 2, 2008

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574


My Screen Saver

I am dozing in front of my computer.  I am semi-awake.  It has been a while since I have touched the keyboard or the mouse and the computer’s screen saver has come on.  I am getting a wonderful slide show of my grandchildren. One by one in marvelous situations they appear for a few seconds in front of my happy eyes. It brings me great joy just to look at them, let alone have opportunities to be with them.  When they come to Old Farm Road I do a lot of watching.  They have no idea, absolutely no concept of how much they are loved.  They are busy growing and learning and finding out who they are. They have no thoughts of wonder about what Papa is thinking.  The thought that there is someone in the world who would die for them never enters their innocent minds, nor should it.

I have come to understand that the difference between me and my grandchildren and God and us is He is not dozing in front of a computer.  He needs no screen saver nor does He need special holiday visits.  He just watches us go about our busy lives with little regard to the incredible attention we receive. Fortunately we do have a written record of His love and that He really did die for us.  That’s the Good News.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.”

The world is us not just our planet.  He has a universe full of rock and gas spheres.  They are not overly lovable.  However, now that I have said that I am not so sure we are always overly loveable. Yet despite our often obnoxiousness, His love never ceases.  He is incredible.

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 8, 2008.

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574


My New Knee

Wouldn’t Ezekiel be shocked if he woke up this week to discover people living in a time when talk about replacing body parts wasn’t mere poetry but reality?  The promise for a new body part first appeared in Ezekiel 36:26, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”

If he spent the week with me he would marvel at my brand new right knee. He would have seen me up and walking in less than 24 hours and back in the classroom teaching in exactly one week.   No wheelchair, no walker, no cane needed, just a happy rejoicing spirit in my new gift.   I am awed.

Now about that new heart he was talking about.  I don’t want to appear greedy but I also want one of those.  It would be very nice to have a brand new heart not damaged by decades of collected cholesterol but I am more interested in that poetic heart to which he refers.   Wouldn’t it be grand to have a heart like Jesus?  To be sensitive to the needs of others, to get angry at things that really deserve our anger and not merely because our pride was hurt is a major goal.  Our churches should be transplant centers where we leave the old worn out, useless parts behind and go forth each week with renewed commitment, values, goals and ideas for making the lives of those about us better just because we are near.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 23, 2008

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

My Couch Potato Truck

I had to take my pickup to the doctor.  After he transplanted some new parts he said to me, “Mr. Bothwell, you had this truck in here two years ago and since then you have only driven it 3000 miles.  You have to drive this truck more or you will be replacing lots of parts.  Trucks are not made to sit.”

“Oh dear,” I thought.  “I have a couch potato truck.  It’s losing its health for lack of exercise.”  This weekend I need to go to New York City.  I will take it and stretch its muscles.

Isn’t it fascinating that even machinery doesn’t do well when it does nothing?  Christians are certainly no exception to this.  If we do not exercise our faith and reach for the goal of being more like Jesus we will lose our spiritual health.  Couch Potato Christians grow lazy and complacent. It’s essential that we actively seek out those who need our help, those who are hurting, those who have not experienced the joy of salvation and do what we can to remedy the problems.  By doing thus we will be blessed.  It is always a double blessing.  The person we help is blessed and we grow in grace.

“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 10, 2008

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

Motives Are Everything

In Isaiah 55:8 God tells us that His thoughts are not ours.  He thinks differently than we do about things.  I was reminded of this in class this morning when I read 1 Corinthians 13 to my students.  Verse 3 says, “Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.” It seems to me that degree of personal sacrifice should count.  But God says, “No. Not unless one’s motive is correct.”  If we did it for love it counts.  If we did it to earn a place in heaven, it doesn’t.”  The basic premise being that one can do nothing to earn heaven.  We either accept it as a gift or we don’t make it.  No amount of pain, no amount of sacrifice, no amount of money, no amount of public or private contrition counts.  This just seems so different than what I would think should count.  God says, “I think differently than you do.  These things do not count.”

It is difficult for us to accept something so wonderful as salvation without wanting to contribute.  It is part of our nature.  No wonder Paul says in I Corinthians that our nature will be changed when Jesus comes.  But the good news is we do not have to wait until that day for the change to begin.   As that change continues little by little we will more and more think as God thinks.  We will understand Him better and His will for us.   And what is His will for us?  It is to accept salvation as the gift that it is and be good people because we love.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 6, 2008.

Photograph by Shifaaz Shamoon.

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

Mandy’s Birthday

We had a birthday party for our old lab.  She sat with cocked head trying to figure out why there was a flame on top of her cupcake.  I couldn’t get her to blow it out. So I helped.  With long strings of drool almost reaching the floor, she stared into my eyes obediently waiting for the okay.  I would guess one whole second passed after I nodded “yes” before the entire cupcake was swallowed. So much for savoring one’s food.

As I looked into her eyes I could not but notice they are milky.   The clear dark wells of her youth have gone away.  Yet I know even still she sees better than I. When we walk at night she spies the rabbits and skunks in the moonlight before I do.  Occasionally we will spot the neighborhood coyote which often stands in the shadows and watches us go by.  Neither he nor she seems fearful of each other.  They just watch with interest.  I must confess the chill that runs my spine.

She is 84 in dog years.  I think she still looks great even though I have to help her up into the back of the truck.  I hope I have her for yet another year.  But I am not naïve for I can feel hard lumps in her that should not be there.  Alas.  I shall treasure each month, each week, each day as we should with all those we love.  None of us are promised tomorrow, that is here.  But we are promised an eternity of tomorrows.   “The wages of sin are death but the gift of God is eternal life.”  I have more than earned my wages.  But I have no desire to collect them.  It is the gift I want.  The grandest thing of all is the gift that is given.  Thank you Jesus.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 25, 2008.

Photograph by Jason Leung.

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574


Make Friends with Nobodies

Not long ago a woman complained to me that when her husband came home he always greeted the dog first and then came and found her.  But I asked, “Doesn’t the dog run to the door and wait when she hears the car pull into the drive?”   “Well, yes,” she answered.  “Sooooo?,” I answered.   I was reminded of a church member who most always came to church after the worship service started and left during the closing hymn.  They complained to me that the church was unfriendly and no one ever talked to them.

Emily Dickinson once wrote, “This is my letter to the world that never wrote to me.”   She got it.   If one is to have friends one must often take the initiative.   This evening I made three attempts to introduce myself to a church member only to have her turn and walk away from me.  I had been standing quietly in her vision range waiting.  I will try again.

Solomon said it in Proverbs 18:24, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.”  However, we do understand that some people are shy.  We need to seek them out.  In Romans 12:16 Paul admonishes us to make friends with nobodies.  It isn’t natural to do that.  We want to seek out the somebodies. However, somebodies rarely need us.  It is the nobodies who most often really need us.  Life can be brutal and demolish people’s self worth to the extent they just don’t have the courage to speak to someone new.  That is where we come in.  Sometimes an extended hand is all it takes to change a life.

Written by Roger Bothwell on July 16, 2008.

Photograph by Johannes Plenio.

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574


I have a student who has consistently come to class five to ten minutes late. So I asked her what class she had just before mine.  I figured it was in a building at the far end of the campus and thus a significant walk.  I was underwhelmed when she told me she did not have a class before mine.   So I made her a deal.  If for the rest of the semester she is on time, I will ignore her past tardinesses.   Today to my great pleasure she was on time. I felt a great sense of satisfaction until five minutes after class started she got up and left the room for ten minutes.  I never cease to be amazed! I realize I have an overblown sense of the value of my classes.  However, as I reflect on each day’s lectures I wonder just who is teaching whom.

How many times did Jesus go to bed wondering if He was making any headway with His disciples?  When John wanted Jesus to destroy the city of Samaria because they had not welcomed them properly, Jesus must have just shaken His head.  When His disciples wanted Jesus to tell the Canaanite woman to go away without helping her, Jesus must have wondered if it was all in vain. But of course it wasn’t.  They learned.  They grew.   I’m sure He shakes His head at us when we cling to retarded ideas or when we laugh at jokes that put down another race, denomination or class.  Just as Jesus never gave up on His men, He will never give up on us.

Written by Roger Bothwell on October 9, 2000.

Photograph by Tom Hermans.

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

Our November Guest

A strong November wind has finally stripped our trees.  My woods finally look like Robert Frost’s poem My November Guest.  “My Sorrow, when she’s here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be; she loves the bare, the withered tree; . . . She’s glad the birds are gone away, she’s glad her simple worsted gray is silver now with clinging mist. . . Not yesterday I learned to know the love of bare November days before the coming of the snow, . . .”

I am thankful our earth is tilted on its axis.  Should it not be we would have no seasons.  Depending where one lived on earth would determine a sameness to everyday.  There would be 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night at the equator.  There would be eternal evening on the poles.  But as it is I rejoice in the coming of the snow and after a white feast I thrill at the bursting of spring with all its daffodils and crocuses.

It is Thanksgiving week and time to revel in the richness of life, which has little or nothing to do with one’s bank account.  It is about life.  It is about love and friends.  It is about the thrill of learning something new each day.  Even though we have our aches, pains, and worse for some – it is about the hope that Jesus has promised us – an eternity of life without those aches and pains, without the separation from loved ones.

And so I look out my window and pull my sweater just a bit more snug. I hope somewhere in heaven there will be snow – lots of snow.  Somewhere there will be gray worsted days.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 21, 2016.

Photograph by David Marcu.

Spring of Live Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

Just Called to Say “Hello”

My son called just to say “Hello.”  That was awesome.  I love having him call for any reason.  It is nice when he needs something.  We never want to grow so old that we are not needed.  Being needed is essential for our mental health.  But it was grand that he didn’t call because he needed something.  He called because he wanted to say “Hello.”  I am loving it.

I wonder if we ever pray just to say “Hello.”  Our heavenly Father who is the source of all the essentials of our lives does not mind when we call to ask Him for things.  If we are made in His image I believe He also enjoys being needed.   Perhaps that is one of the problems He has with wealthy people. They don’t think they need Him when their needs are as real as the rest of us.  But wouldn’t it be grand if we would occasionally surprise Him and check in with a call to say “Hello.”  Better yet we could do a takeoff on a Stevie Wonder song and say, “I just called to say I love you” or how about “You are the sunshine of my life.”  Surely He would get a kick out of that.

Jesus certainly revolutionized our picture of God.  The Old Testament God doesn’t seem like a being who would be bothered with such trivialities.  But Jesus changed all of that.  He told us if we have seen Him we have seen the Father.   It was Jesus who taught us to pray beginning with “Our Father.”   Understanding that helps us to appreciate the little things we can do for Him.   Try it.  Just now call Him just to say “Hello.”  He will love it.

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 29, 2008.

Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi.

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574