Treasures in Plain Wrappers

The few moments of violent winds in a summer storm thrashing branches in wide arches across the lawn left a baby cardinal dashed and sprawled upon the concrete walkway.  It was the family’s second unsuccessful attempt to raise a family in what appeared to be a safe place.  Sadly I looked at what could have been a bright dashing color swooping across the yard.  Instead I saw a rather ugly, cold, partially feathered, big mouthed, blob of gray matter.  Would I have cared so much for the loss if it had been an English sparrow, whose presence sometimes seems like flying mice?  Do I only care for beautiful things and give not a second thought to the plain? Do we not fuss more over the beautiful, successful people in our midst than the ordinary?  Do the children with big blue eyes and long lashes not get more attention than the brown-eyed child whose eyes are just a bit too far apart? 

Apparently our insensitivity to the ordinary is not new.  In James 2 we read, “If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, ‘Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house.’ and either ignore the street person or say, ‘Better sit here in the back row,’ haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?”  

I guess nothing much changes. What is amazing is so often the real treasures in our midst come in plain wrappers.  We just need to pay better attention.

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 27, 2008

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

To Be Known/Wanted

I was the first person to see my second son.  When I first saw him I could not yet tell if he was a he or a she.  This was in Africa a long time before sonograms.  Yet I was not the first to know him.  Long, long before I was born he was known.  God said to Jeremiah, “Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.” And there is the magnificent passage in Ephesians 1 about you and me.  “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.”  It gets even better in verse 5. “Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ.”

We were born in sin but that did not deter Him one iota.  Have you ever seen something you want so badly it is all you think about?  That something is you.  Long, long ago He knew all about you and wanted you.  The earth is very old but before there was an ocean or a continent or a tree God wanted to adopt you into His family.

Now it gets even better because in Romans 8:17 we are co-heirs with Jesus Himself sharing in His inheritance.  In Ephesians 2 Paul tells us God did this so He could lavish us with gifts of grace.  Is not this the Good News? Can it be any better than this?

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 24, 2008

Spring of Life Ministry, Box124, St. Helena, CA 94574

Three Yakky Crows

I looked out my window just in time to see three very chatty crows walking down the center of my street.  Whatever they were talking about must have been fascinating because they were paying no heed to traffic.  I’m not sure if they were complaining about the weather or sharing garbage can secrets. Whatever the topic it was engrossing.  However, it sure sounded like complaining to me.  How very human they appeared.   They were walking when they could have been flying.

So very few of us have ever learned to soar.  It is easier to stay in the comfort of doing what we know we can do when we can do so much more.  Very few of my undergrad students seem to enjoy being challenged to reach beyond what they can already do.   So often I have heard, “But I don’t know how to do that.”  My response is, “That’s why you are here.  If you already knew how you would be wasting your tuition.” Instead of “I can’t” I wish I would hear “Help me try.”   Isaiah 40:31 says, “They shall mount up with wings (not like crows but) like eagles.”  I see young people with all the gifts necessary to rise up and fly but I fear they will spend their lives walking around like three yakking crows.

In Ephesians 1 Paul tells us God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.  We all cannot be gold medal winning Olympians or geniuses, but we all can become spiritual giants who bask in forgiveness and revel in a knowledge of the deep things of God.  We can fly if we try.

Written by Roger Bothwell on July 21, 2008

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

Thoughts about Prayer

Recently while kneeling in a prayer circle, instead of rehearsing what I was going to say when it was my turn, I decided to really listen to what the others were saying.  Gradually it occurred to me that this prayer circle was a strange ritual.  I got the feeling those praying weren’t really talking to God but were speaking for the rest of us to listen to how cleverly they could weave together a collection of cliques I have heard since I was a little boy.  I got the feeling they were praying for their human audience and I wondered if God bothered to pay attention.  If I was very wrong and they really were talking to God why should I be eavesdropping?   When I am talking to someone about really meaningful things I don’t particularly like having others listening.  They can listen when it is trivial but not when it counts.

I realize I am being judgmental and wrongly projecting my own cynicism on others.  So please forgive me.  The older I become the more personal prayer becomes.  The things I want to talk to God about are not for your ears or the ears of those with whom I work and play.  When I pray in public I want to ask God to indulge my trivia knowing that I will get back to Him later with what is really on my heart.

“Now it was in those days that Jesus went to a mountain to pray, and he spent the whole night in prayer to God.”  Luke 6:12.  Do you ever wonder what They talked about?  Surely it was a dialogue.  The following verses tell of Jesus calling the twelve to ministry.  That night they must have talked about each of the twelve one by one.  Now that’s a conversation I wish I had listened in on.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 8, 2008

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

This Is No Eden

It was like something from “The Twilight Zone.”  It could not have been more carefully scripted in a book.  This morning while eating breakfast my wife and I noticed an increased red squirrel population on the patio.  Apparently a new family had just left the nest and was exploring their new world.  As they were running around I said, “It’s a good thing hawks eat squirrels or soon we would be overrun.”   As my wife responded, “We also have coyotes and fisher cats” a red fox raced on to the patio and snatched one of the new baby squirrels.  I could not believe what I had just witnessed in relationship to our conversation.  Wow!

While I felt sorry for the squirrel I also hoped the fox enjoyed his breakfast.  He needed to eat and we needed to get rid of some squirrels.  As beautiful as our patio is right now with the rhododendrons in glorious full red bloom it certainly isn’t Eden.  It is full of eaters and the to be eaten.  I’m thankful to be at the top of the food chain even though one afternoon in Africa I wasn’t so sure I was.  I had inadvertently backed our car into a warthog hole and the only way out was for me to get out of the car and into the hole to lift and push as my wife drove.  Less than 50 feet away a family of lions watched me with great interest.  I must not have looked very tasty because I am still here.

Isaiah 65:25 has never ceased to fascinate me.  It describes a time when lions and lambs will lie down together.  Just how this will work I don’t know. But I, and I am sure you, are most anxious to see.

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 6, 2008.

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

The Stash

Our motorcycle helmets are stored high on a shelf in the garage.   It has been a few years since we wore them but I was still surprised when I took one down and was instantly showered with birdseed.  “Oh, no,” I thought.  “A mouse has a home in one and it has to be smelly and ruined.”   However, much to my added surprise, even though a good quart of seed came out, the helmet had not been chewed up, it did not stink and there was no mouse nest. Apparently some industrious little guy, who lives somewhere else, had a private stash just in case the bag of birdseed in the corner went empty.

How could I not but think of Jesus’ comment in the Sermon on the Mount? “Stop storing up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. Instead, store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust don’t destroy and thieves don’t break in and steal.”

In this particular case I was the thief.  I broke in and destroyed his cache. It is impossible to have a totally destruction proof place for one’s belongings. I lived in a country where people buried large sums of money to keep it from the government.  The government merely changed its currency and all the buried money was instantly useless.  

The only thing we can store and keep is God’s Word in our hearts.  That is the most valued thing in the universe and no one can snatch that away.  So be rich.  Memorize, store God’s Word in your mind

Written by Roger Bothwell on July 11, 2008

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

The Rugged Hero Who Saves the Day

I’m sitting here looking at a full-page magazine ad for a watch.  It stirs the soul.  The man pictured wearing the watch is ruggedly handsome with three days growth of beard.  He is wearing a wet suit and is grimacing as he peers into the water that is beating his face.  He is strongly clinching to a rubber raft that is rushing to some crisis he will conquer.  His watch is front and center and will obviously be the key to his success.  Wow.  I want one of those watches.  No, I don’t want one.  I need one.  I too want to be a ruggedly handsome hero that saves the day.

It is amazing how images affect us.  From the moment we are born we copy the behavior and seek to be like the people who impress us.  A baby will very quickly learn to stick out his or her tongue if their caregiver sticks out their tongue.  We learn to be kind, honest, helpful or vice versa depending on the actions of our role models.   Any lasting value of moralistic teaching vanishes quickly if the environment does not match the words.  How many times I have heard parents say in regards to their children, “But I took them to church every week.”

I never cease to be impressed by Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”  There it is.  Peter and especially John, because of his youth, watched Jesus and copied Jesus.  He was and is the ultimate rugged hero that saves the day.

Written by Roger Bothwell on October 6, 2008

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

The Owner Vs. The Hired Hand

My wife was standing in a line at a customer service desk.  There were two people behind the counter.  One woman was helping someone when the other looked up and said, “I’m not ignoring you.  I’m leaving.”  I think that is a form of ignoring.   Nevertheless, during the discussion that ensued we commented on the difference in service one gets from a person who owns a business and from a hired hand.  I like it when I am doing business with an owner.   Which brings me to the Owner of this world.  I like doing business with Him.  He is attentive and responsive.  He really cares about what is happening.

Despite the rebellion in Eden, God has always maintained His ownership. Notice Psalm 50.  “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.  I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.”  Also there is a wonderful passage in Job 38 when God asked Job a host of questions about the heavens and the earth.  God definitely has not relinquished His claim.

In John 10 Jesus speaks of us being His sheep and knowing His voice.  He loves to have us be His.  And when we are, He takes excellent care of us. When we go astray He will go out into the night to search for us.  He already risked all and paid all to have us.  In His parable of the pearl of great price, we are the pearl.  He paid an enormous fee to claim us as His own.  I hope you feel loved because you are both loved and cared for by the Owner.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 8, 2008.

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 945874

The Leaning Birch Tree

Within the next few days the Massachusetts highway department will need to cut down a beautiful white birch tree that is leaning more and more over the road.  It has not been bowed down by ice or by some boy climbing.   It has just decided to lean.  If trees could talk surely one of the larger trees would have warned it not to lean that direction.  The result of leaning that direction will always be a chainsaw.

Johnny Cash used to sing a song entitled “Don’t take your guns to town son.” It’s a ballad of a mother wise enough to know certain actions produce certain results.  He died.  It is the story told over and over again. Parents try to tell their children not to go a certain way because they know where it leads.  How often do children think parents and churches are just there to spoil sport?  There is wisdom in listening to those who have traveled the road ahead.  Unfortunately so many are wise too late.

Disasters begin with tiny movements and tiny deviations from the right way. Pilots know that a very small variation will over the course of a few hundred miles lead one way off the intended destination.  The challenge for parents is how to set our children off in the right direction.  This is where prayer and the claiming of James 1:5 is extremely important.  We need divine guidance so we can in turn guide.  One who cannot or will not take counsel is never fit to give counsel.  Only God knows everything.  The rest of us need help.

Written by Roger Bothwell on July 7, 2008

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

The Messy Nuthatch

I watched a very messy nuthatch this evening.   As day was coming to an early ending there was a host of sparrows and squirrels enjoying a rainstorm of birdseed.  I don’t know what kind of seed the nuthatch was looking for but he was whipping his head about in the bird feeder spraying seed everywhere.  I don’t know if he ever found anything for himself but he certainly was a source of blessing for the others.  I was wishing I could be that much of a blessing to others.

The primary prevailing philosophy in today’s world is existentialism.  If you asked a person if he or she was an existentialist they would most likely stare at you wondering what in the world you were talking about.  But if you explained what it was and asked them a few questions about life, they would discover that  is what they believe.   If I may oversimplify, I will just say it is a person on a quest for meaning.  There is much more involved but basically people want a reason for being. 

If you have Jesus in your life, it is cared for.  Jesus has a task for each of us.  Our quest is to find it and with God’s help fulfill our commission.  In a way that makes each of us a Christian existentialist.  However, the person who lives without Jesus is quested to invent meaning or live a life of quiet desperation so well-pictured in Edvard Munch’s picture “The Scream.”

Our task is to be a source of blessing to those about us.  To be like Jesus is to touch lives with love and promise for a better tomorrow.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 3, 2008

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