Too Much of a Good Thing

Our grandson loves to turn on the seat heaters when he rides in the back seat of our car.  Since we don’t ride in the back we are not aware that they are on–usually on high. This weekend we took some friends for a ride to New Hampshire.  They never said anything because at first it felt really good. It was crisp outside and the warm seat was snuggly.  Unfortunately they did not know where the control was and it wasn’t very long before they were extremely uncomfortable.  It was way too much.

I must admit my amusement but also pondered the reality that one can always get too much of a good thing. We can eat too much, breathe too much, sleep too much and even go to church too much.  Balance is the key to the abundant life.  Balance doesn’t always come easily.  Remember when you first tried to ride a bike?  At the circus we watch people walk a tight rope.  It took hours and hours of practice to develop that kind of balance.

When we lose our balance we fall.  When we fall we have two options.  We can stay down or we can get up and try again. Living a really good life can be as tricky as walking a tight rope.  People irritate us and we say things we regret.  We over indulge in something we really enjoy.  We fudge a little on our taxes. I could go on but each of us knows our weaknesses.  The good news is despite our failures and falls Jesus never gives up on us.  No matter how many times we lose our balance He is there to help us get up so we can try again.  See I John 1:9.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 19, 2009

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


To Know What is Right

One of American history’s interesting moments was when an American president from Texas spearheaded the Civil Rights Act of 1964.   Lyndon Johnson, our 36th president, once said, “Doing what’s right isn’t the problem.  It is knowing what’s right.”   I’m fascinated by this because most of the time my problem is just the reverse.  I know what is right but want to do something else.  I have the same disease Paul talked about in Romans 7. He wrote, “For I have the desire to do what is right, but I cannot carry it out. For I don’t do the good I want to do, but instead do the evil that I don’t want to do.”

Yet now that I have said this, it isn’t that simple.  When I was young most moral issues were clearly right or wrong.  It was easy to call sin by its right name when I was twenty.  Life was black and white.  No longer do I see much black and white.  I see many shades of gray.  I read Ecclesiastes 3 and read that there is a time for everything.  There is a time to kill.  There is a time to rend.   There is a time to hate. There is a time for war.  And, yes, a time to forgive and a time to love.

Maybe President Johnson was wiser than I thought.  Perhaps the most difficult thing of all is to know what is right.

Written on November 17, 2009

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


Time Is So Relative

Long before Einstein’s theory of relativity people were very aware that time is relative.  When we are very small time moves ever so slowly.  A week was a month and a month a year.  In our autumn and winter years it reverses.  A year is a month and a month a week.  I realize we are fearfully and wonderfully made but I do wish God had reversed the effect.

We are prisoners of time.  There are so many clocks that control our lives. We are governed by a psychological clock, a biological clock and a social clock.   As we mature different parts of our brains come on line and our judgment matures.  Our cells age according to a built in schedule.  And society tells us when we are too old for a pacifier and too young to marry. Often we hear parents say, “You’re not old enough for that.”  The average age of marriage now is twenty-eight.  Fifty years ago it was twenty.

God’s gift to us is eternity.  See John 3:16.  We will be set free from time.  There will be no psychological, biological or social clock to dictate our health or behavior.  We will be free to grow at our own pace.  We will be free to take as long as we desire to become masters of new arts and skills.  The whole concept is so vast it really is beyond the ability of our finite minds to grasp the infinite gift we are given when we make Jesus our Lord.  Just in case I don’t get to see you in this phase of life I’ll catch you somewhere a few thousand years from now.  How grand!

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 8, 2009

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


Thoughts on Compassion

Upon hearing the news today that Scotland has, for humanitarian purposes, released a man from prison who was convicted for the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing, I was interested in the objections of many people.  I’m sure I do not understand the feelings of relatives who lost loved ones.  What I did hear in the voices of some of the objectors was much pain and for some hatred.  I heard it said that compassion and mercy for this man was not appropriate.  His crime was too heinous to forgive.   Being that I did not lose a loved one in that horrible event it is neither right nor appropriate for me to comment one way or the other.

What I do want to comment on is Jesus forgiving those involved with His horrible crucifixion.  The King of the Universe came to this earth.  While here He labored to bring relief to the suffering.  He gave sight to the blind.  He enabled the deaf to hear and speak.  He fed the masses.  He taught us what the Father was really like.  He also threatened the power structure by pointing out their hypocrisy.   It was partly the latter and not the former that took Him to the cross.   I found myself wondering if there is someone in my life that will cause me great consternation to find in heaven.  Could it be that while seeking compassion for myself there are those I do not think should qualify?   Will I want my mansion moved when I see who will be my next door neighbor?

The Lord’s Prayer rang in my ears.  “Forgive my trespasses as I forgive others.”  Sometimes I think the Sermon on the Mount is the most difficult to understand of all literature.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 21, 2009

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



Things That Don’t Matter

Late this afternoon I found myself standing beside our local academy (high school) principal.  I could not help but notice his extremely short haircut. His head was about 3/16th of an inch away from being shaved.  My mind rushed back fifty years to my student days in such a school.  It was a very conservative school that prided itself on upholding values.  After a Christmas holiday one of our classmates returned to school with such a haircut.  He was suspended for two weeks while his hair grew long enough for him to be morally acceptable to attend class.   The very next decade they were suspending students because their hair was too long.

How can it be that we confuse genuine values with superficiality?  Where are our heads?  Can’t we see the difference between that which is harmful and that which really doesn’t matter?  How many young people have left our churches never to return because some overly critical busybody majored in minors and offended them over something that really doesn’t harm anyone?

Can’t we love a child for his or her heart instead of what adolescent thing they want to do with their hair?   Really now, what harm comes from a teen having purple hair?  Does it look good?  Probably not.  But so what?  We sing a song in church called “Just As I Am” and want that only to apply to ourselves.   No, I am not talking about not having standards.   Of course we need standards.   What I am appealing to is a sense of only going after the things that harm.  We can so alienate our children with non-harmful issues they stop listening to us and don’t hear us when we speak of the things that really are harmful like pride or dishonesty.

Written by Roger Bothwell on October 21, 2009

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


The Tyranny of Magazines

I need to speak of the tyranny of magazines.  We are seduced into purchasing subscriptions because the price is often very cheap, if you catch a special. The magazines promise the firms that purchase advertising that they will have a certain circulation.  If they are low on numbers they offer them to us pretty much for the price of the postage so as to boost their numbers.  Soon our mailboxes start to fill.  Some come once a month but some come weekly.  There is Newsweek or Time.  There is Popular Mechanics and Popular Science, Readers Digest, National Geographic, The New Yorker, AARP’s Journal, academic journals, church publications and I refuse to even think of the catalogs.  Did I mention the daily newspaper?   You can forget the Sunday Paper.

You can’t throw them away until you read them and that is always going to be tomorrow.  So begins the mountains of magazines stacked around the house.  We must be the best read people in the history of the earth; that is if we actually read them.   Finally I become overwhelmed and need a fresh start.  Trying not to feel guilty I gather up armloads and head for the recycle container.  At least I am being a good citizen and recycle.  As I dump them I wonder what great article, what great gem of truth I am discarding?

The truth is I need a fresh start.  Toss them and begin the mountains anew.  I do that with my sins.  I have to dump them.  If not, I am overwhelmed.  Now comes the tricky part.  When I dump my sins by claiming God’s promise to forgive me, (See I John 1:9) I have to make sure I don’t put them in the recycle bin.  They need never return in any other form.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 15, 2009

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


The Taste Test

As I reached into the dairy case to pick up a container of freshly squeezed orange juice I noticed another brand claiming the same characteristics and it was two dollars a gallon cheaper.  Now that’s a significant difference. But was it as good?  So I bought one of each and had my wife pour them for a taste test.  I did not see which juice went into what glass.  There was no contest.  The more expensive juice was much better.  In this case if you paid for quality you got it.

I have always been fascinated by Malachi 3:10.  It reads, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” God is challenging us to a taste test.   There is no better time to test God.   God says, “Try me.”   If you are not returning your tithe, begin to do so and keep careful record of your expenses. If He does not keep His word and if you are not blessed, then stop.  Just be sure you give it a real test like six months or more.  God might have a lot of fixing to do and that often takes time.

Once two men asked Jesus where He lived.  Jesus responded, “Come and see.” They did and they were so blessed they became part of the twelve.

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 29, 2009

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


The Stuff of Movies

If you want an interesting three minutes, watch this year’s Kentucky Derby. It’s available on You Tube.  Mine That Bird, with 50 to 1 odds that he would not win, started off running in last place looking at 18 tails in front of him until something marvelous happened.  He started passing those tails and miraculously won, not by a nose, but by over 6 lengths.  It was the stuff of movies.

I am reminded of some of my students.  They sort of slink into class their Freshman year and convince me they will never make it to their Senior year. They look frightened and intimated by their more confident classmates and I think they are wasting their tuition money.  Something marvelous happens over the next four years.  They grow into confident young men and women and please us to no end when they march across the stage to receive their degrees.  It is the stuff of movies.

Look in the mirror.  Do you know what you see?  You see a sinner destined for failure in the race for eternal life.  A host of evil is against you. As the decades roll by you will commit a litany of selfish deeds.  You will disappoint those around you and yourself.  There will be snickering in hell as they prepare to welcome you to their misery.  And then something miraculous happens.  You come face to face with Jesus.  You take His hand and accept His offer to be your righteousness and heaven’s door swings open.  All your sins are forgiven and boldly you come before the throne of grace. It is the stuff of movies.

We can be sure of this because I John 1:9 is unadulterated truth.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 4, 2009

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


The Sprinter in the Dark

There I was with my old dog.  Picture this.  An old man with an old dog at 11:00 on a moonless night slowly walking up my hill.  Neither of us comes up as quickly as we used to.  But at least I’m not the one panting.  Suddenly in the dark I hear a strange sound coming from behind.  As I turn my head to the left I am startled as a man much larger than I (that doesn’t take much to do) sprints by us.  He was not jogging he was sprinting – uphill – with no flashlight and it was really dark.  So who was this mysterious very physically fit runner?  I have no idea.  But I have to say I was very impressed.

However, I must add that I am easily impressed.  I am impressed by how much my students don’t know.  I am impressed by how much talent they have.  I am impressed by how little my students have to work these days to go to college.  I am impressed by those who really do study.  I am impressed that I do not know any young people who don’t live together before getting married.  I am impressed by a host of cultural mores that are so different from when I was young.  Having said that, I have officially become a geezer.

I am also impressed by Jesus.  When I read Colossians 1 which describes who Jesus is I am overwhelmed that He came to save us.  Paul wrote, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether they are kings, lords, rulers, or powers. All things have been created through him and for him. He himself existed before all things, and by him all things hold together.”

Why did this incredible God love us enough to die for us?  Now that is a real mystery

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 1, 2009

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


The Scent of a Cigar

While waiting for a traffic light to let me go I suddenly smelled the smoke of an El Producto cigar.  Instantly looking in my rearview mirror I saw a cigar in the mouth of the man in the car behind me.   I was fascinated by the flood of memories it released.  My Dad smoked El Productos.  That particular smell is to me a perfume.  One thing I never doubted was how much my father loved me.  Most likely most people are put off by that smell but to me it is the best smell ever.

Most things in life are relative.  In II Corinthians 2 we read, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those whare perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.”   I am trying hard to stop being critical of others because they do things I don’t like. Why should my likes and dislikes be the standard of other’s behaviors?  Just as I desire the freedom to do as I like so should I want the same for others.  Just as some people are obnoxious to me so am I to them.  We are the fragrance of Christ to God and the aroma of death to the unsaved.

I’m sure you have noticed how some people try to use religion to get us to comply with their particular tastes.  If they don’t like something they find a way to make it morally wrong and thus a sin.   The next time I am tempted to do that I hope I remember the fragrance of an El Producto cigar.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 5, 2009

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