Tummy Rubs

Our black lab has established a ritual.  If she spots one of us going upstairs she hastens to get on the stairs right in front of us and then stops.  It’s time for a tummy rub.  I’m not sure how long she would stay there.  She outlasts me and I ultimately have to nudge her out of the way.  As we rub her tummy she gets this far off look of ecstasy.  All is right with the world.

She reminds me of my relationship with my heavenly Father.   Every time I see an opportunity for a blessing I rush to the occasion.  Like our dog I would linger forever.  I wonder if God ever has to nudge me out of the way and say, “Hey, you’ve had enough for now.”

Do you remember the last words of the hymn, “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”?   They ring in my ears, “Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more.”  I am not aware of ever getting enough.  I am being greedy?  Should I not voluntarily step aside without the nudge, if there is a nudge?  Perhaps I would if I thought I was taking from another.  But the joy of having an omnipresent Father is that His attention to me does not take away from you.  We can both enjoy all the attention He has to share.  I think the only thing that bothers me is the question of greed.  Could my desire for more of Him indicate a deep selfishness?   In John 6:35 Jesus said, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger. . . ” Someday?

Irony.  The quest for godlikeness is, at least for me, filled with many ironies.

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 31, 2011

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




The graying college professor was watching television—but not really.  He was casually interested but not enough to give it his full attention so he pulled a volume of the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica off the shelf and began to browse.  He came across an article on Nebuchadnezzar. Knowing Nebuchadnezzar was once the king of Babylon, which is modern day Iraqi, gave the article a modern day connection.  The article even gave the name of Nebuchadnezzar’s younger brother Nabo-sum-lisir.  The old prof had never seen this before and thought it would be great fun to put this name on his door at school along with the promise of a ten-dollar reward to the first person to correctly identify him.  Just to make sure it was not too easy he went to www.google.com and typed in Nabo-sum-lisir.  In eight tenths of a second there on his computer screen was a copy of the very page in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.  Obviously, he did not offer the reward.

The lesson is obvious.  If anyone with an Internet connection can now identify Nebuchadnezzar’s younger brother in the blink of an eye, the wonder and mystery of God knowing everything about us is gone.  More than ever it makes us grateful for the promises of grace and forgiveness because with God there are no secrets.  “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing….” Eccl. 12:14.

“It is by grace you have been saved.”  Eph. 2:5  Lord, we are so grateful!

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 28, 2003

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


God’s Strange Value System

Near our school there is an old brick factory that has been transformed into an upscale condo container.  Over a year ago they put up a sign proclaiming sales were so successful the condos were going quickly.  The sign is still up.  I guess the word “quickly” is relative.   Most everything in life is relative.  Just stop at a yard sale.   I think most of what is displayed should just go straight to the dumpster.  But my opinion isn’t worth much because people actually buy the stuff.  One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.  It’s all relative.  It depends on one’s values.

So what’s with God’s values?  There is Jesus.  He is according to Colossians 1 “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”   That is as valuable as anyone could ever be.  Yet the Father so loved the world that He gave that Jesus so we could live.   Jesus took our place so we could take His place.  You have to admit that is an interesting value system.  It is relativity that I just don’t get.  We are the junk and He thinks we’re the treasure.

If you are wondering about the “quickly” word Jesus used about His second coming, that also is relative.  2 Peter 3:8 says, “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  It is obvious that God’s thoughts are definitely not our thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 29, 2010

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


Our Seats

We are creatures of habit and love the familiar.   I do not assign seats in my college classes but 90% of the time students will sit in the same chair they got the first day.  When I take attendance I automatically look at the chair I associate with a particular student and am slowed down in attendance taking if someone sits on the opposite side of the room.   So it was not surprising today when at Taco Bell a father and little girl entered and the little girl said, “Oh, look they are at our table.”  All of the other tables were empty.  There was no space problem.  The problem was we were at “her” table.  It also happens at church.  When we enter we go to the same seat and are just a bit put off if someone new got our seat before we did.  Actually I once had a church member ask a guest to move.  How’s that for being friendly and welcoming?

There is a seat mentioned in Revelation 3:21, “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”  Now there’s a seat we all should covet.  The promise says it’s ours if we overcome.  All right then, how do we overcome?  Let’s go to John 5. Jesus said, “He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”  Don’t you just love it?   Now let’s be perfectly clear about this.  When we are talking about believing we are talking about allowing the Holy Spirit in to reorganize our lives after the pattern of Jesus Himself.

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 28, 2011

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


The Door

Antique stores fascinate me because they are filled with priceless junk from my childhood.  I walk around and say, “Oh, look.  I had one of those. I wonder what happened to IT.”  I most likely was looking at IT.  Recently I was in one that had a door.  I know – they all have a door.  I mean this one had a door and frame displayed for sale.  It was quite ornate and actually very lovely.  It would have been nice in the right place.  I wondered about that door.  Where had it been?  What or who did it keep in or out?  Did anyone famous ever pass through it?  Did its presence assure a child of safety?

Doors are important. They often lead us into new experiences.  Yesterday our second semester began and I along with my students walked through the classroom door to a brand new experience.  Will that door lead my students to new realms of thought and preparation for a wonderful life of service?

I like John 10:9 where Jesus calls Himself “The Door.”  Step across that threshold and eternity beckons.  Entering God’s Kingdom changes everything from our limited range of thought to endless expanses of new ideas.  When we go in we leave behind guilt and are filled with new desires for growth and Godlikeness.  Some doors need to be shut.  Hopefully we will close the door to the old ways and not return.  Alas, sometimes we do return.  But thankfully we can reenter The Door.  Jesus gives us one of those stamps on our hand that allows us reentry.  Well, no.  We don’t need a stamp, because we didn’t pay the first time.  It was free and remains free each time we are wise enough to return and hopefully stay.

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 26, 2011

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



Over 150,000 people were buried as a result of the Haitian earthquake.  I have been trying to grapple with that number.  I have been trying to put it in perspective.  This evening my wife and I went to a wake. As the people flowed by the bereaved parents I noted the average time spent with each person in line was approximately one minute.  If one greeted 150,000 people at that rate, for eight hours a day, five days a week, it would take over a year.  That is a lot of people.

It makes some of my losses in life look pretty small.  When we lose something we tend to think “poor me” while the truth is most of us have been overwhelmingly blessed. Most of those 150,000 people were by the world’s standards very poor.  By American standards they were miserably poor.  It is so hard to imagine how this can be.   Yet my wife and I lived in Africa for six years and we do know life can be very hard for some.

Sometimes there is a strong temptation to think that human life is cheap and replaceable.  Over 300,000 babies are born on earth every day.   That meansonly 12 hours of people were buried in Haiti.  My question is why is God so obsessed with our redemption?  Why did the Word become flesh and dwell among us?  Why does God so love the world that He gave His only son?  Why when we were His enemies did He die for us?  Some people tell me when I get to heaven I will understand.  Honestly, when I get to heaven and see God’s glory I think I will be even more amazed at His love for us.

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 26, 2010

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



“Get Me to the Church on Time”

The small diner is just a half block from one of our town’s Catholic churches.   This morning the parish priest was in the diner when the bell began to ring announcing it was time for mass to begin.   Hurrying to the door he ran into two of our friends.  One would have expected him to rush on by to get to the church on time; however, he stopped and very politely greeted the two in his way.  Only then did he take off running for his service. Life works so much better when we take the time to be polite and thoughtful.

Paul wrote to the Romans, “Be inventive in hospitality.”   Romans 12 through 14 is filled with wonderful counsel regarding human relations.  In chapter 12 he talks about loving deeply and practicing “playing second fiddle.”   In 13 he speaks of our responsibility to be good citizens.  In chapter 14 he says, “Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do.”   That’s just not natural.  However, with God’s help we can do the unnatural.  See The Message paraphrase.

The way we treat others is so important.  It is the hallmark of Christianity.  Jesus said, “Men will know you are my disciples if you love one another.”  I have a theory.  If people discovered your church as a safe place where they were not criticized but be lovingly accepted I think the pews would fill very quickly.  People are hungry to be loved.  Next weekend when you, if you, go to church find a way to see something beautiful in everyone there.   There it is again, Romans 12.   I am interested that this was written by a man who was beaten, stoned, exiled and executed.

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 25, 2010

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


We Live in a Dangerous Place

So often we misuse Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  I can understand why we do it.  When tragedy strikes we desperately try to make sense out of it.  We don’t want some terrible loss to just happen without some meaning.  It is our nature to order our lives and random horror is contrary to our sanity.   When nothing seems to have a reason often we say, “Well, surely God must have had a purpose.”  When I was a pastor I used to respond with, “Someday we will know.”

We live in a world filled with random events that ruin lives.  We run over a road hazard and damage a tire.  Fifty miles later it explodes and our car careens into a tree or worse across the center lane destroying even more lives.  Let me be very plain.  God did not do this. If anyone did it, it was Satan.  However, most likely, it was a random bad thing that happened to good people.

So what about Romans 8:28?  It is a wonderful promise that means when horror happens God can help.  Something good can be worked out.  It was not His will.  But because He loves us so much He will bring about something positive.   Now you are thinking but why didn’t He intervene before it occurred?  That is a question no one on earth can answer.  We don’t know.  What we do know is someday we can talk to Him about it.  But please do not blame God for the bad things that occur.  We live in a dangerous place.  It’s called Earth.

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 20, 2011

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



Winter Has Settled In

An almost full moon hovers over our six degree evening.  Winter has made herself at home in New England.  Long gray shadows artistically lace across the snow creating eerie art that changes moment by moment.  An owl fluffs his feathers while silently watching for a stray creature to satisfy his evening appetite.  One would not know a storm approaches for it is still and sounds are swallowed by snow cushions hanging on the pine boughs.  Our dog sits by a window on the second floor of the house ever so softly growling at any sign of life. I wonder what she thinks.  Are there primal memories from ancestors past reminding her of hunting with a pack on nights such as these?   As I enter the room she looks at me as if to say, “Could I please go out?  I need to push the snow with my nose and feel it on my tummy as I wade.  I have business out there.”

If one listens carefully one can hear my trees creak and groan in the stillness of the coming night.  One can stand outside and be fascinated as one’s breath slowly ascends past one’s eyes.  The flush of red cheeks is its own elixir.  I am reminded of Proverbs 25:13, “As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refreshes the soul of his masters.”   Solomon reminds us of cold refreshment on a hot day but let us not miss the delicious joy of it on a cold winter night.  What a joy to be a faithful messenger that brings joy to our Master.  How wonderful if we were always so.

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 18, 2011.

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


It Pays to Pay Attention

After slipping into the driver’s seat, inserting the key into the ignition, I put the car in reverse to back out of a hospital parking space. Almost instantly I heard a steady beeping from the car’s rear radar telling me something was very close.  I looked in the mirror and didn’t see anything.  I turned around in the seat and still did not see anything.  I inched the car back and the beeps came closer together telling me something was there.  The temptation was to think  it was malfunctioning and just go for it.  But my better judgment kicked in and I put the car in park and got out.  Phew!  There standing not tall enough for me to see over the lid of the trunk was a little girl.   Her mom was busy in another row of cars getting a baby out of its car seat.

Sometimes I think I am smart enough to ignore one of God’s commands. I can’t figure out the danger so I just go for it.  Now that is hubris and just plain stupid.  He knows.   If it wasn’t going to hurt me He wouldn’t have mentioned it.  But He did mention certain things and it pays not to ignore Him.  Sometimes I see life falling apart for people, smart people.  Could it be they are ignoring the warnings?

There are some wonderful verses in Psalm 119 extolling the value of paying attention to God.  “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver.” Verse 71 “Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;. . .”  Verse 98  “Through Your precepts I get understanding; . . .” Verse 104.

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 22, 2010

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