He Discerns Our Intents

If you are like me most of the disputes in which we are involved occur because of misunderstandings.  Sometimes we mistakenly misspeak and before we have an opportunity to rectify it, it has been taken negatively by another and we are off to the races.  I can think of some really big disappointments that began with great intentions.  However, because we cannot read minds we allow our feelings to be hurt and our response isn’t very positive. We think we have been slighted when it was the last thing the other person wanted.  Failed attempts at humor are a major source of hurt. As a teacher I am most guilty of this.  I joke with students only to see tears well up in their eyes.  Then I am crushed.

I have always loved Hebrews 4:12.  God “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  There is no chance for misunderstandings with God. He knows.   Just as it is impossible for us not to be understood, it is also impossible for us to lie to Him.  We shouldn’t tell Him we love Him when we are genuinely angry at Him.  Well, maybe we should.  Allow me to take that back. We can love someone and simultaneously be angry at them.  Parents and children experience this multiple times and He did instruct us to call him “Father.”

Most of the time I am comforted by the idea that He totally understands me. Often we have feelings that are very difficult to articulate and while it might be useful to do so, we don’t have to. He knows. He knows the intents of our hearts.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 28, 2010

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


This Land Is My Land

In 1940 Woody Guthrie was tired of hearing Kate Smith sing “God Bless America”, so he wrote “This Land Is Your Land.”   He recorded it four years later.  It has become one of our more famous folk songs.  But, other than Mr. Guthrie, who said this land is our land?  Was it really Manifest Destiny or “might makes right”? What about the few million people who lived here before Columbus?  The history of the world has always been that of the conquerer and the conquered.  How would we feel if at a Fourth of July concert a citizen of the Mohawk nation walked to the microphone and sang “This Land Is My Land”?

We like the word conquer.  Somehow it isn’t as harsh as “took.”  The children of Israel conquered Canaan.   My very first issue with this came to me in Sabbath School when I was about 12.  How was it that only 40 years prior God told the Israelites killing and stealing was wrong?  Did that only apply among the 12 tribes or was that universal?  How was it that the materials used for the building of the temple were offerings and plunder? I understand they believed God told them to take the “Promised Land” but most every war is fought by two sides who believe God is on their side. Just read the history of our own Civil War.

I am not trying to stir up controversy and don’t seek responses.  I am just thinking about our history as a nation and as a human.  It has been a bloody road to where we are. I am so pleased that Jesus was not the leader of any armed group.  He really was the Prince of Peace.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 26, 2011

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



Heaven University

While taking our lab for a snuff tonight, (our old dog went for a sniff, this dog snuffs – really, you should hear her) we were looking at Arcturus and wondered what the beings on its planets call it.  We call our giant ball of burning gas Sun.  I gather that is its name even though we do not capitalize sun.  Since we can see Arcturus it would make sense to believe its planet’s population can see our sun and I wonder what name they have for it.  Perhaps because of Adam and Eve’s transgression they call it “sin” instead of  “sun”.

There is so much to learn.  When I was a teen I thought the idea of eternal life was a nice idea.  Now it is an essential idea.  Part of the problem was when I was eighteen I knew everything.  All you had to do was ask me.  Now I know so little and my curiosity continues to grow.  What Jesus offers isn’t just living forever.  Under certain circumstances that could be awful.  But what He offers is eternal matriculation into Heaven University.  I need a sweatshirt with a big HU embroidered on the front.  I know it might seem like I’m jumping the gun a bit but I already have my acceptance.  Check out John 5:24.  Usually when someone is accepted into a college or university they get the fat envelope with all the forms that need to be filled in.  There are no forms needed for HU.  The Registrar already knows everything about us and when it comes to financial aid, well there is a scholarship that beats all scholarships.  This one comes with housing and all books are included; probably an e-tablet. (See John 14)

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 27, 2011

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



The World We Want To See

One of the great wonders of the human mind is the ability to create the world it wants.  We see the things that support our worldview and are blind to the things that do not.  If we see the world as a hostile place our mind will focus on slights and will spin things into a negative.  Paranoia comes on a sliding scale from one to ten.  Some of us are so anxious for this age to come to an end and for the second coming of Jesus to occur we see “Signs of the Times” everywhere.  They are usually negative because that fits an end time worldview.  See Matthew 24.

Then there are those who do not believe the world is any worse off now than it has ever been.  The wars and earthquakes and threats of violence fit into a pattern of history that has been with us for thousands of years. Increased numbers are merely the product of better reporting in an age of instant worldwide news coverage.  For these people the world has always been a dangerous place, so live with it.

There is a third kind of person who, while not being a total Pollyanna, sees the blessings they have and are grateful.  While they recognize bad things do happen, those bad things are far outnumbered by good things.  They minimalize bad things and refuse to let them set the tone for their life. They long for the second coming but are happy to make the best of what is.

There is such a wealth of incidents, good and bad, our minds are intriguingly capable of defining, with an overwhelming amount of evidence, the history and present we desire.  The most difficult educational framework to design for schools is social studies.  Just whose viewpoint will be emphasized in the limited number of pages a history book can contain?

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 27, 2010

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



Gut-Wrenching Pictures

If you want to feel good about being a human being, don’t read the news today. It features such items as elephants being abused at a very famous circus, a video revealing a woman who died on the floor of a hospital while employees did nothing but watch and walk past her for thirty minutes. And there are more gruesome pictures from Abu Ghraib prison showing stomach revolting scenes of prisoner abuse.

The disturbing question is, “Are these exceptions?”  Most psychologists would tell us they are not.  Instead they become the rule when we humans are given absolute power over others.  Something happens to that nice kid next door when given free reign.  Worse something happens to us when we are given free reign over others.  It doesn’t happen overnight.   It takes time for us to shed our veneer of civilization and get to the core of our selfish being. But given the right circumstance each of us has incredible potential for evil.

I’m most uncomfortable even mentioning it.  It is so much nicer to think of ourselves as gentle, generous, self-sacrificing creatures.   It is true there are some among us who really are that way.  However, there are not as many as we would love to think.  All this brings me to why in the whole universe does God care about us?  In Ephesians 2 Paul wrote, “It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us.”* The next time you are tempted to think God saves you because you are so good, forget it.  We are saved purely by grace.

*The Message Paraphrase by Eugene Petersen

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 27, 2009

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




Recently I admitted that for all these years I did not know one is not supposed to congratulate a bride for getting married.  Today someone who read my confession accused me of being uncouth.  Wow.  I don’t want to be uncouth.  I want to be couth.  Merely thinking that made me aware that in all my years I have never been called couth.  Actually, I have never called anyone couth.  It’s a nice thing to be but somehow doesn’t sound that nice. I’m going to try it out.  Next time I see someone being sophisticated I am going to say, “How couth of you.”  I hope I don’t get punched in the mouth.

Actually Jesus was accused of being uncouth.   They said, “This man eats with publicans and sinners.”  Now that is very uncouth.  How about Matthew 23 where He calls the religious establishment a bunch of snakes who are really like nicely polished tombs that are filled on the inside with rotten body parts?  Ouch!  Now that is uncouth.  It really is no wonder why they wanted to get rid of Him.  He embarrassed them in front of their congregation.

Then there was a time when He told Peter that Peter was playing the part of the Devil by trying to discourage Him from going to the cross.   Once when the woman who was anointing His feet with very expensive ointment was ridiculed, Jesus defended her by telling His host to leave her alone because he, His host, had not done so much for Him.

While I really don’t think Jesus went around deliberately being uncouth, He did have His moments.  Most of the time He was filled with sympathy and care.    See Matthew 14:14.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 26, 2010

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




While I cannot remember a specific occasion I most likely have committed a social indiscretion through the years.  Only today did I learn that one is never to congratulate a bride.  Only the groom is to be congratulated.  To congratulate is to express joy over one’s accomplishment.  To congratulate a groom is to be joyful that he has won the heart of his intended.  To congratulate a bride would mean she finally got her man and is saved from spinsterhood.  Humm?!

The above logic presents an interesting idea regarding Revelation 19.   John portrays Jesus as the Bridegroom and we are His bride.  We are not to be congratulated upon receiving our salvation.  It is Jesus who is to be congratulated for winning us.  We are the object of His wooing.  He is the one who paid the horrendous price that we might be His.  He is the one who chases us and will not let us go.  He is the victor and the glory belongs to Him.  We are the ones taken to His house.  We are the ones bound into the family of God.

The one thing that makes Christianity different from all other religions is not our moral code.  Other religions have high moral standards.   What makes Christianity different is it is the only religion that proclaims the truth that from the foundation of the world God has been pursuing us.  Other religions proclaim the mistaken notion that God can be found by us if we sacrifice enough and perform penance for our sins.

Jesus said, “I stand at the door and knock.”   We do not need to go on pilgrimages to find that door.  It is in our minds all the time.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 25, 2010

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



Such a Bright Light

For an entire week we have had a tiger swallowtail butterfly filling our yard with glorious beauty.  He reels among the blooming rhododendrons and azaleas.  We have been granted the pleasure of most of its life for it only takes a month from egg to aged adult.  That doesn’t leave it much time to brighten the corner where it is.   It reminds me of the poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, “My candle burns at both ends. It will not last the night; but ah, my foes, and oh, my friends it gives a lovely light.”

One of the smartest men I have ever known passed away recently.  As I pondered his death I could not but think of the tragic waste that lay in that coffin.  He was a scholar, an administrator and a great preacher.  He used to sit on the platform with me at church and follow the scripture reading in his Hebrew or Greek Bible.  He was an awesome, friendly, caring man.  His candle burned brightly.  He decorated life with his presence.  If it were not for the promises of Jesus I would be the most depressed of all men.  However, Jesus leaves us no room for despair.   All of that talent and all of that study was not in vain nor was all that learning for a brief moment in time.  It is forever.  It is not to lay fallow but to live again and breathe again and shine again.  All that we attain now is a stepping stone for a bigger and better tomorrow.  God is into growth.

My tiger swallowtail will soon be dashed to the ground in a summer storm or suffer some similar fate.  I wish it could know how much it was appreciated.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 24, 2010

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




Our Moral Responsibility

It is amazing to Google a satellite nighttime picture of Korea and look at the electric light difference between the North and South.  North Korea is a nuclear power that doesn’t even supply its people with lights.  Then there is the issue of food. Once again because of government mismanagement and/or deliberate action masses of people in North Korea are facing starvation.  We have food, lots of it.  Too much if you look at the size of our children.  Our moral dilemma is should we send North Korea food only to have it put in storage for their military.  It is difficult for us to imagine a government allowing its own people to starve and yet we saw such behavior during the years we lived in East Africa.  Tons of food rotted on shipping docks while fifty miles away people were dying for lack of nourishment.

Have we done our human duty to give and then not have control over the use of what we give?  This is a question akin to giving our offerings only to see church officials with large travel budgets using the money to fly all over the world when they could have used Skype for free.  Is the issue not our concern because we did the right thing by giving; thus transferring the responsibility to others?

Living in a modern world with new technologies continually changes the moral landscape. Does God wish for us to carefully ponder our giving and not merely blindly trust others to do the right thing?  Service and sharing is the noble part of our humanity.  It is the substance of our happiness and of our moral values.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 23, 2011

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



Too Many Papas?

We’ve all ordered pizza over the phone.  It wasn’t something new or unique when I called Papa John’s this evening.  Twenty minutes later I was walking in the door ready to do battle.  The price they quoted me on the phone was quite a bit more than the sign on the door that said, “Any Large Pizza – $10.”   But wait; they didn’t have my order.  It was then that I realized I hadn’t called Papa John’s.  I had called Papa Gino’s.  How I wish I had called Papa John’s.  Their pizza was so much cheaper.

Now back into the truck and on my way to Papa Gino’s, Frank Sinatra started to sing, “My Embraceable You”, which of course contained the line, “Come to papa, come to papa do.”  My grandchildren call me “papa” as they also call their other grandfather “papa.”   I even heard a sermon where the preacher said Jesus referred to His father as “papa.”   There are just too many papas around.

Or are there?  Is that even possible?  If God loves me as much as I love my sons and their children then I’m okay.  I’m in a very safe place.  I couldn’t help not thinking of Romans 8 where Paul says, we “received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”

The word “Abba” is well translated as “papa.”   This personal fatherhood of God is a very New Testament idea.  Jesus wanted us to know what God is really like.  There really can’t be too many papas.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 20, 2010

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