Paul and Willy Wonka

AT&T once ran one of their best ever commercials.  City streets were filled with children’s art.  The background music was Pure Imagination sung by Gene Wilder from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.   The words are designed to spur creative thought.

Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, . . .”  I have a feeling Paul and Willy Wonka would so agree with each other.

Unfortunately the older we get the more practical we usually become ending with limited concepts of what God can do with us.   Ephesians 2 speaks of God’s plans for our working with Him.  I wonder if anyone other than Jesus ever fulfilled God’s Plan “A”.  Most of us can only see Plans “B” and “C” in our rearview mirror.  I can only imagine that I am working on Plan “Triple Z.”  Fortunately for us God never runs out of letters.

God wants little children to come to Him because they can still dream great dreams.  They can still imagine.

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 28, 2010

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


The Navy Blue Blazer

It was a warm summer evening at the local elementary school graduation.  Proud grandpa was getting awfully warm.  Shedding his navy blue blazer and loosening his tie, he concentrated on getting the best photograph he could of his granddaughter shaking hands with the principal.  After the deed was accomplished he looked about and saw his eight-year-old grandson now wearing his blazer.  He was swallowed in it.

Later, outside after the program grandpa looked across the large lawn only to see grandson being chased and tackled to the ground by three little girls.  At some point he thought he best take off the blazer and so he handed it to his little sister with instructions to take it to grandpa.  Holding it by the sleeve she ran dragging the blazer behind her in the grass.  All grandpa could do was hope that his dry cleaners knew how to remove grass stains.

Zechariah 3 tells of Satan accusing the high priest of wearing stained garments.  The Lord intervened and provided clean clothes.  It is a wonderful story of God’s righteousness being given to us.  We have nothing to bring except a life soiled and stained from our mistakes and outright blatant sins—a grass-stained, muddied, navy blue blazer if you will.  But if we ask “He is faithful and just to forgive us…and cleanse us from all unrighteousness…” 1 John 1:9.

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 29, 2004

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 1224, St. Helena, CA 94574

None of Us Knows What We Think We Know

Surely there has not been a more decent, honest and honorable man who was President of the United States than Jimmy Carter.  Without a doubt he has had the most successful post-presidency of any man who ever lived in the White House.  His foundation has reached out to provide clean water for the poor, medical care for the blind of the world and conflict resolution among nations.

His marriage with Rosalynn is an example for all of us.  Interestingly, however, in an interview both of the Carters recalled how difficult it was to co-author a book.  As each wrote the truth about events that had occurred in the White House they discovered their stories were very different.  Each was sure the other was having memory problems because each was sure their version was what really happened.

Truth is difficult to know.  Even the sincere see things through personal biases and faulty memories.  So often we know only what we want to know, filtering out everything that contradicts what we want to believe. Perhaps the person most difficult to know the truth about is the person we see in the mirror.  How very fortunate we are that the One who really knows the truth about us also loves us dearly and died for us.  While we were sinners He gave His life for us that we should not only live but also actually grow into the person our dog thinks we are.

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 28, 2004

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



While getting back into the driver’s seat I was muttering about paying $80.00 for the gas I just put in my very thirsty car.  I don’t know if my wife was trying to make me feel better or worse as she reminded me of an afternoon almost fifty years ago when our ‘57 Ford was very empty.  The needle was riding on the “E” and we were still a few miles from home.  We had to do something.   I had two dimes in my pocket and we found a nickel in the ashtray.  Pulling into a gas station we put twenty-five cents worth, a gallon, into the tank.   We told the attendant (no self-service then) to be very careful because if he put in twenty-six cents we didn’t have the extra penny.  (No credit cards then.)

So when did I pay the most?  On one occasion I had something left and on the other I had not a cent left.  Or does it really matter?   The real richness of life was the person in the car with me on both occasions.  True wealth isn’t about dimes and dollars.   It is the people we love and the people who love us.  True wealth is a lifetime of good memories and shared experiences.  True wealth is being cared about and having someone to cherish.

When Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always”, He made us the richest people in history.   In John 14 He promised to send us the Comforter.   His Spirit, upon our request, will actually dwell within us.  “I in Christ and Christ in me” is an amazing concept.  If we can but grasp the immensity of this reality we will tap into the resources of heaven itself.  See II Peter 1.

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 27, 2011

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


James and Paul on Law

Today we are far removed from the contested battles over what letters should be included in the New Testament canon.  We open our Bibles and give little thought that the book of James was contested not just for centuries but for over a millennium.  It was not until Council of Trent in 1545 to 1563 that the issue was settled for the western church.  Martin Luther (1483 -1546) would have been very happy to exclude this “epistle of straw.”  Luther objected because he did not feel it was strong enough in presenting Jesus as our Savior.  James presents the law as a “law of freedom” in contrast to Paul calling it a “law of slavery, wrath and death.”  See James 1:25, 2:12 and Romans 4:15, 7:10.

It is fascinating to think of both James and Paul being correct.  If one is seeking God’s favor the law falls far short because we fall far short.  When Paul was Saul, he was a law keeper’s law keeper and found no joy only condemnation at his personal failures to measure up. When he became Paul, he discovered the gift of grace and the happiness of knowing eternal life was not to be earned but accepted.

However, for those of us who live in a nation of “freedom under the law” we understand an umbrella of law provides us with the freedom to live reasonably safely from those who do not have the law “written on their hearts.”  If everyone were like Paul filled with the Holy Spirit we would not need black and white cars with blue lights. Paul understood grace.  James understood that even with the Holy Spirit in us we often need the guidance of written law for our behavior.

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 26, 2012

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


1/500 of a Second

Upon arriving home from their vacation, the family discovered that together they had taken over 600 pictures.  Digital cameras are grand.  One does not have to pay for all that processing only to discover 400 of the 600 pictures are not worth keeping.  Of course taking the pictures is only the first step toward having something worth victimizing relative and friends with by making them look at all our vacation pictures.  Pictures that are worth looking at need to be carefully brightened, darkened, dodged, cropped, color balanced and have the red eyes removed.  It takes 1/500 of a second to take the picture and fifteen minutes, if you are efficient, to get it looking good.

Salvation is like that.  We are saved in a fraction of a second, but it takes a lifetime of enhancement to get us looking good.  There is so much brightening, cropping, color balancing that needs to be done.

Job 1:8 where God asks Satan if he has looked at Job is rather like asking people to look at your vacation pictures.  God was happy with Job and wanted to show him off.  Satan of course was not so happy and we all know what happened next.

Sometimes in our “snapshots” we look rather pathetic; however, I am so glad God is willing to brighten, crop, and color balance us so that we don’t have to continue to look like that 1/500 of a second snapshot.

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 25, 2004

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

Rewards for Trash

The resident housedog was fishing about in the trash container in the kitchen.  Finding a treasure she headed for the living room to tear it into tiny little pieces.  Instead of taking it from her, her master decided he would be a good guy and trade her the trash for a dog goodie.  She was very happy with the trade.  Actually she was so happy with the trade she immediately went to the kitchen trash container to find another item to trade for a goodie.  Dropping the trash at her master’s feet she waited for her goodie.  Thinking this was most clever he rewarded her.  That was a huge mistake.  Back she went to the kitchen trash container.  If only we could learn that quickly!

Behavioral psychologists maintain that humans are not much different than house pets.  If we are rewarded with a pleasant sensation or experience for particular behavior we will keep repeating the act as long as the pleasure continues.  The problem is we soon tire of the reward and want a bigger or more intense one.

Fortunately for most of us there is more to being a human than behavior followed by rewards.  We are also capable of intelligent thought that enables us to choose positive life-building behaviors.  However, sometimes we need help.  How grand that it is available.  Whenever we  ask, God hears and is eager to help.

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 24, 2004

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


The Saturation Factor

Wanting to do something exciting for her twin nine-year-old grandsons, grandma took them to the circus.  They did not stay to the end.  The boys were bored.  The world has changed.  There was a time when going to the circus was the biggest entertainment event to happen in a child’s life.  Now by the time a child is nine they have seen so much media that elephants, lions, and clowns are “ho-hum.”

When one thinks about eternal life you cannot help but wonder about the saturation factor.  If one has an infinite amount of time one can see and process an infinite amount of experiences. How will we keep from becoming jaded? It seems to have everything to do with intellectual curiosity.  Knowing there is always something new will keep life interesting.

Actually, to find new things to explore one need go no farther afield than one’s back yard.  Select your interest and spend a lifetime studying birds or spiders or plants.  In fact, this spring we looked out the window and saw a hummingbird hovering in the very place we had a feeder last year.  We had not yet put it up this year.  That bird had migrated thousands of miles south and had returned six months later looking for its feeder.  There is so much to learn about that bird.

Eternity is about the adventures of the mind.

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 23, 2004

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

Oh To Be Consistent

I smiled to myself as she said, “I’m having my tubes tied because I do not believe in birth control.”  Really?  And just why are you having your tubes tied and what would you call it?  Consistency is perhaps one of the most illusive of all moral goals.  For one thing we speak and act without having thought things through to their ultimate end.  And even when we have, we have to contend with our ever-changing attitudes and hormone levels.  It is so easy to say, “I am going to become a vegetarian” when one is not hungry.  It is so easy to say, “I will never again tell a lie” until we find ourselves in a situation where the truth will cost us.  It so easy to say, “I will control my passions” until a pretty woman walks into the room.

Appetites are a blessing.  Just imagine how bland life would be if we did not desire anything.  Appetites push our sense of worth and the challenge to be consistent.  The woman who wants to tie her tubes is not consistent because she hasn’t thought it through.  But most of us have thought it through and still want to violate the promise we made to ourselves yesterday.  Our promises are like ropes of sand.

No wonder Paul cries out, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  Romans 7.  “For the things I would not do I do.”  Thankfully there is an answer in Romans 8.  There is forgiveness and help.  Jesus is looking for growth and for progress.  With His help we can keep doing better.

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 22, 2008

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

Our Real Need

It was a cold Iowa night when I received a phone call from a downtown hotel desk clerk telling me one of my church members was sitting on a ledge outside his tenth floor window.  On my way I was trying to remember something, anything, that I had learned in the seminary to help me with this.  After all that tedious theology and boring church history I came up with nothing.  In a few minutes I was halfway out the window talking.  I was doing lots of talking and getting nowhere.  Finally in desperation I said, “But, Sid, I love you.”   He turned and stared into my eyes and reached out his hand.  Inside the warmth of the room he emptied a liquor bottle in the bathroom sink and said, “Thank you.  I have not heard those words in years.” And there it was, the hunger of the human heart.  The essence of life is learning to love and learning to receive love.

Years later I went back to school wanting to learn more about human nature and need.  I wanted to know what to say to the heartbroken, frustrated, fearful people who came seeking guidance.  I learned about Freudian, Adlerian and Rogerian psychology.  After listening to countless lectures and sitting through endless groups, I never did hear anything more meaningful than what Jesus said to the woman whom the authorities wanted to stone.  “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I realize it sounds too simple.  Life is complex and the situations into which we find ourselves enmeshed seem so entangling one would think the only answer would be years of therapy.  But once we cut through all the garbage and all the trauma and drama the answer is always the same.  We need to be loved.

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 21, 2011

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