Spelling Bee

If one is open for a good dose of humility watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee on ESPN is the perfect cure.  “Minauderies” is so obscure my spellchecker flagged it, yet an eleven-year-old correctly spelled it with the ease that we spell our names.   Nothing less than perfection is required.  There are no second tries.  There is no grace.  Replace an “a” with an “o” or an “i” with an “e” and you hear the dreaded bell.  You are history.

Perfection is a goal Jesus holds up for us in the Sermon on the Mount.  However, Jesus spent so much time with sinners, hookers and His disciples.  He knows we can’t do it. He moved with a rough crowd.  He was no stranger to drunks, thieves and riffraff.  He could have moved with the even rougher crowd of priests and religious leaders but He knew where His limited time would be better spent.  He knows us. “For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”  Hebrews 2.

It is true that salvation requires perfection but this amazing Jesus was perfect in the midst of all that garbage and because He loves us and understands us He offers His perfection to substitute for us.  It is a gift.  Please see Ephesians 2.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 31, 2013

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



Into The Flames

Yesterday afternoon my son had a successful skin graft on his right hand.  But, let me back up to explain why.  Three weeks ago he was driving in a 1200 mile race down the Baja in Mexico when suddenly a fuel line burst, filled the driver’s compartment with fuel and ignited.  The good news is he was wearing a fire suit, fire helmet and fire shoes.  The bad news was he had taken his fire gloves off because it was 105 degrees outside.  His left hand would have been spared except the safety harness release was on his right side.  Being that his right hand was instantly damaged it became necessary to put his left hand into the flames to press the release button.

Needless to say we are all grateful for the effectiveness of the protective suit, shoes and helmet.  And we are grateful for an effective burn unit in a hospital in Southern California.  One thing that does haunt me is taking a perfectly healthy hand and sticking it in the flames.  But, of course, the alternative would have been much much worse.

I have often thought of God’s decision to make John 3:16 a reality.  Paul wrote that Jesus came in the fullness of time. When the moment was right, when the world was psychologically ready preparations became actions.  Mary was notified.  Joseph was notified. The Roman emperor called for a census that would take Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem.  And then it happened.  Jesus’ place in heaven was empty.  It was unthinkable.  The Creator became one of His created.  Jesus came to be part of a financially poor family but one rich with love.  The trip into the flames began.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 15, 2013

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


God’s Pain

There are some days when the needles don’t hurt.  Today wasn’t one of them.  Today my blood-taker literally pinpointed a nerve.  It also happened to my dog today.  I discovered an attached tick on her side.  Usually she is very patient and stoic when I find one.  Today she cried when I removed it.  It had to be right on a nerve.  Pain, a curse and a blessing, can be horrific but it also warns us that harm is happening.

Jesus was very direct in teaching us to call God our Father.  If He is our Father and I am sure Jesus told us the truth, then God experiences an extraordinary amount of pain.  We are told that God hates sin.  When I was little I thought He hated sin because He was offended by our disobedience.  Now I know that is not His reason for hating sin.  Sin harms.  Note the difference between harm and hurt.  While I hurt my dog this afternoon I did not harm her – quite to the contrary.

Parents will do anything to shield their children from harm and when they witness their children making bad life choices they experience pain because they know what is coming.  While our heavenly Father does not experience physical pain His psychological pain must be excruciating.  By obeying Him we are not gratifying some egotistical trait in Him.  Instead we are trusting His wisdom, that if followed, will reduce our harm.  The cross had to be the ultimate moment of God’s pain. To watch creatures originally made in His image mangle Jesus and for Him not to interfere had to require of Him all the love possible.  “For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2)  They both did.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 14. 2013

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




While dedandelioning my yard I was smitten with how beautiful they are.  Not only do they have that lovely yellow blossom, the white orb of seeds is great fun to blow into the wind.   If it were not for those not so beautiful leaves and the plant’s veracious hunger to consume our lawns we would most likely purchase packs of seeds each spring.  They remind me of the alcohol commercials I see during football games.  Beautiful horses pull spectacular looking wagons down gorgeous country roads.   Handsome young men are shown singing and laughing as they mingle with incredible looking women.  It looks so good and so inviting.  We are enticed to believe we too can be like those happy people if we would only drink their product. They, of course, never show the destroyed lives and livers, the broken homes, the abused children, the smashed cars and the lost careers.

Solomon nailed it when he wrote, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”   Sin is anything that ultimately harms us or others.  Many activities start off looking so very good.  If they didn’t they wouldn’t be an issue.  However, they do look good.  Especially when we are young and adventurous we don’t understand why we cannot experience all that life seems to offer.  In defense of teens I must point out that the frontal lobes of our brains, where we do our best logical thinking in regard to right and wrong, don’t actually fully mature until their early twenties.  Often by then our behaviors are already in place and most difficult to change.

But we must not despair.  There is nothing too difficult for God.  He will, upon our request, struggle with us to dedandelion us.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 7, 2013

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



Who’s the Ignorant One?

One of my students brought me a dandelion expressing how beautiful it was.  She was right.  It was glorious with its bright yellow petals splaying out in a perfect circle.  What surprised me was she did not know what it was.  She did not know its name and she did not know that it was the same thing as those round balls of white seeds one can puff into the wind.  She was an inner city girl.

At first I was incredulous that she would not know but I took a deep breath and thought of all the things I do not know.  Surely God must shake His head at my ignorance of things I should know having lived so long.  At this point I could start listing my sins and point out that I should know better.  But not wanting to embarrass myself or my family I will just say the list isn’t short.  God must think, “How can he not know after all this time.

Many of my students who I so arrogantly think don’t know much are multilingual.  I am not.  I have students who speak fluent English, French and Spanish.  Yet I have the unmitigated gall to think I know more than they just because I happen to be lecturing in my field of study.  It isn’t that I know more; I just happen to have a skill set in a narrow area that is required of them for graduation.  In real life they know so much of which I am totally ignorant.   Just Monday afternoon I mentioned a country music song to one of my Mexican students who immediately looked at me and told me the name of the artist and what year it was recorded.  So much for thinking I knew something!

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 5, 2011

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



Hopalong Cassidy and Jesus

While channel surfing this morning I came across an old Hopalong Cassidy film.  I had forgotten how wonderfully unrealistic they were.  Hoppy always shoots the gun out the bad guy’s hand without wounding it.  The bad guy’s bullets never hit anything the bad guy is aiming at.  The bad guy can hit Hoppy on the head with the handle of his six-shooter only to have Hoppy wake up in a few minutes with no wound, no concussion and no headache.  Hoppy’s hat never falls off and his pure white horse is faster than any of the bad guys’ horses.  Hoppy is played by an actor name William Boyd and I did notice as I read the credits that the movie was a William Boyd production.  Yes, he was in charge of all the details.

This world is God’s production.  But it was hi-jacked.  God is no longer in charge of all the details.  The hi-jacker has filled God’s creation with pain, dishonor and death.  A billion things a day happen here that are not God’s will. The bad guys do shoot good people.  The bad guys are sometimes faster than the good guys.  When the Creator Himself came to save us He did not wake up from a smash on the head.  He died.  However, lest we be disheartened, just like a Hopalong Cassidy film our Hero will ultimately win.  He rose from His grave and all who love and believe Him will join Him in His victory.  Instead of a hat He wears a crown.  And, yes, our Champion rides a white horse.  “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.”  Revelation 19:11

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 5, 2014

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



He Will Do It

I began one of my classes this morning by reading the close of I Thessalonians 5.  Verse 24 is wonderful.  It says, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”  The mind is a strange thing.  Memories that have been tucked away for decades are suddenly released as if someone turned a key and opened a door.  As I finished voicing the text my mind immediately remembered something that happened to me sixty years ago.  On Sundays my Dad and I would take our dog and head for the mountains in central Pennsylvania.  He knew where there were saw mills and they were great fun because of the giant piles of sawdust generated from the saws. We loved to climb to the top and then roll end over end to the bottom.

One would think I would never forget about one particular day but I had until I read the above verse.  We tumbled down an especially huge pile of sawdust and arrived at the bottom surrounded by rattlesnakes that were not overly pleased by our sudden appearance. We had disturbed their sunbaths.  Instantly my father said to me, “Freeze. Don’t move at all.  I’ll take care of them.”  Was I afraid?  Most likely I should have been.  But my Dad said, “I’ll take care of them.”  And so I sat frozen in place as one by one he took care of them just as he said he would.

And so this morning a door opened in my mind as I remembered Jesus saying, “If we as humans know how to give good gifts unto our children, how much more will our Father in heaven.” Thank you Paul for I Thess. 5:24.  “The one who calls is faithful.  He will do it.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 4, 2011

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



The Whole Truth?

I am about to reveal how uninformed and unobservant I am.  While I was staring at the keyboard on my laptop I saw something new to me.  There is a small number 1 on the j key and a 2 on the k key and a 3 on the l key.  I have had this laptop for five years and use it daily.  I never noticed this prior to now.  If I hold down the fn key while pressing one of those keys with the little numbers, that number appears on my screen instead of letters.  Duh!  They are right there before me and had you asked me about it I would have insisted there was no such number pad.

So, how many other things are right before me that I have never seen?  Am I uniquely unobservant or could this be a shared human trait?  I don’t know what I would say if asked in a court to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  I don’t know what the whole truth is.  I can only say what I know and what I know appears to be very limited.

So many churches are convinced they are the repositories of truth.  Members knock on my door and have been very definite that I will be lost because I am not one of them.  That is so fascinating because that is salvation by being right.  Paul is so very clear that we are saved by faith in Jesus.  Truth for them has become the avenue to heaven but is there anyone with the truth?  How much is right in front of us and we have never seen it?   I am most anxious for the day when Jesus will say to us, “You all were wrong.  Let me now tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 3, 2013

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



Time for A Reread

At the Connecticut/Massachusetts border on I-84 there is a unique restaurant that not only has good food but also allows you to browse shelves of books and take a book home – free.  It’s one of my favorite places.  This past week I found a treasure.   Before my eyes was a copy of Conrad Richter’s Trees.   I was ten years old when I read it.  I could hardly wait to get home to once again lose myself in the forests of Pennsylvania and Ohio when Indians roamed between the walnut and oak trees.  Soon I was absorbed, not in the story as I was as a boy, but this time in the quality of writing.  Richter’s descriptions are awesome.   After the first ten pages I left my dictionary on my lap because I kept getting up to look up a word.  Did I really know those words when I was ten or did I just skip them?  If I knew them I have a terrible memory.

If it’s been a few years (decades) since you read one of the Gospels maybe it’s time for a reread.  You have matured and you are bringing a different mind to the text.   Authentic reading is a mental dialog in which you bring to the page just as much as you take away.  A careful reread will surprise you with ideas you did not find there the first time around.   Your more mature mind gives the Holy Spirit so much life with which to work.  Try David and Goliath, Daniel with the lions, and other stories you think you know.  You are in for a surprise.  Many of the proverbs will make you smile.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 2, 2013

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



The Gift of Reading

Recently I met a man who cannot read.  He doesn’t know I know.  It took me quite a while to catch on.  He is very skilled at covering.  When eating out he will browse the menu and then always say to the server, “I’ll have what he’s getting.”  If outside he will say things like, “The sun is in my eyes can you tell me what that sign says.”  He is an excellent listener.  He has honed this skill and never needs something to be repeated.  I have tried to imagine how very challenging life must be for him.  Use of the Internet must be very limited.  I spent some time in Russia and I remember feeling handicapped because I could not read signs.  That was for a short time.  It must be most unpleasant for it to be like that all the time.

Moses must have been frustrated over and over because so very few of those he led out of Egypt could read.  Visuals are very important to us.  We are judgmental and hard on the Children of Israel for building the golden calf.  But Moses was gone.  They did not yet have the Ten Commandments and even if they did they couldn’t read them.  We are blessed to have our Bibles.  We can read and reinforce our faith when we have moments of doubt.  We can delve into the treasures of God’s wisdom in His word.  We can use our imaginations and walk with Jesus through the crowded streets as we read the Gospels.

We must not take the gift of literacy for granted.  Even today there are millions of people who cannot read and cannot feed on the riches of God’s Word.  If you were able to decode the words in this devotional you are, in the history of the world, very special.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 1, 2013

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