I used to sit in church in Africa and wonder how many people could sit on a pew.  I finally decided the answer was “One more.”  It filled me with awe.  I would be sure a pew was full and then someone else would come and somehow he fit.   The need for personal space seems to be cultural.  I’m sure it has something to do with an entire family living in one or two rooms as opposed to most of us growing up with our own room.

Have you ever had someone keep invading your personal space when talking to you?  They press in and we keep backing up, but to no avail.  They just keep coming.  And it is doubly bad if they had garlic for dinner.  Now I say this in contrast to my wanting to be really close to the people I love.  The closer the better.

Most cars today have bucket seats, which are nice, but the best time was when the front seat was a bench. It was always so wonderful when your sweetheart slid over into the middle instead of hugging the door.  Love overrules our normal personal space need.

It reminds me of a hymn I grew up singing.  “I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice, and it told Thy love to me; but I long to rise in the arms of faith and be closer drawn to Thee.”  We are told that John pressed in close to Jesus at the last supper.  Some might say it was because he was politically ambitious but I think it was so much more than that.  John was a teenager and Jesus was his idol, his role model, his messiah and John couldn’t get close enough.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 24, 2013

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


Please Have A Good Day

This afternoon I was sitting outside in the sun watching Spring happen.  Right before my eyes the buds on the trees were opening.  It was so perfect I was reminded of Micah 4:4, “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.”  I am beginning to grasp the wonder of this idea of sitting under one’s fig tree. (Mine are mostly birches and maples.)   Micah had a utopian dream of a time of peace and prosperity when all would be well for everyone.  Thousands of years have passed and it still hasn’t happened.  We still live in a world filled with wars, revolutions, famines, earthquakes and societal problems.

It seems there is plenty of bad news to make us all miserable.  But, we do not need to be constantly concentrating on the dismal.  I am not advocating putting our head in the sand and pretending all is well.  However, we have been given the option of choice.  We can choose with what we want to fill our waking thoughts.  We can have a really good day or a really bad day depending on our own choices of thought.  If we fill our minds with good memories and good wishes for others, life takes on a glow.  I know I sound like Pollyanna but none-the-less this is true.

So, find your own personal fig tree; it can be anything or anyone who makes you happy and love it.  Jesus often said the Kingdom of God begins now.  We don’t have to wait for some future heaven.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 25, 2013

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

Pictures at a Chinese Restaurant

This afternoon I walked past a Chinese restaurant that had pictures in the window displaying their various meals.  The pictures were old and faded into a monotone brown.  The food looked, I was going to say unappetizing but that isn’t harsh enough.  The food looked wretched.  Everything looked spoiled and rotten.  If you were hungry before you looked you certainly were not after you had looked.

How like some churches.  The music drags and hasn’t been majestic in decades or has been replaced with campfire songs.  The saints look as if they are ready to leave earth.  The message seems more appropriate for 1945 instead of 2014.   When we sing “Tell me the old, old story” that doesn’t mean we want the same details and the same adverbs and adjectives.  Old stories are wonderful when presented with a new set of imaginative modifiers.

In John 21 Jesus told Peter to feed His lambs.  The lambs need fresh food.  Fresh doesn’t mean new theology.  The old theology is pretty good stuff.  Fresh means challenge my mind with an idea that is practical and applicable to now.  Lift my soul out of my lethargic brain numbing routine of life and make me long for the courts above.  Open my mind to the power of the Holy Spirit that will not make me speak gibberish but instead fill me with deeper understanding of God’s ideas.  This can only happen when we are willing to recognize and acknowledge that we don’t have all truth and there are mountains of intellect and spirituality to climb.

Tell me the old, old story that I might see Jesus not only reaching out to touch lepers but reaching out to touch me.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 28, 2014

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


My House Needs Nails

In his famous poem Mending Wall Robert Frost said, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.”  I am periodically reminded of his thought as I take hammer in hand and make a tour of my house tapping in nails that seem determined to be free.   Or maybe it’s the house that doesn’t want the nails thinking of them as unnecessary irritants.  As the seasons pass with really cold January nights combined with steaming August afternoons this old house sweats and shivers, contracting and retracting, those ever so secure nails little by little work their way out.   But I and my trusty hammer are up to the task.

My contortion of Frost reads, “There’s something that doesn’t love a house, that wants it down.”  My wife’s parents spent their final days in central Wisconsin.  Their farm was surrounded by abandoned farms with falling down houses.  A house without a human doesn’t stand a chance.

Rules are like walls.  There is something about us that rebels at the idea of a rule telling us we can’t do something. But those rules are walls to protect us from what’s on the other side. Each of God’s rules has a very specific aim to protect us from the natural consequences of certain behaviors.  How often when we were young did we say, “I don’t see any reason for that.”  Just because we weren’t smart enough to see the reason did not make it safe to do.  In his wisdom Frost wrote, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out.”   How sad it is that we often learn the reason after it is too late.   Just like my house needs nails so my character needs rules.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 22, 2014

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



One Last Dance

It’s been a windy day – perfect for sitting by the window and pretending to read – perfect for neglecting my book – perfect for watching one of last year’s leaves trip about the yard.  The winter snows seem not to have damaged it.  It must have been tucked among the branches of a pine while over-layers of white protected it from blizzards and storms. Now April winds have freed it for one last hurrah.  It is aged with tattered edges but is still so lovely as it dances across the grass.  It leaps high into the air only to drift with grace tumbling to earth. Its pirouettes are magnificent. Twirling and bowing it thanks the pines for their appreciative applause.  It is no longer a pretty leaf.  Pretty has been replaced with beauty.  Its loveliness is grace and style.

Everyone deserves one last dance. How easy it is to look at someone as if their day is over, their prime was yesterday.  We think the world has passed them by because they have logged many miles.  Behind those fading eyes is a lifetime of understanding.  This week while changing classes I encountered a small gentleman with a cane.  He was barely five feet tall.  As we chatted I discovered he was a physics professor.  He was 86 years old.  I didn’t ask him when he was going to retire.  I knew better as I saw the spark in his eyes when a coed sauntered by.  He was having his last dance.

I love being a Christian.  Jesus promises us a dance card that can never be full so put on your shoes.

Paraphrasing Robert Frost – One could do worse than being an old dancing leaf.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 25, 2014

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


Much Better Service

I stopped at Walgreen’s this afternoon and was unsuccessful in finding what I needed.  A smiling helpful clerk (oops, sorry.  Sales Associate) told me if I came back next week she would have it in stock.  I felt like I was in the dark ages.  I nicely told her I thought I would do better by ordering it myself on the Internet.   I am happy to report it is scheduled for delivery at my door tomorrow.  We no longer need an intermediary.  We can do it ourselves.  We can go straight to the source and get much, much better service.

The writer of Hebrews 3 – 5 assures us we have a High Priest in heaven who was one of us.  He is the same person who told us when we pray go into our closets and say, “Our Father.”  The way through Heaven’s door is not closed to us ordinary mortals.  No longer do we need a priestly intermediary.  We are children of the Father and have direct access.  When the priests heard Jesus say these things they had to kill Him.  He had just declared them functionless.  When you threaten a man’s wallet you threaten his heart.   Jesus made everyone their own priest.  With direct access comes great service.  We don’t have to wait until next week.  We don’t even have to wait 24 hours.  Delivery is instant.  Grace and forgiveness, strength and renewed purpose arrive faster than Fedex or Amazon’s planned drone deliveries.

It is great to live in the age of the Internet that makes Walgreen’s unnecessary even if they are nice.  It is marvelous to live in the age of Jesus.  He makes a priestly system unnecessary.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 24, 2014

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


Peter’s Wife

According to I Corinthians 9:5 Peter’s wife traveled with him on his missionary travels.  It raises lots of questions such as where was she when Herod put Peter in prison as mentioned in Acts 12.  Was she by chance at the home of John Mark’s mother Mary when the angel led Peter out of the prison and Peter went to Mary’s house?  The more we read these stories the more details we wish we had.  According to Eusebius, the Christian Roman historian, after Nero had arrested Peter and his wife, Nero had Peter’s wife crucified with Peter watching.  Eusebius supposedly got this from the church father Titus Flavius Clement.

There is a hymn with the words, “Feed me til I want no more.”   Is that possible?  I am a glutton to know more.  It is true there are moments when my brain seems full and I need a respite of inflow but just like physical food tomorrow I am ready for more.  The wonder of the human brain is its infinite capacity.  There is never a time when in order to remember something new we have to forget something old to make room for the new.  We can just keep on adding.  I do notice that retrieval seems to take longer.  Is that because the internal search engine has more to sort through to get the right data or is it merely the result of plaque buildup in the arteries?

Curiosity is one of our gifts.  We want to know or is it we have to know?  Either way Jesus has promised us an eternity of scholarship.  If you hated school don’t panic.  This will be the best school with the best teachers you could ever imagine. You will love school.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 14, 2014

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


I Don’t Want to Be a Judge

I have a student who did not know about the 2009 jetliner miracle on the Hudson.  He claims he never heard the name “Captain Sullenberger.”  He is not a recent arrival to America.  He was born and raised here.  I think that is why he seems to know all there is to know about the Kardashians.  At least once a class period he mentions them.  He most likely goes home and says, “Would you believe my teacher knows nothing about Kanye West?”  We are two pilgrims traveling on the same road and yet never seeing the same things along the way.

I think about him and think there must be some great and pithy lesson here.  But I am not sure I am wise enough to discern what it is.  I think about the fact that he and I wear different colored glasses and thus filter out what does not interest us.  But that is obvious.  We all do that.  My wife and I come home from church and when we talk about the sermon sometimes it is as if we had listened to two different preachers.  Often the preacher will say something that triggers my mind and as I ponder it I suddenly realize I have just missed the last ten minutes.

No wonder Jesus calls on us not to judge others.  I don’t know enough about you to judge you.  I don’t know what you know or don’t know.  Yet I want you to measure up to my standard when truthfully your level might be far more advanced.  I’m just too uninformed to know that.

Revelation 20:4 says, “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge.”  I pray none of them are you or me – especially me.


Written by Roger Bothwell on April 23, 2014

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


The Overzealous Baseball Fan

In a game between the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals a fan rushed onto the field and attacked the umpire.  While it is true that we sometimes say, “Kill the ump” we are never serious!  It is all part of the baseball ambiance.  The ump is the law on the field and obviously the fan did not like the law, at least the way the ump called it.

Does that remind you of those who don’t like God’s law?  While it is true the law is neither the means nor the method of salvation its principles are forever the standard of righteousness in God’s kingdom.  When we accept the grace of Jesus the law is written in our hearts and educates us in the manner of living a Christ like life.  No longer do I want to kill or steal.  No longer do I want to tell bad stories about my neighbor or take God’s name in vain.  I want to be like the one who died for me and He did not do those things.

According to Jesus it all boils down to two basic principles:  love God with all my heart and love my neighbor.  The way I love God is to love my neighbor so it really come downs to one principle.  Philosophers argue about the existence of absolutes.  There are no absolutes.  That is plural.  There is only one absolute.  If we could understand we would never want to “kill the ump” for we would know “the ump” is the key to the abundant life for everyone.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 22, 2003

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

A Journey for the Brave

One of the funeral homes in our little city has the following sign by the street where its driveway begins.  “Funeral Home.  Not a thruway.”  Right they are.  It’s not a thruway it’s a dead end.  The guest of honor never leaves alive.  But wait.  Is that always true?  Jesus spoke of death as a sleep.  See John 11.   In I Thessalonians Paul spoke of a great trumpet blast at a day of resurrection when the sleepers will awaken and all the promises Jesus made will come true.

I’m thinking I should have my wife put a sign on my cement sarcophagus with one of the following messages, “Just passing through” or maybe “Shhh, sleeping.”  “He loved naps.”  “If you thought he looked good today just wait until the next time you see him.”  “And now for the main event.”  I’m thinking I should video tape my own funeral sermon.  That way I can make sure the stories that are told about me are made up by me.

We are on a great journey.  The destination is unknown, even for those who trust Jesus.  Scripture says, “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard the wonders that await us.”  In Ephesians 2 Paul tells us God will spend eternity showering us with gifts of grace because it makes Him happy.  It is His pleasure.  This is not for the timid nor the cowardly.  It is for the brave who seek to learn, to explore, to grow, to contribute, to serve and to love.  When couples marry they embark on an unknown journey.  When we unite ourselves with Jesus the journey that follows is totally out of this world.  Death is but a thruway.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 11, 2014

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