Sandy Promises

I grew up singing a hymn with the words, “O Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end.”  However, one of my favorite authors wrote, “Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand.”  That is very discouraging when we come to this time of year and think about how much better we want to do next year.

Does the importance of the promise make a difference?  We think a promise to lose weight is important until we smell and see that wonderful piece of pumpkin pie smothered in freshly whipped cream.  Then the rationalization begins with “Just this once.”  A bit later that evening it is easier to say, “Well, after the pie is finished I will start anew.” However, if it is a promise never to steal, then we stand much more resolute.  I hope so.  But would I steal food for someone I love?  Yes, I would!  Sorry if that disappoints you.  But it is the truth.

So let’s go back to the “promises and resolutions like ropes of sand.”  Why bother?  I propose that making those sandy promises can do one of two things.  It can make us just give up when we fail.  Or making those promises reinforces the foundations of our character and gives us the courage and strength to try again.  There is real value in the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed.  Try.  Try again.”

I am scheduled to preach this weekend.  I was going to tell people not to bother with sandy promises.  But I have changed my mind.  I am headed for the pile of sand in my backyard.  I have been there before.

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 30, 2015

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


I Was A Jerk

Today I was a jerk.  As I look back on my day’s behavior I genuinely rue something I did.  It was totally thoughtless.  A little girl and her mother were sitting at a table selling Girl Scout cookies.  Girl Scouts are always a good excuse for buying cookies.  It gives me an altruistic cover for indulgence.  What I regret is not the purchase of the cookies.  It was who I bought them from.  I totally ignored the little girl and focused on the mother for the purchase.  Any thoughtful person would have realized this transaction was about the little girl.  I never addressed her. I should have talked to the child.  The cookies were hers. Alas.

I am wondering how many times I have classified someone as a jerk because of their behavior when what they did was innocently thoughtless.  I was a jerk and could rightfully be so classified.  But I don’t want to be a jerk and I am sure the people I so label also do not want to be one.  Jesus is the best psychologist in the world.  His counsel is so on target.  He tells us not to judge others.  Usually we do it on the smallest of details.  The events are usually out of context or out of character for the one we so quickly brand.

One time I did just the opposite.  Upon meeting a lady and her children I focused mainly on the children.  Later she asked me why I was angry with her.  I wasn’t.  I just didn’t do it right.   Sometimes one feels like they can’t win.  I need to be more gracious to others because I want them to be gracious to me for my acts of thoughtlessness, which I am sure, occur more often than I know.

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 27, 2014

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


You Can Change the World

If I told you Guttenberg invented the telescope you would be sure I got my degree out of a Cracker Jack box.  But just give me a moment of your time.  Guttenberg made it possible for books to be affordable.  As a result literacy increased dramatically creating a market for spectacles.  This led to the development of better lens which led to the development of the telescope.  Thank you Mr. Guttenberg.

Guttenberg would never comprehend that he would put into place something that would burn Copernicus at the stake or put Galileo on trial.   It’s the way life is.  We call it cause and effect.  Someone causes and we are affected.  We cause and others are impacted in ways we can never imagine.  A small act of kindness can ripple across the world changing a lad’s life in Tibet.

Occasionally I meet with discouraged people who think their lives have not really mattered for much of anything.  While I cannot tell them with specificity just how important they have been, I can indeed assure them that they have changed the world.  Whether it was for good or bad, I don’t know.  But what I do know is every life matters in ways far beyond our imaginations.  Guttenberg never would have imagined his work would nullify the world’s longest held scientific theory, that the universe was geocentric.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that God has plans for each of us.  Each of us has a part in His great struggle with evil.  One of the great rewards of eternal life will be having our angel and perhaps Jesus Himself explain to us just how very important we were to God’s victory over sin.   Let us submit ourselves to Him each day and we will change not just the world but the universe.

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 29, 2015

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



“Somebody Wants Me”

‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas and I sat with my knee all bandaged and drugged.  There was no tree at the Bothwell’s and grandchildren would come. Much to my dismay my sweetie decided we needed a tree; just a small one would do since she would have to be shopper, erector and decorator.  The closest lot had just a few and they were way too large when suddenly she saw at the back of the lot a little guy only five feet high.  It truly was one of the ugliest, barest, scrawniest, out of shape thing one would ever see.  The salesman was so happy to get rid of it he carried it to her car and sent her on her way with a “Merry Christmas lady.  There’s no charge.”

All the way home that little guy kept saying, “Somebody wants me.  Somebody wants me.”  For the past several weeks at the end of each sales day it had been singing from Annie, “Tomorrow.”   When I brushed past it this evening I heard it softly whisper, “Somebody wanted me.  Somebody wanted me.”  When I paused to look at it I was sure it straightened its trunk so its decorations hung nicely and straight.

A hundred years ago my mother’s mother gave my mother away to a farmer down the road.  For years my grandmother would pass the farm without ever stopping to check on her little girl.  When my mother died at 97 she would still weep when remembering.  Everyone needs to be wanted and better yet needs to be needed.  We have a heavenly Father who needs us.  He needs and wants us so intensely that He sacrificed His only Son that we might be redeemed.  Tonight when going to bed whisper, “Somebody wants me.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 30, 2014

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

On Re-gifting

It’s decision time.  Do I have use for this Christmas present?  Do I try to return it to the store from which it was purchased?  How do I do that if I don’t have the receipt?  Do I save it until next Christmas and re gift it?  If so, I better label who gave it to me lest I give it back to the person who gave it to me.  Or worst of all just throw it away!

I have known people who have re gifted salvation.  (I know.  That is crazy, but who says everyone is sane?)  They accepted Jesus’ offer and did one of two things.  They decided they didn’t want it so they gave it back to Jesus.  Or they first shared it with another and then threw it away.  Or they consciously or subconsciously decided once saved they had to start contributing toward the cost by living a life according to law.  It is a normal reaction.  When we receive something wonderful we want to do something back.  And we can.  We can with God’s help live a Christ-like life.  The important issue is motive.  If our motive is to pay back we nullify the gift.  If my motive is love for God and growing love for people that He plants within us then our good works do not nullify grace.

Paul refers to this in Galatians 2.  He wrote, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”  The last thing we would ever want to do is to cause Jesus to have died needlessly.  So as we give good gifts to others we always remember we are NOT contributing to the cost of our salvation.  We are not re gifting.  We are reproducing.

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 28, 2015

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



We have this nice kid in our neighborhood.  He is about 10 years old and has a two year old dog named Buddy.  Buddy is beautiful and weighs about the same as his master, who very faithfully takes Buddy for a walk each afternoon after school.  Maybe I should say Buddy takes his master for a walk.  Buddy is a handful and goes pretty much where he wants to go pulling his master after him.

Buddy reminds me of strong habits and propensities in our lives.  We struggle to keep them in check but so often they pull us where they want to go.  But this I know.  There is no sin or desire so strong that we cannot overcome or control.  Unlike Buddy’s master who is doing it on his own we do not have to face temptation on our own.  Jesus’ disciple John wrote, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  That promise is in his small letter of I John in chapter 4.  If you will put the word “overcome” in a concordance you will discover there are five promises about overcoming in I John.  John was a son of thunder and he overcame.  He was an overcomer and wants each of us to share the victory available in Jesus.

Here’s one of two promises in chapter 5. “Everyone born of God overcomes the world.”  The world is a pretty big place filled with many temptations and addictions.  But none of what the world has is bigger or stronger than the power available to us. We have overwhelming power just a prayer away. It’s even stronger than Buddy.

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 16, 2015

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


“Are You Ready?”

Masses of people were scurrying about trying to finish their list before Christmas Eve.  Fortunately for those of us in New England this year we don’t have any snow to hamper our doings.  While doing my doings I heard people greet each other with “Are you ready for Christmas?”  Some people had reduced it to “Are you ready?”  I thought it might be a great greeting all the time – referring to the second coming of Jesus.  Are you ready?

I grew up in an environment where it wasn’t PC to say “Yes.”   We were trained to say, “I hope so.”  After all we might have sinned in the past hour and hadn’t had a chance to ask for forgiveness.  As a child of God who has read the Gospels and the letters of Paul I now understand how insulting that is to God.  It takes love out of the equation and replaces it with a computer-like program of ons and offs.  Sin and it’s off.  Ask for forgiveness and it’s on.  That is really pathetic.  If we as parents loved our children that way the state social service should remove them from us.

Salvation isn’t about ons and offs.  It is about family.  Being in God’s family with Him being the best ever Father is what Jesus talked about.    Just as a good human parent would not cast his child out of the house for an infraction of some sort neither will God reject us; especially for an unknown sin of some kind.  Salvation is about belonging to the family.  We enter the family by accepting the invitation.  So do it.  Once done we can always answer with a big “Yes” to the question “Are you ready?”

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 24, 2015

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


Receiving Is Great

We have grown up hearing that it is better to give than to receive.  We have heard it so often and for so long it has almost become a religious tenet.  To say otherwise would be heresy let alone making us appear to be selfish spoiled bratty adults.   But inside we all know how terrific it is to receive.  Yes, it is good to give.  It is terrific to give.  But receiving is really satisfying.

God is a good Father.  He is the best.  He would not do something that would not be for our benefit and the most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16.   “For God so loved the world He gave us …” That makes us receivers.  He, also enjoys receiving.  Thus Psalm 107:1 and Psalm 136:1 admonishes us to “Give thanks unto the Lord.”  Isaiah 42:12 tells us to “Give God praise.”   This makes Him a receiver.  He wouldn’t be a receiver if it wasn’t a good thing.

Actually giving and receiving are so interwoven it is difficult to sort them into something different.  How many times have we given only to have been so rewarded internally for doing so that it outweighed what we gave?  We received.   It also works in reverse. When we graciously receive we give another person the same feeling of warmth we get when we give.  Often receiving is a very unselfish act of care toward the giver.

God is a giver.  We are givers.  God is a receiver.  We are receivers.  Yes, it can be abused just like any good thing can be twisted into something harmful.  But if we are reasonable fairly intelligent people we have to admit that receiving is great.

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 22, 2015

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

Life Lessons Learned

So I figured I would get a Christmas haircut just in case people wanted to take pictures around the tree.  I went early to the barbershop – 8:15.   But there were already four really old guys there, one in the chair and three waiting.  While I was waiting two more old guys came in.  The gray hair on the floor around the barber chair was piling up – not a dark hair to be seen.

Old guys get a senior discount – only 12 dollars.  But the first guy gives her a twenty and says, “Keep the change. Merry Christmas.”  So the second guy gets out of the chair, gives her a twenty and says, “Keep the change. Merry Christmas.”  The third guy does the same.  So it was my turn.  By now there are three old guys watching.  What could I do?  Did I want these crotchety old guys to think that I was either a jerk or unsuccessful in life?  So much for the senior discount!  I learned a life lesson.  Never get a haircut a few days before Christmas.

Life is full of learning experiences.  A lady was in line ahead of me at a Kmart checkout.  She was coughing over and over into her hand.  Then she picked up that pen-like thing to sign for her credit purchase.  Well, I quickly put my credit card back in my wallet and paid in cash.  See, I do learn.  Another thing I learned along the way there is no better life than a life in Jesus.  He provides peace, resolution and a fantastic out of this world future.  So come with me.  Learn the same lesson from an old guy whose gray hair is on the floor mixed in with lots of other old guy’s hair.

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 23, 2015

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


Dwelling in Possibilities

One of the disadvantages of aging is the closing of doors and the growing limits on possibilities.  Lessened physical prowess and the restrictions of remaining years squelch dreams and ambitions.  When I was young I dreamed dreams of adventure and accomplishments.  Now that youth is in the rearview mirror reality forces upon me the truth that options are fewer and fewer with the passage of years.  Jesus and His gift of eternal life are not some nice idea.  They are a necessity for the continuation of life’s possibilities.  With Jesus all is limitless.  Age is but a bit of temporary inconvenience.

Emily Dickenson, our recluse New England poet, said it so well.

“I dwell in Possibility

A fairer house than Prose,

More numerous of windows,

Superior of doors.”

She closes with “The spreading wide my narrow hands to gather Paradise.”

With Jesus personal possibilities are limitless.  With eternal life there is time to be a poet, a writer, a musician, a painter, a sculptor, a builder, an architect, a mason, a carpenter, an athlete, an organist, a singer, a plumber, a pilot, a tourist, a skier, a golfer, a botanist, an astronomer, a biologist or an orator.

Come with me and dwell in Possibility.  Make Jesus the Lord of your life and open your mind to all that you can be.  Age ceases to be a limiter and becomes a foundation for more and better.  Some speak of spending eternity standing in God’s throne room singing His praises.  I will instead show Him praises by becoming everything He dreams for me.  Occasionally I will visit His throne room to say thank you and then off again for more adventures because Possiblity is more numerous of windows and superior of doors.

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 21, 2015

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