Thoughts While Chopping Wood

It’s time in New England to start building up one’s supply of firewood for the coming winter.  When I take my axe in hand I feel like one of the ants and not the grasshopper who played his fiddle.  I have done my fiddling for the year. It is time to pay attention to the calendar.  It feels very manly to raise the axe overhead and bring it down on a nice round of maple.  It is a game to see if I can hit the mark for which I am aiming.  When I miss I hope no one was watching.  One would not want to hold the round of maple unless they have an excellent surgeon standing by.

It must hark back to Greek class in the seminary so long ago, but I can’t do this without thinking of “hamartia.”   “Hamartia” is one of the first Greek vocabulary words we learned.  It means to miss the mark.  Paul often uses it for the English word “sin.”  There is something almost comforting about “hamartia.”  It might indicate one was trying to do what was right and just missed the standard.  However, Paul does use the word in Hebrews 10:26, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, . . .”  In this verse it doesn’t sound like one is trying and therefore there is no forgiveness.  It is true we are saved by grace and all can be forgiven but we cannot spit on God’s grace by deliberately missing the mark.  Jesus offers to help us with our aim.

Just some thoughts while chopping wood on a September afternoon.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 17, 2015

PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574


Happy Are the Average

It has been my observation through the decades that some of the most gifted people I know are the most unhappy people I know.  They are highly talented or wonderfully skilled and can out do 98% of us.  But it is the 1% who are better than they that frustrate them.  It seems that to be almost the best at something is far worse than being mediocre.  Those of us who are mediocre know better than to dream of having the masses know our names.  But when you are so very close so as to see the top and not get there produces misery.  Perhaps a new beatitude should read, “Happy are the average for they shall be satisfied.”

Regarding those whose characters and behaviors are almost perfect Jesus said, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ ‘And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; . . .’”  The danger of being too good is thinking we are very good and that will get us in big trouble.

Jesus did admonish us to seek to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.  But we should never ever rely on that as a ticket to heaven.  Paul says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

So if you are part of the 98% of us rejoice and be exceedingly happy with life knowing we are covered by Jesus’ love and we don’t need to worry about making it on our own.  Oh, that also works for the 2%.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 28, 2015

PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

It’s Simple and It’s Wonderful

It was April, 1945 and I sat on a throw rug on our wooden floor listening to a radio that was as tall as I was.  It had beautiful decorative wood carvings over the cloth covering the speaker and the dial was fun to play with because of the wooing and wowing noises that occurred on either side of a clear station.  But this day I was not playing.  I was listening to the voice of Arthur Godfrey and he was crying as he was trying to describe the funeral procession for Franklin D. Roosevelt.  It was my first experience with death.  That night when my father came home from school we talked about death.   This was different from what I had learned in Sabbath School.  I had seen pictures of Jesus on the cross but He lived again on Sunday.  Why, I asked, wouldn’t President Roosevelt be alive again next week?  Maybe he could be like Lazarus and Jesus would call him forth.

My theology hasn’t changed much since I was almost three.  I still believe and I look forward to a great day when Jesus will indeed call forth His children.  Paul wrote, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”  I Thessalonians 4:16.

There was no doubt and there is no doubt now.  Perhaps the only difference is now I know where the promise can be found.  This is what being a Christian is all about.  Death will be destroyed.  No longer will we fear its separating pain.  This is not complicated.  Even a very little guy can get it.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 29, 2015

PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

The Great Pretender

Recently the president of the Seattle NAACP was scandalized because it was revealed she wasn’t black.  She had been pretending.  I honestly do not know why this was so awful.  Why can’t someone pretend to be what they want to be?  I have been pretending to be something I am not for most of my life.  I was a pastor and pretended to be a good man.  For years I have been a college professor and have been pretending to be knowledgeable about certain areas of knowledge.  The truth is my gift is being able to project confidence because I know a little about a lot of things but I am not an authority on anything.

When I was in college a professor, who I really admired, said to me after I made a presentation, “That was the most interesting nothing I have ever listened to.”  Instead of being hurt, I thanked him because I knew he was telling the truth.

All this brings me to my point.  As human beings, if we want to face the truth about ourselves, we are basically selfish.  There are a few unselfish people in our midst, a few.  But most of us who claim to be Christians are pretending. To be a Christian is to be Christ-like.  That is an insurmountable goal.  But I am committed to pretending because I believe if we pretend to be something long enough we actually become what we desire to be.  Our challenge is to be a better and better Christian pretender.  The wonderful thing about this quest is God promises to help us become.  Enoch was taken to heaven because he became so much like God.  That did not happen overnight. See Genesis 5.

Written by Roger Bothwell on October 12, 2015

PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574


Ivory Soap

I have received several responses to the message regarding Fels-Naptha soap.  Most of them were about having had their parents use it to wash out their mouths because of lies and bad language.  No longer do I feel like I was abused.  My mother used Ivory soap.  It’s 99.44% pure.  Pure what?

Jesus is an interesting study in purity.  Hebrews 4:15 says, “ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  And yet we read of Him being angry.  “And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he said unto the man, ‘Stretch forth your hand.’ And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.”

Obviously anger for the right reason is not sin.  Not to be angry would be allowing wrong to rule when righteous people do nothing. In Matthew 23 He lashed out at the religious leaders by calling them names.  In the following verses He is anything but being politically correct.  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  You are like unto whitened sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”

Jesus was purer than Ivory soap.  He was 100%.  But that did not mean He did not take action when He saw the poor and the powerless being abused by the 1% who had all the wealth and power.

Written by Roger Bothwell on October 22, 2015

PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

Live With It

I’ve heard of it happening but it never happened to me until today.  My wife and I decided we would each like a Frosty from Wendy’s.  We ordered at the menu board and when we pulled up to pay the girl said, “You don’t owe anything.  The man in the car in front of you paid for you.”  Really!?  I looked ahead to see him pull out onto the highway and he was gone.  All I could see was he was black and had a fireman’s license plate.  I will never get a chance to thank him.  But I want to thank him.  One of life’s lessons is we don’t always get what we want.  Every time I see a black fireman I will wonder if he was the one.

But we don’t always get what we want.  Life serves us up good and bad things and we have to live by adapting to what is.  It is a good life lesson to learn.  If we don’t we will live frustrated and that really destroys the quality of life.  Paul wanted a particular thorn to be removed from his life.  We think it might have been a vision problem.  He wrote, “Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’”

If there is something in your life that you have repeatedly prayed about with no seeming answer, please remember God’s grace is sufficient for you.  Live with it, cope, manage, adapt and become stronger by doing so.  Be more of a person than before.

I think I will say thank you by doing the same thing for another person the next time I go to Wendy’s.

Written by Roger Bothwell on October 1, 2015

PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

The Search for Dark Matter

Physicists tell us something called Dark Matter keeps the stars from spinning off into space.  Dark Matter is five times more abundant in the universe than the normal matter that composes you, me, your house and your car.  What is fascinating is they, we, don’t know what it is.  We can’t even see it.  Defining it and seeing it will be the next big discovery.

In the meantime, while super smart people are looking for it, I would like to tell them where to find masses of it.  It’s inside human heads and is responsible for people thinking they are serving God by blowing themselves and other into tiny bits.  Dark Matter is in the heads of those who think slicing off human heads, the most wonderful thing God made, brings glory to God.  Humans are made in God’s image and we cannot imagine Dark Matter in Adam’s head; although He did eat the fruit.  Somehow that stupid decision must have had a lot to do with who was handing the fruit to him.  She had to have been gorgeous and men make terrible decisions in the presence of gorgeous women.

Surely we exhibit the Dark Matter in our heads when we mistreat and abuse God’s creation.  When we are cruel and thoughtless, when we curse another person, when we mistreat a child, when we steal from someone or worse deliberately kill them, we are defiling something made in His image.  Jesus said if we do this even to the least of them we have done it unto Him, God.  It is no wonder Jesus called Himself, the Light of the World.  He and He alone is the solution to the Dark Matter problem that exists in us.

Written by Roger Bothwell on October 2, 2015

PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

Fels-Naptha Soap

I find it fascinating that I could have lived with something for all the time I can remember and know almost nothing about it.  Fels-Naptha is such a thing for me.  This afternoon I was in the laundry room and picked up a bar of such and was surprised to read that it was ideal for pre-treating stains.  It’s been around since 1893 and was formatted by Lazarus Fels.  Naptha is a petroleum product similar to gasoline, kerosene or a variety of things depending where you are in the world.  Obviously one should not use it for personal bathing.

As I held it I realized Jesus had pre-treated me for my stains.  Since the cross was 2000 years ago that does predate me by quite a bit.  God was ready to deal with my faults.  Actually God was ready even before the cross.  Psalm 51 written 1000 years before Calvary says, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; According to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”

Blots leave stains and so verse seven adds, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”  This is better than blotting.  This is purging until no stain is left.  The end product here is looking like there was no sin, no stain, no blot and so forever after God will not treat us as forgiven.  It is better than that.  He will treat us as if we had never sinned at all.  We will always remember that we were redeemed.  But He will never rub it in.  We are stainless.

Written by Roger Bothwell on October 21, 2015

PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574


You’re the Greatest

There was a little guy in the grocery cart ahead of me.  He looked to be about twelve months old and I have to say this was not a good looking baby.  As I was trying to ascertain just what it was that was so unattractive someone walked by and said, “What a beautiful child!”  “Whoa,” I thought.  “They must be compensating to make the parent feel good.”   But, as we moved up to the register the clerk said, “What a handsome young man.”  Well, the adjective “young” disqualified me so she must have been talking about the baby. Now, I have to admit had the child been mine or one of my grandchildren, for sure I would have agreed with the other people.

It just so happened there was also another similarly aged boy in the store.  I thought he was precious.  I wonder if the people who commented on the first child thought differently than I regarding the “precious” child.  Could it have been that the second child was good-looking because he looked like my boys at that age?  But I see many children that don’t look anything like my boys and I think they are really handsome.  No, I have to hold on to the fact that this first child was not well formed.

Now that I have made myself look like a biased old fool by telling you all this, I do have to say since we are God’s children, His bias toward us is extremely skewed.  Genesis tells us He made us in His image.  I have to conclude if we were born with our nose upside-down; God would still think we were the greatest thing since sliced bread. Yeah.  You really are!

Written by Roger Bothwell on October 14, 2016

PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574


In Uncle Sam We Trust

One of my students told me he didn’t believe in anything that wasn’t tangible. I took a twenty dollar bill and a one dollar bill out of my wallet and asked, “If I gave you the opportunity to have one of these, which would you take?”  He reached for the twenty.  “But why,” I asked.  “They are both the same size and the same weight.  Intrinsically there is absolutely no difference other than the configurations of ink.”  He answered something like, “One is twenty times more valuable than the other.”

Really?  Who says?  All of us do.  This is only true because we have agreed that is so.  One piece of paper is worth more than another piece of paper only because we put our faith in our monetary system. The actual material value of each is less than a penny.  Yet, with one I can purchase a half gallon of gasoline and with the other I can purchase about nine gallons of gas.  This only works as long as we continue to believe we can.  Once we stop believing, the system collapses and chaos ensues.

Our money says “In God we trust” when actually it is “In Uncle Sam we trust.”  Whether my young friend understood or not, he is a creature of faith.  We all are.  So why not take the next step and have faith in the God who made us?  Psalm 33:6 says, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”  Our earth and the starry host had to come from somewhere.  It is much more intellectually satisfying to believe they are the work of a loving Creator than because of some accidental explosion.  And where did the stuff that exploded come from?

Written by Roger Bothwell on October 21, 2016

PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574