Something Is Missing

Posted on Jul 4, 2018

Recently I listened to a very proficient person play the saxophone. I carefully choose the adjective proficient instead of talented because while he played all the notes properly and never missed a beat there was something missing. There was no soul. One would think if someone played a piece of music the way it was written that would be adequate. But it wasn’t. It was mechanical. It did not flow.

I was reminded of Christians who are so careful to obey the commandments. They pay their tithe and make sure they eat only prescribed foods yet something is missing. They seem not to have discovered the joy of living by principles and are stuck in rules and regulations. They have a mechanical faith without soul. They are like those Paul speaks of in I Corinthians 13 when he says, “If I give my body to be burned it means nothing if I do not have love.”

The reversal of this is I have seen musicians who don’t always play the right notes and their music is incredibly great. I have seen Christians who “break the rules” and yet are so filled with love I want to be like them. Jesus is not looking for robots. He is looking for warm compassionate people who are not afraid to do the “right” thing instead of the “legal” thing. He is looking for people with soul.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

Written by Roger Bothwell on October 2, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

J172

Posted on Jul 3, 2018

While rummaging around in the top drawer of my school desk, a museum of semi-useful artifacts, I found a key engraved with the room number J172. This should have caused not the slightest attention except no one in our Jones building knows of a room 172. While I walked about looking for the mystery door one of my younger colleagues suggested I needed to join AARP since I had a key but didn’t know where the door was.

While it is true I never did find a door for the key, I have a much more important key and I know where the door is for that one. Jesus said in John 10, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” The key is a simple understanding that eternal life is a gift and God stands with outstretched arms offering the gift. All we need do is take it.

There are those who would have us believe the door to the kingdom has a combination lock and only they have the code. “Come,” they say, “Study with us and we will open the door for you.” That is a way to enslave us to their will. But Jesus has set us free from others’ control over our eternal future. We need no other mediator than Jesus Himself. He is the Door. He is the Way. Perhaps the problem is that it is not complicated enough. If it is so easy anyone can get in and maybe it is not exclusive enough for some. Well, it is not exclusive. Jesus said, “Whosoever will, come.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 30, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

The Butterfly Club

Posted on Jul 2, 2018

The Butterfly Club is an exclusive organization. Membership is by invitation only and members recognize each other by a secret sign. Membership brings prestige and insures elevated social status. None of us could qualify since membership is limited to 5-year-old little girls in a kindergarten in Bronxville, New York. I learned of this prestigious organization this weekend from my card-carrying member of the Butterfly Club granddaughter. She was very reluctant to speak about it and definitely would not reveal to me the secret sign.

I am fascinated by this very early display of the human need to be somebody special. We hunger for recognition and unfortunately most often it comes at the expense of another. Everybody loves a winner and brushes aside the loser even if it is by one point or one vote. Who remembers the name of the first runner in the Miss America pageant? Most likely just her family.

How grand it would be if we could gain our sense of worth by what we were able to do to elevate another. In Romans 12:10 Paul writes, “Honor one another above yourselves.” It sounds so nice to say, but how do you control that inner pang of pain when someone else wins something you wanted so badly? I could say, “Pray about it.” But that seems like the copout answer we use when we don’t know anything else to say. Perhaps it is something that comes with the assurance we are somebody important. And how do we know that? Surely the only way is to be reassured we are God’s children. That makes us royalty.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 29, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

National Association of Sorry

Posted on Jul 1, 2018

Each student in my human development class is required to give an oral report on a helping agency. Recently a student began, “My report is on the National Association of ahh sorry.” He momentarily forgot and started over. His error caused me to wonder who would belong to a National Association of Sorry. Would they be people who are continually sorry about their behavior, their speech or their appearance? I knew of a man who thought he was so ugly he would select seats in subway cars so people would not have to look at him.

I wondered if our prayers are often sorry appeals for God’s mercy. Do we fill our petitions to God with tales of remorse because we are not good enough and thus continually beg for forgiveness? If so we really are a sorry lot and should join a National Association of Sorry.

Jesus instructs us to approach God as our father. I would be truly dismayed if each time I talked with my sons they had to begin by telling me how sorry they are about not being perfect. Actually they are perfect. But I refuse to brag. In Hebrews 4:16 we are instructed to come boldly before the throne of God. In Romans 8 Paul assures we are God’s sons and daughters with full rights to the inheritance that Jesus received.

I am not saying we should not be repentant and sorry for our sins. We should be. I am instead referring to an attitude of joy instead of one of continued remorse. Christ calls us to the abundant life.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 25, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Tree Roots

Posted on Jun 29, 2018

I have a neighbor with the most beautiful lawn. He feeds it his own special receipt of secret ingredients. He waters it every day and mows it every other day leaving glorious patterns that catch the light just right. I love it because his diligence raises my real estate value. Another thing I have noticed is the trees in my yard closest to his yard are very healthy. Arborists tell me the root system of trees can be five times the height of the tree. Some of my trees are easily fifty feet tall, which means they have root systems that spread out 250 feet in search of water and nutrients. I think my trees are eating his special formula and they are loving it. Please don’t anyone tell him I told you this or he might want me to help pay his water bill.

The very first Psalm says, “Blessed is the man … who delights in the law of the Lord. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth fruit in season.” I like the next part. It says, “Whatsoever he does shall prosper.”

God’s law is not an arbitrary set of commands designed to see if we are faithful. They are counsel from the one who knows all things. He knows if we follow His direction we will have a good abundant life just as a well-watered apple tree bears good apples. God is a God of good common sense.

When it gets dry in Massachusetts my trees do well. If we obey God’s word,we will do well.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 25, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Grandpa Is Listening

Posted on Jun 28, 2018

My wife has a wonderful ability to talk on the telephone with our grandchildren. She can create an endless stream of questions to keep them pleasantly engaged. It is just the opposite with me. After a few questions about school I run dry and so when we are both home my wife does the talking with them. But I listen. I enjoy listening. I want to know what is happening in their lives; I just do not have the creativity to extract the information. The children think they are only talking to grandma. They don’t know grandpa is listening.

My heavenly Father and I do not engage in active conversation. I do not know what to ask Him. What do I say, “How are you?” I know He’s fine. I guess I could ask Him what He did today but I doubt if I would understand the complexity of what He does to maintain the universe. It would be like my conversation about work with my older son. When I ask him what he does at work he tries to explain but I am too dull to get it. Don’t misunderstand me, I do talk with God in my prayers but it is not much of a dialogue. I mostly hear me.

Someone could say, because I do not hear Him He is not there. I would be tempted to think so but then I remember the telephone calls with my grandchildren. Grandpa is there. He is listening. He cares.

“And Jesus said unto them, ‘When you pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven.'” Luke 11:2

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 22, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

On Being a Protector

Posted on Jun 27, 2018

There was a small valley behind my house when I was a boy. In the field that ascended on the opposite side was a wonderful fencerow filled with oaks, maples, birches and sumac. My little dog and I loved to wander along the row scaring up rabbits and chipmunks. One year a big fat old groundhog moved in. He was grand. When we came near he whistled and disappeared into his chambers. He was my neighbor.

Late one afternoon I heard a shot and rushing outside I saw a man lying in the field beside my house aiming at my groundhog. Again he shot and I saw dirt kick up beside my brown chubby friend before he dove underground for safety. From that time on I watched diligently and each time I saw the man come with the gun I would run across the little valley to sit at the groundhog’s door. Finally the man stopped coming but my groundhog disappeared. I think the man came one day while I was in school.

I was not a very good protector. Fortunately we have a protector that never fails. Jesus promises in John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” I wish I could tell you that promise meant nothing bad would ever happen to us. It does not. What it does mean is our eternal destiny is sure. As long as we live in a sinful world bad things will happen to good people. However, Jesus cares.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 16, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Lo, I Am with You Always

Posted on Jun 26, 2018

There’s a great quote by Salmon Rushdie. He said, “Most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence.” I never thought about that before but he is absolutely right. We were not present when we were conceived. That was pretty important. Few of us are present when committees decide whether or not to give us a job or allow us to keep the one we have. We are not present when someone decides how much tax we have to pay on our house or out of our paycheck. We are not usually present when someone burglarizes our house or steals our car. If we are brought to trial we are not present when a jury deliberates our fate.

In regard to spiritual things we were not present when Adam and Eve failed and plunged us all into sin. Neither were we present when Jesus gave His live for us to get us out of sin. We are not present when our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life referred to in the Book of Revelation.

I am beginning to wonder if we are present at anything important in our lives. But wait there are some things. We are present when we marry our spouse. That’s pretty important. We are present when we are born. We are present when we die.

At the close of Matthew Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always.” In John He promised to hold us safely in His hand. I really like that kind of presence. It’s the best.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 15, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

“Cut A Hole in the Roof”

Posted on Jun 25, 2018

In the middle of “Finding Nemo,” a 90 some minute Disney film about two fish trying to find each other, my 4 year old granddaughter stood up on her seat and said, “If they aren’t going to find each other, let’s go home.” She had reached and exceeded her frustration level.

My sentiments exactly about going to church and having the hour filled with everything accept the story of Jesus. Sometimes there are so many announcements and so much money to raise and so much promotion of some worthy cause we forget what we really came for. We came for Jesus and us to find each other and if it’s not going to happen let’s go home.

I know it is difficult sometimes for a pastor to squeeze everything in his allotted time and it is easy to momentarily lose one’s priorities. Life is full of so many important things. In Mark 2 there is a great story about a group of friends who wanted to bring someone to Jesus for healing. There were so many people around the door of the house where Jesus was they eventually dug a hole in the roof so they could lower their friend to Him. In verse 4 Mark says, “They could not come near for the press, . . .” Obviously Mark was talking about people but we could use it to talk about the press of life’s duties and responsibilities keeping us away from a relationship with Jesus.

Do whatever you need to do. Cut a hole in the roof but make sure you do get together with Jesus.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 14, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

I Can Hear Him Calling

Posted on Jun 24, 2018

There is a wonderful little balcony off the back second story of our house. Since we live on top of a hill there was a marvelous potential for an awesome view but when we moved in years ago the view was completely obstructed by trees in the back woods. So my son and I cut them down and the view was grand. This afternoon I heard the roaring sounds of an air show at our local airport. Running out onto the balcony I had a rude awakening. I couldn’t see anything. Little by little each year the trees grew back. All I can now see is a marvelous crop of maple leaves. It’s time to get out the chainsaw.

As I turned to go back inside I thought of the innocence of childhood and how clearly I could see Jesus. But little by little as the years and decades slipped away I sometimes find it more challenging to see Jesus. Things have grown up and gotten in the way. Doubts, questions difficult to answer, hypocritical Christians, personal hurts, disappointing leaders who forget that people are more important than organizations and my own failures to live up to my own standards all obstruct my vision. Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he wrote, “When I was a child I thought as a child, but now as a man I think like a man.” “I see through a glass darkly.” I Corinthians 13.

Despite the maple leaves I can hear the airplanes on the other side. Despite the things of adulthood I know Jesus is there. I can hear Him calling.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 12, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453