The Prescription for Happiness

Posted on May 27, 2018

Humans are strange creatures. We are thrilled when we get a raise until we find out a colleague received a larger raise. There is an old Yiddish saying, “When does a hunchback rejoice? When he sees one with a larger hump.” Ambrose Bierce put it this way, “Happiness is an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of others.” And Gore Vidal wrote, “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” Our happiness is so often a reaction based on our relationship with other’s situations.

It is interesting to compare the above quotes with Jesus’ prescriptions for happiness found in Matthew 5. The word “blessed” in the Beatitudes can be translated “happy.” “Happy are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Note there is a relationship factor involved and it is opposite to our normal reactions.

The normal reaction to happiness is all about me. Jesus’ formula is all about others. If I am meek I am content with other’s success. If I am meek I am happy when you get a raise. Now I must confess I need to work at this and will most likely fail if I do not have divine help. Surely it is the “old man” Paul refers to in Romans. I must put it to death that a “new man” can live within me.

“You were taught, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness.” Ephesians 4:22-25

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 18, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Does Your Brain Deceive You?

Posted on May 26, 2018

I have always believed the moon appears bigger when on the horizon than when it is overhead because of light refraction. When looking at it on the horizon we are looking through much more atmosphere therefore it appears to be very large. I was wrong. When the diameter of the moon is measured at the horizon and overhead the measurement is the same. So what is going on? It is our brain. Our brain concludes when it is near the horizon it is very far away and therefore has to be huge and when overhead our brain perceives it as being closer and it need not be as big.

Now please before you think I am either crazy or really stupid this is not my idea. This is the accepted theory of the world’s leading astronomers and cognitive theorists. It is an example of the old expression, “My brain is playing tricks on me.” It is comparable to not remembering why you entered a room until you return to where you were when you started the errand. It is a blow to our pride to think our own brain deceives us. We want to believe our powers of logic are a certain guide to truth. When we see something, we “know” it is true. But is it? At the beginning of my courses I inform my students half of what I will teach them isn’t true. My problem is I don’t know which half.

Thus the need for faith. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 17, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Understanding vs. Forgiveness

Posted on May 25, 2018

It happens every semester. Term papers are due and someone comes up after class and says, “Dr. Bothwell, I need more time. The computer printer would not work. My paper is all finished. I just can’t get it out of the computer.” This is the 21st Century’s “The dog ate my homework.”

To which I reply, “I understand.”

To which they reply, “Oh, thank you, Dr. Bothwell.”

To which I reply, “Slip your paper under my door. You will only lose a letter grade.”

To which they reply, “But you said you understand.”

To which I reply, “I do. However, there is a huge difference between understanding and forgiveness.”

It is one of life’s great lessons. God understands us. He knows us intimately. He knows our appetites and passions. He knows how weary we can become. He made us. However, His understanding does not mean all is forgiven. Forgiveness needs repentance. Repentance means turning around and going the other way. 1 Peter 3:10 –11 says, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”

However, you say, “I try and try and just keep failing.” That’s when grace enters the picture. It is our heart. It is our intentions. Victory will come with practice. In the meantime rejoice in salvation. Victory is not the means of our salvation it is the fruit.

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 11, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Jesus, Our Personal Sun

Posted on May 24, 2018

While walking my dog last evening I looked up at Arcturus. It is easy to find in the night sky. Just allow your eye to follow the arch created by the handle of the big dipper and it is the first bright star you will see. It is only 37 light years away so if you are less than 37 years old the light you are seeing left Arcturus before you were born. I was wondering if there is intelligent life on a planet circling Arcturus and if so what do they call Arcturus. In their language do they call it “The Sun?” After all Arcturus is our name for it. I wonder what their name is for our Sun. As far as I know we don’t have a name for our sun. It is just “sun.”

I am glad for the dark. Without the dark we would never see the wonders of the heavens for the light of our sun would overpower the stars. Yet I am glad for the day for it allows us to see the colors of our wonderful world. How very complicated night and day would be if we were part of a binary sun system.

Light illuminates and light obscures.

In John 8:12 Jesus declared Himself to be the light of the world. His honesty, His purity, His trustworthiness, His love and care illuminate the character defects inside us. Yet His mercy and forgiveness will upon our request obscure and obliterate the record of our failures. In Him we become honest, pure, trustworthy, loving and caring. How grand!

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 10, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

James 3

Posted on May 23, 2018

Today I saw a limousine waiting outside a Burger King. The two items, the limousine and Burger King, do not seem to go together. It had all the incongruity of a Picasso in a Wal-Mart. It was like the President of the United States riding around in a Ford Fiesta. It was like George Bush playing golf with Saddam Hussein. King Solomon understood life’s incongruities when he wrote in Proverbs 11:22, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.”

There are some things that do not go together. We cannot be a Christian and be cruel and heartless. We cannot be a Christian and be a gossip. We cannot be a Christian and steal a person’s reputation by saying nasty things about him or her. These things just don’t go together. James mentions this in chapter 3. He said, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

Living a consistent life is a great challenge. I can start out the day with the best intentions and be irritated on my way to school in the morning and all those good goals evaporate like the morning mist. Fortunately for me Jesus understands.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 8, 2004
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

What Is A Home?

Posted on May 22, 2018

The mystery of the missing fluid for the clutch in my old truck is solved. Upon opening the bell housing we found a community of small animals. One was dead and the others went running across the garage floor. The leaking fluid was being absorbed by the nesting material they made out of insulation from other parts of the truck. I wonder how long they lived in there and how many trips they made with me back and forth to school?

It takes all kinds of homes for God’s creatures but the bell housing of a truck is not one of the better ones. Bears have dens. Birds have nests. Dogs have blankets. Cats have houses they allow humans to live in. Kings have palaces. Rich people have mansions. The rest of us have apartments or regular houses.

What actually constitutes a home? When I am returning from school I do not mentally feel like I’m home til I pull in the driveway. However, if I have been on a really long journey I feel like I’m home when I arrive at the outskirts of my town. Robert Frost once defined home as “the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Why the expression “have to?” It is either because of obligation or because of love. Most likely it depends on the particular case. In the case of our heavenly Father I believe the “have to” is love. There was no way the father could have refused the prodigal son upon his return. There is no way our heavenly father can refuse us.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 7, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Plan D, E, F, G, …

Posted on May 21, 2018

The fluid in the master cylinder for the clutch in my old truck has disappeared. Obviously that makes shifting gears an extreme challenge. This is puzzling because there is no puddle or signs of leaking where I park it. The man at the transmission shop tells me this is usually Problem A or Problem B. However, in this case it seems to be Problem C, which means he hasn’t yet figured out where the fluid went. Therefore he will try Plan D to solve the mystery. “After all,” he said, “this stuff doesn’t evaporate.”

I did not ask him what Plan D was in case it meant blowing up the truck and I didn’t want to know if that was the case. I wonder if God has a Plan D? I think Plan A was for Adam and Eve not to sin. Plan B was the Cross for our redemption. Plan C is most likely God’s personal plan of how to woo us to accept the gift of salvation. Perhaps Plan D, E, F, G, H and on are His modifications in approaching us because we continue to resist. How grand to know that He does not give up on us but will continue His pursuit.

In Ephesians 1 Paul wrote, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will . . . In him we have . . . the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 6, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Choose Your Out-of-This World Tours

Posted on May 20, 2018

If we have good vision we are capable of seeing about 5,000 stars on a clear night. That is hardly a good start. The latest calculation of astronomers for the total number of stars in the universe is 70 sextillion. That is a seven with twenty-two zeros. That is more than the grains of sand on planet earth. How overwhelmingly provincial to think we are the only intelligent life forms in all the vastness of space.

The Bible speaks of a huge host of intelligent beings that do not live on earth. Revelation 5:11 reads, “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne . . .” According to the next verse they are there for a special reason. Verse 12 says, “In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’”

There is so much for us to see. Today a telemarketer tried to sell me a trip to Orlando by telling me, “You will never again see so much for so little if you buy this travel package.” I don’t think so. I have news for him. There are 70 sextillion places to go and the cost has already been covered. Revelation 7:9 reads, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb.” Now that is a trip no one should miss.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 5, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Tool Box or Treasure Chest?

Posted on May 17, 2018

This evening I found myself staring into the refrigerator. I wasn’t really hungry so what was I doing? I must be a conditioned lab rat and something triggered a “Go to the fridge” response. Without thinking I was going to put unnecessary food into me. As I closed the fridge door I wondered how many times a day I eat unnecessary food. I wish I would instead automatically look for spiritual food. I wish I would find myself browsing through my Bible just to see what is there. I must confess most always I open my Bible in search of some specific text or idea. It has become a toolbox instead of a treasure chest.

We need the tools that are there for character construction just as a craftsman needs tools. But there are delightful surprises to be found there. Sometimes while reading a familiar passage a brand new idea jumps out of the text and yells, “Hey, look at me.” Now that is not something you want to happen when staring into the fridge.

Recently I was reading John 14 where Jesus said, “In my father’s house are many rooms.” Suddenly I realized in God’s Kingdom there are many families with many different family names. Often we are tempted to be exclusive and think we (our group) are God’s favorites and the only ones that will be saved. We need to jolt ourselves out of our conceit and remember God once said to Elijah, “Not only you. I have 7000 others.”

My goal is to be conditioned to browse God’s word and to keep the refrigerator door closed.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 4, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Life’s Tapestry

Posted on May 16, 2018

My four-year-old granddaughter approached me today with a blank piece of paper in one hand and a handful of markers in the other. She was all excited about writing me a letter. Soon she returned with a long list of squiggly lines and she asked me to read what she had written. So I sat about the task of deciphering her code into a story. When I finished I thanked her for writing such an exciting tale. She thanked me for the complement and walked away quite pleased with herself for authoring such a fine piece of literature.

As I watched her go I wondered if we sometimes or often present God with nothing much more than a jumble of deeds, ideas, thoughts and attitudes thinking we are giving Him this grandly scripted life. I am often dismayed at my inability to live consistently. All my grand designs to be good disintegrate when students and colleagues frustrate me with what I think is incompetence. Of course they could never think I am incompetent! So often at the close of a day I wish I had held my tongue and had been more discrete.

I have come to hope that God is taking all these inconsistencies and is weaving them into a lovely tapestry. Actually a tapestry is much more interesting than a plain cloth made of consistently colored threads. How’s that for rationalization? However with God’s help we can write a great life story filled with downs and then ups. The downs are interesting but the ups are incredibly glorious.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 3, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453