Saturday, March 29, 2014

March 29, 2014, column:
Trip to Europe teaches much
By Mike Haynes
            “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
            Although I think you can live a perfectly happy and productive life without ever getting on an airplane, a spring break trip to Europe reminded me of the wisdom of those words attributed to St. Augustine.
            The tour by a group of Amarillo College students and faculty, organized by honors director Judy Carter, was intended to expand minds through direct experience of other places and cultures. It did so more than I expected.
            The sights themselves affected our students, who had written papers about some of the locations.
Students from Amarillo College and Dutchess Community College in New York shoot photos of the White Rose Memorial in Munich, Germany, during a spring break study trip. (Photo by Amanda Castro-Crist)
Journalism student Perla was intent on seeing the White Rose Memorial honoring university students the Gestapo had executed in 1943. When our group did visit that site in Munich, Germany, our cameras focused on Perla, reverently grateful to be on the campus where the victims she had researched had defied the Nazis.
            We know about the Holocaust, but it’s different when you tour the Dachau concentration camp and stand in the middle of the vast roll-call grounds where prisoners wondered daily what would happen to them next. Looking down at my comfortable tennis shoes on the dirt surface, I knew that if God had put me on Earth at a different time in a different place, it could have been me.
            We asked tour guide Sandra, who grew up in Munich decades after World War II, how Germans deal with the guilt stemming from the Hitler era. She described the trepidation she felt when she met a young man from Israel. Should she tell him she was German? Would he hate her? She was honest with him, and he was friendly with her. We learned much about humanity from that short talk on our tour bus.
            We’ve read about the Berlin Wall, but our group’s understanding of East-West politics grew when we could touch a portion of the wall that remains and see how high above our heads it rises. Our empathy with those who were on the front lines of the Cold War deepened when tour guide Matti, a Berlin native, recalled how he had maneuvered border checkpoints in the 1980s for brief visits to East Berlin to see his girlfriend. And we heard Matti explain how living under Communism changed East Germans so that some distrust remains 25 years after the wall fell.
    
Amarillo College students and faculty, clockwise from left, Judy Carter, Amanda Castro-Crist, Laura Cabrales, Mike Haynes, Angie Ross, Paola Estrada, Andrea Guerrero, Bailie Myers and, in center, Raylyn Bowers, ride an elevator to the top of a clock tower in Prague, Czech Republic, during a spring break study trip. (Photo by Amanda Castro-Crist)
        We gained insight from those European tour guides who see the world a little differently than we do, but our students made their own insightful comments, too. Inside a beautiful Dresden cathedral, rebuilt from scratch after the Allied bombing in World War II, Bailie wondered what the Christian apostles would think about such ostentatious statues and decoration. The development of Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, is evident throughout Europe, and those of us from the U.S. Bible Belt can gain perspective by standing where Luther stood in Germany or viewing St. Wenceslas’ tomb in a massive church at the top of a hill in Prague, Czech Republic.
            The differences between Amarillo, Texas, and the Old World were obvious to our students. Here, people go to church, drive to the convenience store and live in air-conditioned houses. There, churches host more tourists than members, people walk and ride bikes or trains to work, and living space is limited. Here, we value our independent spirit. There, varying degrees of socialism are on display.
But Amanda, another student, pointed out the other side of the coin. We spend dollars and they use Euros, but under the surface, we’re the same. Each morning, whether in Amarillo or Nuremberg, we all have to get up and go to work. We all need medicine, whether from a pharmacy or a German apotheke. We all love food, whether a Tex-Mex burrito or a Czech trdelnik pastry. We all worry about our families.

People are people.  St. Augustine knew that, too, and I’m thankful that Amarillo College allowed us to read a few pages of the book of the world.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

March 1, 2014, column:

High-tech devices find roles in faith


By Mike Haynes
            Technology moves faster than a rumor at a church social.
            Just 16 months ago, I wrote about a few members of our Sunday school class using smartphones before the lesson to look up recipes and during class to search the scriptures. I admitted that I hesitated to use my iPhone or iPad at church because I felt pretentious flaunting those posh devices.
             Boy, has that changed.
            I attend a church where lots of members have good jobs that allow them to own smartphones or digital tablets. Still, I was leery of showing off by pulling out a fancy screen.
            Fast-forward to a recent Sunday morning. Fourteen people sat in circled-up chairs of the Couples in Christ class that Kathy and I attend. Kevin, the teacher, directed us to Hebrews 11, the Bible chapter that focuses on faith, our topic of the day.
            Four of the men and women opened paper-and-ink Bibles. The other 10 swiped the screens of smartphones or tablets to navigate to Hebrews 11.
            I don’t have to feel pretentious anymore, at least not in that setting.
            Kevin pointed out a difference for the teacher. He said that while his head is down, perusing his lesson notes, he used to be able to determine when everybody had located a Bible verse. It was when the sound of fluttering paper pages ended.
            Now, with so many people silently flicking screens instead of turning pages, he has to look up to see who’s found the verse and who hasn’t.
            For many, electronic Bible reading has become as common as Angry Birds or Candy Crush. Now that I’ve gotten used to the interface, I love being able to search for Philippians 1:6 or for all instances of the name Hezekiah.
            Our friend Tony, though, said he still likes to be able to underline passages and write marginal notes in his well-worn Bible. Of course, digital versions now allow you to highlight words and to type notes that stay on your device, but it takes more time and effort than doing it with a physical pen or pencil.
            And the battery never runs down on a paper Bible.
            More substantive qualms have been expressed about digital scripture. Matthew Barrett of California Baptist University wrote that pastors should use a traditional Bible in the pulpit and that church members also lose something with phones or tablets.
            He believes the Bible is devalued when it’s just one of many apps alongside Pinterest, ESPN Magazine and an app to make vacation reservations. He argues that some learning is lost when the preacher says, “Turn in your Bibles to…” and the person in the pew just types text into a search box. Physically locating John 3:16 among hundreds of pages forces the reader to understand where that verse is in relation to the rest of the Bible.
            Barrett quotes John Bombaro: “… digital texts militate against a big-picture perspective and comprehension of the whole story of the Bible."
            He also says “something is missing in our nonverbal communication to unbelieving onlookers. When you walk to church, sit down on a bus, or disciple one another at a coffee shop, a hard copy of the Bible sends a loud and bold message to the nearest passersby about your identity as a Christ follower.” If you’re reading the Bible on a Kindle, you could just as well be reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” as far as an observer is concerned.            
            I’ll continue to use both paper and silicon. I agree with Tony that holding a printed book still gives a sense of weight and permanence. But the advantages of digital devices outweigh the negatives. If they put the Bible into more young minds, they’re a plus.

            The Word is the Word, from papyrus to parchment to printing press to pixels to whatever platform comes next. 

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Feb. 1, 2014, column: The Beatles

Beatles' lasting legacy continues to influence society
By Mike Haynes           
            Eight days from now, Kathy and I wanted to be in New York City. It’ll be 50 years since Feb. 9, 1964 – the date when the Ed Sullivan Show introduced the Beatles to America.
            At age 13, I don’t think I saw that first show, when the Fab Four played five songs for 728 people live and 73 million on TV. I believe I caught up two weeks later, when John, Paul, George and Ringo continued electrifying teenagers with their third Ed Sullivan Sunday night appearance.
            The 2014 media certainly is aware that the lads from Liverpool turned out to be more than John
The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, 1964. (AP Photo)
Lennon’s 1971 assessment: “We were just a band that made it very, very big, that’s all.” Not quite. This month, the Beatles are on the covers of major magazines, on entertainment telecasts and all over the Internet and social media. 
            There’s even a Beatles convention – the Fest for Beatles Fans – that’s been going on for 40 years, and next weekend it’ll take place in New York. On the chance that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two surviving mop tops, would show up at the Fest, I reserved a hotel room for my wife and me.
            Alas, the biggest names on the Fest schedule are Donovan and Peter and Gordon, and along with other obligations, that forced me to cancel the hotel reservation. We will be mighty mad if Paul or Ringo drop by unannounced.
            I suppose the main reason Kathy and I like this rock group is Beatlemania – the combination of fun, lively music, likable personalities, Liverpool accents, distinctive haircuts and the screaming, hyperventilating fans who chased these boys everywhere in the early ’60s. People magazine quoted Catherine Andrews, a 14-year-old in 1964: “They were almost like a religion – we were out of our minds over them.”
            Yes, there are some elements of religion tied to the Beatles. Kathy and I once toured Liverpool and London on a “Beatles Pilgrimage.” (See “Magical Mystery Tour,” amarillo.com, Aug. 25, 2002 - http://amarillo.com/stories/2002/08/25/ent_beatles1.shtml). We were big fans, but others in our group were almost spiritual about it. In front of the Liverpool house where Paul grew up, one woman clipped grass and put it in a plastic bag. Several American fans touched an olive drab jacket John Lennon had worn like it was Christ’s robe.
            Steve Turner’s 2006 book, “The Gospel According to the Beatles” looks at the obvious spiritual aspects of this band that certainly did influence popular culture, if not people’s beliefs. John told a journalist in 1966 the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, and as blasphemous as that sounds, there was some truth to it. The four famously flirted with Eastern mysticism, and George Harrison stuck with it, sitar and all.
            None of the Beatles has been known to embrace Christianity, although Turner writes about a “born-again” period in John’s later life when he wrote evangelist Oral Roberts, asking, “Explain to me what Christianity can do for me. Is it phoney? Can He love me? I want out of hell.”
            Maybe more relevant to us today is the cultural change the Beatles helped propel, for good and for bad. Edna Gunderson of USA Today wrote, “The band hijacked the entertainment media and transcended music to become a chapter in world history. Its members had political clout, spiritual authority, cultural sway and the ears of the planet.”
            By the time they broke up officially in 1970, the Beatles were more than a band. They had created complicated music with mystery and messages. They had used drugs and bickered among themselves. But on Feb. 9, 1964, all that America cared about was those heads of hair shaking, the guitars and drums, the cute grins and the harmonized “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
             They aren’t a religion to me, but they sure are fun.
              * * *

            Mike Haynes teaches journalism at Amarillo College. He can be reached at AC, the Amarillo Globe-News or haynescolumn@hotmail.com. Go to www.haynescolumn.blogspot.com for other recent columns.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Jan. 4, 2014, column:
Cousins inspire after death
By Mike Haynes
            If it were just my family, I wouldn’t be so quick to write about Joyce and Vester. But those cousins who died a day apart Dec. 20 and Dec. 21 were known in their communities and far beyond, and their absence leaves noticeable holes in the fabric of McLean and Higgins.
            They said they were each other’s favorite cousins. Joyce, my mother, was the daughter of Ruel Smith, and Vester was the son of Ruel’s brother, the elder Vester. Vester, 91, and Joyce, 83, both took pride in their Smith heritage as well as that of their spouses – the family of Johnny Haynes for Joyce and that of Martha Price Smith for Vester.

Vester Smith and Joyce Haynes hold their hands to their hearts at the state basketball tournament in Austin in 2010.
           You can view the obituaries at amarillo.com (Dec. 22 and Dec. 25) for summaries of their lives. Here, I want to look at how those lives – even the ending of them – can inspire us and how you might look for that inspiration in your own families.
            The two memorial services weren’t the kind where the preacher has to interview the relatives to find something to say. Vester and Joyce spent much time in their respective Methodist churches. Vester’s friend and former pastor Don Travis knew details of the rancher’s life such as the thousands of eggs Vester had cooked for the Higgins men’s group. Joyce’s nephew and pastor Thacker Haynes had heard plenty of chords from her years as the church organist and had enjoyed lots of her chocolate pie.
Glenda Joyce Haynes
            Both pastors had made multiple visits during long hospital stays and were on hand when Vester entered hospice care and when Joyce did the same a day later.
            The two cousins’ families wore their tires down on the roads between Higgins and Canadian and between McLean and Amarillo. For weeks, neither hospital room was devoid of a spouse, son or daughter for more than a night. My dad got to know many of the Northwest Texas Healthcare nurses and technicians, as did the rest of our family. I know Dad misses some of those kindhearted caregivers.
            Mom’s Amarillo surgeon kept our family updated on the increasingly slim prospects for recovery despite her fighting spirit. We noticed that his face sometimes showed more emotion than you would expect from a doctor. He told Dad he had observed how our family was dealing with the tough situation.
           
Vester Lee Smith
The coincidence of this Smith patriarch and Haynes matriarch going to heaven – and we believe that’s where they are – within 28 hours of each other was somewhat of a comfort. Our families visited each other in the respective hospice rooms, and there were plenty of stories about the two McLean graduates, one who became a respected cattleman and one who helped her husband run their ranch.
            Members of each family attended the two funerals. On a frigid, snowy day in Higgins, we witnessed a community that filled the sanctuary and the church basement. The impact of Vester, friend to all, a storyteller and a John Wayne with more finesse, was obvious.
            On a sunny day in McLean, the same sort of tribute arrived in the form of friends and family from near and far. This side of heaven, my mother didn’t know the effect she had on people she hardly knew. My family had been at the hospital every day out of duty and love, just because that’s what you do when Mom’s sick.
            At the memorial service, we saw a familiar face standing at the back of the church, not in medical scrubs but in suit and tie. It was her surgeon. He had noticed something about our constant presence that made him drive the 70 miles to McLean the day after Christmas. Mom barely knew this doctor who had operated on her. We knew him only from the ICU. But he sensed something in Dad and in what Mom and Dad had passed on to their children and grandchildren.
            I saw the same thing in Vester’s family. My second and third cousins came from Oklahoma, Austin and elsewhere to just be there through sickness and past death.  
            Since Mom’s funeral, friends have told me her service reminded them of good times with her but also stirred memories of McLean during the past several decades. I’m sure Vester’s friends in Higgins and across West Texas are saying similar things.

            As heartbreaking as the losses are, the passing of two people has inspired others. May we all be as important to our communities, as active and willing to work and as faithful to God as Vester and Joyce were.  
Sailors on a small rescue boat rescue a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo)
Dec. 7, 2013, column:
Father recalls attack on Pearl Harbor
By Mike Haynes
            Six words stuck in the mind of a 10-year-old student at Sam Houston Elementary in Pampa: “forces of the Empire of Japan.”
            The full sentence my dad, Johnny Haynes, remembers 72 years later came from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
            “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
           The enormity of Pearl Harbor fully hit Dad and millions of Americans on Dec. 8, 1941, when Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan after about 2,400 died in the sneak attack on a quiet Sunday morning in the paradise of Hawaii.
            “I just remember listening to the radio when President Roosevelt made his talk and declared war on them,” Dad said last week. Radio and newspapers were the social media and cable news of the day, so the outrage took a little longer to build than did the similar reaction on Sept. 11, 2001. In fact – keeping in mind that he was 10 – Dad doesn’t recall anybody talking about it at school the day after the attack.         The enormity of Pearl Harbor fully hit Dad and millions of Americans on Dec. 8, 1941, when Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan after about 2,400 died in the sneak attack on a quiet Sunday morning in the paradise of Hawaii.
            “I don’t think the word got out at first on the number of ships,” he said. “Nobody knew where Pearl Harbor was, at least not the average people in Pampa. Later on, they realized how many people had been killed.”
            Of course, our thoughts always should go first to those who died that day, and then to the survivors, some of whom still tell their sad stories on each anniversary. But Dad is an example of the millions of Americans who had no direct connection to Pearl Harbor and still joined in the rise of patriotism once everyone understood what had happened.
            As huge as 9-11 was, Pearl Harbor had a greater immediate impact on the world, bringing the United States into a war that eventually killed more than 400,000 Americans and millions worldwide. Our family lost three cousins, two in Europe and one in the Pacific.
            Looking at it biblically, any war brings up the question of whether Christians should engage in it at all, and the church has run the gamut from pacifist Quakers to militarized Crusaders.
            I don’t think we’ll all agree on every aspect of fighting before Christ returns, but I hope believers will consider one of Jesus’s most radical teachings when it comes to war. That’s forgiveness.
            It may be next to impossible for someone who lost a loved one at Pearl Harbor or at the World Trade Center to get rid of bitterness. But as we know, “With God, all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26)
            Jesus also said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt. 5:43-44)
            Those teachings are so familiar that we may pay as much attention to them as a kid does to, “Brush your teeth before you go to bed.” But if they don’t apply to Pearl Harbor or 9-11, when do they apply?
            I haven’t been to Hawaii, but my wife, Kathy, has visited the memorial in Pearl Harbor, where 1,102 servicemen rest in the sunken USS Arizona and a few quarts of oil still leak from the wreck every day. She remembers a solemn atmosphere where tourists – including Japanese visitors – were quiet and respectful. I don’t know if the generally good relations between the United States and Japan are a result of forgiveness or the fact that fewer Americans who remember World War II still are around.

            I hope there’s some forgiveness involved, but as C.S. Lewis wrote, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”
Nov. 9, 2013, column:
Author C.S. Lewis finally gets his due
By Mike Haynes
            You may have heard this story before. My wife, Kathy, and I were on a city bus in Oxford, England, about to get off a couple of blocks from the Kilns, the longtime home of C.S. Lewis.
            A big part of that winter-time trip to England was our arranged private tour of the famous house where the celebrated Christian writer lived from 1930 to his death in 1963.
            On the almost-empty bus were a man and a woman, not together. We found out the woman attended Holy Trinity Church, the Anglican parish where Lewis and his brother, Warren, had sat in their regular pew for years.
Mike Haynes poses at C.S. Lewis's grave in Oxford in 2010.
            The man had a different take on Lewis. As I recall, he said in his British accent that yes, he knew where Lewis’ house was but that “I don’t agree with what he stood for.”
            As someone who strongly agrees with the Christianity that Lewis stood for, I was dismayed but not surprised. After all, Oxford University, where the author of “Mere Christianity” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” taught, had not put its association with him front and center through the decades. Neither had England as a whole. In fact, after his rise to fame in the 1940s and 1950s had faded, Lewis had become more popular in America than in his home country.
            So I’m happy that this Nov. 22, 50 years after Lewis died the same day as President Kennedy, the professor, writer of children’s books and creative defender of the faith will be recognized with a memorial stone in Poets’ Corner, the cluttered area of Westminster Abbey where 108 creative people already are either buried or have their names inscribed for posterity.
            Among them are Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.
C.S. Lewis's grave in Oxford is at lower left.
            Despite some signs of spiritual life last time Kathy and I made it to the United Kingdom, the UK is not a nation of churchgoers. Even in his own day, some considered Lewis an intellectual rebel for embracing Christianity. When he made the cover of Time magazine in 1947, the caption read, “Oxford’s C.S. Lewis. His heresy: Christianity.”
            Michael Ward, whose story, “How Lewis Lit the Way” is in this month’s Christianity Today, told the magazine earlier that “It takes a while in Britain for a great man to be recognized as such. But Lewis has been safely dead now for 50 years, and we can afford to recognize him as the major figure he was.”
            The figure who wrote about a devil’s apprentice and a Christlike lion also contributed much to literary criticism and medieval studies, which gives unbelievers something to latch onto. “He is, by any standard, someone who is a serious intellectual … who thinks about the society we’re in,” said Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury, in Christianity Today.  
            Lewis is buried in his home churchyard, a mile or two from his Oxford home. Kathy and I had to go to great lengths to get there. Now millions will have a chance to see his name inside one of Britain’s best-known tourist attractions.
            * * *

            An update on the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s efforts to establish a C.S. Lewis College: After failing to raise enough money to own and operate a picturesque campus in Northfield, Mass., the foundation apparently decided to settle for small steps. It has bought “Green Pastures,” a historic house across the street from that campus. Several generations of the family of D.L. Moody, the renowned evangelist, lived in the home, which will be converted into a C.S. Lewis Study Center.   

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Oct. 12, 2013, column:

Former Amarilloan produces study Bible

By Mike Haynes
            If you looked on top of night stands next to beds in this part of the world or watched people walking in and out of churches in the region, you’d see names like Scofield, Ryrie and MacArthur on the spines of a lot of Bibles.
            Of course, those men didn’t write the Bible. Guys like Moses and Paul did that. But Cyrus Scofield published a “study Bible” in 1909 that included his commentary alongside the actual scriptures. In 1978, Charles Ryrie did the same, and John MacArthur contributed his version in 1997. Those preachers and theologians offered their wisdom in attempts to help Bible readers understand what they were reading.
Jud Wilhite
            One of the best study Bibles is “The Student Bible,” first published in 1986 with notes and commentary by two of my favorite Christian writers, Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford. Aimed at a young audience, the Student Bible has made navigating the Word of God easier for a couple of generations of seekers.
            Now there’s a study Bible with a name on the spine that’s familiar to many in Amarillo. It’s the 2013 “Uncensored Truth Bible for New Beginnings.” The pastor and writer offering his insights on its pages is Jud Wilhite, a product of Amarillo schools and of Paramount Terrace Christian Church, now called Hillside Christian Church.
            Wilhite still has family in Amarillo but for the past few years has been pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas – no, not New Mexico, but Sin City itself.
            He has several books to his credit, including “Stripped: Uncensored Grace on the Streets of Vegas,” and it’s no surprise that he prefers to call his current home “Grace City.” Wilhite has told his own story many times, that of being a rebellious teenager who got into trouble but found his way to God through family and his Amarillo church.
            After college and serving on the Paramount Terrace church staff, he was called to a glitzy venue where he now oversees four Las Vegas campuses, an online community and a prison ministry while turning out books and now a Bible.
            The “Uncensored Truth” Bible is the New Living Translation, which Wilhite likes because it’s “readable.” He would be the first to tell you that the actual words of God’s prophets and apostles are the most important part of these 1,177 pages, but our former Amarillo neighbor has written a 32-page introduction that 21st century readers can relate to.
Not that references to actor Hugh Jackman’s physical training or the Tonight Show’s on-the-street interviews are necessary to understand the Bible, but Wilhite’s informal writing style is a magnet that might lead people into the meat of God’s Word.
            He offers tips on figuring out what’s literal and what’s figurative in the Bible and how to keep things in context. He’s like C.S. Lewis in that he is intellectually bright but able to relate to regular people’s lives.
            In nine “Uncensored Truth” sections, Wilhite writes about his own experiences and what God has taught him. “Save Me From Myself” recalls a recent visit to the Amarillo house where he grew up and looking at the floor in his old bedroom: “That was where I got on my knees one night alone and asked God to help me face the addiction in my life.”
            As a Las Vegas pastor, Wilhite interacts with people from all walks of life who face challenges they can’t just leave in Vegas. He knows they can leave them with Jesus, though, if the message can get through to them. This Bible is one way God can reach their hearts.
Lori and Jud Wilhite

* * *
            Jud Wilhite’s wife, Lori, also from Amarillo, has her own 2013 book out. She and Brandi Wilson, a Nashville pastor’s spouse, wrote “Leading and Loving It: Encouragement for Pastors’ Wives and Women in Leadership.” They also head up a ministry called Leading and Loving It.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sept. 14, 2013, column:
Success grows for No Excuses University
By Mike Haynes
            During a seven-minute video, my eyes teared up three times. It doesn’t take a lot for my ducts to moisten, but I’ll bet I wasn’t the only Amarillo College employee who was touched by a football story.
            It wasn’t really about football, but about love and second chances.
            Doug Curry, former principal of Amarillo’s San Jacinto Elementary and Travis Middle School, was giving AC faculty and staff a beginning-of-school pep talk about his passion, No Excuses University. San Jacinto was the first school in Texas to join the endeavor that, beginning in kindergarten, preaches to kids that they will go to college – or at least will have the education to do so if they want.
   
Grapevine Faith Christian School  prepared this banner
for the opponent, the Gainesville State School Tornadoes.
         Since the program began, San Jacinto students have dramatically improved their academic performance. A couple of years ago, AC became the first No Excuses college in America, continuing the model of challenge and encouragement that is revolutionizing the future for many disadvantaged young people.
            No Excuses is a growing success story that I hope you’ll keep hearing about. We all can learn from it and from the video with which Curry ended his presentation.
It showed a 2008 football game between two Texas teams: Gainesville State School and Grapevine Faith Christian School.
            Grapevine Faith won the game handily, but that wasn’t the point. What made it news – and a story worthy of a theatrical movie expected to come out soon – was that half of the Christian school’s home fans moved to the visitors’ side and yelled for Gainesville.
            The state school is a maximum-security facility for young people who have committed crimes. Those with good behavior get to try out for the Tornado football team. They play all their games on the road and normally have no fans, no one cheering for them except their coaches and teammates.
            So in 2008, Grapevine Faith Coach Kris Hogan convinced everyone at the Christian school to show some agape love to the players from Gainesville. He and Faith administrators had pondered, “What would give them the most hope?” The answer was to make the incarcerated boys “feel like they were their own.”
            Half the Faith supporters sat on the visitors’ side, half the Lion cheerleaders rooted for the Tornadoes and the Faith people formed a 40-yard spirit line for the visiting young men to run through, complete with a banner for them to break.
            “I figured we were going to go around them,” said Alex, a Gainesville player. “I figured it was for the other team.” But the state school coach, Mark Williams, replied, “Huh-uh. They’re here for us. Run through that line, crash through that banner, and have fun all night long.”
            “You saw hope in their eyes when they came out and saw that spirit line,” said Jordan, a Lions player. “And then confidence every time our fans cheered for them.”
            “It was almost like they didn’t have to prove anything,” said Faith coach Hogan. “There was such a celebration of them, they began to think, ‘Yeah, we are a team like everybody else.’”
            “You couldn’t convince nobody on that team that we lost,” recalled Mack, a Tornado player, on the video. “I felt like God was touching upon all of us and letting us know there’s people out there that care about you – even if they don’t even know us.”
            Giving someone that kind of love and hope shouldn’t be foreign to any Christian.  Jesus blessed those who invite strangers in and who visit people in prison (Matt. 25:35-36). He said the second greatest command is to love our neighbor (Matt. 22:39) – and our neighbor is everybody.
            Even our Friday night opponents. And even those who have done bad things.
            By the way, the Tornadoes and Lions continue to play each other. The game now is called the One Heart Bowl, and this year’s contest was last night (Sept. 13).

            To learn about the upcoming film, go to oneheartmovie.com.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Aug. 17, 2013, column:

Sometimes print is still better than digital

By Mike Haynes
            In the digital age, maybe people can’t be defined anymore by the books they read. For sure, not the paper ones.
I grew up with the idea that the books you spend time with – voluntarily – can tell someone else a lot about you as a person. For most of my life, that has meant physical books printed on paper. And as much as I think technology is cool, I’ve decided that given a choice, I’ll take a hardback or a paperback over a tablet or a computer screen.
I agree with Pulitzer-winning writer Rick Bragg, who says it doesn’t bother him when someone reads his book on a device that runs on batteries, because that means they’re reading it.
After completing three or four books on a Kindle and an iPad – and reading part of one on an iPhone – I have decided that I’m old-fashioned. Turning a page with an electronic finger swipe is fun, but when it comes down to it, I have the feeling that the book I just read is gone.
With “real” books, I have them on my shelf long after I’ve finished them, and years from now, I can glance at, say, “Elizabeth the Queen,” and recall not only the fascinating monarch and the British history she has lived for 87 years, but something about what was going on in my own life when I was reading that book by Sally Bedell Smith.
I plan for it to be on that shelf for decades because, well, I may be a little self-centered. I envision people visiting my house, looking at my books and thinking, “Hmmm, interesting that not only does he like the Beatles and C.S. Lewis, but he has something about John Wayne’s “Alamo” movie and all the Harry Potter books.”
If my books were made up of pixels on a screen, no one would know what I’ve read unless I told them.
Yes, that’s narcissistic, but I also have the motivation of a journalist that “Someday, I might write something about the Titanic and will need to look up something in Walter Lord’s book about it.”
  I know that, more often, I should share what I’ve read. For example, a decade after it came out, I read Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” this year. It isn’t a traditional Christian devotional book, but I know it reflects the thinking of a lot of young people in the 2000s. I hope more will read it as well as Miller’s “Searching for God Knows What,” which I took on after one of my pastor cousins, Roger, recommended it.
West Texans should read Timothy Egan’s “The Worst Hard Time” to understand how terrible
the Dust Bowl of the 1930s was and how it affected so many families in our region. The parts about Dalhart, Boise City and Shattuck and President Roosevelt’s visit to Amarillo are enough reason for area people to open Egan’s best-seller.
“The Worst Hard Time” was last year’s Amarillo College Common Reader, and this year the selection is “Wine to Water,” by a young guy named Doc Hendley. It documents the North Carolinian’s progression from self-absorbed bartender to head of a global charity that provides fresh water to people in Darfur and elsewhere who lack that basic life necessity. Hendley, who will visit Amarillo this fall and whose water outreach will be a theme for AC student projects, started out with Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse.
            Of those books, I read the Miller ones on a digital device. Now tell me: If I want to lend one to a friend who I think might benefit from this author’s modern take on Christianity, am I going to have to let the friend have my iPad for a few days?
            On the other hand, last week in Sunday school, it was awfully handy for me to look up some Proverbs from the lesson on my iPhone. A friend loves her electronic device and has read scores of books on it. And my mother probably reads more than she used to because of the convenience of her Kindle.
      
      Still, I have to side with Rick Bragg, who wrote that he wants to “spend my last days on this Earth arranging and rearranging them on thrones of good, honest pine, oak and mahogany, because they just feel good in my hands, because I just like to look at their covers and dream of the promise of the great stories inside.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 20, 2013, column:
Small things keep life meaningful
By Mike Haynes
            A long time ago, someone asked me, “What’s more important to you: the big events in life or the small, everyday things?”
            I had trouble answering, because it seemed about 50-50, but I finally said the big events – such as my wedding or a vacation to another country. Later, I wished I had said the small things, because I realized most of our lives are made up of those, and most of our human relationships fully develop in the way we treat each other day in and day out.
            We can’t deny, though, that momentous occasions sometimes define where we stand in life – even if the event may be someone else’s in which we’re just participating.
Consider some chances I’ve had lately to pause and think – and compare them to recent situations of your own.
            Weddings and funerals certainly can stir up the brain cells – or is it the heart strings? Tonight, (July 20) niece Sheri Ann is getting married. Of course it’ll be a huge event for her and her fiancĂ©, Tyler, but it’s a milestone for my parents because she’s their first granddaughter to get married. It’ll be in the little Methodist church all my family grew up in, in the small town we still call home, with my cousin the preacher officiating.
            Weddings remind us that new generations are coming up – that when we’re gone, life and at least some traditions will continue.
            Hospitals also give us time to think. My mother, Joyce, has been in them twice lately with health scares that jolted me into reminiscing about good times growing up in the Texas Panhandle, about parents not missing one of their kids’ sporting events, about a mother and her bridge club friends, about a dad playing golf with his kids.
            Then, a week ago, Mom’s birthday brought much of the family to that small town for cake and hamburgers. In a family that doesn’t say the “L word” much, I still saw love in my 58-year-old brother explaining to his 83-year-old mother that he thought she’d like the color of the outfit he and his wife were giving her.
            Too often, we have to remember someone when we’d rather be talking to him or her. That was the case this month when disease took a young man from his wife and two boys. Even for me, not a close friend but an acquaintance, the funeral had special meaning. How can you not lament the loss of someone who was talented, vibrant and whose death brought hundreds together to honor him? And ending it with a string band playing “I’ll Fly Away”? Hard to beat.
            School reunions certainly stimulate the memory, and the one in my hometown this summer was no exception. For many in the Panhandle, such events are community-wide celebrations. Mine included quizzing an uncle about his upcoming surgery and finding out that a schoolmate who played pro football roomed with a Heisman Trophy winner.
            Others’ occasions can bring our own lives into focus, from the Christian retreat that 16-year-old niece Maria attended in June to friend Iris’s 90th birthday coming up next week. I’ve been where Maria is, and I hope to reach the age Iris is approaching. Their milestones touch me, too.
            Big events can be important, as can daily routines. Maybe the key to both is who you do them with. According to Jesus, the two most significant things we can do are to love God and to love people.

            If you’ll notice, all the occasions mentioned above involve people. And the more they involve God, the more meaningful they are.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Hogwarts Castle model used to film the Harry Potter movies fills a large room on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour on the outskirts of London. (Photo by Kathy Haynes)
July 14, 2013, review:
Magical world comes to life
By Mike Haynes
            As a friend flicked through my wife’s smartphone photos of the London Warner Bros. Studio Tour, the friend – a woman about 50 years old – instantly recognized pictures of movie costumes.
            “That’s Bellatrix,” she said of a mannequin wearing a brown outfit and long, unruly brown hair. “Lucius Malfoy,” she said at the sight of a dark, padded jacket with a long, blond wig above it.
            And of course, at the appearance of a flowing, light green robe, her reaction was, “Voldemort.”
            Amarillo resident Marianne’s delight at images from “The Making of Harry Potter,” the huge exhibit at the Leavesden Studios in England, was a reminder that the good wizard isn’t just for kids. You also can ask friend Keitha, a 40-something from Happy whose eyes brightened at pictures of the “cupboard under the stairs” and the Gryffindor Common Room.
            Kathy and I took the tour last month. Anyone with the slightest interest in J.K. Rowling’s books or the movies they spawned – or anyone fascinated by moviemaking – should consider buying a ticket if they’re anywhere near London.
       
The movie set of Diagon Alley, the shopping area for wizards and witches, fills with fans on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour on the edge of London.
     True, a trip to Orlando, Fla., to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” is more realistic for many West Texans. We’ve been there, too, and it also is on the recommended list for its amusement park rides and faithful reproduction of a snowy Hogsmeade village and Diagon Alley shops.
            But short of meeting Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, the London studio tour is the closest thing to being a part of Harry Potter.
            Visitors actually walk into the Great Hall, one of several actual sets from the movies, striding between the long tables with place settings for Hogwarts students. A guide points up to light fixtures and scaffolding that, in the films, were replaced digitally with floating candles and the Enchanted Ceiling.
            Two cavernous soundstages have been converted into permanent display areas for thousands of props – such as Harry’s Nimbus 2000 broom – pieces of sets – such as Hagrid’s hut – and areas where kids can ride a broom in front of a green screen or practice magic wand moves.

Visitors can walk across the Hogwarts Bridge, which was digitally lengthened in the Harry Potter movies, during the Warner Bros. Studio Tour just outside London. The bridge appeared in the films but not in J.K. Rowling’s books.

           Anyone making it to England between July 26 and Sept. 2 can participate in the “Summer Spelltacular,” where children’s activities will include wand moves taught by Paul Harris, who choreographed the battle scene between Dumbledore and Voldemort in the fifth Potter movie. He’s called “the world’s only wand combat choreographer.”
            Outside the studio, visitors can board the skinny, purple Knight Bus, whose sign says, “All Destinations – Nothing Underwater.” They can walk across the Hogwarts Bridge, which in the movies extended several hundred yards but in real life is maybe 20 yards long. And they can stand at the door of 4 Privet Drive, Harry’s childhood home.
            The tour is laid out well. After spending as much time as you want in the two soundstages and the courtyard – where you can pose with giant chess pieces from the first film – Kathy and I walked through an exhibit of paper and cardboard production models of the bridge, the Weasleys’ house and Hogwarts castle. Kathy rounded the next turn before me and called back, “Wait ’til you see this.”
         
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour near London features props, costumes and wigs such as these for the characters of (front) Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley and (back) the Bloody Baron ghost and Luna Lovegood.
   It was the scale model of Hogwarts used in the films, complete with castle turrets, drawbridges, lighted windows and surrounding rocks and trees. “Model” is a misleading word, because it’s around 40 feet high at its tallest tower. Visitors can walk all the way around it. Anyone who ever had childhood fantasies of a romantic castle won’t be able to resist staring as its lighting changes from night to day and back.
            “The Making of Harry Potter” has been open since 2012, and even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate to those not up on royal titles) made an official visit this April complete with a wand “fight.”
            For anyone seeing the serious historical sights of London, it’s worth a half-day’s magical diversion.
If You Go...
Warner Bros. Studio Tour: “The Making of Harry Potter”
Studio Tour Drive
Leavesden
WD25 7LR
(near Watford Junction train station, outskirts of London)
Phone: 011 44 08450 840 900
Adults (age 16 and up), 29 British pounds (about $45)
Children (ages 5 to 15) 21.5 British pounds (about $33)

Age 4 and under: free but ticket required

Monday, June 24, 2013

June 22, 2013, column:
Christianity maintains presence in England
By Mike Haynes
Hampton Court Palace in London
            I had the topic for this column all figured out before Kathy and I left for England a couple of weeks ago. I was sure that, while touring the spectacular Windsor Castle, seeing some plays in London’s West End and exploring three flea markets, I’d notice plenty of evidence of the decline of Christianity in the United Kingdom: a good, if sad, religion topic.
            After all, a poll published by Dr. Peter Brierly showed that 3.6 million people attended church weekly in the UK in 2011. That’s in a population of 62.7 million, or less than 6 percent.        
            It’s well known that in past decades, the country of William Tyndale, burned at the stake in 1536 for publishing the Bible in the English language, and the land of quaint, stone church towers in every village has become a secular nation despite its official government-church connection.
            So I was surprised when, on the back of a red, double-decker London bus, I saw an ad for Jubilee Church London with pictures of people raising their hands in worship. Its website shows that the congregation meets in movie theaters and attracts crowds in the thousands.
            I was surprised again at a poster in crowded Waterloo train station for an open-air play at Wintershall Estate in Surrey called “Life of Christ.” An online search revealed that the production has attracted large audiences since 1999.

Jubilee Church on back of London bus

            In our hotel room a block from Trafalgar Square, we ran across a TV program on BBC Two called “The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England.” It was a serious look at Tyndale, whose Bible text makes up a high percentage of the King James Bible that came 75 years after his death. I didn’t detect a word of cynicism about Christianity in the documentary.
            We saw a street preacher at Piccadilly Circus, the famous central London intersection. In addition to shouting the expected, “Repent!” message, we heard the young man giving insightful advice to a guy who was challenging him: “Stop trying to impress your friends by making fun of me, and when you get home, actually read a Bible and see if it makes sense.”
            Kathy and I also toured Hampton Court Palace. The tourist hype at that grand residence dealt with Henry VIII, who lived there with all six of his wives (not all at once, of course).
            But our main reason for visiting was because Hampton Court was the site of the momentous 1604 church meeting where James I decided England needed a new Bible. Although that event wasn’t promoted like Henry VIII’s antics, the tour guidebook did have a short segment about the 1611 King James Bible.
            So we saw glimmers of hope that faith isn’t completely stamped out in England. Just glimmers, but those small positive signs are heartening. Christians there should not give up yet.
            The United States is on the same path away from belief as the UK, just not as far down that road. The Hartford Institute says we have 60.2 million weekly churchgoers, or 20.4 percent, but that’s way down from the past. Much of our population can be described by Romans 8:5: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires,” with a smaller group defined by the rest of that verse: “But those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”
            Unless we’re going to be missionaries across the pond, our task is to spread Christ’s good news to those around us – those who haven’t heard it and those who think they don’t need it.
            Returning from London, Kathy and I stopped at an I-40 restaurant with her mom for some down-home American food. Just after we were seated, 78 kids invaded the dining room. They were from East Texas churches in Carthage and Beckville, on their way to the Baptist camp at Glorieta, N.M.

            It felt good to be back in the Bible Belt. And the spiritual future of our country might depend on kids like them.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

May 25, 2013, column:

Amarilloan assembles historic Bible collection

(The newspaper headline refers to Alan Arvello as an "Amarilloan." He actually lives in Canyon.)
By Mike Haynes
            Alan Arvello had an idea for Vacation Bible School two years ago. Because 2011 was the 400th anniversary of the King James version of the Bible, he thought it would be cool to buy some facsimiles, or modern reproductions, of the 1611 KJV and of other key versions of God’s Word.
He could use those to teach the kids at Bible Believers Baptist Church how the sacred book came to us from the ancient Hebrews to modern Christianity.
When the music director and Bible teacher looked into assembling such a display, though, he was pleasantly surprised to find that buying an original page from that famous 1611 edition wasn’t out of his price range, and neither were single leaves from other noteworthy Bibles, such as Martin Luther’s 1529 German New Testament and a Latin Bible handwritten in Europe in the 1260s.
Arvello’s VBS project turned into a collection of Bibles and Bible pages that illustrates the
Alan Arvello gives a presentation about his Bible collection.
preservation of scripture through the centuries, and he has exhibited his bit of history from Dallas, Houston and San Antonio to Arkansas and Las Vegas and to churches and groups across the Texas Panhandle.
“The collection is not that expensive,” he said. “I’ve spent about as much as a really nice used car. Of course, you could get into thousands of dollars. A page from the Gutenberg Bible runs over $100,000.”
The Square House Museum in Panhandle will be the next stop for Arvello, whose day job is working as a physician’s assistant. From the first week of June through July, the museum will host “The History of the Bible in America.” (Call the museum for exact dates, which aren’t definite yet.)
Visitors will see a page from the first printing of English scripture in America, a rendering of Psalm 19 with one column in English and the other in the Algonquin language. It was printed in Boston in 1709, 73 years before the first complete English Bible was published in America. A page from that 1782 Aitken Bible, authorized by Congress and distributed to Revolutionary War soldiers, also will be on display.
Apart from the American exhibit, Arvello’s collection – which he has donated to his church –
Above is the title page of a 1611 Geneva Bible in Alan Arvello's collection. It was published the same year as the first edition of the more famous King James Bible.
includes a Latin passage from Jeremiah printed in Europe in 1482, a New Testament page from William Tyndale’s English Bible of 1536 (the year Tyndale was executed for publishing the Bible in English) and examples of every major Bible leading to the King James version, printed in London 400 years ago.
Arvello and his church focus on the KJV because they believe it is the “absolute, final and sole authority” for living the Christian life. They are convinced that the primary sources of the KJV – the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Old Testament and the Textus Receptus Greek document of the New Testament – are superior to the texts used by most modern translations – the Greek Septuagint for the OT and the Alexandrian Greek for the NT.
            You don’t have to be “King James Only,” however, to appreciate this collection, which recently has expanded to include a book of sermons by Lancelot Andrews, one of the main translators of the KJV; the first American edition of “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”; and the first authorized American edition of John Wesley’s biography.
            Arvello has the enthusiasm of a collector but also the passion of a believer.
            “The main purpose is for people to understand the history of how we got the Bible in general, especially the King James Bible, and for people to appreciate the sacrifice made through the centuries for us to have the Word of God,” he said. “And also to understand the validity of the King James Bible. The lineage of the new Bibles is not the same as that of the King James.”
            For a look at the collection or to order a DVD presentation by Arvello, go to www.hiswordpreserved.com.
            In our era of digital information and throw-away values, we need all the history we can get to give context to our lives. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

April 27, 2013, column:

Exhibit about Pope John Paul II worth trip to Lubbock

By Mike Haynes
             No, we didn’t drive to Lubbock to see it. Kathy and I were in the Hub City for a rock concert and a leisurely weekend.
            With time to kill on a Saturday afternoon, though, we ventured west from the Texas Tech campus, down Fourth Street to the Catholic Renewal Center.
            We had been to the Buddy Holly Center and the Texas Tech Museum before, so an exhibit that had been open just a day sounded appealing.
         
This statue of Pope John Paul II was unveiled this year in Czestochowa, Poland, his home country. 
   My wife and I aren’t Catholic, but you don’t have to be one to appreciate this traveling display about the life of Pope John Paul II, who lived from 1920 to 2005 and was pope from 1978 to his death. All it takes is an interest in Christianity, history or current events. Or maybe, like me, you’d just like to see one of those tall, ornamented “pope hats” up close.
            The exhibit is called “I Have Come To You Again,” and it’s in our neighboring city through May 31.
            On our circular walk through the extensive display, we were behind a group tour, so we caught some of the commentary by a woman volunteer explaining John Paul’s youth as a talented athlete and how, as a young man in Poland, he was forced to work at a limestone quarry under the Nazi occupation.
            You also can read that information and much more as you navigate through the glass cases protecting the pope’s official robes, a long staff that rested next to him as he lay in state after his death and such mementoes as a western hat given to him when he visited San Antonio.
            With the March 13 selection of Pope Francis fresh in the news, Kathy and I spent several minutes examining the papal election paraphernalia on display, including a silver chalice and a dove-white bowl used to collect the cardinals’ ballots. On one glass shelf were boxes of cartridges that contain chemicals used to produce white or black smoke indicating whether a pope has been chosen.
            John Paul has been credited with strong political influence, including contributions to the end of the Soviet Union, and the tour includes photographs and documentation of the 1980s era in which he, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher pushed for freedom in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
Former President George W. Bush loaned a piece of the Berlin Wall for the exhibit, and I was surprised to learn that Reagan’s famous declaration to the Russians to “tear down this wall” had been suggested to the president by John Paul.
            Amid many photographic and artistic portraits of the pope is a section devoted to the 1981 incident when a Turkish gunman shot him four times in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Diagrams reminiscent of the Kennedy “magic bullet” theory show how a projectile made a dramatic turn away from John Paul’s heart.
            When the pope later visited his attacker in prison to forgive him, the man asked, “Why aren’t you dead?” John Paul replied that the shooter’s hand had shot the bullet but that “it was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path,” giving credit to the Virgin Mary.
            We remember the kindly face of Pope John Paul II and the constant trips he made to 129 countries. The closest he came to the Texas Panhandle were his visits to San Antonio in 1987 and Denver in 1993, but he was familiar to most of us, Protestant, Catholic or otherwise.
            His faith still can inspire.