Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sept. 12, 2014, column:
Faith is more than music
By Mike Haynes
            I don’t listen to Christian music.
            It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the radio stations and bands and singers of all music styles that present the message of Jesus in song. It just doesn’t keep my attention. And I’m not bored easily.
            A lot of the contemporary Christian music that I hear sounds the same: kind of whiney with no real tune. The words are meaningful, but they just go up and down the musical scale and up and down again. It’s similar to the modern country music that I try to avoid.
            Spiritual music does inspire people. I’ve experienced Christian inspiration, often in conjunction with music. I suppose I just feel like I’m convinced of the truth and majesty of God and don’t need regular reminders coming through my car speakers or my smartphone.
            That’s a little cynical, like occasional thoughts that I don’t need to hear sermons because the pastor is “preaching to the choir.” Listening to the gospel from the pulpit never should get old, but I’ll admit I sometimes get complacent and think I’ve heard it all before.
            I should get past that attitude about hearing sermons, but I don’t feel so guilty about not putting my radio on K-Love. I love the message, but I get more inspiration from reading. The Bible first, and writers such as C.S. Lewis, Philip Yancey, Joy Jordan-Lake. Christianity Today magazine. I know more about Christian writers than about Third Day or TobyMac. (I had to Google “Christian musicians” to recall those names.)
            I do like selected praise music, having gotten involved in the Walk to Emmaus in the 1990s. Some of that inspiration I mentioned has come from songs such as David Ruis’ “We Will Dance” and “Shine, Jesus, Shine,” written, surprisingly, by 1960s British rocker Cliff Richard.
            Kathy and I both love to hear “He Reigns” by Newsboys, “Revelation Song” by Phillips, Craig and Dean and “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe. But day to day, I’m listening to news and talk radio, the satellite ’60s station or classic rock on the Eagle.
            In worship, I like a mix. We shouldn’t jettison old hymns such as “Blessed Assurance” by blind Fanny Crosby, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Methodist Charles Wesley or, of course, “Amazing Grace,” but some loud guitars and drums are OK, too. Throw in Bill Gaither’s “He Touched Me” and a little “I’ll Fly Away.”
            In the car, though, I’m more likely to get a Beatles or Bon Jovi fix.
            So when Sunday school classmates get excited about seeing Casting Crowns at the civic center next month, I’ll quietly be glad for them – and thankful for my Paul McCartney tickets.        
                                                  * * *

            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.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Aug. 16, 2014, column:
Talking about sex isn't easy
By Mike Haynes      
   It isn’t easy for Christian leaders to talk about sex.
            Youth ministers sometimes tackle it, as do singles leaders and marriage counselors. An occasional courageous preacher uses the three-letter word from the pulpit.
            But a local Baptist pastor, pointing out that we live in a “sex-saturated culture,” believes “we are all compromised in our sexual ethics.” So for the past four years, starting with a summer course at England’s Oxford University, he has researched the biblical view of sex, surveyed college students about it and taught a prototype class seeking to guide young people toward the biblical model.
            Dr. Roger Smith, 36, pastor of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church and my distant cousin, wrote his
Dr. Roger Smith
dissertation for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City on that topic. His work, which capped his doctorate this May, doesn’t paint sex as evil, like some in the church have done for centuries, or as an inconsequential, physical act that only requires consent. It treats it an important, intimate part of marriage but points out that scripture intends sex to be practiced in that marriage context.
            “Assessing and achieving sexual purity requires that the church stop stigmatizing sexual sin as somehow special,” wrote Smith, a guitar-playing husband with young children. “Whether it is pornography, homosexuality or simply trying to help marriages that struggle with sexual intimacy, the church must start approaching this area of life as it would any other: with biblical love, wisdom and truth.
“As long as people who struggle with sexual sins are treated as though they are somehow more sinful or simply freaks when compared to everyone else, the church will continue to lose ground.”
            Smith had Amarillo College students – some associated with Baptist Student Ministries and others in secular classes – complete anonymous surveys with questions ranging from “My spiritual beliefs influence my sexual decisions” to “Premarital sex is OK if a man and a woman are truly in love” to “Pornography can be a part of a healthy fantasy life and can help enhance sex.”
            The surveys showed that the “churched” students knew a little more of the Bible’s sexual ethic than the other students but that the two groups’ sexual lifestyle was about the same. In an eight-week class, Smith then refuted the “secular lies” about sex of men such as Sigmund Freud, Alfred Kinsey and Hugh Hefner.
            He also showed how the sexual prudishness of early Christian leaders such as Augustine went to the opposite extreme compared to what the Bible actually says.
            “Through the study of the scriptures,” Smith wrote, “we came to the conclusion that sex is a good part of God's good creation that is often used in destructive ways. Sex is a vital part of the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman.”
            It is corrupted in many ways, as described in Romans 1:24-25: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator....”
            Turn on a TV reality show for five minutes, and you’ll see proof of that truth. But it isn’t just the hollow values of pop culture; it’s us, too. Who can say that Jesus’ warning against “adultery in the heart” (Matt. 5:28) doesn’t apply to them?
             Smith showed fallacies in the romantic myth, which says sex is “all about love and affection;” the pornography myth, which says it’s “all about fun and personal fulfillment;” and the therapeutic myth, which views sex “as a means to wholeness.”
            He saw shifts in the thinking of students who took the class seriously by writing regular journal entries. He said several “claimed a sense of freedom and control over their lives.”
            Smith hopes his research can help Christian leaders guide young people starting at about age 14. He wrote:
            “No generation, no church, no demographic, no denomination will ever be free from this battle, but that does not mean that the church is free to ignore the problem because it is too big.”
                                      * * *

            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.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

July 19, 2014, column:
Death isn't the end
By Mike Haynes
            As I left a Pampa church July 11, a longtime family friend said, “We’ve been to too many funerals lately, haven’t we?”
            I agreed with her. The friend, about my age, had attended three of the same memorial services I had the past six months.
            Of course, death is part of life, and as I get older, I put on a tie and black coat more often because many of those passing away are in my parents’ generation or in my own. They’re people I knew well.
            My mother, Joyce Haynes, 83, and her cousin, Vester Smith, 91, died within a day and a half of each other last December. (See http://amarillo.com/lifestyle/faith/2014-01-03/cousins-inspire-after-death). Mom spent most of her life in my hometown of McLean, and Vester graduated from high school there before settling in Higgins.
            I suppose the death rate in my hometown isn’t any higher than in other area towns, but it seems like it. Les Darsey, 85, dad of my classmate Mike, died last October. R.C. Parker, 90, a longtime DPS officer, died in March. He was the father of my classmate Brad, who also became a highway patrolman. Colleen Mertel Sherrod, 88, a fixture at my home church, died in June. I had played alto sax in the Tiger band next to her daughter. No telling how many of my family’s shoes her first husband had repaired before his death or how many times I had watched her second husband roping calves.
            On June 25 my uncle, Sam Haynes, died at 85 after a long health decline. Like losing my mother broke up a close family unit, losing Uncle Sammy hit his wife Linda and huge family hard and broke up the lifelong pair of Sammy and Johnny. My uncle and dad had worked together as ranchers, played multiple sports (often trying to beat each other), sang in the church choir (Sam a tenor, Dad a bass) and volunteered for just about every organization in town.
            On July 9, Jack Bailey of Pampa died suddenly at his home. At this point in my life, Jack’s age, 74, seemed to need an “only” in front of it. A Pampa educator for decades, Jack was another McLean graduate. Judging from the number of mourners and from the remarks of his friends, John Curry and the Rev. Jerry Lane, he made quite a mark on Pampa.
            Jack’s granddaughter recalled when her supervisor at a local store, a black woman, told her about her grandfather. The supervisor had been one of the first black students bused to school as segregation ended in Pampa. The young girl was terrified to even step off the bus at her new school.
            As soon as her feet hit the ground, she said, a tall white man offered his hand and said, “Welcome. I’m Jack Bailey, and if there ever is anything I can do to help you, just let me know.” Jack, who didn’t take himself too seriously, knew how to give serious encouragement as a school administrator.
            It seems unfair when someone younger than you dies. Sherry Houchin, 54, had been my wife Kathy’s elementary school friend in Amarillo. An attorney and world traveler, Sherry died in Dallas in March. Billie Winton, 86, was the mother of Kathy’s friend Leslie. Billie had lived a full life at her death in June, but many still will miss her smile and wit.
            We just passed the first anniversary of the death of Dale Robinson, who died at age 50, leaving his wife and two young sons. His memorial was one of three for Amarillo College employees I attended last summer.
            It’s so unfair. But so inevitable. And if it isn’t easier for Christians, at least it’s more hopeful. I love 1 Cor. 15:55: “Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?” It isn’t the end.
            With so much loss around me lately, I was grateful as I read Amarillo College’s 2014-15 Common Reader book, “Blue Hole Back Home.” Joy Jordan-Lake’s novel about southern teenagers and racial bigotry quotes a poem by poet and minister John Donne. He wrote in the early 1600s:
            “Death be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; … One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and Death shall be no more. Death, thou shalt die!”
            My heart quivers as I apply that to those I love. But I believe it.
                         

Sunday, July 13, 2014

June 21, 2014, column:

Big things don't always make news

By Mike Haynes
            Important things are going on all around us that don’t make the front page or the TV news.
            One example has been happening for two years in a Clarendon rodeo arena and hit a high point in my cousin’s pond.
            Cody Heck, the rodeo coach at Clarendon College, told Randy Stalls a couple of years ago that he needed help. He was losing some of his students to the traps that young people often fall into: alcohol, drugs, out-of-control living. Stalls, a cattleman who lives outside McLean, had led a campus ministry a few years before that had run its course.
Jace Pugmire, a team roper on the Clarendon College rodeo team, laughs as he is baptized May 4 by the Rev. Thacker Haynes, second from right, in a pond near McLean. (Photo by Lashonda Whittington)
      Now affiliated with the Methodist Church in McLean, he got its pastor, the Rev. Thacker Haynes – the cousin mentioned above – on board. Volunteers from McLean and its sister church in Heald began traveling to Clarendon for weekly meetings with members of the college rodeo teams and students in the ranch and feedlot operations departments.
            Haynes calls the results so far “a phenomenon.”
            The meetings during the school year include hamburgers or hotdogs and a speaker or two talking about the Christian life – especially about choices. Around 30 students – from steer wrestlers to barrel racers – show up.
            “It seems to be way more effective than attending church,” said cousin Haynes. “Whether the speaker is good or bad, those kids give them their absolute, full attention.
            “The last two semesters, we’ve had five professions of faith. You don’t always see that kind of response in church. It may be just a riper field.
            “Like every one of us remembers, that first two or three semesters of college were when we were tempted to go against our upbringing. All we’re doing is offering them another way to go to college and to live.”
            The preacher Haynes doesn’t preach unless no one else is available. It’s mostly laypeople and mostly Christians “that are kind of cowboy-oriented,” he said. Some are well-known in rodeo circles.
            Stran Smith of Childress, a world champion roper who’s a fixture at the National Finals Rodeo, and his wife, Jennifer Douglas Smith, an ESPN rodeo commentator who was Miss Rodeo America in 1995, talked to the Clarendon kids one night.
            “Her talk really got to me,” Haynes said. “She just sat on a table, put her feet on a chair and started talking to them. She said, ‘I’ve got two young kids, and what would I like someone to speak into their lives in their first semester of college?’”
            One theme for the group has been choices, Haynes said, and the “rodeo kids” have heard Isaiah 30:21: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
            The Smiths have provided that voice, as has Frank Newsom of Paoli, Okla., one of the nation’s elite bullfighters. Newsom, an athlete who protects bull riders at the top pro events, needed help himself in 2001 when drugs had brought him down. Stalls and his wife Bobbi were instrumental in his recovery, which is another miraculous story you can read about on the Professional Bull Riders website. If Newsom’s Christian testimony couldn’t get to the Clarendon kids, nothing would.
            But this rodeo ministry is more than famous speakers. Teams from the Heald church feed the group three times a month, with McLean volunteers cooking once a month, and Haynes is used to lining up groups with the exhortation, “We’re going to Clarendon.”
            This May 4, about 130 people ate hamburgers and hotdogs before seven young cowboys and cowgirls were baptized in Haynes’s pond near McLean. “The Holy Spirit was really present down there,” said my sister, Sheri Haynes.
            Pastor Haynes said that after one weekly meeting, a Clarendon College agriculture professor stopped him with these words: “Not only is this making a difference on the rodeo team, but also a difference in our department, and not only that, but it’s making a difference on the entire school.”

Saturday, May 24, 2014

May 24, 2014, column:

It's OK to mention God in movies

By Mike Haynes
            My wife, Kathy, and I keep up with the movies. As a married couple with no kids, one of our routines for years has been almost weekly trips to the theater with her mom, Peggy.
            I read reviews at rogerebert.com and look at cast lists at imdb.com, and we rarely miss watching the Oscars.
            So I can’t resist following up last month’s column about Christian movies by recommending yet another one.
            We normally know quite a bit before we go. For example, we were aware that “The Monuments Men” starred George Clooney and that it was based on a true story about recovering art the Nazis had stolen during World War II. We had looked forward to the airplane thriller “Non-Stop” because it featured one of Kathy’s favorites, the Irishman Liam Neeson, and one of mine, Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey.”
            But I knew next to nothing about “Moms’ Night Out.” Busy at work, I hadn’t found time to read about it.
            I suggested going because it’s rated PG (that’s a plus when you’re eating popcorn with your mother-in-law) and because Patricia Heaton is in it. We liked her as the mom in “Everybody Loves Raymond” and now in “The Middle” and also because she’s an outspoken Christian, not common in Hollywood.
            Still, I had no idea “Moms’ Night Out” is a “Christian movie.”
            I hope that label doesn’t scare anyone away, because it’s hilarious. I’ve rarely heard so much laughing. Oh, yeah, I hope this doesn’t scare anyone away, either: It’s a chick flick.
            But it’s a chick flick with a car chase and deep-voiced Trace Adkins playing a tattooed biker.
            The point here is that the trend I mentioned last month continues. Here’s a film with recognizable actors, professional production and a decent script that also is comfortable mentioning God in a positive light.
            Heaton plays a Baptist pastor’s wife, for goodness sakes, and the first few sequences show her and her family getting ready for church, her teen daughter whining and Heaton greeting fellow members in the church lobby. It could have been set in scores of churches in the Texas Panhandle.
            The three tired, overworked women who take the “moms’ night out” know each other from church and a women’s Bible study.
     
Abbie Cobb, Sarah Drew, Patricia Heaton
and Andrea Logan White star in Moms' Night Out.
       The review at rogerebert.com trashes the movie, taking the narrow view that these moms don’t reflect the modern working woman. But those three delightful characters sure reminded me of a lot of West Texas women I know.
            The largely female audience that almost filled the theater (yes, guys, I admit I was one of the few males) certainly seemed to relate. And how often do you hear applause at the end of a comedy?
            In one scene, the tough Adkins gives poignant advice to the main mom, played by Sarah Drew (formerly of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Mad Men”). He tells her that Jesus loves her just as she is, so she doesn’t have to be the perfect mother.
            Yes, he mentioned Jesus. That may be another reason the crowd clapped when the credits started.
            Patricia Heaton, also a producer of the film, realizes that the way to influence the culture is to create wholesome things, not just bemoan those that are eroding society. I’m sure she knows Matt. 5:16: “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
            Her project is just a silly comedy, but it sure had a positive impact on our night out at the movies.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

April 26, 2014, column:

Christian movies a good sign

By Mike Haynes
            Because I’m a church-attending, Bible-believing, Christ follower, I am confident that God’s not dead and that heaven is for real. I include Noah on my list of biblical heroes – but talking rock transformers, not so much.
            If you’ve kept up with recent movies, you know I just made reference to three – and overall, I take them as a positive sign for believers.
In 2002, I noted in this newspaper a slight sign of hope for the portrayal of people of faith in films and TV shows. Back then, I wrote that for decades, when God-fearing people had been included in stories, “they often were portrayed as lacking in education, IQ and/or morals.”
But episodes of “Judging Amy” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” had shown me that there must be Hollywood writers who understood religion beyond the stereotypes of judgmental Christians and pedophile priests. The programs presented church-going and temple-attending characters in thoughtful, respectful ways.
Then in 2004, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” demonstrated that huge audiences were to be had if the film industry would produce God-related material. Christian churches began to build on the legacy of evangelistic movies that the Billy Graham organization had started with such films as “Time to Run” (1972). In 2006, “Facing the Giants” began a trend, including 2008’s “Fireproof,” that still draws large audiences – but primarily composed of church groups.
While those movies effectively and sometimes movingly promote the Christian message, the
production values aren’t always topnotch, also a weakness of some of the Billy Graham productions. “The Hiding Place” (1975) was a notable exception, and now we have some films in theaters that also give us better scripts and first-rate acting.
“God’s Not Dead” features possibly Kevin Sorbo’s best acting job as an atheist professor challenged by a believing college freshman. The student, played by Shane Harper, lays out a cogent argument for belief in God, and from a Christian point of view, it’s a must-see movie for anyone contemplating that great life question.
The writers packed in too many individual stories, from a young Muslim woman to a skeptical journalist to a pastor who wants to work “in the trenches.” Maybe a couple of those life situations could have been saved for another movie. And the resolutions to their problems come a little too easily.
Despite the great value of “God’s Not Dead,” I’m afraid nonbelievers might consider it too heavy-handed in making all the “God things” happen too conveniently and the non-Christian characters too dark. It’s a little preachy, but yes, I was fired up at the end.
“Heaven Is For Real” is more understated, which I see as a plus. With the likable Greg Kinnear playing the pastor father of a real-life boy who had a near-death experience in heaven, the movie shows no
Lane Styles, from left, Kelly Reilly and Connor Corum act in a scene from "Heaven Is For Real." (AP)
signs of amateurism. Kinnear, Margo Martindale, Thomas Haden Church and Kelly Reilly give nuanced performances, and Connor Corum is good as 4-year-old Colton Burpo.
“Heaven Is For Real” could have been cheesy. It does show brief scenes of Colton with Jesus in heaven, but the story spends more time on his parents trying to figure out whether their boy really was with the angels than it does on exaggerated special effects. Characters at a church board meeting reveal fears that
the heaven story might make their church a laughingstock – a conversation I can see happening at any church (and apparently it did at the real Burpos’ in Nebraska).
The writers and director took what could have been a sensationalistic production and created a subtle, thought-provoking movie. It doesn’t force heaven down your throat but sure makes you think about it.
“Noah,” starring Russell Crowe, has a good lesson about dedication to God, but it also throws in too many modern issues as it makes Noah’s family vegetarian and focuses on environmentalism.
And the inclusion of a certain group of rocky creatures takes “Noah” out of the realm of serious discussion.
 The first column I wrote for this section in 1997 quoted author Philip Yancey about the need for Christian writers and artists to quit settling for good intentions and to strive for excellence. Yancey said the highest cultural achievements should include a strong dose of Judeo-Christian values as they did in the days of Michelangelo and Handel.
Recent entertainment shows a smidgen of promise. The more effectively we present the message, the more likely the world will listen.

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.”