Sunday, July 05, 2020

July 5, 2020, column:
Behind the scenes of 'A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and A Great War'

By Mike Haynes
            “Too much, Hannah!”
            “More! More!”
            Those were some of the first words Hannah Dye heard in her first experience as an assistant working on a professional film. She was operating a smoke machine that, as she wrote in her blog, was “to give the scene a foreboding aura.”
Actor Alex Bird, in costume as J.R.R. Tolkien, and
Hannah Dye of Canyon pose during work in Oxford,
England, on the documentary film series,
“A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and A Great War.”
(Photo by Hannah Dye)

The scene needed that ominous atmosphere because it showed a young C.S. Lewis, played by Max Polling, in 1917, walking in and out of Keble College at Oxford University, “when he was called up into service during World War I … preparing to be sent off to the trenches,” Dye wrote.
Lewis is the reason for the “Wardrobe” part of the title of an in-progress documentary series called, “A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and A Great War,” produced by the nonprofit Eastgate Creative. The endeavor was founded a century after that great war by California filmmakers Ralph Linhardt and Jock Petersen and New York author Joseph Loconte, upon whose book of the same title the films are based.
During four days of filming in Oxford last November, Dye, then 22, got a taste of the film industry and of the true story of how Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” author, both served in World War I, later met as Oxford professors, or dons, and became fast friends and famous authors.  
Kirk Manton, production services director at Amarillo’s Trinity Fellowship and a volunteer staffer with the C.S. Lewis Foundation in California, made the connection between Dye and the film people.
Dye’s father is Darren Dye, pastor of Freedom Fellowship Church of Canyon, part of the Trinity Fellowship Association of Churches. Manton had invited Hannah Dye to Amarillo meetings of the C.S. Lewis Underground and knew she had moved to Oxford, England, to pursue her music education after graduating from West Texas A&M University.
Manton also was friends with Linhardt and Peterson, so he suggested that Dye work with them as a volunteer on the Lewis-Tolkien film. She did everything from producing smoke to making tea to taking behind-the-scenes photos to setting up props in an English pub.
One day, she even sat in a bicycle-pulled cart with a pile of leaves in her lap, transporting the leaves from one sidewalk location to another. 
Max Polling, playing C.S. Lewis in a World War I costume, walks out of
Keble College in Oxford, England, as filmmaker Ralph Linhardt operates
the camera and author Joseph Loconte watches during  production of
the documentary, “A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and A Great War.”
(Photo by Hannah Dye)
At The Plough pub, the crew shot Tolkien, played by Alex Bird, and Lewis either reading or writing, “with a mug of beer in one hand … and a pipe in the other,” Dye wrote. She said Linhardt had to teach the young actors how to smoke a pipe, something both authors did throughout their lives.
Although Dye had been in Oxford a few months, she had not visited The Kilns, the home of Lewis for more than 30 years until his death in 1963. But the film called for shooting at the suburban house, which the C.S. Lewis Foundation owns, so she got to visit rooms where Lewis wrote “The Chronicles of Narnia” and most of his other Christian works.
A highlight for Dye was observing an interview with an elderly woman who was one of Lewis’s students. The crew drove north of Oxford to her country home and did the interview in her art studio.
One thing she repeated several times was that she didn't think Lewis looked like a don but like a grocer,” Dye wrote. “She also described how Lewis could fill a room with his lectures because many people wanted to hear him speak. I was in awe the entire time, hanging on her every word. I felt so honored to be there and listen to her.”
The focus of the film series and Loconte’s book is the relationship between the two literary giants and the impact World War I had on their writing. For example, Tolkien’s combat experience at the Battle of the Somme obviously influenced his vivid battle scenes in the “Lord of the Ring” stories. Lewis also saw death and destruction in the trenches of France, and the gloom of the war only added to his reasons for doubting the existence of God.
Lewis and Tolkien met at a 1926 faculty meeting, and although Tolkien was a confirmed Catholic, their interests and intellects otherwise coincided. Tolkien is given partial credit for Lewis’s conversion to Christianity a few years later, and they critiqued and influenced each other’s writing.
Rather than follow the literary trend of pessimism and despair that so many writers embraced between the world wars, these two marched forward with traditional ideals of brotherhood, duty and hope, all themes found in their fantasy tales.
Loconte’s book and the film series explore the common experiences of these two men and the epic achievements that resulted. And if that isn’t enough to attract you, the film credits will include the name of a young woman from Canyon, Texas.
Follow these links for more information: (film website with trailer and link to donate to the project) (June 8, 2020, interview with author Joseph Loconte).

Sunday, June 07, 2020

June 7, 2020, column:
Kindness, compassion drove evangelist Zacharias

By Mike Haynes
            Ravi Zacharias was at least as much heart as he was mind.
            The Atlanta-based evangelist who died of cancer May 19 at age 74 was known for his intellectually vigorous apologetics – reasoned arguments justifying the truth of Christianity. But according to speakers at his memorial service May 29, it was his compassion for whomever he saw in front of him – whether at a dinner table or as he spoke onstage to a crowd of thousands – that struck them more than his brilliant persuasive skills.
Ravi Zacharias, who Vice President Mike Pence called “the
greatest Christian apologist of this century,” died May 19
at age 74. Zacharias last spoke in Amarillo in 2016, and
members of his team have led discussions in Amarillo
and Canyon several times.
(Photo by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries)
            “He saw the objections and questions of others not as something to be rebuffed, but as a cry of the heart that had to be answered,” said Michael Ramsden, president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. “People weren’t logical problems waiting to be solved; they were people who needed the person of Christ.”
            Zacharias, who last spoke in Amarillo in 2016 at Hillside Christian Church and whose team members have made presentations in Amarillo and Canyon several times, was remembered in a service at Atlanta’s Passion City Church that was streamed live. Speakers included Ramsden, Vice President Mike Pence, former football star Tim Tebow, Brooklyn Tabernacle Pastor Jim Cymbala and Passion Movement founder Louie Giglio. Contemporary Christian singer Matt Redman and hip-hop artist Lecrae highlighted the music. The service still can be watched on YouTube and Facebook.
            Zacharias was born in India in 1946 and moved with his family to Canada at age 20. He called himself a religious skeptic until an experience in a hospital after he tried to commit suicide at age 17. He said a Youth for Christ director visited and gave him a Bible. Zacharias noticed a statement by Jesus in John 14:19 that became a landmark of his life: “Because I live, you also will live.” He lived for Jesus the last 57 years of his life, 48 with his wife, Margie. His three children all are involved in his ministry.
             After Billy Graham invited him to speak at a 1983 evangelists’ conference in Amsterdam, Zacharias was ready to start RZIM in 1984. It’s based in Atlanta but has offices in a dozen countries, 100 speakers who travel globally and offshoot ministries including Wellspring, a humanitarian outreach to women and children.
            Like Graham in his heyday, Zacharias traveled constantly, racking up more than 4 million miles in the air just last year. My cousin Thacker and friend Mike live in the Texas Panhandle but said they were blessed mightily when they heard him, Francis Chan and Cymbala at the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York a few years ago.
            A slogan of Zacharias’ ministry was “Helping the thinker believe – and the believer think.” He took the Christian side in debates with unbelievers, but he certainly wasn’t the type to let a discussion turn into a shouting match. In his 1983 Amsterdam speech, he said, “When you are trying to reach someone, please be sensitive to what he holds valuable.” He often quoted an Indian proverb that he heard from his mother:
            “There is no point in cutting off a person’s nose and then giving them a rose to smell.”
            Mahlatse Mashua, RZIM’s Africa regional director, said Zacharias had “a precise, robust, yet tender, voice.”
            Lou Phillips said “Uncle Ravi,” which he and other RZIM team members sometimes called their boss, liked food, Elvis and laughing. And his favorite sport was cricket.
            In 2015, Zacharias participated in a forum at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, where he was given a cricket bat engraved with John 14:19. Phillips smiled when he said Zacharias would tell audiences that explaining why Christianity is true and how God is loving in the midst of evil and suffering weren’t the hardest things he had to do.
“Ravi has argued that one of the most impossible tasks he was ever given,” Phillips said, “was trying to explain the game of cricket to an American.”
At the memorial service, not long after doctors ended Zacharias’ cancer treatment in Houston and he returned to Georgia, Ramsden said:
            “Those who knew him well will remember him first for his kindness, gentleness and generosity of spirit. The love and kindness he had come to know in and through Jesus Christ was the same love he wanted to share with all he met.”
             Zacharias talked about Jesus with people from Atlanta to Amarillo, from sheiks in Saudi Arabia to a general in Russia to Louisiana prison inmates who crafted his casket. He met five times with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.    
            And he was more to his staff than the man at the top. “Ravi became a father and a friend and a mentor,” Phillips said. “But he always pointed us to Christ.”
            Closing the May 29 service, Giglio said Zacharias had asked him to talk not so much about Ravi but more about Jesus. Giglio apologized, not able to resist pointing out the example of his late friend’s character and achievements. But he still kept the focus on Christ.
            Just more than two years ago, at the 2018 memorial for Billy Graham, Zacharias said, “A great voice has been lost, but the message goes on.”
            The same could be said now.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

May 10, 2020, column:
WT grad shares experiences from 'across the pond'

By Mike Haynes
            Stonework in the 11th century building rises to support heavy wooden beams of the ceiling of St. Aldate’s Church, less than a quarter-mile from High Street and Oxford University.
            Floral carvings decorate the arches that flank the nave, or central area, of the sanctuary. And attached to stone columns are flat video screens, audio speakers and spotlights. Instead of a raised pulpit and wooden pews, this Church of England parish church features a modern stage, often filled with guitars, drums and keyboards sending contemporary Christian music through its audiovisual system.
St. Aldate’s Church in Oxford, England, whose nave and chancel were
built in the 1100s, now features modern worship aids such as video
screens and an audiovisual system. (Photo by Hannah Dye)

            It makes a young woman from Canyon, Texas, feel right at home.
            Since last September Hannah Dye, then 22 and a recent West Texas A&M University graduate, has lived in Oxford, England, extending her extensive piano education with a private teacher. One of her first objectives after arriving in the United Kingdom was finding a church.
            She had a good idea of what she was looking for; her dad, Darren Dye, is pastor of Freedom Fellowship Church of Canyon. She and her mom, Monica Dye, and younger brother, Josiah Dye, all are active in the church.
            Before leaving Texas last fall, Hannah had Googled Oxford churches, and upon arriving across the pond, she started visiting. She attended one congregation with her father, who helped her settle in as a guest with an English family.
            “We both liked the church, but it was very traditional, and I am not used to that style,” she recalled. “He encouraged me to continue to try out different ones until I found one I could call home.
            “Some of the churches here are more about the tradition of church rather than building a
Hannah Dye, right, and her father, Darren Dye, of Canyon,
pose at the Globe Theatre in September 2019 on the day
they arrived in London for Hannah’s adventure of living
and taking piano lessons in Oxford, England.
(Photo courtesy of Hannah Dye)   
relationship with God. It felt to me like the people were more interested in attending in order to get a little bit of religion in their lives, but I didn’t feel like they truly knew the living God.”
            Even though Oxford was home to professors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, both committed Christians, the university city’s overall atmosphere is secular. But Hannah said she attended several churches “that were passionate about God.”
            “I chose St. Aldate’s because their teaching is truly grounded in the Bible and bringing people to Christ, because their style of worship is similar to what I grew up with and because they had a postgrads ministry where I was immediately able to plug in and make friends,” she said.
            As England has been shut down amid the virus pandemic, Hannah said the hardest part has been being sheltered away from her church and her postgraduate group. “We are still able to meet virtually, but I need time with my friends face-to-face,” she said. “A lot of the international postgrads have gone back to their host countries, but those of us still here are trying to keep in touch throughout the week through texts.”
She said she has become particularly close to three friends. “We hang out whenever we get the chance, whether it is cooking together, taking walks, shopping or just talking,” she said before the virus shutdown. “All three of them are strong Christians, so they have been such an encouragement and foundation for me here in England.”
            Hannah and some friends had planned to travel in England, Scotland and Ireland during Oxford’s Easter break, but the pandemic nixed that idea. She lives with a family, though, so she isn’t alone.
            She has played piano since age 7 and has taught lessons herself since just after her freshman year at Canyon High. At WTAMU, she studied music under Dr. Denise Parr-Scanlin. At a conference in New York in 2017, she heard Charlotte Tomlinson, a performance coach and pianist from Oxford, talk about performance anxiety.
            Hannah received a bachelor’s degree in piano performance and pedagogy at WT in May 2019 and decided to postpone a master’s if she were able to study with Tomlinson first. “She told me to come on over,” she said. So a week after her WT senior recital, the girl from the Panhandle moved to England.
            She said Tomlinson “is an incredible teacher in that she challenges me beyond my comfort zone. She has opened up my eyes to my potential in ways I had never imagined before.

This photo of central Oxford, England, shows a busy intersection, but Canyon’s
Hannah Dye said that since the pandemic lockdown, the city is like a ghost town.
(Photo by Hannah Dye)
           “My piano lessons have switched online, which has worked rather well. I am still able to practice at home. Also, since most of my own piano students are online now, I did not have to change anything there either.”
            She hopes to return to Canyon for the summer and fly back to England in the fall, but of course, her plans depend on the status of travel restrictions.
            Hannah has a blog ( with creative descriptions and photos of her overseas experience. In her April 14 blog, she listed some “bright sides” to the lockdown:
            Over these last few weeks, I have seen people come together (not physically) in a new way. People are more keen on helping each other out. I personally have volunteered through my church as a runner for a local assistance-living place if they need people to get groceries or necessary items for the elderly. Also, once a week, the government calls for everyone to come outside (on their porches only) and clap for the NHS (National Health Service) to show support for everything they are doing. The first week it happened, everyone on our block came out and cheered for the NHS. It was incredibly moving.”
            Hannah ends each blog post with a “British thing I learned.” This time, she learned that “‘Loo roll’ is toilet paper.”

Sunday, April 12, 2020

April 12, 2020, column:
A tale of two empty tombs

By Mike Haynes
            We can’t be together physically this Easter, the day Christians celebrate a Sunday 2,000 years ago when scripture tells us Jesus Christ rose from the dead after he was crucified the previous Friday.
            But technology allows most of us to join virtually through live-streaming of church services and in some cases, through online meetings of small groups where we can see each other at home.
A small portion of a long line of people is shown in January 2019
as they wait to enter the Edicule, a small building inside the
Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem which many
scholars believe covers Jesus Christ’s tomb.
(Photo by Kathy Haynes)
            And we can be sure that, 7,000 miles away from Texas, across the Atlantic, across the Mediterranean, the hilly piece of land where Jesus was nailed to a cross, suffered and died and where some women witnessed him alive on the third day still can be visited – at least after the current virus crisis passes.

            Kathy and I and about 75 others, mostly from the Amarillo area, were blessed to have walked on that land called holy just over a year ago, when airplanes still landed in Tel Aviv, Israel, and tour buses still crisscrossed the busy streets of modern Jerusalem.
            Two locations we visited were saved until near the end of our journey – appropriately, because they are the two spots most directly linked to that first Good Friday and first Easter.
            West of where the Jewish temple stood in Jesus’ time is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. North of the Temple Mount is the Garden Tomb. Both are possible sites of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
            Before our trip last year, local Bible teacher Jim McKee told us that biblical sites in Israel can be either “authentic” or “traditional.” For example, when we touched the Western Wall, we knew our fingers were on stones that history and archeology prove were part of the retaining wall of the temple when Jesus entered it days before his crucifixion. It’s an authentic site.
            On the other hand, the Via Dolorosa, the Jerusalem streets where pilgrims retrace Christ’s trek to the cross, is in the traditional category. So much of the city’s layout has changed over the centuries, and the exact route involves so much speculation, that it’s not likely that it follows Jesus’ footsteps, at least not all the way.
            Since 300 years after the astounding events, Christians have identified the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as the authentic site of both Christ’s cross and his tomb. Although within Jerusalem’s Old City today, it was just outside the western city wall in Jesus’ time.
Visitors from Amarillo approach the Garden Tomb in the heart of Jerusalem
in January 2019. The location is one of two primary sites that scholars
believe could be where Jesus’ body was laid and where he rose
 from the dead on the first Easter. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
            In the 100s, Roman emperor Hadrian had a pagan temple built on the site, presumably to cover up the place where Christians had been coming to commemorate Christ’s death and resurrection. In 326, Christian emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, visited Jerusalem and concluded the location was authentic. According to Dr. Donald Brake’s book, “Jesus: A Visual History,” Constantine ordered a rotunda built around Jesus’ tomb and a basilica constructed between the rotunda and the place of crucifixion. Brake wrote, “It appears likely that Constantine built the rotunda on the exact spot of the tomb.”

            After the Crusaders took Jerusalem from the Muslims in 1099, they built a huge church that enclosed the entire area of Christ’s death and burial. It’s the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Within it is an ornate structure, the Edicule, that is believed to cover the exact spot of Jesus’ tomb, although the original tomb was destroyed in the early 1000s.
            Now, the church’s interior is filled with candelabra, crucifixes and hundreds of decorations. Tourists and pilgrims form long lines to enter the Edicule and get close to the tomb site. Although visitors are reverent, the atmosphere is crowded and busy. Brake wrote, “It no longer (has) the appearance of a peaceful garden or the eerie feel of a cemetery. It now contain(s) all the religious trappings many today find objectionable.”
            We felt the opposite ambiance at the Garden Tomb, less than a mile’s walk north of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Surrounded by a modern stone fence, with traffic-filled streets on the outside, the Garden Tomb looks like what you would expect from reading the Bible accounts.
Walking through a lush garden, we came upon a rock wall with a rectangular door cut into it. Our group of about 30 quietly took turns entering the small tomb that had benches hewn into the stone. While in the garden, group leaders Tony Clayton and Dane Williams led us in communion.
A corner of the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem is shown during a January 2019
visit by travelers from Amarillo. The Garden Tomb location is one of two
primary sites that scholars believe could be where Jesus’ body was laid
and where he rose from the dead. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
British General Charles Gordon popularized the Garden Tomb as the authentic site in 1883. Near the tomb, a rock cliff includes two holes that resemble the eyes of a skull with the bridge of a nose between them, and the Bible describes the crucifixion place as Golgotha, or “Place of the Skull.” Archeologists have determined that the ancient tomb is from Old Testament times, however, which doesn’t fit the New Testament’s description of it as a new tomb.
The Garden Tomb is a wonderful, quiet place amid a bustling city to pray and to picture the scene when Mary Magdalene, Salome and Joanna came upon two men in white and one told them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” (Matt. 28:5-6)

            Based on evidence, I tend to think the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is where the greatest event in history happened. But it doesn’t matter which tomb it was. As our friend Mark said the other day, they’re both empty.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

March 15, 2020, column:
By Mike Haynes
            Old isn’t necessarily bad.
            I’m not talking about age; I’m talking about ideas.
            One of several reasons for the validity of the Christian faith that C.S. Lewis put forth in his classic book, “Mere Christianity,” is that all people, regardless of their spiritual beliefs or where they live on Earth, have certain moral truths in common. All cultures generally believe murder is wrong, for example, and that selfishness is, well, selfish.
            Lewis argued that the reason humans tend to agree on many moral principles is that those values are hard-wired into us by the creator of all life, the Judeo-Christian God. Most of them show up in other world religions but are at their purest in the teachings of Christ.
            Paul McCusker’s 2014 book, “C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity,” details how Lewis’s 1952
classic resulted from his radio talks during World War II. McCusker says the Oxford scholar and Christian writer liked this quote by St. Vincent of Lerins, a fifth century writer: “Let us hold on to that which has been believed everywhere, always, by everyone.” That statement was consistent with the approach of “Mere Christianity” to present the essentials of the faith that most Christians agree on – and that don’t change.
            In his early 30s, Lewis himself had overcome his intellectual objections to believing in Christ. As Art Lindsley of the C.S. Lewis Institute pointed out in 2003, Lewis decided that “this ancient religion” could be relevant in modern times.
            And when it came to religion, literature or any subject, Lewis warned of the dangers of “chronological snobbery.”
            He defined that term as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that count discredited.”
            Lewis, who lived from 1898 to 1963, wrote that the wisdom of his own time was just as subject to error as was the wisdom of any other era. Any cultural assumptions, new or old, had to be questioned. He thought any new ideas must be filtered through the lens of those that had come earlier.
            Before the digital age, Lewis referred to knowledge and wisdom in terms of books. He wrote, “It’s a good rule after reading a new book never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to three new ones.”
            The idea was that we should “keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can only be done by reading old books” – by reflecting on time-tested ideas. Lindsley quoted G.K. Chesterton: “Real development is not leaving things behind, as on a road, but drawing life from them, as from a root.”
            Lewis famously wrote, “If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. …
            “And I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistakes. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.”
            Lewis wrote that in the wake of World War II’s destruction, but many would agree that it applies equally today in several areas of life. In spiritual matters, the number of “nones” – those who profess no religion – is increasing. In politics, many young people are embracing socialism with no real understanding of its historical context, which shows failure after failure.
            Since the 1950s, each generation of youth has pretty much rejected the previous generation’s music and popular culture, which may not be as serious as other concerns but encourages an attitude that “We know best because we’re cool.”
            Of course, as Lindsley reminds us, some aspects of the past show us how not to do things. Exactly 67 years ago today – March 15, 1953 – in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Billy Graham conducted his first racially integrated revival. It was a sign that sometimes, new is better.
            But I’m afraid our fast-moving culture is too fixated on the next shiny, bright object and is a little bit snobbish about the experience of those who have come before. As usual, Lewis put it better with an analogy:
            If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight, you will often not see the real bearing of what is said.”
            I think he and I would agree that the conversation starts with a man who lived in Galilee 2,000 years ago.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Feb. 16, 2020, column:
Christian faith just one more plus in cheering on Mahomes

By Mike Haynes
            Just before the 2020 Super Bowl, a sports fan proclaimed on Facebook that although the Kansas City Chiefs’ super-talented quarterback was from his alma mater, Texas Tech, his reason for supporting the Chiefs wasn’t because he was jumping on the Patrick Mahomes bandwagon. He loved that Mahomes is a former Red Raider, but he made it clear that he had been a KC fan since he was 10 years old in 1968.
            I have a nephew who’s rooted for the Chiefs since he was a kid, too. He, too, is a Tech graduate. He, his sister and a friend made the trip to Arrowhead Stadium for the AFC title game, but his satisfaction at the win over Tennessee wasn’t limited to liking the quarterback.
Patrick Mahomes displays the Lamar Hunt Trophy
after the AFC championship game before the 2020 Super Bowl.

I also have longtime loyalties, win or lose, because of personal connections or proximity to where I’m from. No matter how they’re faring, I yell for the Dallas Cowboys; Texas Tech, where I graduated and worked; my hometown, McLean; the Texas Rangers; West Texas A&M (I try to avoid the “A&M” part); the Amarillo pro baseball team (whose name I still don’t like); and the Oklahoma Sooners.
            But with the Chiefs, I admit that I’m a bandwagon fan because of Mahomes. The 24-year-old athletic phenomenon drew my eyes to every play of the Super Bowl for the first time since the Cowboys were in it. And I’m not the only one. The seemingly easygoing young man with the curly hair and big smile has seduced admiration from both hardcore and casual sports fans.
            And for Christians, there’s a bonus. The Chiefs’ No. 15 professes to follow Christ, and it appears that his faith is genuine.
            Yes, I know people – athletes and celebrities as well as us regular folks – can appear admirable only to stumble. I remember a boxer who won the heavyweight championship, enthusiastically gave God the glory and was arrested a few days later for drunk driving.
            But let’s not doubt anyone until there’s reason to. Mahomes, the Super Bowl MVP in only his third NFL season, was born in Tyler to Major League Baseball pitcher Pat Mahomes and his wife, Randi. His parents divorced, but he grew up with a Christian influence, according to his mother. While he played at Tech, she told IN Magazine:
            “In middle school, he got real involved with his youth group. He got saved. There was a night at church, he had his hands raised to the Lord and he was singing. I just felt overcome with this most awesome moment, more than any football game, because I knew where his heart truly is.”
            According to, Mahomes’ parents’ divorce resulted in early maturity for him. “Living with his mom, he took on more chores. Sometimes he declined friends’ invitations to hang out because he needed to watch his two younger siblings. In the seventh grade, he chose to get himself baptized; he wanted, his mom said, ‘to become a man in church.’”
            Fast-forward to a 2019 interview with the Faith + Family Sports Programming Network, when Mahomes said, “My faith has always been a big part of what I do … I’ve grown up in church, and faith really helps you know why you’re playing the game, and who you’re doing it for.”
            His tweets seem to include spiritual references in a natural, not self-serving, way. When former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith suffered a season-ending injury, Mahomes tweeted, “Prayers for my guy man! You will bounce back!” according to After the Chiefs’ playoff win over Houston, he tweeted, “Man this is crazy! God is amazing! Thank you to everyone who has supported me and helped me get here!”
            Like many, I’m caught up in Mahomes-mania for many reasons: his freewheeling, pass-or-run, side-arm-throwing style; his positive, smiling, confident look; his results. He’s intelligent: The long pass play that started the Chiefs to their Super Bowl comeback victory over San Francisco was his suggestion. He’s loyal. He tweets encouragement to Texas Tech teams and attends Tech basketball games when he can. He still does local car dealer commercials even after signing contracts with Adidas, State Farm, Oakley and other national firms.
            And his Christian faith is another plus for me. Of course, the NFL has lots of Christians. Teams have chaplains and chapel services. Kansas City owner Clark Hunt has said, “My identity is my faith in Christ.”
But it’s pretty cool that the most popular football player, at least for now, on the planet gives credit – and glory – where credit and glory are due.                                                                  

Monday, January 20, 2020

Jan. 19, 2020, column:
We can be content in any circumstances

By Mike Haynes
            Count Alexander Rostov has grown up on a country estate in Russia, attending grand balls, visiting St. Petersburg in his family’s four-horse carriage and relaxing in the summer on the grass by the river.
            Then 1917 comes, the czar and his family are executed, and aristocrats not only are not in favor, they are in danger. The Bolsheviks who have taken over the huge country see people such as the Count as a drain on society and a threat to the revolution. Most of the Rostov family flees to other parts of Europe, but as the new government confiscates their estate, the Count moves into the upscale Metropol Hotel in Moscow, which the Communists have allowed to stay in business.
            By 1922, Rostov’s upbringing comes to the attention of the authorities. A noble such as the Count could be sent to Siberia or even shot. But because he has written a poem in college that had a revolutionary theme, the 30-something gentleman receives a light sentence: house arrest for life in the Metropol.
            That’s the premise of “A Gentleman in Moscow,” the bestselling 2016 novel by Amor Towles. As society is turned upside down and Russia becomes the USSR, the fictional count survives by adjusting. The elaborate suite he has enjoyed for four years is given to a government official, and he is escorted upstairs to a 100-square-foot room – his new quarters. He has to make split-second decisions on what few family heirlooms and pieces of furniture he can take with him.
            The Count is resourceful. He discovers another unoccupied room that he can access through his closet, and he makes a sort of den out of it. He is free to roam the elegant hotel, and with no relatives in sight, the hotel staff becomes his family. The desk clerk and waiters treat him just as they did when he had rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows. He continues to eat gourmet food in the restaurant and choose the proper wine for it. But he can only watch from a window as people enter and exit the Bolshoi Ballet across the square.
            The Count isn’t as content as he appears, but he gets through times of despair. A connoisseur of food, drink and manners, he becomes the head waiter of the still posh restaurant. Then, in his late 40s, he becomes the only person who can take care of a 6-year-old girl. He’s never had children, and he doesn’t know how to talk to her or where she can sleep. He figures it out. Through three decades, he adjusts and adjusts again.
John C. Haynes
            Believe it or not, the Count reminds me of Grandad. John C. Haynes turned out to be quite adept at adjusting, too. As a young man, he had worked at a couple of banks. He ran a local oil company facility, then managed a ranch. In middle age, Grandad was in the middle of community activity in our small town: president of the Lions Club, on the board of the church and school board. He was elected mayor and effectively was head of economic development, securing a hospital for the town and traveling to places such as Florida to recruit workers for the local undergarment factory.
            Then, like everyone, he suffered some losses. His wife, our Granny, died of cancer. His vision started to get bad, and he eventually lost most of his sight. Not needing the big house on the hill  anymore, he moved alone into a small one a few blocks away. Then a senior citizen, he joked that it was perfect because his new house was halfway between the nursing home and the cemetery.
            Like the Count, Grandad had to have been discouraged. But to those around him, he usually was a jokester or a storyteller who made his 50-year-old reminiscences funny and interesting. No longer in charge of the city’s budget, he kept his remarkable math skills sharp by counting steps on his daily walks. He stayed busy by picking up discarded baling wire on the ranch or collecting tin cans to sell.
            Before he moved to that nursing home and then to that cemetery, he made the most of life, taking the next step in front of him, wherever it led.
            The apostle Paul told us that we can be content in any circumstances. Like the Count and like Grandad, Paul wrote, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13, NIV)
            When I taught at Amarillo College, I put a Teddy Roosevelt quote on my office door, hoping students who might be struggling would see it. The quote is simple:
            “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Monday, December 23, 2019

Dec. 22, 2019, column:
Whatever word you use, remember the real reason of the season
By Mike Haynes
            For much of my life, I heard people say, “Happy Holidays,” without thinking anything about it. It usually meant for you to have a nice holiday season, which included Thanksgiving if said by the fourth Thursday of November and otherwise referred to Christmas, New Year’s and for those familiar with it, Hanukkah.
            Then some people started getting worried that saying, “Merry Christmas,” might offend those who aren’t Christians or might hurt business, so the singular “holiday” started replacing “Christmas” – mostly in retail settings and in public schools.
            I’ll admit, it bugs me when I hear “holiday” as a direct substitute for “Christmas” as in “holiday gifts” or “holiday sale.” I’ve even heard about a “holiday tree.”
            I respect other religions and other holidays that I don’t observe, but it is illogical and possibly disrespectful to avoid using “Christ” to refer to the birthday of Jesus Christ. (Yes, I know he probably wasn’t born on Dec. 25, but we don’t know when it happened, so it’s as good a date as any to observe the momentous occasion.)

            Here is my attempt to make “holiday” mean something for those of us who don’t want this miraculous day to lose its significance:
The word could stand for:
            H – Holy. Nothing is holier than the God of the universe coming to Earth to fulfill his purpose of saving his people from their sins.
            O – “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Whether historically accurate or not, we picture a baby in a manger surrounded by animals and a loving mother and father in a barn or cave with the light of a bright star illuminating them. That scene gives us peace.
            L – Love. John 3:16 says it all: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
            I – Israel. Christianity wouldn’t have been born without God’s chosen people. Jesus came from the line of the great Jewish king, David.
            D – Divine. Christians believe the man who was born 2,000 years ago, ministered to those around him, performed miracles, was executed and rose from the dead was both human and divine. He claimed to be God. He was – and is.
            A – Angel – Luke 2:10-11: “And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.’”

            Y – You. And me. And everybody. That’s who this savior came to serve and to save. Whatever word is used for this Dec. 25 observance, let’s remember that not only did Jesus transform the world, but God blesses us, every one.  

Monday, November 25, 2019

Nov. 24, 2019, column:

Panhandle residents not lacking when it comes to opportunities for faith, spiritual growth

By Mike Haynes
            With the big day of gratitude coming up, those who live in the Texas Panhandle have plenty to be thankful for.
            That goes double for people of faith.
            If someone were looking for events or activities that can draw them nearer to God or for godly people to provide encouragement or for charities to help when they are at the end of their rope, this is the place to be.
            There couldn’t be a better time to give thanks for all the gifts God gives to our region. Thanks to the Lord for:
  • The weekly and daily church services, prayer and support groups and Bible studies that residents quietly go about in Amarillo and all over the Panhandle.
  • Addiction rehabilitation programs such as Celebrate Recovery where people rely on God and friends to pull them out of deep trouble.
  • Niche ministries such as the Clarendon College rodeo ministry in which church members from neighboring McLean bring meals once a week to feed young cowboys and cowgirls while others are feeding them spiritually.
  • Citywide events such as the upcoming July visit by nationally known Christian author and speaker Beth Moore to the civic center.
  • Dedicated Sunday school teachers.
    These Amarillo residents visiting the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem are among many
    who can offer thanks this year for a chance to visit the Holy Land. The Garden Tomb
    is one location that some scholars believe is the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection.
    (Photo by Mike Haynes)
  • Increasing awareness of the 2,000-year-old link between Judaism and Christianity promoted by groups such as the locally based Texans for Israel. That organization has co-sponsored speakers focusing both on support for the modern nation of Israel and on the increased understanding of the Bible that Christians can gain by looking at it from a Jewish perspective. Texans for Israel was involved in bringing Holocaust survivor Irving Roth, a strong supporter of Israel, to West Texas A&M University in April and Jewish Christian Rabbi Jason Sobel to the civic center in October. Roth has a heartbreaking story from his youth in eastern Europe, and Sobel’s ministry connects ancient Jewish wisdom with the New Testament.
  • The seemingly rising number of area residents who’ve had a chance to visit Israel. My wife, Kathy, and I were blessed to join other Christians in a February Holy Land trip led by Tony Clayton of Amarillo’s Washington Avenue Christian Church. Our church, Hillside Christian, took another group this summer to see where the earthly ministry of Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew, took place. Others are making the pilgrimage, too.
  • The number of intellectually gifted people in the area who are believers and share their knowledge and faith. Just a couple in my circle are Jerry Klein, the former Amarillo College philosophy and religion professor who now leads a Thursday night Bible study at his church, and Dr. Mike Bellah, the retired AC English professor who delights in teaching his Canyon Sunday school class about C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Both are members of the local Lewis Underground begun by Kirk Manton of Trinity Fellowship, and I am amazed at the insight all of them bring to discussions of Lewis’ books.
  • The boldness of some of our elected officials as they acknowledge their faith and pray in public.
  • The authors in the area who have written outstanding books, including Nan Rinella’s “Dreams in the Distance,” the first in a series of Christian novels; the aforementioned Mike Bellah’s book on retirement, “The Best Is Yet To Be”; the aforementioned Kirk Manton’s poetry and photo books; Sam Pakan’s World War II novel with a Christian theme, “Jesse’s Seed”; and preacher/columnist/author Gene Shelburne’s many books, including “The Quest for Unity: An Appeal for Oneness Among All Believers in Christ.”
  • Background workers in all the churches, including volunteers such as Judy Lee, whom members of the Methodist Church in McLean are mourning after she died unexpectedly this week. She was an uplifting Sunday morning mom to young ones for years in the church nursery. We should say, “Thank you for your service,” not only to members of the military but to people like Judy.
  • The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which supports and inspires competitors in large and small schools.
  • The Sharing Hope ministry, which started small and now has given 150,000 Bibles to women in prison and branching into other areas of support for women.
  • The Salvation Army, Faith City Mission and other charities that provide physical and spiritual aid to the homeless and others in need.
  • The Hope+Choice pregnancy center, formerly CareNet, which offers alternatives to abortion and follows up with mentoring for women.
  • Christian publications such as The Upbeat Reporter, which centers on encouraging news and sponsors Christian events.
  • The annual citywide prayer breakfast.
  • The Walk to Emmaus, still going strong in the area after three decades. The interdenominational movement and a similar Catholic version, the ACTS Retreat, bring people to the mountaintop for a weekend but also try to keep believers growing through community.
  • Four Amarillo churches joining with worship services and eyes toward deeper racial unification efforts as they realize the best hope to end divisiveness is shared commitment to God.

Those blessings are the tip of the Panhandle’s spiritual iceberg. On Thanksgiving Day, you might want to list a few of your own.
             We have it good here.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Oct. 27, 2019, column:
Shedding light on ‘Dark Shadows,’ fun escapism

By Mike Haynes
            It’s four days ’til Halloween, so I’m writing about something really scary.
            “Dark Shadows.”
            Did some of you baby-boomers run home from school every day to see the gothic soap opera that offered ghosts and werewolves instead of soaps’ ho-hum romantic triangles and declarations of “We need to talk”?
The opening title of “Dark Shadows,” which ran on ABC
from 1966 to 1971, originally was in black and white.

            OK, the Collins family and their friends did have plenty of serious talks in the wood-paneled drawing room of Collinwood, the Maine coastal mansion filled with mystery, darkness and secrets. But the topics tended to be unearthly ones such as why Maggie had two puncture wounds on her neck or what did it mean that women with the same name kept burning up once every 100 years.
            “There must be a logical explanation,” was the usual response when someone had seen the ghost of Josette Collins. Or, “It must have been your imagination.”
            A few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that my wife, Kathy, and I would be binge-watching “Dark Shadows.” We’re already past the first 294 black-and-white episodes and into the color era of the 1,225 total shows that aired on ABC from 1966 to 1971.
The reason? When Kathy and her best friend, Sallyann, were about 10 years old, they bonded together watching characters such as vampire Barnabas Collins and warlock Count Petofi. In another town, I also rushed to my grandmother’s house after school to follow the eerie storylines.
Kathy says she and Sallyann got seriously scared by the witch Angelique and the vampire bat flying (on a string) into someone’s window. Now, we laugh at the awful special effects and the actors staring into space not for dramatic effect but because they forgot their lines.
When we noticed that Amazon Prime offers the entire series, we thought we’d watch the first few episodes. For Kathy, it was in part out of nostalgia for her relationship with Sallyann, who died of cancer in 2017. Now, as silly as it seems, we’re hooked. We watch a couple of episodes before going to sleep most nights. It was a 30-minute show; but with no commercials, each one takes just 21 minutes to get to the next cliffhanger.
Jonathan Frid played Barnabas Collins in the original TV series “Dark Shadows.”
Most of the characters are either quirky, obnoxious, shadowy, creepy or just walk around wringing their hands. Some, though, seem normal and represent the viewers’ perception of the weird things going on around them. In fact, the whole story began when producer Dan Curtis had a dream about a young woman on a train. She evolved into former orphanage resident Victoria Winters, who arrives at Collinwood to be a tutor for young David Collins. She and a couple of others serve as likable characters.
Apparently in a storyline we haven’t reached yet, there’s a Rev. Trask, a witch-hunter from Salem, Massachusetts. Not wanting to skip ahead, I don’t know whether Rev. Trask’s character portrays preachers in a positive or negative light, but everything I know about the series is that it’s all fanciful entertainment, nothing that should worry parents or raise fears of an ungodly influence.
“Dark Shadows” did attract some protests from Christians in the ’60s because of its plots that included the occult. And I believe that if there can be good supernatural phenomena (which the Bible is all about), there can be bad supernatural phenomena that we shouldn’t fool around with.
But like “Harry Potter” more recently, this TV show was – and is – so far-fetched that it would be a stretch for anyone to take it seriously. It was wildly popular in its first run and has spawned three movies – one with Johnny Depp as Barnabas in a more campy version than the original – and two attempts at  recreating the series. In the sitcom, “King of Queens,” nerdish Spence dresses as a vampire on his way to a “Dark Shadows” convention. Kathryn Leigh Scott, who played multiple characters, has written books on the making of “Dark Shadows,” and fellow actress Lara Parker has authored novels that keep the story going.
And now it’s been reported that The CW and Warner Bros. Television are doing a new pilot called “Dark Shadows: Reincarnation” that will stay close to the mythology of the original.
I’m not sure “Dark Shadows” could be the basis of a series of Sunday school lessons as “The Andy Griffith Show” was. But it’s fun escapism. It’s one more thing that brings my wife and me together.
            Episode 1 begins with narration: “My name is Victoria Winters. My journey is beginning…”
So did ours.