Sunday, April 11, 2021

 April 11, 2021, column:

Bullfighter shares testimony to help lead rodeo athletes down right path

By Mike Haynes

            With a classroom full of college students surrounding him, finishing up their loaded baked potatoes and pieces of cake, Frank Newsom pored over a thick Bible in front of him, his felt hat tipped slightly down toward the white plastic table, a tanned, crooked finger carefully tracing verses that he planned to cite in a few minutes.

            It wasn’t the first time the brown leather-covered book had been open to this spot; the adjacent page was torn from use.    

Professional bullfighter Frank Newsom
speaks March 30 to a group of
Clarendon College rodeo and ranch
horse team members.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)



            Newsom had given his testimony many times in the past decade or so, including about once a year to the cowboys and cowgirls in these Clarendon College rodeo and ranch horse programs. But the 46-year-old had driven four hours from his home near Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, on a recent Tuesday night and wanted to be sure to get it right.

            He didn’t want these kids to ride the same path he had followed during his rise to the top of the rodeo and bull riding world.

            Newsom is a professional bullfighter, one of the best ever. Bullfighters used to be called rodeo clowns, but even then they had a serious job: protecting cowboys from 2,000-pound animals that are angry after bucking them off.

             The Granbury native grew up working on ranches, sometimes riding bulls, and was captain of his high school football team. Once he gravitated to bullfighting, he set high goals.

            “I outworked everybody around me,” he told his Clarendon College audience of almost 50. “I would lay my body down more every day in that arena. It made me excel.”

            Newsom said he has worked National Finals Rodeos and since becoming a fixture in the Professional Bull Riders organization has been selected for the PBR Finals 18 times. He made it to the top, faltered because of his lifestyle, then reached the top again. He gives the credit for his giving up drugs and alcohol to Jesus Christ.

“Following my instincts got me to be one of the best bullfighters there is, but it also got me into all the sin that you can ever imagine,” he said. “And there ain’t nobody that’s any stronger or tougher; it wasn’t that I was a weak person.”

Frank Newsom works to distract a bull from a bull rider on the ground
during a professional bull riding event. (Provided photo)


One of Newsom’s worst days was in 2000 when he was scheduled to work at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, which had been his highest goal. Instead he was sitting in jail.

Talking to the college students, he pointed to his shiny, big belt buckle. “This is a good target, guys,” he said. “I don’t want you to think, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go win a buckle.’ But don’t let this be the only thing.” Touching his open Bible, he continued, “It says, ‘Do not worship idols.’ God created y’all, he gave you all these talents. And he goes, ‘Worship me, and I will bless you. Read in my Word, and I will help you every day. Be strong. Be the best. But don’t worship that idol.”

Newsom went to rehab more than once, but it never stuck. He said it took more than that for him to escape his downward spiral.

“The only way those chains got broke was by me stepping forward and saying, ‘Jesus, I want you. I want you to be my king. I surrender. And that was a word I never … You couldn’t get me to surrender. … But Lord, I surrender. And that’s when the chains started gettin’ broke. He starts moving. God starts putting people in your life.”

            Two of those people were Randy and Bobbi Stalls, with whom Newsom lived for about three years near McLean, doing ranch work, attending church and witnessing to jail inmates. The Stalls couple has led the rodeo ministry at Clarendon since it started almost 10 years ago along with other volunteers from Clarendon and McLean churches.

Frank Newsom speaks March 30 to a group of Clarendon College rodeo and ranch horse students.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)

            The group meets on Tuesday nights during the school year, with meals brought from the McLean Methodist Church and guest speakers ranging from cowboy preachers to nationally known rodeo stars. Each year results in several baptisms, usually in a stock tank dragged onto the dirt of the college rodeo arena.

            Newsom has a busy life with a wife and children in Oklahoma, teaching young people his trade and still putting his body on the line for the PBR. A few weeks ago, he was interviewed on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club,” where he said his motivation as a bullfighter now is more than his own success:

            Man, if I can save this guy’s life, maybe that’s one more day that gives him an opportunity to be saved so he can spend eternity in heaven. He can go home to his wife and kids and lead them in a good direction. Trust the Lord right now without having to hit rock bottom.”

            He has a similar purpose with college students. ““I’m 46,” he told them. “Y’all are at the startin’ line. Trust what I’m telling you; think about it. Before you walk out that door, know what you think. Who do you believe in?

            “Don’t follow the crowd. Don’t just follow your instincts. Show publicly your commitment to Jesus Christ. Ask him to show you the truth. And he will.”

Sunday, March 14, 2021

March 14, 2021, column:

God doesn’t tell us how long we’ll be here;

he just promises a forever home

By Mike Haynes

            A table outside the church fellowship hall was adorned with my dad’s chaps from the 1960s that have “McLean Roping Club” stitched onto them, some decorative spurs with his initials and one of his hats, gray felt and creased neatly but with brown sweat stains around the band.

            That was on his birthday, Feb. 20. Ten days later, at another church in the small town of McLean, two saddles rested on stands in front of the worship stage.  One had a fishing vest and a red bandanna attached, the other a pair of chaps hanging from the horn and a black felt hat on the seat.

             We had a good family and community turnout for Johnny Haynes’ 90th birthday party, and many more – some of them the same people – attended the memorial service March 2 for Mike Darsey, who had left this world after a cruel, three-year illness. Mike D., as I called my classmate to differentiate from my Mike H., was 70 years old.

Mike Darsey - 2009

            Younger people may not see much difference between 70 and 90, but it’s a whole generation, and of course, it doesn’t seem fair that someone who was in the first grade with me is gone while people his parents’ age still enjoy their families and God’s creation.

            We Christians believe we live in a fallen world and that our true home comes later. But it’s hard not to admire and cling to the good we see around us. At the birthday celebration and at the celebration of Mike D.’s life, we heard inspiring words from friends and family. Community members young and old reminisced about how Johnny Haynes had mentored them in sports or taught them in Sunday school. My siblings and I recalled how he and our late mother, Joyce, attended our every school event, and our spouses thanked him for welcoming them into the family.

            The Darsey memorial was even more poignant, of course. With his wife, Leslie, daughter Melissa, son Trenton and fiancĂ© Rudy and grandson Bryce on the front row, local musicians Bobby and Carey Richardson harmonized beautifully on songs such as “Go Rest High On That Mountain.” 

            The essence of a Texas Panhandle town came through in the words of three speakers as relative youngster Ike Hanes, who had lost his father, Marshall Hanes, just weeks before, talked of the encouragement Mike D. had given him in team roping and in following Jesus. JT Haynes, a little older, pointed out Mike’s insistence on perfection in everything he did, from fly-fishing to roping to golf, and Dr. Richard Back, another of Mike’s high school classmates, echoed that observation.

 

Johnny Haynes - 2010

          
Back, a member of the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame as a golfer, is a psychologist in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He brought laughter describing how Mike D. called him asking what direction his right thumb should be pointing at the top of his backswing. When Back told him the thumb should be parallel to the line of flight, Mike said, “Well, that’s what Tiger said in ‘Golf Digest.’”

            Darsey certainly was a stickler for details and a striver for excellence. Our high school football coach, Fred Hedgecoke, couldn’t make it to the service from the Dallas area but sent a creatively written eulogy that my cousin, the Rev. Thacker Haynes, read aloud. Hedgecoke wrote about first seeing Mike D. on McLean’s undefeated and unscored-on eighth grade football team:

            “I’ve never seen a kid play with such dogged determination. Before the game was over, I was thinking, ‘I hope that little guy doesn’t hurt somebody.’” Hedgecoke said Mike – whose speed earned him the nickname, “Diesel Darsey” – was dedicated enough that “Somebody told me Mike slept with a football.”

In high school, Mike D. was a 110-pound tight end and a defensive back. Hedgecoke recalled that in Darsey’s senior year, the team pledged to score against Lefors the first time they touched the ball. “On the third play of the game, Lefors decided to pass and pick on the little kid,” the coach wrote. “Mike intercepted the ball and ran it back for a touchdown. That was the first time the Tigers touched the ball.”

Hedgecoke said that in a talk at a Walk to Emmaus retreat, Mike said, “Being a disciple requires far greater commitment than football.” The coach wrote, “Many times in life, he scored the first time he touched the ball.”

            Cousin Thacker, also a schoolmate since the first grade, said that three years ago, Mike D. asked him to speak at his memorial service and asked him to mention three personal achievements he was proud of accomplishing. Thacker did.

“No. 1: Mike was very proud of being a McLean Tiger,” the pastor said. “That even though he was the littlest one on the team, he was able to contribute and make a difference.

            “No. 2: He was very proud of being the salutatorian of the McLean High School Class of 1969. In study hall, Mike used that time to actually study.”

            I can attest to Darsey’s diligence in academics. He and I were roommates our first two years at Texas Tech, and I might not have made an A in a math course without his help. Of course, he made an A, too, became a Tech graduate and was a lifelong Red Raider fan.

            “The last thing Mike was proud of was that he was born again,” my cousin said. Thacker said that after he became a Methodist preacher, Mike called often with spiritual questions. “We would talk for hours about Jesus and about God,” he said.

Thacker baptized Mike, Leslie and their son, Trent. Mike was last. After he was immersed, Mike said, “You held me under a lot longer than the rest of them.” Thacker said, “Mike, I’ve known you a lot longer.”

“From that point on, Mike has been all in for Jesus,” Thacker said. “He gave his relationship with Jesus top priority.”

Because I was born six weeks before Mike D., I can say that from my perspective, he was way too young at his passing. Others are taken in car wrecks, by childhood cancer, by COVID-19. Then there are those like Dad, who in his ninth decade, even after hip surgery, is playing a few holes of golf and enjoying his great-grandchildren.

God doesn’t tell us how long we’ll be here. He just promises that with faith in him, we have a forever home to go to. I hope it’s close to a golf course and a roping arena.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

 Update on Ravi Zacharias column:

Last June, I wrote a column praising evangelist Ravi Zacharias for his intellectually sound ministry promoting the truth of Christianity and his apparent compassion for people he encountered. In the past few weeks, an investigation has confirmed reports that Zacharias had for years abused many women sexually.

His organization, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, commissioned a law firm to independently investigate the allegations, which is commendable. But irreparable damage has been done. RZIM leaders are considering how to carry on the ministry apart from its founder’s new sad legacy.

We’ve all heard the adage, “Don’t kill the messenger” because he brings bad news. In this case, I believe the opposite should be the mission: “Don’t kill the message” because the messenger was corrupt. Zacharias explained and defended Jesus’ message eloquently and persuasively. It isn’t easy, but we should try to salvage his timeless words and reasoning while rejecting his personal behavior.

In June, I wrote that at Billy Graham’s memorial service, Zacharias had said, “A great voice has been lost, but the message goes on.” I added that the same could be said about Zacharias.

I still believe the message must go on.

--Mike Haynes


Sunday, February 14, 2021

 Feb. 14, 2021, column:

Standing in awe in front of the Creator's masterpieces

By Mike Haynes

            At about 10:15 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, we glimpsed a green band stretching across the sky from our perch on a wooden deck at a ski patrol building. We couldn’t stay on the deck more than a couple of minutes, because the temperature was around 30 – that’s minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind chill factor was estimated at up to 60 below.

When it’s that cold, even if you’re dressed in four layers of clothes with your hands and head heavily covered, any skin on your face that you leave bare feels as if chilled air is seeping into your pores with an almost burning sensation.

            So Kathy and I, our tour guide and three other tourists retreated back into the small building outside Fairbanks, Alaska, where we could take off our gloves, warm up fogged-over glasses and drink hot cider or coffee.

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, streaked across the sky early
in the morning of Feb. 2 outside Fairbanks, Alaska.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)


            We trudged back and forth through the door, from warm tables to the more than freezing deck, repeatedly for almost four hours, watching for that green band to grow – and boy, was it worth it.

            All of us were there to see the northern lights, more properly called the aurora borealis. And by the time we got in the van for our young guide to take us back to our hotels, we had seen quite a show.

            Kathy and I took advantage of cheap flights for a trip to Iceland in 2015 to try to check the northern lights off Kathy’s – and by extension my – bucket list. It was cloudy all three nights we were there.

            In 2019, we traveled along the coast of Norway on a Viking ocean cruise called “In Search of the Northern Lights.” Kathy saw bits of green in the sky from our ship, and we both spotted a narrow, vertical streak while on a cold excursion on land. But those views were nothing like you see in photos and videos.

            The current ban on visiting most countries shifted our sights to Alaska. We had to be tested for COVID to enter the state, but we had people praying that everything would work out, and it certainly did.

            You wonder what ancient people thought when they first saw green, purple and red curtains undulating in the sky. Some thought it was the end of the world, and others who have lived in the far north have come up with creative explanations.

            Scholars speculate that Chinese dragon images originated with the aurora. The Cree tribes in North America believed the lights were the spirits of departed loved ones. Inuits in Alaska and Canada expanded on that theory, saying the colors in the sky were spirits of the dead playing a game with a walrus skull as the ball. One of our guides told us another group reversed that version, imagining walruses playing with skulls of people.

            In Norse mythology, the aurora was seen as reflections from the shields of the Valkyrie, the female warriors who carried Vikings who died in battle to Valhalla, the Norse version of heaven.

            Some thought it bad luck to look at the lights, and others thought it was a good omen.

Mike and Kathy Haynes pose in front of a green sky in Alaska this month
as the northern lights performed behind them. (Provided photo)

            Scientifically, the aurora is caused by charged particles from the sun colliding with gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. The lights occur at both magnetic poles, but more people see them emanating from the Arctic region than from the Antarctic. Scientists make daily forecasts of the likelihood of seeing the lights in certain locations based on weather, solar activity and other factors.

            On the night of Feb. 1-2, the forecast was good at Fairbanks. After we saw that initial green band, the lights gradually grew into taller and wider curtains until they covered most of the northern sky. We saw dashes of red, which isn’t common. Kathy was saying, “Wow, wow,” and we knew we could check the lights off our bucket list.

            The aurora stayed in sight for much of those four hours, sometimes just a streak and sometimes dancing and swaying. Once, only Kathy and I were outside on the deck with our guide, all three of us staring up together. As I remember it, the young man commented that the Lord was painting the sky, and he quoted part of Psalm 19:

            “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

            People of old invented elaborate stories about the lights, but we just felt simple awe that brought tears as we realized how blessed we were to get to see another of the Creator’s masterpieces.


Friday, January 22, 2021

 Jan. 17, 2021, column:

In turbulent world, love each other while we wait for our true home

By Mike Haynes

            The political and social chaos going on in the United States – on top of a year of dealing with a pandemic – has much of the population anxious entering 2021. And more than 74 million Americans who didn’t vote for the next White House resident worry what policies will emerge from Washington.

            For some of us, even with millions already getting a virus vaccine, it’s a scary time.

            Actress Patricia Heaton, known primarily as Debra in “Everybody Loves Raymond” and as Frankie in “The Middle,” concisely reminded believers in Christ that they shouldn’t worry. On Jan. 8, she tweeted:

            "If you’re a common sense person, you probably don’t feel you have a home in this world right now. If you’re a Christian, you know you were never meant to."


            Heaton’s reasoning stems from Bible verses such as Philippians 3:20, which says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (New RSV)

            Someone disagreed, tweeting that this world certainly is his home, and Heaton responded:

            "Respectfully, this world is only temporary. I love many things here too, and yes, we are called to love our neighbor and be good stewards. But this ain’t it."

            She later added, “We are meant to serve Christ while we are here.”

            My friend Mark in Florida keeps reminding me that whatever our politics, God is in control, including of how things will turn out in the end. That belief reminds me of some Bible verses I learned long ago as part of a memory system created by the Navigators, a Christian ministry. Maybe some of these that show God’s attributes and his expectations will be comforting and/or encouraging. They are in the Revised Standard Version, the Bible I was using at the time:

            His strength:

            “Fear not, for I am with you,  be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,  I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

            His faithfulness:

            The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

“God is not man, that he should lie,  or a son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?” (Numbers 23:19)

            His peace:

            Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

“Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7

His provision:

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” (Romans 8:32)

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Another verse that supports the idea that Christians should be different from society is Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Other passages indicate that believers are not to sit around dreaming of the afterlife. Although good works don’t save us, God does want us to do them:

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9)

Finally, there’s a word that we toss around every day, but from recent events, you wouldn’t know it’s important. Jesus used it in his two greatest commandments in regard to our relationship to God and to others. And in John 13:34-35, he said:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love is something we can give to every person we encounter in this world while we wait for our true home.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Dec. 20, 2020, column:

Focus on the REAL reason for the season: the birth of Christ

By Mike Haynes

            Kathy and I watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” the other night on Panhandle PBS. It’s been around since 1965, and nothing has changed about the commercialization of the holiday that helps send Charlie Brown into a gloomy funk.

            Near the end, Linus reminds us that the birth of Jesus is what Christmas is all about.

            Today, I’m looking at some comments about Christmas from three of my “heroes of the faith” who saw Christ as “the reason for the season” before somebody coined that catch phrase.

Let’s go in chronological order:

          

John Wesley

 
John Wesley (1703-1791)

            United Methodist Professor David Watson wrote in 2016 that while many  Christmas sermons focus on the Golden Rule, giving and being kind – our relationships with others – Methodist founder John Wesley stressed the transformation that Christ’s coming to Earth made possible in each life.

            Watson wrote, “This transformation – receiving the capacity to serve God faithfully – was made possible through the Incarnation.” He quoted Wesley’s notes on John 1:14:

            “In order to raise us to this dignity and happiness, the eternal Word, by a most amazing condescension, was made flesh, united Himself to our miserable nature, with all its innocent infirmities….” Wesley continued that Jesus’ coming to Earth accomplished change in men and women that the Law of Moses could not do.

            Wesley’s brother Charles expressed Christ’s gift of potential change in his hymn, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” according to Watson, in lines such as “peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled,” and “Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.”

            “So for Wesley, the coming of Christ means that we can be changed,” Watson wrote. “We no longer stand in guilt before God, and we are no longer compelled to sin by the power of original sin. We have peace, happiness, and an abundance of divine goodwill and favor.”

            By the end of Charles Schultz’s story, Charlie Brown was closer to those gifts of God.

         

C.S. Lewis

  
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

            Another Brit, writer and professor C.S. Lewis, would have said “amen” to Lucy’s declaration, “Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket.”

            Lewis was no less blunt when in 1957 he wrote in “What Christmas Means To Me:”

            “Can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers?” In fact, Lewis even called it a “commercial racket” eight years before Lucy did. “The idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers,” Lewis wrote.

            Jennifer Graham and Lois Collins listed in the Deseret News several of Lewis’ comments about Christmas, including that he thought it “important and obligatory” but that in a letter, he said, “I send no cards and give no presents except to children.” In another letter, he wrote to friends, “Is it still possible amid this ghastly racket of ‘Xmas’ to exchange greetings for the Feast of the Nativity? If so, mine, very warm, to both of you.”

            In a 1954 essay, “Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus,” Lewis created a fictional country that celebrated two festivals: Exmas, involving excessive gift-giving, and Crissmas, a quiet observance of the birth of a child.

             Of course, Lewis wrote eloquently and sometimes wittily about the meaning of Christmas. In “Mere Christianity”: “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God,” and “The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.”

In “Miracles”: “The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. They say that God became Man. Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this.”

In an interview, Lewis said, “The birth of Christ is the central event in the history of earth – the very thing the whole story has been about.”

And showing his wit again, he wrote in a letter, “My brother (Warren Lewis) heard of a woman on a bus say, as the bus passed a church with a crib outside it … ‘They bring religion into everything. Look, they’re dragging it even into Christmas now.’”

         

Billy Graham

  
Billy Graham (1918-2018)

            American evangelist Billy Graham echoed both Wesley and Lewis. In sermons and books, he pointed out the secularization and commercialization of Christmas, and like Wesley, he believed that the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ birth was to change people.

            “That baby who was born to Mary was more than just another man – He was God in human flesh,” Graham said. “He came into the world for one reason: to make it possible for our sins to be forgiven so we could become part of God’s family forever.”

            He preached, “He loves you and wants to transform your life.”

            Another Graham message certainly is fitting in 2020: “This Christmas season, when the world seems to be in turmoil – wars are breaking out in different places, crime is rampant, many things are happening that are great sins in the sight of God – but in that crib is the Person who would grow up to save us, and He did.”

            As Linus recited on stage, “For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” 




Sunday, November 22, 2020

 Nov. 22, 2020, column:

Mayflower Compact filled with statements indicating allegiance to God

By Mike Haynes

The date of Veterans Day is easy for me to remember. It’s Nov. 11, which also is when I was born. I tell people, “Yeah, they fly the flags on my birthday.”

The flags actually go up that day because World War I ended on Nov. 11, 1918. It also is the date my great-grandparents got married in a field near Willow, Oklahoma, in 1903, according to the family story.

                Years and dates we were taught in school tend to stay in my memory, too, such as 1066, 1215; 1620; 1776; 1836; Dec. 7, 1941; and June 6, 1944; and some in our experience, including Nov. 22, 1963, and Sept. 11, 2001.

                But about that year 1620: Of course I knew that’s when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. Until a few months ago, though, I had no idea it was on Nov. 11.


                I learned that from an email ad promoting the sale of a facsimile Bible. To mark the 400th anniversary of those Mayflower travelers landing in America, a company is selling exact copies of the 1560 Geneva Bible.

For many, the best guess of what Bible version the English Separatists carried with them on the ship would be the King James Bible, first printed in 1611. And while the Mayflower’s captain probably had a copy of the Church of England’s King James Version, historians agree that the Bible used by those Puritans seeking religious freedom was the Geneva, an English Bible first printed in Switzerland because it wasn’t approved by the king of England.

                 The 1560 first edition being sold in facsimile form may not have been the edition read on the Mayflower, but almost certainly, those believers were reading some edition of the Geneva. It was the most popular Bible version in England at the time and the one most quoted by Shakespeare.

                The main objection King James I and the Church of England had to the Geneva Bible was its plentiful marginal notes, which were slanted toward the Puritan point of view and showed negativity toward the monarchy.

 


               Fleeing James’ unfriendly government, they had left England for the Netherlands in 1608, the same time that translation committees were working on the KJV. Eventually they decided they would be more comfortable in the New World, negotiated with a London stock company to finance the journey and sailed on the Mayflower.

                Only 35 of the 102 colonists on the ship were members of the English Separatist Church, which Encyclopaedia Britannica calls “a radical faction of Puritanism.” Most of the others were connected to the firm that paid for the trip.

                The first settlers were called “Old Comers” and later “the Forefathers,” says Britannica. The colony’s governor, William Bradford, referred to the “saints” who had left the Netherlands as “pilgrimes,” and the term wasn’t commonly used until Daniel Webster used the phrase “Pilgrim Fathers” in an 1820 speech.

                Whatever we call them, before leaving the ship on Nov. 11, 1620, 41 male passengers signed a 200-word document later called the Mayflower Compact, which set out a plan for a government, laws and regulations of the colony.

                The Geneva Bible facsimile sold by the Bible Museum Inc. at greatsite.com includes a photographic reproduction of Bradford’s handwritten copy of the Mayflower Compact showing its 41 signatures. The agreement is filled with statements indicating allegiance to God – it begins “In the name of God Amen” – and even shows deference to the king – it ends by referring to “our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland.” It was a historic beginning. But reality fell short of the Separatists’ vision.


            Bradford's dream of a large community of sincere Protestant Christian Separatist Pilgrims creating a New Zion in the New World never really came to pass during his lifetime,” writes the Bible Museum Inc. “Bradford notes with disappointment that the newly arriving settlers were mostly adventurers seeking their fortune in the New World, and only a minority of them were Christians seeking to worship God freely.

“Nevertheless, the following generations of American settlers did establish a community of thriving Christians who were at last out from under the fist of England's kings and the government's Anglican Church.”

The pilgrims’ preference for the Geneva Bible certainly meshed with the early American ideal of protection of the church from the state.

                About that date: Bradford’s handwriting on the Compact does say “11 of November.” And “Nov. 11, 1620,” is printed on the cover of the new facsimile Geneva Bible. But that was under the Old Style calendar. Using our modern calendar, the signing was on Nov. 21, meaning yesterday was the 400th anniversary.

                But I’m sticking with Nov. 11.

(By the way, the Bible Museum Inc. that's mentioned is not the Museum of the Bible that Kathy and I have visited in Washington, D.C. They're two different organizations.)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

 Oct. 25, 2020, column:

Prayer March 2020 a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Amarillo couple

By Mike Haynes

                A man sitting in front of Chris and Kelly Caldwell as they flew back from Washington, D.C., to Amarillo Sept. 28 had on a familiar mask. They recognized it from the free packet they had received in the mail before attending the Sept. 26 Washington Prayer March 2020.

                Kelly asked their fellow passenger whether he had attended the Franklin Graham-organized event on the National Mall.

                “That made him almost light up,” she recalled. “It made us friends instantly. We had the same goal in mind. You could tell if someone would take off work and spend that money to go, that they love our country and they love God even beyond the country.”

 

Kelly and Chris Caldwell at the
Washington Prayer March
on Sept. 26, 2020



               Their new friend was a truck driver from Lubbock. “This is typical of the kind of people who went to the event,” Chris said. “He went by himself, and he had just the best time, he said, and he just really wanted to be there to pray with everybody.”

                The march attracted between 55,000 and 60,000 people who walked from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol, stopping at seven stations to address various topics in prayer – similar to the practice at Amarillo’s annual prayer breakfast. For example, at the Lincoln Memorial, the prayer focus was “Humbling ourselves, repentance and healing of our land.” At the National Museum of African American History and Culture, it was “National reconciliation.” At the World War II Memorial, the focus was “Military, police and law enforcement and their families – and peace in our nation.” And at the Capitol, it was “Congress and other leaders at all levels across America, Supreme Court, judges.”

                Those attending had been asked not to display political messages or show support for one candidate or party. “Franklin Graham said over and over that this is not political,” Chris said. “But of course, since we were praying about our country, there were political issues.”

                Politics had to be on many minds when, as the event was starting, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, strolled onto the stage at the Lincoln Memorial. “That wasn’t even a planned thing,” Kelly said. “He just showed up, and of course they let him. They were thrilled.”


Pence spoke for a few minutes, urging those present – and an estimated 3.8 million watching online – to “pray with confidence.” He said George Washington often had prayed for leaders and the states with “an earnest prayer,” and that Abraham Lincoln had been driven to his knees in prayer.

                “When the president and I travel around the country,” Pence said, “the sweetest words we ever hear, and we hear them a lot, is when people reach out and simply say, ‘I’m praying for you.’”

                Among many well-known faces were former Major League Baseball star Darryl Strawberry and Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At Stop 5 at the African American History and Culture museum, Strawberry prayed for compassion, kindness and racial reconciliation. King, director of Civil Rights for the Unborn, prayed, “We have sinned and misunderstood or just on purpose thought that we were separate races. We are one human race. Acts 17:26 says, ‘one blood.’ … We are not color blind … We’re going to recognize ethnicity and all the beauty that you gave us, Lord.”

                Franklin Graham’s son, Edward, prayed for first responders: “Lord, an ugliness, a great sin and a lie has turned toward them. Lord, we ask for your hand of protection.”

                Country music star John Rich, an Amarillo native and writer of the song, “Earth to God,” took his two young sons to the march and was interviewed afterward. “I think throughout our country, there is an effort to desensitize our kids to the fact that God is real – and the fact of how great our country is and the fact that our country allows us to worship him like we want to,” Rich said. “And I wanted them to come to something like this prayer march to see tens of thousands of their fellow Americans praying for their country.”


                Along the 1.8-mile route, the Caldwells prayed out loud with each other. But Kelly said one magical moment happened near the beginning, when Graham asked everyone to pray out loud.

                “You’re talking close to 60,000 people,” Kelly said. “To hear what that sounded like – there’s not words to describe it. It was almost like a magical melody, just so cool to hear. And it made us both just cry, it was such a beautiful thing, and I told Chris: If it touched us and made us cry like that, just imagine what that sounded like to God.”

                “It just really felt like heaven,” Chris said, “because there were so many different kinds of people everywhere.” “And everybody was just happy, and they would smile and wave at you, and it was almost like a family reunion,” Kelly said. “We were all like-minded – different faiths, different representation, but we were all there for one reason, to pray for our country, and we were all united as one body in Christ.”

                The Caldwells, both involved in ministry, viewed attending the half-day event as once-in-a-lifetime.

                “I had just noticed a lot of things in the news that were troubling,” said Chris, a BSA Health System chaplain. “I had talked to Kelly about it and prayed about it. So when the prayer march opportunity came out, Kelly suggested that we go.”

                Kelly, assistant to the senior pastor and office administrator at Trinity Baptist Church, said she had seen Graham promoting the event online. “He said, ‘Folks, our country’s in trouble, and the only person who can fix it is God. We are in need of everyone who believes to come together in unity and pray.’ And that just really convicted me.

                “For me, it was just getting to be with my husband in a setting that was just, like he says, you think that’s what heaven is going to be like.”

                Because of the virus pandemic, much of Washington was shut down that weekend. “We were surprised there were that many people who came,” Chris said. “People just felt like it was that important.

                “We just think it’s one of these events that keeps on blessing people.”

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Mike Haynes taught journalism at Amarillo College from 1991 to 2016. He can be reached at haynescolumn@gmail.com. Videos and stories from Washington Prayer March 2020 can be found at prayermarch2020.com.