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.”

* * *

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


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sept. 27, 2020, column:

A fan of the man, not the character he plays

By Mike Haynes
            I never was a fan of Alice Cooper.
            I am now.
            The “Godfather of Shock Rock” personified a gory Halloween starting in the late 1960s with his dark, shaggy, shoulder-length hair, black-circled eyes and leather outfits with skulls on the buttons. Peaking in the mid-1970s, his concerts featured headless baby dolls, a guillotine and fake blood. The pythons he caressed on stage weren’t the “Monty” kind.
Alice Cooper

            Alice Cooper’s lyrics included, “I’ll bite your face off,” and “Love hurts good on a bed of nails.”
            No, none of that appealed to me. These days, I do recognize songs such as “School’s Out” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” but until looking them up, I couldn’t have told you who sang them.
            The past couple of decades, what I knew about Alice Cooper was that he lived in Arizona and played golf.
            Then a friend told me about his interview with California evangelical preacher Greg Laurie. That’s what made me a fan of the real man, not the character he plays. (
            Around the beginning of 1964, 15-year-old Vincent Furnier was listening to the radio while painting a house in Phoenix. “It was always the Beach Boys, the Four Seasons, Motown,” he told Laurie last year. “And all of a sudden I heard, ‘She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah,’ and I went, ‘What?’ About an hour later I heard, ‘I want to hold your hand…’ and I went, ‘What?’ There were four songs that I heard. And I went, ‘Who are these guys?’
            Like many musicians of his generation, the Beatles had ignited a fire in Furnier, who recruited follow cross country runners and others to form a band. Then he saw the energy and wildness of Pete Townsend and the Who and decided to go a step further with theatrics to back up the music.
Alice Cooper, left, and Greg Laurie

After playing as the Earwigs and the Spiders, the young band members picked “Alice Cooper” as their name. Furnier wanted something like “Betty Crocker” that was the opposite of their untamed stage antics. At the time, he thought, “It’s going to irritate every parent in America.”
            Alice Cooper eventually became Furnier’s own legal name, and by the time “School’s Out” was a Top 10 hit in 1972, the band had made it big – and Furnier, now Alice Cooper, had started a slide into drug and alcohol addiction.
            But a backup dancer in the show, Sheryl Goddard, married Alice in 1976 and helped steer him to sobriety – and back to church.
            Both were PKs – preacher’s kids – and Alice now compares his rebellious years to the Prodigal Son. After he threw his drugs away, he said, “I’m done,” and Sheryl replied, “Prove it.” They started attending a Baptist church in Phoenix.
            “A lot of people say, ‘I came to Christ because of my love of Jesus,’ Alice told Greg Laurie. “I came to Christ because of my fear of God. I totally understood that hell was not getting high with Jim Morrison. Hell was going to be the worst place ever.
“In fear, I came back to the Lord. But I went to another church, and that pastor preached the love of Christ. And you put the two together, and it was exactly right.”
            Alice wondered whether he should drop his macabre stage act, but his pastor told him God may have made him Alice Cooper. “He said, ‘He put you in the exact camp of the Philistines, and you were basically the leader. So now, what if you’re Alice Cooper, but what if you’re now following Christ? And you’re a rock star, but you don’t live the rock star life? Your lifestyle is now your testimony.’”
            The restored Christian did remain Alice Cooper but with a more tongue-in-cheek, humorous slant. His new songs began pointing to Christ with lyrics such as “Mercy please, I’m on my knees, You’re my temptation, Go way in Heaven’s name,” and “What about peace, What about love, What about faith in God above.”
            And Alice started a teen center in Phoenix called Solid Rock. It offers 12- to 20-year-olds free music lessons, and more important, a place to go.
Pastor Greg Laurie, left, interviews Alice Cooper at the Solid Rock
youth center in Phoenix. (Photos from Greg Laurie YouTube channel) 

“It’s an alternative to what’s on the street,” he said. “I watched a couple of 16-year-old kids do a drug deal on the corner, and I went, ‘How does that kid not know he might be a great guitar player? Or that the other kid might be a drummer? And it just struck me right then: Why don’t we open that, give them that alternative to go there?”
            Solid Rock has a spiritual foundation, starting with Alice and his partners. “We’re all Christian guys, and the Lord told us to do it,” he said. “So we just obeyed; that’s all.”
            Alice Cooper still tours occasionally, but he spends more time on the golf course – six days a week, in fact. The Arizona resident told Laurie that hitting a great golf shot is the same as the high of heroin. “Golf is like the crack of sports,” he said.
            But he said his top priority is God. “If you were going to put what’s important in my life, Alice Cooper would be somewhere around fifth or sixth place,” he said. “Your relationship with God, relationship with your wife, certainly, your kids, and now, Solid Rock is a very big part of my life.
            “If you become a Christian, what you’re saying is, ‘I’m not God anymore.’ Everybody wants to be God. A lot of guys think, ‘Oh, just another religion.’ And the last thing you want is religion in your life. What you want is Christ in your life.”
            Alice chuckled when he mentioned a Christian TV show: “They used to tear my albums up on ‘The 700 Club.’ They’d say, ‘This is the worst person …’ – and now, he’s an agent for Christ. What a miracle that is. And I’m still Alice Cooper. I’m still playing this dark character, but he’s an agent of Christ. Very weird.”  
* * *
Mike Haynes taught journalism at Amarillo College from 1991 to 2016. He can be reached at Go to for other recent columns.

Monday, August 31, 2020

 Aug. 30, 2020, column:

Mission of Promise Keepers stems from the Bible

By Mike Haynes

            One reason Promise Keepers inspired me in the 1990s was the unity it brought to men of multiple Christian denominations, varied backgrounds and different races.

            Back then, the national parachurch organization started by University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney drew media attention in part because of the enormous crowds that packed arenas and football stadiums across the country.

            And who would have predicted that hundreds of thousands – some confidently said a million – men would converge on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1997 for the purpose of honoring Jesus Christ and urging men to follow him?

            Like many movements – and it was a strong movement for several years – PK slowed down and ran into financial troubles. Some observers claimed it lost momentum because it focused too much on racial reconciliation. From the beginning, its lineup of speakers included many African-Americans, such as E.V. Hill and Tony Evans. And African-American churches were well-represented in the several PK events I attended, from Amarillo’s Cal Farley Coliseum to that 1997 “Stand in the Gap” gathering in D.C.


Tony Evans is an author and pastor of Oak Cliff Bible
Fellowship in Dallas and founder of the Urban
Alternative ministry. (Promise Keepers photo)

           But Ken Harrison, PK’s unpaid CEO since 2018, told Christianity Today magazine last month he disagrees that a focus on racial unity contributed to PK’s decline. And even in 1998, local PK leader Greg Canada told me that although the group supported the Amarillo Area Racial Reconciliation Ministries, the PK focus was broader.

“We do not look at it as a black and white issue,” Canada said in my column that March. “We look at it as a sin issue, and that’s not unique to any one race or culture or denomination.”

PK certainly had an impact in this region. It was the impetus for my wife’s longtime friend, Bob, becoming an active Christian. Men’s accountability groups sprang up all over. Ken Plunk of Paramount Terrace (now Hillside) Christian Church arranged for 173 men from various congregations to fly to the D.C. event in a Boeing 727 and estimated then that 500 to 700 area men would make it to the Mall.

And so early in 2020, the slogans of the reinvigorated PK were “building on the Past to Redefine the Future” and “A Movement Reignited to Reach the Next Generation.” The big 2020 event was scheduled for July 31-Aug. 1, when 80,000 men were expected to converge on Arlington’s AT&T Stadium.

Because of COVID-19, PK had to move its first mass assembly online and postpone the stadium gathering to July 16-17, 2021. Harrison said 500 churches hosted simulcasts of the free online event a month ago and that it was seen in at least 65 countries. Speakers and musicians included former Dallas Cowboys Charles Haley and Chad Hennings, Luis and Andrew Palau, Steve Arterburn, Jimmy Evans of Amarillo and Dallas, Michael W. Smith, Jonathan Evans and Tony Evans.

Jonathan Evans, son of Tony and chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys, started the virtual messages with a rap-like performance: ““The gospel of Jesus Christ is certainly for real men … It’s for men who are willing to stand firm like Daniel did in his lion’s den … Come on, man, you’ve got an ‘S’ on your chest. Convey it. Display it. It’s time for men to soar with the gospel. Obey it. And be a real man, because the gospel is some real tough stuff. … The culture’s being slain by sin and has the audacity to look down on us.”

His father followed with a more traditional talk that alluded to the current social struggles but focused on the need for individual men to serve God. Tony Evans compared Christians to NFL football officials who don’t take sides in the game but make calls on the field based on the rulebook – “not based on how they feel or what they want, not even based on what the crowd thinks.

“They know sometimes they’re going to be cheered; they know sometimes they’re going to be booed. But that’s irrelevant, because they’re there to rule by the book, on the field, in the middle of the chaos.

“You and I are in a chaotic world today. We’re in racial chaos, social chaos, political chaos, class chaos, policing and community chaos. But God is looking for a group of men, his officiating crew, who will be in the mess but not a part of the mess, who will bring the response of the kingdom up there to the chaos down here.”

“It’s not because there’s wickedness out there,” Evans said, then pointed to his heart. “It’s because there’s weakness in here.”

The longtime Dallas pastor said many young people have no ethical compass, which should be provided by fathers rather than by the culture. Quoting Psalm 89:14, he said our foundation should be righteousness and justice but that today’s culture often stresses one or the other.

“Your children need to know to judge people justly by the content of their character, not the color of their skin,” Evans said. “They need to know righteous standards of moral integrity, and Daddy is to teach them both. If we would ever get the men to take this responsibility, then we could quell the chaos and confusion in the culture.

“This is not a time for delay, because the hour is too late. If this keeps going like it’s going, you will not have a country worth living in.”

Promise Keepers won’t solve society’s problems by itself. But its mission is simply that of the Bible, and if let loose, that’s a powerful force.

Monday, August 17, 2020

 Aug. 2, 2020, column:

Beatles' 'peace and love' truly found in Jesus

By Mike Haynes
            On July 7 this year, Ringo Starr hosted an online music show to highlight his 80th birthday.
            (I’ll give my fellow baby-boomers a few seconds here to get over the fact that one of the Beatles has turned 80. OK, while we’re at it, know that Paul McCartney is 78, John Lennon would have been 79 and the baby, George Harrison, would have been 77 this year.)
            Paul and Ringo, the surviving Fab Two, still are going strong as solo performers, and during Ringo’s birthday celebration, he flashed the “Peace” hand sign and ended the show saying his now-trademark, “Peace and Love.”
Former Beatle Ringo Starr gives the peace sign to go along
with his "Peace and Love" mantra as he prepared to
celebrate his 80th birthday last month.

            I couldn’t help thinking of Ringo when I heard the July 19 sermon by one of our pastors. Discussing Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit to believers, he quoted John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
            The pastor continued, and I’m paraphrasing, that in our chaotic 2020 world and throughout history, people have sought peace but often don’t look for it in the person who IS peace: Jesus Christ, who is God and the Prince of Peace.
            My thoughts jumped to the Bible’s statements that not only is God peace, but God is love, too. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (I John 4:8) “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (I John 4:16)
             Peace and love. Those are wonderful concepts to strive for. And I wonder exactly what Ringo means when he repeats the words and asks people to say them at noon every year on his birthday.
            I like Ringo. He seems to have been the Beatle who was most agreeable most of the time when the others were squabbling. And I’m sure he sincerely wants peace in the world and wants love to spread.
            I’m not sure, though, whether true peace and love can take root without the spirit who created them in the first place.
            Our pastor pointed out that often, people try to maneuver their surroundings to produce peace in society, hoping that in turn, individuals will have peace within. He said that’s backward. The biblical model is that peace within a person will radiate out to create peace in that person’s environment. And that idea involves the Holy Spirit.
            The pastor said that to have peace within, a person has to invite Jesus into his or her heart, which is the equivalent of having the Holy Spirit inside. That Christian definition of peace is appealing, especially this year when it seems no one can gain control of the division and hatred that spiral around us.
            I would be stretching it to say the Beatles’ music is Christian, but much of it expresses a yearning for something better – a yearning that writer C.S. Lewis believed was hard-wired into all of us by the creator of the universe. Lewis said the only true attainment of our deepest desires, of which peace and love are among the most important, is in another world, the one where Jesus promised he has prepared a place for us.
            George Harrison was influenced by Eastern religions, but his song, “Within You Without You” reflects what our pastor said about the Holy Spirit. His “My Sweet Lord” has been used in Christian contexts. Paul McCartney sang for “Peace in the Neighborhood.” Some of the Beatles’ most familiar music prods us toward compassion. “The love you take is equal to the love you make” is another way of stating the Golden Rule.
            Another pastor, my cousin, says “All You Need Is Love” pretty well sums up his preaching during the past 25 years.
             I haven’t heard Ringo expand on the meaning of his “Peace and Love” mantra, but I appreciate his intentions. And I don’t know what would happen to our world if Christians everywhere let peace surge from their hearts.
            But let’s give it a chance.

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.