Sunday, September 01, 2019

Sept. 1, 2019, column:
Saying goodbye bittersweet with thoughts that all pets go to heaven
By Mike Haynes
            Driving an hour and a half to Spearman to pick up a puppy isn’t something I ever had pictured myself doing.
            I had grown up with outdoor ranch dogs who rarely went in the house. When Kathy and I got married, she had a gray Pekingese named Hannah – an indoor dog. If I wanted Kathy, I had to take the package deal.
            I got used to our slightly aloof pet and after 13 years of marriage, I was sad when she died in November 2004. But I wanted to wait awhile before getting another one. Then Kathy started looking at puppy pictures online, and I realized I needed to change my thinking.
            I found a little Pekingese, white with tan patches, on the internet, made a deal for her and
Abbey three days after
we got her in 2004.
printed a picture that I gave Kathy early for Christmas. She said it was the best gift I’d ever given her. We left on Christmas Eve morning to go meet her.
            We separately thought of the name, Abbey. That November, we had been in Ireland when Hannah had died. We had visited Kylemore Abbey in Ireland, and we also are ardent Beatles fans and have walked across Abbey Road, so Abbey’s name was pretty well set.
            We met a man in Spearman who had brought Abbey, about 10 weeks old, from her birthplace in Oklahoma. Once we had her, Abbey became our girl.
            We took her to obedience school, where she learned to walk with us and that’s about all. She did pretty well with potty-training, going in the back yard. She never was a chewer.
            Through the years, we pretty much became known as Kathy, Mike and Abbey, although I had to compete with the little white dog for Kathy’s affection. She stayed with Kathy’s mom, Peggy, during our vacations and barked and squealed when we came home, especially when she saw Kathy.
            She was more affectionate than most Pekingese, sitting on the couch with Kathy and actually watching TV at times. She slept in our bed until she had back surgery and then her leg bones started deteriorating. We couldn’t risk her jumping off the bed, so she got her own bed next to ours. She lost the lens of one eye in a scuffle with another dog, so she got eyedrops every day.
            I made monthly trips to our vet’s office for Abbey to get allergy shots. She would get tired of whatever we were feeding her, so we made several changes over the years, and I bought a lot of sliced turkey that we used for sandwiches and to supplement Abbey’s supper.
            Those bones started making it hard for her to walk, but she managed. She started bumping into walls, and we figured she was losing her sight. She couldn’t race through the house like she used to, but occasionally she got energetic and gave it a go. Seizures that had started a few years ago became more frequent.

Abbey after a trip to the groomer
in November 2018.
           Last month, we noticed that her breathing was labored. Our kindhearted vet, who knew Abbey well, said it could be a tumor pressing on her lungs. Her weight was down from 11 to seven pounds. We had to make a tough decision.
            I knew I wouldn’t like Abbey being gone, but it hit me harder than I expected. Kathy and I both cried. For the first time, I wondered seriously whether pets go to heaven. The Bible doesn’t say.
            I read Billy Graham’s opinion: “Heaven will be a place of perfect happiness for us – and if we need animals around us to make our happiness complete, then you can be sure God will have them there.”
            In his book, “The Great Divorce,” C.S. Lewis described a fictional woman who on Earth had loved both people and animals. He portrayed her in heaven taking care of the same animals she had on Earth.
            John Wesley preached a sermon contending that because animals suffered from the fall of man in Genesis, they, like us, will be restored to paradise when all are resurrected.
            And that guy who never met a man he didn’t like, Will Rogers, said, “If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
Randy Alcorn, author of the 516-page book, “Heaven,” devotes two chapters to the afterlife of animals and pets. He focuses on the biblically supported premise that there is a temporary heaven but that after Christ returns, eternity will bring the New Earth, similar to the current Earth but much better.
Among many scriptures, he quotes Revelation 21:5: “Behold, I am making all things new.” “It’s not just people who will be renewed but also the Earth and ‘all things’ in it,” Alcorn writes.
            He sees no reason to doubt that our animals will be part of that restored Earth just as we will. “…The question of whether  pets will be in Heaven is not, as some assume, stupid,” he writes. “Animals aren’t nearly as valuable as people, but God is their Maker and has touched many people’s lives through them. It would be simple for him to re-create a pet in Heaven if he wants to. …
            “If it would please us to have a pet restored to the New Earth, that may be sufficient reason.”
            Kathy’s grief at Abbey’s passing was no surprise, but my own reaction took me aback. As we touched our pet’s paw for the last time, on a veterinarian’s table with Peggy behind us, I said, “Bye, Abbey,” as I had for 15 years every time I left the house. Kathy said, “Goodbye, sweet girl.” I couldn’t resist adding, “Good girl, Abbey.”

Sunday, August 04, 2019

In August 2019 issue of Upbeat Reporter (available free at Toot 'n Totums and at Amarillo and Canyon United Supermarkets). This column is different from the one about Israel published in the Amarillo Globe-News.
Walking where our faith was born

By Mike Haynes
The Islamic Dome of the Rock dominates the Temple Mount
in the Old City of Jerusalem. The golden dome is believed
to be on the site of the Jewish temple destroyed
by the Romans in 70 A.D. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
            When I pray, I often thank God that Jesus came 2,000 years ago to teach us how to live and to save us from sin. I also offer thanks that even though Jesus no longer is on this Earth in bodily form, he still is with us in at least three ways: through God’s Word, the Bible; through Christ’s body, the church; and through the Holy Spirit.
            My wife, Kathy, and I were blessed this year to be able to visit the land where Jesus lived, died and rose, and it struck me that this small country – the size of the Texas Panhandle – is where all three of those manifestations of God’s presence were born.
Visiting Israel can provide new perspectives. Just standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee is an emotional experience, because you know Jesus and his disciples were at or near the same spot, and when you read scripture such as Matthew 1:16, you know what it looked like when Christ
summoned Simon Peter and Andrew as they cast nets near that rocky shore.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include the oldest known copies
of the Hebrew Bible, were discovered in caves in the Qumran
area of Israel. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
Looking up at the lofty, green hills at Tiberias or standing in the deep Jerusalem valley between the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount help you visualize the rugged terrain Jesus and his followers had to deal with as they walked between those locations whose names are so familiar to Bible readers.
And it’s remarkable to think that God’s Word took physical form in that place. From Moses to Matthew to Paul, scripture was created or first circulated in the lush hills of Galilee to the desert of the Dead Sea.
Our group of 75, most from Washington Avenue or Hillside Christian churches in Amarillo, saw some of the caves near the salty Dead Sea where the oldest known copies of Hebrew scripture were found by a shepherd boy in 1947.
Looking for a lost goat, a Bedouin boy stumbled upon clay jars that contained leather scrolls in a cave of the barren Qumran mountains. About 1,100 more documents, some made of papyrus and a few of copper, and 100,000 fragments from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D. eventually were found in 10 more caves. The most impressive is a 24-foot scroll that contains the entire book of Isaiah. Its text is virtually identical to the previous oldest copy of Isaiah, from 980 A.D., proving the reliability of scripture through the centuries.
Visitors from Amarillo take in the scene
at the Tabhga shore on the Sea of Galilee.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
Kathy and I also visited the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem, where the Isaiah document and other Dead Sea Scrolls are stored. Seeing such physical evidence brings thoughts of the care and sacrifice that God’s followers have given through the millennia to pass the message from generation to generation – copied by hand, then printed and now transmitted digitally.
And those words first were recorded in this small country on the Mediterranean Sea.
A tour of Israel takes you to scores of sites where Jesus’ first followers lived, walked, fished and preached. It’s easy to picture the charismatic son of Joseph and Mary standing near the top of a grass-covered hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee with thousands of people taking in the words that we call the Sermon on the Mount. Tour guides point out a location where the acoustics are perfect for Jesus to have declared, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
Archeologists have uncovered a house in Capernaum, also near the Sea of Galilee’s shore, that most agree was the residence of the apostle Peter and where Jesus stayed after he made Capernaum his base of operations. A modern church has been built over the site, but it is suspended over the ancient stone-and-mortar ruins so that this house, turned into a church after Jesus’ time, still can be seen and studied.
The original Christ-followers – later to become the church – lived in that spot and worshipped
Tourists from Amarillo view the remains of a first-century house
and church at Capernaum, next to the Sea of Galilee. The house is
believed to have been the residence of the apostle Peter and a location
where Jesus spent time. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
at the synagogue a stone’s throw away. And many consider Jerusalem, 120 miles south, to be the site where Christ’s church officially began (Acts 2).
The church exploded from Israel to its current worldwide count of 2.3 billion, according to the Pew Research Center.
The event that Luke recorded in Acts 2 was the coming of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had predicted. The disciples heard a sound like a violent wind, saw “tongues of fire” resting on each of them and spoke in languages that foreign visitors could understand.
God had sent the Holy Spirit to be with his people after Jesus was resurrected to heaven. And as miraculous as that day was, it happened in a physical place on the same Earth where we live, in the city of Jerusalem, which we can visit and where we can see some of the stones and stairs and building foundations – and the same steep hills and deep valleys – that were there on that historic occasion.
Tour groups, including one from the Texas Panhandle, join
together to sing a hymn in St. Anne’s Church in Jerusalem.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
Our group from Texas sensed the Holy Spirit in St. Anne’s Church, built in the 1100s a few feet from Jerusalem’s Pool of Bethesda. Sharing space with other tour groups – from various countries, like those present on Pentecost – one group began singing “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus” in English. We joined in, as did other groups, and the voices sounded angelic in the perfect acoustics in front of the altar.
I’m thankful that we got to see the oldest example of God’s Word that scholars know about, walk where the first believers walked and feel the same Spirit that first descended from heaven to the Holy Land.
You don’t have to visit Israel or see physical proof of the locations, people and events described in the Old and New Testaments. But when you do, it can add a dimension to your Bible study, to your understanding and even to your prayers.
And it can be a reminder that Christianity is based not on fanciful stories or on farfetched mythology but on events that happened to real people in real time in a real place.


Aug. 4, 2019, column:
What if no one had heard of Jesus until now?

By Mike Haynes
            When Jack Malik quietly sings one of the Beatles’ masterful ballads at a picnic table on an English beach, his friends stare at him and his guitar, mesmerized. As he finishes with “Now I long for yesterday,” his longtime mate Ellie can say only, “Oh, my.”
            It’s the first time any of Jack’s listeners have heard the song, and they assume he wrote it.

            The scene summarizes the premise of this summer’s film, “Yesterday,” in which the world has experienced a global blackout at the exact moment Jack is hit by a bus. Out of the hospital, he soon discovers that he apparently is the only person on Earth who has heard of the Beatles.
            When he reminds his friends that Paul McCartney wrote “Yesterday,” one replies, “Who?” Jack goes home to Google “Beatles,” and a picture of a creepy-crawly beetle pops up. He searches for “John Paul George Ringo,” and he gets a photo of Pope John Paul II.
            It’s the movies, so if you suspend belief and go with the science fiction/magical plot, you can have a fun time seeing how people react joyfully to the explosion of “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” which they think is Jack’s new music.
            The story is a “supposal,” a term C.S. Lewis used for his “Chronicles of Narnia.” What if something similar to Christianity happened in a land called Narnia?
What if a struggling musician claimed the Beatles’ music as his own and everyone believed him?
            And what if no one had heard of Jesus until now?
            Seeing the excitement on people’s faces as they first hear “Help!” or “I Saw Her Standing There” must pale compared to the joy and exhilaration of Galileans when they witnessed Jesus’ first miracle or those in Jerusalem when the Messiah rode into the city on a donkey. Or even more mind-boggling, when the disciples saw and touched the man they had seen die on a cross – alive after three days.
            Two thousand years later, we too often take for granted who Jesus is and what he has done.
Yes, many are elated when they first see the light of salvation, but then we sometimes become too laidback and apathetic about the greatest news in history.
            What if the Christian message had not been passed down from generation to generation? What if we had never heard of the Bible? If suddenly, this Jesus showed up with his message of love and hope, if we heard his Sermon on the Mount for the first time, would we be amazed? Maybe.
            The Spirit of God does still inhabit Christians and does inspire us to do great and loving things. But we humans don’t always let the Lord lead. We forget how energizing Jesus was in the first century and how he can be today if we let him.
            Whether we hear about Jesus for the first time or we’ve grown up in church, we do need to be sure we get the message right. In the “Yesterday” movie, Jack is recording his supposedly new song, “Hey Jude.” His pop music benefactor, Ed Sheeran, suggests that a better title would be “Hey Dude.”
            No, that wouldn’t do.
Someone unwittingly messing with the Beatles’ words is funny, but distorting God’s Word would be serious business. We’re blessed that we don’t have to guess. Scripture hasn’t been erased by a global outage. We have it in writing.  
            Like the first, lone, chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” spurs musical anticipation, it would be nice if hearing Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) would fire us up to spread the Good News today, tomorrow and beyond.
                                                                * * *
            Mike Haynes taught journalism at Amarillo College from 1991 to 2016. He can be reached at haynescolumn@gmail.com. Go to www.haynescolumn.blogspot.com for other recent columns.


Sunday, July 07, 2019

July 7, 2019, column:
Rodeo ministry helps develop good character in the arena of life
By Mike Haynes

            Fourteen young people, half male and half female, stood in a semi-circle, their feet in the deep dirt of a rodeo arena. All their eyes were on a man in a black western hat, black vest and blue jeans.
            Three other men wearing similar hats stood nearby under the bright lights of the indoor facility.
            The young group, most of them members of the Clarendon College rodeo team or the ranch horse program, all were bareheaded, and they tended to have on shorts and T-shirts instead of their normal Levi’s and button-down shirts.
            They were about to get wet in a small, metal stock tank.
Fourteen young people connected to the Clarendon College rodeo team listen
as the Rev. Thacker Haynes of McLean explains the significance of baptism
before they experience it April 30 at the college Livestock and Equine Center arena.
(Photo by Bobbi Stalls)
            A few had attended high school in the Texas Panhandle, and more had been recruited to Clarendon by Bret Franks, director of the rodeo and ranch horse programs, from as far away as Iowa and Alabama.
            Their paths to these baptisms on April 30 had started with attraction to a quality rodeo program, from a years-long Christian ministry and from a tragedy involving one of their friends and teammates.
            Two years ago, a potential student and his parents visited the college. “They said they wanted to come on a Tuesday night, because that’s when we have church,” said the Rev. Thacker Haynes, the guy in the black hat and vest who from the beginning has helped coordinate a ministry that now feeds about 75 people with a hot meal and the Good News of Jesus weekly during the school year.
            Haynes (this writer’s cousin) is pastor of the Methodist churches in McLean and Heald. He said 85% of those congregations’ members participate in the rodeo ministry or a multi-church youth ministry, mostly on cooking teams. Also involved in the eight food teams are One Way Church in McLean and the Methodist church in Clarendon.
            “It’s home-cooked food,” Haynes said. “Hamburgers and hotdogs but also sausage-potato casserole, enchiladas and banana pudding.” Bobbi Stalls keeps the meal ministry going, and her husband, Randy Stalls, helps with the evangelism.
            Almost a decade ago, the rodeo coach at the time, Cody Heck, told Randy Stalls, a McLean cattleman, he needed help getting his students on the right track as some were tempted by drugs, alcohol and partying. Stalls and Haynes came up with the weekly meetings at the rodeo-ranch facilities.
            Stalls and Haynes bring in people, primarily with ranching and rodeo backgrounds, to talk to the students about their lives and how faith in God can give them direction. They range from Cowboy Church pastors such as John Paul of Woodward, Oklahoma, to world champion roper Stran Smith of Childress and his wife, Jennifer Douglas Smith, an ESPN rodeo commentator.
            Haynes said a central theme tends to emerge each year without the speakers consulting each other. “This year it was relationships, whether with each other or with God,” he said.
            Franks said the ministry has played a major role in his programs’ success, which included Clarendon College placing third last month at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming.
            “It was the first time we’d been able to send a full team,” Franks said. 
            Riggin Smith, who Franks had recruited from Iowa, won the saddle bronc competition, and his cousin, Teagan Smith, placed third in saddle bronc. Dylan Jones finished fourth in team roping.
            That kind of success in the rodeo arena stems from developing good character in the arena of life, according to Franks, and he credits the rodeo ministry for building that foundation.
            “My role is about trying to influence these kids’ lives, make them better citizens,” he said. “A lot of them come from broken homes; their parents weren’t there. We need to face those problems first and foremost.
            “When I recruit kids and have their parents here, one of the first things I tell them is that we’re a family, just like a church. We’re together from 2 o’clock in the afternoon to dark every day, we meet together, we have fellowship on Tuesday nights. It’s more of everybody helping everybody than a lot of other places.”
            That family came even close together on March 18, when 20-year-old Dalton O’Gorman of Shamrock, Dylan Jones’s roping partner, was killed in a skid loader accident.
            “Not making light of the tragedy, but it turned into a huge blessing for most of the kids when they realized everybody was backing them,” Franks said. “When you’re a family living with each other for a couple of years, you have a lot more than most.”
            Franks said Jones also was O’Gorman’s best friend. “When Dalton passed away, every time Dylan got on a horse or picked up a rope, it brought back all the memories. He never talked about quitting, but he dang sure wanted to step away from it for a while.”
            Franks convinced Jones to compete at nationals. “That was a huge blessing in itself. It got him back on a horse, and he got to go up there and represent the school and Dalton’s legacy and memory.”
            The night of O’Gorman’s accident, “within a couple of hours, we had Thacker and Randy and John Paul and people in the community and administration here consoling those kids and praying with them. We were pretty fortunate to have that ministry in place, because it held us together.”
            The heartbreaking experience helped focus the students on life’s priorities, leading some, which included O’Gorman’s high school-age sister, to request baptism. Haynes said that before granting the request, he, Stalls and Paul asked each one, “Why?”
            “Man, they gave some good answers,” Haynes said. “And we spent a lot of time crying with them.”
            On June 6, Haynes and the Stalls couple received the Harry Denman Evangelism Award at the annual meeting in Lubbock of the Northwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. They had been nominated by the Rev. Kirk Watson, a former Clarendon pastor who assisted the rodeo ministry for three years.
            Watson wrote in his nomination form, “They are building relationships with these students on a name by name, event by event basis. They invest in the lives of these students. …
“These students get a sense that they matter to the people involved in this ministry, and through that they start to believe that they matter to Jesus.”

Sunday, June 09, 2019

June 9, 2019, column:
Memorial Day with family reminds why sacrifices are made and for whom we make them
By Mike Haynes
            Two numbers struck me this Memorial Day: three and four.
            Some say that deaths come in threes, and in World War II, that was the case for my family. While at McLean’s Hillcrest Cemetery May 27 for a Memorial Day ceremony, several of us walked over to a flat monument in the shade of a tree. It’s engraved with the names of a trio of cousins; one was killed in the air, one on land and one at sea. It’s inscribed:
            “Cpl. S.B. Morse, 1905-1943, U.S. Air Corps, England”
            “Sgt. Morse Ivey, 1918-1944, U.S. Infantry, France”
            “Jack Bogan, R.M. 1/C, 1922-1945, U.S. N.R., Pacific”
This cemetery marker for three cousins who died in World War II
was decorated for Memorial Day. S.B. Morse died in an air crash
in England, Morse Ivey on land at Normandy and Jack Bogan
in the Philippine Sea. (Photo by Mike Haynes)

            S.B. Morse died in a plane crash near Cambridge, Morse Ivey in the Normandy invasion and Jack Bogan in the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in the Philippine Sea.
            On Memorial Day, three white crosses and three American flags backed up the monument, and as we looked around the cemetery, green and adorned with the white flowers of yucca plants from recent rain, we saw scores of other crosses and flags placed by Boy Scouts.
            The account of the three cousins is a dramatic and poignant one for our family, but just about every one of the people attending the morning ceremony had an equally heart-rending story of relatives who didn’t come back from war. In a small town, every name of a soldier, sailor or airman from the community can be read aloud, and my cousin Thacker did that Monday in a “Roll Call of the Fallen.”
            Hometown graduate Ricky D. Smith, himself a U.S. Army veteran, filled in an attentive audience on the town’s participation from World War I to the recent Middle Eastern conflicts and reminded us of the loss not only of those who died but of the lives they would have lived, the children they would have raised and the ripple effect they would have had on the world.
            Emcee L.H. Webb quoted John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
The reminder, “Gentlemen, please remove your hats,” was unnecessary in the middle of cattle country, a place where reverence for presentation of the colors, the national anthem and prayer is pretty much automatic. Pastor Casey Carter cradled a sweat-stained western hat under his arm as he gave the benediction.
            The other number that struck me that day, four, represented something less weighty but reminds me of another significant part of life: family.
A family front-yard cornhole tournament on Memorial Day brought
home the meaning of what those killed in war were defending.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
            Memorial Day morphed into a small family reunion for us as 25 or so kinfolk drove out to Dad’s place for hamburgers, a snooker game and a tournament of the currently popular beanbag game, cornhole.
As we carried paper plates from the kitchen to the dining room, the big table filled up and four of the adults wound up at the smaller game table. Somebody noticed that Tex, Jenny, Ricky and I all were lefthanded.
We posed for a picture with our left hands raised, and then we were generous and let my righthanded wife, Kathy, sit with us. It was just a passing, fun moment, but the four lefties stuck in my mind as a reminder of what turned out to be a special day.
We ate birthday cake in honor of both my brother David and his wife Ginger, we watched my brother edge out our uncle Carey Don for the snooker game championship, and we spent a couple of hours in the front yard playing in or watching beanbags navigate the wind toward round holes in plywood.
I wondered what games Texas Panhandle pioneers played on similar days of recreation 100 or more years ago.
Our family gathering included the oldest, my 88-year-old dad Johnny, as competitive as ever whether handling a cue stick, a beanbag or a golf club, and 2-month-old McCrae Lee, now competing for attention with her almost 2-year-old cousin, Dallas David.
We ended the day with a short drive to the family cemetery to visit Mom, gone almost six years. Joyce would have appreciated that we took the time to come, and she would have seen that we hadn’t changed as we made jokes and my sister tossed a golf ball back and forth to one of the kids.
A less-often quoted verse, 1 John 3:16, reads, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Times at cemeteries, times at the table and times at play can remind us why sacrifices are made and for whom we make them.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May 12, 2019, column:
Book explores characters' uncertainty and disillusionment with God

By Mike Haynes
            When attending events of the international C.S. Lewis Foundation or the local Lewis Underground, Nan Rinella calls herself a hobbit among elves. Having been born in Hollywood and having worked as a flight attendant for 20 years, she has perceived herself as a simple, down-to-earth person like the diminutive hobbits in J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth as opposed to the more intellectual elves of Tolkien’s fantasy world.

            Rinella first read and fell in love with “The Lord of the Rings” in 1971 while her husband served in Vietnam. Years later, in 2004, having embarked on a second career as a journalist, she found herself at a conference called “The Fantastic Worlds of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien,” sponsored by the CSL Foundation. Five years later, she was directing an annual foundation retreat in Texas.
            She still didn’t feel in the league of the academics she rubbed elbows with while discussing the works and lives of Lewis and Tolkien, the renowned British scholars and authors.
            An entertaining and inspiring new book, however, has revealed that, pardon the pun, Rinella has been selling herself short.
“Dreams in the Distance” is her first work of fiction and the beginning of a series of novels called “The Choice.” Inspired by Lewis and Tolkien’s writings, it follows five main characters and the choices they face following World War II and beyond. In a sense, Rinella’s epic story begins where the last book of Lewis’ “Narnia” series leaves off.
            Lewis’ character, Susan, in “The Last Battle,” inspired Rinella to create her character, Lily. (If you
Nan Rinella
haven’t read “The Last Battle,” note the spoiler coming up.)
            “In preparation to attend my first C.S. Lewis Foundation conference in June 2004, I read all seven books of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’ said Rinella, who’s lived in Amarillo the past 28 years. “The question, ‘Whatever happened to Susan?’ haunted me. ‘What would happen to a young girl who lost her whole family in the actual London train crash of 1952, when Lewis was writing Book Seven?’
            “Over the years I went down several rabbit holes and in 2011, the series, lasting 50 years, evolved featuring the five main characters.”
            “Dreams in the Distance,” published this year, starts with three young people shocked by the first strikes of the German air blitz in 1940. The young Lily, daughter of a London minister; her best friend, Phila, daughter of a Royal Navy admiral; and Phila’s older brother, Hugh, later to become a Navy intelligence officer, find themselves coping with a blast on a London street – and a mysterious stranger who helps them into a subway shelter.
            That scene propels readers into several plot lines, from the two girls’ introduction into London high society to Hugh’s job in the British embassy in Washington, D.C., to family tension as Lily’s interest in fashion design clashes with her father’s strict Christian devotion.
            All the while, the characters hear “voices” in their minds seeking to direct them. What are these intrusive thoughts? Their consciences talking? Demons? A higher spirit?
                Then there are Ollie, a tall, red-headed Scotsman injured in the war who has his first hint of love in a military hospital; and Dan, a cocky P-51 pilot from California whose Christian faith has waned and who faces disappointment after his injury in a dogfight over Germany.
            The book explores all their reactions to tragedy, uncertainty and disillusionment with God as they navigate life in Britain and America. The emotions ring true, as do the settings, which are enriched from Rinella’s own travels, including visits to C.S. Lewis’ house in Oxford and a recent trip to Scotland.
            And readers will enjoy what you might call cameo appearances in the novel by Lewis and Tolkien themselves as they interact briefly with some of the main characters.
            The book “is a novel of love and war, faith and doubt, intellect and insight,” wrote Joy Jordan-Lake, an award-winning writer living near Nashville. “Throughout, author Nan Rinella displays her passion for history and literature and for the research that brings it together.”
            The Christian influence of Tolkien and Lewis as well as Rinella’s own spirituality also permeate her imaginative story.
            Rinella just wrapped up a book signing at ArtsFest at Amarillo’s Arts in the Sunset, but “Dreams in the Distance” is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.    
            I suggest giving the work of this self-described “hobbit in Narnia” a look.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

April 14, 2019, column:
Faith-related handiwork to be featured at city's first Artsfest
By Mike Haynes

            As rich as the arts already are in Amarillo, they are about to resonate more with a three-day community event that will give area filmmakers, musicians, performers, visual artists and writers a chance to show off their talents.
            And because the first Amarillo ArtsFest is intended to reflect the entire community, it’s a given that some faith-related handiwork will be included.
            One highlight of the May 10-12 festival at the Arts in the Sunset complex at 3701 Plains Blvd. will be a showing of “The Gospel Music of Johnny Cash: A Story of Faith and Redemption,” produced and directed by Amarillo native Michael Merriman. The documentary will be part of the
Saturday activities, according to one of the organizers, Kirk Manton.
            “Michael was one of the premiere music video producers in Nashville in the 1980s,” Manton said. “He produced more than 200 videos. The Cash family invited him to produce a film that would focus on Johnny’s spiritual journey of redemption. It shows a whole other side of Johnny Cash.”
            The film, narrated by Dan Rather, stresses that despite Cash’s legend status in country and rockabilly music, his roots were in gospel music, and he never left those roots. The 1½-hour documentary was released in 2007 but should be of special interest in Amarillo because of Merriman, who has returned to his hometown. It includes several heartfelt Cash performances, including his early “I Was There When It Happened,” his popular version of “Peace in the Valley” and the soulful “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”
            ArtsFest will feature Saturday screenings of many films and videos produced or directed by local filmmakers, Manton said, including “The Kurdish Factor,” a documentary written and directed by former Bushland resident Roger Lindley; “Less < Than,” a film about poverty in America produced and directed by Amarillo High graduate Patrick Kemp; “Edge of the World,” the drama about Boys Ranch whose writing credits include Amarillo native Charla Driver; and “Hurdle,” which was to premiere this week at the Dallas International Film Festival.
            “Hurdle,” directed and co-produced by former Amarillo resident Michael Rowley, chronicles the creative efforts of two young Palestinian men to cope with the restraints and frustrations of living in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
            Sami, 24, coaches a sport called parkour in Jerusalem. Parkour, defined by Webster as “the sport of traversing environmental obstacles by running, climbing or leaping rapidly and efficiently,” is Sami’s way of teaching young people “to overcome fear and political danger” in the shadow of immense concrete walls that separate Palestinians and Israelis.

            Mohammed, 26, lives in a refugee camps and uses photography to tell human stories of that experience as well as teaching children “to use photography as an escape from daily pressures.”
            “Michael really wants it to not be a political film,” Manton said. “He wants to show how these guys use their creativity to overcome their circumstance. It’s not a critique on the circumstance.”
            Friday night of ArtsFest will include a film community reception hosted by the Guild Fellowship, a network of Christian technical media arts people led by Manton, and the Amarillo Film Office, headed by Kashion Smith.
            Part of the Sunday afternoon offerings will be screening of nonprofit films and a segment for church-created videos.
            ArtsFest is a communitywide effort focusing not only on film but on all the arts. The three-day festival also will feature Texas women artists, a concert by Insufficient Funds, a live “Hey, Amarillo” podcast by Jason Boyett, arts and crafts vendors, a “Little Picasso” children’s area, a food truck alley and literary and poetry events. Sponsors include the Ann Crouch Foundation, Center City, Texas High Plains Writers, the Convention and Visitor Council and corporate sponsors. Two young visual artists, Landon Foster and Michaela Pelton, will be among many displaying their work.
            Manton said the organizers want to include all of Amarillo, Canyon and the Texas Panhandle.           
“Part of the mandate is that this reflects the community, and so much of the arts comes out of the church,” he said. “I’m sure more videos come out of the church than anywhere in Amarillo, and the church certainly is involved in much of the film, music and literary efforts.
“This event always will represent the community equally, but it’s a challenge to artists in the church to stand up and get involved and support it.”
Details about ArtsFest can be found at amarilloartsfest.com. It sounds like the May 10-12 happenings will have something for everyone, including those for whom faith is important.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

March 17, 2019, column:
Stories of Old and New Testaments come to life on trip to Holy Land

By Mike Haynes
            My biggest surprise when I visited the Holy Land for the first time last month had less to do with faith than terrain.
            Israel is a lot more vertical than horizontal. Or at least Galilee and Jerusalem are.
Green hills rise above the Sea of Galilee as a tourist boat crosses
on Feb. 15. A group sponsored by Amarillo’s Washington
Avenue Christian Church also took to the water, locally
referred to as Lake Tiberias. (Photo by Mike Haynes)

            Yes, the area around the Dead Sea, south toward Egypt and east toward Jordan turn into desert – some flat and some mountainous – which is how I had pictured the land where Jesus walked. And west toward the Mediterranean turns into coastal plains.
            But much of the region where Jesus spent his time is lushly green with steep hills and valleys. In fact, to walk from place to place in Jerusalem itself – or in Nazareth or Bethlehem – the disciples would have climbed hills and descended into valleys. There’s a reason the site of the second Jewish temple is called the Temple Mount and across the way is the Mount of Olives.
As our Amarillo tour leader said, Jesus and his followers would have been in good shape.
Members of an Amarillo tour group line up on Feb. 20 to enter
the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, one of the two main sites that
many believe could be the actual site of Jesus Christ’s
burial and resurrection. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
Such mundane, physical realizations are one reason the stories and events in the Old and New Testaments do come to life when you stand in that small Middle Eastern country. I had read and heard that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, but when you stand at the top of a slope next to the Sea of Galilee which provides excellent acoustics, you can picture the Beatitudes actually being voiced there.
When you look at the remains of a stone house in Capernaum that archeologists are pretty sure is the house of the apostle Peter or his mother-in-law, you know that the man who also was God had to have been there, too.
My wife, Kathy, and I were blessed to be able to visit those sites and many more with 73 other people, mostly from Amarillo, on a trip sponsored by Washington Avenue Christian Church. For most, it was our first journey to Israel.
Getting there and getting home certainly was a challenging journey for about half of us who
Visitors from Amarillo view the remains of a stone house in Capernaum
Feb. 15 that many archeologists believe was the home of the apostle
Peter or his mother-in-law and if so, a certain site frequented
by Jesus of Nazareth. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
endured late flights, uncooperative airlines and unscheduled nights in Chicago hotels. But I may have seen Christ as a result of those troubles as much as I did on a Sea of Galilee boat ride. I don’t know how a bunch of unbelievers would have reacted to our travel frustrations, but I do know the source of calm and perseverance I saw among our people came from their belief that God was with us. And it was reassuring to see multiple texts from the rest of our group, whose flights went smoothly, pledging their prayers for us.
Once we reached the Tel Aviv airport and then our hotel in Tiberias, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the spirit of that land fell upon us. An Amarillo Sunday school teacher later asked me if I could spend a month in one location
This view from the Mount of Olives shows the Old City of
Jerusalem with terraces and Islamic graves leading up
to the Temple Mount. (Photo by Kathy Haynes)
that we visited, where would it be? I answered the Sea of Galilee, actually a lake, where Jesus walked on water and around which much of his ministry centered. Modern buildings are clustered around some of its waters, but many of the green hills and rocky beaches have been left untouched. It’s easy to imagine Peter, John and the rest hanging out below the hazy sky that hung above us in our short time there.
I don’t see how a Christian could visit Israel without having some kind of spiritual experience. My thoughts about the vertical hills of the north and the horizontal desert of the south led me to metaphors for our relationships: vertical with God and horizontal with other people. A Jerusalem hotel Bible study led by a woman in our group was more meaningful. Her prayer and scripture reading had led her to impress upon us the need to consider how the trip would affect our lives when we returned to Texas.
We were tourists, and we bought T-shirts and olive wood souvenirs. We floated in the Dead Sea. We learned a little about the current state of Israel, its relationship with the Palestinians and the concrete walls that help keep the peace. But we also were pilgrims, people who travel to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion, as one dictionary puts it. Some of us were rebaptized in the Jordan River. We prayed before every bus trip and silently at the Western Wall.
A scene of hills and forests is shown from the Yad Veshem
Holocaust Memorial on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, a view
not expected by many Bible readers who imagine
Jerusalem as desert-like. (Photo by Kathy Haynes)
In the past 2,000 years, churches have been built at many of the sites that are believed to have been important in Jesus’ life – for example, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the church next to the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem. Who knows whether the actual tomb of Jesus, from which he was resurrected, is under the elaborate Church of the Holy Sepulchre or is 1,100 yards away, where the Garden Tomb looks just as we imagine the entrance cut out of a hill where a round stone was rolled away? No matter where it happened, we were close to it.
If you can, go see Israel for yourself. It’s inspiring to walk where Jesus walked.
But if you don’t make it there, don’t worry. More important is to walk with Jesus wherever you are.                                                         

Monday, February 25, 2019

Feb. 17, 2019, column:
Historic church provides glimpse into early years of Christianity in Norway

By Mike Haynes
            The tall, dark, wooden building rising out of the snow looked more like a chieftain’s meeting hall in the “Vikings” TV show than a church. My wife, Kathy, and I tilted our heads back to see the sixth roof at the top, a cupola stacked above other steep layers of wood, with each level a little smaller and a little higher up.
The Gol Stave Church in Oslo, Norway, built
around the year 1200, is located in the
outdoor Norsk Folkemuseum, or Norwegian
Folk Museum. (Photo by Kathy Haynes)
            It was the Gol Stave Church, part of the Norsk Folkemuseum, or Norwegian Folk Museum, in Oslo, Norway, one of about 30 such buildings left in the country. When we visited it on a cold afternoon last month, its multiple roofs were covered in snow contrasted with its dark, rough-hewn walls.
            There’s a reason for the Viking look. The region of Europe next to the North and Norwegian seas was home to the Norse gods. Odin, Thor, Freya and the rest held sway until Viking seamen began encountering Christians in Ireland, England other parts of Europe for 300 years starting in the 700s. Some Norsemen were converted, and when Olav Haraldsson became king of the united nation of Norway in 1016, he forcibly made the country Christian.
            Olav was killed in the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030, and legend has it that a year later, his body still had not decayed. He was named a saint.
            The Gol Stave Church was built around 1200, and like many such buildings, it includes hints of the pagan religion such as dragon heads protruding from the roofs and runic symbols on a wooden pillar that say, “Kiss me, because I am so sad.”
The small interior of the Gol Stave Church in Oslo,
Norway, includes a mural of the Last Supper.
The church was built around the year 1200.
(Photo by Kathy Haynes)

            But it’s a Christian church, with a painting of the Last Supper above the altar. When the Reformation spread in the 1500s, most of Scandinavia, including Norway, became Lutheran, so the stave church in Oslo is Lutheran, as is 71.5 percent of the Norwegian population, according to the CIA Factbook. Even the Sami people in the north, Norway’s indigenous, reindeer-raising group, are mostly Christian.
            Of course, like much of Europe, much of that 71.5 percent is in name only. Churches in Norway aren’t especially well-attended on a weekly basis, but they remain relevant, if nothing else for their architecture. In 1965, the “Arctic Cathedral” was completed in Tromso. It looks like an A-frame with a dip in the middle and reminds me of the beautiful Air Force Academy chapel in Colorado Springs.
And in 2013, the “Northern Lights Cathedral” opened in Alta, one of the northernmost cities. With an outer layer of titanium sheets intended to reflect the Aurora Borealis, the striking building spirals up to a bell tower. Those two photogenic churches seat only 600 and 350 people, respectively.
 Kathy and I tend to notice churches in the places we get to visit, and Norway has its share of more traditional brick and stone places of worship. Our tour group visited one small, white, hexagon-shaped church about 200 years old. On one sanctuary wall hung 16 colorful, paper angels, and red
The massive posts, or staves, that support
Norwegian stave churches give the buildings
their name. Shown here is the interior of
the Gol Stave Church in Oslo, Norway.
(Photo by Kathy Haynes)
Norsk hymnbooks rested on a shelf ready to be picked up, so it’s an active church. But those medieval wooden ones and the modern wonders tend to catch your attention.
As a boy, British writer and professor C.S. Lewis became enamored with “northernness” after he saw illustrator Arthur Rackham’s romantic paintings of Norse gods and goddesses and heard Wagner’s music, “Ride of the Valkyries,” also related to Norse myths. He was infatuated with the heroic tales of love and war in the cold North.
Lewis didn’t become a Christian until his early 30s, and 25 years later, in his book, “Surprised by Joy,” he said he had adored the elements of the Norse religion without actually believing them. He realized that the wonder and excitement of the pagan stories was similar to what the true God wants us to experience, but pointed in God’s direction. Lewis thought the Norse stories had prepared him for Christianity, which he labeled “the true myth.”
The Gol Stave Church in Oslo, Norway, built
around the year 1200, is one of about 30 such
churches surviving. (Photo by Kathy Haynes)
“Sometimes I can almost think that I was sent back to the false gods there to acquire some capacity for worship against the day when the true God should recall me to Himself,” he wrote.

I don’t think Lewis, who died in 1963, ever made it to Norway except in his imagination. Kathy and I were blessed to see the remnants of the old ways and evidence that the “new life” isn’t dead yet.



Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Jan. 20, 2019, column:
The tinge in your eyes can be God giving you joy
By Mike Haynes
            That day, it didn’t take much for me to feel the tinge in my eyes that isn’t quite tears – but almost.
            I never did cry, but several visuals and several thoughts had me on the verge of tears of joy.
            Yes, it was just a football game, but what that game represented and the response it produced reminded me of the meaning of community.
            I gladly live in Amarillo but grew up in McLean, Texas. Adding the “Texas” is important, because my hometown is what Texas is – or is perceived to be. Individualistic. Down to earth. Honest. Helpful. Friendly. God-fearing.  
McLean fans at Class 1A Division 1 Six-Man state championship game
at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Dec. 19, 2018

            And one December day in the stadium of the Dallas Cowboys, my hometown McLean Tigers were playing in a six-man state championship football game. When I looked up at the famous, gigantic video screen and saw the black-and-gold logo and the name of our town, I felt that tinge in my eyes.
            Yes, December. When I was a McLean Tiger myself, our tough-as-nails coach gave us the goal of winning so we still would be playing in December. We had good teams, tough like our coach, but November is as far as we got. Fifty years later, grandsons of some of my classmates were playing in December.
            And our old coach was there.
            He was one of an estimated 2,000 people on our side of the cavernous stadium who came from around the state. They sure weren’t all current McLean residents, because the population has shrunk to less than 800.
            Players’ parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and grandparents were there, plus family and friends from all over Texas. One woman, a McLean graduate from the 1950s who lives in the Metroplex, was in a wheelchair pushed by her daughter. She asked me if any of the Tigers could be her distant relatives.
  
McLean fans at Class 1A Division 1 Six-Man state championship game
at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Dec. 19, 2018
           Someone showed me a smartphone video of our team bus navigating the big hallway in the AT&T Stadium basement before pulling up next to the Tigers’ dressing room. I felt the tinge in my eyes again.
            I was on the sidelines taking pictures for most of the game, so I had a good view of the several stadium sections filled with people wearing mostly black and gold. I saw 15 or so of my own family, several of my long-ago teammates and the family of a key player whose brother had died in a prairie fire less than two years ago. I felt a different tinge in my eyes.
            I was told that my former classmate and college roommate who has been dealing with cancer had planned to come but was just too tired and ill to make it. Again, I felt a little bit different tinge in my eyes.
            In the fourth quarter, the scoreboard finally showed a margin that told me my hometown team would win state, the ultimate goal of every sports team in the Panhandle and across Texas. I felt the tinge in my eyes.
            You saw on the sports pages and on TV that my hometown overcame an outstanding team from downstate to win the state championship going away, the school’s first ever. Afterward, young boys who grew up in a town with more churches – five – than restaurants – two – and who learned hard work breaking horses and fixing fence were being asked questions at a big-city news conference. They were their usual polite selves, smiling but humble, making their mommas and poppas proud. I felt the tinge in my eyes.
             Some of the players’ families have been in the town a relatively short time. Others have had four generations of boys suiting up and girls cheering on the sideline for almost 100 years. This state champion team included several guys who started school together in kindergarten.
McLean fans at Class 1A Division 1 Six-Man state championship game
at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Dec. 19, 2018

            After the game, my family circled the concourse, every few feet running into clusters of friends or kinfolk either waiting for the boys to appear from the locker room or just not wanting to leave this golden moment. Approaching every group, I felt the tinge in my eyes.
            The following Sunday, my wife and I attended church at McLean. My aunt had suggested that everybody wear their black-and-gold T-shirts to honor the team, and a bunch of us did, including my cousin the preacher. By then, my eyes felt normal. But then, at the end of the service, my cousin asked all who felt so moved to surround a local college girl who was about to leave on an international mission trip.
            Kathy and I joined maybe 20 people, some of whom laid their hands on this young woman who is devoted to Christ, the rest of us adding our hands to shoulders in a concentric circle as people prayed.
            I felt the tinge in my eyes, and this time the tears almost dripped down. God has more than one way of giving us joy.