Saturday, October 12, 2013

Oct. 12, 2013, column:

Former Amarilloan produces study Bible

By Mike Haynes
            If you looked on top of night stands next to beds in this part of the world or watched people walking in and out of churches in the region, you’d see names like Scofield, Ryrie and MacArthur on the spines of a lot of Bibles.
            Of course, those men didn’t write the Bible. Guys like Moses and Paul did that. But Cyrus Scofield published a “study Bible” in 1909 that included his commentary alongside the actual scriptures. In 1978, Charles Ryrie did the same, and John MacArthur contributed his version in 1997. Those preachers and theologians offered their wisdom in attempts to help Bible readers understand what they were reading.
Jud Wilhite
            One of the best study Bibles is “The Student Bible,” first published in 1986 with notes and commentary by two of my favorite Christian writers, Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford. Aimed at a young audience, the Student Bible has made navigating the Word of God easier for a couple of generations of seekers.
            Now there’s a study Bible with a name on the spine that’s familiar to many in Amarillo. It’s the 2013 “Uncensored Truth Bible for New Beginnings.” The pastor and writer offering his insights on its pages is Jud Wilhite, a product of Amarillo schools and of Paramount Terrace Christian Church, now called Hillside Christian Church.
            Wilhite still has family in Amarillo but for the past few years has been pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas – no, not New Mexico, but Sin City itself.
            He has several books to his credit, including “Stripped: Uncensored Grace on the Streets of Vegas,” and it’s no surprise that he prefers to call his current home “Grace City.” Wilhite has told his own story many times, that of being a rebellious teenager who got into trouble but found his way to God through family and his Amarillo church.
            After college and serving on the Paramount Terrace church staff, he was called to a glitzy venue where he now oversees four Las Vegas campuses, an online community and a prison ministry while turning out books and now a Bible.
            The “Uncensored Truth” Bible is the New Living Translation, which Wilhite likes because it’s “readable.” He would be the first to tell you that the actual words of God’s prophets and apostles are the most important part of these 1,177 pages, but our former Amarillo neighbor has written a 32-page introduction that 21st century readers can relate to.
Not that references to actor Hugh Jackman’s physical training or the Tonight Show’s on-the-street interviews are necessary to understand the Bible, but Wilhite’s informal writing style is a magnet that might lead people into the meat of God’s Word.
            He offers tips on figuring out what’s literal and what’s figurative in the Bible and how to keep things in context. He’s like C.S. Lewis in that he is intellectually bright but able to relate to regular people’s lives.
            In nine “Uncensored Truth” sections, Wilhite writes about his own experiences and what God has taught him. “Save Me From Myself” recalls a recent visit to the Amarillo house where he grew up and looking at the floor in his old bedroom: “That was where I got on my knees one night alone and asked God to help me face the addiction in my life.”
            As a Las Vegas pastor, Wilhite interacts with people from all walks of life who face challenges they can’t just leave in Vegas. He knows they can leave them with Jesus, though, if the message can get through to them. This Bible is one way God can reach their hearts.
Lori and Jud Wilhite

* * *
            Jud Wilhite’s wife, Lori, also from Amarillo, has her own 2013 book out. She and Brandi Wilson, a Nashville pastor’s spouse, wrote “Leading and Loving It: Encouragement for Pastors’ Wives and Women in Leadership.” They also head up a ministry called Leading and Loving It.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sept. 14, 2013, column:
Success grows for No Excuses University
By Mike Haynes
            During a seven-minute video, my eyes teared up three times. It doesn’t take a lot for my ducts to moisten, but I’ll bet I wasn’t the only Amarillo College employee who was touched by a football story.
            It wasn’t really about football, but about love and second chances.
            Doug Curry, former principal of Amarillo’s San Jacinto Elementary and Travis Middle School, was giving AC faculty and staff a beginning-of-school pep talk about his passion, No Excuses University. San Jacinto was the first school in Texas to join the endeavor that, beginning in kindergarten, preaches to kids that they will go to college – or at least will have the education to do so if they want.
Grapevine Faith Christian School  prepared this banner
for the opponent, the Gainesville State School Tornadoes.
         Since the program began, San Jacinto students have dramatically improved their academic performance. A couple of years ago, AC became the first No Excuses college in America, continuing the model of challenge and encouragement that is revolutionizing the future for many disadvantaged young people.
            No Excuses is a growing success story that I hope you’ll keep hearing about. We all can learn from it and from the video with which Curry ended his presentation.
It showed a 2008 football game between two Texas teams: Gainesville State School and Grapevine Faith Christian School.
            Grapevine Faith won the game handily, but that wasn’t the point. What made it news – and a story worthy of a theatrical movie expected to come out soon – was that half of the Christian school’s home fans moved to the visitors’ side and yelled for Gainesville.
            The state school is a maximum-security facility for young people who have committed crimes. Those with good behavior get to try out for the Tornado football team. They play all their games on the road and normally have no fans, no one cheering for them except their coaches and teammates.
            So in 2008, Grapevine Faith Coach Kris Hogan convinced everyone at the Christian school to show some agape love to the players from Gainesville. He and Faith administrators had pondered, “What would give them the most hope?” The answer was to make the incarcerated boys “feel like they were their own.”
            Half the Faith supporters sat on the visitors’ side, half the Lion cheerleaders rooted for the Tornadoes and the Faith people formed a 40-yard spirit line for the visiting young men to run through, complete with a banner for them to break.
            “I figured we were going to go around them,” said Alex, a Gainesville player. “I figured it was for the other team.” But the state school coach, Mark Williams, replied, “Huh-uh. They’re here for us. Run through that line, crash through that banner, and have fun all night long.”
            “You saw hope in their eyes when they came out and saw that spirit line,” said Jordan, a Lions player. “And then confidence every time our fans cheered for them.”
            “It was almost like they didn’t have to prove anything,” said Faith coach Hogan. “There was such a celebration of them, they began to think, ‘Yeah, we are a team like everybody else.’”
            “You couldn’t convince nobody on that team that we lost,” recalled Mack, a Tornado player, on the video. “I felt like God was touching upon all of us and letting us know there’s people out there that care about you – even if they don’t even know us.”
            Giving someone that kind of love and hope shouldn’t be foreign to any Christian.  Jesus blessed those who invite strangers in and who visit people in prison (Matt. 25:35-36). He said the second greatest command is to love our neighbor (Matt. 22:39) – and our neighbor is everybody.
            Even our Friday night opponents. And even those who have done bad things.
            By the way, the Tornadoes and Lions continue to play each other. The game now is called the One Heart Bowl, and this year’s contest was last night (Sept. 13).

            To learn about the upcoming film, go to

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Aug. 17, 2013, column:

Sometimes print is still better than digital

By Mike Haynes
            In the digital age, maybe people can’t be defined anymore by the books they read. For sure, not the paper ones.
I grew up with the idea that the books you spend time with – voluntarily – can tell someone else a lot about you as a person. For most of my life, that has meant physical books printed on paper. And as much as I think technology is cool, I’ve decided that given a choice, I’ll take a hardback or a paperback over a tablet or a computer screen.
I agree with Pulitzer-winning writer Rick Bragg, who says it doesn’t bother him when someone reads his book on a device that runs on batteries, because that means they’re reading it.
After completing three or four books on a Kindle and an iPad – and reading part of one on an iPhone – I have decided that I’m old-fashioned. Turning a page with an electronic finger swipe is fun, but when it comes down to it, I have the feeling that the book I just read is gone.
With “real” books, I have them on my shelf long after I’ve finished them, and years from now, I can glance at, say, “Elizabeth the Queen,” and recall not only the fascinating monarch and the British history she has lived for 87 years, but something about what was going on in my own life when I was reading that book by Sally Bedell Smith.
I plan for it to be on that shelf for decades because, well, I may be a little self-centered. I envision people visiting my house, looking at my books and thinking, “Hmmm, interesting that not only does he like the Beatles and C.S. Lewis, but he has something about John Wayne’s “Alamo” movie and all the Harry Potter books.”
If my books were made up of pixels on a screen, no one would know what I’ve read unless I told them.
Yes, that’s narcissistic, but I also have the motivation of a journalist that “Someday, I might write something about the Titanic and will need to look up something in Walter Lord’s book about it.”
  I know that, more often, I should share what I’ve read. For example, a decade after it came out, I read Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” this year. It isn’t a traditional Christian devotional book, but I know it reflects the thinking of a lot of young people in the 2000s. I hope more will read it as well as Miller’s “Searching for God Knows What,” which I took on after one of my pastor cousins, Roger, recommended it.
West Texans should read Timothy Egan’s “The Worst Hard Time” to understand how terrible
the Dust Bowl of the 1930s was and how it affected so many families in our region. The parts about Dalhart, Boise City and Shattuck and President Roosevelt’s visit to Amarillo are enough reason for area people to open Egan’s best-seller.
“The Worst Hard Time” was last year’s Amarillo College Common Reader, and this year the selection is “Wine to Water,” by a young guy named Doc Hendley. It documents the North Carolinian’s progression from self-absorbed bartender to head of a global charity that provides fresh water to people in Darfur and elsewhere who lack that basic life necessity. Hendley, who will visit Amarillo this fall and whose water outreach will be a theme for AC student projects, started out with Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse.
            Of those books, I read the Miller ones on a digital device. Now tell me: If I want to lend one to a friend who I think might benefit from this author’s modern take on Christianity, am I going to have to let the friend have my iPad for a few days?
            On the other hand, last week in Sunday school, it was awfully handy for me to look up some Proverbs from the lesson on my iPhone. A friend loves her electronic device and has read scores of books on it. And my mother probably reads more than she used to because of the convenience of her Kindle.
      Still, I have to side with Rick Bragg, who wrote that he wants to “spend my last days on this Earth arranging and rearranging them on thrones of good, honest pine, oak and mahogany, because they just feel good in my hands, because I just like to look at their covers and dream of the promise of the great stories inside.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 20, 2013, column:
Small things keep life meaningful
By Mike Haynes
            A long time ago, someone asked me, “What’s more important to you: the big events in life or the small, everyday things?”
            I had trouble answering, because it seemed about 50-50, but I finally said the big events – such as my wedding or a vacation to another country. Later, I wished I had said the small things, because I realized most of our lives are made up of those, and most of our human relationships fully develop in the way we treat each other day in and day out.
            We can’t deny, though, that momentous occasions sometimes define where we stand in life – even if the event may be someone else’s in which we’re just participating.
Consider some chances I’ve had lately to pause and think – and compare them to recent situations of your own.
            Weddings and funerals certainly can stir up the brain cells – or is it the heart strings? Tonight, (July 20) niece Sheri Ann is getting married. Of course it’ll be a huge event for her and her fiancĂ©, Tyler, but it’s a milestone for my parents because she’s their first granddaughter to get married. It’ll be in the little Methodist church all my family grew up in, in the small town we still call home, with my cousin the preacher officiating.
            Weddings remind us that new generations are coming up – that when we’re gone, life and at least some traditions will continue.
            Hospitals also give us time to think. My mother, Joyce, has been in them twice lately with health scares that jolted me into reminiscing about good times growing up in the Texas Panhandle, about parents not missing one of their kids’ sporting events, about a mother and her bridge club friends, about a dad playing golf with his kids.
            Then, a week ago, Mom’s birthday brought much of the family to that small town for cake and hamburgers. In a family that doesn’t say the “L word” much, I still saw love in my 58-year-old brother explaining to his 83-year-old mother that he thought she’d like the color of the outfit he and his wife were giving her.
            Too often, we have to remember someone when we’d rather be talking to him or her. That was the case this month when disease took a young man from his wife and two boys. Even for me, not a close friend but an acquaintance, the funeral had special meaning. How can you not lament the loss of someone who was talented, vibrant and whose death brought hundreds together to honor him? And ending it with a string band playing “I’ll Fly Away”? Hard to beat.
            School reunions certainly stimulate the memory, and the one in my hometown this summer was no exception. For many in the Panhandle, such events are community-wide celebrations. Mine included quizzing an uncle about his upcoming surgery and finding out that a schoolmate who played pro football roomed with a Heisman Trophy winner.
            Others’ occasions can bring our own lives into focus, from the Christian retreat that 16-year-old niece Maria attended in June to friend Iris’s 90th birthday coming up next week. I’ve been where Maria is, and I hope to reach the age Iris is approaching. Their milestones touch me, too.
            Big events can be important, as can daily routines. Maybe the key to both is who you do them with. According to Jesus, the two most significant things we can do are to love God and to love people.

            If you’ll notice, all the occasions mentioned above involve people. And the more they involve God, the more meaningful they are.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Hogwarts Castle model used to film the Harry Potter movies fills a large room on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour on the outskirts of London. (Photo by Kathy Haynes)
July 14, 2013, review:
Magical world comes to life
By Mike Haynes
            As a friend flicked through my wife’s smartphone photos of the London Warner Bros. Studio Tour, the friend – a woman about 50 years old – instantly recognized pictures of movie costumes.
            “That’s Bellatrix,” she said of a mannequin wearing a brown outfit and long, unruly brown hair. “Lucius Malfoy,” she said at the sight of a dark, padded jacket with a long, blond wig above it.
            And of course, at the appearance of a flowing, light green robe, her reaction was, “Voldemort.”
            Amarillo resident Marianne’s delight at images from “The Making of Harry Potter,” the huge exhibit at the Leavesden Studios in England, was a reminder that the good wizard isn’t just for kids. You also can ask friend Keitha, a 40-something from Happy whose eyes brightened at pictures of the “cupboard under the stairs” and the Gryffindor Common Room.
            Kathy and I took the tour last month. Anyone with the slightest interest in J.K. Rowling’s books or the movies they spawned – or anyone fascinated by moviemaking – should consider buying a ticket if they’re anywhere near London.
The movie set of Diagon Alley, the shopping area for wizards and witches, fills with fans on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour on the edge of London.
     True, a trip to Orlando, Fla., to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” is more realistic for many West Texans. We’ve been there, too, and it also is on the recommended list for its amusement park rides and faithful reproduction of a snowy Hogsmeade village and Diagon Alley shops.
            But short of meeting Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, the London studio tour is the closest thing to being a part of Harry Potter.
            Visitors actually walk into the Great Hall, one of several actual sets from the movies, striding between the long tables with place settings for Hogwarts students. A guide points up to light fixtures and scaffolding that, in the films, were replaced digitally with floating candles and the Enchanted Ceiling.
            Two cavernous soundstages have been converted into permanent display areas for thousands of props – such as Harry’s Nimbus 2000 broom – pieces of sets – such as Hagrid’s hut – and areas where kids can ride a broom in front of a green screen or practice magic wand moves.

Visitors can walk across the Hogwarts Bridge, which was digitally lengthened in the Harry Potter movies, during the Warner Bros. Studio Tour just outside London. The bridge appeared in the films but not in J.K. Rowling’s books.

           Anyone making it to England between July 26 and Sept. 2 can participate in the “Summer Spelltacular,” where children’s activities will include wand moves taught by Paul Harris, who choreographed the battle scene between Dumbledore and Voldemort in the fifth Potter movie. He’s called “the world’s only wand combat choreographer.”
            Outside the studio, visitors can board the skinny, purple Knight Bus, whose sign says, “All Destinations – Nothing Underwater.” They can walk across the Hogwarts Bridge, which in the movies extended several hundred yards but in real life is maybe 20 yards long. And they can stand at the door of 4 Privet Drive, Harry’s childhood home.
            The tour is laid out well. After spending as much time as you want in the two soundstages and the courtyard – where you can pose with giant chess pieces from the first film – Kathy and I walked through an exhibit of paper and cardboard production models of the bridge, the Weasleys’ house and Hogwarts castle. Kathy rounded the next turn before me and called back, “Wait ’til you see this.”
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour near London features props, costumes and wigs such as these for the characters of (front) Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley and (back) the Bloody Baron ghost and Luna Lovegood.
   It was the scale model of Hogwarts used in the films, complete with castle turrets, drawbridges, lighted windows and surrounding rocks and trees. “Model” is a misleading word, because it’s around 40 feet high at its tallest tower. Visitors can walk all the way around it. Anyone who ever had childhood fantasies of a romantic castle won’t be able to resist staring as its lighting changes from night to day and back.
            “The Making of Harry Potter” has been open since 2012, and even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate to those not up on royal titles) made an official visit this April complete with a wand “fight.”
            For anyone seeing the serious historical sights of London, it’s worth a half-day’s magical diversion.
If You Go...
Warner Bros. Studio Tour: “The Making of Harry Potter”
Studio Tour Drive
WD25 7LR
(near Watford Junction train station, outskirts of London)
Phone: 011 44 08450 840 900
Adults (age 16 and up), 29 British pounds (about $45)
Children (ages 5 to 15) 21.5 British pounds (about $33)

Age 4 and under: free but ticket required

Monday, June 24, 2013

June 22, 2013, column:
Christianity maintains presence in England
By Mike Haynes
Hampton Court Palace in London
            I had the topic for this column all figured out before Kathy and I left for England a couple of weeks ago. I was sure that, while touring the spectacular Windsor Castle, seeing some plays in London’s West End and exploring three flea markets, I’d notice plenty of evidence of the decline of Christianity in the United Kingdom: a good, if sad, religion topic.
            After all, a poll published by Dr. Peter Brierly showed that 3.6 million people attended church weekly in the UK in 2011. That’s in a population of 62.7 million, or less than 6 percent.        
            It’s well known that in past decades, the country of William Tyndale, burned at the stake in 1536 for publishing the Bible in the English language, and the land of quaint, stone church towers in every village has become a secular nation despite its official government-church connection.
            So I was surprised when, on the back of a red, double-decker London bus, I saw an ad for Jubilee Church London with pictures of people raising their hands in worship. Its website shows that the congregation meets in movie theaters and attracts crowds in the thousands.
            I was surprised again at a poster in crowded Waterloo train station for an open-air play at Wintershall Estate in Surrey called “Life of Christ.” An online search revealed that the production has attracted large audiences since 1999.

Jubilee Church on back of London bus

            In our hotel room a block from Trafalgar Square, we ran across a TV program on BBC Two called “The Most Dangerous Man in Tudor England.” It was a serious look at Tyndale, whose Bible text makes up a high percentage of the King James Bible that came 75 years after his death. I didn’t detect a word of cynicism about Christianity in the documentary.
            We saw a street preacher at Piccadilly Circus, the famous central London intersection. In addition to shouting the expected, “Repent!” message, we heard the young man giving insightful advice to a guy who was challenging him: “Stop trying to impress your friends by making fun of me, and when you get home, actually read a Bible and see if it makes sense.”
            Kathy and I also toured Hampton Court Palace. The tourist hype at that grand residence dealt with Henry VIII, who lived there with all six of his wives (not all at once, of course).
            But our main reason for visiting was because Hampton Court was the site of the momentous 1604 church meeting where James I decided England needed a new Bible. Although that event wasn’t promoted like Henry VIII’s antics, the tour guidebook did have a short segment about the 1611 King James Bible.
            So we saw glimmers of hope that faith isn’t completely stamped out in England. Just glimmers, but those small positive signs are heartening. Christians there should not give up yet.
            The United States is on the same path away from belief as the UK, just not as far down that road. The Hartford Institute says we have 60.2 million weekly churchgoers, or 20.4 percent, but that’s way down from the past. Much of our population can be described by Romans 8:5: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires,” with a smaller group defined by the rest of that verse: “But those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”
            Unless we’re going to be missionaries across the pond, our task is to spread Christ’s good news to those around us – those who haven’t heard it and those who think they don’t need it.
            Returning from London, Kathy and I stopped at an I-40 restaurant with her mom for some down-home American food. Just after we were seated, 78 kids invaded the dining room. They were from East Texas churches in Carthage and Beckville, on their way to the Baptist camp at Glorieta, N.M.

            It felt good to be back in the Bible Belt. And the spiritual future of our country might depend on kids like them.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

May 25, 2013, column:

Amarilloan assembles historic Bible collection

(The newspaper headline refers to Alan Arvello as an "Amarilloan." He actually lives in Canyon.)
By Mike Haynes
            Alan Arvello had an idea for Vacation Bible School two years ago. Because 2011 was the 400th anniversary of the King James version of the Bible, he thought it would be cool to buy some facsimiles, or modern reproductions, of the 1611 KJV and of other key versions of God’s Word.
He could use those to teach the kids at Bible Believers Baptist Church how the sacred book came to us from the ancient Hebrews to modern Christianity.
When the music director and Bible teacher looked into assembling such a display, though, he was pleasantly surprised to find that buying an original page from that famous 1611 edition wasn’t out of his price range, and neither were single leaves from other noteworthy Bibles, such as Martin Luther’s 1529 German New Testament and a Latin Bible handwritten in Europe in the 1260s.
Arvello’s VBS project turned into a collection of Bibles and Bible pages that illustrates the
Alan Arvello gives a presentation about his Bible collection.
preservation of scripture through the centuries, and he has exhibited his bit of history from Dallas, Houston and San Antonio to Arkansas and Las Vegas and to churches and groups across the Texas Panhandle.
“The collection is not that expensive,” he said. “I’ve spent about as much as a really nice used car. Of course, you could get into thousands of dollars. A page from the Gutenberg Bible runs over $100,000.”
The Square House Museum in Panhandle will be the next stop for Arvello, whose day job is working as a physician’s assistant. From the first week of June through July, the museum will host “The History of the Bible in America.” (Call the museum for exact dates, which aren’t definite yet.)
Visitors will see a page from the first printing of English scripture in America, a rendering of Psalm 19 with one column in English and the other in the Algonquin language. It was printed in Boston in 1709, 73 years before the first complete English Bible was published in America. A page from that 1782 Aitken Bible, authorized by Congress and distributed to Revolutionary War soldiers, also will be on display.
Apart from the American exhibit, Arvello’s collection – which he has donated to his church –
Above is the title page of a 1611 Geneva Bible in Alan Arvello's collection. It was published the same year as the first edition of the more famous King James Bible.
includes a Latin passage from Jeremiah printed in Europe in 1482, a New Testament page from William Tyndale’s English Bible of 1536 (the year Tyndale was executed for publishing the Bible in English) and examples of every major Bible leading to the King James version, printed in London 400 years ago.
Arvello and his church focus on the KJV because they believe it is the “absolute, final and sole authority” for living the Christian life. They are convinced that the primary sources of the KJV – the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Old Testament and the Textus Receptus Greek document of the New Testament – are superior to the texts used by most modern translations – the Greek Septuagint for the OT and the Alexandrian Greek for the NT.
            You don’t have to be “King James Only,” however, to appreciate this collection, which recently has expanded to include a book of sermons by Lancelot Andrews, one of the main translators of the KJV; the first American edition of “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”; and the first authorized American edition of John Wesley’s biography.
            Arvello has the enthusiasm of a collector but also the passion of a believer.
            “The main purpose is for people to understand the history of how we got the Bible in general, especially the King James Bible, and for people to appreciate the sacrifice made through the centuries for us to have the Word of God,” he said. “And also to understand the validity of the King James Bible. The lineage of the new Bibles is not the same as that of the King James.”
            For a look at the collection or to order a DVD presentation by Arvello, go to
            In our era of digital information and throw-away values, we need all the history we can get to give context to our lives. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

April 27, 2013, column:

Exhibit about Pope John Paul II worth trip to Lubbock

By Mike Haynes
             No, we didn’t drive to Lubbock to see it. Kathy and I were in the Hub City for a rock concert and a leisurely weekend.
            With time to kill on a Saturday afternoon, though, we ventured west from the Texas Tech campus, down Fourth Street to the Catholic Renewal Center.
            We had been to the Buddy Holly Center and the Texas Tech Museum before, so an exhibit that had been open just a day sounded appealing.
This statue of Pope John Paul II was unveiled this year in Czestochowa, Poland, his home country. 
   My wife and I aren’t Catholic, but you don’t have to be one to appreciate this traveling display about the life of Pope John Paul II, who lived from 1920 to 2005 and was pope from 1978 to his death. All it takes is an interest in Christianity, history or current events. Or maybe, like me, you’d just like to see one of those tall, ornamented “pope hats” up close.
            The exhibit is called “I Have Come To You Again,” and it’s in our neighboring city through May 31.
            On our circular walk through the extensive display, we were behind a group tour, so we caught some of the commentary by a woman volunteer explaining John Paul’s youth as a talented athlete and how, as a young man in Poland, he was forced to work at a limestone quarry under the Nazi occupation.
            You also can read that information and much more as you navigate through the glass cases protecting the pope’s official robes, a long staff that rested next to him as he lay in state after his death and such mementoes as a western hat given to him when he visited San Antonio.
            With the March 13 selection of Pope Francis fresh in the news, Kathy and I spent several minutes examining the papal election paraphernalia on display, including a silver chalice and a dove-white bowl used to collect the cardinals’ ballots. On one glass shelf were boxes of cartridges that contain chemicals used to produce white or black smoke indicating whether a pope has been chosen.
            John Paul has been credited with strong political influence, including contributions to the end of the Soviet Union, and the tour includes photographs and documentation of the 1980s era in which he, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher pushed for freedom in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
Former President George W. Bush loaned a piece of the Berlin Wall for the exhibit, and I was surprised to learn that Reagan’s famous declaration to the Russians to “tear down this wall” had been suggested to the president by John Paul.
            Amid many photographic and artistic portraits of the pope is a section devoted to the 1981 incident when a Turkish gunman shot him four times in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Diagrams reminiscent of the Kennedy “magic bullet” theory show how a projectile made a dramatic turn away from John Paul’s heart.
            When the pope later visited his attacker in prison to forgive him, the man asked, “Why aren’t you dead?” John Paul replied that the shooter’s hand had shot the bullet but that “it was a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path,” giving credit to the Virgin Mary.
            We remember the kindly face of Pope John Paul II and the constant trips he made to 129 countries. The closest he came to the Texas Panhandle were his visits to San Antonio in 1987 and Denver in 1993, but he was familiar to most of us, Protestant, Catholic or otherwise.
            His faith still can inspire.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

March 30, 2013, column:
Texan pride has deep roots

By Mike Haynes
            Most non-Texans don’t get it.
            Residents of the other 49 may have pride in their states, but that of Texans seems to well up from a deeper level. Maybe it’s the fact that we once were our own country. The Indian wars, the cowboy mystique and the Texas revolution against Mexico all play into it.
This illustration by San Antonio artist Wade Dillon shows William B. Travis in his Alamo headquarters about to write his "Victory or Death" letter on Feb. 24, 1836.
            The outcome of that revolt was determined at San Jacinto in April 1836, but the heart of the conflict was what Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna called “a small affair” six weeks earlier. The Alamo in San Antonio, where around 200 Texas rebels were killed by a large Mexican army, is called “the Shrine of Texas Liberty” in part because the slaughter inspired the defeat of Santa Anna at San Jacinto.
            And a huge factor that turned the Alamo siege and fall into a legendary event was a piece of paper with just over 200 words on it that a courier sneaked out of the fortress – a document that didn’t return to the location where Col. William Barret Travis wrote it until this February.
            My wife and I stood in line for three hours on March 1 to see the Travis letter for about three minutes. For me – and I think even for Kathy – it was worth it to see the actual paper and ink that Travis used to fashion the words, “To the People of Texas & all Americans in the world,” “I shall never surrender or retreat” and “Victory or Death.”
            Our eyes were a foot from those famous words, protected by glass and armed guards, before we exited the Alamo chapel and received stickers that said, “Saw the Letter!” That was on a Friday. On the weekend, the wait was four hours and up, and the lines stretched around three sides of a downtown San Antonio block.
            That letter played a role in placing the Alamo into the imaginations of Texans but also others around the world. The help Travis asked for didn’t come, but within days, his words were published in Texas newspapers. The 26-year-old lawyer-turned-commander had a flair for the dramatic, and it inspired many to join Sam Houston and the victory weeks later.
This 2.25-inch sticker was given to each person who viewed the "Travis Letter" exhibit at the Alamo Feb. 23 to March 7.
The impact of the Alamo and the letter certainly stirred patriotism, and I wonder whether a spiritual element also was involved.
            Travis added a P.S.: “The Lord is on our side,” explaining that his men had been short of food but providentially found 80 or 90 bushels of corn and “got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves.”
            God probably doesn’t take sides in wars any more than he does in sports, and some of the Catholics in the Mexican army must have thought they were the ones with a divine advantage.
            But Travis most likely was not being cavalier in his mention of “the Lord.” His uncle Alexander was a passionate Alabama preacher who, according to biographer William Davis, had much influence on the young Texas adventurer.
After leaving his wife in Alabama – not a particularly scriptural action – William Travis had become a community and political leader in Texas. He supported visiting ministers and wrote to the Christian Advocate and Journal in New York, urging its editor to publicize the need for preachers in Texas.
He joined those who protested the Mexican government requirement that settlers be Catholic.
During that 13-day Alamo siege, a highly literate man such as Travis, familiar with the Bible and faced with the prospect of death, must have prayed for everything from military aid to personal deliverance. His P.S. proves that God was on his mind.
            He also must have been aware that not all prayers are answered as we would like, writing that he was prepared to “die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country.”
            Such stirring prose is part of the reason why, 177 years later, people take their hats off when entering the Alamo church and why the 13-day display of a piece of paper drew 20,000-plus people to those hallowed grounds. And it helps explain why Texas is different.      

Saturday, March 09, 2013

March 9, 2013, column:
Irish 'Mayberry' offers laughs, reflection

The stars of Irish TV series “Ballykissangel” included, front row: Stephen Tomkinson, playing Father Peter Clifford, Dervla Kirwan (Assumpta Fitzgerald), Tony Doyle (Brian Quigley), Tina Kellegher (Niamh Quigley) and, back row: Peter Hanly (Ambrose Egan) and Niall Toibin (Father Frank MacAnally). The series is available on DVD and online. (BBC Photo)

By Mike Haynes
            Kathy and I were 15 years behind, but when we stumbled upon “Ballykissangel” a few weeks ago, we were hooked like sheep on clover.
            It’s a TV show, produced in Ireland, that aired in Great Britain from 1996 to 2001 and was shown on some PBS stations. Only the first season ran in Amarillo, in 1998 and 1999, according to KACV-TV program director Jackie Smith.
            But what a show. Father Peter Clifford, a Catholic priest about 30 years old, is sent from his home of Manchester, England, to the village of Ballykissangel, Ireland, and the first person he meets is a young woman in her mid-20s who runs the local pub.
            The show combines comedy and drama and bits of irony, starting with the initial conversation between Father Peter and that woman, Assumpta Fitzgerald. Despite her given name that refers to the “Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven,” Assumpta is hostile to religion, especially the Catholic variety. She gives the new priest a ride, and he humbly says, “Don’t let me take you out of your way.” Her caustic reply: “We’re used to carrying the clergy.”
Despite her attitude and the harsh treatment Father Peter receives from his boss, Father MacAnally, “Ballykissangel” doesn’t mock Christianity. As the main character, Peter soon shows his compassion for people, whether they attend Mass or not. He is a caring counselor, both in the confession booth and in the pub. He joins village life, filling in as a goalie for the town team and cooking for a Chinese food competition.
One reason I love it is the similarity to “The Andy Griffith Show” – with some touches of “Cheers.” The acting ensemble includes Ambrose, the local policeman who isn’t quite as clueless as Barney, and the regulars at the pub: a teacher, a mechanic, an old farmer, the doctor, two handymen and a female veterinarian.
Its last episode was new a dozen years ago, but I write about it because it still is readily available on DVD and in online instant video form. “Ballykissangel” ran for six seasons, but Kathy and I have stopped after Season 3 because Stephen Tompkinson, who played Peter, and Dervla Kirwan, who played Assumpta, left the show. I’m afraid going beyond that would be like watching “Mayberry RFD,” which included secondary characters but no Andy Griffith or Don Knotts.
Those seasons provide plenty of laughs, tears and situations that turn your thoughts to God. A man reveals to Father Peter that years ago, he helped his terminally ill wife commit suicide. Ambrose’s girlfriend, Niamh, wants them to live together to be sure they’re compatible, but he resists, knowing that would be a sin.
The comedy often is provided by village businessman Brian Quigley, who always has a moneymaking scheme going but also does things like donating to the parish a modern confessional booth that includes a fax machine.

 Like Mayberry, Ballykissangel is a fictional place where life is simpler. It’s a place of escape but also raises complicated issues. It has joy and tragedy. It treats religion seriously. Most of the villagers are devoted Catholics, but there are clashes between Father Mac’s legalism and Father Peter’s more flexible approach to his flock. Many scenes are in Assumpta’s pub, where she might let loose a bitter barb about hypocrisy. She doesn’t believe in the last rites that Peter gives to an old mountain man, but her face softens when the priest says, “It makes a difference to his wife.”
I admit that I get immersed in stories easily, but this series moved me enough that I hope you will go out of your way to watch it. Or at least ponder what Father Peter says in an emotional episode:
“The words don’t matter. It’s what we do – and how we look after one another.” 
The stars of Irish TV series “Ballykissangel” included Dervla Kirwan, left, playing Assumpta Fitzgerald, Tony Doyle (Brian Quigley), Stephen Tompkinson (Father Peter Clifford) and Tina Kellegher (Niamh Quigley). The series is available on DVD and online. (BBC Photo)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Feb. 23, 2013, column:

King Richard III a fascinating character

By Mike Haynes
            The announcement in Leicester, England, 12 days ago didn’t get much attention in the Texas Panhandle, but for anyone interested in history or literature, it should have.
            “After 500 years, Richard III’s bones yield their secret.” That was the headline I noticed on the Reuters news service website Feb. 4. Had I not taken a Texas Tech course on Tudor England a few decades ago, I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention, either, but I knew that Richard III, king of England from 1483 to his death in 1485, was a fascinating character in real life.
Shakespeare made him even more compelling.
Philippa Langley, originator of the Looking for Richard III project, looks at the facial reconstruction of Richard III, unveiled to the media at the Society of Antiquaries in London recently. (The Associated Press photo)
            Richard wasn’t a Tudor. In fact, it was Henry Tudor’s army he was fighting when he suffered multiple wounds at the Battle of Bosworth Field, near Leicester. Henry took the throne after Richard died at Bosworth, and the Tudor line continued through Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
            The big news on Feb. 4 was that University of Leicester archeologists had found Richard’s skeleton, long lost to history. The Reuters story said:
            “A skeleton with a cleaved skull and a curved spine dug up from under a car park is that of Richard III …, solving a 500-year-old mystery about the final resting place of the last English king to die in battle.”
             In Great Britain, a “car park” is a parking lot, and this one covered the foundation of Greyfriars Church, where Richard’s body had been buried after his conqueror had it displayed to prove Henry’s victory.
            Phillipa Langley of the Richard III Society had instigated a search for Richard’s body four years ago. “We don’t normally lose our kings,” Langley told journalists.
            It isn’t often that a plot point in a Shakespearean drama plays out in the modern world. In “Richard III,” written during the Tudor Elizabeth’s reign a century after Richard’s death, the Bard described the king as an evil hunchback, “deformed and unfinished.”
            Photos of the newly discovered skeleton show a dramatically curved spine that experts say resulted from scoliosis. Richard’s skull has eight wounds, which scientists described as “clearly inflicted in battle and suggesting the king had lost his helmet.”
            According to Shakespeare, he also had lost his horse.
Skeleton of Richard III with curved spine. (University of Leicester photo)
            Richard may be best known as the prime suspect in the murders of the “two little princes,” young royalty who presented a threat to his throne and who disappeared when they were confined to the Tower of London. Historians can’t decide whether Richard had his two nephews killed, but the Tudors and Shakespeare cast him as a villain.
            Deeper research indicates that, whether Richard III committed evil acts or not, he apparently had a compassionate side that was devoted to the Catholic Church of his time.

            According to the Richard III Society, he was influenced heavily by his mother, Cecily, Duchess of York, who was considered “one of the most saintly women of her generation.” Eleven surviving books are known to have been in Richard’s library, and four were devotional: a Book of Hours, which included daily prayers; a John Wycliffe English translation of the New Testament; a paraphrase of the Old Testament; and “The Book of Special Grace” for meditation.
            Richard donated to many church causes. He supported 100 priests at the cathedral in York, his hometown, and built church colleges in several locations. His generosity revealed a concern for the poor, and he attended Mass regularly. Lynda Pidgeon of the Richard III Society wrote, “Richard fulfilled his obligations and more, and for a medieval prince that was remarkable.”
            We can’t conclude from the superficial evidence whether this infamous king actually was a spiritual man. Historians will continue to debate his character. But finding those bones in a modern car park certainly revives the controversy.
            And I’m fascinated.
(For more information on Richard III, go to .)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Jan. 26, 2013, column:

St. Thomas parishioners visit Catholicism's overseas roots

Nicole Koetting, right, directs members of Amarillo’s St. Thomas Catholic Church at Santa Maria della Mercede Church in Rome.  
By Mike Haynes    
     It’s one thing to celebrate Mass in the spacious, 30-year-old, St. Thomas the Apostle Church on Amarillo’s South Coulter Street.
            It’s quite another for St. Thomas members to sing and receive the Holy Eucharist amid ancient vaulted ceilings built a thousand years before Amarillo existed, just a few feet from the tomb that many believe contains the remains of Mark, author of the first gospel.
The Rev. Scott Raef, pastor of St. Thomas Catholic Church in Amarillo, officiates at a private Mass in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.
            In that crypt below St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the Rev. Scott Raef of the Amarillo church officiated as Jim Gardner and Nicole Koetting led the music a month ago for a group of 68 visitors from Texas.
            For many, the intimate service was the highlight of an Italian trip that began the day after Christmas and ended Jan. 3.
            Koetting said members of the St. Thomas adult choir told her “it was so special to celebrate Mass where the grave of one of the gospel writers was actually behind the altar.”
             The private Mass began a tour that included children’s, youth and adult choirs and musicians from St. Thomas plus family members and friends. “It was a great way to start,” Koetting said.
Jim Gardner, music director at Amarillo’s St. Thomas Catholic Church, visits La Pieta church in Venice, where composer Antonio Vivaldi planned the acoustics. 
            Another highlight was attending the New Year’s Day Mass and blessing at St. Peter’s in Rome, attended by thousands and officiated by none other than Pope Benedict XVI himself.  The Amarillo group was among the faithful inside St. Peter’s Basilica with its 151-foot ceiling and 95-foot altar canopy, below which is the apostle Peter’s tomb.
            The group joined the throng outside in the square as Pope Benedict appeared in a window to give Jan. 1 greetings in multiple tongues. Koetting, who has been the St. Thomas assistant music director for almost 15 years, was accompanied by her husband, Dan, and three of their four children.
“We stayed for at least seven languages,” Koetting said. “But the kids were there with us, so we left after English.”
In addition to the Vatican and Venice, the group provided music at a public Mass in St. Croce Basilica in Florence and for another private Mass in Santa Maria della Mercedes in Rome, a modern church.
They also visited Padua and Assisi. “We were able to see the St. Francis cross in a side chapel of the church in Assisi,” Koetting said. “It’s from the late 1200s. It was pretty moving.”
The Amarillo church has sponsored several such trips, usually at five-year intervals. In addition to the late Rev. Joseph Tash, a key figure on the trips has been Gardner, music director since 1993.
“Jim is an amazing musician,” Koetting said. “He arranged all the music done on the trip. The music that we did at the private masses in Italy, he wrote.”
Brittney Richerson, a violinist on the trip, agreed that Amarillo is blessed to have Gardner. When not wearing his St. Thomas robes, he is active directing music at Amarillo Little Theatre as well as playing piano for the Polk Street Jazz ensemble.
“Too few in the Panhandle realize what a blessing a man with his unique gifts and incredible experience is to the community,” said Richerson, a former Amarillo College student now studying in Corpus Christi and who also has played with Gardner in ALT productions.
Indeed, it also is true that too few know about the quality of music and the arts radiating from the church on Coulter, a little of which was put on display this winter in the pope’s back yard.
            * * *
            Mike Haynes teaches journalism at Amarillo College. He can be reached at AC, the Amarillo Globe-News or Go to for other recent columns.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

C.S. Lewis College update
For those of you interested in the status of C.S. Lewis College, which I have written about several times, below is the latest from the C.S. Lewis Foundation.
The bottom line is that Hobby Lobby has given the Northfield Campus in Massachusetts to a Christian foundation that will decide who gets to use the campus. The CSL College people still are trying to get approval for the college to be on the Northfield Campus. --Mike H.

C.S. Lewis College Update

Greetings and Happy New Year!

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your contribution as a Founder of C.S. Lewis College and for your words of encouragement and prayerful support through the ups and downs of this past year of uncertainty.

In particular, I am writing to apprise you of late-breaking news regarding the Northfield Campus: The Green Family of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. has donated the campus to the National Christian Foundation (NCF), which is a nonprofit grant-making foundation. NCF has taken ownership of the property and will, from this point on, conduct the search for a suitable recipient for the campus.

An excerpt from Hobby Lobby’s press release reads as follows:

"NCF is a nonprofit charity based in Alpharetta, Ga. Hobby Lobby has made donations of other properties to NCF in the past and is confident they will care for the property with the same commitment demonstrated by Hobby Lobby over the past three years. NCF will continue the work of finding a long-term owner for the property that will honor the legacy of D.L. Moody.

We're thrilled with the opportunity to further preserve the heritage of the Northfield campus and to serve Hobby Lobby with their charitable giving objectives," said Steve Chapman, NCF Vice President of Communications."

Please know that the C.S. Lewis Foundation remains deeply committed to the founding C.S. Lewis College at a site that suits the particular vision of the College as a Christian college of the Great Books and Visual and Performing Arts that is actively committed to engaging the broader secular community. We continue to be interested in the Northfield Campus as our preferred site and are seeking the needed funding to launch the College there.

With this in mind, we would welcome your continued prayers and best wishes as we make contact with the National Christian Foundation to explore the future possibilities of launching C.S. Lewis College on location in Northfield.

Further up and further in!

J. Stanley Mattson
President & Founder
C.S. Lewis Foundation

Jan. 5, 2013, column:

End of the world should be last thing we worry about

In case you missed the news, the world didn’t end Dec. 21, as some people thought the Mayan calendar predicted. In fact, if you’re reading this, we’ve made it to Jan. 5.
Some “worlds” did end that day. By coincidence, it was the last day at work for my wife, who is moving to a new job after 28 years in a place she loved. It also was the last day at work for my brother, who is retiring after a productive career in education.
But both are embarking on new phases of their lives, so they have new worlds to enjoy. Kathy is glad she will be closer to the patients she treats, and Sam will have more time for golf, travel and ranching.
Actually, followers of Christ believe that at the real end of the world, they will have a wonderful new environment to enjoy forever. Many of us are uneasy about the future, but those who believe the scripture’s words should be confident.
“Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret?” wrote C.S. Lewis. “There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
Paul said it more succinctly in Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
I don’t waste much energy worrying about when the world will end. The final day could be tomorrow with some comet striking the Earth or with Jesus showing up literally as portrayed in the Bible.
For any of us individually, though, it also could end tomorrow as our pastor, Tommy Politz, described in his sermon Sunday — with a car accident, an aneurysm or any unpredictable calamity.
Even in the best scenario, the longest any of us will be here is a few more decades, so for each person, the end will arrive soon. Compared to the trillions of years of eternity, each life is shorter than a tweet.
My mother has been in poor health for a while. Although little was said about it during Christmastime, I know all my family, especially Dad, my brothers and sister, were thinking more about Mom than about presents or turkey and dressing. We’re thankful that as the New Year approached, she was feeling better.
Christmas Day did remind us we can’t predict the future. The electricity went out on the windy, snowy day, and instead of our traditional holiday feast, we ate cold ham sandwiches.
I didn’t hear anybody complain. There’s no point in worrying about what we can’t control, and the biggest thing in that category is when we will leave this Earth.
Sunday’s sermon was based on a letter by James, brother of Jesus: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. … If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (James 4:14 and 4:17)
Clearly, as our pastor said, we should do good things now, not “someday.” We all put things off until someday, whether it’s losing weight, volunteering or telling someone we love them.
What we do today should be our focus, not when it all will end. And even when we worry about our loved ones, Christian hope can comfort us. Consider this German saying: “Those who live in the Lord never see each other for the last time.”
Mike Haynes teaches journalism at Amarillo College. He can be reached at AC or Go to for other recent columns.