Monday, December 23, 2019

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

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

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

Monday, November 25, 2019

Nov. 24, 2019, column:

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

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

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

Sunday, October 27, 2019

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

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

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

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Sept. 29, 2019, column:
By Mike Haynes
            Music can be powerful, and if you watched Ken Burns’ latest documentary, “Country Music,” on PBS the past two weeks, you saw – or more important, heard – several examples.
            The fun songs – Bob Wills’ “Take Me Back to Tulsa” – and the fast songs – Flatt and Scruggs’ “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” – certainly can raise spirits. But musician Emmylou Harris said this: “For me, the sad songs are the best, because they make you feel better, because somehow, they connect you to the world, like we’re all in the same boat.”
            Country music has plenty of sorrowful songs, many dealing with heartache, cheatin’ and alcohol. But some of the most moving moments in the Burns film series come in segments on lives that ended too soon and the hopeful music that followed.
Jimmie Rodgers
            Jimmie Rodgers, “the Father of Country Music” was 35 years old when he died in 1933 of tuberculosis. His music on the radio and on records had heartened many during the Depression, and crowds lined the railroad tracks as he was taken from New York City to his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, for burial. Rodgers had just recorded a tune with the lyrics, “yodeling my way back home.”
            He hadn’t been forgotten 20 years later, when 30,000 people attended a memorial in Meridian, including A.P., Maybelle and Sarah Carter of what could be called “the Founding Family of Country Music.”  The Carters’ song, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” still is a standby at memorial services with its ending:
            “There’s a better home a-waiting, in the sky, Lord, in the sky.”
            The documentary recalls that at Rodgers’ 1953 memorial, it had been said  that the country music mantle had been handed over to Hank Williams – who had died a few months earlier at age 29.
            Much of Williams’ music reflected his life, made difficult by alcohol, two divorces and the drugs that apparently killed him. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” is one example of why he was
Hank Williams
called “the Hillbilly Shakespeare.” But his granddaughter pointed out that under his anguish was a definite faith in God and redemption that you can’t miss in “I Saw the Light.”
Williams wrote that song after he and his mother had been in a car approaching Montgomery, Alabama. Lilly Williams had remarked that she saw the light of the airport, indicating they were almost home. Son Hank turned it into:
“I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin, I wouldn’t let my dear savior in.
“Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night, Praise the Lord, I saw the light.”
After Williams died in the back seat of another car, country stars Roy Acuff, Red Foley, Carl Smith, Webb Pierce and others sang those lyrics at his funeral in Montgomery to 2,750 people while another 20,000 waited outside.
Patsy Cline
No secular music genre is more spiritual than country music. Maybe that’s because its roots are in the South, considered the Bible Belt, and in the hope that many songs offered during hard times. Burns’ series narrator said that “according to a song by the Carter family, the only place the Depression hadn’t reached was heaven.”
Of course, country music always has had another side. “In its infancy, country music came from the church with the Carter family and from beer joints with Jimmie Rodgers,” said bluegrass musician Vince Gill.
Patsy Cline’s melodic voice gave life mostly to jukebox, heartbreak songs such as “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces” and Willie Nelson’s “Crazy.” Her fame wasn’t on the “church side” of country, but the Virginia native who crossed successfully over to the pop charts fit well into the tight-knit country “congregation” that was at home with faith. Her first singing experience had been in a Baptist choir, and she and her mother had sung at church socials.
Cline’s death at age 30 in a 1963 plane crash, along with singers Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and her manager, Randy Hughes, again brought the country music family together, as shown in Burns’ series. Roger Miller, a native of Erick, Oklahoma, and later a recording star, was one of her friends who searched for the plane wreckage in Tennessee. The Grand Ole Opry hosted a memorial service in which many of the stars of the day participated.
The Opry venue itself, the Ryman Auditorium, was a fitting venue for such a service. It had been built in 1892 by Thomas Ryman, a riverboat owner who, according to Burns’ series, “had undergone a religious conversion and wanted a place he called ‘purely an outpost to catch sinners.’” As the Opry’s home from 1943 to 1974, the Ryman became known as “The Mother Church of Country Music.”
The 16 hours of PBS’ “Country Music” cover much more than sad songs and faith in God. But throughout, the series shows how this home-grown genre “reflects experiences of everyday Americans.”
And it shows that many can identify with these words from Roy Acuff’s 1936 “The Great Speckled Bird,” seen as a reference to the church:
“She is spreading her wings for a journey, She’s going to leave by and by,
“When the trumpet shall sound in the morning, She’ll rise and go up in the sky.”

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.
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            Mike Haynes taught journalism at Amarillo College from 1991 to 2016. He can be reached at Go to for other recent columns.