THE GREAT DOOR OPENER

© 2019  Bill Murphy

There are scores of songs we sing in church which herald the goodness of God: His favor, His blessings, His patience, His mercy, His care and concern for us.  He opens doors that have locked us out.  As Christians, we believe this to be true.  But there can be a difference between believing… and experiencing His great goodness.

Carol (my wife) has a really good doctor, and this doctor’s PA is equally as amazing.  They stay on top of things, and it would seem, even a step or two ahead of things!  4 years ago, a suspicious ‘spot’ appeared on Carol’s lung.  Since that time it has been closely monitored.

A few weeks ago, it was discovered that this ‘spot’ had grown.  And then Carol’s blood pressure began doing weird things.  So, her doctor ordered additional tests.  A CAT scan, a heart Cath, and also a PET scan were scheduled.    

The results of the Cath were great.  The others… somewhat ‘borderline’ or iffy.  ‘Iffy’ is not good where your health is concerned.  Carol’s doctor wanted a second opinion, so we were referred to an Oncologist in St. Louis.   We spent yesterday there… and this is where the God of Glory, as Carol so aptly put it, really ‘showed out.’

She had a mid-morning appointment.  The doctor’s office is located inside the huge Missouri Baptist Hospital.  We were unaware that early that very morning (a Thursday) a group of on-staff doctors met (each Thursday morning) to review ‘unique’ cases.  And… the Oncologist had presented Carol’s case to them… while we were still on the road to toward St. Louis. (Her records and scan images had been forwarded ahead.)

When the Oncologist saw Carol, one of the things he asked was how this mysterious ‘spot’ had been found in the first place… and Carol replied that it was discovered during a routine check-up.  He was amazed, saying that they hardly ever see patients in such an early stage of ‘disease,’ and because of that, it was difficult for them, as specialists, to diagnose it!   

He described the three possibilities of what this ‘spot’ might be, which ranged from ‘nothing’ to the beginning of something bad.  He also explained, that because of where it was located, it would be exceedingly difficult to do a simple biopsy.  He also said that to leave it alone and ‘observe it’ was taking a chance.  His suggestion was… remove the offending thing soon.

Then the doctor told us that there were two doctors there at Missouri Baptist who specialize in laparoscopic surgery, and that both had been in that mornings meeting, and both suggested removing it.  We agreed.  Then, the doctor said he would make the arrangements.  But Carol spoke up, and asked if it was possible for us to see one of these surgeons TODAY, while we were still in St. Louis.  “Highly unlikely,” was the doctors reply.  But, he made a call anyway, and asked. 

Who call a doctor and gets an appointment the same day?  Perhaps with a GP… but a specialist?  Within two hours, we were sitting in the surgeons office, discussing Carol’s case!  And he was so very nice and understanding, and explained everything to us… in detail.  Carol’s surgery is scheduled for February 26th.  

I’ve heard it told of God opening doors all of my life… and yes, I’ve had Him open some for me in the past.  But I’ve never been right there, for a front row seat, to see so many doors opened so effortlessly, in such a short space of time.  It was an amazing experience.

Yes, God IS great!   And God IS good…  just as the child’s meal-time prayer says! And just as God has the whole world in His hands… He also has Carol!

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A PUSH PIN MOMENT

© 2019 Bill Murphy

In the early 50s, when most radio was still AM only, I was big time into radio.  I even built two shortwave kits.

Our big thrill was ‘finding’ impossibly distant stations, which was often possible due to atmospheric conditions, especially late at night.  I had a map attached to a cork board, and used push-pins to ‘highlight’ the locations of these far flung audio discoveries.  

Our brains and our hearts also have something similar to push-pins… recording and proclaiming special events and moments which we’ve deemed as extra-special, and worthy of memory.  Some of these are unique to us, and for us… their special meanings lost on others.  So be it.

I had such a push-pin moment in early 1964.  It was so strange, so bizarre, so ‘other worldly’ that I have difficulty describing it now, let along explaining it!  I know that it did have, or must have had, some military implications.

I’d just returned from Air National Guard bootcamp and training.  I’d spent a total of twenty six weeks at two different Air Force bases in Texas.  

I had three years of ROTC in high school.  Military training was not new to me.  But ROTC was not much more than a ‘subject’ one took in high school.  We had breakfast at home, slept in our own beds at night. We were basically free to do what we wanted the other class periods.  Not so in the USAF!

The ‘real’ military is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  And in a real sense, it’s somewhat like being in prison.  Others, many others, are ALWAYS in control over you.  They tell you what to do, what to say, where to go, and of course–the what nots of all of those.

Now I was home.  Now I was free.  Now there were not a dozen different sergeants and lieutenants telling me to do this, don’t do that.  I found myself having difficulty re-adjusting to freedom and being out from under someone’s thumb.  The relief from that pressure was disconcerting.  This, I believe, was the genesis of my unique push-pin moment.

The place where it happened was West Capitol Street, in Jackson, MS.  I was standing in line at the Dairy Queen.  It was a popular place, and one usually had to wait in line.  I can’t remember what was going on in my mind at the time, but this I know, I was relishing the moment… I was home, and I was (somewhat uncomfortably) free.  

I gazed East, down Capitol Street.  It was a bright day, sunny, and colorful.  This all to common landscape looked especially beautiful this day.  I found myself appreciating it with all new meaning and depth.  And then it happened–suddenly–out if nowhere… the entire scene suddenly ‘morphed’ before my very eyes.  I saw this common sight, I saw the world, thru ‘different’ eyes!  

Whereas only moments before, I viewed the world as covered with asphalt and concrete.  This man-made covering had been sub-divided into squares, rectangles, and various shapes which we call ‘blocks’ and ‘tracts’ of land.  After all–the roads lead ‘everywhere’ don’t they, so they must cover ‘everything?’  It was as if I had previously interpreted all grassy areas as ‘additions to’ a concrete/asphalt world. 

But in this moment I suddenly saw green grass, trees, shrubs, flowers–living things, as they really are!  This was the world!  The asphalt, the concrete, were but ugly streaks… lines which cut across the beautiful earth.  I suddenly saw what this view would be if Capitol Street was suddenly ripped away!  Everything took on an all new beauty and meaning.

I suppose you don’t, or can’t understand what happened to me that day.  Perhaps that moment was just too personal, too–Bill Murphy.  You know how he is!  Or perhaps you’ve always seen the world the way it really is, a great big blue and green ball bisected with asphalt and concrete streets and highways.  Perhaps I was only ‘getting it’ that morning… and everyone else already had it.  

But I did have that moment.  And to me, it was special, a true push-pin moment.  

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How I Write

© 2019  Bill Murphy

Readers often ask, “Why do you write?”  Other writers sometimes ask, “How do you write?”  Both are valid questions. 

Growing up in the 40s and 50s, I had the distinct advantage over children today, in that most of our toys did not come ‘Ready To Play.’  They came in boxes – a box of building blocks, a box of Tinker Toys, a box of Lincoln Logs.  Empty the box, add fun, and stir. 

My favorite was a large metal A.C. Gilbert Erector Set filled with all manner of screws, bolts, washers, rods, plates and angles, wheels, pulleys, gears, plus a small electric motor.  Oh yes, it came with a set of directions on how to assemble a wheeled toy or two… but the most fun was had by suppling a key ingredient of your very own… imagination.  And then an amazing thing happened.  Imagination bred creativity!  And with imagination and creativity… nothing was impossible.  

How do I write?  Well it’s something like playing with an A. C. Gilbert Erector Set… but the screws, bolts, and washers are words!

But where do the ideas come from… the what to write about?  Good question.  I wish I really knew the answer.

You know how it is sometimes when you just want to sit in front of the idiot box and be entertained?  You don’t really care what’s on… you just click the on button, and watch… regardless of what’s on, who’s on, or how long it’s been on.  Well, sometimes, I find myself just turning on my thought process, and there, on my mind’s screen, there’s something there… and I watch.  I didn’t look for this channel, it was just there, already on and showing.  So I watch, and follow the program already in progress, and see where it might lead.

This happens often, especially during those sleepy moments of what are sometimes called ‘twilight sleep,’ both morning and night.  I try not to do this while driving.  Crazy, huh?

I’ve just learned a new publishing term, ‘flash fiction.’  It refers to short-short stories, quick reads, quick as a flash reading.  The follows is such.  It’s a simple story, but one filled with emotion.  Chapter count?  Definitely one.  It came to me early one morning last week, while have in and half out of sleep.  I can’t really say I wrote it… but rather watched it, as if it were a drama on stage, or a program on TV. 

GOOD-BYE

They’d been driving for 10 hours.  They should have been there by now.  So much for the best laid plans of mice and vacationers.  It was not their fault, they’d planned well, or so they thought.  That extra hour for ‘incidentals’ didn’t cover the multitude of unexpecteds they’d encountered today – road construction, an accident, and the novice couldn’t-care-less waitress.  All had added to the list of ha-ha I gotcha delays.

They still had a hundred miles to go.  They were now somewhere in the barren desolation of Western Arizona, and it was well past 1 AM.  Considering their schedule, they had few options.  Stop now and attempt to make up the time tomorrow?  But they’d still be behind schedule.  And – stop where?  They’d not passed a motel for seventy five miles.  Plus, that would cost extra money, money they could ill afford. The lost time would also cut into their time on the beaches of California… their long awaited dream vacation.

Wallace and Judith Bishop had been dreaming of this trip for years.  They deserved it!  Finally, all the kids were out of the house, and self supporting.  Now was the time.  Because they’d married late in life, and began their family even later, they were far past the age of typical beach people.  Who cared if folks stared.  They’d earned their stroll among the bronzed gods and goddesses.  Now it was only a day away, if they could only hold out.

A few miles ahead, another weary traveler was counting the miles and hours ahead – not to sand and surf, but to hearth and home. With a fresh tank of coffee in his gut and a fresh mug by his side, Glenn Allen pulled his big rig out of the parking lot of an all night diner – a lone neon oasis in the dark desert.  He had the 18-wheeler in second gear, the front wheels entering the black highway, when he thought of his wallet – the wallet he’d last seen beside his empty plate in the diner – the wallet somewhat sticky with pancake syrup.  He fumbled, trying to dig into his back pocket, searching, while he silently cursed his ever increasing weight gain.  The cab’s rear wheels entered the highway, and now crossed the center line.  The big rig now covered both lanes, at a forty-five degree angle.  He was focused on the wallet, not on completing his turn.  A delay, far less important that the wallet, was fast approaching, and now lay in the path of the rig.

He touched the wallet.  Aha! he thought.  He had it after al…

I’m told that folks never feel a thing, that is, in a full blown highway crash.  One second, all is well with the world.  Your mind is doing what it was doing in the previous micro second.  Then it happens.  Instantly, you cannot see, hear, or feel.  That fate’s reserved for the lucky ones.  Others, are cursed by seeing, and knowing what’s coming.  They see.  They hear.  They feel.  

Judith and Wallace were among the lucky ones.  

Their vision, hearing, and tactical senses returned after the crash, but only briefly.

The 5 folks in the diner heard the crash.   One claimed she could actually feel it. 

The Bishops vehicle hit the rig between the cab and trailer, no more than 5 feet behind where the driver sat – his wallet still in his back pocket.  The Bishop’s well worn Chrysler literally cut the rig in half – coming to rest in a tangled heap – almost twenty yards past where the separated cab and trailer came to rest.  The posted speed on this stretch of desert highway was 75, and the Bishop’s were doing ever mile of that, if not more.

Thankfully, there was no fire. When both mangled vehicles came to a stop, all was quiet and dark once again.  Not a single light shown from either vehicle, save for one tiny bulb in the shattered dash of the Bishop’s Chrysler.  The feeble light was hardly half the illumination of a birthday candle.  The patrons of the the diner strained thru the plate glass window to see what had caused the terrible noise outside, but outside all was dark once again.

The Wallace Bishop, stunned an uncomprehending, barely clung to life.  What had just happened?  Was he dreaming?  That’s it.  A dream.  A really bad dream.  He was in bed.  He’d just awakened.  Yes, that was it!  Through his foggy vision, he saw Judith.  Funny.  She was upside down.  Why was she upside down?  Or perhaps, it was he who was flipped.  

The solitary bulb, somehow still drawing power, cast a soft light on Judith’s face.  She was smiling at him, or at least, trying to smile.  A crooked rivulet of red ran down her cheek  and dripped from her chin.  Her silvery hair fell across one eye.  He reached to brush it out of her face, but could not.  His arms seemed no longer to work. 

His own life’s blood was draining away.  Then, some degree of understanding returned to his starving brain… and he came to realize that this was his ultimate delay.  He’d often wondered when his time would come, and where he might be.  And now he knew – somewhere in the vast, almost empty desert.  I wonder if the angels know where I am? He thought. 

He didn’t have long.  And he knew it.  He wished that I could only hold Judith, just one more time.  And he leaned toward her, which was not close enough, not close enough at all.  He was growing weaker by the second.

“I… I love… you.” he managed, with great difficulty.  He saw her lips moving, slowly, trying to speak.  She was trying to tell him… but his vision was fuzzy. 

In his final moment Bishop felt the hand of an angel on his hand.  He tried to smile, but he couldn’t.  His fleshly body had breathed its last.

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Tuesday. Bluesday.

© 2019  Bill Murphy

It’s said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions… and I’ll agree.  Many of those mis-guided intentions begin right close to home… some even in the home.

In the closing years of the 1940s, my mother decided that I should take piano lessons.  I’m not sure just why this conclusion was reached.  I don’t think I was prone to play with musical toys, and I certainly was no songbird.  

But piano lessons were readily available.  The pianist from our church, Miss Nellie Robinson, lived within walking distance of our home.  She gave piano lessons.  And she agreed to take me on.

Come to think of it now… our family must have purchased a piano on which I could practice.  Neither Dad nor Mom played, and my sister was far too young at the time to do anything short of banging on the keys.  Anyway, a playable upright appeared at 802 Evergreen.

What a waste!

Soon I was either stopping off for lessons on my way home from George School… or walking back the short distance to Miss Nellie’s on Walnut Street.  My lessons were on Tuesdays.  Always on Tuesdays.

I didn’t take well to the piano, neither Miss Nellie’s nor ours.  A piano is a piano I suppose… just as a scorpion is a scorpion.  I never got the hang of tickling the ivories, anymore than I’d have learned to tickle a scorpion.  My young heart and fingers simple weren’t in it.  Perhaps if I’d been born a few years later, Bill Haley or Little Richard might have inspired me to try harder.  But at that time, my time, I had no desire to try harder.  According to Miss Nellie, I didn’t try at all!

Tuesdays became a huge blemish on calendars.  Where everyone else saw the second day of the week, I saw the green wicked witch of the east mocking me!  “TUESDAY…  I’ll get you my sweetieeeee….”  

I learned to loath Tuesdays, to dread them.  The path to Miss Nellie’s became my green mile.

I don’t remember how long this piano-purgatory lasted.  It felt as though it was until I was twenty seven. When you’re in distress, young or old, time slows.  And it was Miss Nellie herself who finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel and led me to safety.

“Mrs. Murphy,” she said to my mother, “You’re wasting your money and my time with Billy.  So far, he’s not learned a single note past middle C.  Everything he plays… he plays by ear!”

Hallelujah, my days of musical misery were over!  I was free!  I’d done my small part to save the elephants!

But Bluesday was not through with me.  So deep was my disdain, so strong was my dread of the second day of the week… that it took many, many years for me to overcome my ingrained discomfort of Tuesday… all fifty two of them each year!  Yes, I’m truthful when I say ‘many years.’  I finally ‘think’ I can say that Tuesday is now, just what it is, and what it was always intended to be… simply Tuesday. 

A footnote to Music with the Murphy’s:  My sister, Mary Lily, went on to reclaim our family’s musical honor.  She also took lessons from Miss Nellie… and very successfully I might add.  So, the purchase of ‘Billy’s piano’ wasn’t for naught.  Mary, always a go-getter, went on to play in the Enochs Junior High and Central High bands.  And while not being content to simply do well with her Oboe, she also mastered every single instrument in the band!

Yes, we have a piano in our home today.  No, I still don’t play, neither by finger nor ear.  Carol does, as well as one of our daughters.  And, as I write these words while not in a twit – today actually is Tuesday!  

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The Blank Page

© 2018  Bill Murphy

The following is my comment to a poem entitled ‘Primal Urge’ by my dear friend and fellow writer, Sandra Conner, which contained lines in reference to the possibilities of the blank page. 

The tail gunner of a B-17

This poem struck a special cord in my heart.  It took me back to a my seventh grade English class.  I was fresh out of grade school, and feeling ‘all grown up.’  I had an urge even then to write, as ideas raced through my mind.  We were not long removed from WWII at the time, and I was still caught up in the romance of battles in the skies.  Little boys have no inkling of the misery and horror of war.  To me it was all glory and adventure, like the propaganda newsreels of that day.  We had no understanding of the freezing blasts of wind through a bomber at 30,000 feet, or the bulky burden of heated flight suits and heavy flak jackets.  We’d never heard the deafening noise of war.  And we’d never slipped in the blood of the poor guy who moments before stood beside us… and who had the night before, lay two cots to our right, reading love letters from his sweetheart back home.  We had no experience of seeing our own plane afire, not knowing if the next second would be our last.

I had an idea for a story.  The name would be ‘THE LAST ONE HOME.’  It was about the tail gunner of a B-17 bomber.  In my story, war had been an all-encompassing, well… thrill for him… just as I imagined then that it would have been for me.  It had been as if it were one big duck hunt, but the ducks my hero killed were German fighters… the enemy.  And now, they were on their last mission – this was it.  Soon all the glamorous glory would be over. Within days, they’d be returning home.  The duck hunt was over.  The ride back to base held heavy, mixed emotions.  And I wanted to show those raw emotion through the written word.

My story would be this man’s inner battle, his all new war that began afresh in his heart and in his mind.  The story of war morphed into peace.

I remember having those thoughts in my thirteen year old brain that day, as I stared at a blank sheet of paper before me.  And I had the warm and wonderful thought that here before me lay the next great ‘american novel’… or at least there lay before me the possibility of it!  It was all up to me.  Oh what an opportunity!  Oh what a challenge!

As writers, we have a responsibility to the blank page… to do our best!  We must never fear the blank page.  The blank page is always our friend… our lover.  The blank page welcomes us with open arms.  We can tell it our deepest thoughts, it understands, it never rejects our words.

DODGING THE BULLET

bullet-1027871_1280© 2018 Bill Murphy

A Facebook friend posted a funny this morning… about when seeing a recent photo of an old high school squeeze, do you think, “I dodged the bullet on that one!”

I didn’t.

I’ve often wondered about that… what if I actually had dodged the bullet?  What if I had listened to my parents?  What if I had known then what I know now?  I know my life would have been different.  But how different?  I’m very satisfied with how it is today… but would I – could I – have had this life today… if I had not had that life way back then?

Good question.

Back then, 1957, 58, 59… there was a young girl, Carol Ringer, who lived over eleven-hundred miles away, in a quaint bedroom community just outside Philadelphia, PA.  Hers was a happy, care-free, country club life style… vacationing on Cape Cod… shopping in NYC… far, far removed from the likes of Bill Murphy.  But she too was struck by a bullet… the unexpected death of her father.  She too would have preferred to have dodged that bullet.

It took a full decade… of both of us suffering from our individual ‘bullet wounds’ for us to somehow, some way, miraculously meet.  The fact that we fell in love was no miracle… for we believe that it was meant to be.  The miracle was in the meeting.

So you ask, “If you had it to do all over again, would you?”  The simple, truthful answer is yes!

Of course, we’d prefer that we’d not been subjected to those bullet wounds which eventually brought us together.  But we must admit, for that to have happened… that would have been a true miracle!

I don’t have to understand everything in life… I don’t need a detailed explanation for every detail.  All I need to know is that God is still on His throne, and that HE is in control, and that He knows what He’s doing.  I also know that He loves me, and that He knows what’s best for me… and that He’ll lead me to the still waters to drink my fill… if I’ll only allow Him to take the lead.

And if the enemy takes a shot at me… my God is the Master of healing bullet wounds!

 

 

 

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WHO IS YOUR TEACHER? What do they teach?

teacher-309533_640

© 2018 Bill Murphy

What is more important, heredity or environment?  That’s a question mental health experts have debated for decades.

Wilson, Manning, Harris, Ratliff, VanDevender, and Eggar.  These 6 ladies were my grammar school teachers.  They created a strong and positive impression upon me when I was of a most impressionable age.

I had other teachers: Mother, father, uncles and aunts, my grandparents, countless cousins, and caring neighbors.  And there were my spiritual teachers, instructors who were ‘professional,’ as well as friends, and extended family members.

This is not a ‘hats off’ to my teachers.  It’s a close examination of our ‘education process’ in general, and how vitally important are our teachers…. and what they teach.

What we are taught yesterday can be either beneficial or detrimental today.

Most little boys like things that go BAG!  I was no different.  As a child, one of my favorite toys was a small ‘bomb,’ a soft plastic dart-looking thing, with a rounded metallic nose.  Into the nose, you inserted a section from a roll of caps intended for cap pistols.  I usually crammed in as many caps as I could… for a bigger bang.  You threw it UP as far as possible, and when it came down and hit… BANG!

I attempted making a ‘bomb’ with a bigger bang, using fireworks… but the INSTANT BANG at the moment of impact eluded me.  Later, when I was a teenager, and should have known better… someone taught me how to make an INSTANT BANG bomb. I did, – and it would.  Great sport!

But one day, a LIVE ROUND of 50 cal. ammunition came into my possession. Ah ha… I reasoned, an even BIGGER bag! (I did have sense enough to first remove the slug).

My home-made 50 cal. bomb as a resounding success.  I got a VERY big boom for my buck… and I also got pelted with flying pieces of brass shrapnel.  Only by the grace of God do I still have eyesight today.

We can learn harmful things yesterday which can bite us in the fanny today.  Likewise, we can learn harmful today which can kill us tomorrow!

So, be careful of WHAT you learn!  If your conscience tells you to avoid a certain lesson, if it’s NOT for you today… why then should it be profitable for you later?

What you are taught determines what you learn.

What you learn determines your thought and reasoning processes.

Your thought and reasoning processes determine how you live.

How you live determines who you are.

Who you are determines your destiny.

Your destiny is all important.

It all begins with your teachers!

 

 

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