THE BOOK THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

© 2019 Bill Murphy

This is a re-post. It was originally posted on November 28, 2017. The reason for the re-post is that for the original posting, I was forced to use a stock photo of the small red Gideon Bible, as mine was lost. I’ve searched for it numerous times since then, but to no avail. But yesterday, that cherished memento was found! I took a few liberties and ‘tweaked’ a few works. I hope you’ll enjoy this sweet memory with me!

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I’m certain this writing assignment was expected to invoke responses such as: Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men or The Old Man and the Sea. But the one book that had the most effect on my life, is the Bible. To be more specific, a small red Gideon’s New Testament, which I was given in 1952 – and promptly read.

At that time, I was in George Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi. George was a neighborhood school. We had no need of school buses, and I can’t remember a single child being dropped off by automobile.

I was a ‘Safety Patrol Boy’ that year. Every intersection surrounding the school, and for a couple of blocks beyond, was manned each morning and each afternoon by a patrol boy, to insure that the smaller kids got safely across the street.

Early that year, the Gideon’s visited to our school, and passed out small red New Testaments to the students. As you see in the photos, I still have mine.

When I received my Testament, I was assigned to a rather dull and boring intersection – with few students to monitor. Morning and afternoons, I spent my time reading. I finished the entire book before my intersection assignment changed.

I was raised in a Christian home. We were not just church members, but church attenders, Sunday mornings as well as Sunday nights. Dad was on the Board of Stewards, and Mom was the head of the Primary Department. Needless to say, my sister and I received our fair share of perfect attendance awards. But one does not become a true ‘believer’ by osmosis.

As I read my little Testament, the words seemed to come alive as never before. Something really weird was happening, something that I couldn’t at first understand. And then it came to me, my Eureka moment.

Before, because I was so closely associated WITH church, and thoroughly indoctrinated with the teaching of the church, and because our church was a Christian church, ergo, I must be a Christian. But for the very first time in my young life, my heart was called upon to decide – did I really BELIEVE all this small tiny book was telling me – or didn’t I.

That was 67 years ago, but I can remember the morning as clearly as if it were yesterday, the day that I determined in my heart and in my mind, that YES, I believe. And belief and trust in the subject of that small book, has changed my life forever.

A Dog-Less Hot Dog

© 2019 Bill Murphy

I seem to remember some of the weirdest things, and at the strangest times. Such a childhood memory visited me this morning, and I wasn’t even eating a hotdog!

It happened during the early 50s. This was a time when children were taught, and thought, that all adults were like kings and queens, and were endowed with powers just below presidential status. In other words, we understood that respectful children were most often the happiest children.

My mother’s eldest sister lived next door to us on Evergreen. She moved there from Bogalusa when my uncle died. My mother’s brother, and his family live across the street.

My aunt had left dear friends behind in Bogalusa, but they stayed in touch, and visited one another as often as possible. My aunt’s friend had a daughter, 2 years older than me, and the same age as my female cousin Pat from across the street. Pat and Eleanor were fast friends… who on occasion, would drag me along on their outings.

During this pre-MetroCenter time in south Jackson, on the the spot that was to become MetroCenter, there was a sprawling miniature golf course, And right across the street was a root beer stand. Here, my memory fails me. Was it A&W? Dog ‘N Suds? Frost Top? Anyway, on that golf outing, Eleanor was hungry, so after a round of golf, we drove over to the root beer stand. Eleanor was the last to order, as her order was not a usual order. Her order was not on the menu, and therefore, by their reasoning, out-of-order. I was about to witness teen-rebellion in action!

Eleanor calmly told them that she didn’t want the ‘chili-dog,’ but what she called a ‘chilly.’ “What’s that?” she was asked. “You know, a chili-dog without the wiener on it,” she replied. “We don’t have those,” replied the adult voice. “It’s not on the menu, so I don’t know what to charge for it.”

The adult voice was probably not expecting what was about to come.

“If I was a mother wanting only a wiener for my child, how much would you charge me for it?” she asked. There was a long pause. The adult was thinking. “Twenty cents,” he finally replied. (The cost then of the chili dog on the menu was thirty-five cents). “OK,” began Eleanor, “That’s easy. You keep your twenty cent wiener, and subtract that from the thirty-five cents, which leave me with fifteen cents which I owe you for a my chilly.”

You really can’t say that Eleanor was ‘arguing’ with an adult, although it was a simple, but very calm, confrontation. The end result truly had no winner. The root beer stand made their money, Eleanor got her chilly, and I didn’t wet my pants during their exchange.

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A DIAMOND IN THE PARKING LOT

© 2019  Bill Murphy

I didn’t have my phone/camera at church this morning, so I have no photo-record to illustrate the following story.  Perhaps it’s just as well, for most folks failed to see what I saw this morning, and would have missed the message that I received.

Our church parking lot is neither asphalt nor concrete.  It’s paved with gray cinder/gravel.  Originally, this gravel was mostly about an inch in size, but over years of countless vehicles driving in and out, much of it has now been ground to the size of pea-gravel, or smaller.  Mixed in, is a sparse amount of other rock.  The front of our church facility faces north. 

This morning, I was standing at one of the front windows, looking out across the parking lot.  To my left, and perhaps three or four feet from the edge of the drive, I noticed a small glint of sunlight reflecting off of something.  There was not a cloud in the sky at that time of the morning.  This small sparkle of light was extremely bright, even though it was extremely small.  A step or two to the right or left, and the glint of light disappeared completely.  Whatever it was, it was small.  Could it be ring, perhaps a diamond lost at the edge of our parking lot? 

Amazingly, the vertical angle from which the reflection could be seen was just as critical as was the horizontal angle.  If I stooped, it again disappeared.  

I walked out to investigate.  A few steps forward, and the sparkle disappeared!  I made four or five trips out to the spot where this small glisten of light sparkled so brightly.  But I could find nothing.  As I retraced my steps each time, I focused on the spot where this reflective object must be, but as I reached the spot, I found nothing that could have caused it. 

Then I thought.  This incident was somewhat like a sailor or aviator lost at sea.  Before the days of micro-radios, they were issued small mirrors which easily fit into a shirt pocket.  These mirrors were used to reflect the rays of the sun from the individual, just a tiny speck on the vast ocean, reflecting back to searching aircraft thousands of feet overhead, or to ships which could be many miles away.  These small mirrors spotlight the location of the lost individual.

There were several things at work here: the lost soul at sea, the sun above, the small mirror, and the rescuers.  Sunday morning, what I saw was no doubt a tiny grain of silica amid all the billions of pieces of rock in the parking lot.  There was also the massive sun above millions of miles away… and there was me to witness this amazing interaction. 

The lesson I saw in that tiniest of sparkles in our church parking lot was a reminder to me of how great is our God, and how small we are.  And yet, He in his magnificent greatness, sees our needs and hears our prayers, and reflects His love back to us… a reflection which always says, “I hear, and I care!”

RESPONSIBILITY and RAILROADING

© 2019  Bill Murphy

I’ve written before on the heavy topic of responsibility.  It’s a subject that often pops up in my extended family.  As for myself, I’ve been officially retired for six years, and yet I’m still faced with responsibilities on a daily basis.  Obviously, they never end.

Responsibilities are much like anchovies and black olives: you have the option to choose or reject them.  (I love anchovies, but detest black olives.)  

Yes, one can reject a responsibility.  Folks do it all the time.  That’s not saying that’s a healthy thing to do, but it is an option.  The truth of this is in the expression ‘accepting one’s responsibilities.’  To accept involves a conscious, voluntary action The opposite of acceptance is rejection.  Both of these require a value judgement on our part… we weigh the options, and make our choice. 

I didn’t say that we study the options.  Decisions are often made with little or no thought as to the outcome of those decisions.  We speak, act, or shoot — and then think.  Oops!

Responsibilities are very personal and unique to the individual.  I may or may not have a similar responsibility confronting me that is confronting you.  But, by the same token, we share many responsibilities.   Yet even within a shared responsibility, the portion of that responsibility which affects us directly is ours alone to accept or reject.  We’re responsible for our personal portion.  

What we often fail to consider is the simple fact that the decisions we make concerning our personal responsibilities usually always affect others around us… those close to us, like family, as well as those not as close to us, as in those friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens of the world in which we live.  It is true: no man is an island.

So what’s the answer to this dilemma?  How do we, the accepters of responsibility, convince the rejectors of responsibility to get with the program?

Simple education is a good place to start.  Learn from the railroad.  All railroad wheels have flanges, extensions to the inside of the wheels.  These flanges extend downward to fit in-between the rails, thus keeping the train on the track.  Without these flanges, no train could ever make a turn, or even stay on the track going in a straight line.  Wheel flanges are a necessity.  The railroad has no choice in the matter.

When I was a child, it was said that schools taught the three R’s:  reading, riting and ‘rithmatic.  I suggest adding a fouth: RESPONSIBILITY.  

I also suggest teaching that responsibilities are linked to CONSEQUENCES.  Perhaps the word ‘link’ is incorrect.  Perhaps ‘chained’ would be better.  

Just as railroads would fail without the use of wheel flanges, students fail in school when they choose not to pay attention in class, not to do their homework, and not to study for tests.  

Employees: only do what is absolutely necessary on the job, then never expect a promotion.  Fail to pay your rent or house note and you’ll receive a boot out the door.  Spend all your money only on what you want, and you’ll not have money for what you need.  If you don’t eat, then expect to starve.  It’s all simple 1 + 1 = 2 math.   

As for responsibilities, they’re necessary for all of us.  They are the light which illuminate our paths in life.  And sometimes they are the barriers which protect us from danger.  Responsibilities allow us to navigate through a successful, fruitful, and meaningful life-experience.  Accepting those responsibilities are vital.  They keep us on track.  They keep us safe.  They keep us happy. Own them, your they are yours!

We may not always see them as friends, but they are.   

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Oh Little Town of Carterville

© 2019 Bill Murphy

I’ve always thought of myself as a city-boy. I was born and raised in Jackson, MS… not exactly Dallas or New York, but not tiny-town-country either.

In 2013, Carol and I retired from the 40 hour a week workforce, moved to the small town of Carterville, Illinois where most of our kids, and grandkids live, and began life anew as 24 hour a day retirees.

Carterville’s located midway between Marion (on, I-57) and Carbondale (on Old US 51), and about 50 north of the southernmost border of the state. It’s a very old coal mining town. Our main street downtown stretches for all of 3 blocks, and we have only 3 or 4 traffic lights… not exactly Mayberry RFD, but close.

We live within a half mile of a great junior college, where I’ve taken several courses, fifty yards from a golf course, 2 miles from a huge lake with great fishing, 5 miles from Kroger and Walmart… and only one mile from a Dollar General. Yes, we have all the necessary creature comforts.

Did I mention our wild-life? We’ve had several deer in our front yard, an owl perched on the stop sign at the corner of our yard, once had to wait before turning unto our driveway until a skunk ambled off… and had to evict 3 possums from inside the house! (A workman forgot to secure the crawl-space entrance!)

But to me, the stop sign at the end of our short little street proclaims Carterville perfectly. It’s not a city beautification project… just wildflowers doing their own thing… on very public property. Locals keep the foliage from covering red hexagon area.

I believe I’ve adapted rather well to small town living, in Oh Little Town of Carterville.

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He Is Good All The Time

© 2019 Bill Murphy

We sang a song in a church I once attended that said, “He is good all the time.  All the time, He is good.”  How very true.  

I believe in thanking Him all the time, and all the time thanking Him, even for those tiny little things that may not mean much to others.  I’d rather thank Him ‘needlessly’ for something He didn’t supply… than to miss thanking Him for something He did!  This past week, one of those ‘silly little things’ happened.

Carol and I were returning home from Alabama, where we had attended my brother-in-law’s funeral.  We were somewhere in rural Tennessee, the day was overcast, and we were already in a somber mood.  Carol was driving… and I was simply watching the world go by.  Ahead, to the right, I beheld an amazing sight.  It was amazing to me anyway.  I believe that God knew that I needed a small shot of sunshine, a little dose of smiles, something lighthearted and upbeat.  The scene we passed was right out of a child’s nursery rhyme, but instead of a drawing, this was in living color.  There was a broad, flat meadow of lush, green grass.  This field lay at the base of a gentle hill, not much more than a low mound.  This high area was solidly covered with bright green corn stalks… which extended over this little hill and for acres and acres beyond.  And standing right up next to the corn…  the cornstalks brushing their sides… was a herd of brown and white cows.  And I thought…

Little boy blue,

Come blow your horn,

The sheeps in the meadow,

And the cows in the corn.  

Amazing! I couldn’t help but grin! 

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SMOKE HOUSE

© 2019 Bil Murphy

Who remembers playing in the old smokehouse? I’m not talking about your local tobacco store either! Unless you’re like me, older than dirt, then you’ve probably never had the blessing of smokehouse fun.

Pappa and Mamma Murphy had a ‘working’ smokehouse when I was a kid in short pants. It sat a few feet from the rear of their house in Carthage, MS, and a few dozen yards from where those hams were born and raised. Because my Dad loved his parents dearly, we visited Carthage often, much to my approval and delight!

The ole smokehouse was no more than eight feet square, with a low roof. Hams hung from the rafters at about eye level. It smelled… what can I say… almost heavenly in the place… but it was dark inside. Because it was a valuable asset to the farm, and a major source along their food chain, our care-free play time inside of it was strictly limited.

Occasionally, a friend or distant cousin would visit who was ‘out of the loop’ of our country fun activities, and we’d suggest a game of follow the leader.

The smoked hams hung from the rafters of the low roof by strong cords, making the lower portion of the heavy hams about eye level to an eight or ten year old. Perfect! We’d entice the unsuspecting newcomer to follow us inside that dark and sweet smelling place. The aroma alone was enough to shock your senses, and throw your thinking off balance.

Did I mention that these the hams hung down… looking for all the world like punching bags in a prize fighter’s gym?

The leader would wait until the door was closed, and it was once again dark inside, and the unsuspecting victim was pressing close to the leader for guidance… and then the leader would reach forward and push a ham forward… and then release it… and duck! Instead of egg in your face, the poor visitor got twelve pounds of ham in the face!

My grand and great-grand kids think that I must have had a boring childhood… because I had no cell phone, no TV, no radio controlled toys, no video games.

And I shake my head and think what an artificial childhood they are having, because they have no smokehouses, hay lofts, peanut patches, nor have they ever experienced drinking cool fresh water that they themselves have drawn from a well with a bucket on a rope.

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