HE KNOWS

© 2019  Bill Murphy

Matthew 6:8 tells us… for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

What a wonderful truth!  It speaks volumes of the greatness and love of God.  Yet amazingly, I’ve heard it misquoted, and misunderstood.

Perhaps it would be best to discuss what this verse doesn’t say.

First of all… it doesn’t imply than its pointless to pray because God already knows.  Also, read this truth closely, and see what it says, as opposed to what you might think or wish that it says.

Pray is communion with God.  Prayer is the channel through which we (humanity) speaks with God (deity).  Prayer is also one of the principal times when God speaks to us, or should I say when we pause and listen to Him.  Prayer is spiritual face-time.  Prayer is a gift.  Prayer is a treasure.  Prayer is a blessing and a necessity.

I know that God is interested in all aspects of our lives, and He assuredly knows ever inch of our hearts, including all of our wants and desires.  Furthermore, He also knows which of our needs are most pressing.  And perhaps most important of all, He also knows which of our wants would not help us or be of any benefit to us.  God is the ultimate Good Father.  None can love and care for us as much as He does.  Therefore, His focus is on our needs, and not our wants. 

Many years ago I heard a simple story which best illustrates this truth.  Call it a modern-day parable.  Two friends were graduating high school together.  Both boys came from ‘financially comfortable’ homes.  Both boys had been promised an automobile upon graduation.

Both boys wanted red sports cars.  After much discussion in their respective homes, the father of boy A caved in to his son’s wishes and bought his son the sports car.  The father of boy B stood his ground, explaining to his disappointed son that he was not ready to handle the responsibility of a high powered vehicle… and bought his son a used compact. 

Within a week, the boy with the sports car was dead… crashing his sports car into a tree at high speed.

In retrospect, which father was wiser?  Which father demonstrated more genuine love and concern for his son?

As the scripture says… your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.  Wants and needs came be as different as life or death. 

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Family Heirloom

© 2019 Bill Murphy

 When I was perhaps eleven or twelve my maternal grandmother entrusted me with a unique family heirloom.  She knew that I would always protect, and treasure it as if it were pure gold, and not simply bronze.  It’s a heavy eagle with outstretched wings… fifteen inches, tip to tip.

GRANDPA FAIRCHILD’S EAGLE

This eagle has never been far from my sight, except for the six months I was away for military training/technical school.

Mamaw Fairchild explained to me that my grandfather, Patrick Henry Fairchild, had this eagle mounted atop his steam locomotive.  He was a railroad engineer, who worked those early logging rail lines of Mississippi.  

But, a well-meaning relative made a remark years ago which attempted to de-value my bronze treasure.  They said, “Oh, your wild and wooly cousin most probably stole that thing from atop a brick column at the entrance to some fancy home.” 

I’ve always chosen to believe my grandmother’s story.  It was her husband.  She should know!  

Because of my grandfather, I’ve always been a rail-fan. I had model trains as a kid, and I have them today.  I have box after box of railroad magazines.  I have coal dust in my blood. And yet, I’ve never seen a photo of a locomotive with an eagle.  I found it amazing that my grandfather could have been so unique.  Could my well-meaning relative have been correct?  Perish the thought! 

This past week, that horrid thought was thoroughly vanquished! The photo below clearly shows a similar eagle atop another logging railroad locomotive from Mississippi! This eagle once belonged to Fred Ricks, engineer for the J. J. White Lumber Company. It now graces the flagpole of the county courthouse of his home town.

To say I’m thrilled is an understatement.  This verification has been a long time coming.  I well understand the evils lurking in cyber-land, ready to steal, kill, and destroy.  But, there are also good souls out there, sharing their positive thoughts and freely welcoming us to enjoy their treasured memories and histories.  And such a soul last week shared that amazing image above, from an old newspaper clipping.  I deeply appreciate that!

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HYMN SUNDAY

©2019 Bill Murphy


This past Sunday was ‘Hymn Sunday’ at our church. With the exception of the first ‘greeting’ song, all of the music was ‘ole time’ hymns straight from the pages of the hymnals I sang from growing up. Please turn to hymn 341. Remember? Needless to say, I for one, enjoyed it immensely.

The thing which most amazed me was that every one of the hymns sung that morning was solidly on the side of worship music, as opposed to praise music. Hint: A general rule of thumb is that if you can clap your hands to it… it’s praise.

I was born into the Methodist Church. At age nineteen I joined the Baptist Church. At age thirty three, I became a member of the Pentecostal Church. Now, still a regular church-goer, I consider myself non-denominational. This life-history gives me experience in a broad range of church beliefs and practices.

Let’s face it, you and I aren’t particularly fond of listening to the opinions of others. That said, I respect your stance on the subject of church music. Therefore – let’s call what I have to say, honest observations… observations based upon seventy-eight years of church experience.

I’ve already mentioned praise and worship, alluding to my belief that these are different areas of church music… ‘knee music’ and ‘hand and foot music.’ While in the Pentecostal Church, many times I heard the Baptist and Methodists referred to as ‘old dead churches.’ If you put that remark into secular perspective, it would be like saying that Methodists and Baptist services were funerals, and Pentecostal services were birthday parties. Today, the Pentecostals no longer have sole ownership of loud and lively praise music.


This got me to thinking.


Birthday parties and funerals are simply a part of life. Both are celebrations in their own unique way. Birthday parties are celebrations of another year of life lived. Traditionally, these are joyous, lively occasions. Cake, ice cream, fun.

Funerals are end-of-life celebrations… where we remember and laude the life well lived of the individual. Although grieving because of our personal loss, we can also rejoice with the departed that they are now in their glorious heavenly home! Yet still, especially in American practice, funerals are a usually solemn, low-key, low-volume affairs. I offer the words dignity and reverence to best describe it.

So… what made this past Sunday’s ‘Hymn Sunday’ music service so special for me? It took me back to yesteryear, to the quiet, solemn and reverent worship of God in services that I enjoyed as a youth.

None of the hymns sung yesterday compelled you to clap your hands or tap your feet. Instead, all of them brought tears to your eyes. They made you want to drop to your knees in respect, reverence, and surrender to our Lord God Almighty!

So… what’s the big difference between this music service, and a typical one of the previous week?

The difference was in the focus. Yesterday’s focus was on worship. It is usually on praise. This difference, made a huge difference, to me. As for me, it made me feel much more closer to Him… who we were honoring in song.

So, what is the difference between praise and worship? Perhaps you disagree that there is a difference! Is there a difference between giving and tithing? And does it really matter? And – is there anything ‘wrong’ with praising Him? Doesn’t scripture tell us to praise Him? YES it does!

In His teachings, Jesus compared us to ‘little children.’ His point is that we have to be led, guided, and directed toward that which is most beneficial to us. A responsible parent doesn’t ask a 4 year old what he wants for dinner… they serve the child the healthy, nourishing foods the child needs. Otherwise, the child would eat dessert for every meal. Praise is a group activity. Praise is contagious. Praise is joyous, uplifting, happy affair. Praise is enjoyable. Praise can be fun! Praise is like dessert! Remember the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, just hours before His crucifixion and death? The crowds went wild with… praise!

Remember also, the story of His birth? And the shepherds and wise men came to visit Him… and they bowed and worshipped Him? You envision this as a solemn occasion, right? It was.

The very word worship comes from the word bow. It speaks of reverence, of submission, of deep respect, of awe. There’s nothing in this which in any way alludes to leaping in joy and merriment. It is bowing in deep gratitude. Worship is the nutritious meal which is necessary for health… spiritual health!

Praise is the desert… which inspires a tap to our feet, put a grin on our face, joy in our heart, and lifts our spirits. Praise makes us happy! Praise makes us want to jump for joy and run the aisles!

I love my ice cream. I really do. But I don’t want ice cream for every meal. I certainly don’t need ice cream for every meal. Nor do I need (or want) only praise in every church service.

Praise has its place. Praise is a normal, natural, desirable, necessary, and commanded part of loving and serving Him. God loves and desires our praise.

But praise can never take the place of worship… for worship is much deeper, and far more personal than praise also can ever be. Just as praise can readily be a group activity, worship is far more personal… more one-on-one with you and God. Yes, one can worship within a group – but one does not worship as a group. True worship is just that personal!

Compared to the wall-shaking, chandelier swinging, eardrum busting services I have attended, those quiet and solemn times at Grace Methodist Church on Winter Street in Jackson, MS really would ‘appear’ like a funeral service to many. But to me at least, those times of quiet reverence, especially on Sunday Nights, were like being in the manger where the baby Jesus lay. I felt His holy presence. I was awed by His closeness to me – and my closeness to Him! I was humbled. I was wonder-struck to feel this nearness, this communion with Him. Bowing at that altar was like bowing at the very throne of God!

One very forgets those precious, life changing, heart directing moments. I miss them. I really do.

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Tiddleywinks!

© 2019 Bill Murphy

I’ve always been told that profanity’s purpose is to express emphasis.  The example is: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a tiddleywink,” did not place the desired emphasis on Rhett Butler’s parting line to Scarlett O’Hara.  Therefore, tiddlywink was replaced.

My father taught by example more than lecture.  However, I do remember the day when he discussed with me the topic of profanity.  Something happened, and I blurted out the simple, lily-white expletive “DRAT!”

Dad had a lot to say about “drat.”  He explained to me the concept that words are but representations of what we are attempting to portray.  He went on to explain that although ‘drat’ was a perfectly acceptable Sunday School word, I was using it as a stand-in to portray some stronger word… such as the four-letter street word used as for human/animal excrement.

Then Dad went on to explain that it was not the word itself that was in question.  It was the original thought or meaning behind the word.  Drat was only a stand-in for what I wanted to use, yet feared to use.

How true.

I know, this was a 1940s lecture, spoken by a father to a son living way back in another time and age!  Today we are… what do they say… enlightened.  Sorry,  I question that!

I suppose that the real question here is:  Is there a line somewhere, in some place, at some point in time, where certain words are acceptable here and unacceptable there?

And if there is, WHO is the authority who has the ultimate right to draw this line in the sand?

Yes I know, everyone has a right to their opinion.  That gives me a right to my opinion also.  And my opinion is that: opinions are just… opinions. 

I know also, that there are socially acceptable rights and wrongs… times and places, and around certain people, where the use of profanity might truly matter.  This speech awareness is called common curtesy, being respectful and considerate of others.  Basically it means not allowing your speech to be offensive to others.  The old fashioned word was… conducting yourself in a mannerly way.  Of course, not everyone gives a tiddleywink what other people think.  But what I’m asking is: does it matter to the ONE who it should matter to most of all?  Is profanity offensive to The Almighty?  Would you freely use profanity in His presence?

I suppose that’s a personal question, which requires a personal answer.  

I also suppose that we’ll just have to brace ourselves for what becomes acceptable in American society in the future.

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Lists of Infamy

     

© 2019 Bill Murphy

If Carol and I ever part company, or jugular veins, it’ll not be over money, sex, or family.  Nope!  It will no doubt be over the infamous shopping list, the fly in our happy ointment.  I guess you could say that we can’t see the list for the list.

     I’ve learned, through past misadventure, that ‘peanut butter’ means JIFF.  Pity the poor soul who brings home anything less.  I’ve attempted to explain to my dear wife that there are no massive manufacturing and packing facilities under the KROGER name, where they bottle, can, grow, bake, and build everything from mothballs to baby food.  None.  Nada.  But when we travel, she keeps a keen eye open to find one of these magical, all-purpose facilities.  I’d like to seen one too.  It must be massive!

     In my defense, I’m not psychic – psychotic maybe – but I can’t read minds, nor can I, obviously, read lists, or labels.  GRAPES the list says.  Yes, I know the difference between grapes and bananas.  No problem there.  But there are more varieties of grapes in the produce department than commercials on TV.  And Kroger purposefully confuses the issue.  The ‘white’ ones sure look green to me.  The ‘black’ ones look blue.  The ‘red’ ones are definitely purple!  I have a college DEGREE in art, and I know my colors – just sadly, not my grapes.

     I seldom get everything on the list correctly.  She lists one way.  I list the other. My vain attempts to ‘help out and do my part’ quickly goes to Hellman’s in a hand basket.  I can’t understand why we have these demon-list-problems we have.  The woman who takes hours to find simple sneakers at the shoe store, can’t understand why I’m in the grocery store 45 minutes and still can’t locate the correct yogurt.  (Kroger has more yogurts than grapes!)

     Don’t get me started on CEREAL.

     Alas… it’s a good thing we’ve ‘matured’ beyond the ‘feminine products’ stage of our lives.  That’s one good thing about growing old(er).

     Have you seen my list?  I’ve lost the list.  Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… 

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IN THE SHOP… AGAIN

© 2019  Bill Murphy

     A few months ago, I turned 78 and Carol turned 73.  If we were driving automobiles this age, they’d surely be in a shop a lot!  Carol and I both have been ‘in the shop’ numerous times lately.

     4 years ago, Carol discovered a ‘bump’ on her neck.  She had it examined by a local clinic.  “Oh, that’s cancer,” they said, “We recently had a patient die of the same thing.”  NOT exactly encouraging words!  So a dear friend put her in touch with a, shall we say, more ‘knowledgable’ doctor.  It was simply an easily treated thyroid issue.  Problem solved – and another problem discovered!

     God was in control from the start.  

     During her examinations by this new doctor, a very, very tiny ‘spot’ was discovered on her left lung.  Her new doctor made note of this, and began watching it closely.

     Fast forward to earlier this year.  The tiny spot had slowly begun to grow.  It was still very, very small – but yet slowing enlarging.  “It’s time now to take action,” her doctor said.

     Carol was put in touch with an oncologist in St. Louis.  He was shocked that anyone had discovered this tiny spot so early.  “If…” he began, ‘if this is malignant, we never have patients present themselves at such an early stage!”

     That very day she was seen by a respiratory surgeon.  He too was dumbfounded by her early diagnosis.  A few days later, Carol was in surgery.  A biopsy was done.  It was malignant.  The spot along with 1/4 of that lung was removed.  They got it all!  No radiation treatments necessary.  No chemo.  Praise God!

     My turn.

     A few weeks ago I had my annual ‘wellness checkup’ by my doctor.  I passed with flying colors, well, for a man my age.  Then the doctor asked if I had any ‘issues’ or changes in my well being.  I mentioned some very slight ‘discomfort’ in my lower abdomen.  There was no pain, no real soreness, just a nagging ‘something’s not right’ feeling.  He set me up for a CAT scan.  

      The scan revealed that I had several ‘cysts’ on my kidneys. But it was unclear as to how serious they were.  I had an ultra sound done for a better look-see.  But that didn’t show anything more.  Next, I had an MRI.  

     Within 3 hours, the doctor called me in for a consultation.  Oops!  In addition to the cysts, I had a suspicious dark ‘solid’ spot on my left kidney.  My local doctor explained that there are no qualified urologist in our immediate area, and suggested that we go to St. Louis to see a specialists.  Now it was my turn to be in the shop!

     Tuesday of this week Carol and I traveled to St. Louis, were I saw a specialists.  After studying my previous test results done here, and examining me there… he had very encouraging news, and a suggest path to take with this issue.

     Let me say that both Carol and I really like this doctor.  His ‘bed side manner’ is extremely comforting.  He speaks with knowledge.  And he reeks with and experience.  We trust him.

     He explained that the ‘cysts’ issue is a non-issue.  This is common, and my cysts are not ‘aggressive’ in nature.  As of the dark ‘spot,’ it also may, or may not be, a big issue.  He explained that a spot of the current size that I have does not scream ‘get me outta here – now!’  He told us that age matters – it maters in the fact that these things are very slow growing in patients in my age bracket.  Basically he was saying that I could easily out-live this problem!  

     The bottom line is… we will watch this thing inside me.  In 3 months, I’ll have another scan, and we’ll see how it is doing.

     On the plus side, I do have TWO kidneys… and the other is A-Ok.  A V-6 will still run on 5 cylinders – maybe a little slower and less smoothly – but it will get you to the grocery store and back.

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Another Word for Freedom

© 2017  Bill Murphy

Remember the words, Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to give from Janis Joplin’s big hit, ‘Me And Bobby McGee?’ 

The song was written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster.  Kristofferson says that he got the inspiration for the ‘freedom’ line from the 1954 Italian movie La Strada, written and directed by Federico Fellini.  The storyline of that dark movie illustrates that freedom can bring both joy and misery. 

The message of ‘Me and Bobby McGee,’ is that freedom is a two-edged sword.  It truth, FREEDOM is much more than that.

Today’s America is a home divided, a family in dispute and heading toward divorce.  The dividing lines are drawn, each daring the other to cross.  We know that a house divided cannot stand, yet we still want the other side out of ‘our’ house.   

The fact is, although our great nation was founded on ethical, moral, and Christian principles, it was built through many unethical, immoral, and un-Christian actions.  And here lies the seed of discontent.  

The cry of the Left today is for socialism, whereas the cry of the Right is for free-enterprise.  Although history well proves that socialism is a dead end street, truth also teaches us that free-enterprise, like freedom itself, is also a two-edged sword.

When I turned to the word FREEDOM, I discovered some most interesting things… things which closely correlate to the words of Me and Bobby McGee.

When you consider the true meaning of the word FREEDOM, it’s not actually the glorious rallying cry of which we hardily sing.  Freedom is not 100% positive.  Freedom is fraught with negativism and danger!  You see, by its very definition, freedom has no limits.

True freedom is not limiting.  True freedom is the bird set free from the constraints of the cage, free to soar where ever it pleases.  The free-bird is free of it’s cage, where it has found shelter, food, and safety.  Now it’s truly free, to find its own food (if it can), to find its own shelter (if it can), and free of safety also – free to now be caught and eaten by creatures who see him only as food.

FREEDOM means that there are no constraints.  None.  Nada.  Zip. 

Another 1969 hit, People Got To Be Free by The Rascals tells another totally false version of freedom:

All the world over, so easy to see

People everywhere just wanna be free

Listen, please listen, that’s the way it should be

There’s peace in the valley, people got to be free 

That’s what they sing in the streets today.  They foolishly sing of freedom without understanding what that they’re sing about!

When you’re free,  I’m free also.  We’re ALL free.  We’re all free of all constraints. No one will be telling us what to do.  That’s true freedom.  No rules, no laws, no constraints!  We’re freeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

And that my friend, is the definition of ANARCHY.

We see anarchy on the news all the time now… when people throw off the constraints of reason and law, and embrace the ‘freedom’ to do whatever, to whom ever, when ever, and how ever it pleases.  Never mind that you become a victim in the process. 

The truth is, we don’t really want (or shouldn’t want) freedom.  What we want is LIBERTY

Liberty is ‘freedom’ as that ‘freedom’ is defined by and limited by certain previously and mutually AGREED UPON constraints.  

These ‘constraints’ are simply rules, regulations, and duly agreed upon laws designed not to LIMIT our freedom… but to PROTECT US from unlimited (destructive) freedom.

Believe me, you want the LIBERTY to possess and use an American Express card… not the FREEDOM (Where other’s are free withoutconstraint to steal and use your monies as they so choose.) 

We want OUR freedom, but we don’t want OTHERS to have that same freedom that WE enjoy –  especially if their freedom will will harm US! 

There’d be very little peace in the valley with everyone free. 

Listen, please listen, that’s (not) the way it should be.

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