A Giant Problem

giant

©2017 Bill Murphy

Once upon a time a weary traveler stopped at the little hamlet of tiny Lilliputberg, home of the little people. “Please, may I have but a small drink of water, for I am parched,” the exhausted traveler asked.

“Would that we could,” the diminutive mayor of Lilliputberg replied, “But our water here is magical. It is all that’s required to sustain us. It’s our bread, meat, and drink all in one. Who can say what it might become to you! No, good sir, we fear to allow you to drink of it.”

So the weary traveler, a normal sized man of no more than 5 feet at most, trudged out of town.

But he hid himself behind a hill. After darkness fell, and all of Lilliputberg was fast asleep, he crept back to the magical well. Using their thimble sized water bucket, he drank, and drank, until he could hold no more. Then he crept back over the hill and fell fast asleep.

The next morning, when he tried to stand, he could not, for he was he exceedingly weary. So he fell asleep again. He slept the whole day through, and all of the night.

This happened day after day for six more days. And each morning, he fell fast asleep once again.

The morning of the 7th day, the tiny people of Lilliputberg beheld a very strange sight. On the opposite side of the hill, a new hill had appeared, one that was blue and white in color, with a unusual black stripe angling across the top.

The town-folk raced up to the summit of the first hill, and were stopped in their tracks by a most unbelievable sight. Outstretched on the ground before them, lay the stranger who had asked for water just the week before. But now he was immense in size!

To them, he had been a giant of a man at only 5 feet when they first saw him, but now – he was well over 300 feet! The magical waters had caused him to double in size each night.

“It’s a good thing that his body lies East and West,” said the Mayor.

“And Why?” asked the Mayor’s wife.

“If he lay North and South, soon his body would block out our beautiful evening sunsets,” said the Mayor.

“True,” replied the Mayor’s wife. “He must have drunk from our well after all.”

“Truly he must have,” said the Mayor sadly. “Why wouldn’t he listen to our warnings? I hope he’s happy now. There’s no fool like a big fool!”

The moral of this story is: Only a fool listens only to his own council. This foolishness leads to foolish decisions. And foolish decisions lead to giant problems.


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A Place I Always Try To Avoid

mirror

© 2017 Bill Murphy

When I first heard this topic, my immediate thought was – Across the table from my wife when she says, ‘We need to talk.’ That being interpreted as – ‘I need to hold a mirror up to you.’

We’ve had mirrors in some form or fashion since mankind first discovered vanity. The first primitive type was no doubt simply still pools of water. Then we progressed to polished stone and metal, perfecting this all important device with the invention of glass.

Yet the best mirror that money can buy, be it from Bed, Bath, and Beyond or Neiman Marcus – is imperfect. They all have a common flaw. The image we behold in the mirror is not what other’s see. Our image is reversed.

60+ years ago my childhood pal, Buddy Gorday, asked this thought-provoking question: ‘Since our image in the mirror is reversed, why isn’t it also flipped upside down?’ Of course the answer lies in the physical mechanics of optics.

But putting physics aside, don’t we all too often attempt to see an opposite and upside down image of ourselves?

There have been countless comic movies centered around the naturally aging woman of 50 who dresses, acts, and attempts to believe that she’s still 18. Yes, she uses mirrors (and plastic surgery) in her promotion of this false image. But it’s all smoke and mirrors. For all of time, time has relentlessly marched onward.

The biggest lies we tell are those we tell ourselves.

But the mirrors we use, the one from Bed, Bath and Beyond and that figurative mirror we use to see our inner self – can both expose our self-deceptions.

But like the woman in the movie, we can deceive ourselves only up to a point.

And then the wife says, “We need to talk.”

That’s an easy conservation (with the wife) compared to the one where the inner self finally awakens – or an outside spiritual entity slaps you in the face with reality and truth – and you are led to that uncomfortable place where you sit across the table from yourself.

The room is bare except for an empty table and two chairs. A bright light hangs from above, the room is thick with tension. And then the uncomfortable interrogation begins.

This will be uncomfortable.It may be painful, but believe me – it is a very, very GOOD thing. Robert Frost said it best:

Wad the gift the giftie gie us To see oursels as others see us.

Only when we are given this gift of perfect vision – can we finally see ourselves as we really are! And only when we accept this precious gift – can we understand and know!

We can know who we are.

We can know what we are.

And we can see and know what we can be!


 

 

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Awareness

© 2017 Bill Murphy

My assignment was to chose a word with special meaning and importance. I didn’t have to deliberate upon this task – my word – AWARENESS – had already hit me in the face.

Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary defines awareness as: having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge.

Awareness is a most important word/concept in our relationship with others – and especially in our relationship with God. Awareness is our very first step in entering into a relationship with Him.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Even before belief – one must have awareness.

I’ve always said that my childhood was truly the happiest, fullest, and most blessed childhood possible! No, we were not rich in worldly goods, but my family was extremely wealthy in love, devotion, trust, faith, hope, and what a young child desperately needs – security. There is nothing about my childhood I would change or exchange. But in the 1940s I was very ignorant of some things. 

two-boys

These photos are of boys of approximately the same age. Both photos were take within the same time period. The happy boy on the left is me, my face dirtied from playing in the ashes of a burn pile.

The face on the other boy is sad. You can feel the trauma surrounding his life – just as the mangled debris of war surround him in the background. As sad as this photo is, there are countless more that are far beyond sad – they are horrifying.

The happy boy was blessed to be born and living in America. The sad-faced lad lived out his childhood in war-torn Europe. We don’t even know if he survived the war! The sooty faced child was blissfully unaware of the other boy.

‘Blissfully unaware.’ That can be true in certain cases. But usually ‘blissfully unaware’ is a misnomer – an oxymoron – as in being ‘blissfully unaware’ of God and His amazing love for us.

We – you and I – need more awareness in our lives. We’re doomed to stagnation without awareness! Awareness is the first step to anything and everything! Awareness is the first brick of the wall, the first post of the fence, the first step of a journey. Awareness is the keel of every spiritual ship that ever sailed toward heaven. Awareness is the beginning of all.

Today – 70 years removed from those 2 photos – when I think of those days of ‘heaven on earth’ on Evergreen Street – I’m compelled to remember – to be aware – of those thousands and thousands of children who – on the other side of the world – were living through a hell on earth. If nothing else, that awareness makes me all the more thankful for my blessed childhood – that I assuredly didn’t deserve.


 

 

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Concern

© 2017 Bill Murphy

CONCERN can be a care, trouble, or distress. It can also mean to relate to – or to pertain to.    I’m using this second meaning.

I believe that concern – as meaning pertain to, can best be illustrated by Facebook. I have only 45 friends on my Facebook page. Some of my friends and family member have ‘em in the hundreds! A few of my Facebook friends post every day, and some of those post several times a day. That said, I ask this question: Do you respond to each and every single Facebook post? I dare say that few of us do.

Truthfully, it boils down to the matter of concern – does this relate to me – does it pertain to me? We tend to respond only when something ‘jumps up and grabs us,’ or as I’ve heard it put, ‘it really blows our dress up!’

Luke records a very interesting illustration of Jesus’ take on concern.

“As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him.

(Get the picture here. Crowds. A throng of people. Almost crushing him.)

And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.  She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”   Luke 8:42-48 NIV

What’s the difference between our Facebook responses (or lack of) and the response of Jesus to the poor woman?

concern-meter

Our concern can be compared to a filter or screen. A fine screen filters out all but the finer stuff, whereas a course screen allows larger items to pass through.

Our concern filters are adjustable.

The extreme adjustment on one side is labeled ME. It filters out everything not pertaining to us (you and me.) The extreme on the opposite side of the dial is labeled YOU. That side allows in anything and everything from every one.

In the narrative above from Luke, Jesus was actually on a mission at the time of the incident described. He was on his way to heal a dying child! Yet Jesus allowed His CONCERN for the woman interrupt the life and death issue at hand! Even amid the chaos of the surging crowd, pushing and pulling on every side, He still felt the TOUCH of a needy hand – on the helm of His garment! That tells us where Jesus had his CONCERN DIAL set!

That brings up an all familiar teaching we know as well as the back of our own hands – “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31 NIV

This could be paraphrased ‘Have the concern for others that you would have them have concern for you.’

I owe a big apology to my Facebook friends!


 

 

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Obit Photo

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©2017 Bill Murphy

Occasionally I’ll see an obit photo of a person in their early 20s and think, What a shame – to die so young! Then I read the obit and find that the person was actually 97. I suppose they wanted to be remembered as being young.

I’ve told my children that the photo at left is the one I want with my obit – when days were care-free – with not a worry in the world!

The truth is: this photo could very well have been my obit photo – within months of when the photo was taken!

My grandparents lived next door to us on Evergreen Ave. in south Jackson. ‘Doodleville’ we called it. Grandpa Fairchild took me with him on long walks, mostly on the railroad tracks. That’s him in the background, in the swing.

My grandmother took me with her downtown, to the movies – and shopping.

Downtown Jackson of the 40s was a far cry from what it is today. The city was not covered with shopping centers. If you wanted to shop, it was downtown – where you could make a once in a lifetime purchase like a wedding diamond, or everyday items like groceries. It was a busy, bustling place!

I was downtown with Mamaw Fairchild. Back then, there were NO one-way streets. We were standing on the corner of Capitol and West streets, on Capitol, facing west toward the Post Office. I suppose I tired of having to wait for the light to change. I yanked my little hand away from Mamaw – and bolted out into the street.

That was the last thing I remember – until I woke up cradled in the arms of a big policeman. Mamaw was rather hysterical!

Witnesses said that a car traveling north on West Street was turning right onto Capitol. I walked – or ran – into the side of the car. The sharply turning car ‘pushed’ me down – and the rear wheels of the car ran over me! Fortunately, the two rear tires didn’t flatten me – I lay BETWEEN THEM as the car passed over by body.

I probably had a bump on my head, but I don’t remember having ANY injuries – none at all. But poor Mamaw was a basket case.

It was many years later before I had the information at hand to put 2 and 2 together, as to why this incident affected my grandmother so terribly.

Just over 30 years before my run-over incident, Mama Fairchild had lost a child of her own – a daughter named Violet. She was weeks shy of 4 years old. She accidentally ingested rat poison. As mothers do, no doubt Mamaw Fairchild felt responsible for Violet’s death – feeling that she somehow failed to protect her.

Deja vu. Now it was her grandson.

No grandma, it wasn’t your fault! I was the one who broke and ran. It was me – me – me. I’m sorry I put you through that. I truly am. Look at the photo. I’m sure that mother told me not to play in the dirt.

Technically, I didn’t. Ashes from burnt leaves aren’t dirt – are they?


 

 

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Weeding My Pot Plant

schefflera

©2017 Bill Murphy

Steve Martin famously called himself a ‘wild and crazy guy!’ In the Jitney Jungle Advertising Department we had numerous wild and crazy guys – and gals.

Our work was ALWAYS deadline stressful. I’ve heard it said that operating room humor relieves stress – it sure did ours. We turned work into fun. Our boss summed it up perfectly saying, “All this and money too!”

The list of our workplace shenanigans are far too numerous to relate here. That would fill a book. Perhaps someday it will.

Sometime during the 80s, my parents gifted me with a large schefflera plant. The pot alone measured a foot across and almost 2 feet tall. This was a big plant. I had it in my office, near my desk. It was a beauty.

jitney-logo

Sometime later, long after the office oohs and aahs had died away, I noticed a new found interest in my plant. Like I said, our work was stressful, and our hours long. On days when the completed ads left us, often it was in the wee hours of the morning when we finally got home. So, depending on work-related assignments, our individual hours were not always the same, but staggered by necessity. Fellow workers began wandering in to chat – and I noticed that they also tended to glance at the schefflera.

After I’d noticed this strange behavior several times, I began to also ‘inspect’ my plant more often. Tiny sprouts. Dozens and dozen of very tiny bright green sprouts began popping up in the smooth soil of the schefflera plant. I’d pull them all up. The next day they’d returned. And my plant-visitors (both human and organic) continued.

I purposely stayed late one night. I cleared off my desk, and covered it with newspaper. Then I began digging out the soil from the birthday plant. Every scoop was laced with tiny seeds, seeds which look for all the world like the seeds of an okra pod. I had to dig down over a foot before a I reached seed-free soil. Then I carefully sifted the seed-laced soil, separating seed from soil. My suspicious were dead on – my pot plant had been seeded with pot.

But I didn’t tell my fellow workers that I’d weeded all the weed from it. (I never learned the identity of the culprit.) The idle chat/plant glance routine continued for a week or more, until someone could take it no more – and asked if I’d notice ‘anything happening’ with my plant.

What did I do with the seeds? On my way home late that night of weeding, I stopped on a small bridge which passed over a large drainage ditch in south Jackson where we lived – and tossed them off the bridge and into the wind. I’m sure someone, somewhere, eventually reaped that harvest.


 

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Lost Treasure

lost-gold

© 2015 Bill Murphy

Scripture: The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer. Psalm 6:9 (KJV)

We wonder why bad things happens to good people just as we wonder why good things happen to the bad. Often it is simply because things ‘just happen.’ But, is the ‘bad stuff’ really always bad? We want to be a blessing to others, right? But at what cost are we willing to pay to be part of that blessing?

I ask you this question because it was asked of me in recent days.

I was working around the house, raking leaves, crushing and ripping apart cardboard boxes for disposal – and patching a down-spout. Right in the middle of my third project I was shocked to realize that my wedding band was missing! Then and there I went into frantic mode!

I searched high and low, on hands and knees, even to the point of emptying out the trash and going through a soggy 5 day accumulation of garbage, piece by yucky piece. No ring. I search all that day and the next, but to no avail. I asked the family to pray with me for the return of this missing treasure.

Let me digress for a moment –

It was my grandmother who taught me about prayer. She taught me, by example, that God ANSWERS prayer. As a small child I had bad dreams – ‘night terrors’ they call them then. After a bad night while at Mamaw’s house, she told me to pray and ask God to keep me from having these nightmares – and that He would. I believe my grandmother. I prayed, and just as she said, God answered my prayer! That simple act began building in my young heart, a lasting confidence in God’s mercy.

Fast forward to the present –

My daughter Lois is a ‘new Christian.’ She has a newly-found walk and ever growing trust in God. We’re so very thankful for that! Without directly asking her to pray for the return of my missing ring, nevertheless she prayed, asking God to help her help me. The very next morning as she was walking down our back sidewalk, very near the spot where I had torn apart the boxes – her eye caught a bright golden glint reflecting the morning sun. My ring! I’d been on my hands and knees searching that same area numerous times before.

God did two miraculous things in one fell swoop. First, my lost treasure was found! And that made me very, very happy. But far more important than my personal joy and gratitude – was the fact that God had stooped down and made personal contact and connection with our new-in-the-faith daughter, Lois! A thousand sermons preached on prayer pale in comparison to one situation lived which illustrates the truth that God listens to us – that He cares about us – and that He can and WILL answer our sincere requests.

Enduring those hours of distress while my ring was missing wasn’t an enjoyable experience. But it was worth it for my daughter to personally experience the truth of God’s amazing concern for us and about us – and His willingness to hear and answer her prayers!

Often the ‘bad stuff’ that comes our way is not really ‘bad stuff’ at all. It’s often only GOOD STUFF in heavenly disguise! And while we’re fretting about why God isn’t using us in His kingdom, He IS – but in ways we don’t or can’t imagine.

Yes, it’s so very true – God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.


 

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