The Book That Changed My Life

© 2017 Bill Murphy

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 1951 – and I promptly read. 

Bible

I was in George Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi at the time. George was a neighborhood school, in walking distance for the students. We had no 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. I still have mine.

At the time 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 red 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 red book was telling me – or didn’t I.

That was 66 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, prompted by that tiny book, changed my life forever.

 

~~~~

Advertisements

CHRISTMAS FOCUS

© 2017 Bill Murphy

As I write, we’re in that mystical time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I find this season of the year best for reflection – for mental and spiritual re-grouping. When I’m focusing on Him, the better I hear what He’s speaking to me.

gift-1443862_640

This past Sunday in church, something was voiced from the pulpit which caused my mind to wander briefly. It was as if God was saying, “Come ‘ere a moment. I wanna tell you something.”

In my mind’s eye, I saw God’s hands offering a gift. Immediately, I thought, Is this for me? What is it? Can I open it now?

That’s when He spoke to my heart, and His words put the eyes of my heart into focus. I was focusing on the gift.

The truth is, God gives us so very, very much. He gives us love, joy, hope, peace, salvation, strength, healing, and oh so much more! God is a GIVER. He gives, and gives, and gives. And then He gives us more.

Then I saw the word gives, in capital letters. G-I-V-E-S. And His finger erased the letters G, V, and E. All this happened in a very brief moment, and yet His message to my heart came through clearly. He was telling me that He appreciated that I understood that He gives – and that He wished more of this world realized this also. But – by removing those 3 letters from ‘gives,’ He was showing me that it was supremely important to recognize and remember that He IS!

In that brief moment I saw that the focus should not be on the gift, but on the GIVER. Not upon what He gives, but upon who He is! We’d not have the gifts, were it not for the GIVER. That should be our focus.

This Christmas season, when you’re tearing into (physical) Christmas presents, be mindful of who is the giver of that gift, and tell them THANK YOU! Our human friends and family appreciate being appreciated also! Appreciation goes a long, long way.

Something tells me you appreciate being appreciated yourself!

 

~~~

THE CHRISTMAS THIEF

© 2017 Bill Murphy

It’s said that Christmas is for children. Not so! Christmas is for everyone. On the other hand, modern commercial X-mas IS for children – and for manufacturers and merchants everywhere. This story is my take on the difference between the two.

Manger

 

Joseph stood by Mary’s side, as she cradled the newborn child. He reflected on the past few months, and this astounding miracle which had befallen them. He thought too of their awesome responsibilities ahead – caring for, and raising – the son of God! Why them, he thought, and how would they do it?

And then he heard the sound of excited voices just outside the poor stall where they had taken lodging for the night – and where the Christ child was born. “Here, here he is!” Joseph heard one of the voices exclaim. Then several ragged shepherds entered the straw strewn room. Their faces where filled with awe and wonder – such joy Joseph had never before seen. Soon, all the rag-tag men were kneeling at the feet of Mary, all of their attention focused upon the sleeping infant.

Then one of the men turned and faced Joseph. “An angel appeared to us, yonder on the hills,” he began, “and told us where we’d find the new born king. And the a heavenly choir of angles filled the sky, praising God on high! We came as quickly as we could.”

Then a second man stood, and took Joseph by the hand, leading him off to the side. “I don’t want the child’s mother to hear this,” he began, “but I need to warn you. We met a most unusual fellow along the way. He was very fat, dressed in red, and had a long white beard. He stopped us, and tried to direct us in a different direction, away from here. We thanked him, and pretended to go the way he’d instructed us, but quickly returned to the right path. Who might he be?

“I have no idea,” replied Joseph. “Unless…”

Joseph was about to explain himself, when again he heard voices outside, and the sound of the hooves of large animals. Three stately men, each dressed in regal attire entered the stall. The tallest among them spoke, “We have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship the newborn king,” he said, as he bowed low at Joseph’s feet.

“Kind sir, please,” said Joseph. “I am but a humble carpenter, not due such respect from you. The child is there,” Joseph said, pointing to the far side of the stall, where Mary still held the baby in her arms. “Worship Him!”

The 3 men, in deep respect for this newborn king, approached him slowly, reverently, then knelt before him. Joseph gazed at the scene in wonder. The new visitors spoke among themselves in hushed tones, so not to disturb the sleeping child. And then, slowly, they each placed a jewel covered box on the straw at his feet.

“These gifts are for the child,” one of them said to Mary. “It is at best the very least we could offer him.”

And then, one by one they rose to their feet. One of the stately men pulled Joseph over to the side. Taking Joseph’s hands in his own, he spoke slowly. “Kind sir, I fear there’s a villain afoot. Just as we neared Bethlehem, we met a robber along the way. He was a quite bizarre character. Dressed all in red, he was rather chubby and had a long white beard. His looks were so deceiving and disarming, that I got down from my camel and approached him. That’s when he attacked us, trying for all he was worth to steal away the gifts we had for the child. It took the 3 of us to fend him off! See the scratches I received,” he said, pulling up his sleeve to show Joseph. “Please take care, for this scoundrel is out to steal from the newborn king!”

“Yes we will. And thank you ever so much,” said Joseph. “I wonder who this man in red might be.”

“I don’t believe he’s a man, not like you and me,” replied the wise man, “I believe he’s a spirit – a spirit come to do battle against the Christ child. I can see in my mind, years ahead, many years ahead, when this man in red will still be doing battle with the King of kings and Lord of lords. He’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who is all smiles – with promises of joy and happiness. But he wants to overshadow the child, to take place of this newborn king. He wants to be to be more popular – more loved. And the sad thing is, children will be lead away from the true king born this day in Bethlehem, and will look instead to the thief in the red suit – and celebrate this day as the thief’s day! And their parents will support this. Oh how tragic, how sad!”

“But how can we stop him?” asked Joseph.

“The child who now sleeps in your wife’s arms is truly the newborn king,” replied the wise man. “He will rule someday with love beyond measure, and with mercy and grace. Every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord. He will prevail. He will!”

The wise man continued, “But until that day, many will ignore him, even revile and hate him. He will try to win them over to the very God of heaven, his true father, but they will not listen. Many will embrace others, just as they will embrace the man in red. And that’s sad indeed. But other’s, like you and me, and my traveling companions, and these deliriously happy shepherds, we will be by his side and at his feet, always – always and forever! Take heart in that my friend!”

Later that night, when all the visitors were gone, Joseph pondered everything that had happened, and all that he had seen and heard. And he resolved with renewed strength to be the very best earthly father he could be – to this son who would in truth, welcome him as a son – into his eternal kingdom!

 

~~~~

WORDS THAT PROMPT HOPE

© 2017 Bill Murphy

This subject is a writing prompt of the Little Egypt Writer’s Society of Southern Illinois.

And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him … but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. 1 Samuel 30:6

Years before I discovered this scripture, I had a somewhat similar experience, although on a much smaller scale. That childhood event had a profound effect on me, a true ‘corner stone’ experience which has stayed with me all these years.

I was given words that prompt hope and encouragement: Tomorrow will be better.

ThistleI was in grade school at the time, 2nd or 3rd grade. Our family was on day trip to visit relatives. While driving there, I noticed thistles growing by the road.

That week in school, a page in our Fun With Dick and Jane had featured a thistle.  I hollered for Dad to stop. I wanted a thistle to take to class.  Mom and Dad were big on education, and here was a learning prompt.

Dad stopped the car. As I bounded from the vehicle in hot pursuit of my prize, Dad screamed at me to STOP! He understood that thistles are plant-porcupines! I didn’t stop.

I grabbed hold of that thistle with both hands and yanked. Woah! Needless to say, I quickly released the prickly monster. Too late. Both hands were filled with hundreds of tiny needles.

Yes, many of those painful barbs were removed.  But embedded deeply, many remained to torment me. Back home later that day,  I paced in pain and regret.

I remember my Eureka-Moment well. I was standing in my grandmother’s front yard next door, looking at my poor wounded hands. Oh how they hurt.  And then, from somewhere far beyond my young understanding, the though filled my heart. Tomorrow will be better! This day of torment will pass! You will return to joy and happiness.

Did I actually encourage myself? No! I was far too wrapped up in my own little world of painful thistle needles and semi-useless hands to be of much use to myself. Those thoughts of encouragement and hope came from far above and beyond my youth. They were a grand and glorious gift from God!

They were a gift which I still hold dear – and treasure today!

 

~~~

PRIMOS PIG OUT

© 2017 Bill Murphy

There are things from the past you never think you’ll see again.  Among these are gems your grandkids would find hard to believe.  I was amazed to run across this (poor) copy of a 50s restaurant menu.

MenuDuring high school I worked weekends bagging groceries at Jitney Jungle #19 in Mart 51. Our pay scale was no where near what kids make today.  But then, our expenses where no where near what they are today.  I made 75c an hour – plus tips.

My father insisted (and enforced) that I put $5 a week in the bank.  From the remainder, I still had money for Friday and Saturday night dates (which usually included dinner and a movie) gas for Dad’s car, and enough pocket money for snacks and soft drinks until the next pay day.

On 75c an hour? Yes!

One of my favorite date-night meals was the heavenly Primos Fried Chicken Dinner. I wish the photo above was better – and the prices were the same today!

Honestly, I think they battered the chicken twice.  That thick and crunchy crust was Thanksgiving-delicious!  The menu says – Half Spring Chicken, Un-joined with F. F. Potatoes, Hot Roll, and Butter… $1.25.  Later, the price went up – to $1.50.

This was not a pigmy chicken.  It was a regular sized chicken, cut in half.  Take-out boxes were new then, and this delicious bird barely fit in the box! Growing boys, even on a date, find it difficult to share. We each had our own!

You know all the jokes about going to the drive in movies and not seeing the movie. Our excuse was that, thanks to Pop Primos, we were feeding our faces!

 

~~~