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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