THE NESHOBA COUNTY FAIR DISASTER

WHEEL OF MIS-FORTUNE

Lately I see ads for the Neshoba County Fair.  My first memory of that fair was in when I was no more than 5.  My family was there.  And Dad and I rode the Ferris Wheel.  I must assume that at this time Mom was pregnant with my sister, Mary… because otherwise, she’d have gone on the ride also.  Mom enjoyed stuff like that.

This time it was just Dad and me.  But it turned out not to be all fun and games… much to Mom’s dismay.

Something ‘mechanical’ happened to the wheel.  It ground to a stop!  Dad and I were no more than one chair ‘below’ being right at the top when it stopped!  Over the side, I could see something smoking below… and several men throwing dirt on it!  As young as I was, I still KNEW that this was NOT a good thing!

Mom was on the ground, screaming and crying.  Mom’s first child, Emma, had died at birth.  Now her second was trapped at the top of a smoking ferris wheel!  The fact that Dad kept his cool was very comforting.

Yes, I survived this, my first trip to the Neshoba County Fair.  The motor fire was extinguished, and the gears disengaged to the wheel, and it was slowly turned by hand by several workers so that all of us could be safely rescued from the crippled contraption.

And such was my first experience at the fair… and on a ferris wheel!

The picture above is only an illustration of this story! Mom didn’t bring her ever-present camera that night, otherwise I’d have an actual pic of this event!

I WAS NOT THE MEAN WIDDLE KID

THE MEAN WIDDLE KID

As a child, I was never exactly a perfect angel 100% of the time.  I was not like Red Skelton’s character, ‘The Mean Widdle Kid’.  I was never really ‘bad’… but often times there was definitely room for improvement.  Here are a few examples, so you can judge for yourself.

My earliest infraction, I’m told, happened just as I’d learned to walk.  My maternal grandparents, and my mother’s older sister, lived next door to us.  My aunt had sensitive skin, and regular bath soap proved to be an irritant.  Therefore, she bathed in plain water and used COLD CREAM afterwards.  Because she used so much of the stuff, she purchased it in the largest jars available.  $$$

One day, while left unattended for a few moments, I got into her almost new jar of cold cream, and before I’d been discovered, I’d plastered the entire jar all over myself… and the surrounding floor!  $$$.  And as I aged, there more ‘naughtiness’ to come!

I’m told that I also attempted to disassemble my Grandmother’s alarm clock… but the tiny screws prevented me from taking apart too much of it.  In my defense, I was only ‘studying it’ to see how it worked.  This curiosity of how things worked carried on into pre-teen years.  I disassembled by sister’s ‘Waa-Waa’ baby doll so see exactly what it was inside of it that allowed it to CRY.  That sure may my sister cry!  But a few years later, she was more mad than sad when I ‘dug into the innards’ of her new 45 RPM Record Player!  How it could actually ‘change records’ was a mystery to me!  She still talks about that today!

My life-long friend Buddy Gorday, who’s 18 months older that I am… I first met when he was old enough to cross the street (Evergreen in South Jackson).  He was the unintended bloody victim of a funny prank of mine that literally ‘went sideways.’

This happened during our ‘pre-teen’ years, and the two of us decided to ‘build a CIRCUS’ is my backyard.  Crazy huh?  Anyway, the first project was the TENT.  Mom let us use an old sheet, and we had access to several 2 x 4s.  I remember that this wood was long, about 8 to 10 feet in length, and heavy.  We’d propped them just outside our garage… standing up. 

We were in the process of going back and forth into the garage for ‘supplies,’ when I got the idea of pulling a great ‘prank’ on Buddy.  While he was INSIDE the garage, I’d stand on the OUTSIDE, beside the 2 x 4s, and allow one of them to fall BEHIND HIM just as he exited the garage.  Boys always get a charge out of scaring other boys.  Somehow, my ‘timing’ was off… way off.  Buddy emerged from the garage, and I ‘let’ a long 2 x 4 fall.  It hit him in the head just as squarely as if I’d aimed it at that very spot!  Yes, there was blood.  There was also a large bump on his skull.  There was wailing and gnashing of teeth.  And Buddy made a hasty dash home and into the arm of a now very anger Mrs. Gorday!  

I know.  ‘Boys will be boys.’  But sometimes, and this was one of them, when boys will be boys is NOT a good excuse.  I was forbidden to associate with him… after all, I was obviously DANGEROUS, or at least CARELESS, or both!  It was many, many weeks before ALL those wounds had healed and we were back to where we were BEFORE I pulled the infamous ‘falling circus tent pole trick.’

Buddy and I TOGETHER often did something which proved to be quite  ‘unsettling’ to strangers around us.  We looked at it as being something that THEY could have easily done also if only THEY’D THOUGHT ABOUT IT TOO.  When we were attending Enochs Junior High (on West Capital) we never missed the latest Sci-Fi movie to come to town.  After school, we walk downtown to the movie… but we’d make a side stop at the KRYSTAL… where we’d both get a bag filled with those tiny, delicious, and aroma-laced burgers with that distinctive KRYSTAL SMELL!  You can almost smell them a mile.  You certainly can smell them across a movie theater!  We made a LOT of movie patrons mad… because we could hear their mutterings, just after we’d heard them sniff, sniff, sniffing!  We took Krystals into the movies NOT to be ‘bad,’ but to be SMART!

I did get into trouble at school once.  OK, maybe more than once.  My favorite teacher at Enochs was Mr. Peter B. Green, who taught me science.  He was a character, a one-of-a-kind.  Yes, he was a GOOD teacher, and he himself was ENTERTAINING.  We never knew what to expect from him!  

There was a catalog advertised on the back cover of 99% of the comic books sold back in those days… advertising the JOHNSON AND SMITH CATALOG, a delightful catalog offering everything from X-Ray glasses, to devices to help you throw your voice, crystal radios to telescopes, and tons of magic tricks.  I ordered the FAKE INK SPILL.  It was made of tin, and painted in glossy black ink.  It looked REAL.  And Mr. Green kept a bottle of black ink on his desk!  

He always spent time between classes ‘flirting’ with the cute new teacher across the hall.  So It was no trouble to set up the ink-spill spoof before class.  He walked into class after the bell, and right away, noticed the ‘spill.’  He muttered something under his breath, and walk away… he’d left the room to look for something to clean up the mess.  He was gone for quite a while, returning with a small container of water, and several towels.  He stood at the corner of the desk, and slowly wiped through the ‘spilled ink, which immediately fell to the floor with a distinctive metallic ‘CLINK.’  Then… he looked straight at me!  How did he know?  I think his only remark was “GOOD ONE!”  He KNEW that I was not a mean widdle kid! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

WHEN NOT SEEING IS BELIEVING

Most of my life I’ve lived by the mantra that seeing is believing.  That’s always held true in science, chemistry, and physics class.  But now that I have my senior’s degree in life, I’ve been forced to re-think a few former ‘givens.’  I’ve had two astounding life-lessons pertaining to the grave fallacy of believing in what you see… or at least, believing in what you believe you see.

Carol and I have been back home in Mississippi for just over 5 months now.  We purchased the former home of our nephew and his family.  There’s usually a few adjustment to living in a new environment, as you learn it’s personality and quirks.

Lesson one: our master-bath shower.  I don’t like a soggy bath mat, and assume that others might not also.  So before stepping into the shower, a place my ‘dirty’ T-shirt on top of the math mat.  Did I mention that the glass door to this shower is clear glass?  No frosting, no lily pads, no mermaids, no frogs.  Just crystal-clear glass.  Half way through my shower I happened to look down at the T-shirt on the bath mat.  To my horror, it was FLOODED.  The shirt had standing water on it, and clearly visible was hundreds of splashes as more water continued to pounded it!  The bathroom was FLOODING!  Or so I thought.  It wasn’t what I saw.  It was what I thought I saw!  You see, a quick check revealed that the clear glass was revealing the T-shirt on the mat OUTSIDE the shower… and it was also revealing a REFLECTION of the shower spray hitting the floor on the INSIDE of the shower!  These two perfectly combined images made it APPEAR that both of them were one and the same!  What a relief!

Lesson two:  I’m only now ‘recovering’ from this latest lesson.  It happened just within the past hour!

Carol and her sister are on a week’s vacation in South Carolina there to holiday on the beach with family.  Mary Ellen’s son and two grandkids went along also.  Her daughter-in-law had to stay home to work.  I’m not a ‘beach person’ myself, so I eagerly agreed to stay behind and baby-sit the four-legged children.  We have two, Mary Ellen has two, and her son-in-law has one… and this one is staying at Mary Ellen’s.

It’s only a short hop over to M.E.’s place, and I make the trip 4 times a day, for feeding and outside time.

This morning I was making trip one to ME’s.  As soon as the garage door opens, you can here the active pups inside, anticipating what is coming.  I went inside, saw the three active pups eager to get into the backyard, walked across the hallway, across the den, and opened the patio door… and there were only TWO PUPS scrambling to get outside!  My nephew’s larger dog, Delta, was not there!  Somewhere between the back door opening into the garage and the patio door, Delta had simply disappeared!

Needless to say, I was only a degree or two from freaking out!  A thorough search of the house revealed not a trace of Delta.  I went outside and called.  No Delta.  Before making the dreaded call to South Carolina, I drove the entire neighborhood calling for the lost pup… but to no avail.  Finally I made the call… and was told that Delta often ‘hides’ when outside.  I looked.  No Delta.  Perhaps she would also hide INSIDE.  I search everywhere, including closets, and under furniture.  This is a 40+ pound animal, so hiding space is limited.

M.E. called her next door neighbor, who joined the search with me.  I know that the circumference of that neighborhood is one mile, and I made it many times.  And then South Carolina called! 

 I was told that a church friend of my nephew’s had picked up Delta, and that she was (safely) with this friend!  Whew, what a huge relief!  

I’m at a total loss as to what my part played in this whole fiasco. It could ONLY mean that Delta was NEVER at the door eager to go outside as she always is.  I EXPECTED her to be there, therefore, I THOUGHT that I saw her there!  I expected three, so I saw the two as THREE! 

But, as I explained to Carol, I would swear in a court of law that Delta WAS THERE when I arrived!  It was the same thing as that morning in the shower when the bathroom floor was flooding!     

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

WHAT’S YOUR LETTER?

If you were asked what letter of the alphabet most aptly defines your life, what would that letter be?  That’s an unusual question, huh?

In my case, that letter is a no-brainer.  It’s the letter X.

First of all, there were never many X’s in the telephone directories of yesteryear, not even in the in the midst of folks’ names.  But there’s an X in mine, handed down to me over generations.  My father’s grandfather was a Hendrix (sir name) and the Hendrix name was bestowed up on him (William Hendrix Murphy) and I was named after my father as William Hendrix Murphy, Jr.  

Yes, there are more than just a few folks named Hendrix, but I’ve not run across all that many.  I think I met more Fox’s that any other name which include an X.

But the X tie-in doesn’t stop with my name.  I was married previously.  This means that I have an X.  And that of course means that I am also an X myself…an X to my X.  But just as two wrongs don’t make a right, two X’s don’t cancel one another out… I’m still an X and she is also.

There are two other important Xs in my life, but not ones that pertain to my personal earthly being.  Back before the days before broadcast television (Yes, I’m that old) we had only RADIO for ‘our broadcast-listening pleasure.’  My very favorite radio programs, around the age of 5 to 7, was one called DIMENSION X.  (I now have a CD of dozens of these old recorded radio shows!)  My mother forbade me to listen to Dimension X because she thought (correctly) that it would cause me to have nightmares.  But boys will be boys, and I am one.  I slipped Dad’s battery operated radio under the covers, and faked being asleep, while listening to our brave space explorers being lost on Mars and other similar scientific terrors.  The night I was caught was a night to remember also!

One of my all time favorite, early 1950s black and white sci-fi MOVIES was ‘The Man From Planet X,’ starring the mother of Sally Fields (of The Flying Nun fame)!  This is a true statement, not just ‘some other X’ to add to my ‘X-list.’ I even have the CD of that old movie today.  Funny thing: it’s not nearly as frightening today as it was in the 1950s.

All that said…. What other letter of the alphabet could possibly be more meaningful to me that X?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HUNT & PECKER

     I’m a strange bird in many ways, and I admit to that.  As a prime example, even as a fledgling writer, I’ve never learned to type!  Yes, I’m what’s called a ‘Hunt and Pecker.’

    Once I actually attempted to learn, or should I say, was encouraged to learn.  That was way back in the early days of computers, with their ever present keyboards.  Some folks believe that ‘typing’ is required.

    I began (full-time) work for Jitney-Jungle in the fall of 1967.  Those first few years typing was never a requirement, as I was producing silk screen and hand-painted signage for the company.  I’m sure that by today, somewhere, there’s a silk-screen apparatus that has a key-board… but back then… none was required.

    Because I’d formerly worked in the advertising department of the Clarion Ledger Newspaper, the heads of state at Jitney decided… why ‘farm-out’ print advertising when we have a warm body already on the payroll who can do that!  So, I moved across the street and into the main corporate office, hired a couple of co-employees, and we began producing the weekly print-ad artwork, camera-ready for the newspapers.  

    Our first ‘typesetting’ machine was among the first photo-typesetters on the market… and it didn’t even have a keyboard!  Although electric, it was in no-way electronic. Each and every type-font came on a large plastic disk about the size of an old LP record.  Oh, and each type-font SIZE had it’s own separate disk!  Early expense requirements meant that we could have only a limited number of type fonts and sizes.

     The way this machine worked was: in a darkroom, the 35 mm paper onto which the type would be ‘exposed’ was fed into a loadable cassette.  The type machine itself looked somewhat like a cross between a record player and a pinball machine.  To produce the words ‘Chuck Roast’ you placed the desired font/size disk onto the machine, inserted the cassette into the side, advanced the paper to the ‘expose film’ area, then turn the font-disk until the ‘C’ lined up correctly.  Then with your left hand you pressed a lever which locked the font-wheel into the correct position, and next with your right hand you pressed a corresponding lever on the right side which exposed this first letter onto the film.  ‘C’ was now done.  Then you moved the font wheel to the letter ‘h’ and repeated the left right, lock-print lever dance.  Next came ‘u’ followed by all the others.  Needless to say, it took quite a bit LONGER to print out ‘USDA Choice Boneless Chuck Roast’ than it does today!  You see, knowing ‘how to type’ was of absolutely no benefit in ‘typing’ with the Varityper!  It was basically ‘Hunt and Pecking by default!’  

     Also, there were physical limitations as to the type size we could use.  The minimum was 14 points (about 1/8 inch tall) and the largest was 72 points… around 3/4 inches tall.  So, for the larger PRICE NUMERALS we often had to use ‘clip art’ numerals, especially for the larger ‘featured’ items.  

    All of these various ‘labor intensive’ requirements required that these earlier four and eight page ad ‘tabloids’ displayed only a minimum number of items per page… something in the neighborhood of six to fourteen items.

     Because type-setting was such a long, labor-intensive process, there were many, many times, (in order to be home with the family) I’d take the Varityper home after 5 and set type sitting at our kitchen table!  Like I said, there was no NEED to learn how to type.  ANYONE can ‘hunt and peck’ 2 words a minute!

     But things changed when computers came along, and with them, computer-generated type-setting.  The next generation of computer assisted ad layout meant that type could be set directly in position and onto a page layout clearly and accurately presented right on your computer screen!  Now, typing was almost a requirement!  So… Jitney sent me to TYPING SCHOOL at the then new R & D Center!  

    I must not be ‘cut out’ for typing.  I was a miserable failure at it… much like I was at learning to play the piano during grammar school!  Oh I played (a bit) but my piano teacher, Miss Nellie Robinson, told Mom that I was not learning the notes… but playing by ear!  Typing was like that for me also.  So, folks at Jitney finally ‘gave up,’ by saying that I could type with two fingers far better than I’d ever be able to using all ten!  They were right.  I typed this using only two. 

    In my ‘can’t type defense,’ when I was hired on full-time at Jitney we had only 22 Jitney-Jungle stores.  Our little corporate in-house Advertising Department was instrumental in ‘growing’ that number, within a couple of short decades, into a mega-chain with the largest number of employees of any home-owned and home-operated company in the entire state.  Yup, I can’t help but be proud of what my two little fingers, ‘Woody left’ and ‘Wood’ right, helped to accomplish! 

Bill Murphy

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  

ONCE A GROCER, ALWAYS A GROCER

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

I suppose it’s simply ‘in my blood,’ this GROCER thing.  But I come by it honestly.  It’s actually something rather difficult to ignore, as I was practically born, bred, and raised in the grocery business.  It was almost the same for my Dad.

Dad’s first and only other job in his entire work-history was a short tour of duty working in the Dairy at Mississippi State College in the early 1930s.  And then he moved to the ‘big city’ of Jackson and found work as a stock-boy for the then new Jitney-Jungle.

I’ll skip forward to 1951.  I was in the 5th at George Elementary on the corner of Winter and Gallatin.  Dad had been the successful manager of Jitney #2 next to George, so when the new Jitney #19 was built and opened in Mart 51 at Terry Road and Highway 80, he was made manager of this new store.  Dad hired me to ‘help out’ after school Thursday and Friday afternoons and the weekends.   

I work there at Jitney #19 until I started my Freshman year at Mississippi Stare in the Fall of 1959.   You see, the grocery business is in my blood.

But I wasn’t finished with the grocery business!  In the Fall of 1967 I was called back into the grocery business when Jitney Jungle decided to form it’s own in-house ad agency and print shop.  This time as full-time… until the very senseless end of Jitney-Jungle in 2001.

I said all that to say this…  This very morning Carol sent me to Kroger for a few grocery items.  I found a spot to part right near the front of the store.  Great!  The store was crowded, even for a Friday morning. 

When I returned to my vehicle after shopping, I noticed that the nearby rack of returned grocery carts was completely overloaded with returned carts… most of which had be hurriedly and carelessly dropped off in willie-millie fashion!  Empty carts spilled over into the adjoining parking spaces!  My ‘grocer in the blood’ kicked in.  It simply overpowered me.  I couldn’t help myself.   It was like it was 1951 all over again and Bill had his grocery cart responsibility again!

Yes, I did!  After I’d packed my vehicle with my purchases,  I took my empty card over to this fine MESS… and quickly and efficiently did my work, in the true spirit of a good grocery company individual.  It didn’t take me long, perhaps 2 minutes at most, but it sure made me feel good about doing it!  I’m sure there must have been another customer within sight, scratching their head and wondering, ‘Why is HE doing that?’   

Why? Because it’s in my blood.  I can’t help it.  I’m retired now, and I miss doing ‘grocery stuff.’  Besides, those 5th grade years were among the happiest of my young life, and it was a barrel of fun this morning, an 80+ year old man, back again doing ‘fun’ 5th grade work!  It make me realize that I’ve still ‘got it!’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  

HOLY COMMUNION

Originally Posted in February 2021

What it means to us. What it means to Him 

Introduction:

God did something special in giving this message to me!  I’m taking none of the credit for this fresh look at words spoken at events that happened over two thousand years ago. The story is not new, it’s His entirely.  As the song says, ‘God is good all the time.  All the time, God is good!’  Yes He is! 

                               ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

What we’ve come to refer to by such terms as ‘Holy Week’ is here.  No doubt there will be many sermons preached on the Church’s observance of Communion.  This observance is also referred to as a rite, and observance, a ceremony, a sacrement, service.  By what ever your local assembly calls it, it was instituted by Jesus, and we are instructed to continue the practice.  As in other observances, such as baptism, it is a physical expression (or symbolic) of a deeply spiritual event.  Jesus Himself stated it perfectly when He said we should participate in communion as a physical act of REMEMBRANCE.

The question is: what is it that we’re supposed to be remembering?

Luke and Corinthians both answer that question when they record Jesus as saying, ‘In remembrance of Me.’  

The reason this meal is referred to as the ‘last supper’ is because it was the last meal that Jesus shared with His disciples.  He was about to die on the cross… and nothing in Heaven or Earth would ever be the same again!  It was a monumental event… at a monumental time in the history of mankind!

We have national holidays for similar reasons… days set aside to remember specific times and events in history.  For many years after World War Two, we celebrated VE Day (Victory In Europe) and VJ Day (Victory In Japan).  Those two celebrations are no longer considered to be ‘politically correct,’ and are no longer celebrated.  Yet, because it was a pinnacle turning point in the history of our nation, we still remember December 7th, the date on which Pearl Harbor was bombed.

Although VE and VJ days were considered as days of celebration and joy, because they were times of remembering victories… Pearl Harbor Day can never be remembered with joy and with a ‘celebratory’ spirit. It is a day of remembering tremendous sacrifice and great loss of life.

Now, let’s consider our original question.  What did Jesus want us to remember today when we receive communion?

Scripture tells us that the broken bread is to remind us of his broken body, and the wine to remind us of his shed blood.  This is what we’re told to remember as we receive communion… this is the purpose of communion.  But we already know that, don’t we? 

Yes, we do.  But just like the song ‘Jesus loves me,’ the message never gets old, never wears out, never loses its powerful message!

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.   Matthew 26: 26-28

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.  And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.  And he said unto them,  This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.    Mark 14: 22-24

And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.  And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.    Luke 22:14-20

…The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:  And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.    I Corinthians 11:23-26

I often hear a term used which is interpreted as ‘participating in a rite or ceremony,’ and that term is ‘celebrating’ it… as in celebrating the last supper.  Personally, I don’t think ‘celebrating’ is an appropriate word for remembering the horribly painful, brutal, bloody death of our Lord and Savior!  We can’t begin to imagine the shame, the pain, the suffering that He went through!  Hollywood attempted to show us, but that was only a weak attempt at making us understand.  We always think of Jesus and His strength, faith, steadfast courage and unshakable spirit… yet scripture describes how He agonized over what was about to happen to him!  Think about that!  Remember it!  Now where is you ‘celebration’?

As in most all things, there’s both a ‘what’ and a ‘why.’  We’ve just had a brief and painful look at most of the whats of this last supper.  The ‘why’ is no less monumental in its supreme importance to God, to His will, to His plan for mankind, and to each and every one of us… then as well as today!

Two thousand years ago, our calendars changed.  Jesus Christ changed more than just our calendars, but everything!  Before him, God had a special family of people, people He referred to as ‘His Children.’  This was the Hebrew Nation.

These Hebrew people, living in the very shadow of the temple, were not only subject to the laws of God… but also subject to Roman law.  They paid taxes to Rome, and Tithes to God in the Temple.  And their sins were never completely forgiven.  Instead they were atoned for, meaning, they were rolled forward for another year when all of these collected sins were atoned for all over again on the Day of Atonement.  A sacrifice was made, and blood was shed, to pay the price for the people’s sins.  ‘Church’  was a rather bloody place back then!

But Jesus changed all that!

Jesus came and not only taught us how to live in harmony with one another and with God, but He also preached forgiveness and love… and mercy and grace… faith and hope… and peace and joy.  He taught us how to find and to follow the pathway to the very heart of God! 

And then, He did something that bewilders and amazes us today.  He did something that all the blood of centuries of animals could never do… He paid the price for all sins ever committed before, and all sins committed afterwards.  He himself became the sacrifice, dying on the cross, as a final and complete sacrifice, which would remove sin from mankind for once and for all!  All that was required of us was to reciprocate… He’d give His life for us but He wants us to give our lives to (and for) Him!  He did this for everyone, everyone past and present…everyone who will give up (surrender) their wills unto Him.  

Oh yes, then, as even today, there are many who cannot or will not agree to this exchange… and they chose a temporary life on earth over eternal life in heaven.  And yet, He suffered and died even for them… even though they reject his unbelievably wonderful ‘deal.’  He did this for me, and He did this for you!

When we remember (like He told us to do) His broken body and the shed precious blood, we shutter in awe, our eyes flood with tears, our knees go weak and we fall to the ground in deep humility, respect, and  reverence.  We worship at His feet.  We worship because of what He has done for us.  We are to remember His great pain and suffering, which He willingly subjected Himself to, so that we might have eternal life with him!

We are involved in this equation.  We are the ‘why’ He did this!  We are the why He suffered, bled, and died on the cross.  He did it to save our filthy hides, to take the place for all of our sorry sins… Himself to die that WE might live!

Earlier we saw what was in it for Him.  But now we’ve seen what’s in it for US.  It is all together different… total polar opposites.  He got the pain, suffering, and death… but we get the joy, happiness, peace, and life eternal!  That second part takes away our tears.  That causes us to celebrate!  That joy sends us to our feet, our hands lifted in praise!  That’s what’s in it for us.

In many restaurants, especially in beach areas, you often see notification signs stating: NO SHIRT. NO SHOES. NO SERVICE.  The meaning is clear, their dining in NOT that casual!  Dress for the occasion!  Four and Five Star Restaurants will probably require a reservation!

Do we need a reservation to partake of the Lord’s Supper, to partake in communion? 

Actually, in a very real sense, we do!  The ‘reservation’ that is required is that we come to His table in sincere humility, and with an attitude of worship, understanding, and respect for what it means.  We need to reserve our hearts, minds, and spirits to come to the table in awareness and respect.  Read what Paul tells us in the book of Corinthians. 

“The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:  And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.  Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.     I Corinthians 11:24-29

Now, as we stand before the altar, and the loaves and the wine lay before us, this year let’s be honest with ourselves and honest with God… and let’s consider carefully not only what we are remembering, but also why.  And let’s consider not only what’s in it for us, but especially, what’s in it for Him!

Isn’t it amazing, that something so separate and diverse as are worship and praise, that they come together almost as one, in an event so monumental to our very faith!  We would miss oh so much to embrace the one and ignore the other!

It’s also amazing to consider that communion ‘flips the coin’ so to speak.  We tend to think that praise brings about worship… but during communion, it’s worship which brings on praise!  

                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

WAY BACK WHEN…

A Big Yellow Cat

If I could go back… back to my childhood days… way back to the days when ‘a drug problem’ at school’ meant that the office was out of aspirin… I’d go back!  You’d better believe I would! Things were truly different  back then.  No, we didn’t have Covid, but we did have mumps, measles, chicken pox, and polio.  We didn’t have TV, but we did have AM radio that brought Amos and Andy, Fibber Magee and Molly, and Guy Lumbardo into our homes.  We didn’t have cell phones that rang during church… but we had telephones with long cords and a favorite place to curl up and whisper sweet nothing to that favorite someone across town.  We didn’t have TV to keep up us half the night… or the internet to rob us of valuable family time.  But we did have those amazing places called libraries that carried countless books on countless subjects that gave us countless hours of pleasure while reading.  Hardly anything was ‘right at our fingertips’ back then, which made possessing anything – mean that we had to put out some effort to possess it. This only made things much more dear to us.  And as one of the most popular songs of the day stated, ‘little things meant a lot.’

Looking back, I remember those simple pleasures, those special treats that we found while outside discovering the world around us.  You see, our world was the real world, and not some animated imaginary world on a small flat screen manupilated by our fingers.  A good example was:  About every six weeks or so, the city sent to our neighborhood a great yellow monster!

The street on which I lived was two blocks north of Battlefield Park.  It ran east and west. Connecting our street to Battlefield was Peabody Street, running north/south.  In the 40s, Peabody had yet to be paved… it was still gravel.*  Periodically, the city would send out this great yellow monster, a road grader, to smooth out the ruts and bumps of Peabody Street.  And the neighborhood kids lined the path to watch this great machine at work!   Oh what a treat that was!  The one in the photo is only a toy-model.  But it still brought a smile to my face!

I’ve always had a deep fondness for airplanes.  Perhaps that’s because our home on Evergreen lay directly below the landing approach to one of the main runways of Hawkins Field, Jackson’s original airport.  Those old Delta and Southern DC-3 lumbering directly overhead never got boaring to this young boy!

Back then, a dollar would buy far more than it does today.  In the late 40s, a fully dressed hamburger was only a quarter… and it came with condiments on BOTH buns (something you never find today) plus lettuce, pickle, tomato and onions.  A soft drink was 5c.  When I began driving, and dating… I had $5.00 set aside for my week’s spending.  I could take that $5, put gas in Dad’s car, buy the date and myself burgers and drinks, tickets to the movie, and still have money left over for snacks for myself the remainder of the week!  

In 1945, the southern city limits of Jackson was only yards south of US Hwy 80!  And I had a cousin who also lived on Evergreen, who walked south on Peabody, crossed Battlefield Park, then crossed over Hwy 80… to squirrel hunt!  Yes, I helped eat many a squirrel that was bagged just south of Hwy 80… when that area was mostly forrest and fields.

Not long ago I found an eye-opening bit of local history which underscored just how old I really am. It was an old highway map of Mississippi, dated less than 10 years before my birth. It showed that both Highway 80 (East and West) and Highway 51 (North and South) were only PAVED just a few miles outside of Jackson! Can you imagine traveling to Memphis on a gravel road? How about on a MUDDY gravel road?  

Yes, I know, times have changed.  And they keep on changing… especially in my lifetime.  But, times have also changed during my parents lifetime, and durning their parent’s lifetime!  Not long ago I saw a list of average salaries of profession people at the turn of the century (1900).  It stated that railroad engineers then made more that medical doctors!  Yes, times have changed!  It makes me wonder what it will be like when my great-grand children are adults.  I don’t think I want to know!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK

Tornado

Let’s consider the following scenario:  You’re walking into your first day on a new job.  It is a large place, with several hundred employees.  You know that very soon your’ll be having interaction with dozens and dozens of these strangers.  But the only two that have welcomed you, or even reached out to you thus far are your immediate supervisor, and the HR Director!  It’s like walking into a new school, in a new state, half-way thru the school year.  It can bring on a real feeling of aloneness, even when in a crowd… as if you are a ghost no one can see!  Why won’t anyone reach out to me?  It’s almost as bad as being slapped in the face!

Fast forward to the last week in our area.  The entire central portion of the US had a week of sever weather, with high winds and very heavy rains.  These storm systems also produced tornados, which inflicted heavy damage in some areas, and even causing death and injuries.  These heavy rains caused flooding accompanied by major property damage.  Weather-wise, it’s been a rough week.

Fortunately, modern weather forecasting has given us ample warning time to prepare.  

One of the early warnings issued last week was to be prepared for possible power outages.  We have an electric range, so no power would mean no cooking.  Carol gave me a list of items that we might need over a period of 2 or 3 days, and off to Kroger I went!  The place was packed.  The ‘deadline’ for when the possible tornadoes were to hit was fast approaching.  Carol called me and said to forget the groceries, stop shopping, and to find a safe place in Kroger and hunker down.  I was instruted to STAY THERE!

I’ve seen my fair share of TV news-tornado-aftermath-coverage, and I know that tornados are not kind to Kroger, Lowes, Bed bath and Beyond, or to shopping centers in general.  I was already in the check-out lane, so I checked out.

There’s an old country song that says, ‘If you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with.’   Putting a twist to that, I decided that if I was about to die, I’d much rather die with the one I loved… than die with strangers I was with! 

I made it home just as a real tornado passed overhead less than a mile away!  Needless to say, I was very grateful, thankful, and happy to be alive and safe. The whole thing was a very frightening experience. We were so relieved when it was over!

And then, once again, only yesterday, very similar storm warning were issued.  Everyone it seemed, was taking them seriously.  I had an eye appointment that morning, and was told to come in early, as they would be closing early due to the weather.   Folks that we know were told that their workplaces were closing early.  Our church cancelled all meetings, including church service, that afternoon/night.  The city was basically closing down early yesterday! 

We stayed home, stayed in, and enjoyed watching TV!

And then last night… after the weatherforcasters had said  ‘all clear’ and the danger was passed, and there was no storm damage, and all was good again and ‘right with the world,’ I began preparing for bed.  And that’s when it hit me… my reason for writing this personal confession, and my reason for wanting to share it with you.  

Last night it suddenly hit me.  In all the ‘action’ involved with that earlier storm only days before, when that danger had passed, I was thankful, I was greatful, and I turned by heart toward Heaven in sincere appreciation to God for allowing us to be spared from harm.  I was aware of His loving hands around me!  But this time, last night for some reason, I had come complacent… I had lacked that same awareness of His loving providence!  It was as if I had ignored His loving, caring, intervention into our lives. I was shaken… not as much by what I had done, but by what I had not done!

That’s when He showed me the lesson in all this… in His wonderful, loving, way! 

Earlier that night, when the storm had left our area, and all was once again right with the world, I had simply gone on with my life, without pausing to recognize HIM and His presence in this situation.  It was as if I had treated HIM as the new kid on the block… the new one  at school… the new employee simply ignored. 

Like I said before, it was almost as if I’d slapped My Lord in the face!  That’s how I felt.

Wow!  To think that I could have done that!  

Now I had two things to thank Him for.  One: for His mercy in protecting us (and others) from the storm outside… and Two: for His amazing grace in revealing to me what I could be inside, and yet still loving me enough to expose that to me!

THANKS LORD!  Thank you for still loving me!

DAVID’S HOMEWORK

David and Goliath

This is the story of David and Goliath revisited… perhaps in a way you’ve never thought of it before!

Homework! Yuck!  Who of us really liked homework?  Little did we understand when in school that homework was a vital part of receiving a good education.  (The teacher can teach.  It’s up to us to receive it.)

Homework teaches much more than simply the scholastic facts of the lesson.  It also helps in teaching us discipline, responsibility, and maturity – as well a being an excellent tool in hammering information into our brains.

So?  What does this have to do with David and Goliath?  I believe it has much to do with this, perhaps the best known and best loved story in God’s Word.

First, let’s go back in time, and take a closer look at the setting of the story.  David was just a lad, not yet considered to be a ‘man.’  He was a shepherd boy, tending the family’s flock.  And shepherding took place outside of town, out on the hills and planes surrounding Bethlehem.  Sheep are ‘skittish’ animals.  Sheep are not fighters.  Sheep are basically defenseless.  David was their defense.  This is where David spent most of his time.  You might say, this was his open-air school house.

The other boys, back home in Bethlehem, were ‘city boys.’  I know, Bethlehem was NOT a thriving CITY by any means!  It was a small town.  But even in a small town, one is surrounded by social interaction.  There were homes, there shops, there was commerce and activity.  If you tripped and fell, there was someone near to lend a hand and help you up.  If you were in danger, a scream would alert others of your need for help.  Assistant was near… assistance in the form of other humans much like youself.  David, on the other hand, was alone… surrounded by helpless sheep… or so it would seem!

David surrounded himself with God!  Perhaps, to put it in perspective, he allowed himself to be surround by God by continually welcoming God’s presence!

And here lies the reality of the difference between David and similar youth of Bethlehem.  David had a ‘need’ of God.  Yes, the other lads did also.  But David was acutely aware of it, whereas other boys were not.  The time would come when David would find himself in need of help and assistance… and he turned to his closest source of strength and comfort, God!

God is known for His unlimited strength and immeasurable power.  But God was not content for David just to know this as head/heart knowledge.  God, the great TEACHER of teachers, God gave David a little (what I like to think of as…) HOMEWORK.  It was like God was saying,  I’ve told you.  I’ve shown you.  Now you go home and ‘work’ this problem like I’ve instructed you.  The ‘problem’ came in the form of a BEAR!

David had listen to all of God’s lessons intently.  He had soaked them up eagerly.  So as the bear approached, David was ready.  His weapons of defense were hope, faith, and a secure trust in God.  And those weapons did not fail!  The bear was slain, and the sheep were saved!  And David got an A+ on his homework!

A similar insadent happened with a lion… and again, David prevailed.  David was learning!  

I like ‘catch phrases.’  One of my favorites is LET GO AND LET GOD!  To me, that perfectly illustrates David’s victory over the bear and the Lion. 

What I’m trying to say here is that before David ever stood before and up to Goliath, he had to stand before and up to his own personal weakness!  He had to learn the lesson of letting go and letting God.  Before Goliath came onto the scene, David had done his homework, and David had experienced what God could do!

Yes, when you read the story, some might think that David was speaking with a bit of pretensios braggadocio in telling those around him that he would take on Goliath.  But consider that moment, there in the Valley of Elah.  King Saul’s army was facing battle and blood, life and death, swords and spears, and an angry giant who towered over everyone.  Their minds and hearts were fixed on fear and not faith.  They were not of the mind-set to hear a testimony from a kid of God’s amazing grace and mercy.  But King Saul was!  It was he who made the decisioin to allow David to confront Goliath.

In truth, it was NOT David who stood up to Goliath, but God working with and through David.  David walked into the fray, but with God before him.  David took along his sling, but God gave that sling it’s power.  David picked up the stones, but God directed that stone to just the right spot to fell Goliath flat on his face.  And it was God who gave Goliath’s own sword into David’s hands… with which to sever the giant’s head! 

Was this a ‘miracle?’  On the human-side, it sure meets the requirements.  But what we call ‘miracles’ are simple matters for God.  All too often God uses ‘just kids’ to do His work.  And just what kid God uses is more often than not, the one who has ‘done their homework.”

2 Timothy 2:15 tells us… Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  And remember, study often comes with homework.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~