THE PERFECT GIFT

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© 2018 Bill Murphy

What do you give the one who has everything?  Most of us have confronted this problem… but it no longer must be a problem.  Let me suggest – giving that person appreciation.

We all want attention and appreciation.  But if we’re honest, these 2 items are near the top of our want-list. True?  So – this coming Christmas, birthday, anniversary, or for any gift-giving occasion, your problem is now solved… with a gift guaranteed to please.  I know that I want to be appreciated!  Don’t you?

There is another who also relishes our attention and appreciation… the one who most deserves it!  But He often must settle for a once-a-week ‘I appreciate you’ session, where we express our attention and appreciation to Him.  Yes, I’m speaking of our Heavenly Father!

I’m afraid that we tend to get so wrapped up in our busy lives, that we fail to see our lives in their proper perspective… that is: how our lives are related to His!  We’re reminded that we should stop and ‘smell the roses.’  But that’s only a start.

The next clear night, go somewhere that the city lights don’t interfere… and look toward the heavens.  Can you count the stars?  No, there are far too many to count.  And this is only the ones you can see.  There are billions upon billions far beyond these.  He created each and every one.

How large is this universe?  The size is far beyond anything we can comprehend or imagine.  How big is limitless?  He created it all.

This creator is our God.  Not only is He our creator, He is our Heavenly Father.  Compared to Him, we are but speck of dust.  And yet, amazing as it it, He knows each of us by name.  Scripture tells us that He knows how many hairs are on your head!  But more important than that… He loves you.

Yes, He wants our attention and our appreciation!  But here is the most amazing thing about who WE are: When He created us, he could have created us to ‘automatically’ love Him, to automatically give Him our undivided attention and appreciation.  But… He chose not to do so.  Instead, He made us ‘like’ Himself… he gave our temporary, physical bodies an indwelling spirit… a spirit like He is!  And He also gave us a will of our own… just as He has a will.  And why did He do this?  He did this because He did not want our lives to be controlled by instinct… not pre-programmed to be what He desired for us to be.  That would have been too easy.  That is the way He made all other animal life.

Instead… for us… He wanted us to be His CHILDREN, like unto Him, to be eternal, spiritual… children that He can call His own.

As a parent myself, my desire is that my children have an appreciation for what I am and for what I do and have done for them.  I’m sure you can agree with this yourself.

It puts things into better perspective… when we see ourselves as HIS children!

If there was ever anyone who actually has everything… then it is God Himself!  But does He really have it all?  We have no problem with being constantly aware that we are dressed, fed, and breathing.  So why do we think that we cannot be constantly and continually aware of Him, and of His rich blessings perpetually pouring down upon us!

A once a week pause to say, ‘thank you,’ is not nearly enough!  Pause often – and Give Him the gift of appreciation.  He deserves it!  And… He desires it.

 

 

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REMEMBERING GRACE METHODIST CHURCH

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©2018  Bill Murphy

Grace Methodist Church sat diagonally across the street from George Elementary School, on the north/west corner of Winter and Union streets.  Why is it that you fail to take a snapshot of those people or places you most want to remember?  Above is a photo taken by my mother sometime in the very late 40s, of a George School activity.  I suppose I’m in there somewhere.  Behind us is the old church building, before it was remodeled in the early 50s.  The parsonage is immediately to the right.  The white frame structure to the far left is the adjoining Sunday School rooms.

Grace was a neighborhood church, with no church parking lot.  There was ample parking on the streets for those who drove.  I walked to church many times.

This was my home church for my first 19 years.  Dad was on the Board of Stewards, and Mom was Superintendent of the Primary Department.  I sang in the choir when in high school.

Our family was always there – dependable, we were.  Sometimes we did miss a Sunday or two, but only for a valid reason… such as vacations.  Driving to Quebec, lower Florida, Vancouver, or deep into Mexico… on those pre-interstate 2 lane highways, you needed all the travel time available.  But our family attended church as we traveled – so that my sister and I could still be in the perfect attendance category.  One Sunday morning in Utah, we couldn’t find a Methodist Church anywhere – so we attended a Mormon service held in the Bryce Canyon Lodge.

I dearly loved Grace Methodist Church.  I am who I am today largely because of the instruction, foundation and examples I received from Grace Church.

I’m blessed to have participated in many memorable, spirit-filled, soul-jarring, life changing worship services in other churches over the years, yet I can truthfully say that none of those ‘pinnacle’ services compare to a typical service at Grace Church.  How? Why?

Because Grace Church was what it was!  I miss those wonderful days there, the place we thought of as “God’s House.”  We considered it to be a Holy Place.  And why did we feel this way and why did we feel such awe in simply entering the building?  Because… as small kids, we were taught that it was not just a building.  We were taught that it was “The House of God,” as if He dwelled there!  We learned to reverence it, respect it, and love it.  It was special… very, very special.  And because of this, we expected Him to be there with us and among us each time we entered that Holy place.

Were we lied to?  Was this some adult trick or ploy to make us behave?  Hardly.  Scripture plainly tells us that where two or three are gathered together in His name, then He is there! (Matthew 18:20).  And we knew to respect and reverence not only His presence which actually was there, but also His ‘house.‘  It was all real, very real.

Grace church was never locked when I was a child.  It was alway open to those who wished to enter, to feel His presence and love, to come kneel and pray.  There was a water fountain in the hallway of the ‘education’ department… and on hot summer days, we kids often entered the church to cool off and drink.  Although just a hot and sweaty pack of 8, 10, or 12 year olds, our parents may as well have been watching over our shoulders.  When we passed over the threshold, our very countenance transformed, automatically.  Why?  Because we knew to respect and to reverence that place, be it Sunday morning during church service or Tuesday afternoon.  We had been taught to give honor where honor was due… and God’s ‘house’ was due our honor and respect!  We neither talked loud nor ran in the hallways.  We had ingrained respect for where we were – because we’d been taught to have that respect.

I appreciate those life-lessons more and more each day that I live.

We didn’t have a ‘praise and worship leader’ at Grace Church.  But we had praise… and we had worship.  We had both in bountiful measure.  We had a choir director, but his duty was to direct the choir, not to serve as a cheer-leader.  We didn’t require a cheer-leader, because we knew that God was there, in our midst.  One could not help but feel His presence.  It was easy to worship Him at Grace Church.  This was His House!  And we respected it.  We hallowed it.  I think that it was this ‘attitude’ of respect and reverence that we brought with us to church that made it so easy, so natural, to worship.  We passed through the door expecting to meet Him inside!  And we were never disappointed!

My very favorite memories of Grace Church were the Sunday night services.  After 2 or 3 songs, and the announcements were read, the pastor gave his message.  Then we sang another hymn.  The lights were lowered, giving one just enough illumination to see, and then the pastor told us that the altars were open for those who wished to come and pray.  I always went forward.  There, in that darkened and quiet time, in that Holy place, it was as if I was not among dozens, but rather, alone with God.  It was so easy to feel His presence, His loving hand on my shoulder, His breath on my cheek.  It was just the two of us.  I worshiped Him.  And He filled my young heart with His presence, and His love.  It was like Heaven on earth.  I treasure those memories.  To think that the creator of the universe paused long enough to spend quality time with me!  A reverent soul is but putty in the hands of God.

Alas… Grace Church is no more.  Even the new building grew old… and time marched ever onward.  Folks prospered and moved away to bigger and better things.  Due to his strong work-ethic, Dad continued to get promotions at Jitney Jungle.  He and Mom moved away from Evergreen, to a larger, nicer home in north/east Jackson.  The congregation of Grace Church began to dwindle… until it was no more.  Sitting unused and uncared for, the leaking roof began to collapse.  A few years ago, the building was leveled.  Where the House of God once stood, and where heaven once opened its doors to a young boy… is now but a vacant lot.

Grace Church may be gone – but Grace Church is not forgotten!  Not in this heart anyway.

 

 

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AN ANGEL IN THE CLOSET

Sk. In Closet copy© 2018 Bill Murphy

We often hear of skeletons in the closet, of deep dark sins and secrets hidden away, musty and dusty and, we hope, dormant and forgotten.  But what of angels in the closet?

My family has one of each – and both are from the same closet!

I come from two large families, with a total of 13 uncles and aunts plus all their wives and husbands. This large collection of unique individuals has gifted me with a wealth of stories and life experiences.  One of my favorite story-treasures involves my mother’s older sister, Lillie Fairchild Padget, and her husband Fred Padget.

Uncle Fred and Aunt Lillie (who everyone in the family called Sister) lived in Bogalusa, Louisiana.  Uncle Fred died of a sudden heart attack in 1947, and Sister moved next door to us on Evergreen Street.  Now Uncle Fred had an evil skeleton in his closet, which Sister packed up and brought to Jackson when she moved from Bogalusa.  She kept it not in a closet, but in a large trunk.

Not long after settling into her new home in Mississippi, she joined Griffith Memorial Baptist Church on Silas Brown Street, near our home.  And she began to sew.  She made for herself a beautiful, white Easter dress.

She was oh so proud of that dress.  It was of the finest silk, and rivaled the elegance of any wedding dress!  That top quality garment hardy cost her pennies to make!  The smooth, lily white material she already had.  It was brought from Bogalusa in the trunk.

You see, Uncle Fred had been an officer in the Bogalusa chapter of the KKK.  Sister made that beautiful dress, a dress to wear to church to worship and honor her Lord and Savior on the day set aside to celebrate that marvelous day He arose from the dead!

Sacrilegious? NO!

Read your Bible.  Over and over again we read where God used the weak to defeat the strong, the fearful to instruct us in bravery, and the ugly as a radiant example of beauty. This former skeleton in a closet, a dark symbol of sin and shame, my dear Aunt Lillie transformed into an angelic statement of love and devotion to our Lord and Savior.  I know that He looked down on that silk’s new form, and smiled.

 

 

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GUILTY AS CHARGED

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The past few months, an issues of spiritual importance has weighed heavily on my heart.  I’ve found myself asking hard questions, and pointing fingers.

Suddenly, I find myself guilty of my own ‘sin.’

This week, our church is having a form of vacation bible school – but this is a one day affair.  Judging by the amount of effort being put into it, one would think it was a full week (or 2 weeks) event!  The props and decor, which include a life-size, hand painted, cut-out figure of Goliath – are nothing short of fabulous.

My contribution was Jonah’s whale, with a cut-out in the side revealing the (living) character dressed as Jonah – sitting inside.

There was technical difficulty, a mix-up in communications, and I received the construction parameters late, which only left a limited time for construction.  Whew… I made it!

Then, late the night before we were to leave the following afternoon for a 6.5 hour trip to Mississippi, I received a call.  The tablets of stone, the 10 commandments, were too small! Could I make new ones?  I wanted to say no… but I said yes.

My dilemma was… I had to ‘design’ these props, gather and or purchase the supplies, and then construct them – all in the time remaining to arrive in Mississippi at least by midnight the very next night.

I actually did it!  I got to work the following morning – but I took a short-cut.  I made things more comfortable for myself.

You see… the 10 commandments are a somewhat lengthy read.  That would have required quite a bit of lettering on my part.  My reasoning was that I didn’t have the time – and that this is for a CHILDREN’S program anyway.  I opted out and located kiddie-friendly versions of the 10 commandments.  Instead of: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s… mine just said, “Don’t want other’s stuff.”  We got to our Mississippi destination by 10:30.

But while on our way, it came to me… guilt.  I was guilty of the same thing which I’d been seeing in others!

For months now I’ve come to realize that we’ve come to make corporate worship far too ‘comfortable.’  And this comfort has pushed aside and thoroughly muddied our concepts of respect and reverence for what we once called… The House of God.

Folks my age remember what was called ‘Sunday clothes.’  Today, in order to welcome the weak, the poor, the huddled masses – dressing for church is a thing of the past. What’s good for Monday thru Friday – and even Saturday – is good enough for God!

And dress is only the tip of the iceberg!

But how can I call the kettle black?  Didn’t I cut a big corner?  Didn’t I save a few minutes (or hours) to make it convenient for myself?  Didn’t I put personal comfort and desires above the Holy Laws of God?  Yes, I did.  I’m guilty as charged!

P.S. I my defense, I still refuse to wear a hat inside and during a church service.  There are usually several (male) hatted heads in my laid-back place of worship.

 

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HEY… STOP! THAT’S MINE!

32861035_2109220632690321_9168652190703681536_n© 2018 Bill Murphy

We have varying opinions as to ‘entitlement.’ We all believe that certain things are ours by right… what ever our perception of ‘right’ might be.

However, the final authority on the matter of entitlement is the final authority on all matters concerning things human… God’s Word.

It says:

It is in the plan that all men die once. After that, they will stand before God and be judged.

Hebrews 9:26-28 – New Life Version (NLV)

That scripture tells me that we are all entitled to death… and judgement.

Just days ago, a central portion of my little life came crashing down, or should I say more correctly… began drying up!

For days on end, half a dozen counties in our immediate area were without WATER! The reason for this was that the single fresh water SUPPLY line ruptured at the area’s water treatment facility! This forced the treatment plant to be shut down until this large pipe could be repaired/replaced. Several counties were left with only the water remaining in their local storage tanks… which rapidly began dwindling. Because firefighters NEED water to fight fires, local water departments were forced to CUT OFF water supply to homes and businesses… in order to hold an emergency supply on hand.

Needless to say, there was a sudden run on bottled water!

Water is such a common thing. We take it for granted. Turn the faucet… and there it is… flowing fresh and clear. Yet oh so many in this world do not have the ‘luxury’ of a water faucet in their home… nor even a single one in their community! Many must walk miles each day, filling containers with water which is NOT fresh and clear, just to supply their needs. I had to drive all the way (maybe 5 miles) into Carbondale for water.

I gained a whole new appreciation for fresh water that week… and for faucets which freely dispense that sweet nectar of life.

I also realized that deep inside I was beginning to feel somewhat ‘wronged,’ and put-out… because I was being denied that which I was ‘entitled to’ as a tax paying citizen.

Thankfully, God helped me sort out my feelings… to separate the facts from the folly. My belief is that just because I was born in America to American parents… and not in some third-world country to impoverished parents… does not in any way give me a ‘right’ to expectations I have created for myself… not even the simple, everyday things like fresh water.

Yes, I worked. I saved. I prepared for the future. Those things I earned in payment for my labors. Basically, what I’m saying is, “I bought water!”

But where do ‘earnings’ end and ‘entitlement’ begin? And… is there not a difference between the two?

I believer there is.

I remember when just a child in grade school, not long after learning to read… I saw a one-picture political-style cartoon in a newspaper that, for the life of me, I could not understand at the time. I made no sense to me. It showed to two obviously well-to-do gentlemen on a city street, looking down on a poor beggar in the gutter. One rich man was saying to the other, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

That week of no water, that cartoon came back to my memory, the meaning crystal clear.

 

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MY PROUDEST MOMENT

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For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.   Mark 7:21-23 (KJV)

 

Pride can be a spin-off from personal status or accomplishment. God puts pride in the same group as other deadly sins.

To be honest, I truthfully have neither done – nor been – anything which would cause me to be overcome with pride. I’ve never deserved the keys to the city, a legislative proclamation, or a brass plaque.

Can stating a lack of pride be a prideful boast?

I’ve won a few model airplane building contest, and I lettered in football in the 9th grade. Oh, and I had my photo taken with Philip Morris’ Little Johnny, Brenda Lee and Vanna White. (Not all at the same time.)

My childhood hero was Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier.  Years ago, before the National Air and Space Museum was built, and when my hero’s aircraft, the Bell X-1 was housed at ground level in an outbuilding of the Smithsonian – I ran my hot little hands down the side of that treasured piece of history.  My heart DID swell with childish pride that happy day!

But I don’t think that patting an airplane is what “my proudest moment” was supposed to be about.

If my memory serves me well, the year was 1983, and the month was December.  It was a typical Sunday morning, and we were at church.  It was a large church, easily having 500 or more in attendance at every service.  Our 4 daughters ranged in age from 12 to 17.

As church was over, and we were gathering up the kids to go home, our youngest daughter gleefully ran up to us, her face beaming with joy.  “Guess what?” she exclaimed.  “Today in Sunday School, we studied about Mary.  At the end of class we took a vote on who, in our Sunday School class, God would probably choose to be the mother of Baby Jesus if He were to be born today.  And they elected ME!”

To Molly, that was a singularly high honor.  She was as giddy as if she’d won the lottery. But to her father, it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

My proudest moment was not something I did – but a vote of confidence received by my youngest child.

Does that count – while maintaining at least some degree of innocence?

 

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WHO ARE YOU?

© 2018 Bill MurphyMan Question
The first blank on any application is usually for your name. But name alone is never enough. After name comes mailing address, city, state, zip, e-mail address, etc., etc. But still, this truly doesn’t tell anyone who you actually are.

Perhaps to better understand who you are, we should first ask the question of what you are, beginning at the your beginnings.

No doubt, you were given your name at birth. But birth was not the beginning of what was to become you. Contrary to what some find difficult to accept, you began at the time of conception – when a single tiny cell from your biological mother joined with a single cell from your biological father. Nothing else was added to this initial union of two single cells to make you anything other than who and what you are today.

Around 9 months after your conception, you were born into this world. Welcome.

There are very few organisms which are more fragile, helpless, and utterly dependent than the human infant. Left unattended in the finest luxury hotel that money can afford, and surrounded by wealth and extravagant plenty – if none was there to care for it’s needs, the infant would soon die. This is what you are – a needy creature!

Our neediness continues. But we don’t want to think of ourselves as needy.  Yet we are.

9 months in the safety of a mother’s womb is only the beginning of our neediness. We are dependent upon others for educating us on how to survive and how to thrive. We must be taught to talk, encouraged to walk, and this is only the beginning of civilized social knowledge and indoctrination.

Usually around the age of 12 to 15, the semi-adult human begins to believe they know everything necessary to succeed in the adult world. They are confident they have all the answers. Instead, they’ve not yet begun to face all the questions they’ll confront in life.

This is a particularly difficult time in a youngsters life, especially in our modern, if-it-feels-good-do-it, permissive society. During the late teens and early twenties, countless painful mistakes are usually made, some which leave deep and ugly scars. Today, teen suicide and murder rates are at an all time high.

Sometime around the mid 30s or early 40s, a somewhat foggy understanding of just who they might be, finally dawns upon the human creature. We call this maturity.

It sounds as though I’m not painting a pretty picture of humanity, huh?

Sadly, this is often the case of who we are, or rather, who become! You see, this is not at all who we actually are, or who we should be.

There are two schools of thought as to who (and what) we are. The first generally accepted thought is that we are all one big lucky accident. According to this belief, at some far point in pre-human history, our ancestors were nothing more than a slimy mass of inorganic chemicals sloshing around on the ocean floor. And then by some stroke of accidental luck, a certain ‘critical mass‘ was achieved, and life happened. It was they say, one grand and monumental fluke. Then over the eons, this living, slimy mass of goo re-created itself by morphing (in stages) into something better – we added fins, backbones, legs, lungs, etc. A few eons later we found ourselves growing wheat and corn and having babies.

There was never a PLAN for this to happen. It was all one big happenstance… which has never stopped happening. So here we are today. We’re still having babies right and left, and buying and selling – or stealing – one another’s wheat and corn.

In the grand scheme of things, only today really matters. After all, everything is only an accident anyway. Tomorrow, POOF, everything might be gone anyway.

With no central plan, mankind faced a lot of unhappy chaos. So, to keep things well oiled and running as smoothly as can be in this accidental world of turmoil and self promotion, mankind saw a need for order and purpose. The slime that became mankind, felt a need for reason. So he created a false purpose, and imaginary reason, a pseudo understand of what and why. This calmed his spirit, and soothed his troubled mind. Now all oiled up and covered by reason, he suddenly felt comfort in this artificial security blanket that humanists call ‘religion.’ Intellectuals tell us that man created God.

So, what’s my point?

The point is, what’s the point in life? If it’s all one big temporary fluke anyway – what’s the point in that? According to ‘intellectual’ thought, you and I my friend, are nothing more than super-slime, living a dead-end life, a fleeting life with no rhyme or reason or purpose, and someday – poof – it will all be over. The end. Nada. Period. Then you and I will return to the chemical state where this life all began in the very beginning. What comes around goes around, nothing has really changed.

That’s a comforting thought, huh? NOT!

Call me a fool if you wish, that’s your prerogative. But… I choose to believe there is a reason and a purpose behind life, a reason for yesterday, today, and tomorrow – a rhyme, reason and a purpose – and a plan. I also believe that this plan is far larger than you and I can imagine. And furthermore, because of this simple fact that there is a plan in place, there must be, and there is – also a planner.

I cannot accept as truth that I am simply an accident. I am not a fluke. That’s like saying that if you put enough monkeys in enough room with enough pencils and paper – in enough years, one of them with write like William Shakesphere. No! I’m not an accident.

This is not a grandiose and prideful statement, for I believe the same about you!

I believe that all things are a grand CREATION, and that they were created by a supreme CREATOR. I choose to believe that I am some small part of all of this, and that He knows who I am! Some choose to call this creator God, or a ‘deity.’ I call Him FATHER.

The thing is, life is not some monumental accident, and neither am I. I have a reason for being. I have purpose. My Father has a plan, and I have a small part of His much bigger plan.

That’s who I am!

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