Thanks David, for the Little Fox.

© 2019 Bill Murphy

      Carol and I host a small home-group Bible study on Thursday nights.  Recently our topic was Christian influence.  Our question was, who in your past was a positive, Christian influence in your life?  Not wanting to name someone from the ‘standard list,’ such as a great-uncle, grandmother, or a Bible hero, I went back to the 1950s, to a school and neighborhood pal, David Walker.  Mom and Dad taught me to always say thank you, and this thank you David, is long overdue!

    Scripture tells us that it’s the little foxes that spoil the grapes.  It’s also little items that also speak positive volumes of truth.

    Some wear their Christianity like a jacket, when it’s ‘needed.’  Not David.  He always kept his ‘jacket’ on.  But it was NEVER worn in a boastful or self-righteous manner.  Far from it!  The ‘little fox’ I best remember about David was the notebook he carried to and from school at Enochs Junior High. Written in his own hand across the front were the words JESUS SAVES. He carried it quietly, yet purposefully, like a traveling billboard, proclaiming that profound and fantastic truth to all who saw it. David was never ashamed to be linked with our Savior.

    I believe he went to Griffith (Baptist) Church.  I went to Grace (Methodist).  My grandparents on mother’s side were Baptist, and Methodist on dad’s.  A few times, questions of ‘doctrine’ reared their ugly heads.  But little things, like David’s calm faith, and his willingness/eagerness to carry that notebook to school, did wonders to chop off the heads of those ugly questions.  

     I’d already given my heart to Jesus years before.  But David, and that blue notebook he always carried, stood like a true soldier of the cross before me, leading the way.  I looked UP to that, respected it, and was eternally thankful for it.  As I said before, I’m so very thankful for what he probably never knew he was doing to and for my heart and spirit way back then.  Thanks David!  

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THE BOOK THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

© 2019 Bill Murphy

This is a re-post. It was originally posted on November 28, 2017. The reason for the re-post is that for the original posting, I was forced to use a stock photo of the small red Gideon Bible, as mine was lost. I’ve searched for it numerous times since then, but to no avail. But yesterday, that cherished memento was found! I took a few liberties and ‘tweaked’ a few works. I hope you’ll enjoy this sweet memory with me!

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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 1952 – and promptly read.

At that time, I was in George Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi. George was a neighborhood school. We had no need of 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. As you see in the photos, I still have mine.

When 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 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 tiny book was telling me – or didn’t I.

That was 67 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 and trust in the subject of that small book, has changed my life forever.

A DIAMOND IN THE PARKING LOT

© 2019  Bill Murphy

I didn’t have my phone/camera at church this morning, so I have no photo-record to illustrate the following story.  Perhaps it’s just as well, for most folks failed to see what I saw this morning, and would have missed the message that I received.

Our church parking lot is neither asphalt nor concrete.  It’s paved with gray cinder/gravel.  Originally, this gravel was mostly about an inch in size, but over years of countless vehicles driving in and out, much of it has now been ground to the size of pea-gravel, or smaller.  Mixed in, is a sparse amount of other rock.  The front of our church facility faces north. 

This morning, I was standing at one of the front windows, looking out across the parking lot.  To my left, and perhaps three or four feet from the edge of the drive, I noticed a small glint of sunlight reflecting off of something.  There was not a cloud in the sky at that time of the morning.  This small sparkle of light was extremely bright, even though it was extremely small.  A step or two to the right or left, and the glint of light disappeared completely.  Whatever it was, it was small.  Could it be ring, perhaps a diamond lost at the edge of our parking lot? 

Amazingly, the vertical angle from which the reflection could be seen was just as critical as was the horizontal angle.  If I stooped, it again disappeared.  

I walked out to investigate.  A few steps forward, and the sparkle disappeared!  I made four or five trips out to the spot where this small glisten of light sparkled so brightly.  But I could find nothing.  As I retraced my steps each time, I focused on the spot where this reflective object must be, but as I reached the spot, I found nothing that could have caused it. 

Then I thought.  This incident was somewhat like a sailor or aviator lost at sea.  Before the days of micro-radios, they were issued small mirrors which easily fit into a shirt pocket.  These mirrors were used to reflect the rays of the sun from the individual, just a tiny speck on the vast ocean, reflecting back to searching aircraft thousands of feet overhead, or to ships which could be many miles away.  These small mirrors spotlight the location of the lost individual.

There were several things at work here: the lost soul at sea, the sun above, the small mirror, and the rescuers.  Sunday morning, what I saw was no doubt a tiny grain of silica amid all the billions of pieces of rock in the parking lot.  There was also the massive sun above millions of miles away… and there was me to witness this amazing interaction. 

The lesson I saw in that tiniest of sparkles in our church parking lot was a reminder to me of how great is our God, and how small we are.  And yet, He in his magnificent greatness, sees our needs and hears our prayers, and reflects His love back to us… a reflection which always says, “I hear, and I care!”

RESPONSIBILITY and RAILROADING

© 2019  Bill Murphy

I’ve written before on the heavy topic of responsibility.  It’s a subject that often pops up in my extended family.  As for myself, I’ve been officially retired for six years, and yet I’m still faced with responsibilities on a daily basis.  Obviously, they never end.

Responsibilities are much like anchovies and black olives: you have the option to choose or reject them.  (I love anchovies, but detest black olives.)  

Yes, one can reject a responsibility.  Folks do it all the time.  That’s not saying that’s a healthy thing to do, but it is an option.  The truth of this is in the expression ‘accepting one’s responsibilities.’  To accept involves a conscious, voluntary action The opposite of acceptance is rejection.  Both of these require a value judgement on our part… we weigh the options, and make our choice. 

I didn’t say that we study the options.  Decisions are often made with little or no thought as to the outcome of those decisions.  We speak, act, or shoot — and then think.  Oops!

Responsibilities are very personal and unique to the individual.  I may or may not have a similar responsibility confronting me that is confronting you.  But, by the same token, we share many responsibilities.   Yet even within a shared responsibility, the portion of that responsibility which affects us directly is ours alone to accept or reject.  We’re responsible for our personal portion.  

What we often fail to consider is the simple fact that the decisions we make concerning our personal responsibilities usually always affect others around us… those close to us, like family, as well as those not as close to us, as in those friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens of the world in which we live.  It is true: no man is an island.

So what’s the answer to this dilemma?  How do we, the accepters of responsibility, convince the rejectors of responsibility to get with the program?

Simple education is a good place to start.  Learn from the railroad.  All railroad wheels have flanges, extensions to the inside of the wheels.  These flanges extend downward to fit in-between the rails, thus keeping the train on the track.  Without these flanges, no train could ever make a turn, or even stay on the track going in a straight line.  Wheel flanges are a necessity.  The railroad has no choice in the matter.

When I was a child, it was said that schools taught the three R’s:  reading, riting and ‘rithmatic.  I suggest adding a fouth: RESPONSIBILITY.  

I also suggest teaching that responsibilities are linked to CONSEQUENCES.  Perhaps the word ‘link’ is incorrect.  Perhaps ‘chained’ would be better.  

Just as railroads would fail without the use of wheel flanges, students fail in school when they choose not to pay attention in class, not to do their homework, and not to study for tests.  

Employees: only do what is absolutely necessary on the job, then never expect a promotion.  Fail to pay your rent or house note and you’ll receive a boot out the door.  Spend all your money only on what you want, and you’ll not have money for what you need.  If you don’t eat, then expect to starve.  It’s all simple 1 + 1 = 2 math.   

As for responsibilities, they’re necessary for all of us.  They are the light which illuminate our paths in life.  And sometimes they are the barriers which protect us from danger.  Responsibilities allow us to navigate through a successful, fruitful, and meaningful life-experience.  Accepting those responsibilities are vital.  They keep us on track.  They keep us safe.  They keep us happy. Own them, your they are yours!

We may not always see them as friends, but they are.   

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He Is Good All The Time

© 2019 Bill Murphy

We sang a song in a church I once attended that said, “He is good all the time.  All the time, He is good.”  How very true.  

I believe in thanking Him all the time, and all the time thanking Him, even for those tiny little things that may not mean much to others.  I’d rather thank Him ‘needlessly’ for something He didn’t supply… than to miss thanking Him for something He did!  This past week, one of those ‘silly little things’ happened.

Carol and I were returning home from Alabama, where we had attended my brother-in-law’s funeral.  We were somewhere in rural Tennessee, the day was overcast, and we were already in a somber mood.  Carol was driving… and I was simply watching the world go by.  Ahead, to the right, I beheld an amazing sight.  It was amazing to me anyway.  I believe that God knew that I needed a small shot of sunshine, a little dose of smiles, something lighthearted and upbeat.  The scene we passed was right out of a child’s nursery rhyme, but instead of a drawing, this was in living color.  There was a broad, flat meadow of lush, green grass.  This field lay at the base of a gentle hill, not much more than a low mound.  This high area was solidly covered with bright green corn stalks… which extended over this little hill and for acres and acres beyond.  And standing right up next to the corn…  the cornstalks brushing their sides… was a herd of brown and white cows.  And I thought…

Little boy blue,

Come blow your horn,

The sheeps in the meadow,

And the cows in the corn.  

Amazing! I couldn’t help but grin! 

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HE KNOWS

© 2019  Bill Murphy

Matthew 6:8 tells us… for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

What a wonderful truth!  It speaks volumes of the greatness and love of God.  Yet amazingly, I’ve heard it misquoted, and misunderstood.

Perhaps it would be best to discuss what this verse doesn’t say.

First of all… it doesn’t imply than its pointless to pray because God already knows.  Also, read this truth closely, and see what it says, as opposed to what you might think or wish that it says.

Pray is communion with God.  Prayer is the channel through which we (humanity) speaks with God (deity).  Prayer is also one of the principal times when God speaks to us, or should I say when we pause and listen to Him.  Prayer is spiritual face-time.  Prayer is a gift.  Prayer is a treasure.  Prayer is a blessing and a necessity.

I know that God is interested in all aspects of our lives, and He assuredly knows ever inch of our hearts, including all of our wants and desires.  Furthermore, He also knows which of our needs are most pressing.  And perhaps most important of all, He also knows which of our wants would not help us or be of any benefit to us.  God is the ultimate Good Father.  None can love and care for us as much as He does.  Therefore, His focus is on our needs, and not our wants. 

Many years ago I heard a simple story which best illustrates this truth.  Call it a modern-day parable.  Two friends were graduating high school together.  Both boys came from ‘financially comfortable’ homes.  Both boys had been promised an automobile upon graduation.

Both boys wanted red sports cars.  After much discussion in their respective homes, the father of boy A caved in to his son’s wishes and bought his son the sports car.  The father of boy B stood his ground, explaining to his disappointed son that he was not ready to handle the responsibility of a high powered vehicle… and bought his son a used compact. 

Within a week, the boy with the sports car was dead… crashing his sports car into a tree at high speed.

In retrospect, which father was wiser?  Which father demonstrated more genuine love and concern for his son?

As the scripture says… your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.  Wants and needs came be as different as life or death. 

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HYMN SUNDAY

©2019 Bill Murphy


This past Sunday was ‘Hymn Sunday’ at our church. With the exception of the first ‘greeting’ song, all of the music was ‘ole time’ hymns straight from the pages of the hymnals I sang from growing up. Please turn to hymn 341. Remember? Needless to say, I for one, enjoyed it immensely.

The thing which most amazed me was that every one of the hymns sung that morning was solidly on the side of worship music, as opposed to praise music. Hint: A general rule of thumb is that if you can clap your hands to it… it’s praise.

I was born into the Methodist Church. At age nineteen I joined the Baptist Church. At age thirty three, I became a member of the Pentecostal Church. Now, still a regular church-goer, I consider myself non-denominational. This life-history gives me experience in a broad range of church beliefs and practices.

Let’s face it, you and I aren’t particularly fond of listening to the opinions of others. That said, I respect your stance on the subject of church music. Therefore – let’s call what I have to say, honest observations… observations based upon seventy-eight years of church experience.

I’ve already mentioned praise and worship, alluding to my belief that these are different areas of church music… ‘knee music’ and ‘hand and foot music.’ While in the Pentecostal Church, many times I heard the Baptist and Methodists referred to as ‘old dead churches.’ If you put that remark into secular perspective, it would be like saying that Methodists and Baptist services were funerals, and Pentecostal services were birthday parties. Today, the Pentecostals no longer have sole ownership of loud and lively praise music.


This got me to thinking.


Birthday parties and funerals are simply a part of life. Both are celebrations in their own unique way. Birthday parties are celebrations of another year of life lived. Traditionally, these are joyous, lively occasions. Cake, ice cream, fun.

Funerals are end-of-life celebrations… where we remember and laude the life well lived of the individual. Although grieving because of our personal loss, we can also rejoice with the departed that they are now in their glorious heavenly home! Yet still, especially in American practice, funerals are a usually solemn, low-key, low-volume affairs. I offer the words dignity and reverence to best describe it.

So… what made this past Sunday’s ‘Hymn Sunday’ music service so special for me? It took me back to yesteryear, to the quiet, solemn and reverent worship of God in services that I enjoyed as a youth.

None of the hymns sung yesterday compelled you to clap your hands or tap your feet. Instead, all of them brought tears to your eyes. They made you want to drop to your knees in respect, reverence, and surrender to our Lord God Almighty!

So… what’s the big difference between this music service, and a typical one of the previous week?

The difference was in the focus. Yesterday’s focus was on worship. It is usually on praise. This difference, made a huge difference, to me. As for me, it made me feel much more closer to Him… who we were honoring in song.

So, what is the difference between praise and worship? Perhaps you disagree that there is a difference! Is there a difference between giving and tithing? And does it really matter? And – is there anything ‘wrong’ with praising Him? Doesn’t scripture tell us to praise Him? YES it does!

In His teachings, Jesus compared us to ‘little children.’ His point is that we have to be led, guided, and directed toward that which is most beneficial to us. A responsible parent doesn’t ask a 4 year old what he wants for dinner… they serve the child the healthy, nourishing foods the child needs. Otherwise, the child would eat dessert for every meal. Praise is a group activity. Praise is contagious. Praise is joyous, uplifting, happy affair. Praise is enjoyable. Praise can be fun! Praise is like dessert! Remember the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, just hours before His crucifixion and death? The crowds went wild with… praise!

Remember also, the story of His birth? And the shepherds and wise men came to visit Him… and they bowed and worshipped Him? You envision this as a solemn occasion, right? It was.

The very word worship comes from the word bow. It speaks of reverence, of submission, of deep respect, of awe. There’s nothing in this which in any way alludes to leaping in joy and merriment. It is bowing in deep gratitude. Worship is the nutritious meal which is necessary for health… spiritual health!

Praise is the desert… which inspires a tap to our feet, put a grin on our face, joy in our heart, and lifts our spirits. Praise makes us happy! Praise makes us want to jump for joy and run the aisles!

I love my ice cream. I really do. But I don’t want ice cream for every meal. I certainly don’t need ice cream for every meal. Nor do I need (or want) only praise in every church service.

Praise has its place. Praise is a normal, natural, desirable, necessary, and commanded part of loving and serving Him. God loves and desires our praise.

But praise can never take the place of worship… for worship is much deeper, and far more personal than praise also can ever be. Just as praise can readily be a group activity, worship is far more personal… more one-on-one with you and God. Yes, one can worship within a group – but one does not worship as a group. True worship is just that personal!

Compared to the wall-shaking, chandelier swinging, eardrum busting services I have attended, those quiet and solemn times at Grace Methodist Church on Winter Street in Jackson, MS really would ‘appear’ like a funeral service to many. But to me at least, those times of quiet reverence, especially on Sunday Nights, were like being in the manger where the baby Jesus lay. I felt His holy presence. I was awed by His closeness to me – and my closeness to Him! I was humbled. I was wonder-struck to feel this nearness, this communion with Him. Bowing at that altar was like bowing at the very throne of God!

One very forgets those precious, life changing, heart directing moments. I miss them. I really do.

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