PERCEPTION and OPINION

machine-1776925_1280© 2018 Bill Murphy

Newton’s third law of physics states that: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The output reaction force can be readily calculated by knowing the force of the input action as stated in the measurements of mass (weight), speed, and the direction of the force.

It would appear that Newton’s law can also apply to HUMAN interaction. Some call this karma. However, the input and output forces in human interaction are not as easily calculated, owing to the vast amount of variables which always occur with human interaction. Perhaps the greatest of these variables is PERCEPTION.

The word ‘perception’ has its root in the word ‘perceive’ which usually refers to perceptions in vision. However, one can also experience perception in all of the human senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing as well as sight. Perception is basically defined as : a mental image of something, or your personal concept of something.

The origins of opinions lie in perception.

Perceptions are not necessarily true and factual. Perceptions are based upon past experience and or beliefs and personal observations. One’s concept of what is true reality, by nature of its origin, is susceptible to change and modification.

A personal example: The commonly accepted opinion is that paper mills stink. I, on the other hand, based upon pleasant and happy memories from my childhood, of visits with my favorite aunt who lived in a paper mill town – love the ‘pleasant’ aroma of a paper mill. My perception has become my opinion.

Perceptions vary widely from person to person and from item to item. It’s much like attempting to define what is ‘up’ and what is ‘down’ or what is ‘hot’ and what is ‘cold.’ Because these are relational items, they are perceived differently from one person to the next. It is therefore impossible to judge which perception (which opinion) is more or less ‘correct’ than the next. We tend to accept the ‘average’ or ‘norm” of an opinion as being as being ‘correct.’

But truthfully, in the arena of perception and opinion, few things are absolutely ‘correct.’ What is too loud for me can easily not be loud enough for others. What may be too salty for you, may not be salty enough for me. And abandoned soft drink soon becomes ‘hot‘ whereas the forgotten cup of coffee beside it has become ‘cold.’ Perception is important!

This does not mean that I am wrong (in my perception/concept/opinion) and you are right. No! Neither does it mean that I am right (in my perception/concept/opinion) and you are wrong. It does mean, that these divergent perceptions are just that – opinions.

It has been said that we all have a right to our opinions, and that may be true. But rights, MUST have certain restrictive limits, otherwise, my ‘right’ could trample over yours, and yours could trample mine. A degree of give and take is required to maintain peace, harmony, and goodwill.

Yes, we all have rights. But all rights come with responsible. And here lies the roots of discord, resentment, and misunderstanding. Many find it difficult to recognize the fact that others, with perceptions other than their own, have a right to those personal perceptions. And some, who believe their own perceptions to be superior to those of others, discount the perceptions and concepts of others – based purely upon their personal opinions.

This is the result of personal opinions crossing the line from observations, concepts and opinions – and becoming judgements. And we know what God says about judgement.

 

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WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW

Tab Bottle© 2018 Bill Murphy 

What the world needs now is a healthy dose of individual responsible. Hey, a RESPONSIBILITY PILL would be great!

The truth is, each of us already have that responsibility! If you’re breathing, you HAVE responsibilities. The problem is that far too many folks either shirk their responsibilities through selfish denial, or are completely blind to the fact that their responsibilities are ever present, following them like a shadow which they choose to ignore.

We all have responsibilities, and we’re responsible for what we do about them. That’s life. In 1624 English poet John Donne wrote: No man is an island. That’s the honest truth in a nutshell! It was as true then, as it is today.

I suppose that what we need is a required responsibility wake-up pill.

Newton’s third law of physics states that: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It would appear that Newton’s law also applies to HUMAN interaction, more specifically, cause and effect interactions. Some call this karma. People who fail to recognize and accept their responsibilities are seemingly blind to the basic life principle of cause and effect.

CAUSE results in EFFECT.

EFFECT results in…

AFFECTS – Things which AFFECT our lives. These effect induced affects in turn often result in a whole new set of CAUSES. It can become an endless cycle, but the reasoning is not complicated. Let me explain from a life experience of my own.

I was around 20 at the time, living paycheck to paycheck, and it was less than 2 weeks before Christmas. Driving at night, on a 2 lane country road, I took a foolish chance and passed a slow vehicle on a hill. On the downhill side, sat a county trooper, who promptly pulled me over and issued a ticket. This ticket cost me money I didn’t have to spare.

The CAUSE: I Foolishly and irresponsibly, passed on a hill. (Against the law).

The EFFECT: Receiving a traffic citation, which I was responsible for paying.

The AFFECT on my life: I now had far LESS money to fund my Christmas plans and responsibilities. Oh how I wish I had taken a responsibility wake-up pill earlier that day!

I look around me, at my own life, and the painful memories of unrecognized or un-acted upon responsibilities. Oh how I’d like a do-over of those lost opportunities. And I see my own children, grand children, and great-grand kids, making similar mistakes. I want to scream out, STOP, LOOK… and RECOGNIZE what lies ahead. NOW is the time to do something responsible about it!

Yes, what the world needs now is a responsibility wake-up pill! That reminds me: I think its time to get my prescription refilled.

 

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MY NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE

Grim Reaper 2© 2017 Bill Murphy

I wrote of death in March of last year… DEATH AT AN EARLY AGE. It focused on the death of others.

Few of us, with the possible exception of combat military personnel, law enforcement, and firemen to name a few, ever face death up close and personal – then to have him turn and walk away.  I have, and it was a sobering experience.

I can’t remember the year, but Carol and I were on a weekend a trip to Birmingham to visit my sister and her family. Just east of Meridian, we stopped at the visitor’s center near the state line. It was around 9 or 10 in the morning, a bright and beautiful day. Numerous cars were in the parking lot as we parked and went inside. An elderly gentleman stood in the hallway outside the restrooms, no doubt waiting for his wife. NOT. He was the lookout. I walked past him and into the restroom.

It all happened in a flash. Out of nowhere, a rough hand grabbed my shirt collar, shoving me roughly against a sink. Something hard and cold was pressed against the back of my neck. A gun? It could have been a wooden dowel for all I knew, but his words convinced me not to take a chance on gun or wood.

“Quick,” he shouted, “gimmie your wallet, and your keys. Don’t turn around.” he said harshly, “and make it quick – or I’ll kill you, dude, ya hear?” He repeated this threat of death 3 times within the short space of time the attack was underway.  I complied.

What was I thinking you ask? Amazingly, it was NOT fear. Nor was it anger. Actually, what I felt was SURPRISE. I distinct remember thinking, So this is the way my life ends?

Then he yanked me backwards, and shoved me into one of the stalls. “Stay here,” he shouted again, “Stay for 5 minutes. Peek outside, and I’ll kill you dude!” And then there was silence. I think I waited only a minute, maybe less. Then I walked outside where Carol stood.

She will tell you that I can be easily rattled. But not that day. She said she could not believe how calm I was! “I just got mugged,” I told her. And relayed the whole story.

We quickly found the security guard, who’d seen nothing. The sheriff was called, who helped us get back into our locked vehicle. Carol’s purse was inside, so we still had keys. We drove a few mile up and down the highway, thinking we’d find my wallet the thieves had tossed out the window, but we didn’t. They got maybe $20 in cash, and no more. We immediately called and cancelled the credit cards.

This was an amazing learning experience for me. I was brought face to face with death, and yet, just as God promised in His word…

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

During the whole episode, I was NOT acting and thinking like Bill Murphy normally acts and thinks. The harsh and threatening words of the thief didn’t bring dread and fear – instead, they were miraculously overshadowed by peace and calmness!

There were not two in that bathroom that day, but THREE. Although I entered empty handed, God brought me His rod and staff!

 

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Oh Come, All Ye Faithful

© 2017 Bill Murphy

It’s said that experience is the best teacher. Yet have you noticed that we usually learn fastest through comparisons? Why is this?

We tend not to appreciated health until we’re sick. We don’t value wealth, until we’re broke. We don’t recognize the value of friends, until we’re friendless and alone. What were we thinking?

Years ago, a stark comparison-lesson taught me the meaning of that old familiar Christmas carol, “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.”

This is a carol of praise and adoration. It welcomes the faithful to come worship and rejoice in His presence… to praise Him for His endless deeds of love and mercy. And who would come to this praise-fest? It would be those with thankful hearts, of course.

Thankfulness is the fertile soil on which faithfulness grows.

It was Christmas Eve during high school. This was in the 50s, when ‘commercial’ Christmas was not as out of control as it is today. Merchants closed their doors early on Christmas Eve, so that employees could go home and spend quality time with their families. How thoughtful. But that was the norm back then.

My main squeeze and I were driving toward my family home, for our large Christmas Eve meal, to be followed by the exchanging of gifts. We were traveling down Gallatin Street, within a few blocks of my home. This is a rather rugged neighborhood today. In the late 50s, it was just beginning to see the effects of ‘urban decay.’

As we drove past a large boarding house, I noticed a man sprawled in the gutter!

Drunk

I immediately stopped, as did the vehicle behind us. The man in the other car rushed with me to the man’s side. He was a sorry, smelly sight … passed out drunk.

We rolled him over, and he aroused, slightly. With a feeble hand, he pointed toward the boarding house. We lifted him to his feet. Each taking an arm, we walked him to the house. A man came to the door. “Joe. Joe. Joe. Not again Joe,” he said. Then the fellow at the door thanked us, and took control of Joe.

We returned to our vehicles, and were soon on our way again, to family, friends, food, and all the many joys of Christmas. I suppose Joe simply slept it off that Christmas Eve night, alone.

But that night, far from being alone, thanks to Joe I learned the true meaning of “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful.” I saw my life in a whole new light, as my life was vividly compared to that of poor Joe.

Before I saw Joe there in the gutter, I thought of myself as faithful, true to the words of the song. And I also thought of myself as thankful. But seeing Joe there, in the gutter, made me re-think my opinions of myself. It was a sobering lesson.

Looking back now across the years, I’d like to say, “Merry Christmas Joe, where ever you may be today. Thanks for showing me the path to faithfulness and thankfulness. As my teacher that Christmas Eve, I’m sorry that my lesson was so difficult for you. May God bless you!”

 

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The Book That Changed My Life

© 2017 Bill Murphy

I’m certain this writing assignment was expected to invoke responses such as: Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men or The Old Man and the Sea. But the one book that had the most effect on my life, is the Bible. To be more specific, a small red Gideon’s New Testament, which I was given in 1951 – and I promptly read. 

Bible

I was in George Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi at the time. George was a neighborhood school, in walking distance for the students. We had no school buses, and – I can’t remember a single child being dropped off by automobile.

I was a ‘Safety Patrol Boy’ that year. Every intersection surrounding the school, and for a couple of blocks beyond, was manned each morning and each afternoon by a patrol boy, to insure that the smaller kids got safely across the street.

Early that year, the Gideon’s visited to our school, and passed out small red New Testaments to the students. I still have mine.

At the time I received my Testament, I was assigned to a rather dull and boring intersection – with few students to monitor. Morning and afternoons, I spent my time reading. I finished the entire book before my intersection assignment changed.

I was raised in a Christian home. We were not just church members, but church attenders – Sunday mornings as well as Sunday nights. Dad was on the Board of Stewards, and Mom was the head of the Primary Department. Needless to say, my sister and I received our fair share of perfect attendance awards. But one does not become a true ‘believer’ by osmosis.

As I read my little red Testament, the words seemed to come alive as never before. Something really weird was happening, something that I couldn’t at first understand. And then it came to me – my Eureka moment.

Before, because I was so closely associated WITH church, and thoroughly indoctrinated with the teaching of the church – and because our church was a Christian church, ergo – I must be a Christian. But for the very first time in my young life, my heart was called upon to decide – did I really BELIEVE all this small red book was telling me – or didn’t I.

That was 66 years ago, but I can remember the morning as clearly as if it were yesterday – the day that I determined in my heart and in my mind, that YES – I believe. And belief, prompted by that tiny book, changed my life forever.

 

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CHRISTMAS FOCUS

© 2017 Bill Murphy

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

gift-1443862_640

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something tells me you appreciate being appreciated yourself!

 

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THE CHRISTMAS THIEF

© 2017 Bill Murphy

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

Manger

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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