THE GREAT DOOR OPENER

© 2019  Bill Murphy

There are scores of songs we sing in church which herald the goodness of God: His favor, His blessings, His patience, His mercy, His care and concern for us.  He opens doors that have locked us out.  As Christians, we believe this to be true.  But there can be a difference between believing… and experiencing His great goodness.

Carol (my wife) has a really good doctor, and this doctor’s PA is equally as amazing.  They stay on top of things, and it would seem, even a step or two ahead of things!  4 years ago, a suspicious ‘spot’ appeared on Carol’s lung.  Since that time it has been closely monitored.

A few weeks ago, it was discovered that this ‘spot’ had grown.  And then Carol’s blood pressure began doing weird things.  So, her doctor ordered additional tests.  A CAT scan, a heart Cath, and also a PET scan were scheduled.    

The results of the Cath were great.  The others… somewhat ‘borderline’ or iffy.  ‘Iffy’ is not good where your health is concerned.  Carol’s doctor wanted a second opinion, so we were referred to an Oncologist in St. Louis.   We spent yesterday there… and this is where the God of Glory, as Carol so aptly put it, really ‘showed out.’

She had a mid-morning appointment.  The doctor’s office is located inside the huge Missouri Baptist Hospital.  We were unaware that early that very morning (a Thursday) a group of on-staff doctors met (each Thursday morning) to review ‘unique’ cases.  And… the Oncologist had presented Carol’s case to them… while we were still on the road to toward St. Louis. (Her records and scan images had been forwarded ahead.)

When the Oncologist saw Carol, one of the things he asked was how this mysterious ‘spot’ had been found in the first place… and Carol replied that it was discovered during a routine check-up.  He was amazed, saying that they hardly ever see patients in such an early stage of ‘disease,’ and because of that, it was difficult for them, as specialists, to diagnose it!   

He described the three possibilities of what this ‘spot’ might be, which ranged from ‘nothing’ to the beginning of something bad.  He also explained, that because of where it was located, it would be exceedingly difficult to do a simple biopsy.  He also said that to leave it alone and ‘observe it’ was taking a chance.  His suggestion was… remove the offending thing soon.

Then the doctor told us that there were two doctors there at Missouri Baptist who specialize in laparoscopic surgery, and that both had been in that mornings meeting, and both suggested removing it.  We agreed.  Then, the doctor said he would make the arrangements.  But Carol spoke up, and asked if it was possible for us to see one of these surgeons TODAY, while we were still in St. Louis.  “Highly unlikely,” was the doctors reply.  But, he made a call anyway, and asked. 

Who call a doctor and gets an appointment the same day?  Perhaps with a GP… but a specialist?  Within two hours, we were sitting in the surgeons office, discussing Carol’s case!  And he was so very nice and understanding, and explained everything to us… in detail.  Carol’s surgery is scheduled for February 26th.  

I’ve heard it told of God opening doors all of my life… and yes, I’ve had Him open some for me in the past.  But I’ve never been right there, for a front row seat, to see so many doors opened so effortlessly, in such a short space of time.  It was an amazing experience.

Yes, God IS great!   And God IS good…  just as the child’s meal-time prayer says! And just as God has the whole world in His hands… He also has Carol!

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DODGING THE BULLET

bullet-1027871_1280© 2018 Bill Murphy

A Facebook friend posted a funny this morning… about when seeing a recent photo of an old high school squeeze, do you think, “I dodged the bullet on that one!”

I didn’t.

I’ve often wondered about that… what if I actually had dodged the bullet?  What if I had listened to my parents?  What if I had known then what I know now?  I know my life would have been different.  But how different?  I’m very satisfied with how it is today… but would I – could I – have had this life today… if I had not had that life way back then?

Good question.

Back then, 1957, 58, 59… there was a young girl, Carol Ringer, who lived over eleven-hundred miles away, in a quaint bedroom community just outside Philadelphia, PA.  Hers was a happy, care-free, country club life style… vacationing on Cape Cod… shopping in NYC… far, far removed from the likes of Bill Murphy.  But she too was struck by a bullet… the unexpected death of her father.  She too would have preferred to have dodged that bullet.

It took a full decade… of both of us suffering from our individual ‘bullet wounds’ for us to somehow, some way, miraculously meet.  The fact that we fell in love was no miracle… for we believe that it was meant to be.  The miracle was in the meeting.

So you ask, “If you had it to do all over again, would you?”  The simple, truthful answer is yes!

Of course, we’d prefer that we’d not been subjected to those bullet wounds which eventually brought us together.  But we must admit, for that to have happened… that would have been a true miracle!

I don’t have to understand everything in life… I don’t need a detailed explanation for every detail.  All I need to know is that God is still on His throne, and that HE is in control, and that He knows what He’s doing.  I also know that He loves me, and that He knows what’s best for me… and that He’ll lead me to the still waters to drink my fill… if I’ll only allow Him to take the lead.

And if the enemy takes a shot at me… my God is the Master of healing bullet wounds!

 

 

 

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WHO IS YOUR TEACHER? What do they teach?

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© 2018 Bill Murphy

What is more important, heredity or environment?  That’s a question mental health experts have debated for decades.

Wilson, Manning, Harris, Ratliff, VanDevender, and Eggar.  These 6 ladies were my grammar school teachers.  They created a strong and positive impression upon me when I was of a most impressionable age.

I had other teachers: Mother, father, uncles and aunts, my grandparents, countless cousins, and caring neighbors.  And there were my spiritual teachers, instructors who were ‘professional,’ as well as friends, and extended family members.

This is not a ‘hats off’ to my teachers.  It’s a close examination of our ‘education process’ in general, and how vitally important are our teachers…. and what they teach.

What we are taught yesterday can be either beneficial or detrimental today.

Most little boys like things that go BAG!  I was no different.  As a child, one of my favorite toys was a small ‘bomb,’ a soft plastic dart-looking thing, with a rounded metallic nose.  Into the nose, you inserted a section from a roll of caps intended for cap pistols.  I usually crammed in as many caps as I could… for a bigger bang.  You threw it UP as far as possible, and when it came down and hit… BANG!

I attempted making a ‘bomb’ with a bigger bang, using fireworks… but the INSTANT BANG at the moment of impact eluded me.  Later, when I was a teenager, and should have known better… someone taught me how to make an INSTANT BANG bomb. I did, – and it would.  Great sport!

But one day, a LIVE ROUND of 50 cal. ammunition came into my possession. Ah ha… I reasoned, an even BIGGER bag! (I did have sense enough to first remove the slug).

My home-made 50 cal. bomb as a resounding success.  I got a VERY big boom for my buck… and I also got pelted with flying pieces of brass shrapnel.  Only by the grace of God do I still have eyesight today.

We can learn harmful things yesterday which can bite us in the fanny today.  Likewise, we can learn harmful today which can kill us tomorrow!

So, be careful of WHAT you learn!  If your conscience tells you to avoid a certain lesson, if it’s NOT for you today… why then should it be profitable for you later?

What you are taught determines what you learn.

What you learn determines your thought and reasoning processes.

Your thought and reasoning processes determine how you live.

How you live determines who you are.

Who you are determines your destiny.

Your destiny is all important.

It all begins with your teachers!

 

 

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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

Grace Church copy

©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

moses-573811_640© 2018 Bill Murphy

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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