Tiddleywinks!

© 2019 Bill Murphy

I’ve always been told that profanity’s purpose is to express emphasis.  The example is: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a tiddleywink,” did not place the desired emphasis on Rhett Butler’s parting line to Scarlett O’Hara.  Therefore, tiddlywink was replaced.

My father taught by example more than lecture.  However, I do remember the day when he discussed with me the topic of profanity.  Something happened, and I blurted out the simple, lily-white expletive “DRAT!”

Dad had a lot to say about “drat.”  He explained to me the concept that words are but representations of what we are attempting to portray.  He went on to explain that although ‘drat’ was a perfectly acceptable Sunday School word, I was using it as a stand-in to portray some stronger word… such as the four-letter street word used as for human/animal excrement.

Then Dad went on to explain that it was not the word itself that was in question.  It was the original thought or meaning behind the word.  Drat was only a stand-in for what I wanted to use, yet feared to use.

How true.

I know, this was a 1940s lecture, spoken by a father to a son living way back in another time and age!  Today we are… what do they say… enlightened.  Sorry,  I question that!

I suppose that the real question here is:  Is there a line somewhere, in some place, at some point in time, where certain words are acceptable here and unacceptable there?

And if there is, WHO is the authority who has the ultimate right to draw this line in the sand?

Yes I know, everyone has a right to their opinion.  That gives me a right to my opinion also.  And my opinion is that: opinions are just… opinions. 

I know also, that there are socially acceptable rights and wrongs… times and places, and around certain people, where the use of profanity might truly matter.  This speech awareness is called common curtesy, being respectful and considerate of others.  Basically it means not allowing your speech to be offensive to others.  The old fashioned word was… conducting yourself in a mannerly way.  Of course, not everyone gives a tiddleywink what other people think.  But what I’m asking is: does it matter to the ONE who it should matter to most of all?  Is profanity offensive to The Almighty?  Would you freely use profanity in His presence?

I suppose that’s a personal question, which requires a personal answer.  

I also suppose that we’ll just have to brace ourselves for what becomes acceptable in American society in the future.

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IN THE SHOP… AGAIN

© 2019  Bill Murphy

     A few months ago, I turned 78 and Carol turned 73.  If we were driving automobiles this age, they’d surely be in a shop a lot!  Carol and I both have been ‘in the shop’ numerous times lately.

     4 years ago, Carol discovered a ‘bump’ on her neck.  She had it examined by a local clinic.  “Oh, that’s cancer,” they said, “We recently had a patient die of the same thing.”  NOT exactly encouraging words!  So a dear friend put her in touch with a, shall we say, more ‘knowledgable’ doctor.  It was simply an easily treated thyroid issue.  Problem solved – and another problem discovered!

     God was in control from the start.  

     During her examinations by this new doctor, a very, very tiny ‘spot’ was discovered on her left lung.  Her new doctor made note of this, and began watching it closely.

     Fast forward to earlier this year.  The tiny spot had slowly begun to grow.  It was still very, very small – but yet slowing enlarging.  “It’s time now to take action,” her doctor said.

     Carol was put in touch with an oncologist in St. Louis.  He was shocked that anyone had discovered this tiny spot so early.  “If…” he began, ‘if this is malignant, we never have patients present themselves at such an early stage!”

     That very day she was seen by a respiratory surgeon.  He too was dumbfounded by her early diagnosis.  A few days later, Carol was in surgery.  A biopsy was done.  It was malignant.  The spot along with 1/4 of that lung was removed.  They got it all!  No radiation treatments necessary.  No chemo.  Praise God!

     My turn.

     A few weeks ago I had my annual ‘wellness checkup’ by my doctor.  I passed with flying colors, well, for a man my age.  Then the doctor asked if I had any ‘issues’ or changes in my well being.  I mentioned some very slight ‘discomfort’ in my lower abdomen.  There was no pain, no real soreness, just a nagging ‘something’s not right’ feeling.  He set me up for a CAT scan.  

      The scan revealed that I had several ‘cysts’ on my kidneys. But it was unclear as to how serious they were.  I had an ultra sound done for a better look-see.  But that didn’t show anything more.  Next, I had an MRI.  

     Within 3 hours, the doctor called me in for a consultation.  Oops!  In addition to the cysts, I had a suspicious dark ‘solid’ spot on my left kidney.  My local doctor explained that there are no qualified urologist in our immediate area, and suggested that we go to St. Louis to see a specialists.  Now it was my turn to be in the shop!

     Tuesday of this week Carol and I traveled to St. Louis, were I saw a specialists.  After studying my previous test results done here, and examining me there… he had very encouraging news, and a suggest path to take with this issue.

     Let me say that both Carol and I really like this doctor.  His ‘bed side manner’ is extremely comforting.  He speaks with knowledge.  And he reeks with and experience.  We trust him.

     He explained that the ‘cysts’ issue is a non-issue.  This is common, and my cysts are not ‘aggressive’ in nature.  As of the dark ‘spot,’ it also may, or may not be, a big issue.  He explained that a spot of the current size that I have does not scream ‘get me outta here – now!’  He told us that age matters – it maters in the fact that these things are very slow growing in patients in my age bracket.  Basically he was saying that I could easily out-live this problem!  

     The bottom line is… we will watch this thing inside me.  In 3 months, I’ll have another scan, and we’ll see how it is doing.

     On the plus side, I do have TWO kidneys… and the other is A-Ok.  A V-6 will still run on 5 cylinders – maybe a little slower and less smoothly – but it will get you to the grocery store and back.

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Scars of Beauty

© 2020 Bill Murphy

This past weekend Carol and I got a little taste of Heaven. We attend the JCM-NATION 2019 REUNION in Jackson Mississippi – fellowshipping with old friends from both Jackson College of Ministries, and the First Pentecostal Church. Friday night’s service was held at Black’s Chapel on Robinson Road, the former home of First Pentecostal Church – where praises to God – and nostalgia reigned supreme!


The good folks of Black’s Chapel are to be heartily commended for going far beyond the extra mile to make the JCM event in their facility a resounding success. Needless to say, everyone was putting their best foot forward.  


But something somewhat ‘out of place’ to some eyes, caught my eye. Right down front, within a few feet of the pulpit, one of the cushions of the padded prayer altar had a few RIPS! Now I know that in our home, Mrs. Murphy would never allow nearly a thousand guests to see torn cushions! What would the guests think?


Oh yes, guests do often have critical eyes, and judgmental opinions. And that night, we, the JCM/FPC crowd were the guests. But, we were not the MAIN guest. Guest Numero Uno was The Lord Himself! 


As host, we have the responsibility of catering to and pleasing the guest. When those guest are of great influence and prestige, we tend to go the extra mile.

  
And then I thought – when the guest are all gone, and it’s just me and nobody, and I’m allowed to get a little selfish with my pleasures – what makes ME happy?


We all have that favorite coffee cup, you know, the one with the chip, that nobody wants. Who wants a chipped cup anyway? And isn’t there a well worn, far past ‘throwing them out time’ pair of sneakers in the closet that are simply way too comfortable to consign to the round file? Isn’t there also a T-shirt somewhere, far back in the drawer, with too many paint stains and holes to even wear to Wall-Mart. You still keep it, but only now for mowing the lawn. You continue to hang onto that thread-bare garment ‘for the sweet memories’ it holds! Don’t these worn, mangled, torn and stained items still bring a smile to your heart and comfort to your spirit? They’re no longer worthy of ‘show’ to our guest. They’re now reserved for YOU, the one that loves and cherishes them most, in spite of all their imperfections and blemishes. Rejected by the world, they still have a place in your heart.


An altar pad with no imperfections could be a new altar pad – or – one that is old – yet never used. Oops!


That night, that torn altar pad spoke to me of use! No doubt, there may have been a human eye or two that saw these abrasions as blemishes on the backdrop of a grand presentation. But God didn’t. I know that He saw them as a visual testimony that they have been put to good use – the use for which they were intended. These scars were loud shouts of praise – of honor and glory to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – witnesses that loving saints had knelt in worship and prayer. They are badges of a commitment to prayer – and they are a beauty to behold!

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A PUSH PIN MOMENT

© 2019 Bill Murphy

In the early 50s, when most radio was still AM only, I was big time into radio.  I even built two shortwave kits.

Our big thrill was ‘finding’ impossibly distant stations, which was often possible due to atmospheric conditions, especially late at night.  I had a map attached to a cork board, and used push-pins to ‘highlight’ the locations of these far flung audio discoveries.  

Our brains and our hearts also have something similar to push-pins… recording and proclaiming special events and moments which we’ve deemed as extra-special, and worthy of memory.  Some of these are unique to us, and for us… their special meanings lost on others.  So be it.

I had such a push-pin moment in early 1964.  It was so strange, so bizarre, so ‘other worldly’ that I have difficulty describing it now, let along explaining it!  I know that it did have, or must have had, some military implications.

I’d just returned from Air National Guard bootcamp and training.  I’d spent a total of twenty six weeks at two different Air Force bases in Texas.  

I had three years of ROTC in high school.  Military training was not new to me.  But ROTC was not much more than a ‘subject’ one took in high school.  We had breakfast at home, slept in our own beds at night. We were basically free to do what we wanted the other class periods.  Not so in the USAF!

The ‘real’ military is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  And in a real sense, it’s somewhat like being in prison.  Others, many others, are ALWAYS in control over you.  They tell you what to do, what to say, where to go, and of course–the what nots of all of those.

Now I was home.  Now I was free.  Now there were not a dozen different sergeants and lieutenants telling me to do this, don’t do that.  I found myself having difficulty re-adjusting to freedom and being out from under someone’s thumb.  The relief from that pressure was disconcerting.  This, I believe, was the genesis of my unique push-pin moment.

The place where it happened was West Capitol Street, in Jackson, MS.  I was standing in line at the Dairy Queen.  It was a popular place, and one usually had to wait in line.  I can’t remember what was going on in my mind at the time, but this I know, I was relishing the moment… I was home, and I was (somewhat uncomfortably) free.  

I gazed East, down Capitol Street.  It was a bright day, sunny, and colorful.  This all to common landscape looked especially beautiful this day.  I found myself appreciating it with all new meaning and depth.  And then it happened–suddenly–out if nowhere… the entire scene suddenly ‘morphed’ before my very eyes.  I saw this common sight, I saw the world, thru ‘different’ eyes!  

Whereas only moments before, I viewed the world as covered with asphalt and concrete.  This man-made covering had been sub-divided into squares, rectangles, and various shapes which we call ‘blocks’ and ‘tracts’ of land.  After all–the roads lead ‘everywhere’ don’t they, so they must cover ‘everything?’  It was as if I had previously interpreted all grassy areas as ‘additions to’ a concrete/asphalt world. 

But in this moment I suddenly saw green grass, trees, shrubs, flowers–living things, as they really are!  This was the world!  The asphalt, the concrete, were but ugly streaks… lines which cut across the beautiful earth.  I suddenly saw what this view would be if Capitol Street was suddenly ripped away!  Everything took on an all new beauty and meaning.

I suppose you don’t, or can’t understand what happened to me that day.  Perhaps that moment was just too personal, too–Bill Murphy.  You know how he is!  Or perhaps you’ve always seen the world the way it really is, a great big blue and green ball bisected with asphalt and concrete streets and highways.  Perhaps I was only ‘getting it’ that morning… and everyone else already had it.  

But I did have that moment.  And to me, it was special, a true push-pin moment.  

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Tuesday. Bluesday.

© 2019  Bill Murphy

It’s said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions… and I’ll agree.  Many of those mis-guided intentions begin right close to home… some even in the home.

In the closing years of the 1940s, my mother decided that I should take piano lessons.  I’m not sure just why this conclusion was reached.  I don’t think I was prone to play with musical toys, and I certainly was no songbird.  

But piano lessons were readily available.  The pianist from our church, Miss Nellie Robinson, lived within walking distance of our home.  She gave piano lessons.  And she agreed to take me on.

Come to think of it now… our family must have purchased a piano on which I could practice.  Neither Dad nor Mom played, and my sister was far too young at the time to do anything short of banging on the keys.  Anyway, a playable upright appeared at 802 Evergreen.

What a waste!

Soon I was either stopping off for lessons on my way home from George School… or walking back the short distance to Miss Nellie’s on Walnut Street.  My lessons were on Tuesdays.  Always on Tuesdays.

I didn’t take well to the piano, neither Miss Nellie’s nor ours.  A piano is a piano I suppose… just as a scorpion is a scorpion.  I never got the hang of tickling the ivories, anymore than I’d have learned to tickle a scorpion.  My young heart and fingers simple weren’t in it.  Perhaps if I’d been born a few years later, Bill Haley or Little Richard might have inspired me to try harder.  But at that time, my time, I had no desire to try harder.  According to Miss Nellie, I didn’t try at all!

Tuesdays became a huge blemish on calendars.  Where everyone else saw the second day of the week, I saw the green wicked witch of the east mocking me!  “TUESDAY…  I’ll get you my sweetieeeee….”  

I learned to loath Tuesdays, to dread them.  The path to Miss Nellie’s became my green mile.

I don’t remember how long this piano-purgatory lasted.  It felt as though it was until I was twenty seven. When you’re in distress, young or old, time slows.  And it was Miss Nellie herself who finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel and led me to safety.

“Mrs. Murphy,” she said to my mother, “You’re wasting your money and my time with Billy.  So far, he’s not learned a single note past middle C.  Everything he plays… he plays by ear!”

Hallelujah, my days of musical misery were over!  I was free!  I’d done my small part to save the elephants!

But Bluesday was not through with me.  So deep was my disdain, so strong was my dread of the second day of the week… that it took many, many years for me to overcome my ingrained discomfort of Tuesday… all fifty two of them each year!  Yes, I’m truthful when I say ‘many years.’  I finally ‘think’ I can say that Tuesday is now, just what it is, and what it was always intended to be… simply Tuesday. 

A footnote to Music with the Murphy’s:  My sister, Mary Lily, went on to reclaim our family’s musical honor.  She also took lessons from Miss Nellie… and very successfully I might add.  So, the purchase of ‘Billy’s piano’ wasn’t for naught.  Mary, always a go-getter, went on to play in the Enochs Junior High and Central High bands.  And while not being content to simply do well with her Oboe, she also mastered every single instrument in the band!

Yes, we have a piano in our home today.  No, I still don’t play, neither by finger nor ear.  Carol does, as well as one of our daughters.  And, as I write these words while not in a twit – today actually is Tuesday!  

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The Blank Page

© 2018  Bill Murphy

The following is my comment to a poem entitled ‘Primal Urge’ by my dear friend and fellow writer, Sandra Conner, which contained lines in reference to the possibilities of the blank page. 

The tail gunner of a B-17

This poem struck a special cord in my heart.  It took me back to a my seventh grade English class.  I was fresh out of grade school, and feeling ‘all grown up.’  I had an urge even then to write, as ideas raced through my mind.  We were not long removed from WWII at the time, and I was still caught up in the romance of battles in the skies.  Little boys have no inkling of the misery and horror of war.  To me it was all glory and adventure, like the propaganda newsreels of that day.  We had no understanding of the freezing blasts of wind through a bomber at 30,000 feet, or the bulky burden of heated flight suits and heavy flak jackets.  We’d never heard the deafening noise of war.  And we’d never slipped in the blood of the poor guy who moments before stood beside us… and who had the night before, lay two cots to our right, reading love letters from his sweetheart back home.  We had no experience of seeing our own plane afire, not knowing if the next second would be our last.

I had an idea for a story.  The name would be ‘THE LAST ONE HOME.’  It was about the tail gunner of a B-17 bomber.  In my story, war had been an all-encompassing, well… thrill for him… just as I imagined then that it would have been for me.  It had been as if it were one big duck hunt, but the ducks my hero killed were German fighters… the enemy.  And now, they were on their last mission – this was it.  Soon all the glamorous glory would be over. Within days, they’d be returning home.  The duck hunt was over.  The ride back to base held heavy, mixed emotions.  And I wanted to show those raw emotion through the written word.

My story would be this man’s inner battle, his all new war that began afresh in his heart and in his mind.  The story of war morphed into peace.

I remember having those thoughts in my thirteen year old brain that day, as I stared at a blank sheet of paper before me.  And I had the warm and wonderful thought that here before me lay the next great ‘american novel’… or at least there lay before me the possibility of it!  It was all up to me.  Oh what an opportunity!  Oh what a challenge!

As writers, we have a responsibility to the blank page… to do our best!  We must never fear the blank page.  The blank page is always our friend… our lover.  The blank page welcomes us with open arms.  We can tell it our deepest thoughts, it understands, it never rejects our words.

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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