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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SMOKE HOUSE

© 2019 Bil Murphy

Who remembers playing in the old smokehouse? I’m not talking about your local tobacco store either! Unless you’re like me, older than dirt, then you’ve probably never had the blessing of smokehouse fun.

Pappa and Mamma Murphy had a ‘working’ smokehouse when I was a kid in short pants. It sat a few feet from the rear of their house in Carthage, MS, and a few dozen yards from where those hams were born and raised. Because my Dad loved his parents dearly, we visited Carthage often, much to my approval and delight!

The ole smokehouse was no more than eight feet square, with a low roof. Hams hung from the rafters at about eye level. It smelled… what can I say… almost heavenly in the place… but it was dark inside. Because it was a valuable asset to the farm, and a major source along their food chain, our care-free play time inside of it was strictly limited.

Occasionally, a friend or distant cousin would visit who was ‘out of the loop’ of our country fun activities, and we’d suggest a game of follow the leader.

The smoked hams hung from the rafters of the low roof by strong cords, making the lower portion of the heavy hams about eye level to an eight or ten year old. Perfect! We’d entice the unsuspecting newcomer to follow us inside that dark and sweet smelling place. The aroma alone was enough to shock your senses, and throw your thinking off balance.

Did I mention that these the hams hung down… looking for all the world like punching bags in a prize fighter’s gym?

The leader would wait until the door was closed, and it was once again dark inside, and the unsuspecting victim was pressing close to the leader for guidance… and then the leader would reach forward and push a ham forward… and then release it… and duck! Instead of egg in your face, the poor visitor got twelve pounds of ham in the face!

My grand and great-grand kids think that I must have had a boring childhood… because I had no cell phone, no TV, no radio controlled toys, no video games.

And I shake my head and think what an artificial childhood they are having, because they have no smokehouses, hay lofts, peanut patches, nor have they ever experienced drinking cool fresh water that they themselves have drawn from a well with a bucket on a rope.

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Family Heirloom

© 2019 Bill Murphy

 When I was perhaps eleven or twelve my maternal grandmother entrusted me with a unique family heirloom.  She knew that I would always protect, and treasure it as if it were pure gold, and not simply bronze.  It’s a heavy eagle with outstretched wings… fifteen inches, tip to tip.

GRANDPA FAIRCHILD’S EAGLE

This eagle has never been far from my sight, except for the six months I was away for military training/technical school.

Mamaw Fairchild explained to me that my grandfather, Patrick Henry Fairchild, had this eagle mounted atop his steam locomotive.  He was a railroad engineer, who worked those early logging rail lines of Mississippi.  

But, a well-meaning relative made a remark years ago which attempted to de-value my bronze treasure.  They said, “Oh, your wild and wooly cousin most probably stole that thing from atop a brick column at the entrance to some fancy home.” 

I’ve always chosen to believe my grandmother’s story.  It was her husband.  She should know!  

Because of my grandfather, I’ve always been a rail-fan. I had model trains as a kid, and I have them today.  I have box after box of railroad magazines.  I have coal dust in my blood. And yet, I’ve never seen a photo of a locomotive with an eagle.  I found it amazing that my grandfather could have been so unique.  Could my well-meaning relative have been correct?  Perish the thought! 

This past week, that horrid thought was thoroughly vanquished! The photo below clearly shows a similar eagle atop another logging railroad locomotive from Mississippi! This eagle once belonged to Fred Ricks, engineer for the J. J. White Lumber Company. It now graces the flagpole of the county courthouse of his home town.

To say I’m thrilled is an understatement.  This verification has been a long time coming.  I well understand the evils lurking in cyber-land, ready to steal, kill, and destroy.  But, there are also good souls out there, sharing their positive thoughts and freely welcoming us to enjoy their treasured memories and histories.  And such a soul last week shared that amazing image above, from an old newspaper clipping.  I deeply appreciate that!

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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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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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