Oh Little Town of Carterville

© 2019 Bill Murphy

I’ve always thought of myself as a city-boy. I was born and raised in Jackson, MS… not exactly Dallas or New York, but not tiny-town-country either.

In 2013, Carol and I retired from the 40 hour a week workforce, moved to the small town of Carterville, Illinois where most of our kids, and grandkids live, and began life anew as 24 hour a day retirees.

Carterville’s located midway between Marion (on, I-57) and Carbondale (on Old US 51), and about 50 north of the southernmost border of the state. It’s a very old coal mining town. Our main street downtown stretches for all of 3 blocks, and we have only 3 or 4 traffic lights… not exactly Mayberry RFD, but close.

We live within a half mile of a great junior college, where I’ve taken several courses, fifty yards from a golf course, 2 miles from a huge lake with great fishing, 5 miles from Kroger and Walmart… and only one mile from a Dollar General. Yes, we have all the necessary creature comforts.

Did I mention our wild-life? We’ve had several deer in our front yard, an owl perched on the stop sign at the corner of our yard, once had to wait before turning unto our driveway until a skunk ambled off… and had to evict 3 possums from inside the house! (A workman forgot to secure the crawl-space entrance!)

But to me, the stop sign at the end of our short little street proclaims Carterville perfectly. It’s not a city beautification project… just wildflowers doing their own thing… on very public property. Locals keep the foliage from covering red hexagon area.

I believe I’ve adapted rather well to small town living, in Oh Little Town of Carterville.

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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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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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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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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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