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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Who Am I?


Source: UNKNOWN
I wonder how many times during my life I've pondered, "Who am I?" I first asked when I was 21, and in searching for the answer I met God and my life changed.

That's when I realized that my life had meaning and I had purpose. But occasionally, the question arises again. Who am I? Isn't that the struggle most of us have all through life? We wonder if we'll ever figure it out. (We won't.)

Many times I've turned to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's poem in which he agonized over his identity while he was in a Nazi prison. He wrestled with whether he was a hypocrite—pretending to be a stalwart believer while trembling inside—or if he was truly the heroic Christian his guards observed. Here are his closing words:
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.

Like most people, I've changed identities many times in relationships. I was Sam and Annie's boy or Ray's kid brother. I've named myself through my occupation. At various times I've been a public school teacher, a missionary, a pastor, a professional writer, and a public speaker. Or I could refer to being a husband, father, grandfather, and now a great-grandfather.

None of those categories fully defines me. But perhaps the intensity of the query isn't to give myself a satisfying answer. Maybe searching for an answer keeps me self-examining, which is another way to speak of growing.

Bonhoeffer's words bring me peace because God accepts me as I am. Yet the lurking uncertainty has a positive effect. As I define myself, I can use that as a starting place to make life adjustments. I don't have to remain who I was or who I am today.

Perhaps that's why this issue continues to jump into my life. It's not only to embrace who I am, but also to make me aware that who I am right now is no longer whom I want to remain.

Maybe the better question is, "Who am I becoming?"

by Cec Murphey - WRITER | SPEAKER | TEACHER | SURVIVOR

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Man Finds Most Heartbreaking Breakup Letter In A Lost Wallet

As I walked home one freezing day, I stumbled on a wallet...

...someone had lost in the street. I picked it up and looked inside to find some identification so I could call the owner. But the wallet contained only three dollars and a crumpled letter that looked as if it had been in there for years. The envelope was worn and the only thing that was legible on it was the return address. I started to open the letter, hoping to find some clue. Then I saw the dateline—1928. The letter had been written almost sixty years ago.

It was written in a beautiful feminine handwriting...

...on powder blue stationery with a little flower in the left-hand corner. It was a "Dear John" letter that told the recipient, whose name appeared to be Michael, that the writer could not see him any more because her mother forbade it. Even so, she wrote that she would always love him. It was signed, Hannah. It was a beautiful letter, but there was no way except for the name Michael, that the owner could be identified. Maybe if I called information,the operator could find a phone listing for the address on the envelope.
"Operator," I began, "this is an unusual request. I'm trying to find the owner of a wallet that I found. Is there anyway you can tell me if there is a phone number for an address that was on an envelope in the wallet?"

She suggested I speak with her supervisor, who hesitated for a moment then said, "Well, there is a phone listing at that address, but I can't give you the number." She said, as a courtesy, she would call that number, explain my story and would ask them if they wanted her to connect me. I waited a few minutes and then she was back on the line. 
"I have a party who will speak with you."

I asked the woman on the other end of the line if she knew anyone by the name of Hannah. She gasped, "Oh! We bought this house from a family who had a daughter named Hannah. But that was 30 years ago!"

"Would you know where that family could be located now?" I asked.

"I remember that Hannah had to place her mother in a nursing home some years ago," the woman said. "Maybe if you got in touch with them they might be able to track down the daughter." She gave me the name of the nursing home and I called the number. They told me the old lady had passed away some years ago but they did have a phone number for where they thought the daughter might be living. I thanked them and phoned. The woman who answered explained that Hannah herself was now living in a nursing home.

This whole thing was stupid, I thought to myself. Why was I making such a big deal over finding the owner of a wallet that had only three dollars and a letter that was almost 60 years old?

Nevertheless, I called the nursing home in which Hannah was supposed to be living and the man who answered the phone told me, 
"Yes, Hannah is staying with us."

Even though it was already 10 p.m., I asked if I could come by to see her. "Well," he said hesitatingly, "if you want to take a chance, she might be in the day room watching television."

I thanked him and drove over to the nursing home. The night nurse and a guard greeted me at the door. We went up to the third floor of the large building. In the day room, the nurse introduced me to Hannah. She was a sweet, silver-haired old timer with a warm smile and a twinkle in her eye. 

I told her about finding the wallet and showed her the letter.

The second she saw the powder blue envelope with that little flower on the left, she took a deep breath and said, "Young man, this letter was the last contact I ever had with Michael." She looked away for a moment deep in thought and then said softly, "I loved him very much. But I was only 16 at the time and my mother felt I was too young. Oh, he was so handsome. He looked like Sean Connery, the actor." 
"Yes," she continued. "Michael Goldstein was a wonderful person. If you should find him, tell him I think of him often. And," she hesitated for a moment, almost biting her lip, "tell him I still love him."
You know," she said smiling as tears began to well up in her eyes, "I never did marry. I guess no one ever matched up to Michael..."

I thanked Hannah and said goodbye. I took the elevator to the first floor and as I stood by the door, the guard there asked, "Was the old lady able to help you?"

I told him she had given me a lead. "At least I have a last name. But I think I'll let it go for a while. I spent almost the whole day trying to find the owner of this wallet." 


I had taken out the wallet, which was a simple brown leather case with red lacing on the side. When the guard saw it, he said, "Hey, wait a minute!" 

"That's Mr. Goldstein's wallet. I'd know it anywhere with that bright red lacing. He's always losing that wallet. I must have found it in the halls at least three times." 
"Who's Mr. Goldstein?" I asked as my hand began to shake. "He's one of the old timers on the 8th floor. That's Mike Goldstein's wallet for sure. He must have lost it on one of his walks." I thanked the guard and quickly ran back to the nurse's office. I told her what the guard had said. We went back to the elevator and got on. I prayed that Mr. Goldstein would be up.

On the eighth floor, the floor nurse said, "I think he's still in the day room. He likes to read at night. He's a darling old man." We went to the only room that had any lights on and there was a man reading a book. The nurse went over to him and asked if he had lost his wallet. Mr. Goldstein looked up with surprise, put his hand in his back pocket and said, "Oh, it is missing!"

"This kind gentleman found a wallet and we wondered if it could be yours?" I handed Mr. Goldstein the wallet and the second he saw it, he smiled with relief and said, "Yes, that's it! It must have dropped out of my pocket this afternoon. I want to give you a reward."

"No, thank you," I said. "But I have to tell you something. I read the letter in the hope of finding out who owned the wallet."

The smile on his face suddenly disappeared. "You read that letter?"

"Not only did I read it, I think I know where Hannah is."

He suddenly grew pale. "Hannah? You know where she is? How is she? Is she still as pretty as she was? Please, please tell me," he begged.

"She's fine...just as pretty as when you knew her." I said softly.

The old man smiled with anticipation and asked, "Could you tell me where she is?"

"...I want to call her tomorrow." He grabbed my hand and said, "You know something, mister, I was so in love with that girl that when that letter came, my life literally ended. I never married. I guess I've always loved her. "

"Mr. Goldstein," I said, "Come with me." We took the elevator down to the third floor. The hallways were darkened and only one or two little night-lights lit our way to the day room where Hannah was sitting alone watching the television. The nurse walked over to her.

"Hannah," she said softly, pointing to Michael, who was waiting with me in the doorway. "Do you know this man?"

She adjusted her glasses, looked for a moment, but didn't say a word. Michael said softly, almost in a whisper, 
"Hannah, it's Michael. Do you remember me?" 

She gasped, "Michael!"

 "I don't believe it! Michael! It's you! My Michael!"
He walked slowly towards her and they embraced. The nurse and I left with tears streaming down our faces. "See," I said. "See how the Good Lord works! If it's meant to be, it will be."
About three weeks later I got a call at my office from the nursing home.
"Can you break away on Sunday to attend a wedding? Michael and Hannah are going to tie the knot!"

It was a beautiful wedding...

...with all the people at the nursing home dressed up to join in the celebration. Hannah wore a light beige dress and looked beautiful. Michael wore a dark blue suit and stood tall. They made me their best man.
The hospital gave them their own room and if you ever wanted to see a 76-year-old bride and a 79-year-old groom acting like two teenagers, you had to see this couple.
A perfect ending for a love affair that had lasted nearly 60 years.

(AUTHOR UNKNOWN - I have carried this story several times and every time I reread the story I'm  amazed by the all-consuming and overcoming love Hannah and Michael shared. The world needs true lovers like them)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Planning Our Future!

PHOTO CREDIT: flickr.com
"Every January I resolve to get fit," Marty told me in late December.
"So what happens?"
"I fail before the first of February."
Many of us, like Marty, start each January with the decision to defeat the problems that tripped us in the past.
I like that idea—forgetting all the foolish and wrong things we said and did, and uniting our energies to move ahead this year.
Yes, I like the idea.
It's not possible for most people, but it's still a good idea.
The past remains part of our lives. The mistakes of the previous year don't disappear. We resolve not to repeat them, and we can build on the shame of previous blunders to correct our present and future actions.
Think of Marty again. He doesn't really plan for his future because he's still tied to the past failures. It's the cliché, "I've failed every time I tried." He hasn't changed and he'll do the same things this year that he did all the other times.
Most of us don't openly admit it but we figure in the past when we stand in the present and project an elegant future. But the previous failures haunt us and it doesn't take long for most individuals to say, "It's futile." Those old fiascos paralyze us or make us doubt we can change.
My friend Ron Heiber has a saying that resonates with me: "God never consults our past when planning our future." That means our loving God forgives us. And with that is implied, "Go and sin no more."
What if we thought of life that way? What if we were able to start each year as if it were new and unblemished? We wouldn't worry about what we didn't do previously or how we aborted our best plans. We'd be able to focus only on what we can do now—and do it with a fresh start.
"God never consults our past when planning our future," Ron said.
"I don't have to remember my past when I plan my future," we can say.
                                   (Taken from Cec Murphey's January 2016 newsletter) 

Monday, January 04, 2016

Major earthquake hits Manipur in India




According to local time, it was 4.36 a.m. early Monday when I was shaken out of my sleep. As I’m having bouts of headache in recent weeks, I thought that the recurring nausea and dizziness had returned. But as my mind cleared, I realized it had nothing to do with my health. It was an #earthquake measuring 6.7 #magnitude, with its epicentre at Noney in Tamenglong district of our state, which hit northeast #India near its border with Myanmar and Bangladesh.


At least five people were killed and 100 injured by falling debris in and around #Imphal, the capital of #Manipur state, police said. Some of my neighbours ran out of their homes, and it was evident that no one has experienced an earthquake of such intensity in the past. Though it lasted only for less than a minute, it has left a trail of destruction all over Manipur.

Strong tremors were also felt in Guwahati, the capital of Assam state. Two of my daughters who are studying in Guwahati reported that many residents ran out of their houses. Though it is still too early to assess the damage and destruction the earthquake has caused, it has wreaked havoc all over the state. Many buildings, including one #Presbyterian church, were razed to the ground.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Good and the Bad



I handed 10 young adults pens and paper and assured them that no one would see their responses. "On one side of the paper, write five things you don't like about yourself." Within one minute, all 23 had their answers.
"On the second side, write five things you truly like about yourself."
After what seemed an appropriate time, I asked how many had filled out the first side with five answers. Every hand went up. "How many of you wrote five things you like about yourself?" Six of them raised their hands.
As the experiment proved, we're able to tick off the negatives. We remain conscious of our shortcomings. That thought reminds me of many church services where they have a time called "confession of sin," which is done silently. Afterward, the leader follows with an "assurance of pardon.”
Christian theology reminds us that we all fail. But we do little in life to help people look at the positives in their personalities. Some would say that to do so would lead to pride and boasting.
Maybe they're correct. But somewhere between "God, be merciful to me a sinner" and "In Jesus Christ we are forgiven," wouldn't it be nice to have a segment called "affirming ourselves"?
Too often we're reluctant to acknowledge our good qualities. We'd like them to be true, but to admit that seems as if we're bragging. And yet if they're true and we don't accept them, aren't we denying the truth?
Have you ever wondered how difficult it must have been for Moses to write that he was the most humble man in the world? (See Numbers 12:3.) He did it because he realized he hadn't made himself humble. He merely admitted what God had already done in his life. Maybe we need to think like Moses.
If there are good parts of ourselves we haven't accepted, isn't that saying we haven't fully received God's gifts to us?
by Cec Murphey, WRITER | SPEAKER | TEACHER | SURVIVOR 

Friday, December 04, 2015

Because We Care by Cec Murphey

As caring people and doers of good deeds, we tend to feel the burden of making huge gestures or speaking eloquently to lift our friends out of their doldrums, pain, or heartaches. We focus on the result—that is, making the other person feel encouraged, helping them make the right decision, or offering insight into their problems.

What's wrong with such desires?

Nothing.

Our attitude speaks of our desire to stretch our arms toward a hurting person. However, desire and wisdom aren't always compatible. I may want to pull her out of depression or get him to start an exercise program. That's an excellent intention.

But that's not enough until we apply wisdom. We're zealous to fix others—which is both kind and noble. We may struggle intensely to do exactly the right thing or trouble ourselves over precisely the right way to say something.

I suggest something less complicated. If we're convinced we care about the person (and not only the result), here it is: Follow your heart.

I hesitated to write those three words because too many people feel that gives them permission to throw clichéd statements, quote the Bible, or overwhelm others with exhortation.

Before we take any action or say anything, let's ask ourselves: If the situation were reversed, how would I respond? Would I want someone to say, "I'm telling you this for your own good"? Would I rejoice if a friend tried to pull me out of my depression by saying, "Rejoice in the Lord always"?

Probably not.

I've shed the need to be the great rescuer of souls. I simply want to do what little I can for others. I've learned that when I express my compassion, even with no answers (or perhaps especially with no answers), I generally connect.

Here's a straightforward response: "I don't know, but I care about you." (Of course we have to mean those words.)

Something happens. When we speak from the heart—from compassionate caring—most of the time we connect. Our friends know when we speak lovingly.

(This article is taken from bestselling author Cecil Murphey's newsletter)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee



24817626After capturing the hearts of readers with her landmark debut 1960-masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harper Lee returns with her second and highly controversial book after a gap of fifty-five years much to the delight of Mockingbird fans, and the consternation and skepticism of some. If To Kill a Mockingbird was a book about a racially-inflamed rape trial in Alabama narrated by a young girl named Jean Louise Finch, nicknamed Scout, then Harper Lee’s much-anticipated second book is much more than that – an agonizingly painful yet tender story of growth and maturing, for good or for bad.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee is set twenty years after To Kill a Mockingbird and follows a grown-up twenty-six years old Scout as she returns from New York City to her childhood home in Alabama to visit her ailing father, Atticus Finch, who is now seventy-two and suffering from arthritis. Scout, who now prefers her legal name Jean Louise, is deeply pained and hurt by her father Atticus who now holds views diametrically opposite to what he once proudly embraced. She found among his reading materials a racist tract called “The Black Plague.” She is forced to confront him though it did little to change him. Ultimately, the novel is about the later lives of the Finch family, including lawyer Atticus, Scout, and Scout’s older brother Jem who has died of a congenitally disordered heart.

What I really adored about the book is the way in which Harper Lee balances the sense of wistfulness, melancholy and longing that is running throughout the book with the cynical views of Atticus, who as a good-hearted widowed single father was a much-loved figure in To Kill a Mockingbird. The transformation of Atticus is revolting but he has his own reasons. Intermittently, there are flashbacks and references to the past. The most telling effect of the transformation and growth into adulthood of Scout is her preference of her legal name Jean Louise over Scout, the nickname with which she was addressed during her adolescent years. The on and off romance between Scout and a newly introduced character, Henry Clinton, gives the story a fillip and much-needed flavour.

Though some readers may find fault with the third-person narrative which is in stark contrast to the first-person account of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, I feel it syncs well with the tone and tenor of the story. Honestly, I never expected, or for that matter, wanted Go Set a Watchman to be a better book than To Kill a Mockingbird. All I wanted for this book was to showcase the adult life of Scout and Jem, and their father, Atticus. Harper Lee has not only succeeded in that aspect, but delivered an explosive plot twist that no one ever expected. Go Set a Watchman is about a young woman’s disillusionment at the racism that invades her hometown and her family. It is a story about the loss of innocence and the heartbreak at the loss of a brother as much as it is a coming-of-age story. Whatever critics may say and whatever its shortcomings may be, Go Set a Watchman is a worthy follow-up and companion to To Kill a Mockingbird.