Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

Editors note: This series was first published at Biblical Counseling Through Song. It is our hope that sharing this journey of heartache and worship with Tom Murphy will be an encouragement to our readers who find themselves in similar situations.

Mayday got its start as an international distress call in 1923. It was made official in 1948. It was an idea of Frederick Mockford, who was a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London. He came up with the idea for “mayday” because it sounded like the French word m’aider, which means “help me”. Thank God for the French.

On this first of May—Mayday— I am crying out, “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! Help!

I need help.

Read More

A Blue You Can Wear

I sat alone, for a few minutes at least, in the unlit and uncovered atrium of a church just south of Nashville. I was tired. Exhausted. Worn out in the way that only those introverts who have spent a long day in the welcoming company of dear friends can understand.

I was at a conference with several other Foundling House editors and writers. We had started the day together by leading a panel discussion on the importance and difficulties of being part of a creative community group. Eager faces looked up at us as we started. Pens were poised over notepads, waiting for us to give a simple, easy-to-follow formula that would generate the community we so desperately crave—a community that I also crave. I only wish it was so simple.

Read More

WONDER

In your name everything makes sense. That is an awesome wonder. You created a way for life to work like a well-oiled machine. You intricately designed all the detailed parts to work predictably when operated with the proper fuel. For every misplaced thought, there is a reason. For every curious instance, there is an explanation. I could never understand your mastery, but when I think I’ve grasped a glimpse, my logical brain goes crazy for you.

Read More

On Giving to the Poor

He said he and his mother had just finished at prayer meeting, and somewhere along the way he lost his wallet. He’d already asked a handful of people, all of whom said no.

“Who is so cruel as to leave people stranded after a church meeting?” he said.

He just wanted gas to get home. I had three thin dollars in my wallet, and offered them to him, but he said that wouldn’t get him far enough.

“I’ll Venmo you the money once I get home,” he said, handing me his business card. It had his picture on it, a real estate broker, it said.

“Sure,” I said.

Read More

A Letter to My Past Self

I see you scribbling out words in the bathroom stall, grinning to yourself about the silly thing you’re planning to do. You doubt it will accomplish anything to give a handwritten note to a musician you admire, but you secretly hope that it will. You have no idea if he’ll read this note, or if he’ll consider your idea to add more female voices to the website he and his brother recently launched. You’re feeling nervous about shaking his hand and looking him in the eye as you hand the note to him, but you’re determined to take this risk.

And here I sit, nearly ten years later typing on a laptop at ten o’clock at night, feeling incredibly proud of you. You have no idea how this one little interaction will change your life for the better. You just can’t imagine how many writers and artists and friends you’re going to meet during the next ten years because of this night. You don’t know if this guy will even read your letter, let alone invite you to submit some of your writing for his fans to read. You don’t realize that in a couple of years you’ll be helping plan a conference for this burgeoning community of creative types from all over America and Europe. You can only dream of having your words printed in a book someday, but little do you know that you’re about to take the first step down a path that leads to this very thing.

Read More

A Couple Dozen Kisses

There’s some sort of ruckus in the living room, involving the theft of a beloved toy he hasn’t even been playing with, so I send Kai to his room. All 2.75 years of TNT with scabby knees, and the only thing that comes of it is more explosions. The bangs and screaming aren’t stopping, so I enter in to do damage control.

My second child is a bruise, all funny colors and tender when pressed. This nonsensical, unfair place we call Earth is just too much for him. Me and my peers tend to accept these emotions by crystallizing our skins until we’re more shell than human. The healthiest people I know are those who have either learned to absorb, or haven’t hardened at all. It’s just that if you haven’t hardened at all, everything else is harder.

Read More

All Creatures Here Below

Original Photo by Adam Whipple

The road to the lake is so twisted that one stretch is named “The Dragon’s Tail.” Our truck, bristling with canoes and kayaks, yaws through the tight curves like a ship coming about, far too sluggish for the thrill-seekers swarming thick to challenge the dragon. Motorcycles and hot rods stack up behind us like a trail of creeping ants, and when we turn off the highway they gun their engines, freed. The boat launch is quiet though, the dusty pebbled road lazing with its concrete toes in the water. We load canoes as close as we dare to the sinking point, the grind of the final push giving way to sudden silent weightlessness as they slip into the water, gunwales low to the murky green.

On the water we’re sluggish again, but there’s no wind today to shove our burdened convoy backward. There are also no jellyfish beneath us, as there were in the early years of these trips–quarter-sized wisps pulsing through the dim, impossible as faeries. It’s silent here, but for the murmur of water, the subdued splashes of our paddling, and our jests tossed from boat to boat. An excess of sky seems to have pooled between the mountain ridges, rippling with wet laughter, so there are clouds above and below us. We taunt each other across a mile or so, and with shoulders burning, we make landfall. The Island.

Our advance scout rolls lazily out of the silken cocoon of his hammock to greet us as we clamber up the shifting rocks. Joe made the journey alone, by moonlight, to claim this ground before any rivals. He accepts our praise with a bleary smile. Without his midnight quest we might have been forced to camp somewhere other than this, the magic spot. We heave gear up the steeps, amid head-sized stones that turn over to gnaw our ankles. Thirty feet from the water a fringe of gnarled pine roots reaches out into empty air, marking the border from bare rubble to stubborn forest. We sling our hammocks between leaning grey pillars on the edges of the island’s narrow wooded crown, leaving open a dirt patch around the firepit. There are a few among us who can’t sleep with so much air between them and the earth , so they grub among the roots and rocks and sloping ground for the least bad place to lie down tonight, and wedge tiny tents into what gaps the island has left them. All the activity startles gray-brown lizards who dart into stony crevices or up tree trunks, where they turn invisible on the bark.

There are coals glowing dull amid the pale ash from our morning fire. Dug in, we fall to feeding these into crackling life. By tradition there must be meat cooking as often as possible, and we need to start making inroads on the absurd amount of beef and pork in our coolers, or we’ll have to haul it out when we leave. While marinated steak sizzles on a black iron griddle, contributions to the island library begin lining up on the long plank spanning two flattish boulders, with smaller rocks pressed into service as bookends. Lewis and Chesterton have made the trip with us, along with Dostoevsky. Golding has not been forgotten. Every genre is accounted for on the dusty plank, where leather-bound, gilt-edged tomes snug up to creased paperbacks with only remnants of coversan ephemeral Alexandria in the wilds.

Others arrive in twos and threes, until our chatter spreads out and goes spilling off down the rocks. A swimming creature is sighted. No, it isn’t a beaver, it’s Dave, come without a boat and swimming all the way in. He arrives with eyes red and swollen from the cold water, and we older ones reminisce about having the energy of youth. From there the conversation turns to the year an armada of wild boar swam from the nearer southern shore and landed on the island; and the tale is told once again, with much gesticulation.

We fill our bellies with steaming pork in memory of the boar as evening draws in. Small and innocent looking flies snatch mouthfuls from the backs of our ankles, leaving a welling drop of blood each time. A breeze carries them off and palavering goes on without further predation. Pipes and cheroots are lighted and fragrant smoke wafts amid conversations of fatherhood, books, authors, church planting, the correct pronunciation of Pinus strobus, third-party candidates, the kid who was seized by the head and pulled from his hammock during a bear attack half a mile from here, impending marriages, and how long you think you could live alone on an island, far away from mankind. We gather gingerly on the sharp rocks as the sun sinks between framing mountains across from us, setting the lake aflame. As the last gleam flares a harmonica appears in old Maynard’s hand to sound out the Doxology, and we join our voices to the familiar strain and the unheard song of the emerging stars.

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” we sing, especially those of community and camping, among nature’s wild imagination.

Read More