This man had such a HUGE impact on my life. I didn't know it at the time but looking back I know without a doubt. He took me (along with a group of crazy college kids) on my first (and only to date) mission trip which caused me to fall in love with ministry. I remember him kneeling before the church praying - longing for revival and seeking the Lord with his whole heart. What an example to follow. He now has his own ministry http://russmurphyministries.com. I hope you'll check it out :-)
Most folks are surprised to learn that I was painfully shy in high school. I don’t think I said a complete sentence until after I was married. In fact, I was horrified when I felt that the Lord may be calling me into full-time church work, knowing that it would require me to speak in public. I was hoping that God was calling me to be a radio mime or a silent prayer leader but that wasn’t the case. I’m not sure when the Lord changed things but I now speak and sing for groups each week and it feels as natural as breathing. Saralyn, my dear wife, laughs when she tells folks that “Russ used to be so quiet but now he can carry on a conversation with a tree stump.”
I always had a healthy respect (aka “fear”) for my teachers but I was deathly afraid of my senior English teacher, Miss Marrs. She was a small woman but she could scold and glare in such a way that no one would ever dare cross her. Her rules were very simple; be on time and have your work done. But her most sacred rule, the rule that carried an automatic death penalty, was absolutely NO TALKING!! I had witnessed a couple of my classmates who forgot about that rule and it resulted in a thorough chewing out. I couldn’t imagine how embarrassed I’d be if I was ever on the brunt end of Miss Marrs’ wrath.
Normally, from her classroom I could see the clock in the hallway. One day the desks had been re-arranged making it impossible for me to see what time it was. I noticed that Billy Morris, a guy who sat in front of me, had on a watch so in my best ventriloquist impersonation I whispered, “Billy, what time is it?” I glanced up at Miss Marrs and by her calm expression I knew she hadn’t heard me. I was thinking I was in the clear until Billy whipped around and in full voice said, “HEY RUSS, DO YOU WANT TO KNOW THE TIME!! IT’S 3:20. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANTED TO KNOW RUSS?”
Miss Marrs shot up like a rocket and as she marched over to me I prayed with all my heart, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” Billy was the one who had made all the noise but she was headed straight for me and I bowed my head just hoping the end of my life would be swift. She wasn’t very tall but at the time I felt like the guy in the old sci-fi movie, “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.” I felt my face and neck getting warm as she inquired why I was so important that I just had to know the time. Mercifully the bell rang and I bolted out the door praying she wasn’t chasing after me.
Flash Forward - Several years ago we had just been to a memorial service for my then, father-in-law, Dr. Bob Morgan. I was in fellowship hall visiting with friends when I felt a hand on my shoulder. There stood a woman who asked, “Are you Russ Murphy and did you go to Richfield High School?” I answered yes to both questions. Then she asked who I had for senior English. I laughed as I said, “I had Miss Marrs and the lady almost caused me to have a stroke. Why do you want to know?” She stuck out her hand and introduced herself saying, “I’m Phyllis Strother but before I married my name was Miss Marrs; I was your senior English teacher!!” All of a sudden I felt my neck and face getting warm while thinking, “Oh no. The woman’s back to get me!!” She explained that she was so young when she got the job she had to act mean just to control the class. I assured her that her “mean routine” had been extremely successful.
I gave Phyllis some of my CDs and she later asked me to write a theme song for her organization, Grandmother’s Arise, a group committed to praying for their grandchildren. (I encourage you to go to www.phyllisstrotherministries.com or google Grandmother’s Arise to see how you could get involved) Her request led me to compose one of my most personal songs, “My Grandmother’s Prayers.”
Since then I’ve discovered that Phyllis is one of the nicest and Godliest women I’ve ever known. I sometimes meet Phyllis and her husband, Ralph, for coffee when I’m in Waco. She is a gifted communicator and an inspiration to so many; but best of all, she is my friend.
Looking back, if the Lord had tapped me on the shoulder the moment Miss Marrs (Phyllis) was sternly lecturing me, and said “One day you and Miss Marrs are going to be in the ministry and you’re going to become good friends.” I’m sure I would have shook my head in disbelief and said, “You have got to be kidding. Never in a million years!”