Friday, March 2, 2012

A Peek Inside The Spirit of Christmas

An invitation to take a look inside The Spirit of Christmas in this moving story from author Cecil Murphey.

1. Alone and Broke at ChristmasCecil Murphey

I chose to do my first year of college at a small school in southern Texas—sixteen hundred miles from home. Shirley was pregnant with our first child and had complications with her pregnancy. That meant we were unable to travel back to the Chicago area for the Christmas holidays. Even if she had been able to travel, we didn’t have the money.
I went to school on veteran’s benefits. By watching our finances closely, we survived. We regularly ate Kraft’s macaroni-and-cheese mixes, bought hurt cans and marked-down vegetables at the supermarket. Neither of us considered it a sacrifice. In many ways, it was an adventure.
Christmas season began on Tuesday and most of the afternoon the campus was a plethora of people rushing from place to place and cars driving out of the campus. The last students left early Wednesday morning. By Thursday, two days before Christmas, the classrooms were empty. They closed the library and locked the student dorms. No one would return for ten days. In the married couples’ dorm we were the only ones still on campus. We didn’t have a telephone and it was long before computers, so we depended on the postal service for connecting with our families.
I had checked out all the books from the library that I thought I might want during the holiday period. I looked forward to the opportunity to study without pressure.
On Christmas Eve, Shirley and I had a meal that was a mixture of a dented can of corn and an even more dented can of chili. Someone had given us a box of candles that had been “delicately used,” as the person said. Shirley had embroidered my initials on six new handkerchiefs. I had bought her a small bottle of cologne.
The church where we worshipped had a Christmas Eve service and we attended. Normally the church was full, but that night not more than thirty people came to the special service.
Christmas morning would be like any other day except we would have a nicer meal—meat loaf and baked sweet potatoes, food not normally on our diet.
About nine thirty, someone knocked on the door of our two-room apartment. I was shocked that anyone else was on campus. When I answered the door, the man smiled at me. We hadn’t met, but I knew his last name was Willard. He was one of the instructors at the college.
“I heard you two were here for the holidays,” he said.
“That’s right.” I invited him into our kitchen and to one of the four chairs we owned. I offered him a cup of coffee.
“No thanks,” he said. When he came into the room, he had a strange way of walking, almost as if he swayed from one foot to the other.
“I don’t want to stay,” Mr. Willard said. “I’m a bachelor and I want to take you two out for Christmas dinner.”
Shirley could hear us from the bedroom, where she had been lying down. She came into the room and grinned at me as I said, “We’d like that very much.”
“I came early because I didn’t know if you’d be preparing a big meal or had other plans to visit someone or—”
I laughed. “We have no plans.” I would have countered with an invitation to share our Christmas meal, but two small sweet potatoes wouldn’t be enough for three people.
“How about one o’clock? Is that all right?” After we nodded, he said, “I’ll come by and pick you up.”
He was five minutes early and we were ready. He took us to a fine Chinese restaurant. “They’re about the only ones open today,” he said.
I felt genuinely touched that he would take us out for Christmas dinner. We talked and slowly he told us about himself. He was a vet and had lost both legs in combat, which explained the strange way he walked. He shared a sad story about the woman he loved. She couldn’t stand to look at his legless body and broke off their engagement. “It hurt and I loved her,” he said, “but it’s better that she left before we married.”
For almost two hours we sat by the window and talked. I won’t say it was the best Christmas I ever had, but it was a special one.
When we reached our apartment, Shirley was nauseated and hurried inside. I sat in the car and talked with Mr. Willard for a few minutes.
“Thank you,” he said to me. “It means so much that you would spend part of your Christmas with me.”
I invited him to come inside, but he declined. As I walked into the building, I kept hearing his words inside my head. He had made Christmas Day special for us and yet he thanked us.
A few days later I again answered the knock on our door. Mr. Willard was there, this time in his wheelchair and without his artificial legs. One of his army friends had contacted him and they were going to West Texas for New Year’s.
I thanked him again for our Christmas dinner, and he held out his hand to shake mine. As I leaned down toward him, he embraced me and whispered, “You two made this a special Christmas. I was so depressed, I wondered if life was worth living.”
I stared at him and felt the moisture in my eyes. I don’t remember the words between us, but I do remember he pulled me down to his level and embraced me. He released me, backed up his wheelchair, and left.
I never had Mr. Willard as an instructor and I never saw him again. The following year I transferred to the Chicago area. I can’t even remember his first name. What I do remember is how special he made Christmas for a young, impoverished couple. And to make it even more wonderful, he thanked us.
I’ve learned many lessons about Christmas, but this is one I treasure. He gave to us and yet he seemed to get more pleasure out of the giving than we did out of the receiving. That truly is the Christmas spirit, isn’t it?

Copyright © 2011 by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Spirit of Christmas

A very belated welcome to The Spirit of Christmas, a wonderful sequel to our blog namesake Christmas Miracles.  Inside this merry cover you'll find the same kind of heart-warming stories complied for Christmas Miracles

From the publisher: 

The Spirit of ChristmasWith a Foreword by Debbie Macomber 
Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson
St. Martin's Press

A heartwarming collection of true stories that will inspire, entertain, and get everyone into the spirit of Christmas
At Christmastime, it’s hard not to get caught up in the shopping, the decorating, the party planning and the family drama—and too we often to lose sight of the true meaning of the season. But sometimes, through God’s grace or a simple twist of fate, we’re able to step back and understand what the holiday is truly about.

The Spirit of Christmas is an inspiring collection of true stories from real-life people who have experienced such moments where the meaning of the season becomes clear and touches their hearts. A man mailing gifts at the post office witnesses a moving scene that changes his life forever. An unhappy couple are drifting further apart…until a special Christmas gift allows them to renew their love and mend their fractured marriage. And a father tries to keep the spirit of Christmas alive for his son with a grand gesture--a gesture that will be remembered by his family and many others for years to come.

Filled with magic, wonder and deep meaning, it’s impossible for these stories not to touch your heart—and fill you with The Spirit of Christmas.
To purchase click the link:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hi, Christmas Miracles family!

 It's been a year since most of you have heard from me, so I thought I'd send a little FaLaLa note and wish you a Merry Christmas.

Yes, there's another reason for this note. Tuesday night, December 14, at 7 CT/8 ET, Cec and I will talk about Christmas miracles on the Cec and Me show. We'll invite listeners to call in and share their own Christmas miracle stories.

The Cec and Me show is online at Toginet radio ( The call-in number is 877-864-4869. We'd love to hear from you.

BTW--The show is live on Tuesday nights, but it's also available by podcast and downloadable from iTunes. Do you know what that means for you if you call in with a story? It means you'll have access to audio you can use for personal promotion later. Woohoo!

Let me know if you have questions.

I pray your Christmas season is blessed with joy, peace, hope, and sweet surprises.

Twila Belk, the Gotta Tell Somebody Gal

About The Cec and Me Show

What do you get when you combine bestselling author Cecil Murphey with Twila Belk, the Gotta Tell Somebody Gal? Cec and Me, that's what!

Here's more of what you'll get:

The inside scoop on what makes Cec tick and stories behind the more than one hundred books he's written. You'll also discover why he's considered a patriarch in the publishing industry.

Special guests who've been impacted by Cec in some way-people who in turn impact others-authors, speakers, pastors, ministry leaders, and maybe even a man who spent 90 minutes in heaven.

A wide range of topics--tough issues, practical helps, encouragement, inspiration, hope, and some fun thrown in for good measure.

The opportunity to call in with your questions and comments.

Tune in to Cec and Me every Tuesday evening, 7-8 CT/8-9 ET.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Christmas Miracles Transformed!

Last year Christmas Miracles was released to a very warm reception.  Today it is currently number 92 on Amazon's list of top inspirational books.  Readers loved this book and wrote about it.

All those great reviews and sales have not gone unnoticed.  This year Christmas Miracles returns in two new forms as an ebook and as a gift book.

In this "Season of Miracles" Hallmark is putting out an abridged version of Christmas Miracles as an inspirational gift book this year.  It has a new cover (see photo) and will be available in Hallmark stores all over the country.  How fun to see CM in your local mall and card stores.

In addition to Hallmark's gift book version, St. Martin's Press has announced the release of Christmas Miracles in ebook form for your Kindle or other electronic reading device.  This version will be complete and unabridged.  The good news is the price--only $2.99 to download your favorite Christmas book.  What a great way to take CM with you wherever you travel this holiday season. 
You can purchase it for Kindle from Amazon or from St. Martin's Press @

Congratulations to all the contributing authors on the continuing success of Christmas Miracles.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Latest on "The Christmas Spirit"

If you are one of the authors who submitted a story to "The Christmas Spirit" you can find out the latest information by checking on their web site.

From the web site:
Thanks to everyone who sent in an entry for this project. We're overwhelmed by the responses we received. We will now review more than 300 entries and decide which stories we would like to put into the book. Of course, our editor has the final word.

We'll make our decision around September 15, and notify all entrants by email.

During the submission process, each entry was acknowledged and placed into our database. If you didn't receive an email of acknowledgment, that means we didn't receive your submission.

Please don't email to check on the status of your submission. We're busy reading, reading, reading.
We appreciate your participation and will be in contact with you soon.

All the best,

Cec and Marley

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Don't forget to say "Thank you"

Remember the first thing out of your mom's mouth after opening your presents on Christmas morning? For most of us it was "Tell Uncle Clyde, Grandma, Daddy thank you!" Sometimes we did it joyfully, sometimes with resignation, but saying thanks was the expected reaction after viewing your Christmas loot.

Then there were the "thank you" notes to write for all those great presents that came from family and friends far away. I had a rule for my kids. After Christmas day, no playing with/using the new gift until the "thank you" note was written. It was painful, but my kids learned that a simple "thank you" meant a lot to the person who "gifted" them making the giver feel appreciated and loved. In fact, one of my kids used her stellar ability to pen "thank you" notes in a job for a Hollywood TV show and later at a major university.
Telling people you appreciate them--it's a good thing, as Martha Stewart used to remind us.

Many of the readers of this blog are familiar with their co-author Cecil Murphey. His generosity with his time, talent and resources have touched the lives of many readers and writers, both professionally and personally.

Has Cecil Murphey been a source of help to you in your writing journey? Maybe he encouraged you along the way, provided a scholarship to a writing conference or even used your story in a compilation book.

Perhaps, like me, you're a reader and you've found just what you needed to hear one day while reading a book Cecil wrote or co-wrote. A word of truth encouraging you to keep looking up, God is watching and loving and understanding you just where you are. And maybe it's time to say "Thank You".

June is "Cecil Murphey Appreciation Month". I once read a quote once that said it's not the things we do that we regret the most, but the things we leave undone, the words we leave unsaid. If Cec has touched your life, this would be a great month to tell him so.
Why not take a moment drop Cec a note via his web site or through his assistant,Twila Belk, and tell him what his ministry has meant you? It's a chance to give back a bit of the blessing you've receieved.

Cec's contact page is

Finally, just let me say to Cecil Murphey, author extraordinaire:

"Thanks Cec, for letting God use you to bless my life and the lives of so many.

Thank you for not telling God "No" when He changed your directions and put you on new paths.

Thank you for keeping the faith when things turned painful, in the face of physical illness, the loss of your home and so many other hurts no one else will ever no about. You kept trusting and obeying. I'm grateful to God that you did.

Your life and your writing have blessed me, helped me and brought me closer to God.

May God grant that each day you continue your walk and each day you are closer to Him. May your best days be still to come."

To read more about Cecil Murphey Appreciation Month

Monday, March 8, 2010

How One Ripped Page Changed a Life By James Pence

I did not write my post today. It is used by permission and is the amazing true story of how God used a page from a novel to reach the heart of a man broken over the murder of his family. Even more heart wrenching is the fact that it is the true story of a man, Terry Caffey, who lost his wife, 2 sons, and his house - all at the hands of his teenage daughter.

The story of this horrific crime and the struggle of a father to forgive the unthinkable is available in the new book Terror By Night by Terry Caffey (the father) and James Pence.

James Pence, the author of the novel and of this article, is one of the keynote speakers for the 2010 Quad-Cities Christian Writers Conference, April 9-10 in Eldridge, Iowa. For more information about the conference, check out our website

How One Ripped Page Changed a Life By James Pence

Recently, I heard an amazing story of how God used my novel, Blind Sight, to turn someone's life around. After hearing this story, even if I never sell another book, I'll feel fulfilled as a writer.

At about 3 a.m. on March 1st of last year, two young men broke into Terry Caffey's home in Emory, Texas. They shot Terry and killed his wife, Penney, and then went upstairs and murdered the Caffey's two young sons, Bubba and Tyler. They then set fire to the house and left the family for dead. Although he had been shot twelve times, Terry escaped through the bathroom window and crawled three hundred yards to a neighbor's house. To make matters worse, Terry's daughter Erin was implicated in the crime. Overnight, Terry Caffey lost his entire family.

A month or so later, Terry went back to his property. The remains of the house had been bulldozed and little was left. Torn with grief, Terry was contemplating suicide. Unable to understand why God had taken his family and allowed him to survive, Terry cried out to God, "Why did you take my family? Why didn't you take me, too? I don't understand."

As he stood there, Terry noticed a burned scrap of paper standing up against the trunk of a nearby tree. He went over and picked it up. The paper was part of a page from my novel, Blind Sight. The edges of the page were scorched and it was difficult to read. But the words were like a direct message to Terry from God.

Here's the portion of text that Terry found:

[The viewpoint character in these paragraphs is Thomas Kent, a man who lost his wife and children in an automobile accident that he survived. In this scene, Thomas is praying.]
"I couldn't understand why You would take my family and leave me behind to struggle along without them. And I guess I still don't totally understand that part of it. But I do believe that You're sovereign; You're in control."

Justine's voice reverberated through his thoughts: Maybe God knew we needed you.

"And I know that You've brought Justine and those children into my life. And they need me. Lord, You could have taken my life that day, but You spared it. And You've gone on sparing it. It doesn't matter what happens to me now, but if I can help them, please let me do it."

Thomas closed the drapes and stood alone in the dark room. For the first time in two years, he was at peace with God and with himself. He knew what he had to do. Justine and her children would be safe, even if he had to die to make sure of it.

Those paragraphs turned Terry's life around. He found the strength to go on, and is now sharing his testimony in churches around the country. When he speaks, he brings the page from my novel, now preserved in a frame, and shows it to the congregation.

Because the page was only partially preserved, Terry didn't know what book it had come from until a few weeks ago. He spoke one Sunday morning at Greenville Bible Church, and my daughter, Charlene, was present in the congregation. [She and Terry's daughter, Erin, are good friends.] Charlene and Terry both had lunch at pastor Jim Corbet's house, and Terry told them that he'd love to find out which book the page had come from. The pastor and his wife had both read Blind Sight and they thought they recognized the passage. Charlene agreed that it sounded like it had come from my novel. Pastor Corbet took his copy of Blind Sight down and they eventually found the page.

That same afternoon, Terry called and shared the story with me. Tears streamed down my face as I listened to a story that is nothing short of a miracle of God's providence. Not only had the house burned, but the site had been long since cleaned up and the debris bulldozed and hauled off. What little material was left had been exposed to the weather for at least a month. And out of a nearly 400-page book, the only scrap that remained was a brief passage where a man who had lost a wife and two children came to grips with the sovereign goodness of God, submitted to His will, and decided to move forward.

That scrap of paper lay there against a tree trunk as if waiting for Terry Caffey: a man who had lost his wife and two sons, a man who was in deep despair and who was contemplating suicide, a man who desperately needed to come to grips with the sovereign goodness and mercy of God.
Needless to say, I am deeply humbled to have been the one who wrote the words that God chose to use. What an incredible, awesome God we serve!

--Is that amazing or what?

James H. Pence is the founder of Tuppence Creative Ministries, an outreach that encourages excellence in the arts for the glory of God. In addition to being the author of six books, James is a performance chalk artist and vocalist.

Terry Caffey's website is at:

About the author

James H. Pence is a full-time professional writer and editor living near Dallas, Texas. James is a multi-talented writer who has been published in both fiction and nonfiction. His publishers include Tyndale House, Kregel, and Osborne/McGraw-Hill. James holds a master’s degree in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in creative writing and journalism from Dallas Theological Seminary. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in theology from Dallas Bible College. James is also a vocalist and gospel chalk artist, and he regularly uses his talents to share the gospel in prisons.

James is the author of Blind Sight, a gripping novel about mind-control cults and coauthor (along with Terry Caffey) of the new book: Terror by Night: The True Story of the Brutal Texas Murder that Destroyed a Family, Restored One Man’s Faith, and Shocked a Nation.

Used by permission