“Everything is Father-Filtered”

Hands of Jesus

Hands of Jesus

My wife Cathy has been my greatest encourager in my Christian walk and service. God gave us a unique ministry together when we were both saved at a Bill Gothard seminar in Dallas in 1977. At the time we were both religious in our attitudes and faithful in our church attendance but did not have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Our reasons for attending the Bill Gothard seminar were different from each other, and neither one of our reasons involved a conviction that we needed to be saved. We both thought because of our proper attitudes and good service for the Lord, our God had already given us His favor at some point in the past. For me the attendance of a five day meeting in Dallas gave me a break from a very busy and sometimes hectic medical practice and would allow me to rest  for those few days. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to listening to a Christian speaker for as many hours as he was scheduled. Cathy said she was going to use what free time we had shopping in the myriad of stores which were available to her. In encouraging us to attend Bubba had told me when the conference was over we weren’t completely satisfied with what we had experienced, he would pay for all of our expenses.  I thought perhaps we might have a five day vacation in Dallas, and Bubba would get to foot the bill! Needless to say both Cathy and I were very surprised at the work God did in our hearts all week, and the transformation which occurred when we humbly submitted ourselves to Him.

Everything inside of us changed, and we were empowered with a hunger to not only know His Word and hide it in our hearts, but also to do His Word. There is a distinct difference between doing good works and doing His Word, and we were beginning to make the distinction. We were discovering spiritual growth and Christian service are life-long commitments of obedience to Him. In grasping the significance of the principle of the sovereignty of God we affirmed God allows everything and superintends all events whether good or bad. For things we consider bad He promises to work all things out for our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28) It is important to firmly fix this truth in our minds when we are in the light, because when dark clouds appear and great trials or tragedies occur, it is hard to think anything good can come from it. Part of the reason for our struggle with this is because we live in the now and do not see the tomorrow, which God clearly sees and knows. In simple language the principle is this; everything is Father-filtered.

One of the times when Cathy would have to remind me of God’s sovereignty involved taking emergency calls at the hospital. When my surgical practice was at its’ busiest I was on call every fourth night, which usually meant two or three trips to the emergency room. There might be a person with acute appendicitis, or an abscess needing to be drained or a deep laceration too complicated for the emergency room physician to properly handle. A trip to the ER might last only an hour or so, or it could take the entire night to resolve more complicated problems. This would have not have been a problem had I not had a full schedule of operations and clinic patients the following day. Spending the night giving emergency care meant no sleep until the following evening, and a big part of the training of a surgeon is learning how to maintain maximum efficiency with very little sleep.

I can remember vividly on several occasions when around 11 PM as we were preparing for bed, the phone would ring and it was the ER nurse. She would inform me she had an individual with a gunshot wound to the abdomen requiring emergency surgery, and I was needed as soon as possible. Several things I would know as I was dressing to go to the hospital; I would be at the hospital for the remainder of the evening, and I would not receive compensation for my work because most gunshot victims were uninsured. It actually cost me money for these types of operations, because I had to pay my nurse and surgical assistant for the time they had to spend at the hospital. The more I focused on those two factors, the more distraught I would become which resulted in grumbling and murmuring to Cathy and to myself. As Cathy would snuggle down underneath the warm covers on the bed, she would remind me that “everything is Father-filtered.” If I were in a particularly foul mood I would respond with something like; “that’s easy for you to say as you settle in for a good night’s sleep!” What I didn’t know until later was on many occasions, Cathy would remain awake and pray for the safety of the patient, for my strength, and I might have the chance to lead someone to Christ.

I have often said the road from our home to the emergency room was paved with words of forgiveness I had to pray for my occasional sour attitude when facing an all-night operation. By the time I got there my heart would be right and my mind would be rightly focused. I was able to witness God’s love on many occasions to my patients and saw some converted to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. None of this would have been possible apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit which was partly actuated by Cathy’s prayers and her reminder to me it was all filtered by our Father! As I remember all of these events I can more clearly see God’s hand in all of them.

Dr. John


The Quality Grocery Store

Similar to Quality Grocery

I received my first up-close experience with the grocery business when my Mom and her sister Aunt Tooky (Thelma) bought the Quality Grocery Store in El Dorado in 1948. Aunt Tooky was a very special aunt from St. Louis, Missouri, and at the time was the wealthiest person I had ever met. Her husband, Uncle Max Manne owned the Artistic Furniture Company and had made his fortune building moderately priced furniture. He once told me that he had invented the sofa hide-a-bed concept, but the Simmons Company had stolen the idea from him and had made millions with the product. Aunt Tooky was the one who personally introduced me to two of my heroes at that time; Stan Musial and Roy Rogers.

Neither Mom nor Aunt Tooky had any interest in the grocery business. Their brothers Ed and Paul West had just returned from serving in the U.S. Army in World War II and needed work so this seemed like a good option for them. After the purchase was finalized and the store was operational Aunt Tooky decided to live with us for several months to help Mom with the management of the store. Uncle Paul and Uncle Ed handled the meat market and the produce portion of the business.

They had one other employee a delivery man named Clarence who was in his early twenties in age. As a young black man he became the brunt of many pranks by my uncles who were masters at that sort of thing. They were always telling Clarence he needed to “find a good woman to marry,” and they were going to help him find just the right one. Clarence would usually tell “Mr. Paul” and “Mr. Ed” he wasn’t ready to “take that step just right now.” Because the store was not making much profit they were not able to purchase Clarence either a truck or a motor scooter to make deliveries. He had a bicycle with a basket on front which was large enough to hold most orders. The majority of his deliveries were within a two mile radius, so bicycle deliveries were manageable. Clarence spent most of his working day making deliveries which prevented him from spending much time in the store. He would probably would have endured more pranks had he been in the store more often.

Bobbie Fike was working as a maid in our home during this period, and her service was invaluable to us since Mom spent most of her days in the store. Sister Bobbie not only kept the house spotless, but her noon lunches were so delicious my sister Marilyn and I still reminisce about them when we’re together. Mom had known Sister Bobbie for several years before she and Pops married because Sister Bobbie had done domestic work for her back in the early 1940’s. Both Uncle Ed and Uncle Paul had known her since those days, and she also became the object of a few of their practical jokes.

Mom’s personal grocery shopping became much easier while managing the store because she could call Sister Bobbie for the things needed at home, and have Clarence deliver them to her on his bicycle. Our home was about a mile away and usually there was another order close-by which would make his deliveries more efficient. By the time Clarence had made four of five deliveries to our home, he commented to Uncle Paul that Sister Bobbie was not very friendly to him. Uncle Paul teasingly said to him, “You had better be careful how you treat Bobbie Fike. She is one of the meanest women I have ever known.” Clarence responded, “She don’t look all that mean to me, and I ain’t gona’ try to make her mad anyhow.” Uncle Paul said, “If you don’t believe me, ask Mr. Ed just how mean she is. He has known her a long time and remembers one of her former husbands.” When Clarence got Uncle Ed alone, he asked him about Sister Bobbie and told him what Uncle Paul had said. He picked up on the joke and began laying the ground work for another prank. He told Clarence, “Bobbie Fike has a terrible temper and once when she got into a fight with one of her husbands, she stabbed him with a butcher knife. He was lucky to live, and he got a divorce from her the next week.” He expanded on the story, “Another time, a delivery man knocked on the back door and when she didn’t hear, he knocked so hard on the door, it made the door rattle. She came to the door with a pan of boiling water and threw it in his face through the screen door telling him he shouldn’t make so much racket. It caused all the skin to peel off his face and he was in the hospital for two weeks before he could even eat.” Clarence said, “You and Mr. Paul are telling a big story on that woman, and I don’t think she could be that mean.” But the seeds of doubt had been planted.

About a week later Sister Bobbie called Mom and told her she needed a large number of groceries and in particular some items she needed that morning to prepare lunch. Mom gathered the two sacks of groceries and asked Clarence to deliver them to the house. Uncle Paul overheard and decided to spring the trap on Clarence. Mom didn’t know anything about the tale her two brothers had told him. Uncle Paul then called Sister Bobbie and said they wanted to pull a joke on Clarence. He told her, “When Clarence knocks on the back door, wait an extra minute or two to make him knock louder and longer than usual. Get a small pan of cool water, and when you go to the door throw it through the screen door and tell him he is making too much racket.” In about thirty minutes when Clarence arrived he found Sister Bobbie was not in the kitchen as usual so he began knocking louder and at the same time calling out her name. When she finally arrived he noticed the small pan in her hand and he began backing up remembering what Mr. Ed had told him. When Sister Bobbie shouted he shouldn’t make so much noise and threw the cold water through the screen he was so far back from the door very little water got to him. Both sacks of groceries were thrown in the air and he made a scramble to get to his bike and away to safety. Sister Bobbie called Mom and told her Clarence had dropped both sacks on the back steps and had made a big mess! The only real loss was the quart of milk which was in a glass bottle. When Clarence got back to the store he told Mr. Paul and Mr. Ed she really was the meanest woman he ever met. As the two jokers laughed about the incident they told Clarence they had put her up to it and she was not really a mean woman. In fact they said Sister Bobbie was such a good cook she might make him a good wife. Clarence dismissed the idea completely by saying, “she is way too old for me.”

During the next year or so while the Quality Grocery was owned by our family Clarence continued delivering groceries in the neighborhood and also to our home. He knew he had been the object of a prank and understood Sister Bobbie didn’t intend to hurt him. Whenever he delivered to our house he would set the groceries on the back steps, knock on the door and quickly get on his bike. By the time Sister Bobbie arrived at the door he was half way up the driveway.

Dr. John

Meeting Roy Rogers

Roy Rogers and Trigger

The Day I Met Roy Rogers

Every young man whom I knew as a pre-teen had a western hero. Prior to television the prime source of entertainment in El Dorado on weekends was attending movies at either the Rialto or the Majestic theaters. Both these theaters in the 1950’s were segregated and the only integrated movie theater was the Ritz. We didn’t call them “theaters” in those days; instead they were known as “picture shows.” The Rialto was a more sophisticated picture show and didn’t feature the western (cowboy) movies we loved. The cowboy movies were shown at either the Majestic or the Ritz, so those picture shows were our favorites. There were a large number of wild-west stars such as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tom Mix, Johnny Mack Brown, Joel McCrea, The Durango Kid, Lash La Rue, The Lone Ranger, Sunset Carson, and the favorite of many, John Wayne. I loved all of them, but my favorite by far was Roy Rogers. This became especially true after I got to meet him.

I was fortunate to have an aunt in St. Louis who took great interest in things which were important to me. Aunt Tooky (Thelma) was an older sister of Mom, and she and Uncle Max, who had been married for many years had no children. Their marriage relationship was always strange to me, because Aunt Tooky lived alone in a very exclusive and beautiful apartment and only saw Uncle Max on occasion. Mom told me they had been separated for many years but were not divorced. At the time Aunt Tooky was the wealthiest person I had ever met, and all I knew was she had “millions.”

My parents received a phone call from Aunt Tooky in the summer of 1949, and she said she had just read Roy Rogers was bringing his rodeo to town. She suggested they take a few days vacation and bring me to the rodeo so I could see him in person. Pop said he needed a few days off and would enjoy going to St. Louis. He bargained with Mom so she and Aunt Tooky would be responsible for taking me to the rodeo without him.

The decision was made to take the all-night train ride to St. Louis which left El Dorado about eight PM and arrived in St. Louis the next morning. The excitement of spending the night on the train was huge and only added to the enormous thrill of getting to see Roy Rogers. I packed my finest cowboy outfit for the event, and we boarded the train.

The trip was uneventful except for the fact I could hardly sleep thinking what lay ahead. The noise and the swaying of the train were a little disturbing at first. When I saw neither Pop nor Mom were concerned I decided this was a small price to pay for what I would be able to tell my buddies on returning home

Aunt Tooky met us at the train station, and she immediately saw my excitement. I had donned my cowboy suit and wanted Roy to know I was “one of the boys” just in case I accidentally ran into him. The rodeo was scheduled for the afternoon of our arrival so the wait was not so long, although it seemed lunch would never end. Mom, Aunt Tooky and I headed for the downtown arena about an hour and a half before the scheduled rodeo time  so we could park and find our seats. Aunt Tooky had reserved our seats, and I have no idea how much they cost. They seemed to be some of the finest seats in the arena. At the appointed hour the arena lights dimmed and the giant spotlight focused on one end of the arena while the announcer shouted; “Now heeer’s Roy Rogers!” As the crowd roared I could barely catch my breath when I saw Roy riding Trigger into the center  of the arena waving his hat to the adoring crowd. Aunt Tooky said I never took my eyes off him for the entire first part of the show, and she had never seen me so focused. Intermission came far too soon for me, but Aunt Tooky asked, “Would you like to go with me and see if we can meet Roy?” “Yes Ma’m!!” I quickly said. The question was like asking a starving man if he would like to have a gourmet feast!

Mom decided to remain in our seats, so Aunt Tooky and I made our way down a number of long corridors which seemed to lead toward the basement area. The number of people we encountered became smaller and smaller until it seemed we were the only ones present in the corridor. Suddenly a guard appeared and said we were not allowed in this part of the arena. Aunt Tooky told him her nephew had come all the way from Arkansas to see Roy Rogers, and wondered if he could arrange the meeting. As she spoke I saw her reach into her purse to get a one hundred dollar bill and slip it into the guard’s hand. In our present economy this would amount to approximately seven hundred dollars. As he placed the bill into his pocket he said, “Stay right here, and I’ll see what I can do.” In less than two minutes I could hardly believe my eyes. There was Roy Rogers riding Trigger down the corridor and approaching us! He said, “Son, I hear you have come all the way from Arkansas to see Trigger and me.” From this point on I don’t remember one thing I said. I think I just listened. With my mouth wide open from sheer disbelief he asked, “Would you like to climb up on Trigger?” as he extended his hand and pulled me into the saddle behind him. I wanted to just touch those beautiful pistols in his holster but dared not. He said a few more things to both Aunt Tooky and me, and then said he needed to get back so the second half of the show could begin. He helped me dismount Trigger. As we walked back to our seats for the remainder of the show I was trying to think just how I was going to tell this unbelievable story to all my friends. I wanted them to know I now had a new pal in Roy Rogers. They would just have to dream about what I had gotten to experience first hand in St. Louis. There would be some who wouldn’t believe my account. If only I had a photograph of me sitting behind Roy Rogers on Trigger.

Roy Rogers died in 1998 at the age of eighty-seven having lived a life providing clean, wholesome entertainment for millions of young people over many decades. I always regretted as an adult I never wrote Roy a thank you letter for the act of kindness and love he showed an adoring nine year old fan. He certainly had nothing to gain from our encounter except the sheer joy of seeing on my face how much I loved him. I feel certain the guard never told him about the one hundred dollar bill he received from Aunt Tooky.

Dr. John

The Consultation With A Specialist

Dr. Larkin Wilson was one of the best internists I had the privilege of knowing. Along with a number of other excellent primary care and specialty physicians we served the medical needs of the people of El Dorado, Arkansas and surrounding area for the 29 years I practiced general surgery there. The other physicians in my family who served the people there beginning in 1898 until my brother retired in 2001, included my grandfather, Dr. John Aaron Moore; my Pop, Dr. Berry L. Moore, Sr; and my Bubba, Dr. Berry L. Moore, Jr.

I met Dr. Wilson initially when I was a second year surgical resident at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. I had the misfortune of developing serum hepatitis probably from a needle or scalpel puncture wound. As a busy surgical resident it was not uncommon to be either the surgeon or assistant in as many as five to ten surgical procedures per day. Even a physician is hard pressed to diagnose himself with hepatitis because of the initial slow progression of the illness. I began feeling tired to the point of exhaustion and attributed those symptoms to my difficult work schedule. I developed a low-grade temperature after a few days and assumed I had the flu. When I finally agreed to “have a check-up” at Cathy’s insistence, the doctor in Lake Charles, Louisiana asked me how long I had been jaundiced. Cathy and I were on a 3 month rotation to the Charity Hospital in Lake Charles. When I carefully looked into my eyes in the mirror I finally noticed I was deeply jaundiced, so the doctor admitted me to the hospital.

The disease became progressively worse, and there was some concern I would survive because my liver function tests were getting steadily worse. Cathy and I had only been married eleven months, and she was very frightened by the doctor’s reports. When my Mom heard the news she insisted I be transferred by ambulance to El Dorado so Bubba could care for me. At that point I was too sick to object to such a plan. Cathy agreed with Mom to get me back to familiar surroundings, so the transfer back home was made. Bubba called in Dr. Larkin Wilson as a consultant, and he and Larkin agreed it was best for Larkin to assume my care in case I went into complete liver failure.

Larkin was very business-like in his care of me, and there was not much frivolous conversation. After a few days I began improving to the point I was beginning to worry about the cost of my hospital stay. Cathy and I were living on poverty-level wages, and we had no medical insurance. One morning I mentioned the fact to Dr. Wilson while he was checking my lab results for the morning. Without looking up he said, ” I’m interested in your health and not your wealth.” I said, “Yes sir, and I appreciate that very much. However, as my wealth sinks deeper into poverty, my health will quickly follow in a downward spiral.” My logic did not move him. Years later after I had been in private practice in El Dorado, I recognized that Larkin was indeed not only an excellent internist, but had a dry sense of humor which was beloved by his family, friends and patients.

After Cathy and I moved to El Dorado and I was well-established in my surgical practice I thoroughly appreciated the daily interactions I had with my medical colleagues . I was especially close friends with several internists, and they were the source of regular patient referrals. By this time I had gotten to know Dr. Wilson much better, and we had regular and occasionally daily conversations about mutual patient concerns.

I was making my rounds at the hospital one morning and while sitting at the nurses station writing my notes on a patient chart, Larkin came out of another patient’s room and agitatedly asked me, “Where is that brother of yours?” I knew he wasn’t in the mood for levity so I answered, “I don’t know. Is there a problem?” Bubba had one of his long-time patients in the hospital with a heart issue which required some additional care, so he had consulted Larkin who had a special interest and expertise in heart problems.

Larkin did not know the lady and was polite in his introduction and familiarization with her particular problem. He did a thorough evaluation which took about thirty minutes, and when completed he told her he would present his findings to her doctor, and Dr. Moore would  make the final decision on the best treatment. As he was about to leave the room she gently held his sleeve and said, “You are not through yet.” He said, “Yes mam, I have finished my exam and will now report to your doctor.” She said again, “But you haven’t finished. When Dr. Berry comes to see me he always prays with me before he leaves.” Larkin smiled at her and said, “I’ll just let Dr. Moore take care of that for you today,” thinking it would satisfy her. She responded to the startled Dr. Wilson, “Well, I’ll tell you this; if you don’t pray with me, I’m not going to pay you!” Larkin told me he was so shocked at her statement he mumbled some brief prayer the content of which he couldn’t remember. The patient must have been pleased with his effort and graciously thanked him.

Larkin said he was certain Bubba had “put the patient up to having him pray for her.” I told him Bubba had done the exact thing to me all the time until I gave up and began praying with every patient. (He actually never put patients up to forcing either Larkin or me to pray with them, but I thought it sounded good at that moment.) Having been a patient myself on several occasions, I know how uplifting and encouraging it is to have one’s doctor pray for your treatment and recovery.

I don’t know whether Larkin used the incident to encourage him to begin ministering to his patients through prayer in their presence, but I do know that he continued serving his patients as an outstanding internist of excellence and integrity. I also know he would acknowledge it was God who had gifted him to serve and allowed him to continue his service for many more years. It certainly was my privilege to have known him and served with him.

Dr. John

PS: Several years after we moved from El Dorado in 1999 Dr. Wilson was in a serious traffic accident in Louisville, Kentucky, and he sustained injuries causing him to be quadriplegic. He lived for another year or so requiring total care, and finally died from other complications. The community mourned the loss of this beloved practitioner. A portion of the Medical Center of South Arkansas is named The Larkin Wilson Center.