Category Archives: Life Lessons

ENCOURAGEMENT BASKETS

I have been blessed with a request from Tom to put my computer in hand and place another writing on his blog site (aTimeinLife.wordpress.com). I thought about it and came up, with the Lord’s help, this totally true and believable story that took place years ago and still is a number 1 project in my life.

On August 5th, 2004, 17 years ago, almost to the day, my best friend was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. A group of us were upset by this news and began searching for ways to pull together to see where she needed help the most. One day as I was thinking about her plight, I was praying for an idea to present to her that she would enjoy and be pleased with and that would take her mind off the shocking diagnosis. I asked the Lord for a unique and different idea to present to her during this difficult time of her life.

During these days, those closest to her, supplied our friend with time, food, laughter, rides, etc. As I was sharing this information with my cousin one day, she brought a project to my attention. She and a friend of hers had started doing Encouragement Baskets for those individuals who were trying to wrap their minds around news they had received from their medical professional about an illness, a family member, or they, themselves, were facing. During this time my cousin and her friend came up with the idea of Encouragement Baskets to distribute to those people being given news of an illness or a disturbing situation.

An Encouragement Basket is described as the following: Items purchased, wrapped, a Bible verse pertaining to the item written and taped to the outside of the item. Each wrapped present, regardless of price, will represent the Bible verse written on its outside.

As I was getting my first basket, for my friend, ready, I wrote a poem to attach to the top of the basket of presents that explains the idea behind the wrapped items:

An “Encouragement Basket” for you today,

Just a few words to help, along the way.

You have 2 choices from which to choose,

Whichever you take, you can’t possibly lose.

Number 1, you can open all these at one time.

Number 2, wait until you’re down and need an

Uphill climb!

It’s up to you, as to what you do

Just remember they will cheer, when you are blue!

They are from the heart and some from my hand,

I’m letting you know you’re the best in the land.

There’s love and respect concealed in this array,

Hoping they bring encouragement to you each day!!

In short, the person who has received the basket can open every gift included at one time or one a day, or one when they are feeling down and need a lift. It’s their choice.

An Encouragement Basket could contain 25 – 30 presents to be opened for one month. WOW, you say, 30 presents?? But, here’s the good fact about the present: The Price!! Here are some examples:

1. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew thy praise. (Psalm 51:15 KJV)

Wrapped package: Lip Gloss

2. For thou will light my candle: the Lord my God will enlightened my darkness. (Psalm 18:28 KJV)

Wrapped package: A candle or flashlight

3. But, his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:26 KJV)

Wrapped package: A salt shaker

4. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25 KJV)

Wrapped package: A wooden or porcelain cross

Each present for each verse is left up to the researcher’s imagination.

Each gift is not purchased with an extra high price tag, but, one that is easy on the purchaser’s pocket book! I have made the $1.00 stores the place I shop the most. I have started to stockpile lots of gifts to be able to wrap and place a Bible verse on if I am in a hurry to get a basket done!

After all scriptures are placed on the correct, individual gift package, all gifts are placed in a basket to be delivered to the recipient. If there are too many gifts for one basket, place the balance of the gifts in a second basket!

You will be surprised how these baskets have such an effect on people who are depressed, have been diagnosed with a disease, or had a family member being diagnosed. The uplifting feeling from opening these presents brings a new atmosphere to the lives of the friend or loved one.

The awareness as the basket maker is wonderful as you are putting this basket together, but, 10 times better as you watch your friend become overwhelmed by the love placed into the piece of work done for them.

If you know someone who has just been given some altering news, get busy and begin the structure of An Encouragement Basket. You will not regret one ounce of the time spent putting it together!

Just ask my friend, 17 years later, how she felt when she received hers. She has not forgotten the basket or the items included. I thank the Lord she helped me with the last one we just did!!!

Good Luck on your project!!!!!

Author – Nancy Steele Frazier – 2021

++++++++++

Nancy, I thank you for sharing your thoughts about one of your many ministries, ENCOURAGEMENT BASKETS, on my blog. More importantly, I thank you for providing the heartfelt inspiration and encouragement to help others in such a nice way. You are truly a blessing unto others!

I hope Nancy has inspired each of you to want to help those you know who are in need or facing difficult moments in life. You can be a blessing to them by giving someone in need an Encouragement Basket or something similar! 

Tom Tatum – Author – 2021

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BLESSINGS OBSCURED BY CLUTTER

BLESSINGS OBSCURED BY CLUTTER

As we live our lives, many of us tend to collect clutter along the way, and that’s not a good thing. Clutter can affect us both physically and mentally. Physically, piles of clutter make it difficult to find items because we forget where we put them in the piles. Mentally, the presence of clutter can obscure blessings that could bring us joy if we knew where to look in the piles. How do I know this? Sadly, I’m the world’s master champion of clutter creation. Allow me to share two personal examples of blessings obscured by clutter.

The first example is when I had an emotional moment a few years ago (June 16, 2018) while attempting to declutter my garage, which led me to write a God-wink story for my website (aTmeinLife.wordpress.com) titled, “DAD’S MESSAGE TO ME 38 YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH.” That moment presented me with a heartwarming blessing I now proudly display in my office—it’s always in full view and makes me smile as I start each day.

The second example came when I was once again trying to declutter the “stuff” in my garage—trust me, there’s a lot of “stuff” that has accumulated over many years, including the last three since example one above. Well, I had my second emotional moment on July 19, 2021 for which I am very grateful. I must also confess that I was so moved finding this second blessing obscured by clutter that moisture started rolling down the cheeks of this ole man—something I seem to be doing more often the older I am fortunate to become. Maybe you have experienced similar moments in your life.

In the process of going through more file boxes that belonged to my parents, I found interesting things like certificates of marriage, graduations programs, bible school attendance certificates, my 1st and 2nd grade (never-to-be-revealed) report cards, etc.

Then, my eyes focused on an innocent looking 3” x 5” envelope postmarked Mar 19, 1958 (two days before my 9th birthday). The addressee was my father in room 310 of St. Francis Hospital with my name as the return address located at 850 Berry Street. It’s interesting that a first class stamp cost 3 cents in 1958.

Envelope

I opened the envelope and found an unevenly folded piece of notebook paper. As I started reading the words written on the page, “Dear Daddy…,” memories of the situation began to materialize in my mind. I continued reading and images of a difficult time in my life triggered tender emotions that touched the strings of my heart—my eyes began to leak expressions of pure love. The moisture wasn’t flowing because of the words I had written. It was realizing that Dad loved me enough to save my letter and then have me find it 63 years later—41 years after his death. Like example one above, that’s not a coincidence—that’s another God-wink moment in my life I was blessed to have. To say I’m grateful is an understatement!

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++++++++++

The point of this story is simple—do not allow the clutter in your life to obscure blessings that might be right under your nose. Start decluttering today and you may also find blessings that fill your heart with joy and cause a little bit of moisture to flow from your eyes!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2021

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

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PACK TEACHES TWO BOYS LIFE LESSONS

The following short story is #30 in a year-long weekly writing effort where I have shared life events befitting the title of my blog site (www.aTimeinLife.wordpress.com). Each story attempts to touch the hearts of readers by sharing moments of joy, bits of sadness, inspiration, encouragement, and some life-lessons learned. The story below is my response to the following question asked by the “StoryWorth” project:

#30 – “Did you ever lie or withhold information when answering your parent’s questions?”

And now, without further ado, here’s the short story.

+ PACK TEACHES TWO BOYS LIFE LESSONS +

Billy was nine years old and his uncle, Alex, was twelve. They were like brothers and spent a lot of time together. The fact they lived about one mile from each other made getting together easy. It was just a four-minute bike ride on a straight highway between their houses.

When it came to intellectual capabilities, Alex was the shining star, but Billy wasn’t too far behind. Their creative minds could invent things the average child would never imagine. Most of the time their combined-creative talents had them doing good things—fun things, but there were also times when their scheming ways didn’t turn out too well. One such time involved a trip into the jungles along the Amazon River.

It all started on a hot summer day back in 1958 when this creative duo made a simple bike ride together from Alex’s house to Billy’s house. Along the way, Alex noticed something on the side of the road. To his surprise, it was a pack of cigarettes with the top already opened. There were twenty little tobacco stalks staring back at him. Alex’s eyes widen with the excitement of a twelve-year-old boy who had just found a sack of gold.

“Look at this, Billy. There are twenty cigarettes in this pack,” said Alex with a big grin stretching from ear to ear.

“Wow!” replied Billy. “My daddy smokes that kind. We can give them to him.”

“Are you crazy?” replied Alex. “We can do something better than that—I have an idea.”

“Whatcha talking about Alex?”

“You’ll see. Follow me!”

Off they went with Billy following Alex to where he did not know. They stopped in a wooded area one block behind Billy’s house.

“What are we gonna do here?” asked Billy.

“We are going to pretend we crash landed our jet fighter in the Amazon jungle. Let’s go to the pond back there in the woods. Come on, follow me!”

Still a bit uncertain, Billy let his bike fall to the ground and followed Alex further into the woods. When they arrived at the pond, Alex said, “Now we gonna play like we are jet pilots and our plane just crashed right over there,” as he pointed to a big oak tree at the water’s edge.

“Why are we gonna do that?” Billy asked.

“Cause we’re stranded and the only thing we have with us is this pack of cigarettes. We must evade the enemy, crocodiles, and snakes that are all around us. You know—we gotta try to survive until help comes to pick us up.”

With a puzzled look on his face, Billy replied, “Why we gonna do that? There ain’t any crocks or snakes around here, and there sure ain’t no enemy guys trying to catch us.”

 “Billy, we gotta pretend! It’s a game and we gonna smoke these cigarettes too.”

“Alex, you know my daddy told me to never smoke cigarettes. He said he better not ever catch me smoking those things. He said they’d stunt my growth and I want to be tall like him.”

“He smokes ‘em Billy and hasn’t stunted his growth—he’s over six-feet tall. He’s just telling ya that so he can smoke ‘em all. It’s okay for us to do it too. Besides, he won’t know we smoked ‘em anyway. Come on—don’t be such a big scaredy-cat. It’ll be fun!”

“I ain’t no scaredy-cat!” barked Billy.

“Dang it, Billy! We don’t have any matches,” bemoaned Alex. “Billy, you gotta go to your house and get some matches.”

“You go get ‘em from your house, Alex.”

“Your house is closer, Billy. Go get ‘em and be quick about it. Oh yeah, and don’t go gettin’ caught either!”

Billy ran through the “jungle” to his bike and headed toward his house. He wasn’t too sure about the plan Alex had come up with, but he didn’t want Alex to get mad at him either. He went into his house and found his mother in the kitchen. This posed a bit of a problem and his creative mind started swirling.

“What are you doing here, Billy? I thought you were with Alex.”

“I am. He’s… um… he’s up the street waiting for me. I had to go to the bathroom.”

Billy didn’t know what to do at this point. How was he going to get matches out of the house without his mother noticing what he was doing? Quite the quandary for a nine-year-old kid, especially when he knew what he was about to do was wrong.

He went to the bathroom and peeked around the door to make sure his mother was still in the kitchen. Seeing that she was, he tiptoed down the hallway to his parent’s bedroom. Surely, there are some matches in the bedroom somewhere. He began searching quietly and found some matches in the third drawer he opened. He quickly put them in his pocket so his mother wouldn’t see them.

As he started walking toward the door, his mama walked into the bedroom. “What are you doing in my bedroom, Billy?”

“Um… um… I thought I saw a mouse run in here,” Billy replied in a panicky tone.

“A mouse!” yelled his mother as she jumped onto her bed. “Where? You have to find it! You know I’m scared to death of those things! Find it, Billy! Get it out of here!”

Billy pretended he was looking for the critter under the bed and in the closet while his mother stood on the bed. “Get that critter out of the house!” she pleaded.

“I think he gotta way, Mama. You probably scared him away with all the noise you made. I think it’s safe for you to get off the bed now.”

“Are you sure it’s safe?”

“Yes, Ma’am. I gotta go now. See ya later, Mama.”

Billy ran out the back door in a flash. He knew he had just dodged a bullet and was right proud of himself for thinking up the mouse tale so quickly. He was also glad he didn’t have to clean up a nasty mess in his underwear.

When he got back to the pond, Alex asked what took him so long.

“I almost got caught by Mama, and had to look for a mouse.”

“Mouse? Whatcha talking ‘bout, Billy?”

“You don’t wanna know. Here are the matches.”

“Good! Take one out of the pack. It’s time to light these bad boys up!”

Billy did as Alex told him. He put a cigarette in his mouth and lit a match. One big inhale and Billy started coughing his head off.

As Billy continued hacking and coughing, Alex laughed and said, “What’s the matter big boy? You aren’t supposed to inhale the smoke—just puff it like this,” as a trail of smoke came from Alex’s mouth. “See, it’s easy.”

Billy puffed again and immediately started hacking, but now he had tears flowing down his cheeks. He continued puffing until he got the hang of it. It wasn’t long before he was puffing and flicking the ashes off like a seasoned smoker.

“This is pretty cool, Alex. Can you blow smoke rings like my daddy?”

“You mean like this?” as Alex blew a perfect circle of smoke out of his mouth.

“Stick ya finger in the circle, Billy.”

As instructed, Billy put his finger through the little circle and said, “That’s so cool. I don’t know how to do that, but my daddy can.”

Billy and Alex continued playing in the woods and evading the enemy until all the cigarettes were gone—all twenty of them. Having successfully evaded the dangers lurking in the Amazon jungle, they decided it was time to go home. They’d had enough fun for the day. Alex went home to his house. Billy went to his and started playing with his bow and arrow in the garage until he heard his mama shout that super was ready.

Billy sat quietly at the table eating with his mother, father, and little sister. After a few minutes, Dad asked, “What did you do today, Billy?”

Billy paused in thought and replied, “Not much—Alex came to the house and we rode our bikes through the neighborhood.”

Shortly after Billy finished his answer, the telephone rang. His Dad answered the phone, “Hello,” and then stood there quietly looking straight toward Billy. After a few moments of silence, he said, “I see. Thank you for letting me know about it. I hope he’s okay”

When he came back to the table, he looked directly at Billy, and asked, “Billy, do you have anything else you need to tell me about what you and Alex did this afternoon?”

Not being astute enough to realize his father was giving him a chance to come clean, Billy responded without looking up from his plate, “No, Sir. We just rode our bikes and messed around some—nothing special.”

“Is that your final answer, son?”

“Yes, sir!”

What did y’all do on the empty lot on Dantzler Street?”

“Oh, we pretended we crashed our plane in the jungle and had to hide from the enemy.”

“What about the pack you and Alex found on the side of St. Matthews Road?”

“What pack, Dad? I mean…”

“That was Granddaddy talking to me on the phone just now. He said y’all found a pack of cigarettes on the side of the road. Is that true?”

“Oh, you mean that pack. Yeah, we saw it when we were riding our bikes to my house.”

“Do you have something else you need to tell me about that pack of cigarettes? Before you answer my question, I’ll tell you that Alex is in the bed—he’s sick—he thinks he’s been poisoned.”

“Why does Alex think he’s been poisoned, Dad?”

“Billy, it was something in the cigarettes. Are you feeling sick also? Do you have something else you want to tell me about what you did this afternoon?”

“I feel fine, Dad. I’m not sick. I’d tell you if I was sick.”

Okay, Billy. I’ve given you several chances to tell me everything about your afternoon and you keep withholding information from me.”

“But Dad, I…”

“I don’t want to hear it now, Billy. You had your chances to tell me everything. Now, I’m going to tell you what Alex told his dad. He said the two of you found an opened pack of cigarettes on the roadside and you took matches from this house. Y’all went to the lot on Dantzler St. and both of you smoked the entire pack of cigarettes. Y’all left the lot after smoking the cigarettes and then went home. Is that what happened?”

“Umm… I think so, but I’m not sick, Dad.”

“Well, Billy, I’m glad you’re not sick. Y’all did a very dumb thing today and both of you could have been poisoned to death. You should never smoke cigarettes in the first place, but you should never smoke cigarettes you find on the roadside. You don’t know what someone may have done to them. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Yes, sir…”

“I want you to know that I’m very disappointed in you. First of all, for withholding information when answering my questions, and secondly, for smoking the cigarettes when you knew it was wrong. Now, finish eating and then go to your room. Think about what you did today and I’ll come in to see you shortly.”

**********************

Okay, that’s enough about a boy failing to tell the truth and trying to withhold information from his parents or anyone else for that matter. I’ll let you use your imagination regarding the punishment Alex and Billy received in this particular instance. I’m sure you have a good idea about what happened to both boys.

  • Be honest with yourself—have you ever or would you lie or withhold information from your parents or anyone else?
  • How would you handle a similar situation if your child did something like Alex and Billy did?

++++ LESSON LEARNED ++++

The moral of this story is simple. Always tell the truth and never withhold information from those you love when you do something you shouldn’t have done. You must face the consequences of your actions. Man up or woman up, whichever the case may be for you.

Oh, there’s one final adjustment you should make to this story—change the names from Alex to Charles, Billy to Tommy, and understand the dad in the story was my father—then you have a true story from my youth about a life-lesson I learned the hard way.

The good that resulted from this deception attempt was I never withheld information or tried to deceive my dad again. Having him tell me he was disappointed with me was more than enough for me to change my ways. 

Many blessings to you as you continue your journey through life and possibly have children of your own. I wish you nothing but the best in all you do, but don’t forget about the consequences of your actions. They can have dramatic impacts on your future.

++++++++++ END OF STORY ++++++++++

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LIFE’S TWILIGHT PRAYER

LIFE’S TWILIGHT PRAYER

Lord, the twilight of my life is approaching and I have many questions. Have I done all the things You intended for me to do? Have I done any of them? Are there things yet for me to accomplish—things that are known only to you? Do I have talents that I have not yet discovered or developed? Do I even have the wisdom to understand Your answers to my prayers?

Since there is no “checklist” for me to follow, how am I to know these things? Am I even supposed to know them, or is it left for others to proclaim the merits of my existence after I am gone? Will they say I served You well or will they mourn because of the things I failed to do for You?

Lord, You have blessed me with good health, a comfortable live, and with family and friends I hold dear. For these things, I am truly grateful and give You thanks. Lord, I ask that You help me understand what You would have me do. That You give me the strength to do so, and help me be the person You want me to be in the days ahead. These things I ask of You that I may serve You completely.

I know I must be patient as I await Your answers to my questions that will come in Your perfect timing. May Your will be done.

Amen

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YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT IN LIFE

“What do you consider one of your greatest achievements in life?”

As you reflect on your achievements in life and try to define one of your greatest, you must realize that achievements fall into one of two categories—earthly and spiritual. You must also understand that there is a relationship between the achievements in these two categories—one isn’t necessarily independent of the other. In fact, spiritual achievements often contribute directly to earthly achievements and enable us to reach success levels greater than had we performed them without any spiritual assistance. To deny that this relationship exists means you are willing to fall short of the maximum level of success possible for some of your greatest achievements on your journey through life.   

One of my greatest earthly achievements spans an era in life between ages fifteen to seventy. I have no doubts that my spiritual achievements helped make this “earthly” achievement much greater than otherwise possible.

The following short story explains the achievement.

++++++THE GIRL++++++

I attended an American Legion baseball game with some friends one night when I was fifteen-years old. My best friend, Billie, already had his driver’s license and owned a car. We piled into his car and he took us to the game.

We sat in the upper rows of the stands having a good time. I played baseball and loved the game, but the others I was with didn’t. Naturally, I was the only one actually trying to watch the game.

It was not long before a small group of young girls came in and sat a few rows in front of us. I hadn’t paid much attention to them because the game had already started. Billie was the lady’s man of our group and noticed the girls right away. I was too focused on the game and minding my own business, as usual.

I could hear my friends talking about the girls sitting in front of us, but I was trying to ignore what they were saying. I looked down a few times and saw the girls chattering also. They definitely had no idea what was happening on the baseball field. I wondered why in the world they even came to the game if they weren’t going to watch the action. I wondered the same thing about my friends.

I continued watching the game, but would glance down at the girls every now and then. I noticed one of them in particular. Then my eyes quickly went back to the game. The game was the reason I came along with my friends anyway. Unfortunately, I had no idea they would be on the prowl for babes at a baseball game.

One of the girls then turned and stared in our direction—the same girl I had noticed earlier. She was not looking at any of us, but at someone sitting behind us. When she turned, I looked directly into her eyes and saw how beautiful she was. She was very animated as she stood up looking and motioning to someone behind us. I could see she was very tall, trim, and without a doubt, very attractive.

I soon began to shift my eyes from the baseball field and looked at the girl more often. At that point I thought, “Heck with baseball, there’s an attractive girl in the stands sitting just eight feet from me.” I had no idea who she was or how old she was. I asked my friends if they knew her, but they didn’t.

I was too chicken to go talk to her. There were too many other girls around her and I was still too shy to make a move. Besides that, she was looking at the dudes behind us and didn’t know we even existed. The game ended and we left the stadium—without the girls.

Someone should have slapped me on the head for not trying to talk to her. I let the most beautiful girl I had ever seen get away without even meeting her. Smart and bold were certainly not things you could call me back in those days. I should have changed that shy-character trait much sooner in my life. I know I could have had a lot more fun while growing up had I done so.

Oh, I am sorry to ramble on. I know you’re not interested in the girl. I bet you just want to know who won the game and what the score was. Guess what—I don’t have a clue! I completely stopped watching the game in about the seventh inning when I focused my attention on the most beautiful girl in the world. Unfortunately, I let her get away without getting her name.

The bottom line of this tale is that my shyness and quiet nature were my own worst enemies. I really needed to work on them to improve my social skills. I had much goodness in my heart to offer others, but it was not evident. Being shy and quite is not always a bad thing, but there needs to be a good balance between also being outgoing and talkative. A blend of each is a perfect combination to have.

I finally began to make the necessary changes. That particular girl experience or lack thereof, was probably the catalyst that finally made me come to the realization that change was necessary. It was time for me to go forth into the world and mingle—make many friends and not limit myself to just a few. People were not going to bite my head off if I joined in, and I certainly had plenty of heart to give. I knew I could do it, but I had to try much harder.

Thank goodness, it didn’t take long for me to learn that making these adjustments would change my life for the better, and I am happy I did. Why, you ask—because “The Girl” I saw at that baseball game when I was fifteen-years old became my wife five years later. I was twenty and she was eighteen—just two kids in love with no idea of what the future would bring or where our journey through life would take us.

God had plans for us before we knew

Wedding Day 1969

The one thing both of us had in common was our greatest spiritual achievement—at a young age, we had accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and had faith He would always be with us as we journeyed through life. I am pleased to say He has done that for many years. You see, we will be celebrating our fiftieth (50th) wedding anniversary in September 2019.

Like all marriages, life was not always easy for us, but the Lord got us through every obstacle we faced. We experienced good times, bad times, trials, tribulations, misfortunes, successes, and much happiness. However, through all those years, it was our faith and belief in God that sustained and strengthened us.

The Lord blessed us with two beautiful children and five grandchildren. My prayer for each of them is that they learn to have faith, trust, and believe in Jesus just as we do. I pray that they too have spiritual achievements that enhance their earthly achievements as they journey through life.

I am truly thankful for the many blessings I have received and know that “With God, All Things Are Possible.” I even wrote a novel about God’s grace that He gives to each of us. All anyone has to do is be willing to accept His blessing

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HUMILITY FROM THE BENCH

When I was growing up, I was a very shy, quiet boy who didn’t like being in the spotlight. I guess some things just don’t seem to change with time because I’m still pretty much the same to this day.

However, when I was nine-years old (about a thousand years ago), I was brave enough to start playing organized baseball in the Orangeburg city league. The team consisted of players ranging in age from nine to twelve. I felt blessed to have athletic skills that allowed me to compete on an equal footing with the older players.

Although many coaches and fellow players often told me I was a very good baseball player, I didn’t make the all-star team that year. Our coach told me I had played well enough to make the elite team, but he needed to select the older players to be on the team because it was their last year to play in the league. He told me he expected good things from me the next year. (I don’t recall jumping for joy at that moment.)

The pain I felt that day for not making the all-star team was far greater than any pain I had felt to that point in my life. I guess one could say I was devastated, but I continued practicing to get even better for the next season.

I was ten-years old when my second year of baseball started and my dad was an assistant coach for the team. Obviously, I wanted to play well and make him proud of me. The season began and I was having another good year. My hitting and fielding performances were helping the team win games, and I was happy Dad was proud of me.

It was near the middle of the season and I had performed well to that point. I guess I must have started thinking I was the best player on the team, maybe in the world, and we couldn’t win a game unless I was playing. You would probably be right saying that my self-confidence had started exceeding my abilities. That’s never a good thing, especially for a shy, quiet kid who didn’t like being in the spotlight.

Then, like a bolt of lightning struck me, I had an experience that changed my life to this day. However, I had no idea how significant the moment was at the time it was happening those many years ago. I didn’t even know what life-lesson I was learning at that time, and definitely didn’t know the word used to describe the emotion/virtue I was experiencing.

We had the second game one night and our team started warming up as the first game was nearing completion. I was feeling fine and confident, but for some strange reason I told Dad that I wasn’t feeling well. He told me to sit on the bench for a few innings to see if I started feeling better. That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear him say. I was hoping it would be something more like, “Son, we need you out on the field so we can win the game. You’re our star player!” (There are probably a few more self-accolades I could bestow upon myself, but I don’t want you to experience uncontrollable laughter.)     

We only had ten of our team’s fourteen players at the game that night, so I was the lone player sitting on the bench when our team took the field. Watching my teammates run out onto the field made me feel like my little world was ending. I had never been a bench-warmer before and hadn’t practiced that position—I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.

When the first inning ended, our defense had held the other team scoreless and we had scored two runs. Our team played very well and all my teammates were laughing and having a great time—except poor little me. (I realize how pitiful that sounds, but I was only ten-years old, so give me a break. At least I wasn’t crying because Dad told me a long time ago that big boys don’t cry.)

After several innings were in the scorebook, Dad asked me how I was feeling. I told him I was feeling great and wanted to enter the game. I was shocked when he, in a no nonsense tone, told me to stay on the bench. The game ended with me still sitting on the bench, but our team won—without me! How could that be possible? I was the best player on the team. (Yeah, right! I don’t even believe that, so I know you can’t.)   

To this day, I really don’t know why I pulled this ridiculous stunt because I was not sick at all that night. I guess I just wanted to hear the coaches and teammates begging me to play. I wanted to be the hero who helped my team win the game. I didn’t know whether I was mad at myself or everyone else after that game. I just know I had a horrible feeling inside of me for what I had done, but I didn’t actually know why at that moment.

During the ride home, Dad talked (preached might be a better description) to me about what it meant to be a member of a team and how we should always give our best for the team in all that we do. He told me it was okay to be proud of our personal accomplishments, but we should never place ourselves above others, especially when we’re part of a team—win as a team and lose as a team! His message slowly started penetrating my selfish brain—I was embarrassed more than you can imagine.

In retrospect, I feel certain Dad knew the whole time that there was nothing physically wrong with me. He was too wise and knew me too well to fall for that dumb trick. He just sensed that my head had swollen far beyond my abilities and used the bench-warming experience to teach me an important life-lesson—the importance of HUMILITY in our lives. For that, I am now grateful he did because that life-lesson has served me well for many years! Life is much better when you have both feet firmly planted on the ground of reality.

Now, it’s time to read a few Bible verses to learn what it teaches us about this thing known as HUMILITY.

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Luke 14:11

For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Proverbs 11:2

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.  

********************

It’s now your time in the spotlight. I want you to consider the following points before you go rushing back to your busy day.

1. Pause for a moment and reflect on some life-lessons your parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, and/or teachers taught you when you were growing up?

2. Do you think the approach my Dad used to teach me about humility was good or bad method?

3. How would you handle a similar situation?

4. Are you pleased with your current level of humility? If not, do you plan to change your ways?

Blessings to you as you allow the humility within your heart to be a light in the darkness for those around you. I pray that your HUMILITY spreads to others, for that would make the world a much better place for everyone.

Tom Tatum – Feb 2021

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FIGHT ON CHARLESTON ROAD

My StoryWorth question #8 of 50 was, “Have you ever gotten into a fight?” The short answer to the question is yes. The true short story below shares some “interesting” moments from my early childhood years and the life lesson I learned while living in a small house on Charleston Road.

FIGHT ON CHARLESTON ROAD

When I was four years old, I remember us moving from an apartment building on Ellis Avenue to a small house located outside the city limits on the Charleston Road (Hwy 21). It was a rural location. The house didn’t have any insulation in the floors, walls, or attic, so you could hear the wind howl through cracks in the walls and floor during those cold winter months. I remember being very cold during the winter and brutally hot during the summer months.

There was a big field with peach trees located behind the house with a fence on all sides of the orchard. I climbed over the fence many times to find small bottles buried in the ground. I’d bring them back to my yard and play with them. Why, I don’t really know. I guess it gave me something to do with my time. The bottles were nothing special, but maybe it was because of the colors—blue, brown, green, and clear bottles. I have no clue what they once contained or how old they were. I just remember seeing many of them scattered around. I would place them on top of the fence posts and throw rocks at them. I even managed to hit them often!

In retrospect, this may be a time in life when I started developing my ability to throw objects. This activity would later translate into my incredible accuracy throwing rocks, baseballs, or whatever. I‘ve never thought about it until I started writing this article. Day after day, I would throw rocks and hit the tiny bottles from a great distance. Unfortunately, the distance to a four year old may not have been “great” after all. For the moment, I will assume it was less than ten feet. At any rate, I learned how to hit them with consistency. I could look at a spot and hit it with whatever I threw. I spent many hours perfecting my ability and became very good at it.

Another thing I did constantly was throw rocks up into the air and hit them with a stick—any stick worked for me. I hit rocks for hours at a time. I don’t know how many sticks I destroyed by hitting rocks with them, but if I had a penny for every rock I hit, I would be a wealthy man today. It was a good thing to do when I was playing alone. Again, this probably helped me develop the skills necessary to hit baseballs a few years later by improving my hand-eye coordination. (Refer to my first article in this series, “ONE ROCK TOO MANY.

A boy who was my age or slightly older lived two houses down from me. I only knew him as H.L. and called him by that name. To this day, I do not know what the H.L. stood for. I guess it’s one of those great mysteries in life. We played together often doing the typical things like cowboys and Indians and hide-n-seek.

Trust me, I am not a violent person and have always tried to be fair to people, even to this day. I vividly remember my experience at three years old with Lang, but that’s another fighting story. However, that’s not to say I didn’t have my moments of confrontation with others.

One such instance happened when HL and I were at his house playing something, but I can’t remember what it was. Anyway, we managed to get into a fight about something. Trust me when I tell you, I didn’t start it. My daddy always told me he had better never catch me starting a fight with anyone and I remained true to his words. All I remember is that HL jumped on me and started punching me. He had me down on the ground and then grabbed a piece of steel pipe. As he raised his arm to hit me, I swung my fist with all my might and hit him in his mouth. There were several more blows thrown, which finally knocked him off me, and his lip started bleeding a bunch. He started crying and ran into his house. I was scared to death and ran home. I didn’t know what else to do or what was going to happen next.

Well, Daddy came home from work, and as was typical, asked me what I had been doing that day. Being more honest than George Washington and the cherry tree, I told him about my fight with HL.

His first question was, “who started the fight?” Again, I did not lie and told him that HL started it, but I didn’t know why. Daddy, all 6 feet 4 inches of him, stood tall in front of me, and I feared what my punishment was going to be. To my surprise, he reached out his huge hand, ruffled my hair, and told me he understood that I had to defend myself. He told me he was proud of me for ending the fight and not starting it.

However, he then told me I had to go back to HL’s house and apologize to him. I was now in total disbelief. Why did I have to go apologize to HL for what he had done to me? Daddy told me that even though HL had attacked me, I would be a bigger man if I went to tell him I was sorry for hitting him. He further said that HL was my friend and I would be playing with him in the future. I was glad my punishment was as light as it was. My daddy knew it was going to be hard enough for me to go back to HL’s house, and that was enough punishment.

Well, I guess I slowly meandered down to HL’s house, making sure I took the long route. I didn’t want to arrive at his house too soon and felt it would be better for things to cool down a bit longer. I finally summoned enough courage to knock on their front door. In a few moments, which felt like days, HL’s mother opened the door. I was scared but managed to ask her if I could talk to HL. She asked if I was the boy who had hit HL.

I didn’t know what she was planning to do to me, but my heart was racing a hundred miles an hour. I managed to say, “Yes, ma’am, and I’ve come to apologize to HL. She just smiled and called HL to the door. Boy, oh boy, was I glad she didn’t say anything else to me while we waited for HL.

In what seemed liked hours, HL finally came out on the porch holding a wet rag on his lip. I said, “I, I, I’m sorry for hitting you.”

He replied, “That’s OK,” and that’s about all he said. I guess he forgave me because we continued playing together, but not quite as much after that day. I’m not sure, but I bet his mother was standing where she could hear what we were saying to each other.

Daddy must have known what he was talking about because I did feel better about the whole thing after apologizing, but I still wonder to this day, why HL didn’t apologize to me. I guess that’s another one of life’s little secrets. I was the better man that summer day. I don’t know what would have happened between HL and me if I had not apologized.

Remember the wise words Dad said to me, “Son, don’t you ever start a fight, but don’t you ever walk away from one. When someone else starts one with you—stand your ground—be brave!”

+++++++ YOUR THOUGHTS +++++++

What would you do if someone jumped on you and then tried to hit your head with a piece of pipe?

Would you ever start a fight?

Would you apologize on your own, or wait until one of your parents told you to do so—as I did?

Do you think my dad punished me properly by making me apologize to the boy who tried to hit me? What was the life-lesson learned by this fighting experience?

Tom Tatum – Author

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FISHING WITH DAD

“Did you ever go fishing when you were a child.  What did you enjoy about fishing?” was my Story Worth question #11 of 50 about my past.

The following story is my response to the question. As you read my story, think back to when you were five-years old and try to remember something you enjoyed doing with one or both of your parents. Hope you enjoy the story and your journey back in time.

FISHING WITH DAD

Some of my best moments in life involve going fishing with Dad when I was a young boy. The first time I recall going fishing with him was after my family moved into the house on Berry Street—I was five-years old at the time. My dad and I would go fishing several Saturdays a month during the summer. Mama went with us a few times, but she didn’t continue after my sister, JoAnn, was born.

We didn’t have a boat, so we typically fished from the bank at some of the local farm ponds. Dad knew the farmers because he worked on their tractors during the week and they allowed him to take me fishing in their private ponds.

Those wonderful Saturdays would start by loading the car with some cane poles. Daddy put them through the window on my side of the car and let them stick out toward the rear of the car. I had to climb over the poles to get into my seat. We didn’t have rods and reels, just those bamboo cane poles for fishing with worms.

Then we went to a neighborhood located near the Edisto River. We would pull up in front of a house that had a sign on the front porch advertising ‘Baitz For Sale’ and Dad would holler, “Got any bait today?”

The elderly woman sitting on the porch would usually say, “Yeah! We gots lots of baitz.”

We’d walk up the porch steps and Dad would say, “Give me two cans of Georgia Wigglers.” I don’t really know why people in South Carolina called them Georgia Wigglers, but I do know that when you uncovered them, they wiggled all over the place trying to get away. I guess they didn’t like South Carolina and wanted to get back to Georgia as fast as they could—seemed reasonable when I was a five-year old.

The woman would dig in the dirt contained in a huge bucket and expose millions of worms. She grabbed several handfuls of wigglers and put them into the cans. Then she covered them with some dirt. Dad would pay her, thank her, and we’d be on our way. The excitement from knowing our next stop would be at one of our ole-fishing holes would make my body tingle.

We rode for what felt like hours to get far out into the country, and I would get more excited with each passing minute. Then we’d turn onto a narrow-dirt road and rode deep into the woods. All of a sudden, there would appear a beautiful pond—peaceful, as if beckoning tired souls to relax and enjoy her bounty. You could hear sounds of birds singing and frogs croaking, which fueled my excitement even more.

After unloading our cane poles, we looked for a clear spot along the bank of the pond. Dad would unwind the line from the poles, put a worm on the hook, and toss the tasty-slimy morsel into the water. I liked watching the cork and bait hit the water because they made rippled-circles that expanded outward and would then slowly disappear. When the circles stopped moving outward, I asked Dad where the ripples went. He said something about surface tension of water and friction as he handed me a fishing pole. Then he’d tell me to watch my cork and jerk the pole if the cork went under the surface.

I’d sit patiently watching the bright-yellow cork for a long time waiting for it to move across the water’s surface or go under completely. Sometimes it’d start moving in seconds, and other times, it took many minutes. I learned to be very patient and quiet while I waited. Being quiet for me was easy, but being patient was another story. Regardless of how long it took, I maintained a tight grip on the cane pole and was ready to set the hook if there was any movement of the cork.

You can see many things around the pond while you sit quietly waiting for the fish to bite. There were always turtles swimming about. Some would even try to steal our bait. Unfortunately, they usually swallowed the hook. They fought hard trying to get away, but couldn’t free themselves from the hook. It wasn’t much fun getting the hook out, but Dad managed to set them free after a few minutes.

Cranes would walk in the water along the bank’s edge in search of small fish. It was cool watching them stand perfectly still, and then all of a sudden, their head would pierce the water to catch a fish in its beak. Then they’d flip the fish up in the air and swallow it headfirst. It was fun watching the armless cranes maneuver the fish into the proper position without dropping them back into the water.

We often saw snakes resting on logs or swimming in the water on our fishing trips. I remember one time in particular when a snake was swimming in the water about twenty feet directly in front of us. Dad said it was a ‘cottonmouth’. I wondered why the snake had cotton in its mouth. Dad told me that’s just what folks called them because their mouths were white inside. He said it was a water moccasin and they’re poisonous.

I sat there very quietly with my eyes shifting back and forth between the ‘cottonmouth’ and my bright-yellow cork. The snake placed its head on a small log and lay motionless—except for the tongue moving in and out. It stayed there a long time just watching us as we watched it. I guess it got tired of looking at us because it started swimming across the pond toward the bank on the other side of the pond. I was glad to see it leave because it was giving me the heebie-jeebies. The snake was spooky.

With the snake now far away from us, I was able to refocus my attention on fishing. After a few minutes passed, my cork started moving and I snatched the pole. The fish started pulling away and I raised my fishing pole. Out of the water came a large gold-bellied bream. It must have weighed twenty pounds or at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Dad would decide if it was big enough to keep. If it was, he placed a stringer through the fish’s mouth and tossed it back into the water to keep it alive. If it was too small, he threw it back behind us on the bank. He said the farmer wanted us to throw the small fish away because he wanted the other fish in the pond to grow bigger. It seemed somewhat cruel to me as I watched those fish taking their last breaths before going off to meet their maker. Dad told me it made the other fish in the pond healthier by getting rid of the runts.

We would fish for several hours each trip and each outing with Dad was a great time for me. When the day was done, we packed up the fishing poles and made the long ride back home. Dad would then clean the fish and Mama would fry them. We would have fish and hush puppies for supper, which made for some good eating. I always liked catching and eating those fish. The moments I spent with Dad on those fishing trips were very special to me—so special that I smile every time I think about the times we spent together sitting on the bank of those small farm ponds.

We were very busy on one of our outings to a pond. We had been to this pond before but had always fished from the same spot. The farmer told us to try fishing on the bank on the other side of the pond near the wooded area. We took him up on it and went to the opposite side of the pond. The bank was clear but there were trees and bushes just behind us. We set up and started fishing.

The first cork hit the water and immediately went beneath the surface and out of sight. I set the hook and out came a big bream. The rapid-fire fishing went on for a few minutes and then slowed down a bit. I had to pee, so I hoped the break in action would allow me enough time to take care of important business.

I put my pole down on the ground. Just as I started to walk away, my cork disappeared under the surface again. I ran back to grab the fishing pole and set the hook, but no fish. This happened again several more times. Every time I went to walk away, the cork would go under. I’d set the hook, and nothing.

By now, I had to pee so badly my eyes were floating. I finally just put the pole down and ran to the bushes—ah, relief at last! When I came back, my cork was gone. I set the hook and out came another huge bream. Dad was laughing so hard he almost ‘busted’ his gut. He said those fish knew I had to pee and were just keeping me busy so I’d pee in my pants. Sometimes, the simple things are the ones that leave lasting memories, and bring a smile to your face many years later when you pause to reflect on special moments in life.

I enjoyed the days I spent fishing with Dad because they were some of the best days in my life. We’d sit on the bank of a pond and talk about all kinds of things. Although it was great when the fish were biting, I enjoyed those trips even when we didn’t catch a single fish. It made me feel very special to be out in nature with my dad. We were both at our best when we were together like that.

We went fishing together many times through the following years of my life. Now that I’m an old man, I would love to have an opportunity to take Dad on one more fishing trip, even if the fish were not biting—just sitting on the bank of a calm pond talking to him would warm my heart. Watching him have a good time would be wonderful because he gave me so many good moments in life and taught me so much about how to be a man of good character. Dad died when I was thirty, and I’ve missed him every year since. He was my mentor for all things good when I was five, and sixty-five years later, he’s still my hero.

It also saddens me that my granddad never went fishing with us. I think it would have been a lot of fun sitting on the bank with my dad and granddad—fishing, talking, or just dreaming of things to come. Unfortunately, that opportunity never materialized for me.

I hope that my two daughters and five grandchildren will someday look back on a time in life and remember some good moments that they shared with me. For it is fond memories from our past that helps paint smiles on our faces—no matter one’s age.

+++++ END OF STORY +++++

Tom Tatum – Author – 2020

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GOD GIVEN TALENTS, PURPOSE, AND GOD-WINKS

I wrote the following presentation for a group at my church. Please forgive the format as it was to be presented as an interactive message. Please feel free to share your thoughts about the presentation with me.

INTRODUCTION 

Thank you for inviting me to be with you today. I appreciate having the opportunity to share some thoughts with you.

As I look around the room, I see many smiling faces that obviously have happy hearts because your happiness is infectious—I can feel your joy.

I pray those smiling faces are still beaming when I finish speaking to you today.

BACKGROUND

I’ll take a brief moment to share a bit of my background for those of you who don’t know me.

First of all, I must tell you that I’m not famous. You probably have never heard of me. My name is Tom Tatum. I’m just an average guy who worked hard to support his family as best he could. I have no major accomplishments—no long list of impressive credentials. I have something much more precious —I have God walking beside me as I walk down my path in life. In short, I feel blessed to have Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

My wife, Kathy, and I were born in Orangeburg, SC about two-hundred years ago. We moved to Summerville in 2005 to be closer to our two daughters and five grandchildren. We became members of Bethany UMC that same year. I’m retired with an awesome wife who is still an active Realtor.

Let me to ask you a question—do you believe in miracles?

If you don’t, you had better start because having me standing in front of you speaking at this very moment is nothing short of a minor miracle. You see, I’m an introvert. I generally prefer operating behind the scenes and contributing without being in the spotlight. I typically say very few words when in a large group.

However, when it comes to writing, I’m a completely different person—I enjoy allowing my imagination take me to places I never dreamed possible! I’m very comfortable expressing my thoughts in written form and allowing readers scrutinize my efforts. It is through my writing that I become that different person—almost an extrovert—almost!

Naturally, I’m delighted when readers share positive comments about my writing efforts, but I also appreciate constructive criticism—for it is through constructive criticism that I learn and grow to become better at what I am doing. I guess you could say that writing is just a means for me to be in the spotlight and remain behind the curtains.

THE MESSAGE

Now, let’s get to the real reason why I’m here today…

I am going to touch on several topics that are closely related—each one has an impact on the others:

  • Your God-given talents
  • God’s purpose for your life
  • God-winks—these are the surreal moments in life when you feel God’s presence.

As I share some of my personal life experiences, I want each of you to reflect on the following three topics concerning your personal life.

  1. Do you know what your God-given talents are?
  1. Have you developed those talents to the best of your abilities?
  1. God’s primary purpose for us is to serve Him. He wants each of us to shine His light on others in all that we do. To carry it a step farther, I also believe God has secondary purposes for us—purposes that are ours to discover—to perform as He has planned for us to do.

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES

Some talents are easy to see in others—like people who have musical talent—a beautiful singing voice, ability to play musical instruments, etc. Folks who have such talents and share them with others have found one of their God-given talents and are serving God in ways that bless those who hear their music.

Unfortunately, God didn’t bless me with any musical talents. I think I was standing in the wrong line when He passed them out. As the old cliché goes, “I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.” I have no musical talents to develop, but I sure enjoy hearing those who do.

To be honest, I’m not sure what my God-given talents are or if I have unknowingly developed them to a point that pleases God. However, I promise you one thing—I won’t stop searching for my talent or talents as long as I am still breathing.

LET’S TRAVEL BACK IN TIME TOGETHER

Now, let’s travel back in time together—to a time when we were kids. Think about the first thing you remember wanting to be when you grew up. Was it things such as a clown, firefighter, police officer, pilot, movie star, etc.?

Would anyone like to share the first thing they wanted to be when they grew up? Anyone?

TRASH COLLECTOR

Well, the first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a trash collector. I’m not trying to disparage this or any other profession. In fact, as a five-year-old kid, the men who rode on the back of those big trucks intrigued me. The truck would stop in front of my house, a man then jumped off the back of the truck, walked 200 feet down a hill in our backyard to the 55-gallon trash drums. He’d then roll the heavy drums back up the hill and lift them into the truck. Boy, did those men have huge arms!

I remember wanting my arms to be like theirs—big, strong, and powerful—manly! As you look at my arms, you can see that never happened for me.

FIREFIGHTER

Well, my trash collector dream job vaporized when my father became a firefighter. At that point in my life, I wanted to be a firefighter when I grew up! My visits to the fire station were always fun. The big trucks fascinated me and I enjoyed climbing all over them. If I was a firefighter, I could sleep in the firehouse and slide down the pole when the fire alarm sounded. The thought of doing this seemed so cool!

I happened to be in the station one day when the alarm sounded and the firefighters jumped into their gear and headed to the emergency location. That was a great experience for me, but unfortunately, I was too young to understand that someone was in danger and the firefighters weren’t leaving the fire station to go on a fun ride around town with sirens blaring loudly.

BASEBALL

When I turned nine-years old, I discovered my first long-term desire of what I truly wanted to be when I grew up—a professional baseball player. I was very good at baseball too. When I think of my possible God-given talents, my ability to excel in baseball was likely one of them—maybe—possibly.

My life dream of playing professional baseball continued for nine years. I practiced long and hard during those years to become the best I could be. Unfortunately, my best wasn’t good enough and my dream of playing professional baseball came to an abrupt end. I was devastated!

Maybe playing baseball wasn’t God’s secondary purpose for my life after all. I continued searching for my talents and God’s purpose for my life.

PILOT

My next dream job was to become a pilot in the USAF. I passed all preliminary classwork with flying colors. (pardon the pun). Then it came time for my physical. Health wise, I was in great shape. That is until an Army doctor (bless his heart) said I had an eye disease and couldn’t fly airplanes. Even though my personal ophthalmologist said the Army doctor was wrong, the USAF wouldn’t listen to my pleas to correct the erroneous diagnosis. Hence, another of my dreams to fly fighter jets quickly crashed and burned. The USAF grounded me before I ever had a chance to soar into the wild blue yonder!

ENGINEER

That’s when I decided to focus my efforts on becoming a good engineer. I studied hard, made good grades, and ultimately received my BS degree in Engineering. I became a certified professional engineer. My job required me to work 60+ hours a week, which I did for 25 years. Although I accomplished many good things in engineering and management, the long hours took a toll on me. I simply couldn’t continue working so much with no end in sight. I suffered burnout and had to move on with my life and start doing something different.

Unfortunately, I don’t know if my engineering abilities were a God-given talent or if I was fulfilling His purpose for my life. As I said previously, some of us may never know the answers to the questions about our purpose or talents. I hope I served God well in some way, but I’m not sure.

RESIDENTIAL CONTRACTOR

After leaving my engineering career in 1998, I decided to enhance the capabilities of my wife’s Real Estate company, and joined her as a residential contractor building new homes. I did this until 2005 when we moved to Summerville. I planned to continue building homes in Summerville, but the 2008 dive in the market squelched those plans and I started looking for other types of jobs.

Sadly, all my efforts led to dead ends for one reason or other. I became frustrated—I felt lost— I was a man without purpose in life—believe me, that isn’t a place you ever want to visit.

UNKNOWN FORCE…

It was at this point in life that I sensed an unknown force communicating with me—well, sort of communicating—more like telepathic gestures. Whatever this force was, it went something like this:

“Tom, you are going to write a faith-based novel.”

“What did you say? Who are you? Lord, is that you?”

“Tom, you are going to write a novel and I will be with you to the end.”

“Wait just a minute now—this is creepy! Whoever you are, I think you have the wrong Tom. I’m Tom the engineer! You know, 1 + 1 = 2. I find solutions to problems. I’m a Realtor’s worst nightmare—just ask my Realtor wife and she’ll tell you! I ask too many questions and seek solutions to every problem I encounter. I’m a technical writer—I write engineering content—I don’t write fictional books. Heck, I typically don’t have enough free time to read fictional books!”

Several days passed and the “force” was silent. I went about each day doing nothing constructive except chores around the house—trust me, that wasn’t one of my dream jobs. I also hope doing chores wasn’t one of God’s purposes for creating me.

Then, without warning, the force came to me again and said, “Tom, it’s time for you to start writing—now!”

Well, guess what—I went to my computer and started typing away. I had no idea what the story was going to be, but I kept pounding the keyboard.

I typed into the wee hours of the morning on many occasions. I’d wake up at 4 am sometimes and go to my computer. The strange force I didn’t understand and couldn’t make go away was driving me to continue—quitting was not an option for me—believe me, I tried several times.

THE NOVEL’S STORY LINE…

The result of this mysterious joint effort started creating a storyline that involved a man, Ben, who had been a workaholic in his efforts to climb the corporate ladder. His drive to succeed consumed him leaving little time for his wife and three children.

Now in his fifties, Ben realizes his mistakes and reduces his work hours. Unfortunately, it is too little too late. His children are grown and live far away with his grandchildren. Filled with many regrets, Ben starts searching for his real purpose in life—God’s purpose.

Fortunately, his twelve-year-old neighbor, Andy, may be just what Ben needs to change his life. He treats Andy like a grandson and feels that the Lord has provided him with a second chance to atone for his past.

Ben notices how Andy appears to be mesmerized while watching the Tiger Swallowtail butterflies that come into his backyard. Andy starts telling Ben about messages he receives from the Tigers—messages meant for Ben. Andy’s unusual experiences with the Tigers affect Ben’s relationship with God and the plot thickens.

WRITER’S BLOCK HITS ME

Writing the story was going well at this point. I was actually enjoying following Ben and Andy as their relationship developed. When I reached what was about the halfway point of the story, the condition called writer’s block jumped on me like an 800-pound gorilla. My thoughts on the story became fuzzy and I had no idea why the unknown force stopped helping me write the story. I didn’t know how to continue the plot on my own. I needed the force to lead the way forward—to help me complete the story. This condition continued for several days and I couldn’t shake it.

After several more days, I became so frustrated that I walked away from my computer and went downstairs for a long break—to calm myself down. I was hoping to regain my composure and continue writing the story.

I stood in front of a window in the kitchen looking out at the flowers in my backyard—trying to sort things out. I prayed for God to help me find my path through this frustrating writing challenge.

After a few minutes passed, a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly gracefully glided up to the window right in front of my face. It hovered as if trying to communicate with me—to send me a message. Oddly enough, I had recently finished a scene in the story that was almost identical to the real-life experience I was having with this Tiger. Almost instantly, a warm feeling came over me and I could sense the mystery force was present again. It was a very surreal experience.

Hmm, was this possibly one of those God-wink moments?

My wife came into the kitchen and asked me what was wrong. The expression on my face scared her—she thought I was ill or something. When I told her what happened, she was just as shocked as I was.

I went back to my computer and the writer’s block was gone. Words started flowing out of me as before and I finally managed to complete the story without experiencing writer’s block again. It was definitely a time to sing the Hallelujah Chorus!

Then I remembered—I can’t sing, but I did say Hallelujah and amen!

The remaining events in the story following my writer’s block moment sends Ben on an adventure in faith with astonishing twists and turns taking him on a spiritual journey he never dreamed possible.

TO PUBLISH OR NOT TO PUBLISH

A couple of my Bethany friends, Dr. Sam, and his wife, Linda, read my manuscript and liked the storyline. Both encouraged me to publish the story as a novel. I resisted but they continued encouraging me. I just couldn’t imagine my manuscript turning into a book, nor could I imagine myself as an author. I’m an engineer—1+1 = 2—remember!?!

Well, I finally published the book and the day I received my first copy in the mail was one of the most spiritually rewarding experiences in my life. After hundreds of hours of typing, with assistance from some unknown force leading me, I was holding a copy of the book I had written and published. I was celebrating a special moment that I never dreamed of having in my life.

The title of my novel is, “IF TIGERS WERE ANGELS: With God All Things Are Possible.” This book is a perfect example of how powerful the words, “With God, All Things Are Possible” actually are.

I often refer to the title simply as, TIGERS when I’m talking to others about the book. I placed a copy of TIGERS on each table.

The cover photo is the actual Tiger that visited me when I was experiencing writer’s block. Yes, that Tiger stayed in my backyard long enough for me to take the photo with my cell phone. The Tiger actually posed for a dozen or so photos.

Was this another “God-wink” moment for me? 

TWO HUGE QUESTIONS KEPT BUGGING ME…

I admit that publishing my book was an enjoyable experience, but two huge questions kept bugging me…

#1 – Who or what was the unknown force that guided me through the entire process of writing the story? Was it God or something else? 

#2 – Why did this force select me, an engineer, to write this fictional faith-based story?

Well, I’m going to shed some light on those questions by sharing four true stories about events that happened to me since publishing TIGERS in 2013. The first three stories prep you for the fourth—which is a surreal experience I had in 2018—five years after publishing TIGERS.

However, before I share those stories, I have a simple question for you. Do you believe in God-winks—those surreal situations in life where someone experiences something akin to divine intervention?

Some folks tend to brush-off such experiences as mere coincidences, but I believe that people of faith—people who truly believe and have faith in God, are likely to understand the power of a God-wink moment. They understand how special those moments are. I certainly believe in God-winks because I’ve experienced them—many times in recent years. The experiences are too surreal to ignore or pass off as coincidences.

TIGERS APPEAR BEFORE BOOK SIGNING EVENTS

I’ll now share those stories I mentioned.

Like most authors, I had book signings for Tigers, which is something I’m not always comfortable doing. Appearing at the signings and talking to those who stopped by was fine, but an engineer playing the role of salesman was more difficult for me.

Prior to my first book signing, I was nervous and asked God to give me the courage needed to present myself well. On the day of my first signing, a Tiger Swallowtail came into my backyard and circled around me. The moment was surreal and I felt a peace within me.

While getting ready for my second signing, I again, asked God to give me the courage needed to present myself well. As I was driving through the neighborhood to my signing, a Tiger Swallowtail appeared at the passenger-side front window. It flew along beside the car window for three blocks and then went on its way. Just like the first signing, this moment was surreal and I knew everything was going to be fine—and it was!

Both signings went very well and the people who stopped by were very engaging and excited about the book. Were those pre-signing experiences coincidences or God-winks? You decide…

My last book signing took place at The Timrod Library right across the street from Bethany Church. It was my first signing in a library. As I did for my first two signings, I prayed for God to be with me. However, no Tigers came to visit me the day of the signing. I was nervous and hoped things would go well, but I sure did want to see a Tiger. It became time for me to go to the library and setup for the signing—still no visit from a Tiger—I was beyond nervous.

After setting up, I looked at the books on the shelves around my signing spot. Suddenly, as if God sensed my nervousness, my eyes focused on a book displayed on the shelf directly behind me—the book had a beautiful photo of a Tiger Swallowtail on its cover, but it wasn’t my book.

That moment called for another Hallelujah and amen! No, I didn’t try to sing the Hallelujah Chorus—I know my limitations. God calmed my nerves and the signing went well. Was that a coincidence or a God-wink? You decide…

If there’s anyone here today who does not believe in God-winks, please listen carefully to my final story before your close your mind completely to the possibility that God-winks actually exist.

 

DAD’S MESSAGE… 38 YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH

My final story today is larger than life itself… The events started in 1980—33 years before I wrote Tigers.

I was 27 when my father had his first heart attack. He was 49 and could no longer work. Unable to exert himself physically, he started tinkering with lightweight metal sheeting—copper, tin, etc. in his workshop.

After Dad’s fourth heart attack in 1980, God called him home to the big workshop in the sky. Dad was 54 years young—I was 30.

I struggled to understand why God called Dad home at such a young age. Dad was a large man—a man of faith who was always willing to help others. He was a man of character and taught me how to be a man. To put it simply, Dad was my hero!

I prayed many times asking God to help me understand Dad’s death, but all I received was silence. I soon became frustrated—one might even say angry, which severely challenged my faith. The big unanswered question “WHY?” clouded my sense of being for many years.

A few months after Dad’s funeral, my mother asked me to get rid of everything in Dad’s workshop. The task proved to be more emotionally difficult than I could have ever imagined. Still in a state of numbness from Dad’s passing, I packed some items in a few boxes and gave some items to family members and friends.

I kept Dad’s tools only to have most of them stolen in 2005 when some “kindhearted soul” stole my truck with Dad’s tools onboard. Those tools held many memories for me and every time I used one, I thought of Dad and smiled. I sometimes shed a few tears as I pictured him using those tools long ago.

In late May 2018, I was cleaning out my garage. A task long overdue, but in the process, I found a box marked Dad’s Stuff. The box had remained closed and sealed since 1980. I didn’t even remember what the box contained. I hesitated to open the box for fear of revisiting some emotionally sad times from the past. However, I felt compelled to open it—pushed, as if some force was urging me to break the seal.

When I finally opened the box, the first item I saw was a copper figurine of a Tiger Swallowtail perched on a leaf (see photo).

My eyes quickly filled with moisture as I thought of Dad having made the Tiger. I wondered if he had received messages from a Tiger after his heart attacks. Could it be that the “call” the “unknown force” I sensed while writing my novel came from Dad? Could Dad have made this Tiger to convey a special message to me thirty-eight years later? Could finding Dad’s copper Tiger be a “God-wink” moment for me?

The naysayers of the world will likely say it was a silly coincidence and I’m a fool to think otherwise, but I believe they are wrong. I have no doubts it was a special moment of divine intervention and ranks as one of the most surreal moments in my life. I feel blessed to have discovered Dad’s special gift and I understand his message of inspiration. I feel very blessed!

Most of you would probably consider this handcrafted Tiger to be a piece of junk—an item that should be thrown in the trash. However, for me, it is the most beautiful piece of artwork I had ever seen and its value is priceless. I am extremely proud to have it in my office.

My only regret is that it took me so long to find Dad’s TIGER that had literally been sitting right under my nose for 38 years. After struggling for thirty-eight years to understand the answer to my “Why?” question about Dad’s early departure, I was finally at peace. I sincerely believe God used Dad’s copper Tiger as a messenger to tell me who guided me through the writing of my novel—it was Dad—my father. Thank you, Dad!

Dad, it’s nice to know you’re still watching over me. Thank you for your guidance, wisdom, caring, and love! I am truly grateful!

Thank you for all you have done for me, Dad!

THE THREE TOPICS

Let’s revisit the three topics I identified earlier. Think about each one as I read them and answer to yourself. If you want to make a comment to the group about a topic, please raise your hand. I feel sure others would love for you to share your thoughts—now or after the session.

#1: Do you know what your God-given talents are?

#2: Have you developed those talents to the best of your abilities?

#3: God’s primary purpose for us is to serve Him. He wants each of us to shine His light upon others in all that we do. To carry it a step farther, I believe God also has secondary purposes for us—purposes that are ours to discover—to fulfill.

MY SECOND NOVEL

In case any of you are interested, the title of my second faith-based novel is, ON GREEN DIAMONDS: Pursuing a Dream.

It’s a story about a six-year-old boy, Tyler, whose father suddenly passes away. Tyler withdraws into a shell. Two years later, things hadn’t improved, and his mother was concerned about his emotional development. She decided to move to Jackson, SC and hoped the change would help end Tyler’s grieving.

Tyler meets a retired baseball player, Gabe, who had also recently moved to Jackson. Gabe becomes aware of Tyler’s withdrawal from the world and feels he possesses something that might help his young friend—a passion for baseball.

Tyler and Gabe become friends and Gabe starts mentoring Tyler and introduces him to the 22 Rules to Live By that Gabe received from his father, Gabe, Sr.

What follows is a heartwarming story about life and a growing relationship, as Gabe’s passion becomes Tyler’s, and a dream of playing ON GREEN DIAMONDS is born.

This enlightening sports story is about life and is appropriate for all ages and genders.

You can preview the story on Amazon.com or check it out at The Timrod Library, the Dorchester County Library located on Trolley Road, or the Orangeburg County library located in Orangeburg. SC.

QUESTIONS & COMMENTS? 

That concludes my session with you today.

Now, it’s your turn. Does anyone have any questions or comments?

+++++++++++++++++++++++

THANK YOU

Again, thank you for allowing me to visit with you today. I hope the session sparked some fond memories and that I’m leaving you with a smile on your face and a Happy Heart.

Blessings to each of you…Thank you for your time…

Tom Tatum – Author – 2020

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels

WHEN PRAYERS COLLIDE

WHEN PRAYERS COLLIDE is possibly a topic you have never thought about before, but it may actually have an impact on how a prayer is answered—or not answered. It’s definitely something worth considering.

Those of us who have faith and believe in God are prone to pray. It’s how we communicate with Him. Whether our prayers are spoken or unspoken, God knows what’s in our heart. We pray to ask God for help in times of need and to give thanks for the many blessings we have received. Many of us probably have occasions when we pray for God to comfort others who are experiencing difficult times.

Philippians 4:6-7 clearly teaches that we are to pray to God in every situation:

However, I think it is important that we should always be mindful of what we are praying for God to do for us. Let me take a moment to expand on what I mean by prayers colliding.

Hurricane Florence provided a good example when the prayers of many people in North Carolina and South Carolina collided. I’ll be the first to admit that I have more questions than answers regarding our prayers colliding with the prayers of others.

As Hurricane Florence made her way toward the coasts of the Carolinas, many Christians who believe and have faith in God, and maybe even some non-believers, did a lot of praying. I certainly did. My prayers were asking God to send Florence away from land and not harm anyone. With each new weather forecast update, I prayed even harder asking God to turn Florence harmlessly back out into the Atlantic Ocean.

After a few days of increasing anxiety, it became obvious that atmospheric conditions necessary to send the bad girl harmlessly out into the Atlantic were nonexistent. In fact, conditions were perfect for her to make a beeline path toward the Carolinas. The question became, “Where was she going to make landfall—North Carolina and/or South Carolina?”

At this point, the prayers of many likely shifted to, “God please protect my family and friends from harm.” Unfortunately, many folks in North Carolina and South Carolina were also lifting prayers for God to do the same for them. Simply stated, our prayers were creating a situation where we were asking God to do completely opposite things—our prayers were colliding. It became obvious Hurricane Florence was going to make landfall, but not everyone was going to weather her mighty forces safely.

Unfortunately, our prayers were unintentionally asking God to spare “me and mine” by sending the wrath of Hurricane Florence to ravage others. We were asking God to take sides—them or us. This is certainly not the “love thy neighbor” lessons the Bible teaches us to follow.

The subject of prayers colliding made me think of a life-lesson I learned from a baseball coach when I was nine-years old. Please allow me to share my experience with you at this time.

+++ PRAYING BEFORE A BASEBALL GAME +++

We were about to play our second game of the season. As we did before the first game, Coach asked the players to form a circle around him. We removed our caps and took a knee. He then told us we were going to say a team prayer.

As we bowed our heads, Coach said, “Lord, please protect all of the players, coaches, and fans from injuries and help us play our best tonight. Amen.”

Bobby, our shortstop, then asked, “Coach, you said that prayer last game and we lost. Why don’t you ask God to help us win this game?”

I have to admit—I was thinking much the same way as Bobby, but I didn’t have the courage to open my mouth as he did, or maybe I was wise beyond my years—not likely the case!

Coach looked at each of us and replied, “Bobby, see that other team over there—they are our neighbors, and Jesus teaches us to love our neighbors. If we pray for God to help us win, in a way, we are also asking God to make the players on the other team lose. That’s not what Jesus wants us to do—that’s not expressing love for our neighbor.”

“But Coach, if they ask God to help them win and we don’t, we’re gonna lose this game too. God’s gonna help them win,” replied Bobby.

Coach paused, smiled, and replied, “Okay, boys, listen up. If both teams pray for God to help them win, which team do you think God is going to choose to help? Why would He choose our team? Does God love us more than He loves the players on the other team? I want each of you to think about that.”

All the players, including me, just sat there looking at Coach and not one of us said a word.

Coach continued, “You see, God loves the players on both teams. I don’t think He is interested in choosing which team wins a Little League baseball game. God is busy taking care of sick folks and many others who are facing difficult situations. God blessed each of you with the ability and opportunity to play baseball. It’s okay to ask Him to help you play your best because that’s what He wants you to do—give your best in everything you do. God smiles when you give your best. He’s always there to help you if you ask Him, but it’s up to each of you to give your best—on and off the field. Don’t ever pray for God to help you win because, if you do, you’re asking Him to make someone else lose—someone who may have as much faith and belief in God as you do—someone God loves just as much as He loves you.”

Coach then told Bobby to go ask some players on other team if they prayed for God to help them win the game. Bobby wasn’t very thrilled about Coach’s idea, but he did as Coach asked him to do.

Bobby returned and said, “Coach, they asked God to help them win.”

Coach replied, “Okay, guys, I hope you understand what I’ve told you tonight. Now, I want you to go out there and give your best, and we’ll see what happens. Let’s play some baseball guys, give your best, and remember, have fun tonight!”

Guess what—we won that game by playing our best. We didn’t ask God to choose our team to be the winning team. Then again—maybe we won by not praying for the other team to lose—our prayers didn’t collide.

Coach taught me a valuable life-lesson that day and I still do as he said—sixty-one years later. We need to be careful when we pray for God to help us. We should not ask God to choose to support us at the expense of others. Remember, we are to love our neighbors. We may not like some of the things our neighbors do, but we should not wish them harm either.

By the way, Coach—I called him Dad when weren’t on the baseball field. I’m thankful he helped me see the light when it comes to praying.

+++++++++++++

I count my blessings that Hurricane Florence didn’t harm my family or my property. However, the same is not true for many others living in North Carolina and the upper parts of South Carolina. Folks in those areas suffered in many ways—property damage, injuries, and some even died because of the storm. Flooding reached record heights in many areas, yet my family and those who live in the Charleston, SC region were spared—Hurricane Florence “decided” to make landfall near Wilmington, NC.

Now, let’s visit the second part of this topic regarding prayers colliding. What happens to our faith when our prayers collide? As stated earlier, I have more questions than answers about this, so I’m looking to you to help others by sharing your thoughts.

++++++ FOOD FOR THOUGHT ++++++

Consider a few questions that may or may not have answers, but they should help us think about what happens when we pray.

  1. Do you think God creates events such as Hurricane Florence to punish some people while sparing others?
  2. Do you think God spares some people because they prayed and punishes others because they didn’t pray?
  3. Do you think the faith of those spared from harm will grow stronger?
  4. Do you think the faith of those who suffered harm will become weaker?
  5. Do you think anyone blames or praises God for their particular circumstances?
  6. Do you think God sent Florence to punish those who were in her final path for reasons we don’t have the ability to understand?
  7. To your knowledge, have any of your prayers ever collided with the prayers of others?
  8. Do you think God hears the prayers of nonbelievers? If you think He does, do you think He answers their prayers favorably, unfavorably, or does He ignore them?
  9. Are we even supposed to understand the answers to such questions or is that what faith is all about—trusting God to be with us at all times?

If you have thoughts or comments about such questions, please don’t hesitate to share them—some folks, including me, would like to know what you think.

May God’s blessings be upon you each day and may your prayers never collide with those of others! I encourage you to pray often and have the patience to wait for God to answer your prayers—in His perfect timing.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels

DRINKING FROM MY SAUCER

My mother died in November 2000 and I have missed her every day since. Her kindness and unconditional love for me were much more than I deserved. I was truly blessed to have had her as my mother. I wish I could spend one more day with her for there are so many things I need to tell her. It is because of her love that my cup has overflowed.

I was going through some boxes today and found one labelled “Mom’s Keepsakes.” When I opened the box I found a sheet of paper she had saved. It was a poem I don’t remember ever having read before, but it reminded me of how she lived her life helping others—especially me.

I was truly blessed today and hope the poem speaks to you also.

DRINKING FROM MY SAUCER

I’ve never made a fortune
and it’s probably too late now.
But I don’t worry about that much,
I’m happy anyhow.

And as I go along life’s way,
I’m reaping better than I sowed.
I’m drinking from my saucer,
‘Cause my cup has overflowed.

I don’t have a lot of riches,
and sometimes the going’s tough.
But I’ve got loved ones around me,
and that makes me rich enough.

I thank God for his blessings,
and the mercies He’s bestowed.
I’m drinking from my saucer,
’cause my cup has overflowed.

I remember times when things went wrong,
My faith wore somewhat thin.
But all at once the dark clouds broke,
and the sun peeped through again.

So God, help me not to gripe about
the tough rows that I’ve hoed.
I’m drinking from my saucer,
‘Cause my cup has overflowed.

If God gives me strength and courage,
when the way grows steep and rough.
I’ll not ask for other blessings,
I’m already blessed enough.

And may I never be too busy,
to help others bear their loads.
Then I’ll keep drinking from my saucer,
‘Cause my cup has overflowed.

                            – John Paul Moore

I hope the poem touched your heart as it did mine. For it is in helping others that we drink from our saucer ’cause our cup has overflowed.

Blessings to all who understand the message and may you be blessed with someone who gives you unconditional love.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels