Tag Archives: #faith

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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A LEARNED TESTIMONY

I am delighted to have the opportunity to share this guest post with each of you. It is a devotional written from the heart of my good friend, Nancy Frazier. I pray it inspires each of you to treat others as she does. Enjoy Nancy’s message and be blessed.

A LEARNED TESTIMONY

BY

NANCY FRAZIER

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.” Psalm 19:7-9

Seven years ago, a group of sixteen people began to meet once or twice a week to pray and discuss the possibility of planting a church in Asheboro or the surrounding area. After many days and nights in prayer, Journey Church was established. Having been one of those people, I was overjoyed and so pleased that the Lord chose me to help in the beginning of this beautiful church. As I began to work with the others to build a place of worship and peace, it suddenly became evident to me that I did not have, what I thought, was an adequate testimony that would connect to others and turn them towards Christ.

During this time of prayer and decision making, the Lord gave me an illustration on how to conduct myself to let others see Christ in me. Even though I am “on up in age,” I was given the task of using my Savior’s love as an example to others. The Lord actually gave me two ideas to work on and I have enjoyed both immensely!

My two life changing purposes revolve around students from my past teaching career that need encouragement and validation. Another aspect of this life-change I have participated in has just been to care for those in need. I have enjoyed this endeavor more than I would have imagined and the Lord guides me in every direction.

I am not writing to brag about what I am accomplishing or sharing with others. I am writing this devotional to let you know the Lord will deliver to you the strength and desire needed for the illustrations He offers you to share with others. My testimony resonates with the Zack Williams song “Less Like Me”. “Somebody with a hurt I could have helped, Somebody with a hand I could have held,’ are lyrics that I take into my heart and act on them, which makes my life so much more satisfied. Knowing that I am helping someone in a specific way brings joy to me and I hope to my Lord.

As the months and years have elapsed since my witness for Christ began, many changes have come over me and many new friends have been added to my life. I have thanked God on many occasions for answering my requests in such a glorious manner. I always thought a confirmation of my love for my Lord would be to influence others to join me in exhibiting those feelings but I was wrong – my God-given duties have surrounded me with gratification and happiness beyond any expectation. My rewards have been tenfold and beyond the fulfillment I anticipated. The Lord has blessed me more than I have affected those to whom I was testifying. My life has gone 110% in a direction that was unexpected. I cannot begin to explain the feelings I have gained from following what God supplied me.

If you are like I was and felt a mission to use your free time in a meaningful gesture, ask our Savior to lead you in that direction. You will be overwhelmed at His answer.

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to encourage those reading this devotional to be challenged to eliminate two items from the bottom of their to-do list and use that time to extend extra kindness to those people Jesus puts in their pathway. Help all of us who love and worship you find others who need encouragement and supply it to them as a testimony of our extended faith and love of our Heavenly Father. Amen.

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I am so grateful my friend, Nancy, allowed me to share her devotional on my aTimeinlife blog site. I pray that her personal message of love, faith, and purpose touched your heart in such a way that it inspires you to do just as she has done—using her God-given talents to touch the lives of others in a positive way. I pray we all try to be a blessing unto others as we journey through life. Thank you for your heartfelt testimony, Nancy. Looking forward to sharing more of your thoughts in the future.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2021

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

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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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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.  

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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

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

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BLESSING OF GRACE

BLESSING OF GRACE

With Thanksgiving eve now upon us,

I paused to count my many blessings.

As I counted higher and higher,

A sense of sadness came over me.

 

Upon my knees, I began to pray.

Lord, I don’t understand my life for

I have failed you in so many ways.

Yet, You bless me so abundantly.

 

How can this be—a sinner like me?

Your love is far more than I deserve,

And of all the blessings that I have,

The most precious of all is Your Grace!

 

I pray You shine a light on my path,

And guide me to serve You each new day.

Help me touch the lives of those in need

In ways that reveal Your love and grace.

Amen!

Happy Thanksgiving and blessings to all!

Tom Tatum

Author

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

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels

Contact Tom by e-mail at OnGreenDiamonds@gmail.com

EVOLVING HOUR BY HOUR

I am no longer who I once was,
nor am I this day who I will
ultimately become.

I am evolving hour by hour as I face
new challenges each day.

I have faltered many times, which
has taught me humility.

I have soared to lofty places and kissed
the sweet lips of success while keeping
both feet firmly on the ground.

However, with each new low or high
that comes my way, I am blessed to
have had the opportunity to try.

I know God is with me as I take each
step along the path of my journey.

I am comforted knowing God hears
my prayers even when I am unsure
how to express them.

I am blessed each hour of each day.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2020

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

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

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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

SEVEN LEVELS OF FAITH

The Coronavirus pandemic that’s spreading around the world is likely to challenge one’s faith in God. People of faith may even ask, “Why is God allowing this invisible enemy to infect us—to kill people?

Unfortunately, that is the wrong question. It is in times like this that our faith in God should grow even stronger because I believe God sends messages or “prompts” to us via people (family, friends, and strangers), gestures, things, nature, miracles, events, and tragedies. We accept and understand Him based on the level of faith we have, which can range from unquestioning faith (believing without seeing) to nonexistent faith (there is no God) per the following seven levels:

  1. Those who are not aware of God or His messages
  2. Those who say God doesn’t exist, making it impossible for “nothing” to send messages
  3. Those who can neither prove nor disprove God’s existence or His messages
  4. Those who follow a different god than that of Christians for reasons known only to them
  5. Those who think they are too busy and lack the time to listen to God’s messages
  6. Those who hear God’s messages and simply choose to ignore them for whatever reason
  7. Those who understand God’s messages and serve as modern-day disciples through their actions, deeds, and words (written and verbal)

God doesn’t force anyone to believe in, listen to, or follow Him. When a person hears about the God Christians follow, they have the right to choose whether they want to believe in Him and His messages. Christians who follow God’s teachings don’t seek to harm those who deny or choose not to believe, nor do they force their beliefs on others. They accept God’s grace as a gift given to all who choose to believe in Him; they don’t need proof of His existence in order to believe—they have true faith and want to spread God’s word to those in level 1.

Okay, so what’s the point here? It’s simple—each person is in one of the levels listed above. You may even have additional levels to add, which is fine. No matter how many levels of faith we list, no one is “stuck” in any level. We all have the ability to change.

Which level best describes your current situation?

Regardless of which level currently describes your situation, I encourage (do not demand) you to try learning something about those who live in level 7. It may change your life.

What do you have to lose?

John 20:29 (NIV) Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Blessings to all and may your faith grow stronger each new day.

Tom Tatum – Author 2020

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels

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

AN ANGEL’S MESSAGE FOR GRANDPA

The day was cold, but not as cold as the heart of an old man sitting alone on a park bench with tears rolling down his cheeks. He didn’t seem bothered by the cold temperature, but something more serious had numbed his senses—his emotions were in distress.

After a few minutes passed, a young boy and man came walking along the path near the park bench. They stopped directly in front of the old man and, without any hesitation, the young boy asked, “Sir, are you okay? I see the tears on your cheek. Are you hurt?”

The old man raised his head slightly until his eyes met the eyes of the young boy. “Young man, today is a very sad day for me. I traveled many miles to come see my grandson in the hospital right down the street there. I had car trouble on the way and waited for twelve hours by the roadside before a kind soul stopped to help me.”

“I’m sorry your car broke down,” said the boy. “Have you seen your grandson yet?”

“No, I didn’t make it to the hospital in time to see him. I wasn’t able to tell him…” said the old man as he lowered his head and looked toward the ground.

“You weren’t able to tell him what?” asked the young boy.

While still looking toward the ground, the old man replied, “To tell him how much I love him and to wish him a Merry Christmas. He passed away three hours before I arrived. I can’t believe he’s gone. I’m so…”

“Sir, are you Joey’s Grandpa—his Grandpa Ben?”

A bit confused, the old man raised his head slightly and replied, “Yes, I am, but why did you ask me that? Do you know Joey?”

“Yes, sir,” replied the young boy. “I’m Zack. Joey is my new friend and he told me all about you.”

“He did what? When?” retorted Grandpa Ben.

“Yes, sir! Just a few minutes ago, Joey asked me to tell you how much he loves you. He wanted me to wish you a Merry Christmas. He said to tell you he is fine and in good hands.”

“I don’t understand. What? That’s impossible! How did you talk to Joey?” snapped Grandpa Ben.

“Joey is sitting on a park bench like you are now. He’s talking to Jesus,” replied Zack.

With that, Grandpa Ben lowered his head toward the ground thinking about what Zack just said. He wondered why Zack was talking such nonsense. Without raising his head, he asked, “Zack, how do you know he’s talking to Jesus?”

Several seconds passed without hearing an answer to his question. Grandpa Ben looked around and Zack was nowhere in sight. Instead, the only person standing in front of him was the man who he saw walking with Zack.

The man leaned down toward the old man and said, “Sir, are you alright? I couldn’t understand what you were saying. Can I get some help for you?”

“What? Where did Zack go? He was just standing right there talking to me. The two of you were standing together in front of me. Who are you?” the old man asked.

“Sir, my name is Sam Jones, but no one was with me today. I’m alone just as you are,” said the man with an air of concern for the old man.

“I’m very pleased to meet you, Sam. My name is Ben. Zack was just standing there beside you talking to me,” replied Ben.

His eyes swelling with tears, Sam managed to say, “Ben, I’m not sure what you’re trying to do to me, but my son, Zack, was killed by a drunk driver on this date three years ago. It happened at the intersection right over there. I walk here each year and remember the good times we shared. It’s my way of feeling as if Zack is walking with me. I miss him so much.”

Totally confused, Ben stammered, “I’m so sorry, Sam. I didn’t mean to… I was just… I mean… I… Zack was with…”

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

  • Do you have faith and believe in Jesus?
  • Do you think angels are capable of sending messages to us?
  • Do you think angels walk among us?
  • Have you ever experienced the presence of an angel?
  • Have you ever felt the presence of God in your life?

If your answers to the above are no, you should ask Grandpa Ben what he thinks.

Blessings to all who have lost loved ones. I hope this short story helps you feel the warmth of their presence during this Christmas season and that your heart is full of joy and happiness knowing they are nearby.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

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

TWILIGHT OF LIFE PRAYER

Lord, the twilight of my life is upon me. There are truly more sunsets in my past than there are sunsets I have yet to see. Until the light of my final sunset turns to darkness, I have many questions that I prayerfully ask of you.

Have I done all the things you created me to do? Have I done any of them? Are there things I have yet to accomplish—things known only to you? Do I have talents I have not yet discovered or developed to the best of the abilities you gave me? Do I even possess the wisdom to understand your answers to such questions that I send to you each day in my prayers?

How am I to know the answers to these questions? Am I even supposed to know or is it for others to proclaim the merits of my service to you after I am gone? Will they say I served you well or will they mourn because of the many things I failed to do for you?

Lord, you have blessed me with good health and a wonderful life. You surrounded me with family and friends I hold dear. For all these many blessings, and so much more, I am grateful and give you thanks each day.

Lord, I ask that you help me understand what you would have me do in the days yet to come. I pray you help me be the person you created me to be and give me the strength to serve you completely each day in the twilight of my earthly existence.

Amen.

May your twilight of life be a blessing to you and others as you seek answers to many questions and serve God as he would have you do.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

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

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels