Tag Archives: heaven

DAD’S MESSAGE TO ME 38 YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH

With Father’s Day 2018 approaching, it is natural for many of us to think about our dads. Some of us only have cherished memories of days long gone, and others are blessed to still have the opportunity to visit and/or talk to their dads on earth.

I happen to fall into the category of having fond memories of my dad from long, long ago, so I want to share a true story about a message I received last week—thirty-eight years after his death in 1980.

Before I share the story, I have a simple question. Do you believe in God-winks—those surreal situations where you experience something akin to divine intervention?

Some folks tend to brush-off such situations as mere coincidences, but if you’re a person of faith, you probably understand how special God-winks can be. I certainly do because I’ve experienced them—many times in recent years. I feel sure some of you have also had such experiences

For those who do not believe in God or God-winks, please keep reading before your close your mind completely to the possibility that God-winks may be far more than mere happenstances.

+++++ The Story +++++

I was twenty-seven when my father had his first heart attack and could no longer work—he was forty-nine. 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 fifty-four-years young.

I struggled to understand why God called Dad home at such a young age. Dad had so much more goodness to give others. I prayed many times for God to help me understand, but all I received was silence. I soon became frustrated—one might even say angry, which severely challenged my faith. The big unanswered “WHY?” question clouded my sense of being for many years.

A few months after Dad’s funeral, my mother asked me to get rid of things 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 items in a few boxes and gave some to family and friends.

I kept a few of Dad’s tools only to have them stolen in 2005 when some “kindhearted soul” stole my truck with Dad’s tools on-board. Those tools held many memories, and every time I used one, I thought of Dad and smiled.

Now, fast-forward to 2011—the year I felt the “call” to write my first novel, If Tigers Were Angels: With God All Things Are Possible. Trust me when I say, I had never in my life had any desire to write a manuscript, let alone publish a book. However, “something” kept prodding me to write the story. I tried to ignore this strange “calling” only to find myself involuntarily pounding away on the keyboard one evening. The rest is history as new ideas kept popping into my head and I couldn’t stop writing, even though I had no idea where the story was going—something was leading my thoughts from one chapter to the next.

The result of this mysterious joint effort produced a story about a middle-aged man who received messages from God through an unlikely source—a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly. If you care to get a better understanding of the story, please go to the Amazon.com “Look inside” feature about the book.

In the last chapter of my novel, I describe an actual encounter I had with a real Tiger Swallowtail when I suffered writer’s block in the middle of writing the story. It was one of the most surreal moments in my life to that point. The book’s cover photo is the actual Tiger that appeared that day. My experience is one I hope I never forget.

In late May 2018, I started 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 since 1980 and I had no idea what was inside. I hesitated to open the box for fear of revisiting some sad times. However, I felt compelled to open it—pushed, as if some force was urging me to break the seal.

The first item I saw in the box was a copper figure of a Tiger Swallowtail perched on a leaf (see photo). My eyes quickly swelled with moisture as I thought of Dad having made the Tiger. I wondered if Dad had received messages from a Tiger after his heart attacks. Could it be that the “call” I sensed to write my novel came from Dad? Could Dad have made the Tiger to convey a special message to me thirty-eight years later? Could 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 that’s wrong. I have no doubts it was a special moment of divine intervention and ranks as the most surreal moment in my life. I’m feeling blessed to have discovered Dad’s special gift and understand his message of inspiration.

My only regret is it took me so long to find Dad’s gift that was literally right under my nose for years. After struggling for thirty-eight years to understand the answer to my “Why?” question about Dad’s early departure, I am 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. It’s nice to know you’re still watching over me. Thank you for your guidance, wisdom, caring, and love!

Happy Father’s Day, Dad, and to all who are blessed to wear the title—FATHER.

+++++ The End +++++

If you have been kind enough to follow my blog, aTimeinLife, I am truly thankful for your support. I hope you have found the blog’s content inspirational, motivational, and heartwarming—maybe even interesting. If you’re not following my blog, I invite you to signup—it’s free!

Blessings to all…

Tom Tatum – Author – 2018

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WHAT DO YOU SEE?

What do you see in your mind’s eye when you pray or talk to yourself during difficult or good times in your life? I bet you see something, even if it’s total darkness—you still see something, but likely do it without thinking about what you see.

I know it’s a crazy question? In reality, it’s an appropriate question for everyone, regardless of their spiritual preferences or lack thereof. Whether you pray and believe in a power greater than yourself, don’t pray because you believe you possess superior intellect over all things, or fall somewhere between the two is a choice you have the right to make. Whatever your situation, you probably do talk to or pray to “something” when facing difficult situations in your life—it’s called thinking. I’m not trying to change or challenge your beliefs at all. I simply want you to consider all possibilities…

It’s probably a question you have never been asked or even considered before now. You’re not alone because most people haven’t. In fact, I may be one of few people on earth asking the question.

Okay, so exactly why am I asking such a question? Well, it’s simple—I enjoy thinking outside-the-box. Obviously, there is no right or wrong answer, so don’t be concerned. There will not be a pass-fail test given at the end of this post. I just want you to think about the question based on your personal situation, so please keep reading. It will only take a few minutes, and I promise it will not harm or judge you in any way.

What do you see…,” is a question I ask when I speak to groups. I get some interesting facial expressions and responses cover a broad spectrum ranging from total darkness to detailed images. All answers are interesting, but one that does give me pause is, “I don’t waste time praying to a fictitious character.” I acknowledge the response, but I never push my personal beliefs on anyone. I simply inform, observe, and recognize that everyone has the right to choose how they cope with life. However, that particular response is a suitable topic for a whole different discussion.

Let’s get back to the point of this post. When the shock of my question wears off, the initial responses are typically, “I’ve never thought about it before,” or “I don’t see anything.” When folks think about it for a moment, the answers tend to become a bit more descriptive. To be fair, it is somewhat of an unusual question and not likely to come up in general conversations with friends. Therefore, I invite you to think about the question in private for a few moments. You may be surprised by what you actually do/don’t see or you may start visualizing something in the future. Either way, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

When I started thinking about the storyline for my first novel, I did a lot of soul searching. When I asked myself the question, I realized I was actually seeing the same thing each time I prayed. It was an image from long ago when I started attending church as a young boy. Although buried deep in my subconscious, the image of a stained-glass window formed a lasting impression on me. This image allows me to feel as though I’m having a private conversation with a friend—albeit a very special and most powerful friend.

So, what exactly do I see when I pray? Well, first I visualize the stained glass window from my youth—an image of Jesus. As I continue praying, I usually see the faces of those for whom I’m praying and revert back to the stained-glass image as I finish my prayer. The image itself is surreal for me and puts my mind at ease. It works very well for me.

Stain Glass Jesus Picture 2x2

Whether you see an image or total darkness as you pray or talk to “whomever,” the important thing is that you do it. You may not receive the things or results you ask for, or even understand the answers. You may even feel as though your prayers are going unanswered, but I believe God hears all our prayers. He will respond in His time, and in His way. He knows what is best for us, so we must be patient.

For those who do not believe in God, He still “hears” your thoughts. I wish you the best in whatever way you cope with life’s difficulties. As I said in the beginning, I will never brow-beat you to do as I do, but I will still pray that you come to know Him someday.

By the way, I see that same stained-glass image when I give thanks everyday for the many blessings I have received.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2017

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FATHER’S LETTER “TO MY SON”

LetterToMySonRiver

John Johnson recently moved to Orangeburg, South Carolina and purchased thirty-acres of land bordering the majestic-cold-black water of the slow-flowing Edisto River. Abandoned many years ago, nature had reclaimed the property with underbrush so thick it made walking about very difficult. With a machete in hand, John started exploring the land to see exactly what he had blindly purchased. What he found changed his life. This is his story…

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As I started walking away from the riverbank, I noticed an old shack on a hill about one-hundred yards directly in front of me. I was shocked when I saw it because I didn’t even know the shack existed. The structure was in such a state of ill-repair I figured I would likely have to demolish and replace it with a new cabin.

LetterToMySonShack

As I stood on the front porch, I tried to imagine who might have lived there long ago. Who were they? Where did they go? Why did they abandon this beautiful property?

Not knowing what critters might be lurking inside the old shack, I banged on the door as if expecting someone to answer. No person or critter responded, so I eased the door open. The eerie, screeching sound made by the rusted hinges was an indication the door had not opened in years.

To my surprise, the interior actually appeared to be in good shape—the natural color of the unpainted wood created a warm-inviting atmosphere. There were even several pieces of furniture neatly placed, as if someone had left just minutes before my arrival. The only telltale sign of abandonment was the thick layer of dust coating everything in sight.

The first object that caught my eye was an old-mahogany chest standing against the wall to my left. It seemed so out of place because its beauty rivaled any antique I had ever seen. I opened the top drawer and found a small metal box containing a sealed envelope with the words “To My Son” written on it.

Suddenly, I felt guilty, as if I was invading someone’s privacy, but I proceeded to open the envelope anyway. A letter and a small black-and-white photo of an old man sporting grey hair appeared. The deep lines etched in his face were telltale signs of stress and years of exposure to the sun. The scars on his cheeks and forehead were indicative of serious accidents or having lived a difficult life. Yet, his eyes beamed with the warmth of a kind, gentle soul. His face looked so familiar, as if I should know him. Could it be possible I had seen this face before?

When I gently rubbed my finger across the image, I could sense the pain the old man must have endured—the experience was surreal, as though this man and I had some sort of connection. I brushed the thought aside and quickly refocused my attention to the letter and began reading…

To My Son,                              July 12, 1998

If you are reading this, it’s because I am no longer here to talk to you in person; I’ve gone to my final resting place in my Father’s house of many rooms and no longer feel the pain of my youth. However, there are a few things I never had the opportunity to tell you. Allow me to do so now.

Please read these words carefully as they will help you be a loving father to your son. I say these things not seeking your pity, but to open your heart and mind to God’s love.

When I was a young boy, my father didn’t treat me very well; he never even told me he loved me. In fact, he beat me many times, even though I begged him to stop. He said he wanted to toughen me up and teach me to be a man. He yelled and cursed me to stop crying like a big baby. Each time he hit me, I tried to protect my face with my hands only to have the hard blows of his massive fists break my fingers and send blood pouring from the wounds he inflicted upon my head. I prayed each day for God to take my pain away, and promised Him I would never treat my son the way my father treated me.

I never had much in my life, but I gladly give you this beautiful piece of heaven where you are now standing. The shack is small, but it’s very cozy, and the view of the river from the front porch will astound you—look at it often and you will find peace. I pray God speaks to you just as He did me. All I ask of you is that you keep this little shack standing tall and full of love. I don’t think that’s too much to ask of you, but if I’m wrong, I will understand.

Don’t be alarmed as you continue reading this message I share from my heart, but I know you’re probably not my son. That’s okay—I love you as though you are! You see, I was serving my country in Vietnam when I heard you were born. It was the best day of my life! I couldn’t wait to hold you in my arms and give you all the love you deserve—the same love I prayed for many times.

Unfortunately, I was involved in a bloody battle with the enemy the day following your arrival. I became a prisoner of war in the infamous Hanoi Hilton for six-long years.

Enemy soldiers beat me many times during my stay there. Memories of my dad teaching me to be a man filled my mind each time they hit me. I think I finally became the man dad wanted me to be because the only information I ever gave the enemy was my name, rank, and service number. They did not break me because the thought of seeing you one day kept me going—you were all I had to sustain me. I thank you for easing my pain.

When I returned home, I learned the army had listed me as MIA (Missing-In-Action). Your mother had remarried and wanted nothing to do with me, so I never had a chance to spend time with you. God didn’t bless me that way. I’m not sure why, but I never questioned His will for He blessed me in so many other ways. At least I was able to catch a brief glimpse of you playing in the yard on the day your mother broke my heart and sent me away.

Maybe God sent you here this day that you might become my son, and I—well, your father. I know how strange that must sound, but the thought comforts me, and paints a smile upon my face as I write these words. It would please me greatly if you choose to call me Dad. I will never harm you in any way if you do. I will honor my promise to God and give you the love I never received from my father.

My simple wish for you is that you find peace and happiness here in this little shack by the river. I pray you will love your son and teach him to know God. You do not have to hit him to teach him how to become a man. Do unto him as your Lord in heaven does to you—love him with all your heart; he will understand what it takes to make a real man strong.

Now, go hug your son. Tell him how proud you are to be his father, and never let your fists strike him in anger or any other way for that matter. God chose to bless you with a son, so love him as I do you on this very special day.

With all my love to the son I never met,

Matthew Johnson

As I read the man’s name, my heart swelled with emotion. Could this man possibly be my real father—the father I never met? The flow of the cold-black waters of the river paled in comparison to the stream of warm tears flowing down my cheeks. I felt as though God had led me to this place, in His own time, to meet this old man. I was humbled—no, I felt blessed by the experience and couldn’t wait to get home to hug my son. I was going to shower him with the same love an old man’s words in a letter had bestowed upon me.

++++

Well, it’s been two years since I discovered that old-abandoned shack on my riverfront property. My thoughts of tearing the place down never materialized. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I restored it. My wife, son, and I now call this our home. We named our little piece of heaven by the river “Matthew’s Place” in honor of Matthew Johnson.

On the wall above that old-antique-mahogany chest is a frame displaying the photo of Matthew Johnson and his “TO MY SON” letter. It serves to remind me of the day I received a special message from an angel. Although the Lord’s house has many rooms, I will dwell in Matthew’s Place until the Lord calls me home to meet Mr. Johnson.

LetterToMySonFramed2

Matthew Johnson, may you rest in peace knowing that I, John Matthew Johnson, now think of you as my dad. Though we never met, your kind letter touched my heart. You, Matthew, now have someone to call—SON! May God bless and keep you until the day we meet in paradise!

John 14:2 (NIV)

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

Give your children a hug and tell them how much you love them—do this each day of your life.

The names herein are fictional and do not represent any real characters.

Tom Tatum – Author 2016

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WHERE IS HEAVEN?

Out of the mouths of children…WhereIsHeaven2

What do you think? Is Billy correct?

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MY FIRST PET

When I was about six years old, my parents gave me a dog. It wasn’t anything special and looked much like Petey on the popular television show from long ago, The Little Rascals. I didn’t even know what kind of dog she was, but that didn’t matter—she was mine.

I named her Inky because of the large black spots that were scattered randomly all over her body. Inky became my best friend and followed me everywhere I went, which was all over our neighborhood. We were inseparable, and I loved that dog.

I was completely responsible for her. I had to feed, bathe, and make sure she had water to drink. Caring for her was actually good training for me, as it taught me a lot about responsibility.

Inky and I had been together for about three years, and my love for her had grown stronger each year. I came home from school one day and couldn’t find her. I searched all over the neighborhood looking for her. I kept calling her name, but there was no response. I thought she was lost. I was devastated.

I continued searching for hours, and finally I saw her under the house. Back then, our house didn’t have a foundation curtain wall around the perimeter. There was nothing to prevent you from seeing under the house. I called her name, but she didn’t move. I crawled under the house to get her. When I put my hand on her, she still didn’t move and felt cold. I continued talking to her, but there was no response.

I ran inside the house and told Mama I found Inky but I couldn’t make her wake up. Mama came outside with me and called to Inky, but she still didn’t move. That’s when Mama hugged me tightly and started crying. I didn’t know what was going on, but I figured it wasn’t happy tears, as she sometimes called them. This was very different—I could sense pain as she started talking to me in a shaky voice.

“Inky is. . . um, Inky went to dog heaven to be with Jesus,” she said.

“No she didn’t! She’s right there. Mama, make her wake up!”

“Tommy, Inky’s spirit is in dog heaven with Jesus. She’s not coming back home. You need to bury Inky’s body because her heart has stopped beating. I’m so sorry, but Inky is not coming back. . . she’s dead.”

I shouted, “No! No! No! I want Inky to come back! Please let Inky come back to me,” I yelled as I ran to my secret hiding place up in the huge oak tree in our backyard. I climbed up as high as I could and sat there crying my heart out. I wanted Inky to come back home to me. I sat there for about an hour, I guess. To me, Inky was just resting. . . nothing else. I knew she would come back out from under the house to play with me.

Then Mama walked out to the tree with a shovel in her hand. That was the day when the frailty of life hit me hard. I had never considered that Inky could be dead. I didn’t really even know what being dead meant. I had never experienced anything like that before, except for the fish Dad and I caught. Even then, I didn’t think about the fish being dead. It was the process we went through in order to eat them.

“Tommy, I know you’re upset, but this is something that happens to all living things. They are born, they live for a while, and then they go to heaven. Now come on down. It’s time for you to bury Inky. She needs to have a proper funeral. You can put her grave over there by the fence.”

I came down from my hiding place, and Mama handed me the shovel. I could hardly see because of the tears in my eyes. All I could think about was I didn’t want to bury Inky, but it didn’t matter. Mama told me I had to do it. She handed me a plastic bag and told me to place Inky in the bag before I buried her.

I started digging and my tears continued streaming down my cheeks onto the soil. I cried so much while I was digging that I think I ran out of tear juice. I placed Inky in the hole and covered her with the tear-soaked soil. When I finished, Mama came over and handed me a cross that had “INKY RIP” written on it. I placed the cross in the ground at the head of her grave. Mama said it was time for us to say a prayer for Inky.

I bowed my head as Mama said, “Jesus, Inky is in dog heaven with you now. Please take good care of her. She was a good dog, and I know she will be good for you too. Amen. Do you want to say something, Tommy?”

All I could manage was, “I love you, Inky. Please come back home.”

I then climbed back up into the tree to my hiding place and sat for a long time. Mama didn’t say anything else and went back inside the house. Having Inky with me for three years was great, but having her go to dog heaven was tough on me.

When I came home from school each day, I went out to Inky’s grave and knelt down beside her. I talked to her, but I never heard her bark in reply. I did this every day for about a month. I managed to live through the experience, and I guess it helped me appreciate the time I did have with Inky…

Tom Tatum – Author – 2015

+++ BACKGROUND INFORMATION +++

The preceding is a true story from my youth. I changed the name of the boy and used the story as a scene in my novel ON GREEN DIAMONDS: PURSUING A DREAM where one of the main characters (Gabe) reflected on an experience from his childhood. There are many other life lessons throughout the book. Hope you have a chance to read the full story, which is available from most online bookstores in eBook, paperback, and hardback formats.

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

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