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.
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.
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.
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.
- Do you know what your God-given talents are?
- Have you developed those talents to the best of your abilities?
- 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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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
Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels