Leaving a Legacy

Leaving a Legacy

It is an innate, God-given desire of every human being to be significant. We want to impact our world and those around us in important and positive ways. And we want that impact to be lasting, even to the point that it outlasts our earthly lives. This impact is often referred to as a legacy, and it’s what we leave behind for others.

Often legacies are thought of in the context of descendents, but it’s certainly not the only way to leave one. We leave a legacy in many ways, and it’s usually based on how we live our lives which serves as an example to others, and how we give of ourselves and our resources. It can be through giving financially; investing in others’ lives by relating or mentoring; communicating ideas and insights through writing, speaking, and teaching; and in many other ways that are unique to each person according to the gifting and purpose God has given to each one.

In order to leave a legacy that is positive and life-giving, we need to start now, and hopefully already have! Each one of us impacts others in many different ways, and we do it every single day of our lives, whether we realize it or not. It’s easy to focus only on the “big” things people do that leave an impact, like making a large donation, pastoring a mega church, or becoming a best-selling author. But the “little” things we do can be just as – if not more –significant.

My mother was a teacher, both as a vocation and a lifestyle. She loved helping others learn and influencing lives. Sometimes it was discouraging to her, depending on the attitude of the student, but as a whole teaching gave her great fulfillment.

The most rewarding part of her years of teaching school came years and years after the fact, when she received letters of gratitude from former students, or happened to see them here and there and heard their words of appreciation for the impact she’d made on their lives.

One that stands out to me was a former student who had become a doctor. Around thirty years after he had been my mother’s student, he wrote her a letter, thanking her for assigning him and his classmates a long poem to memorize. He had thought he wasn’t capable of accomplishing such a feat, but she was unrelenting and insisted he could. And he did. It was a turning point for him in realizing that if he set his mind to do something, he could accomplish things he formerly thought he couldn’t. This mindset served him well as he pursued medical training and became a doctor, playing his own significant role in others’ lives and leaving his own legacy.

Do you see how one “small” but significant interaction of one person with another had a significant impact, and will continue to as it is passed from one person to another, multiplied many times over?

“I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth,” penned the Apostle John, a childless single man.[1] He was referring to the spiritual “children” he had “fathered,” and finding joy in the impact he’d had on their lives.

John wasn’t the only unmarried person to leave a significant legacy. I can think of many in my own life who have left an impact on me. But there are also many well-known singles who have left us an example of living purposeful lives for Jesus. I’ve set up the first page of what will be a rather extensive bookstore of resources for Christian singles, and this first page contains several biographies of purposeful single Christians to give us encouragement and motivation in our own purposeful journeys:

Biographies of Christian Singles

If you know of others, please mention them in the comments below or send them to me here.

God’s blessings as you make an impact on the lives of those around you, creating a legacy that will long outlast your earthly life!

[1]3 John 1:4 HCSB

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A Life Alone, Yet Full of Joy and Satisfaction

spiritual joys

“[God’s] grace has brought me a life of abounding joy and satisfaction. When I lie down at night, there is a singing in my heart; and at times during the day when I have time to reflect, there are such surgings of joy that I can only praise Him. True, I didn’t have a husband or children, but the Lord gave infinitely more than enough to compensate and I could not ask for more than He has given me. Not that I despise those things. I am human and, I believe, a normal woman, but spiritual joys far surpass temporal ones.”

So begins the foreword of Dora Taylor’s book, As He Leads is Joy. It’s the story of God leading her as a thirty-something single woman to take nurse’s training and then to Honduras as a missionary nurse. Later He led her to Belize, and that is where her life and mine first intersected.

I was born to missionary parents in Belize in the 1960s. At the time Dora was living in a little remote village in Belize called San Felipe, where she ran a small medical clinic and eventually started a church as a Bible study with a few grew to many. Dora filled the role of aunt for my siblings and I, and we called her “Aunt Dora.”

After a number of years Dora returned to Pennsylvania to care for her elderly mother, and eventually I also returned to the States with my family. Over the years our paths would cross at Belize reunions and other occasions. One memory in particular stands out to me in those years. I went to the airport to pick up my parents when they returned from a visit to Belize with Dora and other former missionaries. While all the others were scurrying around claiming their checked luggage, Dora – in her 80s at the time – stood calm and poised with her two lightweight bags hanging from her slight body, easily carrying all she needed for the three-week trip out of the country! She was a seasoned traveler, making many medical missionary trips well into her 80s.

Dora Taylor

A few years later I moved to Virginia where Dora had also moved a number of years before, and attended the same church as Dora. It was during this time that I really got to know her. Now in her 90s, she lived alone in her own little third-floor apartment in a retirement community, always choosing the stairs over the elevator as she came and went. She walked with a spring in her step untypical of most women her age. That and the twinkle in her dark brown eyes were just two of many indications that Dora lived with a sense of purpose.

She had an avid interest in others from new-born babies, to the youth at church, to her fellow residents in the apartment complex where she lived. She would help the other residents in various ways: putting salve in a lady’s eyes daily, taking regular blood pressure reading for various individuals, and sewing and mending for others. Many would come to her for encouragement and counsel. She was also working on writing her second book, this one about her years in Belize.

During her years in mission work, Dora was given the opportunity twice to adopt. While in Honduras, a young father once wanted to give her his little girl whom she had nursed back to health. Again when she was in Belize, parents of a baby girl whose life she had saved offered the baby to Dora. In both cases Dora felt it was best the child remain with her parents. Her maternal instincts and desire to be a mother made this choice difficult, but as she brought these situations to the Lord He made it plain to her what was best for both the child and for her.

But Dora was not without many “descendents.” She had spiritual children and grandchildren around the world, many who would write to her asking for her counsel, some even referring to her as “grandmother.”

Can God take the place of a spouse? By Dora’s testimony He can:

“I know that God does take the place of someone you love. I know what it is to be alone. I could be envious of others, especially now as I see others who have children and grandchildren coming to see them. But this is how the Lord has ordered my life.”

The time in her life when she was particularly lonely was when she lived in the little village of San Felipe in Belize. While she felt close to the people in the village, initially there were no other Christians. But this was also the time when she was closest to the Lord. She often played her recorder (a flute-like instrument) and wrote in her journals. “Willingly I do this,” she wrote in one of them, referring to the loneliness of being there. These journals later became invaluable as she wrote her books.

Dora Taylor in San Felipe, Belize

“God takes the place of all He takes away,” Dora told me. A difficult experience in her 20s gave her the opportunity to surrender her life to the Lord. “But it is experiences like that,” Dora said, “which really enrich your life, and make it easier to follow the Lord’s leading in the future.”

A few years after I moved to Virginia, Dora suffered a stroke, limiting her use of her right side and confining her to a wheel chair. For awhile she lived with my parents and I, and I was privileged to assist her in caring for herself. But after a hip fracture limited her mobility even more, Dora moved to assisted living in the same retirement community she had lived before.

While she missed living in a home with “family,” living in a retirement community gave her opportunities to continue her life purpose of encouraging and mentoring others. She was given a motorized scooter and used it to visit others within the retirement community, blessing many in the years that followed her stroke, both residents and staff alike. She also continued to attend church and was a significant inspiration to her church family, including many of the youth.

As Dora got older she weakened. Just one day before she slipped into unconsciousness, she spent a couple hours with a young woman she had been mentoring – living her purpose right up to the very end of her life, even on her death bed! Less than a week later, at age 98, Dora slipped from this earthly realm into the heavenly one, to meet the Lord face to face whom she had lived for and walked with all her life!

Although even into her old age Dora would have welcomed a husband if the Lord had given her one, she didn’t let that desire hold her back from living the life and purpose God had given her – and living it with much joy!

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A Journey to Identity, Belonging, and Purpose

Be God's

Two little words scrawled in bold letters before his name served as Christian singer Rich Mullins’ autograph, and now grace his tombstone: “Be God’s.” That simple statement served as both a powerful testament to his own identity and a compelling invitation to the recipient.

Rich Mullins

For years Rich had struggled with his identity and with who God made him to be – a musician rather than an athlete or a natural farmer like his dad, who struggled to understand Rich and to adequately show him love and affirmation. At one of his concerts, Rich said,

“When I was young, I was angry and I was kind of going, ‘God, why am I such a freak? Why couldn’t I have been a good basketball player? I wanted to be a jock or something. Instead I’m a musician. I feel like such a sissy all the time. Why couldn’t I be just like a regular guy?’ The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, you know, sometimes God has things in mind for us that we can’t even imagine. And I think that maybe it was good for me to grow up being picked on a little bit, because then I realized what it meant to be kinda the underdog. And then to have someone who is not an underdog, someone like God, say, ‘Hey, I want you to be with Me,’ then you kinda go, ‘Wow!’ And so maybe for that reason, grace is more important to me than people who have been able to be more self-sufficient.”

 Mullins’ years on earth were filled with failure and success, depression and joy, confusion and clarity. Sound familiar? I imagine if you’re anything like me or most of the people I know – and are honest about it – you can identify.

The difference between Rich and most of us was that he didn’t pretend to be anything other than a flawed human being in much need of – and gratefully saved by – God’s amazing grace. As Brennan Manning  shared in the forward of James Bryan Smith’s biography of Mullins,  An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, his first thoughts when he met Rich were, “This man knows the real Jesus. Only someone who has experienced the forgiveness and mercy of the redeeming Christ could dare to be so open about his brokenness.”

 Rich knew he was not a worthy man. Yet he knew God loved him anyway. And he took every opportunity to make sure others knew God loved them, too:

“God notices you. The fact is he can’t take his eyes off of you. However badly you think of yourself, God is crazy about you. God is in love with you. Some of us even fear that someday we’ll do something so bad that he won’t notice us anymore. Well, let me tell you, God loves you completely. And he knew us at our worst before he ever began to love us at all. And in the love of God there are no degrees, there is only love.”

 Although Mullins fell in love at least once, he never married. Accounts vary regarding his love life, but we do know that in one interview when asked about a woman he’d been engaged to, he said this:

“I have no interest in anybody else and she is married to someone else, so that’s the way it goes, and I don’t mind that. Right now I cannot imagine that life could be happier married than it is single, so I’m not in a panic about getting married. And I think, you know, maybe God wanted me to be celibate and the way that he accomplished that was to break my heart. So, that’s the way it goes.”

 He also said about his broken engagement,

“I wrote [Damascus Road] right after my ex-fiancé called off our engagement, and I just sort of did it as an act of obedience…. I decided to just thank God. It was sort of a writing exercise. But by the time I was over, what I realized was once again so often we think how our life is gonna go and what the Lord owes us and how it’s supposed to be. And sometimes God has better things in mind or something different in mind for us than what we have in mind for ourselves.”

 Another time he spoke of the freedoms he had as a single man, especially one who lived the nomadic life of a Christian singer. Some biographical accounts, including the movie of his life, Ragamuffin, indicate that his girlfriend broke up with him because of his life on the road. But it was the life God had called him to and he knew he couldn’t leave it – for a woman’s love, or anything else.

Rich could have been bitter at God, but he wasn’t. Another quote helps us understand why:

“God doesn’t have to be good to anybody. He doesn’t owe us the breath we breathe. I figure if God has given us salvation, that’s way more than we deserve, and I won’t judge Him for not giving me something else.”

Rich’s trust in His Heavenly Father for choosing his life’s experiences for a specific purpose and reason is inspiring. He identified with the poor and the broken. In one of his last concerts he observed,

“I wonder if one of the reasons God liked Abraham was because Sarah was barren and Abraham was this close to extinction when God called him. God seems to have a very special place in His heart for the small and weak, and for the oppressed and poor of the world.”

Later in the same concert he said,

“Jesus said, ‘Whatever you do to the least of these my brothers, you’ve done it to me.’ And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers, but they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.”

 These weren’t just words to Rich. Although he was a successful Christian musician he had such a heart for the children on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, that he went back to school and graduated with a B.A. in Music Education in 1995, and moved there to teach them music. The profits from his tours and album sales were handled by his accountant who gave Rich only the amount of an average working person’s salary to live on, and gave the rest away to charities, per Rich’s instructions. He didn’t want to know how much money he was making or how much he was worth.

Rich Mullins died in an auto accident in 1997 at the age of 41, but his legacy lives on. While his physical voice was silenced, his words and message were not. Perhaps because of his death his words now carry more weight to those of us still walking this earthly journey. Mullins was certainly a “purposeful single” –not one who focused on his singleness or even specifically on being purposeful – but rather on being God’s – and oh how God used this flawed man who gave himself back to Him!

“God will never give up on you. He will never stop loving you.
That love is a reality no matter what you do or don’t do.
God does not call us to be angels;
He calls us to be His, and to be who we are in Him.”
~Rich Mullins

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The Blessing of Missions

By Pat Bernshausen

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

“And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.” (Acts 8:26-31)

When I think about missions these are some of the verses that come to my mind. I know there are other verses that may be quoted more frequently and that there are many other portions of scripture that pertain to a believer’s call to missions. Although these verses may seem unrelated, they fit together easily for me.

Our Lord Jesus tells us in Mark 16 that we must go. It’s not a suggestion or a request – it’s a clear command to His disciples that we should consider it our job to go out and preach the gospel to all people. What really impresses me about the passage in Acts is the example of Philip. In preceding verses we find Philip preaching some awesome revival services where many people were being saved and baptized. Then he begins the return trip to Jerusalem, preaching all along the way. However, God has another plan for Philip – a plan to send him in an unexpected direction to minister to a person of another race and culture. You know, had I been Philip, I might have been tempted to say, “Whoa! Wait a minute Lord! You wanted us all to go to Jerusalem, right? Please don’t confuse me; I’m just getting the hang of following the Spirit’s leading now. And really, Lord, there’s nothing out there in the middle of the desert!” But no! What did Philip do? The Scripture says he “got up and went.” He heard the Spirit speak and he obeyed- it was that simple!

I will never cease to marvel at the fact that God doesn’t need any of us to do the work that He has ordained. Yet He chooses to use us, or rather, to include us in what He is doing in the lives of others around the world. Whoever first asserted that God uses “cracked pots” really hit the nail on the head, because none of us is without flaw, nor is worthy to serve Him. So what must we do to earn such a privilege? As believers, we must simply make ourselves available to God. We don’t have to be spiritual giants, long-time Sunday School teachers, or pastors. We just have to be willing to be obedient, as Philip was.

The temptation as singles might be to say that we’re not ready. Perhaps a mission trip is something that is on the agenda for us after we’ve found a mate, finished college, or after our children are older. Maybe we’re planning to go when we are more secure financially, or when we’ve at least mastered the art of being single and being content in it. Actually, as singles, we are in a season of our lives that often affords us more freedom to follow the call of Christ to go and spread the gospel to all creation. Philip didn’t make excuses when the command was clear, and neither should we.

The fact is that participating in a mission trip (even a short-term trip of 10-14 days) will result in blessings that we could never have imagined. In exchange for your investment of time and money, you will enjoy the privilege of seeing lives changed and futures altered. You will be blessed by the young lady who thought she was saved, but as she listened to you share the gospel with her neighbor, she realized that she had never really trusted the Lord with her whole life- she was still trying to be in control of things. Nothing will have ever seemed as sweet to you as the hug she gives you. You will welcome her into God’s family as both of you weep with joy.

The blessings continue as you walk daily through villages with brothers and sisters in Christ who have sometimes sacrificed much more than you to be there. Christians in other countries know what real persecution is. Yet, they will give up two weeks of their own lives to minister side-by-side with you. They will come out, rain or shine, with nursing babies, suffering from illness, and sometimes in spite of the very recent death of a loved one; because they understand what an honor it is to serve the Lord. You will be humbled by their faithfulness and perseverance.

Nothing can compare with the overwhelming joy you will experience as you watch men and women who have never heard the story of Jesus give their lives over to Him! You will wonder at the child you met along the roadside who just accepted Jesus as her Savior, and is now leading you by the hand to her village so that you can tell others about Him. You will be moved to tears by the young man who insists on being told how his relationship with the Lord will grow before he has even prayed to accept the Savior. You will know real joy as you see the children dance and sing about Jesus. The friendships you make with brothers and sisters on the mission field will keep them near in your heart and mind for the rest of your life.

God has an incredible plan for our lives, and it includes sharing Him with others. It is our responsibility and privilege. We should all find ways to minister within our communities and surrounding areas. But some of us will be called to minister in locations around the world, in cultures that are different from ours, and in situations that we could never have dreamed of. Be assured that the blessings far outweigh the risks of such ministry. Remember, fellow believers, that when the Lord calls us to go, He equips us and He leads the way! Will you step out, in faith, and let Him lead you?

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