Ten Things I’d Want You to Know if This Was My Last Day on Earth

June 10, 2013 | 37 comments

What would I really want to say, if only given one more chance in this life to say it?

That’s what the event-organizer on the telephone asked me. And would I come to tell an audience?

I’ve written millions of words over the years, depositing them into thousands of news stories, hundreds of  blog posts, a few dozen magazine articles and most recently, one book.

But if I had to pick just fifteen minutes worth of words? One final time to say what really mattered? NOT an easy task.

I’ve come to learn this much, though: the very best words will probably never make it to the front page, might never lead a newscast, and may or may not find their way between the covers of a book.

The most important words — the ones that can really change everything — are the ones we speak to God, to our children, our grandchildren, our hurting neighbor, the grieving widow, … and the man who asked me for my hand in marriage. We have a choice: We can speak condemnation or celebration into the hearts of others — and into the hearts of our very own selves.

What if — when the girls interrupt my carefully executed plan today with another request to braid hair or paint fingernails, while I’m trying to write that 15-minute talk — what if my last words were ones that were laced with irration rather than affection?

If I knew today’s words were my last, would I:

  • harp about the lost library books,
  • complain about this never-ending rain,
  • or lob muttered annoyances when I look at myself wearing last summer’s capris?

Or would I speak words to others — and to myself — that echo God’s habitual chorus over us:

  • You are utterly cherished,
  • divinely loved,
  • wildly graced by a King.

That’s Truth that could change absolutely everything.

So this is what I’d want to say:

1 – You, my friend, are more loved than you ever dared imagine … loved enough that your Savior died two kinds of deaths: one that brought Him to this world and another that saved us from it.

2 – You are enough. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. We all face some really big “not enoughs” in this life. Those not-enoughs are fierce and stubborn. Be stubborn-er.

3 – Live life forward, but know that you might only be able to understand it backwards. That’s what Søren Kierkegaard said, and I know it to be true. Some folks say, “never look back,” but I have come to believe that the rear-view mirror offers us a unique perspective to see where God was at work all along.

4  – We could simply exist, or we could actually live. Pick the Living Part. And you don’t have to find out you’re dying to choose the better way.

5 – Small is the new big. The world says super-size your order, your platform, your bank account, your clout, your voice. But Jesus says, “Humble yourself.” Let’s all be like Zacchaeus: The only reason he climbed higher was so that he could get a better look at Jesus.

6 – Let. It. Go. When we belong to Christ, honest to goodness, we are free to make mistakes. I’m preaching this one to myself every day, and I might have to say it until I breathe my last. But I want to live secure in Whose I am, rather than who I’m trying so hard to be.

7 – Get thyself outdoors. God brushes earth alive, coloring it with proof that He is infinitely grand and good. Sure, I find God in my Bible, at my country church, in my messed-up little heart … but I also find Him performing magic in the out of doors. His world reminds me that the steadfast Lord is shouting down through the universe: “You are loved. You have nothing to fear today. For I am with You. I know what you need today, child.  And as a bonus, did you happen to see what I made for you this morning?”

8 – Grace is for real. God really does love us no matter what, and He really can’t stop loving us. You can’t out-love God, and you can’t out-run Him. He loves us through every detour, wrong turn, ugly choice — even the dumb stuff we are yet to do. Yep. I needed to know that today.

9 – Get honest. It makes the rest of us know we’re not alone, and not as crazy as we thought we were up in our own little noggins.

10 – There really is a finish line. And God is already there. Just think, when you cross that line, your Maker might just take you by the arm and whisper in your ear, “Come with me. I have some people I want you to meet. Your life made such a difference.”


I am speaking tonight in Orange City about “Last Words.” Could you say a prayer for me? Microphones and podiums make my hands and heart tremble!

YOUR TURN: What would you say if you were given one last opportunity to speak?

by | June 10, 2013 | 37 comments


  1. Eileen

    Awesome post. You’ve nailed it.

  2. Deb Russell

    Wish I could be there in Orange City to hear you, but this will just have to do. Beautiful words my friend!

  3. Kathy Schwanke

    You are beautiful. Love your words and your heart. <3

    • dukeslee

      Love you back, girl. Thanks for being here. xo

  4. Barbara Isaac

    Oh, these are so so good, every.single.one of them! I’d make LIVE IN THE NOW another one!
    Thanks so much.

  5. Sue

    I just simply loved this –

  6. Sharon O

    If I was given one last opportunity to speak.
    I would focus on the real, the hard, the vulnerable questions.
    I would tell them I cared but God cares more.
    I would tell them to hug more and encourage others with words of affirmation.
    I would say focus on relationships not work or to do lists or… what other thing that gets in the way.
    If I was given one last opportunity to speak.
    I would tell them the most important decision and love they can ever have is one with JESUS.
    When it is all over, that is all that counts.

  7. Floyd

    Great post, Jennifer. I like the list. If I had to give last words, they might sound a bit like David’s last words to Solomon in Kings 2. “Be strong, trust in the Lord, walk in His ways…” I’m a copycat like that though… That’s a tough task, but your list is sound. I’m praying for you. May your words be from our Father and may you be supernaturally relaxed as you speak His words and He is lifted up.

  8. Gwen

    Well said. I’ll print this & look at these in coming days. I shared with my 20-something, pregnant daughter. I pray she’ll learn these truths much earlier than I have.

  9. Pam Birmingham

    This post reminds me of the frantic calls to loved ones on 9-11. Every one of them that I heard were words of gratefulness to the one called, words of love.

    • dukeslee

      Yes, Pam! Exactly this… To live like that everyday, other-referenced rather than self-referenced. Great example.

  10. ro elliott

    i say yes and amen to this…oh that song…live like you are dying…we all are really dying…but oh the Glory of it all…saying a prayer right now…holy Boldness to speak words of life…blessings to you~ (you my friend are having a big week ) 🙂 🙂

  11. Diane W. Bailey

    Praying for you, Susta! Wish we were closer, God has knocked my socks off this week. And I know He will do the same for those to whom you will be speaking tonight! Praying the anointing your way!

  12. HisFireFly

    Perfect! And I’m praying…

  13. Doug Spurling

    My oh my…haven’t crossed the field to visit you for awhile and I like what you’ve done to the place. But one thing remains the same…my favorite thing. The fresh aroma of Jesus lingers here.

  14. Ceil

    I’ll say a prayer that you are given the Holy Spirit in a powerful way to speak the truth you need to speak.
    I love the way you said we should ‘love the little.’
    If I had to speak some last words, I would say, “Go, and go right now to your loved ones and tell them what a blessing they are to you. And every little thing that you have done for anyone else is written in the book of life. It will not be forgotten by me, or Our Father.”

  15. pastordt

    Close your eyes. Go on, close them. Now remember Holley and Lisa-Jo praying for you in Omaha. Yeah. That’s the way. That’s what I’m doing right now, my hand outstretched toward the east, saying words of love and encouragement, and confident you are receiving them RIGHT THIS MINUTE. “Bless my friend, Lord. Encourage her heart. Speak to the turmoil and release her to preach your word to these friends tonight. You are good. You are faithful. And You will do it.” AMEN.

    • dukeslee

      Diana … Your comment came through almost precisely when I took the microphone. Go figure, eh? Just … thanks. I love you.

  16. Leah Adams

    Jennifer, I don’t always comment, but I do always read. The one that really spoke to me and that I am living out in all kinds of ways right now in ministry is ‘small is the new big’. God has totally re-worked my idea of ministry and it is nothing like I had thought or dreamed, but it is good. It is one on one ministry versus the big stage. It is relational evangelism and it is good.

    A couple of things I would say would be (1) to encourage others to remember that it is not all about them. Oh, sure our salvation is all about us and Jesus, but for the most part, life doesn’t revolve around me and I need to fix my gaze, not on myself, but on Jesus. When I do that, He brings the important things and people into focus. (2) Talk (a lot) less and listen A LOT more. ‘Nuf said.

    • dukeslee

      You’ve got this thing figured out, Leah. You really do. You mentor with your words in the comment box. Thank you, friend.

  17. Erin

    Loved this Jennifer

  18. Rachel Larkin

    Great topic – It just came to me as I was walking this morning that everything I see will disappear – creation and the works of man are temporary – the only thing (beside the things of God- like His Word) on this earth that is forever are people. What am i saying to people?, how am I handling the different relationships I have – children, husband, friends, family?, etc.

    Your comment about “small is the new big” is very interesting – I am going to dwell on that for a while.
    Thanks for your blog

    • dukeslee

      Such power in the words we speak over PEOPLE, yes? And the words we speak over our very own selves. Bless you, Rachel.

  19. simplystriving

    Prayed for you today, Jennifer, and am still feeling this post since reading it in my email!

    I would love to echo everything you said …

    I keep thinking of my Great-Grandmother Veta. When she would meet someone new, she would hold out her hand and linger holding yours for a bit while she pretended not to hear your name. This would make you lean in closer to say it again…and then she’d say “Oh, Jennifer, yes…my goodness does God ever love you. I’m honored to finally meet you.” It would always make my teenage friends blush.

    I wonder if I could follow her lead because a part of me now understands she was living the end like it was the very beginning…

    • dukeslee

      Oh girl… This comment? I’m having a full heart-swoon over your GG Veta. “My goodness, does God ever love you.” I’d love to read a whole blog post about that, friend!

      • MVTerry

        That comment…”…does God ever love you. I’m honored to finally meet you.” I am tucking that away in my back pocket of heart-felts, and hoping to remember those precious words next time I meet someone. I’m not great-grandma yet, but I’m getting old enough to have people repeat their name for me! 😉

  20. kazzeo

    I would say,

    LORD JESUS, YOUR LOVE is so beautiful.

  21. salina19

    Beautiful post. Like the comment above I too think about my grandma. She was constantly living like it was her last moment on earth, and you couldn’t help but feel that coming from her. Thanks for reminding us of what’s most important. http://www.heartreflected.com

  22. Cheryle

    last words. Hmm so many could be said. I think for myself it has and still is. It does not matter how many time we fall its the getting up that matters. Raise your eyes to God and ask for His help in getting back up. The world will knock you down over and over again but as long as you get back up and not stay down thats what really matters.

  23. Ashley Larkin

    Thank you, beautiful Jennifer. Such love and grace and hope in these words. I am breathing more deeply now…thank you. I look forward to hearing how your talk went. I have no doubt those listening were so blessed by Jesus in you. I don’t have anything to add to your list right now, but you’ve got me thinking, and I’ve been so touched by reading this beauty.

  24. Jennifer Walker

    I would tell everyone that yes, all things are to prosper you, even the death of your only child. God could not give Colin back to me, but he has blessed me as a result of Colin’s death. He wants to give you a hope and a future, however, sometimes that means we must lose something.

  25. narrowpathstohigherplaces

    So good. How would our lives looked if we remembered the good things, the better part, instead of getting bogged down in all the filler that takes up our lives and can so easily cloud our view of the majesty in our every day.

  26. Shelly Miller

    Oh my, and I’m so glad I’m reading this after the generous comment you left on my blog Jennifer. Your words are like answers to my thoughts, coaching for my fears, assurance that I’m not alone. And I know you blessed the socks of those people who heard you speak in real life. Thanks for being you.

  27. Deanne Moore

    I recently heard Ruth Bell Graham’s poem “When I die.” I think her sentiments in that poem follow so well what you have written here— to live, really live and then to leave earth’s vastness, anticipating the joy.

    I googled and found it if you interested. Thank you for this beautiful post, full of truth. Savoring it.

  28. achristmaschild

    thank you Jennifer… reading this really helped, and helps.

  29. Nancy Ruegg

    Wow. This post is a keeper, to be reviewed again and again so its truths can be internalized. With great insight you have brought into focus what is truly important (i.e. let it go), and set aside what is not (i.e. striving in over-drive). Those who heard you speak were undoubtedly blessed, challenged, and changed! What I’d want others to know? Always be on the lookout for things to appreciate. Gratitude to God for all his gifts keeps the spirit uplifted.

  30. Josh

    Beautiful. Simply beautiful.


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