The words popped into my inbox at precisely the right time:

“Jennifer, I’m writing to let you know that God delights in you.”

The note came from Dave. He was a pastor who lived about a half-hour from our farm. Over the years, he had become a dear friend to my husband and me.

Dave wasn’t our pastor, but in many ways, he was a spiritual mentor. Quite regularly, he would drop me a line, reminding me that I was loved by God, just as I was, not as I thought I should be.

Dave had a Brennan Manning-esque quality to him that made you know that no matter how badly you’d blown it, God would not walk out on you.

He ended most of his notes with these four words: “God delights in you.”

Dave had a ministry of words — and I wasn’t the only one on the receiving end. He spread kindness everywhere he went, like confetti. If you were his friend on Facebook, there was a 100 percent chance that you’d get a birthday greeting on your wall, along with the reminder that “God delights in you.”

We all need a friend like Dave, someone who is generous with kind words and who consistently reminds us that we are treasured by God, even when we feel busted up by the world.

But there’s more: We also need to be that friend.

More than ever before in the history of our world, we have the power to practice our own ministry of words. With a few keystrokes, we can sprinkle kindness on social media. With a stamp and a postcard, we can deliver love. With a few taps of our fingertips and some silly emojis, we can offer glad tidings.

Do we realize the power we have to make someone’s day? Do we realize the power we have to let someone know she is a treasured child of the King?

We can do it with words.

The world out there? It’s a tough place right now, you know? Sometimes, it feels like people are more interested in being right than being kind. Some want to have the last word, the final say, and the smug comeback. I see it too often: how people choose vitriol over virtue.

And that’s just the public word exchanges.

Some of us know painfully well how words behind closed doors can cut the deepest.

I have both loved and hated words. They have been used to heal me, and to hurt me.

You too?

We are all shaped by the words spoken over us. The names we’ve been called on the playground. The inspiring pep talks our parents gave us. The words the counselor spoke over us. The insults from the boss. The gentle affirmation from the kind lady who always sat in the last pew.

Behold the power of the spoken word:

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” {Proverbs 18:21}.

Words start wars, and they spark peace.

They are shadows, and they are chains. But they are also wings and freshest air.

Words can take you prisoner, or they can set you free.

Dave showed a lot of people what it looked like to choose the very best words.

Last week, our dear friend Dave died after a long illness. And you know what his friends have been doing since then? They have been recalling the miles of kind words he used to pave a road that leads straight to Jesus.

This is one of the many legacies that Dave leaves: a legacy of words.

You know what I think? I think we can do the same. There are reasons we don’t. First of all, it takes effort. We may have to cross through a crowd, or set aside a few minutes to make a phone call. But even a short 20-second text, saying “God delights in you” could make all the difference today to your kid, your co-worker, your spouse, your cranky neighbor, or your mother.

Our words always fold into the souls of other human beings. That’s no small thing.

When we exit earth for heaven, we might not have a lot of money or pretty things to leave the people we love. But we can always be rich in the words we left behind. We can leave an inheritance of kindness.

That’s what Dave taught me.

And just imagine that moment, when Dave showed up at heaven’s gate. I like to think that God pulled him aside, and whispered in Dave’s ear:

“I delight in you!”

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  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    This is beautiful! I pray that I will leave a legacy of love with my words. I know how words have built me up and also how they have crushed me. I never want my words to be the undoing of someone else. May I never be too busy to remind others that God delights in them. Thank you for this much needed reminder…so sorry about your loss…
    Bev xx

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee


      Can I just offer this? You really are leaving a legacy of love with words. You are one of the most generous encouragers. Thank you for your words here, and on your blog. Grateful for you.

      • Bev @ Walking Well With God

        Thank you for your kind words…I wasn’t having the best of days due to my aged and ill canine senior gal, Zoe. Your words were the balm my heart needed…a true lift!
        Thank you…I truly love your writing from the heart! xx

        • Beth Williams

          Prayers for your dog Zoe! It is always hard to lose a pet! I have been through two losses and they don’t get easier! I just rest in the knowledge that they are in Heaven with God & I will see them again!
          Prayers that she can be healed and live a bit longer. May she provide comfort to you as you heal!
          Blessings :)

  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    This is a lovely and encouragingly worded post, Jennifer. I am so sorry for the passing of your dear friend and cheerful-word mentor. It is so difficult to say the words “good-bye.” Please accept my sincere sympathy. And please know that he has left behind one wonderful word-winger: You. You’ve learned his lessons well. With each and every post you pen, you are shaping words deepened with succor and significance. I know I personally have been so grateful for your loving, encouraging words that I have received personally in emails, comment boxes, and in person. And I think you are passing on Dave’s lessons to Lydia. What an encouraging young word-winger she is! She and I were just discussing the significance of the written word, handwritten and hand-delivered in the post box. We think that sending letters and cards the old-fashioned way is a dying art and that it is singularly important. The kind spoken word uplifts. But the kind *written* word uplifts over and over again. One is more evanescent, the other more permanent. I have such notes from my mother, and only one from my beloved father, now with Jesus. He couldn’t say, “I love you,” verbally, but he finally wrote it. His legacy was the love he showed me; still to have his declaration of it in his own hand, in his permanently written words, is shaping my soul in unfathomable ways to this day.
    Again, Jennifer, please accept my love and sympathy at your friend’s loss. But thank you for honoring him with every click at your keyboard.

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      Thank you, dear friend. Dave was such a treasure. Did you get to know him? He wasn’t a blogger, but had encouraged many of us on our blogs for years. I’m wondering if you might have crossed paths with him. He was a dear, dear soul.

      I agree with your remarks about the permanence of the written word. Just the other day, I was re-reading old letters from my Grandma Taylor, who died in 2001, a month before Lydia was born. I will always treasure those letters.

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        No. I’m not a blogger, so he never visited me. :-) . . . but I don’t recall reading his words to you. What was his last name? And oh what a treasure to have your grandmother’s letters. That’s incredible. I really don’t have anything from my grandmothers….one little letter, I think. But they were treasures, themselves.

  • Kelly Greer

    I will never forget Dave and the words he shared every single day. His words were not only kind, but true. They will not return void, they are shaping us even to this day. Have been blessed by Dave over and over again and never even met this man. Yes our words matter Jennifer. So very much. ❤

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      So glad you got to know Dave through his Facebook encouragement, Kelly.

  • http://ChasingHoliness.com/ Brenda

    I’m sorry for your loss. ((Hug)) I love this so much. Coincidentally, in this morning’s quiet time, I came upon this verse: “Gentle words are a tree of life…” (Prov. 15:4) A legacy of words…I like that. :) My heart’s cry is to make a difference…and words have the power to make a difference. Love this, Jennifer, thanks for sharing. :)

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      Hmmmm… Perfect verse.

  • Ro Elliott

    Thanks for the encouragement…. I have a dear friend who carries with her a “vat of good wine” and she is always… with the most genuine heart…pouring rich, tasty robust words into people’s cups… The Lord has used her to awaken a desire in me to give words of joyful delight to those around me…not the fake sugary sweet kind(I do live in the south)… The kind that maybe feeling good for a moment…but those empty “calorie words leave you empty…but to speak true words of life…words that leave another soul nourished… And I love this quote from Mother Teresa…kind words can be short and easy to speak,but their echoes are truly endless… I sure wish I would have known this sooner….but so thankful for God’s longsuffering love toward me…he never grows weary of redemption!!!!

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      So good, Ro! Thanks.

  • http://mydailybreadandbutter.com Devi Duerrmeier

    Sending you comfort and prayers, Jennifer. I remember Dave from #TellHisStory, did he publish something there once? Or comment on your blog? I’m sure you’ve written about him before. What a wonderful tribute to his life and a necessary reminder for all of us. Thank you for sharing.

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      Yes, Devi, Dave had written a guest post at #TellHisStory, and I’d referenced his wisdom many times over the years in my blog posts and on my Facebook page. A lot of people called him the “Facebook pastor” because of his constant encouragement on social media.

  • Linda Radach

    Beautiful, Jennifer! Tears at the picture of Jesus and Dave sharing a moment over the words, “I delight in you.”

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      Yes… Thank you, Linda. A beautiful moment to picture.

  • Penny

    Someone to delight in us, I think that’s something all of us crave, deep down. Reading those words made me cry, so I know it is important to me. I have done many things to try and inspire delight in others, some things I’m not very proud of. It didn’t work anyway. The beauty behind your post, is the reminder that we don’t have to do anything for God to delight in us. He just does, because we are His, and He loves us. Thank you for this reminder. I needed it today.

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      I love that, Penny. Like Dave always said, “God doesn’t love you because you’re the smartest kid or because you try the hardest. He loves you because He loves you.”

  • http://bethandjimherring.com Beth Herring

    Such a beautiful story of truth and the grace of God. We can make a difference. I need to remember that when it gets lonely on the mission field… Thank you precious friend!

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      Praying for you, Beth, and your tireless service. xo

      • http://bethandjimherring.com Beth Herring

        Thank you my friend. It’s a good tired! Lol!

  • Juie

    I read this tonight after I just had an an exchange of words with my husband and I didn’t fight fair. I was fuming….and wallowing in my justification. All the while that still small voice was being drowned out by my insistence that I was right. Then I read this. …. Thank you God that you love me enough to help me make it right with him and you forgive me so I get to be right with you. Amazing grace..

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      God’s grace is just that exactly: Truly Amazing. Praying that things look better today.

  • http://www.Theflawedtreasure.com Kristi

    Wow. Gorgeous. Thank you so much for this! I love it.

    And I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend.

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      Thank you, Kristi. Say a prayer for his wife and their three kids — triplets in high school. They are a lovely family.

  • Karrilee Aggett

    I can’t even with how much I adore you. That is all. (only just the opposite because, you know – All the words and all the feels, my friend!)

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      I just love you, Karrilee. Are you at Allume? I didn’t get to go this year.

      • Karrilee Aggett

        Oh I wish! It seems a lot of us weren’t able to make it this year but I sure am praying for all the ones who are there! Maybe next year? (I did JT this year plus, you know, we started this whole church thing… so I couldn’t swing it this year – but I am already praying about 2016!)

  • Beth Williams

    I discovered a few years back that my God given talent was encouragement. I delight in send cards, e-cards, etc. I spend time with people telling them through actions that I love them. I pray my legacy can be as big as Dave’s. The one thing I want remembered about me is that words mattered to me and I used them to spread God’s love!
    Blessings :)

    • http://www.jenniferdukeslee.com/ dukeslee

      What a wonderful talent God has given you … the gift of encouragement. I pray that you have people feeding that same kind of encouragement into you! Thank you for sharing.

  • http://martysmoosetracks.blogspot.com/ Marty

    “We are all shaped by the words spoken over us.” TRUTH. Thank you for this great reminder…to leave an inheritance of kindness. “We can always be rich in the words we left behind.”

  • http://michelemorin.wordpress.com Michele Morin

    Rolling those blessed words around in my mind this morning: “God delights in you.”
    I read it in the Bible (“he sings over you!”), and I know it to be true, but I need to live in their truth and make it part of my legacy to my kids. Thanks for this reminder today.

  • Pam Ecrement

    Jennifer, this post is a reminder we need to keep on our refrigerator. Words do matter and can make a tremendous difference in the lives of us all. Dave’s legacy and blessing continues through each of you whom he has touched and those of us who never knew him as well. Thank you for this wonderful story!