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Divine Providence

With the assassination attempt on Donald Trump last Saturday evening, the world witnessed a divine moment of the closest kind—the split-second, millimeter away from death itself kind of moment. As horrific as the story unfolded, our nation was spared a nightmare of endless images of the moment of a bullet’s impact killing a former president. For that we are all grateful. This is the definition of a miracle for some, but just a “lucky break” for others. 

Those of us who have experienced miracles from near fatal instances know the life-changing impact such encounters have. Divine intervention at just the right moment is breathtaking. Many will use the experience to seek out God to discover next steps in a God-glorifying life; to discern what it means to have a more fulfilling life; or to discover a new humility before the wonder of God’s love. Sadly, others may take this as a sign of prideful invincibility or permission to be arrogantly self-sufficient. 

With this kind of experience comes the Why? Questions, such as, why are some spared and others not; Why me, Why this, and Why now? In Biblical understanding, this is all under the area called The Divine Providence of God. The why would God allow evil, sin and suffering questions. Why do the wicked prosper and many good people are sick or impoverished? I bring this up because many of us have friends who are masking their spiritual struggles right now by immersing themselves in secular politics in order to change the subject away from their own soul. Anger hides a multitude of pain. 

Most of us would rather avoid confronting the issues of God’s Divine Providence. Divine Providence speaks to the very nature of our Maker and Creator. Divine Providence compels us to face our own frailties and mortality. You see, the closer we come to the Holiness of God and the face of eternity, the more we sense the consequences of our sin and pride. When you find yourself standing on holy ground, bow down before Jesus.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Ask Why, then Listen. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Lessons For an Excellent Adventure

We are back from another excellent adventure. It was the Covid afterwards that slowed me down. This time I kept a mental list of the things that I might advise someone else on taking a trip to anywhere in the world. Top of the list: buy the best walking shoes that fit your feet perfectly. Also take flip-flops to wear in strange showers or anywhere else you do not need your excellent walking shoes. Let your feet rest each day. Good shoes are better than any outfit you will wear. When traveling abroad, take your best knees and hips. There are no elevators at centuries-old destinations. And by the way, air-conditioning is a luxury Americans take for granted.

Plan your journey well. Pray without ceasing. Always ask for help when needed. When flying anywhere these days, leave at least 3 hours between flights and connections. TSA is still picky with their rules. Reluctantly I say, wear a mask on the plane. Do not get sick at the beginning of your adventure, or any other time. Also, don’t fall down! Pack less than you think you will need. Leave room in the suitcase and space in your daily schedule to rest and enjoy each day. If you need something you did not bring, buy it there as a souvenir of your adventure. 

​Choose your travel companions wisely. While traveling alone is often necessary, someone to share an adventure helps keep us moving forward and focused on the good things. I also recommend, for those of us of a certain age, bringing a teenager or young person. They tend to have good ears, strong backs, and are wise in the ways of smart phones and the best apps fornavigating the way. Include a walk with Jesus each day.

​Always be gracious and generous. Never travel without candy. I prefer fun-sized M&M’s, individually wrapped mints, and packs of chocolate-covered almonds. They make friends ofstrangers and little beggars. On one flight we needed to trade a seat with a man to keep our little band together. Chocolate-covered almonds sealed the deal. Memories are more important than the perfect photograph. Look at what is before you with wonder in your eyes; then take the pictures you want.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Have an excellent adventure. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Today is Under Construction

Essayist Sheila Bender told a story about visiting a castle in Japan. During the tour, one of the areas she wanted to see was cordoned off to keep the tourists out of the big room. Rather than posting a typical “Closed” sign, the entrance to the room had a creatively translated sign that read: “Today is Under Construction.” Isn’t that an intriguing way to look at life?

My today is under construction. The minutes and the hours are the framework of my day. How I arrange the materials, spend the resources and allot the spaces of today shape the life of tomorrow. The mornings, afternoons, evenings and nights continue with an endless rhythm. Today is under construction; yesterday cannot be undone or remodeled, that work is left for today. My emotions, physical and mental health, and spiritual vitality help cement the day. Or are they just the wallpaper I want others to see instead of the real day I am building? Am I being honest with myself today? There are quiet spaces, but mostly noisy places accompanying my life today. My decisions and choices today carry my life into all my tomorrows. My relationships with others are the memory makers of the day.

I am a Christian under construction today. Knocking, asking, seeking, finding; listening, stumbling, learning, climbing. Today is under construction, so bear with me if things are not quite in their proper place. I have a Master Architect and an amazing Blueprint, but apparently, I am responsible for my construction projects today. For a vision of a better life to become a reality, I must dream of a new tomorrow, pay the costs, follow the plans and work through the obstacles. I could use a break or even a nap right now. I wonder what would happen if I asked you to help me with my today, and if I helped you with your today? I guess that might be risky—but something good could happen—let’s talk about it. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy (constructing) your life today. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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The Remarkable Jim Niederer

Updated for 2024

As the observance of the 80th anniversary of D-Day was approaching, Dorothy and I talked with the family war hero, Jim Niederer this past weekend. While he did not storm the beaches of Normandy, he did storm the beach at Anzio. On the day we talked with him, he had a session with his physical therapist in the morning and later went shopping with his daughter at a shoe store and Home Depot. He spends time each day in his garage/workshop, where he smokes a cigar. His most recent project has been building large outdoor ornaments wrapped in Christmas lights for his many friends. 

I told some of his story last year when a documentary about his war experiences was released. A group seeking to preserve the memories of veterans filmed Jim’s story and combined it with actual war footage and newsreels of his experiences. You can watch Jim recount his experiences on You Tube. Search for Jim Niederer: 102 Year Old World War II Veteran. The complete documentary is 50 minutes in length. 

Jim’s parents, Dorothy’s grandparents, immigrated to Waco, Texas from the German- speaking Appenzell, Switzerland in 1907. The family became part of the Central Baptist Church, a former mission of First Baptist, Waco to the German immigrant families.  Jim was born January 6, 1921. He served in World War II from 1942-1945. After intensive training, Jim’s unit sailed to north Africa to fight the Nazis in Europe. Under the command of General George Patton, he participated in the invasion of Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio in Italy. Because Jim could speak German, he was able to eavesdrop on the enemy. Jim witnessed General Patton’s death from about 50 feet away. His unit came under the command of General Dwight Eisenhower, whom he talked with on many occasions.  They freed towns across Germany and Austria, where Jim’s unit liberated the Dachau concentration camp. Jim was awarded six bronze stars and a bronze arrowhead.

A man of deep faith, Uncle Jim still lives in his own house. His son Ken comes over each night to help him get ready for bed. His daughter Kay drives in from Round Rock to spend many weekends with him. Others check on Jim daily. He greatly misses his wife, Ella Marie, who died in 2020. And he reads The Evangel faithfully each week. Before we said our goodbyes, he told us, “One good thing about being 103 is: you can’t get much older.”  Remarkable gentleman.

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# 487 – Birds in Church

The following is an excerpt from my imaginary book One Thousand and One Things They Don’t Teach at Preacher School.

There was a beautiful regal red cardinal sitting on the foyer windowsill. I was struck by his beauty, and at first I thought he was not real. He was, after all, perched on the windowsill in the church foyer just above one of the red couches. I walked over to him. He turned away and decided to fly out toward the trees. He did not understand the concept of plate glass windows. He was inside the church, not outside.

I have some experience handling birds in church. One weekday morning in the mid-1970’s I was heading up the north stairs to the third floor when I surprised three urban pigeons that startled me. An upstairs window had been left open. Pigeons are not clean birds. Various birds, even a bat or two, have managed to find their way into the building over the years.* I found a large apron, dampened it, and captured the birds one by one. A damp cloth thrown over them works every time. The cloth needs to be large enough to cover the bird completely. The dampness depends on the weight and size of the bird. The weighted cloth, along with the darkness of the material, disorients the bird sufficiently for you to scoop it up and whisk it outside, without getting bit or clawed or contacting any uncleanliness. The rules are simple: 1) close the doors to the sanctuary to keep the birds out of the biggest room in the building; 2) open the main doors to let them out if they would rather not wear the damp cloth; and 3) remember, they are more confused or panicked than you are.

I followed the rules for capturing the cardinal, less the cloth. After repeatedly banging into the window trying to get out, he was dazed and confused. I scooped him into my gloved hands (see # 35 – Items to Always Have in Your Desk Drawer), escorted him out by the trees, and released him. He never looked back. The flash of red against the clear blue sky was spectacular. Birds belong outside. People belong in church. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Go to church this week. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

*No creatures were harmed in these stories.

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