I have been thinking a lot about how God protects us even when we are not aware of it at the time.  The many times when things could have gone bad, but it didn’t because of divine intervention.  I write short stories all the time, so I went through some of them to pick out parts of the stories where I was in danger but was unaware.  Looking back, I could see the hand of God protecting me.

This is from what I wrote about the time in 1974 when I was near Guatemala with a missionary.  I was the trip’s photographer as we spent time in small mountain villages:

A group of young guys were heading out to harvest mangos, I was invited to go with them.   I had a great time working with these guys.  Communicating with them was a challenge, but we were able to understand each other by hand language and the few words each of us knew of the other’s language.  We had a donkey pulling a wagon as we walked along side.  Once we arrived at the large trees, some of the guys started climbing high into the trees carrying machetes.  I helped on the ground for a while picking up mangos and tossing them into the wagon.  After a while, I climbed up into the lower branches to knock down some mangos that the others had overlooked.  While I was in the tree, it started to shake.  My first thought was why was someone below shaking the tree while we were up here.  Then I realized that the trunk was way too big for someone to shake.  Ended up being a small earthquake which shook almost all the mangos out of the tree.  As we picked up all the mangos that had fallen out of the tree, the wagon was so full it could barely carry the heavy load.  Walking back to the village along with the full wagon, one of the guys smiled at me and said in a mix of Spanish and English, “…. It was as if God helped us by shaking the tree!”   I agreed!

One day while walking with a group of guys just outside of the village, one man who had walked ahead of us came running back.  He was shouting to us that there were some “Sandinistas” up ahead.  I was not sure what was happening, so I followed everybody into the tree line.  We hid behind trees and bushes and watched a group of men walking by carrying military rifles.   Several years later, there was a war close to this area between the Sandinistas and Contras.  I have often wondered what happened to these good people I visited that summer.

One morning, Miguel said we were moving to a nearby ranch.  I asked if it were in another village, and he said it was not.  The ranch owner had offered for us to stay there for our remaining time. The ranch was nice compared to where we stay in the village.  I had no complaints about staying in the village but moving “up” was a nice change.   The ranch was somewhat isolated and when we went to the village each day, it was about a 30-minute walk.  The countryside was beautiful and mountainous so the walk to the village was challenging in some places and very scenic in others.   I did not know this at the time, but looking back, the people were protecting us from the threat of the Sandinistas who were seen in the area.  I guess an American hostage would have been a prize for them.  God always watches over us even when we have no idea of danger.   When I figured this out, I was humbled that God had used the good people of that area to take care of us.

This next part is taken from the time I was backpacking through Europe in 1979.  I traveled mostly by train and hitchhiking.  Here again, God was watching over me when I had no idea of the danger I was in:

I caught the late afternoon train from Venice to Salzburg, Austria. The ride to Salzburg is nine hours so it was a relaxing ride with plenty of time to sleep. At sunset, the train stopped in the rolling hills of Northern Italy, in the middle of nowhere. Outside the windows I saw a group of people surrounding the train wearing green camo and red berets. Most of them were carrying rifles but the barrels had flowers in them. After a few minutes a couple of those people walked down the aisle of the train obviously looking for something. Not exactly sure what they were looking for, but I was glad I looked more European than American with my long blonde hair and wire rim glasses. After about 5 minutes of being stopped, the people stepped away from the train and we went on our way. I found out later that the group was known as the Red Brigade which is a left-wing terrorist group. Angels watching over me again.

This part is from when I worked in the shipyards as a diesel mechanic / welder-fabricator.  I did a lot of different things to keep the tugboats and barges operating:

…..that reminded me of the time when I was about 18 years old and had worked long hours over night to get an engine running on a tugboat in Beaumont, Texas. Normally when I worked the long hours, I would catch some sleep in one of the bunk rooms of the work-boat before heading back to the shop about 90 miles away.

This time, once the engines were running and all was good, they had to leave port to push barges to Florida. So, I had no choice but to drive back to the shop as the sun rose in the East behind me. I was maxed out on all the coffee I could drink trying to stay away all night while I worked. Before I got on I-10 going west, I stopped at a convenience store to buy something sweet to munch on and a bottle of water. The pickup truck I was driving was one of the shop trucks that had extended mirrors on the doors. As I entered Interstate 10, I set the cruise control and settled in for the hour and half drive. I was so dirty and greasy with engine grease as well as beyond tired. I had been awake for at least 36 hours at that point which was not unusual for the work we did. Everything was going good on the way home; the weather was perfect, and traffic was light. The plan was to drop the truck off at the shop, go home and take a long hot shower and climb into bed and maybe make it back into work in a day or so. Next thing I knew I heard this rumbling noise of the tires rolling over grass on the side of the highway. I looked up just in time to see that I was going under a highway sign with two posts. There was no time to react. There was a loud bang as the two mirrors hit the posts and I laid in on the brakes. I came to a stop not far from the sign, got out and saw the two outside mirrors were destroyed but the rest of the truck did not have a scratch on it. I walked back to the sign and saw where the wheels of the truck went under the sign perfectly in the middle. I am not sure I could have steered the truck that perfectly at 65 miles per hour under the middle of the sign if I tried.  Angels watching over me once again.

This part is from a couple of years ago:

This morning I was running late. I could not catch a break in whatever I did to get going. Even tripped over one of the dogs in the dark since our porch light was not on. I got on the road late, traffic was not too bad but heavier than I am used to. I hit most every light red, not all of them but a lot of them. As I got on NASA 1, I saw emergency lights stretched across the road in the distance. They had one lane open for the traffic to get by. As I passed the wreck it looked like someone was leaving the store on the south side of the road to cross it and got T-Boned just in front of the driver’s door. It looked bad. The first responders were working to get them out of the car. The road opened and every light after that was green which seemed unusual. Then it occurred to me, had I been on time, that wreck would have happened right as I was going through that area. I believe God protected me once again of either being in it or being close enough to see it happen. I pray for those involved.

The following was soon after I found out that I had a mass on my left kidney:

I contacted a longtime friend who happens to work at MD Anderson as an Anesthesiologist.   His response was, “…. You need to go to MD Anderson immediately.  What we see with a lot of cancers is mismanagement at diagnosis”.  He told me who he would recommend for me to see for RCC (Renal Cell Carcinoma – Kidney Cancer) I made the appointment and was at MD Anderson within a week.  The Doctor scheduled surgery for three weeks later. 

Those three weeks of waiting were surreal for me.  I had cancer, a time bomb in my body.  It would be easy to ignore since there was no pain, no physical evidence that I could perceive, but the consequence of ignoring it would be deadly.

Surgery day came and as I prepared to go to MD Anderson, I admit there was some anxiety for the unknown, but I had a peace that I can’t explain. I knew God had this under control; in fact, He created everything so he can take care of this cancer. As I was prepped for surgery, seeing the familiar face of my old friend really helped me deal with the situation. Since MD Anderson is a teaching facility, he had students there and I agreed to let the students do the actual work of setting up for the anesthesia. There is something about laying on a gurney being prepped for cancer surgery that makes everything else in life seems so trivial. The things I took for granted like family became the number one most important factor in my life. My wife Jennifer never left my side until she was directed to do so by the staff. My Mom and Dad was there too but were in the waiting room outside. I was glad that Jennifer would not be alone during this time.

I was wheeled into the surgery area, and I recall seeing the big lights above the table. I recall being moved to the table, but that is all I remember. It seemed to me to be just a minute or so to when I started to wake up. The first face I saw was my old friend working to set up the IVs for recovery. I said that I really hurt, and my friend said, “You have a button in your hand, when you feel pain, just press the button”. Jennifer was also there, and she said I started pressing the button and did not stop pressing it. Even though the button would administer the morphine about every 20 minutes when the button was pressed I guess it was a calming factor to be able to press it as many times as I wanted.

This next part is from when we had to evacuate our home during the Hurricane Harvey Flood:

I got our belongings, what little there was of them to the boat. Jennifer helped me pick up Bella (our black lab) and get her into the boat. Jennifer had put Ginger (our cocker spaniel) on a small table that helped keep her out of the water. I went over to get Ginger but did not see her anywhere. I walked into the house to help Allison get the cats out, I carried the carry cage with Madeline in it and put her into the boat.  Jennifer had a pillowcase with Jasper and Allison had another pillowcase with Vlad in it. I walked back in the house for one last time and I saw Ginger floating just under the water surface going into the kitchen. I gently pushed her body back out the back door where she disappeared deeper under deeper water.

At the boat we helped Allison in, handed her the cats, then I helped Jennifer into the boat. Our neighbor shows up with the Jet Ski, so we tied the john boat to the back of the Jet Ski. Between the fast-moving current and the Jet Ski not running properly the boat barely moved in the pouring rain, but we made to near the house. We untied the boat from the Jet Ski and pushed the boat the rest of the way.

Jennifer and Allison got out at the house, and we took our belongings inside. Bella would not get out of the boat, so my neighbor and I pushed the boat back into the neighborhood to rescue more people. Bella was along for the ride. With the Jet Ski not working properly and no paddles we had a challenging time getting through the neighborhood. I had a large stick that I used to push off the bottom and Mike had a fence board he used as a paddle. We were able to rescue about 12 people before I became too exhausted to go any further. One of the rescues we were helping an elderly couple into the boat in about 5 feet deep water. We got the lady in the boat but when we were trying to get the man, he was heavy. He was not a big man, but he seemed unusually heavy. The wife finally said, I bet his false leg is full of water and that is why he is heavy. That was not something I would have not thought of but in situations like this we learn.

After we got another family to safety, the younger guys took over the rescue efforts while I went to the house where Jennifer and Allison was. Everything was so overwhelming to me, and it took me a while to process what had happened. I looked through our back packs which were soaked through and through from the heavy rain while in the boat, I started to pull stuff out to dry. When I pulled the four books I had put in from my bedside I noticed something odd, three of the four books were swelled from being wet but there was one book that was perfectly dry, it was the Bible. I showed this to Jennifer, and she could not believe it either. We both looked over that Bible closely and there was absolutely no evidence that it had ever been wet. Jennifer and I both knew that God was in control, and we had nothing to worry about.

This last part is from what I wrote after a close call Jennifer, and I had while driving:

The other day we were driving home and approaching an intersection. We had the green light and were about two car lengths from being in the middle of the intersection when like a flash, a car goes across in front of us going at least 50 mph, if not faster. It went by so fast that I really could not judge its speed. Had we been driving a little faster, it could have hit us on the passenger side. Since Jennifer was driving that means that car would have hit us on my side of the car. I am not sure I would have survived such an impact.

Since this happened, I have sort of looked around my life to see what others would have found in my absence. I have nothing to hide so there were no skeletons to be found, but I wonder if how I acted or was perceived by others would have made a lasting impact that I would not have been proud of. Funny thing, one of the first places I looked was Facebook. My last several posts were my usual cars, high-performance aviation and other trying to be funny sort of things along with something I wrote. I hate the political climate and division among people going around now in society. Where I would place blame is most likely not where others place blame, so I try my best to stay away from those. But there are times where I cannot help myself and join in.

Another thing I did was to look around my places at home like the garage, my sanctuary. There are no skeletons there either but there is a lot of junk to someone’s eye if they were tasked with cleaning it out. Junk to someone else is treasure to me. I am not sure what the real value of what is in the garage but maybe Jennifer would have made out well by having an onsite auction… or maybe not worth her time. Maybe it would be best to pay someone to haul off everything.

When I was told I had cancer, I went through this same thing where I looked around to see where my life had an impact. When I found out that I was now a cancer survivor my gratitude for everything went sky-high and has not landed but has lost altitude from time to time. For the most part I am grateful for everything, even the simple things we usually take for granted. When we lost most everything to the Harvey Flood, I saw the good in people who stepped up to help in more ways than I can count. The Blessings outweighed the tragedy. I do not see color of skin but the character behind the eyes. That is how I have always looked at people and always will. We are all the Human Race and should not be defined by how dark or light our skin is.

Maybe a wake-up call or a close call like this is good from time to time to remind us of who we are and how we are perceived.

As I evaluate my life when something like this happens makes me more aware of our mortality. The one thing I am certain of is through the Grace of Jesus Christ I know where I will be the instant my heart stops.