Monday, May 31, 2010

The War at Home - Our Soldier.

Two years ago my nephew left for the war in Iraq. This is what I blogged and seems appropriate to rerun it today.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The War at Home

Jason has been a warrior his whole life. I have heard stories of his childhood obsession playing with green army men for years. He would play for hours in his room or in the yard strategizing and destroying the enemy. The most recent story I heard was when his soldiers would die, he would bury them then forget where and they would be lost.“I didn’t just dig a hole and stick them in it; I had a service and all. I did it right,” he explained. I can tell you somewhere in south Austin, buried in the yard of his childhood home, are possibly thousands of small green army men. The graveyard.

It seems that some people know their destiny early. They, I believe, are the lucky ones. They are driven to be whom they know they are. After high school Jason went straight into the National Guard. A week or two into it he called home and wanted out. His mom and I talked and she decided to put the kibosh on his leaving.“No, you don’t want to regret this,” she coaxed him. He knew in his heart she was right. He completed the time with honors.Not long after returning from his National Guard training and duties he was milling around trying to figure out what he was going to do next. Police work became his next objective and he started his education at cop school. Upon graduation he found a position in a small town east of Austin and went to work. Police work was good to Jason.

He shared story after story of his days and nights on the job. He loved his work and you could hear it in every word. As he began his emersion into police work, each month he would report for National Guard duties. Then came 9/11. The world was thrown into frenzy. Americans raised their hands over their hearts and were proud to be Americans as we took on the terrorist of our world. They had attacked us all around the world and we were detached, but now they were in our country and everyone felt the heartache and patriotism. We are Americans and this is our country and that cannot happen here. Jason was standing tall ready to go should they call.

Eventually he moved to a bigger city and a new position in their police department. There he had drug duty and sting operations -- he loved all that. He always said, “I want to be in the tough part of the city – the rough side.” He usually was. After years of weekends and summer training Jason’s time with the National Guard was coming to an end. He had never been called up to fight in Iraq, some don’t. He was well into his new job and had gotten married and had a newborn baby girl. Everything was in place. Except for one thing -- he had to decide, do I re”up” with the guard or not.

Resigning with the guard meant a lot of things. It meant he would be able to continue to work on the pension and other rewards he would eventually receive when he completed his service. But it also meant he was probably going to go to Iraq for a period of time, most likely a year or more. A decision that meant leaving his wife, new baby daughter and other family. It meant months of boot camp style training with long days and short nights.We had long talks about the pros and cons of going to Iraq and the chances he would take. He went to council with others and prayed about it with his wife. When he told me he had decided to go and that they had a date for him to leave, I was mad. How, why, why now with the baby?

But I know why Jason went; I know why he is there. He is there because since he was little boy, he has been preparing to be an American soldier. He is there because deep inside Jason, ingrained in this young man with everything going for him, is the desire to serve his country. He is old school patriotic. He is willing to give his life so others may be spared the tragedy of 9/11 or something even more horrific. He is, like so many of our American soldiers, committed to the calling of God and country.

Don’t tell me American is anything less than great. Don’t put our president or our soldiers down in front of me. I stand next to my nephew who is headed to Iraq; I am humbled by his bravery, his honor of country, his willingness to die to protect his nieces and nephews. He is willing to sacrifice all he has for you and me. He is a man. I pray a legion of angels will protect him as he goes forward and that God will use him to minister to others in His great commission.

We can agree to disagree here in America and not have our hands cut off, our families killed, our daughters beaten and raped because of the freedom our soldiers have sacrificed for. So, tell me, what are you doing?

***Update: Jason, his two daughters and wife are good, living in Victoria, Texas and continues his police work and National Guard service.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Survival Camp

With Kids Outdoor Zone youth adventure ministry Jesus has and still does come alongside us time and time again. He loves on us and cares for us. He carries the yoke we struggle with and talks to us in those still quiet moments encouraging g us and comforting us.

Over the last few months we have learned to “press in,” to strive for God’s love and direction in our lives and KOZ. We are learning a lot about preparing our hearts and our intentions before acting on behalf of KOZ. He showed us this weekend that He is there and that He loves that we love Him and are coming to Him for cover and direction.

This Friday we left Austin with eight boys, one guide in training and three men who have a heart for the Lord and KOZ.

Saturday was spent teaching survival skills to the boys as if they were stranded from a plane wreck. They learned about finding water and purifying it. They were taught how to start a fire and create an SOS. They build debris huts and learned how to select the right spot to build shelter. They caught fish with survival tools and ate them. They all did a great job.

We love all the guy activities. It gets hot, we get tired and hungry but we bond together during these lessons. This trip was no different than ones we have done in the past except that, the weeks leading up to this trip our leaders, prayer warriors and intercessors cried out for Jesus to be with us, to heal the boys who were coming, to love on them. To show us how to love them, care for them, lead them to Him.

Saturday evening started off tense with a lot of the boys tired and hot. That can be fuel for anger, frustration and a mean spirit. The talk about the campfire was all but loving and caring. One of the leaders called for a time of quiet reflection and for all the boys to separate for a period of time. They were not allowed to talk or be together, they spread about the pasture, valley and creek side.

When they returned we pressed in. We began to talk about where they were in their walk with the Lord. That is when He came. The Holy Spirit filled the valley, the pasture, the camp ground, the area about the camp fire and the boys. Over the next period of time they shared their hearts and heart breaks, their love for family and worries. We wept and hugged and cried more. This was one of the most powerful times with God many of us had ever experienced. The wounded began healing, the lost accepted His direction and caring. Eternal life changing moments flowed from the 10-year-old to the 17-year-old. Beautiful words and emotions. By the end of the time together we were exhausted and sleep came easy.

Sunday morning was beautiful and a cool breeze crossed the valley. We awoke to find the Lord was not finished with us. One young man with a wounded eye from months before woke in severe discomfort. His eye was red and swollen and he could not keep it open. A leader asked if he could pray healing over him and as he did the Lord told him to press in. He prayed over and over and over pressing in as the boys eye got better, and better and then, like the man on the road to Jerico, his eye healed. Healed. A physical healing. A wounded eye from a wounded boy crying for the Lord to help him, heal him, be with him. It was nothing less that miraculous.

After breakfast the boys made their way to the creek. The cool waters were a comfort in the heat the day before and on this Sunday morning they became a place of healing and commitment to live a life for the Lord. Four boys accepted the eternal gift of life with our Lord in front of their peers. The time was joyous and filled with cheering and laughter. A true day of glory for the Lord.

The blind man took up his garments and followed Jesus after he was healed. Lord we pray these boys, mentors and leaders hunger to follow you each moment. It was not a prayer that Jesus prayed, it was the blind man’s trust that the Lord would heal him that healed him. Lord thank you for the boys who inspired faith this weekend. Thank you for their hearts of innocence and joy. Thank you for filling us with the Holy Spirit and His guidance. Lord thank you for those who cover us in prayer and stand beside us when we waver or feel down. Holy Spirit use us, tool our hearts into servant hearts that please You.

The survival skills for the boys at this camp were well received and the one boy who has done Marine Corps training summer camp said it was awesome and he learned a lot. As far as us leaders, we changed the name from Survival Camp to God Camp. He provided the boys with survival tools they can use for eternity and used the leaders along the way. We, again, found He provides us with pure fresh living water, burning fire, comforting safe shelter and food for life. The best survival tools we could ever need and no devastating crash required.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Summer Vacation

I have lived the movie “Vacation” with Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase). The crazy adventures and slapstick humor are off the wall but just barely different from my experiences growing up and some of those we experience at our house today.

My dad built the ultimate camping trailer when we were kids. It had compartments for every item from the tent and coffeepot to the Coleman stove. It was a rolling shadow box of camping gear that pulled behind our family station wagon.

We would travel each summer to a different destination mapped out on our free Shell gasoline station map and handy camper guide. Mom had the check-off list for everything we needed. We travelled to the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest and Yellow Stone. It was there in these national treasures we had our National Lampoon moments.

There was the time we were camping when, in the middle of the night, my sister needed to go to the bathroom. I was charged with walking her to the public restroom. Just as we began to leave, out of our camping spot a large black bear walked in front of us. She screamed and we both ran back into the tent scared. We watched out the tent window as the bear moved from camping area to camping area, destroying ice chests and picnic baskets. On another night, in the middle of the night, a bear chased a small squirrel up and over our tent. My mom used hairspray to coat the bear paw prints that went up the side of the tent just above where my brothers, sisters and I slept.

Other wacky, crazy events from my childhood summer vacations include once, while horseback riding in the mountains, my horse spooked, broke from the pack and bolted across a field, stopping at a fence and launching me from the saddle. Another adventure ended in disaster when I tried a shortcut down a steep cliff face where I lost my footing, slid and rolled to the bottom. My hands were cut up and my body bruised. I remember camping up on a mountain side once and watching a tornado in the valley below. I was frightened and kept asking my parents what we would do if it came after us. They explained we would just lay in a ditch, but that it would not come up the mountain. It didn’t. I did, however, become mindful of ditches at every camping area thereafter.

My kids are creating their own vacation memories. Jon–Michael remembers when we were passing through north Texas and entered the town of Dumas, Texas. He thinks “Dumas” is funny. He also tells of the time we were driving along a highway in Colorado when we passed two guys in Ninja suits with a sign that read “Free Ninja Hugs.” My daughter on the other hand remembers horses and young cowboy wranglers at the dude ranch and surf camp instructors -- uggg.

Jesus had a wacky vacation when He was young. His family went to celebrate the Passover, a must back then, and when his family was leaving, that nutty, crazy kid Jesus, then 12, slipped off and his parents left without Him. They each thought the other one knew where He was -- that He was with His buddies chasing camels or something. When they realized He was not with them, they had to go all the way back to town. They finally tracked Him down inside a temple teaching the adults.

That, for Joseph and Mary, was the moment they realized Jesus was going to be leaving their care soon. They realized that their time parenting Him was coming to a close and the intimate childhood moments and time together was to be savored.

The memories of time together, be it summer vacations or family night at home watching a movie, are precious moments etched in our hearts and, in many ways, make us who we are. I am sure those camping adventures as a young boy are a big part of why I am an outdoor writer and love outdoor adventure.

A favorite quote from “Vacation” -- Clark: “Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes... or perhaps you don't want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?”

This summer I am taking my family somewhere special. I haven’t got all the details worked out yet, but I have ordered a really good first aid kit, emergency radio, topographical map showing all the ditches in the area and a large bottle of Tylenol. You need to be prepared.

God bless, TJ