Sunday, October 12, 2008

"I Still Have...

... my arms." Lt. N

The past two full days here in the Hill Country have been heart-felt, heart-changing, and heart-filled.

Families who arrived here broken in body and spirit have smiled, laughed, danced with titanium legs (or for Lt. N who lost both his legs in Iraq in May and is still waiting to be fitted) even wheelchairs.

I have seen angry hurting and confused children make new friends, giggle at silly jokes (yesterday we gave out certificates for things like the longest tongue, and blinking the fastest) and play like there was no tomorrow.

Some of the wounds are very evident. There are many amputees, and burn victims, but there are also Traumatic Brain Injuries (from IED blasts) that leave the soldiers with symptoms as varied as short and long term memory loss, to affected speech.

The first morning the Chaplain shared of one soldier who sent his wife and daughters but did not want to come because he is tragically disfigured over 97% of his body after being burned by steam in the boiler room of the ship he was serving on. His efforts (and those of his mates) saved the ship and the lives of the other men, but... his injury does cause stares he has not grown used to.

I sat with his wife and daughters (unknowingly at breakfast that morning) and his wife said "I wish my husband could be here because it is such a blessing - but... he is afraid of how people will react". While I was at the table he called and she said enough of the right things to give him the needed incentive and by dinner he had joined his family.

Tonight as the evening program was coming to an end - the parents were picking up the children from our program and allowing them to swim and splash in the pool one last time. I saw the wife of Lt. N and commented on the change I witnessed in her 11 year old daughter.

At first she stood back away from the table where I was seated, agreed she had seen a change, but added "We have changed too". By this time Lt. N had rolled inside and was playing Scrabble and laughing. She sat down, looked inside and said, "I have never seen him open up like this. But more than that I have never felt God this close. I knew He was looking out for me when He let my husband live, but here I have seen Him and His love for us."

For an hour, I listened to her story. She shared her heartbreak and her anger, and then she spoke of the first time her daughters saw their dad after his injury. "They were scared, and I was too at first. There were tubes coming out of every part of his body. My youngest (6) just stood behind me afraid she would hurt him. Then he said, "come here honey, come sit on the bed". My daughter backed further away until her daddy held his arms open wide and said "look, I don't have my legs but I still have my arms. I can still give you a big hug".

That was all it took, for the love of a father to be communicated to his child.

I have often seen that gesture (arms stretched open) to communicate the message of God's love for us by the outstretched arms of His only Son on the cross. But tonight - as I heard a wife and mother's story, I confess it took on a new dimension and depth of meaning.

The courage and sacrifice among these soldiers is humbling. The price they paid for my freedom - the freedom to share God's love and travel around the world to do so makes me even more grateful and determined to take NOTHING for granted.

There has been great sacrifice and blood shed on foreign soils through many years for our freedom. But an even greater sacrifice and precious blood shed on a cross for love.

"If that isn't love the ocean is dry, there's no stars in the sky and the eagle can't fly. If that isn't love then heaven's a myth, there's no feeling like this, if that isn't love"

God has blessed this time, God has blessed this place. God bless America and those who fight to keep us free!

In His service patriotically

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Red-White No Blues

Reporting in after the soldiers arrival. One of the first families to arrive had been here in April. The two children ran up and embraced me with an arm load of love. Miss C, you're back! We are so happy to see you. They had my undivided attention being the first to register. They told me about their summer activities that included camps and kayaking and then the boring stuff like school!

When they tired of their tales and more children came they went outside to play. It wasn't long before their mother joined us (my friend S and I) on the floor and shared the saga of family life since the retreat in April. She started by saying, "you know we wouldn't have made it without the retreat. We were headed for a divorce because my husband felt his injury (double amputee)was too much of a burden on me." But he was saved that weekend and now he has the faith and trust in God to make it. Since then he has been shark diving, sky diving, skiing, white water rafting - he is becoming the man God intended him to be." She told of his fear of not "finishing" something he started because he has never been a quitter. She then went on to say they had just participated in the Army 10 mile run held in Washington DC. "I have two herniated discs" she said, "but if he was willing to walk (in his newly fitted prosthetics) I was going to be at his side. There were times we were holding hands and I felt like I was pulling him, but he finished! They left Washington DC closed down for an extra 45 minutes so we could cross the line." Then she laughed, "he did beat the one-legged man".

Many along the sidelines cheered them on and encouraged them. I immediately thought of the verse, "since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses...let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

Each of us has a race marked out for our lives. For the men and women here at the retreat, the race included a battle they volunteered to fight, but injuries that unexpectedly cut short their tour of "duty". Our duty (that means you) is to carry the burden and lighten the load through prayer, to share laughter or a smile, and at times to listen with the gratitude of a person who enjoys the freedom they sacrificed for. There is more than a "duty" to be served here - there is the upward high calling - sharing the hope of Christ and the eternal victory found in Him.

At the last retreat 8 soldiers claimed "Victory in Jesus". Five marriages were restored and 12 children put their lives in His hands. There are 31 families signed up, 40 children and an army of angels watching over us.

Pray for protection, for open hearts, and for the battle weary to find strength in Him.

"Some gave all, all gave some" but One gave His only Son!

In service for the service men and women.
Humbled

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Debate

I don't know how the Presidential candidates did last night answering questions in the "Town Hall" forum. It is not for lack of interest - but time. I was busy packing my bags for the next adventure for the King and His advancing Kingdom!

However, for believer's in Christ there is no debate on the answer to the final question. When our life is over - did we love the Son of God and accept His redemption for our sins?

This morning I am being "deployed" down to San Antonio for the second Joni and Friends Warrior Retreat. There are over 25 families and 40 children!

The San Antonio office has done an amazing job enlisting many volunteers to help provide assistance on many levels. We have world class speakers, counselors, volunteers with a heart for service, and Bible based curriculum for the children to have an opportunity not just to learn more about a relationship with Christ, but for many a chance to trust Him for the first time with the rest of their lives.

The children of the enlisted may not see the battlefield, but they experience their own emotional war. Their parent "did the right and honorable thing" and paid a high price for that choice. The enemy has the territory of confusion and doubt to claim the lie "our God is not good, and our God does not care".

It is our honor to defeat the enemy and his lies by pouring love into these wounded hearts; the healing "balm" of God's unconditional love; to give them a picture of the victorious life and true victory to be found in His arms.

Don't forget to pray for me! That I may boldly share the love of Christ. Eight children were at the first retreat, so it will be a good chance to reconnect with them and establish a deeper a relationship. Saturday night, our team will present the Gospel and provide an opportunity for the children to make the most important decision of their lives!

This a battle of life and death - a fight to the finish. I don't know who "won" the most points in the debate, I don't know who will win the Presidential election - but I do know who wins in the end.

It is the King I serve
Smiling,

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

TEXAS - Calendar of Events

OCTOBER 8
Depart for Warrior Retreat

OCTOBER 9
Training and Orientation
Soldiers and Families arrive between 3-5 pm
Evening Program

OCTOBER 10
Full Day Children's Program
Family Dance-a-Thon!
Evening Program

OCTOBER 11
Full Day Children's Program
Fishing Tournament
Kayaking
Evening Program Sharing the Good News

OCTOBER 12
Nature Hike
Return to DFW area