Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Spiritual Guide in Iraq

I recently received an email from a celestial family member that is station in Iraq. Enjoy and thank Bush and those pulling his string for sacrificing countless souls at the alter of the golden calf.


Good to hear from's been more than a little chaotic going
from Memphis to Chicago to Iraq in about 40 days...Here's a reflection I
wrote last week. Thanks for the note.

Thanksgiving Day 2006, Al Taqaddam, Iraq.

In the midst of war I send greetings of deep peace and
gratitude...There is no other place on earth I would rather be right
now. I love Iraq. I love my job. I know I am exactly where I am supposed
to be. I still don't know "why". But it is what I have trained for the
last 15 years and what I have been led to my whole life. Everything,
everyone, and every place that has come before has played a part in
bringing me here: This time, this place, a divine appointment. I offer
thanks to you my family, friends, co-workers and thanks to our God for
the incredible journey. The tapestry is still being woven and each day
is but another thread added. I am humbled and wake daily with excitement
and gratitude at being given the opportunity to serve in the spirit and
the power of the living God...real time, real world, real stuff. Life
and death, hope and despair, peace and war, friend and foe...everything
is intensified here.
So what's it like here? Well...
It is:
Desert Sand Brown.
A never ending cycle of sameness where everyday blurs into the one just
past and the one to come.
Sometimes crazy and chaotic.
A place of paradox.
A place seemingly God-forsaken.
People wounded.
People dying.
Living in a 'tin can'.
Living near a flight line with airplanes and helicopters flying mostly
through the night.
Walking a long way to the bathrooms in the middle of a cold night.
Cranky, tired people.
A place where acrid smoke fills the afternoon air.
Living in a large caged area surrounded by lots of fences and wire.
Living under the threat of indirect fire.
Being on call, tied to a radio 24/7.
Day after day of seeing blood and guts, hearing the moans of the
wounded, sometimes seeing bodies burned beyond all recognition.
The smell of burned flesh and the smell of fresh blood mixed with dirt
and sweat and fear...

Yes it's all that...
But it is also something else here.
It is:
Waking every morning to beautiful cool, crisp, clear blue skies filled
with white puffy clouds.
Going to sleep under a canopy of the dark night sky filled with
countless stars.
Appreciating what life there is in this barren land...a few small brown
birds, ravens, and pigeons, ants and dragonflies, and the few green
plants that struggle through the cracks and crevasses.
Living in a private room equipped with real furniture, a real mattress
and a working heater/air conditioner.
3 awesome meals (4 if you count midrats) available with incredible
choice everyday.
2 gyms, 1 movie room, 1 game room, 2 internet/telephone cafes, a small
tea/coffee house, 1 mid-sized PX and several small shops.
Flush toilets and real showers.
Working with incredibly dedicated and professional coworkers.
Walking among people as they work and as they play: Being with them as
they laugh and as they cry.
Comforting the sick and wounded.
Praying over and honoring the life of a now lifeless body.
To stand in awe watching fellow Americans save the life of friend and
foe alike.
To proudly watch as young Marines render final respect by skillfully and
meticulously preparing flag draped body cases as our dead brothers and
sisters begin their final trek home.
To hold the hand of a young Marine in the midst of a seizure and pray
the rosary.
To hold the hand of a wounded Iraqi Army soldier and give thanks to
Allah for sparing his life in a blast.
To be jolted out of bed at 0400 by security to calm a Marine brandishing
a weapon and yelling to see a chaplain.
To encourage a young Marine in her new found Islamic faith.
To study with an Iraqi who wants to know more about Jesus.
To drum with the guys from the post office.
To belly dance with the corpsmen.
To sit around the fire ring with the guys from EOD (explosive ordnance
disposal) and listen to their stories.

To Live, if even just for the briefest of time, in an ancient land
rich with history: to walk in the same desert as did Abraham, Isaac and
Sarah; Abraham, Ishmael and Hagar. To be within a few hundred miles or
less of the ancient cities of Babylon and Ur, and the land of other
ancient civilizations, maybe even close to the site of Eden itself, the
beginnings of human history at the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates.

It is all this here and so much more...There is much to do here.
There is even more to simply sit with and meditate on. And In both doing
and contemplating there are so many things to be thankful for...
It is a place to celebrate the wonder and awe and mystery of life
and death, and the incredible manifestations and surprises of the
Spirit...everyday in small ways and big ways. It is a place to discover
and connect with and move in the flow of the Spirit and in gratitude
share that love with everyone everyday. It is a place to learn to be
present to the moment, neither looking back nor looking too far ahead.
It is to live the sacrament of the present moment. I am here at this
moment to be an instrument to bring hope in the midst of despair, peace
in the midst of war, love in the midst of hate, and life in the face of
death. I have been called, anointed and sent to this strange and crazy
place to co-create with the One who is above all, yet is in all. Pray
that I may stay strong in mind, body and spirit and that I may stay open
and receptive to daily hear and see and respond to the subtle movement
of Spirit in and around me for the good of those I serve.
And what was Thanksgiving Day like here? It was wonderful. The
weather was cool and damp. For the first time I saw several flocks of
migratory birds flying in formation at higher altitudes heading south. I
don't know what they were but it was beautiful to watch. My day began
with an interfaith which I unexpectedly played keyboards
(our awesome keyboardist got sick and is now in Germany...). We gathered
as Christians, Jews, Native Americans, Agnostics and who knows what else
simply to reflect on our abundance and to give thanks to our God, to our
country, to one another.
Thankfully it was a very quiet day for all my units which meant no
serious wounds or deaths.
The Thanksgiving meal was an incredible feast...just like home with
even more variety and more of your closest friends...thousands...I've
never seen the chow hall so busy. It was festively decorated by the
Indians and Pakistanis who serve us. It was so much fun to share in
their gift to us...not only the meal they prepared and served with so
many heartfelt smiles but the extent of the decorations and the food
creatively shaped into turkeys and other thanksgiving themes. The spread
of pies was an endless table stretching across the back of the room. It
was fun to see the Indians and Pakistanis good naturedly dressed in
their holiday aprons and pilgrim hats standing in front of the statue of
liberty replica that adorns the chow hall serving Thanksgiving dinner...
Then it was off to attend/participate in a Baptismal service. Two
members of one of my units wanted to be baptized and so I was able to
hook them up with a service that was already planned for today. In
between times I did rounds at the "hospital", talked with a sick Marine
who wants me to write him the story of what happened to him (from my
perspective and what I saw) the night he was brought in and then I had a
couple of heart to heart talks with people about things that were
bothering them about work or about a buddy they lost in a blast a year
Looking for a break I was playing the keyboard and relaxing and the
Roman Catholic choir came in to practice for their evening mass and
decided I needed to accompany them...and so I quickly learned the music
and jumped in to do so for the special Thanksgiving Mass. It was then
dinner time and so went with the priest and the Southern Baptist
minister to share the nighttime meal...I now have a wonderful photo of
Thanksgiving 2006 of me and the priest in front of the huge turkey made
out of frosting and who knows what that sat in the middle of the chow
hall today. Then it was drumming and dancing with the Gospel choir who
was in the chapel for rehearsal. The Ugandans (the Ugandans provide base
security here) taught me some of their drum rhythms and dance
steps...and we ended with gathered prayer in their language.
Yes, this was a special day, Thanksgiving Day...but really it was
like so many here...filled with many small things that ultimately are
big things...each in its own way weaving the incredible tapestry. Here
each day is so much the same yet each day has its own uniqueness and
richness. Truly the Spirit of the Lord is in this place.
Well, it is nearly midnight and the calm is over...a radio page for
urgent surgical on wounded...and so it goes.
My heart is full and I am blessed. My prayer for you on this
Thanksgiving Day is that you too may know that same fullness and

With love and gratitude (aka...Aloha from TQ),

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