Look in my head

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Eagles

Today we had such an amazing church service. There was such a spirit of joy and contentment and praising God for helping us make it through a long deployment. The message was from the book of Jonah. Jonah ran away from the Lord and didn't head in the direction the Lord had told him to go. The Lord sent a storm to communicate to Jonah. In so many ways coming to Iraq was a storm. When Eagles are flying and encounter a strom they use the storm to fly and rise above the storm. God is my Eagle and has pulled me above this storm. "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles" (Isaiah 40:31) During the message I was fighting back tears and I am doing so even now. It was a really touching sermon. I have learned so much about myself here in Iraq. I have learned that that I can live with next to nothing (possessions) and I have renewed my faith in a way that can only happen when you think you might die. In retrospect he has been so good to me. More than this old world could ever be, and more than you could ever know.

Friday, December 10, 2004

my trash...his treasure

It is the Christmas month and being that Americans are in the giving spirit they send lots of goodies to soldiers here in Iraq. So much so that we have to much and some of it gets thrown out. We pay our Iraqi workers between 7 and 11 dollars a day to clean the floors and take out the trash. This sounds like slave labor wages to most Americans but to an Iraqi this is good money. Several times I have observed Iraqi workers digging through our trash dumpsters. They find rugs that are stained, or lamps that people no longer wanted, etc. They have discovered that Americans are wasteful to the point that I can’t even make it to the dumpster with my trash without one of the workers wanting to go through it first. The other day I observed a man digging through the trash when he stumbled upon a pizza box that happened to have a few slices left in it. I was pretty surprised when he ate them not knowing how long they have been in the trash. I guess the 7 dollars a day we pay them goes to feed much of their extended family that is unemployed. It is quite a stark contrast to come to work and spend time searching e bay for the perfect i-pod for my wife...when guys are digging in the trash just outside. I felt the same way when I spent Christmas in Port a Prince Haiti in 99. I went to an orphanage and asked a young kid what he wanted for Christmas. I was expecting the answer I was accustomed to hearing from my young cousins. A new Game Boy. A motorized scooter maybe. The young boy at the orphanage said, "Sir, I would really like a can of Tuna....because I haven’t had any meat since last Christmas. My caregivers can only afford rice and beans once a day." If for nothing else a trip out of America reminds me of how blessed we are as a nation. I know there are still soup kitchens and people who go without in the States but you will be hard pressed to find groups of men digging though the trash, and a 6 year old who hasn’t had any meat in a year. We are truly fortunate.

Monday, December 06, 2004

What is really needed?

As my one year deployment draws closer to the ending point, I have observed something that has grabbed my attention. During our year in Iraq we have received a generous supply of toiletries, clothing, junk food, and candy from the US. There has been a table set up in the enlisted living quarters where many of these items were placed so that soldiers could pick them up when the were running out of soap or needed snack food. The chain of command has begun to conduct inspections of living quarters so we can make sure we have a tidy barracks to turn over to the incoming unit, and that we are making good use of the space that we have. During the course of room inspections it has become very apparent that some soldiers hoarded the free supplies. A few rooms in particular have enough space for four soldiers to sleep in but only two soldiers will fit because half of the room is taken up with shaving cream and baby wipes. The order has been given that soldiers will only have a 30 day supply of sundries. What I find so amusing about this situation is that it really correlates to how so many people live their lives.

People amass wealth and buy bigger and bigger houses. Its not difficult to find a 35 thousand dollar SUV. My brother just bought a $400,000 dollar home in California. He is killing himself to make those mortgage payments. People buy fishing boats, and RVs without much thought. My point is that when I leave Iraq, I have to leave with no more than I came in with. It is the same in life. We cant take all our stuff with us, so why are we killing ourselves to acquire it? Prestige? Comfort? Greed? Maybe. I like this simple reminder that Iraq has given me......In the end all the material possessions just take up space. It is the memories you have created and how you have treated others that last.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Books

I just read half of Lance Armstrongs "Journey Back to Life" book. What a great read. I knew that he had testicular cancer, but I had no idea he had cancer in his lungs and brain. I guess he is the best on bike because he has a greater lung capacity and a high threshold for pain. I also didn't know how much of a team sport that cycling is. They talked about how it takes a whole team for one person to win...To block wind and all. Lance also has a great relationship with his mom. I don't know if I will finish the book though. I know it sounds kind of strange after bragging about it, but I never finish what I start. The last book I read "American Soldier" by General Tommy Franks. I finished 496 pages and the book has 568. It was a great book in that General Franks was adopted and dropped out of college, but was still able to rise up in the ranks. He took orders directly from the President to go to war with Iraq. His days in Vietnam were more interesting to me then all the political talk. I am already looking forward to my next book. I am going to read Hillary Clintons book. Not because I really care about what she has to say politically, but because I am interested in how she felt when her husband cheated on her and lied about it to the general public, and why she stood by his side when the US was talking about Impeachment. I am sure I will get more out of it than that, but I have to be honest about why I picked it up. I could have never told you that Tommy Franks was so poor as a child that his dad would ask him to borrow money from the cashier at the local town store, or that Lance Armstrong almost quit riding at one point because he thought he was no good at it. But these are the things that shock you in the middle of a story. The book I read before Tommy Franks book was The Da Vinci Code. It was great because everyone loves a good conspiracy theory. Well I am beginning to bore myself. If you have any suggestions for after I read the Clinton book...I am open to suggestions.

Slamming doors or car bomb?

Saturdays have become my day off. Not in a sense that I don't go to work. I am deployed remember? I go to work to check e-mail and read all the great blogs I have run across. Sometimes I go to work just because it gets lonely in my room and after watching a few movies on my DVD player you dont feel like being alone. On Saturdays I usually sleep in until I just can't sleep any longer. This is a luxury that my daughter would not afford me if I was home. Around 9:30 my door rattled violently on the hinges. I live in a very overcrowded barracks so people slam doors all night and my mind has grown accustomed to sleeping through the slamming of doors. When a car bomb goes off it is two or three times louder than a slammed door. This weeks car bomb was supposed to be 800 pounds and killed 14 people. It seems they are going after the police stations now so that Iraqi people wont want to sign on with the police force. The explosions always seem to be 3 or 4 blocks away. I feel so lucky not to have been hurt here yet. On a much lighter note I sent my wife to go see my mom for Thanksgiving. My wife is in Texas and my mom is in California. My daughter has spoken her first 3 word sentence. "Roxy pops bubbles." Roxy is our cat and apparently she likes to pop bubbles. My wife taught our daughter how to say, "Dads home." That will be nice for our reunion.

Today was communion Sunday at church. When I was growing up I was allowed to take communion when I became of the "age of reason." The communion I took as a child consisted of Welchs grape juice and a wafer. Since joining the Army my worship experience has become somewhat varied. It is my job to be the first one at the chapel in the morning and be the last one to leave in the mid afternoon. I have attended Catholic, Protestant, Gospel and Jewish services on a weekly basis for going on 9 years now. Each service has something about it I enjoy. The catholic service is very reverent and quiet when entering the building....This shows a true fear or respect of God in my opinion. The Protestants give far more than the Catholics in the offering plate but demand much more in return. Such as marriage retreats and refreshments (coffee, kool-aid, and tea, cookies) The Gospel service gives more than the Catholic and Prostestants combined in the offering plate but I feels like more of a show sometimes then church. The biggest perk about the Friday night Jewish service was that they drank shots of alcohol after saying some type of prayer that I didn't understand. They always gave me a cup and included me in their evening Kosher meal even though they knew I wasn't Jewish. Every now and then I would mention Christ just to play devils advocate and they would kindly reply, "Jesus was a Jew too." I say all this because today when the communion plate was passed by my seat I had the choice of drinking wine or the "non fermented" Welch grape juice. I chose the wine for the first time and as I felt the burning sensation down my throat I thought back to my Friday night Jewish friends.