Ambling among the stars

Ambling Among the Stars

Lo, these are but the outskirts of His ways…

Last weekend I spent two full days at the ranch.

My only company was Drake (our dog). It was beautiful and cold. And I was on my quest to bag one of those elusive bucks. One morning, I left the house for the deer blind two hours before sunrise. – the temperature was in the low 20’s. The sky was diaphanous and the moon was full, making her way westward. The gelid air was perfectly still. I had no need of artificial light as the celestial hosts were sufficient to illuminate my way.

A delicate dusting of ice crystals covered the landscape. The glittering frosty sheet under foot and all around shattered and reflected the bright full moon and stars above. The ground below appeared as the expanse of sky above. It was quite disorientating for a few moments as my perception of the beginning and end of earth and sky were thrown off in a dizzying display of tiny lights.

All was quiet – no breeze – no crickets – no birds or distant cows moaning. One could feel the stillness all around. The silence was only broken by my own heartbeat, my breath and the crunch of frost beneath my footsteps. I halted my progress to behold the beauty and stillness. A lone man, in a lone field, on a lone planet – under the vastness of the heavenly lights – encircled by exquisite crystals reflecting the exquisite night sky above, I stood breathless, in wonder.

In the quiet deepness of the moment bound among the delicate and the magnificent, God displayed His majesty. And I heard a still and quiet whisper, “Lo, these are but the outskirts of His ways: And how small a whisper do we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?” (Job 26:14)

As I beheld God’s thundering power in frozen silence, I held a little Thanksgiving service in that field as I remembered who God is… In remembering Him, I was reminded who I am. To know Him is to see His glory in surprising ways.

A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR

There is nothing mundane in God’s manifold creation. One of man’s biggest failures is his love affair with Modernity. Modernity is marked by mundane flattening of all of reality with an impingement of over-skepticism. Wonder is swept away as childish when modern man twists multi-faceted creation into a one-dimensional travesty of meaningless chance and matter.

Don’t confuse ‘child-like’ wonder and awe with ‘childish’ immaturity and selfishness.
To recapture child-like wonder is not at all childish. On the contrary, wonder actually allows the imagination to experience the inner consistency of reality. The gift-nature of creation always speaks and points to something beyond itself – to the Creator God who infused everything with meaning, purpose and goodness.

Read Genesis 1 and 2. Allow the truth of God’s great story to become a growing reality in your life as you play your role in the great story.

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Iraq: How did I get here?

Iraq: How did I get here?

The this is a continuation of a previous story, you can read the first part here ….


It’s the end of August and I am sitting cross-legged on a rug in a refugee camp in Northern Iraq (Kurdistan). A girl politely places a glass in front of me containing very strong piping hot tea loaded with too much sugar. I can’t understand the quiet conversations going on around me as our team and our hosts settle into their spots on the rug along the dark walls of the tent. The inside of the tent is a cool oasis from the scorching 109F heat of the day. As if on cue, everyone begins stirring their tiny teas with tiny spoons. Everyone smiles at one another as a strange symphony of chiming metal against delicate glass fills the space. I don’t know our hosts except from reading about them but I feel quite welcome.

I am seated across the tent from a group of shy but seemingly contented Yazidi women and girls recently rescued from the Islamic State terror group (ISIS). ISIS terrorists are masters of human trafficking among other evils. Women and girls are stolen from their homes and sold as sex slaves. The boys are turned into child soldiers, suicide bombers or simply discarded. A few months ago, these women and girls were experiencing horrors beyond the bounds of human comprehension. Just thinking about what they’ve undergone is more than enough to break your heart and mind. But, they are survivors and resilient.

The epicenter of something massive on a global scale

Its difficult to fathom exactly how I got here. Yes, I flew from Dallas-Fort Worth to Frankfurt, Germany to Erbil, Iraq then drove north for a few hours. But, thousands of tiny threads converged to arrive at this moment. This is the epicenter of something massive on a global scale.

Two years prior, on a chilly morning I was invited to a meeting with the Fort Worth Police Department to address the sex-trafficking epidemic in Fort Worth. This small group of loosely affiliated agencies and non-profits were trying to get their heads around the problem. We were pressented with cases where little girls were being bought and sold for sex in my city, I was in a state of shock. The police department was overwhelmed. Local government was in disbelief and I’m considering vigilante justice.

Fast-forward a year. I’m now deeply involved in a taskforce combatting human trafficking in North Texas. The tiny group has grown to over 50 agencies, non-profits and departments. Over previous 12 months, I’ve made connections across the country with leaders and agencies dealing with the issues of human trafficking.

The Threat

One Thursday evening, I’m preparing to leave my office when I get a call from a woman in our church who is in a US city that will remain unnamed. She’s a part of our anti-trafficking community, she’s a friend and she’s attempting to rescue a girl and her infant baby from her trafficker.

I hear fear in her voice. She’s at an airport with the victim, the victim’s baby and another woman assisting the rescue. The trafficker is part of an organized gang, very dangerous and issues an ultimatum to the victim; “Be at my house by 11pm or I’ll kill you.”

I’m sitting in my office in Fort Worth 8 hours away staring at a clock on my laptop screen edging closer to 6pm. The victim can’t board a plane because her trafficker has confiscated her ID. The women can’t leave the airport because he may have people looking for her. Local law enforcement cannot be trusted and hospitals are not geared up for this type of situation – they will just call the police. She can’t go to her parents because one of them sexually abused her for years. The three women and baby are stuck. They begin to panic.

I begin thinking and praying through the situation. The safest place at this point is the airport. But, they can’t stay there all night without raising suspicion of airport security.

From my office, we make a plan to get them to the airport hotel and into adjoining rooms. One room is for guests with physical disabilities. That way, they would be near an elevator and they could activate emergency devices in the room to call for help. They could flee to the adjoining room if necessary. Our plan was a tiny bandaid on a massive problem. They didn’t know if they were followed. The victim will be going through withdrawals from Oxycotin soon (her trafficker keeps her doped up in order to control her). She will need medical attention and aftercare to stabilize her from years of trauma. The baby will need formula and fresh diapers.

I’m thinking, “What the heck are we going to do? I have a friend in a potentially deadly situation and I have no way to help.” It’s now approaching 9pm. I’ve called everyone I know with access to aircraft. I considered renting them a car but then they would be driving for several hours without protection. I’m out of ideas. My assistant and I are staring at Google maps and the clock. We were both praying. This situation is far beyond our abilities or experience. We’re in way over our heads.

Then it hit me, “Wait a second! I know someone who knows a guy who deals with this type of situation!” I made a phone call and we prayed. “Lord, help them, help them …” That is about all we could pray at this point. We sit and stare at the clock. Nothing is happening. Minutes are rolling by. Still nothing.

The Call

Finally, I get the call I’ve been waiting for. First thing in the morning, a private plane will be dispatched to a small municipal airport outside the city. In the meantime, a retired US Special Forces guy will be parked at the hotel to keep watch over the sleeping girls. Like clockwork, the next morning (Friday) a plane arrives and the security team bring the victim, her baby, my friend and another young woman back to Fort Worth safely.

On Sunday, the victim (now trafficking survivor) is receiving care in a local facility and her infant girl is at our church for Sunday Services (in the caring arms of a young woman who agreed to babysit while her mom received treatment). When I got word the baby was on campus I knew I was walking under the gentle rain of answered prayer. Incredible!

There are people in our world willing to risk their lives to rescue forgotten women and children from evil and walk with them toward restoration. I had to learn more and God opened the door for me to do just that… I will take you on that journey.

To be continued…


Read previous post: Welcome to Iraq dude – A wild ride
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Veteran’s Day – Lessons from The Great Place – Fort Hood

Veteran’s Day – Lessons from The Great Place – Fort Hood

It’s pretty quiet in Killeen for noon on a Monday.

November 11, 2012 (Killeen, Texas)

The Veteran’s Day Federal holiday has everything moving in slow motion. I can’t think of a better time to visit this place. It’s a stunning day with a clear blue sky. It had been a little chilly this morning when I left Austin. I step out of the car at Billy Bob’s Hamburgers in Killeen, the air is still cool but the sun warms my face. I am ready to visit with some friends and get a bite to eat.

I met Brigadier General Dean Milner and his lovely wife (Katrin) a few days prior at the Air Power Foundation’s Sky Ball event in Fort Worth.  General Milner is one of a handful Canadian commanding generals appointed as a Deputy Commanding General of III Corps at Fort Hood.  They were gracious enough to host me on my afternoon visit to Killeen and The Great Place (Ft. Hood). Another couple who were friends with Milner’s, joined us.  We enjoyed really good greasy burgers and shared family, their military experience, politics, golf (I haven’t played in 15 years) and our shared love for Canada (I’ve only been to Montreal, but my Canadian friends remind me of Texans by their warmth and hospitality).

We finished up our meal and made the short drive to largest military installation in the free world, Ft. Hood. Frankly, I did not know what to expect. I imagined soldiers marching, doing PT while tanks rolled through the streets as the sound of artillery fire echoed in the distance. As we passed through the security gate, my world changed a bit. I’ve never been on a military post before. What I found was a giant neighborhood, hospitals, schools and friendly folks who wear our nation’s cloth. After dropping off Katrin at their home, Gen. Milner drove us passed the motor pool where all of the ‘cool stuff’ like tanks and armored vehicles were prepared for combat exercises. This was an amazing sight to see.

The twelve year old little boy in me came alive.

The memories of my boyhood flooded my mind. I remember having re-enactments of the Battle of the Bulge and other battles with hundreds of little green army men that lasted for days. On occasion, my parents would find me asleep on the floor of my room in the midst of battle, surrounded by little green army men, tanks, troop carriers, planes and artillery.

As we toured the post, General Milner shared the history and provided insight into the function of this home to nearly 50,000 troops. They call it ‘The Great Place’. It is both great in size and greater by the wonderful people who call it home. There is so much history here. So much sacrifice is represented here. Some men and women will be deployed never to return. Some will return with lasting wounds. One can sense that this post is in a constant state of preparation and readiness, even on a holiday when things are quiet.

Fort Hood is the home of the III Corps also called the Phantom Warriors. They were given this nickname by their enemy (Germans) in WWII after the Battle of the Bulge. The name stuck. On the road approaching the III Corps Headquarters, we pass the menacing statue of the Phantom Warrior (seen above). We passed through the entrance to the III Corps, a young soldier snapped to attention and with a shout, announced that a General had entered the building. It startled me. It was a reminder that I know very little about the military except what I read in books and the stories military friends have shared. I am unfamiliar with this form of discipline, order and respect.

Inside the structure, the place becomes a museum. Military history surrounds you.

“Every turn and every space reveal a rich legacy and symbolism. All of the wars and all of the sacrifice begin to weigh on the mind. Soldiers long since passed stare at you from photos on the walls. Many images were captured on the front lines of battle where Americans and her allies made the ultimate sacrifice. I looked into the faces of men and women much greater than me.”

Then I come to the photographs of those in command. The weight of the responsibility of this kind of leadership became very real. Sending men and women into battle is hard for me to fathom. Their lives depend on solid and responsible leadership all the way up the chain to the generals and ultimately, the President.

As I walked through the halls, my excitement turned to a sober realization of what it looks like to set aside our lives and rights to serve a cause greater than ourselves. I’m reminded of Philippians 2Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Jesus set aside His glory and His rights to serve in obedience, even to the point of death.

What lessons did I learn visiting ‘The Great Place’?

The medallion presented to me by Br. General Milner on my visit to III Corps, Fort Hood, TX 11/12/12

I gained a deeper appreciation of sacrifice. I was exposed to a heavier expression of responsibility than I have ever experienced. I felt a deeper sense of gratitude for those who have sacrificed everything so that I could experience a day like this. My hope is that the impact of a few hours spent at ‘The Great Place’ will spill over into the lives of my family and community. Perhaps, I can sacrifice a little more, accept greater responsibility and be a little more thankful today than I was before.  From an early age, my father who was in the Air Force always taught me to honor and appreciate men and women who serve our country.  Those lessons have stayed with me.

Special Thanks to Brigadier General Dean Milner & Katrin for hosting me at the last minute.  Thank you for your service.

If you read this and feel compelled to show gratitude this Thanksgiving, please consider a contribution to the Air Power Foundation. Find out more here


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