Posts Tagged ‘Jedi’

In the Star Wars three-quel, Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader famously tells Luke Skywalker:  “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side” as a statement of finality and admission to the grim hold Emperor Palpatine had upon Vader’s life.  Fortunately, we know that all changed shortly thereafter.    Think for a moment on the power of those two lives within that fictional universe.  Darth Vader: innocent; chosen; hopeful; hoped in to bring balance to the Force and Justice to the Galaxy as one of the greatest Jedi Knights; powerful; eager; reckless; a Hero of humble beginnings; too self-aware; arrogant; prideful; discontent; susceptible; a deceiver and deceived; fallen; enslaved; instrument of tyranny; destroyer of millions; redeemed.   Luke Skywalker:   innocent; chosen; hopeful; hoped in to bring balance to the Force and Justice to the Galaxy; powerful; eager; reckless; a Hero of humble beginnings; humbled; learned; self-sacrificing; truthful; caring of friends and family; champion over evil; agent of redemption.  Two hyperspace lanes diverged in a star system…and Luke Skywalker took the one less navigated through.  Two lives, with such an effect on an entire galaxy and a far reaching legacy that bled over into (at least) the next generation.

Phil Coulson, Agent of the Strategic Homeland Intelligence Enforcement and Logistics Division (SHIELD), and supporting character in the Iron Man films and, more importantly, Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.    One man. No special abilities. A greater hero than the Avengers combined…because he combined them.  He believed in The Avengers, the heroes, when they didn’t believe in themselves.  His death served as “The Push” that was needed to coalesce the Avengers into the Family of Heroes the world needed them to be in order to defeat Loki and the Chitauri invasion.   Coulson knew a push was going to be needed and was at peace with and willing to have his death be that catalyst.  His sacrifice saved New York City – and the world – more than Iron Man’s willingness to fly the alien bomb into space.

This is all thought-provoking and inspirational pondering;  the type of fictional stories that inspire and spur on humanity; giving us hope the world will continue to spin on.  Such inspirational stories in real life are rarely like this and they involve homeless men, a wake, and telephone poles even less.  Nevertheless, one such story does involve a homeless man, another a wake, and yet another, a telephone pole of sorts.

Peter Bis lived on a bench near Union Station in Washington, DC.  Peter Bis was an institution on Capitol Hill. Peter Bis always referred to himself in the third-person.  Known by many on Capitol Hill as a friendly homeless guy who talked to everyone and actually remembered you, he recently passed away.  There’s actually a memorial spot under the tree near the bench he used to sleep on where people have been leaving flowers and messages (which I recently visited).  From interns to congressional power-players everyone knew him and often chatted with him.  I used to see him all the time when I was an intern with the Heritage Foundation seven years ago, as his “Sheldonian Spot” – long before there was a Sheldon Cooper – was less than a hundred feet from the front door of my intern housing that Heritage provided.  While saddened at his passing and the loss of this quirky institution of a man, I didn’t really grasp the extent that was Peter Bis until I realized that articles were written about him, in memorium, by National Review, The Washington Post, National Journal, and The Huffington Post (linking to a article in Roll Call).  The area that many consider to the the most powerful square footage in the world – as far as power, politics, and influence goes – has mourned the loss of a homeless man; a single life who spent most of his days on a park bench.  That’s inspiration.

A dear friend of mine will sometimes tell the tale of something that happened at his father’s wake years ago.  A young man arrived at the wake, one my friend had never seen before.  He slowly approached the casket and just stood there for what seemed an eternity.  Standing there, this younger man broke; the dam burst and the emotional flood water swept forth with great intensity.  My friend watched this both intrigued and mystified.  As the young man turned around and walked back down the aisle my friend asked him: “how did you know my father that it would produce such a reaction?”  The younger man explained:  “I didn’t have a Dad growing up and your father was the only man I ever knew who took time for me, who talked to me like a man, like a son, who invested in me; I’ve never forgotten that”   Therein was a life to emulate.

Telephone polls aren’t considered to be inspirational either but I happen to know one that is, it’s at Lake Ann Camp and I climbed it…and then jumped off.  Even though I’ve already told the story, it’s told from my point of view.  It isn’t told from the viewpoints of any of the thirty-plus people who watched it happen.  Recently one of the Reborne Rangers from Alpha Week 2012, Maggie Syme, posted a  picture to Facebook of what the scene looked like before my climb of that dastardly telephone pole.  The caption she included with the photo said “The most inspirational moment of my life; Thank you, Aaron Welty”  I saw  that photo – with that caption – and I was speechless.  Yes, I conquered The Leap.  Yes, it was hard – seeming near impossible at moments – but I’d been through tougher things; things I’d even talked about earlier that week.  In being taken so aback my this, I thought, and even said, “it’s not like I saved NYC from an alien invasion like The Avengers did.”  Later, Maggie told me that she cried long and hard after seeing me make that climb and leap because it had impacted her that much.  I’ll never forget, Katie Decker, another Ranger, leaning over my exhausted body as I lay face down on the ground, telling me “you just changed my life”.  At the end of the week, Josiah Wyse, whose incredible story I’ve also already  relayed, told me that there were two moments that week where I left him without words: one was bequeathing the lightsaber, the other was this climb.

This was a huge “lollipop moment” for some; a moment that was much more significant for them then it was for the one doing it, and it wasn’t a walk in the park for me at all.

Mind your surroundings, be aware of the power and impact of your life; be an inspiration to others and invest in them.

Reborn Rangers praying before I began my climb.

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After two weeks of being back in Washington, DC, I am still processing much of what happened during Reborne Rangers 2012 Alpha at Lake Ann Camp.  It’s a challenge to be back in the concrete jungle after a week like Reborne Rangers; safely planted, for a time, in a place where God’s presence clearly is and things are happening.  To enter back into such an environment of uncertainty is difficult; to leave the safety and rejuvenating effect of “family” is something I did not want to do.

Reborne Rangers is a program that builds, and doesn’t stop building.  Not only does it help mold, craft, and build young leaders; the program builds on itself as the week progresses and Wednesday was clearly a “building day”.  I was thankful that I wasn’t the only “Alpha Ranger” that the current recruits heard from, as Sarah Anderson was also at Lake Ann that week.  Her journey is powerful and genuine, illustrating the Lord’s desire to pursue someone and enable the one pursued to be used for great things as she and her husband Tyler prepare to go India to do mission work; as Sarah told the Rangers – “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies those He calls”.  (As an aside, having both Sarah and Tyler visit me in Washington this week was a great blessing; a little bit of Lake Ann on the road as I took them though the Capitol Building and talked about the spiritual heritage of our nation and the leadership that came out of that heritage for so many years.)  After hearing from Sarah, the Rangers heard from Ken Rudolph, my mentor and teacher of 15 years.  Ken took the Rangers though how to use a Strong’s concordance to look up the roots and definitions of various terms in the Scriptures as to equip them to be able to craft their own devotionals, sermons, and Bible studies.  I had a flashback or two of learning that skill alongside Sarah and the others in the first Rangers group years ago, a skill that I never quite honed to the point I could (or should have).  Ken also instructed them in his own methods of building a sermon and how all of that is structured; an inside view of the preparation he does consistently to be able to reach into the lives of students five nights a week, eight weeks a year at Lake Ann Camp.  As Reborne Rangers is a program that builds upon itself, these skills are not imparted for the sake of the skills alone; the Rangers then had to use what they had been taught to construct their own thoughts on a passage in the Word and present it later that evening after they spent the afternoon studying, researching, and writing on the beach of Lake Michigan.

That evening, I traveled out to Lake Michigan to listen to the few Rangers who would be chosen to share what they had studied earlier on the beach.  Traveling with me was Cheryl Tinsley, a high school teacher who would share her story with us later that night, a story stranger than fiction, a story that would end up on the Discovery, History, or Weather Channel today; a survivors tale.  As the Rangers lumbered up the embankment from the beach and met us in the parking lot, I had the feeling that few actually knew what awaited us at the end of our journey to an even higher elevation.  I tend to not handle these things well, not to mention an apprehension when it comes to uncontrolled heights because of my struggle with physical stability, so assistance is often needed.  To solve that problem, enter JB:  one of the counselors for Reborne.  The solution was a classic one, the most fitting solution one can imagine considering my involvement:  The Skywalker Carry (just without the blue backpack).  JB handled the assent very well considering the extra weight, and the stability was impressive…most impressive.    As an aside, to stand upon this dune and look East is to see pristine fresh-water sea and to look to the West is to see the closest thing to The Shire of Middle Earth that I can imagine (or ever will see unless I actually make it to New Zeeland).

Once at the top, three were chosen to share what they had worked at studying on the sands of a Great Lake earlier in the day.  From Gideon in the Book of The Judges to the Wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs and beyond, those chosen exhibited well the gifts of intellect and oratory given to them.  Is there room for honing and improvement?  Of course there is, but upon a good foundation they are.

Enter Cheryl and her gripping tale of survival.  At Lake Ann Camp there is a flagpole that the Jr. High program gathers around every morning during the many weeks of camp to begin their day.  On this flagpole is a plaque dedicating the spot to four individuals who were involved in a wilderness expedition accident during the summer of 1980.  Of this accident there was only one survivor and Cheryl was that one.  The four of them set out in canoes upon Lake Michigan and during this expedition a sudden storm came upon the lake, capsizing their canoes.  Three of the individuals succumbed to hypothermia that night and passed into eternity, despite efforts to keep them going.     Cheryl eventually came in contact with land and wandered for 5+ hours until help could be found, and this is after treading water and fighting hypothermia herself for many hours prior.  It is so evident that she believes she was preserved to be able to tell this story to those like the Rangers, so that the legacy of those who passed in the accident can live on in others.   The motto of Reborne is “Life is a Stewardship, not an Ownership” and this idea comes from one of the individuals who perished in that accident in 1980.

Thursday was the day wherein my Reborne Rangers 2012 experience took on a whole new level and I learned even more of the reason why I was supposed to be there all week that week, that reason was because of a young man named Josiah Wyse.  Josiah’s amazing story began an entire year before I ever met him, and it began at Lake Ann Camp of all places.  A year ago Josiah came to Lake Ann Camp as a Sr. High camper.  What no one knew was that Josiah arrived at Lake Ann Camp with a fully written suicide note in his back pocket, intent on acting on the idea under-girding that note after camp was concluded.  As the story was told to me, the young Wyse was “giving God one week to show him that his life held meaning, was worthwhile, and that someone else actually cared.” And to Lake Ann Camp he came.  By week’s end – through the words of Ken Rudolph and the love of his counselors and fellow team-mates –  he was imbued with the sense of worth and courage to stand before the camp, tell the tale, and throw the note (Death’s written claim upon his life) into the fire and allow the light to burn Death’s claim into oblivion.    It was after this amazing series of events that Josiah was chosen to attend Reborne Rangers a few weeks ago.  I was made aware of this story last year shortly after it happened and I was just amazed, as I had never heard something quite like this coming from Lake Ann ever before (and that is saying something).

It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon of that week that I put all the pieces together and realized all of this and that realization was overwhelming as I further understood some of the behind-the-scenes reasoning as to why I felt compelled to talk about some of my darker experiences as a teenager:  someone needed to know that they weren’t the only one whom Death had tired to take as a teen and had lived to tell it.  In spending time with Josiah that morning, we talked of the power of his story and the impact it can have on others to show them God’s power and the importance of life; it helped that it tied in well with my comments on purpose and destiny from earlier in the week.  I am certain he understood, and does so to a degree the average teenager isn’t quite capable of; fortunately, Rangers are anything but average.

Thursday afternoon was the pinnacle of the Rangers Alpha week as the students traveled to downtown Traverse City to engage in street evangelism, to take their previous hours of instruction and training and apply it in field exercise.  Prior to embarking on the bus I shared with them a bit of what it’s like to work amongst the chaos of Capitol Hill and how, when things get intense, two questions often invade my thinking in a given situation: 1) Is someone dying? 2) Is an individual’s eternal destiny at stake?  If the answers to either of these questions are “no” – which they are 99.9% of the time – then it’s “not a big deal”.  It’s a reminder, a call for perspective.   I shared this because what they were about to go do actually encompassed #2:  the eternal destiny of some individuals WOULD change that day, so this WAS a big deal.  Knowing also that many of the Rangers were nervous and fearful – because this IS outside the comfort zone of most people – I imparted to them my scripturally sound homage to the oath of the Green Lantern Corps:  “In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, We cannot escape His sight; He who loves us with all His might, He casts out all fear, Jesus Christ the Light” (Little did anyone know how well those words would serve me a day hence.)

As we boarded the bus and lumbered down the road, my good friend Josue Valdez sitting in the seat across from me, I was once again taken back into the past, returning to my own memories of the Thursday wherein I was a Ranger on that same bus with Josh Call, Lynnea (Campbell) Strout, and Becky…thirteen years ago.  I recalled our own fear, trepidation, and uneasiness, but also our joy at being used to bring someone to Jesus.  For Josue and I, our role in this “live-fire exercise” was a role of support and prayer, lifting the arms of these Rangers as Aaron and his son lifted the arms of Moses in battle.  As we arrived in Traverse City and the Rangers prepared to leave in their small teams, Josiah ran back and grabbed me, asking for prayer from “Yoda” (which was gladly granted).  I told him that my  prayer was that the Lord would use him and specificity his story to reach another in need of the Hope that Christ offers.  Having prayed this off he went, as Josue and I wandered around keeping an eye on the Rangers as best we could and praying for them.  There’s no doubt that it was a stretching time for all of them as some of them found us as we wandered and rested, asking for us to pray for them on the spot to ward off fear and discouragement.

Upon return to Lake Ann, as we all sat together in the training room eating burgers, the stories began to flow.  Lizzie and her team telling a humorous story of an encounter with a homeless man.  James describing a woman he met as “being a lot like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory” (I laughed aloud at that one).  Katie Champagne sharing aspects of her unique journey with a woman who responded, saying:  “I think I was supposed to meet you.”    As the time of sharing continued, Josiah began to tell the story of wandering the area with his team and how, just as they were crossing a crosswalk, all he said was “I’m going in” and he was gone.  He’d eyed a young man named Max, and for some reason felt compelled to try and share Jesus with him.  As it happens Max was wrestling with some of the same things that Josiah wrestled with a year before and it is in these moments that Josiah saw his opportunity and  took it: to share with Max his own saga, from where he was to where he is now and what helped him get there, sharing Christ along the way.  His story was used to change the trajectory of Max’s life for eternity, as Jesus became his and Max became His.  Hearing this, part of me was floored yet part of me wasn’t as the Spirit asked a simple question:  “This is what you asked for though, isn’t it?” (To which there was no honest retort.)  After the time of stories and rejoicing was over, I gave young Josiah the best hug a small Jedi can, fully confident that the Lord would continue to use his story to reach others (we were all unaware of how soon that would actually be).

Upon the end of such a long and exhausting day, Josue and I ventured out with “The Commander” for some late-night pizza and a better time of fellowship, laughs, thoughts, and wisdom could not have been had.  We could only imagine what it must have been like for the folks behind the counter to see an an older guy, a Mexican, and handicapped man to walk into a pizza joint late at night; in the end, it wasn’t a big deal…but the Saga of Rangers was far from over.

Stay tuned, next week, same bat-channel for the trilling conclusion!

Aaron

Over the last few months I’ve begun to listen to sermons given by Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church in Texas. This morning, as I was listening to his sermon series on Habakkuk he quoted something he attributed to Martin Luther while it’s really something offered up by A.W. Tozer: “It is doubtful whether God can use a man greatly, until first He wounds him deeply.” Now I don’t know if this is true in one-hundred percent of cases (therefore I can’t say it’s a law in the same way the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is a law – always true in very case) but in my life it appears to be truth. I also wonder if the term “wound” is synonymous with “burden” – it would seem that it could work out as such. These deep wounds in my experience are often things which, as a result of carrying said wound, forces an individual into closer proximity and deeper understanding of both themselves and the Heavenly Father, the Creator and Master of the Universe. This proximity is something He desires for us but we don’t desire for ourselves because of the sacrifice and/or pain that is often required to bring someone to a point wherein an epiphany occurs: alone, you cannot hold your own life together – you are in need of something more (and He IS that something more) in order to cope with the difficult thing life WILL hand to you. When this realization occurs, often amidst trial, then closer proximity to Him can follow. (Not to say that it cannot happen otherwise, but the crucible of trial is often the best teacher; it is why what the Apostle Paul has to say about suffering – In Romans 5 – will ALWAYS be leagues better than anything Jedi Master Yoda can come up with.)

I’ve found that my wound is multi-dimensional. One part of the wound is Cerebra Palsy (CP); another part of the wound is an inner spirit that seems incompatible with the CP, a spirit that wants to excel and perform beyond what oftentimes a CP body allows; yet another facet is the physical pain that stems from the clashing of the first two parts – the spirit forces the body to excel beyond it’s limits for an extended time and the body screams in protest. It wasn’t always this way; it has been over the last decade that I’ve grappled with this new reality of pain and deterioration – one I was NEVER prepared for. What’s more, this wound/burden has a mental facet as well, wherein I often have to confront my reality/experience with what I know to be the Heavenly Father’s Truth about Himself and His Character (namely His Sovereignty and Faithfulness – two very hard things that finite minds contend with). I’m willing to admit that I sometimes have a tough time wrestling with the idea that He has MY BEST interest at heart; why would He? I am small, broken, and less. It is in these times that I have to remind myself that I am looking at me through the same looking glass that society at large sees me; the same looking glass that says I, and others, are of less worth because the mold culture fabricated to place us in – we don’t fit it, we NEVER will (so much for Carbon Freezing; better luck next time, Ugnaughts). In these times I don’t have forefront in my mind that my Father sees me differently – I am a son to Him, not JUST part of His creation; He says I am worth it and that should be more than enough.

It is easier for someone to expose something within society that they know is a lie if they have experienced it’s devastation, have seen first hand it’s destructive capability, or know full well the lie is active and they were spared it’s consequences by the actions of another.

In the midst of all this, I am blessed. My parents don’t see me the way I often see me and I’ve gotten to the point wherein I’ve realized my close friends don’t either, be they of the Todd, Inklings, Justice League, or Inner Ring variety. One of the greatest weapons to combat against the darker mental and emotion facets of this wound/burden is none other than The FENX. That machine takes what society (and even I sometimes) see as a weakness and helps to make it an asset. As my friend Carl Sears, a producer for NBC Nightly News, once said “The FENX is like Superman’s cape”. It draws attention, it opens doors, and allows me to sometimes broach deeper issues in a way that seems natural; to talk about some of the “how” and “why” of the FENX is to have to broach some of these important realities – to realize that the FENX is a creature of necessity – if I was not as I am, without this wound/burden, the FENX would never have been.

Some of us endure hard things (and sometimes continually) in difficult places which seem beyond our own aptitude. These wounds often exist, so that when we are elevated – it is obvious to all that we could not have done this under our own strength or ability. Rather, it becomes clear that the Master of the Universe is at work. May that realization encourage and especially drive the wounded/burdened ones into closer proximity to the Father, knowing He will use them for His purposes.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

Two days from now I will be sitting at a table with (almost) my entire family eating turkey, enjoying their company, and reflecting on what I’ve been thankful for in 2010. It’s been a tough year in some respects, just like the previous year was. It’s sometimes easy for me to let the things that happen to me which are difficult or downright unjust crowd out everything else. I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons in 2010, lessons which the Master of the Universe sees fit to have me learn, lessons about identity; contentment; perseverance; trust; and owning who you are – embracing one’s destiny and calling no matter where it may lead, knowing it can alter and morph, even if it puts you in places you’d rather not be and you reside there longer than you want, often facing things which seek to damage the core of who you are, to diminish the person you are wired to be.

Passengers hate it when they are flying on a big commercial airplane and the captain comes over the speaker system to inform them the tower on the ground has put them in a holding pattern, forcing all those passengers on board to have to wait longer to reach their destination – and not one of the passengers on the plane has the power to change what is happening to them; the ultimate authority in air traffic gives a directive and it puts a wrench in things – I say this as someone who is flying home to celebrate thanksgiving and I’ll be at the airport a dozen hours from now. This is just on a plane; imagine such a scenario invading the rest of your life and not just your travel plans.

Sometimes I feel like screaming the same thing Anakin Skywalker did about Obi-Wan Kenobi (but in reference to God instead): “He’s holding ME back!” or “I can be a Jedi, Ben, tell him I can be a Jedi, I’m ready”. God just looks at me sometimes and, much like Yoda did to Luke Skywalker, lifts and eyebrow and queries ‘Ready?! Ready are you, what know YOU of ready?’ I’m pretty sure He does this because He’s Sovereign – He is the Master of the Universe after all – He spoke it all into being, neat when you consider the properties of sound and how it travels – there is no fate…but what He allows. Though I am eager, He knows I am not ready for what is next. Considering some of what I’ve been allowed to go through so far in twenty-eight short years and the trials I’ve overcome, this idea is still hard to grapple with and find peace in the midst of; enter The FENX Project.

The FENX Project is many things: an idea, a dream, a vehicle, advancement, an adventure, a shield, an extension of identity, and an incredible expression of love from father to son. Lately, it has become an alter; specifically, an Altar of Remembrance. In the Old Testament, Jehovah instructed the Children of Israel to often construct alters of remembrance so as to recall the provision and safety which He provided them at various times throughout their history. Pastor Mark Batterson of National Community Church (where I happened to attend in Washington, DC) often discusses this in the context of how humanity often remembers the things they should forget and forgets the things they should remember. Most of the time these alters are immobile while the FENX is quite the opposite.

The FENX Project has sovereignty written all over it. From the circumstances surrounding its inception (and yes my actions did firmly implant the idea in my father’s mind) to seeing it on National TV this year. Just the story of how it came to be on TV – which I’ve recounted on this blog in the past – is a total orchestration by the Master of the Universe, no question. Something like being featured on the blog for The ForceCast (the Star Wars podcast) is indeed beyond what I can ask or imagine – which is the realm the Master of the Universe often orchestrates from – although I can imagine quite a bit (to use Han Solo’s words).

Yet, in the midst of all of this, driving around in a living alter, I struggle. Control is such a difficult thing to relinquish, to be reliant upon Another when you were raised to be independent and to reach for the stars. Yet, this is what is asked of me at present to wait till the timing is right to see more of the FENX on TV and in print – to take the story of the FENX and my adventure to other places and talk of what the Master of the Universe has done; to move on in life to a place of sure footing, of solid ground; this is my hope for 2011, though I do not see it…yet. Presently, all I see is the past as I drive my mobile altar through the fog of uncertainty and into the future – focusing on the Undiscovered Country ahead of me.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron