Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

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

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I think that Destiny and Revelation have common denominators.  Not only do both posses a massive feeling of “otherness” or “beyondness” to them, but I think the two are both often inconvenient; neither, as Optimus Prime said, “calls upon us at a moment of our choosing.”  Rather, they present themselves in the midst of moments wherein nothing can be done about them “right then” and, as such, things must wait and risk the moment fading away.  Recently, I had a moment like this and only now record it, willing it to stay within the foreground of my memory.

When considering a instance of destiny in modern American culture, few are more poignant in my mind than the tale of John Connor in the Terminator films.  The story of a young boy possessing the knowledge of not only what he will become, but what must happen to the world in order for him to become it; always racing against time to prevent it and stave off disaster.  It is within this story that a recent revelation arose. In the first Terminator film, the T-101 cyborg is sent back in time to the year 1984 by Skynet, a self- aware artificial intelligence system bent on the destruction of humanity.  The programmed mission a simple one: kill Sarah Connor, the mother of John Connor.  John was to grow up and save humanity by leading the human resistance in defeating Skynet in the future.  The Terminator pursues this mission relentlessly, with a detached ruthlessness beyond human capacity.  The T-101 nearly succeeds, but for the valiant efforts of John’s father, Kyle Reese, a solider from the future sent back to protect Sarah.

In 1991, Terminator 2 released and changed the Terminator mythos, forever.  The year is 1995.  Sarah Connor has been committed to a facility for the mentally unstable and 10 year old John Conner is living with foster parents.  Once again, Skynet has sent a Terminator back in time to kill the Connor family, and the resistance has sent a new protector as well: a Terminator; encountered, reprogrammed, and re-purposed by John Conner to protect him and his mother. 

J.R.R. Tolkien is often credited with the idea that any Myth is ultimately reflecting the truth of Christianity.  While the Terminator franchise is certainly myth, I find that it actually supports Tolkien’s idea and reflects the story of a central character in the New Testament: The Apostle Paul.  When Saul/Paul is first mentioned in Acts 7, at the stoning of Stephen, he is approving of those taking part in the actions against Stephen.  Just a chapter or so later, he is actively pursuing violence against the newborn Christian church, seen as a threat to Jewish religious thought.  As recorded in Acts 9, Saul is en-route to Damascus, the Capital City of Syria, to quell the fledgling church there when he has an encounter with Jesus Christ and the path of his life is altered and Saul, now named Paul, is repurposed to work on behalf of the growing church he dedicated his entire life to decimating before his conversion.  Ultimately, the fate of the Terminator and the Apostle are the same – a life with new purpose and death while in the service of the one who gave them new purpose.

And as an an interesting aside, John Conner possesses the same initials as Jesus Christ and in both cases, powerful forces attempted to kill them as children, before either could fulfil their destinies – fictional or actual.

“In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, no evil shall escape my sight; those who worship Evil’s might, beware my power, GREEN LANTERN’S LIGHT!” – The Oath of the Green Lantern Corps.

Those words were first penned many decades ago and for many decades since then, fans of the Green Lantern comics have waited for silver screen treatment; on June, 17, 2011, it came (kicking off a big weekend for me which included a birthday and the return of The FENX to Washington once again for my use). The story of Green Lantern is very much a cross between Top Gun, the original Star Wars and The Last Starfighter (all movies I love). The main character, Hal “Highball” Jordan, is a former United States Air Force (USAF) pilot who works as a test pilot for Ferris Aerospace a company started by former USAF pilot Carl Ferris (a friend of Hal’s aerospace daring father who died in a crash Hal witnessed as a young boy). Hal works alongside Mr. Ferris’s daughter (and fellow pilot) Carol “Sapphire” Ferris with whom he has an on again/off again romantic relationship. Both characters are asked to fly a sortie against a pair of UAV fighters that Ferris Air is development for the Department of Defense, an exercise which results in another plane crash.

Meanwhile, in another galaxy far from the Milky Way, an ancient threat that feeds on the fear of others known as Parallax has escaped imprisonment by the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic law enforcers who wield green rings which channel the will power of the wielder into anything they can think of. Having escaped, Parallax hunts down Abin Sur, the greatest of the Green Lanterns and the one responsible for imprisoning him. Wounded in their encounter and fading fast, Abin crash lands on earth and instructs his ring to choose his replacement; the ring chooses Jordan. In short order Jordan is transported light-years from earth to the planet Oa, the home-world of the Green Lantern Corps; here he begins his training at the hands of Kilowog (a brutish alien version of R. Lee Ermey) and Sinestro (an emotional magenta skinned Vulcan looking character). As the story progresses Jordan’s two lives collide and new villains and heroes are born.

In all honesty, I loved this movie. Not everyone will but I did. In full disclosure though I’ve been a fan of Green Lantern since the Justice League show on Cartoon Network so I’ve been waiting for it for about a decade. When DC Comics unleashed the Blackest Night crossover a few years ago it only solidified my position as a fan of the Corps. When it comes to a film like this my greatest concern is how close the movie stays to the source material and I never apologize for that fact. Green Lantern did a marvelous job here (no pun intended). Most of the characters were spot on as were costumes and locations like Oa. (Ryan Reynolds was what I expected Jordan to be, but even if Blake Lively had a good moment or two I hope she steps up the game going forward; she has to for the story arc of Carol).

One of the most important elements in the film was properly dealing with the relation between the Power of Will and the Power of Fear, illustrated by the colors green and yellow, and how they are often antithesis to one another. It brought to mind the mantra from the Dune universe “Fear is the mind-killer, fear is the little death that brings total inhalation; I will face my fear, I will let my fear pass through me and when it is gone only I will remain”. Critics complained that there was too much Computer Generated Images (CGI), and while A LOT of the movie was that, to not do it in such as way would have made the cost of the film astronomical and harder to execute. Additionally, critics expect all superhero movies such as this to be on par with The Dark Knight or the first Iron Man; without his powers, Hal Jordan is “Pete Mitchell” from Top Gun and with the power of his Lantern Ring he can’t be Batman. This is a film about finding courage (and the will to act) in the midst of overwhelming fear, and the places that courage comes from. It illustrates the power and influence of fathers (and how much younger men are affected by it) and mentors (in much the same way the Star Wars film did). It also hints at the cost of fighting as one’s enemy does (I expect the sequel to deal with this more), as well as the dangers of great power and the arrogance that can come with thinking oneself unassailable.

This film is a big step for DC and Warner Brothers, as it is really the first mainstay DC character to get his (or her) own movie (not TV show) and your name isn’t Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. Seeing as how Marvel Studios is creating their own Marvel “movie-verse”, DC is finally taking a stab at the same (as illustrated by the inclusion of Dr. Amanda Waller; a character I expect to see much more of going forward who crisscrosses DC story-lines often and nods to the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO)). In short, I look forward to future adventures and returning to Oa.

Finally, I couldn’t help but see a Christian parallel when it was the Sun that was ultimately the undoing of the interstellar baddie. On that note I will simply end with something I wrote years ago, inspired by Christian belief and the Oath of the 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”

*UPDATE* I just returned from an unexpected special Green Lantern in 3D screening in DC. One of the points in the film I didn’t cover but should have is Hal Jordan’s struggle with being chosen to join the Green Lantern Corps. Tomar-Re, one of Hal’s mentors (and his wisest), makes it very clear that Hal was chosen by the Ring even if he doesn’t understand why; that the Ring doesn’t make mistakes. Hal really struggles with this because in most areas of his life he is a failure who cannot overcome his fear. Ultimately, the Ring’s choosing Hal gives the character a sense of destiny that is both freeing and a burden; a burden because it is a difficult undertaking, but freeing because the die is cast and any sense of confusion and doubt about the path is past once he realizes why he was chosen. This is probably my favorite subplot in the film because ever since Star Wars and Terminator destiny has fascinated me.

In something totally unrelated, I am convinced that post-production conversion to “3D” is just a Hollywood gimmick, but when it’s actually filmed in 3D that is something else entirely.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

Imagine for a brief moment that you are standing on the sidewalk in a busy city as the snow falls fast and the wind whips, grasping at you with icy talons. All of the sudden in the midst of nature’s temper-tantrum of frigid pandemonium emerges a clean aerodynamic form as it roars past; you cannot see into it and whoever (or whatever) might be within its confines (presumably) cannot see out of it. What are you thinking in that moment? What do you do? How do you react? Do you suddenly think we aren’t alone in the vast cosmos? A week ago that was me. I wasn’t the bewildered bystander though, I was the unseen one inside the all white alien form, and that form was the FENX.

Last week was baptism by snow as I slowly made my way home across the treacherous “Hothscape” that Washington, DC had transformed into over a matter of hours one afternoon. The government shut down around 3 pm that afternoon and I left “early” at 5 – already too late as I would soon learn. As I locked myself into the FENX; inserted keys; flipped switches to activate displays and check lights; set the Blue-tooth on the phone so I could catch-up on Star Wars: The Clone Wars Round-table discussions, all of this was routine but I knew this was going to be an adventure and visions of The Empire Strikes Back started to dance across my cortex. The snow was falling and it was sticking to the FENX with no place to go. Before too long I was having a tough time seeing and often opened the canopy so I knew where I was headed. My memorized route was being altered by law enforcement as there was too much snow to know what to do with and I was praying safety a mile a minute even though the FENX is a veteran survivor of storms (but of the summer sort). As I slowly went along the weight of the snow gave my muscles a run for their money in lifting the viewport for sight (but I empathized with Luke Skywalker’s plight of the downed Snowspeeder and trying to open the canopy to escape the oncoming Imperial Walker). I can only imagine what passersby must have thought as they saw me roll by. In the end (thanks to much evident grace) I made it safely home and away from the world of Wampas outside. I knew the White Warlock of Old Man Winter had returned and caught me unawares; thus one of my greatest enemies had returned and our struggle began once again – and I was clearly losing.

The White Warlock and I aren’t friends, never will be. Quite honestly when I think of Winter I think of Jadis, the Usurper, the self-proclaimed and wrongful ruler of Narnia; since Old Man Winter and the idea of a Witch or Queen don’t gel all that well, I go with Warlock (it’s gender proper and still filled with the correct sense of frigid malice). Winter is a sad state of being for planet earth and even various ancient cultural mythologies bear this out – Greeks probably best with Persephone going to spend time with Hades (fitting as Winter IS hell for me). The best thing about Winter is Spring. Winter finds the cold targeting me with a vengeance, seeping into my bones and enabling them to groan to life as if they are now a separate entity freed to do as they will, independent from me with one overriding thought – cause pain (think zombies on a microscopic level). In Winter’s grip I am often at my weakest in body, limping, struggling, and trudging – just trying to make it through the day with a smile (and sometimes struggling in mind). In this dark time, when the Empire of Body seeks to subjugate the Will through fear and pain, I am in such need of Help and New Hope. The fact that Snowpocalypse III is literally sweeping most of the nation right now and headed this way doesn’t help. It is in this time that I remember that “fear is the mind killer…”; I recall “The night is darkest just before the dawn, and the dawn is coming” and I cling to one simple and profound truth – In Brightest Day, in Blackest Night, I cannot escape His sight, He who loves me with all His might, He casts out (all) fear, Jesus Christ – the Light.

For All Will be Made Right, when Aslan Comes In Sight.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron