Posts Tagged ‘National Community Church’

When GI-JOE:  Real American Hero premiered in the early 80’s as a television companion to already published comic-books, viewers were introduced to an eclectic cast of characters comprising the ranks of both “The Joes:  America’s Highly Trained Special Mission Force” and “Cobra:  an evil terrorist organization determined to rule the world.”  One of the craftier villainous characters was Destro, a partner to Cobra Commander in his nefarious plots at world domination and destruction who wore a metal mask.  Born James McCullen Destro, of Scottish clan McCullen, Destro was the founder and CEO of Military Armament Research Systems (MARS) Industries, a weapons manufacturer whose technology and profits often fueled Cobra’s evil missions of terror and world-domination, as clan McCullen had long been the suppliers of weapons in various conflicts throughout history (imagine an evil Tony Stark/Iron Man).  As such, Destro uses his wealth, position, and influence for evil and does so willingly.  Nevertheless, he would, and sometimes did, work against Cobra if it is in his interest as ultimately Destro served himself.

Recently, in a sermon at National Community Church, Mark Batterson told the story of a Scottish man named Thomas McClellen who was born in 1837.  In 1857, at age 20, young Thomas made a covenant with God in which he pledged all that he had, all that he was, and all that he might become to the service of the Heavenly Father and the cause of His kingdom.   Thirty years later, at 50, McClellen recommitted himself to this covenant and did so a third time at age 70.  At present, five generations of the McClellen family have followed in the footsteps of their ancestor and philanthropically distributed millions of dollars through grants to many people and organizations fueled by the Gospel to make the world a better place.  Thomas McClellen was the “anti-Destro” and left a legacy that needs no mask, metal or otherwise.

As you walk through the world, what sort of legacy remains in your wake?

Sometimes crazy ideas find their way into our minds.  A few days ago I caught one of those.  Last week, I finished leading a small group at National Community Church (NCC) that read through Pastor Mark Batterson‘s The Circle Maker (In full disclosure Mark is the Pastor at NCC).  In our final meeting as a small group, we embarked on an exercise of creating a list of Life Goals; things we’d like to have accomplished by the time our lives come to an end.  Personally I think it’s much wiser to start thinking about this at 29, or even earlier, as opposed to a later time.  In The Circle Maker, Pastor Mark has some pretty interesting life goals: making a movie, speaking at a commencement, and writing a New York Times Bestseller to name a few (which he has done with The Circle Maker).

Over the last few weeks I’ve spent some time watching a number of TED Talks, presentations given on various topics by leaders and innovators in different fields, who have ideas worth spreading or stories worth telling.  It could be someone talking about mobile technology and it’s uses in locating people as part of disaster relief, a discussion about Moore’s Law and continuing upward trends in technology, imparting the art of storytelling though enabling technology, the power of secrets, or even the energy future of our planet as impacted by a teenager who wanted to create a fission reaction in their garage and built a reactor to do it.  It’s impassioned people sharing their ideas and perspective on life to impact culture and inspiring people to think about the world around them.  Last week as I was working on this “Bucket List” of sorts I realized that one of my goals should be (and now is) to share my journey, and the story of the FENX, at a TED conference; to impart to that group of influencers the value of an individual life and how such a life forged by challenging experiences is enabled to see the world in a different light, and thus embark on a somewhat accidental quest to revolutionize the lives of others via unique mobility solutions.  To share what many see as a story of hope, courage, and family.

But it doesn’t end there.  After processing this thought on TED, something in me said “Why not an audience of 10,000?”  My inner geek immediately reacted “10,000?!  You could almost buy your own ship for that!” But why not 10,000?  Why not consider it a goal to be able to share this same story with a single audience of 10,000 people at a single event?  It could certainly happen; audiences of 1,000 and 3,500 happened in college and there was less story to tell then.

So here’s to “10,000 and TED”, right up there on the List with “writing a book by the time I am 35” and quite a bit higher than “Attending San Diego Comic-Con”

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

On the rare occasion that I get to go before an audience and speak about my journey so far, it is all but inevitable that I will talk about purpose and destiny at some point; partly because they are ideas that interest me, and partly because it’s easier to bring in Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Terminator that way (all popular franchises in our culture that speak to destiny).  Speaking before a Christian audience, I’ll often frame my ideas about destiny and purpose around the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared for us in advance (or ‘in advance for us to do’)”.  Put another way, I will sometimes ask this question:  “Whose prayers are you destined to be the answer to?” I’ve thought much about this as an idea in recent years, as a third-person concept outside of my personal orbit.  Recently, that’s changed – and for the better.

In my last post I mentioned attending the Leadership Summit at National Community Church two weekends ago.  After it’s conclusion my brain was more than full but I wasn’t done thinking.  I began thinking about this idea of answers to prayer again and it was as if God was asking me personally “What if you intentionally prayed that way?  What if, every morning you prayed that that day, somehow, some way, you could be the answer to the prayer of someone else; what might happen?”  I’ll be the first to admit that I was harboring some apprehension about this prayer “experiment” because consistent prayer is one of the things that puts you on the front-lines of combat in spiritual terms and in conflict, those on the front-lines generally pose the greatest threat to the opposition.  The opposition in turn wants to strike back at your weakest point, and for me that’s a point of biological structure; because of some primary and secondary conditions I’ve lived with all my life, or a long stretch of it, I’m weaker and very vulnerable to pain and discomfort.  Moreover, already knowing what this feels like and what forms it can manifest in, tends to increase the dread if you know it’s coming (or might come); hence, the apprehension.

Nevertheless, I resolved to press forward with this idea.  The first few days were terrible, as pain and biological difficulty seemed to be on the hunt.  A few days later I was talking on the phone with a friend from out of town about a situation surrounding a mutual friend of ours, explaining how a friend of mine in here in Washington (which this out of town friend did not know) and I were planning on trying to help resolve this situation with our mutual friend.  In the midst of this explanation, my out of town friend just stops and says “wow, what you are trying to do is really an answer to the prayers some of us have prayed for awhile”.  I was standing in my kitchen at the time and the world. just. stopped. “What did you just say?”, I asked.  The words were repeated.  I then began to explain the whole prayer experiment I was in the midst of and the individual at the other end of the phone was amazed as well; the Master of the Universe taking the time to confirm a path I was on.  I also found it beyond coincidence or luck that the friend on the phone was reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson at this time; a great book on prayer if the  ever was one.

This doesn’t happen every second of every day or even every day, but when it does occur it’s wise to take note. I sometimes wonder if the FENX or the story of my journey so far  has been the answer to the prayers of others (other than my own).

And so I continue on this path, excited to see what other prayers of others I might be the answer to, knowing that most of those answer I will probably never be aware of, but the One who made the galaxies and crafted them into place will, and sometimes that has to be enough.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

This post brought to you by the Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Orchestra Album

Last weekend I attended the Leadership Summit at National Community Church.  It’s a once a quarter event wherein all the Small Group Leaders and Ministry leaders at that church get together to listen to and learn from the staff.  The theme for this year has been “If Leaders (fill in the blank with something leaders should be doing)” Building off the successful format of past incarnations of Leadership Summit, this instance continued the trend of doing short TED style talks on various topics.  One in particular was Dave Schmidgall’s “If Leaders Embrace the Tension”, wherein he talked about living in that uneasy place of pressure where strings are being pulled, hard and uncomfortable questions are being asked and ease is nowhere to be found.  Yet, leaders are called to live in that space; just like leaders are sometimes asked to walk through the dark Valleys of Shadow with those who are living in them and struggling to press forward out of them (though like pronouncing the language of Mordor “there are few who can”).

After the summit last weekend I was ruminating on this idea of tension, and it became much harder and much more personal:  How do I live in the tension between reliance on the Creator and Master of the Universe (a good thing) and the continued pain, discomfort, and difficulty in life that I loathe but live in regularly because of my biology and medical history?  The answer is a simple one, but it isn’t easy: I just do.  I persevere because there is no other option. I get up every morning and ask the Master of the Universe to handle the things I can’t (and working in Congress is a lot of that).

The FENX was born of that tension, it’s helped answer some of the question of “how do we live  in this difficult space?”  If I didn’t have to live here, the need for the FENX wouldn’t exist; the future possibility of the “needs of the one meeting the needs of the many” might never even have been, and many of my crazy stories wouldn’t either.  As my friend Heather Zempel wrote recently, there is “Beauty in the Tension

My friend Andy Piscotti asked me this week what I might have to say if ever put in a “TED Talk” style situation as he was asking me my thoughts on this last Leadership  Summit.  more than anything thoughts on perseverance began to coalesce and he inspired me to get that on paper (or screen as it happens):

Perseverance is: “Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success” or “Continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory”

Having been born ten weeks premature, expected not to live though the first night, raised by parents who were told my quality of life would be nil, had more procedures done on me than I can remember and bearing the scars to prove it, lived with Cerebral Palsy my whole life and all that’s brought with it, I know a little about perseverance; friends have said I actually have a PhD in it.

Our culture hates the idea of perseverance (or long-suffering) because it implies hardship, work, suffering, and maybe even loss; it is the antithesis of our “Society of instant gratification and ease”. You see it everywhere…even in A Galaxy Far Far Away…

Episode I clip of Anakin Skywalker before Jedi Council

I’m an unabashed Star Wars fanboy, and Yoda is my favorite character, but even Yoda doesn’t really like the idea of perseverance, because he says “Fear leads to anger; Anger leads to hate; Hate leads to suffering…” and he stops; he doesn’t know what’s beyond. I can hear Ian McKellen’s wizard voice whispering in Yoda’s head “You shall not pass…

If we need to find an answer to “What’s AFTER suffering, what’s on the other side?” (and we crave that answer when in the midst of it) Yoda doesn’t help, but Paul’s letter to the church in Rome does. In Romans 5:3-5 Paul writes: “but we rejoice in our sufferings, because suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character hope and this hope does not disappoint us because it comes to us through the Holy Spirit whom Christ has given us.”

So perseverance comes out of suffering, out of testing as James confirms in James 1:2-4 “for the testing of your faith develops perseverance”, but leads to character and an unwavering hope that is eternal –if you know Christ – and that hope is something our instant gratification culture yearns for even if they don’t know it, something they need leaders in culture to embody – and, as leaders, that means us.  As Captain Tal cautioned a trigger-happy Giulo in Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness:  “Forbear, Forbear, he must go through it”

As we attempt to embody this, reliant on the Holy Spirit to do it, may we continue in a state of grace until we reach that state of glory, and just tell Yoda the truth: Much to Learn, you still have.

 

 

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