Posts Tagged ‘Scott Pilgrim’

In the last three weeks I’ve authored a series of blog posts in an attempt to forever capture the spirit of the events at Lake Ann Camp during Alpha week of Reborne Rangers 2012.  Why go in the first place?  Why take an entire week off work in the midst of a busy legislative season and an election year?  Why book an expensive plane ticket on short notice and go through the hassle of missing a flight and flying out early the next day while the world slumbers?  My love for this place aside, I went because someone thought I had something worthwhile to say, and had I not gone I’d be a step behind on my own journey of discovery and acceptance; not willing to live out my own admonition to the Rangers to “take your first step into a larger world”.  Put another way, I was supposed to go if for no other reason than the many “lollipop moments” that occurred.

When I began wrestling with the question earlier this year of “if I were to go, what would I have to say?”, the single theme that kept coming up was:   illustrating the importance of destiny and purpose to avoid wandering about like Scott Pilgrim before he met Ramona Flowers and “The League of Evil Ex’s“.  What’s more, the ability to use the circumstances of my own story to illustrate this concept; that and my love for “The Wars” (Star Wars) and general Hero/Superhero culture to attempt a 21st Century equivalent to Paul on Mars Hill in Acts 17.  What better way to begin than with the “snap-hiss” of a toy lightsaber?

With that as my launchpad, I explained the significance of the lightsaber, Lake Ann Camp as an arena of conflict in spiritual terms, and the Reborne Rangers program as a training ground for transformation.  In sharing my story with them, the faith built up in me through various events and circumstances could be loaned out to them for their own edification and encouragement toward embracing the story that is being written in their lives instead of living their lives through the story of someone else; Revelation 12:11 in real life.

I spoke of how my story began in an operating room and not in a maternity ward because of the circumstances of premature birth and the need get out into the world ASAP.  How the doctors didn’t expect me to live through the night and presented my parents with a grim assessment once I did, putting before my mom and Dad the choice if they wanted me (or not).  Moving through childhood I mentioned the mystery of a number of the scars my body carries because I was too young to remember how I got them.  Nevertheless, my memory of Shriner’s hospital at the end of 1996 is still very clear as I talked about much of what happened back then and what it was like to be confronted with my own mortality and stark spiritual reality as a young teenager and to carry that as life goes on – how it changes the way you “mind your surroundings“.

As I neared the crux of my address to them I talked of my desire as a Jr. Higher to be in Washington someday, working on Capitol Hill because two friends saw something in me and called it out when we were kids and how all of that brought me to where I am today.  “When Paul wrote Ephesians”, I told them, “he wrote two verses that we know very well (Eph 2:8-9), but he also wrote the next verse – Eph 2:10 – and when I encountered it a few years ago, it rocked my world.  ‘For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He has prepared for us in advance'”  I explained that this verse implies destiny, puts forth the idea of individual purpose, and shouts from the rooftops that “there are things on this earth that you are meant to do that nobody else can do; there are problems to which you are the solution and prayers to which you are the answer – find out what those things are!”  To illustrate this idea, I mentioned Frodo’s conversation with Galadriel in the Fellowship of the Ring.

I went on to tell the story of attending an events in DC earlier this year wherein I got to see James Earl Jones (the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars and Mufasa in The Lion King) interviewed live on stage.  I explained that in  attending this event, I learned that James Earl didn’t have a relationship with his dad growing up and how that affected him.  Further, I talked about how interesting it was to me that a man without a father would go on to to voice both the most notorious father to grace the silver screen in recent memory and the best fatherly portrayal I’d ever seen; one that tugs at me even now, because I see so much of my Dad and I in it.  I went on to posit that what my Dad and I have done with the FENX and media coverage over the last few years is part of Eph 2:10 for our lives as father and son, something we were meant to do together.

I thought it important to discuss the issue of disability, difficulty, and healing and how that ties into my purpose, my destiny; putting forward the idea that the “Greater Miracle” wouldn’t be a complete healing of this physical pain and infirmity, but that I have persevered for 30 years with it.  In perseverance I have learned dependence, knowing that I need to depend on the Heavenly Father much like I depend on my earthy Dad.  If my Heavenly Father is looking out for my welfare more-so than my earthly Dad, and my earthy Dad built me a rocket-car, how much more can the Heavenly Father do?  More than I can ask or think  (Matthew 7:9-11 and Eph 3:20 fused).

To wrap it all together, I simply explained:  “If you follow Christ and journey where He wants you to go it will often be filled with unexpected adventures to places and through things you could not imagine.  For once you leave this place and venture outside, the wisdom of Hobbits will ring true – ‘Home is behind, the world ahead, and there are many paths to tread; it’s a dangerous thing going out your front door, for if you don’t keep your feet there is no telling where the road will take you’  If you ask the Father ‘what story are you writing in my life?’ and follow where that leads, then you will be able to follow Obi-Wan Kenobi as Luke Skywalker did and ‘ take your first step into a larger world'”.

People need to know how important this idea of purpose is; there’s a reason that it’s one of the prime things individuals struggle with, that’s because it’s fundamental to who we are.  It’s a large part of the answer to the question “why am I here?”  If a life like mine, with all it’s uncertainty, perceived difficulty, and other challenges can be forged into something that illustrates purpose, plan, and destiny in a way that helps someone else embrace their own, then it makes the overgrown trail…that takes a lightsaber to blaze, worth more than it was moments before that “lollipop moment” happened; even if the wise words of Optimus Prime are often apt – “Destiny rarely calls upon us at the moment of our choosing…”

What is Ephesians 2:10 for you?

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As I type this, Charlie Company of the 2012 Reborne Rangers has arrived at Lake Ann Camp and is learning their first lesson about conflict and teamwork in the face of the impossible on the paintball field as the final week of Reborne Rangers for 2012 begins.  I am still mulling over and telling the tales of week Alpha to friends who find themselves wishing they were there with me; to see what I saw.  Looking back, it’s accurate to say that the last day of Reborn Rangers Alpha 2012 was the most challenging one, as I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me throughout that day.

That morning, after breakfast and hearing from Chris, I tagged along as the Rangers headed out to a new physical challenge:  The Leap.  I thought I knew what The Leap was, I was so very wrong.  I thought The Leap was a event out on the challenge course at Lake Ann Camp that I had facilitated years ago involving slabs of tree trunk functioning as “lily pads” which the Rangers had to safely traverse while abiding by whatever restrictions their wise counselors put upon them.  This is not what The Leap is; The Leap is more, much more.

As I walked through the wooded area to our destination, with light filtering through the trees while leaves swished and crunched beneath my feet, I saw all the Rangers gathered in a large circle ahead of me.  As the circle drew nearer, I looked above me dazed and a bit confused.  Far above my head were cables strung between trees in proximity to what looked like small telephone poles about thirty to forty feet in height; and what was that red thing dangling off the cable, was that a ball?  I stood there somewhat speechless and amazed as the situation was explained to us:  Each Ranger would don a climbing helmet and full-body harness hooked to a rope and proceed to climb one of these telephone-like poles to a platform at the top.  Once atop the wobbly and wooden platform the Ranger would jump off into nothingness and attempt to strike the red ball hanging in mid-air from a cable.

As I contemplated what was going to transpire here, I began to think what many would consider “the unthinkable”:  Could I, in all of my physical weakness, instability, and pain, actually do this?  It’s not like I was 17 again, or even in my early twenties like when I was a counselor here; could I climb that AND THEN, somehow, jump off?  Something in me said I might be able to and that I’d regret it if I didn’t attempt to.  So I asked Chris what he thought: ‘The Youth Pastor in my says yes, you should do this and that it would be a sight the Rangers need to see; but the Program Director in me is conscious of the time constraints we’re under.  If we did this, what would you need?”  I explained the inherent stability issue, that  I would need one of the counselors already positioned on the platform located thirty-plus feet in the air to help me get on the platform and then to help me exit the challenge.  This wasn’t normal procedure and not everyone involved was 100% in support of the idea of me doing this but we forged ahead.

As the morning minutes spun on and the time for my challenge drew ever closer, I watched Ranger after Ranger climb this pole and leap into thin air like it was the most natural thing in the world.  To watch one such as Katie Champagne pull what amounted to “Spider-Man”, I just thought “how is she doing this?” Never doubting her ability or that of any other Ranger, but uneasy about my own.  As the last of the Rangers ascended and jumped, I handed all of my “pocketfuls of tech” and my lightsaber to Josiah Wyse so I could then get harnessed and helment-ed; one foot, then one arm, after the other.  I watched as the guy counselor for Rangers, JB, climbed the pole and fastened himself to it; waiting for my arrival.

Singularly focused on the challenge at hand, I walked through the circle of Rangers to the pole, where Doug Champagne strapped me in.  Suddenly Chris appeared to my right and asked me the same questions he’d asked every other Ranger he knew, past and present:  “What challenge are you facing back home?  What does climbing this represent?”  Considering the events in my occupational sphere and the knowledge that I’d be out of a job at the end of the year, continued employment was foremost on my mind.  Then, the climb began.

The thing about this pole is its pegs: the first 1/3 of the climb features longer, sleek, black, metal pegs upon which a persons feet can perch, even if they are unevenly placed.  While challenging, because my feet stick out at an awkward angle like the webbed appendages of a penguin, it’s do-able; more-so because of the assistance from Doug.  It’s the next 2/3 of the pole’s pegs that look down on you and sneer like a rouges gallery of supervillians in all their tiny and rounded “snubness”; these pegs screamed impossible.  By the time I reached them, all that kept me going was the words of a personal prayer inspired by the Green Lantern Oath:  “In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, I cannot escape His sight; He who loves me with all His MIGHT, casts out all fear…Jesus Christ, the Light.”  My strength began to fade and I knew my feet would stage a protest if I kept going, not to mention feeling like my body was hugging the pole as if it and I were the only physical objects in my entire universe (for all I knew at that moment, we were).  I hadn’t given it everything so I kept climbing, one hard earned peg after another.  By this time I knew I was still hearing the voices of the Rangers below me trying to talk to me and shout encouragement, but so much of that became jumbled as I blocked out everything around me and could only think of the next peg and not about how much my legs were hating me for doing this to them.  One peg, then the next.  Most of the time my legs wouldn’t cooperate and I’d have to pull my body up at uneven angles so that my feet would end up far enough above a peg so that just the heel of my skater shoes could rest on them.  One peg, then the next; over and over.  Now the arms wanted to give out, but I was much nearer to the top.  Physically I wasn’t screaming the Green Lantern Prayer, but mentally it felt like it; one part of my brain was doing that while the other part kept repeating the Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s Dune:  “Fear is the Mind Killer, I will face my fear, I will let it pass through me so that when it is gone only I will remain…” I wasn’t sure if I could keep climbing; my body had about had it but my spirit hadn’t given up yet and that was the key, much like using whatever item you find in the dungeon to defeat the dungeon boss in any Legend of Zelda game.  I kept going; peg after peg, weak penguin foot after penguin foot.

Finally, I reached JB and the top of the pole; only then did the Green Lantern Prayer stop, but only for awhile.  JB reached out his hand to grab me and help me onto the platform.  Since the sun was directly facing me though the trees, I couldn’t really see him.  With his hand reaching out, the moment had a Terminator/”come with me if you want to live” vibe to it which I of all people can appreciate.  As I stepped out on to the platform, I finally had an idea of how high up I actually was…and all the Rangers were about four stories below.  This was the point of no return, there was only one way off this bird paradise.

Ever so slowly I turned around and faced JB, my back to the sun shining through the trees and the edge of the platform.  Using JB for support I backed toward the edge of the platform, keeping my sight on the guy who had his grip on me.  It flashed through my mind that I had a small idea of what Peter might have been thinking the feeling when he stepped out of the boat on to the water, eyes on Jesus.  I felt my heels go over the edge of the platform and I gripped JB’s arm ever harder as he said “Count it down, then let go…3…2…1…”.  I let go.

Then the yell came as I was free-falling though time and space, no control over what might happen in the next sixty seconds; the Green Lantern Prayer returned.  Arms out as the descent began to be controlled, I found out later I was rocking somewhat of a “Spider-Man” or “Ninja Attack-hug”  pose of my own; be you more of a Spider-Man or Scott Pilgrim fan.  Closer and closer to the ground I came, as the adrenaline was still coursing through my veins and my muscles still wanted to punish me.   I don’t remember a whole lot after that, just a lot of people wanting to talk to me and posing for a victory photo before collapsing on the ground to let my body catch up to where the rest of me was.

All I knew at that point is that it was done, I had beaten The Leap; the impossible had become possible and I was told I had been awesome, and the pictures did not disappoint.

Yet, this was but the beginning of what I considered, “the toughest day”…

I really like books; I like owning them, having shelves full of them, and reading them.  I’m currently in the midst of four separate books between various small groups and my own personal reading.  I started reading Frank Peretti at 11 years old and started collecting the Star Wars expanded Universe at 12; 17 years later my Star Wars  novels count is well over 80 and takes up three shelves of one of my bookcases.  I was obsessed with Christian apocalyptic fiction for most of Jr. High and High School thanks to the Left Behind books (but I won’t say anything more about that – except that I never finished the whole series).  When looking at my bookshelves, I never expected for it to hold a book by Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz (which is going to be released as a theatrical film soon)JRR Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper, G.P. Taylor, Chuck Colson, and two series on Philosophy and Popular Culture (Star Wars, Star Trek, Transformers, Terminator, Green Lantern, Batman, X-MEN, Battlestar Galactica, 24, LOST) sure, you’d find those, but Donald Miller?  Wasn’t he the guy that the “cool kids” read, those on the 21st Century cutting edge of Christianity?  Yeah, that was way too “Christian Hipster” for me when I actually thought about it, and I honestly would have rather read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books if given the choice (which I own but  haven’t finished).

All that changed one night a few weeks ago.  It was a cold Tuesday night and I’d just finished leading a C.S. Lewis reading group called “The Inklings” (what else would you call it?) when I ran into my friend Andy.  We hadn’t seen one another since the Leadership retreat for National Community Church a few weeks prior, so we got to talking.  Before we knew it we got talking about dreams, destiny, and how it takes intense conflict and perseverance to make a good story (all in “epic superhero/comic book movie” context as well as some of my own life story).  All of the sudden a light goes on inside Andy’s mind and he asks me “Have you ever read Donald Miller?”  I said “no”, and I wasn’t so eager to begin.    Andy began to explain that he understood my hesitation, as he didn’t like Donald Miller either, at first.  It wasn’t until he read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that his perspective began to change (and he has now lead multiple smallgroups though this book).  In fact, my friend believed so much that I should read this book that he bought me a copy and had it sent to my house.  When that happens, you’ve got to give the book a shot because someone you respect sees it as a powerful vessel for wisdom, transformation, and change.  So I began reading.

This being my first experience with this author I didn’t know what to expect.  I had recently seen a trailer for the theatrical release of Blue Like Jazz and it looked very “indie and weird” (redundancy?).  I don’t really like “indie and weird”, except when it crosses over into “epic, super-ish, and full of awesome” like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World does (and SO WELL), because I live in the land of epic and I don’t’ like to stray outside those borders.  As I read I began to realize that one of the threads going through this book was the story of how Blue Like Jazz was going to become a movie: a ground floor account of the author’s life though that process and how it all went down (from characters, to conflict, inciting incidents, plot turns and the like).  I began to wonder “Has George Lucas done this?” and I found myself wishing the answer was yes.

Miller uses this book to look at his life as a story, and to ask the overall question of “what makes a good story and am I living one, a story worth living and inviting others to be a part of?”  As I read I realized that these were questions that I was (and am) consistently wrestling with in light of some of my experiences.  It brought to mind the ending of the two part episode of Facing Life Head On that I was featured in last year, when the host of the show, Brad Mates, says that I and my fellow interviewees had made our lives “stories worth telling”.  Does that mean that at the end of every day you have to be able to say that the day that just ended was worth it?  No, it does not, but worthwhile things have sure happened.  Often in our own stories it’s others that see the worth that we can’t as we’re in the midst of it, as I wrote about Kirk and Spock yesterday.

The book talks about how in Star Wars, the viewer can pause the movie at any point and ask the question “what does a certain character want and what do they have to overcome to get it?” and you know the answer.  Luke wants to become a Jedi and join the Rebellion; Leia wants to defeat the Empire; Han Solo want money so he can pay off Jabba the Hutt.  Ben Kenobi wants to teach Luke the ways of the Force.  Reader finds themselves asking, “what do I want and what do I have to overcome to get it?”  (Along that line of thinking I started to read Quitter by Jon Acuff and will blog about it when I finish the book).  I started asking myself, “is mine a story that is one others should be invited to participate in?” once the book raised this question.

In addressing this question, thoughts drift to The FENX (how can it not?)  I think of how that part of the my story touches and relates to so many other parts and is the fulfilment of some aspects (like wishing I were a superhero).  It’s also something that so many have been invited to be part of.  From Carl Sears and his wife Sheila at NBC to Brad Mates at Facing Life Head On; from radio show hosts Aleksander Danilov, Rick Amato, Anthony DiMiggaio, and Armstrong Williams to writers like Kate Tumerello and Roll Call newspaper.  Even two wonderful ladies who work at NASA and have become good friends of mine (one I actually went to high school with).  Not to mention friends in DC that find themselves part of the crazy incidents that happen on a regular basis and become wondrous tales.  It isn’t just my story anymore; they’ve all been invited to be part of it, and in accepting it’s become part of their story too.  One of the pastors at National Community Church once said that “everyone had that friend on college that was the crazy one that stuff happened to all the time; you either wanted to be around them or run from them because of that.”  I am fortunate to have friends that haven’t run away yet.

There’s still much ground to cover any always improvements to be made, and some of them monumental ones, but yes, I think my life to be a story worth living on the whole of it.  Remember that a good story requires intense conflict and perseverance – the road of The Greater Miracle is unpaved and sparsely trod – the Apostle Paul speaks to this in Romans 5:3-5 for a reason, venturing into the realm of suffering where Yoda dared not go.

What sort of story is your life, is it one that people want to be a part of?  Are you inviting people to be part of it?

Author’s Note:  Thoughts on Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (via a Facebook note) after it’s release in 2010; great movie.

Anyone who knows me knows that I really enjoy heroes, comic books, and video-games. Now if someone can successfully turn that into a movie, I am all in. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is all this and more. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based on the six volume comic book saga of the same name, volume six having just recently released in the last month. In truth, I have not read the comic books yet, so I do not know how well it follows the source material.

In the film, Scott Pilgrim (played perfectly by Michael Cera) is a 22 year old bass player in a band with some friends from high school. The band’s desire is to make it big, to sign with a producer everyone calls “G-man” and Scoot is dating Knives Chow a high school senior. Enter Ramona Flowers, a roller-blading punk girl with wild hair colors that Scott really wants to date. The audience soon learns that in order to date Ramona Flower, Scott Pilgrim has to fight and defeat Ramoa’s seven evil exes (a.k.a. The League of Evil Exes). It’s a riot to watch Scott Pilgrim go one-on one with with Lucas Lee (played by Chris Evans – Fantastic Four’s Human Torch and soon to play Captain America) and Todd the Bass Player (played by Brandon Routh; Superman in Superman Returns). I particularly enjoyed the “Bass Battle”. Some are going to see this as romantic-comedy-esque, because yes, romance is one of it’s main themes, and it’s a very funny movie. As someone who doesn’t like romantic comedies all that much, I actually like this (battling a League of Evil Exes who all have superpowers to win the heart of a girl; who doesn’t?).

This is a movie that is a complete ode to a generation that’s grown up loving video-games and comic books. One of the wonderful aspects of the films is the use of music and sound effects from the classic video-game franchise The Legend of Zelda (a Nintendo series which happens to be my all-time favorite gaming saga). From using the history of Pac-Man as a pickup line; learning the bass line to Final Fantasy II; many nods to classic arcade fighters like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter; Thor’s Hammer – Mjollnir; and a final duel influenced as much by role-playing games as it was by Star Wars; this is a movie that a gamer/superhero fan will love. In many ways this is the movie that was made for the “Nintendo generation”. There are nods to many other cultural icons like Bruce Campbell/Evil Dead, The Seven Samurai, and the late John Hughes.

The whole idea of seeing Scott Pilgrim (while surely flawed) as a hero goes beyond honing skills, winning fights, scoring points, and collecting change in the process – it’s the idea that he’s willing to fight and defeat seven evil villains so he can date a girl, not so he can take over the world. He’s willing to risk life and limb because of a girl (and to protect his friends). Most films don’t execute this all that well, but Scott Pilgrim does so in a way that’s humorous and nostalgic. It’s nice to see the geek hero triumph and see a character actually learn something worth learning. Pilgrim is a much better hero than many of the anti-heroes who are popular today, such as Wolverine, Punisher, Blade, and Spawn. There is an innocence to his heroism that is akin to Link in the Legend of Zelda games –Scott Pilgrim didn’t seek to become a hero, the circumstances found him. I think this is a film that will define this generation long after it leaves theatres. Children of the Eighties have The Goonies, and this generation has Scott Pilgrim – just beware the Nega-Ninja.

The FENX, surprisingly, not in this blog post.