Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

Sometimes the telling of a tale doesn’t end when you expect it to because there is more story to tell than first anticipated, as shown by  Peter Jackson’s announcement regarding what is now a trilogy of Hobbit movies.  So it is with Alpha Company of the 2012 Reborne Rangers.  When we last left our intrepid band of young heroes they had gone to lunch and I was face down upon leaf covered ground trying to get my body to calm down after successfully jumping off a telephone pole thirty-feet-and-some-change into the air.  In retrospect, if that doesn’t live up to Joel Clark’s motto of “do it for the story” I am not sure what does (even if it isn’t jumping off a skyscraper construction crane in South Africa).    I felt like after that experience I’d given it all and there was nothing left – no more wisdom or challenges –  and once again, I was wrong.

By the time I got my bearings enough to just sit and rest at lunch, the Rangers were on to their next challenge:  Goliath.  After eating what I could for the sake of needing energy, I slowly made my way out to the the Goliath challenge,  just to watch this time.  Watching this larger team of 24 assemble itself into six smaller squads of four is interesting, as you get to witness wherein the bonds of what will be life-long friendship in many cases has really formed; adversity, difficulty, and challenge does that.  Continuing these friendships is somewhat easier than the first group of Reborne Ranger had it because of Facebook and other social media tools such as Skype.

Goliath is the only high adventure challenge at Lake Ann Camp that I haven’t done; I missed the chance to do it in 2005 because I was in Washington, DC during that part of counselor training for the summer.  I think it’s about 30-40 feet tall from the ground to the bell at the top of the challenge.  While most of the high adventure challenges at Lake Ann Camp are more “solo” oriented, Goliath is a team challenge from start to finish.  First, the four teammates climb a rope net to reach the first rung of the large ladder. Next, the team must find a way to traverse vertically up four horizontal beams held together by cables.  Finally, the squad needs to fund a way to enable one of the team members to ring the bell suspended ten feet above the final rung of the ladder.  Ringing the bell is even tougher when your counselors decide who get to be the one to attempt the “jump shot” and it’s always the most in-obvious choice (oh the wisdom of counselors).

While not all the Ranger squads successfully rang the bell, every squad came close.  As I sat and watched these challenges unfold, and engaged some of the Rangers in conversation about things they learned so far this week, I began to recover from the exhaustion that came from The Leap.  At the same time though my mind was racing because I was still piecing together what I thought would be my final address to the Rangers later that afternoon as part of their commissioning/graduation ceremony from the Reborn Rangers program.  As the hours ticked by I kept watching, talking, and thinking; reaching back to some of what I discussed earlier in the week about the purpose and destiny  for every one of these Rangers.

Soon enough, the time came to head out to Pine Chapel for the Rangers’ commissioning ceremony.  As I slowly walked down the path to Pine Chapel, I saw that almost all of the speakers from the last few days were back again to address the Rangers one final time:  Jim Dourty, Cheryl Tinsley, Doug Champagne, Ken Riley, Ken Rudolph, Chris Howard, and myself – all of them wore the Rangers shirt for Summer 2012, a symbol of what these students were about to step into.  As Chris handed me my shirt I was reminded of the last time someone bequeathed a Ranger shirt to me, 13 years prior.  As I took my seat next to The Commander, Doug hefted a wooden mallet I call “The Hammer of Thor” and began striking a bell with it as the Rangers filed down in two columns to their seats; 26 strikes total, one for each of the twenty-four students and their two counselors.

As the Rangers were seated, the addresses commenced and Jim Dourty was first at bat.  Drawing on some of what he had talked about earlier in the week, the telling of his time in combat and relating it to the spiritual life, Jim explained to the Rangers that, as Rangers, we’re leaders and targets on the spiritual battlefield; life from here on out would not be easy and difficult things would happen.  He also made it clear how proud he was of these students and that he considered it an honor to stand with them as a Reborne Ranger.  I was up next.

As I walked the short distance with my trusty walker and locked my feet in to sit on the back of it to address the Rangers, I reminded them of my words from earlier this week about the unique purpose and destiny that is at work for (and in) each one of them.  I told them that because Christ is the greatest Superhero of them all, and because we are to be like Him, we can he heroes too.  That with heroes, there is so much work to do that there is only enough down-time to iron the cape and then it is back to the skies.  In the midst of this, I heard the quiet and familiar tones of the “Warp Whistle” of both Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. 3 fame; my phone was ringing.  Someone was trying to call me and I had no idea why, and everyone heard it.  Ignoring the call, I continued addressing the Rangers; this was their first step into a larger world, a new reality, and as they stepped into the new world Jesus would be with them…always.  I couldn’t have been prouder of this group of teenagers; all they had been through this week, all they had learned, they were ready to join the ranks of Rangers from summers past.  Drawing my lightsaber, I saluted them then walked back to my seat.

As I sat down and switched my phone to “buzz mode”, I tired to shake the sudden onset that something wasn’t quite right.  My phone buzzed again and I ignored it, trying to focus on the other speakers who were addressing the Rangers.  It kept buzzing; it hadn’t gone off like this all week long and all of the sudden it was exploding, and taking me from where I was – Ranger graduation – to somewhere I didn’t want to be:  Distracted-ville.       I honestly don’t remember much of what the others said in their final charge to the new Reborne Rangers.  After the final words wrapped, the counselors were called upon to be the first inducted into the ranks of Reborne Rangers, signified by the individual striking the mallet against the bell and receiving their shirt and congratulations from the speakers who just addressed them.   Afterwards, the counselors called their students up one at a time to strike the bell, receive their shirt, and be congratulated.  It’s an emotional thing to be a part of this after watching these teenagers grow, during this intense week, further into the individuals the Heavenly Father has for them to be.

After the ceremony concluded I sat down to pull out my phone and the uneasy feeling returned.  There was a message for me to call the office in Washington.  Finally getting in touch with the right people I learned that my boss was resigning that night and that things would be different when I got back to town.  By this time, the Rangers had left Pine Chapel, but the speakers were lingering.  Slowly getting up from the bench I shuffled over to them, explained the situation, and Chris, Doug, Cheryl, and Jim all prayed for what might lie ahead.  I realized later that it was no accident that I was at Lake Ann Camp when learning such news, there was no better place for me to have been.  That night as we sat down to dinner I ate my first steak in who knows how long; it was great.

Chapel at Lake Ann Camp on Friday nights is intense.  Instead of it being just 200+ Senior High campers, it’s almost all the programs, combined. Jump Start, Junior High, Fresh Start, Senior High, and Reborne Rangers are all represented.  As I arrived at Chapel late I saw Ken Rudolph sitting outside the building preparing to preach, so I sat with him; I love talking with this man of God.  We talked a bit about the news I got from Washington earlier – I love that my Lake Ann family watches out for me – and we prayed for the situation, Ken’s preaching, and that lives would be touched and transformed that night.  Then it was time for Ken to go under the lights again and preach with everything he had in him (and he did).

In the midst of Ken’s sermon, I stepped out to try and contact my parents to let them know the situation in Washington.  Once I couldn’t get a hold of them I quickly hung up the phone as I realized that Ken was telling the story of someone who was at Lake Ann Camp this week; Ken was telling a packed house the story of Josiah Wyse.  Realizing this, I hopped up off that bench and ran back into the chapel to find Josiah at the end of a row of seats near a window.  We just sat there together as Ken told the tale and watched the light come on in the minds of many of the campers as they realized that Ken was talking about someone who was in the very room with them; the room just came alive after that.  This was a moment in which tears were acceptable as the story of Josiah’s life, that would have ended in darkness, in fact, did not and the story was now being used to facilitate real-life impact in the lives of hundreds in the room with him.  There are few, if any, proper words for such a moment; just awe, really.  There is no doubt in my mind that some of those who took to the stage that Friday night were moved by Josiah’s story, what the Lord had done, and won’t be the same as a result.

Glory Bowl:  A time to enjoy a large fire that makes the inner pyro of most guys jealous and, more importantly, to share what God has done in the lives of campers that week.  It’s a Lake Ann Camp tradition that happens every Friday night after the combined chapel.  I’ve learned that Glory Bowl is much longer than I remember it.  More than anything though, the Glory Bowl confronted me with the reality of how much pain teenagers are in these days; I just couldn’t believe it.  From additional stories of struggling with suicide, drugs, abuse, and even homelessness, story after story just hit me like a smooth stone to the forehead; I just don’t remember it being like this when I was a camper, if it was it was to a much lesser degree.  Yet, in the midst of all this pain, the new Reborne Rangers rose to the occasion and more than once went to comfort and encourage these campers who were clearly hurting and the Rangers’ actions served as a great indicator of growth in their lives.  As I drifted off to sleep that night I was saddened that my time at Lake Ann Camp with these Rangers was drawing to a close, but there was one last nagging thought on my mind and I fell asleep without a resolution to it.

Saturday morning came bright and early and with it, that nagging thought.  As the Rangers gathered in the training room one final time before breakfast, to exchange contact information and spend moments together as as team, I just watched; sometimes laying on the floor to rest.  These teenagers had arisen to the “Avengers Challenge” – taking a group of leaders in their own right and forging them into a team.  I may never know what it was, or multiple things, that served as “the push” but they had done it.    And the time to give them one final charge and pass the torch was quickly approaching.

As breakfast was ending, the cinnamon rolls having been gleefully consumed, I asked for the attention of the Rangers.  As I stood there, I reminded them of what Jim Doughtery had shared with us the night before about being spiritual targets and the reality that tough things would happen.  I explained that hard things were happening to some of us and relayed the basics of what was happening in Washington and how I would be affected.  I reminded them that we had spent time ironing our capes this week and it was time to go back to the skies again.  Then I did what no one expected:  as I talked about passing the torch from one generation to the next, from one of the first Rangers to those newly minted, I asked Josiah to stand.  As he stood, somewhat bewildered, I explained how there has never been a story quite like his happen at Lake Ann Camp before and I wanted there to be a symbol for the passing of the torch that they would all remember.  With that, I removed my lightsaber from my belt and handed it to him.  For a few seconds no one spoke, they knew what was happening and couldn’t believe it.  In fact, Josiah didn’t want to take it but I assured him it was being freely given.  With that, the nagging thought fled so very far away.

It was tough to say goodbye to these new Rangers, my padawan learners.  The same could be said for my Lake Ann Camp family old and new.  Sharing in the staff Glory Bowl later that morning I urged those at Lake Ann Camp this summer to enjoy every moment, as there would come a time when life would take them away from Lake Ann Camp and on to other things and the encouraging and uplifting environment would no longer be the norm.  It was a joy to get to be a part of that once more and hear what happened that week in other programs.  As the staff Glory Bowl was ending I knew my time was ending too.  I slowly walked my way to from the chapel to the trailer to retrieve my luggage as my ride pulled up.  At that moment who should be walking down the gravel path but the Commander himself, Ken Rudolph.  Introducing him to my brother and sis-in-law and saying farewell for now, I got into the car and we drove off…

…but I’ll be back, you can count on that; thus ended one of the greatest weeks of any summer at Lake Ann Camp and I got to be there for it.

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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

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

Yesterday morning my brother Seth and I caught a flight at Regan National Airport in DC to Detroit Metro in Michigan. It being a Holiday we have some time off and haven’t seen our parents in a while – perfect time to come home. This flight was probably one of the more interesting ones, as I met a man who was returning home to Minnesota with his family after touring the city with his wife and daughter. We spent some time talking about what he does as a parts supplier with IBM and what I do as a Congressional Staffer and what it’s like to work where I do – mostly in the last few weeks with long days and Health Care.

Eventually we got to talking about Dad and the FENX, which always seems to happen these days. At this point it got interesting as he semi-exclaims “you’re THAT guy, we have pictures of you”. Now I have to admit that the first thing that went though my head was the scene from PCU where John Faverau’s character gets told “don’t be that guy” because he was going to a concert wearing the t-shirt of the band he was going to see. So naturally I asked him what he was referring to and he explained that the day before he and his family were in the office building where I work when the evacuation drill started. (When this happens I get down to the FENX as fast as I can and drive it to the meeting point to check in with security and the rest of my office.) This family must have been ushered out as well. As it turns out, they saw me inside the FENX when the drill was over, waiting to get back into my building, and took pictures of the FENX.

At this point, the rest of the family came in on the story and had a lot of great things to say about Dad and his ability to create things. So I began to share other stories, like the NBC Nightly News Saga – which I am still expectantly waiting to air sometime this Spring/Summer. The whole thing was a unique experence, no doubt, but kind of neat. In the words of Jars of Clay, Crazy Times.

I wish these folks luck in their own adventures, especially their daughter, as she strives after her dream of being a ballerina.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

Over the last three months, Washington, D.C. has gotten an inordinate amount of snowfall. Therefore two things have happened: The FENX 4.1 was grounded due to weather and the entire city knows what “Snowpocalypse” and “Snomageddon” mean (and I almost put hash-tags in, need to remember this isn’t Twitter). Thanks to the FENX being grounded, I wasn’t able to have my own Battle of Hoth in the snow.

Today, I took the FENX 4.1 out for a quick test run to Union Station and Ebeneezer’s Coffee House, just to see how the vehicle was faring. All is still well, just need to keep a judicious eye on the batteries. It felt awesome to be behind the butterfly steering wheel again, there is nothing like it. I still get stopped by folks though; I like to think my Dad and I are actively engaged in changing the paradigm in how an individual gets from point A to point B in a city and loving every second.

Riding towards Eternity,

Aaron

When I last wrote, I commented on the FENX 4.0 being in Michigan for repairs and modifications; it still is, till next weekend.  However, I had an encounter last night that helped me realize it’s not so much the technology of the FENX 4.0 itself that can give people hope, but the story in it’s entirety.  Last night, I went to the premire of Discovering God in America II:  Our Heritage.  It’s a film exploring the Christian heritage of our nation and it was put together by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and his wife Calista, in conjunction with Citizen’s United.

After watching the excellent film which, explores our heritage from the early Jamestown Settlement in 1607 to Abraham Lincoln and after the Civil War in 1865, I went to a reception where I met some folks and before I knew it I was talking about the FENX 4.0 – mainly because of my story involing the Capitol Police thinking the FENX was a security threat and might explode the first time that I drove it to work on Capitol Hill – and yes, it includedexplosive sniffing canines.  This of course excited my small audience so I recounted the story of how/why my Dad built the vehicle.  I explained the whole tale of being born 10-12 weeks early, how God told my Dad I would be ok, that all my medical problems wouldn’t be the end of me.  I talked about how Dad built the FENX III because of the accident while I was in college where I flipped the tricycle.  I went on to recount why he built the FENX 4.0 (and showed pictures) and how becuase of a series of very of very odd (but very God-oriented) events led to the current adventure of taping and producing a segment for TV News which will air before too long.  The TV segment details the story of the FENX and the relationship between my Dad and I; he’s the greatest by the way – totally worthy of being my hero.

Well, the three folks I was recounting this tale for were just amazed, which seems a common reaction.  In a town as cynical and self-centered as Washington, DC is, they told me my story was one which gives them hope – that there are still good people out there doing what they can to improve the lives of others and change the world for the better.  They said it’s a story where folks aren’t in it for the money, power, and personal affluence and that’s rare.

Here’s to reflecting the True Hope of the One who gave my dad the ability to create.  Next time, hopefully, the story behind the TV Segment!

Riding towards Eternity,

Aaron

P.S. Any thoughts can be sent to FENX04@gmail.com

I haven’t posted anything on the FENX 4.0 in some time, for one simple reason:  there’s little to say and no adventures to be had.  In a nutshell, the FENX 4.0 has been “in the shop” in Michigan, undergoing some repairs and modifications/upgrades.  One of the biggest lessons of this overarching adventure has been estimating the overall range of the FENX 4.0, how far it can go.  The biggest impediment to this in my estimation has been the electric engine’s tendency to overheat when used for long periods of time.  Since there is no real way to cool the engine down while it is in use, the FENX is best used in a situation where there is a defined destination upon where it can rest and the engine can cool.  I am looking forward to the day when it returns to Washington, D.C. and I can use it as a catalyst for more adventuring.

Riding towards Eternity,

Aaron