Posts Tagged ‘Yoda’

This might be the sort of blog post you expect to see written by someone with an AARP card or maybe a parent with young kids – like my best friend and his wife  – but I’m neither.  I’m about a quarter-century away from the card and a long way off from being a dad; right now my aspiration to be the geeky uncle the future kiddos want to hang out with is quite enough in that department.  Despite being somewhat youthful still, I don’t move at a rushed pace as if I have a super-villain by the lapel, ready to right-cross him with the mighty Fist of Justice, and then win a race against The Flash.  The pace is more akin to the three-legged and worn steadiness of Jedi Master Yoda, exuding great bursts of physical energy only when such is needed.  This pace is most evident to me when I travel, which I recently did.  I do my best to arrive at the airport with more time than I need as I rarely run though the airport in danger of missing a flight, although that happened recently.  Only once have I actually run the length of an airport – with the walker – to ensure I made a flight on time and the subsequent exhaustion and pain made me feel like I had just run in the Special Olympics like when I was much younger; trying to talk to my parents by phone after being rushed onto the plane by the flight crew wasn’t a walk in the park either.

More often than not I slowly meander my way to the gate, one step at a time, minding my surroundings like Bruce Wayne was taught to do in Batman Begins.  Often times I take the time at the gate to rest, because you never know who you’ll meet on the plane, if a conversation will happen, or the energy it might take.  Nowadays I opt for a seat near the rear of the plane, since I generally board first, have to deal with less passenger traffic that way, and always have to wait for the plane to empty to get my walker when the plane lands.  Same goes for when I get off the plane and on to where I am going.

Time is all we have, and we don’t even know how much.  Rushing from one place to the next is rarely beneficial; who knows what – or who – you’ll miss.  Right now I’m in one of the best periods of life, as things have been forced to slow down due to my former boss’s resignation and the shift in focus to finding what is next in life after six-plus years of working in Congress.  Instead of being beholden to the tyranny of the urgent, I can take the time to search, write, question, and try to determine what the next chapter, I daresay the next Quest, will be; I am not rushing it at all.

When you rush, it’s like blinking; when you blink, you miss it.  Don’t Blink.  The slower path is often better – here’s to the slow path – the one whereby you arrive precisely when you are meant to, for the road goes ever on and on; down from the door where it began; now far ahead the road has gone and I must follow if I can…

Which path are you on and what might you be missing?

Advertisements

What is your name?  What is your quest? What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?” – The Keeper of the Bridge of Death

What is a Quest?  The term is defined as “a long and arduous search for something” or “An expedition undertaken in medieval romance by a knight in order to perform a prescribed feat”.  I looked a few days ago through the dictionary that sits just to the left of the dais on the floor of the House of Representatives for what it had to say about “Quest” and what I was presented with was nothing but lame jargon…on the floor of the House of Representatives?!  I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.  Tim Keller purports that a quest is a journey upon which one embarks  – not entirely of their own choice – that either leads to their death, or they return from the journey so changed that they cannot return to their old life.  Conversely, an adventure is something chosen freely that one embarks upon and at its end is able to return to their old life as it was before they left.

Looking at an example such as the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings is a quest, while The Hobbit or There and Back Again – as it is also calledis an adventure (even if the the trailer for the upcoming film may hint  at it being a quest rather than an adventure).  Bilbo comes back to his old life as it was before he left it.  In Lord of the Rings, Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Sam, Merry, and Pippen do not – and – spoilers – Baromir dies.  Frodo and Gandalf go with the elves to the Grey Havens; Aragorn marries Arwen, becomes a father, and embraces his destiny as the long expected King of Gondor;  Gimli and Legolas become life-long friends; Merry and Pippen are now the tallest of Hobbits and in the books must return to the shire to defend it from destruction; and even though Sam marries Rosie and lives inHobbitton for some time – sans Frodo, his dearest friend – he eventually is called to the Grey Havens as he had been a  ring bearer too, never to return to the Shire once he leaves.

Much like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars is a quest, Dune is certainly a quest, as is the Terminator franchise; in these cases the main characters go through things that leaves them vastly different than when they began.  Luke Skywalker goes from a lonely and forlorn  farm  boy on a backwater word to the hero of the Rebel Alliance and the last of the Jedi Order.  Han Solo: from rouge smuggler to, Rebel hero, hunted bounty, General, and the pirate who actually has a change of heart and finds it within himself to love a princess.  Leia: from youngest member of the Imperial Senate, to Rebel leader, orphan without a home, hunted fugitive, warrior princess, and willing to risk it all to save the life of the pirate who’s heart she won.  And Obi-Wan Kenobi…from Jedi, to hermit, to teacher, to sacrificing himself for a cause greater than himself:  allowing the rebels to escape the Death Star and calling out the potential he saw in a 19 year old farm-boy who he’d spent the child’s entire life thus far guarding in secret under the guise of “a crazy old man” (who thought it too dangerous to go alone, so he gave him his father’s lightsaber).  In Dune, there is no doubt what-so-ever that young Paul  Atradies cannot go back to the life he lead as the son of Duke Leto on the water-world of Caladan once his family leaves their home to manage spice production on Arakis at the behest of Duke Leto’s cousin, Emperor Shaddam the IV.  Paul goes from a young teenager to the Duke of House Atradies after the murder of his father and subsequently  the undisputed leader of the Fremen – the native people of  Arakis – waging war on House Harkonen and the Emperor for the freedom of Arakis and the Fremen; eventually waging war across the galaxy and becoming Emperor of the known universe himself.

These stories are fraught with danger and intense conflict which bring about great transformation and change within it’s characters, but it often isn’t “all pony rides in May sunshine”  We often shy from quests because we don’t like the pain and difficulty that must be persevered though and the unknown that is the fork in the road:  deciding to do what is right or shirk from it.  It’s why some, when faced with such choices, become the hero while others become the villain of the story and such a choice leads to a destiny of “glorious purpose” bent on selfish and devious ends.  It’s why Yoda voiced concern about Anakin Skywalker and was reticent to know what came after suffering because he didn’t know if perseverance and character would result in Anakin’s life or resentment and anger and it took a generation to ameliorate that mistake amidst Yoda questioning the readiness of the younger Skywalker.

The truth though, is that human beings need quests, especially men, and Superhero movies – from Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Iron Man and the Avengers, and Green Lantern – to video game franchises, like Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda, readily support this idea.  Often though, destiny does not call upon us at the moment of our choosing and we are reluctant to get involved.  We’d rather save whales, because that’s easy…and not the universe.

And so I will end as I began: Who are you and what is your Quest; what are you searching for…and are you willing tto embrace that quest in the same manner which young Talia Al’Guhl escaped the pit…jumping without the rope?

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

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.

 

 

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?

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

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

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

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

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

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron