Heroes and a Telephone Pole: You Don’t Know the Power of your Life

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, Star Wars | 1 Comment

In the Star Wars three-quel, Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader famously tells Luke Skywalker:  “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side” as a statement of finality and admission to the grim hold Emperor Palpatine had upon Vader’s life.  Fortunately, we know that all changed shortly thereafter.    Think for a moment on the power of those two lives within that fictional universe.  Darth Vader: innocent; chosen; hopeful; hoped in to bring balance to the Force and Justice to the Galaxy as one of the greatest Jedi Knights; powerful; eager; reckless; a Hero of humble beginnings; too self-aware; arrogant; prideful; discontent; susceptible; a deceiver and deceived; fallen; enslaved; instrument of tyranny; destroyer of millions; redeemed.   Luke Skywalker:   innocent; chosen; hopeful; hoped in to bring balance to the Force and Justice to the Galaxy; powerful; eager; reckless; a Hero of humble beginnings; humbled; learned; self-sacrificing; truthful; caring of friends and family; champion over evil; agent of redemption.  Two hyperspace lanes diverged in a star system…and Luke Skywalker took the one less navigated through.  Two lives, with such an effect on an entire galaxy and a far reaching legacy that bled over into (at least) the next generation.

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The Reborne: The Lake Ann Camp 2012 Rangers, Alpha Company, Part 2

Posted on by Aaron in Star Wars | 2 Comments

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.

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Living Action Figures: Life as a worn out superhero toy

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, Star Trek, Star Wars | 1 Comment

I’ve been thinking some about action figures lately.  When you’re young you don’t think past tearing the miniature plastic superhero or villain off the card and using the figures to re-enact your favorite scenes from a show or movie.  I did this a lot with Batman figures such as the Caped Crusader, Robin, The Joker, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and even the Joker’s henchman Bob – alongside the Joker Van, all the Bat-vehicles, and the Batcave playset.  Might as well add to that a collection of Playmate’s Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures too; along with the Enterprise D bridge and Transporter.  When you’re older, all you can think about is how much those plastic toys would be worth if you hadn’t opened them; they’d be collectibles then, not just toys.

The best collectibles are “Mint in Box”; never opened, never played with. Much like my Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire Dash Rendar, or Chewbacca in Bounty Hunter Disguise from 1997.  Or Sheldon Cooper’s Mint in Box 1975 Star Trek Transporter toy with “real transporter action” on Big Bang Theory a few weeks ago (Leonard Nimoy voiced Mr. Spock action figure not included, sadly). Open the box, and the object loses it’s value.

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The Forbidden Wing: A Potal Into The Past

Posted on by Aaron in Star Wars, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Among the many activities and incidents while in Michigan recently to see my brother get married, one found me at the doors of Annapolis Hospital in Wayne, Michigan.  Fortunately I wasn’t there because of some biological incident or medical malady, but rather to meet some wonderful people who work in a Family Medical Residency program housed within it’s walls.  Specifically, this program trains medical students to become general practitioners of medicine (aka Family Medicine) and those who graduate from this program generally go into undeserved areas of Michigan to provide much needed medical care.  So why might a lowly Capitol Hill staffer be addressing folks in such a program?  Because folks on both sides of the aisle in Congress worked together to preserve that program.  During the meeting, I talked with the faculty and students about how things had transpired and why it was so important to me to be involved in the effort given my own journey and that I was born in that hospital.  As I told them in the meeting:

“When many of you finish with your residency here, you will go out into under-served areas of Michigan and you’ll meet children just like I was, and their parents. Some will be scared, confused, feeling very alone and unable to cope. But they aren’t alone, they have you. In an age of medical science and genetic testing unheard of when I was born, you are there to guide them with your knowledge and expertise when the genetic test says their child will have a certain propensity for disability and the parents think they can’t; you have to fight for that precious life and reassure the parents they can. If you ever wondered “what are the problems, riddles and conundrums in the world that only I am meant to solve?” – you just got your answer, so know that when the training ends and you walk out these doors you have a purpose”

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Native Son: Fragments of the Gospel in the Thudercats Reboot

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, Star Wars, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Don’t let your pride get in the way of forgiveness” – Lion-o, Lord of the Thudercats

I have memories of watching the original Thundercats alongside the Silverhawks when I was very young, and when Cartoon Network aired both series together when I was in High School.  Last fall, Cartoon Network launched an updated reboot of the Thundercats which I have grown to enjoy more than the original series, as it is structured as a weekly serial instead of a daily afternoon cartoon, thus allowing for episodes to build one upon another in ways both large and small.

The new show establishes the Thundercats living in peace in the land of Thundera on the planet Third Earth, having long triumphed over their mortal enemies the lizards and the ancient evil known as Mum-Ra, the ever living.  Mistakenly thought to be forever vanquished, Mum-ra returns and lays waste to Thundera, leaving Lion-o and Tygra – the sons of Claudis, Lord of the Thudercats – among the few survivors of the attack.  Joining with General Panthro and Cheetara, the last of the clerics of Thundera, the sons of Claudis set out on a quest to gather the artifacts described in the book of Omens and once again defeat Mum-Ra.

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The FENX and The Fox: The “non-role” role of a Racing Jacket in the Origins of The FENX

Posted on by Aaron in Cedarville University, FENX 4.0, FENX II, Star Wars, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not all Jackets are created equal, they just aren’t; it’s a fact of life.   I happen to know this because I own one of the coolest jackets ever; it’s so cool that it was probably the understudy for Luke Skywalker’s jacket at the Yavin awards ceremony in Star Wars Episode IV:  A New Hope (I wonder  if that got broadcast across the galaxy as”The First Yavin Awards”?)  This happens to be a black, red, and white Fox Racing  padded leather jacket given to me in college by my father; the first racing jacket he ever owned.  He previously tried to give it to my  brother, but for some reason the cool factor didn’t hit him the same way.  I pull it out every Spring and Fall, never knowing what adventures it might be involved in.

Several years ago, one Spring afternoon in April, this jacket was resting on a post in my dorm room at Cedarville University.  The weather was perfect and my brain told me that my Lake Ann Camp polo shirt didn’t need that jacket to tag along to ward off the elements; the elements weren’t the danger, something else was coming.    The clock on the wall said I was late for a afternoon class, my last class of the day before my dad was supposed to pick me up for Easter break in Michigan.  Exiting the room, I assessed my transportation options:  the Revo scooter wasn’t working, so my best option was the navy blue custom tricycle I sometimes called the “FENX II”.  Strapping my feet into the pedal locks and adjusting the handlebars, I flew out of the dorm at nearly top speed…right down the paved hill my dorm rested on.  Hurtling towards the sidewalk, I didn’t see the motorcycle coming right away; once I did the bigger cycle missed me, but my cycle still flipped over and I was attached to it at the pedals.

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The FENX and Prayer: Being Someone Elses’s Answer

Posted on by Aaron in FENX 4.0, Star Wars | 1 Comment

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

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

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Tension, and Perseverence: Learning to live in the hard spaces of life

Posted on by Aaron in Star Wars | Leave a comment

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):

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Giving Life: Should have asked for that Midichlorian Count…

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, Star Wars, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To break the chains of routine or elude the bonds of habit, sometimes people do something spontaneous, acting on a whim.  It’s never been better captured than in the words of Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory:  “What’s Life without Whimsy?”  I did a bit of that this week when I decided to give blood for the first time.  I know it doesn’t sound all that earth shattering, but when you’re the one who tried to give blood in High School and were told “there’s not enough ‘you’ in you” – I think the reference was to a lack of mass multiplied by the acceleration of gravity, not a lack of awesome – then being of the proper combination of those two components is “kinda a big deal”.

My apprehension grew when I started investigating the whole procedure, wanting to make sure that I wasn’t missing a step somewhere.  Asking a donor to bring a list of all the pills you’re currently taking gave me pause as I scribbled it all out on a post-it I ended up not needing (thought that might knock me out of the running – first physics, now biology…you’d think I hated science, but then there are probably folks who would want my blood for the very reason of what was in it…).  Is it bad when one of the volunteers tells you they’re ready to start and you’re not because you are intently reading the list of medications to make sure you aren’t taking something that would prevent you from donating?   (At least my Mom will smile and laugh internally if she ever reads that; because I almost always read that sort of stuff…comprehension is another matter.)  Then came the questions.  Some folks are probably glad that you answer them on a computer because answering yes to some of that stuff to another person could be embarrassing, then again if I answered those questions the person asking might think I grew up in Puritania, Peralandra, or some other non-Earth place that CS Lewis wrote about (hint: I think that really only leaves one).

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Life As Story: I never thought I would actually read a book by Donald Miller.

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, FENX 4.0, NBC News, Star Trek, Star Wars | 2 Comments

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.

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