The Scooter and the Phone Box: Life as an Episode of “Doctor Who”

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As it’s legions of fan know well, Doctor Who is a long standing science fiction television series from “across the pond”, thanks to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).  In it, “The Doctor” travels through time in a 1960′s era blue “police box” (phone box) called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space).  The show began in the 1960′s and still continues today, with the premiere of the seventh season of the reboot – which began in 2005 – just a few weeks off.

In one of the more well-known episodes of the reboot, an episode called Blink, The Doctor is trapped in the year 1969 and unable to extradite himself because he doesn’t have access to the TARDIS.  Meanwhile, in 2007, a young woman named Sally Sparrow encounters a message from The Doctor scrawled out on the inner walls of an old house foretelling future events involving her.  It is in this house that Sally and her friend Kathy encounter “The Weeping Angels” – an alien race of beings that look like crying stone angels – who, if you look at them, won’t kill you but send you back into some point in the past.  This happens to Kathy and she is transported back to 1923, where to marries, lives out her life, dies, and has her grandson promise to deliver a letter to Sally at that house on the day she would be there.  This leads her to a video store run by Kathy’s brother, who is obsessed with a series of, what appear to be, one sided conversations that the doctor recorded back in 1969.  These messages try and explain the nature of time as the Doctor sees it and warns of the Weeping Angels, their desire to posses the TARDIS,  and how they also move closer to you when you turn your back on them; they are the Boo Ghosts – from Super Mario – of the Doctor Who universe.  In the video message he utters the immortal words, “The Angels Have The Phone Box…don’t turn your back, don’t look away, and whatever you do, Don’t Blink”

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Learning Patience: When Life Takes Longer

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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?

The Quest: Not All Who Wander Are Lost…

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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.

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Chris Rush, Part III: The Story of An Incredible Life Hits The Silver Screen

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Recently, I hopped abroad a airplane for a weekend trip to ‘The  Mitten” (aka Michigan).  While I did get to spend time with friends and family – not to mention the best plane conversation ever – none of those reasons are why I actually went.  I flew to Michigan because an aspiring film maker named Zack Arnold – who is also the editor for the show Burn Notice on USA Network – asked me to attend a special screening of”GO FAR” the documentary about his close friend, the late Chris Rush.  I’ve shared Chris’s story before and the progress that has been made in this effort to showcase the life of one man to encourage and inspire many.  So, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I hopped in the car with my brother Seth and we drove to the Michigan Theater on the campus of University of Michigan (where Zack and Chris attended undergrad together).

I’d never been in a movie theater before that I would describe as upscale or “swanky” but this fit the bill, even my brother commented on how nice the place was.  Finally getting to connect face-to-face with Zack after a year and a half of following his progress on this project and meet Chris’s father and talk with him about how I was drawn to Chris’s story by its power and potential for impact and that when there is a good story to be told I’m compelled to assist if I can.  Not too long after pizza, soda, and some cookies my brother was rather fond of, we entered the screening room and took our seats.  Zack took a few moments to tell us all why we were there, why he felt compelled to tell the story of this life but we all knew: this was his close friend, dear enough to name his son after him, who lived the life of a hero, one for whom the impossible became possible…because he was awesome.  Someone who inspired those around him to be better, just by being himself.

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The Destiny of an Airline Seat: A Real Life Episode of TOUCH, Part II

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How important is  seating on a commercial airline flight?  Business types shoot hard and fast for first class, having grown accustomed to a life granted them by their acumen, success, or both.  Sometimes though, I wonder about some of first class’s denizens – how did you get here?  Look the type to be lounging and sipping a Martini or Mai-Thai you do not!  Personally, I fly coach and shoot for the rear since it is safer to wait for all the impatient people to exit the aircraft.  By the time they’re done jostling baggage and off to their next-oh-so-important destination, my walker is off the plane and I can continue on.  In coach though it’s always the “window vs. aisle” debate and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was an aisle guy. What if you get stuck in the dreaded middle seat, sitting motionless amidst the neutral zone?

Welcome to the life of a guy named Matt Gessler, who – as hard as he tried – got stuck in the neutral zone on a Delta flight from Baltimore to Detroit, en-route to Tulsa, Oklahoma last week.

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Reborne, the Next Generation: Helping Those After Us Discover Who They Are

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

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

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The Reborne: The Lake Ann Camp 2012 Rangers, Alpha Company; Part 4

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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).

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The Reborne: The Lake Ann Camp 2012 Rangers, Alpha Company, Part 3

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

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

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

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The Reborne: The Lake Ann Camp 2012 Rangers, Alpha Company, Part 1

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Seven days ago I boarded a plane to return to the concrete jungle of Washington, DC after spending a week ensconced within the borders one of the greatest place on Earth:  Lake Ann Camp.  It’s impossible to quantify the extent of the effect this place has had on just MY life and development over the last fifteen years; there has never been any doubt that things are still happening there and lives are continuing to be  transformed.  My return came after a five-year hiatus and it’s catalyst was none other than Ken Rudolph, the man who has been ministering to high school students at Lake Ann for many years.  When I returned to Washington, DC in 2007 after a week of counseling at Lake Ann I faced a hard reality: I couldn’t continue to return for a week every summer because my body couldn’t handle such a level of continual exertion.  That realized, I had little choice but to take the storybook that was “Aaron and Lake Ann” and put it on a shelf until such a time it could be opened again.  On June 19, 2012, the book came off the shelf.

That day, I received a message from Ken asking me to come to Lake Ann Camp to speak to a special group of high school students known as the Reborne Rangers; to share my journey with them, in part because I was one of the first to go through the Reborne Ranger program when I was in high school.  The Reborne Ranger program at Lake Ann is  an invitation-only leadership experience that pushes individuals far out of their comfort zone and challenges then to make a difference in their world by drawing out of them the leader within and allowing them to hear from leaders in the military, business, and faith spheres.  I don’t think I’ve scrambled so fast to make travel arrangements like I did to be there, as I had about a week and a half to figure it all out before I actually had to be on site.     Right from the start, so many things came together in just the right way to ensure I could be away from Capitol Hill for awhile; it was as if I was supposed to be there (and I had no idea at the time how correct such a thought was); however, the path was not without a travel hiccup or two.

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Life Imitating Art: A “real-life episode” of TOUCH

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On Wednesday evening of this week, I missed a fight for the first time.  In almost thirty years of flying I have never missed a flight.  I was to catch a flight from Ronald Regan Airport to Detroit Metro to spend time in Michigan, a well-worn routine.  While this summer flight to Michigan generally happens in August, part of the reasoning for an early trip was needing to get to Lake Ann  Camp next week to speak to the Alpha week of Reborn Rangers 2012, a special leadership program that has run each summer since 1999; the other reason, because my family was already planning on being at the Watchtower in the Upper Peninsula (the lake house in the middle of nowhere) and extra travel on their part to retrieve me wasn’t going to happen on my account.  In preparation for this  flight, I made sure to do two things: (1) to book a cab ahead of time, and (2) check with the TSA to make sure that I was allowed to pack a toy lightsaber into my carry-on bag for use at Lake Ann Camp later on.  I checked with the TSA and booked the cab; that cab never arrived. The company tried to track it down, never did, and sent another cab.  This second cab whisked me away to the airport, but to no avail; TSA security took their time making me wait for a special screening – since I can’t go through detectors – and did nothing when I clearly heard my name being called for this flight to Michigan, which happened to be the last flight to Michigan for the night.  Rushing to the gate was an exercise in futility as I realized the door was closed and the plane moments from pulling away.

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