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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Luthor Syndrome: The Challenge of Entitlement and Disability’s Dark Side

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

Lex Luthor.  While not the most famous of villains in Science Fiction or Fantasy – that distinction goes to Darth Vader – he’s close, in most minds ranking equal to The Joker and Magneto (and unfortunately higher than my favorites, Ra’s Al Guhl and Darkseid); he’s the Gordon Gekko of DC Comics (unless someone wants to throw Bruce Wayne – not Batman – into that role).  Of these nefarious characters, he is the most relateable; yes, even more so than Magneto.  While some would certainly argue different as to the relateability of the character – probably because of Luthor’s stature and wealth – it’s the seven seasons of Smallville that make the case, thanks to a brilliant turn by Michael Rosenbaum.  It’s the transformation of Lex into the character the world has come to know that gives pause to ask “Would I have made the same decisions he did had I been in his shoes?”  and watch him make the smaller choices along the way that bring him to where he is as the show ends.  Which brings me to “Luthor Syndrome”.

What is it?  It’s the condition that Lex suffers from, a condition that you and I can suffer from too.  Lex Luthor was born into resources, born into wealth and power.  These circumstances helped lead him to believe that he was special, that he had a destiny and the means to achieve it.  He felt as if that end MUST be achieved, so that he could do greater things than his father did (the whole juxtaposition of the father/son relationship between Clark/Lex and Jonathan/Lionel is fantastic and a study in and of itself, especially in an age of such fatherlessness amongst youth).  Because of his roots, Lex felt that his destiny was owed to him – that he was entitled to it – and the choices he makes are justified in light of his embracing his purpose to rule (he finally becomes President by the time the show’s finale ends).  Before I go on, I want to make a quick point:  the idea of destiny isn’t a bad one at all, it’s how we choose to lay hold of and embrace it that can be a dangerous thing; it didn’t start that way for Lex, but he let it overtake him.

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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

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, Uncategorized, Video Games | 1 Comment

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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A Weekend with Nintendo’s new Wii U gaming system

Posted on by Aaron in Star Trek, Video Games | Leave a comment

Summer is always a important time for video game culture and industry because that’s when the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) happens and the best time to see what next generation gaming systems will be released by Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft.  This year at E3, Nintendo demoed their new Nintendo Wii U as the kick-off of a special promotional tour for the new gaming system; this weekend that tour came to Washington, DC.  It’s not everyday that I get invite-only access to gaming hardware before it hits the market – it happened once with Microsoft Kinect – and it never happens twice in a weekend, but last night and today it did  as I attended Nintendo’s Wii U experience in Washington DC.

To see a hotel ballroom transformed into something that reminds you of the starship Enterprise in the J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek is rather impressive; it also helps to know one of the guys running the event who spent two days helping lead the crew who executed the transformation.  The event is Nintedo Wii marketing through and through, as everything is white with neon blue mood lighting for accent.  The room explodes out from a central pillar sporting three  flat screens and Nentendo Wii U consoles, while additional screens and consoles line the perimeter of one wall  leading to a few VIP rooms featuring more popular games.  The setup was impressive and looked as if a lot of design and thought went into the presentation.     Add to that a supply of Berry Lemonade Jones Soda – as it is the “Wii Blue” shade – and you’ve got a party going on.

Saturday night I brought a few friends along to share in the fun; it’s just better that way.  The Saturday event featured games such as Super Mario Bros Wii U, Nintendoland, Warioware, Zombie U, Ninja Gaiden, Batman Arkham City:  Armored Edition, Pikman 3, and Rayman Legends.  I can’t say I played all of these but I enjoyed a fair amount of them.

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A Hero’s Legend: An evening with the Music of Hyrule

Posted on by Aaron in Music, Video Games | 1 Comment

The year was 1986, and I was only four years old.  I wouldn’t know of it’s existence for a few more years, but that’s the year the “golden cartridge” known as The Legend of Zelda appeared on the 8-bit video game scene dominated by the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and changed things, forever. That golden cartridge gave us Link, the Hero of the Land of Hyrule, destined to confront and defeat Ganon, the Dark One with an iron grip on the land, Princess Zelda in his dungeon, and the power of the Triforce in the balance.  But it was only the beginning, as this legend has spawned numerous video games, music, apparel, philosophy book, and even a short lived cartoon.    While in many ways  built on what had come before, such as Dungeons and Dragons on the Mattel Intellevision; a game I have fond memories of playing with my Dad, Zelda took things to a whole new level.  The golden cartridge has left a hero’s legacy that is far from over, with the new Nintendo Wii U releasing later this year

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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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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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