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

Posted on by Aaron in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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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The Terminator and The Apostle

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes | Leave a comment

I think that destiny and revelation have common denominators.  Not only do both posses a massive feeling of “otherness” or “beyondness” to them, but I think the two are both often inconvenient; neither, as Optimus Prime said, “calls upon us at a moment of our choosing.”  Rather, they present themselves in the midst of moments wherein nothing can be done about them “right then” and, as such, things must wait and risk the moment fading away.  Recently, I had a moment like this and only now record it, willing it to stay within the foreground of my memory.

When considering instances of destiny in modern American culture, few are more poignant than the tale of John Connor in the Terminator films.  The story of a young boy possessing the knowledge of not only what he will become, but what must happen to the world in order for him to become it; always racing against time to prevent it and stave off disaster.  It is within this story that recent revelation arose.

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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 Avengers: Worth the Assembly Required

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes | Leave a comment

In May 2008, movie-goers the world over were introduced to Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man; it changed things forever. Marvel had formed their own movie-making apparatus and had an ambitious plan: release movies about the origins of characters in the Marvel universe (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America) that made up the more recent incarnation of the Avengers, known as “The Ultimates” and release them in a specific order, connecting one to another to build up to something that had never been done: an Avengers team-up film. That film released this weekend and the assembly required was worth it.

Picking up where some of the previous movies ended, Nick Fury and the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division (SHIELD) are in possession of the Tesserac (or Cosmic Cube) last seen at the end very of Thor and in Captain America. SHIELD is running tests on the cube, hoping to turn it into a new energy source for Earth. Unexpectedly, Loki (Thor’s brother and the villain in the Thor) materializes via the Cube, and begins wreaking havoc on SHIELD HQ to steal the Cube and use it to subjugate Earth with some extra-terrestrial assistance. Comprehending the gravity of such a threat, a rouge Asgardian allied with a an army not of Earth or Asgard, Fury assembles the Avengers to defend the Earth. Such a defense is not without difficulty, as personalities and world-views clash spectacularly. Captain America follows orders; Iron Man and Bruce Banner don’t trust Nick Fury and Banner doesn’t trust himself, Black Widow and Hawkeye have personal issues to work through, and Thor is, well, Thor; throwing around muscle and Mjolnir, his hammer, at anyone who looks at him wrong and dialogging as if William Shakespeare were possessing him. It’s not until the team suffers a sobering defeat that they coalesce and, thus inspired, become the teammates that Nick Fury (and the audience) knows they can be (and needs them to be). As always, something awaits those with patience at the end of the credits and the big reveal won’t disappoint those familiar with the Marvel-verse, but may leave the average movie-goer wondering what the big deal is; trust me, it’s huge.

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The Bucket List: 10,000 and TED

Posted on by Aaron in FENX 4.0 | 2 Comments

Sometimes crazy ideas find their way into our minds.  A few days ago I caught one of those.  Last week, I finished leading a small group at National Community Church (NCC) that read through Pastor Mark Batterson‘s The Circle Maker (In full disclosure Mark is the Pastor at NCC).  In our final meeting as a small group, we embarked on an exercise of creating a list of Life Goals; things we’d like to have accomplished by the time our lives come to an end.  Personally I think it’s much wiser to start thinking about this at 29, or even earlier, as opposed to a later time.  In The Circle Maker, Pastor Mark has some pretty interesting life goals: making a movie, speaking at a commencement, and writing a New York Times Bestseller to name a few (which he has done with The Circle Maker).

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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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