Arminda. Jedi Christian.

Earlier this week I spoke at Bellevue Christian High School (and then to the Jr. High).

Since my new book, Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters was released last week, and since the Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters weblog premieres this weekend, it seemed a good time to reflect with the students on some of the themes of the new book. And then to drive it home to students I concluded with comments about Arminda Eyre, a young fifteen-year-old from our church who died unexpectedly last week and who was, in my estimation, a Jedi Christian.

Here in cryptic outline are the points I made.

1) Every human being wants meaning and purpose in life and finding it begins when they are young¢â‚¬¦.

When first we meet Luke Skywalker in the classic Star Wars film, he is a young man from a broken family living in the desolate desert regions of Tatooine, far from the galactic mainstream. Luke’s life is stuck in neutral, helping his uncle Lars with the crops and repairing equipment, Luke instinctively believes his life is supposed to mean something more, He wants to BE somebody, to find his destiny.

2) Most young people want a more meaningful life than they see their parents living¢â‚¬¦

In my youth it was Joni Mitchell’s “The Arrangement” that made the point.

You could have been more
Than a name on the door
On the thirty-third floor in the air
More than a credit card
Swimming pool in the backyard

While you still have the time
You could get away and find
A better life, you know the grind is so ungrateful
Racing cars, whisky bars
No one cares who you really are
You’re the keeper of the cards
Yes I know it gets hard
Keeping the wheels turning
And the wife she keeps the keys
She is so pleased to be
A part of the arrangement

You could have been more
Than a name on the door
On the thirty-third floor in the air
More than a consumer
Lying in some room trying to die
More than a credit card
Swimming pool in the backyard
You could have been more than a name on the door

Today’s kids turn to “Garden State,” called by many the seminal work of this generation. It is the story of a young man who cannot feel any emotions because he has been medicated since age of nine. He is seriously estranged from his parents and is trapped in a meaningless existence. The movie explores the meaningless of work, sex, wealth, family and religion. One of the soundtrack’s songs, “The Waiting Line” hauntingly states the film’s philosophy, Everybody’s saying different things to me. Nothing is real. Can you believe what you see? I’m wasting my time in the waiting line.”

3) Luke Skywalker’s life was radically changed when he discovered “the Force” through his mentors, Jedi Masters Obi-wan and Yoda. His life turned from meaningless to purposefulness.

4) The same thing happens when the younger generation discovers the Lord of the Force and it is the responsibility of older Christians to mentor the younger generation.

5) Unlike Star Wars, in which the aim of the Jedi is to bring into harmony and balance the dark side and light, the Jedi Christian seeks to know the LORD of the Force. Just as in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” there are the rings, a ring over the rings and a LORD of the Rings, in the Judeo-Christian tradition there is a dark side and a light side and a LORD over both these alternative spiritual forces.

6) Seeking, Knowing and Serving the Lord of the Force is what gives life meaning. This requires seeking first God and His kingdom and “willing one thing” to know and do the will of the Father. It requires going deep in a superficial age. Filling the God shaped vacuum in our life frees us to live our masterpiece as those created in the image of God, unique and wonderfully made.

7) We will face opposition in this quest from Satan, the dark side’s leader and the enemy of our souls, one who is more frightening than Darth Vader or Darth Maul. Jesus knew this, his disciples taught this and we who seek to serve the Lord of the Force encounter this dark and subtle force each day.

8) Sometimes people think I am speaking above the heads of the next generation, “they’re only kids.” I say we should trust the capacity of the younger generation to make important life decisions and we should not “dumb down” what we know of the truth simply because they are young. When the Apostle Paul said to young Timothy, “let no one despise your youth,” he was granting to Timothy the respect and high expectations we should show today’s youth. Jesus debated learned rabbi at the age of twelve and today’s twelve year old has capacity to understand and decide to live life fully for the Lord of the Force.

And I have proof. Arminda.

I concluded by telling the students that I could offer proof of their capacity for God and I told them about Arminda, a young girl who grew up in our church and then inexplicable died two weeks ago. We got a phone call at 9:30 that Monday night to pray because Arminda had stopped breathing and had been rushed to the hospital. At 11:30 we got the call that she had been declared dead.

This was stunning news. Just two weeks earlier Arminda’s energetic spirit glowed as she performed in a musical and dramatic performance of “Inside Out,” a play written for and performed by “Called Out,” a youth performing group at our church. Our thirteen-year-old and seventeen-year-old daughters were in that performance with Arminda and our twenty-year old had lunch with her a week before.

When our pastor dedicates a baby he lifts the child up and walks her through the aisles of the church, challenging the adults there to take seriously our responsibility to support the parents as they raise the child, and to love and encourage the child as they are growing up. We do that for the kids in our church, so when one of them dies it is literally like losing one of our own, because we ARE losing one of our own.

Nobody in our church looks like Yoda, but for those with spiritual eyes to see, our church is full of Obi-wans and Yodas. Arminda’s story was a specifically poignant one, because she and her two sisters were being raised by their father Jim, their mother having left the scene when Arminda was a child.

Arminda’s memorial service was held last Saturday and it was a memorable memorial. During a sharing time that lasted almost an hour people young and old shared about Arminda (and about her dad Jim’s amazing dedication to his three daughters.) Public school teachers and kids told of her enthusiasm, blunt honesty, whimsy, irrepressible laughter, hard work, passion, inner beauty, obvious progress towards maturity, loyalty, and continuous availability to her friends. I cannot imagine that this fifteen-year old kid had any idea the impact she was having on everyone in her life. She crammed eighty years into fifteen and then died. Almost every person described Arminda’s deep devotion to God as the core, driving force in her life. She was only fifteen.

And then her two sisters bore witness to Arminda’s influence in their life.

Her older sister Autumn is a grappler with faith, She reminds me of myself at that age.

I describe in my book, “Too Christian, Too Pagan” how I felt about God after my brother was born with brain damage. “I could not understand how a loving God would allow such devastation. It made no sense that my devout, sacrificial parents would receive such an unjust reward. I was asking the kinds of questions humans have asked throughout history, unaware of theirs, believing mine to be original, somehow knowing intuitively that my own answers, would lead either to the birth of an authentic, robust faith or to faith’s aborted, embittered death. In this way, though mute, Timmy spoke volumes to me and inalterably shaped my spiritual trajectory. Whatever possibility, however remote given my nature, that mine would be a simple, naƒ¯ve embracing of faith, died at my brothers birth. God and I would do a rigorous, contentious business or none at all.”

Autumn’s sharing reflected that same struggle. With disarming (and refreshing) honesty, she told of asking “hadn’t God done enough to this family already?” The night Arminda died she raged at God “I’ll never enter a church again in my life.” And yet there she was¢â‚¬¦ in the church¢â‚¬¦why? Because Arminda made her believe that there is a God and she knew it was what Arminda would want. Jesus left ninety-nine sheep find the one lost sheep that was straying from the herd, and before Arminda died, she made sure to bring her beloved sister Autumn back to the narrow, difficult path towards God. She was only fifteen.

Then Megan shared as only the spirited, articulate, disarmingly guileless Megan could. She talked of how weird it was to watch her younger sister Arminda grow into the person SHE the OLDER sister wanted to be! And then she told of a conversation that took place two weeks earlier, just before the “Called Out” concert. Arminda was reflecting her long struggle with God about her grandfather’s death. She didn’t like death; nobody does, and we’re not supposed to. Death came on the human scene when the dark side prevailed against our ancestors Adam and Eve. Arminda shared how she had made peace with God about her grandfather’s death. Then Arminda told Megan that she herself was prepared to die, that she no longer feared death, and in so sharing, she prepared her older sister Megan, for her unexpected death. Through Megan Arminda helped all of us see the loving hand of God in Arminda’s life. She was only fifteen.

In the memorial bulletin they printed a poem Arminda wrote recently.

“Open the clouds and send down your angels¢â‚¬¦
Part the seas
and break down the barriers
that keep us from our dream.
Protect us in our darkest hour.
Lead us to the Fountain.”

Arminda reminds teenagers of their capacity to go deep in God and in so doing to reorder the universe of lives that come into their orbit. She was only fifteen.

Arminda reminds adults of the awesome potential of kids, the treasure they are despite those frustrating moments (even Arminda was human!) and of the possibility that they could depart this earth at any time. She was only fifteen.

Arminda was a “Jedi Christian,” whose life evidenced the seriousness of her commitment and the impact of countless Obiwans and Yodas on her life, and through her life the world. She was only fifteen.

Arminda was only 15 years old, yet she knew what it meant to seek, know and serve the Lord of the Force.

Do You?

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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