An impression of my father’s heart: Flying on the wings of an ikran

A couple of days ago, on Saturday February 15th, my mother and I buried my father. I had arranged for a service full of hope and praise for our God. I spoke for a couple of minutes myself, and showed a scene from Avatar. Jake’s first flight was my father’s favorite scene from his favorite movie. We had watched it together (for the umptieth time), just him and me, on New Year’s Day; my father was in a lot of pain then and I put this film on to distract and comfort him, for I knew how deeply it moved him every time he watched it.

Avatar: Living in harmony with nature and all of creation

My dad always looked at life through his faith and belief in the God of the bible. His particular focus was on the beauty of creation, and how it showed the existence of the Creator Himself. He looked at all of creation, from the tiniest detail on a butterfly’s wing to the biggest supernova in a galaxy far, far away. He enjoyed nature in all of its forms and loved animals, especially the ones with which you can have a personal connection.

My dad honored God by striving to make the intangible beauty of creation tangible and visible, really noticeable, for people. He did that, among other things, by his photography. Especially macro photography, showing the wondrous beauty that is hidden in the tiny details of small flowers and animals.

This love for creation’s beauty also led him to gather pictures made by the Hubble telescope – letting himself be mesmerized by colorful nebulas and mysterious heaps of stars and planets lightyears away from us.

The common theme was always: discovering God’s presence by studying and enjoying creation, in both the big and the small things. The bible tells us the same thing in Romans 1:20:

For ever since the creation of the universe his invisible qualities – both his eternal power and his divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they can be understood from what he has made. Therefore, they have no excuse.

My father was deeply convinced that when we die, only our temporary ‘packaging’ dies, like the seed of wheat that must perish before it can become that which it’s designed to be: a stalk of wheat. God shows us in the death of the seed that we will become so much more when we die.

But someone will ask, “In what manner are the dead raised? What sort of body do they have?” Stupid! When you sow a seed, it doesn’t come alive unless it first dies. Also, what you sow is not the body that will be, but a bare seed of, say, wheat or something else; but God gives it the body he intended for it; and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. (…) So it is with the resurrection of the dead. When the body is “sown,” it decays; when it is raised, it cannot decay.
(1Cor. 15:35-38, 42)

The beauty of a stalk of wheat is in its details: the little hairs on the ear are reaching upwards, as if every stalk is standing in the field with its hands raised, praising its Creator as it were. 😉
And like a stalk of wheat reaches out to heaven, so my dad reached upwards to God in his life, longing to be free of earthly limitations. But not because he was feeling dejected – on the contrary: fueled by his deep longing for God he loved to think and fantasize about all the possibilities that would be within his reach “later, when I’m in heaven.”

My dad and I always said to eachother: when we’re both in heaven, we’re going to explore the entire universe together, no longer limited by such mundane things as “oxygen” or travelling “as slow as the speed of light”. (Now that’s a date!)
He was already looking forward to being able to travel distances between galaxies in an instant, and checking out everything with his own eyes that the Hubble telescope was only able to glance at from afar.

I believe that was why he was a science fiction fan: these movies ignore limitations and show us all kinds of possibilities. Not only the fastest spaceships to boldly go where no one has gone before, but also the many characteristics and abilities, represented by different alien peoples, that mirrored my father’s desire to leave earthly limitations behind. Like the special ability of teleportation, or such a simple but beautiful thing as having wings.

My dad’s favorite movie was Avatar, which shows us many of his heart’s desires and passions: living life in close harmony with nature and with eachother, with deep connections to different kinds of animals, and enjoying creation’s beauty without any limitations. That is what his favorite scene in the movie, Jake’s first flight, is about. This scene always moved him deeply, each and every time he saw it. The last time with me, last New Year’s Day.

The main character, Jake Sully, flies on the back of an ikran, a winged creature he’s just bonded with, for the very first time. His face shows the ecstasy of flying, rising like an eagle, soaring on the wind, connected to a living creature that carries him willingly. And we see how his happiness deepens as soon as his mate, the woman he loves, joins him on his flight.

This is how this scene expresses my father’s heart: playfully exploring and enjoying the grand beauty of creation, reaching out to God by literally breaking loose from everything earthly, soaring on the wind of the Holy Spirit together with the one he loved.

Rising like an eagle, soaring on the wind – Fly dad, fly!

If you can get your hands on an Avatar DVD – which I highly recommend since it’s a great movie! – fast forward to time stamp 1:12:02 en continue to 1:14:40. Or click here.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

Valiant’s new Archer and Armstrong

This review is also available as a podcast contribution to Spiritblade Underground podcast, a podcast aimed at christian geeks, available through iTunes or go to The Spirit Blade Underground Podcast Home Page.
Click HERE for my Archer and Armstrong audio review on episode 300 of this podcast, go to 25:18 minutes.
Or click the video below.

It’s been only about two years since I started reading comics, and since it was actually the Green Lantern movie that really got me started, I’ve primarily been a DC Comics girl, with a whiff of Marvel thrown into the mix to add some variety. But lately, with all the relaunches and soft reboots that have been going on at both DC Comics and Marvel, my usual batch of comics have been lacking some important traits that had kept me interested up until that point. Long story short, I ditched a number (but not all) of my usual titles and started looking “elsewhere”. Since I’d been hearing a lot of enthousiastic reports and reviews about “the new Valiant”, a comics publisher that had relaunched as recently as May 2012 under the name Valiant Entertainment, I decided to try some of their titles. Starting with Archer & Armstrong

Who?

Archer and Armstrong – a duo I knew literally nothing about when I opened issue #1. I didn’t know that there used to be a “previous Valiant universe” (by Valiant Comics, 1989-2004) in which an original Archer & Armstrong duo had their adventures. Nor did I know any of the creative team, which I think is somewhat excusable (…) given my fairly short history as a comics reader. So this new comic introduced me to writer Fred van Lente and (for the first six issues) artist Clayton Henry – and as introductions go, this one was great!

Story

Obadiah Archer, 18 years old, has been raised by his adoptive parents – who, by the way, also turn out to be leaders of an ancient sect – to be a well-trained fighter. He’s sent to what he’s been taught to be a modern day Babylon – New York City, to hunt down and kill what he believes to be a demon. He soon finds that this “great satan” is actually Armstrong, a fun-loving, hard-drinking immortal. Together they discover a centuries-old worldwide conspiracy involving not only Archer’s family sect but also several other branches of one large ancient cult.

Of course the future of the entire modern day Valiant Universe depends on their actions and decisions to survive the past’s greatest threat…

Likes

First of all, what a great sense of adventure, humor and excitement is hidden in this gem of a comic! I’ve caught myself laughing out loud several times, which for a comic, is a great feat.

Second, the summaries at the beginning of each issue are great! It’s not just the fact that there are summaries (contrary to DC comics, whose refusal to add plot summaries I find greatly annoying), but they are a must read just for the way they are written! Even though a large part of the summarized stories is the same every week, Van Lente finds a way to summarize them uniquely with every issue. Plus, some of them are even humorous!

Furthermore, writer Van Lente has done a great job of incorporating just enough chunks of actual conspiracy theories and religious sectarian beliefs to grab my attention even more. For instance, I’d done some reading on Dominionism, a belief that many Christians consider to be heretical, and I recognized elements of that belief system in Archer’s family sect’s doctrines. Add to that hints of modern day theories on the Illuminati and the New World Order, and you get the idea. A job well done by Van Lente, for he’s kept it “comicy” nonetheless, by also adding his own fantasy and ideas into the mix. Suffice it to say, I ate that thing up! 🙂

…well, here’s an original take on the one percent and the financial crisis in the Euro zone! And of course there’s mention of some freemasons too 🙂

Also, although there are definitely undertones of ridiculing the Sect’s beliefs, Archer himself is portrayed as very serious, and committed to what he thinks the bible teaches – and as a Christian reader I can go along with that: for although I suspect Van Lente doesn’t necessarily agree with a Christian world view and may even view some of it as far-fetched as the Sect’s dogmas, Archer himself at least doesn’t know that his beliefs are not biblical at all. Seeing him trying his best to be as good as he believes a person should be, therefore immediately wins him the reader’s sympathy.

Another plus is the fact that although this is not a superhero comic as such, it sort of is anyway. For along the way Archer learns he has the special ability of perception, which in his case means he only has to see a certain skill practised once to be able to master it himself. And by skill, you can think for instance different fighting skills, to name the first thing that comes to mind. Now that is a special ability that comes in handy in many a dire situation! And then of course there’s Armstrong, not only big and strong, but also a 10,000 years old immortal! So yeah, there’s definitely some superheroical overtones… 😉

Last but not least: great writing overall, with lots of action advancing the plot.

Outrageous adventure, check. Humor, check.

It also has themes of friendship, loyalty, love and of course the great question: what is good and what is evil, and how can we tell them apart?

In short, I just can’t get enough of this comic and can’t wait till the next issue is out.

Dislikes

I’ve really got no big issues with this comic. There’s one remark I would make, that could only be qualified as neutral, definitely not as a negative. This pertains to the artwork: on the one hand the artists of this series do a great job of overall visual storytelling and they also convey facial expressions very well. However, on the other hand, it lacks a certain “wow factor” for me. It’s good, but not stunning. Hence the neutral.

Buy/Borrow/Skip

I give this comic a Quality score of 9/10 and a Relevance score of 9/10. So yeah, I say Buy this baby, like, instantly!

Are you reading any of the new Valiant comics? Which one(s) and what is your opinion on them? Please like, subscribe and share your thoughts here!