His right arm struck his right thigh whenever he made a good point. As Matt Parra preached on Acts 17, biblical balance, and the logical fallacies of traditional definitions of balance, one thought streamed through my mind:

I’m supposed to be here. I know I am. God called me here.

For some time I had wanted to attend ARISE and learn from David and Matt, the Rosario brothers and all the great teachers that grace the whiteboard. But then, when I realized it was going to happen, and that the calendar date for the program would soon be upon me, all I could do was question my motives.

“Why do I want to go?”

Did I want to flatter myself by being among men of God and showcase my talents? Was I merely following the footsteps of my best friend, a subconscious mimicry? Did I expect a fix-all-my-problems-and-spit-me-out-as-Mark-Finley treatment? Doubts, questions, and fears hung above me as I packed my suitcase, as Delta Airlines brought me to Eugene, and even as the dean picked me up at the airport. Trepidations floated around in my mind until the opening week of prayer. Matt Parra exhorted the class to test uncomfortable teachings and wrestle with them.

“Don’t be fixated on new light,” he preached while slapping his thigh to the rhythm of his statements. “Don’t be hostile to new ideas. Be a Berean and search the Scriptures for yourself.”

…the Spirit told me to not expect a magic fix.

At that moment I knew I was where I needed to be. However, I haven’t been able to express why until now, as Cornerstone has begun its ending process.

The why involves ideas like a shift in my spiritual paradigm that has greatly empowered my experience with God. This being brought about by the love, mentorship, and teaching from the ARISE staff which have led me to expand my perception on spiritual matters. I have been submerged into an adventuresome exploration of the depths of God’s character and have found Him to be beautiful. I have searched the Scriptures and found a Story about a suffering God who wants to establish a new creation and a new reality both now and forever. Moreover, I have realized this Story is being told today, and God is inviting me to take an active role in the writing of that Story.

The passing days plainly etch this realization into my mind and heart and only increase my desire to be a part of God’s Story.

Coming to Light Bearers for the ARISE Cornerstone Program has not been a magical voodoo potion that transcends the effort, suffering and hard work that goes into growing in Christ. My story here began that night when Matt Parra spoke and the Spirit told me to not expect a magic fix. In my chair, the Spirit let me know He had something better in store for me, something much more meaningful. He always does.

Each time Matt’s crippled right arm rose and fell to slap his thigh, I knew the Spirit would show me how to acquire the strength these men have rather than leave me to feed off their strength.

And He has.

And He will.

Bryant Rodriguez

Bryant graduated from ARISE in 2011 and was an ARISE intern from 2011-2012.