Two are Better!

HandProp

This photo delights me…and brings to mind a dear friend! From a Boeing postcard, the woman on the left seems to be “hand-propping” the vintage 1925 “Model 40” – while her friend reaches out to stabilize, and help ground her.

Every good and perfect gift is from above.

Indeed, I know this particular friendship is truly a gift, given from our Father in Heaven, in His infinite knowledge and perfect timing… The bonus:  she is simply a joy to be around!

In reality, two people – whether husband/wife, coworkers, brother/sister, best friends…together – are better than one! Expressed mathematically,  one plus one is greater than two (1 + 1 > 2). This parallels the principle of Crew Resource Management (CRM) in aviation which advocates teamwork; in particular, it is the individual crew members functioning as one. Working together, performing in concert – ensuring flight safety and operational efficiency while, at the same time, vigilant to potential threats and errors. Finally, with teammates – the journey (or the work) is more fun and interesting!

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up

Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Recently, I was getting “checked-out” to fly a Piper J-3 Cub – a vintage, pre-war (1939) aircraft with no electrical system (therefore, no engine starter). The process of starting the engine required careful coordination between me and my instructor. Communication was essential, with one person at the controls in the cockpit; the other, in the line of fire – to turn the propeller “by hand.” (No affiliation to photo below)

HandProp1

My instructor wanted to make sure our phraseology, commands and actions were mutually understood and unmistakable:  he would be holding the brakes ensuring no forward movement, verifying the mag switch remained off and the throttle at idle. Meanwhile, I stood in front and grasped the propeller – that shortly  would be rotating nearly 1000 RPM!

Often in life, we can not avoid such precarious positions, therefore it is vital to have a trusted member on your crew – someone who has your safety and our best interests at heart. The term synergy captures this concept:  the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.

Horses are often used to illustrate the benefits of synergy. I’ve read that a team of two horses can together pull over twice the weight of one, alone. Similarly, most twin-engine, light aircraft can easily maintain a climb with both engines operating at maximum power. However, for some the loss of one of the engines reduces climb performance – not by 50 percent, as you might expect – but rather, by 80-90 percent! This is because the weight and drag of the dead/failed engine adds significantly to the total thrust required from the remaining engine.

Operating with such a small performance margin, if the pilot does not promptly respond with the proper procedures, a loss of control will result. This demonstrates, in challenging situations – such as a heavy weight climb, on a hot day – indeed, two (engines) are better than one!

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)

For much of my life I didn’t understand the truth written in Galatians Chapter 6 – that we must have someone to help bear our burdens – lest we be crushed by their weight. My friend Carol has been such a bearer for me…encouraging, mentoring, together studying God’s word, steadfast in accountability, setting an example, being able to laugh and to cry together…someone through whom God, Himself, ministered to me. From Hebrews 3: 13:  but exhort one another daily, while it is called“Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Sometimes, in life, we just need help getting our engine started – and then have someone to join us as we take flight. Fasten your seat belts…and enjoy your journey!

For Carol:  I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…

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A Temporary Home

A temporary home for this special bird…as she awaits Justin and Anna!

AirplaneinHangar

Traveling the world as an airline pilot, I am often reminded of the temporary nature of this life. Our time on this earth is so very short, as both James (4:14) and the Psalmist (39:5) describe it:  “but a vapor…”

Trust me, a pilot’s life is not as glamorous as you may think! It is a constant revolution of doors:  airports, vans, hotels, then more airports and hotels. A hectic life of PUSHING…then w a i t i n g, while living and working among fellow travelers for days on end. A typical airline pilot is away from home, more or less, 14-18 days per month. At times he may go out (to work), not knowing where he is going… making it tough to pack!

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When I travel, I take along (drag, really) a 21 x 14 x 8 inch wheeled suitcase and a large briefcase. Made of ballistic nylon, they contain plenty of pockets. I often marvel how I can get by for so long with my life stuffed into these two bags.  I believe its because I recognize my dwelling in this home-away-from-home is only temporary. Though I am content for a time – in unfamiliar surroundings, in foreign countries – interacting with strangers and pilgrims – I know that soon I will be home…with loved ones, and in my own home. What an awesome thought!

The challenges and inconveniences of life on the road, in a foreign land – on this earth – are more easily endured with the promise of a sweet homecoming. So too, as Christians, we are assured of the promises that await us in our homeland – that is, a heavenly country – that God, Himself, has prepared for us. This is the eternal perspective that we can have by faith in Christ and it brings great comfort and hope – wherever we are in the world physically – as it surely did our patriarchs in Hebrews 11 (8-16):

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;  for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God…

…These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. 

For Angelica…May these words comfort and encourage you in the mission fields of Mexico…and in the mission field of life. Thanks for caring for Miss M! Love, Aunt E

Angelica and Mocha

Angelica and Miss M!

 

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Happy New Year!

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning…  (Lamentations 3:21-23, NKJV)

And this means, so too, His mercies are new every year! May you spend this year at His feet, experiencing His ever-lovingkindness!

Sunset4

Mount Rainier Sunrise.

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Baby Girl

 

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July 9, 2003 – December 17, 2015

 

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In Excellent Memory: Burt Goranson (1949-2015)

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But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

https://www.sunsetgardenstricities.com/obituaries/2015/july/burton-burt-goranson

http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2013/12/31/2754370_pasco-man-one-of-last-to-fly-out.html?rh=1

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A Great Light

I am the way… (John 14:6a)

I first began flying airplanes over 25 years ago – before position-awareness technologies such as satellite-based (GPS) navigation and terrain-enhancing moving maps were common. One of the many requirements for my FAA (private) pilot’s license was completion of a “long cross country” – flying solo.

The last leg of my required cross-country journey was planned over northeastern Michigan, from Alpena to Tri-City Airport (KAPN-KMBS), navigating primarily by sight – or visual reference to the ground. Such operations are classified as “VFR” (operated under Visual Flight Rules and visual aides) and supplemented with aeronautical charts.

I recall, while flying back to my home airport, how quickly it become dark. There were no sources of ambient light – no moon, and no cities or highways, often useful in verifying direction. Instead, only miles and miles of dense forest that somewhere merged beneath me into the vast, blackened expanse of Lake Huron to the east. Above me and below – hard pressed on every side (2 Corinthians 4:8a) – the darkness seemed to consume me. I grew hesitant, uncertain of my course.

…If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles… (John 11: 9b-10a)

As I flew southbound a light was visible in the distance. Growing brighter as I watched and flashing steadily as if to beckon, it was quite different – set apart – from all others. Seeming familiar, I wanted to turn the airplane toward the light. Becoming hopeful, my heart quickened…could this be my destination?

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light… (Isaiah 9:2a)

Light has long been used as a source of guidance for pilots.

May 15, 1918: Takeoff on first official air mail on Washington-Philadelphia-New York route. The pilot lost his way and landed twenty minutes later in Waldorf, Md., breaking prop blade; the flight was cancelled. (Photo/caption: www.airmailpioneers.org)

The first navigational beacons were actually bonfires maintained at strategic locations along air mail routes. Intended for conspicuity, a beacon is designed to draw attention, giving direction to those searching for their way. Throughout the Bible, God uses light to guide mankind – revealing His way. Indeed, He has provided for us a great light by which to navigate this journey…a marvelous light:

…that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light… (1 Peter 2:9b)

Like the bearing pointer of an ADF (Automatic Direction Finder) – an aircraft navigational instrument used to find the location of a radio beacon – the Bible always points to Jesus Christ, regardless of our heading. He is a beacon for those who choose to search for and to follow through the darkness of this world. Jesus, Himself, declared:

“I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Even after years of flying experience, and equipped with the sophisticated technologies of modern airliners, I still cherish the peace and reassurance that comes when calling my home field beacon “in sight,” especially after a long journey. But as I flew solo through the darkness in that little Cessna, I had no such confidence. Was the light I saw my destination? My heart told me it was, but in my flesh I was anxious.

For you will go before…to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:79; Emphasis mine)

I began to contemplate the other lights that twinkled in the distance. They competed for my attention, as if to draw me away, offering something better. Hesitant to commit to the beacon, I considered the likely scenarios of pressing on: landing at the wrong airport…running out of fuel…crashing… Surely, I faced certain death (or, at least, great embarrassment…)! Nevertheless, languishing in indecision, fear crept in as the darkness enveloped me.

…they grope in the darkness with no light… (Job 12:25)

Video Note: As the sun Son comes, the fog begins to burn away (check out the sheep wandering near the approach end, 00:04 mark – Great video)!

Throughout the Bible, darkness is representative of evil and deception; of living in the flesh, in sin and disobedience.

…the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light…For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light…” (John 3: 19-21)

Darkness is the path to destruction and we all have sinned (Romans 3:23)…we don’t want to fall short of the glory – or the airport! But pressing on in our sin, choosing to live in darkness, we remain lost – sure to perish.

Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery ways; in the darkness they shall be driven on and fall in them… (Jeremiah 23:12)

I needed to make a decision… Just then, I heard a voice calling out to me on the aircraft’s VHF radio.

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it…” (Isaiah 30:21)

It was the air traffic controller monitoring my flight. Knowing I was a “student” pilot, he had been watching me carefully and with his help, he confirmed and (mercifully) vectored me to the light – my destination!

…God watched over me…by His light, I walked through the darkness… (Job 29:3)

I chose to follow the Controller with the knowledge that He had my best interest at heart. It was a humbling experience, but I was very thankful to be headed home – following His instruction!

…He will guide you into all truth… (John 16:13a)

Just as I needed to identify and turn toward my home beacon that night – in life – we each must decide to earnestly and continuously pursue the light of the world – Jesus Christ. By His word, the God of all Creation, promises to deliver us from the darkness. As Paul experienced, enroute to Damascus:

“…as I journeyed…along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining…I heard a voice speaking to me…rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose…I will deliver you…to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Acts 26:12-18)

Video Note:  Landing at dawn, KPDX, Runway 10R (Fruit of the Spirit is patience – worth the wait – great video!)

As Christians, we have been called out of the darkness and delivered for a purpose – to fulfill the Great Commission, so that people will turn from darkness and to His eternal and marvelous light!

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

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The Automatic Pilot

“But still the Voice sounds and searches. The order and life of the world depend upon that Voice, but men are mostly too busy or too stubborn to give attention.” (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, p. 74).

In 2009, two veteran pilots, having overshot their destination in a very public way, had their licenses revoked by the FAA and were fired by their airline. The pilots admit to becoming distracted enroute – losing communication with air traffic control…too busy…to give attention. Having relinquished control of their aircraft to the automatic pilot, with their attention turned elsewhere, they gave no apparent thought to the condition of their aircraft, its position, or the 144 passengers in their trust. Many pilots, including myself, find it inconceivable that such experienced airmen could have flown for 91 minutes – an eternally long period of operation for a jet aircraft – without “checking in” (pilot lingo for contacting the controller).

Prolonged ‘radio silence’ can actually be quite LOUD – even abnormal – to the seasoned pilot who should instinctively be attuned to a void in communication. Traveling at over 500 miles per hour, traversing multiple airspace sectors without re-tuning their radios, eventually this crew was unable to hear the air traffic controller’s voice sounding and searching for them. The order and life of the world – at 37,000 feet – depends upon that voice – the Controller – providing safety, carefully guiding an aircraft toward its destination.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it. (Isaiah 30:21)

What’s Really at Stake…

US Airways Captain Chesley Sullenberger, testifying before the NTSB about his heroic, 2009 Hudson River landing stated: “I think one of the many challenges of our profession is that it’s become so ultrasafe… it’s sometimes easy to forget what’s really at stake. One of the challenges, I think, is to remain alert and vigilant and prepared.”

The same can be said of our flight through life…too easily forgetting what is at stake, we lumber on, unaware, ignorant of the danger. The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. (Prov 22:3, NIV)

How often do we put our life on autopilot and become distracted, oblivious to our own position and direction – having tuned out the Voice in control? While God – our controlling authority as Christians – may not revoke our “license,” if we don’t take heed to His warnings (throughout the Bible), we’ll lose situational awareness. Constant vigilance must be maintained lest we drift away or deviate from the course upon which He directs us. A man’s heart plans his ways, but the Lord directs His steps. (Prov 16:9)

Our world offers endless opportunities through which to engage our focus and tune out God. Whether passive, or active – it’s always a choice. We put our minds in a holding pattern with television, music or internet; medicate or numb our pain with alcohol, food, or drugs; become workaholics, or obsessed with hobbies, sports, etc. Constant are the temptations that seek to distract, divert attention and become idols; to cause us to stumble or crash. Whatever the source…no one can serve two masters… (Mat 6:24a).

The Safety Briefing…

It is not an understatement to say that, when we engage our inner autopilot and ease up on the yoke – we effectively cede control to some other device – or vice. In so doing, we give the devil a foothold (Eph 4:27, NIV) – and he will request an upgrade! Far from reassuring to passengers, it is not uncommon for a pilot – upon reaching cruise altitude – to engage the autopilot and recline his seat; to sit back and relax: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking…may I have your attention please! Keep your minds in a fully upright position, guard your hearts, buckle up-secure in your faith; ensuring that you are attuned to Him at all times – obeying His commands!”

“…Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life…watch therefore, and pray always… (Luke 21:34-36a)

Watching and Waiting…(and Warning)

In the Garden of Gethsemane, twice Jesus cautioned the Apostles to watch, and to pray – only to find them sleeping – twice! To Peter, He said, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mat 26:40b-41)

Flying the Redeye

Modern jet aircraft can remain aloft over thousands of miles, through multiple time zones, transporting passengers around the world. Rather than manually “flying,” however, pilots spend a lot time watching and waiting: ‘hmmm...the beef or the chicken?’ At cruise altitude, onboard computers steer the aircraft along a programmed path and maintain it’s mechanical systems, while pilots are as watchmen, monitoring progress: ‘I should pass on the dessert cart…you say it comes a la mode?’ While such automation generally enhances safety, especially in high-workload phases of flight, it also contributes to complacenzzzzz: ‘…this layover has those “heavenly” bedzz…’ The mind is prone to wander; boredom and fatigue can easily set in – among the best of airmen, even the Apostles. We all must acknowledge our vulnerability for, indeed, the flesh is weak.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Pet 5:6-8)

Safeguards…

Vigilance is defined as being “keenly watchful; wary: as a vigilant sentry. Ever awake and alert: sleeplessly watchful” (dictionary.com). Sober vigilance is vital to the safety and integrity of any operation, maintaining a focus that is purposed, diligent and constant. Elevated awareness comes through scrutiny and examination; scanning the instruments and cross-checking the indications.

Crews are encouraged to share information, working together as members of a body, to respectfully challenge and help one another:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. (Ecc 4:9-10)

Accountability with like minded people is essential. As Christians, we cross-check ourselves against the standard of Christ, as Paul said: Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Cor 11:1) Pilots are taught Crew Resource Management (CRM), which is the evaluation and use – the management – of all available resources with a constant mind toward enhancing safety. So too, as Christians, we must use the resources God has provided, in particular, His word in the Bible and discernment through the Holy Spirit, ever-sharpening our qualifications (1 Cor 9:27). In addition, as with a correcting instructor or mentoring captain (Prov 27:17), the wise counsel of a pastor or elder can help build us up – to perfect and settle us…

Resist him (the devil), steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Pet 5:9-11)

Safeguards must be employed – together with habits and disciplines, however routine or mundane…or longsuffering (Gal 5:22) – that establish and strengthen our operation – and our life. Airlines have developed guidelines and standard procedures (SOP’s) over time – and in the aftermath of accidents and incidents – that methodize crew duties, actions and expectations, providing thorough checklists and memory items that mitigate threats and trap errors.

Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions (e.g. SOP’s) just as I delivered them to you. (1 Cor 11:2)

As a vigilant pilot, so too, all Christians must heed the call to be sober – humbly aware of the dangers and ever-ready – detecting threats, trapping errors and anticipating changes. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory… (Rom 3:23)…therefore submit to God…humble yourselves…and He will lift you up. (James 4:7-10)

Of course, most pilots don’t intend to overfly their destination or stumble off course, but it becomes more likely when vigilance is interrupted, absent safeguards, and without a positive delegation – an awareness – of aircraft control. While some procedures and disciplines may seem ridiculously simplistic, unfortunately, there are too many “smoking hole” reminders where, literally, nobody was flying the plane.

Who is Flying the Plane?

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Eastern Airlines L-1011, Ship 310 (accident a/c). Photo copyright John Proctor
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eastern_Air_Lines_Lockheed_L-1011_Tristar_1_Proctor-1.jpg

Tragically, in the cockpit of Eastern Airlines 401, the question of who was flying the plane remained unanswered – for nearly six minutes – while the huge jet descended into the Florida Everglades on a dark night in 1972. In reality, nobody was flying, or watching… The mighty, Lockheed L-1011 TriStar hit the ground, with all three of its big engines operating normally, killing 101, of the 176 on board.

If only that bulb hadn’t burned out… A single, 50-cent bulb (inflation-exaggerated estimate) – in the nose landing gear position indicator – was the only obstacle to a safe landing in Miami that night. Well, not the only obstacle:  Distracted in their troubleshooting of the light, without ensuring safeguards, crew vigilance was lost.

The crew of four was so far removed from flying the plane, so distracted, they were unable to comprehend their perilous condition and re-engage – to sober up – in control of the jet. Even in the final seven seconds before impact, not one single corrective action was taken, attempted, or even spoken of, by the crew. The captain’s final words: “Hey, what’s happening here?”

The truth is, in life, there will be many burned out bulbs – countless opportunities for distraction. But we don’t have to lose awareness – overshoot our destination – or end up in a smoking hole. In our Christian walk, we need to – take heed – remaining vigilant, using the resources God has provided while keeping our focus upon Him – always seeking to imitate His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.

My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life… Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil. (Prov 4:20-27)

References:

Tozer, A.W., The Pursuit of God, 2009.

http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/New-King-James-Version-NKJV-Bible/

NTSB, 1972: http://libraryonline.erau.edu/online-full-text/ntsb/aircraft-accident-reports/AAR73-14.pdf

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/vigilant

Condensed recording of NORDO aircraft: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7l50n6JRO0

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