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!

Posted in Uncategorized

Baby Girl

 

Every Pic-video 103.JPG

July 9, 2003 – December 17, 2015

 

Posted in Uncategorized

In Excellent Memory: Burt Goranson (1949-2015)

Burt-C170

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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?

File:Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-1011 Tristar 1 Proctor-1.jpg

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

Posted in Uncategorized

The Boneyard

What’s wrong with this picture?

At first glance, the aircraft in this video is attempting a take off. It appears at the point of rotation, its nosewheel rising off the ground and into the takeoff attitude. There is sufficient airflow across its wings to generate the lift necessary. To. Become. Airborne…well, almost.

Something is very wrong! This airplane is not speeding down a runway about to take flight; in fact, it is basically powerless to move at all – it has no engines!

Without power, an airplane simply cannot fly. On its own, it is unable to overcome the forces of gravity (acting to ground it, opposing lift) or drag (resistance, opposing thrust).

The “classic” Boeing 747-300 in this video would typically generate over 200,000 pounds of thrust from its four turbofan engines, capable of a maximum gross takeoff weight (MGTOW) of over 400 tons. Despite looking pretty good from the outside, this airplane is effectively empty inside – sadly, unable to accomplish the mission for which it was designed.

Without the source of its power and stripped of its systems, it is little more than a shell – grounded – despite “functional” wings. It wants to fly – and is certainly trying! Indeed, the poster of this video explains that, on this particular day, the wind speed exceeded 80 knots, enough to show the Boeing engineers knew what they were doing in designing and creating this magnificent machine and equipping her with very effective airfoils.

Unfortunately, this aircraft is now sitting lifeless, cast out into the desert – though purchased at a great price – it is interred in a graveyard – “the boneyard.” Since WWII, it is one of thousands of carefully engineered machines – both military and civilian – built for flight, yet parked indefinitely. The desert – that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water… (Deut 8:15) – is ideal for boneyards because the dry climate slows deterioration while the dying aircraft await disassembly – to be sold for scrap, their parts scavenged.

boneyard1

Boneyard at 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), Davis-Monthan AFB
http://www.coolthings.com/the-boneyard-for-planes-on-google-earth/

A graveyard is a place set aside for burial of the dead…despite having so many occupants that appear fit to fly, yet not equipped to do so. Who wants to remain in such desolation?

Jesus warned: “Woe to you…for you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Mat 23:27)

USAF B-52 Bombers on display for post-Cold War Russian satellites.
http://www.coolthings.com/the-boneyard-for-planes-on-google-earth/

God does not desire for us to remain in the desert, our bones wasting away. Man was designed by God! (Gen 1:26a) He formed us (Isaiah 43:7) and when He breathed life into us …man became a living soul. (Gen 2:7)

Apart from Him, however, we are lifeless: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Before Him, we were dead in our transgressions (Eph 2:4) – like those twisted, rusting metal shells perishing in the boneyard, awaiting destruction. But…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Ti 1:15) – to die for us, that we might have life (John 3:17). “…For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, emphasis mine)

By His death on the cross and through His resurrection, we can have the power of the Holy Spirit living in us:  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom 8:11) …No de-rated climb power there – simply awesome!

We can overcome the forces of the world – the gravity and drag that act to ground and to limit us (1 Cor 10:13) – but only through Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit:  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)

First, we must choose to accept Him and to follow Him – with all our heart, mind and soul (Mat 22:37)! Then, through repentance, turning away from sin, we are made new: …wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. (Psalm 51:7-8)

With the knowledge…that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus…Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.. (2 Cor 4:14, 16) Jesus said: I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) Praise God!

Indeed, we are meant to fly! …to soar on wings like eagles! (Isaiah 40:31)

Just as an aircraft is made for the purpose of flight, it must be flown as the Designer intended –  according to His instructions! And though in Christ we have renewed life, our lives are not our own (Is 58:11-14) – we were purchased at a great price – by His blood (Rev 5:9) – and for His purpose. (Eph 1:11, Mat 28:19) To go our own way…well, we risk ending up in the boneyard!

A promise from Isaiah 58 – redeemed from death in the desert:

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden…Those from among you shall build the old waste places (and) be called the Repairer…the Restorer… If you turn away…from doing your pleasure…and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways…Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth… (Isaiah 58:11-14, emphasis mine)

Posted in Uncategorized

The Tentmaker

“It has been said that pilots who have been in aviation for 10 years, having reached the age of 32, are the type of pilot they will be for the rest of their lives. If excellent, average, or below average at that stage, they will be exactly the same at age 60, if health still permits them to fly. What they learn during this period — the skills of flight proficiency and the habits they develop in their youth and during early stages of their flying careers – will never be changed.”  — Jim Webb, Fly the Wing, 1990

Ultimately, the call of any disciple is to spread the gospel of Christ — in fulfillment of the Great Commission — while representing Him in all that we say and do.

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed…  (1 Corinthians 3:5, emphasis mine)

Who then is Paul? 

A single paragraph is utterly insufficient to describe this great minister of Christ. Clearly he had a level of commitment and dedication to Christ unlike any other. One of the first missionaries present …in the beginning of the gospel… (Phil 4:15), he was content in all circumstances and fully reliant upon Christ (Phil 4:11-13).

Paul recognized that he was an example to others in all he did, telling believers in Philippi:  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:9)

Paul was also a tentmaker….

I’ll bet he made some pretty good tents. Excellent tents.

…let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Eph 4:28)

Tent-making was part of Paul’s ministry so it is worth contemplating the quality of his workmanship. He recognized his role – as a wise master builder – in laying the foundation of the gospel – upon the chief cornerstone, who is Jesus Christ – on to which another builds… (1 Cor 3:10-11). In all conduct, we are to be worthy of the gospel! (Phil 1:27)

Therefore, imagine hearing Paul preach the gospel, then lying down to sleep in one of his tents… Now imagine this weather report:  25015G25KT  1/2SM  +SHRA… (Decoded: wind=high, rain=hard!) What if Paul’s tent was leaking – with water seeping in? If poorly constructed – carelessly measured or recklessly stitched (intended reference FAR 91:13) – the product of such labor could cause hardship, bringing discredit. Paul’s labor was meant to bless others and to impact people for Christ, even those who scorned him:

And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless… (1 Cor 4:12)

Do we bless others through our labor?  Obviously, an excellent tent will not bring someone to Christ (for it is God who gives the increase); but our labor is part of our ministry and can bring honor – or dishonor – to a name.

An excellent wife (pilot, tentmaker…), who can find?…Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. (Prov 31:10, 31)

The Excellent Ambassador

Like the excellent wife, who brought honor to her husband’s name at the city gate (Prov 31:23, 28) – our airmanship – our attitudes, behaviors and abilities; enhanced through discipline, awareness and precision – in the operation of aircraft – if exemplary – can add credibility to our testimony. Or, if poor and inferior, it can result in a poor witness. Our good reputation, our “Christ-manship,” is crucial – but not for our own glory. We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20), and our motives must be solely to glorify Him!

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus… (Col. 3:17a)

I once heard it said that if, when shopping for a used car, you arrive at an unkempt house with a poorly maintained yard, don’t bother looking under the hood…keep driving. Likewise, if we are sloppy, putting minimal effort into what we do – whether it be flipping burgers or flying airplanes – likely such attitudes and behaviors may seep into our Christian walk. We must consider how standards and conduct in some areas may carry over and affect what should be the disciplined study, careful handling, sound teaching and passionate pursuit of God’s word in our ministry. Afterall, why do we labor? Does the fruit we produce cause those who may be seeking…to keep driving?

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Cor 10:31, emphasis mine)

In the hiring process, most major airlines scrutinize a pilot’s motor vehicle records. Is the applicant a careful and safe driver on the road, respecting and adhering to all traffic rules? (Mine required even parking ticket history.) Or, does their record indicate careless behavior and reckless disregard for laws? They will be disqualified! The implication being that an exemplary automobile driver is more likely to make an exemplary pilot and responsible employee – but more importantly – an excellent representative.

Beloved I beg you…having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.   (1 Pet 2:11-17)

…As One Barely Escaping the Fire… (The Hazards of Minimum Standards)

Most pilots (and all government personnel) know that a passing – or “satisfactory” – grade on an FAA written exam is 70%. In other words, get three wrong answers out of every ten questions and – congratulations – you can be a pilot! (I think I’ll take the next flight…)

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Cor 3:11-15)

Do we want to be saved as one barely escaping the fire? Do we have such minimum standards – indeed, FAA-level standards (70%) – for our Christian walk? God knows our heart (2 Cor 1:12) and Christ is the standard (Eph 4:13); from the power of the Holy Spirit comes the quality of our witness  excellent, average and below average.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed…But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.  (2 Ti 2:15-20)

The habits and disciplines we develop and use in our Christian walk, in our pursuit of Christ (reading and studying His word, prayer time, serving, etc.), and the standards we have for ourselves as believers and ministers of Christ, do indeed translate to other aspects of our life, including our jobs. Are our standards so low – as one barely escaping the fire? Paul exhorts us to serve others with sincerity in all that we do, as if we are serving Jesus, Himself:

Bondservants, obey in all things…in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men…you serve the Lord Christ. (Col. 3:22-24, emphasis mine)

Of Good Report…

When the NTSB investigates an aircraft accident, they carefully examine a pilot’s background. What were his activities in the 72 hours preceding the flight – how did he spend his time? Did he get adequate rest and nutrition?  Investigators want to know the habits and disciplines maintained and how they may have contributed to the accident.

If available, the NTSB will examine the Cockpit Voice Recorder – which records exactly what and how the pilot(s) communicated. With the CVR, there is an accounting of every word they have spoken (Mat 12:36), even the tone in which it was conveyed. Do you realize the standards of professionalism, the attitudes, habits and disciplines a pilot maintains are revealed to the world through this recording? If a pilot is sloppy, reckless or careless, it will be immediately evident.

 “…for a tree is known by its fruit…A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things…For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mat 12:33-37)

Often, and unfortunately, the pilot is no longer around at this point to defend himself. Regardless, the NTSB investigates what other people say and think about the pilot, including aspects of character and job performance. They interview coworkers and instructors, researching flight history and training records. What was his standard of airmanship? Consider this excerpt on flight crew performance from an NTSB report on a 1996 runway collision accident which resulted in 14 fatalities (most of whom died, unable to escape a burning commuter plane):

The King Air pilot’s (age 63) flying history suggests that he may not have placed sufficient importance on the basics of safe flying. His previous gear-up incident during an instructional flight suggests carelessness, and his subsequent comments to the FAA indicate that he did not consider the incident significant. The fact that he sat on an active runway for an extended time and comments from students indicating that he seemed to be rushing them are consistent with a careless attitude. Further, during his last year as a TWA pilot, the pilot had been downgraded from captain to flight engineer* because of poor performance  during recurrent training. (NTSB, 1996, p. 46)

(*Author’s Note: this downgrade to engineer based on “flying deficiencies” removed him from aircraft command and all control seats, both left and right.)

In it’s official report, the NTSB found the King Air pilots were inattentive and distracted from their duties. Causal factors in this accident included the pilots’ failure to effectively monitor the appropriate frequency or to properly scan for traffic, conducting their takeoff when a commuter flight (United Express 5925) was landing on an intersecting runway. (NTSB, 1996, p. 53-4)

The official report of this King Air captain’s performance stands in stark contrast to what the NTSB wrote about the crew of Air Midwest 5481. This 2003 crash of a Beech 1900 commuter plane killed 21, due to “a loss of pitch control,” caused by an incorrectly rigged elevator (maintenance operations), and compounded by improper loading (improper company procedures).

Of the Air Midwest captain:  In post-accident interviews, Air Midwest pilots who had flown with the captain made favorable comments about her piloting skills. A check airman stated that the captain had no difficulties during upgrade training and that she demonstrated very good knowledge of the airplane’s systems and very good judgment. Another check airman described the captain as one of the better company pilots and stated that she made very good decisions about flying. First officers stated that the captain was a thorough and methodical pilot who controlled the airplane well and involved them with the flight by asking for opinions and letting them review paperwork. (NTSB, 2003, p. 9)

Of the Air Midwest First Officer:  In post-accident interviews, Air Midwest pilots who had flown with the first officer made favorable comments about his piloting skills. Pilots described the first officer as a talented and very precise pilot with good attention to detail and good communication skills. Pilots also stated that the first officer possessed good situational awareness and good knowledge of the Beech 1900D. (NTSB, 2003, p. 10)

On Good Authority…

The NTSB is considered the authority on accident investigation, determining what went wrong – and why. What would they write about you?  I do not write – and post – without carefully and prayerfully considering planks in my own eye, that could jeopardize my witness or render me a hypocrite. There is forgiveness and repentance through Christ, but we each must examine ourselves carefully before Him. Consider, how is your tent being constructed?

Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost unto death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me. (Phil 2:25-30)

What a letter of reference! Indeed, Epaphroditus is a servant of good report, on the good authority of Paul, himself – a fully qualified, credible witness because he pursued a standard of excellence for the glory of God. Oh, to be sent out by such an authority and be called his brother, fellow worker and soldier! But more importantly, to be called a brother of Jesus Christ, who said:  For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother. (Mat 12:50) Do His will…

In conclusion, it is interesting to note that the ages and experience levels of the accident pilots referenced above supports the quote from Fly the Line: “If excellent, average, or below average at that stage (first 10 years of flying/by age 32), they will be exactly the same at age 60…” The King Air pilot was 63 years old, having logged over 25,000 flight hours; the average age of the two Air Midwest pilots was 27 years with just 4,000 hours between them. The older, more experienced pilot displayed patterns of poor performance (as noted by the NTSB) which should well have disqualified him, while the younger pilots were of good report.

As Christians, however, we don’t have to remain exactly the same at age 60 – with the same old patterns, behaviors and conduct of our past – before Christ. Indeed – through Christ – we can put off the “old man” and be renewed and transformed:

…if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:  that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:21-24)

The good news is that, through the resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit, in Christ Jesus, we are made new…an excellent witness!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor 5:17)

References:

Webb, Jim, 1990. Fly the Wing, 2nd Ed., p. ix, Ames, Iowa

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

NTSB Accident Report: Runway Collision, (11/19/96): http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/1997/AAR9704.pdf

NTSB Accident Report: Loss of Pitch Control (01/08/03): http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2004/AAR0401.pdf

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment