Category Archives: Other

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    Week 11 – Las Vegas Here I Come!

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    Amazing Love and Forgiveness – Luke 15:11-32

    The Setting:

    Picture a teenage boy who felt like he never measured up to his older brother. Perhaps it seemed that his father never quite understood him or fully loved him.  Maybe he lived under the pressure of feeling like he never measured up or quite “got it right.”  When Jesus told this story it was about people that he welcomed as his friends, people who in the eyes of the Jewish leaders of his day just didn’t measure up to their religious standards and they were criticizing him.  How might Jesus tell the story if he lived in America today?

    The Story:

    Jason wasn’t a really bad son.  He just liked to have fun with his friends.  Well, actually he really did love to party. For years he had worked for his father at the family auto dealership.  He loved cars, so detailing and delivering a variety of new Subarus was an OK job, especially when he got to spend some time behind the wheel of a new WRX.  His older brother, Jimmie, worked in the finance department and was always talking about how someday he would run the company.  That was fine with Jason because he knew that he was destined for bigger and better things than working behind a desk and putting in long hours like his brother did.

    Both boys still lived at home.  Home wasn’t all that bad, good food and lots of it.  The town was too small to Jason’s way of thinking and he looked forward to the day when he had saved enough to move out and be on his own, but money seemed to run right through his fingers and the big move out day kept getting pushed back.  Then he had an idea.

    Jason went to his father and proposed a deal.  He knew that his father had entrusted more and more responsibility at the dealership to Jimmie and that he would never work for his brother.  Would dad be willing to give him the cash value of his half of the dealership – give it to him now?  He told his father that he knew that he could use that money to create more money if he only had a chance.  Unbelievably his father listened and the next week gave him the cash value of the half of the car agency that would eventually be his.

    He could hardly pack fast enough.  With lots of cash in his pocket, Jason bought a one-way ticket to Las Vegas.  His first stop in this wild town landed him a brand new Audi TT that he had his eye on for some time.  Of course, a car like that will help attract friends in this fast-moving city and soon it was party time.  This was the life that was made for him.  He was going to make it big and not skimp on the parties along the way.  All work and no play had been making Jason a dull boy back home.

    But it is amazing how quickly the so-called “friends” were gone after all the money was spent.  Eventually, the car was repossessed and the only job Jason could get was cleaning toilets in the casino where the last of his money disappeared. Home began to look a whole lot better than when he last lived there.  If only his dad would receive him back.  “Yes,” that is the answer he finally decided on and he headed back home to beg for another chance to work for his father, starting over as a lot boy at the dealership.  But what would most dads really feel after a son has been so stubborn, rebellious and wasteful?

    Jason’s dad was told by a friend that he had seen Jason hitchhiking south of town.  He jumped in his car and raced out to meet his long-lost son, not with condemnation, but with kisses and compassion.  How could it be?  Before Jason even finished telling his father how sorry he was, his dad said that an even better job was waiting for him.  His father didn’t even demand that he pay back the money.  In fact, he decided to receive Jason back with a real party, one that overflowed with heartfelt joy at his son’s return.  The only word that seems close to describing that kind of love is “amazing.”  It was given so freely and without consequences that Jimmie who was the stay-at-home “good guy” was totally angry.  He had tried to “do it all right” as he saw it and now the father was favoring Jason who had been so rebellious and wasteful.  Go figure!  How does all this work and what are the lessons Jesus has for us in all this?

    The Debriefing:

    Jesus’ story was directed at the religious leaders who felt they were so much better than other people.  Jesus was not giving anyone an excuse for their sin, but offering a message of God’s grace that He is always wonderfully ready to receive us back when we have made bad choices and are ready to return to him.  We all fail in ways that make us prone to think that Jesus would rather be with people who are “better” than we are.  It sometimes feels that if we were really known for some of the things we think or do when no one is looking, we wouldn’t be loved or fully accepted.

    When my son was a young teen I told him that I would like him to “go do something really stupid.”  Of course, he knew that I didn’t mean for him to get in trouble, but that I was trying to teach him something.  It was my way of saying that before he left our home I wanted every opportunity to show him that he was unconditionally accepted in my love and that I would never turn him away, regardless of anything he did, however foolish it might have been.  He was my son and always would be my son.

    Lessons for Flying Higher:

    So dad, how have you experienced God’s unconditional love and forgiveness?  What are some of the “dumb things” that made you feel you weren’t worthy of His love?

    Son, what kinds of things have made you feel that you didn’t deserve God’s love or your dad’s love?  What convinces you that God loves you for who you are, even when you fail, and not what you do?  Consider the message of these verses:

    Romans 8:1  “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

    Romans 8:38  “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love.”

    Pray together thanking God for his great love and forgiveness acknowledging that nothing can ever separate you from that love.

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    Week 10 – Who Am I Listening To?

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    Joash – The Boy King, II Chronicles 22:10-24:26

    The Setting:

    The thought of being ruled by a king is a strange concept to most of us. Even in countries that have a royal line, very few are actually led by the king regardless of how stately and official he looks.  Most of the kings of Israel came to the throne when they were much older.  Not Joash.  He was just 7 years old when he was appointed king!  How could a 7-year-old possible lead a nation of millions? Let’s find out because the answer is meaningful for all of us.

    The Story:

    Joash’s family story is a tragedy.  His father, King Ahaz, only ruled for one year before he was killed as a result of following the bad counsel of his advisors (II Chr 22:1-9).  Because Ahaziah was so young when he died, there was no son old enough to take his place as king.  That stirred up the hunger for power in Joash’s grandmother, Athaliah.  She wanted to be the queen so she murdered all Joash’s older brothers, her grandsons!  But Joash had a brave and faithful aunt who in the midst of all the murderous chaos hid him in a bedroom.  Then he was smuggled into the temple where he could be raised by the priests who were faithful to God (II Chr 22:10-12).

    So imagine this: your father is disobedient to God and ends up being killed for his foolishness.  Your grandmother is a killer of the worst kind, murdering her grandchildren in her lust for power.  You are now an orphan and grow up not even being able to go outside to play.  What are your chances of making out very well in life with all this crummy stuff?  Not all that great!

    But God….   Those are powerful words that can change anything.  Joash was an orphan, but God had provided him with a wise uncle, Jehoiada, that was faithful to God.  Jehoiada was behind the rescue plans to save Joash from his grandmother. The murderous Athaliah was now the queen, but God was preparing Joash to eventually become the king. Athaliah had influenced the people to worship idols and act immorally, but God was gathering a group of men who were faithful to God who would take a stand against the queen.  There is no way that a seven-year-old would be able to lead the country but God gave him the right advisors to train him to follow God and to lead well.

    So when Joash was 7 years old Jehoiada the priest made a bold move.  He gathered leaders who were loyal to God and called the people together to crown Joash king. They put a copy of God’s law into his hands, placed a crown on his head and cried out, “Long live the king!” When the wicked queen heard the noise of the crowd she ran to the temple where everyone was praising God and celebrating Joash as the rightful king.  “Treason!  Treason!” she cried out, but it was too late.  They took her from the temple and executed her as payment for the many others that she had killed during her lifetime (II Chr 23:1-11).

    So justice was enacted and the right king was now on the throne.  The first thing that Joash decreed was that all the children in the kingdom got double desserts and no vegetables.  Then he decided that parents went to bed at 9:00 while the kids got to stay up and play with the new X-Box he provided for every family.  Well, not exactly.  He still needed a good advisor to coach and serve him as a boy-king.  That’s what his uncle, Jehoiada the priest, continued to do. The people were instructed to tear down all the temples of false gods, destroy their idols and worship of the one true living God was begun again.  There is a great statement about Joash and all that he did in II Chr 14:2: “Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest.”  What a super story, but sadly that isn’t where it ends.

    The Rest of the Story

    Wouldn’t it be great if that were the way things finished for Joash?  He accepted the wise advice of Jehoiada and the whole nation turned back to God and prospered.  In II Chr 24:17 we get the rest of the story.  “But after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and bowed down to the king, and the king listened to them.”  As a result of their terrible advice, all the “bad religion” days start all over again.  So God sent prophets to speak against the advice of Joash’s new counselors and the bad choices that Joash was making. The simple description of their response to these men God sent was, “they would not listen” (vs. 19).  It doesn’t stop there.  Joash and his new advisors had Zechariah the son of Jehoiada put to death for confronting them with the truth. Get that. Joash sinks so low that he is even part of the murder plot to kill Zechariah, the son of the man who had saved Joash’s life.  God eventually judges Joash for this evil act when Israel is defeated in battle by a much smaller enemy army.  Then his servants murder Joash in his own bed.  How did things go from being so good to so bad?  Let’s discuss that.

    The Debriefing

    The big question to put before ourselves is, “Who’s advice am I listening to?”  Most of us have friends that don’t hesitate to offer their ideas about what we should do or not do on almost anything about our lives.

    Proverbs 13:20  (The Msg.) “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.”

    Dad, think of a time when you listened to the wrong advice.  What happened?  Looking back, what could you have done differently?

    Proverbs 27:17(The Msg.)  “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another.”

    Son, who are some of the voices in your life that are saying the right things, the kind of things that make you a sharper thinker?  Who are some of the bad advice givers around you who are good to avoid because they dull your judgment?

    Father and son: Are there decisions that you need to be making these days for which you need good advice?  Why not stop now and pray for one another about those things?  Advice can come later after praying.  Remember that God does more than give advice.  He actually leads us.

    Proverbs 3:6 (The Msg.)  “Listen for GOD’S voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”

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    Week 9 – David and Solomon

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    “Take courage and be a man.”  I Kings 2:1-3

    The Setting:

    King David was at the end of his life and was passing the baton as ruler of Israel to his son, Solomon.  His words were simple, clear and penetrating, “Take courage and be a man.”  This is the kind of challenge that we don’t just throw down to a young teenager.  We walk our way into it one step at a time.  Let’s talk about that challenge.

    The Story:

    It isn’t clear how old Solomon was when David looked at Solomon and “called him out” with these words about courage.  Before my son was 16 he was 6’3” and on his way to 190 pounds.  He could already do more pull-ups that I could and soon would be bench pressing close to 250.  Only my experience in boxing, judo and unarmed combat gave me any kind of an edge as he tested me physically on a regular basis.  He was faster and stronger – but is that what it means to be a man?

    One day as we drove in the car I asked him a question.  “Son, why do you think God has made you bigger and stronger than most people around you?”   Those are the kind of questions that lead us into discussion on what manhood is really all about.  Often the questions are more important than immediately having the right or complete answer.  As we drove together that day we talked about how so many young men use their strength to intimidate others or to try to make a name for themselves.

    Of course, the adolescent years can be a very difficult time of discovering and forming a life identity.  It is even more difficult for a boy if his physical development is slower than that of his peers.  I started school a year early and graduated from high school a few months after turning 17. I was tall, but I was skinny.  I joke that I could have been a much better high school wrestler except for two things – I was weak and I was slow.  I got a varsity letter in tennis, but I would have gotten broken in half on the football field.

    Grades in school and how hard we need to work to get good grades can be a real influence in shaping our identity as well.  We all face challenges in becoming a man.  The difficulties we face are the very things that are growing us in courage and character.

    Lessons for Flying Higher:

    A dictionary definition of courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one.”  So courage doesn’t mean that we are not afraid, rather it means that we are learning to face our fears.  Often it doesn’t seem manly to admit our fears, even to ourselves.  It helps a lot to be able to talk about what we fear with someone that we can trust.  Often the things that we struggle with are the very things that others have faced when they were at the same place in life.  Finding someone who “feels safe” to us when we share our deeper feelings and fears is an important step in understanding what it means to know myself on the journey to manhood.

    One of the hardest days of David’s life occurred when he returned from a battle in I Samuel 30.  As he and his army got closer to Ziklag, their city, they could see smoke on the horizon.  In their absence, another army had conquered the defenseless town, burned it to the ground and taken all the women and children as captives.  As bad as that was things were about to get worse for David. His men were so overcome with grief at the loss of their families that they blamed David and began to talk about stoning him to death.  Now that is real loyalty and friendship!

    Verse 6 says that David in the midst of his distress “strengthened himself (took courage) in the Lord his God.”  Often when things seem their worst, God is about to do his best, if only we will learn to look to him for the courage that we need.  David and some of his men followed the enemy army and found them in a drunken celebration for all their victories.  David’s army easily defeated them and recaptured all that had been taken from them and much more.

    What David couldn’t know was at the same time Saul, the king of Israel, was being defeated in battle and God was setting David up to be the new king.  God was going to give David Jerusalem as his city to live and reign in so it didn’t matter that the old city was burned down.  What appeared to be a major defeat was the open door to a much better future. Often when we feel discouraged or overwhelmed God is at work to do new things and shape us into the men that we need to be to face the challenges of the future.

    Dad, was there a time as a teen or more recently that you really felt discouraged in the midst of facing some difficult situation?  What was the challenge you were facing?  What did it feel like?  In looking back, what was God doing to grow you into the challenge of being more of a man?

    Son, what is something that you are facing now that feels like it is beyond you? It may be a difficult relationship or an academic or athletic challenge.  What is an area that you feel you need the courage to walk into and do what is right even if others are opposing you?

    Repeatedly in Scripture when the issue of fear is addressed, God’s constant reminder is that He is with us.  As you read the verses below, let God’s Spirit remind you that He walks with us in the hard things of life.  He is at work to increase our faith, to strengthen us, and to make us into the kind of spiritual men that can handle the challenges of life with spiritual courage.

    Joshua 1:9– “… Be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

    II Corinthians 12:9– “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”  (The Message)

    Pray for one another in the challenges of life that you are both facing.  Take courage and be a man!

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    Week 8 – Getting Behind the Power Curve

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    The Flight:

    The deadly hazards of flying combat missions are obvious.  Sometimes training a student to make a safe approach and landing on only one engine holds even greater and more subtle dangers.  With little warning, routine training can suddenly become a matter of life and death.  It is enough of a challenge to land a jet aircraft with two engines operating properly. With only one engine working a pilot faces the extra challenge of not getting behind the “power curve”.  Let’s discuss what the power curve is all about. That is important because it is just as crucial in life as it is in a jet.

    There are two critical factors a pilot always wants to have in his favor – altitude and airspeed.  Nothing puts an end to the mission more quickly than hitting the ground before you planned!  If the pilot has enough airspeed he can always pull the nose up and gain altitude when he needs to climb quickly.  In the same way, if the aircraft is approaching a stall (the condition where the aircraft is no longer creating enough lift to maintain level flight) he can lower the nose, gain airspeed and escape the situation – if he has enough altitude.

    To get a feel for this, hold your hand out as if it was an airplane flying level.  Now point your fingers slightly toward the floor as if you were going into a shallow dive to gain airspeed.  If there is enough distance between your hand and the floor there is no problem.  You have enough time to gain airspeed while you increase power.  Your engines begin to generate more thrust and you can level off or climb again. Now repeat this with your hand closer to the floor and imagine that you have allowed your airspeed to get too low. You need to lower the nose of the airplane to gain airspeed.  Is there enough room to safely do that?  If not a crash is inevitable.

    If you lose power on one engine, it is obviously easier to “get behind the power curve” because you have less power to regain lost airspeed. This problem can be greatly worsened by adding the power on your one good engine too slowly to regain that airspeed.  In this way, 100% power can be reached on the good engine, but still, the only way to gain airspeed fast enough is now to lower the nose. If you are trying to land the aircraft you may already be too low to trade altitude for the needed airspeed.

    Because losing an engine creates such a potentially dangerous flight condition, a student pilot receives considerable training in how to make a safe single engine landing.  The first thing the student needs to recognize is how vulnerable he is with only one engine available to maintain airspeed and altitude. He needs to see and feel what it is like to “get behind the power curve” to recognize the potential danger.  To simulate losing an engine the instructor surprises the student by reducing one throttle to idle.  That way it is realistic, but normally not too dangerous. One day I let a student go too far in giving him a picture of “power curve reality.”

    We were practicing single engine landings at an airfield north of the main base.  As the lieutenant began his final turn to descend the last 1000 feet and line up with the runway he set the power at a level appropriate for two engines, not one. Immediately we began to lose airspeed. He slowly lowered the nose and began to add power.  Instead of aggressively adding the power on the good engine to stop our descent he merely inched the throttle on the good engine forward and was soon “behind the power curve.” Even at 100% power on only one engine, we could no longer stop our descent fast enough to make it to the runway. Now the real adventure began.

    I told the student to “go around” – discontinue the landing.  At the same time, the ground controller made the same radio command as our altitude was obviously too low.  The proper procedure would have been to advance the throttle on the idle engine to 100%, level off and raise the landing gear.  Instead, in a panic, he started to bring the good throttle back to where he could also grab the idle throttle with one hand.  I immediately brought both throttles forward to 100%. However, it takes a second or two for the compression in a jet engine to build and produce the needed thrust.  We continued to drop and were it not for a river gorge off the end of the runway we might have hit the ground before the engines delivered the power we needed.

    How did we get in trouble in the first place?  When the student was low on airspeed he didn’t act right away to supply the needed power with the one good engine.  Soon we were “behind the power curve” and in a true single engine situation would have crashed and burned.  He learned to anticipate the airspeed problems earlier. I learned to anticipate student problems earlier!  We both learned that little things not dealt with in a timely manner can lead to unforeseen disastrous results.

    The Debriefing:

    The “power curve” is an invisible reality.  It is real, but it can’t be seen or heard.  As long as you have enough altitude to lower the nose and gain airspeed you can escape the danger.  Life is like that.  We may seem to get away with “little sins” from time to time, but sooner or later things add up.  Being slow to respond to bad choices can put us in a crash and burn situation.

    Can you think of someone in the Bible that little by little got themselves into a situation that they could not recover from?

    Samson – Judges 16:15-21      David – II Samuel 11:1-5

    Dad, when you were a boy was there a time when the little things started to put you behind the power curve?  How did you recover or what price did you pay?

    Son, what are the things in life right now that could get you behind the power curve?

    How can you pray better for one another?  Take a minute and do that.

    Lessons For Flying Higher

    “When I took a long, careful look at your ways, I got my feet back on the trail you blazed.  I was up at once, didn’t drag my feet, was quick to follow your orders.”  Psalm 119:59,60 (Message)

    “A prudent man sees evil and hides himself.  The naïve proceed and pay the penalty.”

    Proverbs 27:12

    Keep your airspeed up. Don’t let your life get behind the power curve.  Let the Holy Spirit apply His power to the “little things” in your life today.

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    Week 7 – Dark Skies

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    The Flight:

    Our mission was supposed to be a routine formation flight to a base in Fort Worth, Texas.  I filed the flight plan at base operations while the pilot of the lead aircraft got the weather briefing – or did he?

    When we took off it was a beautiful day.  Although the student pilot was beginning to learn to fly in formation he was doing well.  I enjoyed teaching formation flight where the separation between the wingtips of our aircraft was often as little as three feet.  Flying along at hundreds of miles an hour we looked like we were joined together by an invisible hand.  Formation flight really hones the precision skills of the pilot as well as pulling him forward into a new realm of mental determination to “hang in there” wherever lead takes him.

    While we were still 80 miles from Fort Worth I could see that there was quite a line of thunderstorms ahead of us.  Now, Texans brag about things being bigger in the Lone Star state and a lot of it is hot air.  One thing that Texas definitely grows big is incredibly intimidating thunderstorms. As we neared the storms ahead, flight lead requested a higher altitude so that we could avoid the turbulence. As we added power to climb above the clouds it was obvious that these huge white billowing monsters were growing faster than we could out-climb them.

    As we followed lead into the clouds I took control of the aircraft since our changing situation was now well beyond the student pilot’s ability. Because of the intense moisture content of these clouds, what looks white on the outside quickly becomes a darkening gray on the inside. I needed to edge my aircraft closer and closer to my leader in order to not lose sight of him.  I dropped down lower than normal so I could actually overlap wingtips with him without causing a dangerous situation.  Even then there were times that lead’s aircraft was just a vague silhouette.

    Next, the turbulence became like riding a Texas rodeo bull.  The muscles in my arm and back felt like they had been tied in knots as I fought to stay in the formation without causing a midair collision with my leader.  I was being pressed to the limits of my ability as a pilot to “hang in there.”  Just when I began to think I couldn’t take it for another second we would pop into a break in the clouds where the sun was shining through and I could ease myself into a safer position with appropriate distance between our aircraft.

    Then without warning, we would be thrown into the thick of it again – back in the dark clouds and on the bucking bull once more. My flight suit was soaked with sweat as I used every ounce of skill and determination to “hang in” on lead’s wing all the way to the ground.  I tried to whistle a song to let the student know that I was “relaxed and in control!” My mouth was so dry I couldn’t even spit let alone squeak out a tune.  I could see flight lead in his aircraft glance over his shoulder from time to time to see if we were still on his wing as he led us forward.

    Repeatedly I thought there was no way I could keep going and we should break out of the formation.  I could get a separate radar clearance to guide my aircraft to the field somewhere behind my leader.  Just when I needed it, we would break into the clear again, giving me just enough time to catch my breath before the next assault.

    Once our formation had safely landed and shut down the engines I approached my fellow pilot who had led us on this wild ride and asked to see the weather-briefing sheet he had received before our departure. There was a military weather warning posted for ¾” hail in the vicinity of Fort Worth that could have flamed out our engines.  It seems that there was a Fort Worth restaurant of which my friend was particularly fond and his appetite had clouded his judgment.

    The Debriefing:

    Whenever I thought that I couldn’t stick with my flight leader through the darkness and turbulence there would be a break in the clouds to give me the recovery time that I needed.  Flying is a lot like the Christian life.  Among other things it takes teamwork, some foundational skills and the determination to keep at it by God’s grace.  He knows just how much we can take.

    “Remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful.  He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.” I Cor. 10:13 (NLT).

    Dad, was there a time when you had a friend who intentionally or unintentionally wanted to lead you into dark places where you didn’t belong as a Christian?  How did you handle that?

    Can you relate to that in your world, son?

    What do you do when you fall short and don’t have the determination to reach for the “way out” that God provides?

    Son, is there anything right now that tests your commitment to do what you know is right and hang in there with where God (the perfect flight leader) wants to take you?

    Why not take a minute to pray for one another to have the grace to stay faithful as followers of Jesus? Be sure to thank Him for His wonderful forgiveness that helps you to stay in the game after losing your grip on doing right and following Jesus with your whole heart.

    Lessons for Flying Higher:

    “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation.”  II Peter 2:9

    “Greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world.”  I John 4:4

    Sometimes God gives us the strength to go through a temptation that we cannot avoid.  Sometimes we need to have the good sense to turn away or run from the temptations that others would lead us into.  Either of these takes a determined spirit to chose to fly on the wing of our heavenly Flight Leader in the storms of life.

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    Week 6 – The Master Caution Light

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    The Flight

    Advanced Air Force student pilots fly the T-38 Talon for training in all phases of flight -aerobatics, formation, night, instrument, and cross-country navigation training. Test pilots and flight test engineers are trained in T-38s at the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.  NASA uses T-38 aircraft as trainers for astronauts and as observers and chase planes on programs such as the space shuttle.

    The T-38 needs as little as 2,300 feet of runway to take off and can climb from sea level to nearly 30,000 feet, over 5 and a half miles, in one minute.  It can operate at speeds over 800 mph at sea level. Before you can place the control stick fully to the side, the T-38 will make a complete roll.  At those speeds, any emergency situation can easily prove fatal.

    Because the T-38 operates in the most extreme and demanding conditions of flight, a failure in one of the flight systems must be immediately recognized and appropriately dealt with.  At the same time, the pilot must continually keep his eyes directed outside the cockpit for other aircraft.  How will he recognize a problem in the making before it is too late?

    That is the purpose of the Master Caution Light.  It is clearly visible at the very top of the instrument panel on the aircraft. Sometimes a pilot can be performing maneuvers that use more fuel than normal and the Master Caution Light comes on.  He knows to check his fuel situation and return to his base or to another nearby landing field. (The T-38 drops like a rock without power to keep it flying.)  Or perhaps there are fluctuations with the hydraulic pressure or a fuel pump, but those gauges are not placed where they are quickly seen.  With the master caution light, the pilot is instantly aware of a developing emergency situation and can check another panel that indicates what the specific problem may be.

    For instance, if an engine has begun to overheat the pilot may not immediately notice the slowly increasing temperature on the engine temperature gauge.  But when the Master Caution Light comes on he gets an immediate surge of adrenaline and is put on alert to check for the specific problem.  First, he will check the temperature gauge.  It is always possible that the gauge is not operating properly, but if indeed there is a rising temperature indicating a possible fire, then he knows to initiate the proper emergency procedures.  He will pull back the throttle to see if that causes the temperature to return within safe limits.  If that doesn’t work then he can shut down the engine and land as soon as possible.

    There is the option of just pressing the Master Caution Light to turn it off or just ignoring it, but any pilot who would do that is jeopardizing his own safety and inviting a disaster.  The designer of the aircraft has built in this safety feature for the purpose of giving the best information on the performance of the aircraft at the earliest possible time.  No pilot who is thinking clearly would choose to ignore the warning signals.  He may not know the immediate cause of the problem, but he knows that responding to this warning is the first step in discovering what may be wrong and choosing to deal with the emergency.

    Can you imagine yourself flying along at 30,000 feet at 450 miles an hour and suddenly seeing the Master Caution Light come on?  Would you ignore it?  Is it there to annoy or restrict you in what you can do, or to save your life?

    The Debriefing

    What do you think the “master caution light” that God has installed in our lives is?  What is the first thing that He uses to get our attention when there is a potential problem in the way we are thinking or living?  It isn’t a light, but it is an inner voice called “our conscience.”  It is the place for the Christian where the Holy Spirit nudges our spirit that we need to make a choice to do right and seek God’s help and not give in to sin. It is the warning sign that we are walking too closely to the edge of trouble or have pressed past that and are establishing harmful habits.

    Most aircraft emergency situations don’t look like they are extremely dangerous to begin with.  The aircraft systems and procedures are designed to minimize those kinds of things, but just one seemingly minor problem not appropriately dealt with can quickly become more complicated and lead to a crash.  That is just the way it is in the rest of life.  Most of the time sin doesn’t look like it is going to immediately destroy our life, but it opens the door to destruction.

    Dad, what were some of the caution lights that lit up on your life dashboard when you were a teenager?  What were the results when you failed to respond right away?

    Can you relate to any of that, son? What temptations do you face that you think are greater than what Dad may have faced as a teen?

    What can Dad pray for you this week?

    Lessons for Flying Higher 

    “My son … fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck (crashed the plane) in regard to their faith.”       I Tim. 1:18,19

    Just like Paul’s instruction to Timothy, his spiritual son, in these verses, we need to be encouraging one another as fathers and sons to fight the good fight and keep our conscience pure.

    “The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse(s) your conscience… to serve the living God.”              Hebrews 9:14

    Prayer: “Father, thank you for Jesus, that his blood is enough to free my conscience from anything that I have done to try and make my life work without God so that I can begin to follow Him with a fresh start.  As I fly through life today, help me be alert to the Master Caution Light which is the voice of your Spirit.”

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    Week 5 – Never Take Your Eyes Off Your Leader

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    The Flight:

    This story goes all the way back to my last check ride in the T-38 supersonic trainer before getting my wings as a full-fledged Air Force pilot.  I can still hear the check pilot’s words ringing in my ears, “I have the airplane! What are you trying to do, kill us both?”  Obviously, this was not my best day in the cockpit, but the lessons that came from this near-disaster are still powerfully clear and helpful.

    The Briefing:

    Flying formation is one of the most challenging and exhilarating experiences of being a pilot.  Flying at speeds up to 500 miles an hour, you have just a few feet separating your wingtip from the lead aircraft.  He is your total frame of reference from the time you taxi onto the runway until the time you return to base.  Your eyes are on him completely.  Even in the clouds, everything you do is in response to his movements.  You don’t even watch your own instruments.

    Formation flying was something that came naturally to me. I loved the challenge and had been doing quite well, so the final check ride was a great chance to advance my class standing to get the flying assignment of my choice.  Because of the danger involved in flying that close to another aircraft at high speeds, the mission is briefed in great detail before takeoff.  On this mission, we would climb to 30,000 feet and enter our assigned airspace and then begin our maneuvers.  We would start with a series of dogfight type exercises with me about a half-mile behind the leader and him trying to lose me with rapid turns, dives and other evasive tactics.

    I was doing so well that the check pilot took control of the aircraft to try a few maneuvers himself.  I was so relaxed that my excessive self-confidence caused me to miss a key radio call from the lead aircraft.  He leveled out and dipped his right wing to signal for me to rejoin him on that side.  We had briefed that we would rejoin at 300 M.P.H.  The normal procedure is to accelerate to 350 and then reduce the power when close enough to come alongside and match his speed.  I wanted to impress the check pilot so I increased my speed to 375 to close in extra fast.

    At that altitude, there isn’t a lot of air to slow the aircraft and the pilot needs very good judgment when to reduce the power and not fly right past the lead aircraft.  Suddenly it became obvious that I was coming in way too fast.  I cut the throttles to idle and dropped the speed brakes, but I knew it wouldn’t be enough.  I thought about doing a roll around the lead aircraft to bleed off the excess speed, but I was still a student and not exactly “top gun” material just yet.  I couldn’t quite picture myself upside down over the lead aircraft.

    The only thing that I could think to do was to roll my plane the other way away from lead and hopefully bleed off enough airspeed to come back up on his wing. That is when the check pilot took control of the airplane and radioed to lead that we had broken out of the formation. My heart sank.  What in the world happened?  It had all been going so well and suddenly for me, the check-ride was over. I had failed.  How?  What was the radio call that I missed?

    Because we had lost so much airspeed in the earlier dog fighting my lead had radioed to change the airspeed to rejoin on his wing from the 300 M.P.H. that we had briefed to 250.  The 375 M.P.H. that I had accelerated to meant that I was going more than a hundred per hour miles faster than he was.  No wonder the rejoin was a hopeless attempt doomed to failure.  Just because a mission is briefed doesn’t mean that the leader can’t change the plan.

    The big mistake on my part was in taking my eyes off the lead aircraft when I rolled my aircraft away from him.  I should have radioed that I was unable to maintain the formation and later attempted another rejoin.  Good communication, both visual and verbal is the key to successfully fulfilling the mission.  I got to fly another formation check-ride later that week.  I was a humbler and more attentive student on that day and did quite well.

    God gives us a lot of truth in His Word for living life right where we are. He gives us a briefing for the mission of life, both for the big picture and for the day-to-day realities of our changing circumstances.  Following Christ and being tuned to the voice of His Spirit is essential to living life as Jesus brings it in all its fullness.  It is exhilarating to fly on another pilot’s wing banking, rolling and racing along at high speeds.  It is even more thrilling to live life with our eyes on Christ as he leads us through life.

    The Debriefing:

    Do you know that if you read less than a chapter a day you would read the entire New Testament in about 6 months?  God’s Word is just that, the living word of the living, loving God.  It is life- changing, life-directing and life-enriching. It is our briefing for the mission of life.

    Dad, why do you read the Bible?  What do you find difficult about spending time in the Bible?

    What has helped you both to do a more consistent job of listening to God?

    Dad, share a verse that has helped guide you at some time in your life?

    Son, take a minute and read John 6:66-69 and see what Jesus’ disciples thought about His words.

    Lessons For Flying Higher

    Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your law.”

    John 10:27 “My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

    Psalm 143:8 “Let me hear of your unfailing love to me in the morning; for I am trusting you.  Show me where to walk for I have come to you in prayer.

    God’s Word helps keep our eyes on Lead.  It also keeps our ears tuned to those unexpected “radio calls” from God’s Spirit. What will you do about reading God’s Word more consistently?

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    Week 4 – The Crash at Tra Bong

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    The Flight

    The C-7A Caribou is one ugly airplane.  It was built by DeHaviland of Canada for operation into extremely short runways or non-standard landing surfaces – like roads, or aluminum plank runways, or grass strips in remote areas.  It was perfectly designed for those situations – if it is flown well.  As I saw the cliff at the end of the runway at Tra Bong approaching far too quickly to stop the airplane, I knew that this Caribou would not fly again and maybe I wouldn’t either.  Let me fill you in on the details.

    For my first assignment as a pilot in Viet Nam, I flew the “Bou”.  It was a great opportunity for a rookie pilot to get his own airplane and learn to fly “by the seat of his pants”.  I had flown enough hours to move from the copilot’s seat into the pilot’s seat when the war brought a sudden turn of events. In one week we had three Caribous shot down while flying in support of a Special Forces camp that had been overrun and was under siege by North Vietnamese troops.

    As a result, our headquarters decided that we needed “more experienced” pilots for the difficulties of flying up north.  What they meant by experience, was senior officers who had been sitting behind a desk for four years and were now on their way to Viet Nam.  We experienced lieutenants who knew how to fly in Viet Nam were put back in the copilot’s seat and told to keep these majors alive.  That was not an encouraging scenario, but we had our orders.

    This went OK until one fateful day flying into the U.S. Special Forces camp at Tra Bong.  Tra Bong was a typical mountain village with terraced rice fields, banana trees, and always lots of happy kids wanting to hang around Americans.  It was usually nice to be there, not much fear of enemy fire, but the rough asphalt strip at Tra Bong presented an equal challenge.  It was only 980 feet long, the shortest field into which we flew.  It couldn’t be made longer because there was a river off one end and a steep drop off the other end.  I had seen pictures of a Caribou that landed short there and had torn off the landing gear. Everyone knew that you didn’t want to land short at Tra Bong.  Of course the opposite was true, too.  The runway was so short that you couldn’t land too far down the runway either or there was not enough runway left to get stopped.

    We were scheduled to make seven trips into Tra Bong that day to provide the essential supplies for the Special Forces.  The first six landings by the major were actually pretty good and I was beginning to change my opinion of these senior pilots.  Then came number seven, the last flight of the day.  A huge thunderstorm had begun to build at the head of the valley and the winds were swirling and unpredictable.  On the first attempt to land we were too high and too fast to touch down and stop safely on this short strip.  So the major went around again for a second attempt at putting us on the ground.

    Although it seemed that we might land a bit long on the second try it appeared do-able.  When we were still 5-10 feet in the air, the major, fearing that we would land too long again, reversed the angle of the propellers.  This should never be done while still in the air.  The props were no longer pulling us forward, but pushing us backward.  My heart was in my throat.  As a copilot, there was nothing I could do.  We slammed into the asphalt and began to bounce forward speeding past precious needed runway.  The major’s alarmed response was to lock the brakes and the aircraft went into a skid. Over the intercom, I told him to release the brakes to stop the skid, but it was too late.  There just wasn’t enough runway left.

    Now, I’m not afraid to die, but I never thought that a great way to go would be to burn to death in an aircraft crash.  I could envision that we would go off the cliff at the end of the runway and the wings would snap.  The cockpit would fill with fuel and we would be toast.  I always thought that if I knew I was going to die that I would say something like, “Here I come, Lord.”  Instead, all I could think was, “What a jerk!” as I saw what the major had done.  I sure am glad those disappointing thoughts, natural as they may have been for the circumstance, were not my last earthly expressions.

    As the Caribou left the runway surface the left main landing gear collapsed and the left propeller dug into the dirt spinning us sideways.  The nose wheel was compressed up into the cockpit. The radio rack came crashing down on top of me.  When I opened my eyes we were suspended on the edge of the cliff.  Still fearing fire, I shut off the engines and the ignition switches.  The major was in shock.  In seconds the local army troops had opened the roof hatch and were pulling us out. The airplane was badly broken, but we were alive.  Gratefully my death visions were not fulfilled.  Only my pride was hurt from my unspiritual response to the situation.

    The major was sent back to flying a desk and within weeks I had my own airplane as the pilot in command. I had also been given something meaningful to think about. How do we deal with situations where we disappoint ourselves by our thoughts, words or actions?  Let’s consider that together.

    The Debriefing:

    When we took off that morning I had no idea what the day would hold.  Today isn’t going to end in an airplane crash for most of us, but it can often bring something unexpected.  How will we respond?  Perhaps even more important, how will we view ourselves when we don’t measure up to how we think we should respond as a follower of Christ?

    Think of a time when your actions or words were less than Christ-like.  Share that now.  After confessing your sin, and receiving God’s forgiveness, how did you deal with your failure?

    In this story was my expectation of myself too high?  How do we set realistic expectations?  What standard do we use?

    How will you prepare yourself for the unknowns of today?  Read the verses below and pray for one another.

    Lessons For Flying Higher:

    I Cor. 15:10  The apostle Paul, looking back on his life before turning to Christ, had to face regrets, but his summary statement was, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”  God’s grace is the only thing that truly allows us to continue to grow and not dwell on our failures.

    II Cor. 12:9  “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is perfected in weakness.”

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    Week 3 – Going Solo

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    The Flight

    I taxied the T-37 jet trainer to a stop near the takeoff end of the runway and shut down the right engine. My instructor opened the canopy, unbuckled his seat belt and climbed over the side.  He stood by the large emergency fire bottle as I restarted the right engine.  He saluted me and turned to walk toward the mobile control unit where he would watch me make my first 3 solo landings in a jet.  I was highly elated and mildly terrified.  Going solo is what he had been preparing me for over the last few weeks, the first major step toward earning my wings as an Air Force pilot.

    I still vividly remember my first flight just in a jet a few weeks earlier.  We were approaching the air base at the end of the mission.  The instructor rolled the aircraft into a steep bank and then rolled out headed directly down the runway 1000 feet in the air at 200 knots (nautical miles per hour).  At midfield, he rolled into another steep 180-degree turn, reduced the power and lowered the speed brake.  When we were below 150 knots he lowered the landing gear and then to combat the added drag he increased power and raised the nose to maintain level flight. As we passed the end of the runway still at 1000 feet he lowered the flaps and began the final turn to land, carefully maintaining the appropriate airspeed.  After rechecking the hydraulic pressure and safe position of the landing gear he radioed for final clearance to land, rolled out of the turn and smoothly raised the nose and cut the power for a perfect landing.  It all happened so fast that I thought that there was no way that I could ever master these most basic skills necessary to fly this airplane myself.  How would I ever solo?

    Desire– I wanted very badly to be a pilot.  At the end of a day, as I watched the T-38 advanced trainers return to the base in sleek 4-ship formation, I knew my goal was to meet the challenges and earn the gleaming silver wings of an Air Force pilot.  Those wings would put me in the running to fly any airplane that the Air Force flew, from air combat to ground support to a multitude of other roles.  Part of a dad’s role is to help his son be in touch with his desires.

    Discipline– For every hour spent in the air learning the manual skills of flying the airplane I had to spend a dozen hours learning emergency procedures, aircraft systems, checklists, aerodynamic principles, local flight rules and on and on.  If my desire was not equaled by my discipline I would never graduate, perhaps never even get to fly solo.  Part of helping a son fulfill his desires for life is to teach him the meaning of discipline.

    Determination– Flying is a complex combination of abilities, both natural and learned.  It requires top physical conditioning for the rigorous challenges.  A pilot must also be emotionally ready to deal with his fears, high stress, and temporary setbacks.  It is hard work and not everyone completes the course.  No one successfully finishes without a high degree of determination that marks the pilot as a man willing to pay a price to reach his goal.  Part of preparing a son to grow to be a man is to help him develop the determination that will meet the challenges and disappointments of life with courage.

    Confidence– A pilot’s confidence grows by mastering the simple skills first – controlling his altitude and airspeed, and then he begins the challenges of aerobatics (loops, rolls, spins) before flying on instruments in the clouds, navigating to other bases, or flying in formation with other aircraft.  “Do I have what it takes?” is a question that continually confronts a boy on the road to manhood.  That doesn’t stop when you reach the age of 21 or are “solo” in life.  It is a lifelong challenge and the confidence to meet that challenge grows one step at a time.

    My instructor in the T-37 was Captain Jerome Benson.  He was a quiet man who never got very excited about things.  He didn’t exactly look the part of a pilot, but he was good, very good. I owe a lot to him for the skills he taught me and for the confidence he instilled in my life so that on the day he stepped out of that airplane I was ready to solo.

    The Debriefing

    I wanted to solo and Captain Benson wanted me to solo, but he knew best when I was ready.  Every solo flight that I took he added some new maneuver for me to try on my own after we had practiced it together.  As a boy, I couldn’t imagine how much my father wanted me to be able to make my own decisions and manage the complexity of life. Perhaps his greatest gift to me was that he believed in me and that confidence prepared me to accept challenges that he never was able to take on himself.

    Son, believe me, your dad wants to see you go solo in life more than you will ever know.  He may seem controlling at times, but part of that is his fear about his ability as a dad, not just about you as a son.   Dad put into your own words what it will mean to see your son go solo in life. 

    Flying Higher Together

    Son, how do these thoughts about being solo relate to you right now?

    Dad, what was it like for you to go solo in life?  What were your fears, failures, and victories?

    John 16:12 Jesus said to His disciples, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”  As Jesus was training His disciples He knew just how much they could handle and when they would be ready for the next challenge.  We can trust His leadership in our lives today.

    Son, are there things that you wish your dad would release to you and let you try right now?  Dad, how can you reasonably respond to his desires and agree on some standards that may make it possible to show your confidence in your son’s readiness at the appropriate time.

    John 14:16 Jesus said to His disciples, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth.”

    In the Christian life, we are never completely solo.  As we learn to walk by faith and grow in wisdom, God gives us more and more freedom in the choices that we make.  His Holy Spirit will never leave us or forsake us.  He is the perfect sign that God is sending us solo without abandoning us.

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    Week 2 – I’m in a Spin – Inverted!

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    The Flight:

    An aircraft in a spin is terribly disorienting and occasionally a little scary.  The plane is out of control and falling like a rock at nearly 3 miles a minute. Picture a model airplane with a pencil stuck vertically through one of the wing tips, spinning around the pencil and headed down fast, making a complete rotation about once a second.  Somehow this day my aircraft also ended up inverted (upside down) while it was falling.  Let me tell you about it.

    Teaching students how to enter and safely recover from a spin in a T-37 jet trainer is actually a rather simple procedure – as long as there is enough altitude.  For that reason, the instructor pilot makes sure he is at least 18,000 feet (over 3 miles) above the ground to teach spin recovery procedures.  To enter a spin you reduce the power and raise the nose of the aircraft about 60º.  This creates a stall condition where there is no longer have enough airspeed to create adequate lift to keep flying.  When the control stick is all the way back and the aircraft begins to stall the pilot extends his leg to put in full rudder (the control surface on the tail that moves the nose left or right) and when the nose of the aircraft drops the aircraft also begins to spin.

    A normal spin recovery is initiated by fully depressing the opposite rudder control to stop the spinning.  Then the pilot puts the control stick full forward to put the aircraft into a dive.  The airspeed increases and breaks the stall condition so that you can then recover from the dive.  At least that is the way it is supposed to work.

    This particular day I was flying with a student who was a former NCAA heavyweight wrestler.  He was so big the aircraft always seemed to lean to the left when I flew with Larry.  After practicing other aerobatic maneuvers I asked him to set up for a spin entry and recovery.  Everything initially went very well.  We entered the spin at about 20,000 feet.  When the aircraft stalled Larry put in full left rudder and the nose fell below the horizon and began to rotate.  It takes a while to get used to the fact that half of what you can see through the canopy is the earth quickly coming up at you in a wildly spinning manner. Part of the value of spin training is the confidence it creates for the student to handle the aircraft without fear in any situation.  However, my fear factor was about to go up!

    With the spin established I told Larry to initiate the recovery.  He slammed in the right rudder to break the rotation and one full rotation later put the control stick full forward.  The nose dropped into a dive.  As the airspeed approached 250 mph I told him to pull out of the dive.  No response.  When we were almost headed straight down I told him that I was taking control of the aircraft, again no response.  He was frozen with fear and had a powerful death grip on the control stick.   With both hands, I could not wrestle it from him.

    The airplane passed through a vertical dive and became inverted.  Because he was also locked in on full right rudder we reentered a stall and began to spin the opposite direction, now completely upside down.  There was no way to eject from the aircraft in this position.  I was quickly running out of options.  I could not overpower him and in such a panicked state he no longer heard me.  What would you do?

    I reached over, grabbed his oxygen hose and gripped it as tightly as I could with my left hand.  With no more oxygen reaching him, his instinctive response was to grab at his mask with both hands.  I reverse the controls and the aircraft went into a steep dive as it regained enough airspeed to begin flying again.  We were well below the 10,000-foot ejection altitude suggested for a jet aircraft that was out of control, but at least I could bring us back to level flight.  I decided that we had done enough spinning for the day and told the student to head back to base and practice some landings – safe ones.

    For a pilot operating at higher altitudes, oxygen is his lifeline.  Without it there is a slow and subtle loss of ability to think and perform well.  We check our oxygen supply and equipment before we take off and regularly while in flight.  This day, my ability to momentarily cut off my student’s oxygen became a lifesaver. Are you ready to do a little oxygen check yourself?

    The Debriefing:

    Oxygen.  While reading this story you probably didn’t even stop to think about your need for oxygen.  The natural process of inhaling and exhaling automatically provided all that you required. Our souls need “spiritual oxygen” just as much as our lungs need the air we breathe.

    What is spiritual oxygen for the Christian?  What provides life for our souls?

    Have you ever been at a place where you felt something was keeping you from getting what your soul needed to survive in a healthy way?

    In the same way that I cut off my student’s oxygen to save our lives, what can the enemy of our souls do to cut off our spiritual oxygen and weaken our walk with God?

    Dad, was there a time that you were low on spiritual oxygen?  What did you do to get control of the situation and recover from your spin?

    Take a minute to read these verses and pray about any steps that you can both take to keep flying higher.

    Lessons For Flying Higher:

    Psalm 1:2,3 “His delight is in the Law of the Lord and in His Law he meditates day and night.  He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

    Luke 18:1 “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.”

    Heb. 3:13 “Therefore encourage one another day after day while it is still called today lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”