Monday, August 5, 2013


   A Bucket List. I believe that everyone has one and our DNA determines both how long it is and what’s on it. Not only is mine long but it continues to get longer. Check one more thing off of my list or at least put an asterisk next to it. I took a flying lesson.
   From that period as a child when my brothers and I would jump off of a mound of earth hanging onto a big piece of cardboard (way before hang gliding was invented) to marrying the daughter of a pilot, I have loved the idea of learning to fly. Last September I purchased an online coupon for a discounted flying lesson at a local airport. As life happens there never seemed to be an acceptable alignment of circumstances to use it before it expired in June. I had to use it or lose it. I make the appointment and show up the last week, on a day when the wind was blowing 30 mph with gusts! After the pre-flight orientation we roll the aircraft out of its hanger, climb aboard, taxi down the runway, turn and begin the 36 minute flight. Just getting off of the ground was a trick accomplished only by turning the plane slightly sideways to compensate for the crosswinds. I take the controls, cross the Chesapeake Bay, turn around and return to the airstrip. Upon the approach my instructor resumes control and brings us safely home. The flight fits firmly into the category of a “white knuckle” experience: watching the altimeter, airspeed indicator, altitude indicator while being bumped, dipped, buffeted and bounced around, listening to the instructor and enjoying the sights! The asterisk is for the yet-to-be-determined future of flying lessons.
   Junior High School (I’m showing my age). Reading class. Mrs. Holder. She had a nickname: Hawkeye Holder. It was well deserved! You couldn’t blink without it attracting her attention and then she was fond of using a ruler but not for geometry. She survived the years and excelled in her discipline because of her keen powers of observation; a lesson not lost on me.
   The day of the flight only one person knew where I was, a friend who agreed to take the pictures. Because the takeoff what so hair raising, I did two things: first, I thought about the fact that we could crash and die and my wife would not even know it; second, I asked the instructor, “How many people under these conditions say, ‘Take me back to the hanger!’?” I am taking serious mental notes about the experience because I felt like it was just another day in ministry.
   Of late I have begun to understand some patterns of human behavior based upon personal process and observation. I have become my Reading Teacher. There was more to the flight than the flight. There was the compulsion for flight that had nothing whatever to do with altimeters and flap controls! Consequently, I am gaining increased insight into the conduct of Biblical characters and patterns of behavior among spiritual leaders. When we planted twenty years ago, we were followed by several others within a couple of years. They were friends, confidants, fellow laborers and golfing companions. Only one of them survived beyond five years.
   New experiences that we aspire to, regardless of whether it is a new career, a new church or a marriage begin the same; on a note of exhilaration! We’re excited, the future is bright, everything and everyone are wonderful. We can’t wait for the next day, the next assignment, the next experience in the journey. We’re pumped. We’re excited. We’re the poster children for whatever it is. This is what we have lived for. This is what we were created for. This is our place in the universe! It just doesn’t get any better than this. (The Apostles had to feel the same way immediately after answering the call to follow Jesus.) Then we climb into the cockpit and attempt to take off in 30 mph crosswinds. Honeymoons are awesome, but they are not what life is made for... (to be continued)