Saturday, May 17, 2014


The klaxon rang loudly across the flight line at the U.S. Air Force Base, located some miles south of the North Pole.  At this air defense operation, well north of the radar net that is the Defense Early Warning system protecting North America,  our job was to protect the North American Continent while our citizens were sleeping soundly, or going about their daily routines, unaware that we were even there, or of our mission.

On this dark and frigid day, the alert came through our radio speakers loudly… Red Alert.. Red Alert.. Scramble Red.   

As an air traffic controller realizing that dense ice fog clung to the ground, visibility and ceiling were below legal landing “minimums,  my heart began to race.  The young fighter pilots did not have a choice, they had to go, the country was depending on them.

As the alert hanger doors opened and the 2 F102’s interceptor aircraft, Razor Red One and Two,  began to taxi, the lead pilot, voice stressed, yelled into the microphone that he couldn’t see anything, outside of the cockpit canopy.   He was led out to the runway by a Follow Me truck  and the two jets  made their turn, hopefully to line up with the long runway, then lit off the afterburners, pushed throttles completely forward,  and streaked down the runway  through the ice fog and darkness, climbing to meet the intruders.

At this northern most air base, the nighttime and total darkness lasts for many months and these pilots, depending on their ability to precisely follow their instruments and on the skills of the controllers, those calm voices guiding them, took off and climbed out.

Thinking back to that day recently,  it reminded me of another early experience.  Two years before the far north incident, stationed at an air base in Mississippi, situated just a few blocks from the U.S. Gulf Coast, we received reports of an approaching  hurricane.

The base aircraft were all ordered to leave immediately and to fly to a safer location hundreds of miles north of the coast. As I watched them take them depart I was amazed at their rate of climb. The winds had already picked up to about  60 mph and as the aircraft took off into the wind they climbed almost vertically, not nose up but just being lifted vertically by the force of the headwind, as if they were on an invisible elevator.

Also noticeable  was that as their landing gear left the runway,their last contact with earth, and the gear retracted into the fuselage, they climbed even higher, faster.   

As I left the base that day and went home to await the storm in a very small mobile home in a trailer park that an "airman last class" could afford, very close to the coast, I learned more about demonstrating courage and overcoming gloom and darkness.  Most of the airmen on base were protected in the concrete  barracks but I lived off-base with my wife and we had nowhere else to go. 

Through the hurricane, which devastated a lot of the coastal area, my
wife and I clung to each other, praying, as the mobile home shook and rattled on its flimsy foundation.  We made it safely through and felt God’s presence throughout the storm.

All of these experiences have been so helpful to me in relating them to how God provides protection and uplift in times of gloom and doom. They help us better understand God and our protection, in proving that we can trust more and be less frightened by conditions outside of our control. 

Here’s a summary of what I have learned.
·     That God, the Creator, our Father, as described in the Bible by Christ Jesus, is a very present help in trouble.  That God is Spirit, not material, not a human form sitting somewhere in space, but the essence of Spirit, unseen perhaps, but FELT by everyone who turns away from material sense of existence to seek the spiritual reality.    (God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  (John 4:24)   

·       That we can listen to the quiet voice of the controller for takeoff, climb and a safe landing.  Turning to God, that still small voice that calmly guides us through the fog of materiality, giving a clear signal when the outside noises of matter are silenced, is a safe navigation aid. (And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. (Isaiah 30 :21))

·       That we can face headwinds of trouble; lack of finance, love and understanding; illness, fear, sin and death because the once frightening headwinds put lift in our wings and help us climb higher spiritually. Those winds are an earthly phenomena, but God is Spirit, Love, untouched by matter and the whirlwind of mortal reasoning.  Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5))
    That when our landing  gear comes off the runway, when we turn loose of that last contact with earthly thinking, stop clinging desperately to a material sense of life,  and reach out to fly higher spiritually, we are lifted up even faster, higher.   As we release our tight hold on a material sense of life and existence, we begin to soar into an atmosphere of thought where fog dissipates and the sunshine of clear thinking reveals our true sense of life.

We can rejoice in our inevitable growth spiritward, to understand our own true identity as “the image and likeness” of God, knowing that we are not separate from God, but that  in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.  (Acts 17:28)    as the Apostle Paul observed. 

We don’t have to go somewhere else, at some other time or to some other place to be God’s image and likeness, we are there NOW.  Safe, Guided, Serene.

I love a poem written by John Greenleaf Whittier contained as a hymn in the Christian Science Hymnal.   It often helps me clear my thought in times when I seem to be flying “on instruments”, almost written for a pilot or air traffic controller, or anyone who feels that they are flying blind in the face of earth’s storms.  

Just for a moment, please sit with me here in the cockpit with those courageous young fighter pilots as we race down life’s runway, and sing with them:

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on.
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

Safe flight and happy landings.  God is whispering in your ear...  "Life is eternal, TRUST ME!!!"

(I loved a blog written by Kate Robertson that showed her love for this special poem as well.  Here is a link:     )


Anonymous said...

Great ideas and so needed! Thanks for your inspired sharing!

Melissa Hayden said...

Thanks Pat, love the stories and their application.