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:     )

Thursday, May 1, 2014

VICTORY - Finishing Last

I saw him sitting on the bench after the game, head down, weeping silently while the arena went wild with applause and cheering. The camera stayed on him for just a moment, a very tall young man, nice looking, apparently exhausted,  a college basketball player whose team had just lost their game in the United States collegiate basketball finals. 

The camera quickly swung on to members of the winning team, exultantly jumping in the air, fists raised, smiling and laughing, and the camera then panned to the crowd, cheering wildly and  celebrating Victory.

But my thoughts returned to that young man who was still feeling the sinking feeling of losing the big game. 

It brought to mind a statement by Sharon Pollock,  Canadian playwright who said: "There is nobility in the struggle, you don't have to win."

In today’s experience, we live in a world of competition, a general atmosphere of “Who is the best”?  “Who will be the greatest”?
Of course in sports that is a natural instinct.   But in business, politics, game shows, even on television cooking shows, it is always one person or group pitted against another!!    Everything seems to be a contest… a test to determine who is the smartest, most capable, most talented, best looking, funniest, and we even judge dogs to see which is the “best in show”!!  Never mind the nobility in the struggle, it is WIN or else!!

As I thought about that young basketball player I considered how tragic it is that we sometimes miss out on the important things in life, limit ourselves and others, maybe even our own children by focusing only on the winners.  This young man had played his heart out, persisted, played well, fairly and with enthusiasm, yet he seemed defeated.

It brought to mind the Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska. This grueling race covers approximately 1050 miles across the frozen tundra  from Anchorage to Nome, a trip that takes from 8 to 35 days, depending on the weather and the team’s progress.    Teams generally race through blizzards causing whiteout conditions, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill factor to reach −100 °F (−73 °C).  With dogs pulling their sleds, fighting against the elements, they endure hardships all for the sake of being named the winner.

But, interestingly enough, in that race, realizing how rigorous it 
is, they also honor the last team across the Finish Line!!  Finishing last at the Iditarod means that the “Musher” wins the Red Lantern award.   Indeed, finishing last means that the Musher and dog team persevered, kept going despite the odds, kept the faith, demonstrated strength and endurance. Aren’t these the Winning qualities we all strive for?

For those who are open and receptive to lessons learned and written for our benefit by our ancestors, the Bible has some solid counsel.   Jesus of Nazareth told a story about humility.  It was about a man being invited to a feast.  Jesus said:   “When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.’   Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left."

 “When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ What I’m saying is, if you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”  *1

Mary Baker Eddy, writing on the subject of personal pride, the potential downfall of winners, said:  “Two personal queries give point to human action: Who shall be greatest?  And, Who shall be best? Earthly glory is vain; but not vain enough to attempt pointing the way to heaven, the harmony of being. The imaginary victories of rivalry and hypocrisy are defeats.“ *2

As we contemplate winning and losing in this human experience,  it is well to think of this counsel.  If we live our lives humbly, with the goal of loving one another, being faithful, kind, selfless, generous, with persistence and courage, we ARE winners.  Living our lives so as to be a reflection of our Father’s infinite qualities of Love, Principle and intelligence, even if we finish last in the daily contests, we will still be a Victor!!

Jesus, who when choosing between winning or finishing last in a human sense, was tempted in his own thought, the temptation came that he could be King of the Jews, that all of the kingdoms of the world could be his,*4  but he told that Satan of evil suggestion to "Get Thee Hence" and he chose to be a servant, a foot washer of his disciples,  humbly serving mankind and his Heavenly Father.  And, he was the Victor.  

In  Jesus own words: “... many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." *3 

* 1  LUKE 14: 7-11 (The Message Translation)
* 2  Miscellaneous Writings 267:3-7 Mary Baker Eddy
* 3 Mark 10:31