Tag Archives: flying

Wings Like a Dove…

And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” -Psalm 55:6

Sometimes, these have to be told.

As I pulled my car into the Medical Center parking lot, the reason for the appointment wasn’t really on my mind. The modern brick façade was new enough to make you feel as if there was a certain level of unguaranteed trust, whether or not it was warranted. The entrance was as grand and intricately decorated as any five-star hotel. Lush vegetation covered detailed landscaped gardens that lined the building’s edges. As my eyes followed the beauty of the architecture and fauna, I suddenly spied an opening. There were several spots right up front, but it became clear most of them were handicap. Luckily, there was one just next to the last blue stenciled spot. My appointment was not for another hour, so I backed into the space and leaned the seat back; time for a quick nap.

The morning sun had just reached the top of the trees nearby, and soon I was gone.

It wasn’t long before the next thing I knew, I was on a plane returning from where I had come. The flight was overbooked, so finding a seat was difficult. This airline policy was simply, “First come, first served,” so if you find a seat, take it, no matter where it was on the plane. I pushed through the crowd and eventually found a seat near the front. The businessman seated next to me began to ask me questions about the purpose of my trip. Exhausted, I tried my best to give him my undivided attention but soon found myself drifting off once again. The hum of the jet engines melded with the man’s voice and became one.

Yet, once more, I found myself returning to the previous Medical Center parking lot, or at least I thought I was. This time, I reached the place where my car had been earlier, but now it was gone. An immediate slice of panic swept over my mind. “Had my car been towed,” I thought, trying to recall what had transpired since my last visit. There at the end of the marked spot were signs indicating Reserved Spaces, which only those specific numbered decals were allowed to be used. Again, the anxiety of not finding my car raced through my consciousness until the realization of what I was doing became apparent.

There would be no need for the car.

From that point on, I tried to find the elaborate entrance, but it too was missing. My flight path soon took me from one similarly decorated building after another. The complex all seemed to match as did many of the newer office parks these days. Eventually tired of sight-seeing, I glided into a European style restaurant with stucco rock walls, dark wood chair rails, and white tablecloths. The people dining didn’t’ seem to mind me hovering over the tables. Before long I found a waiter that gave me directions to the correct building. Assuring me that I was not totally lost, he said it was simply up the hill and around the corner. Carefully I turned and began floating toward the door. It was more challenging to fly in a restaurant than you might think. Your arms and legs have to be accounted for because they are now at table height instead of at your side or beneath you as when you walk. In my previous flights across fields and trees, there was no fear of bumping into something. Back in those days, it was simply a matter of maintaining altitude. Where your arms and legs were located mattered little. In fact, most of the time, in those days, I was flapping or kicking them to keep going. If one thing had changed, it was definitely the ability to control my aeronautical maneuvers. Never before would it have been possible to fly so steadily indoors, especially in a dining facility without knocking over a whole table of food. We often take for granted what we use in navigating our way through an eating establishment. It’s nice to have an appropriate aisle through which to walk, but flight paths rarely considered. In addition, you just can’t zip up to the ceiling and be on your way. No, there are ceiling fans with which care must also be taken. When I eventually found my way back outside, it was with a great sigh of relief that I quickly flew toward the correct building for which I had previously searched.

There it was, the grand entrance.

Carefully, I made my way through the automatic doors. The hiss of their opening seemed to pull me in; softly and silently. The foyer was as beautiful as the outside. A splendid chandelier hung over the marble floor. The sunlight through the surrounding glass walls gleamed off the floor making it seem almost like the sky opened up below me instead of above. A wide staircase flowed from an upper room down to the glowing floor, along which an intricately woven metal handrail stood.

“We’re so glad you made it back,” the doctor said as he walked down the stairs toward the bottom step. His voice was like many at once, yet saying nothing out loud.  I hadn’t noticed him when I first entered. He was wearing a typical white doctor’s smock that seemed to radiate with light.

I carefully alit in a standing position from my flying position upon the glass-like floor. In the back of my mind, something said, “That was a first.” Never before had I landed on my feet when having taken flight; at least not successfully without waking myself. Usually, there was an ugly near crash and then that moment when you awaken having shaken yourself out of the dream. Yet, this time was different.

Standing there in the glow of the Great Physician, there was a completeness about it all. Somehow, I didn’t fear what he was about to tell me nor did I seem to want for anything; it was as if all was well with anything and everything.

“You are healed,” He said.

A joy came over me like nothing I had ever known before.

The faint glow of the morning sun was just beginning to filter through the bedroom windows when I opened my eyes.

It was Saturday, and there was so much to do. I sat up on the edge of the bed and thought about what had just transpired. There was an incredible longing to return to that place, that feeling. Turning, I looked back at the softness of the pillow, then turned to face the day.

God would welcome me home, just not today.

Thanks be to God.

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Faith in Flight…

And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.” – Joel 2:28

Major Dowd and his crew rushed into our Avionics Shop early one morning barely giving the on duty NCO to call the room to order. “Never mind men, at ease,” he hurriedly commanded.

I was standing at the test bench going over some equipment that had come in during the previous night’s routine airplanemaintenance. He looked in my direction, “Grab your flight bag, you’re coming with me Airman.” A lump instantly grew in my throat the size of a watermelon. It seemed the only time a maintenance crew member got to fly was when there was a plane so broken, that the only way to reproduce the problem was to take her, the aircraft, into flight. Before I could reply, “Yes sir,” MSgt Hall spoke up, “I better go too sir.” He looked at me and winked then turned back to the Major, “She’s been giving us a fit on the ground so it will take two of us.”

“That’ll be fine,” the Major replied, “Meet me on the flight-line in 30 minutes and we’ll take her up.”

“Yes sir,” we both replied.

The Major and his entourage turned and departed. Sergeant Hall turned around and grinned that Missippi toothy smile at me, “Don’t worry, it’ll be fun.”

All I could do was shake my head and bite my lip. Yes, I was in the Air Force, but the truth was, I hated flying.

Growing up, I had repeated dreams of flying in the most unconventional manner. It seemed each time I would take flight as if I were swimming in the air. However, instead of flapping my arms, my altitude was always maintained by kicking my legs. Many times my preferred dream aircraft was an old tire swing. Unfortunately, in almost every dream, it would end in a downward death spiral, one that I could not control. Each time I would wake up on impact, breathless but still recalling the thrill of the flight, if only a few seconds afterward.

Later in life, I would continue to dream, but not as often of flying. My dreams would turn to things that pertained to my life and what sometimes might lie ahead. When writing, I would turn to God and pray for an answer to where my plot line might need to go. I would wait for a sign or a word. Many times, the answer would come to me in a dream or vision. Today, I still draw my inspiration from dreams, and so it was with this story.

That particular day the Major came into our shop, we loaded into the SINCSAC’s plane. It would eventually be the same plane General Schwarzkopf would command from during the beginning of Desert Storm and during the Gulf War. Needless to say, this was mainly the reason for the Major’s hasty visit to our shop that morning and our immediate orders for in-flight repair; it was a crucial plane.

We climbed into the command quarters of the prestigious aircraft and took a quick survey. The aft section of the plane contained a comfortable sleeping quarters and conference room fit for any General. There was even a full-blown kitchen with a menu of steak and lobster; nothing was spared for the top brass. The flight crew showed us to our seats. Unlike any other KC-135, these were plush commander-in-chief type seats, complete with covered head and armrests. The sergeant and I buckled into the nicest seating we’d ever know and prepared for the flight from hell.

We knew in advance that there was a problem with porpoising. Porpoising was the gentle arcing of a plane during autopilot. Plus or minus fifty feet was within specifications, which is what she had tested on the ground. Yet, the flight crew was reporting severe porpoising, nothing like we were saying we found; thus the surprise flight. As the plane climbed to altitude, we were well over the base were I was stationed at Warner Robbins Georgia. Below, through the pilots window, we watched as all of Georgia spread out before us prior to Major Dowd issuing the command, “Ready gentlemen,” he said to his crewmen. It was then I noticed the flight engineer grab the edge of the command center wall.

Something bad was about to happen, I could just sense it.

When God calls us, we often run and hide. We find our hell becomes the world we are creating in order to avoid his call. We find our lives slowly beginning to spiral down, down, down. We push away until all is lost.

Many are called, but few are chosen.”

My mind raced back to those childhood dreams and the death spirals. I pushed them away and listened as the Major then spoke to Sergeant Hall and myself as he looked back toward our seats, “I’m going to engage the autopilot now, you may want to brace yourselves. You’ll see what we mean when we say it’s out of specs.”

My hell was about to become real. Had I run until it was too late? Was this my wake up call?

Initially, there was only a minor jolt. “Hmm, not so bad I thought,” as I looked over at Sergeant Hall. He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders, as if to say, “I don’t see any problem either.”

Then before our thoughts could allude any further separation from the truth, there was the feeling of your stomach climbing into your mouth as we looked out the front window to the horror of only the ground below in our sight. We had begun a complete nose-dive. In fact, we seemed to be headed straight for a Kamikaze strike upon my mobile home below, sitting in the on-base Trailer Park.

God, is this it,” I thought to myself as I looked at Sergeant Hall who was beginning to turn green.

In the next instance, there was nothing but blue sky in the windshield as our stomachs went from our throats down to our ankles.

There was an immediate sensation that I was about to lose my breakfast.

How embarrassing,” were the stifled thoughts as I watched Hall scramble to unleash his seatbelt. He was beginning to turn green himself.

The plane continued the death spiral to near stall climb, over and over. Meanwhile, Hall inched is way over to the equipment rack. Nearby, the flight engineer took his seat. Later I would learn that flight engineer’s prided themselves on standing the entire flight; all but this one of course.

We had learned in Tech. School that the one thing you never, ever wanted to do to the autopilot equipment was to bang on it, ESPECIALLY while in flight. Our equipment was created in the 1950s and as such, contained tubes. They had not yet transitioned to digital flight components. Part of the reason they had not been upgraded was because of the ability of the amplifiers to withstand nuclear pulses. So, if you jarred one of the primary controllers tubes hard enough, you could send the plane into an unpredictable attitude. Meaning, we could turn upside down and crash!

It was then I watched in horror as Sergeant Hall began beating upon the main control amp in desperation to release us from the prison the Major had purposely imposed upon us in order to gain an understanding that the plane was definitely still broken. It was then the thought passed through my mind, “Would the Major really try to kill us all just to prove his point? Surely not,” I answered in a not so confirming reply.

I closed my eyes and prayed. Swirling death spirals returned to my mind. I prayed harder.

Sometimes, when all is lost, the only recourse we have left is prayer and our faith. When Waldensians, the people of the valleys of the Cottien Alps, were released from their prison cells the size of modern day wash machines, their emaciated bodies were then forced to march 128 miles to Switzerland during the middle of winter. They had been imprisoned for their refusal to abjure their faith. Three thousand left for their freedom. Over 400 died along the journey. They recalled to those Swiss waiting for them with open arms, as a heroes welcome, “Faith in God is all we had.”

So it is in the darkest hour, we often find, faith is all we have left.

The plane jerked, then jolted and suddenly the porpoising ceased; at least for the moment.

“That’s it,” Sergeant Hall quickly reported to the Major, “You’ve got a bad Op Amp.”

“But I thought you said you already replaced it,” replied Dowd.

“Sure enough,” Hall responded, the color now returning to his forehead. “Well, this one must have been defective. You know how this old stuff can act up.”

The Major smiled and nodded. “I’ll turn off the autopilot just to be safe and take us back home.”

We all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

God had once more answered prayer.

The sergeant looked at me and whistled a quiet reprieve out of view of the flight crew on the others side of the wall from the equipment rack, wiping his forehead with his forearm. We both knew we were lucky to be alive.

When we landed, the sergeant requested the entire system be replaced. We called that “Shotgun” maintenance, meaning that if you don’t know for sure what the problem is, you just take a shotgun’s blast approach and replace it all.

I was never so thankful to be back on the ground once again.

We recalled the adventure to the rest of the Avionics shop, and they all agreed it was the best move, but none could believe that Sergeant Hall had actually pounded on the Op Amp, and we survived.

Looking back, I know that all through my life, even in the darkest hour, God was always there. Even when I was not seeking Him, He was still there for me, with me and watching over me. As it says in the 139th Psalms, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.”

Nowadays, my flights are few and far between, both those imagined and real. But today, my walk with the Lord is ever more close as I seek Him in all that we do. Yes, those dreams of old were there to serve a purpose, and those to come will do likewise. All we have to do is to listen and He will direct our paths.

Thanks be to God.

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