Spotting God in Action

He leaves us neither alone, nor defenseless. Instead, he gives us light to shine in the darkest places. Using stories from aviation, space, and life I write about God working through ordinary people like us.
Hope it encourages you to look up, not down; forward, not back.

Complications – Fixing Pipes and Publishing Books

publishing books—title page of book manuscript

One of my favorite things to do is spend an afternoon in a book store that also has a coffee shop. From thousands of titles, I pick a dozen candidates to consider. Then I order a cafe-americano accompanied by a scone and sit to choose one. Or two. Or maybe three. That simple small-table haven makes the whole book thing seem uncomplicated. Publishing books, however, is not.

Recently, I pitched my new SciFi novel, The Perelandra Paradox-Discovery (first of a three-part series) to a book publishing agent. First hope, then no joy. So, on to the next agent. Discouragement tempted me but a few days later, life reminded me that publishing books is a complex affair. read more ...

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1. If You Can?

3D picture of this book

The candidates [potential MAF missionaries] arrived today, wide-eyed and willing to believe anything we tell them. But we know that after a few months struggling with bad weather, civil disturbances, poor communications, cross-cultural frustration, lost mail, and a leaky cylinder, their sharp belief will take on a fuzzy edge. Embarrassing feelings will pop up from beneath the swamp of weariness and frustration as they struggle to keep the faith.

A desperate father once cried out to Jesus, “… if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

Jesus replied, “`If you can?’ Everything is possible for him who believes.”

The honest father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” When we confess the truth, the Lord carries us, while, at the same time, demanding deeper faith.

While He’s holding your program together, what gauntlet of impossible belief has He thrown down before you?

Jeremiah 33:3 1 John 1:9 Mark 9:14-29 Ephesians 3:20-21

Excerpt from Call For News-Reflections of a Missionary Pilot

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I Used to Be Cool

a cool F-15C jet aircraft flying low

My friend, Ivan, shared this video (03:53) of his USAF unit conducting F-15C low-level training in Wales, UK. Then he sighed and said, “I used to be cool.” His comment struck deep because I felt both his messages.

First, what Ivan did was cool. An elite team selected him from a multitude of applicants. They spent a lot of money and risked their lives to train him. Then, they sent him out to fly multi-million dollar, supersonic aircraft worldwide, trusting him to defend honor, hearth, and home. His daily work was the photogenic essence of great stories. Many dream of that mantle, but few ever wear it.

Second, after a whole career of daily significance, he confessed his retirement felt less important, not so cool.

I used to do cool stuff, too. For almost two decades, I flew out on the pointy end of the ministry spear. A rigorous selection process granted me membership in an elite team. Then they, too, spent thousands of dollars and risked their lives training me to throw a ton and a half of aluminum at mud strips you wouldn’t drive your car on (if you could get it there).

Our team provided the Amazon Jungle’s indigenous people with their only alternate travel option—walk for days or fly for minutes. We impacted someone’s life every day. We saved someone’s life every week. The heady wine of significance became the color of daily life.

After returning home, I was happy to help the team from afar. But I never noticed withdrawal setting in. I accepted, without conscious choice, that my life and work were now ordinary, average, second class. In other words, I was no longer cool.

It took me a long time to see it. My feelings were real enough. But my thinking rested on the lie that said my value was only as good as what I acquired, produced, or accomplished. If I did cool stuff, I was cool. If not, well . . .

The truth is, God designed me even before he made the world. He sent me for birth at precisely the right time, free to choose—or not—to fulfill my purpose. He formed me in his image and gave me everything needed to succeed. But I, myself, brought no ability or quality to the table.

Even so, after I rejected him and his plan, he loved me so much that he sent his Son, Jesus, to pay for my failure. His sacrifice demonstrated how much he valued me—and every other person on the planet.

So, yeah, we’re cool because God says so. That’s what Easter is all about.

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Foggles Focus Practice on Good Days for the Bad Days

Focusing on an aerial view of farm land from banked airplane

My view focused on God’s good Earth

On a bouncy Spring morning, cotton-ball clouds topped the mountains edging our valley. The glistening Snake River cut through rich green, and brown fields that tipped and turned below. Mesmerized, I thought it almost too beautiful to waste on work. Better a dreary day, overcast and gray to focus on the business at hand.

I worked my flight student hard. “Climb and maintain 5,000 feet,” I commanded, mimicking Air Traffic Control. “Turn right to [a] heading [of] 340 [degrees]. Report reaching PARMO intersection.” He repeated the instructions and maneuvered the airplane. read more ...

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Time: Liquid, Eternal, and Vacation

Rome’s emperors spent time, money, and the lives of thousands to ensure their immortality.

 

Time’s a funny thing. On one hand, it seems so absolute, unalterable, a one-way arrow to which we are all irrevocably tied.

On the other hand, we all perceive it differently. For example, I know time as a pilot—tangible, measurable, available in limited, finite quantities. Here in Rome, the “Eternal City”, I find ample evidence of those who judged it differently. They considered themselves exempt from its constraints. Their best efforts at immortality, however, served only to produce tourist revenue and archeological delight.

I’ll be back next week to explore some aspect of flight—in the air, space or imagination—as a metaphor on life. This week, however, my honey and I are on vacation confirming the ancient wisdom that says, “life’s too short to drink bad coffee.”

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How to Handle the Weight of Command

Messy traffic in a central asian intersection

Sometimes the simplest jobs get messy.

Our driver weaves the van right to pass the truck but dips back.  The truck slides right, so our driver moves left. Still not clear, he trails again behind the swaying load. Another peek to the right reveals open space. He accelerates into the lane. But a motorcycle pulls up behind, then passes on our right running along the pavement’s edge. At the same time, a bus appears around the bend ahead, filling the opposing lane, bearing down upon us.

The honking motorcycle races forward clearing our finder by an inch, then threads the shrinking gap between bus and truck. Our driver drops back into the shelter behind the truck as the bus speeds through the vacated space. A few minutes later our driver successfully exploits a fresh opportunity but then brakes as a farm tractor meanders onto the highway. The truck instantly looms close behind, blasts an air horn but doesn’t drop back. read more ...

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How the Summer Solstice Reveals the Big Picture

Because the Earth’s axis is tilted, it passes 4 special points every year. Image credit: By Tauʻolunga – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=927635

I’m on an overseas assignment this month. Yesterday morning, when I walked outside onto the porch, something felt strange. I stepped to the edge and looked up at the overcast sky. A bright area of the clouds bathed my face with heat. Bright heat? How could that be? I faced north. I opened my iPhone’s compass app. Checked. Yep, that was north. But, the Sun never shines from the north. Unless…

I checked the time—10:30 AM. Then the date—June 20th. I knew I was north of the equator, so only one explanation remained. What I observed meant I was standing south of the Tropic of Cancer. Sometime during the next day or two, the Earth, on its way around the Sun, would pass a point called the Summer Solstice. read more ...

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Lagrange Points—Orbits to Nowhere

Milky Way in night sky above a lake shore

Without gravity, everything we see here—water, trees, rocks, and stars—would fly apart

Gravity glues our universe together. Without it, neither we nor any life could exist. The Earth spins at just over 1,000 miles per hour at the equator. Without gravity, anything loose on the surface like water, cars, picnic tables, and people would immediately fly off into space. Without gravity, Earth couldn’t keep an atmosphere. As soon as it drifted free from the surface, the fierce solar wind would blast it away. Without gravity the Sun itself would expand, dissipating in a fine, cold mist of dust and gas.  read more ...

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Reentering the In-between Place

computer map of airliner flight path over canada

When I lifted the window-shade we were just leaving eastern Canada for the icy north Atlantic.

The cabin’s dark. All shades down. I’m up from my middle seat in a B-777 mid-section, pacing the aisle amidst a couple hundred sleepers. Like river rapids, air rushing over our fuselage blankets all other sounds and provides a steady background for the occasional snort, sneeze, or snuffle. I feel alone in the silent crowd. Unnoticed. Unseen.

I move to the open space dividing Economy from Business Class and stand before the sealed exit. Carefully I stoop down, shielding the tiny window with my body. I slide my thumb under the lip of the plastic shade and slowly push up. A half-inch. A full inch. A thin, brilliant wedge of sunshine explodes. Dare I open it more? I must. Cloud tops tantalize, draw me. I look at the slumbering forms to my left. All wear eye masks. No one moves. Emboldened I push again. A two-inch slot reveals the panorama of broken clouds offering small holes to sea and ice-covered mountaintops below. At thirty-five thousand feet, we’re leaving the eastern shores of northern Canada for the icy north Atlantic. read more ...

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How I Learned to Keep My Balance and Fit it All In

Smiling man loading cargo into a single engine airplane

Panchito loading a C-185, leaving just enough room for me to fly it safely.

Preparing for a month-long work trip out of the country inundated me with too many extras, too many surprises. No time left to work on my novel (The Perelandra Paradox), pitch the memoir (Sky Creature), reprint and re-market my previous book (Call For News), and, oh yeah, write this post. I was feeling overloaded and out of balance. Reminded me of flying.

Every manufacturer determines the maxim allowable takeoff weight for every aircraft they produce using four factors:

1. The engine’s power: The engine(s) must produce enough power to move the aircraft fast enough to make the wings work.
2. The wing’s lift: The wings, given airflow, must produce enough lift to raise the aircraft off the ground.
3. The airframe’s strength: The airframe must hold its own weight, plus the fuel, cargo, passengers and crew in their designated places during taxi, take off, climb, maneuvering, descent, and landing.
4. The performance margin: The gross weight of the aircraft must leave enough margin for the airplane to be controllable throughout all of its expected motions in both still and turbulent air. read more ...

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Air, Space, and Life