Saturday, July 01, 2006

Lessons In Flying

I recently had the opportunity to enjoy my first hot air balloon ride and it was incredible!! It was a surprise gift Colleen and I got to participate in with another couple with the husband surprising his wife for her birthday.

Being a "wannabe" airplane and helicopter pilot and somewhat of a techie, I had all kinds of questions for our pilot. He was very open and seemed to actually enjoy the questions and answers.

Did you know there are only about 5,000 certified hot air balloon pilots in the world? Did you know that in America, the FAA actually certifies pilots of these unique aircraft?

How about this one ... did you know that all hot air balloon pilots must memorize the "Balloonists Prayer"? If they can't recite it during their test for their license, the FAA gives them a failing grade and they have to take the test over again! At least, that is, according to our pilot, who certainly seemed pretty knowledgeable.

Anyway, one very interesting thing I learned about piloting a hot air ballon is that it's ALOT like being a Pastor! There were times we flew very high and had a bird's eye view of our surroundings.

Then there were times that we did the "terrain flying" manuever the toughest to learn and accomplish, according to our pilot. During such flight, we were literally skimming the vineyards and treetops of the terrain.

As I asked questions, he explained that you can't fly a hot air balloon by instruments, like airplanes and helicopters. They do use some of the instruments of flight to let them know how high they're flying and how fast they are ascending and descending. Other than that, it's all done by reading the wind and using your feel and intuition.

I thought, "Wow! That's alot like my job!" As a Leader, there are times when I have to get my view way up high to try to discern where we're headed and how we ought to get there. Then there are times when, as a Pastor, I'm flying in the terrain with people, walking through the joy and the grief that life brings.

Then, there are all kinds of diagnostic tools and "tips and tricks of the trade" available for Pastors these days. They're meant for good ... even to try to help Pastors accomplish their job more effectively and efficiently. However, fact of the matter is, there's not a fool-proof tool, tip, or trick out there. There is plenty of good, strong, practical direction that the Bible has to offer, and I'm really glad for that!

Now, for the ending ... landing those things is an art in and of itself. You can have your plan in mind for where you want to land it, but where the wind is blowing means everything, even when you're actually trying to land it! We headed for a certain spot the pilot really wanted and were almost there. Then the wind shifted, and we ended up in someone's backyard (it was a big one).

As we approach the 4th of July, having recently enjoyed a few days with Colleen and the boys in Washington DC, my balloon experience makes me think of our Founding Fathers. There were times they had to hold to what they believed was best for the country in a big picture view. Then there were plenty of times where they had to live out every day real life with people too, paying a high price for their leadership.

It also reminded me of what we recently have been (and still are) walking through as a church with our building project. In short, after a few years of planning our Sanctuary expansion, the plan radically changed, requiring us to go back to the Planning Commission.

At the same time, we heard about another church on our side of the City that is planning a relocation in the next 2-3 years. Their facility would be an incredible one for us to relocate to once they move, so we have opened up dialogue toward that end.

As I shared on Father's Day, I'm not sure yet where we're landing, but I do know God still has us on His course, following and serving Him and this City. Please be praying, continue to give toward "Building A Blessing" regularly, and I'll keep you posted as I know more.

Flying high (sometimes) ...

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