View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Saturday, June 13, 2015


“In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”  Psalm 56:11

Some have defined flying as long hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.   Flash back with me to the summer of 1963.

I was stationed at Harmon AFB in Stevenville, Newfoundland, assigned as a navigator on KC-97’s with the 396th Air Refueling Squadron.  Our unit’s mission every week was to refuel B-47’s going back and forth to Europe on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  On this particular day our crew was part of a four ship flight to refuel three B-47’s heading to England.  As we waited our turn at the end of the runway, the crew had finished our pre-take off check list and I had a few moments to think about the flight. 

I had been involved in enough in-flight emergencies to know that there were few routine flights.  The KC-97 was usually flown at weights above what it was designed to carry and today’s mission was no different.  It had a reputation of being a very forgiving aircraft, meaning much could go wrong and it would still stay in the air.  It had four big Pratt and Whitney engines but it was nicknamed the “Boeing Tri-motor” because of the frequency of it’s returning with only three engines turning.  It was a piston engined airplane trying to refuel jet bombers and the heavy weights and long periods of high power settings were hard on engines.    I loved flying but I was never fully comfortable with it.  Takeoff’s were the most dangerous part of the flight.  As we sat on the ramp waiting our turn, I asked God once again to watch over us.

When the control tower called and said we were cleared for take-off, the co-pilot acknowledged and said we would be making what we called a rolling start to our take-off run.  Everything looked good while we lumbered down the runway.  As the pilot pulled back on the yoke to rotate the nose of the aircraft up, there was a muffled explosion from the right side as the main landing gear lifted off the runway.  At first I thought it was a tire blowing, but almost immediately I heard the flight engineer call out that we were losing power on the #3 engine.  The worst case scenario possible was happening to us, the one incident that every crew feared; engine failure at ground level at barely flight speed with a heavy load.  The results were seldom good. 

The engine had swallowed a valve and blew an exhaust manifold, severed fuel lines and was on fire.  While the co-pilot feathered #3 and activated the fire suppression system, the flight engineer was already dumping fuel out the refueling boom at over 600 gpm.  Add to this the commotion of fire warning lights flashing, low altitude horn sounding off, both pilots and flight engineer calling out instructions and updates and check list requirements.  It may appear to the uninitiated to be chaos, but it is all choreographed through hours and hours of practice in simulators and actual flights for just these kind of situations.   

The pilots fought to keep some altitude and not lose any air speed. When we cleared the sand dunes at the end of the runway, the pilots eased the nose of the airplane over just a tad to pick up some additional speed as we headed out over St. George’s Bay.  I can remember straining against my seat belts to see out the front cockpit window and seeing mostly water and very little horizon,  wondering if this was going to be my last flight and how bad was this going to hurt if we hit the water.    

The next two minutes seemed like an eternity.  We flew over the water at about 50 ft. dumping fuel as fast as we could.  As the airplane got lighter we slowly gained enough airspeed to where the pilots felt they could start trying to gain some altitude.  After about 5 min., we finally had enough altitude where we could turn and head back to the base and land. 

Ground personal later told us that they watched us disappear behind the buildings on the base and waited for the sounds of us hitting the water as they were sure we would.  We were so close to the water my flight suit got a little wet.  Wait, maybe that wasn’t sea water.

The purpose of this story is to question where and in what we place our trust.  Every time I climbed aboard that airplane I placed myself in the trust of four other crew members, a crew chief and an airplane.  My crew members and I had to trust that everyone would do their job the best they could and that the crew chief had properly prepared the airplane. People are fallible and can make mistakes and fall short of our expectations. 

But on that day in 1963, there were only two of us on that plane that were also trusting in the Lord God to guard and protect us.  The co-pilot on that crew was Floyd White and he also was a Christian.  I praise God every day for watching over us that particular day, and many flights after that, until I finally figured that I had had enough excitement for one lifetime and returned to civilian life.  But I never quit trusting in God who is infallible and does not fall short in our expectations. 

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”   1st Peter 5: 6 & 7.

Monday, June 1, 2015


View From The Ridge

One of the interesting sites to visit in Jerusalem is the Western Wall(formerly known as the Wailing Wall) where Jews gather at various times of the day to pray.  The Hasidic Jews are the more colorful (if black can be colorful) to watch because of their various antics performed while praying.  They are dressed in black suits with black hats, rather than the traditional yarmulke or skull cap.  Some cover their heads and shoulders with a large white scarf or shroud, and they bob and weave while reciting over and over prayers read from their prayer books.  The sound they make can be related more to wailing than prayer as we know it, which is why it was called the wailing wall for centuries. 

The area is fenced off so that only men with their heads covered can enter into the larger section, and there is a smaller area reserved for women.  All along the wall are prayer notes stuck into cracks between the blocks.  It has the appearance of trash being put there rather than being thrown on the ground.  Are the notes there in case God did not hear their prayer or is this a back up system, sort of like e-mail? 
One of the days we visited there were about six Bar Mitzvahs being held, which added a festive atmosphere -  until you noticed all the armed guards mingling in amongst the crowd and on top of the wall and near by buildings.  I don’t know about you, but that kind of affects my prayer mood. 

Not a hundred yards way is the Dome of the Rock where the Muslims also gather several times a day to kneel, facing east, and pray to their God while also being protected by armed guards.  In a land where terrorist bombs go off in public places rather frequently compared to other countries, the Jewish and Muslim followers still risk the dangers several times a day to pray.  This in a land rich with evidence of Jesus and yet totally rejected by those who He died on the cross for.  What a waste of time and energy!

Have you ever thought about why this country is free, why we can worship and pray anytime, anywhere, without armed guards to protect us?  Do you think maybe it had something to do with our founding fathers and their belief in God and Christ and their desire to build a country that honors God first?  During the first 200 years this was a nation after God.  We put on our currency “In God we trust”, the early reading primers contained portions of scripture, and we honored God by closing businesses down on Sunday.   Yet today, the government has systematically taken God out of being recognized in the schools or on any federal or state property.  How much longer will God tolerate our disobedience as a nation and remove his protection.

Scripture addresses the need for prayer, both privately and corporately.   In Matthew 6:6 Jesus says that when, not if, but when we pray, to pray in secret.  There is a time when we need to privately pray to God and share with Him our deepest feelings and needs.                                                                                                                                           
There is also a time when we need to gather together as a group.  In Hebrews, we are encouraged not to forsake our assembling together, to encourage and stimulate one another to love and good deeds.  What better way to do this than by spending an hour in prayer with others.  Christ promised in Matthew 18:20 that where two or three are gathered, he would be in their midst.  Christ prayed in private, as he did in the Garden of Gethsemane, but he also prayed in public as he did in the synagogues. 

What is keeping people from coming together in prayer one day a week for one hour?  It can’t be the fear of terrorism or persecution.  Are we really that busy with worldly tasks or entertainment?  Are we really too tired?  In the grand scheme of things, our life time is but a blip compared to eternity.  One hour a week is a nano-blip.   What are our priorities?  The things of this world, or God’s agenda.  Are we servants of Christ, or slaves to this world.

“Even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer, their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar;  For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.  Isaiah 56:7  
                                                                                    Michael Query