Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Smiling the Entire Day

Well, like they say, any landing you walk away from is a good one. Had a great flight today. This old dog had a few new tricks left in him. My flight was limited to OK, CO--sorry, George. We'll see if we can schedule a fly-by sometime in the future.
One thing did happen today that wasn't so smooth. Remember the first Star Trek movie? I know, most of us try to forget that one. Kirk was running around the Enterprise barking orders and Decker was following afterwards going, "No, belay that order," mostly because Kirk had a few things to learn about the new Enterprise. That was me today. We were climbing out towards our rendezvous with the tanker for the air refueling when I put something into the mission computer that caused a total blackout. That's a little disturbing in an aircraft that is like a big video game. It's like hitting the little reset button on your playstation. Everything went black and I was flying a Sopwith Camel at 20 thousand feet. Everything eventually came back up, but I spent the next 20 minutes pulling out seat cushion that had been sucked up into...well...
The young Captain (Decker) sitting behind me says, "Oh yeah, you did so-and-so and that caused the reset." Later discussions revealed that the earliest president this young Captain can remember is President Bush Senior. Back to the books.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dusting things off

Planned all day for my flight tomorrow. This will be the first time behind the controls since May of 2003. Let's see...pull back and the houses get smaller, push forward on the stick and the houses get bigger. Left turn at Albuquerque. Got it.

I'm officially a crusty, old-timer now. I'm sitting there listening to young instructors trying to teach an old dog new tricks. That was me 5 years ago. Now I'm part of the establishment. Next I'm afraid I'm going to end up wearing black socks with my shorts and sandals. My oldest boy, Nathan, has begun referring to me now as "the old man."

We'll see if the old man has a few tricks left in his bag tomorrow.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Benjamin the Cat Lover

I was at dinner talking with an old acquaintance last night when I was reminded of an incident between my son and my in-laws' cat. We spent Christmas of 2002 with my sister-in-law and her family. Now I'm not really a cat person, but I have to say that their cat ranks up there with the better cats I've run across in my life (James' cat Tounces was probably #1). My son Benjamin was 3 at the time and thought the cat was simply amazing--so much so he followed it around constantly.

One day we adults were in the living room with the cat amongst begging for attention when Benjamin walked in the room. The cat gave Benjamin an evil eye and a wide berth, high-tailing it out the nearest exit. Up until then we had noticed subtle clues that Benjamin and the cat didn't get along real well, but this episode made it clear that they were now arch-enemies. We asked Benjamin why he and the cat didn't get along. He replied:

"Well...I don't know. But when I pull his tail, he goes 'Wwwwhhhheeeeekkkkk' and runs!"

Cats are off the list at Das Ritterhaus.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Why Do I Serve Him?

Was reading this morning about King Hezekiah of Judah. 2 Kings 18:5-7 says:

5 Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. 6 He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses. 7 And the LORD was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.

That was pretty heady stuff. I mean, he's being compared to a lot of great kings. I really keyed in on was verse 7. Hezekiah "held fast" to the Lord and did not cease to follow Him. Because of this, God blessed him in "whatever he undertook." I sat back thought about that verse. I eventually came to the realization that, while not my sole motivation, I have allowed it to at least become a consideration in my Christian walk that "If I really walk the line and love the Lord, He'll bless me: My work, my family, and everything in my life." Fringe benefits for being a Christian?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I should serve the Lord because He's my Lord and I love Him...period. What I perceive as successes in life (promotions, getting rich) may not ever happen. My eye should not be on what I'll get in this life by faithfully serving the Lord, but doing the absolute best with what God's given me at the time. Taken to the other end of the spectrum, if bad things were to happen, would that change how I felt about serving Him? Would it mean that I wasn't faithfully serving Him? Would I be like Job and hold fast despite my world crumbling down around me? I began to realize that circumstances in my life may change, but my love and energy level serving God should not. This reevaluation opens a whole new world of trusting the Lord and peace with all that could happen in my life.

I also came to the conclusion that if God does choose to bless me, these blessings are a "means" and are not the "ends." Blessings from God are not some kind of reward for faithfulness...He's doing it for a reason--God blesses us so that we can bless others.

11You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corintians 9:11

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tulsa Gunshow

Spent all day Saturday with my wife's stepdad, Dan, at the Tulsa gunshow. This gunshow is touted as the largest of its kind in the world. Judging from the 7 acres of dealers and private vendors, I'd have to agree. We were there from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and still didn't see it all.
The guns ran the gamut from flintlock muskets, to wild west Winchesters and Colt pistols, to World War II weapons (Axis and Allies), to modern day firearms. For a military history buff like myself, it was like the Garden of Eden (with lots of Harley Davidson t-shirts and BO thrown in to boot).
Dan ended up buying a couple of shotguns for my older boys and a French MAS rifle. The French weapon was in really good shape. The vendor assured Dan that it had, in fact, never been fired and only dropped once.
My aspirations were much lower, my visit merely a fact-finding trip. I did come away with a "Deputy Sheriff, Oklahoma Territory" badge for my 8-year-old and a bag of Wasabi Peas for myself. The sites and experience was more than worth the $10 entrance fee.
My oldest son, upon hearing he is now the proud owner of a shotgun, has unleashed an unrelenting barrage of conversation with anyone nearby to listen of all the animals he plans to shoot with his new shotgun. He was online yesterday planning a hunting trip for next fall for us to go hunt pheasant.
I love that boy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Back in the saddle again

I went up on an observation ride today, my first time in the cockpit since May '04. It was a checkride for 2 young Pilot Initial Qual-types, so I didn't get to fly. It was still good sitting up front, listening to the radios, catching the crewbus at 0-dark-thirty, the smell of JP-8 in the morning. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

One of my favorite things about flying is breaking through a solid overcast cloud deck into the bright blue sky above. Anyone who's seen this on an airline flight knows what I'm talking about.

Six hours and forty five minutes after takeoff, we taxied in and I walked off the jet with a big smile on my face. One week until it's me in the seat.
I just hope I don't forget the keys again...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What Would Jesus Build?

Rick wrote an interesting post on his site discussing what Jesus would do with the church. I've wondered many of these same things over the last few years. Would He be as proud of the things the Church has done as we are? What does He really want?

This line of discussion highlights another similar discussion my brother-in-law and I had recently. We're both currently stationed overseas, he in Italy and me in Germany. We went to Rome back in January of 2007 with our families to see the usual sites. This trip involved a visit to St. Peter's Basillica. At first I was struck by the grandure and the history of the place. I mean, I stood right on the spot where Charlemagne was crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor. All the marble, the statues, the reliefs...it's very easy to be swept up in the place. But then an uneasy feeling swept over me. What is it all for? What would Jesus think of this place? How much money was spent building this place? How many lives could have been bettered, how many more missionaries sent off to the lost, how many more widows and orphans taken care of? I can't help but feel this in every cathedral we visit now. Some say these churches are so grand in order to help the visitor look to and imagine the grandure of God. I say we can see that in the face of every new sinner who gives his life to the Lord at the altar. The tears streaming down their eyes are much more beautiful than the biggest pipe organ in the world could ever be.

Unfortunately, I see some of the same in America. How "nice" does a church have to be in order to make God happy? Is there a minimum standard? I'm positive there are plenty of open-air churches and churches with no walls in Africa more alive, more vital, and more relavant, than many of our grand churches here in the states. It's the people that make the church...not the building.

Friday, October 19, 2007

My 10 Things

Saw this on a couple of blog sites. Decided I'll join in:

1. What were you doing 10 years ago? A line pilot in the 17th Airlift Squadron at Charleston AFB flying C-17s. I was gone a little over 150 days that year.
2. What were you doing one year ago? I had just returned from my deployment to the Middle East and started a new job that involved regular trips to Romania.
3. What are five snacks you enjoy? Cheezits, Roasted Peanuts, Boiled Peanuts, a fresh Pink Lady Apple, Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey Ice Cream
4. What are five songs that you know the lyrics to? Every Little Thing She Does is Magic/The Police, Does Fort Worth Ever Cross You Mind/George Strait, Little Miss Magic/Jimmy Buffet, Butterfly Kisses/Bob Carlisle (I'm a softy, I know), Folsom Prison Blues/Johnny Cash
5. Name five things you would do if you were a millionaire. Spend about 6 months out of the year working with missions in Africa, buy a sailboat, spend much more time learning/playing the guitar, go on a trip with each of my children to where they wanted to go, build a vacation home on the beach/lakefront
6. Name five bad habits. Walking around barefooted outside and tracking in dirt, procrastination, trashing the kitchen when I cook, cracking my knuckles, drinking right from the milk jug (don't tell my wife)
7. What are five things you like to do? Reading, fishing, going to the gym, working (it's true!), movie and calzone nights with my wife and kids
8. What are your five favorite toys? My computer, kids' playstation, my guitar, my rifles, my garden
9. What are five things you would never wear? Leather pants, anything requiring a cape, Jackie O sunglasses a la Elton John, shorts with black socks, an earring
10. Name five things you hate to do. Work on the weekends, be away from home on trips, go shopping for clothes, go to the dentist, stand in lines

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Redeeming the time

I took a break from studying last night and went out for a walk to clear my head. I do some of my best thinking on these quiet walks and I think last night was no exception. As the cares of the day began peeling off, my mind began to wander through the years. I thought of jobs, friends, past experiences, and mistakes. Then came the inevitable, "What would you do different if you could go back to 1984 and have a discussion with yourself?"

First came the obvious answers: Buy shares of Microsoft and WalMart, bet on Chicago to go all the way to the Super Bowl, etc. Once I got past all that, I really got to thinking. If I could go back and see 16-year-old Steve, what would I tell him? The one thing that rang true, that seemed the most important of all the things I could say is, "Take advantage of the time you have to better yourself." I look back at all the time wasted in front of the Atari or watching mindless 80's sitcoms that would have been better spent working, or exercising, or reading a good book.
I've had several discussions with my sons along these same lines. I'm trying to expain the incredible earning potential with simply mowing lawns (I know I sound like an Amway salesman). I mowed one lady's yard for $7 every 2 weeks. What if I had done more? What else did I do those summers but sit in the air conditioning and watch Jeffersons reruns? I have a friend who paid cash for his first car with money earned from mowing lawns. I've learned that you're never going to have more time than right now. Bettering yourself is never a waste of time. Oh the opportunities squandered. Youth really is wasted on the young.

Now, here's something that will get you thinking. What do you think you'll wish you could go back and tell your 30-something self when you're 60? How many 60-year-olds have you heard say, "Thirty nine old? I wish I was thirty-nine again!" I want to live a full, rich life, to be a faithful steward of all the God has given me, and to not have any regrets when it's all said and done. "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Best of all, I want to stand in front of the Lord and hear Him say, "'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

...fit for a king

Well, first post is under my belt, so it's off to the races.

One of the problems with being on Temporary Duty (TDY) for training is the lack of home cooking. Now, believe it or not, I've actually developed a fondness for cooking over the years. I look forward to the weekends as an opportunity to further hone my culinary skills. The best part is when my 5-year-old daughter helps. It's a great bonding opportunity. But I digress...

These culinary skills have, fortunately, improved over the years. I remember years ago having to call my mother to ask her how to boil an egg. I remember frying bacon for the first time in the appartment Jay and I shared in Columbia. Yes, the fire alarm went off. I learned that day that dropping a piece of bacon into a red-hot frying pan is not a good idea. I remember the time Jay and I cooked a turkey with all the trimings around Christmas of 1990. I realize then that it was possible to cook something yourself that didn't merely involve opening a can and heating the contents (or just eating it right from the can which I still do from time to time).

Last night, I parted from my ususal TDY fare of various assortments of fast foods to endeavor to cook for myself. "What was on the menu?" you ask. Fried potato pancakes, artichoke hearts, boiled squash with celery, and a big pile of saurkraut. A decidely German meal to remind me of home far away, yet rooted in the timeless Southern tradition of frying relatively healthy items until all nutrition is removed. As a friend of mine once said, "Frying is the best way to cook. You can fry a piece of crap and it would taste good."

It was, indeed, a meal fit for a king.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A beginning...

I've brought reviewing my friends' blogs into my regular crosscheck. I've enjoyed keeping up with my old high school friends so much that I've decided to crank up my own blog. If anything, this will be a convenient spot for me to record significant events and have my old friends provide encouragement/ridicule. Both are welcome.

It's a bit Spartan for now...that's for sure. I intend to "church it up a bit" in the near future; this will do for now.

I'm currently working my way through C-17 Instructor Pilot requalification (thus the "C-17" part of my blog) at Altus Air Force base, Oklahoma. This is my sixth training event here on the heels of 2 PCS assignments. This is like a second home. I still have lots of good friends here, so it's been nice coming back.

I'm looking forward to my upcoming assignment to McChord Air Force Base, Washington, and touching base with Jay and his family. I'm also looking forward to keeping in touch with my good friends.

As I've reviewed my friends' blogs, I'm struck by how similar our tastes are in many areas. It would seem the years have separated us, but the commonalities that brought us together as friends in the first place is the thread that binds us together.