Faith in the midst of “Detours, Distractions, and Bumps in the Road”

WorryJesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (Matthew 6:25 NLT)

Life-Happens.-DetoursI noticed a post on a friends Facebook page the other day.  I was deeply saddened to know how  they are struggling with an issue that is beyond imagine.  Social media can be a place where our friends are able to share our struggles, and where today, we often seek help with our worries, anxiety, and the fears of life.

I think we all wrestle with worry, especially when things happen that we either cannot control, or when we must wrestle through situations, in order to come up with a viable solution.  “Bumps in the road” and the unexpected detours do not alone have the power to distract us. Those “alternates” are what can add interest and richness to our journey.  We often cannot choose our circumstances, nor the events life presents us, but we can choose how we will respond.  Our character is molded and our faith grows when we trust God in all circumstances.  However, when we give unchecked power to distractions and “bumps in the road,” we become frozen in fear, and we stop moving forward.

bumpsIf we allow worry and anxiety to consume us, we will most likely, miss the new possibilities inherent when problems occur. Even so, when life does happen, when trials and troubles come our way, the fear is very real and it can shut us down.  I wish it were easy to just have immense courage and trust that “God’s got this,” but the journey of faith is not an easy one.  Remember, Our Lord, the one we Christians claim we follow, his journey led to a cross and death.  Our faith is fraught with fear, ambiguity, and uncertainty.  When fear comes our way we have grace to decide to stay on the road and trust God, despite the rugged path.  In prayer and in silence, we can tap into the solace of God’s peace, when those uncertainties of anxiety arise.  Walking with Christ through the struggles of life is a wonderful journey.  Be encouraged, and enjoy the view along the way.

“Snoozin’ and Cruisin’”: Crossing Florida in a Cessna 172

 During my professional flight training, I had to build up my total hours for the Commercial Pilot Certificate requirements. I also needed to build simulated instrument time, as I was working on my Instrument rating. So, it was necessary for me to fly several instrument cross countries with a “safety pilot.” I flew a few flights with another student at the school, who already had an instrument rating. One day we discussed and planned a 5-hour cross country that would take us from Naples to West Palm Beach, to Vero Beach, to Sarasota, and back to Naples. This flight would be all “under the hood” and each of us would fly a different leg of the journey.

The morning of the flight, I asked my daughter Erica, “Honey, would you like to see the East Coast of Florida today?” She was only 9 years old and with glee said, “Yes Daddy, that sounds great!” So, we drove to the airport and met my fellow student at the school. After a quick check of the weather, a thorough briefing and pre-flight, we were sitting on the ramp awaiting our clearance.

The takeoff was uneventful, and almost immediately, the tower advised us to contact departure control. The controller gave us further clearance to our assigned altitude and vectored us to intercept our filed route. It was a beautiful day in Southwest Florida. Over the headset, I was pointing out to Erica the many beautiful towns and lakes along the route. After about an hour of quiet, I asked Erica if she could see that little village off our right wing. “Erica, do you see that town?” I said. There was complete quiet over the intercom. “Erica, you ok,” I asked. Still quiet.

I turned around and my sweet daughter had taken a pillow, put it up against the window, and was fast asleep. The hum of the engine, the smoothness of the air, and serenity of the sky was just enough to put her fast asleep. I don’t believe Erica saw any of Florida that day, but she sure enjoyed a great rest. I have had the privilege of flying with my daughter and my wife Terri many times. It is a great joy to share this avocation with those you love. Many times, Terri and I have made little side trips to Key West and even Miami for the day. Maybe in one of my future posts, I will share one of those stories. In my next post, I will tell more about my Commercial Pilot Certificate training in beautiful sunny Florida. Stay tuned.


“Flying Blind” – Instrument Rating (Circa 2000)

            My father-in-law’s health began to decline in 1999, and my spouse I wrestled with the decision to move closer to him and his spouse, so Terri could spend time with her father before he died. That decision would require us to leave our careers, and embark on a new way of life. At the same time, I had been dreaming about the possibility of returning to aviation as my vocation. I had been doing quite a bit of flying in Alabama, and I had already started some cross-country and simulated instrument flying to prepare me for additional ratings.

So, we made the decision, left our jobs, sold our home and moved to Southwest Florida. Terri returned to store management when we arrived, and I found a flight school where I could begin my professional flight training. Prior to our move, Terri made a visit to Florida to see her dad and while there, she visited a local flight school to checkout their instructors and their airplanes.   Terri met one of the instructors from the U.K. named Beth, whom Terri immediately found to be friendly, positive, and knowledgeable. After that encounter, Terri called and said, “I have found your new flight school and flight instructor.”

            After my arrival in Florida, I visited the school and met Beth. She was as Terri described; positive, friendly, knowledgeable, and kind. We decided to begin working on basic instrument flying during our first lesson and we would utilize one of several IFR certified Cessna 152’s on the ramp. In no time, I had mastered the T-Scan, constant airspeed/constant rate climbs and descents, turns, timed turns, and partial panel.

           Later Beth taught be how to fly VOR, NDB, and ILS approaches with published holds. After lots of instrument practice, we decided to build some time toward my Commercial Pilot Certificate, which we would tackle next and thus, we flew several instrument cross country flights across Florida. During this time, I also was studying for and eventually passed my Instrument Written Exam, as well as learning as much as I could about the regulations, weather, and navigation.

           One month later, after flying nearly every day, I successfully passed my oral and practical check ride with the local FAA Designated Examiner. Nineteen years after I had soloed at age 16, I had earned an instrument rating. My spouse and daughter were very proud of me, and I too had a little pride in my accomplishment however, there was so much more training that was before me.

           The next lesson right after my instrument rating check ride, Beth said, “Let’s get to work on your commercial pilot certificate training.” “Next flight, we will start training in the Piper Arrow T-tail, so you I can give you your Complex Airplane endorsement.” In my next blog, I will share a little about my Commercial Pilot training, and few fun adventures flying throughout Florida.   Stay Tuned!


“Coming home” – USAF Aux./Civil Air Patrol (1999)

Parisian-at-Summit-for-Website-1-940x599            Nineteen years ago (1999), Terri and I left the Chicago suburbs and the buying offices of Sears Roebuck and Company, and moved to Birmingham, AL. This move came about, because we were offered and accepted buying positions with a large, growing, regional retail conglomerate. After we were settled in our new jobs and new home, I set out to find a local airport, where I could rent an airplane, and continue my aviation hobby. A quick trip down the road from our house, there was a great little airport with a 6000’ hard surfaced runway, and an FBO that rented Piper Warriors.

pa28         Now, most of my flight training and recent flight experience had been in Cessna 150’s, 152’s, and 172’s, and I had never been pilot in command of a low-wing Piper. After a thorough check out in one of the flight school’s PA-28’s, I was back in the air and enjoying flying with Teri in the beautiful skies of Alabama.   After a few cross-countries, and many takeoff and landing practices, I was ready for another challenge. While flying one evening, and as I walked back into the FBO, I saw several Civil Air Patrol cadets in uniform, mulling around and waiting for the meeting to start.

Alabama_Wing_Civil_Air_Patrol_logo            I spoke with the Squadron Commander who was present and I asked, “Would you welcome back a former Spaatz cadet to work with you all?” He beamed and said, “You’re kidding right, let’s get you some paperwork.” A few weeks later, after fingerprints, a completed application, and new uniforms, I was back in CAP active and serving as Aerospace Education officer in the squadron. What a joy it was to put on that uniform again, to be working with cadets again, and to be teaching something that I so enjoyed.

CaptainsHat            It was this experience that would eventually lead me begin dreaming about an aviation career again. It was the joy of teaching and sharing the art of flying again that would lead me to become a flight instructor. Within a few months, the squadron commander asked me to serve as Deputy Commander for Cadets, and I readily took on the task. I also began flying the CAP aircraft and eventually completed a Form 5 Check ride, which qualified me to serve as a Transport Mission Pilot.

Although, this experience of working with cadets, teaching, and flying deepened my love of aviation, and did eventually led me to become a professional teacher of flight, our short time in Birmingham was not the end of the story. In my next blog, I will share the story of an unexpected move to Naples, FL, the time spent with my wife’s father, and the time when my professional aviation training began.

Stay tuned,

Bitten by the Aviation Bug Again (1997)

sears-holding-campus            My wife Terri and I were working at Sears Corporate in Hoffman Estates in 1997. I was the Associate Buyer for Cookware and Terri was a Merchandise Analyst for Men’s Outerwear and Accessories. Working at Sears Corporate Headquarters was an amazing experience. We lived in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago where fun activities, restaurants, and beautiful countryside abounded.   Each weekend, Terri and I would go and explore the surrounding villages, or we would trek down to the city to take in the art museums, restaurants, and the plethora of shopping venues.

Screen Shot 2018-01-26 at 6.09.03 AM            We were exploring “things to do” one upcoming weekend, and in the local paper we read about the Air Expo taking place at Lake in the Hills Airport, just down the road a few miles from our home in Algonquin. “Terri, can we go check out the airshow,” I asked. “Sure,” she said. The following Saturday, I was excited and ready to rekindle my then, thirteen year absence from aviation. Walking around all those airplanes, checking out the interiors of some of those incredible machines, talking to pilots about their love of aviation was an amazing experience. We watched the airshow and folks I must say, “the Aviation Bug bit me once again.” On the drive home and for days afterward, all I talked about was my glory days in aviation and how much I missed it, and Terri heard what I was saying.

“So Eric, what would it take for you to be able to get back in the air,” Terri asked. “I guess I need to find an instructor that would be willing to give me an extended flight review and help me get back up to speed,” I replied. “So, your birthday is coming up soon, why don’t we do just that,” she smiled. “You’re kidding right,” I said. “You are so passionate about flying, and it is something you gave up a long time ago, let’s get you back in the air,” she grinned.

dacy           I began searching for flight instructors in the area and it seemed that most of the local instructors were “time builders,” looking only to teach enough to build enough hours in order to be hired by the airlines. I was looking more for an instructor who taught because he/she loved it. I was looking for someone like Evelyn Johnson, who cared about her/his students and the only time building they were interested in was the time they could spend helping a student become a safe and proficient pilot. With some suggestions from a few local pilots, I found just such an instructor, teaching at a little grass strip called Dacy Airport in Harvard, IL.

014089            A few days later, I found my old logbook stored away in a footlocker, and with great excitement, Terri and I left for Harvard, IL. “Hi, my name is Maggie Dodson,” the flight instructor greeted me with a smile. “What can I do for you,” she asked. We exchanged introductions, and I told Maggie that I had been away from aviation for several years, and it was my desire to begin flying again. She asked if I had a current medical and I told her that I was going to take care of that soon. She then looked through my logbook, smiled, and said, “We should be able to get you back in the air soon Eric.” “Let’s get you working on some ground school study so you can get back up to speed on the regulations, flight planning, etc., and then schedule your first flight,” she beamed. I was so ready to fly again that I began my studies with a renewed vigor and commitment.

Despite the wonderful flight training Evelyn Johnson had given me, the thirteen-year absence from flying made me more than rusty with my flying skills. I needed to review the basics again, and Maggie was so patient. Within a few hours I was able to handle all the basic air maneuvers, and my landings were improving.   We even flew a cross country or two, to help me re-discover my pilotage and dead reckoning skills. After about ten hours in the airplane, and after a thorough oral examination of FAA Regulations Part 91, Maggie said, “Congratulations Eric, I am going to endorse your logbook for your flight review.” “Welcome back to aviation my friend,” she said.

1930294_23872293740_2241_n           Since 1997, I have made a commitment to fly at least once a month to maintain my currency and proficiency. As a flight instructor, CAP Mission Pilot and CAP Instructor Pilot, I usually am able to get up in the air at least once a week, and sometimes more. For the past 21 years, I have not only flown for fun, I made the choice in early 2000, to become an aviation professional, and to pass on my love of aviation to others.

In my next post, I will share with you a few stories about my professional pilot training in Naples, Florida where I earned my Instrument Rating, Commercial Pilot Certificate, Certified Flight Instructor Certificate, Multi-Engine Rating, and Instrument Instructor Rating. In future posts, I will share with you some of my adventures as a full-time flight instructor and now, part-time instructor.   Stay tuned!


An Aviation Hiatus

ibelonginthe air          Like most newly minted private pilots, when I earned my wings back in 1983, I took the members of my family for a flight, and then flew with most of my friends. There was nothing like sharing with others the joy, the thrill, and the beauty of seeing our world from those lofty heights. However, other things in life got in the way of my new hobby, like it does for so many others.


The costs associated with aviation can become excessive, and unless you use aviation for personal or business travel, or you begin working on an additional rating, or you purchase your own airplane and just buzz around he skies for fun, a new pilot can become inactive long before she/he has acquired enough experience to be proficient.

shield_logoI was in my freshman year of college when I received my private pilot certificate.  Between my activities with Civil Air Patrol, the difficult classes of my first year in college, and a necessary transfer to another university, my time and financial ability to fly once a week, or even every two weeks diminished. By early spring of 1984, after only a few months after earning my wings, I was no longer current, nor was I proficient.   School was difficult, my finances were all going to support my education, and I was attending a college that was nearly 100 miles away from my home airport in Morristown, TN.   In 1984, I reluctantly hung up my wings, and I did not fly again until thirteen years later in the fall of 1997


In my next post, I will share with you, how my attendance at an airshow, a birthday gift from a loving spouse, and the patience of a flight instructor in a neighboring village in Illinois, brought me back to aviation. Since that time, I have not only flown for pleasure, but I now teach others how to experience this amazing sport, this incredible past-time, and this unexpected avocation.

Stay tuned,   Eric+

Sermon 1-21-18 Epiphany 3 Lamb of God Church Fort MYERS FL

Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

Watch Online: Click Here


Today, we are going to explore Mission, God’s mission, our mission.  (MUSIC) How many of you remember this tune?” That is the theme music the Mission Impossible movies, based on the 1960’s TV show. The main character is Ethan Hunt, a super spy that leads the missions of the IMF’s (Impossible Missions Force) main field team. This team of people work together to thwart the threats of many super villains. The team used incredible devices, superb intellect, and special forces like skills.

The premise of this great movie series and television show was this: “a small but effective group of people come together, as a team. They bring their many gifts and talents together, as a team. They possess a clear focused purpose, and amazingly, they were able somehow, with the help of a greater outside support system, to accomplish an impossible mission.” Sound familiar?

Mission is radical and life-changing, and it tests our loyalties.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus said to Simon and Andrew, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Later he found James and John and gave them the same mission call, “And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Have you ever wondered why these four people would just leave their lucrative family fishing businesses, and follow this young, “new on the scene” Rabbi?

Maybe “when Jesus comes along, then, and calls the four Galilean fishermen to follow him, he is essentially saying: “You’re working for me now, not Antipas; you’re fishing for the kingdom of God, not the Roman-Galilean empire.” (1) Maybe it was “perhaps they already sensed in Jesus the prospect of a new way of doing business, an alternative kingdom.” (1) Maybe God’s call on their lives was so radical and life-changing that following Jesus gave them the pprospector an alternative way of being and doing life, to partner in work of the Kingdom of God.

Simon, Andrew, James, and John left family, business, and promises of financial security, to follow a new way of being. They re-prioritized their ultimate loyalty to God. The church has a mission in the world and it requires us to re-prioritize our loyalties, our commitments, and our time/talent/ and treasure toward the ultimate loyalty; God. These four disciples and billions of disciples throughout the ages have re-aligned their priorities to the Jesus Christ, who is the source of our very lives. in other words, would you drop everything, if Jesus said to you, “come follow me.”

I want you to try something. Breathe in … hold it … now, breathe out. Everything we have, even that very breath you just took is a gift from God. That breath from God enlivens the body, so that we might go and do the mission we have been given to do. Our time, talent, treasure and our very lives are gifts from God, and we should be ready, willing, and able to return a portion of that to God to further the work of God’s mission of love.

As we breath out the life giving Pneuma (breath, Spirit) of God given to us, we through our words, our hands, and our feet make possible the mission of the Kingdom, the Good News, and we become instruments of God’s love that flows without delay to all the world. God is calling us to drop our nets and follow him on a mission of grace, and we need to know that Mission is radical and life-changing, and it will test our loyalties.

The Church’s Mission – Change the world

SO, what is a mission? Webster says mission is “a body of persons sent to perform a service or carry on an activity.” The ELCA defines mission as: Together in Jesus Christ we are freed by grace to live faithfully, witness boldly and serve joyfully.  The Episcopal Church defines mission as: To restore all people into unity with God and each other in Christ. Combined, both mission statements clarify what mission we are to focus on together: faithful living, bold witnessing, joyful service, all to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

So, how do we accomplish that mission? We gather to be fed and prepared; We grow together in our love and commitment to Jesus Christ and each other; We go out into the world and serve and restore what God set in motion. Our mission as the Body of Christ is to change the world toward the Kingdom of God. With all that is going on in the world today, it seems like the church’s mission is a “Mission Impossible”, but it is POSSIBLE.

Mission Impossible becomes Mission POSSIBLE

Bringing about God’s Kingdom, changing systems to bring about justice and right relationships among all people is a huge mission. Thwarting the powers of racism, bigotry, misogamy, and any other power that threatens the dignity of all people seems a Mission Impossible. Bringing dignity to EVERY human being, sharing Good News by word and deed all seem like an overwhelming task. Mission Impossible becomes Mission POSSIBLE, when we choose to rely on on God, when we are focused on God, partnering with God, and when we realize that we do not need to do it all ourselves, then it becomes possible.

We have neighbors to help, and each has its unique part. If you look at a map of this city, you will see that it is dotted with hundreds churches, each diverse in its worship expressions, different approaches to theology, and different ways to serve the local community. The multiplicity of denominations and churches does not exist because one is right, and others are wrong (although some might claim that concept). Lamb of God is unique because in your very corporate structure (Lutheran and Episcopalian) you serve as a witness of what is possible, when two denominations come together in mission.

Some churches miss that they are part of a bigger mission, and they inaccurately measure their mission effectiveness, by comparing themselves to one of their neighbor churches down the street. Some say, “well, Local Cool Church of ‘what’s happening now’ is growing and we are not, they must be doing something right and we are not. Hogwash! Each church is uniquely gifted to share in God’s mission, just like each individual is uniquely gifted. Comparing to our mission partners is futile and a waste of time. We need to understand that numeric growth is situational, cyclical, and it happens in God’s time, not in ours.

Growth in the church happens when a community is clear about who she is, when she is focused on following God’s perfect mission plan for that community, when the people are growing in a deeper love and commitment to Jesus Christ, and when the people invite others to experience spiritual transformation. That is when growth happens.

Mission Possible – Lamb of God

Lamb of God has a unique mission, but what is it? I can tell you that it is most likely not what it was ten years ago. Yes, some things that set this community in motion, like your awesome fellowship gatherings, your incredible outreach to the community, and your upbeat, blended, and welcoming worship are all the core values and key mission gifts of this community. Even so, you have changed incredibly in the last five years, and even ten years, but that is what makes this place so wonderful. You are open and nimble, always ready for change.

I bet that God has even more changes in store for you in the coming years. Your mission has changed and it will change again. Your work now is not to look backward and try to return to the good old days, but to discern what your mission will become. Your greatest challenge now will be to practice discernment and discover God’s mission for you going forward.

Discernment begins by understanding and committing to the mission of the church (universal church), and then prayerfully listening for what Lamb of God’s part is in that mission. To do that effectively and with God’s guidance, you need to be grounded in the ultimate loyalty to Jesus’ mission of reconciliation. “Our families, friendships, political agendas and churches may be appropriate centers of loyalty, but not of ultimate loyalty.” (2) Never forget that our purpose is to further God’s Kingdom and not our own.

Remember, the church is “a small but effective group of people that comes together as a team. We bring many gifts and talents together. We possess a clear focused purpose together, and amazingly, with the power of God’s Spirit, we are able somehow to accomplish what some may say is an impossible mission.

God’s mission to some, sounds like MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, and it would be impossible, if we were merely relying on our own power and resources alone. But it really is God’s mission in the world, this so called MISSION POSSIBLE, and this work of being a lighthouse of love in this neighborhood is your mission Lamb of God, that is, should you choose to accept it.

(1) Spencer, F Scott. “‘Follow Me’: The Imperious Call of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels.” Interpretation, vol. 59, no. 2, Apr. 2005, pp. 142-153.

(2) Bartlett, David L. “Conditional Responsibilities.” The Christian Century, vol. 108, no. 2, 16 Jan. 1991, p. 43.

Check ride Prep and the Big Day

cap pilot wings                     After I successfully completed my solo cross-country flights, and after I successfully passed the FAA Private Pilot written exam, it was time to begin preparing for my check ride. The FAA check ride is an oral and practical exam through which, an FAA Designated Examiner evaluates the pilot’s flying and knowledge abilities, and then determines if they qualify for the FAA Private Pilot Certificate. If a student pilot’s flight instructor is also the FAA Designated Examiner, the required three hours of preparation for the check ride, must be conducted by another flight instructor.

Evelyn assigned Noble a kind, patient flight instructor to conduct my preparation for the FAA check ride. Noble spent a few hours with me reviewing for the oral portion of the exam, by covering all of the FAA regulations, the aircraft systems and performance charts, cross-country planning, emergency procedures, etc. Next, Noble conducted two preparatory flights with me to evaluate my ability to fly all of the maneuvers to standard, and to assess my airmanship. After that flight, Noble sat me down and said, “Eric, you are ready my friend. Let’s tell Evelyn that you are ready for your check ride.” I beamed and said, “Thank you Noble!”

A week later, nervous and anxious, I arrived at the airport and met Evelyn who said, “OK Eric, are you ready?” I said reluctantly, “Yes ma’am.” “Well, today I am not your flight instructor. Today, I am the examiner and I will evaluate your knowledge and airmanship. I will be fair, but I will not give you any instruction,” Evelyn directed. We sat down at one of the tables in the airport lounge and began the exam. An hour later, I was sweating and mentally exhausted.  Evelyn told me, “You are ready to do the flight portion Eric. I will give you time to pre-flight the, then we will do the air work,” she said.

After a thorough pre-flight, and after several pointed questions about the aircraft, required documents for flight, etc., we were airborne and flying toward the practice area. After demonstrating stalls, slow flight, steep turns, and the rest, we descended to 1000’ AGL and I demonstrated the ground reference maneuvers to Evelyn. Next, we flew back to the airport and I demonstrated normal, short field, soft field, and takeoffs and landing, and simulated emergency landings. “Let’s taxi back to the airport Eric,” Evelyn smiled.

Evelyn said, “Go ahead and tie down and secure the airplane, and I will see you inside Eric.” I was confused though, because Evelyn did not tell me whether I had passed or failed. I was uncertain whether I would have to retake the check ride or not. As I walked into the office though, there was my Dad and Evelyn beaming and clapping. “Congratulations Eric, you did it, you are a pilot! “ She handed me my temporary pilot certificate, gave me a hug, and said, “You did so well, I am proud of you.”1200px-Private_Pilot

In my next blog, I will share a few stories about some flights I made with my high school friends and family. I will also talk about the long hiatus from aviation, which took me away from my passion and vocational aspirations. Stay Tuned.