A few years ago I had the unique opportunity to take flying lessons from my Uncle Floyd. It was amazing! I learned a lot, not just about flying an airplane, but about life itself. One of the most important things that I discovered was, I’m not a gifted pilot. For some reason, it just didn’t come naturally. I was so disappointed. Since I’ve always had an instinctive ability to pilot and navigate boats, I thought that taking to the air would come just as easily; but it didn’t. Flying was very mechanical for me; I had trouble “feeling the moment.”
Out of all the in-flight maneuvers, landing was the thing I struggled with the most. It’s been said that landing an airplane is technically a “controlled crash.” It’s the truth! Tom Petty expressed this exact sentiment in his 1991 release, “Learning To Fly.”
“I’m learning to fly, around the clouds,
But what goes up must come down
I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings,
Coming down is the hardest thing”
At the age of 79, my Uncle Floyd is still a very gifted pilot. He’s flown almost as long as he’s driven an automobile. It’s always been quite instinctive for him. He flew in the Air Force when he was younger and then later went to work for the airlines. Due to a one-time “fluke” during a routine health examination, he was forced into an early retirement several years ago. After much debate with the doctors and the FAA, his pilot’s license was finally reinstated in 2004. He had one mission: To teach the younger men in the family how to fly. I was so excited to be one of the chosen! I had always dreamed of flying with my Uncle Floyd and it was finally coming true!
But sometimes the point is not the point. Let me explain. After several weeks of ground instruction and air time I grew discouraged because I could not get the hang of it. One day, while shooting landings at a local airport, it finally dawned on me. Learning how to fly was not the main point at all; it was spending time with my Uncle Floyd. For those few months I was able to drink from the overflowing cup of one of the wisest 79 year-old men I’ve ever met. I wouldn’t trade those precious hours of flight instruction for anything!
It’s easy to miss the point. I do it all the time. Sometimes I get so focused on the details that I miss the most important thing. That’s exactly what happened as I was trying to learn the unique art of landing an airplane. When landing a Cessna 172, there are several things to keep in mind:
1. Radio the tower before entering the traffic pattern
2. Look out for other aircraft; in the air and on the ground
3. Maintain an altitude of 800 feet until final approach
4.On final approach, reduce power to approximately 65 knots
5.Turn the carburetor heat on
6. Put a notch of flaps on
7. Aim at the end of the runway but don’t look at the ground (otherwise you’ll run into it)
8. Keep the stick back and the nose of the plane up
9. Keep the stick back until the glide is broken
10. Don’t break the glide too early or you’ll stall out and slam the plane into the ground
And that’s just a few of the things to remember about landing a 172. However, if you get too narrowly focused on any one of those items, you’ll crash! You’ve got to feel the moment and let all the details work in concert together.
Christmas time is a lot like landing an airplane. There are lots of details to think about: searching for the latest/greatest gifts, implementing the newest Martha Stewart decorating ideas, going to all the parties, and cooking all the new Rachel Ray recipes. But if we’re not careful, we’ll miss the main point: celebrating the birth of Jesus. And just like my experience when learning how to fly, as we celebrate, we have the unique opportunity to spend time with those who are closest to us. Enjoy these moments, they are precious! Don’t get so focused on all the details, or you just might miss the landing.
This is great writing, Danny!
Sitting here with Hannah, and Skylar, and Spence finally quiet, and hopefully napping, I realize that the metaphor of flying is perfect for this concept! When I have a house full of kids (or chaos of any sort, really) and I CAN actually get myself focused in on the big picture instead of the details, it feels like flying to me! Just like in a cockpit, the “altitude”(i.e. attitude) is not always easy to reach, but always worth the effort it takes to get there!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008 – 01:26 PM
Danny, thanks for letting me know to NEVER get into an airplane when YOU are the pilot! You’re awesome and so is Karri. Love you guys!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008 – 12:48 PM
…uh…the above comment is from me…Lisa. 🙂
Tuesday, December 2, 2008 – 12:49 PM
So true! It is amazing how often I can get caught up in the doing and miss out on the being.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008 – 12:56 PM
I hope that Uncle Floyd was able to receive this message. Thank you for sharing your stories and your insight, they are truly appreciated. There is no time like the present… get it? the “gift”. Too often we look beyond and end-up crashing.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008 – 01:26 PM
Great thoughts and reminders, bro. I appreciate your heart and the clarity of your conviction. Question – Have you had the chance to check out the Advent Conspiracy? If not, it is well worth your while.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008 – 01:29 PM
We are probably all blessed with some “Uncle Floyd’s” in our life. This
blog will help us all appreciate what we quite often overlook.
Thanks for the nudge.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008 – 01:32 PM
I too took flying lessons and I did not have a wise man teaching as a matter of fact the pilot appeared less than confident and I never took lessons again. I still love airplanes and have worked on airplanes for my whole life since I was seventeen and I’m fifty-one now. I hope you stuck with it, it is one of those things I have left unfinished that I need to finish some day I will get back to it.
My wife just called me this morning and has agreed to go to marriage counseling the only thing I can attribute it to, is the power of prayer she wanted to have me put in jail last time I talked to her. I will try with all my power to not miss the big picture and take advantage of this chance to change for the positive and to get to understand my wife and do what it takes to make right with her. I agree sometimes things are presented in a different package we just have to read the instructions properly. Just the fact she is going is a blessing and I thank God for that.
There seems to always be a twist (don’t forget the rudder) as I was writing and felling like things were going well. I got a call form Lockheed and was offered a job, could it be? Getting my job and my Wife back God is great! Well; God is going to test me, I have not got my license yet. There is going to be some more trials like learning to fly it won’t be easy as it looks. The job is in Washington State and my wife is here. I guess I will have to over come some more tests before I can fly. My wife has made it a little bit easer she told me if I did not take it we don’t stand a chance to get back together. I believe God has answered my prayers and has a plan for me! I don’t know the big picture but God does and I just have to keep the faith.
I keep thinking about the controlled crash thing and Remember any landing you walk away from is a good one!
Keep The Faith
James F. Alderman
Tuesday, December 2, 2008 – 02:46 PM
It’s funny, I really love to fly. Especially the taking off part. It’s really the only time you feel the speed of the airplane. I never had the desire to learn to fly but it is one of the places that I really just enjoy letting someone else with the expertise take over and have complete control. I can just be – which is really hard for me to do as my dear friends keep pointing out to me lately. Thanks for the reminder. There are so many Uncle Floyd opportunities around us everyday and if I continue to be so consumed with the minute details, I will miss the big God, big picture moments that are staring me in the face.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008 – 11:07 PM
You always get me thinking, thank you
Friday, December 5, 2008 – 08:06 AM
Funny! I used to listen to “Learning to Fly” a lot from my uncle, Pink Floyd! 😉 Great blog, Danny! Good job on the illustration of “missing the point,” Which we seem to do more often than not. Thanks for the insight.
Saturday, December 6, 2008 – 09:08 AM
Very insightful and well said. That’s why I try to do my Christmas shopping all before December, so I can sit back and relax and enjoy the season without all the hubbub. 🙁
Sunday, December 7, 2008 – 08:22 AM
I enjoyed reading this moment in your life, it made me think of how I am afraid of hights and flyings, and how because of fear I can’t enjoy the beauty that is above the clouds in life. Just like my fear of flying that limits me, we as Christians limit our ability to touch the hearts of non-believers because of fear. Christians miss out on so many great opportunitys in life to witness to those who are loss, or seeking, or don’t know Jesus. The day that we can push pass that tickiling feeling in our guts and plant that seed we would really enjoy feelings of what God has done for others through us.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008 – 06:01 PM