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Week 28 (July)
As part of the training for my private pilot's license, I had to do some "blind" flying: practice maneuvers aloft using only the instruments.
The first time I was preparing to take off with my instructor to do some instrument flying, he warned me not to rely on my physical sensations aboard the aircraft. The instruments -- artificial horizon, turn and bank indicator, altimeter, tachometer, airspeed indicator, gyroscopic compass, and radio beam receivers -- were all reliable. They could be trusted. But, he said, my physical sensations during the flight could not be trusted.
After we took off from Wiley Post airport in Bethany, Oklahoma, the instructor had me put on a special hood. For the next half hour or so, my vision would be restricted by that hood to the instrument panel. I immediately began to understand my instructor's warnings. The vibrations of the plane, the engine noise, and the unevenness of the outside air all combined to tell my senses that the little Cessna 150 was doing things that the instruments denied.
For that half-hour or so, I forced myself to trust those instruments. Even then, at times, my physical instincts would temporarily catch me off guard. It was a reassuring feeling to take that hood off and fly that plane with an eye on the horizon and the ground below.
Instrument flying is an art. It takes intense concentration and complete trust in that panel of instruments. Unfortunately, pilots are like most human beings: inclined to trust themselves first of all. There are stories of inexperienced pilots who unexpectedly found themselves in clouds, forced to fly by the instruments. They began to trust their physical sensations more than those instruments, and they came out of the clouds upside down,all the while convinced that they were right side up until they saw the ground.
Long before the Wright brothers put their flimsy contraption atop a hill at Kitty Hawk, a man named Joshua was cautioned by the Lord to combine an intense concentration on his "instrument panel" with a complete trust in those "instruments."
At the death of Moses on the brink of a scheduled flight into the Promised Land, Joshua was handed the controls of the Israelite "plane."
In the first chapter of the book that bears his name, Joshua records the preflight instructions he received from the Lord. The Lord challenged him not to trust his own sensations, but to intently observe the instrument panel he'd been given and to respond without hesitation to the indications of the divine compass.
Ahead of Joshua lay a monumental task. He didn't know what he would encounter. He didn't need to know. The Lord had already put together an adequate panel of the right indicators to guide his flight. These indicators, said the Lord, could and should be trusted without misgiving.
The Lord is a giver of generous promises even today, as He was to Joshua. To be able to fulfill those promises for us, He asks that we trust the guiding instruments He has given us.
Have you been guilty of coming out of the clouds upside down? Following your own impressions and sensations could lead you to a meeting with a canyon wall rather than to the safe landing we've been promised. The instrument panel is there. Let's trust it!
I wrote these devotional thoughts while we were missionaries in Italy. They originally appeared in the July 13, 1980 edition of Standard, a take-home piece for adult Sunday school classes.
Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132
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