Sunday, February 8, 2009


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If you've read my blogs you know that I've been a licensed pilot for over 60 years. For you who don't know - a pilots license is good for life. It never expires. Of course if you want to rent a plane you have to demonstrate that you know how to fly. You do that by flying around the airport with an instructor on board to make sure you can fly. Oh, and you do have to keep an updated "Medical card showing that you are in good health and not ready to "kick the bucket."

I got to indulge my love of airplanes by serving for years as a missionary Pilot. One day as the Pastor of a new church I met Jerry. He was a Senior Delta Airlines Captain and we had a common interest. I tried not to bore him with too much "hanger flying." After visiting with him at his home we finished a Bible study. He ask me if I would like to go with him to the Delta Training Center and fly the 727 jet simulator. I eagerly said yes and waited for the Invitation.

We were both busy and as time went by I forgot about his invitation. One particularly stressful and frustrating day I came home in a bad mood. We all know that feeling. Too tired to move, wishing things would just go away, unwilling to even think about the next problem. I thought back over all the study and research I had done on stress.

I knew for example that stress and unpleasant circumstances produces depression. As the 20th century wound down Doctors were prescribing hundreds of millions of doses of antidepressants. Serotonin, the secret of Prozac, and norepinephrine - another neurotransmitter are the current drugs of choice for depression. Here's a clue. The brain makes both of these chemicals. Serotonin is made by the body from tryptophan, an amino acid found in protein-rich foods such as meat, fish and milk.

Years ago in a graduate psychology class I was taught that the body makes every single chemical that doctors proscribe in the form of pills. The big question is what turns on the production of these mood altering chemicals in the brain and what turns them off? I have believed for a long time that our thoughts have a lot to do with it.

I was stressed out when the telephone rang. Jerry wanted to know if I'd like to go to the Delta training center and try my hand at flying the 727 jet simulator. I eagerly said yes. He promised to stop by and pick me up. Suddenly I didn't feel tired or stressed out. I felt eager and alive with anticipation as we drove the 25 miles to the Delta Center.

We walked into a huge room and I saw the simulator. It looked like a large room up in the air on huge pistons. When I walked up the steps and into the door I found myself in an exact replica of a 727 Aircraft. As I slid into the right seat of the cockpit I was really pumped up. Absolutely everything was working and responded just like a real airplane. Soon the engines were running and Sound, lights, motion and the view out of the window convinced me that I was flying a real airplane.

Jerry handled part of the work load giving me headings to fly that took us out and back to the runway but I did a pretty good job of flying this heavy airliner. As I started an ILS approach to the runway a voice started nagging me to "watch my altitude, correct my heading" and other messages if I was less than perfect. I sweated a little struggling to stay on the glide path and soon I flared out and made a decent landing. My bad mood had disappeared and I felt great as I applied the brakes and the aircraft came to a stop.

I ask Jerry why they had a woman's voice on the radio nagging at me when I was a little off the mark. He laughed and said: "There isn't a man in the world that can ignore a nagging woman."

Jerry explained the obvious to me. If we forgot about how crowded the Sky's are it would still be enormously expensive to use a real 727 to train a new pilot. The Captain has years of experience and the first officer never fly's the real aircraft until they leave the gate with a load of passengers. The amazing simulator can be programmed to cause any kind of equipment failure, bad weather, and any kind of emergency the pilots could ever encounter in the real plane. Even the Captains have to take regular check rides with the simulator.

After several hours we shut down and I walked out into the bright lights of Atlanta's huge airport. I couldn't remember ever having a more interesting experience. All of my stress and bad mood had been erased. I slept like a baby after I got home.

The human brain is the most amazing computer in the world. Unfortunately we forget that it can be programmed by almost anyone. In a days time we are literally assaulted
with thousands of "sensory inputs." Some good, some bad, but all are registered by our mind. Wouldn't it be fantastic if we could close our eyes and go into a "life simulator" where we got positive, uplifting, and inspiring thoughts placed in our minds. It's possible! The Apostle Paul describes the process.

(Phil 4:8-9 NIV) "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. {9} Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."

Thanks Jerry, for giving me such a powerful push toward emotional balance.

Did you know? You can send me an e-mail and I'll read it and send you a reply!

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