Month: February 2014

Graveyard Spirals Kill

I am a pilot.  Though I haven’t flown for 14 years, I LOVE flying.  Sometimes on those beautiful middle Tennessee spring or fall days, when the sky is clear, the wind is minimal, and the sun is shining… I’ll look up in the sky and dream that I can be back up there.  Maybe one day.

The worst day of flying still beats the best day of real work.  – Anonymous

So, why all the talk of flying?  Last night, during our discussion at about the importance of remaining connected to the body of believers in the church, I was reminded of the JFK Jr. airplane crash on July 16, 1999.  There is a full NTSB report of the crash here if you’re interested.  The cause of the crash was something pilots talk about a lot, which was a graveyard spiral caused by “failure to maintain control of the airplane due to spatial disorientation.”  As an airplane starts to make a turn, your body tells you “I’m turning” through the various wonderful God-given senses we have.  If the airplane is in a turn long enough, your body will adjust to the turn and given no other visual indicators (like on a dark night), it will feel like you’re flying straight and level.  One look at the altimeter will tell you that you’re descending (this happens in a turn).  Natural response?  Pull up!  But this only serves to tighten your turn, until you spiral into the ground, usually at an alarming rate.  At the point of impact, the NTSB estimated JFK Jr.’s plane was descending at 4,700 feet-per-minute.  In comparison, a standard descent in a commercial airliner is 500 fpm (and you feel it then too).


Like a graveyard spiral, so often through my day, my brain is giving me all sorts of messages on how to interpret what is going on around me.  These messages are influenced by my life experiences, my relationships, my overall body chemistry at that time (if I’m feeling physically or emotionally down, it is more difficult for me to interpret conflict accurately).  In the moment of confusion, I have two choices.

Choose the lie: “you’re not appreciated”, “wait until people find out who you really are”, “they’re laughing at you behind your back”, “Those guys are way better dads than you’ll ever be”)

lies and truth

image courtesy Cindy Bultema blog site

Choose Truth:  God has chosen me to be His own.  He has equipped me for life and godliness.  I am a new creation.  I am His servant, not the world’s.  I was bought with a price, and it cost me nothing – God’s perfect love and sovereignty will cast out all fear in me.

Which do I choose so often?  The lies… at least for a time.  Which is why it is so critical that I not do this life alone.  I MUST be in a community of people, growing, sharing, and BEING REAL.  As our pastor said during his message this Sunday in Hebrews, “ISOLATION KILLS”.

How do we pull out of the graveyard spiral of life?

1. Use your instruments – Focus on the truth, not what you feel like at that moment.  This will not be easy!  Use the instruments of faith, deep friendships, and Godly mentors.  Pilots have instruments in their plane before they fly.  Don’t wait for accountability.  Get it now.  Psalm 15:2, Psalm 25:5, Mark 9:24

2. Reduce power and level out – Often times, whatever is going on in your life is contributing to the chaos behind the lies.  Slow down, cancel extra engagements, get some rest, and eat right.  Even Jesus “got away” at times.  Matthew 14:23

3. Point your nose down – What?  We’re losing altitude and I have to point my nose down?!  YES!  It allows the plane to pickup speed, and thus have greater control over the airplane.  And in life, we need to give up control sometimes, submit to the Godly wisdom and guidance (sometimes through another person), and take ACTION on that guidance.  Trust in your shepherd.  Psalm 23

Are you in a graveyard spiral?  Are you tightening your turn by trying harder, putting a mask on, and isolating?  Get out of the spiral.  Trust God that it will be OK.  Put your faith in Jesus and not what the world says about you.

Family Matters and Family Meetings

My family means a lot to me.  I have been married to my beautiful wife for nearly 19 years, and am blessed to have both 3 sons and a daughter.  They are intelligent, witty, funny, athletic, and creative.  I think they will all be incredible leaders one day.  Each one has a unique giftedness.

My oldest son Connor, 14 years old, has an amazing laser-focus intensity when he is working on something or learning something new.  Once when he was in 5th grade, playing his 2nd year of baseball, he started throwing a new pitch and the coach asked him where he learned it from.  His reply?  I watched a youtube video.  When he was 5 or 6 years old, he spent the entire Christmas day (not stopping until he finished) putting together a Millennium Falcon kit that was intended for ages 9+.  He is a smart and athletic guy.

My next oldest son Brandon, also quite smart and athletic, has an amazingly beautiful personality.  He has hardly ever met a stranger.  He’ll play hard in a sport with even older boys, then sit down and joyfully read a book with his 5-year old brother and 7-year old sister.

Caroline, our 7-year old?  I think I may need to buy a Michael’s store to keep up with the amount of paper and supplies she uses to create the amazingly wonderful ideas she has in her head.  She is always creating, playing make-believe, or dancing.  And I am very thankful to be the delight of her heart.  That’s the place every father should have in a little girl’s heart.

Graham, our 5-year old son is the life of the party.  Though he hates it every time someone says “he’s so cute!”… he really is that cute.  He has watched his brothers play sports now since he was born, and knows more about the different facets of sports than many adults.  He was walking around the house the other day asking Carol’s iPhone about different sports scores.  Siri would respond with a very descriptive phrase “Tennessee pummeled…” and he would just get so tickled.  He also is the snuggliest of the bunch.  He loves getting real close to me or his mom and just sit and rest.

We are a busy family, with 4 kids in school, sports, dance, and church life.  Carol and I have been desiring to have regular weekly family meetings as an opportunity to slow down… to “rest” and bring us closer together for a brief moment during the week.  I came across a couple of resources recently on the art of manliness website with great info on how to conduct a family meeting and developing a family mission statement.  So, last night we had our first real family meeting.  Here are the highlights:

– Lots of fidgeting so Carol got them all squish-balls.

– I sent one to his room because of a negative attitude.  He came back ready.

– I wanted to end it halfway through because everyone seemed like they wouldn’t stay engaged (never mind that they’ll play video games for hours if we let them).


– I taught them a couple of really neat ideas around developing a family mission statement.

– All 6 of us had an opportunity to share ideas, questions, and even difficulties in their lives.



So, it was not perfect, by any stretch.  But we did it.  And for that, I’m grateful.  We’ll do it imperfectly again next week, but we’ll keep pressing on and doing it.  Why?