Tag Archives: Grace

Charles Simpson Celebration

Charles Simpson, a man whose influence touched the lives of many, bid farewell to Earth on February 14, 2024, leaving a profound legacy in each of us who knew him.

Several hundred folks from around the country and globe gathered to joyfully celebrate his life and legacy. It was a true party, as one would expect. Stephen, Susanne, and the CSM leadership team, guided by the Holy Spirit, orchestrated a gathering of joyful, expectant, grateful, humble, accomplished, spiritual warriors and warrioresses at Covenant Church, Mobile, AL, to celebrate the gift that Charles Simpson was and honor the man he was.

When I received the invitation, I wondered how they would pull this off. Let the people assemble two hours before the service begins to hug necks, tell stories, and catch up on each other’s lives and what Charles meant to them, for starters.

Once the official service started, one got the idea that Charles himself had laid out the plan, and Stephen (and the other speakers) said as much. “I hate long funerals,” Charles said. He gave each speaker a certain amount of time, mostly five minutes, which was mostly honored. His children may have been given a little liberty on the time or taken a little liberty, but it was beautiful and special.

I won’t try to recreate what Stephan, Susanne, Charlyn, and Jonathan said. I will say that what the ladies shared was very real, honoring, candid, relational, and beautiful. The whole service was recorded as a YouTube video, which is worth your time to experience for an inside look at the beauty we all beheld at some distance.

Don Poythress led us in worship. Michael Coleman delivered the eulogy. Bishop Joseph Garlington brought some special music and words of insight about Charles. To the surprise of many, Pastor Aaron Früh, Charles’ personal pastor for the last few years, welcomed us and provided us with some surprising pastoral insights into Charles’ final days.

Most of us were there for four hours, from 10 AM to 2 PM, and it seemed like thirty minutes—also seemed that time didn’t matter. The Spirit moved like a Gulf breeze through the family gathered to honor Charles, warming hearts, giving revelation, and bringing a soul-stilling peace.

It was even more special to experience it with some West Monroe, LA, friends who knew Charles well and had been similarly impacted by his life, teaching, and preaching.

To top it all off, many of the crowd ambled over to the fellowship hall for an authentic Cajun meal of seafood gumbo, cheese grits, collard greens, pork, chicken, and more. Indescribable deserts were centered around a large plate piled high with apple fritters, which we learned Charles enjoyed daily with his dog as part of their breakfast. Who knew?

My heart is smiling, and I’m rambling. The reality is that I have no words to describe God’s unfathomable reach and majesty. I also struggle to find words to describe the depths and impact of a man so given to knowing God, experiencing His Spirit, and making Him known to others most of the hours and days of his life. Such a man and friend was Charles Simpson. To God be the glory.

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[Click here to enjoy some photos and videos from the event.]

As I think of Charles several Scriptures come to mind, like Psalm 1, Psalm 23, Malachi 4:2, and Psalm 112:4. With a heart smile, I’ll end with this one:

“I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you” (Isaiah 46:4 NLT).

I invite you to pray with me the Aaronic Blessing over Charles’ family, ministry, and closest friends:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26 NIV).

Happy Passover

Sundown today marks the beginning of Passover 2024. Passover marks the deliverance from slavery to freedom by the death of a firstborn and the death of an innocent lamb. It’s also an act of judgment and mercy born in the heart of the gracious, loving, and just Most High God. Amen.

Sin and death seem linked, as do innocent blood and forgiveness — forever.

On Earth at the moment, the scope of anti-Semitism and humanistic rebellion against this magnificent God is noteworthy. Similar situations have had their moments in history but have not swelled to the proportions seen in the past century and at this moment. Nor has it been seen to this extent in people professing faith in God. What does this portend for us as human beings? A time for war?!

Angels, demons, and the people they influence worldwide are players in this cosmic and cataclysmic scenario. The most important part and factor is the judgment of the Almighty—how and when He will choose to act, but act He will, out of justice and love.

There will be deliverance and protection for his own, those who fear him and draw near in fidelity and obedience. And there will be judgment on the evil and the unjust — a removal of cancer, if you will, for the nations and His creation. Selah.

Happy Passover 2024, as you remember the gracious, merciful Holy One who initiated this deliverance and the Passover of the death angel who judged a rebellious, idol-ridden world power bent on destroying God’s chosen people.

Worship the lamb and celebrate the victory he gives and makes possible over sin and death — also over sin and slavery.

“Pesach Sameach” 

    פסח שמח  

       Happy Passover

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“’O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?’

For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NLT).

“Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!’ He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying, ‘But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.’ …
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Psalm 2).

“So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9).

Charles Simpson 1937-2024

One of the most influential men in my life has departed this earth for heaven. This morning, I sit in silence and solitude by the fire, grateful—full of joy and peace. I’m still inspired by his inspiring life, incredible Bible teaching, and leadership within the church as a minister of the Gospel and along the pathways of life wherever he went. And go, he did, to the ends of the earth and crisscrossing the country until he fell ill a few months ago.

Reflecting now, I think it was his fear of the Lord, humility, and close walk with God that touched me most. Also, it was his familiarity with the Holy Spirit and the way he flowed in the Spirit so effortlessly. “A person with an experience is never at the mercy of a person with an argument” is one of his quotes that comes to me now and often. He lived that and helped me do the same — a quiet assurance of faith that comes from spending time with God in His Word, meditation, and obedience to what you hear.

A quote from his website says it succinctly, “Embracing the truth with our lives. In an age of confusion and challenge, there is a great hunger for clarity and courage. We believe that we are called to stay rooted in the Bible, to listen to God’s Holy Spirit, and prophetically declare what we hear Him saying in this generation.”

A friend from Louisiana just texted me to ask if I was coming to Charles’ Celebration of Life service. It’s a hike from here, but I’m planning to go—to honor one of the most humble, gracious, influential, and godly men I have ever known and to celebrate his life with friends who knew and walked with him.

I read many of his articles in New Wine Magazine and listened to many hours of recorded teaching and sermons before I met Charles. Then, once on an F-4 deployment to Gulfport, MS, a squadron mate and I drove to Mobile, AL, to hear him speak on Father’s Day an incredibly inspiring and insightful message, “The Missing Man.” It was the first time I saw him and shook his hand after hearing his Spirit-given, razor-edged wisdom and truth in person.

By the grace of God, I eventually had a couple of one-on-one conversations with him. With a small group of friends, I also visited his home for an evening of coffee and conversation. Just last year, he graciously wrote an endorsement of my latest book, Puzzling 2020.

I have no words to communicate what the man means to me for the infusion of the Word and Spirit he deposited in my life or was a catalyst for the Lord to deposit in my life. I can only sit in silent awe with a joy-filled and grateful heart, reflecting on the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living to His servants and friends.

I just read a blog by Charles’ oldest son, Stephen, which caused my heart to swell again with thanksgiving, love, and joy.

I remain very quiet in my spirit—thankful. My heart is full of quiet joy to have known him. What a race! And victory won. And Sabbath rest for him… the first Easter with his Redeemer and Friend.

Easter Shalom to you all.

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“One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4).

“O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come” (Psalm 71:17-18).

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand” (Hymn by Edward Mote, 1834).

Ray Grimes In Memoriam

This week, the family laid Ray Grimes to rest in the Fort Smith National Cemetery after an honoring memorial service. You can read his obituary here.

You can’t really put a person’s life in a few words or wrap up a full life in a few thoughts. Yet these times of honoring the departed seem to call for that or be given to it. It’s a time to ponder the meaning of life, and reflect on the life we are assembled to celebrate and honor.

Time and tradition has brought us to recall the seemingly-most-important facts about a person’s life. Seventy-nine years old. Married forty-six years. Raised two boys to successful adulthood. The description of family members and friends remaining. Those facts do say a lot, and perhaps the most about a man.

But it seems there is a lot more that isn’t said. And we’re left to ponder that for ourselves.

The Bible gives us hints of how our Creator God sees life and death. In Job we’re told, “Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old” (Job 12:12). Solomon tells us, “A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1) He also tells us it’s better to go into the house of morning than the house of feasting” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). One can assume this is to consider our days and consider our lives while we have breath.

God honors a long life lived on the earth. He honors faithfulness. He honors those who honor Him. He knows life is a beautiful gift to be lived. And He knows it’s hard at times with warfare involved. He sees it all. May we come to see things like He sees them and live in this light.

Then the Bible tells us, “Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones” (Psalm 116:15). And way back at the beginning of the Bible, God tells us, “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32).

Three Songs

Ray’s sons, one of whom is my son-in-law, wanted three songs played by his favorite artists that were their dad’s favorites. They bundled some family photos with them. In retrospect, they tell us a lot about Ray’s life and any life — three of the most important things in life.

First was A Father’s Love, which speaks to our heavenly Father’s love also. Then Me Without You, which speaks to the importance, even preeminence, of relationships in our earth journey. Lastly, Amazing Grace tells the most important part of the story on earth and in eternity — God’s presence with His people. Rest in peace, Ray Grimes.

[More Photos]

Christmas and Hanukkah 2023

On an early-morning, 3-mile walk around our neighborhood with my wife, we stopped at a restaurant for breakfast. Soon, our conversation turned to soul care — reading the Bible habitually, praying, staying in a community of faith — and abiding in the Light.

“Soul care” seems to be jumping out to me everywhere. Ron, my neighbor, came into the yard yesterday evening, catching me putting the last touches on our Christmas angel, and he was there for the lighting ceremony just as the sun was setting and Hanukkah was beginning. While enjoying a beautiful moment and sunset, our conversation turned to “soul care” — the habits, disciplines, and rhythms of the Christian faith and subsequent peace.

Hanukkah is from the Hebrew word for consecration. Hanukkah, according to dictionary.com is “A Jewish festival lasting eight days, celebrated from the 25th day of the month of Kislev to the 2nd of Tevet in commemoration of the rededication of the Temple by the Maccabees following their victory over the Syrians [168 BC] under Antiochus IV, characterized chiefly by the lighting of the menorah on each night of the festival.” Sometimes spelled Chanukah, it is also called the Feast of Dedication or the Feast of Lights.

Bethlehem Light

On our morning walk, we also discussed that “people believe what they want to believe.” When it comes to Bethlehem, can you really overlook such a carefully placed puzzle piece? You can if your heart doesn’t want to know, see, or believe.

On the same note, if you do want to believe there is a God who cares, Who is there, and always does what He says from generation to generation, then pause at Bethlehem. Open your eyes, your ears, your heart, your soul, your spirit, and peer in wonder at a humble Baby and the very heart of your Creator God.

The sky was full of light that night! Happy Hanukkah.

Bethlehem and Hanukkah

What do these two have in common? Other than both will begin on the same day December 25, 2024 — light! Those living in darkness will see a great light in Galilee of the Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1-2, Matthew 4:14-15). A prophet, priest, and King is born in Bethlehem, Judah, as predicted by the prophet Micah (5:2). Bethlehem, “the house of bread,” is a fitting beginning for Jesus, who would call himself the “bread of life.” The Lion of Judah, the Son of David, was born in the same town David was, 1000 years earlier. Seems like too big a coincidence, doesn’t it?

The religious (those trusting in their own knowledge and works) didn’t see it. Check for yourself. Does any prophet come from Nazareth? (John 7:52). Who else doesn’t see? And who does? That’s a fascinating study within itself as you follow Jesus’ life and ministry on the pages of the Gospels.

It’s by invitation only! But the guest list is immense, in keeping with the wealth and goodwill of the Host. There is an RSVP stated or implied, and that’s our only responsibility, apparently. 

Please, stop what you’re doing. Put worldly cares and your to-do list aside. Enter into the joy of the Lord, where there is feasting without strife and rest — where there is true life.

Take care of your soul. Start living your faith or keeping your faith in an ever-increasing and deepening fashion. There dwells light and life — love and joy.

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But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity
” (Micah 5:2).

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (Isaiah 9:1-2).

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst’” (John 6:35).

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).

African Spiritual Adventure 2023

One of our members at Harvest Community Chruch has a fledgling relationship with an African pastor who is four years into a church plant in Uganda. Our church sent a five-member team to support this church in July/August, and scout out whether the Spirit might be leading us into an ongoing relationship. This turned into a beautiful, relational adventure.

We were their first team to host, and they did a remarkable job. Our lodging was clean and safe, and their hospitality was exemplary and warm. We felt honored and well cared for — indeed, welcomed into their family.

Buyera Community Church (BCC) is a non-denominational church in an association of about 200 similar churches throughout Uganda. We found Pastor Steven and his wife Judith to be very hard-working, self-sacrificing, genuine Christians who are laying their lives down to further the church and Kingdom of God. They have put together a fledgling church in four years of about 100-150 people in Buyera, a village on the outskirts of Kampala, the capital. While the area is relatively impoverished at the moment, its proximity to the capitol with some recent business and governmental activity promise to bring needed economic resources to their village as well as many new people.

They’ve put together an amazing, well-kept campus, and started an elementary school with about 80 children. That’s Judith’s passion and dream, because she was a Project Compassion child herself who came out of the slums and a bad family situation to get an education and wants to give back or replicate that for others. Teaching children is about the best way to make disciples imaginable. Pastor Stephen is well-educated, with Christian parents who recently celebrated their 47th anniversary — their age being a rarity in Uganda where the average age is 15.5 years.

Steven has a young, energetic leadership team — one quite large for the size of the church. It occurred to us that their real call may be to raise up and train leaders for the church in Uganda and Africa. Steven’s main focus seems to be the church, as it should be, the bride of Christ and a representation of His family. Their local church is bursting at the seams, space wise — meeting in the three-room school each Sunday. They have the foundation built for a church building on the campus, with standing metal beams. They are also ready to pour concrete for the floor and are in the process of making their own concrete blocks — a process in which we participated.

We enjoyed our recreation day at the beginning of the trip (desert first!) instead of at the end as usual, resting Steven and Judith, by going on a safari. This turned out to be perfect for getting to know the couple and their hearts, as we let them know us and gain their trust. We feel like family now.

On that note, a safari is a good option for the recreation and reflection day that most short-term-mission trips build into their schedules. It’s about a 5 hour drive from the BCC to the national park/game preserve. That’s a hike, but it allows the team to recover from jet lag — while experiencing a long, peaceful drive through the countryside getting a feel for the culture and people while resting and chatting.

As a veteran of about 20 short term mission trips, each one a success in its own right, I’d say this trip ranked near the top. BCC is very kingdom minded, and the fields are “ripe unto harvest” in Uganda, which may prove to be a hub in Africa for sending out young preachers and church planters. “Can anything good come out of Buyera?” is a common saying there. 🙂

At a Charles Simpson leadership conference in May of this year I sat at breakfast with two gentlemen who were involved with training young pastors and preachers near Kampala, Uganda. What are the chances? On the flight from Amsterdam to Uganda, I sat by a very lovely Belgian woman, a nurse, who met her husband on a medical mission to the Congo, just west of Uganda. She married her Canadian-pilot husband, and he currently flies for Uganda Air and they live in Entebbe. She told me Uganda is mostly Christian and the gospel is spreading rapidly, but that the depth of the church is somewhat shallow, with a lot of prosperity teaching, etc.

We found Pastor Steven a grounded student and teacher of the Bible. He and his wife met working for Project Compassion, and the church they attended at that time sent them out as church planters. They have established a nice church campus with a building used for a Christian elementary school, a building for church and school offices, a mission building, and the start of a church building. The campus is clean and well laid out in a good location for growth as Kampala spreads south toward Lake Victoria and Entebbe Airport. But it’s the hearts of these two leaders, their four children and their staff that are the treasures. We plan to help them any way we can as the Spirit leads, with funds and sharing lives via visits. It’s beautiful and refreshing to find God’s Spirit in God’s family in many different parts of the planet — and to experience their love is an inexpressible joy!

Photos of African Mission Adventure 2023

Honduras 2023 — There is Still Room

There Is Still Room

I must include one more highlight from our spring-break trip to Honduras, because it furnished our mission statement and direction for the entire trip, “There is still room” — at the King’s table. This is how we came to hear it.

Pastor Dario, learning that Tim and Lindsay had lived in China for six years, invited him to speak to the church saying, “Brother Tim, tell us about China.”

Tim read a passage of Scripture from Luke 14 about people who were invited to a fabulous banquet by a wealthy master, but many made excuses and didn’t come. The master told his servants to go out into the highways and byways and invite the lame, poor, and anyone who would come. The servants did so, and reported this to the master and that: “There is still room.”(v22) The master sent his servants out again.

 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’‘’Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet’” (Luke 14: 21:23 NIV).

Tim chose to tell the Honduran church about how the underground church in China had ignored and not evangelized the Tibetan people because they were “idol worshipers” and chose willingly to ignore God and go their own way. Tim mentioned also that a very, very small percentage of Tibetans had ever heard the name of Jesus.

Then there was a major earthquake in Tibet a few years later, and the Chinese church decided to send humanitarian and spiritual help. They were well received and many came to Christ. The Chinese church repented for exclusivity and admitted their failure in going to Tibet with the Gospel, as commanded in the Great Commission.

After hearing the story, Pastor Dario said to Tim, our team, and his own church, that this was a word for the Honduras church. He went on to say, “Everyone in Honduras has heard the name of Jesus and the Gospel message.” But the Honduran church has been like the underground Chinese church and judged that the people who haven’t responded to the Gospel or accepted Jesus were doing so because that was their choice. Therefore the church wasn’t going out into the highways and byways any longer like they had a one time.

“Now we’re hearing, ‘There’s still room,’ and we’re failing at going out again. This is a good word for us, and one we need to hear.” 

“There is still room” seemed to become the main theme or word from the Lord for our team concerning our time in Honduras, and beyond.

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Photo Journal of Honduras 2023

Honduras Spring Break 2023

A Prison Break! — Honduras March 20, 2023

[Eight of us experience Prisoners of Light @ Olanchito, Yoro, Honduras Prison ]

There is no way I can describe what happened in there.

As we turned over our passports and walked toward the solid metal door with a peephole, then through that door to the bare, concrete holding area in front of another solid metal door with a small window, prisoners began excitedly whispering and running through the narrow perpendicular passageways beyond.

I’d been inside this prison before, but no one else with me had been except our translator. I hadn’t seen this activity before, so it was a bit unnerving, partly because we had five precious young women with us. But I quickly had inner peace and a spiritual impression that all was well and everything was alright.

We hurried into the hallway, turned left, and followed the narrow passageway lined by some prisoners, until we emerged into the open-air courtyard. It was surrounded by high walls topped with Concertina wire and a guard tower manned by a uniformed guard with a machine gun.

Immediately to our left, seated in many straight rows, were 150+ prisoners who began to clap loudly — applaud thunderously is more like it — our arrival.!?

Totally surprised and humbled by such a warm reception, we waved sheepishly at the clapping inmates. We continued walking to where we were motioned, to our seats at the front left side — very close to the prison worship team.

There was a warm and impassioned welcome to our team by the prison pastor, who is also an inmate. And the inmates echoed his welcome with thunderous applause.

Our Honduran translator Kerlin stood up at the front by the pastor and translated Spanish to English for our team when appropriate or as needed. After their welcoming remarks, Kerlin invited me as the team leader to speak to the prisoners.

I gave them our greetings from the United States, our Arkansas church, and the Covenant Life Fellowship brothers and sisters in Louisiana who had visited before. I had seen enough of their Spirit-filled worship to tell them, “Don’t be surprised if there is more spiritual light in here than out there.” This was followed by loud applause. I told them we experienced a waterfall of the Spirit as they worshiped so freely and passionately, and thanked them for letting us share the experience with them.

I recounted that I had been inside their prison five or six times during the last ten years. We weren’t allowed to visit in 2021 and 2022 due to COVID-19. They nodded appreciatively their understanding and thanks for trying. I recounted how small the Christian group of prisoners was ten years ago, maybe 15 to 20 inmates meeting against the western wall. Most of the other inmates were milling around the courtyard then, with some of them heckling. Five years later, the number was about 50, and you had a small area set aside for worship and meeting. But now!?! …

Trip Report to the Elders

That’s how I started an after-action report to our elders about the fourteen-member team that Harvest Community Church, Fayetteville, AR, sent to support an indigenous pastor. The trip also provided opportunities for our community to disciple believers in another country and culture, and be discipled by them. It was a beautiful experience and what Jesus commanded His followers to do in Matthew 28:19-20, commonly called “The Great Commission.”

You can click on the whole report below and hear the rest of the prison story as well as read the highlights of the trip, mostly recorded from my journal.

There Is Still Room

I must include one more highlight, because it furnished our direction for the entire trip, “There is still room” [at the King’s table]. But this blog has become long enough so I’ll continue that on the following bog.

Godspeed on your spiritual journey wherever you find yourself. May you be spending time with Him each day, knowing Him better and better for the joy that is, and the joy that lies before you. Shalom in Jesus Christ, the Lord.

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Trip Report to the Elders

Photo Record of Our Honduras Adventure

To Fly or Not to Fly Becomes a Question

[Pertinent thoughts after the accident from a friend named Barry in a Fellowship Fayetteville Bible Study of Romans:]

While studying Romans, I can’t help but think of the radical change in the Apostle Paul’s life before . . . and after . . . he personally met Jesus. Before that experience, he hated Jesus and all Jesus followers.

Obviously, Paul’s entire thoughts about Jesus as the promised Messiah changed radically.

For instance, Paul uses the name of “Jesus” 38 times in Romans. He mentions “Christ” (Messiah) 68 times, and uses the combination of the two together (“Jesus” and “Christ”) approximately 34 verses. All this only in his letter to the church in Rome.

Just as it was for Paul, there are times in each one of our lives where God presents us with an opportunity to consider the current direction of our own life and what is truly important to us. For me this happened a little more than 5 years ago, following an auto accident where I was T-boned causing my vehicle to rollover 1-1/2 times, ending upside down. My head banged against the window, and I was unconscious for quite some time. Two people who attempted to communicate with me during that time, thought that I was likely no longer alive. However, I finally revived, and a trip to the ER showed that I had no broken bones, and no internal injuries. The only thing I had was a few cuts, and a lot of bruises.

This incident caused me to spend much time contemplating why my life was spared. Although my quest for meaning in my life had begun prior to this time, this event increased my desire exponentially to find these answers. As a direct result of this, I began attending Fellowship Fayetteville, then began attending Gary’s study of the book of Matthew when it began that fall.

I bring this up because one of the men in our group had a similar (but even more dramatic) experience the day after Christmas. Fortunately, God spared Dwayne Bell and his wife from any serious injuries.

Dwayne Bell has his own website, and you can read about the incident at the following link.

           afriendoftheking.com
  

I mentioned to Dwayne some of the questions that I asked myself after my accident:
Does God have something to say to through this incident?
Is God taking away something in order to replace it with something else?
Does God have a new direction and a new role for my life from this point?
Does God want me to reevaluate my priorities?

Here are some of comments that Dwayne has made in regards to this incident in a subsequent email.

When anything happens like this, you become very spiritually sensitive, especially if you have a high view of God and how intimate and involved He is in our lives . . .

I’ve experienced more grace, or been more aware of it, than at any time in my life. And I have more reason to believe and more conviction that “His plans for me are better than my plans for me.” So, I’ve put my main emphasis on getting to hear Him better by walking more closely (solitude, silence, the Word, and prayer) alone, and in community with the family of faith.

This signals something . . . and in the coming days I’m sure He’ll make it known, (if I want to know, and will listen). Listening with brothers is a key part of that, so feel free to speak into my life anyway you feel led.

In Psalms 119:34-37 David says,
Give me understanding so that I might observe your law, and keep it with all my heart.
Guide me in the path of your commands, for I delight to walk in it.
Give me a desire for your rules, rather than for wealth gained unjustly.
Turn my eyes away from what is worthless! Revive me with your word!

May our Lord make known to each of us the path that he has for our lives, and may we follow Him closely and obediently all the days of our lives.

Barry

Wager With the Wind

What Just Happened!?

Well, the time has come. I’ve dreaded this moment for some reason. It’s not hard to tell what happened, as best I understand it. That’s straightforward and easy. It’s because I don’t want to relive the feeling of what we lost.

My wife and I took a 3-mile walk this morning around our frozen neighborhood in the 19° (which felt like 10°), frozen-world, winter, wonderland covered with 2-3 inches of sleet from the previous 24 hours. The silence and solitude were beautiful, as were our brief conversations and prayers. I couldn’t help but look at the hard, sleet-covered surface of the road and think, “I could have landed the Maule on surfaces like that easily, as I have several times. Hard-packed ice and snow isn’t a problem. But soft, wet, dense snow is.

Here’s What Happened

Let me tell you what happened, and then we can discuss lessons learned or what I would do differently if I got a do-over, which in this case, I don’t.

January 26, 2023, in the early morning we flew from Springdale, AR, where we live much of the time and keep our airplane hangared to Hot Springs, AR, to visit my wife’s sister, who has some health challenges. It was a pristine, clear, blue-skies day, and we made the smooth flight in a record 45 minutes due to a substantial tailwind out of the NW. The snow-covered mountains of the Ozarks and Ouachitas were breathtaking, and flying seemed surreal, which it often does.

A Year Ago on the Mountain

After our visit, we filled up with fuel due to the expected weekend flying and headed north to our mountain-top strip, John Harris Field, or AR05, on the aeronautical charts. We flew lower northbound to mitigate the effects of the NW headwind. At 3500′, I slowed the plane and configured it to land to the north. The skies were clear blue, and the north/south runway looked beautiful in the snow. I noted it was 1210 PM. The winds at 2500′ on down to the 1777′ landing zone elevation were out of the NW (310° and steady at 10-15 knots, I estimated from the 3000′ winds aloft at RUE and what I was feeling from the airplane). I held my normal 60 MPH final approach speed steady until it was time to flare. Once we glided near the runway surface, past the windsock at the approach end, and between the pine trees which line the runway, there was practically no wind or drift to correct. Before entering the snow, I held it off in the flare to dissipate as much airspeed as possible.

When I let it settle into the snow, it seemed like our deceleration rate was typical for the landing phase. But it then decelerated faster than I could imagine. The tail came up very quickly, and before I knew it, it was straight up in the air, and then the momentum of the plane carried it on over in a somewhat slow tumble onto its back. 

I would say from the “fairly normal deceleration” assessment until the tail was up vertical only took 2-3 seconds — unbelievably fast, even when I think about it now as I type. I didn’t get the time compression that sometimes accompanies these sudden events. It still seems like a blur. I had my hand on the throttle to add power if needed. If they happen, I’d read that soft snow-related incidents happen at very slow speeds at the end of the landing roll when not much air is going over the tail to hold it down. But nothing I read, thought, or heard about prepared me for this rapid deceleration. It was as if at 15-20 MPH, some gremlins threw chocks in front of the main wheels.

The only thoughts I had, at the time the tail was about 30° up in the air and moving rapidly, were: “I can’t make myself push the power up looking down at the ground at this slow speed, with no real threats around” and, when the prop hit the ground one second later, “This is going to be expensive.”

The next thing I know, my wife and I are hanging upside down in our seat belts. We release them and crawl out of the airplane onto the bottom of the pilot’s side wing. While she released her belt, I turned the master switch off, the ignition switch off, and the fuel selector to off. Then we walked away quickly in shock that it had happened. But we were unharmed and grateful.

The End.

To Stop or Not to Stop, That is the Question

Hundreds experiences work for you when flying in the backcountry from thousands of hours flying fighters and airliners. Then there are a few things that might work against you.

One such thing is the throttle. For many repetitions and landings, when I pulled the throttle to idle, it wasn’t going to be pushed back up. In the backcountry with lighter aircraft, sometimes you need to do so to get air over the control surfaces to control the airplane and prevent mishaps. I have made substantial progress in overcoming this big-muscle memory and demonstrated it at times. But this event happened too fast to react like that.

Secondly, you spend most of your career thinking snow is slick and the primary threat it presents is getting stopped from the momentum of heavy airplanes landing at high speeds. One never suspects it could be an agent for causing you to stop too quickly.

I will continue to mull this over and try to think of what I might have done differently and hear from fellow pilots their thoughts. An F-16 buddy called yesterday and after hearing my story said, “Yeah, but this is different. The snow got hold of you and flipped you over.” That isn’t a bad summary of what happened.

An older pilot friend with lots of experience told me, “CG (center of gravity) might have had some effect on you. When you fly airplanes like the Maule or a Cherokee Six that carry about anything you put in them and feel about the same when landing, one can get a little lax in thinking about it.” That’s possible for sure. If I had remotely anticipated anything like this, I would have extra bags or weight in the back to slow or help prevent the tail from coming up. And I might have landed with a bit of power on until it stopped in its tracks — very counterintuitive though. If I had dreamed it could be a problem, I wouldn’t have landed at all. All of this is hindsight and speculation. But you can’t help but try to problem-solve or be a better pilot, even when you’re still grieving the loss of something.

I wish I had had Don Sheldon to ask about the landing before I attempted it.

Paperwork

I would love to have lived in the heyday of the Alaska bush pilots, my father’s generation, just after WWII. If you want to get a feel for what that was like, as much as we can, read Wager With the Wind by James Greiner. When four friends flew our two Maules to Alaska in 2017, we landed on downtown Talkeetna’s legendary Don Sheldon’s grass strip. Back then, a similar accident would be addressed by friends trying to get you back in the air as soon as possible, with no reports, insurance companies, and massive paperwork to complete. It was more about adventure, courage, camaraderie, and survival together. 

I told the gentleman who called from the Denver office of the NTSB, who was very kind and compassionate, “That’s quite a form. I’m seventy. I don’t know if I have enough time left to fill that out.” I’m just kidding, of course (sort of). I’m not cursing the darkness or calling the NTSB, FAA, or insurance companies bad guys. They are a part of why we have the safest general aviation flying in the world, offering as much freedom to US citizens as we have. And the insurance guy was as kind, sympathetic, and helpful as the NTSB representative. 

I’m grateful for the aviation experience, and we’ll see where this interruption leads us. It has been a magnificent flight in life. Thanks for listening to my story and to you who have reached out, checking on us, and wishing us the best — most hoping we fly again. Godspeed to you on your journey, and His shalom be yours in abundance.