Chappy’s corner “Need a Guide; Be a Guide?”

A photographer for a national news magazine was assigned to get photos of a big forest fire. Smoke at the scene was too thick to get any good shots so he called his office to hire a plane. “It will be waiting for you at the airport” his editor told him. As soon as he arrived at the small airport he saw a plane warming up near the runway. He jumped in and yelled “Let’s go! Let’s go!  The pilot swung the plane around and soon they were in the air. The photographer said, “Fly over the north side of the fire and make three or four low level passes.” Why?” asked the pilot.  The photographer replied, “Because I’m going to take pictures. I’m a photographer and photographers take pictures”. After a long pause the pilot said, “You mean you’re not my instructor?”

I once flew a plane.  For a birthday present my wife gave me the gift of a one hour flight lesson.  For a half an hour one person flew the plane, and then it was my turn.  I took control of the plane and took the plane into the air. It was thrilling and exciting, and I wasn’t scared one bit, because I had a trained instructor next to me who was coaching me all the way.  If something went wrong, he had immediate control of the plane from his seat. Actually I was a bit nervous since this was something I had never done before and as we came closer and closer to landing the plane I found myself growing more anxious, because the instructor didn’t take over the controls. He just sat there and coached me but then when the time was right, he took over.  We landed safely and I could honestly say I flew a plane. 

If I had been alone in that plane, I doubt the results would have been as pleasant. I needed help.  The military uses the term left seat right seat for times of transition.  One person with experience helps train the other person to take their job.  During deployment in Afghanistan I was blessed to have Chaplain Dewell as my guide for two weeks. The first week I observed and the second week I did the job while he observed.  It was great having him train me and guide me, but it was even better knowing that when he left, the Lord was still there. 

The Bible states “For God has said, “I will never, never fail you nor forsake you.” That is why we can say without any doubt or fear, “The Lord is my Helper, and I am not afraid of anything that mere man can do to me.”

My flying experience is like my life, and the lives of others. It can be exciting but at times scary. Some moments in life are a blessing like a new job, or a promotion at work, or the birth of a child or grandchild or moving into a new place.  At times like that we need to remember we are not alone, God is with us at those times, in fact he is the one who gave us those blessings and for that we can give thanks.  But life also has difficult times, such as the death of a parent, or the loss of a job, or a divorce, or a broken family, or battling a deadly illness.  In those situations, we again need to remember that we are not alone. God is with us.  Now in those dark days it is tempting to think God is far away, in fact we might become anxious and wonder if God is going to help us. But don’t be afraid, God is there at the funeral home, the jail cell, the hospital room and in that war zone.  Why is God there?  Not because we are good people.  In fact, we often fail to do what we should do.  But God is there because He is a loving God and wants us to be His people.   As the Bible states, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

In Christ God provides for our salvation and our future, but He also provides for us in our daily lives with people to guide us. The Bible states “Remember your leaders who have taught you the Word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and try to trust the Lord as they do.  For me that was a fellow chaplain in a war zone, for others it might be a co worker at work, or a friend or a neighbor, or a parent or a spouse.  God has placed people in our lives to help us, to guide us. They are there for a reason and so are we.  We are here to be guided and I believe at times to also help guide others.   That’s just my thoughts from this snowy SE corner of South Dakota!

CH (COL) David Gunderson

State Chaplain for SDARNG