Monday, July 27, 2009

On a Wing and a Prayer

by Mike Bolinger

I do not consider myself to be a mystic and I certainly hope no one thinks of me as a religious quack, but sometimes weird things happen and I am puzzled by them. So it is now. For those who choose to read on, let me know what you think.

My late father was a naval aviator. I got my love of flying from him for which I shall be forever grateful. My dad flew every fighter the Navy had from 1943 until 1968. He flew radial engine biplanes into the Navy’s jet age. He was a guy who made his living landing high performance aircraft on the pitching and rolling deck of an aircraft carrier on dark and stormy nights. All the rest of us pilots land on the ground which doe not move much, unless you hit it too hard. Naval aviators are simply the best. They have to be.

My dad told me many times that the best airplane he flew was the F8F Bearcat. It was and still is the fastest single-engine fighter ever built. It was so powerful that when you took off, you needed to hold full right rudder and you never used full power, because the airplane would snap roll 360 degrees as soon as it left the ground because of the engines incredible torque. Obviously, you never got a second chance if you were careless.

I have always thought the most beautiful airplane ever built was the Spitfire VII. Its designer feverishly worked to finish the design because he knew England would soon be at war with Germany and he was terminally ill with cancer. He barely finished the design when war broke out between the two countries.

When the test pilot landed the prototype Spitfire, he climbed down and said “Don’t change a thing, it’s perfect.” From then on it was a legend. In it about 3 hundred 20-year-olds saved the entire free world in 1940 in the Battle of Britain. Too many people have forgotten about this. The young pilots were modern day Spartans, willing to hold the aerial pass with their lives.

Several years ago I bought a 1949 Mooney Mite. For those of you who do not know what that is (even most pilots do not know), it is a single seat, retractable gear airplane with a stick and a variable pitch prop. It also has a sliding canopy like a Spitfire. I loved that airplane with a passion exceeded only by my passion for my lovely wife. It was my own fighter plane. It was the closest I could get to a Spitfire. It taught me a lot about flying.

Recently, our pastor gave a message on Heaven. He said that most of us thought of Heaven as a place where Casper-the-Ghost-like spirits floated in space singing praises to the Lord. He was trying to be humorous, but you get the point. Frankly, that does not sound like fun to me. It sounded boring to him. It sounded boring to me, too.

In his message our pastor referred to a book entitled Heaven by Randy Alcorn. Alcorn says that the Bible repeatedly refers to Heaven as being an actual, physical place where we shall be able to continue to do many of the things we do here on Earth. He thinks the Garden of Eden still exists for the simple reason that God made Eden to be a perfect place and God does not make junk, nor would he have any reason to destroy something that is perfect. He suggests that those saints that like to garden or farm could spend their heavenly time working there. He also postulates that everything that has ever been invented originates with God and that God delights in seeing us invent something and perfect it. He even says that those of us who delight in tinkering with old cars might still be able to do so. I know this sounds a little odd, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Each of us would essentially have a piece of Heaven perfectly designed for each of us.

Reacting to the pastor’s message and Alcorn’s book, I sent my pastor an email in which I said that it was my hope that upon drawing my last breath, I would be transported to a grass airstrip, which would be wet with dew on a Saturday morning. A gentle breeze would be blowing straight down the runway. An old hanger with several folding chairs would be out front. My dad, who would be wearing his old Navy flying jacket, would walk out of the hanger and say “Me and the boys have been waiting for you. You’ve got the lead. Let’s fly home”. Someone would push my Mooney Mite out of the hanger and my dad would climb up into his Bearcat and away we would go.

Now I know that this is corny and sentimental. But bear with me.

Since I have been sick, I have read all of Charles Swindoll’s books on the great people of the Bible. One of the excellent points he made in all the books is that God always prepares the person he has chosen to carry out his task. His messengers are always given time to prepare, which gets me to the point.

So there I was at the lake last Saturday night sleeping soundly when I had one of the most vivid dreams I have ever had. I was sitting in the cockpit of a Spitfire with my dad kneeling on the top of the starboard wing. In precise detail, he told me how to switch fuel tanks from the main to aft tanks. He showed me how the fuel gauge would read and how many gallons there were in each tank. It was so real I could smell my dad and the airplane and I remembered how he talked. It was wonderful.

All I can say is that if Heaven is perfect and beyond anything we can imagine, and if it is a place of unimaginable delights, populated by wonderful, healthy people, and if it is going to be tailored to each of us, the Lord is preparing me for my first true flight. To my delight it is going to be with me in a Spitfire with my dad in his Bearcat. Such fun we will have.



  1. Mike - I remember the Mooney Mite and the scads of letters you dicated regarding the aircraft. :)

    The memories you shared regarding your dad are very special, as was he. Also special is the vision of your final journey home to heaven. You in a Spitfire - your dad in a Bearcat.

    Thanks for being a faith-filled inspiration.
    You, Lynne and the family remain in my heart and prayers.

    God bless,
    Bev Beahrs

  2. Wow! What a great image of release and fun! Doing what you love with someone to share it with you!
    I don't know what heaven will be like, exactly, but your dream seems to fit the "spirit" of heaven to me - far beyond anything we can imagine - and yet God gives us things in this life to begin to get a taste -
    You will soar with your dad in your mighty planes; I'm going to hang out with my grandfather and my dad - endlessly hearing stories ... God is good.
    Thanks for sharing this, Mike -
    Still on prayer duty in KC - janis

  3. Mike,
    I have been reading your Blog as a lurker but have now officially signed on. You have been in my prayers since I learned of your illness and being a “follower” of the Blog will help remind me to continue to do so.
    I will miss your occasional appearances in my court as counsel and the chats we have had over the years.
    In your recent blog entry you mentioned Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven. My favorite living Christian writer, N. T. Wright, has written a book addressing similar issues, Surprised by Hope. He contends that heaven is not our ultimate destination but rather the ultimate destination of believers is the new heaven and earth where we will have resurrected bodies. I can relate much better to a resurrected body than a disembodied spirit and “eternity” is much more appealing to me now.
    I often give books to friends but with the admonition that there is no obligation to read it. Time is too precious to spend reading a book you don’t want to read. Similarly, there is no obligation to read Surprised by Hope included with my recommendation, but should you do so, I would enjoy getting together to talk about Wright’s perspective.

    Jeff Smith

  4. Great post Aviator Mike. I linked the names of each plane so people could see them.