Monthly Archives: July 2020

Buffet Lunch

Another collection of tasty treats:

“Your picture is on God’s fridge”
– Susan Cottrell

“When we say that Christ “paid the debt, once and for all”, it simply means that God’s job is to make up for all deficiencies in the universe.

“What else would God do?

“Basically, grace is Gods first name, and probably last too. Grace is what God does to keep all things he has made in love and alive- forever

“Grace is not something God gives; grace is who God is”
– Richard Rohr

[After explaining a medical question, in a simple way, to a friend] “This is science, but it’s not rocket science. I don’t do that 😀 ”
– Me

[Speaking of someone making racist, bigoted comments] “So, on that front the man also deserves an epic fail as a human being”.
– ‘Shane’

“Your life is not there to fulfil someone else’s wish list” – Me

“If one person is offended by your post that’s all it takes – to end the freedom of speech we all enjoy. To deny someone the right to show a swastika is to endorse everything the swastika stood for”.
– Matt

“If your picture of God is starting to feel too good to be true, you’re starting to move in the right direction.”
– Greg Boyd

“…it also makes me wonder just how real some people’s faith really is. Maybe there are those who do not actually know the Shepherd’s Voice, for whatever reason, and they are afraid of those who do know that Voice. You see, God is unpredictable, which is a) why they like Him to be shut in a book, and b) why they try to make Him conform to their expectations. Either way, they’re on a losing wicket 😉 ”
– Me

“You cannot offend anyone. People can be offended by what you say. It’s their interpretation, and not your problem”.
– Jan

…and related: ” The difficulty with offence is that it is taken, not given. People choose what they find offensive. That should not be prescribed for them.”
– Gerry

“I think it might be an idea if you re-read what you just wrote, but with your sensible lenses on. And then re-write it using your sensible pen”. – Me

“Loyalty is interesting. It’s actually an emotion. It’s not the same as trust. Trust is calculated and is developed through our powers of reason. We can cultivate trust if, a person is trustworthy. But loyalty is a natural reaction.

“The only people that ask/demand loyalty from you are abusive mates, high-control cults, and manipulative salespeople”.
– Daniel

“Make no mistake – the desire to please God through following rules almost always turns into trying to please men, because in actual fact it’s their rules you end up trying to keep, not God’s”.
– Me

“A God who cannot handle your questions cannot be your answer”.
– Jeff Turner

“I do think that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear”
– David Hayward

“When it becomes clear that your beliefs are keeping you from being better, allow yourself the freedom to become better than your beliefs”.
– Jeff Turner

“If you were going to give the Bible an enema, Numbers is where the tube would go. Or maybe Deuteronomy”. – Me

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Sportavia-Pützer RS 180 Sportsman

This entry is part 22 of 22 in the series Beautiful Destroyers

Well, it’s been a looong time – more than a year, actually – since I last published a piece in the series ‘Beautiful Destroyers: my articles about military aircraft and how beautiful they often are, despite their sometimes dark roles. Please accept my apologies for the long gap between posts in this series.

I did say that I would also be featuring civilian aircraft too, and today’s aircraft is such a one. And I’m sure you’ll love it.

So, here is the Sportavia-Pützer RS-180 Sportsman.

The RS-180 is a little-known aeroplane designed by legendary French aircraft designer René Fournier. Fournier also designed the Fournier RF-6/Slingsby T-67 Firefly (which was used as a basic flying trainer for the RAF and the Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines) and a series of motor-gliders including the Fournier RF-4 and RF-5, all of which aircraft are well-known in General Aviation circles.

A four-seat, low-wing, single-engined monoplane, the RS-180 features a large bubble canopy with excellent – in fact I would say unparalleled – visibility, easy handling, and docile flight characteristics.

In this article, I will be writing pretty well exclusively about the aircraft in the photo above, G-VIZZ. It is an unbelievable fact that there were only eighteen aircraft of this type ever built, and G-VIZZ (‘Zulu-Zulu’) is the sole British-registered example. If you see an RS-180 flying over you somewhere in the UK, it will most likely be G-VIZZ. So, give us a wave 😉

Here she is standing on the taxiway in front of her hangar at Exeter Airport in Devon, UK, on a sunny morning in May 2020. Most of the pictures on today’s blog post were taken on that day, and most of them are also clickable to zoom in for additional detail.

From a military history point of view, and indeed from a ‘Beautiful Destroyers’ point of view, the building we use for VIZZ’s hangar is very interesting. It was originally built to be the gun butts, where the guns of the Spitfires that were based at Exeter in WWII could be set up safely. In other words, the ‘hangar’ was originally designed to be a giant bullet catcher. Here is a wartime photo of a Spitfire Mk.V having its guns calibrated, and the building is visible on the right of the photo:

Now, I am very fortunate to be a member of the Owners’ Group for G-VIZZ, which means I get to fly her as often as I can afford (which is not as often as I’d like!) and because there are only a few of us, it means she is almost always available. Group members can borrow her for just simple flights, or for a weekend away, for touring, holidays, landaways and all sorts of things like that; basically she is our aeroplane and we can do what we like with her. Yes, that means that essentially I own an aeroplane. Sometimes I find that simply unbelievable 😉 But it also means that I get to write this piece from an owner/pilot’s perspective.

The canopy is very large and bubble-shaped, with the only framing being the join line between the front and rear sections. It also has a really low coaming (the bottom edge) so the visibility is immense – even for the back-seat passengers.  In the photo below, taken at Exeter’s Taxiway ‘C’, you can see how high up the line of sight is for everyone in the aircraft. No idea who the people in the aircraft are, by the way; they are not current Group members. Must have been taken a few years ago.

The canopy opens by sliding forwards on rails, which means that you can’t open it in flight – so no flour-bombing competitions or anything with this aircraft*. Yes, there are such activities, and we used to do them at Bodmin (Cornwall Flying Club) in the Cessna 152s there 😀

The rear canopy is fixed in place, and the rear-seat passengers get in and out by tilting the front seats forward. For emergencies, there’s even a miniature fire axe on the centre console to let the passengers hack their way out!

Everyone has a ‘Happy Place’, and here’s a picture of mine:

This is the full instrument panel, showing even the yellow glider-tow release handle on the centre console (see below for more about this unusual feature). Remember the Captain’s seat is on the left in an aeroplane (but on the right in a helicopter), so the most important instruments are arranged in front of the left hand seat. While it looks complex, in reality it’s not. You don’t sit there looking at all those gauges and dials in bewilderment and think, ‘What does that one do? What about that one?’ 😉 Actually how it works is that say I want to check my speed, maybe to make sure it is correct on final approach, I’d look at the airspeed indicator. That’s the one on the top left. If I wanted to see how high up I am, it’s the altimeter. That’s the one slap-bang in the middle of the left instrument panel, with the two hands so it looks like a clock. So what happens is that you use the correct instrument to gather the required information at the time you need it.  It’s just a question of knowing which instrument to look at, and where it is, in order to get the information you need. Most of the rest of the time, at least in daylight flying, you more or less ignore the instruments. Really, you shouldn’t be peering at the panel all the time anyway; your eyes should be outside the aircraft, enjoying the view and looking out for other aircraft so you don’t hit them.

Here’s a closer view of the main instrument panel:

Note the gun button on the top of the control column; this fires the aircraft’s machine guns and cannon.

Just kidding 😉 It’s actually the transmit button for the radio – also known as a ‘PTT’ or ‘Push to Talk’ button.

So, what’s she like to fly? Well, she is an absolute dream.

Yes, I have put her in my series ‘Beautiful Destroyers’ despite, if truth be told, her looking like a bit of an odd bird. The fuselage almost looks too short for the cockpit canopy, the tail is a funny shape and the tailplane is halfway up the fin.

But she more than makes up for that in her handling. Now that really is beautiful. Light to the touch, sensitive and yet well-balanced controls make for easy and gentle flying characteristics. She’s stable, she’s responsive and she’s just so natural to fly. For example, I took my eldest son David up in her a few months ago, or, more accurately, he took me up. He’s a Pilot too, and yes he’s flown a fair few different aircraft types, but even so I basically just plonked him in the left hand seat and said those immortal words, “You have control. Take us flying”. And he did. Obviously we’d pre-briefed with the checklist; we’d discussed the V-speeds (that’s the speeds that you fly in the different phases of the flight, so, take-off speed; climb speed; best glide speed; maximum flap speed; circuit, base leg, final approach and threshold speeds) but he really just flew the entire sortie himself, with me as Command Pilot only by name. Never flown the type before and he took to her like he’d been flying her all his life, including a lovely wing-down crossind landing, and he loved every minute of it. She really is such a delight to fly.

And the visibility is enormous. That bubble canopy with the low coaming means you have a huge field of view. Couple the view with the lovely, light handling, and you’ve got a gorgeous aeroplane. I mean, when you go back to flying a Piper Warrior – which really is itself a delight to fly – the Warrior feels like a bit of a tank in comparison, and the canopy framing makes you feel like you’re shut in a box. Although the RS-180’s performance is more or less identical to the Warrior’s, the RS-180 is a much nicer aeroplane to fly – and that really is saying something, because the Warrior has always been high on my list of favourite aircraft types to fly in terms of handling.

In this next shot, the aeroplane’s starboard flap is easily visible, set up for preflight inspection at the full 50 degrees of extension.

This aircraft has ‘split flaps’, meaning that just the underside of the wing drops down to form the flap, leaving the upper surface of the wing in place. This is as opposed to ‘slotted’ flaps like on a Warrior, or ‘Fowler’ flaps like on a Cessna 152, where the flaps extend backwards and downwards, sort of on rails, like on a jet airliner. But this aeroplane has split flaps. This does mean that you can’t see from the Pilot’s seat whether the flaps have extended or not, but there’s never any doubt because you can feel it in the way the aroplane flies. If you zoom in on the next picture, you’ll just about be able to see the way in which the flaps have a sort of ‘recess’ above them in the wing; this is where they go when they retract. 50 degrees of flap is a very effective setting and you can get down – landed and stopped – in just a couple of hundred yards with them, if you know what you’re doing.

Also visible on the above pictures is the glider towing system I mentioned earlier; it’s that sort of black ‘stinger’ thing that is sticking out under the tail. This is kind of an aeroplane ‘tow-bar’ that enables the aircraft to tow gliders into the air, on a rope behind her. ‘Aerotowing’, as it is called, is one of the two main launching methods for getting gliders into the air in gliding clubs all around the world, the other method being the ‘winch launch’, which is very much like being catapulted off an aircraft carrier 😉 . When I flew gliders back in the early ’90’s, I had a number of aerotows, and they were great fun. As far as any of us know in the Owners’ Group, G-VIZZ has never been used for glider towing. But for the sake of completeness, here’s what an aerotow looks like in practice:

I love this next shot. This is the view forwards on Exeter’s Runway 26, just before opening the throttle for take-off. For me, there are few sights in aviation more evocative than this one. Today, everything has come down to this: all the preparation and planning; all my checks are complete; the aeroplane is fuelled and my route, radio frequencies and V-speeds are written on my kneeboard. Everything is ready; it’s a perfect day for flying, adventure beckons and it’s somewhere off in this present direction of 260 degrees magnetic (that’s what the ’26’ in ‘Runway 26’ means). The reason the airport is there is to enable aeroplanes to land and take off, and now it’s my turn and I have the runway all to myself. So, it’s brakes off, full power, and away we go!

Here’s a video demonstrating the unparalleled visibility that bubble canopy gives. Taken from over Ashburton in Devon on that same day in May 2020, this video begins looking out East towards the English Channel, over Torbay, and then the camera swings all the way round past Dartmoor and over the tail towards Bovey Tracey. Note how the only canopy frame that gets in the way is over my right shoulder, as the view comes round towards the aircraft’s tailplane:

I think that’s quite breathtaking 🙂

This is a still shot of the Teign estuary in the foreground, and Torbay in the distance, taken from over Chudleigh, Devon, again through that magnificent bubble canopy:

I mean that view is just colossal. Here is a view of Ivybridge from 3,000ft, demonstrating the superlative view downwards and forwards:

This is the now-closed Plymouth Airport. It’s the place where I learned to fly in 1996-7; there are plans to reopen it, but we shall have to wait and see – while all the politics are sorted out.

Here’s a lovely view of the River Plym estuary, looking roughly south-southeast:

And then back to base via the lovely little grass strip at Bolt Head. I intend to do a landaway here sometime this summer, and I have been practising short-field operations for this very reason**.

And then the return flight to Exeter in all that spectacular visibility, via the magnificent Start Bay:

I mean it just doesn’t get any more gorgeous than that 😀

The next picture is of G-VIZZ tucked away in her hangar after the flight, with the covers on. With a canopy that huge, any bird droppings or dust of any kind on the perspex is always going to spoil the flying experience, as well as compromise safety and maybe even damage the plastic (by etching it), so it’s important to put the large canvas cover on her before leaving her for the day. I haven’t had to do this at night yet, though! But I’m sure I’ll be fine; I have flown VIZZ as it was getting dark once and all I needed to do when I put her to bed was to plonk my car on the  taxiway with the headlights on, shining them into the hangar 😉

Just one more photo, and this one is not of G-VIZZ but of a German-registered RS-180; I have included this shot to show the shape of the wing on this aeroplane type.

So, there we are. The RS-180 Sportsman, easily the sweetest-handling aeroplane that it has ever been my privilege to fly.

I love those words I used for David: “You have control. Take us flying”.

There’s no better light civilian aeroplane in which to do that.


*Actually, there is a way of doing flour-bombing. We can use the glider-towing attachment. If we put the flour bomb in a net bag and attach a metal ring to the bag, we can clip that ring into the towing apparatus as if it was a mini-glider, then release the bomb by using the yellow glider release lever pictured above. Simples!


**Edit: In between writing this article and its publication, I did just that, and landed at Bolt Head. Here’s G-VIZZ on the ground at Bolt Head airfield, 17th July 2020.

Some other aircraft had flown in that day too; you can see them in the background. But I have left the original text in place, because I will undoubtedly be going again 🙂

But on this occasion, I flew in, went and did a coast path walk, then had a picnic in the shade under the tail, then flew back to Exeter. What’s known as a ‘grand day out’, you know.

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Cosmic Shame

One of my online friends, Louise, coined a superb phrase the other day – ‘Cosmic shame’. I simply had to share the concept in order to let her refutation of the idea out there into the wild, as it were 🙂

Over to Louise:


I think essentially every human being wants to be loved and respected just as they are.

I’ve just been chatting to some friends this morning, funnily enough about the nature of shame. I think shame is a whole whirlwind of emotions that comes out of a sense of rejection. That rejection can be what we sense in a group, or at work, in family and actually when it comes to hell as well. Hell is a cosmic rejection from heaven – which leads to trying to handle a cosmic shame within our own body. That is why I think the hell doctrine is so damaging. We find it hard enough to handle every day shame that comes along – let alone cosmic shame.

One thing I’m finding to be more and more true is that – I am the resource. If I want other people to love respect me just as I am, I need to love and respect me just as I am.

The act of rejection and shame we consequently experience is a feeling that we don’t have the right to even exist! It’s the deepest, most destructive, most unsettling, most primal fear and sickness there is.

People experience rejection from the tribe, rejection from family, rejection from friendship groups, rejection from the earth, rejection from God and the universe. It is that silly idea that there is a qualification needed to even be here. Shame essentially asks the questions:

Are you good enough to be here?

Are you good enough to belong here?

Do you deserve to live?

Do you deserve to be here?

Do you belong to this planet?

It’s the most unsettling feeling in the world. It destabilises the root of who you are. It’s questions your personhood. Heaven and hell are so disturbing because essentially church says to people that they are rejected from heaven – they say “You don’t get to be here, you are not good enough”. It’s the biggest, most enormous cosmic rejection that someone can experience. Terrible.

But it’s ironic. Because that rejection is an illusion. We have come out of the earth-we belong here! We are from here. Planet earth is our home. God is father to us all. And we all will be in paradise one day. And we all are one anyway.

But that illusion is painful. And we can’t wait for everyone to understand that. We have to stop waiting for others to act out of the truth – and act out our own truth, and own that truth.

I am worthy.

I belong here.

I am beloved.

– Louise, shared here with her kind permission


Wow. I don’t think I need to comment further 🙂 Thanks, Louise!

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What Love Is Not

I’ve often said that if what a Christian labels as ‘Love’ does not match in every respect the Love described by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, then it is not Love. It’s certainly not God’s Love, at any rate.

It might be a cheap imitation, or it may even be a better kind of human love that more closely approaches that ideal, but it’s not God’s Love. Interesting therefore that it could be thought of that there are different ‘grades’ of love…

But what Love is not, is torturing billions of people for ever in a fiery furnace that Christians call ‘Hell’. “God is Love, but…” is a contradiction in terms. There’s no ‘but’ in God’s Love; there is indeed no ‘balance’ in God, and the idea that there needs to be is a man-made idea. God’s ‘Love’ is not ‘balanced’ by God’s ‘Justice’. Again, this is another man-made idea.

Putting this practically, take a look at this little meme. It goes a little bit further than I would (in that I still call myself Christian), but it says it really well:

Remember also the sickening Infernalist ideas about the Resurrection Body. Unless the Resurrection Body exists, how is God going to torture people forever in Hell? These people believe that everyone is resurrected into one of these amazing, glorious bodies, just like that of the Risen Christ, only for it to be used as an everlasting vessel in which they will endure endless agony.

You’d have to be a real sicko to believe that that’s what’s going to happen. Or, so deeply indoctrinated in the Infernalist viewpoint that it doesn’t appear that there’s anything amiss with the idea…

I realise that Dan Barker is an atheist. But sometimes it takes someone outside one’s familiar belief structure to cast a clear and clean light on just how foolish some of our beliefs are, and so I make no apology for including his ideas here.

Nope. Love is not torturing people forever; not in any way can this be a valid description of Love. No way.

Go figure.

Grace and Peace to you! 😀

 

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Tapping the Christ Within

Here’s a great piece by Jeff Turner:


The God of Christianity does not actively send calamities our way, nor does he cause the world to batter us that he might better us. It is also the case, however, that God does not go out of his way to overprotect, not to “helicopter parent” us in order to ensure that we are never touched by difficulties or trying circumstances. The one who claims that God does such things is simply living in a fantasyland, and has no real contact with the world inhabited both by God and “men.”

So, why does God not magically shield us from the activities of the sometimes chaotic cosmos? I’ve thought about this for a very long time, and I’ve come to believe it is because he trusts his image in us. We are universes within a universe, and house within us that which the “heavens” which contain us cannot contain. We do not live as this is so, however, and tend to go about life gazing at our navels, and bemoaning our inability to change this circumstance or that. It is the chaos of the cosmos, however, that put a demand on Christ within us, and causes that which can bring about order to stand at attention in our souls.

Were God to never allow life to happen to us, we very well may never learn to trust in the reality of Christ in us, our only hope of glorification. We would remain in an infantile state, always trembling and looking for God to enter our situation from the outside in order to alter it. When life is allowed to be what it is, however, there is a blessed pressure put upon the limitless-ness of God in his people, and we find resurrection life coming from the inside out.

That said, if you’ve ever had the sneaking suspicion that God has sent terrible things your way, you can set that aside, knowing it is not the case. Life is allowed to run its course, but the good Father we have will not waste a single “happening,” but will redeem it, making it work in our favor by causing it to tap the endless ocean of Christ that we contain. You are being parented skilfully by a Father who trusts his image in you to come forth.

– Jeff Turner, used with his kind permission

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How Jesus Interpreted Scripture

By Richard Rohr

Biblical messages often proceed from historical incidents, but the actual message does not depend upon communicating those events with perfect factual accuracy. Any good writer knows that! Spiritual writers are not primarily journalists. Hebrew rabbis and scholars sometimes used an approach called midrash in which they reflected on a story to communicate all of its underlying message.

Scripture can be understood on at least four levels: literal meaning, deep meaning, comparative meaning, and hidden meaning. Midrash allowed and encouraged each listener to grow with a text and not to settle for mere literalism, which of itself bears very little spiritual fruit. Some Christians do the same today with mature, reflective reading of Scripture (lectio divina), but Jesus and ancient Jewish teachers were much more honest and up front about this.

Whatever is received is received according to the manner of the receiver. This was drilled into me during my seminary education. People at different levels of development will interpret the same text (or homily) in different ways. There is no one right way to interpret sacred texts. Such a singular approach was a defensive posture that emerged more strongly after the fights of the Reformation and the attacks of the Enlightenment.

How you see is what you see; the who that you bring to your reading of the Scriptures matters. Is it a defensive who? An offensive who? A power-hungry who? A righteous who? Surely, this is why we need to pray before reading a sacred text!

More than telling us exactly what to see in the Scriptures, Jesus taught us how to see, what to emphasize, and also what could be de-emphasized or ignored. Jesus himself is our hermeneutic! He was in no way a fundamentalist or literalist. He was a man of the Spirit. Just watch how he does it. (To do so, you’ll need some knowledge and respect for the Hebrew culture and practices.)

Jesus consistently ignored or even denied exclusionary, punitive, and triumphalistic texts in his own inspired Hebrew Bible in favor of passages that emphasized inclusion, mercy, and honesty. He read the Scriptures in a spiritual and selective way. Jesus had a deeper and wider eye that knew which passages were creating a path for God and which passages were merely cultural, self-serving, and legalistic additions. That becomes self-evident once you know enough to see the “comparative meaning” of an incident or statement. [1]

When Christians pretend that every line in the Bible is of equal importance and inspiration, they are being very unlike Jesus. This is precisely why Jesus was accused of teaching “as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:29, RSV), and why they hated him so much.

Jesus even accused fervent and pious “teachers of the law” of largely missing the point. “Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” he asked them (Mark 12:24, RSV). We cannot make the same mistake all over again—and now in Jesus’ name.

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