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Posts Tagged ‘Hang Gliding’

Eastern Shore Hang Gliding Center

This should have been posted many Sundays ago, but I was waiting to get the in-flight videos & pictures from my hang gliding experience and still haven’t (if you ever go hang gliding at Eastern Shore I recommend you carry your own pen drive to copy the files onto). Anyway, I felt prompted to post it today, so I guess it’s better late than never. Please note that the hang gliding description below doesn’t quite do justice to the actual experience, but I hope will suffice for purposes of this post. I also recommend you play the audio track while reading.

So… 27 June 2010 was the day I first went hang gliding at the Eastern Shore Hang Gliding Center. Amazing experience, to say the least! If you know me well enough, you will know that right from my early years I have talked about flying, becoming a pilot, dreamt of flying without wings, and claim to have actually done so as well. (Yes, I still do.) So hang gliding, for me, was like a fulfilment of those dreams and desires. And really, the season I have been in has been all about fulfilment, completion and restoration of many things right from my childhood that I desired, lost or totally missed out on (see Glee for more details). It has all been very exciting, with many surprises, both good and bad.

Anyways… that Sunday evening when we got back home, we spent time together as a family just worshipping, praying, listening to what God was saying and sharing it… For a long while I just sat there with nothing running through my head except the excitement of the day. Then, as happens many a time, my eyes were opened to look beyond the experience into the life values it taught me and it brought me to tears. So that’s what I want to share, but in order to understand where I’m going with this, I will have to explain the hang gliding experience itself first.

Taking Off

Most often, hang gliding is done by running off a cliff or a hill with the glider so one has high elevation. However, in my case, we had a tug airplane that the glider was attached to. The pilot and I strapped ourselves into the glider and the tug airplane took off with us in tow. Once we had reached a height of about 2500 feet, we released the line that connected us to the airplane. At that point, the momentum slowed down, but the glider did not drop. It got real quiet up there and we were carried by the wind, the only two creatures up that high in the sky as I learned the basics of how to read the wind, feel it, and make the glider go where I wanted it. I asked the skilled pilot a lot of questions that he patiently answered. I just enjoyed the experience so much and the pilot was one of the best too, so he taught me well.

Airborne

At one point I mentioned that I enjoyed a dip and he thrilled me to bits by doing a series of crazy lifts & drops just for my enjoyment before we landed. The view from up there was just breath-taking, and I felt exactly like a bird. When it was time to say goodbye, I heard the pilot tell my brother that I had been a good pilot and had been fun to fly with, much to my pleasure. Maybe he just said that to everyone, but I knew I did pretty good and sure had not done anything he told me not to do, so I just took it at face value. 🙂

With all of this running through my head that evening, I began to see that in life many times we are led on by something – whether situations or people, sometimes good, other times bad – just like that tug airplane led the hang glider. We find ourselves going to new a whole new level, achieving great things, feeling “on top of the world”, and just having a great time. We think, this is it, it can’t get any better than this! And it’s easy to just get comfortable with where we are, often disregarding the need for progress and improvement.

However, inevitably there comes that time when we are faced with the choice to release, to let go of whatever has brought you where you are. Believe me, that’s a tough choice to make! There’s the fear of what ifs… reluctance… never wanting to let go or spiral down in despair. The truth is, if you don’t make the decision on your terms while you are given the chance, the tug will release you and leave you to face the consequences all the same. But once you do make the choice to let go, you are surprised that you don’t fall. In fact, it’s only then that you actually have the freedom to fly! It’s at that point that the real fun begins! You no longer are merely being tugged along, following something or someone else “in tow”… you literally have “no strings attached”, and you just soar!

Yes, it does get quiet as the tug plane pulls away, but it’s in that quietness that you can hear the pilot’s instructions loud and clear, with no distractions or noise to drown him out. You begin to really listen, observe, experience for the very first time. You pay attention to what the pilot tells you and follow his direction. You’re careful not to make any mistakes and jeopardise both him and yourself. And when you’re up there, you begin to see the bigger picture, the aerial view. You realize from that perspective, things that would otherwise have seemed massive are really tiny and insignificant, mere mites.

Panic might hit you occasionally, but then you realize you don’t have to do this on your own ‘coz whether you like it or not, you have the pilot strapped in right with you! He’s there to tell you what to do, talking to you, answering everything you ask, teaching you… he’s game for even the little things in life, the thrills and chills that make it more exciting and enjoyable. Sure, there is a time to land as well, and with it comes the, “You did awesome! Good job!” that makes you smile in glee, the turmoil of letting go a long forgotten thing of the past.

An old Pepsi jingle that’s running in my head at this moment kind of sums it up for me: “Freedom to be… Azaadi dil ki!” I can tell you it was no coincidence that my brother checked the mailbox that same day, to find his new truck registration in there. It reads: FR3 2 FLY 🙂

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Over a month ago when I heard I was entering into a season of “glee”, I think I misinterpreted it to some extent. I had just gotten done watching the entire first season of the television series “Glee” online and my mind could only think of the word as far as joy & happiness – which were not wrong, but as I have discovered, a limited interpretation.

As the month progressed, it saw the resurrection of some of my childhood dreams & aspirations I thought had bitten the dust. You can say I ticked a few things off my personal “bucket list” if you will.

  1. Hang Gliding had to be on the top of my list, particularly since flying is what I have always claimed I have done right from my childhood, and becoming a pilot was one of my first ambitions in life. God knows the pleasure I felt having to put down my name as “pilot” in the personal release documents. I’d do it again for sure, but what takes its place in the list is Bungee Jumping. 🙂
  2. Horse Riding & Living on a Ranch have been my all-time dream, thanks to books & movies that have inspired me. I can tell you that my first horse ride was almost like being in heaven, the tall grasslands extending as far as the eye could see, the sun setting behind, and the bugs biting – ouch! That brought me back to reality, alright. I’m not quite done with the living on the ranch bit yet & need to go back to experience it completely. Whether it’s the Ecker Ranch or elsewhere, you can be sure I will!
  3. Ice-Skating was one of those childhood fantasies. Alright, I didn’t get to ice-skate like you see it on TV, but I got on the ice & at least learned to balance myself & move despite a couple of hard falls. Some day I’ll do better, given the chance.
  4. Lawn-mowing on a John Deere wasn’t in my original list, but I added it because I quite enjoyed it & think I did a pretty good job of it too.
  5. Swimming didn’t quite happen as planned, but at least I got my first swimsuit so that’s a start. Next I need to find a pool, and I believe I know just the right friends with a pool in their apartment complex and an open invitation. They can be sure I will be visiting soon (their parents might need to be out of town when I do, though, else they might be scandalized :D.)
  6. Attending an American Wedding was quite an experience for me, particularly as it was different even for regular Americans. I have to say it was organized extremely well, was simple yet beautiful, and there was just so much peace & joy. It was quite different from any Indian wedding I have ever experienced, and I have my friends who invited me and helped get me there to thank. I have reason to believe it won’t be the last American wedding I attend.
  7. Riding a Bike technically should not be on anyone’s bucket list because it’s something most children can do, but it was on mine. For some reason, I was stuck with a yellow tricycle all my life (still have it) and although I loved riding it, I regretted being unable to ride a bicycle many a time in my teen and college years, especially studying on a 365 acre campus that could best be gotten around by bicycle. It was only at 22 that I actually set my mind on learning to ride with my nephew’s bike on the narrow strip of ground outside our home. So for me to be able to ride around almost every evening, both working off the calories & just having fun, it had to be checked off my list as an achievement.
  8. Tooth Fairy Presents were the most unexpected, but threw light on what God was trying to tell me all along the season. It’s one of those things that I didn’t even remember myself, but apparently others did. It had moved them so much when I had mentioned over a casual conversation about falling teeth and tooth fairies that I had always put my fallen teeth under my pillow as a child but had never gotten a present. I know it’s probably the silliest thing in the world, but the fact that the people that remembered it took me out to lunch & surprised me with presents for every tooth of mine that had ever fallen (and more) were pastors and some of the most prophetically gifted ones I know made it important. They did mention when they handed me my gift bag that there might be prophetic significance, and my response although I was just playing along at the time was, “Thank you so much! I feel so fulfilled!”

And fulfilment is what this season of glee has been about – fulfilment of many desires that I had buried, given up on, never had the opportunity to fulfil, or simply forgotten about. That said, my bucket list definitely isn’t all done yet. There’s the driving, rock climbing, shooting, ball dancing, skate boarding, skiing/snow boarding, and many more… I can only imagine that as I grow older, that list will only grow while some are checked off and others replace them, and I have the calm assurance that they will all some day be fulfilled.

What got my attention through all of this is that God cares so much about these little details of my life, enough to take me to a different country and use people (some of whom I barely even know) to fulfil them. I felt ashamed that I have failed in the past to trust this same God with some of the most important things in my life, things that I thought I knew were best and could fulfil all on my own without His help. I had often been afraid that God would end up giving me something I did not like, and had resisted His direction, choosing instead to go my own way. How foolish of me! Would the God who cares about me getting silly tooth fairy presents not care enough to give me the very best in every area of my life and fulfil the deepest desires of my heart?

I rechecked the definition of “glee”, and it said, “great delight”. It struck me then that God’s Word promises, “*Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” That, right there, is the key to my glee!

*Psalm 37: 4; Proverbs 3: 5, 6

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