Hot Air Balloons

After speaking for the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Chapter in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was going to take Pastor Clarence Gutierrez of the Christian Family Church (Taos, NM) back to Taos. The pastor’s daughter was driving him up from Albuquerque, and I thought I’d have a 15-minute wait. But it’s a good thing I learned not to be in a hurry because the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta generated so much traffic on I-25 that traffic was stalled for more than an hour. I kept in touch with Clarence by cell phone, and relaxed as I drank coffee and talked with other friends.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an annual festival that takes place for My Pictures0008nine days in October and is the largest balloon event in the world. Several balloon shapes include: an F/A-18 fighter jet, giant turtle, a car, telephone, cow, covered wagon, soda cans, and hundreds more. Over 1,000 balloons participated in the year 2000, but in order to focus on quality, event organizers now limit the number to 600. Over 100,000 spectators are present each day during the event, with untold thousands more throughout the city observing the balloons as they rise high in the Southwestern sky.

One popular night-time portion of the event is called the “Glowdeo” (glowing rodeo). That’s when participating balloons are inflated but do not lift off the ground, while the propane flames illuminate the various-shaped balloons.

From an historical news clip, we read:

The Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 as the highlight of the 50th birthday celebration for 770 KOB Radio. Radio station manager Dick McKee asked Sid Cutter, owner of Cutter Flying Service and the first person to own a hot air balloon in New Mexico, if KOB could use his new hot-air balloon as part of the festivities. The two began discussing ballooning with Oscar Kratz, and McKee asked what the largest gathering of hot air balloons to date had been. “19 balloons in England”, Cutter replied. Kratz asked “Can we get 19 here?” Cutter agreed to try.

Twenty-one pilots agreed to come, but only thirteen showed up because of inclement weather. That event was on April 8, 1972 and it quickly became very popular. But since autumn produces better flying conditions for balloons, October was decided as the best time to continue the annual event.

The largest and most popular part of the 9-day fiesta is what they call the “MassMy Pictures0006 Ascension”. This is when participating balloons ascend in two waves – 300 in each wave – and the city is filled with “Oooohs” and “Aaaahs” as they rise majestically with the unsurpassed beauty of the 10,679 foot high mountain, called Sandia Crest, providing a spectacular backdrop.

The Balloon Fiesta is one of New Mexico’s most popular tourist attractions, and hundreds of food vendors are on hand to provide almost any kind of food your tummy might desire. For a number of years, the Kodak Company was a major sponsor, and the event was called, the “Kodak Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta”.

The balloons rise off the ground because the propane burners produce a large quantity of heated air that is less dense than the surrounding air, and rises – pulling the gondola (the basket), the propane equipment, and the people with it. This is the same principle in which lighter oil rises above denser water. The balloons stay aloft until the heat dissipates and the balloons begin to come down. The pilots skillfully operate the burners to “fly” the balloons: rising, lowering, and landing where they choose – normally

My Pictures0005But there are also problems associated with the Balloon Fiesta. Traffic gets jammed as drivers watch. Sometimes the propane burners malfunction. Balloons sometimes hit power lines. The wind may blow a balloon over while the burner is operating causing the balloon to burn. Traffic accidents happen because of gawkers.

Pastor Gutierrez finally arrived and we joyfully headed for Taos. The next day, Sunday, the District Superintendent, Mike Dickenson, ministered and we had an enjoyable meeting. Clarence, Mike, and I are long-time friends and our fellowship is based on our love for Jesus Christ.

As you travel through life, stop and smell the roses; don’t get in a hurry. Don’t allow the irritations of life (like traffic jams) bother you, and learn to see the good in every situation. Psalm 111:10 says, “Wisdom begins with respect for the Lord; those who obey his orders have good understanding.”

Slow Down and Live

Some years ago, I was sitting at my typewriter – actually at my computer – looking out the window. It was cold with a light breeze blowing. The clouds, which are usually water vapor, looked more like swirling snow ready to grace our countryside. My snow shovel was ready, my boots were at the door, and Carol could have hot coffee or hot chocolate ready within five minutes if I needed to leave my comfort zone to clear the sidewalk and driveway.

We lived in a community of 3,000 people in the hills of northern New Mexico at 7,825 feet above sea level. (For comparison, Albuquerque, NM is about 5,000 feet in altitude.)  

A winter storm would often drop two to three feet of snow at a time, sometimes up to five feet,PICT0181 and we would be temporarily locked in the house. That was great for the skiers, and it made the landscape look more beautiful than words can tell. And if there was no wind while the snow was falling, the big fluffy snowflakes absorbed all the background noise which created a living Winter Rockwell Painting. Beautiful!

If the snow was less than two feet deep, my 4-wheel drive vehicle with good tires would get me anywhere I wanted to go. But if it was deeper than two feet, we just stayed home. Carol would get out the coffee or hot chocolate; maybe bake several dozen cookies. We would start a fire in the fireplace, make sure the cat and dogs were warm if they weren’t playfully romping out the in the field; and Carol and I would do what we enjoyed doing best: Spend Time With Each Other.

With our schedules jammed and our lives so full of activity, being snowed-in gave us time to tell each other what we meant to say several days or weeks previously. We had time to actually LISTEN to each other.

PICT1265With critters in front of the fireplace, a table nearby with a puzzle or a scrabble game on it, steam rising from two cups of hot chocolate or coffee, a big window across the room with snow gently falling outside–we have another Rockwell Painting. Periodically I would go out and clear the walks and uncover the car before the snow got too deep.

Carol and I understand the value, and the need, to spend time together; so at times we still declare a “snow-day” and stay home. Years ago, we decided to slow down and live. Slowing down can actually make our lives fuller and richer. Not fuller with more things to do or richer with more money in the bank; but fuller and richer with what really counts in life.

Since we don’t have a guarantee that we will be alive on earth tomorrow, why not invest our time and our lives into people now? After all, material possessions can give satisfaction for a little while, but healthy, wholesome interaction with family and friends can last a lifetime–and beyond.

It’s called making memories together, and it’s more enjoyable than watching a football game.

When family members or friends that we love leave this life, we will miss them. We will be sad, and tears can flow. But if we invest our lives into them while they are here, we will have those memories to hold on to, and those memories will help sustain us in our sorrow.

More importantly, we should invest our time studying the Bible and learning to know Jesus. First Thessalonians 4:13-14, which applies to those who live for the Lord, says “But we do not want you to be uninformed about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. (NRSV)” What a promise! Therefore, even in sorrow we can experience joy.PICT0192B

Well, it didn’t snow that day, but my boots and the shovel were ready just in case it did. 

Oh, Carol just told me that lunch is ready. I think I’ll turn off the computer and spend time with her. Maybe we’ll play scrabble. We like that game. As of this writing, we are tied at 368 wins.

How Should We Respond?

A friend asked recently, “How do you respond with a good attitude when things go wrong?” I’ve chosen the following examples from personal experience to help answer the question.

It was a cold, moon-lit February night in 1970, north of Seattle, Washington. GettingDSCN3918DSCN2635B off work at the Boeing Aircraft Company just after midnight, I was heading home looking forward to the chocolate cream pie my wife had made. No one else was in sight on the road. I was driving carefully because it had snowed earlier that day, and now a gentle, slushy rain was falling. The temperature was around 30 degrees.

Driving over a small hill, I saw a car stopped beside the road about a quarter mile away. I activated my 4-way emergency flashers and began slowing down. Pulling up alongside the stopped car I noticed a partially frozen stream flowing beside the road. I leaned over, rolled down the passenger window and asked the man standing there, “Can I help you?”

The man said, “No, everything is under control.” Suddenly he looked up. His eyes widened in panic and he yelled “WATCH OUT!!” as he jumped, and tumbled downPICT0027 the embankment into the freezing water. Within seconds, a Ford going about 45 miles per hour slammed into the back of my Toyota. But at that moment another man, who had also stopped to help, walked unseen in front of me. The impact hurled my car and me about seventy feet down the slick road; but my car hit the unseen helper. He was flung around like a rag doll, and wound up under the car we had stopped to help.

My immediate thoughts were: What should I do? How should I respond?

Believe it or not, my only injury was a sprained neck which still gives me mild frustration today. As other cars arrived, I asked the first driver to go call for help (no common cell phones in 1970). I directed traffic until the police arrived. The police at first didn’t believe that the driver of my crunched car could walk away – let along direct traffic. But I did. We didn’t discover the man under the other car for another ten minutes.

 [Note: The police report verified that the driver of the Ford was careless. His insurance company paid for everything; and yes, the fifty-seven year old man under the car survived. However, he had a massive heart attack, spent four months in the hospital, endured additional years of physical therapy, and was crippled for life.]

After giving my report to the police and undergoing three visits from other lawyers for depositions, my lawyer asked, “What would you like out of this?” That puzzled me. Again, how should I respond?

The lawyer could not believe it when I said, “I do not want to sue anyone; I just want my car repaired. If I honor the Lord, He will meet all my needs.” My car was repaired. Five months later Boeing had a massive layoff, so we moved to New Mexico.

DSCN8505BI thought the ordeal was over, but about a year later I was summoned back to Seattle. The crippled man was suing (rightfully so) and a more detailed deposition was required from me. This time I underwent something like an FBI interrogation, and the interrogators’ questions were leading me to spin the 1970 incident in favor of the crippled man. Desiring to support the injured man but maintain total honesty, once again how should I respond?

Asking for my original deposition to refresh my memory, I answered the questions openly and truthfully, and added other details that came to mind. I didn’t bad-mouth the driver of the Ford, but I did remind them the driver was neither alert to what was going on around him nor aware of road conditions. My desire was to be totally open with information and honest in detail. The man won his lawsuit.

In every situation in life we can spin things to our favor, but that would dishonor God and ultimately dishonor ourselves. So to answer the my friend’s initial question (How should we respond?), I determine to be honest and helpful in every situation, regardless of the outcome; and I ask God to help me to make right decisions. That enables me to maintain an accurate memory, a clear conscience, and a good attitude.