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Stuff Happens…or does it?

Have you ever heard the phrase stuff happens? Maybe the way you heard it stuff was actually a 4-letter word. It implies that some things just can’t be avoided…or can they?

The last transformers episode, about time and money, was leading somewhere.

It was that things aren’t always what they seem, and our assumptions about even basic stuff are often based more on traditions, opinions, or hearsay than on facts.

In this Transformers episode I’ll look at it from another direction.

I used to assume that sometimes stuff just happens, and we can’t control our circumstances. But I learned that wasn’t true. I learned that everything has a reason, and nothing just happens. Let me explain:

Career Choices

Like most high school seniors, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was told I was going to college, but where and how was left entirely up t me.

My parents were hard-working middle-class people, and I knew if I was going to go to college it was going to be on some kind of a scholarship.

My dad had retired as a career enlisted Marine, and his idea was for me to go to the Naval Academy. For some reason the Naval Academy just didn’t sound like much fun, so the next best thing was to get a Navy ROTC scholarship.

Part of the scholarship process included an interview with three naval officer recruiters. One of their questions was what I wanted to do for the Navy. I told them I planned to be an oceanographer. They all thought that was a good response, so I got the scholarship.

Fast forward a bit.

If you have an ROTC scholarship, you are required to do some training with military during your summers.

So, after my freshman year I was assigned to a Navy destroyer-escort for 6 weeks. We were part of a big exercise in the Atlantic, and all of us ROTC Midshipmen lived like enlisted sailors onboard the ship. It only took me a nano-second to figure out that life on a ship was not for me, but it took a couple more weeks at sea to find out that the Navy didn’t even have an oceanography program.

It’s a common complaint that recruiters don’t tell people the truth when they are signing up, and I found out the hard way it wasn’t just the enlisted recruiters who are less than forthcoming.

Anyway…after that summer I decided I didn’t want to be on a ship, so my next choice was to fly, and if I was going to be a pilot, I wanted to do it in the Marine Corps not the Navy. So, I in my second year of college I applied for a transition to the Marine Corps ROTC and was accepted.

I also found out you could take an aviation test while in college, and if you passed it you were guaranteed a seat in flight school.  So, I did. That meant that all I had to do was graduate with a degree and I could go off to be a Marine Pilot…almost.

I still had to get through Officer Candidate school after my junior year, and after graduation I had to go to officer basic school in Quantico, VA for 6 months.  Then I could go to flight school in Pensacola, FL.

After only two months in flight school, I lost my first friend in an aviation mishap. He was a Second Lieutenant, just like me, and he and his instructor pilot, a Marine Captain, died when their training aircraft encountered icing conditions on a routine flight. Several other training mishaps claimed the lives of friends in flight school and the early part of my aviation career. It might seem callous, but you just got used to it. Stuff happens.

Aviation Safety

As I gained some experience and seniority as a Marine pilot, I had the opportunity to go to Aviation Safety Officer (ASO) course at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. The other pilots in the class came from all the different aviation communities from the Navy and Marine Corps. We had jet pilots, helo pilots, and propeller pilots in my  ASO class, and all of us had lost friends to mishaps.

On the first day of class, the instructor told the story of an A6 Intruder pilot that flew into rain. No big deal, the A6 was an all-weather jet attack aircraft and flying in bad weather is what they did for a living. But then…the aircraft was struck by lightning and lost all its electrical systems. Now that’s a bad day, and a big deal.

The instructor said, “well sometimes, stuff (spelled SH_ _) happens.” Right? And we all dutifully nodded in agreement. That’s when he let us know that, no, stuff doesn’t just happen, there is always a reason, and it was our job to figure out what that reason was so we could prevent mishaps and pilots from dying. If we didn’t, we got to do the other thing ASO school trained us for. We were the ones that got to do the mishap investigations (like what the National Transportation Safety Board does in the civilian world), and no one wanted to do that.

We were taught that some mishaps were due to faulty maintenance or bad maintenance procedures, but not very many. Some mishaps were due to faulty manufacturing where the guys who made the aircraft used bad parts or there was a problem in how it was assembled, but that was even more rare.

The vast majority of mishaps were due to pilot error. Somewhere, somehow the pilot made a wrong decision that resulted in a crash. In the case of the A6 pilot that flew into a storm and lost all electrical systems, better prefight planning and a better weather brief could have avoided the entire incident.

OK, so I get that you may not be a pilot and none of this applies to you…or does it?

Have you ever asked yourself why things happen to you? Why you always pick the wrong person to date, why you have bad luck, or why your job sucks? Do you feel like you just wound up with the life you have through no fault of your own?

Don’t you love it when people agree with you and empathize with your sorry condition.

Sorry to disappoint you, that ain’t me.

If you are brave enough to go back and look, you’ll find out that your condition is the result of some decision you made along the way.

But wait, you’ll say, I didn’t make any decisions. To that, I would tell you that not deciding was making a decision. You decided to let someone else choose for you. And now you are paying the consequences.

This Transformers episode isn’t aimed at trying to make anyone feel guilty about the decisions you made or didn’t make. I could have blamed those Navy recruiters for not telling me the Navy didn’t even have an Oceanography program, or I could have done some more research, or how about this, found an oceanographer and asked them what they did to get there. Before deciding to be a pilot, did I ask any Marine pilots what life was like for them? Nooooo! I got lucky there, sort of. More on that decision later.

The point is to let you know that your decisions have consequences, and you actually have more control over your life than you might think.

The flip side

Of course, the stuff that seems to happen isn’t always bad. When something unexpectedly good happens, we call it luck. Some people seem to always end up on the right side of things, and to us, they appear to have luck on their side…a lot.

Usually, those people aren’t very well liked, especially by those who always seem to have bad things happen. But just as with bad “luck”, there is always a reason for the good “luck”. It could be that they worked harder behind the scenes than anyone knows. It could be that they just made good choices or were better prepared than others.

The stuff that happens to you, or for you, whether it is good or bad, is almost always due to the seeds you have sown. There is a Biblical principle called Seed Time and Harvest Time, that we are assured will never pass away.

“While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest… Shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22

This means that whatever you plant will produce a crop. If you plant good you get good, if you plant bad you get bad.

As James Allen wrote in As a Man Thinketh,

“People do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.”

He also said,

“Every thought seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces its own, blossoming sooner or later into an act, and bearing its own fruitage of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit.”

That’s why scripture tells us to take every thought captive.

All of this is to say that if you want good things to happen to you it is your choice.

When you make your choices based on God’s purpose for your life, the choices become easier, and the results get better.

Planting the right seeds to get the best results don’t just happen, and they certainly don’t happen overnight. It is a process…a process called Transformation. I’m glad you are choosing to transform.