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Here's a thought for Dec. 23

December 23, 2010
By The Rev. Don LeClere

Restoring Lindbergh's first airplane

My grandfather was a barnstormer with an old Jenny biplane. He heard of another Jenny that had been crashed which he then bought for parts. What he didn't use he stored up in the corncrib/hog barn loft. When we were kids we used to play in the fuselage of that broken old airplane up in the loft. We would sit in the seats and play like we were Red Baron pilots at battle complete with sound effects.

One day a man in coveralls showed up in a U-haul truck. George Dade was the president of the Long Island Early Flyers Club and had an interest in the Jenny. Dade spent a long time talking to my grandpa. It turns out that Dade had a fascination with aviation hero Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh is most famous for his solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic in 1927, but Dade was pursuing a passion to find Lindbergh's very first airplane; a JN4 Jenny with an OX-5 engine.

Dade's search led him to the farm of my grandfather, Ernest LeClere, and a dream of restoring the Jenny.

After many hours of plane stories, picture albums and pie, Dade convinced my grandfather to part with the Jenny pieces. My brother and I were asked to help load the remains of the Jenny into the U-haul. It was I who asked, "Where do you want this junk?" And the man in the coveralls quickly rebuffed me telling me this was not junk but a valued plane to be restored.

For three years the team of the Long Island Early Flyers Club worked hard to restore the plane. They spent long hours and lot of money to finish the restoration of that Jenny. What was amazing was that during the restoration it was discovered that one of the ribs from the plane had a C.A.L. carved into it. Lindbergh was still alive at the time and Dade persuaded him to come and see the plane. Charles A. Lindbergh verified that he had in fact, carved his initials into the rib of that plane. It closed any debate. This Jenny was Lindbergh's first plane.

Then it hit me. I had played and sat in the plane where Charles Lindbergh had sat. I had played the flyer in the plane of THE flyer. What I had called junk was a priceless treasure. George Dade was able to see the value that lay in ruins. In the dirty, marred and broken pieces of a plane, Dade saw the restored JN4 Jenny of Charles Lindbergh.

Christmas is about God seeing value in our lives as we lay in the dirty broken ruins of sin. Jesus laid aside His glory and came (if you would) in the coveralls of humankind that He might restore us as new creations. Jesus Christ left the glories of heaven to come and be with us. That is was the name Emmanuel means: "God with us."

We are never pieces of "junk" to Jesus. We are so loved that He came. The Bible says "For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Col.1:13-14) "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone and the new has come." (2 Cor.5:17) Jesus wants to forgive you, rescue you and restore you to a brand new life. That's why He came.

The restored Lindbergh Jenny was on display for a while at the Lindbergh Terminal in Minneapolis. I went and saw it there hanging from the ceiling in all its glory. It was amazing.

Jesus was born to take us as we were: broken, ruined, without God and without hope to give His life to restore us to life forgiven and loved as brand new creations on display for His glory. It is utterly amazing!

"Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11) Merry Christmas!



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