v2 002nsa-logo

Dr. Venna Bishop




Childhood Signs Can Point to a Flying Future

by Venna Bishop

Published August 2, 1999 in the Army Times, Navy Times, Marine Times, and Air Force Times

“To think when you are 16 years old, you are going to want a car!” These were my thoughts as I looked at my infant son, Brian. Little did I realize, instead of a car, he would be more interested in pulling -3 to +9G’s and soaring through the air at 1500 miles per hour (Mach 2+) in an F-16 fighter. Just how this 19-inch left-handed baby turned into a 6’2″ man, able to curl himself inside a sophisticated state of the art cockpit, and have the time of his life as Commander of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds Flying Demonstration Team was beyond this mother’s wildest dreams.

brianBrian always had his head in the clouds so to speak. As a youngster he was fascinated with the wind. He would try to sneak his hand out of the car window, hoping mom would not catch his antics. Running with pinwheels and flying kites fascinated him. In fact, his favorite high school graduation gift was a para-foil kite. Perhaps these were the interests that led to his aeronautical engineering degree.

Goals are dreams with deadlines…Brian was only eight years old when he attended a graduation ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He idolized the Cadets in their uniforms and all the pomp and circumstance that surrounded events at the Academy. Suddenly, over the majestic Rocky Mountains of Colorado’s Rampart Range emerged six red, white and blue Thunderbird jets in Delta formation performing a magnificent clover-loop over the stadium. Brian’s adrenaline peaked at the sound of the afterburners, as he watched these planes move in unison past small puffy clouds with effortless ease. He knew, from that moment on, he wanted to fly jets.


[pull] Attend any Thunderbird Air Show and you will easily spot the family members sporting red, white and blue Thunderbird insignia clothing and hats. As I’ve watched some of the parents at shows, I’ve observed a well-deserved sense of pride in their son or daughter’s selection to this elite team. I couldn’t help but notice their facial expressions tighten, as they watch this young adult (the same one they told a dozen times to pick up their clothes) perform almost effortlessly the tasks required of them. Suddenly, their eyes glisten with moisture. It is an awesome, indescribable feeling, shared by every parent whoever had a son or daughter as a member of the team.[/pull]

TBirds-002 It never occurred to me the impact early childhood toys would have on my son. Santa brought Brian his first jet at age five. It was a pedal variety. He spent hours pedaling and riding it up and down the driveway, which was a perfect make-believe runway. As I visit with Thunderbird parents at air shows, I ask them about the kinds of toys or activities their children were involved with as youngsters. The stories have much in common; almost all pilots, for example had childhood interests in some form of transportation. Flying was never far from their imaginations. Their child’s’ creativity was unleashed on everything from paper planes to model building.

brian-flag Almost thirty years later, I watched Brian stand before a giant American flag in his blue flight suit and accept the Thunderbirds squadron banner for the change of command ceremony. But in my mind, I was recalling a day long ago, when Brian was an 11-year old in a Boy Scouts uniform. He marched down the center aisle of the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel, carrying the American flag for the Memorial Day Services. It was the beginning of his dream to attend the academy.

tbirdnellis Recently, I watched Brian living his dream, when, from the cockpit of a United States Air Force F-16 Thunderbird on the end of a real runaway, before thousands of spectators, his voice boomed over the loudspeaker: “Good Afternoon ladies and gentlemen, the Thunderbird’s are proud to dedicate this aviation performance to the men and women of Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station… Thunderbird’s release brakes, ready now! Burners, now!”

© Venna Bishop, all rights reserved

A High Flying Career

By Venna Bishop

As published from Nebraska magazine Writing Contest, Spring 2005

#4 'surprise landing

Imagine a host of eight heavenly high-flying angels hovering 90 feet above the ground and gracefully descending to inches above the heads of an astonished audience. Their appearance is accompanied by “oohs” and “ahs” as the story of the Nativity comes alive with the creative blend of joyous music, a pageantry of live animals (goats, donkeys, sheep and camels) and the grand entrance of the three kings wearing elegant robes of red brocade, blue silk, and fabric of gold.
The first time I saw an angel suspended before real clouds and real stars, at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., I had no idea of the impact it would have on the rest of my life. The angel’s face was radiant with light. She was smiling and looking right at me. My heart began to pound and my soul was lifted upward by the graceful movement of her wings. In that moment, I felt empowered by the Spirit of God. I knew then I wanted to be a flying angel. Nothing, absolutely nothing, would stop me from becoming an angel. I was inspired with a dream that had angelic purpose in every way.
When I returned to my home in San Jose, I cut a picture of one of the flying angels out of the Possibilities Magazine along with the quote “Build a Dream and the Dream will Build You.” I taped that picture and quote on my refrigerator door. Using visualization and maintaining a positive attitude, the picture and quote continue to serve as symbols of my dreams and provide encouragement and focus for all my endeavors.
Can you believe an angel would be required to audition as a volunteer? These auditions were my first challenge, competing against teenagers. It was scary for me — a “mature” adult pushing 50 — to wear leotards, tights, and learn dance routines the minute I arrived for auditions. The teenage competitors were obviously more agile at dance routines and movements than I. Maybe it’s because I was born on an Arlington, Neb., farm, and dance lessons were not offered in school or as one of my 4-H projects. Certainly, swinging from ropes in my father’s hay barn would give me an edge when it came time to fly. Making the best of a challenging situation, I positioned myself behind the best dancer, memorized the dance sequence and smiled brilliantly no matter what my feet were doing. When I was selected to be one of the angels who would fly 90 feet in the air at 40 miles an hour, I think I could have flown without wires or wings.
After auditioning, the second greatest challenge was the commute between my home in San Jose and the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. For six months, I traveled 800 miles, round trip, two or three times a week for rehearsals and performances. At the time, I had a full-time job as personnel specialist for two colleges focusing on nationwide recruitment for faculty and staff. Upon leaving work I had a seven-hour commute and sometimes I would get home at 2 a.m. Even though things did not always go as planned, each time I set foot on the cathedral grounds, I would become energized. I overflowed with joy and was thrilled to be part of the cast of 200 dedicated volunteers. We were each a vital part of the team endeavor. This involved everyone from Roman soldiers to shepherds, and technicians to ushers. This energy lifted me out of my daily routine, recharged my spiritual batteries and distributed some sparks of joy to the people I met en route.
Finally, it was opening night. The child in me was filled with anticipation. I was standing high above the west balcony, balancing on a platform the size of a saucer, awaiting my cue. The trumpets sounded and music filled the cathedral. I felt the harness tighten and pinch against my body. Suddenly my wings took flight and gave me lift. There was light all around me. As the wind raced past my cheeks, I looked down into the eyes of children. They were smiling and waving at me. There were people sitting in church pews and in wheelchairs, their mouths open in astonishment, just as mine had been three years prior. It had come to pass, I was soaring on the wings of my dream. My dream had become a reality. I was an angel.
Great dreams are never just fulfilled; sometimes they exceed our expectations. The special story of my commitment and dedication as the only angel volunteer who did not live in southern California prompted an invitation to be an interview guest of Rev. Robert H. Schuller on the “Hour of Power” television program. I was awestruck. Then someone on the production staff came up with a clever idea to make this interview different from others. “Why don’t we fly Venna in costume as an angel over the congregation and have her land for the interview?”
When the day for the interview arrived, God had a surprise planned for us. With a twinkle in his eye, Schuller stepped out to one side of the lectern and announced, “This morning I think I will interview an angel. I can’t wait to say ‘God loves you and so do I’ to an angel.” At the same instant, my crew of angel pilots launched me out of the west balcony. As I flew over the congregation toward the lectern, I could see Rev. Schuller was completely absorbed and was paying little or no attention to my descent. In fact, he was innocently standing on my angelic landing target. I
had no choice and no control. To everyone’s amazement, Rev. Schuller suddenly disappeared underneath my skirts, as I landed right on top of him. As he came out from under the yards and yards of fabric in my angelic gown, the TV cameras were rolling. He smoothed his hair, quickly turned, covered his face in embarrassment, and gave me a big hug. He rose above his discomfort level when his quick-thinking comment seized the moment, “Now I know what angels wear.”
From there I embarked on my career as I speak on the topic “It’s Not How You Fly, It’s How You LAND!©” This volunteer experience became the defining moment for my lifelong dream of being a professional speaker, a goal that evolved from my youth as a competitor in 4-H public speaking contests in Nebraska. My angelic landing has become my signature story for all my speaking endeavors. “It’s Not How You Fly, It’s How You LAND!©” is my most popular title as it relates to topics from careers to relationships, and provides the theme for my creative team-building endeavors.

“Is it I, Lord, Is it I?”

By Venna Bishop

Published in Crystal Cathedral Today, April 2006

When Dr. Herman Ridder was on the pastoral staff at the Crystal Cathedral, he would direct a short Maundy Thursday play after that evening’s last The Glory of Easter performance. The audience, cast, and congregation looked forward to this spiritually moving experience, despite the late hour (10:30 p.m.).
The setting for the play was the Last Supper using The Glory of Easter set’s table and props. Dr. Ridder played the role of Jesus and sat, as Jesus did, near the center of the table. The disciples remained in costume and joined him at the table. Jesus (Dr. Ridder) began the play by saying, “Tonight, one of you will betray me.”
Unsure of what their Lord and Master meant, the disciples looked at each other and, one by one, shared where they lived in the Holy Land, their occupations, and how they came to follow Jesus, then finished with the question, “Is it I, Lord, Is it I?”
When Judas finished, Jesus excused himself to do what he had do, broke bread with the remaining disciples, and gave communion to all in attendance. “Is there anyone else who needs communion?” Jesus asked as he rose from the table. He called out again, “Is there anyone else who really needs communion?” After a long pause, Jesus continued, “I know one who really needs communion.” Judas came running in from the back of the Crystal Cathedral up the center ramp and was met by Jesus who proclaimed forgiveness for Judas, just as we should forgive those who have hurt us.
Dr. Ridder’s powerful visual and vocal message of forgiveness, as Judas knelt to receive communion from the one he had betrayed, is one that none in attendance will ever forget. The taking of communion has held more meaning ever since.

Midnight Patriot presentation leaves lasting impression

by Venna Bishop
California ESGR

Published in the ESGR Newsletter, March 31, 2003

Navy Reserve Petty Officer Vincent Estacio pins a Patriot Pin on his boss, Wade R. Groover, line maintenance supervisor for Alaska Airlines.

Navy Reserve Petty Officer Vincent Estacio pins a Patriot Pin on his boss, Wade R. Groover, line maintenance supervisor for Alaska Airlines.

I recently had the honor of conducting one of the most unique Patriot award ceremonies that I have ever witnessed.
It all began quite simply after leaving several messages for a sailor — Vincent Estacio — asking him to return my call so we could present a Patriot Award to his line maintenance supervisor at Alaska Airlines. Little did I know he was in the Philippines at the time, but when he did return the call, his persistence was evident. Vincent worked the graveyard shift and was most eager to have me present his supervisor the award that very night at midnight. The airport where he worked was about 40 miles from my home. “I am usually in bed by then,” I replied. “What if I get someone who lives closer to present it another night?”
With that Vincent’s power of persuasion became apparent, as he seemed to smile through the phone line and offered to come pick me up, take me to dinner and bring me home. It was to be his first night back at work. So I melted at his insistence, and though I declined his offer of transportation and dinner, I said I would meet him at the terminal. It was then he informed me he was often called to do Honor Guard duty. I knew then I had definitely made the right decision.Imagine being picked up from the cargo area and riding in a maintenance vehicle down the flight line to the maintenance shop at that hour of the night. Once inside it resembled a typical maintenance break area, except for the sliced loaf of homemade bread on the table, a roast cooking on a portable rotisserie, as well as a rice cooker, microwave, & toaster oven located in various open areas around the room. Each evening one of the crew members purchased and prepared a dinner for the rest of team. There was an esprit de corps among the group, a gleam of excitement, and a look of wonderment when Vincent’s very surprised Line Supervisor, Wade Goover, walked into the room. Wade certainly didn’t expect to see a stranger in their midst and was pleasantly surprised when we launched into the Patriot ceremony.
I can’t begin to describe how it felt to see this young sailor’s enthusiasm and appreciation for something so simple as an ESGR Patriot presentation for his supervisor and our acknowledgment of his teammates for their support of his military commitment.
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve
1655 Wilson Blvd., Suite 200
Arlington, Virginia 22209
Phone: 1-800-336-45901DSN 426-1400
FAX: (703) 696-1411
Web site:
Editor: Sergeant First Class Richard M. Arndt

email   contact Venna   408.725.8099

return to top of page

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *