A Faith That Flies . . . .

Forty-five years ago, I married a man in love with flying.  On our first date, he rented a small airplane to fly us over the Los Angeles Basin as we shared a pizza.  When he asked me to marry him, that man made sure I knew that flying would an important part of our future when he asked, “How’d ya like to join the Air Force?”  (All these years later, I still find myself smiling as I remember saying, “Yes!”–even though a small part of me wondered if he was an Air Force recruiter!  I was quite relieved when (four days later) he handed me a brochure titled, The Air Force Wife!)

On those occasions when we fly together, I always marvel at how carefully he looks over every inch of the outside of the airplane, making sure nothing is loose or missing.  He does the same thing once we get into the cockpit, handing me the checklist to read aloud as he confirms each section is in good order.

After watching him commit to memory so much about each airplane’s systems and procedures for so many decades, I asked him why a checklist was even really necessary?  This was his answer:  

DSC03194
“They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“A checklist is a necessity because human memory is fallible.
We get into trouble when we forget parts,
add what isn’t there,
or do things in the wrong order.
To go through the checklist verbatim makes sure nothing is overlooked.”

Bottom line?  Flying is serious and sometimes risky business.  Whenever there is an accident, especially when there is loss of life, there is always a team sent to determine the cause of the crash.  There can be many reasons cited when a plane comes down, the one that is most dreaded and hardest to bear is, “pilot error“,  because it implies the accident could have somehow been avoided.

As I reflect on how essential reviewing a checklist is before every flight,
I am convinced that Christians have a responsibility to rely
on the Scriptures themselves, rather than memorization,
to navigate a world filled with danger.  

I do not mean to say that Scripture memorization has no value–because it certainly does!  However, there is always a danger of misapplication when it is taken out of context.  In the Counseling Room, no matter how knowledgable a Client may be when it comes to familiarity with Scripture, there is always danger for “pilot error.” We are fallen, fallible beings who need the wisdom of the Scriptures–within its context–to keep us on track.   Hebrews 4:12 affirms our need:

“For the Word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” 

The wonderful thing about investing ourselves in the Scriptures, is that they offer so much more than the basics of living.  Through this “alive” and “active” entity, the Creator beckons us into a relationship with Him.  This, my friend, is the call to risk everything we perceive as being “safe”, for something larger and far richer than anything we can humanly imagine. In his second letter to the church at Corinth Paul wrote:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature;
the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
II Corinthians 5:17

If you have surrendered your heart to Christ, celebrate His provision of the Scriptures and His Spirit to help you stay on the path He has marked out for you.  (Ephesians 2:10)

A faith that takes flight is alive and active.
Such a faith reflects the constant nurturing of the Scriptures
through the working of God’s Spirit.
In difficulty and well as in times of ease,
a faith intent on worshiping God is one that ultimately soars.

So . . . no matter where you are in your life, God calls you not to deal with the challenges and joys of life in your own strength–too much room for “pilot error”!  Instead, remembering “the old has passed away . . . new things have come”, go to the Scriptures with intentionality to get to know Him better.  The following are some passages that are some favorites of mine:

 Psalm 96:9:

“Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness;
tremble before Him all the earth.”

Psalm 104:2-4 makes me shiver with wonder:

“He wraps Himself with light as with a garment;
He stretches out the heavens as with a tent
and lays the beams of His upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds His chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds His messengers,
flames of fire His servants.”

I love the powerful images in Isaiah 4o:27-31:

“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

Of course there are so many more . . . if you have the time, please share some of your favorites in the comments section.

Now for a little earthly honesty: When I met my husband I was full of fear when it came to flying.  In fact, I hid my fears from him because I wanted to get to know the guy with the twinkly eyes better.  Over time I admitted my struggle to him–did my best to support him in his career–but it was tough.  A breakthrough for me came in early 2002,. I was preparing to fly 3,000 miles from my home, when I came upon a verse I had read many times.  Somehow, it seemed to jump off the page with new meaning as it  connected with my problem:

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16

Ka-pow!  God spoke to my heart at that moment with an assurance I had never fully appreciated.   I realized that there is nothing that can rob me of one moment of the life God ordained from the beginning of time.  The wonderful news is that it is the same for you!  I urge you: fly to Him with whatever burden is weighing on your heart–NOW!  Release it to Him with thanksgiving, as you enjoy the wonder of His faithfulness . . . All to His Glory!

“If Any Of You Lacks Wisdom . . . . “

I can still remember the first time I read James 1:5,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all
without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” 

 I was a new Christian with much to learn as a wife, a mother and a daughter of God Most High.  In my world before Christ, making mistakes or showing oneself as weak was a dangerous thing.  Once exposed, the resulting fault-finding and blame-shifting were elements that tore at the soul of this wounded and confused kid.  I had lived most of my life desperate to please and keep peace at just about any  price.   The thought of not having to guard against being ridiculed for showing weakness intrigued me and was downright revolutionary.   In the thirty-plus years I have walked with Christ since reading James’ letter, I have tested this promise many times and in various scenarios:

Crying out to God in fear. . .
Turning to Him with deep regret . . .
Seeking Him for the comfort and assurance I lacked–
 
God has proved Himself faithful . . .
EVERY . . .
SINGLE . . .
TIME . . . .

In my last post, I wrote to you about humility being the key to helping others as we rely on God for the wisdom and strength we need.  We looked at a picture of relationships being lived as God designed them to be–“Two are better than one . . . “–in Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12.  We focused on what happens when we invite God into those relationships as the powerful “third strand.” We marveled at how God’s people are strengthened and how those relationships become cosmic because of His Presence.

As I concluded that post, I promised to write in my next post about a very practical tool/exercise that has been helpful to me and has benefited many others.  I ask but one thing of you–I ask that you apply it personally before attempting to help someone else with it.  I make this request because you will never appreciate the value of what is offered unless you have personally reaped its benefits.  Also, by applying it first, Christ’s admonition that you, “take the plank out of our own eye” before going after the speck in the eye of a friend or neighbor (Luke 6:42) will have been honored.

The goal of the exercise is to discern (or expose) who or what the primary influence ruling your thinking and responding at various times is.  It is based on the assumption that there is always a rule or authority that influences how you think and/or act.  We start with the bare bones:

  1.  Draw a triangle on a piece of paper with a heart placed in the center of the triangle.
  2. Write your name next to the right bottom tip; to the left of the triangle write either “Life’s Challenges and Joys” or a specific problem or concern that comes to your mind.  (The point here is, that this illustration holds merit in both difficult (challenges) and easier (joyful) times.)
  3. Draw an arrow from where you have written your name to the top of the triangle.
  4. Draw another arrow from the top of the triangle to the bottom left where you have written, “Life’s Challenges and Joys” or have entered a specific problem or concern.

Now, put some flesh on those bones:

  1. The premise of the exercise: we rarely respond to the challenges and joys we encounter straight on–draw an arrow between your name and the other side underneath the triangle, then “X” the line out.
  2. Instead, we are influenced by whatever “rule or authority” we hold to at any given time.   Identifying what is at the top of the triangle is the key to determining what rules the heart at any given time.  (When working with a Client I ask them, “who or what” is influencing their thinking about their problem?  The answers vary: pressure . . . fear . . . anger . . . hurt . . . anxiety . . . pride . . . money . . . confusion . . . guilt . . . resentment . . . and the list goes on!)
  3. The next step (remembering James’ encouragement)– ASK GOD for the wisdom you need to identify what is influencing your thinking toward what you wrote to left of the triangle.  (Write those influences above the top of the triangle.)
  4. Now, take a deep breath and consider this: Anything written there that is influencing you (other than God) is probably an idol.  Write “God or Idol?” above your reasons listed over the top of the triangle.
  5. Finally, ASK GOD for the help you need to clean out the excuses and keep Him in His rightful place–“God and . . . ” never works!

There are times when I know my attitude is not right or when I know what my problem is but I feel stuck.  In both cases, when I ASK GOD for the wisdom and courage I lack, He has delivered without fail.  I have learned through this simple exercise that when God exposes my sin He does so, not to ridicule me for my failures, but to free me by facing my sin to enjoy a deeper faith.

Proverbs 16:2 warns:

“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”

To hold onto our “reasons” for what we do is to lose what we need most–
the blessing of Christ’s Presence in our lives.
 Seek Him for the wisdom you lack to grow and mature spiritually through those difficulties.
He is worthy of your trust!

All to His Glory!