Every time I fly, I am given the opportunity to meet someone new. I believe that each person you sit next to has something to offer, even if it is silence, to be alone in your thoughts, or with a good book. Some people I've met on flights, I still keep in touch with to this day, like Ernie and Mary, two retirees from Oregon.
I recently took a quick vacation to Kansas City - literally less than 48 hours in total - and on three of the four flights, I met truly amazing people, all of which I feel were sent from God to help me on my spiritual journey.
On my first flight, from San Diego to Phoenix, I didn't even get a chance to make eye contact with the couple sitting in the row with me, so I read my book, "A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles," by Marianne Williamson. I was a madwoman, underlining and starring pages. It really took hold of me, as I am trying to make sense of the relationships of my past, and much of the book speaks about relationships in regard to God's plan for us. I gained so much perspective in that hour long flight.
Next, on my flight from Phoenix to Kansas City, my assigned seat was occupied by a man whose son had a fear of flying, so instead of breaking up the family, I simply sat in an empty seat. That seat just happened to be next to a Korean woman who barely spoke a lick of English. I encouraged our communication, despite the language barrier, for in the book I was reading on the previous flight, Williamson says, "in any moment we choose fear instead of love, we deny ourselves the experience of Paradise." Because I put an effort in to communicate with this stranger, I learned that she was en route to Kansas City to attend a session with IHOP (International House of Prayer)!!! Go figure--we were connected by our faith. God was definitely at work there :) It's amazing what we can receive if we merely open our hearts to listening.
On my flight back to Phoenix, my neighbor was a man who was eagerly reading the last pages of "The Hunger Games" when a slight "Ha!" slipped out of his mouth. Intrigued, I asked, "What are you reading?" Little did I know, that one question would be the spark to a conversation that lasted nearly the entire three and a half hour flight. He came from a solid Christian background--worked currently at a Mennonite University, was raised with a minister as a father, and quickly became a disciple to me. It was by no means an accident, for my daily devotional passage that same morning encouraged me to seek a disciple. He challenged my fears and my thoughts, but encouraged me by hearing my many callings and promising to pray for me. There's power in that!
When the conversation ended, I had a list of bible verses, suggested readings and a new pen pal to help guide my "walk with Christ," which as he explained, was a more traditional Christian way to say what I term, "my spiritual path."
We exited the plane and high-fived each other goodbye - when I noticed he shared the same gift marker on his palm that I have - the simian crease. I didn't say anything at the moment, for I was not completely sure from a high five if it was the real deal. It wasn't until a few moments later, at my new gate, when he approached me one final time to share an amazing little book called, "Knowing Aslan," by Thomas Williams. I examined his palm and he did, in fact, possess the gift marker. Moved and compelled by all of his selfless giving, I offered my wisdom regarding the simian crease, as I felt like it was my moment to teach him something, too, which felt great! I am very thankful to receive, but equally gracious to give.
Once he left, I began devouring the book he gave me and quickly discovered it was about the connection between the character Aslan in the story, "The Chronicles of Narnia" to God himself. I was blown away by it, for not only was it a captivating read, but it held the answer to a question I felt the urge to ask him on the plane, but held back in doing so.
My question: "What is God."
The book is great and I suggest it to any seeker of spiritual food, for it's an easy read - less than 60 pages - yet is rich in content.
It reads: "It's not so easy to love a God you can't see, hear, or hug...but God is with us as a living Spirit, working for us behind the scenes in the lives of Christians, even though he is presently invisible to us."
"One tangible evidence of that love is the world he created, filled with delights meant for our joy--the beauty of nature, the care of a friend, the love of a wife or husband or child, and the simple overlooked pleasure of everyday existence."
However, on page 40, it explains the concept of "Living in Extravagant Joy," which was actually the topic of our sermon in church today! As our pastor explained and the book says,
"The idea that Christians should be long-faced and wary of too much joy is outrageous nonsense. Christians should enjoy life more than unbelievers. They are free from the guilt of sin and free to enjoy all the blessings God offers. He gave us those "thou shalt not" commandments, not to keep us from pleasure, but to tell us how to manage our desires in order to achieve joy."
It continues, "Jesus told funny stories, was always attending parties, and partied so much that the joy killers of his day called him a glutton and a wino. In fact, one of his miracles was to make a hundred gallons of wine for a wedding party."
C.S. Lewis adds, "Joy is the serious business of Heaven," and Jesus died so that we could escape the misery Satan inflicted and experience the joy God intended. Wild, extravagant joy. :)
It's time to throw a party! A "Heaven on Earth" event that anyone is invited to - free for all to come and join in - a party that I have been planning for quite some time...but was only ready to attend now that I am free. I invite you to join me, or start planning your own today! Having love and strength in our Spirit is more than enough reason to celebrate!!! I'll keep you posted on the details :)