Flying and the Church Year {Book Club}

On a Sunday morning last fall, I boarded a plane in Phoenix, where I had come three days earlier for my uncle’s memorial service. Three days with my parents, sister, and assorted relatives that I hadn’t seen in years, three days of catching up and talk talk talking, three days of absorbing varying levels of grief, loss, tears, and anger, three days away from my husband and children, three days out of the rhythms and rituals that undergird and uphold my life. It was in many ways wonderful, but as I flopped into my narrow window seat, I also realized I was emotionally and spiritually spent.

We took off. An hour into the flight, the plane started bucking and cantering like a grumpy colt. The fasten seat belt light came on.

Now, I am a nervous flyer at the best of times. Throw in turbulence, and I become agitated. Add in emotional and spiritual exhaustion, and I fall into full-fledged panic. I sat there with the plane rolling beneath me and panic rolling within me, and I could do nothing. I could not fight. I could not flee. I could only sit. With every jolt, fear roiled through my body.

I closed my eyes and breathed. After 20 years of praying the Jesus Prayer, it is a near constant companion, and its words came to my aid now. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. Over and over again, I prayed those words. I imagined Jesus standing in my synaptic gaps, absorbing the fear hormones that were coursing through my brain and triggering the full-body cortisol and adrenaline rushes that were cascading through my chest and limbs.

I prayed Isaiah 41:10, my life verse: Do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. I chanted those words over and over in my mind. I imagined the strong arm of God holding the plane in the air. I imagined the Holy Spirit bearing it on His wings above the clouds.

For two hours I breathed and prayed and pictured the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit surrounding me, upholding me, indwelling me. Protecting me. Protecting every single person on that plane.

We landed safely, and as I stood on shaky legs to exit the plane, I vowed I would never fly again.

A week later, I sat in church and listened to the sermon. The preacher said, “We say we want to lean wholly on Jesus and live utterly abandoned to Him, but we so rarely enter into circumstances that would force us to do exactly that.”

Crap, I thought, crap crap crap—because I knew in that moment that I was going to have to fly again. The challenge to me was not to fly less but to fly more, both literally and figuratively.

Flying is a good metaphor for life with God. I have zero control when I am flying. I am trusting hard that the mechanics have done their jobs, that the pilots know what they are doing, and that the control tower people are well-rested and competent. Likewise, when I launch out on the wings of faith, I am trusting that Someone beyond my control is always and everywhere upholding me and keeping me from falling.

Next month, I will board another plane. It will lift up into the air, and forces beyond my control will bear me, I hope, to Chicago. And I will pray the whole way. That flight will be a visceral reminder that Someone else, Someone far more powerful than a jet engine, is with me and upholding me not just when I am literally in the air but in all times and all places.

It is Easter, the season in which we celebrate the rising of our Lord Jesus from the dead and His glorious triumph over the powers of sin and destruction and death, the season in which we celebrate His resurrection—and the resurrection life He imparts to us. God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…has made us alive together with Christ…and has raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Resurrection life is life in the risen Christ, life in the heavenly places, life on wings. When we live in Christ, we are surrounded by Christ as by an atmosphere. And just as we breathe the air around us and it fills our lungs and gives life to our bodies, so too do our spirits breathe Christ when we live in Him—He is our air, surrounding us, filling us, upholding us, giving us Life.

This is not a metaphor. It is Reality.

It is the life we are promised in Christ Jesus—Resurrection Life. Life on wings. Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength. They will rise on wings like eagles.

It’s Easter, friends. Let’s soar.

~~~

Lilias Trotter, an early 20th century English M to Algeria, wrote that when it comes to the needs of our own souls, “we do not need to come again and again to wring an unwilling answer out of our Father, but to search in His Word till He gives a promise which meets our case and then step out on it in the bare faith which believes that it receives.”

In this season of Resurrection Life, where do you need to step out in bare faith and trust God to uphold you?

P.S. This is Amy, remember reading Lilias Trotter’s biography last summer? Next week we start Seeker (The Shiloh Series Book 2) by Helena Sorensen and I can.not.wait. You know I’m a nut when it comes to Eden. I don’t tend to like Christian fiction, but Helena Sorensens’ writing doesn’t make my skin crawl! Instead, it captivates me too. Maybe you’re needing some post retreat captivating too.

Here is the reading plan for the next few weeks:

  • May 9—first third of Seeker
  • May 16—second third of Seeker
  • May 23—final third of Seeker
  • May 30—we will start The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker ConwayI haven’t finalized the plan.
  • June 6—Kimberlee Conway Ireton will share!

20 Comments

  1. Helena May 1, 2017

    Man, KCI, I love this reminder. I could read it again and again, just soaking in the truth that feels so outside me but isn’t. “This is not a metaphor. It is reality.” Yes, ma’am. I think the ascension might be the portion of the Gospel most often overlooked. Jesus died, yes. He rose again (even better). But he ascended! And carried us with him!
    I heard a preacher say once that Jesus scooted over on his throne to make room for us, and I gasped. It felt like blasphemy. But I don’t know how else we could be seated at the right hand of the Father. It’s a truth so massive, it feels like trying to digest a buffalo at a single sitting.

    1. Kimberlee Conway Ireton May 2, 2017

      Dear Helena, Once again, you make me laugh! A buffalo at a single sitting! But isn’t that what we’re doing? The gospel of Jesus is such staggering good news that it overwhelms us (which is probably why we keep trying to tame it!)–we simply can’t contain or comprehend it. The past months I’ve been pondering the reality of what it means to live in Christ, the way I live in air–and it keeps taking my breath away. Which is what you are saying, I think, when you say “he ascended! And carried us with him!” We are with Him, in Him, and He in us, too. (Eyes wide here because I’m eating a whole buffalo again!)

      1. Amy Young May 2, 2017

        Please more witty deep banter :). I just want to sit and enjoy the two of you chatting and feel your drops of wisdom water my soul :). Okay?!

          1. Amy Young May 3, 2017

            (Now I feel the pressure to be deep. HA! Actually that very impulse ties in with something I heard yesterday. Over time we grow more shallow — like a bay with silt settling. So, every so often we need to —I forget the technical term— but basically clear the bay to re-create room for depth. That is the sense I got when I read Helena quoting you: ““his is not a metaphor. It is reality.” I realize how familiar I am with metaphors making a point. I am more comfortable with this being a metaphor because then it informs but doesn’t have to deeply influence me. What does it mean for my spirit to breathe in Christ? Trying to think of some witty banter and falling flat! No soaring with words here :))

          2. Kimberlee Conway Ireton May 3, 2017

            Witty banter is overrated. Depth is underrated. I think you chose the wise direction–down, which in the Christian way of paradox is up. Depth enables us to soar.

  2. Ruth May 2, 2017

    This is beautiful, a great reminder, and not where I would have expected you to head during Easter season. Thanks for helping me push my expectations of this season, because in some ways believing in the resurrection is in and of itself a leap of faith.

    And Amy, I’m glad we’re reading a novel next because one of the celebratory things I was hoping to do during the Easter season was read a novel or two.

    1. Kimberlee Conway Ireton May 2, 2017

      Dear Ruth, I am a naturally timid person, the kind who dips her toes in for years before swimming, if I ever get around to swimming. Dangling my feet in the water while sitting on the side of the pool is much more comfortable. Terra firma and all that. So my challenge is always to step out in faith, trusting that God will uphold me. It’s a leap of faith, yes, but that’s not the same thing as a blind leap–we know the One who is the Way, and He promises to carry us. Enjoy Seeker–I think it’s my favorite novel of the trilogy. 🙂

    2. Amy Young May 2, 2017

      I agree :). “Push my expectations” — I fear I have expected (and therefore, sought) too little from Eastertime. I had told you, Kimberlee, but I’ll say it here for the sake of the non-mind readers :). My spiritual director pointed out to me how Lent is 40 days of fasting while Easter is 50 days of feasting. She challenged me to seek out feasting (could be because I kept talking about my Lenten fast during our time . . . and we were well into Easter?!).

      Here is to “fun” reading!

  3. Elizabeth May 2, 2017

    Amy — I am SO BEHIND on the readings. I want to read Seeker with everyone but might not be able to keep up!

    1. Kimberlee Conway Ireton May 2, 2017

      Dear Elizabeth, I’m not Amy, but I want to speak grace and peace to you. I know she would, too! We all of us know what it is to feel behind, and not be able to do all that we want to do. At the risk of sounding like a Disney musical, I hereby give you permission to let it go. 🙂 Seriously, skip the Easter chapter. God will meet you in this season whether you read it or not. May He fill you with peace and joy in the midst of all that requires your time and attention.

        1. Amy Young May 3, 2017

          Elizabeth 🙂 no pressure to read Seeker (I think you’ve read it before?) — and feeling behind is one of the worst feelings ever (talk about “Eden Lost” — I do not think we were meant to feel behind and it is one aspect of heaven I look forward to. And I am now preaching to myself — sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done. But most of it is not as urgent as my middle of the night panics think. However, I think those middle of the night moments reflect what I truly believe more accurately than my “pulled together” in the middle of the day articulation of what I think I believe). ALL THIS TO SAY — if you can read Seeker, I think it will be good for your soul in the midst of a full life. Could you trade out something else for Seeker reading? So, not to add to your to-do list, but to consciously let something go. OR to let go of Seeker reading. I trust that the HS will lead you in what to keep and what to release for May :). Hugs!

          1. Elizabeth May 3, 2017

            Thanks Amy — yes I relate to waking up in the morning and all my to-do’s coming crashing down on me, before I even get out of bed. Just went through a really busy end of semester season that exaggerated the struggle. I WOULD like to reader Seeker, it’s been on my list for a while (I read books 1 and 3 initially). I thought I was way behind in Adele’s book and sat down to read it this week and was 80% finished, so that was encouraging. And now that homeschool coop is done I think I just may have the time to join you all!

            I’ve read Kimberlee’s book before and absolutely loved the Easter section. That, and the Transfiguration section are my favorites — seriously, I think about the Transfiguration/Ordinary Time chapter ALL the time. I basically have my bookmark set at that chapter for reference.

  4. June May 2, 2017

    “Life on wings.” Yes, my friend, this is the reality of life with Him that I want to live

    1. Kimberlee Conway Ireton May 2, 2017

      Me, too, June! I’m tasting it, the life on wings, and every taste whets my appetite for more. I know you know what I’m talking about 🙂

  5. Phyllis May 2, 2017

    I was so glad to see this post come up! Just last night I was kind of lamenting to God about why am I feeling so awful, it’s Easter time, after all….

    This section of the book and this post were just the reminders I needed. We’re big on keeping Easter going for the whole 50 days in our family. It’s also a part of the culture here. Even people who don’t usually go to church will use the Christ is risen greeting for a while. I laughed when an elderly neighbor came over Easter morning and scolded our sleepy son for greeting her as he would on any old day. But I’ve almost been forgetting already.

    The part I highlighted in the book was this:
    “Like the disciples trudging up the road to Emmaus, I trudge through life as if Easter were just a nice day in spring and not the earth-shaking, mind-blowing, life-altering, cosmos-shattering event that it is. Like these disciples, I am encountered by the risen Christ and am so self-absorbed I do not recognize him. Like them, I pour out my complaints, my heartbreak, my disappointed hopes. And as he did with them,. Jesus patiently bears with my foolishness, my slowness of heart.”

    1. Kimberlee Conway Ireton May 2, 2017

      Dear Phyllis, I, too, have been living as though Easter were just a nice day in spring–but Jesus is faithful, and He keeps finding ways to remind me to look up and rejoice. Today, it was through your words quoting my words! It is both funny and a little deflating when my own words come back to haunt me. I think we keep learning the same lessons again and again, only (please God) at a deeper or higher level than the last time. I am so glad you live in a culture that celebrates Easter for the whole 50 days. I would like to experience that!

      1. Amy Young May 3, 2017

        To you both :): “I think we keep learning the same lessons again and again, only (please God) at a deeper or higher level than the last time.” Yes. Simply yes 🙂

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