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Air Travel Observations

Good morning! I am typing from the comfort of my own study today -- Hallelujah -- after spending the past five days away at the Southeast Tourism Society Travel Showcase in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

I am happy to report that all four of the flights I took since last Saturday left on time and arrived a few minutes early. Smooth. No turbulence. No unpleasant people.

But I was in the middle seat on all of those flights. Where exactly are you supposed to put your arms if you're in the middle? And have you noticed what lengths people go to in order to avoid conversations with their fellow passengers? That's particularly noticeable to me -- a.k.a. Mildred Collier's daughter, who spent her formative years watching her mother strike up conversations with anyone at any time and in any setting. Today's passengers sit down with headphones ready to plug into the inflight entertainment, or they play games on their cellphones. And, heaven forbid if you try to make eye contact. On my 3rd flight of the trip, however, I found myself seated next to a young mother who was flying with her 6-month-old daughter for the first time to visit the baby's grandmother who lives near Atlanta. She had prepared "all the things" she thought could keep baby Charlie happy for the duration of the flight and was clearly hoping Charlie would take a good nap. Still, she looked apologetic when I sat down. God worked that out for her. How could a grandmother of 15 possibly be annoyed by anything that sweet baby might do? And, don't worry. I was quiet so the baby could sleep.

As I rushed through terminals and tried to wait patiently at my departure gates, I watched people. It was clear that the reasons for being in an airport were numerous -- LOTS of business travelers with fancy leather computer bags, others with far more carry-on bags than could ever be "properly stowed in the overhead bins." There were families with children. People with physical challenges needed scooters or oxygen tanks. Some may have even been traveling to reach hospitals for serious medical procedures. There were those who didn't speak English. (Huntsville and Norfolk airports are relatively small and easy to navigate, but that Atlanta airport is a beast. Bless the hearts of those who are arriving there from other countries). I spotted those who looked frightened as if flying was a first-time experience. Some travelers were overweight, some were slim, quite a few were elderly, some were very young, some appeared to be well-to-do, while others looked pretty pitiful, etc.

And those MASKS!!! Arghhhhh. EVERYONE had one on -- which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Have you ever had to run from your arrival gate to a faraway departure gate wearing a mask? When you need every molecule of oxygen, a mask becomes a dreadful deterrent. But maybe that's just me.

When I checked in with my bag, which weighed only 27 pounds due to some careful packing, I took note of the tremendous task of moving people's "stuff" from one place to another. WAY TOO MANY CLOTHES in heavy suitcases, skis, guitars, tennis rackets, golf clubs, etc. etc. All of that reminded me of the time a team of handbell players from Central Baptist in Decatur came to help us in Ecuador. Each of them brought one or more handbells in their carry-on bags to keep them safe. Let me say here that I am always amazed, considering the tremendous number of bags Atlanta handles in a normal day, when my bag arrives exactly where I want it to be. These days your airline app will even send you a notice when your bag is on the plane with you. Nice!

Watching all of the complications, intricacies, hassles, and challenges of air travel, I couldn't help but compare it to having a relationship with God. What a contrast! Spending time with my Heavenly Father is so simple, so peaceful, so uncomplicated.

My stuff is completely unimportant and unnecessary to Him. He sees and hears my heart.

Because of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins we have as a result of His crucifixion, there are no barriers between us, no masks to hide behind.

God understands all languages.

With God, there are no unacceptable conditions. Young, old, fit, disabled, slim, overweight, black, white, American, non-American -- all are welcome to approach His throne of grace, mercy, and love.

He heals.

He helps.

He brings peace.

He keeps the plane in the air.

I hope neither you nor I have to undergo the ordeal of air travel to appreciate the simplicity of having a close relationship with our Father, but somehow a few things came into clearer focus for me in the middle of chaos this week. If your personal world seems to be in disarray, I hope you will take comfort in these verses. And remember -- even though airports like the one in Atlanta may seem tumultuous and turbulent, in its "bones" is a well-oiled machine full of many systems functioning in an orderly and effective manner.

1 Corinthians 14:33a -- "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace . . . "

Psalms 62:7-8 “My salvation and my honor depend on God ; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge."

Isaiah 40:28 “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable.”

Psalm 18:30 “As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless He shields all who take refuge in Him.”

Psalm 84:11-12 “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.”

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