Friday, June 16, 2006

The Executive Mailing Tube

I just flew in from Oklahoma City last night. On Sunday, I fly to Omaha, rent a car, and head to York to speak the next six days at Soulquest. When I get back, the next morning I drive down to Detroit for that is the Sunday Rochester switches pulpits with one of our larger black churches in the area. After that I have one Sunday here and then fly to New Jersey for a four day meeting.

Why am I this busy? It's not because I'm good. I think it's because I'm cheap.

Most of these trips require flying. I hate flying. I hate having to drag out my laptop, take off my shoes and belt, and balance my boarding pass and ID all at the same time while some angry, bored, and impatient TSA agent starts staring at me while slipping on the latex gloves. I hate the smell of airplanes -- a distillation of sweat, BO, perfume, dirt, fear and despair. I hate the fact that airline seats were designed for leprachauns with masochistic tendencies. I hate the fact that every other preacher (I'm going by their sermon illustrations) has deep spiritual conversations with their seatmates and all I want to do is survive mine. I hate the noise -- engines, a dozen conversations, kids who evidently hate the plane as much as I do -- and I hate the fact that it costs a bundle and you can't even get pretzels or peanuts on most flights any more.

And I hate getting butt-whacked. This last flight, for example. The plane pushed away from the gate and stopped (that way, they can log it as an on-time departure even though nothing went anywhere). After twenty minutes the pilot came on and asked us to move around. It seemed the weight and balance figures for our plane weren't good and we were nose heavy. They asked the people in the first two rows to relocate further back. They didn't move. They refused to move. I could see why. Three of them were women approximately the size of York, Nebraska. I don't say that to be unkind -- merely stating facts here. One carried a gallon Tupperware jug full of sweet tea (I know it was because someone had drawn those words on the side with a magic marker). In the two seat row on the left, she touched both external armrests. It reminded me of the time that I saw a 300 pound woman in the mall with a T-shirt saying "Guess." I went with "thyroid disorder."

Each of the heavy women and two heavy men had to use the facilities a few times during flight. Each time I, sitting on the aisle, couldn't lean away far enough and therefore got well and truly butt-whacked (or should I say derriere-drubbed, rear-rapped?). I'm used to the drink cart catching my knees and businessmen swinging their laptop case around like it was a bolo, decking everyone in a four foot circle and acting like they don't notice... but I draw the line at butt-whacking. It's not only painful and embarrassing -- it seems immodest and impure somehow.

The devil knows this. He likes airplanes. I think he is the CSO (Chief Sulphuric Officer) of Northwest at least. Maybe Delta, too, since they have their own little separate purgatory terminal in Cincinnati. He knows he can get me in a bad mood in zero point zero seconds in an airplane. Then -- I spew out of the plane with the rest of the rumpled and stinky herd and head to a religious gathering. It usually takes me a few songs before I can join in.

I wonder if Paul was a good traveler? I wonder if he got sick on the boat when he was in a storm. I wonder if the apostles ever got fed up with the snacks served on Oxcart West. I wonder if Jesus got migraines.

All I know is this: if God can use me after I've been on an airplane, then He is truly God of Gods and Lord of Lords. As long as He wants me to travel and speak, I will, because I love Him and want to share the good news.

Just don't expect me to be happy about the journey. And where are my $@#& pretzels!


At 6/16/2006 03:56:00 PM , Blogger That Girl said...

That muffled noise you hear all the way in Michigan is me sceaming laughing in Alabama!

I don't like to fly!

At 6/16/2006 04:44:00 PM , Blogger reJoyce said...

I don't much care for flying either, but I sure do love to go places.

At 6/16/2006 04:57:00 PM , Blogger jettybetty said...

I just cannot imagine--I love flying ;-).

Even though you don't like it--I am glad you don't let it stop you! I think Satan would be pretty happy if he could keep you off his airline in that case.

I can't prove it scripturally, but Oxcart West probably didn't serve pretzels either.

At 6/16/2006 07:44:00 PM , Blogger Chris said...

Try 15 hours on a flight to Australia on a plane only half-full of people, and the girl sitting on the end of the three-seat row (the third person was my wife) is the only person on the plane who refused to go find a seat of her own somewhere else, and whose elbows were constantly violating our headspace. It's funny, but I like flying small flights; it's the big ones that have more than one seat per row that bug me. Good thing I'm not commuting from New York to Melbourne.

At 6/16/2006 11:35:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6/17/2006 07:45:00 PM , Blogger Mark said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6/18/2006 07:12:00 AM , Blogger mike the eyeguy said...

I was enraptured by my first flight in January 1980, my nose pressed against the window marveling at the carpet of cumulus clouds, when my father bought me a ticket to visit Harding University.

Since then, I've grown to hate it too, for reasons similar to yours and a few of my own. Here's to your wry sense of humor--may it bear you ever safely from departure to disembarkment!

At 6/18/2006 04:37:00 PM , Blogger L.E.Meredith said...

Reading about all this great Christian tolarance, and love for their fellow man/woman, in the article and comments, gives me cause to believe I will have plenty of room on my final flight, I doubt it will be very crowded.

At 6/18/2006 09:38:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have not been on an airplane since 1999. Which means I have not been on an airplane since 9/11.

I do not look forward to whenever my next airplane trip will be because of horror stories like yours.

Tip: Buy your own bag of pretzels for your next journey! :-)

At 6/18/2006 11:02:00 PM , Blogger Hoots Musings said...

Sending this to my husband who is claustrophobic and took anxiety medication recently and still had to get off a plane that was too small...and no, he is not as big as York!

I am sure he will tell you about it.
Thanks for the post, I feel better and my husband will too!

At 6/19/2006 07:40:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having never been to York, Nebraska, I can not say if I am as big as that city. I do know however that I am overweight. It is one of the most difficult and painful aspects of my life. Fortunately, I am used to getting made fun of and laughed at, but sometimes it hurts deeply when you hear it from people who are Christians. I am flying this weekend. I dread it. That fear of, Will they make me pay for two seats or not? Will I accidentally hit people? That feeling of being so obviously out of place, unwanted, and mocked has been magnified thanks to this blog. Perhaps there should be a law banning fat people from airplanes. Come to think of it....getting past people in those church pews can be hard also...maybe we should ban them there, too...or maybe just maybe you can extend to me grace and compassion as I work to overcome being overweight, and I'll extend it to all of you for your insensitivity and arrogance. God bless you for being skinny. You must be very proud of yourselves.

I usually don't leave anonymous comments, but I obviously don't want to leave my name.

At 6/19/2006 09:47:00 AM , Blogger L.E.Meredith said...

Anonymous; I will see you on that final flight I was speaking of earlier.God bless you with your trials here on earth, as you said maybe we should have our own church and other facilities here on earth. so we OLD, OVERWEIGHT, CRIPPLED, HEARING IMPIRED. BLIND.ETC.-- can stay out of the way of these fast moving, neighbour loving christians on their way to save the sinners from just such people as themselves. May God Bless, yes them too.

At 6/19/2006 02:43:00 PM , Anonymous mark said...

Anonymous: I'm guilty as charged on the insensitivity of my comment. The lady's size was not relevent to the story I was telling. Sorry. An updated version of my comment should appear below.


At 6/19/2006 02:45:00 PM , Anonymous mark said...

I am also a preacher who never seems to have life-changing conversations with my seatmates on airplanes.

The closest I ever got was on a flight back to Detroit from Dallas. I was dead tired. If they had offered a "no talking" cabin, I would have demanded a seat in it. Fortunately, I had a window seat and the aisle seat next to me was the only unoccupied place on the plane...until just before departure. As the door was closing, a lady scurried on board. She was carrying three clear-plastic tote bags—stuffed to the gills—that obviously were not going to fit in the overhead bin.

As she lumbered down the aisle, I quickly picked up a book, pretended to read, and sent out all the the "don't mess with me" vibes I could. She wedged into the seat next to me and sighed, "Thank God I caught this plane." I was not thanking God. I was complaining to God because he had ignored my prayers and answered hers instead.

I did not acknowledge her. Still, she continued, "Yes, it's only by the grace of God that I caught this plane!" I turned a page in my book. "God is s-o-o-o good, isn't he!" she gushed, to no one in particular. She obviously had evangelism on her mind, and I was in her crosshairs.

Undeterred by my lack of response, she turned directly to me and struck up a conversation against my will. "Are you going to Detroit for a visit, or is Detroit your home?" she queried. I mumbled that Detroit was home.

"Oh, how interesting," she chirped. "Do you make automobiles?" Now, any dummy could figure out what the next question would be, so I just went ahead and saved her the trouble of asking it.

"No, I don't make cars," I deadpanned, still looking at my book, "but I preach to a lot of people who do."

She let out a whoop that got the attention of the whole plane. "A preacher! You're a preacher?" She was fairly yelling now. "PRAISE GOD, HE SAT ME NEXT TO A PREACHER!" Every passenger turned to stare at the bizarre creature she had just identified as her seatmate.

And for the next two hours we talked about the Rapture, the Antichrist and many other topics of great interest to her.

That's what happens to me on planes. I'm still waiting for the one where I'm seated next to a struggling soul who, as a result of talking to me, heads straight to the nearest baptistery upon landing. I know it'll happen sooner or later; it happens all the time to preachers I listen to.

At 6/20/2006 12:14:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

I, like Mark, have deleted my earlier comment that had a couple of insensitive remarks in it and I also apologize to "anonymous" for causing any hurt feelings.

I've read your later post Patrick and all of the comments to it and see there are a variety of opinions about some of these things because there are a lot of issues involved here without any of us having all of the facts needed to correctly discern what the "true" situation is for either the original "anonymous" and/or for some of the rest of us.

For one thing, blog writing - writing of any kind - has its limitations when it comes to communication. Interestingly enough, my blogging friend, TCS, blogged about that very thing yesterday over at his blog Believing Thomas, if you have a moment to read it.

I'm not going to add to the discussion by means of throwing out some of my opinions on what we each should blog about or not blog about, how those of us with weaknesses or disabilities or shortcomings should view each other or ourselves other than to say that we each should ever strive to be more like Jesus and to love one another in whatever state of being we find ourselves in.

I wrote a short post about that myself the other day that focused on something Dietrich Bonhoeffer said while imprisoned by the Nazis in WWII. What he had to say in that quote would serve us all well to follow, whether we see ourselves as the stronger brothers or weaker brothers. The call to action is the same - to love one another as Christ loves us.

Take care Patrick and may God keep you safe in your travels.

May God richly bless you all in your struggles in this life. We all have them and sometimes become heavily burdened down with them. So, again, may God richly bless you all.


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