Monday, May 12, 2008

"She's breaking up, she's breaking up!" Tom's testation by turbulence...and lying pastors like me

"Uh..I have been flying for almost forty years, and not only was that turbulence not normal, but it was a hundred times worse than I even knew was possible."

Honestly, it wasn't until (much)later and (literally) another continent removed  that I told Tom (St. Guinness) that whole truth. We Christians..especially pastor types...just aren't that good at telling the whole, authentic, truth (which is why some sheep, and maybe even God, prefer the Nine Inch Nails gig to church, as Bono once preached in an audio found here.)

St. Guinness and I were seated next to each other on a plane from L.A. To Dallas.
This was not even the flight to Peru, yet; let alone the hours bus ride up the Andes where I lost my lunch and found my faith..(uncensored story told here,  censored video here).

All was smooth. St. Guinness was on the first leg of his first mission trip.

Then it hit.

If you remember the intro narration to "The Six Million Dollar Man," you can recall the frantic voice "She's breaking up, she's breaking up!" as the plane's turbulence did its number.

Here is the actual video of our adventure...uh, sorry, here is that "she's breaking up" TV intro..but as you watch 0:14-0:38, this is pretty much the same thing.

The flight attendants frantically tried to keep everyone in their seats.

Strangely, but as is common in episodes like this, it was deathly quiet as the plane violently shook.

All we heard was a voice in front of us, as a passenger asked his seatmate,
"Is this normal?"

We heard no answer, and had our answer.

Did i mention this was Tom's first time flying?

That we had to coax him into the trip with a faith-promise that the plane trip would be a cinch?

Tom is a white guy, but he turned (in biblical language) "whiter than any launderer on earth could bleach him"

I faked a calm pastoral confidence and convinced him we would be okay.

It's called living by faith.

Lying, i mean.

Strangely, it was also deathly quiet as we filed out of the plane. The flight attendants and pilots were nowhere to be found.

When we caught up with another gal from our group in the airport, we white guys, hair and tattoos still standing on end, asked her, "Man, how did you manage that turbulence??!!"

She genuinely and calmly replied,
"Oh, I just figured if it was my time to go, I'd be with Jesus."

I wanted to punch her.

She was a better pastor than me.

She mentioned overhearing some flight attendants in the airport talking about the technical classification of the turbulence: "borderline severe."

I tranlated that to "You are gonna die,"  but a quick googling suggests that though it is extremely rare
(Wow, God had chosen us for an elect select experience.  He most really love and trust us.  As Mother Theresa quipped about trials and testing: "I wish he didn't trust me so much!"):

Flight crews around the world share a common classification of turbulence: light, moderate and severe. The definitions are laid down in our manuals and help us to make an assessment as to what our course of action should be. For the fearful flyer, even light turbulence can be upsetting...

"Severe"turbulence is extremely rare. In a flying career of over 10,000 hours, I have experienced severe turbulence for about five minutes in total. It is extremely uncomfortable but not dangerous...
I should stress that this level of turbulence is so rare that leisure travellers will almost certainly never experience it and nor will most business people. (link)
"Extremely uncomfortable but not dangerous." is if your heart stops and your faith and hope run out.
That's borderline severe.
And it made me feel severely borderline.

Oops, let me edit this post to link a story from a few years later (time travel):

the news came out today about all those people hurt in the Continental Airlines "severe turbulence" episode..and to hear that due to it, "Two people have died during that time (since 1990), and about 10 people a year suffer severe injuries such as broken bones."

All that to say..

Without giving the devil too much credit
 (he does work for God, however...see "The Devil is God's Devil"..)
..often when we are called/drafted into a life-changing missional adventure,
we get sifted/tested on the way.

This can lead to leadfoot or clay feet.
And/or surrendering to surrender.

Our dreams and Uzziahs die,
                we are sent into wild-erness, desert testation and vertigo,
                                         but we come out stronger.
 And faithfully wear our Annie Dillard crash helmets and spiritual armor.
Knowing that if it's indeed our time to go,
                                             it's time.

Even though we had to talk Tom out of the Dallas airport mens room with a promise (hoping it wasn't a lie) that nothing remotely similar would happen the next plane..

That means, we did the normal Christian thing,
                       and made a promise in Christ's name that we had no authority to make.

We lied like a cathedral.

We almost had to buy St. Guiness a Guiness or eight.

He would have settled for Ripple and sleeping pill.
("Why oh why didn't I tale the blue pill?" )

Tom passed the sift/shift and the test.

His flying colors were glorious in Peru.
But partly because he had  gloriously persevered in flying there .

To prove it, I have finally been able to upload a bit of video of Tom giving testimony in Peru.
Note is hair is no longer standing up a few days later after the turbo-turbulence.

You can even see a clip of him toying momentarily with entering a "Sex and Growth" office shop to..uh, share his faith. (Watch it at 6:45 ff in Part 2 below) His hair IS standing on end in this clip.

PS. You will also find that this boy can pray,play axe...and dance!

PPS: The next year's even wilder adventures are on video here

PPPS: At the end of clip 2, you can see that our church down there is literally across the street from a brothel...I actually am brave/dumb enough to pan the camera from the pulpit while Pam from our group is teaching, to the brothel window, and back again.

PPPPS: Tom claims I, his pastor dude, gave him the "half the peace sign" hand gesture one day on this trip. I don't see it on the video, so it didn't happen.

Part 1 (the opening joke is due to the Peruvians nicknaming him "Tarzan"):

Part 2:

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