The Flight Safety Speech


I flew to a conference last weekend, from Texas to Ohio with a detour through Florida, because honestly that’s close. It’s pretty exciting being crammed into a plane with recycled air with a bunch of children sporting Mickey ears shrieking about Disney and beleaguered parents praying their sugar high will last until the rental car. But even more fun is when you hear the same speech you have heard for your entire life from every perky flight attendant since the dawn of time and spacecraft.

The Captain has turned on the Fasten Seat Belt sign!  I love this opener, because instead of just saying “put on your dang seatbelt because we’ll be taking human beings into the thin air in a large mechanical bird and if we crash your ashes will be spread out like dust over Birmingham,” they tell you the sign is on.  Like that ever works when you see the yellow light in a school zone.

Please make sure your seatback and folding trays are in upright locked position! I’m wondering if it would cut a human in half if the folding tray was down.  I’m also curious if some guy named Bob just made up this line twenty-seven years ago because they were trying to fill up space, like “make sure your shoestrings are tied!” and “take off your hats, ladies!” because the seats only move a total of 1.7 inches even when you force them with all your might by digging your heels into the cold floor and what’s the freaking point of the seats moving 1.7 inches.  And I’m imagining the gasping of a woman decapitated upon take-off, and her sobbing husband wishing he had only remembered to keep the folding tray in an upright locked position. 

If you are seated next to an emergency exit, please read carefully the special instructions located in the seatback in front of you!  I take this seriously, ya’ll. I glare at these exit row passengers with beady eyes to see if they’re paying attention to this immense duty that has been bestowed upon them, because if they can’t handle the exit row responsibilities I’m totally there to lead this ragtag crew in to safety. I’m ordering scared children toward open doors and blowing up life rafts saying things like “atta boy” and “you betcha” and high-fiving the flight attendants.  Also? I know there are a ton of exits, somewhere up front and blah blah down at the end that can only be recalled with some fancy two-finger arm movements that I can recall in a pinch if the plane is plunging to our deaths. I’m onto you, old lady who moves slow and is taking up precious exit row space.  Get with the program and read the handout in the seatback pocket in front of you.

At this time, we request that all mobile phones, pagers, and other electronic devices be turned off for the full duration of the flight! They LIE I tell you, because something as sophisticated as a plane that lifts us into space surely isn’t derailed by my itouch reader and an electronic Jane Eyre.  But then again apparently the seatback thing is a deal and people have to follow signs to remember to wear safety belts and you wait with crazy anticipation for a cup of soda the size of a sippy cup so perhaps we aren’t all that bright after all and the machine really has to dig deep to fly straight.  And Southwest took me through Orlando on the way to Ohio which means someone’s turning on their freaking cell phone.  Stop it, people.  Have mercy. This thing needs to fly in a straight line.

And lastly, it’s always nice to be reminded that it’s a non-smoking flight, in case you woke up from your nap and thought it was 1952. And in case you wanted to run off and light up in the lavatory, because we all still totally use that word, or tamper with, disable, and possibly destroy the smoke detectors, it’s a no-go, folks.  I totally caught some woman eying one, thoughts racing inside her head like she needed to tamper with it, or perhaps destroy it, but then the soda came and like Pavlov’s dog she was giggling and I realized she was staring at an exit row sign while playing Candy Crush.

The moral of the flight safety speech is that we are all morons, have to be told things of no significance, need to yield the exit row to my mad skills, may cut our bodies into two if we aren’t careful with the tray locking feature, have to resist urgings to destroy things, can’t smoke, need signs, and get super excited about small cups of Dr. Pepper. I’m confident about our future generation.  If we’re lucky, they will learn to actually turn off their cell phones.

Have a good flight!  If you forget something, there’s a sign. And a speech that won’t change for another two hundred years.




In church this morning, our pastor spoke of the bio-dome experiment in the 1980’s where the aim was to create the perfect atmosphere for human and plant life. All was controlled, from the temperature to the water to the light to the air.  And yet the funny thing was that trees just toppled over after they grew to a certain height – they just couldn’t support their own weight.  Why?

There was no wind to force the trees to grow deep roots.

And that got me thinking.  About the forces that blow against us. About the trials we are burdened to bear.  We put our heads down as the wind whips and bites. We flip up our collars on Michigan Avenue and hunker down.  We don’t have the luxury of hiding, or giving in, and so we trudge forward in the headwinds and just mutter curses under our breaths at the enduring.

And sometimes we feel like breaking, when death blows like a hurricane into our lives when we least expect it.  My mother’s father died the moment he retired.  A slip off the scaffolding trying to repair a water leak on the building he had just managed to close.  They were going to travel, my grandfather and his bride, after years of toil in the sand and gravel pits, dirty and drained.  He worked his whole life for the sweet smell of victory. Retirement.  Money in the hole.  And yet a hole swept through my mother’s young tender heart.  The winds, they howled.

And often times when it rages you simply hide curled up in a bathtub covered in mattresses, because love isn’t supposed to end and covenants are too powerful to break and cells are too precious to be eaten up by tumors.  When you lift up the coils and look around, all you see is soggy destruction, and you fall to the ground weeping at the broken china and the tables overturned and the photo albums lost. Because roots, they are shallow.  A hurricane blown through a soul that believed.

Sometimes I meet people who live a charmed life. They move from job to job and relationships come and go until they settle upon a good solid choice with two cars in suburbia. They prance their way through medical school and waltz their kids into private school whilst drinking lattes in a sharp Tuesday blazer. I shudder at the thought.  That they will grow to a certain height and then topple over. Because the winds, my dear friends – they are coming.  When we least expect it as we stare into televisions and walk blindly into offices toward afternoon meetings or feel isolated inside our own marriages and are pretending to live a life.  We find ourselves suddenly and desperately alone.  Despite our wild successes.  Despite those around us who love, or beg for us to return. And like a duster on the south plains the wind kicks at our ankles like a tickle. Until it rages, and we find ourselves beneath the mattress in the bathtub, where all is lost.

It is times like these I hear James pounding in my ears that blessed is the man who perseveres under trials.  But not because of our own strength but the one who strengthens.  Don’t you see, my neighbors? You, who is standing in what was a living room but is now just wet dripping boards or you, trapped inside the walls of an operating room wanting to tear off your own skin? We can’t escape the winds, even when we try.

But it’s not our roots that are deep, for our own roots are so very shallow.  It’s who we’re linked to that matters. “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you are nothing.” James 15:5.  It is the ability to graft onto Him, and trust He will sustain, and believe in all things and in all ways God is always, forever faithful.  This is what allows us to stand.  To weather.  To be thankful for winds that tear and rip and destroy. We know that without Him we are a toppling bunch of cards.

My friends, how elegant this truth.  How grateful is my weary heart for trials.  For when the rainbow bursts forth it is a Technicolor morning, colors so bright they are blinding.  Love springs forth new and houses are rebuilt and new covenants are formed.  We raise up what was lost, not in consolation but in new brilliant glory.  And we know that the next time around nothing can destroy us.

The winds will come.  Get on your bike and head straight into them, with teeth clenched and a mind determined, for nothing can stop or destroy the love God has for you.  What is the worst the bitter winds can do? For even in death, we are not defeated. That, my friends, is perseverance. So I say to the winds: howl.



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The Hot Chocolate Hike


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