I love to travel. I am not crazy about flying. In fact, I think it is safe to say I am more than a little afraid to leave my dear friend, Mr. Gravity. I have gotten better about my reluctance to fly, however. For instance, I no longer get on the plane and look for an empty seat next to a person wearing a clerical collar or nun’s apparel. I also made my first flight recently where I did not sit next to my husband, (a seasoned traveler from a way back). He sat in front of me, and I only bothered him one time – for a gluten-free snack that was in his back pack.
I have read all the statistics that say we are more likely to perish in an automobile accident than in an airplane crash. But still, there is always that little nag in the back of mind when I am on a plane. And I can’t say I am particularly afraid of dying because I know I will then be in Paradise with my Savior. But still, that human side of me creeps in to cause anxiety and, as I recently observed, I am not the only one.
At the beginning of a scheduled four-hour flight from Ft. Lauderdale this week I noticed other folks kinda jumpy and fidgeting too. You know what I mean. The symptoms include, but are not limited to, looking out the window like this is the last time we will see land, frequent clearing of the throat to make sure there is a lot of room for air needed in relaxing with deep breathing, intense listening to the flight attendants as they run through the safety features of the plane and what to do in an emergency, and stares of annoyance at others who are not listening closely because they have heard it a thousand times and think they just might have it down by now.
During the instruction session of this particular flight we were blessed with the presentation of those instructions through the lens of comedy. The flight attendant instructing us used very funny language and images to convey a speech that frequent flyers can recite in their sleep. Believe me, everyone was paying attention because this man delivered the intricacies of float pads, emergency exits, seatbelts and drop-down oxygen masks with lines that would be envied by many of our modern day comedians. And he used no foul language -thank you very much.
As we listened to and laughed with the attendant and each other, I could see people physically relaxing as their anxieties gave way to the release produced by shared humor. The laughter served to put people at ease and help them relax their death grip on the armrests (this last part included yours truly). As a want to be stand-up comedian myself, I could not help but admire and even envy this man’s way with words and his ability to use wit and humor in a missional-type way. No doubt he had run through all of this before, but each line was delivered with a freshness that showed relaxation and confidence. That stuff is contagious I tell you. This guy really has a gift, and he uses it every day to help others.
Sure, sure you might say, “His job is to put people at ease.” That is true. But to use a gift like this to not only inform but also entertain people while addressing what happens if the plane goes down is truly remarkable.
Throughout the flight I sat there thinking about the use of gifts. So often we are told what it means to be a “missional” person for our God and we overlook those natural abilities and passions God has given us for service to Him and others. We look to others to define and construct a life lived for God and others. Sadly I think we often accept the definitions we are handed. While doing this, we not only rob ourselves of the opportunity to be natural and generous with our gifts, we make three other big mistakes.
First, by not recognizing God’s gifts to and in us, we demonstrate an ungrateful heart. When we don’t recognize our own giftedness, we also miss the opportunity to recognize the gifts He has given others. Then we fail to be grateful for their willingness to share those gifts with us. That has to smack God right in the eye. Have you ever given something to someone and they discounted it and never even bothered to say “thanks.” Worse yet have they said they would have rather had something else? Ouch and double ouch.
Second, we waste time looking, looking, looking and fail to be doing for Him and being the person He made us. Reading books, talking, “having dialogues,” and embarking on the quest to find gifts can all be very helpful. And I personally encourage you to seek out a method to find your gifts, if you do not know what they are. But please remember, there is only one author of the gifts and only one definer we must listen to. There are times when we need guidance, but we cannot stay stuck in the opinions of others or the well-meaning tools of the search. Ask God and He will tell you. More importantly, there comes a time when we all need to get out of the starting blocks and run the race. Academics are not so willing to do this I find. We like our books, our stats, our charts, the latest author, and the philosophy of ourselves and others by cracky!!
Third, when we are not mindful of our gifts and grateful for them, we do not give them away. That is why God gave them to us to begin with – to share and share and share with our human family members. To do less is simple disobedience.
As we exited the plane, many people thanked the attendant, told him they had a great time and he was a big help to them – beyond delivering snacks, beverages and the occasional pillow. You can imagine that this sort of slowed down the deplaning process. Yet, there was not one person complaining. Everyone wanted to say thank you to him. As I shook his hand I said, “You have a wonderful gift my friend. Do not stop sharing it. We need laughter today for many, many reasons.” He smiled and said, “Thank you, my friend.” He winked. I winked back.
Moral of the story folks, we all have gifts and you may already know what yours are or need a little help finding them. Acknowledge those gifts by using them and refusing to be told they are not the right gifts or acceptable for helping you or me live the mission of Christ on this earth. Please accept yourself and don’t spend a life-time in the search. It is not necessary. Ask God, and He will answer. And for goodness sake, acknowledge the gifts of others by thanking God for them and then thanking them for being willing to share. Go out there, find your gifts, give them away, and be thankful to God and others. Happy traveling beloveds.
Copyright February 2012
Lakewood, CO 80401