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3.21.2012

ABOVE THE CLOUDS

The first time I flew on a plane I was 13.  My family was flying from Indiana to Ontario Airport in Los Angeles.  We flew a leg of that trip on a DC-10 not too long after the fatal crash of another DC-10 en route from Chicago to Los Angeles on May 25, 1979.  The death toll was massive with all 258 passengers and all 13 crew members killed plus 2 others on the ground. That was terrifying to have the first trip on a plane be the same model of plane that had recently crashed.  I was petrified and my parents basically had to give me an ultimatum to even get on the plane.  What I found that day, and continue to find, is a sort of God mystery thing in flying above the clouds.  Doug and I were out walking recently on a day with clear blue skies.  Across the sky you could see a plane steadily ascending into the sky.  Watching the white trail of clouds behind it I commented to my husband, a former air traffic controller, what causes that trail of white behind an ascending plane.  He explained that the heat from the exhaust of the plane hitting cooler and cooler air as it climbs causes a sort of steam or cloud to form - a "jet stream" that you see from the ground. A few days later, out on a walk again, I noted yet another plane in the sky.  This time the sky was a mix of blue and huge puffy grayish-white clouds.  Doug and I discussed my 7th grade science cloud knowledge and his much deeper air traffic controller cloud education.  They were cumulus clouds.  I love when you fly on a cloudy day.  There lies awaiting a treasure when the plane climbs above the cloud cover.  I have always known that the sun shines every day whether you can see it or not.  That is an absolute.  But since we are visual creatures we can easily forget the brilliance of the sun when hidden behind clouds and gray.  At 13 years old on that DC-10 flight the plane ascended to above the clouds.  What I saw was magnificent, remarkable and telling about things much bigger than me.  As that plane emerged from its ascent it cleared the clouds to the most brilliant and beautiful sun I had ever seen.  It was a sun not blanketed by clouds or atmospheric conditions.  Right below me was an earth blanketed in white and gray thick clouds, but where I was the sun shown and the sky remained crystal clear.  It was something I would go back to time and time again in my head when I tried to remember that circumstances that were heavy would not always stay that way.  There was sun, I just couldn't see it at that moment.  I have read the occasional thought about God and earth from an astronaut.  Their perspective no doubt widened by what they had seen.  I'm wondering on a much, much larger scale if they too now had firmly planted in them the knowledge of better days, brighter times even when the clouds hung heavy in their lives.  How could you not?  I like when God gives us opportunities to see beyond our short sighted vision through a telescope of bigness.  That's why oceans are mesmerizing, the Grand Canyon almost sacred, Yellowstone majestic, Niagara Falls amazing.  They are pictures - visuals of the things bigger than what we can see normally.  I need those times.  I need those experiences to see God better, to view myself in a more proportional way and to give me hope that even if I can't see the sun it is still shining.

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