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Never Fly Through Philadelphia

By Chris Carpenter Producer

For me, flying is a necessary evil. Due to the nature of my work, I must sometimes travel to different regions of the country in the pursuit of a story or speaking engagement. Most consider it a great convenience to be able to board a plane on the east coast and arrive on the west coast in a matter of just a few hours. To me, I would almost rather ride a bicycle to my destination than partake in the complimentary peanuts and beverage provided by my friendly flight attendant. Let me explain.

For whatever reason, I have never had great success flying the friendly skies. My brother is a great traveler, often flying two to three times per week. He often regales me with tales of his exciting airline adventures. Always positive, the conversation usually ends with an update on how many million frequent flyer miles he has acquired since we last talked. I am convinced he knows every flight attendant in America on a first name basis.

I on the other hand have lost my luggage more times than the New York Yankees have won World Series championships. When it comes to airline misfortune, believe me, I have experienced it all.

• I have taken a flight to Philadelphia that actually ended up being a four hour ride (yes, you read that correctly) from New York City to the City of Brotherly Love through rush hour traffic on an un-air conditioned bus in the middle of July.
• Speaking of Philadelphia, I have been delayed, detained, or de-planed in this city more than 10 times for odd, sometimes inexplicable reasons.
• I have waited several hours on the runway while airline mechanics tried to figure out how they were going to change a flat tire on a plane filled with 200 unruly passengers.
• I have been on commuter flights where I have been asked to change rows so that the plane can maintain proper weight distribution. (I don’t know about you but this always makes me nervous.)
• I was on a flight once when the flight attendant actually used a baseball bat to get the main exit door open. This after flying through a severe thunderstorm where it felt like someone was beating on the side of the plane with the same baseball bat.
• I have even been detained and questioned by airport security personnel regarding a butter knife in my briefcase. They were not amused when I explained I had used it to butter a muffin once on my way to work and had just thrown it in my briefcase.

As I have already mentioned, nothing is more frustrating than the airline losing your luggage. My most recent experience with misplaced baggage took place just last week, not in Philadelphia, but in Chicago. It is a story worth sharing due to the valuable spiritual lesson it taught me.

Having been delayed in California due to high winds in Chicago, my flight arrived in the Windy City nearly two hours late. Normally this would not have been a problem but Chicago was just the connecting city in my journey to my final destination in Virginia.

Although my flight to Virginia had technically left twenty minutes earlier, our flight attendant suggested that many other flights had also been delayed and that we should check the departures monitor in the terminal as soon as we got off the plane. Her suggestion sounded fair enough so I made it a point to do just that.

To my delight, the departure monitor listed my connecting flight as “Now Boarding”. Fantastic, I thought, I will make it just in time. However, there was only one problem. My plane was departing from another terminal, more than a 15 minute walk.

Without hesitation, I began racing through the airport just as fast as I could. Under normal circumstances I am a pretty agile person but due to the computer bag and briefcase I was carrying, my agility quickly dissipated into the clumsiness of an old bear just waking up from a long hibernation. Old ladies, young children, nor businessmen were exempt from the impact of my flailing carry-ons as I barreled through the concourse. (If you are reading this right now and were a victim of my onslaught, I honestly and truly apologize to you.)

Eventually, I arrived at my gate, exhausted, sore, and extremely disappointed. The plane had pulled away from the gate just five minutes earlier. I had missed my flight. The only option my airline afforded me was to catch the next flight which did not depart until the next morning. I was stranded in Chicago for the night. I asked if any other airline had a flight to my city later in the evening. One did, but I would have to fly standby as it was completely booked. Furthermore, it was leaving in 40 minutes and was in yet another terminal.

“How far of a walk is it?” I asked.

“About 15 minutes if you walk fast,” the airline representative replied.

Denizens of O’Hare International Airport beware … the desperate, hibernating bear with the flailing carry-ons is coming through again! I sprinted, er, lumbered through the airport toward my next destination. As I struggled to make it to the next terminal, I was embarrassed when I realized I had not asked God for help even once during my ordeal. With my head bowed due to fatigue and my personal failings, I began to pray.

“Oh Lord, I am so sorry. I should have leaned on you from the beginning of this episode but due to my frailty as a human I have once again tried to control the situation on my own terms. Please forgive me.”

I meditated on my shortcomings for the rest of the long walk to the next terminal. Upon my arrival, there was no airline representative at the gate to greet me. But instead of getting incredibly frustrated, or even angry, I began to pray again.

“Lord, I know you do not give anyone more than they can handle so I guess I am well prepared to deal with this situation. But I am very tired – physically and emotionally. I have been gone a week and I just want to go home. Amen.”

Just then the airline representative arrived. I explained my problem to her and that my airline had booked me onto her airline’s flight as a standby passenger. She smiled, took my information and entered it into the computer. Then she did it again. And again. After the third time her brow took on a furrowed state. Finally, she said, “Sir, your airline has not released you from their database. I’m sorry but I cannot put you on this flight.”

Rather than arguing with her, I smiled and calmly asked, “Could you check with your supervisor to see if there is anyway for me to be released.”

Sensing my controlled but polite frustration, she said she would. As she dialed her supervisor’s number, I began to pray with more emotion than I had in quite some time. My silent cries were filled with a fervency that I could not explain.

However, my passionate pleas to God were soon interrupted by the airline representative.

“Excuse me sir. I’m sorry but I was typing in the wrong code to access your account information. Here is your ticket for the 7:30 flight. We will begin boarding in about five minutes.”

“Praise God!” I blurted to anyone who was listening. After a brief pause, I turned to the airline representative and said, “I bet you don’t hear that much these days.”

She smiled and replied, “About 10 times a day and I love it when I hear it.”

I didn’t fully understand what she meant but it was good to know that people are still praising God in public.

In Luke 12:22-24, Jesus said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?”

In times of trouble and heavy burdens, we must go to our mighty Savior in prayer. For so many of us, in our daily lives we feel like we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders, trying to control matters in the best way that we know how. That is not the best way. We worry, wondering how our needs can possibly ever be met. In our frailty, we stumble and just when we get up we fall again.*

In times like this offer the Lord this humble prayer: Renew my spirit, Lord, that I may trust in You for my daily provisions. As your Word says, You feed the birds from Your vast storehouse. Teach me not to be anxious about my life. Take my burdens from me and make me free – free to seek you first, knowing that all I need You will provide. Amen.*

* Information used in this article from The Transformer Study Bible.

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