Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
September 30th, 2021
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Only once have I been in a hot air balloon, and it is a strange sensation: trusting the physical principle that hot air is less dense than cool air, thus permitting a thousand- or more pound basket to float in mid-air!
It was back, probably a dozen years ago, before Jime and I had children: we went for a week’s vacation in Park City, Utah. In looking at activities to do, we thought hot air ballooning would be fun and unique, neither of us having tried it before.
So, one morning we got up before sunrise to go to the launch spot, and had our little training session as the sun peeked over the mountains. It was a crisp and a quiet morning.
Then we heard the *blast* sound of the flames shooting into the rolled-out balloons to fill them with hot air! It sounded like a jet engine was taking off next to us! Once the balloon straightened to vertical, we got in the basket, we had to stand directly below that engine blaster noise. I believe they may have given us ear-plugs to wear ‘till we reached altitude. I also remember feeling like the top of my head was going to be singed off, it was so hot!
But once we got up, and the operator could turn the blasters off, it was so silent and elegant: calm and serene. We could watch flocks of birds flying below us. We could see the fog receding in the foothills around us. The sun drifted higher as we gently glided across the valley.
Periodically, the air in our balloon would cool, and our operator would warn us he was going to ‘blast’ the fire jets again to get us back to rising. I ignored the noise (and the heat), and kept enjoying the view of the horizon.
But something strange happened a couple of times: the pilot light for the engine mechanism went out. The operator grumbled and pulled out a high-school science lab-style spark striker to re-ignite it. Then we’d hear the loud *Bwoosh* sound of the flames again and begin to rise.
But the third or the fourth time this happened, the operator couldn’t get the spark to catch the gas to maintain the flame. He was grumbling and cursing about how whoever had filled the gas tanks probably hadn’t gotten the right mix. I figured that, rather than be preoccupied about the mechanism, I’d continue to enjoy the view, since that’s what we were there for that morning, and that we’d paid a pretty penny for it.
But this went on for a few minutes, and we were noticeably losing altitude relatively quickly. Thinking “just how urgent is this?” I glanced over my shoulder to look up at the mechanism, and the operator’s hands trying to light the pilot light, and saw that they were shaking as he repeatedly struck the striker. I began to think: “If he doesn’t get that lit, could we crash and get injured or killed?”
And I thought of how crazy it was that we were risking our lives in this wicker basket in the sky. And how ironic it was that, though we had all the necessary components of the balloon, the gas, the spark, and the jet engine mechanism; that if all the parts didn’t coordinate correctly, it could all be for naught, and we could die, having the life-preserving elements all with us.
And in hindsight, I think that’s how it is with us and our Spiritual lives: God in His benevolence gives us all the components we need: His Word, His Spirit, and His community all coordinating to sustain this faith life. But if we neglect them, or don’t utilize them in harmony with each other as intended, we could die, despite having all the tools present. I think of what a preventable tragedy that would be, and resolve to always utilize everything God gives us: our minds, our abilities, our personalities, to sustain faith and stoke it up in others. Hebrews 10:24-25.
Thankfully, the operator was eventually able to get the flame going again, and we made a controlled landing with the other balloons at our destination. The operator apologized to us about the suspense, and offered us a free ride on another morning (!) with the company if we liked. (We might’ve taken him up on the opportunity, but we were leaving the next morning anyway).
But that is a day that will long stand-out in my mind. I pray we would not put ourselves in peril by not applying all God has provided us with very graciously. I pray that as we go forward, we would recognize His providence and benevolence in providing us these things so freely. I pray that we’d please Him by utilizing them, and by seeing wonderful, powerful, ‘upward drafts’ lifting us up toward heaven, that we all may arrive safely, rejoicing and thrilled, to a new landscape.
May God bless you and your families the remainder of this week. Please greet your loved ones from all of us.
Pastor Mark Tatum