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DR. JIM DENISON, PRESIDENT
SEPTEMBER 29, 2011

The pilot who flipped a jet

Did you hear about the co-pilot who pushed the wrong button and turned his jetliner upside down? According to this morning’s ABC News website, the pilot was returning from the restroom to the cockpit. His co-pilot tried to let him back in by pushing what he thought was the cockpit door button. Turns out it was the rudder trim knob.

The Boeing 737-700 rolled 131.7 degrees to the left, leaving it flying almost belly-up. At one point the jet’s nose was pointing 35 degrees toward Earth. The plane was carrying 177 passengers; miraculously, none was seriously injured.

I’m glad that news item didn’t cross my radar before I flew home yesterday. Here’s another report I wish I hadn’t seen this morning: cosmic rays are expected to peak over the next two years, exposing air travelers to increased radiation hazards. If you’re planning to visit the Space Station by 2013, you might want to rethink your travel plans.

Why is air travel disconcerting for many of us? I think it’s the lack of control. You get on an airplane and put your life completely in the hands of people you’ve never met, hoping they’ll do a job you can’t begin to understand. It’s like anesthesia before surgery, every time you fly.

But there’s no way to travel without such reliance on others. Bus travel is considered the safest way to go, but a split-second lapse can cause the driver to veer into an oncoming 18-wheeler. Rail travel ranks second in safety, but trains can derail and engineers can fall asleep. You can travel on foot, but oncoming traffic can strike you without warning. It seems safer to stay in your house. However, there is a disabling injury at home every four seconds and a fatal injury every 16 minutes.

At this point you might expect me to suggest that following God’s will is our best path to safety. But God led Paul to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10), where he was beaten and imprisoned at Philippi. Jesus called James and John to be his disciples (Matthew 4:21-22), for which James was beheaded (Acts 12:2) and John was imprisoned on Patmos (Revelation 1:9). I can’t find a single verse in which Jesus promises us safety.

What he did promise was significance. I love this verse: “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). John Knox, the courageous reformer who brought Protestantism to Scotland, often claimed that “a man with God is always in the majority.”

St. Augustine was right: God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

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