“He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn into darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord God Almighty is his name.” Amos 4:13 (NIV)
My friend, Teresa, usually takes her vacation in October and heads to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. For a week or more she is able to witness races, rides, and more as hundreds of the world’s most accomplished balloonists convene for competition and display. Of course, the balloons themselves are bright and beautiful beyond imagination and often unique in shape. In 2012, Teresa’s trip was especially eventful because she volunteered to help a ground crew and was rewarded with a wonderful balloon ride. She was full of excitement as she told me of her adventure. I was able to fully relate to what she said since I had experienced my own similar adventure 15 years earlier. In 1997, a hot air balloon came to my city on a promotional tour for a national business chain. By an odd set of circumstances, the opportunity to ride was presented to me at an unheard of, ridiculously, low price. I seized the opportunity and was told when (6:30am) and where to be for my ride. On the morning of my flight I awoke at 4:30am surrounded by fear and anxiety—-what was I thinking? Why did I agree to this? Where was my faith? With my fear of height, I would surely hyperventilate and pass out! Yet a hot air balloon ride was on my list of “Things To Do Before I Die”–(aka “Bucket List”). So I calmed myself and arrived at the flight field on time. From that point on I was busy: I became part of the ground crew and was assigned certain tasks to ready the balloon for flight. I was the last person to board the basket (4 folks on our flight), and as I looked over at one of the ground crew members, he smiled and said, “Have a nice flight.” He held one of the tether ropes in his hands, and I remember watching the rope begin to slide through his hands as he slowly released his grip. I suddenly realized we were airborne, and the lift-off had been super easy and calm. I had a death grip on the west side of the basket, but our pilot (from London, England) quickly urged me to turn eastward to see the sunrise. “I’m afraid to let go,” I said. “Oh, you can move around the basket,” he said as he took my arm and guided me to the other side. After a few minutes I began to relax and even took pictures. My flight lasted 45 wonderful minutes; we flew at different altitudes—the highest being around 1800 feet. My hometown is situated between two large TVA lakes, and at one point, I could see one lake on my right and the other lake on my left. I was totally awe-struck; I knew it was only a tiny inkling of what God must see when he gazes earthward.
If I had to list the top 5 spiritual experiences in my life thus far, then my balloon ride would certainly rank number 2, right behind my salvation experience. For those readers who have also flown in a dangling basket, you know exactly what I mean. There just are not adequate words to describe the experience. I told our pilot, “Everything is so peaceful, quiet, calm, and serene up here. I don’t even feel any wind on my face.” He turned, looked directly at me, and said very matter of factly, “We are the wind.” I was stunned by his words–how could we be the wind? In time, I came to understand more fully what he meant. Since balloons do not even lift off if any wind is blowing, then anyone standing on the ground that day would not have felt any wind on their face—but seeing our balloon moving through the air would be evidence of wind, just like the leaves we see being moved on a tree. We don’t see the wind, just the effects of it. Did it take some faith for me to be able to climb into a basket and fly with less than 2 inches of wicker separating my feet from the ground 1800 feet below? You’d better believe it!!! Would I do it again? You’d better believe it (in a heartbeat)!!! Even today I can totally recall the spiritual strengthening I experienced during that flight…..and sometimes when the chaotic winds of life threaten to toss me about, I tell myself, “I am the wind; I can lift myself like a balloon above these circumstances and place my faith in the God who created the wind.”
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going…” John 3:8 (NIV). I pray you have a blessed March, and when you feel the wind on your face—remember the God who created it also loves you. If you ever get the chance to take a hot air balloon ride, don’t hesitate. It’s a decision you will never regret!
(c) 2013 Leslie O. Kelley
balloon photo courtsey of public-domain-image.com