2. The Airport

Part Two in the series, My Summer Vacation 2010.

As soon as I threw some clothes on, Juan Diego grabbed my hand and yanked me out of the house. It was around 4:30 am and being summer the sun had just come up, but very few people were up with it. Juan Diego opened my car door and said, “Jump in; we’re driving.”

He then directed me and my car out into the country, away from any of the three area airports I knew about. We passed through streets with strip centers, streets with schools, and streets with housing developments, and then one cornfield after another to increasingly unfamiliar territory. All the while he kept urging me to drive faster.

We finally approached a small worn sign by an open field that read, ‘Ends of the Earth Airport’. Soon after we passed that strange sign I was told to stop the car and get out. I saw no other cars and certainly no airplanes, but I was too sleepy to argue. As I opened my car door Juan Diego appeared right in front of me. I wondered how he had gotten there so fast. Before I could stand up he looked me right in the eyes and said, “How much do you love God?”

I replied, “With all my heart and mind!”

“Then you’re a liar, I see. We’ll have to fix that!” he responded with the force of a bullet through my heart. “There’s only one way I can get you into that plane, confess!”he roared.

“I thought we were in a hurry. Are you actually asking me to confess right here and now?”

“You must always be ready to confess. If you aren’t aware of your transgressions, of the times you disappoint the Lord, when you fail to reflect His image, then how can you ever rise and fly?” he replied with a tinge of compassion in his voice to my great relief. “Start with how you don’t love God with all your heart. If you did, you wouldn’t give Him so little time compared to the time you give your family and friends, your work, and yourself. When given a choice, you rarely choose God. Is that all your heart?”

He then grabbed my hand, which was at the same level as his head and yanked me down to the ground, “Sit!”

I tried to get comfortable as I also tried to remember the times I cringed at my own words or thoughts. Juan Diego was right, I often put God last, and I was aware of all I said and did that probably offended the Lord, I even offended myself with my own thoughts, but either I quickly forgot or didn’t know what to do with the ugliness, or I didn’t have time to fix myself depending, perhaps too much, on God’s tolerance.

“Why do I get so angry with other people Juan? I don’t want to. I see the faults of others and I want to scream at them, instead I back bite them, extending their sins with my own to pollute the world even more.”

“Yes, the humans wear their faults like signs on their backs. It’s so easy to see the corruption of others and nearly impossible to see their own. Perhaps inviting others who know you best to your confession would be a good idea. You could confess each other’s sins, and if you both are willing to repent, I’m sure we would see all us angels smiling.”

“Gosh, I feel so naked telling you all this.”

“Exactly!” Juan Diego looked thrilled. ”That’s what I told you! Remember, you must be naked on this vacation. Come on; keep undressing; only the godly ‘you’ can fly. The rest you must leave behind.”

After another fifteen minutes of my undressing myself from the clothing of self-centeredness, selfishness, lack of trust, judgmentalism and arrogance, I actually felt much lighter, even buoyant.

No sooner had I finished confessing than a priest with a long white beard walked toward me as out of the nearby cornfield. He held an icon of Christ in his hand and asked me to kneel. He then covered my head with his stole and prayed for absolution. Together we said the Lord’s Prayer. I cried uncontrollably. The priest hugged me so warmly that I felt as if it was my father’s hug. Oh, how I long for my father’s hug all these years without him.

The priest turned to Juan Diego who handed him the chalice of pre-sanctified Communion. As the priest was praying I saw a vision of the crucified Christ lying diagonally in front of the chalice! I was awe struck and amazed. I had always known intellectually that Communion was Christ’s blood, but never before had I perceived His slain body offered to me as I did at that moment.

I was ready to fly.

8. The Last Day of Heaven

Part 8 in the series, My Summer Vacation 2010

"Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2,3

I thought about this passage as Juan Diego was taking me through the meadow of sunflowers. As with the other trips we had gone on since he woke me up that first morning, I had no idea of what to expect, but like an infant the only way to respond was wide-eyed and ready.  

September 1st was rapidly approaching, and I didn’t want to leave. I knew that like a child, I had no choice in the matter. To be humble must mean to surrender my will; to go merrily along with God and His most loyal servants like an infant with neither fear nor resistance. I vowed on my return home to study my baby and maybe even my puppy too to watch real humility in action. 

Juan Diego knocked me off that train of thoughts by announcing, “I have some bad news. We have run out of time. There were others who wanted to meet you, but something big is about to happen, so they asked us to leave immediately.”

“What?” I asked, suddenly gripped by fear. “Is Jesus going to return to earth? Is this the end of the world?”

“I can’t tell you, please walk faster, and don’t talk. I must be ready to receive instructions.”

Odd how we think we want to be in the Life of the Ages to Come until it becomes a reality. I have grown comfortable dancing with evil.

“I don’t want to go back down to earth just in time for its annihilation! Let me stay here! I’ll wait here; you go!” I screamed.

“Don’t be absurd, weren’t you the one who was just thinking about the virtues of humility. Walk faster. This place will end too, remember?”

Juan Diego turned out of the field of sunflowers into a huge cornfield, which I guessed was designed to keep me from seeing anything at all. Soon I noticed that it was a corn maze. Juan Diego grabbed my hand and swiftly lead me through right and left turns that had my mind spinning. Not spinning exactly, since I couldn’t think at all; probably another intentional maneuver on his part.

Suddenly, we emerged from the corn maze to find ourselves back at the airport. Elijah’s airplane was there with the stairs down and the familiar group of people boarding. No one spoke.

I couldn’t believe that this vacation was ending so abruptly. I never even saw my parents.

“Stop that!” said Juan Diego. “Haven’t you learned anything? If you ever expect to live with God you must be more humble than that. All you want to do is wine and complain about what you don’t have. Wake yourself up, man! This is the time to focus like never before; be ready for the Great Day. “

Was he serious? When he had said that I needed to be back before creation day, I thought he meant creation of the first earth. Could it possibly be that the time has come and now is when the old earth will pass away and the new earth will be populated? With a flash of thought, I wondered how that place will differ from heaven. Then I quickly remembered the part about the Great Judgment seat of Christ? Yikes! Double yikes! With a frenetic mind I moved to what I had read about the last day on earth. If the bodies in graves will rise, and the heavenly people will descend to meet Jesus in the sky, well, what does that mean for us in this plane?

As a child is carried in and out of places, all new and different without a modicum of fear or complaint, never knowing good or evil, so too was I expected to pass nonchalantly through the biggest cataclysm the universe has ever known.   

My band of brothers calmly filed into Elijah’s plane. Not a sound could be heard among us. Yet I was sure that the angels and saints were hearing plenty as prayers for peace and safety, and mostly mercy were being transmitted.

Juan Diego and I took our seats in the middle of the plane. The sound of Elijah’s familiar voice over the loud speaker was welcomed. “Are you ready?”was all that he said. The stewardess was much more solemn than before, no smiles, as she went through her monologue of instructions.

The plane took off. In silence we flew through the quality of light I had grown accustomed to in heaven. Then we entered into a darkness that made me feel as if we were at the bottom of an unfathomable ocean, deep beneath any sign of life. I searched for memories of Gospel passages about the end times; dear Matthew with his precious warnings and instructions carried through the centuries of human history for this moment. My mind continued to flitter with wonder about what was happening at that moment in heaven and on earth.

Outside the plane burst a conflagration in the sky unlike anything I have ever seen, volcanic, shocking.  A white light, bright as lightening but slower appeared in the darkness to reveal the face of Christ, nothing but His face until the darkness returned. The light then slowly saturated the black sky until all was grey. Could we have reached the void that existed before the creation of earth? I knew it, we have arrived at the zero zone, no good or evil, only a void through which we must travel to the new universe.

In the void, my mind went blank; I didn’t even think to say the Jesus prayer but I was no longer afraid.

Still, silent, gray, timeless, void

Elijah’s voice broke the silence to announce, “Okay folks, this was a drill. Please prepare for the descent. We should be arriving in Washington DC in 15 minutes. Make sure your seatbelts are securely fastened, and trays are in the upright position.”

Drills were never mentioned in any of the churches I attended. I was glad to know that in heaven they aren’t so negligent. I looked over at Juan Diego wide eyed and in shock only to see his big toothy grin. My vacation had ended.