3. The Flight

Part Three in the series, My Summer Vacation2010.

After receiving communion, I thanked the priest, then Juan Diego tugged at my shirt. “Come, the plane is waiting for us.”

“Okay, but where is it?” I replied, as he led me deeper into the empty field. The air was cool and thin. I could smell a hint of hemlock and pine sap so I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to smell it better. When I reopened my eyes, to my surprise there was a small plane in front of us. The hatch was opening, and then the stairs came down.

“Follow me” said Juan Diego as he climbed the stairs.

Once inside, a lovely blond stewardess greeted me and hugged Juan Diego. The plane was full of passengers but the front row was vacant.

Another attendant ran up to us, “Hurry up! We have been waiting for you quite some time; we should have left eons ago.”

“I know, I know” replied Juan Diego, “but these humans have no sense of timing. We’re ready.”

Inside, the plane was strangely quiet. As if he read my mind Juan Diego said, “They are praying and preparing themselves for the journey. You should too.”

“But where are we going?” I asked.

“Where do most people go on their summer vacations?”We’re going to visit family, immortal family.”

“Wait a minute; I don’t think I’m ready for this!” And to myself I thought, ‘Get me out of here!’

“Well, get ready! The Boss wants you on this plane.” Don’t worry you’ll go back, this is just a vacation.

Dear God, please help me.

Relax, I won’t expose you to more than I think you can handle. I never have.

True, but what am I doing here? Who are these other people?

They are aspiring immortals that are going to visit the second level of reality. This is not a dream, or fantasy or even that hyper-imagination you see in the movies. You must open your mind and heart wider; quiet yourself and trust Me. You have had practice, now apply what you learned. This vacation will prepare you for the eventual loss of your blood-filled body.

I wondered if God meant that I would see my mother and father again. Then I thought about the rich man in hell who asked Father Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers and how Abraham said that a great chasm had been fixed so that no one can cross from heaven to hell, but he didn’t say no one could go from life to life without passing through death. I wondered what my immortal family would look like.  Then I realized that trying to imagine the near future was a waste of time. I had to open up, to be able to receive the experience. Open up. I think that meant I had to be prepared for super-reality; I was about to see a spectrum of light and sound that isn’t possible for mortals.

While penetrating my soul with these thoughts I was shaken by the resounding boom of thunder and a burst of white lightning that sent shivers of terror through my body. I grabbed Juan Diego’s hand and held it tight. Oddly, the fear reminded me of the many times the Lord challenged me to trust Him, when we had no money to pay our bills, when we lost work that we desperately needed, when we were tossed out of rental homes with nowhere to go and no money to pay for the next house or the move. In my mind, I reentered the moment when after years of disappointments and struggle, I finally I realized that I could let go of my haunting anxiety. Not because bad things would stop happening, but because it wouldn’t kill me if they did; no matter what happened I would cling to the Lord. He couldn’t shake me.

Deep in thought, I hardly noticed when Juan Diego left and another sat next to me. The switch finally registered, so I turned to look at the man with a flowing long beard and deep green eyes. He looked at me waiting patiently for acknowledgement.

“Hulloo, my name is Elijah the Tishbite from Tishbe in Gilead.” He said with a thick accent.

“Elijah! What are you doing here?”

“I am the pilot. The Lord chose me because I too never died, just lek my passengers. I must hep prepare first-timers to overcome the knee-jerk reaction to dramatic change. Some have experience, such as sudden death of a loved one or an accident, others dunt. Opening to God’s vill is ability to pass through the fog and through the fire. Your experience was in a different area of trust, you must be able to translate that; get ready. The storm was for practice.

 I must get back into the cockpit now. This is your big chance; don’t panic.”

I was still so stunned by Elijah’s presence and his message that I didn’t even acknowledge Juan Diego’s return, or notice that the thunder had stopped. Everything was still so quiet when once again I heard the sound of Elijah’s voice, saying:

“Stewards, prepare the cabin for landing.”

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.