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ELCA pastor Twila Schock holds her preflight safety checklist for the Cessna 172 she is learning to pilot.

Schock and her flight instructor program the plane’s GPS for her flight plan.

The Spirit lifts our faith

... and we’re cleared for takeoff By Twila Schock

I taxi onto the runway and wait. I’ve done all I can to prepare, meticulously moving through a checklist to examine the plane’s structure. I’ve checked the oil. Sumped for fuel impurities. Tested radios. Cleared weather conditions. Prepared flight plans. Adjusted my direc- tional gyro and altimeter. I wait. A Lear jet lands and a Sundowner takes off. Finally the words I’ve been waiting for: “Cessna 7-3 Juliet Alpha, cleared for takeoff.” Still a student pilot, I gulp and echo, “Cleared for takeoff, runway 3-4.


7-3 Juliet Alpha.” Brakes compress. Throttle full, the engine roars. I scan the gauges one last time before releasing the brakes. We roll, faster and faster, until my instructor says, “Rotate!”

I pull back on the yoke, and we’re airborne. Up to this point, it’s seemed as if I had control. It’s been my responsi- bility to diagnose and remedy potential hazards.

But when the plane lifts, it becomes a matter of trust. I must trust the discovery of a Swiss mathematician in 1738. Daniel Bernoulli discovered that if the rushing air pressure below a wing’s surface is greater than the air pressure above the wing, a plane will rise and fly. It’s an invisible principle. But if you really wish to fly, you must have

faith in it. This in no way diminishes the pilot’s contributions. It’s simply an acknowledgement that skill, dedication and vigilance alone, without faith, will not enable flight.

Indeed, the life of faith is much like flying. We prepare. We engage in formation, education, confirmation. We work to keep ourselves disci-

essna 7-3 Juliet Alpha, position and hold.”

plined spiritually. We study the Scriptures. Yet at some point we simply need to stop doing and trust. As a plane’s wing relies on the rush of wind to fly, we, too, rely on that invisible, powerful rush of the Spirit to give “lift” to our faith. To that gift of faith we bring our skill, dedication and vigilance. Faith allows us to attain new heights in mission and new dreams for living out Christ’s calling. Learning to fly reminds me of my early years as a missionary. Orientation, physical exams, psychological readiness and spiritual preparedness were essential. Ultimately, though, it was trusting the lift of the Spirit that enabled my 13 years of service. Today I see that same Spirit calling and sustaining our church’s missionaries for service in 50 countries. And that same Spirit also calls and sustains sponsors who help missionaries attain new heights in service. (Learn more about this program at Together the rush of the Spirit’s wind, our missionaries, their supporters and our global companions bring about healing and whole- ness, life and well-being, justice and peace for people around the world. M

Martin Luther on faith • “Faith is permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see.” • “Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense and understanding.” • “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

Schock is an ELCA pastor and director for global mission support for ELCA Mission Advancement.

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