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Traveling in the Back

Today I took what, I hope, will be my last airplane trip for the year! Hooray! I will not miss the smell of AV fuel, the blare of CNN’s talking heads, the chatter of folks on cell phones, the rushing to or from a gate, taking off my shoes, lifting my suitcase…all the unpleasantries of travel.

Last week on my trip back to Virginia from Sacramento I sat in the very last row next to the lavatories in the aisle seat. Has to be the worst seat on the plane! My assistant, Anne, actually gave up that seat to sit in the middle – she can sleep standing up – or, as in this case, sitting up. I cannot. The accompanying odor just from the chemicals was noxious. And every time anyone came down the aisle they bumped me.

Okay, I can deal with all of that. But for 6 hours! After just a few hours, I had a headache from the fumes. Then I got annoyed at all the folks bumping me. After the food service it seemed as if everyone had to go to the toilet! I began to suspect they were just circling around in an endless parade. The fight attendants, who were not very friendly in the “friendly skies”, maybe they’d had a hard day too, let them stand in the aisle 10-12 deep. I didn’t think they were supposed to. (Those of us “in the back” are not allowed to use the first class toilet. Don’t get me started…) And, of course, the flight attendants still had to do their thing so they would squeeze by those in line. Those in line had to move somewhere so they moved into me! Brother! (Remember, I told you I believe each airline has a committee that thinks of ways to make travel more unpleasant? Well, they should get a bonus for that trip!)

About 4 hours into the flight, I got the giggles. I was struck by how absurd it all was. There was not a thing I could do about it! And I was reading an excellent historical novel about, of all things, the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. A good treatment of a very grim event that so few know much about.

As we landed I called my wonderful travel agent in Boston and asked why I had been assigned those seats. She apologized and said she had been trying to get us moved away from the toilets and closer to the front but United was just hard to work with – I don’t have status with them as I do with Delta or USAirways. So I reminded her I would be doing the same trip this week and be sure I got a better seat. She said she had already been working on it.

We were the last to get off the plane and dear Anne’s suitcase wheels had a mind of their own. Like the grocery cart with one weird wheel I always manage to find. Well, we really got the giggles over that! People probably thought we were drunk – laughing, stumbling over this obstinate suitcase, unable to get ourselves together…What a sight!

What a flight! (in the back)

I had a few days home to do my laundry, see my grandkids and repack to go back out to San Diego to speak for the crisis pregnancy center in Escondido. Wonderful event. From there I rented a car and drove up to Riverside to stay with my friends, Tony and Angela Ferraro. He is on my Ruth Graham Ministries board as well as being a good friend and trusted advisor. He and Angela are a dynamic couple with big hearts for ministry. His first book, Killing Cows, is due out before Christmas. I’ll let everyone know. Until then I’ll let you guess what it is about!

Then I attended and participated in the Raw Church Unconference at Sandals Church, Riverside. David Vigil, Blaine Bartel, Ed Gungor, Michael Cheshire, Ted and Gayle Haggard, C.J. Chaung and others were there to discuss the restoration process in the Church for leaders who fail. We discussed race and how to gracefully address that as well as same-sex attraction, among other topics. The conference was a safe place to discuss these sensitive, difficult issues. There was good stuff. What I took away was that it all boils down to “relationship” – with God, each other regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, religion…and that sin is an opportunity to show God’s grace. We are not called to be judges but to love each other.

I am not talking “woo woo” stuff but hard-core love when it hurts. I’ll write more about this later…but I want to tell you about my flight home…

This morning I was up early to catch my return flight from San Diego. (I drove down from Riverside last night, turned the car in, and got a hotel room and some snacks for supper so I would be close to the airport this AM.) Boy! I am thankful I don’t have to drive in California regularly!

I checked in for my flight but it was going to charge me for my checked luggage. So I had to iron that out – because I have the United credit card I don’t have to pay the fee. But I noticed on the seat chart that I was in the very last row back by the toilets. Again! But this time I was by the window. Land-locked! Brother. I asked the agent if there was a better seat. He said only middle seats were left and the plane was full. I was not happy. But I determined to try to make the best of it. I had a good book in hand. My nut mix and a bottle of water. This trip would only be 4 hours.

I keep telling God I want an airplane but He is not impressed!! And I don’t really want one – just the use of one!!!

A nice man was standing in the back and I asked him if he’d help me put my bag up top. He was more than willing and volunteered that he would help me get it down. I settled into my seat. Soon I realized that he was to be sitting in the aisle seat of my row. We commented that these really were the worst seats on a plane but at least we weren’t walking! Or riding a donkey or in a cart – like so many dear missionaries have to do. We both said we hoped no one was going to sit in the middle seat but it was too good to hope for. He happened to place the book he was reading down on the middle seat – it was written by my nephew – Tullian Tchividjian!

I had to comment! Now, if it had been one by my father, I would not have said anything but “Tchividjian” is a far cry from “Graham” and figured he’d never put the pieces together. I told him Tullian was my oldest sister’s son. He actually hadn’t read Tullian’s biography so didn’t even think of the Graham connection. We chatted as the passengers continued to get settled. Soon we realized no one was going to sit in the middle seat! God is good.

This man, Dave, was on his way back from a surfing trip to Hawaii. He is connected with Campus Crusade and is interested in reaching professors on college campuses. He played soccer for Yale, lives in Northern Virginia, was saved in his mid twenties, has a very tender heart for the things of God, 3 kids and happily married to a lovely wife. It was such a thrill to have sweet fellowship all the way across the country. He had great stories – that I can use for my next book as well as some contacts and resources for my ministry. (It didn’t take him long to put my pieces together and seemed blessed by it. He was really cool about it. Didn’t get all excited but seemed to have a deep appreciation and respect for my father.)

When he texted his wife, she said she had heard Anne, read Gigi’s book Weather of the Heart and had ordered In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart! Small world.

As the flight attendants served the snacks you pay for these days she said she would give them to us since we were in the “crappy” seats. She made up for the flight attendants of last week!!

So that’s what happened as I traveled in the back of the plane!

8 replies
  1. foostra
    foostra says:

    Crazy how travel can be so grueling!! I’m sure you are so glad to be home. It was so good to see you the other night at the Escondido Preforming Arts Center. What a wonderful ministry you have. Blessings to you Ruth:)

  2. Lyn Cameron
    Lyn Cameron says:

    Ruth I just love the way you are so honest! The things you say irritated you also irritate me – I can’t sleep in a plane either unless I can have room to put my feet up – my legs ache – and have ear plugs!
    Toilet seats? Been there done that and nearly had a mental breakdown! Can’t cope with chemical smells – instant headache! Have never met you but you are soooooo familiar! LOL
    And God is good in how He lets us know that for all the discomfort He is there putting a blessing beside you – now why couldn’t He just have Dave there in a decent seating arrangement on the plane?? LOL
    And Anne’s bag with the wonky wheel reminds me of the time both my wheels locked up and eventually had a flat edge to them where they had been dragged along the ground.
    And I couldn’t travel without a good book – I will be Google-ing to see what your nephew has written – God Bless you for all you put up with for the Lord in your travels

  3. Blaine Bartel
    Blaine Bartel says:

    Love it Ruth… so glad you made the effort to come to Riverside — would not have been the same without you!! Grace and peace.

  4. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Miss Ruth, just remember, the first shall be last and the last row next to the toilet will be first in eternity. Hold fast!

  5. Brown, Laura
    Brown, Laura says:

    Remember the days when smoking was allowed on the back rows? For non-smokers, that made flights seem a good bit longer. Then there’s the whole difference of maybe two inches between what is called “upright” or “reclined”. Should the person in front of you elect to recline, you realize how straight up you can sit as your knees get pushed into your hip sockets. And how often are we at the mercy of the attendant who is having a bad day?

    Today I was told about a young woman named Katie Davis who, by herself, in her teens, left to live with the people of Uganda. She had gone on a brief mission trip. Just a few years later she lives almost full-time there and she has adopted 13 or 14 girls who live in a big house together. What is travel like for her? What is a bad day like for her? How does she go anywhere with all those girls? The flights we describe must, when Katie visits the states, seem like a luxury or even an extravagance. Where does love like Mother Theresa’s come from and how did she and Katie learn to overlook what I feel I need. Their feet are shod with humility. I’m learning. One step/flight at a time.



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