Changing the World!

Hot air balloons have been an entertaining fascination for me since Reece and Melissa moved to the Albuquerque area in 2006. Our visits have given us an opportunity to attend the annual International Balloon Fiesta several times. It is the largest hot air ballooning event in the world. There isn't anything to be compared to being on the infield of the park at daybreak for the "Mass Ascension" as hundreds of balloons are launched. Participants are sometimes requested to assist the crew in readying for launch by helping unpack the balloons and gondolas, pulling out the balloon fabric, holding the tie-down ropes, or helping to move the crowd out of the way when they are near launch-time. We have seen traditional balloons that are so colorful and expansive as well as special-shaped balloons that are featured on certain launch days to the delight of children and the young-at-heart. These depict comic, movie and theme-park characters in all shapes and sizes. Every early October for nine consecutive days this epic event has become a breath-taking spectacle of adventure!
"Rocket Man"
Photo by MJK

So, when I heard about Amazon studios release of The Aeronauts movie for Prime members, I knew it was going to the top of my watch list! This is a fictional story about ballooning and weather research. The movie is a biographical film that is based on the book, Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air by Richard Holmes. It documents the research efforts conducted through several balloon flights in the 1860's that ultimately led to the weather forecasting done by meteorologists today. The film-makers readily admit that the movie is not completely or historically accurate, but it is inspired by real events and has the suspense and adventure that appeals to today's contemporary audience.

Without spoiling the movie, it does have several suspenseful moments as the lead characters try to set a world record for human flight altitude. During one of the many harrowing experiences they encounter, you often think they are going to cry out, "What have we got ourselves into?" But instead, these dedicated individuals persevere and continue onward and upward. Surprisingly, it is the determined and courageous female pilot who exclaims to the research scientist at one of those particularly scary moments, "You don't change the world simply by looking at it! You change it through the way you choose to live!" When I heard this, I jumped up immediately to write it down thinking that this must be the motto of any great pioneer adventurer!

For people of faith, the Apostle Paul was such a pioneer! The great missionary said to his friends in one of the most beloved of churches he planted, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain!" (Philippians 1:21 NIV). Throughout his writings, Paul chronicles the many harrowing events of his life from being shipwrecked to near-death attacks to imprisonment for sharing, preaching and teaching the good news. He had put his life on the line on many occasions to advance the gospel. Paul remained courageous and persevering as he contended for the faith. He advised and even admonished Timothy, a shy mentee and "son in the ministry," to "be diligent...give yourself that everyone may see your progress" (1 Timothy 4:15).

That word "progress" (v.15) means "pioneer advance." It suggests that spiritual growth happens with forward and advancing motion! There are set-backs, times of suffering, and unexpected experiences along the way, but faith demands that we endure and daily "show up for another launch!" The young heroine in the movie was right. You change the world by "how you choose to live!" You can give in and up, you can complain, or you can declare, "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!" (Psalm 118:24). This is how we live this life of faith in Jesus Christ! How will you choose to live as an agent for change in this world?

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.


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