by Pastor Tim Burt
Tim was a flight attendant for an international airline. He loved his job, his wife, and his children, and He loved God with all of his heart.
He had arrived in Milwaukee after a long 13-hour workday. The crew went straight to the hotel, where he collapsed in bed from exhaustion. He didn’t move until dawn’s first light crept into his window hotel room and caught his eye. In a panic, he quickly looked at his clock to make sure he hadn’t overslept and missed his flight out! He hadn’t!
In a few hours, he would head to the airport to fly to Washington, DC, with his crew. He could still sleep for two more hours if he wanted, but he didn’t want to. He was glad he had been woken by the sun so that he could spend some extra time reading his Bible and praying before he started his day!
As Tim opened his Bible, the pages fell to Psalms 91:11, “For He will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.” He read the entire psalm, but those words…” For He will order his angels to protect you wherever you go,” were piercing his heart. He had cherished and read these words many times before, but today, there was something more he was feeling! He sensed that the Holy Spirit was illuminating these words in his heart and had a more profound significance and a sense of warning though he did not know why. Tim knelt by his bed and began to pray. He prayed, asking God for divine protection over himself, his family, and the flight he was working that day, but it wasn’t enough. The Holy Spirit was leading him to pray fervently in tongues. His prayers extended into a language only the Spirit understood, a mysterious connection with the divine, as described in 1 Corinthians 14:2 which says, “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.”
For over an hour, he let the Spirit guide his words in an unknown tongue: an act of surrender and faith. And then, duty called, pulling him from his spiritual reverie. Tim dressed for his flight, unaware that the day would soon unveil a remarkable chapter in his life.
As the airplane, with Tim as the lead flight attendant, soared into the skies on its journey to Washington DC, an unexpected rattling in the galley disrupted the serenity of the assent. “Did I secure every latch?” Tim wondered. Though the plane was in a steep climb, he decided to investigate, even though it was unusual to leave his seat before reaching cruising altitude. He found a loose latch and secured it. Then, in an instant, the plane dropped beneath his feet.
In those heart-pounding seven seconds, Tim clung to a galley handle, the only barrier between life and the abyss. It felt like an eternity, but suddenly, the plunge ceased. Tim returned to his seat, his heart racing, and fastened his seatbelt. Passengers, seemingly unperturbed, remained calm, unaware of the close call.
Tim waited for cruising altitude and the right moment and then ventured into the cockpit where the pilots, their faces ashen, confirmed something had gone terribly wrong. As the captain recounted the harrowing experience, they learned that it had been an air traffic controller’s error that had brought two planes frighteningly close. They had been flying on instrumentation because of thick cloud cover when suddenly they began to rise above it into a clear sky. Just as they did, the pilots were looking eye to eye with the pilots of another aircraft who were frighteningly close! They had been just three football field apart because of an air traffic controller error. The pilots of each aircraft made exactly the right move at the right time to avoid each other, and a colossal collision was avoided. The unusual part was that the passengers never knew about it because they had been flying in cloud cover for most of the flight, and what happened simply felt like some rough turbulence to them.
Upon landing in Washington DC, with the passengers disembarking safely, Tim had time to reflect. He had never felt so close to death. He now understood why God was prompting him to pray that morning. It was to avoid that collision. There was no doubt in his heart that God had led him to pray specifically for his flight. The gravity of the moment weighed heavily on his heart. What if he hadn’t responded to God’s leading to pray? What if he hadn’t survived? His family, along with all the others on that flight, would have been left behind. And then he began to question whether he had lived a life pleasing to God when he often felt like he was ignoring God’s calling on his life.
With that life-altering incident etched in his mind, Tim made a solemn pledge to serve the Lord with unwavering dedication. He followed his calling, attending Bible college and eventually becoming an associate pastor in a young but growing church, to a church of 10,000 for the next 33 years. Today, in Tim’s senior years, he continues to carry out his divine mission, touching lives through a daily devotional read in 227 countries worldwide.
Tim’s journey from flight attendant to pastor to author serves as a powerful reminder that God has extraordinary plans for each of us, plans that unfold when we commit our lives to His service. In the words of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
I pray that this small piece of my life-long story inspires you to embrace your unique path and purpose, trusting in the divine guidance that leads to a future filled with hope.
Proverbs 3: 5-6 ESV, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make straight your paths.”
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In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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