Chapter 5: Altitude, Attitude

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Several years ago, I went to visit family who lived in Phoenix, AZ. My trips were typically planned around the Christmas holidays. It’s a definite change from the snowy coast of New Jersey. When it comes to flying, I enjoy sitting by the window of a plane. The view outside the window is often spectacular.

On one trip, I was blessed to see a sight that surpassed anything that I’ve ever seen. On takeoff, the sky was filled with dark gray clouds. You’d think a storm was brewing.

 As the plane poked its head above the thick clouds, you could see the sun was setting.  Looking outside the window, I could see the spectacular array of colors splashed across the clouds. There was a combination of reddish, orange, gold and other colors.

As I continued to gaze, my eyes were greeted with something resembling the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains. No, I was not looking at a real mountain or canyon. These mountains and canyons were made entirely of clouds. How long was I gazing at this glorious sight? I don’t know.

I can only recall that I sat in awe of the magnificent artwork displayed in the clouds. It is hard to be in a foul mood when one is looking at such beautiful and heavenly scenery. This scene took place almost 25 years ago.

Sadly, it was a one-time event as I never saw a repeat of this scene. Then again, I am glad of it. For it made a memorable impression on me. I can only credit God for this artwork. As I gazed at the beauty of the grand scene, it was very easy to forget about the storms happening below the clouds.

One’s altitude can certainly influence one’s attitude. Though I credit God for that spectacular masterpiece of art, there is something that needs pointing out. I had a role to play. I could choose to enjoy the beauty outside the plane window or I could choose to ignore it and focus on my problems.

As for the plane, I was obviously not in control of the jet. I don’t think the captain would have appreciated that idea. The plane was in the capable hands of a skilled captain and his crew. Yes, there is a subtle hint in the last sentence. I would have laughed if the captain’s name was Jesus. Can you say “poetic irony”?

Some time ago, I read a book called “As A Man Thinketh”. It was written by James Allen in 1903. In his book, James makes a startling point. “You are responsible for your own circumstances.” His words most certainly caught my attention. Is he really saying, “I am responsible for being born with disabilities?” Not so fast. In his book, James Allen makes it clear that you are responsible for your thoughts and your reactions to life’s circumstances.

I did not have a choice in the matter of my birth. However, I do have a choice in my responses to my circumstances. As a child, I could have chosen to be angry at God; however, I did not stay angry. I was too hungry for God to stay that way.

 As a child, I had a choice in how I responded to others. For me, I chose to get angry and react. These choices do have consequences and they can help to shape our circumstances. It is this very point that James makes in his book.

Do you know something? Your altitude will affect your attitude. If I was focused on the storms, then I would have missed the spectacular view that existed above the clouds.

Years ago I met a young man who was visually impaired. I met him when I was at Arizona Industries for the Blind. This 19-year-old young man was so filled with anger and bitterness that he failed to see anything positive. His attitude was so shocking it shocked everyone. It was only 1995.

Because of his bitterness, the young man failed to see the changes surrounding him. You’d think that computers hadn’t been invented yet and that the Internet was not in existence. Of course I knew about the Internet and owned a computer. In a couple of years, I’d be writing for a magazine called OS/2 Ezine.

Did I have a difficult time in school? Yes.  I was emotionally sensitive and a favorite target of the usual suspects. My reactions were typically one of anger. I simply didn’t like the teasing. It created an endless cycle and I never wised up to the solution.

I needed to change my altitude and take responsibility for my reaction to the taunts. My outbursts of anger simply did not help. I needed a forgiving attitude and I needed better tools for dealing with bullies. They were enjoying it too much.

A change in altitude can help in gaining a better perspective on a problem. It can let you see the larger picture and respond correctly. What if I had gone to God the Father and said “Ok, my anger is not helping and these guys are still taunting me? What the heck am I supposed to do?”

For one, it is good to admit that I had a wrong attitude and it was not working. It is also good to admit a need for help and to ask for it. These steps are great starting points for changing one’s altitude.  Here is a tip that came from a friend at Stockton State College.

I wasn’t the first visually impaired man that she had met. In high school, she knew of a totally blind young man who had a good sense of humor. As a blind person, he would find his hall locker by feeling for a lock on a locker door. One day, she and her friends played a harmless prank.

They placed padlocks on all the locker doors in the one hallway. They waited for the guy to come by and find his locker. As the teen walked down the hall, he placed his hand on the locker doors. He was feeling for his locker. Guess what he found? The young man realized that he was being pranked and laughed.

The young man had a choice in his reaction. He had a much better altitude than I did. He could see that malice was not the intention. The prank was meant to be funny. He chose to laugh and relax. It seems the young man had developed some friends in that school due to his willingness to laugh.

In both situations, that young man and I can’t control what people do or how they choose to respond. It’s true that we can encourage or discourage a certain response; however, it is still their choice. As James Allen pointed out, they are responsible for their choices.

As for me, I can only control myself and no one else. I chose the path of anger in high school and I reaped a harvest of more taunts and anger. My pride would not allow me to see it. I am not justifying their behaviors as it was wrong. I am simply taking responsibility for my own actions. It simply did not help.

Years later, I would learn about the power of forgiveness, letting go of my anger and bitterness and a healing of my sense of humor. I never knew that wisecracks, zingers and sarcasms could be a great way of dealing with certain people. Of course, it helped when I experienced a change of altitude.

How did God do this? Sorry. I did not learn good humor overnight and I did not wave a magic wand or recite a spell. I asked my Father to heal my sense of humor in ’95. How did God heal me? There was a supernatural work on my heart on that very day. However, it was only a starting point.

For the past 20 years, God has brought a variety of people into my life. They were co-workers, friends and a few YouTubers. In time, I came to learn about clean humor and did not have the need to put someone down. At the same time, it helps to have a change in altitude. It can have a powerful effect on how you do humor.

I would like to share another problem that comes with a poor altitude. Do you recall that there was a storm in the area of my leaving Phoenix? When you’re flying through a storm, it’s hard to see what’s really happening. How can you? There’s a thick gray storm cloud outside the plane window.

The same thing applies to my situation in high school. Years later I would discover that someone did stand up for me and I didn’t know it. How could I? I was so wrapped up in my anger that I couldn’t see. Here is another fun fact that I discovered from my father.

In high school, I was afraid to ask a girl out. I was afraid to ask for I feared rejection. At the same time, I was so wrapped up in my own problems that I didn’t notice some things around me. Years later  I talked with my dad about dating. “Did you know that Jackie was interested in you?” he asked. You could see my jaw hitting the floor.

I had no clue. It is quite possible I had other potential girlfriends. However, I was too wrapped up in a storm cloud of negativity that I couldn’t see. Why not? I was actually a very nice guy in school. I had gotten so used to the negativity that I couldn’t believe the positives.

It was time to get above the storm clouds. It was time to go to a higher altitude and gain a better perspective on life. Do you recall the wisecrack about the captain’s name? In reality, I don’t recall the real captain’s name; however, I know of another captain.

He has impeccable credentials, and He has a Name. You have heard of Jesus of Nazareth, right? I would encourage you to ask Jesus for help in changing your altitude. He is quite capable of helping if you are willing.

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