This article is the introduction chapter for the new book, Soaring to Lofty Heights—Spiritually, which O.A. is currently in the process of writing.
It’s a clear crisp, wintry day in February. Sitting on my golf cart next to our Rose Sisk Lookout Deck, I let my eyes feast on the skyline of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I grew up in the shadow of these mountains. Snow-capped Mt. Mitchell glistens like a diamond in the blue haze for which the mountains are named. This favorite spot, located on side of what I’ve come to call “Prayer Mountain” is dedicated to the memory of Rose Sisk, our program director Steve Collins’ grandmother.
Chloe, my black Lab, races across the gravel road that circles the deck to explore the wooded hillside, and occasionally I hear a delighted bark. The two of us visit here regularly, she to chase squirrels and me to un-clutter my mind of leftover daily problems. A resulting peace comes, God’s presence is awakened within me, and I find myself softly praying in the spirit.
Some may think this platform on the side of a mountain can’t compare with the left seat of a jetliner where I spent much of my adult life as an Eastern Airlines captain. And I must admit that soaring in the stratosphere at 39,000 feet, pulling white contrails across deep blue skies, and streaking over the earth at 600 miles per hour was exhilarating. But what you have to realize is, in order to command such a position, your mind must constantly race ahead just to stay in front of the airplane. There is very little time to sit back and reflect on the beauty of the moment. So when people ask me if I miss flying, I admit I do. And yet when I’m sitting here on the side of the mountain, my soul soars higher than I’ve ever soared before.
As the peaks and valleys accented by the still bright evening sun stretch westward, my thoughts are pulled with them. It was back in 1972 that my wife, Charlotte, and I responded to God’s call to move to these foothills of North Carolina. Within two years we had built the home we live in today and established the South Mountain Christian Camp which ministers to underprivileged children. Of course, in the beginning our first campers slept in tents on the side of the mountain, and we ourselves were still in the learning stages of what it meant to truly have a close, trusting relationship with our heavenly Father. But God has brought the camp, as well as Charlotte and me, a long way since those early days of development.
One of the main reasons I like to come to this overlook is that I can see most of my native Rutherford County, a place and a people I love. From here I can lift them and others up in prayer. As I’ve grown in spiritual wisdom, knowledge, and the understanding of God’s kingdom and the glorious inheritance we have in Christ Jesus, I ache for the Church. So many Christians seem to be stuck in what I call “spiritual poverty.” The prophet Hosea spoke to this when he said that God’s People are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. And in John’s letter to the Laodicean church, Jesus agreed that the people were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked (spiritually speaking) and they didn’t even know it.
In my previous book, Fingerprints of God, I shared stories of miracles which occurred during our growing years in hopes of encouraging people and inspiring them to have more faith. Thousands of readers have told me how the book blessed them and how excited they were to seek after miracles such as those revealed in the book. Of course, that was good, but how much better it would be if we all were as excited about exploring more fully that place of trust in God where miracles happen routinely in everyday life. We call this place, this realm, the Kingdom of God. It is a heavenly realm, so the bible also refers to it as the Kingdom of Heaven. In describing this kingdom, Paul called it a place of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said that we should seek this kingdom and His righteousness above everything else. So in this book, I hope to use God’s Word and personal testimonies to help others discover their own flight plan to this kingdom where their souls may Soar to Lofty Heights - Spiritually.