Friday, June 11, 2010

Flight to Heaven by Dale Black

My take:
About 20 years ago a lot of people who have had near death experiences published their story. It was disappointing to me and I didn't really know why. With a few more years experience, I realized that, although the experiences may be completely real, it seemed that they were trying to sell themselves more than the experience.

Dale Black was 19 and probably pretty arrogant when he got his pilot's license. He'd just been kicked out of college and didn't really care. He hopped into an airplane with two other pilots who had more experience and was ushered to the back seat, mere inches from the pilots. Minutes later, the acting pilot took off without gaining proper air speed. The airplane began losing altitude and, ironically, smashed into a memorial structure built to honor pilots who had previously died called "Portal of the Folded Wings." All of the occupants were ejected from the airplane at approximately 135 mph.

The acting pilot died upon impact. Dale's good friend, Chuck, died at the hospital. Dale felt the moment as he was floating above his body and the doctor came into the room. Dale was in a coma for three days. When he woke up he had HUGE gaps in his memory. He was also critically wounded with chemical burns, shattered bones and joints, pieces of the airplane stuck in his flesh, and an obvious brain injury. Slamming into concrete at 135 mph tends to do that.

Although Dale did not remember anything from the accident or the time he was in a coma, he awoke with a very strong and personal love for those he saw. He wanted to tell them how much God loved them. He wanted to tell them how precious they are and help them to know that truth. He wanted to tell them about Jesus and the importance of His gift.

The author eventually tells of the experience he had at the gates of heaven; the light, the sounds, the music, the love, the people but it is clear he holds back the most sacred of the experiences. The memories were buried for months before they began coming to him in dreams and then while awake. Because of the sacred nature, he didn't tell anybody about them until a couple of months later when he visited with his grandfather. His grandfather told him to hold them sacred, pray about them, and share them only at an appropriate time. Most importantly, rather than telling about his change of heart, live it.

The author then details the rest of the first year after the crash. His injuries were extensive. He didn't just have broken bones and dislocated shoulder as he was previously told. They were shattered beyond probable repair. He details his journey of faith and humility as the crash and the brush with heaven did not completely quell his pride.

Dale was given a glimpse of God's love, it changed his heart and he wanted everybody to know how much God loves them, too. But he was also a proud person (like most of us are) and wanted to be healed for personal gain. When he accepted God's will miracles occurred.

Another poignant part to Dale's story is that even though miracles occurred and he acknowledged God's hand (and they really are amazing), his journey is long and arduous. Nothing happens suddenly but requires not only his own faith but a lot of hard work. He didn't just get to believe he would be healed and pray it would happen. He had to exercise not only his body but his will. When he gave his will to God answers came.

With the additional years of experience and language, Dale more clearly articulated the importance of God, Jesus, and the Plan of Salvation. Waiting forty years to tell a piece of his story made the telling a selfless act. It also gave the author forty years to live the change.

This would be an incredibly difficult book to write. Dale leaves his pride behind him as he describes how he survived, why he survived and the others did not, how much he wants to further God's work, included a little smidgen of how he has done so without placing himself on a pedestal, and he is somehow able to use written language to write about spiritual experiences.

Getting a Little Personal
Last Sunday I had a culmination of experiences that ended (?) with an experience I could not articulate to my husband. He's only seen me grapple with the problem but hadn't been part of the entire process. Answers to my prayers were coming but not the answers I expected and then He added a bonus as I found myself connecting to a woman at church who happened to be struggling with similar issues.

I realize I'm being vague here. It isn't that I'm being secretive, I just couldn't articulate the experience that day and I can't do it now.

I tried a number of times to explain parts of it to my husband but I was unable to attach language to it and couldn't stop crying. In exasperation, I told him that I didn't know why I was crying. It wasn't a sad occasion or answer.

He wisely taught me that crying is the way our bodies respond to spiritual experiences.

Standing ovation to Dale Black and my husband..


CountessLaurie said...

awesome review. adding it to my to read list...

Steve Capell said...

A near death experience can't happen without changing a person and this book sounds like a great account of that experience. Thanks for a great review.

Tiffany said...

Wow - this is one of those few reviews that make me want to read the book immediately! (Although I did check out the Catherine de Medici book from the library).