The Summer of our Souls

The day feels like a dream. Soft blue sky with feathers of high cloud. Birds and peepers calling from the pond. The great ocean of fragrant air drifts lazily over greening fields, and sun falls softly on skin.

For months, we have been on guard, shoulders hunched under thick clothes, defending the warmth inside. But today, it seems, the long-rumored miracle has occurred. The wounding winter is in full retreat.

On the fringes of my vision, the world whizzes by. We ride the airplane like a bobsled, my student and I, he in the front seat, focused on his work. Ahead, I can see little, but to the side, there are shimmering silos, rivers ablaze with sunlight that glides alongside as we pass.

The student is very good, as young as I am old. Around and around we go, down to the runway and back into the sky.

The eerie perfection of this morning, the skill of the pilot, the quiet sense that nothing could go wrong on such a day – I defend against this, just as I defend against winter.

Life teaches us the danger of this feeling. Moments of happiness are soon eclipsed by new troubles, and the shock of this is, at first, almost too much to bear. Better to keep up your guard. Better to defend against sorrow, even in times of apparent peace. Better to never be surprised.

But there is something heartbreaking in this, the knowledge that we are never quite safe, doomed by our mortality to the same humiliating end.

If Earth is home, then we are homeless. Spring comes to melt the snow but not our sorrows. We catch a faint scent, a fleeting glimpse, a fading echo of unspeakable beauty, but we find no lasting peace and no real answer to the ache of our longing.

There is no summer for our souls.

I have not given much thought to heaven because I so wanted to find a home on Earth. It has taken me many years to realize that my wounds and my longings are not unique and not the result of circumstances I might somehow change.

For me and for you, however strong or rich, however sick or poor, life will often be cold and lonely and dangerous. Our bodies, however elegant, do not last. Our families and friendships and communities are flawed in painful ways, and we have done our part to make them so.

We still haven’t found what we’re looking for because it is not here.

The offer of heaven is many things, among them proof that our souls are telling the truth. We feel homeless on Earth because Earth is not our home. We were made for a better country, made to be the kind of people who could learn to live in that country.

My own learning is very slow, but on this eerily perfect day, the fragrant air alive with birdsong, I remember who sends the spring – the dazzling One who whispers that he can heal me as surely as he heals the Earth.


He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
-Revelation 21:4

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth… They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
-Hebrews 11:13-16

In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence…

…The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret.

…At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.

C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

A Different Kind of Sky

Mike is a dangerous man living a dangerous life. He flies low and fast, dodging trees and wires. He fights for those he loves and aches for those he has lost. He longs for the one woman who quiets his restless soul.

How does love change us? How do we survive crushing disasters? How do we make sense of ourselves and the world around us?

A Different Kind of Sky is a story of loss and restoration—a story of one man’s search for meaning in this deadly and beautiful world.

Find A Different Kind of Sky on Amazon: A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel

A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Great story, hard to put down! This is a very good read that flows well and brings you into the story/location. If you grew up in the country or have spent any time in the country, this story will bring you back to those times. Highly recommend.
John L
John L
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: A compelling, page-turning read The plot flows fluidly and compellingly; sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. Not bound by strict calendar dates or traditional chapter breaks, the author tells a captivating story with varying pace, but one that moves along to keep the reader wanting to see what happens next. There are several surprises. The characters exude real-life -- not contrived -- people. The storyline contains a solid mix of humor, sadness, suspense, and drama. I would recommend.
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Excellent read. Such a great story. So very happy to have read it.
Amazon Customer
Amazon Customer
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Wonderful Journey of a man’s struggle to find his place in life I’m not much of a fiction reader but I love Aviation and decided to give it a read. I’m so happy I did. This book was wonderful. I had a hard time putting it down.This is a journey of one man’s struggle and quest to find the meaning of life and death. You follow his journey from adolescence to adulthood and all the trials and tribulations that go with it. This book had me laughing and crying. It was an emotional read full of wonder, hope and sadness. His questions on faith are very relatable and really makes you dig deep into your own thoughts on who we are, why we are here now and what comes next. It shows how fragile life can be and the impacts we make on others.Religious or not, this book will leave you wanting more.
John Frye
John Frye
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: High Altitude Story; Down to Earth People A good writer creates characters who seem real, living lives with which you can identify. Readers, following Michael, the main character, on his relational trail, whether with family, friends, co-workers and Ralph, encounter all the joyful and sorrowful experiences of life. Jeff Ostrander has a way of etching them into our memory. I found myself experiencing side-splitting laughter, bouts of deep, heartfelt grief, and curious excursions into the overwhelming vastness of human existence and confronting the age-old, yet ever presence questions: How is that humans exist and for what purpose?
Kevin Moy
Kevin Moy
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Wonderful story about a walk through life What enjoyment this book brought me! A simple man yet faced with challenges we give little thought to. Every page bringing either a smile, frown, fear, joy, hope, love or answers to what we all call life that most of us dream for. Read this book to help you see the wonders and beauty that surrounds you.
Amazon Customer
Amazon Customer
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Good blend of characters and plot. Ostrander does a great job of weaving personalities into the plot. Excellent, page turning read.
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Outstanding and Realistic This book is an exceptional story of one man's journey through life and toward faith. It masterfully avoids the trite storyline typical ofChristian novels. It feels genuine and I found myself deeply caring about the characters. Well done!
Marshall Pennell
Marshall Pennell
A Different Kind of Sky: A Novel: Captivated my mind and my emotions. I'm still thinking about it. Such a descriptive narrative. Well thought out and expertly written. I feel like I just lived life alongside of Mike.The things that the main character, Mike, thinks about are things that we all think about, or at least try to. There is so much depth and richness in the storytelling that I didn't want it to end. Some books entertain you and help pass the time but offer no real benefit for having read them. This book is certainly entertaining but also enriching. It is thought provoking without demanding that the reader be a scholar or philosopher. An excellent and well crafted piece of art!

The Broken Airplane

I lean over the broken airplane, twisted metal reflecting dim lights from distant hangars. The engine clinks as it cools. My friend, Luke, shakes his head.

Five minutes ago, all was well. And then, as we left the ground, we heard a sharp thump and the airplane darted sideways, away from the runway, its propeller desperately clawing at the night sky. Somehow, she held onto the sky, limping sidelong and tremulous as we circled back to earth, and here we stand in the dark, shaking our heads, taking photos of an airplane that may never fly again.

The thump was a deer, sprinting across the runway. If she had arrived half a second later, we would not have met. But we did meet, and the deer, like the airplane, picked herself up and stumbled a few steps further, finally dragged herself off the runway to die.

As the shock of the moment passes, I begin to ask myself what this means, if it means anything at all. For now, it means I’m largely out of a job because most of my teaching was done in this airplane. It means the loss of a good machine and days of paperwork and email and phone calls. Bad luck, I suppose, yet here we stand, shaken but uninjured. Not dead. Not worse than dead, demolished in some hospital bed.

How many steps do you have to go back to measure your luck? Is it worse to wreck an airplane than to never have an airplane, maybe never to fly at all? Could I even count the hundreds of good things I have received that made this bad thing possible? The thousands of hours airborne in which bad things might have happened but didn’t; the dangers I didn’t even notice; the deer that crossed just after I passed…

I don’t know the moral of this story, but I believe my days are numbered, and that’s a good thing because they are numbered by the one who gave me those days.

* * *

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways…

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

– Psalm 139

– Note: The middle photo is from a flight a couple of days later, showing how little fear deer have of airplanes. The deer that struck our airplane twisted the entire tail section (thus, her insistence on flying sideways) and partially separated the elevator and horizontal stabilizer.

“God!”, He Moaned

It doesn’t take long to know Owen. I am a stranger, but he looks at me with his big eyes, says hello, turns back to help his mom get bags out of the car. He seems older than nine, and in some ways he is. Owen has seen more trouble in his short life than most of us ever will. Nineteen surgeries. Almost thirty Wings of Mercy flights back and forth to hospitals. Organs that still don’t work right. A feeding tube that runs from his belly to his backpack. The embarrassment he feels, being different at an age when it hurts to be different.

These are hard things, but still, he looks you in eye, grabs the biggest bag he can handle, soldiers on; a little soldier who has been there and done that. He is small for his age because of the trouble. His hair sticks up a little, like kids’ hair does. His face is open and sincere in a way that tugs at something inside of you.

We get them inside the airplane, but Owen has been in many airplanes. He folds his slender body across the seat, falls asleep.

I am still thinking about another flight this week, a mission that wasn’t. We flew to another city to take a man from one hospital to another – an older man, alone since his injury, longing to get closer to home. The ambulance was waiting when we arrived and, with all the tenderness we could manage, we slid Charles from one stretcher to another, safely inside our airplane. And then it happened, something that almost never happens. We started the airplane and ran our tests and one of the instruments failed.

I will long remember what Charles said when I told him we could not go. “God!”, he moaned in a voice that sounded less like a prayer than a lament. It was the only word he said.

Again, the ambulance draws near and, again, we transfer Charles to another stretcher – one that will bear his broken body back again, to a place he does not want to go. An hour later, the airplane is tucked into a hangar for service and three pilots are droning across the state in their little rental car, back to where the day began, having apparently accomplished nothing.

“God!”, he moaned. A prayer? A complaint? Both? Who can make sense of this world, of the suffering of Owen and of Charles, of our own efforts which often help but sometimes don’t? If only we could fix what is broken, with a scalpel or pill or an airplane. But the world’s brokenness runs deeper than that.

Life is hard, and the need to love our neighbor is woven into the fabric of life – the need to strengthen and pull together the broken and lonely strands. The beauty and value and purpose of Owen and Charles are far beyond our power to calculate, even when their problems are beyond our power to repair.

This week, we will again send airplanes for Owen and for Charles, do our best to reduce their suffering and get them home again. We cannot fix but we can love. We pray with Charles, in a prayer that is sometimes a lament at the sorrow in this world: God have mercy. And we pray to a God who loves and hears: Make us instruments of your mercy.