Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Flying High

Flying High

Speaker and pilot Gaye Martin shares the spiritual lessons she learned from the humorous misadventures she experienced in her early days of flying.
Original Air Date: April 11, 1997




Mrs. Gaye Martin: He said, “3440 Delta, if you continue on the heading that you’re currently flying,” he said, “you’ll come into very close contact with commercial traffic in the form of a 747.” (Laughter) And I said, “Roger. (laughing) I’m leaving my current heading for the assigned one,” and I heard him say, “Good choice.” (Laughter)

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Today’s speaker is Mrs. Gaye Martin, and she’s got some lessons to share that she learned as a private pilot. And she’s gonna relate those to our walk of faith with God. And uh, this is Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus President Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Gaye Martin has a unique perspective on life, that’s for sure, from about 5-thousand feet in the air! — along with a great sense of humor, as you just heard. She’s using her experiences flying an airplane as a metaphor for the Christian life, which is an interesting approach, especially if you think of God as our own, personal, air-traffic controller! He can see where you’ve been, and He knows where you’re going, and He can also see what might be in your way!

In addition to being a pilot, Gaye is a management and training consultant, author and speaker. Gaye and her husband, Phil, live in Summerfield, Florida and have five children, 12 grandchildren, and 24 great-grandchildren! She does it by the numbers, right?

John: (Chuckling) That is an impressive family size. And uh, Gaye is a delightful speaker, as you heard. Here she is now, speaking at a Christian Women’s Club event. And uh, warming up the crowd with some humorous stories as we begin Focus on the Family.


Gaye: Anyway, I was on my way to the spa one day, and I had a class that night at (chuckling)…I had a class at the college. And so I was on my way to the spa just for a few minutes, ‘cause I have a lifetime membership, which we’re giving away at the banquet tonight. (Laughter) And um … so, um … but anyway, I looked behind me. I saw a little blue light and I just hate it when I see a little blue light. And so, I just pulled … slowed down, pulled over and reached around and clicked in my seat belt. (Laughter) And, uh … and the young man that came around–the little policeman came around. Um … he said, “May I see your driver’s license?” I said, “Yes, sir.” Now, I said “Sir,” because, um … policeman don’t like it when you call ‘em “Sugar.” (Laughter) And uh…(laughing) But it’s hard not to do that, because they all look like they’re 9. And you just want to say, “Does your mom know you’re playing cop?” (Laughter) You know, like they have a gun and they’re out in traffic and everything. But anyway, um … .so he said, “Ms. Martin,” he said, “do you know how fast you were going?” I said, “No,” and he said, “You were expeeding [sic] the seed limit … the speed … “ whatever I was doing. (Laughter) And, uh … I said, “I understand. Go ahead and write it.” And he said … when he got through, he said, “Well, I see you’re aware of our seat belt law.” I said, “Yes, sir, I am!” (Laughter) And he said, “Let me ask you Ms. Martin, do you always buckle your seat belt through the steering wheel?” (Laughter) 

Oh, let’s see. This is an as-you-like-it luncheon and I’m gonna try desperately to do a one-eighty here and say something of meaning. (Laughter) Proverbs 14:12 says, “Before every man there lies a wide and pleasant road that seems right, but ends in death.” That’s kind of an upbeat Scripture, don’t you think? (Laughter)

And uh, … and when they asked me to do the conference, I began to think about what I wanted to do for this particular session and … and I decided that I wanted to title it “Don’t Stifle the Urge to Take Off.” And I … it has to do with my flying experience. I became … I earned my pilot’s license–private pilot’s license– as a young woman about 30 years ago.

And … and when I settled on this, and then I found out that a pilot was going to be here tonight, you know, I went … I just thought, “I can’t believe it; I just can’t believe it,” because I, um … I sometimes substitute for a church in Ocala of a very large Sunday school group of retired people. And I was giving them one of my flying stories one time. And at break, I heard a man say to a retired Delta pilot, “Charlie, I did not know things like that happened to pilots.” (Laughter) And he said, “They don’t to real pilots.” (Laughter)

So, I want to tell you, I’m skating on thin ice (laughing).

But I remember a time, Phil is a retired air traffic controller and our daughter was with Eastern, so I used to have unlimited passes on Eastern. And um, anywhere in their system. So I would, many times, go in to work with Phil, fly to Atlanta, have lunch with my daughter, play with the grandchildren, come home with him in the afternoon. And so every now and then he would say to one of the pilots, “Be careful, you have my wife on board. She’s a private pilot, so you be careful.” So one afternoon I was coming in, Phil had cleared him for landing, and um, in Gainesville (laughing) and uh, he had told him that. And of course I didn’t know that. And he was the neatest pilot I ever met, he said, he came over the loudspeaker and he said, “Mrs. Martin, this is the captain.” (laughing) He said, “How did you like those landings?” (laughing) He said, “Didn’t you think the second one was better than the first?” (laughing) I just…I lost….there’s a real man. (laughing)

Well, I want to tell you that I learned to fly to overcome a fear of flying. My father was, uh, Director of Training for Pan American when they were still around. And I’ve always had a fear of flying and someone told me that if I would learn to fly–take some lessons, and Phil gave me some of those lessons, and that’s why he looks so wonderful tonight. (Laughter) But I learned to fly to overcome a fear of flying. And I have to tell you that my … my concept of being a pilot was most limited. Um … in the beginning, I … I really thought that as soon as I could say, “Roger,” I’d be a pilot, you know. And then, I could hardly wait to be so professional that you could just go “Rog.” (Laughter) And I … I just … and my landings were often referred to by my instructor as controlled crashes, you know. (Laughter)

But I did find that any one you can walk away from is a good one. And I remember when I did my solo cross country, which every pilot has to do; It’s the first time that you get in that plane and fly to another city without your instructor in the seat next to you. And all of us in Miami used to have to fly to Sanford–they’d send us to Sanford. And that’s not really that hard to do in Florida, because if you fly low enough, you can like do I-75, you know. It’s not really that hard. (Laughter) And uh, but you had to get your log books signed, you know and then you have to get back in the plane and come home. And you need to know, that is major for somebody that’s a brand-new pilot that’s only had 72 hours. Most men do it in 12. Okay? (Laughter)

And, uh … but anyway, I watched everything and I paid attention and I … I landed in Sanford and I really didn’t want to look green. I just really didn’t want to look green. And got out of the airplane, kind of swaggered in and they said, “Welcome to West Palm Beach.” (Laughter)

I tell ya, I tell ya. When I got my pilot’s license, my father was the first place I went, okay? I went straight over to Pan Am on 36th street in Miami and I said, ”Dad, I got it! I got it!” And…and he said, “Listen, let me tell you, you’re more dangerous today than you’ve ever been in your life.” (Laughter) And he’s right. And I said, “Why do you say that?” Because, you know, I just wanted my dad to be proud of me and he said, “Honey, because today you think you have all the answers.” And I did; I did.

But you know, when I learned to fly, my perception of flying was like “I am going to be in control,” you know. I just wanted to be in control of that machine. I wanted … I wanted to just rise above everything and I wanted to just get a new perspective on things and … and I tell you, one of the problems that I had is a problem I’ve had in spiritual life, as well. And that was learning to hear the instructions from the controller. I had the hardest time learning to listen to the radio.

And when I first started out, I can remember, you know, because you can’t take off without being cleared for takeoff and you can’t land without being cleared to land. And uh, … and I had the hardest time listening to that voice, you know. And I used to … right at first I’d make everybody in the airplane … I’d go, Shh,” you know, ‘cause I didn’t know if he had cleared me or not and it doesn’t look cool to be cleared and not go any place. (Laughter)

And … but I did have to learn to hear his voice. I had to learn to listen. And I did get to where when I’d hear the call letters of my little airplane come up, I learned that I was getting ready to get some instructions. And I want you to know that I found out that, even though I may be the pilot in that plane and may be up there all by myself, I was not fully in control. I found out that I didn’t … I had limited control, but I was not in complete control.

There was an unseen traffic controller that had to assign altitudes to me, that had to assign headings to me, that had to assign a route of flight to me, that had to tell me when to ascend and descend. And he had to give me all those instructions. He had to tell me when to land and take off. And … and I tell you right at first, I sort of resented his rather insistent finger in every decision of my trip.

But I want you to know, that controller taught me some things. And so, I just want to share, maybe three or four points of some things that I learned as a pilot and things that I have seen. I want to talk about some things that I’ve learned.

First of all, let me tell you, I’ve learned to trust those with the larger picture. I want you to know that the air traffic controller has access to a larger picture. And I learned that on a trip I made from Miami to Wilmington via Charlotte. And I landed in Charlotte and I had preplanned my trip. And you know, that if you’re in Charlotte and you want to go to Wilmington, you have to go a little bit northeast and I had planned out all my headings and the winds and everything and I knew when I was supposed to get in.

And when that controller gave me a heading–I was heading due east–and he said, “I want you to fly that, uh, heading until I terminate service.” I said, “Roger.” (Laughter) And so, I began to fly the heading that he had given me and the longer I flew it, the madder I got about it. And I thought, “You know what? This isn’t even anywhere near Wilmington, okay? It’s not near Wilmington.” And I thought, “Well, he’s probably cleared me to go around some traffic or something.” And I flew and flew and flew and he never came back and I just thought, “I know what it is. He’s just a new controller, you know, and he just forgot me. That’s all.”

And so, I just began to ease back on my course (laughing) and I ain’t gone that far until he came on and he said, “3440 Delta, do you have a problem?” I said, “No, sir.” (Laughter) And he said … he said, “Then may I ask why you’re not flying the route of flight that was assigned to you?” And I said, “I thought you forgot me.” (Laughter) He said, “I didn’t forget you.” He said, “3440 Delta, if you continue on the heading that you’re currently flying,” he said, “you’ll come into very close contact with commercial traffic in the form of a 747.” (Laughter) And I said, “Roger. (laughing) I’m leaving my current heading for the assigned one,” and I heard him say, “Good choice.” (Laughter) 

Program Note:

John: You’re listening to private pilot Gaye Martin on Focus on the Family. And just a quick reminder you can get a CD of this delightful program for a gift of any amount when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or donate and request that CD at

Let’s continue now with Gaye Martin.

End of Program Note

Gaye: I’ve learned to trust those who have access to the larger picture. There are times in your life when you think God has gone on vacation. And you’re flying in a direction that doesn’t feel right to you, period. But ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you something. He sees things you can’t see and the alternative may be something you don’t want to take time out to do. And He knows He’s in control and He knows the route of flight you need to take and He will keep you on course.

I also learned that someone has always flown faster, higher, longer, and a greater distance than I have. But you know what I’ve learned about that? I’ve learned that those that have flown longer and higher and further than I have, constitute a built-in mentor system. And that, there are, in life, people who have been where you are, that have the answers, who have flown this trip before and know exactly what it takes for you to get through it. And that’s a comfort to me. That’s a comfort to me.

And then the third thing that I have learned is not to be ashamed to admit when you’re lost. Eeuw! I mean, women can do this. It’s really difficult for men. But uh, (Laughter) I was flying to Atlanta one time and I was told to report over Griffin, Georgia. And um, so, I knew exactly where I was until about Macon. I had checked everything. I had gone over the railroad track at the right time. I had gotten … you know, I … I knew every little town as it went by, but in Macon I realized that I was getting close to Atlanta and so, I decided to take just a few minutes out and do my face, you know, something important. (Laughter) So, I did my eyes and I did my makeup. (Laughter) And it just took me a minute, okay, just a few minutes, but when I looked up, I had lost my bearings. I didn’t … I didn’t know where I was. And I knew that pretty soon I had to report over Griffin, because that was the instructions the air-traffic controller had given me.

And so, I just saw this little town down there and I thought, “Oh, well. You know, who knows what anyway?” And so, I just said, “This is 3440 Delta and I’m reporting over Griffin.” And he said, “3440 Delta, I don’t have you on radar.” And I thought, “New controller, ha!” (Laughter) Bless his heart. (Laughter)  And so he said, “I want you to do a 360, and let me see if I can catch you on radar.” And so I made some circles, which uh, now when I see a plane doing that I go, “Oh! I’m so sorry!” (laughter) It means they’re lost! But anyway….or at least that’s what it meant when I flew. (laughter) And he said, “I don’t have you on radar!” And so I, you know, so I flew a little bit further and I passed over another little town and I thought, “Oh this is it, I’m sure this is it!” And so I just called in, “This is 3440 Delta reporting over Griffin…” (laughing) And he said, “I don’t have you on radar.” (laughing) I did that three times.

And he said, “3440 Delta, are you lost?” I said, “No, sir, I’m not.” (Laughter) Then he said, “Let me ask you something.” He said, “Can you see a race track that would be the Atlanta Raceway?” I said, “No, sir, I can’t.” He said, “Can you see a green water tower? That’s in Griffin.” I said, “No, sir, I can’t.” He said, “Let me ask you something. Look carefully. Can you see Stone Mountain?” (Laughter) I said, “Yessir I can!” (long laughter) 

Listen to what he said to me. He said, “Listen to me. Trust me. Follow my directions and I’ll get you back on course.” When I got on the ground in Atlanta, this controller came back on the radio and he said, “3440 Delta,” he said, “anytime we have a pilot assist, we have to fill out paperwork for that.” And he said, “Would it be safe to say you were temporarily disoriented?” (Laughter) And I said, “It’d be safe to say I was lost.” And I said, “I want to thank you for your help.” And he said, “It was my pleasure. It’s my job.” I want to tell you something. When you get off course, when you’ve just even taken your eyes off course, just for a little while, and you can’t figure out where you’re supposed to be again, I want you to know it is His pleasure to get you back on course. But it does help if you’ll tell Him you’re lost.

I wanna tell you something else I learned. We used to fly supplies to missionaries. I didn’t do a lot of flying in the jungle, because I have trouble over roads, but uh, that trip from the jungle, we used to fly from a jungle strip where, there were no roads into that, we flew right off the river. And that trip, by canoe, was 11 days. By air, it was 20 minutes! Yeah, so…that’s some leap over the jungle!

Now I want to tell you what I’ve seen. I want you to know that when you take to the air, you see things you can’t see from the ground. I have seen the upstairs to an overcast day. I want you to know that where on top it’s sunny and bright and quiet.

I’ve seen the tops of mountains. I’ve seen tree tops. I’ve seen roof tops. On a clear day I’ve seen both coasts of Florida at the same time. On aerial maps these boundaries are not recorded and I believe the reason for that is the higher you fly, the fewer the fences.

And then, the last thing I want to share with you that I have seen is, I’ve seen a completed rainbow. Do you know when you see it on the ground, it’s always just half a circle? But I want you to know from the air, it’s always round. And the shadow of the airplane is always in the middle of it. I want you to know it’s always connected and encircles you. And I want you to know when rainbows embrace you, you don’t fear the heights; you measure them.

I want to close with a little illustration. A friend of mine was telling me about something that happened to him. He said, “I was on a farm up north and this farmer had five acres of land that was just swarming with Mallard ducks.” And I said to him, “Where’d you get these Mallard ducks?” He said, “Well,” he said, “I found three eggs in the woods, brought them home, put them under a bantam hen. You know bantam hens; they’ll sit on door knobs.” (Laughter) And they hatched! The eggs. (Laughter)

They hatched two ladies and a gentleman. And they, in turn, attracted other ducks to that area–a sizeable flock. In the fall, they began to see other ducks on the wing.” And he said, “They began to appear nervous and excited.” And he said, “I realized a little time clock had gone off in their little duck hearts and they were ready to defy gravity and take to the wing.” And he said, “I didn’t want to lose them, so what I began to do was,” he said, “I began to overfeed them and they got so comfortable, they forgot to fly.” He said, “They were so satisfied and so comfortable, they never migrated. And my friend said, “You know, Gaye, what I saw in that? They stifled the urge to soar. They denied that upward call when they felt it. They didn’t respond promptly to the tug that was calling them to higher places. And so, they didn’t achieve their assigned destiny and instead of being soaring ducks, they became sitting ducks.”

Don’t stifle the urge to lift off. I’ve learned those things from my flying. I believe that all of us touch someone’s life. And to touch the future, we must encourage those who are trying their wings today, to break our speeds. To test our limits. To reexamine our boundaries. And before they’re out of ear-shout [ear shot] we must clear them for take off, to trust the skies, to trust the winds, to trust their wings. And I hope before they get to where they can’t hear us, they will hear our shout, “Fly high; fly proud.” Thank you. (Applause)


John: Some great lessons to consider from our speaker, Gaye Martin, on today’s Focus on the Family.

Jim: John, I love Gaye’s closing illustration about the overfed ducks who lost their urge to soar into the skies. And that really speaks to me as a Christian husband and father – am I getting too comfortable with myself? Am I too set in my routine? Or am I ready, willing, and able to answer God’s call? And to go wherever He might send me? I mean, those are big, challenging questions. You never know! It could be a mission trip to South Africa, or a chance to have a cup of coffee, right there in your town, with someone who doesn’t know God. I want to be ready for those kinds of opportunities!

 And it’s also reassuring to think of the Lord as my air-traffic controller. He’s the one that has the big picture, He can see what I’m flying into, and he can give me the ‘course correction’ that I need! But that is tough to have that discipline in life.

John: Well, you’ve got to trust God, and I love how the scripture emphasizes His sovereignty and His ability to, to see everything. Then, we’ve got to listen to Him, and that’s the hard part, isn’t it?

Jim: So hard. If you know someone who would be encouraged by this message from Gaye Martin, get in touch with us. We’d be happy to send a CD out to you for a donation of any amount. And remember, your gift to Focus on the Family helps us continue reaching out to people around the world with great messages like this one, sharing the truths of the gospel.

In fact, in the past year, over 180-thousand people said they made decisions for Christ because of Focus on the Family. Here’s an example of the notes we receive. It’s from Jodi in Nebraska. She wrote: “My husband and I were both addicted to prescription drugs, and our addictions ruled our lives for over 10 years. Focus on the Family helped us get clean and our lives have been transformed – all because we were willing to surrender ourselves to Jesus – and Focus guides us every weekday to grow and develop in new ways as Christians and as parents.”

John: I love the way…

Jim: That’s great.

John: …that God uses these broadcasts to get into the lives of people that may not be going to church, they may not find any spiritual element in life. But they listen to the broadcast.

Jim: They listen. What a wonderful example of how Focus on the Family, meaning YOU, who pray for us and support us, and of course, the hand of the Lord, impacts the lives of these folks that are listening that need some help! Jodi and her husband have two teenagers – just think of how this transformation has impacted them and that tiny, little family. WE are making a difference, folks, and I want to say thank you for being a part of it! Thank you for giving to Focus, and for helping us help others.

John: And you can reach us here by calling 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or donate online and request the CD at

Have a great weekend and be sure to be back with us on Monday. It’s Memorial Day, and we’re going to commemorate our fallen heroes and the impact on the loved ones they’ve left behind.


Mrs. Heather Gray Blalock: You know, we would rather – we would trade in those awards and accolades, obviously, at any point to have their lives back. But like I said before, the Lord never wastes suffering. And so, I know He’s got a plan for everything that He allows to happen, so…

End of Teaser


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