Altitude: Your Next Move Changes Everything

Altitude: Your Next Move Changes Everything

by Michael Simone


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Who's flying your plane? Do you know who you are and where you're going? Everyone needs courage and hope. Everyone experiences wobbly moments of faith. Everyone needs to make the next move that changes everything-that changes the future. Altitude will fly you over eight moves that will change the trajectory of your life. Altitude's theme is Your Next Move Changes Everything. The chapters reflect what every person struggles with: how to craft a life of meaning and purpose. Altitude is written by teaching pastor Michael Simone, using successful sermons and teachings. Combined with his poignant letters God and the study guide, Altitude will apply transformational moves to help individuals and church groups.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"If you want to be convicted and challenged to reach the next level in your life and relationship with God, read Altitude."

- Bill Hybels

"Here's a book that will do a lot of good because it's filled with practical insights from real life experiences of a faithful pastor. Those who want broken relationships healed and good relationships nurtured will find this book a treasure."
-Tony Campolo
Eastern University

"As a pilot I was taught from day one that plenty of
Altitude and proper Attitude were the two most important commodities a pilot could have. Michael Simone shows us how they are also vital to life and uses great stories to show how to gain both."

-Ken Davis, best-selling author of Fully Alive
President, Dynamic Communications International

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781938467431
Publisher: Koehler Books
Publication date: 11/29/2012
Pages: 206
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt


Your Next Move Changes Everything
By Michael Simone

Koehler Books

Copyright © 2013 Michael Simone
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781938467431

Those who hope in the Lord
  will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles.

Isaiah 40:31

Your First Move
Desperately Seeking Altitude

I don’t believe
for a second
that success is just about
self-motivation. If that were all it took,
all any of us would ever need is a little pep rally
now and again and we’d soar to the stars.
But after all the rah-rahs and the warm feelings
wear off, it’s ultimately about action.
When you strap into your jet, you have to push up the throttle
and then release the brakes to take off.

Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman
Never Fly Solo

You get on a plane. You get off a plane. You’ve adjusted to TSA screenings. You daydream as you get patted down. You log miles and collect points. You’re moving your personal body system over oceans, mountain ranges, and the occasional metropolis. But with all the aerial gymnastics, questions float in the air. Who’s flying your plane? Are you going anywhere significant? Are you desperately seeking Altitude?

We’ve grown up in a generation where something that was steeped in science fiction is now humdrum reality. We don’t raise an eyebrow or look up as the flight attendant’s rote safety announcements annoyingly interfere with our Kindle concentration (I know my seat can float. I know to blow into the little tube thingy). In our oblivion, we fail to appreciate the most startling of realities—we’re in a can being hurtled through space at four times the average Daytona 500 speed.

We fly by gaining support from the air, and we defy gravity by using static lift. We gain speed by increasing power (or thrust), which also determines Altitude. As we ascend, engines work more efficiently, we get where we are going faster, and we rise above the majority of turbulence.

So, why the physics lesson? Well, there’s a lot of similarity between Altitude and relationships. We all ride the skies of relationships. Relationships take us up and bring us down. There are rumbling takeoffs and scary nosedives as we hope for safe landings in life. Altitude is all about getting the answers to your wobbly relational questions. And you have questions. We all do. Altitude is the way you live your life. You either keep learning and growing (thrust) and safely get to your destinations, or you find your flight has been canceled. You’re grounded until conditions clear up. How long you’re grounded might just be up to you.

Altitude has a spiritual altimeter and compass. One indicates the level of connectedness with God; the other gives you the coordinates of where life is taking you. Together, those readings tell the stories of your flights. There are times when we look at our instrument panel and it seems like a bunch of dials we can’t make heads or tails of. If we’re honest, we have to admit that our spiritual lives are oftentimes the same way. Who God is and where life is taking us can feel like a mystery.

So, let’s take some flying lessons and explore the skies of your relationships. We all need to find out who is flying our plane. The future depends on it.

It pays to take spiritual flying lessons. You’ll be glad you did when it’s foggy or when you come in for a landing and there’s snow on the runway. Learn to fly right and you can even set ‘er down on a patch of dirt if necessary. Some of us old-timers know there are a lot of potholed airstrips in the flight plan of life. There are creaky wings and landing gear bumpedy bumps, too. Most of the time you need all the help God can give, as you pray for safe relationship landings. Let’s begin by looking at a man who thought he was an expert pilot but came up desperately seeking altitude. His name is Solomon. This is the story of his flight.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
   says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
   Everything is meaningless.”
What does man gain from all his labor
   at which he toils under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
   but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
   and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
   and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
   ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
   yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
   there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
   more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
   nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
   what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
   Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?

    (Ecclesiastes 1:2-10)

So, Solomon, a brilliant guy, says, Take a look around. Take a good look. Peel back the layers of life. Go ahead. There’s nothing there. Trust me, I’ve looked at it. I’ve thought about it. I’ve gone through this over and over again in my mind. I wish it wasn’t so, but life cannot pay off for you. It hasn’t paid off for me. Life wears me out.

“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)

 Then he gives the back story. He says in essence, Let me show you how I got here.

I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless.
“Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.
I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well—the delights of the heart of man. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;  nothing was gained under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 2:1-11)
Solomon is desperate for Altitude. He’s trying to gain it through pleasure. He’s got American Idol and The Voice going on. He’s got rodeos. He’s got his own bank he can walk into any time he needs cash. He doesn’t need a PIN. He signs and goes. He’s trying to fly high through achievement, through production and by doing more. Maybe if I create the highest buildings, the greatest structures, maybe I’ll find something inside that feels like meaning and hope. But it wasn’t there. Zip. Nada.
In 2008, 4,000 books were published on happiness, while a mere 50 books on the topic were released in 2000. 1  Do you think there’s a market out there for happiness? Do you think people are trying to figure this out? Thousands of years earlier, Solomon was writing his own book on happiness. You know what? It wasn’t happy. His life screams at him, Whatever you do, it will not pay off for you! And so, in futility, he responds at the level of a deep inner ache.

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.
(Ecclesiastes 2:17-19)
I have sweat equity he argues with no one in particular. Then I pass it on to someone else? How do they know what to do with what I’ve given them? How do I know I can really trust anyone? It looks like he’s going under. But in the midst of it all, he gets one glimmer of hope.

A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I can see is from the hand of God, for without him who can eat or find enjoyment? (Ecclesiastes 2:24)
A shot of wind beneath his wings! He gains some Altitude. As he’s trying to fill up something on the inside that’s insatiable, he thinks, Wait a minute! Maybe I’m onto something here. Maybe it’s about more than the latest stuff, the latest acquisitions, or the latest indulgences. Maybe it’s about squeezing the life God has given me, while enjoying God in the process! Planning great times with friends and family is one way to gain Altitude. Think weddings. Think ball games. Think concerts. Think celebrations.

Solomon comes up with two Summary Statements. Here’s the first.

I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

He’s essentially saying, Let me tell you something. I’ve looked at all this stuff. Life isn’t fair. You have expectations that may not be met. You have plans. They may go south. You have ideas about the way you want things to be, but it might not work that way for you. You can’t control anything. Stay flexible.
Here’s the second. He wraps up all the loose ends of his angst as he has now risen to an Altitude that allows him to see his entire life unobstructed from 30,000 feet.
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.  (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

What was Solomon desperate for? He was ultimately yearning for something to fill him up after he discovered he had the wrong set of expectations. He came face to face with the realization that stuff doesn’t cut it. He needed something that eluded his grasp of power. Something that transcended him. Something intangible to his desires. That’s when it hit him. The intangible was the tangible.
I think we all relate to his level of desperation. The frenzied global system is a hint. It’s not just happening to a wise, rich king. It’s happening to people all around the world who aren’t spiritually calibrated. Even an airplane’s most sophisticated instrumentation can become useless if it isn’t calibrated. Compasses and GPS units become ineffective if they are not tuned to True North.

On July 16, 1999, we tragically lost yet another member of the Kennedy family as John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s self-piloted aircraft crashed into the ocean. After many months of investigation, official word came from the National Transportation Safety Board: The cause of the crash was “spatial disorientation.” By definition, this is “the inability to correctly interpret aircraft altitude or airspeed in relation to the Earth or point of reference.” John lost his bearings and didn’t know where the horizon was. We agonize over misinterpreted points of reference. In the case of our moral and spiritual Altitude, the horizon—the point of reference—is God. When we incorrectly interpret our Altitude without Him as our reference point, we become spatially disoriented. Spiritual calibration is a prerequisite for your earthly flight.

Statistics tell us that pilot error is the cause of most crashes. There are three major flying errors most people make.

The first one is when we try to fly high for short-term gains. Short-term gains are always about What’s in this for me? What does this mean for me? What am I going to get? We need, instead, to understand how life is so much bigger than that. Finding ways to take care of people through long range planning and vision, over years and decades, is always the right move. God wants so much more from your life than you can imagine. Living for short term gains is like existing in a purgatory of middle school forever. I bet you know someone like that. Want to go back to being that cool?  I didn’t think so.
We also lose Altitude trying to fly the skies of impressing others. We marvel at our air show. Look how high I flew! Look what I accomplished. Look at all the stuff I command. I have a runway with my name on it. Achievement for the right reasons is good, but when it’s rooted in self-serving moves, it lacks moral integrity. Trust in the words of a much wiser king. He found a self-congratulatory victory dance masks aimless wandering—or deep thirst for the intangible tangible. 
Another error we make is we try to fly high in order to run away from something, someone, or even ourselves. We try to go higher and higher, hoping jet stream Altitude will give us distance from our pervasive problem. We can never run away from problems whether our thrust is forward or our lift vertical. We quirkily try to deny things we need to change and work on. Essentially we end up going nowhere. We fly by the seat of our jeans into nebulous skies. Running, gunning, and denying never gain Altitude for the demands of life.

Altitude Unpacked
• I believe you can have better relationships

• I believe you have blind spots in relationships

• I believe relationships that are stuck can get unstuck

• I believe there are some relationships that are never going to work and that wasn’t a choice you made, but it’s a choice you must accept at times

• I believe you need to learn more about how you sometimes set yourself up for difficulties in relationships

• I believe you’re responsible for your own relational maturity

• I believe you need God in all of your relationships

• I believe God must be the primary relationship of your life

I believe we can have better relationships. I believe relationships that are stuck can get unstuck. I believe there are some relationships that are never going to work. It wasn’t necessarily because of a choice we made, but it’s a choice we must accept at times. But I also believe we need to learn more about how we sometimes set ourselves up for difficulties in relationships. Sometimes we just keep doing the same thing over and over and we wonder why we’re at the same place. The truth is we set ourselves up for continuing problems. We see abundant examples of this in the news and, more often than not, we see it in our own lives. We are ultimately responsible for our own relational maturity and spiritual growth.

I recently attended an Ultimate Leadership workshop (, where I spent five days looking at issues of spiritual and relational maturity. I crunched time for this into my schedule, because it’s up to me to invest in becoming a better me.

Whether you’re the Wright brothers, Amelia Earhart, Chuck Yeager, John Glenn, Sally Ride, or Felix Baumgartner, to gain the kind of Altitude that satisfies your desperate longings for life and fills your heart with substance, you need a solid flight plan. Here are some Altitude thoughts to ponder.
First, you must decide who owns your plane. That’s what Solomon was trying to ascertain. Who owns your life? Who are you ultimately responsible to? Is it you, your parents, your boss, your friends, or God? Who owns your aircraft? You must also decide  you can’t fly by the seat of your pants anymore. You’ve been doing the same old things and expecting different results out of your relationships. Are they really going to get better and deeper on their own? You’ve got to get out of the holding pattern you’re in. And in order to do that, you must decide who owns your life?
Next, as unnatural as it may feel at first, you must also decide to fly a mission that will fail without God in it. Put yourself out there on the edge and say, God, right now I’m taking this flight, but I know without You I’m going down. You’ve got to go there. You’ve got to go there relationally for Him and with Him and see what He does. Your mission might be starting a new career, finding a non-profit to volunteer with, solving a complex problem at work, or finally going on that mission trip. You must fly a mission that will fail without God in it. What’s stirring inside you right now? That stirring is a clue to your unique mission. Your passion is your boarding pass.

After college my heart was stirred to help young men in the inner city. Fast-forward to a job as Director of Youth Guidance, working with first time juvenile court referrals, in Paterson, New Jersey. I walked the streets with young men helping them find spiritual Altitude to change their lives. I still remember the effervescent Bleeker brothers and a socially marginalized kid named Bo, who lived over a bar. I took them on retreats. I took them to experience Rahway State Prison. I invited a New York Giant running back to play football with us. We were creating the future as they found out who they were and where they were going. 
Finally, you must decide to teach someone else to fly. This is a requisite component of gaining spiritual Altitude—it’s a vital component of every relationship. One way to achieve this is to invite someone into the spiritual flight plan you have found. There’s another aspect to this, too. Once you have been flying for awhile and you’ve gained some Altitude, you have a deep responsibility to mentor a new “pilot” regarding trouble spots. Pilots routinely radio in bad weather and turbulence to the towers so they can warn other pilots. As we gain Altitude, we have that same obligation to those who are new to the flight plan.

Here’s an example of teaching others to fly from an F-16 fighter pilot.

“I embraced the phrase ‘Push it up!’ and carried it with me into my professional life. It has become a metaphor for taking fierce action for my personal mission and my team’s mission. I encourage you to use it, too, because those three short words symbolize everything it takes to step onto—the path to victory. It stands for maximum trust and maximum effort. It is the thrust that rockets you forward on the runway and into the air with confidence that you can fly, fight, and win.” 2

Not long ago, I went to a memorial service for a good friend of mine who passed away at 89. He changed my life when I didn’t even know it was changing. He was a leader, a father, a husband, and a grandfather. Regardless of how busy this naturally made him, every time I went to him with a problem, he made time for me. He let me sit there pouring out my inexperience and immaturity, and then he would say, “Michael, we’re going to look at this the way God would look at it. We’re going to remember ancient wisdom. Let me tell you this story from my life.” I didn’t realize it, but every time I went to him he just made time for me. He changed my life because he made time to teach me how to push it up.

During the eulogy at his memorial service, many talked about his character and ministry. He was the first Greek Orthodox chaplain in the United States Navy. He touched lives all over the world. But he gave me a special set of gifts. He gave me his transparency and vulnerability. He opened up to me about his failures. He gave me fierce flying lessons.
Pushing it up gives us lift and raises our Altitude. We must decide who owns our plane. We have to decide to fly a mission that will fail without Him. And we must teach others how to fly.

You never gain Altitude without power. The more Altitude you want, the more power you must harness. One crucial question remains. Where do you get power for your next move? We’ll look at that concept from various angles in the chapters ahead. Solomon uncovered the Power. It’s the first lesson of flight. And as I put together the words and thoughts that would eventually become this chapter, the Power showed up and wrote me a letter.
I believe it’s written for you too.

Dear Michael,
In the beginning, I created what you call Altitude. I created relationship because it is the only way I have ever known Myself. I am relationship. I live in relationship. I nurture relationship. I teach truth relationally. All truth is relational because truth is who I am. You think truth is a moral compass you follow, but truth is the power of life in raw form. Without that power you won’t gain relational Altitude.

The greatest power to create comes from relationship. The greatest power to destroy also comes from relationship. Therefore, connecting to Me is the only way you will survive. Without Me being in you and without you being driven by My Spirit, there’s nothing. There is no Altitude where there is no real power. There may be posing, posturing, impostering, and finally imploding, but climbing the skies of relationships takes power...lots of it.
I am the Power. So, my first flying lesson is to advise you that without Me you can’t even get off the ground to dust crops. All of your attempts at flight will end up with sputtering engines and tipsy takeoffs if you call out to Me with your lips but not your heart. It is with My heart in your heart that relationships find the air. In trusting the Spirit’s wings, your life soars.

Even when I allow you to be grounded for the sake of teaching you more about flying, it is My heart that is always ready to take you to new heights again. And as you will learn, those heights are not just for the spectacular view or to give you joy. They are so you can see how much this world is still hurting and how desperately it needs us to teach them fierce flying lessons, too. Yes, you read that correctly. I did say “us.” With Me it has always been about a relationship with you. I have longed to fly with you since before the world began. With My wings you will go where you currently have no strength to go. You’ll land on runways of confusion and suffering and we will bring the flight plan of love and grace to many. We will teach truth and people will learn to fly. One day I will bring you to a place where you will know flying in a way that’s impossible to describe to you now.
Remember this, to fly in this world is to first see relationships with My eyes and heart. That’s what My Son taught you when He talked about being born from above. He was giving you that first flying lesson. That was, always has been, and always will be, all the Altitude you need for your flight home.
Pushing it up...with you,


Air Traffic Control

1. How does the intangible become the tangible in your pursuit of Altitude?
(Review Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

2. When you look at the Altitude Unpacked list, which statement(s) connects to your heart right now?

3. Who owns your plane? Parents? Work? Financial stress? God? Which two are most in tension?

4. What’s stirring in your heart? Is there a mission you are planning to fly? Describe it to the group. What are the challenges? How do you need to see God show up?
5. Who are you teaching to fly? What does that relationship mean to you?

6. Who taught you to fly? What’s a lesson you’ll never forget?

Flying Higher

9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life, Dr. Henry Cloud (Thomas Nelson)

11 Indispensable Relationships You Can’t Be Without, Leonard Sweet (David C. Cook)

Talent is Never Enough, John Maxwell (Thomas Nelson)

Uprising: A Revolution of the Soul, Erwin McManus (Thomas Nelson)

Fully Alive: Lighten Up and Live A Journey that Will Change Your Life, Ken Davis (Thomas Nelson)

Divine Alignment: How GodWink Moments Guide Your Spiritual Journey, SQuire Rushnell (Howard Books)

It’s About Time!: 10 Smart Strategies to Avoid Time Traps and Invest Yourself Where It Matters, Carolyn Castleberry (Howard Books)

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way, Shauna Niequist (Zondervan)


Excerpted from Altitude by Michael Simone Copyright © 2013 by Michael Simone. Excerpted by permission.
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