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Archive for May, 2010

If Jesus is truly going to be Lord of my life, I may have to change the way I’m doing things.

 

Pastor Bill

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I let out a big groan and grunt, as in the space of only a few seconds, my speed slowed from 120 miles per hour to about 3 miles per hour. The parachute came out of its pack and blossomed above me with a loud crack as the 32 foot diameter canopy of nylon filled with air over my head. I took a quick look up at the parachute to make sure it had opened correctly and there were no rips or tears in it as could sometimes happen. I looked around and spotted my two jump partners, one was out in front of me and a little lower and the other fellow was behind me and just a bit higher than I was. All three of us were headed towards the ridge top below us and that is where I looked as I began searching for the spot on the ridge top we had been directed to try and land in.

Say, now! It had really gotten dark. I had never jumped this late in the day where it was so difficult trying to pick out objects on the ground like this. I could see several of the smokejumpers already on the ground that had jumped earlier and some of them already had their headlamps on to help them see. And because we were dropping into an area the fire had already burned the ground was black. That made it even more difficult to discern where the ground was.

I pulled on one of the steering lines to adjust my direction so that I was headed for a spot that looked fairly open at a location near the top of the ridge. No one else seemed to have selected that spot to land in and the other two guys I had jumped with were far enough away from me that they were apparently trying for other locations to land in. I looked up a moment and could see that the fire was still active and seemed to be burning at a good rate of speed—but it was not any danger to us since we were landing in a burned area. My eyes went back to the ground and I realized I needed to make more adjustments so that I could steer myself into the landing spot I had selected.

As with every parachute jump I made I was aware of how quiet it abruptly becomes. Standing in the open door of the plane with the loud noise of the engines and the wind surrounding you one moment, and then suddenly be drifting quietly towards the ground beneath your parachute, always impressed me. Usually the only sound you heard was the fading sound of the plane as it flew away from you and then you would hear the sound of the nylon parachute flapping over your head. It was no different on this evening.

Boy, it was really hard to see things on the ground. I was concentrating on the landing spot as I continued to drop quietly through the evening sky. I was getting closer to the ground it wouldn’t be long now. Suddenly movement caught my and just below my feet appeared the canopy of another parachute. One of my partners was crossing beneath me and as I watched he went beneath me so close the heels of my boots dragged through a portion of his canopy. Hey! I had never had that happen before. I lifted my legs up as he continued past and then something else happened that was brand new to me. As my “friend” went beneath me I suddenly sensed I was starting to drop faster than I had been. It was almost as if my jump partner had “stolen” some of the air supporting my parachute. As I dropped past him I realized, too late, that I was about to strike the ground—and a split second later I did—hard!

I had not realized I was that close to the ground and had not prepared myself to make a typical landing where you hit the ground and roll in a prescribed manner which lessens the chance that you will be injured in any way. As my mother would have said, I “hit like a sack of spuds!” I don’t doubt that some of the other jumpers who were already on the ground heard the grunt and the following groans as my parachute collapsed on the ground next to me and I tried to get my bearings about me. Surprise, Bill. You’re on the ground in the Toiyabe National Forest of Nevada!

We speak of it often—how life is full of surprises. Some we enjoy; others we would just as soon do without. In the Old Testament, in Proverbs 3:21-26, as it is written in The Message, we are provided with some powerful words: Dear friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life; don’t for a minute lose sight of them.

They’ll keep your soul alive and well, they’ll keep you fit and attractive. You’ll travel safely, you’ll neither tire nor trip. You’ll take afternoon naps without a worry, you’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep. No need to panic over alarms or surprises, or predictions that doomsday’s just around the corner, Because God will be right there with you; he’ll keep you safe and sound.

Don’t you appreciate those words from our Lord, especially there at the end where we are told “God will be right there with you; he’ll keep you safe and sound.”

Prayer: Father, thank You for walking through this life with us. Thank You for the promise to keep us “safe and sound.” Yes! Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

 

Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group."

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Heaven and Hell are alike in one way—they last for eternity! The only thing that will keep you out of Hell is the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus is willing to do that.

Pastor Bill

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A few moments later the spotter slapped the leg of the smokejumper standing in the open doorway and yelled “Go!” The man immediately stepped out into the sky in front of him, followed closely by the two jumpers who had been standing behind him. As the spotters pulled in the static lines that had opened the parachutes of the men as they dropped away from the airplane, the three of us who remained began to shuffle towards the door. We would be next.

One of the spotters turned, held up three fingers, and motioned us to move up and hook up, meaning we were to hook our static lines to the cable attached to the plane. I was going to be the number two man out the door, having one jumper ahead of me and one behind me. The fellow in front of me moved to the edge of the doorway and put his hands on each side of the opening, moving his left foot out so that the toe of his boot actually stuck outside the plane by several inches. I moved up close behind him placing my right hand flat against the back of the first man’s parachute. When he went, I was going to go right behind him. The man behind me had placed his right hand on the back of my parachute.

The check spotter was looking each of us over carefully to see that all our buckles and straps were fastened securely and correctly and that each man’s static line was hooked up to the cable in the plane. We were ready to go.

The plane completed its circle and the pilot leveled the wings as he pointed the nose of the plane towards the ridge top and the spot we were going to do our best to land in. The spotter to my left, kneeling on the floor with his goggles and headphones on, had his head part way out the door so that he could clearly see the approaching ridge top. He was speaking to the pilot occasionally, telling him to make small turns to the right or left so the plane would be lined up perfectly as we went over the drop spot.

I heard and felt the pilot reduce the power to the engines and the plane slowed up somewhat, signaling to us that we were just about over the jump spot. By now I had my helmet actually touching the parachute of the man in front of me. I could see the spotter with his face near the floor, begin to rise up and I knew we were only seconds away from going out the door. By now my heart was thumping away and the adrenalin was flowing like mad. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the spotter pull back from the door, remove his hand from the toe of the first jumpers boot, and almost instantaneously heard him yell “Go!”

The man in front of me gave a lurch forward and as he did I followed him. Suddenly my jump partner was gone, falling away towards the earth below. A split second later the wind blasted me as I lunged through the door and jumped as far as I could away from the plane, letting out a loud “Yahooooooo!” as I began do drop towards the ground and the Toiyabe National Forest, far below.

Though it has been a good many years since I have stepped out the door of a plane, a thousand feet above the ground and traveling 120 miles per hour, I don’t remember that I ever looked at it as a “boring” experience. There was a sense of excitement that accompanied each jump I made. I was thinking about the word “excitement” as I wrote these words today. Excitement is spoken of in the Bible. In the paraphrase The Message, we find the following verses from the Book of Ecclesiastes, in verses 8-11: Everything’s boring, utterly boring—no one can find any meaning in it. Boring to the eye, boring to the ear. What was will be again, what happened will happen again. There’s nothing new on this earth. Year after year it’s the same old thing. Does someone call out, “Hey, this is new”? Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story. Nobody remembers what happened yesterday. And the things that will happen tomorrow? Nobody’ll remember them either. Don’t count on being remembered.

Sometimes it almost seems as if the writer of Ecclesiastes may have had an attitude problem. Wow, was he ever a negative person, or what? “Don’t get excited—it’s the same old story.”

Kind of sad, isn’t it? There is nothing quite as exciting as living the Christian life and knowing when you awaken each day that your life is in the hands of God—the Creator of this earth. Living with Jesus in your heart is something to be excited about. Sure!

Prayer: Father, thank You for the plans that You have prepared for each one who has chosen to follow your way and invited You to take charge of their lives. Thank You, Lord that we can live our lives with a very real sense of anticipation and excitement for all that You have planned and awaiting us. Yes! Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

 

 

Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group."

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As a Christian you are not on a series of 100-yard dashes through this life; you are running a marathon.

Pastor Bill

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Two more smokejumpers stood at the door as the plane leveled out and began approaching the jump spot once more. When these two fellows were gone there would be only six of us left. A sense of urgency was settling over us like a dark cloud. With each circle the old DC-3 made it became more difficult to make out the terrain below us as darkness continued to settle over the rugged landscape.

As I watched the men standing in the doorway of the plane I saw the spotter kneeling on the floor began to rise up slightly. Suddenly he removed his hand from the toe of the jumper standing in the door and yelled “Go!” as he slapped him on the back of his leg. The two jumpers were out the door and floating towards the ground seconds later.

The two spotters pulled in the static lines, which were ten to twelve feet long, that had pulled the parachutes out of the packs the jumpers were wearing and, instead of motioning the next two men to come to the door, they huddled together in conversation for a few moments. As we watched we wondered what was taking place. The two men were yelling at each other so they could hear over the roar of the wind and engine noise through the open door. This was not the quietest place around, let me tell you! I saw one of the spotters nod to the other and he turned around and looked at the six of us standing, awaiting our turn, and held up three fingers, rather than two.

Hey! All right! We were going to be doing 3-man sticks. That meant three of us would go out the door each time. It could make it difficult for all three of us to get into the same open area on the ridge top we might be trying to land in. But complete darkness was just too close. The spotters had decided that, to insure all of us could jump, we needed to have 3-man sticks twice, rather than 2-man sticks, three times. The spotters were mindful of the fact that darkness was close upon us and their job was not completed when the last man went out the door. They still had to make eight circuits over the jump spot to drop the fire packs that belonged to each smokejumper. Two packs would be dropped each time beneath a small 24-foot diameter cargo parachute. Each of the packs contained a smokejumper’s shovel, Pulaski, sleeping bag, a three-day supply of food and water, and other assorted items he would use while he was fighting the fire.

The three men who would be in the first 3-man stick moved up next to the door and the spotters began to check to see that they were suited up properly, all their gear was attached as it should be, and then they each hooked their static line to the cable attached to the plane. They were ready to go. At the same time my heart was beginning to beat just a bit faster. Only one more circle and I would be going out the door. I was ready!

There are many occasions in life when we are filled with a sense of anticipation about something that we know, or expect, await us in the future. We look forward to the good times or maybe the occasions when we get to be with close friends.

The Apostle Paul, who penned much of the New Testament, was not unfamiliar with a sense of excitement about his future. Look at the way Paul’s words are expressed in Romans 8:17-19, in the paraphrase of the Bible, The Message:

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What’s next, Papa?" God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

Can you tell that Paul was excited about all that awaited him when he left this world? Sure! I like those words “joyful anticipation” that Paul used. That carries a tremendous message in just those two words regarding the expectations of each and every Christian. Aren’t you thankful for that?

Prayer: Father, thank You for the plans that You have prepared for each one who has chosen to follow your way and invited You to take charge of their lives. Thank You Lord, that we can live our lives with a very real sense of anticipation and excitement for all that You have planned and awaiting us. Yes! Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

 

 

Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group."

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The two spotters both looked out the open door of the plane to see that the parachutes of both smokejumpers had opened properly. They quickly saw that both men were suspended below fully opened “chutes” and were drifting towards the ground approximately 1000 feet below them. One of the spotters quickly began to pull in the static lines which had been attached to the parachutes the men wore. In moments the lines and the empty bag at the end of each one in which the parachutes had been stowed were pulled into the plane and tossed towards the back, out of the way.

The main spotter, who was kneeling on the floor by the door, looked up and signaled for two more men to move to the doorway as the plane continued its wide circle to get lined up for another drop. Suddenly I realized that something was different this time around. Hey! The sun had gone down, dropping beneath the horizon to the west of us. I bent down to look out a window and realized that dark shadows were already beginning to take over the rugged landscape below us. We best hurry and get everyone out of this old bucket of bolts or it was going to be dark!

The plane leveled out once again and the pilot reduced the power slightly and moments later the spotter yelled “Go!” as he slapped the back of the leg on the jumper standing in the doorway. The man standing in the door heard the yell and felt the slap and reacted instantly by leaping outward away from the plane, the second jumper following immediately behind him. Now there were twelve of us left as the pilot added power and began to turn in that large, wide circle once more.

Over the space of the following minutes the plane made one large circle after another, dropping two men each time. It was obvious to those of us who could catch occasional glimpses out a window, or through the door, that it was a good time of day to be jumping. There was hardly any wind from what we could tell by watching the jumpers drift towards the ground. That was nice and typical for this time of day when the sun had just gone down. Most of the fellows were landing near the ridge top as planned. But the one thing causing concern was the decreasing amount of light each time two men leaped out the door. It was not going to be long before complete darkness settled in over these rough and rugged mountains.

Since I was number 15 to jump, I would be in the last two-man stick to go out the door. I was beginning to wonder if there would be enough light to allow us to jump. We needed to be able to see where we were going after our parachutes opened so we could try and steer them into an open area between the trees and rocks and then attempt to make a safe landing. Since we were going to be landing in an area the fire had already burned the ground was blackened and that made it even more difficult to see well. Hey! I was beginning to get just a little impatient. I was wondering if there wasn’t some way we could speed things up just a bit.

I think about patience frequently, it seems. Maybe that is because I often seem to have so much to do and so little time to do it in. From what I can tell as I watch the people around me, there are many folks that struggle with the same problem I do. And then I am reminded of some marvelous words from Psalm 40:1: I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.

Wow! When I read words from the Bible like these I sense the Lord telling me to slow down, hit the “pause button” in my life and simply wait for Him, knowing that He is aware of what I am going through and He hears me when I speak to Him. And with that charge to “wait patiently” comes a promise in the verses that follow: He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet o a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God (Psalm 40:2-3).

Prayer: Father, when I find myself becoming impatient with people and with the way things may be going in my life, would you remind me of these words in Psalms and cause me to take hold of them and claim them for my own. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

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