Archive for May, 2010

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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Nothing touches me that has not already passed through the hands of the Heavenly Father.

Pastor Bill

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The old Forest Service DC-3 completed its long and wide turn and began to level out. Two smokejumpers were standing in front of the door now, and had hooked up the static lines to the cable in the plane which would pull their parachutes out of the packs after the men had leaped out of the door and were falling away from the aircraft. Several moments after the plane had straightened out the spotter who was crouched on the floor on the left side of the open doorway could be seen speaking into his microphone. He was giving instructions to the pilot to turn slightly left or right so the plane would fly directly over the location on the high ridge top below where it was hoped the jumpers would be able to land after leaving the plane.

As the two smokejumpers watched the spotter crouched on the floor he suddenly motioned for the two smokejumpers to move up to the door. The number one man, who was closest to the door, moved forward and took hold of the edge of the door on each side of him, sticking his helmeted head partway out and into the blast of the wind whipping past at 120 miles per hour. At the same time he stuck his left foot several inches out beyond the edge of the door and the spotter on the floor placed his right hand firmly over the toe of the jumper’s heavy boot.

As the first man moved forward his partner had moved up directly behind him, only inches away, ready to follow him out the door the instant the command to go was given. The second spotter was standing on the right side of the door and he checked the two men over one last time to make sure all of their buckles, snaps and zippers were fastened securely. It appeared both men were ready to go.

The rest of us in the plane, fourteen young men all dressed and ready to take our turn at the door, had our eyes fixed on what was taking place at the open doorway of the plane. We knew the critical point was only moments away. We heard the pilot reduce the power to the engines somewhat and the spotter crouched on the floor, his hand on the first jumpers boot, began to move to the side just a bit and we could tell that, rather than looking ahead, he was now looking down. Suddenly he pulled away from the door, moved his hand off the toe of the first jumper’s boot, and slapped him hard on the calf of his left leg. At the same instant he yelled loudly, “Go!”

In less time than it takes to write this sentence the two men leaped out the doorway and into the sky over the rugged mountains far below.

My adult children have shared with me that, when they were young, they were frequently faced with a situation that was very frustrating for them. It involved occasions when they would come to their dad and ask his permission to take part in some major event in their lives. It was not unusual for them to hear me say, “Let me sleep on it,” or “I’ll think about it.”

In other words, I wanted to give the matter some thought and I would probably be talking it over with their mother and I would give them my decision the following day, or at least later on in that particular day.

Now, I must tell you that standing in the door of a plane and hearing the spotter yell “Go!” is not one of those occasions when you should respond by saying, “Let me think about it!” But there certainly are places in the Bible where people are encouraged or told that they need to “think about” various things. One of those places we find in the Old Testament in the Book of Proverbs, chapter four. Verses 20-22 read this way in the Contemporary English Version: “My child, listen carefully to everything I say. Don’t forget a single word, but think about it all. Knowing these teachings will mean true life and good health for you.”

Prayer: Father, would You cause me to be careful to choose occasions to think about You and your Word. Help me to take time to read it and think about the messages You regularly have for me within those hallowed pages. And then give me understanding concerning what I read. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Pastor Bill



Contemporary English Version (CEV), Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society.

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Confusion never comes from God; it comes from the Devil.

Pastor Bill

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Greetings Readers,

We have received the first copies of a devotional book I just completed and you should be able to see a preview of it on this page, or you can view it by clicking on the link below. The first Shelter Tree was put together as a church fund raising project back in the 90’s. This Revised Version includes the stories from that first devotional booklet, after much editing, as well as new stories that have been included.

Blessings to each of you.

Pastor Bill

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Suddenly there was a change in the roar of the engines of the old airplane as the pilot began to slow down a bit. The spotter who had been in the cockpit earlier, but had returned to assist in checking that all the smokejumpers had their gear and parachutes on properly, now returned to speak with the flight crew. The sixteen jumpers stood in the center of the plane, making one long line from front to back, frequently checking themselves and each other again and again to make absolutely certain that all their equipment was properly hooked up.

All of a sudden the plane began to bank steeply to the left as the pilot began to make a turn. Some of the fellows stepped over to a spot where they could look out a window on that side of the plane and within moments there were whistles and comments about the size of the wildfire burning below us. We began to take turns looking out the windows on that side so that we could get an idea of what kind of terrain we were going to be jumping towards in the next few minutes.

As the pilot continued to fly a long and lazy circle around the fire we began to get a better picture of what we had in store for us. We could see that the fire had been burning on the side of a steep and very rugged mountain range. It had blackened several thousand acres all ready, leaving behind dark ash and the smoldering remains of trees from far down in the bottom of a crooked and rocky canyon and stretching to the top of a high ridge, many miles away. As the fire continued to burn we could see that it was moving to the north, on a front stretching for several miles.

The plane’s engines changed their tone as the pilot began to increase his speed and we felt the plane level out. The spotter who had been speaking with the flight crew came back into the cabin and shouted to us that they had decided it was best to drop the sixteen of us on the high ridge top and in a location the fire had already burned. They had located a spot where the trees, most of them having had all their needles burned from them, were not too thick and the spotter felt most of us should be able to find a spot on the ground where we could land without getting hung up in a tree. At the speed the fire was presently moving the spotters did not feel it was safe to put us directly in the path of the moving fire. We would jump on this high ridge top and then attack the fire downhill and on its flank.

The noise in the plane suddenly increased as one of the two spotters released the handles that secured the passenger door and removed it to set it aside near the back of the cabin. The two spotters then stood in the open door, looking over the jump spot that had been selected. One of the spotters had put on a set of earphones and was now able to speak with the flight crew. We felt the plane complete a steep turn to the left and as it straightened and leveled out the spotter wearing the earphones got down on his knees and put his head part way out the door so that he could keep his eyes on the spot as we approached. In his hands he held two bright orange “streamers” that were used to find out how much wind there might be for the smokejumpers to contend with.

The streamers were made of a piece of vinyl that was about 12 inches wide and 15 feet long. At one end were pieces of lead wire to give it the necessary weight. The pilot would fly the plane directly over the intended jump spot with the spotter giving him directions to turn left or right, as the plane approached the spot, so that when the moment came when the plane was directly over the selected landing spot, and the spotter was looking straight down at it, he would throw the two streamers out the door. He would immediately tell the pilots, “Streamers away!” and the pilot would immediately begin to turn the plan in a shallow turn to the left so that the spotters could keep the streamers in view as they drifted slowly towards the ground a thousand feet below. Knowing the point on the ground the spotter had been looking at the moment he threw the streamers out, and observing how far and what direction from that spot they landed, would give everyone a good indication of the direction of the wind and how strong it might be blowing.

We had made nearly a complete circle over the jump spot as the spotters continued to watch the drift of the streamers. One of the spotters raised his head up, looked at us, and gave a smile and a “thumbs up” to indicate that the wind conditions looked good. We were going to be going out the door in the next few minutes.

The other spotter was still looking out the door and down at the ground as he discussed something with the pilot. Suddenly he stood up and yelled, “Okay. Let’s go! Two-man sticks.”

In other words, he was telling us everything looked good for a jump and we would be going out the door two men at a time—two-man sticks, in other words.

All sixteen of us began to check our straps and check each other once again. We all had the strong yellow static line hanging over our left shoulder with its heavy attachment on the end that we would hook to a strong cable next to the door of the plane when it was our turn to jump. As the spotter with the earphones continued to crouch or kneel at the door, the second spotter signaled for the first two men to move up to the open door of the plane and “hook up!” It was time to go! Excitement was building and our adrenalin was beginning to do its thing by now, let me tell you! And wouldn’t you know it…….I was number fifteen in the line. I would be the next to last man to go out the door. Oh, well. I just better keep a lid on the excitement I was feeling.

There are several occasions in the Bible where we find accounts of people who were excited for one reason or another. One of those places is in the New Testament, in the Book of Mark. In chapter 7 we find an account where some folks brought a man to Jesus who could not hear or speak. They asked Jesus to heal him. We are told that Jesus took the man away from the crowd and, in the space of but a few moments, restored his hearing and his speech. When Jesus brought the fellow back to the crowd they could hardly believe what they were witnessing. In the paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, verses 31- 37 read this way: Then he left the region of Tyre, went through Sidon back to Galilee Lake and over to the district of the Ten Towns. Some people brought a man who could neither hear nor speak and asked Jesus to lay a healing hand on him. He took the man off by himself, put his fingers in the man’s ears and some spit on the man’s tongue. Then Jesus looked up in prayer, groaned mightily, and commanded, “Ephphatha!—Open up!” And it happened. The man’s hearing was clear and his speech plain—just like that.

Jesus urged them to keep it quiet, but they talked it up all the more, beside themselves with excitement. “He’s done it all and done it well. He gives hearing to the deaf, speech to the speechless.”

Did you notice those words, “beside themselves with excitement”?

Hey! That crowd was pumped up, let me tell you. They had witnessed something they would never, ever forget. Jesus had brought miraculous healing to a fellow they were acquainted with who could neither speak nor hear. Now that man’s life was changed forever—because he had experienced the hand of Jesus in his life!

When folks invite Jesus into their hearts their lives are changed forever. They are never, ever the same again—and what Jesus does for them, and in them, is something to be excited about!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for your willingness to come into the heart and life of everyone who invites You. Thank You for the changes and the transformation that occurs when people come to know you as their Savior. 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 Devil would have us think that if we commit all to Jesus; it is going to cost us everything. God does not work that way.

Pastor Bill

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