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The following is a Bible Gateway exclusive Sneak Peek and First Listen of Nerves of Steel: How I Followed My Dreams, Earned My Wings and Landed the Plane (W Publishing, 2019) by Captain Tammie Jo Shults (@captainshults). Order the book and unabridged audiobook on CD in the Bible Gateway Store.

Captain Tammie Jo Shults

By Captain Tammie Jo Shults

I was raised by an upright, moral dad and a godly mom, who made sure we went to church as a family. My dad was pragmatic and thought the hours spent at church could have been spent more productively on the land. But Mom insisted church was important to our moral and social development, and Dad let her have that point. From our ranch in Tularosa, we drove weekly to the bigger town of Alamogordo to attend a Nazarene church.


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I loved church, not for lofty reasons but because it was fun. As teenagers, Dwight and I lobbied to attend Sunday evening services as well. That was when we actually had time to socialize—during choir practice, probably too much during the service, then during youth group afterward.

Young and energetic Pastor Hayse crafted sandboards for the teenagers so we could surf the dunes at White Sands National Monument in the summer. In winter, none of us could afford to go skiing, so he took us all inner-tubing up in the mountains. Weekly, throughout the year, all the teens of the church gathered at the city park in Alamogordo for brownies and lemonade. We played flag football and Frisbee, sang songs, and listened to short devotionals we took turns writing ourselves.

Later in life I never understood complaints that the church in general treated women as second-class citizens. That wasn’t the case in my church. Women served in prominent places of leadership. They were missionaries, evangelists, teachers, and Sunday school superintendents. One memorable female speaker at our church was refined and spoke eloquently about the need to live with purpose. Serving ourselves would never be fulfilling, she said. As a teen I doubted this, but with time as my tutor, I eventually learned she was right. She spoke of Jesus as I would have spoken of a dear friend. I didn’t understand everything she said, but I understood her ideas were based on more than feelings. When I mentally challenged them, they stood up logically on their own, and this appealed to me.

The summer before I started high school, Dwight and I attended church camp for the first time. Mom convinced Dad to let us off work for the entire week. We left the heat of the ranch behind us and headed to the campground in the mountains.

Each morning after breakfast we went to a chapel session with skits, songs, and an interesting speaker. After lunch we played field sports and competed in everything from scavenger hunts to a teenage version of red rover, in which both teams crossed the field simultaneously, trying not to get tackled. There were always a few kids who had to go see the nurse following that game. After dinner we sat around a campfire on rock-tiered seats in a three-quarter amphitheater. We performed skits, told funny stories, and heard encouraging messages that made us realize we were all walking a similar road. Then we sang praise songs without anything but crickets and the local whip-poor-wills to accompany us. Camp was an absolute oasis.

One day we finished chapel a little early. I needed some time and space to think, so I found a path away from the main camp. I sat on the hard-planked steps of a secluded cabin and looked at the sky. A soft breeze sifted the nearby pine trees, and the sun warmed my face.

I had been observant enough through my years of playing, working, and living outside that it was easy for me to see that Someone intelligent had designed the world—the change of seasons, the migration of birds and butterflies, the miracle of life itself. Accepting God as Creator had never been a problem for me, but on this morning at camp, I came to see him as more than that.

A Bible was open on my lap. At that time my choice in versions was essentially limited to the King James and the Living Bible, and, of course, as an adolescent, I preferred the reader-friendly one. I read in the book of James: “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it” (James 1:5 TLB).

I liked this idea of God giving wisdom generously to all, including me. I needed it! I thought I knew quite a bit about Him already, but in my young mind, God had always seemed stern. He was the Old Man in the sky, waiting for me to mess up. Surely his main concern was that I behaved. With this faulty image in mind, I was always working hard to come up to snuff, and I never seemed quite good enough. But right here in front of me, it said God wouldn’t resent my asking for help. That didn’t sound like a hard-to-please old man, but like someone who loved me.

Love changes our perspective.

Sitting on those steps, I felt like I had found a corner piece in life’s puzzle. Truth, when you hear it, resonates, and this resonated. It’s not about behaving. It’s about believing. This was great news! At the time, behaving was not my strong suit, but I could handle believing the truth. I wanted to know more.

I felt fortunate to know what real love looked like. I experienced it every day in my family. Not all of my friends had that advantage. I knew what it felt like to be supported and cherished. My parents expected me to behave, but their expectations were for my own benefit, not a condition of their love. They loved me, not my behavior. Perhaps when it came to God, behaving wasn’t foremost in His mind either. His one request was that I believe He loved me. This was a God I wanted to know.

That day, at age 12, I made the most important decision of my life. I chose to love God back by following Jesus, the Man who had walked this same earth, going countercultural to prove that race, gender, and age were not factors in God’s favor. He had championed those who lived in the shadows, including women. He had spoken to them and become friends with them. He had pulled them out of the shadows, highlighting their courage and hallmarking their faith. This was Someone I could trust.

Since that time, I have never faced anything without a champion. What I found wasn’t a religion; it was a relationship, and it was personal.

When Dwight and I came home from camp, we compared notes. He had made the same decision I had, to believe that Jesus was who He said He was. Mom and Dad noticed that we didn’t argue hourly, and when we did disagree, we settled it verbally. We were kinder, more patient with each other. Decisions have consequences, and this decision brought peace to our family life as Dwight and I experienced a sibling cease-fire.

The above is a Bible Gateway exclusive Sneak Peek and First Listen of Nerves of Steel: How I Followed My Dreams, Earned My Wings and Landed the Plane (Thomas Nelson, 2019) by Captain Tammie Jo Shults (@captainshults). Order the book and unabridged audiobook on CD in the Bible Gateway Store.


Nerves of Steel is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.


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Sneak Peek: How the Bible Prepared This Airline Pilot to Have Nerves of Steel

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