February 27, 2015
'Mornin' Folks! Had a good week so far? Great! I'm continuing on reprising a few stories that go back ten years or more when I first began publishing these Coffee Break. I'm going to return to a rather casual, kinda-round-the-table, relaxed way of writing (conversational style, OK?) for this -- and next week's -- Coffee Break. This week's Coffee Break deals with a few hair raising adventures.
You all know what a point of no return is, don’t you? Where you’ve committed yourself to some course of action or direction, and suddenly something happens – maybe some event that means life or death – and you have no choice but to proceed forward on your committed course?
Boy, do I have some stories and some crazy experiences on that subject! Let’s see where this discussion takes us today. Got your coffee poured, yet? Hurry up!
Traveling to Kotzebue, Alaska one day from Fairbanks (this was a bunch of years ago) in one of those Fairchild F-27’s – you “old folks” remember them, the upper-wing planes with a pair of turboprop engines – we lost an engine. In case you don’t know the geography, Kotzebue is roughly 450 miles west-northwest of Fairbanks out on one of the western tips of Alaska in the Bering Sea. Funny thing, though. We were 235 – 240 miles into our flight. That’s just over halfway.
Take a look at a map, will you. Except for some native communities, fishing villages and the like, there’s a whole lot of nothing in that stretch! Nothing, meaning no landing strips or airports big enough to accommodate an F-27 – especially one flown by Wien Alaska Airlines. You had to have lived there and flown Wien to appreciate that comment. When Noel Wien started his airline back at the end of the biplane era, he flew freight and used whatever space he had left for passengers.
Things never changed for as many years as that airline existed in Alaska. Even when the first 737’s came out, Wien would put a cargo buffer about midway through the aircraft. It was movable, and – depending on the amount of cargo or freight being carried – the plane would carry anywhere from 20 – 60 passengers. The freight often matched the entire load capacity, and passengers made our weight exceed the aircraft’s rating. I think the only plane in Wien’s history that never had a problem with the freight – passenger thing was the DC-3 – the WWII Gooney Bird. That plane just never seemed to have a weight problem. ‘Course it flew like a Mack Truck, too! Took forever to get it moving, but once it was, look out!
Anyway, I digress. We’d just passed the flight’s point of no return on the way to Kotzebue when we lost an engine. This F-27 flight wasn’t any different from any other Wien flight: it was way overloaded.
So what do you think happens when you are flying an overloaded plane and you lose one of your two engines? Hmmmm……. Anybody? Yup. You got it! The plane starts to come down. You lose altitude.
And we started dropping. Normally configured, the F-27 probably held 45 – 50 passengers. With the freight and cargo taking up most of the cabin, we had perhaps a dozen folks on that flight.
I looked out the window and saw the engine sputtering, blowing smoke and all that, and finally the prop stopped. The pilot came over the intercom to advise us that we had lost an engine (Duhhhh. I wonder if anybody noticed!) and that there were no other airports in range. We were committed to Kotzebue.
This was one of those times when you’d better be prayed up! The pilot was fighting to keep the plane aloft long enough for us to reach Kotzebue, knowing that it was really going to be close. I saw some folks that day who probably hadn’t talked to the Lord in years – if ever! They were going through their gyrations and gymnastics, making the sign of the cross, lips moving, faces etched with the fear of death – you know the program!
I sat back in my seat not meaning to laugh or chuckle at what I was seeing, but having perfect peace in my whole being. “Lord, from what you’ve told me throughout the years, I know my time hasn’t come, so if you have to send a couple of angels to hold up the wings and keep us aloft until we reach Kotzebue, then do it – in Jesus’ name.”
It was almost eerie. But it was a peaceful experience knowing that my life – our lives – were totally in the Lord’s care, and that there wasn’t one blessed thing anyone of us could do about the situation.
You see, I had passed the point of no return many years before. I’d committed myself to obeying and following the Lord Jesus Christ , no matter what He asked – regardless of the consequences. There was no turning back. That’s the greatest point of no return any person can pass in their life. Once you’ve passed that point, you’re committed. Whatever comes – whether for life or death – there is no changing things! You can’t alter the circumstances. And it doesn't matter! You simply follow the Lord wherever He leads.
Watching us drop closer and closer to the ground, I knew my fellow-passengers were near panic. I just smiled at them and said, “It’s OK. The Lord has it all under control. We’ll make it to Kotzebue just fine!” I don’t know how much difference those words made to anyone, but they seemed to take some assurance in my confidence.
50 miles out from Kotzebue, we were less than 500 feet above the ground. Good thing the terrain was so flat! The pilot radioed ahead, of course, and the airport folks had Kotzebue’s one ambulance and one fire truck waiting for our arrival. We lined up for the runway with maybe 250 – 300 feet of altitude. The pilot landed the plane smooth as silk on that one engine. No bumping. No skidding. No sideways jerking. ‘Course, there wasn’t a bad pilot in that entire airline. Those Wien Alaska Airline pilots were the best anywhere in the world. We came in as though everything was fine. It was, too. The Lord sent His angels to carry the plane to its destination.
Then there was that experience when I was traveling to Jackson Hole, Wyoming from our office in Salt Lake City. It was the winter of 1969, as I recall. I was the President of Intermountain Electronics Corporation. The company VP, Bill, was riding with me in our GMC van. We‘d were headed to Jackson to sign a contract to maintain some electronic equipment for a school.
In those days, U.S. Highway 89 was no freeway. Still isn’t, for the most part! The road had about six to eight inches of fresh snow, and there was one set of tracks where a number of vehicles had been. It had warmed up just enough to form a crust, making it all but impossible to get out of the rut in an emergency.
You could see a couple of places where trucks had pulled off to allow other vehicles to pass, but they were few and far between. Mostly, it was just one set of tracks – ruts – right down the center of the highway.
We were somewhere halfway between Logan and Garden City, Utah (according to my recollection) when we saw a bridge. The bridge was elevated over the creek, of course, and the road inclined upward to the bridge. It blocked our view so that you couldn’t see anything coming down the road. We hadn’t seen any traffic for quite awhile, and consequently were feeling OK about driving 45 – 50 miles per hour, the ruts notwithstanding.
The van was handling just fine – no rocking from side to side, none of the kinds of problems you would encounter if the ruts were really narrow. There was just one problem. It was starting to warm up, and there was a glaze on the pavement. You might call it black ice except for the fact that you really couldn’t see the pavement.
As we start up the rise to the bridge, we can suddenly see another car coming at us, maybe 500 feet away. No problem if you’re not doing 50 and not in ruts. Hitting the brakes and trying to get out of the ruts was a joke! We just kept right on going as though the van was programmed to drive in a straight line.
Know what? We’d passed the point of no return. Our speed, coupled with the ruts and the slight glaze on the roadway meant we were committed to at least a quarter-mile or better in front of us before we could stop.
The guy coming at us was doing exactly what we were doing. He hadn’t seen any traffic, probably since he left Garden City, and he was cruising along like he had good sense. He was way past his point of no return.
Got the picture? Two vehicles pointed directly at each other, both going somewhere close to 50 miles per hour, 500 feet or so apart, and the stopping zone about 250 feet the other side of the approaching car. Man, have you ever passed the point of no return!
Even with instantaneous reflexes, there’s no time to do anything. The wheel doesn’t respond when you try to get out of the rut. Hitting the brakes is almost like hitting the accelerator.
As we approached each other, I could see the terror in the eyes of the fellow who was driving the oncoming car. It all happened so fast there was hardly time to blink. My business partner, Bill, the company VP, was a Mormon who wasn’t used to miracles, and sure wasn’t used to shouting, “Jesus!” in an emergency. (No offense meant to any of you readers who are Mormons. That was just where Bill was.)
I did what I’d been trained to do by my mother in an emergency. We’d had plenty of practice living in the arctic, and I’d had plenty of practice in traveling with my mother and my brother as we raised money to build churches. We had experienced some very close calls on the highways and even had an event in which the front end of the car Mom was driving came apart, and resulted in the car flipping over some three times or more.
The word exploded from my lips. It wasn’t a curse word. It was one of those split-second prayers when you don’t have time for, “Dear Heavenly Father, I'm coming to you in my hour of need. I’m in trouble and I need your help and intervention right now! Get us out of this mess in Jesus’ Name, Amen.” By the time you pray all those words, it’s all over with. You better KNOW the Lord in those circumstances. Formal prayers don't cut it! Come to think of it, formal prayers have no business in the life of believers who have a genuine, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Like I said, we’d long passed the point of no return. So had I in my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
I was almost standing on the brakes. “JESUS!”
The van came to a stop. So did the approaching car. Except for one thing. We were 250 – 300 feet apart – THE OTHER SIDE OF EACH OTHER!
It happened in an instant. We literally passed through each other like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. This was no science fiction! Just like Jesus passed through walls and doors by dematerializing and then rematerializing, we passed through each other. In actual fact, we had shifted dimensions. We had transitioned instantly into a parallel dimension provided by Holy Spirit.
You see, this sort of thing was very natural for Jesus! He was naturally supernatural. Know what? If we are in Christ, and He is in us, so are we. We should come to expect this kind of thing as natural! Supernaturally natural!
Bill looked at me. He was white as a sheet. “What just happened?” he asked. I was so stunned myself at what had just transpired that I only had a one word answer, “Jesus.” Guess I shouldn't have been so surprised, but I have to admit; it was the first time in my life I'd experienced this kind of thing. It turned out not to be the last time, either! Guess that experience will have to wait for another time.
We got out of the van and looked back. The driver of the other car was standing outside his car looking at us and scratching his head and wiping his brow. I'll never forget the look of horror on his face as we meshed into and through his car. It was one of those split second things you see that leaves an indelible impression. Standing outside his car in the snow, he didn’t really know what had just happened, and he was wondering if he was still alive or if this was some kind of strange dream.
It wasn’t. It was real. OK -- for Bill and for the other driver, it was surreal! (smile) We got back in the van and headed down the road. It gave me a fabulous chance to talk to Bill about the Lord Jesus Christ in a way he’d never heard. He was listening, too!
We’d passed the point of no return in a life and death situation and returned to talk about it. Kinda like the Apollo 13 astronauts. Remember them?
Apollo 13….well, I don’t have time to go there today, but most of you know that story anyway. The astronauts had a major disaster with their spacecraft – after they were committed to a trip to the moon at several times the velocity of a speeding bullet. The accident happened when they were past the point of no return. And they made it back, miraculously, by the grace of God.
And that’s another story. Maybe we’ll get to talk about that another time. I’ve got some more of those point-of-no-return stories that happened in Utah, but they’ll wait, too.
Anyway, have a spectacular day! Ohh…..and if you haven’t passed the point of no return with Jesus, better take care of it – NOW!! Don’t let any daisies grow under your feet. It just might be too late!
I remind those of you in need of healing of our Healing Prayer Call on Mondays at 7:00 PM Eastern. Once again, the number to call for prayer is (805) 399-1000. Then enter the access code: 124763#.
Also want to let you know that our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:45AM Pacific. That conference number is (559) 726-1300, and the access code is 308640#.
Blessings on you!
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