Jumping Bridges

As a crazy 19-year-old, I used to do some wild things with my car.  I am not going to get into all the wild things we did in this post, but maybe I’ll revisit those days sometime in the future.  This post will concentrate on the bridges we used to jump.  You heard me right – jump.

I loved to drive fast – really fast.  On the Interstate, I hated it when anyone would pass me.  It was pedal to the metal all the way.  We were rarely sober too, so that heightened the fun.  A bunch of us would pile in the car and just go.  It didn’t matter what day or what time of night, we were just going to have fun.  We explored the back roads all over central Massachusetts and knew every one of them.

One spot we particularly enjoyed was full of dirt roads that had old bridges which crossed the streams throughout the marshy area.  I had a 1965 Ford Fairlane that I had bought from my Mom for $1.  The reason she sold it to me so cheap was that I had gotten into an accident with it and the radiator needed replaced, plus some body work on the front end.  She bought a newer car and I got the one I wrecked.  I loved that car mainly because 1 could jam 5 other friends in there and we could drive and party.

One night we decided to ride off to that marshy area and just cruise around.  There was one particular bridge that offered the most fun.  The road rose sharply on both sides of the bridge, and the actual wooden bridge was about 25 feet across.  After driving over that bridge a few times, I told my buddies that I thought I could completely jump that bridge!  They all laughed and dared me to do it.

We had practiced similar stunts on a dirt bike track.  My friend went one direction in his VW Bug car, and I went the other,  We sped around that track, passing each other going the opposite direction, over the hills and valleys of a dirt bike track.  There were some close calls, but we always came out all right.

I could not resist such a dare.  We lined up with the bridge as far back as we could. Then I stomped on the accelerator, speeding toward that rise that came before the bridge.  There was absolutely no view of the other side – only the top of the hill and a glimpse of the railing on one side of the bridge. 

Faster and faster we went, the other guys in the car whooping and hollering. Dust was rolling up in the air as we sped up the hill.  We could only hope another car was not coming the opposite direction.  There was no view to see if there was, and once we hit the top t would be too late to back out.  If there was another car, we would have to hope to jump it as well!  (There was little traffic on these roads, so we felt fairly safe)

When we hit the top of the hill, we were going about 70 MPH on that dusty dirt road. The car left the ground for what seemed like 30 seconds (it was actually only 1 or 2).  We were off the ground until all four wheels hit the other side at the same time.  We did not hit wood, we hit dirt. We had made it!  WE never tried that again, though.  The thud at the end was so forceful we thought we would blow all 4 tires, but we didn’t.

Today, daredevils do different things with bridges.  They don’t jump over them – they jump off of them!  That is something I would never do!  With a bungie cord attached, people jump off perfectly good bridges, diving downward just the right distance so they don’t hit the ground below, and then rocket back up to the top again. 

I am not sure the science behind measuring the bungie cord, but it has to be precise. I have seen videos of people jumping off bridges 100 feet or more above the surface below.  Since the cord stretches so much, it must take some real math figuring to know how long that cord has to be before it is stretched out.  These people put a lot of trust in that cord, just as I put my trust in my car to jump over the bridge.

Bridges have much better purposes than this! They are built in strategic places so that two sides of a road can connect once the road is built.  They can be built over culverts, rivers, streams, roads, railroad tracks – anything that would impede the continuous flow of the road.  The can be over the obstacle or under it.  They serve a great purpose in our world.

Just imagine if we did not have bridges!  Commerce would literally stop all over this great nation. All business would have to be done on a local level.  The Interstates would have full access of side roads, and could only travel to the next body of water that crossed it.  Most of us would not drive on vacation like we do now because it would be extremely difficult to get where we were going.  Our little town here has the river on three sides of town – there would only be one road out.  I love bridges!

There is another gap that needs a bridge.  It is the gap between sinful man and a Holy God.  It is a big gap! 

When God came down on the mountain to speak the people, the presence of Him was so overwhelming, the people told Moses they did not want God talking directly to them anymore.  They wanted Moses to talk to God and tell them what He said. 

The Israelites had to offer animal sacrifices to cover their sins, and they still could not approach the presence of God in the Holy place.  Only the high priest, one time a year, could go into that Holy Place.  Even then, as consecrated as he was, they tied a rope around him in case he should die in the presence of God.  The gap is big!

God desired to have fellowship with His people, with all mankind, but He would not be around their sin.  So He sent His only Son, Jesus.  Jesus taught us the ways of God and then gave His life for our sins.  He suffered a cruel, torturous death to take the punishment of sin upon himself.  When He died on that cross in our place, He became a bridge to connect us to God.  The gap now had a bridge!

This bridge must be crossed in order to enter heaven.  You must accept the bridge and leave all your sinful ways behind, because sin cannot cross the bridge.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

It’s quite simple. Ask Jesus to be your Savior and Lord, then live for Him and follow His ways, and you may cross the bridge.  If you do not, the gap will remain between you and God and the bridge will not be available.

Those of us who call ourselves Christians must tell others about this bridge.  They must know that the gap is too great for them to jump, to high for them to bungee.  There is only one way to bridge the gap, and that Is Jesus Christ.  No other bridge exists.

His Plan is For Me

Why should I worry
Why should I fret
When I know God is in control
There is no trial
Or test in this world
That God cannot save me from

Why would I falter
Why would I fear
When the enemy comes at me
I have the strength
Of Jesus Christ
And He has a plan for me

His plan is victory
His plan is peace
His plan is perfect
His plan is for me
His plan will take me
To blessings untold
I want to follow His plan

In Him is mercy
In Him is grace
In Him I cannot go wrong
He will protect me
Watch over me
He makes my weakness strong

I pray I will walk
Daily with Him
Not leaving His precious side
I’ll never turn back
I’ll follow His ways
All the days of my life

Meeting Janeen

After I got saved in Iowa, I returned to Massachusetts.  My life and lifestyle drastically changed in the next two years. My language cleaned up. I rose to prominence in my job. I cut my hair to look like a normal human being. I started attending church regularly and getting involved with different groups. I even kind of had a girlfriend in the church. It was late spring in 1978 when I went back to Iowa to visit my friend again.

When I walked into his house he was on the piano and was playing a song. He asked me if I knew the song.

“Yes I do. It’s called You Light Up My Life”.  I answered.

He said “That’s right” and then he immediately started playing another song. “Do you know this song?”

I said “No I don’t.”  He moved over on the piano bench and motioned for me to sit down. There was a hymnal open on the piano and I looked at the title of the song – Blessed Assurance.

“I was hoping you would help me sing the song for church.” He said.

“Sure, no problem.” I answered.  We sang together many times in church and in high school so this was nothing new for us.

We started learning the song and he said “I’ll take the first verse; you take the second verse and we can do the third verse together.” So we practiced it that way a few times.

“You really need to memorize it.” He said.

I said “Well, since I only have to memorize two verses and a chorus, I can probably do that.”

We took a break for a little while and then came back to practice.

My friend piped up.  “Oh, by the way, we’re going to sing this on television.”

I looked at him in surprise.  “I thought you said it was for church?”

“It is” He answered.  We televise our church service.  The recording is done tonight.”

“Well, you got me hooked now.  Let’s do this.” And we continued practicing.

We headed down to Kirksville, Missouri to the TV station with a whole bunch of other people. I think they’re were a dozen of us altogether in 3 different cars. Everything went well at the recording session and we headed back home around 9 or 9:30. We were all hungry, so we stopped at a little restaurant on the way back. At the table I sat beside the pianist from the church and her husband. She had her younger sister with her and I leaned over to the pianist and asked her

“How old is your sister?”

“She’s 15” the pianist answered.

“You wouldn’t happen to have a sister that’s a little bit older, would you?” I asked.  To be honest, I didn’t know why I asked that.  I had a girlfriend back home, but something prompted me to ask.

“Why yes I do.” She answered happily.

Well, have her in church tomorrow!” I said.  I didn’t ask, I told her to bring her to church.

“I will!” She said. 

We finished eating and headed home to hit the sack for the night.   I am told that when Joyce, the pianist, talked to Janeen, the other sister, Janeen was not really interested in going to church.  She got off work at 3 AM, and was going to sleep in.  But Joyce had a way of making Janeen do what she wanted.  The next morning, I headed to church and watched as Joyce walked in with her other sister. They sat right in front of me and, wouldn’t you know that I didn’t say a word to the young lady that I’d asked to be there. At the end of the service I walked back to the guest book that was at the back of the church and I signed it and wrote that I was visiting from West Boylston, Massachusetts. Joyce’s sister came up beside me and said “You came a long way to come to church today”

I said “Yes I did.” and I walked out the door. Joyce told me afterwards that at this time her sister was furious with her but she convinced her to come back to the evening service.

During the afternoon, my friend taught me a few new choruses because we were going to lead the congregation in worship that night.  We had a wonderful time learning those worship choruses and were ready to go to the service. I walked into the church and the Joyce’s sister turned around and looked at us. When our eyes met, my heart fluttered. Something happened. I walked up to the front and we lead the worship service and sat down.

After the service my friend was having a gathering at his house and guess who was invited. Yeah, you got it right.  The mother and father, Joyce and her sister were all there.  It was a nice gathering and I learned the sisters name was Janeen.  At the end of it everybody was talking about a fellowship meeting of churches the next night. They wanted me to sing a solo since I was visiting.

I looked over at Janeen and said “I’ll go if you go”

Janeen said “I’ll go if you go”

I came back again “I’ll go if you go.”

Finally we decided that we would go. It was a night that would change my life.

We went to the fellowship meeting the next night. I sang my solo. On the way home, I sit in the backseat with the Janeen. With us in the backseat was her3 year-old nephew, Jason. I’d been a bachelor for the last 6 years and had not been around kids at all. Jason was a rambunctious kid who was as funny as all get out. And he made me laugh1 I mean really laugh!  You have to understand that for years I had not really laughed. I had made up laughs – I was the king of laughter!  I had a hundred different laughs but I didn’t have a laugh of my own. And then he made me laugh – my own laugh – and it was a wonderful feeling. My head was spinning with all that was going on.

We got back to the town where Joyce lived since we rode with them.  My friend was working at a gas station in the next town about ten miles away. I wanted to go over and be with him for the rest of the night since I was leaving the next morning. Janeen volunteered to give me a ride in her 1965 white Mustang. As we drove over to Fairfield, just out of the blue she started singing You Light Up My Life. I didn’t know what was going on that she would start singing that song for no reason, the same song my friend was playing when II walked into his house.  We got to the gas station and I got out and came around to Janeen’s side of the car. I gave her a little squeeze on the arm and said “See you later” and went inside the gas station. To this day she’s upset that I didn’t kiss her goodnight.

When I got inside that gas station I sat down in the office and I started to weep. I told my friend that I was lost. I didn’t know where I belonged. I had a great job with a wonderful future at a large company back in Massachusetts, but everything within my being was telling me that I belonged in Iowa.  I had to leave the next day early in the morning. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen or what I was going to do but I had to go back.

I headed out the next day and drove the usual route across Interstate 80. Usually when I made this trip, and I’ve made it three times before, I just slept in my car when I got tired and then headed out again.  But for some reason this time I decided to stay in a Red Roof Inn in central Pennsylvania. I got into the room and was still pondering what I should do. I reached into the drawer and picked up the Gideon Bible. in the front of the Bible there are some helps.  It said in time of decision turn these verses. One of those verses with Proverbs 3 5 & 6, which says Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt as soon as I read that scripture that I was supposed to move to Iowa and marry that girl. I picked up a pen and paper at the hotel that night and I wrote her a letter. I was wise enough to get her telephone number and address before I left. In the letter, I said if you’ll be my girl I’ll move to Iowa.

I got back to Massachusetts Sunday night.  Monday morning I put in my two months’ notice at work. I had a very unique position and I know it would take that long to train anybody to take my place. The big boss called me in his office and offered me a promotion and more money.  I told him I couldn’t.  One of my co-workers joked with me and said what are you goin- g to do  – go out there and get married and have kids? I just said who knows. My mom thought I was crazy.  My brother thought well I don’t know what he thought.  All my friends wished me the best – they knew nothing was going to stop me.

Over the next two months Janeen and I shared letters and made phone calls quite frequently. We got to know each other this way. I worked on training my replacement. I worked long hours to get things caught up and organized for my replacement.  In the second week of August 1978 my friend and his wife and Janeen came out to get me. I had a station wagon full of things and that was all. Janeen and I rode together on the trip back to Iowa. I asked her to marry me 2 months later and we got married in November of 1978. We recently celebrate our 40th anniversary and have 3 beautiful daughters and five grandchildren.  The Lord has been very good to us. We are blessed.