When young Tammie Jo Bonnell first watched fighter jets race across the New Mexico skyline, she felt the desire to become a pilot but little did she know God was inviting her on a journey that would inspire countless of people through her commit to faith, courage, and family. Today, Captain Tammie Jo Shults is a retired navel aviator, known for being one of the first female fighter pilots in the US Navy, and the storied captain of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which she safely landed after the aircraft suffered a major engine failure and rapid decompression.
In her new memoir, Nerves of Steel, Tammie Jo tells her story of how God guided her through multiple challenges and obstacles in preparation for her biggest challenge. Her story is one of true divine faithfulness.
The Thomas Nelson Bibles team recently interviewed Tammie Jo for an upcoming episode of the Bible Connection podcast. Here are 6 bonus questions for you to enjoy.
Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Tammie Jo: It depends on my circumstances. If I’m in the corner on something, it would be probably Isaiah 50:7, but, normally, it is 2 Timothy 1:7. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
What Bible character (outside of Christ) most inspires you?
Tammie Jo: So, probably one of my absolute top of the tier heroes, though there’s so many, would be Moses. It was Dr. (Erwin) Lutzer’s book on Moses that made me see what an incredible servant’s heart that man had and how he went through such a grinder. You know, his first 40 years he was raised as a prince. He was the general in charge of the Egyptian army when they went to subdue the Ethiopians, and instead of bringing back their leaders in chains and and demoralized, he brought them back in their priestly or kingly attire with respect and bridged a gap between their nations rather than just subduing and massacring. He just had this wisdom, and then he was willing to put down all of that, because he was Hebrew, and listen to the Lord. I mean he was a man that could have had a lot of pride, but he didn’t.
It’s clear in your book that faith played a huge role in your perseverance. What things influence the development of your faith?
Tammie Jo: It [faith] is a confidence in the unseen, but I don’t think God expects us to step out blindly with no reason. That’s why he gives us scripture so that we can know Him, know his character, and so that it’s not fearful to step out in faith. I think about it a lot like I think about airplanes. I don’t fly an airplane that I haven’t read about–that I don’t know how much thrust is in the engine versus the weight that’s in that aircraft. Although I can’t tangibly see flight until I add power and take off, it makes sense. God calls us to intellectual sense. Not everything in the Bible can be captured in that, but there’s enough of a foundation that we can certainly trust him to launch off and fly in faith.
In your book, you mentioned the importance of church through different chapters of your life. Can you briefly describe the role your church community played?
Tammie Jo: Everyone is subject to peer pressure. The key to having good peer pressure is to have good peers. When you have the richness of all ages poured into you, concerned about you, loving you, and praying for you, that is a richness you don’t get from just hanging out with your high school buddies, your college buddies,
or your flight school buddies. I don’t think we were created to be with just those that have our own interests – or just those of our own age group. We lose out if we’re just plugged into one monolithic group.
My church family growing up was incredible. I can say during flight school it was such an oasis of relief. There was no competition. Naval aviation is very competitive. There’s a lot of camaraderie at times, but it’s also a very tangibly competitive field. So it was nice to go and sit down in a Sunday school class and sit down in a pew and just relax. Know[ing] that I’m going to listen to wisdom, and then I’m going to go enjoy a meal with people that are excited about me, [and] I’m excited about them [with] no ulterior motives.
What helps you when you are experiencing the unknowns of God’s plan in your life?
Tammie Jo: You know, it is in His grace that we do not see the plan of every day ahead of us. I don’t think we could take it. I look backwards and think, thank the Lord I did not know everything. I think that’s His provision for us to realize [we] can trust God with tomorrow. I think about first how we trust our parents. We don’t worry about what we’re going to eat or
where we’re going to live. Mom and Dad have that, and they’ve always had that, and they’ve always done well. That’s the relationship God puts as a pattern for us with Him. If we know God and His character, we can relax about tomorrow.
Do you remember your first Bible?
Tammie Jo: My very first Bible I do remember. I got it at four years old. There was a competition at church [that] was really for the first graders. It was to memorize Psalm 23. I couldn’t read yet, so Mom put it on the refrigerator, and then she [would] teach me one verse [at a time]. I’d run and play, running [the verses] through my head, [before] coming back [and asking for] one more verse. This went on until I memorized Psalm 23 and I got my own Bible.
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