Friday, October 31, 2014

The Conditioning

Google Images
Friday, August 1

At exactly fifteen minutes after midnight, Cynthia, startled from a sound sleep, rolled over, struggled to untangle her arms from the duvet cover, and made a grab for the phone. On her first attempt, she missed, sending the book she had been reading just before turning off the light, tumbling to the floor.


Nothing, not even a breath, or a whisper answered her.

“Hello? Who is it?”

Cynthia boasted about her ability to sleep through anything. During the years of the cold war, the accidental triggering of an air raid siren had sent the entire town into panic mode. She blissfully slept through it all. Storms, parties, and street races, never affected her beauty rest. It was odd that the ringing phone should do what nothing else could.

Calls at midnight usually signaled a family crisis, a drunk whose fingers did the walking in all the wrong directions, or a legitimate wrong number. The latter was usually followed by an apology or sometimes with the hasty “clink” of a receiver into its cradle and the sound of the dial tone.

There was nothing but silence this time.

Cynthia hung up and went back to sleep muttering about the rudeness of some people.

Saturday, August 2

At precisely fifteen minutes after midnight, the phone rang.

This time, Cynthia’s reflexes responded with more accuracy. Her hand grabbed the receiver on the second ring.



“Look, who is this?”

Empty air answered her.

The receiver returned to its cradle just a little more violently than it had the previous night.

Cynthia was scheduled to have Saturday morning brunch with some friends. Over orange juice and scrambled eggs, she recounted the experience of the last few nights.

“I don’t know what to do. Should I report it to the phone company? It doesn’t seem serious enough to call the police. There isn’t even any heavy breathing.”

Her friends commiserated with her. Maybe she should consider taking her phone off the hook at night, or getting an unlisted number.

Sunday, August 3

The clock in the living room struck 12:15 a.m. just as the phone beside Cynthia’s bed began to ring. For a second it seemed part of the dream haunting her at that moment. She had been walking along a road. Fog lay heavy and wet around her, preventing her from seeing much beyond the end of her nose. Branches hung from the trees—dripping telephone receivers, which she kept banging into. The sound of the phone pulled Cynthia off the path. The sheets were damp, her pajamas bathed in sweat.

“What do you want?” This time, politeness fled with sleep.

Again, there was nothing but silence.

Cynthia flung the phone down. She considered unplugging it, but resisted. Her father wasn’t well, and the family could call if something were to happen to him.

Later that morning, the now bleary-eyed woman, shared her experience with the other members of her Sunday School class.

“If whoever is on the other end of the line would just say something, then at least I would have some idea of how to respond. But this silence, and the clockwork timing is so frustrating.”

Cynthia felt better after the others prayed with her asking that the Lord would intervene in the situation. She went to sleep that night hanging on to those prayers, plus a few of her own.

Monday, August 4

The sound jerked her out of a peaceful slumber. This time, precisely fifteen minutes after midnight, Cynthia didn’t even bother to ask who was calling. She pulled the phone from its cradle, listened to the silence for thirty seconds, and then put the receiver back.

The routine chores of the day were carried out on automatic pilot as Cynthia chewed on the dilemma of the midnight caller. There was so much to do as a first-time homeowner. The hours in the day never seemed enough.

Tuesday, August 5

Cynthia woke up at precisely fifteen minutes after midnight—to absolute silence. There was an odd smell in the room and a light haze. Her mind, now conditioned to respond at this hour, kicked into high gear. She recognized smoke and the odor of something burning.

On her list of things to do in the new house had been a revision of the smoke alarms.

Later, as the firefighters checked the house for any further signs of overheated wiring, she thanked God for His midnight caller who had saved her life and her home.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tucker: Living In Divine Order (Google Images)
In the summer of nineteen forty-two I learned to fly. Well, I tried.

“Davey Tucker, you get off that roof right this minute! You’re gonna kill yourself!”

My father was winning the war flying Spitfires over the English Channel. So was I; but I flew over the barnyard on our farm in Minidoka County, Idaho. His enemies were the Luftwaffe’s Messerschmitt 109 and Focke-Wulf 190; mine were chickens and ducks. They flew too, though unfortunately for me, better than I did.

Dad told me that in the early years the Spits couldn’t go into steep dives quite as well as the ME 109’s. The negative ‘g’ forces starved the motor of fuel and the Spitfire could up and die on you real quick if you weren’t careful. We heard later that dad learned that lesson the hard way. So did I. I dislocated my shoulder launching myself off the roof of the barn that summer. I always blamed it on not having enough time to pull myself out of the dive before I hit the haymow. Dad didn’t hurt anything but his pride. After he was forced to bail out of the plane he had to walk back to the aerodrome, something pilots only do under the most dire of circumstances. Walking is generally considered beneath them.

While my father flew, I did too. I tried sheets taped to my arms and planks strapped to an apple box and launched off the baler. After we heard that dad had “lost” his Spit, I briefly limited myself to the ground, pretending that I was crawling through enemy lines to safely. But like dad said, pilots don’t walk, so I went back to flying. Besides, mom wasn’t too pleased to have me trampling the potato plants during my bolt for freedom.

In the summer of nineteen fifty-six, I learned how to run. It was no less hazardous than my flying had been, but certainly more pleasurable.

At the time, I was entering my last year at Seminary and as usual, I was running late —literally. I rounded the corner of the library on my way to a Hebrew class, and ran down the cutest little girl that I’ve ever had the satisfaction of meeting. I married her later that year. Marie claims that she caught me on the run and that I spent the next fifty years trying to get away! She invested every last one of them trotting alongside of me keeping the house, the kids, and my life in order through the fat, and the lean years, of ministry.

Marie always said that the only time that Dave Tucker wasn’t running off somewhere to do something for somebody was when he was “walking the line” for her. The year we were married Johnny Cash released a song that I’d swear to this day Marie made me repeat as part of my wedding vows. I can still hear it:

“I keep a close watch on this heart of mine, I keep my eyes wide open all the time, I keep the ends out for the ties that bind, Because you're mine, I walk the line.”*

It was no hardship watching my heart for her.

Now, in the summer of two thousand and six, I am learning how to walk. I doubt that it will be anywhere near as difficult as soaring and running were.

I stand before my congregation, the fourth that I have served over fifty years of ministry. This will be my last sermon as pastor of this church. After today, I will be just plain David Tucker, retired.
It’s time to slow down and let life catch up to me. Something tells me that while it’s going to require some adjustments, things are going to be okay.

“Please turn with me in your Bibles to Isaiah Chapter Forty, verse thirty-one. Our text for today reads this way: ‘those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’ Have you ever wondered why Isaiah, inspired by God’s Spirit, wrote: ‘soar’, ‘run’, and ‘walk’, rather than ‘walk’, ‘run’, and ‘soar’? Well, soaring is a young man’s game. When I was boy growing up in Idaho, I rather took to flying …”

I look down at Marie and smile. Yes, walking’s going to be good.

*I Walk the Line by John R. Cash. Recorded 4/2/56