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Swimming the Echo by Brian L. Tucker

Swimming the Echo

by Brian L. Tucker

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28th of May



Have I told you about how I grew up on a farm?

(Some of you just read that and probably thought: O boy. Here we go.)

Most of my times were enjoyable on the farm.

A lot of heavy lifting. Baling hay. Etc.

But, the item that stands out most solidly was something that started as a love of mine and became (ever-so-gradually) a fear, then full-blown hatred about farm life.

It was…my horse.

That’s right.

Backstory: I had had the best pony you could imagine. He was part-human, I swear. Like a big, loyal puppy dog. He followed me everywhere. Going on trail rides with my family was a treat. (I even asked if he could come in the house once or twice.)

Then, 2 things happened:

1.) I grew about 1-foot one summer, gained 50 pounds

2.) My mom said I needed a ‘horse’

So, the hunt started and stopped at an auction in central Kentucky.  We found a palomino! (I’d always wanted one of those.)

I wish I could say the story got better.

Ryker’s Brand Gold dust (her official name) became Gold dust and then Babydoll, because me and my brother thought it sounded better.

She was deathly thin when we bought her. Her next stop probably would’ve been the glue factory had we not stepped in.

She gained weight. We fed her non-stop. Then, I started training her. She gained a little life from the food and training. You could see it in her eyes. I was excited to try this new ride, even though I missed my always faithful pony, Arrow.

Babydoll was beautiful. (Just like the color of gold dust when she was let out into our fields to graze, to take in sunshine, and to mingle with the herd.)

Then, I asked the question, “Since she’s trained, could we take her on the next trail ride?”

We did.

She jumped into the horse trailer, no problem. She unloaded no problem. She rode the trail (at first) no problem.

Then, some proverbial dam bust somewhere in her head.

The happy, content, fat, gold-coated Babydoll went haywire. She refused to cross small watering holes. Started biting other horses. And at one point, she turned and ran through dense trees and brush piles. But, it was obvious she wasn’t just going crazy…she was MEAN. Babydoll tried her hardest to knock me off with branches, tree trunks, and debris. (It was the largest beating I’ve ever sustained on a horse to this day.)

Fast forward to the evening, and I was devastated. We let her graze with the rest, and we left it at that. The next day, my brother and I were going out to fill the water troughs, and Babydoll perked up her ears. Neither Jared nor I thought much of it, because most of the herd loved to check out the water tanks.

But, she did a bit more. She lowered her head and lunged at us. Jared was faster and scaled a fence and looked back. He saw me getting rammed by the rock-like head of the horse. Luckily it knocked me sideways in my run, and I didn’t take the brunt of her force. I recovered and sprinted to another gate and hopped over just as she smacked that gate with her head.

She had become a demon (almost overnight).

Then, we talked about it as a family. We thought she’d come out of it. But, deep down I felt otherwise.

Over the next 2 years, we watched her give birth to foals. Then, we watched her kick at them non-stop and refuse to let them nurse. Luckily, we had other mares to let Babydoll’s offspring choose from.

The trail rides became worse and worse. She kept trying to do the “fling off” method. Rather than enjoy the trips, I just spent most of my weekends whipping her and trying not to die.

2 things happened:

1.) I became great at dodging disasters/death every Sunday

2.) Babydoll took on a constant Hulk-like persona among the other horses.

My family agreed that my sole job was to keep Babydoll from killing the others in the herd. Talk about great riding motivation. But, I did.

Babydoll was hateful, and I missed Arrow, the pony. It was night and day between the two animals’ personalities. Maybe it’s what caused me to steer away from farm life. Either way, I know that Babydoll is somewhere today wreaking havoc upon some other poor soul.

Arrow at 20-something years of age is still offering rides and helping to train the future riders of America! (You should visit him at a stable in Monticello, KY.)

To you Arrow, I say, “Thank you for the many miles, compadre!”

To Babydoll, “No one liked you when you were angry.” (Hulk reference)


Throwback Thursday!


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22nd of May




Tell them that you love them.

“Love. Amour. Liebe. Amore. Amor. Ljubezen.”


There are so many ways to say it. (The last one was Slovenian. You’re welcome, honey.)


Why tell them?


  • Maybe because they let you do the ‘Cluck Hunt’ one Halloween, while dressed as Johnny Appleseed:

(If this link doesn’t work, add Dani Pinto Pyles on Facebook. The video is a good one. You’ll want to see it. Maybe for your next party?)

Game rules: “Two teams – 2 Roosters, 13 Hens, and hidden candy corn. The hens can only CLUCK to get the roosters attention when they find a candy corn. Only the rooster can put it in the hen’s cup. Collect the most candy corn for your team to win.”


  • Maybe because this friend didn’t desert you when you danced like this:



  • Or looked like this:

shoe on head

  • Or this:



  • Maybe because they swam in lake water with you that was so murky you couldn’t see the water moccasins. Just feel them.


  • Maybe they rescued you from yourself more than once.


Whatever they do/have done for you. They’ve gained the label ‘friend’ for no uncertain reason in your life.


Celebrate that today. Tell them, “Thanks for not letting me die that one time!” Or, whatever you feel led to thank them for.


God put them there in that space for a reason.


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21st of May

Ever Felt Heaven?



Ever Felt Heaven?

Weird question to ask, I know. In the context of being on Earth and all.

Maybe I should ask, Have you ever felt heaven on Earth?

A moment that seemed frozen in time. A glimpse of an after-life?

These are usually just blips when they’ve happened for me. God reveals them in the slightest ways. Simple nuances. Usually found in nature. Not at a computer screen.

A smell that takes you to a time, place. Seeing a friend you haven’t laid eyes on in decades. Going to your favorite spot for lunch.

Heaven on Earth.

For me, it happened not too far from where the last odd tale occurred (see yesterday’s blog, Best Road Trip Ever). Only, instead of Orange Beach, AL, this was due east along the Gulf Coast in Pensacola, FL. We were there for Spring Break, and I was a sophomore at the University of Kentucky.

No. This wasn’t that kind of Spring Break. Haha.

It was a mission trip compliments of Hurricane Ivan’s destruction (and aftermath), Spring 2005. I’d only ever known mission work to be about recovery in terms of re-building an area struck by disaster. This one, we were informed, was going to be demolition.


Never has a word been so sweet on my lips before or since.

Our mission: Demolish an Air Force base in a week’s time.

Sledgehammers to break toilet basins: check.

Leather gloves to rip gutters from houses: check.

It was a beautiful task!

The operation had been called: Rebuild Northwest Florida.

So, there was reconstruction taking place. But, something that often gets overlooked is that things have to be demolished sometimes in order to be rebuilt.

We were that crew.

The heaven on Earth moment happened, as we tore these abandoned Air Force homes apart. Each day the temperature climbed “higher and higher” (cue up 80s tune). Those working to remove shingles, nails, roofing supplies were getting cooked.

Guess who landed up there?

You know it. But, that’s the only way to demolish a house. From the outside in. You can’t get to the frame and the interior without first removing the exterior. So, we did. Me and several buddies. Man, that alone almost had the heaven on Earth quality. The temperature. The sweat. The work. Seeing friends get overzealous and accidentally falling through the exposed rafters to the ground below.


(For the record: I only met gravity’s temperament once.)

But, the heaven on Earth moment happened, as we paused one day in our labors. We heard a noise…We looked up…There were angels above us.

Blue Angels. Flying overhead. Putting on an aerial display. They were located in Pensacola.

We made a point to pause. Drink some water. Look at the majesty of their aerodynamics. All while holding onto the rafters so as not to fall through again.

I remember looking over at a buddy of mine, Josh Field, and saying “It don’t get much better than this!”

He shielded his eyes as the Angels flew up, up even higher. We watched them spiral and turn and maneuver like Angels (for lack of a better comparison). It was a moment of recognizing that in the midst of storms, wrecks, and things being demolished to be re-built, God was there.

The world seemed to stop spinning, and we watched the planes spin instead, and all from those busted rooftops on the coast. I imagine heaven to be that sort of thing non-stop. Except God’s orchestrating EVERYTHING, and there isn’t any risk of hurricane or death.

It’s all like that one moment but even better! Somehow.

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20th of May

Best Road Trip Ever!


Think of your favorite road trip.

Do you have yours?

What’s the best *spontaneous* trip you’ve ever taken?

Not a vacation. Not a pre-set engagement. Just a “get-in-the-car-and-go” moment.

Mine happened in the Spring 2007. March. (I remember, because it was 2 months before I got engaged to my beautiful wife.)


My buddy, JT says: “We should go somewhere.”

My pal, Danielle confirms, “Somewhere with a beach.”

This was the extent of our plan.

1._ We should go somewhere. & 2._ We should find a beach.


So, we embarked South on I-65. No beach criteria other than it’s warmer than Kentucky, in March, and there were some good times ahead.

Pedal down.


JT’s Mercury Sable shook intermittently, as we drove sometimes above and sometimes below the speed limit.

We made the coast in record time.

What coast? Gulf.

What beach? We’d thought Gulf Shores, but discovered Orange Beach was, in fact, this one.

We were ecstatic to hit water!

The skies were dreary, but our moods wouldn’t be controlled by some foul weather.


We RAN to the water. Our plan looked to be a success. We figured 3-4 days at non-Gulf Shores would be just the trick for our poor, post-Winter, pre-Spring blues.

The skies…did I mention they were dark? Well, they were.

The water was FRIGID!

I remember Danielle had a really awesome camera. She thought JT & I were crazy for risking our necks in barely above freezing water.

Not only was the water almost frozen, but the coastline was empty. It was JUST us. The 3 amigos. (Adam and Lindsey had been too cool to join us in no-man’s land, this time.)

The coast looked like the set from the Cormac McCarthy novel-to-movie adaptation of “The Road.” There was nothing but rough waves, and we yelled to try to hear one another.

JT did something I’d never seen him do. He swam farther out…(Jo Carol, if you’re reading this, please know that I would’ve done my best to save him, had he drowned.)

Yes. JT, the doctor, swam farther out to sea in 40 degree-Farenheit water. I did the only thing a best friend should do: I followed. Plus, I had an ego the size of Texas and had been growing a Jesus beard and couldn’t be out-done. So, out we went.

Danielle snapped pictures and watched from an ever-increasing distance. Our ill-planned trip was all right, if you didn’t count the hypothermia, and “water-so-cold-it-burned” component. But…

The waves pulled us out farther. JT didn’t seem to mind. I noticed the swift current and started to resist. (Again, my Texan complex should not go unnoticed.) Well, the waves were winning, and I couldn’t just LET them. So, I resisted.

JT seemed to wait for the waves to crest at just the right moments and eventually, he decided to “tuck-tail-and-surf” back into the mainland. I tried to follow, but the rip current caught me and pulled me out farther. The timing was off. I was only about 3 feet behind JT, but it resulted in a constant drag outward to sea. I fought mother nature, and she won. I was so tired, I started to think I wasn’t going to make it back. I began to think “Great. I don’t think I even told Mom where I was going,” and started to panic at the turbulence.

When I looked up and saw JT almost back to Danielle on the beach, I decided I couldn’t let THIS be the end (ego rejoined). This was life or death. Orange Beach couldn’t be the end.

I swam as hard as I could with each swell, and even kicked through the rip currents, until finally I was pushed onto shore with a burst that drove me into sand. JT and Dani looked down and hadn’t noticed how much I’d worked to not die. They hadn’t been able to see my panic. (Truth be told: it’s the closest…2nd closest…I’ve ever come to dying.)

But, we survived our first rendezvous with Spring Break.


Fast forward to dinner that evening. (We’d placed our bags in some hotel that had availability. Actually they all had availability. Apparently, Gulf Shores, Panama City, and Pensacola were the Spring Break hot spots. Not Orange Beach. So lodging had been no problem.) At dinner, we found a nice seafood restaurant and JT ordered gumbo.

I remember the gumbo, because Danielle and I had commented on New Orleans and made small talk with the waitress. She’d gone on to tell us that Orange Beach wasn’t usually too popular during this time of the year. We added bits and pieces to the conversation about where we were from (small-town USA, Kentucky). She admitted that Kentucky was a place she’d always wanted to visit. The rain kept falling HARD against the metal roof of this establishment.

Her comment about this not being a touristy destination didn’t register right away with us.

Danielle had said, “With this being so close to Gulf Shores, AL, I figured there’d be more people over here.”

The girl had re-filled our waters and nodded. “You’d think that, but I meant because of the storms, and the weather.”

“It’s March.” JT added, “You’d think it’s kinda understood that bad weather happens.”

The girl nodded again. “Of course. It rains a ton. Thunderstorms when there’s not hurricanes. But, I didn’t mean just the weather. I meant what the weather brings with it…” she trailed off.

We just stared at her. Waited for her to continue.

“The sharks,” she said matter-of-factly.

None of us spoke. JT finally piped up, “Sharks? C’mon.”

“Seriously. The bull sharks. They come up close during these thunderstorms and feed close to the shoreline.”

Danielle looked at me. “But, they’re not that dangerous are they?”

The waitress went on, “Only the most. They’ve attacked a few people just a few weeks back. That’s why they’ve asked people to stay away from the water. Until…it clears up anyways.”

JT swalled a big gulp of now colder gumbo.

“You’d have to be insane to be out there in the water. If the waves didn’t get you, the sharks would.”

“That’s why the beach was empty,” I said out loud. “That makes sense,” I tried to laugh, now in a cold sweat.

“You all weren’t in it were you?” she asked.

JT shook his head yes and told her we had.

She called us N-U-T-S and told us we were lucky to be alive.


The remainder of that impromptu road trip was spent watching it rain, singing random songs the 3 of us knew, and playing frisbee against some tropical winds.

Safe to say, none of us swam the rest of that trip. We were alone on a beach without any traffic, any commitments, and plenty of bull sharks watching us.

JT looked for the fins poking out of the water. I worked on my Jesus beard. Danielle (camera amateur-turned-pro) took phenomenal pictures of the storms raging power.

It was a road trip unlike any I’ve ever had. Do I miss Orange Beach? Not at all. But, would I delete that memory and the dangerous elements of that trip? Not in a million years.

It was a season I’ll not soon forget. Thank you for the adventurous camaraderie guys!

Share your story today!

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19th of May

3 Ways to Make 2015 Memorable.


3 Ways to Make 2015 Memorable–

1. Be in the PRESENT.

Simply put: Instead of looking back at 2014, 2013, and on, or, 2016-forward, STOP and take in what’s right here in May 2015 for us. It’s Tuesday. This weekend is Memorial Day. For some, there’s an extra day to bask in the sunshine. For Leah & me, we get to see my father-in-law and show him around the city! There’s plenty to relish in the here-and-now. It’s the first (and most essential) way to get one’s thoughts in-order. Today is today and won’t be tomorrow until…well, tomorrow.

2. Make INTENTIONAL strides.

Remember grade school? Walking with one foot in front of the other. Following others in the line. The teacher being sure to state over and over again that we must use a “hallway” voice. Mine did. I still recall the sounds of sneakers squeaking down the long tiled hallway of our elementary school. But, there’s something here as well. (Not the hallway voice. I recommend shouting when you feel like it.) No. The strides we took down the hallways in grade school were INTENTIONAL. We walked single-file, and we had a destination each time. LUNCH. To the auditorium for a PLAY. To RECESS for exercise. It all mattered. I recommend installing this same intentionality in your day today (and the rest of the week). See where it takes you.

3. SHOCK even yourself.

I love the phrase: Dare to be great. Don’t know who said it. And the few words in this phrase are self explanatory. You (and I) have the choice to be great. Do something great. Go somewhere with our lives that’s great. We just have to dare ourselves. Sometimes we can’t wait on others to do this. God gives us an open door, window, or just a sliver of light, but the chance is there. We can SHOCK others, and if we go all in, even ourselves. Today is as good of a time to start as any.


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18th of May

5 (Non-)Love Languages.


We know the 5 love languages (maybe?):

  • words of affirmation
  • physical touch
  • receiving gifts
  • quality time
  • acts of service

We might even know the language our significant other prefers? (Props to you if you’re 2-for-2 thus far.)

But, have we considered the importance of avoiding the unlovable opposite of each language?

They are-

  • words of nullification
  • physical neglect
  • avoiding gifts
  • absence
  • selfishly serving self

Just like we can plan, implement, and run to others who say, do, offer, accept, and serve willingly the needs of the ones they love, we can likewise steer clear of those seeking the “unlovable opposites” of this language.

Does this mean we should never give the person a chance?


But, if they have chosen (or we have) to offer only harmful words, abuse, avoidance, not being there, and/or putting ourselves first, then, we should steer clear of that scenario.

Life will be better for all, if we adhere to loving and accepting those in-need.

Do we always have a perfect track record in the love languages?


I might go 2 -for- 5 on a good day. Sometimes I don’t get any of them right.

But, as long as we are mindful of the person we love: spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, parent, then, the unlovable actions shouldn’t be anywhere close.

It’s one thing to not be a perfect 5/5 in the love language department. It’s another to be unlovable (and intentionally so).

It’s almost impossible to do good, when the other person chooses to nullify a good thing with harmful words and actions.

So, does this mean you should give up on the person choosing to go the opposite way?

Definitely not.

But, the cohesion of having 2 people trying (key word there) to meet one anothers’ needs is so much more beautiful than 1 trying and the other refusing.

Being an unlovable opposite to these 5 love languages is actually more accurately called: hate. And, of course, there’s no room for that in a relationship.

  • To affirm someone means you’ve chosen them for who they are over what they’re not. Nullification says you’re not worth it.
  • To touch someone shows that person they are beautiful to behold. To avoid them reveals dislike (to their beloved and possibly themselves).
  • To give gifts shows extravagance and love. To withhold a gift reveals a lack of worth.
  • To be present shows a compassion for that person. To not show up showcases a lack of excitement in the relationship.
  • To serve a person’s beloved is a physical expression of love. To withhold their service indicates a lack of importance.


Luckily for all of us, God loves even the unlovable moments of our lives. He chooses us even in our lowest moments.

Choose a language to improve upon today. We’ll never be complete masters of all 5 in this lifetime, but how sweet our days will be, if we improve just the slightest in each one.


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15th of May

Credit Where Credit Is Due.


There’s a 90s country song by the band Sawyer Brown that sums up my goal today. The lyrics go like this: “I thank the bank for the money. And, thank God for you.”

If you’ve ever appreciated someone for something they’ve done for you in this life, now is as good of a time as any to let them know.

So, here goes my list (and there will be omissions, my apologies up front):


For my entire life, soul, purpose: God

For being a true light in a dark world to me and to countless others: Leah

For showing godly love each and every day she breathes: Fay

For my humor: Johnnie

For a strong spirit: Brandie

For teaching me to laugh, no matter what: Sherry

For teaching me to be strong and presentable: David

For showing me determination: Jamie

For teaching me to endure (often whilst mowing the yard): Jared

For being an artist in so many ways, levels: Leah D.

For showing a strong will, kind heart: Brittany Sexton

For teaching me that not all Clevelanders are rude: Al

For opening her home to guests, amazing cooking and board- game skills: Linda

For showing great teacher-to-be skills and being a great witness: Lydia

For commitment to any task, being a best friend: Hopper

For whimsy, being unpredictable, and accident-prone (you made me laugh more than you knew at home): JT

For zany, slap-stick humor, and being the female portion of our best friends quintet: Dani

For tact, example, and leadership, and appreciation for 80s hair metal: Patrick

For being great friends and wives/husband to my best friends: Dana Silvers, Sarah Hopper, and Vince Frantz

For kindness shown to total strangers who become additional family members: Jo Carol, Joey, Tim, Jane, Diana, Dennis

For riding roller coasters even after back surgery, taking me to the skating rink, and sharing oldies music at the pool each summer: Kay

For love of language, life, creativity, travels, and annoying high schoolers as unpredictable as the Little Debbie snacks served at MHS each morning: Paul

For showing HEART, baring soul, and teaching the heck out of a history lesson each day: Jimmy

For devotion to science, and to people, and a cause: Chaplin

For showing family connectedness: DeeDee, Darci, Jane, Ludelle

For writer inspiration, appreciating the lesser seen beauty in things: Lindsey Frantz, Rebecca DeSensi Sivori

For passion in literature (in and outside the classroom): Eliot, Young, Bob, Derek, Nancy, Julie, Amanda, and MFA peeps

For boldness to step out on faith and be yourself (different is okay and non-traditional): Mark Love, Scott Pollard

For studiousness (and mentoring 3 high school dudes when the Bible was often the furthest thing from our minds each morning at the greasy spoon): Jeremiah Goley

For mission-mindedness, going to Russia when God asks, and serving, serving, serving: Coy Webb

For community love, accepting 2 strangers into his community church in E. NC in 2013, and scholarship, and writing a book I want to read someday when it’s published: David Schmaltz

For healing people, and being a counselor, and college roommate unlike any other: Thomas Carter

For inclusion at a new place and making me a part of the team: UT-Chattanooga- Stacie, Laura, Elizabeth, Kayla, Deardra, Lisa-Michelle, Sevan, Michelle, Angela

For acceptance into a new community of faith, in a new town: Journey Church

For my spiritual growth and development and paying my way to serve in Brazil in 2003: First Baptist Church (and the anonymous friends and their support)

For teaching me about subject matter on the past and present and life, in general: MHS teachers, staff, UK faculty, EKU

For consistency and always being there (and being the same): my grandparents, relatives, and old, dear friends in Monticello, Lexington, KY, NC, TN, and across the world


For those I haven’t met: May our paths cross soon.

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