Bill Smith Calling

Jim Kuhn had quite a career.

From working as a young campaign advance man, Kuhn did some advancing himself.

He really liked Ronald Reagan and worked for him when Reagan challenged Gerald Ford for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination. Then the Ohio native worked for Reagan again four years later when the former California governor was elected President.

The new president – and more importantly perhaps, the new president’s wife Nancy – really liked Jim Kuhn. And before you could say “win one for the Gipper”, Kuhn found himself working in the White House as Ronald Reagan’s executive assistant.

I came across Kuhn’s personal memoir this summer. Entitled Ronald Reagan in Private, it is a fun read filled with fascinating and often humorous stories about what presidential life was like behind the scenes.

Kuhn writes of the day he was at Camp David with the Reagans and screened a call through the Camp David telephone operator. Kuhn screened all incoming calls – it was an important part of his job.

“We have Bill Smith calling the president,” the operator told Kuhn.

Kuhn knew that this was William French Smith, Reagan’s long-time friend, close advisor and his first Attorney General. The Reagans, of course, called him Bill.

Kuhn put the call through to the president.

That evening, Kuhn was invited to join the president and first lady in their cabin to watch a movie. When the movie ended, President Reagan smiled and said, “I want to tell you about an interesting call I got this afternoon, from a man in North Carolina who wanted to talk to me about education.”

So the president talked with the man about education policy and explained what his administration was doing to encourage excellence in the classroom.

“He liked my ideas,” Reagan said cheerfully. “He gave me some of his thoughts. We talked for a long time.”

Jim Kuhn, however, was less than happy. His feeling was of the suddenly sinking variety.

He asked the president how long he had spoken with this man and Reagan told him about 45 minutes.

“Mr. President,” Kuhn asked somewhat hesitantly, “do you remember his name?”

“Ah …yes,” Reagan answered. “I believe his name was Smith … Bill Smith, it was.”

Bill Smith!

No, not that one, obviously.

Within minutes, Kuhn had privately confirmed the call with both the Camp David and White House switchboards. The man had the public number for the White House, called it, was put through to Camp David and, courtesy of Jim Kuhn, right through to President Ronald Reagan himself.

If Reagan suspected a mix-up, he never let on and professed no regret about having a very pleasant and lengthy conversation with Bill Smith from North Carolina.

Kuhn marveled at Reagan’s grace and also Mr. Smith who, as Kuhn put it, “probably thought it was perfectly normal to pick up the phone, call the White House, and have a 45-minute conversation with the president!”

We know that never happens so it makes for a clever story.

No ordinary American gets that kind of access to the most powerful man on the planet. Truth be told, some of us struggle to gain access to those far less powerful and important than the president. But then I speak as a professional fundraiser, who is just below the IRS on the call-back list.

Why do you suppose it is that we don’t avail ourselves more often of a far greater access?

The One who made this planet – and all the others too – is freely available to speak with us: 24-7.

The Creator and Ruler of the universe awaits your call.

God’s never too busy to speak with you. In fact God wants to hear from you!

You don’t need to leave a message on his voice mail.

You don’t need to schedule an appointment to meet with him.

The sovereign almighty God doesn’t employ some angelic “gatekeeper” to guard his precious time. He has no celestial executive assistant to keep you away from him.

You won’t need to get back to God in another month or two or three. He’ll never answer your prayer by telling you, “You know, this is a pretty busy time for me right now. Middle East is a mess. Why don’t you try praying in February?”

God would never think to ignore your personal email or fail to return your call – even if you had to leave one.

God cares about us – that’s why Peter tells us to cast all our care on him.

He loves you.

God knows how important your need – your request, your fear, your hope, your desire, your question – is to you.

God knows because you’re important to him!

 Abraham, Moses, Elijah and David talked with God – often. To God, you’re not one bit less important than they were. Nor has he changed in any way.

Prayer is a miracle of access.

We should use it more.

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4: 16, NLT).

Whether we’re President of the United States or Bill Smith from North Carolina.

May God bless you and your family.


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Filed under Faith, Politics, Religion

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