Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Art of Deceit

If there is one thing that I've learned from performing magic, it's that we are very easily deceived. I think that maybe it's because we really want to believe in magic. One of my favorite types of magic is mentalism. Unfortunately, mentalism kind of creeps out the more fundamental churches. It's as if somehow this branch of deceit makes them think that the performer must be tapping into some occultic powers to read minds. In reality, it's no different than anything else I do. It only appears as if I'm forcing your choice or reading your mind.

The lesson that one must believe is that we are easily deceived. Often times it's as simple as me telling you what I'm about to do; appearing to do exactly what I said I would do; and coming up with an entirely different result than what you were expecting. If you didn't know that I was talking about magic you might think that I had just been elected to public office.

The methods of deceit don't very greatly from one venue to the next--a little bit more sophisticated, but the same general idea. Gain their trust by being believable, then little by little lead them astray. If you stay with them, assure them that's it's okay, everyone is doing it, you could march them right to the very gates of Hell. My simple effects are nothing compared to the Father of Lies. We must be diligent to examine what we are being taught by men and told by politicians--or entertainers, against the Truth of the Word of God.

Left on our own, we are bound to be lead astray. Even the most skeptical can be "fooled". We have learned to take advantage of their skeptism.

Be strong and of good courage...


Friday, July 28, 2006

Fool me once...

We all heard it before, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

Too many times as I've watched magicians, it seems that the object of the magician has been to "fool" the audience. From the saying above, it's safe to say that nobody likes to be fooled. What we like is to be entertained, to be amazed, even puzzled--but not fooled. It really doesn't matter if you are performing for one friend or for an audience of many, it's the wonder of magic that makes your effect--well, magical.

Notice that I said your effect, not your trick. I hate (strongly dislike) the word trick as it applies to magic. Even as a "gospel illusionist," many of my fellow colleagues refer to their effects as mere tricks. Maybe it's to keep others from thinking that we have some mystic powers or believing that the magic is real. The "magic" is entertaining. It's fun. That's all. It isn't demonic. It isn't forbidden. It's fun. And, if done well, it's effective.

When I was growing up, we listened to music. Today's kids, watch music. They get virtually all of their information through visual input. Internet, video games, DVD's, movies, streaming video links, music videos, you name it. They are the toughest audiences for a magician because they see everything. A magician has to get into their heads to make an effect seem magical. You can't do that with a mere trick. It takes work, much more than the physical manipulation. It takes some understanding of the human mind and study of how people react to given stimuli. "Magic" gets their attention. And it follows a pattern of logic that if you perform your magic well, you are a credible source of information. It may be flawed logic, but it's how people think. If you're lousy at your craft, why would people believe what you say about anything else? How many athletes, actors or celebrities spout their views on politics or the environment effectively because of their fame in an unrelated field? Corporate/tradeshow magicians understand that if they are going to be succussful at getting the corporate message across, they have to be great at the magic part. Why in the world would a gospelmagician feel any different? Our message is far more important that a company slogan.

When the magic is done well, the Message is more than life changing--it's Life, eternal life. When it's done poorly, we're saying, "Here's Jesus. Take Him or leave Him. It doesn't really matter to me."


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Chance Encounter or Divine Appointment?

It was several months ago that I found myself seated on an airplane next to a young Marine that was making his way back to DC through Chicago. It was a regional jet and pretty full. This particular young man was separated from the rest of his party by several rows and ended up in the window seat next to me. At some point I noticed that he was reading a book about dating/relationships/marriage or something along those lines. It looked to me like it was put out by Zondervan Press.

We began a conversation that began with his relationship with his girlfriend and moved to his relationship with God. I was very much impressed by how he truly wanted to honor God in his relationship, his work and his life. Like many of us, Michael was still trying to figure out just where God was going use him and how God was going to use him. I enjoyed our short encounter, offer him some words of encouragement and prayed with him before we arrived in Chicago. We exchanged phone numbers, e-mail addresses and promised to pray for each other.

I think that we often have encounters with others and never get to know that we may have had some small impact on their lives. Maybe it's best that way. Maybe our encounters leave the other person less than they were before. Maybe we managed to suck a little joy, a little life out of them. (see previous post) Then again, maybe we need to hear about those encounters--to learn from them.

Today, several months after my initial encounter with Michael, I arrived home to a message on my answering machine. It was from Michael. He's going to be in the area and wants to get together if we can. I called him back right away. He told me of how God is speaking to him and through him. We talked of a group bible study that he's hooked up with, working with kids at church, and how he has written a few songs to worship God. He remembered many of the things that we talked about said that he was encouraged by our previous conversation. By the time I hung up from our conversation today, I was the one encouraged. I was so energized to hear of how this young man is so devoted to serving God. I was also a little pumped up that he wanted to get together and spend some time with a guy that's old enough to be his dad.

Joy Management. Michael's already got it figured out. I guess conversations with him will have to be a part of my book research. Michael, you made my day. Thanks.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Out of My Hat

Welcome to Out of My Hat. While I know that titles have no copyrights, it's only fair to mention that I've taken this title from my friend and fellow mage, David Garrard. It seems like an appropriate title for the ramblings of a magician (or illusionist if you're one of those that balks at the word magician).

I wanted a place to share a few ideas with my friends and others and even receive some feedback. Lately I've felt more like writing than in the past and figured this is as good a forum as any to record the ramblings of a preacher/magician/dad/etc. I'm sure that some sermon notes will find their way to this posting from time to time. I hope that you will find them to be thought provoking and inspiring. For any magicians/entertainers, I will also post occasional thoughts on audiences and audience behavior.

I've also decided to write a book. I know that it will take some time (which is hard to come by) and hope that the desire to see it through to completion doesn't wane as time passes. The following is an introduction/forward that I've written for it. As research and writing progresses, perhaps I'll share more excerpts from the book.




The idea for a book on Joy Management came to me after encountering a co-worker that was reading a book on anger management. I explained to him that I had my own system of anger management that I believe works quite well. Since I have no background in any type of behavior management, and since I do have the occasional “anger issues,” he was interested to know what my personally developed system of anger management was.

I told him that I believed that “anger management” isn’t a matter of not getting angry, rather it is being able to direct your anger towards someone that can’t hurt you. For example: Let’s say that you’ve just had an incredibly bad day at work. You can’t really direct your anger at your boss; he has the authority to fire you. You can’t really direct your anger at your spouse; she has the power to—well we all know what kind of power she has. So what do you do to release the anger that is building up within you?

All I can say at this point is that I would hate to be the young girl at the drive up window that just messed up my order! She’ll never know what hit her. I might seem a little unreasonable to her because she has no idea that the rage before her has nothing to do with getting Coke instead of Diet Coke and everything to do with the fact that I’m angry and frustrated and she can’t do anything to me. Do I really think that she’s an incompetent idiot? On any other day I would probably write it off as a simple mistake. Today, however, she will go home crying because a total stranger has been rude, angry and condescending to her and then to her boss over a simple mistake. No matter. She can’t do anything about it. Now I can go home feeling better about myself and tomorrow I can go back to my job having let go of the frustration of working around incompetent people and knowing that I have put one of ‘them’ in their place.

Anger management: directing your anger at someone that may or may not deserve it and that can’t do anything about it.

While this was said in fun and we had a good time coming up with new targets where we could release our anger, it got me thinking that this could be a method for Joy Management as well. Spreading joy to people that aren’t expecting it and that aren’t expected to do anything in return. Hey! That IS a good idea. Now I can use my powers for good instead of evil.

In the following pages, I wish to share some reasons why we should be compelled to share joy and some methods for letting others know of the Joy that is within you and teaching them that they can have that Joy in their own heart and soul.