Sunday, August 27, 2006

Growing Up

Is it just my imagination, or are kids growing up faster today? It seems to me that they are faced with and exposed to so many more of life's challenges at much younger ages.
Yesterday I went to a small church's back-to-school event held at the public park. While they (Solid Rock Church) provided games, food, drinks, and back to school stuff, I got to put on a magic show and tell the neighborhood about Jesus. The town has a number of adult bookstores and a casino and is economically depressed. You wouldn't exactly call this fertile soil when it comes to planting seeds--more like throwing seeds on the rocky pathway. But the church is preparing the soil and planting where they can.

The thing I notice most about these kinds of audiences is that many of the kids have lost their sense of wonder. They are already skeptical about life in general. They are the ones that "know how you did that" and miss out on the fun of the show. For most adults, we are willing to set aside reality for the time being and enjoy the moment, the magic. I think a part of us yearns for the days when the world was a wonder. It is my hope and prayer that these youngsters will have a time in their lives when they can enjoy the wonder of childhood, the wonder of life.

Thanks to Rachel Wild for sending this poem that expresses those thoughts. Rachel is a wonderful magician/lecturer/vendor from England and I have seen her on numerous occasions at the Midwest Magic Jubilee.



Magic and mystery
Music and mirth
Wizards and witches
Heaven and earth

Fairy tales and folklore
Wishes and dreams
Each day an adventure
Or so childhood seems

Then one day we grow up
The magic starts to fade
No time for story telling
Sunshine turns to shade

Hold tight to the magic
Take it with you every day
Then you’ll never lose that feeling
That your childhood’s here to stay.

Rachel Wild

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Time for some magic!

Well I just got back from the 50th Anniversary Midwest Magic Jubilee in St. Louis. It was a fantastic event filled with great lectures, great performers, great vendors and great times.

I started the weekend by taking in the Thursday afternoon Cardinal game(they won!)and then headed to the Airport Hilton for the weekend. I saw some old friends and met some new ones. I even managed a little time away from the convention to have dinner with some friends in the area and also managed a daily drive to Ted Drewe's.

I have to say that my favorite part of the weekend is the close-up show that is put on by the professionals. These guys are the best. Whit Haydn and Jay Sankey were great, both in their lectures and their performances. And if you are a card handler, you have just got to take the Jimmy "Cards" Molinari advanced workshop. I went to it last year and you just can't believe your eyes. I wish I lived closer to St. Louis so that I could hang out with Mr. Molinari and pick up some of those moves!

The contests were fun to watch and all of the participants should be congratulated for their work. For those that might be wondering, I've toyed with the idea of entering one of the contests but don't really fit well into either of the catagories. The "Stand-up" or "Parlor" style doesn't really belong with the stage magic and definitely isn't close-up. Of the two, it would fit best with the stage magic but without any of what we (magicians) would consider to be stage illusions.

In the end, I was challenged to think like a spectator instead of a magician (Jay Sankey) and picked up a few new ideas that I'm sure will help my show.

Props to Terry Richison, Steve Zuehlke and all the staff.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Cowboy Up

I just finished reading a new book by Dr. Joseph Ransom. The Healing City: A Cowboy Christmas Story is set in the town of Ronan, Montana, where Dr. Joseph was born.

In his book, Dr. Joseph reminds us that the cowboy spirit is alive and well. It is what is right in America. The characteristics of honesty, integrity and hard work are more than principles from the West--they are principles from the Word.

If Jesus had been born in a barn in Montana, His stories may have been of the Good Cowboy instead of the Good Shepherd. It's an interesting thought with similarities and great differences, as well: The Good Shepherd is entirely responsible for the flock. He is responsible for their care, their protection, their food and drink. In spite of His great responsibility, it is considered to be the lowliest of jobs.
The Good Cowboy, likewise, is responsible for the herd. He works hard at what ever needs to be done. While he may prefer to do his work from the saddle, he knows that much of the work must be done with his boots firmly on the ground; mending fences, cutting bulls, nursing calves, and putting up hay for the long winters. While the work is hard physical labor, the job--the profession of Cowboy, is the ultimate of all jobs. It embodies all of the characteristics of A Good Man. A Cowboy is honest, courageous, loyal and hardworking. He is a man's man. He is chivalrous--always the gentleman, kind to children and defender of those in need.

I don't for a moment believe that Jesus thought that the job of shepherd was a lowly job. It may have been a servant's job or the job given to the youngest in the family, but Jesus was kind of big on that whole thing of elevating the humble, the least being the greatest, the last being the first. Jesus may have had more success at getting us off of our pews and into the pastures if He could have used the Good Cowboy theme. Think of it--a horse in every stable and beans in every pot! Rounding up mavericks to increase the herd!

When it comes right down to it, it probably doesn't matter if we're a shepherd or a cowboy. It was never about us. It was always about them--the lost, the ones that need to know Jesus. We either have a servant’s heart or we don't. We're either going to work for the Kingdom or we're not. Whatever He's called you to do--it's time to Cowboy up!

“What is important to remember is this: one Christmas long ago a stranger arrived in Ronan, Montana. His love touched everyone he knew. No, he didn’t change the world. But he changed his world. He changed Ronan and he changed me.”
From the Epilogue of The Healing City.


Monday, August 14, 2006

All is well

Well the 2nd week of August ends well and a new week begins. Church this morning was awesome! Four people were baptized. This afternoon was our church picnic and a great time to hang out with some of my favorite people in the world. This week I'll be at the Midwest Magic Jubilee in St. Louis and sampling some of Ted Drewe's finest!

I've been thinking a bit about the last post--Just Kidding Around, and wondering why we get "called" into certain areas of ministry. Pastor Terry's Wednesday night bible study was on Gideon. Now there was an unlikely deliverer for Israel. Least in a family of the lowest clan in the smallest tribe of Israel. Mighty Warrior, indeed! But those are the kinds of choices God made throughout the bible. Jacob was a deceiver and God chose to call him as the Father of the Chosen Race. Moses was slow of speech and God chose him to be His spokesperson before Pharoah. Ehud, the lefthanded deliverer, is one of my favorite stories. There's the mighty King David that fell to man's lust and tried to cover it up with murder. There's the unwilling messenger, Jonah and many other unlikely choices.

Even the twelve of Jesus were nothing special. Peter and John, the cream of the crop, stood before the Council in Acts 4 and were perceived as ordinary, uneducated men. So what is God up to with making such poor choices. He obviously uses something other than pedigree, ability or a fancy resume to qualify us as candidates for jobs in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The bible tells us that He chooses the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise; the weak things to put to shame the mighty; the lowly things, things that are despised by the world, He chooses--so that no flesh should glory in His presence. Maybe it's not about choosing somebody that can do the job as much as it is about choosing somebody that can only get the job done with His help.

If you think that God is calling you to a ministry that you know that you can't do, you may be right. He may be calling you to a ministry that you can only do through Him. He gets the glory, all of the glory. We are just willing servants. Servants don't get glorified, their Master gets praised for work of His servants.

Live well, serve God.

"Most people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me...the passages which trouble me most are those that I do understand."--Mark Twain

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Just Kidding Around

We all have our pet peeves. You know, those things that irritate us more than anything else. They may or may not be rational. Usually they are small, insignificant things to most other people and yet they really get on our nerves. Take for instance; express check-out lanes. If you're going to go through the trouble of having a sign made that says, "20 items or less," and you're going to make it so that people with just a few items don't have to check-out with the people that have a cart load of stuff, why doesn't anyone enforce the "20 items or less" rule? I think that at 20 items, the register should just shut off. "Sorry, sir, you'll have to go to the end of the line if you want these other four items."

I really don't have many of these "pet peeves" but I do have a couple of them. Kids are another one--not my kids, other people's kids. I hate being around kids. I don't have the patience for it. They talk too much, too loud, too often. Most of them have poor manners and even if that's not their fault, I still don't want to deal with it--or them! Most of those moments in life that I'm really not proud of, are dealing with children or childish adults.

Those of you that know me are probably scratching your heads and thinking, "Wait a minute, don't you work with kids? Most of your ministry is to kids, isn't it?"

Well that's just a part of God's warped (pardon the irreverence) sense of humor. It was a cosmic conversation that went something like this:

In a moment of spiritual humility and servitude;

John: God, I'm ready for a personal area of ministry.
God: Great, John. What are you willing to do for me?
John: What ever you would have me do, God.
God: Really?
John: Really.
God: I'd like for you to work with kids. I think that they'd really like that
magic stuff you do.
John: Kids?
God: Sure, why not? You like telling stories, they like hearing stories.
John: But, God...
God: Yes, John.
John: I don't even like kids.
God: I like kids. I'm crazy about them. Don't you remember that stuff I put
in the bible about them. Jesus wanted them to come to Him, remember?
John: I remember. "...unless you come as a child, you shall not enter into the kingdom"
God: How about this one; "Whoever receives a child in my name, receives me."
John: Did I mention that I don't really like kids?
God: I love them, John. And I'm asking you to love them, too.
John: Isn't there anything else?
God: Be faithful in the "little" things first, John. There will be more later.
John: Was that a pun, God?
God: Yes.
John: Funny.

Anyways, here I am in children's ministry--and having a pretty good time at it. As much as hate to admit it, there have been some incredible blessings. Maybe you're having a similar struggle with God. Maybe He's asking you to serve in an area that is well outside of your comfort zone. Trust me, I know where you're coming from. Just don't let it get to the point that some of God's servants did. Remember Moses? "... and the anger of God was kindled against Moses" Or how about Jonah?

And He's right. More things--bigger things, have come my way. At some point I guess we just have to trust Him.

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them." Isaiah 11:6


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Condemned by theThe Law

It’s hard to believe that more than a week has passed since my last post. It’s been a busy few days with “shows” (actually, I prefer ministry events) at a children’s camp and three VBS Family Nights. There were several life changing decisions made. Praise to God for His great love.

Foremost on my heart in recent days has been an encounter with the mother of a girl struggling with how unworthy we are of His love. I believe that this story of spiritual battle begins in the physical world of young girls turning into young women and young boys to young men—an age when they no longer want to be thought of as kids and haven’t quite made to the world of grown-ups. An age when our bodies are changing and our minds are desperately trying to keep up. An age when we struggle to break free from the cocoon of our childhood and yet childhood itself clings onto us. An age when you no longer want to be a “girl or boy” and you’re not yet a woman or man. An age when we’re trying to find out who we really are. Adolescence has to be the worst age for everybody.

To this young lady’s (that’s perhaps the best way to describe her) credit, her struggle shows that her spiritual maturity is far beyond that of most of us “older” believers. Many of us never get to the point of self examination (criticism) when it comes to how we live against the standard of the Law. Too often our comparison is how we live compared to everyone else. Unfortunately, neither of these is a good standard by which to judge ourselves. The latter allows us to compare ourselves to a standard that offers no hope and is of no eternal value. The former (the Law) is too critical and only serves to condemn us and make us feel guilty and unworthy. So where can we turn if one standard is too low and the other too high?

Perhaps the best place to begin is to use the same standard that we will be judged by when we are judged by God—and even then, we have a choice. We can choose to be judged by the Law, or we can choose to be judged through the Blood of Jesus. As Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans (chapter 7) the Law condemns. Even the great evangelist, Paul, struggled with sin. He said that he doesn’t do the things that he knows he should do and does the things that he knows he shouldn’t do. If Paul falls short of the Law and the penalty is death, then can there be hope for us?

The answer, of course, is Yes. There is hope. Paul begins chapter 8 by telling us that there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus, who walk according to the Spirit. He says that the law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death.

So…does that mean that we are free to do as we please? To live as if there is no law? Of course not. We are being made holy by the Spirit. We are to strive to be more like Jesus. Will we fail? We will have failures, but as we continue to grow, the failures will become fewer. Will we ever be perfect? Probably not in this life. Paul teaches that the Law serves to remind us of our need for a Savior—someone to deliver us from the Law. Jesus.

It will be exciting to watch this young lady grow up. I can’t help but wonder what God has planned for her that He would choose to teach her this lesson at such a young age. We can’t do this alone. We have to rely on Him. When we are weak, He is strong.

James writes that we should find joy in the struggle, for it is in the struggle that we are being made perfect (holy, like Jesus).

“…be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Jesus of Nazareth.