Juggling Chainsaws

Here is a short video of me juggling chainsaws at an event. I got some grass stuck in one of the chainsaws at first, so I had to dislodge it while everyone waited. Then I got it out and juggled the chainsaws. Yes, they are sharp and running. They are Makita battery operated chainsaws with a 4 and half inch chain bar.

The Power of a Family Camp

I recently spoke at a Family Camp at Camp Dixie in North Carolina. The idea is simple: create a camp experience that involves the whole family. Most camps offer programs for age-specific groups, particularly children’s and youth camps. But Family Camp is where all the members of the family come to camp together and enjoy the experience as a family. This creates memories that last forever and help families bond in ways that are hard to do in the midst of “everyday life” back at home.

Here are some things Camp Dixie did well: they had plenty of free play time (for the pool, the lake, canoeing, hiking, go carts, etc.). They also had joint worship services for the whole family (music and a special speaker that is geared towards all ages). And there were some times for age-specific break-out times where the adults went to workshops on different topics and the kids went to do crafts.

I enjoyed it and I look forward to returning next year. Here is a video recap of this camp….

Family Camp Weekend 2014 from Camp Dixie on Vimeo.

Life as a Professional Juggler: FAQ’s

PageLines- 6rings.jpgBy God’s grace, I am living a dream. I get to do what I love and I don’t even feel like I work. But what I do is serious “work” at the same time.

I get a lot of questions from people about what I do, so I thought I would try to consolidate the most commonly asked questions I get and answer them for you….

  1. You’re joking, right? You’re not really a professional juggler. Yes, I’m joking. I made up the fact that I’m a professional juggler because that’s crazy, irresponsible, and nobody could make a living doing that anyway. Next question.
  2. No really. You are a professional juggler? Alright, I can’t fool you. I travel and do juggling shows for families and kids. It really is a fun job.
  3. So do you do running chainsaws? Yes.
  4. You’re joking. You don’t really do chainsaws. No, I’m not joking. I already used my one joke at the beginning of this conversation. I really juggle running chainsaws with sharp chains on them. If you don’t believe me, watch my YouTube video of me doing said act of insanity.
  5. Where do you travel? Do you travel, like, out of state? Yes, and sometimes out of the country. But most shows are here in the states, coast to coast.
  6. So do people like, pay for you to come out? Do they fly you out too? Most of the time, yes. I do some volunteer shows throughout the year, but most of my shows are compensated, including the travel. This is how I make a living. I’m not a bazillionaire and don’t expect to live the high life of luxury from it. But I love it and I feel blessed beyond measure. My family is provided for and we get to take fun trips together around the world. We have a paid-for roof over our heads, food on the table, and we love each other. I couldn’t ask for more.
  7. How do people find out about you? I work with a booking office that arranges my schedule. They represent a network of entertainers who provide shows for various events nationwide. People call them looking for a speaker/entertainer/act and I’m one of them.
  8. So you do like birthday parties? I have, but birthday parties make up about 0.5% of my shows in a given year. Most of my shows are for church events, school assemblies, or camp/retreat events.
  9. So you do a lot of churches? Yeah, in most of my shows, I combine my juggling show with a message about the Bible. I try not to be preachy. It turns out that juggling is a fun way to connect with kids and then teach them something positive. A lot of churches and Christian camps around the country are looking for creative ways to do outreach and Christian teaching to their kids and youth. This is one way and I’m happy to help be a part of these outreaches.
  10. How did you get into this? So a friend taught me how to juggle in middle school. I enjoyed the skill so much that I went to the library and got as many books as I could about juggling. I practiced for hundreds of hours, until I felt confident enough to perform for my high school variety show (by then I was in high school). That was my big break. The audience loved it (and I did too). From there, I was spotted by someone connected to a local party company. They started booking me for local shows (like birthday parties and grand openings). I did not seek it as a career. In fact, I felt called by God into ministry, like pastoring and/or teaching in the Church. So I went to college and seminary and studied the Bible, Theology, and Christian Education. Along the way, it all clicked and I realized I could do BOTH! I could teach others about the Bible AND do a juggling show at the same time. I developed a show that did just that, people found out about it, and it eventually turned into a full-time vocation. I have been doing it full-time since 2007.
  11. Do you have a family? What do they do? I have a wife and a daughter. My wife is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and works two days a week at a Counseling office here in Richmond, VA, where we live. Our daughter was born in 2010 and she is smart, funny, and loves ballet. My wife stays with our daughter most days and I get to be with her the two days that my wife is at work (unless I’m out doing a show, which is when we get a nanny/sitter).
  12. Do they ever travel with you? Sometimes, yes (usually only to the fun places, like St. Simon’s Island, GA). But most of the time they stay at home because the like the normal pace of things at home. They support me in my travels. I’m gone a lot in the Spring and Summer. But I’m home a lot in the Winter. I work out of the house when I’m home, so I get to be very close by when I’m not on the road doing a show. We like the rhythm we’re in and it works for us at this point in our lives.
  13. I tried juggling once and it didn’t go so well. I don’t have the coordination. I’m amazed at people who can do that. Well, at least you tried. And thank you for your kind words. We all have our own things that we’re good at. But, hey, somebody’s gotta be the juggler!

Any other questions? Leave a comment if you have any and I’ll do my best to answer them!

 

It’s As Scary As It Looks – At First


At first, this is very frightening. But after years of practicing the shorter unicycle, I found that once I took that first “leap of faith” onto the tall unicycle and rode it for a bit, it was just like riding the shorter one, just higher in the air. This was taken at Highland Lakes Camp in Spicewood, Texas at a camp for about 850 kids. My next goal is to juggle while idling in place on the tall unicycle.

Juggling a Chainsaw

 

DISCLAIMER: DO NOT ATTEMPT!

I juggled a live, running, sharp chainsaw for the very first time last week in North Carolina. I guess I was tired of being a juggler for 15 years and having people ask me, “Soooo, can you juggle a chainsaw?” I would always have to say, “No, but I’d like to try someday.” Now I can say, “Yeah” and then casually move on to some other subject in the conversation.

I was at the International Jugglers’ Festival in Lexington, KY chilling with my friend and mentor David Cain. Somehow chainsaws came up in our conversation (juggler’s talk about the weirdest things) and Dave told me that there was a new battery-powered chainsaw on the market. That caught my interest because that means no gas sloshing around while you juggle the beastly thing. When I got home, I looked up “battery powered chainsaw” on the internet and sure enough, Home Depot has a special right now at $59.

Then, while on a juggling trip in High Point, NC, I visited the local Home Depot. There it was – the 18-Volt Ryobi 10-inch Chainsaw – for $59. I scoped it out for weight, rotation, shape, ability to be fitted with a juggler’s handle, and so forth. I picked it up in the aisle at Home Depot and swung it back and forth in my hand a bit (not flipping it). I tried to lessen my swing when other people were in the aisle. How would you like to see a juggler testing a chainsaw for juggling in your Home Depot? I didn’t think so.

I went to Lowe’s to compare my options. Lowe’s had a similar chainsaw made by Black and Decker. It was $99. But it came with a battery and charger. The Ryobi did not. When you price up the Ryobi with the charger and battery, it came out to $130. The Black and Decker was a shorter blade (8 inches) and it had a better shape for flipping. So I went with the B & D. Then I bought some accessories to fix it up for juggling – mainly the oak dowel.

I told my host pastor what I was up to and he got really excited. “Will you practice it and be able to perform it this week at our church?” he asked. I said, “Sure, I could.” He then offered to raise the money to pay for the cost of the chainsaw – so that his church could participate in this ministry I do. I said he didn’t have to but he insisted. I had already bought the chainsaw. So that night, he showed the congregation the chainsaw and told them that he wanted to raise money to cover the cost of it. They all pitched in and within a short while, all the money for the chainsaw came in. Thank you Community Bible Church of High Point, North Carolina!

I spent an entire work day fixing up the chainsaw for juggling. That means I attached the oak dowel to the chainsaw without drilling anything into the chainsaw. Without boring you with the details, I finished the day with a solid handle on the chainsaw and then I started to practice.

Practicing juggling a chainsaw for the first time is not for the faint of heart. I gathered some staff at the church and had them watch. I stood in the grass out back and (with the chainsaw off) tried my first flip. It worked. I did not kill myself. I flipped it again, and again. No drops.

So I then figured I would try with the chain running. I might be a good juggler, but I hate running chainsaws. Maybe the chainsaw and I have a love-hate relationship. It’s the audience that loves the chainsaw – not the juggler. I zip-tied the trigger so it was always on. Then I popped in the battery to start it up. With blade running, I flipped it – and caught it. I tried again and again. Then, I dropped it.

Not on myself, but on the grass. I stepped out of the way, knowing to respect the chainsaw. I picked it up and tried again. I dropped a few more times, once or twice watching as the saw blade chopped it’s way through the dirt and grass. It is a somber feeling to imagine my hand being the recipient of such a chopping. On that note, don’t go shopping for chainsaws to juggle while wearing sandals. It makes your feet feel very naked and vulnerable.

I practiced enough to get a good clean run of a juggle (with one chainsaw and two juggling clubs – nine total catches). That was it for the day. I went to the hotel, showered up, and came back for the evening program.

I was a little nervous throughout the evening before my chainsaw bit. I had families tell me they were praying for my safety ever since they heard I was going to juggle a chainsaw for the first time. Then, a little 3-year old looked at me before my program and said, “Yu gonna juggle chinsaw, and yu gonna die.” And he said it with a large grin on his face.

I finally got to the end of my 45-minute program and it was time for the chainsaw. We all went outside on the grass (in case I, you know…) After a few attempts at chainsaw jokes, I went ahead and did the real thing – juggling a live, running, sharp chainsaw. I did my nine catches and stopped. Everybody cheered. I became a chainsaw juggler. What a life.