I have attended school every Fall since I was 4 years old. I am now 25, and I am used to this ritual of strapping up the backpack, kissing someone (it was my Mom, now it’s my wife), grabbing a banana if I can, and rushing off to school. Thankfully, Sarah and I live so close to school that we can walk. I love September. High School football games, new faces, new socks, and that perfect cool breezy weather. I think I also love September because my birthday is on the 27th and our wedding anniversary is on the 20th. And classwork is not too hard yet. This is just party month for the Joyners!
I have a few juggling gigs lined up, but for the most part this is a break from the busy schedule of the summer. It’s nice to have the time for school.
I’m embarking on a brief tour through Indiana and Illinois over the next few weeks. This will be exciting because I will pass through my old college stomping grounds. I have the opportunity to begin this trip at the Illinois State Fair with the Child Evangelism Fellowship tent (Aug 14-15). Through the medium of juggling equipmnt, I’ll get to share the message of the Wordless Book and the “little flip book” made popular by CEF.
Then I’ll go to a camp near Peoria, IL that I recently did a program for back in June. The group of kids will be different, though. I especially remember the tether ball stations that this camp offers! (Aug 16)
Then I head to Indiana for a string of churches near my alma mater, Taylor University (Aug 17-21). By this time, my wife will meet up with me so we can share the rest of the trip together. She also went to Taylor. By the way, Sarah is back from her summer trip and I am so glad to have my best friend around again.
Finally, Sarah and I will have a day off (Aug 22). Maybe we’ll go hike in Brown County or something. Then we’ll head to Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Aug 23. Maybe she and I will have time to have lunch or dinner at the Greek restaurant on the South side of Indy that was the location of our very first date back on Valentine’s Day of 2002.
So, come see us on this tour. The calendar is on my website, www.jessethejuggler.com. So far, I only have one groupie – her name is Sarah!
Before I tell you about my trip this past week, I’ll tell you about this picture. This is my first attempt (after a practice run) at the armor of God with balloon animals! The kid is holding the shield of faith sideways, but I must admit that the shield came together much better than I intended. It was fun. I had the kids repeat back to me all the parts of the armor several times while I was fixing up this guy. It was great watching him go back to his seat. His friends had to “de-suit” him just so he could get back into his pew seat.
So I just got back from a week-long juggling trip in Peoria, IL. I got word that back in the Vaudeville days, performers of all types would test their act in the great American town of Peoria, Illinois first. If they flopped there, then they would probably never make it on the big stage. But if Peoria liked the show, then that was a sign that they could take their show on the road.
I guess I can say that things went pretty well. I did eight programs in four days. I was exhausted at the end, but I loved every minute of it. There is nothing I would rather do than share the Gospel of Jesus while I juggle. My friend Brad Habegger carted me around and saw most of my presentations. He was able to give me some great feedback on what worked and what did not work. That is valuable information. Not everybody is willing to tell you about the parts of your program that should be edited in order to improve the overall effectiveness. He is a great brother in the Lord and has a heart for ministry to children as the Director of Camp of Champions USA in Peoria.
I also got to present my juggling to Camp Good News (CEF) and Faith Bible Camp. These were overnight camps – the latter one having their “middle schoolers” week. And boy was that a hoot. I intentionally picked out one the outspoken male eighth-graders and made him be my guinea pig for my routine with the hammer of death, the Arabian saw blade, and the American grillmaster pitchfork. He didn’t flinch much, but it was fun messing with him.
While on this trip, I read a great article by storyteller Stephen James. He said that the success and effectiveness of ministry should not be how much the audience laughed or how many people showed up for the event. If that were the case, then people like Jeremiah and Jesus would be considered ministerial failures! Rather, let us measure our effectiveness based on the mantra of John the Baptist: “He must increase and I must decrease.” Was God glorified? Were people given the space and opportunity to worship God? Was the Word of God proclaimed? These are the questions I want to learn to ask myself after a juggling program.
My wife, Sarah, is working out of state right now – for a two month period. We have just passed the one month mark and there is still another month of distance for Sarah and I. I just want the world to know that I miss her. I really respect couples who do this for longer periods of time – such as military families. There is a student friend of mine at the seminary who is from Kenya. His wife and kids are back in Kenya while he is studying in America. They will not see each other for about a year. I cannot imagine that kind of distance – but somehow people do it and maintain healthy marriages at the same time.
All I know is that I am now more thankful for time with my wife than ever before. Our distance teaches us not to take one another for granted when we are together. I told her last night on the phone what I wanted for my birthday this Fall – two tickets and dinner for the Cirque du Solei show in Cincinatti. Talk to you later.
I want to introduce you to a tremendous friend of mine named Michael Kaspar. His blog is unsafeobedience.com or you can try (www.kaspar.typepad.com). This man taught me how to persist even when you do not feel like moving ahead. He is one of those dynamic people who will always lift you up when you chat with him. Check out his site – and get to know this guy.
Jim and Guy are two individuals in this world who imagined the unimaginable – and we all must thank them for being role models in the field of creativity. I am talking about Jim Henson, founder of “The Muppets” and Guy Laliberte, founder of “Cirque du Solei.”
Just peruse the portfolios of these two guys and you think to yourself, “where in the world did they think that up?” Jim Henson took the world of puppetry and created its own genre – muppetry. Kermit, Piggy, Ernie, and Animal are now icons of culture. Jim thought outside the box and imagined a world where puppets could ride real bicycles, perform synchronized swimming, and inspire the world to not worry about being green.
Guy Laliberte founded the “art nouveau” circus that has taken the world by storm. In a world previously dominated by carnivals and Ringling Brothers, Guy thought of a circus that was just different. When he reviews acts “under construction” for his shows, he wants to see something that makes him say, ‘wow.’ If he has seen it before in the traditional circus, then it doesn’t make him say, ‘wow.’ Cirque is a circus with a dramatic story – not isolated acts of lion taming and unicyclists.
The muppets and Cirque are outside the box, which is how I would like to learn how to think in regards to ministry to children. There is more to children’s ministry than juggling. I want children and parents to have an encounter with the living God – by somehow experiencing the fun, the gladness, the pleasure of God. Things like juggling make that connection between kids and God.
I have been known to say that the younger you are, the faster you can learn how to juggle. While that may be true for some, I think I was proved wrong today. I held some lessons for some really young kids in the morning (some were probably four or five) and then some lessons for some college students in the afternoon.
The college students were by far faster in their learning curve. Some of it may be the fact that these college students were Baptist missionaries doing Backyard Bible Clubs for the whole summer. They wanted to learn a new tool to use in their children’s outreach events. I’m so glad they chose juggling. You see, they were motivated to learn. They had a vision to use it for a purpose. Some of the four year olds on the other hand, they just wanted to toss a ball up and down.
I had a tremendous visit with my beautiful wife. She is definitely worth it. We got to go for some walks and share time together over meals in a little coffe shop called Harbor Lights in Leavenworth, Kansas (check it out if you ever go).
I got to meet an incredible man named Randall while I was there. He and several other servants of the Lord run a youth center called Kids Connection. It is a safe place for young people to hang out when they’re not in school. There are games, computers, snacks, and loving adult supervision. I was inspired to see this wonderful place in action. I got to juggle for the kids there (in a different location). I’ll be at Lifebridge Church this weekend, I’ll let you know how that goes.
I was chatting with some other jugglers the other day and one of them told me about a college class (in Florida, I believe). This was a Psychology class for college students. Apparently, for the final exam, the professor will grant an “A” for the exam only if the student can hold a juggle of three balls for two minutes.
Sound harsh? Many people would think so. Others would see this as an easy “A.” The point the professor is trying to make is that juggling is an activity that many people simply mentally tell themselves they can never do. But the truth is – anybody can juggle. Of course some people are born with inclincations to do better at it than others. But the basic task of juggling three balls is something everyone can achieve given a little practice.
The point of the professor, though, is bigger than juggling. He wants to inspire students to avoid putting “mental blocks” between themselves and challenging-looking tasks in this life.
So, go learn how to juggle. And learn something that your mind says you cannot do. And do not forget the ultimate power of our accomplishments – Jesus Christ. For with Christ – nothing is impossible. And I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Lots of people have been asking me, “Where’s Sarah?” That’s my wife if you do not know. I have to say, “She’s working in Kansas City.” And then I proceed to tell them why she works so far away, the duration of her stay, and if I’m going to see her soon.
We at least get to talk on the phone every evening. The reason why she is there is because she works with the Southwestern Company. This is a sales job and she gets out-of-state territory. Why? It’s complicated. You see, the job is designed for young college students. And the job is very demanding of your time and energy. If they let students work their hometown, they would be too distracted to be successful at the job. Sarah could probably handle this job even locally, but she sticks with the format even though she is in her eighth summer and she is older than college-age.
Plus, she does well enough at this job to earn tuition for this coming school year faster than any other job we know of. I”ve done this job with her for the past 3 years and it has been amazing. Now, I’m committed to working at our church and juggling for the summer – while she sells a few educational books.
If military families can handle a year apart, Sarah and I can handle a few months. Besides, she doesn’t know this, but I’m going to go see her sometime this week for a few days. Then I might even drive out a second time and see her. She’s worth it. I love my wife. I love Sarah. The longer we’re apart, the more pictures of her I’m fishing down in the housing and staring at before I go to bed at night. She is beautiful. She is precious. She is my wife.
One crazy event that has occurred recently is the misidentification of two young women involved in the fatal Taylor University van crash back on April 26th. In that accident, 5 people died, and several more were injured. It turns out that one of the injured (Whitney Cerak) and one of the dead (Laura VanRyn) looked alike, and yes, those at the scene of the accident misidentified these two women. So Whitney has been in a coma for five weeks, being tended by the wrong family (who thought she was their daughter Laura). Meanwhile, the Ceraks and 1400 other people held a funeral for Whitney when it was really Laura VanRyn in the casket and Whitney was actually alive the whole time in a hospital in Fort Wayne, IN.
Someone in the Cerak family said something profound. When they heard that their daughter was alive and that it was someone else’s daughter who was really buried, they said something along the lines of, “This is tough, because our joy is someone else’s pain.”
Check out the Taylor Website for all the updates and a link to the blog that is following this confusing tale (www.taylor.edu).
On another note, It looks like I’ll be a street performer for the Kentucky Renaissance Faire this weekend. It’s in Eminence, KY and it will be my first time at one of these things – it should be fun. Apparently many people get REALLY into these faires. My friends Justin and Erica (soon to be Ball) are getting married tomorrow night in Bardstown, which is not too far from Eminence. I’ll let you know how it goes.