Longest Celebrity Marriage?

Celebrities, including Hollywood stars, music icons, and famous people around the world have a reputation for short and numerous marriages. But there are always examples to the contrary, and I write this to show that lifelong monogamy is still possible. I personally believe it is only possible by the grace of God.

I think I may have discovered the longest, if not, the longest current marriage between two television/movie/stage celebrities. And I cannot find their names listed on any “longest celebrity marriages” lists around the internet.

I was listening to the soundtrack of the musical 1776 (about the founding fathers and the events leading to the signing of the Declaration of Independence) on my computer and was impressed by the performance of John Adams played by William Daniels (who also played Mr. Feeny on Boy Meets World).

So I searched his name to learn more about him. I discovered that he is married to a woman named Bonnie Bartlett, who is also an actress. They have both won Emmys for their work (on the same night too).

Photo by Alan Light
Photo by Alan Light

They got married in 1951. That was 65 years ago.

Can you find or name any couples where both are celebrities who have been married longer? I know “celebrity” is a relative term, but in this case they both won Emmy awards for their acting roles, so I think “celebrity” is a fair term to use for both of them.

I would love to interview them and ask them questions about having a long marriage in a culture that has a reputation for the opposite. I’m thankful for them and their example.

Super Easy Scripture Slides and Images

I recently stumbled upon a fast and free way to make Scripture slides for Children’s Ministry (or any other ministry, for that matter) with an array of free and attractive backgrounds.

And it may already be in your phone/device.

It’s built into one of the popular apps out there – the free YouVersion app of the Bible (they’re not paying me to post this, btw 🙂 I just really like this feature and want to share about it).

I was using the app recently and saw a button I had never seen before. So I clicked on it. What I found was amazing. It was an option to make an image of any selected Bible verse over any background of your choice (your own or from their library). The settings make it easy to change the font, the font size, the colors, etc. Below are some steps and pics to show you how to do it.

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  1. First, download the app. Search “youversion” on your app store.
  2. Once you familiarize yourself with how to find a certain verse (which is intuitive), select a verse by tapping it. It will underline the verse with a dotted line and then give you a selection of options on the right.
  3. Then tap on the orange button (of a photograph), which will lead you through the step-by-step editing process.
  4. Once you have your slide, share it as you like! See the images below for a more detailed look at how it works.
Tap a verse you want to turn into a slide. It will underline it will dotted lines. Then click on the orange button on the right - the one with the image of a photograph.
Tap a verse you want to turn into a slide. It will underline it will dotted lines. Then click on the orange button on the right – the one with the image of a photograph.
Select an image from their gallery. Or you can use your own (the very first option).
Select an image from their gallery. Or you can use your own (the very first option).
Use the options under the image to change the font, size, and color of the verse.
Use the options under the image to change the font, size, and color of the verse.
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When you’re ready, tap “save.” Then you will see this image. Tap the “share” button to see your sharing options.

Then you can share the image by email, message, or social media. You can also save the image to your device and hence drop it into any slide show you are making (such as Keynote or ProPresenter).

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I love to use it to share a quick verse on social media or as a slide when I’m speaking or teaching about the Bible. It’s super easy to use and best of all, it’s free!

Bonus: Many of the most popular Bible verses (John 3:16, for example) have special pre-made images with artsy fonts and backgrounds. Those are fun to discover and you just have to stumble upon them when you go to those verses and then go to this “edit image” process.

Want more creative ideas for Children’s and Family Ministry? Sign up for my free newsletter here.

Need a speaker/entertainer for your next event? Check out my promo videos here.

Here are some slides I’ve made since I found out about this……

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Bring Me Game Ideas

What do you do when you have a room full of children causing havoc (or could potentially do so) and need to engage them in a way that is both fun and simple to execute? Well, education is a good idea. But perhaps you’ve taught and they’ve learned all day and it’s time to kick back and play a good old-fashioned group game.

Play the “Bring Me” Game!

The Bring Me Game concept is simple and the variations are endless. You, the game leader, should stand up front with a microphone (or not if your group is small enough) and ask for random objects/items. I’ve got a list to get you going below.

The first person or group or team to produce the requested item and bring it to you gets a point for their team. WARNING: Kids tend to RUN a lot in this game. So make sure you remind them to not trample one another or trip over anything in their effort to bring the items up to you. You can decide how long to play (such as “first team to ten points wins”).

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One major thing to keep in mind when playing the game and coming up with ideas is the fact that nearly everyone has a device these days (even youth). If you’re at an event where most everyone has a device on them or at least some representatives of each team (such as adults in mostly-kid events) have devices, then make the most of technology in your requests. The internet is an endless supply of “scavenger-hunt” challenges. Just ask for a picture of BB-8 from Star Wars or a map of the country of Malaysia or any other fun idea they can search for.

The types of things you call up will vary depending on the size and the average age of your group. For example, not many kids will have a credit card on them if you ask for one. So be creative with ideas that fit what you think is out there in everyone’s pockets, purses, and accessories.

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Here is a list of ideas to get you going. You can come up with your own ideas by thinking of other things similar to or related to items on this list.

  • two different shoelaces tied together
  • five different socks bundled up in a ball
  • a selfie on a device
  • a photograph of exactly ten people on a device
  • something edible
  • chocolate
  • something that has a picture of a rainbow on it
  • a double-A battery and a triple-A battery
  • something that is completely blue
  • two people wearing glasses doing jumping jacks next to one another
  • two unrelated people with red hair
  • a human hair
  • a non-human living thing (this will usually be a bug or insect found on the floor)
  • lipstick
  • chapstick
  • nail clippers
  • six people forming a human pyramid
  • a red pen or marker
  • something with a disney symbol or character on it
  • two unrelated people with braces
  • a nail file
  • a one dollar bill, a five dollar bill, and a ten dollar bill (exactly)
  • a penny, a nickel, a dime, and a quarter (exactly)
  • a liquid
  • something that feels cold
  • something that feels warm
  • something that lights up (that is not a phone or tablet device)
  • ten people in a line that goes from tallest person to shortest person
  • a pencil
  • a tissue
  • a crumpled up piece of paper
  • something silver
  • something gold
  • a person wearing two different kinds of shoes
  • a rock
  • a visible piece of dust/dustball
  • something sharp (and if it is a dangerous/forbidden object, you can confiscate it 🙂
  • something conical
  • something circular
  • something in the shape of a cube
  • a ball of some sort
  • something chewable
  • five breath mints
  • three different kinds of breath mints
  • a picture on a device of the White House in Washington D.C.
  • a picture on a device of a mother and a son
  • someone who can say the alphabet backwards (for real, not someone saying, “alphabet backwards”)
  • pocket fuzz/lint
  • a device playing the United States’ National Anthem
  • a device playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata
  • a paper towel
  • a circle of exactly twelve people holding hands

I posted about this back in 2012 with more ideas you can use as well!

Please share your lists and ideas in the comments below and we can have a trove of items for people to say “Bring me……!”

Want more group game ideas for kids and family events? Sign up for my free newsletter here.

Need a speaker/entertainer for your next event? Check out my promo videos here.

Teaching Kids About Street Performing

I performed for a small group of three to five year-olds at my daughter’s school today. They were studying about Europe, so I figured I would teach them about Europe’s rich tradition of busking (another term for street performing). I showed them a picture of a busker at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland as an example of Europe’s street performing scene.

But I wanted to take the lesson a bit further. I concocted a social experiment that I have never before tried (or heard of anyone doing). I counted out fifteen pennies per child and set the money on each child’s carpet square before they entered the room. When they came in, I told them to count their money (an opportunity to practice math) and that the money is now theirs.

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Each child started with fifteen pennies. It was my job to perform and try to earn some of those pennies in my hat. They could keep and take home what they didn’t spend.

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I then instructed them that I was going to perform for them and lay a hat out in front of me. I explained the tradition of paying street performers if you like their tricks and think they’re funny. I emphasized that they can certainly keep their money if they choose. If they didn’t like my show or thought I wasn’t funny, then there is no need to give me any money. In fact, even if they like my show, they still don’t have to give me money. But I as the street performer will respectfully ask that they put something in the hat if they like the show. It’s all voluntary.

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Some of the equipment I used to try to earn some pennies today.

So I turned on the music, picked up my juggling things, and went to work. I was actually performing for seven little children and two adult teachers just hoping that I would earn some pennies for my hard work. I was surprised at how seriously I took it.

After a few tricks, low and behold, they started coming. The children and the teachers began to trickle up towards my hat and drop pennies in at various times when I would do tricks. It certainly warmed my heart to know that they liked what I was doing.

Some kids held most or all of their money back. And that was totally fine. Enough children were voluntarily showing me their appreciation through pennies that it didn’t bother me. In fact, as a street performer, I should still do my work with excellence whether people throw money or not. As street performers, we are always putting ourselves out there and making ourselves vulnerable to the fate of the audience’s appreciation or lack thereof. It is a risk we are willing to take. And if it means no pay, then that’s life and we will go out and try harder the next day.

Thankfully, these kids were generous with their penny throwing and at the end of the day, I counted up exactly one hundred pennies. It was a buck hard earned.

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Here is some of my pay. More pennies came in after I took this shot.

The header image at the top of this post features Kezzie learning to put money in the busker’s basket when she was only one. This gentleman was happily playing his accordion for us in Malaga, Spain while we were on a family vacation.

Teaching Kids About Money

Thanks to Dave Ramsey and other financial teachers, we were inspired to use clear labeled jars to show our daughter how much money she has and how to categorize it. I know that she will grow up in an even more digital world than we did, which means money will become more and more “invisible” as she grows up in the twenty first century. When money is simply an unseen number out there in the cloud of the internet, it is very easy to lose track of how much is there and where it is all going.

So that’s where clear jars come in! It is tangible, real, and visible. She has acquired money through gifts from others as well as through some age-appropriate work. We will let her use the money as she sees fit – and then she will tangibly watch how fast it goes (as well as how it adds up when you save it). She is very much the crafty kid, so we let her take ownership of the process, from the cutting and taping of the labels to the counting out and categorizing of her own money.

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Sarah and I agreed not to dictate to her how much she should put in each jar. We want her to have autonomy and responsibility over those decisions. Of course we will constantly have conversations with her about how we categorize our money and offer suggestions on percentages. In fact, when I let her fill her own jars, she just liked plopping coins wherever she wanted, and her “giving” jar was looking nearly equal to the other three categories. I don’t want to tell her to give 10% when she wants to give 25%! God wants a generous and cheerful giver – and it looks like our daughter is off to a good start. Maybe we should learn something from her!

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As for the categories – we have her doing the obvious saving, giving, and spending. I decided to add “business” because we are encouraging her to explore entrepreneurial ventures as a way to earn money if she so desires. I have a hunch her desire will suddenly manifest itself when she sees the “spend” jar empty! She could purchase art supplies to make crafts to sell on Etsy, for example. When I was a young child, my mother made me buy the lemonade powder for my lemonade stand. If I was making my own profit, I needed to purchase my own expenses. I’m so glad she made me do that.
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What are some tips and tricks you use to teach your kids about money?

Remembering the Sabbath


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IMG_5123Last week was a very busy week. There was office work, family obligations, booking events, and the ongoing process of fixing up our old house. And right now we are fixing up the kitchen! It will be great when it is done, but the process can seem long and laborious. So I try to find every free and waking minute in order to work on the kitchen.

The problem is that after a full week of normal work, normal life, AND fixing up a kitchen, I was completely exhausted.

I told Sarah that I wanted to take a Sabbath on Sunday and not do any work-related stuff. In fact, we planned to go on a family walk at a nearby park. Needless to say, Sarah was thrilled. And we spent the day worshiping at church, visiting friends and family, and going on our anticipated family walk.

It was exactly what we ALL needed. When I was in college, I would work like crazy, often not taking a legitimate day off each week. One of my close friends was a top student who worked very hard but he never did any work on Sundays (or whichever day he chose as his day off). I was amazed because he was so good at school but still found time to take off and refresh himself. His example made an impression on me. So I have tried to take at least one day off out of every seven days since college. It is not always the same day of the week since my life schedule changes from week to week. But I have realized that without a Sabbath, I actually become less productive in life, which means that working too much can ironically become counter-productive.

I believe that God made us to bring Him glory. One way we do that is through work. But work is not everything. Even God rested on the seventh day after making the universe. Think about that. God took a break. He’s God after all. Does He NEED to take a break from work?

When Monday morning came around, I was refreshed and ready to tackle another busy week. I’m so glad made us this way – to need and enjoy the Sabbath. I look forward to the work I get to do, but I also look forward to Sabbath breaks!

Hebrews 4:9-11, ESV

9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

Worship Response Stations

I recently returned from Pine Creek Camp in Gore, VA. I was the camp pastor for two weeks with several hundred preteen kids and their chaperones from Assembly of God churches around Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, D.C., and West Virginia.

I speak at many camps each summer, but this one stuck out because of the format they asked me to follow. First of all, there were two chapel services each day for the kids – one in the morning and one in the evening. The morning service was designed to be the “main” service of the day (in terms of worship music and teaching time) with the evening service being more of a “review and respond” service.

So in the evenings, I taught for about 10 minutes, just reviewing the points we learned about in the morning. Then, for the remainder of the service (another 45 minutes to an hour), we spent responding to God’s Word through the format of worship stations.

The camp told me this ahead of time. So I wrote up some station ideas that went along with my lessons each day. The leadership at the camp then took all my ideas and turned them into reality by getting the supplies, setting up the stations, and manning them each night.

The results were amazing. We realized that kids learn and respond in a variety of ways, depending on their learning languages. Some kids respond well with hands-on and interactive activities while others are fine being still or reading. Most kids have a variety of learning styles inside of them anyway, so it’s good to have the different stations so they can move around freely as they like. I’d like to take a few posts to share the ideas and pictures from the worship response stations.

Here is a quick rundown of the stations. I will go into more details with each one in subsequent posts.

  1. Prayer Counseling – This is the traditional idea of having prayer counselors on hand if a kid or adult needs prayer for anything. This is usually the only “station” people offer as a way of response at camp or in church. We still used it, but it was only one of many ways to respond. 10525923_10201690183931064_2541282716695704447_n
  2. Question Cards – If the kids had a question about God or the Bible, they wrote them down on a 3×5 card and handed it to an adult. The adult would then attempt to find the answer in the Bible and answer the question. If they couldn’t find it, then they would say “I don’t know” or “I’ll look it up later and get back it you.” This was a surprisingly popular station for the kids. God Questions 1 (1)
  3. World Prayer Map – There was a map on the wall and the kids would go up and place a sticker star on a country, city, or location of a people group and pray for them.
  4. Slime Buckets – One night, we taught about Jonah. In order to explore the idea of what it may have felt like to be inside the belly of a great fish, the kids put their hands in slime. This was obviously very popular. 1919619_10201689924364575_7350194639987657628_n
  5. Blindfolded Prayer – Also along the story of Jonah (who prayed in pitch darkness inside the belly of the fish), we had the kids put on a blindfold and then sit or kneel and pray. One leader said this station was the first time he had seen one of his boys pray. Sometimes it takes some creative way that really connects with a particular kid to open them up to things like prayer and worship. 1800191_10201689925044592_1813544821034699680_n
  6. Kids Pray for Adults – I will devote an entire post to this station, as it was my favorite of all the stations. Kids were on hand to pray for adults who wanted prayer. It was humbling for adults and exciting for kids. More on this one later.
  7. The Wooden Cross – This is another traditional station that many groups have used for years. I believe it is still very powerful in form and function. The large wooden cross reminds us of what Jesus did for us and we have the chance to lay prayers and confessions at the cross by writing them on a piece of paper and nailing them to the cross. 10339573_10201689918724434_8519116368611174061_n
  8. Prayer Journaling/Drawing – This was also a very popular one. We had stacks of paper and boxes of crayons, markers, and pencils on hand. The kids would simply grab some paper and something to write/draw with and freely journal or draw pictures as prayers, thanksgivings to God, and other worship thoughts on their minds. 10553423_10201689925124594_4728291633501802324_n10569008_10201690182851037_8364184396806928724_n
  9. Finger Painting – On the day when we learned about Creation, the kids got to draw pictures of things that God made on a large white poster using finger paints. This was extremely popular and looked very pretty when it was all done. 10409409_10201689918484428_3276895270255792122_n
  10. Other Stations – There were also stations with bead bracelets, mouse traps, clay and play-do, bowls of fruit, a white board with a dry erase marker, and Scripture reading. I will discuss each one in subsequent posts.

Let me know if you have done worship response stations and what they looked like. Thanks for reading!

All photos are credited to Kelly Gibbs. Thanks Kelly!

Whatever is Lovely

God is love (1 John 4:8,16). So anything that is of God is lovely. And all things lovely are of God. This includes, but is not limited to, the love we share between one another in various relationships such as friends and family. In fact, all people are God’s creation and we are called to love them. So other people are lovely. And we should think about other people – how they are all beautifully made in God’s image. We should think about them before ourselves (Phil 2:3-4).

What else is lovely? God’s creation. The nature around us. Anything that reflects the image and glory of God. For example, it is a lovely thing to attend a wedding and celebrate the coming together of a husband and wife. On the other hand, it is not lovely to watch a husband and wife hurling insults and hurtful things towards one another. When we think about the wedding and ponder what is going on, our minds and hearts are pointed towards God and His glory. When we ponder hate and hurtfulness, our hearts and minds are pointed away from God.

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!

 

The National Gallery of Art

IMG_2403529px-Woman-with-a-balance-by-VermeerIt’s a shame that we have lived in Richmond, VA for the past six years and it was only a few weeks ago that we took our first trip to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Just 110 miles away, this treasure of a museum has got to be one of the greatest collection of things common to the people of America (and the world, for that matter – they don’t check your citizenship at the door). It is free and open to the public.

My vocation as a traveling speaker/juggler is busiest in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. But the months of November through January slow down for me (of which I am thankful). These are our family “summer” months, if you will. So my first free Saturday of this period (just a few weeks ago) was a perfect time for a family day trip to D.C.

Usually traffic is real bad between Richmond and D.C., but we sailed the entire way to near downtown D.C. We found free parking at a park that is a short walk from the National Mall (East Potomac Park/Hains Point).

We walked through the main building of the Smithsonian on the way to the National Gallery of Art. Kezzie liked seeing the “princess castle.”

Then we made our way to the Gallery of Art. They have works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Monet, Cassatt, Raphael, Vermeer, Botticelli, Van Gogh, Titian, and many more. I loved many of the landscapes and Biblical art. My favorite was Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance. The light coming through the window, the Mary-like figure staring at a balance, and the painting of the Last Judgement of Christ behind her on the wall – it all makes for tremendous art.

Here are some pics (and art) from the trip:

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