“Holy Fools”: Exploring the Journey of Calling for Christian Variety Performers

The juggler: a village fair by Fritz Beinke, 1873.

I am happy to announce that my PhD dissertation has been published to ProQuest, an academic database for published research.

I have made the dissertation open source, which means anyone anywhere can access the full content free of charge.

Here is the full dissertation: https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/holy-fools-exploring-journey-calling-christian/docview/2622316783/se-2

Please share far and wide. I am very much excited about this research and the future projects that may come out of it.

Here is the abstract:

The purpose of this study was to explore the experience of a lived calling for Christian variety performers. A basic qualitative study method was employed to conduct hour-long semi-structured interviews with thirty seasoned variety performers (jugglers, magicians, ventriloquists, clowns, and other similar entertainers) who ascribe to the Christian faith and claim to live out a life calling through their vocations. All the participants live and work in North America except for one who lives in England. The findings were evaluated through a theoretical framework of theology, vocational meaning-making, and socio-cultural learning theory. Prior research has shown that a calling-oriented approach to one’s work can lead to deep levels of satisfaction, meaning, and engagement in one’s work (Duffy et al. 2018, 423). But research has also unearthed what are known as “dark sides” to calling (Duffy and Dik 2013, 433). This study found both positive and negative experiences related to living out one’s calling as well. Based on the findings from this study, the major themes were named as journey, joy, community, and oblation. Calling was found to be an ongoing journey. The variety performers expressed the purpose of their work, both intrinsically and extrinsically, in terms of joy. The participants described the essential role of community in their lived callings, identified in this study as the vocational support system. Finally, this study found that each participant viewed their calling as an oblation (Maslow 1967, 94), something they wholistically offer back to God as a sacrificial offering. Implications for practice and suggestions for future study are discussed.

Coming Soon: “Holy Fools”

My PhD dissertation will be available to the public very soon!

I am so excited to share that my full 274-page PhD dissertation will be available (for free) to the public very soon. Stay tuned for the details. The title is “Holy Fools”: Exploring the Journey of Calling for Christian Variety Performers.

I didn’t know this ahead of time, but when I went to upload my dissertation to the academic database (ProQuest) through my library, I was able to choose whether I wanted my dissertation to be made public or kept behind a paywall.

The paywall option means my dissertation would have been available only to people with academic institution access (certain educators and students) unless they paid to see my dissertation (which I think would cost like $20 or $30 just to see it).

In my own research journey, I ran into such paywalls when looking for sources. I was blessed to have institutional access through my library, so I could request pretty much anything and get anything. But it was nice to find open source research out in the wild because it meant I was able to download the PDF instantly without making a library request for it. Of course there is plenty of crap out there for free on the internet, but there are also some very reliable and useful sources available for free out there as well. One skill in research is to be able to tell the difference.

There are many people around the world who do not have such access to academic literature and would benefit from such access. I myself was thrilled to have free access to Harvard scholar Jan Ziolkowski’s six-volume The Juggler of Notre Dame research for my dissertation. He made all six volumes free online through Open Book Publishers. You can choose to purchase the physical copies. But the PDFs are all freely available online.

I was inspired by the way Ziolkowski (and others) offered their research online without a paywall. I’ve heard that academic research/journals is a big-money industry that does not always look out first for the authors and researchers.

So I chose the open source option on ProQuest. It meant that I gave up any potential royalties I could earn from ProQuest had I chosen the paywall option. I want my work to be available to as many people as possible for as long as possible. I worked hard so that my work could be of service to the world.

In all honestly, probably only my Mom and two other random humans out there in the world would pay for my dissertation, so why not disseminate it far and wide!? Call me a fool for doing so, but see my dissertation for more on that 🙂

Here is a little sneak peak of my editing process (and the abstract if you’re interested). I’ve been making the final touches for the past few weeks. But it is now in the hands of my library. Once they approve the formatting, it should go live soon thereafter. I can’t wait to share it with you!

Teaching kids to use their talents for good

When I was in elementary and middle school, I was small. I couldn’t keep up with the stronger kids in the popular sports like football and basketball. I was pushed around and bullied by the bigger kids.

Then I discovered a unique talent – juggling. While in fifth grade, my friend Tim taught me how to juggle three balls. I was fascinated by the process and challenge of juggling. I practiced every night after school for about two weeks and finally figured out how to juggle. But I didn’t stop at three. With the help of library books, other jugglers that I met along the way, and lots of practice, I worked my way up to five, six, and seven objects within a few more years.

Then came the high school variety show. I was still one of those “geek” kids who was never in the popular crowd. But my friends talked me into performing my juggling in front of my entire high school for this talent night. So I pulled out the machete juggling and the six-foot ladder balance. The crowd went nuts. I had finally discovered something that (1) I was good at and (2) brought joy to other people.

Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Juggling is an activity that makes me feel alive in a different way than most things – like I was made to do it. And that activity is something different for every person.

But it doesn’t stop there. God gave us each different gifts and talents so that we can shine His light, share His love, bring peace where there is pain, bring goodness and joy to others….all to the glory of His name.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10, NIV

You see, we all have different gifts and strengths, which means we NEED one another. Your strengths fill in for my weaknesses and vice versa. That is why community is so important. In community, we are an unstoppable force of strengths for the greater good of the world.

Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between the use of people’s strengths in their jobs and the overall success of the organizations those people work for. In other words, the best organizations are the ones where most of the people use most of their gifts, talents, and strengths most of the time (see the Gallup C12 engagement survey).

So how can we teach and encourage kids to discover and use their talents for the greater good?

  1. Teach them about calling and vocation. Have discussions about how talents are God-given and that we can develop them through continued work and practice. Check out Visions of Vocation by Steven Garber and Kingdom Calling by Amy Sherman for more on these topics.
  2. Give children every opportunity you can to explore all the different kinds of subjects, activities, arts, and sports in the world. And do so in a way that allows children to freely choose the things they want to pursue in life. When we put the “toys” in front of them, they will pick their favorites and discover their passions and talents.
  3. Consider donating time and/or money to organizations that provide children with opportunities they would otherwise not have. Not all kids have the same amount of opportunities, so we as adults need to be aware of this discrepancy and do everything in our power to offer all children the opportunities to explore different activities in this world.
  4. Teach them about community and how we need one another in this life. Our strengths and talents fill in the gaps of weaknesses and challenges in others (and vice versa). When we come together in groups, teams, and communities, we become unstoppable forces.
  5. Lead kids in service projects. Kids love to serve. They want to serve. When they serve their communities for the greater good, they realize that they have gifts and talents to offer the world. Talk about how God gave us these gifts so that we can help others and bring glory to God.