Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Up on a Ladder...

Laura and I went to a free dinner last night sponsored by a fire-safety vendor. It was a nice example of someone using FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) in a sales pitch. We didn’t buy anything, but enjoyed a nice free meal and a fairly entertaining speaker. I did some fact checking afterward, and found that he was dead on concerning the most common type of smoke detector installed in homes:

“In the early 1990s Texas A&M University did a full scale scientific investigation into the effectiveness of optical and ionization smoke detectors in different types of fires. The study determined that in a smoldering fire, with its relatively low number of large smoke particles, optical detectors fail 4.06 percent of the time, while ionization detectors have a 55.8 percent failure rate. For flame ignition fires, which have a large number of small, energetic smoke particles, ionization smoke detectors had a 3.99 percent probability of failure while optical smoke detectors have a 19.8 percent failure rate.” (

Your ionization detector only works 44% of the time in smoldering, smoky fires, and the studies I read show that it takes quite a bit of smoke (upwards of 15 minutes) before they actually go off. Bottom line, if you have plain ionization smoke detectors in your home, head to your favorite home improvement store on your way home and pick up some combination optical/thermal detectors or optical/ionization detectors (for about 96% reliability), one for each level of your house. While you’re at it, pick up a combination Carbon Monoxide/Explosive Gas detector for each area where you have Natural Gas or Propane, and Carbon Monoxide detectors where you have a fireplace or wood stove.

Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish. Do some research of your own and you’ll find yourself on a ladder installing your new smoke detectors…

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Once in a Lifetime

God has blessed me in many ways, but He has given me a special glimpse of His wisdom and grace this week. Work took me away from my family, the farthest I've ever been from home. I miss them very much and call every chance I get. Work is a good distraction, but the evenings are difficult. I'm really looking forward to being home again.

For the last two nights, I've had the opportunity to go down to the beach where I'm staying and see an amazing animal. I missed the main nesting season, but the Green Sea Turtle mothers are still coming on the beach at night to lay their eggs, and some babies are still hatching. Last night I saw two mama turtles and over 20 babies. Tonight I saw more adults and a few babies, and got a chance to watch as one dug a hole in the sand and laid her eggs.

I suppose you have to be patient to be a sea turtle. In the middle of a 2,500 mile journey to her birthplace, the gentle plant eater takes a couple of hours to fight against the undertow, pull herself slowly up the beach above the tide line, then dig a 18" deep hole, lay her eggs, and then return to the sea. (You certainly have to be patient to watch them!) She dug the hole with her back flippers, dipping them one at a time into the hole, cupping the sand like you would in your hand, then dropping it. Before using that flipper again, she would fling the sand away, and then drop her flipper back into the hole. At the end, she was really stretching to get the hole as deep as she could. The eggs went in so fast, all we heard was a small noise, and then she was turning around , covering the hole as she went. This three foot turtle then went slowly and directly back to the sea, where she disappeared in a wave.

Last night I followed a tiny baby (about the size of the palm of my hand) on its journey to the sea. Our footprints in the sand were ravines to this little lesson in persistence. His journey began probably 3 or 4 days ago when he hatched under those 18 inches of sand. Along with his brothers and sisters, he had to dig up out of the sand and then crawl out of the 2 foot deep nest. Getting out of the nest was like crawling on your belly from the bottom of a quarry. Up and down and around, he kept heading for the light of the sea - I probably followed him for 30 minutes (who knows how far he had already come!). A wave came up over the baby, and then he was gone. Only one out of a thousand live to adulthood, but he never gave up.

Thank you, Lord, for the lessons of patience and persistence, and for getting a glimpse of your Glory in your Creation. I will never forget it.

Me with a Mama green turtle.

Two baby turtles on their way to the sea.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Quickly, Go Tell!

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.

The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you."

And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.

Matthew 28:1-8 (NASB)

The greatest truth of Christianity is the literal, bodily Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel, as defined in 1 Corinthians 15, is that Jesus died on the cross according to the Scriptures, that He was buried and that He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures. Death and sin have been defeated. We can have new life in Christ and live and reign forever with Him because of the Resurrection. That's Good News worth telling!

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Gospel Illusions

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my favorite places to do illusions is at church for the kids in our AWANA program. Over this last year, I've used a number of tricks to illustrate a number of Biblical principles. I thought that a blog post would be a good way to capture those and possibly encourage someone else to use some of these old standards in their church. These are some of my favorites:

Cups and Balls - The balls penetrating the stacked cups is used to represent Scripture memorization. As we memorize verses, they eventually move from our head into our hearts where they change us (Rom 12:2). Balls jumping from cup to cup show how, once verses are memorized, God can bring them to mind when they're most needed. The final loads show us that God can take the little verses that we memorize and use them to do amazing things.

Scotch and Soda - The copper coin represents our sinful selves before we knew Christ. Jesus, represented by the silver coin is holy. When we trust Him for salvation, He covers us and changes us. The quarter that replaces the copper coin shows that we are now forgiven and declared righteous. That the quarter is smaller than the copper coin (it appears to have shrunk) shows that we should be humble and not be as prideful as we were before we came to Christ. Ephesians 2:8-10.

Chinese Linking Rings - I use the rings linking together to show how my grandmother told me the Gospel, then I tell the kids, and then they are supposed to tell others, making a chain of faith. "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" 2 Tim 2:2.

Color Changing Brass Chips
- This little gem from Royal Magic is a great buy. After doing the black and white jumping from hand to hand bit, I step right into a Wordless Book presentation. Black represents our sinful nature. White represents God's holiness. Jesus came down as God incarnate and (with the black covering the white, the white turns red) died on the Cross for our sins. When we trust Christ, (with the red covering the black, the black turns green) His blood covers our sins and we receive eternal life. Turning the green over reveals yellow/gold, demonstrating that we will spend eternity in heaven with the King. Turning over the red shows blue, representing the Holy Spirit who, like water, helps to keep us clean from sin. (Rom 6:23).

Double Card Turnover - In this trick, a child takes one half of the deck and then does what you do. You each select a card, look at it, hand it to the other person, and they put it in their half of the deck. The illusionist puts both halves of the deck together, and fans them out on the table. To everyone's surprise, the two cards are face up. I always make sure that my card is the King of Hearts, so I can tell the child that as a Christian they'll often have to against the flow, but as long as they follow the King of Hearts, they will be doing the right thing.

Okito Coin Box - The coins seem to escape a little brass box and pass through the box and my hand into theirs. In the same way, God has provided a way for us to escape and be free from sin, "knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin" Romans 6:6-7.

Coin Matrix - Four cards, four quarters. One card is placed over each coin, and then as the cards are lifted, the coins gather, one at a time, under one card. This is a neat parable about fellowship. Christians want to come together and spend time with each other. Hebrews 10:24-25.

There are others. I've had some flops and busts, too. Last week we had Western Day, and I brought my possibles bag as part of my cowboy getup. I started telling them about how the possibles bag held everything a cowboy needed for shooting, starting a fire, etc. My intention was to ask them what things a Christian should have in his or her possibles bag. In the process of them asking about what I had in my bag, I forgot where I was going and launched right into a poorly chosen trick with a totally unrelated message. I don't know what I was thinking, but just have to trust that the Holy Spirit keeps working even when we become "fools for Christ's sake."