Archive for May, 2007

SINGAPORE – DAY ONE

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

I arrived in Singapore around midnight local time (12noon at home) after more than 26 hours of airports and flights.  I breezed through immigration and then gave Cindy a call while waiting for my luggage at baggage claim.  It was so good to hear her voice.  We talked for a while and I moved through the airport to the Taxi area.  It was a quick trip to the Allson Hotel into the heart of the city.  I checked in, unpacked, took a nice hot shower and went to bed!

Today is a holiday here, something to do with the Chinese Buddah.  I had considered doing a walking tour of Chinatown on this visit and today would be the perfect day as there are many celebrations happening in the the temples.

I’m going to give Cindy a call on Skype, grab some food and head out while it’s early.

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

I start the 26 hour journey to Singapore today. Actually I drove to the airport last night and spent the night at a hotel. I didn’t really want to but my flight was early and I didn’t want Cindy to have to get up and drive me. Besides, she’s been feeling a little sick and she needs to get some rest. I’m going to really miss her this week – I miss her already.
My day started around 6am with the alarm clock ringing in my ears…and then my cell phone alarm…and then the wake up call from the front desk. I wanted to make sure I didn’t over sleep! I didn’t. Once out of the bed and out of the shower, I dressed and quickly ran downstairs to grab something to eat before catching the hotel shuttle to the airport.

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I’m flying United out of Roanoke. I tried to get all my seats through to Singapore but they weren’t able to get them for me. Well, I got everything except Chicago to Narita. There was not much available. I could upgrade to Economy Plus (a few extra inches) for another $220 for that leg of the flight but all they had left were middle seats. The United counter attendant told me that my chances of getting upgraded to Economy Plus were very good on that leg anyway because it looks like that’s all they have left. So, why pay the extra bucks when I’m going to get it anyway.

The flight was Roanoke to Chicago O’Hare. This is a really busy place and the international terminal is about the only place I know here. This leg of the flight was only 2 hours and I have a 1.5 hour layover here – McDonalds here I come. My next flight is a long one – Chicago to Narita, Japan. I love that airport and I have a three hour layover there…so I’ll write from Japan but it will be a while.

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I left O’Hare at 10:38pm and arrived early into Narita/Tokyo – 2:30pm. It was a good trip – food wasn’t too bad. They told me I didn’t have a Boarding Pass for this leg of the trip so when I checked in at the gate, the United guy told me he was giving me a really good seat – and it was. Turns out, when I got off the plane here in Narita, they DID issue me a boarding pass in Roanoke. They just didn’t realize it. So, I had two boarding passes for 2 different seats on the plane – both of which were really good.

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I’ve been up now for almost 24 hours. And I still have about 10 hours left on my flight. My layover in Narita is a little longer because we made such good time. My flight leaves at 5:40pm and arrives in Singapore at 11:55pm.  To make the time go by faster, I’ve been reading Jim Steinmeyer’s book on William Robinson called THE GLORIOUS DECEPTION.  It’s very good – some really incredible magic history but also a very intriguing story about this guy’s life in magic, vaudeville, show business, etc.
I’m going to go find some food!

MEMORIAL DAY

Monday, May 28th, 2007

It is a beautiful day in Virginia today. Cindy and I have really enjoyed the last few days at home. It’s been very nice to have some time to relax!

Today we are planning the “American tradition” of cooking out on the grill and celebrating Memorial Day – a time to remember and appreciate all that our men and women in the military do to keep us safe and free.

I got a call yesterday from David. They arrived safely in Dallas and have the keys to their new apartment. Keith arrived safely last night in Lynchburg and will begin loading everything in on Tuesday. Keith and his parents will be joining us for our cook out today.  Cindy’s cousin, Chris, will also be joining us.
Tomorrow I leave for Singapore – 26 hours in an airplane! I have a series of meetings there including one very special meeting with the people who coordinate our magic therapy program in several of the hospitals. Cindy will stay home and relax (and shop) while I’m gone. I’m still not completely packed but I’m trying. I tend to bring way more clothes than anyone needs, even on these short adventures. I just want to be prepared!

I’ll be posting from Singapore…

THE GOOD FOR THE BEST

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

Making decisions is always a balancing act of sorts. There are times when the wrong decision is clearly the wrong decision. But there are also times when you have several good choices, all of which would be good decisions. I try very hard to weigh my choices carefully – to consider all the ramifications, the impact it will have on others as well as Cindy and me. That’s not always a very easy job.

We have been in the process of expanding our team, hiring new people to travel with us on the road. Life on the road sounds glamorous and wonderful. In fact, it’s difficult and challenging and tiring. Choosing which individuals will “occupy the limited space” in our customized living quarters is not an easy one. And one that I take very seriously – which means I give each possibility a great deal of thought and prayer. I believe in praying about things – all things, but especially the major decisions that I have to make in our lives and business. I don’t take that lightly.

Living a life of faith means trusting in God in every area of my life – not just a few selected ones. God sometimes allows me (all of us) to get into a place of testing where my own well-being (personal or business) would be the obvious thing to consider. And I have the “right” to make those decisions, those choices, that will best serve my purposes. But if I am living a life of faith, I can waive my right and allow God to make those choices for me. You might be asking, “What are you talking about? How do you allow God to make those choices for you?” And that is a very good question!

Certainly it’s not some audible voice from the heavens saying, “Choose this one.” But I have to confess, THAT would make living life much easier but that is not a life of faith. The writer of the book of Hebrews (chapter 11) in the Bible said it this way, “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.” It is believing in the unseen, trusting in the Unknown – putting confidence in God that He wants the very best for our lives, in all things. The very best does not mean “easy.” God is more concerned about developing our character than He is about our comfort. And sometimes the greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not doing wrong things (those things that we clearly know are unacceptable and displeasing to God), but rather making good choices that are not quite good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best! Making the BEST choice is not easy either – and it can be difficult distinguishing between the “good” and the “best.” God gives us a conscience, a sensitivity and intuition deep inside to help guide us when we are tuned in to Him.

In my situation, I must weigh all the options, consider every possibility, deliberate on every quality, pray about each individual and situation, in order to follow that sensitivity and make the “best” decision.

That doesn’t mean I’m perfect – or that every decision I make is the “best” decision.  But I do try my best to do the right thing…and make the best decisions possible with the information I have.

A NEW ADVENTURE

Friday, May 25th, 2007

This summer is one that is going to be filled with changes and the beginning of a new adventure for Cindy and I. David and Kylie have been a part of our team for seven years. With the last show in Rockford, they are now moving on to begin their own business in Dallas. Yesterday, they finished packing everything in the truck and are on their way. I know they will do well but it’s never easy getting started.

Keith Barber is our new Production Manager and has been on the road with us now for a couple of months. He’s doing an outstanding job and is already re-working some of the technical aspects of the way we run the show. It’s all a positive step in the right direction.

Jim Steinmeyer has created some amazing new illusions in this current production that are also stepping up the show a notch. Audiences and critics have really taken note of the changes – both in the innovation and presentation of the magic.

We have also hired our new Technical Director, Nolan Brokamp. Some of you will remember that Nolan toured Asia with us this year. He’s worked with us several times, is familiar with our show, and is going to make a great addition to our team. He was in Lynchburg last week checking out apartments and will be moving here August 1 to start the job. Cindy and I are both very excited and look forward to having him with us full-time.

I leave for Singapore on Tuesday. Cindy and I are going to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend together and try to relax!

THE FUNERAL – May 22, 2007

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

We spent most of the day on Tuesday remembering and celebrating the life of Dr. Jerry Falwell. For those of you who may not know, Cindy and I live in Lynchburg, VA. We both attended Liberty University and Rev. Falwell has played a role in our lives in many ways. We knew him as a man of great compassion with a keen sense of humor…and a vision that changed our community and, in many ways, the country at large. He was definitely a controversial figure in the American landscape but he once said, “If it’s not controversial, it’s not worth talking about.” Anne Coulter wrote an interesting editorial about Jerry on May 16 that, in itself, is quite controversial.

My morning started with a simple reading, as it does every morning, from a great book entitled MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST. On this particular morning, the subject was “explaining our difficulties.” The emphasis of the reading comes from John 17 in the Bible. This writer encourages us to realize that God is aware of everything that’s happening in the world – including our individual lives. And whatever our circumstances – death of a loved one, unforeseen business conflicts, illness, financial difficulties, etc. – God allows these things to happen for His own purpose. These things are either making us stronger, better people or they are making us more critical and fault-finding, more insistent on having our own way. The direction depends solely on where we are in our relationship with God. In John 17, Jesus asked God for “oneness” with Himself and, when we understand God’s purpose, we will not become small-minded and cynical. Even death has a greater purpose and many lessons for all of us.

Cindy and I were at Thomas Road Baptist Church around 11am. The city was expecting a very large turnout so security (17 law enforcement agencies) was everywhere trying to keep traffic from becoming a problem.

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They were expecting many dignitaries as well – a delegation from Israel, a representative from the White House, politicians, entertainers, corporate CEO’s, etc. The people at Virginia Aviation were prepared for an influx of private jets, most scheduled to arrive that morning. Daniel Gibson, supervisor in charge of operations for 20 years, said this is probably “the biggest gathering of corporate planes that I can remember.” Planes came from San Diego, Miami, Alabama, Oklahoma, Los Angeles and Europe. Even if the plane carried a politician or move star (Mel Gibson was rumored to be attending), know one would know. In total, there were more than 10,000 people. And yes, even the crazy Phelps clan from Topeka, KS made a protest appearance – anywhere there’s a camera and a crowd, these guys love to stir it up.

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It’s kind of strange that so many people would show up for one man’s funeral. One of my friends put it best when he wrote to me, “For all his fame, I’m sure it also seems to be a surprise that you’re now ‘sharing’ the loss of your pastor with the rest of the world.”

The church parking lot was full of national media trucks; helicopters were flying overhead and newspaper photographers were everywhere.

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The crowd was so large that it wrapped around the building – thousands and thousands of people. Buses were transporting hundreds of people to the overflow location – the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University. As Cindy and I walked the line of people, we found my brother and his family and joined them. We all made it into the main sanctuary and it was very cool to be able to sit together to remember a man who has had a significant impact on our entire family.

As people were streaming in, there was a memorial video being shown on the large screens on each side of the platform – images of Jerry with his family, friends and personal moments in his life. These images emphasized the very normal life he lived in the midst of his “fame.” Many of his friends shared their stories with the crowd; his daughter spoke for the family and thanked everyone for their prayers and support; and Franklin Graham and Jerry Vines closed the service with comforting and inspiring words.

Dr. Jerry Falwell

August 11, 1933 – May 15, 2007

This faithful servant of God will be remembered most as a beloved husband, father, grandfather, pastor and educator.

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HOME

Monday, May 21st, 2007

We drove all day today – 825 miles from Rockford, MI to Lynchburg, VA.  I’m exhausted…

ROCKFORD, MI

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

A warmer day, lots of sunshine and blue skies – quite a contrast from our last visit to Rockford, MI in February. Then, the blizzard came in – several feet of snow – and caused a cancellation of the performance. Most of the people held on to their tickets from February, a few turned them back in and they were re-sold. Tonight’s performance was sold out well in advance but there were a few pockets here and there of people who wanted to support the REF (the organization benefiting from the show) who didn’t make it.

There was a lot of excitement in the crowd. The light show started right on time, about 15 minutes before curtain. You could hear the chatter and, as the lights swept through the house, the people laughed and applauded. Their energy erupted as the final song introduced us and we were into the first illusion. I could tell that this was going to be a great crowd!

We had great volunteers on stage with us and, once again, the audience favorites were Walking Through a Wall and Windshear. We also had several of the local magicians in the audience. It’s always nice when we get the support of the area magicians – and have the opportunity to meet them. Several drove from miles away (Lansing, Toledo and Chicago). And I did have the chance to sit down and talk for a brief time with all of them after the show. It was nice to finally meet the Zubrick guys from Lansing. They’re off to Taiwan for two years, performing magic. I know they’ll have a great time.
Andy Riler (TD) and his crew were professional in every way. The day clipped along at a nice pace. We had our own extra “hand” because Nolan was with us this time. This was David and Kylie’s last performance with us after seven years on the road. And we’re trying to break in a new crew and start preparing for the fall tour. It will come rushing at us before we know it!

Tonight was the end of a chapter for us – and the beginning of a new adventure for David & Kylie. We’re heading home early in the morning and they will finish up packing for their big move at the end of the week – off to Dallas, TX. I know they’ll do a excellent job and it’s been great having them with us these last few years. They will be missed but what an adventure they have ahead of them!

OFF TO ROCKFORD, MI

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

We’ll be leaving this morning for Rockford, MI.  This is a rescheduled date that was, unfortunately, postponed by a huge blizzard in February.  If you don’t remember that one, you can check out my blog (and photos) for that day by clicking HERE.

Anyway, it should be a fun show.  It’s been sold out for months.  This will also be David and Kylie’s last performance with us.  After touring with us for the last 7 years, they’ll be moving to Dallas this coming week to start a new adventure of their own.

DR. JERRY FALWELL

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

I live in Lynchburg, Virginia. The town is home to many corporations and notable citizens. Perhaps one of the most famous people is the Reverend Jerry Falwell – pastor of the 22,000 member Thomas Road Baptist Church and Founder/Chancellor of the largest evangelical Christian University in the U.S., Liberty University.

Dr. Falwell was not a stranger to the media. He was seen regularly on CNN, FOX News, other news broadcasts and had has a weekly television program for the last 51 years. His opinions were considered controversial by many. And there were times that he would publicly put his foot in his mouth – there’s no denying that.

Most of the world knew Jerry Falwell solely by the persona generated by the media. Those of us who knew him, knew a very different Jerry Falwell. We knew a man with a great sense of humor, a practical joker and someone who wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself. We knew a man of great compassion, one who always put others ahead of himself regardless of the sacrifice. We knew a man who genuinely loved and cared for individuals – regardless of their political or religious persuasions. Did he disagree with them? Yes. Did he debate them? Yes. Did he love them? Absolutely. I didn’t always agree with everything he said or taught. But we knew a man who was so convinced that God wanted to have a personal relationship with each one of us that he dedicated his life to getting that message out. And that was one message we did believe.

Everyone in my family – especially Cindy and I – has been influenced by his ministry and touched by his generosity. Cindy and I both attended Liberty University on scholarships. Jerry believed so intently in my dream of becoming an entertainer that he gave me a scholarship to Liberty University to study psychology and allowed me to travel 4-5 days of the week performing magic shows in high schools across America, exposing students to the University through rallies. This exposure and experience cannot be underestimated and gave me an amazing foundation on which to build my dream.

Cindy grew up in Lynchburg and has known Dr. Falwell almost her entire life. She can tell stories that will make you laugh so hard you’ll cry. And both of us had the awesome experience of getting to know him on a more personal level. When we married, he officiated our ceremony – proudly pronouncing us “husband and wife.”

In recent years, he said publicly how proud he was of Cindy and I, our accomplishments in the field of the performing arts and “these fine folks are alumni of Liberty University.” I am where I am today because of people like my family, my parents, my friends and Jerry Falwell.

Say what you will – there’s generally not much middle ground when it comes to what people think about him – but he is a man that has left a huge legacy in this nation…a huge impact on this community…and a huge hole in our hearts. Today, Jerry Falwell passed away at the age of 73.