While helping my mom move a few things in her basement yesterday, I was handed a small, nondescript cardboard box.  “It’s your dad’s magic tricks.  Do you want them?”

Do I want them?

I’m such a sentimentalist.  Of course I want them.

Let me explain.

When I was young, somewhere between five and eight years of age, I remember my dad performing magic tricks for VBS at The First Church of God on Elliott Street in Evansville.  I wish I remembered them more clearly, but what I do recall with clarity is that all of the children at Vacation Bible School that summer were mesmerized by his performance and I was so proud.  “That’s my dad doing that.”  Yep.  MY dad.

When I got home from mom’s, I opened the box and placed the items on my dining room table.


Goodness.  I haven’t seen these things for at least forty years but the lessons come flooding back like a tidal wave.

First, there’s the bottle and rope.

_DSC1025This moral lesson was about vice.  Dip in just a little, you may not get caught.  And again.  Still okay.  But if you don’t watch it, you’ll get trapped.  Suddenly and unexpectedly, the rope is caught and the bottle dangles mysteriously from the end of the rope, all – by – itself.  Wow.

Next are three blocks labeled “God”, “Sin” and “You”, and another piece of rope.


My memory of this one has some holes.  But the gist of it had something to do the blocks being strung on the rope  with “Sin” in between “God” and “You”.  After sharing the gospel and the good news of a new life in Christ, dad would pull on both ends of this obviously uncut piece of rope (because a volunteer from the audience had obviously examined the rope before the trick and verified its authenticity and integrity) and the “Sin” block would  fall to the floor with a thud.  Sin gone.  Relationship restored.   That was amazing.

(It is amazing.)

And then, finally, my favorite.  The magic box.


Dad would hold up the box.  He’d flip both sides up to show it emptiness.  Nothingness.  Empty.  Void.

Again the gospel story.  Old and true.  Never failing.  Always the same.

“You are loved.”

“You have a purpose.”

“Your life is not empty, like this ol’ empty box.”

“Following Christ fills your life with beautiful, wonderful things.”

At this point in the trick, dad would magically pull an unending trail of brilliantly colored scarves from the seemingly empty box.  How did he do that?

Well, dad long ago shared with me the secret to this trick.  And long ago, he shared something else with me that was even more important.  Something that he demonstrated with his whole life.  Not just words.  Not just magic tricks.

My parents, my dad and my mom, centered their lives, their marriage, and our family on Christ.  On studying His words.  On singing His praises.  On going to church.  On serving His community.  I am so thankful for that.  Thankful every day of my life.

 And just when I thought the good memories were all filled up and overflowing, I looked even more closely at that red, seemingly empty box and there it was…


There, on the back lid, on the cleverly hidden pocket where the scarves were long ago placed…there, in my dad’s own engineering printing handwriting that I miss so much, is listed the fruit of the Spirit that he surely described as he performed this trick.  

It knocked me onto the chair.

Love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.

He listed them because he didn’t want to miss a single one.

And just to the right, in words that young children could relate to, are listed ways that the boys and girls in VBS could demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit…

Help mother.

Be nice to adults.

Good manners.

Play with brothers and sisters.

Mind your parents.

Attend Sunday School.

Be good in VBS.

Just precious to me.  Talk about {magic}al.


 Dad and me at his retirement dinner.

_DSC1043But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.         Galatians 5:22-23 NIV


  1. Tears are in my eyes as I read this. What a wonderful story about Del! Please know that the Graham family is always in my heart. I’m just sad that I didn’t get to see the magic act! (Maybe YOU can do it now!?)

  2. Beautiful memories of your Dad! So thankful I am a part of this family with such a deep rooted heritage of faith. Love you Debi!

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