May 17, 2023
Sharing the third story from the first audiobook in the “Tales of the Kingdom” series, David and Karen Mains discuss the bottom-line message of the Lord Jesus Christ: His Kingdom.
What we attempted to display in our series of children’s books was the Kingdom. We wrote those books called “The Tales of the Kingdom”, and there were two contrasting places. In book one, it starts out chapter one with the Enchanted City, which shows what it’s like when the King Jesus is not a child.
David: Sometimes, Karen, I think people make things harder than they need be. And that’s true regarding our Lord’s basic message that we’ve been talking about all this month.
Karen: And that message, of course, is about the Kingdom of God.
Intro: Welcome to the Before We Go podcast featuring Dr. David Mains and his wife, noted author, Karen Mains. Here’s David and Karen Mains.
David: When his disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, what words did he suggest that they begin with?
Karen: Well, it was our “Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be your name.”
David: And keep going, okay?
Karen: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
David: That’s it right there, isn’t it? What’s happening in heaven where Jesus is the recognized King? His subjects are cared for, and they live in peace and love and joy. That’s what we want here on earth as well.
Karen: So, in its simplest terms, the Kingdom of God is wherever the reign of God’s Son is recognized and honored.
David: Exactly. Okay. What we attempted to display in our series of children’s books was the Kingdom. We wrote those books called “The Tales of the Kingdom”, and there were two contrasting places. In book one, it starts out chapter one with the Enchanted City, which shows what it’s like when the King Jesus is not a child.
Karen: They say everyone lives in the dark? Right.
David: Yeah, it’s not a nice place to be. And then again, trying to put this into terms children could understand, children of all ages. Chapter two, which we read here, was about Great Park, and what was that like?
Karen: What’s a place with a tree squirrel? Where there’s a vergency and harmony and love, but most of all, it’s the place where the King rules.
David: So, we’ve established these two places. And then in book one, which is “The Tales of the Kingdom”, story three introduces the King, and that’s the one we’re going to look at today. The King is not the dominant character, but we’ve learned to recognize him. And then all through these books is the presence of the King and the beauty that brings. Okay?
Understand that the Kingdom of God is wherever the reign of God’s son is recognized and honored. That’s the truth that we keep coming back to again and again. So, the apprentice juggler.
There was a juggler in Great Park, the land of the king, who wanted to perform with the juggling master’s troop more than anything else in the whole world. But he had something terrible hidden in his heart. A secret he had shared with no one. The apprentice juggler was sure he would shame the troop in tonight’s performance. He knew he would drop a baton during the pyramid cascade. Then the juggling master would know his secret. And he would lose his place in the juggling group. A knot in the pit of his stomach felt like a tug of war between giants.
Standing in the middle of the practice field, the apprentice juggler warmed his hands in a patch of morning sunlight. He loosened his fingers with limbering exercises. He started tossing balls in a basic crisscross pattern. The apprentice juggler concentrated. He could hear the words of juggling master’s first lesson. Teach the balls to dance. The word ball is from the French. It means to dance. Make the balls dance.
The balls did dance in the apprentice juggler’s hands. As long as he worked alone, he did fine.
In his last years in apprentice, he had learned to toss rings, batons, clubs, and eggs, even un-boiled ones. He could spin plates on sticks. He could balance umbrellas on his forehead and shoulders and hands. All at the same time, he put three balls in motion. Throw, throw, catch, catch, throw, throw, catch, catch.
No one knew he was battling his inner count. No one knew that a different rhythm was ticking in his heart than in his hands. It was only when the apprentice juggler worked with the other student jugglers, or when he did a routine with the troop that things went wrong. He tripped. He dropped batons. The others thought this was because he was new at juggling, but the young man knew that his inner count was just plain different. He didn’t want anyone to know his secret, especially the juggling master. To work with the troop was the glorious goal of every apprentice.
The balls danced in the apprentice juggler’s hands. He switched to the two-in-one hand. He practiced showers. He picked up two clubs. He tested their weight in each hand. He tossed one high. It turned twice in the air, a double. He started a third club with an outside foot kick-up. It turned twice in the air. Soon even the clubs were dancing. He guarded himself against his inner rhythm.
One of the other fellows was juggling clubs. He moved closer to the apprentice juggler and started passing. Six clubs now looped into the air. The young men timed out loud. “Pass, self, self, pass, self, pass, so far so good”, thought the apprentice juggler. If only he could count out loud as he was now. But every juggler knew that was the sign of an amateur.
“Very good, very good”! shouted the juggling master. “Excellent work this morning, and I have wonderful news. The king will be present at tonight’s great celebration. We will be performing for him.” The whole troupe cheered. But the apprentice juggler’s heart fell to the pit of his stomach where the tug of war was raging. He had juggled at great celebrations before, or with the other students. Tonight, he was supposed to solo, then appear with the troupe in the finale. What if he failed before the king? He would serve him right for keeping this hidden thing to himself. All he had ever dreamed of was seeing the king smile in pleasure at his juggling. He had even imagined the king walking over to him and saying, “Well done, young man, you have a special gift.”
The juggling master’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Let’s practice the finale.” The troupe moved into position for the pyramid cascade. Four jugglers in a row. The signal was shouted, “Hup!” All counted inwardly. “One, two, up.” Three jugglers hopped on the shoulders of the first four. The signal again, “Hup! One, two, three, up.” A hand-grass, a scramble, a hop. The two apprentices climbed to the very peak. The clubs began looping upward, turning, and spinning up the pyramid. Eight came from the bottom, six passed from the middle. The apprentice turned the rising clubs back down toward the outside men. It was quick work, but simple, as long as the count was kept.
The apprentice juggler knew that all nine members of the troop were timing inwardly. “Throw, throw, catch, catch, throw, throw, catch, catch.” With horror he realized his count was off again. He had been silently timing throw, throw, catch, throw. He caught himself and changed his pace, but it was a loud danger signal.
Should he tell the juggling master? But how could he bear to have his place taken from him and given to another? What would happen if he followed his inner count? What disaster would befall him? With sagging shoulders, the apprentice juggler walked home from the practice field.
Later, with lagging feet, he made his way to the huge clearing and deepest forest. Here the great celebration always took place surrounded by the circle of sacred flames. The subjects of the king were beginning to gather in inmost circle. The sacred flames had been lit and they flickered and danced in a huge ring. Rangers in their dark blue cloaks stood posted around the flames. The music of celebration had begun. The apprentice juggler watched as celebrants walked through the gateway of flame into inmost circle, making entrance the ceremony was called. He saw each one become real as he or she did so, for the sacred flames showed persons not as they seemed but as they truly were. All disguises were gone. The laughter and the music and the joy within the flames called to the apprentice juggler. But he held himself back. How could he make entrance with this hidden thing in his heart? Wouldn’t his secret be revealed when he became real?
The funny old caretaker walked through the flames. His form dimmed for a moment in the bright light, then he made entrance. He became tall, straight, broad-shouldered, wearing the dark blue cloak and silver clasp of a ranger. Caretaker was not what he seemed. He had become ranger commander, chief protector of the park, an intimate advisor to the king himself.
The apprentice juggler squirmed. He remembered how Caretaker had found him as a young child, hungry and abandoned, and taken him to Mercy who had loved and nursed him. He remembered how caretaker and Mercy hated dark and hidden things. He decided to wait for the juggling master and tell him the hidden secret that his inner count was different and dangerous to the troop. The apprentice juggler would ask him to choose another for the finale. It was the only way.
The sob shook his shoulders. Nevermore the feel of the batons or the thrill of tumbling objects. Nevermore the weight of the ball popping into his palm, then popping out. Nevermore the wonderful rhythm of the troop. They would give his place to another. What would become of him? Where would he belong?
The young man knew he would never make a good baker or gardener or forester. He couldn’t stand singing or dancing. He had absolutely no desire to be a ranger. The only thing he had ever wanted to do was make balls and clubs and rings and batons and eggs un-boiled at dance.
In anger the apprentice juggler tossed the balls he held. This time he kept his own count. Sure enough the balls moved at awkward intervals. The juggling was not smooth. The rising and falling rhythms were hazardous. He had to tell his secret. He would never be like the other jugglers.
A baker was approaching the circle of fire. The man wore a brown cloak with a hood that covered his face. He carried his staff and limped. “Alms, alms”, he cried. “Pennies for the poor, the poor.”
The baker stopped by the boy and asked, “Juggler, are you performing for the great celebration?” The young man shook his head. Suddenly he wanted to stutter out his secret. He wanted to say, “I have something hidden in my heart.” The baker motioned for him to step closer and whispered, “I saw you juggling just now. Keep your own count. Listen to the rhythm of your own timing.”
The apprentice juggler was amazed. How could a beggar know his count was wrong when he had guarded the truth from everyone? The beggar laughed. He said, “I understand. My rhythm is different too.” With that he turned to make entrance.
The boy heard the ranger shout, “To the king! To the restoration.” The former the man was dimmed in the flames, then he stepped into Inmost circle. A cry of recognition went up. People came running to welcome the new arrival. They shouted greetings and called to one another. The apprentice juggler gasped. He had not been prepared for this becoming. The man stood there, changed. He was as tall as Ranger Commander, and handsome. The light from the flames reflected his gold glints in his hair. He bent and swung a little child up to his broad shoulders. Mercy, young and beautiful now that she had made entrance, ran from a place within the circle and took his hand. She called to her husband, Ranger Commander, who came and saluted the king.
“The beggar is the king”, thought the apprentice juggler. The beggar is the king. He had said, “Keep your own count.”
The king raised his one hand still, holding the little child on his shoulder with the other. His voice commanded, “Let the celebration begin!” The apprentice juggler raced to make entrance. The jugglers were on first, and he was due to solo early in the performance.
In response to the king’s command, the musicians began to play a joyful, foot-tapping melody. It called the subjects out of deepest forest through the sacred flames and into inmost circle. The jugglers were gathering at the heart of the celebration. The king and his followers circled round them. Everyone clapped in time with the music. The whole troupe was juggling each on their own. Some tossed balls, some looped rings.
Then it was time for the apprentice juggler’s first solo act. All the others stopped. The young man’s heart was in his throat. What if a ball dropped? What if he tripped? What if he couldn’t control his count? Then he remembered the beggar king in his words, “Listen to the rhythm of your own timing.”
He listened. A new count was rising in him, his own count. Joy came tumbling. It filled his hands, his heart. The count was different from anything he had ever heard. “Throw, throw, catch, catch, catch, throw, throw, catch, catch, catch, catch, throw.” So, he tossed an orange high, high into the air. Then another, and then a club, he caught the first orange right before it hit the ground. The crowd went wild. He caught and tossed the next falling one off his foot. The people were amazed, and they laughed. The apprentice juggler dived for the club, tossed it, turned to somersault, caught the next inches off the ground, popped it back up into the air. The crowd roared. He heard murmurs. “Oh, he’s wonderful. Never seen a juggler like him before. How different!” He went on listening to the inner timing, “Throw, throw, catch, catch, catch, catch, throw.” He juggled and somersaulted and dived and counted.
Finally, he was done. The crowd laughed. They clapped. They yelled hurrah and stamped their feet. The apprentice juggler bowed. He stood straight and bowed again. This time when he looked up, he was looking directly into the eyes of the king. The king was smiling his approval.
“A clown, a clown”, someone was calling up. It was the juggling master. “You have the rhythm of a clown”, he crowed. “You look like you can’t do it, like you might drop something, but you don’t. A clown is the best juggler of all.”
The juggling master became stern. He shook the juggler’s shoulders. “Why didn’t you tell me your rhythm was different?” “Because” stammered the young man between shakes, “I thought I would lose my place in the troop.”
The juggling master stopped shaking him. “Lose your place. Find your proper place rather. Didn’t you know that in the great celebration all who desire a place find a place?”
With that the juggling master put his head back and laughed. “A juggler with the instinct of a clown. Oh, they are rare, they are rare. What a trope we’ll have. We’ll bring down the house. We’ll make the balls dance.”
So, the apprentice juggler lost his original place in the troop, but found another. For all who live by the rhythm of the inner time in which the king approves, find a place in the kingdom all their own. More than any, they live happily ever after.
Karen: David, the apprentice juggler, that story is the one we receive the most comments about. It’s the one that people like of all the stories. There are 12 in each book, three books.
David: When you give a comment on one, they say, you know, I really identified with the apprentice juggler. What do you think that is?
Karen: I think that people don’t feel like they belong or that their gifts are not meaningful. And to see them affirmed by the king and the juggling master eventually is something we’re all longing for in our own hearts.
David: Let’s go back to that theme that we keep repeating that people struggle with. What is the kingdom of God about?
Understand that the kingdom of God is wherever the reign of God’s son is recognized and honored. And that’s the point that we’re trying to get across here. Two more stories we’re going to read this month. Okay, one of them is the baker who loved bread. Remember that one?
Karen: Yes, love that one.
David: Yeah, I love that one as well. And then there’s the story of Amanda and the dragon, which is kind of the one that the kids resonate with as much as anything else.
Karen: David, you have read these stories that are in “The Tales of the Kingdom” and we put them into an audiobook so that people can write in for them, contribute whatever they want or not, and we’ll be happy to make these audiobooks available to them.
David: Yeah, it’s not a professional job.
Karen: It’s a grandfatherly job.
David: Here’s what you need to do. You just say, “I would like to have a copy of that audiobook, 12 stories, and you can send a gift of any kind.” That’s fine. I’m not trying to sell them. I didn’t ask for a huge amount of money to produce them or anything. We did them kind of in a bedroom is actually where I record them.
Karen: Dean will tell our listeners how they can get ahold of the audiobook and here you are, Dean, build that role.
Outgo: You’ve been listening to the Before We Go podcast. And if you would like to write to us, please send us an email at the following address: email@example.com. That’s all lower-case letters: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please remember to rate, review, and share on whatever platform you listen. This podcast is copyright 2023 by Mainstay Ministries, Post Office Box 30, Wheaton, Illinois 60187.
To get a copy of Tales of the Kingdom Trilogy, go to this website https://kingdomtales.com/
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