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Bill Brickle

Jan 11 2018

I had the pleasure of spending a month and a half with the "Wonderland Circus Revue" back in the 1980s. This was a small show based out of Cope, South Carolina led by a long time circus man named Bill Brickle. Actually, all the performers were from bigger shows - such as the "Big Apple Circus" - who, during winter break, came together with Bill to do shows in Georgia and the Carolinas. They came to the school where I taught at the time, my principal introduced me to Bill, and he invited me to join that year's tour, at least for gigs that didn't compete with my teaching schedule. It was a blast!


A while back I googled Bill and was delighted to learn he was the oldest working ring master in America, and presumably the world. Last month I looked him up again only to learn he had passed away in October at the age of 90.

Bill had a trained dog act that he included in the Wonderland repertoire. He had a group of ten or twelve poodles who dressed up like a wedding party, escorted the "bride" into the ring, danced ,etc. They were so well trained and elegant, it seemed like you were no longer watching dogs. They seemed almost human.

But...

They were still dogs. When not dancing in formal wear, they would still bark, sniff each other's butts and drink out of toilets if they had the chance. Rewards and reprimands from Bill got them to put on quite a show, but at their core they were still canis lupus familiaris. They were trained to act a certain way, at least in public,but to truly change their very instincts Bill would have had to implant a human spirit within their dog-spirit.

I fear much of American Christianity resembles this circus act. We expect and encourage our parishioners, children, youth groups and such to act a certain way. They are rewarded or reprimanded based on the appearance they present, but, at the core, we still have a lot of unredeemed "poodles" dancing around. But when the spotlights are off, the audience has left and the "ring master" isn't present, actions and attitudes revert quickly.

But Jesus has offered humankind something that Bill simply could not offer his dogs. Jesus really CAN implant His Spirit into those who have faith is His work on the cross. Through an unexplainable miracle, Jesus death and resurrection allows us to receive the Holy Spirit to make our heart His home. Yes, our old sinful nature is still present. How many times did Saint Paul lament the battle between the old man and the new man; the Spirit and the flesh? Nonetheless, this spiritual rebirth is a reality, more real than anything we can see, hear or touch. A reality that allows us to be more than trained sinners putting on a good show for the audience. At the same time, a reality that allows us the freedom to fall short and fail, knowing that He in us is at work, changing us at the very core.

Thank you, Bill, for the opportunity to experience circus life. Thank you for making me feel welcome from the moment I arrived at the first show. Thank you for lending me that burgundy tuxedo to perform in...

And for not taking any pictures of me while wearing it.

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The presentation was fun and encouraging... The gospel message was clear and encouraging. I purchased your book and just finished it. Your scope is broad and again encouraging. May God continue to bless your ministry. I will encourage others to read your book. -Parishioner of a local church

"Hey, I just wanted to say that was a great message in chapel today! It touched something:) thanks for doing it!" -High School Student  

"We are so grateful that you brought your amazing ministry back to our church this year... The Gospel message you bring applies to all!  It is such a positive, valuable work that you do."  -Coordinator of Christian Ed. UCC Church

"There's no questioning it. This is powerful stuff. It's extremely touching at times, never less than entertaining, and I see a lot of sincere love for Jesus in you guys."  -Dwight Lilies, song writer

The Lord has given you a wonderful window through which to present the Gospel!   - Field Director of Alliance Missions to Paraguay

"What a wonderful ministry to both children and adults.  In past years it has been a struggle to arrange programing that would hold the attention of all ages, but also challenge each heart with God's gift of Salvation.  Thank you for sharing your ministry."  -Sunday School Sup't.

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