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Confessions of a Practical Joker
By John Hunt

Let us extol the virtues of yarn. Yarn is perhaps one of the most useful materials on earth. It is woven into sweaters, afghans, shawls, and even doilies. If wrapped around ones finger, yarn becomes a memory aid. When dangled from a bedroom doorknob, yarn is a lifeline for GI Joe. Yarn can keep a feline occupied for hours, and an industrious grandmother busy all evening. Many folks have been known to spin a yarn or two, and to those with an overactive imagination, yarn can even be a spider.

Perhaps I should explain. It was an ordinary day, the day I found that wad of yarn on the church floor. Without a thought, I casually reached down and picked up the tangled mass of fibers as we choir members began to shuffle into the choir loft. What transpired next has lived on in the annals of Northwest Indiana folklore to this day.

Im not quite certain why I chose to place that yarn on Maxines unsuspecting shoulder that day. Perhaps I felt she needed to accessorize, or maybe I thought the yarn needed a good home. Or maybe it was just one of those things teenage boys do you know, before they think of the consequences. Regardless, I placed that tangled, spider-like mass of yarn fibers on Maxine, and we all soon discovered that she could really hit that high note. Of course, I discovered my fathers angry glare could reach across an entire sanctuary, but that is another story all together. I can only affirm, in my defense, I had no idea yarn could look so much like a tarantula.

Ive become a connoisseur of practical jokes over the years. I started with the standard, party-line variety: whoopee cushions, hand buzzers, kick-me signs, and the like. Then I graduated into more elaborate and drawn-out schemes: squirting doughnuts, cellophane on the loo, short-sheeting beds, and the list goes on.

Many of you may have run across someone like me from time to time perhaps the smart aleck kid in the high school drama club who put pepper in your costume makeup, or the unruly teenager in your Sunday school class who patted you on the back with a chalk-laced palm. You may even be wagging your finger right now, saying, "So you're the one..."

Before you cry "foul," let me assure you I've paid my dues. You see, I've become a connoisseur of switches over the years. When it comes to switches, there are basically three flavors: the thin, stinging ones; the wide, slapping ones; and (my personal favorite) the anything-that-can-be-improvised-into-a-switch switch. I've also discovered the various methods employed to deliver a switch. This includes, but is not limited to, the standard straight-on deliver, the spanking-on-the-fly, and the unexpected, I-didn't-see-that-one-coming, stealth spanking.

Thinking back, I can't quite understand why they're called "practical jokes." Really, they're the most impractical acts of all. The unsuspecting butt of the joke gets humiliated, the perp who was likely egged on by anonymous accomplices gets in big trouble (believe me), and the unwitting audience, at the very least, gets low-class entertainment. I think if someone could come up with a joke that brings peace to warring nations, unites political parties, and buys me a reprieve from the "honeydo" list, well then, that would be practical.

Eventually, I grew up (arguably), and aside from a few clever computer photo editing pranks (is that Ozzy Osbourne next to Sister Walcott?), I can proudly say I've matured beyond my childhood days. Well, for the most part.

Be that as it may, the idea of a day devoted entirely to nothing but pranking is proof that mankind refuses to grow up. In a similar way, we followers of Christ struggle to mature. We often continue taking milk when the Lord wants to give us meat. In today's fast-pace, demanding world, many fall back into "child-like" habits ignoring the Word, skipping church for leisure activities, and neglecting prayer life, just to name a few (the switch falls hardest on me right now, as I plead "guilty" to all of these).

Fortunately, God forgives, but that doesnt negate our responsibility. His grace is meant to lead us to repentance, not to use as carte blanche. We can all learn from the apostle Paul, who said:

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me

(1 Corinthians 13:11, NIV).

This April 1st, I wont be placing whoopee cushions on chairs, or handing out gum that stains ones teeth, or giving a jolt when someone shakes my hand. No, Ive grown beyond that. Im striving to show myself approved of God, a worker who need not be ashamed. Of course, I still slip up every once in a while. And if you happen to stop by and sit beside me in church one Sunday, be forewarned. You might just end up with a sign on your back that reads something like this:

Bless me.

Teach me.

Pray for me.
John Hunt is a freelance writer who lives near Chicago, Illinois with his wife of ten years and three children. He is a reformed impractical practical joker and - in more than one respect - is still trying to grow up (Ephesians 4:15, 16).

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