Nothing Up My Sleeves

I still remember that evening, decades ago though it was.

My first magic show.  Words will never do the memory justice.

In the parking lot of the local Sears store, the stage stood, ready to snare the attention of any passing urchin with its bright spotlights and mysterious contraptions.

I was snared.  Captivated even.

Rabbits and doves out of a hat.  Handkerchiefs out of the mouth.  Water in cups which turned into confetti when tossed on the onlookers.  A beautiful woman sawed in half.

With mouth agape and eyes glued on the flashy showman,  I didn’t miss a move.

I thought.

I wanted to be a magician.  Nothing else mattered.  Forgotten was the determination to be a fireman, followed closely by the idea that a doctor’s life might be more rewarding.  I would be a magician.

Dad had an old magic kit in the garage and, immediately, I dug it out to began practicing for my life’s vocation.

Voracious reader that I was, I couldn’t wait to check out a volume or three at the local library on the mysterious art.

I wasn’t prepared for the disappointment.

It took no time at all to learn everything I needed to know about magic and magicians.

Magic was all trickery and deception.  All of it.

The men who practiced it?  Con men.  Charlatans.

Lies and sleight-of-hand.  Nothing more.

I wanted to do amazing acts and see magic (the real thing!) happen. There is no such thing.  Magic is all misdirection and props hidden up the sleeves.

What an unhappy let down!  And, what a disillusioned young boy!


I’m older now.  Much older.

With the apostle who shares my name, I want to believe when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)

For many years, I thought I had.

Now, I’m not so sure.

I saw the quote the other day, a phrase from a song by a popular vocalist.  As an aging man, realizing the years left in my earthly journey are fewer than those I’ve already traveled, it seemed an encouraging thought—for a moment or two.

I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve.*

I want that to be true.

Problem is, I’ve never had anything good up my sleeve at all.  I’m sure of it.  And yet, I have been practicing for many years.

All I’ve got is trickery and deception.

And, I’m terrified—absolutely certain the day will come when the facade will be pulled down to reveal the emptiness behind the curtain.

There’s nothing up my sleeves.  Nothing.

All the self-help books a man can check out from the library do no good, either.  It’s still lies and sleight-of-hand.

Just like the magic.

But, there is the one Book.  I’ve been doing some reading in that.

The Teacher, the one some thought was doing parlor tricks,  made clear to His followers there was only one way they could do good.

Live your life in Me and there will be much for them to see.  But apart from Me, you’ll have nothing—nothing at all.  (John 15:5)

There may yet be spectacular deeds done. It will be His doing. His alone. Click To Tweet

There may yet be spectacular deeds done.  The best could be just around the corner.

It will not be something to applaud me for.  There will be no adulation from the crowd for me.

Every good gift—every single one—and every excellent gift come from above, given by the Father of Lights.  (James 1:7)

I am content with that.

There’s still nothing up my sleeves.

There never was.



It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20 ~ NLT)

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
(from The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock ~ T S Eliot ~ British Essayist ~ 1888-1965)



*from No Such Thing ~ John Mayer ~ American singer/songwriter




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

4 thoughts on “Nothing Up My Sleeves

  1. Isn’t it wonderful that even when we feel like a fraud, God has always seen up our sleeves and into our hearts?
    That same God never deceives or defrauds us. There’s never anything up His sleeve or behind His back. That’s comforting to me.

  2. Deception and Trickery are the same two things the enemy uses over and over because he can’t invent anything new. When we see the magician do something people are amazed. I’ve never quite figured out why, but I do know Jesus is coming back soon and that is not a trick or deception. We know what is up His sleeves. I enjoyed your post and the analogy. BTW, I don’t think magicians are all evil only those who profess to be something they are not 🙂

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