Published January 31, 2008
Did you hear the one about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the preacher, and the sword swallower?
Turns out that truth is, in fact, stranger than fiction when the Rudolph story can inspire a sword swallower to unsheath his unusual ability for God’s cause.
A few years ago, Dan Meyer, 50, a blond guy with the buoyant energy of an oversized puppy, sat in his Alabama church during Christmas while the preacher encouraged people to see Rudolph’s story as a parable. The reindeer with the nose he was ashamed of finally realized that his odd feature was his gift and his witness.
“You have to use what makes you unique,” the preacher said.
At that moment Meyer knew he was going to quit his day job as a car salesman to be a full-time sword swallower – and develop a ministry with a memorable point to it.
“Believe it or not, this is my calling,” Meyer said, pulling a 30-inch steel sword out of a leather scabbard for a recent demonstration. “I can reach the goth kids, the bikers – I can catch their attention, and I can turn their attention to the Lord.”
Meyer puts the tip of the sword into his mouth, tilts his head back, flings his arms wide, and lets the inch-thick blade slide down his throat. Then he bows from the waist, his eyes twinkling above the hilt projecting from his mouth.
A way to witness
Meyer stands and flicks the sword from his mouth with his fingertips, so that it shoots into the air above his head. He catches it with a flourish – he’s also a juggler, and, in a pinch, a fire-eater.
He also has been known to stick an ice pick up his nose. “Does it gross you out?” he asks, grinning. “Good – it’s supposed to. Of course, I get negative reactions from the adults on that one. But the kids love it.”
His message, he said, is to remind kids how fearfully and wonderfully they are made. That the hobbies other kids might think are weird or gross could become their way to witness for God in the world.
And that they should never, ever try sword swallowing at home.
“I risk my life to do this,” he said. “But I tell them there is a way they can become a spiritual sword swallower. In Hebrews 4:12, it says, “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, able to pierce the division of the soul and spirit ... able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Then, in the show he takes to camps, youth groups, and awards banquets, he pulls out the sword he calls his Pride. It’s the first sword he managed to allow into his gullet after a couple years of practice and lots of gagging.
Swallowing their pride and learning to be humble, Meyer tells the kids, is even tougher than swallowing a sword.
Though it’s worth noting that swallowing a sword is no piece of cake.
Meyer was inspired by the sword swallowers he saw in his early 20s when he was a Lutheran missionary in India. About 10 years ago, he determined to learn the technique.
It took Meyer a couple years of daily practice to overcome the natural revulsion of the throat. He learned to slide the blade behind his voice box, to nudge his heart aside where it presses on the esophagus, to insert the steel blade all the way to the sphincter guarding the stomach, and into the stomach itself.
His posture must be perfect, he says, his body totally relaxed.
“If you look closely, you can see the blade beats with my heart,” Meyer said. “I’m a living sheath – I put the Word of God in my body every day.”
Kay Campbell writes for The Huntsville Times in Huntsville, Ala.
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