Archive for Christian

Practice makes perfect

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2009 by erikball123

I think I’m having a “bad example of a Christian” kinda day. I was watching my Tivo’d “AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL” (I’m a reality show junkie and I admit it. I’m getting help.) There was a contestant….Ashley, or Stephanie….or Vanderpeep! I don’t remember…anyway, she was a self-proclaimed Christian. She kept saying over and over “I’m doing it for Jesus! I want to be a model for Jesus Christ!” And after ever little, tiny, contrived victory she would run around with her hands in the air screaming “Thank you Jesus Christ!” Of course, everybody hated her. I was mad at her as well, fo making Christianity look bad.

Later on that day…I sat eating Ruffles and suckin’ on a Caffeine Free Diet Coke, chatting with a college friend on Facebook. I paused for a moment so that I can skip over to a photo “comment conversation” in which one of my graduated seniors dropped the F-bomb. (All Caps…bold. Oh, yeah….the real deal.) So, being the upright, thoughtful Christian I am…I proceeded to tell her that she should consider a different line of communication and that I’d de-friend her if she didn’t.

I even snarled at a middle-aged man at church today because I didn’t like the cut of his jib.

What’s wrong with me!? Seriously. I find myself more and more EFFECTED by things that most would consider un-Christian like, and feel the need to lash out…and then I turn around a break the rules myself!

We all swear. All of us. I’ve stubbed my toe on the corner of my bed 74 times and each time I paint the walls with profanities! (Mrs. Ball always laughs at me too…which is a topic for another blog.) I’ve found myself finding great “release” after dropping an F-bomb. (And by the way, I’ve decided to give up golf.) I’ve done it! So what gives me the right to criticize? Some have gone as far to say that all Christians are hypocrites.

Remember those WHAT WOULD JESUS DO bracelets? (They came before those plastic yellow ones Lance Armstrong made famous.) They were trendy….and trite. But seriously, I suppose we’re all sinners and have a long way to go…but perhaps that’s the best way to revert to a more sensible state of mind. What would JESUS have us practice? Being loyal isn’t enough. Practicing what you preach should be the goal.

Of course those model girls were on the defensive from the beginning because Vanderpeep was so bloody demonstrative about her faith. She crammed it down their throat. Why? Who knows. Attention? 15-minutes of fame? Maybe she’s an alien. (I’m convinced all celebrities are.)

We can’t just force our beliefs on people…like Kanye grabbing the mic during an acceptance speech and making him look like the biggest jerk in the industry. As long as there is a single fan to stand and applaud him, people will continue to feed on attention and do what they think is right, instead of TRY TO PRACTICE what’s right in the eyes of the Lord. (I didn’t think Beyonce’s video was all that kickin’. Not enough to beam down from the mother ship and stomp on someone else’s moment, anyway.)

So…I suppose I should sum this up. I’m having a grumpy day. One of those days when you wish you had five more hours before bedtime so you can verbally assassinate “The Hills” and Katie Couric’s haircut…and kick the cat. And as I get older, I suppose in my vain efforts to remain connected to the mainstream vernacular, whilst simultaneously quickening my pace to a jog in my walk with Christ….I find myself backtracked, distracted and fooled. So instead of playing Rummikub with the other groaning Christians who have nothing nice to say…I’m going to double my efforts to practice what I preach. Practice makes perfect. It starts now.

I suppose the devil has a few tricks up his sleeve after all. He’s a limely bugga. (But notice I didn’t use the F-word. Pretty good, huh? DANG IT! I did it again! Okay, okay…it starts….now.)

ARTIST vs. VANDAL: The Graffiti Argument

Posted in LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2009 by erikball123

We are mere days away from opening the first High School production in Faith Lutheran’s new Chapel/Performing Arts Center! “CLUE,” based on the campy motion picture will certainly be one for the record books, and my wife (the director) will certainly consider this the hood ornament on her “drama career” Ferrari.  It’s been a long couple of weeks, and I look forward to a busy final rehearsal schedule and then an even busier follow-up rehearsal schedule as I swan dive into “Thoroughly Modern Millie” rehearsals. (I’ve been cast as Trevor Graydon.)

But, before I go on and on about how sore my feet are…or reveal the secret to magically removing dried paint from under your fingernails…allow me to relive the moment I first began spattering paint on the set last Friday and the look my the students gave me.

I had a hard time explaining to them that up close it looks like little splatters. But from a distance, and under the theatrical lights and magic of “pretend-land”…it looks amazing. Even after tutorials, some remain flat-out unbelievers.

“It just looks messy,” one said. “You ruined my wall!” another shouted! It was a wonderful uproar.

I had the opportunity to visit Home Depot several times this last week.  There is one conveniently located right around the corner of the school, and after my 17th trip to the macho-man mega-store, (casters were on sale), I noticed on the back of a neighboring Atlanta Bread Company restaurant, several graffiti-d “words”…scribbled with cheap spray paint on the exterior, trailing from one end of the store to the other.

Now, I truly believe graffiti, and graffiti artists for that matter, has its place in society. I’ve seen amazing graffiti displayed that I could easily categorize as breath-taking. Even the lettering of some simple offerings are completed with poise, flare and prestige. I think whoever invests time in something…anything…that is original, artistic and theirs (in other words, something they are passionate about)….then it should be considered art.

Art is such a subjective thing. Like theatrical arts, the visual arts world revolves around visionaries and skeptics. I recall, years ago, an commotion upon the displaying of a painting of the Virgin Mary. The artists’ medium was cow manure. The entire painting, which some deemed beautiful, was made entirely from dung. Some called it art…some called it crap. I thought they were both right.

Mayor Oscar Goodman, the martini-drinking mayor of Las Vegas, whose flare for the dramatics is as well-known as his reputation for extending himself beyond any conservatives city limits, made a public statement saying that any vandal caught spray-painting city property will have their thumbs chopped off.

I think graffiti artists have a voice and something to say. And I think they should have a place to display their artwork. With that said, I think it’s a ROTTEN SHAME that vandals scroll unreadable…rushed… “tags” all over the walls of Atlanta Bread Company.

If you’re an artist, if you have something to say (or rather, a message to send) then at least say it in words others can read. At least display it in places where you aren’t cowering in the shadows at midnight, waiting for that one car to speed by. If you want to protest…PROTEST! But at least show your face. If you want to defame, call-out or destroy something…if you feel strong enough, at least have the courage to do it where you can be seen. Anyone who scribbles with spray paint on the BACKS of anything…unreadable nonsense or “gang signs”….and then leaves it….they are nothing but a destructive vandal and a coward. Arguement

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Graffiti is misunderstood. Artists in general are misunderstood in some ways. But as someone who is trying to find their “something” that sets them apart…that “something” that makes them special…or, that “something” that needs to be said, don’t allow yourself to be lumped into the same category as thieves, gangsters and criminals. Instead find an outlet, a channel, or a means by which to express yourself in a way that supports your vision or art. I can’t help but think, even IF those vandals did accomplish their goal in successfully tagging that store…what now? Nobody can read it…nobody understands it….nobody cares. And unless your purpose for doing that is to upset people…you’re not achieving anything. And if your goal is to upset people…you’re doing it in a simple-minded way and you will never be perceived as artistic…only destructive.

Maybe that cow-dung artist had something to say with that particular offering. You know it’s said that artists aren’t truly famous until they are dead and the legacy of their art has lived on after they have. Perhaps this young hopeful was looking for a break and found it through a risky piece of art and a little exposure. Perhaps he knew that good or bad press regarding the event would at least garnish him some press. Either way, he was willing to sign his name to the piece.

We all have something special about us. Something that we do well, or are good at. Something that separates us from everyone else. Look around…some of us are very outspoken about our talents. Others, not so much, and I can’t help but think that these people are ones that simply haven’t found the right outlet yet. I always tell my students, if you want to be a doctor or lawyer…go for it! But if you like video games, or skateboarding, or graffiti art….go for it! But it’s HOW you “go for it” that will define you. If you invest everything you have (including hard work at school, a determined spirit, and a don’t-give-up attitude) you can accomplish anything you want, and before you know it, you’ll be designing video games, or copyrighting your own brand of skateboard, or displaying your art to critical acclaim.

The tiny specs of paint on that CLUE set up close look very messy and divided. But from a distance, you can see that thy run together and generate the preferred ambiance.

We together with our separate talents and likes really don’t do much of anything, if we cannot collaborate. And artist is not an artist unless someone is there to look and reflect on their painting. An actor is not an actor without an audience. A graffiti artist is not an artist at all…unless they can define who their audience is. There should be places where graffiti can be displayed. The painter has a museum. The actor, the stage. But I refuse to believe that the side of a dumpster or the back of an Atlanta Bread Company is the graffiti artist’s place.

I took several steps back to observe my finished, painted  set this weekend. I can only hope it’s pleasing to the audience and in God’s eye. Perhaps taking several steps back and reevaluating what your passion is, and how you can better direct it, and questioning if it too is pleasing in God’s eye,  is something that could help reveal that outlet for you.

Sure seems a better alternative to chopping off appendages.

The Sun’ll Come Out….Tomorrow.

Posted in ACTING ONSTAGE, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2009 by erikball123

“Bring on tomorrow. Let it shine. Like the sun coming up on a beautiful day, it’s yours and mine. We can make a difference. It’s not too late. Bring on tomorrow…I can’t wait.”

Fame has never been my favorite musical. Sure, it has redeeming qualities…but I’m not overflowing with excitement about the piece. This song, however is from the show. I started with ANNIE’s: “The sun’ll come out, tomorrow…” but figured readers would drop off the site quickly due to it’s overexposure!

I like the lyric. Anytime a piece of music reminds me that a brighter future waits around the corner, I am immediately attached to the piece. You see, all too often I wind up with a gray cloud around my head. Someone will say something hurtful…sometimes a class will test my patience…sometimes my patience will test my endurance…sometimes my endurance will test my faith…sometimes people just mess with my corn flakes! Whatever the reason for the change in weather, I, like many other overly paranoid, highly emotional, sensitive and strong, yet fashionable drama teachers, have a hard time resting my head on my pillow at night. How does one not tire of (what they believe to be) their calling?

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Prayer. “Simple solution, sir.” Say it, don’t spray it! Okay, okay….so prayer is what Pastor Steve tells you to do every Sunday. Prayer is what happiness when you remember to fold your hands at night. Prayer is what happens when you are all alone. Prayer is what happens, when you need a solution, and it’s convenient. Prayer is not a stronghold investment in your faith, and I’m simply talking from MY point of view: an ignorant Lutheran with a whole lotta sin on my heart. I’m a terrible example of a Christian and prayer NEEDS to happen because it is the solution…not because it might be the solution…if it’s convenient…if I remember….if I care.

So, what does this have to do with a brighter tomorrow? I’ll tell you: President Barack Obama. (Whoa! Didn’t see that one coming, did you!) It’s true. Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching the 44th President being sworn in, elbow to elbow with hundreds of my students in the brand new chapel/theater auditorium. The streaming video connection wasn’t the best…and it paused every so often, only to jump forward a few seconds, and I’ll admit, that made it a smidge distracting, but the overall experience is nothing less that historical.

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I sat there among my students…some sleeping…some joking…some rolling their eyes….some crying…watching history. Over 400 years ago, Abraham Lincoln challenged an important piece of parchment called the Declaration of Independence. He freed the slaves. Some people were not too happy. Years later, women were given the right to vote. Later, African-Americans attended public schools side by side with Caucasian students in an effort to bring us closer together. Not merely in arrangement in the back end of the everyday, stuffy bus…but more so in heart, mind, and soul. These are momentous occasions, as they draw us closer to a promise of a free country for all who desire, work and pray for it.

I asked my students, “why should you care about this day? Why is it significant?” They responded, “Well, it’s the first black President.” I prodded, “Okay. Well…what does that mean?” My beautiful, white-collar, 100% Caucasian class stared back at me as if I was setting some sort of political “you outta know” trap. I shifted my approach.

“How many of you have auditioned for a play or musical here at Faith Lutheran?” (About 20 hands.) “How did it work out for you?” (No response!) I explained that very rarely does an audition turn out exactly as you envision. I can look them in the eye and promise until I’m blue in the face that no matter who they are, what their experience is, and how vigorously they’ve prepared…when they walk through that audition door, they have the EXACT same shot at getting the leading role, as their peer that has earned that opportunity. I can SAY it’s based solely on the audition…even to myself, in my heart…but how can I ever PROVE that? Can I? I haven’t found out a way yet.

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I reference Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech: ” I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the treu meaning of it’s creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'” I love that speech. All men a created equal in the eyes of God…and should be seen that way in the eyes of man. Have we had the opportunity to prove that? Not until yesterday. Yesterday, the people of this country put into office the first African-American President. Republican or Democrat, black or white…Christian or otherwise…this is the new tomorrow. This is the beam of light in the cloud that darkens. This is the “something to look forward to.”

I watch as my property value goes down. (I counted five foreclosures in my subdivision, last time I walked the dog.) Gas prices have come down…but will they stay there? We’re a country at war where lives are lost daily. In my own backyard, I watch as our school cuts out those navy blue, itchy faculty polos to make room in the yearly expense report for primary spending. It’s a tough time.

But the sun’ll come out tomorrow. Is Barack Obama the solution to our problems? Who can tell. Maybe…maybe not. All I know is that we as Americans took a giant step yesterday in proving to every citizen that this is truly the land of the free, where everyone has the opportunity for a leading role.

Will the inauguration effect my drama students immediately? Yes. I remember being their age and watching the Challenger explode. I recall the smell of burned coffee in the air, and the look on the Rebel Yell secretary’s face when I walked into my office at UNLV the day the twin towers collapsed. They are vivid recollections. These students…when they are my age…will remember sitting in the Chapel / Performing Arts Center watching a hiccuping screen as our President was sworn in. That promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for ALL was cemented in a huge foundation block yesterday. And while the immediate ramifications couldn’t compete with the wonderfully comfortable auditorium seats and the sleepy-headiness of some…the long term ramifications woke up a nation nodding off.

It is my prayer that somehow, someday…I will be able to prove to my students that hope is always around the corner. There is a new tomorrow, and it will shine.

“We can make a difference, it’s not too late. Bring on tomorrow. I can’t wait.”

“…UNTIL THEN, WE’LL HAVE TO MUDDLE THROUGH SOME HOW.”

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2008 by erikball123
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Outside the Faith Lutheran Chapel / Performing Arts Center - Dec. 18, 2008

I wonder if non-believers of Christ handle fragile, glass Christmas tree ornaments with the same “in heaven’s name, don’t even BREATHE…or it may break-like” care as they do their equally fragile, and (some would argue) sensitive beliefs? I betcha they break a few. I also bet…when they do, they simply thrown them away and buy some more.

That’s what is comes down to, isn’t it? A secular Christmas. At least it is for those who have a problem with the inclusion of a religious symbol, a Christmas Carol or even a simple “Merry Christmas.”  Some passers-by are as droopy as the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. And what about those who sit comfortably in their chairs at home watching A Charlie Brown Christmas? If they decide they don’t approve of Linus taking center stage….they don’t simply sit, endure and complain. No, no, no! They simply press a button and change it to something else, that appeals to their liking.

Christmas is becoming a private holiday that we have to celebrate behind closed doors in order to avoid offending anyone. I mean…it’s “JOY TO THE WORLD” not “joy to those who believe exactly what I do, and appropriately demonstrate it through worship and outward like-mindedness.” That doesn’t have the same snappy ring to it, does it?

It’s as if every cry of “Joy to the World” is accompanied by an  icy snowball in the face of those not wanting to receive it. What’s the matter with proclaiming JOY at the coming of our Savior? Even if you don’t believe in my Lord…what’s the matter with wanting to spread JOY? If you don’t even want that…you can hit the mute button, you know, or change the channel.

Thirty of  my students (the school’s drama troupe) and I wanted to spread the joy and sing carols at a local BORDERS bookstore before sipping cocoa and sending each other off for the Christmas Break. The store we wanted to offer our sleigh-driven merriment was a big BORDERS bookstore located in an area 2 miles from the school next to a BEST BUY and a BED, BATH and BEYOND. A perfect place to fa-la-la-la-la while freezing our freshman fingers off, I thought. We spoke with the manager (and for his protection, we’ll call him Penjamin) who told us that because “only a small amount of Border’s customers are of the Christian faith, we’d be upsetting the others” and he turned us away. (Let’s just forget the fact that the last poll I read marks 82% of U.S. Citizens claiming to be Christian.)

Even after we offered to include secular songs into our “play list” (who doesn’t like a rousing offering of FROSTY THE SNOWMAN, my niece’s favorite.) still, no dice.  I guess the fine print his mission statement includes: No Manger, No Menorah, No….whatever Kwanzaa peeps believe….No Lawsuit. He said that Borders is “very concerned about potentially offending their customers,” but they continue to sell ANY book to ANY person, ANY time. A contradiction, some may say. I found it even more interesting when I visited the Borders website that on the front page there is a large section highlighting the Christmas and Christian books. Under shipping there are several options to get your order there BY CHRISTMAS. And under the staff picks…I found a variety of Christmas CDs and books. Other religious-based offerings were shockingly missing.

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Located on the front page of BORDERS.COM - Dec. 18, 2008

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BORDERS Shipping Options - From Website: Dec. 18, 2008

Granted…I’m sure Penjamin (Santa’s little helper working inventory on the second shift), doesn’t speak for Borders world-wide and I don’t hate Borders…per se. I was just disappointed.  I can’t help but hope that there are businesses, companies, and individuals who still wear their “Merry Christmas” on the sleeve of their coat, laced through their coats arms like mom used to thread our mittens so that we don’t lose them.  But then, my question is, why do people continue to bury their heads in the ground when faced with religion? With all the holiday buzzing and running here and there all around the square…why do people only pause a moment to holler “STOP?”

Wasn’t it Tiny Tim (Dickens, not ukulele) that said he hoped that people would see that he was crippled so that it would help them remember who made the lame beggars walk and blind men see? Why should we be any different? Shouldn’t we be walking, living, breathing examples of the saving grace of Christ? Are we all JUST AS CRIPPLED as poor Tim? Even Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree was transformed when a bunch of people CARED for it.

“Even Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree was transformed when a bunch of people CARED for it.”

Why should anyone else have a say in it? By law there is nothing unconstitutional about displaying religious symbols (I looked it up), and I can’t imagine any non-Christian grabbing a torch and leading a movement to replace the pluralistic Mall-of-America with a secular one. It would be too much work. Then again, so is getting up out of our chairs to change the channel, right? Without the remote, we’re lost.

I want people, young and old, good and bad, frozen as an icicle or warm as a chestnut…to know who my God is. I want them to see that there is a hope of salvation through Jesus Christ…and I want that joy to be the fire that ignites their Christmas spirit.

Did you know that we can all enjoy EGG NOG year ’round? Sure! I know, I’ve seen it in the stores. We don’t need Christmas to come around to sprinkle the nutmeg. “Joy to the World, the Lord has come!” is a call to action. A battle cry! A prayer. A mission statement. A comfort. A reminder. And that sort of thing doesn’t just come around once a year.

We had snow in Vegas yesterday. Lots. Today school was canceled and I celebrated my first Vegas “snow day.” (I also spotted a winged pig in the air too! Ha!) I sat at home looking at the snow falling steadily thinking, “I would have never thought this could happen.” (Then I turned over and went back to sleep!)

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When I woke back up and thought about it…I was reminded that when the Lord comes again…we won’t expect it. There is no Weather Channel that forecasts the coming of Christ.  That moment will surprise us…then we’ll all have to stop for a snow day.

So, why should we allow those that are too busy dealing with economy ruin our Christmas? Why should we let those afraid of minor, potential backlash cancel our merriment? Why should we let things like the weather, the gift-buying, the travel, the unsettled family matters….the hurt, the resentment, the hate….the fear…..why should we let that SNUFF out Christmas, like Scrooge extinguished the Ghost of Christmas Past? We shouldn’t. Ignorance is fleeting…passions soar…emotions run deep…and like any director tells his/her ensemble of actors, “you’ll never appease every audience member.”

Should we force those with equally wet Uggs and frost-bitten agendas to sit, hear, and learn the story of the Christ child? We should want to, I suppose. We should offer, I bet. We should try, I know. But, as sinful beings I suppose we can ONLY try. In the meantime, instead of stirring waters and challenging the boundaries of any store manager’s “borders”….I’ll don my Merry Christmas hat…stand tall….remember the reason for the season….and take my kids to Barnes and Nobel, who gladly accept us.

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