Archive for inspiration

Prepare to Help Yourself

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – PHILIPPIANS 2:3-4

Does anyone else think the phrase “Self-Help” is an oxymoron?

I love walking by the “Self-Help” section in the bookstore. I find it ironic they always put these particular sections way in the back of the store, tucked away, almost challenging patrons to find them…no where near the customer service desk.

What about “Self-Help” seminars? That’s a crazy thought. What do you do…sit in a room alone?

Everybody seems to have the answer nowadays. Heck, even I think so to a certain extent, otherwise I would be writing this blog, hoping you’ll read it and reflect on it, right? But, the bottom line is this…there is no such thing as a “Self-Help” anything.

My inspiration today came from a 6th grader who asked me about drama auditions at my school. “Mr. Ball,” she wrote in an email, “do you think I have enough talent, or no? I just don’t want to embarrass myself.” Actually, quite insightful for a 6th grader if you look at that last statement in a big picture perspective. She’s recognizing that this world can be a big, bad, judgmental place, but it can also be unapproachable. Who wouldn’t want to ask for help when approaching a room full of people for the sole purpose of being critiqued. That’s not what made me sad. It’s was her first question. “Do you think I have enough talent…?”

What would we do if we didn’t have the media, those “too busy to care” parents and siblings, and an our overloaded state of minds to help us get through the day? Would the world stop spinning if teenagers stopped snickering about those shy wallflowers who are just trying to make it through the day? What about those talented young actors or athletes who face the pressures of having to always exceed expectations? Without those everyday hurdles, I suppose life would be uneventful. I suppose there wouldn’t be anything left to talk about at the water cooler the next day. I suppose the notion is unrealistic.

I argue that those who find comfort, new-found faith, and a youthful do-over in these “self-help” books haven’t looked in the right places. It’s like buying a George Foreman grill so that you may obtain the ULTIMATE GRILLING EXPERIENCE…simply because a beat-up old boxer told you so. Anyone can get a degree…everyone has an opinion…and anyone can get a book published. That doesn’t qualify someone to be an expert in anything. That sort of thing doesn’t offer universal truths…it just offers printed words. For those of you who may disagree with me, let me just say that I believe motivational “sources” have there place. (My Grandma reads the Family Circus” cartoon everyday because it “starts her day off right.” Same thing.) But, for truth…for support…for answers…I would argue the only “helpful” book is the Bible. Staying in the Word constantly is a great way to find that extra motivation…that kind word…that strength that so many of us need, including me.

Which brings me to another point and my exchange with the little 6th grader. Everybody has “what it takes.” Heck, I’ve often thought about taking my sorry self to a shrink. Are you kidding me!!!?? I’m riddled with issues. I could find a warm spot on one of those leather sofas super easy. But, I don’t because I sometimes feel that we use crutches too often. Everyone needs a pick-me-up every now and then. My latest post was about a rough day I was having. I would’ve given the world for a smile, or a kind word on a day like that. But once you start leaning on those types of offerings day after day, then you stop carrying yourself and start allowing others to consistently man-handle the emotional chains that weigh you down.

While there is always a shrink that will work you into their busy schedule, that’s unfair to you. Consult, by all means…reach out and find strength in others, or course….but then find new ways to re approach…yourself.

“But what about those times when I cannot even look at myself in the mirror?” I’ve been there. I’ve see myself getting older and losing more and more hair. I work with very talented people on a daily basis and question my worth constantly. I look into the eyes of students everyday and wonder if I’m worthy of such a huge responsibility and honor like teaching. I’m pained quite often. That’s when you turn to the Lord and say, “look, dude….I’m freakin’ out. There is nowhere else to turn, and I’ve run out of options. Please show me the way.”

All students face the stigma of failing in front of there peers. There is something about our moral fiber that tells us that we’ll excel if one of our equals fails. While sad, that sort of thing will probably never go away. (I’ll let the shrinks figure that stuff out.) So, in the meantime,  what I recommend to do is exactly what I told that young 6th grader to do….prepare.

I told her to hold her head high…to walk into that room with confidence and to have fun. Trust that God has a plan.  I told her to prepare for the audition. Seems like an obvious answer, right? Well, what about you? What about the “everyday?” What about right now? What if you’re sitting there having endured a rough, busy day, or if your sad, lonely or depressed…or let’s say you’re like me, and have the tendency to sweep life under the rug sometimes? What then?

Hold your head high. Have confidence. Try to have fun. Exercise the power of prayer, find guidence in the Word, and trust in the Lord. He has a plan.

You don’t need a “Self-Help” book to tell you that you’ve “got it in ya.” But, then again…I don’t need to tell you that you don’t need to be told! The Bible can serve as that guide for when life’s challenges present a barrier…and you can always relay on the power of prayer.

But don’t take my word for it….help yourself.

*Thank you to Charles Shultz for the graphic.

Dust Yourself Off…

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , on September 16, 2008 by erikball123

I cannot say that I fully understand why I woke up with a gray cloud over my head. It certainly wasn’t the bed’s fault, both sides of the thing are quite comfortable and I exit either way often.  I believe I got enough sleep…my frown doesn’t need to be turned upside-down…and certainly nothing happened to my corn flakes. It was just a bad day.

I felt bad. I shuffled instead of walked. I found myself chewing my food longer than usual and playing plate hockey with my remaining lunch and spork. I was not very energetic…my self-esteem plummeted…and on top of it all, I literally spilled coffee on my shirt.

Someone once said that nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around! Ha! But, to be honest, I didn’t even really have the “umph” to do that! It was “blah” from beginning to end.

So, I ask you. What next? What do you do when you’re dealt that hand? Fold? Yeah….no. You can’t. If you folded every time you were dealt a luke, warm hand, eventually nobody would want to play with you. They’d bust out the Wii and bowl.

There’s another saying that I like a lot: “Pick myself up. Dust myself off. And start all over again.” When a baseball player strike outs, they can think about their actions as they walk back to the dugout. But, what if you were hit by the pitch. Sure the game moves onward and you take your base…but you didn’t ask for that. It certainly wasn’t the outcome you were hoping for. And sometimes it hurts!

Mondays are tricky. People tend to get things stuck in their heads that Mondays are, by nature, the “Bad” day. The day to look out for. The beginning of yet another long stretch of…whatever you do.

So, here’s what I did to over come this blue-ness….this abnormal state of mind. Prayed. SAW THAT COMING, DID YOU? But, let me explain. I didn’t FEEL better. My blue day went on. That power bomb prayer in the morning didn’t clear my head, like Allegra clears my sinuses! I still “sniffled!”

First and foremost, I don’t think it’s fair to pray and say “Lord…please make me less blue.” How selfish. I have a friend who just lost her husband. I have a student who’s sister is very ill. I have a beloved Grandmother who just got out of major surgery and a mother who healing from surgery as well. Me thinks I’d feel a midge selfish in my request when these much more serious “issues” need more attention. Really…how dare I even think about asking for a less blue day.

But…as I sit here in my office crunching out this post…mere seconds away from midnight and the start of another day…I really don’t think small “requests” (for lack of better words) are be a bad idea. I’m not looking forward to facing tomorrow, but every time I’m FACED with anything, a travel through the pages of Scripture seems a heck of a lot easier that a stroll through any other avenue. Poor excuse for cracking open the Word…but, that’s the cool thing about the Bible. You don’t need an excuse.

ISAIAH 40:29-31
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

I guarantee you will wake up one of these days in the near future and find yourself quite miserable. You’ll be sore, and achy. Your coffee will be bitter, the sound of the dogs barking will make you angry for no apparent reason. The radio plays nothing but commercials, your lose your keys, the streetlights turn yellow upon your every approach, and the copy machines at work will jam. Or, perhaps it will be more subtle. Your skin will crawl. Your conscious does battle with your heart. Or, maybe you’re just lonely.

Whatever it is, your personal walk with Christ that day will make an extended long day seem short and approachable. Try this little trick. You need two people to do the trick. Have one person read the following list of number to you without pausing.


After they are done (without looking back at this post!) name the MIDDLE number. Can you? Off the TOP of your head? It’s hard, isn’t it. I’d be surprised if anyone could do that. But I challenge you to the the following exercise again…but this time your partner will ready you FOUR sets of numbers.

6,4,8     5, 7, 9      1, 4, 0      2, 5, 7

Now…name ALL FOUR GROUPS’ middle numbers. Why can you do that easier? It’s because your approach is different. You identifying things in a different way. I’m a busy guy and have a million things to do in a day. But, I have found a very cool routine of going to the Lord in prayer NOT ONCE a day…NOT just at night….but many, many times a day. In between classes, before lunch, after a disparaging comment or a sad thought. Standing in front of my class will all eyes fixed on me, I’ve prayed. Like the exercise above, this process is not hard…and it doesn’t have to be lengthy.

As you get into this routine, and dice and slice these “moments” in your day to bits, you will be able to approach a tornado with confidence that the storm will indeed pass.

This is not a quick fix, mind you. God’s not going to smite all things making your miserable. Instead, God will HEAR you and by continually allowing God to be PART of your day by calling on Him, you will be able to face anything.

This method and ultimately my Lord….(*deep breath*)….is my Gatorade on a hot day…my aloe vera for my sunburn….my softest tissue for my sore nose…and the comfy pillow for my aching head. God knows. God believes, God cares. God loves. You just gotta let him in on things. Every single day. Don’t save up your one-on-one “God time” for a rainy day. Start now….in fact, go to the Lord right now. Take a moment.


May the Lord bless you and your day today…and the many blue days in the future.

“Help me to stand by your grace and look the whole world in the face, and sing your word wherever I go. When the tempter comes around Lord give me strength to turn him down, and help me stand Lord the way you stood long ago.” (From “Help Me Stand Lord” by Jeff)
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