Archive for Jesus

Frequently Masked Questions

Posted in LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2011 by erikball123

Today I mourn with hundreds of Faith students, parents and teachers at the tragic, unexpected passing of one of my students. She died in an accident while on vacation. We just started the new school year…and already my heart is heavy and I’m kinda mad at myself, because I find myself (in my efforts to make sense of all of this) questioning my own mortality. I suppose that’s a natural knee-jerk reaction. But, I’m mad because I feel like “how dare you focus on YOU at a time like this!”I suppose when tragedy occurs, the coming together of friends and family is what gives us peace. It centers our focus so that we may commiserate together. I look forward to a tough Tuesday as we head back to school.

For the record, this young lady was a student in my class…a hard-working, creative, clever, fun-loving beam of sunshine in my every day. I loved that she considered herself unique and had a will of steel. She was determined, she loved her friends and she never hesitated to stop me in the hall for a hug. On top of all of this, she loved her Lord, and I can sleep at night knowing she’s with her Father in heaven right now.

I remember when I was a freshman in college and my parents got divorced…I got so angry. I prided myself in having a great family life and this particular bomb, just blind-sided me. I couldn’t forgive my father for walking out. “This decision was obviously fueled by a mid-life crisis situation and a desire to find happiness”…I kept telling myself. How dare he be so selfish. I have always said, and I will continue to say, you create your own happiness. I was so angry at my dad for giving up on us.

Flash forward to today and the current tragedy…I continue to struggle with the question “why?”…I find myself in a similar spot. I’ve always said (from an ignorant Lutheran’s point of view) that it is okay to question God. It’s okay to go to God in anger, fear, resentment, frustration and sadness. Questioning is okay…so long as you DON’T STOP looking for the answer. That’s why I love God’s style. It’s a selfish man who demands results RIGHT NOW…but a caring, contemplative man who is willing to wait for the answer to unfold over time. God’s blessing of free will and patience is something I take for granted, especially when I want something. I want answers about this young lady’s death. The same investigative mind-set is snooping Facebook searching for details. (I had to physically shut my computer off in order to knock some sense into myself.) The bottom line…this tragic accident shouldn’t have happened to such a wonderful person, and I’m angry. At first I thought…you know what, it’s out of our hands, it’s God’s will. But you know something. That’s not right. God’s will does not include brilliant 16-year to die a tragic death. In Genesis, God didn’t want people to die. It wasn’t until Satan stuck his nose into things that the first tragedy occurred. It’s NOT God’s will. I’ll tell you what it is….it’s God’s PROMISE, that no matter what the devil does to us…no matter what tragedy befalls us…if we trust in the Lord and we know with our mind and our hearts that Jesus is the only way to heaven…then we will be saved.

There’s a cheesy moment in the movie “White Christmas” when Bing Crosby and what’s-her-face is sitting around a fireplace guzzling buttermilk and singing about how we should all count our blessings. I’ve never tried to actually sit down and count my blessings. I tried. First and foremost…hand-writing a list is something I haven’t done in a while! (Welcome to the age of technology!) I got to about #54 before stopping and thinking….this could go ON AND ON! There is a never-ending amount of blessings that we should all sit back and think about. Little ones, like my dog, the roof over my head, my car with working air conditioning, a job to look forward to every day, clothes on my back, food in my stomach and an amazing wife who I get to share life with. There are blessings we forget about…like my friend Joel in NY, who throughout all his schooling and travels and spunky, care-free nature, still takes time to reflect how none of it is possible without the Lord. He’s what I call a “secret witness.” Or even, the beautiful children being born every day! Or the beautiful people of this world who so desperately want to have children, but cannot. Silly things, like television shows that make us laugh. That songs we play over and over again on our iPods that makes us feel “normal” again. The feeling of peace and quiet that moment just before you fall asleep at night. The hot shower that soothes your aching, aging bones. The friend who does something nice for you (like, bringing you a Starbucks!)…or that Grandparent who still drops a letter in the mail for you every now and then.

I could go on and on. I cannot begin to tell you all the things I have to be thankful for…that I take for granted every day. Walking the halls of Faith Lutheran, I look into the eyes of hundreds of students. Students with goals, and dreams, and hopes and fears. I guess what’s hardest about all of this, is the fact that God’s plan is not necessarily laid out for us to interpret. I suppose it’s not expected of us to understand God’s will.

I think I need to study up. I feel myself confusing God’s perfect will with something else…a “Just Do It” or “Trust No One’s” soceity that tells us…”oh well, it’s God’s will.” God has bigger better plans for us. Those plans do not include accidents that claim people’s lives. I can trust that this young lady’s faith in Christ has delivered her to her Father, and that the devil has lost this one.

I guess that’s what I’m struggling with. I’m a power-hungry, control freak…who has to trust in God enough to relinquish control of this situation. To put this (like all my doubts, fears and frustrations) in God’s hands. I’ll try.

To the parents of this young lady…God’s blessings to you. I promise I will continue to pray for you and your family. I will not, even remotely, attempt to try and understand the grief you are experiencing. But I will say this…your daughter was beloved on earth, as she is beloved by our Father in heaven. I will miss her terribly.

Just so you know…my dad and I did make up. It wasn’t too long before I thought to myself, “well, you can’t stop loving your father simply because you can’t understand or, rather get-over a situation.” We talked it out. (It was rough at first.) Down the road he remarried. She a very nice woman. (Her name is Chene…I call them “the old Ball and Chene!” He hates that. It makes me laugh.) But, we do talk, and he and I have a very respectable, loving relationship now. I may not ever truly understand why he decided to get the divorce, but part of life is taking the good and the bad…wrapping it up tight in your head, praying about it…and then attempting to generate something productive with it. I think that’s what God wants us to do.

I will continue to try and do that with both of these situations.

Everyone needs a father, especially in times of struggle. Rest peacefully, knowing that you always do…and He always has an answer…whether you fully understand the questions or not.

Psalm 18:2  “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

React…with JOY

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2009 by erikball123

If you’re anything like me, then you’re finding yourself buzzing through your everyday with the Christmas station on. You might find yourself oddly complacent with the fact that Aaron Neville’s “Let it Snow” and anything remotely “Christmas Beach Boy” related is considered fine music “for now.” I think the holiday season is the only time of year I find myself actively letting things fly with regards to things I absolutely despise. (I mean…does anyone actually like the dude who sings Feliz Navidad? Who is that guy? I heard a Jimmy Buffet version for the first time this year and almost wet myself with excitement!) Perhaps it’s the spirit of Christmas. Perhaps it’s good will toward man? Perhaps it’s the long lines, materialism and overpriced Wii system and Wii Fit accessories that I MUST HAVE!! I tend to think it’s the later. Weird? Not really. Joy to the world seems to come quickly around Christmas time…and why not!?

I won’t get into the whole “it’s okay to wish someone Happy Chanukah, but God forbid we say Merry Christmas…instead we blanket a Happy Holidays around everything so as not to offend anyone” thing. That’s an overwhelming argument that I refuse to get into anymore. Instead I’ll continue to say Merry Christmas to the Starbucks cashier, knowing I’ll piss off the occasional atheist. “Thank you for the Latte, Devin…I’ll pray for your soul. Nice eyeliner.”

Instead, I wanna say that Christmas is full of times for us to cuddle by the fire and watch a multitude of seasonal movies about family disfunction that we all can relate to. Tragedy, even in its simplest forms (Clark Griswold, for example) is something we all deal with. Whether it’s stubbing your toe on the cedar chest…or giggling at someone’s impression of Hitler (a mass-murdering poop head)…we all find great comfort in laughing at tragedy and/or someone else’s expense.

Today in church pastor talked about Joy. (I remember…because the pink advent candle was lit.) Here’s the thing…I guess you could say that my mind works like a Swiss watch maker. I tend to over-think things. I take what someone is saying and dissect it over and over to see what was on the inside. While this tends to give me great topics for this blog…it also leaves me over-analytical and paranoid half the time! But, I digress…Pastor said something kinda cool. He said “Joy is not manufactured…it’s a reaction.” It got me thinking about times in my life I found great joy. Personal experiences where I didn’t paint a smile on my face or conjure up a chuckle to accompany someone’s not-so-funny joke. A true, joyful experience.

When I thought of these times…I realized that he’s right. My joyful feeling, and likewise my fond memories of past times were unscripted and they totally caught me off-guard.

As human beings we tend to come together in times of great tragedy. 9-11 pops into my head right away of a time when the whole country picked up a flag and said “I’m an American…and this sort of thing won’t ever happen again, so help me God.” As time went on, our sorrows and memories of that event faded slightly…and we remained proud, but not as proud as that moment when others NEEDED us to be proud. We still feel it. Anytime I see footage of that tragedy, I’m transported back to that day when I felt united with a country I believe in, and people I care about.

Christmas has a tendency to do that for us. You don’t have to be a Christian to have to believe in Peace on Earth and find comfort in family and friends in a season of giving. You don’t have to send cards to people you never talk to, or sings carols, or drink egg nog, or tune the radio station to Karen Carpenter or Burl Ives. Santa Claus is lots of fun…but he can’t stuff Peace on Earth in everyone’s stocking.

The Holiday season is a time for remembering. I have a friend who lost someone very dear to her this past week. I have a student who cried when we as a school group sang for a senior center, because she misses her grandma, who was called home last year. I have family far away that we will not be seeing this Christmas because of financial concerns and the trip is expensive. But in light of these “tragedies” (big or small)…we can find hope. That’s why tears flow…that why a song on the radio, or the smell of gingerbread, or the sound of a baby laughing can bring us back to a time when we experienced joy. Christmas is a special time of year for just that reason. It’s is referenced and celebrated because of the coming of the Christ child. The Savior that was sent to earth to die for our sins. It’s easy to say “find great joy in knowing that your sins are forgiven.” I have such a hard time imagining that someone would die…just for me. Doesn’t seem possible. But I do believe. And I do find that joy. Not because I met Jesus. Not because I personally witnessed his death and resurrection…but moreso, because I have witnessed what God has done in my life and the lives of those I care about. Christmas is a time for reliving the joy in our hearts that we share with one another. It’s as innocent as the thrill of hope displayed by a child opening a gift….or as complex as someone’s mended relationship that was once sorted, complicated and painful. Joy can be found in all of those things.

When I hear “Joy to the World” on the radio…and I think of the lyric “let every heart, prepare Him room.” I like the idea that perhaps our hearts are indeed filled with joy at Christmas…and as crazy as our schedules get this time of year, we need to remember that the joy in our heart needs to blanket the love we have for our Lord….like a $20 Snuggie. I love my Lord…and I love Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Both bring me joy….and I think there’s room in my heart for both.

But I need to make sure that there is.

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.)

One-Upped!

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2009 by erikball123

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My wife and I celebrated my birthday Saturday. I got my Grandma’s card in the mail today…and there’s just something about an envelope-sealing kitten sticker that brings a smile to your face.

I can’t say I eagerly anticipate birthdays. I’m not much of a cake guy, really. I’ve always been a pie man…cherry or pecan. You can’t beat a sliver of pumpkin with a cuppa Joe either. But, this year wasn’t any big hoopla. My beloved surprised me with gifts (even though I told her not to) and we went out and feasted upon crab and over-steamed potatoes and enjoyed some music from my friend’s band RAVEN HILL. (They rocked.)

But as far as birthdays go, in general…I’ve never been a very sentimental guy. I suppose the tradition of a formal get-together including the gift unwrapping ceremony was never really my bag. I don’t like death…I like my life…and birthdays always “instill the fear of the shroud in me.” (To quote Jack Nicholson.)

I wonder if sometimes we do things backwards. I mean, if you think about it…nobody gets gifts at funerals. People send flowers…that in return wilt and die within three days. What a thoughtful reminder. At funeral receptions, people usually bring three-bean salads wrapped in their see-through condolences or a card with some perfunctory message about “a new life” or something. I suppose that’s nice in the big picture, but wouldn’t a funeral be the perfect time for an iTunes gift card or new clothing or a dinner out for a grieving parent, spouse or loved one? Perhaps I’m dwelling on the fact that I’ve always found the functionality of a birthday party a bit contrived, and funerals are too solemn. A celebration of life should be had at a funeral, and a birthday should be more of a toll-booth on the highway to heaven. A brief stop to take a look at yourself for a moment. It shouldn’t have to be a formal affair. I certainly wouldn’t feature three-bean salad. Not if it were the last food on earth.

I went and saw the Pixar movie “UP” the other day with a friend and have to say that it was the best movie I’ve seen in a while. (Which isn’t saying much since I’ve embraced my nonexistent movie-going social life.) But, still, Pixar tends to crank out highly enjoyable, crazy expensive flicks that are very, very marketable. Surprisingly, this one wasn’t necessarily like that. It was highly enjoyable with phenomenal animation…but it wasn’t a one-trick pony. There were no farting ogres or forlorn cowboy dolls, it was a simple story about a simple man. I can’t see them pushing old man dolls at Epcot after this one. Granted, like all good stories, it waved it’s magic wand to bring out the fantasty…but throughout the mayhem, the simple duel relationship between an old man and his love, and the old man and his goal to have an adventure…was perfect. I was hooked.  It was character-based rather than concept-based. I found myself engrossed in the old man’s adventure and I HIGHLY recommend the film to young and old.

I sometimes scratch my head and get angry at the wispy-ness of my once thick head of hair. I grow concerned with how tired I get after midnight. I can’t sleep in anymore. My internal clock buzzes around 9am. I luckily don’t have any gray hair yet…and the one I saw in my patchy goatee I plucked and burned with a match. (I think I heard a tiny scream.)  I’m taking a multi-vitamin now…which is recommended by my multi-opinioned doctor, and is nothing more than a white flag in my eyes. *Sigh* Yup…let’s face it kids, the big boy needs his power nap.

I didn’t take my thirtieth birthday hard. I was cool with it actually. I looked at it as a milestone. I was a force to be recognized with and I could properly use the term whipper-snapper without feeling out of my league at that point. But this year’s birthday…(and I’m not telling you how many I’ve had since, to my students, I’m eternally 28 years old.)…was different. It was solitary…and unnerving. Kinda like passing gas in church. Everyone around you knows it’s there. Nobody really acknowledges it…but afterward on the car ride home, everyone talks about it.

But, why should I be so concerned? Huh? I mean, who knows what’s in store for me tomorrow. My friend Chris has a saying that she spouts usually when she’s stressed:  “Maybe Jesus will come tomorrow and we won’t have to worry about a thing.” Who knows! Right? My brain could explode. A bulldozer could fall on me. I could get electrocuted by my $50, buzzing toothbrush. The neighbor’s dog could eat my neck. I could turn to stone! Anything can happen…and it won’t matter if it’s my birthday or not. It would be my time to go, and I will never see it coming.

I guess my unpleasant thoughts come from a “what if” perspective. I think about my life now and how blessed I am, and all the things I have done. Then I immediately think about all the things I’d like to do shortly after…and I sometimes feel that time is running out! But, perhaps that is a wildly “glass is half-empty” way of thinking. What is our life’s big adventure anyway?

With all the goals in the world (and I’m just thinking about mine…imagine the complex web of oft-dismissed goals of the world’s population) what will it all mean in the end? You can’t take anything with you…so why worry about it so much now.

So, why throw birthday parties? Are we saying “yea! No bulldozers fell on you this year!” Or is it truly a celebration of the day you were born? I think it should be a celebration of what you’ve done with your life. Good, bad, ugly….where ever you are, and whatever situation you are in…that one day a year you can say “dude…but look at all that you’ve done!”  And if you’re sittin’ in jail, or in the basement playing guitar hero with your only friend Buddy the hampster…then it’s a chance to say…”look at what I’ve done, and look at what I could do.”

Who care about the Costco cake with pasty frosting. Forget the rolls of streamers and the butterfly pinatas. (Is my family the only ones that do that?) Forget the gifts. They should really go to your mom anyway. After all she has to live with those purple veins in her legs.

But just like the old man in the “UP” movie, our big adventures is the every day. Everyday the Lord puts new things in our path so that we may endure and live and learn.Who knows what tomorrow brings. Crab legs? Rockin’ the night away to the tunes of a friend’s band? Three-bean salad? Who knows.

My birthday this year was a reminder that things are looking up.

Don’t Tip your “Serving” Tray

Posted in ACTING ONSTAGE, FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, THE HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE CLASSROOM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2009 by erikball123

I was watching a TIVO’d American Idol yesterday with my wife. A young hopeful was brutally rebuffed and sulked away, rejected, hurt and emotional. He turned to the camera (of course) and, tearing the clouds apart, cried “My spirit is broken!” (Somewhere in the distance a wolf howled.)

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Sheesh…somethings just don’t change. You have to admire those editing masters that never get any credit for the behind-the-scenes vignette work that is poured over every 2-hour “road to Hollywood” Idol episode. Those vignettes are always emotional, abrasive…and very cheesy. They know their stuff. What does America like: drama, in-your-face realism and cheese.

I bring up the topic of ones SPIRIT today because I had a similar situation happen to me yesterday. While I did not appear on American Idol, I did at one point feel like my spirit was broken. (Even candidly that statement sounds over-the-top.) Let’s just say that my heart sank for what I loved. That’s what your spirit is after all…right? What you’re passionate about, what you love and your predominate feeling or mood about it…it all boils down to your essential essence or spirit.

I read a letter to the editor in the newspaper today, written by a public high school teacher in Clark County about how concerned he was about the state of public education system in Nevada. If you don’t know, our school board passed out 6% pay cuts at Christmas parties, inflated classrooms in the upwards of 28 students per class (an all-time, national high) and offered limited reams of copy paper and office supplies in order to encourage use of technology. (Think about that, Faith Lutheran teachers, next time you complain about your new MacBooks!)

But seriously, there is a gray cloud over anyone who loves to teach in Nevada. There are revolving doors on all of our schools and then there are the teachers that DO stick around. Most of the time, they aren’t the ones you WANT to have around. (Just like students, really! Aren’t the ones that bug you the most…the ones that find your classroom quite cozy?) Our giant school district (which should be divided into three districts, in my opinion) is a not a very happy place. They’ve had a “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” attitude about test scores and offered very little as far as incentives are concerned for prospective newbie teachers. There is no silver-lining to this Silver State dilemma.

I was sitting in a restaurant yesterday with a group of colleagues having a lunch meeting. For the sake of my colleagues, and the students they teach and the parents that may read this…I’ll keep the agenda and particulars confidential out of respect. But I left that meeting quite deflated. I teach six classes (two sections of high school drama, high school advanced drama, middle school drama, middle school clowning & puppetry, and I team-teach a middle school dance class and during one of my prep periods I also facilitate over an Independent Study Costume Design class) and I have a very full plate. Drama is amazingly prop heavy and while we’re known as the nomads of all performance classes (meaning most flexible, after all we don’t carry tubas or music stands full of choral music) we still have a fair share of preparatory work before every project. I love my job and look forward to it. I work in one of the top private schools in the country and the expectations are very high. But, above any hidden complaint, or off-handed comment, I work with amazing students, an amazing administration and wonderful colleagues. The buildings are big…the carpets are steamed cleaned 4 times a year, the landscaping is beautiful, and everyone has a hand in building up the ginormous (real word) pillars that hold Faith Lutheran up so high. Everyone wants their particular subject area to succeed. Talk about a high caliber, feverish, energetic and positive environment, right? Well…we fall short.

Everyone wants to be proud of a something big that happens. It’s human nature. Just as the Holy Spirit works through us, we want our emotional spirits and passions to be worked over everyday as well. We want to flex our creative muscles. (And those that don’t are the ones that are “stuck.” See above.) We want to anticipate something. We want to revolutionize something. We want to bring something new to the table. We want to win. We want to be in charge. We want control.

I had this game as a kid called “Don’t Tip the Waiter.” Silly game. There was a two-foot tall cut-out of a snobby waiter that teetered on to spokes that protruded from each hip. Above his head he hoisted up a flat cardboard serving tray. You’d spin a wheel and depending upon your luck you’d be challenged to position a cardboard steak, or broccoli, or pizza slice, on top of the serving tray. If you weren’t careful, if you didn’t use good judgment, and if you weren’t careless, the waiter would become unbalanced and tip over,  dumping the food on the ground. Good times. (I also liked the dude on Sesame Street that would come out with eight cream pies, announce the number of the day, and proceed to trip down the stairs and splat the pies all over!)

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I’m extremely fortunate to not fall into like categories as public school teachers do, so I won’t be dealing with the 6% pay cut or reams of paper. But, the high level of expectation, mixed with the superior caliber of faculty members with strong personalities working there (that’s meant to be a compliment) with a dash of pride that so easily consumes us…you find yourself with a volatile cocktail sometimes. Let’s just forget that this week is exam week!

I exchanged blows with my colleagues across dirtied plates of devoured spaghetti, and found myself pouting, fighting and defending the simplest and most minute things in order to prove my point. Again, it’s hard for me to explain without going into details about the particulars…but think about a time when you’ve been SO SURE that you were 100% right, that when it was brought into question (let’s say, even without conflict) you lost it! It’s not a fun situation. You wind up taking everything personally, all the while drudging up past mistakes (and, in your attempts to defend, not just your own mistakes) to prove your points and…why? Ultimately, you want to get your way. Right?

As teachers, (be it science, P.E., History, English or stinkin’ Underwater Basket Weaving!), it is our responsibility to be loyal to not only our individual disciplines…not only the care and success and spiritual well-being  of our students…but it is our responsibility to make certain that pride doesn’t overcome passion.

We all want to win. We hoist philosophies, quirks, resources, lessons, and emotions on a plate so high above our heads sometimes, that we forget what’s up there. We teeter-todder around our everyday on a whirlwind of rituals and “must-dos” that when we reach up to snatch something off of the plate, we don’t even see how that removed “food” is unbalancing the rest of our plate.

I’m guilty as charged. On top of all that, I’m a bit absent-minded. (Put a blind-fold on my waiter!) So, my journey is no different.

I don’t think anyone walked away from our meeting yesterday feeling good. My lasagna wasn’t even that good. So, why did I sit in my car for 15 minutes staring out of the windshield questioning my calling as a drama teacher? Why did I find my love for performing arts and my love for my students and more so, my love for growing in Christ, and watching those I teach grow in Christ everyday…why did I find those things being “messed with.” That’s the stinkin’ tray! That’s my serving tray. Why would I question that? How can I?

You know, I’m a big guy (6’4″) and I can take a lot of heat and punishment. But when my heart takes a beating…when my pride takes a beating…when I’m forced to spill all of the contents of my serving tray onto the floor and regroup before picking them back up…it’s stinks.

Randy, Paula, Simon and that new girl (Carly??) all have a huge advantage. They can break someones spirit and know that it will be well edited.  The show always goes to commercial break. But, when students, parents, administrators, or colleagues break your spirit…you have to look them in the eye the next day in faculty meetings.

I went numb after our lunch-time conflict. I do that sometimes. I don’t deal well with conflict. I want everyone and everything to be sunshine and lollipops. I never said I wasn’t a bit ignorant. But, as a teacher…not only do you have a responsibility to the school, students, parents and community as a whole…but you have a HUGE responsibility to yourself to make sure that your “waiter” isn’t tipped.

One thing the public school teacher wrote about in his letter to the editor was that he didn’t care what happened to the “system” because he cared too much about his students to allow anything to affect his passion for teaching.  I thought that was pretty cool. I suppose God wouldn’t give you the size “serving tray” you have, if He didn’t think you could handle it.

My waiter was tipped yesterday, and my spirit was broken. But despite my human nature, the drama, the in-your-face realism….and yes, the cheese….spilled all over the floor….I’m ready for another game.

“…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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