Archive for prayer

“Everybody Hurts…Sometimes…”

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2010 by erikball123

I’ve often referred to my Grandmother as my Superman. I’m not quite sure why either. I mean, the symbolism makes sense to me as I feel she can do just about anything from the comfort of her screened in front porch…but the reality is Superman doesn’t exsist and my Grandma doesn’t give a flying poodle about Kryptonite. So, why the need for such symbolism? I thought about it. My grandmother is a faithful, stand-up, decent, kind, and loving…but flawed, human being. She’s not out flying around the world. She has weaknesses just like all of us…and to see her this week in a recovery center, strapped to a walker, with thousands of dollars of titanium in her knee, brought me back to earth for a while.

Having not been back to visit my family in over a year has also abruptly wrestled into my brain the fact that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to convince myself to believe that my family has nothing to hide. “Erik’s Family: Sans Issues,” is a lie I’ve been telling myself for years, running away from issues to Never Never Land…or at least Summer Summerlin. It’s hard to look forward to the future when you’re too blind to see your hand in front of your face.

With a huge sigh of relief at visiting my Grandmother and family this summer, (she’s looks great!) and with a very heavy heart at the passing of my other Grandmother and in dealing with other family “issues,” I have decided to do the following…think positive. Cliche, huh? I’ve caught myself saying to people that I’m sending “positive energy your way.” What does that mean? It isn’t a laser beam from my eyes…I can’t summon the positive energy spirits…and I can’t shoot rainbows out of my butt either. It means nothing! Perhaps it implies that I’m thinking of them in a positive way and hoping for a better tomorrow for them. But that takes too long to say…and there’s something fun and contemporary about “positive energy,”  right?

Perhaps that’s why I love my Grandmother so much. She’s so freakin’ positive. I mean…does she sweep issues under the carpet and stand on them like the rest of us? Yes. Does she purse her lips and wish she would have interjected at times throughout the years? Yes. Has she walked in on Emily and I in mid-make-out session in my college years? Yes. So…why would she CHOOSE to move forward, forfeiting these burdens? Is it cowardly? Is it easier?

Let’s come back to this in a minute. Let’s shift gears here.

Everyone knows I’m a God-fearing Christian. If you don’t…I am. I also like to think I’m a fairly positive, happy person. With that said…..I don’t understand atheists. Okay…I believe in God. They don’t. End of story? Yeah…no. Why do atheists go to such GREAT lengths to attempt and convince me, and anyone within earshot, that there is no God. If you TRULY believe there isn’t one…why spend so much time and energy on the matter? Why not just leave Christians alone…and do your own thing? What if God didn’t exist? Why does it matter to atheists SO MUCH that other people find peace, hope and joy in something THEY DON’T BELIEVE IN? But, no…they’ll spend an eternity on a soapbox so that they can have the final word. And they are angry, angry people too. A conversation between a Christian and an atheist cannot remain positive. It always weaves into sensitive territories laced with accusations, theories and personal agendas. It’s hardly positive.

Now…bring this thought into what I’m talking about. What if…my Grandma…CHOOSES to remain positive. Why? I don’t know! (And frankly…I’m so intreagued about this notion, I don’t care!) What if it’s because she’s getting older….or maybe because she care about impressions she’s making on her grandchildren (and great grandchildren.) Perhaps she’s scared of fighting past battles alone? Or, perhaps it’s none of these things…and I’m over-thinking.

Why should I CARE why she wants to remain positive. My atheist friends…take note. Shouldn’t instead I be happy that she is in this state? Even if it was a ruse…a complete falsehood…doesn’t that say something about her character that she cares enough about me to put up a front for MY benefits? (Maybe I will admire her acting prowess!) Then again…this is assuming that she is merely putting up a facade…and that she’s a miserable lump of goo.

I’m not sure that thinking positive…having hope for the future, and asking God for things (like a stinkin’ genie in a bottle) during prayer time is the answer for everyone’s hardened questions. (And I’m fairly certain that no matter how GIANT my issues are…there will always be ones out there, bigger and scarier.) But, I can tell you this….it certainly is PART of the solution. I’m a big believer in prayer. Prayer, mixed with positive energy (shooting rainbows out my butt!) and having hope will AT LEAST give you something to hold on to. (Which is SOMETHING…especially when you feel like all else is lost.)

I think God gave us free will for a reason. (Not merely because we needed some heated topics in Social Issues class.) I mean…how can we appreciate the “highs” in our lives if we never have experienced the “lows.” That free will is what helps to get us motivated to find answers and turn back to God…even when things are crazy and don’t make sense. You see it all the time in movies. My favorite is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Sittin’ at a bar, with all hope lost…at the end of his rope…George Bailey says, “Dear God, I’m not a praying man…but show me the way…” I betcha you didn’t say your prayers last night…neither did I. I forgot. Wonder why? I had a great day yesterday…and I felt good…and I was WORN OUT when I plopped into bed. Perhaps that was it. Sheer exhaustion. But, what if….I was lost…alone…ashamed…. broke…..banished….scared….sorrow-filled….or lonely. I betcha “putting my head down” at the end of the day would be just a little bit harder for me under these circumstances….and a heck of a lot easier to turn my thoughts over to God. When you and I are down…we don’t want to mourn alone. Human nature. We have a fundamental need to SHARE grief, so that collectively, we can pull through. (Hence the reason for post-funeral dinners, yellow support ribbons and candle-light vigils.)

I like to think that I’ve got the image right in my head when I look into my Grandmother’s eyes and think “there’s my Superman.” But the truth of the matter is…no one person can be super all by themselves. Even if Superman did exsist….no one would even notice unless someone pointed to the sky and said “look up there! It’s a bird, it’s a plane! No…it’s Superman.” It takes a collective to turn something concerning into something POSITIVE.

Share in your common miseries today and tomorrow with your family and friends. Be that shoulder to cry on for somebody you love…and CRY if you need to cry. Christians and self-proclaimed atheists….we’re all human beings with wants and needs…and feelings…and yes, issues. None of us are Superman, and we need to help each other out. We need to support one another….even if “we’re right…and you’re wrong,” one things remains regardless.

NO ONE wants to be alone.

——————————————————–

When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone,
When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life, well hang on
Don’t let yourself go, ’cause everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong. Now it’s time to sing along
When your day is night alone, (hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go, (hold on)
When you think you’ve had too much of this life, well hang on

‘Cause everybody hurts. Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts. Don’t throw your hand. Oh, no. Don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone, no, no, no, you are not alone

If you’re on your own in this life, the days and nights are long,
When you think you’ve had too much of this life to hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes,
Everybody cries. And everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes. So, hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on
Everybody hurts. You are not alone

– R.E.M.

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.”

HUMAN AGAIN

Posted in ACTING ONSTAGE, DIRECTING FOR THE STAGE, THE HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE CLASSROOM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2008 by erikball123

The art of performing makes me sad. At least tonight it does. Signature Productions, in conjunction with P.S. Productions, completed its 24 show run tonight of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” to a standing ovation and a full house. Cast members cried, props were packed away…I began to think the tech crew’s black attire signified a burial of some kind. But, NO! I refused to get caught up in the ritual of closing a show. I had friends in the audience who have never seen the show. Just because it’s closing night doesn’t mean I shouldn’t dig deep to bring to life the same vigor I pump into Gaston every night. But somehow the pancake foundation set a little heavier on my face tonight.

It’s hard investing yourself, emotionally and creatively. Granted, just like every high school drama classroom, you’re going to get a multitude of differing approaches. Some like to perform as a hobby. Others are looking to this show as a springboard for their careers. Me…I just want to use the gifts God gave me (that I don’t deserve) to glorify Him and hopefully learn a thing or two along the way to share with my students. It helps that performing is fun. I suppose if it were like a root canal, I wouldn’t feel this way, right?

I love the looks on the faces of all the kids in the lobby afterward. I love the discipline of being onstage. I love the challenge of keeping the moments fresh. I love the thrill of approaching a high note in a song. I love the rush of energy I get every time I hear the opening number. I love performing. I just love it. I’d do it for free, every day of my life without hesitation, if I could.

But you know why I think I’m feeling nostalgic, mere moments after the show closed? It’s the routine. The day to day. I’m going to miss that most of all. I love looking forward to a performance. I love getting there early and slowly, methodically putting my character make-up on. During the show, I love knowing who I’m going to pass in the hall in between scenes. The pre-show banter, the post-show wrap up….the taping of the microphones…my wife’s picture hanging in my dressing room. I love it all. When I packed up a box full of my stuff, and started hauling it out of my dressing room to pack up in the car, I felt a little bit like I was cleaning out my desk after being fired. (Silly, huh?)

Cards were exchanged and pleasantries were handed out along with hugs and well wishes. There were sandwiches waiting in the green room and a witty cake with icing that spelled out “Human Again” in yellow cursive loops. Human Again…hmmm. To some, that was a humorous sentiment, quite simply because the daily grind and wear of putting on a show was beginning to take its toll. “It’s time to let it go,” one of my friends said. To me, it was sad. I hung up Gaston’s shirt, and dropped the wig into a box marked “wash.” The boots I wore, while shabby…were comfortable. The gloves…just plain cool. I still joke about my Sonic the Hedgehog eyebrows. I’m not ready to be human again.

So…what do you do? Tom Stoppard said, “Every exit is an entrance somewhere else.” I love that quote because it offers hope. I have a hard time letting things go. I suppose I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Gaston and this production. But, more importantly, I’ll have a soft spot for those who made this show possible. The director, choreographers, musical directors, stage managers and tech crew members. The amazing cast of talented friends who were simply my second family. The audience fixed gaze never gets old. My wife who is a constant support of my doing what I love. Everyone.

You know before I go onstage…every time, before I go onstage, I say a prayer. I usually ask for support, confidence, energy, and thoughtfulness. I thank God for the opportunity, my gifts, and the people I work with. Every time before I step foot onstage I do that. I just pull myself away and find a dark wing and bow my head a little. Sometimes, I have to just be silent and kinda focus on the prayer in a group of people.

That routine will be missed.

Anytime my wife gets blue, she asks me to give her something to look forward to. It seems to cheer her up a bit. So, I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving. And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I will offer my thanks again for a great run to all of those involved in the production. But, most importantly, I thank God for what I WAS able to do. The experience, the time, the education, the fun. I am blessed beyond my means, and even though I won’t have a wing to pray behind for a while…or a less than soft crash mat to hurl myself at every night during the Beast fight…I will look forward to finding time throughout my day to give the same thanks to God for allowing my life to accommodate what I love. Far too often that doesn’t happen for people, for whatever reason.

Side note…my beloved wife has been awarded the Pacific Southwest Lutheran School Disctrict Teacher of the Year. It’s kinda a big deal. I don’t talk enough about my wife in these posts, but let me just say that if I were a fifth the teacher she is…I’d bee a WILDLY amazing teacher. She’s simply the best there is. Students leave her class happy and having learned something very important in every class. She’s sharp, organized and disciplined…but she’s fun, caring and supportive. Students routinely bring her college essays to proof. She tutors all kinds of students, and she’s is every girl’s go-to person for advise or a shoulder to cry on. She’s my true, definitive inspiration…and I’m SO proud of her I can hardly stand it. She deserves it TEN-FOLD and I’m thrilled that someone other than me is recognizing how much she influences people’s lives on a daily basis. I love you Emily…and I’m SO proud.

So, with that said…blessings to you all. Whatever drama you are a part of now…whether you’re looking forward to it ending or not, I hope you’ll find reward and peace as you look forward to your next adventure.

The Rest is Silence.

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2008 by erikball123

I’m scared to die. They have an actual phobia for something like that, called Thanatophobia. Death is scary. Horror movies capitalize on the uncertainty and abruptness of it, while the majority of us are resigned to quietly wait for the day to come when we will rest in peace. For some reason, lately, I can’t do that.

Before I become a gloomy-Gus here…I hope my reputation will precede me as a joyful person who has a zest for life. I try to live each day to the fullest. But….well, I cannot help but think that one of these days I’m going to simply fall to pieces.

I’m fortunate really. No one in my immediate family has ever passed away. I remember my Great Grandma Bair dying and our family attending the funeral. I was very young. I recall accompanying my friend to a classmate’s funeral, but I was so removed from anyone in the room, the whole experience was very distant and cold. I remember the last two years at Faith Lutheran when a beloved senior girl died in a car crash, and an equally beloved young man took his own life. Two funerals in two years. And still…I felt removed.

It wasn’t until last week, when I attended a funeral for the spouse of one of my colleagues that I actually began rethinking about mortality. First and foremost…my friend and colleague is a very strong Christian woman, with an amazing family, and while I didn’t know her husband well, I know that the family remains heartsick and I continue to life them up in prayer. But, I think this whole shift of focus for me is also fueled, as I watch my beloved Grandmother age. In previous posts, (“I’m no Superman”), I detailed the recent scare my family endured when doctors wanted to have my Grandmother undergo surgery. Thinking it might possibly be cancer, everyone’s emotions were heightened. Those weeks sucked. I talked with Grandma often…we laughed…and I hung up the phone and cried. I recollected memories of us watching M.A.S.H. late at night after my coming home late from rehearsal in college. I remember the lunches Grandma packed for me when I’d go to class as a freshman in college, and the days I’d throw the majority of the contents away, because I was too cool for that. I hate myself for that now.

These scares as of late, these unexpected moments…have shaken my very firm foundation. I’ll be honest, for the first time in YEARS, I have a lot of questions…and fears.

You’ve heard it before. Those colorful people with snappy smiles quipping “I don’t want a funeral when I die! I want people to throw a party!” Blah, blah blah. What are you going to do, orchestrate it? Are you going to sit down next week and script out, organize and direct your own death party? No one is going to do that. And in the end, your family…thinking they know what’s best, WILL have a funeral for you. It’s a nice thought…but let’s get realistic here.

I’m not saying funerals are the way to go. I cannot grasp the REASON why we should have funerals. Closure? Perhaps…but death is pretty final, don’t you think? At least for now. Why does peering into a casket, or walking slowly down a aisle accompanied by snifflers dressed in black, toting Puffs Plus, help one to cope? How does letting it all out help one to cope? When there is unbelievable pressure behind a dam…the foreman doesn’t just say “let ‘er rip!” When a can of soda is shaken briskly…the thirsty drinker doesn’t just say, “oh, well…let’s pop it!” No, no, no. I think I would need to resolve myself to the fact that the person who is passing away is not walking through the door anymore. That person will never mutter another word.

Why on earth would I want to lay my eyes upon a casket? Forget about ever relying on me to identify someone involved in a tragedy, God forbid. I just simply couldn’t do it.

Am I scared to “go there?” I’m not sure. Do I lead a good life that I truly enjoy, and any reminder that this life on Earth will come to an end someday “darkens my days.” I suppose so. But, the funny part is…I still plug away. I manage to put my shoes on in the morning and make it through.

I pray a lot about this. I ask the Lord to please heal those who are sick, and bring comfort to those pained. I ask for more time, more patience, and swift reactions. I ask for a lot. Too much probably. But like a blind man needs his seeing eye dog to get from point A to point B…I need that prayer. I need that moment when it is just the Lord and me. I need that silence. Which is funny…because I’m a loud guy. I’m a talker with lots to say. I like loud music and crowds full of people. But the ONLY times I recall crying, are times when I’ve isolated myself or stifled my emotion in my hands.

I wish I had an answer. If any shrinks out there want to evaluate my melon…go for it. I’m sure there’s more that mere “fears” up there. But, the bottom line is, I really don’t care about the medical term, or the glossy definition of why I feel this way. More so, I just need….tomorrow.

When Jesus died on the cross, I wonder if He was thinking about tomorrow.  I like to think He was. I like to think the pain, the agony, the torture, the tears….were all stifled into that trust in tomorrow. Not even Jesus could predict exactly what would happen on that tomorrow but I think He had an idea…and more importantly He had faith.

I suppose my ashes should be spread on Broadway when I’m gone, right? Ha! Maybe I’ll do something creative with them, like flock a Christmas tree! Perhaps the BEST bet is to not worry about it. I know I won’t be worrying when I’m with my Lord in heaven. You’d think that a notion like that would be give comfort about the my fears of my wife, family and friends passing away, wouldn’t you? Funny…It doesn’t, really.

I suppose I’m just selfish. Caught up in a world of expected tomorrows, and overly paranoid yesterdays. For a guy who loves life so much, I sure do an awful lot of worrying.

My Grandmother’s test came back with good news. The old bird is up and puttering around her own home now, wearing the CROCS I got her. I expect her roller-skating and roofing the house in the next days. She’s something. My colleague friend is back to work and I gave her a hug in the office today. She looks good. I’m glad to see that she can go about her everyday again. Some say she’s at peace with things.

I’m okay, really. This post is going to come across as depressing, or self-loathing…but I swear I’m okay. Just thinking a lot. Just a bit selfish…a bit paranoid…a bit silly….and a bit fearful. But the fear of sharks never kept me out of the water, and I only have one life…I’m not going to waste it standing on the shore. I encourage you all to do the same. While the days may sometimes be long, and the paths we walk sometimes crooked…we’re never in control, we don’t know the outcome of this mystery novel, and the Lord will provide.

From MacBeth – Act. V, Sc. V – “Tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterday have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out! Out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow.”

Shakespeare’s so freaking cool!

Prepare to Help Yourself

Posted in ACTING ONSTAGE, DIRECTING FOR THE STAGE, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS, THE HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE CLASSROOM with tags , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2008 by erikball123
“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.

6,7,2,4,5,9,1,0,5,0,2,4,3,7,5,3,8,3,5,7,0,1,5,8

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.

***PRAY***

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)

I’m no Superman.

Posted in FAITH, FAMILY and FUN, LIFE IN GENERAL / RANDOM RAMBLINGS with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2008 by erikball123
Many of you asked to see pictures of FRANKIE, the newest addition to the Ball Family. Well, here he is in all his fluffy glory! What a big, beautiful beast. We love him and he’s going to be a dream come true for my wife on those scary nights when I’m at rehearsal, and she’s home alone. This mighty protector, who is gentle to his family (and brothers and sisters) but fierce to visitors will give her peace of mind for sure. He’s like a small lion. When we first got him home, he needed to get used to the other little ones running about. (For those who don’t know, we have three others. Penelope the Pug, Beatrice the blind, elderly, diabetic Chihuahua, and Johnny the…uh, Johnny-dog!) They are all much smaller that the Frankster, and so watching them tumble down for breakfast was kinda like that one scene in Cloverfield.

I’m kinda looking forward to this weekend. Three day weekends are nice because it puts a friendly curve on the entire week. Who doesn’t want to think it’s Wednesday, but realize it’s Friday, am I right? I look forward to sleeping in and resting the muscles that awoke from their summer hibernation suddenly during Miss Chris’ M.S. Dance workout. I look forward to prepping for Beauty and the Beast coming up next week. I’m actually even looking forward to putting the first set of grades in the grade-book! How crazy is that! I guess it’s good to look forward to something.

I continue to be concerned for my Grandmother…I’m not sure if you all know, but she’s going in for surgery early September. To try and describe how this makes me feel would be very hard. You know how everyone has that one person in their lives that is their “Superman?” That persona who exemplifies the character you wish you had. My grandmother (aside from my wife) is my best friend and she’s just the best thing since sliced bread. She’s wise, giving, thoughtful, kind, considerate, a hard-worker, a devout Christian, a mother, a sister, a grandma, a great-grandma…and she continues to shoot from the hip and make me laugh. There has never been a moment, a success, a triumph, a pitfall, etc…where she hasn’t been there for me. I love her more than words, and….I’m scared. She went in for a routine check-up…the doctors found something to be concerned about…and two tests later, she scheduled for surgery. She’s 78 years old. *Sigh* Hmmm. I’m not sure what to think about that. What do you do when you see your Superman struggling? What do you do when a source of your own strength is weak? What do you do…when you can’t do anything? Have faith? It’s hard sometimes. I pray. I ask the Lord to please take this burden off of my heavy heart. But even that doesn’t put me in Jackson, Michigan, sitting next to my Grandma in her enclosed front porch.

It’s a scary thing, surgery. Putting your life in the hands of another…willingly. But, if you think about it, I suppose we do it everyday. Not on the operating table, mind you. But parents put their kids in the care of teachers. I care for my new little Frankie, and he trusts that I’ll fill his food dish everyday. We put our trust in the Lord, don’t we? We try anyway. Perhaps that’s what makes this situation so hard. Perhaps I’m still “not used” to putting my trust in God. (Which begs the question…does anyone ever “get used to it?”) In a cage match against a tiger…I KNOW my Grandma could fend for herself. She’s Superman. But…I have such a very difficult time dealing with the fact that I have to trust in the Lord, that whatever happens, it’s part of his plan…it’s part of a bigger plan, that is….and I need to have faith that everything will be okay, including Grandma.

So, I’ll continue to worry. I’ll continue to call Grams and talk about the giant deer that are haunting her front yard and robbing her bird feeders. I’ll continue to hope that from 2000 miles away, my fervent prayer will lift her up as swiftly as if I were right next door. I’ll try to shift focus and look forward to this Christmas, because she’d better have some yummy cheese-straws waiting for me, darn it!

I’ll hope. I’ll pray. The Lord is good, and I know that no matter what happens…Grandma will be taken care of. The power of prayer is unmeasurable…and when you have to put your trust in others….sometimes, it’s all you got. We’re not Superman, you know.

My new doggie Frankie, my white-haired fluffy new buddy is something else. He’s a gentle giant, I’ll tell ya. His droopy eyes and warm welcomes make coming home very pleasant. I’ll sit on the couch and hold his heavy head on my lap. I’ll hug his big ‘ol head and hold his paw.

I’d give just about anything to give my grandma a hug right now or to hold her hand. I know she’s scared even though she’d NEVER admit it. But like a Army private taking his orders from the Admiral, I will keep my chin up, and I will be confident that things will be okay. “Aye, aye, grandma.”

Until I CAN see her again…and look her in the eye…I’ll continue filling my doggie’s bowl…I’ll continue to look forward to three-day weekends…and I’ll continue to pray. Sometimes that’s all you got.

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