2011: A Year of Beginnings

Few moments would compare, in the whole of my life, to May 1st of this year when my daughter was brought into this world by the hands of our simple and saintly midwife in the basement apartment of my in-law’s house in Black Hawk, South Dakota.  I used just about every inch of the emotional range God has equipped me with during that process, and it brings me tears even now as I type this.  My wife’s courage and composure under such pain and adversity deserve words beyond my skill and poetry beyond my command.  For the love…

This year also saw the fruit of nearly 5 years of dreaming, hoping, and working come to fruition (through, it must be said, the help of many wonderful partners, supporters, advisers, and not least… investors) in the advent of TreeHouse.  I have now switched gears from starting a business to actually cultivating, growing, and operating a business.  May it be something beautiful and good for the world, and may the “law of unintended consequences” be not too harsh on this endeavor.

We started out this year living in South Dakota, and we finish it living in Austin, Texas.  We started out this year with one child, and we finish it with two.  I started out this year unemployed, and I finish the year as the co-founder of a company.  I started out this year without having run seriously since graduating college, and I finish the year with 323 miles of running under my belt trying to get myself into shape for the Black Hills 100.  It truly was a year of beginnings.

The best books I read this year were Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, Earthen Vessels by Gabriel Bunge, The Inferno by Dante Alegheri and translated by John Ciardi, Life is a Miracle by Wendell Berry, A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean, and

My favorite album of the year is easily the self-titled Bon Iver album, with The Fall of Constantinople by the Cappella Romana coming in as the runner-up.

The two best films I saw were Into Great Silence and Of Gods and Men, and I was fairly pleased with the last installment of the Harry Potter series.

Though not without its challenges, it has been a good year for the Ballard family.  I could probably wax philosophical at this point about the ills of a world that thinks Lady Gaga is a serious artist, or that knows how to download an app and stream movies instantly but knows nothing of how food is grown and raised or how shelters are built and maintained (or anything else actually necessary for life and flourishing), but it is getting late and I don’t think I have anything to say on those subjects that hasn’t already been said by others.  Father Stephen for instance:

Much of our lives in the modern world engage primarily with things that have no “true existence.” We engage with illusions, or social constructs. By the same token, these imaginary things draw us into a life in which we become strangers to true existence.

Despite the current popularity of “3-D” films – they are no morereal than any other film. Much of our economic system is built on the “market,” that is, what people are willing to pay. The value of most items, and of much work, is not intrinsic, but imputed. Thus the mood of a people (“are they optimistic about the future”) can have a direct effect on the “value” of a stock-market.

I am not an economist so I will say no more about something that seems to be largely make-believe….

It is strange that in our modern world, afflicted by the make-believe of our culture, we are very likely to look for yet more make-believe to assuage our discomfort – and thus move deeper into the disappear existence that is the source of all our problems.

God calls us away from make-believe and towards true reality. That which is truly existent has become like God, at least in that aspect. For this reason, many Orthodox monastics adopted an extremely simplified life. The less life is bound up with make-believe and grounded in the hard reality of what is, the great the chance that we will find salvation and sanity.

It is quite possible for our lives to be dominated by things which have no existence. Our dreams and fantasies, our fears and anxieties, take on an existence that overwhelms everything else. Not only can such concerns not be defeated on their own ground (they are the masters of the unreal world) they must be slowly dragged onto the very ground of reality, Christ Himself, so that they can be revealed in their powerlessness and swept away with the dust of non-being.

My children are extremely dear to me and I pray for their health and salvation. But their well-being does not consist in their health or other material measures. Their existence is founded in the life of prayer and their relationship with the good God and source of all life. God forbid, but if I should lose them unexpectedly, I expect to find them where they have always been – in praise and worship before the throne of God. My only concern is that I find myself with them at the end of all things.

I have no “career goals” for my children other than the goal of their salvation before the true and living God. There is and can be no shame in such a good confession.

By the same token, I have no greater desire for those who are my parishioners – that they be found “in Christ Jesus.” The myriad of devices and intrigues that make us want to think imaginary things to be of importance – I pray for the brilliant light of God’s true existence to sweep away as He defeats all darkness. No enmity has true existence. No anger, no bitterness has true existence. No long cherished grudge has any true existence. When Christ comes and the Truth of His existence begins to sweep away all false things – we will see all these things dissipate. Our salvation is that we will great such a dissipation with joy and not with sadness.

Christ Jesus has set us free.

Happy New Year!


~ by jdballard on January 1, 2012.

One Response to “2011: A Year of Beginnings”

  1. Wow, how did I miss this on New Year’s Day?! Very very good. As a side note, I also heavily recommend Of Gods and Men.

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