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If ever there was a guy who seems to have it all, I’d nominate Hugh Jackman. He’s handsome, rich, famous and seems like a genuinely decent guy.

But let me just say this. He’s so multi-talented – it could be argued – he’s putting other people out of business. Think about it.

We need a dancer for this scene! Oh, wait. Hugh can do it.

We need a singer with the ability to tackle semi-operatic songs. Oh, wait…

This cat can do comedy, drama, stage, screen, song, dance.

I mean, even if he worked at the Amazon warehouse, I can imagine….

We’ve got to open all these boxes to get them ready for shipment. Anyone on staff with box-cutter fingernails? Say a mythical hero with epic sideburns? You there, with the Aussie accent! Let’s slash some boxes! By the way, do you always wear tap shoes to work?

Once, when Oprah’s TV show visited Australia, Hugh greeted her, flying in on a wire over the crowd to the stage. Something malfunctioned, though, and he landed abruptly, causing a gash to his face. After a moment, he shook it off like a sheepdog and the show went on.

What’s this guy’s secret sauce, anyway?!? This quote from Jackman says it all: “I believe actually the more you do something, the less frightening it becomes because you start to realize the outcome is not as important as you think.”

Tina Fey told the story of how her co-star from 30 Rock, Tracy Morgan, had mispronounced the Aussie star’s name as, “Jack Hughman,” and that tickled me. If we were to name a kind of prototype male of the human species, it would be a name like Jack Human. And it would be a guy like Hugh Jackman.

I think the reason he’s such a success is that he doesn’t dwell on failures.

I know you don’t expect to hear a story about a celebrity on a prayer blog, but my theory is, you take wisdom from any source that rings true. Here’s something that can’t be denied: Hugh can do it. You can, too!

AugsburgThe easiest way to irritate me is to not listen. Interrupt me. Talk over me. Ignore me. And apparently I’m not the only one.

Early this past week, a group of high school students at a local high school held a demonstration. Their school district, Hazelwood, like many districts is facing money problems. They’ve tackled it by cutting band and orchestra, reducing activity buses, not replacing teachers. Students and parents have tried to attend board meetings.  Comments are closed. Meetings are moved behind closed doors.  No one is listening.

Students came up with a way to be heard.  They went after the district where it would hurt – statistics. Two hundred students walked out of finals. One hundred refused to return to class and were suspended. The seniors couldn’t walk in the graduation ceremony, those with A+ Scholarships (2 years of college tuition) lost the scholarships, and student athletes were kicked off their teams.

Not surprisingly, the community raised a ruckus. Fine, fine, said the principal.  That guy there?  On the track and field team? He can compete for us, representing the school, on Saturday but not walk through graduation. I listened. Are you happy?

Oddly enough, no one really felt like he had listened. They pointed out that according to the student handbook the lowest possible punishment calls for detention. The highest suspension, but students must be informed of the reason and length of suspension in writing, they should have a chance to present their side of the story to the principal and the parents must be informed 24 hours in advance. Although the handbook calls for listening and communication, none of this happened.

The ACLU stepped up and the word lawsuit came into play. This, the principal heard. Suspensions are rescinded but the community is divided between those who think the kids are getting off easy and those who are relieved injustice has been curbed.

The whole situation reminds me of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8). She demanded that the unjust judge hear her. She eventually wore him down and received justice.

This protest was a long time in coming. The district has ignored parents and teachers.  They ignored students and the community. They refused to listen until the ACLU said “lawsuit.”

If you are one of the many prayerful who is working for social justice or educational opportunities in your community, pray for patience.  Pray for strength. Pray for listening ears. And while you pray, listen. It is the only way to hear.

–SueBE

Strangers hold onto man for two hours after he threatens to jump off bridge

So here’s an idea. Instead of a Smart Phone, why don’t we invent a Sweet Phone – only calls from kindred spirits with a sunny outlook get through; those with a hidden agenda, a chip on their shoulder, or an axe to grind would be blocked.

It might be possible to do that with our social media habits as well. If you think of the news headlines as a slow drip of poison into your psyche, you’ll be more cognizant of the negative effect it’s having on your emotions.

My mother used to say each of us needs twelve hugs a day just to survive. Not sure why she chose the number twelve, but I’m down with the sentiment. We can do the bio-equivalent of that with our online viewing habits.

What about starting a trend that for every critical tweet or comment you post, you must compliment someone or focus on a positive thing? For every bad airline encounter story you read today, I propose that you read two feel-good stories. Listen to an uplifting song. Write a poem. Anything to counteract the constant barrage of chaos and carnage.

Here’s a positive story to start you off. It’s not often that a picture can bring me to instant tears of joy, but this picture of Good Samaritans reaching through the bars on a bridge to keep a suicidal man from jumping really got to me.

Strangers do good things for people all the time, even though the bad news gets most of the press.

These random people came together when a car overturned into a flooded area, trapping two infants inside. One man carries out a toddler, saying, “Dear Jesus, please let this baby breathe.”

Cue the waterworks again! Mercy. I may as well go to the kitchen and chop some onions at this rate.

This stranger’s kind act really warmed my heart: a sweet story about a long-lost letter.

With all the political weirdness and the general turmoil in the world, I propose that this kind of news is not just human interest, it’s a poultice for the soul.

Boy oh boy, are we in trouble. A 22-year-old Russian man is on trial for playing Pokemon Go in church. A politician in Indonesia is being charged with blasphemy against Islam. Stephen Fry, noted British comedian, is being investigated in Ireland for scathing remarks he made on a talk show, about God — if He exists — being something of a sadist.

I could make more or less well-constructed arguments in each of these cases. No, you shouldn’t play games in church, but if we sentenced every kid who didn’t pay attention during Mass, we’d have very few children left to fill the pews. God is infinitely compassionate, but the British tend to be a bit suspect on such matters, what with having endured hundreds of years of religious-based harassment and executions. And though I don’t always understand Islam, maybe some people just need to settle down a bit. In fact, maybe we all should.

I’m no fan of blasphemy. It riles me up when people make suppositions about God based on limited human experience. But then again, I do this, too. We all do. The thing we so often forget is that God can take it. God’s no hothouse flower, withering away at the scald of an unkind Tweet. God is bigger than we are. We take offense at slights against ourselves and against God. God does not.

In fact, God loves us even at our worst. Especially at our worst. God loves dopey people who do dopey things when they ought to be praying. God loves Islam, even when those who practice its tenets make God into a tyrant. And God loves anyone who makes others laugh — laughter being one of God’s most wondrous inventions.

So lay off, folks. The one thing you can say without a doubt about our species is that we make mistakes. We are error-ridden, clumsy, maladroit, blabber-mouthed idiots on a near-constant basis. And that’s okay, because God made us that way. Out of a pile of dirt and hubris, male and female, we were formed. We make mistakes, but hopefully, we learn from them. We see God only in glimpses, but if we make an effort, those glimpses can be glorious. And we constantly discount God’s capacity — for goodness, for miracles, for compassion and love. We really shouldn’t do that.

But it’s okay. God’s got tough skin. We’d do well to remember that.

So I ordered a pizza, and the delivery guy came to the door. I noticed that he had that piercing thing where the earlobes are missing, and decorative circles were in their place. What’s he rebelling against? Earlobes? What’s up with that? I said to myself.

Then I remembered something my mother had said when I was a teenager after I came home from the mall with a second piercing in my ears. Who needs two pairs of earrings in each ear? Who does that? She noticed a small vial on my bed. Are you doing drugs? I opened the vial and told her to sniff it, but she backed away. It’s a perfume sample, Mom. They give them away at the mall.

Guess it’s a tradition. The young try new things. The old get set in their ways.

Maybe teenagers are just doing their job when they use themselves as a canvas. So they get a mohawk. It’s only hair. It’ll grow back – although, to be honest, I don’t know if earlobes ever return.

Thinking back to the pizza guy with earlobe holes, I have to admit that his earrings (is that what you call them?) were interesting looking, like colorful little art pieces. Also, he was polite and respectful. Most important, he got the pizza to us on time, and it was still hot. Always a plus.

Long story short (it’s too late for that, you say? Cheeky devil!) I got over myself and remembered that we’re not all supposed to look the same. And that your early years are the time to experiment with your look, your clothes, heck, even your worldview. If you don’t evolve over time, best take a quick look in the mirror. You may actually be an amoeba!

So go ahead, pizza dude (and the rest of the world, too, for that matter.) Be yourself. I’ll put aside my crotchety kvetching and get back into “live and let live” mode. I’ve decided that the world is big enough for you, me, and at least one large pizza pie. But please. Hold the anchovies!

Contractors came to install a fan in my bathroom and a handle on my sliding glass door. I was glad to see them and they worked hard, but it was loud and took all day.

While they worked, I looked through bills, which can be a bummer. I made a list of things that still needed to be repaired in the house, and that list was long. Another negative.

Thinking about these things was putting me in a “no” frame of mind, when there were all these “yes” blessings going on around me, being hammered into the ceiling, being drilled into the door. Permeating the house with every thud and clunk. Professionals are sculpting yes into the house. Into the bathroom ceiling. They’re sliding yes with the door closing.

The cat is snoring yes from his indestructible yurt made of a faded blanket covering a rocking chair.

The coffee is steaming yes from its home deep in my striped-tiger-colored coffee mug.

The birds are chirping yes outside from their perch on the cherry blossom tree in front of my bedroom window.

I thought of the no that those birds have built another nest in my front porch light, but re-grouped to get back to the yes. What effort it must have taken to get that nest set, even after I’ve taken out those little branches time and time again. It really is prime real estate. They’re trying to find the right spot for their little winged family, and I have to appreciate that they know how nice this neighborhood is. I’ll take it as a compliment that they want to sub-let my front porch light.

Yes exists inside of every no.

Opportunity is the kernel at the center of every problem.

Talking about troubles is like putting out a restraining order on things you don’t want in your life. It’s just force of habit to focus on the “no” when “yes” abounds all around you.

Grace is just a breath away. All it takes is a fresh set of eyes, a soul ready to receive blessings, and a wide-open heart.

Yesterday was a crummy day. Fortunately, Tuesday was wonderful — chock-full of blessings and outright miracles. That’s the way life is sometimes. Pondering Tuesday’s beneficence, I keep thinking, “I didn’t deserve all that.” But isn’t that the point? Grace is unearned. God bestows it freely, even lavishly. All this generosity got me thinking about God’s love for each of us. It’s a little overwhelming. And there is no “why” or “because” about it. It just is. Here are some loose, unrefined thoughts on the matter:

Someone has a crush on you and it’s God.
Someone gave you a candy heart that said
LOVE YOU and meant it and it was God.
Someone sends ridiculous declarations,
love songs on the radio,
twenty dozen long-stemmed roses,
chocolates hand-dipped by blind monks,
a stuffed plush bear the size of a Volkswagen.
And it’s God.
God says you get a car and you and you and you
and they’re all dream cars even if yours is a Mercedes
and mine is a Porsche.
Someone swoons over you, knees knocking, heart
ticking quick as a metronome at full speed,
chest so tight breath barely breaks,
and it’s God.
To God, you are marvelous. Amazing. A wonder.
A sonnet with legs and arms and a face.
God will never get over you.
You might as well sign for the package;
take it in your hands. Guess its worth.
You will always come up short.

The Lord is the shade at your right hand.
Psalm 121:5

In the heavens, God has pitched a tent for the sun.
Psalm 19:4

There’s been talk of potential life in outer space.

Life at the deepest levels of the sea.

But there’s another plane of life that seems the most mysterious, and that is the life-force in inner space, or the soul.

There’s a trend lately called “Hygge” which is the Danish notion of cozy conviviality. It’s a way of infusing life with comforts that make you feel at home wherever you are.

I’ve done that in the corner of my kitchen, putting a tiny lamp and candle onto a table so small, it’s not even big enough for a plate! I perch my coffee mug with its jaunty lid there, look out at the colorful flowers in the yard, and feel a sense of peace.

It made me wonder if there is such a thing as “Hygge for the Soul.”

Where do you feel most at home? Most yourself? For many of us, it involves looking at the beauty of nature in some way.

Of course, God created nature, not just as an adjunct to serve the needs of mankind – he also tends to nature as he takes care of us.

Pitching a tent for the sun has got to be like a production of Cirque du Soleil, on a universal scale!

Now, when he sculpted the sun, he made it capable of providing both wonderful warmth and searing sunburns.

When he crafted shade, he made it capable of providing relief from the heat and also clandestine cover for shady business.

The same one who created the gentle spring breeze also made hurricanes. It seems to me that in every powerful thing that can cause both life and destruction, God created a relief valve.

Just as there’s an eye in the middle of storms, it’s possible to find moments of repose, right where you are. It might be just a square foot of space in the corner of your kitchen, but now, it’s your own sacred sanctuary.

What do you practice? 

Life is hard. There’s no denying it. But during this Easter season, we are reminded that there is proof of the resurrection all around us.

Fact:
Friends will betray you
they will dine beside you
then sell you out for silver.
The road will always be uphill
and the load will nearly break you.
(Others can ease it, briefly,
but they cannot die for you.)
You will taste sweat, blood, bitter
liquid; your body will snap, sag,
breach and be broken. You will die,
ultimately, alone.

Fortunately, friend,
One has gone before
holding hope in his hands like a loaf of bread.
Even as you close your eyes
to all of this, you will open them again.
Like an Easter lily, you will wear white.
Like Easter morning, you will be born.

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