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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!

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.

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.

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.

Well, I woke up this morning feeling tight. My son and I have been dealing with a problem, and it’s the same problem we’ve had for years. It left me with the feeling that we’ve been running in place. Getting nowhere. But something happened as I stewed. I scrolled through posts from my spiritual support team, and it felt as if a weight was lifted.

Lori’s prayer-poems take my breath away, and then I find I’m breathing easier. SueBE can really tell a story from the heart, and then I find it’s got me thinking. We’ve gotten through some things, like this poignant remembrance of Lori’s first Christmas without her father. And SueBE’s inspiring post about the loss of her friend, and how it reminded her of losing her mother.

We’ve lived through some things individually and collectively. We got through, and got each other through.

We’re all still here, writing this blog that started as a reaction to the ending of a writing gig that was wonderful/awful. Well, a lot like life – it wasn’t what we thought it would be, but we got each other out of it.

The best way I can do anything positive for my son is to be content myself. To do the things that make me happy. To create a warm, welcoming home. So when I get up, I look up. When I get dressed, I remember I’m blessed.

If I could, I’d like to solve all my son’s problems. I’ll settle for not causing him problems with my constant reminders to him that this problem needs solving.

I’d like life to be laid out in front of him, and all the right choices to be glaringly obvious. I’ll settle for: I’ve raised him the best I know how/I trust he’s got the know-how to find his own way.

I’d like to be wise, but I’ll settle for blessed.

Just as I’m grateful for faraway friends who are close to my heart. Just like God’s grace. I didn’t earn it, but in quiet moments of repose, it restores my soul and keeps me going.

“Happy birthday!” I said to my teen-age son, and walked over to give him a hug. Huh. How about that. My son was so much taller than me that his shoulder was over my head. I had to turn to the side to breathe. Wouldn’t it be ironic if I suffocated in the armpit of the son I gave life to? 🙂

On an awards show, the singer, Pink, wearing a sparkly leotard, spinning on a trapeze high above the audience, was singing, “I’m not here for your entertainment!” I scratched my head. Surely this isn’t educational?

Flipping to another channel, there was a half-hour infomercial called “Identity Theft News” posing as a live news broadcast.

As we all tend to do, I surfed the web while watching t.v., and found some other puzzling things. Like the use of trendy, made-up phrases in news articles, i.e., Obama White House Photographer Throws Shade at Trump, Rep. Maxine Waters Claps Back at Bill O’Reilly After Hair Insult.

Even more confusing, sometimes a word can be used in opposite directions: Almost 75 Years After Death Beatrix Potter Drops New Book, and Simon & Schuster Drops Milo Yiannopoulous Book Following Release of Controversial Video.

Over the years, I’ve learned:

  • Things aren’t always what they appear to be.
  • Social media is here to stay, along with selfies and skinny jeans.
  • Times change.
  • We’ll be okay.

I don’t have to always “get it” as I look around at the world today, because I know some of the most important things never change. Faith, family, friends, and the perpetual power of prayer.

As the Yiddish proverb says, “Prayers go up, and blessings come down.” Let’s let Anne Lamott have the last word today: “Anything you say from your heart to God is a prayer.”

My son is eighteen-years-old, and, as you can imagine, I’m keeping him covered in prayer. At the same time, I’m trying to keep my distance.

After all, he knows how to navigate the world, and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. I have to remember that I’ve raised him to the best of my ability, and now the rest is up to him.

Still, occasionally, if my prayers were read aloud, they would sound frantic. Because sometimes, that’s just how I feel.

He’s going to college. He’s got a steady girlfriend. He’s driving on New Jersey’s busy highways.

The other day, I prayed anxiously. I’d been thinking of all the things I hoped for him in his life, and felt tight. At the end of the prayer, I spoke to myself, just as if in conversation with a friend, trying to understand why I felt so unsettled.

I hope he does well.
I trust God knows what he’s doing.
I believe it all works out in the end.

Breathing in and out a few times slowly, I went into my sunroom and sat in the spot on the couch bathed in soft light rays. Just as my cat might do, basking and being. Just being.

There was a subtle shift in my soul and I exhaled, speaking out loud the words I had just said, only this time, I changed the punctuation slightly. When I put the emphasis back on Providence instead of on the problem, a wave of of peace washed over me.

I hope. He does well.
I trust. God knows what he’s doing.
I believe. It all works out in the end.

“What if you woke up and the only things that remained were the things you gave thanks for yesterday?” This is something I read on Twitter recently, by a site called Amazing Grace.

Staying in a state of grace is putting God back in charge. You know. Where he was all along. It’s okay to let go of things you really can’t control anyway. Just a gentle reminder from someone who’s been there.

At the mall, I picked out three pairs of shoes and waited for the salesman to help me. It was a very busy day, and he caught my eye. “I’ll be right with you, ma’am,” he said, breathlessly.

“Don’t break your back,” I said.

He stopped in his tracks, dropping one of his boxes.

“How did you know?” he asked.

“Know what?” I replied.

“That I broke my back. This is my first day back on the job.” He sat down, looking a bit ashen.

I sat down with him. “I honestly don’t know why I said that. But I … I think it means, pace yourself. You’re just finding your feet,” I said, as he laughed at the shoe pun.

We spoke for a few minutes and he went back to work, this time at a slightly slower step. He smiled over his shoulder and nodded good-bye.

I thought about the exchange. It was the first time in my life I had ever used the phrase, “don’t break your back.” If you think about it, it could be taken as sarcasm. I didn’t mean it that way – just that I wasn’t in a hurry.

It was such a small moment, but it made me think. How many times do I want to speak words of encouragement, of praise, of inspiration, and I hold myself back? What if they take it the wrong way? What if they just aren’t in the mood to hear it?

In a previous post, I wrote that I know I don’t have all the answers. What gives me the right to offer advice to anyone else?

It may well be that none of us has all the answers, but together, we can find a way to wend our way down the path of life.

Sometimes God puts words on your heart for a reason. It might be just the small sustenance someone needs to make it over that next hurdle.

Slow down and travel at Godspeed. Speak kindly to a stranger. Say it from the heart and you may end up making someone’s day.

A friend is going through a divorce, and I felt for her right away. I’ve been through it, and it’s not easy. I’ve thought about what to say to encourage her, and decided that it wouldn’t help to go into detail about my own saga. It boils down to one thing.

If it didn’t stay, it wasn’t a blessing.

Better days are ahead instead.

A man can leave, taking away the blessing of an intact family.

But my son is a blessing that stayed. My dog (God rest) was a blessing that stayed. My humble/wonderful house is a blessing that stayed. Even my car (despite five recalls, still running – knock wood) is a blessing that stayed.

There’s something else that happens when you go through dark nights of the soul. Once you get to the other side, you really appreciate the good things and kindred spirits that stayed in your life. And you find that those hardships helped you earn your stripes in the boot camp of life.

Peace of mind is a blessing I earned. A positive attitude is a blessing I earned. This unwavering laser focus on what’s beautiful, uplifting, encouraging, magnificent, fantabulous in life. It’s all good. All the time.

I didn’t have it in those tumultuous times during a stormy marriage, or a job that sucked the life out of me, or situations that weren’t good for me.

In days past, I didn’t fully appreciate the simple blessings in life, like a beautiful sunrise. A peaceful home. Food on the table. Restful sleep. Friends you can count on. A cat on the couch.

Take the “no” out of nostalgia and put the “yes” in yesterday. If it brings you down to think of the pain of the past, put it behind you. Let it go. Move forward. Trust that God knows what He’s doing.

There are things that happen in a lifetime, but a good life is built on the good in life.

And no matter that the storms may come. Remind yourself: you don’t live under a dark cloud. You live under the silver lining.

nitish-meena-37745The little boy was three-years-old, and, apparently, his job was to examine all the minutiae of life very carefully, like a pint-sized forensic scientist  – gum wrapper on floor, display of succotash by the register, even his own shoelaces. It came as no surprise that he’d meander very slowly, like a sloth on a speed bump, out the door of the grocery store.

We were stacked up behind him and his adoring mother with our carts, our own kids in tow, but we were patient. He looked around, he lingered, he investigated. All the while his mother looked at him adoringly, as if he had invented time itself. “Isn’t he something?” she asked the lady waiting behind her, who nodded graciously.

When you love someone, you find a way to overlook their faults. It never occurred to this young mother that everyone else might not find her toddler’s molasses-slow stride to be endearing. Those things didn’t even register in her mind.

There’s been a lot of discord in the world lately, with those of different viewpoints finding themselves at odds. Sometimes it seems people are acting like petulant children, not hearing anyone else’s voice at all. I’ve been deep in Scripture lately, seeking some solace.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Ecclesiastes 7:8 NIV

Keeping things in perspective, thinking about compassion and mercy.

You help them stay calm when trouble comes…

Every line of this Psalm gave me peace.

The Lord will not leave his people. He will not leave them without help.

Sometimes you find comfort in passages you’ve read a thousand times. Perhaps if we all read the Good Book and pray together, wherever we are, we’ll remember we’re all family.

Justice will return and bring fairness.  And those who want to do right will be there to see it. Psalm 94:13-15 ERV

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