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In New Jersey last week, gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono visited a school that had been devastated by Superstorm Sandy.  The newscaster said, “That 80 year old institution is badly in need of repairs.”

As he was speaking, the camera showed a close-up of Ms. Buono, who, while no spring chicken, certainly doesn’t appear to be an octogenarian.

Cut back to the anchor, looking sheepish.  That didn’t come out right!

Early in his career, the CEO of New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen and his musicians were introduced as “Bruce Springstreet and the E Steen Band.”  Hardest working guy in rock and roll, and they can’t even get his name right?

The Chevrolet Nova didn’t sell well in Central and South America, leaving the carmaker’s executives puzzled.  Finally, someone figured out the problem.  Apparently, in Spanish, “No va” translates to “it doesn’t go.”

Isn’t it also true that even we, as people of faith, might say something we intend to be positive, only to find that it’s taken as an affront?

“I’m praying for you.”

Just as SueBE said in her insightful post earlier this year, this is meant as a helpful thing when we say it, but sometimes it can come across as pitying, or even insulting.  They may think we’re saying, you obviously don’t know what the heck you’re doing, so I’m going to ask God to intervene!  If they’re not on the same wavelength in their faith-life, maybe it’s best to pray for them silently.

“God chastens those He loves”

Well, perhaps, but God also embraces, encourages and emboldens those He loves.  When somebody is going through a hard time, it’s best not to blame the victim.  Saying something like, I’m here if you need me is simple but welcome at a time like that.

And that rule of thumb we learned in grade school – when in doubt, leave it out – also applies to well-intended platitudes that may turn into sour grapes and hard feelings.  Being there during dark days is the best gift you can offer a friend. Showing up and being supportive, even if it’s to sit in silence and hold a hand, speaks volumes to those we love.

I’ve long felt that my ministry is to encourage others to pursue their dreams.  Life has led me to people on that path and I’ve felt privileged to be able to cheer them on.

A friend sent me a card thanking me for encouraging her to pursue her dream of writing for faith-based outlets.  She’s doing it, and finding soul-enriching and wallet-filling gigs.  A computer repairman told me his dream was to have his own business – I gave him the ole Ruth Rockne speech and told him to go for it.  He sent me a grateful email the other day to let me know that he had taken the plunge and started his own consulting firm.

These things should put me in a positive frame of mind, but somehow it left me feeling… I don’t know, left behind.  As if I’ve poured my energies into other peoples’ dreams, but feel like no one’s cheering me on.

Considering all the deadlines I needed to check off my list today, I started the day with prayer.  I asked God for a sign that I’m on the right track.  What is my true calling?  How should I use my gifts?  Where will I find the zhoozh, the mojo, the oomph to keep going?

Then I opened my email this morning.  I got a very clear nudge from above that I’m on the right track.  A great blog I subscribe to, “faith sweat & tears,” sent this prayer prompt:  “Are you an encourager? Find an opportunity today to lift up someone’s spirits.”

Some days I’m thick as brick, but the message got through:  keep lifting people up.  Oddly enough, I felt lifted up by that realization.  You know what, people?  You can do it. And now I know like I know:  so can I.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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