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Have you ever had a dream so vivid that you felt as if it was a message from the universe? It happened to me yesterday at 5 AM, so I bolted out of bed to write it down.

A lovely voice was singing to the tune of Al Green’s “So Tired of Being Alone” with different lyrics.

She sang:

When you’re out of here

When you can’t go on

When you feel like giving up wherever you go

And it bothered me. My first thought was to worry that my son might be feeling this way, so before he left for work yesterday, I told him about the dream and asked him if he was feeling like that. He said he wasn’t. I said, “I’m aware that I don’t always leave open avenues for our actually communicating. Often, I come at you with tasks or concerns instead of listening.” I asked the second question. “Do you want to talk about anything going on in your life right now?” He really listened to what I said. He told me he knew he could talk to me, and that he was okay.

Who was this message for?

In that patented Nicely-Noodgy way I have, I’m now in the process of cycling through my list of loved ones and contacting them. You okay? Had this dream. Want to make sure you’re feeling copasetic.

So when you ask the people in your life, “Are you okay?” and they say, “I’m fine,” ask the second question. “How are doing, really?”

Check on your loved ones.

Don’t tune out.

Check in with your soul.

Don’t check out.

We’d love it if you stuck around. We’ll stick by you. Let’s make it better, together.

P.S. If you need to talk, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 800-273-TALK (8255).

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Last Sunday’s gospel reading was particularly apt — Jesus walks on the water. Let me set the scene: The apostles are huddled in a boat on a stormy sea, as lightning crackles and thunder rumbles all around them. It is dark. The sea is writhing with terrible creatures determined to suck the boat under and splinter it like a bone in the teeth of an ogre. And then they see someone — Jesus? — walking on the water, just as if he were strolling down the streets of Jerusalem. It must be a ghost! But no, the apparition speaks to them, tells them not to be afraid. Peter, ever the bonehead, speaks up, “If it’s really you, call me and I will walk on water, too.” Jesus does. Peter starts out. But then he gets distracted by the thunder and the lightning and the roiling of the dark forces under the waves, and he sinks. Like a stone. Jesus, of course, rescues him, and once again, the apostles fail to understand the lesson.

Most of us set out on the sea of life with good intentions. But we get scared when the darkness comes. A majority of us will crowd together in the boat and ride out the storm. Some of us will try to walk, but sink. The weight of the world becomes too heavy to carry, and we slip out of sight. And some few of us will take to the water, navigating the waves as naturally as the path to our front doors. How do those people do it?

I used to think that those who are skilled at walking on water (metaphorically speaking) are so because they never take their eyes off the prize — God. They hear the thunder, see the lightning, know somewhere in the recesses of their minds about what lurks beneath the waves, but they don’t get distracted. They don’t let the water pull them down. This is a simplistic notion. Many things can affect our ability to cope, for instance, illnesses and addictions that sap our strength and change brain chemistry, throwing us off balance. Try walking on water with a millstone like that around your neck.

We mustn’t judge or condemn those who don’t make it. Walking on water is an act of extreme grace. It is a daily miracle. Most of us never have to do it — we just sail along in our fortunate ships. For those who must walk on water, God can be a tremendous resource, a lighthouse beacon, a life preserver. I have experienced this in my own travels. God holds me up.

But I will never be anything but empathetic to those who drown.

A musician I admire once wrote these words: “Everyone gets tired of being out of reach.” The words are evocative, I suppose, of his life: He died this past April; Internet speculation pegs it as a suicide. We all get tired of being out of reach, of being misunderstood, unwanted, lonely. There may be millions of us crammed onto this planet, but that doesn’t stop us from feeling alone.

Some days, job number one is simply to hang on. My friend SueBE has been criticized by people who ought to know better for allowing her son to hang out with kids that certain Good Christians find “unsuitable.” Reading about these kids, I find the G.C.’s pronouncements of unsuitability ludicrous. These are not boys who are breaking into houses, taking drugs, flouting their parents. They’re just boys. A little unruly, but good as gold deep down. SueBE is hanging in there by writing about her struggles. I bet she’s feeling tired, too.

For everybody out there who’s just trying to keep it together, here’s a prayer:

God,
let our fingers not slip from the rock.
Imbue our limbs with strength we do not feel,
with faith we are too tasked to ask for.
When others plot our fall,
redouble our resistance.
Remind us that to swim in place
is better than to drown.
You are in the struggle,
whatever comes next.
Amen

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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