‘Merry’ in Muck and Mire

Have you ever noticed how some people stuck
In muck and mire and require the most help
Insistently complain but with persistence
Refuse any and all assistance in an almost
Rebellious resistance? They treat the muck
Like so much bad luck and the mire very much
Like hellfire, but they don’t want out because
It’s what they’re all about; and yes, the muck
Sucks out all of their joy, and the mire makes
Them squires of despair, but this has become
To them the very air they breathe, and they
Want no repair of the situation because oddly
Enough it gives them identification; and how
Do you prove to such an intractable individual
That it is their destination, more than their
Situation, that gives them real identification?
Sometimes, oftentimes, you cannot persuade
These souls so fraught with many troubles that
To them have become like precious gems, and
So waste no more time expending your efforts
In extending mercy… Beware and take care,
For one day you may find yourself drowning
In the very same dire muck and mire! Beware!


Goodbye, My Friend, Goodbye

Ah! why did you leave, my friend?  How it grieves my soul,
Knowing you received my love, then bled my heart and fled!
Was it something I said? Did I speak out of turn and burn
Your heart? Though I never tried to charm, I meant no harm,
But did I somehow alarm your mind, unarm your intellect,
Causing you to reflect on who and what your are, not some
Guiding star but only flesh and blood, fresh from mud-soil,
In your place of endless turmoil of your very own making,
Forsaking reality for the cream of cosmic dreams that ne’er
Reach this earth, womb of your birth? Yet true friends do
Speak truth, do they not? Or have you forgot what is meant
By honest companionship? Ah! But you cut me off so neatly
And very completely without hesitation and no explanation!
And am I to cry or simply, soberly say ‘goodbye?’ I sigh…
Goodbye, my friend … goodbye


There is One closer than mother, father, brother or sister;
There is One who cares and sends the fair winds and rain;
There is One who walks and talks in softly whisper tones;
This One is companion, no phantom, who feeds in famine,
Nor leaves you a lonely gamin; this One does not abandon.


Note: “Companion” was the word for the day

Freedom From the Storm

Lost in the whirlwind of blackened confusion from illusion
Of profusion of nightmares when the sun is rightly shining
Ever so brightly all around, but you’re bound by the sound
Of your cries no matter how hard you try to laugh and smile;
But smiles come in the rain, even with pain; and laughter
Is promised after the storm has passed, so set you feet on
Granite where your feet land like a magnet pull unto truth
That sets you at full liberty in the mystery-liturgy of life;
And there will be no more tears, no more fears as you come
Into your own, as your own, liberated from pain and shame
What came from such hurtful pain, and love’ll be your gain,
This time from above where heavenly Dove sings and brings
Pristine pure gift sure to satisfy the depths of your soul,
Filling the hole that some other could only fill with frills
Of charm that could only harm and chill you to your bones
Like cold, dead stones, for who can be so free when they’re
Enwrapped in their own chains of pain and such suffering?
But now, if only you can see, you are free to simply BE!

Step out from the Storm now; reform your own new destiny!


Note: Dedicated to my good friend and fellow poet, Nandita! All the best to you with immeasurable blessings … and peace.


Fare Thee Well. . .

You left me behind, and I know not why;
You’d been so kind, such a friend to find.
Why now bow out? Do you doubt my love?
Why walk and talk with me so much before
To flip-flop and drop me? Did something
Crop up? Did you make a friendship swap;
Has our communion been so shallow, or
Perhaps even hallow? With broken heart
And tears; I guess my part is to cry and
Say ‘good-bye,’ but why? Sigh in my soul,
Thoughts fly round as I lie awake at night,
And at noontime high I dry my face and pace.
Oh what went wrong, my dear, that I must
Sing such drear song as I make my way along?
Fare thee well, then … fare thee well.

Letting Go of the Show


It’s so damn hard to let go of the show,
But one must grow through the insane pain
Of turning away from the burning fake love;
Throw away the wedding cake never meant to be!

For your own sake, wake up; cling to truth,
And sing and be free from the gross misery
Of lies told beneath such unfriendly skies;
Say your good-byes, and hurt for being burnt.

You were used and abused; she was only amused
She’d caught you and bought you with a smile
One mile wide, but she was never on your side;
Now you abide in life rife with stain and pain.

Tis better to know, though, and to let it go ~
Nothing more than callous pretense and show ~
Now grow and glow as you throw away the lies
Like poisoned pies; fly up into friendly skies!

You were meant for better, and so this letter
To tell you the final bell hasn’t rung for you;
Don’t be so damn blue, then; but rise up true
To who you really are … one shining star!


Behold! The Masked ‘Friend’

This has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind, and so I’m writing rather than whining about it, (although you can whine-write, too, which I hope I’m not doing!) At any rate, what kind of friends do you have? What kind of friend are you?

There are four different kinds (or levels) of friendship, and it’s important to know something about and the differences between them.

  • There is benigna consociation, the kindly (or friendly) association.

This is very easy to understand. This relationship is simply a friendly, on-the-surface association, such as you commonly find in the workplace. It is the ones with whom you “get along” with some attendant, lighthearted camaraderie. The benigna consociation is not one that involves cook-outs and football parties. Some descriptive words for benigna consociation might be “pleasant, nice, and comfortable.” In benigna consociation, there is no real depth or any intimacy whatsoever.

  • There is the casualia amicitia, the casual friendship.

This type (or level) of friendship is of the cook-out, football party kind. The casualia amicitia extends beyond the workplace (or group in which both participate on a regular basis.) Here there may be some sharing of the heart to a limited extent. Casualia amicitia does not involve “soulish” kind of converse and connection. One can legitimately refer to the other as “friend;” however, the friendship is not deep. This type (or level) of friendship has roots, to be sure, but those roots are somewhat shallow and weak.

  • There is the intimos amicos, the intimate friendship.

This type (or level) of friendship has deep and strong roots, such that intimos amicos needs no cook-outs, football parties, or the like in order to maintain itself. This is the kind of friendship one of the ancients described as “one soul abiding in two bodies.” This friendship is one that is at least as rich and meaningful as sibling relationships, if not even more valuable. This is the friendship well exemplified by Jonathan and David of the Hebrew scriptures. Descriptive words that come to mind when thinking of intimos amicos include “trust and loyalty, constancy and resilience, understanding, love and compassion.” This friendship is one of the greatest blessings in life, but also the one that can cause, or give rise to, the greatest pain.

  • Then there is the “friendship,” which is not really friendship; the larvatum amicum, which literally means “masked friend.

This is that relationship in which one pretends to be a friend, while the other honestly assumes the individual really is a friend. Several descriptive words come to mind with thinking of larvatum amicum, such as “fake, fraudulent, deceitful, harmful, poisonous,” and oftentimes “self-serving.”

It’s wonderful to have friendly acquaintances (kindly associations), especially in the workplace, or school, or some group – perhaps the place of worship, if you attend one – but casual friendships are like food for the hungry. You can really call the casual friend, “friend,” and know it’s true. They’re the ones who will reciprocate and invite you over to their place for a cook-out, too. They’ll take the time and make the effort to not only give your car a jump start, but actually take you to work or the grocery store or wherever if the jump start doesn’t do the trick. They’re the ones who’ll remember your birthday, (and you really should remember theirs, as well!) You get the idea.

The larvatum amicum is one who wears the mask of friendship as long as it suites them. “There are friends who only pretend to be friends …[1] but some friends are friends only in name.”[2] They’re the ones who will be oh-so kind and friendly while you’re giving them rides to work because their car is broken down and they can’t afford the repairs. They’ll compliment you to the highest heavens so long as they’re eating on your dime.

They’re the ones who read, “like,” and comment on your blog while they’re building up their own, but drop you in flash when their blog finally achieves stability and reaches a certain level of success; suddenly, or so it seems, they no longer even visit your blog and you realize, rather painfully, that they were just using you. Yes, they’re the ones you see talking, laughing and kicking it up with other co-workers, paying you no mind at all, soon after they’re car is repaired and they no longer need you… You realize then that you were really no more than a “ride” for them.

Oh, but if you’ve found that friend, who “sticks closer then brother or sister,” you have found an invaluable treasure. It’s important to be a person of upstanding character and integrity anyway, but the intimos amicos is greater than gold and you should treat it accordingly. Woe be to you, though, if you are one of the “masked friends,” just another pretend-friend! As the old saying goes – and it still goes for a reason – “what goes around, comes around.” If you bite, you will eventually be bitten. If with something like the disgusting, corporationist mentality, you step on people to climb higher and higher in whatever situation or setting, you will eventually find yourself under someone else’s boot!

It’s perfectly fine to be merely a kindly acquaintance, or casual friend, as long as you’re real. If you happen to be an intimate friend, then treasure that relationship like blood in your veins. But whatever you are, be real!  No one likes pretend friends … so don’t be one!




[1] Proverbs 18. 24a, NRSV

[2] Wisdom of ben Sirach 37. 1b, NRSV

Sometimes You Just Have to Walk Away

2GMFBNFSVGUL2CMBBRXNM1FXMAKK6I_01Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.
–  W. Clement Stone, 20th Century American Businessman

I was inspired recently by an article entitled, “30 Day Writing Challenge: Day 3,” found on the excellent blog, Adventures of Lexie to look back to an older article of my own that addresses her quite justifiable complaint of people who “have a tendency to chronically complain about everything in life, and seem to always blame the world when things go wrong in their lives and never themselves.” Her modus operandi in dealing with such folks is certainly admirable. She remarks, “I just try to build them up and boost their confidence if I can, to maybe try and help them stop complaining a bit.” This displays an exemplary combination of the virtues of mercy, sympathy, and charity. Sometimes, however, I’m afraid one simply must walk away…

It is a universal law from time immemorial that, with very rare exception, if one possesses the mental acumen and ability to apprehend the wrong and the negative, then one also necessarily possesses the same acumen and ability to apprehend the right and the positive. If someone can carp and criticize, then the same someone can also compliment and comfort. Likewise, if someone can grumble and protest, then the same someone can show gratitude and praise.

This being so, when we discover someone, as sometimes happens, who seems intent on singing only dirges, wailing by the wayside, and snuffing out all light, then prudence dictates we distance ourselves for our own sake, perhaps even for the sake of our very souls (and surely for our sanity.) No degree of love and concern will aid the individual who adamantly refuses to do what is within their power to help themselves; it may very well be, then, that by continued association we will only succeed in harming ourselves without helping them in the least.

Wise company brings wisdom; fool he ends that fool befriends.
– Proverbs of Solomon 13.20, Knox Bible (Translation of Msgr. Ronald Knox)

How long should you strive and how much effort expend plugging holes in a sinking ship when the lifeboat awaits to carry you to some safe harbor of peace and tranquility?
– J D N, Personal Thoughts


Appendix: Coming to Grips With Divine Care in This Life in This World

Be glad in the Lord at all times: again I say, Be glad… Have no cares; but in everything with prayer and praise put your requests before God. And the peace of God, which is deeper than all knowledge, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4.4, 6-7 BBE)

As for me, I will call on God. Yahweh will save me. Evening, morning, and at noon, I will cry out in distress. He will hear my voice. God, who is enthroned forever, will hear, and answer them…  Cast your burden on Yahweh, and he will sustain you. He will never allow the righteous to be moved.  (Psalms 55.16-17, 19a, 22 WEBA)

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  (1 Peter 5.5b-7 ESV)

After the Scripture reading, Joy Brighterday stood behind the pulpit again, on a bright Sunday morning, yet not feeling so brightly inside. In many ways she had led several people through an excruciating, painful episode – an ominous journey from the purgatorial state in which they found themselves to at least the level of earth – to hope in new beginnings with bright, or at least brighter, horizons. Joy herself felt drained, even after three months, but not so much because of the precarious and chaotic journey; she felt drained by what she perceived as the desertion of her friends. Now that all was over with, maybe they were content to simply let God bury his Moses.

Over the past twelve weeks or so, Joy had learned the unfortunate art of scanning down the aisles to the back, the sides of the sanctuary and then just above the heads of the congregants in order to appear as if she were looking at her audience, yet without really noticing any of them. She did the same this morning, not having any desire to know who was present and who was not; wanting, instead, to simply get it over with so she could go home. Nothing extraordinary had happened, at least in her life, recently, and on the one hand she was grateful but on the other deeply yearned from something, almost anything, from her Shepherd-Lord, the Eternal One.

“Good morning to one and all,” she began as usual, “both to those who are here with us in our beautiful sanctuary, as well as those who are listening to our now regularly broadcasted Sunday morning service.” Most of the congregants responded with a hearty “good morning, Reverend.”

“Before we really begin getting into the meat and substance of the sermon today, let me say that these past months, or past year to tell the truth, has been beyond doubt the most tumultuous and trying in my life. In saying this, I am not comparing my trials and tribulations to that of anyone else. I am only speaking for myself so that I can make one point very clear, and that is:  the Lord has, indeed, been my Shepherd, my Guardian, all in all. I could not, and would not have made it through were it not for the love and mercy … the grace and strength of our God, the Everlasting One, who did sustain me and did not allow me to be thrown to the ground, never to rise again.”

“Over the course of these past months, I have certainly changed. I hope and pray and believe I have grown and matured, but it was certainly in and through some degree of suffering, no doubt. There were, and still are, questions that haunt me; questions that I am unable to answer; questions about God and pray, pain and suffering; justice and injustice, and more. Yet eventually I came to realize that all of these questions and, yes, doubts are actually built upon an established, reliable foundation. As odd as it may seem, these questions and doubts grow out from the reality of God, the divine revelation of God, and the continuing, intimate intercommunion of God with the whole of the created order, most especially with humanity.”

“Without these three facts – God, revelation, and intercommunion – the questions and doubts would never arise, and this makes all the difference in the world, really, because we ask in anticipation of an eventual answer. In the meantime, we struggle, oftentimes horrendously, and this is the point at which we have to ‘come to grips,’ so to speak, with the care of God in this life, in this world. Here we labor to understand just how it is and to what degree God cultivates and nurtures creation; supports and encourages life; and more specifically, treats and nurses and heals humanity … that is, real flesh-and-blood mortals. Does God? Does the Everlasting One hear our voice? Does the One we call our Shepherd-Lord really care?”

“First of all, we need to make some observations that should be clear, except for the fact that they are patently not clear in our day and time, even among the religious faithful … believers. You see, God is not an automaton, not mechanistic; the Lord of the Cosmos is not an intricate mathematical equation to be understood only by erudite mathematicians. God, in fact, is not even the proper subject of scientific study, though the so-called ‘new atheists’ in science spend an enormous amount of time and energy trying to disprove the existence of this God in whom they don’t believe in the first place.” This drew a round of good-natured laughter.

“Of course, there are respectable, well-known and accomplished scientists of faith, who spend a great deal of time and effort answering the ‘new atheists,’ too. This does not change the fact that God as God falls outside the limited parameters of science. Really I don’t know that God is even the proper subject of philosophy or even – and I may shock some of you now – theology. I just don’t know anymore. God is God, sovereign and immanent; the same God who said very simply, ‘Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ This God is Yahweh of whom the Hebrew people, even after being freed from Egypt, were terrified.” And, in what may surprise you, God told Moses they were right to be terrified.

Excuse me for being so bold this morning, but I think we have lost something valuable along the way in growing and maturing into contemporary culture. We have lost an ancient … an ancient ‘looking,’ if you will … the primordial intuition of the mysterious unseen … the numinous world filled with gods and goddesses, dæmons and wraiths, demigods and jinn and phantoms. And, no, I do not mean that we’ve lost our imagination, although I believe this is sadly true to an alarming extent; and after all, what does imagination really mean? It is the ability to form new ideas and to image, or conceptualize, something other … something not present to your ordinary senses.”

“Yes of course, it’s also the ability to be creative and resourceful, but if we’ve lost the ability to image, to conceptualize, the extraordinary other present all around us yet unseen, then we are most certainly impoverished … impoverished mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But as I said, imagination is not primarily what I’m talking about now. What I’m talking about is not so much imagination as intuition. And I very much like the definition of intuition as ‘the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning; known or considered likely from instinctive feeling rather than rational argument or cognitive analysis.’ You see, it’s not scientific, or mathematical, or whatnot. It’s what Rudolf Otto wrote about in The Idea of the Holy … instinctive sensation, spiritual impression, inner discernment.”

“This is the God, whom I encountered over these past months, and this – the very real and living God – is the One with whom we have to contend in all of our questions and doubts, fears and reservations, frustrations and anger, and so much more … our longing … you know, our thirsting and hungering from the depths of our soul for the gentle, heavenly whisper, the healing touch, the strong arms that enfold the universe, the divine kiss and heartbeat of One who will hold us and never let us go.” Some eyes in the sanctuary began to moisten, but Joy didn’t notice or realize she was driving through to the hearts of so many.

“It feels like hell sometimes … especially when you’re down in the trenches … when God seems so far away, or not anywhere at all … when the Everlasting One seems deaf, or doesn’t care enough to listen to your cries of pain. Yeah, hell’s an appropriate description, I think, especially since hell is precisely complete severance from God, in terms of relationship but even more, in our very being … an unbreachable separation. And you feel this way… I felt this way; again, not comparing my own experience to that of others who travelled with me, so to speak, and endured far more than I had to endure … yes, even worse than a bullet in the back.” Joy chuckled a bit. “But now, with all of this in mind, let me say…”

As Joy was glancing up and down the aisles, looking from stained glass window to stained glass window, and sight-brushing the tops of heads, her eyes just could not help but catch a corner glimpse of one very distinct figure: Angelica Graver. Joy faltered. Seated next to her was, of course, Morris, and on down the pew were Effete, Rue and Bane, Blue, Moxie and Able. In the pew behind them sat Captain Bernard Ruff and his dear wife, Suijnwe and Grace, Drs. Pert Kibitz and Sage Wiseman, and Lucent Keener. Suddenly the Reverend Joy Brighterday was suspicious … happy to see them all in church, but suspicious.

“I discovered to be true what the Psalmist declared about Yahweh. Believe me when I tell you I cried out to God morning, noon and night! God was faithful to answer … sometimes in unsuspected ways, at other times in very mysterious ways, and at yet other times quite clearly and simply. I did, in fact, cast my burden on the Everlasting One, and found God to be an excellent carrier, who did sustain me. Why does it seem as if God does not do this for some other people? I don’t know … but should I? I’ve thought about this, too, and really I’ve come to the conclusion that, no, there should be no expectation for me to know because it’s completely beyond human capability. I would have to know each person and their situation perfectly.”

“At any rate, did my Shepherd-Lord allow me to be moved? Well, I suppose the first question really ought to be, should I be counted among the righteous.” This elicited some kindly laughter. “I will assume so since I number myself among the redeemed, by grace through faith. And so the answer to this question is to first expand upon and amplify the meaning of the word ‘moved,’ so the question becomes, ‘Did God allow me to be tossed about, to be shaken to paralysis, to stumble and fall (in a deep and fundamental sense), and to ultimately be defeated?’ All of these meanings are packed into the little Hebrew word môṭ and, ‘no’ is the final answer.”

“Now, was I glad at all times, and did I rejoice continually, or even praise the Lord God consistently during this horrendous period of time? No, I did not; however, by the grace of God and the ever-present Spirit of Life, my faith was sustained and I did make my requests known to the King of kings and Lord of lords. And again and again, throughout the tossing and turning, the tumult and agony, the supernatural, heavenly peace of God came … or, rather, I should say divine peace, which certainly defies human comprehension, was gifted to me … yes, even me, the unworthy servant-child in the kingdom of heaven.”

“Throughout all of this I was most assuredly humbled … numerous times. I would love to be able to stand here and tell you that I humbled myself, but unfortunately this was something God had to do in me, through me, and for me. It got done, though, and in the process I saw with frightening, crystal-clear clarity that God does, indeed, oppose the proud and so, consequently, the proverb is true that “pride precedes the fall.” I, however, was raised again from humility to an invigorated and more mature spirituality, to intimate understanding and communion I have never before experienced, to an appreciation of the exalted position of the servant of God … the one, true and living God; the real and, in the old sense of the English word, terrible God.”

“So, yes, I can and do testify that I was sustained, kept from keeling over; I was heard and answered, and throughout the hurt and dismay, I received and benefitted from the love, mercy, grace, and strength of this living God. No, perhaps I cannot answer those who claim that this same God has rejected their prayers, their heartfelt appeals during painful tribulation, but… as I said before, I would have to know each of those individuals personally and perfectly, as well as each of their unique situations, to even begin to be able to offer an answer. This is beyond my ability, but it is not beyond me to share my own testimony in truth, which I have done now.”

“It is also not beyond me to remind my listeners of the thousands upon tens of thousands of individuals who, down through the ages, have been marginalized, oppressed, persecuted and even martyred for the sake of Christ … willingly. These individuals form part of the cloud of witnesses that now surrounds me and applauds my own personal testimony because, you see, though much may remain inexplicable, the Everlasting One, the Ancient of Days, is through and through veritable, reliable, trustworthy and dependable, as well as empathetic, loving, caring, fostering and nurturing. This is the cumulative testimony of the ages, and it may not satisfy all doubts and questions, but it does defy all irreligious accusations and blasphemous assaults upon the divine character of God.”

“After these many months of purgatorial trial, I can say to you what I have said; I can declare boldly the veracity of my own testimony. I can invite you, too, to unrelentingly strive forward in your faith-commitment to God, by the power of the Spirit, in and through Jesus our Redeemer. Amen. And I can charge you as your pastor, your shepherdess, to “be glad in the Lord at all times … yes, rejoice and in everything, with prayer and praise, put your requests before God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all human knowledge, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Shepherd and Savior. Amen and Amen.”

There was really no way Joy could tell how her purgatorial companions had received her sermon, but the fact that they were all present and now smiling broadly, some with tears in their eyes, gave her an adequate impression. Something deep inside also told her she’d find out for sure as everyone gathered once again – the first time in a long while – for Sunday dinner in the Keener home… At least, Joy Emmanuelle Brighterday dearly hoped so; she was practically starving for the table fellowship with these very people, her people … her hard-won family.