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This week I am giving you an extended quote from one of my favorite mystery writers, Louise Penny, who describes what it means to be a near enemy. It is a very intriguing idea and I’ve been thinking about it for weeks. The setting is a cafe where Gamache, the chief homicide detective is having a discussion with Myrna, a local psychologist, about how two opposite emotions masquerade as the same thing. She is speaking here of a grocer whose wife died.  Enjoy, Janet

 Near Enemies

“When his wife died, he opened his store the next day. Is he brave, or are we seeing the near enemy?”

“The what?”

“The near enemy. It’s a psychological concept. Two emotions that look the same but are actually opposites. The one parades as the other, is mistaken for the other, but one is healthy and the other’s sick, twisted.”

Gamache put his glass down. The condensation made his fingers slightly wet. Or was it the sweat that had suddenly appeared on his palms? The noises of the storm, the rain and hail pounding frantically on the window, the conversation and laughter inside the bistro receded.

He leaned forward and spoke, his voice low. “Can you give me an example?”

“There are three couplings,” said Myrna, herself leaning forward now, and whispering though she didn’t know why. “Attachment masquerades as Love, Pity as Compassion and Indifference as Equanimity.”

Armand Gamache was quiet for a moment, looking into Myrna’s eyes, trying to divine from them the deeper meaning of what she’d just said. There was a deeper meaning, he knew it. Something important had just been said.

But he hadn’t understood it fully. His eyes drifted to the fireplace while Myrna leaned back in her overstuffed chair and swirled her red wine in its bulbous glass.

“I don’t understand,” Gamache said finally, bringing his eyes back to Myrna. “Can you explain?”

Myrna nodded. “Pity and compassion are the easiest to understand. Compassion involves empathy. You see the stricken person as an equal. Pity doesn’t. If you pity someone you feel superior.”

“But it’s hard to tell one from the other,” Gamache nodded.

“Exactly. Even for the person feeling it. Almost everyone would claim to be full of compassion. It’s one of the noble emotions. But really, it’s pity they feel.”

“So pity is the near enemy of compassion,” Said Gamache slowly, mulling it over.

“That’s right. It looks like compassion, acts like compassion, but is actually the opposite of it. And as long as pity’s in place there’s not room for compassion. It destroys, squeezes out, the nobler emotion.”

“Because we fool ourselves into believing we’re feeling one, when we’re actually feeling the other.”

“Fool ourselves, and fool others,” said Myrna.


“And love and attachment?” asked Gamache.

“Mothers and children are classic examples. Some mothers see their job as preparing their kids to live in the big old world. To be independent, to marry and have children of their own. To live wherever they choose and do what makes them happy. That’s love. Others, and we all see them, cling to their children. Move to the same city, the same neighborhood. Live through them. Stifle them. Manipulate, use guilt-trips, cripple them.”

“Cripple them? How?”

“By not teaching them to be independent.”

“But it’s not just mothers and children,” said Gamache.

“No, it’s friendships, marriages. Any intimate relationship. Love wants the best for others. Attachment takes hostages.”

Gamache nodded. He’s seen his share of those. Hostages weren’t allowed to escape, and when they tried tragedy followed.


“And the last?” He leaned forward again. “What was it?”

“Equanimity and indifference. I think that’s the worst of the near enemies, the most corrosive. Equanimity is balance. When something overwhelming happens in our lives we feel it strongly but we also have an ability to overcome it. You must have seen it. People who somehow survive the loss of a child or a spouse. As a psychologist I saw it all the time. Unbelievable grief and sorrow. But deep down inside people find a core. That’s called equanimity. An ability to accept things and move on.”

Gamache nodded. He’d been deeply affected by families who’d risen above the murder of a loved one. Some had even been able to forgive.

“How’s that like indifference?” he asked, not seeing the connection.

“Think about it. All those stoic people. Stiff upper lip. Calm in the face of tragedy. And some really are that brave. But some,” she lowered her voice even more, “are psychotic. They just don’t feel pain. And you know why?”

Gamache was silent. Beside him the storm threw itself against the leaded glass as though desperate to interrupt their conversation. Hail hammered the glass and snow plastered itself there, blotting out the village beyond until it felt as though he and Myrna were in a world all of their own.

“They don’t care about others. They don’t feel like the rest of us. They’re like the Invisible man, wrapped in the trappings of humanity, but beneath there’s emptiness.”

Gamache felt his own skin grow cold and he knew goose bumps had sprung up on his arms under his jacket.

“The problem is telling one from another,” Myrna whispered, straining to keep an eye on the grocer. “People with equanimity are unbelievably brave. They absorb the pain, feel it fully, and let it go. And you know what?”

“What?” Gamache whispered.

“They look exactly like people who don’t care at all, who are indifferent. Cool, calm and collected. We revere it. But who’s brave, and who’s the near enemy?”

Gamache leaned back in his seat, warmed by the fire. The enemy, he knew then, was near.


Excerpted from The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny




As I’ve meditated on the many powerful qualities of God, I’ve been struck with how often they are in contrast to our human limitations. We are weak; God is strong. We are foolish; God is wise. We know little; God knows and understands everything. And so it goes on. This week’s characteristic of God presents a similar contrast. We are unable; God is able. I’m impressed that each contrast forces us to look away from ourselves to God. Each one redirects our focus, not on ourselves or circumstances but on God. That’s where our attention needs to be. That’s where we direct our prayers and praise. On God. Yes!


The following collection of verses show some of the emphasis that Scripture places on our ABLE God. Read them slowly and prayerfully. Allow the Spirit to speak and God’s message, unique to you, to sink in.




Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory…Ephesians 3:20a NIV Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us….(the king said) no other God is able to deliver in this way. Daniel 3:17, 29b I know the One in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 2 Timothy 1:12


Ah Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah 32:17 I know that you can do all things. Job 42:2 God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance,so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

See, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27

Jesus said to (the blind men), “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you” And their eyes were opened. Matthew 9:28-30a For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26


The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” Genesis 18:14 NIV He (Abraham) grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21


Because (Jesus) himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. Hebrews 2:18 Consequently (Jesus) is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 They will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Romans 14:4


Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen Jude 24,25


…Reflect on the meaning of the word “able” and it’s significance as a quality of God.

…Make a list of all the ways that God is “able” for you.

…Take time this week each day to thank and praise God for being “able”.


We thank and praise you, our loving God, that you are able to do all things and that nothing is too hard for you.


Hi, I’m Bobbie and am what some would call seasoned. Now in my early eighties I look back on a life full of experiences through which God has shaped and refined me – still a work-in-progress – and for which I’m so very grateful. My first husband and I raised three daughters and both of us worked full time. Following his death from leukemia, God gave me another good man to partner with. Our combined families now delight us with 17 grandchildren. Our church’s prayer ministry is my passion. I also enjoy reading, journaling, long walks, jig-saw puzzles and knitting prayer shawls. I’ve known Janet and treasured her friendship for close to 35 years and am honored to share on her blog.


c Barbara Spradley, 2015, All Rights Reserved






In Celebration


As a gift to myself for my upcoming sixtieth birthday, I signed up for a writing retreat in northern Minnesota.  I have always loved to write; in fact, I’ve lived much of my life with pencil in hand.  I’ve written journal entries, letters, papers, prayers, poems, retreats, and eulogies.  Writing has long been my way of making sense of my life, but with little formal training, I thought this might be a wonderful time to learn more.


Though the writing portions of this retreat were mostly helpful and engaging, what I soon learned is that God wanted to use these four threshold days before my birthday to nourish me in mind, body, and spirit, to offer me time to remember what is important and to put my precious life in perspective.


My room, partly underground, was like a small, pine planter box that readily became my haven.  Its simplicity, with space enough for bed, desk, chair, and sink, graciously kept my focus on rest and the germinating seeds of my writing.  I spent many hours there feeling safe and held.


We began and ended each day in the chapel for twenty minutes of silent meditation.  One flame on a center table served as the orienting point for those who gathered.  Each morning I opened my spirit with a resounding “Yes” to whatever the day might hold, and each evening I invited my spirit to close the day with a resounding “Thank You” for what had been.


Mealtimes were sacred events.  We would begin with a prayer or blessing, sometimes spoken, sometimes sung, always thanking God for our sustenance.  The host for each meal would then give a detailed description of the meal that had been carefully prepared including the intention behind the menu and the source of the various foods.  Loving attention had been paid to every detail.



I took a long four-mile walk every day either on the road past the open fields or through the woods.  Using a wonderful healing prayer I learned from Father Matt Linn, for the first mile, I would take all that was heavy in my heart and lift it up to God; for the second mile, I would open myself to all the love and light God wanted to pour into my open hands; for the third mile, I would wrap myself from head to toe in the light and love I received; and for the fourth mile, from the abundance I had been given, I would ask God to show me for this day all the ways I could share this light and love with others in my life.


One day as I returned from my walk and came up the long driveway to the turnaround, I was greeted by a pile of stones or a cairn, created by one of the retreatants.  Of all the writing prompts thus far, this visual evoked the most interest in me.  As I sat there for much of the afternoon, I was first reminded of how cairns were used in Biblical times as a sign or memorial of what God had done.  I was then led to see the cairn before me in a similar way, as a marker of God’s handiwork in the six decades of my life.






I can see now

how each stone

has been carefully

lovingly placed

decade upon decade


First wonder, stable and round,

the delight of discovery


Followed by angst, edgy and lopsided,

the uncertainty of belonging



Next focus, polished and sharp,

the vitality of contribution


Then connection, smooth and wide,

the power of love


And purpose, deep and textured,

the gift of life


Onto change, narrow and worn,

the impact of transition


I pause here

to remember, to give thanks

for the years of light and shadow

that have brought me here

all necessary in their own way

to the overall creation


Whatever the story and shape

of this next stone

I claim my intention

to savor what has been

to celebrate what is

to embrace what will be

and to trust, to trust

this foundation upon which

I am being formed





For place, for prayer, for provision, for people, for perspective,

I give thanks.  Amen.



Reflection Questions


~What elements of your life does God want you to notice, to appreciate?


~How would you describe each of the decades of your life thus far?


~What about your life are you being invited to see from God’s perspective?



c Tracy Mooty, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.


The path of insecurity towards God


A couple days ago I had a bad headache and a sadness in my belly, partly because I felt like I was doing work that was harmful. I was organizing an activity for a high-energy networking event for 1,100 community leaders from the region. The activity was a network map that showed how these 1,100 people knew each other. The more connections you had to others at this event, the larger of a dot you were on the map. At times, I felt like I was helping create a shallow popularity contest that encouraged posturing. I was aware of how much self-doubt I had about my contributions to this event. As I prayed about it, I became aware of how much self-doubt many of the participants coming to the event were also bringing to this event and the potential connections they would make. Underneath the event preparation and activities, it felt like there was a strong, restless current, where most of us were trying to keep our heads above the water of these questions:

Do I really belong here? Will I be found out as a fraud?

Will my gifts be recognized and welcomed?


In the middle of this networking event, I was feeling drained and discouraged. At that moment, a community artist who inspires me happened to walk up to me to ask about the activity I was coordinating. In our conversation, this artist surprised me by telling me about the self-doubts he had about how he fit in this large group of leaders. As he vulnerably and openly told me about this, I felt a wave of grace wash through us.


I’ve spent much of my life asking myself why I was so shy, and why I had such trouble connecting naturally with people around me. The morning after the event, it felt like God woke me up early and asked me to reframe this history of self-doubt and insecurity. God seemed to be asking me to see the value of the path I’ve been on from intense shyness to choosing a career as a group facilitator that stretched my natural tendencies. Looking back, it appeared that God had been helping prepare my awareness of and compassion for these insecurities. I felt called to a new way of facilitating connections and collaboration–a way that acknowledges and redeems our insecurities about belonging. I felt God offering to heal my habit of believing that I can’t deeply and naturally connect with others. God was inviting me to continue my facilitation work, but from a place of compassion for those hidden insecurities about belonging that are in me and many others I work with.


What does it look like to build large networks that do effective work together, while those relationships are also grounded in healing and compassion? I think God is asking me to find out.


As I’ve been recovering from networking event I helped organize, I’ve been repeatedly reminded of this passage from Teresa of Avlia’s poem, “He Desired Me, So I Came Close” (translated by Daniel Ladinsky):



A thousand souls hear His call every second

but most everyone then looks into their life’s mirror and says,

“I am not worthy to leave this



When I first heard His courting song, I too

looked at all I had done in my life

and said,


“How can I gaze into His omnipresent eyes?”

I spoke these words with all

my heart.


but then He sang again, a song even sweeter,

and when I tried to shame myself once more from His presence

God showed me His compassion and spoke a divine truth


“I made you, dear, and all I make is perfect.

Please come close, for I desire you.”





I’m a 40-something man who is ga-ga about his 2 kids and wife. I also feel warmly about bikes, mountains, and Jesus. I do consulting work with religious and secular organizations, walking with them as they look for where there is the most life and vitality in their work. My occasional blog posts are at:





This poem  arrived a while back when I was spending time with Mary and Martha’s story about receiving Jesus as their guest.  I needed the reminder today.  I also found it in Isaiah 55: “Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.”  Come.  Listen.  Live.

There is a time for busy
and doing.
But now is not that time.
Can you hear what
God has to say?
Can you hear
your heart’s reply?
Learn to recognize
the voice
that whispers
the way forward.
Know the love
that guards your soul.
The deep love holding you.
When it is time,
get up.
Attend to the tasks
that come with living.
But keep listening.
Carry that whisper,
carry that love
within you
until you can sit again.
© J.L. Sanborn, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.
Hi.  I’m Jessica and I am so thankful to take part in Janet’s blogging adventures.  I am the mother of 3 little-ish people and wife to a great guy.  I met Janet almost 2 years ago and am so thankful for that life-changing, life-giving encounter.  I used to do lawyer things, and now I get to play queen with my daughter when I’m not transporting my kids to school. I share some of my musings about faith and becoming at 


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