Sunday, August 19, 2018

A prayer

After John 17:13

It’s near the end, or
the beginning, the time
in the garden, night.
Alone; a prayer from the knowing
of what is to come in less
than a day, and the knowing
leads to the prayer.
I am coming.
I am coming to you.
I am coming to you now.

So, among the last things
to say, ehre at the end,
a prayer for them, those
sleeping and those not yet
awake, those flawed vessels,
for them, and not only
for the joy to be within them,
but for the full measure of my joy
to be within them. 
They will be hated by this world,
but, and it’s a huge but,
they will find joy, my joy,
within and always.

Photograph by Alex Woods via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Saturday Good Reads

It’s an out of the way place southwest of Lyon, well off the tourist path. Its relative isolation served it well during World War II – the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon hid and helped some 3,000 Jews escape. Its Protestant heritage may have been a reason. The BBC has the story.

A reader asked Rod Dreher why he was devoting so much commentary to the ongoing scandals rocking the Catholic Church. He tells a story about being bullied by “the cool kids” at his high school – and two moms who wouldn’t interfere in the cool kids’ fun. The story of the abuse of children by Catholic priests went heartbreakingly graphic this week, with the publication of the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation that covered seven decades of abuse and coverup. Thousands of children were involved, and it’s only one state.

St. Louis has always laid claim to the invention of the ice cream cone; not so, says Maria Grace at English Historical Fiction Authors. D.S. Martin features poet Anya Krugovoy Silver, who died last week after a long struggle with cancer. Jason Miller considers the hidden influence of poet Langston Hughes on Martin Luther King Jr. And more.

Life and Culture

The Evolution of the Humble Sandwich – BBC (Hat Tip: J of India).

Why Local Matters – Zak Schmoll at Entering the Public Square.

Why It’s Personal – Rod Dreher at The American Conservative.



Somewhere Else – Tim Good at Photography by Tiwago.

Ode to the Spirit of Aseity – Joe Spring.

Anya  Krugovoy Silver – D.S. Martin at Kingdom Poets.

Thomas Gray’s Desperate Pastoral – Jeffrey Hart at The Imaginative Conservative.

Langston Hughes’ Hidden Influence on MLK – Jason Miller at Urban Faith.

British Stuff

The Real Origins of the Ice Cream Cone – Maria Grace at English Historical Fiction Authors.

American Stuff

Teaching Salem Witchcraft – Thomas Kidd at The Gospel Coalition.


A French village committed to deception – Anita Isalska at BBC.

Art and Photography

Succulently Serpentine – Tim Good at Photography by Tiwago.

Holy Cross Lutheran, Revisited Again – Chris Naffziger at St. Louis Patina.


Non-Fiction Platforms – Rachelle Gardner.


Pride and the Fall in Tolkien’s Second Age – Bradley Birzer at The Imaginative Conservative.

The Roots of Carmel

Painting: Interior, Woman Reading, oil on canvas by Gustave Caillebotte (1880)

Friday, August 17, 2018

We are the people

After John 17:9,10

It’s a slam, or slams,
as the world delights
in death and destruction,
pointing fingers at sin
and contradiction
and the fall.
The world loves this,
and if we’re honest,
we know this and
we know this hurts,
this tearing at our hearts
when one of us falls
and the world rejoices
over the shame. But,
and it’s a big But, we know
something else, something
more important, more vital,
more critical than any taunt
or justified criticism or fall
or stumble, and that is
we are the people,
we are the people of God,
the rock of our protection,
we are a possession, a gift
from out this world,
and we are owned because
we are the people of God,
created by a fierce love.

Photograph by Craig Whitehead via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

“The Smiler with the Knife” by Nicholas Blake

Cecil Day-Lewis (1904-1972) was poet laureate of the United Kingdom from 1968 to his death in 1972. He published some 10 collections of poetry, four translations of poetry, three collections of essays, three novels for adults and two for children, a collection of short stories, and an autobiography. (He was also the father of Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis.)

During World War II, he worked in Britain’s Ministry of Information as a publications editor. His career also included a five-year teaching stint at Oxford and serving as an editor for a leading publishing house. Under the pseudonym of Nicholas Blake, he wrote 20 crimes novels, 16 of which featured private detective Nigel Strangeways. 

The Smiler with the Knife, published in 1939, is one of the Nigel Strangeways crime novels, except that the hero isn’t Strangeways but his wife Georgia. In fact, Georgia Strangeways anticipates a whole array of resourceful, smart, and tough female detectives we’re far more familiar with today. Nigel’s the detective in the family; Georgia has established a reputation as an explorer and adventurer, a reputation that will serve her well.

Cecil Day-Lewis, aka Nicholas Blake
The Strangeways have bought a house in the country, not terribly far from London. They receive a notice that their hedge needs to be pruned; the local authorities have deemed it to pose a hazard to motorists. Georgia grabs the shears and starts chopping away. And then she and Nigel spit a locket in the grass. That locket will lead Georgia into a conspiracy by English Nazi sympathizers to create unrest and havoc, with the aim of taking over before that Churchill crowd gets too powerful.

Georgia and Nigel have to fake a separation. She returns to London, while he heads to Oxford. Gradually she comes to enter the orbit of the Nazi sympathizers, discovering an obvious layer and a more hidden layer. She takes risks; she adroitly maneuvers through close calls. And when she’s inevitably discovered, she will prove herself a formidable rival.

The Smiler with the Knife is a Nigel Strangeways crime novel, but it’s his wife who’s the star. And she well deserves the credit.  

Photograph: A road in Norfolk, where the Strangeways have their cottage.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

“Gospel Wakefulness” by Jared Wilson

The heavy-hitters endorsing Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson make an impressive list: Matt Chandler, Scotty Smith, Trevin Wax, Owen Strachan, Ed Stetzer, Pete Wilson, and more. The theme of this 2011 book is the need to focus – really focus – on the power and meaning of the gospel.

Gospel wakefulness, according to Wilson, is “treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly.” He explores the idea in depth. He looks at how to comes from brokenness, how to renew affections, how it awakens worship, the freedom it brings, what the gospel-wakened chu8rch looks like, and related topics. 

Essentially, Wilson is describing the Biblical concept of sanctification, how Christians mature in their faith (or how they’re supposed to mature). There’s clearly a need for a book like this – the last 40 years of conservative, evangelical, and traditional Christianity have been heavily characterized by a focus on seekers. Unfortunately, that has also meant a reduction in focus on discipleship. And the church is paying a price for that.

Still, there’s something I find disquieting about the book. It’s similar to what I found disquieting about Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez that took conservative Christianity by storm some 20 years ago. The Prayer of Jabez could easily – too easily – be read as the prosperity gospel. Gospel Wakefulness can easily be read as a kind of contemporary gnosticism, in spite of all the celebrity endorsements. 

I don’t think that’s Wilson’s intention. But the suggestion that there’s a higher level of gospel understanding and experience certainly could lead people in that direction. Some of us Christians have that gospel wakefulness, and some of us don’t. And having it implies a superiority of understanding, if nothing else.

You see the endorsements, you look at the author’s other books, and you want to be more positive. But I find this book troubling.

Jared Wilson

Sanctification is an old term, and one that is well understood. A book about sanctification and discipleship doesn’t need a made-up title. 

Top photograph by Patrick Hendry via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Writing a Fiction Series

My introduction to series fiction happened in college. I was checking the sale table at a B. Dalton’s Bookstore and found God is an Englishman by R.F. Delderfield, a novel about the Swann family set in mid-19thcentury England. Not long after, I realized there was a second volume, entitled Theirs Was the Kingdom. And a couple of years later, the third and final volume, Give Us This Day, in the series was published.

I loved those stories. Delderfield had created an entire world built around the coming of the railroads and how one man realized that there was opportunity in the routes not connected by the railroads. He builds a business empire upon that realization. It was (and is) good, old-fashioned storytelling at its best. I still have those three books.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Dancing Priest.

Marjorie Maddox and “Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation”

A friend I first met in college lived not away, and two years ago we finally got together when a third friend came from out of town. We hadn’t seen each other in more than 40 years, and it was as if college had just happened yesterday. We looked older and more life-marked, but the same personalities sat around a table, eating flatbread and drinking wine. Some months before, my in-town friend had had a heart transplant. He described what it was like not to have a pulse, something you don’t think about unless there isn’t one.

A year later, we had scheduled another lunch, with another out-of-town college friend, when I opened the newspaper a few weeks before and saw his obituary. He had had a stroke, a not uncommon complication, even well after the operation. The transplant had given him almost two more years. 

Marjorie Maddox’s father had far less time than that after his heart transplant. The transplant went well; the unexpected blood infection was fatal. Maddox tells the story in a series of poems in Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.