Sunday, March 24, 2019

The peace of the city


After Jeremiah 29:7-13

There is a city on a hill
and there is a city at the bottom
of the hill, a city in the plain:
a city of peace, a city without
a city of wealth, a city without
a city of live and kindness
a city without
a city safe and secure
a city of violence
a city that’s home
a city that’s exile.
Seek the peace of the city of exile.
Seek the safety of the city of exile.
Seek this city of exile.
Seek it.
Seek its streets.
Walk its lanes
Visit its homes.
Seek it.

Photograph by Dan Gold via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Saturday Good Reads


This is how the biography begins: “Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services.” Hanson is a conservative and a defender of Donald Trump (in fact, he's just published a new book, The Case for Trump). 

It’s not difficult to imagine Hanson writing about Trump voters; he does so on a regular basis. But imagine my cognitive dissonance to see an article by Hanson on what progressives need to know about Trump voters published on the CNN web site. Regardless of how you feel about President Trump, the article is well worth reading. (I’m still trying to deal with seeing it on a CNN web site.)

What’s old is new again: Identity politics has a rather ferocious grip on the Western imagination, not to mention Western politics. Its roots, says Akos Balough at The Gospel Coalition Australia, go back a couple of thousand years to the heresy of Gnosticism. Solomon was right, there is nothing new under the sun. 

More Good Reads

Poetry

God, the Playwright – Donald Catchings at An Unexpected Journal.

Monday Morning – Jerry Barrett at Gerald the Writer.

Crashing W.S. Merwin’s Wedding – Edward Hirsch at The Paris Review and Remembering W.S. Merwin: The Poet of Disappearance – Peggy Rosenthal at Image Journal.

The Who I Am– Martha Orlando at Meditations of My Heart.

Theory of the translation of the moon – Kathleen Everett at The Course of Our Seasons.

How I Talk to God – Kelly Belmonte at Literary Life.

Faith

How the Sacred-Secular Divide Impacts the Church – Hugh Whelchel at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics.

We All Live in Marx’s World Now – Carl Trueman at The Gospel Coalition.

Life and Culture

The Memory Keeper – B. Miller at The South Roane Agrarian. 

Reflections on the Community of Baseball Fans – Zak Schmoll at Entering the Public Square.

Wisdom First, Job Skills Second – Mark Bauerlein at City Journal.

The Marijuana Delusion – Steven Malanga at City Journal.

Writing and Literature


Village Poet – Laura Lundgren at Servants of Grace.

American Stuff

Andrew Jackson Unconquered – Bill Kauffman at Modern Age reviews the new biography by Bradley Birzer.

Of Battles and Memories: A Union Officer’s Springtime Letter – Sarah Kay Bierle at Emerging Civil war Blog.

Art and Photography

Flower Therapy – Susan Etole. 

Walking in Memphis – Marc Cohn


Painting: Room in a Farmhouse, oil on panel (1886) by L.A. Ring (1853-1933).

Friday, March 22, 2019

Sitting at the dealership


Sitting in this nice waiting room
at the car dealership, waiting while
mechanics serviced the car, 
waiting areas didn’t used to be
so nice, this one had coffee, and
bottled water neatly lined up
in a small refrigerator, and popcorn,
with the showroom of new cars
shining and sparkling conveniently 
close by. The gray-haired man
shuffles in, glances at the coffee,
and ponders the pre-packaged muffins,
finally selecting the wild blueberry.
He sits, contented, and opens the book
that had been tucked under his arm.
I’m too far away to see the title, 
but the cover photograph gives it away:
he’s reading Mystery and Manners
by Flannery O’Connor, while he waits
for his car to be serviced, and I think
a good car is hard to find.

Photograph by Daniele Fantin via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

"Black & Blue" by Emma Jameson


One thing you can say about the Lord and Lady Hetheridge mystery series by Emma Jameson is that they are never dull. Things happen. Lots of things. On almost every page. 

Black & Blue, the fourth in the series, starts with a murder of an art dealer, who lives right around the corner from the Hetheridges in London’s Mayfair. Lord Hetheridge is Chief Superitendent Anthony Hetheridge of Scotland Yard, aka the ninth Baron of Wellegrave. Lady Hetheridge is the former Kate Wakefield, a detective sergeant woeking with Hetheridge as part of the murder investigation squad. The third member of the team is Detective Sergeant Deepal Bhar, who has the unfortunate habit of always stepping into things when he shouldn’t.

The art dealer was a nasty bit of goods, irrespective of his Euston Square address. He liked poaching the married wives of well-known men who didn’t take kindly to his poaching. He liked dumping his new girlfriends almost as soon as he had them. He offended neighbors on both accounts, not to mention the awful modern art eyesore he’d turned his house into. And then there’s the drug smuggling business that the art dealing covered for. 

Emma Jameson
Right at the start of the investigation, Hetherbridge is booted from his position, or “allowed to retire.” He takes steps to set up his own private investigations business, although he’s wealthy enough not to have worry about income. Kate and Deepal find themselves reporting to a new boss – Vic Jackson, known for his alcoholism, sexual harassment, and racist comments. Except Jackson seems to have undergone a transformation.

Murder suspects abound, including the woman found in the wardrobe in the dead man’s house (supposedly looking for Narnia) and the Texas boyfriend of Bhar’s mother, who comes close to steal the show for the entire novel. She’s a great comic character. And the Hetheridges have family problems, specifically Kate’s family, her recently-released-from-the-mental-home sister and her former prostitute mother (Kate and Tony were born and reared in very different circumstances).

In addition to the Hetheridge series, Jameson has a second series of novels featuring the amateur detective Dr. Benjamin Bones. The series begins in Cornwall during World War II, and it has a companion series called “The Magic of Cornwall.” Jameson is currently working on the third Dr. Bones mystery.

So much happens in Black & Blue that you’ll feel rather breathless and checking back every few pages to make sure you caught everything that was happening. And you’ll also be highly entertained.


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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

“A Stranger on My Land” by Sandra Merville Hart


Adam Hendricks is a private with the 99thOhio Infantry, slowly advancing with his unit up Lookout Mountain in Tennessee. It’s late November of 1863, and after taking Chattanooga, Union forces are working their way towards Georgia. What lies ahead is the battle of Missionary Ridge. But before that happens, Hendricks is wounded in his arm, twice. He loses consciousness; when he awakes, he’s lying by himself in the forest, and his right arm is useless.

Carrie Bishop is a young woman whose family lives in a cabin on the mountain. Her father is with General Lee’s army in Virginia. She, her aunt, and her young brother have taken refuge in a cave. Her aunt had refused to leave the mountain; to protect themselves, their livestock, and remaining food from both Confederate and Union forces, they’ve been in hiding for some time.

Sandra Merville Hart
Searching for firewood, Carrie and her brother find the wounded Union soldier. Her first reaction is to walk away. Her second is to help him. The circumstances that force the two young people together are also the circumstances that may drive them apart – they occupy opposing sides of the Civil War (Carrie’s aunt in particular has a virulent hatred of all things Yankee). What Carrie can medically do for Adam is extremely limited, and she knows that she will have to risk her family’s safety to get him the doctor’s help he needs.

A Stranger on My Land is the story of Carrie and Adam, the first of three Civil War romances by Sandra Merville Hart. It’s an engaging story, backed by considerable research and period detail.

The second novel in the series is A Rebel in My House and the third is A Musket in My Hands. Hart, a member of American Christian Fiction Authors, has also published novellas and short stories and is both a contributor and assistant editor for DevoKids.com. 

My initial interest in A Stranger on My Land was the Civil War setting. But it took no time for the story to take over and almost compel me to read it straight through in one sitting.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Poets and Poems: Phoebe Power and “Shrines of Upper Austria”


One of the significant themes in contemporary poetry is identity – with an open-ended definition of that word. Poets young and old are exploring what identity is, using their own lives as a prism. The recent National Book Award winner Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed is one example. The poetry of British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffyi s another. 

Phoebe Power
British poet Phoebe Power, in her first collection Shrines of Upper Austria, explores a different facet of identity, and that’s an individual’s understanding of national identity. The collection received the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. 

Power’s starting point is her grandmother, who arrived in England as a new bride married to a British soldier in 1946. Her grandmother was an ethnic German from Austria, which just the year before had been part of Nazi Germany. Imagine her British neighbors, and her new British family. Imagine what she had left behind. The experiences and heritage of her grandmother becomes Power’s by family inheritance. 

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Poetry at Work, Chapter 10: The Poetry of Beauty in the Workplace


The worst view I ever had from my assigned office at work was of the building’s designated smoking area. I had the most coveted type of office – a closed-door office, with a window. Except the window faced the smoking area outside the building, with its awning-like protection and clouds of smoke.

The best view I ever had from my assigned office at work was that same office – after smoking was banned entirely from the campus. No more plastic awning. No more clouds of smoke. Just an uninterrupted view of nearby woods.

If someone asked you to describe beauty at your workplace, you would likely think of architectural structures, window views, fountains, waterways, or woods. You might think of people, but today’s cultural and work environments require that great care be taken when talking about people. 

To continue reading, please see my post today at Literary Life.