Friday, June 22, 2018

Perfect circles


After I John 4:13-5:5

Life: to love.
Love: to live
in God, to live
in God: to live
in love.
A perfect, the perfect
circle enclosing us
in a bond unbroken.
To live in love
in a world such as this
equals conflict, surely,
hardship, possibly,
persecution, likely,
and death, inevitably,
death, at least, to this world.
If I and we can live in love,
as he did,
then conflict and hardship
and persecution and death
will come, another
perfect circle.


Photograph by Todd Quackenbush via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

“Murder at the Bridge” by Frances Evesham


Libby Forest seems to attract crime like flowers attract bees. Even at her own son’s wedding in Exham on Sea in Somerset, a titled lady makes a ruckus about her diamond ring being stolen. A young farmer is accused and is found with the ring in his pocket. But Libby senses more is going on.

Then the young man is killed in what looks like a tractor accident – or made to look like one. The local police, having experience with Libby’s skills and those of her serious other, Max Ramshore, take them on as consultants on the crime. Aside from being a fairly quiet town, Exham abounds with potential suspects.

Murder at the Bridge is Frances Evesham’s fifth Exham on Sea mystery. A relatively short and fast-reading novel, it is packed with twists, turns, events, red herrings, and genuine clues. The suspects include the farm couple the murder victim worked for, a local cult leader and his wife, people the young man might have been blackmailing, and more. (Keeping track of the susp[ects requires a close reading.) 

Frances Evesham
Then Libby’s friend Gina disappears, followed by Gina’s daughter, who just happens to be Libby’s new daughter-in-law. And Libby is finding herself jealous of the attention Max is paying to one of the suspects, an old friend from school days.

Evesham is the author of four other Exham on Sea mysteries, Murder on the Levels, Murder on the Tor, Murder at the Cathedral, and Murder at the Lighthouseand two historical mystery romances set in Victorian England, Danger at Thatcher Hall and An Independent Woman. She’s been a speech therapist, professional communicator, and a road sweeper, and worked in the criminal courts. She lives in Somerset, England.

Murder at the Bridge is another example of the cozy mystery (I have my own definition of that sub-genre – a murder mystery without graphic gore and violence). Evesham keeps the reader guessing until the very end.

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Top photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

“Why Jesus?” by Ravi Zacharias


In 2012, concerned about how New Age philosophies were increasingly influencing popular culture (and culture in general), Ravi Zachariaspublished Why Jesus? Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality. It’s still a compelling read.

Zacharias, the founder and chairman of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, headquartered in Atlanta, is an author, speaker, Christian apologist, and radio broadcaster. He’s published numerous books, has outreach centers in Atlanta and Oxford University, and publishes a magazine. His purpose in the 2012 book: to point out the shallowness and often fraud of New Age beliefs and practices and to explain why Christianity remains the compelling narrative.

His discussion focuses on two New Age figures, one who’s obvious and one who’s not.

The obvious one is Deepak Chopra, who melds eastern religion with physics and other sciences (often drawing the ire of scientists). The less-than-obvious one, simply because of her global popularity, is household name Oprah Winfrey. The two have often worked together, and both jointly market a 21-day meditation course

Ravi Zacharias
Zacharias includes an extensive examination of what both public figures teach and advocate. He then moves to a discussion of Jesus and Christiantiy, making his case. He explains the core of the Christian message, what personhood and relationship really mean, the loss of Christian faith in the contemporary culture (and what’s replacing it), how we reshape Jesus to suit our prejudices, the problems of Christian mysticism, and how we face a choice between as belief system (or systems) that are built on false assumptions and a belief system built upon “magnificent truths.”

Why Jesus?is a classic Ravi Zacharias book. He speaks compellingly and with often devastating insight; he’s kind but firm. He also clearly calls it as he sees it, and it’s difficult to argue against his reasoning and logic. It’s a solid book.

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Top photograph by Scott Webb via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Writing: Follow Your Passion?


We see a lot of advice these days about following your passion. Determine what your passion is, pursue it, and you will find happiness. Huffington Post even has a whole section on the subject. It’s a subject usually but not always associated with “Gen Y” or millennials – those who were born roughly between 1980 and 1995. Yet I’ve heard Gen X-rs and Baby Boomers embrace the same idea. It’s usually tied in with the idea of quitting your existing job and pursing that desire or dream that’s been rattling around in your head. 

However the idea got started, the inevitable pushback has followed. “Follow Your Passion is Not a Career Plan,” says Business Week. George Washington University professor Cal Newport says it’s bad advice. Mashable reposted the Cal Newport video and then elaborated on why it’s bad advice. So did the MinimalistsSo did Fast Company. (That Cal Newport fellow has had a considerable influence.)

To continue reading, please see my post today at Christian Poets & Writers.

The 2017 Walt Whitman Award: “Eye Level” by Jenny Xie


The Walt Whitman Award is given by the Academy of American Poets for a first published poetry collection. The winner is not selected by a panel of judges but instead by a single judge named by the academy. For 2017, poet Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. poet laureate from 2015 to 2017, served as the judge. And his selection was Eye Level by Jenny Xie.

It’s easy to see why. Just read her poems.

Xie was born in Hefei, China, and grew up in New Jersey. Now a teacher at New York University (NYU), she received degrees from Princeton University and NYU. She’s also received fellowships from several organizations, and her poems have been printed in American Poetry ReviewPoetryNew RepublicTin House, and other literary publications. Xie had previously published a chapbook, Nowhere to Arrive, which received the 2016 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Prize.

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

Monday, June 18, 2018

Dancing King Stories: Michael Kent-Hughes


Michael Kent (married name, Kent-Hughes) started out fictional life as an unnamed priest dancing on a beach in Italy. He was inspired by a song, “Luna Rossa,” sung by Mario Frangoulis. I first heard the song on an airplane flight to San Francisco in 2002. The image of a dancing priest stuck in my head and wouldn’t let go. 

The priest stayed in my head for the next three years. He moved off the beach and into a tourist group. He changed religions, from Roman Catholic to Anglican. He had a mild flirtation with a young American woman who was part of the tour group. The beach, Italy, and the tour group were left behind, and the priest was moved to Scotland. He was finishing his theology studies at the University of Edinburgh. He gained a named, Michael Kent. He gained a reason for being English but living in Scotland – he was raised by guardians.

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

“Send Down the Rain” by Charles Martin


A new novel by Charles Martin is an event. He’s a grand storyteller, one of the nest writing today. He tells stories, and his characters tell stories. It doesn’t matter if it’s broken children trying to survive, or broken adults trying to survive a plane crash in winter mountains or the pain of life, or a husband still trying to show a dying wife how much he loves her. Charles Martin tells stories of the human heart, the broken human heart ultimately touched by grace.

Send Down the Rain, Martin’s latest published work, is a grand story, and then some. Joseph Burns is 62, a Vietnam veteran. He went to Vietnam as a teen, did two tours, and was involved in special operations all over Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. He doesn’t have to talk about those special ops; he still has nightmares in his sleep.

Joseph lives in a cabin with his dog Roscoe in the mountains of North Carolina. He hears a child’s scream and goes to investigate. A woman and her two children, all illegal immigrants, are trying to escape a Mexican drug lord, right there in North Carolina. Joseph tells them to wait in his cabin, while he leaves for a while. He comes back with the drug lord’s knife. The police later find his body tied in the back of a pickup truck.

He helps the woman find her brother in Florida, not far from where he and his brother Bobby grew up at Cape San Blas, a coastal peninsular in the Panhandle. He and his brother don’t see each other; they occasionally talk. Bobby is a U.S. Senator, a decorated war hero, living the stereotype of the powerful Southern U.S. Senator with connections all over Washington D.C. and the U.S. military. Someone else lives at Cape San Blas – Allie, the girl next door, the one Joseph loves and the one who loved Joseph. 

When Joseph came home from his first tour, he arrived just in time to see Allie and Bobby getting married. He considered killing his brother; instead, he returned for a second tour.

Charles Martin
Bobby and Allie have been long divorced, and Allie is remarried to a truckdriver, man who has just incinerated himself in a tractor-trailer explosion right at Cape San Blas. 

Joseph is still in love with Allie. First loves aren’t easily cast aside, at least for Joseph. But there are complications, a lot of complications. And Joseph Burns is going to confront the demons, real and imagined, pursuing him.

Charles Martin doesn’t write bad stories, or even mediocre ones. He writes about recognizable people, people we know or think we know. Send Down the Rain is filled with these recognizable people, broken and searching for grace, and possibly finding redemption.

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Top photograph: The shoreline at Cape San Blas, Florida.