Wednesday, January 16, 2019

“Run to Win” by Tim Challies


The subtitle of Run to Win is, as the subtitle indicates, about “the lifelong pursuits of a godly man.” What is also about is a favorite theme of author Tim Challies – discipleship, and specifically, the discipline of discipleship.

Challies starts with the metaphor of a race, the metaphor St. Paul used in his first letter to the Corinthians: Run to win the race. The city of Corinth was home to the Isthmian Games, and they would have easily understood the metaphor. It’s a metaphor equally familiar today to nations worldwide.

Tim Challies
Run to Win succinctly describes the disciplines in the race of the Christian faith. There are the disciplines of faith, including purpose, renewing your mind, knowing your doctrine, and prioritizing your faith. The disciplines of life include vocation, maturity, finances, health, and time. And there are the disciplines of relationship – friendship, leadership, marriage, and children.

This is the basic stuff of the Christian faith, but the times call for an understanding of the basics. And Run to Win describes these basics in easy-to-understand language.

Challies is an author, blogger, and book reviewer, and blogs daily at Challies.com. He’s the author of six books on discipleship, theology, and Christian living, including Run to Win, and a founder of Cruciform Press. He lives in suburban Toronto, Canada.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

National Book Award for Poetry: “Indecency” by Justin Phillip Reed


The 2018 National Book Award for Poetry was given to Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed. Reed is a young poet living in St. Louis. Indecency is his first published collection; he had published a chapbook, A History of Flamboyance, in 2016.

I saw the National Book Award announcement, but I didn’t realize the St. Louis connection. A couple of days after the announcement, the “good news” columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a brief item about Reed being a poet living in St. Louis. Later, the book editor included a short note and the Associated Press story about the winners on her book blog. 

A St. Louis poet, with strong connections to Washington University in St. Louis included an M.F.A. degree and a junior writer position wins the National Book Award for Poetry, and that’s how the local paper covers it? Go figure. At least Washington University issued two new releases, one from the university and one from its College of Arts & Sciences. This past May, St. Louis Magazine did an interview with Reed specifically about his new collection, and it’s filled with interesting ideas and discussion. (Read the interview; he explains where the title of the collection came from.)

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

Monday, January 14, 2019

Poetry at Work. Chapter 1: How to Recognize a Poet


If there is such a thing as a poetic movie, the 2016 film Paterson is perhaps the archetype. The actor Adam Driver plays a bus driver named Paterson, who listens to the conversations of his passengers, colleagues, and friends, and to his own interior conversations, and writes poetry. He works in Paterson, New Jersey, and the man Paterson and the town Paterson eventually come to be seen as of the same essence. Person becomes place becomes person. Poetry constitutes a sizeable portion of the dialogue.

Not coincidentally, Paterson also happens to be the hometown of the modernist poet William Carlos Williams, who practiced medicine there. Over a period of decades, he wrote a five-book collection entitled – what else? – Paterson (among a lot of other works). Williams was a physician, and he was a poet. Like the bus driver in the movie, Williams recognized and recorded the poetry of his daily work.

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

“The Boy Who Hit Play” by Chloe Daykin


Elvis Crampton Lucas is 12, and he doesn’t know where he came from. What he does know is that his father George found him as a baby on a bench at the zoo, wrapped in a Norwegian newspaper. He loves his father (even if he did name him after three music CDs) but he wants to know his story. 

Accompanied by his father and his father’s best friend, Lloyd, he travels to Norway. Very little about the trip goes as planned – including the discovery that they’re being shadowed and somewhat threatened by Lloyd’s brother. Elvis will eventually succeed on his quest, but it won’t be what he imagined or expected.

Chloe Daykin
The Boy Who Hit Play by Chloe Daykin is the story of Elvis and his journey. It’s aimed at roughly the 10-13 age group (I bought it thinking it might be a Christmas present for an 8-year-old; it’s just a bit beyond that) but it’s an entertaining read for adults as well. It’s completely credible as an account by a 12-year-old; you realize that this author must be the mother of boys (and she is.)

Daykin is the author of Fish Boy (2017), a widely acclaimed story about a boy’s loneliness and friendship that won a number of prizes and recognitions. A third novel is scheduled for publication in June 2019. She lives with her family in Northumberland in England.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Touch faces, trembling


After Psalm 146

I touch faces, trembling,
face after face, different,
each promising a way
the way
the only way
the right way, or the left,
we are all
we are none
no face can save
not one
each face weathers,
dies, returns to dust
all of the ways
return to dust.

Photograph by Sylvie Tittel via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Saturday Good Reads


A seven-year-old child was shot and killed in Houston. The media, including The New York Times and my own hometown newspaper the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, gave the murder full-blown coverage. Not because a child was killed, but because there was a possibility the murder fit the media narrative – the child was black, and someone suggested the murderer was white. When two black men were arrested, media coverage died. Two tragedies were involved – a child was gunned down, and the news media stoked baseless anger and outrage. 

I’m coming to believe that conservative media critics are right – the media’s business model is stoking anger and outrage, no matter what the facts are. I worked for a CEO for many years who often said, "Policy is what you do, not what you say."

James Faris at Gentle Reformation suggests we should pray for the news media. He’s exactly right. And pray for the foreign news media as well. A reporter for Der Spiegel in Germany was caught falsifying stories, but he had played right into Der Spiegel’s bias against what it perceived about “Trump’s America.” The Atlantic has the story.

When reporters do it right: Alex Berenson, a former reporter for The New York Times, has published a book about marijuana, and it won’t thrill the hearts of those who support legalization of medical marijuana (like what just passed in my state of Missouri) or recreational marijuana (like what’s being considered in the states of New York and Illinois). The simple fact is, we don’t know much if anything about marijuana’s negative effects, and what we do know is seriously concerning. Malcolm Gladwell at The New Yorker and Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones both take a balanced look at the book. 

The American Psychological Association drafted and announced new guidelines declaring “traditional masculinity” to be harmful and how psychologists could deal with it. The online world ignited. The APA was forced to issue a statement that seemed to backtrack, but which actually only muddied the waters even more. David French at the National Review responded to both the original guidelines and the clarification statement

More Good Reads

Writing and Literature



Advice for Beginning Storytellers – Ira Glass via Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent.

The Humanity of Huck Finn – Christine Norvell at The Imaginative Conservative.


Letter of Recommendation: Old English – Josephine Livingstone at The New York Times Magazine.

News Media

A long slow slog, with no one coming to the rescue – Rasmus Kleis Nielsen at Nieman Lab.


Poetry

Now That I Am Almost Old – John Blase. 

T.S. Eliot’s Magical Journey – Dwight Longenecker at The Imaginative Conservative.


Life and Culture

Dairy farming is dying. After 40 years, I’m done – Jim Goodman at The Washington Post.

Can Higher Education Be Saved? – Victor Davis Hanson at National Review.

American Stuff


Franklin Pierce, Political Protest, & the Dilemmas of Democracy – Michael Connolly at The Imaginative Conservative.

Faith

Lamin Sanneh (1942-2019) – Thomas Kidd at The Gospel Coalition.

Wounds – Christianna Peterson at Image Journal.

The Present and Future of Christian Blogging – Samuel D. James at Letter & Liturgy.


Art and Photography

24 Utterly Stunning Photos of London – Will Noble and Jason Hawkes at Londonist.

I Can Only Imagine – The One Voice Children’s Choir



Painting: Man Reading at Lamplight, oil on canvas by Georg Friedrich Kersting (1814), Kunst Museum Winterthur.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Michael's First Glimpse of Sarah


She was sitting two rows down the amphitheater-like lecture hall and four seats to his right. Soft brown hair with blond highlights, tied in a ponytail. A white starched blouse like a man’s dress shirt. Jeans. Slender almost to the point of thinness. High cheekbones. Light makeup.

She’s beautiful, he thought. Who is she? She must be new; I’ve never seen her before.

His heart pounded. He felt his ears become hot. He looked at the syllabus in front of him but couldn’t see anything. He looked up again. She was still there. This wasn’t his imagination.

-      From Dancing Priest 

Photo by Riccardo Vicidomini via Unsplash. Used with permission

Soul, desolate


After Psalm 42

My soul is desolate,
crying out in pain,
an agony of night,
of mourning and 
oppression, bones
aching in suffering
and taunts of ridicule
and derision, 
condescending to warp
my soul, demanding 
to know where I am,
and why, and why not

I turn to the sun,
a light shining,
the light shining
in the dark of night

and I sing

Photograph by Eduardo Guiterrez viaUnsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

“Something Blue” by Emma Jameson


A gala at a posh London hotel leaves the host, an oil tycoon with a recent environmental disaster on his hands, murdered in his suite. Chief Superintendent Anthony Hetheridge of Scotland Yard, aka the Baron of Wellgrave, is called in to investigate. His team includes Detective Sergeants Deepal Bhar and Kate Wakefield. Kate, born and raised in London’s East End, is shortly to become Mrs. Hetheridge, aka the Baroness of Wellgrave.

The gala has attracted a host of interesting types – and a host of suspects: the tycoon’s estranged wife and son, his current fiancĂ©e, and the American psychic he’s been having a fling with; Hetheridge’s own daughter, whom he didn’t know existed until investigating a previous case; the hotel manager and security man; IT people who may (or may not) have tampered with the hotel’s CCTV; and Sir Duncan Godington, the Scotland Yard team’s nemesis from an earlier murder. 

Something Blue is the third in the Lord and Lady Hetheridge mystery series by Emma Jameson. Like its predecessors, it’s a conscious blend of mystery and comedy, with several minor characters as well drawn and convincing as the main characters. And like its predecessors, Hethridge has to battle Scotland Yard politics, scurrilous reports in the tabloids about Kate and the wedding, and well-placed and well-titled suspects who are always prepared to pull strings. 

Related:



Top photograph by Mavis CW via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

At the British Museum


An older American couple stood in line ahead of them. “You have a beautiful child,” the lady said, turning toward them.”

Sarah smiled. “Thank you. Right now, I’m thankful he’s chosen to cooperate and just stare at all the pictures.”

The lady smiled and then looked at Michael. “I suppose people have told you how much you look like King Michael.”

Michael laughed. “I think I’ve heard that a few times.”

-      From Dancing Prophet


Photograph by Grant Ritchie via Unsplash. Used with permission.

“Fingerprints of Love and War” by Edward Holmes


The Old Testament of the Bible is saturated with poetry. Five books – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song Solomon – are virtually all poetry. Poetry can be found in other books as well. And while the New Testament doesn’t have any overtly poetical books (with the possible exception of the Book of Revelation), poetry plays a significant role here as well. We don’t talk much about the place of poetry within the church today, but the poetic reality of the Bible should perhaps cause us to reconsider.

Edward Holmes, an ordained minister and speaker, has reconsidered. He’s created a work called Fingerprints of Love and War that combines devotional discussion, Bible verses, and poetry. What results is a rather beautiful form of worship with poetry at its heart. I’ve read a lot of Christian poetry, and I’ve read a lot of Christian devotionals, but I’ve never read a work that combined the two, at least until now.

He begins with fingerprints. Each of us has unique fingerprints. Similarly, Holmes says, each of us is created with a unique, specific plan, and he follows with poems about image and what it’s like to deny our true identity. He moves to love, noting that each of us was created from Love to love. He follows with poems like “Musings of the Master” and “Harmony.” And then there is war, the opposition we face in our day-to-day lives to live as we are designed to live. Here we have a long poem entitled “Edge,” which explains how we are to live our lives.

The words here are deep ones, thoughtful ones, and thoughtfully considered ones. The poems and devotional discussions fit together like a map to provide direction (one poem is, in fact, entitled “Compass”). 

In both poetry and prose, Fingerprints of Love and War bursts through the traditional boundaries that separate genres, much like the bearer of the message did 2,000 years ago.

Top photograph by Jon Tyson via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

It’s Poetry at Work Day – Discovering the Poetry of Gratitude


Today we celebrate Poetry at Work Day – the day each year we bring poems to work, share them with colleagues, read them aloud in small (or large) groups, perhaps leave a few on cafeteria tables, wallpaper them on our computer screens, and generally celebrate poetry in the workplace.

Last spring, I found myself rediscovering poetry at work. And rediscovering a sense of gratitude about work.

Three years previously, I had retired (a bit early). It was one of those “You know, it’s just time to go” kind of decisions. I still had much to offer, but, well, I’ll just leave it at that. It was time to go. I can truthfully say I have never regretted the decision. I miss the people I worked with, but I didn’t miss the organizational politics, the constant internal upheavals, and the frenzied “every day a new crisis” atmosphere. And I put my newly found free time to good use – writing, including two novels; editing; work with online publications; and spending more time with the grandchildren.

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

Monday, January 7, 2019

Poetry at Work Discussion Series at Literary Life


When it came, it came as a BFO – a blinding flash of the obvious.

I was working in communications for a Fortune 500 company. A large portion of the day-to-day work was meetings. We had a team-based culture, and to our work, our teams had to meet. 

The teams, and the meetings, proliferated. We had departmental meetings. We had cross-functional meetings. We had committee and subcommittee meetings. We had telephone meetings, video meetings, and online chat session meetings. We had one-on-one meetings. We had staff meetings. We had briefing sessions, strategy discussions, and crisis planning meetings. We often had meetings to plan meeting agendas.

I often wondered if the curse placed upon Adam and his work for eating of the Tree of Knowledge possibly included meetings.

To continue reading and to consider joining the discussion, please visit my post today at Literary Life.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

A thirst


After Psalm 42

A thirst, parched
a thirst, unslaked
asking when
eating tears, tears
leaving thirst behind
I walk through 
a desert, seeking,
and instead of finding,
I am found

I walk with a multitude 
singing, our voices pouring
into our souls, walking
to the house

The soul turns to memory
of crossing the river, fearful
and faithful, standing
on the mountain, fearful
and faithful, watching
the waterfall, its force
sweeping over

My thirst, unslaked, finds
water

Photograph by Dan Grinwis via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Saturday Good Reads


I’ve started a new category this week – the news media. The American news media have become so besotted with combatting what they see as the greatest threat to freedom of the press in the history of the world that they’re failing to see that the real enemy is rapidly becoming themselves. Perspective and a lot more are being lost. Trust in the news media is at an all-time low – and that’s a bad thing for all of us.

Media Myth Alert lists its top mythbusting posts of 2018 – and there are some sacred cows that get slaughtered here – Walter Cronkite, the famous “napalm girl” of the Vietnam War, Edward R. Murrow taking on Joseph McCarthy, and more. James Meek at the London Review of Books reviews a new book on journalism – and talks about a lot of the things plaguing journalism these days (Hat Tip: J of India). And Julia Duin at Get Religion looks at a New Yorker article on religion, and offers a devastating critique.

Angelo Codevilla at the Claremont Institute’s American Mind offers a look at “our revolution” – the revolt of the governed by those who govern. Cameron Clausing at All Thoughts Captive compares blasphemy in the Bible to blasphemy against “societal gods.” And Remi Adekova at Quillette tracks the rising concern about immigration – and discovers that the U.S. is far less concerned than a lot of other countries.

More Good Reads

Life and Culture

How America Grew Bored with Love – David Masciotra at The American Conservative.

On the Costs and Rewards of Planting Trees – Matt Miller at Front Porch Republic.

Movies


Faith


Poetry

The Death of a Poet and Other Cliches – Jerry Barrett at Gerald the Writer.

Svetlana Marisova – D.S. Martin at Kingdom Poets.


The News Media


Art and Photography

Lost Art: on the trail of vanished cities of legend – Noah Charney at The Art Newspaper.

New discoveries at Pompeii come amid renaissance at site – Angela Giuffrida at The Guardian.

Writing and Literature

Effective Marketing to a Declining Reading Populace – Sarah Bolme at Marketing Christian Books.

10 Tips for Reading in 2019 – Jon Coombs.

Why Read Old (Pagan) Books? – Jason Baxter at The Imaginative Conservative.

Spies in the Speakeasy: Crime Fiction of the 1920s – Tessa Lunney at CrimeReads.

Gary Barlow Sings “Never Enough” from The Greatest Showman
(And listening are Joanna Lumley and Rowan Atkinson)



Painting: Girl Reading, oil on canvas by Tony Robert-Fleury (1837-1911)