Sunday, September 26, 2021

Pilgrimage I

After Isaiah 9:6 and Psalm 121

When I say I lift

my eyes up

to the hills,

I speak on the road

to the city,

the city on a hill,

the city in these hills,

the home of where

we worship.

I am on the road,

on the pilgrimage,

because the sound 

in my heart requests,

in my heart requires, 

this journey

to the hills. 

When I lift 

my eyes up

to the hills,

I see the source

of what sustains,

of what sustains me.


Photograph by Damien DUFOUR Photographie via Unsplash. Used with permission

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Saturday Good Reads - Sept. 25, 2021

Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See, has a new book coming out this week. He talks with The Guardian about it, about writing, Netflix’s adaptation of All the Light, and why his new novel is partially set in medieval Constantinople.  

Former Saturday Night Live comedian Norm MacDonald died recently from cancer. Surprisingly (for a SNL comedian), MacDonald was a Christian, as Matthew Walther at The New York Times points out (that’s something of a surprise, too). Anne Kennedy at Preventing Grace looks at two deaths that happened on Wednesday – MacDonald’s and that of John Shelby Spong, the Episcopal bishop who said he was embarrassed by the gospel.


Sean Wilentz is a historian known for his left-wing views. In a very long essay in Opera Historica (so long it’s a pdf), he writes about the 1619 Project. And he says that as soon as he started reading the introductory essay in The New York Times Magazine that launched the project, he knew that, whatever else it might be about, it wasn’t about history. 


More Good Reads




It Has to Be Dark Before We Can See – Tim Challies.


Grace, Works, and Raducanu – Andrew Wilson at Think Theology.


What the Seasons Say – Glenna Marshall.


Stewardship in a Consumption Culture – Will Costello at The Cripplegate.


Note Taking in Worship – Persis Lorenti at Reformation 21.


Life and Culture


The Miracle of Imagination – Sharon Monzingo at Story Warren.


The Post-Pax-Americana World – Bret Stephens at Commentary.




“Actor” and “Girl Disappointed in Love” – Karol Wojtyla at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


An Interview With Leading Poet and Petrarch Translator A.M. Juster – Evan Mantyk at Society of Classical Poets.


The Song of Streams – Seth Lewis.


Celebrating Silence – Joseph Pearce at The Imaginative Conservative.


American Stuff


Remaining Anonymous When You’re the First President of the United States – Nathaniel Philbrick at Literary Hub.


Writing and Literature


The Death of Gandalf – Gerrit Scott Dawson at Desiring God.


Joseph Loconte on War, Friendship, and Imagination – John Murdock at Front Porch Republic.




Velázquez and Teresa of Ávila: The Lord Along Pots and Pans – Charles Scribner III at Church Life Journal.


“Paris is Paris. There is But One.” On Van Gogh’s Painterly Relationship to France – Gloria Fossi at Literary Hub.


Ai Weiwei: “Artists’ aren’t able to defend human values anymore” – Jose da Silva at The Art Newspaper.


Last Christmas – Emilia Clark

Painting: A boy reading, possibly Nicolaes Hals, oil on canvas by Frans Hals (1580-1666)

Friday, September 24, 2021

Adjectives and verbs

After Psalm 19: 7-11

It’s an assembly,

adjectives and verbs

joined together

to describe, succinctly,


of the indescribable.

The law: perfect.

The law: revives the soul.

The testimony: trustworthy.

The testimony: makes wise.

The precepts: right.

The precepts: rejoice the heart.

The commandments: pure.

The commandments: open the eyes.

The fear: clean,

The fear: endures forever.

The rules: true.

The rules: righteous.

All off the above:

more desirable than gold,

sweeter than honey,

serving as a warning,

for to keep them

is the great reward.


Photograph by Mikhail Pavstyuk via Unsplash. Used with permission.


Thursday, September 23, 2021

"Summary Justice" by John Fairfax

William Benson is not your typical British barrister. In his early 30s, he has a philosophy degree. He comes from a family of fishermen. Never married, he lives by himself with a cat on a houseboat on one of London’s canals. He’s also a convicted murderer. 

Summary Justice by John Fairfax is the first in the William Benson legal thriller mysteries, and it keeps the reader wide-eyed at how all of this happened, the murder case Benson’s defending, how he’s managed to practice law after serving 11 years of a life sentence in prison, and how he’s managing to continue working despite the opposition of the legal establishment, a leading member of Parliament, and the family of his alleged victim, who are not above acts of petty harassment, vandalism, and even physical attacks. 


The case Benson is the defending attorney for involves the murder of the owner of a transport company. A woman working for the company is accused of the murder, and it looks like an airtight case. Her DNA was even found on the murder weapon, a broken bottle of beer. She had motive, opportunity, and was seen at the scene of crime. The evidence seems seriously stacked against her. 


John Fairfax, aka William Brodrick

What Benson sees, however, is the similarities to his own murder trial, and a successful defense may help vindicate his own experience, at least in his own mind. How the author weaves the past and the present together is one of the hallmarks of this first-rate mystery novel. And he adds to the narrative blend with Tess De Vere, the woman solicitor who is working with Benson. De Vere is a member of one of London’s most reputable legal chambers, and she faces intense opposition to her work with Benson. She’s also learning that Benson isn’t what she first thinks he is.


John Fairfax is the pen name for British writer William Brodrick, the author of the Father Anselm mysteries. Under the Fairfax name, he’s also published Blind Defence and Forced ConfessionsBrodrick was a friar in the Augustine order before he became a barrister and a writer. The Father Anselm mystery A Whispered Name won the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award in 2009. Brodrick lives in France. 


Summary Justice becomes one of those books that is difficult to put down – until it becomes impossible to put down. Fairfax/Brodrick had a different sleuth altogether in his previous novels – a former lawyer who became a monk. In this series, he has a different kind of monk – a convicted murderer. It’s a crackerjack story.




My review of The Day of the Lie by William Brodrick.


My review of Brodrick’s The 6th Lamentation.


My review of The Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick.


My review of A Whispered Name by William Brodrick.


My review of The Discourtesy of Death by William Brodrick.


My review of The Silent Ones by William Brodrick.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

"The Only Way Home" by Jeanette Minniti

It’s 1933, the pit of the Great Depression. Fifteen-year-old Robert has left his home with his best friend Johnny in Elmhurst, Illinois, near Chicago, to try to find work to earn money for their families. Robert’s father had died from cancer; his mother is struggling to make ends meet for herself and the rest of the children. They’ve had to leave their home and live in a much smaller place, and only then through the generosity of others. Robert’s mother has even sold his beloved violin to buy food. 

Robert’s transportation from Chicago to points south is what it was for thousands of others during the Depression – hopping a train boxcar. He and Johnny move from state to state, city to city, always watching out for railroad detectives and other people searching for work; many of the people they’d meet couldn’t be trusted. It’s a discouraging time. Johnny decides to return home, while Robert continues to look for work.


Jeanette Minniti

The Only Way Home
 by Jeanette Minniti is Robert’s story and the story of the people he meets and the places he goes. It’s a dark time in America; hunger stalks the land. People are suspicious, often with good reason, of itinerants and hoboes. But what Robert also finds are people who help, even if they can’t offer work. And he meets a new friend, Tucker, who’s beent old by his father they can no longer afford to feed him.


Minniti received a M.A. degree on journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder. The Only Way Home is her first novel. She lives in Monument, Colorado.


The Only Way Home tells a well-researched story of what happens in a crisis or disaster, how it affects individual people and families, and how crises bring out the best and the worst in people.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Poets and Poems: Peter A and "Art of Insomnia"

In Art of Insomnia, the poet Peter A, and that’s the name he goes by, as in Peter A Writer, has created a chapbook of some 22 poems that are introspective and yet outward-focused. That’s a trick to pull off. Introspective poets tend to dwell on the self. Peter A casts himself in the context of others, both other people and other relationships. 

And the relationship that occupies the center in this collection is that of Peter A and his wife. 


The poems suggest that it is something far deeper than a broken relationship. Instead, they tell a story of the pain of physical separation, of loss, and perhaps even of death. 

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

Monday, September 20, 2021

“Mr. Nicholas” by Christopher de Vinck

Jim is a reporter for The New York Times. He and his wife Anna, an artist, live in nearby New Jersey. Jim is very focused on his career; he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize once and is determined to win one. He also likes sports. What he doesn’t seem to pay much attention to is his wife.  

Trying to draw Jim closer, Anna gets pregnant and has a child, a boy. He’s named JB, and he has Down’s Syndrome. Jim is so appalled that he can barely look at his son. Instead of drawing them closer, the child has driven them, and especially Jim, further away. Anna finally insists on a separation and counseling. JB is now 10, and shuttles between the two. Counseling is not going well; it’s hard to imagine that a person who’s supposed to be a reporter and ferret out real stories is missing the story of his own family. 


Christopher de Vinck

Jim lives near a hardware store run by Mr. Nicholas. It’s an unusual store in that it has everything. If a desired item is not readily apparent, Mr. Nicholas heads to the basement, and soon the product appears. People are always amazed. And a little suspicious. Children love Mr. Nicholas, but he’s so strange might there be something wrong with him?


Mr. Nicholas by Christopher de Vinck tells the story of what happens one Christmas with Mr. Nicholas, Jim, and JB. It’s a small story with a large-as-your-heart theme. The reader understands what’s going on, and JB certainly does, but what will it take for Jim and even Anna to understand?


De Vinck is the author of numerous novels and non-fiction works, including AshesThe Power of the Powerless: A Brother’s Legacy of LoveHeart Speaks to Heart: Three Gospel Meditations on JesusNouwen Then: Personal Reflections on HenriThe Book of Moonlight, and several others. He received his Ph.D. degree from Columbia University and spent 40 years in public education. He’s also published essays in The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalChicago Tribune, and other leading publications. 


Mr. Nicholas catches the personality of a hard-bitten reporter exactly right. It captures the wonder and innocence of a boy who doesn’t know he’s not like anyone else, including his father. It shows the breakdown of a marriage, and its slow yet still miraculous rebuilding. And it tells a heartwarming story of Christmas and why we celebrate it.