Sunday, May 28, 2023

There is a freedom

After Galatians 4:8-20

There is  freedom

to be shaped by

the Word, the freedom

that leaves death

behind, the freedom

of having the chains

drop from our wrists

and ankles, the freedom

to walk in light,

the freedom to walk

away from the darkness,

the freedom to be changed

from dead to living,

the freedom to see

the scales drop

from our eyes. It is

a freedom to be

treasured. A freedom

to be cherished.


Photograph by Abhishek Koli via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - May 27, 2023

In my novel Dancing Prince, I included a standalone novella at the end. It’s set in Viking times, and, while it’s strictly fiction, it’s about certain Viking groups becoming Christian well before most historians thought. John Ehrett at Mere Orthodoxy has a post about Vikings, and how they became more civilized and less, well, Viking. See “The End of Viking Vitalism.” 

Way back in 2003 and 2004, I spent time working at the director of communication for St. Louis Public Schools. One program that was highly regarded was Teach for America – an organization that recruited recent graduates from Ivy League-type universities to teach in inner city schools. One of the most moving stories I read this week was “Taught for America” by Andrew X. Evans (a pseudonym). The tragedy that is too many inner-city schools is a story of the disintegration of inner-city culture and life. 


In high school, I was a member of my school’s debate team. It was a considerable amount of work, with the bonus (?) of traveling to debate and speech tournaments in small cities across south Louisiana – Hammond, Lake Charles, Lafayette, and once, Baton Rouge. That was more than 50 years ago. There are still debate teams and debate tournaments, but times have changed. James Fishback at The Free Press explains that debate is no longer really allowed at debate tournaments.


More Good Reads


Writing and Literature


Rediscovering Martin Amis – Ben Sixsmith at The Critic Magazine.


Martin Amis’s death is the end of a great British comic tradition – Alexander Larman at The Spectator.


The 100 Greatest Children’s Books of All Time – BBC.




Why has Ukraine owned up to Russian assassinations? – Mark Galeotti at The Spectator.




The Whole World Gone Blind – Greg Doles at Chasing Light.


15 Things About John Calvin You May Not Know – Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen.


Cynicism Isn’t a Spiritual Gift – Daniel Darling at For the Church.


American Stuff


How Abraham Lincoln Broke the Barrier Between Church and State – Joshua Zeitz at Politico.


A Local Look at the Meanings of the Founding: A Review of The Nation that Never Was by Kermit Roosevelt III – Max Longley at Front Porch Republic.


The campaign against the Supreme Court’s legitimacy – The Spectator.


Life and Culture


Christopher Dawson & the History We Are Not Told – Jeffrey Hart at The Imaginative Conservative.


The anatomy of cancellation: How speech ends up being suppressed – Charley Bentley-Astor at The Critic Magazine.


Is American Theater Really Dead? – Daniel McInery at The Imaginative Conservative.


Is there anything left to conserve? The chickens of modernity have come home to roost – Paul Kingsnorth at UnHerd.


Does Maturity Still Matter? – Samuel D. James at Mere Orthodoxy.




Poetry Showcase: Elena Kotsile – Fevers of the Mind. 


Take Shelter – Keith & Kristyn Getty and Skye Peterson

 Painting: Woman Reading, woodblock print (1852) by Utagawa Kuniypshi (1798-1861)

Friday, May 26, 2023

My heart breaks

After Galatians 4:8-20

I know how far

you traveled, how

far you came, and

my heart breaks.

I know the death

you rejected, 

the death you left

behind, and

my heart breaks.

I know the light you

traded for darkness,

the light you rejected,

and my heart breaks.


Come back.

Heal my heart.


Photograph by Marah Bashir via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

"The Crossing" by Matt Brolly

Detective Inspector (DI) Louise Blackwell has been exiled to the police station in Weston-super-Mare, about 20 miles from her former headquarters in Bristol. Her police partner lied about what happened during a confrontation with a killer, and Louise had shot the man. It turned out that the killer wasn’t armed, the opposite of what the partner had told Louise. An investigation cleared her, sort of, she was transferred to the smaller and less active station, and her partner got the promotion Louise should have had. And everyone in her new police office knows she’s under a cloud. 

A body is found on the beach; it’s clear the elderly woman had been tortured before being killed. Then a priest is murdered in the confessional. Few would have made the connection between the two cases, but Louise did. And the link was an old fire at the church decades before.


The reader knows what the investigating police do not know. The killer is a man in his 30s, seeking to gain revenge. What the reader doesn’t know is why – and it’s the “why” that Louise must unravel to find the killer before he murders again.


Matt Brolly

And chomping at the bit to take over the case is her old partner, who would love nothing better than to drive Louise out of the police force.


The Crossing by British writer Matt Brolly is the first in the DI Louise Blackwell series, and it’s an edge-of-your-seat story filled with tension (and the hope that the former partner will get his just desserts). As a character, Louise Blackwell is a nice blend of sharp-as-a-tack police officer with a number of human frailties.


Brolly has written several mystery novels in the DI Louise Blackwell series, including The Crossing, The Descent, The Gorge, The Mark, The Pier, and The Bridge. He’s also written several novels in the DCI Lambert series and the Lynch and Rose series. He lives in London with his family.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

“The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg & Tullahoma,” edited by Chris Mackowski & Dan Welch

There are few more momentous years in American history than 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation. The Battle of Gettysburg, ending Robert E Lee’s invasion of the North. The Fall of Vicksburg, which effectively cut the Confederacy in half. More than 30,000 books have been written on the Battle of Gettysburg alone. 

And there are few more actively maintained and managed Civil War web sites than Emerging Civil War. With 28 contributors and seven editors (all of whom also contribute), the site is updated daily and often several times a day. 


Chris Mackowski serves as editor-in-chief, and Dan Welch is one of the site’s contributors. Together, they have edited some 40 articles about the Civil War summer of 1863, focusing ontwo major campaigns – Vicksburg in Mississippi and Tullahoma in Tennessee. Usually works about that momentous summer address the Battle of Gettysburg; The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg & Tullahoma are about the other two campaigns whose outcomes had as much to do with the defeat of the Confederacy as did Gettysburg. In fact, one might argue that Vicksburg had at least as great an impact on the war as Gettysburg did, and perhaps more.

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Poets and Poems: James Sale and "StairWell"

I’ve never said that I’m eagerly awaiting the publication of a new poetry volume or collection. I have said it about a novel by a favorite author, or a new mystery in an enthralling series. Perhaps it’s because poetry has always been something more cerebral or quietly emotional, perhaps.  

Then came poet James Sale and his contemporary epic structured like (and written in open homage to) Dante and his InfernoPurgatorio, and Paradiso, the three parts of The Divine Comedy. Sale began writing what he called The English Cantos in 2017, and the first volume, HellWard, was published in 2019. Then came the COVID pandemic and Sale’s own health issues. 


Four years after HellWard, we now have StairWell, Vol. II of the English Cantos, corresponding to Dante’s Purgatorio. And, yes, I’d heard it was coming. I can now say I eagerly anticipated a work of poetry. I can also say it bully justified my eagerness. StairWell is a marvel of imagination, insight into the human condition, and social commentary. 

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

Monday, May 22, 2023

“Renewal: The Church That Expands Outward” by Luke H. Davis

Until now, about the only thing I associated with the famous minister Jonathan Edwards was the sermon often mentioned (and often reprinted) in American history books. The title and the substance of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” gives an impression of a fiery sermon, with much shouting and a voice that was threatening and perhaps scary. The way it’s portrayed in history books certainly gives that impression. 

Then I read Renewal: The Church That Expands Outward by Luke H. Davis, and I discovered how wrong my understanding was. Edwards didn’t give fiery sermons; he spoke in a monotone and low-key voice because he believed the content didn’t need dressing up with theatrics. He faced concerns from his own church leaders. And Edwards eventually became a missionary to Native Americans in Massachusetts and president of Princeton University.


So much for the stereotype.


Renewal is the fourth in Davis’s series on church history for young people. It focuses on the years 1600 to 1900, what Davis calls the Age of Expansion. The chapters are generally organized around people; Davis writes an engaging story based on fact about each and then follows with a short factual paragraph. He also inserts “Fact File” chapters, where he provides more in-depth background on events, movements, and periods of church history. 


Luke H. Davis

The people covered include Edwards, John Bunyan. George Whitefield, William Wilberforce, Charles Spurgeon, Sojourner Truth. Hudson Taylor, Dwight Moody and several others. The structure is similar for each; I found myself particularly taken with the fictional stories based on real events.


Davis teaches at Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis and chairs the Bible Department there. He’s also taught at schools in Louisiana, Florida, and Virginia. He describes himself as “Presbyterian body, Lutheran heart, Anglican blood, Orthodox spirit,” all of which have served him well in writing the Cameron Ballack mysteries. He has published three Ballack mysteries, Litany of Secrets (2013), The Broken Cross (2015), and A Shattered Peace (2017), and the first book of a new series, Joel: The Merivalkan Chronicles Book 1 (2017). He blogs at For Grace and Kingdom.


Renewal, like its predecessors, is aimed at young readers (roughly 10-14) but, as in my own case, even adults who think they know a lot can discovered they know – well, less that they thought. It’s an engaging way to teach church history and whet the interest for more.


Last WeekReform: The Church at the Birth of Protestantism by Luke H. Davis.




My review of Redemption: The Church in Ancient Times.


My review of Reign: The Church in the Middle Ages.


Reading a Novel that Stars Your Hometown.


My review of Litany of Secrets.


My review of The Broken Cross.


My review of A Shattered Peace.


My review of Tough Issues, True Hope by Luke Davis.