Sunday, February 25, 2024

Only one son

After Hebrews 1:5-2:4

He never called

an angel a son;

he never told

an angel to call

him a father.

Instead, he directed

their attention,

their worship,

to the firstborn,

the firstborn who

transforms angels

into winds, who

makes his ministers

into flames of fire.

He created the earth

and the heavens;

when they perish,

he remains.


Photograph by Ante Hamersmit via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


Spots of Time: Wordsworth, The Prelude, and the Power of Memory – Sally Thomas at Poems Ancient and Modern.


Sir Martin Gilbert and the Inklings – Bradley Birzer at The Imaginative Conservative. 


The Beauty of ‘Gospel Awkward’ – Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Saturday Good Reads - Feb. 24, 2024

The gentle author (that’s the pen name he uses) at Spitalfields Life used 1927 cigarette cards of Dickens’ London and took a walk to see the buildings, or remnants of buildings, that might still be there. And he took photographs, so you can juxtapose the drawings on the cards with the photos. As it turns out, one of them, the Water Gate at Essex Street, features an area in my novel Dancing Prophet. Another one, 48 Doughty Street, is the home of the Charles Dickens Museum.  

Stanford Medicine published a study that identified distinct brain organization patterns in women and men. While it’s something my wife could have told them without spending the research money, it’s still interesting that there is scientific evidence for it. I can’t even imagine the outrage this is going to evoke.


Dr. Michael Kruger, professor at and president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, notes one of the markers or characteristics of very early Christians. And it remains a marker of contemporary Christians. From earliest times, Christians were “people of the text.”


More Good Reads




Westminster Abbey and the Danger of Inhospitality – John Beeson at The Bee Hive.


When Cultural Tailwinds Become Cultural Headwinds – Stephen McAlpine.


Writing and Literature


Cormac McCarthy’s Sideline: Freelance Copy Editor – Joel Miller at Miller’s Book Review.


Fiction and Time – John Wilson at Prufrock. 


Any Day Now: An Adventure Story – Henry Lewis at Story Warren. 


Life and Culture


Katherine Brodsky Is Not Sorry – Rod Dreher at Rod Dreher’s Diary.


Critical Thinking”: What Does It Really Mean? – Daniel Lattier at The Imaginative Conservative.


Unpacking of “Separation of Church and State” – Alan Strange at Crossway.




Lenten Sonnet – Andrew Peterson at Rabbit Room Poetry.


“Disobedience” by A.A. Milne – Joseph Bottum at Poems Ancient and Modern.


Getting to Stop by Woods on a Snowy Evening – Simeon Swinger at Mere Orthodoxy. 


American Stuff


Roosevelt’s Grief – David Bannon at Front Porch Republic. 


“A Heart Devoted to the Welfare of Our Country” – John Quincy Adams’ inaugural address via The Imaginative Conservative. 


How the 1619 Project Distorted History – James Oakes at Jacobin.




Metaphor and Rain of one afternoon – Sonja Benskin Mesher.


Early Gerhard Richter mural, painted over in 1979, resurfaces in Dresden – Catherine Hickley at The Art Newspaper.




War and Genocide in the Name of God – Nicholas Denysenko at Church Life Journal.


Shadow of Shaddai – Steffany Gretzinger

Painting: Portrait of a Rabbi. Oil on canvas circa 1900. Artist unknown

Friday, February 23, 2024

A simple word

After Hebrews 1:1-4

He speaks a single word,

and the universe must

listen. He speaks a single

idea, and the universe

must hear it, accept it,

own it. A single word,

and the universe must

obey, pay heed, take

heed, absorb it. He

created the world;

his word upholds

the creation.


Photograph by Sixteen Miles Out via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings


From the Knight’s Tale – Geoffrey Chaucer at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin). 


Glossolalia – poem by Chris Wheeler at Rabbit Room Poetry.


Observations of eternity – poem by Franco Amati at Garbage Notes.


Riffing on the Psalms – Jody Lee Collins at Poetry & Made Things.


Pause – poem by Seth Lewis.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

"Dutch Threat" by Josh Pachter

College student Jack Farmer gets a dream assignment from his professor: spend two weeks in Amsterdam doing research, and all expenses are paid. The next thing he knows, he’s landing at Schiphol Airport and in a taxi to his hotel. 

The man he’s told to meet is a researcher and archivist at the Begijnhof, a complex of old buildings (including the oldest in the city) originally built for a Catholic sisterhood not unlike nuns. It’s original purpose has evolved; now it’s only older women who live there, and the waiting list is long indeed. Jack’s introduced to several of the residents, including one with a live-in nurse who bowls the student over. Then his host takes off for a conference, leaving Jack as a temporary resident so he can do his research – and feed the cat.


But then one of the ladies, the one with the attractive nurse, is found stabbed to death. Given that the complex is locked at night, suspicion falls on the nurse. The police are even more suspicious when the nurse turns out to be the victim’s sole beneficiary. But Jack knows better, and he’s determined to vindicate the young woman he’s falling in love with. 


Dutch Threat is the first, but not likely the last, of the Jack Farmer mysteries by Josh Pachter. It’s a fun story, full of Amsterdam’s sights (and food), written in an almost breezy, college-student style (with a good dose of colorful language). Pachter uses real locations, and while it’s been 25 years since I visited the city, I remember the Begijnhof, the Amsterdam Historical Museum, the Liedesplein, and many of the other scenes in the book.


Josh Pachter

Pachter has been a writer and teacher in high schools and universities in the United States and Europe. He’s also a translator, writer, and editor, and has had more than 100 crime stories published in a wide array of magazines, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine when he was 16. He’s edited numerous anthologies and translated both fiction and nonfiction, primarily from Dutch into English. He lives with his family in Virginia.


Dutch Threat (possibly a play on words of “Dutch treat”) is a fast-paced, something-always-happening mystery, filled with the color and people of Amsterdam.


Top photograph: The Begijnhof, Amsterdam by Yoan via Unsplash. Used with permission.


Some Thursday Readings


Josephine Tey, woman of mystery – Malcolm Forbes at The Critic Magazine.


9 Historical Mysteries That Have Been Adapted to Cinema – Patrice McDonough at CrimeReads. 


The Light No Light Allays – poem by Andy Patton at Rabbit Room Poetry.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

What Happens When You Finally Type "The End"?

It’s been more than two years since the writing began. It’s been more than four since the research started. A little over a month ago, on Jan. 16, I wrote this in my writing journal: “Reached 87,758 words. First draft completed.” Five days later, I wrote “First reread / editing completed.” 

It was there I stopped, almost mentally and emotionally spent. I need to do the second edit, which for me is the most serious one. But I stopped, to catch my breath, reflect and take stock, and consider how the past two years of my life have been devoted to a story that is about 25 percent true and 75 percent fiction. Nd what I thought was mostly true mostly wasn’t.


I’ve published five novels and a non-fiction book. I’ve completed two novel manuscripts that have potential but need considerable reworking. I have at least five different novel ideas, and a dozen short stories, buzzing around my head. 


This story I just finished, this manuscript I’ve labored over, isn’t exactly a labor of love. It’s more a labor of sweat, the story I had to get done. 


To continue reading, please see me post today at the ACFW Blog.


Top photograph by Rui Silva sj via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Wednesday Readings


Religion & Celebrity: The Search for Meaning in the 1920s – Mark Malvasi at The Imaginative Conservative.


Thunder in the Harbor by Richard W. Hatcher III – Civil War Books and Authors. 


Archaeologist searches to unravel a Civil War mystery in Southgate – Michael Coker at WCPO.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The Poetry Chapbooks of Red Ceilings Press

I’m not sure exactly when I first heard about “those beautiful, little” poetry chapbooks, but I had three of them in my hands by late last fall. And yes, they are little, postcard-size measuring four inches by slightly less than six inches, and about one-eighth of an inch thick. I also have one of the Red Ceilings eBooks, but I’m not sure if I can say I have it “in hand.”  

The Red Ceilings Press may be one of the most unusual publishing enterprises I’ve come across. Based in the United Kingdom, it publishes small poetry chapbooks in print from and short collections in ebook form. A printed pamphlet is about 30 pages. The ebooks vary, but mostly run about the same length or shorter (the ebooks are published as pdf documents). 


The press has been operating since 2010 with a very simple operating philosophy: “We love doing our chapbooks and that’s really our main thing, but we also publish the occasional eBook.” The approach to ebooks means no one involved is going to get rich, except perhaps the reader, metaphorically: “Our eBooks are available to download for free because we are nice like that.”

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

Some Tuesday Readings


Some days you don’t have it – poem by Franco Amati at Garbage Notes.

Alexei Navalny’s Letters from the Gulag – The Free Press.


Of Lord Byron’s faults, writing dull letters wasn’t one of them – Alexander Larman at The Spectator.


Learning to Receive the Day – L.M. Sacasas at The Convivial Society. 

Monday, February 19, 2024

“Christianity and Poetry” by Dana Gioia

Does poetry matter to your faith? 

Most Christians would likely be puzzled at the question even being asked. 


Poet Dana Gioia says it should matter. A lot.


In the essay “Christianity and Poetry,” first published 10 years ago, Gioia goes a lot further than saying it should matter. “It is an essential, inextricable, and necessary aspect of religious faith and practice.” It doesn’t matter that most Christians would find that statement absurd, he says, because it’s true. 


And then he considers the evidence. How did David pray to God? In poetry called psalms. How did Ruth respond to Naomi’s plea to go back home? In Poetry. The books of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes are all poetry. So are the Song of Solomon and Lamentations (and the Psalms, of course). While he doesn’t specifically mention it, what is chapter one of Genesis but an oral poem of creation; God speaks the physical world into existence.


The gospels and epistles of the New Testament bear the imprint of poetry. The book of Revelation is a prose poem, he says. The Beatitudes are shaped by prophetic verse. Mary’s announcement of the Incarnation in Luke is a poem. Some scholars believe the Aramaic of the Lord’s Prayer is a poem. “When Jesus preached,” Gioia says, “he told stories, spoke poems, and offered proverbs.


Dana Gioia

Both Protestants, via modern translations of the Bible, and Catholics, via Vatican II, ground poetry out of Scriptures. The music and the mystery were deemphasized in favor of the strictly rational. And in the process, we forget, or deny, a key aspect of God.


Yes, it’s a startling essay, and it goes on for 32 pages. But the man makes a solid argument. To ignore the poetical nature of the Bible is to miss fully understanding it.


I came to poetry late. Yes, I was exposed to the poetry we all were in middle and high school, with a strong infusion of British poetry in college. But it wasn’t until I began writing speeches as a central part of my career that I began to take poetry seriously, as something that mattered.


And what I began to notice, because I was a church-attending Christian who read and studied on his own as well, was that the Bible was one of the most poetic books I’d ever encountered. It’s almost as if poetry is the language of God.


Gioia has published six poetry collections, several works about poetry, and a number of translations, including the recent The Madness of Hercules. He is a former poet laureate of California and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. He’s written four opera libretti and collaborated on many musical compositions. His awards include the American Book Award, the Poet’s Prize, Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern Poetry, and the Walt Whitman Champion of Liberty Prize, among others. 




Dana Gioia and Meet Me at the Lighthouse: Poems.


Rediscovering Seneca: Dana Gioia Translates The Madness of Hercules.


Dana Gioia’s Pity the Beautiful: Poems.


Some Monday Readings


A paper manifesto – Elizabeth Stice at Current Magazine.


Editing: Scratch That, Try This Instead – Joel Miller at Miller’s Book Review. 


10° – artwork by Sonja Benskin Mesher. 


Churches at the City Boundaries: St. Andrew’s, Holborn – A London Inheritance.


The Great Beast – artwork by Jack Baumgartner at The School of the Transfer of Energy.