Saturday, January 22, 2022

Saturday Good Reads - Jan. 22, 2022

In recent weeks, many major media have published articles about what they see as a looming civil war in the United States – the real thing, not just red and blue sniping at each other over stolen elections or potential stolen elections. Not so fast, says journalist James Pogue, writing at UnHerd, pointing out that there’s much that the major media overlook or don’t understand.  

In a similar vein, a lot of conservative media have been publishing stories about the creating of the wokeness wave, that wokeness has run its course and a self-correction is underway. Not so fast, says N.S. Lyons at The Upheaval; the revolution isn’t over.


If you were asked where most writers might fall on the political spectrum, you would probably not be far off to say liberal / progressive / radical. Micah Mattix at The Spectator has a different take, and he writes about writing’s conservative impulse


More Good Reads


Life and Culture


What Secularization Did to the Self – Angela Franks at Church Life Journal.


Why I Dislike the Word ‘Capitalism’ – Dr. Anne Bradley at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics.


Enter the Metaverse: Unlike the Internet, the dawning digital environment promises autonomy from the physical world– Bruno Maçães at CityJournal. 


The global war on religion – David Landrum at The Critic Magazine.




Five Things I Learned as a Pastor’s Kid – Samuel James at Insights.


Good Bad Art and Bad Bad Art – Jonathan Rogers at The Rabbit Room.


Vulnerable conversation with TobyMac about grief and loss – 99.1 Joy FM.


3 Simple Ways to Flatten Your Neighbor – Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition.


Writing and Literature


Don Quixote: Saintly Knight – Brittany Guzman at The Imaginative Conservative.


Crossing the River Zbrucz: A short story by Isaac Babel, translated by Peter Constantine – Narrative Magazine. 


Mapping fiction: the complicated relationship between authors and literary maps – Veronica Esposito at The Guardian.




The port – Sonja Benskin Mesher.


Lockdown – Caitlyn Venniker at Society of Classical Poets.


To the Reader -- Vijay Seshadri at Literary Hub.


American Stuff


7 Iconic Figures of the American Frontier – Kyle Hoekstra at History Hit.


News Media 


Bitter Fruit: Marshall McLuhan and the Rise of Fake News – Graham Majin at Quillette.


I Just Called to Say I Love You – Pentatonix

Painting: Maid Reading in a Library, oil on canvas by 
Edouard John Menta (1858-1915).

Friday, January 21, 2022

The city of Pan

After Matthew 16:13-20

It is the city of Pan,

and of Baal before that,

a city replete with statues

to worship, now the city

of Caesar, of the deity

of man and self, this city

of Greeks and Syrians and

a dash of ruling Romans,

a gentile city. It is here

that he asks them

who he is, who do people

say he is. Answers vary:

the reborn cousin, the man

who rode a chariot of fire,

the prophet sawn in half

for speaking truth.

He persists: 

But who

do you 

say I am?


Photograph by Sarah McCutcheon via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

When Journalism Began to Change

When I read Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now by former editor of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger, I was struck with how much his experience at the newspaper tracked with my own experience in corporate communications. The worldwide web and what followed was upending his world at the newspaper at the same time it had begun to change mine – and for the same reasons. We began to deal with it earlier, while The Guardianand other newspapers were affected more quickly, but we were grappling with many of the same issues and at roughly the same time (1995-2015). 

I left corporate communications for a time – almost four years. I felt worked to death, spun off, and finally laid off, and I was done. I set up my own consulting firm, and I was focused on two areas of communications – writing speeches and community relations. In late 2003, a friend dared me to apply for the top communications job at St. Louis Public Schools, which I did, thinking I’d never hear anything. I was wrong. They called, I interviewed along with nine others (we were all told to report at the same time and sat in the same room until we were interviewed). I got the job and started work the next morning.

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

Photograph by Markus Spiske via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

"Discipl-ish" by Mike Duran

Mike Duran took an unconventional path to Christian faith and ministry, but it was “unconventional” only in the sense that it wasn’t the usual coming-to-faith “cartoon” that’s presented as common to all believing Christians, as in, “I was a sinner, and I was saved one night.” 

What Duran’s memoir, Discipl-ish: My Unconventional Pilgrimage thru Faith, Art, & Evangelical Culture, conveys more than anything else is how coming to faith lasts a lifetime. It includes breakthroughs, setbacks, problems, upheavals, victories, discouragement, and growth. Faith is life, and it’s messy and hard and sometimes painful, but it is also unbelievably rewarding.


Duran was raised in the Catholic Church, including attendance in Catholic schools and serving as an altar boy. But he always had a rebellious steak, a streak that took him at a relatively young age into drugs, the occult, and delinquency. What he didn’t know then was that he was on a pilgrimage to Christian faith.


He describes how he first experienced the call to faith; how he discovered gifts he didn’t know he had, like teaching and preaching; the churches he attended, including a heavy metal church; how he became and served as a pastor and how he left the pastoral ministry; and how he rediscovered ministry through working at a painting company, construction work; and becoming a maintenance painter at the local public school district.


Mike Duran

He casts an honest eye on himself and the people who influenced his pilgrimage, for good and for bad. And he comes to recognize that “for good and for bad” is a misleading description of what happens to him and his faith over a lifetime.


Duran is a novelist, writer, former pastor, and speaker. His novels and stories occupy an unusual spot in Christian fiction – that of Christian horror and speculative fiction. He’s known for his penetrating insights into Christianity and its critics, both inside and outside the church, and he blogs regularly about issues and events (I’ve included his blog posts more than 50 times over the years on Saturday Good Reads). He’s also an artist, known for his wall crosses and other works. He lives with his family in Southern California. 


Discipl-ish is honest, and often painfully honest. In telling his story, Duran doesn’t spare himself and his own actions. And this is what makes this story real and familiar: we ultimately see the reflection of ourselves and our own faith pilgrimages.




My review of Mike Duran’s Subterranea


My review of Mike Duran’s Christian Horror: on the Compatibility of a Biblical Worldview and the Horror Genre.


My review of Mike Duran’s The Resurrection.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Poets and Poems: Daniel Leach and "Places the Soul Goes"

If you’ve ever wondered about the places the soul might go, poet Daniel Leach has some possible, and possibly suggested, answers.  

Old houses. A church in Fredericksburg, Texas. Canyons in the American West. Devil’s Hole in the Niagara River.  The windows peered through in dreams. A woodland pond. Forests of night. The Pergamon altar in modern-day Turkey (or the Pergamon Museum in Germany). The air full of history in Berlin. Woodstock in 1969. The realm of fairies.


Leach’s latest collection of poems, Places the Soul Goes, is an interior travelogue of thought, belief, exploration, and imagination. 

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

Monday, January 17, 2022

"History of the Rain" by Niall Williams

There is a moment in the novel History of the Rain by Irish writer Niall Williams where the narrator, a young woman suffering from “a sickness of the blood,” says this about books and literature: 

“I can’t remember who said it, but it’s true that whenever anyone reads Shakespeare they become Shakespeare. Well, the same is true for Yeats. Take an afternoon. Sit and read his poems. Any, it doesn’t really matter. Spend an afternoon, read out loud. And as you do…you rise.”


Read History of the Rain, and you will become the story. It is a story about writing and books and literature. It’s about a village named Faha in County Clare, Ireland (four hours by bus to Dublin) with a cast of characters as only could be invented by an Irish writer. Or perhaps Dickens. It’s a story about a family and family tragedy. You know it’s about tragedy because parts, or people, are missing from the outset. And the story is about why.


And it’s a story about love.


“Plain” Ruth Swain, as she describes herself, is in the attic bedroom of her house in Faha. It’s the house where she and her twin brother Aeney were born, Aeney first, of course, because he likely raced to get out. Her mother has lived in this same house since she was born, and of all the suitors she could have married, the one she chose was the Stranger, the one who ignored her when she walk along the bank of the River Shannon into the village. Virgil Swain was staring at the river and seemed completely unaware because he was unaware. Until the time when he comes to realize that he’s in love with her.


Niall Williams

Ruth is suffering from an illness, never officially identified but it’s what must be leukemia. And she’s trying to discover her father, and the only way she has to do that is to read the books he read, more than 3,000 of them. And as she reads, her father’s story gradually unfolds, as do the stories of her mother, her brother, and herself.


It is a marvelous story.


Williams is the author of several plays and the novels Four Letters of LoveAs It Is in HeavenThe Fall of LightOnly Say the WordBoy in the WorldBoy in ManThis is Happiness, and John, a fictional account of the past year of the Apostle John. History of the Rain, published in 2014, was longlisted for the Booker Prize and has been translated into several languages. With his wife, Christine, he’s published four books about their life in County Clare, Ireland. He’s also written several screenplays for television and film.


I usually read quickly. I started reading History of the Rain and deliberately slowed myself down. It took less than the first chapter for me to see I was holding something remarkable in my hands. It’s a novel in which every sentence is worth reading, at least once. It’s a story that you become part of. It’s a hymn to literature and writing. I read nothing else for a week, and when I finished, I had tears in my eyes because it was a great story and because I didn’t want it to end.


And it doesn’t.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Take good notes

After John 7:14-24

He speaks; they hear,

they do not listen.

In simple words, he

outlines his authority,

explaining the difference

between Father and self.

He focuses on their intent

to eliminate any perceived

threats. He points out

their hypocrisy, duplicity,

their enslavement 

to appearances, favoring

perception over reality, 

perception over the true.

One might think they would

take good notes; they do,

but the wrong kind:

the notes of condemnation

and destruction.


Photograph by Antoine Julien via Unsplash. Used with permission.