Monday, January 31, 2011

The Language of Food

Our discussion at The High Calling this week of The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God covers three essays, we’re taking a turn toward the political. Not that the political is necessarily a bad thing, but politics now permeates virtually all aspects of American life, including food. Sometimes it becomes very wearying, indeed.

I love the stories, poems and novels of Wendell Berry, whose essay in this collection, “The Pleasure of Eating,” is taken from his previously published work What Are People For? His fiction, poetry and non-fiction are of a piece, reflecting a particular philosophy, faith and worldview. Berry has become something of the patron saint of the local food/slow food movement, which (among other things) espouses knowing where your food comes from and living close to where your food is produced, even producing some or all of it yourself if possible.

The definition of local has varied. Originally, local meant within five miles, which was a problem for the great urban centers of New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, not to mention the rest of us who live in much smaller urban centers. Today, “local” is generally suggested to be something within 400 miles of where you live, which seems to me to stretch the idea of “local.” Can you really “know” the farmer who grows your food if he or she lives 400 miles away?

I hesitate to criticize Berry. I have friends who half-jokingly refer to him as St. Wendell. As I said, I enjoy his poetry and fiction. And I work for an agricultural company that Berry sees as part of the problem with American food and agriculture, so anything I might say would be immediately suspect.

I don’t criticize Berry for his writings and beliefs. He has a very well considered philosophy of agriculture and farming, better thought out that a lot of the current celebrities who run around today publishing books and making speeches. Berry’s philosophy and the articulation of it are cohesive and holistic.

My problem is the language.

“Eating is an agricultural act.” “Industrial farming.” “Bichemical agriculture.” “Like industrial sex, industrial eating has become a degraded, poor and paltry thing.” Passive consumers are “persuaded to want” what they buy. There are notions of the food industry conspiring to prevent people from knowing where their food comes from, and even a direct statement that our very freedom is at stake in the politics of food.

Others (not Berry) go further: if you don’t believe these things, if you don’t believe what I believe, then you are part of the problem; and if you’re one of those big companies involved in agriculture, then you are de facto evil.

I have this stubborn tendency not to trust anyone on any side of an issue who claims to be absolutely correct. I am peculiarly sensitive to statements made with “the sentiment of superiority,” which assumes that if you don’t agree then you must be stupid, manipulated or both.

What I really don’t like is what it this language communicates about 99 percent of farmers: that farmers are manipulated, misled, or worse, active participants in the destruction of the environment, producing the food of “industrial eating.”

This is plain, flat-out wrong.

This is the language of superiority; it is also the language of exclusion and implied denigration. If you don’t accept what lies behind this language, you become the demonized other.

Berry may right on one thing: our very freedom may indeed be at stake in the politics of food.

Only not the way he believes it to be. We may have far more to fear about the language of food.

To see more posts on The Spirit of Food, visit the discussion at The High Calling.

A Mystery to Bear, to Bare

Known only to those
who know,
the secret things,
the secret thing
made known to the few
because it was the plan,
it was his good pleasure.

All things brought together
all things heaven
all things earth
all people
chosen and goy alike
Jacob and the Greeks
all things under one,
the one hiding
all treasures of wisdom
all treasures of knowledge.

A mystery entrusted
to the faithful to carry;
to bear the mystery,
to bare the mystery
but only in love,
always love, until
the days of the trumpet.

This poem is submitted to The Warrior Poets Circle, sponsored by Jason Stasyszen at Connecting to Impact. Today’s prompt is the “mystery of God.” To see other poems, please visit the site. The links will be live Monday morning.

Photograph: Rood by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Or is it moondust?

Walking the hard packed earth
(or is it moon dust?) in dying
sunlight, a cruising Crusoe
shipwrecked, seeking food
or any other hopeful thing,
a trail of footprints
(or breadcrumbs?) behind
for the wind to taste and
consume, an eroding
journey of a circular
gastronomy of air.

Seeking a way, the way
or even a Friday (willing
to settle for a Thursday and
a Saturday is too much
to hope), finding footprints,
totems of human breadcrumbs,
now pressing, emerging whole,
breaking through, an eruption
from the underside, a mirrored path
of walking the hard packed earth,
or is it moon dust?

This poem is submitted for the One Shot Sunday photo challenge sponsored by One Stop Poetry. To see other poems and the interview with iPhoneographer Iquanyin Moon, please visit the site.

Photograph: Footprints by Iquanyin Moon for One Stop Poetry. Used with permission.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Good Reads

I've been traveling for most of this week, and not able to read as much as I usually do. But you don't have to look far to find good stuff -- from Big Mama's kitchen, a love letter to a husband and 14 questions from a balcony to sermon notes as poems and the cover art for the new book of poems by Maureen Doallas.


A Deafening Silence” by Ed Blonski at True Men Ministries.

Choosing my own reality” by Kathy Richards at Katdish.

Big Mama’s Kitchen” by Deidra Riggs at Jumping Tandem.

Contractions” by Doug Spurling at Spurling Silver.

When It Doesn’t Make Sense” by Jeff Dunn at Internet Monk.

Humanimals” by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today.

Love: Fits Me Best” by Jessica McGuire at Jezamama.

Peace I Leave You” by Marty Duane Scott at Scribing the Journey.

Becoming Child-Like: Are We?” by Marshall Jones Jr. at Bond Christian.

A Love Letter” by Claire Burge at Claire B.

14 Balcony Questions” by Scott Couchenour at Serving Strong.

Wrecked” by Erin Kilmer at Together for Good.

It’s Personal” by Jay Cookingham at Soulfari.

From Here to There” by Louise Gallagher at Recover Your Joy.

Visibility” by Brock Henning at LifeSummit.


Tears in a Jar” by David Brydon.

Most Winter Nights” by Lorenzo at Crowned with Laurels.

Every Breath is a Second Chance” by David Rupert at Red-Letter Believers.

He was not mine…” by B.K. McKenzie at Signed…BKM.

I Fall. Fearless. In Love.” by Louise Gallagher at Recover Your Joy.

Aftermath” and “Tides” by Steven Marty Grant at Urbanality.

The Story of Fire” by Bob Spencer at Wilderness Fandango.

As a Pack” by Jim Schmotzer at The Faithful Skeptic.

Let Us Live in Your Hands” by Michael Perkins at Untitled.

I Don’t Know” by Jerry Barrett at Under the Door Frame.

Sermon Notes Poetry: Isaiah 49:1-7” by L.L. Barkat at Love Notes to Yahweh.

Suspire” by Melissa at All the Words.

Paintings and Photographs

Matt & Marsae – She Said Yes” by Kelly Sauer at A Restless Heart.

A Morning Walk” by Steven Gravano at Take a Look Around.

Winter Bones” and “Communication” by Susan Etole at Just…A Moment.

The Heavens Declare” by Harriett Gillham at The Other Side of the Mountain.

Road” by Nancy Rosback at Nance Marie.

Art on the Cover” by Maureen Doallas (and Randall David Tipton) at Writing Without Paper.

Photograph: Lamp by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reading and Traveling

It’s time again for another edition of Pleasantly Disturbed Thursdays, led by our pleasantly disturbed leader Marty Duane Scott. I have it on good authority that Marty is something of a cretin when it comes to Southern sweet tea (his wife told me that, therefore it’s true). She has dedicated her life to helping him see the light. Civilization must eventually come to all men.

I’ve been traveling recently, and when you travel by airplane, you always have lots of time for reading. (I had so much time on this last trip that I ran out of things to read.) (That sounds like a good title for an article or even a book: “Running Out of Things to Read While Traveling and Other Disasters.”)

The current issue of Christianity Today Magazine has a number of good stories and features: how exercise, diet and technology are helping us life longer and should we care; an interview with Jeff Van Duzer (Why Business Matters to God) on business as ministry – with a trademark alert – he says that there’s growing sentiment to refer to work as a high calling; an interview with Roberta Ahmanson on the support she and her husband Howard have given to Christian art; and a review of Bo Caldwell’s City of Tranquil Light, which I reviewed here in December (I don’t read what other reviewers say about books I’m reviewing until I finish and post my review).

Then there’s Radix Magazine (subtitled "Where Christian Faith Meets Contemporary Culture"). In addition to some really fine poems, this issue includes an interview with William Rankin, president of the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance; two stories on unusual Bible studies; an article on the 11th century mystic Hildegard von Bingen; and a review of a biography of Julian of Norwich by Amy Frykholm – and the reviewer is the Radix poetry editor, Luci Shaw.

I’ve recently read three of Shaw’s poetry books, and I’m working on another work by her. I’m thinking about doing on a article on her and her poetry.

And in the current issue of Poets & Writers (which always has good articles), I was attracted to a small ad (page 45, Jan/Feb 2011 issue if you’re interested) for a book of poems by Mark Jarman. It was the blurb by Edward Hirsch for the Washington Post that caught my attention: “Jarman’s poetry is God-haunted. He writes as an unorthodox but essentially Christian poet who embraces paradox and treats contradiction, to use Simone Weil’s phrase, as a lever of transcendence.”

I finished reading The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin. It's a wonderful story, part of Lakin's Gates of Heaven series. I'll be doing a two-part post on it and the seocnd book in the series, The Map Across Time, which is scheduled to be published March 4. I'm still surprised that I (1) voluntarily read two fairy tales and (2) thoroughly enjoyed both. Lakin is an imaginative, gripping writer.

Speaking of traveling, I had my first experience with TSA. I was standing in the security line (shoes - off, belt - off, pockets – empty, laptop – out, bag of toiletries – out; coat – off) when I noticed a security guard watching the line and counting off silently. He stopped two in front of me – it was a girl about 10 years old traveling with her mother and sister. The guard’s face fell. His glance then landed on me.

Yes, he called me out of the line. So I got the full body scan treatment (I’m sure that excited the people watching). My arm was then patted down rather extensively (I had neglected to remove my watch) and then my chest was – patted down (I wear a chained cross). And then he patted down my wallet. Yes, he patted down my wallet.

Actually, in this case, I didn’t mind. Better me than a 10-year-old girl.

Pleasantly Disturbed Thursdays runs every two weeks over at Marty Duane Scott’s place at Scribing the Journey. This is an off week, but I was pleasantly disturbed enough to write a post anyway.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It is

It is:
glad, righteous, for the righteous,
of man, mine, toward, unseen,
patient, steadfast, glorious,
laid up in heaven, good, eternal,
blessed, firm, fully assured,
lively, continual, set before us,
believed in
against itself,
in God.

perishes, secures,
abounds, abides,
partakes, increases,
consoles, waits quietly,
receives, endures,
comes, purifies,
causes rejoicing,
provides rest,
makes speech plain

It is:
a confidence,
an expectation, a door,
rest, a promise, a calling,
a helmet, a reason, a trust,
a cause, an effect, an action,
a refuge, a substance, a tree
of life, faith, evidence,
life, one,
the Lord.

It is:

To see more posts on hope, please visit the blog carnival at Bonnie Gray’s Faith Barista. The links will be live on Thursday morning.

Photograph: Light at the End of the Tunnel by Elisa Xyz via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Couple, Not Odd

he: kind, a gentle man
and gentleman,
a ready smile for children,
as if they alone
could grasp the life behind
blood-shot eyes
of unshed tears.

she: determined,
ambitious but in a time
that wouldn’t do
for a woman so
she moved
in other ways
other circles.

he: rooted
to companions
in bars, watered
by rock-and-rye.

she: rooted
to a place, an idea
of place, the same place
for fourscore and six.

Gentleness matched
determination. So they
lived, simply, if
sometimes quarrelsome.

he: missed her
when he died.

she: mourned
him until she died,

This poem is submitted for One Stop Poetry’s One Shot Wednesday. To see other submitted poems, please visit One Stop Poetry. The links will be live at 4 p.m. Central time today.

Photograph: Couple, by Bobby Mikul via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Guest Post at High Calling Focus

I have a guest post today, "The Image of God," over at High Calling Focus, a blog dedicated to photography and faith and managed by two of the best photographers I know, Claire Burge and Kelly Sauer. Claire and Kelly are also photography editors for The High Calling.

Yes, I take pictures (hooray for smart phones!) but no, I'm not a photographer. My post is about images, however, and a recent experience my wife and I had at the St. Louis Art Museum that caused me to look at art in a way I never had before. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Genes Aren't Coded for Winter

As I write this, we still have snow left over from last Thursday’s snowstorm (only moderate in amount – only six inches). Yesterday another inch fell, which was better than the three to five originally predicted. And more may be coming later this week.

The six inches of snow from that one storm was double the total I had experienced from birth through 24 years old.

I grew up in the South, the far and deep South, like an hour from the Gulf of Mexico. New Orleans had, and still has, three seasons – summer, July and August. We read about snow, of course; all of our school books were written and published by firms in New York. So even as a child, I knew that there were people who lived in places where the leaves fell off of trees and then grew back, and that a lot of people dealt with snow all the time. But not where I lived.

I remember the sheer delight of my second grade class when a light snow began. We rushed to the windows and stared, awed. There really was such a thing as snow. We got all of a half-inch, enough to completely paralyze the city. Salt wasn’t something you put on streets; salt was something in the water in the Gulf. And no one had ever seen a snow plow before.

It happened again when I was 12, with the same awe-inspiring results. They even had to close the school. It couldn’t get much better than that.

My last experience with snow was my senior year in college. Baton Rouge recorded an inch of snow, and the entire student newspaper staff hauled themselves to the back of the Journalism Building (built into a hill) and had a snowball fight. We were outright giddy.

Houston, where we lived for five years, was similar. We did have ice one Sunday; I remember it only because we had tickets for a concert downtown and I had never driven on that stuff before.

But that was my personal history of winter, until we moved to St. Louis.

I started my new job in mid-November, leaving behind 60-degree weather in Houston for 23 degrees when I landed. In early January, my wife arrived. The high was 1. We stayed for a few days in a hotel until our furniture arrived at our apartment. At the hotel, we discovered one of the most excruciating forms of torture ever devised: toilet seats in winter in an uninsulated hotel bathroom.

But we managed. We bought heavy coats and boats and overshoes and scarves and hats and always, always more than one pair of gloves. And snow shovels. Salt. All that stuff that never existed in Louisiana and southern Texas.

Then came January of 1982.

One Saturday night, we had gone out to eat with colleagues from the office. It was a going away dinner for our secretary, who was moving to New Jersey. The dinner would be followed by a big party. The forecast called for sleet but no accumulation.

We spent two hours at dinner. My wife excused herself for the ladies room, and then returned, with a rather ashen look on her face. “You can see out the window in the bathroom,” she said. “But I can’t see anything except snow.”

We paid the bill and prepared to leave. Outside, there was already six inches of snow on the ground, and you could barely see across the street. We decided to go home before the party and change. What should have been a 15-minute drive turned into an hour-and-a-half thrill ride. At one point, I had to brake hard, and managed to get the car pointed in the direction we were coming from. We passed a stuck snow plow. By the time we reached home, we’d decided to skip the party. We knew this storm was different.

It wasn’t just the thick snow.

It was the thunder and lightning accompanying the snow.

The babysitter for our almost two-year-old (he who is now the father of my grandchild) decided to spend the night with us.

It was still snowing the next morning. Our babysitter spent three nights with us, until her father found an all-wheel drive jeep to come into our neighborhood to rescue her. Our street wouldn’t be plowed for a week. By the time the snow stopped, we had an accumulation of more than two feet.

On Wednesday, I dressed like Randy in A Christmas Story and hiked up to the main street near our house. It was only a little over a mile to my office. The main street had been plowed, but it was hard to tell; mounds of snow were everywhere. I actually caught a ride with the friendly driver of an 18-wheeler.

We’ve never had a snow that bad since, but I knew then that my genes weren’t coded for winter.

This post is submitted for the One Word Blog Carnival on winter, hosted by Peter Pollock. To see other posts, please visit his site.

Photograph: Snow by Donna McNeely via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Mystery Food in the Sudeten Mountains

“Taste and see,” writes Deborah Leiter Nyabuti in “Cooking Chicken Wat,” one of the three essays in The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God being discussed this week at The High Calling.

Almost nine years ago, I was part of a small missions team (three of us in total, plus our guide) that spent a whirlwind week in Eastern Europe – Budapest, Prague, Brno, Dresden and Erfurt. We were a writing and video team, there to talk with and interview missionaries who were part of a Central European missions program.

It was a crazy week, with more time spent riding in a minivan than either interviewing or sleeping.

One of the decisions we had to make was whether or not to “taste and see” – either stick with tried and true (and recognizable) American fast food, which would have helped with our hectic schedule, or to eat local, even if local was five cities in three countries in six days.

We chose local, except for an unexpected side trip that left no time for lunch except for a drive-through at a McDonald’s in Chemnitz, Germany.

So I ate Hungarian goulashes (stronger and more seasoned that what I’d eaten in the U.S.); tomatoes with my toast for breakfast in Dresden; anything the hotel dining room had left when we’d get in after 10 p.m. at night, hoping the dining room was still open; and one of the best lunches I’ve ever eaten, on Wenceslas Square in Prague (despite the prostitutes handing out their business cards to the diners).

The most interesting meal happened in a small town in the Sudeten Mountains in the Czech Republic, not far from the German border. It was early evening, and this town was the last place we could stop if we wanted dinner before we drove through the mountains and then down into Dresden, with an arrival time of close to midnight (and we had to find the bed-and-breakfast where we had reservations).

The restaurant was the only one in town, and it looked very, well, Central European. The main entrance was the bar, and as we walked inside, all conversation literally stopped. Everyone stared. Yes, we looked American, and this wasn’t the kind of town that attracted tourists.

We waded through the fog of cigarette smoke and were seated in the dining room. No one in the place spoke English, including any of the waiters. The menu was in Czech and German. Our American guide was studying Hungarian. The most German any of us knew was the German I took in college. I did recognize a few things on the menu, and one of the guys decided to have whatever I ordered. The other two decided to go totally local and point to something on the menu list, even if none of us knew what it was and the waiter couldn’t explain it.

The look the waiter gave them should have been a clue.

I and the guy who trusted my German ate well – very well. We had a breaded veal dish with pickled vegetables. The other two didn’t eat well. In fact, after a few bites, they stopped eating. We all looked at what was on their plates, and none of us could guess what it might be. It didn’t taste like chicken, they said. It might have been something made from an animal brain, or perhaps a tongue. We took their word that it didn’t taste good.

My only mistake was the after-dinner coffee. I chose Turkish. It wasn’t that it was strong – that was expected – but I wasn’t expecting the inch of coffee grounds in the small cup. I think I learned that night what hot, liquid dirt tastes like.

I decided I didn’t need to taste that local. But during my prayers that night, I thanked my college German professors.

To see more posts on The Spirit of Food, please visit The High Calling.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Night Burnings

Evening was dying into night
when she said she could do it,
would do it,
the wager unnecessary,
smoking, that is, without
choking, coughing,
a cigar, that is, but
it had to be a good one,
Cuban, preferably contraband,
so the man from Habana
handed his cigar
to the woman from Den Haag,
and she inhaled, exhaled,
smoke rising in circles from
leaves, washed down
with brandewijn, she called it,
burnt wine for burnt leaves;
as she laughed
a single wisp of smoke
a single drop of wine
glistening in the corner
of her smile.

To see other poems prompted by the photograph, please visit One Stop Poetry.

Photograph by Mike Roemer for One Stop Poetry. Used with permission.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Good Reads

Watching a lifetime be auctioned away, getting into the habit of hope, your mother as your best friend, and a pastor looks back on his first church – there’s plenty good stuff to read.


A World Fiercely Observed,” review by Len Aron of “Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life” for the Wall Street Journal.

A POW’s Awe-Inspiring Act of Faith” By Corinna da Fonseca-Willheim for the Wall Street Journal.

What’s Your Wilderness?” by Mike Duran at deCompose.

You Can Always Come Home” by Duane Scott at Scribing the Journey.

What Would He Say to Us Today?” by Kathy Richards at Katdish.

Seems So Long Ago, Nancy” by Tim Challies at Informing the Reforming.

Selling Memories” by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today.

Talking Back: Of Art Pilgrimages and Rosaries” by L.L. Barkat at Love Notes to Yahweh.

Our World is Starving for Love” by Kevin Martineau at Shooting the Breeze.

Embarrassed by Old Things” by Bob Spencer at Wilderness Fandango.

Fear Not, Little Flock” by Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk.

The Old and Forgotten” by L.E. Fiore at Salt-Rain Tidings.

A Vocational Tale of Woe and Jubilation” by Sam Van Eman at New Breed of Advertisers.

How to Refuel When Serving Sucks You Dry” by Marshall Jones Jr. at Bond Christian.

The Worst List of All Time” by Athol Dickson at What Athol Wrote.

Habit of Hope” by Jennifer Dukes-Lee at Getting Down with Jesus.

Anniversary Magic” by Cassandra Frear at Moonboat Café.

Cherish the Moments” by Linda Chontos at Linda’s Patchwork Quilt.

"Insecurity & Fear" by Michael Perkins at Untitled.


Naked man waiting for the light to change” by Brian Miller for In the Hush of the Moon.

Passing through” and "Context" by Melissa at All the Words.

Vampira’s Ball” by Marsha Berry at Marousia.

Down with the ship” by Milton Brasher-Cunningham at Don’t Eat Alone.

Jesus Calls Disciples” by Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk.

Cactus” by Megan Willome at Sabbath Says.

Arch-Lines” and “She Was She Is” by Jerry Barrett at Under the Door Frame.

Snapshots of Home (A Photopoetry Montage)" by Carmela-J at Paradoxical Illusions of Grandeur.

Not Empty” by Karen Eck at Karenee Art.

The Pulse” by Pete Marshall.

Pure White” by B.K. McKenzie at Signed…BKM.

Our Dreams Can Be” by Adam Dustus.

Everyone has a dream” by Nancy Rosback at Nance Marie.

Weekend When the World Was Away” by Arron Palmer.

Fish in a Barrel” by Jim Schmotzer at Faithful Skeptic.

Three” by Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper.

Exposed” by Bradley Moore at And the Other Thing Is.

"Two New Yorks" by Steven Marty Grant at Urbanality.

Paintings and Photographs

Newspaper in the Snow” by Steve Gravano at Take a Look Around.

Untitled,” watermedia on paper by Randall David Tipton.

Everyday Magic” by Susan Etole at Just…A Moment.

My Work” by A Simple Country Girl at Aspire to Lead a Quiet Life.

Photograph: Lamp by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Kazuo Ishiguro's "Nocturnes"

I think of a nocturne, and I think of a composition for the piano, played best in the evening, the time for considering the day just past, the time for quiet dreams leading to sleep.

The five stories in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes have that dream-like quality about them. They are all about music but not, interestingly enough, the piano. And this is purposeful on Ishiguro’s part, for these stories are all about relationships that should be about one thing but are about something else, something slightly off, and the music flowing through them is also about something else.

In “Crooner,” a guitar player from Eastern Europe is hired by an aging American singer in Venice to play while he sings to his wife, he in a gondola and she on the balcony. These are love songs, special songs the two share, but they also turn out to be farewell songs, for he is planning, with her understanding and support, to divorce her to marry a younger woman and so help rejuvenate his career.

In “Come Rain or Come Shine,” an old friend comes to London from Spain to visit a couple he’s known since college and often visits; he shares a love for old American popular songs with the wife. But he finds this visit is unlike any other, with his friends each seeking to use him to resolve their marital problems.

In “Malvern Hills,” a guitar player trying to get his footing in the industry visits his sister and brother-in-law in the English countryside, and meets a German couple on vacation. Nothing is what it seems for any of the characters.

In “Nocturne,” the title story, the wife from “Crooner: is recovering from plastic surgery in a luxury hotel, as is a saxophone player trying to relaunch his not-quite-successful career. Their faces wrapped in bandages, they explore the hotel at night, and in the process explore their own motivations and desires.

And in “Cellists,” a young Russian cellist playing in Venice in cafes and the occasional recital is adopted and mentored by an older American woman. She guides him and herself into beautiful music, and an almost certain beautiful failure.

Ishiguro, author of The Remains of the Day, writes in a plain style, almost reminiscent of Isak Denison (these stories have that same kind of simple and slightly ironic sense to them common in many of Denison’s stories). But he has his own unique voice, almost the voice of the outsider, telling the stories of once-great, never-great and never-likely-to-be-great singers and musicians. For the characters of these stories, life will be at best a nocturne, never a symphony.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January Grouse

After something of a hiatus, our fearless leader Marty Duane Scott has resurrected and reinvigorated Pleasantly Disturbed Thursdays, those blog posts with no particular purpose or point unless you want to have one.

I have a bunch. Well, at least two.

January has been something of a grouse month around the homestead. Winter has gotten very old, with more snow – and lots of it – coming down as I’m writing this at 11:05 on Wednesday night; even more is due tomorrow. With a temperature plunge to below 10. Shoveling the driveway is always more fun when the temperature pushes down toward zero with a nice stiff wind to punch the point home that it’s cold.

I was born and raised in New Orleans. I remember once (once!) when the temperature went below 32 and the water pipes in the attic burst. I also remember when it snowed – I was seven and the half-inch snowfall paralyzed the city.

OK, so winter will pass, eventually. Then we have the YMCA.

I’ve been a member of our local Y since 1998. We’ve had something of a ritual for years – hit the Y in the evening on Sundays for our workouts. It worked fine -- we could do things (or nap) in the afternoon and then head to the Y.

They changed the Sunday hours, wrecking the ritual. And they did it precisely when attendance explodes – in January when the New Year’s resolutions crowd shows up (they always arrive by the beginning of the second week of January and are gone sometime in early March – you can set your watch by the immigration and emigration). So the hours are shortened, our entire Sunday afternoon now has to be managed to accommodate the Y, and the crowds are awful.

We complained. Loudly. We pointed out that the place is deserted on Friday nights and that would be the perfect time to shorten hours. We filled out complaint cards. We made remarks to the staff. My wife has now had phone calls from three staff managers, all commiserating but none promising any change. So we’re starting to look at alternatives.

Grouse. Grouse. Grouse. I feel like I’m learning how to be an irritated (irritating), crotchety old man.

The snow and the cold has meant one good thing – lots of reading this month. I just finished Monsieur Monde Vanishes by Georges Simenon. It is not an Inspector Maigret mystery novel; it is something more akin to Albert Camus’ The Stranger or something Jean Paul Sartre would have written (and the novel is roughly contemporary with them). It is very – French, early 1950s French, when plot tended to be overlooked or considered unimportant in books and movies.

Simenon was born in Belgium in 1903. He became famous as a hack writer who had an affair with Josephine Baker, invented Inspector Maigret and became famous all over Europe and the world, stayed in Paris during the German occupation, was said to have been a collaborator (he wasn’t but left Paris after the war and lived in the United States), moved back to France, and by the time he died in 1989 had written more than 400 books. I suppose he didn’t need much plot in his books; he had plenty in his real life.

Next up on the reading list: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin. I’ve read an advance copy of Lakin’s The Map Across Time, the second novel in her Gates of Heaven series. It’s due to be published in March. I don’t read fairy tales or fantasy, but these novels of Lakin’s are something else again. I was mesmerized by The Map Across Time, so much so that I bought the first book in the series to read.

One additional benefit to reading: it keeps the grousing from getting out of hand.

To read more Pleasantly Disturbed Thursday posts, please visit Marty Duane Scott’s site, Scribing the Journey.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Is Joy in the Numbers?

Numbers can be interesting.

Thanks to an online concordance, I now know there are 242 references to “joy” in the Bible. Some 174 of them – that’s 72 percent – are in the Old Testament. The book with the great number of references is – no surprise – Psalms.

Of the 68 references to joy in the New Testament, 23 of them are in the four gospels, and 24 of them in the epistles of St. Paul. Six are in the Book of Hebrews (which some scholars believe was written by St. Paul or at his direction). The remaining 15 are scattered in Acts and the other letters. There are no references to joy in the book of Revelation.

What I find most interesting about all of this is St. Paul. I don’t typically associate him with joy. I think of him as an intense, serious, no-nonsense, everything is cut-and-dried kind of guy. Nodding in approval as Stephen was stoned to death. “Take Mark with us after he flubbed the first time? Forget it.”

But joyful?

So, in the time-honored tradition of forgetting about the splinter in my brother’s eye and instead focusing on the plank in my own, I asked myself that question. Am I a joyful person?

There’s no question that certain things bring me a kind of automatic joy: my grandson, Cameron; watching my daughter-in-law roll her eyes; my two boys; my wife, and the look on her face when she smiles.

To these I would add certain kinds of music, like when our church director of music really lets loose on the pipe organ (it’s like listening to angels singing); hearing a really good speaker who knows the subject offering a keen insight; the reaction I have when I write something and then see what I’ve done is good.

At another level altogether is the joy that happens when a prayer is answered, even when it’s not what I expected or hoped for; to see something in Scripture for the first time, even though I’ve read it a hundred times before; and then to hear a voice speak in unexpected ways.

All of these things bring me joy, but I can’t say that I stay in a constant state of it. I can be negative and down, sometimes even dark, when joy is banished away.

I think most people would consider me a serious person, who sometimes surprises with passionate outbursts. They would not look at me and think “joy.”

Bonnie Gray over at Faith Barista went one step further and asked this question: is joy easy or hard for you?

My answer is: yes, it is hard and it is easy.

The cares and worries and concerns of each day have a tendency to grind joy out of a person, and there are days when it seems joy has permanently vanished.

And then there are times when joy erupts all over me, like when a grandson comes to visit at work.

Even when he’s fussy with teething, this one always brings me joy.

To see more posts on joy, please visit Bonnie Gray over at Faith Barista. The links will be live Thursday morning. In the meantime, you can read Bonnie’s post (and all the linked posts) from last week here.

Top photograph: Open Bible by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Bottom photograph: Cameron Young, via my trusty smart phone. Used with Cmaeron's permission.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The snow has come and gone,
come and gone yet again
and will repeat itself
before crocuses peep
from winter slumbers.

What’s left of autumn’s leaves
dried in the freeze and thaw
of snow and stop and snow
are caught in late season
windstorm, a small eddy

gusted into brown swirls,
a thousand funneled shreds
performing wind dances
in crackles and small pops
as points, edges strike street.

Each brown, dried leaf a word
used and infused to come
alive for one moment,
dancing in sight and sound
before the snow returns.

To see more poems submitted for One Shot Wednesday, please visit One Stop Poetry. The links will be live at 4 p.m. central time today.

Photograph: Leaves in Snow by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Vinegar: A Poem

Over at The High Calling, there’s been a discussion on The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting toward God, a collection of essays on eating, fasting and a lot of other things. The three essays being discussed today include one on Hollandaise sauce, how a vegan began to backslide and how Swedish pancakes had a connection to the collapse of the Interstate 35 Bridge in Minneapolis (I’m still puzzling over that essay, and I’ve read it twice).

I’m reading along but not joining in the weekly blogging. I am dropping the occasional comment.

However, I read the three essays, and the one on Hollandaise sauce stuck in my head, likely because it brought back memories of eating Eggs Benedict at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans.

To show you how word association works in my head, I heard the word “vinegar” during the pastor’s sermon in church on Sunday, knew that it was used in mayonnaise, and leaped from mayonnaise to Hollandaise and The Spirit of Food. (And what mayonaise and Hollandaise have in common is possibly the color and the "-aise" at the end of each.)
So then I started thinking about what I knew about vinegar. I knew it was acetic acid; I knew bad wine can taste like vinegar; I knew it was used in condiments like mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup and salad dressings (like those various shades of vinaigrettes).

So, I went to Wikipedia, and I learned just how much I did not know about vinegar. So, in keeping with the spirit of the discussion of The Spirit of Food, I submit the following:

Vinegar Is: A Poem

Used in ancient Egypt,
Babylon and and Rome (of course),
vinegar is a chemical
(acetic acid) (but is it organic?)
(it all depends)
a condiment
a salad dressing
a chutney
a marinade
an odor absorber
a means of pickling
a sunburn aid
a cleaning material
an antidote for catnip
a tool for diet control
(Dr. Atkins’ High Vinegar Diet?)
a tool for glucose control
a sourness
an ill humor
a personality type
an enemy of infections
and stings and even
unwanted plants
(the vinegar on your salad
is also a herbicide, my dear)

Vinegar is diverse, a potpourri
of types, kinds, varieties:
malt, wine, apple cider, balsamic
rice, coconut, palm, cane, raisin,
date, beer, honey, East Asian black
(sounds like a tea), flavored,
Job’s Tears, kombucha, kiwifruit,
Sinamalc, distilled, spirit and
fruit: apple, black currant, raspberry,
quince, tomato, persimmon, jujube,
wolfberry (wolfberry?), rose apple.

And the most famous vinegar of all is:
the galling insult on a sticked sponge.

The Desperate Need

Dance ends; the head is
severed, plated, served;
laughter, finally,
nervous but absence
always a danger.

The kinsman, dead.

Slip away, silence,
silence, solitude,
desperate hunger
to grasp his face,
to grasp my own.

Kinsman, dead.

They wait, desperate
with gnawing hunger
greater than bread, fish,
the food beyond
to fill the holes.

My kinsman, dead;
my Baptist, slain.

Feed my sheep.

This poem is submitted to the Warrior Poets Circle sponsored by Jason Stasyszen at Connecting to Impact. The prompt for today was Matthew 14: 13-21, the account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. What struck me as I read the passage was that it followed immediately after the murder of John the Baptist.

To see more poems based on this prompt, please visit Jason’s site.

Painting: The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes by Pedro Orrente (1580-1645); The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A farmhouse once

A farmhouse once
surrounded by burgeoning fields
of wheat and sunflowers
pregnant with seed, voices
laughing, weeping, loving, dying

Now a vertical corrugation
of undulating metal sheets
unbolting from a collapsing porch
the color of time weathered,
eroded by the west wind

It throws forward to accept,
to embrace for a moment
fleeting in shadowed sun,
its place in a soon-forgotten
embrace with landscape.

To see other poems prompted by the photography, please visit One Shot Sunday at One Stop Poetry.

Photograph by Katherine Forbes; used with permission for One Shot Poetry.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Good Reads

Taking your son for his first ice skating experience; a musing on death; beautiful artwork for the gospels; and watching a short video of J.R.R. Tolkien (every wondered what he sounded like?). That’s a bit of what follows below, and what follows below is only a bit of some great things on the web this past week.


Giverny” by Cassandra Frear at Moonboat Café.

Snail Tales” by Michelle DeRusha at Graceful.

Take a look at the One Word Blog Carnival on “broken” hosted by Peter Pollock.

The Stick” by Doug Spurling at Spurling Silver.

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor” by Matt Appling at The Church of No People.

Why Write? An Audience of One” by David Rupert at Red-Letter Believers.

The Tucson Shooting, Huckleberry Finn and the Power of Words” by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today.

What’s Your ‘Mystery’ Threshold?” by Mike Duran at deCompose.

Stepping Onto the Ice” by Michael Perkins at Untitled.

"When the World Says No Way" by Jennifer Dukes-Lee at Getting Down With Jesus.


Without Answers” by Neva Flores at Changfefulstorm Poetry.

Scuplted Emptiness” by Carmela –J at Paradoxical Illusions of Grandeur.

We Run” by Melissa at All the Words.

The Effects of Being Broken” by Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper.

Baptism of Our Lord” by Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk.

Social Media Megaplex” by Marcus Goodyear at Good Word Editing.

Recession Redux” by Jim Schmotzer at Faithful Skeptic.

In January” by Bob Spencer at Wilderness Fandango.

Channel Surfering” by B.K. McKenzie at Signed…BKM.

Of course, Death” by Arron Palmer.

White Out” by Jerry Barrett at Under the Door Frame.

Poem for Thursday: 14 July 1954” by Matt Quinn at Poemblaze.

Armless” (Unrhymed) and “Armless” (Rhymed) by Luke Prater at Luke’s Word Salad.

Paintings and Photographs

The Downside to Being Sick” by Jessica McGuire at Jezamama.

What a Day” by Steve Gravano at Take a Look Around.

Strength” and “Winter Blues” by Susan Etole at Just…A Moment.

Frontispieces for the Four Gospels Project” by Makoto Fujimura.

January is for Nothing” and “Rewind” by Michelle DeRusha at Graceful.

Cristom Vineyard,” oil on canvas by Randall David Tipton.


Any World Will Do” by Greg Sullivan at Sippican Cottage.

Kilian Martin: A Skate Regeneration” By Brett Noval. (Hat tip to my friend, poet Cameron Lawrence)

Remembering John: A Tribute to Matt Maher’s Older Brother.”

JRR Tolkien on Film,” rare video of the LOTR author. (Hat tip to Taylor Marshall at Canterbury Tales.)

Photograph: Lamp by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Eternity and Time

I finished reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art last week. First published in 2003, the book’s subtitle – “Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” – summarizes it well. It’s about how any creative person – writer, artist, and songwriter – can overcome resistance and get to that inner place where creativity lives and happens.

There are some odd things about the book, but I did like it, especially because it served as a good kick in the pants for me. Get moving, Young, and finish the draft.

Toward the end of the book, Pressfield includes a quote from the poet William Blake. If you’re not familiar with Blake (1757-1827), then you may know hin indirectly: his poetry and art heavily influenced the Romantics. He was both one of them and separate from them. He’s been called a luminary, a mystic and a lot of other things. He was a Christian who didn’t like traditional Christian notions of chastity, for example.

The quote is from “Proverbs of Hell,” part of the work entitled The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which Blake composed between 1790 and 1793 and is a collection of his Romantic and revolutionary beliefs (this was the era of the French Revolution).

Here is the quote that Pressfield includes: “Eternity is in love with the creations of time.”

Aside from the fact that Blake included this as one his “Proverbs of Hell” (the others are equally surprising and not what you’d expect), that quotation has stuck in my head, for some reason (the stickiness, aggravating as it is, may explain why it’s a “proverb of hell”).

Eternity is in love with the creations of time. I even restructured it to look more like a poem than a proverb:

Eternity is
in love with
the creations
of time.

There are likely any number of ways to read and interpret this quotation. But the one I’m leaning toward is this: that God sees what we do, and what we create, and he loves what we create because, since we are created in his image, what we create reflects his image, too, that the very act of creation is something that is very much a “God thing.”

It’s like that line from the movie “Chariots of Fire," when Ian Charleson as Eric Liddell says, “When I run, I feel his pleasure.”

When I write, when I write something I believe is exceptionally good or exceptionally fine, I feel his pleasure. It’s an odd thing to describe, but it is like I am standing, leaning in an interior curve of something shiny red and bright gray, and I feel a sense of – something, something else, something outside of me and yet it’s coursing through me. And then it quiets and ebbs, and I find myself exhausted.

And then I doubt: could God really love the creations of time? Could he really love my creations of time?

Photograph: Window to Eternity by Vojko Kalan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Bold and the Confident

As my wife can tell you (and she knows me better than anyone else), I am something of an introvert. For whatever reasons, I grew up rather shy, rather quiet and rather definitely not an A-type personality.

For years in performance reviews, my “opportunity for improvement” was to “become more aggressive.” One boss in particular went on and on about it. (When I did get more aggressive with him, he complained, “I didn’t mean with me!”)

I suspect this has a lot to do with the middle child syndrome – my role as peacekeeper and mediator. To this day I get highly uncomfortable with conflict.

But quiet and shy doesn’t mean passive. I’ve also been known to take career risks – enormous career risks – when I’m convinced something is the right thing to do. I can get rather passionate on certain topics, and I’ve been known to give rather passionate speeches when that’s both called for and needed, and I care deeply about the topic.

So when Bonnie Gray over at Faith Barista asked how God is calling us to be more bold or confident, as part of her ongoing blog carnival on faith, I had to think a moment. Then for more than a moment.

The short answer is, I don’t know.

But there’s a longer answer.

While the surface looks placid, a lot of things are “afoot” in my life right now. My work has changed considerably in the past three months, requiring a considerable number of split-second decisions. I’m beginning to tackle subjects that have been left alone for quite some time. I’m starting to challenge people who make statements with no evidence or facts. None of this relates directly to my faith or what I think I’m being “called” to do; it’s just part of my job, although I think of my work as part of the whole of my life, not something compartmentalized away from everything else.

Almost by accident, I discovered I was talking more openly about my faith than I realized. Pete Faur stopped by to talk; he lives in Arizona but years ago lived here in St. Louis. We shared a few war stories about some common work experiences, and then he asked me about my faith. It turns out he’s been following my blog for a while. And he wrote a blog post about our conversation.

I don’t shout about my faith; I never have. I try to live my faith, with a mostly imperfect result. To me, faith is more about who we are and how we are, and less about what we say.

And if I’m being called to do anything, it is to live my life more boldly, and live it more confidently, because I know who it is that my life is about. And it’s not me.

For more posts on the call to boldness and confidence, please visit Bonnie Gray’s Faith Barista.

Photograph: Lion’s Look by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Karen Kingsbury's "Unlocked"

People in publishing circles call Karen Kingsbury a brand. That’s likely an understatement. Virtually everything she publishes hits the best-seller list. No, this is not “literary fiction” we’re talking about here. But she doesn’t make that claim. Instead, her novels are popular fiction that are anticipated, read and valued by her readers (there are more than 600 reviews of her latest novel on Amazon).

The simple truth of the matter is, Kingsbury knows how to write a good, engaging story. I read Unlocked in less than a day.

It’s the story of Holden Harris, an autistic teen mainstreamed into a suburban Atlanta high school, and Ella Reynolds, a school cheerleader who is being chased by the football team quarterback and is looking forward to an amazing senior year. Her life intersects with Holden’s, and then she learns that the two of them and their families actually have a past. And the superficial life of high school popularity begins to give way to something else altogether, as Ella becomes the key that might unlock Holden’s mind.

In Unlocked, Kingsbury tackles a number of issues: autism; the pressures of sports celebrity life; bullying in schools; teen suicide; walking away from faith. She handles all of them well, and the scenes of Holden’s autism manifesting itself and what is actually going on in his mind are drawn well and true. If there is any criticism here, it’s that, even with some disclaimers, Kingsbury veers too close to the vaccine-origin-theory of autism, the major medical study for which was just last week determined to be “fraudulent.”

But that’s a minor point. The story reads well and fast; the characters are drawn well and sympathetically. That the reader comes to identify so strongly with Holden is no small feat on Kingsbury’s part. And one learns a lot about autism, and what it is and isn’t.

Unlocked is characteristic of Kingsbury’s work and explains much about here success as a novelist. It’s accessible and readable; the story is familiar because we all know people just like those in the novel; and she deals with issues on a real rather than sentimental level.

In short, it’s a very good read.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winter White Soup

Small flakes,
falling thickly,
a winter white soup
best served
cold, wet.

Metallic clang
of the plow finding
iced, ribboned concrete,
jarring recital
oddly comforting.

within warmth, dry,
watching a gray world turn
into a brilliant,
silent symphony.

This poem is submitted for One Shot Wednesday, hosted by One Stop Poetry. To see other poems, please visit One Stop Poetry. The links will be live at 4 p.m. central time today.

Photograph: Scene from our back door, Jan. 11, 2011.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Nation, Broken

I don’t write about political stuff on this blog, because I can’t stand the political stuff that’s going on. But something seems fundamentally broken in my country.

Over the weekend, the images crowded in, online and on television: U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shot at a Tucson shopping mall. Six people dead, including a nine-year-old girl born on Sept. 11, 2001.

Within minutes, it seemed, politics took over. Economist Paul Krugman, writing shortly after the shooting, connected Jared Loughner, the assailant, to Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Party and Sarah Palin. With no evidence whatsoever. A Democrat had been shot, and so he assumed someone connected to Republicans or the Tea party must have done it. The sheriff in Tucson, a personal friend of the congresswoman, rushed to a similar judgment but was less specific. The media ran with that narrative for a while, most likely because it fits with the media often seems to want to believe.

It took the FBI to start calming things down. There’s no established or suspected connection, the agency said. If anything, what little anecdotal information suggests the shooter leaned the other way politically but was clearly and emphatically messed up mentally.

Connecting others to hate is in and of itself a hate crime. And there’s no end of it.

Civility and governance: broken.

Then there’s the state of our finances.

Our government functions with no budget. The state governments collectively do little better, and some of them – California, New York and Illinois, to cite only three – do a lot worse. And the national debt? How much do our great-grandchildren, not even born yet, owe the People’s Republic of China?

Illinois has a novel idea to solve its debt problem: borrow more. Delay the inevitable for a year or two. Maybe something will turn up. In the meantime, let’s increase the state income tax by 75 percent.

Finances: broken. The political leadership to tackle finances: paralyzed. In the meantime, one party is focused on seizing the initiative for the elections in 2012 while the other is focused on how much staff can be crammed through via executive and administrative fiat.

Finally, there are our churches, or the church. I have this idea in my head, and perhaps in my heart, that so much of what is broken today is a result, not from the nation walking away from God, but from the church not doing what it’s supposed to do, and that is to be salt and light. We’ve drunk the same Kool-Aid everyone else has. We’re more about celebrity and mega-size than we are about salt and light. We’ve embraced the tenets of business without realizing that it comes with a cost, a huge cost.

And then I remind myself what God can do with broken things. That that’s really all he’s ever had to work with on this planet – broken things. It’s through the broken things – the things that don’t matter in the eyes of this world – that he creates mighty works. And it was through a small group of broken men and a few women that an empire was eventually conquered.

So I pray.

My prayer is not for revival.

My prayer is not for our nation to turn back to God.

My prayer is not for our churches to be filled.

Instead, my prayer is for God to use broken things.

Peter Pollock is hosting a One Word Blog Carnival on “broken.” To see other posts, please visit Peter’s site.

Photograph: Ruined House by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A robin's egg, blue

Born without skin
no protective membrane
no myelin sheath
for exposed nerve endings
any, all stimulation
is surfeit;
becomes withdrawn,

A single word
careless, unintended
spoken easily
wounds mortally;
offenses, perceptions
of offenses, overwhelm,
no defense for self or
against self.

hidden, nestled,
within a solitude
of shyness;
a robin’s egg heart
chipped easily
broken blue.

For the High Calling’s Random Act of Poetry, the prompt was to write a poem about one of your struggles, but to be gentle with yourself. (Read the entire post for the prompt; the idea is the concept of “gentle leadership.”)

Photograph: Robin’s Nest, Charlotte North Carolina, by Daniel Marquand, via Wikipedia.

Creative Destruction

Sky, sea merge
into fiery red;
sands gray, green,
kaleidoscope into color,
absorbing, swallowing,
trumpet blast,
siren call
of final shadows.
Time cracks open
at sunset;
day of destruction
becomes one flesh
with day of creation.

This poem is submitted for One Shot Sunday, hosted by One Stop Poetry. To see more poems prompted by the photograph (and an interview with the photographer), please visit One Stop Poetry.

Photograph by K.J. Halliday; used with permission via One Shoot Sunday at One Stop Poetry.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Saturday Good Reads

If this is any indication of what the year is going to be like, we have a lot of good reading ahead of us. From a husband celebrating his wife to recomposing a song, it was a good week online. And this is only a glimmer of it all.


One Last Stroll” by Jennifer Dukes-Lee at Getting Down with Jesus.

The Year of the Rosary” by L.L. Barkat at Love Notes to Yahweh.

The Dance” by Jeff Jordan at To My Children, If They Are Listening.

What About Church (3)?” by Bob Spencer at Wilderness Fandango.

Sharing Christmas” by Laura Boggess at The Wellspring.

Once Upon a Time” by Duane Scott at Scribing the Journey.

Who Has Better PR – Jesus or Allah?” by Matt Appling at the Church of No People.

The Night Vigil” by Caroline Langston for The Image Journal.

On Not Being a Spork” by Michael Perkins at Untitled.

I Have No Idea” by David Rupert at Red-Letter Believers.

Inspirational Bacteria” by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today.

Yes, Questions Asked” by Monica Sharman at Know-Love-Obey God.

The Ambition of Christ: Money” by Jessica McGuire at Jezamama.

A Holy Communion” by Michelle DeRusha at Graceful.

The Aching Place” by Jeanne Damoff for The Master’s Artist.

Bye, Miss Lois, Bye” by Harriett Gillham at The Other Side of the Mountain.

10 Ways to be a Faithful Husband” by Jay Cookingham at Soulfari.

Breathe, Open, Receive” by Kelly Sauer at A Restless Heart.

They’ll Never Ask Me” by Jim Schmotzer at Faithful Skeptic.

Let Me Be Kind” by Louise Gallagher at Recover Your Joy.

An Ode, A Tribute to My Wife” by Kely Braswell at dangerous Breeze.

Foxhole” by Doug Spurling at Spurling Silver.

"The Moron Test" by Kathy Richards at Katdish.

"The Spiritual Value of Boredom" by Bradley Moore at Shrinking the Camel.


January Wisdom” by Hedgewitch at Verse Escape.

Circumcision of the Christ Child” by Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk.

Inner Child” by Neva Flores at Changefulstorm Poetry.

"Your Body is Your Emissary" by Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper.

Sunflower Still” by Marsha Berry at Marousia.

Evening flight” by Nancy Rosback at Nance Marie.

The Science of Forgetting” by Terresa Wellborn at The Chocolate Chip Waffle.

Platforms and Planks” by Arron Palmer.

Long Distance Running” by JofIndia at Neither Use Nor Ornament.

Soul Saliva” by Jerry Barrett at Under the Door Frame.

Re-Compose My Song” by Michael Perkins At Untitled.

Paintings and Photographs

Saturday Snaps – New Year’s Sparkle” by Sandra Heska King

The Future” and “Journeying On” by Susan Etole at Just…A Moment.

Velarde,” watercolor by Randall David Tipton.

Photograph: Lamp by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.