Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Hiding Place: Entlassen!

In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom describes a few of the last things her sister Betsie tells her before she dies in the hospital at the Ravensbruck concentration camp. One is that there will be a place with tall windows, for people to come and heal from the spiritual and psychological wounds of the war. And it’s clear that Betsie is not only talking about the people who suffered at the hands of the Nazis, but the Nazis themselves.

Another is that they will be free by the New Year – January of 1945. In a place like Ravensbruck, that likely would have seemed laughable to Corrie. The only way out from Ravensbruck seemed to be sent further east – to the death camps in Poland, although the prisoners had little firsthand knowledge of those.

Sometime after Betsie’s death, Corrie hears her voice shouted by a guard at the door of the barracks. She hurries after her as fast as she can, hobbling with swollen feet. She sites on a bench by a camp official with a few other women. One by one they’re called to the official, who looks at papers and says the word they likely thought they’d never hear.


Corrie understood the German word for “released.” They were inexplicably being released. In Corrie’s case, the official looks at her feet and sends her first to the hospital; sick prisoners cannot be released. After a few days, he feet less swollen, she’s given a skirt and blouse and the articles taken from her when she arrived, including her mother’s ring (amazing, given the penchant the Nazis had for looting and stealing art and jewelry).

One thing she leaves behind – the small copy of the Scriptures in Dutch she and Betsie had used to read to the women and for worship services. She gives the treasured Bible to a young woman from Holland.

The train takes her first to Berlin, which has been heavily bombed. She finally gets a train for the Dutch border, but the journey takes days – so many delays because of torn up tracks and the movements of troop and supply trains. The last part of her journey to Haarlem is by truck – the train track is destroyed.

She finds family; and she returns to her home above the watch shop. She is a very different Corrie than the one who was arrested some 10 months before. She has seen death and destruction. She has seen people killed. She has seen brutality and what humans are indeed capable of. She has experienced the death of her beloved sister and father. Yes, it is a very different Corrie who returns to Haarlem, one who faith has been refined by fire.

Led by Sarah Salter and Jason Stasyszen, we’ve been discussing The Hiding Place. To see more posts on this chapter, “The Three Visions,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines. This is the last chapter in the book; there is an epilogue. I’ll have a few final thoughts next week.

Photograph by Lilla Frerichs via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Robert Crawford on the Young Eliot

Before he was the winner for the Nobel Prize for Literature, before he was recognized for some of the most innovative and remarkable poetry of the 20th century, before “The Hollow Men” became one of the most recognizable poems in modern times, he was Tom Eliot, young Tom Eliot.

ThomasStearnes Eliot was the youngest of six children, born in 1888 when his parents were 45 and his siblings considerably older. His was an upper class family in St. Louis, where his father was a vice president of a major brick manufacturer and his grandfather the founder of Washington University in St. Louis. His Unitarian family came from New England, and he was related to John Greenleaf Whittier, James Russell Lowell, Henry Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Adams, John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

We’re more familiar with the latter half of Eliot’s career, from the time he was established as a poet of international renown, his Nobel Prize, and the poetry that in many ways helped to define Modernism in literary history. But before he was the famous poet, he was the boy, the young man at Harvard, and the expatriate in England.

In Young Eliot: From St. Louis to The WasteLand, Robert Crawford explores the early Eliot in depth, covering the period from his birth to the Publication of “The Waste Land” in 1922.

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

Photograph: Vivien and Tom Eliot at home in London about 1921.

Monday, September 28, 2015

James Bryan Smith’s “Rich Mullins”

If one had to name the most influential musician in Christian contemporary music of the last 40 years, the answer might be Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Stephen Curtis Chapman, and several other well-known names. But the musician who influenced them, and had an impact that is still reverberating 18 years after his death, is Rich Mullins.

Song after song, hit after hit, Mullins was as known for his music as he was for his rather iconoclastic reaction to fame. He shrugged it off. He saw himself as a broken vessel, redeemed by his Creator, and his music reflected that belief.

And millions of people identified with that music. “My God is an Awesome God,” “Step by Step,” “Creed,” “Elijah”  – songs written and recorded by Mullins and recorded by scores of other musicians. Some have already made their way into contemporary hymn books.

Mullins was also known for his friendship with Brennan Manning (1937-2013), and was counseled by Manning the last few years of his life. Mullins adopted Brenann’s “Ragamuffin gospel” for the name of his band, and how he described himself – a ragamuffin.

Mullins’ influence extended into my own family. I can remember how the news of his death in an automobile accident in 1997 affected both my wife and my oldest son, who was then in high school. For them and millions of others, Mullins’ death was more than the death of a favored musician or even a friend; it was like losing someone whose music touched their hearts and souls.

In 2000, James Bryant Smith wrote a biography of Mullins, Rich Mullins: A Devotional Biography: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, and he did it in an unusual way. Rather than the more common chronological account, Smith wrote the biography as a devotional. Perhaps for that reason, the work has remained current.

With an introduction by Brennan Manning, the biography is structured around 10 devotional themes: family, creed, the love of God, trusting in Jesus, creation, struggle and pain, simplicity, sin and temptation, loving one another, and death and the life to come. The discussion for each theme combines, biographical information, interviews with people who knew Mullins, some of Mullins’ own writings, quotations, and the words of Mullins’ songs. With such disparate elements, the biography could have come across disjointed and cobbled together, but it doesn’t; it stays centered on Mullins and his faith.

James Bryant Smith
This was a widely popular Christian musician whose typical concert clothes were a t-shirt, jeans, and bare feet. Early on, he fronted at concerts for big name Christian bands; by the end of his life, the singer and songwriter who typically performed in church settings had eclipsed them all.

The most telling line in the book, among many telling lines, is this, and it speaks volumes about Mullins and his work: “Rich Mullins was not encumbered by the need to succeed; he was captive to the need to create.”

Smith received his M.Div. degree from Yale University Divinity School and his D. Min. degree from Fuller Seminary. He is a professor of theology at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and leads the Christian Spiritual Formation Institute there.

Rich Mullins: A Devotional Biography is a profound way to do two things simultaneously: learn about the life and music of a man who became a legend, and examine one’s own life in the process.

Brandon Heath and Third Day sing "Creed" by Rich Mullins

Rich Mullins in concert, singing "Step by Step"

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Rules, always

Based on Acts 15:1-35

Rules, always rules
to follow how else do
we live must have rules
without rules only chaos
only violence

            You lay a yoke you
            cannot bear yourself you
            demand obedience you
            cannot follow you
demand a bind you
cannot tie yourself

Waves crash against each other
waves seeking supremacy
either the wave of law
or the wave of grace

only one could last
only one prevail
only one

Photograph by Andrew Schmidt via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday Good Reads

Last year and this year I’ve been reading about World War I – the history of the war, how it happened, the poets, and the aftermath. One of the more interesting things I keep running across is how the thinking of the 19th century set the stage for both the world wars of the 20th – the belief in progress, the triumph of Darwinism, the German “higher criticism” of the Bible, and much more. Greg Forster at The Gospel Coalition has a post about a new book about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein that describes how much of their writing was in reaction to the 19th century and World War I.

I’ll have to read this book. And Forster’s words set my mind in motion, wondering what kind of price we’re ultimately going to pay for the intellectual bankruptcy known as political correctness, the enshrinement of victimization as an operating principle in society (see Rod Dreher’s article in American Conservative, linked below), and what happens when the most powerful nation on the face on the planet decides to take an extended vacation from global security concerns.

Dominic Bouck, a Dominican brother in the province of St. Joseph in Manhattan, describes what many Christians fear is coming – a country without churches. His is one of three articles from the Washington Post featured here today, and I have to say, I’m surprised at some of the stories the Post is publishing. And over at The New York Times, while it’s a kind of bashing-the-military story, it is also indirectly bashing “cultural sensitivity” and political correctness that’s beginning to run rampant among U.S. military leaders. I’m not ready to declare that journalism has returned to America, but a few glimmers of light might be appearing.

Life and Culture

Are Democrats and Republicans talking about the same country? – Phillip Rucker at the Washington Post.

Innovate or Fritter: A Story of Life – John Mertz and Voter wants to find the right candidate for you – Molly Page at Thin Difference.

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War – Greg Forster at The Gospel Coalition.

SJWs as Marcusian Monsters – Rod Dreher at American Conservative.


10 Thoughts on the Church – Troy Cady at T(r)oy Marbles.

A country without churches – Dominic Bouck in the Washington Post.

When Home Isn’t a Physical Address – Eileen Knowles at The Scenic Route.

Good Ol’ Words: Preach – Winn Collier.

Does the Everyday Mundane Matter? – Hugh Whelchel at Faith, Work & Economics.

The Language of Abortion – Seth Haines.


This Present Wildness – John Blase at The Beautiful Due.

John Dryden – D.S. Martin at Kingdom Poets.

Poet C.K. Williams – Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper.

Let’s Take a Walk in This World – Troy Cady at T(r)oy Marbles.


The Champion Table Build, Part 1: Compose, Scribe and Fit – Jack Baumgartner at The School of the Transfer of Energy.

Dewy Dawn – Tim Good at Photography by Tiwago.


Where Does the Story End? – Michael Rennier at Dappled Things.

Photograph by Ave Lainesaar via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Friday, September 25, 2015

I lifted a rock

I lifted a rock
to see what lay
beneath, hidden

from the light
and air, to see
what crawled

or burrowed there
or what seeped
from the sides

what lay beneath:
a mirror, what Alice
fell through

Photograph by Maliz Ong via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Sign of the Apocalypse (at the Office)

When I was in college, a fraternity brother who was one of those “Christians” prevailed upon me to read The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsay. I sat in the living room of the fraternity house and read about the coming end times. I was still a good pagan, but the book was totally absorbing and read like a supermarket novel. (My girlfriend had just broken up with me and I was likely highly receptive to the idea of end-times.)

I enjoyed it, and was invited to a book discussion a few days later. The discussion turned out to be a meeting of all the born-again Christians in the fraternity. And me, the sole pagan. I manage to escape intact.

Lindsay was off by at least a few years. And he missed one of the most obvious and frightening end-signs. Had he only know what was coming, his timetable could have been exact.

It’s the devilish device that has strangled business, academia and government in a death-like vise for almost two decades.

It’s done more to destroy common understanding than anything else ever created by man.

It’s turned gifted speakers into automatons and audiences into rebellious serfs. Buried within its secret computer code is the number 666.

We’re all doomed.

The End Is Here
I’m speaking, of course, of PowerPoint. The end is not near; the end is here. 
Nothing can be communicated today without PowerPoint. Nothing. I can’t speak for government or academia, but nothing happens in business without PowerPoint. It’s a disease we’ve all caught, and we cheerfully spread it to others. “Forward-thinking” high schools teach it, and you can’t get a college degree without it.

It’s an industry. You can hire a PowerPoint consultant. You can take courses in PowerPoint. There are seminars devoted to it. There are whole libraries written about it, and the web sites devoted to it are legion.

PowerPoint is a cult.

Attend a speech at a conference. Every speaker must have his “deck.” Every slide typically has all white space covered in words, and the speaker will read every one of them. He (or she – this is an equal opportunity apocalypse) never understands that his audience can read faster than he can speak, finishing the slide long before he does.

People tweet and blog speeches now because they’re bored to death by PowerPoint.

And that’s despite all the PowerPoint “apps.” Business executives are nothing if not competitive. Who has the most complex graphics? How many videos can you embed on a single slide? Who can make the best use of Flash, or open up a web site right on the slide? How about live-streaming a Twitter convo?

You’re Kaputsky, Baby! 
I was one of several people presenting at a meeting recently. PowerPoint slides were mandatory. I gave my few slides to the organizer, who looked them over and smiled knowingly: You’re doomed, Young. No graphics or color. And only four or five words per slide! You’re kaputsky, baby!

Guess whom the audience paid attention to? They were rather astonished, yes, but then I was talking about something they deeply cared about. They listened. They asked questions. They forgot all the other presentations.

I gave another talk and didn’t use any slides at all. Despite the scandal, we all survived.

I’ve made a decision.

I will fight this evil, and I will fight it everywhere – the beaches, the streets, the auditoriums, the conference rooms. I will stand alone if I have to, but I will fight.

The world does not have to come to an end in an exploding deck of PowerPoint slides.

And I will write The Late Great PowerPoint.

(This article was originally published by The High Calling, and it reprinted here – slightly revised – under a creative commons license.)

Top photograph by Lode Van de Velde, and middle photograph by Ian L, via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Hiding Place: What the Fleas Did

Fleas were a constant pest in the barracks at Ravensbruck, the women’s concentration camp some 56 miles north of Berlin where Corrie and Betsie ten Boom were imprisoned in 1944. As described in The Hiding Place, Betsie had already reminded Corrie that they were to give thanks in all things. Including flea infestations in a camp whose hallmarks were deprivation, brutality, and death.  

Betsie’s health had always been problematic, and the conditions of prison confinement and being forced to be part of work gangs worsened her health problems. Even as she became sicker, her peace and spirit seemed to radiate hope and encouragement to Corrie and the other prisoners.

It is during one camp hospital stay that Betsie learns the reason for one of Ravensbruck’s few blessings – the guards stayed out of their large women’s barracks. Because the guards would not come in, Betsie and Corrie had been unimpeded in sharing the gospel and even conducting not one but two worship services.

The reason was the fleas, Betsie learned. The guards would not come into the barracks because they were afraid of picking up fleas.

And Corrie thinks of Betsie’s admonition to give thanks in all things, including fleas.

We often experience difficult, even terrible situations, without knowing why, without any rhyme or reason. It seems that life – or God – is simply toying with us to see how much we can stand. For Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, having to deal with fleas along with all the other horrors of a Nazi prison camp might seem over the top. Fleas, in addition to brutality and beatings, the smell of awful latrines, the hopelessness hanging over the entire site? Fleas, too, Lord?

In this case, there was a purpose. The fleas effectively kept the Nazi prison guards out, and allowed the gospel and worship to spread.

In a place as terrible as Ravensbruck, those fleas were the conduit for hope.

And Corrie will need hope. Betsie’s health worsens. She’s eventually taken back to the hospital. And the day comes when Corrie slips into the hospital through the bathroom and sees her sister’s body stacked against the wall.

She touches Betsie’s face for the last time.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Hiding Place. To see more posts on this chapter, “The Blue Sweater,” please visit Sarah at Reading Between the Lines.

Photograph: A view of the barracks of the Ravensbruck concentration camp. The reality of the camp was not what this photograph might suggest.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Robert Frost and “The Road Not Taken”

In 1912, poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) and his family moved to England. His writing career was not happening in the United States, and a flip of a coin made the decision for England instead of Canada. He was in England for only a short time when a British publisher offered a contract. The resulting book caught the attention of a British poet and literary journalist, Edward Thomas, and Frost and Thomas became good friends.

They often took walks in the countryside together, and Frost was often amused by his friend’s indecision as to which walking route to take, and then to regret the one chosen. Frost later sent Thomas a poem, entitled “Two Roads,” which Frost thought of as a kind of joke about Thomas’s indecision and a parody on the romantic imagination. For his part, Thomas seemed not to realize it was meant as a joke, and took it quite seriously, as the exchange of letters between the two indicates.

Thomas eventually enlisted in the British Army, and died in 1917 in France. Today he’s known as one of the “World War I poets.” Frost went on to become, more than anyone else, the “American Poet.” And his poem, “Two Roads,” was renamed, and became “The Road Not Taken,” perhaps the best known American poem of the 20th century, and perhaps the best known American poem, period.

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

Photograph: Robert Frost about the time he wrote “The Road Not Taken.”

Monday, September 21, 2015

Patrick Carr’s “By Divine Right”

By Divine Right is a novella by Patrick Carr that is largely part of a marketing plan. But it also happens to be such an intriguing story that it both stands alone and serves what it’s designed to do – entice the reader to a new fantasy trilogy that begins publication in Late October.

The trilogy is The Darkwater Saga, and the first volume due Oct. 27 is The Shock of Night. If this volume and it successors live up to the promise of By Divine Right, then it will be a very good trilogy indeed.

The setting is the capital city of Bunard in the kingdom of Collum. The story is told by Willet Dura, a reeve (or guard officer) in the service of the king. Some years previously, the kingdom had been at war, and, called up to fight, Willet had missed his ordination as priest by a week. Because he fought and killed in the war, he is no longer eligible to be a priest, and least in the order he had prepared for.

The is a land where gifts are important. Nobles and the wealthy each have a gift – beauty, craft, sum, parts, helps, or devotion. Gifts are vitally important, the “currency” around which society is centered. Only the king has all the gifts, which are transmitted to each generation. Sometimes gifts are split among children, reducing their power and effectiveness. Common people and the poor rarely if ever have a whole or part of a gift.

Patrick Carr
Willet becomes involved in the whole subject of gifts when he investigates the murder of a man whose gift was stolen. As it turns out, others have been killed and their gifts stolen. Someone is killing people and collecting their gifts, which can mean only one thing – someone is planning to usurp the kingship.

Even in the short form of the novella, Carr develops the main plot and sub-plots. Characterization in the story is especially strong; the characters are almost immediately recognizable and understood. (Readers have noted this in his previous trilogy of books, The Staff & the Sword.)

A good story in and of itself, By Divine Right suggests there’s an even better story coming.

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

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The names blur

From Acts 13-14

The names of the cities
blur in succession,
in the pattern of the work:

Antioch Seleucia Salamis
Paphos Perga Antioch
Iconium Lystra Derbe
Iconium Antioch Perga
Seleucia Antioch

The names of the cities
we touched the cities
who touched us watching
miracles unfold
the sick healed
the lame made whole
the souls saved
and strengthened
the gospel spread

Illustration: Map of the first missionary journey by Paul and Barnabas, adapted by Mark Meynell from the ESV Study Bible.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday Good Reads

We’re going somewhat Anglophile today – several links to things British and things London. The BBC offers a translation of certain British phrases. The city of London has a short video on the house where poet John Keats lived from 1818 to 1820. And the Royal Academy of Arts has a special exhibition of the Waterloo cartoon by Daniel Maclise (friend of Charles Dickens). The “cartoon” is what we would call a mural.

And we’re still celebrating the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. One of the most moving scenes in the Kenneth Branagh movie is of the English soldiers carrying the bodies of the boys in the baggage vans, the boys massacred by the French out of spite and in violation of the rules of war. Well, that's how Shakespeare had it in Henry V. Apparently, it never happened. But Henry did order the deaths of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unarmed French prisoners, anticipating an attack by French knights that never materialized. Slightly exaggerated poetic license? It's still a moving scene in the movie.


Making the Weather in English Writing and Art – Alexandra Harris at The Guardian (Hat tip: Janet Young).

Shop Talk: Tools of the Trade – Chris Yokel at The Rabbit Room.


Idiosyncrasies of the Brits at Work – Mark Johanson at BBC (Hat tip: J of India).


Praise Christ, Our Lamb – Mary H. Sayler at Praise Poems.

Resentment haiku – Troy Cady at T(r)oy Marbles.

Keats House – video by the City of London.

Honest repetitions – John Blase at The Beautiful Due.

The Oak Library - Brendan MacOdrum at Oran's Well.

Reinforcements – Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper.


To Dance with One Another – Diana Trautwein at She Loves Magazine.

Talk to the Hand – Charles Martin.

Art and Photography

Salvia in the Rain – Tim Good at Photography by Tiwago.

Daniel Maclise: The Waterloo Cartoon – Royal Academy of Arts.

Ai Weiwei comes to London – Ben Luke at The Evening Standard.

Henry V – Non Nobis and Te Deum

Photograph by Westminster Bridge in London by Steve Bryant via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Review of "Dancing Priest"

Monica Sharman at Know-Love-Obey God has posted a review of my first novel, Dancing Priest. And I have to say, she nailed it -- she caught exactly what I was trying to do and hoping that I'd done with the novel.

So take a look -- the review is short, succinct and right to the point.