Saturday, June 30, 2018

Saturday Good Reads

Several movies about Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin has been released over the last year. Ever wonder how true to the facts they are? Shannon Quinn at TopTenz has the story. 

Victor Davis Hanson is an author, professor, expert on ancient Athens (I took an online course on Athens and Sparta in which he taught the Athens part, and he was excellent), and a conservative. He’s has insightful things to say about the state of American culture and politics. He doesn’t think Donald Trump is the end of civilization, but he does suggest that the opposition to Trump as expressed is it is by comedians, politicians, and the media is an indication of the death of democracy. It’s difficult to argue with what he says to The Federalistabout Trump, universities, and where all this angst and anger is going to end.

Zak Schmoll takes a look at confirmation bias, Samuel James writes about civility (and who’s accusing whom of not having it), Rob Eager forecast the future of publishing, Silverio Gonzalez on why God doesn’t need talented people, and more. 

British Stuff

That Little Matter of King Arthur and Camelot– Helen Hollick at English Historical Fiction Authors.

The Real Story of Christopher Robin– Shannon Quinn at TopTenz.

The Cabbie Shelters of Old London– Spitalfields Life.


I Loved You Before I Was Born– Li-Young Lee at Image Journal.

That other god– Joe Spring.

Renaissance– Patrick Connors at Altarwork.

Life and Culture

Old Engagements– David Warren at Essays in Idleness.

Why All Gunshots Are Not Created Equal: A Look at Confirmation Bias– Zak Schmoll at Entering the Public Square.

Civility, Privilege, and the Public Square– Samuel D. James at Letters & Liturgy.



Stop Tuning God Our of Your Loud Life– Isaac Mogilevsky at Daily Disciple.

God Doesn’t Need Talented People– Silverio Gonzalez at Core Christianity.

Art and Photography

Rocket Plume Shadow Points to the Moon– NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day.

The Gold Dust of Autumn– Tim Good at Pixels.

Shake by Mercy Me

Painting: Reading the letter, oil on canvas by Pablo Picasso (1921)

Friday, June 29, 2018


After I John 5:6-21

If we find ourselves within
an impregnable fortress,
we have confidence.

If we discover a true fountain
of youth, of life forever,
we have confidence.

If we cling to the rock
of protection, hiding us from evil,
we have confidence.

If we are within the one, true,
three-in-one, one eternal,
we have confidence.

Photograph by Andrew Neel via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

“A Whiff of Cyanide” by Guy Fraser-Sampson

Peter Collins, a psychologist and profiler who helps the local Hampstead police in London with murder cases, is attending a meeting of the Crime Writers Association. He’s a speaker, and his non-fiction book on poisons used in Golden Age mystery stories (cyanide being a favorite). At the association dinner, which he attends with his girlfriend, Detective Sergeant Karen Willis, he’s suddenly confronted with the real thing – murder, and by cyanide.

The victim is Ann Durham, a towering figure in the association. Her biggest creative successes were in the past, but she still commands – and offends. The police initially believe it might be suicide, but where’s the bottle that held the cyanide? And who handed Durham her last drink?

Detective Superintendent Simon Collison leads the investigation, and he soon learns that his team is traveling down a number of different paths. Suspects abound – the writer seeking to unseat Durham as head of the association; Durham’s daughter and boyfriend; an angry young woman who believes Durham robbed her father and grandfather; and more. One of the suspects is a character actress who has assumed her favorite role so well that it’s rumored she’s even changed her name – to Miss Marple. And like her namesake, she calmly (and accurately) predicts a second murder, “because there always is, isn’t there?”

Guy Fraser-Sampson
A Whiff of Cyanide by Guy Fraser-Sampson is the third in the Hampstead Murder series, and it keeps the reader guessing all the way to the end. And while Fraser-Sampson is telling a good murder story, he’s also developing the side stories of his investigators, with Collison and his wife imminently expecting their first child; Collins and Willis in a rather unusual relationship with Bob Metcalfe, another detective on the investigating team; and Trent Allen, the same rank as Collison but who has to swallow his competitiveness and serve as Collison’s #2.

Fraser-Sampson is perhaps better known as an investment funds manager and business consultant. He’s a member of the teaching staff of the Cass Business School in London, an investment columnist, and the author of four books on finance and investment. In the history and fiction areas, he’s written a history of the Plantagenets, a review of cricket from 1967 to 1977 when the color barriers where breaking down, two successor novels to Mapp and Lucia novels of E.F. Benson, and now this Hampstead Murder series.

A Whiff of Cyanide is another solid, enjoyable entry in the Hampstead series.


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

“Are People Basically Good?” by R.C. Sproul

Often unspoken and unrecognized, there is one belief that clearly divides progressives from conservatives, divides various branches of Christianity, divides believers from non-believers, and that is the fundamental nature of people. Are people basically good, or are people basically sinful? This leads to a rabbit hole (or holes) of additional questions, but perhaps it’s better to consider the fundamental question first.

That’s what R.C. Sproul does in Are People Basically Good?

Until his death in December of 2017, Sproul led Ligonier Ministries, based in Sanford, Florida. He wrote numerous books, articles, sermons, and speeches on Christianity, church history, theology, Calvinism, Reformed theology, and related topics. The Crucial Questions series includes some 30 topics which are free as eBooks, and this volume is a part of the series.

Sproul’s answer reflects his Christian faith, but he doesn’t slam the reader’s head with it. Instead, he uses the lens of Scripture first to consider what it means that man (and woman) “is made in the image of God.” Importantly, being made in the image doesn’t mean we are God but are subordinate to God. The phrase, he says, also separates mankind from all other living creatures. That separation doesn’t mean domination, but it does mean a position of responsibility, authority, and privilege. 

R.C. Sproul
But what every human being must come to understand, Sproul writes, is the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. And sin, he says, goes to the very core of our being. We are made in the image of God, but we are broken from the beginning. And only one thing can heal that brokenness. 

It’s not a popular belief system today, and the culture at large certainly rejects it. But that doesn’t make it untrue (even if it does make it inconvenient). 

Are People Basically Good? is a compact summary of the doctrine of total depravity, a doctrine shared by all of the major Christian faith traditions.


Top photograph by GoaShape via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Poetry and Remembering the Civil War – Part 1: Allen Tate

I’ve been reading about the Civil War; it’s research for a writing project. If you grew up in the South, like I did in the 1950s and 1960s, the Civil War was still being fought, through the stories told by my father and grandmother, and through the rise of the Civil Rights Movement. I could listen to family and watch news reports of protests, counter-protests, police brutality, and governors trying to prevent integration of state universities. 

A great-great uncle died at the Battle of Shilohin 1862; another died in a battle in Texas. But it was my great-grandfather who carried the main family story, because he survived to tell what happened.

Too young to enlist, he served as a messenger boy, part of a Mississippi unit that fought with General Joseph Johnston, the general who surrendered in North Carolina a few weeks after Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. He had to make his way home to southern Mississippi on foot, and it took months across a devastated region. When he arrived, he found his family gone. His odyssey continued across Louisiana to East Texas, where he finally found them.

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

Top photograph: Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Dancing King Stories: Master of the Household

In Dancing King, Michael Kent-Hughes has a recurring problem – finding the right people for his key palace staff positions. 

A wide array of people is considered for the communications job; Michael doesn’t find the right person he’s looking for until a resume arrives unsolicited. A similar problem occurs with his chief of staff position – he finds capable people, but the chemistry doesn’t seem right. What’s happened there is that Michael has been consciously and unconsciously comparing them all to Josh Gittings, the prime minister’s chief aide sent to help Michael and his wife Sarah in San Francisco. That problem is solved when Gittings directly applies for the job.

A third key position is an operating job – Master of the Household at the palace, or as Michael shortens it, “Master of the House.” Today, the position is responsible for all of the operational positions for all of the Royal Households in the nation. In addition to Buckingham Palace, that includes Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace, and the staffs charged with managing the activities of many of the members of the royal family.

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

“The Red House” by Mark Haddon

On the surface, it appears to be two families coming together for a week’s vacation. Richard, a doctor, brings his wife Louisa and her teenaged daughter Melissa. Richard’s sister, Angela, brings her husband Dominic and their three children, Alex, Daisy, and Benjy. They’re coming together not long after the death of Richard and Angela’s mother. The two families don’t know each other very well, and that’s the primary reason for the joint vacation.

The baggage they bring with them is more than just suitcases.

Richard is facing a possible malpractice charge. Melissa and her school friends did some nasty bullying. Angela has never gotten over a miscarriage, and the daughter she lost would be turning 18 this week. Dominc, who seems to be more unemployed than employed, is having an affair. Alex seems the normal older teenaged boy with one thought on his mind, at least most of the time. Daisy has found religious faith, which makes her the odd duck out in both families. And even 8-year-old Benjy has fears of being orphaned.

All of this baggage begins to swirl together as the two families go about doing the things you do on vacation – taking hikes, visiting local sites of interest, and just relaxing. They are renting (Richard’s paying, of course) for a house in the country near the English-Welsh border. The house never becomes more than it is, but it is important as the place the families keep coming back to and the place that anchors The Red House by Mark Haddon, published in 2012.

Best known for his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Haddon is the author of several novels, young adult novels, and story collections, including A Spot of Bother (2007) and The Pier Falls. He is also an artist. He blogs under his own name.

Mark Haddon
Haddon is a master at characterization. Each of the characters gradually becomes real and recognizable. Each has a back story that will gradually be revealed, to themselves, the other characters, and the reader. Real and recognizable doesn’t automatically translate to sympathetic; but they do translate to understandable. It’s difficult, for example, to be sympathetic to a character determined to be nasty to everyone around her, even as she stumbles toward the discovery of kindness. But Haddon holds that character in tension; the reader feels it and wonders how the tension will be resolved.

The author remains true to his story; there is no great revelation or singular crisis moment that brings everything to resolution. But that’s how most families are, moving toward individual resolutions or individuals putting off what doesn’t have to be done today. Things becoming known and understood doesn’t mean things becoming resolved. 


Top photograph by Filip Gielda via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Bearing the image

After I John 4:13-5:5

I love because
I was first loved because
I was owned and claimed.

I love because
I was given the image
to bear.

I bear this image
because I love
because I was first loved.

I bear the image
because I was made
to bear the image.

Because I love
I bear the image,
the image imprinted
   upon me.

Photograph by Saulo Mohana via Unsplash. Used with permission.