Sunday, March 31, 2019

One sheep, lost

After Luke 15:1-10

Amid the murmurs and
the muttering, disdain
for the dirty, the nasty,
the deplorable, the dregs,
the unredeemable,
a story:
one sheep, lost;
ninety-nine sheep, not lost.
Abandon the lost, taking
Solace in the ninety-nine?
Or search for the lost one
leaving the ninety-nine
to fend for themselves.
It’s a choice, freedom of choice,
to choose the one, lost,
seeking the lost, one, until
found, rescued, carried back.
Choose the one, lost,
or the ninety-nine, not lost?

Photograph by Flavio Gasperini via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Saturday Good Reads

Is Western liberalism dead? It’s an important question, even for those of us who aren’t political philosophers or constitutional scholars – perhaps especially for the rest of us. Author Patrick Deneen wrote a much-discussed book on the subject, Why Liberalism Failed?

Why is the question important? Because America’s political and social economy are underpinned by the Western liberal idea. And a central part of that idea is a kind of contract between the people and the elites we allow to govern. If the contract is broken, and there is considerable evidence to suggest that it is (i.e., a dysfunctional Congress and serious calls to pack the Supreme Court), then what’s at risk is the existing political and social order. 

Susannah Black at Mere Orthodoxy has published a long – in internet terms, extremely long – essay entitled “Sealed in Blood: Aristopopulism and the City of Men.” While the subject might ratchet up the blood pressure, what’s encouraging is that people are thinking and writing about it, and looking for answers and ways forward.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Birmingham, Alabama, has had a long run of organizational success. It started out as a group to fight the Ku Klux Klan; today it’s best known for its annual and controversial Hate List. But, suddenly, the founder and No. 2 left, courtesy of the Board, and an investigation implemented. Bob Moser, a former SPLC writer, penned an eye-opening article for The New Yorker. Julia Duin at Get Religion took a look, and asked why no one in the news media – which regularly uses the SPLC as a source on race relations – seemed to be surprised

More Good Reads

Life and Culture

Commentator Andrew Sullivan Jeered at Hollywood Inclusion Event – Peter Kiefer at The Hollywood Reporter.

Whose Reaganism? Which Republicanism? – Jake Meador at Mere Orthodoxy.

News Media

Autoplaying Evil: When Social Media Images Damage Our Souls – Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition.


A Christian Looks at Change – Zak Schmoll at Entering the Public Square.

What About the ‘Lost” Books of the Bible? – Michael Kruger at Canon Fodder.

Presbyterian Pentecostals? – Thomas Kidd at The Gospel Coalition.


Dickens on fire – Joseph Harrison at The New Criterion.

I love peanut butter – Jerry Barrett at Gerald the Writer.

Revelations: Interview with Poet Reuben Quesada – Cassidy Hall at Image Journal.

“Cheering as the Summer Weather”: On the Primal Appeal of Light Verse – Patrick Kurp at The Los Angeles Review of Books.

The Imaginary Chapel – James Matthew Wilson at Dappled Things.

Writing and Literature

Write to Discover Your Voice – Ann Kroeker.

American Stuff

“Do You Remember – When We Last Did Meet?” by Sarah Kay Bierle and Laure “Doucette” Larendon: Beauregard’s Daughter by Sean Michael Chick, both at Emerging Civil War.

May It Be – Voices8

Painting: Woman Reading in a Garden, oil on canvas by Mary Cassatt (1840-1926).

Friday, March 29, 2019

Called to the vineyard

Jeremiah 29:7-13

Called to the vineyard,
this broken and battered place
of tangled vines and rotting grapes,
called to this vineyard, this city of exile,
you will be battered in this city
you will be broken in this city
because that is the work
of calling to this city of exile
because that’s what it’s about
in this city of exile,
this broken, battered place.
Joy yes but brokenness and
violence and he knows because
he lived it in this city of exile
and being called here
has a point
has a purpose
and the point is called salt
and the purpose is called light. 

Photograph by Zoltan Tasi via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

“The Arsenal Stadium Mystery” by Leonard Gribble

It’s an exciting sports event. The Arsenal football team – the top-rated professional team in the U.K. – is playing an exhibition match against the Trojans, the top-rated amateur football team. Right after the second half of play begins, a Trojan player collapses on the field. Taken inside the treatment room, he is shortly pronounced dead. It turns out that he was poisoned by an alkaloid poison related to nicotine; a pinprick is discovered on his hand.

Chief Inspector Anthony Slade of Scotland Yard is called in. As he investigates, all of the evidence points increasingly to one of the Trojan players as the murderer, the victim’s partner in the insurance business who fiancĂ© was being wooed by the dead man. And the evidence systematically is piling up. While everyone else is convinced of the murderer’s identity, Slade is suspicious; the evidence is just a bit too obvious and looks more orchestrated than real. He goes deeper into the lives and backgrounds of all the people concerned and discovers motives buried in the distant past.

Leonard Gribble
The Arsenal Stadium Mystery by Leonard Gribble (1908-1985) was first published in 1939, and it was notable for a number of reasons. It actually featured the manager and players of the Arsenal football (soccer) club that year. It was serialized in a newspaper before being published as book. And it helped to publicize a movie based on the story released that same year. It’s been republished as part of the British Library’s Crime Classics series.

The author of some 77 books of mystery and suspense, Gribble also wrote under the pen names of Sterry Browning, James Garnett, Leo Grex, Louis Grey, Piers Marlowe, Dexter Muir, and Bruce Sanders. Most of the books were under his own name and starred Inspector (later Superintendent) Anthony Slade. He was also a founding member of the Crime Writers Association in 1953.

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery is one of the classics of the Golden Age of Mystery (1920-1940) and should be appealing to sports fans and mystery lovers alike.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

“Proven Love” by Mary Manners

Megann Reilly is a kindergarten teacher in Chicago, who’s returned home to Wildwood, Tennessee for the summer to care for her ailing mother. She hasn’t been home in 10 years; she couldn’t get away fast enough from her mother who was addicted to both alcohol and men. The family had been abandoned by her father, who later committed suicide when she was still a child. Megann definitely grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.

Colton Kendrick grew up on the right side of the tracks, son of the wealthiest family in town and always part of the in-crowd in high school. Having experienced a near-fatal car accident that left his best friend crippled, the death of his sister from leukemia, and the responsibilities of raising his now five-year-old niece. Colton is a very different person from the shallow party buy Megann knew in high school and secretly had a crush on. 

Mary Manners
Colton’s now the youth minister at Wildwood Community Church, where Megann ends up as an administrative assistant to provide some family income. The two are attracted to each other, but there are issues buried in their pasts, and in their families’ pasts, that threaten to undo any kind of relationship. And only gradually will Colton and Megann find out what those are.

Proven Love by Mary Manners is one of 20 books in the The Potter’s House series, short Christian romance novels written by various authors. Manners is the author of several books in the series as well as several of her own independent Christian romance novels. She lives in Tennessee.

The novel is not serious literature, but then it doesn’t pretend to be. It’s easy reading, a simple romance, with an expected ending, but containing a few surprises along the way. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Ocean as Metaphor: “The Crossing Over” by Jen Karetnick

My earliest memory of the ocean is the salt smell. My family lived in New Orleans, and we took a short vacation to Biloxi, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. What I remember is walking in wet sand, my mother holding my three-year-old hand attached to my three-year-old self, listening to the white birds overhead, and smelling salt. The water was green, stretching forever into the distance. The ocean was an event, an experience, and a painting. 

Later I would come experience the ocean as a playground, a place to investigate in the shallows, a source of shells and fish and strange creatures like jellyfish better avoided. Once, when I was 17 and right out of high school, the Atlantic served as a kind of bedroom, as friends and I slept the night on a beach near Cape Kennedy in Florida. Much later, traveling to Europe or Hawaii, the ocean became flyover territory, something to get across to reach a destination.

Reading the 21 poems of Jen Karetnick’s new collection The Crossing Over is to find all of these metaphors of the ocean and more.

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

Monday, March 25, 2019

“Invitation to Poetry” by Mihai Brinas

Twenty-five-year-old poet Mihai Brinas lives in Romania and has already published four collections of poetry, including Invitation to Poetry, his most recent. Brinas write poetry in English, and he writes about love, poetry, jealousy, imagination, the passing of time, and life. 

It’s unusual to see contemporary poets write love poems, and yet that’s what comprises a significant portion of this new collection. He considers the clumsy first stages of love, the first kiss, how a relationship develops, the depth of passion, and more. This focus on love even spills into the more general journey of life poems he includes. There is something innately appealing, and rather refreshing, about a poet writing on love – the theme poets have written about for millennia. 

All of his poems are written in lower case and without punctuation. He uses line breaks to provide order and coherence. This suggests a kind of humility – something else not usually associated with contemporary poets. He writes with a crispness and simplicity that holds your attention to the words; only after do you realize that something deeper was being communicated. Consider this poem, one of the “non-love” poems in the collection.

searching for the light

have not hidden my eyes

from any sunrise

i hide my eyes

every sunset instead

i can hear the light crumble

when the night falls

i can hear it fall into pieces

that is why i avert my eyes

i am trying to collect

the remains of the light

just like a child

collecting from the dust

shards of colored glass

fantasizing they are precious stones

Mihai Brinas
This is a “life” poem, or a “searching for life” poem. The poet distinguishes between the light of sunrise, or beginnings, and the light of sunset, or endings. He’s firmly fixed on the light from the sunrise. But both kinds of light turn out to be fragmentary, and he finds himself trying to collect the remains of light in the dust, those “shards of colored glass” that he wants to believe are precious stones. And that suggests the underlying theme of the poem – is this a search for the real or for the ephemeral? The poet is an idealist here; he keeps searching because he still believes.

Brinas’ previous poetry collections are Alignment of ThoughtsCrossroads, and Thoughts That Bring Us Closer. Born and raised in Romania, he lives in the city of Arad in the western part of the country, not far from the Hungarian border.

If I had to use one word to describe Invitation to Poetry, that word would have to be enchanting. The poems have freshness and vitality. They’re fully recognizable across cultures as poems of love and life. And they remind us of what’s important and what matters.

Top photograph by Nathan McBride via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The peace of the city

After Jeremiah 29:7-13

There is a city on a hill
and there is a city at the bottom
of the hill, a city in the plain:
a city of peace, a city without
a city of wealth, a city without
a city of live and kindness
a city without
a city safe and secure
a city of violence
a city that’s home
a city that’s exile.
Seek the peace of the city of exile.
Seek the safety of the city of exile.
Seek this city of exile.
Seek it.
Seek its streets.
Walk its lanes
Visit its homes.
Seek it.

Photograph by Dan Gold via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Saturday Good Reads

This is how the biography begins: “Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services.” Hanson is a conservative and a defender of Donald Trump (in fact, he's just published a new book, The Case for Trump). 

It’s not difficult to imagine Hanson writing about Trump voters; he does so on a regular basis. But imagine my cognitive dissonance to see an article by Hanson on what progressives need to know about Trump voters published on the CNN web site. Regardless of how you feel about President Trump, the article is well worth reading. (I’m still trying to deal with seeing it on a CNN web site.)

What’s old is new again: Identity politics has a rather ferocious grip on the Western imagination, not to mention Western politics. Its roots, says Akos Balough at The Gospel Coalition Australia, go back a couple of thousand years to the heresy of Gnosticism. Solomon was right, there is nothing new under the sun. 

More Good Reads


God, the Playwright – Donald Catchings at An Unexpected Journal.

Monday Morning – Jerry Barrett at Gerald the Writer.

Crashing W.S. Merwin’s Wedding – Edward Hirsch at The Paris Review and Remembering W.S. Merwin: The Poet of Disappearance – Peggy Rosenthal at Image Journal.

The Who I Am– Martha Orlando at Meditations of My Heart.

Theory of the translation of the moon – Kathleen Everett at The Course of Our Seasons.

How I Talk to God – Kelly Belmonte at Literary Life.


How the Sacred-Secular Divide Impacts the Church – Hugh Whelchel at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics.

We All Live in Marx’s World Now – Carl Trueman at The Gospel Coalition.

Life and Culture

The Memory Keeper – B. Miller at The South Roane Agrarian. 

Reflections on the Community of Baseball Fans – Zak Schmoll at Entering the Public Square.

Wisdom First, Job Skills Second – Mark Bauerlein at City Journal.

The Marijuana Delusion – Steven Malanga at City Journal.

Writing and Literature

Village Poet – Laura Lundgren at Servants of Grace.

American Stuff

Andrew Jackson Unconquered – Bill Kauffman at Modern Age reviews the new biography by Bradley Birzer.

Of Battles and Memories: A Union Officer’s Springtime Letter – Sarah Kay Bierle at Emerging Civil war Blog.

Art and Photography

Flower Therapy – Susan Etole. 

Walking in Memphis – Marc Cohn

Painting: Room in a Farmhouse, oil on panel (1886) by L.A. Ring (1853-1933).

Friday, March 22, 2019

Sitting at the dealership

Sitting in this nice waiting room
at the car dealership, waiting while
mechanics serviced the car, 
waiting areas didn’t used to be
so nice, this one had coffee, and
bottled water neatly lined up
in a small refrigerator, and popcorn,
with the showroom of new cars
shining and sparkling conveniently 
close by. The gray-haired man
shuffles in, glances at the coffee,
and ponders the pre-packaged muffins,
finally selecting the wild blueberry.
He sits, contented, and opens the book
that had been tucked under his arm.
I’m too far away to see the title, 
but the cover photograph gives it away:
he’s reading Mystery and Manners
by Flannery O’Connor, while he waits
for his car to be serviced, and I think
a good car is hard to find.

Photograph by Daniele Fantin via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

"Black & Blue" by Emma Jameson

One thing you can say about the Lord and Lady Hetheridge mystery series by Emma Jameson is that they are never dull. Things happen. Lots of things. On almost every page. 

Black & Blue, the fourth in the series, starts with a murder of an art dealer, who lives right around the corner from the Hetheridges in London’s Mayfair. Lord Hetheridge is Chief Superitendent Anthony Hetheridge of Scotland Yard, aka the ninth Baron of Wellegrave. Lady Hetheridge is the former Kate Wakefield, a detective sergeant woeking with Hetheridge as part of the murder investigation squad. The third member of the team is Detective Sergeant Deepal Bhar, who has the unfortunate habit of always stepping into things when he shouldn’t.

The art dealer was a nasty bit of goods, irrespective of his Euston Square address. He liked poaching the married wives of well-known men who didn’t take kindly to his poaching. He liked dumping his new girlfriends almost as soon as he had them. He offended neighbors on both accounts, not to mention the awful modern art eyesore he’d turned his house into. And then there’s the drug smuggling business that the art dealing covered for. 

Emma Jameson
Right at the start of the investigation, Hetherbridge is booted from his position, or “allowed to retire.” He takes steps to set up his own private investigations business, although he’s wealthy enough not to have worry about income. Kate and Deepal find themselves reporting to a new boss – Vic Jackson, known for his alcoholism, sexual harassment, and racist comments. Except Jackson seems to have undergone a transformation.

Murder suspects abound, including the woman found in the wardrobe in the dead man’s house (supposedly looking for Narnia) and the Texas boyfriend of Bhar’s mother, who comes close to steal the show for the entire novel. She’s a great comic character. And the Hetheridges have family problems, specifically Kate’s family, her recently-released-from-the-mental-home sister and her former prostitute mother (Kate and Tony were born and reared in very different circumstances).

In addition to the Hetheridge series, Jameson has a second series of novels featuring the amateur detective Dr. Benjamin Bones. The series begins in Cornwall during World War II, and it has a companion series called “The Magic of Cornwall.” Jameson is currently working on the third Dr. Bones mystery.

So much happens in Black & Blue that you’ll feel rather breathless and checking back every few pages to make sure you caught everything that was happening. And you’ll also be highly entertained.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

“A Stranger on My Land” by Sandra Merville Hart

Adam Hendricks is a private with the 99thOhio Infantry, slowly advancing with his unit up Lookout Mountain in Tennessee. It’s late November of 1863, and after taking Chattanooga, Union forces are working their way towards Georgia. What lies ahead is the battle of Missionary Ridge. But before that happens, Hendricks is wounded in his arm, twice. He loses consciousness; when he awakes, he’s lying by himself in the forest, and his right arm is useless.

Carrie Bishop is a young woman whose family lives in a cabin on the mountain. Her father is with General Lee’s army in Virginia. She, her aunt, and her young brother have taken refuge in a cave. Her aunt had refused to leave the mountain; to protect themselves, their livestock, and remaining food from both Confederate and Union forces, they’ve been in hiding for some time.

Sandra Merville Hart
Searching for firewood, Carrie and her brother find the wounded Union soldier. Her first reaction is to walk away. Her second is to help him. The circumstances that force the two young people together are also the circumstances that may drive them apart – they occupy opposing sides of the Civil War (Carrie’s aunt in particular has a virulent hatred of all things Yankee). What Carrie can medically do for Adam is extremely limited, and she knows that she will have to risk her family’s safety to get him the doctor’s help he needs.

A Stranger on My Land is the story of Carrie and Adam, the first of three Civil War romances by Sandra Merville Hart. It’s an engaging story, backed by considerable research and period detail.

The second novel in the series is A Rebel in My House and the third is A Musket in My Hands. Hart, a member of American Christian Fiction Authors, has also published novellas and short stories and is both a contributor and assistant editor for 

My initial interest in A Stranger on My Land was the Civil War setting. But it took no time for the story to take over and almost compel me to read it straight through in one sitting.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Poets and Poems: Phoebe Power and “Shrines of Upper Austria”

One of the significant themes in contemporary poetry is identity – with an open-ended definition of that word. Poets young and old are exploring what identity is, using their own lives as a prism. The recent National Book Award winner Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed is one example. The poetry of British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffyi s another. 

Phoebe Power
British poet Phoebe Power, in her first collection Shrines of Upper Austria, explores a different facet of identity, and that’s an individual’s understanding of national identity. The collection received the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. 

Power’s starting point is her grandmother, who arrived in England as a new bride married to a British soldier in 1946. Her grandmother was an ethnic German from Austria, which just the year before had been part of Nazi Germany. Imagine her British neighbors, and her new British family. Imagine what she had left behind. The experiences and heritage of her grandmother becomes Power’s by family inheritance. 

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Poetry at Work, Chapter 10: The Poetry of Beauty in the Workplace

The worst view I ever had from my assigned office at work was of the building’s designated smoking area. I had the most coveted type of office – a closed-door office, with a window. Except the window faced the smoking area outside the building, with its awning-like protection and clouds of smoke.

The best view I ever had from my assigned office at work was that same office – after smoking was banned entirely from the campus. No more plastic awning. No more clouds of smoke. Just an uninterrupted view of nearby woods.

If someone asked you to describe beauty at your workplace, you would likely think of architectural structures, window views, fountains, waterways, or woods. You might think of people, but today’s cultural and work environments require that great care be taken when talking about people. 

To continue reading, please see my post today at Literary Life.

“City of a Million Dreams” by Jason Berry

New Orleans, the city where I was born and grew up in, turned 300 years old last year, rather old by American standards. Founded by the French, managed for a time by the Spanish, incorporated into the United States with the Louisiana Purchase, then a part of the Confederacy before it was dragged back into the Union with Reconstruction, the city has a history that’s colorful, turbulent, diverse, and still being lived.

These days, I usually approach books and articles about New Orleans with doubts. How much of what I read will be ideological? How much does political correctness seep in? Will I recognize my hometown in what I’m reading, or will it come across as some alien place, unrelated to anything I know?

City of a Million Dreams: A History of New Orleans at Year 300 by Jason Berry captures a considerable amount of the city’s color and turbulence. It’s an account of a city that’s includes usually forgotten elements and people but also manages to avoid the traps of ideology. In short, I recognize my city in this story of its history. The problem I have is that I don’t recognize enough of it. 

Berry is an investigative reporter who lives in New Orleans and who’s written some 10 books, including on subjects as diverse as the Catholic Church crisis, the power of money in the Catholic church, a history of New Orleans music, a novel about Louisiana politics, and others. He is a producing City of a Million Dreams as a documentary film, expected to be released this year. 

The book begins at the beginning, with the founding by the French in 1718, specifically by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, the man known for his snake-tattooed body that always impressed the native tribes. Berry tells a good story of Louisiana’s first 100 years, covering the French, Spanish, and early American periods, along with the powerful influences on the city by the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte, slave rebellions in the West Indies, yellow fever, and French national and colonial politics. 

Jason Berry
It was during the discussion of the period leading up to and including the Civil War and Reconstruction eras that I began to see the book’s strong point – the emphasis on the city’s musical history – was also its weak point. The emphasis on music allows an enhanced discussion of the history of the city’s African-American people, including both slaves and “free people of color.” But it also means that other elements are crowded out. The reader gets an extended discussion of specific musicians and a funeral home operator, but not a single reference to John McDonough, the philanthropist who shaped the lives of hundreds of thousands of people through the public schools, and few references to the importance played by city’s position as a leading seaport.

Aside from the discussion of colonial history, the book does provide solid background on how the city’s neighborhoods developed, where Congo Square came from, the original of "second-lining" funerals, and how New Orleans’ musicians, like Louis Armstrong, became part of the city’s musical diaspora across the United States and into Europe. But you will find very little on the city’s contribution to World War II and the space program, and the role of businesses and industry, including cotton. 

City of a Million Dreams is uneven, and its emphasis on music likely reflects the author’s previous work in that area. The music is a fascinating and important aspect of the city’s history. But other aspects are important as well, and Berry could have his excellent storytelling style to those as well. 

Top photograph by Robson Hatsukami Morgan via Unsplash. Used with permission