Wednesday, September 30, 2020

“On Wealth and Poverty” by St. John Chrysostom

The surviving writings of only one early church father – St. Augustine – exceed those of St. John Chrysostom (ca. 347 A.D. – 407 A.D.). Hundreds of his sermons, epistles, and other writings are still read and studied. He’s recognized as a saint in the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and several other Christian traditions. He’s particularly well known for his sermons.

Born in Antioch in what is now Syria, St. John was initially raised by his mother in the pagan tradition; his father was a military officer who died when John was young. He converted to Christianity in his early 20s and embraced the ascetic or hermit tradition. Eventually ordained as a deacon in the church at Antioch and served there from 386-397 A.D, gaining renown for the quality of his preaching. 

In 397, he was appointed Archbishop of Constantinople. He sermons gained popularity with the common people but unpopularity with the wealthy. His reforms of the clergy also raised hackles with the priestly class. These and other controversies led to a tumultuous period of his banishment, reinstatement, and renewed exile. He died in 407 A.D. and was buried in what is now Turkey. 

In 1869, Longmans Publishing in Britain published four discourses by John on the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, recorded in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 16, using the general title of On Wealth and Poverty. It was the first time these discourses had been published in English. The four were originally part of a related set of seven sermons, but the fifth, on the same parable, addressed different subjects, and the sixth and seventh were first delivered at a different time and were considered repetitious. Thus, Longmans went with the first four. In 2018, GLH Publishing reprinted the 1869 edition, including the introduction by the translator, F. Allen. 

All four discourses used the parable of Lazarus and the rich man as the starting point for addressing an array on subjects.

Discourse 1 discusses drunkards and those who frequent taverns, festal processions in the streets, and the relationship of a teacher and his disciples.

Discourse II concerns the souls of those who die a violent death, future judgment, and charity.

Discourse III is about reading the Scriptures, why pain and troubles come to the just, and why the wicked seem to escape those same troubles. 

Discourse IV discusses conscience, confession, and Joseph and his brothers.

An example of John’s direct and plain-speaking style is what he says about reading the Scriptures in Discourse III: “You do not understand the contents of the book? But how can you understand, while you are not even willing to look carefully? Take the book in your hand. Read the whole history; and, retaining in your mind the easy parts, peruse frequently the doubtful and obscure parts; and if you are unable, by frequent reading, to understand what is said, go to someone wiser; betake yourself to a teacher; confer with him about the things said. Show great eagerness to learn: then, when God sees that you are using such diligence, He will not disregard your perseverance and carefulness…”

On Wealth and Poverty is a solid introduction to a key figure in early Christian history. It also allows the reader the opportunity to see the personal style of St. John Chrysostom, who did not hesitate to speak candidly and pointedly. 

Top illustration: a more recent interpretation of what St. John Chrysostom might have looked like.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Dancing Prince: Anticipating a DNA Study of Vikings?

Some strange things have occasionally happened with the Dancing Priest stories. Strange, as in they anticipated some real news events. Each of the novels has an example of this, to the point where it spooked my wife and even my publisher.

And now comes Dancing Prince, published in July of this year. 

In mid-September, scientists in Denmark and Armenia published a study in Nature that reported on the largest DNA study of Vikings ever done. The Vikings, as it turns out, were a far mar diverse lot that anyone had previously known. Yes, a preponderance of the DNA was associated with the Nordic countries like Sweden and Denmark, but the researchers also found that the Vikings were not a homogenous group. The DNA included connections to southern Europe and Asia.

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

Photograph by Steinar Engeland via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Remembering and Honoring a Father: Laurence Fuller and “Modern Art”

I first happened across the film work of British actor, writer, and filmmaker Laurence Fuller through one of those quirky things that happen with the internet. You’re looking for one thing, perhaps or perhaps not finding it, and something else pops up, leading to yet another link. And you discover a diamond in a world too often inhabited by plain rocks.

The film was a short one, entitled “Echoes of You.” It tells the story of a young man who desperately wants to be a concert pianist but is frustrated at every turn. The closest he can get to it is to become a janitor in a concert hall. And there he stays, until the day he finds a homeless boy by the trash bins behind the hall. The film is moving, heartbreaking, and ultimately triumphant. 

Fuller has acted in a number of feature and short films. He originally trained as a stage actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. As a film writer and producer, his first film, “Possession(s),” was produced by ABC Australia. He also has a special project, entitled “The Peter Fuller Project,” an ongoing creation of documentaries, articles, and films about art critic, writer, magazine editor, and book author Peter Fuller.

And, yes, there’s a connection. Laurence Fuller is Peter Fuller’s son.

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

Monday, September 28, 2020

“The Boy Between Worlds” by Annejet Van Der Zihl

Waldemar Nods, a native of Surinam, travels to the Netherlands in 1928. He has a half-brother there, and he’s looking to study and make his way in the world. He’s an excellent swimmer, and he brings to the Netherlands his memories of a warm, sunny climate and swimming in the river, sometimes for miles.

Rika Hagenaar-van der Lans is married and the mother of four children. She’s also increasingly dissatisfied with her marriage and life on an island off the Dutch coast, even though her husband has a good job and is rising with his company. She leaves her husband and returns to The Hague. She’s not interested in reconciliation. To make ends meet, she lets rooms to boarders. One of those boarders is Waldemar. 

The year is 1928. In 1929, Rika gives birth to what is clearly a biracial baby. He’s named Waldemar after his father. Her husband initiates divorce proceedings and gains custody of their children. Her own Catholic family is horrified and cuts her off. But Rika seems unaffected, except for the rarely seeing her children. She and Waldemar manage a succession of boarding houses, and Rika learns how good she is at it. They eventually marry. 

Annejet Van Der Zijl
They are managing a large resort-type house facing the beach near the Hague when May 1940 arrives, bringing with it the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands. Little changes after the first year after the invasion. Then everything begins to change, and Rika with her large heart begins to help hide Jews fleeing the Nazis.

The Boy Between Worlds by Annejet Van Der Zihl tells the story of Waldemar, Rika, and their son Waldy. It’s the story of ordinary Dutch citizens and the part they played in the war.  At first, the reader wonders if Waldemar’s black skin will make him a Nazi target; blacks were considered even lower than Jews in the Nazi genetic hierarchy. Surprisingly, that’s not what happens.

Van der Zihl is one of the best-known writers and journalists in the Netherlands. She’s written biographies of Dutch children’s author Annie M.G. Schmidt; Prince Bernhard, the husband of former Queen Juliana; and Gerard Heineken, founder of the beer company. She is also the author of An American Princess, the biography of American socialite Allene Tew. She’s also received several literary awards for her books. The Boy Between Worlds was published in the Netherlands in 2004 under the title Sonny Boy, where it has remained a bestseller, and was translated into English in 2019 by Kristen Gehrman. 

Until Van Der Zihl completed the book, Waldy (by then 75 years old) never knew what happened to his parents. Through extensive research, and interviewing the few remaining survivors who knew what happened, Can Der Zihl found out. The Boy Between Worlds makes compelling reading as it tells a moving and emotional story.

Sunday, September 27, 2020


After Psalm 95

Lifted: our hands wave,
His hand wraps the earth.
Lifted: our hands applaud,
His hands shape mountains.
Lifted: our hands clasp together,
His hands scoop the seas.
Lifted: our hands stretch upward,
His hands sculpt the land.
Lifted: our hands reach.
His hands touch.
Lifted: Our hands fold in prayer,
His hands wrap ours.

Photograph by Akira Hojo via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Saturday Good Reads

A National Congregations Study by two sociologists (from Duke and Notre Dame) took a look at denominations and politics, looking to see which ones were the most politicized. And guess what they found? The most politicized denominations were the mainline Protestant groups, followed by non-Christians (Muslims, Hindu), Roman Catholics, and Black Protestants. Lagging at the rear were those crazy white evangelicals. Not exactly what you would expect from reading the newspapers.

British mystery writer Martin Edwards has been serving as the general editor for the British Library’s Crime Classics series. The series is republishing British mysteries from the Golden Age (1920s to 1940s) as well as the years on either side. They feature a number of forgotten authors and titles that deserve to be kept in print. Edwards has found a few more, and, for CrimesReads, writes about 10 Golden Age detective novelists who deserve to be better known.

I’ve seen recent posts by friends on Facebook, primarily those of a progressive Christian leaning, that evangelical Christians need to set abortion aside right now as an issue for the higher purpose of unity. Of course, it could also work the other way, but that is not usually mentioned. The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has highlighted an inescapable fact: abortion is back as a national political issue, although John Stonestreet at Breakpoint says it never really left. Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition considers an additional issue: there are reasons why confirmation hearings have become a politicized circus, and none of them are good. 

More Good Reads

Writing and Literature
Good and Evil in “The Lord of the Rings” – Keith Mathis at Light in Dark Places.

Agatha Christie’s Top 20 Novels – David Kern at Forma Journal.


The Nemeses of Cities – Edward Glaeser at CityJournal. 


Raphael: Commoner with the divine touch – Michael Prodger at The Critic.

British Stuff


Of Girl Guides and Gramophone Grooves – Kelly Keller at Story Warren.

Becoming an Old Soul Christian – Jared Wilson at For the Church.


Walking Each Other Home – Barbara Kingsolver at Literary Hub.

In the Midst of Life We Are in Death – Cynthia Erlandson at Society of Classical Poets.

Pandemic Poetry – Malcolm Guite & Andrew Roycroft at The Rabbit Room.

Lighting Candles by Starlight – Michael Stalcup at The Cultivating Project.

American Stuff

Snapshots Before the War: Saying Goodbye in 1944 – Paul Hendrickson at Literary Hub. 

Iceland – The Land of Fire and Ice

Painting: Man Reading, ink and color on paper, attributed to Qi Baishi (1864-1957).

Friday, September 25, 2020

Cymbals, drums, hands

After Psalm 95

It is the noise we hear
first, a joyful noise,
punctuated with cymbals,
drums, hands, and other
instruments of worship,
orchestrated together as
an act, a declaration, 
a hymn of thanksgiving,
a hymn of profound praise,
as entrance is gained
to the presence, an instance
of celebration, an eruption
of celebration, unlike
what has been known, like
what will be known

Photograph by Anthony Delanoix via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

“The Auschwitz Detective” by Jonathan Dunsky

We know Adam Lipid as the fictional private detective in 1950s Israel. We know he has a history: a police detective in pre-war Hungary, shipped with his entire family to Auschwitz in 1944, the only survivor of that family, and an entrepreneurial assassin in post-war Europe, targeting former Nazis and death camp officials. Almost all of what we know of his time in Auschwitz is that his wife and two young daughters were gassed and sent to the crematorium. We suspect but don’t know that the same happened to his sisters and his mother. His father had died before the war. 

In The Auschwitz Detective by Jonathan Dunsky, we find out what happened to Adam in Auschwitz. He was one of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews sent to Auschwitz in 1944. He was one of the few who survived. His survival is even more surprising given that he was a former police officer; the camps were inhabited by a wide array of criminals in addition to ordinary citizens. had been there two months, forced to work as a slave laborer, when a particularly brutal prisoner overseer, himself a camp inmate, gives Adam three days to find the killer of one of his “servants.”


If Adam fails to find the killer, Adam will die. Ordinary justice didn’t exist inside the camp, where the overseers were Jewish or non-Jewish criminals, German SS guards, or even the SS doctors, who seemed to enjoy picking out those destined to die as physically unfit. The murder victim, a 15-year-old boy, was found with two pieces of bread hidden in his shirt, which tells Adam this was no murder by an ordinary prisoner. An ordinary prisoner would have taken the bread. 

Adam’s assignment takes him across the breadth of the camp’s operations. He’s assigned to take the suitcases left on the platform by incoming trainloads of Jews and bring them to the warehouses. Except there aren’t enough warehouses. He works inside the warehouses, where the victim had worked, sorting through clothes and belongings. He talks with inmate guards and other camp inmates. He can do this because the name of the overseer strikes fear in everyone. And through it all, he tries to stay alive, and keep a good friend alive as well. 

What he experiences and uncovers is as dark as the skies above the crematoria.


Dunsky is best known for his Adam Lapid mystery stories, with six published: Ten Years GoneThe Dead Sister, The Auschwitz ViolinistA Debt of Death, A Deadly Act, and now The Auschwitz Detective. He’s also published The Favor: A Tale of Friendship and MurderFamily TiesTommy’s Touch: A Fantasy Love Story; the short story “The Unlucky Woman,” and other works. He was born in Israel, served four years in the Israeli Army, lived in Europe for several years, and currently lives in Israel with his family. He has worked in various high-tech firms and operated his own search optimization business.


The Auschwitz Detective is a departure for Dunsky and his detective. It is as much a detailed snapshot of how Auschwitz operated as it is a murder mystery. It’s filled with historical detail, reflecting what was likely an enormous amount of research, but not to the point where the research overwhelms the story. 


And surprisingly, it becomes a story of hope. As Adam’s good friend always tells him, “There’s always hope, Adam. There’s always hope.” Even in the Human evil that was Auschwitz.





My review of Ten Years Gone by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of The Unlucky Woman by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of The Dead Sister by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of The Auschwitz Violinist by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of A Debt of Death by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of A Deadly Act by Jonathan Dunsky.


My review of Grandma Rachel’s Ghosts by Jonathan Dunsky.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

"Message in a Bottle" by Beth Wiseman

It’s the countdown toward the final few months before their wedding, and Houston schoolteachers Kyle and Lexie are finalizing their plans. Kyle dearly loves his bride-to-be; she’s only the second girl he feels he ever loved. The first was his high school sweetheart, Morgan, who disappeared with her family literally overnight without a word when she and Kyle were 17. He never did learn what happened, and the loss was compounded by the closeness he had with her father and that his mother and her mother were best friends.

Then comes the knock at Kyle’s apartment door. Two men give him news that leaves him stunned. He has a daughter who’s almost six, and she’s in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. And Kyle may be her only hope. Just as stunning is that the wo men are from the Central Intelligence Agency, and they tell Kyle he has to leave immediately. An email message will be sent to Lexie telling her not to worry. 

Beth Wiseman
Kyle flies with the men to California, but that’s not the final destination. Soon, he will meet Morgan and their daughter Emma. And he’ll face a choice: Morgan and Emma, or Lexie. 

Message in a Bottle, a novella by Beth Wiseman, is the story of Kyle, Lexie, Morgan, and Emma. It’s a story of old love, new love, and a bit of mystery and intrigue thrown in. 

Wiseman has written numerous Christian romance novels, under four series: The Daughters of Promise, Land of Canaan, Amish Secrets, and Amish Journeys. Several of her books have been bestsellers, and she’s received several awards from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and the Christian Book Association. She lives in Texas.

The story strains credulity a bit, but Message in a Bottle is a well-written and engaging tale, with likeable characters caught in a dilemma not of their own making. It has to end well (romance stories don’t end badly), but Wisemen keeps the tension throughout regarding what Kyle will do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Taking a Scottish Road Trip with Jorge Luis Borges

I once took a graduate seminar on the Latin American novel. We read two authors I had heard of – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude) and Carlos Fuentes (The Death of Artemio Cruz) – and several I had not heard of, including Mario Vargas Llosa (The Green HouseThe War of the End of the World) and Manuel Puig (Kiss of the Spider Woman). All of them were associated with the “Latin American Boom” of the 1950s-1970s, when the literature of magic realism burst upon the literary world.
Our professor pointed to two writers who served, if unknowingly, as the godfathers of the Boom, the two who freed younger writers from the confines of the traditional novel. One was an American, William Faulkner. If you’ve read Faulkner, you know what he did with his novels. The other writer was the Argentine Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), the poet, short story writer, essayist, and general literary genre-bender. One of Borges’ best-known works is a one-page short story, or perhaps an essay, entitled “Borges and I.” He explores his own identity as a writer and a person, seeing them as separate entities. And he wonders which one wrote the story.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, September 21, 2020

"The Smell of Cedar" by River Dixon

No one deserves a customer like Sarah. No one deserves a neighbor like Sarah. No one deserves a co-worker like Sarah. No need to mention friends, because Sarah doesn’t have any.

When Sarah was a child in school, she was called out of class during a math exam. A policeman was waiting. It seems Sarah’s mother had killed the mailman. Sarah gets no additional explanation, but she is sent to live with her grandmother.

No one deserves a grandmother like Sarah’s. We understand why Sarah’s mother did what she did. And we understand why Sarah became the person she did. The grandmother taught Sarah to suppress all of her feelings, trust no one, never cry or show any sign of weakness. And to teach her, she has the cedar box.

River Dixon
The Smell of Cedar, a novella by River Dixon, lures the reader into the story with what seems like a tale about the secrets a cedar box can tell. And it does have secrets, including how it turns children like Sarah into homicidal psychopaths.

Like I said, no one deserves a grandmother like Sarah’s.

Dixon is a poet and short story writer who’s published five books, including Left Waiting and Other PoemsColder: A Collection of Poetry and ProseThe Stories in Between, and Beyond the Field: An Illustrated Short Story. He’s also contributed stories to two volumes of the anthology Static Dreams: A Dark Anthology from Twisted Minds. He lives with his family in Arizona.

Dixon writes dark stories, and The Smell of Cedar is certainly that. (I’ve read his poetry, and he does not write dark poems about homicidal maniacs.) It’s a mesmerizing tale, with a few graphic scenes, requiring frequent setting aside to catch your breath. 


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Nothing separates

After Romans 8:31-39

Hearing the call, and
responding to the call,
they gathered together.
And once gathered,
nothing could separate
them from the caller.
A whole litany of foes –
disease, war, famine,
poverty, upheaval – 
stood silent, mute,
unable to divide
and conquer. Nothing
separates the called,
nothing separates
the gathered, from
the Caller. From
the Gatherer. 
Nothing prevails
against them,
because of who
the Caller is.

Photograph by Hannah Valentine via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Saturday Good Reads

Years ago, in 1980 to be exact, I read a collection of letters between C.S. Lewis and his long-time friend Arthur Greeves, entitled They Stand Together. They became friends as children and began a correspondence in 1914 that lasted until Lewis died in 1963. Most of the letters in the book are by Lewis, because Greeves kept them. Most of the letters sent by Greeves were destroyed by Lewis’s brother, Warnie, who burnt a considerable amount of Lewis’s correspondence after his brother died. Harry Lee Poe at Desiring God takes a look at Lewis’s teenage years, and those letters to Greeves are an important source.

When it comes to the coronavirus, we’ve all heard more contradictory statements and claims made by experts who all say they “follow the science.” How can science be all over the map when it comes to masks, youth sports, routes of exposure, church meetings, BLM protests, and just about everything else? Patrick Pierson at Front Porch Republic takes a look at “following the science” in a polarized age.

My three grandsons attend a classical Christian school, and I can’t say enough good things about this particular form of education. It’s reminiscent of the kind of education that was common in public schools 50 and 60 years ago; it’s also better than that. It may be important for another reason besides education. Richard Hughes Gibson at Plough Books notes how important Christian education has become for keeping faith alive.

More Good Reads

Life and Culture

Why You Really Ought to Learn about Mongolian Throat Singing – Mark Meynell at The Rabbit Room. 

The Specter Haunting Marxism – Andrew Latham at The Imaginative Conservative.

Suicide of the Liberals – Gary Saul Morson at First Things Magazine

Wildfire Hype, and Hope – James Meigs at CityJournal. 


Balancing the Flame – Jack Stewart at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).

Aug. 1, 1966 – Megan Willome.


God Loves a Good Metaphor – Paul Phillips at He’s Taken Leave. 

All Other Ground – Greg Doles at Chasing Light.

Why Religion is Awkward for Secular Humanists – Andrew Bunt at Think Theology. 

My Favorite Part of the Wedding – Doug Spurling at Spurling Silver.


How to read fewer books – Alain de Botton at The School of Life.

How Algorithms Are Changing What We Read Online – Russell Smith at The Walrus.

Writing and Literature


Finding a Home for the Last Refugees of World War II – David Nasaw at Literary Hub.

News Media

The myth behind BLM's 'peaceful protests' -- Bruce Newsome at The Critic Magazine.

Summer in the Dolomites: Timelapse

Painting: A Woman Reading, oil on canvas by Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885).