Wednesday, March 31, 2021

“C.S. Lewis: Pre-Evangelism for a Post-Christian World” by Brian Williams

In his introduction to C.S. Lewis: Pre-Evangelism for a Post-Christian WorldBrian Williams poses a question. What is it about the world and our imaginations that make a visitation of “joy” not only possible but even likely? Does joy imply something beyond the world we see and experience?


Williams also describes it another way. A child or adult can read one of the Narnia tales by C.S. Lewis, one like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, or J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and sense there’s something more than the story at hand. It may be a fine, wonderful story in and of itself, but it also points to something else, something just as real but not visible or tangible. And we know it as surely as we know our names, our addresses, our family members, and everything else associated with daily life.


Another question is posed: might these works of imaginations be a way to ultimately reach a post-Christian world? We’re not considering here thinly disguised stories of theology, faith, and belief, but works of imaginative minds, stories that stir our hearts and our minds, stories that point to something much larger than ourselves.


Williams’ book is devoted to answering these questions. Using the lens of the life and writings of C.S. Lewis, and especially the fiction works The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy, as well as the autobiographical Surprised by Joy, Williams makes a solid case for imaginative fiction as a pre-evangelism tool.


Brian Williams

The book has five chapters. The first is biographical, considering Lewis’s life and the influences which shaped his mind, philosophy, faith, and outlook. Williams then considers Lewis’s sacramental view of reality, and he means something different then we think of with the word “sacramental.” Quoting author Chris Armstrong, he defines sacramentalism as “a linked set of beliefs” that spiritual reality manifests itself in created reality, all creation reflects the Creator, and God is present throughout the world.


He then looks at Lewis’s romantic view of the human imagination; how Lewis uses The Space Trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia to see how Lewis used fiction as pre-evangelism; and how the medium of imaginative fiction might work today. It’s a scholarly and phenomenally well-researched work (813 footnotes, no less).


Williams has served as an adjunct professor at Southeastern College in Wake Forest, N.C., teaching the history of ideas and philosophy. He’s been published in the Journal of Inklings Studies, and is the author of Putting Together the Pieces: How to Make Sense of the Old Testament. He lives with his family in Wake Forest.


And in C.S. Lewis: Pre-Evangelism for a Post-Christian World, he answers the questions he raises and more than makes his point. Imaginative fiction can stimulate our sense of wonder and help us understand that something more, something bigger, is beyond the reality we see.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

“Your Story, My Story” by Connie Palmen

Dutch author Connie Palmen has told an unexpected story. 

I’ve read some of the poetry written by English poet Ted Hughes (1930-1998) and American poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963). I had not read any biographies of either poet. I know the basic facts of their lives – their marriage in 1956, Plath’s death by suicide in 1963 – but my knowledge was woefully incomplete. I knew that Hughes had been the British Poet Laureate for a time, and I had seen his memorial stone in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.


At some point over the years, I’d come to understand that Plath had become something of a feminist icon. Related to this, Hughes was seen as something of a villain regarding his marriage to Plath and often blamed for her suicide. Her death would dog him for 35 years, until his own death. And suicide became something of a tragic theme in Hughes’ life – the woman he left Plath for committed suicide as well, and his and Plath’s son Nicholas committed suicide. 


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

Monday, March 29, 2021

“23” by Seyfettin Steele

A young man wakes up to find himself on a train. He doesn’t know how he got there; perhaps he had too much to drink and stumbled aboard. He doesn’t know where he’s going. All his knows is that it’s a train of 23 cars. When the conductor asks his for his ticket, the young man discovers he miraculously has one in his pocket, simply marked “One Ticket.”  The conductor tells him that the driver of the train would like to greet him and thank him personally for taking the ride.  

The driver of the train, of course, is in the front car or engine. The young man begins a journey through the train cars, which are unlike anything anyone has ever experienced on a journey by rail. Each car is a scene, an event, and an emotion, and like life, it can be utterly nonsensical and confusing. 


Seyfettin Steele

 by Seyfettin Steele is the story of that train journey. As he travels forward, the young man finds a car empty except for the presence of a maintenance man, a car with a white cat, a dining car where he discovers he’s now wearing a white tuxedo, a fleeting bit of romance, a car of pain and depression, a Wild West shootout, and several others. Gradually, the reader, now used to an constant reorientation, comes to see the 23 cars as both the unfolding and remembering of a life. 


Seyfettin Steele is the pen name of Aaron Omeroglu, a young lawyer and writer who received his law degree from the University of Sussex Law School. He lives in Brighton in England.


23 is not Kafakesque; no one wakes up in the body of another creature. But it is a disorienting ride, to wake up in a place and you don't know how you got there. And that is perhaps the point, and the theme, of the story.


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Joy in Samaria

After Acts 8:4-8

Forced to flee, he finds himself
in that place where the one met
the woman at the well. It remains
a halfway kind of place, believing
half of this and half of that,
a hodgepodge of scrolls and idols
and superstition. Even in his fear
and his near brush with chains,
he speaks, he preaches, he performs
signs. And they listen, as if they
are one body, in one accord, and
they see the unclean spirits 
screaming in the pain of discovery
and identification, abandon 
the human habitats, and they see
the paralyzed and lame suddenly
healed, and the crowd in one accord
knows what they are seeing is
not of this earth, and the idols
and the superstitions fall and
melt away, replaced by great joy.

Photograph by Pablo Heimplatz via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Saturday Good Reads

“Alfred Hitchcock Presents” was one of my favorite television shows, not the least for the droll commentary offered by the host before and after the program. One show I vividly remember to this day (because it scared my socks off) was the story of two nurses caring for a wealthy invalid. It’s a dark and stormy night, and a serial killer targeting nurses is on the loose. My father loved the program as well; his favorite show was the housewife fixing dinner for the policemen investigating her husband’s murder – and she feeds them the murder weapon. 

Hitchcock has been dead for 40 years, and yet movies like “Psycho,” “North by Northwest,” “The Birds,” and “Rear Window” still resonate. Keith Roysden at CrimeReads looks at “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and how it dominated TV entertainment. David Thomason at Literary Hub explains why Hitchcock’s films still feel dangerous.


Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the novel by Gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson, has turned 50 years old. David Wills at Quillette revisits what he calls one of the most important but usually misunderstood novels of the 20th century


No matter what you think of former President Donald Trump, one of the most remarkable achievements of the last four years was the creation of not one but several vaccines for COVID-19 – in only six months (defying the predictions of Dr. Fauci, the medical establishment, and just about everyone else). Paul Robert Gregory at The Hill describes what the facts are about Operation Warp Speed.


More Good Reads


News Media


When the Narrative Replaces the News – Andrew Sullivan. 


Project Veritas Wins Early Round In Defamation Lawsuit Against New York Times – Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist.




Poetry Advice from a Retired Schoolteacher: Robert Penn Warren’s Lost Letter – Leverett Butts at Literary Matters.


The Green Man in Spring – David Russell Mosley at The Imaginative Conservative.


Listen to a wax cylinder recording of Alfred Tennyson reading “The Charge of the Light Brigade” – Walker Caplan at Literary Hub.


Lockdown Anniversary: The Quarantine Quatrains – Malcolm Guite.




How Long is the Dash? – Tim Challies.


Hot Takes Are Harming Us – Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition. 


The boredom and the fear of grief: on C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed – Constance Grady at Vox. 


You Aren’t Crazy – And You Aren’t Alone – Rod Dreher at American Conservative.


Life and Culture


The Enduring Relevance of Czesław Miłosz’s ‘The Captive Mind’ – Robin Ashenden at Quillette.


Why Jacques Ellul is Relevant Today – Jacob Marques Rollison at Faith & Leadership.


The Freedom to Read Statement – American Library Association.


Beware of Books! – The Passive Voice.


Writing and Literature


Atticus, Scout, and the Gift of Children: On Reading 'To Kill a Mockingbird' with my Daughter in 2020 – Heather Morton at Front Porch Republic.


Flannery O'Connor: The American Master – David Griffith at Church Life Journal.


American Stuff


Remembering Black Wall Street – Urban Faith.


How Great Thou Art – Home Free

Painting: Interior with Man Reading, oil on canvas (1898) by Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916).

Friday, March 26, 2021

The wolf takes control

After Acts 8:1-7

He hears the speech, a sermon
really, directed against the rulers,
among which he considers
himself, or at least their helpmate,
and he nods and smiles, giving
approval as the speaker is rocked
with stones, pummeled to death
with rocks. This will stop it,
this will stop the infection and
the disease. He will root it out,
infectious cell by infectious cell,
searching the city house to house,
finding them, ordering guards
to drag them away and confine
infectious cells to cells with bars,
cells with chains.

And the flock scatters to the winds,
seemingly blown without thought,
without direction, fleeing 
for safety, for life, finding
themselves in small towns and
minor cities, places of little
consequence. And still fired
by the holy wind, they do
the only thing they know to do:
they speak, they preach, they tell
the truth of what they know.

Photograph by Rajashree Patra via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

“The Tutankhamen Murder” by Roy Lewis

A small-town thief beats a charge because of a technicality – the police screwed up the forensic evidence. A weekend dinner at a country estate, ostensibly about an art exhibition, leads to a discussion about a change in wills and executors. A peace conference in London involving both the Israelis and the Palestinians appears to offer the possibility of a breakthrough.  

Newcastle attorney Eric Ward isn’t involved in the peace conference, but he is involved in the petty theft and the weekend dinner discussion. The host tells him that his duties as the new executor includes the delivery of a letter to the Foreign Ministry, upon the man’s death. 


He’s also intrigued by a woman he meets at the dinner, a journalist who knows a lot about the so-called “curse of Tutankhamen,” the collective trail of mishaps and deaths that appear to have followed the archaeologists and financial backers of the famous 1923 excavation in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. 


Sometime later, thieves break into the home of the dinner host, stealing several objects, including a small statue of the god Anubis. The host apparently confronts the thieves and gets his head fatally bashed in for his trouble. What started out as a routine burglary investigation, headed by DCI Charlie Spate, becomes a murder investigation. And Spate and Ward, who dislike each other on a good day, are forced to work with each other. 


Roy Lewis

And that statue of Anubis, likely found in the tomb of King Tut in 1923, is at the center of everything.


The Tutankhamen Murder is the 16th novel in the Eric Ward mystery series by British author Roy Lewis. Originally published in 2008, it’s been reissued by Joffe Books and published this year. It contains all the classic Eric Ward elements – a legal angle, a small bit of romance, an intriguing story that starts small and grows large, and enough plot twists to keep the reader guessing. 


Lewis is the author of some 60 other mysteries, novels, and short story collections. His Inspector Crow series includes A Lover Too ManyMurder in the MineThe Woods MurderError of Judgment, and Murder for Money, among others. The Eric Ward series, of which The Sedleigh Hall Murder is the first (and originally published as A Certain Blindness in 1981), includes 17 novels. The Arnold Landon series is comprised of 22 novels. Lewis lives in northern England.  


The Tutankhamen Murder is another solid entry in the series (and there are only two remaining).




The Sedleigh Hall Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Farming Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Quayside Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Diamond Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Geordie Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Shipping Murder by Roy Lewis.


The City of London Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Apartment Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Spanish Villa Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Marriage Murder by Roy Lewis


A Cotswolds Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Wasteful Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Phantom Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Slaughterhouse Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Tattoo Murder by Roy Lewis.


The Football Murder by Roy Lewis.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

“Paris Time Capsule” by Ella Carey

In 2010, an apartment in Paris was unlocked for the first time since 1966. It was included in the will of the granddaughter of the woman, Marthe de Florian, who originally owned it. The apartment included two surprises – an original painting of de Florian by Giovanni Boldini, and the furnishings, which were largely unchanged from the early 1900s.  

The apartment and what it contained were almost a perfect time capsule of the Belle Epoque, the 15 to 20 years before the start of World War I.  De Florian was a demimondaine who famous lovers included Georges Clemenceau, a prime minister of France. While she had been largely forgotten by history, the discovery of the apartment brought a spotlight to her life and times. 


Author Ella Carey was inspired by the story to write Paris Time Capsule, using the De Florian discovery as the basis for her story but changing some key facts. 


Catherine, or Cat, Jordan receives a letter from an attorney in Paris. Included with the letter is a key. The young New York City photographer discovers she has been left a legacy in a will of a woman she’s never met. The legacy is a Paris apartment. 


Once she arrives in Paris, Cat discovers the apartment has not been opened in more than 70 years. She explores the musty, cobwebby apartment, accompanied by Loic Archer, the grandson of the woman whose will left the apartment to Cat. 


Several mysteries need to be solved. Why did the apartment remained locked for 70 years? Why did Loic’s grandmother, the daughter of Marthe de Florian, make Cat the heir to the apartment? And why was the apartment abandoned intact in the first place? The answers take Cat and Loic to southern France and back to Paris. And along the way, Cat, engaged to a young establishment merchant banker in New York, finds she’s losing her heart to Loic.


Ella Carey

Ella Carey is the author of several historical novels. Paris Time Capsule is the first of three books in the Secrets of Paris trilogy, followed by The House by the Lake and From a Paris Balcony. She’s also the author of Secret ShoresBeyond the HorizonThe Things We Don’t Say, and the recently published A New York Secret. She lives with her family in Melbourne, Australia.


Paris Time Capsule is a mystery, a historical romance, and a contemporary love story, all wrapped into one hard-to-put-down novel.


Top photograph: Marthe de Florian, oil on canvas by Giovanni Boldini, via Wikimedia Commons. This was the painting discovered when the Paris apartment was unlocked in 2010.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Poets and Poems: Osip Mandelstam and “Poems”

Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938) is considered one of the most significant Russian poets of the 20th century. We have his much of his poetry today only because his wife Nadezhda Khazina protected them the only way she could at the time – she memorized them. 

Mandelstam was born to a wealthy Polish-Jewish in Warsaw. He studied for short periods at the Sorbonne, the University of Heidelberg, and the University of St. Petersburg, which excluded Jew, forcing him to convert to Methodism. 


The pre-World War I period was a time of intense social, cultural, and political ferment in Russia and a time when poets were aligning themselves into “schools” and groups. Mandelstam was associated with the Poet’s Guild, a group that included Anna Ahkmatova. It was also known as the Acemists, and the group’s poets emphasized form and expression. This group was part of the Silver Age of Russian poetry, a period of intense creative activity from the 1890s to the 1920s.


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

Monday, March 22, 2021

“The Notorious Adventures of Nutt the Nefarious” by Seth Lewis

William Shakespeare has recently died. The King James Version of the Bible has nowbeen translated and published. A new world has been discovered by Europe. 

And John Nutt (born before 1600 and died after 1632) is ranging from eastern Canada to the western coast of England, making raids on settlements and towns and attacking ships. In short, Nutt was a pirate, one who inspired fear across the north Atlantic. He was finally captured by Sr. John Eliot in 1623, tried and found guilty, and sentenced to death by hanging.


Except Nutt paid the English Secretary of State George Calvert a sizeable bribe and was pardoned. As author and poet Seth Lewis would say, Nutt “nearly died.”


Lewis, who lives in southern Ireland and works with Irish Baptist churches, has created a short and fictional account of the famous exploits of Nutt, many of which have been lost. The Notorious Adventures of Nutt the Nefarious includes poems and stories, told over the course of a week. Aimed at children and perhaps to be read aloud to them, it is great fun for adults as well.


Seth Lewis

The adventures begin with an “epic poem,” which explains how Nutt found his way to the island of Timbukthree on a ship named A.Corn, after Nutt’s father Archibald Cornelius the Third. It sets the stage for the adventures to come, noting that, from early on, Nutt very nearly dies on a regular and often daily basis.


His very nearly dying experiences include being swallowed by a Wheel (a strange cross between a whale and an electric eel), having to replace a termite-infested main mast, a battle with the squirrelly Squire Rell, an encounter with the danger Mouth Sharks, or Marks, followed by one with the Cannibulls, or Bulls. We hold our breath as Nutt and his pirates very nearly die many times over. The story ends as it should, with the anticipation of future adventures ahead. 


The Notorious Adventures of Nutt the Nefarious is pure fun, filled with puns and zany adventures (including a forest of broccoli that doesn’t take kindly to visitors). It’s a treat for children and the child within us all. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Predictable outcome

After Acts 7:54-60

The outcome is predictable.
Tell a group of judges playing
to the gallery that they’re unjust,
corrupt, and no better than those
who came before with corruption
and evil in their hearts, and worse,
prove it to them with the history
they revere and cherish. Perhaps
a slim chance they will listen
and heed. Instead: anger and rage.

When he sees the vision,
the heavens opening,
the throne of glory, 
and says what he sees,
knowing he predicts his death,
the judges become the mob,
exercising mob rule and
mob justice, the mob drags
him away, outside the court,
outside the city, and the stones 
begin to fly and strike his chest,
his head, his face. He ends
his speech, 
his life,
with one spoken thought:

Photograph by Johan Mouchet via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Saturday Good Reads

From about the 1870s to the 1910s, many members of the cultural elites in Russia came to reject the tsarist regime; some embraced nihilism and terrorism. No one knew it at the time, but the stage was being set for the Bolshevik Revolution, which would eventually triumph and consume many of these same elites. Anna Geifman, writing in Tablet Magazine, says there are some lessons to be learned from the Russian Revolution.

Wallace Stevens was one of the poets I began to read when I started writing speeches (two others were Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot). Stevens is still read today, and with good reason. Writing for FORMA Journal, poet James Matthew Wilson discusses the elegance of this famed Modernist poet.


The first time we visited Southwark Cathedral, we wandered our way along the South Bank and stumbled upon the ruin of a building. A plaque explained what it was – the remains of Winchester Palace. The site was first established before the 13th century, and was dramatically expanded as the seat of the Bishop of Winchester. The wall is what’s left. A London Inheritance describes the palace and what was in the surrounding area


More Good Reads


Life and Culture


The Threat to Academic Freedom: From Anecdotes to Data – Eric Kaufmann at Quillette.


The Aztec Revival in California’s Public Schools – Christopher Silvester at The Critic Magazine.


What Happens When a Slogan Becomes the Curriculum – Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic.


The Tech Supremacy: Silicon Valley Can No Longer Conceal Its Power – Niall Ferguson at The Spectator.


Writing and Literature


Eight of Literature’s Most Powerful Inventions—and the Neuroscience Behind How They Work – Angus Fletcher at Smithsonian Magazine.


On the Undeniable Lure of the Historic Literary Home – Elizabeth Brooks at Literary Hub.




The Illiterati – Susan Jarvis Bryant at Society of Classical Poets.


The Magnetism of Edna St. Vincent Millay – Vivian Gornick at Literary Hub.


What does poetry bring to theology? Ian Paul interviews Dr. Richard Briggs – Psephizo. (Hat Tip: Paul Stolwyck.)


British Stuff


Tolkien’s Oxford: his life in the city portrayed by a professional guide – Rob’s Oxford (video).


Hopkins and Oldman: The very best of British actors – Alexander Larman at The Critic Magazine.




Rain or Shine, He Showed Up – Erik Raymond at The Gospel Coalition.


American Stuff


The Pursuit of Religious Liberty in Colonial America – Dr. Daniel Dreisbach at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics.


News Media


Substack writers are mad at Substack. The problem is money and who's making it – Peter Kafka at Recode.


You Raise Me Up: Peter Hollins and 200 Kids Sing A Cappella Style


Painting: Young Woman Reading a Letter, oil on canvas by Jean Raoux (1677-1734).