Friday, March 31, 2023

An old man

After Galatians 3:1-9

An old man, 75,

a barren wife,

no earthly hope

for children,

for an heir.

And he’s told

his descendants

will outnumber

the grains of sand

on the seashore.

We might be

excused our smiles,

our doubts, but

even we can see

across two-and-a-half

millennia that it was

his faith that 


He believed.

He was blessed.


Photograph by Donald Teel via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

"Farewell My Babylon" by Davidy Rosenfeld

As he will tell you without batting an eye or apologizing, Erez Brown is a private detective in Tel Aviv who does the work other private eyes (or “special investigators”) disdain – the cheating spouses, family dramas, petty thefts by employees (and sometimes not-so-petty), and other activities at the lower end of the business – and humanity. It’s a living, and someone has to do it. 

Brown is divorced with two young children, and he’s never quite forgiven his wife for surprising him with it. But, for the sake of the kids, he maintains the peace, and they chare custody.


He’s getting a lot of business; marriages and faithfulness are what they used to be, he muses. And then a couple named Rubinstein visit, asking him to find their daughter Lea. She’s missing. In fact, she’s been missing for three years. They’re Orthodox, and Lea, apparently, didn’t want to live the Orthodox life.


Brown is not optimistic about his chances for finding her. The girl may be dead or have left the country. But he pursues tenuous leads, all the time managing his growing case load with the help of the administrative assistant and an intern. He finally traces her to an apartment where she’d been living, he’s promptly clobbered over the head with a baseball bat. After recovering, he goes back, more alert this time. And he finds the girl’s body.


Davidy Rosenfeld

It should be case closed, and Brown thinks that is closed, for a time. And then Mrs. Rubenstein takes advantage of her husband’s business travel out of the country and returns to Brown’s office. Lea can’t be dead, she tells him; she just talked with her on the phone.


Farewell My Babylon is the first in the Erez Brown detective series by Davidy Rosenfeld. It’s a dark story (think “Israeli noir”), eased by occasional flashes of dark humor. It’s also a riveting tale of human passions, no one including your client ever telling the truth, and a society that tolerates too much corruption and brutality.


Rosenfeld graduated from Tel Aviv University with a B.S. degree in eastern Philosophy and an M.A. degree in History and Philosophy. Farewell My Babylon is his first book translated into English (by translator Yaron Regev). He’s also published another detective novel, The Dreams That Killed Us, and a children’s book, The Rabbit Who Wanted to be a Tree (both currently available only in Hebrew). 

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

"Grant vs. Lee," edited by Chris Mackowski and Dan Welch

Emerging Civil War (ECW) is one of my favorite blogs to follow for stories, news, and articles about the Civil War. It has quite a roster of editors and writers, all of whom have backgrounds (and often jobs) in history, national parks, and publishing. They publish a weekly newsletter, sponsor an annual conference, and have a series of books published with the publishing firm Savas Beatie

What I particularly enjoy is how their posts and publications are in understandable (i.e., non-academic) English. They’re writing to be read and understood by people like me, the general public. (In case you’re interested, they also produce and manage a sister site on the American Revolution, Emerging Revolutionary War Era.)


Last year, ECW published several works to celebrate their tenth anniversary. One of those is Grant vs. Lee: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War. Edited by ECW Editor-in-Chief Chris Mackowski and contributor Dan Welch, it’s a collection of 46 articles by 22 authors posted on the site from the preceding 10 years. 

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Poets and Poems: Marly Youmans and "Seren of the Wildwood"

It begins with a cross word. A father, exasperated by his two young sons, wishes out loud that he had had a daughter instead. What he doesn’t know is that the wildwood, near where the family lives, is listening. Or someone on the wildwood is listening. And the father’s words are about to be accommodated. 

The two boys die in the woods; the parents mourn. The mother eventually has another child, a girl, whom they name Seren. The wildwood watches her grow up. She begins to hear its almost-siren-like call. One day, she hears its voice, which she’ll name Aidan. And she follows that voice into the woods, beginning a journey marked by terror, violence, kindness, love, affection, learning – all of the things that make up life.


Seren of the Wildwood is an epic poem by poet, novelist, and short story writer Marly Youmans

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

Monday, March 27, 2023

"Solovyov and Larionov" by Eugene Vodolazkin

Solovyov is a young historian, living in St. Petersburg. He grew up somewhere in the south; the village’s only name was its railroad mileage designation – Kilometer 715. His mother worked as a signaling worker for the railroad; when she died, his grandmother took her job for  time, but then the railroad closed the station. His closest friend was a girl, Leeza (for Elizabeth) Larionova, but Solovyov left the village to study at university. He hasn’t seen Leeza for six years. 

What the young historian has made the major focus of study is General Larionov (he seems always to have been called General, even as a child). The man (1882-1976) served as a general in the White (pro-tsarist) Army during the Russian Civil War. Many things are unknown about the general, despite the historical research done by many people. 


Solovyov determines to solve what is perhaps the biggest mystery of the general’s life: facing a victorious Red Army, Larionov saw his army off on ships sailing from Crimean ports. The general himself remained. He didn’t attempt to hide or disguise himself; the Reds knew who he was. Most expected him to be tortured and then killed. Instead, he was left alone, and he lived in Yalta for the rest of his life before dying of old age. His survival made no sense, and no one has been able to explain it.


Eugene Vodolazkin

Solovyov’s decision to solve the mystery takes him to the Crimea, to walk the same streets as the general walked in Yalta, to visit the people who were the general’s friends (or the children f his friends). He will learn that a significant clue is back in Kilometer 715, with his childhood friend. And he will come to understand that history isn’t so much written and studied as it is lived, that the general’s story will become his own story.


Solovyov and Larionov is the first novel published by Eugene Vodolazkin (in Russian, in 2012). It was translated and published in English in 2018, after his novels Laurus and The Aviator. It is the broad sweep of the last days of the Russian Civil War. It is about what it means to study history, and how history is often found in very unexpected places. It’s about finding oneself in many of those unexpected places. And it is a novel about railroads and travel, journeys to learn and discover, and sometimes journeys to escape.


In short, it is a very Russian novel written by a native Ukrainian. Translated by Lisa Hayden, Solovyov and Larionovmoves gradually but brilliantly to only what can be called its inevitable end. 


A native of Kiev, Vodolazkin works in the department of Old Russian Literature at the Pushkin House in St. Petersburg, where he is an expert in medieval Russian history and folklore. His novel Laurus won the National Big Book Award and the Yasnaya Polyana Award and had been translated into 18 languages. He lives in St. Petersburg; his new novel, A History of the Island, will be published in May.




Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin.


The Aviator by Eugene Vodolazkin.


Brisbane by Eugene Vodolazkin.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Abraham's legacy

After Galatians 3:1-9

The inheritance is handed

down from Abraham, a man

whose faith, whose faithfulness,

was credited to him as

righteousness. It began with

him, the man who believed

(not the man who did or

the man who accomplished).

It is this faith which defines

who the sons, the heirs, are.

Nothing else. It is not

obedience to law, it is not

performance, it was nothing

Abraham did, it is nothing

we do. Or can do. We become

the sons of Abraham

by believing, not doing.

Faith first, then all else



Photograph by Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - March 25, 2023

Twenty years have passed since American went to war in Iraq, Saddam Hussein was indeed a wicked dictator, but there were no weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Supposedly reliable sources insisted that Iraq had WMDs; Christopher Steele must have had a forerunner. David Smith at The Critic Magazine considers the war and how we still feel the consequences. 

I’ve learned that the Bible translations I use follow what churches I attend. Confirmation in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod resulted in a gift of my King James Version. Becoming a Christian in college provided me with The Living Bible. I was baptized as an adult in a non-denominational church in Houston and given the New American Standard Bible. When we moved to St. Louis, we started with the NASB and then moved to the newly published New International Version, available at the time only for the New Testament. I stayed with the NIV for the next almost 40 years, until my Presbyterian church embraced the English Standard Version. And that’s where I am now. The world’s most popular Bible, as it turns out, is the NIV, writes Mark Strauss at Logos, who gives a brief history of the translation


Kept under house arrest by Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots turned out to be a prolific letter writer – and conspirator. She wrote a lot of letters in cipher or code. Recently, 50 of those letters have been deciphered, and Jade Scott at History Today explains what they tell us.


More Good Reads


Life and Culture


The Library of Blather: A.I. writing programs promise to make the internet unusable – Lincoln Michel at Counter Craft.


Amish Imagination – Andy Stanton-Henry at Front Porch Republic.


The World That Money Makes Go Round – Rhys Laverty at Mere Orthodoxy.


Censorship: The Tip of the Iceberg – Patrick Garry at The Imaginative Conservative.


The Joys of Agonistic Life: A son's enjoyment of 'Calvin and Hobbes' – Andrew Hubbard at Mere Orthodoxy.




The Last Night We Met – Tiree MacGregor at Society of Classical Poets.


Old Orphan – Jeffrey Essman at Society of Classical Poets.


The Temple: Poems by George Herbert - A Reader’s Guide to a Christian Classic – Stephen Witmer at Desiring God.




Church is Essential – Robb Brunansky at The Cripplegate.


Writing and Literature


Learning in Writing – Dean Wesley Smith.


The Platform Problem – Pierce Taylor Hibbs.


The Casual Villainy of Greek Heroes – Claire Heywood at The Millions.


Ray Bradbury’s First 33 Years – Bradley Birzer at The Imaginative Conservative.


To All the Novels I Never Published – Bryan Van Dyke at The Millions.


Life and Culture


The ghost of Ancient Rome haunts America: Its great cities are on the path to decay – Joel Kotkin at UnHerd. 


American Stuff


Hearing History: The Deal March from ‘Saul’ – Sarah Kay Bierle at Emerging Civil War (see video below).


Plymouth Church Brooklyn, Henry Ward Beecher and the Civil War Photo Tour – Patrick Young at The Reconstruction Era.




Ukraine Is Successfully Using a 140-Year-Old Machine Gun Against Russia – Matthew Gault at Vice.


China is already bankrolling Putin’s war in Ukraine – Ian Williams at The Spectator.


Dead March from Saul – Royal Air Force Brass and Wind Bands

 Painting: Young Man Reading a Letter, oil on canvas (circa 1680) by Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681).

Friday, March 24, 2023


After Galatians 3:1-9

It’s an ongoing reading

of the will, a daily event

to which all are invited.

The will is read, announcing

the inheritance for the heirs.

It is a will like no other,

read aloud, the words

themselves taking form,

taking life, leaping from

the page to the heart. 

The heirs learn what it is

they’re receiving, that

it is not based on what

they did, their deeds and

accomplishments (also

known as the way 

of the world, at least

on a good day). Instead,

the inheritance comes

from what they believe.

It is about who they are,

not what they did. 


Photograph by Towfiqu barbhuiya via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

"A Malignant Death" by Charlie Garrett

Former police detective James Givens and his wife Rachel are back in Birmingham, England, after what they thought was to be a life-changing move to Brittany. It was that, but Givens almost lost his life while helping solve a mystery and then Germany invaded Poland, precipitating World War II.  

It’s now the summer of 1940. Givens is working in his father’s clothing business, but the tension between them is almost unbearable. His father resents Givens having changed his Jewish name to an English one, and the two have never gotten along since Givens was a teenager. 


He takes a few days off to visit his former police superintendent, who’s now retired and living a short 30-minute train ride away. Something seems off, but the man insists all is well. His wife is more forthcoming; someone has been committing acts of vandalism against their house and garden. Then the man disappears, and his wife calls givens and asks him to search for her husband. With military recruiting, the police are seriously understaffed. Because of a leg injury from his police days, Givens can’t enlist.


Charlie Garratt

Over his wife Rachel’s objections, he undertakes a search – and finds the missing man’s body. And his determination to do right by his former boss threatens his marriage and what little of a relationship is left with his father. 


A Malignant Death by Charlie Garratt is the fifth mystery novel in the Inspector Givens series. It combines a traditional mystery and a traditional police procedural with the overlay of war, which is now getting closer and closer to home. The reader knows what the characters don’t, that the bombing will be starting, and Birmingham will not be spared. It adds a tautness and tension to what is already a thoroughly enjoyable mystery.


Garratt is the author of four Inspector Given mysteries, including A Shadowed LiveryA Pretty FollyA Patient Man, and Where Every Man. He also published several community participation guides, until he retired and began writing short stories. One of those stories led to his first novel, A Shadowed Livery. Garratt has also published the novel A Handkerchief for Maria. He lives in Shropshire in England.




Where Every Man by Charlie Garratt.


A Shadowed Livery by Charlie Garratt


A Pretty Folly by Charlie Garratt.


A Patient Man by Charlie Garratt.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

“Four Years with Morgan and Forrest” by Col. Thomas F. Berry

John Hunt Morgan (1825-1864) was a Confederate general whose operations seemed more guerilla-like than military. He’s known for attacking the supply lies of Union General William Rosecrans and famous for a raid into Indiana and Ohio that took hundreds of prisoners, before ending in Morgan’s capture and imprisonment (he did manage to escape prison and return to the war).  

Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877) was a Confederate general who was the most feared cavalry commander on either side during the Civil War. He disrupted Ulysses Grant’s operations at Vicksburg, he broke out of Union encirclements, and he participated in the Battle of Chickamauga. He was also involved in what came to be known as the Massacre at Fort Pillow, where Black soldiers in Union uniforms were systematically killed.


Colonel Thomas F. Berry (1832-1917) rode with both Morgan and Forrest. In 1914, he published his memoir of the Civil War and shortly after, Four Years with Morgan and Forrest. Given the reputations of both Confederate commanders, it’s easy to see why he waited nearly 50 years after the end of the war. He kept a diary throughout the war, and the diary became the basis for the memoir.

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Poets and Poems: Sydell Rosenberg & Amy Losak and “Wing Strokes Haiku”

Sometimes, the back story can be important, especially in poetry. 

In 1968, Sydell Rosenberg was one of the founding members of the Haiku Society of America, designed to promote the writing and appreciation of haiku in English. The haiku form of poetry emerged in 17th century Japan, and its basic element – three lines arranged in 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. It was originally called a hokku; the term “haiku” wasn;t used until the 19th century. And the theme of the haiku – about one of the seasons – had to be strictly observed. The poet with whom haiku is most closely associated is Basho (1644-1694).


Rosenberg was an active member of the Haiku Society of America, which sponsors annual competitions for haiku, renku, senryu, and haibun forms of poetry. It holds an annual conference and publishes the literary journal Frogpond.

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

Monday, March 20, 2023

"The Wolf in Their Pockets" by Chris Martin

When pastors or priest look out at their congregations each Sunday, do they think about how the social internet has changed the people in front of them? For that matter, do they think about how the social internet has changed themselves? 

Chris Martin has some answers to those questions, and it’s not welcome news. In The Wolf in Their Pockets: 13 Ways the Social Internet Threatens the People You Lead, he methodically examines all the ways the internet affects people, from the perspective of what it means for church leadership. And it’s not much of a reach to say that what he says applies to anyone in a position of leadership – including business, government, non-profits, and education.


Martin works at Moody Publishers as a content marketing editor and a consultant in social media, marketing, and communications. He has a deep background in social media and digital content strategy. He perhaps best known for his blog, Terms of Service (and his book of the same title) where he writes thoughtfully and with great insight about topics as diverse as the metaverse, TikTok, Wordle, and the impact of social media on society and culture.


The Wolf in Their Pockets begins with a summary of how social media changes us. We usually find ourselves in either uncritical embrace or passive ignorance, he writes. He argues for the need to move to something of a middle position, what he calls “international engagement,” in which we engage thoughtfully and carefully.


Chris Martin

The chapters that follow explain how that intentional engagement might happen, and how church leaders can facilitate that. Dethrone entertainment. Recover purpose. Build friendships (and not virtual ones). Reorder priorities. Foster discernment. Seek humility. And more.


Take the chapter on fostering discernment as an example. When Martin asked a number of church leaders a rather neutral-sounding question, “Can you tell me how you have seen social media affect people at your church?,” the common response was about discernment – and how the lack of it leads people to accept and believe in untruths about current events (also known as fake news). Lest you think this is only affecting conservative churches, it’s equally applicable to more liberal churches as well.


What’s beyond Martin’s purpose here, but perhaps we can convince him to address it on his Substack site, is what happens when the traditional media exacerbate that lack of discernment – when opinion masquerades as news, when significant stories aren’t covered, and when a media narrative quickly emerges and dominates journalists’ understanding. The problem of discernment is not only a problem of social media; social internet sites can explode the problem at warp speed. 


The Wolf in Their Pockets isn’t an all-encompassing treatise of how to address the effects of social media on church congregations (and their leaders). But it is an important first step in how to understand the problem to begin with, and it offers practical advice to help church leaders recognize and deal with the impacts.




Terms of Service: The Real Costs of Social Media by Chris Martin

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Not what you do

After Galatians 3:1-9

It is said

that policy is

what you do,

not what you say.

True enough,

except when it

comes to the hope

we have. It’s not

what we do, not

our works, or deeds, 

no matter how

spectacular they

might be. And it’s

not what we say,

no matter how

eloquent, how

insightful, how


Instead, it’s 

what we believe.

Policy is what

we believe.



Photograph by Kyle Glenn via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - March 18, 2023

In 1964, one of the most famous, or notorious, pieces of British criticism was published in New Statesman. It was entitled “The Menace of Beatlism,” and, yes, it was about the four singers from Liverpool. George Case at Quillette points out that Johnson didn’t really say much about the Beatles; he reserved his gunpowder for the cult of celebrity that politicians and the Beatles’ handlers were trying to exploit. In a very strange way, Johnson saw what was coming.  

Alexander Larman at The Spectator wonders about why we know relatively little about the life of J.R.R. Tolkien. The last family-sanctioned biography was by Humphrey Carpenter in 1977. Other biographers have tried to gain the cooperation of the family but failed. Carpenter was the last biographer to be given access to Tolkien’s papers.


One of the most unsettling things I’ve read in the New Testament is the diet of John the Baptist – locusts and wild honey. Perhaps it’s the idea of crunching down on large bugs and wondering where that honey came from that leaves me feeling queasy. Mitch Chase at Biblical Theology, however, says there’s an Old Testament connection, and it provides a different perspective on John’s purpose and ministry. 


More Good Reads


American Stuff


A Most Sincere and Active Friend: Thomas Shipley is the most famous abolitionist you've never heard of – Elliott Drago at The Jack Miller Center.


American Refugee Camp in Civil War Kentucky Destroyed: Camp Nelson Catastrophe – Patrick Young at The Reconstruction Era.




The Burning Bush – Graham Pardun at Sabbath Empire.


Life and Culture


The coming fight over the government’s surveillance powers – Peter Van Buren at The Spectator.


Writing and Literature


Writing in the South – About Southern Women – Kristen Bird at CrimeReads.


Deconstructing with Silas Marner – Elizabeth Stice at Mere Orthodoxy.


William Golding and the curse of the dream – Samuel Mace at The Critic Magazine.


The Death and Immortality of Mortal Men in “The Lord of the Rings” – Jacqueline Wilson at Mere Orthodoxy. 


Life and Culture


Who will stand against progress? – Paul Kingsnorth at UnHerd.


The Church. The State. And a Holy War – Heather Robinson at The Free Press.




Reclaiming the Culture – Greg Doles at Chasing Light.


50 Thoughts on Preaching – Jared Wilson at For the Church.




The costs of war: Providing military assistance to Ukraine may be the right thing to do, but it’s not cheap – Phillippe Lemoine at The Critic Magazine.


The Puzzle of Putin's Popularity – Gulnaz Sharafutdinova at Church Life Journal.


Yevgeny Prigozhin: are the Wagner Group founder’s days numbered? – Mark Galeotti at The Spectator.


Orange Blossom Special – Rhonda Vincent & The Rage

 Painting: Portrait of the Singer Felia Litvinne, oil on canvas by Alexei Harlamov (1868-1925)

Friday, March 17, 2023

Looking for the Poetry in Vermeer, a Blockbuster of an Art Exhibition

The hottest ticket on the planet right now isn’t a Taylor Swift concert or the March Madness Final 4. It’s the Vermeer exhibition in Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum has gathered together 28 of the 37 known Vermeers (four are lost; one was stolen in 1990) into one exhibition (Feb. 10 – June 4). Never have so many of the Dutch painter’s works been gathered together in one place.


But don’t buy your plane tickets for Amsterdam. The exhibition is sold out. And don’t rush to the museum’s online gift shop or Amazon to buy the English-language edition of the catalog; it’s sold out as well; Amazon is taking pre-orders for a new edition available in May. (The museum does has the French and Dutch editions available, however.)

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

Painting: A View of Delft, oil on canvas, by Johannes Vermeer.