Sunday, April 30, 2023

A guardian

After Galatians 3:15-25

The promise comes first;

the law follows. The promise

remains; once made, it’s

inviolable. The law comes

as a guardian, the guardian

who protects. The law isn’t

a promise; the law doesn’t

supplant the promise. It

serves as a guardian,

until the time when

the promise is fulfilled,

when faith comes 

in One. When faith

comes, the need 

for a guardian passes



Photograph by Benjamin Wedemeyer via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - April 29, 2023

The coronation of Charles III is scheduled for May 6, and the stories abound. Anglotopia explains how the ceremony has been shaped over the centuries. The Critic argues that the coronation is far, far more than a magnificent piece of theater (although it is that, too). The Stone of Scone, which now resides in Scotland except for coronations, has a disputed history, according to Lizzie Enfield at the BBC. And for fun, Weird Medieval Guys tells us that, no, the king doesn’t own all the swans (maybe only queens can do that).

Major media personalities were rather unceremoniously dumped this week. Don Lemon was booted from CNN, and Tucker Carlson from Fox. Media coverage was completely predictable in our red-blue society. Traditional, mainstream media said it was the Carlson emails that had become part of the Dominion voting fraud lawsuit that Fox settled. Conservative media said it was Carlson having the audacity to show the previously unreleased Jan. 6 videos and the attempt of the NeoCons to regain control of the Republican Party. Conservative writer Rod Dreher writes that, whatever you think of Carlson, his swift and brutal end teaches a lesson. See “The Cathedral Defends Itself.


The media report news, and the media report accepted narratives, sometimes in the guise of news. But what happens when the news shreds the accepted narrative? The Nashville shooting is one example. Another is the worldwide Anglican community, with the recently concluded GAFCON IV providing the news. The community has fractured, although the word “schism” may be too dramatic. But what’s clear is that the Anglicans of Asia and Africa are no longer willing to follow the lead of the Anglicans of Britain and North America. Specifically, they no longer consider the Archbishop of Canterbury as their leader. Richard Ostling at Get Religion wonders, schism or not, what’s next for the disrupted Anglican communion? Sam Ferguson at The Gospel Coalition looks for lessons that can be learned. Lionel Young at Desiring God takes a broader look, and wonders if we’re seeing the end of the so-called “Global South.” 


More Good Reads




Hand Print at Font de Gaume – David Whyte.


A Sonnet for St. Mark’s Day – Malcolm Guite.




A Book is a Quiet Weapon – Carol Schaeffer at New York Review of Books.




From Suffering to Simplicity – Melissa Evans at Gentle Reformation.


Should We Use the Words "Old Testament"? – Mitch Chase at Biblical Theology.


The Cosmos Keeps Preaching: My Faith After Forty Years at NASA – Kevin Hartnett at Desiring God.


Writing and Literature


Mark Twain Fought for the South in the Civil War. He Lasted Two Weeks Before He Quit – Claire Barrett at HistoryNet. 


On Milosz, Exile, and Humane Art – Rachel Hicks at Front Porch Republic.


Life and Culture


How J. K. Rowling Played, then Lost, the Polarization Game – Samuel D. James at The Gospel Coalition. 


What Your Country Can Do for You: By abandoning its old standards and appealing to more selfish ends, the military has exposed itself to the likes of Jack Teixeira - Rob Henderson at The Free Press.


Cyber-Sophistry, or How ChatGPT Unmasks the Emptiness of AI – Davin Heckman at Front Porch Republic.


News Media


From Institutions to Individuals: How Americans are now Looking to Public Figures for News and Information – Sarah Fioroni at Knight Foundation.


Ukrainian Easter Choir Sings ‘Agnus Dei’

Painting: Grandmother with Two Grandchildren, oil on canvas, 18th century. Artist unknown

Friday, April 28, 2023

A promise is a promise

After Galatians 3:15-25

A promise made is

a promise kept.

A promise made

to one man becomes

a promise to his

offspring. Once 

the promise is made,

no one annuls it,

no one cancels it,

no one abrogates it,

no one reverses it.

When the law comes

later, 430 years later,

to be exact, the promise

stands. The law did not

replace it; the law did

not void it. The promise

is made, and the promise

is kept.


Photograph by Karsten Winegeart via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

"Avarice" by Pete Brassett

Detective Inspector James Munro has retired from police work. He’s living in Scotland, still mourning the loss of his wife who died in a arson-set fire. But a former colleague in Scotland asks him to step in and take over a murder case, before the local police have to turn it over to authorities.  

Munro tracks down his former detective sergeant, Charlotte West. She’s returning from an extended retreat, and she doesn’t have to return to London for some time. But Munro and West have only five days.


The case involves the murder of a woman, found in a glen outside a small town. At first it was thought the death was accidental, but the blows on the back of her head are too uniform and the medical examiner determines she was actually poisoned with antifreeze. 


Pete Brassett

Suspects abound: the divorced first husband; the former second husband; the estranged daughter; and the former lover -- and that's for starters. She had a track record of seeking our people with money. Munro and West have a considerable amount of investigating to do in a short period of time. The victim seems to have had a penchantTo complicate matters, Munro finds himself the object of affection the top local police official, who finds him much to her liking, and West is pursued by one of the local police sergeants. 


Avarice is the second mystery novel in the Munro & West series by Scottish author Pete Brassett, and it’s a classic police procedural leavened by humor and wit. The story keeps the reader guessing, even when we think we have it all figured out. Both Munro and West are engaging characters, even with their quirks and all-tooh-uman flaws.


Brassett, a native Scot, has published 10 novels in the Munro and West series, as well as a number of general fiction and mystery titles. 




She by Pete Brassett.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

A Reflection on “Winesburg, Ohio”

I’ve always been attracted to the works of the American Realist and Modernism periods. In fiction, that meant Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, Jack London, and Theodore Dreiser, and moving into Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner, among others. In poetry, that meant Edgar Lee Masters, Sara Teadsale, Vachel Lindsay, and T.S. Eliot, among quite a few others.  

This attraction likely relates to my middle school and high school English teachers, almost all of whom graduated from college in the 1940s and 1950s. They would have defined the Realist and early Modernism writers as the ones they were most influenced by, and they tended to wax eloquent on these particular writers and poets in particular. As a high school junior, taking American literature, I read Wharton’s Ethan Frome, Cather’s My Antonia, T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets and The Waste Land, and Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. It was a challenging year for all my subjects, but what I read in English was wonderful.


What I don’t recall reading at all was anything by Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941), not even a short story. 

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

Photograph: Sherwood Anderson in 1898, about the time he enlisted int he army to fight in the Spanish-American War.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

"The Heart of American Poetry" by Edward Hirsch

I began to read a recent and highly praised biography of Robert E. Lee, and I was startled by the opening paragraph of the introduction. It was a kind of apology for writing about a man who “committed treason.” My immediate thought was a question: could you say the same thing had the Battle of Gettysburg, for example, had gone the other way and ended in defeat for the Union army? My second thought was also a question: are you apologizing for writing your book, trying to justify it in the context of today’s culture wars? I closed the book and put it away. 

It’s perhaps a sign of the times we live in. 


I had a similar experience – but a different outcome – with The Heart of American Poetry by Edward Hirsch. It’s a combination personal history, memoir, and love letter to American poetry by one of the most distinguished poetry critics of our time. Few people know as much about poetry as Hirsch, himself a poet, essayist, and champion for poetry. He’s published 10 poetry collections and six books of prose, including How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry. He’s been awarded a Macarthur Fellowship, a national Endowment of the Arts Fellowship, and a host of poetry-related prizes. If there’s a poetry establishment in the United States, then Hirsch is at or near the pinnacle.

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

Monday, April 24, 2023

“Winesburg, Ohio” by Sherwood Anderson

In the years leading up to and including World War I, a no-longer-young writer named Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) had been trying desperately to become a full-time, recognized author. He had worked in the advertising business in Chicago, but he returned to his home state of Ohio to work in the paint business while writing fiction in his spare time. Nothing seemed to help. 

He went back to advertising in Chicago, but he was encouraged by writers like Carl Sandburg and Theodore Dreiser to keep at his writing. He published verse and fiction in various literary magazines and soon had two published but undistinguished novels.


Then he turned his hand seriously to short stories, and in 1919, Anderson published a group of connected short stories entitled Winesburg, Ohio. Based roughly on his upbringing in Clyde, Ohio, southeast of Toledo and set about the turn of the century, the stories departed dramatically from the nostalgic idea of small-town Midwestern life. 


A reader today would find the book surprisingly contemporary. Anderson called his characters a group of “grotesques,” men and women who were misfits in society and sometimes holding prominent town positions. Anderson’s grotesques, apparently, occurred in all walks of life – farmers, bankers, social matrons, and young and old alike. Some had become grotesque of circumstances beyond their control; others seemed to have developed their problems well enough on their own, as if it sprang from their inmost being. 


Sherwood Anderson

Almost all of the stories include at least a reference to if not a major character in George Willard, who, while not yet a grotesque himself, has one for a mother. Willard is a young writer for Winesburg’s weekly newspaper. He follows the editor’s requirement to always include the names of townspeople in his stories, no matter how mundane their activities might be. The characters seem to gravitate toward him, as if he’s some kind of talisman. Willard also is the only character in the collection who seems the closest to what we might call “normal,” even though he has his own problems and weaknesses. 


The young newspaperman has done what the other characters seemed to have failed to do – figure out how to live a reasonable life.


The characters are often unforgettable, even rather haunting. The man who talks with his hands. The doctor who is anything but a success in his medical and personal lives. George Willard’s mother, who seems to teeter on the edge of madness. The young man who was supposed to be a preacher but is called home to run the family’s farm – and becomes utterly ruthless. The girl who didn’t fit within her own family and the family that takes her in. The young woman who realizes that the boy she loves has left for good, never to return. The mother and son who live in the forgotten stone house. And so many more.


These short stories are no so much stories with a beginning, middle, and end as they are vividly drawn descriptions of the people who live inside the stories. You may not like these characters, but they are difficult to forget.


Anderson was a prolific writer, and it is his short stories that he’s best remembered for. Winesburg, Ohio is a classic, and deservedly so.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Defining faith

After Galatians 3:7-14

Faith is knowledge,

knowing things, and

faith is conviction,

believing the things

are true, believing

even when it’s hard

to believe, perhaps

especially when it’s

hard to believe. Even

when knowledge is 

easy, conviction

may be hard, living

our knowledge

because we know

it’s true. And faith

is trust, abandoning

reliance upon self

and embracing 

reliance on the one

cursed, the one who

died, the one nailed

on the judgment tree.


Photograph by Guilherme Stecanella via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - April 22, 2023

Way, way back in the dark ages (when I was in elementary school), reading was taught using a program called phonics. It was a system matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters. And, it worked. Of course, if something works, especially in education, you need to replace it with something new and shiny, and phonics was quite a few educational theories ago. But according to the Associated Press, it’s now back to the future, what’s old is new again, and here comes phonics. 

In my novel Dancing King, there is a scene in which a BBC reporter interviews Michael Kent-Hughes and is made mincemeat of, for bringing in an agenda and being completely unprepared for an interviewee who knows more than the reporter. This week that same situation happened, except it wasn’t fiction. A BBC reporter interviewed Elon Musk and thought he was going to have a “gotcha” on Twitter and hate speech. There was a gotcha, all right, but it wasn’t Musk who caught it. James Carden at The Spectator reports


It wasn’t a story I expected to see at a secular site like CrimeReads: What Do Modern Mystery Novels and Medieval Mystery Plays Have in Common? The answer was – surprise – sin. I thought that was an idea that died when religion became passe. Yet, there it was.


More Good Reads


Life and Culture


Lessons from Will and Ariel Durant – Brian Miller at A South Roane Agrarian.


Are 8 billion people too many — or too few? Welcome to the population paradox of the 21st century – Bryan Walsh at Vox.


News Media


The security state says jump. The media ask ‘how high?’ – James Carden at The Spectator.


A Nostalgic Journey through the Rise and Demise of the Blogroll – Neville Hobson.


FBI war on 'rad trad' Catholics: Where's the outrage (or even fairness) in press coverage? – Clemente Lisi at Get Religion.


Jack Teixeira and our crisis of trust – Peter Van Buren at The Spectator.




How Should Christians Think About the National Debt? – Susan Wharton Gates at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics.


Walk Wisely – Gentle Reformation.


Salvation of a Skeptic – Robb Brunansky at The Cripplegate.


Why I Work Until the Day I Die – Hugh Whelchel at the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics.




Rehearsal for the Death Scene – Michael Symmons Roberts at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


Shadows – Jane Dougherty at Jane Dougherty Writes (H/T: Paul Brookes). 


Faring – Saskia Hamilton at The Paris Review (introduced by Claudia Rankine).


British Stuff


Ernest George’s London Etchings – at Spitalfields Life.




Evidence of God’s Faithfulness in Ukraine – Children’s Hunger Fund.


Writing and Literature


“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” & Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe – Sean Fitzparick at The Imaginative Conservative.


Behold the Lamb of God – Andrew Peterson

 Painting: Old Man Reading, oil on canvas by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792).

Friday, April 21, 2023


After Galatians 3:7-14

The curse dragged me

across a barren land,

a landscape like desert,

alone, cast out,

abandoned. To walk,

or perhaps crawl,

that landscape is

to hunger, to thirst,

to ache, to hurt,

to despair, to die.

It’s a journey we

cannot make ourselves;

only our substitute 

can take that walk,

can make that journey,

taking our place.


Photograph by Daniel Jensen via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

"Murder in the House" by Roy Lewis

Arnold Landon is an unassuming county planning officer in Morpeth in northern England. He’s a bachelor, and his abiding passion in the study of medieval architecture, masonry, and the masons who constructed the old estates, castles, abbeys, farm homes, and even barns. His manager, the Senior Planning Officer, is a political type, hates confrontations, and pushes off work on this people, including Arnold, at every opportunity. 

Arnold also seems attracts trouble at every opportunity. Including coming up with a number of innovative solutions to murder and other crimes.


His rare bookseller friend Ben asks him to meet with a publisher, who’s looking for someone to complete a manuscript by an author who committed suicide or was killed. The subject – medieval masonry – is right up Arnold’s alley. And he has enough spare time to fit the work in.


Roy Lewis

But this isn’t a simple publishing effort. The publisher is threatened, by a member of the Morpeth planning council, who also threatens Arnold with the loss of his job. And soon enough, Arnold finds himself defending charges of padding his expense reports. He’s put on leave with pay, which means he also has time to pursue what increasingly looks like criminal activity. And he’s helped by the bookseller’s niece, who’s filling in for her uncle while he recovers from a heart attack.


Murder in the House is the sixth Arnold Landon mystery by British author Roy Lewis, and it’s the best yet, which is saying a lot since the first five were excellent. Lewis weaves a fine tale and an engaging mystery. And Arnold Landon may be my favorite if his detectives yet.


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. Lewis lives in northern England. 




Murder in the Church by Roy Lewis.


Murder in the Barn by Roy Lewis.


Murder in the Manor by Roy Lewis.


Murder in the Farmhouse by Roy Lewis.


Murder in the Stableyard by Roy Lewis.


Error in Judgment by Roy Lewis.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

"Bear in the Wilderness" by Donald Waldemer

One of the many features of the Missouri Civil War Museum is the gift shop, which has artifacts, souvenirs, refreshments, t-shirts and jackets, and books. Lots of books. Lots of new and used books all about the Civil War. (I wrote about the museum here.) 

I found more than a few things of interest, but I didn’t overdo it. I walked away with an old copy of Stephen Vincent Benet’s epic book-length poem John Brown’s Body, the novel Shiloh by Shelby Foote, and a few others. One, as it turned out, had a strong St. Louis connection.


Donald Waldemer (1925-2021) was about totally St Louis as you can get. He was born here. He received two degrees from Washington University in St. Louis. He worked for Union Electric (now Ameren, the main electric utility) for 34 years.  He and his wife raised a family in Brentwood, a close-in St. Louis suburb, and he’s buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Kirkwood, the suburb where I live. 


Waldermer was also an avid student of the Civil War. He published Triumph at the James: The Checkmate of Gen. Robert E. Lee in 1998 and Bear in the Wilderness: The Battle of the Wilderness May 5,6,7 1864 in 2001. It was the book on the Battle of the Wilderness that I found at the Missouri Civil War Museum.

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Art and Poetry Come Together in Fredericksburg, Texas

It’s one of the many places settled by German immigrants in pre-Civil War America. Fredericksburg, Texas, is some 75 miles west of Austin in the Texas hill country. And, yes, everything they say and sing about bluebonnets in the spring is true. Years ago, when I lived in Houston, I drove my wife to Austin for a series of medical procedures. And the bluebonnets dazzled. 

A number of other things dazzle in Fredericksburg. The birthplace of Chester Nimitz, the admiral who commanded the U.S. Navy in the Pacific in World War II (the town has an impressive museum devoted to the War in the Pacific). The nearby Lyndon Baines Johnson Ranch, a historical park operated by the National Park Service. The Pioneer Memorial Library and Pioneer Museum. The Texas Rangers Heritage Center at Fort Martin Scott. Don’t forget the beer and food at Oktoberfest. And close by is Luckenbach, Texas, made famous in songs by Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Kristofferson. 


Fredericksburg has another boast. Actually two: art, and poetry. And they’ve come together in a poetry and art exhibition at the Fredericksburg Art Guild through the month of April. Featured are artist Nan Henke and poet Megan Willome.

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

Photograph: the eastern end of downtown Federicksburg by Chris Litherland via Wikimedia.

Monday, April 17, 2023

"What the Vicar Saw" by Benedict Brown

Retired Scotland Yard detective Lord Edgington and his nephew Christopher Prentiss are in the small town of Condicote. The family is visiting Christopher’s paternal grandmother, who is something of a dragon on a good day. It’s a few days after Christmas of 1926, everyone’s in a good mood despite the dragon grandmother, and the talk is of the recent accidental death of the local peer, Baron Fane, in a car accident.  

The family attends a church service together, only to discover that the vicar has been murdered. The town constable seeks the path of least resistance, and he arrests a young man who has in his possession a chalice stolen from the church. Two months later, the trial is held, the young man found guilty, and the judge issues a sentence of death by hanging.


Christopher is convinced the young man is innocent, but his grandfather refuses to investigate. Two of the young man’s friends do investigate, and one of them dies if a gunshot wound to the temple. The constable sees suicide, but the victim’s mother and Christopher see murder. Lord Edgington is eventually prevailed upon to look into the case.


Benedict Brown

And what follows is a trail of land development shenanigans, another death, anyone and no one being the prime suspect (including the dragon grandmother), and Christopher beginning to step outside his grandfather’s enormous detective shadow. 


What the Vicar Saw is the ninth Lord Edgington mystery by Benedict Brown. It has all the distinctive characteristics pf the novels in the series – Christopher’s appetite and sarcasm, plenty of 1920s atmosphere and details, and humor amid the tragic circumstances. It’s also about 60 pages longer than its predecessors, and there are reasons for that. This story seems something of a transition for Christopher, who is less dependent upon his grandfather for observations and insights. (There’s also a fair amount of handwringing over all the clues going nowhere and lack of any obvious suspect.) But the story is still a treat and a fun read.


In addition to the Lord Edgington stories, Brown has written seven Izzy Palmer mystery novels and three novellas. A native of south London, he lives with his family in Spain. The Lord Edgington mysteries are likely aimed at both the general reader as well as the young adult audience. And they’re well-researched stories, full of information about the mid-1920s.




Murder at the Spring Ball by Benedict Brown.


A Body at a Boarding School by Benedict Brown.


The Mystery of Mistletoe Hall by Benedict Brown.


 Death on a Summer’s Day by Benedict Brown.


The Tangled Treasure Trail by Benedict Brown.


The Curious Case of the Templeton-Swifts by Benedict Brown.


The Crimes of Clearwell Castle by Benedict Brown.


The Snows of Weston Moor by Benedict Brown.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Live by works, or...

After Galatians 3:7-14

Live by works, or

live by faith – that’s

the choice we make.

And it’s clear:

live by works, and die,

because works are

never enough, insufficient

to compensate, bridge 

the gap, close the chasm.

It takes more to lift

the curse, this curse

we live under. Only

by One becoming

the curse could it be

lifted. And all we’re

asked is to have faith,

and believe. Choose



Photograph by Jessica Delp via Unsplash. Used with permission.