Friday, June 30, 2023

The problem of Cain

After Hebrews 11:1-4

Each brings a sacrifice,

one, an animal,

the other, fruit.

Why was one more

acceptable than

the other? What 

was wrong?

The one brought

what was carefully

decided and chosen.

The other grabbed from

what was at hand,

without much thought.


The difference was 

the intent,

the care,

the heart.


Photograph by Xiaolong Wong via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings


She Died Too Soon – Tim Challies.


Ancient Jerusalem: Not Where We Thought? – Nathan Steinmeyer at Biblical Archaeological Society.


‘Pillar of Salt’: A Poem on Lot’s Wife – Brian Yapko at Society of Classical Poets.


Becoming Writers Who Write the Truth Beautifully – Lara d’Entremont.


The Church of St. Mary Aldermanbury, Fulton, Exterior and Interior– Chris Naffziger at St. Louis


Incensed -- poem by Mary Harwell Sayler at Society of Classical Poets.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

"The Civil War: The First Year by Those Who Lived It"

The refusal of Fort Sumter to surrender and the subsequent shelling by South Carolinian authorities might have been the immediate cause of the American Civil War, but it had been a long time coming. In retrospect, the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Mexican War of the mid 1840s, which opened up vast new tracts of land for settlement; the Compromise of 1850; the Kansas-Nebraska Act; the Dred Scott decision in 1857; and John Brown’s Raid in 1859 all edged, pushed, or shoved the nation towards an internal military war. The spark that lit the fuse was the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860, followed by the secession of several Southern states.  

Documentation abounds. Few things occupied American minds in the 19th century like slavery. And Americans expressed their thoughts and deeds in diaries, letters, journals, newspapers, speeches, laws, and court decisions. Under the auspices of The Library of America, that documentation has been curated and published in four volumes collectively called The Civil War, edited by Brooks Simpson, Stephen Sears, and Aaron Sheehan-Dean. Each volume is devoted to a specific year; volume 1 is The Civil War: The First Year by Those Who Lived It.

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

Some Additional Readings


Echoes of Reconstruction: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in Defense of the 14th Amendment – Patrick Young at Emerging Civil War. 


Commanding the Regiment: Galusha Pennypacker, the Civil War’s Youngest General – Meg Groeling at Emerging Civil War. 

"The Descent" by Matt Brolly

Detective Inspector (DI) Louise Blackwell of the Weston-super-Mare Police is having a major headache with her brother Paul. Unable to cope with the death of his wife, he’s been regularly drinking himself into a stupor – and ignoring his responsibilities for his young daughter Emily. Blackwell’s parents are nearly beside themselves with worry. 

Blackwell is also investigating a likely suicide. A young woman in her 20s has been found at the foot of a cliff, followed by a second suicide in similar circumstances. While the reader has a better idea of what’s happening – a parallel story line is developing with the people involved – Blackwell and her team are struggling to find any leads at all, or if anyone even knew the victims.


Matt Brolly

Blackwell is struggling to keep her brother’s situation from interfering with the investigation. And then he disappears with his daughter. Blackwell asks police colleagues in other departments to help, and slowly they learn that there was a lot more going on in Paul’s life than numbing the pain with excess alcohol.


The Descent is the second novel in the DI Louise Blackwell series by Matt Brolly. It’s a fascinatingly different kind of read – less a mystery and more a suspense story. And he winds up it up with a tense, edge-of-your-seat ending.


Brolly has written several mystery novels in the DI Louise Blackwell series, including The Crossing, The Descent, The GorgeThe MarkThe Pier, and The Bridge. He’s also written several novels in the DCI Lambert series and the Lynch and Rose series. He lives in London with his family.




The Crossing by Matt Brolly.


Some Thursday Readings


The Change Merchants: Why rule by nerds leads to perpetual chaos – N.S. Lyons at The Upheaval.


Morgan’s Raid Begins – June 1863 – Caroline Davis at Emerging Civil War.


Go On, Adam, Breathe – artwork by Jack Baumgartner at The School for the Transfer of Energy.


C A Mathew, Photographer – Spitalfields Life.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Poets and Poems: Osip Mandelstam and “Tristia”

Imagine waking up one morning to discover a collection of your poetry has been published in another country, without your permission and in a mixed-up order you never would have approved. That’s what happened to Russian poet Osip Mandelstam; his second poetry collection, Tristia, appeared in Germany in 1922, via a friend who had the poems published. 

It was beginning to be a dangerous time for Russian poets and writers. The Russian Civil War would continue for another year, although the Bolsheviks were in control of large swaths of the country, including Moscow and St. Petersburg (renamed Petrograd and soon to be renamed Leningrad). Mandelstam was in something of a double bind; not only was he a poet, he was also from a suspect social class. He was born in 1891 in Warsaw. His wealthy parents owned a prosperous leather manufacturing business, and his father won the privilege of being allowed to live in St. Petersburg. That’s where Mandelstam grew up and was educated.

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

Some Tuesday Readings


Sir Raleigh, Storytelling, and the Sea – Alan Howell at Story Warren.


Arthur in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land: The Search for Regeneration – Seth Myers at An Unexpected Journal.


Footsteps – poem and artwork by Sonja Benskin Mesher.

Explore the World of Willa Cather in Her Nebraska Hometown – Jeff MacGregor at Smithsonian Magazine. 

Monday, June 26, 2023

"Letters from the Mountain" by Ben Palpant

Are you organized, precise, a neat-nik, with a place for everything and everything in its place? Or are you a slob, with a desk and writing habits that look like the junkyard set from Sanford and Son? Or, like most of us, are something in between? 

How we write reflects how we live. If there is any lesson from Letters from the Mountain by Ben Palpant, and there are many, that is the overriding one, at least for writers. How we write reflects how we live.


Palpant, a poet and writer and son of former missionaries to Kenya, wrote the book in the form of letters to his daughter Kialynn. Using that form imparts a tenderness and affection to the subject that many books about writing lack. So that while the subject is ostensibly about writing, this is a father writing to a beloved daughter, and soon the subject of writing becomes indistinguishable from the subject of life and living. It never descends into how-to advice; it’s more “this is what I’ve learned from what I do and what I am.”


“The principles essential to his own writing journey,” he writes, “have proven mysterious, paradoxical, and bewildering even after all these years. He would prefer a less difficult trail. He would prefer a white chalk line making the easiest ascent up the mountain. But this path is not like that. This mountain is not conducive to ease. Day hikers never last long here.”

Ben Palpant

Whether he’s discussing the imagination, beauty, rest, listening, contentment, ambition, self-doubt, criticism, or several other subjects about writing, Palpant’s words apply equally to writing and living. Writing well, like living well, requires discipline and self-knowledge. It also requires a love for others.


Perhaps the most important idea Palpant imparts is that writing needs sustenance and cultivation. It’s not a skill or talent that independently arises out of one’s mind or soul. It’s more like a seed that, once planted, needs protection and nurture to spout and flourish. 


Palpant has published several books, including the poetry collections Sojourner Songs and The StrangerThe Essential Journal for WritersHoney from the Lion’s Mouth: On Remembering and Reclaiming Our PastPepin and the MagicianA Small Cup of Light; and a worldview guide for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He lives with his family in the Pacific Northwest.


Letters from the Mountain is a tender, loving, and occasionally hard look at writing. This is not a dispensation of wisdom from on high, but more “what I’ve learned so far” on my journey. And it is a book in which writers will recognize and find themselves.




Spiritual Poetry: Three Collections.


Some Monday Readings


The summer issue of An Unexpected Journal is out, and it’s all things King Arthur. It includes articles, poems, and scholarly articles under the general title of King Arthur Legendarium.


A Reader’s Guide to Thornton Wilder’s Neglected “The Eighth Day” – Daniel Sundahl at The Imaginative Conservative. 


Mike Mulligan and Beyond: the Work of Virginia Lee Burton – Kelly Keller at Story Warren.


The Wanting of What May Be Lost – Jim Wood at Current Magazine.


Newly discovered ‘Stonehenge of the Netherlands’ is 4,000 years old – Laura Baisas at Popular Science.


A fresh face for an old friend: London’s National Portrait Gallery – Helen Barrett at The Critic Magazine.

The Gift of the Monarch Butterfly -- Dheepa Maturi at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

If you can't see it

After Hebrews 11:1-3

If you can’t see it,

is it real?

If you can’t touch it,

or taste it,

does it exist?

If it cannot be

empirically proven,

is it true?

Can a world, a society,

a culture, a people

be constructed upon

a platform of hope,


Can it all happen

because of what is

hoped for?

Welcome to the world

of faith.


Photo by Alex Radelich via Unsplash. Used with permission.

The crisis of loneliness: We have never been more connected, or more isolated – Jacob Phillips at The Critic Magazine.


The Deluge – poem by William Harrison at The Society of Classical Poets.

“Job’s Rant” and “The Dark Comes Early” – poems by Cynthia Erlandson at The Society of Classical Poets.


Our thought life – Ted Gossard at Jesus community.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - June 24, 2023


In the 19th century, the “German critics” took aim at the reliability and historicity of the Bible. It was the “higher criticism,” and it sought to demonstrate that the Bible wasn’t what everyone thought it was. Virtually all of the significant criticisms have been addressed in the intervening years. Michael Kruger, president and professor of New Testament and early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, explains how we got the Bible (and why it’s reliable and trustworthy). 


The Birth of the ‘Born-Again’ Christian – Kenneth Ortiz at Desiring God.


Samuel James at Digital Liturgies reviews a (yet another) memoir by an “exvangelical,” which seems to have become something of a minor genre in liberal-leaning religious circles. James explains what these memoirs get wrong.


My Unbelieving Dad Helped Me See Jesus – Sean Nolan at The Gospel Coalition.


After College: The coming collapse of American higher education – Peter Wood at Quillette.


Life and Culture


“Propelled by delusions and united by hatred, growing numbers of Americans (20 percent according to a University of California, Davis poll conducted in 2022) believe that political violence is justified, necessary, and even at times desirable. Predictions to the contrary notwithstanding, this advocacy of violence seems unlikely to end in another civil war. A more probable scenario is a multifaceted war of all against all that will result in the gradual but steady descent toward anarchy.” Mark Malvasi: The Imaginative Conservative, Politics, Violence, & the Future of America.


Conservatism as a Solution to Homelessness – Pepijn Leonard Demortier at Front Porch Republic.


“Now, because we no longer have a culture, we have a culture war. But I don’t believe in this ‘war’…the Faultline – race, gender, ‘identity’ – that we’re told to align ourselves along. I think they are a trap: more evidence of how lost we are. If any ‘war’ is in evidence today, it is a spiritual war.” Paul Kingsnorth, The Abbey of Misrule: The Raindance: Counterculture for Reactionary Radicals.


News Media


How will the decline of cable news affect politics? – The Spectator.


Writing and Literature


Advisor Warning: The Absence of Moral Limits in Lady Macbeth – Mark Botts at Front Porch Republic. 


Jeffrey Hart, a professor emeritus of English at Dartmouth, considers the dilemma of students today who want to learn literature and Western culture, and are instead handed courses aimed at deconstructing (destroying) those very things. The great works of Western culture have far more to teach us than we realize, he says. 




To Marilyn in Primavera affascinante – David O’Nan at Fevers of the Mind (H/T: Paul Brookes).


Touch – Sonja Benskin Mesher.


One Moment of One Love – Yehonatan Geffen a Alphabet Soup, read by Etgar Keret.


Making Space – Joy Lenton at Poetry Joy.


The poplars wait for the orioles to return – Jane Dougherty at The Four Swans.


American Stuff


On the 160th Anniversary of West Virginia’s Statehood – Chris Mackowski at Emerging Civil War.




Rome to open ancient square where Julius Caesar was killed – Reuters.


Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery – The Gray Havens 

 Painting: The contemplation, oil on canvas (1873) by Hugues Merle (1822-1881).

Friday, June 23, 2023

In all things

After Galatians 6:1-10

In all things, be

gentle, gentle

in reproof and


gentle in bearing

one another’s

burdens, gentle

in bearing one’s

own load. Be

gentle in sharing,

be gentle in sowing

and reaping, and

sow and reap not

from self but from

spirit. Be gentle

in doing good. Do 

not grow weary and

do good to all,

especially those,

like you, called

to be gentle.


Photograph by Margot Pandone via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings


With Blistered Hands and Aching Backs – Tim Challies.


Christ Walking on the Water – R.R. Rodgers at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


2 Wrong (And 1 Right) Responses When Confronted with the Shortness of Life – Michael Kelley at Forward Progress.


Iconic Mont Saint-Michel Abbey Celebrates 1,000 Years – National Catholic Register.

Servant of God Stanislawa Leszczynska: The Midwife of Auschwitz Who Delivered Thousands of Babies and Saved Thousands of Lives – Meg HunterKilmer at Church Life Journal. 


The End – poem by Seth Lewis. 

A pair of sonnets for John the Baptist -- Malcolm Guite.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

“Murder in the Tower” by Roy Lewis

Arnold Landon has now transferred from the County Planning Council in Morpeth in northern England to the Department of Museums and Antiquities in the same location. His former Planning Officer thought it best for Landon to work directly in an area suited to his knowledge and interests – and to remove an employee who often seemed to involve himself in controversies and publicity involving the police. 

Landon is pleased with the move. But he knows that while he doesn’t go looking for trouble, trouble seems unerringly to find him. Like with two current assignments. His director has asked him to step in and take over the research and writing of a brochure about the medieval towers of Northumberland. The staffer assigned to do it has inexplicably taken leave, without asking for permission or telling anyone what he was up to. The brochure is already late, and Landon discovers that what there is of it is badly done.


Roy Lewis

To add to the deadline pressure, Landon’s director also tells him to meet with a local resident about a painting found hidden in an old Rectory. Landon knows nothing about paintings, but the director needs the resident off his back. What Landon discovers is that the painting is tied to the subject of the towers for the brochure. And while he thinks it nonsense, both seem connected to the stories surrounding the Shroud of Turin. He gradually discovers that both have a connection to two murders – a couple having an affair. And the prime suspect is the missing work in Landon’s department.


Murder in the Tower is the seventh novel in the Arnold Landon mystery series by British author Roy Lewis, and it may be the best one yet, which is saying something for the previous six books which have all been fascinatingly good. Lewis or a close friend new a lot about medieval construction in wood and stone, and the reader will learn a lot about the subject as well. Landon is one of the more unusual fictional amateur detectives – unassuming, mild-mannered, often taken advantage of by his superiors at work, but stubborn to a fault when he knows he’s right. And Lewis adds a slight touch of romance into the mix.


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.


Murder in the House by Roy Lewis.


Error in Judgment by Roy Lewis.


Some Related Readings or Videos:


The work of stonemasons on medieval cathedrals (video)


Stonecutting - at Tracing the Past. 


Shroud of Turin – Encyclopedia Britannica. 


Some Thursday Readings


Saving the Commons: As the Industrial Revolution took off in Britain, William Cobbett rose in defense of the cottage industry – Jack Bell at Plough.


Lady Aethelflaed – Warrior? Queen? and Prominent Women of Mercia – Annie Whitehead at Castin Light upon the Shadow. 

The Western Gothic is Film, Music, and Literature: A Primer – Jon Basshof at Crime Reads.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

"Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer" by G. Mosley Sorrell

This memoir of the Civil War, Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer by G. Moxley Sorrell (1838-1901), was a genuine pleasure to read. Published some 35 years after the war ended, it is not a typical military memoir. Sorrel himself says as much at the beginning; he leaves the discussion of most military strategy and tactics to others. But he occupied a significant position. For much of the war, he was the chief of staff for Brigadier General James Longstreet.


He was part of numerous battles in the eastern theater of the war: both battles of Bull Run (Manassas), Seven Pines, Sharpsburg (Antietam), Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, the eastern Tennessee campaign, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg. 

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

Some Wednesday Readings


A School of Strength and Character – Tanner Greer at Palladium Magazine. 


Captured, Imprisoned: The Experiences of Union Civilian Families during the Second Battle of Winchester – Sarah Kay Bierle at Emerging Civil War. 


“This is no place for you!”…A father and son at Cedar Mountain – Mike Block at Emerging Civil War.

The Civil War Abroad: How the Great American Conflict Reached Overseas by Charles Priestley – reviewed by Neil Chatelain at Emerging Civil War.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

A TS Classic: “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

It’d been years, well, decades, in fact, since I read The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I knew the basic outline of the story. A young man permanently retains his youthful appearance while his portrait assumes the countenance of his dissipated, depraved life. The tale is well known enough to have entered popular culture almost as a theme.  

Several different film productions (including 1945, 1973, 2009, and 2021) likely helped, too. In the 1945 movie, Hurd Hatfield played Dorian Gray; the cast included a young Angela Lansbury, George Sanders, Donna Reed, Peter Lawford, and Sir. Cedric Hardwicke. The 1973 version starred Shane Briant in the title role and added several characters not in Wilde’s story. The 2009 version starred Ben Barnes as Dorian; Colin Firth and Ben Chaplin also had major roles. In the 2021 film, Fionn Whitehead plays the title role.

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

Some Tuesday Readings


A poetry showcase: some republished poems by Nigel Kent – at Fevers of the Mind (H/T: Paul Brookes). 


The New Remorse – Oscar Wilde.

“Distant Thoughts from Nearby” and “Bathtub Madonna” – poems by C.B. Anderson at Society of Classical Poets.


Western media helped Soviets cover up the Katyn Massacre – Peter Pomerantse at The Spectator.

Monday, June 19, 2023

“On Real: A Brush Stroke Essay” by Paul Hughes

It’s something of a romp through reality, or about reality. 

Writer Paul Hughes describes his long essay / short book On Real as a brush stroke. In fact, he used “Brush Stroke” as a brand for this first of what is planned to be a number of essays. As the name implies, Hughes doesn’t take a deep dive into a particular point or aspect of the real. Instead, he lightly covers an extended territory of ideas, published works, quotations, and observations. 


It’s something of a rollercoaster ride, and like all good rollercoaster rides, when it’s over, you want to do it again. In the case of On Real, you want to read it again.


And where else do you start considering the real or the true than with fiction. It’s a contradiction: something made-up can be more truthful, or more real, than a statement of fact or the reality that is staring you in the face this morning. And, as Hughes points out, “mythological” doesn’t mean false, even if the myth is non-factual. 


G.K. Chesterton (or Paul Hughes?)

That’s how his brush stroke starts. And the brush moves at breakneck speed across art, literature, life, anecdotes, God, and more. Hughes draws from The Brothers Karamazov, The Velveteen Rabbit. Don Quixote, and Eugene Vodolazkin (a Ukrainian / Russian writer whose works I’ve come to deeply admire). He quotes Willy Wonka and Tom T. Hall. He sees Christopher Hitchens as one who “often saw to the core of things,” but didn’t do the right thing with what he saw. And Hughes quotes T.S. Eliot, of course (why did I say “of course”?). 


On Real is a wide-ranging discussion that will often take you down a rabbit hole (we’re all Alices in Wonderland at times). But when you come out again, you see and understand things you didn’t before. And you understand something deeper about how what is real and what is unreal, and how the unreal often contains the truth lacking in the factual. 


A good example is the photo I’ve included with this post. It’s the one Hughes uses on his blog, Poet and Priest. He acknowledges that the photo isn’t of him (it’s G.K. Chesterton). But that photo will tell you more about Hughes that the typical blog bio will. The only other (factual) thing I know about him is that he’s a writer who lives in the West. That could be the western United States, or it might be “West” as in
“Western civilization.” Either way, it fits.


Some Related Readings 


The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered in the Modern World by William Egginton.


The Velveteen Rabbit, or How Toys Become Real by Margery Williams.


The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.


Julian Barnes: ‘Flaubert could have written a great book about contemporary America – Rachel Cooke at The Guardian


All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin.


Some Monday Readings


Portland Sobers Up: After years of disorder and misgovernance, the City of Roses is taking steps to reverse its decline – Michael Totten at City Journal


Up from “Parenting” – Glenn Arbery at The Imaginative Conservative.


The Earned Smugness of Ulysses Readers – Mark Solomons at The Spectator.

Poetry Prompt: Monarch Butterfly's Wildflower -- Callie Faye at Tweetspeak Poetry.