Sunday, December 31, 2023

The child

After Matthew 2:1-12

They find the child

with his mother,

the child foretold

and prophesized;

they fall down and

worship. They know who

this child is, who this child

represents, what this child

means. They see what

has not been seen before,

something truly new

under the sun. They

worship and they offer

gifts, offerings to the child,

the child who portends

what is to come.


Painting: Birmingham Museums Trust via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


The Unfinished Story – Andrew Kerr at Gentle Reformation. 


Heart of My Own Heart: Why I Love ‘Be Thou My Vision’ – Jon Bloom at Desiring God.


A Song for New Year’s Eve – poem by William Cullen Bryant via The Imaginative Conservative.


All Good Books Are Alike – James Witmer at Story Warren.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - Dec. 30, 2023

The Free Press hosted an essay contest for seniors (you had to be over 70 to enter), and the results were rather stunning. The winner selected was Michael Tobin, 77, who told a marvelous story about his brilliant wife. Read “A Love Song for Deborah.”  

The Advent 2023 edition of An Unexpected Journal has been posted, and it’s (almost) all things Dostoevsky. Under the general theme of “Sober Hope: Finding Faith in the Bleak Midwinter,” included are some 21 articles on the Russian writer’s novels, short stories, his faith, adaptations of his novels into film, poetry and a story about him, a biography review, his place in literature, and more. It’s a smashingly good edition.


It's not a word I would associate with Hamas, the terrorist organization, but Matti Friedman at The Free Press does. The word is wisdom. He writes that Hamas has wisdom because it’s figured out what it’s fighting for, and the West hasn’t. Hamas also understood how western elites would likely respond to its attack on Israel on Oct. 7.


For those who think the reports of rapes and sexual violence were an exaggeration or Israel was to blame, or for those who turned their backs on what really happened on Oct. 7, The New York Times published a story that provides the details


The controversy continues to swirl around Claudine Gay, the president of Harvard. The debate has shifted, though, from equivocating remarks about genocide to her use of others’ work, which we used to call plagiarism but renamed by the Harvard Board of Governors as “duplicative language,” and questions about her research data. Peter Wood at The Spectator explains that plagiarism matters, for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is how you can discipline students or faculty for plagiarism when all they have to do is claim “duplicative language”?


More Good Reads


Life and Culture


The first episode of the Howdy Doody Show aired on NBC on Dec. 27, 1947 – Timeless Television.


Top 10 YouTubes of 2023 – Denny Burk.


When the Left Can No Longer Dream – John Horvat at The Imaginative Conservative.


American Stuff


The secret U.S. effort to track, hide and surveil the Chinese spy balloon – Courtney Kube and Carol Lee at NBC News.


The Fateful Nineties – Christopher Caldwell at First Things Magazine.


News Media


Democracy Dies in Daylight – Matt Taibbi at Racket News.


GetReligion will close on Feb. 2, the 20th anniversary of this blog’s birth – Terry Mattingly at GetReligion.


Writing and Literature


All Good Books Are Alike – James Witmer at Story Warren.


Intention: a short story written in the aftermath of Hamas’ 7 October attack on Israel – Etgar Keret at The Guardian.


The Miracle of the Bells: A Forgotten Novel & Film – Michael De Sapio at The Imaginative Conservative.




Craft and Theology: The Reason – Nathaniel Marshall at Front Porch Republic.


Why Is the Lord’s Supper Important? – Murungi Igweta at Tabletalk.


Everything Is Going Wrong in the World? G. Campbell Morgan Remind Us to Adjust Our Focus – Randy Alcorn at Eternal Perspectives Ministries/ 




A Video Excerpt of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – Andrew Benson Brown at Society of Classical Poets.


Small thing – Sonja Benskin Mesher.


An Abandoned Cemetery – Carey Jobe at Society of Classical Poets.




Hans Holbein, the inventor of portraits – David Starkey at The Spectator.




Why the Dark Ages Weren’t Really All That Dark – Robbie Mitchell at Ancient Origins.




Battle for the past: the Ukrainians trying to save their archaeological treasure amid war – Charlotte Higgins at The Guardian.


You’ll Never Walk Alone – Madison Scouts

 Painting: A man reading, oil on canvas by Eugene-Francois De Block (1812-1893)

Friday, December 29, 2023

The visit

After Matthew 2:1-12

The magi followed

the star in the sky,

burning bright,

a brilliance unknown



They knew the meaning,

and they followed

the light westward,

down to Jerusalem,

down to the small town

known as David’s city.


They brought gifts,

gold, frankincense,

myrrh, gifts fitting

for a king,

for it was a king

they found, a king

in baby’s form,

a child,


the child foretold.


Photograph by Caleb Stokes via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings


The song of the Shepherds, poem by Richard Bauckham – Malcolm  Guite.


Top Books of 2023 – Seth Lewis.


Remembering that it happened once – poem by Wendell Berry via Megan Willome.


2024 Bible Reading Plans – Bryan Schneider at Gentle Reformation.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

"Death Writes" by Andrea Carter

Attorney Benedicta O’Keeffe’s friend Phyllis is hosting a literary festival in Glendara on the Inishowen Peninsula of Ireland. Somehow, she’s managed to lure Gavin Featherstone, the reclusive Booker Award winner, to appear and speak at the event. The author is as famous for his reclusiveness as for the first novel that won the award – a first novel never equaled by its successors.   

O’Keeffe is worried about her parents, who live in Dublin. A man they met at a grief counseling organization has managed to move into their house, and to their daughter’s eye, acts as if he owns the property. Her significant other, Sgt. Tom Molloy of the Glendara Garda, puts a word in to have the man watched and checked out. That O’Keeffe has managed to convince her parents to stay with her for a few days – and attend the festival – is temporary comfort.


During the event, Featherstone is paired with a short story writer for an on-stage discussion. And not long into it, he keels over and is soon pronounced dead. O’Keeffe is drawn into what becomes a murder investigation, as she represents Featherstone’s estranged wife and grown children. A second, newer will appears. And so do a long line of potential suspects, including O’Keeffe’s friend Phyllis.


Andrea Carter

Death Writes
is the sixth of the Inishowen mysteries by Irish writer Andrea Carter. It’s a veritable Agatha Christie-like story, minus the big country house, with a host of suspects, plenty of motives, and characters who don’t like telling the police, or even their friends and attorneys, everything they know. 


And wending its way through the main plot is the sub-plot of the man in the home of O’Keefe’s parents. She suspects he’s mispresented himself from the beginning and is something of a grief con artist, and she won’t be far wrong.


Carter studied law at Trinity College Dublin and managed the most northerly solicitor’s practice in the Republic of Ireland. In 2006, she moved to Dublin to work as a barrister and then turned to writing crime novels. She’s published five previous Inishowen mysteries featuring solicitor Benedicta “Ben” O’Keeffe: Death at Whitewater ChurchTreacherous StrandThe Well of IceMurder at Greysbridge, and The Body Falls.




Death at Whitewater Church by Andrea Carter.


Treacherous Strand by Andrea Carter.


The Well of Ice by Andrea Carter.


Murder at Greysbridge by Andrea Carter.


The Body Falls by Andrea Carter.

Some Thursday Readings


An Unconventional Christmas Novel (Mystery) by an Unconventional Writer – Martin Edwards at Crime Reads.


Nazi-looted Dutch Golden Age painting returned to Goudstikker heir – Gareth Harris at The Art Newspaper.


10 Crime Movies Set at New Year’s Eve – Olivia Rutigliano at Crime Reads.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

"The Stolen Train" by Robert Ashley

It didn’t change the course of world history, or even the Civil War. It didn’t even end in success. But the Andrews Raid, sometimes called the Great Locomotive Chase, was certainly notable in its daring and how it almost succeeded. 

In 1862, with the blessing of Union military commanders, recruited 20 soldiers. Their mission: capture a Confederate locomotive called The General not far from Atlanta and take it all the way to safety behind Union lines in Tennessee. Along the way, they would tear up track, burn bridges, and do whatever they could to disrupt the Western & Atlantic Railroad Line from Atlanta to Chattanooga. That line was a key supply line for Confederate armies in Tennessee.


It almost worked. 

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

Some Wednesday Readings


The Cross and the Machine – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule.


The ancient origins of the Christmas ghost story – Francis Young at The Spectator. 


C.S. Lewis’ Lesson for a Christmas-Forever – Marco Respiniti at The Imaginative Conservative.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Some Tuesday Readings - Dec. 26, 2023

The Journey of the Three Wise Men – Douglas Murray at The Free Press. 

Our godless era is dead – Paul Kingsnorth at UnHerd.


Heartbeats at Christmas – Jacob Phillips at The Critic Magazine.


Mosaic of the Nativity: Serbia, Winter 1993 – poem by Jane Kenyon at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


Ruddy Glory: The Resonance of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Joel Kurz at Front Porch Republic.


The Ultimate Christmas Gift – poem by Susan Jarvis Bryant at Society of Classical Poets.


The Ghosts of Old London – Spitalfields Life.


Photograph: Entrance to the Oxford Arms, from “The Ghosts of Old London.”

Monday, December 25, 2023

The gift

After Hebrews 1:1-4

The best of all gifts,

one unmerited and

undeserved, one

given in joy and love.


And more.


This gift is unlike

any that have come

before, not only

a gift of voice but

also a gift of self.


And more.


The gift is the heir,

given by the master

of the manor, the son

given to take our place,

the one there 

from the beginning.


And more.


Photograph by Dev Benjamin via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Monday Readings


Who is This One Lying in a Manger? – Geoff Thomas at Evangelical Magazine.


Why Such a Lowly Birth? – Justin Huffman. 


The Best Christmas Deal Ever – David Deavel at The Imaginative Conservative.


Midwinter – a Christmas poem by Martin Rizley at Society of Classical Poets.


Two Classic Poems for Christmas from Eliot and Chesterton – The Rabbit Room.


In the fog, there are tidings of comfort and joy – Jacob Duesing at Baptist News.


The Robin’s Christmas – Spitalfields Life.


Sunday, December 24, 2023

It is a gift

After 2 Corinthians 8:7-9

Faith is a gift,

as are speech

and encouragement

and knowledge.

Faith is a gift,

as are zeal and love

and the love for others

and the love 

for each other.

You may not think

that the act of giving

is a gift, but so it is,

echoing the gift

of him who became

poor so we could

become rich.


Photograph by Tyler Lagalo via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


No Room in the Inn – What Inn? – Dwight Longenecker at The Imaginative Conservative.


Frost warning, Christmastide – poem by Jody Lee Collins at Poetry & Made Things.


Christmas in a Foreign Land – Esther Greenfield at A Life Overseas. 


Let It Be – poem by Sandra Heska King at On Aging and Other Adventures.


Nostalgia, Longing, and Christmas Joy in “The Bleak Midwinter” – LuElla D’Amico at The Imaginative Conservative.


“A Christmas Carol”: adapted by Talbot Hook, read by Andrew Benson Brown – Society of Classical Poets. 

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - Dec. 23, 2023

This week, a Missouri state representative from suburban St. Louis was expelled from her political caucus. She’d been running for state attorney general in the primary election. Her problem was being photographed with an alt-right conspiracy theorist and then with a Holocaust denier, and spreading a rumor that her primary opponent, who is Jewish, was an agent for the Israeli government. Lest you think she was a supporter of the man with orange hair, she’s actually a longstanding member of the opposite political party.  

I’ve watched the news coverage of the protests at our elite universities, and it’s like watching Western civilization finally crack. Francesca Block explains how U.S. schools teach antisemitism. Lee Smith at Tablet Magazine underscores that, noting that Palestine is now a global empire. Carl Trueman wonders if Adolf Hitler has now won over the left


And this story – this story by Bari Weiss – wiped me: “Miracle in Hell: The Baby Twins Who Survived a Massacre.”


Speaking of the man with the orange hair, of whom I am not a fan, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled this week that the United States should become the Venezuela of the northern hemisphere, with California hot on Colorado’s heels. In the name of democracy, a state supreme court tries to destroy it, achieving exactly the opposite of what was intended. Reportedly, Republicans are already planning to return the favor and sue to strike President Biden from the ballot in Arizona, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Remember: you no longer have to be charged, tried and convicted of a crime; you just have to be deemed a “threat to democracy.” 


More Good Reads


Writing and Literature


Sigrid Undset: A Study in Christian Realism – A.H. Winsnes at The Imaginative Conservative. 


British Stuff


Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – A London Inheritance. 


The Crystal Palace Subway – Helen Barrett at The Critic Magazine.


American Stuff


The Saddest Christmas – Evan Portman at Emerging Civil War.




Grace Grows Best in Winter – Jeffrey Stivason at Gentle Reformation.


Turning Grief into Love – Laura Boggess.


A season to renounce hate speech – Helen Louise Herndon at American Thinker.


When Did Multiple Services Begin? – Caleb Morrell at 9Marks. 


Life and Culture


Norman Lear: An iconic mass media seeker who evolved past secularism – Terry Mattingly ay Get Religion. 


On Earth as It Is in Heaven: Embracing Limits to Find Identity, Community, and Place – Sarah Silflow at Front Porch Republic.




Seeds of Yahweh – Sandra Heska King at On Aging and Other Adventures.


10 Funny and Nostalgic Christmas Poems – Society of Classical Poets. 


Midwinter – poem and artwork by Sonja Benskin Mesher.


Solstice – Paul Wittenberger.


The Winter of Listening – David Whyte.


O Holy Night – Malakai Bayoh and Aled Jones

 Painting: Woman Reading and a Man Seated at a Table, oil on panel (circa 1676) by Frans van Mieris (1635-1681), the Leiden Collection.

Friday, December 22, 2023

What giving is

After 2 Corinthians 8:7-9


It’s not only money,

even if it is that. 

It’s more: to give

means to impart

one’s own money

and resources,

one’s time,

one’s attention,

a physical touch,

an emotional touch,

a hand or a shoulder,

to put an arm 

around a shoulder,

to come alongside

hurt and suffering. 

It’s more than

opening your wallet. 

Photograph by Tom Parsons via Unsplash. Used with permission. 

Some Friday Readings


Cattleman – A Christmas Poem – Dan Tuton at Society of Classical Poets.


Incarnation – poem by Irene Zimmerman at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


Embarrassed of My Embarrassment – Kraig Keck. 


The Feast of the Hungry – poem by Richard Tillinghast at New Criterion.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Some Thursday Readings

The Discovery of ‘Wind Sprints,’ the Lost Ralph Dennis Novel – Lee Goldberg at CrimeReads. 

A Thousand Words: Reflections on Art and Christianity – Louis Markos at The Imaginative Conservative. 


The Looming Lenin Comeback – Roger Kimball at The Spectator.


10 Great Poems for Teaching in High School Classrooms – James Sale at Society of Classical Poets.


2023: The CWBA Top Ten Books of the Year – Civil War Books and Authors.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

"The Battle of Franklin" by A.S. Peterson

I’ve been reading fictional treatments of the Civil War lately: Shelby Foote’s Novel Shiloh; Stephen Vincent Benet’s epic poem John Brown’s Body; Stephen Crane’s novel The Red Badge of Courage; and Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott. I’ve tried to get into E.L. Doctorow’s novel The March, which should be a slam dunk given the subject is Sherman’s march through Georgia, but I’ve started and stopped three times. I’ll give it another go and either succeed or admit defeat.  

The Battle of Franklin: A Tale of a House Divided is a stage play script by A.S. Peterson. With songs (even though it’s not a musical) Patrick Thomas, the play was commissioned by Studio Tenn and produced in 2016. It was a challenge rather admirably met; depicting a battle on the theatrical stage is a difficult feat to pull off, but Peterson does it.

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

Some Wednesday Readings


2023 Year in Review – Honorable Mentions – Civil War Books and Authors.


What is the True Nature of Ebenezer Scrooge? – Titus Techera at The Imaginative Conservative. 


Jews in the Land of Israel – poem by Yehuda Amichai.


Uptown Gothic: The NYC Photographs of Thaddeus Wilkerson – Michael Gonzales at CrimeReads. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Some Tuesday Readings

Poetry at Work Day! – Tuesday, January 9, 2024 – Tweetspeak Poetry. 

Things Worth Remembering: A Grave You Have in the Clouds – Douglas Murray at The Free Press. 


Against All Earthly Fire – poem by Leland James at Society of Classical Poets. 


Writing a Poem: Where to Begin – Jody Lee Colins at Poetry & Made Things. 


A Plea for the Second Verse of “O Come All Ye Faithful” – Stephen Presley at Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics.


Paying Attention – poem by Andrew Peterson at Rabbit Room Poetry. 

Monday, December 18, 2023

"The Vanished Collection" by Pauline Baer de Perignon

The great-grandfather of Pauline Baer de Perignon was well known for his art collection, including his eye for the Impressionists. But his artistic tastes extended to other periods and movements, including the Renaissance and furniture. The man, Jules Strauss, reportedly sold his collection in 1932, to help a relative who’d been ruined by depression. He died in 1943. Pauline had heard the family stories about the great collection of art. But it was something in the long-buried past.  

It was an almost offhand remark by a cousin, whom Pauline didn’t know very well, that sent her into a years-long passionate treasure hunt. “Did you know there was something shady about the Strauss sale?”


What could have been shady about the Strauss sale in 1932? Pauline starts talking with other relatives. She learns that Jules’s wife, her great-grandmother, had instituted a claim for stolen artworks during the time when the Germans occupied Paris (1940-1944). The more she looks and studies, the deeper and more plentiful the mysteries become. 


Jules and his wife remained in Paris during the Nazi occupation. They were Jewish; friends and relatives, including their son-in-law, were sent to Auschwitz. How did the old couple survive, since Jules died of natural causes in 1943 during the occupation? Why did they change apartments? What happened to their furniture? Why would her great-grandmother file a claim if the collection had been sold off in 1932? And what happened to the artworks?


Pauline Baer de Perignon

Baer de Perignon tells this story in The Vanished Collection, translated from the French by Natasha Lehrer. It’s a tale of great art; vanished warehouses; the Nazis’ wholesale theft of art collections, especially those owned by Jews; veiled references; obstinate museum workers almost desperate to hold on to artworks they shouldn’t have; art dealers and auction houses; old ledgers and lists; and meeting and working with people on the same journey that she is. As her investigations continue and go deeper into the past, she slowly gathers a picture of who her great-grandfather was. Her work is both tantalizing and extraordinarily frustrating, helped by a sympathetic and supportive husband.


Baer de Perignon has worked in the film industry, co-authoring several scripts. She’s also conducted writing workshops. She lives with her family in Paris. 


This kind of effort that produces The Vanished Collection requires dogged determination and an almost addictive obsession, and the author demonstrates both in the story. As the book shows, the quest to return artworks stolen by the Nazis continues 80 years after it happened. That quest is not always successful, but it does have it victories.


Some Monday Readings


Shades defining – poem and artwork by Sonja Benskin Mesher.


How “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” Went from Morbid Omen to Holiday Mainstay – Ellen Gutoskey at Mental Floss.


In Praise of Repair Culture – Peter Mommsen at Plough.


Claudine Gay’s way with words – Peter Wood at The Spectator.


We Were Taught to Hate Jews – Madeleine Rowley at The Free Press.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

He might have

After I Samuel 24:1-12

He might have ended

the push me – pull you

condition, the constant

fear, the constant

hardship of his life

on the run. The love-hate

hate-love relationship

could have stopped,

could have been

stopped, right there

at that moment, 

the threat removed, 

the fear expelled,

the hardship ended.

He might have done

all that in the darkness

of the cave. Instead, he 

held himself and his men

in check, and acted

in another way, the way

he should have, the way

he knew his God would



Photograph by Mario Ãlvarez via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


Six Reasons for the Virgin Birth – Mitch Chase at Biblical Theology.


Christmas and the Common Birth by Anne Ridler – Malcolm Guite.


Ghosts of Christmas: What the Damned Might Say – Greg Morse at Desiring God.


Shepherd Feet – Susan Lafferty.


My Winter Walks in the City – Spitalfields Life.