Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The First Book I Ever Bought

It was the summer before I turned seven. A favorite activity for all of us kids in the neighborhood was to ride our bikes up to the TG&Y dime store in the local shopping center and usually just drool over all the toys in the children’s section. The distance between our block and the dime store was about a mile-and-a-half; we’d ride back streets to get there, avoiding the more direct, and busy, nearby U.S. Highway 61. 

The shopping center included the TG&Y, a Beall’s department store, a Western Auto, a Mackenzie’s Bakery, and the anchor, the A&P grocery store. A few years later, a Katz & Bestoff (K&B) drug store was added on the western end. 

As young as I was, I was reading beyond my years. I liked the dime store’s toys and games as much as anyone, but I also would wander over to where the children’s books were displayed in something like a magazine rack, with staggered rows so you could see all the titles. The books were for all ages, from toddler to young teen. 

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

Photograph by Eleanor Brooke via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Wednesday Readings


The Pulls and Fears of Andersonville – Sarah Kay Bierle at Emerging Civil War. 


Will this Civil War soldier Bible find its way back to his family? – John Banks’ Civil War Blog.


Book Review: Building a House Divided: Slavery, Westward Expansion, and the Roots of the Civil War – Patrick Kelly-Fischer at Emerging Civil War.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

“Thunderclap” by Laura Cumming: A Memoir of Art and Life

Delft, The Dutch Republic, Oct. 12, 1654. 

Imagine a quiet fall morning. It’s sunny; people are going about their usual activities. A painter, caught somewhere between down-at-heels and famous, is talking with his subject as he paints the portrait. A few blocks away, a clerk goes to the basement to check inventory, using a candle for light. The inventory is 90,000 pounds of gunpowder.


The explosion of what comes to be known as the “Thunderclap” levels whole city blocks. The sound is heard 70 miles away. Almost every building in Delft is damaged. Hundreds are dead; some bodies will never be found. Among the fatalities is the painter, Carel Fabritius, the only survivor of the people in his home but who dies a short time later. While he must have painted numerous pictures, what has survived is barely a dozen, including a few self-portraits. Some were likely destroyed in the explosion. One or two were misattributed to Rembrandt, in whose studio Fabritius had studied. But the fate of the rest is unknown.

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

Some Tuesday Readings


The Blue Absorbent Towel – poem by Charles Southerland at Society of Classical Poets.


Things Worth Remembering: The Woman Who Captured Russia’s Pain – Douglas Murray at The Free Press.


The Hidden Depths in Robert Frost – Ernest Suarez at The Imaginative Conservative.


“Learning to Laugh: and “An American Pastoral” – poems by William Harder at Society of Classical Poets.


The Layers – poem by Stanley Kunitz at Everyday Poems. 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Two Beautiful Lenten Devotionals

The beginning of Lent – Ash Wednesday – falls on Valentine’s Day this year. I’m not sure if there’s a subliminal message there or not, but the Lenten season is soon upon us. And two recently published resources might be, and should be, of some interest.

Women Who Followed Jesus: 40 Devotions on the Journey to Easter
 (Paraclete Press) by Dandi Daley Mackall may seem primarily for women, but I also found it an intriguing resource for a general audience. For each day of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday, Mackall has Bible verses, a fictional story grounded in the verses, and a few questions for reflection and deeper study.


The Biblical women included in the entries are Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of Jesus; Susanna; Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza; the Samaritan woman at the well; Mary of Bethany; Martha; and Salome, the mother of James and John. Each has multiple entries; Mary Magdalene has the most with 10, followed by Mary the mother of Jesus with eight. 


Little is known about several of the women; Susanna, for example has a single reference in the Gospel of Luke and Joanna has only two; both were among the women who had been healed by Jesus, traveled with him and the disciples, and supported his ministry. But there’s enough to make some educated guesses as to their personalities and how they fit into Jesus’s ministry. 

Dandi Daley Mackall

Mackall has published more than 500 books for adults and children. She’s a speaker at writer workshops, conferences, women’s meetings, and young author events. She’s also been interviewed on television, radio, podcasts, and blogs about writing and her books, which have won numerous awards. She lives with her family in Ohio.


Paraclete has also published Season of Beauty: A Lent and Easter Treasury of Readings, Poems, and Prayers. It’s illustrated with classic paintings by well-known artists, which by themselves are worth considering as Lent and Easter devotionals. (a personal favorite painting in the book, “The Straight Path” by Nicholas Roerich, is depicted above.) It’s a small (143 pages) but physically beautiful book.


The poems and readings have been written by such authors as Louisa May Alcott, Hildegard of Bingen, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Thomas Merton, William Cowper, the Psalms, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Christina Rossetti, Julian of Norwich, Luci Shaw, Rainer Maria Rilke, Saint Patrick, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Saint Francis, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Emily Bronte, John Greenleaf Whittier, William Wordsworth, Charles Wesley, and many others.


One of the entries is this first-millennium Celtic prayer:


You are the peace of all things calm

You are the place to hide from harm

You are the light that shines in the dark

You are the heart’s eternal spark

You are the door that’s open wide

You are the guest who waits inside

You are the stranger at the door

You are the calling of the poor

You are my Lord and with me still

You are my love, keep me from ill

You are the light, the truth, the way

You are my Savior this very day


Both books make wonderful resources for the Lenten and Easter season.


Top illustration: The Straight Path, watercolor (1912) by Nicholas Roerich; Nizhny Novgorod State Museum of Fine Arts, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia


Some Monday Readings


White Noise – poem by Jerry Barrett at Gerald the Writer.


Out of Egypt: 50 Holy Wells #17 – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Finding Hope in a Cemetery

I walked into a John Constable landscape and found hope – in a cemetery.


A bit tired of seeing tourist sights on a recent vacation, my wife and I took a Saturday to explore Hampstead in north London. We’d been here in 2015 for a guided walk about the poet John Keats. Walk, perhaps, isn’t the right word. It was more of a brisk run up and down the hills of Hampstead.


One place I wanted to see during this visit was where our Keats Walk had started – St. John-at-Hampstead Church, also known as the “Keats Church,” even though it was the family of his love interest, Fannie Brawn, who were members. Keats himself never attended. The church does have, however, a bust of the poet. 

Unfortunately, the church was closed and locked for the day. A few people were walking by; a couple sat talking on a bench. Instead of leaving, we wandered around the churchyard and its cemetery. The original cemetery is adjacent to the church; a larger and newer extension is across the street.  

To continue reading, please see my post at Cultivating Oaks.

The keeper

After Psalm 121

When you see the hills,

do not consider the creation

but the creator, the one

who sculpted and shaped

the hills. It is not the creation

that keeps you or protects you;

it is the creator who keeps you,

who protects you, who provides

for you, without ceasing,

without sleeping, without

resting, protecting you against

all evil, keeping your life,

keeping your walk, watching

over your going out, watching

over your going in, always

and forever.


Photograph by Markus Spiske via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


Apostle! A sonnet for St. Paul – Malcolm Guite.


Don’t Forget About Nigerian Christians – Samuel Sey at Slow to Write.


Failing to ‘get’ religion helped create schism between readers and newsrooms – Terry Mattingly at Get Religion. 


Making the Call to Worship Great Again – Graham Heslop at The Gospel Coalition.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Saturday Good Reads - Jan. 27, 2024

We’ve been members of the Missouri Botanical Garden since we moved to St. Louis more than 40 years ago. The original entrance was circa 1904, and then the new Ridgeway Center, airy and rather beautiful, was built in the 1980s. That was then, and this is now. The Ridgeway Center is gone, replaced by a rather large building in the Brutalist style. I thought Brutalism was a synonym for “big, ugly, 1930s Soviet style” architecture, but it actually derives from béton brutthe French term for “raw concrete.” Anthony Daniels at New Criterion has an article equating brutalism in architecture with tattoos, which might make more sense than first apparent. In the meantime, I have to keep reminding myself not to refer to the botanical garden here as “the mausoleum with plants.” 

In 2014, former CIA analyst Martin Gurri published The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium. His thesis was simple: the information age has seriously undercut traditional elites and hierarchies, to the point that public trust and credibility are gone. (One could also argue that traditional elites have done a pretty good job of botching things, too.) Gurri has an article in The Free Press that asks a related question: Trump. Again. The Question is Why?


From 1936 to 1975, William Maxwell (1908-2000) served as the fiction editor for The New Yorker. A few (only a few!) of his writers included John Updike, J.D. Salinger, Vladimir Nabokov, Eudora Welty, John Cheever, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Shirley Hazzard. He was also a writer, publishing six rather wonderful novels, short stories, essays, and a memoir. In 1955, he gave a speech on writing magic and persistence in writing, and Literary Hub has reprinted it


More Good Reads




Three Reasons Christians Should Oppose Abortion – Robb Brunansky at The Cripplegate.


It’s Okay to Just Pray – Tim Challies.


If an NFL coaching legend quotes scripture in a press conference, does it make a sound? – Terry Mattingly at Get Religion.


Life and Culture


Mac at 40: User experience was the innovation that launched a technology revolution – Chris Calimlim at The Conversation.


Southern Hospitality in the New Machine Age – Alex Taylor at Front Porch Republic.


The Epidemic of 2012 Before the Pandemic of 2020 – Eric Geiger.


American Stuff


No One’s Name Was Changed at Ellis Island – Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution.


Writing and Literature


What’s So Great about The Great Gatsby? – Joel Miller at Miller’s Book Review.


Can Something Be ‘Great’, Even If You Hate It? – Daniel Lattier at The Imaginative Conservative.




John Finlay’s Poetics of the Incarnation – James Matthew Wilson at Church Life Journal.


Pangs – Kirk Jordan at Rabbit Room Poetry.


‘On Living with Someone with Alzheimer’s’ and Other Poems – Vicki Roberts at Society of Classical Poets.




Elwin Hawthorne, Artist – Spitalfields Life.


He Calls Me Friend – City Alight

Painting: Woman Reading a Letter to a Blind Man, oil on canvas by Louis Denis-Valvérane (1870-1943), Huddersfield Art Gallery.

Friday, January 26, 2024

From my body

After 2 Samuel7:1-17

From my body 

will come 

the offspring 

who will lead

a kingdom.

His throne

will be set


He will be

disciplined, but

he will be loved 

always and forever. 

And through him,

my house will be 


forever and

all time. 

My throne

will last 

forever. And 

I know this

because he

has promised.


Photograph by Hasan Almasi via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings


Prayer for Traversing the Eye – poem by Laura Reece Hogan at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


The Challenge of Choosing Between Bitter and Better – Seth Lewis.


Civility: Reading Each Other – Sarah Skwire at The Imaginative Conservative.


My Father – poem by Paul Wittenberg. 

Thursday, January 25, 2024

"Murder at the Folly" by Roy Lewis

Mild-mannered Arnold Landon tries to go about his job quietly and expertly, but he’s a proverbial magnet for trouble. He works for the Morpeth Department of Antiquities and Museums in Northumberland. How can he keep finding himself unintentionally involved in murders and crimes? 

And now he has something new to contend with. The county government had been restructured, with departments combined and positions shuffled. His own has a new deputy head, a strikingly beautiful young woman who is as ruthless and political as she is beautiful. She lets Arnold know in no uncertain terms where he stands and that she’ll be looking for any missteps he makes. She assigns him an assistant, one reassigned during the reorganization and a man she doesn’t like at all. 


Arnold sits in on a public meeting about a Viking trust, strictly to observe. Different parties start arguing with each other, and the stand-off is only resolved when Arnold is named chair of a fact-finding task force. He’s still bewildered at how it all happened, but he takes his role seriously. As does a reporter investigating the trust, its trustees, and what look like related business shenanigans. When the reporter is found murdered, Arnold realizes he has inadvertently walked into yet another crime, much to his new boss’s displeasure.


Roy Lewis

Murder at the Folly
 is the tenth Arnold Landon mystery by British writer Roy Lewis. I don’t know how he pulls it off, but each entry in the series is better than its already excellent predecessor. Lewis has a knack for smoothly inserting historical information into these stories, so that it’s almost like getting two narratives. In this one, we read about Viking lore, and how a small, almost insignificant site is actually an entry way into a royal boat burial. 


And once again, it is mild-mannered Arnold Landon, amateur expert on medieval stone and wood and the builders who used them, will provide the key to solving the murder.


Lewis (1933-2019) was 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 lived in northern England. 




Murder Under the Bridge by Roy Lewis.


Murder in the Tower by Roy Lewis


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.


Murder by the Quay by Roy Lewis.


Error in Judgment by Roy Lewis


Some Thursday Readings


The Flitcrafting of Sam Spade – Nathan Ward at CrimeReads.


Remembering an Agatha Christmas – William Norton at The Critic Magazine.


Agatha Christie’s Final Mystery – Kemper Donovan at CrimeReads. 


Wildcat: The Frenzied Prayer of Flannery O’Connor – David Griffith at Church Life Journal.


Bookish Diversion: In the Market – Joel Miller at Miller’s Book Review. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

"God Rest Ye Merry, Soldiers" by James McIvor

In 1861, the first year of the Civil War, soldiers on both sides still felt some sense of momentum. Overly optimistic, many believed the war would over by Christmas. As the war stretched into 1862, the initial optimism was giving way to something else – a sense of failure and despair. And that sense affected both sides.  

The South was beginning to feel the bite of the Union blockade of Southern ports. The North was watching a series of what seemed like only Confederate victories on the battlefield. Soldiers were becoming demoralized. It didn’t help the Union’s cause that so many senior officers were “political generals” and appeared sorely lacking in experience and common sense. The sense of failure and isolation was especially acute around Christmas, when soldiers would have ordinarily been home with their families.

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

Some Wednesday Readings


Manchester, New Hampshire Civil War Monument – Patrick Young at The Reconstruction Era.


A State Divided: A New Book Featuring 50 Previously-Unpublished Civil War Letters Provides Insights on Why Many Believe the Civil War Started in Missouri – Tonya McQuade at Emerging Civil War.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Poet for Poets and Poetry Readers

My favorite period of American literary history is roughly 1895 to 1940. As literary periods go, it’s a large swath of time, and it includes both the Realists and Modernists (and perhaps it’s because I don’t see a clear delineation between those two schools of literature).   

For novelists, that includes Stephen Crane, Jack London, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, Sinclair Lewis, Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner. My wife thinks I’m slightly crazy, but I’m one of the few people she’s ever heard of who enjoys reading Faulkner.


For poets, it’s T.S. Eliot, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edgar Lee Masters, Vachel Lindsay, Robert Frost, and others – “others” including Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935).

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

Some Tuesday Readings


Brian Miller on Kayaking with Lambs – John Murdock at Front Porch Republic.


Poetry Club Tea Date: The Poet – Tweetspeak Poetry.


The Old House – poem by Paul Wittenberger. 


Waiting for My Autistic Son to Speak – poem by Heather Cadenhead at Rabbit Room Poetry.


I don’t know – poem by Franco Amati at Garbage Notes.

Monday, January 22, 2024

"Poetic Pete" by Rob Jones

Poetic Pete has a problem, at least as far as the other kids are concerned. He likes to rhyme when he talks. 

He’s considered something of a freak. He tries to keep his mouth shut and avoid others, but then there’s Billy the Bully, who seems to go out of his way to harass Poetic Pete. The bully laughs at what Pete has written, which, of course, are poems, and poems that rhyme. The poor boy writes poems to push the pain away.


Both of his parents have his back, offering comfort and encouragement. His father tells him to stay strong, because, he says, there’s magic inside of him that will inspire people. His mom finds a poetry contest for him to enter.


Rob Jones

And then Poetic Pete wins the contest and discovers what Billy is such a bully. The world begins to change.


Poetic Pete by author Rob Jones is a delightful children’s book, aimed at those of us who’ve always felt a little bit weird for liking, or writing, something like poetry. And it’s a bit more: a story for any child who feels out of place. I think it’s wonderful that it’s a story told in rhyme. And the illustrations by Lily Grace Jackson are lovely -- simple, clean, and help tell the story beautifully.


Jones is a poet, songwriter, and musician. He’s previously published The Hidden Work: Poems Inspired by the Writings of C.S. LewisRe-Enchanted: Poems for the Imagination and Inspiration,  the novel Bad Boys of the Kingdom, and the children’s book Here Comes the Night.


Read Poetic Pete, and cheer on the child poet in all of us. 


Some Monday Readings


The Juvenile Almanack and Costume of the Metropolis – Spitalfields Life. 


Summer of ’73 – poem by Gigi Ryan at Society of Classical Poets.


The Diary of a Tree Standing on its Head – artwork (video) Jack Baumgartner at The School of the Transfer of Energy. 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

The promise

After 2 Samuel 7:1-17

I thought to build

him a house, but

he promised to build

me a dynasty.


He brought me from

the hillside, he set

me on a throne. I was

a shepherd of sheep; he

made me a shepherd

of a nation.


He made a promise to me;

he made a promise

to the nation. He will

make me a great name;

he will give the people


a place to dwell in.

And he will give me,

and he will give the people,

rest from our enemies.

Photograph by Benjamin Davies via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Sunday Readings


Dear ChatGPT Users – Ashley Kim at Sola Network.


Self is Boring: Even it its decline, “The Crown” gets it point across – Samuel James at Digital Liturgies.

Snørøyk – poem by Chris Wheeler at Rabbit Room Poetry.

An epiphany at Cana – poem by Malcolm Guite.

A prayer for businesses in your community – Dan King at Bibledude.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Saturday Good Reads - Jan. 20, 2024

Embrace AI! Beware of AI! When it comes to artificial intelligence, you can find just about any narrative you want to follow. Kate Knibbs at Wired reports on one development that’s already with us – a flood of scammy, AI-generated books on Amazon. Casey Shutt at Mere Orthodoxy goes a fit further; citing the writer Paul Kingsnorth, this pastor says we should look at AI – and its potential for darkness – within a spiritual framework. 

We haven’t had one yet, but there needs to be a reckoning with what happened during the COVID pandemic, writes Benn Darr at Front Porch Republic. The West, with barely a thought, embraced totalitarianism. He’s reviewing a book entitled The Covid Consensus, so it doesn’t mention the testimony this past week by Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins on how they now view the lab leak theory as credible.


Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley made a misstep when she fumbled her answer to the question “What caused the Civil War?”. Mark Malvasi at The Imaginative Conservative answers the question – it was slavery. As usual with any issue, which the news media tend to reduce to cartoons at best, the issue was more complex than a single, simple, one-word answer. 


More Good Reads


Writing and Literature


Copper – short story by Benjamin Myers at The Muleskinner Press.


Chasing Lions: Don Quixote in Pursuit of the Beautiful – Jacob Terneus at The Imaginative Conservative. 


On Reviewing Books – Lincoln Michel at Counter Craft.


The Audience Comes Last – Chris Martin at FYI.


What’s New – And Not So New – in Spy Fiction – John Wilson at Micah Mattix’s Prufrock.




Three Reasons the Old Testament is More Important Than You Think – Michael Kruger at Canon Fodder. 


Sit and Be Still – Jeffrey Stivason at Gentle Reformation.


Israel / Hamas


How Hamas made hawks out of Israel’s liberals – Zoe Strimpel at The Spectator.


The Girls I Met in the Tunnels – Agam Goldstein-Almog at The Free Press.




How ‘Evangelical’ Are Iowa’s Evangelicals? – Thomas Kidd at The Wall Street Journal.


The Truth About Banned Books – Janes Fishback at The Free Press.


Javier Milei shocks Davos – Kate Andrews at The Spectator.


American Stuff


The Life and Times of William J. Flynn, the “Bulldog Detective” – Jeffrey Simon at CrimeReads. 


America Works, DEI Doesn’t – Pastor Corey Brooks at Tablet Magazine.




To My Brother – poem after John Keats by Mary Jane Myers at Society of Classical Poets.


Thursday, snow forecast – Sonja Benskin Mesher.


“Again” and “A Forgotten Joy” – Angel Villaneuva at Society of Classical Poets.


“The Mission” Main Theme – Ennio Morricone

 Painting: Woman Reading a Letter, oil on canvas by Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919).

Friday, January 19, 2024

Lament for a friend

After 2 Samuel 1:17-27

The brother of his soul

lies fallen on the field

of battle, fallen along

side his father, both

struck down, bodies

now becoming one

with dust. He sings

his song of grief

for his friend, the one

who loved him even

knowing he would

take his place. He

remembers the kindness,

always shown; he

remembers the love,

always extraordinary,

always faithful, always

expressed. He remembers

the love and he weeps

for the loss, the loss

of the friend

who loved him.


Photograph by Gabriel via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Some Friday Readings


On the Holy Spirit’s Wondrous Consolation – poem by Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


A Might Fortress – poem by Brian Yapko at Society of Classical Poets.


Poetry Friends, Jody Collins – Megan Willome. 


5 Poems I’m Memorizing – Jonathan Threlfall.