Saturday, October 3, 2015

Saturday Good Reads

Tim Challies finds words from some 1,800 years ago that seem just as real today. Mick Silva finds ways to outsmart distraction when you’re writing. Every day matters to Scott Todnem. The world’s current version of the “Monuments Men” – saving priceless relics from barbarians. John Blase poetically sends a son off to school, while Maureen Doallas tells us about storytelling.

And at a school in Buckinghamshire in the U.K., they surely do know how to serve schoolchildren their lunches.


The Heart of a Stranger – Ryan Dueck at Rumblings.

Be Kind to Your Little Children – Clement of Alexandria via Tim Challies.

Sunday Review: Cassian Folsom – Kate Murphy for The New York Times.

Just a cup of water – Winn Collier.


Planting for the Future – Cynthia Ruchti at Novel Rocket.

Three Ways to Redeem Time – Terry Whalin at The Writing Life.

Outsmarting Distraction – Mick Silva.


Cabbage Whites – Tim Good at Photography by Tiwago.

Pennsylvania Avenue, Tower Grove East – Chris Naffziger at St. Louis Patina.


Love, herself, lay dying: A Sonnet – Kerry O’Connor at Skylover.

Lilting light – Troy Cady at T(r)oy Marbles.

Martha Serpas – D.S. Martin at Kingdom Poets.

Storytelling – Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper.

The Mark of Adam – John Blase at The Beautiful Due.

Poetry and Religion - Richard Rohr (Hat tip: J of India).

Life and Culture

Every Day Matters – Scott Todnem at Life is the Future.

The Stranger and the Ring – Tim Butcher at BBC Magazine (Hat tip: J of India).

The Pot Hole – Lancelot Schaubert.

Unnecessary Goodness – Corey Poff at Torrey Gazette.

Why Whole Foods is Wrong to Eliminate Prisoner-Crafted Food - David Rupert at Red-Letter Believers.

History and Literature

The men saving Syria’s treasures from Isis – Jeremy Bowen at New Statesman.

Lunchtime at a school in Buckinghamshire (Hat tip: Gail Kerber)

Top photograph by Peter Griffin via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A city full


A city full of idols
is a city of idols
and the business of idols
is big business an industry
employing thousands to serve
and bow, to chase and worship,
to bend the knee to the creed
that wood and stone and paint
control all things.


We are too educated and insightful,
too learned and informed to bend
the knee to wood and stone and paint;
instead we worship knowledge and
education and celebrity and power
and the pixels we hold in our hands
and the images we see in our mirrors,
too intelligent and advanced to worship
wood and stone and paint.

Now we are superior
to then
aren’t we

Photograph by Peter Griffin via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen” Wins Forward Poetry Prize

In March at Tweetspeak Poetry, I had a series of articles on the poetry collections nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. One of those collections was Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, a series of prose poems on what it means to be Black in contemporary America.

Claudia Rankine
Citizen won the National Book Critics Circle Award for best poetry collection. Monday night in London, Citizen was also selected as the winner of the Forward Poetry Prize for best poetry collection. The prizes kick off the London Literary Festival, which goes on for two weeks and includes readings, lectures, book signings, and other literary events.

Rankine’s work is powerful. As I said in the review at Tweetspeak Poetry, you don’t read a collection like Citizen and remain unchanged.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Hiding Place: Entlassen!

In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom describes a few of the last things her sister Betsie tells her before she dies in the hospital at the Ravensbruck concentration camp. One is that there will be a place with tall windows, for people to come and heal from the spiritual and psychological wounds of the war. And it’s clear that Betsie is not only talking about the people who suffered at the hands of the Nazis, but the Nazis themselves.

Another is that they will be free by the New Year – January of 1945. In a place like Ravensbruck, that likely would have seemed laughable to Corrie. The only way out from Ravensbruck seemed to be sent further east – to the death camps in Poland, although the prisoners had little firsthand knowledge of those.

Sometime after Betsie’s death, Corrie hears her voice shouted by a guard at the door of the barracks. She hurries after her as fast as she can, hobbling with swollen feet. She sites on a bench by a camp official with a few other women. One by one they’re called to the official, who looks at papers and says the word they likely thought they’d never hear.


Corrie understood the German word for “released.” They were inexplicably being released. In Corrie’s case, the official looks at her feet and sends her first to the hospital; sick prisoners cannot be released. After a few days, he feet less swollen, she’s given a skirt and blouse and the articles taken from her when she arrived, including her mother’s ring (amazing, given the penchant the Nazis had for looting and stealing art and jewelry).

One thing she leaves behind – the small copy of the Scriptures in Dutch she and Betsie had used to read to the women and for worship services. She gives the treasured Bible to a young woman from Holland.

The train takes her first to Berlin, which has been heavily bombed. She finally gets a train for the Dutch border, but the journey takes days – so many delays because of torn up tracks and the movements of troop and supply trains. The last part of her journey to Haarlem is by truck – the train track is destroyed.

She finds family; and she returns to her home above the watch shop. She is a very different Corrie than the one who was arrested some 10 months before. She has seen death and destruction. She has seen people killed. She has seen brutality and what humans are indeed capable of. She has experienced the death of her beloved sister and father. Yes, it is a very different Corrie who returns to Haarlem, one who faith has been refined by fire.

Led by Sarah Salter and Jason Stasyszen, we’ve been discussing The Hiding Place. To see more posts on this chapter, “The Three Visions,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines. This is the last chapter in the book; there is an epilogue. I’ll have a few final thoughts next week.

Photograph by Lilla Frerichs via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Robert Crawford on the Young Eliot

Before he was the winner for the Nobel Prize for Literature, before he was recognized for some of the most innovative and remarkable poetry of the 20th century, before “The Hollow Men” became one of the most recognizable poems in modern times, he was Tom Eliot, young Tom Eliot.

ThomasStearnes Eliot was the youngest of six children, born in 1888 when his parents were 45 and his siblings considerably older. His was an upper class family in St. Louis, where his father was a vice president of a major brick manufacturer and his grandfather the founder of Washington University in St. Louis. His Unitarian family came from New England, and he was related to John Greenleaf Whittier, James Russell Lowell, Henry Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Adams, John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

We’re more familiar with the latter half of Eliot’s career, from the time he was established as a poet of international renown, his Nobel Prize, and the poetry that in many ways helped to define Modernism in literary history. But before he was the famous poet, he was the boy, the young man at Harvard, and the expatriate in England.

In Young Eliot: From St. Louis to The WasteLand, Robert Crawford explores the early Eliot in depth, covering the period from his birth to the Publication of “The Waste Land” in 1922.

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

Photograph: Vivien and Tom Eliot at home in London about 1921.

Monday, September 28, 2015

James Bryan Smith’s “Rich Mullins”

If one had to name the most influential musician in Christian contemporary music of the last 40 years, the answer might be Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Stephen Curtis Chapman, and several other well-known names. But the musician who influenced them, and had an impact that is still reverberating 18 years after his death, is Rich Mullins.

Song after song, hit after hit, Mullins was as known for his music as he was for his rather iconoclastic reaction to fame. He shrugged it off. He saw himself as a broken vessel, redeemed by his Creator, and his music reflected that belief.

And millions of people identified with that music. “My God is an Awesome God,” “Step by Step,” “Creed,” “Elijah”  – songs written and recorded by Mullins and recorded by scores of other musicians. Some have already made their way into contemporary hymn books.

Mullins was also known for his friendship with Brennan Manning (1937-2013), and was counseled by Manning the last few years of his life. Mullins adopted Brenann’s “Ragamuffin gospel” for the name of his band, and how he described himself – a ragamuffin.

Mullins’ influence extended into my own family. I can remember how the news of his death in an automobile accident in 1997 affected both my wife and my oldest son, who was then in high school. For them and millions of others, Mullins’ death was more than the death of a favored musician or even a friend; it was like losing someone whose music touched their hearts and souls.

In 2000, James Bryant Smith wrote a biography of Mullins, Rich Mullins: A Devotional Biography: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, and he did it in an unusual way. Rather than the more common chronological account, Smith wrote the biography as a devotional. Perhaps for that reason, the work has remained current.

With an introduction by Brennan Manning, the biography is structured around 10 devotional themes: family, creed, the love of God, trusting in Jesus, creation, struggle and pain, simplicity, sin and temptation, loving one another, and death and the life to come. The discussion for each theme combines, biographical information, interviews with people who knew Mullins, some of Mullins’ own writings, quotations, and the words of Mullins’ songs. With such disparate elements, the biography could have come across disjointed and cobbled together, but it doesn’t; it stays centered on Mullins and his faith.

James Bryant Smith
This was a widely popular Christian musician whose typical concert clothes were a t-shirt, jeans, and bare feet. Early on, he fronted at concerts for big name Christian bands; by the end of his life, the singer and songwriter who typically performed in church settings had eclipsed them all.

The most telling line in the book, among many telling lines, is this, and it speaks volumes about Mullins and his work: “Rich Mullins was not encumbered by the need to succeed; he was captive to the need to create.”

Smith received his M.Div. degree from Yale University Divinity School and his D. Min. degree from Fuller Seminary. He is a professor of theology at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and leads the Christian Spiritual Formation Institute there.

Rich Mullins: A Devotional Biography is a profound way to do two things simultaneously: learn about the life and music of a man who became a legend, and examine one’s own life in the process.

Brandon Heath and Third Day sing "Creed" by Rich Mullins

Rich Mullins in concert, singing "Step by Step"

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Rules, always

Based on Acts 15:1-35

Rules, always rules
to follow how else do
we live must have rules
without rules only chaos
only violence

            You lay a yoke you
            cannot bear yourself you
            demand obedience you
            cannot follow you
demand a bind you
cannot tie yourself

Waves crash against each other
waves seeking supremacy
either the wave of law
or the wave of grace

only one could last
only one prevail
only one

Photograph by Andrew Schmidt via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.