Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday Good Reads

A study of mainline churches was undertaken in Canada to determine what made some churches grow in membership while so many more have been declining. Thomas Kidd at The Gospel Coalition has the story, and the answers may be surprising.

Perhaps it’s the election, perhaps it’s just coincidence, but some really good poetry is being written right now. I’ve included four below – but there are so many more.

Louise Gallagher remembers her mother, Jerry Barrett thinks the skylight is falling, Eric Geiger on why routines are so vital for leaders and creators, and more.


Seeing Seamlessly – Dr. Steven Garber and The Spiritual Gift of Creating Beauty – Beccas Hermes -- both at The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, & Culture.

12 Brilliant New Study Bibles Coming Out This Year – Stephen Altrogge at The Blazing Center.

Are We Playing Church? – Becky Hastings at Altarwork.

The Skylight is Falling, the Skylight is Falling – Jerry Barrett at Gerald the Writer.

Hillsong & God - Cameron Buhttel and Jeremiah Johnson at Grace to You.


On My Late Grandmother Still Receiving Mail – J.P. Celia at First Things.

Witness removed – Barbara Mackenzie at Signed…BKM.

Lovesong – Aaron Belz.

Key to the Kingdom – Ted Mathys via Academy of American Poets.

Advent Haiku and A Psalm for POTUS – Tim Good at Pics, Poems, and Ponderings.

Life and Culture

The memory of my mother – Louise Gallagher at Dare boldly.


One by One – Music by Paul Cardall, Words by David Bednar

Painting: Interior with Artist’s Daughter, oil on canvas (1935-36) by Vanessa Bell.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Touching the robe

After 1 Samuel 24

I touch the robe
I cut a small piece
my knife sharp and poised
in the shadows,
capable of more
far more
yet I stop with only
the small piece of cloth
to demonstrate both
the possibility
and the obedience.

Photograph by Maliz Ong via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Elizabeth Edmondson’s “A Question of Inheritance”

It’s the mid-1950s. Hugo Hawksworth and his young teenage sister Georgia live at Selchester Castle in the town of the same name, the guests of the Selchester family. Hawksworth was in the special service (later called MI-5) during World War II. Injured in Berlin in 1945, he walks with a limp – and the injury sidelined his MI-5 career into a desk job, at a “special operation” near Selchester.

He’s already solved one murder mystery at the castle. The new earl of Selchester, an American, is arriving with his two daughters, and it seems that someone may be out to do the new earl in. And over a blizzard-like Christmas, a murder happens – but it’s one of the guests, electrocuted in a greenhouse.

In Elizabeth Edmondson’s A Question of Inheritance, Hawksworth finds himself once again finds himself simultaneously engaged in a castle murder, MI-5 politics, art stolen by the Nazis during the war and smuggled to England. He works closely with Freya Wryton, a Selchester niece who writes successful novels under a pseudonym and is keeping her literary activities secret from everyone.

The mystery has all the right appeals – a big castle, a conniving family, art works hidden away in the attic, some light comedy with the teenage sister (and the new earl’s teenage daughters), weather trapping the characters, several credible suspects, and action that keeps popping and driving interest to the end.

Elizabeth Edmondson
Edmondson has written numerous historical novels and mysteries, including a series about Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy. She has also written under the name Elizabeth Aston. Alas, she died this year at age 67 after a short battle with cancer, which means this second mystery is the last of the Hugo Hawksworth novels. And it appears that we’ll never know if Hugo’s relationship with Freya will move beyond partners in solving mysteries to the romance that is only hinted at.

A Question of Inheritance is a good, enjoyable mystery.


Photograph by Karen Arnold via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission. (The photo is actually of Arundel Castle, similar to but not the actual Selchester Castle.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Surprised by the Consultant

It was a three-day team meeting. We were having discussion sessions, free time to explore the natural beauty surrounding us, lectures, and presentations. And something else: private one-on-one sessions with a consultant on people’s differences and how we respond to them.

These one-on-one sessions were a big deal. We had completed an extensive questionnaire before the meeting. And we had been assessed on how well we related to others, and to others who were different.

This wasn’t some standard program on diversity. The team was fairly diverse – different races, ages, genders, experiences and socio-economic backgrounds. We were also more of a virtual team. And I was the oldest – a Baby Boomer white male. You can imagine what my expectations were. But I had answered the questions as thoughtfully as I could, and with careful (and truthful) consideration.

The one-on-one sessions caused no little anxiety for all of us. We would each receive what would be a different assessment, given during a one-on-one meeting over the course of the three days. Mine was scheduled toward the end.

As each session was held, I could see a variety of reactions. A couple of the women smiled and shrugged, but said little. A few said it was okay. One individual said nothing. Another muttered something about being a total Neanderthal.

My session arrived. The consultant went over my assessment. Whatever I was expecting, I was not expecting what she told me.

“It’s unusual to see a rating like this,” she said. “You’re as high or higher than the team lead, who’s been working on this for three years.”

I was an anomaly. A surprising one. An older white male who had surprising empathy for people who were different.

It took some discussion with the consultant and some personal consideration afterward to understand why.

Part of the reason was life experiences. My childhood years in the segregated South coincided with the massive social changes underway for both blacks and whites. My high school had experienced riots when it was integrated. My university days were marked by all of the various protest movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. My experiences in corporate America had taught me that corporate life was, on balance, normally unfair and not a merit-based system – and how much time I had spent trying to cushion that for the people who worked with me and for me.

But the biggest reason as what had happened to my heart. Since I had become a Christian in 1973, my heart had been taught, wounded, encouraged, discouraged, disciplined, and exhilarated. Almost without realizing it, I had listened to my heart and what God spoke to it and to me.

In Heart Made Whole: Turning Your Unhealed Pain into Your Greatest Strength, Christa Black Gifford describes the four “languages of the heart” that we all have – thoughts, words, emotions, and actions. Each of these languages is important, and each helps shape who we are and what we become.

“Listen to the heart God gave you today, beautiful friend,” Gifford writes. “ “Listen with grace like He does, and you will understand. Watch to see what kinds of thoughts, words, emotions, and actions are residing in your heart. And instead of swinging an axe at your sin and struggling in the name of devotion to God, why don’t you hand your axe to Him and see what He wants to do?”

In my case, what these actions had told me again and again was the importance of listening.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re reading Heart Made Whole. Consider reading along and join in the discussion. To see what others are saying about this chapter, “The Languages of the Heart,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.

Photograph by Ken Kistler via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.