Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sweet Olive


The sweet olive emits its fragrance,
mild if slightly enticing, stopping just
short of cloying or sentimental,
and I am running up steps, Prescott Hall,
late and short of time as usual, so much
to do and experience and live, dashing
into this boothed laboratory, signaling
the lesson to the bored attendant as he
plays the assignment tape and then
inhaling, exhaling, thinking, dreaming
those throaty guttural consonants
Ich wurde genre ein Kalbsschnitzel
and superior capitalized nouns
Guten Morgen, Herr Doktor
earphones in place and spitting
words through teeth like a camel
dreaming of that sweet olive.

This poem is submitted to One Shot Wednesday hosted by One Stop Poetry. To see more poems, please visit the site. The links will be live at 4 p.m. Central time today.

Illustration: Sweet Olive, Napoleon House (New Orleans) by William Hemmerling.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Still life, with pony


I am about five years old. I’m wearing a white collared shirt and short pants. I’m sitting on the back of a large pony or a small horse, patting its neck. The sun is shining. There’s a barn structure in the background. I’m smiling at the camera.

There’s nothing written on the back of the photograph (still in my mother’s possession or I’d post it here). But it is the first time I visited a farm.

The photograph is so clear it’s evident that I and the horse are perfectly still. It could be a painting.

The farm belonged to my step-uncles, who were as old as my grandmother (and their stepmother). They were Uncle Eddie and Uncle Leo Jacob, the children from my grandfather’s first marriage. They had lived in New Orleans for many years, and then moved across Lake Pontchartrain to a farm near the little town of Ponchatoula, the self-proclaimed “strawberry capital of the world.” They raised mostly vegetables to sell in the New Orleans market (if you live in New Jersey you’d call it a truck farm).

My uncles were almost adults by the time my grandfather married my grandmother (it was her second marriage, too, but there’d been no children from her first.) So while my mother’s older siblings knew them as part of the family, my mother and her younger siblings didn’t.

But they were all Jacobs, and that counted for family. So there was an occasional visit to the farm in Ponchatoula. I’d like to say I have warm and extensive memories of visiting the Jacob farm, but I don’t. I don’t remember it at all. As I got older, I’d see Uncle Eddie and Uncle Leo at the occasional family reunion and the occasional funeral, but I really didn’t know them.

Their father – my grandfather – died of a burst appendix in 1935, long before I was born. But that photograph of me on the horse at my uncles’ farm connects me to them, and through them to the grandfather I never knew. It also connects me to a family that’s mostly scattered and seems to get together only for funerals now.

Uncle Eddie and Uncle Leo died many years ago, not long after my grandmother in the mid-1970s when she was in her 90s and they were in the 80s.

The farm was simply called the Jacob Farm. I wish I knew the horse’s name.


To see more posts based on the prompt “farm,” please visit the One Word Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. The links will be live at 10 p.m. Central time tonight.

Photograph: Farm with field by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Happy Birthday to the Better Half

At one time, Memorial Day always fell on May 30. Then came the leisure society and the three-day weekend, and Memorial Day became the last Monday in May.

My wife was born on May 30, back when May 30 was Memorial Day. Her father was career military, with service in World War 11 and Korea, so the day has a connotation for her beyond a birthday.

This year, her birthday falls on Memorial Day, “like it’s supposed to,” she says. It also doesn’t officially happen until later tonight. “It’s not my birthday yet,” she said as she woke up this morning. (Although she did choose to open birthday cards this morning; just saying…)

Anyway, happy birthday to my wife, Janet, mother of my sons, grandmother of my grandson.




Photograph: Cameron and his grandmother, by Stephanie Young.

The Authors Who Enchant Me


You’re in a bookstore, just browsing, and you spot a book by an author you know, an author you love. It’s a new book, just published, and you buy it without even reading the dust jacket, summary, back cover praises or anything else. The author’s name is sufficient.

There are a few authors I trust implicitly. They generally fall into the literary fiction and mystery/suspense categories. Some are Christians; some are not. All are good writers. Some are no longer living, but I will reread them. And I’ve never been disappointed.

Simply put, they’ve enchanted me to the point where I’ve internalized their writing.

Among the deceased writers are Flannery O’Connor, John Mortimer (Rumpole!), Dashiell Hammett and S.S. Van Dine (the Philo Vance mysteries of the 1920s and 1930s), Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.

Among the living literary writers are Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, Fred Chappell, Scott Cairns and Frederick Buechner.

Some of the mystery/suspense writers are Elizabeth George, Arturo Perez-Reverte Travis, Thrasher and Mike Dellosso. For many people, you can say the words “Stephen King” and watch them get a dreamy look in their eyes.

And Athol Dickson and Dale Cramer. Athol Dickson keeps writing extraordinary novel after extraordinary novel. Dale Cramer even persuaded me to read what I thought I would never read – an Amish romance.

I ask myself, what is it about these writers that so enchants me? Why will I not even think twice to buy a book by them I haven’t read, or immediately read an article they’ve written in a magazine or online journal?

It’s more than good writing. There’s lots of good writing out there, across all publishing genres and across the web, for that matter. It’s not just good writing. Good writing is a given.

Guy Kawasaki, in Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, unintentionally answers my question. He’s writing primarily about enchanting causes, products and ideas, but what he says applies to writers as well. It’s about trust, and what makes them trustworthy to read. To paraphrase and build upon what Kawasaki says, this is how I answer my question.

They write with joy. That doesn’t mean they write about joyful things. It means what it says – they all write with joy, the joy of writing.

They write unexpectedly. None of these writers is formulaic or predictable. In their stories, they keep pushing themselves and their readers.

They write with generosity. They’re conscious of their readers, and while their goal may not be necessarily to please their readers, they don’t hold anything of themelves, or their stories, back.

They write with transcendence. Their stories transcend the printed (or electronic) page, wrapping themselves around our hearts to the point where the reader becomes one with the story.

And that’s how they enchant me.


Over at The High Calling, we’ve been discussing Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment. This week’s discussion focuses on Chapter 7, “How to Make Enchantment Endure,” and chapter 8, “How to Use Push Technology.” To see more posts on the discussion, please visit The High Calling.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The totems rise skyward


From the formless waters
the totems rise skyward,
Babels and Babbitts of
commerce and
government and
academy, creating
personal and collective
suns of destiny,
deliverance and
salvation, galaxies
of monuments to
the insignificant and
it is beautiful,
for a time, until
the sunrise and sunset
are confused,
undifferentiated.

Dedicated to Darlene*

This poem is submitted to One Shot Sunday, hosted by One Stop Poetry. To see more poems submitted and an interview with photographer Scott Wyden, please visit the site.

This poem is dedicated to Darlene at Simply Darlene. If you make a donation to The High Calling during the month of May, I’ve committed to dedicate a poem to you, Just let me know via the comment box or an email that you’ve made a donation (not the amount).

Photograph by Scott Wyden. Used with permission for One Stop Poetry.

Saturday Good Reads


A memory of a grandmother, a photographic interpretation of the hymn “Fairest Lord Jesus,” and some truly fine poems are a few of the good things on the web this past week. And did you know a child could play with an otter?

Prose

Wondrous Things” by Bob Spencer at Wilderness Fandango.

Watching a storm” by KristenKJ at No Small Thing.

The Most Popular Song I Ever Played” by Greg Sullivan at Sippican Cottage.

Wise is the person” by David Murray at Writing Boots.

The Stream of Least Resistance” by Duane Scott.

Listening through Mundane” by Michelle DeRusha at Gracefuil.

Just Call Me the Christian Leper” by Jessica McGuire at Jezamama.

A Simple ‘I Love You’” by Michael Perkins at Untitled.

Eggs, grain and grandma” by Nancy Rosback at A Little Somethin’.

What happiness requires” by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today.

A Steadfast Spirit” by April Nelson at Small Moments of Great Reward.

"What He Said" by David Rupert at Red-Letter Believers.

"Where You Go to Church Tells How Much Money You Make" by Bradley Moore at Shrinkign the Camel.

"Moments of Grace" by Louise Gallagher at Recover Your Joy.

"Pardon me while I rant incessantly: celebrating mediocrity" by Kathy Richards at Katdish.

Poetry

The Power” by Brendan MacOdrum at Oran’s Well.

Quiet” by Duane Carter at Songs from the River.

Scorched” by Rob Kistner at Image & Verse.

Received Wisdom” by Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper.

Commercial Break” by B.K. MacKenzie at Signed…BKM.

Pondering” by Jim Schmotzer at Faithful Skeptic.

Paintings and Photographs

More Than Gold” and “Outlook” by Susan Etole at Just…A Moment.

Gold” and “Twenty: Photographs from a quilt show” by Nancy Rosback at A Little Somethin’.

Fairest Lord Jesus” by Jeanne Damoff at The View From Here.

Videos

"Playing with an Otter." (Hat tip: Greg Sullivan at Sippican Cottage)


Photograph: Cat and Ladder by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Davis Phinney's "The Happiness of Pursuit"


Since I started cycling seven years ago, I’ve read a lot of cycling books – about the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong, memoirs of famous cyclists and histories of the sport. After a while, I began to know how some of these books, especially the memoirs, began to sound alike, following a familiar formula of biography/great races I have known/cycling as a metaphor for life.

Davis Phinney’s The Happiness of Pursuit is decidedly different. Perhaps it’s because his life has been decidedly different.

Phinney is one of the great cyclists. He was part of the 7-11 team that cracked the Tour de France open for American-based squads. He won stages in the Tour de France. He biked the infamous Passo Gavia stage in the 1988 Giro d’Italia – the one that included a snowstorm and cyclists getting frostbite and has passed into cycling legend.

In 2000, retired from professional cycling but with a burgeoning television commentator career, Phinney was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

In The Happiness of Pursuit, written with Sports Illustrated senior writer Austin Murphy, Phinney weaves four connected stories into the story of a life – his professional cycling career, his relationship with his father, his battle with Parkinson’s, and the cycling career of his son Taylor, who’s become an accomplished cyclist and biking champion at an incredibly young age.

He tells his story with candor and insight, two qualities often lacking in other cycling memoirs. His struggles with his disease, how a distant-at-best relationship with his father grew into something important and meaningful after his father was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, Phinney’s less-than-endearing personality in his early racing years – all are treated openly and honestly. He worries less about other cyclists’ shortcomings and failures and more about his own, and gradually the reader comes to see that this is a man who’s come to terms with himself, his life and with a crippling disease.

What also shines through is his love for his family. His wife, Connie Carpenter, won Olympic gold for cycling in 1984 and was a champion in her own right. And she is depicted here as one strong woman, who carries her family as her father-in-law and her husband both struggle with disease. Phinney also tells the story of Taylor, who starts his cycling career at 15 and starts it with fireworks (and the fireworks show is still going on).

The Happiness of Pursuit also differs from other memoirs in this important fact of Phinney’s life: the cycling career is put into its proper perspective. It’s important, yes, but Phinney comes to understand it for what it is – a career, and a successful one, but not the most important thing about his life.

The Happiness of Pursuit by Davis Phinney with Austin Murphy will be published June 1.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Perfectionism: Blue


A robin’s egg blue vase,
porcelained very fine;
a mountain lake so clear
it shimmers blue-white
diamonds radiating the sun;
a sky azured with no trace
of white or gray, serene
in its pristine solitude;
the blue rose yet unfound.
Blues all fading when
placed aside the blue
act of creation, the blue
hill of Jerusalem, the blue
echoes of Armageddon’s
armies contending with
the blue wind of eternity.

This poem is submitted to the blog carnival hosted by Bonnie Gray at Faith Barista. Today’s theme is perfectionism. To see more posts on the theme, please visit the site.

Photograph: Swan on Lake by Vera Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Worst Century Ever


The other day I heard someone talk about the 20th century as being one of the worst centuries in the history of mankind. We all know the reasons why anyone might say that – World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, Vietnam, Soviet oppression, hundreds of millions of people killed in Europe and the Soviet Union, the nuclear bomb, the Great Depression, the killing fields of Cambodia, the genocide of Rwanda, and on and on.

Of course, the 21st century didn’t exactly start off any better; think 9-11.

The question is always why. Why did a nation like Germany, arguably among the most educated and civilized nations in the world, descend into Nazism and the Holocaust? How do you explain how communism – meant to free people – instead became the Gulag Archipelago? All the good intentions, extraordinary human impulses – why do they always end up in death and destruction?

I think C.S. Lewis has the answer.

“…the Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or – if they think there is not – at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.”

We put the light in the wrong place – or we think it’s coming from the wrong source. And the end of all our noble impulses and fine programs is utterly predictable. Always.


Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter are hosting our discussion of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. To see more post on the current chapter, “The Practical Conclusion,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I'm not good with words


I’m not good with words.
One time we saw all those
newspapers piled up,
rubber-banded, so we
thought we’d help dad and
stacked them in the red wagon
and delivered every one, mostly
to the wrong houses.

I’m not good with words.
One day we were cold so
we said let’s build a campfire
like the pioneers did and
we piled up sticks and paper
and some books and lit it,
our bedroom suffering
only minor damage.

I’m not good with words.
He got sick, you know. That’s
not supposed to happen
when you’re young enough
to live forever but it did,
and he kept laughing as he
faded, laughing harder
until he faded, then gone.

I never was good with words.

This poem is submitted for One Shot Wednesday hosted by One Stop Poetry. Too see more submitted poems, please visit the site. The links will be live at 4 p.m. Central time today.

Photograph: Grief at Cemetery by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Brian Russell's "Best Apocalypse Ever"


How does a cartoon strip begin? Some start as cartoons in college newspapers. Others are born in the middle of terrible experiences, like war, to help make sense out of the chaos. And then there are those born on the index cards identifying various beverages served during Sunday worship services.

Welcome to Brian Russell’s cartoon The Underfold, which he has now collected and published as The Best Apocalypse Ever.

I started following the Underfold adventures about a year ago, and the cartoon was already a year old at that time. Now I get to see its origins, its early phases, and its development from those index cards (coffee, decaf , hot water) to a full blown strip of modern (and church) angst told with understatement and wry humor.


What I didn’t expect was the cartoonist serving as strip archeologist, identifying all of the influences and where all the twists and turns have come from – like the television series Lost, Harry Potter, Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Amazing Race, Planet of the Apes (the Charlton Heston version – the one I saw in the movie theater when it was first released), Dr. Who’s phone booth, Avatar, Spiderman (I think) and zombies, among a lot of artifacts of modern culture.

So know I know where some of my favorite characters came from – like JB (who wears a shopping bag over his head – now I know why) and The Eye (don’t ask: it’s gruesome). And, of course, Brian, the dude with the goatee. And why they do some of the things they do – like when Eye starts a blog (“What are you making a blog for?” he’s asked. “Do you have to have a purpose for a blog?” Eye responds.)

It’s all crazy good fun – and a great collection. In fact, it’s the annotated collection, which Eye might want to blog about. Or JB become depressed over. Or Brian to ask “What?” Or that hand puppet who looks like an upside lunch bag, but don’t tell him that.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Another Psalm


I always considered it
something rather formal,
something supplicated
from low to high, and
it is that but it is
also a conversation
of hearts transcending
so we talk or perhaps
I walk and hope to hear.

At first it seems useless
because you know,
don’t you, you know
before words spoken,
before thoughts formed
but that’s the point,
you say, don’t you know
I want to hear
the heart speak.

I walk this bridge,
the only connection
between then and
soon to be, spanning
a river roiling,
destruction below,
the bridge you built,
the only link possible,
the only link walkable.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
have mercy
on me
a sinner.
Selah

*Dedicated to Karin Fendick

This poem is submitted to the Warrior Poet Circle, hosted by Jason Stasyszen at Connecting to Impact. To see more poems submitted on “a prayer in the form of a poem,” please visit the site.

*This poem is dedicated to Karen Fendick. If you make a donation to The High Calling during the month of May, I’ve committed to dedicate a poem to you. Just let me know via the comment box or an email that you made a donation (not the amount).

Photograph: Diver from Beneath by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Conference Unlike Any Other


In 1994, my boss assigned me the task of chairing the annual Public Affairs Conference for the company. This was a meeting that brought all of the PR, government affairs, industry trade relations and assorted other “affairs” people together to hear speeches, participate in workshops, schmooze and hear senior executives talk. Chairing the meeting was ostensibly a great honor; actually it was a royal pain that everyone tried to avoid. My boss had asked several others before he got to me.

We attended these meetings because we were required to attend them. It was three solid days of meetings, not to mention the travel time for people coming from all over the world. Attending was something you had to do but it had never been something that people looked forward to and enjoyed.

I thought I had an angle on how to change that. I decided that this meeting would be different – it would be designed for people to learn something, something that might actually benefit them in their jobs. It wasn’t going to be what it had always been – sitting for three days and listening to talk.

The previous year, we had launched the company’s first email newsletter, and had even run an experiment with an online magazine delivered to people’s email boxes. The electronic world was just getting beginning to come alive, and web sites were beginning to appear (although virtually none in the business world at that time).

I hired a technology firm to help (there were precious few of these back then, too; this one was the only one in St. Louis, and it hadn’t done what I was going to ask it to do for this meeting). We planned and plotted. I went our looking for speakers, and got two then-significant names by the sheer good fortune that both had had speaking cancellations elsewhere for the time I asked them to speak. We looked for who was doing cutting-edge electronic communications, and we asked them to come talk, present and interact with people. No one was asking for this back then, and they accepted to a person. We had not one turn-down.

The conference was held at a resort some 45 miles west of St. Louis. People would essentially be captive for three days, so I and my technology firm were determined to blow their socks off.

And we did.

Upon arrival, every participant was (1) videotaped doing a short interview by (2) the person who had arrived before them. You didn’t get your room key until you did the video, and people knew that the video would become part of a conference CD. Then people were assigned into teams, where they were given specific assignments for what would now be called “creating content” for the CD. In some cases, they had to talk with outside speakers, or be guinea pigs for what the outside speakers would be demonstrating. But every person and team had a substantive assignment.

So, for example, some people worked with the editor of Newsweek Interactive to demonstrate how the new CD magazine worked. Some got to show how people were beginning to use online research. Some introduced speakers. Some presented with the speakers. One speaker addressed how radio, television and now the internet were changing political campaigns (the government affairs people sat up and took notice). Another challenged the very notion of how we all did our traditional jobs – because that was beginning to change. We even were able to get hold of a copy of a just released movie that demonstrated incredible computer-generated special effects – the movie had just opened in U.S. theaters. It was called Jurassic Park.

Each night after dinner and usually some fun activity, I’d sit with the technology team, working into the small hours of the morning on editing, coding and assembling the CD. At the grand finale session, we showed the actual CD in progress – and the attendees did something unheard of for one of these conferences – they stood up and cheered.

This was 17 years before Guy Kawasaki published Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions, the book we’re currently discussing at The High Calling. But for that meeting, we did what he tells you to do to “tell a great story and immerse your audience.”

We involved everyone in the “story” of our meeting. We made it different from past conferences. We had people doing hands-on demos of everything we were talking about. We planted seeds of possibilities. We translated “electronic communications” into what was happening in people’s day-to-day jobs. We illustrated the key points. We showed people “the magic” and found a multitude of examples. We changed mind-sets and enchanted all the influencers.

And we also got to have our own private showing of Jurassic Park.


To see more posts on Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment, chapters 5 (“How to Launch”) and 6 (“How to Overcome Resistance”), please visit The High Calling.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pyrrhic Victory


Believing victory
was done, he carried
the flag of red, blood
flowing into the wind,
flowing so fast
he missed
the wounded heel.
At the moment
of celebration,
his moment to make
himself a god,
he turned
ashen white, marbled.
No one was there
to cheer.

Dedicated to Anne Lang Bundy*

This poem is submitted to One Shot Sunday hosted by One Stop Poetry. To see more poems submitted and an interview with the photographer, Walter Parada, please visit the site.

*This poem is dedicated to Anne Lang Bundy. If you make a donation to The High Calling during the month of May, I’ve committed to dedicate a poem to you. Just let me know via the comment box or an email that you made a donation (not the amount).

Photograph: Statue by Walter Parada. Used with permission for One Stop Poetry.

Saturday Good Reads


A family sees a former foster child on a school bus, and something small but surprising happens. A scene deleted from a novel. A daughter’s date with her dad. A book launch to help the homeless. Songlines that turn into dreams. A funeral party. An Indian temple at twilight. And, of course, the end of world (today’s the day). All this and so much more.

Prose

The More I See of Christians the Tighter I Cling to Christ” and “The Day I Waved the White Flag” by Jessica McGuire at Jezamama.

Hospice Care for TP” by Louise Gallagher at Recover Your Joy.

A Day” by Anne Lang Bundy at Building His Body.

"Whirlwind" by Kelly Sauer at A Restless Heart.

"What if the Answer is Never?" by Sandra Heska King.

Outsourcing the children” by Matt Appling at The Church of No People.

Jimmy’s Long Road Ahead” by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today.

Assembling Your Dream Team” and “(Wo)man of Your Word” by Jason Vana.

Remembrance” and “The Nest” by Michelle DeRusha at Graceful.

Chain of Fools” by Perry Block at Nouveau Old, Formerly Cute.

The Wheels on the Bus” by Jeffrey Jordan at To My Children, If They are Listening.

Deleted Scene” from River Rising by Athol Dickson.

3 Things to Do when Your Career Hurts” by Claire Burge at Claire B.

Brutus the Bully Cat” by Robin Arnold at All Things.

Two Homes” by Charity Singleton at Wide Open Spaces.

Why I Want to Write Useless Poetry” by L.L. Barkat at TweetSpeak Poetry.

The Life-Work of Spring” and “For all the daddies” by Jennifer Dukes-Lee at Getting Down with Jesus.

The old man and the gumball” by Duane Scott for Bibledude.

See ya’ll tomorrow!” by Fatha Frank at Public Christianity.

Why I Hate Writing, Part 7” by Kathy Richards at katdish.

Retreat: I Reckon with What I Can’t Control” by Cassandra Frear at Moonboat CafĂ©.

Poetry

God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, via Maggie’s Farm.

River Usk” by Nithin R.S. at My Words.

Me” by Nancy Rosback and “Road” by Nancy Rosback and friends at A Little Somethin’.

A Higher Moral Ground” by Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper.

Cadence” by Duane Carter at Songs from the River.

Songlines” by Brendan MacOran at Oran’s Well.

Coasting,” “The Dispute, Donnybrook, Dustup” and “Funeral Party” by Arron Palmer.

I Didn’t Tell You” by Karen Eck at Karenee Art.

We all got some crazy” by Robert Lee Brewer at My Name is Not Bob.

Paintings and Photographs

The Woods at Wihakowi” by Steve Gravano at Take a Look Around.

Is is possible” and “Just Wondering” by Susan Etole at Just…A Moment.

Rio in Medio 3,” oil on canvas by Randall David Tipton.

Temple Twilight” by J of India at Neither Use Nor Ornament.

Open to the Day” by Jeanne Damoff at The View From Here.

Videos and Podcasts

WHERE Book Launch” by Louise Gallagher for Calgary DI.


Photograph: Summer Friends by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Randy Singer's "False Witness"


Wear a seat belt if you read this novel.

You’re a bail bondsman in Las Vegas, and a pretty good one. One day, your wife gets kidnapped by the Chinese mafia, and you’re told horrible things will happen to her unless you find and deliver a professor from India – a professor with a very valuable algorithm, one that can undo the encryption protocols of the internet.

And you have only 48 hours. You track down various low-lifes, and you eventually find the professor, even if it means engaging in a little torture and physical violence of your own.

Thus begins Randy Singer’s False Witness. And the action never stops.

The bail bondsman and his wife end up testifying against various arrested Chinese mafia members, and go into a witness protection program. The program works only so long. They’re discovered in Atlanta, and three young law students find themselves caught up in kidnapping, murder, buildings blowing up around them and the feds crossing and double-crossing them at every turn, not to mention their supervising law professor.


Every page of this novel sizzles and erupts with action. And Singer keeps the reader guessing, with more twists and turns and endings that aren’t endings, and deaths that aren’t deaths, that you’re left feeling a bit breathless. Just when you think you have things figured out, you find you don’t.

The author’s own experience as a trial attorney applies well here. And he’s a trial attorney who happens to be a pastor, and a pastor with a passion for the Dalit people and Christians in India. All royalties from this book are being donated to the Dalit Freedom Network. (The Dalits play a small but important role in the story.)

False Witness is a terrific story. My only regret is that I didn’t read it while sitting on a beach.


True confession: I was provided a copy of the book by the publisher’s agent, but the review and whether I liked the book or not were left entirely to me. And I loved the book.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is it ever right to quit?


In the summer of 2004, I decided I was going to do something I had always wanted to do – and that was biking. I had reached an age when it was time either to put up or shut up – if I didn’t do it now, I thought, I’ll never do it.

So I went to the local bike shop and told the young salesman what I was looking for – a basic bike. I wasn’t interested in racing or mountain biking, but more biking around suburban St. Louis and some of the converted trails-from-railroad-beds that proliferate around the region. He put me through the paces, asking a bunch of questions, measuring my height and leg length, and talking about some of the areas that he knew were good for beginning bikers. He ended up selling me what was then called a hybrid and now is called a leisure bike (I like “hybrid” better), and had me test it out in front of the shop to make sure it was a good fit. It was.

I got my new bike home, got my helmet on, and took off for my first official ride on my new bike.

I made it four blocks. I got off the bike and laid down in someone’s yard. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t know my neighborhood was constructed on mountains. It was hard – and my leg muscles were simply not prepared for even that short ride. I got back on the bike and coasted (downhill) home. I almost gave it up right there.

But I kept at it. Four blocks became a mile, one mile became three, three became five. I rode all over the suburban streets in our community, then branched out into neighboring communities. I found that I could ride to an official trail, Grant’s Trail, without too much trouble – it started four miles from my house and ran for an additional eight miles. One Saturday I rode it four times, and rode enough around the parking lot at one end to reach a 50-miles total. A half-century, I thought. Then I rode to the Arch from my house, and then one Saturday rode part the Arch up the Mississippi River to the Chain of Rocks Bridge.

That was a 57-mile roundtrip over varied roads and trails. I knew I was ready for my first century – the 100-mile Flat-As-A-Pancake Ride in southern Illinois. Except it should have been called almost-but-not exactly-Flat-As-A-Pancake.

These century rides go on regardless of the weather. This particular ride started in a cold, light rain, the aftermath of a thunderstorm. I was thankful for the rain-repellant bike jacket I had brought along, although it didn’t do much for my helmet or my biking shoes. About 15 miles into the ride, the sun emerged and the day turned sunny, but stayed cool – almost perfect biking weather.

A good portion of the ride went in an easterly direction – and I was surprised to find that the wind could blow from the east. As the miles piled on, I noticed even more experienced riders struggling with the wind, which I found encouraging.

There were rest stops set up every 25 miles. At the second one, we were warned about water in the road some two miles ahead. As I reached the area with the reported water, I saw that if there had been water it was now all gone. Two miles later, I discovered that the water report should have been “four miles ahead.”

The water on the road was six inches deep – at the highest point, which was the yellow-line median. It was deeper on the sides. A few of us riding together stopped to scout the situation. We could see some bikers plowing through the water ahead of us. But we couldn’t see where the water might end.

Do you know what happens when a group of guys looks at something like this? Does reason prevail? Or do they see this as a challenge, a test, something you’ve got to get through?

The deep water on the road lasted for more than half a mile.

Once out of the water, the road became a series of sharp little curvy descents and sharp little curvy ascents. I’d been riding for about five hours, some 60 miles into the ride. I knew lunch was only 10 miles ahead.

By the time I reached the Lions Club where the lunch (as much pasta and other carbs as you wanted to eat) was served, I was tired, sweaty, chilled, my shoes and sock still drenched from the water. The wind had continued as well. I had ridden just over 70 miles, and there would be 30 head of me.

I was exhausted. I ate my lunch with the other bikers. There was little talking at the tables. We were all exhausted. I had to make a choice: continue on for another couple of hours to finish the century, or pay heed to what my body was telling me and quit.

I decided to listen to my body. I rode another two miles to my car, and went home.

Looking back, I made the right choice. I had ridden a total of 72 miles, the longest I had ever ridden at one time. And that was enough for a then 54-year-old amateur cyclist who had been biking for 18 months.


To see more posts about “quitting,” please visit Bonnie Gray at Faith Barista.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Those Poetic Perspectives

Today at The Master's Artist, I have a new post about poetic perspective -- and how the entire meaning of a poem can change depending upon who's speaking - or whom you believe is speaking. The poem I use is " A Plum Night In Jerusalem, Three A.M." by Nick Samaras. Take a look and let me know what you think.

It's Ludicrous


The ludicrous intruded,
suddenly,
with the swiftness
of a lightning strike,
a jagged eruption
of the other into the now,
warping the woof of time.
Marble gods cracked;
the curtain tore. Clearly
it was something only
Christians could believe
(just ask Hitchens).

Dedicated to Michelle DeRusha*

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been discussing Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Today’s discussion is on the chapter entitled “The Perfect Penitent,” and in it Lewis perfectly describes the atonement, so perfectly, in fact, that I was left rather stunned after reading it.

Here’s some of what he said:

“We believe that the death of Christ is just that point in history at which something absolutely unimaginable from outside shows through into our own world…the inconceivable, the uncreated, the thing from beyond nature, striking down into nature like lightning…”

“We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. This is what has to be believed.”

I wanted to write something intelligent and polished and erudite and perhaps even learned, but I found myself at a complete loss at the simplicity and directness of Lewis' words. Instead, I used the form of a poem to write what I had read, what I had understood. It still falls short.


To see more posts on this chapter of Mere Christianity, please visit Sarah Salter at Living Between the Lines.

This poem is dedicated to Michelle DeRusha. If you make a donation to The High Calling during the month of May, I've committed to dedicate a poem to you. Just let me know via the comment box or an email that you made a donation (not the amount).

Monday, May 16, 2011

He becomes a road


He becomes a road,
not only to Damascus
or Jerusalem or one
less traveled in snowy woods
or even open and
going west, young man;

A road filled with light,
even, straight, obvious,
a road logical
marked by a multitude
of signs and directions, paved
true under cloudless skies;

A road darkened, crooked
and curved and snaked,
disappearing into forest, night,
with asphalt crumbing, potholed,
stones missing, a road ending
at rivers, gorges, swamps;

A road forked, straight,
mapped, hidden,
a road to a destination,
a road to sudden, unknown exile,
a road from and to and neither,
a road.

*Dedicated to Duane Scott

This poem is submitted to the One Word Blog Carnival on “road” hosted by Peter Pollock. To see more posts prompted by the word “road,” please visit the site. The links will be live at 10 p.m. Central time tonight.

This poem is also submitted to One Shot Wednesday, hosted by One Shot Poetry. To see other poems submitted, please visit the site. The links will be live at 4 p.m. Central time Tuesday.

*This poem is dedicated to Duane Scott. If you make a donation to The High Calling during the month of May, I've committed to dedicate a poem to you. Just let me know via the comment box or an email that you made a donation (not the amount).

Photograph: Country road by Teodoro S. Gruhl via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Trust and Worldviews


Trust is one of those words one sees a lot these days. Whole books have been written about how to achieve it. The power of two social media networks – Twitter and Facebook – are supposedly built upon it. Corporate mission and values statements usually have one reference to it.

The demand for trust is high, possibly because the supply is so short. In today’s world, we don’t trust business, politicians, Wall Street, the news media, news pundits and commentators, elected officials, school boards, teachers, unions, organized religion, disorganized religion, universities, the health care industry, doctors, tort attorneys, movie stars and the President’s birth certificate, to mention only a few, unless they happen to agree with our own perspectives. It seems, however, we do trust a small circle of people in our networks of friends and colleagues, especially the ones whose opinions we share.

That’s the common denominator – we trust the people and institutions whose worldview we share. We don’t trust those with whom we disagree. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll find that the concerns we have about trusting others is actually a result of living in a me-centered world. And I’m as guilty of this as the next person.

I trust you if you agree with me. And I’ll believe just about anything you say if we share the same worldview.

I had an email exchange with a person who was tweeting on Twitter absolutely unbelievable things about the company I work for. After pointing out how what she was saying was wrong (and giving her references), I asked her where she got her information. A friend told her, she said, a friend she trusted. The fact that the woman who was tweeting this was a Christian, who actually had a full-time ministry for helping Christian women gain wisdom, somehow made this worse.

I have friend in Chicago named David whom I met years ago when he edited a newsletter. We’d talk on the phone, see each other at conferences, and exchange emails on a fairly regular basis. We now follow each other on Twitter and we have each other’s blog listed in our blogrolls. Politically and religiously, we are night and day. We are about as different as you could imagine – we could be the poster children for blue states and red states. We do not in any sense share the same worldview. And yet I have tremendous regard for his writing, his thinking, and his often brutal honesty. I love how much he adores his family (yes, even liberals love their children). He’s utterly fearless in expressing his opinions.

I inherently trust him. Why? For some the same reasons Guy Kawasaki talks about in Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. David trusts others. He’s a mensch – a real human being. He’s completely open about his own interests, beliefs and biases. He helps and encourages others (including me). He’s knowledgeable and competent.

And I’m blessed to count him as a friend.


Over at The High Calling, we’ve been reading Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment. This week’s discussion is on chapter 3 – “How to Achieve Trustworthiness” – and chapter 4 – “How to Prepare.” To see other posts based on this week’s readings, please visit the site.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

They might be poppies


I thought at first they were poppies,
flashes of blood red smudged
against the sky of the dying day,
natural tombstones anchored
in fields of summer green.
I brought you one that day,
you remember. You touched
each petal lightly, tracing
your fingers along the edges.
He died at the Somme,
you said, a half-written letter
in his pocket. I wouldn’t read it,
you said, staring at orange
purple clouds of sunset,
but I have it still.

Dedicated to Charity Singleton*
This poem is submitted to One Shot Sunday, hosted by One Stop Poetry. To see more poems based on one of five photo prompts by photographer Fee Easton, please visit the site.

*This poem is dedicated to Charity Singleton. If you make a donation to The High Calling during the month of May, I've committed to dedicate a poem to you. Just let me know via the comment box or an email that you made a donation (not the amount).

Photograph by Fee Easton. Used with permission for One Stop Poetry.

Saturday Good Reads


Blogger went awry on Thursday, the posts for that disappearing and then reappearing on Friday (minus the comments). Google said they were doing maintenance and discovered corrupted files, and down the system went to fix it. It wasn’t the end of the world, but a lot of people run businesses from their blogs.

In spite of spite, there were still a lot of good posts this week.

Prose

How Many?” by Anne Lang Bundy at Building His Body.

BetaChristian Interview: Pastor Michael Perkins.”

In Awe of the Gift” by Jeanne Damoff at The View From Here.

An Elementary Guide to the Creative Process” by Kathy Richards at Katdish.

A Love Without End, Amen” by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today.

Oh the Joys of Being self-Employed” by Peter Pollock.

Impact of eReaders on Writers” by Robert Lee Brewer at My Name Is Not Bob.

The Designer” by Duane Scott for Bibledude.

Let Yourself Shine” by Louise Gallagher at Recover Your Joy.

Avoid ClichĂ©s Like the Plague” by Matt Appling at The Church of No People.

My inner 20-year-old asks how is life at 42? It’s strategic, son” by David Murray at Writing Boots.

Small Adjustments” by Charity Singleton at Wide Open Spaces.

Dear Blogger” by Michael Perkins at Untitled.

Poetry

The Coffee Told” by Susan Etole at Just…A Moment.

Groundwork” by Nancy Rosback at A Little Somethin’.

The Enlightened West” by Jim Schmotzer at Faithful Skeptic.

Ascension” by B.K. McKenzie at Signed…BKM.

Because She’ll Sing” by Adam Dustus.

The Birds” by Jerry Barrett at Under the Door Frame.

Shouts and Whispers” by Karin Fendick at Flickers of a Faithful Firefly.

Without Grace” by Jay Cookingham at Strategic Dad.

Thin Line” by Laura Boggess at The Wellspring.

Paintings and Photographs

Proverb” and “View with a Window” by Nancy Rosback at A Little Somethin’.

A Little Daydream” by Susan Etole at Just…A Moment.

The Door” by Jeanne Damoff at The View From Here.

Rio in Medio 2,” oil on canvas by Randall David Tipton.

 
Photograph: Daisy Petals by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Waiting


Over at Faith Barista, Bonnie Gray is asking the question, “Is there something new that God is preparing you for?”

My first thought was, “At my age, I hope not.”

Actually, we’re always being prepared for something new.

Both of our children are grown and out of the nest, gainfully employed. Our oldest is married and the father of our one-year-old grandson (Cameron! Yes!). Our youngest graduated from college last year and is working in Kansas City. We’ve discovered that there’s something to be said for the empty nest.

Our expectations were that we would now have the freedom to do things we didn’t have before – perhaps some travel, short trips to places like Chicago, museums, and so forth. Things looked like they were going to be settling down. And some of what we expected is happening. But a lot is not.

Simple things upended the routine. That’s OK, of course, routines can be bad. But they all happened at the same time.

The local YMCA changed its Sunday hours, opening an hour earlier and closing two hours earlier. If you don’t go to church, it’s not a problem. If you do go to church, you have to rearrange your Sunday to accommodate the hours. A small thing, but done in the usual “clong people over the head with it” style that most organizations seem to employ when they’re going to make change that will likely upset and offend some people (“We’re the experts! Trust us!”).

Then our church, with no advance warning, cancelled adult Sunday School classes during the “third hour,” which is when we had ours. If you prefer a traditional worship service, you suddenly had no choices for an adult Sunday School class. We’ve now become part of the “show up for worship service and then leave” brigade. And then things related to work got a little unsettled. And some good friends are moving to Texas.

So we started looking back at the past several months and longer and realized that the familiar routine was unraveling. Some of the big things and some of the small things that anchored our lives were changing or disappearing.

What we don’t know yet is where this is leading. I’ll survive the change in hours at the Y; it’s not one of life’s major catastrophes. I worry about the church, though. It’s not intentional, but it seems like we’re being encouraged out the door.

I’ve been a Christian long enough to know that these are usually the signs of preparation. Preparation for what is the question. Nothing seems very clear. It’s not that things usually seem clear; it’s more that, right now, they seem particuarly muddled.

I wonder about St. Paul. The Bible is generally silent on what he did for the 12 years or so between his conversion and Barnabas showing up with a plan. Given his bias for action, he must have felt sorely tested to sit and wait. And sit and wait. And sit and wait some more. I suspect he studied the scriptures, prayed, and worked at making tents, suspecting that he was being prepared for something but not really knowing what.

So we wait. Pray. Continue our lives. Study. Play with the grandson. Write. Pray some more. Be patient.


To see more posts on “is there something new god is preparing you for,” please visit Faith Barista.

Photograph: Seagulls waiting for fog to lift by Andrew Schmidt via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

I Have This Fantasy

Today, over at The High Calling, I have a post about fantasy -- actually, about reading the genre of fantasy fiction. I discuss what three writers of fantasy -- Jeffrey Overstreet, C.S. Lakin and Ian Thomas Curtis -- have in common, and what those commonalities speak to. So take a look, and let me know what you think.

And it looks like Blogger is back, at least partially. Posts from Thursday, including mine entitled "Waiting," are supposed to be restored soon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Those Were Not the Good Old Days

In the 1964, President Lyndon Johnson defeated Sen. Barry Goldwater , and defeated him in a landslide. Goldwater was deemed some far right nut case, and Johnson – with the huge sympathy from the assassination of President Kennedy behind him – was seen as far more mainstream. He and Congress proceeded to enact all the programs that comprised the “Great Society” and dramatically increased the resources – especially troops – committed to the war in Vietnam. At the same time, the culture – what seemed like familiar American culture – was shredding. Riots, assassinations, massive protests against the war, the explosion of drugs – things seemed to be unraveling.

It was a scary time to be a parent. And it was a scarier time to be the parents of a teenager.

By the early 1970s, prices were starting to rise. People look at me strangely today when I tell them about inflation at 14 percent, a prime rate of 21 or 22 percent and people hoarding sugar and coffee because prices were out of control. It was like that for the rest of the decade of the 1970s, and the cultural unraveling seemed to run parallel with the financial unraveling.

The Great Society and its expansion of federal benefits, Vietnam and its aftermath, Watergate and its contribution to the destruction of trust in institutions and authority – one might say we brought it on ourselves. We aspired to heaven on earth but used broken, human means, and it simply didn’t work.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis says it so simply and so plainly and yet surrounded by so many other true things that it’s easy to miss: “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

He goes on to say this: “That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended – civilizations are built up – excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice.”

One might say we’re doing the same thing yet again – waging war while undertaking a massive federal spending program. Like the late 1960s, we’re printing lots of paper money, and eventually the bill will come due. We’ve learned this lesson before, and it looks like we’re going to have to learn it again.

We’re trying to run things on the wrong juice.


Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter are leading us in a discussion of Mere Christianity. The current chapter is “The Shocking Alternative.” To see more posts, please visit Jason’s blog, Connecting to Impact.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Throw Out the Marketing Campaign

Every customer is a potential reporter, and every employee is a potential marketer and customer service person. The world of business has profoundly changed -- it's not about brands and logos any more; it's about people and relationships.

To read more, see my new post, "Throw Out the Marketing Campaign and Start a Real Conversation," at The High Calling.

On the Same Page


We all have to be on the same page,
already full of words and charts and
even a tiny photograph, so we fold
the page just so to make a boat,
a small boat like a dinghy. It’s
crowded because it has to carry
all of us, such a flimsy little thing
for so much weight. We sit very still
in capsized fear as our little boat
glides across the placid surface.
There is no wind.

Dedicated to L.L. Barkat*

This poem is submitted for the Random Act of Poetry at The High Calling, which asked for poem that would take a dead metaphor and make it specific. One could argue that “being on the same page” is a metaphor very much alive and well, but it’s one that I personally think died years ago. To see the original article (“Guy Kawasaki Says Use Poetry in Business”), please visit The High Calling.

This poem is also submitted to One Shot Wednesday hosted by One Stop Poetry. To see more poems, please visit the site. The links will be like at 4 p.m. Central time today.

*The poem is dedicated to L.L. Barkat. If you make a donation to The High Calling during the month of May, I've committed to dedicate a poem to you. Just let me know via the comment box or an email that you made a donation (not the amount).

Photograph: Boat by Teodor Gruhl via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Interior Conversation


An interior conversation
in my head, my heart,
sometimes a conscious
stream of thoughts, words
but often a simple solitude
bookended by silence.
It is enough, it is sufficient
to direct the words above,
aming at an ascendant light,
a snowcapped peak or
an eagle soaring but
above all else above.

The dictionary in use
is joy or pain
is thankfulness or fear
is abundance or need
but always rising.
The thesaurus
is comfort or distress
is deliverance or captivity
is success or failure
but always ascendant.
It seems one-sided,
an utterance into a void,
except when it’s not.

Dedicated to Maureen Doallas*

This poem is submitted for the Warrior Poet Society, hosting by Jason Stasyszen at Connecting to Impact. To seem more poems based on the prompt of “prayer,” please visit the site.

*The poem is dedicated to Maureen Doallas. If you make a donation to The High Calling during the month of May, I've committed to dedicate a poem to you. Just let me know via the comment box or an email that you made a donation (not the amount).


Painting: St. Francis of Assisi at Prayer by Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1650), Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp, Belgium.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Enchanted by a Speech

It was a little more than 20 years ago. I was attending a speechwriters’ conference in Chicago, and the keynote speaker was Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Few of us had heard of her, but she has just published a book entitled Eloquence in an Electronic Age, about how radio and television had reshaped and transformed political speechmaking, and not necessarily for the better.

This period – the early 1990s – was a critical time for corporate speechwriters. Reorganizations, restructurings and downsizings were taking their toll. A number of corporate executives were beginning to take their speeches cues from the political world and beginning to experiment with “key message points” from which they would speak extemporaneously. People were saying that speeches longer than 10 minutes were becoming extinct. Speechwriters were beginning to feel like dinosaurs after the meteorite hit.

Some 250 us were gathered in Chicago. Jamieson, who had been a speechwriter for a congressman for many years, had turned to the study of modern political rhetoric. And she understood how television and radio – with the emphasis on sound bites and “cool” speakers – were profoundly changing politics and elections. (If you’d like to know where today’s political incivility comes from, a lot of the seeds were sprouting in the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

Jamieson, in her keynote address, defied expectation and convention. She spoke for an hour without pause. And you know all that stuff about short attention spans? Right out the window. We were mesmerized by her speech. The entire group was silent, completely captivated.

Actually, I was enthralled. Completely.

She called for us to take back rhetoric. She told us how difficult it was going to be. She told us how we would be fighting a powerful current, and attitudes already becoming entrenched. She said we would have to defy the crowd. And we would have to do all of this without knowing whether we would be successful or not.

She spoke for that hour. When she finished, we were on our feet, cheering. She was asked the first question, and spoke for another 30 minutes. We were on our feet again, cheering again.

She changed my speechwriting life. I read everything she wrote. I changed how we did speeches at my company, and instead of falling victim to the electronic age we took full advantage of it. We produced scores of quality, award-winning speeches, the kind that got noticed and quoted and reprinted. We flew in the face of all the conventional wisdom.

Ultimately, we only delayed the inevitable. Eventually, executives retired and new ones appointed, and then came the message-point barbarians. But for six years it was incredible. And this was before the internet  had become ubiquitous.

What Jamieson did in that speech was precisely what Guy Kawasaki describes in Enchantment: the Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions. Over at The High Calling, we’ve started a new book discussion on Kawasaki’s book. Today’s discussion covers chapters 1 and 2: “Why Enchantment?” and “How to Achieve Likability.”

Kawasaki offers a number of definitions for enchantment, but the one I like best is a process by which situations and relationships are transformed (the book is about how that happens and what you can do to make it happen). He lists five situations when enchantment is necessary – aspiring to lofty, idealistic results; making difficult, infrequent decisions; overcoming entrenched habits; defying a crowd; proceeding despite delayed or nonexistent feedback.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson did exactly those things in her speech – 20 years before Kawasaki wrote his book.

And I was enchanted.


If you’d like to learn more about Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who’s authored or co-authored some 17 books since 1990, here are some resources:

Her faculty page at the University of Pennsylvania web site.

Her entry at Wikipedia.

Some of her books:

Eloquence in an Electronic Age

The Obama Victory: How Media, Money and Message Shaped the 2008 Election (contributing writer)

Electing the President 2008: The Insider’s View

Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment (co-author)

Packaging the Presidency: A History and Criticism of Presidential Campaign Advertising

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Photo: Mother, 2 Sons

The photographer
arranged us just so,
seated on the coffee
table with a soft white
screen as backdrop.
We’re smiling, or course,
that’s what you do
in pictures, you smile.
And we each wear white.
You’re in the middle,
all of 34 years old
with the towhead son
on your right and the
redhead son on your left.
I look at the photo now
and think she’s beautiful,
with those cheekbones
and narrow face and
those smiling eyes still
full of dreams and life
and laughter. And now
when we talk a half
century later you
still end the conversation
every time with
I love you.

My mother still has this photo, placed in a big leather-bound family photo album, or else I’d include it here. Five years later, the third son came along.

This poem is submitted for One Shot Sunday, hosted by One Stop Poetry. Instead of a photo prompt, this edition of One Shot Sunday has Mother’s Day as the prompt. To see more poems, please visit the site.

Saturday Good Reads


There was a royal wedding, and Peter Pollock (an Englishman by birth!) said so what? And Sir John Rutter was commissioned to write original music for it, and it's superb. Then Osama bin Laden was killed, and the online world went OBL viral; two of the better posts on it came from Kathy Richards and Billy Coffey. Jeanne Damoff celebrated her 32nd wedding anniversary (she was married at 2).  And that’s just a little bit of all the good stuff from the web last week.

Prose

Whether you work with your hands or your brains, you should be honored” by Peter Faur.

A Royal Wedding – So What?” by Peter Pollock.

Should authors be social media experts?” by Mike Duran at deCompose.

Doubting God: The Beginning of Faith” by Jennifer Dukes-Lee at Getting Down with Jesus.

The angel who couldn’t” and “I’m a killer, too” by Duane Scott.

Are we spoiled?" by Fatha Frank at Public Christianity.

God is…forgiving” by Jay Cookingham for Make a Difference to One.

The Death of Osama bin Ladin” and “Oh, You Shouldn’t Have” by Kathy Richards at Katdish.

Shouldn’t we be sad when even the bad man is killed?” and “Ricky’s Scars” by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today.

The most segregated day of the week” by Michael Perkins at Untitled.

Hallelujah is still our song” by Jeanne Damoff at The View From Here.

He sleeps where he drops” by Kelly Sauer at A Restless Heart.

The Importance of Letting Go” by Robert Lee Brewer at My Name is Not Bob.

Heresy Wins” by Matt Appling at The Church of No People.

Poetry

Fill Him Noir” by Arron Palmer.

The Song” by Karen Eck at Karenee Art.

Whispers” by Nancy Rosback at A little somethin’.

Let Your Heart Reason Your Way” by Maureen Doallas at Writing Without Paper.

Breathless” by Rob Kistner at Image & Verse.

Propaganda” by M.J. Duggan.

Percee” by Melissa at All the Words.

Paintings and Photographs

Plein Air Cannon Beach,” watercolor by Randall David Tipton.

With a ‘peep, peep’ here” by Jeanne Damoff at The View From Here.

Mother and Infant” by J of India at Neither Use nor Ornament.

Videos and Podcasts

This is the Day” by Sir John Rutter, commissioned for the Royal Wedding.

Autumn Leaves,” interpretation by Tony DeSare (I heard him play this at the Sheldon Theatre last Saturday evening).

Why is the rose so pale?” Poem by Heinrich Heine, read by Spoken Verse.

The City Limits: An Awe-Inspiring Time Lapse of Cityscapes at Night” by Dominic Boudreault, via Gizmodo.


Photograph: Trees and stained glass by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.